BACKGROUND INFO: I, (wife) have always wanted to cruise, but my husband would never entertain idea. We have travelled quite a bit, with over 20 all inclusive resorts, and month long trips in our RV to Florida, California, and Texas. I said first opportunity for cruise, and I would be gone! Last year the opportunity came to travel with my sister and her family on the Disney Magic. I went and enjoyed it so much, that hubby had no choice but to try this cruise out.I wanted to pick the right ship, as I wanted his first cruise to be a good experience, and hopefully turn into several more cruises in the future. While this site was very helpful, and detailed, there are as always many conflicting reviews. So after much research, I picked Holland Westerdam. My main reasons were a Friday departure (which worked with other travel plans we had) a four port stop on a seven day trip which is a bit out of the ordinary. My husband was worried about sea sickness, so thought the more days on land the better! Also wanted good food, and relaxation, not too much of a party boat. Another plus for Holland, is he is a big wine drinker, and we were allowed to bring wine on board. We are 50 and 57, and while the ages on this ship is much older, we enjoyed the company of our travelling companions.
TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION: We flew in two days prior to sail date, as we were arriving from the great white north, and you never can count on the weather. These two days were spent in Fort Lauderdale enjoying the sights, dining, and most of all the great weather. It was nice to wind down for two days before cruise. We taxied from our hotel to port, and arrived at 1:00. Our boarding of ship was really quick, less than 15 minutes, only disappointment was entry to ship was not that exciting. No WOW factor for hubby, they should enter ship elsewhere. After lunch at the Lido, we went to check on room availability and were shocked that it was ready, and luggage arrived moments later, this was a nice touch!! On Disney we had to wait till almost 5:00 for room and luggage.
STATEROOM: Very nice, lots of storage space, bed was just toooo comfi, pillows too. Veranda was spacious, with comfortable chairs, steel front not plexi glass, did not realize this as we are not seasoned cruisers, but was not a big deal (so much to learn about cruising) I had an inside cabin on Disney as we had 4 kids with us, but would definitely always go the veranda route!
Just a note on hairdryer (not very strong if you have a lot of hair, which I do, wished I had brought my own) only complaint I can think of, was very clean, and well layed out. Cabin steward was fabulous, came twice a day, and never when we were there, it was like magic!! I missed him most when I came home! We had coffee and juice delivered every morning to start the day on the veranda, and on port days always had breakfast in room, so that we could just leave from there. Room service was very good, efficient with nice touches!
They informationed us to death, which was nice,husband complained that I was always reading too much!)( especially liked cruise log at end of trip that summarized everything with weather, miles, etc. nice touch!!
DINING Can't believe some of the negative reviews on this site regarding the dining - are they sure they were on the same ship??? Disney had exceptional food, and Holland did not disappoint here at all!! While the evening portions were small - they ending up being just about right after all you had eaten all day, and then the appetizers, salads, and soups before the entree. We enjoyed our fellow dinner companions which is a nice option. I find that while I love travelling with just the two of us, after a few nights the dinner conversation slows down quite a bit, and it is great hearing other port stories and such. We felt the the selections and quality was great! The service while being quite good, was not as personable as the Disney ship. We only did the Lido for lunches, and found selection to be good, but as stated, you have to walk around first, if you want to see all there is to offer. Also if you go late in day, one side is closed down, but other side is open. Some complaints on how they won't let you touch anything for first 48 hours, but hey they must know what they are doing, and if it is going to stop me from being sick - why complain. Drink glasses are quite small, and you have to get two or make more trips, but again no waste, which I hate to see. We did gourmet restaurant last night and it was exceptional - had a hard time choosing, everything looked so good.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT: Daily planner had something for everyone, I felt the choices were plentiful. While we mainly did this cruise for relaxation, we did not want to have to go to many things, all I did was computer class, which was good, but too many inexperienced older people. While I enjoyed them dining, a computer class was a different story! We did a couple of shows, enjoyed comedian, magician, and marriage game was a hoot - do not miss that one. We are not into variety type shows, so that was a bit of a disappointment, but you can't please everyone all the time. Piano bar was great entertainment, though was monopolized by a few older regulars who thought they owned the place. Never had difficulty getting a pool lounger no matter how late we got there. Found out there were only 21 kids on ship, so that was nice, I do like kids, but it was nice and quiet.
SUMMARY: Really enjoyed cruise, husband is convinced that cruising is the only way to go now! Thank you Holland for making him a cruiser, and now I can look forward to future cruises! We never go back to the same place twice, no matter how wonderful, we just like to experience new and different every time, so not sure if we will go back on Holland or try new cruise line. We met several on board, that have tried them all and swear by Holland, so that may be a tough call to make on our part! You can't go wrong on this ship, for the negative reviews, I just think you just can't please some people, no matter what! I might ad that we did have one rough sea day (nine foot waves) and hubby made out fine. We did have sea legs for a couple of days when we got off ship, but we will be back - the only way to travel!!!