Passengers can choose from among three choices of venue for dinner. (A fourth option is room service.) Every passenger is assigned a seat for dinner in the Berlin Restaurant, the ship's lovely main dining room. The room has windows on two sides, is paneled in white painted wood, has etched-glass partitions to make the room more intimate, has electrically controlled blinds for shade and is lighted by etched-glass lights. There are fresh flowers on every table.
Because my crossing was under-booked, there was a single seating for all passengers. (Normally there are two for dinner only.) There is a salad bar, which includes some German treats like pickled herring and mackerel. All other courses are ordered off a menu. On the left hand side of the menu are selections that are grouped by category: for example, "vegetarian" or "wellness."
There are two choices for each course, and there are ten courses: starter, soup, salad, cold appetizer, warm appetizer, pasta, fish, sorbet, meat, cheese, dessert. Most diners ordered something for each course. Portions were small, but the presentation was exceptional and the food delicious. The variety of dishes ran heavily toward the German with a strong amount of game, root vegetables and cream sauces. I found the menu a pleasant change from the "international" fare served on other ships.
On my crossing there were three English-speaking passengers, and we received our menus (and all other printed matter) in English. There was also an English language menu posted outside the restaurant.
In addition to the restaurant, there is an a la carte restaurant, Vierjahreszeiten (Four Seasons), open for dinner only. The menu here changes nightly, and passengers make a (free) reservation to dine here. The restaurant advertises tableside preparation and attentive service. Passengers may book once until everyone who wishes to dine here has done so; thereafter, bookings are open again on a first-come, first-serve basis. This restaurant is decorated in light woods with brass accents and mirrors galore. The tables are candlelit. Passengers may also book a private dining room to dine with friends or family.
There is also an informal buffet restaurant called the Lido Gourmet. Tile floors and rattan chairs with colorful cushions decorate this room that flows onto an adjoining deck for dining under the stars. Surprisingly, the menu in the Lido Gourmet was entirely different from the menu in the dining room, giving diners another choice of food, as well as of venue.
In all three restaurants most tables are for two or four diners. There are only some large tables for larger groups.
Breakfast is served open seating in the Berlin Restaurant and in the Lido Gourmet. For breakfast there is a buffet in both restaurants, featuring cereals, juices, fruit (fresh and stewed), cold cuts and cheeses, pastries, smoked fish, breads and jams and German pastries. Eggs and breakfast meats can be ordered from a waiter (in the Berlin Restaurant) or from an egg station (in the Lido Gourmet). Americans will miss the following breakfast staples: skim milk, pancakes or waffles, bagels, whole wheat toast.
Lunch is served open seating in the Berlin Restaurant and in the Lido Gourmet. There is a salad bar in the Berlin Restaurant, but there is also a menu with two choices for each of seven courses. There are also regional German specialties and selections from the crew galley of foods from the lands from which the crew hail. (Most of the crew is German, but there are German speaking stewards and stewardesses from Eastern Europe, and the heavy cleaning is done by Filipinos.)
The room service menu is divided in two. Breakfast may be ordered by checking off a menu and leaving it in the mailbox outside the cabin door. Hot and cold breakfast items are included in the menu. The other room service menu is available 24 hours each day and is comprised of sandwiches and light fare. There is no charge for room service.
At lunch time there is a grill hatch outside the Lido Gourmet where sausages and hamburgers are available. The ship also has the occasional poolside buffet. On two occasions during my crossing there were poolside buffets -- think heavy German picnic fare -- with free beer.
Bouillon is served each morning at 11 a.m. at the Lido Bar. Tea is available in the Lido Gourmet from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Waiters bring pots of tea, and the choice of blend is large. Patrons choose from among trays of sandwiches and sweets from which stewards make up individual plates.
A more formal afternoon tea is available in the Lido Terrasse, a delightful forward facing lounge with wicker furniture. White-gloved stewards serve tea, and there is a buffet of sandwiches and sweets from which patrons may choose. Light classical music is played by one or more musicians.
A late night snack is served at 10:45 p.m. in the Alten Fritz Bar and in the Lili Marlene Bar.
I found the dining schedule overwhelming. There were too many meals, too close together. While individual courses might be small, there were so many of them! An early (Continental) breakfast was available at 7:30 a.m. in the Lido Terrasse. Breakfast was served in the Berlin Restaurant and the Lido Gourmet from 8 to 10 a.m. Late risers' (Continental) breakfast was served from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Lido Terrasse. Bouillon was served from 11 to 11:30 a.m. in the Lido Bar. Lunch in the Berlin Restaurant was served from noon to 2 p.m. Lunch in the Lido Gourmet was served from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tea was served from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Lido Gourmet and the Lido Terrasse. Dinner was served at 7 p.m. in the Berlin Restaurant, Vierjahreszeiten and Lido Gourmet. Late night snack was served at 10:45 p.m. in the Alten Fritz and Lili Marlene Bars.
A word about times here. When I read my daily program called Heute (Today), I saw dinner was listed at 7 p.m. with no span of hours. I went to Reception and asked how long dinner was served. "Oh, 9, 9:30 will be fine." I arrived the first evening at 8:30 to find a displeased maitre d' who said "Dinner is at 7 on this cruise." He said he would let me come at 8:15 at the latest. Later, when I had a drink with the Staff Captain, I mentioned this discrepancy. He said, "Oh, no. You may come whenever you like: We are not so rigid." Alas, that proved not to be true. The German passengers showed up at the earliest time possible for all meals and sat at table for however many hours it took to consume many, many courses. I expected to eat three courses and be on my way, but it didn't work out that way.
Ordinarily, when the ship is full, there are two seatings for dinner of about 250 persons each. We had 350 on our crossing, so there were 100 persons more for our single seating dinner than normal, and the slowing of service showed. On gala nights in the Berlin Restaurant it took most people two and half hours to eat dinner (three hours or longer in Vierjahreszeiten on a normal night). No wonder people opted for the Lido Gourmet! I found the service slow and haphazard in the Berlin Restaurant, but my dining hour may have contributed to that, and I found the service positively glacial in Vierjahreszeiten -- half an hour between courses, and waiters seemingly rushed off their feet serving a not full restaurant and a party in the private dining room.
What really ended my dinner prematurely in the Vierjahreszeiten was smoking. The decor of Deutschland is not all that harks back to a previous era. Passengers are not permitted to smoke in cabins or corridors. They are, however, permitted (I would say encouraged, because there are ashtrays and matches everywhere) to smoke in the bars and lounges, on the deck and (of all places) in the restaurants. Fully half of all seating is for smokers. In Vierjahreszeiten I sat not four feet from people who lit up before, during and after every course. (As I reported earlier, there was lots of time between courses.)
Wine by the bottle is expensive on Deutschland. Cheaper wines by the bottle start at 20 euros and spiral upwards. A nice possibility is ordering a carafe or half carafe of house wine; the former cuts the bill by half from the cheapest bottle.