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I tried a Holland America cruise to Alaska. Here's what it's like to sail on this cruise line

On balcony at glacier

Holland America’s Eurodam isn’t going to be the first ship you hear about when you start looking for cruises.

It’s a little older now. And it’s not flashy. Certainly, nothing about it really stands out.

And that’s exactly what makes Eurodam a perfect ship for your first cruise to Alaska.

Eurodam in Alaska

Eurodam was launched in 2007, and it received a major refurbishment in 2015.

It carries just 2,100 passengers, making it relatively tiny when compared with the giant megaships that have greatly expanded the options for cruisers in recent years.

However, when Eurodam sails in Alaska, it’s right at home. The ship shines because it is the right mix of size, style and function, letting the destination be the star of the show, which is how it should be when you visit such a special place in this world.

I joined Eurodam for a weeklong voyage roundtrip from Seattle in late May. 

Read more: 7 Best Alaska cruises from Seattle

Our Itinerary

Promenade deck on HAL Eurodam

Cruisers embarked in Seattle, and the ship sailed away in the late afternoon on a Saturday. 

We had a day and a half sailing up to Juneau, and the onboard programming included talks about the history of Alaska, the Iditarod dogsled race, native culture and wildlife. We also got a rundown from the excursion team explaining all kinds of activities we could enjoy ashore when we got to our ports.

We reached Juneau just after noon and departed at 10 p.m., and many people chose to have dinner off the ship at one of the city’s famed restaurants. I saw lines outside Tracy’s King Crab Shack, Red Dog Saloon and The Hangar as I headed down the pier to meet a friend for dinner and drinks at Twisted Fish.

After Juneau, we had a day of scenic cruising, including a visit to Hubbard Glacier.

Eurodamm in Sitka

Then, it was Sitka, with Eurodam in town from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Ketchikan was our next port, but we only had a brief stay. We arrived at 7 a.m. and all-aboard was at noon because we had a long stretch of sailing to head back down south.

We pulled into Victoria, British Columbia, at 8 p.m. for a quick evening visit, departing at midnight. Then, it was back to Seattle and the end of the cruise, as we disembarked the Eurodam in the morning.

A Popular Southeast Alaska Cruise Route

Eurodam in Juneau

HAL calls this weeklong cruise its “7-Day Alaskan Explorer.” 

This is a classic cruise itinerary for visiting this destination, and gives cruisers, especially those making their first voyage up, a great look at so many of the charms of Alaska.

We had an Alaska and wildlife expert onboard, and he would join cruisers on the outdoor decks for wildlife spotting sessions during our long stretches of sailing up to Juneau and on our return after Ketchikan. This is part of the Alaska immersion programming offered onboard when passengers weren’t on excursions in port.

World Stage chat

HAL’s Explorations Central (EXC) program includes talks and activities in the World Stage theater, at the Explorer’s Lounge and up in Explorations Cafe (Crow’s Nest).

The show “We Are Alaska” served as an overall introduction and explainer for how HAL began cruising in the region, and EXC talks also discussed the Iditarod race, whales and pioneering women of Alaska.

I was happy to see that the program offered a performance called “Native Voices: Stories of the Tlingit People” to properly acknowledge the rich culture and history of the indigenous people here.

The documentary “Disneynature Bears” was shown as a matinee in the main theater one afternoon.

Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau are almost always on the southeast Alaska cruise itineraries. You’ll often find Skagway on many Alaska cruises, but we didn’t have a fourth Alaska port on our trip. Instead, we had a day sailing to a fjord to see Hubbard Glacier. 

Hubbard Glacier viewing

Eurodam pulled into Disenchantment Bay to see the large glacier that sits within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. We stayed for a couple hours in perfect conditions for people to wander the decks and take hundreds of photos. It was a spectacular experience, especially for those seeing the real raw Alaskan beauty for the first time.

