Q –  It is our 40th anniversary and first European trip. We are looking at river cruises. Outstanding food is a concern with any cruise or all-inclusive tour. We’d hate to be in Europe for two weeks eating buffet or banquet style food. Any advice would be appreciated.

A – Since you used the term “outstanding” to describe your culinary goal, we would have to say that we seriously doubt that any of the current crop of river cruise lines will meet your expectations. The food aboard many of the river cruise ships, particularly, Tauck, AMA Watrerways, and Uniworld, is often quite good. But these boats have small kitchens, rather limited menus, and food budgets that just don’t match those of some of their five-star cruise line competitors.

If you are seeking truly memorable cuisine during your stay in Europe we would recommend that you narrow your search to one of the top-rated traveltruth cruise lines. Crystal currently rates highest in this category. Food lovers rave about the cuisine on Sea Dream. The Oceania Marina has excellent food at a lower price point.

Finally, we would suggest that you look at the possibility of a river barge rather than a river boat. Some of the barges that ply the waterways in the south of France do employ talented chefs who shop at local markets each morning and produce truly “outstanding: meals.

As a general rule, never expect truly outstanding cuisine on anything that floats with pricing per diems under $500.