Cruising is an experience like none other. The tangible benefits are numerous–a wealth of activities, onboard duty-free shopping, 24-hour dining, entertaining shows, fitness centers and spas, dance venues, casinos, comfortable staterooms and crews that tend to your every need and desire.

Appealing to a wide range of lifestyles and budgets, cruises are an outstanding value for the money and sail to some of the world’s most exciting destinations. Some lines also offer themed cruises tailored toward families, singles, gays and lesbians, jazz or gospel lovers, weekend athletes and everyone and everything in between.

So grab your passport, wide brim hat, swimsuit, sunscreen and sense of adventure, and let’s hit the port!

A commitment to excellence since 1873

For this particular voyage, I sailed with Holland America, founded in 1873 as the Netherlands-America Steamship Company, a shipping and passenger line headquartered in Rotterdam. At that time, its passenger voyages carried immigrants from Europe to the U.S.

Today, the company–now called Holland America Line–has a fleet of 15 elegant, mid-size ships and more than 500 cruises to 350 ports in over 100 countries, territories and dependencies.

Guests can visit amazing ports of call in Australia, Europe, the Amazon, South America, Antarctica, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Asia, Mexico and New Zealand on two- to 110-day itineraries, the latter as part of their extended Grand Voyages.

The accolades for Holland America are numerous, including being the highest-rated premium cruise line by both Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards and Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards; Best Overall Cruise Value for 19 consecutive years by the World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society; Best Cabins by the Cruise Critic U.S. Editors’ Picks Awards; Best Shore Excursions by the Porthole Cruise magazine Editor-in-Chief Award; and among the Best Cruise Ship Spas by the 2012 Cruise Critic UK Cruisers’ Choice Awards, just to name a few.

Holland America has also been recognized for outstanding environmental standards throughout every aspect of the ships’ operations. Additionally, the company places great emphasis on collective social responsibility, including donating to charitable organizations worldwide through their Ship to Shelter program, which collects valuable and reusable goods from ships for donation to charities serving people in need, their “On Deck for the Cure” shipboard walks benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure, disaster relief donations and other initiatives.

The Ms Eurodam

Our Eastern Caribbean adventure was aboard the ms Eurodam (departing from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), whose maiden voyage in 2008 marked the release of their new Signature-class ships, featuring state-of-the-art navigation and safety systems.

At 936 feet, weighing 86,273 gross tons, a passenger capacity of 2,104 with a crew of 929 and a maximum speed of 23.9 knots, the Eurodam is a sophisticated mid-sized ship spanning 11 passenger decks. The beauty of the ship is just stunning inside and out, every area possessing its own unique, architecturally spectacular “venue” staffed with professional, seasoned crewmembers who strive to make your every experience a memorable one.

Now offered on the …

The Eurodam has fantastic features on every deck. Among them are the Crow’s Nest on the Navigation Deck (Deck 11), a quiet, spacious, relaxing retreat with an extensive library, board games, bar, several comfortable seating areas and leather recliners in which to enjoy sweeping 270 degree views.

In addition to the pool and Jacuzzis located on each end of the Lido Deck (Deck 9), forward completely al fresco and aft (the rear of the ship) under a retractable roof, are surrounded by the usual comfortable lounge chairs and amenities. But you can take it up a notch by reserving a private cabana, a romantic oasis with a circular, fabric-covered lounge bed tastefully decorated with colorful pillows, towels and an intimate table for two for lunch and/or cocktails.

The Fitness Center, also on the Lido Deck, has just about every piece of cardio, free weight, mat and ball equipment you could want, plus classes from stretching to yoga, spinning, tai chi and a variety of health-oriented seminars. Next door, the heavenly scent of aromatic lotions, rubs, scrubs and other essentials is the first thing that gently greets you upon entering the award-winning Greenhouse Spa & Salon. An extensive array of spa and salon services, a hydro pool, and the sauna, steam and relaxation rooms (the latter overlooks the ocean) featured here are specifically designed to relax and rejuvenate you–mind, body and spirit.

You are what you eat

If that’s true, then I am fresh, scrumptious, amazing, spectacular, healthy, audacious, bold and just downright tasty!

That being said, for me to just say that the ship offers something to eat 24/7 is like stating that Italy makes good wine! The food here is, well … see above!

The Lido Restaurant (on the Lido Deck, of course!) serves fresh, cooked-to-order specialties served buffet style in a very relaxed ambiance breakfast, lunch and dinner. From Mediterranean to Spanish, Italian, French, American, deli, Greek, full breakfast and continental fare and more, you will find it here throughout your journey.

Outstanding upscale cuisine is the focus in the magnificent Rembrandt Dining Room, offering two dinner seatings for your dining preference (breakfast and lunch are also served here on certain days). Here, guests enjoy exquisite, five-course international menus, fine wines and cocktails and the utmost in food preparation and service while seated in a dazzling upper and lower dining room design linked by an elegant spiral staircase.

Not included in your all-inclusive cruise package, but well worth the money, is a culinary adventure at two of the ship’s signature dining rooms: the Pinnacle Grill and the Tamarind Restaurant and Silk Den Lounge.

The Pinnacle Grill features entrees highlighted by sterling silver beef and the utmost fresh fish and seafood dishes, served on distinctive Bvlgari China, Riedel stemware and Frette linens and accompanied by, if you desire, select Wine Spectator-rated wines.

The Tamarind Restaurant and Silk Den Lounge is infused with authentic Pan-Asian flavor and flair at every turn, from the decor to the gastronomy, together creating an ambiance emulating one you’d find in the finest restaurants or lounges in Asia.

Those desiring more of an educational and/or hands-on experience will love the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine, with its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, intimate cooking classes and special tasting events.

Can’t quite leave the technology at home? Try the Explorations Cafe, powered by the New York Times or the Digital Workshop, powered by Windows. And although Holland America cruises tend to draw a sophisticated adult crowd, kids are always welcome and have age-appropriate options at the Loft for teens and Club HAL for kids ages 3 to 12.

Ship-wide, Holland America offers a little and lot of everything for everybody.

Up next, our first port of call, Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos!

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

Resource list:

  • Holland America Line 877-932-4259, www.hollandamerica.com