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  #1  
Old May 13th, 2012, 02:49 PM
Riversanddale Riversanddale is offline
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Default Which tours and which ships have the best food?

We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise in April and were disappointed with the food this trip. They had gone to corporate menus and food and it was quite repetitive and bland and smaller portions than our earlier experience.
For dessert there was usually a pudding variety, an ice cream, a sorbet for dessert (all identical except color). All were very similar and nothing special. One night we were offered a brownie - something I'd fix better from a box from Costco. Nothing was anything I couldn't fix at home easily.
Entrees were small (especially for the guys) and also not special nor were they very regional. Only salmon was fresh. It was offered as an alternative along with steak or chicken (which many of us ordered). They were fine but very ordinary. Sides were repetitive and began to look the same. Nothing was "homemade" - just finished off. Vegetables were fresh and nicely done. Lunches were much the same.
When we travel we look for food (on the ship and off) that we wouldn't have at home. We go to Europe and expect great desserts (yes, we drool at the bakery windows in town and do our share of sampling). Not this time on this ship. We don't expect gourmet food just good food and a better sampling from where we are traveling. It wasn't. It did look pretty but it ended there.
What European trips or river cruise companies can you recommend for good food with regional specialties and great desserts?
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Old May 13th, 2012, 06:26 PM
4774Papa 4774Papa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Riversanddale View Post
We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise in April and were disappointed with the food this trip. They had gone to corporate menus and food and it was quite repetitive and bland and smaller portions than our earlier experience.
For dessert there was usually a pudding variety, an ice cream, a sorbet for dessert (all identical except color). All were very similar and nothing special. One night we were offered a brownie - something I'd fix better from a box from Costco. Nothing was anything I couldn't fix at home easily.
Entrees were small (especially for the guys) and also not special nor were they very regional. Only salmon was fresh. It was offered as an alternative along with steak or chicken (which many of us ordered). They were fine but very ordinary. Sides were repetitive and began to look the same. Nothing was "homemade" - just finished off. Vegetables were fresh and nicely done. Lunches were much the same.
When we travel we look for food (on the ship and off) that we wouldn't have at home. We go to Europe and expect great desserts (yes, we drool at the bakery windows in town and do our share of sampling). Not this time on this ship. We don't expect gourmet food just good food and a better sampling from where we are traveling. It wasn't. It did look pretty but it ended there.
What European trips or river cruise companies can you recommend for good food with regional specialties and great desserts?
I suggest reading some cruise reviews from others that have cruised on riverboats.
I believe there is a variation depending on the location of the cruise. We did Vantage in Russia and the food was pretty good. AMA got poor reviews for their Russian cruises last year, but I can see they do very well elsewhere. We are booked on an AMA river cruise starting in a few days in France, also Vantage China, which everyone raves about.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 05:39 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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We have done five river cruises and the very best food was on the AmaDante last year. They offered lots of regional specialties, food was very good to excellent at every meal, the cheese board is fabulous at lunch and dinner. And dining room service was also the best we ever had, with extra touches we had not experienced before.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 12:11 PM
pingpong1 pingpong1 is offline
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Riversanddale - I'm glad (I think ) that you raised the subject of food you experienced on your recent Viking cruise. Food (particularly on the River Cruises) has been an ongoing "hot topic" on this site for some time and I'm sure that plenty of folks are going to want to "weigh-in" on this thread.

After returning from my recent Avalon cruise (Imagery) in late March/early April - I expressed the opinion that I thought the food served on that cruise was "just Okay". And my "yardstick" for making that observation was that it wasn't any better (and in many cases - not as good or as appetizing) as the meals my DW makes for us at home for just a "normal everyday dinner". My comment, that I felt the meals were just "okay", really got the discussion going - with some folks sort of agreeing and others really disagreeing with me. I'll be particularly interested in hearing what "Keenmolly" thought about the meals served on her most recent Avalon cruise.

