Eurodam Cruise - 1-13 - 1-20-12
We flew down to FLL the morning before the cruise on Southwest. Arrived 15 minutes early and luggage was prompt. Taxi to Embassy Suites on 17th street, a great location to stay pre-cruise as there is a lot of shopping and restaurants within walking distance.
We were very fortunate as the Embassy was able to get us into a room upon arrival. We explored the hotel to get our bearings and ventured out to find "Total Wine." We actually never made it to total wine as we stopped in Publix to shop for a sunhat and found a great inexpensive wine selection. We bought two bottles of wine for room consumption. Enjoyed the afternoon at the hotel pool, and went out for an early dinner.
After dinner we visited with some cruising friends nearby and then retired for the evening. Saturday morning we enjoyed the Embassy breakfast and walked over to the 17th street bridge. We climbed the bridge and watched the drawbridge open to let boat traffic through. We counted six ships in port. Headed back and stopped at Dollar Tree. Many ship crewmembers were shopping on this Saturday morning.
At about 11:00 we headed down to the lobby, attached our luggage tags, and headed out to a waiting shuttle. We were the last people they needed so we headed right out. Two other couples were embarking the Oasis of the Seas and we dropped them off first. I will say I was impressed with what appeared to be a very efficient drop off arrangement at the Oasis terminal. Next we went straight to pier 26 and the Eurodam.
A porter immediately took our bags while we paid the shuttle driver. With an 11:20 arrival, there was no wait to enter the terminal. We were handed boarding number 21. We filled out the health questions and went directly to check in - no wait. A very friendly gentleman checked us in and asked for "Room number?"
We gave him the room number we had just been assigned days before, #1105, a "DD" outside on deck 1. He said "Michele and Jim?" We said no, we are not them. He asked for our names and we told him. He looked in the computer and smiled. He said our room had been changed. We were now in 7032, a "VA" Verandah on deck 7. He showed us where on the ship it was, and congratulated us on our upgrade. For everyone on cruise critic who asks about "Check in upgrades" it CAN happen! ?
I asked about the luggage as it was tagged with 1105. He told us not to worry as the alphabetical passenger list gets checked. We were handed our key cards and sent upstairs to wait for embarkation.
We only waited perhaps 15 minutes and were on board at 11:57. The obligatory welcome aboard photos was taken and actually came out very nice. We headed straight to the cabin to drop off the laptop and small carry-on bag with our swimwear. After marveling at our good fortune with the upgrade, we found our way to the Rembrandt dining room for the Mariner's welcome aboard lunch. Lunch was good - but a warning to future cruisers - avoid the chicken. Dessert was better. We were actually seated next to our assigned dinner table and were pleased to see our "Table for 4" request had been met. After lunch we headed up to the spa (now two flights directly above our stateroom) to sign up for the thermal suite/hydro pool package. We really enjoy our mornings or return from port times in the hydro pool and on the heated loungers.
We sat in on part of a cooking demonstration at the culinary arts center and headed back to our room in the hopes that the luggage was there. No, it wasn't. We met our cabin attendants, Sri and Zam. We mentioned to them that our cabin had been changed and they said they would check if our luggage was delivered to the other cabin. We explored the ship a bit more and 40 minutes later stopped by the cabin to find all our luggage was there! We were able to get about 75% unpacked before the safety drill beckoned us to Deck 3.
Down to the lifeboats we went, but also very happy there is no need to bring the life vest itself any longer. After the safety briefing we slowly followed the crowd back to the hallways and walked up the four flights of stairs back to our room where we completed the unpacking and I stowed the suitcases under the bed. A knock on our door was Macy of the front office staff delivering our pre-ordered beverage and soda cards. She said she thought we might be getting thirsty by now!
Quite suddenly we realized that with our 5:30 early seating dinner, we had little time to dawdle! Quick showers and clean clothes later, we arrived near the Rembrandt to find a long line to enter. We knew where our table was but chose not to "Cut the line." Soon enough we made it to the front, told the checker we knew where we were going, and headed to table 78. We met our tablemates, who were actually on this same cruise last week - they booked back to backs. They had requested to stay with the same wait staff and were moved one table from the prior week. Sure enough, the wait staff this first night was superb - seeing to several requests for multiple appetizers and entrees. The prime rib was excellent, as it has been the last few HAL cruises we have taken.
