Volendam cruise a true culinary adventure

THREE sampans bobbed in tune to Mozart's Magic Flute as they steered towards us for a closer look.

The Vietnamese were enjoying their playful, close encounter and the Volendam's passengers watched in delight as the small fishing craft overtook the giant liner.

Mozart played on and the champagne flowed for the guests who looked dashing in all their finery.

It was two worlds, a ship's window apart, aboard Holland America Line's Volendam - an evening when glitz and glamour would replace the daytime bikinis and boardies.

Of course, in the stifling heat and humidity on this January evening, the latter would have been the desired option but never acceptable under Volendam's strict dining dress code.

Besides, tonight was all about putting on the ritz for Volendam's Evening at Le Cirque, a culinary journey to New York's renowned Le Cirque restaurant.

Created by Holland America's master chef Rudi Sodamin and Le Cirque's executive chef Craig Hopson, the dining extravaganza is a once-only event on most Holland America cruises.

So popular was Le Cirque on this 17-day Far East Discovery cruise that a second was scheduled for passengers who had missed out. Holland America highly recommends passengers book prior to cruising - and we were glad we did.

Everything synonymous with this world-famous restaurant, right down to the orange Le Cirque china, is recreated for this dining experience.

Tonight we had persuaded our 13-year-old, more a fan of Volendam's casual buffet dining or poolside burger and taco bar, to join us, suit and all.

With son in tow and expectations high, we entered the world of Le Cirque (Volendam's transformed Pinnancle Grill restaurant) for what would prove to be one of our best dining experiences ever.

Le Cirque's rich and famous clientele may not have been seated at the next table, but we had attained that highly coveted reservation and tonight its iconic dishes were all there for selection, including de-constructed Caesar salad, lobster salad, rack of lamb, paupiette of black bass and signature dessert creme brulee.

The teen's verdict: totally sick. In other words, awesome, and high praise, indeed, from one who prefers his fish be served crumbed and always with chips.

Hats off to Holland America and chef Rudi.

Also worth mentioning is that while Volendam places a surcharge of $38 per person on this special-events dinner, the same menu was presented at Le Cirque, New York's, 2012 News Year's Eve event at $350 per person.

While Le Cirque was always going to be the culinary highlight of the 17-day Hong Kong to Singapore cruise, the ship's regular chefs also proved to be on top of their game.

After months of seriously counting the kilojoules, we had set sail aboard a foodie's heaven where surf and turf was nothing less than eye fillet and full lobster tail, where exotic tropical fruits were sliced and diced on request and fresh crayfish by the bucketload were served cracked and ready to go poolside.

And the 11 port days were no reprieve from food temptation, with the best of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Singaporean dishes delicious and cheap on just about every corner.

The Volendam will soon wrap up its Asian schedule, returning to the northern hemisphere where it kicks off its Alaskan cruise schedule in May.

This year's 14-day Christmas/new year's cruise, Hong Kong to Singapore, leaves on December 23.



  • The Volendam will soon wrap up its Asian schedule, returning to the northern hemisphere where it kicks off its Alaskan cruise schedule in May.
  • This year's 14-day Christmas/New Year cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore leaves on December 23.


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