ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTIC
I am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health services. This was our 28th cruise, since 1999, including one river cruise. Without providing a boring laundry list of destinations, we have sailed in Tahiti and the Galapagos, around and in South America; to Alaska; made the usual Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean cruises and several Transatlantic crossings.
Why This Cruise?
It is reaching the point in our cruising life that we are having a little difficulty in finding new areas to explore. We will probably never do a Caribbean or solely Mediterranean cruise again, although we have two more Transatlantic crossings set which start in the Med. We have not done any cruises in Asia, mainly because we do not enjoy super long air transits.
But this cruise had appeal because of its itinerary; Amsterdam, Bruges, Dublin, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, and then a New York arrival. Edith was worried about cold weather, but after a hot Phoenix summer, I welcomed it. We had two prior short cruises with HAL and liked their professionalism, the ship-shape quality of their vessels; attributable to a line that has been sailing for more than 135 years; and the friendly attitude of their largely Indonesian staff. So we called our travel agent and made our plans.
Early on in our cruising life, we learned the benefit of arranging as many of our own shore excursions as possible. We have found that you get a much better value most of the time. Alaska is an exception, since the excursions are limited, and the pricing is the same. On occasions we have found ships' tours that were unique and were reasonably priced. Somewhat surprisingly, Crystal Cruises offers some of the most reasonable excursions, which like everything else Crystal offers, were first class also. But we often have had privately booked experiences which, when compared with our fellow passengers tales of ship's excursions brought back on board, were evidently much better. It takes some effort, but through exhaustive web searches as well as information provided on the Cruise Critic Roll Call site, we have not only found excellent trips, but people to take them with. We spent a good deal of time lining up excursions for every stop except Amsterdam (we know the city and will use local transportation) and Nanortalik in Greenland, where the town itself arranges the sightseeing for everyone.
Clothes planning involved some consideration. We are going to Arctic Circle climates, and we will be out of doors everywhere, so we needed to bring winter type clothing (or at least the Phoenix version of winter clothing). This included my Aran Island wool sweater that I bought on that marvelous island during an Ireland visit a number of years ago. I also brought a storm jacket acquired in Canada. I opted not to bring my tux for what we thought were four formal nights. This turned out to be a five formal night cruise. Edith uses some imagination to prepare for formal nights, and was more concerned about warm clothing for our outdoor excursions in chilly climes. We were a bit surprised when we got everything we thought we would need in one suitcase and one small duffel bag apiece as checked in luggage, along with back packs and small carry on bags with the travel necessities.
ON OUR WAY
British Air flies non-stop from Phoenix to London every day, so we booked them and splurged a little with Premium Economy. We use The Best Travel Store for our air purchases on overseas flights, and have been very satisfied. Our flight left at 8:00 P.M. and arrived on London at 1:00 P.M. We had booked a B&B in Dover called Maison Dieu, not because it was French, but because it was on Maison Dieu Drive in Dover. It is some distance from Heathrow to Dover, and while there are trains, it would have involved changing stations, hauling our luggage, in London. The B&B owners recommended Coastal Cars, and although we tried to find fellow cruisers making that trip around that time, we had to settle for a private car which cost £100.00. We were met promptly and, after buying UK pounds at the Barclay Bank ATM (which does not charge fees for Bank of America cardholders), drove down to our B&B for the overnight stay. Once there we got in touch with Bobi, our travel agent who was making the same cruise and staying at a Ramada near Dover, to join her and her cruising companion for dinner. The Maison Dieu is reasonably priced at £75.00, and the owners very friendly and helpful. Breakfast the next day was fine, and we did a little shopping in Dover before going down to the harbor to look at Eurodam docked there. Dover is a nice little town, easily traversed on foot. We loaded up a cab to go to the pier and boarded with minimal delay.
This is a fairly new ship, having made its initial voyage in 2008. It is one of the two largest in HAL's fleet, carrying just over 2100 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 86,200 for a decent space ratio of 41.05. Holland America seems to favor a "mature" ambience, with dark wood walls and furniture, warm colors for their carpets, solid sofas and chairs, lots of reproductions of old Dutch art and artifacts. The lower exterior up to deck four is black and all above that white. The layout is normal. Deck 1 is mostly staterooms, with the front desk, the excursion and future cruise desks and a small atrium. Decks 2 and 3 are the main activity centers with access to the main dining room aft on both decks, and the theater forward. Deck 2 also has the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant open only for dinner with a $25.00 per person surcharge. The store area is a little unusual in that, except for one separate high end jewelry store, the display tables for all merchandise are in one open area. An open steel mesh curtain is lowered to create an aisle when the shops are closed. There is also a "Culinary Center" for cooking "shows"; a small motion picture theater, the casino and the usual array of bars and lounges. One room is dedicated to the computer "Learning Center". Decks 4 through 8 are virtually all staterooms as is Deck 10. Deck 9 has the typical "Lido" Buffet, swimming pool and spa-fitness center set-up. The pool can be covered, and was heated so that even in our cold climates, swimming was possible. There are three elevator banks, and the one midships has two outboard facing glass elevators on each side. For some reason these seemed to be the fastest and most convenient of all. One of the aft group of four elevators was out of commission the entire cruise.
