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Holland America Line: Eurodam

Fodorite Reviews

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Mar 18, 2017

Review of Eurodam

Age: 68 Occupation:Retired Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: Holland America Ship: Eurodam Sailing Date: 2016-02-14 Itinerary: Carribean Our cruise aboard Holland America's Eurodam was a much anticipated, long saved for cruise--and a deep disappointment. We began with the Holland America folks losing our luggage for the entire trip (seven days). When questioned, the baggage supervisor and his boss both attempted to blame the airline, then finally

(and reluctantly) acknowledged they had sent it off on the wrong ship. The most they would do to ameliorate the inconvenience was to give me three blue work shirts and a white t-shirt--I had to wear the same wrinkled slacks and smelly socks for seven days. I ran out of medications my last two days and they were of no assistance in filling them, even with advance notice. The food was excellent, particularly in the main dining room. Trying to eat in any of the other dining areas was, however, a challenge. You could order and get the food with no problem but, then, had to hold onto it (along with other numerous passengers) until someone got up from a table. It was then a rush to get the empty spot. There is simply not enough seating in any of the venues to accommodate the 2,100 passengers squeezed onto the Eurodam. The stateroom with verandah was excellent--roomy and well maintained. The room service and housekeeping were also excellent. Again, seating is a problem--there isn't enough of it for the fully loaded ship. One had to arrive at the entertainment venues a good hour early to insure adequate seating. The pool area was "every man for himself" when it came to seating, as were the deck chairs. The excursions, all paid for, were simply miserable. At one beach call, our reserved umbrellas were taken. There was minimal (almost no) staff available to supervise or direct people around. There was nothing to eat or drink. On another excursion, climbing and descending a seven foot ladder was required, a painful experience for my disabled partner (there was no notice of this until the excursion was paid for and on board). Finally, in Jamaica, a stop most anticipated by us, it was utter chaos. There were no Holland America crew in sight to direct confused and even panicky passengers, who had to fight for shuttle transportation. Again, it was a deep disappointment after saving for so long to take this cruise.

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By Andy_CR

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Feb 26, 2016

Carribean

Our cruise aboard Holland America's Eurodam was a much anticipated, long saved for cruise--and a deep disappointment. We began with the Holland America folks losing our luggage for the entire trip (seven days). When questioned, the baggage supervisor and his boss both attempted to blame the airline, then finally (and reluctantly) acknowledged they had sent it off on the wrong ship. The most they would do to ameliorate the inconvenience was to give

me three blue work shirts and a white t-shirt--I had to wear the same wrinkled slacks and smelly socks for seven days. I ran out of medications my last two days and they were of no assistance in filling them, even with advance notice. The food was excellent, particularly in the main dining room. Trying to eat in any of the other dining areas was, however, a challenge. You could order and get the food with no problem but, then, had to hold onto it (along with other numerous passengers) until someone got up from a table. It was then a rush to get the empty spot. There is simply not enough seating in any of the venues to accommodate the 2,100 passengers squeezed onto the Eurodam. The stateroom with verandah was excellent--roomy and well maintained. The room service and housekeeping were also excellent. Again, seating is a problem--there isn't enough of it for the fully loaded ship. One had to arrive at the entertainment venues a good hour early to insure adequate seating. The pool area was "every man for himself" when it came to seating, as were the deck chairs. The excursions, all paid for, were simply miserable. At one beach call, our reserved umbrellas were taken. There was minimal (almost no) staff available to supervise or direct people around. There was nothing to eat or drink. On another excursion, climbing and descending a seven foot ladder was required, a painful experience for my disabled partner (there was no notice of this until the excursion was paid for and on board). Finally, in Jamaica, a stop most anticipated by us, it was utter chaos. There were no Holland America crew in sight to direct confused and even panicky passengers, who had to fight for shuttle transportation. Again, it was a deep disappointment after saving for so long to take this cruise.

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By pnovsam

  • New

Feb 21, 2016

Motel 6 of Cruiselines

Returned today from a week on the Eurodam. My 9th cruise but my first on Holland America. Definitely my last! Poor service overall. Lido dining is like a bad cafeteria. Dining room dining is no better. Poor service with bad food. Entertainment tired and boring. But the BB King Blues is a marvelous exception. Cabin stewards fine. Staff not very friendly overall and not well trained. Ship decor outdated and drab. Would recommend this ship to no one.

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Nov 15, 2015

Caribbean

I have sailed on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and now, Holland America, for my past 3 cruises (number 4 coming soon). We have done the majority of our cruises beginning in our 50's, and Holland America is by far the best cruise line we have been on. If you want to relax, have superb service and excellent accomodations and amenities, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HAL. Consistently good if not excellent. We did not, however, eat at Lido (the buffet),

but loved the Dive In for excellent burgers, hot dogs and fries pool-side (hey - you're on vacation)! The specialty restaurants are excellent. I had the best Italian meal of life in Canoletto's. Okay, it needed refurbishing but was still very nice and spacious. We were in a Neptune suite. Our suite attendants were superb, the suite amenities unmatched compared to other cruise lines we had sailed on. We cruise to be at sea, and visit new ports, which is all the entertainment we need. Do what you love to do, otherwise, just disembark and wander around. Sunset cruises are special. Perfect from start to finish. We went to islands previously visited (which we wanted to see again), and some new ones.

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  • New

Jul 14, 2015

Baltic

Holland America assigned me a cabin directly below a bar-entertainment venue. The music & noise carried directly and loudly into my room--as if there were high amplifiers above and little or no sound insulation. As a result I could not get to sleep before 1am on most nights. I complained loudly & often, but the crew told me that I could not switch rooms because all were occupied and that they would "advise" the entertainers. It did not help.

HA subsequently reduced my bill by $140--a pittance compared to the $4000+ I spent with HA for this trip. Never again with HA for me! Food quality was ok but variety far more limited than Royal Caribbean. Noisy cabin!! Weak shows and entertainment. Poor quality singers &dancers--and old movies in the main entertainment venue!

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By Phil_CR

  • New

May 5, 2015

Transatlantic

This was a good cruise, principally due to the excellent tours we had worked up, and the nice people we shared them with. HAL is HAL - stolid, Dutch, unimaginative, but efficient, careful and reliable. It has a lot to learn from what several other cruise lines have put in place recently, with a wider variety of food, entertainment and activities. But the itineraries are good, covering the globe, and they are going to get you there and back in safety

