Viking Kara Cruise: Dining delights abound on river cruise

Floor to ceiling windows provide changing river scenes in the restaurant.
Floor to ceiling windows provide changing river scenes in the restaurant.

ABOARD THE VIKING KARA –  Would I prefer roasted pork medallions wrapped in parma ham, herb crusted ahi filet with warm chanterelle arugula vinaigrette or portobello mushroom lasagna?

But, wait, that is just the first page. Another “always available” page offers even more choices – sautéed salmon filet, roast chicken breast or seared prime ribeye steak.

And that is only the entrees. For starters, I can choose baba ghanoush & hummus, blackened beef carpaccio, baby spinach and blue cheese or parsley root veloute. Or on the “always available” starters side of the menu, I can order a cheese plate with mango thyme chutney.

The Aquavit Lounge is where lighter fare is served.
The Aquavit Lounge is where lighter fare is served.

Dessert options include mascarpone & sour cherry cake, hot chocolate cake, traditional Paris-Brest, almond cake, warm apple hazelnut crumble, fruit plate, sorbet or several different kinds of ice cream and sauces.

I had been told that food on Viking River Cruises is excellent and it certainly is. On a small ship, I figured the chef and cooking staff might not have much room to stretch their imaginations and cooking skills. But each meal has been wonderful with creative dishes and plenty of choices from executive chef Dimitar Yordanov and staff.

The Viking Kara has two places to dine, either the main restaurant on Deck Two where a regular meal is served or the Aquavit Lounge on Deck Three where lighter fare is available. Breakfast is usually from 7 to 9:30 a.m., lunch is around 1 p.m. and dinner is about 7 p.m. Times are sometimes adjusted according to shore excursions.

Two coffee, hot chocolate and tea stations in the upper atrium are also open 24/7 and have self-service machines that can produce lattes and cappuccinos, with mini-pastries offered in the morning and cookies in the afternoon.

Both the Aquavit and the restaurant offer great views during meal time so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing river scenes when you dine. The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with a large circular buffet area in the center of the room. Seating is open so passengers can eat different meals at different tables if they want.

                                      Delightful Dining Companions

My first night on the ship I sat with four delightful women – Carol from New England and Florida, Anita from Maine, and Marie and Carolyn from Michigan. Carol, Marie and Carolyn are retired educators and Anita was in marketing. We enjoy each other’s company so much that we have headed for the same table together each meal. I am the only solo traveler on this cruise. Since I often travel alone, fellow passengers frequently ask if I don’t get lonely, afraid or bored traveling by myself. Nope. Not ever.

Server Sandra uses an electronic device to take dining orders and route them to the kitchen.
Server Sandra uses an electronic device to take dining orders and route them to the kitchen.

I am a breakfast eater so I go to the restaurant each morning to get fueled for our busy day. The breakfast buffet is heaped with a wide choice of food – cheese, meat, yogurt, grilled tomatoes, hash brown potatoes, yogurt, bunches of bread and pastries, oatmeal with toppings and much more. There’s also an omelet station where eggs can be cooked to order. Or you can choose from the printed menu and be served at the table. I have had the Eggs Benedict on the menu twice so far which means they are very good.

Lunch includes a soup and salad bar with plenty of meats and cheeses or you can order from the menu – usually a featured entrée, pastas or sandwiches. Dinner, of course is the fanciest meal of the day. My favorite so far as been the special A Taste of Germany dinner with more German dishes than I could spell or sample. The buffet was packed with specialties, plus ordering from the menu was also offered. Each table had a wooden rack of pretzels and sausages, along with a plate of cheese, meat and spreads as appetizers.

An accordionist and a hurdy gurdy player added to the German ambiance and a server delivered German beers and schnapps. Soft drinks, wine and beer are always complimentary at lunch and dinner.

 Hi-Tech Service

Viking Kara dishes are always tasty and pleasing to the eye, like this pumpkin pie.
Viking Kara dishes are always tasty and pleasing to the eye, like this pumpkin pie.

Our server Sandra from Croatia is excellent, among the best I have ever met. When she learned that two of the women at my table have food allergies – one to shellfish and the other to dairy products and gluten – Sandra took over and made sure their meals would fit those requirements and still be delicious and beautifully presented. Because of those allergies, we often get a sneak peak at upcoming menus because Sandra will bring the next-meal menus to our table to see what will fit those allergy requirements. If nothing on the regular menu does, Sandra will have the chef improvise.

To make the ordering process speedier, Sandra and other servers use a computerized device to enter our choices and electronically send the orders to the kitchen. Saves walking trips for Sandra and lets chefs quickly know what items are most popular on the menu.

That’s it for now. Program director René is going to take us for an after-dinner stroll in the town of Koblenz. I need to walk off some of this great food and get ready for even more tomorrow. Hope you’ll come back and see what we are up to next.

Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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