By Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Overall, while cuisine on Zuiderdam is about average, we appreciated that large sections of the Lido Buffet were open all day, allowing you to grab a variety of snacks at any time. Of particular note is Dive-In at the Terrace Grill, Holland America's poolside window serving made-to-order hot dogs, burgers and fries. And, the Pinnacle Grill, an extra-fee venue that serves steaks and Pacific Northwest-inspired fare, is a delicious stalwart; if you're going to pay extra for any meal, make it in this venue.

Allergens are not marked on menus in any of the restaurants; if you have dietary restrictions, you should let the line know ahead of time or consult with the dining room manager when you first get on the ship.

Free Dining

Vista Dining Room (Decks 2 and 3): While Zuiderdam's main dining room has large windows in both the upper and lower sections, the rooms are separated by a ceiling (rather than the upper level looking down onto the lower level). This layout makes conversation easier as voices don't carry as far -- although you don't get that grand effect that's common to other MDRs.

Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 9 a.m. The menu has the usual eggs, waffles and hot cereal available to order, along with a variety of benedicts, omelets and special scrambles. Lunch is served between noon and 1 p.m., but only on certain days; check the daily program. A full three-course meal, with appetizer, entree and dessert, is available if you want it; a typical lunch menu includes Thai curry chicken salad, hot and sour shrimp soup, baked macaroni and cheese or French dip as an entree. There's also a two-course "Express Option" if you'd like to get in and out quickly.

An afternoon tea is served on the upper level from 3 to 4 p.m. and is popular with Zuiderdam's international passengers. The line did away with themed teas, but the current spread has cakes, sandwiches and sweets.

Holland America has two styles of dining for dinner: traditional set tables at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the upper section of the dining room and open dining between 5:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. downstairs. The menus, developed by the line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, often draw dishes from the line's "culinary council" of famous chefs such as David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner and Ethan Stowell. Dishes from these featured chefs rotate every night and are starred on the menu.

A typical dinner menu includes shrimp cocktail and duck pate on brioche for appetizers; Caribbean fish chowder, and salad of arugula and frisee for second course; and cracked pepper tenderloin with grilled shrimp, oven-roasted rack of lamb and maple-lacquered duck breast as entrees. Desserts might include chocolate souffle, tiramisu, New York cheesecake or a no-sugar Black Forest cake.

For picky eaters, several Signature dishes are available every night, including French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled salmon, chicken breast and strip steak.

At least one vegetarian entree is offered at dinner. In addition, a complete menu with 22 vegetarian and vegan items is available on request; passengers are advised to order items the night before.

Lido Restaurant (Deck 9): Zuiderdam's buffet is a typical cruise ship spread that offers plenty of choices, most hours of the day. It can be chaotic during prime hours, making it hard to find a seat, and lines do form at the more popular stations. To keep waste down and prevent the spread of illness, servers dish up most the items for you.

Continental breakfast is served from 6 to 10:30 a.m. Here you'll find fruit, muffins and pastries as well as some cheeses. The full breakfast is available from 7 to 10 a.m. (although this can be earlier on port days) and carries the usual variety of omelets, smoked salmon, breakfast meats, cereals, yogurt and fruit. We were particularly impressed with the daily frittatas.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Choices include hot entrees such as baked chicken, Asian and Indian specialties (including sushi), pasta and a rather doughy (yet still tasty) pizza, plus a made-to-order salad bar. The deli counter, with grab-and-go sandwiches, is open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Lido serves casual dinner from 5:30 to 8 p.m.; usually some of the same options from the main dining room are available. Sample menu items include appetizers like fruit ceviche or eggplant caponata; two types of soup; the 12-premade salad bar; entrees such as crab pad Thai, Caribbean jerk chicken, New York strip loin steak or curried vegetables. A range of desserts is available, including Key lime pie, create-your-own sundaes, a sugar-free dessert, and cheese and crackers.

If you're looking for a late-night snack, Lido has a good variety of choices, including pizza, pasta, Asian dishes, sandwiches and sweets available from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Regular ice cream, in either a waffle or sugar cone, is available all day.