and comfort, and in a very nice cabin. This was a cruise well worthwhile. The Dining Experience This subject is always of the highest interest to those contemplating a cruise, but is necessarily subjective in content. There is actually not a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be given the environment in which this must take place. What cruise lines seem to be doing, however, is to try to separate themselves from their competitors through the widening use and expanding variety of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have been designed with a focus on multiple dining venues throughout. HAL is somewhat behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, their newest ships, having only two specialty dining rooms. These are the Pinnacle Room, a straightforward typical upscale dining room serving dinner only, with a $25.00 surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with a free, but reservation only dim sum lunch, and a full dinner with a $20.00 charge. We had received a complimentary Pinnacle Room dinner from our travel agent, and enjoyed the quiet, refined atmosphere and attentive service. We were unable to obtain reservations for lunch at Tamarind, I think because they only allowed very limited seating. We did opt to pay for a dinner there. It was strictly Japanese, with a wide and excellent selection, and service and ambience to match. It was well worth the surcharge for a one time choice. The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had both fixed and open seating. The fixed seating was on Deck 3 and the times were 5:30 and 8:00; neither very convenient. We had learned on our earlier Eurodam experience to pick the open seating, which started at 6:00. We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were usually limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither preparation nor presentation. The regular menus were also rather standard in selection, preparation and service, with the occasional problem arising from the lack of an assistant waiter assigned to each table. The buffet also had some difficulties. The layout was confusing, and the signs not always informative. For health purposes food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards. The major problem was the traditional linear buffet layout, with stations on either side of the deck and limited access between sides, so one was constantly walking up and down the full buffet trying to locate items. Seating was insufficient at times, and again often resulted it wandering around, plate in hand, trying to find seats. The comparatively narrow area between the seating and the buffet stations also made for traffic jams; and the railings further limited access to the seating. The breakfast selection was usually good, with lots of fruit and a wide range of choices, once you knew where to look. The coffee was forgettable. There was an Asian station for lunch that had sushi and a varying range of choices, which I found to be pretty good. I like light lunches, and this station was helpful. The Food Service Manager told us on our earlier cruise that HAL had switched from trays to large plates resulting in substantially less waste; but resulting in some balancing problems if one wanted separate items, and were handed separate large plates. As usual, you had to arrange to guard your utensils if you went back for seconds to prevent rapid removal by the servers. A portion of the Lido was set up each night with linens, nice cutlery and waiters as "Canelo", an Italian restaurant for a $10.00 charge. It had been free on our prior cruise. On a scale of 1-100 we would rate HAL at 82, Princess at 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania Marina class at 94 and Crystal at 97. With only one Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise each, it is difficult to rate them, but I think they would come in at 80. To look at the bright side, CDC just gave Eurodam and 10 other ships a perfect 100 score, while failing two Silver Shadow boutique luxury yachts! Our Stateroom We had booked what HAL calls a Signature Suite, in this case Stateroom No. 6076. These are basically large sized verandah accommodations, with the room being about 305 square feet. This allows a bathroom with double washbasins, a full size tub/shower and a freestanding shower. It also provides room for three closets and enough drawer space for almost any amount of clothing possibly needed. The room also had a full size leather couch, which could be converted into a bed. There is a desk near the bed, which also had a small window to the verandah. A dressing table had a lighted, magnifying cosmetic/shaving mirror. A fairly large coffee table was provided as well as three armchairs and a seating hassock for the dressing table. A full-length mirror was located next to the bathroom entrance as well as a large wall mirror bedside, and at the dressing table of course. HAL likes dark brown as a proper serious shipboard color, so that marked the woodwork in the cabin. The wall areas were a nice soft cream color. The lighting system took a learning curve to master, but actually worked well. The verandah had two lounge chairs with nice pads and footstools, as well as a small side table and two side chairs. The TV was good sized and could be rotated a little so as to be visible from one of the armchairs next to the coffee table. The closet had a safe, of course. Altogether, this was a very nice cabin, providing room enough to move around easily with a minimum collision factor, and more than enough space in the room and bathroom for all we brought aboard. The Entertainment We Really Enjoyed This was provided by the classical music duo "Adagio". These were two young Ukrainian ladies who played either three or four nightly sets in the Explorer Lounge near the dining room on Deck 2. The physical set-up was not ideal, it seldom is for this type of presentation on any ship; but we were always happy with them. Mind you, this was not Emanuel Ax and Itzak Perlman performing, but they had quite a high skill level and a reasonable repertoire given that these dedicated musicians had only been performing together for a few months. We looked forward to them and delighted in them every night. There were other music venues operating such as the typical piano bar and DJ evenings. A dance band put on shows in the Culinary Center/Queens Lounge each evening, with a singer, and the one time we stopped by it was not bad. The evening big theater entertainment had some variety as well as two routine "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a fairly decent solo singer, a magic act with a husband and wife, which I enjoyed because I am a sucker for magic acts. We skipped the juggler, comedian, dance team and violinist. All in all the evening entertainment was of average quality, not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruise. At least the sound was not set on "Deafening". A daily 8-page edition of the New York Times was available in the buffet each morning, and the Internet cafe had a free e-mail version of the Times also. Internet communication was not free of course. I paid $55.00 for 90 minutes, and it was slow and spotty. The in-room TV was also hit and miss in its pick-up of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. It was frustrating that the program listing for the in-house shows and movie channels was uninformative and inadequate. Nor were you able to see your on-board account – pretty poor service for this day and age. The Cruise The original and valid rationale for this cruise was the itinerary, the land venues and six sea days. We are experienced cruisers. This was our 32d ocean trip in addition to 3 river cruises. I am a retired city government attorney and Edith is a totally unretired homemaker, with a career in respiratory therapy and home health care management. We had done a Transatlantic on Eurodam in 2011 from London to New York, and while HAL is not our favorite cruise line, we do believe they offer a very decent selection of itineraries. Pre-cruise Tour Planning To say that this involved a great deal of time, effort, coordination and a healthy e-mail and Internet account would be a major understatement. Our ports were Ponta Delgada in the Azores, and Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena and Valencia in Spain; before our debarkation in Barcelona. We do not favor ship's tours, not just because of their high charges, but primarily because they are comparatively short, involve being herded into crowded buses, and allow no input as to what you can see and do. So we devote strenuous efforts searching on line for local small tours, and on the Cruise Critic roll call to locate both tours and the persons to share them. Many in the cruising community have become quite adept at this. I have some suggestions regarding this process. (1) Be as specific as you can in posting information. That means making it very clear what post you are answering. Simply saying "Sign us up" does not really do It. (2) Ask, (and post) all the questions you think others need to hear the answer to, such as: price, deposit, payment method, contact information, the website where you learned about the tour, etc. (3) Get the e-mail address from anyone seriously interested, and use e-mail to do as much as possible thereafter. (4) Once you are in a real process of getting a group together, copy everyone on every e-mail "reply all"]. That way you can exchange cabin numbers which some do not want to post on the roll call. (5) Review each tour's status from time to time to make sure everyone understands everything! Never assume we all do. The results of our efforts served us well as we were able to find delightful tour companions and book excellent excursions. Pre-Cruise Personal Planning This was a bit problematical. We were unsure of weather and temperature conditions, but this is a normal issue on long ocean cruises. Checking overseas weather reports more than10 days ahead is not a process resulting in certainty. The time of year, springtime, is one with fairly sudden changes in the latitudes we were traversing. Then there is the concern over sea days what to wear during the day versus evening attire. HAL still says it has formal nights 3 on a cruise of two weeks or more like this one. But we were planning on land tours, which required walking, and we hate to carry too much luggage. The decision we made was not to carry shorts (Edith does not wear them much anyway) since we never use them on land in Europe. We did take some short sleeve shirts, and that was a good idea. I took a dark suit, but found that I did not use my favorite Orvis travel jacket for any useable amount of time. A sweater would have been helpful on board as many of the public areas were cold. On a totally different note, we bought Euros from Wells Fargo. I keep a reserve stashed in what I call my "Euro Wallet", and we came back with a little more reserved for our next trip than we had before we started. Getting Aboard Traveling from Phoenix to an East Coast port always involves an overnight stay, and this time we arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 11:45 P. M. and stayed at the Hilton Marina. This is not a hotel review, but suffice to say it is a very decent Hilton, and quite close to the cruise pier. On any given day the Port Everglades cruise pier complex has a goodly number of ships coming and going; but this embarkation experience was a major improvement over what we endured for our March 2014 Statendam cruise from San Diego, which miserable event is described in our review of that cruise on this site. Fort Lauderdale's Port Authority provided a large, airy, waiting room with comfortable seating, and HAL furnished an easily adequate number of check in personnel and stations. Our wait there was only about a minute, and in the waiting area our group was called to board in no more than twenty minutes. Even with the luggage and health questionnaire screening, the total debarkation time was less than half an hour. This is quite good. Our Stateroom We had booked what HAL calls a "Signature Suite", in this case Stateroom No. 6076. These are basically large sized verandah accommodations, with the room being about 305 square feet. This allows a bathroom with double washbasins, a full size tub/shower and a freestanding shower. It also provides room for three closets and enough drawer space for almost any amount of clothing possibly needed. The room also had a full size leather couch, which could be converted into a bed. There is a desk near the bed, which also had a small window to the verandah. A dressing table had a lighted, magnifying cosmetic/shaving mirror. A fairly large coffee table was provided as well as three armchairs and a seating hassock for the dressing table. A full-length mirror was located next to the bathroom entrance as well as a large wall mirror bedside, and at the dressing table of course. HAL likes dark brown as a proper serious shipboard color, so that marked the woodwork in the cabin. The wall areas were a nice soft cream color. The lighting system took a learning curve to master, but actually worked well. The verandah had two lounge chairs with nice pads and footstools, as well as a small side table and two side chairs. The TV was good sized and could be rotated a little so as to be visible from one of the armchairs next to the coffee table. The closet had a safe, of course. Altogether, this was a very nice cabin, providing room enough to move around easily with a minimum collision factor, and more than enough space in the room and bathroom for all we brought aboard. The Ship Eurodam is one of the newer and larger HAL ships, having made its maiden voyage in 2008. It carries just over 2100 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 86,200 has a decent space ratio of 41.05. Holland America favors a “mature" ambience rather than a "party" atmosphere, and features dark wood walls and furniture, warm colors for their carpets, solid seating, real teak deck chairs and lots of reproductions of old Dutch art and artifacts. The lower exterior of the ship up to deck four is black and all above is white. Deck 1 has a few staterooms and the front desk, excursion and future cruise desks and a small atrium. Decks 2 and 3 are the 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 dining venue, open only for dinner with a $25.00 per person surcharge. The stores on Deck 3 are a little unusual in that, except for one high-end jewelry store, the display tables for all merchandise are in one large open area. A steel mesh curtain is lowered to create an aisle when the stores are closed. There is also a "Culinary Center/Queens Lounge" for cooking demonstrations and other activities; a small motion picture theater, a 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. Deck 9 has the typical Lido Buffet, swimming pool and spa fitness center set-up. The main, midships swimming pool can be covered and is heated. There is another open pool aft of the buffet. Deck 10 had Club Hal for the few children aboard and cabins forward. Deck 11 had the Silk Den/Tamarind Restaurant midships, and the Crow's Nest Lounge forward. There are three elevator banks, with the one midships featuring two outboard facing glass elevators on each side. The system was usually quite efficient, and each elevator had a carpet with the day of the week woven into it, obviously changed each day. We did not think the layout was all that convenient or intuitive as to locations and getting around. For example, neither the small ship's map provided at check in, nor the detailed deck plans in each elevator lobby showed the location of the Computer Learning Center; which was a popular and frequently visited place. And, as noted in the clothing remarks, the public areas were very cold. The Dining Experience This subject is always of the highest interest to those contemplating a cruise, but is necessarily subjective in content. There is actually not a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be given the environment in which this must take place. What cruise lines seem to be doing, however, is to try to separate themselves from their competitors through the widening use and expanding variety of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have been designed with a focus on multiple dining venues throughout. HAL is somewhat behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, their newest ships, having only two specialty dining rooms. These are the Pinnacle Room, a straightforward typical upscale dining room serving dinner only, with a $25.00 surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with a free, but reservation only dim sum lunch, and a full dinner with a $20.00 charge. We had received a complimentary Pinnacle Room dinner from our travel agent, and enjoyed the quiet, refined atmosphere and attentive service. We were unable to obtain reservations for lunch at Tamarind, I think because they only allowed very limited seating. We did opt to pay for a dinner there. It was strictly Japanese, with a wide and excellent selection, and service and ambience to match. It was well worth the surcharge for a one time