All meals, afternoon tea and snacks are included in the cruise fare. Amadeus Brilliant has one main dining room, the Panorama Restaurant, located forward on the Strauss Deck, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An early-riser continental breakfast, along with a light lunch option, afternoon tea and late-night snack, is served in the Panorama Lounge on the Mozart Deck. Aside from breakfast, meals are served at one sitting and complimentary wine, soft drinks, tea and coffee is served with lunch and dinner.
Dining is one area where Amadeus is significantly different from other cruise lines. The majority have an open seating basis where passengers choose where, and with whom, they want to eat. At the beginning of an Amadeus cruise, passengers are allocated a table -- or number of tables in the case of groups -- where they sit for the duration of the vacation. The majority of tables seat up to eight, and passengers can request in advance if they want to sit alone at a table for two.
Although fixed seating is unusual on a river cruise, the positive aspect of the arrangement is that you don't have to walk around the restaurant looking for a table. It also enables passengers to build up a rapport with the wait staff, usually the same two or three, who will serve them for the whole cruise and quickly get to know any likes and dislikes.
The cuisine is excellent, with a varied choice of dishes at every meal. The galley team includes an onboard baker, who produces delicious fresh bread and pastries daily. Menus are a combination of regional specialties from the destinations visited during the cruise, familiar favorites and an always available option of simpler fare. Service is very efficient, and nothing was too much trouble if we wanted, for example, to have two appetizers instead of an entree or try different desserts to share. Vegetarian options are available at all meals, and special diets can be catered for. However, it is best to request this at the time of booking and then talk to the restaurant manager once onboard.
Panorama Restaurant (Deck 2): The main dining room is on the Strauss Deck and is a large, airy venue. As the name implies, it has large panoramic windows down both sides so you don't miss any passing views during meals. It is decorated in light, cream tones with a small self-serve buffet area near the entrance, which is used for breads, pastries and juice during breakfast, fruits during lunch; and a large selection of desserts during the once weekly lunchtime buffet. The main semi-circular buffet is situated at the opposite end of the room. Tables are always attractively laid out, with white tablecloths and folded linen napkins that match the cream upholstered chairs.
Buffet breakfast is generally served from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. (sometimes earlier depending on excursions). The buffet features a range of cereals, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, croissants, pastries, cold cuts, cheese, bacon, sausages, hash browns, baked beans, scrambled eggs plus bread and rolls baked on the ship. Each day features a special hot buffet item, such as tomatoes topped with cheese or pineapple topped with ham and cheese. Cooked-to-order items are available from the kitchen and served at the table. These include oatmeal, pancakes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs and omelets served plain or with a choice of ham, cheese, mushrooms and bell peppers. Tea and coffee are served to the table.
Lunch is generally served at 12:30 or 1 p.m., depending on the excursion schedule. On one day there was even a full late lunch at 3:30 p.m. for passengers returning from an excursion. It is a mix of buffet items and dishes that can be ordered from the menu. Each day the buffet has a hot sandwich, such as roast beef on a freshly baked ciabatta roll with caramelized onions and horseradish, tuna melt or a Monte Cristo sandwich with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato fried in a light egg batter. Specialty salads might include white bean, asparagus or Asian chicken, alongside the usual range of fresh salad ingredients. There are always two soups, such as red beet borscht with sour cream and dill, vegetable cream with garlic croutons or tomato consomme. The menu also features a daily meat, fish and vegetarian main course. This might be Irish stew, pan-fried fillet of hake or vegetable paella. There is also an always-available choice of chicken salad. Desserts include strawberry mousse, peach melba or carrot cake. Complimentary white or red wine, beer and soft drinks, with tea or coffee to follow, are served throughout lunch.
Each cruise features a special buffet-only lunch. On our cruise, this included a traditional Romanian soup with meatballs and a host of meats from the carving station, with a roasted suckling pig, roast chicken, beef, pork and sausages. There was also vegetarian moussaka and side dishes such as polenta with sour cream, rice pilaf and salads. This was followed by a delicious choice of homemade desserts included baklava, rich chocolate cake, various mousses and fruit tarts.
Dinner is served at a set time each night, generally 7 p.m., and there is a bit of flexibility if passengers want to come down a half-hour or so later (although most don't!). The food is consistently good. Menus always consist of four courses (five if you include cheese), although passengers can, of course, skip courses or order two appetizers if they want a lighter meal.