I would guess that you (Riversanddale) and I are probably in general agreement - even though we were on different ships, different companies, and different destinations about the rather "plain" nature of our respective meals. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the entirety of the river cruise experience. I did. But I thought the "meal part" of the cruise (particularly the dinners) where very "ordinary" and certainly not "elegant", "exquisite", or at a "gourmet level" - all the descriptors liberally thrown about in Avalon's advertising literature. Some argued that I should not have taken the company's advertising so "literally". Well - why wouldn't I?! Afterall, THEY are the one's that chose those terms to define, support, and justify the high cost of their cruise products. I don't recall a single dinner served during the 13 day cruise that I could say was a really "wow experience"! I'm not saying the food was terrible. No one (I don't think) went away hungry.

But - a few examples. In Avalon's own advertising, they show one particular picture of a lovely little lobster tail (or perhaps a European cray fish) sitting well-presented and garnished on a plate. The implication being, that THIS (along with that similar level of food) would be one of the items normally offered or served during the cruise. For the record - whole Lobster (or any parts thereof) was NEVER a menu item during our cruise. Neither was anything like "roast tenderloin" offered. The steak on the menu - which was always an available daily "default selection" was NOT a select cut by any means. I'm not quite sure what, exactly, it was but it certainly was not a Filet, a porterhouse, a rib eye, or prime rib. The "steak" that was offered was not nearly as tender, flavorful, or as well prepared as normal selections that can readily be had at your local Outback Steak House. In fact, the steaks I grill on my own barbecue in the back yard are of higher quality and taste BETTER than the "steak" that was served on our cruise!

As "Riversanddale" also experienced, the deserts that were offered were very ordinary - certainly by no means "elegant" (Avalon's adjective). They tended to be a Jello, a fruit cocktail, or a pudding, or perhaps some form of ice cream. Never at the level of a "Cherries Jubilee", "Bananas Foster", Baked Alaska, or even a "Black Forrest Cake" - those would more closely fit my definition of "elegant" deserts. I would have even gladly welcomed a rather ordinary piece of apple or cherry pie - but those were not to be, as well! I never recall a shrimp cocktail being offered for an appetizer, and there was never a "glimmer of hope" to even order the most pedestrian "loaded" baked potato to have with an entree. You could always order the "standard" baked salmon or the "standard" (tasteless) chicken breast. But after 6 dinners, I figured out that the level of meals that I had been lead (through the advertising) to believe would be served - simply wasn't going to happen.

I had no complaint with the "complimentary" wines that were served. They all tasted fine to me - ALTHOUGH I would have liked to have seen a few complimentary sparkling wines offered at dinner (like a prosecco or an Asti) they were NOT offered - only still wines (naturally, you always had the option to pay extra for one of those). Avalon leads one to believe that the dining experience on their boats is going to be a "5-star" experience. In our particular case, I would rate it a realistic "3-star".

Perhaps people have "talked themselves" into thinking the meals were better than they actually were/are - simply because they paid so much for these cruises. Perhaps they have "inflated" (in their own minds) their "meal memory" to a higher level than it actually was. Perhaps the meals served on some of the other lines (or even different boats within the same company) are actually better than what I encountered. I can only report on what I experienced. I do not consider myself to be a highy-trained food critic and certainly don't think of myself as a gourmet chef. But I've had quite varied meal experiences and choices throughout the world over my lifetime and I'm taking all those many meals into account in rating the food which was servede on our cruise.

And no, the food experience did not "ruin" the trip for me. But the advertising literature makes the meals in particular, along with the whole dining experience onboard, a BIG part of their "sell-job" to would-be customers. I stick by my previous critique that the meals were "Okay" - but nothing "special". Perhaps of interest - In July, I will be embarking on an Alaskan 7-day cruise with Regent Seven Seas (Navigator). It will be interesting to see how Regent's "elegant" meals stack up against Avalon's. I'll let you know. Regards to all.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 12:46 PM
CleoV CleoV is offline
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Reading this topic with great interest. We are taking our first river cruise (Uniworld Imperial Captials) soon, and my assumption was that the food would live up to the likes of, say, Crystal cruise line or Regent Seven Seas, both of which I would classify as excellent.

