Dining options on Volendam are varied and plentiful, from early morning continental breakfast to the Indonesian-themed midnight-snack buffet. Apart from the regular restaurant service, hungry cruisers will also find a hamburger/pizza/hot dog/taco/fajita station located near the Lido pool (self-serve from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.), afternoon tea and room service (available 24 hours a day for free, although a small tip is generally polite). Special diets, from Kosher and diabetic to low-carb, are easily accommodated by Volendam's kitchen, but advance notice is required.
The two-story Rotterdam Dining Room, located aft, surrounded with windows, and topped with a ceiling of star-like twinkling lights, serves open-seating breakfast and lunch, with plenty of small tables for those who prefer to dine a deux.
Passengers opting for traditional dining will be scheduled at one of two dinner seatings on the upper level (Deck 5) of the Rotterdam: 5:45 p.m. or 8 p.m. The lower deck (Deck 4) is reserved for "As You Wish," HAL's flexible dining program. Passengers opting for the flexible option can make reservations ahead of time or simply walk in between 5:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. Even as the concept of open-seating dining is proliferating throughout the industry, there are still many HAL cruisers who enjoy the traditional same-table, same-time, same-partners dinner. Note: Dinner times are later on Asia and Australia sailings. Also be aware that Deck 4 doesn't go straight through from bow to stern; you'll have to go up to Deck 5 and walk for a bit before you can descend to Deck 4 again to get to the dining room.
Hint: Early seatings tend to book up first on this ship, so book your cruise early, or be prepared for one of the later dining times.
We found that the main dining room did wonderfully with its lunch items, many of which had a bit of a comfort food vibe. We fell in love with the tender pulled pork sandwich; crispy, golden fries; and macaroni and cheese. For dinner, Rotterdam was spot-on with its cold items: Caprese salad, gazpacho, shrimp cocktail, fruit plate. Hot entrees, although beautifully presented, were often hit-or-miss. The misses included prime rib, scallops and French onion soup. Hot items we'd recommend highly are the parmesan-crusted chicken breast and penne primavera.
One thing we did find across the board in the main dining room is that special modifications to menu items were never a problem. During lunch one day, we asked for an entree size of an appetizer salad; our waiter gladly brought out a giant version that was enough to feed three people. At dinner one night, after a particularly large lunch ashore, we weren't very hungry and asked to have only a plate of wasabi mashed potatoes (a side dish for one of the entrees on that night's menu). They were served with no trouble -- and they were delicious, to boot, as was the banana crumble we had for dessert.
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, and spicy lentil and garbanzo salad.
The Lido Restaurant, Volendam's buffet, is open for all meals. Most passengers choose to have a casual breakfast and lunch there. In the morning, you'll find continental items like breads and muffins, as well as cereal, yogurt, eggs, bacon, sausage and a made-to-order omelet station, which is fantastic. At lunch, there's a pasta station, a wok station, a panini station, a soup and salad bar, plenty of fruit and items for making sandwiches, and an ice cream and dessert bar. We were disappointed to find that dinnertime fare is the same as what's served in the main dining room. The restaurant itself is open and cheery, spanning a large indoor area. There are also tables outside, along both the inner swimming pool and the aft pool. Note that lines can be a bit on the long side during peak dining times.
Note: As part of a "code orange" policy that was implemented in 2010 in an effort to curb the spread of germs and Norovirus, the buffets on all of Holland America's ships are completely crew-served for the first 48 hours of every sailing. After the first two days, it goes back to being self-serve again. As an added precaution, hand sanitizer dispensers are located at regular intervals throughout the ship's public areas.
At dinnertime, the Lido Restaurant is also home to Canaletto, one of the ship's three alternative eateries. For $10 each, passengers can dine Italian-style in a sectioned-off area of the Lido. Our experience was excellent, and, with an appetizer, entree and dessert included in the price, it's a great value if you'd like something other than the dining room or buffet options. You'll be greeted at the podium by a friendly host, and crewmembers dressed as gondoliers will take your order. The menu, which is the same each night, includes items like minestrone soup, veal and cod selections, a variety of pastas with creative sauces and, of course, gelato and tiramisu. A number of wines are available at an additional cost.
Pinnacle Grill, Volendam's steakhouse, serves aged beef, lobster tails, fish and lamb in an elegant but slightly whimsical environment. Reservations are required, and there's a $25-per-person charge to dine, but all courses are included, the selections are terrific, the presentation is artful and the service is impeccable. We highly recommend the lobster macaroni and cheese, and the Filet Mignon with a side of mashed potatoes. Be sure to stick around for dessert, for which you can choose cherry baked Alaska, chocolate volcano cake, raspberry cheesecake, sorbet or a cheese plate, among other treats. Don't miss the petit fours at the very end; the powdered sugar-covered chocolates are to die for. Wines are also available for an added fee.
One night per cruise, Pinnacle Grill is replaced by Le Cirque, the ship's most upscale (and expensive) alternative eatery. For $39 per person, passengers dine in the same venue that hosts Pinnacle Grill, but choose from a menu of the French cuisine for which the land-based Le Cirque restaurants are renowned. Featured dishes include a trio of caviar, smoked salmon and pate de foie gras; a "deconstructed" Caesar salad; chilled yogurt and melon soup; seared Alaskan black cod; rack of lamb; three cheese ravioli; and creme brulee. The most interesting dish was the yogurt and melon soup, which was cool and refreshing but also spicy -- an unexpected combination. Our favorite, however, was the chateaubriand, which was exquisite. A bit more disappointing, however, was the chicken under a brick, which seemed to be very fatty. Dessert is followed by delightful petit fours that include macaroons, melon, almond chews and chocolate-dipped orange slices. Wines are available at an additional cost. Note: This restaurant is definitely for more sophisticated palates; if whipped duck liver doesn't sound appetizing to you, you might be disappointed.
At the Explorations Cafe coffee shop, finger sandwiches, fruit and assorted cookies and pastries are offered gratis, but specialty coffee drinks, specialty waters, tea and hot chocolate levy a nominal charge (the most expensive being about $4). We were surprised that the coffee was some of the best we've ever had, and we found ourselves stopping there at least once a day. (The only silly gripe we have is that there were no cardboard cup sleeves to keep us from burning our hands.)
The room service menu is not extensive but does offer a fair variety. A standard menu of sandwiches, salads, burgers and omelets is available 24 hours a day, and a small section dedicated to seasickness-friendly options is a nice touch. A more extensive menu of appetizers, entrees and desserts is offered between noon and 10 p.m. daily. You'll also receive a room service breakfast card in your room each day. If you want breakfast delivered to your cabin the following morning, just fill out the card, hang it on your door before 2 a.m., and you'll wake up to made-to-order eggs, bacon, sausage, English muffins, fruit, cereal and your choice of coffee, juice or milk, among other items. Our complicated breakfast order arrived flawlessly, and the food was at just the right temperature. While the room service privilege is free, it's customary to tip a couple dollars to the person who delivers it.
While not specified anywhere, during lunch and dinner times you can order from the restaurant menu and have it delivered to your room.
One sea day afternoon on each Alaska voyage, there's a salmon bake on the Lido Deck, just beside the pool. Obviously the main draw is the salmon, but other offerings included rice, baked potatoes and vegetables like carrots and green beans. It's free to all passengers, but lines can be long, so be sure to get there early.
Premium beverage packages are available onboard during the first day of each cruise, but be warned: they're pricey. You'll shell out $45 per person, per day, for up to 15 drinks per day. Drinks must each be priced at $7 or less, and if you purchase the package, every person in your cabin who's 21 or older is also obligated to buy it.