This was our 20th cruise, with three of the last four being on HAL. Unfortunately, this was the worst of those three, although there were a lot of good points also.
DAY BEFORE: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Sleep Inn in Dania. We were picked up form the airport, and taken to the cruise port the next day. They have a pool and a hottub, and the rates were fair. The rooms were clean with a lot of space. We already booked them for our March cruise.
There is a shopping center a block away (walking distance) where we got Pepsi and water for our cruise. While there, you can eat at the Italian Restaurant that has good food and good service.
EMBARKATION: Got there early and waited until they opened the doors at 11:00 a.m. All very quick and fine until we got upstairs where two "ladies" (exercising their 15 seconds of power) made everyone walk through a roped maze More
instead of directly to the stairs and onboard the ship. No crowds and that wasn't needed. I have a problem walking and complained loudly. They simply looked at me and smiled.
Once we got on board, we had to wait, wait, wait. It was almost 3:00 P.M. when they announced the cabins were ready. The Lido was, of course, crowded and the hot tubs were not open. They didn't open until after 7:00 that evening.
CABIN: We had a verandah (5077) and it was large with a huge amount of storage space (We didn't use it all.) Our oversize suitcases fit easily under the bed. There was a DVD player under the TV so bring DVDs with you when you cruise HAL instead of renting them at the ship library. The biggest complaint in the cabin was the movies. Not first run as stated and REPEATED multiple times per day, every day, and not changed for the second week.
FIRST DAY: We had made the decision not to do formal night and save weight with the luggage. Also, we ended up eating at the regular restaurant only once, most of the rest were in the Lido Restaurant. Reason coming later.
As we discovered during the 14 days, the ship sometimes vibrated, and she rocked and rolled when the seas were at six feet or more.
The crew overall was very friendly as usual, something I expect on a HAL ship and they did not disappoint. We had two cabin stewards as HAL had doubled the number of cabins they must take care of to 24 on two decks! Harris and Kurni were the best and I've already put them on my list as "Best Cabin Stewards" out of 20 cruises. We tipped them extra at the end.
The first day at the Lido was a disaster. At 6:30, they were already out of ice, out of large plates, and only one side was open for us, the other side was "For the crew only". The desert bar was not yet open, and you had to go to the ice cream bar to get milk.
There were no trays available to multiple trips had to be made. Further, it was the old way where you gave them your dinner order and they then brought it to you after a wait.
The casino was small by what we've sen in the past but we were surprised that the casino manager and the cashier manager were both from the Ryndam when we sailed her last year. This made things much easier in there. I like to play Texas hold-um poker and they had scheduled only two tournaments for the week. We got them to leave a sign-up sheet on the poker table every day and we played every day ($3-$6 cash game, $30 min buy-in). I was told that they will be getting the digital poker table next January, This time we played with dealers.
The slot machines were set up so you used your room card and a pin number to play. No more coins. You could upload any balance and move to another machine or go to the cashiers cage and cash in the balance. For every 1000 points you earned (counter on the machines), you got a $10.00 bonus. Once you got used to the card, it worked out real well. On sea days, the slots were open 24 hours, even though no personnel was there.
DAY TWO - AT SEA: Lido was still taking orders for dinner. Tonight they had shrimp cocktail and, without trays, it was hard to balance two cocktails, rolls and butter, and a salad and get them to your table. The shrimp was real good however.
I understand they do not want you serving yourself for health reasons. I still do not understand why they can not provide a tray so you can go along and "point" to what you want, have it put on the plate, and we can then take it to our table, instead of waiting. Tonight's main course was beef wellington and it was very good.
DAY THREE - GRAND TURK: There were about 10-12 shops at the pier. Items were fairly expensive (tee shirts were in the $19-$29 range). Really nothing to do there unless you had booked an excursion.
Today, and as we were to find for the entire cruise, the Purser's Desk had very friendly and helpful people, always with a smile. AsI stated earlier, I find the crew on HAL ships to be the friendliest.
Tonight at the Lido, surprise! No more ordering meals. Now we pointed to what we wanted, the waiters loaded the plates, and we then took them to the table. No more lines, real nice.
Attended the comedy show with Julie Barr at the Vista Lounge. Huge and nice, it seemed that everyone had a good sightline to the stage, including those in the balcony. Some seats had small tables for drinks and other things. Julie was funny at times but not hilarious. She did multiple shows both weeks.
DAY FOUR - TORTOLA, BVI: At the pier, it was a short walk to the seller's stalls (20-24). Prices here were very cheap (tee shirts - $5.00 each, 3 for $12). The people there were very friendly. My wife bought a stuffed turtle that had a tag that stated "California". On the ship, we discovered the sewn in tag that stated "Made in China". Oh well.
