Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
I will never recommend somebody this ship. It was the worth experience in my life. Food in “ all you can eat” buffet is like food in High School Cafeteria. The shore excursions are TURIST TRAP.
At Palma de Majorca they took us to pearl factory trying to sell. We did not come from NYC to visit pearl factory. Then we spent 40 minutes across the street on bullring, witch is place for public urinate. Nice. We spent 1hour and 20 minutes in cathedral where other people spend 20 minuets and cost for public ticket only 4 euro.
Out of 4 h we spent 1 ½ h in the bus and did not see Palma de Majorka. Shame!!!It was insult and abuse. And when you complain, they ignore you. It was like robbery. They spoiled our vacation.
The next morning we got up and went to the airport and boarded the Planet Air plane. They served breakfast during the two and one half hour flight. We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, and got on a bus for the two and one half hour trip to the ship. The bus was not very comfortable. The seats were too close together so there was no room for my knees.
It was a very long and tiring two days of travel for us. We were lucky we were not delayed by weather as many of the other passengers were. We spent a lot of time in the "hurry up and wait" mode. I do not know how HAL could have done better as they had so many passengers to deal with. We were glad we did the difficult portion of the traveling before the cruise as we had the cruise to look forward to. We knew we could recover on board.
The ship was a welcome sight. She is beautiful and classy. The port, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, is nothing but a dock and a warehouse. It remindedme of the port in Seward, Alaska.
When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we noticed that two of the padlocks were missing. When we opened up the suitcases we knew someone had gone through them. They had opened up a carton of cigarettes and taken two packs. They put a big greasy hand print on one of my white tops. I haven't been able to get it out yet. We had brought eight little boxes of chocolate for Christmas gifts. They unwrapped one of them and left it.
Although this was an annoyance I was glad we heeded the warning to carry your medicine and your jewelry with you. At least one lady was not as lucky. She was filling out a claim form at the front office for jewelry that was stolen.
We left about two hours later than scheduled as we had to wait for some passengers who were late. We picked up more passengers over the next two days. Many passengers had been delayed by winter storms. On day two, while we were cruising Golfo Dulce, a tender went to shore to pick up 19 passengers. We were wondering how they got out to where the ship could pick them up. Costa Rica does not have a lot of highways or public transportation that would get them to us.
The first day of the cruise we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Several tours were offered but each one required a one and one half hour bus ride to get to the place that is featured. After the long bus ride the day before, I was glad I did not take one of these tours.
We were in Cabin 6173 on the Verandah Deck. The cabin was the same as on the Ryndam except the panel under the railing on the verandah is made of Plexiglas. You can see out while sitting in your chair. There is more space between the rail and the divider so you can more easily talk to the people next to you when you are both hanging over the rail. You can take out the back half of the barrier that is between the cabins. This would be great if you have a friend in the next cabin and want to talk or go between cabins without going out into the hall.
The elevators on the ship have lots of mirrors. The first few days I would step back so the person in the elevator could get out. Then I realized that I was just seeing a reflection of myself in the mirrors. Once I got confident and walked right in I would run into someone coming out. Thank goodness they were not crowded very often.
Others have written reviews about the look of the ship so I will not go into that. If you do not take a tour of the ship you want to stop by each of the pieces of art and read the plaque. That will give you some idea of its importance. Also, be sure to look for the little bear playing with the stick in the area of the Lido pool.
We got up early to see the Panama Canal. They were serving "Panama rolls," coffee, and juice on the outside decks. They opened up the "crew only" area on the Promenade Deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the Canal. The Canal was as impressive as I thought it would be.
There were lots of families on board. The children dominated the pools and the Jacuzzis. There were 168 children during this Christmas cruise and only 8 children the week before. Overall the children were well behaved. Santa came Christmas morning. He did not seem to like children, but the children liked the presents he brought for them.
The Christmas dinner was good. I had the biggest lobster tail I have seen on any ship. My husband had the turkey dinner. He was disappointed as it did not taste like the traditional turkey, dressing, and gravy we get at home. We had dinner at the Odyssey Restaurant one night. We thought the food was better in the dining room. I had seen pictures of intimate tables for two nestled into a nook in the restaurant. The nook ended up being windows onto the inside hall. If you get one of those tables you also get everyone going by the restaurant stopping and checking out what you are eating.
There were very few lines. If there was a line, as in the Lido during meals, they moved fast. They have the food arranged so you can enter the line at several places depending on what you want to eat.
Our last stop was the private island, Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful. The water was too cold for us wimps from Tucson, but many people were swimming. We went on the Glass Bottom Boat tour and enjoyed it. They have some permanent buildings on the island such as a church, a bar, stores for souvenirs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, and a few others.
The only problem was that the Volendam was there the same time we were. The island is perfect for one ship but was very crowded with two. We went to get some lunch and the line was so long, we didn't even try to get anything. All the chairs on the beach were occupied. I feel that HAL should re-think having two ships there at the same time.
Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I would highly recommend the itinerary and the ship.
This was my 13th cruise, 4th on HAL. While I've not superstitious, perhaps I should have been. Embarkation was very smooth and things were fine, until we got to our stateroom. The refrigerator did not work and although checked twice by maintenance, was never fixed. Also, the light on the cosmetic mirror was out, the shower curtain was about a foot short and some of the drapery hooks were broken. The toilet stopped working the 2nd day, but was quickly fixed. However, it seemed the vacuum system had several hiccups during the two weeks. Taken separately, these are small concerns. Taken together, it adds up to lack of maintenance oversight.
We also had issues with the liquor bottle service. There was complete inconsistency in ordering. I wanted to upgrade the scotch from Cutty Sark to a single malt (the answer was no) and they finally agreed to JW Red at no upcharge. Our traveling companions next door wanted to upgrade from Bacardi Light to Bacardi Gold (sold at the same price in the bars) and were told no, period. If HAL is going to offer a bottle service, why make it difficultand not customer friendly?
As to the cruise itself, it was fine, except for the dreaded Novovirus (see end of review). The ship is still in good shape, the staff was very friendly and the entertainment (HalCats & Daryl @ the piano bar) were great. Cruise Director Gene was very friendly and always visible.
Ports: I'm not going to review any ports, except Puerto Chiapas, Mex.: I ask, WHY? this place is a complete waste of time. The town is about a half-hour bus ride from the port and there is nothing there. The ship offered two tours.
Food: typically good HAL fare. Salad choices were strange, but soups and appetizers were inspried. Except for one night when they couldn't seem to cook a steak correctly, entrees were usually well prepared. I don't do dessert, but they looked pretty good.
