Friday -- Pre-Cruise Day -- When coming from the north in winter make sure to go a day early. We had weather delays and it would be too risky and stressful to fly on in embarkation day. Flew into FLL on Friday and found two very nice and helpful HAL ladies waiting by baggage pickup. They helped get us and our bags onto a charter bus that took us to a Westin hotel. Very nice place. Wasn't anything close to walk to get wine for the ship, so we took a cab to a Publix (couple of miles away). Good wine selection and they give you a free bottle tote that carries four bottles. Walked right on the ship carrying that...no problem. Back at the hotel, a couple of HAL reps were there in the lobby to prepare us for next day boarding.
Saturday -- Embarkation -- We packed a charter bus with Eurodam guests from the Westin and headed to the port. After verifying our checked baggage was there for the porters, we headed to check-in. Smooth process and we had our room cards and headed onto the ship. Our balcony room on deck 6 was ready and we were pleased to see the pre-ordered beverage cards and drink packages were there waiting for us. I did figure out that you should wait to order drink packages after going out to sea. It's cheaper once we were past whatever the offshore distance is. On schedule, the ship started moving...backwards. We backed to the turning basin and got going the right direction out to sea. Our room was on the starboard side, and with drink in hand we had a great view of the sunset over southern Florida. Family had early dinner set for MDR each night, but DW and I reserved 8:30 Tamarind for the first night. After some exploring, we dressed up and headed to the Crow's Nest for a pre-dinner drink. What a view and nearly deserted. Fantastic meal at the Tamarind with a bottle of wine...money well spent.
Sunday -- at Sea -- Headed up to the Lido for breakfast...our rookie timing was bad and we were in the middle of the herd...lesson learned. Good food and selection though. More ship exploring (DW found the jewelry shop) and then to the MDR for lunch. We were seated with a very nice couple from Canada and enjoyed the meal. Hung out by the Sea View pool to finish out the daylight hours. Dinner and wine with the family in the MDR...pleasant experience.
Monday -- Grand Turk -- Off the ship to explore the shops and beach. We had an afternoon catamaran/snorkel excursion which was really fun...highly recommended. Don't remember what we did for dinner...must have been the rum.
Tuesday -- San Juan -- Did early MDR breakfast...hardly anyone there and got a table for two. We were allowed on the bow as the ship was entering port...great place for taking pictures. Went shopping for a couple of hours and then off to the excursion bus for a kayak adventure...three hours round trip on the bus...not sure I'd do that again, but got to see a lot of the countryside while it was daylight. Had late room service dinner...it was food.
Wednesday -- St. Thomas -- Beautiful scenery coming into Crown Bay...took lots of pictures. Got on a shuttle (4 bucks each) for a ride to the other ship port where we took the Skyride tram up the mountain. Not as exciting as we had hoped...not much to do and the nature trail was closed for renovation. Back down the hill for shopping in the port stores and lunch at Senor Frog's (pretty spendy). DW wanted to shop where the local vendors are, so back to the 4 dollar each shuttle, and then 4 dollars each again back to the ship...oh well, she found some good deals and this was the last real shopping on the cruise. Late dinner and wine at the Tamarind again...just as good as the first night.
Thursday -- at Sea -- Breakfast delivered to the room...not bad. Off to the Sea View pool for sun and cocktails. Most of the family showed up with the same idea. Early dinner with the family at the MDR. Went to the Crow's Nest for a couple...just us and the bartender.
Friday -- Half Moon Cay -- Nice size tenders boats...almost no waiting. Cold front coming through, so lots of clouds, but not rain. I'm a geocacher, and there are several on the island, so we ended up walking the beach all the way to the end where a sign says "Dangerous and Prohibited". Well worth the hike...beautiful place. Back to the Shipwrecked Bar for Rum Runners, then to the bar-b-que on shore provided by the ship...nicely done. Back to the ship for another shower, and then to the Pinnacle for the last night dinner with the family...amazing food there. Got the family together for a dice game in the Lido Pool area. Most of us brought our own beer from our cabins and nobody said a thing about that.
Saturday -- Ft. Lauderdale -- Woke up just as we entering the Port Everglades ship channel. Time for some end-of-vacation photos. Disembarkation went very smoothly and we were quickly on a HAL charter bus to the airport. Oh, and that large bottle of sun screen in my carry on backpack that was in there from Half Moon Cay...well, the three x-ray screeners at airport security didn't think I should take it home.
Conclusions: Would we cruise again? Absolutely. Great way to visit places to find out if we would go back for a longer stay. Would we cruise on HAL again? Yes. Loved the Eurodam, it was clean, professionally run, no complaints.
Some of our cruise vacation photos are posted here: