This was our first cruise with HAL, and possibly our last (Iíll explain in the summary). We had a GREAT cruise, I just don't think HAL is the right line for us.
Cabin Review and Embarkation:
I found our inside cabin (6065) to be wonderfully spacious. For a ship that is only 2.5 years old, I found the bathroom to be really run down (cracks in the shower base, stained sink etc). The cabin stewards were just okay. We boarded the ship just afternoon. It looks like the first group (of which we were part of) had just been given the all clear. Due to HALís new policy we had early access to our room. Iím not sure how great this policy is as I think the staff is rushing to get all the rooms ready; that cleaning may be sacrificed. There was a few mounds of sand on the carpet. These didn't disappear for a few days. Having just boarded, we didnít bring the sand; it was there from the previous passenger. DH stuck the bar of soap in one of the bathroom drinking glasses. I later pulled it out. The glass was merely rinsed and put back (there were still chunks of soap stuck to it). ewwww ~ I assumed we got freshly machine-washed glasses every day. I hope we had new glasses for our sailing, and not a quick rinse after the previous passengers left. There was also a silver earring back on the counter that was there when we got there and never left. In short, the cleaning practices were not up to par, but we didn't complain. Other than that, the room stewards were friendly and courteous. Any requests, were promptly attended to.
Mariner Lunch & Brunch
We really enjoyed the welcome aboard lunch. It wasnít our best meal on the ship; but it was nice not to eat in the LIDO. This was our first cruise with HAL but we had Mariner status from having sailed with Princess and/or Carnival. We also, by accident and not by invitation, attended the Mariner Brunch. We were given a nice coaster set. Not sure that I will ever use it, but I like free stuff! There were also a few events were complimentary champagne (sparkling wine) was given out. Not the best sparkling wine Iíve heard, but I like free booze!
We only used the MDR and the Lido. Our dining steward (Yunis) was AMAZING. My kids loved him and especially the origami animals he folded for them each day. He was the best dining steward we've ever had. I wasn't impressed with the lido, but I haven't been on any ship other than Carnival dream. In fact, all the dining stewards were amazing (except for one grump we found on the last day). But Yunis was superb, it only took Yunis one night to learn our dining preferences (ex. that we liked our beef cooked to medium rare, or that my daughter liked her food without sauce (or the little ketchup pots that came with fries). After we told him how much we loved fresh berries, every night when we got to our table, was a silver goblet filled with mixed berries.
I know many of you here don't have need for club HAL - but this is seriously the best kid's club at sea, albeit we have not yet sailed on Disney. The head counsellor Cassandra was amazing and clearly loves kids and her job. Let it be known that the Royal Family of Oakville won the Family Scavenger Hunt (okay, we were the only family that participated
). We sailed Carnival last year and my son hated Camp Carnival and refused to go. I don't blame him because the counsellors were terrible. Granted, he is older now and is now used to going to pre-school, but he really enjoyed Club Hal.
This is mostly due to the counsellors who are amazing. We mostly engaged with Cassandra and Amanda who were AWESOME and energetic. The kids loved them.
The club itself is small but adequate. There were 140 kids on our sailing, with 40 in the 3-7 age group. I'd say about 12 to 15 regularly attended club hal.
They have great activities like spy night and alien night, and a pj party at the end. One night they met in the Queen's lounge and made chocolate chip cookies, and watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
They do a lot of arts and crafts.
They also have about 1 family activity scheduled each day, usually at 4PM. I thought this was great because most ships don't cater to the family. Our sailing had a WII tournament, Karaoke, Scavenger Hunt, and a few other activities.
Other than Club Hal, there isn't a lot do to do on this ship for kids. My kids missed the waterslide and mini-golf which they enjoyed on Dream.
Overall, they really enjoyed Club Hal, and often (on sea days) opted to go to Club HAl than go to the pool. Club Hal on HMC was just okay. My son opted to stay with us, while my daughter opted to stay with Club Hal, until she started crying when someone poured water down her back! They did have waterslides at the beach, unfortunately there was not enough moving water to propel the kids down the slide. But HMC itself was beautiful; so who could complain!
