Food on Joy is of a very high quality, with plenty of regional variations, though portions are small (but you can always bulk up from the buffet or order an additional appetizer). We were also seriously impressed by the quality of regional wines and the knowledge of the wait staff, in terms of pairing.
Tauck takes food allergies seriously, and all menus label dishes for a variety of allergens, including gluten, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, dairy, nuts, sulphites and more. Vegetarian items and "traveling lite" dishes are also marked. They even invite you to meet with the delightfully accommodating maitre d' on the first evening to run through any dietary restrictions, which is a first for us.
There are just two dining venues: Compass Rose, the main dining room, and Arthur's, for snacks and all-day eating.
It sounds like a small thing, but the open seating plan and the presence of a casual "grill"-style restaurant available all day really made a difference from other river cruises we've been on. You really feel that you can eat when you wish, and at the quantity that you prefer.
Compass Rose (Deck 2): The main dining room takes up most of the front of the ship and is open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for eat-when-you-want dining. On a Bridge cruise, the tables are partly reserved for large family groups, the others are open and we enjoyed sitting at different spots around the room (people aren't territorial) and meeting other passengers along the way.
The room layout is around a central area for a buffet and a live cooking venue at one end. Tables and chairs as well as banquette-style seating are arranged around this, with many against the windows. There is a floor-to-ceiling wine rack at one end.
Breakfast is served from 6:30 or 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. depending on the itinerary. There are a la carte options including eggs, omelets and waffles, as well as specialty coffees. The buffet features bacon, poached eggs, hash browns, cereals, yogurts, pastries, different breads and fresh fruit. Oddly, the live cooking station, is just for show -- i.e., you can't order from there -- you have to place your order with a waiter (unlike at lunchtime).
Lunch is at 12:30 or 1 p.m. until 2 or 2:30 p.m., again depending on the itinerary. There is an a la carte option, which will consist of a four-course meal starting with a regional specialty such as a salad or a cold fish dish; a soup and then an entree, which often involves the waiter serving you food that is already on the buffet. There is always a meat dish, a fish dish, a vegetarian option and kids' dishes.
Rather than have a kids' menu on Bridge sailings, the line has kids favorites such as hot dogs and spaghetti Bolognese and French fries available at the buffet. The buffet also has a salad selection and various dressings. On one memorable day, we had whole roast suckling pig, served at the live food counter. Excellent regional wines, beers and soft drinks are served. Dessert is often regional too, and might include local cakes. Ice cream and cheese are always available.
Dinner is served from 7 to 9 p.m. and is any time dining. On all but one night, kids sit with their families on Bridge sailings. Dinner is a four-course affair with a regional starter, soup, entree and dessert. There is a choice of two appetizers, one vegetarian, such as goat cheese or an avocado salad. Two soups are offered, again, often regionally influenced, one vegetarian, one meat such as beef bouillon. Entrees will consist of meat dishes such as veal, venison or chicken, plus a fish option such as cod, John Dory and river perch. They come with a small selection of veg, and if you're hungry, it's worth adding a dish such as pasta, or heading to the buffet. Note that there are three "always available" options: steak, chicken and salmon, as well a variety of vegetables. Desserts are plentiful. There is always a "made" one -- creme brulee, for example -- plus ice cream, sorbet, a cheese board and fruit selection. All of these are paired with fine local wines, which the sommelier does a great job in matching up.
Arthur's (Deck 3): Arthur's is a quiet spot at the aft of the ship with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a bar and all-day dining. There are a number of tables of different sizes and a small deck with outdoor seats. There is a 24/7 coffee, tea and hot chocolate dispenser, as well as delicious freshly baked cookies, fruit and flavored water. During Tauck Bridges sailings you'll find various board games and puzzles here (and a lot of kids!). It's a lovely spot for a quiet drink after dinner, or for reading during the day.
An early-bird breakfast is served from 6:30 to 10 a.m. every day; lunch is served from noon to 5 p.m., which then segues into dinner. Last orders are at 11 p.m. Food options include: Caesar salad, Cobb salad and soup of the day; mains include mac n' cheese, burger, hot dog, Club sandwich and chilli con carne. Desserts include cheesecake. They'll even deliver to your cabin (if you ask nicely).