Poetry II's main -- and only -- dining room, which is big enough to accommodate all passengers at the single dinner seating, is yet another interesting onboard space created by the lowering of the decks in the bow. On the lowest deck (between decks 1 and 2) in that section of the ship, the dining room sits just above the waterline. This gives the space a cavern-like feel, kind of low and dark, which is comforting. On the other hand, when you're docked alongside a levy wall or another ship, only one side of the dining room has a view.
The room itself is split in half by dark wood decorative shelving, which essentially creates two smaller dining rooms. Tan upholstered benches are built into either side of the divide, with chairs opposite. Tables seating between two and eight, set with white tablecloths, are placed throughout the space, accompanied by dark wood chairs upholstered in blue. Walls are cream in color, and carpeting features a blue and beige floral pattern. Lighting is soft, and panoramic windows surround the dining areas. At the back of the dining room (forward, in ship terms), you'll find a marble-topped buffet station, which is where breakfast and lunch are served each day.
Breakfast is split between light options in the ship's main lounge (early riser from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and late riser from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and a full buffet in the main dining room (from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.). Don't let the buffet-style offerings fool you: the quality is great, and you'll be able to choose from varied options that include cereal, oatmeal, fruit, cold cuts, bacon, sausage, hash browns, yogurt, pancakes and more. Additionally, there's an egg station where a chef will make a fresh omelet or scramble right in front of you. Room service is available for breakfast only; the menu is small and includes continental items like coffee, tea, orange juice, croissants and pastries.
Lunch is also served buffet-style in the main dining room. Typical choices include vegetable and pasta salads; chicken, fish and beef dishes; soups; vegetables; and cooked-to-order pastas. There's also a non-buffet, always-available menu that includes items like minute steak and Caesar salad. Times vary based on each day's activities, but the standard lunchtime is generally from about noon to 1:30 p.m. Lighter fare (sandwiches, fruit, etc.) is available simultaneously in the ship's main lounge.
For lunch on nice days, a portion of the ship's sun deck may be converted to Sky Bistro, an outdoor dining venue offering grilled dishes. It wasn't available on our sailing, so we can't comment on the quality of the food.
Dinner, served at one open seating, generally around 7 p.m., is in the main dining room. Although passengers can choose their tables and tablemates, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you're dining with a group, be sure to show up early. Some two-tops are available, and tables for six or eight can be pushed together to accommodate larger groups.
Menus mainly consist of four or five courses: appetizer, soup or salad, sorbet, entree and dessert or cheese plate. Some items, such as foie gras and carpaccio, have a French or Italian influence. Other dishes we tried included Canadian rock lobster, lemongrass-flavored chicken consomme, dumpling soup, grilled North Sea bass, pistachio ice cream and a plate of assorted cheeses. Everything was skillfully prepared and beautifully presented. Options like Caesar salad, grilled chicken, grilled rumpsteak of beef and roasted salmon are always included on the menu and are available at lunch and dinner. "Healthy" selections like potato and watercress soup, glazed codfish and roasted plums are also on the list.
Although the food is superb, don't expect dinner on this ship to be a short affair; on some nights, ours lasted as long as three hours.
As on many other European river cruises, juices, sodas and a selection of alcoholic beverages (beer and wine, both white and red) are available free of charge during lunch and dinner.
For between-meal or late-night snacks, cookies and fruit are available in the ship's aft lounge, along with tea, hot chocolate, juices and an assortment of coffee beverages from a Lavazza machine.