My wife and I finally decided to plan a life-long, dream trip to Europe as a way of celebrating our upcoming wedding anniversary. This particular trip took several months to plan starting in the summer of 2014. In my research, I used several travel resources including DK Eyewitness Cruise Guide to Europe & The Mediterranean, Pocket Rouge Guide – London by Rob Humphreys, and Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe. Yet, the cornerstone of my Europe strategy was assembled using Rick Steve’s 2015 Best of Europe Travel. Rick is a dynamic writer who makes you feel like you are part of his planning teams on these excursions to Europe. Rick has a practical approach filled with lots of humor. I kept using this book several months before the trip. Rick provides tourist information including the latest on attractions, booking tickets and tours, lodging, and planning. With this approach, I became more familiar with the cities. Unlike typical vacations, a trip to Europe was more complicated and expensive than other vacations. We selected the Holland America Eurodam Western Mediterranean Cruise. To celebrate our 26th Anniversary, my wife and I took an incredible trip to Europe followed by a 7-Day Mediterranean Glamour Cruise from Barcelona, Spain on the Holland America’s Eurodam. The trip was planned over the summer of 2014. We obtained several complimentary items including a cruise credit of $50, a bottle of wine, two signature beverage packages (worth $106 days a day), and a free professional photo. Additionally, we received an upgrade from Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VF) which was a partial view to Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VC), an outstanding view. Our cruise representatives maintained frequent communications and were always available to address any of our questions. The cruise itinerary included Barcelona, Cagliari, Sardinia, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, San Margherita, Italy, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Initially, our first port was going to be La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia. However, there were issues with terrorism and tourists killed that diverted the port to Sardinia. All the ports were fascinating with interesting ports, unique cultures, and plenty of shopping opportunities. Holland America’s Eurodam is a very classy vessel. In fact, this ship is one of the largest ships in Holland America’s fleet. Our stateroom (Room 6123) was modern and large with a very attractive balcony with no obstructed view. Embarkation and disembarkation were organized and without any drama. The ship was to leave at 5pm. We arrived at the ship around 3:30pm. I would recommend arriving later so that you can avoid the crowds and go directly to your room without a hitch. The ship activities were limited but pretty well done. Causal dress was routinely more business-like and formal than the past ships we have sailed on; this type of cruise is geared towards an older crowd. The food was extremely good on the lido deck. We did not visit any of the specialty restaurants due to the high quality of the general eating. One of the highlights are our cruise was having open seating for dinner. We had the flexibility to eat at our own leisure, which was nice. In the past, my wife and I had pre-determined seating (6pm); this seating often required us rushing from a port to make the dinnertime. One of the additional advantages was sitting with different people and listening to their stories. We did formal dinner twice on the cruise. The downside of formal eating was the long wait to receive food; many of our dining partners around the table mentioned this fact also. The remainder of our eating was done on the lido deck primarily because we had a large selection of foods to select with limited wait times. We had nightly debriefings on local tours and the cost associated with them. These were invaluable opportunities for me and others to share the information with other value cruisers. In terms of the cruise ship services, the majority of the services were very good including room service. The entertainment on the ship was outstanding. From my research, I found that with the exception of summer the ship is a much older crowd (upper late 50s) than any other ship we have cruised. My wife called it a ‘sleep ship’ because there are limited activities on the ship unlike Carnival, which is known as the ‘Fun Ship.’ Yet, passengers were generally friendly and helpful in their discussion. We love music, shows, and the dancing. There was a variety of music from classical to hip hop. One of our favorite routines would be to eat dinner at 6pm and play musical chairs. We would go visit the ‘The Band’ as the play ballroom music and dance on the 3rd floor, sit back and listen to The Adario play some classical music, and make our way to the main stage to see a Broadway type performance by the Eurodam dancers. Drop by the BB King Lounge to dance to some soulful vocals. We would then make a finally stop at the lounge where Host Nick would be taking request from listeners. I always requested some Latin music for Salsa. Most times the club was dead at 10pm because most passengers were going to bed early for the early rising of the next port. Yet, there were times that the passengers were engaging the entertainers at all stations and the dance floor was both packed and electric. As usual, I found the excursions overpriced based on the value. The majority of our port excursions were either pre-booked, booked done upon arrival, or self-guided. We did book a ship transfer from the ship to the airport once we returned on our cruise; we had an early flight and didn’t want the hassle of getting a taxi. I would rank this cruise experience on the Eurodam as very good primarily based on the quality of food, excellent customer service, and attractive port of calls. Western Mediterranean With one sea day at the end of the cruise, this itinerary was both exciting and exhausting. I would encourage you to bring good walking shoes, local currency, and a good attitude about different cultural lifestyles. The Western Mediterranean ports of call included cities from Italy, France, and Spain. The cruise itinerary included Barcelona, Cagliari, Sardinia, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, San Margherita, Italy, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. All ports had something interesting to see. With our past experience with cruising, we have found the shore excursions to be very expensive. Yet, booking a local tour was tricky, due to many negative reviews concerning personal theft (i.e. pickpocketing) and scams on tourists. I did my research and found some local tour guides with the latest customer reviews. The primary source was Viator.com. I was not disappointed. Those local tour companies who had great reviews, delivered as promised. In other cases like Palermo (Italy), we were able to negotiate with locals (i.e. taxi drivers). One of the keys is not to accept the first three offers regardless of how good the offer sounds. We have found that if you keep pressing onward you will find a better deal. The only item we booked through the cruise was the transfer from the port to the airport on our return. With that said, an individual can get better value if you are willing to do the research to minimize his or her risks.

