After having to postpone this wonderful itinerary for almost 3 years due to health issues, we finally boarded the beautiful Westerdam on Oct. 4 for our 30 day cruise to Hawaii and the South Pacific.
Stayed at the Best Western Yacht Harbor Hotel in San Diego for 2 nights prior. Nice room overlooking the bay -- staff was very accommodating. DH traveled with his scooter and the hotel arranged for special transfer both from the airport and to the cruise pier at their expense.
Embarkation was very smooth and we were in our lovely veranda cabin by 12 noon.
Loved the extra space and the bathroom is to "die for" !Our room stewards were wonderful -- and we never needed to ask for anything twice. It amazes me how they know your names almost from Day 1 --- Jo and Dani were always smiling and very pleasant.
As this was our first cruise with HAL, I was very concerned in regards to the mixed reviews I had read on the CC boards about the food, entertainment and overall atmosphere of the ship.
We were pleasantly surprised! The entertainment was top-notch. Cruise Director, Jason commented that HAL does bring on more upscale entertainment for the longer cruises and we enjoyed the main shows almost every nite. In fact, several of the performers did repeat shows which was great. However, the HAL singers and dancers were totally "underused" only doing two Broadway type productions for the 30 day trip. These folks are wonderful, work extremely hard and HAL should use their talents more!
We had originally chosen the "anytime dining" thinking we could eat around our usual 7 pm dinner time -- however, after the first nite and the long line and resulting chaos -- we changed to fixed dining at 8 pm. I think HAL needs to change this policy as the only times one could get a reserved spot was either at 5:15 or 8 pm in the Dining room on Deck 2 --- nothing in between. As my husband needs to eat at a certain time due to medications --- the concept of going to the dining room whenever we wanted was not available. So we would see the show at 7 and then have dinner at 8. Our waiters were wonderful and always concerned that we were happy with our meal.
Speaking of food --- we were very pleased with the quality and quantity. Lobster and Filet were offered on each of the 7 formal nites along with my favorite: escargot in garlic butter sauce. The desserts were very good although DH really missed a nice slice of apple pie or a piece of NY style cheesecake. That's OK -- he didn't need the extra calories anyway.
We ate in the Lido Buffet mostly for lunch --- we preferred the Dining Room for breakfast as our food always arrived hot. We didn't have the craziness of the Lido with people walking every which way -- plus there were a significant no. of canes, walkers and some scooters on board so the traffic was pretty tight at times. The pizza (thin crust) was actually very good, too.
The retracting roof over the Lido pool was a great asset --- allowing passengers to enjoy the area even during the few times we had some rain/wind.
However, the Thermal pool and Spa is another area of "compliant" at least for me and a significant number of other guests. Seems you were required to purchase a spa pass for the ENTIRE cruise at the cost of $ 800 per couple or a day pass of $ 40 pp per day. HAL needs to re-think this policy especially for the longer cruises -- I am sure if one could buy "week pkgs." -- this area would have gotten a lot more use. As it was, I often saw the T pool empty and I passed by just about daily. What a waste, IMO !!
Hawaii and the South Pacific islands were exactly as you see in the travel brochures --- the turquoise colors of the waters in Bora Bora and Moorea are so clear and amazingly gorgeous !!! We did private tours on all islands with one HAL tour on Moorea. The price HAL charges for their shore excursions is outrageously high --- we like smaller groups with more "one-on-one" interaction with tour guides. Plus we got alot more for our money, too !
With reference to using a scooter and tendering --- I must say that HAL's crews were wonderful !!! DH was able to use his scooter on all the islands with the exception of Nuku Hiva which made for a much more enjoyable trip for us both. He would have missed so much if this trip had been with any other cruise ship.
We did have a itinerary change as a medical evacuation caused us to stop at Christmas Island after leaving Fanning Island. Due to miscommunication at some point at the Hawaiian end ---We sat there for over 12 hours waiting for the medivac plane from Honolulu to show up. As this is a military base -- we were not allowed ashore but most took it in stride and enjoyed the beautiful weather. This meant we would miss Rarotonga and to make up time --- our arrival in Bora Bora was pushed ahead by 2 days !! I was the tour coordinator for our tours in Bora Bora and was petty anxious about this change of plans. However, the Front Desk was very helpful in helping me contact the tour operator and he was able to accommodate us and the tours went off smoothly.
All in all, this was a wonderful cruise and I highly recommend the Westerdam and it's crew. We will definitely check out her itineraries for future cruises.