My wife and I were among the first guests to take Eurodam's 3-day Prelude cruise immediately followed by the 10-day Maiden (Inaugural) voyage. Prior to the dates we sailed, we had followed the Eurodam News Blog for many months on Holland America's web site. We saw photos of it during its construction stages in Italy until it arrived in Rotterdam for the Dedication Ceremony. We attended the dedication of the ship on July 1, 2008 and witnessed Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands as she named and blessed the ship followed by the champagne bottle breaking on the name Eurodam at the bow of the ship. What a wonderful, well organized, well planned event they arranged for this occasion. It truly was a delight to see. We had our video camera and came home with lots of footage.
On July 2nd, the Eurodam pulled away from the Rotterdam pier to start the 3-day Prelude cruise. Besides the regular paying guests, there were many travel agents, cruise consultants, media, special guests, and even, "major players" from Holland America and Carnival Corp. This is the point where things really went downhill for us and for many of the other regular guests as well. Those special guests and invitees got all the attention during those 3 days. Not only that, the Tamarind Restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill restaurant, the Silk Den Bar & Lounge, the Crow's Nest Bar & Lounge and the Lido Pool area were sometimes closed off to regular paying passengers to hold functions for those who were guests of the line. Needless to say, there was disappointment and disgust lingering everywhere throughout the ship by those who paid their own way. Paying passengers, by the way, are the backbone to keeping the line in business. If we had had advanced notice of how the Prelude was going to be, would never have wasted our time and good money to be on it.
We started cruising in September of 2003 and have given Holland America Line (HAL) over 155 days of our business. All of our past cruises have been exciting and enjoyable and it's primarily due to the wonderful Filipino and Indonesian friends we have made along the way. We anticipated that we would see many of them on the Eurodam, and sure enough, we did. What a joy it was! We consider them our second family. We have stayed in touch with quite a few of them over the years.
Once we got through the unpleasantness of the Prelude, we set sail from Copenhagen on the Inaugural. I'd like to give our impressions, views and opinions about the Eurodam once we were able to experience the rest of the ship. There were new things added or changed in this ship, as compared to the rest of the ships in HAL's fleet. I'll try to outline those in the following:
1. The Tamarind Restaurant: This restaurant was beautifully designed and laid out and it was an enjoyable place to have Asian cuisine. The food we had was very, very good. The servers were female Indonesians and they did a fantastic job. This is the first time HAL has ever staffed females for their restaurants. HAL needs to do this much more often. These beautiful ladies gave this restaurant a special touch. The downside was that regular paying guests couldn't get reservations during the Prelude because it was reserved for all those you-know-who who were on board.
2. The Silk Den: We really enjoyed this new bar and lounge for a number of reasons. Each cruise we've taken, our total bar expenses are "second-to-none". We are non-smokers and the Silk Den had no designated smoking areas whatsoever. What a joy that was! If we wanted to have some cocktails and just sit back and relax, it was easy to do; no musical bands, no loud conversations or laughter, no loud and unruly, undisciplined kids. What a treat! If you are like us, you would appreciate the Silk Den. It has a lovely interior with many windows that give you a 180 degree view.
3. The Canaletto Restaurant: We didn't eat in this Italian style restaurant, so we can't make any personal comments about it. BUT . . . those we met on the ship, who had eaten there, really thought it was great. We're sorry we missed out.
4. The Lido Pool Cabanas: These private cabanas are on the inside of the vessel along the port (left) side of the Lido pool area that's located mid-ship. We never used them, but we feel they will eventually be taken out. Those who wanted to use one had to pay for it. They take up too much space for nothing. That space could better be utilized for additional tables and chairs for those who would like to sit, eat, or have cocktails, etc. at poolside. If we decided to lie down and relax, we'd go to our stateroom where we wouldn't have all the noise.
AREAS ON THE SHIP THAT ARE DIFFERENT OR HAVE BEEN CHANGED:
1. The Show Lounge: We were impressed with the theater style seating they had installed. Each individual fold-down seat even had its own "cup holder". Imagine that, a little touch of the automobile industry! The seats were very comfortable and there was no moving of chairs or tables as is usually found on the other ships in the fleet. We only attended one nightly show, but we went back to the staging area to see the "Blessing of the Bell" that was done the afternoon before we sailed on the Inaugural out of Copenhagen. We went to the show lounge again when we were docked in Invergordon, Scotland to see local entertainers put on a wonderful performance of native song and dance routines. They did a great job.
2. The Crow's Nest Bar & Lounge: On our previous cruises we spent a lot of time in this lounge in the late afternoon and evening hours. The bands they had were usually very good and we enjoyed listening to live music and watching folks dance while sipping on our toddies. Not on this ship, though. There is no live music because HAL relocated the Explorations Cafe and library to the starboard (right) side of the Crow's Nest. As you could imagine, music would be a nuisance to those who are reading or doing computer work. Consequently, we didn't spend any time there at all. Personally, we feel that particular change could possibly make a difference in the amount of revenue the Crow's Nest bar could generate.
