First time HAL cruiser, previous cruises on(1) NCL,(2) Royal and(1) Carnival. Spoke with many who have had over 20 cruises and some repeated on Westerdam. We would sail this ship again with different itinerary.
Impressions of the ship were very favorable, it felt like being in someone's elegant home, complete with beautiful art, flower arrangements, antiques, small cozy areas and lounges, nice woodwork, interesting tile floors (deck 2), gorgeous lighting fixtures(dining room, atrium).The ship was decorated for Christmas which added to the warmth of the décor.
This is not a mega ship, it is fairly small, though it never really felt overcrowded and we never had to wait too long for services, seating, elevators etc. We liked the size and found the ship to be quite comfortable and elegant, older but beautiful. Prior to leaving had read other reviews with one or two star ratings- don't believe it- the cruise and boat are way better then those ratings.
The crew are top notch and well trained in customer service. Everyone was helpful, everyone greeted you as you walked by, and everyone smiled. Service was good in all aspects. Dining service sometimes a bit slow but fits the leisurely, somewhat gourmet style of the dining room food. The dining room is beautiful and on two levels. We chose as you like dining (whatever they call it) , no reservations and never had to wait for a table. Just showed up and was seated within 5 minutes. time it between the regular reserved seating and no problem. We ordered appetizers, soups, salads, main meal and desserts, they will bring extra taste of something else if you ask. We also separately tipped each waiter so asking and receiving 2 of something did not seem to be a problem all week.
The food varied- Dining room food first two nights was excellent with an inviting menu, including prime rib ,Sirloin strip steak, trout, rack of lamb, salmon. Desserts were very good in some cases especially the peach melba sunday, the apple strudel, apple/blueberry crisp, tiramisu, and the cheesecake. On other nights the choices were not as appealing( I think they change head chefs every two nights who create the menu as noted on the menu) Certain nights we found the food to be over spiced with odd spicing. We thought it might be horseradish, or some kind of pepper but some of the food was very spicy. Formal night was good with offerings of lobster tail and filet mignon, escargot. Formal night was not as formal as expected. Not too many tuxes or gowns, suits and ties seemed standard, skirts with a fancy top or a black cocktail dress for the ladies.
Buffet in the Lido- We ate all breakfasts, lunches and one dinner in the buffet. Lots of choices, good selection of salads, sandwiches, some hot entrees, pizza(soggy) and Italian offerings, a stir fry section, a dessert and ice cream station. Something for everyone and you will not go away hungry. We especially liked the short ribs and the brisket which they hand slice( though cut incorrectly, both were very tasty). Breakfast was good with made to order omelet station, made to order eggs benedict, as well as eggs, cheeses, pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, fruit, cereals etc.
There is a grill for hamburgers/hot dogs and also a Mexican buffet set up in the front pool area. They also serve appetizers during happy hour in various bar areas. Food overall good and plentiful. We felt no need to try the added cost restaurants, though we did watch the chef prepare for the Italian restaurant and the food looked awesome.
Entertainment- We found enough to do during the day on sea days. The problem was scheduling of too many things in the same time slot so had to pick and choose. We attended one of the culinary center demonstrations, which was interesting and fun, we attended two sessions of dancing with the stars, which was fun, a variety of trivia games, a mixology class, art auction( did not buy, just watched, pricing too high), the marriage game, bands playing during the day and a really good steel drummer. We also walked the upper deck for exercise, used the hot tubs and swam in the pool. There were other offerings such as computer classes, card games, jewelry exhibitions and discussions but we did not find the time to attend.
The Crows Nest, as has been noted in other reviews, was probably the nicest area in the ship. We spent afternoons there, listening to the guitarist, drinking and reading. It is the very top deck lounge with expansive windows, comfortable couches, a full library and computer center.
Night Entertainment - 2 shows offered nightly. The comedian was excellent, new to the ship, very funny, great show, too short and would have liked to have seen him do an afternoon show.
The illusionist also was excellent, also new to the ship, came from doing America Got Talent show. Very entertaining, likeable. He did one night show and one day show and we attended both and enjoyed both performances.
The BB King group did one night of very rousing music, soul and R&B and found them to be very talented .