Our stateroom, and it really deserved that designation, was one of the true "highlights" of the cruise. It was number 7079, and there are only 3 others like it on this ship. They are Nos. 7080, 6113 and 6118. Grab one if you can! This is the "Superior Verandah" class, but what makes these 4 cabins so neat is their special configuration. Eurodam widens out for the aft quarter of its length. These cabins are immediately in front of that "bulge", with the result that the verandah, in addition to its normal outward facing aspect, has an angled aspect looking forward down the whole length of the ship. This gave room for two comfortable arm chairs with ottomans, in addition to the normal side chairs and table. It also created a triangular area in the cabin for additional storage of stuff, if needed. Not that more space was really needed, we had plenty.
There were three closets, with the center unit containing the safe, several shelves and one shirt hanger bar. Edith and I split the other two, and had plenty of room and hangers. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi tub/ shower, a separate shower and two sinks with Corian counters, plenty of room between the sinks, a shelf below and two corner toiletry shelves, providing more than enough space. The main cabin had two desks, one opposite the bed, really more of a dressing table with its lighted makeup/shaving mirror; the other to one side of the bed with its own window onto the verandah. One dressing table/desk had six drawers, the other two. The side desk also had the TV screen and the small refrigerator. There were two bedside tables, and each side of the bed had its own directed halogen reading lamp on a flexible arm for easy nighttime reading in bed. There was a full couch (which converted to a bed), an arm chair in addition to the two desk chairs and another cabinet which held two extra couch blankets, which Edith enjoyed.. There was also a decent sized coffee table in front of the couch. There was a large picture above the couch, two others on the wall next to the bed, a mirror above the bed and a full length mirror next to the bathroom door. There was room for all our items and enough space to get around comfortably. All in all this was one of the best staterooms we have ever had.
PORTS OF CALL
We had spent several days on two occasions in this delightful, sophisticated city before this trip. Therefore we opted for the hop-on-hop-off canal trip, purchasing the all day tickets for 20 € apiece at the very modern cruise terminal. This building is within walking distance from the Central Station Plaza from which all the canal boats and most of the trams and buses originate. We actually boarded our canal boat closer to the cruise terminal and had a nice harbor view before we reached the central station area. The weather was nice; mixed clouds and sunshine and in the 70s and we had a fine time taking most of the canal routes (with some duplication) and enjoying the marvelous Amsterdam architecture. We stopped for a quick bite for lunch (having had a full breakfast on board to prepare ourselves for a full day), and at the Flea Market which was a disappointment. If you have never been to Amsterdam, we would recommend the Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijksmusems. The latter is huge, and probably cannot be properly seen in one day, but the first two are great on their own, and close to each other. Transportation by tram is fast, cheap and clean. If one does the canal thing, there are several companies, but only one hop-on-hop-off, and this is the recommended one for a thorough view of the city.
Zeebrugge is actually the present day port for Bruges, which was a major port and trading post itself up until the 17th century when its harbor silted in and caused an increasingly rapid decline which resulted in the city becoming almost "frozen" in time. The construction of the port in Zebrugge, about 12 miles away led to a gradual increase of tourist traffic, which by now has become the main focus of the city, showing off its late medieval and early renaissance architecture, easily accessible on foot or via its small canal system.
Our plan had been to take a taxi arranged by Bobi, into town with instructions to return later. Unfortunately we waited in the rain for almost ½ an hour and no taxi. Edith and I were discouraged by the rain and returned to the ship. But since the daily schedule of events was pretty barren, we decided to take the shuttle bus provided by HAL to the train station in a nearby town called Blankenburg, and were on time to catch a cheap round trip fare to Bruges. We arrived shortly before noon, walked around this very quaint and attractive town, took the 30 minute canal tour, had a real Belgian waffle, very light, crisp and tasty with powdered sugar, and coffee for 6 € and wandered into the main square, always on the lookout for Belgian chocolate We noted that the restaurant prices for a regular lunch were very, very high; e.g. € 45 for bouillabaisse. I recall paying about 20 € in Cannes ( in the area where it was first made over 2000 years ago) in 2003. On the way back we explored Blankenburg, which had a nice shopping street and more reasonable prices.
