My husband and I did the seven-day Western Caribbean aboard the Westerdam December 2-9. It was our third time to visit the Caribbean in three years and our second Westerdam sailing.
We flew Delta from Knoxville to FLL with no problems, and stayed at the Marriott Renaissance near Total Wine and the port. HAL has a generous 'bring aboard' policy for wine and we always pick up a bottle or two before a cruise. We ate at a nice little Italian restaurant near the hotel and had breakfast at Panera before sailing. It's a quick trip to the port from the hotel by cab. (We've tried other near-by hotels often favored by cruisers, but found that they are tired and dated; we enjoyed the Renaissance much more.)
Embarkation was quick and easy and our cabin was ready when we boarded. We were in SA 7076 which is mid-ship. The cabin and veranda are large with lots of storage, the bed, pillows, and linens comfortable as always, and the separate shower and spa tub were a nice touch. We were close enough to the Neptune Lounge to access to quick snacks and good coffee. Late in the cruise we had an hour or so of plumbing problems (the toilet wouldn't flush), but it was quickly dealt with.
Our cabin stewards were pleasant and attentive. And kudos to the HAL laundry team; I love the free laundry service that comes with HAL suites! Our turn around time was quick and everything looked great.
Over all, the ship was in lovely, sparkling condition. She's well cared for and it shows. My one criticism is the broken lounge chairs in the rear of the Crow's Nest. It's a lovely room and those chairs are prime real estate.
Friendly service remains excellent. Cost cutting is mainly evident in the menu selections. There are more vegetarian offerings (a good thing), but also more lower cost offerings. If HAL is open to suggestions, I'd like to remind them that with food it's often better to do a few items well than to offer several less than stellar selections. The cold soups continue to shine. And the Pinnacle Grill remains excellent in service and quality, but perhaps it's time to add a few new items and expand the menu. (It's my guess that the chefs are facing lowered food budgets; they're doing the best they can with what they've got, but I'd pay more for better quality ingredients. Are you listening, HAL?)
I suppose the orange juice falls under food cost cutting. We ate our breakfasts in the PG and I assume were offered the best to be had. Once was enough; it's a small thing but a disappointment. Where is the fresh squeezed orange juice of the past?
The Adagio duo had a loyal following. They played mostly from a request book, so it was more Broadway, less classical, more movie theme music.
We defected to the Crow's Nest where there were many empty tables; the guitarist was adequate. But it's a beautiful room with a friendly bar staff and good drinks.
Our port highlight was lovely Key West. I promised to recommend the Butterfly Garden to you and I do. We rented a taxi for the day in Cozumel and enjoyed seeing the island and learning a bit about its history. (We learned how to do that here at CC in the ports section.) We shopped a bit in Georgetown, and walked on Half Moon Cay. Our past experience with HAL's HMC excursions hasn't been great, so we just stroll the beach. The beach 'barbecue' is in reality a picnic, but it's fun.
It was smooth sailing and smiling faces. It was relaxing and quiet.
And it was our last Western Caribbean cruise. Next year we're returning to the eastern ports which we find more interesting and we're going to try a new cruise line.
It's time to shake things up a bit.