The other two nights featured the singers and dancers of the ship doing Broadway hits and movie hits. One night would have been enough with another form of entertainment on the other night. This cruise does not offer any big production numbers as you may find on a larger ship. My ratings would be 2 nights excellent, 1 night good and 2 nights fair.
The casino was busy but we found the slots to be tight, though did hear of people winning, we did not. they also had a variety of card games and tournaments.
At night, after the 10 pm show we went into the piano bar and sang along with Larry(I think). He did a variety of Elton John, Billy Joel, had a captive audience around his piano nightly. Nice voice.
My one comment on the entertainment would be if you do not gamble or don't like piano bars, there is not much to do after 11:00. Would have liked to have a band playing from 11-1 for dancing. The club they have, which is like an old time disco club, did not attract a large crowd and seemed to cater to a younger group
My other comment is that overall the entertainment and activity schedule were good, with tweaking by the social director, it would be excellent
As noted in a previous review, this ship rocked and rolled a bit more then usual. We did hit some high winds and tides on the first 2 days which could have caused this motion . The Captain was also making up for loss time due to having to turn back for a medical emergency on the first day out and seemed to have the boat at full speed which also could have contributed to the rolling, however ,if prone to sea sickness, a person would have gotten sick because of it. Just some advise- take something before boarding this ship
Just a quick note on the cabin, we had a fairly good size balcony cabin. The balcony was the largest I have seen on any boat with room for 4 chairs and 3 tables, the room size is good and had room for a sofa and chair as well as the bed, side tables etc. Plenty of closet and storage space, bathroom decent size with a full tub and shower, bed was extremely comfortable and the linen was soft. Overall very pleased.
First stop Grand Turk, never been there. has some stores, a good size Margaritaville complex with pool, restaurant, a flow rider, bars, a DJ. Long beach, somewhat rocky, very crowded, some shade. Get there early to get chairs in the shade. Beach further down(close to Jack's shack) is much nicer, water is clear, no rocks, not crowded, but no shade. We walked the beach, swam, walked around the stores and listened to the DJ, did not order anything there so no opinion on food or drink but heard it was expensive. There were a couple of other drinking/eating spots on the beach, more like beach shacks. Enjoyable day, it rained shortly but it poured and we headed back to the boat which was docked within walking distance.
As everyone has said this is a beautiful beach and complex, created as an idyllic Caribbean paradise by the cruise lines. The beach is the best beach and reminded me of Bermuda Beaches, pure white powder sand and turquoise water, so clear you can see the fish swimming around. It is a fairly long island but has a tram that takes you around, though we did not see it and we walked most of the length of the beach. There are a multitude of bars, one had live music, there is horse riding, bike riding, boat rentals, lots of lounge chairs, a section of cabanas and small beach houses for day rental. the cruise line hosts a BBQ lunch and has a good size commissary in the back, with covered seating in hut structures. Very nice way to end a great week of cruising.
Have been to San Juan before. The boat docks close to the old town and there are hop on/hop off free trolleys across the street from the pier. At least 4 other boats in dock and the trolley stops were very crowded. We decided to get on the ferry and head over to the Bacardi factory. Ferry cost $1.00 round trip and then a van for $3.00 takes you to the factory. It was extremely crowded there. We were given 4 tickets each for free Bacardi mixed cocktails, long line to get them but they were pretty good. We drank and waited for a tour, ended up waiting over an hour and decided to go buy a bottle and head back, after someone said it was not worth the wait. Went over to the Sheraton casino to gamble, slots were fairly loose and drinks were strong and free. Good tip ensured good service and we left feeling pretty good. Walked a bit outside of the ships, there are performers on the street and it is an active and lively area. San Juan in general is very nice, lots to do, pretty city, old town is charming.
Love this island and have been here before twice. Time was too short in port, would have liked to have had the whole day as there is a lot to do and see and great shopping. We hopped a public bus and went to the French side, Marigot, walked around the market and bought some things.( first price is not the best price). Headed back to the Dutch side also by bus, shopped a bit in Phillipsburg, great liquor prices, free samples and then ended up renting chairs on the beach and swimming, talking to some people off of Celebrity boat who were there for the whole day. Too short and felt rushed.