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4 Holland America Line Stockholm Cruise Reviews

Voyage: Eurodam – Baltic Cruise July 27-Aug 8  Our fantastic three and a half week vacation is quickly becoming a distant memory. After unpacking, washing clothes, tending to a neglected house, kid sport tryouts and back to school ... Read More
Voyage: Eurodam – Baltic Cruise July 27-Aug 8  Our fantastic three and a half week vacation is quickly becoming a distant memory. After unpacking, washing clothes, tending to a neglected house, kid sport tryouts and back to school chaos, it’s now time to think about writing this review. Our “bias” comes with this background: I, along with my wife and two boys (ages 11 and 14) have cruised Holland America a number of times. Two summers ago we were on the Nieuw Amsterdam in the Mediterranean. Last summer, we did not plan to cruise but found an incredible deal on the Veendam in Canada/New England. We should also note, it has been some time since we cruised with Princess. We sailed on Carnival a little more than a year ago The basis of this trip started during our time two years ago on the Nieuw Amsterdam. About half way through the cruise, my wife discovered the crepe station during breakfast in the Lido. The breakfast of choice became a Nutella crepe with some kind of fruit compote on the top. A year later, we were on the Veendam, a smaller ship, and with much disappointment, discovered there was no crepe station. So the quest became, “where could we go on a ship large enough to have the crepes again.” I’m happy to report on the Eurodam my wife (and kids) had crepes for every single breakfast. However, there was a bit of frustration. It seemed that a number of staff members who were rotated to the crepe station, did not know how to make a Nutella crepe. They either did not know what Nutella was, or they put a VERY small amount on the crepe, or handed over a plain crepe with an individual serving packet of Nutella on the side. There was a new and different crepe experience every single day of the 12-day cruise. Of course in the grand scheme of things, this was not a big deal at all, but it did leave us puzzled that this menu item created so much confusion. This kind of sums up our Eurodam experience. We truly enjoyed it! But there were a few little bumps we encountered on the smooth seas of the Baltic. Main Dining Room: We had open seating (As You Wish) and loved it for the most part. We tried to eat somewhere in the 6-6:30 period most nights. While we’ve done “As You Wish” dining before, there seem to be a few tiny quirks/differences on each ship. The first night is always the “luck of the draw” and we were lucky. We were seated near the back windows and our waiter was “Eben.” At first glance, he appears older than he really is. He’s a bald and portly fellow with a smile on his face who could give you a bumbling impression when you first meet him (and he did forget an item or two during the cruise). However, as I studied him, I became more and more impressed with his whole package. He smiled and greeted EVERYBODY, not just those at his tables. The man’s friendliness actually masks how hard he is working. He does not stop moving. He knew our likes and dislikes quickly and took care of them without reminders throughout our cruise. We some minor difficulties getting Eben every night. In the past, we asked the Maitre d’ at the door if we could have the same waiter again the next night (or every night). Even with nobody at the front door, this Maitre d’ did not want to deal with that request. Interestingly, he even acted surprised that anyone would ask for Eben. “Are you sure,” he asked in a puzzled manner before telling us we need to call the reservations line (dial 88). The reservations line would only let us make reservations for three nights at a time (that was fine, but we had been able to book the entire cruise with the maître d’ before). The other funny thing was the available times. Some nights we had to go at 5:45 to get Eben. Other nights, it was 6:15 or 6:30. I never could figure out the system. It’s not as if whoever was seated at 5:45 would be finished at 6:15. Anyway, we were able to work around this. We did have trouble finishing our meal and getting to the 8pm show a couple of nights when we were seated at 6:30. It seems that on every cruise we go on, the wait staff suddenly seems to like our boys. I think it’s because our boys politely turn down the children’s menus and ask for a regular menu. As soon as our boys do that, the waiters get a huge smile on their faces and become instant friends. Bring our boys escargot, lamb, fish—anything that does not resemble normal “kid food” and the waiters WATCH them eat—like they’ve never seen kids eat like that before. Our philosophy is that a cruise is the perfect time to try something—if you don’t like it, you can order something else. Food was good, very good and great in the dining room. Of course, everybody has their own favorites. It seemed like ours were bunched up… we had trouble deciding and ordered three appetizers one night and then the next night we found less of our favorites on the menu. Same thing with the main entrées. We went crazy a couple of nights when we found some big salads offered as entrées. Those seemed to hit the spot when we were tired and wanted something different. Formal nights seemed less formal. I take a tux because I have one. But I was certainly in the minority. In fact, it seemed that even the staff was less formal. The cruise director was not wearing a tux on the first night. The good, bad