Juneau, the state capital, is home to Mendenhall Glacier and popular attractions that are easily accessible in the downtown area, such as Red Dog Saloon, which is a bar and restaurant with a piano player that evokes an era of the gold rush and pioneering era of the territory; Mount Roberts, which you can scale via tramway for stunning views of the Gastineau Channel and mountains surrounding the region; and the Alaska State Museum.

Sea kayak

I joined a couple dozen other cruisers from Eurodam and the other ships in port to go out on a kayaking excursion to Fritz Cove on nearby Douglas Island. We saw dozens of eagles and sea lions in the tidal waters.

Read more: 20 Alaska cruise must-do excursions

I chatted with others who had a good time at a whale watching and salmon bake tour and some who took float plane rides — with reports of sightings of bears and orcas.

Sitka is probably my favorite town in Alaska. The historic little place was once part of Russian America, and you can still see a lot of Russian influence, including the old Orthodox Church in the middle of downtown.

Biking in Sitka

I joined the Sitka Bike and Hike tour for an easy pedal along paths on the southern part of the island. We went out about two miles before taking a stroll into the temperate rainforest and past Thimbleberry Lake. Then, it was two miles of cycling back to our starting point. I hopped on the bus back to Sitka Sound cruise port to have lunch at the restaurant Halibut Point Crab & Lobster, located right at the pier.

Mac and Cheese

I can definitely recommend the big bowl of crab mac and cheese (pricey at $28) made with fresh Dungeness crab. I accompanied that with a Totally Pitted Hazy IPA from Sitka’s Harbor Mountain Brewing.

Ketchikan is always lively, and Eurodam was one of five ships in port during our visit. The salmon capital of the world is a wonderfully walkable town with all kinds of shops, restaurants and parks and interpretive walks with totem poles available to enjoy.

I have been to Ketchikan on a number of Alaska cruises, so this time, I tried something different. I picked HAL’s Kart Adventure Expedition, a thrilling outing operated by Kawanti Adventures that lets us drive military-grade off-road vehicles through the muddy rainforest.

We had an 31-hour stretch of sailing before our next stop, checking in to Victoria, B.C., for a few hours in the evening before sailing at midnight to return to Seattle. The quick stop in Victoria serves mostly as a technical stop to satisfy regulations requiring that U.S. passengers vessels leave the United States during the cruise. Most people who got off Eurodam did so for an evening walk in the fine weather or for a dinner and shopping or to visit a cafe or restaurant to have a coffee or beer.

Restaurants and Bars on HAL Eurodam

Holland America has been a leader with its culinary program for years. The variety of food options is excellent, and the menus have been enhanced since the creation of the line’s Culinary Council led by Chef Rudi Sodamin. 

Eurodam’s eateries hit a nice range of food styles to satisfy almost any craving. 

Canaletto is a restaurant space located within the Lido Market buffet. It’s part of the buffet during the day for breakfast and lunch but then converted in the evening to a quaint Italian eatery, complete with Italian music playing to set the proper mood.


Canaletto serves Italian classics like veal and sage meatballs and mozzarella di buffalo appetizers and main courses of lasagne and chicken parmigiana, as well as enticing creations like ossobuco Milanese and braised beef short rib gnocchi. The price was just $19, and the menu is so nice you might want to eat there twice. 

Pinnacle Grill

Other specialty restaurants include Pinnacle Grill, a steakhouse serving the traditional cuts and sides that you expect. You get one appetizer (go for the signature selection of candied bacon!), one main course with two sides — choosing from things like mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, asparagus with hollandaise or fries — and one dessert for the $39 cover charge. 

Additional appetizers cost $7 each, and you can add a second main selection for $15. I had a filling meal, choosing the delicious 15-ounce ribeye. It would have been nice to get a salad or soup selection included as a course for this meal.

Lunch is also available at Pinnacle Grill for a $15 cover charge, and it offers a completely different menu from dinner.

