We are home after our second extended TA on the Eurodam.
Our embarkation was flawless- no lines and high efficiency at the Everglades. The plus of a ship coming out of dry dock is immediate access to your cabin which was in excellent shape. The ship has been well maintained - looked as good as she did 2 years ago- kudos on this one!
AGE - average - 50 - 65 on first leg and 48-58 second leg
CHILDREN - about a dozen on TA more like 50 - 75 on second leg with many tiny ones
NATIONALITIES - US, Canadian, European mix on first leg - 400 remained for second leg and substantially more Europeans on this- especially Swedish and Eastern European
We were dropped off at the terminal, our luggage was well handled and we were processed quickly.
We dropped our things in the cabins and went for lunch in the Rembrandt which was quite nice.
having done a TA before we now know that this is a shakedown for the sumner in Europe for the crew but they seemed to be on top of things from the beginning. From the dinning room to the cabins- we were well cared for throughout our 23 days.
I now understand the significance of who the chef is on the ship because I did notice a difference - the food was very good but in both the Lido and the Rembrandt it was not as spectacular as it was on our last TA so now I know I was spoiled the first time. Do not get me wrong- everything was well prepared and very tasty but sometimes the menu was not as appealing. I missed the escargot but loved the chilled soups. They served lamb quite often which pleased my DH who said it was always well prepared but I often switched to the standard menu for my entree because the daily menu did not appeal. That could be a personal taste issue though- I was impressed that the menu was not really repeated during the entire 23 days - some items appeared more than once but there were always variations to my knowledge.
STAFF - probably the best ever from the captain on down- they were wonderful caring and highly efficient. I hope our paths will cross again in the future ( any of them ) not an attitude anywhere!!!! We miss Floro Ronel and Anne from the bar Yah yah and Zen from the dining room and Bianca from the casino - great people and dedicated!!
We were in As you Wish dining which has pros and cons. The pro is that we could eat at 6:00 instead of 5:30 which is fixed time and we were able to sit at the same table for the entire time ( our choice) and have the same wait staff. The cons was IMO different people almost every night at our table and since it was a table for 4 and we were always meeting someone new, it was like the first day every day. Since we were the constant I believe we felt obligated the be the host of our table. We were always glad to have repeats which happened several times. OUr wait staff was as usual wonderful and very personable. I found the food in the Lido okay and they had the same chef as before so am assuming that the changes there are more based on the food available. We discovered that the pasta section would prep your pasta for you with a bit of olive oil, garlic and parsley in a skillet and then add your choice of sauce - it was one our favorites. They have gone to 48 hours of do not touch the food or drink to cut down on the noro virus which I think is brilliant- must drive them nuts as they must do all drinks and serving during that time. Best secret - the bread pudding which they serve at lunch time and for several days we had to ask for it and it is still to die for and I do not really like bread pudding and keep trying to forget what they put in theirs so I can enjoy it but it is awesome.
We passed on the Pinnacle ($25) this time ( we always go there at least once during a cruise ) and tried the Tamarind and were pleasantly surprised since we do not care for hot spicy food or sushi so we have never gone before. The staff was very helpful and the food and the atmosphere was excellent. Hence we went back a second time - both times for dinner( $15).
The bars had evening specials every day- tended to be ocean and crows nest from 5-6:00 and Explorer from 7-8:00 and Northern Lights late- this time is was additional drink for $1.00 - instead of two for one but a great deal of the bar list was included which was nice - some nights we would have a mixed drink and then take our wine to the dining room with us - yes it was in the special too. We did drink cards ( includes soda water and liquor - not sure about the upscale coffees) which were $45 for $50 or $90 for $100 - seemed okay to us and we could buy additional on the ship. I also did soda cards which I thought included water ( my fault but wrong) but it ended up a good deal as long as you use the whole thing $25 for $50 worth of drinks. We often got a soda to take back to the room with us at the end of the day which was nice because it came in a can.
