14-year-old Raff eats his way through the good, the better and the best of dining on board Holland America Line’s Noordam and finds the food a cut above the usual cruise ship offerings.
Imagine waking up to a breakfast buffet that’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is the stomach: pancakes piled high, omelettes made to order and an endless flow of freshly brewed coffee to keep your parents alive! It’s a breakfast lover’s paradise.
As the day unfolds, your options only multiply. Want a juicy burger by the pool? Done! Craving a meltingly tender steak at a swanky steakhouse? You got it! How about spicy tacos or fresh rolled sushi? No problemo!
Most cruise ships do their very best to offer something for every palate, from casual bites to elegant dining experiences. Which is one of the things I love most about cruising… that, and the easy access to all that food and, more importantly, that it’s all you can eat (which in my case is a lot).
But as I discovered on my latest cruise on Holland America’s Noordam, not all cruise food is created equal, and Noordam doesn’t offer your average cruise ship dining experience.
I’m sharing why in my comprehensive guide to the best Noordam dining experiences .
The Dining Room
Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner
The main dining establishment on Noordam is The Dining Room. A massive multi floored hall with beautiful interior design to match the rolling views of the ocean you’ll enjoy alongside your meal. Despite the stunning scene, the star of the dining room is quite clearly the food, and trust me, from breakfast to dinner, there’s nothing it doesn’t do well.
Dinner is the busiest time at the Dining Room, and along with fixed dinner seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m or “As You Wish Dining,” which means you can choose to dine any time from 5:15 pm to 9 pm. While you’ll find an enormous variety of ever-changing dishes at dinner, there are a couple of constants on the menu such as a rustic home-made lasagne, grilled salmon and a meltingly tender New York strip loin. Otherwise, you’ll find all manner of surprises in store, including local ‘port to plate’ specials. I have got to say that in our 14 days of dining here, there wasn’t a single meal that wasn’t amazing.
A couple of personal favourites for me were the crispy gyoza with a delicious ponzu sauce, buttery escargot, and a juicy perfectly cooked rack of lamb with cannellini beans and artichoke that had my tastebuds screaming with joy.
Then there’s the a la carte breakfast, and oh my lord it is so good. Boasting an pretty serious menu filled with everything from hot cereals and bagels to waffles, French Toast and eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon, there’s something for everyone, and it is all amazing.
I got rather attached to the egg Benedict but that didn’t stop me from trying the pancakes with a perfectly tart raspberry compote or an impressive full English breakfast and a seriously tasty Indian breakfast of aloo masala and egg bhurji.
If you want to beat the buffet crowds, they serve an awesome lunch too, with salads and cold bites as well as regular specials like mac cheese and waffles with fried chicken, which you can dine on at your leisure.
And I can’t forget to mention the awesome afternoon tea served on sea days from 3pm, which is honestly so bountiful it could justify as a full meal. With towers stacked with sweet delights, deliciously fluffy scones and savoury bites, served with tea, it was hard to keep my sugar-loving sister away.
The Lido Market
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
It’s pretty easy for buffets to get it wrong with a dull and stodgy selection but let me assure you Noordam’s Lido Market gets it oh so right! While it does get busy, queues move fast and the food is always fresh and packed with flavour.
At breakfast you’ll find an extensive array of choices, ranging from made-to-order eggs and omelettes to waffles, pancakes, an abundance of fresh fruit and pastries.
At lunch and dinner, you’ll find about everything your heart could desire from slabs of pizza and bowls of pasta with the toppings of your choice to succulent roast dinner and fresh salad, you can find it here. My personal favourite was the Asian and Indian station that featured a revolving menu of noodle dishes, savoury stir-fries and steaming piles of curry, as well as fresh rolled sushi.
This is the place to stuff your face silly or just drop by for a quick snack.
Oh, and I saved the best till last, they serve up those fresh slabs of pizza till late at night, so you can nab one last slab (or three in my case) on your way to bed.
Dive in Burger Bar
Lunch until 5 p.m
Considering the sheer amount of food options on the cruise I consider it a complete miracle I even had the time to squeeze in a burger, but of course, I did. Because… food.
