There are some ships that you just fall in love with at first sight.
For me, that was the case with Holland America Line’s gorgeous Eurodam. The great HAL flagship was docked behind us in mid summer in Germany’s port of Warnemunde, at the start of a really memorable circuit of the Baltic on the venerable Marco Polo- no mean looker herself, as it happens.
In the high summer sun, the Eurodam was a towering, triumphant revelation. Sunlight danced across her dazzling, royal blue hull and her serried tiers of balconies. The prow- far more tapered and graceful than I expected- was a thing of supine beauty.
Smitten at once, I knew right there and then that I wanted to go on that ship.
A little over four months later, I stared up at that same, stately prow in the warm, welcoming sun of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. But this time, my view would be much more up close and personal.
Hours later, and I’m standing on board the Eurodam as she surges majestically out into the open sea, past rows of spindly, soporific palm tress waving idly in the fall Florida breeze. The siren booms out a sonorous, beautifully pitched farewell to the Sunshine State as a handful of well wishers wave from the shore. And off we go, standing out into the balmy, welcoming waters of the western Caribbean.
Inside, the vast, beautiful ship is spacious, and yet surprisingly intimate. Winding corridors on the public decks, each one carpeted in shades of rich, oriental red, lead the way past a stunning succession of paintings, ancient exhibits, and fresh cut flowers. Everywhere, the priceless heritage of Holland America- one of the most illustrious names in maritime history- suffuses this beautiful ship like a series of benign shades.
There is the head wear, sword and musket of a Spanish conquistador here, and a brace of imperious dragon heads there, glowering at head height with their sightless eyes. Off to starboard, the strains of a plaintive violin floods the lobby with some half forgotten aria. It fills the air with a kind of deft, delicate sound that produces a mild tremor in the soul.
Above the stunning, beautifully scaled lobby bar, the sultry, mellow sounds of a jazz combo mixes with the gentle clinking of pre dinner martinis to produce a rhythm as old as time. Stewards in their smart white jackets deliver trays of canapes and drinks to groups of first night passengers huddled around tables.
Outside, on the long expanse of the bone white promenade deck, a line of proper wooden steamer chairs stands at attention, as perfectly turned out as a parade of the Grenadier Guards. The setting sun falls from the sky like a blazing theatre curtain, turning the entire ocean into what looks like so much smouldering straw. The waves roll lethargically by; they resemble a kind of magical roller coaster, taking the Eurodam off on another, epic ride.
Inside, the sunset vanishes behind rows of deftly drawn drapes. Pools of warm, languid lighting dance across the acres of sparkling glass and brass finery inside. From somewhere, the strains of a sultry bossa nova floats through the ether like stardust.
The first Sunshine Martini from the Pinnacle Grill Lounge hits us like so much healing balm. In the restaurant itself, the delicate, barely audible chink of tables being laid with exquisite china and fine cutlery creates its own subtle, delightful symphony. The food, which we are already eagerly anticipating, will of course be centre stage.
And there we leave her for now. The proud, mighty Eurodam, ablaze with light and chasing a sunset she can never, ever reach. Poised and beautifully polished, the great lady is not one to be hurried by such trivia as time, temperament, or even actual reality.
It is my fervent hope that you will be kind enough to rejoin us for the rest of this wondrous voyage as it unfurls over the next few blogs in this series. Though we are not on the bridge in any sense, it is already plain to most of us on board which way our course is set. We are on an ageless, elegant path in the finest of styles.
It is my great fortune and privilege to be able to share such wonders with you.