CHRISTMAS ONBOARD EURODAM.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION. We are a party of three well-traveled individuals; DH and DW (60) and DS (20), who have chosen ms Eurodam for our Christmas cruise with Holland America Line. Previously, we have sailed on 13 cruises with Holland America Line, 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 the other mainstream cruise lines, not luxury lines such as Crystal. This was our second cruise on the Eurodam; the first was in March, 2009.
EURODAM 7-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN. We elected to sail on the December 19, 2009 sailing of Eurodam from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ports of call included Oranjestad, Aruba and Willemstad, Curaçao. The itinerary included three sea days, with a fourth unplanned sea day due to a missed port call at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.
PRE-CRUISE. Before departure, we stayed for three nights at the Hyatt Place Hotel on 10th Avenue and 17th Street. The hotel was satisfactory and provided on-site parking for $10 per day. We required a room change one night due to noisy neighbors, and were thus credited $70 for a week of free parking. This was more than sufficient compensation, as the problem we encountered was not the fault of the hotel. The customer service representatives at the Front Desk were very understanding and helped us move to our new room. We were also accommodated when we requested a room on the rear of the hotel to view the cruise ships in the morning. We spent our evenings out, strolling and dining along the famous Las Olas Boulevard. Due to a snowstorm in the northeast, at least 27 parties missed our departure in Fort Lauderdale, and either met up with the ship in Aruba or cancelled entirely. We recommend that any travel to the port of embarkation be completed a least one day before the cruise.
EMBARKATION PROCESS. Our party arrived at the Holland America Line terminal, pier 26, at 10:15am. 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 a preliminary waiting room, then to the check-in desks in the main terminal. After completing the H1N1 and Norovirus questionnaire, we were issued boarding group numbers and preceded to the upstairs waiting room. Cookies, coffee and apple cider were served by wait staff in the terminal. Ship ID photos were taken at the check-in desk rather than at a separate checkpoint. We were onboard Eurodam by 11:15am. 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: we take a taxi to the port and decline free hotel shuttles. The lifeboat drill was help at 4:15pm on deck three. For the first time ever we were ordered not to bring or wear our lifejackets to the drill. This is due to "safety reasons," so I am sure that a slip and fall lawsuit is to blame.
SHIP CONDITION. The Eurodam is less than two years old and is in excellent condition. The crew is constantly polishing the brass accents in the atrium, the stairways and in elevator lobbies. The carpets in the elevator lobbies did not show excessive wear or appear to be water spotted as on some ships, but looked a bit more tiresome than they did in March.
EURODAM DEMOGRAPHICS. Upon embarkation, we noticed that the passenger makeup for our cruise included many families, multigenerational groups, single travelers and couples both young and young and heart. About 150 minors were also present on our cruise. Holland America Line is not a party cruise line, and is known for catering to more mature, well-traveled individuals. If you are seeking a very young, very active passenger demographic, Royal Caribbean International 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. The atrium is very quaint and intimate, providing a feeling of exclusivity. It is nice to experience a small; three level atrium, rather than the usual eleven-story monstrosity found on megaships. Fresh flowers are placed all around the ship in large, stunning arrangements and in small bowls on tables in the public rooms. Red poinsettias adorned the tables in the Lido Restaurant in place of the typical orchids. Plants could also be found in the elevator lobbies and by the Lido Pool; where two small olive trees have been added since March. We could immediately smell fresh flowers upon embarkation, something we did not even notice on the QM2. The furniture onboard was elegant, although some chairs, especially those in the atrium, 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 provide great views and are furnished with interesting dEcor and wonderful lighting fixtures. Eurodam gets top marks for the easy layout, pleasant dEcor and classy ambiance.
