Pleasantly surprised by HAL (in a good way) : Eurodam Cruise Review by flvol77
Overall Member Rating
Pleasantly surprised by HAL (in a good way)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Stops: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and the Private Island in the Bahamas.
My wife and I are Dinks (double income, no kids) we live in South Florida around an hour at the most to Port Everglade.
We are in our early 30's and live a busy lifestyle and we wanted to try something different, the options were a 10 day on Princess which we couldn't the time away to do that cruise, Carnival (not really interested in going back on a Carnival cruise) the Huge Royal ship that right now is overpriced and seems way too big for our taste and Holland America.
We picked Holland because we heard it was on par with Celebrity, which we love. We were apprehensive about was the smoking policy, honestly we hate cigarette smoke and I hate what it has done to certain family members but this isn't the place for that discussion. We both had heard it was the cruise line for old folks and there wasn't much More to do. Honestly, we live such a busy life style that we don't go on vacation to party and drink and be drunk the entire cruise, it's about recharging our batteries until the next vacation and spending quality time with one another. So, older folks didn't bother us at all.
EMBARKATION: This maybe the worst part of the cruise and honestly it wasn't that bad. So we get to the port and it was nuts, we later found out the ship was two hours coming into port and people were still coming off the ship. We left our house at 9:38am and got to the port at 10:31 am and we weren't in any kind of rush.
I dropped my wife off with the bags after some confusion by everyone where to go and where not to go. I parked across the street (I believe it was Pier 26) it's in the back of the port and we got in line. We were one of the first 50 to 100 people in line, and there was some confusion at first as to where to go etc, but then you could tell the Holland people took control, moving us from one room to the next and things starting calming down. It did take us a while to get on the ship but everyone was so friendly (the theme of the cruise) that the hour and a half wait and moving from one room to another was not a big deal at all. I was impressed by the way Holland handled the entire situation.
FOOD: I think food is extremely subjective, but here it goes, the buffet is the best buffet we have had on a cruise. Food was hot, and everything was almost prepared to order. I hated not being able to serve myself especially at all in the first 48 hours but I appreciate HAL looking out for us and trying to stop the spread of nor virus.
We ate three nights in the dining room, two nights on our wonderful balcony, and one night in Tamarind and one night at the Pinnacle grill. We did the anytime dining and we have been spoiled our last two cruises on Celebrity because we had an Aqua Spa cabin and ate in the Blu Dining room every breakfast and Dinner. So it was really hard to compare.
The dining room felt rushed at times and the food was just ok. Overall I would rate the dining room experience as a B, I feel Princess does a much better job with their anytime dining experience. I will say this it wasn't anything that would stop me from coming back to HAL. We later found out they were switching over to a new menu because they were in the Caribbean for the first time in months and you could tell the first night in the dining room the overall experience was rough.
We still can't get anyone to explain why they put BBQ sauce on prime rib, that was something that I can honestly say we have never had before and hope to never have again. If you are going the dining room the first night and want the Prime Rib, be careful. I do think the dining room experience will get better as they get use to being in the Caribbean and use to different menus.
We brought zero formal clothes, so we ordered food on our balcony those nights and it was awesome. We were in the back of the ship and to be able to hear the roar of the wake as we were eating Steak and Lobster was very cool to me. Surprisingly the food was delivered within 30minutes and it was hot and tasted excellent.
I gave the young man that delivered our food the first time a $5 tip and it was funny after that they were at our cabin in no time when we would call for room service.
Pinnacle Grill: Overall excellent. My Filet was cooked to perfection, and so was my wife's. The Waiter made us laugh, he told us it was nice to see a young couple on the ship, he was friendly but not familiar, which is what I prefer, the setting is very elegant and the overall experience I would rate it as an A.
Tamarind: Overall excellent. The service was top notch, sushi was fresh, the green tea was amazing, and the beef dish was cooked once again to perfection. We have some very good thai/sushi places in south Florida, so while it was very good I just wasn't blown away by it to the point where some people want to eat there every night. It's a nice treat once a cruise. I would 100% go back on our next cruise and I would rate the overall experience as an A.
Couple of more things, if you like lamb, you will love this cruise, a lot of lamb on the cruise and each time it was excellent, but there wasn't nearly enough fish options for me on the ship, the buffet each of the first three days has a lightly battered fish and each time they were different but excellent, then after that no more fish? You are in the Caribbean so I would expect a lot more seafood.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was good. We ended up at the Crows Nest each night after dinner, I have to say in our cruises I have never seen such an interesting area, it was like a huge living room. People playing cards, talking, on the computer, a bar, a coffee bar etc. The highlight of our cruise from an entertainment side was listening to Michael Liebler play the guitar. The young man is very talented and I wouldn't be shocked to one day hear him playing on the radio someday. If you are going on the Eurodam through December 3rd, do yourself a favor and listen to him play. After the Eurodam he is back on HAL in January, I believe on the Hawaii cruises. I can't say enough good things about the kid, not only is he very good he seems to be a great person.
Service: Our cabin steward was very good, when we asked for a few things he said no problem with a smile on his face. We loved his towel animals and our cabin was clean and taken care of.
I say this every cruise and I will say it again. Everywhere we went we made sure to say thank you and please, and after a while I think the crew members start to remember who you are, because they were very nice to us and went out of their way to help us with anything we needed. The service overall was amazing.
