Celebrating 150 Years of Holland America on MS Eurodam!
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to celebrate the holidays and/or ring in the New Year on a cruise ship? We have, and since many cruise lines have loosened their formerly strict vax and pre-testing requirements, including the Holland America Line, we decided to give it a go. The last time we cruised was right before the lock-down, almost three years ago. It was a last-minute deal with a 24-hour notice, which included Half Moon Cay, that we could not resist! No kidding. Half Moon Cay is Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas, and there is a reason why it keeps winning awards as a top port of call.
We had been back and forth with Stevie Montalbano, our Travel Counselor at VacationsToGo.com, as we were looking for a cruise that would allow us to celebrate Christmas and New Years on board, including a visit of Half Moon Cay and the island of Cozumel, Mexico as one of the ports. My husband’s cousin, Ariel, whom he hadn’t seen in 15 years lives in Playa Del Carmen, a half hour ferry ride from Cozumel. Who has a cousin living in a beautiful vacation place known mainly for white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a laid back Bohemian vibe? Right?! Our itinerary was perfect: embarking on the MS Eurodam from Fort Lauderdale Dec. 21st – next day Half Moon Cay, Bahamas – Sea Day – Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Georgetown, Cayman Islands – Cozumel, Mexico – Sea Day – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Sea Day – Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos – San Juan, Puerto Rico – St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. – Sea Day – Half Moon Cay, Bahamas and then debarking in Fort Lauderdale Jan. 4th.
As you all know, Marcus and I are avid travelers, but checking in for a cruise still gets us hyped every time! We quickly located our “Spa Room” cabin on MS Eurodam on the 10th deck, and found it to be very spacious and conveniently located steps away from the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, one floor under the Crows Nest, for specialty coffees and lounging. Our luggage had already been delivered and our porters, Try and Tama, came to introduce themselves. They were terrific! A very attentive Service Desk had placed a bottle of Champagne and chocolate pralines on the table, and later, a fresh flower bouquet that lasted our entire journey. We adored our unique panorama window view forwards over the bow that would allow us to witness the most beautiful sunrises from our bed or watch the eloquent docking maneuvers of the Captain. We would later, during an “Ask the Captain” showcase in the theater find out that the handsome Captain is single. That’s always one of the questions he’s asked, every time. By the way, the stunning theater seats close to 900 people.
One of the most important pastimes on a cruise, besides the ports and entertainment, is dining. And with HAL, you’re dining in style, if you are so inclined. As this was our third cruise with Holland America, we may say so. Of course there’s always The Lido, a never ending innovative, hot and cold serving buffet during the meal times. But we both have a little bit of a snob in us and love to be seen and served. We loved the cuisine and service in the two Main Dining Rooms, as well as in the three specialty restaurants, the Canaletto, the Tamarind, and the Pinnacle, in that order. The dressy Global Celebration of Christmas dinner, the Christmas Dinner, and the New Year’s Eve Gala dinner in the Main Dining rooms were definitely paying toll to such special occasions.
An Afternoon Tea is served in the Main Dining Room during Sea Days at 3 pm, and I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea…”, wrote Henry James. I couldn’t agree more, but I am European. To me, it’s like a little bit of what is left from the old days, 150 years of elegant cruising. Delicate petit-fours and tea sandwiches were presented on a pretty three-layer etagere and served white-gloved with one of my favorite English teas, PG Tips. MS Eurodam is classy, and so is her staff! By the way, the main atrium features artwork designed by Vincent Jansen and throughout the ship are reproductions displayed of famous Dutch artists.
For the record, Holland America Line is American-owned, a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The Line founded in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from 1873 to 1989 operated as a Dutch shipping line, a passenger line, a cargo line and a cruise line operating primarily between the Netherlands and North America. As part of the company’s legacy, it was directly involved in the transport of many hundreds of thousands of emigrants through the Netherlands to North America. To mark the cruise line’s impact on Ellis Island, Holland America has partnered with The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation with a curated exhibit available to visitors from February through April 2023 that recounts the history of immigration to America aboard Holland America ships.
Each port during our cruise was uniquely interesting in its own way! To keep it brief, the day after our departure, we anchored at precious Half Moon Cay and spent the day in beach bliss. On Christmas Eve morning, we docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where we followed a private tour guide to the mountain top for a “Taste of Jamaica Farm and Garden Tour” where we had a delicious, authentic Jamaican lunch and learned all about the healing powers of their Medicinal Herbal Garden. On Christmas morning, we visited idyllic Georgetown, Cayman Islands, where we attended a service at the Elmslie United Church with Revered L. Christopher Mason. In Cozumel, Mexico, we took a taxi that brought us to the WinJet ferry, which took us within a half hour to Playa Del Carmen, where we visited with Marcus’ beautiful cousin, Ariel, and her husband, Don. They live steps from a white sand, turquoise beach and Mayan ruins. Believe it! Close by, we enjoyed an awesome lunch in a cool and colorful restaurant, and then bought some Mexican Chocolates before Ariel brought us back to the ferry. On Grand Turk island (Turks and Caicos), we visited the Turks & Caicos National Museum, fed the wild donkeys by the lighthouse, and then lounged on the beach with the MS Eurodam docking right in front of us. Cool setting! In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we discovered the charming historic town on foot, had delicious fish tacos at La Vergüenza Puertorrican Chinchorro, and the best coffee ever at Enchanted Coffee in Old San Juan. At St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., on New Year’s Day morning, we followed our guide, Ali, to the top of the mountain for stunning views, 1500 ft above Magens Bay, and a pink freshwater pearl necklace. And finally, one more time at Half Moon Cay, we experienced, within six hours, fifty shades of blue, and another rustic Island BBQ that I so adore. As you can imagine, each one of the ports that we’ve visited would make a story itself. I hope to get to them, one by one, as we experienced so much more than what I can put into a few sentences. Besides I took so many photos that need to be shared, at least on my blog, www.EscapeFromParadise.net . So stand by.
So what do cruisers do on these leisurely sea days other than getting dressed for Afternoon Tea? Of course there are shows, shopping venues and more shows, and a casino at your disposal. But how did we stay on top of all that is happening, and when? Well, every night, there is a nicely printed agenda in your bed at turndown. But I’d also downloaded the Navigator app on my phone that reminded us of what shows we wanted to see and when. And especially important, in what restaurant we had reservations and when! Of course you may relax by the indoor, open-air-roof pool and order a Burger and Fries from the Pool side Dive In, that you really don’t need but ordered just because you could. Or meet new people by the Sea View adult outdoor pool, and get a New York Pizza and cool drink from the bar?! Let me assure you that the only way you are not going home with an additional 5 pounds weight, and I am not talking about the added souvenirs in your suitcase, is by walking, working out in the well equipped weight-room, using the sauna, the steam room, the hydrotherapy pool bubbling with warm therapeutic sea water and/or getting a deep tissue massage. I’d booked a full body exfoliation with a deep tissue massage afterwards with Ana, her intuitive hands-on massage techniques gleaned from another world.
Would we book another cruise with Holland America again? You bet! We especially love their older ships, most for the ability to walk their promenade decks. HAL offers activities for kids, teens, daily masses, Friends of Bill W. meetups, Meet for Mahjong, Single and Solo Meetups, Pride Meetups and more. www.HollandAmerica.com
We are at the age where we are working steadily on our bucket list, and Hawaii and Alaska are now on the horizon. Until next month from another interesting location.