Nieuw Amsterdam Dining
Like Eurodam, this ship has more dining options than the smaller ships in Holland America's fleet -- seven choices for dinner, plus a pizza stand that's open until after midnight.
The two-story Manhattan Dining Room, which spans decks 2 and 3, boasts a "Big Apple" red color scheme that's hard to miss. The service is top-notch, and the food is equally high quality.
Breakfast (usually 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) is open-seating. The menu is huge. It includes not only the usual morning items, but also spa suggestions (muesli and a frittata) and a serious collection of international selections titled Dutch, Scandinavian, full English and Japanese.
At lunch, at least one of the three primary sit-down restaurants -- Manhattan, the Pinnacle Grill or Tamarind -- is open, typically from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Manhattan's lunch menu features soups, salads, appetizers and entrees like grilled tuna melts and cordon bleu burgers.
For dinner, under Holland America's As You Wish seating plan, passengers choose a set early or late serving with the same seatmates each night, typically starting at 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. at tables on the upper level on Deck 3. Or, they may choose to sit at any open table on the lower level on Deck 2 between 5:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. We arrived two evenings at about 8 p.m., and no one was waiting for a table.
Evening menus in Holland America's main restaurants offer a great deal of variety. The Manhattan Dining Room offers 10 entrees -- from pasta to spa cuisine with plenty of meats in between -- and daily recommendations from the line's Culinary Council, which consists of Master Chef Rudi Sodamin and renowned international chefs David Burke, Jonnie Boer, Elizabeth Faulkner, Jacques Torres and Charlie Trotter. Each night, one chef features his or her signature menu items along with Culinary Council dishes offered daily.
The MDR also provides 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 is Nieuw Amsterdam's buffet restaurant on Deck 9, between the main Lido Pool, midship, and the Sea View pool at the aft end. Waiters are always ready to help with table selection, beverages and other needs. Unfortunately, at peak dining hours, the Lido Buffet can feel more like an obstacle course, due to a few scattered tables placed in what should be a table-free walking area. Conversely, the design of the Lido's generous and well-staffed food stations makes for efficient serving, though, alas, some passengers still don't get the modern serving station approach and begin lining up for a buffet in an area where there is nothing they want to eat. If you can't find a place to sit, take your food to the adjacent adults-only pool area, which, at times, can be more easily accessed than most tables in the Lido Buffet. Don't fret if the weather's not great; the retractable roof will shield you.
Continental breakfast begins in the Lido at 6:30 a.m. The full buffet is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Separate stations include fruit, cereal, beverages, waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs and such side dishes as carved ham, made-to-order omelets, and cold meats and cheeses.
Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., depending on the timing of port calls. Stations are set up for soups and salads, hot dishes with a carving spot, a full sandwich bar that includes a panini maker and gluten-free options, and desserts (including HAL's famed bread and butter pudding, which can be found opposite the other desserts, by the taco station). Lunch is followed by a small sandwich snack presentation until 5 p.m.
Dinner in the Lido is a casual buffet from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., featuring appetizers, soups, salads, six entrees, a pasta station with a selection of sauces and desserts that include a make-your-own sundae bar. Those who are hungry for a later meal will find the Lido open again at 11 p.m. with Mediterranean, Dutch, Southern U.S., German, Indonesian, Spanish, Caribbean and other themed spreads.
On the same deck, toward the Lido pool, the Terrace Grill serves hamburgers, hot dogs, croques monsieur and fries from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Slice, outside and aft of the Lido restaurant, serves several flavors of pizza with a heavy crust from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
The Pinnacle Grill is the signature restaurant on Holland America. The 112-seat dining area feels upscale, from its sophisticated decor and Bulgari china place settings to its visible wine collection. It bears a $10 fee at lunch (select days from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and $29 at dinner (5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), and reservations are required.
