Embarkation at Ft Lauderdale was simple. HAL has done alot in recent years to make the process easier including the online check-in and the many personnel at the port to speed things up. Arrived about 11AM and was on the ship before Noon.
Was going to go to the Mariner's Lunch in the MDR but found out that it was Indonesian so I went up to the Lido. (Indonesian food is good, I just did not want it that day.) As usual, for an embarkation lunch, it was packed and now that they do not use trays its all a bit harder to negotiate. As a single person, with no one to hold the table for me, its even more of a hassle. I left my hand luggage at a table, to secure it, but was never really sure if someone would move it, until I returned to the table. However, the food was good, it was a good lunch.
The room was ready before the stated 1:30 time and I deposited the luggage in the room and toured the ship. I had been on this ship before, but of course, who remembers details of any particular ship a few years later? Not me.
The Westerdam is a smaller ship (though its HAL's largest class) and its graceful and nicely appointed with art and artifacts. The low ceilings in the lounges and other public areas might annoy some people though, especially if they are used to the tall atrium's and other high areas of the larger ships. The two small pools are a problem on the sea days and with so many kids and families on board.
Dining: I dined mostly in the MDR, breakfast, lunch and dinner, except the one day it was not open for lunch. The service was superb and the food very good. No problems at all and I enjoyed it very much. The day I ate in the Lido (other than embarkation) was a Port day and it was not crowded; again, excellent food. The Lido is not my favorite place to eat though, it lacks all the elegance of the MDR and detracts from the cruise experience, IMO. Many people just want to eat quick and get on with their day, so for them the Lido is great.
The ship was on "Code Red" the first three days of the cruise, a precaution against the Norovirus. I think they should have kept it up for the entire cruise. The day I ate in the Lido, I saw several people reach their hands almost into the salad bar and I saw a guy order a sandwich and point out to the server what he wanted by reaching his hand to almost touch the deli items themselves. They also had multiple glasses of ice tea already poured and sitting out waiting to be picked up. Not as sanitary as when they were on the Code Red. I did not hear of anyone getting sick and they did not resume the Code Red so that was good. (When I was on the Westerdam before, they had a Code Red almost the whole time and many people were in fact sick)
The entertainment was OK basically. The shows were good, particularly the Elton John impersonator. In the lounges the music was good; the String Quartet was pleasant and I stopped to hear them every evening. Some of their selections were a bit somber though, more fitting for a funeral and the only thing missing was the flag draped coffin! They could liven it up an bit and still remain within the classical genre. The guitar player in the Crows Nest was very talented and entertaining when he played and sang. When he tried to chat with the crowd he just wasted time and since I went up there each night, I heard the same lines repeated over and over. (Yes he is from Indianapolis, Yes he is a college sports fan, yada, yada, yada). He needs to stick to music. I would say the same with the Piano Bar entertainer: very good when he played and sang, less so when he talked. Again he repeated himself over and over and towards the end of the cruise, his chatter amounted to him complaining about how long he had to stay on the cruise and how glad he will be when he hits land and how he looks forward to his new job in Las Vegas, yada, yada, yada. A supervisor needs to check on these entertainers periodically during the cruise and give them some direction. Basically though, it was all pretty good.
This was a school break week and I was told there were 350+ kids on board. I heard this several times; I don't know how people got this number but there did seem to be lots of kids. All well behaved, it was just that they dominated the Lido pool during the many sea days. At least the cruise was not as geriatic as some HAL cruises are. While there were the families, there were also middle aged people, young adults as well as elderly folks. A good mix.
Ports: The stop at Half Moon Cay was cancelled due to the rough seas. The Captain apologized and they gave a refund of the Port Charges and a free glass of Champagne at dinner. I was looking forward to the stop, not to get off the ship (I have been to Half Moon Cay several times) but because everyone else would get off and the pools would be more available. Instead it was another sea day. A nice one though and while it might have been rough at Half Moon Cay, the ship sailed smooth and there was no rain (we were told later that it rained all afternoon at HMC).
This cruise had 4 sea days, more than any other Caribbean Cruise I have taken. Sea days are great, except on a small ship the pools and lounge chairs become out of reach for many people unless you claim your spot early in the morning. Even then, the two small pools were usually crowded. The outdoor hot tubs are tiny compared to a mega ship and they filled up fast also.
The spa has a Thermal Pool but it is not free and in fact its rather costly. I think they should charge all they want for the spa treatments, but the Thermal Pool itself should be available, complimentary.
The two Ports were Aruba and Curacao. Both are far better than some of the usual crowded Caribbean ports Ala St Thomas, St Martin and San Juan. These Ports were not jammed with other ships and both are a bit different than usual, particularly Willemstad, Curacao. It has a flavor all its own with old buildings, churches, an historic synagogue, a floating market, open air cafes and quality shopping. Very picturesque.
I had an outside stateroom. It had a partial sea view and let plenty of light in. The windows were floor to ceiling. Only problem was lack of drawer space and narrow area near the closets. Beds were very comfortable and A/C worked well. They could do away with the mini-bar and put some drawers in that area.
Debarkation was smooth as well. They have done away with herding everyone into lounges to wait for announcements and now let you stay in your stateroom until your appointed time arrives to leave. If you leave before your time, they let you leave but your luggage will not be ready when you walk off the ship (I found out the hard way on this one, so what ever your time is, stick to it.)
Overall, the cruise was nice, relaxing and the seven nights seemed to fly by so fast. I want to go again!