If you're planning an Alaskan cruise, the ship you choose matters a lot.
Our family took a 7-Day Alaskan Explorer Cruise aboard the MS Eurodam. We loved every second that we spent in Alaska, but the time was short!
Only 23% of our trip was spent in port or at Glacier Bay National Park. We slept for 33% of our voyage; the remaining 44% of our time was spent at sea.
In hindsight, the Eurodam may not have been the best choice for our family.
That said, some of the Eurodam's onboard activities and entertainment were excellent. We hope that our review will help you decide if the Eurodam is the right choice for your family.
Itinerary - The Eurodam visits Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. It's a solid schedule. There are also opportunities to see wildlife and natural wonders from aboard the ship.
Food - We enjoyed lamb, steak, lobster, crab, salmon, halibut, rockfish and specialty deserts like "baked Alaska." These beautifully-plated dishes were included in our cruise fare.
Entertainment - Illusionist Joseph Réohm puts on a fun and interactive magic show and comedian David Crowe delivered fresh, funny material in each performance. The Eurodam also hosts live music, including: a blues band, dueling pianos and a string quartet.
Cleanliness - The Eurodam is kept immaculately clean and the workers who paint and varnish the decks do so without disturbing passengers. The U.S. CDC awarded the Eurodam a perfect sanitation score for 11 consecutive years (and 96 out of 100 points, most recently).
Commercialization - We resented the constant barrage of advertisements, "upsell" moments, and private cabanas that obstructed the views of the Alaskan coastline.
Organization - It was unclear when certain facilities opened and closed on the ship; the "official" hours were different depending on the crewmember we asked or signage we read.
Noise - This is a loud ship. At 20 knots, the rumbling and rattling inside the second-floor dining room makes it difficult to have a conversation. The ninth-floor Lido Deck has a retractable ceiling that amplifies the sound of children screaming in the pool.
Passengers - We encountered boorish passengers on our cruise. That's not Holland America's fault, but we wish that the crew enforced basic safety rules and etiquette.
Our Verdict and Rating
2.5 out of 5 - Our family enjoyed every moment that we spent in Alaska, but we found the Eurodam to be a stressful ship. The salesy nature of the voyage is like a toothache: It's a nagging discomfort that distracts you from the fun that you should be having.
What Other Reviews Say
Cruise Critic - 4.5 out of 5
U.S. News and World Report - 4.2 out of 5
PhilaTravelGirl - Not recommended
Cruiseline.com - 4.1 out of 5 - 820 reviews
Trip Advisor - 3.2 out of 5 - 6 reviews
What's Included in the Fare?
Meals and snacks;
Pools and hot tubs;
24-hour room service;
Turndown service (with chocolates);
Soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion;
In-room movies (ala Netflix);
Hairdryer; and a
Narrated tour of Glacier Bay National Park.
What's Available, but Not Included in the Price?
Bottled water and soft drinks;
Portraits and photography services;
Cellular at sea;
Our cruise aboard the Eurodam cost roughly $1,000 per night for a family of three:
Passage for (3) Aboard the Eurodam: $5,337.00
Shore Excursions: $829.55
Onboard Spending: $497.50
Total Cost for Cruise (Excluding Airfare): $6,664.05
We booked our trip on short notice and in peak travel season. As a result, there weren't many Alaskan cruise deals and discounts available to us. With proper planning (and flexible travel dates), we could have saved around $2,000 on our trip.
What to Pack
Summer temperatures in Alaska can range from 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit. That's a recipe for packing one's entire wardrobe (not to mention the two formal nights aboard the Eurodam).
Here are some tips on how to pack for an Alaskan cruise, based on our experience.
The Eurodam is docked at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91.
If you're arriving at the terminal via Uber or Lyft, be prepared to walk four minutes from the drop-off area to the baggage drop. Taxis and private vehicles are allowed to drop off passengers closer to the entrance.
We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and boarded the ship 35 minutes later. It was a quick process. Here is a guide to the Eurodam's embarkation process and boarding times.
Staterooms and Suites
The Eurodam has five types of cabins.
Our family chose the middle option: A stateroom with a balcony. This worked out to 90 sq. ft. per person (which is small), but we didn't feel crowded. Our cabin had a smart layout, lots of storage space and excellent housekeeping service.
We think that the Verandah decks (5 and 6) are the best decks on the Eurodam, especially in combination with a midship room (to minimize seasickness).
