We celebrated two 40th wedding anniversaries on the 2/15-3/1/2020 Holland America Line (HAL) Eurodam Panama Canal Cruise. Wuhan China Virus: During the entire cruise, the staff did not mention the China coronavirus but they repeatedly stated that everybody must wash their hands frequently. Eurodam made all passengers fill out a questionnaire certifying no prior travel to Asian countries; lots of hygiene disinfectant….on 3/19/20 [19 days after leaving the ship] the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper said one passenger tested “presumptive positive” but HAL has not informed cruise passengers who may have come in contact with the passenger. Checkin was orderly: took about 2 hours; got your picture taken, cruise ID card issued; waited an hour for our boarding number to be called; luggage was taken directly to our stateroom 5003. Onboard wi-fi: HAL onboard "Navigator" app was not iphone or ipad friendly; constantly drop connections; had to go to guest services. HAL Wireless Maritime Services did NOT work; paid $50 with AT&T and could not make any phone calls on our iphone 7 supposedly because we didn't sign up for "data", just 50 min talk and unlimited text; had to call AT&T CEO's office to get a refund; they said the "network is not an AT&T network" but gave me a refund anyway. Entertainment was fantastic and varied. On the Mainstage (largest and seats maybe 750; arm rests were too high couldn't rest your elbows (nit complaint but poor design); had excellent/funny Don Bryan master ventriloquist, four young extremely talented men singers called the Dutch Tenors; an entertaining mind reader Alan Chamo; fantastic shows by the Phillipine crew and Indonesian crew featuring native cultural songs and dances, and comedy impressionist Tyler Bryce; had hour long Ask the Captain. Captain Eric explained why (pilot error and gust of wind) the ship brushed the pier in Huatulco causing a 5'Lx5'Wx5"D gash in the starboard midship waterline section of the ship; otherwise he was a great captain, youngest in HAL. Fitness center: low ceiling 7', couldn't do full pullups; lots of free weights; treadmills w/ TV and about five other workout machines; bosu and workout balls; mats, towels, sanitizer spray; on the 9th deck in the bow with great view; fitness instructor and classes but very expensive ($150 for 14 days). Walking: you can walk completely around the outside of ship on the third deck (3 revolutions = 1 mile). Shore excursions: (a) In Cartagena, Columbia (90 degrees at Noon) for only 4 hours; did not do a ship sponsored excursion ($80-$100), walked off ship as soon as gangway opened, walked to end of pier past small touristy "bird zoo" and got very friendly cab ride 15 minutes to edge of old Walled City and walked through area; got their b/4 cruise buses and not crowded; people friendly, vendors not too pushy until near Noon when they knew ship was departing soon; safe; use a public bathroom costs $1 and have to pay or cop will arrest you. (b) Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; paid $100 each for 1 hour bus ride each way; Guide Andrea was informative and very good; but ship-sponsored "Walk in the Clouds" facility was disappointing/overpriced; had hummingbird feeders, did not see any other birds, walked over three "suspension bridges" built exclusively for tourists, had OK lunch of native food (would have cost $10 in US); waste of money. We did not go to San Jose since it is a two hour drive each way from the port to San Jose the capital city, and 2 1/2 hours from the port to the real Monteverde Cloud Forest biological reserve. (c) Corinto, Nicaragua; paid $70 each for our own private [not arranged by HAL] Julio Tours walking tour of old capital city Leon, 1 hr drive each way in small van; Rydder (lead tour guide) and Rojer (ass't guide) were excellent, fluent English, lots of interesting facts and info; toured open air market, art galleries, churches. Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala took the ship sponsored $110 each "Coffee estate and Antigua" tour; 90 minute harrowing bus ride from sea level to 5,000 ft on two lane winding road with heavy truck traffic and our reckless bus driver; once we got to Filadelfia Coffee Estate we had an excellent 1 hour tour of the grounds showing all stages of coffee production from the tree to the bagged product; their showroom is rdaltoncoffee.com; nice lunch; 2 hour walking tour with Rita Maldonado of Antigua churches, markets, squares; very nice courteous people; dry season Nov-Mar, temp 75 degrees; four stars. (d) Huatulco, Mexico; 1PM-7PM in port; paid $60 each for ship-sponsored snorkeling; after 30 minutes to walk to pierside snorkel shop, fitting mask & fins (good quality), about 100 people crowded onto two small boats, took 40 minutes to ride 1 mile (waste of time; could have driven to beach in ten minutes by taxi $10 and rented your own gear for $20); guide did not tell us where the best snorkeling was; had to swim around to find best area (near cliffside) and then saw amazing angel fish and other tropical fish; water temp 81 degrees; nice sandy beach; nice beachside restaurants; then wasted more time waiting for 40 minute boat ride back to pier; one star for wasted time, five star for tropical fish. (e) Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: $80 ship-sponsored overpriced “All Inclusive Beach Getaway”; bus guide was worthless and pandered repeatedly for tips; resort did not have enough lounge chairs or enough beach umbrellas; resort staff treated the cruise passengers rudely; food was pizza and charred burgers.
Food on Eurodam: Overall, the food was outstanding. Dining package: bought the $75 each dining package since dining in the Pinnacle, Tamarind, and Canaletto restaurants are not included in the cruise price. Lots of extra costs for better food if you decide to avoid the “free” but crowded Lido Market: beers $8.50 for Corona; lunchtime pool snack bar $15 for sandwich Had four “Gala nights” where you wear a nice dress or sportcoat and ate in the main dining room (no extra charge).
Eurodam outstanding crew members: main dining expert wine steward Willie; Canaletto host Nelson for his humor and life experience stories even though he might be only 30 years old; Kristy, wine steward and outstanding Philippine “Tinikling” folk dancer; our room steward; and the entire crew who were welcoming, cheerful, and always helpful. Justin ran the Photo Workshop every day where he gave useful insights on how to take great pictures with a regular camera or with an iPhone or Android; HAL needs to continue Justin’s photo workshops.
Highlight of the cruise was the Panama Canal passage; ship opened the fifth deck bow so you could get great view of the canal operations; fastest transit ever since there were virtually no cargo ships due to the China corona virus; canal designed, constructed by USA President Theodore Roosevelt with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervision and 10,000 Caribbean island workers, opened in 1914. There is now a second canal for super cargo ships wider than 103 feet, built by Panama and opened in 2018. Our ship paid $350,000 for passage.
Summary: ship’s crew was fantastic; ship-sponsored excursions were mediocre; ports of call were mediocre; rough seas for only two days, Panama Canal was fantastic experience.
Total cost: $5,770 for stateroom for two; $670 for CF travel insurance, $350 for 14 days [$14.50/day hotel service charge]; dining package $150 for two; shore excursions $1000; tips $200; approximate total $9,140 for two.
Stateroom: Eurodam Verandah 5003. (a) 24'L x 12' W x 7'H, two closets with 10 hangers in each plus four bulky life jackets; had a double pane glass door opening onto a 8'x5' veranduh with glass balcony and privacy wall on either end of the veranduh, two chairs and two small tablet; Our glass door was not properly sealed and let out a loud whistling noise which the technicians could not fix completely, very annoying; air conditioning controls are a simple dial, not digital and you can't control the very loud fan; other staterooms did not have a loud fan. Bathroom: one small sink, a shelf below the sink, toilet, and small tub with shower; if you're over 6ft 5 inches tall you would have to bend down while in the shower; sink and shower faucet controls very hard to turn, not lever but a small knob with bumps. Carpet: almost threadbare down to the jute backing; no pad underneath. Small convenient desk; Electrical outlets: old and not sturdy; hair dryer had to be plugged into outlet by the desk (not in the bathroom); bring a power stick with four extra outlets for camera, phone, portable computer, Kindle, etc. Refrigerator: small, does not get cold, very poor. (b) Stateroom location: starboard side which was pierside on all of our port calls except for Puerto Vallerta; 5003 is near front of ship which means you have a 70 yard walk to get to the elevator or stairs at midships; ideal stateroom location would be near the middle on deck 5; upper decks (6-10) you get more sway when in rough seas. 10th deck stateroom toilets were shut off at night.