This is our seventh cruise, but first wtih HAL. We've sailed Carnival, Princess and RC (with RC being our favourite until now).
I booked Eurodam on a whim yesterday as present for the fam, sailing in Mar 2011.
A few questions:
1. Is the buffet any good (just came off Grandeur which had a horrible buffet)
It is OK. Nothing special. Usual type of variety compared to other cruise lines. There is a grill for burgers etc as well.
2. Is the MDR open for lunch on port days? I like to avoid the buffet at all costs.
Not too sure, that may depend on the port.
3. I think I understand how the soda card works, but is there an unlimitted package, like on other lines?
No. The rules are slightly different. Check on the HAL website for the type of card, there are a few different options. You can get a card that is not strictly soda, but you can get smoothies as well.
4. Is the kid's club any good? My kids are 3 and 4.
It will depend on the sailing. Hopefully you are going during March break, otherwise HAL generally caters to seniors and very few children sail on their ships (aside from major holidays). We have had great luck on March break cruises on NCL and Princess where hundreds of kids where sailing and our lads had a blast. On a Maasdam sailing with the lads, there were 5 kids on board, the kids program was dismal.
5. According to the HAL website, it appears that you can bring wine on board, and there are no limitations. I certainly don't want to carry 7 bottles of wine on board, but is that allowed? Is there a good wine store near port everglades to stop at? Or at FLL?
Yes you can carry on a case if you want. You will pay $18 corkage in the dining room if you BYO wine. You can drink you wine in your cabin without corkage.
I cannot remember the name of a good wine store in FLL, I have been to a couple.
6. What time is the early dining? I havent finalized my preference yet. We generally like to eat around 6:30, but I am thinking of trying AYWD. With two young kids though, i don't want long waits. The travel agent seem to think that the early seating was at 5:30 which seems to early.
AYWD is the BEST for kids. You can go in when you like and you can just sit with your family. As I remember when my lads where that age they seemed only to eat the dinner rolls and chicken. Long, drawn out dinners make uphappy kiddies. The lines are never as long as some people whine about, usually you can seated right away, especially earlier than 7PM. There is the Cannaletto area of the buffet, can't go wrong with pasta for the children. The Tamarind and Pinnacle are great, but more "adult night out". If you can get a babysitter (if no Mum with you, then ask at the front desk, there may be a staffer who will babysit for a fee - usually very expensive BTW) then you and your hubby can go on a "date"
7. Are the shows any good?
No, kinda crappy and cheesy. Sometimes you may get a good comedian. Entertainment is not HAL's strong suit. If there is something with dancers all dressed up in feathers and sequins, your little ones will be enchanted.
8. I've been to San Juan before and remember it as being quite industrial - we will probably stay on ship. For the stops in T&C, is there a beach nearby, if so, is it walking distance? I think Magen's Bay is on St. Thomas, in which case we will probably cab it there.
San Juan is one of the coolest ports! Lots to do. Usual stuff like walking around Old San Juan (very interesting), El Morro etc. However, we hired a driver to hike to the tallest peak in El Yunque rain forest (too much of a hike for the wee ones I think) where it rained UP as we were above the clouds! It was nothing like a ship's tour at all. Hiring a driver is great, you can set your pace for the family and see what you like (we have done this in many ports). Never been to T & C. Magen's bay is very popular in St. Thomas. We have chartered a sailboat in St. Thomas and sailed to St. John. Very cool! For a 3 year old though a fun beach day would be great!