HAL Eurodam 1/26/13 to 2/2/13
The Ship - generally very nice. There were some visible carpet stains in the elevator lobby on 6, our deck. We had booked a VF guarantee at a great price. HAL assigned us to 6166, a VA cabin on the rear of the ship, an incredible upgrade. The crew was very good, particularly considering that many were down with GI illness. A few passengers were also affected, but not many, as far as I could tell. Pinnacle Grill was excellent, as usual. Ate lunch one day in the Tamarind, which was also great. We used open seating for the dining room. Service was hit or miss, depending on where you sat. Will probably go back to fixed dining on next cruise. The on board entertainment was good. Singers and dancers put on good production shows appealing to almost everyone. The magician, Jeff Peterson, and comedian, Julie Barr, were both good. Particularly good was Michael Sara in the piano bar.
Grand Turk - took a tour with Island Trams, a privately owned company by two brothers, who have lived on the island all of their lives. Very well done.. Takes in the entire island all the way to the lighthouse, stopping in Cockburn Town on the way out. Great 90 minute tour for $24 per person in a group of 4 or $29 if fewer. Tours leave at 10 and 11:30. Either would get you back to the ship in plenty of time. To get to the start point, walk through Margaritaville, up the beach for about 100 yards, and you will see the tram sitting there. After the tour, we had a cheeseburger in paradise at Margaritaville. The local beer is excellent.
San Juan - rode the free city tram up to San Cristobal fortress. (To catch the tram, turn left at the foot of the dock. Walk one block to stop 14. There are three routes. Two go to the fortresses, one stays downtown. So, look at the route to be sure it is going where you want). Very interesting and well done presentation. Be sure to take your National Park pass if you have one together in free. From there, we rode the tram. To El Morro, another very interesting fort guarding San Juan harbor. We then walked backdown the hill, visiting churches, historic buildings, etc along the way. Walked down Calle Fortaleza, the main shopping street. Bought some new bamboo sheets at a very good price. Ate at a hole in the wall frequented by locals. (Mondito's Rotisserie, Fortaleza #320, no credit cards, about two blocks from Plaza Colon, where there are loads of more upscale restaurants). Amazing food, no ambience. Four of us shared an appetizer of deep fried grouper with chimichurri sauce, had an entree with sides (mine was blackened grouper with fried plantains), three local beers each, and the bill was $100. $25 per person for great local food and 3 beers was an amazing deal. Finished the walk back to the ship and we were on board and tired by 8:30 PM.
St Thomas - took a tour booked over the Internet with Caribbean Historical Tours. The 4 of us were joined by one other couple. Our guide, Dawood, was amazing. An artist, botanist, and historian, he took us all over the island pointing out medicinal plants, poisonous ones, wildlife, and amazing views everywhere. If you want to go to the beach, he will take you and pick you up later. We elected to go into Charlotte Amalie to shop and have lunch.. He directed us to Gladys' Restaurant, an excellent Caribbean restaurant owned by one of his relatives. Amazingly good food. It is crowded, but our wait was minimal. He picked us up a couple of hours later right on time and drove us back to the ship. One of the best tours I have ever taken and only $50 per person for essentially the entire day. The ship recommends staying on the main shopping street and not go down the side alleys. We found the interesting shops and restaurants down these alleys. The Main Street is nothing but the regular stores you see in every Caribbean port. If you don't get off of it, you will miss the fun places and just visit the tourist traps.
Half Moon Bay - The weather was overcast and a little cool. Still, the port HAlL has created on this Bahama cay was a lot of fun. Plenty of room for a variety of activities. Kids will love it. The water is very calm. The barbecue on the beach was good and done efficiently.