By Dori Saltzman
Cruise Critic Senior Editor
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Dining is a highlight on any Westerdam sailing, with most people raving about their meals whether in the Dining Room or a specialty restaurant (a nice change from many big ships where the best food is always only in the specialty restaurants).

Perhaps this is because dining choices are limited, so chefs are free to give their undivided attention to each venue. In fact, there are separate kitchens for some of the venues (one for room service, one for Pinnacle, one specifically for preparation of meals for people with dietary needs or allergies and one for everything else), narrowing the focus even more.

With that said, there were hiccups here and there (the occasional meal that wasn't cooked quite right or servers delivering the wrong item). But overall, complaints about the food on Westerdam were few and far between.

In terms of choice, there are four free and four specialty choices onboard (three of the four are held in the same venue). Special needs diets can be catered for and there is a separate kitchen specifically for all special needs meals, with dishes put aside only for gluten-free meals. Vegetarians in particular will find an enormous variety in all dining venues. There's even a small menu for kosher meals, though these meals must be ordered several months in advance.

Free Dining

The Dining Room (Decks 2 & 3): Passengers on Westerdam can choose from two types of main dining room experiences for dinner on the ship: set seating (with early and late seating at 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively) or As You Wish flexible dining, whereby cruisers can either make a reservation or show up to the dining room anytime between 5:30 and 9:15 p.m. Breakfast is also served every morning and lunch is served on sea days and select port days in an open-seating format.

Breakfast in the Dining Room is typically served from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and offers a robust menu. In Europe where the passenger base is more global, options include traditional American, British and Asian items, and the juice selection is excellent with nine choices.

Lunch in the Dining Room is a much smaller affair; typically only open for one hour on sea days and select port days and having just a one-page menu with items like watermelon caprese, pork and mango skewers, grilled tuna melt, avocado and bacon burger, beef stroganoff, shrimp tomato risotto and a black bean patty. There's plenty for dessert including lemon meringue pie, coconut raspberry or fresh strawberry tart, pineapple sundae and several ice cream and sherbet choices.

But it's dinner where the Dining Room shines, with food that's just as good as what you'd get in a specialty restaurant, excellent service (with a hiccup here or there) and a comfortable atmosphere that's just traditional enough without ever being too stuffy or formal.

The menu is divided into starters (including soups and salads), mains and dessert. Starters might include crab and scallop ceviche, pumpkin and squash soup, coconut-crusted scallops, chilled kiwi melon soup, and orange and radicchio salad.

Main options might be penne primavera, grilled flat iron steak, chicken breast with Israeli couscous, eggplant and zucchini piccata, prime rib, veal tenderloin, couscous Florentine, short rib with black olives, and wild mushroom strudel.

Signature starters available every night are French onion soup and a classic Caesar salad, while signature mains are grilled salmon with ginger-cilantro pesto, broiled New York strip loin and turkey scaloppini.

Indulgent desserts might include chocolate fudge brownie cheesecake, Viennese apple strudel, creme brulee, banana crisp with vanilla ice cream, chocolate panna cotta, and warm espresso-date pudding. There's also always a fruit plate and a selection of ice creams and sherbets available.

Gala Nights offer a smaller selection. Appetizer choices might include jumbo shrimp cocktail or foie gras, while the soups and salad menu might feature roasted parsnip soup, or an apple, pear and cucumber salad. Entree choices on our first Gala Night included mushroom ravioli, surf and turf, basil-crusted veal, pan-seared sea bass, Asian-style rotisserie duck, and pistachio and cheese-crusted eggplant piccata. For dessert we could choose from a warm flourless chocolate cake, an almond and orange cake, passion fruit cheesecake, and no-sugar-added tiramisu.

Lido Market (Deck 9): Up on Deck 9, between the two pools is the ship's buffet, called Lido Market. The space received a spruce-up during a 2017 refurb, getting new chairs and a slight tweak to the serving stations. Most notably, there are no more trays and cruisers can no longer serve themselves. Instead, crew dish out the requested menu items in smallish portions. (You can ask for more or go back as many times as you want.) A handful of items are pre-plated and you can just grab and go.

While there are several seating areas throughout the Market, it can be quite difficult to find a spot to eat during breakfast or lunch. Even asking a crew member didn't result in getting a seat; instead we always had to walk around for five minutes or more until we were able to snag a spot. It can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully this sense of crowdedness does not transfer to the lines for food. We rarely waited longer than three or four minutes to get served and usually it was much more immediate than that.

