WESTERDAM Western Caribbean Cruise 3/11 - 3/18-2007
After cruising in the past with Celebrity (X) and Princess (P), we just came back from our first HAL cruise. We are very impressed by HAL's product and enjoyed a great cruise:
ARRIVAL/embarkation: We used Park n' Fly in Ft. Lauderdale and arrived at the pier when the "flood gates" opened for boarding at 11:00 AM. Since we filled out all paperwork at home, we were entitled for "Express Boarding" - which means you are allowed to wait and stand in the much longer line (!). But otherwise the procedure was well organized and we ate our first lunch on board at 12:00.
STATEROOM: Our balcony cabin VE on deck 5 had the usual size, a lot of storage room and a nice size bathroom with shower/tub. Mid-ship staterooms have one disadvantage: Due to the outside position of the lifeboats there is no view down to the pier or water. If you like this view, you must book a front or back location. Our steward had to be reminded daily to replace used items - we think he had to pay out of his own pocket for toilet paper or shampoo (!).
SHIP LAYOUT: "Westerdam" is a beautiful ship - between decks 4 and 11. We didn't like the layout of the public decks 1 to 3. Compared to X and P, only one dark hallway connects from front to back and this gives you a crowded feeling. The little atrium with one steep and narrow stair misses the generous look of the other ships. Due to the dark carpeting and ceilings, most of the public decks seam narrow and low. We also saw passengers having problems on stairs and steps (Vista Lounge) due to the dark carpet.
FOOD: Great offer for breakfast and lunch in the Lido restaurant. Tables were always cleaned quickly. Furniture is tasteful = not the "ugly cafeteria look" of some other ships. Dining room is the highlight of the day. Food quality, variety and presentation is comparable to X and P (or even better!). Service is extremely friendly and efficient - without silly jokes or comments. Pinnacle Grill: Overpriced compared to Celebrity's special restaurants (same price) . It is not worth to spend $ 60.00 per couple for food and service in a similar quality as the dining room offers.
TABLES FOR 2: We had a table for 2 and learned from the Assistant Restaurant Manager (and realized by our own observation) about a strong increase for tables for 2. More and more guests prefer the same intimacy, which you get in any land-based restaurant. In the future the cruise lines should redesign the dining rooms. It would be nice if a request for a specific table size could be confirmed with the booking.
WINE LIST: No need to bring your own wine - the wine list offers a wide variety from a California wine ($26.00) to a Château Petrus ($ 698.00) with a large choice between $ 30.00 and 50.00. Drink prices are moderate (and lower than Celebrity's)
HAL'S NEW DRESSCODES (Do not kill the messenger - this is from the Daily Programs): Informal is gone. Formal reads now: "Jacket + Tie for men, Tuxedo suggested", while Casual is defined as: "No Shorts, tank tops, swimwear or workout attire" - the "No Jeans" has been deleted (!). On formal evening the reality was: Approx. 50 % dark suits, 20 % tuxedos, rest some kind of jackets. Ladies in long or short black dresses and pant suits. Many gentlemen wore jackets even on casual evenings, but you could also see ladies dressed for spring-cleaning of the house.
PASSENGERS: We were surprised to see a lot of guests under 50 years old and many young and good looking couples. 100 children were on board - but absolute no complaints!
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Half Moon Cay is one of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches with great amenities, enough loungers for everybody and a gourmet beach barbeque. Grand Turk is not yet developed. A lot of houses are in very bad shape. The new "Carnival town" at the pier is OK. Nice beach and great pool at "Margaritaville" - with expensive drinks, but a fun place to be Grand Cayman: We went to Seagrape beach = big error. Unless you like to be surrounded by 1000 beach chairs with only a few inches in between - choose another excursion. Georgetown is another ugly tourist trap in the Caribbean. Costa Maya: We booked the "Mayan Experience" with David and Ivan. Our guide Carolina provided us with in-depth information about the Mayan culture and life style. The ruins are very impressive and the following lunch with a Mayan family is a wonderful experience - one of the best tours we ever did!
ENTERTAINMENT: While the dancers, singers and the single comedian were average cruise fare, Joel Mason as Elton John and Illusionist Leo Ward were absolute highlights. After dinner we enjoyed also the "Rosario Strings". No silly pool games.
CONCLUSION: We had a wonderful cruise and send a big "Thank you" to Westerdam's crew for working hard to allow us to have such a good time.
HAL, CELEBRITY AND PRINCESS offer a similar good product. As in the past, we will book our cruises based on itinerary and may be back on HAL sooner or later.