The ship's two-tiered Vista main dining room serves breakfast and dinner daily. Lunch is offered on sea days and, in Alaska, most port days, too.
Breakfast and lunch are always open seating. In the morning, regular menu offerings span a vast range from healthy choices like yogurt and muesli to delicious blueberry pancakes or Eggs Royale (Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon). Drinks include fresh-squeezed orange juice and free cappuccinos. Lunch features four courses: appetizers, soups and salads, entrees (choices include sandwiches, burgers, a fish, vegetarian plate and perhaps an Indian or Indonesian curry) and dessert.
The Vista really shines for dinner, in part because of dramatic menu changes, offering just three courses. Starters, soups and salads are grouped together, and most passengers choose just one dish, though you are free to order as many as you like. Mains include a pasta, fish (or two), meats (prime rib, pork buco), poultry and usually two vegetarian dishes. Gone is the "always available" menu. Sustainable seafood is the rule, and the pacific salmon, in particular, is a cut above that served by other large cruise lines. The new menus also feature recipes by HAL's Culinary Council, a group of top chefs from around the world who work with the line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin to create superb dishes. Desserts cover the spectrum from chocolate cake to creme brulee to ice cream and an excellent cheese plate.
A separate full vegetarian menu is available. These dishes are in addition to vegetarian items on the daily menu and must be ordered one day ahead. Other dietary needs can be easily met with advance notice.
There are two dining options for passengers. Those who prefer traditional fixed-seating can opt for set schedules and tablemates on Vista's Deck 3 level. Times can vary by itinerary. On the Alaska cruise, the seatings are 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. The alternative choice is "As You Wish" dining. Deck 2 of the Vista is dedicated to a more restaurant-style scenario, in which tables are available, via walk-in or by reservation, from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. When we had the occasion to try the walk-in route, there was no waiting for a table for two.
On both levels of the Vista dining room, there are more tables for two and four than previously found. Larger tables are available for groups (or families) of six, eight or 10. If you're flexible and friendly, you may be encouraged to dine with other passengers at larger tables, but the choice is yours. The difference between this and fixed seating is that you're not committed to the same folks at dinner night after night.
Holland America's Lido buffet venues rate among the most well organized at sea, and Westerdam's doesn't disappoint. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks, the room's bright, jazzy colors are a mood-lifter (and don't forget that there's seating on the adjacent aft deck and in the main pool area under the magradome cover). Food is arranged in theme-based stations that serve up salads, sandwiches made to order, pizza, sushi and stir fries and the typical hot fare. This way, you don't have to wait behind someone picking through the salad bar when you want to move on to the meat-carving station.
Operating hours for the Lido are generous. Though not fully open round-the-clock, there are usually a few self-service stations available for light snacking. A full buffet breakfast service begins at 7 a.m. and runs until 10:30 a.m. Breakfast is impressive. While many cruise lines offer pancake, waffle and omelet stations, Holland America offers eggs Benedict at the Asian station. The numerous varieties of the dish include eggs with smoked salmon, crab, mushrooms or spinach as well as Canadian bacon. The cooks there will make yours just about any way you ask.
Lido lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Again, food for noshing is available in the afternoon. Lunch choices include a pizza special, a pasta bar (with a variety of noodles and sauces), an Asian corner with sushi and stir-fries, sandwich specials (such as a Reuben or Thai chicken wrap), a range of salads, fruits and soups, and then entrees such as fried chicken or pan-seared salmon.
For passengers looking for a strictly casual dinner option, the Lido fills the bill. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and closes down -- here's a quibble -- at a relatively early 8 p.m. Casual dinner is similar to lunch, with self-service from various stations. A menu is posted daily, so you can decide if you want to dine there, in the Vista or order room service. The Lido reopens again for a "late snack" from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Note: Operating times in the Lido can vary with the ship's schedule. If, for instance, a number of tours are returning to the vessel after the normal lunch time, it'll stay open later. For early morning excursions, it opens earlier.