choice. The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had both fixed and open seating. The fixed seating was on Deck 3 and the times were 5:30 and 8:00; neither very convenient. We had learned on our earlier Eurodam experience to pick the open seating, which started at 6:00. We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were usually limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither preparation nor presentation. The regular menus were also rather standard in selection, preparation and service, with the occasional problem arising from the lack of an assistant waiter assigned to each table. The buffet also had some difficulties. The layout was confusing, and the signs not always informative. For health purposes food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards. The major problem was the traditional linear buffet layout, with stations on either side of the deck and limited access between sides, so one was constantly walking up and down the full buffet trying to locate items. Seating was insufficient at times, and again often resulted it wandering around, plate in hand, trying to find seats. The comparatively narrow area between the seating and the buffet stations also made for traffic jams; and the railings further limited access to the seating. The breakfast selection was usually good, with lots of fruit and a wide range of choices, once you knew where to look. The coffee was forgettable. There was an Asian station for lunch that had sushi and a varying range of choices, which I found to be pretty good. I like light lunches, and this station was helpful. The Food Service Manager told us on our earlier cruise that HAL had switched from trays to large plates resulting in substantially less waste; but resulting in some balancing problems if one wanted separate items, and were handed separate large plates. As usual, you had to arrange to guard your utensils if you went back for seconds to prevent rapid removal by the servers. A portion of the Lido was set up each night with linens, nice cutlery and waiters as "Canelo", an Italian restaurant for a $10.00 charge. It had been free on our prior cruise. On a scale of 1-100 we would rate HAL at 82, Princess at 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania Marina class at 94 and Crystal at 97. With only one Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise each, it is difficult to rate them, but I think they would come in at 80. To look at the bright side, CDC just gave Eurodam and 10 other ships a perfect 100 score, while failing two Silver Shadow boutique luxury yachts! On Board Activities and Entertainment HAL does not do well in this facet of cruising. We had read three years ago that they realized this weakness on their shorter cruises, and planned to remedy it especially on longer trips. We did not see much resulting from this stated goal. There was a daily program listing called, for some reason, “On Location". One of these was a series of lectures on Spanish history by a Professor Friedman; scholarly and informative. Another was a speaker named Mike Rick whose programs consisted of old video and movie clips from the 20s through the 60s on various subjects. He was amusing, but ran short of material pretty quickly. The "Destination" lecturer was quite good, with decent advice on the ports of call, and not merely a pitchman for the ship's shore excursions. There was a computer "techspert", a young South African who conducted 4-6 computer and phone camera classes daily in the Kings Room, the computer center on Deck 2, a space equipped with about 20 computers. This is a nice concept, but there obviously was a severe limitation on the number of people who could avail themselves of these classes, and the classes moved quite rapidly so there was the danger of falling behind the flow of instructions. Many classes were repeated during the course of the cruise however. On most sea days there was a presentation or "show" in the Culinary Arts Center. Movies were shown three times daily in the theater, but it is a small place and the one time we tried it, there was no room. The movie that played one day was on the in-cabin TV the next day. Most of the other on board activities were the typical cruise games, contests and sales pitches for the stores and the spa. The Entertainment We Really Enjoyed This was provided by the classical music duo "Adagio". These were two young Ukrainian ladies who played either three or four nightly sets in the Explorer Lounge near the dining room on Deck 2. The physical set-up was not ideal, it seldom is for this type of presentation on any ship; but we were always happy with them. Mind you, this was not Emanuel Ax and Itzak Perlman performing, but they had quite a high skill level and a reasonable repertoire given that these dedicated musicians had only been performing together for a few months. We looked forward to them and delighted in them every night. There were other music venues operating such as the typical piano bar and DJ evenings. A dance band put on shows in the Culinary Center/Queens Lounge each evening, with a singer, and the one time we stopped by it was not bad. The evening big theater entertainment had some variety as well as two routine "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a fairly decent solo singer, a magic act with a husband and wife, which I enjoyed because I am a sucker for magic acts. We skipped the juggler, comedian, dance team and violinist. All in all the evening entertainment was of average quality, not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruise. At least the sound was not set on "Deafening". A daily 8-page edition of the New York Times was available in the buffet each morning, and the Internet cafe had a free e-mail version of the Times also. Internet communication was not free of course. I paid $55.00 for 90 minutes, and it was slow and spotty. The in-room TV was also hit and miss in its pick-up of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. It was frustrating that the program listing for the in-house shows and movie channels was uninformative and inadequate. Nor were you able to see your on-board account – pretty poor service for this day and age. Ports of Call Ponta Delgada, San Miguel, Azores Islands, Portugal We had been there before, and greatly enjoyed it. San Miguel is a long and comparatively narrow island, running east and west. It would be difficult to see and enjoy all of it in one day, so we opted for a tour of the central part. The British tour company we had used on a prior trip no longer did one day tours, but they referred us to a company named Geo-Fun. This proved to be an excellent recommendation. We lined up a jeep tour for two couples and easily found the other couple on the roll call to join us. Our guide/driver for our Land Rover was a young local lady who had earned a geology degree at a university in Lisbon. She certainly knew her territory. We went by roads where you could touch stone walls on either side. They made the one-track roads we have driven on in Scotland, Ireland and the South Island of New Zealand look like Main Street. So we saw views, countryside and sights in the Azores that few will see any other way. We stopped for lunch in Furnas, a large town, which was holding a feast day celebration. This made maneuvering around the flower displays in the middle of several main streets a challenge. The lunch, at a busy restaurant serving tourists and locals, was quite good and was included in the tour price. Oh, yes, the lunch had been cooked for several hours in the underground volcanic cooking pits for which this area is famous. This was a very good day that thrilled us all. The cost per couple was 120 Euros. We were far ahead of any remotely available or comparable ship's tour. Cadiz to Sevilla This involved a complicated set of arrangements, and I will not bore you with the details. Our guide was Concepcion, whose has a photo and write up in Rick Steve's current (2015) edition of Spain. One of our roll call group arranged it, and we proceeded in an 8-person van to Sevilla and the Alcazar Palace. Concepcion met us and introduced us to the young, personable and very knowledgeable guide who conducted the city tour. The Alcazar is a very striking building in the Moorish style of architecture, which has dominated that part of Spain since 714 A.D. After a nice if somewhat gastronomically varied lunch, we completed our walking tour of this very attractive city, before returning to the ship at 4:00. The full day, including van ride and admissions (but not lunch) ran just about 200 Euros per couple, again a major bargain for an excellent full day tour. Malaga to Granada and the Alhambra This also took a plethora of e-mails to arrange. Initially we had been referred to Maike at Tour By Locals as a highly recommended guide. She was unavailable that day so she connected us with Roland Klawitter from a company called Private Guides; and he took it from there. His complete cost, (not including lunch or the Alhambra tickets) was 750 Euros for 6 people, including the 1.5 hour van ride from Malaga to Granada and return. I followed his advice and purchased the Alhambra tickets on line for the group, and received a paid voucher and a reminder to bring the same credit card used for the purchase to pick up the tickets. Roland met us at the pier and on the way up explained that he was born in Columbia to a German father and Columbian mother, and added English to his native two languages while in South Africa. He is a well-travelled and well-educated gentleman indeed. The crowd at the Alhambra was large, even though the entries are limited every day, so getting the tickets in advance is essential. We were led by Roland past the waiting people to the advance sales window around a corner where we handed my credit card over and promptly received our tickets. Roland knows how to do things right. Since our entry to the Alhambra proper was set for 11:30, Roland took us through the Generalife Gardens immediately above the buildings. They are extensive, amazingly ornate and beautiful. I had read about them, but had no idea what they would be like. We then entered the Alhambra proper, which is not so much a building or palace, but a collection of royal rooms and courtyards cobbled together over the years (or more accurately, centuries); mostly reflecting the Moorish dominion over this part of Spain that lasted from A.D 714 to 1492. There have been Spanish royal changes, including Charles V's palace built immediately adjacent to the Alhambra proper in the early 16th century. In any event, the rooms and connecting courtyards exhibit a marvelous sense of design and a feeling of peace and serenity that is amazing. Because the Moors were Muslim, no pictorial representations (except one) were allowed, so the emphasis is on linear, graphic design and the use of materials for a sculptured effect. The Alhambra is an absolutely unique place, and must be seen to be fully appreciated. After the tour we drove through Granada proper for about 20 minutes, ending up on top of another hill (the Alhambra occupies a hill top of course), where we were directly across a small valley looking at a panoramic view of what we had just visited. It was very impressive. We had a quick lunch and then followed Roland as he wandered through narrow residential streets back to where we met our van to return to the ship. This gave us the chance to see local Spanish life with no tourists. This was a really wonderful day, and far beyond what we would have been able to do and see on any ship's tour. Cartagena This is a relatively small, quiet and very pleasant port city; which can easily be seen on foot, even given our limited time here, from 7:30 A.M. until 3:30 P.M. We had no tours planned, and we had been here before, and knew it to have some marvelous examples of Modernist architecture, and a cheerful bustling street life that was largely local. It was a sunny, warm day, and we simply strolled about, even finding a gelateria on a street that had no tourists. We also ran into one of our geo-cache fellow passengers, busily tracking down their next hidden location a few blocks away. This couple has visited 75 countries hunting down their sites, so I imagine this hobby has something to it, although it involves too much concentration on locating places, and not enough time enjoying them for our tastes. Cartagena was a laid back and pleasant encounter with Spanish life. Valencia This again was an extensive expedition. It was managed entirely by Valeria who was our driver and guide the whole day. Valencia is unusual for this part of Spain because of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències), which contains an opera house/performing arts center, a science museum, IMAX cinema/planetarium, an oceanographic park and other structures such as a long covered walkway and restaurants. This area also is marked by a striking, angled, one pier suspension bridge that will enthrall any engineer or admirer of engineering. Then there is the old city with a lovely cathedral among many fine buildings. We visited the wonderful central market, which Valeria, as a true Valencian, stated with assurance was better than the Las Ramblas market in Barcelona. She might be right! Then we embarked on the special part of this excursion. We drove north out of town about ten miles. As is common in Europe, you reach the countryside quite quickly, and we soon had the Mediterranean on our right (east) side and small farms on the west. We left the main highway, and after many twists and turns on farm roads arrived at Restaurant Barraca, proprietor, Toni Montoliu. This is both a farm and a restaurant, specializing in Valencia's famous paella, with homegrown food cooked on an open wood fire in huge paella pans. We were provided with a horse drawn farm wagon tour (which I passed on due to a horse allergy) and allowed to assist in the paella preparation. There were numerous appetizers, including eel, which I thought was fine. Our party of 8 ate outside, under the shade of some trees, which was delightful. The dining rooms inside were also going full blast with one party of what seemed to be 24 to 30 family members at one table. Our paella was meat (although it can be fish) based on chicken and rabbit braised in olive oil in the huge pans, and then mixed with rice and vegetables and a variety of local spices. It was very tasty and filling, although, to be honest, I think the best paella I ever ate was at a local resort restaurant in Scottsdale many years ago. Unfortunately that very classy Mediterranean dining room was converted into a hyper-typical steak and chop house catering to American tastes. A severe culinary loss lamented by our local food aficionados. Oh, well, our Valencia paella was still very good indeed, and any mainstream restaurant anywhere could not match the setting, side dishes and atmosphere. Again, the cost of the entire day, food, transportation, and tour was 100 Euros per person. This could not be approached, much less equaled, by any ship's tour. This final grand touring experience of our cruise easily lived up to its predecessors. The Crew Most people are aware that HAL recruits its room service staff and food service staff, as well as its general maintenance staff from Indonesia. Virtually without exception they are friendly, cheerful and efficient. We would like to make special mention of Madi our chief room steward. He is from Bali, and was not only friendly and helpful but also efficient, especially when he had to straighten out a mixed up laundry problem. All the other interaction we had with crewmembers was pleasant also. The cruise director was efficient and did not try to be a comedian. The captain actually left the ship in Cartagena for some reason. HAL keeps its ships in spotless condition. Fellow Passengers HAL treats its passengers as adults, and the passengers reciprocate most of the time. The age range was from senior to senior, and was largely American and Canadian, with a few from Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. There were a few children, and they all seemed well behaved, although keeping them entertained for six straight sea days must have been a challenge. We saw very few tuxes on formal nights, and, unfortunately, a few short sleeve shirts in the main dining room. There were some complaints about wave motion during the open ocean stretch, but I did not believe there was any real rocking. Most passengers were relatively experienced, and knew what to expect on a cruise, although there were some transatlantic neophytes. Debarkation We had a 10:45 flight and were given a fairly early debarkation number. It was a large pier area, but the luggage was well laid out. The taxi fare to the airport is a fixed 39 Euros, per cab, not per person; and it is only about 20 minutes, so we had no problem getting there. Of course, it was a Sunday morning, so traffic was light in town. It took a while to find our US Airways ticket counter since there did not seem to be an information booth and people working there did not have much information but we made it with time to spare. Conclusion and comfort, and in a very nice cabin. This was a cruise well worthwhile. Bon Voyage

