We traveled on the Westerdam from October 18- October 25, 2009, a 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale. Background Information: My wife and I are in our mid-sixties and we prefer HAL cruises because they are less hectic, more relaxing and with less emphasis on shows, casino, shopping, drinks, and other superficial activities. Nevertheless, these are all there, if desired. But they are not continuously advertized as on other lines. Ship Info: The ship is well maintained and clean. Although relatively new, it is starting to show a few signs age or lack of proper maintenance, e.g., many rust spots and areas requiring varnish or paint. The tipping policy (paying up-front through HAL) does not increase the crew's motivation to go the extra mile. Nevertheless, in general terms they are nice and willing to help.
• Port of Embarkation: Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale is close to hotels and airport. It is very convenient. Embarkation was well organized and we were on board at 12:00 PM and had lunch at 12:20PM. Our cabin was ready at1:30 PM. Luggage arrived around 3 PM.
• Stateroom: Very nice. Larger that the usual balcony cabins on most other lines. The bathroom is also quite comfortable. Our stewards were excellent.
• Dining; Very good to excellent in the main dining room. The same in the Lido. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill. We had most of our meals in the main dining room (Vista), the waiters were excellent and one of the supervisors, a charming Dutch young lady (Ana), was extremely kind and efficient. It was difficult to find a table for two (we were assigned to the open seating dining group) but if you don't mind eating late, i.e., 8:30 PM, there was no problem.
• Entertainment; I did not participate in many of these, but it seemed ok. We enjoyed the string quartet several times after dinner. They are a group of congenial musicians, they played classical string music as well as semi-classical and operetta tunes transcribed for strings.
• One salient feature is the Explorations Cafe, a fusion of coffee house, library, and internet cafe. It is very nicely done, with an excellent library. It is the best I have seen up to now. The internet is slow as in all ships.
• One disappointment: The smaller pool that usually has sea-water in the smaller HAL ships, had chlorinated fresh water.