Review - Eurodam Baltic May 29 - June 9, 2010
My wife and I just returned from a wonderful Baltic Cruise on the Eurodam. We are Americans living in Connecticut and Florida, in our mid 50's.
This is our 9th cruise, and our fifth on Holland America. We have also sailed Celebrity, Princess and Cunard. We have enjoyed all our cruise experiences. We chose the Eurodam based on the itinerary and pricing. All of the ports on this cruise were new for both of us.
I made our own arrangements for our flights, pre-cruise stay and post-cruise stay. I enjoy playing a travel agent. It's fun to research and shop around. I also took advantage of our frequent flyer miles to upgrade us to business class for the flights.
Boston is our closest major airport, but I was unable to use our Delta miles from Boston so I choose JFK instead. That is a mistake I will not repeat. The driving into and out of New York is absolute misery. The Delta terminals at JFK go back to the Idlewild days. They are dirty, smelly, and dark and should be a complete embarrassment to the City. What a terrible first impression for the millions of foreigners who enter the USA through this very busy airport!
Our flight to Heathrow was full but uneventful. The Iceland volcano was a not a factor, fortunately. We arrived in England to typical low clouds and cool weather. I had arranged for a private ride to our hotel in London, which was waiting for us. We had too much luggage to deal with trains.
We stayed at the Marriott Hyde Park for 2 nights. It is a very nice hotel with an excellent location. It's expensive like everything in London, but we very happy with the room and the excellent service. We would not hesitate to stay there again.
After a much needed nap after we got to our room, we spent the afternoon exploring beautiful Hyde Park. The weather had cleared but it remained cool, perfect for enjoying the park. The park is truly a treasure. It seemed like we were in the countryside, rather than a large and vibrant city.
We've been to London before, so we did not do a busy tour as we have in the past. Our second day in London was also beautiful weather. We grabbed one of the wonderful London cabs, and headed to the Imperial War Museum. I'm a military history buff. My wife, to our mutual surprise, enjoyed this incredible museum as well. The Holocaust Museum is haunting and should not be missed by anyone visiting the city. I'm too old to figure out the Tube system for a 2 day visit, so we took a cab back to the hotel in the late afternoon.
Saturday dawned cloudy and cool with some drizzle. Once again I had arranged a private car to take us to the Dover cruise port. Our driver arrived early, which was nice. He told us there was a major accident on the motorway he usually uses, so we would be going through the city instead. This proved to be fun as we saw a part of London we have never visited. Southeast London is mostly residential. It was nice to watch people going through their normal Saturday chores.
Our ride through the English countryside was relaxing. England is green and verdant this time of year. All went well until we were just outside Dover. We came to a dead stop. It was a 3 day weekend in England, and it seemed like everyone was headed to Dover at the same time! We eventually moved along slowly, but it took about 45 minutes to go the last 5 miles. We were early, so there was no pressure.
Embarkation was a breeze. We were later than the usual early crush. We passed through security after waiting only a few minutes. We went to the suite line to check in, but there was really no wait for any of the passengers at this point. Holland does a great job moving people through the process. I had checked us in on line, so it took only a few minutes.
The cabins were still not ready when we boarded. We were directed to the Lido, but I knew the way to the Neptune Lounge so that is where we went. We relaxed there for about 45 minutes, meeting some of the other passengers. Snacks were available. We had open dinner seating, so I made our dinner reservation with the concierge. I asked for the same table every night, as we enjoy getting to know our servers. I would have booked traditional dining had it been available when I reserved the voyage.
We were advised that our cabin was ready, so we headed down the hall. A crew member in the hall insisted the cabins were not ready, but we told him what they said in the Neptune so he let us pass. We arrived at our home for the next 12 days, SA Cabin 7074.
The cabin was clean and quite nice. The dEcor was conservative and darker than other cabins we have stayed on other ships, but it was quite nice. We relaxed to wait for our bags, which arrived over the course of the afternoon. We met one of cabin stewards, Richard, who delivered one of the bags. I took a few photos of the white cliffs from the balcony. We explored the cabin to figure out things like how the light switches work. The bathroom was lovely with two sinks, a shower stall and a tub with a shower. It's hard to beat a Holland America suite!
We attended the "mandatory exercise" life boat drill. We were pleased that we no longer needed to drag along the life vests. Those were always an uncomfortable pain on past cruises. Once the "exercise" ended our cruise began.
