My name is Patricia Blackstock, and I'm from Myrtle Beach, SC. My sister-in-law, Paula Snider, lives in Ft. Worth, TX. Paula called me back in the winter to ask if Russia was still on my bucket list, and if so, how about a cruise to the Baltic countries!
Paula had been on a Holland America ship in the past, and her recommendation was enough for me to agree to this trip. She already had a travel agent with Holland America, so he became my contact for this trip.
This review is mine alone, so let me tell you upfront that this is only my 4th cruise. My husband and I usually opt for all-inclusive adult only resorts for our annual vacations, When friends tell us about cruise specials, we'll check their recommendations, but we opt for the all-inclusive resort instead.
My ship cruising experience: A Royal Caribbean cruise in the mid-80's. The Wind Star in 2005 (Istanbul and the Greek Islands) and a Viking Burgundy Cruise (through the wine country of Provence, France) in 2008.
Reviews of the Eurodam and Holland America are readily available online, and most of them are positive. There's a reason for that. The Eurodam is beautiful ship with a full schedule of things to do. A ship this size needs to be organized in order to handle over 2000 people, and it is. This is not an easy task,but the Eurodam managers and staff handle organization flawlessly.
I would rate the food good to excellent. Paula and I signed up for the Pinnacle, Le Cirque, and the Sommelier special dinners. They were all excellent and well worth the extra fees.
We were able to attend most of the evening shows, and we enjoyed them all. The Eurodam provides a daily schedule of activities in addition to nightly entertainment. No one should complain about not having enough to do on this ship.
The tub/shower combo contains a handheld shower. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash are mounted on the wall and refilled by housekeeping as needed. The space was not huge, but it is sufficient if you use it one person at a time. Paula and I have vacationed together before, and we share well. It actually reminded me of college roommates, where it didn't take long to figure out the most time-saving methods to shower, dress, stay out of the way, and still arrive in time for class!
Our balcony was a nice size with two rattan chairs, a small table and an ottoman, but it was too cold for us to go out there much. (If it's cold in August, I wonder when is it warm?)
If you're a shopper, you'll will love the Eurodam. There's something for everybody. High-end jewelry, amber, watches, a Faberge room, cruise apparel and souvenirs, all readily available. The last day there was a big sale (lots of items for $10.) which reminded me of the flea markets at home. Much fun for any budget.
Paula and I each purchased a wine/drink card. $90. for $100. of alcoholic beverages. It took us a few days to discover a bar on the Eurodam that offered Happy Hour prices, and that turned out to be a big savings. We would order two bar drinks, usually the specials of the day, followed by two wines which we saved to take with us to dinner, The wine prices (not including Happy Hour) vary from bar to bar and from restaurant to restaurant. The same wine might be $4. at, say, the Explorations Cafe, while it may be $8. at one of the restaurants.
I have mixed feelings about the Eurodam excursions. Before leaving home Paula and I booked the following excursions with HA: Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin, Helsinki and Stockholm. If I had it to do again, I might skip the Estonia and Stockholm excursions. The prices were high for what we got.
The buffet breakfasts tend to be extremely crowded, and you easily find yourself walking back and forth with a tray of food and coffee, hoping to find a seat before your coffee gets cold. A good alternative is room service which was always prompt and efficient. This service, at no additional charge, is offered 24-hours a day.
My biggest gripe involves the wi-fi. I can't be the only person who thinks wi-fi should be included, just like electricity and water. Instead, it is an added service which is outrageously pricey, and the connections are dismal. I brought my own laptop, and paid the "Time Plan" as soon as I boarded the ship. 250 minutes for $100. I was seldom able to connect from our room (level 4, verandah suite) and when I did, the connection was agonizingly slow. I would usually have to carry my laptop up to the Explorations Cafe in order to log on, and It was next to impossible to maintain a website, let alone upload pictures.
But the worst was yet to come. As our voyage neared the end, we visited the front desk to ask about confirmations on our return flights. We were told that neither the ship or the HA travel agent confirm this for cruise guests. I was stunned! I can't remember a cruise or an all-inclusive where this was not a part of the service. We were told to log onto the Internet, and as soon as I heard that, I knew we were in trouble. We tried many times, both from my computer and from the computers in the Explorations Cafe , but we always got the message "Too many users online. Try again later." We weren't even able to log off due to the same message, thus further increasing the Internet charges. Direct quote from Explortions - Wireless Internet Access "IMPORTANT! Don't forget to log out! To end your internet session and discontinue billing, simply type logout.com in your browser's address bar to end your internet session." Fortunately, although we arrived at the airport without confirmation on our flight to Atlanta, we did not have a problem.
The jewel of the Holland America Eurodam Baltic Cruise was seeing St. Petersburg, Russia.
Due to some reviews on CruiseCritic.com we decided to book a two day tour with an independent tour company in St. Petersburg (petersburgguide.com) instead of through Holland American.
At first we were a bit apprehensive. We've all heard rumors of being left behind in some strange city, not returning to the ship on time, having to negotiate our own way back or becoming a street person! But they assured us that they had never been late to a boat,never left anyone stranded, and that we would be in good hands with their company. This proved to be true.
Our group of 11 was met both days upon disembarking from the Eurodam. The guide was excellent, and we were whisked off in a small van to experience all the highlights of St. Petersburg. I can't say enough good things about this excursion. If you plan to see St. Peterburg only once, this is the way to do it.
One of the benefits of a smaller group was that we knew each other by name and sight early the first day. The small van was able to get in and out of the attractions with minimum difficulty.
Highlights included: Peterhof, the Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac`s Cathedral, Spit of Vassilievsky Island with Rostral Columns, Church on the Spilt Blood, and other memorable locations.
A special thanks to Marney Wilde who posted information on CruiseCritic.com that led us to this tour.
Overall, it was a fun and educational vacation. The Eurodam is a beautiful ship and we enjoyed the Baltic Cruise.
You can view my 6 pages of photos with information about the various ports here: