My wife and I sailed on the Eurodam Feb 20th - Feb 27th 2010. This was our fourth cruise (Carnival, Celebrity and Princess) and first on HAL. I do 99.9% of the vacation research in our household and then present it to my wife for her thoughts (and approval) however this time the roles were reversed. My wife found this cruise and was excited about the itinerary, price and the new ship. I have to admit that the thought of sailing on HAL never really crossed my mind since I've read so much about the age factor (we're 49 & 45) and the smoking issue. After some discussion we booked a VF guarantee in October and ended up with a VB on the Upper Verandah deck. Without spoiling the review I have to tell you that we thoroughly enjoyed our first (but not last) cruise on HAL.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port sometime around 10:45am and walked right into the first 'holding room'. We were given a numbered card (#2) which meant we were going to be the second group boarding the ship. We sailed through the registration piece before being led into the second and last holding room. We sat there for maybe 10 minutes before being told we could board the ship. Painless. Once onboard we found the Lido restaurant and proceeded to find a place to sit for lunch.
Cabin: As mentioned we booked a guarantee VF category and received an upgrade to a VB cabin. Our cabin (#6145) was located on the Upper Verandah Deck on the starboard side aft section. The room was ok in terms of size and had a nice balcony with two comfortable chairs, ottoman and a table. The washroom had a tub (we never used it to bath) and was bigger than other ships we've been on. Storage was adequate with a triple closet to hang our clothes and two pull out large drawers under the bed. Our room steward Armand was great. He was non-intrusive and provided everything we needed. I asked him to clear out all the expensive goodies from the fridge so we could put our own reasonably priced water and accessories in it and he did it with a smile. We actually had to search him out the morning we left to tip him a little extra for his efforts....this was unusual to us as normally the steward would be in the hallway as you departed hoping for a little extra so it was nice to have to track him down vs being stalked ourselves. We didn't spend a great deal of time on our balcony due to the fact that we had booked a Retreat Cabana for the week (much more about that later). When we did spend time on the balcony I'm extremely pleased to report that I didn't smell smoke once during the entire week! Reading some of the smoking threads in the recent past I contemplated packing my gas mask with me fearing that I'd be smoked-out sitting out there for any length in time.....this turned out not to be a problem at all.
Ship: Overall we thought the Eurodam was a beautiful ship. We loved the many different lounges and little semi-private hideaways located all over the ship. We thought the shopping concourse could have been more exciting perhaps offering a broader selection of merchandise but then again who goes on a ship to shop really??? We loved the comfort of the Crow's Nest Lounge especially the recliner chairs...Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz The Queen's Lounge hosted many of the different evening events outside of the main shows. We saw a very funny evening of Karaoke there, Battle of the Sexes, game shows and a band (Lauren and the HALcats) who played live music from the 50's to today's music. The piano bar was always packed with sing-a-longs. The Explorer's lounge had a nice string quartet. The Sports Bar was nice however we found this bar to be the place most people came to smoke. The other issue I had was the fact that we couldn't watch the Olympic hockey because the ship only got ESPN and not NBC. The ship was really easy to navigate. Outside of all the elevations was a comprehensive map of the entire ship so it was difficult to be lost for any length of time. The gym was well equipped and offered classes daily.
Retreat Cabana: Truthfully the highlight of our week. We woke up every morning had our coffee delivered by room service and couldn't wait to get to our little piece of paradise. We used the cabana every day whether it was a port or sea day. The two Stewards (Derek and Ivar) provided excellent customer service. My wife can't handle the sun so she spend much of the day tucked away on her very comfortable lounge chair enjoying the view of the ocean passing us by. I only the other hand like the sunshine so I say right outside our cabana in the centre lounge enjoying the bright skies. The cabana area is home to only 14 cabana's so it's extremely private and quiet. Derek brought us a beautiful bowl of fruit every morning along with two big bottles of chilled water and as coffee if desired. We had a very nice lunch menu to choose from and then at 3:00 everyday we got champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. One day while on board we decided to take a look at the adult only aft pool hoping that we may be able to get a swim in. We proceeded to the pool area only to see at how crowded the entire area was. The lounge chairs seemed to be on top of each other and the pool was at capacity. It only took one look before we 'retreated' to our cabana to stretch out to relax. I know there has been much debate about HAL using the space to accommodate only a small number of people but I can honestly tell you that we will book our next cruise based on the fact that we can again book this amazing spot. If fact, I'd be willing to give up the balcony for a retreat cabana. It was the best $299.00 I spent on this vacation by far. By the way nobody who rented a cabana smoked so the area was basically smoke free all week.
