Dining on Emerald Sun promises more than it delivers. While the menu strives to include regional specialties, we found that almost all meats came overcooked and many other dishes were underseasoned. At breakfast, made-to-order omelets were swimming in oil. The service, too, lacked cohesion; the dining room was noticeably understaffed (with 173 passengers, the boat was close to full capacity).
That being said, you won't leave the boat hungry -- there is always plenty of eat. Alternative "classic" dishes such as Caesar salad, grilled chicken or steak with fries are available at lunch and dinner. Dinner menus come in the daily program, with dishes marked for vegetarians and those with food sensitivities (and you can always talk to the maître d').
We also appreciated the "lighter" breakfast and lunch buffets that were available in the lounge. Tea with sweets and small sandwiches are also placed out around 4 p.m. and cookies are available in the pool area anytime. On movie nights, popcorn if offered at the pool and a canape usually comes out in the lounge for late-night noshers.
Reflections Restaurant (Deck #2): Emerald Sun's main dining room is pleasant and contemporary, with plenty of tables for two, four or six passengers. There's also a long table at the front of the dining room for large groups. There's no assigned seating so you can dine wherever and with whomever you wish. Breakfast and lunch are served within a time range, while passengers are asked to sit down to dinner at the same time.
Breakfast is a buffet with the same choices every day and usually runs between 7 and 8:30 a.m. (timing may change, depending on excursions). Cold buffet choices include meats and cheeses; cereal, muesli and yogurt; smoked salmon; pastries, breads and rolls; and fruit. Hot breakfast may include oatmeal, baked beans, bacon and sausage, scrambled eggs and potato hash browns. Omelets and other egg dishes are made to order. Coffee is poured by waiters (but it's not as good as the machine that you'll find in the upstairs lounge). Gluten-free toast, muffins and cereal are available by request.
Lunch is also a buffet, with hours depending on shore excursions. The menu changes daily and includes appetizers, a salad bar, two soups, a pasta, main courses (plus usually one that you order from your waiter) and desserts. Options might include Hungarian goulash, fillet of pollock with lentil balsamic sauce and cabbage braised in Tokaij wine; and celery-potato fritter. The dessert selection always includes a cake, two ice creams and an array of international cheeses.
Dinner takes place around 7 p.m., depending on the day's events. It's a four-course meal, served by waiters, with a choice of two appetizers, two soups and three entrees (one meat, one fish and one vegetarian). There is a chef's recommendation meal on one side of the menu. Appetizers might include beetroot risotto or a Greek salad; soups might be zucchini with fresh dill or beef bouillon. Entrees might be goose breast served with red cabbage and potato dumplings; fillet of trout with red pepper foam and sugar peas; or grilled fennel with zucchini, spiced rice and herb yogurt. There's usually a choice of four desserts, which could be a cold berry soup with sweet cheese dumplings; banana ice cream with chocolate sauce and almond cream; fresh fruit and an international cheese plate.
Complimentary wine is poured liberally at lunch and dinner. Every day, a different red and white are offered, with one almost always being a regional specialty (which can be interesting in countries like Hungary and Slovakia, where wine typically isn't exported).
Horizon Lounge (Deck #3): The central gathering spot on Emerald Sun is also a nice place to get an early breakfast, a light lunch or afternoon tea -- particularly on days with scenic sailing.
Breakfast in Horizon starts at 6:30 and ends at 10 a.m. You'll find a small selection of cold cuts and cheeses, scrambled eggs, pastry and yogurt.
Lunch is available during the same hours as the main dining room. It's usually a smaller selection of what you'll find in the downstairs buffet and often includes a salad bar, a soup, a hot sandwich and a hot entree such as potato dumplings.
At 4 p.m., afternoon tea is served with specialty teas, finger sandwiches and small pastries.
Room service is available for breakfast only in the two upper room categories.