Food on the Trip

Posted by Brette in Food | Travel

This is part two of a three part series about our trip to Seattle, Alaska, and Vancouver.

The Chowder House

Things started off in Seattle at Pike Place Market where we had four different types of chowder at Pike Place Chowder. All were excellent. We were also going to order a king crab roll (like a lobster roll), but I noticed people were throwing them away practically uneaten, then a woman walked past us on her way out and said not to order it. We also had crumpets at The Crumpet Shop. I was a bit disappointed there since their jam/jelly selection seemed limited to raspberry, and though  the line was not very long, the service was interminable. The crumpets were ok but not better than the ones I’ve bought frozen and heated up in the toaster oven.

We had dinner at Alki Crab and Fish Co, across the Sound. They were out of Dungeness crab, so we ended up with fish and chips, which were ok, but really greasy. We had shrimp, oysters, cod, and scallops.

On our second day in Seattle we had lunch at Ivar’s Fish House on the

Dungeness crab

waterfront. That was a great meal. Mr. MarthaAndMe had Dungeness crab. I had some wonderful coho salmon. That night we had dinner at the Icon Grill. Several people recommended this to me and it was a big bust. The decor was amazing. The waiter was annoying. The place was empty and the exterior was under construction. Mr. MarthaAndMe had the meatloaf which is wrapped in bacon and served with a molasses sauce. It is a house special. It was overpoweringly molasses-y and the bacon was practically raw. I had the parmesan lemon sole which sounded light and wonderful, but was deep fried (and the menu did not indicate that!). After the fried food at Alki beach the night before, I could not stomach anything deep fried. We sampled the “ultimate” mac and cheese which was supposed to be wonderful but was just too heavy and rich to eat. Dude Martha had “psghetti and meatballs” which he did not care for. Mr. MarthaAndMe got the hot fudge sundae which was huge enough to feed the entire table. I got the funeral cake which was inedible since it was loaded with rum (and the menu made no mention of rum). I do not recommend them at all!

Desserts at tea

The next 7 days our meals were almost exclusively on the cruise ship (MS Oosterdam). We quickly learned the buffet did not suit us. One person would have to hold down the table. The other three would wander, gathering food. Then the table holder would get up. We never actually sat with all four of us eating. We were often getting up for seconds or to try something new because we didn’t care for our food. They had Chinese, Italian, pizza, salads, ice cream (which was freezer burned), some desserts, and some classic entrees. There was also a huge hunk of beef being hacked I wanted no part in.

Once we were finally able to get reservations in the dining room, we ate there

Halibut on the ship

and the food was better, but it was not great. In fact, there was only one really fantastic thing there all week – a cold pear and apple soup with ginger ale in it. I loved it.

We went to three different teas on board- Dutch, Indonesian and cupcake. They served the same sandwiches at each. They had Indonesian tea types available at the Indonesian one. Other than that there wasn’t much difference.

Teen Martha and I went to a cooking class led by the captain, Arjen van der Loo. He made Dutch pancakes, which are like crepes. It was a little funny because they passed out the recipe which is included in the Holland America cookbook and then he told us to cross half of it out because that’s not how he makes it. He showed how he makes them plain and serves them just with sugar or puts bacon in them. He also serves with fruit. Apparently he likes to make this while at home. We enjoyed the session, which was also a Q and A with the captain, and got to sample a bite of the pancake at the end. It was ok – not sweet enough.

Dude Martha at Chef's Night

We went to a special night in the dining room where the menu was designed by the head chef for the cruise line. There were fewer choices, but more courses that night and the dining room staff ran around and acted silly to some music before serving. There were also paper chef hats on the table. Again, the food wasn’t amazing at all. The baked Alaska was barely baked at all- the Martha recipe I made was much better!

Dessert buffet

Dessert Buffet

On one of the last nights on the ship they had a dessert extravaganza buffet set up around the pool at 10:30 at night. It was beautiful with ice carvings and intricate desserts, but none of it tasted good at all. It was all whipped cream and dry cake. Even the chocolate fondues were watery.

