Eurodam Transatlantic Cruise -- April 14th to 27th, 2012
My DH and I drove to Fort Lauderdale from Ontario, Canada to board the Eurodam April 14th for its transatlantic cruise. This was our first TA cruise and our first time to Europe so needless to say we were very excited.
We had a very nice drive down to Fort Lauderdale taking two nights on the road. Sail away day April 14th was a very rainy morning. We had a precruise reservation the night before at Comfort Inn Suites on Federal Ave. We found the hotel with no problem by using our GPS and drove through torrential rain just as we came in FLL. It was a very quick and easy checkin and the room was very clean and spacious. It looked as if room and been refurbished. We had a livingroom area, flat screen tv, coffee table, queen bed which was very comfortable. Although the hotel looked like it was a bit dated, it was still a very good price and what we especially liked was the fact we could park our vehicle there at no charge for the duration of our cruise. I booked an overnight stay for our return April 30th. When we returned, the vehicle was fine. We had a nice parking spot near the building under a roofover so it had been somewhat protected from the elements.
We met up with about 6 or 8 other couples from the Cruise Critic Message Board for dinner at a nearby restaurant in FLL the night before embarkation. We had a nice time meeting everyone.
The morning of the cruise my husband realized he had forgotten to pack his underwear!! LOL. Just had to share this. I had asked him too prior to leaving home if he had packed this and that, underwear was mentioned and he said yes. So needless to say that morning he rushed out to find a store nearby to buy some. Luckily there was a Ross store where a couple of hundred crew people from the ships were buying up their needs. My DH actually ran into someone we knew from our previous cruise onboard the Ryndam. He is Indonesian and a really nice guy. His name is Walter. Come to find out he was going to be on our ship, the Eurodam!! So we had fun chatting with him throughout our cruise.
We took the hotel's shuttle over to the cruiseport at 11:00 a.m. April 14th after having a nice continental breakfast at the hotel. Shuttle only cost $6.00 each which also included your return pickup from the airport. The return shuttle was prompt in picking us up after phoning from the airport when we returned. No problems at all.
Luckily the rain had stopped as we arrived at the cruiseport. Our luggage was taken away and we proceeded through the checking procedure. Everything went smoothly and efficiently and we were onboard by 12:00 noon!!
We loved the Eurodam. It is a very beautiful ship and of course immaculate. We were in VE5078. It had a nice balcony which overlooked the lifeboats. Not sure I liked this as I would rather look straight down at water but this was fine too. The balcony was shorter than what we had on the Ryndam so there was no room for a lounger, just two chairs and a small table.
Of course the bed is amazingly comfortable. We had a small frig incorporated into the cabinet underneath the TV. This was very nice. There were no drawers other than the two night tables but plenty of shelves in the closets. We had a nice bathroom with tub and shower. Our cabin stewards always had fresh ice in our ice bucket every day without having to ask.
Our luggage arrived at 2:30 p.m. and we began to unpack. I love that time as you know you have the WHOLE cruise ahead of you and it's fun organizing your stuff and tucking the suitcases under the bed.
We spent some time exploring the ship and marvelling at the gorgeous live flower arrangements and art everywhere. There are many lovely lounges and bars tucked in here and there. I especially liked the Silk Den on the 11th deck which was near the Tamarind Restaurant. This has stunning views and very calm and peaceful with beautiful colours of greens and purples. I would come here once in awhile with my laptop to do some emailing.
Muster Drill was at 4:00 p.m. Everybody has to attend. The Captain was even threatening to have anyone who didn`t go, to be put off the ship and not be allowed to sail. There were a number of cabins called which were not present at our Muster Stations. I don`t know why and am not sure if anyone was put off the ship.
This drill has to be taken very seriously. We did not have to wear our lifejackets. Those rules have been changed.
After Muster Drill we checked out the Rembrandt Dining Room to see where our table was located and luckily we did because we were not very happy with the location. We were tucked way back in a far corner near a serving station. We were told to see the Maitre`D and he was very helpful in having us moved to a better location.
