My Husband and I left Jax at 4:15am on Jan.3,2010. We stopped for coffee, then a fast food breakfast..and were on board the Westerdam, eating lunch on the Lido Deck before 1:00pm. Embarbartion was the easiest we have ever experienced. We unloaded our luggage, , then parked the car, walked to the Port Bldg. There was not a line. We showed our Boarding Documents, then went up the escalators, where we waited maybe 5 mins, and then had our credit card info taken, etc. and we were on the ship. It was amazing.
Our Cabin was ready by the time we finished lunch. We loved it. It did show some signs of wear and tear, and we did have to have someone look at the toilet. Repair people came immediately, and that was the end of the problem. The balcony was pretty much un-used the first two days because it was very cold.The room had plenty of space, not so much drawer space, but two large hooks on the wall took up some slack. International CNN was the only news channel, and after hearing one Reporter wail about 'teaching them not to hate", we quit watching it. There was very little USA news on it anyway. WHY not Fox or MSNBC news outlets? Please. Other than that, we enjoyed the cabin. We sat out on the balcony the night we were in Aruba. Firecrackers were being shot at the Big Hotels, my DH sipped a martini, I sipped a diet coke, and that is a memory to cherish. The weather was perfect, the lights of Aruba were beautiful, and the firecrackers..a nice extra. Before Aruba..it was not so nice weather wise. It was 57 degrees at Half Moon Cay, so we stayed on the ship. The weather in Miami had been very cold when we boarded, so we expected bad weather. It was not until the second sea day that it warmed up. The temperatures in Aruba and Curacao were perfect. Both were in the 80's, and Curaco had the permanent trade wind they have blowing.
ACTIVITIES- Shane was the CD and I thought he was good. He was lowkey, but then HAL is sort of lowkey. He was very approachable and witty. He conducted the Trivia games on board and they were well attended and competitive. My only gripe about the activies is..There is not enough Trivia! He was also in one of the impromtu productions (illness of a major cast member) and he was hilarious. HAL has a new Daily Program, with new categories. They seemed to have a lot of culinary lessons, a lot of yoga, spa, spirtual things, exercise and computor classes and photography classes. We only do Trivia, and went to all of them, and enjoyed everyone of them. They also had a Marriage Game Battle of the Sexes,hosted by DJ Jazzy, but since it was not Trivia between the ladies and the gents, we did not stay. DJ Jazzy did a lot of Bingo, and that was well attended. I went to One session. The Casino was the worst thing on the ship. It was very small. It had a few interactive slot machines, which everyone wanted, and then rows of the cherries, sevens and such machines that sat empty for most of the time. If anyone won on any of the slots, I did not hear about it. After dinner, it was always so crowded, it was impossible to do anything.
ENTERTAINMENT -I would recommend the First Stage Production very highly. In Addition to a really good show, HAL served champagne and wine. It was in place of the Captain's party, and I liked it much better. Drinks were served until the production began so they were free with the Joy Juice. I did not see the Elton John Tribute Show, but I did see the man who stars in that the next night. He was the star of the show that was put together in leu of the scheduled production. He is fantastic. He is funny, a good singer, a better comic, and his co-stars were just as good. I laughed until I cried. The standing ovation they received was certainly deserved. Even the Captain got in on the humor. I also saw the last production, which again starred the really good dancers and singers, but I did not care for the music they chose as much as the first. They were very good. I was surprised at how good they were to tell the truth. Shane, the CD, also arranged a viewing of the SEC Championship game in the Crow's Nest. Because the game was played in CA, and we were on Aruba time, it started lated. Still, my DH and I went for half of the game. They had two pull down screens, a hamburger, wings, hot dog buffet in the hall, and they just made that a very nice experience. We really appreciated the effort HAL took to make it so nice.The ventriloquist was in the Impromtu performance, and he was very funny. Ditto the pink haired comic. All of the entertainment that I saw was very good.
SERVICE - It could not have been better. Our cabin steward, Haman, could not have kept our cabin any cleaner or been more cheerful. He was a delight. We had anytime dining, which we disliked, but where ever or whenever we ate, the service was very good. We had to request a change at the Shore Tour Desk. She could not have been nicer. We also requested a change at the Pursar's Office. They said no, but were very nice, and promptly called with an explanation. The staff in the casino was very nice.
DINING--I do not like anytime dining. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill two nights because we did not know if we had a reservation or not. The food there was not that much better than the Main Dining Room. But then, the food in the MDR was very good. The staff in the PG were beyond nice. But they did not have a tossed green salad. The PG is a nice steakhouse. And NO green salad with lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, etc. They usually had an Arugua Salad but were out that night, and they had a Caesar Salad..but no tossed salad. The Shrimp, while very large, was not cooked well. I did not even eat mine. My DH is a Fl.native, and we know how to boil shrimp, which is very easy. This shrimp was like a raw shrimp. The steaks were good. The Veggies were good. The nut-oliveoil bread was really good.
MAIN DINING ROOM...We ate lunch in the Vista Restaurant every day. If you like pizza, you have hit the Motherlode. I ate pizza every morning. It was really good. I also did the salad bar, seperate line, I liked that, and only missed black olives. I tried the pasta once, but it was so-so. My DH ate a hamburger and hot dog most days. He was very pleased with them. The first day he went through the Oriental line, and did not like his selection. He did get pizza one day, and was as impressed as I was with the taste and quality. We had ice cream every day. The ice cream bar is in the Pastries bar, and it is served by a crew member. I liked that. I like children, but the self serve machines on other ships, where dozens of hands have touched the cups and cones is a major turn off for me. It was nice to get good ice cream, with all of the toppings you could wish for and feel it is sanitary. Call me an old fogey, but I do feel that way. We also ate every breakfast but one in the Vista. I always had an omelette, with potatoes and bacon on the side. I don't think the eggs were freshly cracked, but the omelettes were delicious. The staff was very nice. My DH went through the line that said Fried eggs and he had that every morning. They also had hot boiled eggs as well as scrambled eggs, which were not good. Period. Not good.I had waffles twice and they were as light as air. They were just delicious. We were very pleased with the food in the Vista. Not having a tray in the Vista was awkward, but we managed. I also never saw any lines after the first day...perhaps four or five people in line..but never more than that. Perhaps cutting out the trays speeds up the lines. Hoo-RAy if it does.
MAIN DINING ROOM..We were pleased. We disliked anytime dining...but we were always seated and even got a table for two three times. Their is a good variety on the menu each night. The dishes I liked were the alternative steak. It was perfectly cooked as were the potato and steamed veggies with it. I liked the Pumpkin soup, the hot tomato bisque, the Turkey and Dressing, and yes, it was very good, and the fillet mignon we had on the last night, Chef's Night. We had a reservation for that night, and People without one were not being seated. It was where the service staff sings and dances. Some of the menu was set, and we enjoyed it. Ice Cream Sundaes are on the menu every night, and we had one almost every night. They were delicious. I had the white chocolate chef's suggestion one night and it was good, and the Baked Alaska which was delicious. We thought the food, over all, was very good. The Pork chops on the first night were tough. I would not order that again. Other than that..everything was fine.
DISEMBARKATION- It was beyond belief. We had packed the night before, our luggage was already gone, so we dressed, went up to the Vista, ate breakfast, then rechecked the room, found Haman, then went up to Deck three to wait. Immediately, a man came up, told us there was no line and we could disembark. We were on the road home at 9:05am.
It was a lovely cruise. I enjoyed every minute of it. I can highly recommend the Westerdam, this route and this crew.