You won't go hungry on this ship! Dining options are plentiful, from poolside burgers to afternoon tea to hearty late-night snacks, not to mention its three restaurants and complimentary 24-hour room service.
A few years back, Holland America departed from its focus on traditional continental cuisine, to introduce a choice of foods more in keeping with the ship's itinerary. Don't worry, you'll certainly still be able to get your grilled steak or salmon -- but also items like sushi, noodle bowls, Indian dal and grilled bockwurst. We particularly enjoyed the regional dishes served on our Asian itinerary.
The line takes the needs of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-intolerant diners seriously. If you have dietary restrictions of any kind, consider contacting the Ship Services Department prior to cruising to discuss your needs.
The main dining room provides a special 22-dish menu of vegetarian and vegan appetizers, salads, soups and mains, created by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. Additionally, 30 more vegetarian dishes rotate throughout the Lido buffet and main dining room menus. On top of that, the main dining room offers a vegetarian choice in every course of its regular dinner menu.
The galley stocks gluten-free bread, waffles, muffins, hot dog and hamburger buns, pasta and pre-made desserts and will do its best to cater to gluten-free diners -- however, there is a small risk of cross-contamination since there isn't a separate, sealed gluten-free galley. For those with restricted sugar intake, sugar-free desserts are available at every restaurant, and more extensive low-carb and diabetic options are available on request.
On sea days, all passengers can have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Lido Market buffet or in the main Rotterdam Dining Room, and the specialty Pinnacle Grill is open for lunch and dinner. On port days, lunch service in the main dining room and Pinnacle Grill is suspended.
Tip: Want to add some zing to your food? Request some spicy, flavorful sambal sauce; it's kept onboard for Indonesian and Dutch crew.
Rotterdam Dining Room (Decks 4 and 5): The Rotterdam Dining Room, located aft, fills two stories, with the second-level balcony overlooking the main level on Deck 4. Decor is old-school cruise ship glam, with elaborate chandeliers and a ceiling of star-like twinkling lights. The predominant colors are blue and gold, with service staff dressed in white jackets. The restaurant's upper level has plenty of tables for two, while larger groups tend to be seated on the lower level.
At breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1 p.m.), the restaurant is open-seating, and singles will be invited to join others at a table, if they'd like. At dinnertime (5:15 to 9 p.m.), you have two choices. Passengers opting for traditional dining can book one of two dinner seatings: 5:45 p.m. or 8 p.m. The other alternative is the ship's "As You Wish" flexible dining program. Those choosing this option can make reservations ahead of time (up until 4 p.m. the day of) or simply walk in between 5:15 and 9 p.m. We noticed that, during peak dining times, there was often a small line of diners without reservations waiting to be seated. You're better off making a reservation; you'll check-in separately from those without reservations and be whisked to your table.
For a leisurely breakfast, the Rotterdam is delightful. The extensive menu includes 11 cold cereals and four hot ones. You can also go light, with a fruit parfait or three spa selections, like muesli or a veggie frittata. But if your motto is "go big or go home," try one of three eggs Benedict options (our Dungeness crab version was delicious), a full English breakfast or a hearty skillet -- there's one for meat-and-potatoes lovers, and one with a Southwestern flair for vegetarians. If carbs are your thing, opt for the Belgian waffles, pancakes or banana-bread French toast. Want something really different? On Asia sailings, try the "Pan-Asian Breakfast" of miso soup, rice, broiled salmon and Japanese omelet (tamagoyaki). Note: If you order starter-type items, like fruit, your breakfast will be served in two courses.
At lunch, served only on sea days, you'll find starters, including soups and salads; and a half-dozen mains, usually including a couple of sandwich options, a fish dish, a meat dish, a pasta and a vegetarian option. There's also an "Express Combo," pairing your choice of two options (black bean soup and a mini avocado and bacon burger, for example). Deserts include four plated items (lemon meringue pie with strawberry sauce was the perfect prelude to an afternoon nap) and a choice of ice creams. While lunch choices here are limited when compared to the vast Lido Market buffet, it's also much quieter.