Clouds began to breakup, just perfect timing for sailaway at 5:00 p.m. At 5:00 I went to the spa for their raffle draws but didn`t win anything. Afterwards met my husband at the Crow`s Nest for Happy Hour.
Sailaway didn`t happen until 6:30 p.m. for some reason. I was wondering if it was because of those people who didn`t show for the Muster Drill. There were other ships that had to sail ahead of us so maybe this caused a delay.
Finally she blasted her horn and we were on our way, waving to people onshore as we slipped away from Florida. Awesome. The sun was just starting to sink to the horizon and there were lovely fluffy clouds in the sky. So pretty. We could see the coast of Florida for miles as we sat outside on our balcony. Nothing like being on a ship !! So beautiful.
I won`t go into too many details of our day to day adventures. There is so much to do onboard if you want to keep busy. Every night we read the itinerary and I highlighted what we wanted to see or participate in the following day. We went to a few cooking demonstrations, computer classes which were wonderful, art auctions, coffee chats with the Captain or other senior officers, or just sitting in Crow's Nest enjoying the view. There were many talks in the theatre about interesting subjects one of which was about the Bermuda Triangle. Of course the Travel Guide, Ian Page, gave this presentation AFTER we sailed passed Bermuda! LOL.
We had mostly cloudy weather across the ocean with some drizzle and wind. The swells were quite large on April 17th which caused the ship to rock more than usual. People were being affected but my DH and I were OK. We went walking on the promenade deck to do some laps but I was sidetracked by the awesome waves. I took a few photos and videos of the ship crashing into the swells and sending up huge sprays of water. There was some rain this day but mild. Ship was going UP and DOWN. The Captain announced that he slowed the ship down to make it a little more comfortable for everyone. The next day the seas calmed down somewhat but was still cloudy and rainy.
From time to time, I could see whales shooting their spouts of water up into the air. That was exciting to see.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meals in the diningroom. We ate most of our dinners here at the late seating of 8:00 p.m. One night we had Beef Wellington and French onion soup. So delicious. Our Indonesian servers were so pleasant and always hopping -- serving with a smile constantly.
Not sure I care for the ceiling decoration. Just one of those things -- I would rather see pretty light fixtures than wooden inverted triangle type structures.
We had our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet on our first day of sailing. There were quite a few people and we had a nice time meeting everyone and exchanging our gifts that we brought as an ice breaker game. We planned a few activities throughout the cruise such as a slot pull and a cabin crawl. It was fun seeing some of the other cabins on different decks. Quite a few of us participated in that.
I always love the live orchids on each table in this area. A very elegant touch. Food was varied and very good. It always seems to be a bit congested in this area though when it`s meal time. People coming and going in every direction with plates of food can get very frustrating at times.
Loved this restaurant. The ambiance and decor are very lovely with spectacular views out over the water. This restaurant is located on the 11th deck featuring Pan Asian cuisine. The service and the food presentation were very lovely. We had a window seat with the amazing ocean view. We made our reservations a few days in advance for 6:30 seating. If you wish a good time then I would recommend making all of your specialty restaurant reservations a few days in advance. We never were able to get a reservation for the Canaletto as we left it too long into the cruise to make the reservation.
A few days into our cruise, a Code Red (or whatever it`s called) was announced due to the numbers of people coming down with a gastrointestinal illness. That was discouraging as from now on all crew had to serve in the Lido buffet and at all dinner buffets. All the nice hand towels were taken out of the public washrooms, etc. We were advised to wash our hands more diligently. Fortunately, my DH and I never did catch it.
We had our reservation at 6:30 p.m. and we were seated near the windows. The atmosphere is lovely. I had lobster bisque, lobster tail with whipped potatoes, asparagus and for dessert baked Alaska which was flambed next to our table. It was delicious. All the flavours were perfect. My DH ordered a shrimp cocktail and the shrimp were enormous. We found the service to be wonderful -- not too slow or too fast.
