We hesitated when initially deciding to book this cruise. We had initially booked the Carnival Freedom for the same week, however we have always wanted to sail a HAL ship. This cruise became advertised in December and when we discovered it, we quickly booked it. It was a 6 day cruise that was changed from two three day cruises. We booked a category VC Verandah Cabin on the Verandah Deck.
We arrived a day early in Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Springhill Suites in Dania Beach. Great location and minutes away from the Port. Nice sized pool and close to several restaurants and large shopping center with a BJ's ( wine and liquor store), Kmart, etc. Very convenient to pick up those last minute items. We left for the port and returned our rental car at the Budget Rental location in Fort Lauderdale at the port around 11:15 and were shuttled by Budget to the port. Within a few minutes we were at the port and greeted by a wonderful porter who took our bags and directed us to the entrance. Our tickets were verified, health forms filled out, passports verified, pictures taken and VIOLA our family of four was given our passcards to the boat. We were on our way to the best 6 day vacation we have ever had.
We entered the boat and were greeted graciously by gentleman in white gloves. Smiles Abounded by all, and everywhere we went we were welcomed aboard. We made our way to the Lido deck 9 and our teenage boys evaluated the pool areas and gave it a thumbs up- snapped up their swimsuits and were splashing away. We headed to the Lido deck for the welcome aboard buffet which was very nice with a complement of Asian, American, Pizza, Italian, Salad, Deli and Various Fresh Fruits. All food was fresh and delicious. The Lido deck sported a grill area with hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwich and sausage of the day. Also a nice taco bar with makings and salsa and chips. We were told our stateroom was ready about 1:00 and we headed for our room. It was more than expected. We booked a cabin forward on deck 5 the verandah deck. It was larger than other cruises we had been on. It had two twin beds pushed together and a single sofabed. The fourth accommodation was a pull down over the beds. We never found this inconvenient. Storage galore with more than enough room for it all. The bathroom had a sink with undercounter storage a mirrored vanity, toilet and bathtub/shower. Fresh clean white towels always there. The Verandah had two chairs a table and an ottoman. Nice size and very relaxing place to enjoy the views of that beautiful Caribbean Sea. After celebrating the size and beautiful accommodations we headed to check out the rest of the ship. The Westerdam is a beautiful ship in the Vista Class. We had 1802 passengers on board the ship and never once did we feel over crowded. IT WAS GRACIOUS AND SPACIOUS.
Our Luggage arrived in our room by 3:15 and we quickly unpacked and prepared for the lifeboat drill. Over by 4:30 and we went to our Verandah and popped open a bottle of bubbly for sailaway. It was the beginning of our ticket to relaxation.
All aspects of the ship were great. We enjoyed the entertainment. Great illusionist and Elton John Impersonator. The Cruise director was great as well. The Indonesian staff is amongst the best. Our room steward attended to our every need, the waitstaff and wine stewards were incredible. And of course the food....the best of the best....Everything you could imagine. Steak, Salmon, shrimp, lamb, turkey.....Cooked creatively and tastily and present impeccably. We had main dining at 8:00 PM. The ship recently implemented AYWD and passengers who had it liked it, and reported no difficulties. Nightime entertainment good with several nice bars with piano, strings and bands. A disco and casino as well. Something for everyone.
The ports visited on this trip were Half Moon Cay, Turks and Caicos and Grand Cayman. Beautiful beaches. Two ports were tenders and the HAL staff made this extremely efficient. We rented a cabana in Half Moon Cay and enjoyed it. Good BBQ lunch that day on the island. The water was crystal clear and lovely. Powdery sand and good snorkeling.
The only area that HAL could improve on would be the kids programming. Although, present and about 80 teens on board the programming was often an afterthought. Luckily, my boys went with the flow and enjoyed the pool, movies and just hanging with other kids. I'm not saying there is nothing for teens, but would not recommend HAL for kids that need alot of structure and high energy entertainment.
We have to say this cruise was just what we needed. The calmness, refinement and graciousness of the cruise line make for a restful and relaxing time for all. Would definitely cruise with them again once I get over the post cruise SWAY. I think that is part of the relaxing. KUDOS to HAL WESTERDAM for making a cruise the sWay it is supposed to be!