By David G. Molyneaux, editor, The Travel Mavens
With more than a dozen cruise ships carrying 3,000 passengers or more -- and giants of 5,500 passengers on order -- what used to be called a big ship now is considered small.
Mid-size? Well, that's somewhere between what once was big and what today is too big to fit through the Panama Canal.
At left, the ship is docked on the River Tynen in England.
Yes, we have come that far in the evolution of floating hotels, when a ship of 2,104 passengers is mid-sized.
The Eurodam, which was christened in early July in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is barely larger than Holland America's Zuiderdam, Oosterdam or Westerdam.
But the Eurodam carries an extra 200 passengers or so by adding another deck on top, pushing the mid-sized limit over 2,000 people while preserving the size of the hull so the ship can squeeze through the Panama Canal (though not anytime soon).
The result is a ship that is much like the others of Holland America Line (HAL). The company, in business for 135 years, has built a reputation on traditional service; designs that include generous portions of space on deck, in cabins and public areas; and art collections that are worthy of a guided tour.
New spa cabins, Asian restaurant
The ship is seldom crowded, has a spacious feel and provides numerous nooks for curling up with a book or a cup of coffee.
Art on the Eurodam is explained in a self-guided, narrated iPod tour that is offered free to passengers. On what other ship would a glass enclosed elevator offer different views of self portraits by Rembrandt as the elevator climbs floor by floor?
With space from the extra deck, Holland America added a group of cabins near the spa, complete with yoga mat and pedometer, and a new restaurant, Tamarind. It has an Asian theme and menu (try the wasabi and soy encrusted beef at dinner), and Indonesian women as wait staff, new to HAL, which has long employed Indonesian men.
Fees in alternative restaurants
While the restaurant serves dim sum at lunch at no charge, Tamarind requires reservations and a $15 fee at dinner. Holland America executives say the $15 dinner fee, like the $20 fee at its steak restaurant Pinnacle Grill, is needed for crowd control. If Tamarind were free, they say, everybody would line up each night. Even a fee as small as $15 per person reduces the demand at alternative restaurants and keeps most passengers eating in the two-story Rembrandt dining room, where they may have the same seating each night or opt for choosing their own dining hour and table.
Also new is a free specialty restaurant, Canaletto, left, which serves Italian pastas, risottos and meat dishes in a casual setting in the corner of the Lido buffet area.
Canaletto, dressed at night with white tablecloths for 72 diners, was so popular in July that the Eurodam may need to add a fee.
Classes at the Culinary Arts Center, right with Master Chef Rudi Sodamin in a show kitchen, are sponsored by Food and Wine magazine.
Likes: My favorite bars, Silk Den for the quiet and the commanding sea views from Deck 11 and the Pinnacle on Deck 2, left, where the stools move up and down hydraulically, giving you a little lift after a tough day at sea.
Dislike: The front desk. All cruise lines seem to be discouraging passengers from visiting their front desks, where in days past most problems were taken to be fixed. But as ships get bigger, front desks are getting smaller, and cruise lines encourage passengers to solve their accounts and other personal issues either with their floor stewards or on the interactive TVs in each cabin. At the Eurodam front desk, I had the feeling the staff would rather I had solved my problems elsewhere.
A haircut at sea? Read Trimmed by the barber of Eurodam
Thoughts from cruise experts on the Eurodam
Karyn Todd, vice president of Cruise.Com, a travel agency:
"People who tend to love Holland America Line are traditionalists. HAL ships all have the same sense of grace and timelessness. Holland America doesn't make changes easily. You can count on HAL as the standard bearer for tradition."
Carolyn Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com:
"A ship's size is the most important factor you'll need to weigh when choosing a cruise that best fits your lifestyle. That's because whether they're small, medium or large, all will offer pluses and, just as importantly, minuses. Big ships have more features and amenities but smaller ones tend to offer a cozier, more community-like ambiance.
"And remember that the newer the ship, the better the chance that contemporary amenities and features were part of the original design rather than being shoe-horned in."
Jane Archer, reviewer for the Telegraph of London:
Overall, the Eurodam's decor is elegant. "What really baffled me were
the private cabanas." Eight cabanas -- curtained areas with
made-for-two comfy loungers -- on the Lido deck, right, "are
nice to look at, although I’m not sure why anyone would pay for one"
(at $50 a day while the ship is at sea, $30 on port days for Evian
spray, iced fruit skewers and a glass of bubbly at tea time).
Another 14 cabanas are in the Retreat, which is just white plastic tents overlooking the Lido pool. At the back of the cabanas (at $75 and $45) are seats and loungers.
"I’m at a lost to know why anyone would want to sit there anyway. That strikes me as an awful lot of money to sit in a plastic tent when the rest of the ship is so much nicer."
Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates.com:
Eurodam is tasteful yet not stuffy, contemporary but not gaudy. The small touches that make Holland America special are here; the movie theater with free popcorn, the free ice cream and fresh cookies, the magrodome-covered pool area so the ship can work in any weather, the spacious cabins, now all with bathrobes, mini-bars and flat screen televisions with DVD players.