Our dinner time was 6:30 PM. We arrived on time and were escorted to table 122. We were ecstatic! The table for 2 was in the back corner of the Rembrandt was private, with great views of the sea. Our waiter called it the "honeymoon table". Our honeymoon was 33 years ago, so that didn't apply to us, but we loved the table anyway.
The food in the Rembrandt throughout the cruise was excellent. In particular, the soups were superb. I suppose if we wanted to complain we could have found something wrong, but we were very satisfied. Well done Holland America!
We attended the late show that evening. It was a very ordinary song and dance show. We thought it was typical cruise ship entertainment.
Our first day was at sea. It was cloudy, foggy and cold as we traversed the North Sea, but it was wasn't rough. Captain Jonathan Mercer advised us that he had the stabilizers extended to reduce the roll. We relaxed, worked out in the gym and saved our strength for the busy days ahead.
We invited our new British friends to join us in our cabin for an afternoon get together to get to know each other. I met David on the Cruise Critic roll call. He was kind enough to arrange a private tour in St. Petersburg, and graciously allowed us to join his group. The concierge arranged for some excellent canapEs to be delivered to us along with a wine package we purchased. The food was great, but the company was even better. We solved all the world's problems and enjoyed the food and drink.
We arrived for dinner at 6:30 PM and were told "our" table had been assigned to someone else. This was confusing as we had made the reservation for the entire cruise. The maitre d' worked his magic on the computer, and reserved the table for us for the rest of the voyage. Stuff happens. Our dinner that evening was at a table for 4, but no one was assigned to dine with us. Somehow we survived the experience, and we enjoyed an excellent dinner.
Each evening we returned to our cabin to find another towel animal. It was fun to see what Richard or his assistant Edo had created. They did a great job in every respect throughout the cruise.
Our first port was Copenhagen, Denmark. We awoke to a cloudy sky and rain showers. We enjoyed a nice ship's tour to 3 Danish castles. The sky cleared before noon and we enjoyed a sunny but cool afternoon. Our guide was terrific and the castles very interesting. The tour was a good choice.
We were back to our regular table and enjoyed another fine dinner. By this point our choices were anticipated and we were getting to know our stewards and sommelier. One thing that draws us back to Holland America is their incredible crew members. They are genuinely caring and kind despite working hours we can only imagine.
Despite our disappointment with the previous entertainment, we decided to give it a go again this evening. The entertainer was magician/illusionist James Cielen. He was fantastic! Easily the best show of this type we have ever seen. His wife also performed an incredibly athletic act using curtains to hold her off the floor while she spun all around. Both were amazing! This was not ordinary cruise ship entertainment. The show was very impressive and very entertaining.
Day 4 was another relaxing sea day. We had a great time at the Cruise Critic meet and greet in the morning. Nearly 60 people attended, which was nice.
We waited until later in the day to use the gym as it was a mad house in the morning. The location is far forward, and we were glad the ride was smooth. It would be an interesting experience to work out in a heavy pitch. Probably not the best idea if you are prone to seasickness.
As we moved north the nights became later and later. Our dinners were in full daylight, often requiring the curtains to be closed to reduce the glare. The late sunsets were a joy. Of course they pay the price during the winter with very short days.
We enjoyed another terrific dinner and called it a night. We passed on the entertainment.
Day five we arrived in Tallinn, Estonia on a bright and sunny day. Most people went to the old town. We decided to do something different and took a ship's tour of the new city and the suburbs around the city. The country is beautiful. The only scars were the hideous apartments built by the Soviets in the 1970's. They look like a stack of blocks, and they are falling apart. It's an ugly reminder of nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation of the Baltic nations. They are moving ahead now.
Our time in Estonia was brief. We enjoyed the sail out of the harbor and dinner in the bright sunlight. We were excited knowing our next stop was Russia.
We awoke early and had a quick but excellent breakfast in the Lido. We aren't buffet fans (lead us not into temptation......) so most mornings we had room service or ate in the Neptune. Our first day in Russia required an early start as our private tour departed at 7:30 AM, and we had lost an hour's sleep the night before as we moved into our 8th time of zone of our trip.