Pinnacle Lunch burger

I battled the massive Pinnacle Burger, a masterpiece piled with Beecher’s cheddar cheese, avocado, bacon jam, garlic-chipotle aioli and cabernet red onions that will challenge even the heartiest eater to finish.

Tamarind Meal

Tamarind ($29) and Nami Sushi (a la carte pricing) are two eateries in the same complex with perhaps the best views for any meal experience on Eurodam. 

Nami Sushi

Serving Asian specialties from Southeast Asia, China and Japan and designed by Culinary Council member Chef Andy Matsuda, Tamarind is located on Deck 11 midship. This top deck spot offers wonderful views of the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Tamarind Bar

Across the hall is Tamarind Bar, which features even more windows, including those on the wings that feel as if you are sitting on the edge of the ship. Tamarind Bar has chairs lined up on the windows and two cozy cabanas with couches, and cruisers utilize the space all day starting in early morning to just sit back and watch the waves, whales and any other sights on the route.

This venue also offers appetizers (a la carte), such as Chinese five-spice baby back ribs and a satay sampler. I enjoyed the sushi sampler plate with my cocktail before my dinner at Tamarind, where I dove into a satay sampler, the tom aha kai sweet and sour chicken soup with coconut milk and red curry coconut chicken with jasmine rice. The menu also offers creations like Mongolian barbecue lamb chops, crispy duck with ginger-chili glaze and wok-seared lobster.

Once per cruise, Eurodam chefs create a Seafood Boil meal experience in the Lido Market. I was told that the event always sells out with more than 75 people paying $35 apiece to enjoy the feast of regional seafood delights like Dungeness crab, Alaska salmon, clams, mussels, shrimp and clam chowder.

Cruisers will find plenty of good options at the included restaurants, as well. 

Lido Market is the buffet, and this proved to be the most popular option, busy for breakfast, lunch and dinner for people who chose to keep it casual and who also loved the wide variety featured at this eatery.

Freshly prepared food is served up by staff, with cruisers not handling the items at the buffets stations. I love this approach by HAL, which greatly enhances the sanitary nature of the restaurant.

Stations include breads, salads (a menu of creations are available or create your own), a carving stations, pastas, tacos, fruits and vegetables and potatoes.

The Sweet Spot dessert counter always has a line of people seeking a cone or cup of ice cream, cookies, pies and tarts. There also is a crepe station to get made-to-order delights.

Seaview Bar

At the very aft of the ship, past the Lido Market on Deck 9 and outside on the Sea View Terrace, New York Pizza features made-fresh pizzas and a case with salads and pastries.

Dining room on Eurodam

The Dining Room is a two-story space aft on Decks 2 and 3, and you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner here. The lunch menu has a deep lineup of favorites, such as street tacos, BBQ chicken spring rolls, Cobb salad, club sandwich, a cheeseburger and fried chicken and waffles. It remains the same throughout the cruise, but there are enough selections to give a nice variety to visit for lunch often.

Dining Room menu

Dinners offer a rotating menu of Mediterranean cuisine alongside cruise classics. The Gala Dinner menu, for example, included escargot bourguignon, French onion soup and shrimp cocktail for appetizers and tangerine glazed dick breast, pan-seared barramundi fish and truffled mushroom risotto for main courses.

Activities and Entertainment

Billboard bar

Holland America’s popular Music Walk onboard Eurodam offers nightly live music at two venues.

BB Kings bar

B.B. King’s Blues Club is where the All-Star house band plays blues hits and other lively tunes to get people up on the dance floor partying until late. 

Billboard Onboard features pop hits from a pair of piano players. Cruisers gather around the dueling-piano setup in a lively bar adjacent to the casino to sing along and make requests. This is also the spot for daily trivia contests.

Ocean power bar

During our cruise, we also had standup comedian Jill Kimmel (yes, Jimmy’s sister) performing shows and nightly live music from a band called Third Avenue West, which made their home in the Ocean Bar.

The Step One Dance Company had two production song-and-dance shows in the World Stage, as did the act Major Fourth, a singing show that presented popular hit songs.

