All meals, afternoon tea and snacks are included in the cruise fare. There is one main dining room, located forward on the Cello Deck, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An early-riser continental breakfast, along with a light lunch option, afternoon tea and late-night snack, is served in the lounge on the Violin Deck. Aside from breakfast, meals are served at one sitting and passengers are advised to arrive within 20 minutes of opening time for lunch so the meal doesn't feel rushed. They can linger as long as they want after dinner. There is free seating at every mealtime and passengers can choose where they want to sit, and the maitre d' is always on hand to help if people are looking for somewhere to sit or want a table for two.
The food is varied and of a very high standard, which reflects the line's membership in the culinary association La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Menus are a combination of regional specialties from the destinations visited during the cruise, familiar favourites and an always available option of simpler dishes. AmaBella has an onboard baker, who produces delicious fresh bread and pastries daily, and the line's novel warm bread baskets that resemble miniature sacks are sold in the shop and a popular souvenir. Service is very efficient and never felt rushed, with waiters having time to chat as they brought food and refilled wine and water glasses. Imaginative vegetarian options are available at all meals, and were never the poor relation of the fish and meat items. Gluten-free food is available and special diets can be catered for. However, it is best to request this at the time of booking and then talk to the maitre d' once onboard.
Restaurant (Deck 2): The main dining room is on the Cello Deck and is a comfortable room with a mix of chairs and banquette seating. There are large windows down both sides so you don't miss any passing scenery during mealtimes. The most unusual feature is the layout. Most river vessels have one large dining room with a central buffet station. On AmaBella the room is divided into two distinct halves, accessed by a door on each side, and on some nights there are different menus in each. There are two buffet stations, used at breakfast and lunch, which are located at opposite ends of the room behind dividing screens. Although this means you have to walk between the two, it does give the space a real feeling of being a restaurant -- particularly at night when the buffet areas are not used and separate menus are sometimes featured (typically nine evenings on a 14-night cruise).
The Bella Cucina (Italian side) is decorated in warm red tones and the Verde GriIl (international side) boasts a cool green decor. At the entrance to Bella Cucina, and separated from the main restaurant area by a screen, is a wooden table with high stools which is a throwback to the time when AmaBella was also used for AmaWaterways' cruises. The table was used for special events such as wine tastings. On APT it is laid out as part of the breakfast buffet, with sparkling wine, smoked salmon and bagels, and during lunch and dinner passengers can opt to sit there (although few did during our cruise). Tables in the main dining area seat two to six and tables are always well presented, with white tablecloths and folded linen napkins.
Buffet breakfast is generally served from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The buffet area closest to the entrance is used for pastries and breads. The buffet at the far end features a range of juices, cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, daily fruit smoothie, cold cuts, cheese, bacon, sausages, hash browns, baked beans and scrambled eggs. Each day features a special hot buffet item, such as quinoa pancakes or gluten-free apple, cinnamon and quinoa breakfast bake. Cooked-to-order items are available from the kitchen and are served at the table. These include oatmeal, eggs Benedict, poached eggs, waffles and the A+ breakfast that comes with steak. There is also an egg station for freshly cooked omelettes and fried eggs. There are reserved breakfast tables for Asian passengers, located close to a buffet area serving congee and other Asian breakfast items. Tea and coffee is served to the table.
Lunch is generally served at 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m., depending on the excursion schedule. It is a mix of buffet items and dishes that can be ordered from the menu. A typical menu will be spring rolls, clear chicken soup or cream of leek soup, coq au vin, German goulash, fillet of perch, stuffed courgettes or pasta from the live cooking station, followed by apple crumble, ice cream or cheese. There will also be a selection of salads. Always available items are a steak sandwich, chicken ciabatta, breaded fish burger, coleslaw, potato wedges and French fries. There are also special buffet lunches, such as ones showcasing chicken or pork.
Dinner is served at a set time each night, generally 7 p.m., and there is flexibility if passengers want to come down a half-hour or so later (although most don't!). Menus always consist of four courses (five if you include cheese), although passengers can, of course, skip courses or order two starters if they want a lighter meal.
On nights when the restaurant is divided, the two different menus are shown at the respective entrances. A typical Italian menu in Bella Cucina is a starter of tomato, mozzarella and aged balsamic vinegar or salad with grilled courgettes and Parmesan flakes, followed by beef broth or white bean cream soup. Main courses include pink roast duck breast with creamy polenta and bell pepper stew; grilled river char fillet with summer vegetables and wild rice or vegetarian lasagne. Desserts might include tiramisu, ice cream, fresh fruit and cheese. On the same night the Verde Grill will feature dishes such as beetroot carpaccio with goat cheese mousse and mango salsa or melon cocktail to start, followed by the same soups served in Bella Cucina. Main courses might include confit duck leg with sausage cassoulet or grilled tofu with fried rice, egg and vegetables. Typical desserts are chocolate cake with caramel ice cream, a selection of ice creams with a yoghurt cream and cheese.
On other evenings both sides of the restaurant will serve the same menu: a German-themed dinner with dishes such as Bavarian dried ham, a salad or plum cocktail to begin, followed by beef consomme with meatballs or potato cream soup with sausage. Typical main courses might be grilled barramundi with lentil ragout or pork belly, with mushroom ragout and bread dumplings for the vegetarian option. Desserts could be a German cake, ice cream, fresh fruit and cheese. The same menu is also served throughout the restaurant on the speciality nights of the captain's dinner and Chaine des Rotisseurs evening.