Dive In, located alongside the pool on the Lido deck, is the place to be for the made to order burgers, including a portabella mushroom vegan option, a grilled chicken burger with oozy guacamole and my personal favourite, the Gainer, a toasted brioche bun with a juicy patty, a mountain of crispy onion rings smothered in Dive In’s classic sauce. There’s a hotdog menu too and their loaded dogs were the bomb.
Adjacent to Dive In is a dangerous serve-yourself taco/nachos/burrito bar. Why dangerous? Because I couldn’t stay away from it. This place was the biggest surprise of the included dining option on board and became a daily go-to after an exhausting session of leaping around the pool.
With a choice of hard-shell tacos, wraps for burritos and a bunch of fillings including hot chicken, beef, beans and rice to salsas, salads, rice, sour cream, cheese and everything in between, we created many a DIY Mexican marvel.
A closed off extension of the Lido market and Noordam’s official Italian restaurant, Canalleto is one of Noordam’s fee dining establishments. And though I only got the chance to experience Canaletto once, boy oh boy it is worth every penny.
With a huge menu of Italian delights and pasta made fresh daily, you can’t go wrong. After a platter of olive, fresh bread and delicious dips, I started with an entree of beef carpaccio, the paper thin slices of buttery beef bathed in a tangy sauce. Then for mains I devoured the braised beef rib gnocchi. Think crispy yet soft gnocchi lathered in a rich sauce and beef that practically jumps off the bone.
Portions are huge, which is fine by me, because it meant I also got to finish off my sister’s tender-as-it-gets calamari with salsa verde, lemon and herb pangrattato and a good portion of Mum’s creamy, seafood-studded spaghetti.
Moving on to dessert, I assumed there would be no way it could stand up to the restaurant’s spectacular savoury performance… but plot twist, it did. I got the orange blossom ricotta tart served with fresh berries. The ricotta was creamy and silky and while rich was brightened by the tartness of the berries and the orange undertones throughout. Sadly, the fam wouldn’t share their desserts with me. So rude!
My only issue with Canaletto is that we didn’t hit repeat!
Pinnacle by name and pinnacle by nature, because what could possibly top this? Pinnacle is stunning high-end experience and serves by far the best food on board the ship, which is saying something. My pick for the best Noordam dining experience, it does come at a fee, but it is a must for a really special meal served in seriously stunning surrounds like white leather seats, fine linens and a cool mirrored ceiling.
I ordered the steak tartare for an entree and was greeted by a plate of utter perfection. The silkiest meat imaginable was perfectly complimented by parsley, cornichon, capers, red onion and topped with egg. Mum’s also let me nosh most of her spectacular clothesline candied bacon, pegged with sweet maple bacon, smothered in black pepper and served with cornichons.
But the real surprise came with my main. I wouldn’t normally consider myself much of a steak guy. But if every steak tasted like the medium rare 23 oz porterhouse I ate at Pinnacle Grill, I’d eat it three times a day. The most flavoursome, buttery piece of steak I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring, it began melting on my tongue the second I put it in my mouth and was so fresh I was considering having a poke around the boat to make sure they didn’t have livestock on board.
Being the greedy boy I am, I ordered a host of sides that did not disappoint including a peppery mushroom sauce, some ridiculously creamy mash potatoes, and some blanched greens. Not to mention the beautiful silky Béarnaise sauce I stole from Mum’s surf and turf (topped with a huge juicy lobster tail), which she assured me was nothing short of sublime.
Dessert was particularly exciting. Mostly due to my lightweight mother and sister not being able to make it through all of theirs, so along with my superb key lime pie, I got to scoff half a chocolate soufflé and the best part of an awesome ice cream-stuffed baked Alaska.
And I still wanted more. This place gets an 11 out of 10 for service, style and the luscious menu.
Open early until late
Dining on Noordam isn’t just about big meals. Missed breakfast or just feel like a barista brewed coffee or a quick sandwich, bagel or fresh pastry, while you relax in soft lounges or read a good book? Explorations Cafe is the place, but there is a fee for specialty coffee drinks and teas.
24-hour Room Service
When you feel like a lay in or you’re just not feeling all that sociable, room service is just a phone call away. You can indulge in a leisurely morning with a delightful breakfast delivered right to your door before the Lido Market even opens, rr savour a delightful lunch or early dinner on your verandah while you anticipate an exciting evening of entertainment. All the room service menu selections are part of your cruise fare, unless specifically indicated on the in-room menu.