Dinner brings an extensive menu of signature dishes (onion soup, Caesar salad, New York strip steak, grilled salmon and roast chicken), which are permanent favorites as well as a changing menu of seven starters, seven main courses and four or more desserts. We enjoyed appetizers like grilled lamb kebabs with cool yogurt-cucumber sauce and creative soups like Korean dak kalgusku (made with knife-cut noodles, shredded chicken and aromatic vegetables). You'll also find more traditional items like mushroom and wild rice chowder or shrimp brochettes. Fresh fish is on the menu whenever it's obtainable, and we enjoyed a variety of seafood on our cruise. While grilled salmon was perfectly cooked, a dish billed as "tempura" arrived in a heavy fish-and-chips style batter, rather than the lighter tempura preparation; an order of soft-shell crab had the same issue. Meat tended to fare better, with steak perfectly cooked to order (although the New York strip could stand to be thicker). Chicken dishes were consistently juicy, and pork and lamb mains were also delicious. For traditionalists, there were dishes like prime rib and beef bourguignonne; for the adventurous, quail with apricot bread stuffing and port wine sauce. Modifications and special requests were never an issue. Service was excellent; if a waiter noticed a dish wasn't pleasing a diner, it was instantly whisked away and replaced. Desserts were tempting with chocolate cakes, tarts and puddings adding the most to our waistline. For non-chocoholics, the galley makes a mean strudel. Thankfully, dessert portions are on the small side, so you can order without too much guilt. A cheese plate is also available, with fairly mundane selections.
Afternoon tea is served daily here, at 3 p.m. Servers circulate with trays of tempting treats, including scones, finger sandwiches and mini-pastries and tarts.
Tip: Be aware that Deck 4 doesn't go straight through from bow to stern; if you're heading to the dining room from the front of the ship, you'll have to go up to Deck 5 (or down to Deck 3) and walk for a bit before you can return to Deck 4 again to get to the dining room.
Lido Market (Deck 8): This buffet restaurant is a wonderland of choices, serving breakfast (as early as 5:30 a.m. on shore days; from 7 to 10 a.m. on sea days), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), a more limited late lunch (2 to 5 p.m.), dinner (5:30 to 8 p.m.) and late-night snacks (10:30 to 11:30 p.m.).
There are two serving lines and two seating areas, located on either side of the ship. Seating can also be found on the central lido deck or outside next to the aft pool area. On our cruise, it was always a bit difficult to find a table at breakfast and lunch, because it was usually too chilly for folks to eat outdoors. The bustling restaurant is bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows lining either side. Decor is in tones of light sea green and peach, with bright, modern glass lighting, and colorful mosaic tiles backing the walls behind the serving lines.
"Marketplace" is an apt name, because at breakfast, you'll likely hop from station to station, getting a server to cook you a made-to-order omelet, an egg over-easy, some French toast, a full English breakfast -- or even a bowl of Asian congee, with the add-ins of your choice. There is a bounty of dangerously delicious breads, muffins, bagels, croissants and pastries -- though we kept expecting the luscious caramel-pecan sticky buns to be warm. Smoked salmon, kippers, bangers, bacon and more can be had on the side. And you'll also find cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, fruit and veggies. While you may need to wait a few minutes for your cooked-to order item, we far prefer this system to buffet items that have been sitting for who knows how long. If you're in a huge rush, though, you can help yourself to some scrambled eggs, sides and the breads.
Lunch brings a popular salad bar with two-dozen ingredients, including meats, cheeses and lots of fresh veggies. You don't help yourself, though, but rather tell a server what you'd like. This was our go-to lunch; the only annoying thing was the salad bowl, which is high on one side and low on the other, making it a messy proposition to toss your salad. There's also a server-manned pasta bar, with several sauces, two types of pasta and 18 possible add-ins including mushrooms, onions, cheese, meats, peppers and more. We thoroughly enjoyed a special "choose your own ingredients" Asian noodle soup option offered one day. And the pizza guy can serve you three different kinds of pies. Sushi? Yep, several different types of rolls. At the carvery section, you can pick up a slice of turkey breast, leg of lamb, roasted strip loin or pork, depending on the day. There's also a different carvery sandwich each day. Five daily main courses include fish, chicken and red-meat choices, plus pasta and a vegetarian dish. There's also a baked pasta casserole. Sides include a soup (we enjoyed the crab and asparagus soup), potatoes, rice and vegetables. A self-service section has lunch meats, cheeses and charcuterie, with bread nearby so you can make a sandwich. You'll also find five changing varieties of sandwiches and panini, packaged to grab and go. For dessert, choose among eight plated items, like cream puffs, coconut flan, a strawberry-rhubarb tartlet or apple pie. There's also hand-dipped ice cream and several types of cookies.
Dinner is a casual affair, with fewer, comfort-food oriented offerings. There's a carvery station with rotating roasts, and a different carvery sandwich -- the "Del Toro," for example, with beef brisket, bourbon barbecue sauce, roasted bell peppers, cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo, onion and cilantro on a garlic baguette. The seven mains include a pasta, fish, chicken and red meat choices. A steak of some sort is usually also available. Sides include soup, baked potatoes and "loaded mashed potatoes." The four dessert choices usually include an ice cream sundae, or you can opt for cheese and fruit.
