VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND ON US!: This is our 3rd cruise, one on Carnival in Caribbean and the other on Premier Cruises - to Panama Canal (smaller line, now out of business) We are 32 and 38 years old and have traveled fairly extensively in Europe, the US, Mexico and the Caribbean. We love great food and service and appreciate the odd and interesting things that you can experience while traveling.
EMBARKATION: We were very impressed with how quickly we got on the ship. From the moment we arrived at the pier it only took 50 minutes to get on the ship! This was quite a difference from our last experience with the Carnival Conquest in Galveston which took over 3 hours!
1ST DAY AT SEA: My husband got sick (probably from the airplane ride over from Texas) and they ask that he remain in his room for 24 hours. He stayed there sleeping most of time and they called and checked on him several times to see how he was doing. The staff was extremely friendly and offered to help in any way possible. The only person a little short with us was one of the nurses (Lois?), but the other ones were more friendly. I was helping my husband out a lot so I did not have quite the enjoyment on the ship I would have had if he felt better.
SERVICE ON HOLLAND AMERICA EURODAM: I would like to comment on boat and crew/staff since they make up one of the most important reasons for choosing a cruise in my opinion. My husband and I went on Carnival Conquest last year out of Galveston and although we enjoyed that cruise very much, we are now sold on Holland America. The service on this ship was absolutely outstanding! From the very first day our cabin steward (Herwin and Liman) knew us by first name - they clean 28 rooms a day! They went out of their way every day to make sure everything was fine. They asked about our day, asked if my husband was doing better (from being sick), etc. We could write a novel about them, but I do not want to bore the reviewer. We never ran across a crew member who did not greet you with a smile on their face!
FOOD: The food was definitely much better than Carnival, especially on the buffets, which in my opinion is tough to do for thousands of meals every day. For instance, for breakfast they had fresh squeezed OJ (not processes), along with a large assortment of other juices, a eggs benedict station with 7 or so different kinds of eggs benedict, waffle station with chocolate, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, etc., and much much more. In short, it was definitely several notches above Carnival. The staff in the buffet areas also seemed much more pleasant than Carnival, happier to be there. We did "As You Wis" and although that is convenient and we still sat with very nice people, next time we might opt for the set times. That way you have the same waiters each night with same group and get to know everyone better. Either way is really fine though. Food at seated dinners was slighter better than Carnival Cruise we went on last year. Again my expectations are never as high when you are serving thousands of people, versus a restaurant you pay extra for. Of course the pay restaurants can have better food because they are not serving the masses. We just enjoy the fact that we are being served good food by nice people and surrounded by interesting dinner guests. We met people from all over the world at our dinner table, Spain, Ukraine, Canada, Maine, etc. Dinner is a nice time to slow down and learn what everyone did that day. Oh and speaking of paid dinners, we loved the Tamarind and Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle was a little more rushed, but food excellent. Tamarind is up on the 11th floor and more isolated so it seemed more slower paced. Exceptional service at both. Pinnacle Grill is $20 per person for dinner and $10 for lunch. Tamarind is $15 for dinner and free for lunch. Do try Tamarind for lunch, it is a fixed fare of Dim Sum along with other Asian specialities, very yummy! Did not have time to try Pinnacle for lunch, wish we would have, it looked great. Both are worth every penny! Especially enjoyed the Silk Den lounge across from the Tamarind, has some of the best views on ship (along with Crow's Nest).
DRINKS: I wanted to comment on the alcohol, felt it deserved its own section. Most of the "signature" mixed drinks were around $6.50 (additional $1.00 if you wanted a specific premium liquor). We loved drinking the Mojitos, they were fantastic. The daily special was $5.50 ($1.00 off) and they offered a different one each day. We felt the alcohol prices were extremely fair. They also had a huge selection with very interesting variations of some common drinks in the lounge menus (such as Silk Den where we hung out a lot). Another dinner guest commented that most of the mixed drinks on Royal Caribbean were around the $9.00 to $10.00 range without premium liquor. We do not drink sodas but saw a a menu a soda package of 20 sodas for $18 (I believe?) The truly only bad drink we had was the Pina Colada on Half Moon Cay at the "I wish I could stay here forever bar" (you can charge drinks to your room since it is an Holland America island). For some reason it was extremely weak and watered down. We asked the bar tender to make another but it was still bad. It was probably just the bar tender on the beach, because all the drinks on the ship were great!
OTHER - (DESSERT NIGHT, LAUNDRY, SPA PACKAGE, MIDSIZE SHIP, OCEAN VIEW ROOM, OLDER CROWD, ETC): Pools very clean and beautiful, a little on cold side. Loved the dessert extravaganza on the last day at sea (10:30 p.m. on last sea night, which is formal night). Quite a presentation they did, we were too full from dinner to try anything.
They do not have self serve laundry, but they do have a fairly good deal of laundry by the bag (the bag is about the size of a one and half basketballs) for $20 dollars. Sounds expensive I know, but they do everything, including wash, dry and press and you can fit a lot of clothes in that somewhat small bag...
My husband and I paid for the hydro pool/spa package for the week. It is $250 per couple for the entire week and they only allow 40 couples (80 people total use it). It includes use of the inside hydro pool, 3 types of steam rooms and the thermal chairs. Extremely relaxing and because they limit the guests that use it, it was never crowed.
This ship had around 2100 passengers, we like the feel of a midsize ship. I don't think I could do the larger ships again after experiencing the service on this ship. Some of these new ships have over 5000 passengers, are they crazy!?
We had an ocean view cabin on the main deck (deck 1) and were very pleased with it. Nice size with bath/shower combo and wonderful view of water. I was worried about being on a lower deck, but ended up loving the view of the water in my opinion of much prettier on a lower deck (except when you arrive on an island and want to be up higher to see the views better). Comfy beds and a nice small couch in room.
Holland America does have a reputation for an older crowd, my husband is 38 and I am 32 and it did not bother us. The week were on had 80 children and the week before had over 300. I thought there was a good mix of age groups, although probably a higher percentage of the older crowd.
All in all if you are looking for a ship with exceptional service, quiet areas and great food, this is the ship for you. If you want rock climbing, surf boarding, and the belly flop contest, try Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Do your research, I think that people who complain a lot did not do their research on which ship fits their personality. Or they are just generally unhappy people, remember you are on vacation so have fun!