Disembarkation in San Diego (the ship continued on to Vancouver) was a mess. A few hundred passengers had chosen the expidited program to take their own luggage and HAL completely botched it, leaving most of us queued in the passageway for about a hour after the announcement. I'm 59 and well below the median age on the ship. Imagine a bunch of seniors jammed together and trying to negotiate a couple of narrow ramps with 50 lb. suitcases!
Now the dreaded Novovirus: more than 200 people came down with it. While HAL continues to blame the passengers, I think the cruiseline is more to blame. According to several blogs, HAL has had more breakouts than any other cruiseline. It's either the crew or a sanitation problem and it wasn't the first time on the Zuiderdam.
In summary, while HAL continues to run a class operation and I like the basic ship design and itineraries, the Novovirus problem (and the way they handle it) has me looking at other lines in the near future.
Our experience and such. Age group 60 and 55, started cruising 1984, do minimum two cruise a year often three, this year four. We stopped really counting at 50 cruises and we cruise any and all lines. Generally ship is our interest not itinerary but Bermuda is exception. I will not really comment on Bermuda itself other than great island like no other! Always enjoy our time there, have sailed there many times in past years though not in recent years except as one day stop on reposition sailings.
Hurricane Daniel, Earl, and Fiona, what us worry? No problem going though didn't tender atSt. George's went direct to Hamilton better anyway in our opinion. Some rocking on way home but nothing really bad, Captain left early on Friday and fell in behind Earl.
EMBARKATION - Through the years we have sailed numerous times from Manhattan Piers, always electing to use Long Term Pier Parking. NY Parking is never inexpensive at $30 a day, paid in advance at lot arrival, it is almost reasonable but only by NY City standards.
This year construction activity is evident and continuing. I found that the parking and departureareas were reversed from what I have come to know through the years. Now upon driving up the initial ramps you are greeted with two signs and options. Parking up ramp to right and Arrival/Departure Drop off to left. The parking ramp used to be at end of drop off area. This confused me, would there be luggage handling in parking or should I drop off first then will there be another ramp to access parking? I elected to drop off luggage first. technically this is the wrong choice but in reality this particular trip proved advantageous. I say this because when we did park it was about as far away from the ship as you could and still be on upper pier. That made getting luggage to your ship's pier a bit hard as porters were few and far between in Pier 88 parking area and Veendam was on pier at opposite end. Although we will be sailing from Manhattan once again on October 6th and will go directly to parking and hopefully find an the luggage handling better. This because if you drop luggage first you must then drop back to street and head back to pier entrance from 12th Ave. Easy enough to do but traffic only allows 3 cars at a time to make left into piers for most part. Therefore returning to pier could take 15 minutes or could take an hour and a half depending on traffic situation. In this case it took about 30 minutes to make one City block or so loop around.
After all that actual embarkation on Veendam was a breeze. Desk lines moved quickly and there were more than enough staff handling all. All pier staff were pleasant and helpful. We were onboard within 20 minutes of actually getting on a line.
CABIN - We had been assigned an aft verandah suite 085 having booked this cruise late and having to take a BC Suite Guarantee. This cabin is one of the cabins added in the last retrofit of the Veendam when aft pool was removed. It is located on Deck 10, Navigator deck, the same deck as the "real" suites. Though being labeled a veranda "suite "I would consider it really a veranda Cabin. The S suites or Deluxe Verandah Suites on Deck 10 are the "real "suites. As on most ships this "suite "category does not receive the benefits offered the Deluxe Suites such as private concierge lounge, or those lovely chocolate covered strawberries they were placing in those S Suites. We peeked inside and they are vey large and nicely appointed suites. We can't really complain though since we could have booked one of those but at DOUBLE the price we elected to take our chances especially since this was really a pre-cruise cruise we threw onto our cruising year. This is an "older "ship by today's standards though not all that old by ship standards, having a verandah was reward enough. The Veendam does not have almost all verandah cabins like the later mega ships now do.
The cabin itself, design, space, and verandah, no complaints in any of those areas, Cabin was clean and well appointed featuring Queen bed, plenty of closet and drawer space, hair dryer and moveable cosmetic mirror. Bed and bedding were comfortable, cabin steward Roke ( you can call me Ralphie ) did great job. Cabin bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub but note it is one of those deep ones you almost need a step stool to get into. Water pressure and hot water were excellent no complaints from wife. I know this is important to the ladies for rinsing the soap from the hair. Also, for the ladies, the hairdryer located in a drawer at the desk was 1600 watt with a concentrator nozzle. Linda said it was fine although she had brought her own anyway just in case. She could have lived with using this one.
The veranda was good sized and had two chairs and a lounge, there was room for all. A nice touch was that chairs had comfortable cushions on them. A touch you no longer see on most ships.
In fact the cabin was exceptional in many ways with one, sadly MAJOR, exception. No not AC as some reviewers have noted in their commentaries, our AC worked flawless, had to keep it set low was that cold. The problem was plumbing! As I said water was great. It was drainage that proved a problem. The sink almost constantly GURGLED, blub, blub, blub. Initially some water also could be seen pushing back out of tub drain. Do not write this off as a minor issue. Ship noise does not bother me, that creaking and groaning you sometimes get is welcomed I love it. The retreat area above us 6:30 am setting out the deck chairs sliding above no problem. This BLUB, BLUB, BLUB, loud and annoying as well as almost constant. It was noted almost immediately while still at NY pier and my first call, fearing sewer blockage and seeing gunk coming from bathtub, was met with sympathy and assurances. That said, so were all the calls about the issue during the week. I even spoke to a ships plumber who assured me he was making a part and would repair it finally in the morning, that was third day. As we left the cabin the morning of our arrival back in NY the sink wished us a fond farewell, BLUB, BLUB, BLUB. I do not know if any other cabins have a similar problem but I believe at least in this cabin it is a probably unfixable plumbing design problem. All the attention we were given was probably an every week response to a problem they can do nothing about.
Location, very aft, not great in rough seas but very convenient to dining and buffet and pool area.
DINING - HA has acceded to the anytime, freestyle, As YOU Wish, whatever dining. It does not work well in my humble opinion but I do admit we like are traditional dining. Since we booked only a month or two before sailing we were bound to accept anytime dining and be wait listed for traditional. First night we elected to not do dinner having had afternoon buffet and hoping that we would better fit into formal night attire excluding one meal. The next day I spoke to the Restaurant Manager and requested traditional dining. He told me it was very full and that I shouldn't expect it. I thanked him and went on my way. By dinner time we had received dining change to main seating table 32. So second night we had a table for six, we were alone, empty spaces everywhere. They have the tables for traditional but not the staff! Second night we were joined by a couple and a single gentleman who all reported they had been at other tables, the couple had no one at their table, the single was an add on he felt at another table. These were our table mates for the rest of the cruise. There were two empty seats. There were half empty tables all around us. Table 32 location was great right by aft windows. Service was fair at best though I am sure that the waiter and his assistant did their best. They seemed to be covering a large section with ever changing numbers. I do not think it was their problem or work ethic but never the less service, slow and uneven. NOT their fault.
