We flew down the day before our Sunday January 2nd departure from Port Everglades. Embarkation was quick and we really appreciated how Lido Buffet was open and serving for those whose rooms were unavailable. This was much better than our last cruise (Celebrity Millenium) where we had to hang out in a big room with no food. This is the HAL Philosophy. A simple usage of resources (food) that makes your customers very happy.
We had a huge room (Superior Suite) with access to the Neptune Lounge. On our last cruise we had the basic balcony and decided we'd need more space with our young daughter along for the sail. Great decision! (Playpen fits in the bathroom setup)
The last cruise we took we were unable to use the balcony when the ship was at sea, due to a crazy wind tunnel effect which made it hard to enjoy. The balcony on Westerdam was very pleasant and completely usable while the boat was at full speed. I don't want to blame Millennium's wind tunnel issue as a design flaw due to the fact that our past cruise was mid November versus the early January Westerdam date. Might have had something to do with prevailing winds.
We loved the Lido Buffet. It was one floor above our room which was convenient for feedings etc. The ice cream bar served just a few flavours but their quality was par with Baskin Robins.
Pinnacle was well worth the additional charge, though i thought the steak was just as good in Manhattan.
Manhattan restaurant was 75% great (3 out of 4 meals were fantastic). The snow crab night was a show stopper.
Dessert on HAL was excellent. Their Chocolate/Dessert buffet was very good, though I would have preferred they housed it in the Manhattan dining room instead of the pool area.
The HAL philosophy is laid back and meant for people who want to relax. Ideal approach to cruising as far as I'm concerned.
The Library was a great place to chill out and read a book with fantastic treats to nibble on.
Turks and Caicos has not too much to do, though the conch fritters at that dockside restaurant were stellar.
St. Maarten had great shopping, but no conch fritters.
Half moon Kay is the gold standard of company islands. Everyone had fun and what a fantastic way to end the cruise. No complaints but book your cabana early (which we did for our upcoming cruise).
Conclusion, HAL does tradition well and if you want a relaxing well thought out cruise then you should give them a try. Three years later we are now booked on the Nieuw Amsterdam and are bringing our whole extended family with us.
I'll post a review when I get back.