Dine Around the World on the Nieuw Amsterdam
Some of the things I liked best about the Nieuw Amsterdam were the diverse dining options onboard the cruise ship. The 2100-passenger ship is large enough to have a good variety of places to eat but small enough for some of them to be intimate and superb.
The Nieuw Amsterdam has seven different restaurant choices, ranging from the elegant Tamarind and Pinnacle Grill to the very casual, outdoor takeaway spot, Terrace Grill. With cuisines like Asian, Indian, Mexican, American, Greek, and Italian, there is certainly something to satisfy almost any food your are craving! You can almost eat your way around the world on a week's cruise.
The dining options on the Nieuw Amsterdam include:
- Manhattan Dining Room
- Pinnacle Grill
- Lido Restaurant
- Terrace Grill
- An Evening at Le Cirque
- Culinary Arts Center
In addition to these dining options on the Nieuw Amsterdam, the cruise ship also has Slice Pizza, a casual pizza takeaway restaurant located near the Sea View Pool on the Lido deck, aft of the Lido Restaurant. Slice serves hand-tossed pizzas with a variety of cheeses and toppings. The Nieuw Amsterdam also has complimentary 24-hour room service.
A comprehensive description of the Nieuw Amsterdam main dining venues and some of their menu items follows.
The Manhattan Restaurant is the main dining room on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The restaurant is modern in decor and done up in red and black. The chairs are comfortable and the tables are not as crowded as some I have seen. It is located aft on decks 2 and 3, with open seating for breakfast and lunch. In the evening, deck 3 is reserved for two pre-set fixed seatings at 5:45 or 8:00 pm and deck 2 is used for "as you wish" dining anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 pm. Guests must select which type of dining they prefer at the time of booking, and the selection is recorded on the cabin key card.
We selected the "as you wish" dining on our Mediterranean cruise, and usually went to dinner between 7 pm and 7:30. Some nights we made reservations and asked to sit at a large table for 6-10. Other nights we just checked in at the door and made the same request for a large table. We never had to wait, but if we had wanted a table for two, the story might have been different since we were dining at the most popular time. If table size is important, I suggest you call for reservations. You can make a reservation for the same time and with the same group each evening if you wish.
Most dinners were leisurely and took about two hours. We always finished in plenty of time to walk around a little and check out the bars, casinos, and shops before going to the late 10:15 show in the large show lounge. I was very happy with how well the dining room staff managed the "as you wish" dining. It's much more difficult for the waiters, but I really couldn't tell any difference in the service than when I dined with fixed seating on another Holland America cruise.
Dinner in the Manhattan Restaurant is a five-course affair, starting with a selection of about four appetizers, and then followed by soup, salad, main course, and dessert. Most evenings had two kinds of soup and two salads, and about six main course items. The main courses always included a vegetarian option, along with meats and seafood. The menu changed each evening, but there were always popular favorites like steak, salmon, and chicken available if one just wanted plain food. We thought the food was delicious and the portion sizes just right.
Wine can be purchased by the glass or by the bottle, and a bottle can be carried over to the next evening if you don't drink it all. Holland America also has wine packages that can be purchased that are a good deal, especially if you like a more expensive wine.
Holland America will accommodate special dietary needs, such as vegetarian, diabetic or gluten-free meals with advance requests. Kosher meals and a "health-conscious" dining option are also available. If you want to arrange special meals, you (or your travel agent) should contact the Ship Services Department at 800-541-1576 at least 90 days prior to departure.
The Pinnacle Grill is the Nieuw Amsterdam's specialty steakhouse restaurant with an extra surcharge. This gorgeous restaurant is very intimate and elegant in its design. The service is attentive, but not pushy. Most tables are set for two, but reservations can be made for larger groups. The Pinnacle Grill is on deck 2 mid-ship, across from the quiet Pinnacle Bar.
Even with the surcharge, this restaurant is very popular, so I recommend you make your reservations online or with Ship Services at 1-800-541-1576 as soon as possible after booking your cruise. When you board the ship, you will be asked to reconfirm the exact reservation time and date directly with The Pinnacle Grill.
As its name indicates, The Pinnacle Grill specializes in grilled meats; the steak, lobster, lamb chops, and fish are all excellent. I enjoyed a "sea and land", which was a small filet mignon and grilled shrimp. Mom had the grilled lobster and got two tails - more than enough for her. The starters include salads made at the table, a selection of soups like classic French onion or butternut squash, crab cakes, or shrimp cocktail. We were both stuffed after dinner but decided to split the chocolate volcano cake. It was more than enough for the two of us.
Anyone who appreciates excellent food and attentive service should splurge and book a table at The Pinnacle Grill.
As good as The Pinnacle Grill is, Tamarind was my favorite restaurant on the Nieuw Amsterdam. It carries a surcharge, but this Pan-Asian dining venue is very special. The service and presentation are exceptional, and the food is both interesting and delicious. This restaurant is nothing like your Chinese buffet back home. Tamarind is located mid-ship on deck 11, next to the Silk Den bar.
Lunch at Tamarind is complimentary, so those who want to experience this marvelous restaurant might also want to get a lunch reservation.
The Tamarind dinner menu starts with a choice of three types of soup--a scallop consomme, a shrimp wonton, and a chicken pho soup. I tried the wonton and chicken pho and especially liked the Asian pho soup since I love anything with cilantro and lime.