Despite what lines would try to make you believe, that anytime dining is a benefit for us, in reality it allows them to use less staff. So you are left with hard pressed traditional dining waiters, and anytime dining which is anytime you want to eat if you have a reservation and if you eat early. Otherwise please take this beeper and it will be thirty minutes to an hour and a half until we can seat you. I admit some still rave about it but we just don't get it.
FOOD - In general very good and we had no complaints. We don't normally sail HA, having done so only once before on the Noordam. Then we found the food bland and desserts tasteless. On Veendam we found the food to be well spiced, presented and tasty for most part. I won't dwell on food simply because it is truly a matter of personal taste. Let's leave it that no one should have a problem finding something they enjoy to eat.
The buffet area I felt was very good. It is set up somewhat different in that each section, Asian, Salad, and such is really run as a separate little line. Initially this makes you feel like you are butting in line going around people but once everyone gets the way it works it isn't that bad except when really busy. Then all these people waiting in line in little service sections block the main aisle. First two days staff serve you at buffet which slows everything down a lot, once they are sure we are not going to have a Noro problem self serve becomes the standard.
Slices, the pizza area aft, I had read that pizza was not good. Okay NY pizza is best in country so NY passengers are never going to be happy with ship pizza. I have found really good pizza on ships, Celebrity comes to mind but long ago, I don't know about now. The Veendam pizza is passable, not as bad as reported in my opinion but it will not satisfy your pizza cravings while at sea. Makes for a quick acceptable snack while lounging in retreat area.
While we didn't bother, a couple of our table mates did finally get seated one evening at the Canaletto Italian dining area for dinner. This is a section of the Lido buffet that is turned into a small Italian dining room each evening. While no extra charge reservations are needed to get seated for most part. After waiting all week to get in our tables mates were not happy with the food finding it the same as Italian dishes offered in regular dining. However I do think it is more for the small Italian restaurant atmosphere it mimicks than the food that makes it popular.
We never go to pay additional dining as we firmly believe that this detracts from the normal dining experience provided on ships. Simply we are believers that eventually if the lines find it possible, virtually all dining will become ala-carte added cost restaurants, at least this is their dream from the accounts point of view. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if this ever happens. So I cannot speak to it.
ENTERTAINMENT - As we expected on a smaller ship, it was not the gala major shows but was good none the less. It was not the showroom that struck me but the small lounges, intimate and comfortable. I found myself sitting and enjoying a string quartet nightly at the Explorers Lounge. This being remarkable in that I normally do not listen to any music. I found their playing remarkable and enjoyed having a cocktail there awaiting dinner time. The only annoyance was those When You Wish dining beepers announcing your table is ready now making you suddenly feel like you were at the Outback in the mall.
I heard the doo wop show and the crew show were excellent, we did not attend either and apparently we should have.
ODDS & ENDS
Having giving up cigarette smoking for over two years now I do still enjoy one cigar a week most weeks. I Still try pay attention for the current smokers and I found the Veendam about as friendly to smokers as you can expect now a days. An ashtray was available in cabin if needed. Smoking is allowed on verandah and cabin.
The aft retreat area starboard side I believe had ashtrays prominent on most all the tables you didn't have to hunt for them. Smoking was allowed in the casino. The Casino is open to a couple lounge areas. NOTE smokers, a separate questionaire was incorporated in the end of cruise survey. They asked one if you were currently a smoker, NO. They asked if HA banned smoking in the cabin and the veranda would I still sail HA, NO. If smoking was banned completely on ship would I still sail HA, NO. My answers are simply because some friends are smokers and we group cruise and they will not sail on any ship that bans smoking hence neither will I despite no longer smoking myself. Second although I can do without it I do enjoy a couple cigars during a cruise as do several of my friends that I sail with many times. Finally despite giving it up myself I still feel that smokers have been unfairly set upon with using many made up excuses. But maybe now that obese people and perfume wearers are targeted more and more with taxes and nose wrinkling the righteous wrath will be spread out more.
We chose Veendam to sail to Bermuda because it was smaller and more intimate than the latest offerings. Also because she docked in Hamilton and we wanted to enjoy that again having sailed many times to Bermuda years ago on smaller ships like Celebrity Zenith. We experienced what we wanted in the Veendam, more intimacy with passengers and crew, nicer small gatherings in lounges. With the exception of dining room experience all was far more intimate and enjoyable than todays large ships, which we also love for most part. Larger offers better amenities usually, smaller offers more of a previous years cruise experience.
Ice cream lovers will rejoice that it is available in the Lido most hours of the day by dessert section and features cone or dish, soft or hard, fixings help yourself all at no extra charge. I am not a big ice cream eater but had a soft serve cone and it was very good.
Coffee lovers will rejoice that capucchino and such is still offered at dinner and at no extra charge. It is also available at the Explorations coffee bar where it is charged for. It also takes some waiting while each cup is made. They offer a coffee card for I think they said $26 but while I normally take it when ship charges at dinner for brewed real coffees it didn't make sense here. I simply paid for it as ordered. They also have a small selection of cookies and baby sandwiches at coffee bar. I saw a gentlemen ask for one as he passed by and the coffee guy said sorry only with coffee purchase. Of course same are available and free upstairs in Lido. But come on give the guy the cookie, they are free after all no matter. Coffee bar on quota for how many he can bring down or what? Was poor call on his part in my opinion. And not reflective of the fine service we found elsewhere.
Room Service, always early by 15 minutes of night before ordered times but always good and accurate. Often a followup call to inquire if order was correct and okay. Also larger menu than most ships now have including omelette's and such available from room service. Do not know if in all cabins or if because of purported "suite. “
Service exceptional staff throughout. One obviously having a bad day guy handling beverages only notable staff problem. He was approaching level of actually being nasty to passengers. This as very far from normal service with a smile we found for most part.
Passenger mix, older than usual and to be expected on end of season time frame and HA. There were certainly some kids on board and some young family members. Most probably traveling with grand parents. As one lady at pool area announced to me, my husband is 91, but I am only 80. Must have been trophy wife ha ha. I am 60 and I will admit I felt a lot younger than my years by the second day. It was like being a kid again. This is not a bad thing. Still as I said we booked Veendam knowing smaller ship and often a tad older cruisers. We enjoy their perspective and conversation for most part. My motto has been lately, every 100 years new people. Knowing my replacement is on order, I can enjoy all ages now for most part.
Also more foreign passengers than I expected, Europe and Latin America I suspect from languages heard. Americans many from Long Island and Manhattan.
