The Atrium was puny, the shopping on board was minor. The artwork was unimpressive. The food at dinner was far different from the beautifully presented meals we were served seven years ago on the Zaandam. It reminded me of the food on our most recent cruise on the Carnival Legend, mostly food that I would cook at home for a nice dinner.
The lounges, library, spa, dining areas were all clean, attractive and seemed to include plenty of space. We never felt crowded on the boat except perhaps at night in our stateroom when the sofabed was pulled out. We saw a few shows including a magician and a Beetles "sing along" which we enjoyed. Overall nothing about the ship was outstanding or unusual.
The crew around the ship were almost universally friendly when spoken to, although I never saw the captain wandering the boat. Our room steward was friendly and seemed happy to see us each day. Our dining stewards were super busy and could barely serve us dinner in the two hours we allotted each night. They also never had time to chat. Perhaps that was because we were on a holiday cruise and the ship was more full than normal? I don't know.
At Grand Turk my sister paid $29 per person for the ship's snorkeling excursion at Governor's Beach which left at 7:30 a.m. - far too early for us. Her family saw few fish and snorkeled for only about an hour. We took the island tour for $59 per person. There was little to see beyond a few hills with tropical vegetation, a lot of boarded up homes damaged by Hurricane Ike, several new homes, a few donkeys and goats and the landfill. Upon our arrival at Governor's Beach we noticed that few were snorkeling. Most were enjoying the sunshine on beach chairs which we did as well. I'd advise guests at Grand Turk who want a beach day to stay at the cruise port which is much like a day at Half Moon Cay. You can walk on the ship for lunch but enjoy a lounge chair on the sand and swim or snorkel there if you prefer.
At San Juan we took my mother in her wheelchair on the free shuttle to El Morro which has its stop 1 between pier 3 and 4. (We were surprised that we had to walk to the west toward pier 3 after crossing the street based on maps we had seen of the shuttle route which indicated that stop 1 was to the east of pier 4.) The ride was interesting since the shuttle was full of Puerto Ricans on holiday. We enjoyed listening to their Spanish exchanges with the driver as they hopped aboard. El Morro, although not handicapped accessible in any way, was still a great destination for us. My husband and I took turns going up and down from the main floor while accompanying my mother where she could go. All of us enjoyed the fortress and the views of the San Juan Cemetery next door. We took a taxi back to the port for $10 - probably too much but with the wheelchair we did not know what to expect. We easily hailed the taxi after we waited at the shuttle stop for a return shuttle for what seemed like a long time.
At St. Thomas we took $69 shore excursion which included the ferry to St. John plus an island tour. This was the most scenic part of our trip and by far the best shore excursion we purchased. Our guide, a 30-something mother and her six-year-old son along due to the holiday we assumed, were delightfully informative and articulate. At the Annaberg Plantation stop in the National Park, a volunteer peeled and served sugar cane. I cannot say enough about how impressed we were with the vistas from St. John. All of us would like to return there for a week's stay to hike and snorkel. We were surprised by how easy the boat ride over was and previously had feared getting on any small boats from our cruise ports.
After the Cruise:
Our shuttle driver from Hyatt Place North who dropped us at the port advised us that after the cruise a long line of taxis would be available to return us to the airport and that the cost should not be more than $12. When we walked off the boat and headed to the right where taxis were waiting, a man with a vest with "Taxi Dispatcher" on it assailed us and asked us if we needed a taxi. We answered in the affirmative and I asked the cost to the airport to which he answered $15. I did not feel the need to argue over $3 so I agree and he guided us to the third or fourth taxi in line. The dispatcher seemed to want a tip and we had no singles, so we agreed to tip the taxi driver for both of them. Upon arrival at the airport the driver told us the charge for the drive was $20. I told him that the dispatcher had told us $15 as I handed him a $20 bill and that I thought a $5 tip on a $15 fare was quite good. He told me that he would not argue with me, but . . . It was easy to get a cab and much less expensive than the cruise line transportation to the airport at $17 per person, but be careful to negotiate the price before you get in a cab. Maybe ignoring people with a "Taxi Dispatcher" vest would be good advice also?
We had another wonderful family cruise, and were glad that we paid a very low price for what we previously thought of as an "upscale" cruise alternative since their prices are frequently a little higher - Holland America. After cruising with Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America I would not in the future pay a premium for a Holland America cruise, at least not on the Westerdam.