Holland America is rolling out a new entertainment and enrichment program that's divided into four categories: Explorations for shore-excursion and destination-focused information; Culinary Arts Center with activities that range from cooking demonstrations to food-related trivia; Digital Workshop with subjects that include digital photography and making a vacation video; and Mind, Body, Spirit, focusing on fitness, recreation and brain stimulation games like puzzles and trivia.
These occur mostly during the day -- though, on our port-intensive cruise, some activities were held at night -- and there's rarely a fee charged. One exception is the hands-on cooking classes ($29 to participate) and crafts workshops, such as scrapbooking, that require materials.
Eurodam really comes alive at night. Las Vegas-style revues are held at the two-deck-high Mainstage. The Screening Room, the ship's cinema, features movies. Wacky games, such as The Marriage Game, and karaoke competitions take place in the Queen's Lounge. There's also music, which is quite often accompanied by dancing -- whether cheek-to-cheek or more interpretative -- all over the ship. Hot spots include the often-raucous Piano Bar, where passengers sing along with the pianist. The Neptunes play in the Ocean Bar, the primary spot for dancing. Explorer's Lounge has the elegant Adagio Strings for classicists. Northern Lights, the ship's disco, pumps out contemporary dance music and special theme mixes, such as Motown Mania and Latin Hits. The ship's sports bar offers a multi-screen opportunity to watch whatever match or tournament is on television.
Eurodam's casino is right in the heart of the nightlife district (a term I used to describe the night-owl spots, such as the disco, sports bar and piano bar). It features a wide variety of slot machines and all major table games.
An interesting new offering is the Eurodam Pub Crawl; the bar staff leads participants on a tour of the ship's lounges. Cost is $20, but that includes four drinks that would cost easily that much otherwise.
Holland America has done an excellent job of sprucing up options for shore excursions in ports of call. These range from standard motorcoach tours to more adventurous, recreationally oriented activities like cycling or kayaking. The shore excursions desk can also make arrangements for private guides.
Eurodam Public Rooms
On Deck 1, the officers that provide onboard services (including the often crusty and almost rude pursers who man that desk), the shore excursions department and a past-passenger representative are located near the rather sterile atrium bar. The real fun on Eurodam is the cluster of public rooms on Decks 2 and 3. That's where you'll find the fantastic, Food Network-like Culinary Arts Center; a mall-like stretch of shops carrying the usual cruise souvenirs, with an extra heavy selection of pricey jewelry; a small cinema; a photo gallery; and an art auction display space. There are also several meeting rooms, as well as a private, group dining room that's adjacent to The Rembrandt.
Tucked away on Deck 11 is the Explorations Cafe, and it's a destination in its own right. This concept, which debuted on the line's Vista-class ships (and has since been expanded to other vessels in the fleet) aims to create a coffee house ambience in space carved out from the Crow's Nest Bar. There, you'll find a coffee bar selling for-fee beverages, DVD rentals (with an excellent selection of movies and documentaries; each costs $3 to rent), card and game tables, a library that's one of the best in cruising and really comfortable reading chairs that face out to the sea.
It's also the locale for the ship's Internet-connected computers. The cost is 75 cents per minute; heavy users can get a discount on packages (30 minutes for $12 or 100 minutes for $55).
What's also nice about Explorations' location in the Crow's Nest is that the typically evening-only space really jumps all day long, as well.
There are no self-service laundromats onboard.
Eurodam Spa & Fitness
Eurodam's main pool is among the most beautiful at sea. It's decorated in muted earth tones with captivating brown and cream tiles and brown wickerlike chaises with plush, plum-colored cushions. Instead of the marine sculptures that populate most pool areas on Holland America's ships, this one has a colorful waterfall fountain. Beyond the pool, there's a jumbo whirlpool and a pair of smaller ones.
New to Holland America on this ship are two levels of cabanas. On the pool deck itself, curtained cabanas line one windowed wall. Inside each is a chaise-for-two and small table. Extras on hand include handheld fans, bottled water, Evian spritzers and towels and/or wool blankets. The fee -- $30 for port days, $50 at sea -- permits occupancy between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (You rent for the day.) It also includes lunch service from the cabana menu. Choices include various panini sandwiches, burgers and salads. Glasses of Champagne, afternoon tea and chocolate-covered strawberries are offered, and cabana stewards will fetch cocktails, though you'll be charged for them.
While these are primarily aimed at couples looking to carve out a distinctive pool experience, the cabanas are also fantastic for families, offering a private space so kids can play (and nap) while parents enjoy the pool scene. One downside (and the reason why small fans are provided) is that, while the cabanas have full floor-to-roof windows, there's little air circulation.
One deck above is The Retreat, another cabana community, and it's even nicer than the poolside option. There, designers have carved out a deck for cabanas that are open to sea air, and the area also offers a Miami Beach-like outdoor lounge with extra couches, arm chairs and dining tables. Standards (costing $45 on port days, $75 on sea days) feature two chaise lounges and a small table. Corner units ($65 and $115, respectively) are, by far, the largest, featuring twin chaises and a double lounger along with a larger table and extra chairs. All receive the same services as cabana inhabitants a deck below.
Eurodam's second major pool is located aft. The Sea View is my favorite for a few reasons. There's plenty of deck space with a view of open sea and the wake, and I love the Cote d'Azur-style cabana hangings that give it a festive air. (There are no private units in this pool area.) It's also blissfully peaceful.
Both the Lido Pool and the Sea View are located adjacent to the Lido buffet. The former is home to the Terrace Grill, while the latter features Slice Pizza. Both have bars. It's quite easy to while away a day on the pool deck without having to move too far.
At the very front of the ship, the Greenhouse Spa is a sprawling complex adjacent to the main pool area and offers all the usual services, such as massages, facials and pedicures.
One impressive new twist -- and this is, perhaps, related to the economic recession -- is that the Greenhouse on Eurodam is really making an effort to offer some exceptional deals on treatments if you're willing to book at what it considers off-hours (dinner time or when the ship's in port). For instance, a "twilight massage" deal -- $89 for a 50-minute treatment -- was offered each night from 6 to 10 p.m. (You can choose a facial, as well.) Some in-port deals like the spa combo (25-minute massage and 25-minute facial for $99) weren't terribly unusual; however, other port-day specials -- such as "aromaflex," a 50-minute service that combines massage and reflexology ($99), and the "relaxation ceremony," a 75-minute treatment with a massage and mini-facial ($119)-- were decent. These deals are, of course, based on availability, but I haven't seen so much on sale at an onboard spa in years.
The ship's fitness center features circuit-training machines and free weights. Among the classes offered are yoga, Pilates and aerobics, among others. Most require passengers to pay a fee of $11 per class.
Recreational facilities beyond full-court basketball are limited onboard Eurodam. There's a walking track on the promenade, and runners can use the course that rings the Lido pool.