One of the benefits of opting for a cruise vacation is that you never have to worry about where you’ll eat. Be it quick-serve, room service, the dining room, or specialty restaurants, most lines have you covered with a plethora of meal options.
That’s certainly the case on Holland America Line’s Pinnacle Class ships. I recently had the opportunity to join a 5-day North Sea sailing on board the new Rotterdam and not once did I feel even the slightest twinge of hunger. With HAL’s commitment to dining excellence and experience via their Culinary Council, there’s something to please every palate from haute cuisine to fast-food favorites.
Here are a few dishes that really shone during my sailing, listed in no particular order.
1. Cashew Barramundi With Red Thai Curry
Tamarind is one of several specialty restaurants on board HAL’s Pinnacle ships. While you’ll pay an upcharge to dine here, it’s well worth it. The Asian-fusion menu blends Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Japanese flavors for a meal that truly stands out, even on a ship with so many dining options! Many of the sharable appetizer plates were seafood-forward and delicious, but there were starters for carnivores and vegetarians as well. I opted for the barramundi as my entrée; the Asian sea bass was prepared perfectly, as were the veggies sauteed on the side. Thai basil gave the entire dish a perfect, herbaceous zip.
2. Specialty Sushi Rolls
On a different night, I decided to head to Nami to get my sushi fix. Like all of the seafood served on board, the rolls I sampled were incredibly fresh and the quality of the cuts stood on their own. They were simply served; no funky sauces or a bunch of other ingredients to get in the way. The other thing I loved about Nami is that it’s a small, quiet space, and you can easily snag a seat at the bar if you want to watch the expert chefs at work. This is also a specialty restaurant, but unlike Tamarind, you pay ala carte as opposed to prix fixe.
3. Dover Sole Meuniere
Rudy’s Sel De Mer
Of course, I wanted to get the French-Med take on the bountiful seafood and produce on board, so I also had dinner at Rudy’s Sel de Mer. While the smoked salmon was a visual showstopper (served under a glass cloche that emitted a delicate puff of smoke when lifted at the table), and the baguette and various tapenades served before my meal were terrific, I really loved the whole Dover sole meuniere. The flat, delicate fish was cooked in the traditional way, sauteed to simple perfection with tapenade, lemon, and fresh parsley on the side.
4. Filet Mignon
Lest you think Holland America’s culinary offerings only target pescatarians, let’s move on to the Pinnacle Grill — the specialty steak and chophouse. Here’s where you’ll get your red meat fix in, with cuts of aged beef in all sizes and styles. I couldn’t even think about putting away a porterhouse on my own, so I opted for the petite filet mignon. It was so tender and delicate, yet had that robust beefy flavor you’d expect from such a fine cut. I paired mine with asparagus, but the mac and cheese looked divine, as did the famous clothesline candied bacon appetizer!
5. Chopped Steak Dinner
Main Dining Room
I was fortunate to be on board one of Holland America’s Heritage sailings, designed to celebrate the line’s 150th anniversary. There were lectures and artifacts detailing HAL’s history, and that rich tradition also came through on the menu. One evening, we were all invited to sample entrées from archived menus. I chose the chopped steak. It reminded me a bit of an extremely elevated TV dinner, in the best way possible. It was a nostalgic and delicious taste of the past, and I’m sure such dishes provided comfort to the thousands of immigrants Holland America transported to their new homes in America or Canada.
6. Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict
Main Dining Room
I’m not going to lie, when cruising, I usually opt for a room service breakfast. It allows me to get a great workout in, eat in the privacy of my room, then shower and go. That said, getting dressed early and heading to the dining room for Holland America’s Dungeness crab eggs Benedict was well worth the effort. The chefs took an already decadent dish and elevated it with sweet crab and asparagus… but it wasn’t so heavy that I felt weighed down. It was a brilliant breakfast and got me well-fueled for the day ahead.
7. Dutch High Tea
When I noticed a traditional Dutch tea service was on offer during my sailing, I decided to make time and save room for it. I was so glad I did and the experience definitely qualified as an entire meal! The tea, while black and not my preference of green, was steeped lightly enough that a tiny splash of cream cut the malty taste. Everyone taking part was presented with a traditional silver high tea stand, with traditional sandwiches at the bottom (watercress and smoked salmon, of course!) and decadent pastries toward the top. It was the perfect midday meal!
Grand Dutch Café
Finally, the essential question: Desserts qualify as a meal, right? If you’re on vacation, absolutely. And to find some of the best on HAL’s Pinnacle Class ships, head straight to the Grand Dutch Café. Here, you’ll find light cocktails, specialty coffees including lattes, and the most decadent desserts ever. Pastry fans will love the Poffertjes, or Dutch pancakes, but my favorite was the Bossche bol — an enormous chocolate-covered cream puff.
Pro Tip: If you think you want to dine at one of HAL’s specialty restaurants on board its Pinnacle Line ships (and you should!) make sure to book your reservations ahead. These hotspots often fill up quickly.