Dinner was followed by a visit to the Ocean Bar and a couple of dances. We then headed up to the Crow's Nest to enjoy Jamie, the solo guitarist, as well as the late happy hour! Jamie played nearly 15 minutes past his 9:00 ending time and the small group in the Crow's Nest all seemed to really appreciate it. We headed down to the shops for the 9:30 raffle. We are not big fans of on-board shopping, but will admit the shop staff made this a very entertaining event. Following this (no, we didn't win anything) we headed back to the cabin to call it a night.
Sunday morning brought us a beautiful sunrise as we sailed through the Bahamas. We had ordered coffee, tea, and fruit for a 7 - 7:30 delivery and at 7:02 there was a knock on the door with a smiling room service waiter. We enjoyed our early breakfast, put on swim wear, and walked the two short flights up to the spa. Yes, we arrived 15 minutes before the official opening time for the Hydro pool but the spa attendant let us in.
We found we were not the first as another couple was already in the pool! No problem, they were happy for the company and we enjoyed sharing a few cruising tales. We enjoyed the pool and then the thermal loungers. Next we found our way to the "Relaxation room" and were able to re-hydrate.
After a quick wardrobe change we headed to the Lido for a late breakfast. We enjoyed our omelet and eggs benedict, as well as an assortment of fruit and bread. The raisin bread was especially good. We sat outside on the aft port deck. Port is posted as non-smoking. After breakfast we headed down to the Promenade deck to walk the wrap around deck. Three times around equals a mile. We did our three times around and stopped at the front desk and Macy was there, smiling as usual. We broke a few $20's so we would have pocket dollars for special tips and for going ashore.
We enjoyed lunch in the Rembrandt dining room as Calamari was an appetizer. Lunch was very enjoyable. We greatly enjoyed a very relaxing afternoon on our balcony until it was time for the Royal Dutch Tea. We enjoy the Dutch pastries that are always offered at the tea. We played some trivia, and took advantage of the early happy hour and the Ocean bar. Today was the first formal night so we headed back to our cabin to get ready, but not before I attended a photography presentation by the hotel manager, Marco Van Bellingham. He's been with Holland America for many years, including three world cruises and has his photos published in many travel magazines.
We were alone at our table tonight as our tablemates were comp'd a dinner in Tamarind as a thank you for booking back to back. Service was excellent with the only negative comment being that the King Crab Legs, one of two recommended entrees, were a rather messy entrÃ©e to serve on formal night. Even though the portions had all been pre-sliced, they were still messy to eat. Service was prompt and we were out of the dining room by 7:00 and then enjoyed the Neptune's at the Ocean bar until an ill-timed break. We wandered the ship searching for some music and finally found Jamie setting up in the Crow's nest.
The traditional Captain's welcome toast is tonight so we headed to the showroom. The Captain did a more thorough job than we have typically seen introducing the senior staff and explaining what each was responsible for. After the toast we stayed for the show, until we were too tired and less than captivated by the singers and dancers.
Monday brings us to Grand Turk. The Grand Turk cruise center was built by Carnival in 2006. It is a very nice facility with the typical Caribbean cruise port shops. There is a huge Margaretville with what is said to be one of the largest swimming pools in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the morning was damp with rain on and off and heavy at times. There were also high winds. We did get off the Eurodam to walk around the port and snapped a bunch of photos, but returned to the ship about an hour later quite wet.
A quick change into swimsuits brought us to the hydro pool where the lovely warm waters chased away any chill. We took advantage of all the thermal suite privileges and examined the daily explorer. As this was a port day, the Rembrandt was closed. Strangely, the Pinnacle was open for lunch for a $10/person surcharge. As we had no plans for a Pinnacle dinner this cruise, we decided to try lunch at the Pinnacle.
I will say this - positive, the food was superb. Negative, service was lacking. To make a long story short, lunch took us over 1 Â½ hours. We were in no huge rush, but a party next to us was seated 45 minutes after we were and were served dessert five minutes after ours. The ma'tre de asked how our lunch was and I told him both how good the food was and how disappointed we were in the service. He asked for details and we shared them. We were offered dinner tonight to demonstrate how good they can be and we decided to take him up on the offer.
We enjoyed some time on the balcony watching the last people return from Grand Turk and then watched the sail away. As the ship turned into the wind the balcony become a bit windy!
I stopped in the main dining room to tell our table mates we would not be joining them tonight. Dinner in the Pinnacle was excellent all around. DW didn't think the Lobster Mac & Cheese was quite as good as many seem to think on Cruise Critic, but from the appetizers, salad, main courses, and desserts - we were very pleased with the food and the service. Something I've not experienced before is that the main dining room staff seems very concerned when someone misses a dinner, and, one of the couples at our table for four was eating elsewhere three evenings in a row. We saw our waiter in the Lido the following day and he asked if we would be dining in the Rembrandt that night, and he seemed relieved when we assured him we were.
