Holland America kicks off 70th Alaska cruise season

Two ships from Holland America Line arrived in Seattle over the weekend of April 29 and 30, making them the first two ships to arrive for the start of the city’s 2017 Alaska cruise season, and the line’s 70th season serving The Last Frontier.

The line’s ms Eurodam arrived at the Port of Seattle’s Pier 91 on Saturday, April 29 after its cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal. It was followed by the ms Oosterdam, which arrived on Sunday, April 30 and will also take part in the line’s landmark season. The Amsterdam, Zaandam, and Noordam will also call on Seattle in 2017.

ms Eurodam at Seattle's Pier 91
“We’re celebrating 70 years of serving and taking people to Alaska,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, said. “We’re really proud of that history [and] are the first to do that.”

The company’s cruises will bring nearly 111,000 guests to Seattle, which the Port of Seattle’s acting CEO David Soike said has become the busiest cruise ship port on the West Coast.

“We are Seattle’s hometown cruise line, and that’s more than a tag line; it’s what we believe,” Ashford said. “We’ve been here a long time, and we’re part of the community.”

He said the cruise line adds $600 million annually to the area’s economy, employs nearly 1,600 people locally, works with nearly 700 Washington vendors, and spends approximately $300,000 provisioning each ship as it calls at Seattle.

Following the arrival of the Eurodam, my wife and I were privileged to be included in a small group of writers and others for a welcoming ceremony, followed by a tour of the ship and lunch with Ashford, Soike, and other company, port and local officials.

My take

We took our first cruise aboard the Ruby Princess in 2016 and, while it was an excellent experience in many regards, our personal preferences are toward a smaller ship with more understated surroundings. The Eurodam delivered on both counts.

While the Eurodam offered more refined finishes and upscale appointments, what really stood out were the dining and music venues.

Sushi aboard the Eurodam
Walking through the buffet on the way to our hosted lunch, I noticed a wide variety of sushi on offer, along with some exotic edibles like dragon fruit and tamarind pods. Many Indonesian dishes were also offered, and with the large number of Indonesian crew on board, we were assured the food was authentic.

While more mainstream, our lunch in the main dining room featured gracious service, freshly prepared salads and appetizers, a variety of main course and dessert options, and wine from Washington state’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.

The ship’s dining venues include the Pinnacle Grill; De Librije; Tamarind Bar and Restaurant with menus evoking the culinary traditions of Southeast Asia, China and Japan; and the Italian-themed Canaletto Restaurant, among others. Food service is available at the cabanas next to the Lido pool, and the ship offers numerous bars and fast-food outlets.

Many cruise lines have partnered with celebrity chefs to create specialty dining venues, such as Curtis Stone’s SHARE on Princess Cruise Line ships and Guy Fieri’s Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise Line.

Poolside cabanas invite relaxation
Holland America is taking a slightly different approach in appealing to the current foodie culture and, starting in May, will offer onboard cooking shows and hands-on workshops in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen aboard the Eurodam. My wife and I, who are both avid cooks, find that particularly appealing for at least a couple of reasons, including that it provides an opportunity for hands-on experience.

As a musician from an early age, I also appreciated the musical venues aboard the Eurodam and the range of musical styles proffered. The Lincoln Center Stage features world-class musicians performing chamber music, Billboard Onboard rocks the house with 50 years of chart-topping hits, and the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club provides (what else?) R&B.

My wife was struck by the level of refinement in many of the public spaces. As a history buff, she was particularly drawn to the historic black and white photos that lined the hallways leading to the guest cabins.

Poseidon presides
Overall, the Eurodam felt more comfortable to us, while sacrificing none of the creature comforts of an upmarket cruise experience. Interiors were less glitzy and more elegant, with brass and wood finishes that are reminiscent of a more traditional cruise experience than the pulsating lights, bright colors and high-tech sounds that are more evocative of a Vegas show.

The common areas, including the Explorations Café and the Gallery Bar, were at once relaxed yet upscale, often with more than a touch of sophistication.

Finally the Eurodam, with a passenger complement of 2,104, is the third-largest of Holland America’s current fleet of mid-sized ships, behind the Koningsdam and the Nieuw Amsterdam. Although today’s fleet consists exclusively of mid-sized ships, Ashford admitted he would consider adding larger ships, “If the demand were there.”

While our personal preference is for smaller vessels, with 14 ships ranging from 835 passengers to more than 2,600, Holland America offers plenty of choices for our next cruise adventure.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images