Good First Cruise to Europe for Newbies

Eurodam Cruise Review by drTNcruiser

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2015
  • Destination: Western Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
My wife and I finally decided to plan a life-long, dream trip to Europe as a way of celebrating our upcoming wedding anniversary. This particular trip took several months to plan starting in the summer of 2014. In my research, I used several travel resources including DK Eyewitness Cruise Guide to Europe & The Mediterranean, Pocket Rouge Guide – London by Rob Humphreys, and Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe.

Yet, the cornerstone of my Europe strategy was assembled using Rick Steve’s 2015 Best of Europe Travel. Rick is a dynamic writer who makes you feel like you are part of his planning teams on these excursions to Europe. Rick has a practical approach filled with lots of humor. I kept using this book several months before the trip. Rick provides tourist information including the latest on attractions, booking tickets and tours, lodging, and planning. With this approach, I became more familiar with the cities. Unlike typical vacations, a trip to Europe was more complicated and expensive than other vacations. We selected the Holland America Eurodam Western Mediterranean Cruise.

To celebrate our 26th Anniversary, my wife and I took an incredible trip to Europe followed by a 7-Day Mediterranean Glamour Cruise from Barcelona, Spain on the Holland America’s Eurodam. The trip was planned over the summer of 2014. We obtained several complimentary items including a cruise credit of $50, a bottle of wine, two signature beverage packages (worth $106 days a day), and a free professional photo. Additionally, we received an upgrade from Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VF) which was a partial view to Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VC), an outstanding view. Our cruise representatives maintained frequent communications and were always available to address any of our questions.

The cruise itinerary included Barcelona, Cagliari, Sardinia, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, San Margherita, Italy, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Initially, our first port was going to be La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia. However, there were issues with terrorism and tourists killed that diverted the port to Sardinia. All the ports were fascinating with interesting ports, unique cultures, and plenty of shopping opportunities.

Holland America’s Eurodam is a very classy vessel. In fact, this ship is one of the largest ships in Holland America’s fleet. Our stateroom (Room 6123) was modern and large with a very attractive balcony with no obstructed view. Embarkation and disembarkation were organized and without any drama. The ship was to leave at 5pm. We arrived at the ship around 3:30pm. I would recommend arriving later so that you can avoid the crowds and go directly to your room without a hitch. The ship activities were limited but pretty well done. Causal dress was routinely more business-like and formal than the past ships we have sailed on; this type of cruise is geared towards an older crowd.

The food was extremely good on the lido deck. We did not visit any of the specialty restaurants due to the high quality of the general eating. One of the highlights are our cruise was having open seating for dinner. We had the flexibility to eat at our own leisure, which was nice. In the past, my wife and I had pre-determined seating (6pm); this seating often required us rushing from a port to make the dinnertime. One of the additional advantages was sitting with different people and listening to their stories. We did formal dinner twice on the cruise. The downside of formal eating was the long wait to receive food; many of our dining partners around the table mentioned this fact also. The remainder of our eating was done on the lido deck primarily because we had a large selection of foods to select with limited wait times. We had nightly debriefings on local tours and the cost associated with them. These were invaluable opportunities for me and others to share the information with other value cruisers. In terms of the cruise ship services, the majority of the services were very good including room service.

