This was a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise, Oct.29 - Nov.5/11.This was our 1st cruise on a Signature class ship, though our 7th cruise with Holland America in the past 5 years. Our last cruise was on the Maasdam in Jun/11 Montreal(though the ship left from Quebec City because of high water) - Boston - Montreal.
My wife and I arrived at the cruiseport at 11:30. Embarkation had started and, as suite guests, were quickly and efficiently checked in and allowed in near the front of the boarding line. A little embarrassing, but did not know the check-in staff members intention until she opened up the roped off area to let us in. We proceeded to our stateroom to drop off our carry-ons, then to the Pinnacle Grill to book our 2 reservations for the week.
The ship itself was for the most part tastefully decorated and as with other HAL ships, had some very nice museum quality artwork and exhibits. The ship appeared to be very spacious and generally did not have the feel of being crowded, save for the Lido at lunch. As with other Holland America cruises we've been on, the crew and officers are very friendly and do make you feel welcome. The only thing on the ship I felt was out of place were the cabanas by the center pool - I personally thought they were kind of tacky and not something I would use, but they were all being used so there must be a demand.
Our deluxe veranda suite was 2nd room down from the center elevators, relatively close to the Neptune Lounge. The suite itself was wonderful and was somewhat impressed by the bonsai bush adorning the windowsill - nice touch. The last suite we were in was on the Ryndam and found this suite to be slightly smaller and did miss the extra sink in the dressing room. Balcony was also slightly smaller, but this is moot as it was still very spacious. A/c worked perfectly and there were no annoying noise issues whatsoever, I think a first for us. The only minor complaints would be the 2 fabric chairs by the table/couch were very worn and one of the armrests were actually falling off. Laundry service was nice bonus, but not perfect. On 1 occasion, our clothes came back very damp, bordering on wet and one of the yellow laundry tags stained a t-shirt. I sent my shoes to be polished on the 2nd day of the cruise and they came back with a "done" note in the basket and they clearly hadn't been touched. These are both minor points in the scheme of things and I only bring this up to to show nothing is perfect, but in this case, still pretty darn close. Our room steward Wayan and his assistant were great, but this seems to be very consistent with our stewards on all our cruises with Holland America.
The Neptune lounge is a wonderful perk and hands down has the best coffee on board. We enjoyed our party with the Captain and officers and really enjoyed the coconut shrimp and other varied hors d'oeuvres. Our concierges were Jonah and Gilbert, both very nice people who were helpful with anything we needed - we couldn't imagine better Neptune staff.
My wife and I both enjoy GOOD food and were not disappointed at the food venues. We did not use the lido for anything but lunch, but always found something to our liking and were not disappointed. The varied fresh fruit was always delicious and I was becoming addicted to the rotisserie chicken. The ice cream station seemed to be always open, enjoyed the sorbets and the banana ice cream topped with banana liqueur and chocolate sauce was a favourite. We used fixed seating in the dining room and had a very nice location - in the center of the 2 dining levels in what I was the band/music pit. Ari was our waiter and both him and his assistant were very attentive, and as with the wait staff most of our previous cruises, did not disappoint. My wife and I are not really drinkers, but will order wine with our meals occasionally. Our sommelier was Joel and probably was one of the nicest people we've come across on a cruise. I hope we cross paths on a future cruise. Food quality was excellent and the lobster served on the 2nd formal night were some of the best I've had on land or our previous cruises.
The Pinnacle, as usual, was awesome but did notice the service was not up to the same level as the smaller ships. But it was very busy when we dined and the staff were appeared to be trying their best. The filets(large) were melt-in-your mouth tender and cooked exactly as ordered. I also enjoyed the crab cakes and the mango sorbet was a nice finisher. We dined twice at the Pinnacle on this cruise and do enjoy this as an alternative to the Master Chef's dinner on the last night. We also did breakfast each morning in the pinnacle, a very relaxing and satisfying way to start the day.
This is the first time we've had the opportunity to try the Tamarind and all the previous reviews have been accurate - this is a true jewel on the Eurodam. I made my reservation on line prior to our cruise to ensure we'd get a table. The soups were very good and very flavourful - I tried the Yin-Yang Scallop Consomme and my wife the Chicken Pho. The Tempura Shrimp were perfectly prepared and as an entree I very much enjoyed the Szechuan Shrimp. In both dishes, the shrimp were huge! And delicious. As a side note, if you order the Szechuan Shrimp and ask for it to be very spicy, they do not scrimp on the chilie sauce. No complaints, it came as ordered. But I'm glad I had a very big glass of water in front of me and that they brought my mango sorbet fairly quickly afterward.
Thankfully, the gym was well equipped and I prefer the stairs to the elevators so I can enjoy the food without guilt, as I've yet to gain weight on a cruise.
As for the shows, I'm sure the musicals were very good but unfortunately I'd rather have root canal than sit through one, but that's me. James Cielen, the magician, was on one night and although this was the 3rd time we've seen him on HAL, he does not cease to amaze me. One night, there was a movie in the show lounge instead of a live show, Water For Elephants. I did really enjoy it. I guess the bottom line is I don't go on cruises for the shows.
we've done almost this same itinerary 4 years ago on the Zuiderdam, so Puerto Rico was the only new stop for us. A very pretty city, we did a 2 hour tour and then toured Castillo de San CristÃ³bal, a very well maintained stone fort just up from the pier. Well worth the walk. The top level gives an excellent view of the city itself, including a view of the ship.
Now for my big complaint. I would one day like to go to the casino on board, but until the smoking stops, this will not happen. This really stinks, pun intended. The fact is I enjoy everything else on the ships and that outways the fact the casino/bar area will continue to be off limits for me. On this cruise thankfully there were not any smoke issues in our room or on the balcony, so it was all good otherwise. At least come January, there will be no smoking in the staterooms. That will bode well for our next cruise.
Overall, aside from the above, Holland America will be my line of choice. We like the demographics as we are not big partiers and enjoy the laid back cruises with the great food and great staff. I still this rate it 10 out of 10 for a mass market cruise line.