We arrived at the port early on Sunday. Unfortunately the ship was sailing from a remote pier due to the number of ships sailing from Port Everglades, so we needed to take a bus from the parking lot to the ship.
Check in went very smoothly-the HAL shoreside staff was organized and friendly and we were on the ship very quickly.
Cabins were not available until 1 pm and most of the passageway doors were shut to keep people out of the hallways. It's not a huge problem to wait provided you don't have a ton of hand luggage. If you're arriving early it's probably a better idea to have a small bag for personal items and hand over any larger carry on luggage to the porters. Otherwise you'll be dragging your bags around with you until you can get into your cabin.
The Lido buffet was open with a nice selection.
I was concerned about wear and tear since the Westerdam is not a brand new ship but I needn't have worried. The ship looks great and we saw the crew tending to the ship on a daily basis. All of Holland America's usual touches are present on the Westerdam.
The cabins are fine and are average size for a ship of this age. The bed was very comfortable. The tub in most bathrooms are not full size however, it does force the design of a larger bathroom which is a great thing. I love the magnifying mirrors and wish every ship would add them.
The service on board was excellent throughout the week. I would have liked to tried the new open seating for dinner (As you Wish dining) but since I was traveling with a group I was assigned to late seating. The only challenge with late seating is that on several nights the shows for the late seating guests are actually before dinner. It's not a terrible set up, just not my preference. For this reason I would definitely recommend open seating so you can dine at a time convenient to your evening plans.
Food was consistent and of high quality. I like the fact that some menu items (Onion Soup, Strip Steak) are available every night. Service in the dining room was excellent. I had a chance to dine in the Pinnacle Grill one night which was very good. The food was outstanding and the chocolate volcano cake is to die for. Definitely worth the $20 per person supplement. The lido buffet was fine and pizza is now available late into the evening hours. The pool grill has very good food (burgers, chicken breasts, hotdogs) but the flow is terrible. No matter when you're there you have to wait.
Not wanting to be totally disconnected I took my laptop with me on the cruise. Since I have a wireless card I was able to connect to Holland's service in my cabin with regular frequency. I still needed to purchase their internet package but it was nice to be able to connect on a regular basis. I'm not sure how things work in Europe or more exotic locations but in the Caribbean I was able to connect almost every day. Same for cell and blackberry service. If you don't want to bring your own Holland has computers available in the Exploration Cafe at the top of the ship.
The gym on board the Westerdam is well maintained with ample equipment. One or two days I had to wait for a machine but you quickly learn to avoid the very peak hours (which change based on itinerary schedule.)
This is not a ship that has a ton going on in the evening, although we were able to find something every night. The piano bar is great fun-the piano player when we were on board was very entertaining. Nearly all activity centers around the casino/piano bar/Northern Lights (disco) which is all in one small area of the ship. The shows were fine and entertaining and the theater had lots of good seating with good views. The Crows Nest has great views high above the ship and is good for a quiet drink before or after dinner. One of my favorite Holland touches is the string quartet that plays every evening in the Explorer's Lounge. The group on board the Westerdam was very talented and added a nice elegant touch to the evening.
The Western Caribbean itinerary was very relaxing. We were in Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk on subsequent days which gave us two beach days in a row. It might have been nicer to have those days spread apart, but the weather was awesome so who can complain! We were the only ship in port on both those days so there were no lines at Margaritaville or on Half Moon. Other than the beach there really isn't a tremendous amount to do on Grand Turk so it's a perfect excuse to just relax.
Grand Cayman and Cozumel were good shopping ports. There is a big brand new grocery store (reminded me of Target) called MEGA on the main street in Cozumel across from the Margaritaville in Cozumel. This was the best place to buy liquor and coffee as gifts. Not a huge liquor selection but very very inexpensive.
Overall this was a great cruise. With Holland America you know you're getting quality and the Westerdam did not disappoint. For a relaxing seven night cruise at a good price I recommend this ship and itinerary.