Epicurean European River Cruises

Robert Schmidt is a certified sommelier and wine specialist dedicated to AmaWaterways’ popular wine cruises. Celebrating more than 21 years on the river, family-owned and operated AmaWaterways is renowned for its delicious cuisine and enriching themed cruises. Wine cruises sail through some of Europe’s most acclaimed wine regions with expert hosts on board, complimentary lectures, tastings and guided excursions to historic vineyards and cellars.

Could you describe the regionally inspired menus that accentuate certain itineraries?

Robert Schmidt: AmaWaterways sources local produce, fresh fish, meat and spices from the destinations we cruise through, enabling guests to taste authentic local flavors such as Hungarian paprika, apricots from Austria’s Wachau Valley and more. In addition to preparing entrees with fresh, seasonal ingredients accented by regionally inspired flavors, our expert chefs also prepare dishes that are renowned in each locality. This might include spaetzle, a freshly made pasta dish; or sauerbraten, a well-loved German pot roast; and Wiener schnitzel, apple strudel or marillenknödel (apricot dumplings), beloved throughout Austria. These specialties are paired with local wines, so while we are cruising on the Danube, Hungarian dishes may be paired with crisp, dry Hungarian furmint, while Austrian dishes may be paired with grüner veltliner from the Kremstal.

We also offer our guests the opportunity to taste traditional Asian cuisine such as pho bo and goi cuon spring rolls enjoyed in Vietnam and Cambodia during cruises along the Mekong River. A heightened culinary focus enables our guests to develop a deeper and more nuanced appreciation for a country, its history, culture and people. Since many guests enjoy experiencing the world through their taste buds, ensuring the cuisine we serve on board our ships immerses them in the local flavors and culture is very important to us and introduces them to new dishes from other parts of the world. However, we are also sure to offer a selection of Western favorites such as hamburgers, steak and pizza, and we also accommodate many dietary requests such as gluten-free, vegetarian, low-sodium and vegan.

Q: Please explain a La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dining experience.

RS: We are the first river cruise line to be welcomed into this prestigious invitation-only gastronomic society and we serve a special La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs menu one evening during each river cruise. The menu is heavily influenced by French culinary traditions, as a nod to our special membership in this historically French society. Although we update the menu every year, some of last year’s dishes included rich French onion soup, the eclectic salad Nicoise, a mouthwatering rack of lamb and delicate crepes Suzette for dessert. Regardless of the unique dishes served each year, this special menu focuses on values such as quality, fine dining, support of the culinary arts and the pleasures of the table. Guests are always surprised and delighted by this evening of exquisite cuisine. Of course, my favorite part is complementing this meal with French wines!

What’s your ideal day of dining on board?

RS: I love to wake up to AmaWaterways’ healthy breakfast bowls. With a unique combination offered each day, these vibrant bowls include a wide assortment of ingredients such as fresh berries, nuts and seeds, and while small in size, they pack a powerful punch in flavor. My favorite tastes like melted chocolate and peanut butter, but the chefs make sure it is healthy! Sometimes I pair a breakfast bowl with a made-to-order omelet or eggs Benedict. Every breakfast starts with a plate of fresh fruit served by the waitstaff. For lunch, we recently introduced an array of small-bite appetizers reflecting global delicacies that arrive at the tables before guests order from the menus. These are delicious introductions to the meal and ensure guests never go hungry while waiting for their soup, salad or main course. I also have a weakness for our signature oven-roasted potato wedges, so whether I have a freshly tossed salad, a personalized pasta dish or a juicy hamburger, I find it hard to resist ordering a side of potato wedges. At dinner, fresh-baked breads and rolls are the best way to start the meal, but the flavorful soups are my favorite. It honestly doesn’t matter which variety I try; I love them all, from the cream of mushroom to the lentil to the lemongrass soup – which was a truly memorable addition to The Chef’s Table seven-course menu. I typically lean toward our wonderfully prepared fresh fish dishes served with an assortment of vegetables, followed by dessert. The ice creams served alongside many of our chefs’ indulgent creations are magnificent, especially the cinnamon flavor. Of course, guests should also be sure to sample the local wines that have been paired with each night’s dinner and change every day.

Can you give us the details on The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant?

RS: The Chef’s Table was the first included specialty restaurant of its kind on the rivers when it debuted in 2008. It is an intimate venue accommodating an average of just 24 guests where a multi-course tasting menu is served with a selection of red and white wines designed to complement the food. While this dining venue does require a reservation, every guest on board will have the chance to experience one special evening at The Chef’s Table with our compliments.

What can you tell us about the Al Fresco Restaurant?

RS: Available exclusively on the Danube River aboard our innovative flagship, AmaMagna, the Al Fresco Restaurant on the Violin Deck offers a vegetable-forward menu with a focus on simple ingredients and fresh flavors. The restaurant welcomes no more than 24 guests at one time for breakfast, light lunch, tapas and dinner, for which the latter requires a reservation. The airy space is contemporary yet simple in its design, and tables of four line the floor-to-ceiling retractable windows, offering scenic views as the ship cruises through Austria’s beautiful Wachau Valley and into cities such as Bratislava, Vienna and Passau. As weather permits, the windows are opened, inviting fresh air and local ambiance inside.

How does your membership with La Connétablie de Guyenne impact onboard wine selections?

RS: In 2016, AmaWaterways was inducted into this wine brotherhood, originally created in Bordeaux in 1952, with a formal procession of the Connétablie’s banner to the sound of hunting horns. Although AmaWaterways always carefully curated our wine selection on board, our membership in La Connétablie de Guyenne of course has heightened our commitment to bringing wonderful local wines on board our ships and integrating them into our daily menus. Our commitment to wine extends further, as AmaWaterways offers guests a choice of more than 70 Celebration of Wine River Cruises through Europe in 2024. Each Wine Cruise is hosted by a qualified wine expert from North America or Europe. This curated lineup of Wine Hosts, including vineyard owners, winemakers, certified sommeliers and wine educators, brings hand-selected wines on board to serve during wine tastings and seminars, and each host collaborates with our executive chefs on a special wine pairing dinner – all included in the price of the cruise. Some wines come from the expert’s own winery while other selections may be sourced directly from wineries located along the river cruise itinerary.

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