MS Oosterdam – The Dining Experience

Okay.

So here we go.

And try to keep up with how many times I mention the word, ‘sweet’.

The Lido:

Lido Buffet

Lido Buffet

Let’s start with The Lido.  It’s the buffet.  Does anyone out there like buffets?  I don’t.  I don’t like queuing for food and then wandering around with my tray trying to find a table and once I’m there finding things missing like cutlery and a pepper grinder.  I also don’t like food that’s been cooked, then left sitting in bain-maries.  And I find it’s hard to have a family meal as there’s always someone missing from the table as they get up to find the garlic bread or grab another scoop of ice cream.

We mostly ate in the buffet for breakfast.  I could only drink the freshly squeezed orange juice as the other juices offered like the cranberry juice were just too sweet.  Don’t touch the coffee.  There were lots of sweet choices like pastries and waffles and French toast and pancakes and maple syrup but as well, you could have cereal and yoghurt and fruit.

I found the food at the buffet rather unexciting but I think that’s how most people would describe buffet fare.  It’s not intended to be exotic.  There was always good variety but the fruit salad was disappointing – unless of course you like your melon!  The fruit salad mostly contained watermelon, honeydew melon and rock melon with some wooden and acidic pineapple chunks to go with it.  As it was a cruise to the tropics, it would have been nice to have seen some more tropical fruits.

The good points of the Lido Buffet are that the plates are always hot.  No food was ever served onto a cold plate.  For breakfast you could order a freshly-made omelette and I had these most mornings.  A total indulgence I couldn’t pass up was eating a freshly baked hot cinnamon scroll every morning.  These were over-the-top sweet and I could almost feel my blood sugar levels soaring but I assured myself I could snorkel the levels back down.  Another plus is that the buffet appears to be open almost all the time.

The Lido Pool:

The Lido pool.

The Lido pool.

Outside the buffet at the Lido Pool, at lunch time the staff would set up a Mexican buffet.  I found the Mexican cuisine to be one of the highlights.  There was plenty of variety and a good range of mild to spicy dishes with lots of toppings, sauces and sides.  My only issue with the Mexican cuisine is that it was incredibly salty.  To get through a single plate of food I would have to order two soda waters.

Mexican Buffet

Mexican Buffet

In-Room Dining:

The in-room dining menu was fairly limited, however, it was available 24 hours a day.  The usual suspects were all there including a burger with fries and a club sandwich with potato chips.  After a day on-shore I liked to come back to the room, have a shower then sit out on our balcony with a glass of wine and a cheese plate.  I would order the cheese plate from the in-room dining menu that said it came with ‘a selection of cheeses’.  That’s only accurate if you consider ‘cheddar four ways’ a ‘selection of cheeses’.  The platter would arrive with crackers packaged in individual wrappers.  I would have preferred if the crackers came unpackaged because all that packaging is unnecessary and being out on the balcony there’s that risk of the wrappers blowing into the ocean.  Some of the crackers were sweet.  There is a brand of crackers in America that are sweetened with honey – yuk!

The 'selection of cheeses'

The ‘selection of cheeses’

Arabella and Alfie were big fans of in-room dining.  They would watch movies in their cabin and dial up ice creams and apple pies and fruit salads and burgers.

Eggs Benedict.  I didn't like the bacon on the ship.  Orange slices featured a lot on breakfast plates!

Eggs Benedict. I didn’t like the bacon on the ship. Orange slices featured a lot on breakfast plates!

On one occasion I did phone reception to mention the poor picture quality of the movies screened in the Vista Lounge.  Straightaway a platter of chocolates was delivered to our cabin with a letter thanking me very much for taking the time to basically, whinge.  I was impressed and I thought that a very lovely gesture.  But those of you who have been reading my blog for a while would know that I have been blessed regularly with Celia giving me her handmade chocolates.  I have to say that these chocolates were no where near as good as Celia’s and they were so sweet I’m quite sure that extra sugar was added to the chocolate.  I don’t like to be unkind about a complimentary gift but I have to be honest and these were sickly.

The chocolate gift wrapped in plastic with a marzipan flower in the centre

The chocolate gift wrapped in plastic with a marzipan flower in the centre

Bar Food:

When you ordered a drink at a bar it would arrive with a little jar of complimentary nuts.  That’s a nice gesture!  But the nuts were sweet.  I like my nuts to be savoury and just a roasted peanut with a light dusting of salt would be absolutely fine but the only nuts served on the Oosterdam were peanuts sweetened with honey.   I often felt hard-pressed to find anything that hadn’t been sweetened.

