First, we booked online. We flew to Fort Lauderdale via US Airways. We were informed that we should arrive noon or later and that we should plan our departure again noon or later. Our flight down was scheduled to arrive slightly before noon, however there was a hydraulic leak in an engine causing the airline to change planes. This took a while and we finally arrived in Ft Lauderdale around 12:30. We were advised to just take a taxi to the ship and this was good advice. We arrived before noon and were pleasantly surprised to find that the embarkation experience was well coordinated and took far less time that our last cruise experience. We went to the Lido deck for lunch and to await our room being ready and available. The dining area was extremely crowded and we had to join another couple for lunch as there were no free tables available. It was a good way to start the cruise experience. NOTE - I would probably plan to arrive around 2:00 pm when the rooms are ready. The Lido deck cleared out as soon as this happened. We got underway right on time. Our room was an oceanview. It was at the front of the ship overlooking the bow. We were very pleased with this room - loved the view and perspective. My wife and I love the at sea days and the first full day was one of those. It enabled us to get familiar with the ship and to get to know a few people. We had requested an early dinner seating, but we were scheduled for an 8:30 dinner seating which was the latest they had. At first we were not happy with this seating, but in hind sight it worked out well as the entertainment would continue on after the second seating. It also gave us more time for some of the daily activities especially when we were in port. The first and second nights we sat at a table for six, but no one else arrived to eat with us. I guess that they just couldn't deal with the late seating and went to the Lido deck for a buffet. On the third night our head steward invited us to join another table that only had two people at as well. I was very pleased that our head steward took the initiative to make this adjustment. Our new table partners were a delight. We really looked forward to dinner each night to compare notes on our days' experiences.
For the ports that we visited. Grand Turk Island is very primitive with little to do on the island. It is early in development. I was told that it is in the process of development and will be seeing hotels being developed. It is supposedly a great place for diving with a large coral reef around the island and over 1,000 shipwrecks in the area.
Our next Island was Tortola British Virgin Islands. This island is very mountainous. We took an excursion tour around the island. It took us over the mountain range to the north side. It as very windy and steep. The views were fantastic! The island appears to be very poor in terms of the local economy.
Then we went to St Maartin. We went on the 12 meter regatta excursion. The was reputed to be the number one rated shore excursion in the Caribbean. After our experience I would affirm that to be true at least for us!! We were paired up into two teams to race these former America's Cup sailboats. We really wanted the Stars & Stripes boat, but were selected for the Canadian boat. We were told that they get 2-3 truly racing condition days per year and that this day was one of them. We went to the boat and boarded it. Were did some general sailing around the harbor and that was where the race would be run. It was so windy that we were taking water over the bow at times. The crew asked if anyone wanted a life jacket. There were no takers! A brave crew this was, especially with the conditions - brave or stupid! There is a photographer that follows the boat and takes a picture that you can purchase later. I wish that we had done that. Well, were just starting the race when - POW - we tore our mainsail! I thought that we were done for the day. But not to worry. There was a backup boat. We lowered the mainsail and anchored the boat and then were transferred to the back up boat. I thought, not only are we not on the Stars and Stripes but we are on the back up Canadian boat - True North, there is no way we are going to win this race! Well, the boat is only one aspect of what is required to win the race. Strategy and the skipper of the boat can and ultimately did out weigh the quality of the boat. We won the race by a nose! After the race was complete, the tender boat picked up the Stars and Stripes crew. They came to pick us up and when they attached to bow line - it snapped in two. The tender had to stand off and go to get another line. At that time a squall came up and we had to maneuver around the bay and get tied up to the anchor point and take the mainsail down. We finally were picked up by the tender around 4:00 pm. Our excursion was supposed to be over around 2:00. We definitely got our money's worth. After we finished they cancelled the rest of the day's excursions due to the weather.
Our ship was due to leave port at 5:00 and everyone was supposed to be back on the ship at 4:30. Around 5, they started paging 3 people to call the front office. About 5:15 one person came on board. I was told that this was a crew member and that he was greeted by the captain and was duly and appropriately dressed down for his tardiness. We started pulling away from the dock at 5:20 and when we were about 20 feet from the dock the other couple showed up! Too bad, they missed the boat. A good lesson for all is to be sure you do not hold the boat up.
We were then on to the Holland America private island of Half Moon Cay. This island had the best beach I have ever seen. The sand was incredibly fine and clean. The water was crystal clear. It is like being in a swimming pool only the water is salt and natural! The food was great and this was a very relaxing final stop on our cruise.
We then set sail for Ft Lauderdale. I was concerned about the timing of our disembarkation to be sure that we made our 11:55 flight time. The whole disembarkation process went smooth as silk. we were at the airport by 10:00 and had plenty of time to catch our flight.
We had not been on a cruise in ten years and we kept asking ourselves why we waited so long to go on another cruise. After this experience, we won't wait long anymore. We are looking to plan a cruise to Alaska maybe summer 2008. We will definitely consider the Westerdam again!