Eurodam Cruise Review by bottomfeeder: New to HAL, new to Baltics, will be back to both!
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New to HAL, new to Baltics, will be back to both!
As background for the opinions I will soon express, let me tell you a bit about me. I'm a solo cruiser who has mainly cruised on Celebrity in the past but I've been branching out--I spend lots of time searching for good fares on balcony cabins and if I'm on a cruise, you can guarantee that I got it at a bargain price. So yes, I'm cheap. I don't spend a lot of money on things onboard either, as you might expect.
It seemed that Holland America was having trouble filling cabins for this cruise, perhaps because it was a bit early in the season and certainly because of the problems with Russia earlier this year. I booked it just after final payment date as a guarantee balcony cabin, and received a $50 beverage card as a perk. I've booked guarantee rooms before with Celebrity and always had my cabin assignment within 10 days of booking, but I didn't get my cabin assignment for this cruise until the night before boarding. It was a perfectly fine cabin, though, and was worth the More wait.
I'd never been to ANY of the ports on this cruise so the itinerary was what most attracted me. I was a little leery of HAL because of its reputation as serving an elderly demographic. (I'm in my early 50s.) Well, perhaps the average age was a bit older than on my previous cruises, but there were plenty of people my age and younger.
I flew into Copenhagen the evening before the cruise started, bought myself a 24-hour public transportation pass and took the train to the stop for my hotel, the CabInn Metro. The hotel was a few blocks from the train station, in an area of what appeared to mostly be large apartment buildings. There was a shopping mall on the way between the station and the hotel. I went to the mall to buy something for dinner from the grocery store there. (I had some very interesting drinkable yogurt that I had read about in Rick Steves' Baltic Cruise Ports book--I'm sure it wasn't much healthier than drinking a milkshake but it FELT healthier! It was delicious. I also bought some smorrebrod and a package of some odd kind of chips. My dinner totaled around $8 US.) The hotel was interesting--the room was VERY tiny, and had very narrow bunk beds. In the bathroom, the shower was a showerhead in the ceiling, and a curtain on a round rod, and a small round metal threshold to keep most of the water in the shower, since the shower took up most of the floor space in the bathroom! I was expecting this based on what I read on TripAdvisor and in Rick Steves' book, and it worked out just fine for me. The bed was comfy (I chose the bottom bunk!) and the free wireless worked fine. There was a nice buffet breakfast that was included in my rate--and the rate, by the way, was the best I could find for a decently-rated hotel near public transport when I searched the TripAdvisor reviews. I'd recommend it for solos or young people--and maybe married couples who don't like each other that much, although there might be fights over who got the upper vs. lower bunk!
After breakfast, I packed up my suitcase and dragged it back to the train station. Even though the cruise left on a Saturday, there was public transportation all the way to the cruise terminal area (with about maybe 1/4 mile or so walk to the terminal from the last bus stop) so that would have worked out well if I could have located where that bus was at the station! (They had just added the weekend bus #26 THAT WEEKEND, so many people even at the station weren't aware it existed.) I met some others who were heading to the Eurodam, and they were walking to the ship from the metro station so I joined them. Except I had packed WAY too much, and the telescoping handle on my suitcase had broken (probably under the strain of the 58 lbs. in the suitcase) and I had to use the flat cord handle to pull it...so I fell behind the others, far enough that eventually I couldn't even see them anymore. Did I mention that in addition to my large suitcase, I had my rolling laptop bag and a heavy purse? Eventually I stopped to rest at one of the bus stops, and the bus stopped for me! Yay! What a relief! However, the long walk with the heavy suitcase and not-so-comfortable shoes resulted in major blisters on my feet. This would come back to haunt me later in the cruise. Note to self (and any of you who might make this same mistake): pack WAY lighter next time. And bring some good walking shoes. (I've already purchased some so they'll be all broken in and ready for my next cruise.)
I got to the luggage dropoff point around 12:45, and although there was a bit of a disorganized muddle there and I once again cursed myself by being too polite and not pushy enough, I did eventually have my luggage checked in and limped into the terminal. The check in process was reasonably quick. I was on the ship before 1:15 PM.
