A Smooth embarkation and an excellent Mariner's lunch set the tone for this cruise. The cabin seemed at first to be a little short on drawers, until we noticed two under the couch and one under each bed. With storage inside the ottoman as well, there was plenty of space for everything. We liked the magnetized holder for the bathroom door. No more crashing, thumping bathroom door on stormy nights. The balcony offered one comfortable and one very comfortable chair as well as a footstool and small table. One small glitch we had with the room was that the keys had a tendency to demagnetize. However they were quickly fixed by the efficient and courteous front desk staff.
The walking deck in the Westerdam is the best we have ever seen in over a dozen cruises. It is a third of a mile of teak with no obstructions or stairs. Neither the deck chairs or cushions are ever removed, or sprayed down with water so there is always a place to sit. With no lanai cabins, all deck chairs are available for everyone. Unlike most other cruise ships, the walking deck was almost never blocked off, either. All of this is impressive enough, but the Westerdam went one step further and placed several drinking fountains with chilled water along the deck as well. A thoughtful touch for both walking passengers and working crew.
The Lido was one of the better ones we have seen. It was often not crowded and the food was better than usual, especially the salad bar and Asian section. We did get some terribly freezer burnt sugar free ice cream there one day, but other sugar free desserts were well ahead of the curve. The pool deck offered some interesting tex mex, excellent sweet potato fries and burgers that were pink inside.
The dining room was very good. We had a hard time switching our dining time back to early after someone changed it to late just before sailing and had to do the anytime dining for a couple of days. Communication on this point was unbelievably complicated, but we ended up with a fine table and good waiters. As usual, it was hard to convince anyone that we do not drink alcohol. Once past these glitches, we found the food to be almost excellent. The beef and lamb were always wonderful, soups and salads were good and one raw lobster tail was the single culinary disaster. Croutons, which have a distressing tendency on most cruise ships to be little more than dried bread, were usually acceptable on the Westerdam. One stupendous desert was the flour less chocolate cake, which was excellent, even better than home made. Bizarrely, it must not have sold well, because we encountered it in the Lido the next day at both lunch and supper, dressed up as a cupcake. We were thrilled to see it again in any case.
Every one of the three previous Holland America cruises we have been on before suffered from plumbing problems. Venting sewer gas on upper decks, dead toilets and flooded hallways have a way of "dampening" a cruise. The Westerdam, however, did NOT have any of these problems, which is yet another way in which we found it to be "unusually" good. With Holland America's cleanliness, good food and almost excellent service as well, this was a top notch cruise.