LET'S START WITH THE SKINNY ON THE FUN NEW EURODAM Frequently Asked Cruise Questions How's the morning coffee? --Good, and served in china mugs. How does the e-mail/internet connection work? --It's well-organized, veeeery slow, but functional. What about Wi-Fi? --It's available throughout the ship, although some problems were reported with using it in cabins. Do the rooms have safes? --Absolutely, the best yet, capable of securing your laptop. Can I iron a shirt? Do a wash? --Nope, not on Holland America. Can you "promenade" the prom deck? --Yes, indeed, all the way around two decks. Are decks real wood, or linoleum? --Both. The Promenade Deck is composed of real wood panels, and the one two decks above is linoleum printed with the same wood panels shapes.
INTRODUCING THE EURODAM -- After the pleasure of sailing a few other cruise ships in their debut year, I was hoping that a holiday weekend on the brand-new MS Eurodam from Holland America would be a sweet adventure, and indeed it happily exceeded all expectations. Built to the tune of $450 million by classy Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, this 86,000-ton vessel seems gracefully enormous as you stroll about the decks and pools and bistros, yet it's been crafted slim enough to fit through the Panama Canal, and can therefore be hailed as "Panamax." The ship has eleven decks and 1025 staterooms, with 67% balconies. With an additional deck for cabins built on top of a basic Noordam plan, the Eurodam has entered the Holland America fleet with 63 new staterooms more than their latest Vista-class ship, with 10 of the cabins said to feature floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Eurodam is fitted out with several of the features HAL regulars have come to expect, such as glass elevators that look to the water, a Pinnacle Grill (this one has handsome formal chairs), and a Greenhouse Spa. The ship boasts the latest state-of-the-art navigation and safety systems and brand-new Azipod propulsion technology. Other additions are the Explorer's Lounge, Canaletto, which is an Italian specialty section of the Lido, and a show lounge with theater-style seating where culinary classes are offered. There's also a new wine bar, but it has such ultra-modern decoration that it looks like an uninviting ice sculpture; on the other hand the photography gallery includes an intimate studio area for private shoots. MANHATTAN EMBARKATION -- Turned out to be surprisingly pleasant, especially considering the disorganized chaos of the disembarkation later. Although the Coast Guard had announced it was conducting exercises on the ship requiring embarkation to delay starting until 3:00, passengers arriving at 1:30 were able to come onboard immediately. And while the Manhattan dock is getting to be one of the oldest in the industry, much of it had been sufficiently refurbished to create a veneer of bright surfaces over the ancient boards. Several groups of lucky passengers in line around me had booked not only our introductory holiday weekend onboard but also the next sailing up along the Canadian coastline. THE STATUE OF LIBERTY -- Eurodam sailed away at 7:00 instead of 7:30 in order to greet Lady Liberty at sunset. Although it was cloudy and darker than might have been wished, many of the crew had never seen her and crowded onto the decks in their various uniforms to ooh and aaah and photograph themselves beside her. The city coming up in glittering nightlights was beautiful as ever; I'd forgotten how exhilarating it is to view the water-spouting fire-boat show down by the South Street Seaport; and fitting under the Varrazano Bridge was pretty spectacular as well, and certainly worth a snapshot or two. SHIP -- Everywhere we went onboard this beautiful vessel, passengers were enjoying a variety of activities, from heavily-attended bingo and poolside demonstrations, to afternoon tea and the "On Deck for the Cure" 5K which was "run" on the Promenade Deck as a fund-raiser to fight breast cancer. The ship felt quite stable at sea; she didn't "wiggle her bottom" as do many ships, or rock us to sleep, but that may have been because we were sailing at only 11.5 knots. It was pleasant to think how that might have attracted cresting dolphins if we'd been in the right area. The ship is covered with flowers. Tightly-packed mammoth flowers arrangements (perhaps Asian-influenced) grace hallways and entrances; hundreds of votive-lamp glasses with a single orchid blossom on tables influence the ambient fragrance of many of the bars and meeting rooms. STATEROOMS -- Cabins are fitted with blonde wood, grey carpet, and highlighted with touches of red; many verandas are furnished with wicker chaises and small tables. Cabins and hallways were impeccably cared for, and groomed with a pleasant-smelling rug deodorizer. With all the buzz around the industry, and indeed right here on the boards, about the "new bed program" in the various lines and ships, here is Eurodam coming right out of the gate with Euro-top Mariner's Dream bed-spread-free beds and and light blankets wrapped in duvet covers. Personally I still think the new bed program is basically an excuse not to purchase and maintain dressy bedspreads, but the high-rising bed was a comfort to my back. Cabins feature flat screen televisions with DVD players, massage shower heads, and really strong hair dryers. Many cabins had fresh flowers and complimentary fruit baskets, although not mine. Adjustable wall lights of the minute tenser variety are mounted above the bedside tables although they are nearly useless for nighttime reading. Although drawers in the desk area would have been appreciated, a side cabinet did provide two small shelves and the leather stool under the writing table had a removable top with room for storage. A small halo-lit magnifying vanity mirror built into the wall is not only convenient for the ladies, but creates a pleasant night light.
BATH -- It was easy to navigate the highly familiar modular bathroom which was, if possible, a few square feet larger than on other ships, and the majority of staterooms are equipped with bathtub/showers. It was a pleasure as well being surrounded by brand-new bathroom surfaces, spanking clean right down to the corners, a still-pristine shower curtain, and the use of complimentary Elemis bath products. And Holland America has given me a new prospective on the bathrobe term "waffle" (which to me sounds like the non-suite inferior variety) because their new "waffle-terry" bathrobes were delightfully substantial and smooth to the skin, and ready in the room at check-in without a hassle.