We sailed the week before Easter and for anyone doubting that HAL cannot cater to the more "young at heart," I suggest taking a cruise during school vacation times. At 55 and 57, my wife and I definitely felt in the "older" half of the passengers. There were many families, family gathering and children of all ages and they did not detract from our enjoyment.
We chose this itinerary because the dates were convenient as my wife is a teacher and we are very fond of more sea days (three on this itinerary).
I will state up front that we received the best service we have ever experienced from the crew of the Westerdam. It was just outstanding in every way. From our room steward, Toto, to our dining steward Mario and assistant Budi, wine steward Leonardo and last but not least a Lido steward by the name of Agus, all performed most graciously. We usually frequent the Lido omelet station for breakfast. Agus greeted us at our selected table the first morning and was so positive and friendly that we made it a point to return to the same dining area each morning. When we booked the cruise we were assigned As You Wish dining and waitlisted for assigned seating. I won't get into debate over the issue, but we were most relieved to learn upon boarding that we had received 8:00 p.m. main seating at a table for six. We shared our table with a wonderful family from Houston. We enjoyed our dining room meals. I especially liked the seafood dishes, chilled soups, escargot, surf n'turf, and the cappuccino bombe dessert. My best meal was probably the lamb chops.
We thought that comedienne Julie Barr was hilarious and we enjoyed the packed piano bar with Jimmy Maddox nightly. The Pinnacle Grill never seemed very busy and the Pinnacle Bar appeared to be empty most of the time (Piano Bar could use more space like that).
A few comments on our ports. What can I say that hasn't already been said about Half Moon Cay. Simply wonderful. We took the Ticket to Paradise ship excursion to DePalm Island in Aruba. The kids seemed to especially enjoy the water park and slides. Overall we found the island to be a bit tacky, but what was not advertised was the all-you-can-eat and drink open grill and bar, which made the excursion price seem reasonable. Snorkeling equipment was included. We walked around Willemstad, Curacao in the morning and enjoyed the many colorful buildings and shops. In the afternoon we took the Curacao Beach Express ship excursion to the Blue Bay Beach resort, which was a different destination than the advertised Playa Porta Mari beach. Blue Bay Beach was beautiful, one of the best beach experiences we have had. We enjoyed Curacao more than Aruba.
I will note a few negatives. We sailed the Westerdam on a Baltic cruise two years ago and spent each evening in the Crow's Nest before and often after dinner. Due to remodeling, the Crow's Nest is now adjacent to the Explorations Cafe/Library/Computer areas and in our opinion this has made the Crow's Nest much less desirable than on other HAL ships. We went there pre-dinner the first night, found that it was closed for a private reception (even though it appeared empty) and we never returned to the area except to the library. A disappointment for us.
I'm not sure if this goes with the itinerary and distance involved, but we did experience very rough seas due to high winds. My wife and I feel like we have sealegs and we did not become seasick but we could not use our cabin verandah for three of the days due to seaspray on our fifth deck. This may be due to the fact that our cabin was also pretty far forward.
Lastly, we again found the taco bar in the Lido pool area to be unsanitary in our opinion. This was not due to lack of effort by the crew but instead caused by passenger behavior. I fail to understand why so many people feel the need to eat while in a buffet line. We saw it all, double dipping into the cheese sauce, eating off one's plate while in line then licking fingers and using said fingers to grasp the next serving utensil. Perhaps worst of all was someone who held his taco shell over the ground meat tray to fill the shell so that the excess meat then fell out of the shell, through his hand and back into the meat tray. I know, just gross, but unfortunately we have witnessed the same on more than one cruise and for that reason do not frequent these offerings.
Overall, this was an excellent and relaxing cruise for us. We love HAL and will continue with them for many future sailings.