The 1,258-guest ms Maasdam of the Holland America Line has several varied, interesting dining venues and events. Although good cuisine is an important factor on all cruise ships, diverse venues and memorable dining events are especially important on longer cruises with many sea days. The Maasdam does have some 7-day cruises, but many of this classic ship's itineraries are longer, and even the 7-day cruises can be combined into unique back-to-back cruises.
In addition to regular dining in the venues listed below, the Maasdam has various dining events. Afternoon tea is served every day in the Rotterdam Dining Room. Some of the teas have different themes like an Indonesian Tea Ceremony, Cupcake Tea, or Royal Dutch Tea. Those who love mysteries need to be sure and attend the murder mystery dinner theater, with some of the staff getting a chance to show off their role-playing ability. Other fun foodie events include wine tastings and mixology glasses in the Mix bar, cooking demonstrations and classes in the Culinary Arts Center, and a tour of the ship's galley.
I sailed an 18-day "Voyage of the Vikings" transatlantic cruise itinerary on the Maasdam between Boston and Amsterdam, and over 1,000 of the guests onboard were doing a 35-day round trip voyage back to Boston. With so many cruise travelers onboard for so many days, multiple dining and onboard activities are key factors in keeping everyone happy, and the guests expect both quality and diversity. The hotel manager and chefs do an excellent job of meeting these expectations.
Let's take a look at some of the Maasdam's dining venues and events, starting with the Rotterdam Dining Room, the ship's largest venue.
Rotterdam Dining Room
The Rotterdam Dining Room is the main dining room on the Holland America Line ms Maasdam cruise ship. This large room spans two decks and is located aft, so the room features great views of the sea. The Rotterdam Dining Room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner on most days, although the room is sometimes closed for lunch when the ship is in port. The entry to the dining room always has a gorgeous fresh flower arrangement, which is an especially nice touch.
Breakfast and lunch are open seating, and dinner features either open ("As You Wish") seating from 5:15 to 9:00 pm, or one of two traditional fixed seating times (5:30 or 8:00 pm.) Guests with fixed dining have assigned tables on deck 8, and those who selected open seating dine on deck 7. When booking your cruise, you will need to decide whether you want fixed or open seating at dinner. If you are traveling with another couple or group, be sure to ask your travel agent to secure an assigned table and time for you. If you'd prefer open seating, you can always make a reservation once on the ship for a specified time and table size with the maitre d' or restaurant reservation desk (via phone). Open seating also means you can just "drop in" at the time you prefer, but you might have to wait if you want a certain size table. My friend and I had open seating, and we only had to wait a few minutes on a couple of nights. However, we usually took the first available table and either dined alone or with a group. Both were fine with us.
All meal items in the Rotterdam are listed on a menu and served by the table staff. Dinners are especially good, featuring a nice selection of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. We had a different dinner menu each of the 17 nights I was on the Maasdam. The dining room also includes the following traditional items that are available daily: French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled Coho salmon, grilled chicken breast, grilled sirloin steak, baked potato, white rice, and steamed vegetables. The menu always has a vegetarian option, and one of the entrees is often a pasta dish, which can also be served in a smaller size as an appetizer.
My friend Claire and I really enjoyed dining in this dining room, and most evenings we had a difficult time making a selection since more than one item in each category was appealing. The dinners on the four formal nights were the best, and we also especially liked the variety on the "chef's international dinner" night.
Although guests could probably be perfectly happy eating in the Rotterdam Dining Room each evening, the Pinnacle Grill, an extra surcharge specialty restaurant, is a great alternative.
The Pinnacle Grill is the elegant alternative restaurant on the Maasdam cruise ship of Holland America Line. The grill is open some days for lunch and most nights for dinner; both meals have an extra surcharge. Children under 12 can dine for free. Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill is very special and memorable. The service is exceptional and the food is delicious and delectable. The portion sizes are small enough where you can enjoy the meal without feeling too stuffed afterwards. The meal starts with a selection of four soups and/or four salads. My friend Claire loved the lobster bisque, while I could have made a meal out of the Beefsteak tomatoes and crab cakes (but I didn't).
