A unique itinerary only available during the fall repositioning. Sixteen very enjoyable days on a beautiful ship. We spent several days in Amsterdam before boarding the ship which made for a very memorable vacation. If I could do it all over again I would have spent a week in The Netherlands because there was so much to see and do, but I can only be away from work for so long. I had a great time, as did the other three members of our party so read this review from the point of view of a very satisfied customer!
The North Atlantic this time of year is very unpredictable and you should expect the unexpected. As our guide in Iceland said, "You've been here two days and experienced all four of our seasons!" Indeed...we had sun and mild temperatures the first day; wind, rain, cold, and even sleet towards the end there.
We missed two ports of call due to bad weather (Shetland Islands and St. Johns), but we had extended stays in both Iceland and Nova Scotia (Halifax) and the most beautiful day cruising Greenland's Prins Christians Sund.
The Ship and Accommodations
This was our first trip on Holland America and we were generally pleased. The Eurodam is one of HAL's newer and, evidently, larger ships. We were very pleased with our cabin which was a standard Veranda Stateroom. The bathroom had a tub which, for us, was unnecessary but some people really liked having it and it made the bathroom larger. The closet storage was somewhat limited but adequate for our needs. The veranda was big enough for two chairs and a small table.
The bed was excellent (Tempur Pedic, or similar I think) and the linens were very comfortable. Our stewards were very good yet unobtrusive. We often book inside cabins and spend the money we save on shore excursions or on pre-cruise activities so we were pleased when our very competent travel agency got our cabins upgraded to this class. There is a lot to see outside during this cruise...everything from the initial passage through the North Sea Canal to our early morning arrival in New York (Statue of Liberty off the port side) as well as the fjords of Norway and Prins Christian Sund - so we made good use of the upgrade.
The ship is very clean and well run. The decor is elegant and reflects the pride Holland America understandably has in her Dutch and Indonesian heritage. The artwork and objects are interesting, tasteful and of high quality and the color schemes are contemporary. The midship pool has a retractable roof which was very useful during this cruise - they had occasion to have it open or closed in every possible configuration over the 16 days.
The Explorations Lounge was a very nice space and had the best library at sea that I know of, as well as all kinds of games and other activities. It was a very active part of the ship. The central atrium was classy but not the hub of activity it might be on other ships. The gym was good sized and had top of the line equipment. The promenade deck was nice (3 times around for a mile!) and the open deck areas were well attended.
How to begin...
We usually like full service and on other cruises we have eaten mostly in the main dining rooms for all three meals. We began this way on the Eurodam but we changed it up rather quickly.
The Lido Buffet is probably the best buffet I have encountered on a cruise ship. We ended up eating both breakfast and lunch at the Lido, as, after a few days, we found the menu in the Rembrandt Room for these two meals limited and the service slow. Highlights for the Lido breakfast included the Eggs Benedict line - about a dozen varieties available - and the fresh fruit. Simply the best fresh fruit anywhere. Doesn't anyone serve ripe melons anymore? Well, they do on the Eurodam. I had forgotten what a ripe cantaloupe tasted like. The buffet was exceptionally clean and the food you picked out was served to you which I thought was a good way to do it (for a variety of reasons).
Lunch at the Lido was different every day. They always had one station that featured a different cuisine. Dutch, German, Chinese, Japanese, etc The last sea day it was Indonesian and it was really really good. They also had a sandwich/panini bar, a pasta bar where they made different pastas to order, and a taco bar. Out by the pool they had pizza and calzone, as well as hamburgers and hotdogs.
Dinners were generally excellent if not somewhat uneven. We ate most evening meals in the Rembrandt room. The variety was, for 16 days, pretty good. Some of the offerings were superb. Most were good. There was the occasional misfire.
There were Chef's Specialities most evenings. They are marked on the menu and an explanation is provided. I tried a lot of them and had some good experiences.
The "available every night" menu was somewhat limited. The steak - New York Stiploin - was spotty. Some of them were full of fat and gristle. I had it once and it wasn't good. One member of our party tried the steak on a couple different occasions and it was the same. Maybe they were sold a bad batch in Amsterdam, I don't know. I would have stopped serving them.
There were always a variety of different soups and appetizers available. Some desserts were great. Others were more ordinary, but there was always a good choice. Be advised some of the portions were rather dainty...though nobody left hungry, of course. You are meant to order from each section of the menu.
Tamarind: The Asian-themed specialty restaurant was very very good. Excellent food and superb service. We ate there once for dinner for an extra charge (a reasonable $15, I think) and once for lunch (no charge). The lunch was a fixed dim sum menu which I found to be excellent but dim sum is not for everyone. Everyone, however, enjoyed the dinner. I had the lamb and was 100% satisfied with it. Other members of our party had the red curry, the filet, and the shrimp. They all raved.