Here we had two separate excursions, one routine, the other most unique and surprising. On this quiet Sunday morning we took a bus tour of the city provided by our travel agency. It was pleasant, and we saw some lovely Georgian neighborhoods with their vibrant, differently colored front doors. We then went to Trinity College, which is very striking. But since the line was very long for a glimpse of the Book of Kells, we all opted to return to the ship at about noon. There we, and another couple met John Kenny, who runs Hidden Wicklow. John loaded us into his Land Rover and off we were to Wicklow County, a very rolling, hilly and rural county south of Dublin. John is a young man who spends his weekdays as a barrister, drafting legislation for the Irish Parliament. He has lived in Wicklow since birth, less a few overseas trips, and knows absolutely everything about his home area. We carefully avoided all the normal tourist areas, stopping off first at a little known graveyard, still being used, but also holding stone tablets identical to those in Estonia, all carved by Vikings in about 850 A.D. We then traveled through the beautiful countryside, with lush valleys and raw, bog encrusted hillsides, where John cut us some turf, and told us how it was used in fires. We visited an ancient monastery with a marvelous tower where the only door was at least 12 feet off the ground to facilitate repelling invaders. We went to a graveyard for German airmen who accidentally, (or maybe not), overshot England in the bombing raids of WWII and were interned safely in neutral Ireland. At this spot he provided us with lunch; very nicely done sandwiches, and a fruit cobbler made of a local berry which had to be picked, one berry at a time, from the local woods. John had done both the picking and the cooking and it was delicious! We visited "Killruddery", the home of the ninth Earl of Meath (although no such titles are used in Ireland) This was not just a beautiful, stately home, but also a working farm with a wonderful vegetable garden. The home is still occupied by the family, who welcome locals and visitors, and also lent the grounds for concerts, one of which was to be held that day. We traveled through a quiet deep farming valley where John said the same few families had farmed the land for many hundreds of years. The sun was setting over a lovely view of Dublin as we returned to the ship after more than seven hours of marvelous insight into one of Ireland's most beautiful and historical counties. John is a superb guide, and this ranks with Patrick Watt's tour of the Falkland Island as one of the most memorable we have ever done.
Where? Well, the Faroe Islands are 600 miles north of Dublin (so we had a sea day, as we did between Bruges and Dublin) and 250 miles north and slightly west of the northwestern tip of Scotland. We docked in the capital, Torshavn, and joined a group again lined up by Bobi. This time the driver appeared in his Mercedes van and 10 of us took off to see this remote country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the countryside resembles both the Western Highlands of Scotland and Iceland, about 300 miles to the west. Torshavn [that's right - no "e"] holds about 17,000 people and the total population of all the islands is about 48,000. The three main islands are roughly parallel to each other. Torshavn is on Stremoy, Vafgar, where the airport is located is to the west and connected by a long tunnel. We drove up Stremoy, and crossed a short bridge to Eysturoy, to the east passing through several small towns. Few, if any people were around, and our guide, who spoke pretty good English, said most worked in Torshavn, or were out fishing, which still is an important part of the economy, despite some growth in information technology. The Faroese are Scandinavian. The islands have a large degree of political autonomy, some legal ties to Denmark, and the people speak both Faroese and Danish. The Danish Krone is the currency. The farms raise mostly sheep, and are attractive in the Scandinavian style. It purportedly is very windy, but was not bad when we got out of our van and wandered around some quiet towns. The Faroe Islands would not precisely fill one's concept of a dream vacation spot, but have a quiet charm and barren beauty.
