I don't know what other people were thinking, but this trip on the Eurodam was the best ever!
To give you a little background: This was my 20th cruise (4th on Holland America). I am 48 years old. I traveled with my mother, (age 80, 28th cruise, 6th on HAL), my husband (age 50, 19th cruise, 4th on HAL) and my 2 children, ages 10 and 14 (14th and 15th cruises, respectively, 4th on HAL). Having cruised on Carnival (Yuck!), Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian, I love Holland America and its gracious and attentive service. I would think twice about going on other cruise lines.
For this 15-day Transatlantic cruise, we flew to Copenhagen out of JFK on Aer Lingus, transferring at Dublin. My luggage stayed at Dublin, and I did not get it until Day 3 of the cruise. I was not alone, however, as about a half dozen of my fellow passengers had the same misfortune. I owe a debt of gratitude to Larissa from the Front Office and her marvelous staff who communicated both with port agents as well as with me in order that I received my luggage. In the meantime, I was given a toiletries bag, free overnight laundering of my one and only outfit and a free format night outfit including dress shoes.
EMBARKATION: This was very smooth, nothing to complain about. It was no different than the smooth HAL embarkations I have encountered in New York and Seattle. There were mostly Americans on this ship, with some Canadians, British, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Australian passengers.
THE SHIP: The ship is beautiful, complete with new ship smell (fresh varnish and new leather). Fresh flowers everywhere add a special touch. The cabin was very comfortable, with a very large verandah (in fact, those in the verandas above could look down on our verandah). The bedding was wonderful and we found that there was more than enough storage space. Our room steward did 15 towel animals, a new one every night! The shower took a while to figure out; it was actually the cruise director on stage who gave everyone a little lesson on how to turn the shower on and off. The new Tamarind and Silk Den are beautifully appointed, and the Crows Nest was a good place for a nice view and quiet reading time.
THE FOOD: The food was wonderful, not one bad meal. The fruit soups were always delicious. We had late seating in the dining room, and our waiters, Yus and Arif, were very attentive. Our maitre d', Agus, would pitch in when things got busy. Except for one slow breakfast and one slow dinner in the dining room (both on sea days), the service was not slow at all. Unfortunately, because the lower level is doing the "As You Wish" dining, the waiters are no longer able to sing their "Gelang, Gelang" Indonesian goodbye song.
The food in the Lido was very good, too. Each day, the Asian section had a different type of Asian cuisine. The food was plentiful and varied.
We enjoyed going to tea at 3:30, and especially the exotic Indonesian tea. I would advise anyone going on HAL to learn a few Indonesian phrases. I did, and they just love it when you speak to them in their language.
In addition, we dined in the Pinnacle Grill and had lunch in the Tamarind. Both were very good. Unfortunately, the Pinnacle Grill ran out of cappuccino when I was there. I asked for espresso instead, which they poured into a regular coffee cup because they were out of espresso cups. I would definitely recommend lunch at the Tamarind. You have to make a reservation, but lunch is free and so delicious!
THE ENTERTAINMENT: Outstanding! The HalCats band on the Eurodam is the best ever! I cannot say it enough, they really rock! It is not only extremely impressive how well they play but how they can so easily pick up the guest entertainers' arrangements. The Cast of the Eurodam works very hard and it shows. Their shows are wonderful! The guest entertainers were so-so. There were two singers, a magician/comedian named Jeff Moche, who was very funny, a violinist, a flautist, a Nat King Cole impersonator, a Dean Martin impersonator, a comedian and someone called Count Dimas, who played the Draculaphone! Dean Martin I could live without, but the violinist, flautist, comedian Kevin Devane, and Count Dimas were really good. Also, my mom and I performed in the Eurodam Superstars, singing our original ode to the cruise director, Shane Michaels. Shane, whom we know from the Noordam, is a very amiable and charming cruise director.
One nice feature of the entertainment is that the showtimes remain consistent: 7 PM for late seating and 9 PM for early seating. This is much better than when they'd used to have some late shows and some early shows, and you'd have to check the daily program to see what's what.
The new Mainstage features auditorium-style, rather than lounge, seating. The pull-out cupholders on the seat arms, however, are limited in their capacity to hold certain glasses, and stemware will topple right off and onto the ground (or your leg). You also have to be careful maneuvering the stairs; I saw some people fall.
We enjoyed the Indonesian crew show, which was better than some of the professional entertainment.
ACTIVITIES: Let's put it this way: If you are expecting excitement after 10 PM, this ship is not for you. But that's OK with me because I don't disco or gamble. The piano bar sing-alongs were the most I did after 10 PM. But there something for everyone during the day, from trivia to cooking demos in the Culinary Arts Center to a backstage tour, to bingo, to movies in the movie theater with giant, cozy seats. There's a port lecturer who is simulcast on the ship's TV who tells you where you are going, and a motivational speaker who tells you how to be happy (hint: go on cruises, that's how!)