Tip: While many of the items are duplicated on both buffet lines, they aren't exactly the same -- so take a scouting trip to check out the options.
Dive-In (Deck 8): Befitting its name, this dining option is found next to the main pool on the Lido Deck. We were tipped-off about the great burgers by a fellow passenger -- and were instantly hooked. Choose among three juicy, made-to-order beef burgers (the most decadent has Gouda cheese, bacon and caramelized onions), a grilled chicken breast sandwich and a grilled portabella mushroom sandwich. There are also three types of hot dogs with different toppings, and crispy fries.
Dive-In also hosts a self-serve taco and nacho bar, stocked with ground-meat filling, guacamole, salsas, cheese, onions, tomatoes and more.
Room Service: Complimentary 24-hour room service is available for all passengers, with additional fees for some items at breakfast or from specialty restaurants (only available during their regular hours).
The complimentary breakfast (6 to 11 a.m.) includes continental options and cold cereals, as well as two omelets and a classic American breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and toast. Upgrades to salmon Benedict or steak and eggs will cost you in regular cabins, though. We frequently ordered room service breakfast, using the night-before hangtag ordering system. Our meal was invariably served on time (toward the beginning of the requested time period), hot and with special requests, like hot milk for our coffee, honored. There was never a mistake or missing item -- a testimony to Volendam's high level of service.
All-day dining (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) features classic items like chicken noodle soup, chili, Cobb salad, pulled pork sub and rigatoni. Desserts include cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies. The all-night menu (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) is a more limited version of the all-day menu. The room service menu standbys are well-chosen to sooth everything from a touchy tummy to a midnight chocolate craving.
Pinnacle Grill (Deck 4, midship); $39 at dinner; $10 at lunch (some items additional)
Volendam's premium dining experience is available for dinner every night, and lunch on sea days. The small, swanky space has dark, art-covered walls, lots of wood paneling, dramatic floral arrangements and Venetian-style glass chandeliers. Red banquettes line the wall and chairs are finished in black with blue tufted upholstery.
Although the Pinnacle Grill's dinner menu now includes more eclectic dishes (tomato broth with spicy lemongrass chicken, cioppino or baked stuffed eggplant), surf and turf are the main draws here. The five choices of steaks -- from the 7-ounce petit filet to the 23-ounce porterhouse -- are from the sustainably produced Double R Ranch brand of beef. Chip in an extra $59 for the Fred Flintstone-sized President's Cut bone-in ribeye (not worth it, in our experience). Choose from six different sauces for your steak.
Salmon, king crab legs and halibut round out the dinnertime seafood choices, with a 12-ounce lobster tail carrying an extra $20 tariff. A nice choice of sides includes fries with truffle aioli, creamed spinach, grilled asparagus, baked potato and more. Sides are generally small, so don't hesitate to order several if you're sharing. The six desserts include a Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia baked Alaska, a vanilla souffle and our favorite, the intense "Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake," served warm. It's about the closest thing you can get to a dark chocolate I-V.
Pinnacle Grill's smaller lunch menu includes some dishes from the dinner menu, but adds sandwiches (black cod, tri-tip and burger) and a salad with chicken. The only steak is a beef tenderloin. Desserts include a strawberry Pavlova and a warm fudge brownie with coffee gelato.
Explorations Cafe (Deck 5 aft); a la carte: This espresso bar is where you can get your latte fix, with most barista drinks in the $2 to $4 range. You can also buy tea, hot chocolate, sodas and water here, and pick up a free mini cupcake, brownie or savory snack to wash down with your beverage.
Canaletto (Deck 8 midship); $15: Volendam's Italian specialty restaurant is cordoned-off from the Lido Market space and open only at dinner. Although it has different carpeting and chic, gray chairs, it really doesn't feel like a totally separate restaurant. The menu concept is based around the sharing of both small starters and large plates, and servers encourage diners to do just this. Let them guide you as to the number of items you should order for your table. Among the small plates, we can definitely recommend the antipasti's cured meats, marinated veggies and dips, as well as the beef carpaccio. A fellow diner also loved his zuppa di pesce (seafood soup). Large plates include four pastas (the spaghetti with clams and shrimp was excellent), a delicious gnocchi with a deeply flavorful short rib sauce, prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin, chicken cacciatore and grilled sea bass. Four traditional Italian desserts are available, including tiramisu and cannoli, as well as an Italian cheese plate. The menu also recommends several Italian cocktails ($7.95), like a Bellini, Negroni or Aperol spritzer to get you in the Italian mood.