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47 Holland America Dover Cruise Reviews

My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that ... Read More
My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that Holland America Line chose to stop at were small and quaint. We found some had absolutely nothing to do except to walk around have a beer and a bite of local food. Tobermory, Scotland had a great scotch distillery. They invited us to take the tour for free and were generous with bottling up some free samples of the whiskey. We walked about a mile out of town to visit a dairy and see some cheese making. No one was in sight so we walked through the barns and saw the cows and had a close up wet tongue visit with the calves. Dublin Ireland is a very busy and bustling city. The tourist maps that are put out make the town look very walkable. It is walkable but not as much as the maps make you think. DO NOT TAKE THE GREEN HOP ON HOP OF BUS. There are 3 HOHO lines, Green, Red & Blue. TAKE THE RED HOHO BUS. the blue seemed like it did not cover too much. The green line covers a lot, too long of a route, and time consuming especially if you are riding when they change drivers. The drivers will talk for 15 minutes and then the new driver will sit there and take a 30 minute break which cost us a taxi back to the ship on our 2nd day there. We ate at Nancy Hands at their back bar and had a great salmon meal on slate and of course, some pints of Guinness .We also ate ate at The Guinness Storehouse on the top floor. It was good but not real good. DO GO TO THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE. What a wonderful story the tour has to tell. Get there in the morning and there will probably not be much of or no line to get in. We took a really good Outlander Tour with Clansman Tours. Tom (owner) was great to spend the day with and share some good scotch in the van at the drop off. He picked us up at the dock. Brugge Belgium was very interesting. We (3 couples) hired a round trip taxi at the Zeebrugge port Very cheap splitting the cost. Antwerp was good also. Don't miss the Chocolate Museum, (Chocolate Nation). We wanted to go into the diamond district but since it was Saturday and Jewish Shabbat, nothing was open so we had to skip it. In Amsterdam we took a canal tour with a red HOHO boat and spent quite some time at a street market. The food was great and some stalls were difficult to pass up. In Alesund , Norway we had to ask 8 different people for directions to the bus stop going to the Sea Park Aquarium. It was very nice. In Bergen, Norway we ate at Bernard Tonghandel's stall in the fish market and had great mussels and fish. It was located near the end and close to the information cent with a good view of the Bay. er. He offered sit down dining with a good view of the Bay. Don't miss it. Take the ferry across the bay to the 3 Viking museums. Very good and informational.In Flam (Pronounced Flome), (Norwegian town names get butchered in English), we took the train and had a good time. One hour up and one hour back. The best souvenir prices we found were at the main building by the railway. Other towns had a lot of the same things but were moderately to much higher priced. This is the place to buy a caribou hide if you want one. They are MUCH less costly. There was a food truck there and we tried grilled whale. Along with generous samples they offered it was very good and the samples also. In Stavenger, Norway you will want to go to the very interesting Canning Museum, with a great guide Piers Crocker. He was funny and very informative and the Petroleum Museum. It's a very walkable town. See the Viking Center across from the docks. As with just about all European towns the streets may be curvy and not well named, Most street names are on the corner of the buildings if they are there at all. We are an older couple and find it difficult to find our way around the towns. It can be difficult to find people to give good directions. The tourist maps can also be inaccurate. As for the Holland America cruise we were on the Prinsendam which is the oldest and smallest of their ships. Our cruise was from May 6 to June 3, 2019. The ship has been sold to a German line and will go out of service for HAL on July 1. Our stateroom was not an expensive one but had a good sized unobstructed window. How ever that window along with every other window on the ship was always dirty on the outside, unlike other lines we have been on. The room was comfortable and had plenty of room for two. The TV and DVD player were constant problem all through the voyage. I think they didn't want to repair it as the ship was sold. The dining buffet was not good. Most of the food was over cooked or too salty and very repetitive almost every day. On HAL I have always found their salmon benedict my go to breakfast but not on the Prinsendam. The 1st morning I had to tell the cook how to make one and found their hollandaise sauce to be like mayonnaise with some strange flavor. I tried it the next day and it hadn't improved. It remained unimproved for the rest of the cruise. There were a few things that were acceptable for breakfast but most were repetitive. The coffee was great. Lunch usually found us on shore except for "at sea" days. Lunch and some suppers found me at the hot dog stand by the pool. This was a cool to cold weather cruise. I found the main dining room very noisy as I wear hearing aids. The waiters were very attentive to our needs and good at what they did. The menu was somewhat repetitive here also and portion size was not consistent. We would find a dish we liked with a nice size portion and the next time get a very small portion. The ship was small and some people have been lead to believe the small, older ships have a quaint ambiance that is lost on the larger ships. We ran onto people on the Prinsendam that had been on board 100+ days. I got bored and couldn't even drink my way through it due to the high cost plus a 15% sure charge on every drink. There was a movie every night and some were good. Theater was comfortable there was popcorn for the viewers. In that same room during the day America's Test Kitchen would put on a live demonstration. Went once and it was a joke. The demonstrator couldn't even make a simple omelette. I like their TV show. I couldn't figure out why Oprah is the "godmother" of HAL. All she does is appear on their on board TV channel and promoted a book she liked. The crew was friendly and for the most part helpful and caring. On the good side, Prinsendam offered a couple of free laundry rooms with 6 washers and dryers each unfortunately many were routinely out of service. The exercise room, steam room and dry sauna were free also. These we enjoyed immensely and used them often. The EXC excursions purchased from HAL were very expensive. Many passengers did not take them for that reason. I hope that HAL keeps up their ships as we have found them in the past. I also realize Prinsendam was pretty worn out. I would also recommend to HAL to install free laundry to all ships. This is such a big plus and so helpful to be able to have clean clothes. Keeps your room smelling fresher too. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I am an active, adventurous mature adult who has seen the world on 56 cruises to date. I travel solo (with the constant wish that more cruise lines would offer better rates for solo travelers!). I love the sea and sailing, and probably ... Read More
I am an active, adventurous mature adult who has seen the world on 56 cruises to date. I travel solo (with the constant wish that more cruise lines would offer better rates for solo travelers!). I love the sea and sailing, and probably enjoy the ride on the ship as much as the ports. I remember the “old” Holland America from the years before Carnival obtained it, and wish that this historic cruise line could have remained independent. I am a Two Star Mariner with Holland America’s loyalty program. This cruise had a lot of interesting ports I’d not seen before, plus the chance to sail on a unique ship before it left the company. Due to some serious quality issues, I had to rate the cruise average, but in many ways it was also very good (service and itinerary, especially). I flew to England from Boston for the cruise, spending one night at the very good Hilton hotel near Heathrow Terminal 5. I had a private chauffeur service for the scenic ride to Dover the next morning. I’ve not officially toured Dover, but have seen some of it by car several times when arriving for cruises. Embarkation was one of the best ever at the small Dover cruise terminal. The staff are mature adults with lots of smiles and courtesy. From check-in with a very gracious lady to entering my suite, the total time was 24 minutes. Might have been even faster, but I used stairs rather than elevator from the entry level deck to my suite with my carry-on bag. My luggage arrived about 20 minutes after I did. Holland America is planning on selling the “Prinsendam” to another shipping company in July. The ship had previously been in service with Regent Seven Seas, among others. It is a small “boutique” size, with an elegant, yacht-like profile, and considering its age, looked extremely well maintained on the exterior at first glance. The classic blue and white hull of Holland America is lovely in its simplicity. The full passenger contingent is close to 800, approximately, but on this sailing we had just 535 people, mostly from the USA, England, and other English-speaking countries, plus a nice mix from around the world. Crew is international, with the famous Indonesian service crews in the cabins and dining rooms. Amenities are similar to other cruise ships, but on a smaller scale. You will not find the rock climbing walls and amusement park attractions, nor the huge size so popular with today’s newer ships. Classic, almost English country estate style décor throughout the ship. Magnificent fresh floral arrangements are everywhere, and are changed frequently throughout the ship. This cruise line must have the world’s best florists onboard their ships. It’s easy to get around inside the ship, and I was given a useful map of the ship with my room keycard upon check-in. Plenty of stairs and elevators to keep things moving. Traditional wood promenade deck circles the ship, but no jogging is allowed – have to jog on the very top deck on a designated track. The ship appeared to be extremely clean on the inside, and crew were visible night and day at their assigned housekeeping tasks. There is no spectacular atrium, only a few decks with an open center with art work in it. There are gorgeous art objects and collectibles of museum quality in display cases throughout the ship, as well as very nice paintings of the ship in its various incarnations and in various places around the globe. There is an observation lounge forward and high up in the ship with a stunning view forward. Fairly small lido buffet, lovely main dining room and other small dining venues nearby. The usual “you are here” ship maps are displayed on each deck. Nice central pool area with hot tub, sheltered areas with tables for outdoor dining nearby. One popular feature was the “America’s Test Kitchen” venue, with theater-type seating for a small audience. Whatever they cooked, however, sent its aroma throughout the entire ship, as did the galley area. A small lounge area had an elegant marble fireplace, and it looked straight out of Downton Abbey – really beautiful. Huge library with game tables, books on many subjects, computer stations, comfortable seating. The few shops were not large, but staffed by extremely nice crew. Large jewelry store, small sundries/logo item shop, usual duty-free items. The guest services area was far too small and too public, and it was often hard to hear when all the agents were serving guests and people were speaking loudly to be heard over the other guests. The future cruise consultant worked at a small desk in the main foot traffic pattern just off the guest services desk area, again with no privacy. This was a very busy and popular area, with people signing up on a clipboard for time to meet with the future cruise consultant. The clipboard filled within minutes for each day’s chance to book another cruise. Lots of very loyal cruisers and Mariners Club members on this cruise with plans for more cruises. Activities were geared toward the demographics on this cruise, and the average age seemed to be 70+. Lots of board games, bridge games, Bingo, sedentary activities suited to guests with limited mobility or health issues. There was a morning stretch class, and daily yoga for those interested. Nightly shows in the small theater with typical cruise ship entertainment. Shopping opportunities while at sea. Small casino for the gamblers, but it did not seem very popular, even in the evenings. Port talks and a lecturer about what to see and do at each port. People seemed more inclined to entertain themselves with reading, using the computers, walking, eating, time in the various bars, and socializing with people they knew. Mostly couples traveling with other couples, very few single people. I did not see a child on this cruise. There was daily Mass, as well as other religious service options, during this 14-night cruise. I’m sure I missed some of the activity options, as I am a very early riser and like to get to bed at a decent hour and read. The ship had a small but nicely equipped fitness center, which was almost entirely empty every time I was in there. Service on Holland America ships is legendary. My two experienced room stewards could easily have worked in Buckingham Palace – they were quick, discrete, respectful, courteous, friendly, and once briefed on my usual schedule, had my suite cared for at my convenience every day and night of the cruise. I never really saw these two nice men, either – they did their magic and disappeared. I never saw service carts in the corridors, either, which was a blessing for those using walkers and scooters. My two dining room waiters treated me like royalty as well, as did all the head waiters and the maitre’d. More on that in the dining review. Shop crew were all nice and friendly. Some of the spa crew seemed a bit burned out, with one manicurist who really did not seem to know what she was doing – but the hair stylist was fabulous. A few of the guest services crew had “attitude” and seemed to get aggressive, argumentative and defensive far too quickly considering the job they were doing – and they were too young to really be able to have the experience and maturity to deal with older adults. The rest of the guest services desk crew were very polite and helpful. All were enviably multilingual, as were most of the service crew within the ship. Some of the best service came from Eugene, one of the engineering staff – details to follow. Some of the service crew at lower levels did not have proper English skills to understand or communicate, unfortunately, which led to frustration in both parties in various situations. There is an obvious chain of command to get things done on this ship, and the bottom links in the chain need more skill in English. There was a nice variety of shore excursions, with good detail about level of activity, special requirements, and what to expect, travel times, etc. I had booked just one excursion, a hike for one of the island ports, but it was cancelled due to lack of people booking it. I usually explore on my own anyway, and still had an excellent time. In some ports, shuttle buses were provided and proved to be a blessing as far as saving time or not having to walk if it rained. Inevitably, some of the ports required the tender service, which seemed to run more efficiently on this small ship than the big ships. It was lovely to arrive on shore and find a canopy for shelter, and hot and cold beverages nicely dispensed, plus places to sit while waiting for the tender back to the ship. The itinerary for this ship was really a great way to sample the UK and two European countries. It included the Isle of Jersey, Falmouth England, Fishguard Wales, Greenock Scotland, Isle of Skye Scotland, Isle of Mull Scotland, Dublin Ireland, Brugge/Brussels Belgium, Antwerp Belgium, and ended at Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Nearly perfect weather most of the trip, or at least dry, and my two favorite ports were the stops at Skye and Mull. Every port had something really good and valuable to enjoy, however. Holland America offered me a last-minute upgrade for reasonably small sum, so I traded my veranda cabin for a large suite. The veranda was enormous with two wicker lounges with small foot stools, and a table. The entire seaward wall of the suite was glass. King-size bed (made from two twins), with outstanding high-quality mattress and bed linens and lots of pillows. There was a desk/vanity area with mirror, makeup mirror and chair, surrounded by storage in part of the unit. Holland America offered me a last-minute upgrade for reasonably small sum, so I traded my veranda cabin for a large suite. The veranda was