Whew! I was able to go right to my cabin and take off my shoes and socks and exclaim over my poor wounded feet. Of course, I couldn't go eat lunch without my shoes on, but I'd had a big breakfast so I just had a Coke from the minibar and put my feet up. My luggage arrived within a couple of hours, so I found my comfy thong sandals and went to grab a quick snack. Then I put all my stuff away--my giant suitcase fit easily under the bed. There was plenty of storage space even though I seemed to have brought most of my wardrobe with me from home. I met my always-smiling room steward team--they were great the whole trip and somehow always noticed when I left my room so they could come in and make it up. I didn't do much at all that first evening--just grabbed a quick dinner from the Lido and relaxed on the balcony watching the scenery.
The next day was a sea day--one of only two on this itinerary. It was well-placed to help us poor north Americans get over our jet lag, and to help the blisters on my feet heal a bit.
Then, the ports started! To avoid giving a minute-by-minute rundown of my cruise, which I would find completely fascinating but I suppose others might find annoying, I'm going to change things up and talk about aspects of the cruise as a whole from here on out.
The ports: I didn't do any ship's excursions. I did a 2-day St. Petersburg Deluxe tour with Alla Tours, and that was it for me for organized tours. Due to my apparently inappropriate shoes my feet caused me a lot of problems, and as a result I didn't even go ashore in Helsinki, Warnemunde or Kiel so I can't speak to them. I'm so glad I visited St. Petersburg but I feel no great need to go back. I'd LOVE to go back to Stockholm and Copenhagen though.
In Talinn, I walked into town and then used my Kindle to guide myself on the walking tour in Rick Steves' book. It was fine...I think this city is one to be appreciated more for its overall scenery and architecture than for visiting specific attractions. It was a lovely city.
In St. Petersburg, I took Alla Tours' St. Petersburg Deluxe 2-day tour. It was a hectic 2 days full of ticking off the various St. Petersburg sights. DEFINITELY worth doing and despite the damage to my poor feet I enjoyed it very much. We were able to spend a decent amount of time in The Hermitage early in the day before it got crowded, which is a huge plus. We took a subway ride to see subway stations decorated in classical mosaics! We had a hydrofoil ride, and a river cruise, and saw a LOT of palaces and churches from the inside and out. Highly recommended--there is NO WAY I could have done a self-tour that covered anywhere near that amount of ground, even if there wasn't a visa issue to contend with.
In Helsinki, I sadly stayed on the ship due to my sore feet.
In Stockholm, I had purchased the Stockholm Card which included all public transport and many of the museums and other attractions in the cost of the card. Other than having to wait forever at the tourist booth right outside the ship to pick up my card (which I had pre-ordered, with a 20% discount from IKEA) because I was way more polite than some of the other passengers, it was highly worthwhile as I didn't have to worry about individual tickets. Unfortunately, once again due to my feet I stayed on the ship on our second day in Stockholm, but on the first day I went to the Vasa Museum, took an inadvertent bus ride through Stockholm when I was trying to get back to the port, took a "historic canal cruise", and did a lot of window-shopping. It was midsummer which is a major holiday in Sweden, so some things weren't open. However the tourist office had a nice list of which things were open on each of the two days we were there, that came in handy. One thing to note in Stockholm: the public transportation is a pretty long walk from the ship. You can catch a bus up the hill from the ship, but I couldn't figure out how to get there (I did come back to there on my way back to the ship though, so if my feet had been able to do another day I would have known where to go) so ended up walking all the way to the nearest metro station along with pretty much all the other ship passengers who headed out the same time I did. Despite the cost it might have been worthwhile to take the ship's shuttle in this port. Stockholm is just a beautiful city! I want to come back and spend several days here sometime soon and see everything I missed. I would recommend the Vasa Museum highly--it was fascinating. People have said they had long waits to get in but when I got there (it was around 10:15 AM or so I believe) there were only 3 people in front of me so basically no wait at all.
