This was my 6th or 7th cruise, and my third with Holland America (prior 2 were to Alaska). This cruise left from Rotterdam for one week in the Norwegian fjords. A good friend, who had only previously cruised on small expeditionary ships joined us as I told her how satisfied I had been with Holland America in the past. To say I was embarrased by Holland America this time is a vast understatement.
Embarkation in Rotterdam felt like what I imagine the waiting halls were like before prisoners were shipped off to the concentration and work camps during WWII. There were masses of people EVERYWHERE, it was hot, EXTREMELY disorganized and not at all well-marked. No one knew what was going on or how things were even supposed to be working (including the HAL staff)! We arrived an hour after my friend and were given a color-coded embarkation ticket and told to go upstairs and wait for our color to be called. Our color was called immediately (although the line was -- literally -- an More
hour and a half long), but our friend's color was not called in time for her to be on-board for the muster drill. Had the ship gone down, she would not have known what to do. Thoroughly unacceptable.
Our room was as expected, although there were numerous hairs in the bathroom (which was a little gross), and the bathroom could also have used a new coat of paint.
As others have mentioned, the Lido dining room (buffet style) was sub-par. For some reason, guests were not allowed to serve themselves for the first 2 days aboard (ie until we pulled into the first port of call). The lines were huge, they closed the stations early, and the glasses were so tiny for water that you had to re-fill every few minutes (and couldn't even get your own!). The trays were not cleared in a timely manner (as they had been on my other HAL cruises) and at one meal, there was a bucket of bleach-water (for mopping) located behind the chair of a friend, right in the dining space -- not even in a back corner of the dining room. Ugh!
The library on-board was also sub-par in that the reference librarian was short a couple of necessary brain cells. When asked if there was a book on birds we would encounter in the region, she led us to books of birds in North America and Mexico. Hmmmm.... Not exactly helpful for Norway. Additionally, there were no guide books out on the shelves for the region we were in. To see a guidebook on Norway, the librarian had to take it out of a locked drawer in her desk.
The gift shop on-board has virtually no souvenirs of Norway. There wasn't one little thing we bought there as it was all sourced elsewhere.
The "travel expert" (or coordinator) on-board (or at least one of them if there was more than one) was useless. She had no personal experience regarding any of the ports and could not tell us what activities were available locally. Nor could she recommend restaurants or souvenir shops.
The excursions we took were as expected, thank God.
As for the actual sailing, it was, for the most part, smooth. There was one instance where the captain seemingly forgot to start a turn early enough and jerked the ship to the left, with all sorts of things flying everywhere as a direct result. It was very scary as there was no immediate announcement (at least piped into the staterooms) assuring us we were fine. I didn't sleep well that night at all.
So, there you have it. My experience on the Westerdam was far lower than my expectations given my prior 2 cruises on Holland America Line (albeit on smaller ships). My friend will never again sail on a mainstream cruise and as this was her sole experience with it, I can't say I blame her. I seriously doubt my husband and I will consider HAL for our next cruise, and we will absolutely tell anyone that asks (and even a few folks who don't!) that the last cruise with HAL was terrible, and suggest they look elsewhere.