BACKGROUND. We are a party of three well-traveled individuals; DH and DW (55-60) and DS (19), who have chosen ms Eurodam for our first cruise with Holland America Line. Previously, we have sailed on a dozen cruises with Cunard Line, Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line. To date, Cunard Line has provided an experience that bests suits our needs while cruising. We have discovered that Holland America Line offers a very close second among the cruise lines we have experienced. Please keep in mind this is a review of our experience compared to mainstream cruise lines. This was our first cruise on Holland America Line, so we do not know of the gradual changes to the line over time, or the differences between ship classes that may affect seasoned Holland America cruisers.
EURODAM 7-DAY EASTERN CARIBBEAN. We elected to sail on the March 21, 2009 sailing of Eurodam from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ports of call included San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas; and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. The itinerary included two sea days, with a third unplanned sea day due to a missed port call at Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands.
EMBARKATION. Our party arrived at the Holland America Line terminal, pier 26, at 11:30am. After giving our baggage to a porter, the check-in process took less than 20 minutes. This was one of the most efficient embarkation processes we have experienced to date. Guests were quickly directed through security to the check-in desks and were issued boarding group numbers in the upstairs waiting room. Ship ID photos were taken at the check-in desk rather than at a separate checkpoint. We were onboard Eurodam by noon. It has always been our preference to arrive at the cruise terminal early to avoid the long lines and delays that affect guests who arrive in the afternoon.
SHIP CONDITION. The Eurodam is less than a year old and is in excellent condition. The crew was constantly polishing the brass accents in the atrium, the stairways and in elevator lobbies. The theater style seats actually still smelled of leather. The carpets did not show excessive wear or appear to be water spotted as on some ships.
DEMOGRAPHICS. We had previously been under the impression that Holland America Line attracted only the most mature, well-traveled cruisers. This is simply not true, as age groups from seven months to 98 years were represented on our March break cruise. Upon embarkation, we noticed that the passenger makeup for our cruise was skewed slightly older, but also that families and multigenerational groups would be onboard as well. About 100 minors were present on our cruise; a number much more tolerable than the 1,200 we experienced on our Christmas cruise last December. Holland America Line is not a party cruise line, but even the older guests noticeably enjoyed dancing away at the piano bar until the wee hours. However, if you are seeking a very young, very active passenger demographic, Royal Caribbean might suit your needs better than Holland America Line.
SHIPBOARD DÉCOR. The Eurodam is one classy ship! Second to the Queen Mary 2, Eurodam is the classiest ship we have sailed on. The dEcor surpasses any Princess or Royal Caribbean ship we have sailed. The atrium is very quaint and intimate, providing a feeling of exclusivity. It was nice to experience a smaller three level atrium rather than the usual eleven-story monstrosity. Fresh flowers are placed all around the ship in large, stunning arrangements and in small bowls on tables in the lounges. Orchids adorned the tables in the Lido Restaurant. Greenery could also be found in the elevator lobbies and by the Lido Pool. We could immediately smell fresh flowers upon embarking, something we did not even notice on the QM2. The furniture onboard was elegant, although some chairs lacked proper lumbar support. We were glad to see the absence of neon lighting and flashy Vegas-style dEcor. The Silk Den lounge and the Crow's Nest provided great views and were furnished with interesting dEcor and wonderful lighting fixtures. Eurodam gets top marks for the easy layout and pleasant dEcor and classy ambiance.
ACCOMMODATIONS. Our stateroom was very large and functional. Everything that was provided had a purpose. Stateroom corridors open at 1:00pm. The armed reading lights by the bed provided wonderful accent lights in the evening, but we did not use them to read. Our stateroom had a curved, U-shaped couch with accent pillows. The bedding exceeded our expectations. The mattress was rather firm, which we prefer. We booked this cruise late, and were booked into a handicapped stateroom as a result. We were booked into the stateroom on the premise that we would be upgraded if a handicapped party needed it. No such upgrade occurred, so we enjoyed an extra large stateroom with plenty of open floor space. The bathroom was large; designed to be large enough for a wheelchair. There was no step-up into the bathroom like in the standard accommodations, or a rail to allow water to stay in the tub/shower. Because of this we encountered one minor problem with our stateroom that was attended to very promptly. Shortly after departing from Saint Thomas, the ship listed several degrees to the port side due to strong winds, and remained this was for 15-20 minutes. During this time, our shower was in use, causing the water from the roll-in shower to flood the entire bathroom floor and flow out under the bathroom door into the stateroom. The water did not recede until the ship leveled out, which took some time. We quickly called the Front Office to report the incident. Our stateroom attendant arrived within five minutes of the call, and maintenance staff and the head hotel manager arrived within 20 minutes. The next day we received a bottle of champagne, a plate of gourmet chocolates and a letter of apology from the hotel manager for the inconvenience. This was very thoughtful, as other cruise lines have never offered us any type compensation for a complaint or inconvenience encountered onboard.