Canaletto:

Canaletto is the ship’s Italian restaurant and is in a corner of the Lido buffet.  There’s a US$10.00 cover charge per person however we felt the food and the setting (part of the buffet), so terribly ordinary that the cover charge was unjustified.  The food and dining experience were no better than being in the ship’s main restaurant so I’m confused as to why there’s a charge for this restaurant.  I’ve mentioned it in a previous post that pate was on the menu which is certainly not Italian.  The gnocchi was as tough as dried peas.  The highlight was looking out the window and seeing a pod of dolphins swim beside the ship.  But as for the Italian, it’s more of a copy of Italian food rather than being genuine Italian.  You feel quite convinced there isn’t an Italian in the kitchen.

The Vista Dining Room:

The busy ceiling of the Vista Dining Room

The busy ceiling of the Vista Dining Room

The ship’s main restaurant is The Vista.  It’s on two-levels with the upper level seating around 300 and the lower level seating approximately 700 passengers.  It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you needed to be appropriately dressed.  Carl was turned away one night for wearing shorts (I might have mentioned Carl always has issues with security), yet when he put on his sulu with thongs he slipped in no trouble at all.

Waving our napkins in the air to salute those who had served us over the two weeks.

Waving our napkins in the air to salute those who had served us over the two weeks.

The restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine.  The service is very attentive with your waiter introducing himself to you and never being too far away.  The wine list ranged from the house wine at US$22.00/bottle + 15% right up to some very pricey wines.  You could bring your own wine onto the ship and enjoy it at the restaurant for a US$18.00/bottle corkage fee.

A selection of freshly baked bread

A selection of freshly baked bread

Sometimes we sat by ourselves but mostly we were asked if we would like to join other passengers.  We didn’t mind sharing a table as it was a great way to meet people.  On our first night in the dining room we were seated with a retired couple from North Dakota.  I was talking to them and chatting about all sorts of things and the woman didn’t say anything, she just looked at me stunned.  When I paused for breath she leaned across the table and said loudly and very slowly, ‘I can’t understand anything you are saying’.  I burst out laughing and said, ‘We’re speaking the same language’.  I thought I spoke English rather well!

Appetiser:  Mediterranean Mezze Plate

Appetiser: Mediterranean Mezze Plate

Appetiser:  Brie in Crispy Phyllo with Apple-Cranberry Chutney.  Carl ordered this and loved it but again, that chutney was sweet!

Appetiser: Brie in Crispy Phyllo with Apple-Cranberry Chutney. Carl ordered this and loved it but again, that chutney was sweet!

Appetiser: BBQ Chicken Spring Roll. This was fantastic but the coleslaw was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Appetiser:  Artichoke and Olive Bruschetta.  I didn't like this.  The bruschetta was very soft.

Appetiser: Artichoke and Olive Bruschetta. I didn’t like this. The bruschetta was very soft.

We mostly ate in The Vista for dinner.  Dinner was a five-course meal if you count the bread basket that was first to arrive on the table as the first course.  Then there was an appetiser section, a soup and salad section, then an ‘entree’ section.  I don’t know why the main course was called an entree.  Then there was dessert.  We never saw the same menu twice.  There are some staples that are on the menu daily like the French onion soup, the Caesar salad and the ‘perfectly cooked breast of chicken’.

Salad:  Sunset Salad.  Assorted lettuce with caramelized pear, grilled red pepper and blue cheese crumbles.

Salad: Sunset Salad. Assorted lettuce with caramelized pear, grilled red pepper and blue cheese crumbles.

Salad:  Shiitake Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette.  I loved this.  Full of flavour and crunch.

Salad: Shiitake Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette. I loved this. Full of flavour and crunch.

Salad: Mixed Green Salad with Fresh Pear

Salad:  Fresh Greens with Pear

Salad: Fresh Greens with Pear

Vegetarians are well catered for but I’m not sure how well you would fare if you had another intolerance like being  gluten-free as I didn’t see any of these options.  I understand you can give the ship prior notice of your food intolerances and then they do make arrangements to cater for you.

Appetiser:  Grilled Vegetables and Asiago

Appetiser: Grilled Vegetables and Asiago

The appetiser section had four choices and one of them would always be sweet and read more like a dessert than an appetiser like Sun-Ripened Pineapple Delight, Melon Trio, Layered Fruit Tier, Banana and Orange Melange, Fruit Cup au Natural or the Assorted Wedges of Melon and Pineapple topped with strawberries, blueberries, cottage cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (as well as sugar, cinnamon also featured heavily).

