I think it's only fair to post a review since we read so many others before booking our first cruise. I'll try to review all the important items in chronological order. My wife and I are 29 and 30 years old with no kids and this is our first cruise together. We have travelled many places, but never on a cruise.
We flew into FLL airport on Friday one day before the cruise. We wanted plenty of time in case of any mishaps such as flight cancellations/delays. We booked almost everything separate from the HAL cruise. The baggage claim at FLL was absolute chaos! The airport decided to have baggage from 8 separate flights all on one baggage claim belt. Once we got our bags we were finally on our way to our rental car. There was a long wait at Alamo, we finally got our car and were on our way. We stayed in a Marriott which we booked via Priceline. It was just 15 minutes north of Port Everglades. It seemed all the hotels near FLL and Port everglades were extremely over priced, probably due to all the cruises leaving on Saturday. We didn't mind since we needed to return the car at FLL on Saturday and they had a free shuttle to Port Everglades.
Now, on to HAL and Eurodam - We arrived at Port 26 around 12:15-1pm. We quickly gave our bags to the porter. He strangely asked for a tip, (kind of rude if you ask me), but we tipped him and were on our way. Check-in was very easy and only took about 5-10 minutes and total time from getting to the port and getting onto the ship was probably no more than 20 minutes. We were greeted as we got on the ship with smiling and friendly faces.
Once we were aboard we decided to go ahead and make some reservations at Tamarind since we heard it gets booked pretty quickly. We made reservations for lunch on two of the sea days and also once for dinner. Reservations were made quickly with no problems. We then went into the Lido and I have to tell you that it was more than a bit chaotic. Since everyone was waiting to get into their rooms the Lido was packed with people everywhere. After walking around for a bit we finally found a table. We ate our lunch and were off to explore the rest of the ship while waiting for our cabin. Not too long after that we were able to get to our room around 1:30pm. Our cabin was on the 5th floor close to the front of the ship. I was excited to see the room was bigger than I expected. I called information and asked them to have the steward clear out our fridge so we could place our own water and drinks in it. We received 2 out of 3 of our bags shortly after we received our cabin. The rest of the day we walked around the ship exploring and ate at the Rembrandt for dinner. The food was excellent and the service was stellar. We met a very nice couple the first night as we were on the "As you Wish Dining" option. We quickly found out that the Rembrandt serves the exact same dishes as the Lido for dinner. The only difference is that one is full service (Rembrandt) the other is a buffet (Lido). We preferred the Rembrandt as it takes way too much time to get your meal and drink. By the time you sit down, either your food is cold, or someone has taken your table even when it was obvious we left our things to reserve it.
The first sea day was interesting. The water was a little rough and my wife had to take a Bonine since she gets a little sea sick. We watched the culinary arts show which was entertaining and they gave us a sample of one of the dishes they cooked. After the demonstration, we had lunch in the Tamarind which was excellent. The service was a little slow, but everyone was extremely nice. We felt so guilty after eating so much we managed to walk a mile on the level 3 deck then hit the gym. Let me tell you its insane trying to lift weights when the ships swaying. After 30 minutes I had to stop. Anyhow, the gym was not bad - equipment appears to be fairly current and it was not crowded during the middle of the day. After working out, my wife wanted to stop by the Dutch Tea since we have heard they only have this once per cruise and its not to be missed. We stopped by just to see the beautiful spread, but since we had just finished working out, we decided to pass on the yummy looking desserts.
Our first port was Grand Turk. I guess we were all lucky that we stopped there since we were told by some of the HAL staff that on the last cruise they did not stop due to the rough waters. The port basically consisted of Margaritaville, shops and small strip of beach that faced the ship. We never hung out a Margaritaville; personally I think it's a bit lame since we can do that almost anywhere in the US. Instead, we took a snorkel excursion booked through HAL. It was packed full of 30 other Eurodam cruisers. I'd have to say the reefs and coral were pretty bad and there was pretty much no fish. We snorkeled in Hawaii and this snorkel excursion could not even compare. We both started to wonder if it was because of the hurricane that hit last year. I would not recommend this excursion, not due to the staff (whom were very entertaining and nice) but due to the actual health and appearance of the sea life and coral. Another couple we met on the excursion had the same reaction. The positive was that we had the opportunity to see another side of the ocean away from the cruise ship and the water is crystal clear.
