We've just disembarked from the Eurodam. This was my tenth cruise and fifth on HAL. Having sailed on the Westerdam, Noordam and Oosterdam, I was skeptical of booking the Eurodam as prior experiences on vessels that have had major design changes to add passenger capacity have only led to disappointment in the attrition of public areas, especially sunning decks. This was happily not the case on the Eurodam. What a vast improvement!
The Retreat: This area can only be described as perfection. The facilities, the sense of luxury, the staff, the amenities, were all flawlessly thought out and executed. Gilbert's service was outstanding in every way. He possesses a very unique talent you should note: The ability to ensure our Retreat remained exclusive while not offending guests who might wander through. I would not be surprised if guests who would not have otherwise considered reserving a cabana will do so now on a future trip.
Dining: Tamarind -â€“ I generally don't spring for the up-charge dining venues as the main dining room experience is almost always outstanding. However, after dining at Tamarind the first night and meeting Ayu, we were hooked. The service was unparalleled and the cuisine inspired. We returned two more times. Canaletto -â€“ again, premier service. The tiramisu is the best I've ever tasted. The Lido always had tables available and again, wonderful food. It did seem less salty than on previous cruises which we absolutely appreciate. A suggestion would be the addition of whole grain pastas - a great bonus for us "health conscious" eaters.
Ports: We chose this itinerary due to the "low maintenance" ports. Being devotees of the sun, beautiful beaches are top priority. Thankfully, Irene didn't seem to damage our beloved Half Moon Cay too badly. What a tropical Eden it is. Grand Turk is still somewhat "cheesy", but is still a beautiful beach. And one can simply never see San Juan too many times. Crown Bay marina in St. Thomas was a disappointment -â€“ so much more convenient to be in town at the older pier, and closer to the St. John ferry. I did overhear numerous gripes from other guests on this change and would not be surprised if HAL didn't see those sentiments reflected in reviews. However, not being shoppers Crown Bay is closer to the Water Island taxi than the other pier, and Honeymoon Beach is stunning.
Excursions: Being very independent travelers, we rarely book excursions through HAL due to the increase in cost over that offered shore side. Also, we believe it important to support locals whenever possible. Exceptions to this rule are busy ports and scuba diving. However at HMC we did wander down the beach to say "hello" to the horses. The gentlemen running this operation are first class. Even though we were not participants, we were warmly greeted and welcomed, and invited to pet the horses. They offered us chilled bottled water and relayed stories about their "charges". Although I grew up with horses and have a long history in the jumping arena, I would consider booking this excursion in the future after meeting these charming gentlemen.
Cabin stewards: These folks have always been a highlight on every cruise. However I must say that Nining has raised the bar substantially! She is a treasure. The few requests we made were tended to immediately, and she really went out of her way to make sure the cabin was perfect. Everyone in our section of the ship joked about kidnapping her and taking her home with us. Again, room stewards are always a highlight, but Nining stands out way, way, way above all the others.
Crew: Once again, abundant smiles from all and outstanding service. I must note one exception, and that was the spa staff. Being aft on the 10th deck, we passed this area several times daily between jaunts to work out, dine, Retreat and enjoy the pool. There seemed to be a prevailing "energy" of conflict amongst them. I'm not normally a patron of spa services but the manicure/pedicure I did consider was quickly de-prioritized. The Retreat massage therapist from England with the lovely complexion and shoulder length brunette hair (I'm sorry I didn't take her name down) was not amongst the scowling however. She was gracious and inviting, and therefore balanced out the other sour-pusses.
Entertainment: I always must try to be fair here, as I am a former dancer, and my daughter is currently a professional dancer so granted my standards are a bit high. With the demographic on HAL sailings getting younger and younger, it is disappointing that Stiletto Entertainment does not produce more shows like Rockin' Road. They would appeal to a younger audience. The singers were quite capable with strong voices. The dancers however are tragically cast - anorexic next to robustly full figured (to try to say it nicely). The most technically trained young lady was also the heaviest which is hard to look past given the costumes. But most disturbing was that every pair of stockings was torn. Not just runs, but gaping holes everywhere = tacky, tacky, tacky. And what's with the tattoos now! Cover them up please. Shame on Stiletto Entertainment!
Of course no guest is forced to attend shows, and every other nook and cranny of the Eurodam was thoroughly enjoyed. The Crow's Nest, Explorations, Silk Den, the workout facilities, and never to be missed, On Deck for the Cure. On my last cruise, my sweetheart put a lovely LeVian diamond ring on my finger from the Westerdam's jewelry gallery, so we didn't spend too much time in the shopping venues this cruise. But the collections remain unique, tasteful, and lovely. Maybe those matching earrings will call out to us on the next trip?
All in all, this was another flawless cruise. We took advantage of the on-board deposit offer, and are now plotting and planning our next getaway, hopefully with our entire extended family in March 2012. So while our family manifest may change, there is no doubt we will return to HAL soon.