Bermuda still our favorite island and we still do it via moped. Taxi's expensive as always but bus ferry reasonable and not a problem. People still great but they have their share of drug crime and such now as do we all. Not something you really see however as a tourist there. It is very safe to go out and about on your own but as anywhere you should pay attention to your environment.
Expensive island, but always has been. We noted little things like Bermuda Chowder still maybe $6.50 but bowl much smaller. We enjoy a small lunch or two on island but check prices, you may be shocked at a $4.95 iced tea. Gratuity added on bill even for couple at lunch so look at bill before you add tip. Bermuda is a place to just go and see forget paid excursions for most part unless looking to go fishing.
DISEMBARKATION: Here again its the little things. Something few lines offer but that all should! Day of disembarkation in cabin morning room service, total room service menu. No running to Lido or dining room while trying to get ready to be thrown off! Also no bums rush out of cabin....enjoy cabin until your color code is called.
Veendam is in early docked by 7am and I would bet everyone pretty much off by 9:30 am or close to it. But disembark was smooth and they do offer that 7:30 walk off with your own luggage if you have it all with you and can carry it yourself. We put ours out and took late disembark having our own transportation at pier. Still we were off by 9:30 found luggage and got into porter line which wasn't long. I apologized up front to porter but advised him we had a long walk ahead. I felt bad since these guys obviously make their real money in tips and the more runs they get in the more they make. Still not my fault pier operation parked me two piers away. He was very pleasant and gracious about it. He did get an extra tip because of his nice demeanor. Still I wish they would be able to park you closer and I do hope this is a temporary thing because of continued construction. Still better than flying now a days!
So disembark early and smooth enough!
I am sure their are many things I didn't answer about ship and you can feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org please note Veendam in subject area. I dump a lot of mail, this way I won't think you are spam.
George in NY
HAL Nieuw Amsterdam – Quad Cabins Dangerous!
HAL built a beautiful new ship but blew it for families of 4 with the design of their QUAD cabins which could be described as Dangerous. The pull down bunk is not over the sofa, but directly over the main bed with about 16” of clearance from the pillow to the underside of the bunk = you will hit your head and possibly crack your head open on the exposed bunk bracket.
Left = drop down bunk bed directly over the beds.
Right = Narrow bracket directly above pillow where you can easily bang your head – watch-out the clearance is dangerous especially at night in the dark!
As frequent cruisers we have never experienced such a terrible design and tight quarters for a QUAD Cabin. Families of 4, do not book a Quad on HAL you will regret it. Other than the room, HAL offers good service, food and entertainment, so if you must go, book 2 cabins.
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research.
Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on excursions. I entitled my review (and included) lessons learned not to complain, but to help others in their research. While I was researching Alaska, I had a lot of this advice available to me (and listened to most of it) but made choices based on our entire group and what I thought was right for us based on our travel preferences and history. There were SEVERAL things I would have done differently if I had it to do over. But overall I would say that this was a fantastic trip and I would HIGHLY recommend Alaska, HAL, and the Oosterdam to all! Thanks to all of the Cruise Critic family for your help in planning our trip!
About Us: A family group ranging from 20s to 80s. First Time for HAL and Alaska! We set sail on the Oosterdam out of Seattle on June 13th, 2010. Ports of Callwere Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. - with a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Some first time cruisers, most of us have a couple of cruises under our belts on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We are from Colorado and Wyoming.
Comparisons of HAL with CCL & RCI: This was a topic I was very interested in myself. As usual there are more similarities than differences, but HAL shone in several areas above the previous cruise lines.
Food a. MDR: HAL definitely won out in the main dinning room and the lido buffet over other lines, but especially in the seafood area (salmon, shrimp, lobster tails), as these were plentiful in selection and reliably good to great. Beef was very similar to Carnival and below par to RCI, which we feel, is RCI's food strong suit. The hours for MDR for breakfast and lunch are miniscule so plan ahead to eat here. We had anytime dining and this worked well for our Alaska schedule but I missed having the same waiter. We never had anyone fantastic enough to warrant a special request for his or her section. It was also difficult to remember everyone when it came to give extra tips at the end.
Lesson: If you are anytime dining - tip a small amount extra in cash on the table each night that way no one misses out. b. The Pinnacle Grill (we ate here twice for dinner) was very good but only slightly better than the Main Dinning Room for seafood (lobster tail, shrimp, and salmon) while the beef was worth the $20 surcharge. Of the filet minon, ribeye, and ny strip steak, the ribeye was the standout. The Golden Fleece Super Club on Carnival is much better in terms of both service and food quality - however, it is a $35 surcharge - so that may not be a fair comparison.
Lesson: Eat Beef here for your money's worth.
Drinks a. Compared to CCL and RCL the drinks here are MUCH better - stronger, hand mixed, better selection (can you say Mojito!) and the cocktail card, which was given to us by our travel agent, worked really well for us (especially since it was complimentary). We would not get a cocktail card usually though, because the drink prices are just so darn reasonable. There was only one cocktail waitress (who shall remain nameless) in the Queen's lounge who was extremely rude about the cocktail card and always forgot our drinks and gave us constants scowls and eye rolls. The only negative to this was that we loved the Queen's lounge and were there a lot and as she was so rude to my Grandma we were all reluctant to order drinks here. However she was an absolute exception to all of the other drink servers who were fantastic!
Service We had heard a lot about the quality of service on HAL surpassing other lines. This is absolutely true. The staff was all soooo friendly and engaging and helpful. This is a definite stand out for HAL and as we were doing a family trip with many different age groups and abilities - this was the absolute right choice for us. I swear my Grandma had a smile plastered on her face 95% of the time (see Queen's lounge waitress above). You will be spoiled all week by smiling and cheerful faces.
Live Music The quality and availability of live music on board was excellent! We absolutely loved this! We thought that Jenny and the HALcats were a blast. We loved the Neptunes and the Adagio Strings. The piano bar was also fun but needed to have less trivia and more sing along time. There was definitely something for everyone here.
Ports of Call/Excursions:
1. Cruising Glacier Bay National Park: We definitely endured extra costs and scheduling constraints to make this a part of our cruise, as there are limited permits into this area. WORTH IT!!!! Although I have not been to Tracy Arm or Hubbard - this may have been one of my favorite days. We saw 4 Glaciers (several calving events), probably about 20 whales, seals and eagles on icebergs, Dahl porpoises and beautiful scenery. I would rate this as a 10 out of 10 - it far exceeded my expectations (I thought it would be boring).
Lesson: Hold out for Glacier Bay on your itinerary.
