A CATTLE CALL
The best day of the cruise was Day 7 when we were packing to get off. In hindsight, we should have left the ship in St. Thomas, mid-way through the cruise and saved ourselves all this aggravation.
One afternoon my wife and I were in one of the bars during Happy Hour, and when the waiter delivered the drinks, I ask him for a small table to set our drinks on, and he told me they were all being used, and to find one myself. This pretty much sums up our experience on the Eurodam. "Go find it yourself!"
This was the most dysfunctional cruise I've ever taken, and I've been on 30 cruises with 10 on Holland America. The Eurodam is a Caribbean behemoth. She's too big, too loud, too crowded and far too mediocre to be in the distinguished HAL fleet. Plus she vibrates 24 hours a day!
At the appointed time we went to the life boat drill. I believe in these safety drills. In all of my years of cruising, I've never missed one. But the disaster on the Concordia has changed this calm, organized procedure into a nightmare. We were pushed around at our life boat stations, and verbally abused with announcements from the bridge. In a real emergency evacuation, the crew would have killed us. We waited a long time for missing cabins to come forth. There seemed to be a bounty on the heads of those not there -- as if HAL offered cash incentives to any officer who captured the missing. The whole process was very abusive -- it was a witch hunt. Although we were standing on deck in Fort Lauderdale, we were suffering the consequences of the Concordia in Italy. It was (ex) Captain Schettino who did not sound the emergency evacuation until 1 Â½ hours after the crash. By then, at night, in total darkness, many of the life boats couldn't be lowered because the ship had listed too far on its side. It wasn't the fault of the passengers! The Concordia has forever changed cruising -- deep seated paranoia has set in. My feeling is the Concordia was abandoned twice by two highly paid cowards. The first by Schettino, the international playboy in command of the bridge that fateful night of January 13, and the second was by the chairman of the Carnival Corporation who watched his basketball team play instead of going to Italy to support the victims and the families of the deceased. Schettino mentally collapsed. What was Arison's excuse?
This is no way to start a vacation as the mean-spirited embarkation extended throughout the cruise. There was no sense of hospitality aboard this ship. No one was there to help with anything. You waited in long lines just to ask a simple question. The Lido Deck was in chaos. In order to get coffee, you waited for a coffee mug, then you waited your turn at the coffee machine, then you waited for cream, and then waited for a spoon -- you get the idea. (Why isn't a spoon included in the silverware set?) Getting food on the Lido was a hardship -- doing anything on this ship was a hardship. People bumping into each other -- no trays, no help, no service. It was survival of the fittest! The pool areas were also dangerously overcrowded. In order to generate additional revenue, HAL decided to add six outdoor cabanas along the corridor of the inside pool. Twelve people occupied an area that would have accommodated one or two hundred. The weekly yield on those cabanas was a paltry $1200. Thousands of people were inconvenienced for $1200. There was no room to walk along side the pool, we were walking over lounge chairs looking fervently for a place to sit, plus they were running t-shirt sales in the remaining space.
It was worse in the main dining room. In the evening, the service was so tortuously slow, we sat there for 2 -- 2 Â½ hours just to eat dinner. We gave up after day 3. (Holland America could expedite dinner by combining the appetizer, soup, etc., and quit fussing around with countless pieces of silverware and small plates. Have salads, dressing & a relish tray pre-set on the table -- it's banquet service, simplify it!) On the Eurodam, you have to pay to play. We took refuge in the specialty restaurants, and paid additional money that put this trip way over budget. We felt we had no other choice if we wanted to salvage this vacation. (Again, we should have got off in St. Thomas.)
I kept trying to figure what was going on here. First of all, the Canadian captain was so arrogant and full of himself. He loved to pontificate during loud ship announcements, although he never said anything of substance. This cruise seemed to be about him. The most respected captains are mature, quiet, low keyed and self assured as opposed to immature, insecure and controlling. They say very little because they get it! Also, it didn't appear as if the captain and the hotel manger communicated. You never saw them walking the ship together. You never saw them at all. I felt the overworked cruise director from Australia was running the ship. Although he was trying his best, the passengers were neglected. There seemed no attempt by any of the officers to help with overcrowded conditions or lack of service on the Lido Deck. It was truly every man for himself. We had to go searching for silverware at the Lido. Most of the time, there we no coffee cups. And when you ask someone for a cup, they ignored you and started doing something else. First we were abused, then ignored, then ultimately neglected. The only well run department was housekeeping. Hey, Holland America -- we want our money back! And what about our time off from work? We waited all winter for this vacation, and you failed miserably on the promise of a "premium" cruise. Seasoned cruisers have little patience for expecting one experience and getting another. We were not even recognized as Mariners -- no pins, no awards, nothing.
I would not recommend this ship for an experienced traveler. If you are handicapped, or have a loved one who is, they do not belong on the Eurodam. Nobody, other than another kind passenger, will help them, and they would be trampled on Deck 9. The ship has an annoying vibration as well. I met a metallurgist on board who sails often with HAL, and he told me that the Eurodam and the Nieuw Amsterdam are both floating tuning forks. The vibration could be due to degradation of the ship's origin design, or a resonance due to metal fatigue. The vibration is most noticeable on Deck 11 -- the higher you go up, the stronger it is, and it's strongest when the ship is at full speed. Holland America has tried to figure out where it's coming from, to no avail, and the vibration is there 24/7, even when the ship is docked. I noticed it most when lying down. The cabin pulsated, like a stuttering effect. Simply put, the Eurodam is a lemon.
I've written a long report because the Eurodam is a very poorly run ship, and even the staff at Half Moon Cay is not providing good service. To visit the private island, you now get on a 300 passenger tender. The natives running this tender will not help you on, they won't take your bag or even say good morning. The staff on the beach will not help you find chairs or assist in any way. The natives who serve as life guards were rude, yelling to each other back and forth across the beach. Holland America is not paying attention. Again, everything was slipping through the cracks because NO ONE CARED!
It would help if the limited crew on board spoke English. Room service orders were never filled correctly because the woman taking the order doesn't understand the language. Again, we didn't experience the traditional warmth and genuine hospitality found on other HAL ships. I believe The Eurodam is nothing but a training ground, a farm club so-to-speak, for the super stars like the Amsterdam and Rotterdam of the Holland American line.
When we were leaving port one day, the captain was bellowing out from the bridge about the "Mighty E". The voice of the Mighty E sounded mighty stupid. The ship kept blowing its horn to summon people well before the time to leave port. What's the big rush? I've never heard Holland American ships blast away like this. We've sailed for years and never knew there was a horn. The Mighty E made me mighty nervous because we were subject to a big ego from the bridge, complete apathy from the supervisory staff and total neglect from a poorly trained crew. The Eurodam was run like a cargo ship. It was a cattle call, and I wouldn't go back on, even if it was free.