Finding the Perfect Five-Star Cruise Ship

by Emma Hackwood

A cruise can be a great trip regardless of the destination, and the ship you choose can be just as important as the destination! With ships of all shapes and sizes, there’s one to suit your needs whether you’re travelling with friends, family, or that special someone. Malcolm Sorab shares his experiences travelling on three five-star ships from three very different cruise lines:

I’ve been fortunate to have sailed on three incredible 5-star ships: Celebrity Equinox, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, and Holland America’s Eurodam.

Celebrity Equinox is the second of five Solstice-class ships debuting between 2008-2012, adding several innovations and enhancements to their highly acclaimed Millennium-class ships. From their chic and elegant décor, incredible design and passenger flow, these ships are amongst the most gorgeous and visually stunning large ships afloat, and the largest of any premium cruise line. Despite their larger size, these ships manage to maintain Celebrity’s long standing tradition as having some of the best service and cuisine at sea, something that many other ships suffer from as they grow larger.

Allure of the Seas, along with sister ship Oasis of the Seas, are the largest, most spectacular, and most innovative and revolutionary ships ever built! These ships are true architectural marvels, and have something unique to offer almost anyone. Capable of carrying over 8,000 guests and crew, many people perceive that these floating cities are just too large,  and a challenge to navigate. Having sailed these ships four times during the past year, I can honestly say that these are some of the most spacious, non-crowded, and easy to navigate large ships ever built, and are truly worthy of any cruise aficionado experiencing at least once (although chances are once won’t be enough!)

Immediately after sailing on Allure of the Seas, I boarded a vessel nearly one third its size – Holland America’s Eurodam, the first of two Signature-class vessels built within the last three years. In addition to the immense variation in size between Allure of the Seas and the Eurodam, the difference between these two ships felt like day and night. While Allure of the Seas felt bright and spacious, and gave the impression you weren’t even on a cruise ship, the Eurodam was reminiscent of a classic ocean liner, with smaller, more intimate spaces, and plenty of nautical hints throughout reminding you at almost every turn that you definitely were on a ship!

While Holland America touts all their ships as mid-size, the reality is that the Eurodam is a large ship, with nearly twice the guest capacity of the smaller, truly mid-size ships in the fleet. This additional tonnage has created space mainly for larger or slightly enhanced venues, rather than a plethora of new and innovative facilities which many other cruise lines do with their newer builds. It’s what is termed ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’, and it seems the majority of Holland America’s repeat guests (which they have a lot of) are content with a more traditional style of cruising. In fact, during my 7-day Caribbean cruise, it often felt like what cruising used to be fifteen years ago – which can be a good thing!

Holland America is known for its excellent service, cuisine, and accommodations and less focus on activities and entertainment compared with several other cruise lines. While I have not sailed on many other Holland America ships, many repeat guests I spoke with said that the cuisine on Eurodam was amongst the best in the fleet, and I was certainly impressed, especially by the immensely large and succulent jumbo shrimp – if you’re a shrimp lover – sail on the Eurodam, you won’t be disappointed! Eurodam’s Lido buffet offered similar cuisine to that in the main dining room, which was terrific.

While all Holland America ships are fitted out with the Pinnacle Grill specialty steakhouse, the Eurodam (along with sister ship Nieuw Amsterdam) also features Tamarind, an Asian themed specialty restaurant. While food is very good, the real standouts of this dining experience are the eclectic plates and silverware, served by very gracious hostesses. Holland America’s specialty restaurants cost less than most other cruise lines.

Activities on Holland America were surprisingly diverse, ranging from cooking demonstrations, fitness classes, and computer demonstrations sponsored by Microsoft. I attended several computer classes, where I learned a lot about the features of the new Windows platform! The cruise director, quite a comic in his own right, made several announcements during the day promoting different activities (surprising for a premium line), including the typical poolside games found on many cruise lines.

I would recommend the Eurodam to anyone seeking a more relaxed, tranquil cruise experience, with comfortable accommodations and excellent cuisine, and I would gladly sail on the Eurodam again!


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