While river cruises have yet to employ the specialty restaurant model now prevalent on their ocean counterparts, more companies are attempting to give passengers dining options beyond the traditional single seating. To that end, Vantage built the Captains Club, a public area on the Navigator Deck that serves light breakfast and lunch during the day and is also suitable for reading, sightseeing or using your laptop or tablet. Meal options at lunch include a salad bar, hot sandwiches, soup and hamburgers or hot dogs, grilled on a barbecue set up outside.
The ship's main dining room on the Explorer Deck is known as the Compass Rose restaurant and features open, unassigned seating. While most of the tables are six-tops, the Compass Rose has a few four-tops, as well as tables for larger groups. Meals are held at set times during the day, with some varying slightly depending on the day's agenda. Overall, the quality and quantity of the food seemed above average; while foodies might not recognize it as five-star, many of the dishes -- especially the soups -- were quite good. Service had gelled together quickly, considering we were on the inaugural sailing.
Breakfast in the Compass Rose consists of a buffet, complete with omelet station and plenty of hot and cold choices. Champagne is set out for mimosas. (While hours are usually 7 a.m. to 9 am., continental options are available for early risers.) Lunches in the Compass Rose, running from noon to 2 p.m., are also buffets, offering a salad bar, a pasta station and both hot and cold entree choices.
Beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting two hours, Compass Rose dinners consist of a cold appetizer, soup or a hot appetizer, a choice of entree (including vegetarian) and a dessert. Half portions are available any time, as well as chicken or steak. A typical menu might start with a quiche Lorraine, followed by a fish and fennel soup, rack of lamb or eggplant Parmesan, ending with your choice of tarte tatin or a cheese plate (or both, if you desire). Lunches and dinners include unlimited beer, house wine and soft drinks; you can order premium wines from the bar. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated in style, with singing staff and special desserts.
In some ports, the ship docks late so you can eat in town if you'd like. Cookies are usually served in the lounge in the afternoon, and a salty bar mix can be had during Happy Hour. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are available 24/7 in both the main lounge and the Captains Club; bottled water is complimentary. While room service is not available, most rooms have a for-fee mini-bar, with drinks and snacks.