enormous with two wicker lounges with small foot stools, and a table. The entire seaward wall of the suite was glass. King-size bed (made from two twins), with outstanding high-quality mattress and bed linens and lots of pillows. There was a desk/vanity area with mirror, makeup mirror and chair, surrounded by storage in part of the unit. Two bedside tables, plenty of lamps and lights. A very long marble combination bar, desk, and work space area was on one wall, with multiple storage drawers and cabinets above and below. There was also a small refrigerator in a cabinet here. Lots of bar glasses, mini-bar setup in the refrigerator, offering waters, beer, sodas, etc. Evian water in liters was on a tray. Fruit is delivered upon request, as is ice. Nice upholstered chairs, and a large curved sofa in one corner of the suite, with a large table. It would be easy to entertain at least 6 people in the space. The wood furniture was traditional, but sadly tired and chipped with some stains. The soft fabric furniture fared better. Unfortunately, the sheer curtains and too-thin drapes did not do much to keep out the daylight which seemed to start about 3 AM at the high latitude of the cruise, in May. The drapes had to be re-hung at my request due to not tracking or closing properly. There was an enormous walk-in closet with plenty of good wooden hangers. There were multiple shelves within the closet, and drawers. Slippers and toweling robe were provided, as were a huge umbrella and a clothes brush and shoehorn. This suite would be marvelous for an extended cruise, between the comfortable bed, ample storage space, and some nice useful extra amenities. However, the age of the ship is exposed when looking for USB ports (none) or any electrical outlet save one at the vanity mirror. The lights were also extremely dim, which made reading in bed nearly impossible. Large modern flat-screen TV in place over the marble workspace/bar area, with OK but not great programming. Nice handy small container near the door for the keycard and do not disturb/make up room card. While the furniture showed a lot of wear and tear, the bed linens were great, and the carpeting seemed to be in good condition. Rather dark and somber colors in the suite, but that probably is intentional to hide dirt or wear. The bathroom was gorgeous peach and cream marble, and had two compartments with sliding doors. Small toilet compartment opened off the entry foyer, with a sink, and could be closed off by two sliding doors. The main part of the bathroom had a very large tub with hand-held shower spray and unfortunately a clingy shower curtain and an old-fashioned plastic bath mat. This mat had to be replaced immediately upon arrival, as it was slimy and old – this was fixed very quickly upon request. Plenty of space around the large sink, with a modern single-lever faucet system. There were several very tiny glass shelves, and two metal rings holding small glasses. Plenty of towels and towel racks, but the towels were either new and thick and fluffy or nearly threadbare and scratchy. The main bath area had its own sliding door into the main part of the suite, and if one wanted to soak in the tub and watch the sea roll by, simply open the bathroom’s sliding door and enjoy the view straight out from the tub to the glass veranda wall and the sea. The suite bathroom was provided with Elemis toiletries. This product is considered spa quality and is famous around the world, but I found the scent overpowering and the products themselves quite drying to sensitive skin. The soft water from the ship’s desalinization system literally melted the bathroom soap. The suite was serviced twice a day, but I prefer to make my own bed and just have the bath cleaned at night, which shocked my kind stewards. They did as I asked however, and joked that I made my bed better than they did. I try to stay healthy on cruises, and the fewer hands which touch my personal things and living space, the better. The ship was entirely silent at night, so sleep quality was incredibly good, even with the early daylight. AC and heat were controllable individually in the suite, but the thermostat was a challenge, as I will detail at the end of this review. The suite was located on one of the highest decks, directly below the Lido deck, and I did not need an alarm clock for early rising – the deck crew began dragging the lounge chairs around the pool, and the tables and chairs, right at 4:30 AM. I did mention this to guest services, but it did change the situation. Being up high on the ship and quite forward, there was a lot of motion during sailing. Thankfully, there were only two rather impressive storms at sea. The motion was strong enough to remove any doubt that this was a real ship doing real sailing, and it provided a surprisingly good night’s sleep. I would not ordinarily select such a location, but the suite upgrade offer was too good to pass up, and the suite selection was very limited at the time of the upgrade. I had my dinner in the main dining room, early seating and was able to sit alone as I had requested. A nearby table with an interesting couple provided enough company if they wished to visit, which was good for both of us. The small passenger population enabled very speedy, gracious service and I never saw one waiter trying to serve 20 tables as they do on other cruise lines. The head waiters often became a bit too intrusive and hovering, but I understand they genuinely wanted their guests to enjoy the food and avoid any possible problems or issues with the menus. The chefs were Indian and Indonesian, and definitely cooked the various items in their native style. The food seemed to be heavily over-salted, and loaded with very hot spices, no matter what the food item was. Many people were complaining about their legs, feet, hands swelling and blood pressure going up from the salt. After one or two dinners that were nearly inedible, I had to talk to the head waiter and maitre’d about modifying what I ate or getting something made special. I was amazed at how much the crew leaders in the dining room, including the head chef, came to my rescue and showed me the dinner menu 24 hours ahead of serving, and if there was something there I couldn’t enjoy they would make something I could eat comfortably. The menu items were at times bizarre combinations of probable leftovers, especially the starters, with a lot of fruit items. Plenty of typical American home-cooking and comfort foods, too. Long gone are the elegant Continental gourmet cuisine of earlier cruises! I heard some comments that the meats were all very greasy. Some items were recognizable on the menu and familiar, but when they arrived, were totally different and often inedible. There is some serious confusion about the use of mayonnaise in their cooking on this ship, for instance, and some of the soups were peculiar. Fish was very good, and if one loves rice, this is the cruise line for you – they make all the world's rice varieties in rice cookers, the Asian way, and the rice was better than the breads and most of the deserts. I had room service for a very simple light breakfast, and light lunch. I do not eat at cruise ship buffets anymore, again in an attempt to remain healthy, not gain weight, and stay away from food that always seems to be dried out, cold or hot when it should be hot or cold, and I’ve seen too many people put their fingers in buffet food. Room service started out as terrible experiments for lunch. Chicken soup looked like brown dish water with garbage bits floating in it, filmed with grease. I ordered a cheese quesadilla for one lunch, and it consisted of a Middle Eastern pita bread wrap, filled with hard yellow corn kernels mixed into an onion paste. No cheese. I don’t expect authentic Mexican quesadillas on an Indonesian-themed cruise ship, but this was going a bit too far. Two regular room service stewards, both cheerful and friendly, brought whatever I needed morning and noon and delivered it at the requested time to the second, breakfast and lunch time. Trays were set up beautifully, and even tea arrived quickly and elegantly. Once the stewards knew what I liked, I could ask them to custom-make an item like a quesadilla and it arrived perfectly cooked and prepared. It does take time, patience and some team effort to get cruise ship food the right way, and while there may be initial frustration, eventually on my cruise it all worked out beautifully. I believe the ship provisioned in England before it sailed, and that may account for some of the rather unique food items and ingredients. The suite’s minibar was restocked as needed, but nothing in there was free. Other than one Diet Coke, I did not have anything else from the minibar stock. A few times, I noticed some room-service plates and dining room plates which had areas of a thin film of grease on them. This ship did not appear to be welcoming to children. Perhaps there was a designated child entertainment area on board, but it there was, I never saw it. I did not see any babies or children on this cruise. Entertainment featured something for everybody, be it quiet board games, reading, the evening main show featuring the typical singers, magicians, dancers and specialty entertainers. I only watched a time of one of the pianists who performed, and he was very good. The singers seemed to be a full note or two off key, with tired old song and dance numbers in the “Broadway” style show entertainment. There were never enough seats for the early show with many people standing in the back of the theater. My favorite entertainers on the cruise were the two musicians who played chamber music in the Explorer’s Lounge. They deserved a better venue, as people constantly talked while they were playing, and there was a lot of foot traffic back and forth in front of them. One gentleman played the piano, and the other the violin. They were from Hungary and Romania, and obviously had serious and excellent classical training. Requests were welcomed, and everyone eventually heard a favorite piece. They played three 45 minute sets after dinner, and I usually went to at least two every night. It was so relaxing and soothing it was hard to stay awake, and with the older crowd as audience, some people went to sleep. Nothing bothered these two young gentlemen during their performing, even enormous rough seas one night. They should have been a featured concert in the main theater. Very sociable and gracious to chat with, as well. There were a variety of movies on the TV system in the cabins, but some were old and outdated. Lots of “commercials” for shore excursions and shopping on the TV, as well. There was a singer and/or pianist in the bar or bars, but as I don’t do the bar scene, can’t really report on that. There was a late-night DJ or some kind of music advertised, but most of the guests retired early. The best entertainment I saw in the theater was a music group brought onboard during the long port call at Dublin, with classic Irish humor, songs and some fabulous music and traditional Irish dancing. This group had some of us singing with them and dancing in the aisles! Fabulous! The last night of the cruise, the ship slowly moved along the Scheldt River and into a series of locks on its way to Amsterdam’s busy port. With the early daylight and needing to be up very early for the express departure, I was up at 3:30 AM, and enjoyed watching the slow progress down the river and the locks. There was a hazy blue mist or fog part of the way, and huge flocks of lovely white swans serenely floating in the water as the shipped quietly slipped past them. Worth getting up early to see this last bit of serenity before returning to the reality of a big city and hectic airport experience. Disembarkation was as nice as embarkation, at least for me. I chose the express departure option, and at 7:15 AM was able to haul my own load of bags off the ship and into the terminal, right on time. It took probably 10 minutes altogether, and was a blessing, as I had a private tour booked for Amsterdam before being taken to the airport by my fantastically good guide. While most of my cruise experience was really very good, unfortunately there were some things which made me seriously consider leaving the ship at the first port after Dover. I was wondering about the condition of the ship, considering its imminent sale in two months. I’d not sailed with Holland America in 15 years, and was also curious if the level of service was the same and the serene, adult, quiet ambience still reigned. Probably the most annoying issue was the appearance of dirty brown water, twice during the cruise, from the bathroom sink and shower and in the toilet. Some problem with the storage tank, supposedly. Of course this necessitated requesting bottled water. I can’t digest the Evian water placed in the stateroom, and asked for something different. I spent most of one whole day trying to communicate with people lacking English that I needed to get a different brand of water, and they kept bringing more Evian. Had to hassle with the guest services crew about this, and finally a gentleman who was in charge of the main bar found two varieties in the crew provision area and sent a bottle of each to my suite for me to try. Both were good and I chose one brand. I was told the water would be free for the cruise, and a large quantity was delivered. I had to wash my face and brush my teeth with this water, as the brown water took two days at least to finally clear. I never trusted it after that anyway. A few days before the end of the cruise, a bill came for the last delivery of bottled water, and I protested that it was supposed to be free. Guest services would not budge however, and I had to pay for the water. The second issue was the ventilation system in the suite. Noise level out of the bathroom vents and the main suite area was that of a jet in flight. I called guest services, who sent two useless people who could not communicate, and then Eugene arrived – the ship needs 100 Eugenes, he was that skilled and wonderful. He removed the suite’s main grill and pulled out foot after foot of filthy, blackened, disgusting sooty foam filter material. The carpet was coated with this stuff, and a tray of clean glasses was soiled. The soot and dust floated throughout the suite, and I don’t want to think about what we were all breathing. I covered my nose and mouth and got as far away from this mess as I could, but it was still in the air. Eugene vacuumed out the ducting as far as the vacuum wand reached, and then put clean new foam filters in and adjusted the air flow. Blessed silence finally. He then did the same thing with the bathroom vents, which had the same filth in them, and they too became silent while doing their job. This is something which should have been cleaned and routinely inspected and apparently had been neglected, perhaps in view of the upcoming sale. For whatever reason, this issue was addressed in the early evening, but due to the mess it ran on into the late evening. Unfortunately, the stewards, who were called by Eugene to clean up the horrible mess and replace the soiled chair, did not realize that the water was still running brown in the bathroom – they turned on the water full force to check it, which splashed all over the just-cleaned bathroom, and they had to clean it all over again, as well as clean up the bathroom mess from the vents. It took hours, and was a terrible way to spend an evening on a cruise. The ship had a nice little laundry for guest on several decks. This was somewhat of a challenge to use, however, as the instructions on the machines were in Dutch. There was a translation of sorts, thankfully, and use of the facilities was free. Even detergent was provided. Nice when everything worked. However, there were problems with some of the machines, which often stopped mid-cycle. Once again, I called the fabulous Eugene, but had to go through several episodes of very young crewmen trying to fix things but not understanding a word of English. They had to call their supervisors, who talked to me and then called Eugene, which wasted a lot of time. I doubt they ever fixed everything so all the machines worked at the same time, but at least the laundry got done. I’ve never seen such complicated washers in my life, but it beats having to wash things in the bathroom sink, and was a good way to learn some basic Dutch words, no kidding. A cruise ship is a foreign country, so why not take advantage of what one can learn while having (or enduring) new experiences. If we want things to be the same as at home, just stay home. I was mildly annoyed to be told that I could not jog on the promenade deck. It was usually deserted, and I jog silently and slowly. I was told by Guest Services that the bridge “would get me” and stop me if I used the prom deck, so I was stuck up in the wind, stack soot and some cigarette smoke on the top of the ship where the jogging track was. Never could figure out what the issue was about the prom deck. My one manicure in the spa was a disaster, performed by a burned-out or unhappy young woman who did not