Holland America‘s ships offer mostly the same food venues without a lot of variance from ship to ship. Though the main dining room has different names on different ships, they all have one. They all also have a buffet on the Lido deck. These two things are standard on most all ships from any major cruise line. The Oosterdam also included Holland America’s standard pay extra eateries – the upscale Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto, a sort of pop-up Italian place set up in a section of the Lido buffet each evening at dinnertime. Other food onboard includes the Dive-In poolside grill and Explorations Café which serves specialty coffee and tea and sweets at an internet café next to the forward-viewing Crows Nest bar on deck 10.
The dining room and buffet are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The dining room also serves afternoon tea. Other food venues each have their own hours. Open times for all food venues are posted in the daily newsletter left in cabins each night when the steward does the evening cleaning.
After having had some of the best cruise food ever on my last Holland America cruise out of Boston on the Veendam, the Oosterdam’s food – while generally good – was kind of a letdown because it just didn’t measure up to what the Veendam had served. Cruise ship food is kind of that way. Even within the same line quality will vary from ship to ship or even on the same ship on different cruises. We took another cruise on the Veendam after the one on the Oosterdam and while good, the food didn’t often hit the exceptional mark it had on the cruise out of Boston. Perhaps it was the menu with the northeast itinerary or maybe the chef and galley staff that particular cruise were more outstanding than most.
Holland America had something new this cruise since the last time I sailed with them. They had cooking demonstrations before, but they were done by either galley or entertainment staff. On this cruise the cooking demonstrator was a dedicated person just for that job, not from the crew, but from a show called America’s Test Kitchen, which I had never heard of, but apparently it’s a PBS show that has been around for some time. The onboard demonstrator makes recipes from the show. The recipes they use might be for common things like brownies, but a recipe that they’ve tested and altered to come up with what they say is a better version.
The things they made in the test kitchen demos looked good, but they did not hand out samples at the demonstration so I guess we are just supposed to take their word for it that it tastes better than the average recipe for that item. They did give out free recipes of the items they made at each demonstration and a free sample of their magazine, which had a bunch more recipes so if someone really wanted to know how things tasted they could make it for themselves when they got home. I think it’s nicer when the food demonstrations include a taste of what they cooked though.
The dining room food was kind of hit or miss. Some items were excellent and others disappointing. Not always the entire meal one or the other, but parts of it. For example one night I had turkey scaloppini which had the taste and texture of a pressed meat patty, but it came with delicious side dishes. Another day I had a tasty pork chop that came with less than impressive sides. As for desserts, if given the choice of molten chocolate cake or baked Alaska, the cake is better. Their lemon pie and soufflé were good, the crème brulee so-so, and the cheesecake could have been better, at least on this particular cruise.
Their soups were generally good, and often of the fancy sort that come with a few bits of things at the bottom of an otherwise empty bowl, over which they pour a creamy soup at the table.
I tried a chicken coconut curry one day when nothing on the menu sounded especially enticing, not expecting much since I’m not much of a fan of Indian food or spicy things. It was surprisingly good and not too spicy.
Breakfast had some good options with freshly made crepes and waffles at the buffet. Their eggs Benedict are tasty and available both at the buffet and in the dining room. Unlike most ships where eggs Benedict at the buffet are pre-made, Holland America has a station at the buffet that makes them fresh to order. Not only is the food from the Eggs Benedict station quite good, but there’s rarely a line. One of our friends tried the dining room’s crab Benedict and said it was too shy on crab for his liking.
We tried lunch in the dining room once or twice. The halibut & chips were quite good, and the halibut was really halibut. We have in the past had a cruise ship serve rockfish while insisting it was halibut. Not that the rockfish wasn’t good, they just shouldn’t call it halibut when it’s not. Most of the guests probably assume the fish is whatever the menu says, but my husband is an Alaskan fishing guide. He’s caught enough halibut and rockfish to know the difference so there’s no fooling him.
Pinnacle grill was worth the extra cost. We enjoyed it and our friends gave raving reviews on the steak. The mushroom ravioli & veggies were good and the volcano cake quite tasty. Particularly mine, which was cooked to perfection while others that night were a bit overdone. The chocolate truffles there are always good. I didn’t like the snail pre-appetizer thing, but the others did. Our friends liked the Pinnacle Grill so much they went back a couple more nights.
At lunchtime the Lido Market buffet had a stand making big salads that we liked quite a lot. It never had much of a line to get them either. Lines always figure into where I’ll go in a buffet, as in if there’s a long one I pick a different station. I suppose they might have had those salads at dinner as well, but we never ate dinner at the buffet so I can’t say for sure.
Outside by the pool grill they had a taco bar at lunchtime. It was a good place to go when everywhere else had lines. The food was pretty good, but poorly arranged with the plates next to the toppings and the main food at the other end. That made it a little awkward because people would grab a plate, skip over the toppings to get the main food, then go back for toppings. Meanwhile if someone else came along and went straight to the toppings without getting food first you had people from both directions trying to get into the same spot. Luckily it wasn’t normally very crowded so with only one or two people to work around it was doable.
Overall the food was pretty good. It’s pretty hard to starve on a cruise ship. Even special diets can be catered to on most ships these days, though some types of special diets need to give the cruise line advance notice to insure whatever special things they need will be available for them. There’s no grocery stores anywhere in the middle of the sea so if it’s not on board when the ship leaves port you aren’t getting it.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018