and ugly about this can be debated on the cruise critic boards, but for the first time, I felt over-dressed on a cruise “formal night.” Dive-in burgers/pool side were great (and the hot dogs too). The best thing about the burgers is also the worst thing—they are big and I ate too much. Because we didn’t eat burgers every day, we didn’t discover the secrets to this place until our cruise was almost over. The fried onions that are placed on the burgers and dogs are thin. They are not thick onion rings. However they are good. I asked for a whole side order of the onions one day instead of fries. The guys behind the counter looked at me like nobody had ever thought of that before. Next thing I knew, several others saw me and did the same thing! The fries here are very-very good. We discovered ordering fries and asking for the “special sauce” and the “melted cheese sauce” for dipping. Yum. If we had known this trick earlier, we would have eaten a lot more fries! Kitchen tour: A kitchen tour was offered on the first sea day and I happened to be in the area so I decided to pop in. I think I was the very last person to tour. After doing several of these over the years, I must say this one was the best! Instead of the masses walking through the clean, but empty, kitchen, they actually had tables set up at the various areas to show what goes on in that section. Some were doing an ice carving, others were cutting fruit in front of you, other personnel were making desserts. In addition, they also had samples out for you to taste. Very well done tour. The tour ended with walking through the Pinnacle Grill kitchen and seating area. Demonstration dishes were sitting beside menus at a few tables for pictures. I thought this was a good sales tool (although I didn’t end up booking). By the way, I never saw the Pinnacle crowded in the evenings. And to the totally honest, I forgot about checking the Tamarind. I really don’t see the allure of paying for pasta at Canaletto (granted the smell of garlic was enticing) and didn’t notice “many” eating there either. I will say there was a push at the Lido at lunch time with a lady stopping by our table each day. That kind of told us that they didn’t have many who had reserved tables. Laundry: Just like on previous cruises, we took advantage of the “unlimited laundry” offer. Considering the fact that we spent a week in Scotland and a couple of days in Stockholm before the cruise, we welcomed the ability to have freshly cleaned clothes. We packed both cooler clothes and warmer clothes. Before departure, we watched the weather trends and noticed that in most cities temperatures were in the low to upper 70’s. While tracking the weather for weeks, the hottest temperature we noticed before leaving was in Berlin with highs in the mid 80’s. But during our actual trip, we didn’t see a temperature less than 80… and most days it was in the low 90’s. So we really only wore half of our clothes over and over again. Obviously, there was no way to plan any better. So we were grateful for the unlimited laundry and knowing we had it, simply took away stress before and during the vacation. We encountered one glitch at the end of the cruise. We knew the laundry service stopped about a day and a half before the end of the cruise. We were missing the laundry bag and kept waiting for one to appear during one of our service times. I finally called just before dinner and our steward showed up telling us it was too late. Apparently, while waiting for the bag, I missed the deadline. Our steward either could not understand, or would not understand, that we had been waiting for the bag and couldn’t send it out earlier. This was a little bit more important because we had spilled something on a shirt at lunch and didn’t want to wait five more days until getting home to treat it. I ended up calling the front desk and a cabin steward supervisor appeared at the room. I showed him the shirt and told him we had actually been waiting all day for the bag and he said it was fine to send it. I understand there has to be a cut-off time, but if I had known the exact cut off, I would have “called” for the bag in plenty of time. Movies: We LOVED the movies in the screening room. Sadly, we ran into problems getting the movie times to jive with our tour and dinner schedules. The plush chairs were perfect. Maybe it was my imagination, but the focus on the screen seems to get worse each day. Toward the end of the cruise, I hunted for someone before a movie started and they came and adjusted it. The next day, it was slightly out of focus again, but they did notice it and adjusted it just before turning the movie on. It’s a moving ship and I can see how the vibrations could alter the focus. It was a very easy fix, but finding someone to adjust it was the challenge. Of course the free popcorn was popular. But because the screening room is located near the shops, there are no bars nearby to purchase a coke to go along with the popcorn. This is a revenue opportunity! Pool area: We noticed the row of cabanas along one wall of the Lido deck. I understand the motivation to “sell,” but for most of the voyage, they all sat empty. These were in place of what used to be shade covered seating at the Lido pool area. The extra space was really missed when an on-deck BBQ party was held as we left Berlin. Everybody wanted to eat outside to enjoy the atmosphere and hear the German oompah band music but there simply wasn’t enough space. Club HAL: Our boys (ages 11 & 14) have always enjoyed Club HAL in the past. Yes, there are some arguments that there would