Eurodam Cruise Review by Ready2go11
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
As usual, HAL does a great job with decorating for Christmas in a classic, tasteful way. A gingerbread village was on Deck 1 in the Atrium and smelled so good when you were anywhere near it. I did notice a few less decorated trees this year (this is the 6th Christmas cruise my family has taken). The ship itself was in good repair, and we noticed some upgrades in the public areas from our last cruise on the Eurodam in March of 2018, including carpeting and seating in all public areas. They had reinstituted a book exchange in the Crow’s Nest and games, including 2 permanent Danish large wood games, can now be found in the Gallery Bar adjoining the casino (puzzles were still upstairs in the Crow’s Nest). I have always loved the Gallery Bar for the quiet atmosphere since it is tucked away, although it was less quiet on this cruise when the extra children and families on board for the holidays used it as a hangout. Still it was nice to have a place to go and they have many more games available than before.
I have been fortunate/blessed enough on all my cruises to have had at least a balcony cabin and many have been in suites, but for some reason the balcony (class VF) on the Eurodam seemed smaller than usual to me. However, it was clean and comfortable. The cabin stewards were friendly and efficient, and we always enjoy having adjoining cabins so the balcony portion can be opened to allow travel between the rooms. It allows us to use an open/closed curtain system to know when others are willing to be disturbed.
Our first two days were at sea, including Christmas Day, which was very relaxing on board.
This was our first cruise out of San Diego and to the Mexican Baja Peninsula so we enjoyed the new places. San Diego is as beautiful as I heard. The hills, water and walkable streets were a feast for the senses and we especially enjoyed our time eating our way through Little Italy. There is a beautiful Catholic church there where we attended services.
I was excited to visit the old Love Boat route, having grown up watching that show and always wishing I could be Julie McCoy. Our first stop at Puerta Vallarta was entertaining as we booked a walking food tour in the old part of the city (vallartafoodtours.com/food-tours/). Our tour guide Bernardo was knowledgeable and friendly. It was 3 ½ hours so a lot of walking was involved but all pretty much on flat ground- just wear good walking shoes. We stopped and 8 places sampling 9 types of food and drink. I can’t name a favorite because I enjoyed the chocolate shop, agua fresca, tuba water, street tacos and everything so much! I highly recommend this tour that was a 10 minute ride from the ship, which included history, a visit to the historic church and across the bridge to the island. The iguanas roaming the streets were entertaining. Note: the taxi from the ship areas was $24 for 3 of use to the meeting place at the end of the boardwalk. The ride back from in town was only $8 for all of us. I am sure there are risks with walking outside the ship area to get a taxi but it would be considerably cheaper. On the way back we had our driver drop us at the Walmart that was across the street from the cruise port. We always enjoy walking into foreign grocery stores to see the different products and we struck gold here, buying a liter of Kahlua for $8.50 USD!
We were less thrilled with Mazatlán. After reading about State Department warning, we only briefly walked outside the cruise ship area here, not venturing into the old town. It requires a tram ride from the ship to the cruise terminal area where many shops and vendors await, as it is a working, busy port. I did buy something at an ice cream stand ($3 minimum purchase) so I could obtain wifi and get email from work. We also enjoyed margaritas and spicy chips and homemade salsa at the bar in the center of the plaza.
The next stop was Cabo, which was a clear favorite. The areas we visited (historic, shopping and port areas) were clean, felt very safe and we enjoyed a visit to Cabo Wabo Cantina for delicious, spicy fajitas and ceviche, as well as delicious tequila based drinks. The food and drink prices there and at the bar we stopped at on the waterfront were very reasonable. Cabo was beautiful as we entered and beautiful as we left. It was definitely a place I would come back and visit for a longer period of time. We would have liked more time there than the 6 hours we had, since we had to be back on board at 2:30 and really be prepared even earlier to head back since it required a tender.
We then enjoyed a final day at sea before arriving back in San Diego on Sunday where the disembarkation process was easy as well. We waited in our cabin after a quick breakfast (a welcome benefit for HAL who lets you do this) until our time to exit was called. We quickly found our luggage and exited the terminal. Again because it is small, it is easy to get beyond the secured area to pick up an Uber or taxi to the airport.
