This was our first cruise with HAL (Holland America) and we had sailed with Disney to Bahamas and Star Cruises in SE Asia. We decided to go with HAL this time because of the newer Westerdam and competitive pricing. It was a 7-day Western Caribbean departing Fort Lauderdale on 03/27/05. Our stateroom number was 1085 on the main deck and has a window and bunk bed. It was spacious for two adults and two kids(9 and 5). The closet space was more than enough and practical. The bed was so comfortable that my kids slept like baby and took a nap in the afternoon everyday. The bathroom had a tub which my kids loved and my 5'10" 170lb body could fit in nicely for a soothing bath. One annoying thing about our cabin was the random rumbling noise/vibration from below. It did not happen on the first two days of the cruise. It lasted about 3 to 4 seconds each time every few hours. I had notified the front desk and they did not have a clue.
Ship Interior : It is contemporary style and leather furniture is everywhere
Food was good in general. We loved the pasta on Lido Deck. Vista Dining Room was good too. Me and my wife spent one evening at Pinnacle Grill while our kids were checked in at Club HAL. I had filet mignon and she had halibut steak. The food quality at the Pinnacle Grill was definitely better than Vista Dining Room. While eating at Vista Dining Room one evening, I found eggshell fragment on my broccoli and the dessert glass was chipped. I had notified the head steward and he promised the situation would be rectified. We wish there were more seafood selection on the menu. Vista Dining Room offered grouper, snapper, salmon and lobster tail on different evenings. The baby shrimp cocktail was mushy. However jumbo shrimp cocktail on the first formal night was delicious. On Disney cruise, there was tiger shrimp and stone crab claws available at buffet. We missed them. I guess that's why it costs more to sail on Disney. Over the 7 days, I had prime rib, sirloin steak, shank of lamb leg, filet mignon and they were good. My kids loved the dinner rolls and mashed potato.
Stewards were very courteous and took the initiative to greet or chat with us at every opportunity.
Shore excursions : first stop was Half Moon Cay. The water was crystal clear and the sand was fine and powdery like pancake mixing literally. There was a lot of tropical fish. My kids loved the water slides. We had a BBQ lunch on the private island and had a lot of fun.
Ocho Rios Jamaica : We had the catamaran and beach tour. We took a van from the dock to the back of a local hotel to board the catamaran which took us to a private beach. We snorkeled and saw a lot of sea urchins and tropical fish. The snacks provided at the beach were basically watermelon, papaya,coconut and honey dew. Apparently it was not enough to feed 50 people. We were glad we brought boxes of cereal for our kids. Drinks were plentiful though. Crews were attentive.
George Town, Cayman : We joined a tour to visit the Hell, Turtle Farm and the Stingray observatory. My kids loved the turtle farm where they could touch and hold baby turtles. There were 7 ships docking the day we got there. The pier was packed with tourists like us. It was quite chaotic. Tour operators openly solicited tips and I found it was quite rude. Damage from last year hurricane was still visible everywhere on the island. HAL crews were passing out orange juice and water at the pier while people waited for the tender in the sun to get back to the ship. I found it was very considerate.
Cozumel, Mexico : I love this place at first sight. Unlike the previous ports of call, it was so clean and organized. There was a brand new shopping mall by the pier. We rode on the Atlantis Submarine and it was quite an experience. The crews did not solicit tips at all. Taxi drivers were fluent in English. We wish we could have spent more time in Cozumel.
Entertainment : Every night my kids could not wait to see the shows which consisted of stand up comedy, magic show, juggler, singing and dancing. Me and my wife enjoyed the shows too.
CLUB HAL : my kids were at Club HAL for one hour or so while we dined at Pinnacle Grill. They did not want to leave when we picked them up. This was the only time we took advantage of the service. There were about 420 kids out of 2000 passengers on this cruise.
Swimming pools : There are only two swimming pools on Westerdam and one for adults and one for kids.
Library : my daughter wrote postcards and letters in the library which was quiet and spacious.
Upon returning from dinner on the first evening, we found a box of gifts in the cabin. Things like swimming google, sunscreen, sunglasses, yo-yo, chapstick and etc. It was a nice touch.
We took our kids to an environment presentation which covered the topics of garbage disposal, water treatment, hazardous materials on ship. It was informational and educational.
Disembarkation : The night before returning to Fort Lauderdale, we were given color-coded baggage tags so that we could find them easily the next day after disembarkation. As it turned out, it was quite a mess. Bags were placed randomly in the baggage claim area, not grouped by the color-coded tags. HAL needs to do a better job in this area.
Overall, we are very happy with the cruise and will definitely sail on HAL again in the future.