Passage aboard the Eurodam includes access to a buffet, dining room, fast food and 24-hour room service. We were impressed with the food on the ship, but dealing with crowds and noise was an ongoing challenge. Here is our review of the dining options on the Eurodam.
Club HAL (Childcare)
Childcare is included in the Eurodam's fare.
Our seven-year old daughter visited Club HAL during each day of our voyage. She was happy to mingle with other kids and to get a break from Mom and Dad, but she didn't like Club HAL as much as the kid's clubs at all-inclusive resorts like Beaches or Dreams.
Here is our daughter's review of Club HAL aboard the Eurodam.
There are two pools aboard the Eurodam.
The indoor pool was mayhem because parents left their children unattended all day long. The outdoor pool was no escape because of the cool, windy weather. It was very disappointing.
Bars and Alcohol
Alcohol and soft drinks (including bottled water) are not included in the Eurodam's fare.
After running the numbers on Holland America's beverage packages, we decided that à la carte drinks were a better value for our family. Here is an overview of the Eurodam's alcohol policy, drink prices and onboard bars.
The Eurodam's staff always put a smile on despite looking overworked.
We appreciated the good service that we received onboard, though we wished that there was less sales pressure on the ship. Sometimes, it was just downright silly. For example:
~"I'll have the surf and turf, please."
-"Would you like to upgrade to our premium surf and turf for $75?"
~"Not really, but what's the difference?"
-"It's a larger steak and lobster tail."
~"But, couldn't I just order two surf-and-turf meals for free?"
-"Of course, sir."
Holland America automatically charges a hotel service charge of $14.50 per guest per day for stateroom guests and $16.00 per guest per day for suite guests. This automatic gratuity can be adjusted up or down by speaking with Guest Services.
A 15% service charge is automatically added to all beverage purchases.
The Eurodam has a relaxed dress code. During the day, passengers are asked to wear shirts and shoes at indoor dining establishments. In the evening, two dress codes may be enforced:
Smart Casual - Shorts, beachwear, distressed jeans and men's tanktops are not permitted at fine dining establishments (like the dining room or specialty restaurants).
Gala Attire - There are two formal nights aboard the Eurodam. To gain entrance to a fine-dining restaurant or entertainment venue, men must wear collared shirts and slacks. Women are required to wear elegant dresses, skirts or slacks.
Entertainment and Activities
There are several things to do aboard the Eurodam.
Holland America provides excellent live entertainment: We loved the magic, comedy and music acts that we saw. On the flip side, we found many of the activities on the ship to be salesy and aimed at an older crowd. For example, "Pain, Digestion and Chinese Herbs."
We enjoyed strolling around the Promenade (Deck 3) during the day.
If you're planning to try a speciality restaurant, consider doing so while at sea. The Deck 2 Dining Room is very noisy while the ship's engines are running. It rattles and rumbles so loudly that it is hard to have a conversation. Meanwhile, the Lido Market (the ship's buffet) is crowded and noisy when all passengers are onboard.
The Eurodam's Deck 9 fitness center includes stationary bikes, treadmills, cardiovascular machines and free weights. There is a jogging track on Deck 11.
Yes, you can see whales from the Eurodam without booking a special excursion.
We spotted a pod of seven orcas (i.e. killer whales) swimming past our balcony. Soon after, a humpback whale breached in the distance. These sightings were dumb luck, however.
The key to spotting wildlife is having patience and a wide field of view. If we had a reset button, we would camp out in the panoramic Tamarind Bar during the day.
The Deck 11 bar has floor-to-ceiling windows, lots of seating and overlooks both sides of the ship: perfect for spotting whales spouts at a distance.
Itinerary and Excursions
The Eurodam visits Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. This is a typical itinerary for a 7-day Inside Passage cruise to Alaska.
It's impossible to "see" Alaska from a cruise terminal: The 49th state is bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined. We know that the narrow slice of Alaskan life and wilderness that we experienced is not representative of the state itself, but it was special nonetheless.
The Eurodam spends nine-and-a-half hours in port at Juneau, Alaska. This was enough time for us to enjoy a three-part excursion that brought us to a salmon hatchery, private garden and the spectacular Mendenhall Glacier.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay is home to 3.2 million acres of protected forest, shore, inlet and mountains rising more than 15,000 feet. It is also home to several tidewater glaciers that look like rivers of snow flowing from the mountains into the bay below.