In contrast, Iceland is a very interesting, starkly beautiful, surprising and vibrant country. We spent four days there in June 2005, and greatly enjoyed it. The offerings for excursions were many, but based on the fact that we had been to Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysirs (an original Icelandic word, spelled that way) and the Blue Lagoon, we opted to rent a car, persuaded another couple to join us and went to two small towns, Akranes and Borgarnes, and then the Thingvellier National Park. Akranes is a small fishing village a few miles north of Reykjavik and offered a nice view of the water as well as a lighthouse. Borgarnes has the Cultural Center, which provides a narrated guide through Icelandic Viking history. Their written records go back to about 850 A.D. and the entire show, costing about $15.00 per person, was fascinating. We then left for Thingvellier, and made a few false directional starts, but arrived there not too late to enjoy it. Basically it has two claims It is the site of the first true parliament in the western world. Everyone would meet on an annual basis and make community decisions. It also marks the division between the two major tectonic plates in the northern hemisphere. There is an attractive visitor center and marvelous views out over the plains and a nearby lake. All in all it is a striking place. While driving we noted the truly beautiful Icelandic farms, widely spaced over rolling hills, and populated with sheep and graceful Icelandic horses, whose bloodlines have been kept pure for over 1000 years, and whose special stride enables them to carry people over the rough volcanic ground in the smoothest possible style. This is indeed a country in which one could enjoyably spend a lot more time; although it is expensive.
It could be said that we spent two days in this icy wilderness. The first day was spent cruising into Prince Christian Sound, and the second in the town of Nanortalik. We had not expected much when the cruise guide said we would be cruising the Sound, but it turned out to be very striking, sailing almost due West, up a fjord-like body of water, sometimes fairly close to steep, snow covered shores with frequent waterfalls, and a view of the actual ice cap that covers most of this huge, virtually empty island. The Sound gives way to other water bodies at its west end, and on one of these we stopped to view a small Inuit community called Aqappilattoq. The captain sent in a small boat from the ship, not one of the large tenders, but a Zodiac type of craft, delivering pizza, we were told. Several small boats from the village came out and circled us, with their crews and passengers - 3-5 at the most - cheerfully waving at us. We then exited south to the open sea and proceeded, on a full sea day, around the southern tip of Greenland and up its West coast to Nanortalik.
This is a town of about 1500 people, mostly Inuit. They are visited by about 3 cruise ships a year, and set up a small event for these visits. For $20.00 US per person we were given entre into a small choir presentation at a local church and a coffee, cake and dance show at the local community center. The choir sang in a very pretty Lutheran church, and the group consisted of four women, five men and the choir director; who led the initial song with an organ chord, but conducted the balance a capella. The singing was in Greenlandic, but a Danish man gave short introductions for some of the songs. It was very beautiful and a most delightful experience. The coffee, cake and dance show was enthusiastic and pleasant, if not great dance; mostly by young people. We strolled around the town; looking at the small neat homes, mostly with flowers in their front windows, as we saw in the Faroes and Iceland. There was a gift shop, but it was so small and crowded (we were there only from 7:00 to 2:00 P.M. and had to tender back and forth) that it was extremely difficult to see, much less ponder the purchase of anything. The prices were quite high also. We reboarded in time for lunch at the buffet, which we shared with about 50-60 children from town, invited to see the ship. I am sure they had a marvelous time, especially the child who managed to smuggle his puppy aboard, to the great delight of the buffet staff. It was a mite chilly on shore, but not really too bad, and we considered this a delightful and very different port.
St. John's Newfoundland
St John's Newfoundland [not to be confused with St. John (no "s") New Brunswick], is much larger and more settled that we expected. We had envisioned Newfoundland as rather desolate, rainy and windswept, but were surprised by the very well kept, up to date ambience of this city, which has an urban area population of close to 200,000. The fishing economy collapsed in 1990, but new oil and gas operations have given the area a strong economic boost. We were transported to the airport Thrifty, a trip which took about 15 minutes, to my surprise. There our group, consisting of Edith and myself and a Winnipeg family , parents and 12 year old daughter, boarded our rental car and drove about 30 some mikes to Bay Bull. Why it is called this and not Bull Bay, I have no idea. But here we noarded the Gatherall's family catamaran to go out in search of whales and puffins. There were about 20 of us on board, which gave us all enough room and ability to walk about when we were able to in the Atlantic swells. We turned up whales just outside the bay in the Atlantic after a 20 minute ride and were able to get close and follow three fin backs for a half hour or so. The do not come as far out of the water as the Pacific humpbacks but are very large and impressive when seen from our close viewpoint. We then moved over to Witless Bay and circumnavigated one of the four puffin ecological preserve islands in this bay. Puffins are actually a lot smaller bird than we imagined, but their bright orange, parrot- like beaks make them very attractive. They came quite close to the boat, landed in the water, dove quickly for fish, and then flew to the island to dive back and disappear into the bright green ground cover plants where their chicks awaited dinner. We were told they mated for life, and lived about 16 years. This was a fascinating show. The crew was amusing and informative. Most inhabitants of Newfoundland are of Irish, Scots and/or English heritage, with the Irish being very apparent in Melinda, our guide.
