There's no question that Holland America is dedicated to its dining. Fleetwide programs like the Culinary Council, a team of seven accomplished chefs who help develop and influence onboard menus, demonstrate an emphasis on quality cuisine.
The great news is you don't have to pay extra for the best food onboard. The seafood we got at lunch in the main dining room was every bit as good as the dishes served at Rudi's Sel de Mer, the $100/couple specialty restaurant. Considering just how good the food was in the main restaurant, we're not sure why anyone would actually pay such a high surcharge. Even across specialty restaurants, you'll save $30 per couple over Rudi's if you dine on the selection of seafood at the steakhouse, Pinnacle Grill (and it's not shabby; think halibut and Alaskan king crab legs). At Tamarind, the pan-Asian restaurant, two can dine for the price of one Rudi's cover charge -- and Tamarind was unanimously our group's favorite meal of the entire cruise.
But whether you're indulging in specialty dining or enjoying the included options, Nieuw Statendam offers dining around the clock, and provides it in impeccable surroundings. Main meals served in the designer dining room or light-filled Lido Marketplace are complemented by pastries in the scenic Crow's Nest lounge or a bite at the stylish Dutch cafe. Even shameless late-night snackers can order burgers and bento boxes to their cabins to nosh. You certainly won't go hungry onboard.
The Dining Room (Decks 2 and 3): Due in large part to the dazzling decor of master designer Adam. D. Tihany, a meal in Nieuw Statendam's main dining room feels more like an occasion and less like a default dining option. (Look for the two-deck paper sculpture -- made from Belgian linen and designed to mimic sound and ocean waves -- to the left of the entry. It was created by an artist who has exhibited in the Louvre.) Breakfast and dinner are served here daily, while lunch and afternoon tea are included on sea days. Lunch service is noon to 1 p.m. while afternoon tea is held at 3. Breakfast opens at 7:30 a.m. on port days and 8 a.m. on sea days, spanning 90 minutes. Dinner is held from about 5 to 9 p.m. each evening.
Opt for set dining times (one early, one late) or select As You Wish dining, an open-seating, no set time choice. With open seating, you can make dinner reservations for any time during your cruise up to 4 p.m. the night of, or simply walk up anytime during dining hours (but be aware that lines do form).
Dinner consists of starters/soups/salads and then entrees and desserts. Dishes are labeled on the menu with dietary information and Culinary Council designations, but let your waiter know of any food intolerances prior to ordering and they will be accommodated.
Expect to start with items like a crispy crab roll, andouille and Swiss chard soup or fig, feta and arugula salad before moving on to the mains. An "always available" menu consists of grilled salmon, broiled chicken and New York strip loin, while specials fill the rest of the page and often pull ingredients from ports visited (in Spain, for example, you might see Iberico ham and manchego cheese used liberally). On Gala Night, expect a vamped-up five-course menu with way more featured dishes from your Culinary Council chefs.
A new partnership with renowned wine critic James Suckling has brought curated wine menus into the dining room, adding to the specialty cocktails you will find from the line's existing partnership with master mixologist Dale DeGroff.
While all the stops are pulled for dinner service, we felt lunch in the dining room also deserves a nod. Menus are more limited, but include tasty picks like roasted Roma tomato soup with a basil foam, gnocchi with Gruyere, and a chocolate-peanut tart topped with rum raisin ice cream. It's a nice alternative for days at sea, rather than simply grabbing a burger by the pool.
Breakfast is divided into sections like "Something Simple" for yogurt and cereal; "Breakfast Classics," which includes Benedicts, English breakfasts and Asian breakfast platters; omelets, skillets, pastries and "Hot Off the Griddle," which denotes waffles, French toast and pancake varieties; and finally, "Light Selections," which are picked by the health-conscious chef Elizabeth Faulkner. Note that it's not your grandma's health food: Selections include a quinoa parfait with coconut milk yogurt, raspberries, bananas, avocado, maple syrup and Brazil nuts.
