Brava has broken the mold with dining. The usual river ship set-up features fixed times for lunch and dinner with the buffet centered around a large, main station. Instead, Brava's buffet, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, occupies a separate area between the main Market Restaurant and bar and cafe, located midship on the upper Deck 3. Passengers wind their way through the different areas of the well-presented buffet, where there are various sections featuring starters, main courses, desserts, cheese and fruit, interspersed with live cooking stations. This arrangement -- combined with flexible dining times -- virtually eliminates any queues. The buffet also includes a 24-hour tea and coffee station with a good selection of coffee, teabags and loose-leaf teas.
While times can differ slightly depending on the day's schedule, breakfast is generally served from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., offering a lighter selection of "earlybird" and "latebird" pastries and other items, lunch is served from noon until 2 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 p.m until 9:30 p.m. All meals are on a freestyle dining basis with no seating plans, so passengers can choose to sit in the informal cafe, main dining room or have their meals in the attractive, small indoor/outdoor wine bar area situated aft beyond the restaurant. Half of the semi-circular bar is located inside and there is more seating in the cozy alfresco section, which has an overhead retractable awning so it can be used in most weather.
The big plus with this innovative dining arrangement is that passengers are not tied down to set mealtimes where everyone arrives at once; they can have meals at any time during the restaurant's open hours. So, for example, if they don't have to rush back for lunch while out and about exploring a port of call or want to linger over a pre-dinner cocktail, they turn up when they are ready to eat. (A common grumble from Brits sailing on vessels that predominantly cater to U.S. passengers is that dinner is served too early.)
* May require additional fees
Breakfast features a large choice of hot dishes (including German sausages and British favorites such as bacon, eggs and beans!), cold meats, cheese, cereals and pastries. There is a station serving freshly cooked omelets and other egg dishes, plus a healthy-choice section with fresh fruit, yogurts, homemade muesli, seeds and smoothies. A delicious addition to the bread section is A-Rosa's "vitality" bread, containing barley malt, sunflower and flax seeds, which passengers can order to take home with them on disembarkation day for a small additional cost.
The buffet lunch includes a soup of the day, such as beetroot and horseradish; appetizers such as scallops on seaweed salad; and snacks and mains including a croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich), pasta, salads, cold cuts, dessert, cakes and cheese. Although portion control is down to the individual (and very hard given the tempting and expansive choice!) many of the dishes feature fresh and healthy ingredients.
A similarly imaginative buffet is available every night, but there is also the option for a waiter-served, four-course a la carte dinner on at least four nights on a seven-night cruise. These meals are included in the fare, and a typical menu might feature a cauliflower panna cotta "amuse bouche" followed by salmon tartar, clear tomato soup with basil dumplings, a main course of fillet of beef with potato celery mash and glazed carrots (or a vegetarian option), and dessert of caramelised lime parfait served with marinated cherries to finish.
All soft drinks, cocktails, beer (which not surprisingly features plenty of good German brands), spirits and wines are included throughout the day. The only exclusions are Champagne and a small selection of premium brands, plus featured regional wines available on some evenings. Speciality coffees that are made to order are also included in the price of the cruise.
There is a bar, seating area and barbecue on the Sun Deck, which is used for alfresco dining, weather permitting.