Cabin: We received a nice upgrade to 8177. I was extremely worried about the chair noise, and while I doubt I would ever book a cabin on the 8th floor on the back of the ship again because it was a little noisy it wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be.
From what we can tell and were told they no longer fix the chairs at 5am, they do it at night around 6:30 pm, so we aren't hearing all that noise while you are sleeping. We did bring a sound machine and it drowned out a lot of noise. The balcony was nice and spacious, don't laugh but I actually had enough room out there to do my P90X. Since there was no pull up bar in the gym I used the ship's beam for my bands and worked out that way. Nothing like seeing the world go by as you are working out.
SPA: This was maybe the most disappointing part from a service and overall.
First of all the Thermal Suite is $249 for 7 days for a couple, after doing some research on here that seemed a little high but we were on an R and R cruise so I thought oh well. I was the first one to sign up for it. The first day you basically can't use it, maybe after 7 pm you can, but they have it open for the public to see it. So we get our explorer the next day and its $199 for a couple. We brought it to their attention and the spa manager and she said there was nothing they could do about it but the Explorer was printed wrong.
Well, that was not what you wanted to hear especially when you heard two people say that they honored the new price. This also happened with our couples massage, we booked online and received the price of $269, but then we received a filer that said $239 at anytime during the cruise the second day of the cruise. We didn't let it bother us but I can tell you one thing, next time we will wait things out and see what pricing discounts they have in the Explorer.
My wife did go down to the pursers desk and they were of little help, I honestly think cruise lines put people at the pursers desk that are challenged with the English language so you are just frustrated that you want to give up.
When my wife tried to explain the situation to the young man at the pursers desk he basically couldn't understand what she was saying and he got frustrated and said to her I am not stupid, and then got nasty with her, which my wife is very caring and understanding and NEVER called him stupid or made him feel that way. She asked for his supervisor who came out and she made the young man apologize to my wife and she apologized and she let us know that the spa manager had to make that decision and that they couldn't really do anything for us.
Finally after three days of going back and forth (and we didn't make it a big deal like some would have, it was one of those things we had 10 minutes here or there and we would call and push the subject) the spa manager calls us back and offers her apology which she really should have done to begin with and a free pedicure for both of us, my wife said thank you and we never took her up on her offer because 1) we honestly just wanted an apology for their mistake and 2) IMO I felt they just wanted to get us back in the spa in order to try to sell us something or make more money off of us and at that point we were done with our experience in the Spa.
I will say this, it is the nicest Thermal suite we have been to on any ship, the hot tub is amazing.
Cooking Class: When we boarded I ran downstairs to the purser's desk to book the cooking class. They had two, Caribbean food, at 1pm the day we are at San Juan and Italian at 1pm at the last sea day, which I picked the Italian one. We had Chef Adam, he taught us how to make pasta, dessert, and an eggplant dish from scratch. It was an awesome time that lasted almost two hours. Cost was $29.50 pp. We had about 10 people in the group. They gave us four bottles of wine and only 7 people had drinks. They gave us an apron that Chef signed. Overall awesome experience, we really enjoyed it.
Ports: Grand Turk
Honestly we overslept, which was no big deal we had been there three times, it's a nice beach port, if there isn't another ship in port sitting by the pool is a fun way to go. No DJ this time because of the HAL crowd. Very chilled crowd.
The pool was nice and refreshing. We were going to rent a car but it was already 10 am and they wanted around $100 with taxes etc in order to rent a car and honestly it wasn't worth it. The tours of the island were $35 pp which is such a rip off, there really isn't anything to see, and it's a small island. IMO either walk or rent a golf cart if you are going to spend that kind of money. So we bought a couple of things and then got back on the ship.
San Juan: We got off the ship and a tour is $10 pp. We helped the guy recruit some people and we got to see old san jaun, he told us stories that I am sure 50% truth and 50% legend but it was well worth the $20 bucks for two hours. We got off the tour and ran into a couple that were up at the crows nest with us the night before (hello Bob and Cindy), and we thought safety in numbers and we didn't have any plans so we walked around old san juan, stopped by Barrachina and got a Pina Coloda (birthplace of the Pina Coloda) sat in the courtyard and enjoyed our drinks. They had a good mojito also.
Of course the ladies had to go shopping and went to all the purse stores and that is always interesting. We saw Oliver North there which was strange just to run into him, also some Italian model was posing for pictures on one of the picturesque streets with cobble stone and old Spanish buildings in the back ground. Tons of culture in old San Juan and I would go back anytime.
St Thomas: We got off grabbed another tour bus and did a tour. We love the island, we saw Mountain Top, I heard it had burned to the ground and the new Mountain Top was nicer. Same good banana daiquiri. After the tour we did some shopping and then back to the ship for a well needed nap.
Half Moon Cay: Loved it there, it is one of the nicer private islands. We enjoyed the island the water and the pirate ship, I am sure there was a lot more to do there but we were all about the R and R.
Overall: It was an excellent cruise. We meet some of the nicest people on this cruise, the service and the overall experience of the cruise made us feel like we would 100% go back to Holland America. While I don't love their smoking policy it is what it is. I think Holland offers a great value for the money and we would consider them our #2 line we would cruise on and the only reason it's not #1 is because of the smoking policy. I believe Holland and Celebrity are both a notch above Princess for anyone that wants me to compare.
Feel free to ask me any questions as I have all of my Explorers for the week. I will not throw them away for a couple more days in case anyone has a question. Less
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