The beautiful Holland America Eurodam
Plush comfort at realistic prices
Holland America Enhancements Impressive
When Holland America introduced a $250 million program to upgrade all of their ships in 2003 called "Signature of Excellence," I thought that sounded like a good idea. But, little did I know that I would still be writing about Signature of Excellence enhancements on the cusp of 2010, and the price tag would now exceed $525 million dollars. That's over half a billion dollars, and that's not all. They plan to continue upgrading the fleet through 2011, and that price tag does not include the beautiful new ships they are adding.
Has it been well-spent? There are cruise lines that only upgrade their ships every ten years or so, but Holland America has been on a concentrated campaign to bring every ship in their fleet up to a certain standard, and that indicates a deeper commitment to the longterm reputation of their brand name, assuring you a consistency in product when you book any Holland America cruise.
There was once a time when most cruise lines had fleets that were a hodgepodge of ships built in different shipyards, maybe purchased from other companies and refurbished, and in truth you never really knew what you might be getting into when you booked a cruise unless you actually talked to someone who had been on same exact the ship recently.
Things have changed. No, not all of the Holland America ships are identical, but there is a consistency of higher quality amenities and onboard options than ever before. There are a few different classes in Holland America, but their smaller ships built in the 1990s are much closer in quality to the brand new Eurodam just introduced last year than they used to be. The advantage is that you know you are booking a great ship when you book Holland America, regardless of which ship in the fleet you cruise upon. Even better, dollar for dollar, you won't find a nicer ship for the price than what Holland America offers, especially in Europe and the many exotic locations they visit.
What happens when a cruise line upgrades a ship? For example, Holland America's Rotterdam just completed a 28-day drydock in Freeport Bahamas. "Drydock" means they actually set up the ship on dry land in order to make significant improvements requiring heavy machinery.
In the case of Rotterdam, they just added a new area they call the "The Retreat." This quiet, adults-only area on the back deck features lounge chairs sitting in just a few inches of water you wade through to get to your seat. You can relax, dipping your toes in the water, maybe reaching down to splash a little extra on your companion, the whole time looking down upon the wake of the ship; listening to the soothing sound of churning water while basking in the warm Caribbean or Mediterranean breezes.
But that is just one new feature. There is also a new showroom for live entertainment, plus a new DJ nightclub called "The Mix," and a new Italian restaurant called Canaletto.
But even better, most of the Signature of Excellence upgrades are going into the staterooms, your home away from home. All of the staterooms received all new décor, including carpet and new vanities and cabinetry in the bathrooms. The new sheets and towels are the softest and plushest available, and all staterooms now include flat-panel televisions and plush Euro-top Mariner's Dream Beds.
There is a new type of stateroom available on Rotterdam that is just starting to appear in the industry, which we think is great idea. While many older ships had picture windows where you could look outside but not get any fresh air, many ships are now turning such rooms into "Lanai Staterooms" with sliding glass doors that open to let in the fresh air. No, it isn't a full balcony, but it is enough to step outside and get a lungful of sea air, and it's perfect for opening and listening to the water stream along the bow of the ship below anytime you want.
Today, Holland America Line's fleet consists of 14 ships offering close to 500 different cruises to 320 ports in more than 100 countries, territories or dependencies. There are cruises available from two to 111 days. The 15th ship, the new Nieuw Amsterdam, will be introduced this summer. And being perfectly honest, you cannot beat this ship or the last one introduced, the Eurodam. With all the best amenities built in from the start, these are the ultimate in Holland America cruising; beautiful ships and excellent service - at prices that won't break the bank.
Holland America ships visit all seven continents including Antarctica, South America, Australia/New Zealand and Asia. Each year the line offers a world cruise, available for as little $20,000 per person for a 111-day cruise. The most popular sailings go to the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/New England, Europe and through the Panama Canal.
Among the more impressive Signature of Excellence enhancements added so far is a state-of-the-art onboard show kitchen called the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine - where more than 60 celebrated guest chefs and culinary experts have provided cooking demonstrations and classes fleetwide. Special themed restaurants including Asian-fusion and steakhouses offer wonderful cuisine as an alternative to the regular dining room.
The newer ships have the Explorations Café powered by The New York Times, where you can read the daily newspaper even while the ship is at sea - it is faxed to the ship on a special large-sized printer that reproduces the full pages. The café is also a library with thousands of titles and even hundreds of DVD movies you can check out and watch in your stateroom.
Each ship also features programs for younger children of all ages as well as a teens-only activity area.
To book a Holland America cruise, go to www.hollandamerica.com and browse through all of the itineraries and ships available. To read the CruiseMates reviews of Holland America ships go to CruiseMates Holland America Cruise Reviews.
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