Note to Readers: Traveler's Tale is a new forum designed to showcase the very best reader reviews of cruise ships or ports of call. All stories are non-paid and SouthernCruising.com chooses reports for this feature based on style, content and usefulness for other readers.
Don Nelson and Carol Kepler, sailed on a Eurodam voyage this summer to to Alesund, Norway, where they're pictured above. The new Holland America ship will sail from Port Everglades, FL, to the Caribbean this winter.
Sailing on Holland America's
By Don and Carol Nelson
Having previously cruised on at least six of Holland America’s ship -- including several voyages on Rotterdam -- we were excited about the opportunity to experience the newest member of the HAL family, the Eurodam, in late July 2008.
We first glimpsed the ship as we arrived at the pier in Copenhagen. Our reaction was "wow" as the ship is clearly larger than other vessels in the Holland America fleet.
But once onboard, it was clearly evident that in designing this new ship, Holland America has captured the very best qualities and signature features of its long tradition of providing a top of the line cruise experience for its guests.
We highly recommend the online embarkation check-in process . It streamlines the embarkation experience.
From the time we arrived at the port, to the time we stepped onboard, the total elapsed boarding time was under 10 minutes.
The cheery and welcoming staff immediately made us feel at home.
We were definitely curious, though, as to how a larger ship would impact our ability to get around and find our way to all of the facilities? But while our cabin was on the eighth deck aft, we were never more than five minutes away from any location including the forward-positioned Greenhouse SPA and Explorations Café.
Onboard Ambience and Cruise Style
Stylewise, the ship resembles Holland America's Vista Class ships. It seems well-designed for customer comfort.
The classic promenade deck recalls the grand era of classic ocean liners; three laps around the deck provides a good mile walk.
Yet, the ship is larger, with an extra deck on top. It carries nearly 200 additional passengers than other ships in the fleet.
As is typical of all HAL ships, fresh flowers abound everywhere on the ship. (see photo at left*)
Elegant art, reflecting the line's Dutch heritage, also adorns the walls in the public areas.
For example, corridors in stateroom areas contain photos that allow both first-time cruisers and experienced mariners to get a good sense of Holland America's history.
We have enjoyed cruising with Holland America over the years because of the diverse mix of travelers onboard. This cruise on Eurodam was no exception.
We mingled with working professionals, families with children, and retirees. Passengers hailed from North America, Europe and Asia. We dined one evening with a delightful couple from Japan.
Atrium and Public Areas
Eurodam's bright and well-designed atrium boasts a chandelier that resembles an upside-down ice sculpture (see photo above.*). The atrium is home to a comfortable Atrium Bar and Lounge area.
A signal feature on all HAL ships is the Crow's Nest. It's easy to sink into a comfortable lounge chair in this panoramic viewing area.
Adjacent to the Crow’s Best is the line's signature Explorations Café---a library and Internet café with all of the reading material one could imagine.
The cafe also offers Internet access for those who need to stay connected. A small coffee bar features beverages and snacks at a small cost.
Want to add to your art collection at home? Eurodam had several art auctions during our voyage. You'll find a variety of works to bid on.
Several comfortable lounges provide both comfortable resting places for daytime reading and pleasant locales for an evening beverage with accompanying music for listening or dancing.
The Ocean Bar provides nightly music from 6 p.m. until about 11 p.m. It had a good musical combo for dancing.
The Explorers Lounge offers a comfortable relaxing atmosphere for before or after dinner conversation. On our cruise it featured a classical string quartet as background music.
The Northern Lights disco offers nightly music for dancing for those interested in kicking it up a notch. We discovered that nightly piano bar (shown at right*), usually crowded, provides a quality sing-a-long experience.
Our favorite location for a pre-dinner beverage, though, was the Silk Den. This elegantly designed cocktail lounge (see photo at left*) is located on the top deck. It's adjacent to the new specialty Pan-Asian restaurant Tamarind.
This was our top choice for a nightly meeting place with friends before dinner.
Given the forward panoramic views, the experience was one of the most pleasurable on any of the HAL ships on which we have cruised.
As more people discover this treasure, I suspect that a waiting list to be seated might envelop, but for us it was never a problem.
Spa and Fitness
We believe Eurodam boasts the largest and most up-to-date Spa and Salon in Holland America's 14-ship fleet.
In addition to salons for facial, hair and skin care, the Greenhouse Spa and Salon offers thermal pools and special thermal massage facilities for those seeking the ultimate in relaxation at sea.
The fitness center, available to guests at no extra charge, rivals those at any top-notch local community facility on land. It features a large number of treadmills and elliptical, weight machines and workout equipment.
For a nominal fee, personal trainers will customize a daily physical fitness routine designed to help you meet your exercise goals.
On the last day at sea on our cruise, Holland America sponsored a "Race for the Cure" event -- benefitting breast cancer research -- which featured both walks and runs around the promenade deck.