I would also have assumed the food would represent the area you're traveling in each evening. Quite surpring this is, possibly, not the case.

The closest thing we've done to a river cruise is Nomads of the Seas in the Chilean fjords, and they served some of the best gourmet fare we've had on land or sea. I set that as the bar for exceptional cruise ship dining. However, we have friends (many) who have waxed poetic about "the best steak I ever had", and they were referring to Ponderosa. I kid you not.

So...I guess fine dining is truly subjective.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 04:45 PM
newlondon newlondon is offline
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pingpong1, I can guarantee you that Regent will blow away any river cruise food. We cruised Tauck and other high end lines and it wasn't even close; nor should it be given the limitations. I will say this; we cruised Tauck Ams-Bud for two weeks, we always had excellent food; and we are foodies. It doesn't, however, match a luxury cruise line such as RSSC or SS both of which we love.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Riversanddale View Post
We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise in April and were disappointed with the food this trip. They had gone to corporate menus and food and it was quite repetitive and bland and smaller portions than our earlier experience.
For dessert there was usually a pudding variety, an ice cream, a sorbet for dessert (all identical except color). All were very similar and nothing special. One night we were offered a brownie - something I'd fix better from a box from Costco. Nothing was anything I couldn't fix at home easily.
Entrees were small (especially for the guys) and also not special nor were they very regional. Only salmon was fresh. It was offered as an alternative along with steak or chicken (which many of us ordered). They were fine but very ordinary. Sides were repetitive and began to look the same. Nothing was "homemade" - just finished off. Vegetables were fresh and nicely done. Lunches were much the same.
When we travel we look for food (on the ship and off) that we wouldn't have at home. We go to Europe and expect great desserts (yes, we drool at the bakery windows in town and do our share of sampling). Not this time on this ship. We don't expect gourmet food just good food and a better sampling from where we are traveling. It wasn't. It did look pretty but it ended there.
What European trips or river cruise companies can you recommend for good food with regional specialties and great desserts?
Dear Riversanddale,

First, we would like to thank you for your valuable feedback, as we continually work to perfect the guest experience aboard each of the ships in our fleet and accommodate the desires and needs of all of our guests, feedback like this is extremely helpful. We have passed your message along to upper management.

Finally, it sounds as though your dining experience was not typical of our Viking standards and for that we do apologize. We are sorry to hear of any disappointment during your time with us and hope that you will contact us directly at TellUs@vikingrivercruises.com so that we may discuss your concerns in further detail. We appreciate your opinions and look forward to speaking to you soon.

Best,
Viking River Cruises
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Old May 14th, 2012, 08:50 PM
CleoV CleoV is offline
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Dear Riversanddale,

First, we would like to thank you for your valuable feedback, as we continually work to perfect the guest experience aboard each of the ships in our fleet and accommodate the desires and needs of all of our guests, feedback like this is extremely helpful. We have passed your message along to upper management.

Finally, it sounds as though your dining experience was not typical of our Viking standards and for that we do apologize. We are sorry to hear of any disappointment during your time with us and hope that you will contact us directly at TellUs@vikingrivercruises.com so that we may discuss your concerns in further detail. We appreciate your opinions and look forward to speaking to you soon.

Best,
Viking River Cruises
Wow. How many times have I seen that form letter reply? I could write that one in my sleep.

No offense intended Viking River Cruises, but are you suggesting the chef had an off 7-12 days, and that every other 7-12 day cruise has had gourmet dining? If not, then it's typical of your dining experiences.

