The Holland America Line has always held a special place in the hearts of my family members.
It was on the Veendam that my sister's husband proposed to her - just outside of St. Kitts. My husband later proposed to me on the Westerdam as it made its way through the Panama Canal. We'd been on the Noordam back when HAL had 5 day cruises and family members had traveled on the Rotterdam (which I am looking forward to boarding one of these days). The service, food, cleanliness, cabin size and breathtaking common areas always kept family members coming back.
We were looking to really splurge on extraordinary service, elegance and comfort for my sister's 40th birthday, in addition to anniversaries and Thanksgiving. Rather than going with RC or Disney which we'd happily cruised in the in-between years, we decided to book a holiday cruise on the Eurodam. We were excited beyond words to experience a newer ship in the esteemed HAL fleet.
As it turns out, the giddiness of boarding previous HAL cruises evaporated upon setting foot on the Eurodam. To be fair, I was expecting a similar ship structure to the Veendam and Westerdam. I reviewed pictures of the Eurodam, but did not 'read between the lines' on what the class of ship truly meant. Although I'm not ready to throw in the towel on HAL just yet, I'll not be booking another cruise on the Eurodam.
And so begins this review...
Boarding the ship is via the standard ramp, but rather than being greeted in a grand, main room with a soaring ceiling, staircase and smiling staff, you'll find yourself herded to an outside gangway, on deck three. No pleasantries, no enthusiastic "Welcome Aboard", just "Need to scan your card" and move along and find your way, please.
We booked a Verandah, balcony room for two adults and two children. In the past I've been in a quad on HAL which was roomy and well planned. Sadly, on the Eurodam, if you dare to book a room for four with a balcony, you'll find that the pullman bunk opens directly above the main bed. Where your head rests. I can't count how many times my husband and I bumped our heads on this unusual design flaw. Also, for a ship that was built three years ago, the cabin was just simply worse for wear. The couch springs were completely shot, the tables dented, stained and damaged and there was mildew baked into the caulk rims in the shower. The shower water had a pungent, sour tinge to it. I understand desalinization on cruises can be challenging, but something was off here. Overall, room stewards were kind, prompt and pleasant, and service from them was just as we'd recalled.
Surprisingly, the hallways, common areas, Lido and dining room walkways etc. are all narrow and difficult to navigate without repeatedly bumping into other passengers when this ship is booked to capacity. I was blown away by how frustrating it was to simply get a glass of water from the Lido without having to step aside, move out of the way, etc. to let people pass, or vice versa, have them let us pass. So, the ship is bigger and with far more passengers, but is the extra space in the creation of more cabins? It certainly does not seem to be anywhere else as the ship seemed smaller than any I've been on. There is really no grand area either, the picture online shows a beautiful glass chandelier in a stairway, but the room is small and the staircase was frequently roped off. Possibly due to rough waters?
Food was wonderful and fresh, no complaints here. I enjoyed each meal choice I made as well as the variety offered. I do have to say that service in the dining room and in the Lido is not what it once was. I believe this has to do with the inclusion of daily gratuity charges on guest's total bills - there is a guaranteed gratuity, nothing to really strive for? On the Lido, an hour could pass before a table was cleared, in the dining room, they served your meal in silence. The assistant wine steward was extremely rude to my family as well by making an inappropriate comment - still reeling from this experience. All in all, very limited pleasantries when at one time on HAL, you were greeted with a smile and by name, and items were whisked away, now, just nothing extraordinary - they simply don't seem to care.
For entertainment, the shows were well done with the HALcats and magician. For group interaction, trivia was wonderful and fun the first few days. The DJ J was amusing and pleasant most of the cruise, but on Thursday, it was clear he was not up to hosting. He was slurring and stumbling, skipped numbers of questions, wouldn't listen to guests when they mentioned he'd missed questions... Quite frankly, it was a little disturbing! Hope he's feeling better. Sadly, we saw this for most of the entertainment cruise staff as the week progressed.
Ports were lovely as expected.
Suffice it to say, we'll not be venturing on the fleet class related to the Eurodam, but HAL, I still believe in you and look forward to having my expectations met on the Rotterdam!