While in Juneau, we went to a “salmon bake” which to me meant it would be like a clam bake – maybe a hole or pit dug or at least a whole salmon cooked all together over a pit. Something authentic, I was hoping. Wrong! It was just a bad buffet set up in a pavilion by a creek. They grilled some salmon fillets there and admittedly that was some of the best salmon I’ve had with a very sweet barbecue sauce. The night was slightly ruined when a sharp nail on the picnic table tore a gigantic hole in

Salmon "bake"

Teen Martha’s Guess jeans, ruining them. The management promised to compensate us and took our information but never followed up (we will be contacting them!).

Teen Martha and I had lunch in Sitka at a little spot called Two Gals. I had a nice halibut sandwich and she had fish and chips. It was all excellent – not just a fast food thing. On the streets in Sitka they were selling reindeer hot dogs and elkburgers. I would have liked to taste them, but didn’t want to shell out just for a bite!

We also ate dinner ashore in Victoria where we found a French bistro. The food was pretty good. Mr. MarthaAndMe had a burger made with chorizo and I had fettucine with smoked chicken, peas, and prosciutto. Teen Martha ordered Chicken Provence, however, the waitress, who did not write down our orders, brought her something else. By the time her meal finally came, we were done and everyone was tired and ready to get back to the ship.

We were forced to eat lunch at Arby’s en route to Vancouver. ‘Nuff said. For dinner in

Dinner at Sanafir on the leather bed

Vancouver the first night, we had an amazing time at Sanafir. We loved it! They serve “Silk Road Trios”. You order chicken or beef or lamb or seafood and you get a set of three dishes – one Mediterranean, one Indian, and one Asian. We adored everything we had (and I usually do not like Indian food, but this wasn’t too hot for me). Upstairs, they have some tables with cushions on the floor, but they also have leather beds surrounded by drapes. We were there early Food at Sanafirand they were empty, so our little family ate on one of the beds. They’re clearly meant for romantic encounters, or parties of hip 20 somethings, but we enjoyed it. The kids thought it was really fun. Mr. MarthaAndMe thought it was incredibly uncomfortable!

Our next day in Vancouver we wolfed down bad sandwiches for lunch while at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Dinner was at Coast, owned by the same group as Sanafir. That was also fantastic. Mr. MarthaAndMe and Teen Martha shared a sushi “tile” they loved. Mr. MarthaAndMe had a smoked

Sushi Tile at Coast

fish chowder. Dude Martha had clam chowder and fried calamari. I had king crab to start (served cold with 3 sauces – it was great!) and then a main dish of grilled sablefish with beurre blanc which was a bit disappointing. The waiter raved about it and said it is as good as butterfish. I didn’t think it was that good – more like halibut. But overall, the food was excellent. For dessert we shared a sampler and a plate of dessert lollipops that were little bites of dessert.

Dessert Lollipops


Another interesting item we had in Vancouver were these weird dessert crepes at an Asian mall. There was some confusion because the signs were a little unclear about “custard” – whether they meant soft ice cream or a pudding, but we all had different flavors. They make the crepes in front of you and roll them to be like an ice cream cone (in the display case in the photo they show them partially unrolled so you can see what is in them). They were delicious.

We had a rather sad lunch the next day while at Burnaby Village, then had dinner in a cute town called La Conner, Washington (which our GPS refused to acknowledge existed), at La Conner Prime Rib and Seafood. A saleswoman in a shop recommended it so we tried it. It was gorgeous – right on the water and the food was fantastic. I had fettucine with prawns, scallops, crab and bay shrimp in a garlic cream sauce. It was fantastic. Teen Martha had an artichoke spinach dip. Dude Martha had fish and chips. Mr. MarthaAndMe had clams (which he had been craving all trip) and a nice salad. I loved this town – it had fantastic shops and was so cute. I have to thank the saleswoman who recommended this restaurant – I never would have gone in it.

So, the food on the ship was not great in any way, but at the restaurant (not the buffet line) it wasn’t by any means bad, it just wasn’t great. Their breakfasts were pretty good – we had omelets, pancakes, French toast, etc and it was all good. We had room service breakfast twice and it was served hot but they forgot some items both times. We were also not happy to learn that although the buffet is open until midnight, they only have pizza and ice cream available after 7 pm. We had to order room service one night after getting back from our excursions since the buffet had nothing, but room service took an hour and a half!

