Q – Friends have just returned from a European river cruise with Viking. They thought it was a terrific deal compared to big cruise ships but they felt that there was literally not enough food. No one offered them seconds and the staff seemed shocked when they asked for more food, calling in the maitre’d. He explained that they ordered “just enough to serve the number of passengers aboard.” They also told us that all menus and food stuffs are ordered by corporate headquarters and that the food was excessively bland and not representative of local markets along the route and what they offered. We are about to decide on whether or not we will river boat or cruise and we were wondering if our friends experience was typical of Viking River and other river boat lines?
A – There are many reasons to go on a river boat versus a cruise ship. But superior cuisine is not one of them. It strikes us that you might be happier on a cruise ship. You can enjoy fine dining while the passengers off river boats are enjoying villages and towns in the center of Europe. Comments such as the ones you have heard are not infrequent. The blandness of the food is often a reflection of the age of the guests aboard river boats and the frequent complaints that “food is too spicy”. This makes it difficult for river boat executives to please everyone. Keeping costs contained is an issue but so is the small size of the on-board galleys. The fact is that the vast majority of Viking River guests seem fine with the onboard food. There are reasons that Viking has grown so big so quickly.