Boarding an early morning flight from Heathrow, we arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino airport by mid-morning, for the start of a seven nights Mediterranean cruise. We were met at the airport by Holland America staff that were responsible for a smooth and hassle-free transfer to the port of Civitavecchia, where we boarded ms Eurodam.

Launched in July 2008, the ms Eurodam is one of Holland America Line’s new Signature-class ships. Possessing eleven passenger decks, it was an impressive sight on the approach roads to the port. Over the next seven days we would sail around the Mediterranean, to visit Palermo in Sicily, Tunis (North Africa), Barcelona, Monte Carlo and La Spezia, in Northern Italy, with one full day spent at sea. Express pre-booking added to the thoroughly uncomplicated embarkation process and we were very soon able to get our first glimpse of the stateroom that would provide our accommodation for the next week.

Our baggage had already been delivered to our cabin and we were greeted by a friendly, helpful steward, who attended to all of our needs throughout the voyage. We were fortunate to be booked in a stateroom with a private verandah, which allowed magnificent views over the Med and the varied coastlines of the countries we visited.

The stateroom was spacious enough to include a queensize bed, featuring a high quality mattress and the finest Egyptian cotton sheets. There was more than adequate space for storage, the wardrobes easily accommodated our large selection of holiday clothing. Elemis soaps, lotions and shampoos were available in the bathroom and were replenished routinely throughout the trip. In-room entertainment was provided via a flat-panel TV set and DVD player, with a large library of DVD’s available to hire on request. A nightly turn-down service was provided and, as the week progressed, we anticipated eagerly our return to the stateroom to discover which animal shape had been crafted from towels by our steward.

Our fellow cruise passengers were mainly American or Dutch, whose ages spanned several decades, including very young children with their parents, to older people, enjoying a cruise as part of their retirement. Never having experienced cruising before, we did approach the holiday with some trepidation. However, any misgivings were dispelled speedily as our experience proved to be utterly amazing.

Ms Eurodam has a huge range of facilities, over its eleven decks. Two swimming pools feature at each end of deck 11, that in the Lido area being partially covered and surrounded by cabanas that can be reserved for an exclusive poolside experience. At thevessel’s stern, the large sun deck features a second pool, together with a hot tub. Innumerable sun loungers surrounded each pool and were strategically placed on other decks to ensure that there was always  a place to catch the glorious sunshine.

The Greenhouse Spa offered a comprehensive range of luxurious face and body treatments, using the highquality Elemis range of products. The thermal suite offers an opportunity to steam away stresses, aches and pains.

For dining, the ms Eurodam offers a huge choice of restaurants, covering every conceivable taste in food and drinks. We were astounded by the sheer variety and quality of the dishes available, at any time of the day or night.

We took a buffet style breakfast in the Lido restaurant each morning, our experience having been enhanced by the ever-friendly and helpful staff, whose omni-presence throughout the voyage ensured exceptional levels of customer service.

We experienced dinner in each of the ship’s five, quite differently styled restaurants. The Canelleto offered an authentic Italian experience, while the Rembrandt (the main dining-room) served a wide variety of dishes. The Tamarind provided a taste of Asia and the Pinnacle offered a ‘Le Cirque’ experience, when the restaurant was transformed to offer diners the surroundings similar to the famous New York eatery, while sampling its signature dishes.

Following dinner, a wide variety of entertainments was available, including top class shows featuring professional performers, a nightclub, bars and a casino. For those people needing to shop, a range of retail units provided the opportunity to purchase luxury and essential goods.

A vast array of amenities makes 24-hour entertainment accessible. Yet, we had to keep reminding ourselves that this was a cruise ship and we would be visiting several ports during the seven days we were on board. Each stop offered an unique experience. Our first was in Palermo, Sicily, noted for its long, troubled history and culture. Next on the schedule was Tunis, a change of continent and style, epitomised by our trip to the medina through a network of alleys and covered passages, with locals offering anything from rugs to fragrances and spices, and all purchases were negotiable using bartering skills!

Our one day at sea, experiencing the many amenities of the ms Eurodam, was next on the agenda, before disembarkation at Barcelona. The few hours we had available were insufficient to do justice to this magnificent city, although a whistle-stop tour whisked us to the famous Sagrada Familia and the Gaudi park.

The next stop was Monte Carlo and Monaco and it proved to be a day of tremendous contrasts. Only a tiny principality, we spent the morning visiting its cathedral and the Grimaldi Palace, after lunch taking in the resort area of Monte Carlo, famed for its Grand Casino, exclusive hotels, glitzy shopping, its harbour café culture and, of course, the Grand Prix run on its streets.

Our final day was spent in La Spezia, an unspoilt town in the Ligurian area of Italy that is also a starting point for the Cinque Terre. Despite our initial trepidation about indulging in our first cruise, we are now making plans for another longer alternative in the near future, largely due to our wonderful experience on board the ms Eurodam.

Factbox

Ship: ms Eurodam

Cruise line: Holland America

Contact: www.hollandamerica.com

Cruise itinerary: Mediterranean Glamour, departing Rome and calling at Palermo (Sicily), Tunis, Barcelona, Monte Carloand La Spezia.

Cruise length: seven nights

Best for

  • Gastronomic delights
  • Pampering and relaxation
  • Friendly helpful staff

Could do better

  • Some of the trips can be a tad expensive