Terrace Grill (Lido poolside): Zuiderdam's poolside venue features made-to-order burgers (beef, chicken and veggie), hot dogs and fries. It's a delicious option that tastes fresher than the usual Lido fare. More importantly, our fries stayed perfectly crispy, even with the addition of "secret sauce" (a spicy remoulade). There's also a Mexican buffet set up in this area. Open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 10): Attached to the computer lounge and the library, Explorations Cafe has complimentary snacks and pastries; specialty coffee drinks will run you extra. Open 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours, with no fee. A full breakfast menu with standard choices, including eggs, omelets, cereal and meats, can be ordered the night before, up until 2 a.m. (ours came exactly within the time requested). From 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., the menu includes smoked salmon, French onion soup, salads, seared salmon, penne pasta, a variety of sandwiches and desserts. A kids' menu with favorites like mac 'n' cheese, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, is available from 5:30  to 9:30 p.m.

A limited menu is available any time of day, which includes a club sandwich, fruit salad, cheese plate and chocolate chip cookies. For passengers who feel seasick, the staff will deliver beef broth, broiled chicken breast, green apples, crackers and hot tea.

Fee Dining

Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2); $10 per person for lunch, $35 per person for dinner: Zuiderdam's signature restaurant, Pinnacle Grill, is inspired by the Pacific Northwest. The room makes a nice special occasion dinner, with beautiful Bvlgari plates and gorgeous furnishings. It's also a great spot for a fancy lunch on sea days. You can't go wrong with a steak here; we also enjoyed the lobster bisque, the cedar-planked halibut with shrimp scampi and perhaps the most delicious roasted vegetables that we've had at sea. Leave room for the deconstructed baked Alaska featuring Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.

The wine list in the Pinnacle Grill also deserves a special shout-out. Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse is very active in the Pacific Northwest wine scene, and the list reflects it, with an emphasis on Washington State vintages (that have some reasonable prices, too). With several by-the-glass selections as well as bottles available, the list offers a good way to try the wines of this region if you haven't done so before.

All in all, Pinnacle Grill gives you some of the best value for your specialty restaurant dollars onboard; we've never had anything that wasn't good here. Open for lunch, noon to 1 p.m.; and dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Canaletto (Deck 9); $15 per person: Carved out of the Lido buffet, Canaletto is the ship's Italian venue. Appetizers such as eggplant caponata pasta, and entrees such as veal piccata and roast pork saltimbocca, are served in a white tablecloth setting. Items are meant to be shared, with a recommendation of two starters, one pasta and one entree per two people. We found the fare here underwhelming and pasta strangely not as good as what we had for free at the buffet. Open for dinner, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Rudi's Sel de Mer (Deck 2); $49 per person: Offered once during a cruise of less than 10 nights and twice on longer itineraries, the Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant turns the Pinnacle Grill into a French seafood brasserie. Designed by Holland America's Master Chef and culinary consultant, Rudi Sodamin, the restaurant features special "Food Faces" plates with designs taken from some of Sodamin's whimsical culinary photography.

The Sel de Mer menu for the pop-up mimics what you'd find in the standalone restaurant on Koningsdam. It's fairly extensive and heavy on fish and shellfish, although other meats are available and there are limited choices for vegetarians. At our meal, we found the standouts to be Rudi's seafood tower (small portions of lump crab, North Sea shrimp and octopus served in a clever series of stackable bowls), the broiled Maine lobster and Rudi's souffle (there was also a goat cheese souffle entree that we saw floating by that looked quite good). We appreciated the array of tapenades served with a baguette before the meal and the chocolate dipped strawberries and truffles, arranged on a clever presentation "tree," that came after dinner. It's all a lot of food so come hungry. (Plus, we found Rudi's chocolate truffles in our room when we got back.)

Sel de Mer also has a special cocktail and drinks menu (although you can still order off the Pinnacle Grill wine list if you'd prefer). French wines by the glass are featured, as is Rudi's "featured cocktail," a Vesper martini made with gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc. Liqueurs and cognacs are also on the drink menu. Reservations recommended. Dinner is served 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Room Service: You can order Dive-In burgers around the clock for a $4.95 fee per item. Steaks ($15) and lobster tails ($20) can be ordered from the Pinnacle Grill to your room between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.

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