Summary: Bravo! One of the best cruises we have been on! A fabulous itinerary, beautiful ship, smooth seas & unbelievably lovely weather.
This was our 2nd HAL cruise, 17th in total and 3rd time in the Med.
We went into Fort Lauderdale 2 nights early. We stayed at the Renaissance which was very convenient for getting to the port.
Embarkation: We arrived around 11:00 and were on board by 11:45. Our cabin was ready probably due to the ship being in drydock just before the cruise. Went to the MDR for lunch.
Cabin: Our cabin was very roomy & comfortable. There is an amazing amount of storage space with 2 large drawers under the bed and another 2 drawers under the sofa. The bed was very comfortable and the bath was large enough to move around in with a very nice tub/shower combo. The towels are large and absorbent and the bath supplies are very good quality. Our room stewards, Lee & Jhon, were the best we have had. We would leave our room for breakfast or an activity and it was always clean when we returned. The ice bucket was never empty which is important to us. Lee made us a different towel animal every night to welcome us back to our cabin after dinner.
Activities: I really enjoyed the cooking demos and the lectures. DH went to Trivia every day which we both thought was scheduled at a poor time; either Noon or at the same time as sail away. He also enjoyed the Wii contests held daily in the Northern Lights. I enjoyed the sail-aways which featured a small table of local foods and music -- very nice touch. The dance classes were taught by dancers from the shows and they were very good. Also, enjoyed the daily tea both in the MDR a couple of times and in the Explorers Lounge on the other days. IMO, HAL excels here. Amazing seven straight days at sea and we never were at a loss for something interesting to do. However, we felt a little cheated since we lost 5 hours on the crossing and rather than doing it at night, it was done at 2 p.m -- so 2 p.m quickly became 3 p.m. on five different sea days.
Ports: We took 5 HAL tours and enjoyed them.
In Cadiz we went to Tio Pepe for a tour and sherry tasting. Following that we went to a horse farm where we spent some time up close & personal with the beautiful Andalusian horses, followed by a spectacular horse show. Highly recommend this tour.
Since we had been to Rome before, we did the Etruscan tour -- interesting but a little long and the included lunch had no atmosphere and was very cramped, but good food.
In Naples we went to Herculaneum which was a nice tour but did think the time spent to take us to a Cameo store would have been better spent elsewhere.
In Messina we went to Taramino which is lovely and the Greco-Roman Theatre is not to be missed.
In Albania, we went on a very interesting tour to the archeological site of Butrint. The site was interesting and our guide spoke perfect English providing us an overview of the life in Albania.
Entertainment: The jazz group was very good as were the HALCats. We thought that the entertainment in the showroom was excellent to just OK. Whereas we usually enjoy the string group, we thought that the group on this cruise was amateurish.
Dining: We thought the food in the Lido for lunch was very good and the tables were always cleaned immediately after they were vacated. The food in the MDR was excellent to just OK. I don't like Salmon and there was a lot of salmon on this cruise. I felt the menu choices were not as good as I had experienced on my first HAL cruise a couple of years ago. But they still had the cappuccino in the MDR which is a big plus for me. We had room service 2 nights and really enjoyed having dinner on the balcony. After many attempts to get a reservation, we finally had dinner in the Canaletto and enjoyed it.
While on the ship, the Westerdam had it's first Galley Buffet tour. It was a highlight! The vegetable & ice carvings were spectacular, as was the food.
Disembarkation: Best we have experienced. We had a 15 minute window assigned to leave. We walked right off, our luggage was easy to find, stepped out and into a cab to the airport. HAL pushes their expensive transfers to the airport, but the cab was 40 euros including tip and we were there is less than half an hour. Also, it was nice that we had until 11:30 the night before to put our bags out so we were not rushed.
HAL introduced a new beverage card where you save 10% on beverages. $50 card is $45 and $100 card is $90. We bought a number of these and feel that they are a good deal.
We will definitely cruise HAL again -- we have two future cruises booked.