Monday afternoon and night we had rough seas but slept very well overnight. Tuesday morning was rather like a sea day. Again we ordered coffee, tea, and some danish for 7:00 - 7:30 delivery and right about 7:01 there was a knock on the door. We enjoyed these on our verandah. Next we were off to the hydro-pool and thermal suite. All was well. We dressed for our port call in San Juan and enjoyed the sail-in past El Morro from our balcony.
We docked right on time (if not a few minutes early) in San Juan. I had printed off an extensive walking tour of old San Juan and we started off to tour. Just a few blocks from the ship we spied a tourist info office and stopped in. They suggested we take the free trolley/bus up to El Morro and walk back using our tour. We followed her suggestion. The wind on El Morro's walls was ferocious - we had to hold our hats on our heads! While on El Morro's walls, the Celebrity Solstice sailed by as they were due for a 3:00 docking. We were back on board at 5:05, after buying a few bottles from the duty free shop in the terminal, and realized we had only 30 minutes to get ready for dinner.
We knew our tablemates were eating in Canaletto tonight, so at least we weren't holding them up. We did get the dining room before 5:45 and noticed there were a lot of empty tables. Our service was superb, and even with DW's "Medium" steak being sent back after coming in very well done and then quickly replaced, we completed dinner by 7:00.
After dinner we danced in the Ocean Bar until the Neptune's took a break. We went in search of the Adagio Strings and found they were also on break. In fact, every time we've looked for them they've been on break! So we headed off to the crow's nest hoping to find Jamie and his guitar. One of the bar staff told us that Jaime went on break 10 minutes earlier. What is this that every live group takes breaks at the same time? In any case, we then headed to the Lido as a Lido party was on the schedule for 9:00.
We ran into our tablemates and they invited us to sit with them. The Hal Cats started playing and a great party time was had by all. The galley staff also set up a mini buffet. All in all, we enjoyed a very nice evening.
Wednesday brought us to St Thomas. Seven ships were scheduled here today. As late as a week before the cruise (the last time I checked the St Thomas Port authority's web site) we were scheduled to dock in Haven sight (which is not the usual dock for Eurodam). On Monday we heard that Eurodam would be tendering in to St. Thomas. The tender process was quite smoothly, but it greatly added to the transit time from ship to whatever guests had planned for the day. We anchored way off shore, 20 minutes by tender. Coming back the wind had really whipped up the waves in the outer harbor, and that tender was moving around like an amusement park thrill ride.
On St Thomas, we took a group taxi over to Sapphire beach. The wind was extremely strong at the beach and as much as I wanted to go in and enjoy the much stirred up water we were quite chilled while dry. So after two hours or so we headed back to downtown to walk around a little and get back to Eurodam, lunch, and the hydro pool.
We enjoyed the sail away from our Balcony and went to dinner. Dinner was good, not great, tonight, although the service level remained very high. After dinner we danced quite a bit at the Ocean bar and spent a good 15 minutes talking with the drummer between sets. We headed up to the lido deck at about 10:00 to have a table for the "Dutch dessert extravaganza" starting at 10:30. I took a bunch of photos and we enthusiastically thanked the chefs for their contribution to the evening before the desserts were open for sampling.
Thursday was the second (and last) sea day of this seven day cruise. It was also the first day of really nice weather! We did something new today; we ordered a full room service breakfast. It arrived exactly on time and the hot items were piping hot. We could get spoiled for sure! We enjoyed breakfast on our balcony as the sea became bluer with each passing moment. The ship's direction did not allow us to witness the sunrise, but the sea made it clear. We were in no hurry today and enjoyed watching the birds dive into the ocean to feed on the flying fish that tended to fly away from the waves caused by Eurodam' s sailing by.
After being up and about, and dressed for the Mariner's lunch, we checked out the deck sale by the Lido pool. Didn't buy anything, and headed down to the Promenade deck for a walk. We did get our mile walk in, but the "Walk for the cure" was happening at the same time and some of those walkers are super-serious. Soon enough it was 11:30 and time for our lunch.
Okay - the Mariner's lunch. We really truly appreciate Hal's gift of Dutch delft tiles to their returning Mariners. That's the good. The bad is that your menu choices are extremely limited and not very appealing. The most appealing main course was Short ribs, but I had that exact same dish for dinner the evening before. I settled on trout and it was okay, but I needed to remove the skin myself.
