This was our second (and third) HAL cruise and we decided to combine two sailings - the first being a 6 nt Eastern Caribbean and the second sector, a 7 nt Western Caribbean. At 40 years old I have 42 cruises under my belt and consider myself an experienced cruiser. I hope that gives the reader a little insight into who I am when reading this review.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale a few days early to enjoy time with friends before joining our cruise. It was just the two of us and we booked the cruise about 2 months prior to sailing with the intention of just 'getting away' for a little sun and relaxation after the holidays. I realize this is a fairly lengthy review but in only having one stab at it I wanted to impart as much information as I can to help other cruisers make informed decisions when booking a Holland America Line voyage. So please forgive the rambling and take from this review what is important to you. I hope that what I have to say will prove both helpful and useful to some of you.
Embarkation was very smooth. We arrived at the port around 1.15pm and by 1.45pm we were in our suite. Check in staff were very helpful and courteous. Our luggage arrived by 2.30pm and we were soon unpacked and ready to explore the ship. We have previously sailed on Westerdam so we were fairly familiar with the ship layout.
Deluxe Veranda Suite:
As with our first HAL sailing we booked the Deluxe Veranda Suite category and we were not disappointed. We really like the new color scheme that HAL has introduced - the wood in the suite, the color palette and selection of soft furnishings were calming and gave an overall impression of a classy, contemporary hotel room. There is no question in my mind that the suites on HAL are some of the best afloat. We had plenty of storage, the bathroom was large enough for two people to get ready at the same time (we love having a separate shower cubicle in addition to the shower over tub) but the bathroom does not have a 'luxury' feel to it. Having some enclosed storage cupboards would be a nice touch so we don't have to look at all the toiletries stored under the sinks, for example. The dressing area is convenient and the sitting area is large and perfect for socializing. The balcony is very generous and deep allowing you to walk around and not feel like you are on top of one another. The outdoor furniture is comfortable and attractive. We had a table and 3 chairs (where the 4th one went to I have no idea - but we did not request it be returned because having 3 gave us more space) and we had two large sitting chairs each with its own foot stool.
The Ship Overall:
Getting around was easy - as with each HAL ship the layout is fairly similar. It takes no time at all to find your way around. The passenger decks have amazing b/w photography showcasing HAL's history. I asked one of the officers whether these photos were available in a book of some kind - but apparently not. The public spaces are nicely appointed but they are not as open and spacious as we prefer but it does not take away from the fact that they are tastefully done. Again, the new color scheme is very easy on the eye. There is plenty of open deck space to sit and read or to get exercise. We did not feel that we were sharing the ship with approximately 2200 passengers. The only area that was crowded, at times, was the rear pool but that is to be expected on a sunny cruise. We enjoyed sunbathing on the higher decks as we did not use either swimming pool and always had plenty of space. We met several people who rented the cabanas and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I know this is very subjective so I will try and keep my comments as straight forward as possible. Overall, we found the food to be very good. It is not on par with Crystal Cruises but we did not come on board expecting that. HAL do a very nice job with a variety of menu options in various locations throughout the ship. So much of this is managing expectations and with that said, we enjoyed all of our meals.
We utilized the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast and also the Lido. We dined in all the restaurants with the exception of Canelleto. We enjoyed Le Cirque on each of our sectors and enjoyed the menu. We had read so many disappointing reviews but I have to say that we were happy with our dining experience on both occasions. I would highly recommend this event. Pinnacle Grill food was also of a high standard. I could easily have eaten there every night. Again, we had read poor reviews prior to our sailing but from our experience the food was presented well and to our liking. The quality cuts of meat were delicious. Service was a little on the slow side even on a quiet breakfast shift and the wait staff it seems were always looking for direction. But it did not mar our time spent in Pinnacle and our leisurely meals were pleasant and enjoyable. The Maitre' D of Pinnacle Grill on our voyage was Benjamin who was really good. He took great care of us and he runs a nice restaurant. We thank him for always making us feel very special.
Due to our late booking we were assigned 'open seating' in the main dining room (our preference would have been late seating). But the lovely ladies in the Neptune Lounge arranged for a table for 2 at 8pm on the 4 nights we dined in the Rembrandt. We were sat at different tables in various locations but we were very happy that our table for 2 requests was honored and enjoyed our meals in the dining room. I do have to say, however, that we found the open seating a little chaotic. We are not used to this format and it was frantic and poorly organized. We appreciate how it offers flexibility to passengers but I don't think we would do it again.
Tamarind was a lovely dining venue. The staff were wonderful and anticipated guests needs. We rarely, if ever, had to ask for anything. The food was really good. Decor and color scheme were outstanding and cocktails in the Silk Den prior to dinner is a must. With its top deck location one feels removed from the rest of the ship and you are transported into a different world. We really liked this restaurant.