2. Juneau: As we had a 13-hour call here, our plan for Juneau was to go fly-fishing all day with Luke of Sea Runner Guide service that operates out of the Juneau Fly fishing shop. My husband loves to fly fish and he has always wanted to go in Alaska. We knew that July was a better month for this, but with a family trip and his brother's wedding in mid July we thought we would give it a try anyway. Even though salmon aren't in the streams in June this is prime time for Dolley Varden and since it is catch and release we were just looking forward to having some fun fly-fishing in scenic Alaska. Luke was on time at our meeting place and took us to Auke Bay to get the boat - we saw lots of humpbacks and eagles en route to the site. As we got closer, the water became extremely rough and he said that there was a storm coming in and we would have to turn back or we might get stuck. He said that because of the time of year that there were really no other options for places to go for fishing. He took us back to the fly shop. We were out with him about 2 ½ - 3 hours total. The fly shop refunded our entire fee and apologized. We were not unhappy with them but severely disappointed, as this was our expensive big ticket Alaska item. We had backup plans of course, but were soooo disappointed that we went back the ship and ate lunch to regroup and find a plan B, such as the shuttle to Mendenhall or taxi to the Brewery. We ate and couldn't rally so we went to the spa for massages (great package) and to hang out in the Thermal Suite. It was nice and relaxing with great scenery - especially because we were both SO depressed.
Others in our group did the Grand Tour of Juneau through the ship (Glacier, Gardens, Salmon Hatchery) and loved it - they thought the Glacier and Gardens were spectacular where the hatchery was so-so.
Lesson: If we could do it over again we would have booked a tour that did a Glacier walk or at least stop at the visitors center and combine with a whale watch - for the cost of fishing we could have done these two things which are much more reliable, recommended on these boards, and representative of things you can see in Alaska and not in Colorado/Wyoming. I should have realized this, but I hope it will help future cruisers. I would rather know that we are going to get to do something fun than take the chance that if everything falls into place we might have a fantastic experience. We loved Juneau and would consider this as a week long stop for a future trip. We are also hoping in the future to do a fly fishing trip to a more northern part of Alaska.
3. Sitka We walked around town in the morning and saw the Russian Bishop's House, St. Michael's Cathedral, and shopped. In hindsight, I would have gone to the Park first (we ran out of time and could not go) and then if we had time visited these two stops. I despise shopping in port and only did this to accommodate the shoppers in our group ;). I do not want to spend time in Alaska in a store. In the afternoon we took a three-hour marine wildlife watching tour with Captain Davey. This was fantastic - we wish that we could have booked the four-hour tour but it was taken over 8 months in advance, so book as early as you can for this one. Because of the three-hour tour we had to pick between puffins and whales - be upfront with Davey and let him know your preference - we went with puffins as we had already seen a bunch of whales in Juneau and Glacier Bay, but it would have been nice to do both. I cannot say enough about Davey - he made it really special and my Grandma and Mom had the best time - he was really good at questions and such a knowledgeable and passionate guy. One of the reasons we chose this sailing was the opportunity to stop at Sitka - which turned out to be the most authentic of any of our calls.
Lesson: Book popular independent tours AS SOON AS you know your date. Even an 8-hour call is short enough that you need to plan your time very carefully. If others in your group refuse to do so - make your own plans without them!
4. Ketchikan Hubby, MIL, and I booked with Ken of Northern Lights as our trip was in primetime King Salmon season. Ken picked us up right at the pier and we went out on his boat, which was parked right next to the ship. He took us out to see an eagle, which would catch fish that he threw in the air. He warned us that the Orcas had been in the bay three days before and that the Salmon were being a little weird the day before and he only caught 1 King, 1 Halibut, and 1 Rockfish. We went out several places and were excited to see the king salmon jumping out of the water everywhere the whole time we were out. Ken and his buddies kept in contact all day and basically no one was having any luck including us. Hubby got one bite, which dropped the hook. That was the only action we saw. Ken worked so hard for us to get a fish and we could tell that he felt so bad that we did not have any better luck. He said that it was incredibly rare for him to not get a fish at this time in the season and that he wished we would have not gone out. He also said that he would tell the people tomorrow that maybe they should go hiking or to Saxman instead. As this was a very short call (6 hours) by the time we got back we just had time to make a loop around the shops and get back on board. No fish the entire trip - what a let down! See Lesson from Juneau. If we could do it over again we would have gone to Saxman.
5. Victoria, B.C. Another short (6 hour) call. To add to that we were about an hour late getting into port (but at least we didn't get in at 9pm like last week). Knowing the common complications of this port we booked the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens all together, mainly so that Grandma could see it (I thought it would be boring!). Getting off the ship was a cluster**** and took almost an hour (excuse me but there is nothing else strong enough to describe it). By the time we got to the Gardens we only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to see it. That was kind of a let down because this place was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! Totally worth it! I could easily spend all day here. We had to rush but I would highly recommend it!
Lesson: Booking the ships tour was worth it for this short and often shortened port of call.
Entertainment: Shows were pretty similar quality to other ships, but I thought the themes were a lot more interesting (movies, Broadway, ballroom dancing) and relevant to pop culture than other ships I have been on. We also sometimes opted for the Spa or Live Music at night - a mix of these was perfect for us. The Ventriloquist and Magician were just fantastic - best shows I have seen at sea - hands down!
Oosterdam: Great ship, all of our cruises have been on ships of this general size and we really like it - enough going on not to get bored, but small enough to get the layout down quickly and have quaint, relaxing areas to gaze at the sea. Until 11pm there was lots to do, afterwards, really only the casino and northern lights, but for us that was plenty!
Equipment: We bought Nikon Trailblazers ($125) and Bushnell Perma Focus ($50) binocs - both 10x 50 both Fog free/waterproof and were glad to have them. The Monarchs are of noticeably better quality but for the difference in price and how often we use binoculars this was a good choice for us.
As for cameras we have a nice Panasonic with a 12x optical zoom with interchangeable lens and filters and a small Canon. We bought a few filters and such for this trip, but I regret that we did not take the plunge and buy the SLR camera we have been drooling over. We brought lots of cards, extra batteries, and our Dell mini to unload the cards frequently and we used everything we brought. Lesson: If you are considering upgrading your camera before this trip - DO IT. Also: keep your binocs (everyone should have their own) and camera on you all the time - it's worth lugging them around - trust me!
Pre/Post Cruise Seattle: Port Choice: We chose this itinerary for several reasons - we wanted Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Victoria. Also we wanted to be able to fly nonstop from Denver due to one in our group being wheelchair bound and having extreme difficulty flying and especially transferring planes (we almost always miss our connection or have a terrible experience with the aisle chair).
The Tradeoff: The first day at sea was the worst I have ever experienced - strong motion for about 24 hours straight - it's a good thing there are handrails in the shower! We knew that this was a possibility and took Bonine a couple of days before and were lucky enough not to get seasick. Others in our group did NOT take this precaution (or used Dramamine) and were sea sick for about a day and a half. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Lesson: Prepare your self by taking seasick meds ahead of time!