Sunday, April 22nd -- Medeira Island
The weather was absolutely perfect for our day here and all the rest of the cruise. The sky was clear blue and very nice temperatures this day. The town of Funchal looks very quaint as it is built up the sides of the hills and all buildings are white with orange tile roofs. Every square inch of land is planted in gardens it seems. Hills are terraced as well with all sorts of things growing.
We had arranged with another couple to take a taxi on a private tour. The driver took us up narrow cobbled streets up and around hills going higher and higher. The views were stunning! We could see the clear smooth blue ocean in the distance with our ship anchored at the dock so far below. Beautiful.
The higher we went, the higher and more rugged the mountains became. We drove to the top of the hill where the cable ride ends and then we watched the Portugese men running down the hill with riders in the wicker basket toboggan. This is a very old tradition dating back over 100 years. They go flying down the street. Very funny to watch.
We then were taken into the higher mountains along switchback turns and steep cliffs. WOW -- gorgeous views and scenery. I would have been nervous except the roads are very good with good guide rails and our driver was excellent as well. Only trouble was that there were many buses trying to navigate the switchback turns around the mountainside which caused a bottleneck of traffic from time to time. A few times we even had to backup to allow the buses to get around. I would NOT like to be in the buses for that excursion. Too scary.
We were taken to a lookout point where there were stores and a coffee shop. Their coffee was delicious. We also tried their chestnut biscuit or roll. Very good. There are many handmade items here to purchase. I bought a handmade sweater for my mother for 25 euros. You can buy Medeira wine here as well.
We made our way back to downtown Funchal and we were dropped off at the flower displays. Medeira Island was celebrating the Flower Festival this day which was a bonus for us !! Lovely long mats of flower blooms arranged in beautiful patterns were on display in the parkway areas and booths filled with flowers that could be purchased. So beautiful. There were many flowers I had never seen before. At every turn there was a photo op. At 4:00 they were having their flower parade but alas we had to be back onboard the ship by 4:30 p.m. Fortunately we were able to sit on our balcony and watch the festivities from afar with our binoculars. There were tons of people lining the roadway. We could hear the music and the children singing.
Ship blasted her horn a few times as we pulled away and we were away at 5:15 p.m.
The weather was absolutely perfect from here on in with calm seas and clear blue skies. Temps. were in mid 20`s C. No rain at all.
Malaga, Spain -- April 24th
We sailed along the coast of Spain early this morning. We ordered room service for breakfast. I can see mountains in the distance. Just saw my first castle !! As we approached the port there was a castle up the slope and in good shape -- not in ruins. I was surprised though at the urban sprawl and unending apartment buildings along the coast.
My DH and I had the morning to ourselves but then had a ship`s excursion booked for a countryside tour to a little town in the mountains called Mijas at 1:00 p.m.
We were one of the first off the ship after the all clear to disembark. We walked and walked and made our way to the castle at the top of the mountain which overlooks Malaga. Unfortunately we were told by the man in the tourist information booth to just walk up that roadway there and it would be about 15 min. So my DH and I set off all excited to see our first castle up close and personal.
But by about half an hour and unending curves in the road which was going higher and higher and becoming steeper and steeper, we were beginning to lose our enthusiasm and stamina !! The views were breathtaking though.... literally. LOL. If we had known, we never would have started out but by this time I said we can`t quit now we must be there soon. A young girl went ``jogging`` by us and I asked her how much further. She said we were ``almost there``. FINALLY we made it to the top and paid our way in. Price was 2.7 euros total. I thought my legs were falling off at this point. We wandered in to see the ruins of the castle at the top of the mountain and marvelled at the views.
At some point my DH wandered off and we were lost from each other for awhile. I was not very happy about that but finally I found my way to the entrance and finally found my DH. We had our wires crossed. He thought he had told me to meet him here and I know that he did not. So we had our moment of disagreement. We then realized that there was a road here at the back of the mountain where the buses and taxis drove up to the entrance. Oh dear. Now we know. At least we got our exercise for the week. Why didn't the man tell us this down below?
