Holland America Zuiderdam Repast

| December 26, 2008

Guest cruise writer Mary Martindale sends us her memories of meeting the Captain and executive chef for the HAL Zuiderdam in the Mediterranean last summer.

The days of October were getting short. It had been a fabulous European summer for Captain Dirk van den Berg and his Vista-Class Zuiderdam. However, he needed to pack it up and head for the warmer waters of the Caribbean. After taking on the majority of her crowd in Venice, Italy, he gracefully eased her out of the Grand Canal heading for 17 days of seven exciting ports and a six-day Atlantic crossing. Launched in 2002, christened by morning show host Joan Lunden in Venice, the Zuiderdam carried over 1800 guests served by a crew of 800.

Van den Berg likes to roll his r's when he speaks of his ship, "the Zuiderrrrrrrrrrr-dam." When asked about Atlantic crossings, he smiles, "I love it! Relax. Sit down, take in the weather. Enjoy the movement of the ship, the roll of the ship. It is so nice. Lay down on the bed, it makes you sleep immediately because of the little movement of the ship. It's good, like a cradle. You can relax for five days, you don't have to go ashore and you don't have to hurry or wake up early in the morning. For many years crossing was not nice, but this is wonderful. Our weather will be good," he promised.

The Med is Captain van den Berg's favorite part of the world short of his homeland, the Netherlands, near the German border, maybe a good clue to why the ship's executive chef is from Germany. Duty, three months on -- three months off, it's a huge undertaking, being responsible for nearly 3,000 people and their well-being as they float across the great depths. This is the captain's 43rd year with Holland America.

Food is a great part of cruising, and dining times are what's new on Holland America. Now you still get to choose traditional, pre-set, seating. Or, your new choice, a more flexible one, is "As you wish" dining. In this dining room you can forget getting fond of your nightly Indonesian wait team. Under this arrangement, you eat when you like, get to share tables with new friends and greet new service people each night. For most guests, the flexibility of this arrangement outweighs the repetitive, same time, same table, same people scene. So, if you need to tell your waiter each night you want the oolong tea with your dessert, you won't need to shoot for an exact dining time any more.

Master Chef Rudi Sodamin is menu consultant for all Holland America menus. On the Zuiderdam, Executive Chef Klaus-Dieter Paatsch, implements Sodimen's recipes into the daily offerings. Pulling it all together is Craig Oakes, Culinary Operations Manager. "It needs to be a centralized situation, because it would be impossible to suddenly contact suppliers to carry out any spur-of-the-moment recipes," he explains. "It is important we standardize."

Continue Article >> Holland America Zuiderdam Repast (Part 2)

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