Holland America Line may be one of cruising's most venerable lines, but Eurodam, which debuted in July 2008, continues HAL's more recent tradition of offering an onboard ambience that blends elements from past and present. The ship's elegant art collection, its superbly trained crewmembers -- who hail mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia -- and courtly evening entertainment, from a nightly string quartet to cheek-to-cheek dancing, all connect passengers to Holland America's stately heritage.
And yet, additions to Eurodam -- such as Tamarind, Holland America's first ever Asian restaurant; the Silk Den lounge, designed as a swanky homage to a Hong Kong hipster's club; and Explorations, a gathering place that mixes together a library, coffee bar, Internet cafe, Crow's Nest lounge and card room -- point to a more contemporary vibe.
The progress that Eurodam represents for Holland America is relatively gentle. It's an evolution, rather than a revolution, to be sure. Still, certain changes point more to the line's future than its past. Eurodam is the first built-for-Holland America ship in the fleet to be designed without a tennis court, for instance. That space went a long way to making room for a combination basketball/dodgeball court, Silk Den and the adjacent Tamarind. The new Canaletto, a family-style Italian restaurant, has few of the usual dining formalities. If the private, fee-extra cabana areas around and above the main pool remind me more of a sleek South Beach resort than a cruise ship, well that's progress, right?
I think so. Holland America, long a line catering more to mature travelers than active ones, has been on a journey to broaden its appeal without alienating its more traditional fans. On Eurodam, the mix works.
On Deck 1, the officers that provide onboard services (including the often crusty and almost rude pursers who man that desk), the shore excursions department and a past-passenger representative are located near the rather sterile atrium bar. The real fun on Eurodam is the cluster of public rooms on Decks 2 and 3. That's where you'll find the fantastic, Food Network-like Culinary Arts Center; a mall-like stretch of shops carrying the usual cruise souvenirs, with an extra heavy selection of pricey jewelry; a small cinema; a photo gallery; and an art auction display space. There are also several meeting rooms, as well as a private, group dining room that's adjacent to The Rembrandt.
Tucked away on Deck 11 is the Explorations Cafe, and it's a destination in its own right. This concept, which debuted on the line's Vista-class ships (and has since been expanded to other vessels in the fleet) aims to create a coffee house ambience in space carved out from the Crow's Nest Bar. There, you'll find a coffee bar selling for-fee beverages, DVD rentals (with an excellent selection of movies and documentaries; each costs $3 to rent), card and game tables, a library that's one of the best in cruising and really comfortable reading chairs that face out to the sea.
It's also the locale for the ship's Internet-connected computers. The cost is 75 cents per minute; heavy users can get a discount on packages (30 minutes for $12 or 100 minutes for $55).
What's also nice about Explorations' location in the Crow's Nest is that the typically evening-only space really jumps all day long, as well.
There are no self-service laundromats onboard.
On Eurodam, Holland America keeps it fairly simple when it comes to choosing cabins. There are just a handful of styles. Windowless inside cabins measure 160 to 200 square feet. Outside cabins measure 181 to 191 square feet.
All of these accommodations include beds that can convert from two twins to one queen and private bathrooms (shower-only for insides; otherwise all have tub/shower combos) with amenities from Elemis, the company that operates the ship's spa. Flat-screen televisions offer a range of channels that show news (depending on itinerary, could be CNN or BBC), movies and Holland America promotional programming. There's no interactive system, so you cannot pre-order shore tours or spa treatments or make bookings in alternative venues. Other features in these cabins include small sofas/sitting areas, desks, complimentary safes and reasonable storage space. (Beyond the closets, there are shelves over the couches and also under the beds.)
The inside cabins' decor scheme is quite cheery. Frankly, they're the nicest inside cabins I've seen in cruising, featuring blues, yellows and reds. Ironically, standard cabins are decorated in a rather sludge-like color palette of earthy green, brown and rust.
My deluxe verandah cabin, measuring 200 square feet, was amply comfortable for two. In addition to the above features, the stateroom had a 54-square-foot balcony with a gorgeous (and comfortable) wicker-like pair of armchairs with ottomans and a table just big enough to hold drinks.
If you want just a bit more space, the superior verandah suite is 298 square feet with a 100-square-foot balcony. It's the equivalent of a cabin-and-a-half in width. There's a full sitting area with a sofa and chairs, a larger desk and flat-screen television.
Introduced on Eurodam (and now spreading throughout Holland America's fleet) is a new "spa category" cabin. These staterooms, located on Decks 10 and 11, are decorated in soothing nature colors with appropriate artwork depicting landscape scenarios. The cabins are located in the forward section of the ship with a special direct-to-spa staircase from Deck 10, but they're essentially the same size as standard balcony staterooms. The difference is the additional perks offered to residents of these cabins, including yoga mats, special in-bathroom amenities, a desktop fountain and iPod docking station. A note: spa cabins on Deck 11 have only a French balcony with no room for furnishings.