In the main pool area is the newly conceived Dive-In at the Terrace Grill. The grill window features gourmet hot dogs and burgers with catchy names. The Cannonball is a one-third pound beef patty with Gouda, applewood bacon and caramelized onions. The Freestyle is a portabella mushroom with cheddar and avocado. The Dog Paddle is a Nathan's all-beef dog with sauerkraut and bacon bits. All have special sauces. You're given a beeper so you don't need to stand around waiting for your order to be cooked. Judging from the lines, it's a popular lunch option. An adjacent food counter is usually stocked with fixings to make your own tacos.
Beyond main dining venues, Westerdam has two for-fee restaurants -- one upscale and one casual. Best known is the elegant Pinnacle Grill, the fleet's Pacific Northwest-themed restaurant. Well worth the $35 per-person cover, the ambience is hushed and service superb, featuring Bulgari dinnerware and Riedel stemware. Highlights from the grill are steaks (from Double R Ranch Northwest), lamb chops and double-cut pork chops. In the seafood category, the shining star is broiled Alaskan king salmon, but you might prefer king crab legs ($20 additional) or cedar-planked Pacific halibut. The lobster bisque appetizer is outstanding. Vegetarian choices include roasted pumpkin risotto or wild mushroom ravioli. You order sides to share, which are ample for two. Save room for the dessert souffle or Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake -- it's worth it. If you're a fan of the Pinnacle Grill's version of baked Alaska, be aware it is no longer served flambeed.
The wine list features an excellent selection of Pacific Northwest bottles (along with other New World and Old World choices) and is a bit on the pricey side. If you're not in the mood for a splurge, ask for the dining room's lower-priced wine list.
Reservations are required for the Pinnacle Grill and can be tough to get, so make plans as soon as you can. Dinner is 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Here's a tip: The restaurant opens for lunch (hours vary) on some days (the fee is $10 per person) with a different menu. It's got one of the best burgers, and the experience is equally fabulous. If you're a passenger in the Neptune or Pinnacle suites, you may dine here for breakfast and be thoroughly pampered.
One night each cruise, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed into "An Evening at Le Cirque," named for the restaurant of New York fame. The illusion of being at Le Cirque is achieved by the use of Le Cirque china (orange rimmed with cute monkeys -- remember it's the circus) and a menu of dishes served in New York City. The four-course dinner begins with a choice of appetizers. Don't miss the lobster salad. Next up is a soup, and your main course might be chateaubriand, rack of lamb, seared Alaskan black cod, chicken under a brick or three-cheese ravioli. Desserts include chocolate souffle and creme brulee. Reservations are essential, and the charge is $49 before wine.
Canaletto, located in a forward corner of the Lido, is the for-fee ($15) casual eatery. At night, it's quite attractive, lit by faux candles and adorned with white tablecloths and fresh flowers. Fortunately, it's separated from the main buffet area by partitions. The sea views are great, but the newly changed menu is confusing. Billed as a sharing menu (the former menu offered typical Italian dishes), it works best with a table for four or more. The suggestion is to order two small plates, one pasta and one main dish for every two diners. That way, everyone gets a taste of many items, much like a Chinese restaurant. Some dishes -- sauteed veal piccata -- are hits. Others, not so much. Order your own dessert of tiramisu, gelato or cheeses. Advance reservations are highly recommended, especially if you want a particular time. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
For light fare, such as pastries in the morning and small sweets and sandwiches throughout the day, head up to the Explorations Cafe, the ship's coffee bar/Internet center/library/card room. Food items are complimentary, but there is a charge for specialty coffees ($2.50 latte). Chocolate Seduction, created in 2012 and tucked into a space near the meeting rooms on Deck 3, sells individual chocolates for less than a dollar, coffees (with or without a libation) and hot chocolate drinks. Westerdam is the only ship in the fleet to have this venue.
In-cabin meal service is available around the clock and is prompt and efficient. The in-room menu offers a comprehensive list of snacks, salads and sandwiches. More substantial items, such as shrimp cocktail and salmon steak, are available from noon to 10 p.m. At breakfast, a full range of hot items -- and they are delivered hot -- are available. There's no fee to use the service, and the crew never asks for a tip. You can, of course, offer a small cash tip to the delivery person.