This was our second time on the Eurodam and she did not disappoint us! We love HAL and this was our 6th HAL cruise. We are younger Mariners (36 and 46) and therefore don't hit HALs typical demographic. We have no children.
We arrived 2 days before our cruise for a little R&R in Ft Lauderdale. We booked through HAL and stayed at the Marriott Harbour Beach Hotel on Ft Lauderdale Beach. We booked through HAL b/c we couldn't get anywhere close to the rate on our own. The room was average but clean. I will give one complaint here: this is the second time that we were given one of the worst rooms in the house due to booking through HAL. We were given 2 beds instead of a king and it was almost the farthest room from the elevator. Other than that we enjoyed our stay. The resort is BEAUTIFUL and having a beachfront location is ideal. The entire resort is idyllic. There is little to eat right there that is affordable and if you don't have a car the cab fare is a little pricey. We might rent a car if we stay there again. The cab fare to and from the Galleria Mall for dinner was $30. We ate at Seasons 52 at the Galleria Mall and it was fantastic!All meals there are under 450 calories and the menu is great. A great start to try to combat all the calories onboard.
We took the HAL shuttle to the port and arrived about 1140. It was uneventful and the line moved fairly quickly. We notified the agent at the door that we were suite guests and were given an "S" badge to wear through the check-in process. We were directed to the suite check-in and had no wait. Check-in took approximately 5 min and then we went up the escalator to the next level. The line snaked around the room. Having been suite guests before we knew to let that agent know that we were in a suite. He moved the ropes and we went to the front of the line and just walked on board. We were in the elevator and were on our way to our room at 1155. To our surprise they announced that all rooms were prepared and ready at 1155!
We checked out our room and then headed to the Neptune Lounge. We made our Pinnacle Grill reservations and then had a quick snack. We don't like crowds so we typically do not eat lunch on embarkation day. We had only been on board 10 minutes when we met Nick, one of the Pinnacle Grill Stewards. He became one of friends and one of the highlights of our entire cruise! He was in charge of the food that afternoon in the Neptune and he kindly offered to pour our coffee and tea and made sure that we had everything we needed.
The first night and day at sea was a little rough due to high swells caused from a front across the Eastern Seaboard. It was manageable and we had seen much worse in Alaska! Many passengers referred to that first day as being a little bit rough.
In Grand Turk we had scheduled the Dune Buggy Tour. It was fantastic and a great way to see the island. There were those that complained that there wasn't much to see in Grand Turk other than Margaritaville. To those people I want to say... Do you ever venture out beyond the dock? We love getting to see the unspoiled parts of all the Caribbean Islands, to hear the tour guides pride about their island, and just getting away from the masses. This tour was a fantastic way to do this. The guides didn't yammer on about drivel and just gave pertinent facts. They stopped several times at scenic spots and we got some fabulous pictures. We saw many wild donkeys and horses along the way. We got drenched from a brief shower and then had completely dried off by the time we got back to the dock. We did eat a quick snack at Margaritaville and found the food tasty. We had the Hawaiian pizza and conch fritters. We loved the island atmosphere. I will make note that when we were there it wasn't too busy (again we don't like crowds).
In San Juan we didn't take an excursion. We walked to both Forts (San Cristabel and El Morro). If you are a photographer, go to the Forts! There are some fantastic opportunities for photos of 16th century architecture as well as scenic overlooks. We left before sunset but the shots would have been even better at sunset.
In St Thomas there were 3 other ships in port including Allure of the Seas! If you don't know about her, she holds 6000 passengers and 2900 crew! Needless to say, we got off St Thomas and took a shore excursion to St John. We did the Eco hike and it was not strenuous. I did wear hiking type shoes as there are a lot of smaller rocks on the trail. Open-toed shoes or sandals would not be appropriate. There were 30 of us on this excursion which is more than they usually have but it was not a problem. After about a 1.25 mile hike we were at Honeymoon Beach for approx 45 min. It is absolutely beautiful on St John and this beach was no different! We also saw the ruins at Caneel Bay Resort and then took a safari bus back to the ferry dock. The ferry to St John is about 40 min. For those of you who like to shop, the nicer stores at the Crown Bay Dock are very nice. We like to shop at Diamonds International and they have a good selection at Crown Bay with 1/4 the crowd! This enabled us to maximize our time by shopping near the ship and getting to St John! There wouldn't have been enough time to shop at Charlotte Amalie and take our excursion.
At Half Moon Cay it rained for about an hour. We were soaked and freezing so we took the tender back to the ship and changed into dry clothes. After a quick bite to eat we headed back over for a few glorious hours in the sun. The water is so clear and the sand is perfect here! I had heard bad things about the pirate ship bar but it didn't obstruct our view as we sit on the beach much further down than where the bar sits. It was a nice shelter for people during the rain storm as well.
That sums up our ports of call. I also want to highlight a few other things that most people do not comment on: the Art Gallery and the Pinnacle Grill.
This was the first cruise on HAL where we took in the art lectures and participated in the art auctions. Kaylene was AMAZING. I think she knows something about every artist and she makes understanding art and purchasing it very simple. She is knowledgeable and so friendly. She learned our taste and helped us find some great pieces! FYI- if you buy art they give you a bottle of champagne. It is a shame that we don't drink it. She is truly a gem and has offered to be a lifelong consultant to us for future art purchases. We have checked out our purchases on artbrokerage.com and we really did get good deals.
Now for the Pinnacle! One of our favorite things about HAL is the Pinnacle Grill. We love the food, the presentation, the stewards and the atmosphere. As I have already mentioned, we don't handle crowds well. We both have to make small talk for a living and so doing this on vacation over and over at mealtimes is not appealing to us. We like the concept of as you wish dining but we dread the small talk. I don't want to sound rude or snobbish but we love cruising because we can "unplug" from our daily lives. As you might be able to ascertain, we are introverts and so constantly being with others is draining for us. Part of our HAL experience is eating in the Pinnacle Grill every night. This time we reacquainted ourselves with Ionel, who we met in 2010 on the Noordam. We met Nick and Carlos and they were out servers most nights. These two are dynamic. They are efficient, kind, and witty. They made our trip extraordinary! We find that the menu in the Pinnacle is extensive enough that you can try something new every night. We were pleased when HAL expanded the Pinnacle menu about a year ago for those of us who like to frequent this dining venue. Again, I cannot say enough good things about the Pinnacle Grill. Another added benefit for suite guests is breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill each morning. For us this is our favorite perk for this room category!
Jason, the cruise director was one of the better ones that I have seen. He was very witty. The magician on board was one of the best magicians I have ever seen. WOW is all I can say!!
Disembarkation was smooth and I only have positive things to say about how efficient this process was.
Overall, we had a wonderful cruise! HAL did it again. My complaints are only minor and we can easily overlook them. I hope this review was beneficial and provided some insight to fellow passengers and HAL executives/employees about those of us who are introverts and love cruising.