Eurodam's most upscale suites offer the luxury of space with a bundle of extra-value services. On a second trip, I bunked in the deluxe verandah suite, which measures 380 square feet with a 130-square-foot balcony. (Some are actually a bit larger.) It was among the most comfortable suites I've ever experienced. This cabin, the equivalent of two standard staterooms in width, featured a large bedroom and living room area, with huge couch and attendant chairs, a separate dressing room, six closets, and a bathroom with whirlpool tub and separate shower. (However, the latter was equipped with a rather clingy curtain; I think it would look and feel more luxe if it had a glass door instead.) There were also two sinks and the usual Elemis amenities.
My favorite spot in this cabin was the balcony; it was long and roomy enough for the pair of comfy wicker-like chairs that are on all verandahs, but there was also room for a dining table for four. After one particularly long day ashore, we enjoyed a sunset dinner outside, ordered from the Rembrandt menu.
Beyond the space, residents of these cabins are given perks that include breakfast each morning in the Pinnacle Grill (the same menu as the Rembrandt, just a cozier locale), free laundry and dry cleaning, and priority tender boarding. Binoculars and umbrellas are provided. These passengers also have access to the Neptune Lounge, a private living room area that offers beverages and continental fare throughout the day; its biggest plus is a dedicated concierge, who is able to assist with a multitude of requests, from booking reservations at the spa and restaurants onboard to dealing with the purser's office. On my cruise, the concierge was of immense help when a pre-departure check of my onboard bill showed errors.
The most elaborate suites onboard Eurodam are the two 1,000-square-foot Penthouse Verandah Suites. These feature separate sleeping and living quarters, dressing rooms, 318-square-foot balconies with whirlpools, small butler's pantries with microwaves, and powder rooms.
Holland America is rolling out a new entertainment and enrichment program that's divided into four categories: Explorations for shore-excursion and destination-focused information; Culinary Arts Center with activities that range from cooking demonstrations to food-related trivia; Digital Workshop with subjects that include digital photography and making a vacation video; and Mind, Body, Spirit, focusing on fitness, recreation and brain stimulation games like puzzles and trivia.
These occur mostly during the day -- though, on our port-intensive cruise, some activities were held at night -- and there's rarely a fee charged. One exception is the hands-on cooking classes ($29 to participate) and crafts workshops, such as scrapbooking, that require materials.
Eurodam really comes alive at night. Las Vegas-style revues are held at the two-deck-high Mainstage. The Screening Room, the ship's cinema, features movies. Wacky games, such as The Marriage Game, and karaoke competitions take place in the Queen's Lounge. There's also music, which is quite often accompanied by dancing -- whether cheek-to-cheek or more interpretative -- all over the ship. Hot spots include the often-raucous Piano Bar, where passengers sing along with the pianist. The Neptunes play in the Ocean Bar, the primary spot for dancing. Explorer's Lounge has the elegant Adagio Strings for classicists. Northern Lights, the ship's disco, pumps out contemporary dance music and special theme mixes, such as Motown Mania and Latin Hits. The ship's sports bar offers a multi-screen opportunity to watch whatever match or tournament is on television.
Eurodam's casino is right in the heart of the nightlife district (a term I used to describe the night-owl spots, such as the disco, sports bar and piano bar). It features a wide variety of slot machines and all major table games.
An interesting new offering is the Eurodam Pub Crawl; the bar staff leads participants on a tour of the ship's lounges. Cost is $20, but that includes four drinks that would cost easily that much otherwise.
Holland America has done an excellent job of sprucing up options for shore excursions in ports of call. These range from standard motorcoach tours to more adventurous, recreationally oriented activities like cycling or kayaking. The shore excursions desk can also make arrangements for private guides.
Holland America Line automatically adds $11.50 per person, per day, to onboard accounts; it is then shared among waiters, stewards and other service personnel. That amount can be adjusted in either direction by visiting the front desk. A 15 percent gratuity is tacked onto bar bills. Note that gratuities are not automatically included on bills for spa treatments.
Club HAL is Holland America's fleetwide program for kids, and its facilities and programs are divided into three categories: 3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17. All groups are clustered in the same space on Deck 10 and offer age-appropriate settings. (The 3 to 7 room, for instance, really evokes a kindergarten-type playroom, while the Loft, for teens, is all slouchy couches and tables for hanging out.) A for-fee video arcade is also included in the mix.
Other onboard activities are free.