My kids took part in some of the children's activities. My 10-year-old didn't go to Club Hal that much because the activities were for the broad age range of 3-12, skewed toward the younger kids rather than the older ones. My 14-year-old spent a good amount of time at the Loft, the teen lounge, where she met other kids from the U.S., Canada and Israel.
The shops are very nice, especially when they run the 75% off sale! There's one shop onboard with some ridiculously expensive things, but I suppose there is an audience for ridiculously expensive things on HAL, or it would not be there. My favorite shop employee was Markus, who was very friendly and helpful.
I went to the art auction simply to get a free print at the end. However, for showing the most enthusiasm, I won a free facial which I gave to my teenage daughter. She loved the experience and the spa lady did not hard-sell me on the $160 worth of Elemis skincare products.
I used the gym once for a stretching class. I also attended a fat-burning seminar. The lady wanted to sell us detox pills for $100 a month. When I asked what I could do for free, she replied "Nothing." Oh, well!
DEBARKATION: Again, very smooth. We waited in our room until we were called at 9:45. We were able to bring food from the Lido into our room and enjoy it on the verandah with a view of Manhattan.
IN WHAT CATEGORY DOES THIS GO?: A funny thing happened on our way to Iceland! At 6:00 AM on the first sea day, the captain came over the loudspeaker paging a Mr. Burgermeister. The second page came at 6:15. Finally, when Mr. B. could not be located, the captain turned the ship around, expending what I found out to be $55, worth of fuel. Mr. B. was finally found, some say with his family, others say with his mistress and still others say with a casino employee, but this became the talk of the ship for several days as well as the butt of many a joke.
OSLO: We did not buy anything in Norway or Iceland because everything is ridiculously expensive. In Oslo, we went to Frogner Park where we saw the beautiful statues by Vigeland. We also strolled along the pathways of the medieval fortress, which is right across the pier.
STAVANGER: We missed the Lysefjord cruise, but got to stroll around the picturesque old town. There was a lot going on in town that day: a marathon, a rock concert, and waffle-ball street hockey tournaments.
BERGEN: We walked around the beautiful old town and took the funicular to the top of the mountain for stunning views.
TORSHAVN, FAROE IS.: Not a lot to do, shopping-wise. You can look at the houses with grass roofs, but that's about it in town. I t was very misty and cool when we were there, but I understand that those who took the scenic tour enjoyed sunshine and great views.
REYKJAVIK: We took our one and only shore excursion to the Blue Lagoon. Very worth it! The water was amazing, and we put the white mud on our faces. Did we come out 10 years younger? I don't know. The moonscape appearance of Iceland is something to see. Unfortunately, we had the only Chinese tour guide in Iceland who could not speak English very well, and we tuned out a lot of the unintelligible narration.
CRUISING PRINCE CHRISTIAN SOUND: Honest to God, I had no idea I was going to Greenland! What a perfect treat! Sheer rock cliffs, cloud-covered mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and huge icebergs! The weather was cold (42 degrees) yet we all went to the bow of the ship to view the gorgeous scenery. It was even more interesting when the fishermen came out in their boats from their cloud-enshrouded village to greet us. Like I said, what a special, special day!
ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND: My favorite port! I would love to go back! The people are so warm and friendly and the city is just the right size for strolling. This is where we started buying our souvenirs. The town came out to give the captain an award, the local marching band played and when we left, we were treated to an orchestrated symphony of ship horns! Another special day!
ST. PIERRE, FRANCE: The best part of this port was the tender ride through the fog. Otherwise, St. Pierre is very boring
SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA: This is a very nice, homey town. We did our shopping in the flea market at the pier and got some very nice jewelry at very good prices, like necklaces for $5! There's not too much to the main street, though, so I would say to stick to the shopping in port. Another band played when we left, and it wasn't over, literally, until the fat lady sang.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA: This was the only port in which it rained! Imagine, though, all those days with no rain and calm seas! The shops at the pier are tourist traps, so we went to the Superstore nearby and bought a liter of maple syrup that cost a quarter of what it would at the pier. When the sun did come out, I took a lovely walk from the ship to the Maritime Museum. I even found Canada's only Del Sol store! By the way, Halifax has a free bus that stops right near the pier, but the ship won't tell you about it, for obvious reasons.
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF: Not too much to mention. I already mentioned running out of cappuccino and espresso cups. They also ran out of tissues, potato chips to accompany the sandwiches in the Lido, shopping bags in the shops, markers with which to decorate the Club Hal T-shirts and the confetti accompanying "Love in Any Language" (don't know for sure if that was left out, but there wasn't any.)
So, that, I do believe, is all!!! Fantastic voyage, beautiful ship, excellent service! Eurodam exceeded my expectations!
Love and cruises, Debbie