Eurodam New Years Eve Holiday Cruise 2008-2009 (Dec. 27, 2008 - Jan. 3, 2009)
First time HAL cruisers. This was our second New Years Eve Holiday cruise in a row. Last year we sailed on the Grand Princess. My wife and I are 50 and we booked 4 cabins. We traveled with our four daughters (ages 15 - 21) and my parents. There were just over 2,000 guests on this cruise. HAL was definitely a cut above Princess.
Previous reviews: I had read the reviews for the past several months of Eurodam sailings. Several negative reviews made me worried that the ship would be crowded, the service in the dining room poor, the food pedestrian and the front desk staff cold and stern. All such reviews were wrong. Our cruise was fantastic. None of the Negative Nancy's was accurate. The boat never felt crowded, the food was excellent and ¬all staff were as friendly and accommodating as can be.
Embarkation: arrived at 1:30 pm. No wait. Efficient loading of luggage and friendly HAL porters. The staff who hustle you through the security (remind me of hospital volunteers) are a bit crotchety. Entire process from arrival through room key to stepping on ship was 20 minutes. Our luggage made it to the rooms before 4 pm.
Rooms: Our staterooms were ready within 15 minutes of boarding. We went to the Lido and had a pleasant lunch. The size of our veranda stateroom (balcony room) was reasonable and seemed to be about the same size as Princess' mini-suite we booked last year. There was more than enough closet space. The previous review telling us about the drawers under the bed was helpful b/c we never would have found them. They are under the dust ruffle. Ask the steward to empty the mini bar or do it yourself and you have a fridge. The bathroom was clean and the shower/bath combo worked well and had plenty of pressure and hot water. The sink is very small. The soaps and beauty products were complimentary and were of high quality (the signature line from the spa). The inside staterooms of our children also had plenty of storage but didn't have a tub - only a s shower. The balcony was nice with two chairs and a table. The stewards were great. Always timely and never intrusive. The room was clean and we always had ice in the bucket and clean wine glasses. Safe worked well. Room for the suitcases under the bed. The towel animals were a bit creepy (one was hung from the wall like a voodoo doll. Nice cloth robes provided. Two plugs on counter/desk and one in bathroom. Plenty of lighting. Closets are in hall along with cabin door and bathroom door. Congested area. Full length mirror in closet. Lighting is bad in that area. There is a lighted magnifying mirror on desk. Insufficient amount of lighting at mirror over desk for makeup.
Lido: The lido dining for breakfast and lunch was very good. Breakfast has a great omelet line (the cook remembered my particulars egg whites, well done, cheese after the omelet was turned—by the second day of the cruise. Several stations for made to order eggs or for pre-cooked items. Lots of fruit, lots of salads, delicious pastries, and fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit juice. Coffee in the lido was as good as one could expect for mass-brewed coffee. It was freshly brewed and was very drinkable. The aisle-ways were tight by virtue of an added row of tables. Lunch had a nice variety including, pasta, taco and thai bars.
Rembrandt: We had open seating. We made reservations for 6 p.m. the first night (have to make them for 5:30 but we were told we can come at 6 p.m.). We enjoyed our Dining Steward, the Asst. Steward and our Wine Steward so much, we asked and the Manager on duty to make us a standing reservation for that table each night, which he promptly did. The service by our Stewards and the Managers could not have been better. The food was also fairly good, always hot and exceeded our expectations. The variety was good, quality high, desserts tasty and there were always options for some vegetarians in our group. Previous reviews had dampened our expectations. The atmosphere was unrushed and we never had to wait for anything. We always looked forward to dinner.
Canaletta: Made reservation for the specialty Italian restaurant. No extra charge. Food was ok. Service was great. No complaints but wouldn't do it again. This restaurant is a cordoned off part of the lido in the evening.
Pools: There are two pools on the ship. One has a movable glass roof and gets pretty warm. The rear pool has a large deck and plenty of chaises. Even though the cruise was full and lots of sun - had no trouble finding chaise lounges. The bucket of beer is a good value poolside.
Drinks: The drinks are made with a jigger glass so it is difficult to get a stiff drink. There is an extensive wine list and the prices are reasonable. We also brought several bottles on board as well as vodka and rum. Also, we bought liquor in port and never had a problem bringing it back on board. I don't think they actually care if you bring liquor on board at a port. There are plenty of bars on the ship.
Fitness: The fitness center is huge. There are about a dozen treadmills and as many ellipticals and recumbent bikes also. There is a complete cybex circuit and free weights. Yoga and other classes fill up so book them the first day. You can usually squeeze in though at the last minute. $11.00 charge for each class.
Entertainment: The shows were fun and the singers and dancers were very talented. Well worth attending. The cruise director Shane Michaels was the best. Very personable and always had something going on.
Casino: The casino staff was primarily Eastern European whereas the room stewards and dining stewards were primarily Indonesian. The staff was personable and professional. The blackjack tables got very crowded. Blackjack was played with shoes of 8 decks of cards. No continuous shuffle here. There were three $5 tables but they were usually full. If you want to play $5 table or want to play along with someone in your group, you will have to go at an off hour. The $25 table usually had an opening. The slots, as expected, take your money and don't pay well at all.
Ports: Aruba was not a very nice port. The docking area was pretty gross. Many shops were closed up. Curacao was very nice. It is disappointing that the only thing the ship will tell you about the ports is where the authorized shopping stores are (obviously a fee is paid for that plug) and what shore excursions are available from HAL. No other info is available about the port. There should be maps or other ways to learn about the island provided on board. Do you own research and read blogs before you board the ship. Half-moon Cay - HAL's private island. Ok beach. There are no umbrellas and the ship says the chaise cabanas (the shade covers for the chaises) are sold out. For $15 they can still be found on the beach. Snorkeling is poor from shore. There is concrete poured in places under the sand. It is buried. I cut my foot on the concrete. The buffet barbecue was not too good but we didn't expect any more either. . Bring your walking shoes - long walk from dock to beach. There is a shuttle at the dock. We enjoyed it though.
Internet: $0.75 per minute. $3.95 one time activation fee. Wireless throughout ship. Still that is expensive. There was supposedly phone service at international roaming rates but I couldn't get a Verizon blackberry to work with it.
Families: We had heard HAL was for more senior cruisers. There were more seniors than on Princes but there were plenty of all ages on board. Also lots of teenagers were on the boat. Many multi-generation groups. Not too many little kids on board. Nice mix. New Years Eve parties were in almost every venue on the ship. Nice way to find "your crowd."
The boat rocked and vibrated. Nothing unexpected. Our cabins were close to the front.
Disembarkation: Simple and quick. It seemed as though anyone could get off when they wanted. All luggage was available in the terminal, regardless of your departure time. We did Signature Express Baggage service. The bags are taken directly from the ship to the airport and checked through all by HAL. $15 per person. We were given our baggage tags and flight boarding passes the night before departure and didn't have to deal with carrying heavy bags in Fort Lauderdale Airport. DO THIS ON YOUR NEXT CRUISE. Also, transport to the airport was by boarding the free bus to the airport car rental center; then hopping off and boarding the equally free bus to the terminal. All told this took 15 minutes from ship terminal to airport terminal and it was free.No cheating here Broward County provides these free buses.
Overall we were very pleased with the quality of the ship, the food, the staff and activities. We enjoyed the Eurodam and its crew thoroughly.