This was my first time sailing on the Eurodam, and the first HAL ship in this size category. At 2,100 passengers, I was a bit concerned about how crowded things might be.
I arrived late Saturday evening, so missed the mass hysteria that is usually embarkation day. I breezed through the process and was on board and in my cabin in a matter of less than 10 minutes. My cabin was a balcony on the Verandah deck (5). I was a bit forward of the forward elevators, so it ended up being a long walk to the Lido and Dining Room, which, in a way, was not necessarily a bad thing, since I tend to eat a lot and often when I cruise!!! The extra walking needed helped keep things in perspective, ha!
For what I think is a pretty new ship (launched in 2008), it seemed like the Eurodam is showing her wear and tear pretty quickly. My cabin looked pretty worn, with rust spots in the bathroom, ding marks throughout the cabin walls and doorways and furniture. And where did they put the drawers??? Nowhere, is where. I've never been on a HAL ship with so FEW drawers. Very disappointing.
My cabin stewards were really nice, but they never introduced themselves and I found that they were not as attentive to things as what I'm used to. For instance, twice they left dirty glassware on my table. Once they forgot to leave me clean washcloths. These are minor things, but I mention them because this is not what I'm used to with HAL.
I also was not amused by the cabin steward flinging open the ice room door across the hall from my cabin at 6:30 every morning, and dumping ice into his cart. You'd think maybe a little bit later would be better. I asked him on the second morning if he really needed to be doing that so early and he looked highly embarrassed and said he would come later next time. Later meant 15 minutes. Next time I'll be more careful where I book my cabin.
Food - I felt the food lived up to HAL's standards of excellence, for the most part. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the Tamarind restaurant - I ate there 4 or 5 times. It is HAL's Asian cuisine and was absolutely delicious! I also ate at the Pinnacle's Le Cirque night and felt that was a huge disappointment. I don't eat meat other than fish, and I chose the fish entree, but the waiter tried to talk me out of it, saying it was not very good that night. I didn't really have another option, other than cheese ravioli, and having paid $39 extra for the "special" meal, I didn't want to have to have a bland ravioli, so i stuck with the fish. Bad move on my part. I should have heeded my waiter's warning. It was awful. The dessert - I chose Creme Brulee - was just okay, and the sugar coating on top was burned, so that was not great. I won't do Le Cirque again, but the Pinnacle itself is a marvelous restaurant and I would return for their normal fare.
The food in the main dining room was fine - but service throughout the cruise was pretty slow. I had anytime dining and in order to make the 8 PM show each night, I had to make sure I was at dinner no later than 6 PM. Sometimes that's a little early to eat. The first couple of nights there were long long lines of passengers at 5:30 trying to get in the dining room. Wow. I've never experienced that before on a HAL cruise. After a few days that improved, but I started wondering if this was just one more thing affecting the overall experience on a HAL cruise. I hope not, because I've been loyal to HAL in my cruising experiences.
Lido food was also good, and I never had to wait in any long lines for food. There was always a table somewhere to sit down, and the service attendants were terrific. They were friendly, and I noticed that they tried to be very quiet about stacking used dishes and utensils at their stations, since these stations were scattered about next to dining tables. I thought that was a nice touch, to be so quiet.
The entertainment - to me it was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the special guest entertainers the most, as I usually do. The ship's cast was okay. I didn't notice anything really new or special - some of the shows I've seen before, on other cruises, so I wasn't excited this time around.The HAL band was awesome, as usual. There was also (new to me) BB King's in the Queen's Lounge and they were fantastic! Well done!!!
One thing I found missing this cruise was port lecturers. Unless I was comatose, I don't recall any being offered this cruise. There were ONGOING (gag me) lectures and flyers about port shopping and future cruise bookings, but nothing specific ever about our ports, other than what excursions you could take. I appreciate having up to date info about excursions, but I felt like I was constantly being bombarded by our future cruise consultant (who happens to be the captain's wife, ahem.) Even on a sea day, there used to be some sort of lecturer talking about something of general interest, but not this time. I felt a little cheated.
The ports -- this was the highlight of the cruise. And the ports/itinerary should theoretically be why you choose a certain cruise. I've never visited this part of Canada before, so I really enjoyed seeing each port and the fall colors did not disappoint. I think my 2 favorite ports were Halifax and Prince Edward Island, particularly for their scenery. As for the U.S. ports, I've been to all of them before, so I picked a few excursions that highlighted something other than the local scenery. In Bar Harbor I went out on a lobster boat (I did not book through the ship, I did it privately and saved $20). I learned a lot about lobsters!!! In Boston I chose the ship's excursion to Fenway Park and I REALLY enjoyed that! Best excursion ever! In Newport I visited the two Vanderbilt mansions and enjoyed that as well.
I left the ship early at Port Canaveral - so I cannot comment on disembarkation at Ft. Lauderdale, but there was a snafu with the port authority when I did disembark, and that caused 140 of us leaving early to be delayed by over an hour, and I think it also caused a long delay for the rest of the passengers wanting to get off the ship for the day, as we early leavers had to be all cleared by customs before the rest of the passengers could get off. I don't think this was HAL's fault, though, and I was not on any particular time table, so the delay didn't cause me any hardship. I was visiting family over by St. Petersberg and the drive from Canaveral was much shorter than had I waited for the next morning to drive from Ft. Lauderdale. This early departure afforded me a full extra day to visit my family.
Overall, it was a nice cruise. I enjoyed the ports, the food, and time away that sailing gives you. It's a joy not to have to cook, or clean, or make your bed for 2 weeks! And I love being at sea. I'll still sail with HAL, but I'm looking more closely at other cruise lines, so my 100% HAL only history may get broken sometime soon. The grass isn't always greener, but sometimes it is......it might even be worth sacrificing a couple of weeks of HAL credits to try out another line.