be “more” kids on other brands, but we saw plenty of kids on this ship. However, our boys didn’t “enjoy” Club HAL as much as they had in the past. I believe there were more international kids on this ship. I wonder if most didn’t participate because of language concerns or a lack of familiarity. So when our older son went he often found he was the only guy… or there would be no other teens around. He became frustrated at seeing the daily program and going out of his way to head up to Club HAL for an activity only to find it wasn’t happening. Some of this is the luck of the draw… more teens participate some weeks than others. But I do think the counselors play a part in it as well. Most of the teen activities surrounded “getting coffee” or getting ice cream. My son wanted to “do” something… basketball, dodge ball, a scavenger hunt, etc. He said his female counselor barely spoke and would leave him alone to watch big screen TV or play video games while she went next door to talk to the other employees. May a guy counselor would have helped promote more “active activities.” On the other side, my 11 year old was at the older end of his group and considered most of the activities “beneath” him (I guess that’s a problem with kids who have older brothers and sisters). He is entering middle school in a few weeks yet was not allowed to check himself in and out (a policy change from a couple of years ago). He did have a male counselor (a nice young guy who is a track coach in real life) who tried his best to engage my son. But the counselor arrived on the ship the same day we did and was still learning the routine. I’m sure he would have been a little bit more at ease on the next voyage. Our boys are usually fine with going into their own groups, but wanted to play video games together and had limited opportunities to do that. Our boys are begging to go on an Alaskan cruise but we will probably not go next summer because there is no way our then 12-year old will want to be grouped with “elementary-aged” kids. With all of this said, I’m not sure what I would do if I were HAL. Since the number of kids, and their ages, can vary so much, it’s difficult to staff. Maybe HAL would want to consider hiring some active-minded sport-type guys to work with all of the age groups. In the morning, that guy could lead a more active type of activity for younger kids… and in the afternoon, he could play something more intense with teenagers??? Just a thought. Microsoft Lab/Expert: I must say the tech expert on this cruise was terrific. She was excellent at explaining things. I learned a few new tricks. Yes, some of her classes were very basic, but after just buying a new computer with the dreaded Windows 8, I found her “basics” very helpful. Internet: I tried to read The New York Times in the Explorations Café several times without any luck. I could not get the pages to load. I think everybody realizes there a challenges to getting internet on a ship, but the reality is, something has to be done. If I can’t get a connection to read the sponsored, “New York Times, I am certainly not going to spend any money for internet minutes to watch them wasted. We did not have as much luck finding WiFi at the ports on the this cruise. Thankfully, my company phone has international service and that came in handy when using google maps for directions in the ports. But I tried to limit my data usage as much as possible. We really have to give credit to HAL port expert, Ian. He was accessible many days near the front desk and provided us with “practical” information. For various reasons, we did not book any tours with HAL, yet he provided us with info about city bus stops and directions. He realized with children our needs were a little different and we appreciated him being tuned to that. Ian was also the “voice” on the loudspeaker as we sailed in and out of some ports. Sadly, we had trouble hearing him on the open decks and we went inside to the crowded Crow’s Nest. I give credit to HAL for opening the front doors so we could do out onto the bow of the ship a number of times. But again, we also wanted to hear Ian and had to go inside. Announcements: We were very impressed with the captain’s announcements. He was clear and easy to understand and concise. BUT, it was almost comical, how the afternoon announcements ALWAYS came at an important plot time during the Screening Room movie. The video kept playing, but without sound. You could hear the groans and snickers from the movie audience who were at the edge of their seats with suspense as they watched the plot taking a twist on screen as they heard audio about cruise bingo. Showtimes: I hesitate to comment because these things are so subjective. Our bias walking onto the ship was that NOTHING would top the show we saw two years earlier on the Nieuw Amersterdam called “Cantare.” None of the Eurodam’s production shows came close to the level of perfection of that show. We found the production shows got better and better as the cruise went on. We were glad we went to them. These productions are only about 35 minutes long, so I really wish people would give them a try. Admittedly, I didn’t “get” the focus behind some parts of the shows. HAL is caught in a bind… it obviously doesn’t want to offer the “old style traditional” musical review. Yet, if they stray too far, HAL will turn off the audience that goes now. Some of the music was ultra-modern and I really don’t think most of the audience could identify the songs. I personally thought some of the selections would have been hard to sing and perform because