Prior to this cruise I would have never thought twice about sailing with HAL, mainly due to hearing that most of the passengers were beyond elderly and that there isn't much entertainment for younger people. My girlfriend and I are young professionals in our late 20's and we didn't want to feel like we were surrounded by 4000 others on-board. It just so happened that one of my professional organizations put together a group trip on the Eurodam and after hearing the amazing things about the service and quality onboard we decided to go with HAL.
Embarkation was extremely smooth. With hardly any lines we passed security and boarded the ship with ease around 12:30pm. Once we boarded we quickly made lunch and dinner reservations for Tamarind - which lunch was only served 2 or 3 days out of the 7 total. This is also the time to get limited offers such as tours of the ship and spa specials.
We booked a guaranteed MM inside cabin and was upgraded to a larger interior stateroom J on deck 7 mid-deck next to the Neptune Lounge. Our steward always greeted us in the halls with a smile and did a great job turning over the room daily leaving us with chocolate and cute towel animals. We did have a couple issues with the cabin (see below).
There are several options for dining and there's rarely a time when food is not being served. There's regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the lido buffet and MDR. In addition, afternoon tea with snacks and delicious scones topped with whipped cream and jam are served in the MDR and a themed late night snack at the lido from 10:30 to 11:30pm. Note: there is no self serve soft serve machine on this ship, however one of the dessert stations is usually open on the lido buffet throughout the day. The mid-deck pool features a dive-in burger bar with a homemade special sauce and the aft pool features a pizza bar. The quality of the food could be improved but with over 2100 people on board I can understand the difficulties.
The ports of call included Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. I recommend booking a snorkel excursion at Grand Turk as they have the third largest barrier reef in the world. However unless you want to be packed in a tour with 30+ people I would book with a private company. In order to get anywhere in St. Thomas (downtown and the several known beaches) you must take the taxis. If you're looking for a low key environment that won't break the wallet, Emerald beach is less than $10 per person via taxi.
Entertainment included Dancing With the Stars, pub trivia, team trivia, culinary trivia (can you tell we enjoy trivia?), a so-so comedian, and a very funny Joel Mason playing favorites from Elton John on the mainstage. The poolside was kept pretty quiet, no events only music playing. Entertainment isn't the highlight aboard HAL but the events were enjoyable.
We ran into a couple of issues aboard. The first in our cabin was an offensive odor of seafood near the refrigerator. Our fridge was then cleaned and disinfected which seemed to have cleared the issue. The next was a ladies undergarment which was found after pulling out the nightstand while trying to find a dropped earring. The last one....leave this to a 29 year old to discover was the lack of a shuffleboard court on the deck. We then were told that the court was likely painted over during the recent dry dock, finally ending my 3 day manhunt for the shuffleboard court.
We chose the early disembarkation option and left the ship with our bags at 7:45am without any problem.
Overall my girlfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed our wonderful 7 day vacation. The highlight for me was the level of service and gratitude from the ship staff. Despite being in our 20s, we made friends with older couples at the daily events and at tea time. Although HAL is known for catering to an older crowd, there actually was a decent amount of younger people with their families due to this being a holiday cruise. I would have no reservation to recommend this ship to anyone looking for a relaxing, worry free vacation.