Entrees include a good selection of grilled meats and seafood, including steak (of course), veal, chicken, salmon, lobster, kebabs, fish, and lamb. If you can't decide, you can always have a surf and turf combination. Those looking for some comfort food with a twist might want to try the lobster macaroni and cheese. It's definitely different than the one my husband stirs up at home, but just as delicious.
Claire and I enjoyed dining at the Pinnacle Grill so much that we signed up for two other nights in the venue -- the Evening at Le Cirque and the Cellar Master's Dinner.
An Evening at Le Cirque in the Pinnacle Grill
Many people who have heard about the famous Le Cirque Restaurant in New York City might be surprised to know that Holland America Line has an agreement with the owners of Le Cirque to offer an "Evening at Le Cirque" in its Pinnacle Grill restaurant. This special dining event usually occurs once each cruise. The locale and excellent service are the same; the menu, table setting, and wine selections are different. The Le Cirque dinner also comes with an extra surcharge.
The French Continental menu at our dinner on the Maasdam was as follows:
- Lobster Salad 'Le Cirque' -- poached lobster with haricots verts and citrus
- Le Trio -- caviar, smoked salmon and pate de foie gras
- Caesar Salad -- interpretation of the classical salad
Although we really enjoyed dining in the Rotterdam Dining Room in the evening, we quickly snapped up another opportunity to dine in the Pinnacle Grill at the Cellar Master's (Sommelier's) Dinner.
Cellar Master's Dinner in the Pinnacle Grill
Once each cruise, the head sommelier (cellar master) on the Maasdam has a wine pairing dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. It's certainly a memorable evening of food and drink. The dinner costs $69 per person, but the head sommelier selects a group of interesting wines to accompany the chef's special dinner. Although the menu varies each cruise, I thought readers might be interested in seeing the meal we enjoyed. Both the menu items and complementary wine are listed. The menu was fixed except for the main courses of tenderloin or seafood combination.
- Rouleaus of foie gras and pastrami with carrot and ginger marmalade - Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, sparkling wine N.V. Washington State, USA
- Grilled asparagus with smoked salmon and wasabi cream - 2011 Rioja, Marques de Caceres, Spain
- Butternut squash soup with caramelized apple and fried sage - 2009 Petite Syrah, Spellbound, California, USA
- Confit of figs with balsamic vinegar - Italian limoncello liqueur, lemon sorbet with a dash of Champagne
- Grilled tenderloin with beurre blanc sauce, seared scallop with garlic potato and accompanied sauteed young vegetables
- Pinnacle seafood combination - lobster medallion with lime ginger beurre blanc, grilled scallops with orange oinon marmalade, and salmon fillet with lemon herbs splash - 2007 Chardonnay Apex, Washington State, USA
- Dark Chocolate Extravaganza - Graham's Six Grapes, premium ruby port, Portugal
Although we enjoyed our meals on the Maasdam, not all of the dining venues are as elegant and formal as the Rotterdam Dining Room and the Pinnacle Grill. Let's look at the three more casual dining venues on the ship, starting with Canaletto Italian Restaurant.
Canaletto Italian Restaurant
Canaletto is the Italian restaurant on the Maasdam named for an 18th-century Venetian artist. The small specialty restaurant doesn't have an additional fee. Canaletto is open only for dinner, and reservations are required. The casual restaurant serves classic Italian fare. It's a nice dinner, but be sure to get reservations early since the space is limited.
A meal at Canaletto starts with a selection of antipasti, followed by a green salad with tomatoes and olives and/or either minestrone or a seafood vegetable soup. Main courses include a vegetarian pasta dish, lasagna, veal scaloppini Milanese, chicken Marsala scaloppini, cod Putanesca, or spaghetti with meatballs.
After such a huge meal, you might be tempted to skip dessert, but don't. I loved the limoncello cream, and my friend Claire felt the same about the trio of tiramisu. Canaletto also has a chocolate dessert and a selection of gelati.
Canaletto is found aft on deck 11 and is located in a corner of the Lido Restaurant.
The Lido Restaurant is the Maasdam's casual buffet, serving continental breakfast starting at about 6 am, followed by a full buffet breakfast from 6:30 am to 11:00 am. As soon as breakfast is over, the buffet line starts with lunch and goes on until about 2 pm. There's a snack out until about 5 pm, but then diners will have to wait until 5:30 to eat dinner, which runs on until 8:00 pm. Bottom line is that the Lido has something put out to eat for about 14 hours a day!