Just sayin'.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 09:29 PM
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Thanks for posting this Thread. We are booked on two Avalon Cruises from August and are becoming concerned by some of the less than complimentary comments regarding the food and wines. We have previously River Cruised with Uniworld and found the food quality and variety to be excellent. The food appears to be the only negative comment coming from Avalon Cruisers. Not all reviews have been negative regarding the food and wine. Maybe it is ship dependant, another possibility is the accountants have been zealous in cutting costs. If the latter is the case the marketing people should look in to it as it may cost customers.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Riversanddale View Post
We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise in April and were disappointed with the food this trip. They had gone to corporate menus and food and it was quite repetitive and bland and smaller portions than our earlier experience.
For dessert there was usually a pudding variety, an ice cream, a sorbet for dessert (all identical except color). All were very similar and nothing special. One night we were offered a brownie - something I'd fix better from a box from Costco. Nothing was anything I couldn't fix at home easily.
Entrees were small (especially for the guys) and also not special nor were they very regional. Only salmon was fresh. It was offered as an alternative along with steak or chicken (which many of us ordered). They were fine but very ordinary. Sides were repetitive and began to look the same. Nothing was "homemade" - just finished off. Vegetables were fresh and nicely done. Lunches were much the same.
When we travel we look for food (on the ship and off) that we wouldn't have at home. We go to Europe and expect great desserts (yes, we drool at the bakery windows in town and do our share of sampling). Not this time on this ship. We don't expect gourmet food just good food and a better sampling from where we are traveling. It wasn't. It did look pretty but it ended there.
What European trips or river cruise companies can you recommend for good food with regional specialties and great desserts?
We did the same cruise on Vantage this year and the food was very good ..
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  #11  
Old May 14th, 2012, 05:51 PM
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We are in the process of booking AMA for Amsterdam to Zurich, based on my reading of these boards to say that AMA has the best food overall.

But the official Cruise Critic review of AMAcello complains that "though the food was ambitious -- a mishmash of colors and ingredients intended to approximate fine dining rather than serving as the real thing -- the indulgent buttery soups and rich, salty entrees had us craving lighter options."

It sounds like he would have preferred the food described by pingpong1. Me, I'd rather have buttery and rich than plain and dry any day...
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Old May 14th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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I really think it depends on the chef, and his/her crew.

We have travelled twice with Uniworld, and once with both AMA and Scenic. Our "best" food was on the Seine with Uniworld. Lots of regional food and wine - great desserts... Our 2nd cruise with Uniworld wasn't as good - but still enjoyable.

Our food on AMA was good - not great. I thought the Scenic food was generally a bit better than AMA, although the desserts were a bit of a disappointment.

Really quite subjective... We don't travel for the food - and I am always happy when someone cooks for me... so this wouldn't make or break my trip. But - others may feel differently.

Fran
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Old May 14th, 2012, 06:51 PM
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Webfoot - I'm glad that the cruise went so well for us both. Like you, I had a very nice time and we especially liked all the walking tours, the accomodations, the friendliness of the staff, and top condition that the boat was in. The guides we had were very professional, friendly, and very mindful of where all the folks in their group were (restrooms, nearby shops, etc.) and never did they inadvertantly leave anyone behind. I read your review and I can't say that there's any specific area that you covered that I could factually disagree with (although I didn't think many of the deserts offered during our portion of the cruise were all that exciting - I often "passed" on having any of them). I guess I just expected the food to be a bit more....sumptuous...perhaps that's the word I'm looking for.

I'm holding a copy of Avalon's catalog open to page 26 as I write this. At the very top of the page it says, "The food was heavenly" (from my own viewpoint, it certainly did not reach that level!). Below, it goes on to say, "Savor the exqusite variety [served] daily. You'll find that even the dining is inspired....A spacious, open-seating dining room provides an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere that will accentuate your dining experience....Dinnertime becons with 5-star service, the finest chef-inspired recipes..."

Did you ever get served a lobster tail that looked like the one pictured in Avalon's on-line video advertisement? Or any lobster tail at all, for that matter? I didn't.

Now, accompanying that description in the catalog is a picture of a smiling "30-something" couple sitting all by themselves, at their very own table, in the middle of what looks to be a virtually empty, quiet, low-lit, and private setting.