The second port of call was Old San Juan. We decided to rent a car and drive to El Yunque. I am very glad we did as we have read that the rainforest excursions offered through the cruise lines are rushed and overcrowded. The drive to the rainforest was about 50 minutes. It rained almost the whole time we were in the Rainforest which was to be expected. We bought some ponchos from the visitor center to stay dry which was a great investment for the day. The rainforest is beautiful and well worth the trip away from the city - beautiful trails and waterfalls. You could easily spend the entire day there. The drive reminded me a little of Hana Highway in Maui. Since we were in port until 10pm, after we left the rainforest, we went to El Morro which was amazing and then we walked around the Old Juan area and did some shopping. What a gorgeous city with lots of shopping, beautiful buildings, and blue cobble stone streets. It rained almost the entire time we were there (on again, off again), but we didn't let that ruin our mood. We tried to see everything we could and brought the camera out whenever we had the chance.
The next port was St. Thomas, USVI. We had booked a Snorkel and Kayak Tour outside of HAL. They picked us up from the cruise port and took us to 2 spots to take pictures to some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen. We kayaked in Hull Bay, WOW! It was gorgeous and since we didn't book it through HAL we pretty much got a private tour. It was the 2 of us and our guide, talk about awesome! We saw so many fish, turtles, and coral. We enjoyed Homer's Kayak and Snorkeling and they dropped us off downtown afterwards to do some shopping. We were able to snag some St. Croix rum for $7.99 for 1.2 L which sounded like a deal to me so we bought 3. There were 4 cruise ships docked the same day (Disney, Carnival, Celebrity and HAL) so the downtown area was very crowded. We were told there could be as many as 10 at any given day! St Thomas ended up being our favorite port of call mainly because we enjoyed the tour so much and the views on the island are picture perfect.
Our last port of call was HAL's private island Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. This island was almost too perfect. The sand was white and like sugar. It was hard to find any seashells or seaweed on the beach. We even tried to snorkel and saw nothing but white sand. We did not plan any excursions on this port. We decided to just relax and enjoy the scenery. We checked out the shops which we felt were rather lame. They were just like the HAL shops on the ship with the addition of two local shops. The BBQ lunch provided on the island was very good. We got there right at 11:30 and didn't wait in any lines. After lunch we decided to take a long walk down to the end of the beach. We set up our beach chairs away from the crowds and had a nice stretch of beach almost all to ourselves. This was such a nice relaxing day and a beautiful place to end our cruise.
Dining: Tamarind- This was a great restaurant with a lot of flavor. We tried it twice for lunch and once for dinner. For lunch they serve a fixed menu with hot and sour soup, salad, DIM SUM and dessert. I always thought DIM SUM was a wide variety of dishes picked from a cart but their menu for lunch was set. The only thing you pick is desert. Make sure you get the Coconut Ice Cream, it's awesome! For dinner they had a nice selection of Asian food. They had the best deserts on the ship - the Tempura Ice Cream is to die for! We really enjoyed Tamarind, it ended up being our favorite restaurant aboard the ship. It is well worth the $15 per person extra charge.
Canelleto- We tried Canelleto twice for dinner. I was rather surprised at both the service and quality of food. The service there was top notch. The minestrone soup is excellent. The lasagna was one of the best I've ever tried.
Rembrandt- We got really tired of eating buffets so we opted to not eat at the Lido whenever we had the opportunity. We had a tendency to eat more when you get plates and plates of food. We had open seating and usually went to dinner after 8:15pm and requested a table for two. We never had a problem getting a table pretty quickly. The service in the Rembrandt was very good and the food was delicious.
Lido- This place just tended to be busy and crowded. I always felt by the time I got my food, coffee, and condiments and sat down at the table my food was already cold. It was hard to find a table by the window away from all the lines. Once I even unfolded my napkin and placed some papers down to reserve our table, however, when I returned, I found an older man snagged our table. We just opted to eat in the Rembrandt whenever we cold since it was the same food but with full service. There were a few days when we were in port that we had no other choice for lunch since it was too late to eat at any of the full service places. Our complaint with the Lido is not the food or service, but rather the overall layout and the generally long lines even to get water or coffee.