Whichever menu is served, it always includes the chef's recommendation of a choice of starter, main course and dessert. This makes ordering easy as if passengers like what they see they can simply point to the recommended meal. Each evening meal also includes the always available choices of grilled entrecote steak, salmon fillet, chicken breast and Caesar salad with sides of coleslaw, potato wedges and french fries.
On every cruise there is a captain's dinner, usually on the penultimate night, that will feature an amuse-bouche to start, plus an extra sorbet course. On this evening, typical starters might be a trio of fish comprising whisky-flavoured salmon, smoked salmon and tuna rillettes or corn tortillas with vegetables and avocado cream, followed by beef consomme with sherry or mushroom cappuccino. Mains might include Thai-style salmon or roast Angus beef tenderloin, with tempura vegetables for the vegetarian choice. Typical desserts are rosemary creme brulee, stracciatella ice cream, fresh fruit or cheese, rounded off with petits fours.
Each cruise will also feature a special Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner showcasing some of the gourmet items that helped earn the line membership of the association. This might include an appetiser of foie gras with a walnut brioche, grilled asparagus salad with goat cheese or pear cocktail. This is followed by a choice of clear or cream soup, such as French onion or white asparagus with smoked salmon. Typical main courses are grilled fillet of dorade with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, sauteed spinach and truffle-flavoured mousseline potatoes; roast lamb medallion in an herb crust with rosemary sauce, ratatouille and potato gratin or a vegetarian dish of spinach quiche with chives, sour cream and sauteed cherry tomatoes. To follow, desserts include a trio of walnut vanilla ice cream, molten chocolate cake and green apple sherbet; peach melba; fresh fruits; and a cheese plate. The always available options can also be ordered at this dinner. Afterwards the chef stands outside to say goodbye to everyone as they leave the dining room and hands out a handmade sweet treat.
Complimentary wines -- usually regional -- are served with lunch and dinner. They are of good quality and varied, and you never have to wait for your glass to be refilled. There is a different choice of red and white wine with each meal, and as the cruises pass through German winemaking regions you can expect to try different local wines. Passengers can also opt to pay for other wines from an international list that includes French and Italian wines starting from 16.90 euros a bottle.
Observation Lounge (Deck 3): Early-riser breakfasts are served in the upper deck lounge, usually from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., with the early-bird breakfast closing when the main dining room opens for breakfast. It includes juices, tea, coffee, croissants, pastries and fruit. Afterwards the same items are served at the late-risers breakfast from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. At around 12:30 or 1 p.m., depending on excursion times, there is a light lunch in the lounge. This always includes a soup and pasta dish along with hot and cold items such as pizza, onion tart, sandwiches and salads. Each day there is afternoon tea, which is generally from 4 to 5 p.m. Served against the backdrop of music from the onboard pianist, the lavish spread includes a variety of tempting sandwiches and cakes. Late-night snacks are served in the lounge at around 10:30 p.m. These are typically small hot items such as chicken wings, drumsticks, small savoury tarts or potato wedges with a dip. The lounge is also used for occasional daytime food events, such as a weekly ice cream party or a morning snack of German sausages and beer.
Complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate is available 24/7 from the self-serve machine at the entrance to the lounge. Biscuits and fruit, iced water and iced tea are also available during the day.
Chef's Table (Deck 3): This speciality restaurant is located in a lovely position at the back of the ship with panoramic windows on all sides. Seating up to 24 passengers at two rectangular tables, diners can watch the chef at work while he prepares a five-course tasting menu. Passengers can make reservations at reception or through the butler if they have butler service, and everyone is guaranteed to dine at the Chef's Table once a week. In theory, they could go more often if there is availability, but the menu only changes on a weekly basis so you would end up eating the same thing if you went twice in the same week.
A typical menu might feature an amuse-bouche of lemon-crusted salmon followed by a delicate appetiser of feta cheese, pomegranate, yoghurt meringue and kiwi fruit, with iced watermelon soup with black pepper or carrot and ginger soup to follow. The choice of two main dishes can include salmon with teriyaki sauce, mashed avocado and green asparagus or lamb rack with sweet potato, pumpkin mash, broccoli and herbs, with both main courses served with handmade cottage cheese ravioli. Desserts include vanilla and apricot macaroon with an apricot sorbet, fresh fruit and cheese. The meal is served with a choice of quality wines, such as an Austrian Gruner Veltliner white or Blauer Zweigelt red. Vegetarians can be catered for at the Chef's Table with advance notice.
Sun Deck (Deck 4): The front portion of the sun deck, in front of the wheelhouse, is set out with six large wooden tables, each sitting up to eight on comfortable mesh-covered chairs. Although food is not served here, passengers can bring up food and drink from the lounge and use it as an alfresco dining area.
Room service -- breakfast and dinner -- is available for passengers in category B+, T, T+, P and P+ cabins and those staying in suites. It is not available in any of the lower (D and E category) Piano Deck cabins and category C cabins on the middle Cello Deck, but all passengers are welcome to take food back to their cabins in they wish.