Our nearly perfect Eastern Caribbean cruise on HAL's newest ship, the ms Eurodam, began as an extremely pleasant surprise. While enjoying a cruise on the ms Maasdam from Montreal to Boston in August we were the winners of a "Free Caribbean Cruise for Two" in a drawing from tickets purchased by passengers.
So in mid-March we drove to Ft. Lauderdale, using the convenient, discounted parking arrangements recommended by HAL. It was a 5 minute shuttle ride to the Eurodam. The process of boarding the ship was smooth and well-paced. Lunch was available in the Eurodam's huge Lido deck buffet. Being familiar with the Lido arrangements on both the Ryndam and Maasdam, smaller ships, we were somewhat overwhelmed by the size and options available. We filled our plates and were welcomed by another couple at a sunny window seat.
In fairly short order, we found our room, with the help of the ever-smiling, super-helpful staff. Our bags arrived in a timely way. The inside room was in perfect order. It was quiet, well ventilated, though not quite as roomy feeling as on the smaller ships, it seemed. It was more than adequate for two travelers who do not enjoy room service meals and spend little time in their cabin except to sleep and get ready for the day.
On previous cruises we had enjoyed the set-time meal service on the second level of the Rembrandt dining room. This time we were scheduled for the flexible seating on the first level. We were delighted. We never had to wait in line (we eat fairly early) and at each meal we made new acquaintances, heard new cruising stories and "reviews" and enlarged our on-board community. If we absolutely had to find something to complain about on this cruise it would be that the fresh tomatoes for salads, etc., were not very ripe and were tasteless. The rest of the food, and service, was excellent. An evening dinner at their premium restaurant, The Pinnacle, was outstanding. We did not sample their other "optional" restaurants.
We especially enjoyed the on-board activities the two "at sea" days. Sunday morning we took part in a well-presented interdenominational service. The tour of the ship's galley was great fun. The Culinary Arts demonstrations were as well-done as anything on the Food Network, revealing the delightful personalities of our chefs. We joined in one of the two wine tastings which enhanced our enjoyment of the wine at our evening meals. We found the wine stewards to be very attentive and helpful, by the way.
Entertainment in the huge theater was fine, typical HAL fare, almost-Las-Vegas. The exception was an outstanding performer, Justin Miller, a classical guitarist and story-teller extraordinaire who charmed his audiences. Besides Miller, most outstanding about the entertainment was the theater itself, equipped with marvelous moveable staging and lighting effects.
HAL's older, smaller ships provide a sense of intimacy. The Eurodam is BIG, really big, and thus, not intimate. A walk around the promenade deck is 1/3 mile. Bigger is not necessarily better, nor is it worse, and certainly there are economies related to its capacity. There are a lot more people, a larger casino, longer hallways, more people at ports, at embarkation and disembarkation. But, we would conclude, the service, the food and the overall cruise experience do not suffer. There many beautiful spaces and pieces of art on the ship which we enjoyed.
HAL is still a classy cruise. Yes, there were a lot of "very senior" passengers, but there were also 300-400 children and youth on board at this Spring Break time of year. There was more going on than we could take in. Buy a ticket for the "Free Cruise" drawing somebody's got to win! (Of course, with taxes, fees, port tours, etc., it isn't all free. But who's complaining!)