really know the proper way to do a manicure. My nails looked horrible, and it was very painful. On the journey up the Scheldt River to Antwerp during the night, the ship passed an enormous refinery or chemical plant or some such structure which seemed to stretch for miles. I was awakened by the stench of what seemed to be burning hair and garbage, and got up to look in the cabin for a problem, and looked outside to see this facility erupting huge clouds of smoke into the air. I opened the door to the veranda, and could smell the stink coming from this place. The horrible odor made further sleep impossible, and permeated the entire ship for almost two days. My first purchase in Antwerp was a solid air freshener to put in my suite – nothing got rid of the stench, even with the veranda door opened once in Antwerp. I was not the only guest who complained about this, and there wasn’t much to be done – there had to be some source of ventilation for air into the inside of the ship, even if the air was polluted. The thermostat in my suite was placed almost at ceiling height up one wall. The tiny numbers, in Celsius, were nearly impossible to read even with strong reading glasses. Whoever decided to place this important device at such an impractical height was either 7 feet tall or a fool. With the large variables in the cruise climates, both heat and cooling were necessary at times. Outrageous pricing on the internet – one paid for 24 hours of usage, rather than by the minute and it averaged out to about $24 US per day, even if used for minutes or an hour or two. Costs were slightly lower with buying a package, but it was still far too expensive. Service was slow, and several times could not be accessed at all from my suite. I had to use the public computers, and was thankful to see large canisters of antibacterial wipes near each station. Lots of very sick people in this ship, coughing and sneezing all over everything, including the keyboards and computers. Guest services, or somebody in the crew, kindly delivered a large plate of chocolate-covered strawberries to my suite as the list of problems began to increase, but since I cannot digest fruit, I had to sadly decline the peace offering. In summary, despite the long list of problems, Holland America is still the proud old company it began as, even if Carnival has imposed its cost-cutting measures in some areas. There was still a feeling of quality and class, especially on this lovely older ship and among the senior and “mature” passenger contingent. It was a very quiet cruise, with none of the carnival-barker hawking of “seminars”, art auctions, bingo games, etc. Especially appreciated was the fact that nobody used the little line about “have an EXCELLENT day,”, which is really just trolling for good reviews, as Princess and other cruise lines so irritatingly continue to do. The American cruise director had a lovely speaking voice and would make a few short important announcements as required, but otherwise it was blessedly silent. No blasting of loud, noise-machine type music in the public spaces, either. The captain was magnificent in his ability to clearly communicate and keep the guests informed – very good with his detailed nautical reports once a day as well. The famed Indonesian and Asian level of service is still there, maybe even better than years ago. I was impressed and gratified that the long letter I sent to the main office of Holland America upon my return home, listing the issues which were extremely upsetting and annoying during my cruise, was actually read by a human and generated a reply from a human, and not a computer-generated generic “so sorry” letter. The agent sent a very nice letter to me in reply, in a timely manner, acknowledging my concerns and problems, and seemed genuinely distressed that my cruise was not 100% perfect in every way. I was also given a large discount on my next booked cruise. This is what one would expect from a company with as old and reassuring a history of customer satisfaction as Holland America’s, but if such expectations could usually be counted on in the past, they have become lovely surprises when they turn up in the world of cruising today with the level of guest satisfaction at the excellent level far less common than it used to be. Holland America is clearly proud of its reputation, and obviously seeks to retain it. Would I sail on this cruise line again? I have a short coastal cruise booked for this fall, and hoping the good things remain and the problem issues are few or non-existent. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea ... Read More
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea days, ports came fast and furious. There was no sea day between embarkation and Jersey. For folks flying directly from the States there was no time to recover from jet lag. If you get travel fatigue or suffer from jet lag this is something to consider. This itinerary also had 4 tender ports. Two of them (Jersey and Fishguard) tended in rough seas. Some people opted not to go ashore or could not because of disability. Other tender ports were Skye, Mull. We enjoyed all the ports. In Jersey we went to the Maritime Museum and while we hadn’t intended it, the museum took up most of our day, it was so engaging. We walked around town a little after the museum. In Falmouth we walked around town, went to the Maritime Museum and took the train to Truro. If you do that you may should know that there is a railway station at Falmouth Port, not just downtown. We walked to the downtown station, it was a nice walk, and returned to the port station.. In Fishguard we wanted to go to St. Davids, but because of the short port call we could not get there and back on public transport, so we took the HAL tour. It was worth it, with an engaging guide who was a natural story teller. St. Davids has a beautiful gothic cathedral, bishop’s house ruins. It is a charming small town where we enjoyed tea and scones before walking through the town market, In Greenock we visited with friends in Glasgow, but also took time to go to St. Mungo’s Museum, a museum presenting information and art from the different religions practiced in Glasgow. The art was inspiring but the exhibit I liked the best took us through the stages of life as celebrated by each of the religions covered, birth, coming of age, marriage, adulthood, elderhood and death. We arrived in Skye (Portee) on a Sunday so local buses were not running. We went ashore and found a skipper giving wildlife tours from a boat. When the tour was over some of our cruise mates who had booked taxis for a morning tour were back and we were able to take a taxi to some of the places outside of town that we wanted to see. Helen, our cab driver, was the last baby born in the Skye hospital before it closed down. She was full of stories and local lore. On Mull (Tobermory) we enjoyed walking around town, stopping at the aquarium where all the inmates are there only for a month before being returned to the sea. There was a touch tank and exhibitions on local sea life. The Tobermory distillery offers scotch tastings. The shops were multi-purpose, books and fishing tackle or iron monger (hardware) with wine and spirits. We lost ourselves in the book store for a while, got into conversation with the book seller, and the iron monger. We enjoyed scones and tea in a café that used to be a church. Dublin was a two day stop. The dock is away from downtown. There was a shuttle bus available for a hefty fee. It drops you off across from the Oscar Wilde statue in Marion Park. I recommend being on deck for the docking. The ship had to make some tight maneuvers interesting to watch. We pulled up close to downtown before turning around to face the mouth of the River Liffey when we docked. In Dublin we wandered the streets and when we saw something interesting, we went in. This included The Church, a bar set in the former St. Mary’s church which, appropriately, had been the family church of the Guinness family. We also had tea and scones in Brewley’s Café, which houses a luncheon theater, where we enjoyed a one act play. We found several small galleries and exhibits and wandered Temple Bar. When we heard music we liked we went in to listen. This was a relaxing way to see Dublin. It’s not our first time so we were not in a rush to see the Book of Kells and other well knows sights. After a much-needed sea day it was Zeebrugge. Since we’ve spent a lot of time in Belgium, we had no need to take the train to either Bruges or Ghent. Instead we bought a day pass on the tram that runs along the coast from the Dutch border practically to France. We could get on and off whenever we wanted. We had lunch in De Hann Ann Zee, a charming late 19 century beach resort where Albert Einstein spent some time after leaving Germany. If you’ve been to Bruges or Ghent this is a good alternative. Two days in Antwerp were not enough. We bought a mass transit day pass and enjoyed going the Art Nouveau neighborhoods. We also enjoyed the Cathedral, the Central Railway Station, Antwerp’s “second cathedral” and visiting churches filled with baroque art, including works by Rubens. We went to the Mas Museum and walked the old town and red-light districts. As much time as we had spent in Belgium we had never been to Antwerp. It was the most wonderful surprise of the cruise. We were tired when we arrived in Amsterdam because of the fast pace of the cruise so we took the tram to Central Station and enjoyed an hour-long cruise on the canals before getting on for the Norwegian Fjords Explorer cruise. When we got off the ship in Amsterdam from the Celtic Explorer, they did not stamp our passport because we were going back on the ship. When we got off after the Norwegian Fjords Explorer there was no one to stamp our passport because everyone had gotten on in Amsterdam. As a result We were detained at the airport leaving Amsterdam because we did not have a proper entry stamp. The immigration people were polite and helpful, there was no problem there, but it was time consuming. Had we not arrived at the airport three and a half hours before the flight, instead of the recommended two we would have missed our flight. We finally got to the plane at the tail end of boarding. Part of the problem was the 30-minute walk from immigration to the gate. Be prepared if you fly out of AMS. Here are a couple of other notes. Because of the small number of sea days there was no outside lecturer on board. We missed this but Brett, the EXC Guide gave good port talks. May was a good time to cruise. We had unusually good weather and the ship was not nearly full. Prinsendam has a capacity of 835. On the Celtic Explorer there were 567 passengers on board, no lines for dinner, an uncrowded lido, no need to arrive early to get a good seat for evening shows, and for less hassle tendering. I’m sorry to see Prinsendam go out of Holland America service. We’ve enjoyed Prinsendam in the past. She’s an older ship but we like her size, her aft saltwater pool good for swimming laps, her classic but understated appointments, her generous cabins and her walk-in closets. We’ve been on other HAL ships and enjoyed ourselves, but not as much as on Prinsendam. We will be reading Cruise Critic Reviews to try to find an new favorite. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We chose this trip for the itinerary--Cornwall in England, especially (Fowey)--small Irish ports and then crossing to Belgium and Amsterdam. Our porthole cabin, 421, was smaller than we expected (hard to walk past the foot of the bed) but ... Read More
We chose this trip for the itinerary--Cornwall in England, especially (Fowey)--small Irish ports and then crossing to Belgium and Amsterdam. Our porthole cabin, 421, was smaller than we expected (hard to walk past the foot of the bed) but comfortable and we liked the bathroom--we had a bathtub, although all porthole cabins do not, so check if you prefer a shower or bath. The service onboard was consistently excellent and the food was pretty delicious! For anytime dining in the dining room we always got a table for two immediately. We enjoyed the pretty touches, such as flowers, especially orchids, in all the public rooms. We celebrated my husband's birthday and our anniversary in Canaletto, the Italian restaurant, and enjoyed it. For his birthday, he got a large piece of cake and they sang to him. For our anniversary the hotel director, who had talked to us in one of the bars, sent a bottle of champagne to our table. Much appreciated surprise! We ate in Pinnacle for a lunch given to us by our travel agent. It is a pretty room and the food was good. We had to tender in to one port (Waterford) that we were supposed to dock for, but there was heavy fog. The captain and crew seemed very concerned that we were able to still do excursions. We liked the excursions although next time we will check to make sure there are stops rather than mostly driving as one went on too long. Next time we will also try to have a cruise with fewer tender ports simply because they take up more time and sometimes the sea is rather rough. We liked the bar venues, especially the Java Bar area. The Crow's Nest has great views. My husband enjoyed the steam room and sauna (free in the men's bathroom spa area) and the hot tubs. The casino is small and several machines didn't work. The library area, where the internet computers are located, is large and very nice. The entertainment was good. The onboard performers gave it their all and some of the guest performers were very enjoyable. We liked watching some of the movies in the theatre or on tv. There weren't many tv channels offering programming, mostly news and obscure sports rather than the "big games." We didn't go to the test kitchen or the digital workshops or the book club and the shops on board are small, so sea days were pretty quiet for us. The passengers were, for the most part, over age 60, so we often had to wait for elevators to the buffet on the 11th deck since many people used them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We’ve been on several HAL cruises and this one was just what we expected – excellent food and service and a good time over all, despite a few things that could be tweaked. Embarkation The transfer was long, largely because we ... Read More
We’ve been on several HAL cruises and this one was just what we expected – excellent food and service and a good time over all, despite a few things that could be tweaked. Embarkation The transfer was long, largely because we spent 40 minutes driving from terminal to terminal at Heathrow. The people who got on at the later terminals complained that they had to wait too long for the bus to come and the people already on the bus complained that it took forever to leave the airport, so pretty much no one was satisfied. The security check at Dover before getting on the ship was probably the strictest I’ve seen, but there was no line to check in and the luggage came to the cabin quickly. Boat drill seemed unusually long because it started with a series of announcements made while you were still in the cabin. Ship This is a small ship that has a lot of passengers who stay on it for multiple cruises, so the average age of the passengers and the number with walking difficulties is much higher than on most cruises. I like this ship a lot, but if you haven't been on this ship before make sure you know what you are signing up for. Newspapers and puzzles are available every day. Apart from the port lectures and the nightly entertainment, we didn’t do any of the other activities. One of the elevators broke down quite early in the trip and was never back in service. There was a fiasco one day when everyone sitting in the theater was asked to leave and come back in 15-20 minutes for the Captain’s toast. A lot of the people had come early specifically to get a seat for the toast and were not happy to have to stand around in the halls with no place to sit. I felt bad for the drink servers who had the ugly task of asking people to leave. After a couple passengers had some sharp words with an officer who happened to walk by, we were allowed back into the theater. There was no reason they couldn’t have put something in the daily schedule to warn people that the theater would be closed for some time before the Captain’s toast. Cabin The cabin had smaller than normal balcony doors, so there was no wall of glass, but the balcony itself was bigger than normal (we were in a Vista Suite). The cabin had good lighting and was well stocked with deck blankets, beach towels, robes, slippers, etc., although I would have preferred a shower over having to climb over the side of the tub. The water temperature in the shower was erratic. Unusual for a ship, the bathroom door could be left ajar without swinging or slamming, making the bathroom a useful nightlight. Our steward Gede took very good care of us. Our cabin was behind the casino, and I had been worried that smoke and noise from the casino might be a problem, but it wasn’t, perhaps because the casino seemed to be pretty empty the whole cruise. Entertainment The