I sensed trouble when the driver who was transporting us from the hotel to the cruise port asked what ship we were cruising on. I replied "Westerdam," and he called to his buddy, "Hey, two more on the Westerdam" and they both laughed. A lot. Of course, I wondered what they knew that I didn't know. I found out.
Embarkation was fairly well-organized and went smoothly. However, when we boarded the ship, an officer curtly told us that our staterooms were not ready, and rudely told us to "go eat something." Needless to say, I did not feel welcomed to the Westerdam.
We explored a little, and finally went to the Lido deck where we did attempt to eat something. Service was very disorganized, and lines were extremely long. Staff had to dish out everything for the first 48 hours of the cruise, even hot water for tea. I never saw anyone distributing drinks or offering refills in the Lido restaurant, and the glasses available were all tiny juice-sized glasses. There are also no trays available, which led to carrying hot plates and joggling of several items. Seating in the Lido restaurant area was always difficult to come by.
Waitstaff in the Lido dining room was consistently unhelpful and rude. Tables were not cleared promptly.
Food offerings in the Lido were family-restaurant quality, at best.
I finally discovered that the Asian Food station has delicious specialties that changed every day, and never had a line. That was available only for lunch, but it was wonderful.
Our stateroom was very nice, with a very comfortable bed. The cabin stewards were very efficient and very friendly, and kept the cabin spotless.
Room service was prompt, but the food was mediocre, and they always forget important items; no milk, or bagels with no cream cheese or a knife to spread it, that sort of thing. We gave up on that.
We had requested an early dinner seating, but were assigned to Anytime Dining instead. Even with a reservation, there were long waiting lines in the dining room. Tables for two were not available.
Our dining room waiter did his best, but appeared to have too many tables to take care of. There was no assistant to fill water glasses,etc. A waiter did bring a Caesar salad for my husband on the last night when it wasn't on the menu. Food quality in the dining room was not especially good. Breads were excellent.
We enjoyed the production shows, and thought the singers and dancers was very talented. Other offering ran the gamut, and I was especially unhappy that they ran a movie one night instead of offering live entertainment.
Shore excursions were not very good. They gave us the wrong tickets, and when I went to exchange them our first choice offerings were no longer available. Our tour in Aruba was cut short by washed out roads (I realize that was not the cruise lines fault) and the "attractions" we did see were bogus. The driver, Johann, was entertaining.An excursion at the end of our cruise which was billed as four-and-a-half hours long took only two-and-a-half hours. Since we were hoping to fill in time before our flight, instead of spending extra hours in the airport, that was disappointing. We don't feel we got what we paid for.
The passengers on this cruise were overwhelmingly elderly. I never saw so many walkers and even scooter chairs in my life. Someone on another cruise line told me that Holland America cruises were for "the newlywed and nearly dead," and now I understand at least the last part of that remark. Several passengers I spoke with told me that they had had very good experiences on other Holland America cruises, but did not enjoy this one, that the standards had slipped. This was my only HAL cruise, and as I told them on their review questionnaire, I will not be back.