This was our 14 cruise. Many to the Caribbean, and Europe. It is the second on a Holland American Ship. Previously we had cruised on Royal Caribbean. We were looking forward to days a sea with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the open water.
Travel from Richmond, VA to Fort Lauderdale, FL and the Pier was the most painless I have experienced in a long while. JetBlue has a nonstop to Fort Lauderdale, which is unusual for Richmond. One thing I would advise travels is to not buy the cruise line transfers. HAL cost was $17.00 per person for the transfer. A taxi ride from the airport to the ship was $10 for two including tip. The return from the ship to the airport was a little more at $15 including tip. Sufficient Savings to pay for a round of drinks.
Embarkation and check in went quickly but I found it strange that HAL did not have a special line to check in Mariners, their loyalty program members. HAL does things differently than other line in that you cannot get your cabin right away. It was after 1:30 before it was announced that the cabins were ready. Additionally, HAL touted in its brochure that Mariners would have a buffet in the dining room and not on the Lido deck buffet. However when I inquired were that perk was I was told it was only available from 12 to 1 PM and as it was now 12:45 it was closed. Hours for this perk should be extended until cabins were ready.
We had booked a veranda cabin and it was as advertized. Sufficient space to store all your belonging and the luggage was delivered quit quickly so we were settled in and ready to relax. The Westerdam overall has been maintained well. Just some small items showing wear. Some seat cushions in the bars and deck chair pads were split showing padding and some light bulbs on the Lido deck were out. But these were small things. One thing that was an irritant was that on most stairwells, and we used the stairs often there was not visible signage showing what deck you were on. After few days I saw that there were signs but place so that you could not see them when on the staircase.
I will lump the dinning, service and entertainment into one section. The food exceeded our expiation; on a previous HAL cruise to Alaska the food was mediocre at best. On the Westerdam it was excellent. However, hours for breakfast and lunch were very short in the Vista Dining Room. The population on this cruise was heavily waited to those over 80. Fix seating was either 5:15 or 8:00 PM. I booked this cruise in June for an end of January sailing and both fixed seating were booked. So we were regulated to anytime dinning. This proved to be a fixed time as any time I made a reservation the only times available were 6PM or 7:45. If you did not want to dine at those times you could come in a wait to be seated. But in truth you waited until 7:45 if you came after 6. The dining room seemed to be short staffed. Tables were not fully set when we were seated and the wait staff was handling too many tables to give great service. Things like coffee refills and bread replacement were almost nonexistence. Attention to detail by the kitchen staff was poor. Plates came out without a quality check. The entertainment was fair to middling. There were band paying in most venues in the evening and were quite good. The resident singers and dancers were high energy and professional. However, the specialty acts were just above the amateur. What ever happen to name acts in the after dinner shows. Also the sound was over the top. Much too loud. I guess it was keyed to the hearing aid set. We had been to both of the ports before so we toured on our own.
Disembarkation was great. HAL allow you to stay in your cabin until the time to disembark, so you were not crowed into the common areas. We had signed up for baggage service and that worked very well. I did not have to touch my bags until my home airport. We moved through customs and immigration and on to the airport. My only criticism was that the Westerdam wanted us off the ship very early so we spent a lot of time at the gate in the airport.
Overall, this was a good trip the negatives I have listed were all minor and in no way detracted from our enjoyment. Would I cruise on HAL again? It would not be my first choice but if the ports were ones that I wanted and the price was right, yes I would use HAL again.