Obviously Russia has evolved greatly since the fall of the Soviets, but vestiges of their paranoid state remains. Their "passport control" process is miserable. Three pieces of paper were needed to enter the country, passport, tour ticket and a 2 part form provided by the ship. We did not have to wait too long going in as were early, but we were scrutinized in a way that was not welcoming. The computer was humming and they pounded away with multiple stamps. Returning in the afternoon, we waited 30 minutes in line before we got through the miserable process. Again everything was scrutinized including us, and their stamps were applied again. The second day was easier, but they still carefully checked the passport and the tour ticket to verify the date. As one person said while we waited the first afternoon, just where do they think we are going to go? There were 2 ships and a lot of water. The process is ridiculous. They need to join the 21st century; there is no need for this kind of nonsense anymore.
We enjoyed our private tour in every respect, including 2 excellent lunches. Bottled water was provided, as the water is still not safe to drink in St. Petersburg. They history is amazing and the museums fantastic. We took a special evening tour, cruising the canals and Neva River in the fantastic evening sun. The sunset at 11:10 PM the night we were there! That was about the only time we relaxed, as we were constantly on the go otherwise. If you go to St. Petersburg, consider SPB tours. Well done by everyone involved!
After the overnight and 2 days in Russia, we started the long journey back to England. The next morning we docked in Helsinki, Finland. The weather was perfect again, lots of sun and a chilly breeze. We picked a perfect ship tour that included a long ride in the countryside and a visit to a wonderful historic village. We were able to relax after the exhausting 2 days in St. Petersburg. We did a bit of souvenir shopping. Everyone spoke excellent English, which made the visit easy. Our tour ended in the city, where we visited two very different churches. It was a nice day, especially after the madness of the previous 2 days.
We decided to attend the show that evening. The entertainer was Count Dimas, who we had never heard of. We will never forget him! He is a virtuosic pianist, and a comedian! He played classic music on the piano and made us laugh; particularly when he played a hysterical contraption he calls the "Draculaphone." Once again, this was not standard cruise entertainment. Count Dimas was superb! My wife bought his CD after the show and had a nice chat with the Count. If you would like to see this very talented entertainer in action, search his name on YouTube.
Our last port was Nynashamn, Sweden. We were scheduled to dock in Stockholm, but were advised when we boarded that we would instead stop south of the city and tender. This was never fully explained, but the reason became apparent. The captain made a stern announcement that everyone had to be back on board on time as he had to leave at 6:00 PM sharp to return to Dover. He went on to explain that the tides in Dover had to be at the correct level for a ship the size of the Eurodam to be able to dock. He said we would be going to Dover on a "full speed run". The bottom line is we didn't dock in Stockholm as we would not have time to get to Dover.
The tendering to our ship's tour bus went fine. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of old Stockholm and the countryside to a small historical village. The weather was the best of the entire trip with a warm and sunny afternoon. We loved Sweden and hope to return soon. The only flaw was the travel time to/from Nynashamn. It added nearly 2 hours to the tour, and was truly wasted time. Hopefully Holland America can find a better way to deal with the Dover tide issues.
After 5 consecutive port days we were completely exhausted. We enjoyed a nice meal that evening in the Pinnacle, but we had to rush to the meal after long bus trip. It would have been a better experience had we not been so rushed and exhausted.
Day 10 found us at sea. We slept late, trying to unwind from 5 busy days. My wife did the 5k Susan G. Komen fund raising walk, while I slept in. We exercised in the afternoon, watching many ships pass by in the busy Baltic Sea lanes. Later in the afternoon we passed under Denmark's Great Belt Bridge, which was an incredible sight.
We met our British friends for a wonderful dinner in the Tamarind. The food was excellent, service superb and the company was perfect.
Our last day was an uneventful day crossing the unusually smooth North Sea. We packed and said farewell to the wonderful staff that assisted us throughout the voyage. We attended the evening show that featured the English singer Paul Emmanuel and the fantastic Count Dimas.
We arrived on time in Dover and disembarked without a problem. We ended our vacation with a terrific day in Dover visiting Dover Castle. We stayed overnight in Dover at a fantastic bed and breakfast, the Hubert House, and returned home the next afternoon.
All in all the Eurodam exceeded our expectations, with one exception. The Internet service was terrible. We've used it on other ships without a problem, but it was almost always dysfunctional on the Eurodam. It sort of worked in some ports, but it was barely working at all most times at sea. I suspect that it was because we were so far north that the satellite was difficult to reach. In any event, they should have reduced the price or given free minutes to compensate for the poor service. This was one flaw in an otherwise excellent experience.
Questions? Please let me know.