I'm a bit late with this review but here goes. I'd planned this trip for a long time but was concerned that I might miss the best of the fall colors. I needn't have worried. Fall was late, we had beautiful sunny weather and the colors were wonderful. I stayed for three nights in Quebec City before the cruise. It's such a beautiful city and I would recommend spending one or two days there beforehand. Several people on the cruise said they were sorry they hadn't done that.
While I checked out of my hotel, I met up with some Australians just off the Eurodam who told me about the bad weather they'd had which meant they'd missed Sydney. I took a taxi at 11.30am which got caught up in the queue of cars trying to reach the ship so cost $15 including tip. Although there was quite a line, boarding was relatively quick and by 12.30pm I'd dropped my carryon luggage in my cabin and was seated in the Rembrandt dining room (open to Mariners on the first day) enjoying a delicious lunch served to me while looking up at a wonderful view of the old city.
The Eurodam is very modern and sleek. I liked the warm earth colors of the decor and everything felt new and in good order. However the layout isn't as good as on older HAL ships that I've been on. Putting the Explorations CafÃ© up by the Crows Nest restricts space for both. And getting to the Crows Nest from the Lido involves going through the Spa. The cabanas seemed to be an unnecessary intrusion and take up too much space on the Lido deck. I missed the spacious feel of the Promenade deck on our last ship, the Volendam, which just wasn't there on the Eurodam. The Queens Lounge seemed to be used mostly for culinary demonstrations where you sit quite a distance from the cooking and broke up the space on the Lower Promenade as do the shops on the Promenade deck. But the area around the atrium is much better utilized than I've seen before and made a welcoming space.
Service was excellent from all the Indonesian and Phillipino staff. Pity I can't say the same for the Front Office, Excursions desk and Explorations CafÃ©. At best the Front Office staff were mildly pleasant but at other times were offhand and casual in their attitude. And when I had a problem with one of the tours I'd booked because of my physical limitations, the Excursions staff were totally unhelpful. I was just passed from one person to another and no one could be bothered listening to me. It felt like once they had your money, they just didn't care. However the worst was the man in charge of the internet desk on the last day when internet was made free to allow passengers to change their disembarkation arrangements for the late arrival. He was downright surly, refused to speak and finally just thrust a piece of paper at me when I dared to persist in asking for help.
I'm quite a foodie and found the food to be much the same as experienced on other HAL cruises. I prefer to have lunch in the dining room when possible and it was always good. Though it would be an idea to change the menu for the Mariners brunch which was identical to the one I'd had on my last cruise. When I did eat in the Lido, there was a good selection. I always ate dinner in the dining room except for the last night when I wanted to avoid the Master Chef dinner so went to the Lido where I was pleasantly surprised -- the food is the same as in the dining room and you can vary an entrÃ©e by having different accompaniments. Once again, I was disappointed by some of the desserts which seemed bland and uninteresting. Exceptions were the fabulous "Watermelon" pie, a concoction of raspberry and lime sherbert served the first day, and the great bread puddings. The ice-cream was very disappointing, being rather watery and flavourless. It didn't compare at all well to the great ice-cream to be found in many of the ports. I was lucky enough to be given a complimentary dinner in the Pinnacle Grill by my TA which I thoroughly enjoyed. The food was wonderful and it was fun sitting by the railing watching people go past the atrium. I didn't go to many shows but found the entertainment not as good as on our last cruise. Team Trivia was popular but I do wish they would put it on at a later time.
I had an obstructed view cabin which still had a good view and the full length windows let in plenty of light. The cabin was well fitted out and very comfortable, and my cabin stewards were great. However the ship was noisy during the rough weather we had near the end of the cruise. There was a lot of creaking and groaning but was worse was the tapping noise coming from above at night. Others on my deck also said they heard it and we wondered if it was something to do with the balconies on the next deck up.
With one exception I loved the ports on this itinerary --
Saguenay: the locals put on a great welcoming display on the dock with people in costume and complimentary samples of maple taffy, blueberry chocolates etc. The ship terminal was lovely with free wifi inside and out. The hop on hop off bus was great value at $10 for two circuits with guides on the buses and at all the stops. Highlights were seeing the great flocks of white snow geese out in the bay and the scenic cruising out of the fiord when we departed.
Gaspe: I booked the 5 hour A Stroll through Perce tour which was very disappointing. We were put on an uncomfortable school bus for the moderately scenic drive to Perce. But the village was tiny and nearly everything was closed. After a boring walk up a headland to see the Perce rock and to a church, we were left to our devices for nearly two hours before the ride back on the school bus. When I spoke to the Excursions staff, they weren't interested and just said that sometimes there was a shortage of coaches but we paid the same rate as those who were taken on proper coaches.
Charlottetown: I went on the 7 hr The Best of Prince Edward Island which I enjoyed despite the light rain. We saw a lot of the island including a good visit to the Anne of Green Gables house. The only downside was the low quality lunch provided with very small servings.
Sydney: I didn't do any tours but was impressed with the band and singer that greeted and farewelled the ship. The large terminal was good but unfortunately the wifi didn't work very well.
Hailfax: I joined some other Cruise Critic members on a private tour with Les from Hailfax Taxi Tours. It was fantastic. We drove all around the historical part of Hailfax, went to Peggy's Cove, and drove through some beautiful scenery on a lovely, sunny day. This was one of the highlights of the cruise for me.
Bar Harbor: I was up early as I had booked a tour with Arcadia Tours. Luckily there was no line for Immigration for non-Americans and I got a tender ticket right away. In fact, I was ashore long before I needed to be so I went to an internet cafe to check my emails and looked round the shops which had some good bargains at the end of the season. The 2Â½ hr tour of the Arcadia National Park was excellent and I would recommend this company.
Gloucester: There seemed to be no good reason why we went to this port rather than Boston as was originally advertised, unless it was to save port charges or force people to take the ship's tours. It was too far for people to get independently to and from Boston which was where most people wanted to go. We could see the skyline in the distance which was most frustrating and those that took the tour had to get up ridiculously early. I took the tour to the Beauport Mansion and Rockport which was moderately interesting but overpriced for what you got.
Newport: the fine weather finally gave out on us with rain all day. After walking around town for a while, the rain got worse so I decided against taking a tour and went back to the ship.
The weather worsened the next day with 25 foot waves. However the ship was pretty stable although several people got sick. By the following day, the seas had calmed but the captain advised us that we were going to be an hour docking at Fort Lauderdale so they had cancelled all tours in Fort Lauderdale and changed all bookings to an airport transfers. I was very disappointed to miss out on the 4 hr Land and Sea tour I'd booked. With 24 hours to go we would have thought the ship could have made up the time or they could have shortened the tours. After that everything became chaotic. Despite the frequent announcements, a lot of people didn't receive correct disembarkation papers. Mine told me told me which color my luggage labels were but didn't give me any. Instead there was a voucher for independent disembarkation. So I joined all other guests lining up at the Front office to get it sorted out. The next day was no better with long lines and crowds everywhere and you were left on your own to try and find the right bus for the transfer to the airport.
I had a great time on this cruise but I was a little disappointed that the famous HAL service was lacking in some areas. However the ports were beautiful and we were incredibly lucky getting such wonderful weather.