Our second cruise on Holland America. We enjoy the additional refinement of the so-called "premium" cruise lines, and we were looking forward to the new innovations that the Eurodam promises. Despite a few rough edges, we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, and I would certainly consider sailing with HAL again in future.
Check-in was quick and efficient, and we were on board within less than 20 minutes. We were, however, somewhat taken aback by the lack of any welcoming on board. The only "welcome" was a female staff member shouting: "go to the back of the ship!" Cabins were ready at 1.30pm.
Our SS suite (really a larger balcony cabin) was spacious and well appointed with a large balcony. The balcony had a round dining table and two lounging chairs - great for lazy days at sea. The bathroom was great. When putting our suitcases away under the bed, we saw crumbs and other debris on the carpet. The ceiling of the bathroom above the bathtub had long strands of black hair stuck to it, which remained there for the duration of the cruise. We noted some other cleanliness issues on board - in particular, the aft Lido Deck was always dirty. I realise the challenges of keeping spaces such as that clean, but even on port days when the ship was virtually deserted, the deck was full of stains and debris.
The only other gripe we had was the so-called "telephone concierge service" that is offered to SS guests. I couldn't get through to the restaurant reservations number on the second day, so I called the concierge to request lunch reservations. The person said that she could not make reservations on our behalf, but could get the reservations staff to call us back. (The letter we received said that the concierge service could make reservations). So we just walked up to the restaurant and did it ourselves. We never tried using this service again.
Despite reading mixed reviews, the food was exceptional in all the dining venues. Certainly the best overall that I have had on any of the lines we have sailed. The complimentary Tamarind lunch is a wonderful and civilised break from the crush at the Lido. We had dinner at both the Pinnacle Grill and the Tamarind - both were outstanding, and well worth the additional charge. We are not so sure about the "As you wish" dining, though. We really enjoy meeting people, and getting to know the stewards during the course of a cruise. However, people seemed to prefer having dinner in their own small groups, or dining alone. On only one night did we have dinner with a really great crowd - on other evenings, we had a table for two. Service and food in the Rembrandt dining room was good, and it was always possible to get a table without any wait.
The gym was very well equipped, and never too busy. The idea of an adult pool is good, but on more than one occasion, there were children in the adult pool (on one occasion a toddler in pull-ups), and staff did nothing about this.
I'm not going to say much about the ports. Grand Turk is not a place I would want to return to; San Juan was really interesting. Our beach excursion on St Thomas was wonderful, but we detested "running the gauntlet" down the main shopping street. If you are seriously looking to buy jewellery, then it would be great, but otherwise, avoid! There are much better things to do on the island. Half Moon Cay - absolutely wonderful - the best beach I have ever been to!
All in all, a great cruise, but there are some rough edges to be smoothed.