We had hoped to see the Salmonier Nature Reserve on our return but unfortunately it closed at 3:00 P.M., so we drove back to St.John's by a different route, and enjoyed seeing the area. The whale and puffin trip was well worth it, however.
Here we had another private tour arranged by Blue Diamond Tours, a small local company. We chose to stay away from Peggy's Cove because there were two other cruise ships in Halifax that day, so a total of more than 6000 people would be traveling around, many of them to Peggy's Cove. Our excursion company had offered a wide selection of options on their website, and we chose the Eastern Shore. There were six of us in a nicely sized van, one couple from Australia and the other from Las Vegas. Our driver had been born in Halifax and was extremely knowledgeable. We crossed on one of two bridges to the Dartmouth side and went south down the harbor and the east along the coast. Our first stop was at a long public beach, where there was a good ocean surf, and some surfers in the water with wet suits. I went out to the shore edge to test the temperature, and found it to be pretty reasonable, not too cold for swimming for someone like myself who is used to the cold California Pacific and even North Sea Danish coast. We then went to a small port town and out onto a pier to see the lobster boats and lobster traps piled up everywhere. We next visited a wonderful farm house of about 900 square feet, which at one point housed a couple with their 13 daughters! The youngest of these had died in her 90s a few years ago. From there we went to a Heritage site, where the local people had restored about 11 various farm buildings to their status in the early 20s and 30s. We also were fed in a "cookhouse"; a meal with excellent soup and marvelous baked beans. We spent a lot of time going through these structures to see how people lived, and be reminded of our own backgrounds, at least in my case, of the late 30s. We returned to the ship after an excellent and reasonable ($115.00 per couple) five hour excursion, with no other tourists anywhere.
This subject is of great interest to all contemplating a cruise, but is rather subjective in outlook. There is not actually a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be, given the environment in which it must take place. There is one area in which cruise lines are beginning to try to separate themselves from competitive lines, and that is in the widening use of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have featured these alternative dining spaces in their designs.
HAL is a little behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam; their latest, having only two. These are the Pinnacle Room, basically an upscale, dinner only, dining room with a $25.00 per person surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with free, but reservation only, lunch and a dinner with a $15.00 surcharge. We received a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Room for early booking of the cruise, and enjoyed it, but only had a disappointingly bland lunch at Tamarind. Others reported well about their dinner there, but it was not well designed for Edith's vegetarian requirements.
The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had fixed seating for two times, 5:30 and 8:00 on its upper (Deck 3) level, while it offered open seating from 6:00 to 9:30 on its Deck 2 level. We chose our normal early fixed seating, believing it to be at 6:00 as on all other ships with this system (now becoming more rare since "open" dining is gaining popularity); and were discomfited with the 5:30 time. We like fixed seating, especially if there are six or eight regular attendees, but had we known, we would have elected open dining, and shown up at 6:00 to 6:30.
We were also disappointed in that there was only one other couple at our table for six. We enjoyed their company, but there were several nights when only one couple was at the table.
We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither selection or preparation. The full menus were pretty standard in both selection
and preparation. On a scale of 1-100 I would rate HAL at 82, Princess 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania 92 and Crystal 97. We have had only one Royal Caribbean and one Norwegian, and don't really have a good basis to rate them, but would probably say about 80 for both. The food service was good, although our waiter seemed a bit overloaded with three tables when all were full.
The buffet also had some problems. The layout was confusing and the signs not always informative. Ostensibly for health purposes, food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards, including coffee; which made that item slow. However after two days the buffet service by ship's personnel was somewhat hit and miss, so the health goal was not well attained. Seating was overcrowded and difficult at times since the weather did not allow outside seating aft of the main Lido dining area. The breakfast selection was reasonable, although the potato offerings were inconsistent, and the ship ran out of apple juice on the third day. The coffee in the Lido was pretty bad, but the one time we had breakfast in the dining room it was pretty good. Once I figured out where the more exotic, Asian lunch items were located, I enjoyed these. The food in the buffet was served directly on large plates. The Food Service Manager told us that HAL had stopped using trays in the buffet and that this has resulted in substantially less waste. It worked out pretty well, although if you wanted to keep your utensils, you had to make sure your dining companion was on guard against the rapid removal of apparently used dishes and cutlery by the buffet staff. I should note that each night a portion of the buffet was set aside for Canelo, an Italian food setup with waiters, linen napery etc. at no extra charge.