The entertainment on the ship was outstanding. From my research, I found that with the exception of summer the ship is a much older crowd (upper late 50s) than any other ship we have cruised. My wife called it a ‘sleep ship’ because there are limited activities on the ship unlike Carnival, which is known as the ‘Fun Ship.’ Yet, passengers were generally friendly and helpful in their discussion. We love music, shows, and the dancing. There was a variety of music from classical to hip hop. One of our favorite routines would be to eat dinner at 6pm and play musical chairs. We would go visit the ‘The Band’ as the play ballroom music and dance on the 3rd floor, sit back and listen to The Adario play some classical music, and make our way to the main stage to see a Broadway type performance by the Eurodam dancers. Drop by the BB King Lounge to dance to some soulful vocals. We would then make a finally stop at the lounge where Host Nick would be taking request from listeners. I always requested some Latin music for Salsa. Most times the club was dead at 10pm because most passengers were going to bed early for the early rising of the next port. Yet, there were times that the passengers were engaging the entertainers at all stations and the dance floor was both packed and electric.

As usual, I found the excursions overpriced based on the value. The majority of our port excursions were either pre-booked, booked done upon arrival, or self-guided. We did book a ship transfer from the ship to the airport once we returned on our cruise; we had an early flight and didn’t want the hassle of getting a taxi. I would rank this cruise experience on the Eurodam as very good primarily based on the quality of food, excellent customer service, and attractive port of calls.

Western Mediterranean

With one sea day at the end of the cruise, this itinerary was both exciting and exhausting. I would encourage you to bring good walking shoes, local currency, and a good attitude about different cultural lifestyles. The Western Mediterranean ports of call included cities from Italy, France, and Spain. The cruise itinerary included Barcelona, Cagliari, Sardinia, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, San Margherita, Italy, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. All ports had something interesting to see.

With our past experience with cruising, we have found the shore excursions to be very expensive. Yet, booking a local tour was tricky, due to many negative reviews concerning personal theft (i.e. pickpocketing) and scams on tourists. I did my research and found some local tour guides with the latest customer reviews. The primary source was Viator.com. I was not disappointed. Those local tour companies who had great reviews, delivered as promised. In other cases like Palermo (Italy), we were able to negotiate with locals (i.e. taxi drivers). One of the keys is not to accept the first three offers regardless of how good the offer sounds. We have found that if you keep pressing onward you will find a better deal. The only item we booked through the cruise was the transfer from the port to the airport on our return. With that said, an individual can get better value if you are willing to do the research to minimize his or her risks.
drTNcruiser’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VC 6123
Holland America’s Eurodam is a very classy vessel. In fact, this ship is one of the largest ships in Holland America’s fleet. We received an upgrade from Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VF) which was a partial view to Deluxe Verandah Oceanview (VC), an outstanding view. Our stateroom (Room 6123) was modern with a large queen bed, flat screen TV, and ample storage space for the two of us. In addition, we had a very attractive balcony to see the sun set and rise.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Viator Barcelona Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
    We selected The Barcelona City Tour (http://www.barcelonacitytour.com/en/). However, we were unable to secure these tickets directly online. Thus, we had to use Viator, an online wholesale provider of tour services at:
    http://www.viator.com/tours/Barcelona/Barcelona-Shore-Excursion-Barcelona-City-Hop-on-Hop-off-Tour/d562-2140BCNHOPPRT.
    This red bus provides a panoramic view over 37 stops along two routes (Green/East) and (Orange/West). Each route takes about 2 hours. We were able to catch this transportation at a bus stop near our hotel, Umma Barcelona B&B Boutique (Av. Diagonal, 433, 08036 Barcelona, Spain). If you have time, I would suggest taking both routes.

