This four-part guest post is presented by Lew Toulmin, Ph.D., F.R.G.S. and Avid Cruiser.
In my last post, I introduced you to Holland America Line’s Noordam. In this post, I will describe the dining venues and food on the ship.
We found the main, two-level Vista Dining Room aft to be attractive and serving excellent food. Typical dishes included a terrific salad of arugula and frisée with pistachios and pine nuts, a mille-feuillue of forest mushrooms (rated by my knowledgeable and critical wife Susan as an A+), and a brioche toast with caramelized apricots and vanilla bean ice cream. This latter dish sounds odd but was developed by Michelin-starred chef Johnnie Boer in Holland, and it was tasty.
One caution about the dining room – the aftermost 30 feet of this long space is subject to some engine noise and vibration when the ship is steaming at about 17 knots or more. Check this out and request a table farther forward if necessary.
Our drink of choice is soft drinks, and these were a bit expensive on board, at $2.15 each plus tax. But you can buy a $25 card that gets you $50 worth of soft drinks, thus making the unit cost more reasonable. Other similar value cards for wine and spirits are available, and all cards allow a refund of unused funds at the end of the voyage.
One night per cruise the Noordam puts on a special treat: It re-creates the New York restaurant Le Cirque. The modest extra cost of $39 per person is well worth it, because eating at the real NYC restaurant, a favorite of Jackie Kennedy, kings and presidents, could easily set you back hundreds of dollars. That restaurant was founded and is still run by the legendary Sirio Maccioni, who began his career working as a waiter on the cruise liner S.S. Atlantic. So it was appropriate that as a capstone of his career, he designed and installed a seagoing version of his restaurant on all the HAL ships.
Also see Wallace Immen’s At Holland America’s Le Cirque, There’s No Clowning Around
According to Fabien Weichert, a food service executive of HAL who worked extensively on the rollout of the Le Cirque on Noordam and the rest of the fleet: “The on-board restaurant concept is taken very seriously by Sirio and all the HAL staff. A number of the Holland America Line chefs studied at Le Cirque in New York, learning the ingredients, the recipes and exactly how each recipe was made. The food preparation focuses on classic taste, not on molecular science and extreme presentations. Sirio himself and other Le Cirque staff visit the ships regularly to check on quality control.”
Passengers we spoke with raved about the “wonderful” Chateaubriand steak, which can be prepared for one or two. And we enjoyed the Le Cirque specialties, such as the smooth and flavorful butternut soup, tasty rack of lamb and goat cheese panisse, and excellent chocolate soufflé.
In the next posts, I will cover several of the islands Noordam visited on this unique cruise.