Excellent goes to Judy Barr whom we have seen before - she is very funny and the ventriloquist who we almost passed on after the lame Count the previous night. Then there is the stage shows which it is difficult for me to not be biased - 1. We had seen all the productions on the Westerdam last year and they were excellent and we got to know the singers and dancers on that two week cruise, 2. This group had just come out of training for the last month so the entire venue of working together was new to them- a lot to deal with especially with a rocking - literally ship - doubt if they had that on land while training. I will say that by the time we finished our cruise they had improved a lot and were beginning to
be more cohesive - I was amused by the use of wigs - both of the lead ladies are very much so red heads and their coloring looked odd with the wigs - IMO should have used their real hair which was gorgeous - I know I know it is to create continuity but I guess when I've seen something before I begin to notice other things. The Halcats without the vocalist were awesome - I believe their director has his hands full with her - she is new to them and is probably hte weakest I have ever seen and that is my professional opinion - she had already strained her voice by the second day of sea which IMO showed lack of training. I got the impression that she did not know her music and spent a lot of time winging it- bad choice - people did notice! The Strings in the Explorer lounge were very good - they too had just come out of training and for at least two of them - this was their first cruise experience. Michael in the Piano bar was okay too. On the second leg they added a specialty opera group which I attended both nights mostly out of curiosity and although they appealed to a select group as a professional musician I felt that their programming was all wrong, their arrogant condescending attitude irritating, and the internal competition boring - give me a break - a princess with a train and a tiara singing Summertime- just did not work for me and by the size of the audience not a lot of others. Overall entertainment is acceptable and positive they were not trying to blow out the hearing of the audience as I have experienced on other cruise lines.
CASINO - Bianca was in charge again and she is awesome! Found the machines to okay - give and take but entertaining. Did not play the tables but they had lots of specials - sometimes she did $2 tables - love the cashless in that area - no little coupons to cash in and you can cash out your account as often as you want - kudos on that one. I did notice the smoke and I am a former smoker and there were some rude smokers but that is not HAL's fault -that is the only place I noticed it well that and the bar right next to it.
MOVIES - they put on the the room TV's after they had been shown in the screening room and they were new releases - there are also some new things in that area for movie viewing in the room without additional cost.
GENERAL - there were lots of opportunities for activity during the days and different activities for different interest. We honestly spend quite a bit of time chilling so do not choose to participate.
PORTS and Ian
For my research I used Lonely Planet Andalusia, DK Lisbon, Insight Barcelona and Trip Advisor online
Ian is the ship travel guide and we have traveled with him before - he is a wealth of information and although he is not always right cause things change from year to year - he is quite entertaining and he really tries hard.
We do on off bus or ship excursions depending on where we are and were very happy with all choices
BERMUDA was very user friendly - did the local bus and saw a lot - will go back
PONTA DELGADO - walked - delightful -we always find something new as we investigate the area on our own - this time it was the gardens and the fort.
LISBON - bus - always fun to see - there is so much we can always focus on a different area on each visit
CADIZ - bus - fascinating and charming - will walk it when we go back in the fall
MALAGA - bus - loved it - so much to see and so little time - look forward to more time there in the fall also
BARCELONA - bus - too much to take in in one day so did an overview and will spend several days in the fall. This is a very busy city with high amounts of tourist - found it more congested than Rome and I did not think that was possible!
TUNESIA - ship tour - wonderful experience and biggest surprise of tours -the ruins, the souk, the medina the food - what a unique experience and we were welcomed with open arms.
TRAPANI - walked it - bit of a disappointment - not as nice as the other side of Sicily but we had a nice experience - saw the fish market in action up close and personal
ROME - on ship tour as it was the day after the beatification and Rome s a bit far from the port for independent. Great day - saw all of ROme and visited the Sistine Chapel and Museums - Vatican not available but we had been there before and they substituted another cathedral which was lovely.
SANTA MARGHERITA - walked - neighbors Porto Fino and was delightful - found wonderful little cafe for break - walked the gardens - nice day
MONTE CARLO - ship tour to St Paul - toured Nice and MOnte Carlo and spent time in this delightful little ancient artsy community - what a wonderful way to finish our cruise.
DISEMBARKATION - flawless - IMO - most of the others could take some lessons from HAL - this process is always easy with them and no cattle car feeling to it
Overall - it was a lovely experience with few issues. The crossing was a bit rougher than last time but it was almost a month earlier and the captain handled it all very well. Everything ran smoothly and I compliment HAL for the working staff. I think IMO they need to do a better job training the front office staff and teach them not to give an answer that is not accurate. We learned to ask those who are constantly on the ship - bar tenders wait staff etc for answers because quite often the front desk was wrong and in one case the girl actually lied to her boss to cover her mistake. OTOH their job is hard because they are more like customer service and no one comes there unless they are upset about something.
We enjoy the sea days of the Transatlantic because it gives us the leisure time to enjoy the ship and it's amenities. We look forward to our next experience