This is my husband and mine 5th cruise, 3rd with HAL. We have traveled to Bermuda and Alaska on the Veendam and Westerdam. We enjoy HAL for its classic style and elegance and the wonderful service.
We arrived the night before embarkation and stayed at the Spring Hills Suites which was filled to capacity with other cruisers. The hotel handles the crowd well- the room was very quiet and the shuttles from the airport and to the port were smooth and well run.
We arrived at the port and have never had an embarkation go so quickly and efficiently. We literally never stopped moving, the only stop was to take our picture, get our keys and send us on the ship.
The ship is spotless. Staff throughout the voyage were constantly cleaning, polishing, painting and cleaning. We had an oceanview cabin on a relatively low deck and our window was CLEAN! The room was small, but efficiently laid out. There was plenty of storage and more than enough hangars. We unpacked and met our stewards and then went to lunch at the Lido buffet.
HAL has a policy of no self-service at the buffet for the first 48 hours to prevent norovirus. The line is very conscious of disease prevention, much more so than on the only other line we cruised- Royal Caribbean. For example, in every rest room there are sanitizers by the exterior door handle, toilet seat covers and tissues and paper towels for use in opening the inner door handle. While the buffet goes slower during this time period, the well-being of the passengers overrode any inconvenience. Nobody was so starving for food that it was an issue.
The demographic of HAL skews older, which is one of the reasons we like it. This isn't a rowdy, drunken crowd and on formal nights you will see many gowns and tuxes. The ambience is also classier. The ships are traditionally designed with lots of wood, drapes and velvet. The activities are also upscale. Each ship has live classical music every night - a big draw for us.
The food on HAL is good. My husband and I are vegetarians and there were many options to choose from at every meal. We ate in the Asian fusion restaurant Tamarind (don't miss this!!!) and the chef made an entirely special meal for the two of us. Impeccable service throughout the dining staff. HAL also has several little extras that make a large impact. They still have fresh orange juice at breakfast at no additional charge. Upon leaving the Rembrandt dining room after dinner, there are mints, dried figs and candied ginger as you walk out. Chocolates are on the pillow at night - while other lines have discontinued this treat. When you arrive back to the ship after a port call you are met with cold towels for refreshing the outside and ice water or lemonade to refresh the inside. Nice touches.
This cruise had the unfortunate windy weather which prevented docking at Grand Turks and Half Moon Cay. While this was disappointing, we had two wonderful extra sea days with activities filling the time. I'd personally rather be on a ship in the sunshine than on shore in the rain, so it didn't bother me.
The 2 stops we did make were San Juan - which was outstanding, and St. John, which my husband and I had been to before. I will say I prefer the other cruise port, Charlotte Amalie to Crown Bay on St. John. From Charlotte Amalie it was a short, pleasant walk to downtown, from Crown Bay it was several miles in not great areas. We enjoy walking the port cities, but were uncomfortable walking back to the dock so we took a cab.
The entertainment on the ship was a lot of fun, the shows were very professional with great singers and dancers. The Marriage Game was a hoot, trivia was played many times, the Culinary Art Center had excellent programs and the travel consultant Kelly was beyond excellent. She was an outstanding resource throughout the trip and HAL was very smart to hire her.
We chose the express disembarkation and sadly left the Eurodam as efficiently as we'd boarded. We will be back soon.