Breakfast brings with it typical morning fare including scrambled eggs, a choose-your-fixings omelet station, assorted pastries, fruit and cereal.

Lunch and dinner offer themed stations, with the same choices on both sides (salad, bistro, ice cream and sweets) except for one side having a pizza and pasta spot and the other side having a pan-Asian station.

Among the choices you might find at lunch (at all stations combined) are two to three types of pizza, a selection of sandwiches, a carvery (roasted strip loin, beef brisket, roasted turkey, etc.), two soup choices (cream of celery with ham, roasted parsnip and carrot), ziti with sauteed andouille sausage, spinach and clam baked farfalle, pork in coconut, pad Thai noodles, stir fried vegetable curry, an assortment of sushi, and spiced haddock in a remoulade sauce.

Dinner choices are similar though perhaps a touch more refined. The carvery, for instance, might have lamb shoulder or roasted prime rib, while other choices might include a short rib lasagna Bolognese, crab carbonara, five-spice roasted chicken, broiled New York striploin, grilled lamb chops, olive-crusted plaice, Parmesan-coated veal loin and mustard-crusted tuna.

Our favorite station by far (at both lunch and dinner) was the choose-your-ingredients salad bar, where you point out what you want to the guy behind the counter and he puts it all in a big bowl for you and adds the dressing of your choice. The array of fixings is much larger than what you normally find in a cruise ship buffet.

There's always hard ice cream available for dessert (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and a flavor of the day) with DIY fixings including various sauces and toppings. Other dessert options at either lunch or dinner could include bread pudding, mango fruit tartlet, marbled cheesecake, double chocolate cupcakes and berries financier.

For those who need a bite to eat after dinner service is over, there's a late-night buffet from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Here you'll find items like fresh fruits, cheese plates, chicken Caesar salad, spaghetti Bolognese, pork fried rice and a portobello Gruyere quiche.

Dive-In Burger (Deck 9): Located on the front end of Lido Market, tucked away in a small corner is the Dive-In Burger and Taco Bar. This is the place to go if you're in the mood for a burger or hot dog, or want a fully-loaded DIY taco. Options include: the Cannonball, which comes served with Gouda, applewood smoked bacon, sweet caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato; the Gainer, served with a mound of crispy, frizzled onions, lettuce and tomato; and the Freestyle, a vegetarian grilled portabella mushroom burger with cheddar and Gouda. There's also a traditional cheeseburger (called the High-Dive) and the Back Flip grilled chicken burger with guacamole -- all are served with Holland America's secret Dive-In sauce. Three styles of Nathan's hot dogs are also on offer and the fries aren't half bad either!

Just next to Dive-In is a DIY taco bar. Fixings include chicken or beef, drunken beans, yellow rice, cheese sauce, pico de gallo sauce, crab and corn salad, guacamole, pineapple or mango salsa, and sour cream.

Dive-In is also the spot on the ship for those with a hankering for a milkshake. For $4.50, you can get a strawberry, chocolate or vanilla shake.

Room Service: Cruisers looking to eat in can take advantage of the ship's complimentary room service menu (there are just a handful of extra-fee items, including the always available-24-hours-a-day choices). At breakfast, which you can pre-order by putting out the order form on your door knob the night before or call to order any time before 11 a.m., choices are the Continental (assorted pastries, fruit yogurt and sliced fruit), the Classic (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and toast), the Healthy Start (muesli, cottage cheese and sliced fruit) or a ham and cheddar or vegetable and goat cheese omelet. There are nine cereals available and eight juices, coffees or teas.

The all-day menu is actually only available 12 hours, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (between 11 p.m. and breakfast, you have to pay for a la carte room service options, see below). Among the six starters are a chicken or cheese quesadilla, chicken noodle soup, three-bean chili, and Caesar or Cobb salad. Four sandwiches are available, including a roast beef panini and barbecue pulled pork sub, as are a sausage rigatoni and an oven-roasted chicken. Want to satisfy your sweet tooth without leaving the room? Call up for a chocolate layer cake or New York cheesecake (among other choices).

Fee Dining

Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2); $35 for dinner and $10 for lunch: For a special night out most nights, your only option is Pinnacle Grill, a fine dining steakhouse with a sophisticated decor that features dark green walls, lustrous reddish-brown floors and accents of gold throughout. The food is delicious (and there's plenty for a vegetarian to feast on), but we found the service to be slow at times. Our group was divided into two tables and by the time one of the tables was finishing up their main courses, the other table was just getting served. With that said, the food was worth the wait.