ACCOMMODATIONS. Our stateroom was large and functional. Everything that was provided had a purpose. Stateroom corridors open at 1:30pm on embarkation day. The armed reading lights by the bed provide wonderful ambiance lights in the evening. Our stateroom was number 5072, a VE grade deluxe veranda stateroom. The cabin had a small sofa with accent pillows that doubled as the third passenger berth. The bedding exceeded our expectations, as it did in March. The mattress was rather firm, which we prefer. Given the bathtub, the bathroom was larger than those found in similar grade cabins on Royal Caribbean and Princess ships. Convenient was the magnet positioned opposite the bathroom door, which allows the door to be held open to walk in and out. The cabinets above the sofa were very useful for the storage of laptop bags, towels and souvenirs. The wicker basket provided in the closet was perfect for storing socks. The balcony was sufficient and offered two chairs, an ottoman and a small table. The lifeboats are positioned one deck below deck five, but did not obstruct any views. As always, we used Lysol to clean the cabin upon embarkation. We pre-ordered a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and the Christmas "Snowman and Drum" floral arrangement to be delivered to the cabin. Both gifts were in the stateroom upon arrival, and both exceeded our expectations.
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. Holland America Line truly put their best foot forward to make this Christmas cruise very memorable. Upon entering the ship, Christmas garland and colorful ornaments adorned the railings in the Atrium Lobby. The ship's primary Christmas tree was also located in the Atrium, and was very well done. Captain Mercer held a tree lighting ceremony on embarkation day at 7pm. This was a very festive way to begin the cruise. The lamps found on the end tables in the public rooms were decorated with seasonal greens and red ribbons: a very nice touch. Additionally, garlands and ornaments adorned the pillars in the Rembrandt Dining Room. Poinsettias were also placed in the dining room, and elsewhere around the ship. Gingerbread houses were showcased in the Explorers Lounge and at both entrances to the Rembrandt Dining Room. Additional Christmas trees were placed in the Ocean Bar, the Mainstage Theatre, in the Exploration's Cafe and in the Crow's Nest Lounge. A festive wreath was placed on every stateroom door, and candy canes were made available at the Front Office and in the Exploration's Cafe. These were nice Christmas touches that we did not find on our Princess and Royal Caribbean Christmas cruises. Special Christmas menus were provided at dinner for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Seasonal favorites included Italian Seafood Penne, English Roasted Prime Rib, Braised Pheasant, Slow-Roasted Christmas Turkey, Orange Glazed Ham, Plum Pudding, Pecan Pie, French Yule Log, and Eggnog Ice Cream. Christmas cookies were served with coffee and tea. Red and green ribbons were draped over the tables in both the Rembrandt Dining Room and the Lido Restaurant on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES. Christmas carols were sung in the atrium on Christmas Eve, preceding the evening's production show. We have come to the conclusion that Holland America Line likes to clean up confetti, because it was used at so many onboard events. At 11:00pm, the Holiday Concert Choir showcased Christmas traditions in the United States, the Philippines, and in Indonesia. This was truly a wonderful experience. The Holland America Line singers and Dancers also sang traditional Christmas carols. Midnight Mass was offered for Catholic guests, followed by the Taste of the Nations Street Fair. This street fair consisted of traditional foods from the Netherlands, China, and Mexico, and stretched all the way from the Mainstage Theatre to the Explorers Lounge on Deck two. Interdenominational services and Jewish celebrations were also available during the cruise. Santa arrived on Christmas morning in the Mainstage theater bringing gifts for all the children. Captain Mercer made several announcements on Christmas morning to update the children of an unidentified object spotted on radar. Christmas Day was as beautiful as ever, with still, blue water, light breezes and plentiful sunshine. Champagne was offered at Christmas Dinner, and Eggnog was offered at the Christmas show. Holland America Line did so much for Christmas, and it was truly, truly memorable. If you desire a Christmas cruise with all the festivities and trimmings, Holland America is your best bet.
ONBOARD HOLIDAY SPECIALS. Due to the Christmas holiday, Internet service was offered at $8.25 for 15 minutes. Grey Goose Martinis were also offered at $3.75. Onboard bookings or 2010 Christmas cruises received $500 onboard credit and a bottle of free champagne.
