We are a family of four (dad 41, mom 40, girls 10 & 7) with extensive international air travel experience. This was our 5th cruise (Disney 2x, RCL 1x, Costa 1x), and we sailed on Eurodam's last Caribbean cruise in the spring of 2012 (the ship started crossing the Atlantic on the day we disembarked).
Port Everglades: the ship was docked on teminal 26, which looks, feels and smells like an old warehouse. HCL agent was nice but bureaucratic and the whole check-in experience did not leave us overly impressed. A new HCL terminal is allegedly under construction.
In the post Costa Concordia world, we all expected the safety drill to be taken very seriously, and it truly was. Passengers who did not show up on time for it were tracked by the crew. It did not take long and was totally within our expectations.
Eurodam was christened in 2008. I don't know how long it took to build the ship but some of the decor materials, onboard equipment, and engineering solutions are clearly older than the 2000's. Actually, the entire ship decor appears to be blast from the 1990's. It features a weird ensemble of styles, colors, and materials. The interior designers were either drunk or had a somewhat peculiar taste. I joked that the architects must have spent time scouting the Fincantieri shipyard for odds-n-ends from other ships built there. Our stateroom was particularly dull, and had soils on the carpet as well as sofa-bed. Bathroom was 'clean' (as far as clean goes on a cruise ship) but definitely not impeccable. The whole environment - inside and outside our cabin - strangely felt much older than something built in 2008. Carpets on some hallways and stairways was worn on edges and angles. Door leading to the verandah was not of the sliding type. It even had one of those common household keys as a locking device (its only and not really child proof), a mechanism that is not appropriate for a nautical nor hotel setting. One day, the door was unlocked and a wind gust blew it open hitting my daughter on the head. Not nice. :>(
Navigation: the first few days were really tough. The Eurodam pitches and rolls waaaay above average. Vibration could be felt on certain days, but the pitching and rolling were the most significant problem. This could be attributable to the sea, wind, or a combination of both, but you'll read elsewhere on this forum that Eurodam is not a stable ship. Vibration during port maneuvers was absolutely annoying. Every 2-3 minutes you could unmistakably feel a strong vibration of the propulsion systems used for docking. Since docking usually takes place early in the morning, we woke up every single time with the annoying vibration that would come and go at regular intervals. Absolutely terrible, and something that we NEVER experienced with other ships. I thought comments from other passengers on these two subjects were exaggerated, but I most definitely agree with them now.
Stateroom: we were in the Upper Verandah category, but this was clearly the smallest room we've ever had at sea. Storage space was decent, but 'people space' was in short supply. Parties of four, beware! This category is not truly designed for more than three guests (even though it may be marketed as such). The sofa bed allows one guest to sleep with little or no comfort. There is a bunk bed that comes down from the ceiling HOWEVER, to my complete astonishment, it opens right on top of the master bed (not the sofa bed). Once the bunk bed is open, the master bed is half covered in such a way that you can only get in and out of bed by maneuvering your body sideways and a reasonable amount of contortionism. I hit my head on the bunk bed a few times while trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you look at how much space is dedicated to the verandah, it is hard to understand why the designers did not cut it in half to add more to the inside cabin space. I have to believe it has something to do with how weight is distributed on the ship's structure, but as a results of that we spent one week truly crammed. I would never buy this HCL category again when traveling with my daughters.
Restaurants: Rembrandt is nice, but the food was nothing to write home about. Tamarind was the best. The food at Pinnacle Grill did not justify the extra charge. We did not try Canaletto. Lido buffet was average but nothing special. We were lucky to be assigned a top-notch Dining Steward at Rembrandt (table #210). His name is Syahrial and he's been wih HAL for 15 years. Our table accommodated 6 persons but the head waiter allowed us to dine alone with two unoccupied chairs. This was never an issue, never mentioned, and we just loved it that way. Room service dining is limited and, every time we tried it, quite slow. I tried breakfast a few times and they never had scrambled eggs: only ham & cheese omelettes (no other type available).
P.A. announcements never bothered us. We though the Captain was kind and informative every time. We went to the Piano Bar only once, but felt that the player is somewhat pompous and borderline obnoxious.
Crew: extremely nice. Super courteous, friendly and professional everywhere. We left extra tips to our Stateroom and Dining Stewards, as well as their assistants.
Ship size: RCL and the newest Disney ships are WAY TOO LARGE. If you think of it, cruise lines just keep adding deck over deck with cabins and passengers, but public spaces (especially pool areas) are basically the same. Eurodam is right-sized for a pleasant experience, wherever you choose to go.
Club HAL: contrary to popular belief, HCL provide outstanding activities and care to our children. I read in so many places that HCL is not really kid-friendly, and I found that to be absolutely inaccurate during our voyage. The staff at the two Club HAL lounges we used (kids 4-7 are kept separate from those 8-12 at all times - no exceptions) were absolutely amazing. My daughters literally cried when saying their goodbyes on the final evening, and told us repeatedly that they had more fun at Club HAL than at its equivalent on the Disney ships we traveled on.
Hassle-free: I never had to argue or complain about anything. If I saw something out of the ordinary, in just a few minutes a crew member would notice it and have the issue addressed. We enjoyed unlimited towels at the pool (RCL gives you tickets, NCL gives you one precious towel to guard with your life - HCL doesn't care about any of that). We never waited in line more than a few minutes. And, again, the crew was EXTRAORDINARILY friendly and helpful, consistently.
Activities: there is something for every taste and age, all the time. All was in good taste (unlike the rowdy shows involving couples at RCL) and the music was particularly great in some places: the string quartet playing at the bar near Rembrandt, the band playing by the family pool every day, and the guy playing guitar at Crow's Nest. All three provided spectacularly great entertainment.
BOTTOM LINE: the overall experience with HCL was very, very positive, but the Eurodam is a rocky ship whose ambience is, let's just say, different. I would like to try a different HCL ship and most definitely a larger stateroom.