This review is aimed at people who have not gone on a cruise before and are curious about the cruise experience from the perspective of others who are first-timers. I'm not trying to compare Holland America to any other line, nor am I trying to compare the Eurodam to another ship.
Background: The Cast - three couples who are cruise rookies. We all met in college. The guys were roomates in an off-campus house; the gals were friends; and we all married in 1965. We all enjoyed good business careers and have stayed close through all of our respective transfers over the years. The purpose of this cruise was to celebrate three 45th anniversaries, two retirements, and a 70th and 66th birthday...and for all of us to get some badly needed "down time". The travel agent suggested Holland America because of the demographics - we're "very active seniors" but not into water slides, climbing walls and hairy chest contests. We've all travelled somewhat extensively, but have mainly done rental villas and condos or trips to other countries. Not having been on a cruise before we had mixed expectations and some concerns like crowds, lines and regimentation. We sailed on 10/23.
* Very easy process to make our resers for the cruise and subsequent excursion arrangements, as well as special requests. Both the online and phone systems were great.
* The boarding and disembarkation processes were very efficient and user friendly.
* The use of the combination ID/onboard charge cards worked well. The accounting summary of our charges was detailed and accurate.
* We had three Veranda cabins side-by-side - desk 5, starboard side, over the last two life boats. The life boats below did not impede our view unless trying to look straight down. The cabins were well laid out, clean and effient. The bathrooms were well equipped. I've read reviews complaining of confusing light switches and don't understand the issue. Our cabin had a set of three switches by the door that controlled the hall overhead light, two banks of overhead lights in the main cabin area, and the bathroom lighting. On each side of the bed was a set of switches that controlled the respective reading lamps and the banks of lights in the main cabin area. Seemed relatively simple. Comfortable bed. Nice verandas with comfortable furniture - the cabin steward opened the dividers between the three verandas and created one common space.
* The cabin service was exellent...efficient, detailed, and unobtrusive. Our two stewards also went out of their way with suggestions when we had questions.
* The food in the main dining area was very good - well mixed menus, good variety, good ingredients and preparation. The wait staff and wine steward assigned to our table for 6 were excellent - very efficient, cheerful, and attentive. We noticed that they seemed to take their cue from each table as to the ammount of interfacing they did and their level of formality. We are all "low key" folks and enjoy informal relationships with service employees. The staff assigned our table picked up on this and we enjoyed our time with them, mutually joking and sharing information about our repsective homes. At no time did the staff become too "familiar" or take advantage of the informality. These same people were more traditionally formal with the table next to ours. We much appreciated the dining room manager setting up for us a tour of the kitchen one morning and personally conducting the tour. It's quite an operation!
* The 6 of us mainly used room service for breakfast every day and ate on the verandas. The food was good, the service on-time, and there were only two glitches in the orders.
* We ate a couple of breakfasts and some lunches in the Lido dining room and found the food good and the service efficient.
* We visited a number of bars on the ship and found the service good. We did not know what to expect in terms of drink costs, but found that drinks seemed priced at or slightly below what they would cost at a good bar/restaurant. Despite our fair share of cocktails, wine and beer none of our couples on-board charges exceeded $480 for the week, which came in under our expectations.
* The excursions we chose were all managed efficiently and delivered what was advertised. The only one that caused us some concern was the walking tour of Old San Juan. It was a hot day and our tour guide drove our group hard for over three hours. My wife and I think we worked harder on that tour than any of our more physical snorkling excursions.
* Another review complained that the ship did not do enough to encourage use of hand sanitizer. We disagree. There were several long public announcements about the need to use hand sanitizer. There were dispenser stations literally at every turn on the ship - in the halls, near bathrooms, near and in food service areas. In our experience, one would have to be determined not to use hand santizer to avoid it on the Eurodam.
* The life boat drill was conducted on departure day afternoon at the pier. It was hot, there was no breeze, and the sun beat down on the starboard side deck. Of course this drill is necessary but everyone in our section was soaked in perspiration by the time it was done.
* We noticed a fair amount of minor motion on the ship. Others remarked on it also. I can't say whether it was due to the ship's design, it's course, or is common to all cruise ships. It did not cause issues for any of our party. I should mention, however, that one of our group wore a motion sickness patch the entire time, and suffered some significant "rebound effect" problems beginning a day after taking it off when we disembarked. The local pharmacist recommended she take a reduced dose of the oral version of the medication for a couple of days to counteract this rebound effect.
* That's it - no other disappointments!
To summarize, the cruise exceeded the expectations of all six of us. We are in fact discussing a cruise to Alaska some time in the future. The cruise was relaxing, interesting, and we felt it was a very good value.