Yet another fabulous Holland America experience -- our fifth cruise overall, third on HAL, and first on Eurodam.
Those who've sailed the Vista class ships before will feel right at home on Eurodam (and presumably Nieuw Amsterdam as well). The layout, look, and feel is quite comparable -- with the new Tamarind pan-Asian restaurant on deck 11 a wonderful new addition ($15 upcharge, kids are complimentary).
The service level on Holland America is so high that it would be easy to take for granted all the amazing "little things" -- like practically every crew member knowing your name on the first day of the cruise, or the deck hand who was literally cleaning the Purell dispenser (which raises the question: how do you disinfect a disinfectant?!?).
Food was excellent, as usual, and there were a few new additions to the menu, as well as the traditional favorites. We opted for Open Seating for the first time, and it worked out very well -- providing flexibility to eat later in San Juan (which is an afernoon/evening port), as well as try out Canaletto (the Italian-themed restaurant) and Tamarind (highly recommend).
Entertainment was particularly memorable -- the magician (James Cielen), comedian, and Celtic musical duo complemented the variety of shows performed by the ship's singers and dancers. Each of the shows were notably family-friendly -- not a single profanity uttered by the comedian or magician, for example. It seems pretty clear that HAL increasingly is targeting kids/families.
Speaking of which, Club HAL was a hit again. On Eurodam, there are actually four Club HAL rooms -- carved up by age. Fun themes like Spy night, Pirate night, and Pajama party/pillow fight kept the kids busy and entertained.
No, the cruise was not perfect. One day, our morning coffee and tea arrived along with a sugar dish that had gotten wet, causing the packets of Equal and Splenda to be soaked (a minor yuck, but if that's the worst we can point to in a week-long trip, that speaks volumes). Separately, we would love if HAL banned smoking on its ships -- or at least confined in-room smoking to particular floors or cabins; regrettably, the folks in the cabins near us seemed to be veritable chimneys.
On the plus side, HAL has made a few smart improvements -- like no longer requiring passengers to carry/wear their life jackets to the safety drill.
The ports were great. We arranged for an independent excursion in Puerto Rico (a guided hike through El Yunque that was fairly strenuous, but helpful in working off calories and delivering fantastic waterfall scenery). Likewise, in St. Thomas, we booked a swim with the sea lions at Coral World that was very worthwhile. Half Moon was picture-perfect, as it's been each time we've visited. One minor aggravation was that we booked a bike excursion on Half Moon, but HAL had no kid-sized bikes for our kid; either they need to bring some little bikes or bike-trailers to the island, or limit the excursion to kids above a certain height. In any event, they promptly refunded the excursion, and the staff at Half Moon even drove us down to the horse pen, to mollify our saddened 5-year-old. Great call; it worked!
All in all, it was a terrific cruise -- relaxing and warm (unlike the weather back home) -- and an experience made all the more enjoyable by traveling with some friends we made last year on Zuiderdam. Can't wait to do it again!