I travelled with my husband on Eurodam to the Baltic Seas in May 2012. This is our 2nd time to take HAL, after the Alaskan cruise last July. The holiday was wonderful. The "external" factors were very favourable, as the weather was perfect with plenty of sunshine and the sea condition was very calm. When we cruised from Copenhagen to Warnemunde, the sea condition was so smooth like cruising on a lake.
About the ship, it is in good condition (except the bathroom of our stateroom, to be discussed later), probably due to recent refurbishment. The public rooms are always clean. My eye-ball 'guesstimate' is that most of the passengers are senior citizens.
The unique activity of Eurodam (and Holland America as a whole) is the daily catholic mass. We attended the mass almost daily and were delighted to find out that there were at least 50 participants on each day. Believe it or not, the number of participants was more than some of the trivia activities.
We enjoyed the 'enrichment' programmes, including cooking class, computer classes and info session for each port. There were also sessions introducing the history of the region such as the Viking story, evolution of Russia.
Most of the activities take place indoor (in Decks 2 and 3). Another popular place to hang around is the Explorer's Lounge in Deck 11. It was very crowded on sea days.
There are 2 swimming pools -- one outdoor and one under a convertible roof. They are not big but good enough to swim. The surrounding hot tub and Jacuzzi are the best place to relax, especially after walking the whole day.
We gave a big thumb up for the service. The crew are very helpful and friendly. You can see that they keep the ship very clean. In many occasions, they could greet you by name (note: there were about 2,000 passengers on the ship). I also tried their spa (massage and facial). Honestly, it was not too impressive. You can live without it.
Port & Shore excursions
In general, we found that the excursions offered by HAL are overpriced. If you are independent travellers, you'd better off to explore the ports on your own. We did not join any shore excursions offered by the cruise line, but explored almost all ports by ourselves. It was very manageable, though the ship did not provide complete info about the travel options at the port. It seems to me that they intentionally did not provide info about the hop-on and off bus (which was available right at the pier). We indeed found the hop-on and off bus was an excellent option for independent travellers to explore the place.
We stayed in a room with balcony at ship aft. Initially, I was concerned about the location of the room, as it was opposite to the steward service room. So, it could be quite noisy when the stewards started the day. However, it turned out that it was very quiet. And, it is a matter of fact that we usually woke up early in each port. By the way, there were 4 time changes during the cruise (2 forwards and 2 backwards). The 'forward' ones were quite challenging, as they happened before we arrived St. Petersburg (1 hour each of the 2 nights). So, we lost 2 hours of sleep altogether just before the energy-demanding visit in St. Petersburg.
Talking about the stateroom, the condition of the bath tub was disturbing. Obviously, the bath tub was broken and repaired. Unfortunately, the repairs were not nicely done and the bath tub looked quite deteriorated. Otherwise, the bathroom as a whole was clean and good.
We had meals half of time at Lido (free buffet style) and half of the time at the formal dining room (Rembrandt). In terms of cuisine variety, you have a lot of choices. You will be amazed by the breakfast menu at Rembrandt. At Lido, they offer different international cuisine each day, ranging from Chinese to Indonesian food. We found that food a bit too salty (especially the smoked salmon). We also feel that improvement is needed for the desserts in terms of taste (far too sweet for some items). We dined at Tamarind for dinner (extra US$15 per person), hoping to try their pan-Asian dishes. Unfortunately, it was not too impressive. The sashimi and sushi were not fresh and the portion was quite small. Yet, the ambiance was very nice.
Out of so many things about the cruise, entertainment in the ship was a disappointment to us. We only liked the 'guest' performers such as the magician, the opera singer, the talented pianist and the 'three-leg' man. The 'home-based' HAL shows were quite boring. We left the theatre 15 minutes after the show. Somehow, the songs and dancing were not too appealing to us. They also did not put up show every night. During the overnight stay in St. Petersburg, they only showed movie. Well, I could understand such arrangement, as not much audience was expected (the guests were either too tired or they were still enjoying the evening activities in town).
Tender service and disembarkation
We are in general happy with HAL, except for its tender service at Nynashamn. It is the only port requiring tender. The ship gave priority to those passengers booked with the cruise line excursion. For the rest of us, we waited for an hour before we could reach the shore. It appears to us that it was a 'penalty' for those people who did not book HAL excursion. For disembarkation, it was very smooth and easy. No hassle at all. We could even enjoy our breakfast at the dining room before leaving the ship. I think it was a nice treat.