After lunch I took in a "Life on the seas" Q & A with the captain, hotel director, and chief engineer. One person asked about the "Vibration" which can be felt in some areas of the ship. The engineer gave an evasive answer; there are "Many things" that can cause vibrations, etc. Honestly, for the first two days of the cruise we never felt any vibration. However, there are specific areas of the ship where it can be felt. The lido in the area near the Terrace Grill for one. It seems to be on that starboard side, from mid-ship and aft. Speaking with one of our tablemates at the Indonesian tea, they said their cabin is on deck 8 immediately below the Terrace Grill and it is noticeable.
I left the Q & A to attend a session in the Digital Workshop on "The cloud." Even though I arrived before the stated start time, the room was well beyond capacity with people lined up around the doorway. I later learned that this was the case for most of the sessions. HAL - if something is this popular perhaps it should be held in a larger venue?
Speaking of the tea, it was excellent as usual. I always try to get this Indonesian tea on our schedule when sailing HAL as the tea is really good and I feel it supports the crew to show interest in their homeland. After tea, we grabbed a small ice cream in the lido, and sat on the aft deck watching the steel drummer from the Hal cats setting up for "Learn to play the steel drum." Well, I decided to give it a try. He was very patient, explained the process to make the steel drum, and we learned to play a scale and some basic introductory song portions. It was fun!
Next we prepared for the second formal night. Dinner tonight was excellent. All four of us had the "Surf and Turf" with an extra lobster tail. Earlier we had decided that after dinner, we would use our thermal suite passes. This ended up being an excellent plan as we were completely alone in both the hydro pool and the thermal loungers.
Friday morning brought us to Half Moon Cay. We had a very enjoyable day. We were on the first tender over, using shore-based tenders. These larger tenders carry a lot of people! We found a few loungers in some natural shade and settled in to relax and read. I brought my own snorkeling gear and I did use this a couple of times. HAL has sunken some concrete forms in the swimming area near the inlet. Coral is starting to show signs of growing on these and the fish sure seem to like them.
We partook of the lunch but somehow it didn't seem as memorable as the lunch we had there last March. Some of the bar staff came around with drinks in take home plastic cups and we appreciated not having to trek off somewhere to quench our growing thirst.
About 1:40 or so we headed to the tender pier and back to the Eurodam. We enjoyed some beverages and ice cream from the Lido, and then headed over for our last visit to the Hydro-Pool and heated loungers. I stopped by the front desk to get some envelopes for some extra tips as both our room stewards and Rembrandt dining room servers have been outstanding.
The last evening on board always brings mixed feelings. We ran into our tablemates on the way to dinner. I had my envelopes prepared and they mentioned that "We think alike" as they were also prepared. The last dinner is the "Master Chef's dinner." This is not one of my favorite HAL traditions. The menu was printed on cut paper that kind of looked like a hat. I quickly realized that while I could choose an entrÃ©e, none of the appetizers or soups/salads appealed to me (there is a limited selection for this dinner). Not entirely joking, I asked my DW if we should go to the Lido?
Wan, our waiter came by and as usual, took the ladies orders first. Then he asked me and I told him that nothing in the appetizers or soups appealed to me. He asked "What would you like?" I suggested that a shrimp cocktail, even if made from the baby shrimp seen earlier in the week, would be great. He said he would see what he could do. Anyway, Wan soon brought the other three appetizers and asked for my patience as he was still working on something for me. Soon he appeared with a lovely plate with four large shrimp and sauce. I enjoyed those very much. Next, to show you all the kind of service Wan gave us, when he brought everyone else their soup and salad, he brought me another shrimp plate. Wow, talk about service!!!
On Eurodam at least the march of the baked Alaska seemed a bit more subdued than on other recent ships, but actually more enjoyable. We really enjoyed this final dinner and the appreciation shown by the staff was as gracious as their service. The same was true of our room stewards, who we ran into the next morning at disembarkation.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We did the "Walk off" and waited about 20 minutes after they first announced that the ship was clear. We literally "Walked off" with no line at any point, walked right up to customs, who took our form, gave a quick glance at our passports, and wished us a safe trip home. Five minutes or so after we walked off, while waiting for the car rental shuttle; we heard the announcement for the first color group to start disembarking.
In summary, I'm giving this cruise 4.5 out of 5 stars. While perhaps beyond their control, the non-scheduled tender operations in St. Thomas were a significant detraction from our shore call there. We would have gone back ashore after changing out of our swimwear had we been docked, and this was not possible with a rough 20 minute tender ride in and out of port, so that lost the good ship Eurodam a half star.