I can't eat anything with black pepper and there were several beef and fish dishes at the Lido tonight. I asked their manager which had no pepper and he suggested the boneless rib eye. Not only was it very very good, we made a new friend as Subur Riyanna, the Lido manager began taking extremely good care of us. He'd come to the table and talk and when he found out how much we both liked shrimp cocktail, he had it sent to out table every night (It was never served again on this cruise.) Andri, the assistant manager also began treating us the same and it was much appreciated.
DAY FIVE - ST. MAARTEN: With their new cruise ship pier, it is very hard to get to downtown without taking a taxi or the water taxi, each with a cost. (The water taxi is $6.00 for an unlimited all-day ticket so you can go back and forth several times if you want. It goes to the town pier which is right downtown.)
There were four large ships there that day and St. Maarten is already building another new pie beside this one. There are the typical shops at the end of the pier including liquor, cigarettes, and the requisite tee shirts. Anything else, go downtown.
We ate at the Lido again and late that night, ordered room service. Everything was as ordered and very good, especially the club sandwich. The turkey was fresh, the bread was fresh, the lettuce was crisp. HAL shines in this department.
DAY SIX - AT SEA: This was formal night so we ate in the cabin as you can order room service from the dining room menu. We had crab legs cocktail, lobster tail, and filet mignon. There was no melted butter, just shrimp sauce! After we finished, we went up to the Lido for more crab leg cocktails (4) and asked for the butter. None. They said it already had been dipped in butter and all they had was the shrimp sauce.
We then went to the casino. My wife was already $350.00 ahead on the slots and I came in fourth in the poker tournament.
DAY SEVEN - FORT LAUDERDALE: As this was a back-to-back, we were told we had to get off the ship at Ft. Lauderdale, check in with immigration, and then get back on as a group with the other 400 staying on the 2nd week. What a mess! We met in the Vista Lounge as a group and we led off the ship. We then stood in long lines until 10:50 when we were told to get back on. NO ONE ever checked our passports or papers, only had to show our ship card getting back on. What was that all about. A complete waste of time.
Our room was not made up until 3:05 pm. Harris apologized and told us they had to do the room for "new" people first, then those staying on.
There was a second life boat drill and we had been told that we must attend - period. About twenty minutes before the drill began, they announced that those from last week did not have o attend.
They have a pizza place in the Lido and my wife has been asking why they can't make a sausage pizza. All they usually have is cheese or pepperoni. This afternoon, the fellow in charge said he could make us a sausage pizza and did we want to wait for him to make one. We said sure. When we got it, we both tried to hide our smiles. It was topped with sliced hot dogs! We ate it anyway.
The following week was simply a duplicate of the first with different ports so I'll simply give the high/low points.
The movies kept repeating the second week but there were two fairly good ones we hadn't seen before, "Mad Money" and"The Bucket List".
DAY ELEVEN - SEA DAY: We had a second "Meet and Greet" at 10:30 am in the Crow's Nest, hosted by "Wrecks" of this board. Captain Harris of the Westerdam was kind enough to visit and pose for pictures. (Note: I was in the group picture. If someone can provide me with a scan, I'd sure appreciate it.)
DAY THIRTEEN: Port was Costa Maya and we didn't even get off. Nothing here really. There was a new movie on TV however, to our surprise. It was "Titanic" and it was nice to watch it on a ship larger than Titanic was.
No meals in the Lido tonight. They had a barbeque on the outside deck, and it was very good. (Nothing will ever beat the barbeque's on the old S.S. Norway. Those that sailed on her know what I mean.) Anyway, all the deck chairs were gone, replaced by tables with tablecloths, candles, and so on. They offered ribs, steaks, and a first for me on a cruise, swordfish. We each had three pieces of that.
My wife was still winning in the casino and she ended up taking home $1100.00 more than she went with.
Debarkation was very quick and easy as we took an airboat tour of the Everglades. Our flight didn't leave until 3:30 p.m. American Airlines managed to get us back to Dallas just as our flight to Lubbock took off, thus, stranding us in Dallas overnight. This time no arguing. They gave us vouchers for meals and hotel and a ride.
Lastly, there was a loud creak in our cabin every time the ship rolled. We heard it about every four seconds, 24/7, for two weeks. Annoying but we got used to it.
Overall, we cruise to relax and do nothing and that is what we said,. Although some disappointments, the HAL crew was extremely friendly - as usual - and we did have a good time. Next March we cruise again, this time on the Grand Princess. Less