My partner and I were so looking forward to our Southern Caribbean cruise on Holland America Westerdam. I am 41 and he is 53. We have sailed on the Oosterdam, Zuiderdam and Westerdam once before and knew we would be young, but we generally don't mind older passengers. On this cruise on the Westerdam, this was not the case.
We chose this trip because we really think the Westerdam is a beautiful, comfortable ship and we had the best food of any cruise when we sailed her in late 2006. In addition to the 4 Holland America sailings, we have really enjoyed sailing on Jewel of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas and especially Radiance of the Seas! We live in the Ft. Lauderdale area and hopping aboard a ship is easy for us. We like mid-sized ships with a large focus outward towards the sea. We are very unhappy with the new developments of Royal Caribbean building HUGE inward focused ships, but they have moved their ships of the size we like to longer voyages that we cannot afford or take that much time off. Radiance of the Seas (twice) and Zuiderdam have been our favorite cruises.
Embarkation: Easy. Still prefer the way Royal Caribbean does it better, but it was quick and painless and we were on the ship before noon.
Fellow passengers: As previously stated, we have no problem sailing with people much older than us as long as they are fun-loving, kind and "young at heart". This was totally not the case on this cruise. We sailed with the LARGEST collection of rude, loud, demanding New Yorkers and Floridians who used to be New Yorkers than any cruise we have sailed on. They really treated the crew like dirt and really almost ruined this vacation for us. Yankee, stay home if you can't behave!!!! From our first lunch in the LIdo until the last breakfast, these old, crabby people were treating the crew like they were their own personal slaves. It was appalling! We live in Florida and put up with a lot of these types of people in our daily lives and know how petty they can be. Usually it is just a small few that act like this and you can brush it off, but this particular sailing they were everywhere! Their may have been 20 -30 people on this cruise that we felt like we fit in with (including our 2 wonderful Canadian tablemates), but otherwise Yuck!!! All of our previous cruises we have met many nice people of all ages. Unfortunately that was not the case on this cruise. Thank God for great tablemates from London, Ontario.
If it were not bad enough that the passengers were treating the crew so terribly, Holland America is doing a bad job in this regard as well. We received absolutely wonderful service from our Stateroom Attendant, our Dining Room Waiter and Assistant, and almost everyone we encountered on this ship. Unfortunately, Holland America is not treating them well and it is a big turn-off for us. Our cabin steward did a great job with our room, remembering our names, etc..., but he had 30 cabins! Way too many and he was lucky to get an hour to himself during the day. They also have long 11 month contracts and do not get to leave the ship. On Royal Caribbean, we can always talk about the ports with our servers. On Holland America, they are always working and never get to go ashore unless it's to Half Moon Cay to work. In my opinion, they need to rotate letting dining room staff have a morning or an afternoon off periodically like Royal Caribbean does. Our Dining Room Waiter worked breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner. That's way too much work for 11 months straight!
Cabin: We were in an obstructed view cabin midship on deck 4. Room had lots of natural light, beds were very comfortable and really enjoy having a bigger bathroom. Cabin steward kept our room very clean and he made better towel animals than anyone we have had before. His were more intricate. The only problem with the cabin was that the A/C blower blew right in our faces if we were in bed. We could adjust the temperature and had it on warmest most of the time,but we really didn't like the force of air coming from the A/C. We must have been at the beginning of the line for it to blow that hard. I'm usually warm at night, but on this ship I slept with an extra blanket wrapped up around my ears. Holland America cabins have very good sound proofing and we did not hear neighbors(except in the hall where they were making ridiculous demands our our Stateroom Attendant. One old lady had the nerve to try to demand that he bring her coffee to her room at specific times each day. Lady, if you want a butler then pay extra to book a Deluxe Verandah Suite. Otherwise, get off your fat behind and go to the Lido, the dining room or call room service like everyone else. Cabin has flat screen TV and a DVD player. We took DVDS with us as we did not have high hopes for entertainment based on prior Holland America cruises. We were glad we did.
Entertainment: This is the area that Holland America still really suffers. Surprisingly though, it was backwards of our last trip on the Westerdam. Last time, we had a great singer as a guest entertainer and a pretty good illusionist, but the Production Shows were awful. This time, the Production Shows had very capable singers and the dancers did pretty good...it was the guest Singer/Impersonator and Illusionist/Comedian that were really bad. The Production shows "Grand Tour" and "Stage and Screen" were almost as good as Royal Caribbean Shows which was a real plus. The crowd seemed to like the Impersonator, we thought he was lame and we left after about 7 songs. Not our type of show. We would much rather have a good singer who tries to be themselves instead of trying to sound like a bunch of different people. I know I'm not the target age group because I don't listen to Engleburt Humperdink, Tom Jones or Johnny Mathis.
