Embarkation: When I entered the Terminal, I was processed with the normal security check, as all Cruise Terminals. I placed my carry ones through the metal detectors, and I went directly to the Check-In Stations.
The check in process was very quick, and I think that all of the cruise lines should use the same process as HAL. They take your A-PASS Photo (security photo for when you board or leave the ship) right at the check in station. This eliminates another check in station before boarding. I them went upstairs, and boarded in less than 5 minutes. Report Card: A
Cabin: I loved my cabin, and wanted to point out a few things that I liked. The Cabin had a nice LG Flat Screen HD TV (There was only an analog signal, however), and a COBY DVD Player underneath the TV. There were many amenities is the Bath that included Bath Gel, Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Lotion. There were very thick towels, and bath mats supplied, and a Bath Robe. There were large storage drawers under the bed, and sofa (Triple Cabins have 2 large cabinets above the sofa instead of under the sofa, due to pull out sofas in the triples) There was a shoe shine basket for complimentary shoe shines. The TV programming could have been better. There were 20 channels of programming (14 Ship channels, 6 cable channels) Report Card: A-
Dining: I was assigned to the new As You Wish Dining, and was very pleased. As a solo cruiser, it was nice to just walk up to the Dining Room and be promptly seated. Once, I was given a single table, another time I was seated at a table for 6, and twice I was seated with 2 other Cruise Critic members (we had a reservation).The food was enjoyable, and the choices and presentation were very good. The Lido dining was very good as well. You were able to choose from the same items that were served in the dining room. The wait staff was very attentive, and friendly. Report Card: A-
Entertainment: I am generally not a big fan of Production Shows, or Showroom entertainment. I wanted however, to attend some of the shows on Westerdam. I though they were pretty good, although not as good as RCI or CCL. I thought the production value was above average, and the sound quality was good. The best entertainer on the ship was Joel Mason. I did not go to the Piano Bar, and the Caribbean Band was very good (Helen and the HAL Cats). The Intermezzo String Quartet sounded very good as well. Report Card: B
Public Areas: The Public Areas were very nice. The Westerdam has a very classy feel to her. Many area on the ship felt very Nautical, while some felt a little dated. (The ship was built in 2004) Most areas were very classy, and unique. I especially liked the Atrium area, which was very beautiful. I loved the exterior areas of the ship included the teak that seemed to be everywhere. The pools were never overcrowded, and the passenger flow was nominal. Report Card B (Interior), A (Exterior)
Debarkation: The debarkation process was the best of any cruise line. We were able to stay in our cabins, until our color was called. I couldn't believe it. . . it was very nice not to be rushed off of the ship. If you wanted to, you could order room service on the final morning. The process seemed to really make sense by not having everyone wait in a public area, and then everyone rush to the gangway. Inside the terminal went very smooth, with no lines and no clutter. Report Card A+
Final Thoughts: This was my first HAL Cruise, so these views are really from an outsider looking in. Many people have asked me to compare HAL with RCI. It wouldn't be fair to do that. RCI is a Mass Market Cruise Line, while HAL is considered to be a Premium Cruise Line. I would rather favorably compare HAL to Celebrity. A good comparison to Westerdam would be Celebrity Millennium. I think that Millennium was more advanced with technology, and ahead of its time. Both have the services and amenities that would be expected on a Premium Cruise Line. Both have dining choices, and quality that would be expected as well. I think the thing that puts HAL, and Westerdam above any ship that I have sailed would be the Crew. The Indonesian and Filipino crew (Wait Staff and Attendants) seemed to be the life blood of the ship. They seem to have an attitude of trying very hard to please their guests that I have not felt on any cruise line.
I would highly recommend the Westerdam for anyone who really appreciates the service aspect of a cruise. She deserves very high marks !
Overall Grade: A