The appetizer list is so comprehensive that some diners might just like to get a couple of these--or return to Tamarind for a second meal like we did! The selections include a satay sampler, shrimp tempura, baby-back pork ribs, pot stickers, spring rolls, Thai beef salad, and green papaya salad. We tried several of these and liked them all, although our favorites were the shrimp tempura and the green papaya salad.
To make the choices even more difficult, Tamarind has a wide variety of sushi and sashimi that can be eaten as either an appetizer or a main course.
The main courses are grouped according to the five Chinese elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal (used for the cooking tools). The "water" choices are seafood-related and include sea bass, a hot pot, and baked snapper. The "wood" choices are all served in a wooden dish and include my favorite--the wasabi and soy-crusted beef tenderloin. Other "wood" choices include steamed shrimp and scallops, and duck. The "fire" items are spicy, but can be toned down by request. They include Szechuan shrimp, red curry chicken, and lamb. Tamarind also has three vegetarian selections from the "earth": seitan and tempeh, udon noodles, and vegetable tempura. Diners can choose from several side dishes to round out their meal. Making a selection from these choices is certainly difficult!
Who doesn't love dessert? After a big meal at Tamarind, you might be tempted to skip dessert, but don't. There's a special Tamarind chocolate dessert, along with a mango sorbet and egg white/mango souffle, tempura ice cream, a huge fortune cookie filled with chocolate, bread pudding, and a trio of interesting sorbets--passion fruit basil, lychee green tea, and wasabi.
If you enjoy Asian food or haven't tried anything Asian other than your local Chinese buffet, you should definitely try Tamarind.
The Lido Restaurant on deck 9 is the Nieuw Amsterdam buffet option, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. The restaurant has two serving lines. Some of the items are the same on both sides of the restaurant, while others are different, so it takes a little while to browse the buffet. The first few days, we found it was easier to check out the posted menu before getting in the line. That way, we could check out what was offered in each line. Fortunately, although breakfast and lunch are very busy, the lines move quickly, and the servers do a good job of keeping the tables cleaned for the next round of diners.
I was very impressed with the wide selection of items at each meal. Breakfast had all the expected dishes for a wide variety of countries. Americans will like the made-to-order omelets, pancakes, and waffles. There are all the "full English breakfast" items and even Asian soups.
Lunch includes items from around the world such as Asian stir-fry and other dishes, sushi, Mexican tacos and fajitas, pizza, pasta, sandwiches and a salad bar. Lunch often stretches from about 11:30 until the late afternoon, so those taking half-day shore excursions will have a selection of items to choose from when they get back to the ship.
Dinner at the Lido on the Nieuw Amsterdam features some of the same items being served in the Manhattan Restaurant. Since we normally ate both breakfast and lunch at the Lido, I personally preferred dining elsewhere for dinner. However, the Lido is a good choice if you don't want to get cleaned up for dinner or want to eat quickly.
The Terrace Grill is a small take-away restaurant on the Lido Deck. It serves hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon burgers, sandwiches, fries, and gourmet sausages. The Terrace Grill is a good place to eat while sitting by the pool, and since the Lido pool has a retractable roof, it's accessible even if the weather is cold or slightly inclement.
An Evening at Le Cirque
Anyone who loves fine restaurants will associate the name Le Cirque with its founder, renowned restauranteur Sirio Maccioni. Le Cirque restaurants are located ashore in New York, Las Vegas and the Dominican Republic. Now, those cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam and other Holland America ships can have an "Evening at Le Cirque" once each cruise in the Pinnacle Grill for an extra surcharge.
Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin worked with Le Cirques Executive Chef to create a Le Cirque-like experience onboard. The meal starts with the traditional Le Cirque china and table decorations. The amuse bouche, appetizer, and soup are fixed, and diners have three choices for the main course and dessert. The amuse was rhubarb topped with a pate, the appetizer was a lobster salad, and the soup was corn chowder. The three main courses were wild halibut, rack of lamb, or a huge steak. The desserts were chocolate souffle, creme brulee, or selection of ice creams/sorbets.
Although the Le Cirque surcharge is high, reservations are hard to come by, so be sure to book online in advance. You won't be disappointed, and the price is certainly less than you would pay at one of the Le Cirque restaurants ashore.
Culinary Arts Center
The Culinary Arts Center on the Nieuw Amsterdam looks much like the show kitchens you see on television, with its overhead cameras and modern-looking set. Holland America has partnered with Food & Wine magazine to deliver the program to its guests. This is a very popular program, and Holland America does a great job of delivering diverse demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes.
The Culinary Arts Center is a busy place, with presentations and cooking demonstrations each day by the onboard party planner (and host of all the cooking shows), the Nieuw Amsterdam chefs, or by guest celebrity chefs. Guests can learn to make some of their favorite dishes from Tamarind, the Pinnacle Grill, Le Cirque, or other Holland America restaurant. Or, they can become more educated about olive oil, tea, or local dishes (Greek baklava and hummus on our cruise). The party planner also passes along party tips at some sessions, or assists the chefs. It's all great fun, and you can take home some recipes to try at home.
I was very excited to learn that the celebrity chef on our cruise was Michelle Bernstein of Miami. She didn't disappoint, and her culinary demos were well-attended and very interesting. Since my husband does most of the cooking at home, I'm not as enamored of new recipes as many travelers are. However, I love to eat, and the samples were delicious!