This being my first review, I'll start with our backgrounds. We are three women from early 40's to 50 years old, married with children (but left husbands and kids home - true vacation!), I have cruised about 14 times, and the other two have cruised about 3 - 4 times each. We have cruised several other cruise lines, but this was our 1st HAL cruise.
We stayed one night prior to our cruise at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North. They provided shuttle service to/from airport and cruise port. They also provided shuttle service to the Cheesecake Factory that evening where we had a wonderful meal. The cleanliness of the hotel, the outstanding service provided by the entire staff, and the hot breakfast included are reasons that we would stay at this particular hotel again and would recommend it to our friends.
Now on to the review of the Westerdam. We have decided that this was by far our best cruising experience ever. The ship was perfect. Our waitstaff (Lower dining late seating) was outstanding. They were very attentive, we never had to ask twice for anything and our food was cooked perfectly every night. Every crew member greeted us with a smile and had something nice to say. Some crew members would go out of their way to make sure that we had everything we needed. The food on the Lido was very good. We ate at the buffet several times for lunch. We also tried the hamburgers and pizza both of which were excellent. The french fries were actually hot and very good. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill one night. The waitstaff was very attentive and food very good. However, I would say that with all that the dining room has to offer I don't know that I would do the Pinnacle Grill again.
The ship is beautifully appointed throughout with fresh flowers, pictures and art objects. We loved the layout of the ship and found it very easy to navigate. I spent a lot of time in the Thermal Suite and Hydropool. It was worth every penny to have such as relaxing place to get away from it all. The entertainment onboard was top notch. We thoroughly enjoyed every show.
Our cabin was on Deck 4 and the 6th cabin from the very front. Our balcony did not have the clear plexiglass but was great because it was a lot deeper than others and we were able to have 3 chairs and 2 tables out there. It was also half covered and half exposed which was nice if you wanted to get a little sun. The cabin had enough storage for the 3 of us and we did fine since all 3 of us are somewhat neat freaks. Our room steward was wonderful. He always kept us in a full supply of towels, a clean room and great towel animals every night !
We didn't take any ship sponsored shore excursions. On Grand Turk, we stayed at the Margaritaville pool complex and loved every minute. If there were a hotel on the premises, we'd go back to stay for at least a week. On Tortola, we hired a taxi to show us around the island, had dinner at Purser's Landing and headed back to the ship. On St. Maarten, we took a cab to Orient Beach, stopped in Marigot for a few minutes then on to Phillipsburg for a little shopping, then back to the ship.
The big event for us was Half Moon Cay. When we got to our cabin on Embarkation Day, there was a bright pink envelope with the best news ever. Our request for a cabana on Half Moon Cay had been granted and we snagged the Red Cabana and immediately upgraded to the Butler Service. The Best Day Ever. We have never been treated so well. If we even looked like we might want something, the butlers, bar attendants, etc. were right there. It was very hard to go back to the ship.
Embarkation and Debarkation were the easiest we've ever experienced. In summary, we'd go on this ship again in a heartbeat and cannot imagine anyone not having a wonderful cruise with this crew.