The Casino kept up a brisk business, and cruisers enjoyed the ship’s theme nights. There were two “dressy” nights and one evening dedicated for The Orange Party, during which cruisers were encouraged to dress up in orange attire to celebrate Holland America’s 150 years of cruising. (Orange is the national color of the Netherlands, where the cruise line’s heritage began.)

I saw people in head-to-toe orange garb, including sneakers and wigs!

Around the Ship: Cabins, Public Spaces and Amenities

Eurodam atrium

The Explorer’s Cafe is located at the very top of the ship overlooking the bow as a spacious observation lounge space. The facility offers panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, a bar/coffee shop, interactive screens giving information about the destinations and the ship’s navigation and a library of board games and puzzles.

There is also an artist studio up here, with the program featuring classes like origami folding.

We sailed with cruisers of all ages, with a few dozens young kids and teens in the mix, as well as people in their 20s to 80s. The ship has a couple spaces for the Club Hal kids program. Children are in three groups: ages 3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17.

Sport Court on Eurodam

Eurodam has a limited sports court space on 11 at the aft of the ship, with an enclosed netted in area that catches way too much of the wind when sailing to allow effective sports play. It is a half-court basketball goal; and the surface also is used for pickleball sessions.

Lido pool

There are two pool areas. The all-seasons Lido Pool has a retractable roof, a lot of loungers, eight cabanas with privacy that can be rented by the day, the Lido Bar and the Dive In grill serving burgers, hot dogs and french fries. 

Dive In Grill

There are two ping-pong tables nearby, too, that were always being used.

Sea View pool at glacier

The adults-only Sea View Pool is at the aft on Deck 9. The Sea View Terrace offers a huge space to look out over the wake, swim in the pool, enjoy the hot tubs get a drink at the Sea View Bar or have a slice of pizza or other meals outdoors at the tables here.

Other bars can be found in the casino (called The Gallery Bar), at B.B. King’s, the Ocean Bar, the Pinnacle Bar, which also is a coffee shop, Tamarind Bar and Explorations Cafe.

Eurodam has a definite feel of an older cruise design, with antiques lining the corridors. 

It’s a good ship for group travel, with three large meeting rooms. These were utilized for church services, and people would play cards or other games during the day.

Library on Eurodam

Another great sanctuary is The Library, a big library that is a quiet space with window views to the promenade that encircles Deck 3. Cruisers loan out the books on the honor system with the promise to return them by the end of their sailing.

The ship also has the standard art gallery and a photo studio. Eurodam has an especially huge space allotted to its shops. The open-concept mall mid-ship on Deck 3 encouraged browsing as you passed through, and it was filled will all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, chocolates, liquor and jewelry.

The fitness center is a fairly compact space that was steadily busy throughout the day. It has a small group-class floor space and all the cardio and weight-training equipment that you would expect to need, so it is adequate for the ship size. 

Thermal Pool

The Greenhouse Spa & Salon features a full range of massages and hair care and facials treatments. Access to the small thermal suite (a steam room, ceramic loungers and a hydro pool) was on sale for $170 for the full week in Alaska. (Cruisers also can book one day for $50.)

Balcony cabin on Holland America

Lastly, my cabin was a balcony cabin, No. 8002, port side right behind the bridge at the very front of the ship. The style is dated, but the bed is comfortable. There are limited plugs. In fact, there are none on the nightstands, which have USB outlets available. 

The bathroom offers a bath/shower combo, which is a treat for those who enjoy a bath. You can’t always get a cruise ship cabin with a bath tub these days.

Storage is adequate even though there are no dressers in the room. The wardrobes have plenty of hanger space and shelves, instead.

Holland America Eurodam balcony

The balcony is a must, I think, for Alaska cruises. You always want to be able to walk outside to take in the scenery, which often will include sightings of whales, birds, dolphins and great snow-capped mountains and glaciers, of course.

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