The Rotterdam, Ryndam's two-level main dining room, is a typical cruise restaurant venue, serving open-seating breakfast daily and lunch occasionally (on sea days only).
In the evenings, As You Wish Dining enables passengers to opt for preset seating and dining time -- or to take advantage of a flexible option. One level of the ship's two-deck-high dining room is dedicated to traditional early or late seating (usually 6 and 8:15 p.m., though times may vary based on itineraries), while the other is open from 5:15 to 9 p.m. daily. Passengers who choose the flexible option can make reservations ahead of time -- or simply walk in.
Two aspects of The Rotterdam experience were quite striking. One is that it's very colorful, and tables are set with upscale china, flatware and glassware. The other, on the negative side, was that the food was often mediocre and bland. Breakfast, on the three days I visited, was a particularly low mark. The menu was unimaginative, and the cooked entrees were not always served hot. Service tends to be slower than at dinner, but the ambience in The Rotterdam is certainly more elegant than that of the Lido Cafe.
The Rotterdam also offers a 22-dish, vegetarian-only menu for lunch and dinner; it consists of appetizers, salads, soups and entrees. Options include dishes like portobello mushroom and chipotle quesadillas, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls or spicy lentil and garbanzo salad.
Kosher, low-sodium and other dietary needs can be easily met with advance notice.
The Lido, the ship's cheerful, pool-deck buffet area, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Asian, Italian and sandwich stations are set within the existing buffet lines. This setup did alleviate traffic jams to some extent, but it seemed that many passengers didn't realize they could jump from place to place and duly waited at the back of the line. One other interesting change (inspired by the challenge of Norovirus, perhaps?): With the exception of some salads and desserts, all food was dished out by servers, and motion-activated hand-sanitizer dispensers are positioned at each end of the buffet lines, at the entrance to The Rotterdam Dining Room and elsewhere through the ship.
At breakfast, the Lido served the usual morning fare, from cold cuts and cheeses to cereals and hot dishes, such as French toast. There are two eggs-made-to-order stations. Lunches were bountiful and supplemented by separate stations for deli fare, as well as a grill for hamburgers, fries and the like. Each day in the pool area, there was a steam table offering, for the most part, Mexican fare like tacos.
The Lido serves a casual buffet dinner with a similar, but not identical, menu to that of the dining room. The hours have been lengthened -- 5:30 to 8 p.m. Late-night snacks, with options ranging from French to American, are served from 11 p.m. to midnight.
Fairly noticeable in both The Rotterdam and Lido venues is Holland America's new approach to cooking. With staggered dining times and Lido cook training, it is offering food cooked a la minute, as opposed to banquet-style. At least in the Lido, the foods are more often grill-to-table hot, and the variety of cuisines provides an appreciable difference in taste choices.
The Lido deck addition, Canaletto, has been carved from the Lido with room dividers. Open for dinner only, it has space for 62 diners and offers an unchanging menu of familiar Italian dishes. Standout entrees include penne pasta with a choice of vodka, pomodoro or cream sauce, and cod that has been marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and oregano, then sauteed and coated with herbs, kalamata olives and capers. In true Italian fashion, there's gelato for dessert! It's free to dine there, but reservations are recommended.
Other than oil-and-vinegar cruet sets on each table and waiters wearing the gondoliers' familiar striped T-shirts, there is little to proclaim this is an Italian restaurant. During my brief cruise, the passengers either had not caught on to the existence of Canaletto, or the venue held nothing to lure them from the full buffet a few steps away.
One of Ryndam's most pleasant areas is The Pinnacle Grill, its alternative restaurant. This easily became our favorite dining spot onboard; the food was superb, and service was outstanding. It is open every day for lunch and dinner at a cost of $10 and $20, respectively. The restaurant specializes in the fare of the Pacific Northwest and features an excellent representation of regional wines. The Pinnacle has its own kitchen, using a higher grade of beef and separate menus for lunch and dinner. At any time of day, all of the soups are marvelous, and the beef and lamb are definite standouts.
There's always one big afternoon tea event held onboard during a sea day. Ours, which took place in The Rotterdam and was themed around chocolate, was as much a photo opportunity as it was a chance to snack.
Room service was excellent on Ryndam. Breakfasts (including egg dishes) could be pre-ordered the night before and were delivered promptly and correctly. At dinner, you can order off the dining room menu -- our experience doing that was also top-notch. But unless you're a suite-holder, you won't be served course-by-course. The 24-hour menu offers just enough variety.