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When travelers are selecting a river cruise, especially a European river cruise or American river cruise, we’re often asked about our favorite ship dining experiences. That’s always a tough question to answer, since river cruising affords so many culinary delights. While where to dine ashore is best left to a future series of blogs, dining aboard a river ship is a bit easier to narrow down. Of course, it’s all about the food but don’t forget the importance of ambiance as well. At Select Waterways, we have a few clear favorites. Our choice on AmaWaterways is all about the presentation, sweeping river views and the intimate room with only a handful of diners. On American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Queen, the largest vessel ever built for US river cruising, the throwback décor and soaring windows are the star. With Uniworld, it’s solely about the extraordinary food, especially since they are such a gastronomic star in European river cruises. Here then, without further ado, are our Top 3 River Ship Dining Insider Picks:

The Chef’s Table

AmaWaterways (All European Ships) Join a few of your fellow travelers at The Chef’s Table, where the fully visible kitchen becomes part of the entertainment. You’ll have the opportunity to watch the chef prepare a special, multi-course meal right in front of you. The menu here is unique, making this a truly distinct gastronomic experience. Indulge in delectable dishes paired with unlimited fine wines, hand selected just for this dinner. You’ll need reservations but don’t worry—everyone aboard gets their chance. We always try to dine at The Chef’s Table on the last night of our voyage. It ends the cruise on a culinary high note.

J .M. White Dining Room

American Queen Steamboat Company (American Queen) With its ornate fretwork and galleries rising two decks high framed by narrow, Victorian-draped windows, this elegant room is one of our favorites because it feels completely authentic. It’s easy to imagine you’re drifting along the Mississippi with Mark Twain as a charming table companion 125 years ago. Along the way, indulge in Southern favorites like bourbon pecan pie, Cajun shrimp and cheese grits, spicy gumbo, fried green tomatoes and, of course, a refreshing mint julep.

All restaurants

Uniworld River Cruises (All European Ships) Uniworld boasts the only Zagat-rated restaurants on the rivers, and it shows. When dining onboard, you’ll be treated to world-class cuisine made from fresh ingredients, locally sourced from the destinations you visit. For example, a dinner menu on the Catherine, enroute to Avignon, features delicacies such as cod loin in bouillabaisse jus, barigoule artichoke, broad beans and saffron potatoes; roasted rack of lamb in mustard herb crust, olive and sweet garlic sauce, eggplant mash, tomato provençale and boulangère potatoes; iced Montélimar nougat parfait with red berry sauce; and French lemon tart with homemade melon ice cream. Delicious!



As you can guess by our passion, there is something special about river cruising. But like any vacation, a river cruise is often remembered for those handful of special moments where time seems to stand still, and the world’s focus is on you, and only you. You know that moment we’re talking about. You might have forgotten every detail of a vacation from two or three decades ago except for that one special event, amazing day, incredible meal, or special feeling that still comes up in conversation today. What we love about European river cruises is that it’s not just one of these moments that stand out, it’s several.

One of our favorite memories is from a recent Danube river cruise with AmaWaterways. It was a wonderful day exploring Budapes that turned into an absolutely unforgettable evening. AmaWaterways has a complimentary specialty restaurant they call the Chef’s Table. Each guest makes reservations once during the cruise and the experience is heavenly. It was the last night of our Danube cruise and with the addition of the Chef’s Table, it was already building into a memorable evening.

What happened next was completely unexpected. In recent years thanks to a grant from UNESCO, Budapest has been able to dramatically light its awe-inspiring architecture at night, from the stunning Parliament building to its many graceful bridges. Visitors to Budapest regularly book evening river cruises on small dinner boats, paying a pretty penny to traverse the river and see the amazing light show. As our vessel, the AmaSerena, began to pull away from the dock, we realized we were going to have the same experience, all included in our fare.

We finished our dessert and champagne in the Chef’s Table and then headed up on deck. This is where things fell into place and perfection became the order of the evening. It was a chilly night in November and as we settled into a deck chair on the top deck, we learned what a luxury river cruise is really all about. A staff member passed by, handing out cozy wool blankets, which we wrapped around our legs. Just as the warmth was starting to cradle us in its comfortable embrace, we passed the Parliament building, looking for all the world like a fairytale castle or elaborate gingerbread house. The elegant Chain Bridge draped across the river just ahead and to the other side, the Hungarian National Gallery glowed atop the bluffs overlooking the water, its reflection sparkling like diamonds. It was positively sublime.

But premium river cruises are about more than just the sights. From the darkness came a parade of twinkling lights onto the upper deck. We turned away from the picture postcard view for a moment and squinted our eyes. A white gloved gentleman bent down, and we saw that surrounding a single candle in the middle of a tray were several small glasses with an enticing amber liquid. He explained that it was a peach liqueur, produced and bottled in Durnstein upriver. We took the glass and sipped the nectar of a drink so deliciously European, so delightfully unexpected, and so utterly ideal for that moment.

For that moment, everything was utterly, impossibly, and wonderfully perfect. We knew we would talk about that evening for years.

These are the moments that all of us at Select Waterways wants to create for you. We are your river and small ship cruise insiders, specializing in European river cruises, including Danube River cruises, Rhine River cruises, wine cruises, Seine River cruises, as well as China river cruises with Yangtze river cruises, Vietnam river cruises with Mekong River cruises, Russia river cruises with Volga river cruises, Nile river cruises, Africa river cruises and Amazon river cruises. Naturally, we have American river cruises with Mississippi River cruises, Ohio River Cruises, Columbia River cruises, Illinois River cruises and Tennessee River cruises. We also offer expedition cruises and small ship cruises throughout the world, with polar cruises such as Arctic cruises and Antarctica cruises among the most popular. Whether it’s luxury river cruising, premium river cruising, expedition cruising or small ship cruising, we’ve got you covered. Visit our website at www.selectwaterways.com or give us a call at 1-844-SWCRUISE (1-844-792-7847). Be sure to join our Insider Club by clicking here and Like our Facebook page by clicking here.