production shows were fantastic, some of the best we have seen, and the singers had strong voices. Ocean Trio was good but they mostly played instrumental old standards, which got somewhat boring night after night. The Band was excellent, but they only play on nights when the show that night doesn’t need them. Piano Stevie was entertaining. Georgina Jackson (she sang and played trumpet) was very good. John Lenahan (comedy and magic) was very funny. Misha, the port lecturer, was energetic and charming and funny. Unlike on some ships, she wasn’t part of the excursion office, so the talks were actually full of practical useful information and not just someone describing the shore excursions and trying to sell them to you. Shorex The excursions were very well run and the staff had excellent English (better than we have seen on other ships). The excursions were very expensive, though. There were a lot of tender ports on this itinerary. In a couple ports, the tendering service did not run very smoothly. We would get back to the ship but not be able to get off the tender for 10-20 minutes because another tender was at the platform. In Fowey, the tendering was a mess. Buses aren’t allowed on the narrow streets in town, so tenders for the excursions were sent to a different dock than the tenders just going downtown. It would have made a lot more sense to have the two groups meet in different lounges and to use two different tender platforms. Instead, they mixed the two groups in the same lounge, confused everybody with the announcements, and had chaos when the 2 groups mingled near the tender platform as they tried to keep people from getting on the wrong tender. Food On the first night in the dining room, no one escorted us to our table – they just pointed (in the wrong direction, as it turned out). The food was excellent and it was hot (both in the dining room and in the buffet) but our dining room stewards had too many tables, so the service really suffered. Some nights our waiters were practically running in the dining room, with sweat pouring off them, trying to keep up. We were rarely greeted with menus, bread and water, some of which would already be on the table when we arrived. We never got steak knives or fish knives, crumbs weren’t removed, and we were not reliably offered tea or coffee at the end of the meal. Most of this I don’t really care about, but the comparison to the level of service we have experienced on other ships was striking. What was not acceptable was the long waits between courses. Most nights it took us much longer to have dinner than what we have experienced with the same size table on other ships. Disembarkation We walked off early with our own luggage, which worked well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Chose this cruise based on itinerary. Had 4 ports scheduled for Ireland but wound up with 5 ports because the ship was not able to dock in Bristol. Prinsendam is the smallest HAL ship which makes it possible to go into smaller ports. ... Read More
Chose this cruise based on itinerary. Had 4 ports scheduled for Ireland but wound up with 5 ports because the ship was not able to dock in Bristol. Prinsendam is the smallest HAL ship which makes it possible to go into smaller ports. Our cabin 147 was very quiet, which was one of the main considerations for choosing it. Dining room and Lido buffet very good. We ate in 3 specialty restaurants, one of them twice and , though they were good, decided that was too many times since the dining room had a good selection and good food. Also enjoyed the burgers at the Dive In, by the pool. Service was excellent all around. Good variety of professional entertainment in the main showroom. We enjoyed Adagio classical music in the Explorers lounge. We used the HAL shore excursions and had great excursions everyday! Just 2 sea days on our leg of the cruise and we needed those rests. This was our 2nd cruise with HAL (Alaska with Denali last time). We will definitely go with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
After spending 2 weeks inScotland visiting friends, my husband and I rented a car and drove down to Dover, England to embark our cruise. The 8 hour drive went very smootly and when we returned our car they even drove us to the ship. ... Read More
After spending 2 weeks inScotland visiting friends, my husband and I rented a car and drove down to Dover, England to embark our cruise. The 8 hour drive went very smootly and when we returned our car they even drove us to the ship. Embarcation was a breeze and we were on The Eurodam and eating lunch by 11:30. After a great luch we were anxious to explore the ship. When you cruise alot and repeat many cruieline and ships it is alwasy fun to sail a new line and a new ship. The Eurodam did not disapponted. Our balcony romm was very spacious with lots of storage room. Love the fact the bathroom was well appointed and loved the bathtub. Holland America has what I consider the best bathrooms with the best amenties, I love Elemis products. Holland America has outstanding service as well. I could not find one thing that was below par. Friendly staff, great food, including room service and an overall feeling of calm. To say we enjoyed this cruise is an understaement. The ports were all amazing. Iceland, Greenland, Farrow Islands, Ireland and Newfoundland to name a few. A great opportunity to visit some out of the ordinary places. This is where I think Holland America excells. They offer more unique cruising experiences. We were so pleased we already have a cruise booked with Holland America doing a 30 night Pacific Islands cruise. Can't wait!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Prior cruises have been on 700+ passenger ships. This was a second try at HAL for me and a fifth for my partner (going back to the "student" ships of the '50's) Overall a great itinerary and and a fabulous captain who ... Read More
Prior cruises have been on 700+ passenger ships. This was a second try at HAL for me and a fifth for my partner (going back to the "student" ships of the '50's) Overall a great itinerary and and a fabulous captain who provided smooth seas, great information on what to expect and unexpected sites and views that included including local communities in our adventure. On the other side, never again on a ship this size. The feeling on board is stilted and unfriendly compared to the smaller ships. The cabin for some reason had a foldout bed couch instead of a normal couch and chair. The couch was so deep no one short of 6'6" could sit on it without three deep pillows. I checked the Eurodam deck plans, and about two/thirds of the veranda cabins are configured this way. Because of the space taken up by this "couch," there is no room for a chair. If you want to spend any time relaxing in your room, avoid these rooms. Food was fine. We actually ate most of the time in the cafeteria ("Lido") for all meals, since it took so long in the main dining room for food that was really no better and a menu that was more restrictive. We tried Tamarind for lunch and dinner (premium price) and were not impressed. The same for Canalletto (no premium charged), which we tried twice. Staff and service were comparable to other lines. Note that there is no self-service laundry. So come prepared to pay for laundry, or with do-it-yourself supplies. The Library is combined with the computer area and doesn't provide a comfortable reading area. We couldn't find a comfortable, quiet reading spot anywhere on the ship. Charging for coffee or tea in the lounge is a bit much. Entertainment is noticeably more professional and varied than on a small ship. Shows were Vegas glitz sort of. One delightful pianist was like a Russian Victor Borge. The piano bar was all about the singer. Mostly, it was much too high volume, with forced electronic sound. We gravited towards a bar with a great jazz trio. Overall if you can enjoy a ship this size than it probably as good as its competition. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like ... Read More
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like remoter parts of Scotland. Cruising by Greenland was magnificent and we were blessed with the weather. St John's Newfoundland was interesting, while Halifax Nova Scotia proved to be well worth a visit. The ship was very good; the food was the best; the staff were first class as you would expect. Sadly, the entertainment was a disappointment. Few production shows for a 17 day trip; soloists who thought it entertaining to tell us about the children and were full of their own importance. The real let down was the disembarkation in New York. While problems can happen, there is no excuse for not keeping the passengers informed as to why things were running over two hours late - there was a gap of over an hour between some announcements. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We returned on September 10, 2011 from a 17-day transatlantic cruise on the Eurodam that started in Dover, England on August 24 and ended in Manhattan with stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge (Belgium), Dublin, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, ... Read More
We returned on September 10, 2011 from a 17-day transatlantic cruise on the Eurodam that started in Dover, England on August 24 and ended in Manhattan with stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge (Belgium), Dublin, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, St. Johns (Newfoundland), and Halifax. The itinerary was spectacular. What attracted us was the nice mix of ports and at-sea days and the mix of exciting large cities (London, Amsterdam, Dublin, and New York) with remote cultures of the North Atlantic and with the charm of St. Johns and Halifax. We were not disappointed. It was a wonderfully varied cruise with times when we could completely relax and times when we were touring interesting places or sailing past jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery. The highlight of the trip was the day we spent scenic cruising on the Prins Christian Sund in Greenland. Through an incredible bit of luck, we had unusually good weather - cold, but very clear. The result was breathtaking. We spent the better part of the day cruising through a fjord with unbelievably tall, nearly vertical, sheer granite cliffs punctuated by glaciers and waterfalls. Because the weather was so uncommonly good, the captain extended the tour into a portion that no cruise ship had ever visited before. As they do on their Alaska cruises, HAL provided piping hot pea soup on the outside decks that was most welcome in the 30-degree (F) temperature. (For a fee, you could also get Irish coffee or brandy to warm you up.) It's a classy touch. And the crew serving it seemed as exuberant as the passengers about the sights. About midway through Prins Christian Sund, there was tiny village on shore. The ship sent out a tender with pizzas, and the tender crew also sliced off some ice from one of the icebergs floating in the sound and brought it on board for passengers who wished to have the unpolluted ice for their drinks. The next day, we stopped at Nanortalik, Greenland. One of the tenders returned with a bunch of children from the town and the crew treated them to pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, and a tour of the ship. We thought that it was a wonderful gesture. Some notable things: Boarding the ship in Dover and getting off the ship in New York were both speedy and painless experiences. We have found HAL to be remarkably efficient. We spent two nights in London before leaving for the cruise. Since it was a HAL pre-cruise, we were met at Heathrow and taken to our hotel (JW Marriott Grosvenor House). It's a great location. You can pretty much walk to most things you might want to see, including Buckingham Palace and the National Museum. HAL provided the bus transportation from the hotel to the ship. We are not buffet fans, so we can't comment much on the Lido except to say that the food looked attractive and varied when we walked through, and we never saw long lines, but since we weren't up there during a lot of meal times, I can't say that they did not exist. My wife went either at the very beginning or just before the lunch period ended and had a good experience when she purchased soup or a sandwich. We dined mostly at the Rembrandt Dining Room ("As You Like" dining). We had a few meals where we were at tables of four people. Eventually, we settled into a nice routine of making reservations several days in advance for 6:00 or 6:15 p.m. at a table for two, and generally got the same table (No. 111), overlooking the ocean. There were tables for two at either side of us, and night after night we would see some familiar faces, but we also wound up meeting some new people. For us, that seemed ideal: it had some of the characteristics of a fixed seating time (we got to know our serving staff and wine steward - it was a great crew!). We ate at the Tamarind twice. It was superb! It is one of HAL's best ideas, and I wish that all of their ships had it. (I think that the restaurant is available only on the Eurodam and the Nieuw Amsterdam.) It's an Asian fusion restaurant. The restaurant's menu has been endowed with tons of imagination and variety. The service is impeccable. We also dined twice at the Pinnacle. Once was on my birthday, where I gluttonized on a delicious steak. The second time was at one of the two Le Cirque dinners. Le Cirque is more expensive than the Pinnacle's regular $25.00 per person charge. The question is this: is it worth it? My wife and I would say, "yes." The weather: One of the questions we had before we took this cruise was this: how cold is it when you are cruising the North Atlantic in August-September? For most of the cruise we could go out on our veranda to take pictures, sometimes needing a fleece jacket, but it was generally too cold to sit out on the veranda for an extended period of time. There were a couple of times when this was not the case. In fact, one night when we were in port , we ordered dinner from the Rembrandt menu and dined out on the veranda. Bear in mind, too, that in addition to the wind speeds, you are on a ship that is moving at 18-21 knots, so there is a certain amount of wind chill that is generated just from the fact that you are on a moving ship. In any event, we'd suggest that you brings clothes that will allow you "layer" yourself well, and bring more long-sleeved shirts/blouses than short-sleeved. And how rocky was the North Atlantic? There were a few days when the winds were so extreme that it was almost impossible to push the veranda door open. (At those times, the ship also closed the outside decks to passengers - a sensible precaution, especially as there were times when the wind speeds reached 70 miles an hour, which is virtually hurricane force! The Lido deck pool was emptied once when the wind and rocking was significant enough to cause unsafe conditions for walking or sitting in the pool area.) But overall, there was actually less rockiness than we expected; however, being mid-ship was decidedly more stable than rooms closer to either end, as several passengers attested. There were several nights when the ship's rolling was strong enough that we had to put something in front of the drawers in our stateroom to prevent their opening and closing from waking us. We also had to take down hangers that didn't have clothes on them, since they, too, got rather noisy when they banged against each other. There was only one time when we felt that the rolling was very pronounced. Fortunately, it was while we were in bed, and, frankly, it was a rather enjoyable and even soothing feeling. During the at-sea days, we loved sitting by a window with a book or a drink and watching the waves. My wife also took photos of the 8 to 12 foot waves, capturing their fountains of spray, and sketching the result. There is a strange and enduring beauty in the waves when you are on the sea. It is one reason why we will definitely take another transatlantic cruise. In fact, the crystallized ginger candy which my wife brought along for possible nausea was not used for that purpose but rather (by her) for a little indigestion she experienced caused by rich ingredients used in dressing vegetables, making the scrumptious hot or cold cream soups and the elegant desserts. But what's a cruise without an occasional indulgence? In any case, she swears by the ginger candy, which she purchased at our local co-op (organic) food market. We heard very little about people experiencing sea sickness, and since there were the usual number of folks at meals, I suspect that it did not present a problem for most passengers. I would say, though, that if you are generally unsteady on your feet, you might want to think twice about a transatlantic cruise. It is going to be rockier than a cruise in (say) the Caribbean. My wife noticed many passengers with a motion-sickness prevention patch behind an ear. The lectures: This was another highlight. First of all, we've never been on a cruise before where the personality of the ship's