Food onboard any ship is an integral part of the experience. Alvsin does not disappoint in the food category. The chef makes frequent appearances, including during the evening pre-dinner briefing in the lounge, extending his efforts at creating a prime culinary journey beyond the kitchen. Breakfast and lunch are hearty casual buffets and while dinners are sit-down affairs, they are anything but stuffy. Helpful and cheerful wait staff guide you through the menu and service, while bar staff pour beer and wine liberally throughout the meal.
Menus focus on regional cuisines without straying too far from cruise favorites like beef tenderloin and grilled seafood. One evening of our cruise, the entire dining staff dressed in traditional German garb to serve a tasting menu of local cuisine, with additional offerings available on a buffet. Local musicians serenaded and encouraged passengers to join in the fun.
Desserts throughout the cruise include traditional sweets of the regions the ship sailed through, from apple tarts in Alsace to German Black Forest cake and German pancakes. Ice cream is always available as an alternative and chocolate desserts complete the menu many evenings.
The Restaurant (Middle Deck): This is the main dining venue on the ship, serving three meals per day. Light colors and expansive windows make it a bright and cheery spot during the daylight hours, while sheer drapes in the evening add elegance without eliminating the sparkle of lights along the passing shorelines. Tables seat from six to eight. Since daily briefings take place immediately prior to dinner, there is essentially no line for dinner. Passengers simply move from the lounge down the main staircase and into the dining room. There are no tables for two but there are more than enough seats for all passengers, allowing plenty of options at each meal. Seating is open at all meals and is first-come first-serve.
Breakfast is served in the main dining room from 7 to 9:30 a.m. most mornings. Port calls may cause slight variances in the schedule. Times are announced each evening at the program manager's daily briefing in the lounge and are posted in the Viking Daily newsletter. Breakfast is primarily a buffet service but several options may be ordered from a menu, including pancakes, poached eggs, eggs Benedict and French toast. Waiters serve coffee, tea, hot cocoa and a variety of juices. Mimosas may also be ordered from the waiter.
The buffet has a complete selection of hot and cold foods, fruit, yogurt and a rotating selection of waffles and crepes. A cooked-to-order egg and omelet station is popular offering service speedy enough to avoid long waits. An array of both sweet and savory breads and pastries, including a self-serve toaster station completes the buffet.
Lunch in the dining room is like breakfast, in that it includes a buffet and menu combination. Menu items include hamburgers and hot dogs as well as the soup of the day. The buffet includes both hot and cold meats, salad, fruit and dessert. Lunch generally begins between noon and 12:30 p.m., depending on the port schedule.
Dinner in the main dining room is normally served at 7 or 7:15 p.m., following the daily briefing in the lounge. Most evenings it is a four-course meal, with two choices of starters, one soup, two main course options and a dessert. Chef's recommendations for the evening are at the top right of the menu. Options available every evening include a ribeye steak, grilled chicken and salmon, as well as Caesar salad. Special dietary needs and food allergies are addressed on an individual basis.
One evening during our cruise, dinner was designed as a mini-Oktoberfest with waiters dressed in traditional German garb serving a set tasting menu, with a buffet of additional local treats also available.
Beer and wine are served by bar staff throughout dinner and lunch in The Restaurant. Several choices of local beers are offered as are one red and one white wine, typically from the sailing region. Iced tea is available, as well as a somewhat limited selection of soft drinks. Coffee and tea are served with dessert.
Aquavit Terrace (Upper Deck): The forward section of the Upper Deck, just beyond the Lounge is a combination indoor/outdoor space that also serves three meals per day. Breakfast and lunch feature smaller buffets, with fewer choices and no menu offerings. A continental breakfast is served from 6 to 11 a.m. each morning.
The casual space is particularly popular for lunch. There are premade sandwiches each day -- think hot Reubens or sliced turkey and Swiss. There are hot vegetables, a soup of the day and a carving station as well as a salad bar, fresh fruit and a dessert. One day during our cruise, the staff cooked hamburgers on a gas grill.
Beginning in 2018, the Aquavit Terrace dinner plan changed from a nightly casual menu of hamburgers and chicken to a reservation-only specialty dining area serving a tasting menu from Manfredi's -- the popular Italian specialty restaurant found onboard Viking Ocean ships. The six-course meal begins with antipasti, followed by salad, pasta fagioli soup, a pasta course, main course and dessert. The menu remains the same throughout the cruise. The elegant atmosphere coupled with the outdoor space of the terrace makes this a nice change of pace from the busier dining room. It is possible to request a table for two, four or six when you make a reservation at the reception desk.