the songs were written and crafted and tailored so much to the original artists. Some of the modern songs (and the artists) are going to be long forgotten in five years. The cast did much better with songs that have stood the test of time and have been around for 15 to 40 years. For example, the audience young and old loved “Proud Mary” but didn’t go for some of the “newer/current” songs. No matter the age, everyone should enjoy the cool sophisticated staging. If people don’t go to these shows, they’ll stop having them and we’ll be stuck with some solo acts from people we’ve never heard of. Speaking of the solo acts, we had a couple of piano players on this cruise. Actually I found the older guy who had written songs for Disney very entertaining with his stories. I was bored by the “mentalist” but my wife thought he was interesting. I do understand this was a port intensive cruise and people had to get up early so they couldn’t stay up late and rock the night (and least we couldn’t!). The first mini-show was “Marquee,” with pretty visuals of colorful court jesters mixed with Beatle’s music. The second show was “Tableaux,” with neat classical visuals set with contemporary music. Solo act Dale Gonyea, a pianist, humorist and songwriter. The next night was Karl Morgan a singer from the UK. The fun and popular B.B. King main stage show followed (hooray for LIVE band/musicians). My least favorite was Phoenix, he mentalist from Down Under (I expected for “action” instead of card tricks but my wife enjoyed), The cast was back with “Playback,” with songs from The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and other rock groups. Ryan Ahern, pianist was fine, but I can see why simply having “pianist” on the daily rundown would not bring in crowds. The cast did “Ever After,” a fairy tale inspired show that did feature some whiz-bang LED screens and other visuals. This was the best production show of the cruise because of the technical features and the fact that the singer’s voices actually matched the music they were being asked to perform. We did not attend “Dancing with the Stars.” This voyage started in Stockholm. We had already spent a timeshare week in Scotland and arrived in Stockholm a couple of days before the cruise started (Courtyard by Marriott). This was a great move because we talked to a number of other cruisers who couldn’t enjoy the first part of the cruise because their body clocks had not fully adjusted. (More about our cruise experience below.) Stockholm: Purchased the Stockholm card over the internet before leaving the United States. This included admission to most museums and attractions AND public transportation. We felt totally safe and had no problems with language. Most people speak English. Thank the Lord my company altered my cell phone and gave me a data package for Europe. Google Maps app gave us detailed walking instructions and even provided bus and subway numbers and times. The only issue we had at times was finding the bus stop that went in the proper direction (instead of the bus stops being directly across the street from each other, they were sometimes around the corner or on another street). We were able to do/visit: The Royal Canal Boat Tour, Bicycle tour, Royal Palace, City Hall tour (very interesting), Vasa Museum (thought it was be a quick stop, but found it extremely interesting), Skansen outdoor museum (lots of walking—mixed feelings on this one), Museum of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (author of “Pippi Longstocking” and other children’s book. A neat museum geared toward children but many adults popped in while we were there to ride the “story train.” An impressive café was located downstairs), Drottningholm Palace (A long way to the ship. We rode the metro/bus with our Stockholm card), Walked Old Town, Nobel Museum (we were passing by it anyway, so we went in. I would make this a low priority). There was PLENTY to do in Stockholm. We covered most of it and we were exhausted. Stockholm is expensive. We needed no cash because everything we did was included in the Stockholm card. Meals in restaurants accepted credit cards (we have a chip card). Sea Day—Thankful for a day of rest. Formal night. I took a tuxedo because I have one. A majority of men were wearing regular coat and tie. With a few exceptions, most ladies were wearing what they would wear to church. We noticed fewer formal clothes and less bling on this cruise. I would even suggest that for the first time, I felt over-dressed in my tux. If I’m not mistaken, the Cruise Director J.T. was not wearing a tux when I saw him. I also noticed the wait staff in the dining room wore the same white jackets every night. The folded napkins on the tables were both black and white. That’s the only real difference I noticed on formal nights. The last formal night featured “Surf and Turf.” Plenty has already been said on the boards about what people should/should not wear on a cruise. I certainly don’t expect everyone to wear a tux/formal wear, but I do lament the loss of making a couple of nights, “special.” Otherwise, every meal will feel just like another at your local Maggiano’s or Cheesecake Factory. St. Petersburg: Booked two-day tour with SPB tours. VERY efficient operation. All of the SPB vehicles appeared to be new Mercedes Mini-buses and had free Wi-Fi. We had roughly 20 in our group (we used SPB in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Tallinn and Berlin and each time we had between 18-22 people). The guide, Lena, spoke great English. I found her easy to understand. Some in our group