captain played such a major role. Captain Darin Bowland was on several panels in the Queen's Lounge or Mainstage during the cruise. Two of his young children sat up front in the Queen's Lounge , watching their self-proclaimed non-cooking Dad give a memorable performance during a culinary "cook-off". During the show, the Cruise Director and the Captain attempted to make a winning venison entree with sautEed vegetables while two other staff persons accompanied their venison with a soup appetizer. The panel of judges (passengers) did not vote for the Captain's team; in fact, they found no menu item particularly palatable. When not cooking, the Captain is informative. He is hilariously funny (by the way, he could pass as a Jay Leno look-alike). He seems to love the work that he does. He gave those who heard him some insight into the kinds of issues that he and his staff face in managing a cruise ship. He also did some interviews on hurricanes and hurricane-tracking (we sailed when Irene was tracking up through the Northeast United States and into the North Atlantic), and they were broadcast on one of the ship's TV stations. On board for the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Canadian segments of the cruise was Jon Sigurdsson who gave great lectures on the culture, geography, ecology, and geology of the region. He played to pretty full houses in the Mainstage Theatre. He also provided commentary during scenic cruising. He has a deft touch for mixing information, insight, and humor. In other words, he is a perfect speaker for this kind of cruise. The Accommodations: We stayed in a Deluxe Veranda Suite. It is spacious and well-appointed with a huge amount of storage space. There was even space under the bed to fit all of our suitcases (two rather large ones and two carry-ons with wheels). Mary Rose and Mina in the Neptune Lounge were outstanding, as were Nina and Chandra, our stateroom stewards. The Neptune Lounge provides concierge service, and, yes, they will handle pretty much anything that needs handling. While these are (admittedly) fine accommodations and worth the extra money, we met lots of people who were not in one of the deluxe suites who also found this an enthralling cruise. Dress Code: This 17-day cruise had five formal nights. Disembarkation: Getting off the ship was a breeze. We left the ship around 8:30 a.m., got our luggage, found a porter who accompanied us and the suitcases through Customs and to the street, where we hopped a cab to Penn Station to drop off our suitcases. Here's a tip from the porter: if you snag a porter to tote your suitcases on a wheeled cart up to customs, the agents service passengers with porters first. But, be patient with getting porters: remember that the Eurodam carries over 2,000 passengers and that they first announce disembarkation of those passengers who have planes to catch. We spent the day in New York (including a matinee performance of The Book of Mormon - by the creators of the HBO hit, South Park - which we highly recommend) and took Amtrak back home to Delaware. Entertainment: We were in bed before 11 most nights and while we both found one of the Mainstage shows rather entertaining (a couple who performed several routines while executing unbelievably quick changes of dancing costumes), my wife attended only one other show. At the 11:15 pm crew show, she particularly enjoyed the experience of watching an especially beautiful member of the Neptune Lounge staff from Bali flawlessly perform a 15-minute, enchanting "bird dance". However, we both liked relaxing with an after-dinner drink while the Adagio String Quartet played beautiful classical music from 6 pm to 10 pm each evening. Two different couples, passengers themselves, surprised the seated passengers with a lovely tango on two separate occasions. Casino: We both look forward to the day when HAL bans all smoking onboard - anywhere. For those bothered - as we are - by second-hand smoke we held our breath and moved quickly through the Casino area. In Sum: This is not a cruise for people who want non-stop activity and parties. For folks who like visiting a range of really interesting and sometimes fascinating ports, but who also like the peace and relaxation of at sea days, it is ideal - especially if you also enjoy excellent food, good conversation with well-educated guests, and intelligent lectures. One substantive complaint is that the Eurodam puts its library ("Explorers Cafe") on the top deck with the Crow's Nest. That's a goofy place to put a library: it is way too noisy and not very conducive to sitting and reading, especially when there is Muzak playing in the background and folks gathered around the bar at the Crow's Nest. Putting it on the 4th deck, as it is on most other HAL ships, seems a much better place for it. Another complaint was that we learned from other passengers that the tender service in Noratalik was extremely s-l-o-w with long lines and long waits, partially due to a mechanical problem. (Since that was the only port where we stayed onboard ship, we can't comment directly. It was quite cold and windy, and we opted to stay onboard.) There was also a luncheon buffet in the Pinnacle Grill to showcase culinary displays that drew long lines on one of the at-sea days; on another day there were long lines at a Polynesian-theme buffet around the pool. In other respects, however, the Eurodam is a wonderful ship. The "Rembrandt" theme works extremely well throughout the ship. The ship is kept spotlessly clean. We were on the Eurodam two years ago when we sailed on one of HALs Canadian/New England cruises, and we were glad to see that it remains such a beautiful and well-run ship. The crew were very friendly. In addition to the kudos mentioned above for our Neptune concierges and our stateroom stewards, we would also mention Temmy, our wine steward in the Rembrandt Dining Room, who was always eager to please and very amusing, and Anne Jameson, manager of the Pinnacle, who is a class act. Finally, Muji, who made the seating assignments in the Rembrandt when you arrived for dinner, (for those passengers with or without reservations), had nerves of steel. He never displayed anything other than a pleasant demeanor. On every cruise, there are always a few people who act like jerks - particularly when the matter at hand concerns food. They don't make reservations or they show up late for them, but then are put off because they don't get exactly the table or location they want. Muji was unflappable. We both came to admire his patience and good nature, even when a guest was being rude. In case you're wondering about us: I am 66, and my wife is 62. This is our fourth cruise (all have been on HAL). Excursions: Amsterdam - we took a HAL tour that include the Van Gogh Museum. Spent lots of time at the Museum and then took a very leisurely walk back to the ship on a route that took us past the Anne Frank House. Some passengers complained that none of the HAL tours included the Anne Frank House. The problem, we think, is that there are very long lines to get into it. We believe that the waiting time was 45+ minutes, and that is tough to schedule as part of a tour. It was moving to stand in front of it, however. Since it was a somewhat longish walk back to the ship, we stopped for tea at an outdoor cafe by one of the canals. Zeebrugge - we opted for a tour that included Zeebruge and Damme. Saw a lot of the Flemish countryside and learned some history. It probably would have been more interesting to have gone to Brussels, but we did enjoy the tour we took, and the tour guide was excellent. Dublin - like Amsterdam, a tremendous city with lots to offer. We took a HAL tour, and, again, an excellent tour guide made it worthwhile. We saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin and spent some time walking around (including a stop at a pub where I had a Guinness and my wife had her favorite pie - apple - which she declared was the best she ever tasted). We also did some shopping. One of our fellow passengers spent the afternoon at a performance of River Dance. They explained that they went to the tourism center in town and learned how to get tickets. We thought that was a neat idea: to go to a matinee performance while we were in port. We wish that we had considered that option, though we don't regret the tour. Faroe Islands - the weather was gloomy and a bit chilly, and towards the end of our tour of Torshavn (which included a fair amount of walking), it started raining. That said, our tour guide gave us a lot of insight into the history of the Faroe Islands and what it is like to live there. We were glad that we took the tour, despite the wretched weather. Rain gear is a necessity for this cruise! Reykjavik, Iceland - the only disappointment, not because of Reykjavik, but because the tour guide's English was not up to the demands of conducting a tour. We opted for a general tour of the city. Judging from our conversations with other passengers, touring the geothermal sites would have been far more interesting. And those who visited the Blue Lagoon loved it - this was true whether they took a Blue Lagoon HAL tour, one of which included an opportunity for a 3 hour swim in its warm water, with nearby showers and lockers, or opted to go out there on their own (which was undoubtedly a less expensive option). Greenland - as mentioned above, this was the highlight. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating place. St. Johns, Newfoundland - this was the only place where my wife and I opted for separate HAL tours. I did a tour that was more history-based, with visits to Cape Spear (you can see the WW II defenses there), Signal Hill, and the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, which is a pretty spectacular church. My wife opted for the Memorial University Botanical Gardens and loved it. The gardens are on 100 acres which university students reconstructed after a fire had destroyed much of the foliage. What resulted are beautiful and varied displays of indigenous flora and fauna as well as carefully constructed areas made to protect small animals and even butterflies. Halifax, Nova Scotia - since we had been to Halifax before, we didn't do a tour. We walked from the ship to the Maritime Museum and spent several hours there. It is a terrific museum. Lots of information on the Titanic and on the horrible 1916 explosion in Halifax harbor. It also has models of 19th century ships. It was a well laid out and very engrossing museum. There are nearby shops with intriguing art and sculpture which gave us the opportunity to purchase a thank-you gift for our cat-sitter. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
First: I´m Swedish, excuse me for bad english. Second: I´m a rather experienced traveller in many parts of the world. But this was only my second cruise of this kind of ship. The first was 7 days in Mediterranean on RCCL "Splendour ... Read More
First: I´m Swedish, excuse me for bad english. Second: I´m a rather experienced traveller in many parts of the world. But this was only my second cruise of this kind of ship. The first was 7 days in Mediterranean on RCCL "Splendour of the Seas" (SoS. And below I compare a bit to that cruise. The Itinerary was the only reason we choosed this cruise. (We had first the idea of going the 7-days with Cunard.) The Itinerary fulfilled our expectations. (And a bit more thanks to good weather through south of Greenland.)The only port with tenders was Greenland. And there it was surprisingly slow. I could write pages about the ports. But I only say they were well choosen. We took excursions in every port. And they varied from fantastic to boring. Sorry to say the latter outnumbered the former. Sometimes I suspect HAL had found their guides on the street. HAL provided us with many high quality lectures in the main stage before many of our ports. They were often so popular that the latecomers had to sit in the stairs. Eurodam is very beautiful seen from outside. But it´s function is in many aspects inferior to the much older "SoS". Many of the open decks in front were closed to passengers. (Security reasons.) Eurodam lacks the open top-deck. Instead one open in the back, and a half-open in the middle. I did not like the layout and design of some public spaces. (Bars etc.) First 8 nights we had a standard inside cabin. Avoid it! Fantastic large beds and good ventilation. But no floor space. Go for the large inside (with a sofa), unless you not travel with friends with larger cabin. Last 9 nights we had a veranda-cabin. And it was perfect in every aspect. (On SoS we had the second largest suite, nr. 8000, but the much smaller in Eurodam, was in some ways better. Food and service was superior than on the cheaper SoS. But I did not experience better food in the restaurants, Pinnacle and Tamarind, who charged extra. We had the best dinners in the main restaurant, Rembrandt. And the best service. Entertainment had it ups and downs. Mostly inferior to SoS. Would I go with HAL again? Very probable. If they are 20% more expensive than for instance RCCL, they give you 20% higher quality. (meals, cabins and service.) Would I go with RCCL again. Yes, roughly as probable. Or I will never cruise again. (Not so probable.) Or perhaps I choose i River Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI 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 ... Read More
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI 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.Pre-cruise PlanningEarly 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 WAYBritish 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.EURODAMThis 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 STATEROOMOur 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 CALLAmsterdamWe 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.BrugesZeebrugge 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. DublinHere 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.Faroe IslandsWhere? 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.IcelandIn 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.GreenlandIt 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 NewfoundlandSt 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.HalifaxHere 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.FoodThis 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 selectionand 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 EntertainmentHAL 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 ShipHAL 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.DebarkationThis 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. Overall EvaluationThis 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.Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
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 ... Read More
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. PROS: 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. CONS: 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: http://www.funbeaches.com/Holland-America-Baltic.html Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We decided to take this cruise because we had never been to northern Europe and wanted to see St. Petersburg. The HAL cruise seemed to best fit our schedule as well as the embarkation port. In general the Eurodam met most of our ... Read More