The table setting in the Vista Restaurant

The table setting in the Vista Restaurant

In the soup and salad section there would be three soups and one salad.  I always had the salad as I consider soups a winter dish and we were up in the tropics.  One of the soups would be sweet as well like the Chilled Pineapple and Cucumber Soup or the Minted Melon and Raspberry Soup or the Chilled Pineapple Pina Colada Soup.

Soup:  Chicken Pho with Lime and Rice Stick Noodles.  Clearly this doesn't look anything like a Pho but the flavour was fantastic - lovely clean Asian flavours.

Soup: Chicken Pho with Lime and Rice Stick Noodles. Clearly this doesn’t look anything like a Pho but the flavour was fantastic – lovely clean Asian flavours.

I would always order the salad and these were very fresh and quite lovely and you could choose your dressing and I steered away from thousand island and blue cheese and went for balsamic.  But there would always be something sweet added to the salad like mandarin segments, pears, apples, honey-pear croutons or candied nuts.

Chicken Marsala.  Juicy chicken medallions dressed in Marsala cream sauce (sweet!) with porcini mushrooms served on a bed of fettuccine.

Chicken Marsala. Juicy chicken medallions dressed in Marsala cream sauce (sweet!) with porcini mushrooms served on a bed of fettuccine.

Braised Veal Cheeks with Parmesan Polenta.  Wasn't able to eat this.  The veal cheeks were very viscous and tough.

Braised Veal Cheeks with Parmesan Polenta. Wasn’t able to eat this. The veal cheeks were very viscous and tough.

Not sure

Korean Kalbi Beef Short Ribs – didn’t like this.  Wasn’t sure what I was meant to be eating.

The entree (main course) section always had a pasta option, a couple of seafood dishes and various types of meat dishes.  There were some classics offered like Beef Wellington and Surf and Turf as well as some Australian specialties like crocodile and Wattleseed Roasted Duck.  I always found there was something interesting in the entree section for me to order and the menu certainly reflected cuisines from all around the world.

Entree:  Roast Chicken Gremolata.  This had lovely flavour and beautiful presentation but was heavily salted.

Entree: Roast Chicken Gremolata. This had lovely flavour and beautiful presentation but was heavily salted.

Bourbon Glazed Beef with Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

Bourbon Glazed Beef with Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

Entree:  Prime Rib of Beef au Jus.  You don't need me to tell you that Carl ordered this and absolutely loved it.

Entree: Prime Rib of Beef au Jus. You don’t need me to tell you that Carl ordered this and absolutely loved it.

When it came to the desserts, dare I say I found there was an abundance of refined sugar, gelatine and food dye.  And these very sweet desserts would be accompanied by some highly sweetened piped cream.  One thing Arabella and I used to laugh about every night was that one dessert would have written beside it, ‘No Sugar Added’ but it would be something like a Linzer Torte or Neapolitan Ice Cream, Mango Mousse Feuillete or Passion Fruit Mousse Torte.  We seriously couldn’t tell the difference in the level of sweetness between the ‘normal’ desserts and the ‘No Added Sugar’ desserts.

Dessert:  Lime Sherbet

Dessert: Lime Sherbet

Banana and Coconut Cream Trifle

Banana and Coconut Cream Trifle

Lemon Sorbet

Lemon Sorbet

The food on the Oosterdam was well presented (if not a little dated), on beautiful china and it was plentiful and varied.  There did however seem to be a thrust towards sweetening the majority of the dishes which I found quite unnecessary and it left me craving anything savoury.  If there was one section of the menu I would like to see improve it would be the desserts.  I often felt like I was in a 1970′s cake shop with all the refined sugar, gelatine, food dye and piped sweetened cream.  What about a quenelle of fresh cream on the side?  Or what about a dessert that doesn’t send your BSL through the roof?

Black Forest Cake with sweetened cream and a scoop of sorbet

Black Forest Cake with sweetened cream and a scoop of sorbet

Dessert:  Artisan Cheese Plate - loved this.

Dessert: Artisan Cheese Plate – loved this.

If the nuts served at the bar were savoury, and if the crackers served with the cheese platter were savoury, and if the cream was left unsweetened and if the desserts were lifted into the 21st Century, then this ship would be offering outstanding cuisine.

And this is the last in my series of posts regarding the MS Oosterdam and the South-Pacific.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the series because I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with you.