On Grandeur of the Seas in the MDR, DH asked if he could get a sandwich without cheese, and he was asked to scrape it off. On Carnival Dream, when my daughter asked for apple slices for dessert, we were told it was not on the menu. On Eurodam, there was not a single service request that was denied. We were VERY IMPRESSED with this.
We didn't have a problem in the rooms (i.e. smell of smoke) ... the only place it really bothered me was in the Casino. There was not a single non-smoking table to be found. I would have left a lot more money behind in the casino, if I didn't have to leave a table every time someone sat down beside me with cigarettes in hand. So perhaps thanks to HAL smoking policy, I left the ship with some money in my pockets.
Ports of Call:
Grand Turk Ė we used the local beach right off the dock. We also used the pool (for anyone who's been to Costa Maya - it is a similar set-up.
St. Thomas - we went to Magen's Bay. The waves were a bit rough for this time of year, and the beach was a bit crowded. We were in port with Allure (or was it Oasis?). Early in the day a wave stole my daughter's sunglasses and then the ocean stole them. She was upset and still laments about "the worst beach EVER". We visited this beach on our honeymoon and it is not as I remember; mostly due to calmer water and the lack of crowds. On our next visit, I might try and find a more secluded beach.
San Juan - we just walked around but it was scattered showers so we quickly returned to ship. The roof over the pool was closed but the water was also too cool.
HMC - was beautiful! My kids just love to search for shells (not too many were to be found!) and build sand castles. They also have these nice floating beds which the kids loved.
Return to Everglades and flying out of FLL:
You might want to tell the ship you have an earlier departing flight than you actually have!
We had a SW flight departing at noon. We were Grey 1.
We were done breakfast, and ready to leave the ship by 8:45. We had to wait another 20 minutes or so before we were called to depart. The security line at the port was pretty long. Nevertheless, we fought our way to the cabs, and made it to the airport just before 10. We tried to stand in front of the skycap; only to be told that the back of the line was - over there! It was a huge line; and we decided to take our chances on the inside. Another huge line; but it moved pretty quickly. We were told that we were among the last 15 to check in; so we had to get boarding passes at the gate. All was good until we got security around 10:30 or so. THE LINE WAS HUGE. There was the basic line, and then a reserve area, and then a line that circled all the way back around the car rental area. I've never seen such a ridiculously long line. We were worried we would not get our boarding passes in time. We did know they would call us from the line if our flight was due; but still, it was too close for comfort.
Oh, and then my 3 year old got randomly selected for a detailed security inspection.
Next time, we'll try not to fly out of FLL on a Saturday; or make sure we can clear the ship in time to brace the security lines.
The Ship and The High Seas
I don't know if it was the rough waters, high winds, or the captain sailing 20 nauts, but that boat was moving. Eurodam is the second smallest ship I've sailed and for the first time in 7 cruises, I was sea sick. Towards the end of the week, the Captain slowed down to 12 nauts, and it was a much smoother ride. We spent most of the week in a bonnine stupor.
We are in our early 40s, and found the ship a little too tame for us but we also were not particularly social as we were travelling with our kids and were not at our best because of the sea sickness. We found a lot of passengers were not particularly tolerant of children. We were actually refused seating at one table during the cupcake tea (the people sitting there did not want us!). Other than that, I found most passengers either looked lovingly at my children and tried to engage them in conversation or were looking at them with disgust as if kids did not belong on a cruise ship. When cruising with our kids, we might seek out a more family friendly ship the next time. However, the main reason we probably won't sail with HAL again is that we found the ship too small (with respect to feeling the movement). I know HAL is not headed in the direction of larger ships, which is too bad for us, because the service levels are excellent and HAL should be very proud of their crew. Even the guys cleaning or servicing the ships were well spoken and helpful; unlike on other lines where the behind-the-scenes crew don't want to engage with passengers.