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MS EURODAM

Trip Report: Eurodam Day at Sea

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Day two of my trip on Holland America‘s Eurodam started with a walk up to the Crow’s Nest Lounge to do a little work. While this amazing spot, with its panoramic views and variety of seating options, is a hopping spot on any given afternoon or evening, that’s not exactly the case at 6 a.m., which is when I headed up there.

The Crow’s Nest is definitely a room with a view!

The ship started to wake up around 8:30 a.m., which is when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and twisted my arm — not that it took much effort — to go down to the Main Dining Room for breakfast. While I rarely take the time to sit and have breakfast at home, I’m a big fan of having someone start my day off right by serving up a nice morning meal on a cruise.

Breakfast is served… by someone else.

The Kind Of Day Cruisers Dream About

After breakfast, I strolled outside for what promised to be a picture-perfect sea day. You know those days where there’s a slight breeze pushing fluffy clouds across a blue sky, and all you wanna do is find a deck chair and watch the world go by? That’s the kind of day this was. Heading down to the Promenade Deck with my book, I settled in and relaxed for three solid hours. Again, not something I get a lot of opportunities to do back home. Next thing I knew — surprise, surprise! — it was time to eat again! Funny how that happens, huh?

Another gorgeous day at sea.

Eventually, I made my way to the aft of the ship to enjoy the early part of the afternoon. And I’m glad I did, as the weather started to deteriorate as we headed toward evening. Fortunately, there were plenty of activities going on inside to keep everyone occupied, including trivia.

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Now, I’ll admit that I enjoy trivia more than I probably should given that I’m not particularly great at it. (I’ve only one once, and that was a country music trivia contest on board the Carnival Vista. If there’s one thing I know, aside from all things cruising, it’s country music!) Today’s trivia questions were not, sadly, about country music, or even cruising. In fact they were hard enough that I only got 8 out of 16 right. Life lesson: Next time, team up with a big group. The more the merrier… plus, the more the better the odds of someone actually knowing the answer!

We headed back up to the Crow’s Nest at 4 p.m., but this time it wasn’t so I could work. The lounge was hosting happy hour, which meant buy one drink, get a second for $2. Needless to say, we hung out there for a while!

On most Holland America ships, they have a destination specialist on board whose whole job is to provide you with information about the ports you’ll be visiting. They know the ports inside and out, and they offer great suggestions about what to do (and sometimes, just as importantly, what not to do!). On this Eurodam sailing, our destination specialist was Eve, who proved to be a great resource. She was also super helpful when it came to coordinating my plans to fly home from St. Thomas later in the week. Since Eve is actually from St. Thomas, I was able to hit her up with all my questions. And I had a lot of them, given how many options there are when it comes to things to do in St. Thomas.

A Must-Try Meal On Board The Eurodam

When the time for dinner rolled around, we headed to the Asian Fusion restaurant, Tamarind. As I mentioned yesterday, I’d made reservations in several of the specialty restaurants. I have to say, this was one of the best meals I’ve had at sea in years. I’ll be writing a full review of the venue once I’m back home, but all you need to know for now is that it was worth every penny of the $25 per person charge, which gets you everything from sushi to wasabi crusted beef tenderloin and seared lobster.

If the sushi at Tamarind was any fresher, it would swim up to your table.

They strong recommend reservations, and I can see why this place fills up fast. I’ve been looking forward to the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse all week, but I have to admit, this is going to be a tough meal for even that to top!

Tempting as it was to make the rounds and see what entertainment was on tap, I wanted to make an early night of it as we’re hitting Grand Turk tomorrow. While we don’t really have a plan in place, I want to get a feel for how the island is doing in the wake of the hurricanes which struck a few months ago.

So until tomorrow… goodnight!

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MS EURODAM

Trip Report: Eurodam Returns to St. Thomas

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This has been a bitter-sweet week for me as the Holland America ms Eurodam returned to several of the hurricane-damaged islands for the first time since the storms. Earlier this week, it was Grand Turk, and today it was St. Thomas. I woke up around 5 a.m. to watch as we pulled into St. Thomas. The sun was rising over the mountains off the starboard side of the ship and, despite the trepidation I’d been feeling about this port visit, a sense of tranquility came over me.

The ms Eurodam Returns to St. Thomas

Eurodam

Because I was flying home later that day, I had to clear customs just before 8 a.m. down in the Hudson Room on deck three. From there I got my passport back, and we set out to explore the island. I didn’t have a lot of time, because I’d have to catch a shuttle to the airport, so 15 minutes later I hit the ground running in order to pack as much into the next four hours as I possibly could.