We ordered room service one afternoon and it was a disaster - food several hours late (after we had called to cancel due to lack of delivery), the tuna melts were on bread and not melted, it took three attempts to have the dishes picked up (they were never picked up and our room stewards finally cleared everything away when they came back on duty). Other than a light breakfast the day of disembarkation (which was delivered on time and the eggs were hot and well prepared) we chose not to utilize room service again. Perhaps we hit them on a bad afternoon when we ordered our tuna melts but the late arrival of food, the 'un-melted' tuna melts and lack of response when we dialed '90' to have the dishes removed was inexcusable.
The singers and dancers did a fine job in presenting their two high energy production shows. The guest entertainer/juggler called Hilby was very good indeed on the first sector as was the guest female vocalist on the second sector.. We did not see the magician or the comedian. We did not participate in the culinary institute nor did we attend the Karaoke or other offerings available. That said, there was plenty to do on board for those seeking such activities and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Cruise Director Matt did a good job in putting together the program and there was always something going on somewhere on board Eurodam.
We had not planned to do any excursions as we had previously visited the ports of call and as mentioned above we came on board literally to do 'nothing' and enjoy the ship. However, we decided mid cruise to do an excursion in Puerto Rico to experience the bio-luminescent bay in a kayak. It was a great experience even though it was a long journey getting there (90 mins by coach). The coach made a stop at McDonalds which at the time left me perplexed until we realized this was the only bathroom break as the kayak site had inadequate facilities. We kayaked in darkness relying on the moon to guide us and were fascinated by what we saw. I would recommend this shore excursion to other guests. Our bus broke down on the way back to the ship but a replacement bus was provided right away. Due to our late arrival back at the ship we had missed dinner on board and proceeded up to the lido and enjoyed late night fare. It was a long tour but definitely worth it. It was priced at $109 per person.
Again, this is subjective and we will recount our personal experience which may differ from yours. So please do not flame me on the boards when I say that we were not overly impressed with 'service' on board. Now 'friendliness' is something we encountered with 99% of staff and crew but unfortunately a gracious smile and a polite 'you're welcome' does not constitute 'service'. For example, my expectation when being seated at a table for dining is to have a complete set up (napkins, s&p, glasses etc.). Then it would be nice to be greeted promptly and handed a menu. Water should be poured into the water glasses and not the red wine goblet. I expect the staff to be trained to know the difference between wine and water goblets especially in Pinnacle Grill. When seated in a fairly empty, and certainly not busy, Pinnacle Grill for breakfast I do not expect to sit waiting for breakfast breads to be offered or to wait to have coffee poured when I can see staff standing around. The waiters, as delightful and friendly as they are, would come to the table and only offer one thing then walk away. Why could they not assess the table to instantly recognize that breads were missing, coffee cups were needing to be refilled and dirty plates needed removing. It was as if they had never served in a restaurant before - with the exception of the Tamarind restaurant our experiences in the PG and Rembrandt were that the wait staff were lacking in training. They did not use initiative nor did they think outside the box. The staff clearly had learned a script in welcoming guests to the restaurant but when asked something which deviated from their canned responses one was met with a blank stare and a confused server would walk away. We simply adjusted our expectations but I must say that this 'lack of service' was a big disappointment for us. This is something we noticed around the ship and realizing right away that this is how things are on board - we simply enjoyed the 'friendliness' of the crew.
Excellent. We thoroughly made use of this amenity. The ladies working the lounge, Jona and Katz, were probably the best employees we encountered on board. They could not do enough for us. We would observe them with other guests and noted the same graciousness and handling. They both worked so well together and nothing was ever too much trouble. We find the Neptune Lounge to be a wonderful offering to suite guests and HAL has done a great job with this product. The food offerings were always fresh and stocked. Having access to the coffee/tea station is such a nice thing to offer suite guests and we really appreciated having access throughout our voyage.
Eurodam is a beautiful ship with friendly staff and crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we were pleased we booked the back-to-back because I was not ready to get off after the first week. Mind you, is there ever a good time to leave a cruise ship? We came on board looking to have a relaxing time and to enjoy the ship - it was never about the ports of call or the activities for us. At least, not on this sailing. Our expectations were met and in most cases exceeded. With the area of service and training being the only 'negative' things (and I am almost reluctant to use the word 'negative') I can think of I must say that our overall impression and experience was a good one. We will definitely consider taking another HAL voyage. I would like to try one of the smaller ships, as this would be our preference, and would continue to book the same category of accommodation. I did have a wander around the ship on turnaround day and poke my head inside the clean cabins before our new passengers arrived. I was impressed with how the other staterooms were appointed. I was even shown access to the Penthouse which was just wonderful.
Overall we gave HAL Eurodam a 4/5 rating. You will note we gave service a 3 star rating - which if given the option would have been a 3.5. I hope it was clear from my review that this lower rating was based on our perceived lack of 'service' and not friendliness or approachability of the staff and crew.