This was my 3rd cruise. My first two cruises were with Princess (Caribbean Princess (Feb 08), Ruby Princess (Jan 09)). I'm in my 30's and usually take my mother on a cruise, however this year she is waiting for a new hip so I took a good friend and her three year-old daughter instead.
We chose HAL based on good reviews from colleagues at work and the fact they were only charging $99 for the toddler versus over $800 on Princess.
My first impression of the Eurodam is that it is not as pretty as the Princess boats I have been sailed on previously. The main elevator areas are a Dijon mustard color with blue and red abstract wavy carpeted halls. The lighting is dim, and although there are some real design successes (Explorations, the Silk Den) most common areas failed to impress.
The stateroom with balcony was small but well appointed. I have to agree the beds are slightly better than Princess and the reading lamps on the wall are a good idea. The balcony was too small and smokey to enjoy and I would not spend extra for this in the future. The closets are well designed inside with adjustable shelves (although you have to figure this out on your own)but their placement across from the bathroom leads to a lot of congestion.
In room dining was also better than on Princess with the option of hot items for breakfast. Although every time we ordered hot items are order arrived missing things. We're not complainers, and were happy to pick something up in the Lido if required.
The Lido buffet was very strange. Although the planner indicated it was open for full dinner between 5:30 and 8:30, it never really was. Mostly you would have one or two stations open, with a third open for officers and staff. The selection was limited compared to Princess and quite frankly I'm happy to select my own food so that the portions are right. The actually food was good although the desserts pale in comparison to Princess and the soups were very salty. For lunch they had all of the stations open but because each station does not have the same food you end up walking all over the place to get your meal. I prefer Princess where each station has identical offerings are things are placed together. I'm sure we missed out on items we didn't even know were there. For example on day three we discovered Bread Pudding at the end of the line of Asian food station. It was very good, but strangely never placed with the deserts.
Dinning room is similar to Princess, except Princess has better offerings in my view.
People on the ship tended to congregate in the only pleasant areas of the ship (Explorations, Promenade Deck, and by the pools). I really prefer Princess where there are really great places to meet and relax all over the ship without feeling like you are sitting in a bar. I didn't see anyone in the Ocean's Bar or Atrium area on the Eurodam and this really impacted the sense of community on the ship. The Planners were badly formatted and even if you read it twice you would still miss out on events. Plus it is delivered so late in the evening, it doesn't give you time to plan for morning events. Very little information or notices given to passengers about what was going on. But plenty of ads for spa treatments and sales. If I hadn't known about the tenders to HMC, my friend who'd never cruised before would have had no idea even to ask. In my view the PR and Communications people need to be completely overhauled. Why on earth they plan multiple events at the same time then nothing for hours is beyond me. Go figure someone might want to have Indonesian Tea and play trivia.
I have to echo the sentiments of others that the front desk staff is generally really poor. I don't go on vacation to deal with hassles. The shore excursion desk was rarely open in the evenings, which meant you would only book your tickets on the interactive system. Pretty good idea save for the fact it won't allow you to purchase children's tickets. The front desk cannot sell or fix the children's tickets either. The proposed solution...buy the adult ticket then come back later and try to sort out a refund. It took three later trips to resolve the issue all told 1.5 hours of vacation wasted because of their poorly designed system. The front desk and shore excursion staff on Princess are friendly, approachable and solution oriented...not so on HAL.
Half Moon cay is beautiful. It is substantially better than Princess Cays and the services offeresa re excellent. I like the fact that it is designed to be more accessible with stone paths close to the beach. This really makes things arsier for seniors and those with mobility issues. Also great playground and BBQ.
I agree with others that the stewards seem friendlier on HAL. We had a great steward, but I'm a low key traveller and have very few, if any, demands. It's nice to have my bed turned down but it doesn't make or break my vacation. The things of mentioned above do. I have a nice vacation, saw some good ports, and came back reasonable well rested. I don't regret trying HAL but I'm already planning my next cruise on Princess.