When I booked my Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise, I anticipated enjoying the old world charm of Europe. I also looked forward to sailing on a new river cruise ship. What I hadn’t anticipated was the fantastically fresh and flavorful food I’d be eating on and off the ship.
The smaller scale of the ship (150-ish guests on the Adventures by Disney cruise vs. 3,000+ guests on many Disney Cruise Line sailings) means that the kitchen staff can provide more personal attention to guest needs. Additionally, there are no sea days on a river cruise and port stops are lengthy, which means that the ship can receive daily provisions of dairy, meat, and produce. There is less need to use frozen or pre-prepared food; more is fresh and freshly prepared than on a Disney Cruise Line voyage.
Meal times vary slightly from day to day, depending on the ship’s planned excursions. There is typically just one seating time for lunch and dinner. Times are posted daily in the “Daily Adventurer” which is available in the lobby and delivered to your room each evening, much like the Navigator is on Disney Cruise Line.
Breakfast is a hybrid buffet/menu meal. Always available on the buffets are a large selection of breads and pastries, fruit, yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, hash browns, baked beans, and fresh squeezed juices. There is a custom egg/omelet station daily. You may also order eggs, oatmeal, waffles, or breakfast steak. Additionally, every morning a server brought around “vitamin shots,” where were fortified shot-glass-sized smoothies.
Lunch was often served off the ship as part of an excursion. When lunch was onboard, it was a hybrid menu and buffet-style service with a mix of hot and cold basic and local offerings. Salad and sandwich fixings were always available.
Dinner on the ship is menu-based. Steak, salmon fillet, chicken breast, Caesar salad, and French fries are always available. The rest of the menu varies daily. Typically there was one vegetarian main course option each night. Strict vegans would likely find onboard dining challenging.
Every evening during the dinner service, children age 6-12, and anyone else who wanted to join, were invited to have a less formal meal in the lounge rather than sitting for multiple courses in the main dining room. The lounge offerings typically included things like mac n’ cheese, burgers, or chicken nuggets and fries. Kids were also welcome to dine with their families in the dining room. They could also ask to have the full adult menu served to them in the lounge while they were with the kids.
There is a Chef’s Table restaurant at the stern of the ship. Every adult guest is invited to dine at the Chef’s Table once during the sailing. If there’s availability, you may eat there more than once. Reservations are made on board, at any time during trip. There is no additional charge to dine at the Chef’s Table.
Unlike the adult dining venues on Disney Cruise Line (Palo and Remy), which have a hard requirement that guests be 18 to dine, there may be some wiggle room on the age requirement for the river cruise Chef’s Table. During my sailing, all the 16 and 17 year olds on board were invited to the Chef’s Table with their families.
The Chef’s Table food is a fixed offering, there is no menu and everyone eats the same thing. They’ll accommodate allergies, but if you’re a particularly fussy eater, you may want to avoid dining there.
In addition to the standard meal hours, there were several ship-related special food services in the lounge. On the one day that we had a daytime sail, there was an “ice cream social.” After the evening excursion to a Mozart and Strauss concert in Vienna, we returned to warm goulash and a selection of pastries. There was always a small section of fruit, cheeses, and pastries an hour before and an hour after breakfast, to satisfy early and late risers. During welcome and farewell receptions there were passed hors d’oeuvres. Coffee, tea, bottled water, lemonade, a bowl of whole fruit, and jars of cookies were always available. The joke among our guides was that they were required to feed us “every hour on the hour.” This proved to be substantially true.
The photos below are of non-mealtime offerings.
As I mentioned in a previous post, beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner. The selections vary daily, always a red and a white, and the pours are generous in the extreme. If you want more, and sometimes even if you don’t, the refills keep coming. Additionally, there are a number of events and receptions where glasses of beer or champagne are passed. And many of the excursions include wine, beer, or schnapps tastings. These are all available at no additional charge. If you have alcohol related challenges, the river cruise may be difficult for you to navigate.
The drinking age for beer and wine is 16 in many of the river cruise countries. Teens are not routinely served alcohol on the ship, but it’s all but inevitable that teens will be offered tastes, or more, during excursions. If your party includes teen travelers, you’ll want to develop a strategy in advance about how you want to approach the issue of alcohol consumption.
There is a full bar in the main lounge that, according to staff I spoke with, will stay open as late at night as people want to drink. Bar drinks are available for a fee that will be charged to your room account.
There is a dorm-sized refrigerator in every cabin. This is kept constantly stocked with bottle water at no additional cost.
A few times there were all-day excursions that involved being away from the ship during the lunch hour. Meals were provided at local restaurants, typically served family-style with a number of selections from which everyone could take what they wanted. This was included in the cost of the sailing.
SNACKS ON EXCURSIONS
Any time there was a bus ride to an excursion of more than about 15-20 minutes long, Adventures by Disney guides would come through the coach offering bottled water and a array of local packaged snacks.
There were also many small bites or food tastes included with excursions. These included tasting fresh apricots you picked yourself, having a hefty sample at a strudel making demonstration, and eating a marzipan sculpture you crafted yourself.
A NOTE ABOUT ALLERGIES
The Adventures by Disney guides and the servers on the ship were quite good about asking guests about food related allergies and offering food alternatives to allergens. If you look at the menus above, you’ll see small letters next to many of the items, these letters correspond to a standardized list of allergen identifiers. That being said, if you have a life threatening food allergy, you’ll want to exercise a high degree of caution, particularly off the ship. At one off-ship excursion meal, my family was seated with another guest who happened to have a nut allergy. The dessert offering at that meal was not identified as having a nut component on the printed menu. The cake itself did not contain nuts; however, when it arrived it was garnished with pistachios. Be sure to ask questions and use common sense.