thought she sounded a bit robotic/automatic. I wouldn’t call her “warm,” but I consider that to be more of a cultural and language thing. Bus tour of the city, Church of Our Savior on the Blood, Burial place of Emperiors, Yusupovs Palace, St. Isaac Cathedral, Subway ride, Hydrofoil boat ride, gardens of Peterhof, Catherine’s Palace, Hermitage. Lunch first day was in a restaurant banquet room (it was a totally fine chicken breast with soup, vegetables, bread and dessert. Nothing special but far from bad. I would call it ordinary. Some in our group murmured and rudely made comments to the wait staff.) Lunch the second day was at a restaurant in the city that specialized in “pies.” Think of bread with meat or fruit filling enclosed in the middle. They were unique and everyone in the group seemed to like them. As I recall, there was a choice of beef, pork, mushroom, cherry, raspberry, mixed berry. Soft drinks and our guide even allowed a few people to taste Russian beer. ) Lunches were included in tour price. Interesting note: I needed money to tip the guide. She took me into The Grand Hotel and I used the ATM and the machine asked me if I wanted money in Russian Rubles or American dollars. The guide said she wanted American dollars. Helsinki, Finland: Again SPB tours. Our guide was from Russia and had moved to Helsinki. Her English was good but it wasn’t as easy for her. This was more of drive-by tour. We stopped outside the Olympic Stadium for an exterior photo. We got out again at the Seurasaari Open-Air museum… a well maintained collection of OLD homes people would have used in rural areas long before the advent of electricity. We were provided with a sweet roll and hot tea/coffee. The bus stopped at a cool steel pipe piece of public art and again in the downtown area where we visited a church that was built on/into a rock that couldn’t be blasted away. We had about 15 minutes at an open air market. We are not shoppers, but I would have liked another five or ten minutes to linger and soak in the atmosphere. We were given the option of staying in the downtown area and arranging our own transportation back to the ship. Tallinn, Estonia: SPB tour. LOVED IT. We had a fantastic guide. I believe his name was Nik who was very personable and smart (studied economics). I would guess he was about 30. Spoke perfect English. He was proud of his country. His parents grew up under communism and he freely talked about the struggles of their generation in adapting to a free market system. In very simple terms, he plainly said that generation did not understand personal responsibility and now they were faced with having to make healthcare and financial decisions that they were not mentally equipped to make. Throughout our tour he talked to us about “real life.” For example, he pointed out cars that were left over from the communist period and told us “how” people qualified to own a car. After a short time, the country is now filled with Toyotas, Hondas and cars like we see in the United States. Nik seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. He took us on foot through the old town. The cobblestones proved to be too much for one woman in our group who ended up leaving the tour and taking a cab back to the ship (I was sorry she left—she was a funny character). The walking was not hard, but the cobblestone streets were packed with people so I could see how somebody who is unsteady on their feet could stumble). I imagine in the evenings, when the masses are gone, there would be a million beautiful picture spots. This is the kind of place you see in the travel brochures. We saw an OLD pharmacy and heard many colorful stories about episodes that took place where we were walking. After leaving the old town, we boarded a bus and saw a former KGB hotel and went by the Soviet-built Olympic village where we saw the only church ever built by the Soviets (they were required to have a church for athletes in the Olympic village). We also walked through gardens of the Kadriorg Art Museum built by Peter the Great and basically went up to the front door of the President’s home. We were told he grew up in the United States and has helped transform the country into a high-tech world power. So inside the “old” buildings, is a very modern high tech industry that is called the Silicon Valley of Europe. Warnemunde (Berlin): Because of the distance from the port to Berlin (3 ½ hours), we knew we had to take a tour. So for simplicity, we booked with SPB to get the multi-city discount. The ship tours used a train to get to Berlin. We rode in a high level touring bus (passengers had to climb stairs to the top level. There was no seating on the lower level). We had good views from our perch while driving around Berlin. The bus took us to the Berlin Olympic Stadium where we met our guide who was from PENNSYLVANIA. I have to admit that I was disappointed in Berlin. The SPB tour was certainly worth it, but I didn’t realize how little there was to see in Berlin. I guess I had never sat down to think about it, but so much of the city was bombed and destroyed, that there’s actually little left. We saw the exterior of the Charlottenburg Palace, the exterior of the rebuilt Reichstag (there was a LONG line to go inside, so it would have taken too much our time), we walked behind the Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan said, “bring down this wall,” and saw the parking lot where Hitler’s bunker was located before the German’s blew it up at the end of the war. This was a “drive-by” tour. Yes, we got out a few times and walked, but we really