The cruise fare covers all meals and there is no for-fee dining, even in the specialty restaurant.
Passengers can expect a wide range of dishes with much of it -- but by no means all -- geared to British tastes. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and other dietary requirements can be catered for. However, it is best to mention this at the time of booking rather than onboard. Overall, the food is very good but not gourmet, and will feature fresh and seasonal produce.
Drinks, such as wine and soda, are not included with meals, although water, tea and coffee are freely available. Complimentary cookies are available from the 24/7 tea and coffee station in the Bistro.
The Restaurant (Deck 2): The main restaurant is situated on the Ruby Deck and can seat all passengers at one sitting on tables for two (albeit these are very close together), four, six and eight. It has large windows down both sides and is classically decorated in muted gray and silver tones with elegant striped chairs and chandelier lighting. The oval buffet area is situated at the far end of the dining room and tables are attractively laid out with crisp white table linen and fresh flowers.
Buffet breakfast is generally served from 7 to 9 a.m. (sometimes earlier depending on excursions). The self-service counter of hot and cold breakfast items includes fruit juice, fresh fruit, cereal, fresh bread baked on the ship, cold cuts, smoked salmon and the British breakfast components of fried and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and baked beans. In addition to the buffet, there are cooked-to-order items such as eggs Benedict, omelets and porridge. Tea and coffee are served at the table.
Lunch, always a buffet, is available between 1:30 and 2 p.m., again with flexible timing depending on the excursion schedule. There is always a daily soup, such as sweet corn with dried ham or barley soup with pork, an extensive salad bar, cold cuts and items such as a smoked salmon bagel. Main courses might include veal schnitzel, fried trout and mushroom quiche with a selection of vegetables. Each day, the live carving station will feature a meat such as onion-stuffed pork served with sauerkraut and roast potatoes. Typical desserts include tiramisu or Vienna iced coffee (vanilla ice cream and espresso topped with whipped cream). Sometimes there are special events such as an "ice cream social," where the chef will serve ice cream in the lobby.
To follow, desserts include Austrian apple strudel or honeydew melon fruit cup. Ice cream and a cheese plate are always available and passengers can also opt for always available main dishes of chicken breast or Norwegian salmon served with fries or a baked potato and a choice of vegetables.
On many river vessels, dinner is at a fixed time. However, on MS Robert Burns the served a la carte dinner is available from 7 to 9 p.m., offering passengers flexibility if they prefer to dine a little later, which is more common in Europe than it is in the U.S. Menus again feature dishes skewed to British tastes plus specialties from the destinations being visited. The choice of two appetizers might include prawn cocktail or watermelon and arugula salad, followed by a broth or cream soup such as vegetable consomme or mulligatawny (curried chicken and vegetable). There is always a meat, fish and vegetable entree, such as braised beef shanks with tarragon-scented gravy, green beans and mashed potato with bacon; cod cooked in white wine with spinach pasta; or dhal curry flavored with coriander and ginger.
On cruises of seven nights or more, there is a welcome dinner preceded by a complimentary cocktail, plus a farewell cocktail and five-course captain's dinner. On shorter cruises, there is one gala dinner with a complimentary cocktail.
Unlike many lines, Riviera does not include wine, beer or soda with lunch or dinner. However, drinks are reasonably priced with wine by the glass starting from 2.75 euros. In addition to ordering from the wine list, the dinner menu includes two recommended wines to accompany the dishes, such as a German Riesling priced at 19.50 euros a bottle or 4.75 euros a glass, or a red wine from the Mosel region costing 21.50 euros a bottle or 4.75 euros a glass. Alternatively, passengers can preorder a drinks package at the time of booking that covers beer, wine, juice and soda with lunch and dinner for $129 per person ($159 in 2019).
Panorama Lounge (Deck 3): An early-bird continental-style breakfast of juice, croissants and pastries is available in the lounge on the Diamond Deck, usually from 6:30 to 7 a.m., a half-hour before the main restaurant opens for breakfast. Every day, afternoon tea -- a British institution comprising sandwiches and cakes -- is served in the lounge with the onboard musician playing the piano.
Diamond Deck (Deck 3): Complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate is available 24/7 from a self-serve machine on the upper deck. Cookies are also available.
The Bistro (Deck 3): This is an alternative dining venue for lunch and dinner, which is located at the back of the ship. Seating 26, at tables for two and four, it is a light and airy venue decorated with old-style prints of British vacation resorts. Passengers are required to make reservations for dinner, although there is no fee. At lunchtime, there is no need to book a table and seating is allocated on a first-come first-serve basis.
Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and passengers can order as few or as many courses as they want. A typical menu will include a garden salad, soup such as cock-a-leekie (chicken and leek), burgers (Angus beef, chicken and vegetarian with a choice of toppings), a selection of grilled panini sandwiches and pasta dishes. The menu always features English favorites, such as a ham and egg sandwich, plus regional dishes that might include flammkuchen (thinly baked onion tart) or kasekrainer (German and Austrian sausages stuffed with cheese). To follow, there is ice cream, fresh fruit or an English "pudding" (dessert) such as vanilla cherry.
In the evening, the Bistro is an intimate dining space that is a pleasant contrast to the main restaurant. It is open from 6 to 10 p.m. and offers three sittings. Although passengers are welcome to dine there as much as they want, subject to availability, it features the same menu each evening so most people tend to eat there once during a weeklong cruise and twice or three times on a longer sailing.
The quality of food here is excellent, with the added bonus that there is no fee for this specialty experience. Again, the menu is a combination of British, international and regional dishes, so appetizers might include shrimp and mozzarella salad with raspberry balsamic vinegar, baked Camembert cheese with red currant jelly or Caesar salad, followed by Irish-style lamb and cabbage stew or creamy potato soup topped with black pudding (a type of English sausage). For mains, expect steak, lamb rib chops, roasted chicken breast or grilled lobster tail served with a choice of sauces, including red wine gravy, garlic butter or mint jelly, and sides including creamed spinach, roast mushrooms, assorted vegetables, jacket potato or fries. Featured local dishes include German breaded fried chicken. To follow, there is always ice cream or fresh fruit plus a dessert such as New York cheesecake.
Room Service: Room service is uncommon on river ships and mostly confined to a handful of the more expensive lines. However, Riviera includes complimentary room service breakfast. The continental-style meal includes tea, coffee, juices, pastries, cereals, fruit and colds cuts. Orders are placed on a card and left outside the cabin before midnight and passengers can choose for breakfast to be delivered at eight time slots between 8 and 10 a.m. No other room service options are available, but if, for example, passengers are feeling unwell they are welcome to take food to their cabin.