What an extremely pleasant surprise! Our only other trip with HAL had been on the Masdaam. That ship was old and limited and the average vacationer had been collecting Social Security for a very long time.
Upon arrival at the terminal, we could see that this ship was going to carry a wider mix of passengers. Embarkation was amazingly quick. We were at the Lido Buffet before noon. And promptly heard the announcement that cabins were ready! Earliest ever for us.
The cabin was nothing special but the bed was pretty comfortable. The bathroom featured a tub/shower and high end soap/shampoo/lotions. We had a balcony we seldom used, but I'm still glad we were on a verandah deck. Our steward was professional and responsive.
Food at the buffet was generally good. There was an adequate number of stations and the space was attractive. We took all breakfasts and lunches here. The sandwich station boasted of gluten free bread, but the staff was usually forced to scramble when such a request was made. Another admirable surprise was that in addition to burgers and hot dogs, the grill station also offered veggie burgers, turkey burgers and lamb!
I was happy with the meals in the MDR. Our tablemates found their dinners there inconsistent. For the first couple of nights our service was annoyingly slow, resulting in missing the beginning of the mainstage show. Our serving duo blamed the kitchen and they did seem to be working hard. But the tables for 2 and 4 were clearly experiencing better service than our arbitrary assembly of 8. There was a time when maitre d's (ours never even showed up tableside over the week) would display some sort of effort at profiling when assigning tablemates. As we were introduced to our 7 day companions (delightful though they were), it was clear this is not so anymore.
One meal was enjoyed at the upcharged Evening at Le Cirque. It was outstanding and worth the extra fee.
Entertainment was terrific. We were floored as it had been abysmal on the Masdaam. While there were too many song and dance revues, the singing and dancing talent was top notch. There was also an OK comic and an outstanding magician/comic named Jeff Peterson who features a dog in his act. Additionally, the steel drum player at poolside was a pleasure. Greg at the Piano Bar was a revelation and that room was usually packed to capacity with people who had discovered his talent early in the week. Less attended were performances by acoustic singer/guitarist Jamie in the Crow's Nest. It's too bad so few of us saw this wonderful performer - his show each evening was the the highlight of my cruise. He will go on to more prominent success.
There was a plethora of enrichment programs, lessons, trivia sessions and activities. The widest selection I can remember. The ship also felt bigger than it actually may have been, so we were discovering things and spaces every day. The only comments about the ports: Half Moon Cay is a joy on a sunny day and Grand Turk has emerged as almost a secondary private island with the well developed cruise ship area right there. Make sure you stop into the Bruno Art Gallery. Some very cool works on display! Heavy winds prevented our docking at San Juan. I didn't mind the extra day at sea.
Disembarkation also went smoothly for us, having selected the last slot. Except for evidence of a trend toward understaffing on the ship, it was all in all, a great week on the Eurodam.