didn’t “do” anything or go “inside” any places. There just wasn’t time. After the long ride back to the ship, we were exhausted and hungry. The ship had brought a local Oom-pah band on board and served grilled German sausages on the Lido. It was a nice festive atmosphere. But the looks of people, we were not the only ones tired. Kiel, Germany: An enjoyable day. We debated and debated about what to do at this port. We were worried Hamburg would be like Berlin… a long day trip only to see a little bit. Friends and family had told me we needed days in Hamburg not hours to enjoy and appreciate it. The Cruise Critic boards seem to suggest the choice should be Lubeck. But the on-board shore expert Ian was very good at analyzing our needs. He knew we had boys and that we had seen A LOT of old buildings and cobblestones already. He pointed us toward a beach area in Laboe. We jumped on a ferry (dock was only feet from our ship) and took the boat ride to Laboe. We bought the ferry ticket on board, a combo ticket for ferry one way and bus ride for the return. In hindsight, I would spend a few extra dollars for the return ferry. We thought the bus ride would give us a different “real life view,” but it wasn’t worth it. There wasn’t much of a view and we had to walk a long way back to the ship from downtown Kiel. Laboe was a beach resort area with small hotels and a wide walkway. We couldn’t figure out the system since the signs were in German, but it appeared you were supposed to put money into a box at the beach entrances. We couldn’t determine if the money was to actually walk on the beach or to rent a covered chair. At the end of the beach was a German U-boat submarine and the German Naval memorial (a high brick tower). Hitler actually was in attendance when it was dedicated. We bought the ticket that covers both admissions. We were in the submarine for maybe 15-minutes, but spent quite a bit of time at the memorial site. There were models of ships and many signs were in English. Two elevators whisked guests to the top of the tower and we had great views of the area. We chose to make our way back to the ship for a late lunch and the afternoon movie. This turned out to be a great day because it was so different than everything we had done. Goteborg, Sweden: A pleasant day! There were free buses that took us from the port to the downtown area. It was unclear if this was provided by HAL or the city. I would imagine a cab ride would be costly because it took 25-minutes. The city was beautiful and the people there seemed cheerful. We walked to the Padden boat and paid with credit card and had a nice boat tour of the canals. After we returned, we walked around the Botanical Garden and along the canals. We walked through the Haga (old town and known for wooden buildings), the Fish Church (not really a church but a fish market) and the center city. We are not coffee drinkers but I would have enjoyed sitting at one of those small tables on the street in the Haga and people watching. After catching the bus back to the ship we ate another late lunch and watched the afternoon movie. I wanted to visit the Volvo Museum (steps away from the ship) but I couldn’t get my family interested. I’m not so much of a car nut, but I figure when in Sweden… Copenhagen, Denmark Before leaving home we purchased the Copenhagen Card and they were delivered by mail. Just like in Stockholm, these cards include public transportation. The big ships dock north of the main areas. It’s a fairly new cruise ship port area… very clean and modern. However, it’s not near anything. Our ship was the only ship in port on the first day but we docked at the farthest berth. We walked a long way to the city bus stop and waited (buses were every 30-minutes at that point). We saw no cabs “roaming.” By the way, this is the end of the city bus line. The bus dropped us off near the front door of Rosenborg Castle, then we took the bus to Christiansborg Palace. Over the next two days we did a canal tour, the Amalienborg Palace Museum (where the royal family lives), loved the Royal Stables at Christiansborg Palace, the Little Mermaid, the more interesting than expected military museum, The Hans Christian Anderson attraction (included in Copenhagen Card but don’t go otherwise), and Tivoli Gardens. I was probably looking most forward to Tivoli Gardens since it provided inspiration to Walt Disney. The entrance fee was thankfully covered by the Copenhagen Card. Our mistake was going on a Friday evening. It was a mob scene. I had promised my kids we would ride a few rides and sadly left without riding even one. The lines were massive. It was wall to wall people. It was an interesting place to see. There are many restaurants there that looked interesting but because of the crowds we left. After leaving the ship, we checked into the Marriott. We were impressed with the rooms and the service. There is a city bus stop at the front door and the “Hop on, Hop off” bus stops there as well. This is cruise “critic” after all. Putting aside those very minor issues mentioned earlier, we really enjoyed ourselves. My wife is NOT the emotional girly type. But at the end of the cruise, when we walked down the gangway for the last time and staff members were standing there in the sun simply to “wave goodbye” to us, my wife said she got a tear in her eye!!! The classy goodbye wave left us longing to return.