The shops and restaurants are starting to open again, so we opted to eat breakfast at a local bakery right off the pier. I wasn’t super hungry, so I got a BLT on a bagel and a cup of coffee. After breakfast, we walked along the pier where nothing could disguise the fact that that only two months earlier, a storm with 220 mph winds had blown through.

We talked with some of the locals to find out how they were making out. Proving just how resilient the human spirit is, these people — who’d been subjected to the kind of weather incident that most of us can never imagine — were largely optimistic. The attitude of most islanders was one you hear time and again from people who survive catastrophic events: “Material things are replaceable, lives aren’t.” More than a few told of trying to get off the island before the storm hit, but being unable to as one after another, flights were canceled.

Eurodam

I did notice that the Skyride to Paradise Point is still closed. Obviously, this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in St. Thomas, making it something they’ll want to get up and running as soon as possible. But according to the attraction’s Facebook page, it could be a while.“I am sorry to say that the property is not open at this time,” it reads. “The property is waiting for the electric to be restored so repairs can be made.”

We’d booked a two-hour excursion that would tour the island in an open-air jeep. We met at the pier and boarded the jeeps, then began making our way up the the mountain. Soon, we were at a lookout area far above Megan’s Bay. We eventually headed up to the second highest point on the island, topped by two cell phone towers. One was a stunning example of the hurricane’s power, reduced to a twisted pile of steel, while the other stood tall.

We eventually arrived at the top of a mountain with an elevation of 1500 feet above sea level, and the views were stunning. Mountain Top claims to have created the first banana daiquiri and while I don’t know if that’s true, we sure as heck weren’t going to leave without trying one.

My cell phone service was awful on the island. Since that hasn’t been the case in the past,  I’m assuming they are still trying to get things up and running. The hum of generators could be heard everywhere you went. The further from the port you got — and the higher into the mountains — the more severe the damage seemed to be. At one point, there were even power lines strewn across the roadway.

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I noticed that we were seeing a lot of blue-topped homes and asked our tour guide for an explanation. He told us that as part of something called — appropriately enough — Operation Blue Roof, FEMA is installing fiber-reinforced blue plastic sheeting to cover the damaged roofs until permanent repairs can be made. This allowed people to at least remain in their homes even as they wait for a more permanent solution. In fact, FEMA chartered the Grand Celebration (formerly the Carnival Celebration), which is housing relief workers and will be until the end of the year.

Returning to the ms Eurodam

We got back to the ship around 11:30 a.m., and my airport transfer was at noon. I quickly double-checked to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind and went down to the gangway to meet the port agent and head to the airport.

A lot of people have asked me if the ms Eurodam terminated in St. Thomas. The cruise is actually a seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyage that was round-trip out of Port Everglades. I had a scheduling conflict, so I reluctantly had to cut the trip short and fly home from St. Thomas. The rest of the passengers went on to enjoy another sea day and visit Half Moon Cay (which I really regret having had to miss, as it’s one of my favorite stops!) before returning to Florida on Sunday.

Final Thoughts

Sitting on the plane heading for home, I couldn’t help thinking about the places I’d visited and what I’d seen there over the past few days. And what did I conclude? A couple of important things.

•  As numerous people told me in the ports that were recovering from the storms, everything except life is replaceable. Be grateful for every day, no matter how crappy it might seem at the moment.

• It’s important to support local businesses when you travel. Grand Turk, St. Thomas and the other ports visited by the cruise ships rely heavily on tourism for their survival. Whether it’s a place you’ve visited once before or a thousand times, getting off the ship and pumping a little cash into the local economy is always a positive thing. Plus, there’s nothing better than experiencing local culture, whether it’s enjoying a meal prepared with fresh, local ingredients or sitting in a bar buying a drink for someone and hearing their story.

• The Caribbean is open for business. Yes, not everything is the way it was. Some things probably won’t be for a very long time. But the beaches are gorgeous, the people are excited to have cruise ships back and there are all kinds of adventures to be had.

I’ll have more on the experience on Holland America’s ms Eurodam in the coming weeks, including restaurant reviews and more. In the meantime, if you missed any of the previous entries from my Eurodam trip reports, check them out here.

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MS EURODAM

Trip Report: Eurodam Unscheduled Day at Sea

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I could tell by the way the captain was hovering the Eurodam off the coast of the Dominican Republic that the captain was probably going to make a decision that not everyone would necessarily like. The Dominican Republic is a tender port — meaning that the ship has to anchor off shore and use smaller boats to shuttle passengers back and forth. The winds were high and the sea was rough, and that dangerous combination makes the whole tendering process darn near impossible.

Holland America’s Eurodam at sea. 

