Last April we booked a charter repositioning cruise on the Westerdam which was sold by a German company through a South African travel agency. The cruise went from Cape Town to Rotterdam from 12-26 July, 2010. Unfortunately the German company ran into financial difficulties, we were told and, at the last minute, sold cabins in Germany for as low as 800Euros, which included transport to the airport in Germany, flight to Cape Town, 14 nights in an outside cabin, and transport by bus from Rotterdam to Germany! As a result what should have been a quiet repositioning cruise turned into an overcrowded cruise with most of the passengers being amongst the most unpleasant, rude, aggressive and arrogant that I have ever encountered. Out of over 1700 passengers, about 1400 were Germans and most of the activities were geared towards them. The 300 South Africans felt they were on board to subsidize them as they had paid very much more than what the Germans were bragging they had paid. This being said, we met very elegant, educated, pleasant Germans, but they were very much in the minority and looked as shell shocked as we were.
I will thus review the Westerdam in light of the above, as I don't think we had the regular experience.
The ship She is not the prettiest inside - whoever was in charge of the decor must have been on some very strong hallucinogen at the time. Horrific colour schemes in the public rooms with ghastly pseudo-Egyptian and other massive pieces of decorative furniture everywhere (and a Reinie Mackintosh style love seat thrown in for good measure). But she grows on you and by the end of the cruise you'll love her.
Cabin We booked a Deluxe Verandah Stateroom which was excellent. Pleasing colour scheme, well appointed, loads of storage, large, comfortable bed, mini bar, television, good lighting, etc. The cabin was very clean. We spent quite a lot of time in the cabin listening to our music on the computer and watching the ocean go by.
Cabin stewards Impeccable. Very friendly, pleasant stewards as well as efficient. We had breakfast at 8h00 every day and our cabin was cleaned when we returned. I surprised myself by looking forward to the towel creatures they made every night - I found them quite amusing.
Dining The first day at sea we went to the Lido Restaurant for lunch as we both like the concept of eating different cuisines at convenient times. However, on arrival we were met with a scene of complete chaos, with passengers fighting over food and nowhere to sit. I renamed the Lido Restaurant experience "Dining as a combat sport". We decided to retreat to the Dining Room - unfortunately, we were informed by the dining room man in dark blue uniform that the dining room closed at 13h00 for lunch and it was 13h02 so we could not be served. Fair enough. The next days we were on time and had lovely lunches with a nice chilled bottle of white wine.
From then on we took all our meals in the Vista Dining Room and enjoyed the food very much. There was great variety to please all palates. We had one meal at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was fine, but the atmosphere was cold and the service not up to standards. We found this restaurant not worth the supplement charged.
Dining Room staff The dining room assistant-manager lady was extremely welcoming and pleasant to all passengers. The waiters, though very much overworked were always smiling, friendly, polite and efficient. The wine waiters both at lunch and dinner were attentive and remembered our favourite wines.
Entertainment Was geared for the German contingent so we avoided it.
We did enjoy the Adagio Strings in the Explorers Lounge. We went there every night before dinner - quite a pleasant, soothing experience.
Pool Facilities Not tested. Never even contemplated trying to get a deck chair. We gave up on Deck 9 after the first day. We even had problems walking on the Promenade Deck as the passengers were moving the deck chairs to follow the sun - as a result there were sometimes 2-3 rows of deck chairs on the sunny side. I suppose we could have always walked back and forth on the shady side.
Cruise Staff/Daily activities Invisible. It may be explained by the charter but non-German passengers were neglected. For instance the daily programme every day showed at 11h00 and 15h00 "Bridge and Card Play in the Hudson Room". This room was freezing cold the whole two weeks despite complaints, was full of chairs stacked against a wall and had only three bridge tables. The first day we arrived a cruise staff member showed up with decks of cards, small white writing pads and pencils. That was the contribution of the cruise staff. Get together and play! No scoring sheets, no bidding boxes, nothing. When asked why there was no bridge organized, the young lady said it was only organized on 16 day cruises and ours was only fourteen days! Three of the activities cost $12 each. It was not all bleak, one day I could have learned how to make my own postcards and another how to set a table!!!!
The cruise director finally surfaced for the disembarkation talk. He made the usual tired jokes about inane questions asked by passengers (do you use salt water in the toilets? Etc. ) to generate laughter from the audience. I think making fun of passengers, however silly the question, shows a lack of respect and may be an indication of the disdain he feels for passengers. He certainly did not come through as affable or interested.
Library Good. However, magazines were dated May 2010 for a cruise in July. One magazine had a recipe in it I would have liked and I asked the young lady if I could have the magazine at the end of the cruise - no, she said, we will use it for the next cruise ... starting July 26!
Gymnasium Excellent facilities.
Summary In summary, despite the lack of help from the cruise staff, thanks to the professional, efficient and gracious service from the rest of the crew, we managed to carve out a pleasant cruise from what could have been the cruise from hell.
Thank you crew of the Westerdam.