    On the bus, you get a free map and ear buds for the audio commentary. Each bus has an audio narrative in 15 languages, including Spanish, Catalan, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Hindi, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Swedish and Hebrew. Make sure your ear jack works near your seat. The audio commentary isn’t very good. Nevertheless, the bus gives photo opportunities of famous landmarks while giving you the liberties to get off anytime at a site. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants a great overview of London without a heavy drain of his or her wallet.
    View All 12,648 Viator Barcelona Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour Reviews
  • Monaco Shore Excursion: Monaco and Eze Half
    The next port was Monte Carlo, Monaco. One of the features about the region was to see the French Riviera in all its glory. After doing all the research for cost-effective tours, we opted for a Viator.com tour. We selected Monaco Shore Excursion: Monaco and Eze Half-Day Tour. The cost was $130.30 (US) based on the good reviews.

    http://www.viator.com/tours/Monaco/Monaco-Shore-Excursion-Small-Group-Monaco-and-Eze-Half-Day-Tour/d948-5419MONACOPRT

    Once we arrived on port, our tour guide wasn’t readily available. In fact, Viator directions that were emailed to us are very good. However, there was a confusion among tourists and the local sponsored Viator guides on where to pick cruise passengers up. It didn’t get resolved for 45 minutes. Sadly, one couple’s local guide did not show up (they were upset but had no other option but to return to the ship). Our guide showed up, even though late, to greet us. He spoke English. He tried to hurry us along. Of course, we (as cruise passengers) were worried that we would miss the cruise departure time, which was very short for this port (2pm). There were about 8 people on our tour in an air-conditioned van.

    The tour included driving along the gorgeous French Riviera, traveling to Eze (a medieval village), visiting the Prince's Palace for the Changing of the Guard ceremony (Monaco), stopping at Monte Carlo’s Casino Square, and driving along the road used in the world-famous Formula One Grand Prix race. The tour guide did a good job of explaining attractions while we were on van. The Prince’s Palace was crowded with visitors who wanted to see the changing of the guard. Our tour guide dropped us off at a point and asked that we meet him when it ended. That was one of the major problems with the tour; the tour guide often dropped us off to fend for ourselves (little narrative or discussion on the activities). Overall, the tour was good and was more cost-effective than a cruise sponsored tour. If the tour guide was more engaging with us on the tour, I would probably give this particular tour a perfect score.
    View All 12,648 Monaco Shore Excursion: Monaco and Eze Half Reviews
  • City Tour of Palermo
    The second port, Palermo, is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily. OK! My research on this area was interesting because it produced excitement and anxiety. I knew we should visit the Catacombs of the Capuchins to see 8,000 mummified monks. The ship offered some interesting excursions and exuberant prices. Palermo was a very walkable city, which would reduce our expenses there. However, the port had a reputation for pickpockets and scam artists, In fact, visitors were to beware taxis and horse carriages (priced higher at the port via union). Some travel guides/travel articles even connected taxi drivers with the mafia. There was a Hop-on, Hop-off bus system available also. We had decided that negotiating with a local taxi driver for three hours of driving was the best option. Our goal was to spend 100€ or less at any port including tours and eating. Once we got to the port, we were bombarded by vendors providing tour services. We listened to pitches but knew never to accept the opening offers of several. We went through four offers for tours including Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour. The first offer was 120€ for us. Finally, we listened to a taxi driver ‘Vincenzo’ and negotiated a good price (60€ for 2 hours). Vincenzo worked for Palermo Taxi Tour. Unfortunately, the taxi driver spoke very little English and our Italian was subpar to say the least. However, the ride was very interesting as we attempted to communicate and learn about each other. I had my Italian dictionary and we used sign language when words didn’t work. Some of the sights included the historical center from Piazza Politeama to Teatro Massimo, Quattro Canti, botanical gardens, and Royal Palace, Duomo, Vucciria Market and the port. Throughout the tour, Vincenzo stopped and allowed us to take photos. He even insisted in taking the photos. At every stop, we built more trust in Vincenzo looking out for our best interest. We enjoyed the tour and breaking language barriers in the process. I would highly recommend Vincenzo (cell: 320-8597488) with Palermo Taxi Tour because he earned our trust that day.
    View All 12,648 City Tour of Palermo Reviews
  • Portofino
    The next port was Santa Margherita, Italy. One of the features about the region was to see the Italian Riviera in its beauty. This area was noted to very walkable; some of our cruise mates walked about at least an hour on foot. There was a ferry available from Santa Margherita at half past the hour, starting at 9:15am with the last boat at 5:15pm (in the summer). The return trip leaves Portofino every hour starting at noon, and last boat leaves at 7pm. The cost was 9.5€ roundtrip.

    Once we exited the terminal, there was much tourist information readily available. We opted to do a self-tour on this port either by taxi or public transportation. The objective of our visit was to travel to the famous city of Portofino, which was about 15-20 minutes or less by bus.