A new feature on the Eurodam is a number of private cabanas located on the top deck (see cabanas just above the pool in the photo above*). These can be rented by the hour or on a daily basis and should be a huge attraction for the winter cruising season in the Caribbean.
Available on all Holland America ships, the cafeteria-style Lido restaurant features a wide array of food choices including a delicious salad bar, multiple entrees for each meal, sandwiches and more.
We found the Lido's light coloring pleasing to the eye. It's open, cheery and a great place to dine in a more casual manner.
A 24-hour beverage bar offers coffee, iced tea, hot tea and water. And if you get the hungries, ice cream is available throughout the day along with desserts and cold snacks.
In addition, specialized buffet offerings at times during the cruise (see photo at right of the chocolate buffet one night on our cruise*) were a nice treat.
The signature Rembrandt Dining Room offers two very different dining styles.
One is traditional seating -- early at 5:30 p.m. and late at 8:00 p.m. -- with assigned tables for dinner each evening. On our previous Holland America cruises, we had this type of seating with the same table companions for the duration of the cruise.
On Eurodam, however, we opted to try the new “As You Wish" dining option, which we rather enjoyed. The new format allowed us to meet new people each evening.
Since our preference was to show up each evening around 7 p.m. for dinner seating, we never had a problem getting seated at the table size of our choice. We generally preferred a large table for eight or 10, allowing us the opportunity to meet different people throughout the cruise.
This arrangement worked very well for us. Since we were a party of two it was never a problem for the maitre‘d to seat us according to our wishes.
Families traveling together or groups who definitely want to sit together each evening, however, should probably stick to the fixed seating (either early or late) if they do not want to wait longer than a few minutes for a table.
Plus, since the evening show times are scheduled for 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., people who attend the 7 p.m. show and arrive -- along with everyone else -- at 8:10 p.m. to be seated for the “As You Wish Dining” did have to wait to be accommodated.
The food on Eurodam was excellent. We ate all evening meals in the main dining room or two of the specialty restaurants. In all dining venues, we enjoyed top-notch service from customer-focused wait staff.
Menus featured diverse selections, whether appetizers, salads, soups, entrees or desserts. The portions were just right. One could also ask for another serving if so desired.
Holland America prides itself in having an excellent wine cellar onboard , and we agree. Guests could order from an extensive wine list.
We purchased a wine card, a great value for the two of us. The cost was about $67 which entitled us to select 20 glasses of wine including the house Merlot, Pinot, Chardonnay or Cabernet. These selections suited our taste just fine.
Alternative Dining Options
If you're seeking specialty dining, Eurodam has three alternative restaurants. We usually dine in The Pinnacle Grill at least once on all of our cruises and this was no exception.
(Above, the Nelsons are served by a friendly waiter at the Pinnacle Grill.*)
Get ready for a "special occasion” evening with a fine dining atmosphere from the moment you are welcomed by the Maitre‘d in Black Tie. The restaurant boasts specially-trained and selected wait staff and an outstanding menu.
Our personal view -- from the cruises we've sailed on -- is that The Pinnacle offers the finest beef and seafood to be found anywhere on land or at sea.
The cost is $30 per person (not including wine) for this truly fine dining experience but it's well worth it.
Another alternative dining choice is the elegant new Pan-Asian cuisine Tamarind restaurant, positioned on the top deck. This intimate restaurant boasts themed decor, personal attention by the servers, and unusually designed menu items.
Menu choices are focused on water, wood, fire and ice. We enjoyed a delicious duck presentation and also the roasted red sea bass. Cost for Tamarind was $15 per person for dinner but no charge for lunch
A third alternative dining option was the Canaletto restaurant, part of the Lido Restaurant on Deck 11. Available for guest dining at no additional charge, Canaletto features northern Italian cuisine.
While we didn't call for room service dining, it was available 24 hours a day.
Enrichment and Entertainment
The daily schedule placed in our cabin each evening outlined the wide range of onboard activities and features for the following day. One could not get bored. There is simply too much to do!
Options on our cruise included a 7 a.m. daily walk around the deck; bingo; Culinary Arts Center demonstrations; port lectures; shopping on sea days; fitness offerings; pool play; wine lectures and tastings; and art auctions, just to name a few.
A highlight for many was afternoon tea complete with tea service and a wide array of accompanying snacks.
Or, guests might simply locate -- as we regularly do on our cruises when we are at sea -- a comfortable place to curl up with a good book. We believe there is no better way to relax. (Guests are shown at left relaxing on the the Promenade Deck.*)
Over the years, we have found the entertainment on all of the Holland America ships to be exceptional. In designing Eurodam's Mainstage Theater, Holland America pulled out all of the stops.
The result is a magnificent $8-million-dollar theater with a sound-and- light board that would be the envy of most shore-based theaters. This 900-seat theater boasts a stage capable of elaborate stage productions rivaling those on Broadway.
Fourteen professional entertainers perform three shows on each 10-day cruise. Entertainment is clearly oriented to a family environment with shows suitable for children (in our opinion).
