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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands christens ms Eurodam

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 1 - 2008

Under sunny blue skies and with a royal blessing, Holland America Line christened its newest and largest ship, the ms Eurodam, in Rotterdam, the city where the 135-year-old Dutch company was founded. Fittingly the ceremony was held near the company’s original headquarters, now the Hotel New York.

The Eurodam’s godmother is her majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who blessed and named the ship with the ceremonial champagne smash.

Here are some photos from today’s event. More to come later.

 

 

Filled Under Blog, Info

First impressions of the Eurodam

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 1 - 2008

Well, I survived my United flight across the pond to Amsterdam. It was actually quite nice as I had the seat open next to me. I am dreading my flight home Wednesday – I may have to pony up to sit in Economy Plus just so I can use my laptop – something you can’t do in regular economy when the person in front of you has their seat reclined.

Euro-tastic

Upon boarding in Rotterdam this morning I was in a sea of Dutch war veterans — 4,000 to be exact! Eurodam welcomed present and retired Dutch officers, WWII veterans and members from De Lijn for the day to tour the ship and have lunch. It was quite a sight to see.

My first impressions of the Eurodam are very positive. This is a very pretty, classy vessel. Those that have sailed on Holland America’s Vista-class vessels will find familiar surroundings on Eurodam, but its larger size has allowed for some added pizzazz. Among new venues on the ship is a pan-Asian restaurant called Tamarind; a casual Italian eatery, Canaletto; and a pizza outlet dubbed Pizzeria Slice. Other differences from previous Holland America ships include the addition of a new Explorer’s Lounge Bar, a new atrium bar area and an enhanced and reconfigured show lounge with theater-style seating.

With an additional deck, Eurodam has 63 new staterooms more than the latest Vista-class ship. Forty-seven are verandah cabins and ten are a new style with ceiling-to-floor and wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Eurodam also features 56 Spa Staterooms, aptly dubbed because of their close proximity to the Greenhouse Spa and Salon and special in-room spa amenities.

One area of the ship getting a lot of attention is The Retreat, an area with 14 cabanas and abundant cushy lounge chairs. This private pay-for-use area is where guests can relax and recharge surrounded by healthy refreshments and luxurious leisure amenities. Fresh fruit, salads, wraps and juices are available here along with light breakfast options. Retreat cabanas are $45 on port days and $75 on sea days.

If guests want a livelier lounge area there are eight Lido Cabanas around the Lido pool. Lunch at the Lido cabanas will be served upon request from a menu of poolside favorites from the Terrace Grill or Lido Restaurant. Lido cabanas are $30 on port day and $50 on sea days.

After an hour of touring it was off to the Lido Restaurant buffet area for a hearty meal of spicy catfish – something I never normally would eat, but was glad I did. The Lido Restaurant offers an abundant menu and very relaxing seating areas that are thankfully designed to keep foot traffic away from the tables.

After lunch, jet-lag and time zone changes had taken their toll on my body – so it was naptime. I have to say the Eurodam’s beds are the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in yet. And, that’s saying something because most cruise lines have upgraded their bedding to be exceptional.

Dinner, blogging and one really weird piece of artwork

After a terrific set-menu dinner most of the press group was jet-lagged and sadly on tight deadlines. One Holland America director commented on the sad state of today’s journalists. He said, “I remember when journalists would gather everyone up and go to the bar after dinner. Now it’s no I can’t drink — I have to go back to my cabin and blog.”

Pathetic, but so true.

Speaking of cabin, I am having a heck of a time figuring out this crazy “art” on my wall. (Click the image to get a bigger view) It’s a picture of three owls dressed in overalls (yes, dressed in overalls) in a setting of Roman or Greek ruins. Two owls are sitting atop a pile of books and another is flying around with a book grasped in its talons. Then there is this red chaise in the middle of the ruins?! What the hell is this and why is this in my room? Anybody know? Is this a drawing of J.K. Rowling’s nightmare? Was the artist in an Amsterdam ‘coffee shop’ when they concocted this montage? I don’t get it — it’s freaking me out and not in a good way. 😉 I am going to ask the Holland America people tomorrow what this art print is, but when I describe the aforementioned contents they’ll definitely think I was drinking rather than blogging.

Tomorrow: Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands christens the ship and a few more of Eurodam’s surprises. If you want to watch the christening Holland America is putting live stream video on their Eurodam News Website at http://www.eurodamnews.com/.

