We just returned from a 35 day cruise of the South Pacific and were left with mixed feelings about the overall experience. This was our first cruise on Holland America and we selected it based on its South Pacific itinerary.
Embarkation: Boarding in San Diego was efficient and uneventful with the exception of a noticeably high number of over 70 guests - some with walkers or scooters. Although this did not present a problem for us socially, we did find accommodating them on tenders (which there were a lot of) tedious at times and we wondered why there wasn't a dedicated tender for older/disabled cruisers.
Common Areas: After boarding, we self-toured the ship to orient ourselves and were struck by its dark interiors and small spaces. We also noticed a lot of worn and outdated furniture in the Crow's Nest and library. Their two specialty restaurants and even the theater were not very private and did not evoke a sense of being special. On the plus side, the Crow's Nest and Library's spaciousness invited more light than any other area of the ship without being outside.
Stateroom: We were pleasantly surprised with the size and comfort of our stateroom and adjoining bath. The balcony was comfortable as well. The sofa and chairs were worn and outdated, but still serviceable. The downside of the stateroom was that the aroma of food occasionally drifted in through our ventilation system causing discomfort, especially on days when curry was added to recipes. Not pleasant.
Amenities: The ships gym had a lot of broken equipment and even the scale stopped working at one point. Again, it was serviceable and I enjoyed my workouts, but expected more. Same with the casino.
The pool was adequate, but charging for the mineral pool was a bit crude. Solarium's on other cruise lines are typically complimentary.
The basketball court was rarely used and would better serve the clientele of HAL by being converted to a putting green.
As I mentioned before, the ship's theater was not very private (a curtain was pulled to create darkness) but since it was in a heavy traffic area, it did an inadequate job. The selection of movies was excellent, but we typically watched them in the comfort of our stateroom.
Dinning: Food and service in the Vista dinning room was adequate, but not special. I sent plates back to the kitchen at least three of the first five nights due to over cooked or under cooked meat. Our dinning room attendants were attentive, but did not seem genuinely interested in presenting food to our liking. They seemed more interested in supplying ice tea in advance (because I asked for it on the first night) when what I wanted was a medium rare lamb chop. Salads were served warm and I eventually stopped ordering them altogether. Maybe our expectations are higher than most, but we have cruised enough to know what to expect. This is not meant to be critical of our dinning room attendants work ethic, professionalism or demeanor. I believe they were just unaware.
We made reservations at both specialty restaurants and enjoyed our experience at the Pinnacle - excellent food, outstanding service and beautiful presentation. We ate at Canaletto one time and cancelled our other two reservations. Although the grilled vegetable anti-pasta platter was delicious, the main courses were extremely salty. Could have been a bad night, but we weren't willing to pay the up charge again to find out.
Ports of Call: This itinerary piqued our interest from the first time we read about it, and it did not disappoint. The chance to visit Bora Bora, Fanning Island and Rarotonga were worth the slight discomforts we endured on an aging ship.
Excursions: We did not avail ourselves of the ship's excursions and booked privately instead. This was entirely an economic decision and has no reflection on the quality of HAL's excursions. We cannot speak fairly to that subject.
Staff: We found the staff of the Westerdam helpful, professional and hard working at all times. Standouts include; Travel Talks by Julia,Cruise Director Armen, Digital Workshop instructor Emily and our ever present stateroom attendants. We appreciated the high viability of cleaning staff in every part of the ship and the overall cleanliness.
While we rate the overall experience just above average, we would still recommend it to anyone who wants reliable, comfortable transportation to some of the most amazing ports of call imaginable. I am sure we will cruise on HAL again.