Firstly, the explanation for calling the Eurodam "Queen Victoria's half sister'. We shadowed (stalked ) the Queen Victoria from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg. The two ships look so alike that JC ( our cruise director) pointed out they were built in the same shipyard and are identical dimensionally. That may explain the only thing we didn't like about the Eurodam - the strange mini atrium of 2 Â½ stories instead of the more common full height open space. That aside, the ship was beautiful. Highlights were the crows nest bar and library/internet cafe on the top deck. All other facilities were standard for a 2 year old cruise ship. Decor was muted but classy and our verandah stateroom was above average and included a ( tiny) bath. The two swimming pools were good although we would have preferred a water slide to the cabanas that no one used.
We have taken 9 cruises in 8 years. Nile cruise (1 ) Carnival (2 ) Princess ( 1) Royal Caribbean (3) Celebrity Equinox ( 1) and now Holland America. We rate Celebrity Equinox first closely followed by Eurodam. The best feature of both these ships compared to the rest is the food in the cafeteria - called Lido on Eurodam and Wind Jammer on Royal Caribbean. The Wind Jammer food is barely better than boarding school whereas the Lido had many delicious dishes including hand made sushi and other Asian food.
The itinerary was hectic - 8 shore days in 10 nights. The ports had 6 different languages - Copenhagen (Denmark), Tallinn ( Estonia) St Petersburg (Russia), Helsinki ( Finland), Stockholm ( Sweden) Warnnemunde and Kiel (Germany). We did 3 shore excursion in 2 days at St Petersburg including an evening visit to the Hermitage opened just for our cruise. Holland America chartered a private train from Warnnemunde to Berlin. That was 6 hours plus the 6 hours in Berlin. We only had 14 days holiday and spent 48 hours flying between Melbourne ( Australia) and Copenhagen. We got home 8 PM Sunday and were at work 9 AM Monday. Too much really but it didn't detract from the ship or the wonderful people we met. Our fixed evening late meal included a family of 4 from Vancouver and a father - daughter from Ukraine via New York. Every night was a dinner party. We also teamed up with a pair of Beach Boys era California Girls for some shore excursions and became friends with a Canadian-Indian mother/daughter. The Beach Boys were right about California Girls and the Beatles were right about Ukraine girls. However, apart from the pending rivalry between Australia and Canada in the Olympics we would have to concede that Canadian girls are pretty good too. One of the great things about cruising is making new friends from all over the world and Eurodam was particularly good in this respect.
Of the ports we visited, Stockholm and the cruise through the Archipelago was the highlight. We used a hop on hop off ferry ticket for about 10 euro and it was great - much better than the hop on hop off buses. We also loved Tallinn and the humour of the St Petersburg guides -- "Summer in St Petersburg is 9 months of anticipation and 3 months of disappointment" for example. The dark side of St Petersburg -- 1 million people starved to death during the siege of Leningrad during the war for example -- was always there but the humour was a compensation.
No Cruise Review would be complete without mentioning the crew. The Dining Room and stateroom crew were mostly from Bali ( Indonesia) and The Philippines. As usual, they were hardworking, polite, attentive and amazingly good at remembering names. In this case for us as Australians whose daughters frequent Bali they were neighbours. The crew show was fun and the musicians and guest comedian were great. It might have been good to have a pool side Rock band such as provided by Royal Caribbean and Carnival; but the weather wasn't really conducive to that.
The other positive thing about Holland America was that there was less obvious attempts to extract money than, say, Royal Caribbean. HAL, for example, allows you to bring your own wine on board and the Cappuccinos were only $2.10. All else being equal, we would choose HAL or Celebrity if the itinerary and the timetable suited.