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Riverboats may be much smaller than ocean cruise ships, but that doesn’t stop them from offering abundant culinary choices. Naturally, all lines offer a main dining option, but many also present specialty alternatives to further season the experience.
Epicureans can delight in the simplicity of a separate dining venue, free for those in upgraded cabins and suites onboard Victoria Cruises’ ships, for example, or available for a surcharge in the line’s other categories. Onboard Emerald Waterways and Viking, meanwhile, alfresco patio areas for meals at the bow are complimentary for all guests.
Viking’s Aquavit Terrace is a brilliant convertible venue that can be window-enclosed or opened, depending on weather.
In the evenings, bar snacks — sizable enough to constitute dinner — make the terrace a prime spot to sup while sailing by scenic shores. Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant, from the line’s ocean ships, has been recently testing on the riverboats, as well.
Avalon Waterways expands on the alternative culinary concept with its tasting menu at the indoor Panorama Bistro. Inside the observation lounge, clients can enjoy multiple wine-paired, tapas-style courses, such as braised pork knuckle in a cream-cheese sauce.
Taking it a step further is AmaWaterways, with its dedicated Chef’s Table restaurants at the stern. Diners have a view of the water and the dinner preparation courtesy of a demonstration kitchen. Guests will discover why the line was inducted into the La Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs international gastronomic society while partaking in perfectly balanced tastings.
And Riviera River Cruises converts its stern bar into a reservation-only chef’s restaurant for guests who wish to sample favorites of the master.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, meanwhile, goes all in for cuisine beyond a single alternative option. On Joie de Vivre, for instance, Club L’Esprit’s daytime aft pool and juice bar becomes Claude’s at night for hearty shared dishes such as duck cassoulet. The luxury line additionally offers alfresco and bistro dining, as well as pizzeria options on several of its riverboats. Timeless French standards may include dover sole meuniere, steak au poivre and a wide array of cheeses. Passengers can even cook, such as at Joie de Vivre’s La Cave du Vin, where they help prepare their meal before dining.
Additionally, with its progressive dinners, Uniworld showcases several venues at once. Various course are served at different spots throughout the ship, from the galley to the wheelhouse.
Also focused on education is Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, with its Scenic Culinaire experience — a section of the main Crystal Dining room has been transformed into a cooking school on the brand’s South of France and Bordeaux cruises. A stretch of stations allow students to learn via a live camera and screen. Participants can become proficient in everything from French pastries to sauces.
At the front of Scenic’s riverboats, elevated Italian, French or Portuguese cuisine is featured at either L’Amour or Portobellos. Every guest is invited to enjoy the five-course regional affair. However, Table La Rive is available only to 10 Diamond Deck and Junior Balcony Suite Sapphire Deck occupants. Here, the executive chef prepares a special six-course degustation menu.
More broadly inclusive on Scenic’s river ships is the Sun Deck, which features teppanyaki; or River Cafe, which offers snacks throughout the day. The latter is arranged as a buffet, with selections encompassing more healthful fare, as well as treats such as gelato.
Rounding out the luxury lines with specialty dining is relative newcomer Crystal River Cruises. It offers The Pantry for all-hours self-service pastries and drinks, as well as Bistro, which is home to light snacks, charcuterie, tapas and ice cream, plus coffees and teas. Blue Bar & Grill serves midday burgers, wraps, soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza and local favorites, while The Vintage Room pairs fine wines and dining for special educational lunches and dinners available by reservation.
But clients need not travel all the way to Europe or farther to experience gourmet dining on the rivers. American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC), for example, plates its own alternatives along U.S. rivers. Outside of the fleet’s main dining rooms, AQSC offers River Grill & Bar or The River Club & Terrace. American Duchess’ terrace displays handsome Murano glass, a double-sided bar and an open kitchen. For even more bites, American Queen also boasts the bonus Front Porch Cafe.