Filled Under Blog, Info

Hot summer cruise deals

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 2 - 2008

With the slumping economy and weak dollar value overseas, cruise lines are sending SOS signals to North American consumers to get onboard and sail away.

“Competition among cruise lines for your vacation dollars is intense,” says Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert who is nationally recognized as The Cruise Guy.

Chiron has uncovered some incredible deals that are hard to pass up. A few even include free airfare and kids sail free. It’s important to note that the following fares are starting prices, which means they are for inside cabins. You will almost certainly pay more for an outside cabin. (For additional money-saving tips, see my recent story on finding a quickie cruise.)

Mediterranean deals

“If you want a European vacation, a cruise offers the best value for your dollar,” says Chiron.

Additionally, with more ships in the region than ever before, big cruise savings abound.

“Evidently, the 2008 European cruise season is not as solid as in previous years. European travel by Americans is slower than normal and Europeans aren’t jumping on the cruise bandwagon as fast as anticipated to fill the huge amount of ships based there,” says Chiron.

He points to the abundant amount of discounting by cruise lines as proof. “Some cruise lines are offering free or reduced airfares to entice new bookings by North American travelers,” he says.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Freedom. Chiron says 12-night sailings on the Carnival Freedom sailing from Civitavecchia (Rome) from June through August are selling for less than some 7-night Caribbean sailings. Prices that formerly fetched $4,969 per person are now going for $2,579 a real deal since it includes free airfare from select U.S. gateways (cruise only is $1199). For that bargain price tag you’ll get to visit the best of Europe that includes Western Mediterranean or Greece and Turkey itineraries. Cruises stop in Naples (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (Italy), Messina (Sicily), Barcelona (Spain), Livorno (Florence/Pisa, Italy), Cannes (France), Marmaris (Turkey), Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), Athens (Greece), Katakolon (Greece).

MSC Cruises MSC Poesia. MSC’s newest ship offers amazing 7-day itineraries from Venice (Italy) with stops in Bari (Italy), Katakolon (Greece), Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). Prices that formerly started at $3,300 per person now are a bargain at $1949 and that includes roundtrip airfare from select U.S. gateways ($899 cruise only fare). Better yet, kids 17 years old or younger sailing as the third or fourth passenger in a stateroom sail free.

Celebrity Summit. August and September are great months to save on premium line Celebrity. The Summit is offering 12-night Western Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona and Venice with stops in Villefranche (Nice, France), Livorno (Florence/Pisa, Italy), Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples (Italy), Santorini (Greece), Athens (Greece), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). Prices that formerly started at $4,999 per person now are a bargain, from $2,499 that includes roundtrip airfare from select U.S. gateways.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Gem. This summer you can cruise on Norwegian’s newest ship on 7-day Western Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona that stop in Valletta (Malta), Naples (Italy), Civitavecchia (Rome, Italy), Livorno (Pisa/Florance, Italy), and Villefrance (Nice, France). Prices that formerly started at $1,599 per person now are a bargain, from $799.

Alaska deals

Holland America Line’s Oosterdam or Westerdam. June and July offer great Alaska savings from Seattle onboard premium line Holland America. Itineraries are 7-night sailings with stops in Juneau (Alaska), cruising the Hubbard Glacier, Sitka (Alaska), Ketchikan (Alaska), and Victoria (Canada). Starting prices have been cut from $1,629 per person to $699.

Caribbean deals

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky. On July 14, Norwegian Cruise Line will reassign Pride of Aloha, formerly part of the line’s Hawaii-based fleet, to Miami. The ship will be re-named Norwegian Sky, which ironically was its original name. The Sky will become the only Miami-based ship to offer three and four night sailings to the Bahamas with stops in Nassau, Freeport and Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Fares that were formerly priced from $799 per person can now be had for as little as $229 (past passengers can cruise from $189). Best of all kids 17 years old or younger sailing as the third or fourth passenger in a stateroom sail free.

“It’s a buyer’s market right now,” says Chiron. To get even more bang for your buck he recommends researching online, but not booking online. “You’ll never be sure you’re getting the best deal possible,” he says. He recommends using a travel agent who can research various discounts offered by the cruise lines, which can include regional specials, senior and military discounts. Chiron says these discounts can further reduce upfront costs as well as securing possible stateroom upgrades.

So what are you waiting for? Cash out that tax rebate check and start packing.

Filled Under Advice, Info, What's New?