Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

With a pair of dining venues open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and an always-open snack bar, passengers aboard American Duchess will have little trouble finding something satisfying to eat. Cuisine onboard is distinctly American, with many regional Southern dishes on the menu, though non-Southern food is also available. Because the ship carries so few passengers, it is easy to rotate your dining room, visiting the open-seating Grand Dining Room and the reservation-only River Club and Terrace for different menus and dining experiences.

In each dining room, dishes were mostly hits, with a few slipups that included an aggressively seasoned dish, an over-reduced sauce and (once) cold sides. The larger issue was service. In the smaller, more intimate River Club, service was attentive and on point whether sitting at the bar or at one of the tables in the room; but in the Grand Dining Room, service fell off, with sometimes lengthy waits to put in your order, wine and water glasses sitting empty or plates going unbussed, and generally slower service.

Grand Dining Room (Deck 1): American Duchess' luxurious look comes to an apex in the Grand Dining Room. With two stories of windows, fabulous views and posh fabrics, the dining room feels like a fancy restaurant on shore.

Breakfast runs from 7 to 9 a.m. Items include pastries, steel-cut oatmeal with toppings, cereals, berries, eggs to order and a rotating menu of special dishes such as corned beef hash with potatoes and a poached egg, different flavored pancakes and French toast, and avocado toast.

Lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. A daily soup, like cream of broccoli, is available, as well as salads. Other dishes change daily and might include a grilled chicken Caesar, shrimp and grits, an Italian deli sandwich, a vegetarian pita sandwich and a mixed green salad with seared salmon.

On the last full day of the cruise, the Grand Dining Room served their River Bend Brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to about 6:00 p.m. in order to accommodate an early evening outing into Nashville.

Dinner in the Grand Dining Room is a four-course affair and is served as open seating between 5:30 and 8 p.m. The menu consists of classic starters, such as yellowfin tuna tartar, fried green tomatoes with corn and crab and a French market olive salad. Soup and salad choices vary, but include split green pea and smoked ham soup; chicken broth with garden vegetables; miso and dried mushroom broth; spinach salad; hand-tossed Caesar salad and Duchess salad (greens topped with tomato, cucumber, carrot and house dressing). Entree choices might be espresso-crusted beef tenderloin; grilled petit New York strip steak; roast chicken with Madeira and currants; crispy Mississippi catfish; grilled chicken breast with the Chef's Garden vegetables; roasted grouper; grilled cauliflower steak and mushroom risotto. Always available options include steamed vegetables, baked potato, pasta du jour and crispy natural-cut fries.

The menu is marked for allergies, including gluten, shellfish and nuts. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are also noted.

River Club and Terrace (Deck 2): The ship's alternative restaurant has an open-view kitchen and double-sided bar. While it's complimentary, the space is half the size of the Grand Dining Room and requires reservations. There's an outdoor terrace for drinks and dinner.

The space is open for breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. and lunch 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; both meals are buffets. The bar is open during lunch and from 5 p.m. to close.

Dinner hours run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. A four-course meal is served with one set menu for the duration of the cruise, though daily chef's specials add variety. The set menu includes West Indie crab salad, grilled artichoke hearts, and sauteed escargot; daily soup (from French onion to tomato bisque), caprese salad and a Caesar salad; fresh catch (tuna, grouper), New York strip, lemon chicken and vegan jambalaya. Desserts included creme brulee, molten chocolate cake and berry cobbler. Always available are steamed vegetables, baked potatoes and French fries. The menu is marked for gluten, shellfish and nut allergies, as well as vegetarian/vegan items.

A soft serve ice cream machine and toppings are available any time in the River Club and Terrace.

Perks (Deck 2): Perks is open 24/7 and includes complimentary coffee, espresso, lattes and other specialty coffee. The space also has a fruit juice dispenser, as well as popcorn and freshly baked cookies.

Room Service: Continental breakfast room service is available between 6 and 9 a.m. You order via menu cards in the room that you put out the night before. Dishes from the Grand Dining Room can be ordered to your room during lunch and dinner. A menu of "always available" options can be ordered 24 hours, and it's pretty extensive, with a choice of several salads and soups; cheese plate with fruit; charcuterie and cured meats; chicken sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, BLTs and hamburgers and cheeseburgers; pan seared salmon; petite steak and vegetable jambalaya. Desserts, too, can be ordered via room service, including ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate cake, fruit plate and creme brulee.

American Duchess Information

American Duchess Ship Stats

  • Crew: 80
  • Launched: 2017
  • Decks: 3
  • Passengers: 166
  • Registry: USA

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