Westerdam Cruise Review by F1uffy: Nice, but a tad underwhelming
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Nice, but a tad underwhelming
Holland America has a strong reputation, and this was our first cruise with this line. Perhaps we expected too much, but the experience left a mixed impression.
First, what was good. The ship is large enough, but not so large that it seems overwhelming. Decorations include a lot of interesting artwork (some of it museum quality). Some of the entertainment (Brensley and the HALCats, the Adagio classical duo from Budapest) was also a notch above what one expects on the cruise. Our cabin was very nice as well. Also the fact that the captain maintained a clear line of communication with the passengers was very helpful. There were only very minor problems during the cruise, and we received detailed and up-to-date information about these problems (for example, a twisted anchor chain) and the measures taken to resolve them. We also liked the wine package and the Italian restaurant (Canaletto).
Second, the things that could have been better. Our shore days included Grand More Turk, San Juan, Philipsburg, and Half Moon Cay. The stop in Philipsburg was nothing short of hideous - there were, I think, eight cruise ships there at once, the port was completely overwhelmed (including massive traffic and not enough taxis to go elsewhere), dirty crowded beaches, annoying vendors, and weak beer. Obviously, this is not all on Holland America, but perhaps some better planning by the cruise lines involved could have prevented the mess. The exercise facility on the ship was pitifully small, some equipment broken, insufficient free weights, TVs not working - and limited hours of operation. Finally, the service was hit-or-miss. The crew that took care of our cabin insisted that it be done on their schedule. During dinners, there was an appearance of huge bustling activity, with lots of staff rushing to and fro... yet sometimes we had to wait for half an hour for our wine, and occasionally a server would disappear with the ship card (say, for an espresso) and fail to reappear. In addition, many servers did not speak good English, but what is more problematic, when they failed to understand an order or a request, they would not ask for clarification - instead, they would just do something more or less random. The food was nourishing, but neither exceptional nor even consistent. The level of spiciness was all over the place, but not clearly indicated on the menu, and the dress code was enforced rather lackadaisically. As for the Lido... sticky tables, and I've been to navy mess decks that smelled better.
To summarize, overall the cruise was enjoyable, but there definitely is room for improvement. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
A proper tropical island. Small, clean, water of incredible color, sailboats and kayaks for rental at very reasonable prices, spacious beach.
Perhaps the experience would have been more enjoyable, if not for eight large cruise ships at the same port at once - no room for all of them at the piers, so some were using tenders to haul people in. As the result, the facilities near the cruise terminals (beaches, taxi station, restaurants, shops) were very crowded. Some local vendors appeared overwhelmed as well - and needlessly snappy as the result. On the positive side, despite the crowding, the place looked friendly and safe, and stores had assorted touristy stuff for prices that looked reasonable.