Since the Maasdam is an older cruise ship, the Lido Restaurant has the traditional cafeteria-style lines rather than the station concept found on newer ships. However, the ship has broken up the lines a little so you don't have to stand in the entire line to pick up just a couple of items. For example, they have put up a divider so that those wanting breakfast food from the buffet don't have to stand in the same line as those waiting for omelets. The same idea is used at lunch to divide up the salad and hot food lines. It's such an easy (and inexpensive) idea, but it accomplishes the objective of making the buffet lines shorter.
The breakfast menu is about the same each day, with all the usual dishes, plus a waffle and omelet station. Lunch and dinner choices vary daily, but there's always a good selection of salads and some international choices. The Lido menu always includes some of the same items served at the Rotterdam Dining Room.
One of my few pet peeves about this ship were the beverage stations in the Lido Restaurant. Ice and water were practically impossible to get out of the dispenser, with even the staff having problems. In addition, there never seemed to be enough clean glasses, leading to back-ups and lines. Hopefully during the ship's next refurbishment, these machines will be replaced.
In addition to the menu items on the Lido buffet, casual diners can choose grilled items from the Terrace Grill, which is located next to the indoor/outdoor pool on the Lido deck.
The Terrace Grill is located in a corner of the indoor/outdoor pool area on the Maasdam. It's a great place for a quick lunch or a snack and is usually open from about 11:30 am to 6 pm. The grill serves all our decadent favorites--hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, French fries, etc., plus a few healthier choices like a salmon burger. The condiment bar features all the fixings, along with corn chips, salsa, and guacamole.
On a few days each cruise, the Terrace Grill and Lido Restaurant have a lunchtime cookout by the pool that divides the two venues. This is a great alternative for lunch and always has an enticing title like "Crab Fest", "Fish Market", or "Indonesian Buffet". All were delicious and fun. One afternoon we also had an ice cream social one afternoon at the Terrace Grill. Since ice cream is my favorite dessert, I couldn't miss that one!
One other foodie event on the Maasdam is the Culinary Arts Center, which all the cooks (and those who love to eat) on the ship enjoy.
Culinary Arts Center
On a long cruise with lots of sea days, it's important for the cruise ship to have a selection of onboard activities to keep the guests informed and entertained. The Culinary Arts Center on the Maasdam certainly meets both these objectives.
The program at the Culinary Arts Center was developed by Food & Wine magazine. It allows the chefs to show off their talents (and their personalities), and the guests to see how some of their favorite dishes are prepared. The center on the Maasdam is located in a theater, but has an excellent demonstration kitchen that includes multiple large plasma screens that enable attendees to watch the action up close and those in their cabins to catch the demonstration later.
Our our "Voyage of the Vikings" cruise, the onboard team had many events in the Culinary Center, most led by the ship's Party Planner Amber and the "show chef" Fred. They were an entertaining duo, and other chefs participated when their specialties were being highlighted. The lobster salad and creme brulee served at Le Cirque were demonstrations one day, and the Baked Alaska and bread pudding from the Pinnacle Grill were prepared another day. Dishes from the Northeastern USA were featured one day since the ship had sailed from Boston, and the pastry chef showed us how he made the ever-popular cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. He also made one of Amber's favorites, Ensaymadas, which are a Filipino delight. Dishes like cioppino, grilled prawn bruschetta, steak Diane, and apple strudel were prepared at other classes. The good news was that attendees got the recipes for all the items the chefs prepared.
In addition to the free cooking demonstrations, the Maasdam also has some "hands-on" cooking classes for a fee. In these classes, the attendees learned some tips on preparing different dishes and honed their cooking skills. It was fun for both the participants and the lurkers!
The Holland America Maasdam has a wide variety of dining venues and cuisines, enough to keep its guests well-fed, but also anticipating their next meal. Although I wish the ship had space for one of my favorite Holland America specialty restaurants, Tamarind, the four other dining locales all do an excellent job with both the service and the quality of the onboard food.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.