Like sister company Uniworld, U River Cruises stresses fresh ingredients and excellent preparation in its dining program. Everything we ate onboard was tasty, while not gourmet, with lots of choices. Menus strayed toward the familiar, with the implicit understanding that if you wanted regional cuisine, you could find it yourself in a cafe or restaurant in port.
Unlike most river cruises, The B serves only two meals a day - breakfast/brunch and dinner. Almost all meals, save one on the final travel night, were buffets. While buffets usually imply quantity over quality, that wasn't the case on The B. Pastas in particular were delicious. Passengers seemed to like the fact that you could come into the dining room whenever you wished, and not stay through multiple courses (we did too).
The B has no paper menus for meals or drinks, which can be problematic if you're someone who likes to peruse before making a decision. Screens in the dining room show what's being served, so those are easy to follow along if you're sitting within view. The Lounge is a bit more problematic as the screens take some time to scroll. If you miss the cocktail or wine list, for example, you have to wait a while for it to come back again. Menus are also broadcast in your room on the TV and we often felt this was the best way to make a decision before leaving your cabin.
Meal items are not marked for dietary restrictions or food allergies, but passengers with special diets are encouraged to note these when they book and talk to the hotel director when they board so they are accommodated.
Dine (Deck 1): The main dining room is retro fabulous, with tulip chairs, industrial-style lights and black-and-white dcor. A long table with a dozen bar seats is in the middle of the room; this also has pop-up outlets for charging devices while you eat. Other tables are in configurations of four, six and eight.
The morning meal begins around 9 or 10 a.m., and can last several hours. It's labeled breakfast or brunch, depending on the day's activities. The menu includes an omelet station (with the addition of pasta during brunch); scrambled eggs; bacon; roasted vegetables; a cold table with smoked salmon, meats and cheeses; cereal and yogurt; pastries and bread; fruits and salad. Juices are also available and French press coffee is served at your table.
Dinner at Dine begins at 7 p.m. On buffet nights, people can come and go, while the staff would rather that everyone eat at the same time during the trip's one served dinner. The problem here is that the staff didn't specify what night this was and it wasn't noted on the schedule, so several passengers arrived late. During the nights that the ship docked in Paris, many passengers made their own plans for dinner; crew will help arrange meals off the ship.
On buffet nights, Dine features a made-to-order pasta dish; a meat dish such as lamb stew; a soup such as cream of cauliflower; roasted vegetables; a salad bar; a cold area with meats and cheeses and bread. Desserts come in small individual servings (such as mini-cakes or creme brulee) so you won't feel guilty if you have one -- or more. Waiters take drink orders, fill water glasses and clear plates very efficiently.
On the served night, the menu is limited to a shared salad appetizer (Caesar salad, in our case), a soup (cream of mushroom) and a choice of three entrees. The first two courses are served in family-style containers, while each entree is individually plated. At the end of the meal, The B has its own take on a fancy dessert preparation; it's festive and is definitely Instagram-worthy. For what it's worth, we also noticed passengers talking longer and laughing louder during the served meal than during the buffets.
The wine choices on The B are wide-ranging by the bottle, not so much by the glass. Tip: The better French wines come in the magnum bottles and are served by the glass at 10 euros. We thought that the crew could sell more wine if they included some description for the ship's younger passenger base. U River Cruises does not allow outside alcohol to be drunk on the ship.
U Lounge (Deck 2): While The B does not serve lunch, passengers in need of a nosh can buy hot meals a la carte in the ship's main lounge. We didn't see all that many people partaking, but the dishes we did see looked fairly substantial and prices were reasonable. A hamburger and fries cost 9.5 euro, currywurst is 6 euro and a quinoa burger with fries is 8.5 euro.
Pastries and yogurt, as well as coffee, are available for early risers. On The B, "early" is defined as 8:30. If you're a true early riser, your best bet for caffeine is to go downstairs to the coffee station.
Mugs (Deck 1): Located outside the dining room, a small room contains a specialty coffee machine, hot water for tea and cold water to fill up your water bottles. Branded mugs are also available. There's an ice machine too, but it wasn't working during our cruise and ice buckets aren't placed in cabins.
The B does not have room service. On Deck 2 near the shop, there's a vending machine that sells bottled water, sodas and candy bars.