    In fact, it appeared anti-tourist because we had a difficult time finding information about taxis or public transportation. We stumbled on a visitor’s booth. They pointed us to the taxi station. A taxi driver informed us that it would cost us at least a 100€ for getting to Portofino. We felt it was overpriced. Near the port, we found a long line of cruise mates waiting in front of a bus stop. We were informed we could ride on the public bus for less than 2.0€ per person. It was a no brainer. We purchased our ticket. Here’s a note. You have to be somewhat aggressive on getting on the bus. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. We were able to get on the bus (many were not able to get on this particular bus). The ride to Portofino was beautiful, ascending on mountain terrain. However, we did not appreciate this first time since the bus was so crowded. One critical note is that most restaurants and shops close between 3pm and 7pm. We had a difficult time getting food during that timeframe. The best option is to find food in tourists traps; the food will be more expensive and is of a lesser quality in general. However, you will be fed.
    View All 78 Portofino Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Portofino Cruise Port Review
  • Rome (Civitavecchia)
    The next port was the city of Civitavecchia, which is about 1.5 hours from Rome. We had already decided that we were not going to take any tours from Civitavecchia, which were very expensive and rushed (some more than 11 hours). Rome represents a trip of a lifetime. We had the luxury of going to Rome after our cruise for several days. Once we made the port, we leisurely left the ship later (about 9:30am) to the cruise terminal. Most passengers headed to Rome had already left.

    Civitavecchia is very walkable; the railway station from the port is about 10 minutes away.
    Once we exited the terminal, we were bombarded with vendors trying to take us to Rome. We were hoping for 1-2 hour tour around the City of Civitavecchia. However, these vendors had already built large profit margins for carrying cruise passengers to Rome. The one major note about the City of Civitavecchia is that in my humble opinion is not really set up to handle tourists. It is more a place to travel from then a city of destination. Thus, you are on your own in touring. We opted just to walk around the city on a self-guided tour. One local store provided us with a map of key attractions. One of the best seen was Fort Michelangelo near the port. Please note that we interacted with several locals; none spoke English very well (of course, our Italian wasn’t great either). We walked around the fort. We could not enter. There were no markers or signs for us to read about the monument. We ended walking on the beach and visiting the local food markets (which had closed). We had a nice lunch and people watched in Civitavecchia. We hoped to take the local public transportation. However, we could never figure out where to pay for a pass (bus driver doesn’t accept cash). We talked to several locals but the language barrier was too great to overcome.
    View All 2,134 Rome (Civitavecchia) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Rome (Civitavecchia) Cruise Port Review
  • Cagliari City Tour
    My wife and I sailed on Holland America Eurodam for our first Western Mediterranean cruise. The first port was the city of Cagliari, which is the capital of Sardinia, a lovely Italian island. Once we left the ship, a free shuttle took us (passengers) from the ship to the port gate, which was right at the city center. Once we arrived in the city, there were a variety of bus tour options. I would definitely not pay the high cost for a ship-sponsored excursion. Outside the cruise terminal, passengers will have at least three low cost tour options, CTM Cagliari tour bus (red bus), City Cagliari tour (green bus), and the Dotto Trains (blue train shape bus). In fact, we found a fourth bus tour called Sol Y Mar (http://www.symservice.it/en/offerte-speciali/tours.html).

    Here is the general information for the tour buses: Terminal: Piazza Yenne, Duration: about 1 - 2hours, Departure: every day from 9.30 to 19:30, with tours every hour, 8-10€. We left the ship at about 9:30am and didn’t have any problems on a tour selection or availability of seats. Some of the main sights include Cagliari Town Hall, Sanctuary of Bonaria, Molentargiu's Park, Bastion of Saint Remy, Viale Buoncammino, The Roman Amphitheater, Museums Citadel, Saint Pancra's Tower, The Cathedral, and Elephant's Tower.

    We took CTM Cagliari tour bus (red bus) and City Cagliari tour (green bus). The City Tour Cagliari (paid 10€) covered the most area. However, passengers cannot hop off and on. The bus tour had an audio narrative in multi-languages, including English plus a live tour guide speaking periodically. The audio narrative wasn’t very good. The live narrative was unclear because of the muffled sound. Yet, the drive was very good because it provided a framework of the city. I highly recommend this bus tour as a good overview of the capital city of Cagliari.
    View All 23 Cagliari City Tour Reviews