This was a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam. We generally do not take 7 day cruises, preferring 12 to 15 day ones. We had originally been booked on a 14 day cruise in early February on Celebrity Constellation, but that had to be cancelled at the last minute due to a death in the family. When this cruise popped up in an email advertisement at a very good price just three weeks prior to the cruise date, we grabbed it. This was my 7th cruise on HAL, and we have done 6 on Princess, and one each on Cunard, RCI and Oceania. We are sailing a Transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2 on April 26, another reason to keep this one short. HAL has once again proven that it is perfect for our preferences. Our first cruise on QM2 in 2009 was also excellent, and about equivalent (in Britannia class) to HAL in my opinion.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise, arriving early afternoon and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We stayed again at the Courtyard by Marriott Airport and Cruiseport, which we like very much. The hotel shuttle took us to the ship at 11 am, and we were on board and in our cabin by 11:45! Amazing. We went to the Embarkation Luncheon in the Dining Room at noon - one of few disappointments on the cruise. I had salmon for an entree, and my wife had chicken, and they were both pretty awful. A very bad way for HAL to welcome back past passengers. But everything else that day was great. We really enjoyed our spacious Superior Verandah suite, with its large balcony, two sinks and two showers, and all the extra space. We did the ship's tour with Cruise Director Dan Bernbach and the ship is in excellent condition overall. We had a couple of minor maintenance items in our room, but nothing that affected our enjoyment of the cruise. The Westerdam was under the command of "P.J." van Maurik, a veteran captain and very affable. In fact, the entire crew was very friendly. We were greeted by name consistently by our room stewards and dining room staff. All did an excellent job.
There are many recent reviews of the Westerdam so I will not repeat the same things. The food was generally excellent, sometimes outstanding. We ate almost all of our meals in the Dining Room, Table for 2, early fixed seating, which works best for us. We had several breakfasts there as well, and two breakfasts on our balcony from Room Service. These were served promptly at the time requested and the hot food (omelets) were indeed hot. We ate one night in the Pinnacle Grill and it was fabulous. Our waiter in the main Dining Room told us to only order beef there, as everything else was the same quality as the regular menu. So I had a Porterhouse, which was incredible, and my wife had a Filet which was also excellent. Service was above reproach. The only disappointing meal, other than the embarkation luncheon, was the second formal night, when I ordered halibut, and it was an exceptionally small portion size and overcooked. So I asked our waiter if he could get me a lobster to make up, which he did promptly and it was the best lobster I have had at sea.
We enjoyed the entertainment on board. The first two Production Shows were a bit on the lame side, but the third ("Stage and Screen") was much better. We had seen the same sets on at least one other HAL cruise, but the songs seemed fresh. The ventriloquist with his sidekick Matilda was hilarious. We also had "Barnaby" another night, a juggler/comedian. We had seen him before on another cruise but he was so good we came back for half of his second show. The final night featured the Motown group "Horizon", who were also fabulous but I felt their show seemed a little short. We enjoyed the HALCats playing in the Queens Lounge and on deck, and they had a very talented singer - Alia Marie who could really belt out the old rock and roll classics.
The week actually felt longer than seven days. We enjoyed all of the ports and especially Half Moon Cay. We disembarked at 8 am and did a three hour tour of Fort Lauderdale before being dropped of at the airport for the flight home. Another great cruise courtesy of HAL!