3. The Neptune Lounge: Because we always book an SA Deluxe Suite, we have access to the Neptune. As compared to the other ships, this lounge was larger and had no inside vertical barriers. It had that "open-air" look and feel, which in our opinion, is a plus. In order to get into the Neptune, a person needs their room key. Only the Deluxe Suite and Penthouse keys will work. This is a "super" plus! This system is not installed on many of their other ships and we have witnessed unauthorized folks come in and use the Neptune who have not paid for that privilege.
SITUATIONS WE ENCOUNTERED:
1. For 12 out of the 13 days we were on the ship, our stateroom was so cold you could have hung meat in there. We could turn our thermostat control knob anywhere within its full range of hot and cold and the temperature would never change. We brought it to the attention of the appropriate staff but it wasn't corrected until the last day we were on the ship. We probably looked funny walking around the ship with goose bumps and purple lips. Also, our balcony was the smallest we have ever seen.
2. We book our cruises so far in advance that we always get our requested table for two for the 8 pm seating on the upper level in the main dining room. When we signed up for the 10-day Inaugural, on another ship, the Prelude wasn't even available then. Once our HAL cruise consultant contacted us about the Prelude, we immediately booked it. Now we wish we hadn't, but at any rate, each booking had its own booking number. So, again, we requested our preferred seating. During the Prelude we had our table for two. During the Inaugural leg we were seated at a table for eight. The next day we brought it to the attention of the Neptune concierge and that evening we got a table for two but it was in a different location. That was fine with us. One of the problems we encountered was that each of us noticed we didn't have a full place setting of glasses and utensils. We had to ask for them. Secondly, each evening we experienced very long waits between servings. That's not the "norm" for this line. Because of these waiting periods we would sometimes just order soup, a dessert and then leave. Even then, we didn't get out of there until close to 9:30.
3. When we returned from our tour in Oslo, Norway we thought the whole city turned out to greet us. There were way too many people in line trying to board the ship to get out of the chilly, pouring rain. It appeared that all the tours for that day arrived back at the same time. This is not a good thing! Better arrangements need to be made to avoid this kind of congestion. We could have made a fortune from selling umbrellas or rain gear! The same thing happened on the pier in Invergordon, Scotland, except the "water Gods" were asleep at the time.
4. Our wedding anniversary is July 11th and we made advanced arrangements to have our wedding vows renewed while on board. We were totally aware of the fact that it might not be done exactly on our anniversary date because there may be other couples doing the same thing at the same time. Eventually we were notified that it was going to be held July 13th. We were OK with that so we invited some new friends we had made to join us during the ceremony. So we signed them up and paid the fee for their attendance. Then all of a sudden on the 10th "up jumped a rabbit" and we were informed it was going to be done on the 11th. Now, here we are stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to contact our friends about the change. We never could get a hold of them so we just went about our business. Our Neptune concierges were aware of this situation, and low and behold, guess who was waiting for us at the ceremony location? That's right . . . BIG kudos to the Neptune staff! There were a total of six couples and the captain did a fantastic job and then he spent some time with us afterwards.
5. We witnessed kids running or acting unruly in different areas of the ship whether they were escorted or not. It's really a shame what these young generation parents let their kids get away with, especially when it's around other guests in public places. Not only was it annoying, but their actions created safety hazards for the passengers and the wait staff. Can anybody out there relate? We believe many of these parents should attend a lengthy discipline course themselves. The ship's staff should have guidelines and be given the authority to immediately stop such behavior.
6. In the past we used to enjoy going to the Ocean Bar for cocktails and to listen to live music. This time it was a different situation for us. When people started funneling in, the smoking table area was the first to fill up. Those tables were all grouped together, but that area lacked proper ventilation and venting. Every now and then it looked like someone had opened the window and allowed the fog to roll in. Not a healthy environment at all.
7. The ship had a lot of Europeans on board. We found a number of them to be rude and we observed many of them who couldn't grasp the concept of "get in the back of the line". By the way, most of the smokers were the Europeans.
8. The Terrace Grill near the Lido pool would have people waiting quite awhile before they got served. Some got irritated and just walked away because they got tired of waiting. It appeared it was under staffed.
9. Most of the time we drink cocktails that use limes. How is it that one bar will have limes when another says they're out of them? This is something a local shopping spree could have taken care of. On another ship they ran out of Tanqueray gin in the bars. That seemed kind of odd to us especially when there were three full selves of the stuff in the ship's shop just begging to join us TNT drinkers.
10. During the Prelude cruise there was a group of tables across the aisle from us in the main dining room that was reserved for media. When the group was escorted in, there were some who were wearing inappropriate attire. If that was us, we would have been turned away until we made a wardrobe change. Again, I want to emphasize that this was on the Prelude. Need I say anymore?
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Prelude tainted our entire experience. For the first time on HAL we felt we didn't matter. The Inaugural was better, however, we still felt the aftermath of the Prelude. The ship had problems that go with any new ship and these will hopefully be resolved over time. The ports of call were lovely, but had a lot of congestion when reboarding after the tour. The Filipinos and Indonesians were gracious and served us well. We probably will not go on a first sailing in the future because of the Prelude experience. The ship, in time, could be a great addition to the HAL fleet.