REMBRANDT DINING ROOM. The quality of the food served in the Rembrandt Dining Room was excellent. The service was also very good. We chose the late 8pm seating for dinner, and were accompanied by delightful dinner companions. Our dining room steward and assistance dining room steward always smiled, and provided good service. We were served faster on some nights than on others, but we made up for it with interesting conversation. The overall dining experience was very similar to that in March, but we noticed some differences. Several of the menu items have been renamed, but consisted of the same entrEe. For example, the Island Pepper Pot Soup is now Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup. Some highlights of the dining experience include the following, and are not to be missed: Filet of Beef Wellington, Sweet Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella, Oven Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Pina Colada Crème Brule, Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast and of course the lobster and escargots. Unfortunately, the French onion soup, which is available daily, did not have as much melted cheese as it did in March, and some of the Dinner rolls were stale at times. One should not compare the Rembrandt Dining Room to world-class luxury restaurants, but you will definitely enjoy the food and service onboard Eurodam. The Maitre'D never once came over to our table begging for a tip, and bar service was unobtrusive, yet available. We enjoy San Pellegrino water with dinner, and a bottle was always close by for our consumption. Our waiters were friendly, but did not call us by name as they did in March. It is rather hit and miss, in our opinion, to be booked into a section of the dining room with the best dining steward team. On some cruises, you may be lucky to have the best team, and on others, you may have a less than perfect team. These situations need to be taken with understanding and need not ruin one's cruise. The 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 figs, dates and candied ginger, another very nice touch. When compared to the dining experience on other mainstream cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean and Princess, Eurodam earns top marks.
DRESS CODE ADHERENCE. 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. We feel that a classy cruise liner deserves proper dress in the evenings out of tradition and ambiance for fellow travelers. One interesting note: Christmas Day was a third formal night, even though it was the last night of the cruise. Usually, seven night cruises have only two formal nights.
THE PINNACLE GRILL RESTAURANT. We did not dine in the Pinnacle Grill Restaurant because the Rembrandt Dining Room suited our needs. 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.
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. There is hustle and bustle in every lido restaurant on every mainstream cruise ship, and this simply must be accepted if you choose to use the venue. Waiters were always pouring glasses of water and iced tea so that guests only needed to walk up to the station and grab a drink. Beverage carts were also pushed around the Lido Restaurant, like on Princess Cruises. The coffee was decent, and a variety of Bigelow Teas is available. During breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice, cranberry juice, guava juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, V-8 juice, lemonade and a few others were available for free, a welcomed touch that not even the QM2 provides. These juices are pre-poured and can be found in refrigerated cases in the center of the Lido Restaurant. Trays have been removed from the Lido Restaurant since March to cut down on food waste. While inconvenient, it just means an extra trip to get beverages and a fruit bowl. All entrEes were put on your plate behind the counter, and were handed to you at the end of the line. This seemed to promote onboard health and quicken the process, as the lines move 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 the 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. For breakfast, the made to order pancakes, waffles and berry compote were very nice. We were very impressed with the Lido food for a casual lunch or breakfast. Pizza is located on the aft deck and a grill is located by the midships pool. We did not find time to eat at Canaletto or Tamarind.
GENERAL ONBOARD SERVICE. The general service onboard was very good to excellent. Our cabin steward always called us by our last name, or addressed that we were staying in "72," referencing our cabin number. Something as simple as remembering your name really makes a difference. The crew 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 found the crew to be very friendly and helpful, always smiling and asking how our day was. This is not Ritz Carlton service, but excellent mainstream cruise ship service. Especially on Christmas, the crew were very talkative, and asked about our Christmas traditions and shared information about their families.
PORTS OF CALL. Unfortunately, we could not go ashore in Half Moon Cay due to severe erosion on the beach. Eighteen-foot waves caused damage to the island the previous week, making it uninhabitable by a ship full of passengers. We enjoyed the island in March, and noted that it was nicer than Labadee or Princess Cays. We received a glass of champagne at dinner, a letter from the captain and reimbursement for our port charges as compensation for the missed port. Due to the early departure, we arrived early at Oranjestad, Aruba. We went shopping in the morning and enjoyed time at Eagle Beach and the La Cabana Hotel during the afternoon. We do not gamble, and did not visit any of the casinos. We loved Willemstad, Curaçao for its historic city and colorful pastel buildings. The Eurodam docked inside the floating bridge, right in the city center. We walked across the floating bridge, an experience in itself due to rough seas in the harbor, and spent time at the Renaissance Hotel. The entrance and departure in Curaçao is among the most picturesque in the Caribbean, similar to an arrival in Sorrento, Italy. Curaçao was the highlight of our cruise.
WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS. Among our thirteen cruises, this Southern Caribbean cruise was our smoothest sailing to date. Unlike our previous cruise on the Eurodam, we rarely, if ever, felt the ship move. We learned that calm seas are characteristic of the deep Southern Caribbean and the sea to the west of the Bahama Islands. Last March, on the Easter Caribbean itinerary, which cruises the unprotected waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Eurodam was affected by 15-foot waves for the entire cruise. It was a nice change to never feel motion, but I must admit, we missed the excitement of a rough evening at sea. The outside air temperature was consistently between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the entire cruise, and the sun was always shining.
ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOWTIME. The two production shows, Nightlife and In Concert, were very good, but we missed having three full production shows as we did in March. Holland America Line isn't known for the best production shows at sea, but the Holland America singers were better than on many cruises. Some of the songs performed at the productions shows included Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams, Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones, Piano Man by Billy Joel, Candle in the Wind by Elton John, What'd I Say by Ray Charles, Because You Loved Me by CEline Dion, Yesterday by Paul McCartney, Who Loves You by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, I Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles, The Darkest Hour by Dwight Yoakam, The Music of the Night by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Con Te Partiro by Andrea Bocelli, You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban, If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by Bette Midler, You Don't Bring Me Flowers by Barbra Streisand, Proud Mary by Tina Turner, All You Need is Love by The Beatles and many, many more. On other cruises we noticed that the singers did not always wear microphones, but it was obvious on this cruise that the four singers sang all of these songs without lip-syncing. The shows are more reserved than Carnival or Royal Caribbean, and are more along the lines of Princess Cruises. Focus is put on the show in its entirety, not on a costume change every five minutes. Other entertainment included late night comedian Chris Alpine, Las Vegas Magician James Cielen and Italian vocalist Vincent Talarico. Holland America Line actually hires professional entertainers, not the traditional headliner magician or juggler like other cruise lines. Magician James Cielen was incredible, and lives with his wife and two sons onboard the Eurodam. He has two dogs and several birds that also live onboard which he uses in his magic show. The entertainment was very well rounded with something for everyone. A final show included a wrap up of the entertainment offerings, which was a nice look back through the week. The piano bar was just as lively as it was in March, however the piano was too loud for us and often masked the singing of piano man Les. 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 is very refreshing!
SHIP SIZE. We love the size of the Eurodam. We think that ships of 85,000 GRT are perfect, as they are large enough to include all the amenities of the large ships, but with fewer passengers. We have not yet 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 or two 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 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.
SMOKING POLICY. The guests who chose to smoke onboard were very considerate of Holland America's smoking policy. With the exception of the casino and the piano bar, we did not notice the smell of cigarette smoke in the public rooms. Also, we did not notice the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke on our balcony. As we received in March, Holland America distributed a smoking questionnaire with the comment forms on the last day of the cruise. The questionnaire simply asks if we would cruise with HAL again, should smoking be prohibited onboard.
DISEMBARKATION PROCESS. 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, relaxed in the cabin until 9:15am and then exited the ship. The process was fool proof and easy, and much better than calling colors and numbers all morning long.
CAPTAIN JONATHAN MERCER. Captain Jonathan Mercer was excellent. He is extremely professional and is ever-present in the public areas of the ship. He travels with his wife, who also mingles with the passengers and crew. We have never seen a more visible captain onboard any cruise ship.
CRUISE DIRECTOR J.T. WATTERS. Cruise director J.T. Watters is unobtrusive and very good at directing onboard activities. He is the youngest cruise director in the Holland America fleet at age 24. He kept announcements to a minimum, only addressing the ship after the captain's daily 1pm announcement and to announce shore side clearance by local officials.
THE 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 Christmas 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 will definitely sail with Holland America Line again!
CONTACT INFORMATION. Please feel free to direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. This inbox is checked weekly. 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. Thank you for reading!