Pinnacle Grill is the go-to restaurant for a classy evening of steaks, chops and seafood, with some additional items like spicy chicken coconut soup, lobster macaroni and cheese, and assorted skewers, including a mixture called vegetarian Zen. Our filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce was exquisite. We were torn between that and the king crab legs (a $20 supplement), but we discovered the crab entree makes for a great shared appetizer and nice way to get a taste of both land and sea if you're indecisive. Steaks come with any of the classic sauces, including green peppercorn, as well as bearnaise, horseradish mustard, sundried tomato, hollandaise and garlic butter. The lunch menu varies slightly, with the majority being lighter items like soups, salads and sandwiches, although you still have burger, steak and pasta options along with an extensive dessert menu.
Once a week, the Pinnacle Grill switches its menu, wine selections, table decorations and place settings to present An Evening at Le Cirque, in partnership with the famed New York French restaurant. Enjoying the work of Le Cirque's skilled chefs, even on a cruise ship, is a special treat. It's also a bargain at a fee of $49, which is less than the cost of some appetizers at the restaurant in Manhattan. Reservations are a must.
The Le Cirque menu is a set menu that includes a choice of three appetizers (poached lobster salad, a plated assortment including caviar and smoked salmon, and Caesar salad), two soups (butternut squash and chilled yogurt and melon), five main courses (seared Alaskan black cod, rack of lamb, chateaubriand, three-cheese ravioli and chicken under a brick) and four desserts (creme brulee, chocolate souffle, fresh berries and an assortment of sorbets). The appetizer course alone is worth the reservation. Standouts include the lobster salad and the butternut squash soup served with huckleberries and sage Chantilly.
The Master Chef's Table, held on select nights, is Holland America's way of showing off the culinary expertise of Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. On Nieuw Amsterdam, the reservations-only Table gets its own room off the Pinnacle Grill. Seven courses are served on Versace china and paired with four premium wines. The fee is $89, which includes the tastings and wine pairings.
Tamarind, the popular Asian specialty restaurant that debuted on Eurodam, is a triumph on this ship, as well. The dinner menu is fun, instructive and greatly inspired by Indonesian cuisine -- a tip of the hat to the majority of crewmembers onboard. Main courses are separated into four categories: water (seafood, such as pompano baked in rice paper), fire (spicy, like the red curry coconut chicken), wood (wasabi- and soy-crusted beef tenderloin) and earth (a mix of vegetarian options). There's a fee of $20. Dim sum lunch is also available and complimentary, and it consists of Asian dumplings (dim sum), soup, salad and dessert. Reservations for dinner are required; reservations for lunch are not required but are encouraged.
Canaletto is a family-style Italian restaurant, tucked into a corner of the Lido and transformed each evening with white tablecloths for a filling, three-course meal. The entrees rotate nightly and include an assortment of pastas and large plates like veal, braised chicken, roasted pork and grilled sea bass. A small plates section was added in January 2014 when price changes were made to Canaletto fleetwide; it includes assorted meats and cheeses, seared beef carpaccio and vermouth-braised clams (a tasty option, even if you're not a huge seafood fan). Once complimentary, the venue now charges a $10 fee per person. Doors are open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and reservations are recommended.
Tip: Consider booking a night at the specialty restaurants online before leaving for your cruise. Both Le Cirque night at the Pinnacle and the Master Chef's Table are sold out on each cruise, and other specialty restaurants tend to book up by the second day of each sailing.
Room service is available at no charge, 24 hours a day, for such items as salads, sandwiches, omelets and plates of chocolate-chip cookies. From noon to 10 p.m. you can order a full four-course meal, and, during dinner hours in the Manhattan restaurant, passengers may order from the dining room menu. Room service does well with breakfasts, as our scrambled eggs, sliced ham and English muffin arrived on time, and hot.
There are three afternoon teas, presented on alternating days: Traditional Dutch High Tea (desserts and cakes with tea and coffee), an Indonesian Tea Ceremony (featuring local tea varieties and sweets from the Indonesian Archipelago) and a Cupcake Tea (a dozen different flavors are served).