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Mike Taplin

Age: 61

Occupation:Parish Clerk

Number of Cruises: 25

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Eurodam

Sailing Date: 2009-07-6

Itinerary: English Channel

The cruise was generally satisfactory but we came away feeling slightly disappointed with some aspects of the service and the general lack of atmosphere.

The food in the main restaurant was OK, nothing outstanding. We enjoyed our visits to the Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind (very good food and service).

Didn't find the daily programing very easy to assimilate as it was arranged by themes rather than chronologically. As each day was a port day, we did not participate in anything. Evening entertainment featured a British comedian (quite good), two shows by the on-board singers and dancers (personally these sort of shows do not do much for me, and I didn't find this group particularly talented) and the piano duo Katzenjammer (brilliant).

The cruise visited Zeebrugge, Cherbourg and St Peter Port. Due to the high price of the organised excursions and ease of travel 'on your own' in Europe we did not book anything. There were free shuttle buses out of the port in Zeebrugge and Cherbourg. We went on the train to Bruges (a place we have seen many times but still draws us back with its historic beauty). We walked around Cherbourg in an hour and thought 'what shall we do now'. So we went on the train to Caen which is a bigger city with more to do. At Guernsey the tenders dropped us on the quay at St Peter Port and we wondered around the charming town for a few hours.

We visited Eurodam during the various launch events at Southampton last year, and although we tend to shy away from large ships, we were impressed enough then to think that a cruise on her would be nice. When HAL re-arranged their July itinerary to include a four-night cruise from Dover we thought that was too good an opportunity to miss. We booked a deluxe balcony on deck 5.

We arrived at the Dover Cruise Terminal 2 at 10.30, handed our bags over to the porters and stayed in the cab back to the town for a wander around. We went back to the terminal at 12.00, were checked straight in and were on the ship by 12.10. We went to the Lido for a light lunch and then made our bookings for the alternative restaurants (The Pinnacle Grill for steaks, and Tamarind for Pan-Asian). We found that there would be one formal night on the second day. Staterooms were cleared at 13.30 and on the way to ours we found our luggage in the elevator lobby, so we wheeled it down the corridor to our room and unpacked. Plenty of storage space (in contrast to Cunard's almost identical ship Queen Victoria). No sign of a cabin steward or any name visible in the stateroom.

We next visited the library, though it is really just a few shelves of books in the internet cafe on Deck 11. Found something to read and retired to our stateroom to read until the emergency drill at 16.30. That took place on deck under your respective lifeboat. The announcements were made by the officer of the watch. Perfectly OK, but this was the first sign that we would neither see nor hear from the Captain throughout the whole cruise (there was no cocktail party on the formal night).

There was a bottle of cheap sparkling wine in our stateroom, but the fridge was locked and the ice bucket did not contain enough ice to cool it down, so it stood on the desktop throughout the cruise and we eventually left it behind. We went for a drink in the Pinnacle Bar before dinner - those chair's are not as uncomfortable as they look - and then enjoyed a very good steak dinner in the Grill (though at a price of course). The English comedian who did the show was pretty good - at least we did not have to try to understand American jokes. Not surprisingly there were a lot of British on board (including many families) as well as plenty of Americans (mostly doing a longer Cruise from Copenhagen to Copenhagen) and a large party of 'Russians' (perhaps that should have been a party of large people from one of the states of the former Soviet Union) who behaved like Mexicans (US cruisers will know what I mean).

Next morning we took the complimentary shuttle bus from Zeebrugge port to the nearby town of Blankenberge. There is an hourly train service from there to Bruges (Brugge) and the ride is only about 20 minutes (cost 11 Euro return I think). It poured with rain while we were in the station waiting for the train, but this had stopped by the time we arrived in Bruges. We walked the 20-minute path into the city centre and found our favourite coffee shop. Then did a bit of shopping, dodging the frequent heavy showers. By about 13.30 we were ready to go back and managed to get back to the train station in the dry. Back on board by around 15.00 for more reading prior to sail away at 17.00. Dressed for dinner (tuxedo for me, long dress for my wife) and went up to the Crows Nest for a cocktail - bit alarmed to sense that very few were wearing evening dress. However by the time we got to the dining room there was more evidence of formal dress, including all our English table partners. I wouldn't say the dinner menu knocked me out, but it was OK and the food reasonably tasty. Glad to see the Yum Yum man is still at the door when you leave the dining room dispensing his mixture of treats. The Eurodam singers and dancers put on their show, which seemed to go down well, though I thought the vocalists were a bit disappointing.

Next morning we arrived in Cherbourg just as the rain was finishing and tried breakfast in the Restaurant, which was better than the Lido in terms of ambience, although the service was a bit hit and miss. Took a long time to get through and we walked ashore and too the shuttle bus into the Town Centre about 10.00. Didn't take us long to walk around all the shopping streets and realise there was not enough to occupy us for the rest of the day, so we wandered down to the train station to see what the alternatives were. Found a 12.45 train to Caen (about an hour's ride, stops at Bayeux on the way for those who want to see the tapestry) which we knew to be a bigger city with more and better shops, so we bought a couple of tickets (saved 20 Euro each by telling the ticket seller we were over 60) and enjoyed the ride through the Normandy countryside. Caen has department stores and it was Sale time, so there were plenty of bargains on display. Returned to Cherbourg about 17.00 and went back on board for a snooze before our dinner in Tamarind. Still no sign of any cabin steward, though he had left us a towel elephant. Cocktails in Silk Den and an excellent dinner in Tamarind (though again at a price). Afterwardswe went to see Katzenjammer, two guys we know from previous cruises. Met them for a drink in the Crows Nest afterwards and ended up being 'thrown out' at 01.00.

Final day saw us anchored off St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands. By the time we had finished a lengthy breakfast in the restaurant (spotty service again) there was a long queue for tender tickets and it was 10.30 before we arrived on shore. Enjoyed a stroll around the town centre and a light lunch at a terrace cafe. Took a tender back to the ship around 13.30 and arrived on board to find the cabin steward finishing off our room. He was friendly enough, but still did not introduce himself. Guess he knew he was likely to get his share of the $11/day/person 'Service Charge'. so why bother. Finished our library books and took them back to Explorations, where I managed to tip a Cappucino down myself, requiring a swift return to the stateroom to change. Tried the Ocean Bar for a cocktail this evening, and hada quick look around the shops, which were open for the last time. Dinner in the Dining Room with our British tablemates was convivial, and then another Raz-mataz show from the singers and dancers (Yawn). We had decided to carry our own bags off the next day, so packing was a late activity.

We arrived back in Dover about 07.00 and we went to breakfast at 07.30. At 08.45 we wheeled our bags down to the gangway and straight off to find our car and driver for the trip home. Mixed feelings about the cruise - we enjoyed it but felt that HAL was not as we remembered it from 5 or 6 years ago. Much more 'nicket and diming' these days and not much atmosphere on board, probably due to the short cruise which did not let relationships with staff or between passengers develop. Probably will not go back on a HAL 'big ship' but might try Prinsendam again one day. In the meantime its back to Crystal, our favourite!

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