At right around 9 a.m., the announcement that I had been expecting finally was made. “Ladies and gentleman,” boomed the voice of Captain John Scott over the PA system, “as you can see we are sailing away from Punta Cana. I made the decision to head to St. Thomas, because we couldn’t get sheltered against the wind.” I’m sure there were some passengers who were disappointed by this turn of events, but everyone I encountered during the course of the unexpected sea day seemed to take the news in stride. After all, they were still on vacation… and any day on a ship is better than one at a desk!

Because a ship is often moved from one itinerary to another over the course of their lifetimes, it’s helpful if it is designed in such a way that it can adapt. One great thing about the Eurodam is that there is a retractable roof over the pool that is found mid-ship on the lido deck. That means even in inclement weather, you can still lounge by the pool or go for a swim without worrying about freezing your butt off when you get out of the water. (The aft pool and hot tubs are under the open sky, for those who might be purists… weather be damned.)

The breakfasts served in the main dining room continue to blow me away. This morning I went with salmon and a side of fruit. I passed on the bagel because I suspected that this unplanned sea day might result in a little more eating than I’d originally planned!

Eurodam

I’ll admit that I was a little bummed, as I’d used the Eurodam‘s shore excursion kiosks (great for booking something when the desk is closed for whatever reason) to book a sail-and-snorkel excursion. Everything I read about the excursion — not to mention the incredible pics — left me thinking this was something I’d have really enjoyed. But hey, that’s why there’s always another cruise to be booked.

Eurodam

If not for the unexpected sea day, I probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity on this particular cruise to visit America’s Test Kitchen. For the uninitiated, this is a really cool hybrid of cooking class and presentation developed in conjunction with the folks at PBS. You don’t just learn how to make a dish, you learn a lot of facts about why the dish works. There’s even some unexpected science lessons along the way. Even the audio/visual presentation of the stage is cool, making it feel as if you’ve just stepped inside the television show.

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Eurodam

The next few hours were sort of a blur of day drinking, trivia — and no, we still didn’t win — and reading. With that in mind, I’m going to jump ahead to the real highlight of the day… dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. (If you’ve been following along all week, you know how much I’ve been looking forward to this!)

Our reservation was for 6:30 p.m., and we were seated promptly and presented with menus which are broken down into first course, main and dessert. And then there are enough sides that it makes it downright difficult to decide which ones you want! If you’re a wine snob, you might want to skip the next paragraph.

Now I openly and freely admit that I’m not really a wine person. I can tell a red from a white, but that’s about it. Tonight, however, I was going to fake it. In looking at the wine list, I was shocked to see one that goes for $2,300 a bottle. Even more shocking? Finding out that it’s ordered on a pretty regular basis! While it might have been fun to see if I could tell the difference between a $2,300 bottle of vino and one that sells for $59, I’m betting you can guess which one we went with.

Eurodam

If you’re a regular reader of my trip reports, you know that I’ve lost about 60 pounds this year. You’ll also recall that I’ve been developing various techniques to try and keep myself from putting that weight back on while cruising. But tonight… well, the belt was going to be loosened and the diet dealt a severe blow. I wound up ordering the jumbo shrimp cocktail, the 23 ounce porterhouse steak and (for a well-worth-it upcharge of $15) Alaskan king crab legs. I’d like to tell you that I skipped dessert, but I’d be lying, because I went with the Pinnacle Souffle. Hey, every now and then you have to let yourself live a little… even when on a diet.

Eurodam

Tomorrow we arrive in St. Thomas, where I’ll spend the day before flying home. I don’t know what to expect when I get to the island. Yes, they are open to cruise ship guests, but what if they’ve opened prematurely? It’s a tough call, given that the area relies heavily on tourism in general and cruise ship passengers in particular. Without the ships returning to port and pumping money into the local economy, the restoration process will be slowed down. As with Grand Turks before it, I’m nervous and excited about the visit, and looking forward to telling you what I find once we arrive in St. Thomas.

Missed yesterday’s trip report? You can read it here.

Goodnight.

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MS EURODAM

Trip Report: Eurodam Embarkation Day

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This week, I’m setting sail on Holland America’s Eurodam, and it’s one of those great times when I get to combine business and pleasure. On the one hand, I’m on a cruise ship, and that’s always a pleasure. On the other, with cruise ships now returning to the islands that were hit by hurricanes a few months ago, it’s sort of my job to fill people in on how the recovery is coming.

The Eurodam preparing to leave port.

So this morning, we drove from Jacksonville to Port Everglades to board the Eurodam for a cruise that will include a stop in St. Thomas, one of the most popular ports among Caribbean cruisers. It also happens to be one of my favorite ports thanks to more than a few visits. Among past highlights? Taking the tram to Paradise Point, hopping a ferry to visit Trunk Bay over on neighboring St. John, or just hitting some of the great dive bars in town. So I’m really looking forward to our visit later this week and the chance to check on the beautiful port’s progress.