On Board Activities and Entertainment
HAL does not rate highly in this area. We had read that they realized the weakness of their activities on short cruises (and we experienced that on both Zaandam and Veendam on one week Caribbean cruises) and were going to remedy this on their longer cruises. We did not see much of this except for the lecturer for the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. This was Jon Sigurdson from Iceland. He did several lectures in the main theater, which were always well attended and enjoyed. His amusing and relaxed, but very informative talks added to our enjoyment of the Viking countries we visited.
Aside from this there was an astronomy lecturer that we did not attend, and a "techspert"; a young lady named Kristin who ran a series of computer and camera classes, often twice a day or even more, in the "Kings Room" a small room on Deck 2 that was equipped with about 20 laptops. This was a nice concept, but there was obviously a limit to the number of people who could avail themselves of this, and the classes moved quite rapidly, so there was the danger of being left behind. Many of them were repeated during the cruise however. On most sea days there was a presentation or "show: in the Culinary Arts center, which has a small theater setup with a stove top on stage. Most of these had a comedy approach, and the one in which our very friendly Canadian Captain attempted to cook was amusing. Most of the balance of the offerings were typical cruise games, contests and sales pitches for stores and the spa.
The evening entertainment in the theater had some variety and two pretty good singers, one male, one female as well as two typical "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a flutist, a pianist who had us worried if the instrument would survive her attack, a couple of comedians and a dance/quick change artist couple. All in all, we considered the evening entertainment to be of average quality; not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruises, and most others.
A daily ship's version of the New York Times was available in many national editions. In addition, one could go on line, without charge, in the internet cafe and bring up the
e-mail version of the Times. Internet communication otherwise was not free, of course. I paid $55.00 + tax for 90 minutes, and it was slow. The in-room TV was sporadic in its pickup of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. What was annoying was that the program listing for the in-house shows, including several movie channels was totally inadequate and uninformative. Nor did it enable you to see your on board account - pretty poor service for this day and age.
The Crew and the Ship
HAL runs a very high quality, ship-shape operation. The crew is constantly cleaning, and the results are apparent. The crew is also uniformly pleasant and attentive. Our cabin attendants were on the spot all the time, and always had a smile. The wait staff and buffet staff were equally nice. The Captain gave detailed, very understandable reports of progress, which was well appreciated because of two hurricanes, Irene and Katya, which posed possible threats. The officers made sure you knew that their families were on board, the Captain's three children obviously enjoying Dad's failures as a cook. As on all HAL ships, the stateroom attendants and wait staff in the dining venues were Indonesian, except for the wine and liquor servers who are non-muslim Filipinos. There was some upset over the store manager who would announce raffles and then cancel them with little notice, but he was not a HAL employee.
There were a few days of high seas, but no reported motion sickness, merely some swaying as one walked about. The outer decks were closed a few times as the wind approached 70 knots, but the ship remained very steady. Often people on Cruise Critic wonder about the North Atlantic crossings. This is the third westbound crossing we have made, all in fall months, and all without disturbingly high seas. We have also done two eastbound cruises, from Rio to Barcelona and from Baltimore to Rome, both in the spring and equally smooth. The highest seas we have ever had have been going north up the Baja coast and west to Hawaii from California.
This was the slowest we have ever experienced, and it was due entirely to the customs/immigration authorities, no doubt as frustrating for HAL as it was for us, since there were still passengers on board when we left at about 10:15. The new arrivals were to start boarding around 11:00. (We read one review which said that the early debarkees exited very promptly, but progress certainly slowed down later.) However, there were three ships arriving at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, Carnival Glory, which had joined us in Halifax and Norwegian Jewel, which might have accounted for the delay. There was a very long line for taxis, but, as a born New Yorker, I believed I could walk one block to 11th Avenue and catch one there, which we did, and were on our way to pick up our rental car and drive to Long Island to visit my sister.
This was a cruise with highs and, if not exactly lows, some weak spots. The high points were the ports of call, the overall itinerary, our delightful stateroom; the general high quality of Eurodam as a ship, and its very pleasant staff. The food would be rated as medium to quite good; and the on board entertainment and activities as fair to medium. It is probably not a cruise one would do twice (although our friend Bobi had done just that) but certainly well worth doing once. We should note that of the 2100 passengers, about 450 had done a back to back with the cruise through the Baltic preceding our trip. Since we chose this cruise largely for its itinerary, and not for on board shows and activities, we were certainly not disappointed, and considered this an excellent adventure.