I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on this part. Overall about the same as most cruises I've been on. They had a string quartet that was very popular. I liked the jazz pianist - very talented - relegated to the central atrium, however. There was a folk guitarist that sang out by the pool. The "house band" the HALCats were good. The four production singers were strong. The production numbers fairly standard but well done. Good stage, lighting, sound, and direction. The special guests mostly good. The comedy...well...I'm sure someone else will write about the stripping juggler. The best act was Elliot Finkel - he had some star power.
Cruise Director JC was not the strongest presence. He seemed likeable and all, but I never saw him aside from introducing the evenings entertainment.
I didn't get bored but I was travelling with three other people. They could probably add a few more activities Here are a couple of things I did:
Techspert Jess - I went to a couple classes on photo editing and organizing. Good information for a basic skill level. Her classes were almost always full so get there 15 minutes early on sea days if you want a laptop. She had about 4 or 5 different classes a day so if you miss one it will repeat.
Lifestylist - Can't remember who the first one was. Lance joined us at some point. I wanted to do more yoga but it just didn't work out this time. I did a couple of the stretching/relaxation practices which were professional. He had a full contingent for his water exercises and people seemed to be having a good time. Something for every skill level.
Lecture series - thankfully replayed on the ship channel. I found the lecturer interesting. He did a series on globalization and the BRIC countries.
Commentary while cruising Norway and Greenland - good. I was running between the bow (deck 5) and other parts of the ship on the Prins Christian day because it was so beautiful that day I wanted to really take advantage of it so I heard a lot of the commentary. I judge this by the commentary we had cruising Glacier Bay on Princess as the standard. This was not as good as that was, but ok.
Spa - I did the unlimited aquatherapy pass - $199 for the 16 days. I liked the special pool a great deal. You also get some other stuff that's enjoyable as well - aromatherapy room, etc etc. It's $14 for a single day pass so if I had it to do all over again I would just buy a few day passes, and then spend the rest of the money on the yoga classes, which were $12 each. So for the same money I could have had 8 days in the pool and 6 yoga classes. That's enough, I think.
There was a culinary institute but I didn't have a chance to attend any events or demonstrations. I think it was popular.
TV - for some reason we only got one rather annoying "news" station. Maybe it was the ship's position. They should add CNBC so we can get business news and a couple variety channels. On the plus side, they had a DVD library with over 1000 titles you can check out for free.
On the negative side, the casino was rather small, and the machines were somewhat dated. They don't have live poker but they do have a machine that people sit around. It was smoky in there as well. Not many passengers smoked, and those that did smoked in the Casino, I guess. The tournaments were a bit lackluster.
They could add a few more activities for sea days.
About 40% from the US. Many from Canada. So over half North American. There were many from Germany, Holland, and the UK as well as Australia, New Zealand, France, and Spain.
I would say half were north of age 60 - with the 70s perhaps the most represented age group. But there were all kinds of people. Few young couples - if you want to be around younger couples you probably don't want to choose this particular cruise. Very few children, as it is the start of the school year in most places. That was fine with me! Plenty of people in their 40s and 50s. Gay couples. Married couples. Single travellers. People traveling with friends.
I am not going to spend too much time on this. There were 3 formal nights. You will want a dark blue or black suit and tie if not a tux for these evenings. About half the men in the dining room wore a tux. Women wore evening dresses or, for some, formal pants suits. Other nights are resort casual. Men can probably feel comfortable in khaki pants and a button down shirt or polo. Throw a jacket on if you want but it's not necessary. For women it was any non-jeans outfit. I took a dark suit and ties for the formal nights and a sports coat and dress shirts for the other nights. I did not need the sport coat.
Weather is uncertain so you need to be prepared for anything. I had rain gear which was handy. I had one heavier sweatshirt type shirt and I could have used one or two more. I did not need the shorts I packed. I took too many dress shirts. I would say take ? less than you think you need and then make use of the laundry service. It was very reasonably priced. I was dragging around too much luggage. Next time I will take less.
Good walking shoes are a must. Especially if you are going to be in Amsterdam before the cruise. Cobble stone streets, some light walking or hiking on expeditions. Don't forget good socks. One of our party wore deck shoes and synthetic fiber socks and got blisters and sore feet!
I will review these separately. Highlights include Halifax Top 10, and Iceland Golden Circle and Horse Show.
Odds and Ends
Reasonable airfare from North America - Icelandair. Excellent service from a low cost carrier. They don't feed you for free...but for 5 euros they have a good assortment of snacks and salads.
Hotel in Amsterdam - Hotel Amsterdam de Roode Leeuw. See the reviews at Trip Advisor as they are generally accurate. If you are walking and touring the location can't be beat. Clean. Almost completely renovated. Reasonable. If you need special accommodations or luxury you might want to try something else.
Travel agent - Cabinclearancestore.com - a division of Cruise Brothers. Excellent service and prices. We were well taken care of.
No unlimited soda card. I typically buy this package. I missed not having it.
The wifi was a bit slow and somewhat pricey. If you think you are going to use it, buy a package the first day and get the bonus minutes. I found it took about 30 minutes to update all my investment and news apps at the close of the market each day. If you don't buy a package expect to pay about $.55 a minute.