We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday afternoon in order to avoid any complications from attempting to arrive the day of the cruise. We stayed at the Hyatt Place in Ft. Lauderdale and it was a very nice hotel which we were able to book online for a reasonable rate.
We left the Hyatt Saturday Morning at around 10:15 on the first shuttle to the pier. Our luggage was taken by the stevedores and we were directed to the area to wait for the embarkation process to start. At around 10:45 they opened up the check in area and we were able to walk directly up to a check-in agent. Our details were quickly confirmed and we were then directed to the area to wait for boarding. We boarded in the 3rd group and we were on the Eurodam by 11:40AM.
I won't get into too many details of our week on board, as I did that in a thread on the Holland America Board. I will go over the high points (many) and issues (very few) we encountered.
Cabin: We had a VF cabin on the Veranda Deck (Deck 5) in the mid-ship area. These verandas are a beet less deep than the normal veranda, but work well for us and the VF category was certainly a bargain on this cruise, so we were able to use the savings for other things. The cabin was very nicely decorated and had adequate storage of our things for the week. The cabin was kept immaculately by our amazing (yet hardly seen) Steward Guliman. The AC and plumbing worked without issue. The only minor issue I have with the cabin is in the design of the lighting. I would like to be able to turn on/off the individual fixtures, rather than the "groups" of lights they have controlled together. I also wished for better bedside lighting to better facilitate reading in bed.
Food: This is one of the most subjective areas of a cruise, so this is our opinion only and YMMV. We found the food, overall, to be exceptionally good on this cruise. All of the items we had, either in the Rembrandt Dinning Room, Lido, Pinnacle Grill or Tammarind were very tasty, well prepared, beautifully presented and at the correct temperature for the item (cold foods cold, hot foods hot). I did notice that the portion sizes were a bit smaller than our last cruise, but they were still adequate and, hopefully resulted in less waste. Some folks who have been on the Eurodam thought that the Lido area was overcrowded and it was difficult to get what items you wanted and find a place to sit. We did not see this at all. We were always able to get whatever item we wanted with a short wait in some instances, and always found a place to sit and enjoy our food. The one exception to the outstanding food was the "Slice" pizza venue in the Aft Pool area. We felt that the crust was VERY lacking and the toppings were fairly good. I know it's difficult to make good pizza in that environment, but the Pizza in the Lido on our Westerdam cruise was far better.
Public Areas: I think the decor of the Eurodam, overall, is lovely. The ship is what you expect a Premium ship should look like. Lovely art work, nice wood decor, rich colors and tastefully done everywhere. The one exception is the "Sculpture" that "Decorates" the main Atrium. I don't know what the concept of this piece was supposed to be, but for us it just didn't "work". The contrast with the beautiful Waterford Crystal pieces on the Vista class ships is striking!
Bars / Lounges / Etc.: We frequented the Ocean Bar each evening but one before dinner. The service was exemplary and the "Neptunes" trio which performed there each evening were wonderful. The Sports Bar / Casino Bar was pretty busy each evening, particularly the two night that World Series games were being played. The staff was great and efficient. The Crow's Nest was always a pleasant spot to sit and unwind, either during the day when it was quite and peaceful, or in the evening when Rudy and Roger the Bartenders were serving the rowdy folks from Cruise Critic who were gathering. The Exploration's Cafe, which is adjacent to the Crow's Nest was a great spot to get a gourmet Coffee, check your e-mail, read a book, play a game or check out a DVD. The Bartenders and Servers from the Sea View Bar by the Aft Pool were also wonderful and the service there was great. I heard many other folks say good things about the other Bars / Lounges, but we did not visit any of the other venues. One further not on the Bars. My DW can't drink Alcohol, but she does enjoy "Virgin" versions of several frozen drinks. As I try to look out for her I was very careful to observe the bartenders when they made the "Virgin" drinks. In every case they carefully washed out the blender to be used, using cleanser and a brush, then repeatedly rinsing before making the Virgin Drinks. They were careful to keep the made drink separate from the other drinks they were making. You can be very confident when ordering a "virgin" drink that it will indeed be free of alcohol.
Shows: We only made it to two of the shows on this cruise. The major reasons were A) How long we sat talking with the amazing folks at our dinner table and B) The World Series. The first act we saw was "Live Wire" a couple who play guitar and violin and sing "Celtic" themed Pop/Rock music. they were very talented and entertaining. The second was a Comedian, Melvin George II, the "Not Cool" comic. His show was hilarious and was suitable for everyone (No cursing or inappropriate jokes). Both shows were excellent and from what I heard from others the other shows were good as well.
Service: As we have come to expect from Holland America, the service was impeccable. From our room Steward, Dinning Stewards, Bar and Lounge Staff, Pinnacle Grill and Tammarind staff were were treated like honored guests. There have been some recent reports of issues with the front desk staff, but all of my interactions with them revealed them to be helpful, friendly and willing to bend over backwards to help in any way possible.
Spa: We pre-booked the Hydro Pool / Thermal Suites package. I used this area only once during the week and DW three times I think. I don't believe we would do this again on a Caribbean itinerary. While very pleasant and relaxing, I was generally too hot from our shore excursions to enjoy sitting in warm water or on a hot lounger. I spent more time in the Aft Pool cooling off. If we went to Alaska, the Baltic or on a T/A we would certainly book this package, but I think it was not a good fit for the Caribbean. The staff in the spa were very nice and helpful. DW broke two fingernails and had to get them repaired in the Salon. While it was VERY expensive compared to a home town nail shop ($30.00 + tip to fix 2 nails vs. $27.00 for the whole set at home), they fit her in and did a good job on her nails!
Other Aspects: The Cruise Critic group on this cruise was just amazing. We had a wonderful M&G on the first Sea Day, attended by the Cruise Director, Nancy Leach and the Beverage Manager. Polar_Bear_Mom and Colakid did an amazing job preparing for this. We ended up hanging out with several of these folks most of the cruise. We also ended up with a wonderful group at or table in the Dinning room. We love being assigned to a table for fixed seating as it leads you to meet and get to know people you wouldn't have otherwise met.
The demographics of this cruise was much younger than our previous HAL cruise. There was a wide variety of folks, Retirees in their 70'2 to 90's, Middle aged couples such as ourselves, younger couples, families with small children and even a few teenagers were seen on board. I have to say that the "mix" in age groups added to our enjoyment of the cruise. From getting to know a couple in their 20's, commiserating with the parents of teens, and learning from the experience of those who have lived and experience so much more in life.
All in all this was a wonderful cruise.
The beach area created by Carnival Corp. at the cruise terminal was very nice. It was an interesting experience swimming so close to where the ship was docked. The coral reefs and wide variety of marine life made the snorkeling trip extra special.
As the Island is so small, and was devastated by hurricanes not so long ago, there is really not much else to do except enjoy the beach / water related activities. That being said, I would return at the drop of a hat to do more snorkeling and enjoy the beach.
The people in San Juan were amazing. Friendly and going out of there way to help, give directions and just smile and be friendly.
Next time we go to San Juan we will plan a visit to the Rain Forest as the folks who went there said it was a great experience.
The shopping in Charlotte Amalie was not as wonderful as people report. DW was highly anticipating the jewelery shopping, but was disappointed at the pricing (really no better than at home) and the overall quality.
Magens Bay was an amazing beach. The setting is very beautiful, the water crystal clear and the temperature just right. We spent a solid 2 1/2 hours either in the water or walking the beach. It justly deserves it's place in the "Top 10 Beaches" list.