We are 2-star Mariners with Holland America Lines (HAL). After cruising on Princess the last six years, we decided to try HAL, again. Based on our experiences of this cruise, HAL has definitely degraded in the last six years. Due to our experiences on this cruise, we will not consider sailing with them any time soon and won’t recommend HAL.
I booked our Thanksgiving week 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Eurodam on-line through the Holland America website as a guarantee balcony category. Eleven days prior to sailing, we got our stateroom assignment. It was a two category “upgrade” to the Navigation Deck, directly under the Lido Pool. The Lido Deck extended well over our balcony making it fully covered and then some. We experienced noise in our stateroom from Lido deck furniture moving/rearranging during late night/early morning with no relief even after complaining to the Front Desk. I would not recommend booking as a guarantee category. Obviously HAL gave us (2-star Mariners) less than desirable guarantee balcony placement without any consideration and appreciation for our repeat business.
We arrived the day prior to sailing into Fort Lauderdale and stayed at Embassy Suites on SE 17th Street. There is a Publix and Winn-Dixie grocery stores and a Total Wine & More store within a block of the hotel. Numerous restaurants are within walking distance. Cab fare to the Eurodam (Port Everglade) was less than $15.
We were informed there were 200 children aboard during this Thanksgiving week cruise, but we rarely saw them. Basically the only two crowded situation we encountered was the Lido Buffet and the on-board clearing with US Immigration.
Unfortunately, there was a Coast Guard medevac from our ship during late afternoon of our first sea day. Via the bridge cam, we were able to view on our stateroom TV most of the evacuation as the Coast Guard helicopter hovered over the Eurodam’s bow. Great appreciation and gratitude to those Coast Guard for their service.
HAL has definitely changed in the last six years…
• We arrived at Port Everglades 1045am where there were no lines for check-in. Boarding began at 1130am.
• After completing check-in, we were seated where HAL staff were working the crowds attempting to sell the HAL Signature Beverage Package $44.95/per day, per person, no sharing. This is for 15 beverages (wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, sodas and coffee) each day, normally priced at $7 or lower. If one adult in a stateroom purchases this package, then ALL adults in the same stateroom must purchase. We typically don’t down 15 beverages a day (per person), so we didn’t purchase.
• Due to high winds and rain throughout the week, our Captain changed our itinerary which was a very good decision. Our first day at Half Moon Cay was cancelled due to high winds and difficulties with tendering. So it was Ocho Rios Jamaica and Georgetown Grand Cayman both a day earlier than scheduled. HAL-reserved excursions were fine, but those who made independent arrangements weren’t so happy. Even with rainy/windy conditions in Georgetown, the tenders operated. We then had two sea days prior to arriving on schedule in Key West. So this cruise resulted in three sea days, instead of the scheduled two. Somewhat disappointed we missed Half Moon Cay, but would of been very disappointed to miss other ports!
• Lifeboat safety drill on deck where attendance was recorded, with crewmembers screaming names/stateroom numbers, which was extremely difficult hear. HAL should adopt Princess hand-held stateroom card scanners for quick accountability.
• Meeting out stateroom steward has always occurred within hours of boarding the ship. This cruise it was Day 3 when he introduced himself, but that was only after I placed a cash tip on our bed.
• Dining room breakfast. More than once, waiters tried to persuade us to not order omelets as they claimed it was a long wait and they were right, we waited an hour for our omelet to be served. We did that only once!
• Dining room dinner. About a half dozen times, we sent entrées back to the kitchen due to being incorrect and/or inedible (cold, not thoroughly cooked, etc.). The wait for a replacement exceeded 20 minutes. Hot water and a tea cup provided promptly, but waited an additional 20-30 minutes for a tea bag.
• Tamarind Restaurant. Service was horrible. Food comparable to cheap fast-food Chinese. Very disappointing and certainly not worth the fee.
• Pinnacle Grill Restaurant. Tried to dine here twice for lunch without any success. Pinnacle Grill staff advised they already had 12 diners and could not take any more during their one hour lunch service.
• Lido Buffet. We tried to dine there for lunch, just once. Serving trays empty, condiments empty and upon asking HAL staff for assistance, they just shook their heads and turned away. Doing “laps” around the Lido Buffet to find this or that just didn’t work for us.
• Mariner Society Champagne Lunch. This was a set-menu event with absolutely no deviations/substitution to the set-menu. We didn’t care for anything on the menu, so we just stayed and drank their champagne.
• Scotch and Bourbon Tasting, Atrium Bar. Cost $15. We were told, after waiting 15 minutes after the start time, the event was cancelled due to low participation. Bartenders reported that six passengers had to participate in order for the event to occur.
• Piano Bar. Extremely popular. We tried numerous evenings just get in the door of this small lounge, but it was always jammed packed.
• Signature Shops. Shop personnel are either overwhelmed or under trained as they were unable to locate a HAL t-shirt size XL all week long! Numerous requests for assistance from the Signature Shop staff resulted in unfulfilled service.
• Digital Workshop. Enjoyed this learning experience and picked up some new techniques. Unfortunately the crowd of attendees quickly outnumbered the seats/computers available in this small room (hint…line up 30 minutes prior to class starting).
• HAL dancers/singers on Mainstage. Must have been holiday fill-ins as their performances were far below what we’ve seen in the past on HAL.
• Chatting with the Stripes was a very informative one-hour Q&A session held in The Mainstage with the Captain and the Hotel Director. Well worth our time.
• Comedian Derrick Cameron. Fantastic...too bad he only performed one evening.
• The BB King Blues Club. Terrific (hint…go 30 minutes prior to secure seating).
• Massage therapists. Good, but pushing expensive products after our massage degraded our relaxation!
• Disembarkation. A breeze and executed in accordance with the published schedule. We were permitted to relax in our stateroom until our “number” was called. This was all expedited due to clearing US Immigrations in Key West the day prior where US Customs and Border Protection personnel came aboard the Eurodam and passengers proceeded to clear through beginning at 815am, regardless of whether your plans were to go ashore in Key West.