Grand Dutch Cafe (Deck 3): If there's one public space that sums up a Holland America ship, it might be the Grand Dutch Cafe, with a menu inspired by the brand's Dutch heritage. The European cafe concept complements the top deck of the atrium, as passengers pass through to grab a latte, sit to rest or dig into a Dutch specialty. The space is gorgeous on Nieuw Statendam; navy blues trimmed with white, mirrors that reflect various angles and quaint tables accompanied by an adjacent seating area with natural light and countertops that contain miniature Dutch villages framed in glass.
A dozen food items, from soups and sandwiches to Dutch-style fries and pancakes, are available from 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., free of charge. Three additional snacks -- including bitterballen (a Dutch meat-based snack) -- are added to the menu from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Pastries and ham and cheese sandwiches are available all day (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) from the bake case. Coffee, tea, espresso drinks, beer on tap or by the bottle and about nine Dutch liqueurs are on hand to sip (for a fee). Wrapped Dutch cookies and candies are displayed in jars near the register, for a small charge.
If you order a hot beverage to stay, it arrives on a silver platter with a small glass of water and a cookie, as it would in Europe. It's such a satisfying way to savor a caffeine fix.
Lido Market (Deck 9): So many things have been done at sea in recent years to shy away from the perception of a crowded free-for-all buffet, and the Lido Market -- serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily -- is a perfect example of how it's working. For starters, the space is stunning. Tons of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows flood light and airy seating areas with a white and grass-green color scheme. It feels fresh and the space feels open. Two-tops can be found alongside tables for four and up to eight. It's a modern take on mass dining.
Rather than an endless, winding hallway of food, the Lido Market fully embraces the station concept. Not only does this aid with navigation, but also sanitation: No passenger actually helps themselves at the buffet; everything is served from behind a glass panel.
Stations are: Homestead, where you'll find classic comfort food; Distant Lands, for international cuisine; Wild Harvest is a deluxe salad station; and the Breadboard offers sandwiches, to name a few. (The omelet station is usually set up at Distant Lands, for breakfast.)
Expect classic American cuisine at each mealtime, accompanied by an impressive amount of other ethnic dishes, from Indian to Italian. Options rotate daily.
A Beer on Tap table is located by one of the entrances to the Lido Market, and for a fee you can pull your own pint of Heineken, Newcastle or Strongbow cider.
The Lido Market opens as early as 6:30 a.m. for light breakfast items and as late as 11:30 p.m. for late-night snacks. Lunch is typically 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., while dinner is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Select stations are open for an afternoon snack from 2 to 4 p.m.
Dive In (Deck 9): Holland America has struck crispy, fried gold with Dive In, its poolside burger and hot dog counter. Choose from seven specialty burgers or create your own; there are also three ways to have your Nathan's hot dog and four ways to enjoy the French fries (special sauce, anyone?). Buzzers are handed out and let you know when your order is ready, to avoid crowding. Milkshakes are available (coming from the nearby gelato shop), but cost extra.
New York Deli & Pizza (Deck 10): Overlooking the pool deck, you can grab a bite inspired by the Empire State until midnight at the onboard deli and pizza shop. Choose from six specialty pies -- including one from chef Ethan Stowell -- or build your own. There are also salads, classic deli sandwiches like corned beef or pastrami, and desserts. Get here early (it opens at 7:30 a.m.) and avoid the buffet crowds for breakfast; bagels and spreads including lox, breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit and pastries -- and most importantly coffee -- are on hand.
Perhaps the best part of this included venue are the movie-night snacks: Choose from sweet and savory pretzel flavors, popcorn, chips, nachos, fries and even short rib sliders and Korean fried chicken.