Menus feature local specialties from the cruise area and international dishes. The choice of two appetizers might include truffle-scented chicken cassoulet; assorted antipasti with grilled vegetables, salami, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese; arugula salad; or salmon and avocado terrine. A slight oddity is that if both starters are cold, the waiters will bring them to the table for passengers to choose, rather than placing the order with the rest of the menu. This caused a bit of confusion at the first meal but everyone soon got the hang of it. Each night there is a choice of a cream or clear soup, such as French onion, cream of cauliflower, venison consomme or cream of green pea with croutons. Typical main courses are braised beef short ribs with sauteed spinach and mushroom jus; north Atlantic salmon with polenta spring rolls, grilled leeks and sweet chili sauce; bacon-wrapped chicken; or, for vegetarians, feta cheese-stuffed mushrooms, deep-fried Camembert with homemade wild berry jelly, or truffle oil-scented vegetable risotto. To follow, desserts include tiramisu; charlotte russe; chocolate mousse or, one night, a spectacular pastry swan filled with cream and floating on a pond made with blue curacao. There is always fresh fruit and a cheese plate, available in addition to or instead of dessert. Dinner also includes the always-available dish of chicken salad.
The weekly gala dinner will feature an amuse-bouche to start, plus an extra sorbet course, and will be rounded off in true ship tradition with a baked Alaska being paraded around the dining room before being served.
The pirate's night, which is held on some cruises, is a great evening. Passengers enter the restaurant to find wait staff dressed in costume and tables looking as if they have been raided. Dishes on the menu have amusing names such as red parrot or Jolly Roger soup, captain Jack Sparrow's mixed grill, the sea monster fish course and a dessert of chocolate cannon balls.
Complimentary wines -- usually regional -- are served with lunch and dinner. They are of good quality and varied, and the watchful wait staff keep everyone topped up. There is a different choice of red and white wine with each meal, which might include a French merlot and Italian pinot grigio. Passengers can also opt to pay for other wines from a very comprehensive list that includes wine by the glass, from 3.90 euros, to bottles of Austrian, German, Italian, French, Hungarian, Romanian and Californian wines ranging from 15 euros for a Romanian chardonnay to 69 euros for a bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 3): Early-riser breakfasts are served in the lounge on the Mozart Deck, usually from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., with the early-bird breakfast closing when the main dining room opens for breakfast. It includes juices, tea, coffee, croissants, pastries, yogurt and fruit. Each day there is afternoon tea, which is generally from 4:30 to 5 p.m., with times altered to fit in with excursions. Despite lunch often being a relatively recent memory, the tea is always extremely popular and is served to a musical accompaniment from the onboard pianist. Along with coffee and a selection of teas, there is always a choice of savory items, such as turkey sandwiches, and selection of individual cakes. If anyone is still feeling peckish after dinner, snacks are served in the Panorama Lounge at around 10:30 p.m. These are typically small hot items such as chicken wings.
Amadeus Club (Deck 3): Complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate is available 24/7 from a self-serve machine in the ship's aft lounge.
Sun Deck (Deck 4): On sunny days, a portion of the ship's Sun Deck can be turned into an alfresco dining area, with food served from a retractable bar next to the wheelhouse. On our cruise it was used for pre-lunch Balkan snacks, serving a variety of sausages, fish, salads and pretzels, and a cocktail to celebrate reaching the Black Sea. Other cruises will see pre-lunch snacks themed to the region plus, weather permitting, an ice-cream party.
Bellevue Restaurant (Deck 3); 28 euros: On selected cruises, passengers celebrating special occasions or those who would simply like a change, can book a "Highlight Dinner" as an alternative to dining in the Panorama Restaurant. Served in a specially laid out area forward in the Panorama Lounge, these meals can be reserved at reception for a surcharge of 28 euros per person.
A typical menu might be an appetizer of croquettes of brown shrimp served on watercress with a balsamic dressing, red lentil soup with cumin and chilli, margarita sorbet, roasted Angus tenderloin on chilli potato mash with pak choi and teriyaki sauce, and crepes suzette. The menu is the same for each week, as generally passengers will only opt for the special dinner once during a seven-night cruise. The same complimentary wines being served in the main restaurant accompany the meal. Alternatively, there are recommended wine pairings for the dinner, available at extra charge.
There is no room service.