We saw the Reid-, Margerie-, Grand Pacific-, Johns Hopkins- and Lamplugh-Glaciers, as well as drifting icebergs and the sea life perched atop them.
Sitka was once the capital of Alaska when the state was under Russian control. As a result, the downtown area is rich in local and cultural history.
We spent our time in Sitka aboard an Allen Marine tour boat. It gave us the opportunity to view otters, sea lions, bald eagles and humpback whales in their natural habitats. We also appreciated the natural beauty of Sitka's many rocky islets and lush rainforest.
Ketchikan is another Alaskan port city that is steeped in local and tribal history. It's home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world. It's also one of the rainiest places in the U.S.
The city has a rich history in fishing and forestry. Those industries are not as important to the local economy as they once were, but much of the local tourism is based on that history.
We saw "The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show" while in Ketchikan: It's family-friendly fun.
Because of a quirky 19th century law, Alaska-bound cruise ships are forced to stop at a Canadian port. We stayed onboard while at Victoria because we arrived to port late.
Unfortunately, there was no live entertainment aboard the Eurodam while we were docked.
Our family used our Alaskan cruise as an excuse to spend a week in Seattle. Much to our surprise, it was the best U.S. city that we have visited (and a perfect trip within a trip).
The Eurodam has a small casino that includes card tables, slot machines and video games. It regularly hosts lottery drawings and Texas Hold'em (cash games and tournaments).
The Greenhouse Spa has a menu of spa services as well as hydro pools and thermal suites.
Counterintuitively, the shops aboard the Eurodam are one the few places on the ship with little-to-no sales pressure. We found the floor staff to be relaxed, friendly and helpful.
A "Disembarkation Package" was placed in our cabin two days before the end of our cruise.
The envelope included color-coded luggage tags and a schedule of disembarkation times by color and group number. Passengers must tag their luggage and place it outside of their cabin no later than midnight the evening before returning to Seattle.
Here is a full guide to disembarking the Eurodam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a passport on my cruise to Alaska?
Holland America recommends that all guests carry a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the end of travel. Single adults traveling with a minor are required to have a passport. The following information is taken from Holland America's "Know Before You Go PDF:"
U.S. citizens on cruises in the Western Hemisphere that originate and terminate in the same U.S. port are required to have proof of citizenship such as a valid U.S. passport or a government issued birth certificate combined with a government issued photo I.D. Other approved proof of citizenship documents such as a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) or certificate of naturalization along with a government-issued photo ID are also acceptable. A passport is still the preferred document.
Birth certificates from Puerto Rico issued prior to July 1, 2010 are not valid forms of proof of citizenship that is accepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Guests from Puerto Rico either need to present a WHTI-compliant document or a government-issued photo identification with a validated birth certificate issued after July 1, 2010.
U.S. citizen children under the age of 16 traveling on a closed-loop cruise (a cruise in the Western Hemisphere which originates and ends in the same U.S. port) will be able to present their government issued birth certificate or other proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card to sail. Birth certificates can be an original or certified copy.
When minors are traveling with only one adult 21 years of age or older, Holland America Line requires that all guests must be in possession of a valid passport. Holland America Line has implemented this requirement so that you all remain together should an emergency arise that requires one or more in your party to be disembarked in a non-U.S. port.
Does the Eurodam have self-serve laundry?
No, there is no self-service laundry aboard the Eurodam. The ship does have a flat-fee laundry service: $20 for whatever you can fit into a canvas bag. The laundry bag is in the closet; it's around the size of a drawstring canvas backpack (i.e. not very big).
Does the Eurodam have a movie theater?
Yes. The Mainstage that encompasses Decks 1, 2 and 3 includes a theater that is used for movie screenings and presentations.
Where does the Eurodam dock in Seattle?
The Eurodam docks at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91, 2001 W Garfield Way, Seattle, WA 98199.
Does the Eurodam have a library?
The Eurodam doesn't have a library per se, however, the Crow's Nest (on Deck 11) doubles as a reading room. It contains an eclectic collection of books and periodicals.
When was the Eurodam last updated and refurbished?
The MS Eurodam was dry-docked and renovated in December 2015. The ship's venues and decor were updated as well as its menus and in-room amenities, like televisions and USB ports.
For additional information, see facts about Holland America's MS Eurodam.