My wife and I were on the same November 4-11 cruise on the Eurodam.
Our first cruise, 20 years ago was on a Holland America ship, but this was our first HAL cruise since, with 14 on other lines in between.
Having just turned 69, I expected to have reached the perceived HAL demographic but still felt like a kid compared to many others on board. I admire those who defy their age and mobility difficulties and continue to enjoy cruise vacations.
We didn't use the spa facilities other than one visit my wife did for a facial. She enjoyed it immensely.
We ate in the MDR every night and can understand noise concerns. We were next to a noisy table but enjoyed the company of the other couple at our table and stayed put.
The menu was creative to the point that many of the options were not appealing to me but they do have basic items available each night as well.
While not outstanding, the food was very good and the desserts well worth saving room for.
The highlight of the trip for us was the BB King Blues Club. 6 of the 7 nights we enjoyed live music from one of the best groups of musicians I've seen on a ship. The band was friendly, interactive and seemed genuinely happy entertaining audiences that ranged in age from 9 - 90.
We also enjoyed the Billboard Piano Lounge with two musicians singing selections, mostly by request, from the 50's to current hits.
We saw two shows in the main showroom, an impersonator and a comedian. The other shows didn't appeal to us but people who went seemed happy.
The main pool area can be noisy especially with small children on board but there are adults only whirlpools and a pool at the aft of the ship.
There is pizza available and you don't have to stand around waiting as they give you a pager that vibrates and lights up when your order is ready. You can customize the pizza from a wide choice of toppings.
The main pool also has a very good burger bar with Nathan's hot dogs as an option.
The Lido dining area is very hectic on boarding day as people are still trying to find their way around and new cruisers aren't used to the set up. By the second day things calm down and line ups are short. My plan is always to avoid prime time for breakfast or lunch in the Lido.
We chose this ship and itinerary as we live on the west coast and didn't want to take the long flights to Florida and back. The three stops, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, are all familiar to us but we did leave the ship to do some walking, shopping and relaxing on the beach.
We don't use any of the ship tours or land transportation but there is an overwhelming choice of locals at each stop ready to take you to your favorite or new places at lower prices with smaller groups.
The stop at Cabo requires a tender to shore but you can walk in to the main part of town from there. Mazatlan requires a taxi in to town but you can get transportation for under $10 each way for two people.
Puerto Vallarta also requires a taxi in to the city but there is also a large shopping center and a Wal Mart right across from the pier.
Even though it might appear that you travel in a relatively straight line north to south, you do experience two time changes. If you don't hear the reminder in the showroom, or read the note left by your cabin steward then you could be late for a morning tour or appointment. We saw this happen in Cabo as well as in Puerto Vallarta where people showed up late for their pre booked tours.
We stayed in San Diego the night before and after the cruise. Looking to be economical I chose the Town & Country. It is about 15 minutes from the airport or cruise terminal. The hotel is undergoing massive renovations which may have accounted for our Expedia rate of about $155 CAD per night. Other than our room being a bit of a walk from the temporary check in location we did not experience any noise or inconvenience.
It is walking distance to the Fashion Valley Mall so we enjoyed visiting higher end stores like Nordstrom's, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales as well as the usual assortment of mall stores. Dinner was at P.F. Changs, also by the mall.
We stayed the extra day post cruise to visit the Zoo, After 5 hours there we were happy to spend the evening at the hotel and enjoy an in house pizza.
On a separate note, I was a little apprehensive sailing during the week of the US midterm elections as from our Canadian vantage point we worried that the partisan politics could cause some uncomfortable moments. I have to say that everyone on board I encountered seemed to want to escape politics and I had no conversations about the elections before, during or after. A couple of times when the topic came close to politics either the person stopped mid sentence or their spouse jabbed them in the ribs.
Overall I prefer Caribbean cruises with more interesting stops and warmer ocean water for swimming, but for a quick break for West Coasters the ship and itinerary fit the bill.