Overall, our experience on the Westerdam was outstanding. Holland America has been consistent to provide excellent service, food, and entertainment in all our cruises.
The Service. The service is about as outstanding as you can get. The Indonesian crew go out of their way to make your trip enjoyable. They seem sincere that they want to help you. One time we were in the Lido Restaurant (buffet style) for breakfast and the person handing out trays made a point to talk to us and get our names. We ran into him a couple of times after that and he remembered our names and made a point to say "hi". Another time, also in the Lido, we had just finished lunch and one of the attendants asked if we would like a cup of coffee and then went to the self-service area and got me a cup. Things like this really make a cruise special-they were not obligated to make this extra effort, but did so anyways.The Food. The food was again excellent. There was quite a variety of choices and most all dishes were very tasty. The Lido Restaurant (buffet) is an option at any meal and we found the food here was as good as the Vista Dining Room, although you have to get it yourself. On the Westerdam, they have a special Italian area and a Wok area in the Lido that are open late in case you miss the Bistro area, which closes at 2 for lunch. One time, we got back late from shore and had to settle for the Terrace Grill next to the pool, and we were surprised that even at 4 o'clock that the tacos, nachos, and french fries were very good. Most people go to the Vista Dining Room for dinner, but it is available for breakfast and most lunches for a sit down, table cloth, fully waited on experience. The menus were the same as when we cruised a couple of years ago, so no big surprises. There were still plenty of choices of those we had not tried before, plus some that we could not wait to have again. There was some room for improvement, and some passengers complained that the food was better on Celebrity, but I think you would have to be pretty picky not to like this food. We are on a gluten-free diet, and the staff was very helpful in providing gluten-free breads and muffins. The food at the Pinnacle Grill was very good-steaks were outstanding, but for $30 extra pp was borderline worth it. The Entertainment. The entertainment was again very good. The ship’s singing and dancing group were very energetic and provided excellent shows. What stood out on this cruise was the sets for the shows were amazing. This new ship had a better venue for these shows so the sets could be bigger and more elaborate. The other acts were also very good and some we liked more than others, but overall was very entertaining. The Rosario strings (classical trio) performed nightly and we enjoyed them a lot. There seemed to be less entertainment during the day except and occasional Team Trivia, board game, and basketball shoot. Before they offered more ballroom dancing lessons and bridge tournaments but perhaps that was for the longer cruises. We were happy stretching out on the Promenade Deck to read.
The Ship. The Westerdam is a wonderful ship. I had heard from other passengers previously that the new Vista class ships were not laid out right and were too big and that HAL made a mistake creating this class. I found that they fixed some of the shortcomings of their older class. For example, the Lido Restaurant is set up better with multiple places to pick up your tray and to get your food, instead of one long line on the other ships. They also added the Wok and Italian sections for variety. Decks 2 and 3 now have all the shops, lounges, and main dining room that on the old ships were on decks 4 and 5. So the promenade deck (one that you can walk around) is now not on the same level as the ocean view cabins, which people didn’t want to get because there would be people walking past their room all the time. We found the Westerdam had a smoother ride than the old ships. The addition of the outside elevators made for a spectacular ride. The main stage for entertainment was on three levels instead of two, so that the main seating level had more of a slant which made seating more optimal. Our cabin was perhaps a tad smaller than before. We purchased the “obstructed view” cabin, which was cheaper than the inside cabin, and we found was definitely worth it. Having a little natural light coming in was very nice even though the view is predominantly a life boat. Still, the older class of ships (Zaandam, Statendam) are very nice and a little smaller and perhaps more cozy and are very good in their own right.
The Ports. We stopped at Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya on our Western Caribbean cruise, and these ports were much better than our Eastern Caribbean cruise to St. Thomas, Road Town, and Half Moon Cay. Half Moon Cay is a great place to spend a day on the beach and to enjoy their island barbecue. Grand Turk was a surprising great stop. There is a lot of usual shopping right at the pier and there is a beach right next to the pier. Based on reviews we read, we decided to take a taxi to Governor’s Beach (about 5-10 minute ride), which was a very relaxing spot to sit under the shaded trees and snorkel. The water here was very clear and we saw plenty of fish. Do not take the “Iguana” trolley if you are only going to Governor’s Beach. The taxi only cost $2.50 pp instead of $15 pp. There were only about 25 people at the beach which was a much nicer and much less crowded location than the beach at the pier. Grand Cayman was our favorite stop as long as you get out of Georgetown quickly (5 cruise ships, very crowded). Based on reviews we took Captain Marvin’s 3 stop snorkeling tour, which included Stingray City. Swimming with and feeding the stingrays was the highlight of the trip. They are very gentle and amazing to watch. Captain Marvin’s crew was very professional and well worth booking with them. The other snorkel areas were also outstanding, but it should be noted that these other stops were not for beginners as you are over your head and it can be very crowded swimming near the boat. Costa Maya was a good stop for the Mayan ruins. We took a 4 hour tour with The Native Choice to go to the Chocchoben ruins. The ruins were interesting and the tropical plants were impressive. We found the van ride to be a little cramped and long (45 min). Some might want to take the shore excursion on a motor coach, but expect to pay double what the locals charge. Shopping here was interesting because of the haggling. There are no price tags on anything and do not accept their first offer to purchase something–it is expected that you will talk them down some. We got some great deals on some jewelry and found the haggling to be kind of fun.
Overall, Holland America could improve on some things but their whole cruise package is an excellent one. We have yet to find any excessive drinking on board and most of the people we meet are very friendly.