The food on Scenic Diamond is very good, and we found some of the dishes, particularly at the specialty restaurants, among the best we've had on the rivers. Expect regional French fare as the centerpiece for most meals, although you can also order more familiar foods if you like. We were impressed with the cheese choices -- as it should be, if you're in Bordeaux -- and the overall Gallic flare; French staples like crepes Suzette, rabbit, duck, cassoulet, pate, foie gras, mussels and oysters all made an appearance.
In addition, we were also impressed with the wines onboard. While you'd hope that a Bordeaux cruise would get this right, a varied wine list that reflects the region isn't always a given, and on Scenic Diamond, we found the chef and staff put a lot of thought into the offerings. All wines are included, and if there's a special bottle that was served at a specialty dinner one night, you can ask for it again and be accommodated, if they still have it.
Crystal Dining Room (Sapphire Deck): The main dining venue is the Crystal Dining Room, which has windows running down both sides, round and rectangular tables, and a permanent, rectangular buffet in the middle. It's got a modern look with blue, purple and gray chairs mirroring the blue and purple accents in the otherwise black and white carpeting. Four-tops and two-tops are pushed together to form tables of six, and it's pretty easy to sit two couples with no one in the middle.
A cooking station that doubles as the site of the Scenic Culinaire cooking demonstrations is set up in the back of the room. During meal service, the space is used for made-to-order dishes such as omelets, crepes or seafood pasta. There's also an attractive open refrigerator area that showcases fresh vegetables and cheeses; you have to attend a Culinaire event to really notice it, however.
Dining is always open seating, with breakfast served from 7 to 9 a.m., lunch starting between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. (depending on the day's itinerary and sailing schedule) and dinner at 7 p.m. While breakfast is a show-up-whenever affair, the cruise director on our sailing made a point in one of his daily lectures to remind us that dinner started promptly at 7 p.m., as many passengers had been wandering in after service had begun.
Breakfast and lunch are mainly buffets with a few hot items available for ordering specially off the menu (such as pancakes, poached eggs and eggs Benedict). The breakfast buffet features fruit, cheese, cereal, yogurt, bread and breakfast pastries, scrambled eggs, potatoes, baked beans, breakfast meats and fish. There's also a made-to-order omelet station and a different smoothie each day. For those who want it, you can have Champagne or order a cocktail like a Bloody Mary.
Lunch typically features a salad bar (with a small variety of veggies and a large assortment of nuts and seeds for toppings) and some premade salads (bean salad or egg salad, for example), sandwich fixings, two soups, a regional specialty (such as leg of rabbit or fresh oysters), a pasta station, a carving station or other hot item cooked fresh, cheeses and a selection of desserts (usually one type of cookie, ice cream, a mousse and a cake). You can order hamburgers, Caesar salad or other items from the "always available" menu, but it's not really advertised; you have to ask. The regional items give a standard buffet some flair and interest, and the meats and seafood cooked at the buffet consistently got good reviews.
Dinner is entirely table service with no buffet (with the exception of the first night of arrival). The menu offers two to three choices for an appetizer, soup, entree (often a meat, a seafood and a vegetarian option) and dessert. A typical menu might include a terrine of goat cheese and spinach; seafood bisque with cognac and whipped cream; beef cheeks braised in Bordeaux with vegetable confit and potatoes Lyonnais; cod with capers and walnut sauce; celeriac cordon bleu with radicchio salad; cannelloni stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and cottage cheese on basil cream; lemon tart with meringue; chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce; fruit plate; or cheese. One recommended dish for each course is labeled as a healthy choice, and always-available options include a green or Caesar salad, hamburger or cheeseburger served with fries, chicken breast, salmon steak, fillet steak and a cheese plate for dessert. Special evenings include the Captain's Welcome and Farewell dinners.
At lunch and dinner, waiters come around to offer complimentary red and a white wine, but you can order other vintages, beer or soft drinks, as well. Pro tip: Take a picture of a special wine served at Table La Rive or L'Amour, and ask the server to pour it.
Most dietary restrictions can be handled, but you must let Scenic know before your cruise. The maitre d' will speak to you at the beginning of the cruise to sort out what you can and can't eat. We met vegans and gluten-free eaters who were satisfied with their menu options. The ship can't provide kosher meals.
River Cafe (Diamond Deck): A river cruise industry innovation, Scenic's snack bar in the midst of the lounge is terrific. It is used for early- and late-riser breakfast, as well as a light lunch; there's also a selection of sandwiches, quiches and pastries available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The light lunch offerings might include pasta, a regional hot dish like tarte flambe, a salad bar, soup, cheeses and the tastiest toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. You can either eat inside, at the area that becomes L'Amour at night, or at shaded outdoor tables in the ship's front.
L'Amour (Diamond Deck): L'Amour is the ship's French specialty restaurant, located behind the bar in the forward part of the main lounge; glass walls separate it from the rest of the lounge. There's no surcharge, and every passenger can dine there at least once during each cruise; your butler will arrange it for you. The venue seats 32. Everyone receives a selection of charcuterie, antipasti and caramelized goat cheese as an appetizer; vegetarians will receive an alternative. The soup choices -- a deconstructed onion soup with cheese croutons and a green pea soup with garlic -- were quite good, followed by an absolutely delicious homemade pasta stuffed with sheep cheese and dried tomato. Passengers receive a choice of entrees; either duck breast with Alsace cabbage and Bordeaux jus; red mullet on olive salsa with potato and grilled vegetables; or ratatouille with bechamel sauce. Dessert was a plate of three bites -- profiteroles with cherries, pear and red wine mousse and chocolate opera cake -- as well as a cheese plate.
A meal at L'Amour isn't quick -- there are a lot of courses, and three wines are poured, if you include the opening Champagne. But we found the location extremely pleasant, particularly during scenic cruising. Our advice: Find out when the ship is sailing along the fishing camps and villages of the Gironde and book that night. The food is finished upstairs by one of the ship's chefs, so everything comes hot and fresh. It's a worthwhile caloric splurge.
Table La Rive (Sapphire Deck): Passengers in Deck 3 suites have the exclusive opportunity to dine at Table La Rive, a 10-person Chef's Table-esque experience. A special table is set up at the far end of the dining room by a window into the galley, and passengers are served a seven-course degustation menu that features a different wine with each course. It's a three-hour meal, but the pacing is perfect and the pairings are innovative; we're still raving about a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape that came with homemade foie gras, fig compote and a special salt -- one of our favorite bites ever served on a river cruise ship. Vegetarians are given alternative options, and the ones at our table still appreciated the pairings. Because the portions are small, you'll still have room for dessert when it arrives with a requisite sauternes.
Room Service: A limited room service menu is available after 6 p.m. Contact Reception or your butler to order. Choose from green salads, a club sandwich, hamburger with fries, minute steak with fries, a brownie or a cheese plate. Butlers can also provide an early-morning tea and coffee service, or they can serve breakfast in your cabin, depending on your stateroom level.