We took the public bus down to the main area of town. The streets are so lovely with WIDE sidewalks lined with tropical trees and gardens. There are many shops and cafes along winding narrow side streets which are bustling with well dressed people. I am loving Spain.
We made our way to the massive cathedral on a square with outside cafes. We stopped to have a break and a sandwich with a delicious cold beer and marvelled at the architecture. We didn`t have any more time to explore Malaga on our own as we had to make our way back to the port area for our bus trip at 1:00 p.m. We then walked up a huge red carpet covered street! What is this about we wondered. We realized afterwards that today was their Film Festival !! WOW. If I had known, I would have been watching for celebrities! It was quite crowded with many people along this street as there was no traffic allowed. Not sure if this is every day or it was because of the Film Festival.
We began our bus excursion to the town of Mijas at 1:00 p.m. We had a very nice and knowledgeable guide who told us many things about their area and country as we drove up into the mountains. The mountains are very high and rugged and it is quite arid here. We arrived about 1:40 p.m. and we had our alone time if we so chose, to wander around and enjoy the town. There are many shops and outside cafes and restaurants. You can take horse and buggy rides or donkey taxis. We took a nice horse and buggy ride. I was not happy about the donkey taxis. I feel that the donkeys were being exploited. They were standing for hours and no water pails were evident anywhere in the immediate area. They were tied so that they couldn`t even put their heads down all the way. I would never rent one of these. I really felt sorry for them. They were hot and looked very miserable. One of them was even crying or wailing like a baby.
April 25th - Alicante, Spain
Another gorgeous morning. 8:00 a.m. and water is like glass. Arriving at Alicante at 9:00 a.m. Temperatures reached 25 C this day. We were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. We took the shuttle to the uptown area. Wow....so beautiful!! The marina is full of yachts, sailboats, and there is a huge replica of a Spanish galleon docked here. We wandered around on the gorgeous walkway made of millions of bits of marble which came from the ancient wall that had surrounded the city at one time. Castle St. Barbara is perched on the high hill overlooking the city. Palm tree lined promenade is so amazing with lots of greenery and flowers. Shops and cafes abound.
We walked to the old part of town called the Santa Cruz area. These are traffic-free small streets that go up and down the hills with many marble steps. The small streets are lined with many pots of flowers and geraniums in front of private small homes. This area is next to the ancient wall around the castle. We walked up to the wall and saw the wonderful views until we decided we weren`t going any higher. There are so many quaint narrow streets everywhere. Every turn is another photo op.
We walked by the Basilica de Santa Maria which was originally a Muslim mosque then became a Christian church. This church was built on the medieval wall to improve the defense. There are cannonball holes in the stone and we saw TWO cannonballs still stuck in the wall from the 1691 bombardment. Very interesting!!
We walked through the old part as well as the new. I had tapas and beer in the square in front of the old Town Hall. So lovely. We also went inside the Cathedral of San Nicolas where a Mass was being held. Very beautiful. Organ was amazing as well as the alters, etc. We watched for a few minutes.
We stopped here and there for a cerveza and people watched. Every street was a picture waiting to be taken. Back to shuttle and onboard by 4:00 p.m.
Tonight was another formal night and the dessert extravaganza! Wow - what a sight to behold. This was held at 10:00 p.m. in the Lido pool area midship. There were tables and tables of amazing desserts that are like works of art. We have late dinner seating so needless to say I was too full to enjoy much of it. They even had a cabinet full of beautifully decorated candied apples!
Last Cruise Day:
Well, the usual flurry of activity during our last cruise day. Packing that night and setting out luggage by 1:00 a.m. with our coloured tags on the suitcases. Where did the time go? But I am excited about seeing Rome. My DH and I have booked a hotel for 3 nights in Rome and then flying back via Newark, N.J. and on to FLL where our vehicle is parked. We said our goodbyes to the Cruise Critic friends and our servers in the D.R. and our cabin stewards. Took lots of pics. They had the Baked Alaska parade. It was fun and done a little differently.