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Mar 2, 2013

Eastern Caribbean

First and certainly not last cruise. We were well looked after from the minute we arrived to leaving. The Stateroom staff were always friendly and obliging. Waiters very attentive. Everything very clean, very preventative to the spread of any germs on board. The food was always tasty and well presented, especially in the Pinnacle dining room. Service to the cabin needed a little more attention given to it. Both times items we

had ordered were missed. Stateroom always kept very clean and tidy. The staff were very good and attentative to needs. So much to do on the itinerary, it was hard to know what to choose at times Did think daytime fun activities around the pool were a little lacking, especially the last afternoon. Should of been fun and games with little give away items. Don't miss the new Memphis Sound in the BB King Bar. They were amazing entertainers. Don't go to the staff entertainment night in the theatre. Sure they tried their best, but the silliness after 15 minutes became a little too much. An overall wonderful experience. Great staff and wonderful to meet other people from other parts of North America and further. Really liked San Juan, wish we had more time there. The Emerald beach at St. Thomas was lovely and close to the ship so not spending much money or time in taxi's. Found the taxi people in St. Thomas very aggressive so be aware of that. The cake we received in the Pinnacle on the night of our anniversary was a very nice touch to end the night. Much appreciated, thank you.

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By Greg_CR

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Mar 27, 2012

eastern caribean

7 days of relaxation with time to see some tropical beauty. Cruise exceeded my expectations on almost all levels. Rooms were clean, well-maintained and fairly sound-proofed. Tons of little extras too numerous to mention. Did not nickel and dime you to death. Good value. Food was better than expected, especially dinner. We had 1st seating in the dining room and the food and service were 4.5/5. Great taste, variety and the service overall

was excellent. Breakfast and lunch were pretty standard but the service and lesiurely pace made it memorable. They usually had a themed lunch with better than average variety. Stateroom with a balcony, 2nd-highest deck, forward, on the starboard side. We experienced little to no outside noise and beautiful vistas. Activities on board could have been a little more stimulating/adventurous/fun. Do not do the San Juan walking tour; $54 pp to walk around San Juan for 3 hours. Hot, boring and painful. First cruise; experienced european traveller. Service was by an all philipino and malaysian staff. Overall superb in every regard: room and dining and everything in between: professional and "johnny on the spot". Tips were automatically deducted so their concern was genuine. Ports were OK, Half Moon Cay was great. San Juan reminded me of NYC in the 80's, 'nuff said there. Excursions were over-priced but they are on all cruise lines. Shows for the first three nights were good then afterward redundant. Demographics: 50% over 60, 25% between 40-60, 25% under 40. 1%< children, 1%< African-American. If you want to go, go , go I don't think this cruise is for you. Will be back next year.

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Feb 24, 2012

Eastern Caribbean

We enjoyed the cruise on Holland. However we were more impressed with Celebrity. Maybe part of that is due to the fact that Celebrity was our first cruise ever. It had been 4 years since we cruised and I think it will be another 4--we got a little tired of all of the people. We thought the ports of Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay wonderful. San Juan is pretty interesting for history and St. Thomas would have been great had there not been a total of 7

cruise ships in bay that day. Way too many people for such a tiny island. That along with having smoking neighbors which ruined our balcony experience were the biggest downers to the cruise. The highlights were snorkeling in Grand Turk, the fabulous relaxing day at beautiful Half Moon Cay and the ship's great entertainment. The ship itself is beautiful--very clean. Hand sanitizer is everywhere so you could always take advantage of that and not worry about getting germs. The ship's layout is great too. We did like the option of as you wish dining which we did a couple nights but we did have early seating and preferred eating with the same nice couple we met the first night. Nice to have options though. I would cruise Holland again but I would not pay for a balcony unless they change the smoking policy on the ship/have the smokers all grouped together in one area of the ship so I don't have to smell it the whole cruise. The food on Eurodom's main dining room was good most nights and great a couple nights. The service was excellent. The buffet food was not that great--very bland. Just a soup/sandwich bar would have been great for lunches. Room service food was always very good and we enjoyed dining alone occasionally. Room service was quick every time we ordered. We only had one issue--our order was lost the day of debarkation and when we figured that out we just went down to the dining room for quick breakfast. No big deal. The cabin itself was nice but I would warn upcoming travelers don't bother paying for a balcony. This cruise was the first time we splurged on the balcony and we were VERY disappointed. The white trash in the room next to us were chain smokers--before we left Ft. Lauderdale they were out on the balcony smoking and were nearly always sitting on their balcony enjoying the view while puffing away and ruining our balcony time. We only got to really use the balcony one night while they were at the magic show we chose to skip. We complained but were told there was nothing that could be done as all cabins were full. (They did send up a plate of chocolate covered strawberries). What Holland needs to do is change their booking process so that all of the puffers can have cabins at the end of the ship and smoke their lungs out while seeing the world. And the rest of us can breathe easy. I wish now we would have complained more and get a refund for the balcony upgrade. We didn't do a lot of onboard activities. Nothing really looked that interesting to us so we just enjoyed pool time on the at sea days. I will say that the singers and dancers on HAL were fabulous--much better entertainment than Royal Caribbean. Although a comedian one night would have been a nice addition--skip the magician. Not everybody likes magic--it's creepy. The marriage game is always great fun---don't miss that. The workout center was really nice. They offer a 7 a.m. stretching class that was perfect for me. The spa is beautiful but pricey. Don't miss Ultimate Snorkeling Tour in Grand Turk! Best snorkeling we've ever done and we've been to Hawaii numerous times. This tops all. The guys on the boat were great and the snorkeling is just unbelievable. In St. Thomas we did the Best of St. Thomas which took a tour bus to Magen's Bay (thank goodness got there early as by the time we left there was not even space to put a towel on the beach) and then the tour drove you around the island for photo opportunities and dropped you off at Blackbeard's Castle and the historic walking area. There were way too many cruise ships in port that day and that kind of ruined the island for us. It was so crowded we couldn't squeeze in to get photos and the shops were jammed--it was very unpleasant. Also the tour driver there was horribly rude and very dangerous. Plus the ferry that was supposed to take us back to the ship after we were done shopping was broken down so we had to figure out to take a taxi back to the ship. It was frustrating to say the least. We did have the credit ($4 per person for taxi ride to pier) on our ship account when we checked so that was a surprise considering the confusion. I think the people of St. Thomas are a little sick of the tourists although they need our money. They were not very friendly. This was a nice cruise. It is very easy to fly in and out of Ft. Lauderdale. Stress free embark/debark. Beautiful clean ship. Very good customer service on board. Disappointed in the smoking situation on board. Great ports of call. Food was quite good--I wouldn't say great although the two formal nights the food was excellent. Desserts were nothing special. I think they may be trying to go a little too fancy for the average cruiser's taste.

