All meals, plus free-flowing wine with lunch and dinner, are included in the fare and served at one sitting in the ship's one dining venue; a light, well-appointed room located on the lower deck. CroisiEurope is unusual, as lunch and dinner both feature a set menu with no alternative choice unless passengers have requested specific dietary requirements, such as vegetarian, prior to the cruise. That said, minor adjustments can usually be made if you aren't partial to something on the menus, which are posted each morning. Similarly, the line doesn't operate the same open seating setup common on most riverboats. At the beginning of each cruise, the maitre d' will allocate tables of two, four or eight, which are kept for the duration. Couples can request a table by themselves (only one pair did on our cruise) and groups of friends will be put together. The remaining passengers are placed with their fellow countrymen or English speakers.
Main Dining Room (lower deck): Breakfast is typically served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., sometimes from 7 a.m., depending on the itinerary. Lunch is at noon and dinner at 7:30 p.m. Dining times are generally more flexible than some other lines; if an afternoon excursion runs late, the dinner will be moved back 30 minutes or so to allow passengers time to freshen up on return.
There is no early-bird breakfast or tea and coffee station, but early risers will usually find an obliging crew member who is more than happy to fetch them a coffee.
As you might expect from a French-owned line, the simple breakfast buffet always features baskets of fresh croissants, French bread and preserves, plus pots of coffee, which are placed on every table. Passengers help themselves to hot and cold items from the buffet that includes a choice of juice, fruit, yogurt, cereal, cheese, cold cuts, sausages, bacon, eggs (usually scrambled, boiled and fried) and pastries such as pain au chocolat and, usually once a week, delicious Portuguese egg tarts. Usually once a week, the chef sets up a cooking station at the entrance to the dining room for made-to-order omelets and fried eggs.
At lunch and dinner, tables are beautifully set with crisp white table linens. In France, lunch is an institution and viewed as a proper meal, not a quick snack, and Gil Eanes doesn't disappoint; expect several courses and some time at the table. A typical lunch might be spinach and ricotta cheese in puff pastry, lamb cooked in spices and served with broad beans and mashed pumpkin, followed by crepe Suzette, or honey chicken kebab followed by sea bream fillet with Parisienne potatoes and ile flottante (meringue floating on vanilla custard) to follow.
Try and walk it off in the afternoon, as the evening meal is a four-course affair that includes a cheese plate prior to dessert. Dinner might be smoked salmon on toast, chicken breast with asparagus and wild rice, Brie cheese, and natas do ceu (cream from heaven -- a blend of lemon, cinnamon, vanilla egg cream and crumbled cookies). Another typical menu would be a trio of chorizo sausage followed by cozido (Portuguese stew), Portuguese Serra cheese and creme caramel. Each cruise will feature a gala dinner rounded off with flaming baked Alaska paraded around the darkened dining room.
Lunch and dinner are both served with a choice of complimentary white, red or rose wine. Bottles of wine can also be ordered off the wine list at extra cost, such as Mateus Rose for €16. Espresso or coffee with milk is served at the table after both main meals.
In keeping with the French love of good food and wine, service is prompt and efficient but meals are enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Passengers -- North Americans in particular –- can expect longer mealtimes than those on ships that are geared to the U.S. market.
There is no room service.