We decided to take this cruise because we had never been to northern Europe and wanted to see St. Petersburg. The HAL cruise seemed to best fit our schedule as well as the embarkation port. In general the Eurodam met most of our expectations. The food was consistently good though the dining room was always overcrowded. Seems like they crammed as many tables as possible into the room so we were constantly struggling to get out of our seats without hitting the folks behind us. The servers had the same issue so many times we had to pass the food around ourselves. It also seemed as if they had too many tables for each team of servers since many evenings we had to wait for our orders to be taken and received. Room service was always prompt and full-service. The tour director, Ian, was very knowledgeable and gave lots of interesting information on each port we entered. Unfortunately several times the sound system did not work and there were periods of dead silence in the Crows Nest area where we were as we sailed into or out of port. There were many activities though it was very disappointing to find no bridge director on board. Bridge games were scheduled but with no director it was a very hit and miss affair. The Internet access was good for a cruise ship with many available stations. The only problem was the staff coverage of the area. On at least 2 occasions the system wasn't working, either access or printing and no one knew how to fix it. This seemed to happen mostly when we were in port and the Internet guru was off. Hard to believe in a ship this size only one person knew anything about computers. Happy hour in the Crows Nest was always great though with so many people there most of the time there were again not enough servers to enable one to get drinks in any kind of timely fashion. The entertainment in the Crows Nest, guitarist, was excellent. The ship evening shows were ok - nothing spectacular and pretty typical of most cruise ships entertainment that we've experienced. The ships decor was pretty plain - no grand atrium or razzle dazzle like on other ships we've been on. The main problem we had with HAL was the completely erroneous information given prior to the cruise, and during the cruise, regarding touring in St. Petersburg. The ship emphasized in a letter and on all daily newsletters that you had to take the ship tours in St.Petersburg or you could not embark without going through a pretty lengthy and complicated process to get a Russian visa. Thank goodness we had read reviews on cruise critic and knew this to be false. We booked tours through DenRus tours and had no problems whatsoever. They provided the same blanket visa provided by the ship tour. We walked right off the ship and they were waiting for us. Each tour only had about 10 people so we had very nice service at less cost than the ship tour. Lunches were included at nice Russian restaurants. We were told by other cruisers who went on the ship tours that lunch was on their own and they were taken to a local MacDonald's. Hard to believe. Most of the ports were good though we did not take advantage of the Berlin tour as Warnemunde was quite a distance from the city and we did not want all that train or bus travel. A positive for the Eurodam was there did not seem to be as much annoying attention to buy drinks as on other ships we've been on. We were usually asked once and then left alone. The spa was about average, definitely some pressure to buy products here. The gym was spacious and very well-equipped. Overall we enjoyed the cruise as the ports were interesting, service was generally good, library was excellent, food was consistently good. We were disappointed in the accuracy of statements made by the cruise line as well as the other areas mentioned above. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Embarkation in Dover. Quick and fairly simple - mainly because we were fast tracked. Suite ready almost as soon as we boarded. This was after running the gauntlet of the girls dressed in huge pink feathers and the inevitable photographer. ... Read More
Embarkation in Dover. Quick and fairly simple - mainly because we were fast tracked. Suite ready almost as soon as we boarded. This was after running the gauntlet of the girls dressed in huge pink feathers and the inevitable photographer. When will they learn that you are not looking your best at this point. Tell them you are in the 'Witness Protection Scheme' it will go over their heads but what the hell. We had a wet room because it was a disabled cabin. This was good plenty of pressure and nice clean shower curtains. One grievance every other cabin seemed to have four wardrobes we had only ONE and only half of that was hanging space. Only one of us was disabled when we arrived but after scrambling about under the bed to get things out of suitcases I think I might qualify too. Come on Holland America just because you are disabled does not mean that you don't have clothes. Had to resort to hanging formal wear on the hooks designed for the dressing gowns. Cabin Stewards were excellent. Clean towels twice a day and plenty of them. Asked for extra pillows and they were delivered speedily. I won't list the restaurants and bars because they have already been reviewed several times. Except to say that the food in the main restaurant was excellent at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beautifully presented, hot and served with a smile. Try the cold soups at lunch and dinner. Weird but very very nice. The entertainment was varied. The guy in the Crow's Nest plays the guitar and sings. He sounds just like Neil Diamond and this was before consuming several cocktails. Well worth several visits The String Quartet are excellent and one night they play in the small theatre so you can listen without the chatter in the bar where they usually play. The Piano Bar is fun, themed and full Drinks are on the expensive side but there are Happy Hours which means if you buy one cocktail at $5.95 you can order the second for $1.00 - So you have to drink in multiples of two. Hey its dirty work but someone has to do it. Trips have been reviewed before but treat yourself and book a local company in Russia called T. J. Tours. There were four of us a driver and a guide. I can't praise them enough they were more than excellent. We cleared customs and they were there waiting for us no problems at all Don't worry about Russian customs they are just like customs anywhere. In fact they were even nice to the old couple in front of us who could not find their passports or paperwork. Don't let the ship tell you anything else Disembarkation in Dover is something else. Going you get the up to date clean terminal. Leaving it is a hanger that looks like something out of a world war 2 film. On the up side the porters are terrific and if you need it there are people there to help and it is fairly efficient. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I have been on several cruises previously (HAL/Alaska, several RCCL/Caribbean and Bahamas), as well as traveled in Europe on land, but was very excited for our two week trip through the Baltic on HAL. I was not disappointed! We flew ... Read More
I have been on several cruises previously (HAL/Alaska, several RCCL/Caribbean and Bahamas), as well as traveled in Europe on land, but was very excited for our two week trip through the Baltic on HAL. I was not disappointed! We flew overnight from US into Heathrow and used Smiths for Airport to drive us to Dover. It was expensive, but well worth the price not to have to deal with luggage and bus stations and figuring everything out upon arrival in Heathrow. Arrived in Dover by 2pm, walked around the town, enjoyed the afternoon and had an early dinner. Stayed overnight at the Premier Inn at the ferry terminal and it was reasonable, clean and comfortable. Embarkation was organized and only took about a half hour. Boarded Eurodam and was impressed....the ship is really beautiful! For a larger size ship, we never felt crowded or had the feeling there were too many on board. Stayed in cabin 1063. One of the cheapest possible categories and that was maybe the best decision we made regarding the trip, because we loved that cabin!! There was no ship movement that low and the cabin was HUGE! Way larger than the outside view and even some veranda cabins we peeked into. We got great nights of sleep with no light coming through the windows. I would recommend it to anyone. The Eurodam is a little confusing to get around, but we had 12 nights to figure it out. Once you realized the mid ship elevators couldn't get you to the Crows Nest area, you were OK! The food was good, on some nights it was great. Surprisingly, the Lido was the best for breakfast. I couldn't make myself turn away from the Eggs Benedict area. They can poach a wonderful egg!! If you have open seating for dinner, I recommend making reservations. We had one night where we waited 45 minutes to be seated. After that, I made a reservation for every night. No problems after that. Had lunch and dinner in Tamarind. I was not impressed with lunch, but the dinner was absolutely fantastic. Also had dinner in Pinnacle and would recommend that as well. The service and food was outstanding. We ate in Canaletto a couple nights to make a change from the MDR and really enjoyed that venue as well. We enjoyed the food demos in the Culinary Arts Center and saw several presentations about historical aspects of the region (History of the Vikings, Russian Art, Amber, etc.). Also watched a couple movies in the Theatre. The one area really lacking on Eurodam was entertainment, which surprised us. The shows were nothing special, the piano player hopelessly cheesy, Natalie and the HalCats....I don't even want to say what I thought of them. The string quartet was very talented and good, but not my type of music and the guitar player in the Crows Nest, decent. But, even he sang the exact same playlist every evening, which struck me as really weird. There were two visiting entertainers who we saw and liked. But, overall, the entertainment seemed very dated somehow. The passengers on our sailing ranged from young families, middle aged couples and seniors. The entertainment aspect didn't reflect that mix at all. Fortunately, we didn't go on this cruise to see the ships entertainment....it was the ports of call!! Kiel, Germany: Took a HAL excursion called "Castles, Lakes and Roses" and enjoyed it tremendously. The guide spoke excellent English and was very friendly and chatty. Visited 3 smaller towns...Ploen to visit the castle, Malente to see glass blown and take a boat ride across 3 inland lakes and Eutin, to visit the kitchen garden and castle in town. Throw in a decent lunch and it was a great day! Warnemunde, Germany: We did not want to go into Berlin and so planned a leisurely DIY day in this small, resort, seaside town. Reminded me of a Germany Mackinaw Island (for those of you familiar with Michigan!). Had a wonderful lunch in a small restaurant right on the canal. I think it was called Skeetiste and it had fantastic fresh fish and lovely service. Everyone was very friendly. Tallinn, Estonia: Another DIY day. Easy to walk off the ship and find your way to the Old Town, which we absolutely loved! We had a walking tour from the internet and it was perfect, so that we knew what we were looking at as we walked around. Another wonderful lunch of local specialties. Great amber jewelry in the shops. St. Petersburg, Russia: Had booked the SPB 2 Day Baltic Pearl Tour. The tour was a good selection for us, as it included all costs, even lunches, which made it very easy and no worries once there. Good guide and driver. Viktoria, the owner of SPB, met us at the ship to introduce herself and welcome us to Russia. Very professional. I would recommend SPB to anyone traveling to this region. We saw so much and the guides knew which times would be better for each site. Even in the Hermitage and Catherine's Palace, we didn't wait in line to get in and never felt overly crowded once inside. We also opted to stay in town after the first day of touring to see the Folkloric Show at the Nicholas Palace. Even though we were exhausted, this was my favorite experience in Russia. If you are at all interested in music and dance, don't miss this performance. Wear layers in St. Petersburg. It rained, got chilly, then ridiculously hot and humid. The buildings are not air conditioned, so be prepared to strip down when inside. Your gut tells you that you don't want to drag stuff around, but you can leave whatever you don't need that particular moment in the van. Helsinki, Finland: Didn't expect much from Helsinki and was surprised by how wonderful it was! Took shuttle from Eurodam and walked the Esplanade to the harbor. Took ferry to Suomenlinna Island, walked around fortress. Back to Market Square for Reindeer meatballs with lingonberry jam for lunch...yum! Senate Square was just beautiful with the Lutheran Cathedral. Could have done the HoHo Bus, but everything we wanted to see was close enough to walk. Stockholm, Sweden: Got right on the first HoHo Boat we saw when we docked right in town at Stadsgarden. Went directly to the Vasa Museum and were blown away! It is amazing. Don't miss it and go first thing in the morning. We walked right up to the ticket counter. When we left, the line stretched for blocks. That would have taken the fun out of it for me. Back to the boat to see Gamla Stan and a couple other areas. A ton to see in Stockholm. We liked being able to set our own schedule to spend as much time as we wanted. Copenhagen, Denmark: Booked the HAL tour called Copenhagen by Coach and Canal. Loved getting the chance to see the city by canal boat. Had kind of a dreary day, so that dampened our experience, but enjoyed it all the same. Were out at the Freeport terminal, so we thought it would be easier to take an excursion. We could have DIY, as HoHo buses were sitting right outside the terminal anyway. Disembarkation was quicker and easier than others lines I have been on. Really well done. Took the pre-paid HAL transportation to Copenhagen airport in plenty of time to catch an 11am flight. In the future, would try to avoid Copenhagen airport. Crazy check in procedure. Took an hour and half in line. Once in the terminal, there was no place to sit by the gate. The seating area completely locked up until just before boarding. Even very old people were sitting on the floor all around an empty, glassed in room full of chairs. Need some restructuring there. Overall, this was a trip of a lifetime. Mostly due to the ports and cities we experienced. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend HAL Eurodam, as well. Food, service, ship and cabin exceeded my expectations. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We have been on 4 cruises, including Disney and Princess. This first cruise with Holland America was to the northern Europe-Baltic region. We enjoyed our Baltic cruise very much. Food was great--lots of choices for ... Read More
We have been on 4 cruises, including Disney and Princess. This first cruise with Holland America was to the northern Europe-Baltic region. We enjoyed our Baltic cruise very much. Food was great--lots of choices for family, some like steak/beef, others like fish. Best food was in the Pinnacle Grill--well worth the extra $20 per person for very good service, wonderfully prepared food. We went to this restaurant 3 times, including the Le Cirque night. My teenagers even asked to go here! I liked Tamarind too. We did not like Canaletto though--the pasta sauces were too heavy, choices pretty limited. Still, much better food than Princess. Cabins were very spacious suites; verandahs quite large. Tub plus shower is very useful, as were double sinks. I did use the whirlpool tub, although it did take quite a while to fill. Shore excursions were very good, esp. in St. Petersburg where there was an evening Hermitage tour for just Holland America passengers. No waiting in huge lines; seeing the rooms with a small group was perfect. Only port we didn't care for was Kiel. Would have preferred another port in Germany or an extra night in Stockholm. Loved Stockholm and cruising the archipelago. Entertainment was disappointing, as others noted. Liked the piano bar. Husband liked the casino with many choices. Really need a comedian or other entertainment act a couple of the nights. Princess has better entertainment. Service was very good in all places. Cabin stewards and concierges were very helpful. In restaurants, service was prompt and very knowledgeable. Even when in lines for grill food in main self service restaurant, the cooks worked quickly and did food to order. Fitness room was very good. Many cardio machines as well as free weights, weight machines, exercise balls. Very well done. Spa was fine--like most ships though, they try to sell products after the service which I really dislike. Spa was very busy in the afternoons so be sure to check before waiting outside for your appt since they say to come to the spa 30 mins before treatment (way too long!). I did that, and then had to wait almost an additional 30 mins. The covered pool area was great for cool days. I was able to swim comfortably by myself one morning, and use the spa. In the afternoons, much more crowded but there was a lot of seating area around the pool. Overall we would cruise with Holland America again. Even my teenagers liked their cabin, and food and service (esp. room service!). Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I was reading other peoples' reviews when we planning our cruise and it was very helpful. My husband and I did the Eurodam Baltic cruise last July. Though I am not a frequent internet user and it took me some time to write this ... Read More