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Feb 7, 2012

Eastern Caribbean

We had the best time on the ms Eurodam last week. The workers were helpful and very friendly. The ship itself is luxurious and beautiful. The whole experience was amazing and I would do it again tomorrow if I could! The crew was always there to help me on and off the ship with my wheelchair and they did it in a very respectful way. The food on the ms Eurodam was excellent. We ate in the dinning room each night. The meals were delicious.

The selection incredible. The presentation was professional and beautiful. We ate on the Lido deck for breakfasts and some lunches. Again the food was delicious and the selection amazing there too. The Lido deck was a little hard to get around with the wheelchair during busy times. Just hard to weave in and around others carrying their dishes and not watching where they were going. But it was fine during the slower times of the day and the staff was always there to help me carry my plates and find a table. We had one of the handicapped staterooms as I use a wheelchair. The room had enough space for the chair to move around easily yet there was other furniture for my ambulatory husband. He did not feel out of place. The bathroom was set up for a roll in shower with a hand held shower and bath seat that folded down from the wall. Everything was within easy reach for me. We had a balcony off our room which really made it feel extra special. The door was a little heavy to open out on this balcony but it is just a necessity for the ship that it is that way. The balcony was a good size and I was able to move around on it easily as well. The bed was very comfortable. We did not do alot of the onboard activities. We were onboard with a big group of friends so we got together and played games and visited with them during down time. We did do the couples massage which was enjoyable but very expensive. And we went to all the nightly shows on the Main Stage. They were incredibly good. Very talented singers and dancers. All the shows were good. My husband did the deep sea fishing excursion on Grand Turk and loved it. Later we did the 3/4 submarine. The excursion helper on the ship said if I could do five stairs, I could do the submarine. It was a little more than that so transferring from ship to the sub was hard for me but the entire crew of the Oasis submarine helped to get me on board! They were very nice. Then the five stairs turned out to be a nine step ladder which was also hard for me with my disability but again, between the crew and my husband I made it into the sub. The reef below wasn't as colorful as I thought it would be but the fish was amazing. It was worth the extra effort to make it happen. Then we did the rain forest at San Juan Puerto Rico. (We drove ourselves but afterwards thought it would have been just as good to do a ship excursion.) On St. Thomas we went into the city and shopped and did the Coral Reef World in the afternoon as an excursion. It was very good. On our last day we did the beach at Half Moon Cay. It was absolutely amazing!!!! Sand like powdered sugar. Get the clamshell or other tent gizmo they offer for the shade. It was perfect. Our trip was fun from beginning to end. I have never been treated so well or been in such a beautiful surrounding as on the ship. The crew and staff were kind and seemed sincerely glad to help. (I am sure by time they work for months without a day off that would become very hard to do.)

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Oct 29, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

Eurodam is a three year old. very well maintained ship. It is well maintained, and offers an extremely courteous and well trained staff. This 7-day itinerary is directed to people who want to escape the snow and cold of the winter for the sun and surf of the Caribbean. As a result, the ports aren't for adventure rather they are for a dip in the 80 degree ocean. Overall, I would recommend this ship and itinerary. While busy during

breakfast and lunch, the Lido Buffet does a reasonable job of handling the hoards of guests, particularly during the first two-days, when self-serving isn't permitted. The bus staff is a bit overworked, but still is able to promptly clear tables. Occasionally, they even had time to serve beverages. Food quality and variety are comparable with a "better quality buffet" on land. Menu items showed good variation during the week. The first night we dined at the Tamarind, "Asian Fusion" restaurant. Service was impeccable, but I cannot recommend the food. We both found the seasoning of the entrees rather bland (baked pompano in rice paper, and seafood hot-pot). In contrast, the chocolate mousse was incredible! Overall, while I am an avid fan of Asian cuisine, and despite the hard work of the talented Tamarind wait staff, this restaurant's food was disappointing. We cancelled our reservation for a second night. Pinnacle Grill is the upscale dining venue on all Holland America ships. However, its implementation on Eurodam has a significant problem. About 20% of the seating looks out on to the main atrium staircase and bar. Initially we were seated in this area for a 7:00 PM reservation made two months before departure. The noise level from the adjacent atrium bar was unbearable! Unless your idea of an intimate dinner is to have the backdrop of a karaoke bar, you should refuse to be seated in this outer area of Pinnacle. Overall, the Pinnacle menu on Eurodam was standard Holland America, which was implemented on a competent basis by an attentive wait staff. The ambiance isn't exceptional, unless you enjoy florescent backlit pseudo Baroque period art, but it is worth the $25 up-charge for at least one dinner. Le Cirque, is a special night at Pinnacle Grill, wherein a few entrees from Le Cirque are offered for a $35 up-charge. Having dined several times at the real Le Cirques in New York and Las Vegas, this is a reasonable attempt to capture the feel and taste of those venues. Overall, Eurodam did a good job with this franchise. I recommend the Lobster appetizer, and the Alaskan Cod. The "Chicken Under Brick" while tasty was a bit tough and slightly dry. The desserts are excellent, and a small modification to the Chocolate Soufflé recipe for cruise ship vibrations still produced a light and puffy delight. (Overall, our favorite was the "Squash with Huckleberry Soup", because of its unique contrasting flavors and textures). We ate four diners in the Master Dining Room, under open seating. The selections were innovative, one night three of seven entrees were vegetarian. We are Omnivores, and one of us ended with the vegetarian the other red meat. We both agreed that the food was quite tasty, well presented and special requests at group tables of six to 10 were promptly filled. In general, we heard satisfaction from our assorted dining companions, although a few preferred the food on Celebrity's Solstice class ships. My friend and I were traveling singly, in adjoining staterooms (no discount on single occupancy). We were in Deluxe Verandahs #712X. These are the smallest balconies, near the stern. We were delighted to find that despite the ship's late arrival, our staterooms were fully prepared. Before our baggage arrived (90-minutes after sailing), I gave the stateroom a complete inspection, and am pleased to report that everything was in good order, even after 40-months of use. The linens, pillows, duvet, sofa, side chairs, and drapes were in good condition. A check under the bed did not reveal any dust bunnies, or similar. I did find some stains in the carpeting at the bathroom door, but these were not significant. The bathroom was clean and everything was in good order. There was some evidence of repair caulking having been applied between the shower wall and the tub. The lighting and air conditioning all worked properly. The Verandah furniture, decking, railing and ceiling were all in excellent condition with virtually no rust spots. One major problem with our staterooms; there aren't any clocks! Not only does the room lack a clock, but there is no time function on the phone. Additionally, the clocks throughout the ship, principally in stair wells, aren't synchronized. Differences of up to 10 minutes were found between clocks. The Culinary Arts theatre offers numerous cooking demonstrations, many with samples. I opted for the 3-hour, $150 behind the scenes tour. From engine room to bridge we saw it all, with potions of the tour conducted by the Captain and the Hotel Manager. If you have a fascination with the detailed inner workings ships, then this tour is a must. Others may find it boring and somewhat over-priced. Great 7-day get away!

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Sep 22, 2011

Transatlantic

This cruise had an exciting itinerary and many great stops. Pretty good, but not gourmet One of the best ever Weak Book your own online as we did, or use other people who have done this. EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTIC I 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 Planning Early 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 WAY British 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. EURODAM This 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 STATEROOM Our 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 CALL Amsterdam We 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. Bruges Zeebrugge 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 1/2 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. Dublin Here 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 "Killrudder", 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 Islands Where? 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. Iceland In 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. Greenland It 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 Newfoundland St 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. Halifax Here 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. Food This 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 selection and 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 Entertainment HAL 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 Ship HAL 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. Debarkation This 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 Evaluation This 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!

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Mar 16, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise with Holland America Lines. It was by no means what we expected. We had been told by others that they only travel on HAL and suggested we give it a try. I can't tell you how disappointed we where in the overall service. The food was just soso not impressed at all 1. We did not see or meet our room steward until the end of the second day? 2. Problems with food - lido deck -one day no sauerkraut for "rubin"

sandwich, next day no rye bread? Not a ruben. 3. something was stuck to the inside of my cup after drinking my coffee (lido deck) not happy! 4. Coffee on the last day - cup was durty! 5. Was given a difficult time after I returned two items to the gift shop (they where not what I expected) The discount did not show on my bill - so was told I had to return to the gift shop with my voided recept, as they had no record of the transaction. Once I was there the "store manager" treated me as though It was my fault that they did not have there copy of the receipt. I was not happy at all. I could go on but I already wrote a letter and mailed it days ago. I will not recomend HAL to others.

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Mar 6, 2011

Eastern Carib

The ship is excellent. Well laid out and not as confusing as some of the NCL or RCL ships. Cabins (we had 5188 on stern) are well appointed and sized well for a couple. Dining is on par with other cruise lines - nothing exceptional from a good or bad view point. Cabin crew by far the best that we have encountered. Friendly, prompt and accurate. Food cabin service below par. Breakfast order frequently wrong and delivered at wron time.

