We left Boston late in the afternoon Saturday October 14 on a direct flight. Arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, collected luggage and called for complimentary shuttle to Amerisuites. This is the one that has been bought by Hyatt and will be undergoing some renovations. The hotel is in desperate need of repair and refurbishment. The staff was not helpful and in fact double billed us (still waiting for credit). Will definitely go back to Holiday Inn Express on SR84 next time.
Slept in until 9:00 on Sunday October 15. Called a taxi since the free shuttle was booked when we checked in. Taxi was easy and inexpensive. Left hotel a couple of minutes after 11:00 AM and were in the pier in no time.
Embarkation was definitely different than our previous cruise in May, 2005 on Zuiderdam. A couple of things to make note of. There was a line! It moved quickly and staff made sure we knew what we needed and where to go. I recognized a roll call member in line and introduced our family. We checked in and everything went well. On the way through security we met another roll call member. Went through security and were on the ship. Sorry I can't remember the time it took but it wasn't that long maybe 30-45 minutes at most.
We went straight to Lido and had some food to eat. Our roll call friends sat with us. At 1:30 we got to go to our rooms. Luggage arrived shortly after.
Cabin This was our first and last inside cabin. The bed was put together and each night my daughter had her bed on the pull up couch. Handa was our cabin steward. He had our room in great shape with a different towel animal each night. Ice bucket always full. The bummer was that there was no tub in the room. That is one of the reasons that I wanted to go on HAL again. Also, could not tell what time of day it was unless by TV on the ships channel. Definitely no complaints in regards to the cabin, but I learned my choice about cabins.
Public Areas Its true what everyone says about no areas being overcrowded. Nothing felt too crowded, it almost seemed like being back at home. We loved sitting in the Ocean Bar each night before dinner for our cocktail and hors d'oeuvres. Got to see couples dancing to the live music and the sun begin to set. Irene in the Ocean Bar was very nice to all of us.
Gym Went to the gym only once this time. Folks waiting for free machines. It was a little busier than I would have liked, but they had everything I needed for a good workout.
Spa Got the hot stone massage by Roselyn. She did an excellent job. Tried to get another appointment but there was nothing available at a time that worked for me.
On Deck for the Cure Participated and donated in this 5K walk (9 times around the ship for those of you who are interested). Met a very friendly lady named Jan and walked with her.
Food I was looking forward to the Lido. Was on RCI and their buffet in no way compares to HALs. There are areas that include Italian and The Wok, one on either side. The pizza was addictive. Yummy and always available. On both sides of the Lido you then have a general food station with hot specials, water, iced tea and coffee, deli and in the middle is a salad bar. Lets not forget the desserts. I ate too much chocolate mousse. Loved the bread pudding w/ vanilla sauce. Service here was always excellent. They kept trying to carry my daughters tray for her.
Terrace Grill and Taco Bar is where my husband and daughter ate most days. Easy to grab something and eat by the pool.
We ate in the Pinnacle Grill two nights. Service and food was the best. My daughter was amazed by the Non Traditional Baked Alaska. Definitely worth it and enjoyed their samplings of wines. I am a big Chateau St. Michelle fan.
Dining Room food and service was great. We had a wonderful mother and grown son as our tablemates. They were interesting and just all around comfortable to talk to. Two wishes on the food, more non seafood appetizers and a better choice of salads. My daughter ordered off the adult menu all nights but one.
Grand Turk - I stayed at Margaritaville Pool while husband and daughter played on the beach. Got a drink relaxed and listened to DJ. Nothing much on this day.
Road Town, Tortola - Looked forward to going to the Baths again (we went last year). Due to the rain the excursion was cancelled. On the upside I was able to get to Sunny Carribe for some much needed refills on spices and sauces. I love that store!
St. Maarten - Had a private tour scheduled with Joyce Prince. We left the ship in downpours about 8:40. By the time we got to the end of the dock we were soaked. Joyce had towels and showed us a bit of the island on our 3 hour tour. Some roads were washed out. As we were leaving in the afternoon the sun sort of poked out. Would really like to go back and tour with Joyce when the sun is out. Went to Guavaberry Emporium and bought some small bottles for my staff. Had a taste also. Would like to go back here again.
Half Moon Cay - As beautiful and incredible as it was the last time. Gorgeous beaches, clear water and alot of fun. We just got our clamshell no excursions this time (did the eco lagoon kayaking last time). We were in the water most of the day. My daughter got her hair braided as well.
Club HAL - My daughter age 8 thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I posted a thread that listed all the activities for the Tween Group on the HAL Board. There were not alot of children. I would definitely take her out of school again instead of cruising during school vacations, can't imagine what that place would be like with hundreds of kids. The staff was friendly and did a great job.
A couple of disappointments on the ship, which were minor. I tried to sign up for the Culinary Arts on the first day and they said they didn't know the schedule yet. When I got back to the front office, everything was full.
Also for our roll call gathering not one staff member from the Westerdam showed up. On the Zuiderdam we were spoiled as the captain joined us. I would have thought someone would have come. We did have a nice place to meet and coffee and cookies provided by HAL.
I can't wait to go back again. My husband promised the next time is just for the two of us, hoping to convince him we need a verandah! He would like one more Caribbean, southern this time. Also, while we are young 35 and 43, we are not much of night lifers or gamblers. The ship was very relaxed and plenty for us to do.