Keep in mind that all reviews are a matter of the reviewer's opinion. What was fantastic for one may be totally unacceptable for another. Given that please accept my opinion for whatever value it may have for you.
For this cruise, we booked a Neptune Suite. That comes with many perks that may not be available to those who book a less expensive stateroom.
Embarkation - VIP treatment due to booking the suite. We turned in an Avis rental car and boarded a waiting shuttle to the cruise port. We may have been lucky, but the shuttle was there when we checked our rental in. The shuttle dropped us in front of the cruise ship where our luggage was immediately taken by a waiting porter. We were through check-in and in our stateroom by 11:05 AM. All of our luggage was delivered to our stateroom by 2:00 PM which left us lots of time to explore the ship prior to sail-away.
Veranda - Stern facing Neptune Suite with wrap-around private veranda. Westerdam stateroom 6166. For those who are in love with the ocean view provided by a veranda this one is everything you could ask for. Room for table with 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs with ottoman and side table and 2 chaise lounges. Although all were usable and comfortable the furniture could use some replacement as happens with all cane furniture exposed to the elements. There is no significant wind on the stern so room service meals are so enjoyable that you almost want to forego the Main Dining Room. Unfortunately, there was a cigar smoker below us and cigarette smokers above and beside us which caused us to retreat to our stateroom whenever they were on their respective decks.
Stateroom - King size bed with a variety of pillows, flat screen TV with DVD player, desk, mini-fridge, sofa, two side chairs, coffee table, 3 closets, dressing area, shower, hot tub with shower, and twin sinks. Everything as described by Holland America. In addition there were several gifts provided by the Captain and staff when we arrived. Everything was kept immaculate by our room stewards. Our ice bucket was always full. Both of our stewards knew us by name and were always cheerful. Laundry service, free to those in Neptune Suites, allowed us to return home with no dirty clothes to wash. One of the perks for Neptune Suite dwellers is the Neptune Lounge and concierge service. The lounge has a big flat screen TV and hors d'oeuvres, water, juice, coffee and tea always available. The concierge service is the best way to get reservations for anything shipboard including shore excursions and dining.
Main Dining Room - We had As You Wish Dining. Not having early or late seating did not allow us to become familiar with a particular waiter but we always had superior service no matter where we sat. We always asked the maitre d to seat us with others as we enjoy getting to know others on board. The menu items were always tastefully presented and the quality was above our expectations. Feeding 2,000 people is never an easy task and keeping that in mind helps to overlook any minor annoyance which might occur. We were completely satisfied with the service, food quality, presentation and quantity.
Pinnacle Grill - We can't wait to go back again. Our experience there rivaled that of a 4 or 5 star steak and seafood house. Our waiter was simply fabulous. Food presentation, quality and quantity were far above expectations.
Le Cirque - Although the Le Cirque presentation was nice and the diner was well prepared, most of the menu items were much more gourmet than we like. We did not feel like the additional charge of $49 per person was worth it.
Canaletto - Casual Italian dining with a Venetian slant. Although the experience was superb, we did not enjoy the dishes presented. This is not to say that the food was bad, only that it did not suit our tastes.
Entertainment - BB King's Blues Club all star band should not be missed. They were outstanding and the only night that we did not see them was the night that they were not performing. Other entertainment around the ship was equally impressive. Steel drum music on the Lido deck set the tone for a Caribbean cruise. Dancing with the Stars At Sea was well attended and those that did attend seemed to enjoy the experience. We cannot comment directly as we chose other entertainment around the ship. There was so much going on that it was impossible to see and do everything.
Ports of Call - For us, Grand Turk had little to offer outside of the tourist area at the port. We rented a motor scooter and toured the island on our own. The island is still recovering from previous hurricanes and shows it. The people were friendly and glad to have the tourism, but unless you are a scuba diver or can snorkel, there just isn't much else to do.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - We chose to ride the free trolley to the national park forts of Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro although there are many other excursions both private and through the ships bookings. The trolleys are extremely popular and usually full at every stop so you have to be quick to get a seat, but once on board enjoy the fact that someone else is driving the narrow streets of Old San Juan. The forts are fascinating and with a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant can easily take the whole day.
Sint Maarteen/St Martin - We booked a ship tour of Art Around the Island. We started out on the wrong foot as we didn't see any signs for the tour group when we got off the ship. There were 6 ships in that day and the pier was pretty crowded. We finally found the bus just before they pulled out and were forced to sit on jump seats for the ride. The tour took us to 5 different artists homes and studios and covered several media styles. The tour covered both the Dutch and French sides of the island. We were very happy with the tour and were able to purchase 2 small prints. There was no plan for the tour to stop for lunch, but we were able to get off the bus at Chesterfield's restaurant which is a short walk from the cruise terminal. Lunch was fantastic and the view was superb.
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - When others that we talked with who had been there told us it was the highpoint of their cruise, we said, "sure, ok, just another way for HAL to wrangle a few more bucks out of our pockets" so we were not ready for the picturesque beach and island that is Half Moon Cay. The sand gleamed white, the bar was a few steps away and the clam shell was perfect for a restful way to spend the day. HAL provides a BBQ which is pretty good but it does require a little walking on your part. Loved the shipwreck and the band. No doubt we will get an opportunity to visit again on another HAL cruise.
Disembarkation - We booked the Airboat Tour with Transfer to Ft Lauderdale Airport for our flight home. We also chose to have our luggage sent directly from the ship to the airport with preboarding check-in. How easy was that! We didn't see our luggage until we got off the plane in St. Louis and took our time to get to the luggage carrousel, when much to our surprise, it was all there. We were off the ship and on our tour bus before we realized that the cruise was over. The only real problem that we had was scheduling a flight on Southwest in the middle of Spring Break. The airport was a mad-house. There was no place to eat and no place to sit. We spent $23 dollars for a bad turkey sandwich, yogurt, and a bottle of water and waited in line for over 45 minutes to pay for it. But I certainly can't blame HAL for that.
We were so pleased with our HAL experience that we booked a 21 day adventure for April 2015. As it turns out, we will be back in Ft. Lauderdale to board the ms Westerdam for a repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal to Seattle. We can't afford the Neptune Suite on that one, but we will be in a Signature Suite with a chance that the upgrade fairy might come our way. If anyone can find fault with this cruise, they must have created their own problems. Other than some inconvenient cigar smoke, our experience was nothing short of OUTSTANDING.