Aboard Holland America’s Eurodam

Flying into London's Heathrow Airport only to be whisked away south to the port city of Southampton, is a lot like flying into New York's LaGuardia Airport and spending a week in Staten Island. Not that I have anything against the borough, but--well--you get my point.

I wouldn't be in Southampton long. The port was the jump-off point for Holland America Line's new Signature-class ship, the 2,104-passenger Eurodam. Though the ship was in England, we were soon on a course for Rotterdam in The Netherlands, all in anticipation of the ship's July 1 christening by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. (Fast fact: Eight Holland America ships have had godmothers who were part of the Dutch royal family.)

Arriving in Rotterdam, early Sunday morning, I opened my curtains to see hordes of people staring at me on the river banks below. Shaking out the cobwebs, I quickly realized they weren't there welcoming me, but the ship. My feelings weren't hurt and it occurred to me how interested people are when a brand new ship comes to town.

Eurodam is Holland America's 14th operating ship (80th ship in the long history of the company) and first in its Signature class, though the ship itself is not that far a departure from the line's previous Vista class.

"The ship fits in perfectly with the line, but does have some twists," said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America. (By the way, could he have a better last name for a cruise CEO?)

One of the twists is Tamarind, a 144-guest Pan-Asian restaurant, which offers Dim-Sum in the afternoon and a full menu for dinner. Our party had a wonderful tasting menu for dinner, which included fresh and tasty sushi and beef tenderloin dish that, no joking, was one of the best beef dishes I have ever had, on land or sea. Dinner at Tamarind carries a $15 charge.

Other new twists include Silk Den, a lounge adjacent to Tamarind and perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail, and SLICE, the ship's 24-hour pizza joint.

Jet lag knocked me out the first night onboard, so I haven't yet had a full spin of the ship. I have had a complete look at my stateroom, an outside room with a verandah. The room is very comfortable, and I appreciate the color scheme, muted tones that give it a boutique hotel feel. Suites look even better. I was able to sneak a peek as one was being cleaned and the decor was very modern, with reds that popped off of surrounding darker colors– very chic and a bit of a departure from past Holland America ships.

The sky today in Rotterdam is a bit overcast, though I am told this is typical for Northern Europe. If the sun does creep out, I will hit up one of the 22 private cabanas that reside on Lido deck or at The Retreat adult area. Cabanas can be rented out daily for $30 and up and offer such amenities as butler service, champagne, strawberries and chocolate.

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