First timers (apart from a very brief taster cruise on Costa) in our 50's/60's and not really into the idea of cruising, but were attracted by the itinerary which covered mainly the Norwegian Fjords and Scotland. We did indeed like the destinations but also found the time on board surprisingly enjoyable.
Eurodam is probably only a mid sized ship in today's market but it still seemed pretty big to us. Although full, it was always possible to find a quieter spot. We liked the sleeker more liner type appearance of the ship compared to big dumpy cruise ships. Above all, we liked the fact that the decor was not as garish as many; for example we were impressed with the quality art and artefacts around the corridors and public rooms, it made the ship seem classier. The rather trashy art gallery (outsourced to a third party) and the equally trashy casino were minor blips, but overall the ship had a nice vibe. It's also reasonably stable in rougher seas and we had no problem with noise or vibration, except sometimes at low speeds in the cabin- but what you'd expect if you are afloat.
We were in 4174, a VC balcony cabin. We were slightly concerned because it was the last cabin before the stern, but this didn't matter and there was no problem with the ship's movement. The big advantage of the deck 4 balcony cabins at the front and back are the bigger balconies than other decks (the ones in the middle of deck 4 don't have this and have obstructed views). Not only did we have plenty of room to sit out, it also gave the cabin itself a more spacious feel when you had the curtains open. And these are fairly compact cabins in reality, space for a big double bed and a very small sofa and sitting area. Think small hotel room. But for a ship, it seemed fine to us and became something of a sanctuary after our days out. Bathroom had only a shower but this suited us fine.
Activities and Entertainment
We were not really inclined to join in much and in particular, avoided the hard sell for the casino, art gallery and shops. My wife had a couple of treatments in the spa but it was quite pricey- look out for deals on board. The hydro pool was good but we avoided the main pools (though the Lido Pool area looked nicely designed). We enjoyed sitting out on our balcony listening to the commentary as we left each port. We weren't much into the entertainment either, but enjoyed the magic show and the BB King band were also OK. Liked the classical duo Adaggio but it was a little spoilt by the lead member not being able to project her voice when introducing the music. We found Silk Den was the quietest of the bars.
As foodies, we had some doubts about quality but were pleasantly surprised. The MDR had an interesting menu and managed to add some nice touches to many of the dishes, given we are talking mass catering here and most stuff is frozen. It's actually quite impressive how they can even manage everything- it's a well oiled machine. We tried all of the speciality dining and these were definitely a step above, as you would expect since they have their own kitchens and serve much smaller numbers. Pinnacle served an excellent Porterhouse steak, the pan Asia at Tamarind was as good as a landside restaurant and we celebrated my birthday on the Le Cirque evening at the Pinnacle; my wife did better than me with her choice, but overall it was pretty good quality. We avoided the Lido- not a fan of buffets or crowds- but did try Canaletto which is tucked away in the corner with its own menu and with table service. Felt this was well worth the $10 charge. We found the wine list to be very uninspiring at the lower end and frankly somewhat overpriced. You need to spend $35 minimum to get even a halfway drinkable bottle. I brought my own wine onboard- corkage at $18 per bottle. It meant that for the same $35, I could have some very decent bottles. I was impressed that unfinished bottles arrived back on the table next evening, even when we had moved to a different restaurant.
We arranged all these ourselves- the ship's are expensive and poor value. Some ports were deep water, others needed tenders; the process for the latter was reasonably efficient, as was embarkation and disembarkation at the beginning and end of the cruise. Norway tended to be deep water ports, so you got off pretty much into the city centre- ideal! Scotland's deep water ports in Greenock and Invergordon were a long way away from the real sights and the latter proved to be a bit of a nightmare on transport. It really isn't big enough to handle such large ships, with a monopoly provider for car rental, not enough taxis and a non functioning bus service. HAL should really organise a shuttle bus to Inverness for this port.
We thought this was excellent; professional but also very warm and friendly. We had the impression of a happy ship and crew and it does seem as though HAL takes some effort to look after them all, given how arduous their work is. I hope HAL continue to do so- it makes a big difference to be served by people with genuine not forced smiles on their face. The MDR guys were lovely to deal with, always happy to have a joke and our cabin attendants were very nice too. The people in Pinnacle and Tamarind were exceptional. Everyone seemed to greet you with a smile. We may have got lucky but this really did make the cruise for us. Beforehand I somewhat resented the big $24 per day service charge but by the end, I happily paid this and handed out a few other smaller tips as well.
We're not exactly rushing to go on another cruise but if and when we do, HAL will definitely be a contender. It was a higher quality experience overall than I expected and given the price we paid- which was something of a bargain at the last minute- we felt it was exceptional value for money.
This is a smart choice because its balcony is quite a bit bigger than the other decks. Be careful of deck 4 cabins in the middle; these have small balconies and obstructed views. Our cabin only had a shower but we don't tend to use baths so this was fine. It wasn't huge in size and we sometimes got in each other's way with the wardrobes but given we're on a ship, it was acceptable. In fact we spent quite a bit of time here, it was something of a sanctuary. The weather was quite cold but we still used the balcony a lot, helped by the very clever provision of warm blankets.