Flights: We flew direct from Denver on Alaskan Airlines for $180 each RT with taxes - Great Value. Great airline! Some in our group flew Delta from Wyoming and had to connect - their connection was canceled and their flight delayed - glad we flew in a day early or they would have missed the ship. Delta also lost their bags on the way home. Lesson: Fly in the day ahead ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight.
Hotel: We price lined a 4 star in down town and won the Grand Hyatt on Pine Street for $95/room. LOVED this hotel! Close to Pikes Place and beautiful accommodations. They even let us check in early at 11am! Great service and great location! Luxurious rooms! Lesson: Priceline and Downtown are good choices for Pre Cruise Seattle.
Transportation: Used a mix of cabs and town car services. Nothing fantastic and cabs were pricy! Lesson: We did not plan ahead and wished we had prearranged the same town car service (and preferably a better one) for all of our transportation.
Sights: Pike Place, Etta's, Space Needle, Hiram Chittenden Locks. All fun - could have spent the whole time at the Market and would definitely do a food tour next time! Did not have enough time to ride the ferry system or do the wineries, but will make time next time!
This was our 6th cruise on the 4th different cruise line (RCL, NCL and Carnival). I must admit, I was a little hesitant about booking a HAL cruise for my family of 6 (2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 girls ages 14 and 10). I had read stories in the past about HAL catering to “older” seniors and not being a good line for families with kids. But, because my ultimate goal is to try all the major cruise lines at least once before I choose a favourite, I booked the Eurodam. What a pleasant surprise! The picture I had of everyone being in their 80s was all wrong. It was March break and there were people of all ages (including over 200 kids).
As everyone says, the embarkation was a breeze.
Food - The food was the best I've had on any line – hands down. Each line has areas where they excel and Holland America's is the quality of the food. The Lido Buffet had a wide variety of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was all excellent. The freshly squeezed orange juice, waffles, eggs benedict station, fruit,etc. were delicious! Lunch was equally as good. We also tried the pizza and the 5 different burgers from the Terrance Grill - all excellent. Best turkey burger I've ever had!
The Tamarind was everything you've read about and more! I had the filet mignon and it was perfect. My daughter tried duck for the first time and liked it too! The chocolate dessert was one of the best, if not the best, dessert I've ever had!
The Pinnacle Grill was excellent too. My mother and father-in-law are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year and they surprised us with a special chocolate mousse cake – very nice. Again, the beef was excellent!
The Canaletto was equally as good. The reviews I read said it was average but the antipasto, lasagna and veal parmesan were as good as any top rated Italian restaurant I've ever been to. I guess HAL's average is better than most!
The dessert extravaganza was unbelievable. It was set up around the pool and there was a huge turnout but we had just eaten at the Pinnacle and were too stuffed to try anything. Have a light dinner on that night!
I also went against the grain and finally ordered room service for breakfast which was also very good. I don't know why people write complaints about the delivery being 15 minutes late or they get extra food with their order??? I loved sitting on the balcony in my pajamas watching the waves go by (or whales which we saw a few times!).
Ship – The ship is beautiful – very tastefully decorated instead of being overly lavish or bordering on tacky. We had a balcony room on the 5th deck which was great. Lots of storage space for 4 people. When the 2 extra beds were pulled out it was a little tight but that's to be expected. The beds and linens were the nicest we've had on any cruise. Our cabin steward was great – I hardly saw him but the room was always done perfectly. We never made it to many bars but dropped by the Explorer's Café on the last night and wished we had found it sooner!
The only thing I think the ship could use is a bigger pool or a 3rd pool. Both pools got pretty crowded on the sea days. We found it easy to get chairs despite the private cabanas taking up space but a bit more pool room would have been nice!
Entertainment – the shows were as good as any other cruise line and the Magician was the best I've ever seen (and it's not because he was a fellow Canadian either!). The kids loved him too!
Ports – Turks and Caicos was devastated by a hurricane 2 years ago but it doesn't mean that there's nothing to do on the island. The guys rented a golf cart and went geocaching and the girls walked the beach and sat by the pool at Margaritaville which was very relaxing.
San Juan is always fun. We took a taxi to the Coronado hotel/beach area which was beautiful. Next cruise may be a southern one leaving from San Juan!
St. Thomas was as picturesque as usual. Rented a car and went to Megan's Bay for the morning. The guys went geocaching around the island while the girls shopped in the afternoon and bought some jewelry of course! You never know when you're going to be back there again!
Half Moon Cay is the nicest private island I've ever seen. Beautiful beaches with sand like white flour and lots to see and do. If I ever go there again I'm definitely going horseback riding in the water! The BBQ they served was good and it was fun to spend a day on the beach for a change!
Summary – Overall, I would recommend HAL and the Eurodam to anyone and everyone. I will definitely try it again – and I can't say that about all of them!
BRIEF DISCLOSURE This was my first cruise. Before cruising, I read the other reviews of the Eurodam and they scared me silly. After the cruise, I felt like I had just finished sailing on a ship utterly different from those who gave Eurodam such bad reviews! How does one account for this? I'm not demanding enough? They are way too demanding? Who knows?
While I will note features I found disappointing, they are not the cruise-spoiling sorts of things; not by a Texas mile.
EMBARKATION My wife and I arrived in Fort Lauderdale the afternoon before the sailing, to ensure we had all the wiggle room we might need in transportation, and to allow for an unhurried approach to the cruise. It worked, and I recommend this to anyone if they're able to schedule it. Seek for hotels that offer shuttle service from the airport and to the cruise port.
Upon arriving at the Eurodam's pier, I was amazed at the efficiency, ease, and speed with which we delivered our bags to friendly, smiling porters; and, then, proceeded into the building, guided by friendly red-coated guides stationed along the way, as well asby a large blue line on the pavement. We stood in one line for less than five minutes. We sat on airport-waiting room seats for another five minutes, and then we were called to board the ship. Start to finish was about 20 minutes total. To us, it felt like a breeze, but we'd never been there and done that before.
Novelty is great entertainment and makes time fly.
ARRIVAL ON SHIP We were boarded directly onto the Lido Deck which contains the long buffet-style casual-dress restaurant. Yes, it was packed. Why not? It wasn't designed to accomodate the entire passenger list! But, everyone first appeared on the ship in this restaurant until the rooms were ready for occupancy. We did get food (plenty of it), and a seat for two with no difficulty. It would have been off-putting if this were the atmosphere of the place throughout the cruise; but, it was crowded only during this embarkation period. Once the rooms were ready, the crowd diminished immediately.
