This was our third cruise with Holland America. Previous cruises were Eastern Caribbean on the Zuiderdam (my favorite Holland America ship to date), and a Back2Back Alaska cruise on the Veendam (least favorite). We have sailed on RCI, NCL, Cunard, Carnival, and Princess.
My wife and I are in in our late 50s, early 60s.
We arrived at this itinerary as an introduction to Copenhagen, Oslo and Bergen Norway. We have toured Scotland before but didn't have the opportunity to tour the Highlands, and the same with Newcastle. These are my own opinions.
Pre-cruise: We flew from Boston on Delta Airlines to Heathrow. We arrived a day early to recover from jet-lag. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near Victoria Station. We took National Express coach from Victoria Coach Station to Dover Ferry Port. During the drive to Dover, we approached the driver and asked about being dropped off at the ship. A call to dispatch (this was his story) gave approval to detour to the port. A tip of 5 British Pounds from us were accepted by the driver, as were other 'considerations' from our fellow cruise couples.
Embarkation: Mass confusion reigned with this step. Colored tags were handed out I guess to indicate when to board the ship. The tags were abandoned after an announcement was made for Mariner members to board the ship immediately in order to attend a special luncheon. The only problem was, most of the people in the boarding lounge were Mariners! The bottleneck was security, X-ray machines and metal detectors. I guess it was a good hour from our arrival to boarding the ship.
Ship: This is the newest and largest ship that we have sailed on with Holland America. The ship was well maintained. It appeared to sail full for this cruise but except for one morning at the Lido for breakfast you would not know it. I wish the designers did a better job with lounge placement. The main lounges were not isolated from high traffic areas and to me, lacked some character. Clientele median age appeared to be mid to late 60s.
Cabin: Two weeks before our cruise we were offered an upsell from our ocean view cabin on main deck to a VQ spa veranda on Deck 10. Since this was an anniversary cruise for us, we took the offer. This was the first time we had a veranda cabin, and despite the itinerary, we were able to use the veranda on a few days, even at sea. We were glad to be offered the upsell since our original cabin pick was in a heavily used part of the ship. Cabin location was excellent with the Crows Nest lounge one deck up and the Spa - Lido deck one deck down. It was pretty quiet up there, and the ship's movement never bothered us.
Service: Our two room stewards gave us outstanding service. We showed our appreciation with a tip over the automatic daily service charge. They were pleasant, always smiling, would say hello and most importantly, get their tasks finished in a timely fashion.
Dining: We were given Open Seating and so had to put up with either reserving a table for dinner, or show up at the dining room early. We are still not fans of Holland America's concept of anytime dining. Passengers were able to book a table and time for a few days at a time, but if you are taking port excursions, you can not always depend on arriving back on ship in time for dinner. The food quality in the dining room was good to very good. We had two instances later into the cruise when a waiter had a rough time delivering the courses. We tried the Lido buffet for dinner once, and once was enough. It was the first day of a Code Red norovirus outbreak on the ship, and the menu was not all that special to begin with.
We took our breakfasts and most lunches in the Lido buffet. We both thought the foods meant to be hot, like scrambled eggs, were sometimes not kept at the proper temperatures. We had two lunches in the main dining room, which took forever to complete. One lunch was at the pool grille for hamburgers and it was very ordinary. We have not tried the Pinnacle Grill now for 3 cruises. The menu does not interest us. We heard from others that it was very good with smaller portions. We looked at the Asian Fusion menu, and again, it was nothing special for the surcharge. We could never get a lunch booking in there. We did the Italian dinner in the Lido on the Veendam which didn't impress us. I purchased the $100 beverage card for $90. It was readily accepted by the bars, even for a happy hour promotion. (Those happy hour drink glasses do get small. I don't know how much a bargain they are compared to the regular sized cocktails. No draft beer was on this ship. I thought the wine by the glass prices were steep for the quality offered. Same observation with the wine by the bottle prices too) .
Spa: Well they say one gets some consideration with the VQ spa cabin category at the Spa. We both used the services especially the first day at sea to work out the kinks from hauling our luggage around. It went very well. As for 'considerations', I guess if you really push the Spa they will honor them. After a massage on our second sea day, we both said it was enough pampering. Please note: they are going to try to sell you 'products' as an add-on. Learn to say "No thanks" and the sales pitch will end.
Entertainment: Ian was probably the most laid-back cruise director we have ever experienced. Sea day activities were offered, but I didn't see a big push to advertise them beyond the daily program listings. We attended two main stage productions with the singers and dancers. I thought the quality was very good. A guest violinist and a comedian were entertaining. A duo piano act was attended by my wife, and she thought it was a good show. The last production show had the late performance cancelled due to 'technical difficulties'. I asked one of the musicians and he suggested that the main female singer was suffering from the virus outbreak.
The Adagio string quartet played most evenings in the Explorers lounge. I thought they should have been given better exposure in a larger room. (Here is where a larger atrium would serve a purpose for this fine quartet to perform in.) I never saw the Halcats group or the piano player, but I caught the guitar player once in the Crows Nest. He sounded fine.
Disembarkation: We decided to go with the Holland America's transfer to Heathrow. I originally thought that we would use National Express from the Ferry back to Victoria Coach station. In fact I had the tickets booked and paid for but the idea of hauling all our luggage for our one night post cruise stay in London changed our minds. We were off the ship by 7:40 am, found our luggage under the colored tag we were given, and directed to a coach. There we sat until 8:30 am, the last bus to leave for the airport. It took 2 hours to get to Heathrow where we dropped off our heavy luggage at a 24 hour 'left luggage' vendor.
Summary: It was an excellent itinerary, an excellent cabin and room stewards, very good food, and excellent main show room entertainment. Holland America will continue to be a favored cruise line, but I don't think the Eurodam will see us as customers again. I never thought that I would say this about this class of ship but for its size. it is dressed too plain for me.
Excursions: See below.
Castles of North Zealand, Copenhagen. After seeing 2 castles (rebuilt over the years) and the outside of a third house owned by the Queen, I was ready for the return to the ship. We did a lot of walking.
Best Of Oslo: If a 45 minute visit to a national sky jump venue is Oslo's idea of a highlight, then in my opinion, they have problems.
The Oslo Fjord by Vintage Sailing ship: No sails were unfurled in what was to become a sightseeing trip of expensive summer houses along the fjord. A snack was supplied of cold boiled shrimp and a beverage of your choice.
Kristensand: Past and Present. Coach tour of recreated 13th century village. It was a quaint tour but rushed.
Bergen, Queen of the Fjords:
A bit disappointed with this excursion, since we spent a lot of time on the coach. The expected fjord crossing consisted of a car ferry less than 15 minute ride on our return to Bergen. I wish it was longer ferry ride.
Inverness: Highlands tour was a long day of riding around the highlands of Scotland. It was a rushed tour despite its length. This was an experiment with Holland America to see if larger 50 passenger coaches could handle the tour. Listening to the tour guide, she was not happy with the idea. Previous tours used 15 passenger vans which worked better.
Newcastle UK: tour of nearby Brammish recreated Victorian and Edwardian village. Worthwhile trip.
Edinburgh: Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle. Worthwhile. Stirling Castle was impressive with a lot of rebuilt rooms and a chapel. Note, this was a tender port and if fellow passengers miss their anticipated tender, it could (and did in our case) delay the tour leaving the port.