I was reading other peoples' reviews when we planning our cruise and it was very helpful. My husband and I did the Eurodam Baltic cruise last July. Though I am not a frequent internet user and it took me some time to write this review, I would still like to share my experience with others as my cruising forerunners did. We liked the ship. It was our first cruising experience so we had nothing to compare it to, but we enjoyed the food, the service and the atmosphere in general. There was enough entertainment onboard if you needed it, but ports of call were the most important part of the travel for us, so I'll focus more on what we were doing in every city we visited. Kiel: Overwhelmed with London where we stayed at our friend's place and looking forward to Berlin, we decided to take it very easy at this port. We had a relaxing walk around Kiel towards the Church of St. Nicholas, then towards the Botanic garden and stopped for some German bears here and there on the way back to the ship. Warnemunde: we took a train to Berlin and took the HOHO for a beautiful overview of the city. It is huge! We came back on board the ship, satisfied with our day and ready for a good dinner and a good rest. Next time though I would consider renting a car to get to Berlin. Tallin: the old town is where you can have a nice walk and it is easy to get there on foot -â€" no extra charges at all and a brilliant chance to feel the atmosphere of the city. St. Petersburg: due to visa requirements, the language barrier and big distances from site to site we decided to do St. Petersburg with a private guide. We contacted several private tour companies and booked with the Best Guides Group, who had set up a customs made 2-day tour for us. It was a big change in our travel style and a totally different feeling -â€" being led around and guided. Those were the best value-for-time days. We saw a lot and learned a lot and laughed a lot with our guide. It was nice to be taken past all the lines of waiting tourists straight to the entrance and within a desired palace. If we had decided for DIY style and taken the trouble of receiving the Russian visa we could have lost one day standing in the line to enter the Hermitage. Helsinki: we were planning to test the CityBike, but by the time we arrived the project had been stopped. So we took the circular tram from the central station and got a quick overview of the city. It was a relaxing day compared to St. Petersburg. What really impressed me was a peculiar Finnish thin rye-bread cake with rice filling: here is the link to the picture http://www.google.com/imgres?q=finnish+bread+rice&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1366&bih=667&tbm=isch&tbnid=2wvTVkiLQjID5M:&imgrefurl=http://wheresmandyandnate.blogspot.com/2010/06/we-ate-reindeer.html&docid=z9F4Y9 Try it when you are there -â€" it's something very special, they sell it both in small shops and at supermarkets. Nynashamn: We took public transport to Stockholm-â€" bus and train. They are leaving every half an hour and it takes about 1.30 min. The train arrived at the Central station and we walked to see the Stockholm City Hall where the Nobel prize winners' banquet is held, then went to the main central walking street (Drottningsgatan) and wandered along it to the oil city (Gamla Stan) enjoying small shops and cafes. On the way you also see the Parliament and the Royal Palace buildings where you can watch the changing of the guards. Choosing between the Vasa museum and a relaxing walk in a breathtaking city we decided against the boat that set sail for the first time and sank near the shore. We went back to T-centralen and took the train to our ship. Copenhagen: The city is very compact and the major sights are within a walking distance. When we were having a walk around the center we lost our way a couple of times, but always ended up in some beautiful spot that was on our "must see" list. Following the recommendations on Cruise Critic message boards we took a canal boat tour and enjoyed it a lot. It was nice to have some rest from walking with no need to be eating (we eat too much on the ship anyway). Google maps were very helpful to us to plan our journey -â€" they give one an idea of the distances and an advice on public transport options incl. timetables. We took our credit cards with us but we also had some local currencies (British Pounds in London, Swedish kronas in Sweden, Rubles in Russia and Euros in other ports of call) to have money for transport, snacks, toilets and tips. Have a nice trip! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We(2 adults & 1 child) recently returned from another HAL cruise. This time is was a 12 day Baltic cruise from Dover, GB. We were attending a conference on board (lectures just on the sea days)and flew on our own into London 1 1/2 days ... Read More
We(2 adults & 1 child) recently returned from another HAL cruise. This time is was a 12 day Baltic cruise from Dover, GB. We were attending a conference on board (lectures just on the sea days)and flew on our own into London 1 1/2 days early but had arranged a transfer by HAL from there base hotel of Marriott Grosvenor House in Hyde Park for the morning of departure. We a half a block away at Hilton located at the Hyde Park Corner. 5 buses took fellow cruisers from Hyde Park to Dover aboard a bus. We left at 9:30 am and arrived by noon. Dover is a small terminal; we were checked in and given colored boarding passes. When our color was called we walked to the gangway and went on board. First thing, checked out the stateroom. We were assigned a Superior Veranda (SY) 5001, which is starboard and to the fore. This is designated as a handicapped equipped room. This stateroom is large and spacious. The patio is double sized due to being all the way to the front of the ship. Nice. This was our second cruise so we knew to go up to Lido and eat while luggage was being loaded on board. After a huge lunch we walked around and discovered the rest of the ship. This ship has another premium restaurant located mid ship on the 11th floor called Tamarind, a Asian themed restaurant, along with Canaletto in the Lido and Pinnacle Grill. Get your reservations in early. Tamarind is no additional cost for lunch but reservations do fill up quickly. This cruise is a Baltic Cruise that heads out of Dover to Copenhagen then to Warnermunde, Tallinn, Saint Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and back to Dover. The seas were calm and on our trip at the end of June into July the weather was varied. We had warm days of 90+ and most days in the 60-70's. I did order a expensive Internet plan to stay in touch, but found that the port of Copenhagen has free WiFi dockside. In addition Tallinn had free Wifi at the port near the shopping booths near the docks. Keep in mind that you have to share with others and it could be difficult to log on because of the crowds. We arranged tours through HAL and liked the tours, although a little pricey. But this is vacation and we travelled half way around the world to get here we should see the sights. Warnermunde/Berlin was memorable because of the tour guides. We had Jay for the train ride from the port to Berlin, a German student home for summer but studying in Colorado, who was great. In Berlin we were lucky enough to have Berlin resident/actor/tourguide Burkhart. He was excellent and made each stop interesting, fun and educational. Highly recommend going into Berlin. We ate most dinner's on board in the Rembrandt dining room in open seating. Because of the jet lag we always ate early. We found that the meats were cooked to perfection, unlike a year early in Alaska were we ate later. We think that in serving thousands those who eat early get better choice in doneness of the meats versus coming in for the huge rush at 7-8 pm. As always the room stewards were great, we went to a few shows at the Mainstage and found the dancers, singers, performers thoroughly entertaining. Our 10 year old we especially looking forward the Club HAL. She spend most days there in the mornings,afternoons and evenings playing with other kids her age. She had a great time and therefore we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We boarded the Eurodam in Dover on Monday 27th of June,Little did I know that for the next 12 nights we would not sleep a wink,we had booked a deal with Holland America where they allocate the stateroom just before the departure date.We ... Read More
We boarded the Eurodam in Dover on Monday 27th of June,Little did I know that for the next 12 nights we would not sleep a wink,we had booked a deal with Holland America where they allocate the stateroom just before the departure date.We were given stateroom no 811 a very nice cabin except it was located below the main kitchen area,which meant that noise from the preparation,and cooking of the food was herd in the cabin throughout the night and very early in the morning. As you can understand we were not happy with this and complained to guest services,we were told they would look into the matter.The following day we were told that there was very little they could do,On being ask if we could be moved to another stateroom,we were told that the ship was sailing at full capacity. After a few more visits to guest relations, we were sent by way of a apology a plate of chocolate's,( poor consolation for Four nights with out sleep) At the end of the cruise we were given 200 dollars credit on our final bill to compensate for 12 nights loss of sleep. This is without doubt the worst cruise either myself or my partner have been on. Other issues Lack of choice of hot food,All food comer from one central kitchen,portions needed to bulked out with salad, Waiting staff poorly trained(plates cleared while people were still eating) The Rembrandt dinning room was very cramped and service rushed. The entertainment was of a poor standard ( More like an end of the pier show/Butlins style than an international cruise line ) In all a very poor cruise from a company that promises so much and delivered so little J H Bevans Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Reading some of the comments on this cruise already posted, I have to wonder if we are all talking about the same one. But as the other reviewers have covered comprehensively most aspects of the cruise, I will deal only with the points of ... Read More
Reading some of the comments on this cruise already posted, I have to wonder if we are all talking about the same one. But as the other reviewers have covered comprehensively most aspects of the cruise, I will deal only with the points of dissatisfaction as we found them. PORTS OF CALL. We have visited Copenhagen and Oslo several times before, but were looking forward in particular to spending 2 days in Oslo. One thing we didn't anticipate was the major drawback in this cruise. We have never come across this in any cruise line before: virtually every port we called in, the ship berthed in freight yards, not passenger terminals. So taxis were denied access, and hop on, hop off buses, similarly. Unless you had booked the eye-watering prices of excursions, or even coach transfers into town, you had major problems. In Copenhagen we had a 40 minute walk through an industrial estate just to get to the Little Mermaid statue. In Oslo, where we have always berthed below the Fortress on previous (and cheaper) cruises, we were the wrong side of a road building project and had to walk through a flooded area as well. You could forget walking into town for a drink at night-totally impractical. This was explained away as the ship being too large for the site. Not true as a much larger ship, PO Azura, was berthed below the fortress the following day. Bergen was the only port where HAL laid on a free transfer. However, cheaper cruises were again berthed at the end of the town dock. Again too much trouble to pop back into town in the afternoon when the sun came out. South Queensferry for Edinburgh was the worst of all. Instead of berthing in Leith, which the locals said was normal, we actually dropped anchor in the Firth of Forth, in the shadow of the bridge, and were tendered ashore in freezing winds. For Newcastle on Tyne, the local Tyneside council, bless them, laid on some coaches to the train station, but it was still a long and expensive train journey into the city. I'm sure HAL minimised their costs this way, but we were made to feel like second class citizens. Other good and bad points are as follows: CABIN. We were on deck 8. The cabin was fine, with a bath, but it was impractical to use it as the water never got above lukewarm. There was a large flatscreen TV, with a limited number of channels, and no concession to non-Americans in programmes apart from the lacklustre BBC World service. A nice touch was that one could get free DVDs from reception from a very wide-ranging list. CABIN SERVICE. We had an affable steward, but I would have been more impressed if he had remembered a request for another blanket rather than concentrate on chocolates and towel sculptures. I opted to pay all the $22 a day gratuities, although some said they had abated theirs. I felt the minor staff were so nice and deserving that I couldn't in all conscience reduce mine. But the aforesaid steward's affability and friendliness totally disappeared on the last morning when he realised he wasn't getting a tip on top. I don't think a cruise company should put passengers in this position. The staff, mainly Indonesian and Philippinos, were generally effective and delightful, but too few in number, particularly in the bars. In the Explorers Lounge, the excellent Wellah, battled singlehandedly for far too long some nights. DRINKS PRICES. We drink lager and G and T's. There was no draught lager, and bottles proved more than twice as expensive per pint as, say, P and O. There were happy hours, but not between 6 and 7PM when most people seemed to want them. The deal, a second drink for $1, was limited to you both having to have the same drink, and there were limits on the quality of some wines, for example. ENTERTAINMENT. Generally the poorest we've come across. The dance/singing troupe was small in number, and probably to save costs, four of the string players in the orchestra doubled as the Adagio String quartet in the Explorers Lounge, but only when they weren't required on the Main Stage. There were other single acts, whose merits seemed to be in inverse proportion to the cruise director's hype when introducing them. DINING. We opted for freedom dining, which seemed to work just fine. Food was generally good, though some nights we found little to our fancy on the menu. We were disappointed in the Asian restaurant food, though the service was beyond reproach. The Italian we found better, particularly the Seafood Linguini and the Tiramisu. The self-service restaurant had a wide range of food, but an outbreak of gastric problems almost from the outset meant one had to almost permanently be served by staff. I heard one being told to limit portions. One thing that, as Brits, drove us mad, was walking around a city and then returning to the ship at 2PM, only to find lunch operations closing down .Thus our staple lunch diet became salads or toasted sandwiches. PASSENGERS. These seemed to be Americans in the main, followed by Australians, Asians, and British. All in all, they were the nicest and most engaging range of people we've come across on a cruise. DRESS CODE. We had three formal nights. Then a small minority of men would look like stuffed penguins, another batch would be in a lounge suit and tie, and the majority looked as if they'd just wandered in from a baseball game. What is the earthly point of a dress code if it is not enforced? FINALLY. One day we relaxed by the indoor pool on a warm day, reading. To our astonishment, workers started maintenance work on some overhead pipes, banging, drilling etc, which with the roof almost completely closed made an ear-splitting cacophony which went on for what seemed hours. Nobody batted an eyelid. Perhaps they've cruised with HAL before. We certainly won't be. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Our first two cruises were with Royal Caribbean, the first on a smaller ship and the second on the larger Mariner of the Seas. They were great experiences packed with activities, great food, and superior customer service. It was evident on ... Read More
Our first two cruises were with Royal Caribbean, the first on a smaller ship and the second on the larger Mariner of the Seas. They were great experiences packed with activities, great food, and superior customer service. It was evident on both cruises that the ship crew genuinely enjoyed their jobs and wanted to provide a great experience for guests. Now, to the Eurodam... Here are the details of our experience broken down into major categories: Cleanliness: top-notch; the only disappointment was that the glass on the verandas was never cleaned during the 12-night journey Food: Mostly, the quality was very good. Exceptions were the Lido deck scrambled eggs that looked more like jello every morning, and the worm I found in my lunch salad in the buffet area (after I had eaten most of the salad, sadly). We showed the worm to a worker and nothing was done about it as far as we knew. Stateroom: Spacious, good quality furniture Entertainment: Severely lacking - this was very disappointing. Of the 12 nights, two nights did not have any shows, and all but 3 of the remaining nights were mediocre singing/dancing shows performed by the same Eurodam troupe. In fact, all of the headline shows were singing/dancing expect one. If you aren't in to mediocre show tunes, you will be very disappointed. Daily activities: compared to Royal Caribbean, there were very few activities available each day. Of the 10 or 15 listed for the day, most were several installments of yoga, tai chi, and technical classes (how to take photos/edit, etc.). They had a culinary stage but rarely used it, which was disappointing as we were looking forward to this unique aspect of the ship. On our previous cruises, we practically ran from activity to activity all day, each day (dancing classes, trivia, games) - on this ship, we were lucky to do one activity per day. Excursions: We took one excursion and explored on our own at the remaining ports. The excursion we took was a good experience and seemed to be on par with our previous experiences. Embarkation/Debarkation: Better organized than Royal Caribbean - very smooth on both ends. Customer Service: Booking/reservation service was excellent. On the ship, the customer service agents at the main desk were always friendly and professional, although they could have explained the details of currency exchange fee policies a bit better. Just about every other crew member we encountered seemed over-worked, unhappy, and annoyed with passengers in general. We will not be cruising with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Check in - EASY! No queues or lines when we arrived. Luggage handed over, car parked in RED zone, Mike brought back to the terminal by shuttle and in we went. S health questionnaire to fill in ( Hum!) passports checked. Photo taken. Room ... Read More