CABIN We had booked what Eurodam calls a Deluxe Verandah Ocean-View Stateroom (No. 5043, for those who want to see where it is on the deck plan). For what we desired and needed, it was entirely satisfactory. It was clean, the bed was fantastic, the pillows and linens were clean and exceedingly comfortable. The closets and cabinets easily held all the contents of two very large suitcases, a hanging bag, and the largest carry-on the airlines allow. We unpacked everything and found storage for the bags under the bed. The room came with a bath/shower combo. Towels were abundant and soft. Two bathrobes were provided. The cabin steward removed an excess of hangers from the closets. An easy-to-use room safe provided peace of mind.
The view from the veranda never disappointed. With floor to ceiling windows you could see the sunrise over the moving sea each morning.
Possible disappointments: there are only two 110 AC electric outlets in the room, and they are located at the desk/vanity. Also, the assignment of light switches on the walls must have been determined by rolling dice. It took a day or two to figure out how to get the lights you wished on to be on.
Another disappointment: the glass wall on the verandah was stained with sea water spray, so that one could not sit on the veranda and get an unclouded view of the ocean. As we disembarked, we noted these panes being washed. Evidently that washing was overlooked before we arrived.
FOOD: GENERALLY It's everywhere and effectiely it's all the time (except, perhaps, between midnight and 7:00 AM.). In-room dining for no extra charge is always available, though the menu is less varied. Each night, a card for ordering in-cabin morning repast is available. You can select delivery times within 30 minutes (i.e. 6:00-6:30; 6:30-7:00; 7:00-7:30; etc.). Whatever we ordered invariably arrived in the middle of the period. So we always had coffee in our cabin upon arising, my wife always ate a full breakfast in the cabin, while I ventured forth to meet new people over a lavish breakfast in the Rembrandt dining room.
FOOD: REGULAR MEALS IN THE REMBRANDT We booked the cruise late, so traditional early/late seating was alrady full. Instead we had open seating, and in future I will always choose this, as it guarantees you will be eating with new people at every meal, something I enjoy. It also gives us greater flexibility in our schedule. Open seating dining in the evening is available from 5:15 until 9:30.
The Rembrandt dining room is a two-level affair, pleasing to the eye, but regrettably noisy when full. Breakfast and noon meals don't have this problem; but evening meals are difficult for conversation at your table, unless you eat late or eat there on an evening when many passengers are in port for the evening.
We heard a few passengers complain of slow service. I never had that problem. The pace was leisurely, but so was I!
The four-course meal was generous (appetizer, soup/salad, entree, dessert), and plentiful. If you wished two of something, it was yours for the asking. One man one evening finished his 10- ounce New York Strip steak and asked for a second one, which came promptly to the table. I usually added a scoop of ice cream to the dessert I selected. For each course, you had at least six choices. Plus, there was a list of "always available" items for every course, no matter what the menu for the evening.
Again, service for us was always satisfactory. We never waited longer than one would ordinarily wait in a normal restaurant. I really enjoyed being served by efficient, nimble young men (no waitresses in the Rembrandt) who did NOT want to become my best buddy and engage me in tacky banter during the meal. Drinks were always filled without asking and with minimal intrusion. Our waiters were like our cabin steward (see below): easily summoned, minimally verbal, accurate and prompt when fulfilling requests.
FOOD: THE LIDO The Lido Deck contains the Lido Buffet in most of its central area. At either end of the Lido Deck are swimming pools and sunbathing areas, along with hot tubs and dry saunas, all available to any guest. There are numerous buffets -- some serving "tastes of the world" cuisine, others more conventional American fare (meats, vegetables, starches, breads). Salads, drinks, and desserts all have their own separate buffet stations.
The whole point of the Lido Restaurant seems to be speed and convenience. Patrons seemed to be mostly those folks in the pool areas that flank each end of the very long Lido Buffet. It was common during lunch to see "pool people" in the Lido, gathering their food and returning to the outdoors areas of the pools, where one found an abundance of tables under shade.
My wife and I often ate in the Lido at lunch. I usually ate a large salad, tempering my GI tract for dinner, dontcha know! After that first very crowded experience in the Lido when we arrived at the ship, we never found the Lido to be disagreeably crowded. It IS self-service. Most of the staff on the floor are busing tables, though they will respond politely and quickly to requests for refills on drinks (or, at least, those we asked did so).
FOOD: SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS The Canaletto: This is tucked into a corner of the Lido Restaurant. We missed it, so have no comment. Others we consulted were very pleased with it. No extra charge, but reservations are needed since it is small.
The Pinnacle Grill: a softly lit, wood-and-brass decorated steak place (plenty of other options available too: fish, chicken, lamb, pork). $20 a head extra to dine here, reservations required. The seating is by reservation, so you decide. My wife and I had our anniversary dinner there the second night at sea. Service was very good and the food was excellent. Knowing it was our anniversary (I had mentioned this when making the reservation before the cruise started), we were seated in a fantastic corner booth for two, giving us a panaramic view of the restaurant. A special anniversary cake came with dessert.
The Tamarind: this is billed as an "Asian fusion" restaurant, which seems to mean varied forms of Oriental-influenced fare. $15 a head extra to dine here, and my wife and I ate there the last evening of the cruise, forgoing whatever hoo-haw had been planned in the Rembrandt for the last night (who knows? maybe we missed something special?). The Tamarind was special. Very excellent service, and extremely tasty and exotically spiced food served in generous portions. Again, the four-course format with at least six choices per course.
Our Wasabi Soy-Crusted Tenderloin Steak was fabulous. The appetizers were abundant and plentiful. The ambiance of the restaurant was peaceful. I heartily recommend it.
My single quibble -- and this applies generally to the ship -- is that my ear is not tuned to English spoken with a very strong Indonesian or Filipino accent. So, I often found myself saying "Beg pardon?" and "I didn't understand you." But, we always got through these challenges, and we decided to face them with a gaming interest rather than irritation.
The Terrace Grill: this is a hamburger joint at one of the Lido Deck pools. The one day I grabbed something from it, they were offering cheeseburger, lamb burger, veggie burger, and turkey burger, all with fries and condiments. It was fast food on the ship, and though I was expecting to be underwhelmed, I was shocked and delighted with the charcoaly taste of the burger. Yum!
The dessert buffet was just inside the Lido Restaurant, so I ducked in there for cookies and ice cream, carrying them back to my bride with no problem at all.
Sundry Food: Hors d' oeuvres are served in many of the bars in late afternoon, but I never partook of those offerings. I'd be surprised to learn they were subpar, as all the othe food I ate was excellent. There is a coffe/pastry shop on the 11th deck that contains the internet stations and library. Imagine a smallish Starbucks and you'll know what it's like.