Beyond large-scale production shows, Holland America continues to attract superb individual entertainers. Previously, we had enjoyed the entertainment of Dr. Justin Miller, a brilliant and talented musician who plays guitar in a unique manner.
We were pleased to see him onboard again. He delivers music, along with a repertoire of oral histories and anecdotes covering American music and 1900-1950s era composers.
Another talented vocalist not to be missed if you have the opportunity is Australian Annie Francis.
One favorable change that we experienced on this cruise was the change of the evening show times. On Eurodam, shows now run at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., much better than the 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. start times we experienced on previous Holland America cruises.
Our Eurodam Cabin
Our cabin on Deck 8 was far aft, a new location for cabins on the Signature Class ships in Holland America's fleet. It sported a verandah with two chairs and a table.
We frequently ventured out to sit and watch the sun rise or view the sights upon docking at a port, and of course, to enjoy a gorgeous sunset.
Decorated in calming colors, our cabin exuded European style décor.
(As shown at left, a cute towel animal was placed on our bed nightly by the cabin steward.*)
The sitting area had a sofabed, coffee table, flat-screen television and a desk with Internet capability.
The bath included a shower and tub. Luxurious cotton towels and complimentary shampoos and lotions were freshened daily. The closet space was larger than on other Holland America ships we've sailed on.
Stateroom amenities included terry cloth robes and fresh fruit delivered daily. Our cabin steward was pleasant and dedicated to his job.
We found the Shore Excursion staff to be helpful, informative and willing to share experiences about ports of call.
Guests go ashore either via the ship's tenders (one from Eurodam is shown at right*) or from a dock.
On this particular cruise, we elected to do most of the shore visits on our own. This worked well for us and we utilized the "hop on and off" tour buses in several places.
The one shore excursion that we did select from HAL was excellent.
Onboard Cruise Consultant
The onboard cruise consultant will assist travelers with future bookings and provide information on future cruise itineraries. We have booked our last two cruises this way and it is an excellent way to plan future travel.
This is a really good value for people who have the option to plan ahead and make preliminary decisions on their next cruise. On most lines, you receive a discount or onboard credit when booking onboard; it varies by line.
Plus, you can tell the cruise consultant the name of your travel agent at home, and your agent will then service your booking locally. In turn, the agent will receive his or her regular commission, with no additional charge to you.
For a deposit of only $100 per person, which is valid for a four-year window, travelers may book future Holland America cruises onboard. Final payment is due no earlier than 70+ days prior to sailing.
Could Be Improved
This is Eurodam's inaugural season and we (shown on Eurodam's top deck at right*) were only the third group of passengers to sail onboard. So, obviously there are things to be ironed out and finetuned. We did not see anything, however, that would cause us to seek another cruise line for future travels.
The task of becoming accustomed to dealing with nearly 200 more passengers than any other ship in the fleet is something that will take a bit of time for the crew to sort out.
The most obvious challenge was in the Main Dining Room. On a few evenings at 8:10 p.m. or so, those who attended the first show descended en masse to be seated in the “As you wish Dining” lower dining room.
For those of us who had previously been seated and dining since 7:15 p.m. -- and thus awaiting continued table service to complete our meal -- it seemed as though there were not enough wait staff to handle those already enjoying dinner and those just entering the dining room to start dinner. But we suspect this will be sorted out over the next few weeks.
While a more relaxed dress code has appeared on most of the major cruise lines, Holland America still maintains the Formal Nights at Sea tradition which we enjoy. On seven-day cruises, there usually are two formal nights; on a 10-day cruise there are three.
As a rule, most passengers respected this policy and dressed appropriately. Passengers who elect not to follow the formal dress rule on specific nights always have the Lido Restaurant option.
Our lasting impression is that Holland America continues to be extremely great value for people seeking a top quality cruise line. The well-designed Eurodam offers top of the line service and experiences at each step of the way.
After cruising this fall along the New England coastline and within the St. Lawrence Seaway, Eurodam moves south for the winter, offering a series of Caribbean voyages from Port Everglades, FL.
Readers: Enter your comments/feedback about this report or the Eurodam by visiting this Reader Feedback page.
Important Note to All Readers: The report above is a personal trip report and opinion from consumers who have recently sailed on the ship noted. It has been edited for style and format. The views and assessment above are totally attributable to these readers -- akin to a reader letter published in a Letters to the Editor column of a local newspaper. These Travelers' Tale stories should be treated by readers as such. As with any Traveler's Tale, the opinions above do not necessarily represent those of SouthernCruising.com or its Editor. Readers also should understand that the experiences detailed above are not necessarily the ones you will have on your cruise. Your individual cruise experience and your overall perception of the line or its products may differ widely. So do your homework when booking any specific line; consult multiple information sources; and work with a reputable travel agent to book the cruise best suited to your personal style and taste.
*Photos by Don Nelson and Carol Kepler and used with their permission. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.