Editor's Note: Eurodam's buffet has been transformed into the Lido Market, a series of themed dining stations serving to-go and made-to-order food items.
Eurodam has more dining options than any ship in Holland America's fleet besides its sister Nieuw Amsterdam. The seven different and quite distinct dining areas offer a solid blend of casual and formal options.
The Rembrandt Dining Room is the ship's two-deck main restaurant, and it's open daily for breakfast (7:30 to 9) and occasionally for lunch (noon to 1). Both meals are open seating, though you may be asked to dine with other passengers at bigger tables.
At breakfast, there are plenty of choices, from granola, yogurt and fruit to corned beef hash, eggs prepared many ways and pancakes. When lunch is served there, the choice of options is excellent and includes soups, salads, starters, entrees and desserts. (On one day entrees included Reuben sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips, and grilled pork chops.) It's a civilized and relaxing alternative to the Lido buffet.
Rembrandt is always open for dinner, and the evening meal is the main event onboard. As part of Holland America's As You Wish flexible dining program, passengers have two options. Set seating, which involves assigned seating and tablemates at either 5:45 or 8:15, operates on the restaurant's upper level. For those who want to dine at different times each day and choose their own tablemates, open seating is available on Rembrandt's lower deck from 5:30 to 9:15. You can make reservations in advance or just show up. I chose the flexible option and never had a problem getting a table -- though my habit of dining at 8 p.m. or later meant the "rush hour" window of 7 to 7:30 was avoided.
The menus are fantastic for dinner. Rudi Sodamin, the cruise line's master chef, has added just enough -- but not too much -- pizzazz to the culinary offerings. Each night, there are four choices of appetizers (always featuring a vegetarian option), as well as soup and salad. Seven entrees include a pasta choice, a big salad, fish, beef, fowl and a fancier dish, such as lamb or lobster. Each section on the menu features an option for vegetarians.
I kept an eye out for Chef Rudi's unusual entrees on each night's menu; particularly memorable was a roast duck with sour cherry chutney and braised lamb shank. And, especially for diners who prefer their dishes plain, an "available daily" menu of Chef Rudi's "suggestions' includes French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled chicken, broiled New York strip, rice, baked potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Rembrandt also boasts a 22-dish, vegetarian/vegan-only menu for lunch and dinner; it consists of appetizers, salads, soups and entrees. Options include dishes such as portobello mushroom and chipotle quesadillas, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls or spicy lentil and garbanzo salad. The nine entrees include pad Thai noodles and baked cheese polenta. Diners are asked to order from the menu a day in advance of the meal, to be sure the order is ready in time.
The wine list in the Rembrandt is pedestrian but fairly priced.
The Lido Restaurant, Eurodam's top-ship buffet venue, is, like others in Holland America's fleet, just gorgeous. It's arranged in a modified station setup, with different types of dishes (salads, hot entrees, desserts) grouped in specific areas to cut down a cafeteria line scrum.
The Lido opens for continental breakfast at 6 when the ship is in port, 7 when at sea. Then on port days, the full buffet is open from 6:30 to 10 a.m.; at sea the full buffet runs from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Stations include made-to-order omelets, fruits, cereals, European-style meats and cheeses, and American favorites like waffles and pancakes.
At lunch, the Lido Restaurant is open from 11:30 to at least to 2: On some port days, the buffet remains open until 4. Sections offer a series of soups, salads, hot dishes, sandwiches and desserts. The Lido Deli (11:30 to 5) makes deli sandwiches to order. Dinner in the Lido -- a casual, no-tablecloth, get-it-yourself repast -- is offered from 5:30 to 8:30 and was quite popular on our Europe cruise; night owls can snack there from 11 to midnight.
For casual fare, the ship has the Dive In at the Terrace Grill (open from noon to 7 -- particularly good for lunch if you're returning late from a shore excursion), where you can custom order three kinds of burgers made from meat ground on the ship, Nathan's Famous hot dogs, a veggie or chicken burger and fries. Slice Pizza (open 11:30 a.m. to midnight) is tucked to one side of the Sea View pool's bar. If you like doughy, American pizza, you'll like the pies at Slice.
For us, the standout dining experiences involves the ship's three alternative restaurants. The Pinnacle Grill is a Holland America tradition; once a Northwest-themed restaurant, it now feels more like a continental steakhouse. Hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and advance reservations are highly recommended.
The menu starts off with appetizers like spicy tomato broth, lobster bisque, Dungeness crab cakes and Caesar salad. Entrees include seafood -- lobster tail, black cod, and salmon -- but the real star is the grill, with everything from porterhouse and filet mignon to veal chops and lamb.
You probably won't have room for dessert, but make the effort if you can; the baked Alaska, served with Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream, isn't too heavy. The best-known sweet is the Grand Marnier chocolate volcano; it is a super-rich, thick pudding, served warm. The fee for the standard dinner at Pinnacle Grill is $35.
The Pinnacle is usually open for lunch ($10) but is closed the first two days of every voyage when the wait staff switches to the Lido buffet: To avoid possible spreading of norovirus by infected passengers handling the buffet's serving utensils, for the first 48 hours of each cruise, waiters fill the diners' plates.