REMBRANDT DINING ROOM. Service and the quality of the food served in the main dining room were phenomenal. For the reviewers who claim that Eurodam has nothing to offer but cafeteria food, I would like to know at what office or school cafeteria I could get perfectly cooked, fatless Beef Tenderloin, perfectly presented Beef Wellington or inventive fresh salads with toasted almonds, fresh pear and fresh orange slices. One should not compare the Rembrandt Dining Room to the world's finest restaurants, but trust me; you will enjoy the food and service onboard Eurodam. The rolls and bread served at dinner were excellent. Our table of eight would require four breadbaskets each evening because the quality of the rolls was so good. I can remember six out of the seven entrees I ordered in the main dining room, as each meal was so memorable. On most of our dozen cruises, we could not remember what we had two nights ago on the cruise, let alone the night before. Some of the highlights of the dining room experience included the Island Pepper Pot Soup, Filet of Beef Wellington, Crepes Suzette, Sweet Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella, Oven Roasted Beef Tender, and Pina Colada Crème Brule, and of course the lobster and escargots. We were amazed at how the meats were always cooked correctly and the food was hot, two things we have had issues with on past cruises. The soups were also fantastic, as many of our table partners ordered extra soup each evening. The French Onion Soup, which is available daily, is perfectly presented, without too much salt or any taste of bouillon; much better than that in Carnival Cruise Line's supper club. During the entire cruise no one sent any entrees back to the galley; a common occurrence on many of our other cruises. We were so surprised as to the quality of the beef, as each beef entrEe had almost zero fat. We heard no dishes break, even during rough seas, something we heard every night on our last cruise. The Maitre'D never once came over to our table begging for a tip, and bar service was very unobtrusive, yet available. Our waiters were friendly and called us by our last names, a very nice touch. We have not had waiters call us by our last names in years. We got to know some about our waiter's home life, and about how they go to Starbucks in San Juan to email their families for free. The food and service in the dining room was excellent, nearly the quality of Cunard Line, and definitely better than Princess Cruises or Royal Caribbean. On Royal Caribbean, entrees would be cooked incorrectly or be served to the wrong person. This did not occur on HAL, as our waiters always remembered who enjoyed extra soup, after dinner drinks, and so on. Chairs were dressed in white linen on formal nights providing a more upscale atmosphere. The YumYum man was always stationed outside the dining room providing treats and candied ginger, another very nice touch. When compared to the dining experience on other mainstream cruise ships, Eurodam earns top marks.
DRESS CODE. A sign was always posted at the entrance to the dining room reminding guests of the evening's dress code. Although we did not specifically look for fellow passengers out of dress code, the majority of passengers adhered on the formal nights. Almost all men wore tuxedos or dark suits on formal night, and ladies wore dresses or formal attire. We did not notice shorts or jeans in the dining room during smart casual nights, but again, we were not specifically looking for these infractions. Overall, we feel that the majority of guests adhered property to the dress code, something which lacked on our Christmas cruise in 2008, where we saw T-shirts on formal night. We feel that a classy cruise liner deserves proper dress in the evenings out of tradition and ambiance for fellow travelers.
THE PINNACLE GRILL RESTAURANT. We had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill for the night of Saint Thomas. However, we enjoyed the food and company in the Rembrandt Dining Room so much that we canceled our reservation. We clicked so well with our table partners that we simply could not see leaving the main dining room for one night on such a short cruise. On past cruises we have had everything from dining partners who would not talk to us, to those who could barely speak English. We were so fortunate this time to get wonderful dining partners; we even exchanged contact information, something we have not done in many cruises. Next time, if the cruise is longer than seven nights we will try the Pinnacle Grill. We have eaten in the specially restaurants on Royal Caribbean (Chops Grill and Portofino) and Princess (Bayou Cafe and Sabatini's) and found that the food and service in the Rembrandt dining room to be on par with these restaurants, with just less frill and more manageable food portions. We have enjoyed fine dining on a dozen cruises and in numerous land based resorts and restaurants around the world. We do not give the Rembrandt Dining Room five stars simply because we are enamored with the experience, but because it actually deserves five stars.