Explorations Cafe (Deck 12): This cafe serves Explorations Central at the Crow's Nest and sates visitors with complimentary sandwiches, cookies and other pastries to accompany coffee and tea drinks that carry a charge. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Club Orange (Deck 2): The new restaurant for Neptune and Pinnacle Suite guests and Club Orange members debuts on Nieuw Statendam as an attractive space serving breakfast and dinner, with an open kitchen and touches of HAL's signature orange thrown into the decor for good measure.
The design and privacy of the Club Orange restaurant is enticing, but unless you're already booked in a suite, it's not enough to warrant the per diem required to access the Club Orange pass in our opinion. This is mainly because the menus are virtually the same as you would find in the main dining room. From what we were told, breakfast is the exact same menu, and dinner adds one addition that is the Club Orange special, which changes daily.
Room Service: Holland America offers a complimentary all-day room service menu, with a few exceptions. Certain items on the breakfast menu, such as steak and eggs, carry a charge. For a fee you can order items from the onboard specialty restaurants like a bento box from Tamarind ($10) or a late-night burger from the Dive In ($5). Alcohol and other non-included drinks will always carry a charge, unless you have a drink package. Your breakfast menu will be listed on a door tag, but the rest of it can be found on your in-cabin TV.
Rudi's Sel de Mer (Deck 2); $50 per person: Holland America's executive culinary director, Rudi Sodamin, takes the French seafood brasserie concept and adds his own touches at Sel de Mer. On Nieuw Statendam, the price is a standard cover rather than the a la carte model on Koningsdam, where it first debuted. However, certain items still retain a significant upcharge (on top of the cover charge), which we felt was a bit gouging.
The atmosphere is quirky but elegant, with rich red carpeting, dark wood and a mural that takes over the entire right wall depicting what could either be flowers or sea life, at first glance. Tables are set with Sodamin's signature "food faces" plates, which depict playful creations using vegetables or seafood in the shape of a face. The mood is set with soft music, featuring a variety of French chanteuses, in the background.
The menu is heavy on seafood, which is to be expected, with no formal options available for vegetarians on our sailing. (Vegetarians are simply offered a plate of sides). Meat-lovers can choose from steak frites, a rack of lamb or duck, with specials du jour that range from veal and beef to coq au vin.
The star here is intended to be the seafood, and our table had no serious complaints from an expertly de-boned branzino to the catch of the day in lemon and butter, but we wondered if the experience should have been more standout in some way, given the price. We heard a few complain about the size and quality of the lobster tail, though our tablemate found it agreeable.
Fine touches included an amuse-bouche from the chef with a cracker shaped like a little fish and filled with a salmon mousse. After dinner, regardless of whether you order dessert, a tower of truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries finds its way to your table, which makes an indulgent end to the meal. If you don't opt for the shareable chocolate souffle, consider the food face dessert made from chocolate and fruit for a unique photo.
Sel de Mer is open for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. -- just a touch later than any of the other restaurants onboard.
Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2); $35: Many past Holland America cruisers say you can't go wrong with Holland America's steakhouse, and it continues to be a refined space serving high-quality steaks, chops and seafood at dinnertime (and for lunch on sea days) on Nieuw Statendam.
There are about nine starters, including classics such as lobster bisque, steak tartare, shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad, as well as Dungeness crab cakes. Entrees are all about the meat, though there are two vegetarian options. Choose from New York strip, a rib eye or filet mignon -- or, go all-out on the President's Cut, a $75 steak extravaganza hand-picked by the cruise line's CEO Orlando Ashford.
Seafood is also available from salmon and halibut to king crab legs, though a lobster tail will incur an upcharge. Pork, chicken and fried rice all make appearances on the menu and there are plenty of sides to fill your plate, including shoestring fries with truffle aioli. The dessert to get is the "Not-So-Classic Baked Alaska."
De Librije (Deck 2, Pinnacle Grill); $69 or $89: If you want to make your evening out even more of a special occasion, the Pinnacle Grill hosts pop-up De Librije dinners from time to time. It's inspired by the land-based De Librije, a Dutch restaurant with two Michelin stars that's regularly listed as one of the best restaurants in the world. For $69 per person, a wine tasting (four 2 oz. pours) is included with your meal. A wine pairing (four 5 oz. pours) is also available for an additional $20 per person.
