Image: Eurodam pulls in
Robin Utrecht  /  AFP - Getty Images
People watch the arrival of Holland America's Eurodam as it arrives in the Dutch port of Rotterdam on June 29.
By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 7/7/2008 11:29:42 AM ET 2008-07-07T15:29:42

Under sunny blue skies and with a royal blessing from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Holland America Line christened its newest and largest ship, Eurodam, in Rotterdam July 1st. Fittingly, the ceremony took place near the 135-year-old Dutch company’s original headquarters.

Since 1873 Holland America has taken delivery of eighty ships and Eurodam is the 14th vessel in the current fleet. With its diverse restaurants, bars and deluxe accommodations, it represents the pinnacle of evolution for a company that started out transporting immigrants, tulip bulbs and herring across the Atlantic.

The 86,700-ton, 2,104-passenger Eurodam is the first in the new Signature-class series for Holland America Line. Compared to other new ships, she is mid-sized and doesn’t offer the recently hyped megaship trends like zip lines or ice bars. However, it does have one thing no other ship has — its own blog.

For over a year, cruise enthusiasts have logged on daily to see Eurodam’s progress while it was being built in Italy. It is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how a cruise ship is planned, constructed, and operated. Additionally, the blog details the focus for what Holland America says is most relevant to its customers — upgrading the service and premium amenities.

What’s new
Those that have sailed on Holland America’s Vista-class vessels will find familiar, elegant surroundings on Eurodam, nonetheless, its larger size has allowed for some added pizzazz.

Among new venues on the ship is a pan-Asian restaurant called Tamarind where guests can dine on a complimentary dim sum lunch or pay $15 per person for dinner; Silk Den, a soothing bar adjacent to Tamarind serves delicious Sakétinis; a casual Italian eatery named Canaletto; and a pizzeria named Slice.

Other differences from previous Holland America ships include the addition of a new Explorer’s Lounge Bar, a new atrium bar area and an enhanced and reconfigured show lounge with theater-style seating. There’s also a dedicated space for the new Digital Workshop Powered by Microsoft Windows, with an expert-led program of free courses.

With an additional deck, Eurodam has 63 new staterooms more than the latest Vista-class ship. Forty-seven are verandah cabins and ten are a new style with ceiling-to-floor and wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Eurodam also features 56 Spa Staterooms, aptly dubbed because of their close proximity to the Greenhouse Spa and Salon and special in-room spa amenities. You pay a bit more for these rooms, but they come with an iPod docking station, Yoga mat, pedometer to use on the ship, fitness DVD, organic robes and slippers, modern massaging shower heads and a mini-bar stocked with specialty water selection.

Like a lot of cruise lines, Holland America is devoting more space to generating onboard revenue and the area that’s getting a lot of attention is The Retreat, an area above the Lido pool with 14 cabanas and abundant cushy lounge chairs. This is a private pay-for-use area is where guests can relax and recharge surrounded by healthy refreshments and luxurious leisure amenities. Fresh fruit, salads, wraps and juices are available here along with light breakfast options. Retreat cabanas are $45 on port days and $75 on sea days. If guests want a livelier lounge area there are eight Lido Cabanas around the Lido pool. Lunch at the Lido cabanas will be served upon request from a menu of poolside favorites from the Terrace Grill or Lido Restaurant. Lido cabanas are $30 on port day and $50 on sea days.

The ship also showcases new art and artifacts that focuses on traditional and contemporary Dutch art. To assist Eurodam guests in viewing the entire collection, a self-guided, narrated iPod virtual tour is offered, with iPods available for use free of charge on the ship.

Classic Holland America
Pizzazz aside, Eurodam does encompass all the trademark features of Holland America ships, including the Explorers Lounge, Ocean Bar, an exterior covered promenade deck encircling the entire ship, a large Lido pool with a retractable dome, and signature “Crow’s Nest” observation lounge.

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All of Eurodam’s 1,052 staterooms provide the line’s “Signature of Excellence” premium amenities of plush Euro-top Mariner’s Dream beds, deluxe bathrobes, plush Egyptian cotton towels, flat panel TVs, DVD players, make-up mirrors with halo lighting, massage shower heads and hair dryers.

For dining, the massive two-level Rembrandt Dining Room is the main dining room onboard and offers a cozy atmosphere despite its size.

Those wishing for a more intimate dining experience can dine at the aforementioned Tamarind or the Pinnacle Grill, with its bright white linens and striking Bvlgari place settings featuring fine Pacific Northwest specialties and wines — dinner is $30 per person, lunch is $15 per person. For casual meals, the Lido Restaurant offers multiple serving stations and attractive seating areas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Other features include the Greenhouse Spa and Salon — the largest spa facilities in the fleet offering an appealing hydrotherapy pool and lounge area. Those wishing to keep fit will appreciate the well-equipped gym and exercise classes.

Another popular recreation venue is the Culinary Arts Center with its demonstration kitchen. Complete with flat panel TVs around the room, it shares space with the cushy Queen’s Lounge and typically two free cooking demos are hosted per week. A movie theater, shops, piano bar, disco, casino and sports bar round out the entertainment offerings.

Though traditionally a line catering to older clientele, Holland America has made great strides in recent years to appeal to families and cruisers of all ages. For kids 3 to 17, the Eurodam has bright play areas, video arcade, plus the coolest teen center at sea with its own sun deck, waterfall and wading pool, juice bar, and dance floor.

When it comes to premium cruising Holland America appears to have hit the multi-generational bull’s-eye with Eurodam. Whether you are old or young, this elegant medium-sized ship offering top-notch service along with abundant traditional and modern amenities is tough to beat.

If you go
Following its inaugural Europe season in the Baltics, Eurodam will sail its first trans-Atlantic cruise in August, followed by a series of Canada/New England sailings from New York. In late fall the ship will transition to Fort Lauderdale to sail 7-day Caribbean cruises until the end of April. After the April the ship transitions to Europe for its Baltic season. Prices for the 10-day Baltic voyages begin at $2,474 per person; 10-day Canada/New England fares begin at $1627 per person; 7-day Caribbean sailings begin at $675 per person. All aforementioned prices are based on double occupancy.

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column. And check out her blog, ExpertCruiser.com.

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