This was certainly NOT anywhere close to the "reality" I experienced on our cruise. The only time the dining room was ever "spacious" was when it was closed and NONE of the passengers were in there eating! At 7PM, when the dining room doors swung open for dinner and the 150+ passengers all swarmed in at the same time and rushed headlong to grab any and all available open seats, there was NOTHING that was "elegant" or "relaxed" about that experience! There was only one, single small table for 2 people to be had in the entire dining room. All other tables were tightly set up for 4, 6, or 8 diners. Any single diner could easily reach out and "touch" a diner at an adjoining table (or steal a roll off their plate).

Within 3 minutes of opening, the dining room, along with all of those multi-seat tables were jam-packed with people seated - elbow to elbow. The high ambient noise level (along with the low ceilings and crowded room) caused by everyone talking at the same time, wait-staff taking multiple orders, multiple food courses all being delivered at the same time, combined with the clanking of silverware, plates, and wine glasses defied anything which could even hope to be described as a "heavenly" dining experience!

Perhaps if the advertising in the catalog and on-line videos and not been quite so "lofty" and "over-inflated" with all the grandiose hyperbole, my level of disappointment in this one particular area (food/dining) would not have been so profound.

Okay - My horse is now dead! My best to all.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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I just got off the Uniworld SS Antoinette yesterday. The food was excellent - certainly on par with Celebrity MDR and in some cases better than Celebrity MDR. I thought the portion sizes were correct - neither too big nor too small. Breakfast and lunch are buffets and they are varied and plentiful with lots of options. All meals were appropriate for where we were cruising - something I really appreciate because I hate coming back to a ship from say Rome and having American food or Chinese food or a hamburger or something that is not of the local cuisine. The only really unusual food happening was the Fruhschoppen - which was massive and served at 10am as we viewed the most scenic part of the Rhine River. However, that day, we skipped breakfast so the Fruhschoppen was a great first meal of the day and absolutely delicious with 4 kinds of sausage, saurkraut, soft pretzels and lots of German salads!

The only complaint I heard about the food was some lady who said she wanted a big cookie - which isn't really part of the cuisine of the Rhine. However, the chef made small pressed European cookies everyday for the suite passengers, maybe having something like that on the coffee and tea station in addition to the biscotti would be nice?

Still and all, I always prefer to eat local foods over American foods when traveling abroad and I thought Uniworld did an outstanding job on the meals for all 7 days.

I noticed that the Captain really enjoyed the food, too - which says something about the quality since he is on the ship day in and day out doing the same 7 day schedule.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 07:48 PM
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I realise this is a very subjective thread but for the like of me I can't see how it rates so much discussion. As I wrote in my review last year "We're not foodies but at no time did we find a menu that didn't have something on it that we liked".

When we were looking at our first trip to Europe and our first river cruise the absolute last thing on our minds was the food on the boat. We were going tens of thousands of miles, travelling half way around the world, to see, explore and experience things we had never done before and yes the food played a small but insignificant part of that experience but not enough to have us swear off one particular cruise line or another. We liked the opportunity to meet new friends from other countries and talk about what we saw that day over our meal. We never felt the need for a quiet meal alone but that is not our style. It's true that only 106 passengers flocked into the dining room with us and if you don't like eating with 150-190 passengers then choose a company that limits its guests to around 110.

I also realise that many of you are experienced well travelled people who may have been to Europe many, many times and the quality of food is paramount to the success of your holiday but please also realise there are probably many like me who don't.
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Old May 15th, 2012, 07:57 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pingpong1 View Post
A spacious, open-seating dining room provides an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere that will accentuate your dining experience....Dinnertime becons with 5-star service, the finest chef-inspired recipes..."

Did you ever get served a lobster tail that looked like the one pictured in Avalon's on-line video advertisement? Or any lobster tail at all, for that matter? I didn't.

Now, accompanying that description in the catalog is a picture of a smiling "30-something" couple sitting all by themselves, at their very own table, in the middle of what looks to be a virtually empty, quiet, low-lit, and private setting.

This was certainly NOT anywhere close to the "reality" I experienced on our cruise. The only time the dining room was ever "spacious" was when it was closed and NONE of the passengers were in there eating!

