My wife and I took our grown children and spouses on the Holland America Westerdam Eastern Caribbean cruise during Christmas week and had a wonderful vacation from Dec 23-30th. This cruise traveled to Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Philipsburg, Saint Martin and Half Moon Cay. This is our 3rd Holland cruise and 5th overall cruise. (see comments below)
Ft Lauderdale- I booked two rooms at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 across from Port Everglades and highly recommend it for future cruises from Fort Lauderdale. We also ordered two cases of wine and champagne from Total Wine and More store which is located about 2 minutes down the street.
Embarkation- I highly recommend an early arrival (noon) so we dropped off our suitcases and wine boxes at curbside without any crowds. The line was very short and quick when we arrived and we only waited 5 minutes before they called us to board the ship. Our grown kids arrived later in the afternoon and they said that it was crowded.
Rooms- Our balcony room (4133) was immediately available and our suitcases arrived shortly afterwards. The Verandah suite is a good size for two people, but can get a little crowded when you add four other people. Our room was in a good location to get to the main dining room. We booked our cruise and reserved a Verandah balcony room (4133) for us and two nearby Oceanview rooms for the 'kids' (4115 & 4117).
Service- We prefer the main dining room and reserved fixed seating for table 136 next to the rear window every night at 8pm. The Maitre D-Eddi greeted us every night and promptly seated us. Our waiters were very polite and service was excellent. We brought two bottles of my favorite wine, Chateau St Michelle, to dinner every night and the wine steward took care of us. The captain made an
emergency stop in St Thomas for a passenger that had broken his/her hip and he did an excellent job keeping us informed of the ship status and didn't interrupt our plans.
Food- We always enjoy Holland Americas food and the Westerdam was excellent every night! The appetizers (especially the Jumbo Shrimp!), soup and salad and entrees are all great, but we especially enjoyed the Surf and Turk on formal night! (Sport coats are fine!)
Grand Turk- As divers, I booked a two tank dive trip with Blue Waters divers (see tripadvisor.com post) for four of us and my wife and daughter took the Catamaran excursion through Holland. All of us had a great time!
San Juan, Puerto Rico- We docked at 12noon, so we spent the afternoon walking around Old San Juan. I highly recommend that you just turn left at the dock, stop by the Tourist office for a map and continue walking down the Promenade/walkway to the Old San Juan Gate and El Morro fort!
Saint Martin- I rented an SUV at Hertz ($155/day) and all six of us drove to Maho Bay beach to see the incoming airplanes, then we drove to the French side of the island and circled the island back to the port. In the future, I would skip the French side (dirty) and just drive to Orient beach.
Half Moon Cay- we just enjoyed playing on the beach (bring a Frisbee) and rest in the sun (sunscreen!)
Entertainment- we enjoyed all of the shows, casino, piano bar, and dancing in the lounge.
Overall, we had a great Christmas cruise on the Westerdam and will do it again in the future! For perspective, this is our 3rd consecutive cruise with Holland and we have a fourth planned for the Baltic this summer. We switched to Holland since we felt that NCL was always up selling us on the restaurants and we didn't care for many of the NCL and Carnival customers. We highly recommend Holland for the great service, excellent dining room food and respectable customers! (We're not snobs!)