The kitchen staff works hard to produce quality meals, and it shows. Breads (baked nightly on board) are delicious and varied. Soups are out of the ordinary, with concoctions like creamy asparagus with truffle foam. Dinner entrees include a choice of fish, meat and a vegetarian dish, along with always-available entrecote steak, salmon fillet, chicken breast and an entree salad. Even the "light lunch" served daily in the AmaSonata Lounge offered lots of choices, including sandwiches, salads and a hot dish such as pizza or spinach lasagna.
Passengers' dietary restrictions are taken in stride. The vegan among us was satisfied with the array of fresh vegetables and salads. But the staff also presented her with a series of "surprise me" dishes of lentils, couscous and other grains. (And she loved the potato-pancake-like hash browns at breakfast.) A detailed list of 14 allergens, from fish to nuts, is listed on the back of the menu, and each dish is accompanied with a code alerting diners to those potential allergens. If you're determined to eat local and/or light, symbols on the menu steer you to items that fit the bill. At the Captain's welcome and farewell cocktail parties, waiters pass hot hors d'oeuvres.
Main Dining Room (Piano Deck): Tables for six, along with roomy banquets, are arranged around a central dark wood buffet station that's shaped like a ship's bow. (This design motif appears in the AmaSonata Lounge and elsewhere on the ship.) The large purple flower print on the carpet and the pink, orange and purple striped upholstery on the banquets lend a cheerfulness to the space. Oversized vases with silk flowers are set under the windows on either side of the room. Two semi-private dining rooms, dubbed "wine rooms," seat 10 each and flank the dining room's entrance. They're available on a first-come, first-served basis.
All meals are open seating. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, though hot items can be ordered off the menu. Dinner is a four-course affair, plus there's a cheese selection from the buffet. Meal times can vary slightly to accommodate shore excursions.
Breakfast is usually from 7 or 7:30 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 a.m. and features an omelet station, an abundance of fresh fruits, yogurt, cereal grains, nuts and a large selection of breads, rolls and pastries. Smoked salmon and accompaniments (including a bottle of sparkling wine on ice) is available from the buffet. Poached eggs, eggs Benedict, oatmeal, waffles and steak and eggs can be ordered off the menu.
Lunch is usually served around 12:30 p.m., depending on the shore excursion schedule. Diners help themselves to salads and appetizers from the buffet; there's also a cooking station turning out pasta, curries and other fare, depending on the day. Two soups are available, as are a choice of two or three order-off-the menu entrees, such as fish and chips and grilled minute steak. On our cruise, two themed lunches -- Bavarian and Hungarian -- gave a culinary nod to the passing countryside. Two dessert options are offered, along with fresh fruit. Steak and chicken sandwiches and fish burgers are always available from the menu.
Dinner, typically served at 7 p.m., is a four-course meal with a nightly "chef's recommendation" menu. Selections frequently reflect the surrounding region, like Hortobagyi palacsinta (a savory Hungarian pancake) in Budapest, and a classic apple strudel in Vienna. Nightly entrees feature a meat selection (glazed short ribs, roasted lamb); fish (sauteed butterfish, grilled river trout) and a vegetarian option (spinach quiche, stuffed eggplant). Appetizers range from basic mixed green salads to elaborate constructions like one that combined whisky-flavored salmon, smoked salmon, basil cream cheese, tuna rillettes and cauliflower, beetroot and bulgur. The dedicated soup maker in the kitchen flexes creative muscle with creations like parsnips cream soup with oyster mushrooms. Appetizers and soups on the nightly menu also have vegetarian options.
Two decadent dessert selections (rum-flavored chocolate cake with mango sorbet; chocolate mousse with caramel-chocolate sauce) are offered in addition to fresh fruit and a selection of European cheeses.
A first-night welcome dinner and a farewell dinner on the cruise's penultimate night adds an amuse-bouche and a mid-meal sorbet and sparkling wine palate cleanser. There's also a pre-dinner cocktail reception with gratis wine and beer and hot hors d'oeuvres on both those occasions.
A regional red and white wine is served with lunch and dinner. On our cruise, varietals included citrusy gruner veltliner from Austria, and full-bodied cabernet sauvignon from Hungary. A California chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon also are available daily. And at the weekly French-accented Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner, which celebrates AmaWaterway's membership in the gastronomic society, waiters pour wines from France.
Other complimentary beverages include beer, soft drinks, coffee, tea and sparkling water.
The Chef's Table (Violin Deck): Reservations are required for this intimate 28-seat restaurant, although there aren't any tables for two so it's not a date night. Diners can take in the view via the room's floor-to-ceiling windows at the rear of the ship, and a glassed-in workspace allows them to watch some of the food prep in action. The eatery serves a five-course tasting menu. (The nightly menu doesn't change during the cruise.) On our cruise, the meal started with marinated heirloom tomato, watermelon and caramelized goat cheese, followed by a marinated seafood concoction paired with apple, beetroot and celery salad. Main courses were grilled pike perch with spinach and crawfish; porcini ravioli; and Japanese-style glazed short ribs with cauliflower mash, quinoa and broccoli. For dessert, a trifecta of chocolate truffle cake, brulee cheesecake and vanilla ice cream was served. And for those not yet sated, there was fresh fruit and cheese.
Tip: Book a table here on a night when the ship is docked in a city, for dinner with a view.
AmaSonata Lounge (Violin Deck): For early risers, pastries are set out from around 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. They reappear from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. for late risers. Cruisers who want a light lunch can help themselves to the lounge's central buffet. (Times vary, depending on the excursion schedule.) Fare includes cold cuts for make-your-own sandwiches, salads, soup and a hot dish or two from the daily menu, such as Monte Cristo sandwiches and spinach lasagna.
A daily tea service is offered in the space from 4 to 5 p.m., with tea sandwiches (cucumber, Parma ham) and pastries (mini eclairs, lemon cake). A special gluten-free section of sandwiches and cookies are set out on the lounge's bar.
Late-night snacks, like chicken wings, sausages and sea salt chips, appear at 10:30 p.m. And there's always a selection of cookies, fresh fruit, hot and iced tea, and espresso drinks dispensed from a coffee machine.
AmaSonata does not offer room service.