ABOVE: Anders Imboden poses with waiter
Eduardo Fernandes in the MS Maribelle's dining room.
from: MS Maribelle
Food is an important part of any cruise--and on a
meanders through the heart of France's leading gastronomic and wine regions,
dining takes on even more importance.
We had our first encounter with the MS Maribelle's
food after boarding the ship in Chalon-sur-Saône.
It was mid-afternoon, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a table with
freshly-made baguette sandwiches and drinks in the Lounge. The sandwiches were
wonderful, and they helped to give us the energy we needed to wander around the
town until dinner.
At 7:30 p.m., we had our first meal
in the MS Maribelle's restaurant. The ship has open seating, so we
grabbed two window chairs at a table for six and were promptly taken under the
wing of Eduardo (see photo), a native of Oporto, Portugal who become our waiter
for the rest of the cruise. (We could have sat in other areas of the dining
room, of course, but--like many guests--we'd found a waiter who took good care
of us, so we rewarded good service with loyalty and an extra tip at the end of
Dinner on the MS Maribelle
is a leisurely four- or five-course meal that usually consists of a salad or
appetizer, soup, an entrée, dessert, and--for those who have room--a plate of
after-dinner cheeses. On most evenings, guests had two choices for each course,
and those who craved for simple food could always order a steak or chicken
breast instead of the night's entrées.
Lunch is similar to dinner, but
with fewer courses, and guests can choose sandwiches from a buffet if they don't
want a hot entrée. Shore excursions return in time for the 12:30 meal hour, and
afternoon cruising usually begins as passengers are sitting down to lunch in the
large-windowed dining room.
Breakfast is a generous buffet
spread that passengers can enjoy at any time between 7 and 9 a.m. Waiters also
take orders for freshly cooked eggs, pancakes, and French toast. (Croissants and
muffins are served in the lounge at 6 a.m. for early risers.)
Other meals include afternoon tea
and a "midnight snack" at 11 p.m. There's no room service, but with the ship
being moored in cities or towns for much of the trip, anyone who's hungry for a
snack at odd hours can easily step off the ship and find a café or pastry shop.
Executive Chef Ingo Wegner and his
staff produced a succession of topnotch meals during our cruise, using fresh
ingredients from local markets. (I was especially impressed by the soups and
pastries, which were superb.)
Florian Brajkovik, the maitre d',
ran the service operation with warmth and savoir-faire; and Daniele, our bar
waitress, was always quick to supply the table with drinks, ice water, and fresh
Bars and beverages
The MS Maribelle has a bar in the lounge, where you
can get all the usual drinks plus alcoholic and non-alcoholic "cocktail of the
day." Drink prices are comparable to what you'd pay in a local bar or café.
During our cruise in fall, 2003, a Coca-Cola was
2,40, a name-brand Bourbon or Scotch cost €
4, and a glass of good-quality red,
white, or rosé wine was €
In the restaurant, you can order
wine by the glass or bottle, and unfinished bottles will be saved for future
meals. You can also bring your own bottle and pay a corkage fee. (On our cruise,
at least one thrifty couple avoided the corkage fee by filling wineglasses from
bottles in their cabins.)