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our second cruise on Holland America. First was on the Statendam so we were excited to be on HA's flagship. Boy were we disappointed. The ship itself is nice. The service and staff however were indifferent. We were ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Holland America. First was on the Statendam so we were excited to be on HA's flagship. Boy were we disappointed. The ship itself is nice. The service and staff however were indifferent. We were disappointed with Holland America. Good: Nice ship and cabin. We had a wonderful balcony that provided a great place to relax and take in the Baltic scenery. The ports were all fantastic. We love exploring on our own and were able to easily do that in all ports (except St Petersburg). Our room steward provided very good service even though we only saw him twice during the whole sailing. We would leave for a few minutes and when we returned he had already tidied our cabin. Minus: Overall service was lackluster. It wasn't poor but it was about average. We did have a couple of issues that needed to be resolved and it took a long time for the staff to assist. Dining experience in the main dining room was not good. We were unable to get set dining times so were assigned As You Wish Dining (which should be called As you Wait Dining). Each meal required a wait in line to receive a pager to wait for a table and then a wait at the table for service. When I did call at 7am to make a 8pm reservation for that evening I was informed that there were no more tables except at 530. I asked how long in advance you could make a reservation I was told 3 days. I requested a reservation for the next 3 days between 730-830 and was told the only times open were 545. The food in the Pinnacle Grille was good...the service was average. Le Cirque night at Pinnacle is a complete waste of money. It was one of the worst meals we had on the ship. Overall the ports made the trip a great experience. Probably will not sail on the Eurodam again and would think twice about Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
This was our 4th cruise, and our 2nd with Holland America. Overall we were disappointed with Holland America this time. Dining Room: We were on an 'open seating plan' and tried to eat in the main restaurant a number of ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise, and our 2nd with Holland America. Overall we were disappointed with Holland America this time. Dining Room: We were on an 'open seating plan' and tried to eat in the main restaurant a number of times. However, we were not able to make reservations for a table for 2 most of the time. The tables were booked already, we were told - for the entire cruise! (Seems the deal is for people to call the reservations number on the 1st night, and book reservations for the entire cruise) So on several nights we went to the main dining room without reservations, and were told on every one of those occasions that only tables next to wait stations were available. This was very frustrating, because each time, there were 5-10 2-top tables that sat empty the entire time we dined (in better locations). On the second night we questioned the restaurant manager about this. She simply shrugged and informed us that people made reservations, and then didn't show up. And it seems that instead of seating walk-ins, they simply left the tables empty! Pretty frustrating, considering that we tried to make reservations to no avail. And sitting next to wait stations every night, we not too pleasant. It seems that the way it works is for people to make reservations for a set time every night, and then either they decide to show up or not. And Holland America just lets the tables sit empty - at least on the Eurodam on this cruse - very frustrating. Open seating is a great way to go. But Holland America seems totally inept at how to manage it. No shows for restaurants are all too common. But what restaurant owner leaves tables sitting empty simply because someone made a reservation, and didn't show up? The answer is - no competent manager or owner does, especially when there are walk-ins. HA has a long way to go in trying to manage the open seating system, which is increasingly popular these days. At the end of the cruise we paid to dine in the Pinnacle Grill, in order to be able to have a decent table and to dine at roughly the time we desired. The food and service were good there. But I didn't appreciate having to do this, in order to have a pleasant dining experience. Workers on this cruise also seemed much less friendly than on our prior Holland America cruise. Not sure why..... We also didn't like how large areas of common space had been converted to private cabanas (which sat empty throughout most of the cruise). Overall we felt nickle and dimed, and the service and experience was lacking. Probably that was the last time we'll cruise with HA. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Holland American Line is built on tradition and quality, in a successful and conservative style. You will not find flashy neon lights; fancy, screamy modern colours in the furnitures or a lot of new "outdoor toys," such as ... Read More
