So here we go.
And try to keep up with how many times I mention the word, ‘sweet’.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
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’.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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