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A Taste of Excellence
Personalize Your Cruise Ship
Dining Experience

by Linda Coffman

We hadn't intended to do it, but during a cruise aboard Holland America Line's Westerdam, we never ate in the dining room. To foodiesindeed to most cruise passengersthe thought is, well, unthinkable. For us, though, it made a lot of sense to have meals our way.

After boarding, my husband and I immediately made a reservation for dinner in the upscale Pinnacle Grill for later in the week, but decided a casual dinner in the Lido Restaurant that first night would offer us the opportunity for some down-time. We didn't have to rush to make a set seating time and we wouldn't have to make small talk with strangers.

While Holland America Line features gracious dining in the main restaurantsand was in the process of introducing their innovative As You Wish™ dining program that affords passengers the selection of either a traditional seating and dining time or a flexible/open seating dining scheduleit wasn't yet available on our Westerdam sailing.*

Happily, we found more than we expected in the Lido Restaurant and it suited our lifestyle perfectly—we prefer to eat when we're actually hungry. After selecting a salad and appetizer from the buffet, we made our choices from several entrees and were shown to a candlelit table set with a crisp linen tablecloth and fresh flowers. Our water glasses were filled and, with impeccable timing, the waiter served our entrees. When we finished, the table service continued with dessert and coffee. Best of all, we were relaxed and truly enjoyed ourselves.

We also noticed that families with young children took advantage of the laid back atmosphere to dine together in the Lido Restaurant. It's really ideal for them—the parents can order grown up dishes that are often the same as those on the main dining room menu and the kids can opt for their favorites, including pizza.

The next night we couldn't pass up the opportunity to tailor our evening our way. I'm so glad we did because that was the night we discovered maple syrup-glazed salmon. Aside from the Pinnacle Grill, it became one of the most memorable dishes we've ever eaten on a cruise ship. Just because it was casual, didn't mean the Lido Restaurant was what you think of as typical "buffet" dining. Options each night included such items as crab or shrimp appetizers, meat or fish entrees with side dishes, and a variety of ice creams, cakes, and pies for dessert. Freshly prepared pasta and pizza were also available for dinner as well as lunch. Breakfast even featured my favorite Eggs Benedict in addition to made-to-order eggs and omelets.

After our first much-anticipated and very elegant dinner-for-two in the Pinnacle Grill, we inquired about the possibility of a second reservation and were pleased they could accommodate us on formal night. For that evening, I chose Chef Rudi Sodamin's "special filet"with a green peppercorn sauce that added just the right touch of seasoningand asparagus on the side. For dessert, how could I pass up the Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake? I didn't.

It might be unthinkable not to dine at least once in the main dining room, but I believe it's unthinkable not to dine at least once in the Pinnacle Grill. The $25 per guest surcharge for dinner (or $10 for lunch) is modest compared to similar restaurants on land, where that amount would barely cover a tip.

And, in case you wondered... yes, we followed the recommended dress code, either Smart Casual or Formal, for every evening of our cruise. Fellow casual diners in the Lido Restaurant did as well.

We hated to see our leisurely cruise end and, in an attempt to re-create our Holland America dining experiences at home, I've been trying out the recipes from A Taste of Excellence Cookbook, available on board Holland America Line ships and online from Amazon.com. Author and Master Chef Rudi Sodamin is the culinary consultant for Holland America Line and the cookbook includes not only his recipes, but also cocktail creations and "Chef's Notes From the Galley" contributed by Holland America's Executive Chefs.

How am I doing in my kitchen? Chef Rudi need not fear the competition, although my salmon measures up pretty well (only slightly modified for my limited skill). On the other hand, by following the instructions in A Taste of Excellence Cookbook, I can serve a Holland America "Ultimate Bloody Mary" with pride!

-----

*Note: As You Wish™ dining will is now available on Holland America Line fleet-wide. If you choose the flexible/open seating program, you may make reservations daily until 4pm, or simply walk up for a table during dining hours.


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