Dining on a cruise ship is as varied as dining anywhere on land and variances occur from ship to ship within a cruise line and certainly from one cruise line to the next. Depending on your age, you might either love dining in the main dining room (MDR) or hate it. To some the main dining room experience is what brings the whole cruise experience together for them. However, after Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Freestyle Cruising, where you dine when you wish and with whom you wish, traditional dining in the main dining room may look old fashioned these days. However, since we wanted to experience the ms Eurodam as others do, we decided to sit in the main dining room a few nights, but did use the As You Wish dining option to dine when we wanted to eat.
The beautifully presented menu is comprised of two parts: the left side has the menu that changes daily and the right side has the chef’s recommendations, the additional menu items that are available daily, and the wine recommendations for the meal.
|Scallop Ceviche with Lime and Coconut Cream|
|Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart|
My husband had the Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart and he liked it although he didn’t feel it was anything out of the ordinary and was simply a little quiche.
|Chilled Pear, Cucumber and Melon Gazpacho|
|The Chopped Farmer’s Salad|
Instead of an appetizer, I opted for soup and salad. I had the Chilled Pear, Cucumber and Melon Gazpacho and I really it, especially with the touch of jalapeno. The Chopped Farmer’s Salad was good, but the salad dressings that Holland America serves seems weak and watered down, which is something you don’t’ usually encounter when dining out.
|Chicken and Callaloo Soup|
My son chose the Chicken and Callaloo Soup, which despite its murky appearance, he did enjoy the light broth with chicken, butternut squash, and greens. My husband chose the French Onion Soup off the daily menu and it looked like bread in a bowl with a bit of broth over the top. We were surprised that it was served this way as there was little to no soup in the soup.
|French Onion Soup|
The timing between courses is a little off, but I won’t blame the wait staff. Although there seems to be more wait staff than one might expect, the assistant waiters must work with more than one waiter. The assistant waiter refills water glasses and helps with the all around service area, while the waiter takes the meal orders and delivers the food. The wine and drink waiter floats throughout the area asking for drink orders. The overall flow is slow and there is little in the way of checking in with diners to see if everything is alright with the meal. Perhaps Holland America could hire more waiters or make the sections smaller and thereby more manageable for the servers. We found ourselves at this meal and every subsequent meal wondering what was going on as the poor server would disappear for long periods of time. I also think the method by which they bring the food out to the dining room is not conducive to serving food. They don’t use push carts like Royal Caribbean and they don’t use traditional banquet trays, which are oval in shape. Instead they use rectangular cafeteria-style trays. If you have ever had to serve 12 or more plates of food, then you know the oval trays are used for a reason. I fully expected each and every time I saw a waiter for the tray to flip. My guess is that someone somewhere in a boardroom is making these decisions and they should probably observe a typical night in the dining room to see where changes should be made.
|Broiled NY Strip Loin Steak|
Onto entrees now and my son ordered a 10 oz. Broiled NY Strip Loin Steak off the daily menu. If you look at the menu, you can order either an 8 oz. or a 10 oz. steak and he decided on the larger one and loved it. He thought it was significantly better quality meat with less fat than what is served on Royal Caribbean or Carnival. He did not like, however, the side vegetables that were served with it, although he did eat the potatoes. The veggies were only slightly cooked and could not be called al dente, but instead, slightly cooked or nearly raw.
|Eggplant Canneloni Parmiagiano|
My husband and I both had the Eggplant Cannelloni Parmiagiano. As a vegan who travels often, I have had little success trying to eat completely vegan on vacation and so I accept with hesitation that vacation will mean being vegetarian and not vegan. As we soon learned on this trip, vegetarian meals were more of an afterthought for Holland America. The idea of a healthy vegetarian option is not possible as every vegetarian option included massive amounts of cheese, cream, and carbs and vegetables were more of the garnish than the actual entree or meal. As more and more people choose a vegetarian lifestyle as well as those choosing to eat healthier, Holland America is completely behind the times and sticking with serving gut busting, artery clogging food of years gone by. My husband liked the risotto, but not the eggplant which was undercooked and I tried to do the best I could with the eggplant as the risotto was overly rich.
|Banana and Coconut Cream Trifle|
The dessert menu has two sections like the original menu. The top half changes daily while the bottom half has the chef’s recommendation, beverages, and those items available daily. On this night my husband ordered an espresso and vowed never to do so again. We were completely done with dessert and ready to leave when the espresso came. The waiter apologized and said they have to go somewhere different to get the espresso. My son ordered the Banana and Coconut Cream Trifle, which looked and tasted like something out of a 1970’s Good Housekeeping magazine. I’m sure some of the older passengers on the ship appreciated not having to chew, but some of us still have our teeth. I ordered a Red Velvet Cake for the table and my husband ordered the Vanilla Frozen Yogurt. The cake was light and moist, but we learned something on this first night as far as frozen yogurt and ice cream. The crystallized nature of the frozen yogurt made us ponder whether they rotate their stock in the walk in freezer and if it is so rarely ordered that we are consuming old product.
|Red Velvet Cake|
Overall, despite the slow service and some missteps, Holland America does a good job of serving their diners during dinner in the main dining room. Since the cruises to the Caribbean on Holland America tend to cater to older clientele, perhaps they like the slower service and the cuisine of the past, but for us, I would have preferred lighter, healthier food with anything that resembles the 21st century. Although they do have selections on their menu that are “no sugar added” or “Greenhouse Spa Cuisine,” I don’t think that there is a reason to not make healthier food for the entire menu while still providing classics. Not every menu item needs a pound of butter or cheese on it.
Future blog posts will included additional notes from the main dining room, Canaletto – the Italian eatery, Tamarind – the Pan-Asian restaurant, and the Terrace Grill so stay tuned for more updates on food.