Room Service - We had read that room service is slow. We agree since it usually took 40-55 minutes to get anything (even a plate of cookies and glass of milk). The first day I tried to order cheese and crackers to have with our wine and got a BLT (LOL- not sure why, but we ate it anyway). We got breakfast in the room on the mornings when we ported early. They almost always made a mistake on our request until the very last day. The day we ported in Ft Lauderdale our order was just how we ordered it. This made both of us laugh as we were not expecting it.
Pool side Grill- We got a hamburger and veggie burger for the wife. The burger looked burnt but tasted surprisingly good. The fries had a seasoning on them and was also very good especially after a nice kayak/snorkel excursion in St Thomas.
Casino - The casino was fun and entertaining until we started to lose a bunch of money ?. The casino staff was very nice and friendly and we had a good time learning where everyone was from.
Northern Lights - This was fun and entertaining. The DJ was pretty good about feeling out the audience and the type of music we would actually dance to. We were surprised to see the night life and people dancing after 1 am.
Nightly Shows - The nightly entertainment left a lot to be desired. We have seen shows in Vegas which makes the song and dance numbers on the Eurodam look like a joke. There was a comedy show one night which was very entertaining and the variety show on the last night was also very good. The Cirque acrobats were definitely our favorite.
Our Room Steward was extremely friendly and always on top of things. The first day it took a little while to get some things we needed, but after that day everything we requested was received very quickly. I asked for ice the first day and then noticed he filled our ice bucket daily without asking. The stewards really do an outstanding job and work extremely hard. We really appreciate all the great service on HAL.
We read a lot of negative reviews where the reviewer said the staff aboard the ship was rude and the service was not good. I have to strongly disagree. Almost every time a HAL staff saw us, we were greeted with a hello or how are you and they always had a smile on their face. This includes the dining staff, cleaners, stewards and anyone else who saw us walking around the ship. It's not difficult to see how hard the HAL staff works to make sure the ship is immaculate and you are getting exactly what you need to ensure your vacation is enjoyable. Most of the HAL Staff was from Indonesia or of Asian descent. I never once had a problem understanding their accents or hearing them when they spoke to us. I was quite impressed with most of staff's English. What I did notice was that a lot of older people (cruisers) were easily frustrated and angry at the staff. For example, I was at the grill one day near the pool and I ordered 2 items. As I was waiting for them, I was getting some ketchup and other condiments. I noticed an older man suddenly scream at the cook "That's not the way I like my burger cooked!! He then screamed out, " I don't want it any more, I don't want it anymore". He threw a tantrum and walked away. I was just stunned. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed and everyone just pretended it never happened. I thought to myself something must have really bothered this guy to just lose it. Then I encountered another situation in the Rembrandt. I was waiting for our desert and my wife went to the restroom. I saw an older man get up and scream at the server because he did not receive a refill on his coffee. Again, I was perplexed; we had been getting nothing but great service everywhere on the ship. We began talking to others on the ship as we mingled at bars, in the casino and northern lights. We came to the conclusion that most of the people complaining and losing their temper was the older crowd. I was very close to saying something the multiple times I saw this happen - c'mon we are all on vacation- what's the rush? The HAL staff is trying their best to make sure you are having a wonderful vacation while aboard their ship.
I feel the cruise had a diverse age group of passengers, (not an average age of 70's as some other reviewers have posted) but maybe in the 40's or 50's. There were not too many people in the 18-28 age range. We are in our 29 and 30 years old and would absolutely cruise with HAL again. With that said, don't let the age group bother you or persuade you not to book with HAL. A lot of the people in various older age groups were more active and lively late at night than we were; it made us feel old!
With all that said, I'd recommend cruising with HAL on the Eurodam. The staff was very polite and attentive. The food was delicious. We enjoyed 3 out of the 4 ports (we would probably recommend to remove Grand Turk from the itinerary). If there was any recommendation for HAL it would be to maybe look into getting stabilizers for the ship. I don't get sea sick but often felt the boat move and now that I am home, I occasionally still get that "ship is swaying feeling". Second, the room service needs to work with the speed and accuracy of orders. Third, while we never got bored I felt there could have been more activities for more athletic and young minded people. The comedian was great and extremely funny and the Cirque acrobats were very good. I found the song and dance shows extremely corny and boring. Overall, it was a wonderful cruise and we made some great memories. We're looking forward to our next cruise already!!