April 27th - Rome, Italy
Disembarkation went so smoothly. 6:50 a.m. we docked at Civitavecchia. Sky is still clear and blue with not a cloud. Very calm seas last night. We were off the ship by 8:15 a.m. We found our luggage in the warehouse quickly and outside within minutes waiting for our driver that the hotel arranged for us. He was there within 10 minutes with a black Mercedes!! Nice. The driver was easy to look at as well - young and dark and so handsome. He had lovely long black eyelashes. My husband was even willing to agree that he was definitely attractive. He couldn`t speak English very well though.
Away we went and after driving about 1 hour and 20 minutes we were at our hotel north of the Termini Station - Hotel Gambrinus. Very nice area. I was so happy as I just couldn`t be sure since I did all my research on line, you never know until you see it with your own eyes. The hotel was quaint - not too big and had a lovely white marble lobby. Since our room wasn`t ready, they allowed us to store our luggage and away we went to sightsee. We didn`t return until 7:00 p.m. and our luggage was waiting for us in our room on the second floor.
The room was spacious with very high ceilings, air flow was always moving so it never became hot in the room. We had a flat screen TV, frig, free internet, king bed, although it was a bit firm for me, coffee maker with complimentary water. The bathroom was large with a rain head shower. The room was very quiet.
Every morning they served a beautiful hot buffet breakfast in a dining area below the main level. There was a wonderful selection of items.
Rome is WOW !! This a quick overview or this will become a novel. It was overwhelming at first but once you become "Romanized", you start to settle into the hustle and bustle, noise and commotion. Thankfully our hotel was in a quiet area away from the main attractions so it was our little quiet oasis to come back to after a long and tiring day.
We saw many sights by walking such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Palentine Hill, the Forum, the Pantheon, National Museum, etc. I also had pre-booked our Vatican visit online so the next day we had the front desk call us a taxi to take us there in the morning. Beautiful beyond words! So much to see and do, it`s difficult to take it all in but we saw as much as we could in three days. In fact I did too much walking as my back seized up on me the last morning just when we were to fly. I was sure wishing I had a bathtub to soak in. It took a few days to work itself out and fortunately it didn`t hurt while sitting because we had the long plane flight ahead of us.
We loved the ancient Roman ruins, the gorgeous Basilicas and cathedrals, the quaint narrow hilly cobblestone streets lined with Victorian buildings. We also enjoyed the little eateries and pizzerias. Loved the cafe con leche. Loved the gelato. Italian people are very well dressed and very friendly (at least with those whom we met).
We hope to return as we did toss our coins into the fountain! There were just so many people though to deal with around the main sites. This made it very exhausting. The traffic too is very congested but everyone seems to know what they are doing. Organized chaos!
Stay away from the Hop On Hop Off line called GreenLine. They were awful. The other buses came and went before they came along so you were left standing in the sun for way too long. The earphones didn`t work right so I could not hear some of the guided talk about the sights we were passing by. We were totally ripped off as we used it only once. They charged us 44 euros which was far too much. The red line seemed to have many more buses.
The Roma Pass was well worth it. We bought ours at Termini Station. Use this for your first 3 attractions and for transit. Well worth it.
We loved the fresh clean cold water fountains that are everywhere in Rome.
Fill up your water bottles. They are always flowing.
Our hotel desk staff arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 6:00 a.m. to take us to the airport and it was right on time.
We loved the Eurodam. We did not notice constant undue vibrations. Just once in awhile when we were in bed we did feel vibrating of the ship at night but thankfully it did stop after a bit. It was bothering us but then it went away. This was just from time to time for some reason.
I was disappointed that they don`t have self-service laundry. You have to send your clothes out to be cleaned. I did this once and the items came back the next day nicely pressed.
We had no issues with the food except the lobster night in the D.R. we found the beef to not be the best. Other than that, we loved the selections and the soups especially.
Of course the service is wonderful. The staff bend over backwards to please and always with a smile. We would definitely sail on the Eurodam again.