This was the Westerdam North American inaugural cruise. It was a cruise with Mr. Kruse, the president of Holland America. It was a preview of the new enhancements on Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island. The passengers were provided with lovely gifts to commemorate this sailing. There was a Royal Goedewaagen Plate, two miniature tiles with magnets, 2 suede luggage tags and a lovely hard covered Westerdam book.
We usually do not go on 3-day cruises but since I received the promotional e-mail on this cruise and managed to get a real deal airfare from Chicago we booked the trip. We also were interested in seeing the Vista Class ship. We usually prefer smaller crowds but I figured a 3-day cruise was the time to try out the new Westerdam. We extended this weekend by arriving early and staying at the Renaissance Hotel. This hotel was my first attempt with Priceline and it turned out wonderful.
We took the 11 a.m. shuttle from the hotel and arrived at embarkation before 11:30. There were no lines and check in was a breeze. There was a short wait in the upstairs waiting area. When we boarded the ship we were quite surprised to see that lunch was not being served in the Lido. There was really only a short delay explained to us later that health inspections were being done. The ship rated a 100%!! Good job!
As we toured the public rooms I was amazed by the magnificent pieces of art that were around each corner or curved hallway. Each lounge area had it's own distinct ambiance. It might be the elegant, refined look of the traditional Explorer's Lounge or the contemporary vibrant colored Northern Lights Nightclub. One display in a hallway features priceless antiques while down another hall some vibrant colored decorative platters catch your eye! The Lido pool area featured some fish shaped barstools where the tail whimsically became your seat! When touring the Observation Deck a huge chess set surprises you on the deck. The decorators did an excellent job of blending the old and the new! There is always a surprise around every corner! The art lovers will really enjoy this ship!
We usually book a low priced outside cabin and we did our usual for this sailing. Cabin 6002 was on the upper verandah deck. When we looked from our window we saw where we were arriving before anyone else! Although this cabin did not have a verandah we did have access out a door to a remarkable viewing area nobody else seemed to use. The cabin itself was comfortable but not as large as other HAL outside cabins we had stayed in on previous cruises. The bed was really comfortable and I did notice the upgraded bedding. We never felt any movement in this cabin. It could be due to calm seas or a remarkable ship? It was also a very quiet cabin. My only criticism was lack of drawer space. There were two little drawers on the bedside stands and shelves in one of the three closets but only one drawer under the bed. We did have fresh flowers and a fruit bowl. It was a nice cabin. I met our cabin steward the first day and I did happen to notice him way down the hall cleaning cabins. I could only assume he had that whole line of cabins. He always smiled and called me by name as we passed in the hall.
Our only port of call was Half Moon Cay. We rented a clamshell and loved it. We also booked the Aqua Trax jet ski excursion which I posted about on the HAL board. It was a great experience for those who enjoy that sort of experience. We both enjoyed it!
Dining on this ship was quite the experience. I must say the Lido food stations really are a great innovation. Walking through the Lido at lunch hour, I learned you really must browse all the options before making a decision. The Italian station had the aroma of sauteed garlic drifting through the air and don't forget the pizza which was the best I ever had on a ship! Moving on to the Stir Fry station the sizzle there was making the decision tougher. Then on to the traditional line where jumbo shrimp and chateaubriand were the fare of the day. I don't want to forget the salad bar where fresh crisp greens and all the fixings tempted me. Absolutely everything we tried there was excellent! The staff in the Lido was always cheerful, pleasant and helpful.
Our dinner table was #132 overlooking the aft of the ship. We loved the view. We were seated one with one friend of ours traveling solo and five of the most delightful pleasant table mates. Our waiter Antonio did an excellent job. His capable assistant MuMu kept thing moving smoothly. We followed his recommendations most evenings and found the food well prepared to our liking. One comment here is I did notice that the wait staff seemed to have more tables to take care of. This limited the casual conversation time we usually enjoy. The wine steward, Antonio, also was also attentive and timely. All things considered they all provided very efficient and pleasant service.
Casino.. The slot machine lovers have a nice variety of machines to play on this ship. Now I want to tell you that I was truly a lucky charm on this ship! Each night I went down to the casino and promptly lost my allotted gambling money but whoever I sat next to won the biggest jackpot!! This happened night after night. The last night one guy won 1000 quarters. He got up and walked away and a lady sat at the same machine and promptly won 800 at the same time my machine gobbled my very last gambling quarter! Well I had fun watching them!! :-)
My overall feeling was that The Westerdam is a lovely ship. I went on this ship thinking that I probably would not like the size and passenger count. I must say that I never felt like I was in long lines or in crowded situations. The flow of the ship is quite nice. In the past I made an effort to choose smaller ships. Part of me prefers the S class ships since I normally cruise with a group and I think the lower passenger count favors us spending more time together. But on the other hand, I will admit this ship was a delight!
Problem corner: I have cruised many times with Holland America. I always felt well treated on board. For some unknown reason on this sailing there were some disturbing events I feel I must report. It started when my pre booked and paid for shore excursion tickets arrived in my cabin. I noticed the time I booked changed. I went to the tour office with my printed computer confirmation. My time was changed from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. with no explanation. There was no reason given to me. If someone would have called me and asked I probably would have agreed but I made a point of selecting my time slot early only to get bumped. I was not happy but I was going to make the best of it when I found that others had also been bumped from pre booked (and paid for) excursions. One couple was bumped from the Pinnacle Grill, another lost a cabana she booked in September. I then met a lady in my Aqua Trax group who was also bumped from her time slot. I find this to be a VERY disturbing policy that was being instituted on this cruise. This past July I was a group leader for 28 people on The Amsterdam all of which pre booked excursions and nobody had anything changed even though it involved multiple ports. How could there be so many people bumped with a 3-day cruise and one stop??