Cruise food varies greatly from line to line, even from ship to ship on the same line. Sometimes it even varies from one sailing to the next on the same ship. Menus change over time. Sometimes they change due to the itinerary. Other times it’s the same menu, but the food just tastes better on one ship than another, particularly when a ship has a superior chef and galley crew.
Dining room food on the Veendam was generally quite good. Sometimes excellent like the bean tacos they served one night as a port-inspired option on the menu of a cruise with two stops in Mexico. The tasty food was quite a relief. We weren’t sure what to expect after the food on the Oosterdam last time we sailed with Holland America didn’t quite live up to their usual high standards. Especially not the best cruise food ever standard set by the Veendam several years back on a trip out of Boston.
There’s a few things not up to par though. We tried the Dive-In poolside grill one day. After a 15 minute wait for the chicken breast sandwich because that’s how long they said it takes to cook, when said sandwich came I thought they forgot to put the chicken in it. I had to open the bun and look inside to find the tiny piece of chicken hidden there. More like a chicken tender sandwich, breasts are much bigger. The good news is they do have gluten free buns on request. The bad news if you’re gluten free is that they coat their French fries in flour “to make them crispy” and have no uncoated ones available.
There’s a taco bar next to the Dive-In, which is one of the few places serve-yourself food is available. Throughout much of the buffet you have to wait for someone behind the counter to get things for you, which really stuffs up the line. The taco bar has taco shells, chips, tortillas, and a variety of things to put on them so people can have all sorts of do-it-yourself Mexican food options. The food is good, but the set-up is a bit weird because all the toppings are next to the chips and taco shells and all the meats and beans and things down at the far end. So you have to either get things out of order or go back and forth, which works fine when nobody else is there, but not so much if there’s a line.
Gluten free options are available for the asking in a lot of places. Besides the buns at the burger place, the buffet has gluten free bread options, and the pizza place has gluten free pizza crust. All of the pizzas are made to order so you have to wait for it to cook regardless of whether ordering gluten free or regular pizza crust. The good news is you get the toppings of your choice and a hot fresh pizza. The bad news is you get a whole pizza even if you really only wanted one slice, and the gluten free one seems to take longer to bake.
In addition to all the complimentary food options, the Veendam does have some pay-extra eateries. Holland America ships all have the upscale Pinnacle Grill. At dinner time a portion of the Lido buffet gets converted to their Italian restaurant, Canaletto. They also had a café with things like premium coffee and some goodies in the Explorer’s Lounge. I don’t really have anything to say about them because we didn’t eat at any of those places on our Veendam Caribbean cruise.
You don’t have to go to the Italian place to get pasta. There’s always pasta options on the dinner menu and in the buffet.
The dining room is willing to alter things from what the menu says. For instance if you just want a meat that is offered, but not the side dishes it comes with, you can have that meat with something else on the side. Or if the menu has surf and turf and you just want surf or turf, but not both, you can order one without the other.
Lunch and dinner options change daily at both the buffet and in the dining room. Overall the ship has a pretty good variety of tasty food.