In today's burgeoning cruise market there's a ship for just about every type of traveller. For those who seek affordable luxury on mid-size ships (large enough to offer an abundance of amenities, small enough to feel intimate and relaxed), Holland America Line is a clear winner.
With its fleet of 13 luxury mid-size ships, the line offers more than 500 cruises to ports in more than 98 countries. A specialist in regions spanning the globe from Alaska to Australia and Europe, there's a growing interest in the Baltic countries with an increased number of itineraries now available.
We travelled around Scandinavia and the Baltic region on ms Eurodam, one of the Signature class of Holland America's ships.
A 12-day itinerary, the cruise started in Stockholm and ended in Copenhagen, visiting ports in Russia, Finland, Estonia, Germany and Sweden in between. Memorably well done, Holland America's team wowed with their level of care and attention to detail.
On our cruise we enjoyed consistently impressive culinary experiences. 'As You Wish' dining is the Holland America style of providing guests with restaurants and cafes that suit every mood and craving.
One night we dressed up in our finest for dinner at the ship's glamorous outpost of Le Cirque; another night, footsore after traipsing around Tallinn, we ordered in delicious steak sandwiches.
As the appetite for premium cruising continues to expand exponentially, guests' expectations of on-board cuisine have risen to dizzying heights.
Celebrity chefs, onboard outposts of world-famous restaurants and collaborations with global culinary institutions are some of the ways Holland America Line steps up to the fabulous foodie plate.
On HAL's new ship, ms Koningsdam, the Culinary Arts Center has been revamped and extended for an unforgettable experience.
Presented by Food & Wine magazine, the Center features a showcase kitchen where the ship's chefs are joined by visiting celebrity chefs in presenting cooking demonstrations and food-and-wine pairing tutorials.
Individual cooking stations give guests the opportunity to join in the learning with hands-on teachings. A new dining concept, 'Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center', brings the kitchen to the table, with guests sampling each fresh dish as it is prepared in the show kitchen.
More on cruising with Holland America Line
Holland America's shore excursion program, 'Journeys Ashore', offers a well-curated range of experiences with an emphasis on cultural immersion and distinctive local flavour.
In St Petersburg we enjoyed an evening at the ballet, while other passengers explored the iconic Hermitage Museum. In Helsinki we delved into traditional Lapland food and lapped up the summer sun from the top deck of a boat cruising the city's canals and waterways.
The benefits of signing up for shore excursions rather than arranging tours through independent operators include guaranteed departures, guaranteed return in time for the ship's departure, and all-in pricing that leaves no room for nasty surprises.
Back on board, the local theme continued, with special evenings celebrating the ports we had visited that day. Upon returning from a day in Hamburg, we found the pool deck had been reimagined as a German beer hall, complete with bratwurst, enormous beer steins and crew dressed in lederhosen.
The entertainment on board ms Eurodam included Broadway-style, all-singing, all-dancing musicals in the main theatre, intimate vocal performances in the Crow's Nest bar and the always-buzzing BB King's Blues Club, where a Memphis band brought the soul and blues direct from Beale Street.
By offering five major types of staterooms – Interior, Ocean-View, Verandah Staterooms, Signature Suites and Neptune Suites – Holland America Line is an affordable option for most cruise passengers, and the included amenities make this line terrific value.