Also, the Pinnacle offers two specialty dinners, from the restaurants Le Cirque and De Librije, and on these days the restaurant is not open for lunch.
The Le Cirque meal, served on the same orange-colored plates featured in the Manhattan namesake, includes such specialties as a poached lobster salad among the starters, a butternut squash and huckleberry soup, and chateaubriand and seared Alaskan black cod with a red wine sauce among the entrees. The fee for this meal is $49.
De Librije (pronounced luh BRY uh) is a Michelin three-star restaurant in the Netherlands emphasizing regional dishes, especially seafood, with an Asian influence. The menu is more than imaginative.
For instance, the appetizer "oysters on the beach' uses foie gras as the "shells" at the base of the oysters. The chilled, clear tomato gazpacho has been strained through cheese cloth to remove most of the tomato coloring. The "deconstructed apple pie" is not a traditional slice but rather a plate that holds tastes of chopped apple, vanilla gelato and Chantilly-style cream.
Because of the complexity of the dishes, the De Librije dinner is limited to a single seating of up to 100 passengers. The meal alone is $49; a wine-pairing option is another $37.50. This meal is often a three-hour event.
The best Asian-themed eatery among big-ship cruise lines is Tamarind. It's open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and passengers should definitely make reservations in advance. Its menu focuses on cuisines of Southeast Asia, China and Japan, and there's something there for any possible preference. My favorite soup is Tamarind's "Jewels of the Sea," a lemongrass broth with shrimp wontons; others are scallop consomme and chicken pho with rice noodles. You could have a whole meal just of beautifully presented appetizers; these include satay, shrimp tempura, pot stickers, spring rolls, green papaya salad and ribs.
Tamarind's menu is divided into four styles of entrees. Under "water" is seafood; the hot pot with shrimp, clams, squid and more is delicious, as is the lime-glazed sea bass. In the "wood" category are meats such as beef tenderloin and Cantonese duck. "Fire," as befits the name, specializes in spicy dishes like curry coconut chicken – featuring chunks of chicken, and you can tell the waitress the degree of spiciness you want -- and Szechuan shrimp. And "earth" is dedicated to vegetarian entrees like sesame udon noodles and five-spice seitan and tempeh.
You can also choose from a sushi and sashimi menu in lieu of the starters or as an entree.
Desserts at Tamarind are also quite good; mango cloud, a souffle accented with mango sorbet, is unique. The fee for dining at Tamarind is $25 for dinner; when it is open for lunch, there is no charge.
Across the hall from Tamarind is its sibling bar, the Silk Den. This is an excellent place to find quiet and solitude before the bar opens in the late afternoon. It's comfy to step into one of the booths, put your feet up on the bench-length cushions and read.
Another Holland America alternative dining venue is Canaletto, which is open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; again, reservations are recommended. This Italian-American-influenced restaurant, tucked away in a corner of Lido, is the most family-friendly of the three, but it still has ambience (cheerful Asian waters who've assumed Italian nicknames for the evening, white linen-covered tables, and a sort of open kitchen aura, as pastas are made out in the Lido). There is a $15 service charge for dining at Canaletto.
The menu offers slightly fewer choices than do the Pinnacle or Tamarind, but servings are large enough that the Canaletto menu suggests ordering two starters, a pasta plate and one entree (here called Large Plates) for each two diners.
Among the eight starters are a duck and chicken liver pate with kumquat marmalade, braised clams with spicy chorizo sausage, and zuppa di pesce, with mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, cod and veggies in a tomato saffron broth.
The five pasta dishes include shrimp, braised beef short ribs or Italian sausage. There are just four entree choices but they include an imaginative grilled lemon-thyme white sea bass and roasted pork loin saltimbocca.
More exotic and worth the caloric splurge are desserts -- the trio of tiramisu serves up bite-sized samples of espresso, lemon and Amaretto, and the torta al cacao is walnut praline in vanilla bean gelato.
Canaletto's wine list, originally a minor option with offerings from the vineyard also named Canaletto, has grown to 18 Italian selections, half sold by the glass, carafe or bottle, the rest only by the bottle. These wines come from more than 10 vineyards.
Full-service lunching, while seemingly losing favor among today's more contemporary cruise travelers, is alive and well on Eurodam. Beyond the buffet, other Holland America ships traditionally open their main restaurants for lunch every day (and on sea days, perhaps, the Pinnacle Grill). On Eurodam, it's a little different. The three full-service restaurants -- the Rembrandt, Pinnacle Grill (cost $10) and Tamarind -- rotate serving lunch.
In-cabin food service is available 24 hours a day. Holland America does a particularly good job with breakfast options, which include continental and hot dishes. Choices include eggs, cooked meats, fruits, yogurts, cereals and pastries. Beyond breakfast, there are three other options for in-cabin dining. The menu offered from noon to 10 p.m. features heartier fare, offering entrees, in addition to soups, salads and sandwiches. You can also order room service from the Rembrandt main dining room menu during dinner hours. Finally, the 24-hour menu is a bit more limited with a handful of items, such as a salad or two, burgers, club sandwiches, an omelet and a trio of desserts.