Shore excursions typical cruise fare. Could do 90% of them for less than the cruise line with a little advance research. As with all lines there is constant pressure to spend, spend, spend in the on board and shore shopping venues. Lesson number one. THERE ARE NO BARGAINS ON CRUISES - ESPECIALLY IN St. THOMAS! Keep your wallet in your pocket and enjoy the sites of beaches. The cruise lines receive kick-backs from on shore shops. On par with all cruise lines. The Lido is the typical "cattle call, pigs at the trough" buffet. The main dining and Pinnacle Grill serve good meals, well presented. For a couple who want to relax our cabin was excellent. Number 5188 on the stern. Balcony had two chairs a foot stool and a small table. Not much. We avoided them. Don't miss old San Juan. Incredibly well preserved and maintained. Do the Flamenco show at night. Don't miss Megans Bay on St. Thomas. Takea cab and spend the day there. Do not do the Ultimate Island Experience - complete waste of a day if you do. Don't bother with the shopping in Cayman, San Juan or St. Thomas. No bargains and thousands of people pushing and bumping you constantly. There is no Blackbeards Castle in St. Thomas. It is an excuse to get you to a cheap distillery and shops. Do the Ft. Lauderday Land & Sea to close out your vacation. Excellent trip if you have the time. Loved the ship and cabin. Shore excursions 50/50. Did not enjoy the Lido buffet.

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Jan 13, 2011

Eastern Carribbean

I have mixed feelings about our experience. In comparison, we have been on three RCL ships and would rate them as exceptional in almost everything including the food! Did one Carnival Conquest cruise and it was the only cruise that we wanted off of after three days, we were just dissapointed by just about everything. This time my co-worker kept pushing me to do a HAL cruise and really talked it up. My co-worker came off of the same cruise the

week before we left and she stated that a lot of the former quality was lacking this time. She had been on many HAL's. Silly me...I should have stuck to the tried and true RCL. We usually have a tight budget and get a basic room but since this would most likely be our last since we are retiring, we wanted to go on "the best" and thought going into debt for it would be worth it. If we could do it over again, we would go on a RCL ship. If you are a senior and don't care about food quality in the dining room, I would recommend this ship highly but HAL is not what it's cracked up to be. Food was beautifully presented and was gourmet; however, gourmet quality stopped at it's looks. I am a serious foodie with the exception of seafood...both of us dislike it heartily. I really love food such as they have on RCL..I call it semi-gourmet because it is gourmet but is prepared with everyday ingredients and it's topnotch in taste and quality. On HAL, I expected that it may be a little gourmet for our taste but knew that they would have more common things such as steak and I am adventurous and try unusual combinations of food that I've never tried. HAL's menu had a lot of seafood (to be expected). We tried different dishes and sometimes chose steaks. The kitchen staff seemed to have a problem getting the steaks cooked to order although our table mate kept sending back steaks when they looked like they were perfect. We have had better steak in mediocre restaurants in the states. Very dissapointing but we ate them anyway. One thing I ordered was a lamb shank. It had a good taste but it had only about two small bites of meat. The rest was fat! Our four table mates were frequent cruisers and they were dissapointed in much of the food. Wait staff was very nice but service varied from bad to excellent. We had a window table in a corner and got a little neglected at times. Dining room was gorgeous but the food was mostly dissapointing. I expected much better at the price we paid for the trip. The Pinnacle grill was really good and service impeccable but as for our steaks,we would rate them an 8 out of 10. Guess I expected a 9 or 10 there. I would say that Lido Deck food was generally very good for cafeteria style food. We didn't eat there for dinner but dinner food looked very appetizing. The chocolate buffet on deck was really good but it was chaos. Some people were standing in a long line for the food and others were walking in and going straight for the food. We were confused as to which we should do. Needed to be more organized. Loved the service and luxury bedding...Didn't get that on other lines. I haven't slept that well in a long time. Very clean and the staff was excellent. The ship was very laid back as the guests were mostly elderly. I am 63 and my husband 66 but we're very active and conservative but the ship was a little too laid back for us. I would not recommend the ship for people looking for a lot of activity but it's comfortalble and quiet for those who want that. We went to one show which was singing and dancing. It started out well because there was an opera type singer who sang, don't know the name. but it was one of the opera songs that everyone seems to love. He was great and we wished we could hear more of him; then the rest of the show was performed by just one couple with mediocre voices. It became very boring like a CD with one good song on it but you want to trash it for the rest of the songs. With all the talent on the ship, seems HAL could have more variety than that. One of our tablemates had the same opinion. By the way, we had great table mates...both couples were around our age and we enjoyed being with them. This is not an excursion but be sure you know exactly how much your taxi is going to cost before hiring one in Grand Turk...Any itenerary changes on that ride may cost you a lot!. By all means, see what little there is to see on GT because it's interesting but don't spend a lot on transportation because just not a lot there. Personally, I enjoyed seeing the island but what we paid for the taxi was outrageous. GT is very small and very barren...not worth a lot of money to see. Get advice from the Cruise Director about transportation. We asked our taxi driver to be taken "into town" and "town" amounted to a handful of little one-room building on one street. Somehow we ended up sharing the taxi for "less cost" and was taken on a tour of the island. Guess we were gullible tourists. Lessons learned. San Juan was great and the ship docked at the downtown docks. We walked to see it and walked ourselves to death but it was a wonderful experience. Be sure to see the forts. We didn't see much of St. Thomas. Too many tourist shops and we chose not to pay a taxi to take us elsewhere. Again, listed to your cruise director, we didn't and was sorry for it. The water and beach on the private island was beautiful.

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By Al_CR

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Dec 8, 2010

western caribbean

It was a fantastic week , incredble crew, fabulous food and great weather all combined to create a unforgettable cruise. The main dining room with the starched table clothes and beautiful dishes covered by the most deliciious food was a real treat. The varied buffet at the Lido didn't miss many cultures in their offerings. Really enjoyed Michael at the Piano bar, intimate experience and you had to get there early for a seat. Would travel on HAL again

in a minute, somebody lend me some cash please ..... Could not be beat - so delicious and well prepared and served by the smiling stewards who seemed genuinely happy to see you. The motto of our cruise was I paid for it and I'm going to eat it.. haha . Varied appetiizers and unusual soups/salads along 5-6 entree choices made for some hard decisions. 7 floor verandah was most enjoyable, glad we listened to a friend who said to get a verandah if possible. They had just about everything except a skating rink and rock climbiing wall. My wife enjoyed the daily tai chi classes to get her day started. Full fitness gym let you work out on walkers while watching over the bow of the ship from the 10th floor..

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Nov 6, 2010

Eastern Caribbean

Over all I was very pleased with my stay. An misconception I had of Holland America is now out the window. I was always hesitant to go on Holland because of all the older folks, but that was not true at all. I just turned 30 this year and there was plenty of people my age and younger on the sailing. I'm sure the Caribbean sailings draw a younger crowd though and the attractive rates can't hurt! Food was amazing. Presentation, service and selection

was enough to satisfy everyone on board. A true level of perfection, esp. in the main dining room. We dined at a couple of the specialty restaurants. The Pinnacle Grill was great. I went with the Steak with Lobster, French onion soup, ceaser salad and creme brulee. Reserve in advance. Tamarind was another dining option on board. It's more so an Asian fusion type dining. I went with the Sechuan Shrimp with Thai Basil. You can tell them how hot or mild you would like it. The appetizer sampler I had rocked too: Spiced lamb, beef and chicken with dipping sauces was to die for! Book early though. We tried to book again the third day and it was booked up for the cruise, as was the Tamarind. My only bad experience was the Lido deck dining was always super cramped. Never any elbow room and the lines were always 20 people deep, it seemed no matter what time you went it was still super crowded. We were in room 5056, a Veranda stateroom. There was one queen bed in there that made two double beds, a sitting area, a decent sized balcony along with a tub in the bathroom which was really enjoyable. This was my first cruise that had a full sized tub and not just a shower area. The in room ship flicks was a great feature. They have over 1000 movies for you to choose from and they will bring it to your room. I just returned from a seven night sailing on the Eurodam and it's definitely not your parents cruise line. Embarkation was a little chaotic but because I was booked last minute, I could print out any of my shipboard documents so it was very delayed for me. They boarded us on the ship by numbers. We checked in at 1130 am and practically walked onto the ship. The staff knew there was a tropical disturbance out in the Atlantic at the time and kept us up to date by the minute. Also, a presentation was constantly running on channel 26 called "Storm Watch." Entertainment: Jason the Cruise Director, Matt the DJ and Joel one of the entertainers really made the sailing. Jason knew just when to make his announcements and it never was at a time that made it inconvenient or wanted to say shut up! Disembarkation: It seemed very long but that's because we had the Green zone luggage tag. Our zone wasn't scheduled to be called until 9:40 am, in reality it was called at 10:00 am, next time I will just roll my luggage off. There was about a thirty minute wait in the customs line. Room service on the last morning is the way to go!