First course options include lobster bisque, jumbo shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, crab cakes and steak tartare. There's also a caviar option that costs an additional $70.

The main courses are divided into land and sea choices. For the steak lovers, choices include filet mignon (two sizes), New York strip steak, bone-in rib eye (two sizes, including a 36-ounce choice that costs an additional $59) and a porterhouse. Diners can make it a surf and turf by adding a 5-ounce lobster tail for an additional $10. Other land options include a double-cut pork chop, Colorado lamb chops, roasted Jidori chicken, baked-stuff eggplant, wild mushroom ravioli, and roasted pumpkin risotto.

Seafood lovers have a few choices as well including Alaskan king salmon, Alaskan king crab legs, cedar planked halibut with shrimp scampi, and a seafood stew with clams, mussels, shrimp Alaskan crab and halibut. There's also a 12-ounce Maine lobster tail that'll cost an additional $20.

And if all that weren't enough, diners can select any number of the seven side dishes, especially as they're made to share. We recommend the creamed spinach and shoestring fries with truffle aioli.

Pinnacle Grill is also open for lunch on select days with a smaller menu that consists of six appetizers, nine main courses (including Alaska king salmon, black cod and beef tri-tip) and six dessert choices.

Rudi's Sel de Mer (Deck 2); $49: Once per cruise, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed into a French seafood restaurant with a menu created specifically for Holland America by Chef Rudi Sodamin. The three-course menu includes appetizers, a main course and dessert, as well as a selection of six side dishes (French fries, cauliflower puree, wild rice, green beans, truffle mashed potatoes and ratatouille). Appetizers include steak tartare, escargots, bouillabaisse Marseillaise, tuna salad nicoise, foie gras and Rudi's seafood tower, which comprises lump crab, North Sea shrimp and octopus in a brandy cocktail sauce. For an extra $25 diners can also select a fruits de mer appetizer for two, consisting of lobster and crab claws, langoustine, jumbo shrimp, mussels, oysters and clams.

There are eight main course choices: fresh catch of the day, broiled Maine lobster, whole Dover sole, rack of lamb persillade, salt-crust baked branzino, steak frites, duck cassoulet and a cheese souffle.

If you've still got room left for dessert your choices are profiteroles, crepes Suzette, apple tarte tatin, Rudi's souffle (a version of the Salzburger nockerl) and a cheese plate. A serving of petits fours is automatic.

Taste of De Librije (Deck 2); $49 without wine or $69/$89 with wine pairing (3/5 ounces per glass): Created in partnership with Michelin Three Star Chef Jonnie Boer, a member of Holland America's Culinary Council, Taste of De Librije is a five-course culinary delight for foodies that mimics much of the experience found at the land-based De Librije right down to the uniforms and table settings. Each of the five courses offers diners two choices. First course is either Maine lobster with avocado or oysters; second course is a lobster bisque foam or crispy pork belly; and third is seared bass with speck ham or sweet breads. The fourth course is baked cod with North Sea shrimp or miso-glazed duck breast. The fifth course, dessert, is a deconstructed apple pie or roasted white chocolate. (Diners with dietary restrictions are not recommended to eat here.)

Canaletto (Deck 9); $15: Located within a small section of the Lido Market is Holland America's popular, and delicious, Italian eatery. The menu is divided into small plates, pastas and large plates. Portions are designed for sharing; the menu recommends two people order two small plates, one pasta and two large plates. Canaletto is open only for dinner.

Small plate options include antipasto, veal and sage meatballs, fish soup, buffalo mozzarella, beef carpaccio, stuffed eggplant, and saffron risotto with zucchini. Among the six pasta choices are garlic shrimp ravioli, potato gnocchi, rigatoni with sausage, mushroom gemelli, and spaghetti with clams and shrimp. There are five large plate choices: prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin, chicken cacciatore, lamb cutlets, grilled sea bass fillet, and zucchini spaghetti with portobello mushrooms. We recommend sharing more than one dessert as well; choices include tiramisu, almond lemon tart, ricotta and marsala-filled cannolis, a selection of gelatos and a cheese plate.

Room Service; a la carte: The vast majority of the room service menu is free for anyone to order but there is a small selection of extra-fee items including smoked salmon Benedict ($7.50), steak and eggs ($9.50) and a fresh fruit smoothie ($4.95), all for breakfast; and select menu items from Dive-In Burgers (available 24 hours, all options $4.95) or Pinnacle Grill (only available for dinner, $15 to $20).

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