Are Specialty Restaurants Worth the Cost on Holland America Cruises?

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Depending on how long your cruise is you may or may not want to splurge and visit specialty restaurants. As an example if you are on a 3, 4 or 5 day cruise you may not become “tired” of main dining enough to make it worth the expense. Then again if you say book one of the cheapest interior rooms and have extra money to spend that you saved on the cabin this can be a way to elevate your cruise outside of your cabin.

For our cruise we had 3 upgrade options, that is, a steak restaurant The Pinnacle Grill, an Italian choice Canaletto as well as an Asian fusion Tamarind. We pre booked and paid in advance (with a small discount for doing so and paying with discounted AARP HAL gift cards) the last two. We were happy to splurge a bit since this was, at least the base price, a free match cruise offer. But how were they and were they worth it? Take a look.

a logo for a restaurant

I am generally not a fan of Italian on any cruise line because it is hard to make it really special. On NCL I avoid their Italian but I was interested to see if HALs offer was better but I went in with low expectations of being “wow’ed” if you will. The location of Canaletto on the Eurodam is the first issue – it is simply a carved out section of the buffet seating (yuck). The result is not a private dining “feel” and also more noise than one would expect from a specialty dining restaurant.

a plate with food on it

That said we did enjoy our visit and the service was very good – something that was demonstrated across the ship. We started with bread and some snacks to get the dinner started (sorry I forgot to take a photo before we dug in – bad blogger).

a plate of food on a table

a plate of food with sauce and bread

For appetizers my wife got some shrimp and I had the antipasti plate. We had no complaints about either one and both were quite good but the latter could be assembled yourself off the buffet should you want it so nothing extra.

a plate of food on a table

For the main course we choose the Ossobuco with mascarpone, saffron arborio risotto, asparagus, roasted carrots because this is not something we can get at home or care to make. It also was quite delicious and I would recommend trying it as your selection.

a plate of dessert on a table

We were quite full by dessert time so we split a tiny Chocolate Hazelnut Tart Nutella, chocolate sauce. It was VERY rich but flavorful and a good ending to a solid specialty meal.

Overall the food was good, the service was good but the location of the restaurant and the setup took so much away I would not book this again. The other issue is, again for the price, the main dining meals were simply so very good (including the service) that this specialty just did not justify the price vs. what was already included. Now on to the Asian fusion Tamarind.

a table with a plate and glasses

a plate of food on a table

Like the Italian we started with some kind of bread and dipping sauces that all were flavorful and piqued my appetite for what was next.

food on a plate

a plate of food on a white plate

My wife had the dim sum and I had the Thai Beef Salad – rare-seared beef, cilantro, scallions, cucumbers, fresh mint, toasted peanuts, kaffir lime dressing. My wife enjoyed her choice and I love love loved mine (the photo is from main dining as it was available one day and I did not get a photo in the restaurant). Now this is the thing – some of the same items from the specialty are also just as perfect in main dining so is it worth the fee for the specialty?

a plate of food on a table

My dinner choice was Fire Prawns, Thai-Chili Jam, shishito peppers, shimeji mushrooms, asparagus. Once again rich and wonderful flavors and I enjoyed every bite. I would order the same meal over again without reservations.

Overall these were both nice dinners with no real complaints about flavors or quality of the food or the service. It was much nicer at Tamarind having it’s own dining location vs. Canaletto part of the buffet area but neither really were worth the price vs. the main dining room (to me) that is, neither of them were that much better than what was included.

a bar with glasses and a black pipe

a glass with a drink and a lemon on top

While not a specialty restaurant I wanted to include a specialty drink that is a Smoked Cherry Old Fashion with Woodford Reserve Bourbon that I ordered. Since I had a drink package I only had to pay about a dollar to upgrade and try this. Take a look:

I am a fan of Woodford bourbon to begin with and let me tell you this drink was smoky rich from the first sip to the last. Highly recommend.

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Bottom line HAL Eurodam specialty dining is good quality food and a pleasant overall experience should you choose to visit them but sticking with main dining is also a good option for less money. – René

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Rene – I agree with you that the speciality dining on HAL is excellent. I also had the Ossobucco at Canaletto. Canaletto was not very crowded the night we were there. Overall an excellent meal.
    I did find the Pinnacle Grill to be crowded compared to my 5 previous visits. I found the steaks to be not quite as good as my previous HAL experiences. But still a very good meal. I have never been to Tamarind.

  2. Pinnacle Grill is also not good. They say it’s a true steakhouse. It isn’t. They can barely cook the steak properly and there is zero crust, and the shrimp are appalling. Definitely not worth paying for. We canceled our second reservation.

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