I was tired of salmon by the time the trip was over. I also had a lot of halibut. Alaska has a lot of berries, so that is one “cuisine” of the area, but there didn’t seem to be much more, other than crab. I am sure if we had spent more time on the ground we would have discovered more food and some local gems. One local food I found I did not care for is cole slaw – they put raisins in it!

We had little bits and bites throughout the trip – we bought some wild blueberries at Pike Place Market that were the best I’ve ever had. We had ice cream in several different places and you generally can’t go wrong with ice cream. We bought fruit in Vancouver because we were fruit deprived (onboard they apparently only had melon available).

They say you gain one pound per day on a cruise, but I don’t think we did just because the food was not as good as we had hoped. It was wonderful not to cook for 12 days though! I’m looking forward to getting back in the kitchen. My Everyday Food and Living issues are here and I can’t wait to dive in!

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13 Responses

  • Sheryl says:

    Sounds like you had quite an adventure. I guess you have to get through some bad food to find the good. Those crepes, though, look so interesting and delicious!

  • More meh food than marvelous, it sounds. At least you don’t have to worry about losing cruise weight!

  • Alene says:

    You were on the wrong ship! We’ve done Crystal cruises, and their food is not bad at all. But we’ve also done Seaborn, and that food was extraordinary. Just wasn’t crazy about the ship. Your food in Seattle sounded awful. We were there several years ago and had wonderful food. There is a little restaurant upstairs from the seafood market that is fab. We read about it and had lunch there. I’m so sorry you had some disappointing meals because it’s a great “foodie” city. To me, that’s one of the best parts of a trip!! I’m glad the rest of the trip was good.

  • Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard about cruise food being bad! I’ve never been on one, but have always heard about the fantastic buffets, etc. What a disappointment!

  • Seattle sounds excellent–I’ve never explored the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve wanted to. Too bad about the cruise food. But it could be worse, we had a family reunion cruise at the Norwalk virus or whatever it’s called was going through the boat. Half of our group of 30, including my daughter, got sick. We only made it to one dinner night:)

  • Oh, that’s awful! They are super careful about that now. There are hand sanitizers everywhere and they make you do it when you get on at the ports. They also do not allow people to serve themselves at the buffet for the first 48 hours. Of course after that, I was so grossed out thinking how many hands had touched the spoon I was now touching?

  • It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as fantastic as I’d been led to believe. The dining room meals were definitely better than the buffet. But it did not meet the standard of a fine restaurant in my opinion. Some things were overcooked, some were flavorless. It all looked beautiful, but none of it tasted as good as it looked in my opinion.

  • Ivar’s was great (and I was sure it was going to be horrible since it seemed like a touristy place) and so was the chowder place. It was the Icon Grill that was just awful. I would love to spend more time there and seek out more places.

  • They were really fun. Mine had strawberries, chocolate sauce and whipped cream in it. Mr. MarthaAndMe ended up with one with bananas, strawberries, ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was good, but the ice cream dripped all over the place.

  • enjoyed hearing about your food adventures. I’ve known friends who raved about cruise food so I’ll wish you a better experience next time! and there are many great places to eat in Vancouver — go back and explore more…

  • The two places we had dinner were fantastic. I would love to go back. Holland America is supposed to have really good food – they even have two cookbooks with their recipes. I’m incredibly picky about food though. There was nothing wrong with most of it, it just did not wow me as I expected it to.

  • Leah says:

    What a difference a few years make. This was the same ship we went on in 2006 and the food was fantastic! It was a different route then (just the inside passage, no Vancouver). Anyway, we had dinner in the dining room each night (a table for 2) and it was very good. Sad to hear it’s not what it once was (must be a different chef/crew).

  • Vancouver wasn’t part of the trip – it left from and returned to Seattle. We rented a car and drove up to Vancouver afterwards. Everything listed on the ship menu sounded fantastic, but I’m a pretty harsh critic of restaurant food, so not much of it was as fantastic as it sounded. Glad you enjoyed your cruise!