On January 23 we flew nonstop from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale on Continental airlines, as we were to sail on the Westerdam on Sunday the 24th. This would be our tenth cruise and we did not want to miss the boat due to flight delays or cancellations in the midst of winter. We took a taxi to our Fort Lauderdale Beach Marriott Courtyard hotel, which was very close to the famed beach. Unfortunately, it was very cool, windy and overcast in Florida then, with no swimmers in the ocean and few people on the beach. We, however, finding no snow, enjoyed a take-out picnic on the beach after we strolled along the shore. Later we ate a nice supper at an Italian restaurant nearby.
The next day we took a taxi to the cruiseport Port Everglades and began a swift embarkation process. In less than an hour we had gotten to our balcony cabin which had not been totally cleaned yet, but we were able to leave our carryon bags within it. We ate an elegant lunch at the Vista dining room, as we were Mariners, repeat customers for HAL. Non-mariners who went to the Lido for the sumptuous buffet might have searched for a while for a table at which to eat, so we avoided that. The food on the Westerdam was magnificent; everything I chose was delicious and beautifully presented. The service by the Indonesian staff was attentive, but unobtrusive. We always ate breakfast and lunch from then on in the Lido buffet and had "As you wish" supper in the Vista. The supper menus in the Vista were fabulous , as our various dinner companions agreed.
We enjoyed our balcony cabin very much, as we have sometimes on other cruises had an oceanview or an obtructed view. How pleasant to sit in the sunshine with a view of the turquoise water! Due to high seas and inclement, cool weather, we were not able to go to Half Moon Cay. Our captain apologized perfusely, refunded the port fees, and passed out free champagne to all the Westerdam guests.
In the evening we usually went to the Vista Lounge for the entertainment. The 2 Broadway-like shows had marvelous dancers, perhaps the best male dancers I have seen on 10 cruises. The female dancers were very talented and appreciated by the men in the audience. The singers were performing unmelodic banal contemporary songs which might have appealed to a younger crowd. Most of the guests, however, were older (66+) than we were and this music was not from their youth. Some guests got up and left mid-performance. Wouldn't it be nice if HAL focused on the best music from 1940 and earlier to appeal to their clientele? Wouldn't it be delightful if the Halcats would play graceful waltzes and romantic slow dance music on formal nights? The very best entertainment on the Westerdam every evening was the string quartet from the Ukraine, called the Adagio String Quartet. These incredibly gifted young ladies played exquisite selections from the Classical repetoire. They deserved larger audiences than the Explorer's Lounge could hold. What a treat to hear the most beautiful music every night in such a refined atmosphere! It was also very nice to have the opportunity to attend Mass on board each day because HAL provides for a priest to be on the cruise.