Dining on European River Cruises: A Guide to Eating Well Onboard and In Port

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Travelling on some of the world’s most picturesque waterways, exceptional cuisine is never in short supply. Both onboard and in port, the food on a river cruise holiday is an undoubted highlight, covering a vast array of local delicacies and more far-flung foodie offerings. Whatever your palate prefers, the choice and quality during any given river cruise is sure to please.

Here, we’ll showcase the finest food onboard the biggest river cruise lines, and the best culinary and wine hotspots along Europe’s iconic rivers.

 

Onboard Dining: What Food Do the Major River Cruise Lines Offer?

Hoping to find out what kind of food and dining options you can expect on an upcoming river cruise? Use our handy table below to review the culinary offerings of Europe’s leading river cruise lines.

Buffet Dining Chef’s Table Degustation-style Menu Specific Dietary Requirements
Emerald Waterways Yes No No Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes available.
Scenic River Cruises Yes Yes No Vegetarian meals available. Gluten-free and vegan dishes upon request, but must let Scenic know before your cruise. Kosher unavailable.
Riviera Yes No No Vegetarian, kosher and gluten-free dishes available. Full vegan menu. Special dietary restriction should be made clear 90 days ahead of time and confirmed with the maître d’.
Viking Luxury Cruises Yes Yes No Vegetarian, healthy and sugar-free dishes all available. Allergies can be accommodated if staff are advised ahead of time.

 

The Culinary Highlights of the River

From warming Hungarian goulash to the finest in French degustation dining, here we shine a light on the epicurean highlights you can savour as part of a luxury European river cruise, as well as the restaurants and dining options offered by the major lines.

Emerald Waterways

Situated on the ship’s Vista Deck, Reflections Restaurant is Emerald Waterways’ main dining room. A relaxed, spacious eatery, the chefs here take inspiration from the European rivers you’ll be travelling on, so expect fresh, inventive cuisine with elements of German, French, Hungarian, and Portuguese fine dining.

Breakfast and lunch times serve up a full hot and cold buffet, but true foodies should look forward to gourmet four-course fare in the evening, where a selection of regional and international dishes await you.

Italian buffet breakfast

Scenic River Cruises

The cuisine onboard Scenic’s river cruises is truly something special. The Crystal Dining Room showcases a regional speciality or two amongst its offerings – think Dutch meatballs or fresh oysters – while Portobellos does excellent Italian cuisine in an intimate, romantic environment.

Meanwhile, Table La Rive represents the pinnacle of Scenic’s food selection. A stunning six-course degustation experience that’s sure to excite even the most well-seasoned of foodies, this exclusive banquet is an elegant, luxurious highlight. With expert sommeliers pairing the finest of wine with an unbelievable menu, the Beetroot Gravadlax with Orange Flavoured Fennel Slaw, Beef filet with Foie Gras and a sophisticated take on a chocolate cake being among the highlights of this stunning epicurean showcase.

Close up of a piece of chocolate layer cake

Riviera Travel

Overseen by master chef Jacques Pepin, the renowned culinaire serves as Riviera Travel’s executive culinary director, lending his credentials and knowledge to a selection that puts a premium on quality and variety.

In The Grand Dining Room, no two days are ever the same thanks to a menu packed with international flair. From Moroccan gems like tabbouleh and beef kefta one day, to a Greek feast of eggplant salad and lamb bourekaki the next.

At Jacques, the renowned chef’s creations are essential eating for fans of French cuisine. Rich, decadent and luxurious, you’ll be able to dine on everything from traditional escargot with Burgundy garlic butter and goat’s cheese soufflé to sea bass filet baked in a puff pastry crust.

For something more exotic, Red Ginger’s fusion cuisine features a menu of Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Thai selections. If you’re looking to expand both horizon and palate, taste buds are treated to an array of dishes, including miso-glazed fish dishes, summer rolls and duck salads. An authentic experience that’s well worth trying.

Frisbee salad with roasted duck breast and figs

Viking Luxury Cruises

Viking pride themselves on Destination-Focused Dining. The ship’s surroundings dictate what’s on your plate, so expect inventive, fresh meals from across Europe. At the Restaurant, regional tasting menus and daily specials make casual eats a luxury experience, where guests can dine on peanut crusted chicken breast, filet mignon and parsley crusted calf liver in a laid-back environment.

On their Viking Star ship, Manfredi’s does Italian food exceptionally well. The atmosphere pairs well with the superb fare on offer, from classic pasta and risotto dishes to fried calamari and an excellent veal scallopini.

Inspired by their Norse heritage, Mamsen’s is something of a hidden gem. With sweet and savoury food inspired by the mother of Viking President Torstein Hagen, guests can dine on shrimp sandwiches, beef tartare on rye bread, cured salmon, liver pate and its unbelievable waffles. Topped with everything from Norwegian cheese and chocolate sauce, these indulgent treats are impossible to resist.

Dining in Port

Savouring authentic local fare is one of the great temptations of European river cruising. Here, we showcase the iconic dishes of the continent’s rivers, from the Wienerschnitzel of the Danube to the seafood delicacies of southern France.

Seafood platter

Danube

A cultural melting pot, there’s plenty of variety along the Danube. We recommend the German/Austrian end, where the food and drink are marked by traditionally rustic offerings – think Wienerschnitzel and lots of beer. Head to Wurstkuchi tavern, the oldest sausage tavern in Regensburg. This is about as traditional as you can get: charcoal grills, freshly prepared sausages and lots of hearty Germanic spirit.

Douro

An incredible wine region, the Douro is a grape escape that every wine fanatic should explore. The wine here is so good, in fact, that its production region became a World Heritage Site in 2001. If you can, try picnicking at Quinta do Pôpa, a picturesque vineyard that affords incredible views of the valley and the river far below.

As for the food, meat lovers would do well to try its octopus dishes, slow-cooked kid goat and alheira, a smoked sausage made from a mixture of poultry and game. We recommend trying it a Papas Zaide, along with cheese, bread and olives.

Blue cheese with olives

Rhine

For something a bit more unusual, the popular Bacharach area is home to Eis Café Italia. The gelato here is truly fantastic, with the Rhine wine gelato a particular highlight. Akin to sorbet and utilising the region’s viticulture in a novel yet undeniably refreshing way, this Riesling-style ice cream is a sweet treat with a difference.

Rhône

With France’s culinary capital, Lyon, at its heart, the Rhône region is blessed with incredible food and drink. Head to a traditional Lyonnaise bouchons for a prime example of the food on offer; cuisine that’s marked by innovation as much as it is by hearty, robust traditionalism. Quenelles, a creamed fish dish is particularly good, as is Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage, a blue cheese that has its own festival dedicated to it.

 

Refined and intimate, a river cruise is a serene experience like no other. Looking to sail some of the world’s most amazing waterways? Head over to our dedicated river cruise page to check out our latest deals and itineraries, or give our friendly customer care team a call on 0808 274 6777.

 

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About Author

Claire Wilde

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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