The Fresh New Look aboard Holland America’s Eurodam
Aaron Saunders, Avid Cruiser
On Sunday, I stepped aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam for a look at the fresh new innovations that were recently added to the ship. These include substantially refreshed suites and brand-new, Koningsdam-esque innovations that revolve around Holland America’s new Music Walk concept that has been created in conjunction with Lincoln Center and Billboard Onboard.
The results are truly fantastic. Eurodam has been left with a fresh, new look and vibrant new features that are not only exciting and entertaining, but also lovingly designed to highlight the best aspects of the Holland America Line cruise experience in a way that will appeal to the line’s loyal Mariners and new guests alike.
I mention loyal Mariners because I myself am one. I started cruising with the line long before I ever started writing about cruises professionally. In 2005, I discovered the Oosterdam on a quickie Pacific Northwest cruise from Vancouver to Seattle, and it began my love affair with the line that quickly evolved to taking one or two “dam-ship” cruises every year.
My late grandmother, though, was the one who truly got me hooked on Holland America – even before I was old enough to ever book a cruise. Together with her late husband, she’d sail to Alaska religiously nearly every year, on the old Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam of 1983 and 1984. Accordingly, I have old coffee mugs that still list the old Rotterdam on them. I have daily programs from the Nieuw Amsterdam’s June 1993 sailing to Alaska. And ones from 1995. And ones from 1997.
Today’s Holland America Line has changed substantially from 1993…or has it? The ships may have changed, and certain traditions may have become less rigid, but I believe the core Holland America product – the reason that so many Mariners come back, and the reason that I felt an immediate sense of warmth and “home” upon boarding Eurodam at her Fort Lauderdale berth – has only improved with age.
Here’s a look at what guests can expect of Eurodam, and the rest of the Vista and Signature-class ships as they go into their respective drydocks this year and next:
The first thing we were invited to look at was Eurodam’s substantially-refreshed suites. Holland America didn’t just give these some new soft fabrics and slap a coat of paint on the balcony; these suites were rebuilt from the ground up. Wall treatments are new. Couches and chairs are new. Lighting is new. Bathroom fittings and fixtures are new – especially important, given that the old bathrooms were a touch on the drab side.
Neptune and Pinnacle Suites also benefit from a Bose Bluetooth speaker that can wirelessly connect to your iPhone playlist, and you can charge that iPhone with the new USB power outlets situated bedside. Bedside lighting is also much improved, with dedicated reading lights on either side.
Other enhancements include a massive LED flat-panel television screen inset into the wall, hooked up to a video-on-demand system that features complimentary movies and television shows. If you want to watch the entire series of Downton Abbey, Holland America’s got it.
Holland America’s top-of-the-line suites were already plenty nice; this refit, though, brings them firmly into the 21stcentury.
The New Gallery Bar
My undisputed favorite addition to the Eurodam is the Gallery Bar, which takes the place of the former Northern Lights disco. First introduced in 2002 aboard Zuiderdam, the Northern Lights disco never quite found its footing. It was under-utilised on every Vista class cruise I’ve taken. Now, this formerly unassuming public room tucked away on the port side of Deck 2 – Lower Promenade Deck has been given new purpose and a dramatic new look.
Stylish and sophisticated, the Gallery Bar includes an exclusive cocktail menu created by famed mixologist Dale DeGroff. We sampled creations that included the ‘Slightly Less Than Perfect’ Perfect Manhattan; the “Gallery” Gimlet; the Ritz Cocktail; and Another Shade of Greyhound. My favorite? The new take on the Manhattan – it’s refreshing and decidedly elegant.
The cocktail list perfectly fits in with the room, which is itself quite elegant. New furnishings accompany a bevvy of eclectic works of art. All told, this went from being one of the strangest to one of the most inviting venues onboard. This is a real winner for Holland America.
Music Walk – Billboard Onboard
Just outside the Gallery Bar, on the starboard side of the ship, is the Billboard Onboard venue, part of Holland America’s new Music Walk. You can get custom cocktails here, too, with musically-inspired names that are the perfect accompaniment to the live music.
One of Holland America’s strengths has always been its live onboard music. Billboard Onboard takes that to a new level, and we were treated to a superb musical performance by two pianists performing at the same time here.
You might remember the former Piano Bar that used to be here: a cool but closed-off space that guests either walked past or couldn’t get seating in. Now, with the walls completely removed and the Sports Bar gone, the new Billboard Onboard encourages guests walking past the casino or to and from the main show lounge to stop and linger. It’s a great idea that improves the experience of all guests by subtly suggesting to them that they should stop, mingle, or grab a seat and a cocktail and listen to the evening’s performance. This is one of the best refits I’ve personally seen on a ship – and I’ve seen a lot.
Lincoln Center Stage
If you’re looking for a more cerebral experience, head up to the Lincoln Center State, formerly known as the Explorer’s Lounge. Here, world-class musicians perform chamber music each evening, with mid-afternoon performances offered as well. Calling this “chamber music” seems a shame; what you really get are great classical music performances that range from, well, classic pieces to new takes on popular songs, including classical versions of songs performed by artists like Radiohead.
The Explorer’s Lounge was a great venue, and it still half-exists in this new space. But it was a lounge that most guests used to fall asleep in during the day. Now, this venue really sparkles with music that’s so good, I forgot why I was there: I nearly didn’t take photos of this venue because the classical music on offer was so darn good. I’ve sailed with Cunard on their National Symphony Orchestra crossings, and the music on offer here was at that level. Seriously good.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
Finally, you can’t beat the music in B.B. King’s Blues Club – also on Deck 2, and just aft of the Billboard Onboard venue. Here, B.B. King’s All-Stars Band brings the best of Memphis music to the sea – and it works surprisingly well. This venue utilises the Queen’s Lounge, and ironically it seems better suited to B.B. King’s Blues Club, with its crescent seating arrangement and cozy high-backed lounge booths.
The Future of Holland America
The big news is the Koningsdam, which launches later this year. But Holland America is refitting their existing Vista-class fleet with these new features over the next year, and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Volendam and Zaandam will receive the new Suite Enhancements during their regularly-scheduled drydocks over the next few years.
If you love Holland America, you’ll find even more to like aboard the line’s ships after these new refits. The line has changed a lot since I first began sailing with them 11 years ago, but that core Holland America “feeling” is now stronger than ever.