You can read more about our experiences on the Oosterdam in the following posts:

MS Oosterdam:  Karaoke

MS Oosterdam:  An Overview

MS Oosterdam:  The Pinnacle Grill

MS Oosterdam:  Pacific Treasures Cruise

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Comments

  1. Oh wow! Did you manage to stay lovely and svelte?

  2. Ohhh, I’m going to miss your cruise posts as I have been vicariously imagining that I am visiting all the beautiful places too! Great series of posts Charlie and thank you so much for sharing the experience. It’s certainly been an eye-opener to the world of cruise ships.

  3. Not sure I’d survive all that sugar as I am totally a savoury person. Loved the series and thanks for your honesty.
    Carolyn

  4. Thanks for such a comprehensive overview of the food on your cruise, charlie. I’ve heard complaints about the quality of food on cruises before and I know I’d be seriously ticked off – it’s not like you can get off and go somewhere else, is it?

  5. Was there a ship dentist on call?! I would have had to order the Chilled Pineapple Pina Colada Soup just for the hell of it. I guess after a couple of days you managed to gauge what to order and what to avoid but I wonder what came first – the menu or the demand for sweet items. Its been fun reading all about your adventures on and off board x

  6. I wonder if you told them that you were allergic to sugar it would have made a difference? Looks good selection of main courses. But of course it is an american cruise line? It is always going contain plenty of sugar, they live on it don’t they?

  7. I’ve been on a number of cruises (3) and in general have found the food to be totally underwhelming! I see that was your experience as well. One day I’d like to go on a foodie cruise where the food is specifically outlined as the focus!

  8. Maybe I’m in a silly mood but I really giggled at this comment you made “didn’t like this. Wasn’t sure what I was meant to be eating.” You are as always hilariously honest Charlie!

  9. Maybe this is their way of having the customers avoid the noravirus. LOL I hope that at least you could enjoy the sea views and the sunshine.

  10. urgh have never been a fan of cruise food for this exact reason, SWEETEN EVERYTHING!

  11. The food looks and sounds similar to what we had on our honeymoon cruise 28 years ago! Except the booze was way cheaper! $1.00 glasses of wine and beer at lunch! I’ve read that one can gain 10lbs or 4.5kg on a cruise, it’s no wonder with all that salt and sugar!
    Our friends went on a cruise that held nearly 10,000 people (staff and guests) can you imagine that?
    Thank you Charlie for these great posts, I’m pretty sure cruising is not for me.

  12. Love this wrap-up! I’ve never been on a cruise for longer than 5 days. I’m not sure I could last for two weeks. I’m sure I would come back at least ten pounds heavier.

  13. Of course, I laughed at your North Dakota comment, living in next-door Minnesota. People say Minnesotans speak with an accent. Something about long “o’s.”

    I totally enjoyed this series.

  14. I think I would have a issues with having so much sugar in all the food too. It all looks beautifully presented and like you had a great trip though!

  15. I counted 15 or 16 if you include “sweetened”. ;) There are just some things that should not be sweet!! It sounds like, overall, the experience was great though! I’d like to go on a cruise someday. Buster and I always take about going on an Alaskan cruise. Maybe we will do it eventually… xo

  16. I’d say that would be because the “No Sugar Added” desserts would’ve used fake sugar, right? That’s common in North America. Ugh.

    PS That pho made me laugh. WTF.

  17. As good food is one of the major features of a cruise (at least according to my nephew), and so many people have health issues (diabetes, high blood pressure) you would hope that the offerings would be more moderately salted/sweetened and more fresh fruit would be offered. I’m also more of a savoury than a sweet fan so I’d probably have comments similar to your own. Still, there was a wide variety of dishes on offer and some of them sounded very nice indeed.

  18. I am more for savory dishes and not into too many sweets so guess my choices would be somewhat limited.

  19. I’m definitely not a fan of sweet dishes either Charlie, and I really don’t find a lot of that food appealing. I think I’d order the steak every day instead and get my iron levels up :) xox

  20. Looks like American cruise buffets aren’t any better than American land buffets. Like you I don’t like them but they can be good for breakfast. Looks like you had a variety of foods though, not all good, but if half of the meals were decent I guess that’s good! I don’t know if I could do two weeks of restaurant food though. If much prefer Alfie and Arabella’s approach!

  21. Thank you for sharing with us, I loved reading it all, can’t wait till your next adventure lol :)

  22. Those dishes all look fabulous!!! I’m not even hungry, yet I want some!

  23. I giggled my way through your post…especially when the woman from North Dakota didn’t understand you. Yeah, I’m not sure I’d be thrilled with some of this food, but the salads looked lovely.

