I'll start by saying my DH and I are in our early 60's and this was our sixth cruise with HAL. Now, before I begin, I will say we love to have a good time so we are not your typical "older" passengers.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise and stayed at the La Quinta Inn Airport. I booked the hotel through Priceline and, frankly, was none too happy with this selection. I read some really bad reviews about this property, therefore, I was not looking forward to our stay there. But to my pleasant surprise, the property was clean, the grounds were beautiful and well manicured, they offered a continental breakfast and they provided complimentary shuttle service. The shuttle service from the airport was free as well as the shuttle to Port Everglades. There were restaurants close by, but a little too far for us to walk. I asked the front desk person if the shuttle would take us to the restaurant and pick us up and was told yes. That was great and all we had to do was tip the driver.
On the day of the cruise, the shuttle took us to Terminal 26 where the Westerdam was berthed. Because we were staying in a deluxe suite, we were escorted directly to the check-in desk and whisked away to our suite. We were very pleased to know that we could go directly to our suite and drop off our carry-on luggage, which we did. We went straight to the Neptune Lounge to get a little snack to tie us over before we went to the Lido for lunch. I guess because it was the first day, there were white linens on the tables and I thought that was a nice touch. Of course the servers were serving all food and drinks, but we're OK with that if it helps to eliminate the possibility of the norovirus. We had a nice, relaxing lunch and then back to our suite. Surprisingly, we received our luggage by 3 p.m., so that gave us a chance to get unpacked and settle in. Then we went to the bar for the first cocktail of the day. Yummy! We walked around the ship until it was time for the muster drill. It is so nice that we don't have to dawn the life jackets anymore. The drill was a breeze and lasted only a few minutes. Then it was time for another drink and to attend the sailaway party.
SUITE: As always, our suite was beautiful. This time we had two beautiful flower arrangements, which stayed fresh all week. This is the third deluxe verandah suite we have stayed in and I am sooooo spoiled. We met our cabin stewards, Made and Made P. They were awesome! They were very friendly, but yet professional. There was a tiny bit of a language barrier, but we would all laugh about it and they always figured out what our needs were. They kept the suite immaculate and did a wonderful job for us. Ivy in the Neptune Lounge was awesome too. She handled several requests for us and always followed through and kept us informed. As for the suite, I love the dressing room area with the closet space. I use that space and my DH uses the other. We spent a good amount of time on our verandah and had dinner out there one evening. The one thing that HAL could do a little better with is providing a back cushion for the chairs. The chairs just don't fit my back and a back cushion would have been great.
ENTERTAINMENT: We did not attend any of the shows. I know, we're bad. But we just weren't in the mood for that type of entertainment. We enjoyed the Piano Bar and listening to the HALcats. Since we were cruising on Super Bowl Sunday, they televised it in the Vista Lounge and Sports Bar. People were all decked out in their team's jerseys or ball caps. In the Vista Lounge they had all kinds of tailgating food available and that was really nice. Between the Sports bar and Casino red balloons were displayed, which made that area a little more festive. It was really nice.
FOOD: What can I say -- it was all good! We had no complaints about the food. However, I did notice they have cut back on the portions somewhat, but to us that's OK because you can get more if you want it. I particularly liked the lamb and, of course, the bread pudding. To me the desserts tasted a lot alike. One thing I noticed with the desserts is that the majority of them are cheesecake, mousse or some type of cream base. I am lactose intolerant, therefore, I couldn't eat most of them. But overall, we were very pleased with the food.
POOLS: I can't comment on the pool area mid-ship because we never went in there. We spent our time at the aft pool. Whenever the DJ was out there he would announce that children under the age of 14 were not allowed in that particular pool and the parents just ignored him. He tried his best to enforce this rule, but to no avail. The parents didn't give a rip. Shame on them.
SERVICE: The service we received from the staff, in all venues, was outstanding. I guess that is one of the reasons we keep going back to HAL. I can't say enough about the staff. Prior to this trip I read several reviews where people complained about the food and service. I realize you have to take reviews with a grain of salt, but we had no complaints at all.
Would I cruise with HAL again -- DEFINITELY. This was a wonderful, relaxing cruise.
PORTS: I really don't have a lot to say about either one. I thought Curacao was dirty and expensive -- not impressed. As for Aruba, I would like to go back there again if I can find a four- or five-star all inclusive resort. As you can tell, we did not take any excursions, so I'm unable to comment.
All in all, we were quite happy with this cruise. So, I hope if you cruise on the ms. Westerdam, you will enjoy it as much as we did.