We took a 7-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean on the Eurodam out of Fort Lauderdale. Because we were worried about getting snowed in at home, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale a couple of days early. After a quick $25 cab ride from the beach, we arrived at the cruise terminal about noon, and it took about a half hour to board from there. Checking in was no problem; most of the wait was upstairs as they let people on in groups. Waiting area was not glamorous but efficient. At least you can sit rather than stand in a long line.
Overall the Eurodam is a very nice ship, with a few quirks. The ship was built in 2008 and still in excellent condition. The glass elevators midship are great. This is a mid-sized ship by today’s standards. It handles over 2000 people but we never felt crowded. A mid-sized ship also means there are not fancy wave pools or rock walls and it has a slightly older crowd. On the plus side, it was always easy to find a quiet place on ship. The only crowded area was on deck in a sun chair during a sea day. One nice thing about Holland America is that you can bring wine (not beer or hard stuff)to drink in your room (not in the dining room or elsewhere).
This sailing was on school vacation week and the kids appeared to enjoy themselves anyway and did not seem to bother the adults. All of the public spaces are on floors 2&3 and on the top of the ship (Lido-deck 9, bars/lounges on 11). The smoke from the casino unfortunately drifts to all the nearby bars and even the main level of the theater. There are two swimming pools (one limited to adults) but if you go for the pool, both are quite small.
The lido has good food, but the set up (two long rows) makes for long lines at times. The gym was very nice though it is a little odd that it can only be accessed through the main spa entrance. We did not take advantage of the Pinnacle Grill or Tamarind Restaurant but we were told by many that they were great. Food in the Rembrandt dining room was excellent.
We had a VA class (Va 4129) verandah cabin, which was fantastic. The room was fairly well set up and had a desk, love seat, chair, and small coffee table along with three closets (although no drawer space except for two small ones in the beside tables). Our verandah was on a corner by the lifeboats, so it was actually a bit larger than usual. It was 16x8 and had one smallish wicker chair and another larger one, along with a wicker ottoman and a small cocktail table (useful for propping open the door). The only downside is that the upper level verandahs can overlook part of yours. We spent an hour or so exploring the ship once on board. Our luggage was in the room before we got back.
We selected the Open Seating for dining. It worked very well, and we never waited except for one night when we asked for a table for two instead of sharing on a larger table. The food was quite good, but with the open seating, the service was not as good since you never get to know the waiters and wine stewards. Service was rushed and impersonal compared to other cruises.
The visiting entertainers (comedian, magician) were good. The onboard singer/dancers were way cheesy.
Excursions: We’ve taken one other cruise to the Caribbean (on Royal Caribbean), whose shore excursions were fewer but seemed of higher quality and were less expensive. In Saint Thomas skip by Blackbeard’s castle (Historical Harbor Safari) and get out of town! Two separate people we met raved about the Catamaran and Snorkel excursion but watch out for the Rum punch! Both parties passed out that night from exhaustion and alcohol. We recommend the Reef Snorkel & Stingray Safari in Grand Turk which was very well run and tremendous fun. The El Yunque Rain Forest Day Hike in Puerto Rico was well run and a nice hike but frankly, a 1.5 mile hike with many tourists on a now paved trail is not relaxing or beautiful. There must have been 200 or more people on the trail. The Eco Lagoon Kayak Adventure on Half Moon Cay was nice but a bit cheesy. The kayaking is 45 minutes in a small lagoon on the back side of the Island. We did not see any real wild life or learn much new about the island.
Disembarkation was also fairly easy. We were in a mid-morning group, and the worst part was trying to find our luggage (our two bags got separated).
Some last advice: if you can delay your departure out of FLL to Monday, do it. The airport was beyond a zoo. It really cannot handle the traffic it gets on weekends. Newark or O’Hare at Christmas are less crowded. Make sure you leave at least two hours to get through security (the line was out the door and down the sidewalk 200 feet) and at least an additional 30- 45 minutes to drop your luggage. Once you do get through, there’s virtually no food, the gates are not big enough to hold the amount of people and you’re lucky if you can even find a place to sit on the floor. The overall effect is to undo the wonderful cruise vibe you’ve just spent the week building up.
The worst part of the whole vacation was when it ended. We are back and it snowed again. If we could go back tomorrow, we would!