I recently had the opportunity to cruise on Holland America Cruise line for the first time as a presenter for the Cruise Holidays year-end Convention. The Convention was held on one Holland America’s newest and largest vessels, ms Eurodam.
The week before, I cruised on the Celebrity Millennium. Celebrity is considered to be the top-tier of the contemporary cruise lines while Holland America is the bottom tier of the luxury cruise lines so I had an excellent opportunity compare the differences in service, food, décor and amenities. The Millennium is one of Celebrity older ships while the Eurodam is one of Holland America’s newer, larger ships. So the comparison is not 100% fair to Celebrity, so in some instances I will make comparisons to the Celebrity Solstice. The Celebrity Millennium is getting upgraded with Solstice inspired enhancements in May 2012. Click to See full review of Celebrity Millennium with list of enhancements coming in 2012.
The Eurodam’s décor, table settings, stateroom furnishings, and little touches like the enclosed tiled shower poolside are a little more luxurious than even the Solstice. On the Eurodam, the retractable roof over the pool allowed us to stay by the pool even as we passed through a rain cloud. The New York Times sponsored internet café and library on ms Eurodam is the largest and most impressive I’ve seen on a cruise ship. The balcony staterooms were spacious and included a bath tub . although m/s Eurodam is a fairly large ship [85,000 gross tons], her design with lots of little nooks and small spaces give her a more intimate feel expected on a Holland America cruise.
From the minute I boarded, the differences were noticeable. On the Celebrity Millennium, we were served champagne and mimosas as we boarded the vessel, but not on the Eurodam. With both cruise lines, we could start boarding early [around 11:30AM]. On the Eurodam, our staterooms were ready for us at 11:30 AM on day of embarkation. On the Millennium, we were not allowed to go to our stateroom until 1:00 PM forcing us to lug around our carry-on luggage as we ate lunch and toured the ship. While the champagne is a nice touch when boarding the Millennium, being able to get in my cabin early was a huge win for the Holland America.
Average age of passengers
I’ve cruised Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, and Italy at different times of year on several different cruise lines. While the average age of cruisers on 7+ night cruises is skewed upward, the average age of the passengers on Holland America’s Eurodam were still noticeably older. This requires for the crew to be extremely patient. It also requires for the other passengers onboard being patient. The buffet lines move a little slower and the entertainment is geared toward the older demographic. Eurodam staff were very friendly with a good command of the English language. A language barrier with the dining staff on the Celebrity Millennium was a minor issue I commented on in my review of the Millennium.
I was most impressed with the luxury add-on available to guests at a very reasonable up-charge. The additional charges are so reasonable that all of the cabanas and passes to the hydro pool/thermal suites sold out for the entire week by the end of the time we ate dinner on the first night. The Eurodam offers cabanas poolside on the Lido Deck and more private cabanas on the observation deck. The retreat cabanas on the observation deck are only $45 on port days and $75 on sea days.
The Eurodam offers week long passes to the relaxing Hydro Pool and Thermal Suites for couples and individuals. The couple pass is only $199 for the whole week. This is very limited and sold out by the end of the 1st night.
Tamarind, pan-Asian Specialty Restaurant
On the Eurodam, I had the pleasure of eating at their pan-Asian specialty restaurant, Tamarind. They have their entrée broken down by spiciness. If you order their spiciest selections, be prepared for some serious heat. The spicy shrimp entrée brought me close to sweating. All together, the Ahi Tuna appetizer, assorted sushi, soup, chocolate fortune cookie, & the spicy shrimp entrée made for one of my most memorable cruise dinners. Reservations to Tamarind can be difficult to come-by as it only sits 144 guests, so make reservations online shortly after booking your cruise. Dinner at Tamarind requires a $15 cover charge, Lunch is complimentary!
In my review of the Celebrity Millennium, I wrote that we had the best cabin steward ever. Day or night, if we were walking to our cabin he’d run ahead of us and unlock our cabin. On the Eurodam, I felt like their philosophy is that the best cabin steward is one not seen. I would leave in the morning and comeback around noon with my cabin cleaned. I’d leave for dinner and comeback before going to the casino or show to find my bed turned down. I can’t remember ever seeing a cleaning cart in the hallway. They were fast, efficient and hard to be spotted. While I loved the personal touch from our cabin steward on the Celebrity Millennium, I also appreciate the fast and efficient service of the stewards on the Eurodam.
Conference at Sea
The Eurodam’s conference facility and staff handled our group of 300+ incredibly well. For large incentive groups, continuing education, or conferences at sea looking for a 7-night option, m/s Eurodam’s facilities and staff are more than capable to handle your every need.
The same can be said for the Celebrity Millennium. Compared to most other cruise ships doing 4 – 5 night Caribbean itineraries, the Millennium has one of the best conference facilities I’ve seen.
ms Eurodam is a beautiful vessel, full of luxurious amenities and a wonderful staff. The service and food at the buffets, main dining, and specialty restaurants is high enough for me to include it in the luxury category. I was cruising with a group of 300 well-traveled travel agents, and could not find anyone with a negative comment about the ship, food, or the crew.
Celebrity vs. Holland America
I love the differentiation between the cruise lines. I love soaking in the experience that each has to offer. Celebrity’s food, service, décor, and amenities are noticeably better than Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Holland America felt to be a notch above Celebrity in these categories.
But, choosing the right cruise line is all about personal preferences. When choosing between Celebrity and Holland America, you’re not going to go wrong with either option.
As a 36 year old cruising enthusiast, if I had to choose between Celebrity and Holland America I would choose Celebrity. The slightly better food and service is not enough to make up for the older demographic of the passengers. Don’t get me wrong, Celebrity cruises is not packed with 30 – 45 years olds – but for those 30 – 45 year olds looking for an upscale cruising experience, I recommend the Celebrity Solstice Class of Cruise Ships. Most 30 – 45 year olds are looking for entertainment, activities, and fun while on board the ship — so, I recommend Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian for most 30 – 45 year olds.
Click here to view more m/s Eurodam Photos from my trip.