We were on the third "official" sailing of this ship, and the second time it did the itinerary of Norway, Scotland, and England. We booked early with a note that we are "medallion" Mariners and a request for a cabin upgrade. We wanted an unobstructed outside room, so we booked an "E" guarantee and hoped for a slight upgrade. Two days before the sailing, our online travel agent contacted HAL and we were given a two cabin upgrade---not bad.
When we arrived at the ship, we were pleased to find that we were upgraded about 8 more categories, into a veranda on deck 8. It was our first time with a veranda, so we were thrilled. (There is another dynamic with our booking. We discovered that just after the final payment was due, HAL lowered the cost of the sailing significantly--about $800 for the "E" cabin we booked. So, we were grateful for the upgrade, and the fact that we redeemed frequent flyer miles for air very early. Given all of the circumstances, we feel that we had a fair deal).
Those familiar with HAL ships were appreciate the layout of the Eurodam. You will generally find things where you expect them to be. There are a lot of improvements over past ships. For example, the Culinary Arts Center and the Screening room are two separate locations. No one knows the future of the Culinary Arts Center, but HAL is giving it a strong support, including classes for children. On a personal note, we are thrilled that the "Master Chef's Dinner" seems to be banished to the past. We thought it was stupid and it certainly interfered with the "Dine as you please" option.
Layout of the other decks means that you can access the aft, center and fore staircases and elevators for all of the public decks. This is huge for moving people effectively. Among the nice touches are four glass elevators that give cool views.
As for dining, the Eurodam seems to have mastered the wants of the "fixed time diners" and the "dine as you please" crowd. We experienced only minor glitches in service and found the high expectations of HAL met in the Rembrandt Dining Room. The passengers who went to the Pinnacle seemed happy with it (we usually don't go there) but the Italian restaurant, a subset of the Lido at dinner, was also popular despite a limited menu---remember also, there is no extra charge there. "Tamarand" the Fusion Asian restaurant has two dining options at dinner. There is a family style diner to sample everything, and a menu system. The charge is $20 and $15 for these at dinner, and a nice mostly fixed menu at lunch that has no extra charge.
Most of the improvements are on the Lido deck. Slight changes have made the flow of food service go smoothly. The automatic doors do not "over react" and get diners outside if they want to be there. Less stir fry options are available here, which we see as a loss, but the manager said that more should be up soon. Also on the Lido deck, the lounges surrounding the family pool and "fixed" and can't be moved. This may annoy sun worshipers, but it also keeps lanes open so you don't have to zig zag over people.
One significant change is that the explorations game area, library, and coffee shop are now adjacent to the Crow's Nest. We liked this because it encourages use of Crow's Nest through the day. On the downside, the coffee area gets less traffic than on a lower public deck. Also, there is a piano in the Crow's Nest, and an open area, like for dancing, but no space for a combo or even a DJ. Some may not like that.
I was nice to have all new games, books, and machines in the fitness area. There were only two fitness staff on board and there were hours when the fitness room had no supervision. Youngsters who should not have been there came in, and played with the weight machines. Perhaps an accident will cause HAL to beef up the staffing in the weight room.
Spa treatments staff members were helpful, and not too pushy for business. The same was true of the Park West art concession and photographers.
Cabins have the usual, expected layout. I suspect that with all of the verandas available on the Eurodam that a lot of passengers will get upgraded. Like us, they may become spoiled and never want to go back to an "ordinary" cabin again.
Lots of conservation and non-waste changes are in place. For example, fruit is now "on demand" through a card with the cabin steward. If you don't ask, the fruit bowl will remain empty. Despite what HAL says, we think that these cabins are slightly smaller than on other HAL ships. Perhaps about 15-25 square feet smaller. Others echoed our sentiments.
For some reason, there was ALWAYS a line at the Front Office. We suspect that this department needs more personnel as well, since the sailing seemed to have a lot of experienced HAL customers who do not complain or go to the Front Office needlessly.
Much of the art is original, which makes the old masters reproductions look all the more tacky. Cabin hallways have photos of the HAL line, including a lot of photos taken from captains, crew members, etc.
The quality of the revue shows was good, and state of the art for 2008. The cabaret performers were excellent. NO juggler or magician, but a first-rate Cabaret singer, a physical comedian, a guitar virtuoso who doubled with a lecture on Tin Pan Alley.
There was an excellent backstage tour, a kitchen tour, a port lecturer, a guest lecturer, and the expected Bingo.
Shore excursions staff worked hard, but were struggling with new ports, tours, and a new ship. Ordering from on-ship kiosks was a nice touch.
In general, the Eurodam absorbs the larger number of passengers well. There were few areas of congestion. We would sail on this ship again without hesitation.