Holland American Line is built on tradition and quality, in a successful and conservative style. You will not find flashy neon lights; fancy, screamy modern colours in the furnitures or a lot of new "outdoor toys," such as waterslides, flow riders and climbing walls. What you will find is discreet classic elegance in the interior and shipbuilding. Add a collection of classic art, string quartet with chamber music, and bands playing dance music of Evergreens for us, who have past their first youth. This, in combination with great food and top service in a friendly and personal way, attracts and appeal to a mature crowd, with a mix of Europeans and North Americans. Last April, we sailed our first cruise with Holland American Line, on Eurodam, after many other cruises with different cruiselines and ships. We love to cruise, and this on HAL was one of the best. On July 29, we went back to join the same ship in Stockholm for a 10 nights Baltic Sea cruise. As we have been to almost all destinations before, this cruise was for the ship, the food and to see our new crew-friends onboard again. Fantastic to come back to a ship where several of the crew remembered us, and greeted us by our names. We where flattered, and felt special ! Eurodam, which is one of their largest ships in the HAL fleet, is a happy ship, in the way that the crew and staff are very nice and friendly (mostly Indonesians and Filipinos), well trained and always polite. The ship (from 2008) was immaculately clean and well maintained. No rustspots, and maintenance was on-going daily. Rembrandt Main Dining room - lunch and dinners were always good and elegantly presented. A step ahead as compared to most cruiseships. The sweets were delicious all over the ship. The select dining system which HAL call "As You Wish - seating plan" functioned very well. Lido Buffet restaurant and the food "activities" by the pool side have been some of the best we have experienced on a cruise ship. There is a great variety and tasteful food, and always beautifully presented. Freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast at no extra cost, and 10 other different kinds of juices. The fresh orchids on all the tables at Lido Buffet, fresh flowers in the dining rooms and real plants in public places impressed us very much. Tamarind was a positive surprise. Both lunch and dinner were very tasteful, with wonderful dishes. Very friendly and knowledgeable servers, and an elegant Asian-inspired interior/ambience. Dimsum lunch is free of charge, and dinner had a charge of $15, which was well worth the price. Will absolutely recommend to try this modern Asian contemporary cuisine. The best Asian food we have had the pleasure of tasting on a cruiseship. The Pinnacle Grill restaurant feels upscale, with its sophisticated decor and the Bulgari china. On the privious cruise, I wrote that the food and service in this signature restaurant had a potential to be even better. This time, - it was better ! But still missing a little something to make it fantastic ! It would not take that much to heighten the experience. Easy and simple things like maybe a hot towel before the meal. We missed warm rolls/bread and maybe a sorbet before the main course, and a cheese trolley. These small things will not cost much in money and effort, and lift the visit to what it shall be, - "Fantastic.". The Pinnacle dinner menu has a price of $25, which is a bit less than most specialty signature restaurants on cruiseships, and well worth it`s price. The Le Cirque menu is a once a week event at a price of $39, also worth its price. Internet connection, which is normally very slow and expensive on other cruiselines, has been relatively faster on Eurodam. Actually the most speedy internet of all ships we have sailed on so far. It is also very good that we get a summary of use after each time we log out. The fact that we also got wifi in our inside stateroom was a big plus. Cabin was nice, clean and very roomy. As we booked late this time, there were only inside cabins left. On entering the cabin (1025) on Maindeck, we were again positively surprised with more than 200 sqft, and felt even larger. I measured 25 sqm in all. Plenty of cabinets and a sofa. The cabin was roomy, very clean, had a new flatscreen TV, and high enough bed, so even the largest suitcase is easy to stow under. Bed-mattresses was super, a real dream-maker. Small details like garbage bins in the cabins with possibility for paper recirculation are well thought off. Shampoo, soap and lotion of an exclusive brand. Lights in the large hanging cabinets, would have been nice, but thats all we missed in the cabin. Dress Code During the day, dress is casual. In the evenings, dress is categorized either as smart casual or formal. There were two formal nights on our 10 day cruise. Smart casual for men is slacks and a collared shirt and perhaps a jacket (not required). For women, it's a skirt or trousers and sweater or blouse. Formal is understood as dark suit or jacket and tie for men, some prefer wearing a tuxedo. For women a suit, cocktail dress or gown . Those who prefer not to wear a formal attire, on those 2 formal nights, have the alternative dining at the Lido and the Italian restaurant, Gratuity The ship adds $11.50 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts. This is distributed to all crew members with 70% to those who work directly with passengers, such as waiters and roomattendents, while the remaining to chefs and "behind the scene" crew. Passengers may adjust the amount, or give a little extra directly. A 15 percent charge is added to all bar and wine bills. We rated Eurodam a proud 5+ (the very highest) the first time. This time it would have been the same, if it was not for one person of the staff. He made us feel not so welcome for a future cruise. (I have written about those episodes here in Cruise Critic.) But we shall not let his attitude shadow our next cruise with HAL, and look forward to the Trans Atlantic with Nieuw Amsterdam in October. Morton Salt, - and Pepper. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
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