Food and Drinks:
Although HAL has a pretty clear brand, over my many voyages there has been variability as to the quality of the food, really meaning between good and great. This trip fell into the great category and is a testament to the Hotel Director, as well as the head chef and chief bakers. Perhaps because Hal caters to an older crowd who may be more conscious of a lower salt diet, I have found food on other trips to be a little bland. Not so on this trip, where the proper use of salt in all items, including bread made the products more flavorful. The desserts had a fresher, more vibrant taste, as did our entrees in the dining room and food from the Lido Market. We enjoyed all of the specialty restaurants at least once (using our newly acquired Mariner discount) and all were enjoyable. Canaletto in particular was a better experience than on prior trips as the food quality was good and the service was at least twice as fast on prior visits. A major concern about this venue to the time it takes to order and receive different courses. This was a much improved experience and they have now added an additional entrée as a special of the day. I would like to see that at all of the specialty restaurants as it adds something different if you have dined there many times.
We did attend afternoon tea on two occasions, one with plated services and one with waiters walking around serving. The food, consistent with the other dining venues, was better on this cruise. The Lido Buffet was very good (an effusive thank you to Rouisa who served us breakfast at the Lido most mornings we ate there- the friendliest employee HAL has). Denada was another roving server in the Lido who was always welcoming.
Beverage service on this cruise was some hit and some miss. They had 5 specialty holiday cocktails we enjoyed trying, both throughout the trip and at a $15 bar class where we tried 3 of the specialty cocktails and took home the recipes.
One pour note (sorry for the bad pun but I couldn’t resist): they have a new Dale DeGroff cocktail menu and we were excited to try some cocktails. However, it was only 2 weeks old and they did not have all the correct ingredients listed so the bartender liberally used substitutes. However, you cannot substitute cinnamon syrup in a drink with ground cinnamon and think it is the same. Other substitutions were for cheaper brands of liquor, or leaving out ingredients altogether. The bar tender apologized and we actually asked him to remake one drink because he didn’t measure and it tasted awful. I was disappointed to pay anything for these drinks and believe they should have told us upfront that they could not make the requested items. Also, for new drinks, measuring ingredients is necessary, even for experienced bartenders.
As mentioned, we enjoyed the holiday drinks, particularly one called the Christmas Cookie and other HAL menu staples such as the Tropical Cable Car, but found significant variations from bar to bar as to taste and alcohol level.
In another instance, we were given two wine lists in the main dining room and had no problems ordering from both (the older one being much more extensive). However, at the Pinnacle the next night, the wine steward did not want to give us the old menu, stating that most of the wines in it had been discontinued. In fact, our choice of a bottle was not available. To her credit, she did substitute a similar type that was a few dollars more for the same price. All in all, some consistency from bar to bar is still needed.
Entertainment and Other:
My only other comment is regarding Internet service. The HAL app is very useful and I like being able to see events, my shipboard account and keep track of ship time using my phone or iPad. However, when I purchased the Internet package (mid-tier so I could keep in touch with work), it would download the message line of emails, but never download the content so I could read the body. These were not emails with large attachments, and my sole visit to the customer service desk on this trip was to ask if there was a problem with the Internet. The response was that we were at sea so it could be slower. Clearly never getting an email to fully download (even after 20 minutes) is more than being slow. However, they promptly refunded the full charge to my account when I asked for a refund due to the service issue.
Although I stopped and listened at BB King, Billboard and Lincoln Center a few times I did not partake in any scheduled nightly entertainment. I did want to see the comedy show that only had one viewing, but by the time we arrived at the theatre, it was already standing room only.
It seemed there were a few more activities scheduled, including dance classes and we enjoyed the EXE talks about Mexico’s history and geology.
I remain a loyal HAL cruiser and continue my journey towards 4-star before I retire and take my 30+ day cruise as a reward. This trip was better than most, and our next cruise was already booked several months ago so my new countdown has begun!
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