Background Information - We are a family of 4 (myself, DH, DD 15, and DD 10) sailing during spring break from Washington State. This is our 4th cruise as a family and all have been on HAL. My DH and I went on 2 other cruises, one on Princess and one on Carnival.
Hotel Info - We decided to fly in a couple of days early, to make sure that we arrived with plenty of time before boarding the ship and had reservations at Springhill Suites in Dania. We chose this hotel because of the complimentary shuttle service from the airport and to Port Everglades. It also has a complimentary expanded continental breakfast. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 8:30 p.m. We called the hotel to request shuttle pick-up and was directed to a specific area outside of the baggage claim area. The shuttle picked us up within 15 minutes. This hotel is clean and the staff was friendly and helpful. There isn't too much around this hotel if you don't have a car, but there is a shopping area across the street if you need some last minute items for your cruise. (K-mart, BJ's, Barnes & Noble) The breakfast was good for complimentary, but the dining area was a little crowded, so we took the food back to our room. They also have yummy chocolate chip cookies in the evening at the front desk.
The shuttle service to the cruise terminal is very organized. There are 3 shuttle pick-up times…..10:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m. & 12:45 p.m. The shuttle you are scheduled on depends on which cruise line you are sailing. We were on the 11:45 shuttle. It took about 15 minutes to get from the hotel to the drop-off point at the cruise terminal. We were very pleased with the shuttle service.
Embarkation - Once we were inside the cruise terminal, we filled out the health questionnaire, checked-in and on the ship within 15 minutes. Since we arrived around 12:00 noon, there was no waiting to board the ship……didn't need a number. We just walked right on. Although we've never had too long of an embarkation on any of our HAL cruises, this was the quickest one thus far. We then proceeded to the Vista Dining Room for lunch and the cabins were ready around 1:45 p.m. At 4:00 p.m. we did the Life Boat Drill, which went quick and was painless. Our luggage arrived when we returned from the drill and I was able to unpack most of our things before we had to get dressed to go to our first dinner of the cruise.
Stateroom - We were located in 1005, outside cabin, on the Main Deck forward. The room was spacious enough for 4 with plenty of closet/drawer space and a very large unobstructed window. Our Cabin Stewards were Achmad & Ngesti, both very nice and willing to please. They are very hard working, actually overworked. They share 29 staterooms, which in my opinion, way too many. On the first night, our cabin was not cleaned and beds not turned down, but that may have been our fault. The cabin stewards were getting ready to clean, but then we showed up after dinner and asked if they could come back later while we were attending the show. I think they may have forgotten to come back. We requested service from the front desk and within an hour, our stateroom was ready for bedtime. From that day on, Achmad & Ngesti made sure to make up our stateroom while we were at dinner, since we had the Early Traditional seating. Also, we made sure that we didn't go back to the cabin immediately after dinner, just in case they were still working on our stateroom. Achmad & Ngesti did a very good job despite their workload.
Ship Info - The Westerdam is a beautiful ship and never seemed overly crowded. You will always see someone polishing the brass or vacuuming. The public areas are well kept and clean. Our Captain was Peter Harris. He was very visible……walking around the ship and mingling with the passengers. He also took the time to do an informational chat and allowed the passengers to ask him questions.
Activities - Our Cruise Director was Kerry Watkins. He is excellent! In my opinion, he is the best Cruise Director that we've ever had on HAL. Kerry is personable and funny. When you see him around the ship, he always has a smile and says hello.
There were plenty of activities, if you wanted to stay busy. Sometimes we had to run from one activity to another. I played Bingo once to try to win a cruise, but had no luck. I also tried my luck in the casino, still no luck. My DD's completed the daily trivia one day and won some Dam Dollars! Some of the activities included, line dancing, team trivia, The Marriage Game, The Ultimate Game Show, cooking classes, and free digital workshops.
Dining - We had the Early Traditional seating for dinner, because my DH likes to try the nightly late night buffet. Our Waiter was Karna, Asst. Waiter Isma, and Wine Steward William. All very nice and provided excellent service. Although we do not drink wine, William was still very friendly and came by to say hello each evening.
I realize that the topic of food is very subjective, but we thought that the food was very good to excellent. I enjoyed the variety of fish and the way it was prepared. The steaks and prime rib were cooked to our liking, and we also enjoyed the escargot, rack of lamb, and duck. Our DD's enjoyed the chilled soups. And of course, the desserts were always delicious.
We only had a couple of lunches in the Lido, but the service and food was also very good, especially the Asian and Italian areas. A variety of ice cream was available daily. They did run out of waffle cones for a couple of days, but more were made.
Port & Shore Excursions - Our ports of call were Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Grand Cayman & Cozumel. Half Moon Cay is beautiful and our DD's enjoyed the beach. The barbeque lunch was very good, but very crowded because the Zuiderdam was also at this port. There were several serving lines and HAL did the best they could to manage the crowds.
We didn't do any shore excursions. Just shopped around the port area.
Entertainment - We really enjoyed all of the entertainment on board. The entertainers were Max Elliott (Comedian), Leo Ward (Illusionist), Joel Mason (An Elton John Impersonator), along with the HAL singers and dancers.
Max Elliott is hilarious! He likes to poke fun at what cruise ship passengers do on board and performs songs that relates to his stories. Elliott is very personable. We often saw him attending other shows and chatting with some of the passengers and crew.
Leo Ward is amazing. He is a wonderful illusionist and includes comedy in his act. He also plays the drums very well.
Joel Mason is fantastic. Even though he had a cold on this cruise, he still managed to perform those Elton John songs perfectly. I wonder how he would have sounded if he was 100% well.
The HAL singers and dancers were also very good. They were all very energetic and gave great performances.
Children's Clubs - Our girls were not interested in attending Club HAL. They enjoyed spending time with us and the activities around the ship. There were about 200 children on board. Most of them well behaved. There were a few teens that were a bit mischievous. A group of teens decided to ride the elevator. When I boarded the elevator on the Lido deck, the button for each floor was pushed. Unfortunately, I wanted to return to my stateroom on Main Deck. I decided to get off and catch another elevator. Another time, a different group of teens was running through the Lido Restaurant, almost knocking over my daughter who had a glass of juice in her hand. Luckily, there was no collision.
Disembarkation - Because we had a fairly early flight home and with 6 ships in port this day, we opted for the Expedited Disembarkation, carrying off the luggage ourselves. We usually like to stay on the ship for as long as possible and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, but due to the flight schedule this was not possible. Our disembarkation window was 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. There was no announcement made that the ship had cleared customs and disembarkation was beginning, so around 7:45 a.m., we went to the gangway, and sadly walked off the ship. (It's always hard to leave and return to the real world.) We found a taxi immediately, checked in at the airport and through security by 8:30 a.m. Everything went very smoothly. HAL really knows how to run an organized disembarkation.
Summary - Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our Westerdam Caribbean Cruise. The staff and crew are absolutely outstanding - very service oriented and always smiling and greeting us as we passed them in the corridors. One bar steward, Michael, told my DH that he looked like his uncle, so every time we saw him, Michael would say "Hello, Uncle!." HAL is our #1 cruise line. Although we will be sailing to Alaska on Princess in August, HAL will be a tough act for them to follow.