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Apr 30, 2010

Transatlantic

What a wonderful ship! Very elegantly decorated with spacious balcony cabin (including a full bath with tub). Beautiful public rooms and stellar service! The food was terrific, with good service. I especially liked that they didn't offer huge piles of food on the dinner plate. Elegantly presented, tasty, and just the right amount! While I didn't much care for the paintings (I'm just not that into staid, boring art), the room itself was very

well planned out. Plenty of closet space and room for two people. Always lots to see and do, or not. Several passengers really enjoyed the Culinary Institute. The pool was wonderful and, on cool, at-sea days, featured a retracting top that still offered sunshine, while keeping cool ocean breezes at bay. The casino was adequate, although the slots were a little tight. Still fun to play, though. Trivia was fun, and Jason, our cruise director, was pure eye candy and charming, too. Very gifted - he had a way of connecting with all of the passengers, making it look effortless to make new friends. Hop on/ hop off buses were a wonderful alternative for those who don't want to book pricey shore excursions. These buses are usually readily available from the port, and offer a good overview of the city. My mom and I left the hubbies at home, and embarked on a wonderful transatlantic cruise. We were at sea eight days, and were never bored - there was so much to do, or not to do if we so chose. The trivia was fun, although crowded - lots of people were present every day at 1:00 p.m. We enjoyed Explorations Cafe, especially the NYT crossword puzzles at each table, as well as daily trivia and suduko. Our cabin stewards, Joko and Eko, were marvelous and indulged my love of discovering towel animals. On a 16-day cruise, some of the animals were hard to identify, but very very cute nonetheless. Very nice fellows, they worked all of the time with 24 cabins and their occupants to keep happy. Mom and I enjoyed our entire trip and could have stayed on the ship at least twice as long without running out of things to do. We enjoyed the shows, first-run movies, the casino, trivia games, the pool and hot tubs and, of course, the food. Make sure to see Eric in the piano bar - he made it a point to meet his audience and remember their names - no easy feat for a passenger list of over 2,000. All in all, it WAS a trip of a lifetime! I heartily recommend the Eurodam and all its amenities.

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Apr 26, 2010

Fort Lauderdale to Civitavecchia

The Euodam is a fine ship and overall, the 16 day cruise experience was excellent and well up to Holland America's usual standard of excellence. The only slight complaint we have is that HAL did not do nearly as good a job of matching us with table-mates this time as in the past. someone dropped the ball there. My wife and I are going on 50 years of marriage, yet we were seated with three young people and three who were divorced. they were

nice people, but we had few common interests. The quality of the food in the main dining room was very good. Indeed, it seems to be improved from other HAL cruises of recent years. The food on the Lido was very acceptable although considerably below that of the dining room in quality. The exception was the pizza -- it was excellent. The Pinnacle Grill is a premium steakhouse restaurant serving the finest food in a wonderful atmosphere. i had a steak there that was certainly in the top three or four steaks I have ever had anywhere. The Tamarind is another premium restaurant aboard specializing in Asian cuisine. the quality and presentation was excellent. The Tamarind charges a premium of $15 per person and the Pinnacle charges $20. We had a verandah room on deck 8. It was quite nice, although perhaps slightly smaller than similar staterooms we have had on other, smaller HAL ships and ships of other cruise lines. It was nevertheless clean and quite adequate. HAL's beds are the best at sea -- Very high quality mattresses. The eight days it took to cross the Atlantic were made interesting by an excellent series of lectures, ranging from the history and culture of the countries we would visit, to the a fascinating presentation by the chief engineer on the B-2 bomber. In addition, there were numerous interesting entertaining and educational programs presented in the culinary arts center. The entertainment was very good indeed -- certainly above average fro cruise ship entertainment. there were many additional on-board activities, but we spent much of our time just relaxing and reading -- our favorite things to do on at sea days. Don't miss: Portimao --Mountain and coast, visit 2 small mountain villages and walk narrow picturesque streets.then one coastal fishing village. Cadiz -- A taste of Cadiz Go to Jerez and visit a sherry winery, See how it is made and have a generous tasting. Almeria -- Visit the Alcazaba palace of the Moorish kings. this requires a lot of walking and climbing, but if you are up to it it is well worth the effort! Ibiza -- Can Rich winery an exceptional tour of a very small winery -- for those who really like good wine. You get a suprising amount. Monte Carlo -- A taste of the Riviera. Tour the French riviera and stroll through highly photogenic old Nice and Eze. Rome -- We had a three day post cruise stay and did our own touring of the Vatican museums, St. Peter's, the Forum and the Collesium. I think I already did. All in all, it was wonderful. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been on a Holland America ship that one of the best things about the experience is the great service offered by the Indonesian and Filipino crew!

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Mar 1, 2010

Carribean

We had a great time! The ship was spotless the crew very helpful and friendly. The food was good - tasty, plentiful and with great varity. They didn't "nickel and dime" you. The excursions were fund. We did the dune buggies on Grand Turk which I would recommend. It was also nice to do open dining so you could go eat when you felt like it. We were open to sitting with others and had great conversation over dinner that wouldn't have been possible other

wise. Half Moon Cay was gorgeous. The food was good with nice presentations and good taste without the silly strange combinations. If you didn't want to go to the dining room (Rembrandt) you could go to the Lido. Food there was buffet style. Huge salade bars and fruit. Excellent sandwiches. There were plenty of desserts. The eggs benedict were the best I've ever tasted. Coffee, water, ice tea and lemonade were free. Wine was what you would pay at an upscale restaurant. We didn't go to the bars The stateroom was spotless with a nice verandah. When the ship was at sea it could be a little too breezy to be out there. There is a small frig and a television with a DVD player. They ran a history, places to shop, things to do in each port of call on a constant loop on one channel. The room stewards were great and very helpful and courteous. The bed was big and pretty comfortable. The bath room was nice. They provide a hairdryer. We unloaded the hospitality frig and put in our own wine, soda and candy without a problem or comment. Activities were set up for an older crowd so if you want climbing walls this isn't a ship for you. The pools were nice and not very crowded. A lot of people had a great time playing trivia challenges in the Exploration Cafe which makes latte's etc. for an additional charge, but less than the chain coffee stores. The shows were fun and you don't want to miss the crew's performance of indoneasian dances and humor. They run abridged versions of all performances on the television the next day, same thing with the movies. We did the dune buggies on grand Turk, and horseback riding and jet skiing on Half Moon Cay. I wanted to do the zip lines on St. Thomas but we ran out of time. The first night on board make your spa appointments and that first night they give discounts. Everything is written down so there should be no confusion. Most of the towns were one big jewelry store. You had almost as good a selection in the ship shops and the ship board items were less expensive than the ones on shore. I would go again. It was great fun.

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Mar 1, 2010

Eastern Carribean

This was our third cruise with Holland and again we found the service to be very good. The food in the ding room was exceptional. We also liked all the choices in the Lido dining area. We also had coffee and breakfast in our room which was fine. Our verandah room was fine but wished we would have upgraded to a superior verandah which is bigger. I would tell travelers to make sure they don't get a room on deck eight that is under the Terrace Grill

or pool area, as you will hear lots of noise late at night and very early in the morning. The entertainment was very good, and the staff in the casino were great fun. We only took one shore excursion on St. Thomas, and it was fine. The best stop was at Half Moon Cay(Holland's own island), and it is paradise! New travelers(if fairly young), need to know that they will see most of Holland's cruises will be made up of mostly senior travelers. Exceptional. Verandah room was fine, but would have preferred a superior or deluxe verandah. Fine. No advice. Told above. I would give this trip a four star rating.

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By Gary_CR

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Feb 14, 2010

East Carrib

My wife and I are frequent cruisers (14 in total - Norwegian is our favorite) but were enticed by a new ship, good ports, and a very attractive price. The cruise itself was an excellent value, although failure to address basics mystified us. First, the great stuff: Room was excellent (we had 7 deck balcony); food was superb although the Italian restaurant was disappointing), ports were great, private island is one of the best, tour choice good

(a sailing race in St Thomas was the best tour event I've ever had off a ship), entertainment was excellent , and free computer classes turned out to be a nice surprise. What mystified us was a seemingly "care less" attitude amongst the crew and a very inhospitable dining reservations system for those who had selected open dining, Food was excellent overall, with excellent presentation. Lido buffet had good choices and was overall very good. Dining staff was only so so (no "good evening" and frequent inattention) . Some questions were answered by pointing!. The virtually all-male staff (why??? ) also suffered from a lack of English skills - while I don't expect fluency, I do expect to be able to understand them, especially in the extra charge dining room. . The open dining option is a fiasco. Our first night we were seated at a table for 8, then no one joined us. A requested room service breakfast never showed up. A reservation time in the Pinnacle grill was changed without ever notifying us (we found out only because we called to confirm). So - great food, excellent choices, but lousy staff. Stay away from the Italian Restaurant. Food was ok but ambiance was a 0. I'm not sure why they bothered. We did not try the Asian extra charge restaurant First ship I've been on where the steward never even bothered to introduce himself. Room itself was excellent (7th fl balcony) Stateroom itself was fine. Entertainment in terms of individual acts was first rate, Bar entertainments varied - good jazz trio, so so piano bar. Ship did excellent job with Super Bowl - using main theater with plenty of food. Free computer classes were a surprise and excellent. and my wife and I are experienced If you're active and like some adventure, the Ocean sailing in St Thomas was the best excursion I've been on from a ship. Snorkeling in Grand Turk was excellent. Trip did confirm that HAL's market is definitely seniors; very few younger couples and families. Of course we are now seniors ourselves so that didn't bother us. Tour choices covered all ranges. Would we go back? Yes - I normally choose based on price and itinerary, and this was an excellent value. Disappointing mostly in that what should be and easily addressed area - courtesy, smiles, manners - clearly needed some improvement. My wife thinks that greater use of women in the crew (as found on all other lines) would help a lot.

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Oct 25, 2009

Caribbean

The Experience was wonderful. We traveled to Grand Turk (which was hit pretty hard by the hurricane), San Juan (absolutely fantastic), and St. Thomas (pretty). We enjoyed the cruise but the majority of passengers were 50+ and the on-board ship activities were limited. Although the cruise was great and people were very nice, I would watch for the fine print. My mother in law and myself did a Ladies & Gent spa treatment (my gent was not interested).