LIDO RESTAURANT BUFFET. The Lido Restaurant was just as impressive as that on Queen Mary 2. In fact, the layout was easier to manage, and the food selection was very comparable. During peak dining times it was necessary for one person in our party to sit at a table while the others got food. This has been the case on most of our cruises and does not bother us for that reason. The only area of the buffet got cramped was the space between the tables for two on the outside of the dining area and the entrEe line. Waiters were always pouring glasses of water and iced tea during lunchtime so that guests only needed to walk up to the station and grab a drink. A beverage cart was also pushed around the Lido Restaurant, like on Princess Cruises. During breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice, cranberry juice, guava juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, V-8 juice, and a few others were available for free, a welcomed touch that not even the QM2 provides. Never before have we seen so many juice selections, and for free too! The juices were pre-poured and can be found in refrigerated cases in the center of the Lido Restaurant. Waiters would also hand you a tray with a fruit bowl and bread plate upon entering the buffet line. It was nice to have someone around to help get situated. This is also the only ship we have sailed that provides trays, except for QM2. All entrees were put on your plate behind the counter, and were handed to you at the end of the line. This seemed to quicken the process, as the lines moved at a very decent speed. In our opinion, these are premium touches not found on Royal Caribbean, Princess, or similar cruise lines. Glasses and proper dishes were used in the Lido, along with proper spoons for stirring coffee, not plastic or wooden substitutes. Not even on QM2 were proper spoons provided at the coffee station and a receptacle for used spoons and used sugar packets. Food quality and taste in the Lido Restaurant was excellent. A main entrEe line was available for lunch each day in addition to an international station that changed daily. The Japanese day was fantastic, and the sushi was very good. We were very impressed with the buffet food, as on some of our previous cruises, the food had been bland, cold and unappetizing. Pizza is located on the fantail deck and a grill is located by the midships pool. Both of these selections are enjoyable changes, and are very good. We never ate at Canaletto, or ate in the buffet for dinner, however the same menu is available in the lido as the main dining room. We were very impressed with this option, and enjoyed appetizers of lobster tail by the pool before dinner on the second formal night. Holland America Line does a great job in this area!
SERVICE. The general service onboard was very good to excellent. Our cabin steward always called us by our last name, something we have missed on our past several cruises. Our dining room waiter and assistant waiter did the same thing. Something as simple as remembering your name really makes a difference. The crew almost always spoke in cabin corridors and in elevators. It is amazing how much of a difference this made in our cruise experience. On some of our other cruises, excluding the Queen Mary 2 and one of our Princess Cruises, crewmembers rarely spoke or smiled. We felt that the crew was doing such a good job that we informed the Front Office. We had a long conversation with one of the Pursers, who remembered our names and spoke to us around the ship. We would sometimes walk through the atrium to hear our last name being called and one of the Pursers waving from behind the desk. After commending the pursers on the excellent job the crew was doing, we received a letter and a plate of gourmet chocolates in our stateroom the next day (same kind as the one provided for our shower incident). This was such a wonderful surprise. We found the crew to be very friendly and helpful, always giving a smile and asking how the day in port was. It seemed like every other crewmember we spoke with would ask, "Did you go out today?" This was not Ritz Carlton service, but excellent mainstream cruise ship service; some of the best we have ever experienced.
PORTS OF CALL. Half Moon Cay was a new port call for us. We enjoyed the island more than Labadee or Princess Cays because of its beauty and because it is less crowded. The island was so beautiful; the water was crystal clear and blue, sand pure white and soft. There was plenty of shade near the trees that lined the top of the beach. The Eurodam was the only ship in the harbor, so lounge chairs and space on the beach was plentiful. The seats closer to the tender station filled up quickly, so we just walked a bit further down the beach where hundreds of chairs were available. The tender process was well organized and timely; we did not experience a wait for a tender at 9:00am or at 2:30pm. We love San Juan for its historical city, a nice change from a beach or shopping center. We walked around Yacht Haven Grande in Saint Thomas and did some shopping in the stores there. The Eastern Caribbean has always been our favorite part of the Caribbean.
WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS. It rained off and on for the first three days of the cruise, but this did not impact our vacation. We travel enough to know that the only thing that you cannot plan on is the weather. I receive weather and sea condition updates on my phone, and was aware that the ship would be heading into a force 7-8 gale for about two days. Because of prior research, we knew that the ship has been known to skip Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay in adverse sea conditions. We predicted the night before that we would not be able to dock in Grand Turk based on the severe motion of the ship. For this reason we were not upset when the captain announced that we would proceed to San Juan due to adverse conditions. As compensation, we were given complementary champagne at dinner, a letter from the captain, and compensation for our port charges. For the rest of the cruise, the seas tended to be rather rough. I could not tell if the rocking was due to ship structural design or strong wind conditions, but motion was very prominent at times. Passengers and crew alike stumbled around looking intoxicated for the first two days, and sickness bags were ever-present in the elevator lobbies. While we enjoy the motion of the ocean, we have never seen so many people with motion patches behind their ears. SeaCalm? tablets were available at the Front Office. Most of our other Caribbean sailings have been very smooth, so this was a change for us. We have only had one cruise with worse sea conditions; a Mediterranean cruise in which a storm caused 25-30 foot seas and winds up to force 11 on the Beaufort scale.
ENTERTAINMENT. The three production shows were very good. We have seen better, but Holland America Line isn't known for the best production shows at sea. However, we can say that the vocalists were better than many cruises, and actually sang without lip-syncing. On other cruises we noticed that the singers did not always wear microphones. It was obvious that the four singers sang in all three shows. The shows are more reserved than Carnival or Royal Caribbean, and are more along the lines of Princess. Focus is put on the show in its entirety, not on a costume change every five minutes. Other entertainment included the Circ de Sole acrobats, a guitarist, and a comedian. The entertainment was very well rounded, with something for everyone. It was much better than the traditional headliner magician or juggler every night. A final show included a wrap up of the entertainment offerings, which was a nice look back through the week. The piano bar was as lively as we have ever seen on a cruise ship. It would be hopping until 1:00am with people singing and dancing. It was a lot of fun, not necessary the epitome of class, but a lot of fun. The Hal Cats were great as well, considering we are used to a horrible poolside reggae band that doesn't know how to sing or play music. The entertainment on HAL was very refreshing!
SHIP SIZE. We loved the size of the Eurodam. Since we are accustomed to ships 85,000 GRT and larger, it was nice to take a cruise on the smaller side of the megaships. We have not sailed on ships the size of the non-vista HAL ships, so we can't compare the big ship experience with the small ship experience. However, there were hardly ever lines or crowds on the ship. Elevators we always a minute away, and the only obviously busy space onboard was the Lido Restaurant. It was never hard to find a lounger in the sun, since we went to the top deck by the funnels. It was a bit harder to find a poolside seat, but tables by the pool were usually available. It was also nice that the ship is small enough that pool towels are made available on the pool deck and headphones are complementary in the gym, two items usually strictly controlled on megaships. Eurodam is the perfect size because you don't get exhausted walking from the forward to the aft elevator lobby like on some ships.
DISEMBARKATION. Holland America is the first cruise line we have experienced that allows you to choose when you disembark. Never before have we been able to request a specific time to leave the ship without doing self-disembarkation. We signed up for the 9:00-9:30am silent disembarkation time, had a leisurely breakfast by the lido pool, hung out in the cabin until 9:00am and then exited the ship. The process was fool proof and easy, and much better than calling colors and numbers all morning long.
CRUISE DIRECTOR. Cruise director Johnny was your typical cruise director. He seemed a bit tacky at times, but that is part of his job. I believe he said that he was relatively new. We do give him props for posting revised daily programs in the elevator lobbies after our missed call in Grand Turk so that we could read about the scheduled activities before a copy reached our stateroom. Just a side note, this was the first cruise we have been on in which the ship changed captains mid-cruise in San Juan.
BOTTOM LINE. We loved our trip on the Eurodam, and the value of the cruise could not be beat. This cruise was one of our most enjoyable vacations ever, and was also one of the most inexpensive cruises we have taken. We always travel with an open mind, not expecting the Ritz Carlton, but not expecting the Hampton Inn either. Eurodam satisfied our needs for a spring break cruise on a mass market/premium cruise line. It is obvious that Holland America Line is not a luxury line, but HAL does provides some special touches that make you feel like more than just a number. If you enjoy a more mature, well-traveled passenger makeup with only about one hundred minors, this is a cruise line for you. We don't generally participate in scheduled activities to keep busy on a cruise, so we were very pleased with our relaxing trip on the Eurodam. We highly recommend the Eurodam to anyone wanting a quieter, more refined mass market/premium cruise experience. There is a huge difference between a cruise ship with a 3,700 guests, a rock climbing wall and an ice skating rink, and a cruise ship with a 2,000 guests, a intimate lobby and quaint public rooms. We have found a new cruise line, and will definitely sail with Holland America Line again!
CONTACT. Please feel free to direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are more than happy to answer any questions or provide any additional information about our Eurodam cruise, or about any of our other cruises. Thanks for reading!