The lounge entertainment, just like on all our Holland America cruises was really lacking. The Explorer's Lounge did have a string trio that was good from 6:30 -10:00 that was good "getting ready for bed" music. They also had "Caren and the Halcats" who sang more contemporary songs, but they were only on for an hour a day. Way underutilized. They were best suited for the Lido deck "Dancing Under the Stars" party on the Aruba night. The Lido pool had pretty flower fountains in the pool, and large floral umbrellas that gave a very nice ambience. Too bad it was just one hour.
Dining: While Holland America still does a very nice job with both the dining room and the Lido buffet, the quality has slipped some from our previous cruise on ALL the items I was looking forward to are no longer on the menu. Service was top notch, gracious and very attentive. They used to be WAY Better than Royal Caribbean, but now there is not much difference. They do still do a superior job with hamburgers and taco/nacho bar at the Terrace Grill, good pizza and asian food and ice cream in waffle cones. Hot food in the Lido Buffet is no where near as good as before, much "cheaper" offerings.I really missed not getting to have my favorites in the dining room. The best meal was the simplest and two good entrees on one night. They do an excellent turkey dinner and that night they also had a yummy baked macaroni and cheese with ham and garlic toast. Fish dishes were not nearly as good as before and they replaced the wonderful parmesan crusted honey mustard chicken breast entree with a Pheasant dish that was not appealing. We certainly did not go hungry and I've been craving one of their yummy burgers since we got home. Royal Caribbean does a much nicer job of serving large portions of fresh vegetables. When we sailed on Westerdam in late 2006, they had a vegetable of the day selection; they do not have this anymore.
Ports of Call: Half Moon Cay was exquisitely beautiful as always and had a mostly good lunch BBQ. I don't know what they have done with their BBQ ribs, but both times I tried to have them they were just big hunks of fat and I could not cut them apart. Enjoyed spending the day alternating between swinging in a hammock and enjoying a float in the water. Spent the whole day there and loved it.
Aruba: We had hoped to do a Jeep off-road safari tour. We didn't book the one the ship offered because we thought surely it would be offered when we got off the ship. Unfortunately, it was mostly island bus tours that were offered at the pier. A lady who worked for one of the buses called a jeep tour company for us, but they were full and had just pulled away. We went with plan B which turned out really good. We took a cheap public bus to Eagle Beach and rented two chairs and an umbrella. Sand and water here were gorgeous and I had a great time swimming and playing in the clear, turquoise water. I was starting to deal with chest congestion that day. We went downtown where I found cough syrup. Friend needed to shop in places with perfumes/beauty products for family which was too much for me. I tried waiting for him outside of shops, but there were so many smokers. I ended up going back to the ship to get some Robitussin in me while he shopped. As a side note, pack cough syrup if you are prone to get sick. The shops on board carried none and i was SO GLAD that i went to the pharmacy in Aruba.
Curacao: Unfortunately, chest congestion had gotten worse and it was a very windy day so I stayed on the ship. My friend went ashore, did some shopping and did an island our by van that he really enjoyed. His first attempt was on a bus with the above mentioned rude New Yorkers. He got on that bus and was told "We don't have room for you" by the passengers so he got off the bus and thankfully found a more pleasant crowd.
The sea days were relaxing but a bit boring. Cruise director was the worst we have had and there was very little ever happening on the ship. The chair hogs were out in full force by the Lido pool. Impossible to get a chair there despite many of them empty except for items to hold them while the rude folks gambled or whatever pool chair hogs do while taking up a chair.
We ended up in loungers on the Promenade deck reading most of the time. It was very windy up on the top decks, so we mostly stayed away from them so I would not cough more.
As of now, we had already booked an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam for December. There is about a 99% chance that we will cancel it and try to find a ship where we fit in more. It's a shame really as the Westerdam is a beautiful ship, but the passenger base and lack of entertainment really keep it from being the Premium Ship it claims to be. We don't ever want to sail on a ship with such rude passengers again. We may have better luck on a different week, but we are not sure we are willing to chance it.
This passenger base was really "the overfed and nearly dead." Again, we have enjoyed the company of many, many seniors in the past...but they knew how to treat the crew and their fellow passengers unlike this motley crew of constant complainers.
Disembarkation was easy and went quicker than they thought. They did not make announcements which was nice. You just planned to go ashore at your designated time. If you were waiting in a lounge, they let you know they were ahead of schedule and you could go ahead and disembark. One of the few pluses over Royal Caribbean was not having to listen to lots of disembarkation announcements in many different languages. Overall, I would rather listen to to multiple language announcements on the last day than the griping of passengers for an entire week.