Within 3 minutes of opening, the dining room, along with all of those multi-seat tables were jam-packed with people seated - elbow to elbow. The high ambient noise level (along with the low ceilings and crowded room) caused by everyone talking at the same time, wait-staff taking multiple orders, multiple food courses all being delivered at the same time, combined with the clanking of silverware, plates, and wine glasses defied anything which could even hope to be described as a "heavenly" dining experience!

.
No, we never saw a lobster tail nor a filet either.

We did enjoy the dining experience most on AMA as well as the food. The layout of their dining room was different and much improved from the other boats we had been on and this created a less crowded and more relaxed environment. Our group of 6 was able to easily converse and enjoy each other's company and conversation. We commented several times about how the set up of the dining room made it so much more pleasant.

We are on the AmaCerto later this year and this boat has a specialty restaurant. This is nice not only for the variety and more intimate experience but because this means the main dining room will be less crowded.

I'll post when we return.
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Old May 15th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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Caviargal - Thanks so much for once again, being a "voice of reason" and bringing some perspective to these threads - at least IMO. I'm sure that some folks, reading my comments, may have come to the conclusion that I had a "terrible time" (on our Avalon cruise) because of the food. I have tried to assure everyone that this is not the case.

I do however, get a little "miffed" about what I think is patently "false advertising"! Don't show me a picture of lobster on a plate, or a "romanticized" picture of a couple having a "quiet and intimate dinner experience" in a secluded - and seemingly private setting all to themsevles - if those things really are not possible and aren't going to happen! The advertising should portray reality - unless the company thinks that showing the "reality" would be "too negative" which is troubling on a whole other level! Let them publish a "non-posed" picture of the dining room on the "Imagery" at 7PM, when all the "real" diners/passengers are in there at the same time and ordering/eating and being served a "real meal".

Do they think there would be a significant "down side" to that (showing things the way they really are)? If so, then maybe some things really do need to be "changed". Once you're on the boat - they've already got your money, and you're not going to get it back! And you willingly paid that money almost exclusively based upon the advertising material which you received - and faith that it was substantially factual. Too bad there's not a live WebCam on some of these boats for prospective customer to look at "during meal hours" BEFORE they book a cruise.

At some time in the future, I believe I will consider going on another European river cruise (after I get a few "luxury ocean cruises") under my belt. But I will be looking to some of your past suggestions (AMA, etc.) to expand my search and compare offerings to a few more companies. When I post my review of my recent Avalon cruise - it will be positive, for the most part. But I think I owe it to my fellow CC readers to discuss some of the negatives (as I perceive them) along with the positives.

Best Regards.
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  #18  
Old May 15th, 2012, 02:33 PM
newlondon newlondon is offline
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pingpong1, I'm sorry to read the the deception of the advertising at least somewhat spoiled your experience. As a pp said, if your boat was too large; book on smaller cruises. I read that you are going to do luxury cruises on the ocean in the immediate future, ie. RSSC, SS, Crystal or Seabourn. If you can afford these you certainly can manage Tauck. This is a very different experience, imo, to the other river cruisers. We loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. Unfortunately they have not expanded their itineraries to include all that we want to do-therefore, we're trying Uniworld in August. Will report back.
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  #19  
Old May 14th, 2012, 11:08 PM
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webfoot webfoot is offline
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My last word on Avalon food is that any two people eating the same meal can and do feel differently about their food. One may love the dinner while the other is no too pleased with their dinner.

Do not let the postings of others (me included) affect your decisions.
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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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  #20  
Old May 14th, 2012, 11:32 PM
pingpong1 pingpong1 is offline
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Abbott28 - I heartily agree with Webfoot. Don't let anything we say here dissuade you or make you feel the least bit skittish. Each person has to judge for themselves and it's all very subjective. If you're like "OZJohnno", the food just isn't that big of a deal. And I would say that most folks on my cruise probably found the food to be just fine, as well. The Rhine and Danube were wonderful, the crew were all extremely professional and friendly, and the included tours of all the interesting little towns and villages were well worth the trip. Go and have a GREAT TIME! Regards, Kelvin
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