My wife and I had a very nice week celebrating the holidays with our 20 and 22 year old sons. We've cruised 9 times together as a family and have always had a good time, believing that the time together is much more important than the positives and negatives that a line or ship provide. That said, we've had wonderful experiences consistently with Celebrity and Princess, but tried Holland America and the Eurodam because it fit our timetable and had a good itinerary. We booked the cruise about 8 weeks before Christmas and booked two cabins, but not specific staterooms. A week before sailing we were assigned two cabins directly next to each other, which worked out perfectly.
Overall, Holland America and the Eurodam are not our favorite cruising experience. Embarkation took a bit longer than we've experienced in the past, but were on board by noon and our staterooms were available immediately, which was a nice surprise. We found the ship to be immaculately clean overall. Our stateroom was as expected, with a nice-sized balcony and plenty of storage room. However, for the first time, we never saw or met our cabin steward. And while he did a satisfactory job cleaning, our room was never cleaned before 1 PM. After being used to the cabin cleaned while out for breakfast and having positive interaction with the stewards on other ships, this seemed a bit unusual.
My wife's key card simply stopped working the first day. After several trips to the front office, and being treated extremely well, she simply gave up trying to get her key fixed, as we were together the entire time, anyway. But when the attendant at the coffee bar yelled at her because her card didn't work, we finally took both our cards to the desk to get them reset. The young woman who helped us could not have been any nicer, apologetic, or more helpful. She even insisted on going to our room and trying the keys herself before giving them to us. My wife later received a very nice note from her with a cookbook as a way to thank us for dealing with the inconvenience. Really a class act and I'm sorry I don't recall her name.
We found the food in the main dining room to be surprisingly good. The menus were varied and the presentation was consistently very nice. We had anytime dining and never had an issue getting a table for 4 within a half hour of our preferred time. There was a steward in the Lido in the morning who was always very helpful in making reservations. It seemed those who did not have reservations had no issue being seated promptly. We took the kitchen tour and everything appeared spotless. We did miss a wider "always available" section of the menu that appears on Celebrity and Princess, but found what was served to be of similar quality. Having a different server each night was never an issue. A dinner at Tamarind was just OK, with my son's duck entree bordering on inedible (severely overcooked and dry). Service at Tamarind was outstanding, with our waitress addressing us by name for the rest of the cruise when she saw us at breakfast. We found the Lido food less satisfying. The set up is awkward, with not enough space between the serving stations and the tables, especially with the huge number of walkers and carts blocking the path. One dinner at the Lido buffet, after a long day ashore was simply awful...poor quality and selection. We also attended the Indonesian tea one day and while advertised as a cultural experience, the service was slow, disinterested, and the promised music never materialized. Room service breakfast was the best we've ever experience on a ship with the quality significantly beating the Lido. I was particularly pleased to have a room service breakfast on our morning of disembarkation.
The most disappointing part of the culinary experience was the ridiculous alcohol policy. HA strictly enforces a 21 year old drinking age, but does this oddly. For example, we ordered wine with dinner...we have wine with dinner as a family often and have done so on cruises for years. Yet, the steward said that one person is not allowed to have any wine because they are under 21 and he looked it up in the computer. Now, we were there as a family, trying to enjoy the experience, yet we were not able to enjoy a bottle of wine together, or toast the holidays with champagne, as we have traditionally done for years. When ordering a bucket of beer at the pool, the waitress made a point of indicating that we were traveling with a "minor" and he could not have any beer! Really? Interesting that every port visited had a drinking age of 18, and HA seemed to have no issue stocking the minibar with lots of alcohol, nor allowing 18 year olds to gamble in the casino. This simply makes no sense and is handled by the staff with zero tact.
In general, the entertainment was extremely poor. The comedian was pathetically bad, the production shows skewed VERY old and were consistently poorly performed. The magician tried, but the show was boring and uninspired. However, the highlight of the entertainment was the solo singer, Jamie. He had an outstanding voice that we enjoyed at the pool and the Crow's Nest in the evening. This young man has quite a talent that we never tired of listening to.
One aspect of the Eurodam that we really disliked was the inane announcements that were constantly coming over the loudspeaker, even in the middle of dinner! The cruise director, JC, was truly annoying, clearly in love with his own voice. He was not funny, and came across as an arrogant jerk...worst cruise director we've ever encountered. He led trivia, which we generally enjoy, but he made it like fingernails on the chalkboard. Contrast that with the lovely young woman who did the travel trivia (Kelly, I believe), who made it fun and a very enjoyable experience.
We never had an issue finding a space to play cards, or a lounge chair to enjoy the sun, especially if we were willing to go to the top deck. We enjoyed the Crow's nest combination bar, library, coffee shop, in particular. But, we found the ship to be strangely set up, with too many "pinch" points where there were always crowds or awkward traffic patterns. They seemed to use some good venues sparingly like the Queen's lounge, but stuffed the art auction into a hallway and tiny bar. The main pool area seemed extremely tight with the cabanas awkwardly places and restricting traffic flow. Many nice rooms were unusable because of reeking cigarette smoke. We would have love to spend time in the sports bar, but it was impossible to breathe there. Speaking of smoking, HA allows smoking on balconies, which often made being on one's balcony unbearable.
The ports were very enjoyable. It was our first time on Grand Turk, and we loved the beach and proximity to the pier. Our captain needed to approach the dock several times due to high winds, but eventually was able to dock. Well done. San Juan is a great place to walk around. St. Thomas was a bit disappointing, with a last minute announcement that we would tender to port, despite docking indicated on the itinerary. And Half Moon Cay was simply outstanding...great beach, great BBQ lunch, and a very organized tendering service.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We were off the ship by 7:15, carrying our own bags, and through customs and to the airport by 7:40 and able to catch an earlier flight.
So, overall, we had a great time because we got to spend time together as a family. The Eurodam contributed positively and negatively, but in the end, we had a great time getting away in a beautiful, sunny location.