  24. [peeking out of a February blog break since received four advertisements for the next few 'Oosterdam' cruises along the same route yesterday'. Interesting!! Oh, this time around so very cheap!!!]. Think you were more than fair in critiquing this cruise ~ if you Google the ship and your particular cruise others have been far more unkind with a number rating 1 or 2 out of 5 for the experience. No wonder then the number of ‘specials’ now available!!. Let’s leave aside your very able story of the food – I agree ‘entree’ means first course in the rest of the world and not the main and I like to receive my salad as a side or after the main, tho’ at least it was not all iceberg lettuce :) ! The route NE of Sydney methinks is the usual ‘shortie’ one out of Sydney. For my money, I fully agree with you on Noumea [but it is an almost inevitable boring halt] ~ you should have been taken to Suva at least and please, next time around take in an itinerary which encompasses Tonga and Samoa, possibly then cruising south to at least Auckland. Feel you were wonderfully lucky not to have more than one cyclone warning in that time bang on in the middle of the cyclone season – last time I went we copped three in 21 days!!! Not funny when the waves hit your highset cabin windows and everything in the cabin bangs around with every wave movement :) ! Go in the Australian winter!! If possible, go as far as Papeete and Bora Bora. . . . You had a first, now have a next when the time comes . . .

    • Thanks Eha. Great to hear from you. Your ‘high seas’ drama doesn’t sound too good. We didn’t have any high seas, it was calm the entire time. Like you say – very fortunate considering it was the cyclone season. I agree with you about seeing Papeete and Bora Bora – both stunning places. Next time for sure!

  25. [giggles!] Love Bobbi’s and Lorraine’s comments ~ and, Joanne, ‘foodie cruises’ do exist, mostly in the Med and the E Coast of S Africa ~ would give my eye teeth to be there with ‘the experts’!!!!!! Hate to think of the cost!!!!! Bye till March Charlie :) !

  26. Some of those salads look very tasty. And that cheese platter, I want it. You can use ‘sweet’ as much as you like as long as you don’t use the word ‘smitten’ which drives me insane.

  27. Great resort!

  28. It’s no wonder I’ve got a sugar addiction, it seems to appear almost everywhere these days! You were very thorough in your review, wouldn’t it be great if the ship took your advice and made those changes? I was on a cruise years ago and all I remember were the friends we met and none of the food, of course, I wasn’t a blogger back then!

  29. It must be an American ship because that’s how Americans eat. Appetizers, entrees, dessert. Bread first, then the appetizers, then the salad, then the entrees and then dessert. Simple. All with too much salt and too much sugar. When I first moved to Australia I thought I was going to die. A year later when I went back home for a visit I thought I was going to die. :)

  30. You’ve hit upon something i literally scream about. Americans are sugar-addicted. Refined and processed foods, sugar and preservatives make up some abominable statistic in the average American diet. The government subsidizes these foods, and so they are plentiful and cheap…and we are gradually being poisoned. So I sound crazy, I know, but that’s how I feel. And you experienced it firsthand as an Aussie…so your tastebuds rebelled. I agree with you about the ho-hum buffets, but I chuckled. My father thinks a buffet is the greatest invention under the sun. I guess many people do! ox

  31. I think I missed a few of your posts while I was still on holiday. I loved the ones I have read and have probably mentioned how much I miss living in Mauritius as you mentioned sweet in this post.
    Have a beautiful day Charlie.
    :-) Mandy xo

  32. wow, what a magnificent dish, a great place to dine

  33. “This post is not about a resort’ had me burst out in guffaws, hehehehehe!

    Personally I like buffets, but looking at the vast array of food selection, I think I would just have felt dizzy trying to make a choice. I have never been on a cruise, but a close friend went on one recently and she and her family were so fed up of food – GOOD food – that they actually went on a bland diet after coming back, lol!! But there is one thing I agree on – I cannot stand sweet in everything, and I feel even in US, some use too much sugar in everything, even savory food.

  34. Haha you made me laugh about the lady from SD, and you said ‘speaking the same language’… LOL!!!! You’re trying to be funny or honest… either way I always love how you tell stories. FUN! Hmm it’s very interesting. I always wonder how cruise is like. Through your posts, I got to see what’s’ like – what kind of food is being served, etc. It’s been fun reading!

  35. It’s been awesome reading about your posts about the OS Oosterdam and all the adventures you have been on! It still amazes me the services that are available on a cruise! :) It’s so amazing! I really want to go on one soon!

  36. We love buffets in our family and when with the kids I’d head for these, but can’t wait until the wee ones get older as the proper meals looked much better. A mixed bag, good to get your genuine thoughts and experiences on this cruise.

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