Check in - EASY! No queues or lines when we arrived. Luggage handed over, car parked in RED zone, Mike brought back to the terminal by shuttle and in we went. S health questionnaire to fill in ( Hum!) passports checked. Photo taken. Room cards provided and off we went up the gangplank. Passengers - 2104 . Mostly the grey haired brigade or should I say silver surfers? I did see some wheelchairs and a small electric chair but nothing like the number on our last cruise on the Independence of the Seas. Perhaps they had many more disabled cabins. There were some families with children of all ages but well behaved and no problem. Crew - ample unless you are looking for a wine waiter after 7 in the Lido Restaurant - forget it! Two swimming pools - on the Lido deck - one aft behind the restaurant and surrounded by loads of loungers, chairs & tables with umbrellas. Appears to be a favourite area for the officers to eat. Smoking is allowed here. The other is in front of the restaurant and has a very useful retractable roof. Three hot tubs are available but the pool is not really big enough to swim with any conviction. Again ample seating for Al Fresco dining if you wish. The Lido Restaurant is self service - which I confess I don't like. I hate queuing for food which is often not hot by the time you get it especially if you have large appetites in front of you. You know who I mean I'm sure! The choice is good from salads to meat to fish to Chinese to Indian to Italian to Japanese .................... etc etc. Plenty of desserts, fruit ice cream et al. Burgers are available outside on the deck along with hotdogs and special events are held from time to time. We had a BBQ the first night and then a German Beer fest on the night we were in Germany. We did not try this food though. Although drinks such as tea and coffee are available most of the day in the Lido - food is not. It is emptied after breakfast and again after lunch and you are lucky to find a biscuit to go with your afternoon tea if you want it. We only dined there on one night after watching the Wimbledon final as we were too late to go for dinner. It was looking very untidy in many areas, and the food was cold. Desserts appeared to have been fought over by the look of some of them and I struggled to find a simple cheese and biscuit. IMPORTANT NOTE RE TEA - so important to us Brits. The tea which is given as the norm is some God awful tea which I reckon has been recycled - more than once. It bears no resemblance to tea as we know it. BUT, if you ask and look around you can find either Tetley teabags or PG tips. Fantastic - made my day when I found these. Of course there is every other tea under the sun on offer but I like my PG tips best. Cookies are all soft so if you like a digestive or a ginger nut with your afternoon cup of tea - bring them No wine waiter anywhere! Did I mention that earlier? The staff in the Lido only seem to clear away and lay tables. They do not offer to get anything for you except the occasional drink. They could be put to better use as often they seem to not be doing too much. Umpteen themed bars all of which seemed rather quiet in the early evenings but I guess they liven up later but we are not night birds. Bed by 9 most evenings. An excellent Country singer in the Crows Nest bar - a Scottish guy with a good repertoire and I'm not a country fan. Happy Hour 5 - 6 helps with the alcohol bill and the best place for cocktails is the Ocean Bar. Buy one get one for a $ is pretty good along with a plate of appetizers/ assorted nibbles and peanuts which you really need just before dinner. Main Dining Room - on two levels, an elegant place to dine with a good ambience and service mostly good. We asked and got a table for two so did not have to chat to other guests which can become a bit of a pain. We always seem to find the bores. Wine - not cheap as I'm sure you know but I found a sexy little Shiraz from South Africa for under $30 and this lasted me two days - well, mostly it lasted - honest. As Mike is off alcohol that wasn't too big a hit on our budget. A choice of 4 courses but more if you really wanted to be greedy; various appetizers such as fruit or shrimps followed by choices of salads or soups. Several cold soups on offer - I'm not convinced by them at all but perhaps they are OK in a hot climate. Main courses - ample choice again. Best so far - Surf & turf with lobster tail and fillet steak - out of this world. Every single steak we have had has been superb - tender moist and flavoursome. Every type of poultry, veggie dishes - something for everyone. Desserts - OK if you like sweet things - I'm not bothered. Finally we finish with coffee. Dinner has two main seatings - 5.30 and 8 but there is the option to dine anytime if you want. Theatre shows are geared around the main dining times but we have not seen anything worth reporting about yet. Mediocre sort of sums it up. Staterooms - we have an outside balcony and well worth the extra money. Nice to have natural light and somewhere to escape the constant drone of the air/con. Bedroom is a reasonable size - not as big as on the independence and a bit of a squash here and there but OK for a couple of weeks. Bathroom well kitted out, a bath and a shower but more storage would be an advantage. Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel by Elemis are all provided so no need to bring with you. Main room has a comfy super king sized bed just as we have at home with good quality cotton sheets and pillow cases - smooth and silky. Decor - umm, not my taste - lots of browns , green and grey walls with some very odd paintings. Limited editions it says - just as well. NO TEA AND COFFEE FACILITIES! THAT IS STUPID - WE KNOW THERE IS 24/7 ROOM SERVICE BUT YOU WANT A CUPPA WHEN YOU WANT ONE - NOT IN 20 OR 30 MINUTES. Two 220 volt sockets and two 115 volt over the main desk and there are glasses and an ice bucket on a silver tray. A hairdryer and an enormous magnifying glass are also available. A fridge with a choice of drinks - useful to keep any extra fruit in for us. TV - all the normal News channels BBC World, CNN and Fox. Several film channels but we have not managed to work out when they start. A DVD player and a choice of over 1000 FREE films including some BBC classics like the Tudors , Harry Potter, Bourne Trilogy - excellent service this but we have not needed it so far. Maybe on the long way home. Excursions - Very well organised getting on and off the ship - and the coaches all appeared of reasonable to good quality. Guides very informative but of course, some better than others. A more than adequate gym I would say ( not being an expert on this you understand) and a good choice of beauty treatments and massages etc . A rather exclusive spa pool if you want it at a price - looked nice but at $199 - too much money. OVERVIEW Would we come again - definitely YES ! Preferred the less manic atmosphere on a smaller ship. But, by no means small I hasten to add.Also we are not interested in climbing rock walls or surfing the waves - plenty of other things to do if you want. Some interesting talks and demonstrations, an excellent library and internet cafe with help on hand for those who need it. Food in the dining room and room service excellent. Self service Lido - not our thing but very, very popular. Lifts / elevators - fast and rarely crowded. Decor - beautiful in parts some interesting art. Cleanliness - superb everywhere apart from our cabin which was a bit dusty. Hygiene - excellent. Staff very friendly, mostly from the Philippines or Indonesia. Facilities - everything we want except TEA & COFFEE in the room. Checkout was as efficient as check-in. We were called on time, descended to the terminal. found our cases within a couple of minutes and left the building. A shuttle took mike to pick up our car and were on the way home in less than 15 minutes. Brilliant. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Ship - FineFood - Better than prior ratings on Cruise Critic led us to expect. In fact, we found the food quality and variety ro be quite good. We did not go to any of the fee-based specialty restaurants because our Dinner tablemates did ... Read More
Ship - FineFood - Better than prior ratings on Cruise Critic led us to expect. In fact, we found the food quality and variety ro be quite good. We did not go to any of the fee-based specialty restaurants because our Dinner tablemates did not give them high reviews, especially in the light of the extra cost.Transfer from London to Dover - We took the HAL transfer, which was a great mistake. It is a 2 hour ride, and our completely full bus was not air conditioned (It was represented to be so by the HAL representative at the time of booking). It was very warm that day, and the bus was a sweatbox. The cost of $158pp R/T was too high to begin with, but the 2 hour ride in a mobile sauna (you cannot open any windows) made the price absolutely exorbitant. I suggest you make your own transfer arrangements.Exchange Rates - We were very disappointed that HAL penalized its customers with such aggressive exchange rates. I suggest that you get your local currency from ATM machine in the ports, use your credit cards whenever possible. The rates are much more reasonable. HAL had a Russian exchange company on board to exchange your money into Roubles. On a day when the published exchange rate was 28.72 Roubles for one American Dollar, this group (with Hal's blessing because they set up on board by the front desk) was paying 23 Roubles per Dollar - a 20% premium, which was much too much. I am sure HAL was getting a cut of this. I was disappointed HAL did not take better care of its customers and require the exchange company to charge a more reasonable rate.Entertainment - Gary, a balladeer in the Explorations lounge, was excellent. The piano player and string quartet were both very good. The singers and dancers on the Main Stage were bland and not as talented as we have seen on other cruise ships.The HAL Travel Guide (Ian) was knowledgeable, but boring because he spent so much time trying to be funny.Casino - Well run, and adequate games for the number of players. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
June 3, 2011 12-day Fjords & Highlands Review by cruise2rejuv Our trip began with a 3 night pre-cruise stay in London. Not nearly enough time to visit this wonderful city. We flew into Gatwick and were able to take the Gatwick ... Read More
June 3, 2011 12-day Fjords & Highlands Review by cruise2rejuv Our trip began with a 3 night pre-cruise stay in London. Not nearly enough time to visit this wonderful city. We flew into Gatwick and were able to take the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station. Being seniors, our passage was £26 for the two of us. We walked from Victoria station to our hotel, which was a 5-minute walk south - Best Western Victoria Palace. Very nice, small basic room with air conditioning, safe, and a nice breakfast. The front desk provided much help with advice on the attractions. We used the tubes (subways) extensively using our Oyster Cards. We made arrangements with National Express to get us from London to Dover for embarkation. Senior price : £27 for the two of us. Since we arrived at the ship close to 2:30pm, our check-in went very quickly as there were no lines. Of course, we had to stop to get our picture taken by the ever-present Paparazzi. We found out that Holland America tries to eliminate the spread of certain shipboard nuisance maladies by disallowing any self serve food for 48 hours. Cabin: We reserved an Aft (wake-watcher) stateroom (4182) and found it really nice. The room was long, but somewhat narrow which made for difficulty retrieving items from the small, dark closets. The verandah was quite large (8.75'w x 6.5'd). The bathroom was ok excepting no storage space for normal bathroom goodies. There was no noise other than normal ship sounds, and the ride was totally smooth. Our cabin stewards were fantastic. We have found that rear cabins are great for viewing both sides of the ship. Ship: This was our first time on the Eurodam, which after studying the deck-plan map, is quite easy to get around - Our stateroom was directly above the MDR and a few decks below the Lido. We were about a third of a mile from the entertainment venues where the talent was wonderful. The cruise director, Ian Page, was really great - good sense of humor. We had our CC Meet 'n Greet in the Crow's Nest the first day at sea which was very well attended thanks to Spinner2 - The area of the Crow's Nest seems to be eaten up by the Exploration Cafe and Library. Dining: We had a table for six with late dining (8:00pm) due to such a port intensive cruise. Our tablemates were fantastic. The entertainment shows were held one hour earlier than dinner. Our wait staff was great as well. The food quality didn't seem to be up to the same standards as with our first 6 HAL cruises. It might be due to the fact that there weren't any alternate restaurants on those cruises. There was a Lido Party, rather than the Dessert Extravaganza Ports and Excursions : Our ports of call were really interesting which included; Copenhagen, Denmark : We opted to do-our-own by visiting the Rosenborg Castle, the Round Tower, the Little Mermaid, walking through the city and having a cool drink at the Ice Bar. Oslo, Norway : This was a DIY as well. We took advantage of the Oslo Pass, which provided transport and free entrance to several attractions. The Vigeland Sculpture Park was wonderful and should not be missed. Kristiansand, Norway : Our tour here was short - the HAL excursions were very expensive and the town was easy walking. Not our favorite. Bergen, Norway : We took a HAL tour - Floibanen and Mt. Fløyen hike. The weather was basically a cloud of fog with a little rain but the hike was beautiful. We also visited the Rosenkrantz Tower and fortress. Invergorden, Scotland : After a day at sea, we arrived here to take a HAL tour to visit Urquhart Castle along the bank of Loch Ness - we saw no monster! We visited the Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle and gardens. Very good tour. Newcastle upon Tyne, England : This HAL tour took us along the path of Hadrian's Wall to visit various castles and sites near the North Pennines - Highest point in England. Since the coach tour was so long, the driver was asked to stop at an extra relief station - My DW and I were almost (unintentionally) left behind because the tour guide thought all were on board, incorrectly counted noses and took off! We were somewhat perplexed, thought the bus had to relocate so we waited, looked around and saw no one familiar - then sort of panicked. Within a minute, the coach entered the parking lot and picked us up - We were greeted with applause. South Queensferry (Edinburgh) Scotland : Our HAL tour consisted visiting a very interesting boat elevator called the Falkirk Wheel, which by lifting a boat up 79 feet from one canal to another, eliminates 11 sets of locks. We hiked a trail to view the ruins of the ancient Roman Fort of Rough Castle and Antonine's Wall. After that tour, we took a city bus from S. Queensferry to Edinburgh (£6 round-trip) - what a beautiful city. Communication in General : Prior to the cruise, we found answers difficult to find out from HAL if we could exchange US $$ for the necessary monies required in England (£), Denmark (DKK), and Norway (NOK) on board. We purchased those currencies from our bank in the USA and were more than pleased because we could pay on the spot without the need for a credit card. We had some Danish Kroner left over but were able to use them in Norway. Check your final statement - for charges you did not make and compare it with your credit card statement. We were overcharged a minor fee because someone accidentally used our stateroom number while purchasing some waters. I will sometimes reverse a number or two (4182 or 4281) - The process of the vendor not scanning the room key allows these errors to possibly occur. Disembarkation : Extremely efficient. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
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