Canaletto (Deck 9); $15: Holland America's popular, dinner-only Italian venue received an upgrade in the building of Nieuw Statendam. While still a standalone restaurant created by cordoning off part of the Lido Buffet, the decor is decidedly more refined and less casual than on other ships. The menu is about the same, divided into small plates, large plates, desserts and daily specials. Food can either be ordered family-style or as individual portions.
Begin with grilled calamari, an Italian seafood soup or the Canaletto salad (radicchio, endive, arugula, avocado, olives and Parmesan crisps) and then continue on with a choice of 12 large plates; about half are pasta dishes including lobster and shrimp ravioli, but fish, veal, a brick-grilled chicken and steak are also on the extensive menu. Eight dessert options don't help the indecisive. A custom Italian cocktail menu rounds out the offerings, and on our visit the trendy Aperol Spritz was being pushed.
G Gelato (Deck 9); a la carte: You might have to pay for your frozen desserts on Nieuw Statendam, but it's so worth it. From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. get your licks with $2 cones, Popsicles and 4 oz. cups (8 oz. is only $2.75), as well as milkshakes for about $5. Plus, two toppings are included with all gelato orders -- we like the fresh berries and Dutch wafer options. There are a dozen gelato flavors on any given day, from strawberry to stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip). We were surprised to find a peach yogurt pop flecked with gold leaf -- you can't beat that kind of presentation.
Tamarind (Deck 10); $25: For our money, it's Tamarind every time. An exciting addition on Nieuw Statendam is the alfresco seating, guarded by a mosaic "terra cotta warrior" on either side, overlooking the Sea View pool below.
The menu here is truly pan-Asian, with flavors from Thailand, China, Japan and Malaysia, and dishes are executed with flair. We sat dumbfounded while we tried to decide between the satay sampler, the crispy duck bao bun, the sweet and sour coconut chicken soup or the Thai scallops -- and those are just a fraction of the appetizers. Entrees entice with Mongolian barbecue lamb chops, wasabi and soy-encrusted beef tenderloin, fire prawns and wok-seared lobster and shrimp. We delighted in our clay pot filled with hamachi fish in broth with chili, green onion, coconut and -- tamarind. There are also noodles and curries that the vegetarian crowd will love. Crab fried rice is a great side.
As much as we love the matcha, mango and yuzu ingredients, we would say this is a restaurant where you're fine filling up on dinner and skipping dessert. Plus, the excellent house cocktails list has enough saccharine options to do the trick.
Decor evokes those same Asian cultures; there are gongs in the lobby and beautiful wallpaper with silver leafing throughout the restaurant. But more so than the decor, the dinner service has an Asian flavor, beginning with hot tea and a tiny towel to wipe your hands. (Beware: The way it was presented led more than one fellow diner to believe the towel was an exotic appetizer.)
Tamarind is open for dinner only.
Nami Sushi (Deck 10); a la carte: Culinary Council member chef Andy Matsuda has created a standalone sushi venue on Nieuw Statendam; though its located inside of Tamarind, it has its own unique menu. In Japanese, "nami" means wave, and the name pays homage to the ocean views enjoyed while you dine.
Starters range from $3 to $6 and include tuna poke, vegetable tempura, roasted shishito peppers and a hamachi, scallop and salmon ceviche. Sushi and sashimi comes two pieces to an order, and costs $3. Six classic rolls like California and spicy tuna are available for about $5. The highlight are the seven rolls (which all include seafood) specially created by chef Matsuda. Try fried soft-shell crab for $6.50, spicy scallops for $6 or crispy lobster tempura for $7.50. Five of Tamarind's entrees can be ordered at the sushi bar, as well as three desserts, but trendy mochi ice cream is only listed at Nami.