This was my 13th cruise experience and 3rd with Holland America. I've cruised with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, and Windjammer (once was enough). I must say that this last cruise on the Westerdam was perhaps the best. Yes, I am in my early 50's and Holland America does attract an older crowd, but the line is trying to attract a more diverse market and did not find this cruise to be an "older" crowd than other ships. It may have been because it was the week before Christmas which had more families and younger couples.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the same day of the cruise and arrived at the port very early at 9:30am. We did have to wait for check-in until 11:30am but the embarkation process was smooth and organized and on the boat within 15 minutes. They do not allow guests into their rooms until 1 - 1:30pm and the call came at 1:15 that rooms were ready.
We received a wonderful deal on a superior suite and it was "sweet"! This by far is the largest room I've had with any cruise line. A total of 389 square feet with a very large balcony that fits 4 chairs and a table large enough for dining. Lots of storage space in the room and huge bathroom. The beds are very comfortable with soft linens. The only down side of the room was the air conditioning. Room seemed cold at night regardless of changing the temperature, but just asked for blankets the first couple of nights and once we were in a warmer climate, the temperature seemed ok. The room was a great value and I'd book it again.
Other highlights of the ship is it's size; just a little over 1800 passengers is nice. Not overcrowded, never felt like in a huge mass or feeding frenzy on the buffet. The crowd just seemed more refined. The kids on the boat were all well behaved and no one was over the top with their partying, but still all were having a great time. The public rooms are nice although the decor not to my taste and perhaps too much of the Carnival influence, but still attractive and well maintained.
The hydro-therapy pool is cool, but the thermal suite is the best in the spa area. The heated spa chairs were so relaxing and the steamroom and showers were great. You can buy a day pass to the area, but paying $20 a day for use of each area seems steep. You can also buy a $99 pass for the week to use the spa facilities.
The service on the ship was excellent. The cabin steward was very attentive but not intrusive. The bartenders and waiters were friendly and professional.
The quality of the food was very good. I'm in the foodservice industry and have great respect for the employees in this area. To produce the volume of food that they do on a daily basis and to that quality is a job well done. I didn't eat in their specialty restaurant, but if you want a little more upscale experience, the guest does have that as well as many other dining options available on the cruise.
Regarding the ports of call, I have to say that Half Moon Cay is the nicest private island experience of any cruise line that I've experienced. The beach is absolutely beautiful with plenty of chairs and shade further down the beach. The beach BBQ is fun. If you like to dive or snorkel the other ports of Grand Turks, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya are ideal.
Disembarking was smooth. In fact everything regarding timing of this cruise was like clockwork. Time of when we entered and left port including the tendering process was flawless.
Overall it was a wonderful cruise. Great value and quality of service. Book a suite and you won't be disappointed.