The sail out from Stockholm was also just utterly lovely. I was on my balcony, and had my TV on really loud on the channel where the destination specialist was giving the narration, so I could hear it from outside.
It's also worth a mention that on this cruise, especially in St. Petersburg and Stockholm, I learned what white nights are. The sun set only a little over 5 hours before it rose again, and it never got completely dark (at least while I was awake). The views over the water during the white nights were one of the highlights of my cruise.
As mentioned, I didn't get off the ship in Warnemunde or Kiel due to sore feet. In Kiel, we were lucky to be there while Kiel Week--the biggest sailing festival in Europe--was going on. There were all kinds of tall ships, short ships, and every other kind of sailing ship sailing through the harbor during our day there, which kept me amused for several hours. My plans were to go to Lubeck and do a self-tour narrated by an iPhone app that the Lubeck tourist board had on their website, and I'd still like to do that some day as Lubeck was one of the major Hanseatic League cities and is full of fascinating old buildings.
We had a day back in Copenhagen and then a night in port before the morning of disembarkation. I took bus 26 to the National Museum and could have spent the whole day in there, if only I'd arrived earlier! I only got up through the middle ages before it was closing time. (I'm kind of a museum freak, so this might not apply to most people, but I LOVED that museum. Everything had English descriptions too so I could understand exactly what it all was. It was also free.) I walked around that area, saw the Tivoli entrance and a lot of historic buildings, and then took bus 26 back to the ship. 24 kroner for each way on the bus. A very inexpensive day!
Meanwhile, back on the Eurodam: I thought the ship was very nice. The Celebrity S-Class ships may have a slight edge in beauty, but the Eurodam is close. Everything was very clean and in good repair. I ate several dinners in the main dining room and enjoyed them. I ate once in Tamarind and it was just fabulous. I might have to book another cruise on Eurodam just for that restaurant! And I ate a lot of my meals in the Lido--not what I would normally do, but (maybe due to my sore feet) I just didn't have the patience to sit through long meals. The Lido was fine--it's a cafeteria so you have to temper your expectations but I gained plenty of weight on the cruise so I clearly enjoyed my meals there. Waffle cones with ice cream for lunch and dinner! Various breads and pastries for breakfast! Eggs benedict! Beef tenderloin in some version or another nearly every night! You get the picture. I also ordered several room service breakfasts, which came on time and hot and as ordered. I liked the hot breakfast options on the room service menu, and that I could get fresh-squeezed OJ. Most cruise lines don't have that. I also ordered room service for dinner the first formal night, ordering off the dining room menu--it was great also. They had room service breakfast available the morning of disembarkation--also something most cruiselines don't have.
As far as entertainment, I didn't take advantage of too much of it. I liked listening to the classical duo in the always-nearly-empty lounge where they played before dinner. I enjoyed the BB King Blues Club a lot. The world cup preliminary rounds were happening during the cruise so a lot of my evening time was spent watching games! There was a fun German bierfest one of the evenings we were in Germany, with an oompah band and decorated pool deck and special food and beer. It was a very nice touch.
Disembarkation was painless. I had an early flight which may have been part of the reason why the process was not crowded or annoying. Got right off the ship, no lines, into the luggage area to find my suitcase, no lines, went to the bus for my transfer (which I did purchase through the cruise line and I'm so glad I did--wouldn't want to pull that suitcase back to the bus stop early in the morning and fight rush hour crowds on the bus and train!) Waited for those on our bus to all show up, and then drove right to the airport and got there in plenty of time. Well worth the extra money vs. public transportation. And for one person, less than a taxi would cost.
In summary: I loved the cruise and was very impressed with HAL and the Eurodam. I think the reason was a good base level of cleanliness and maintenance, and then all the nice little touches such as the hot room service breakfast menu, having a tub instead of just a shower, the bierfest, the always-smiling crew, the FABULOUS itinerary and more. I would definitely sail HAL again on Eurodam or Nieuw Amsterdam. Less
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