EVENING ENTERTAINMENT Almost every evening, there was a show in the triple-deck space of the Mainstage auditorium. Lasting about an hour, these shows were quite good. I feared there might be a lot of raunch (such as one might find in a Las Vegas floor show), but these were free of that sort of funk. The singers had strong, on-key voices, the dancers were athletic and nimble; the shows (according to someone I spoke with) are designed by Barry Manilow. Given the space constraints of a ship, I was intrigued with how lively a show they produced with the sets and lights available.
The show was offered at 8:00 and 10:15 in the evening, the earlier audience far more "packed" than the latter. A highlight for us was a magician. I'm sure the shows change frequently through the year, so I won't comment further. If Holland is able to secure the same quality of performers as what we saw, no one will be disappointed.
ON BOARD ACTIVITIES These were abundant and varied. In a week, I could not possibly partake of most of them (even if I had wanted to; I don't gamble, for example). There was a cooking seminar running through the week; also one on digital photography, with laptops supplied. Lectures in the Mainstage on various ports and their attractions were common. The ship contains a library with a couple of thousand books of varied fiction and nonfiction (my wife found and read a 400 page work on the Congress of Vienna in 1814).
Internet service is pricey -- from 85 cents a minute to 45 cents a minute if you buy access in chunks. I purchased 100 minutes for $55, so I could monitor a few potential trouble spots at home. I used up about 60 of those minutes. I could also read one blog of personal interest by pulling up the page on the screen, and then hitting the print button. Actual reading took place via ink on paper.
Internet stations are plentiful. I never saw anyone waiting to use one.
Personal Complaint: I could find no place on the ship (other than my cabin) that was truly quiet. There was always noise -- people talking, overhead music -- which prevented me from reading a book I'm reviewing for a publication. I really needed a genuinely library-quiet atmosphere for this, and I was disappointed that in a ship as large as the Eurodam there is no such spot (not that I could find; and, I queried several staff about this).
EXCURSIONS Holland offers many of these. We did only one -- I parasailed at Half Moon Cay. Otherwise, on this first-cruise experience, my wife and I kept ourselves to wandering around the ports, looking to see what we would find on our own. It was fun. It was successful. We were entertained. On St. Thomas the shopping was a blast, particularly if you're looking for distilled spirits or jewelry. Much to my delight I found and purchased a pair of sapphire and diamond earrings for my bride -- lovely, dangly, sparkly things -- for a price that was unbelievable, from a long-established and highly rated jeweler (Cardow).
As I scanned the excursion list from Holland, they seemed pricey to me for what they described. Obviously, I can be wrong here. But, with so much in port to do and see without paying someone to herd your around --- well, we'll exhaust these possibilities before we feel attracted to excursions.
SERVICE Paul Motter's essay concerning service on Holland, available at this site here says it all. Read it. I confirm what he says.
Our cabin steward obviously studied us to know what we wanted, how we wanted it, when we wanted it, and he delivered it totally behind the scenes. Example: I asked for ice within two hours of arriving in the cabin. The bucket never lacked for ice for the remainder of the cruise.
Every time we returned to our room, it had been tidied up, even if we were gone for only an hour. One cruiser joked that the cabin stewards were like ninjas -- when you are in they're out, when you're out, they're in. You begin to think they hid in a secret compartment in your cabin, jumping out as you depart to tidy up you little messes. It was one of the most astounding things I've ever seen. Beds turned down every night, lights dim, chocolates, ordering card for in-cabin wake-up coffee and food as we pleased. I don't know how they do this for over 2,000 passengers at a time.
OTHERS' IMPRESSIONS This was our first cruise. Most of the folks we met had cruised six, twelve, even more cruises, on differint lines. We invariably asked them to rate the cruise lines they had used, and to compare them to Holland. In every case, they said that this cruise on the Eurodam was superior to anything they had encountered elsewhere. I wonder if I am now set up for disappointment if I ever cruise another line!
We recently completed our 8 day cruise on the Eurodam. At the outset, let me offer two points. One, I think we are fair and reasonably objective people. Two, I have always appreciated people who have taken the time to write a review and help us have a more enjoyable vacation. So, we really wanted to return all the effort others have taken on our behalf.
Embarkation The embarkation was as smooth and efficient as we have every had on a cruise. Our time in the line waiting could only have been 5 minutes. Holland staff members were very pleasant and helpful,truly the easiest part of the cruise. Holland can be very pleased at their staff
Cabins We opted for a deluxe veranda. Upon entering our room, we immediately felt claustrophobic. Rather than an modern elegant feel, the room had unattractive bedding, cheap cardboard prints on the wall and poor lighting. The balcony was decent sized but we were left feeling very very disappointed in the room. It was impossible for two people to pass each othter between the bed and the door to the veranda. The Eurodam reports to being oneof the newest ships in their fleet but "reads" like a Holiday Inn circa 1984. Certainly not "luxury" cruising. The public areas below the main deck were not much better. I'm not sure who was making the design choices for the ship but the overall effect was not good.
Food There is good news and bad news. The good news - the speciality dining was very good with Tamarind (their Asian fusion dining) being excellent. We're from NYC and this could hold it own with any restaurant in NYC. Pinnacle Grill, their steak house, was solid. The maining dining was acceptable with one or two high spots, but mostly just pretty average. Holland should be embarrassed about the Lido. The theme seems to be substitute quanity for quality. What you end up with is alot of really really really bad food. Room service was so bad that we almost enjoyed seeing what would be offered. We used room service for coffee in the morning to wake up on the veranda
Excursions I have to respect Holland for cancelling our Power Snorkeling. They weather was iffy and rather than have people have a bad experience, they cancelled. We ended up just enjoying the sun in Turks and Caicos.
There was much to much emphasis on shopping on St Thomas. What the shopping winds up being is a seemingly ending string of jewelry stores...literally over a hundred offering essentially the same thing. Shop for an hour, then jump in a cab and go to Megan's Bay. Truly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There is inexpensive food and changing areas, so just bring your swim suits with you.
San Juan was lovely. We enjoyed just walking around Old San Juan much more than I thought we would. Others who had taken the tour in the rain forest loved the tour but hated having to travel almost 1 1/2 hours in each direction. Just get off the ship, and walk one minute to old San Juan. It's impossible to not be charmed but this part of town.
Half Moon Cay Their private island was one of our favorite parts ot the trip. The beach is one of the most beautiful we had ever been on. It requires a tender to get to the shore so go before 8AM or after 10Am. The line to get to the tenders is very very long between those hours.
Our fellow cruisemates We were truly shocked at the average age on the cruise. The average age was easily over 70. People under 65 were VERY few and far between. I'm not against crusing with a varity of ages, but wished it had been a little more balanced. We felt very much in the minority.
Overall I can only say that we were very very disappointed with the cruise. We had previously cruised with Holland (Zuiderdam)and were excited about a newer ship. I would never suggest people cruise with Holland and wished we had chosen to go with Celebrity or Princess, as what we had orginally planned to do.