The program is pretty quiet during port days, though activities pick up after dinnertime. After 10 p.m., fees apply for the 3 to 7 and 8 to 12 age groups. For teens, after-dinner games on the schedule include air hockey and dodgeball, though I did see a big pack of kids roaming the halls rather aimlessly.
All in all, the facilities seemed capable of handling the 275 kids (a good chunk of whom were teens) in an efficient manner, though Eurodam doesn't possess some of the state-of-the-art recreational facilities and enrichment programs offered by other big-ship lines.
Your fellow passengers on Eurodam will vary, depending on the ship's itinerary. On our Europe cruise, a significant number of passengers were European or British. On a Caribbean cruise, you'll find more North Americans. In most cases, Eurodam cruisers were well-traveled and typically more mature -- in the 50-plus demographic. Families were amply represented but did not overpower the experience.
On Holland America, formal nights are still considered to be quite formal. Occurring twice on a seven-night cruise (and more often on longer voyages), passengers really do dress to the nines; men wear tuxedos, and women wear long gowns or elegant pants ensembles. The rest of the time, the ambience is resort casual -- day and night. Very informal gear, such as jeans and shorts, is appropriate for outer decks but not so much for restaurants.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Eurodam's main pool is among the most beautiful at sea. It's decorated in muted earth tones with captivating brown and cream tiles and brown wickerlike chaises with plush, plum-colored cushions. Instead of the marine sculptures that populate most pool areas on Holland America's ships, this one has a colorful waterfall fountain. Beyond the pool, there's a jumbo whirlpool and a pair of smaller ones.
New to Holland America on this ship are two levels of cabanas. On the pool deck itself, curtained cabanas line one windowed wall. Inside each is a chaise-for-two and small table. Extras on hand include handheld fans, bottled water, Evian spritzers and towels and/or wool blankets. The fee -- $30 for port days, $50 at sea -- permits occupancy between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (You rent for the day.) It also includes lunch service from the cabana menu. Choices include various panini sandwiches, burgers and salads. Glasses of Champagne, afternoon tea and chocolate-covered strawberries are offered, and cabana stewards will fetch cocktails, though you'll be charged for them.
While these are primarily aimed at couples looking to carve out a distinctive pool experience, the cabanas are also fantastic for families, offering a private space so kids can play (and nap) while parents enjoy the pool scene. One downside (and the reason why small fans are provided) is that, while the cabanas have full floor-to-roof windows, there's little air circulation.
One deck above is The Retreat, another cabana community, and it's even nicer than the poolside option. There, designers have carved out a deck for cabanas that are open to sea air, and the area also offers a Miami Beach-like outdoor lounge with extra couches, arm chairs and dining tables. Standards (costing $45 on port days, $75 on sea days) feature two chaise lounges and a small table. Corner units ($65 and $115, respectively) are, by far, the largest, featuring twin chaises and a double lounger along with a larger table and extra chairs. All receive the same services as cabana inhabitants a deck below.
Eurodam's second major pool is located aft. The Sea View is my favorite for a few reasons. There's plenty of deck space with a view of open sea and the wake, and I love the Cote d'Azur-style cabana hangings that give it a festive air. (There are no private units in this pool area.) It's also blissfully peaceful.
Both the Lido Pool and the Sea View are located adjacent to the Lido buffet. The former is home to the Terrace Grill, while the latter features Slice Pizza. Both have bars. It's quite easy to while away a day on the pool deck without having to move too far.
At the very front of the ship, the Greenhouse Spa is a sprawling complex adjacent to the main pool area and offers all the usual services, such as massages, facials and pedicures.
One impressive new twist -- and this is, perhaps, related to the economic recession -- is that the Greenhouse on Eurodam is really making an effort to offer some exceptional deals on treatments if you're willing to book at what it considers off-hours (dinner time or when the ship's in port). For instance, a "twilight massage" deal -- $89 for a 50-minute treatment -- was offered each night from 6 to 10 p.m. (You can choose a facial, as well.) Some in-port deals like the spa combo (25-minute massage and 25-minute facial for $99) weren't terribly unusual; however, other port-day specials -- such as "aromaflex," a 50-minute service that combines massage and reflexology ($99), and the "relaxation ceremony," a 75-minute treatment with a massage and mini-facial ($119)-- were decent. These deals are, of course, based on availability, but I haven't seen so much on sale at an onboard spa in years.
The ship's fitness center features circuit-training machines and free weights. Among the classes offered are yoga, Pilates and aerobics, among others. Most require passengers to pay a fee of $11 per class.
Recreational facilities beyond full-court basketball are limited onboard Eurodam. There's a walking track on the promenade, and runners can use the course that rings the Lido pool.
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