We embarked at Fort Lauderdale for the sixteen day transatlantic cruise to Barcelona and then continued for a further seven days Barcelona to Barcelona. I am sorry if the review is a little long but I do not like to criticize without giving reasons. I have read some good reviews of this cruise but I can only speak from our experience. I have categorized my comments:
Embarkation FL: Excellent procedures to board passengers from Terminal to Ship; no fuss, top marks. We had flown from Australia to FL to take this cruise and on arriving on board a welcome drink was not offered. On cruises costing thousands of dollars per person surely a glass of house wine would not be too much to ask. This was our first taste of HAL hospitality and it left a very poor first impression; other cruise lines provide this courtesy.
Stateroom: VC Category Balcony Cabin 5180. This stateroom was dusty when we first entered; dust coating virtually every surface. No attempt had been made to clean the seat under the mirrored dresser in the cabin which was covered with white marks. Carpet was soiled and the couch was stained. The balcony area could only be described as dirty, with white paint spots on the decking. When using the balcony, care had to be taken not to bring dirt into the stateroom on ones feet; this was later rectified, but you do not get a second chance to make a first impression. This stateroom is opposite a service room using by cleaning staff; this ensures that you will not require an alarm clock to wake up each morning as soundproofing in staterooms is poor and most times the door to the service room was left open . Conversations, TV and other noise in the passageways or adjoining staterooms can be heard clearly. We were allocated this stateroom a few days before leaving FL and had no opportunity to change stateroom or seek an upgrade prior to sailing.
Stateroom Amenities: There are no drawers in the robes or dressing table and only small drawers in bedside tables. Bathroom: No toilet brush is provided. The shelf in the shower area is too small as are the shelves near the bathroom mirror. Soaps and lotions appeared to be rationed and little extras such as cotton buds, sewing kits or shoeshine materials were absent; very similar to the standard found in the cheapest of motels but certainly not expected from a 'premium cruise line'.
Stateroom Staff: Our stateroom steward and his assistant were excellent; unobtrusive, helpful and efficient.
Dining - Main Dining Room 2nd Sitting: Tables were crowded together and wait staff could not avoid bumping into chairs and diners when serving and removing dishes or serving wine. There were many long tables for larger groups, and dining seemed to be noisy, cramped and rushed - no gracious dining here; the long tables one after the other reminded me of a works cafeteria. On our first night in the dining room we were told our table number by the maitre de and were pointed in its general direction; no attempt made to escort us to our table. On the way to the table we were forced to ask directions from wait staff in order to find its location. On the second cruise section we moved to a round table for eight and this was slightly better. Table crowding however, still resulted in staff bumping into tables and diners. Wait staff were poorly trained, had forgotten their training, or the training was inadequate. On numerous occasions wait staff lifted dishes over diner's heads when clearing the table, and on many occasions dessert menus were given to diners before entree dishes had been cleared. The food standard was erratic; on a dinner menu with four appetizers the chef's recommendation was 'Shrimp Cocktail', a choice that was always available - please! At other times food was excellent, lobster and steaks being of a particularly high standard as to preparation and quality. Lamb was usually overcooked. Soups were invariably luke warm, as was coffee; a coffee refill seemed to be out of the question. Fruit was of a high standard. High point of our dining experience was Pamela, our wine steward on the sixteen day cruise section; excellent and considerate service.
Dining - Lido Restaurant: I consider this to be one of the worst designed restaurants I have seen. Finding the required serving counters forces you to walk half the length of the ship and finding a table requires you to walk the same distance again. Even if you only want a boiled egg, and nothing else, you must queue. Once you have your food you must balance your dishes of choice and negotiate fellow diners, staff and other obstacles to find the elusive entry points into the table areas. You will need to repeat this process several times to complete your meal experience. Some tables are conveniently placed near the passage areas so that other diners can bump into you in the event that you are unfortunate enough to be seated there. Lido staff seem to lack motivation and the pasta counter provided the slowest service I have ever encountered. A seafood extravaganza at one lunch was kept very quiet till the last minute with serving at only one counter; early comers were able to take full advantage but many missed out; the queue was incredible and I personally could not be bothered.
Dining - Tamarind Restaurant: I had read the Cruise Critic reviews and eagerly looked forward to trying this restaurant; as a fan of Asian cuisine I was most disappointed. The Cruise Critic reviewer gave the opinion that the 'Jewels Of The Sea' soup was 'my favourite soup in the world' and on that basis I tried it; the soup and other dishes were very average. Maybe it was just a bad night; but we did not return. I must add that staff service was excellent.
Dining - In Stateroom: This was excellent; orders were correct, the food was hot and the service prompt, efficient and courteous.
Entertainment: A high standard with a good variety of artists. Costuming on production shows was outstanding. Shows were most enjoyable.
Public Rooms - Crow's Nest: This tries to be all things to all people and fails. Combining a trivia venue with a library, internet centre, coffee and snack room, bar. games room and viewing platform does not work well. In all, a most unrelaxing venue.
Pool Areas: Cramped, crowded and noisy. Again, this area tries to be all things to all people and fails. Marketplace for T Shirts, Bar and Burger Area, Swimming Pool, Cabanas (encroaching on what should be public space), sunseekers closely lined up on sun lounges like sardines in a tin, and noisy, unsupervised and inconsiderate children running up and down the pool splashing and divebombing each other (and staff just ignoring it); all this combined to create a chaotic atmosphere. Children remained in hot tubs for hours at a time (in contravention of all medical advice) and older passengers avoided the pools and spa tubs. The seven day section Barcelona to Barcelona when the weather was good was awful in this regard with children filling all hot tubs for hours at a time. We are not down on kids; we have three children and seven grandchildren ourselves. We don't expect children to be angels but this was too much. There were perhaps only seventy five children on board on the seven day section but their impact was enormous and their behaviour unacceptable.
Bars: Tried the Explorers Bar on several occasions and received snail like service. On one occasion, approximately seventy people in the bar, and one waiter and one bar attendant working; it took nearly 30 minutes to be served. Other bars seemed to be fine, no complaints; service in the Silk Den was excellent.
Ships Tours and Tenders: We took two ships tours, one in Lisbon where we went to Sintra; it was a terrible day weather wise and the tour was not enjoyable. I hasten to add that this was not HAL's fault. Our other tour was from Santa Margherita when we took the tour to Genoa, the tour was excellent thought the lunch provided was uninspiring; the wine was good. Tenders were used in Portimao, Monte Carlo and Santa Margherita; in all cases staff were professional and efficient; well done, top marks.
Port Itinerary: Great itinerary; two stops (Bermuda and Ponta Delgada in the Azores) made this a good crossing despite variable weather and conditions. The Mediterranean ports were excellent Barcelona being very crowded. High point for us was La Goulette in Tunisia, site of Carthage. Friendly people, interesting sites; this is a place that everyone with an interest in history should visit. The new port facilities are excellent and visitors are greeted on arrival with local music, camels, and colourfully dressed locals; everyone is good humoured and helpful; unlike many ports in the Med where tourists are greeted with a disinterested yawns and indifference. Taxis provide good value for money; drivers being most helpful.
Overall: The cruises were not all bad - would I cruise again on the Eurodam? - No. Would I cruise again with HAL? - maybe. I would like to see HAL live up to the hype in its cruise brochure (2010-2011); I quote from page 5, "From the moment you arrive you are welcomed as an honoured friend would be at a fine private home". Not true. Overall ; we were disappointed.