The itinerary for this particular Eurodam sailing includes stops at Grand Turk, Punta Cana (in the Dominican Republic), St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to fly back home from St. Thomas, so I’ll miss the last couple days. But that just gives me more motivation to pack as much fun into this trip as I possibly can before the real world pushes its way back in.

Heading to the ms Eurodam

We got to Fort Lauderdale around 11 a.m., with plans to meet my friends — Kristin and Scott — for lunch before boarding. They were going to be doing a two-night cruise on the Regal Princess so they could test out the new Ocean Medallion technology. Lunch wound up taking a little longer than I expected, and I started to panic. What if we didn’t make it to the pier on time? Was I really going to pull a total amateur move and miss the ship? Luckily the Tap 42 Brewhouse is only about 3 miles from the port, so we made it there around 2 p.m. (It turns out that passengers are required to be checked in and on board the ship no later than 3:30 p.m.)

I know most people love getting to the port early (all the better to get on board and start that vacation ASAP), but there are definite benefits to arriving a little later. In this case, there was absolutely no line at the check-in counter or security, meaning we went from arriving at the curb to on the ship in six minutes flat. Seriously, I might have to reconsider that whole “early-to-port” thing if arriving a few hours later means embarkation is this easy!

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll realize that because it was after 1:30 p.m., our staterooms were ready… which is another benefit to boarding a little later. We have a balcony stateroom on deck six, forward… actually, just behind the navigational bridge. The room is a standard layout with two twin beds, a nice couch in the sitting area and plenty of storage. One thing that I love about a lot of the Holland America balcony rooms I’ve stayed in is that they have a tub in the shower. That’s increasingly rare these days, so it’s a nice touch.

My stateroom’s balcony, a perfect spot for morning coffee! 

Rain, Rain… Go Away! (Hey, It Worked!)

Thanks to the technology used on board, the dreaded muster drill — and really, does anybody look forward to those, including the crew? — was incredibly short. From the time we left our stateroom to the time the captain dismissed us… 16 minutes. I can live with that.

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I’ve experienced a lot of sailaways over the years, and never once have I had one get rained out. I thought this might be the first, but apparently, I’m a good luck charm, because the clouds parted and we had a perfectly dry sailaway. #TheStreakContinues

Clouds? Yes. Rain? Nope!

There are three different specialty venues on the ms Eurodam: Pinnacle Grill (the line’s signature steakhouse), Tamarind (featuring Asian fusion cuisine) and Canaletto (which is obviously their Italian restaurant), so I made reservations for each of them. While I’m big on doing everything I can to avoid packing on extra pounds on a cruise (and in general), I’m a huge fan of the Pinnacle Grill’s 23-ounce porterhouse steak and crab legs. Consider that a preview of my dinner order.

Main dining room-wise, we’d gone with anytime dining, and we both agreed that it was one of the best MDR experiences either of us had had in a while. Whether that was due to the anytime dining program or the fact that we opted to go at around 7:15 p.m., the food was professionally served and tasted fantastic. I went with the French Onion soup, smoked chicken over Brussel sprouts and Creme brulee. My friend opted for the spicy shrimp, and we both agreed everything was spot-on. We all know that some of the cruise lines have cut corners in recent years in an effort to save money, but if Holland America has, I certainly can’t tell.

Spicy shrimp, anyone?

Nightlife on the Eurodam

The Eurodam features a venue called Billboard Onboard, featuring a rotating group of musicians. Tonight was dueling piano players who had the crowd singing along as they played a ton of decades-spanning hits (and a whole lot of crowd-pleasing Beatles tunes).The B.B. King Blues Club was also hopping, with a kick-ass band (featuring a killer horn section) that had people on the dance floor and singing along to Motown classics. (I go to a lot of concerts and have noticed more and more touring bands are beefing up their sounds with horn sections. Turns out, I’m a big fan… whether on land or sea.)

Dueling pianos at Billboard Onboard.

Tomorrow’s a sea day as we make our way to Grand Turk (a port I haven’t visited since I stopped there while on the Carnival Sunshine back in December of 2015).  One of my favorite places on the island, Jack’s Shack, took a beating from two two hurricanes earlier this year, and he’s finally back open for business. I’m hoping Jack will be there so I can do a follow-up to the piece we ran shortly after the storms… and maybe get a pic with Topher, the world’s most photographed dog.

For those keeping track at home, my pre-cruise weight was 169. With all the speciality dining this week, I could derail! Stay tuned…

Goodnight.

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Hi, this may be of interest to you: Trip Report: Eurodam Day at Sea. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/trip-report-eurodam-day-at-sea/