Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran was on Ama Waterways' new river cruise ship, the Amacerto. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Michelle’s first dispatch.
It’s a strange name, but with Erlebnis, the chef’s table restaurant on the Amacerto, Ama Waterways is making one of the first attempts among European river cruise lines to create a restaurant separate from the main dining room.
Other river cruise lines have incorporated a casual lunch venue, weather permitting, and alternative seating areas throughout the ship that offer some version of the main dining room menu. But the 28-person Erlebnis is a separate dinner-only restaurant, with its own chef and menu.
Given the limited capacity, passengers reserve seats at Erlebnis upon embarkation. There is no extra charge for what is a notably upgraded dining experience to the main restaurant.
With only 28 guests to serve, there is much more attention to detail, from the attentive service to the six-course menu to the presentation. (This isn’t to say that service in the main dining room is lacking, but serving dinner to 136 passengers is very different than serving 28.)
The layout of the restaurant is a large round table in the center surrounded by several four-top tables. The glass-enclosed kitchen is housed within the restaurant for all to see the chef’s work.
The room is enclosed by a semi-circular wall of windows off the aft of the ship that provide uninhibited views of the river. It is an intimate dining experience, but given the small size of the venue, the volume can get up there — also a sign of the endless wine pours.
On the last evening of the cruise, those wines included a rosé from Wachau, Austria; a German Riesling; and a pinot noir from the Santa Maria Valley in California.
That same night, the menu was ambitious and well-executed. A tempura and teriyaki amuse-bouche was followed by salmon tartare with lime-infused crème fraiche and avocado, and then oxtail soup.
After a passion fruit sorbet, wild rosella and champagne palate cleanser, guests had the choice of sea bass and Atlantic scallop with a Cajun crawfish beurre blanc and green peas and potato mash, or whole roast U.S. prime choice sirloin steak with hollandaise sauce, fresh summer truffle, fried young potatoes and grilled asparagus.
Dessert was a trio of Irish coffee mousse, a strawberry and cream cup and a mini chocolate tart. Hungry? Diners definitely were not by the end of the meal.
In the end, what Erlebnis executed was not just a pleasant culinary journey, but further evidence of the opportunities to enhance the onboard experience; even within that small, rectangular box the river cruise lines are restricted to working within.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.