The price was $99. But they didn't let us know that was per person until after the treatment. They had no plans of changing or admitting the mistake until I made a scene and promised to share my experience with all that I met on the ship. I was finally refunded on the the $99 charges. None of the Spa prices are online either. So FYI all treatments start $100 or over. Our treatment was good, but not worth the extra money. Half Moon Kay, the private island, was absolutely wonderful. Perfect Beach to relax and take in the whole experience. The food was great. We tried to get into all the restaurants, but it was disappointing that you had to pay extra. (Tamarid -$15 per person, Pinnacle Grill - $20 per person) Tamarid was fabulous, the food was not bland and allowed us the enjoy something out of the ordinary. Tamarid had free lunch by reservation and Pinnacle had lunch for $10 per person. I highly recommend Holland if you want great food. They also have drinks (all alcoholic and colas are extra). They have a drink of the day everyday that are 5.50 and most all other mixed beverages are 6.50. Domestic Beers are 4.25 and Imports are 4.75. Colas by the can are 1.95 each. But you can get a soda card of 20 by the glass (but a glass is 1/2 a can) for $18. You can bring on your own wine and drink from your room for free, but if you bring a bottle to dinner they charge a $12 corkage fee. Hope this is helpful. I was very upset I couldn't find this information before we left. We had a great stateroom. We had a large window room on deck 10 at the front of the ship. Our room was very large and much larger than our friends' room, which was a room with a balcony on the same deck. Large bed (two twins put together), a little uncomfortable after a few days. Flat screen TV, iPod Player, small sitting area and two ropes. We really enjoyed our room and had the best stateroom attendants. They filled our ice bucket twice a day, had extra glasses in our room for wine and other drinks, and a fully stocked fridge. On the website it talks about a wonderful culinary arts center featured with Food and Wine Magazine. I love cooking demos and classes and this was a joke. They did not follow the recipe, they were joking and laughing and not answering people's questions. The other activities involved Bingo, Art shows, Jewelry Info, etc. I loved the tour of the Bacardi distillery in San Juan, don't miss it! We also toured Grand Turk, don't waste your time, the hurricane destroyed everything. And St. Thomas was great but I was not impressed with our tour. We waited and booked after we got off the ship. The open air bus was a truck with seats in the back and his speakers were broken so we rode in silence and then when would stop he was give a brief description. But the beaches were beautiful and view from the top of the island is breathtaking. I would recommend Holland for an older crowd, probably not for a family with children due to one of the pools being only adults. Food is great. People were nice. But on-board activities were just so so.

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Jul 17, 2009

English Channel

The cruise was generally satisfactory but we came away feeling slightly disappointed with some aspects of the service and the general lack of atmosphere. The food in the main restaurant was OK, nothing outstanding. We enjoyed our visits to the Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind (very good food and service). Didn't find the daily programing very easy to assimilate as it was arranged by themes rather than chronologically. As each day was a port day,

we did not participate in anything. Evening entertainment featured a British comedian (quite good), two shows by the on-board singers and dancers (personally these sort of shows do not do much for me, and I didn't find this group particularly talented) and the piano duo Katzenjammer (brilliant). The cruise visited Zeebrugge, Cherbourg and St Peter Port. Due to the high price of the organised excursions and ease of travel 'on your own' in Europe we did not book anything. There were free shuttle buses out of the port in Zeebrugge and Cherbourg. We went on the train to Bruges (a place we have seen many times but still draws us back with its historic beauty). We walked around Cherbourg in an hour and thought 'what shall we do now'. So we went on the train to Caen which is a bigger city with more to do. At Guernsey the tenders dropped us on the quay at St Peter Port and we wondered around the charming town for a few hours. We visited Eurodam during the various launch events at Southampton last year, and although we tend to shy away from large ships, we were impressed enough then to think that a cruise on her would be nice. When HAL re-arranged their July itinerary to include a four-night cruise from Dover we thought that was too good an opportunity to miss. We booked a deluxe balcony on deck 5. We arrived at the Dover Cruise Terminal 2 at 10.30, handed our bags over to the porters and stayed in the cab back to the town for a wander around. We went back to the terminal at 12.00, were checked straight in and were on the ship by 12.10. We went to the Lido for a light lunch and then made our bookings for the alternative restaurants (The Pinnacle Grill for steaks, and Tamarind for Pan-Asian). We found that there would be one formal night on the second day. Staterooms were cleared at 13.30 and on the way to ours we found our luggage in the elevator lobby, so we wheeled it down the corridor to our room and unpacked. Plenty of storage space (in contrast to Cunard's almost identical ship Queen Victoria). No sign of a cabin steward or any name visible in the stateroom. We next visited the library, though it is really just a few shelves of books in the internet cafe on Deck 11. Found something to read and retired to our stateroom to read until the emergency drill at 16.30. That took place on deck under your respective lifeboat. The announcements were made by the officer of the watch. Perfectly OK, but this was the first sign that we would neither see nor hear from the Captain throughout the whole cruise (there was no cocktail party on the formal night). There was a bottle of cheap sparkling wine in our stateroom, but the fridge was locked and the ice bucket did not contain enough ice to cool it down, so it stood on the desktop throughout the cruise and we eventually left it behind. We went for a drink in the Pinnacle Bar before dinner - those chair's are not as uncomfortable as they look - and then enjoyed a very good steak dinner in the Grill (though at a price of course). The English comedian who did the show was pretty good - at least we did not have to try to understand American jokes. Not surprisingly there were a lot of British on board (including many families) as well as plenty of Americans (mostly doing a longer Cruise from Copenhagen to Copenhagen) and a large party of 'Russians' (perhaps that should have been a party of large people from one of the states of the former Soviet Union) who behaved like Mexicans (US cruisers will know what I mean). Next morning we took the complimentary shuttle bus from Zeebrugge port to the nearby town of Blankenberge. There is an hourly train service from there to Bruges (Brugge) and the ride is only about 20 minutes (cost 11 Euro return I think). It poured with rain while we were in the station waiting for the train, but this had stopped by the time we arrived in Bruges. We walked the 20-minute path into the city centre and found our favourite coffee shop. Then did a bit of shopping, dodging the frequent heavy showers. By about 13.30 we were ready to go back and managed to get back to the train station in the dry. Back on board by around 15.00 for more reading prior to sail away at 17.00. Dressed for dinner (tuxedo for me, long dress for my wife) and went up to the Crows Nest for a cocktail - bit alarmed to sense that very few were wearing evening dress. However by the time we got to the dining room there was more evidence of formal dress, including all our English table partners. I wouldn't say the dinner menu knocked me out, but it was OK and the food reasonably tasty. Glad to see the Yum Yum man is still at the door when you leave the dining room dispensing his mixture of treats. The Eurodam singers and dancers put on their show, which seemed to go down well, though I thought the vocalists were a bit disappointing. Next morning we arrived in Cherbourg just as the rain was finishing and tried breakfast in the Restaurant, which was better than the Lido in terms of ambience, although the service was a bit hit and miss. Took a long time to get through and we walked ashore and too the shuttle bus into the Town Centre about 10.00. Didn't take us long to walk around all the shopping streets and realise there was not enough to occupy us for the rest of the day, so we wandered down to the train station to see what the alternatives were. Found a 12.45 train to Caen (about an hour's ride, stops at Bayeux on the way for those who want to see the tapestry) which we knew to be a bigger city with more and better shops, so we bought a couple of tickets (saved 20 Euro each by telling the ticket seller we were over 60) and enjoyed the ride through the Normandy countryside. Caen has department stores and it was Sale time, so there were plenty of bargains on display. Returned to Cherbourg about 17.00 and went back on board for a snooze before our dinner in Tamarind. Still no sign of any cabin steward, though he had left us a towel elephant. Cocktails in Silk Den and an excellent dinner in Tamarind (though again at a price). Afterwardswe went to see Katzenjammer, two guys we know from previous cruises. Met them for a drink in the Crows Nest afterwards and ended up being 'thrown out' at 01.00. Final day saw us anchored off St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands. By the time we had finished a lengthy breakfast in the restaurant (spotty service again) there was a long queue for tender tickets and it was 10.30 before we arrived on shore. Enjoyed a stroll around the town centre and a light lunch at a terrace cafe. Took a tender back to the ship around 13.30 and arrived on board to find the cabin steward finishing off our room. He was friendly enough, but still did not introduce himself. Guess he knew he was likely to get his share of the $11/day/person 'Service Charge'. so why bother. Finished our library books and took them back to Explorations, where I managed to tip a Cappucino down myself, requiring a swift return to the stateroom to change. Tried the Ocean Bar for a cocktail this evening, and hada quick look around the shops, which were open for the last time. Dinner in the Dining Room with our British tablemates was convivial, and then another Raz-mataz show from the singers and dancers (Yawn). We had decided to carry our own bags off the next day, so packing was a late activity. We arrived back in Dover about 07.00 and we went to breakfast at 07.30. At 08.45 we wheeled our bags down to the gangway and straight off to find our car and driver for the trip home. Mixed feelings about the cruise - we enjoyed it but felt that HAL was not as we remembered it from 5 or 6 years ago. Much more 'nicket and diming' these days and not much atmosphere on board, probably due to the short cruise which did not let relationships with staff or between passengers develop. Probably will not go back on a HAL 'big ship' but might try Prinsendam again one day. In the meantime its back to Crystal, our favourite!

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By jc_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Canada

This was a good experience, in spite of some inclement weather. The ship is beautiful, crew helpful and the food very nice. The food was fine in the main dining room and in the Lido restaurant, but truly extraordinary in the premium restaurants, for which the supplemental cost is reasonable. Book those restaurants early and often as they are well worth the cost. Stateroom was small and the bathroom miniscule, but the balcony was fairly generous.

Didn't participate in many of them. Overall, this was a real positive experience and the ship is magnificent.

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