“Where are we eating next?” became the favorite game my husband and I played during our brief four-night cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau aboard Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at sea gave us ample opportunity to sample the offerings of the Holland America Line kitchen and the ambience of its restaurants. Our cruise included two outings on land; one on Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Holland America and the other a stop in port at Nassau. Except for lunch in those two ports, we hopscotched from one on-board eatery to the next. And in almost a dozen meals at sea, we never met with disappointment.
Raising our Champagne glasses as we toasted travel companions on our first evening aboard ship, we watched the sun descend into a deep turquoise sea across the ship’s wake. Spirits were high as we embarked on our first dinner at sea in the Manhattan Dining Room where we could simply show up anytime during dining hours. We’d heard nothing but rave reviews about Nieuw Amsterdam’s eight dining venues. It was finally our chance to form our own opinions. We loved the Main Dining Room’s décor with lots of window seating in a two-tiered circular space. Wait staff were extremely courteous, suggesting quality California and European wines to complement the menu’s four-course options beginning with a starter, soup or salad, then a main dish and dessert and coffee. A full basket of fresh bread and rolls was quickly placed on the table.
Joined by our dinner companions, we began with salmon tartare with baby zucchini, gazpacho with crab and coconut, and carrot and radish salad with creamy black sesame vinaigrette. Main dishes included black sesame jumbo shrimp, pan-seared rainbow trout and vegetable curry with forbidden rice. My entrée of Grilled Salmon with Ginger-cilantro Pesto was heavenly. My spouse chose the broiled New York Strip loin, medium rare, with red skin marinated potato, cauliflower gratin and green peppermint sauce. Overall, the food quality was impressive, with the superb fresh seafood and delectable sauces being particular standouts.
Excellent cuisine is Holland America Line’s signature but you can up your game from excellent to fabulous at their upmarket optional restaurants for a nominal fee between $25 and $35. Compared to similar land-based chef-inspired restaurants, these are a bargain. So, for us, the dinner at sea question game continued: “Should we try Italian, American, pan-Asian or Continental?” Pizza for lunch? High Tea tomorrow afternoon? We deliberated and deliberated. Here are some of our favorites:
Tamarind: Were it not for the sea view outside my table at Tamarind, I would have been convinced I’d stepped into an elegant upscale restaurant in Tokyo or Hong Kong. With its Asian ambience, soft lighting, and healing music, a sense of calm pervades. You can choose an intimate table for two or a larger one for groups. Once seated, a server handed me a cup of welcoming tea and a warm hand towel. Tamarind’s pan-Asian menu, created by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, is inspired by the four elements, water, wood, earth and fire. Appetizers include sushi or sashimi and a satay sampler.The ginger and garlic wok-seared lobster will make you lust for more. But then you might try the Korean duck breast bulgogi with sticky rice cake and decide that’s divine too. If one restaurant on board can be called experiential, Tamarind fills that bill. The ambience, the attentive service, the food presentation all combine to create a sensual unhurried interlude.
Pinnacle Grill: Dinner at sea is made all the more romantic in this posh-looking steak and seafood venue. Perched next to the Grand Staircase and literally shimmering from the glow of its glass chandeliers, mosaic mirrors and tiled flooring, this is one place to reserve a window table and up the romance factor. Tuck into Alaskan King Salmon or responsibly raised prime beef from Washington State’s Double R Ranch. Pair your dish with a boutique wine from the Pacific Northwest and you’ll be hard pressed to match the menu’s quality at home. Add in a slice of Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake or fresh berries topped with sabayon sauce for an evening of complete decadence before a midnight stroll on deck.
While we usually chose the Lido breakfast buffet, – we couldn’t seem to get enough of their made-to-order eggs Benedict–one morning, after a late night of dancing to the outstanding B. B. King All Stars Band in the lounge, we indulged in room service on our balcony. Fresh squeezed orange juice, a pot of coffee and hearty omelets accompanied by warm balmy breezes, a blue sea, cotton candy clouds and sunny skies were all included as part of the magic Room service on Holland America Line is included for every passenger every day so, if you’d like a cheese plate and a glass of wine while you enjoy a full moon view from your state room balcony, just call.
Playing the Dinner at Sea game continued because of the diversity of options, not only on the dining front, but with the wide range of programs, entertainment and poolside recreation. Holland America Line oversees a Culinary Council made up of master chefs from around the globe with each adding his or her culinary influence to the menus. For instance, should your appetite fancy French cuisine, one night per week, the menu at Pinnacle Grill changes to Rudi’s Sel de Mer, (“sea salt”) a French seafood brasserie, for dinner a la mer.
Craving Italian cuisine? The authentic family-style bistro, Canaletto, serves classic Italian pasta, garlic shrimp-infused ravioli and more every evening. Going even more casual, Slice Pizzeria, adjacent to the Sea View pool, is open 24 hours daily. At the other end of the culinary spectrum, we lingered over a cuppa’ with High Tea service in the Pinnacle Grill.This was another delightful diversion we felt warranted inclusion in our Dinner at Sea game, even if it was a bit early. High Tea is served every afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m.
With their global traditions and diverse culinary interests, Holland America Line’s world-class celebrity chefs chart a never ending course that makes dinner at sea== and every meal on board– a highlight. For more information on cruising with Holland America Line’s world-wide cruises, visit https://www.hollandamerica.com/