Entertainment: The entertainment was generally very good all around. We saw most of the evening shows and like a previous review loved the magician James Cielen. His wife was part of the act as was many of his birds and his two poodles! I'm really not a big fan of magicians in general but I was very entertained during his set. The crew's show as good and the singers and dancers were as good as one could expect on a cruise ship. The Cruise Director Jason Venner was good and kept the energy level high throughout the cruise. We opted to go to the movie theatre one night to see the Michael Jackson movie 'This is it' and enjoyed the comfort of the seats and the popcorn handed out. We took part in the Pub Crawl and had a blast. We paid $20.00 per person and visited 5 bars for a different drink in each location. We were encouraged to sing as we left each bar as a group so you could imagine we caught many stares from some of the older folks that had no clue what the heck was going on. We did make a small deposit in the casino but nothing to make me take a second mortgage out on our house. Oddly enough each time we were in there you could of course smell smoke but it wasn't anything overwhelming to make us not want to enjoy the slots. Again, I thought the casino was going to be a place we avoided like the plague because of the smoking but at the end of the day it wasn't too bad. Food: Wow, where do I start? Room service breakfast offered a variety of hot and cold items. The Lido breakfast was pretty much the same all week which was adequate. Let me just say that we didn't once have a issue finding a table on the Lido deck for either breakfast, lunch or the one dinner we had there.
Main Dining Room - 8 out of 10 We ate there for both formal nights and on one other occasion. Food was good, portions and presentation also good to excellent. There was always something on the menu you could select that tickled your taste buds however if there wasn't they had a few items that were everyday staple options you could select from.
Tamarind Dinner - 9.5 out of 10 The culinary highlight of the cruise. Exceptional service, food, presentation and ambience. We are big fans of Pan-Asian food here at home in Toronto and enjoy top-notch restaurants to which the Tamarind would have been rated high on our list. The food was well prepared and extremely tasty. The soup very well could have been the best I've ever had. Well worth the additional $15.00 per person charge.
Tamarind Lunch - 9 out of 10 Again outstanding. Dumplings were nice accompanied by a number of dipping sauces. Nice change from the Lido buffet for sure.
Canelotto - 7.5 out of 10 Nice antipasta, good size salad, and pasta was overall good. I had the penne vodka which came highly recommended in many threads on the board. It lived up to it's reputation.
Lido Dinner - 7.0 out of 10 One night we didn't have reservation anywhere so we decided to try out the casual Lido dining experience. The night we chose to go had a great selection of Indian food which was quite good. Otherwise the Lido food was pretty much what you would find at a good buffet restaurant.
Pinnacle - 9.7 out of 10 We chose to book the Pinnacle restaurant for the last night of the cruise to celebrate our wonderful week. The atmosphere is really nice and it was a treat to see a return of food prepared for you personally tableside. Many of the friends we met on board mentioned that I had to try the 24oz Porterhouse steak cause it was really good....they were right! I also had a Thai or Pan-Asian influenced soup which was also amazing. My wife had the salmon and that was mouth watering as well. The entire experience was wonderful and worth every penny of the $20.00 surcharge.
People: We met many great people from our Roll Call and enjoyed meeting up for drinks and/or dinner throughout the cruise. Our Roll Call was small but we had a lot of fun. Thanks for helping to make this cruise so great! I'll never look at a wet floor pylon the same again! I see that a previous review of our week on the Eurodam mentioned the number of walkers and O2 tanks. I thought there was a great mix of ages aboard and truthfully we had a blast with everyone.
Ports: I'll have to tackle the port review separately. The one thing I will say is that Half Moon Cay is everything you've read about and more In closing i'm so glad my wife found this cruise. I believe that at our stage in life HAL is perfect for us and we look forward to booking another cruise with them in the very near future. I hear the new MS Amsterdam calling my name....................................... :-)