We arrived in FLL the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Place FLL Airport North ($65 on Priceline), very close to the Harbour Shops. Bought our cruise wine at Total Wine and other last minute things at Publix.
The next morning we dropped off our luggage pier-side just past 10am and then returned the rental car. It's important to note that only those who rent from Alamo or National are allowed to take the special Port Everglades parking shuttle from/to the FLL Rental Car Centre.
We stood in line for about twenty minutes before they let us into the embarkation processing area and then sat in the embarkation room for about a half-hour before they let us on (about 11am). Our cabin was ready. One thing that we weren't used to was that our cabin guys were nowhere to be seen. On other cruise lines they seem to linger about and make sure that they introduce themselves as we arrive. As it turned out we didn't meet them until the third day and after that, only twice more. They did a good job for our cabin however, I thought it very forward of them that, on the last night, they left a self-addressed tip envelope with 'For X & X' on it. We go with the flow and pay the ship-arranged tipping program.
Knowing that our luggage would be a while arriving, we had packed our swimwear in our back packs so immediately changed and headed to the lounge chairs at the aft portion of the Lido Deck. We were fortunate as it was a beautiful afternoon in the sun.
The muster drill was quick and thankfully we didn't have to take or wear any life jackets.
For our three days at sea we found that our favourite spot to sit in the sun was just outside the fore elevators on the Observation Deck. They had those great wooden chaise lounges with the cushions on them - very comfy!
The Westerdam is a beautiful Ship and we really loved our Verandah Cabin.
Saturday at Half Moon Cay was incredible although we had to walk a long way to get away from the crowd. It was worth it, though as this is a spectacular beach and was one of the highlights of our trip. DW is a real swimmer and this was nirvana for her. Only sad part was that we had to be back on the ship for an early afternoon shove off.
Sunday was our at-sea day and I was up early to arrange for our lounges on the Observation Deck. We spent the time there until our CC M&G in the Crow's Nest at 11am. Back to our lounges for the rest of a very blissful day.
On Monday we didn't arrive to Curacao until 1pm. As we pulled into the waters just out from the island, a large school of porpoises was welcoming us as they jumped along the ship's lead wave.
We took a taxi to the Marriott Hotel and as a Marquis Member, I sweet-talked our way onto the beach for a couple of hours there where DW was able to do her thing - swim.
We returned to the Ship and with lots of time before supper, we crossed the retractable bridge over to Punda to look into some shops. Well, as we would find out, it was the last day of their Carnivale and, being a National Holiday, all of the shops were closed.
Although it didn't bother us, there was a tremendous amount of discontent for many of the Ship's pax for HAL not having let people know about this.
Tuesday in Aruba - Our biggest disappointment of the trip (not HAL's fault) - we had reserved a rental car for a trip up to Arashi Beach to Snorkel. I had spent a great deal of time researching both good snorkel beaches and rental car companies. Two of the higher rated car companies were fully booked as there were three ships in Port that day. I reserved a car with Royal Aruba Car Rental as they reportedly have a small Kiosk right off the ship, instead of having to traipse all the way out to the Airport.
As we walked off the ship, I looked for ANY kind of Kiosk and there was nothing. We ended up on the street and I asked different folks and one guy pointed us back toward the ship. After a LONG run-around (it was hot, too) we found the four kiosks and not one person to be seen. And the small rental car compound behind had only one vehicle - a jeep that belonged to another company. So, they stood us up. I will post as such on the CC Ports Board and on Trip Advisor.
We took the L1 Bus as directed and when we reached the end of the Palm Beach Hotel Strip, the bus turned back to return. Apparently the bus doesn't go to Arashi Beach like we were told. We spent an hour at the seriously overcrowded Palm Beach - no snorkeling here. I know that a lot of people enjoy this kind of vacation by the sea but really - hundreds of people packed cheek-to-jowl with a lot of smokers. DW got her swim in amidst the sea-doos and boats and kite riders and basically - lots of noise. We headed back to the ship. Had a late lunch and then went back into town to do a bit of shopping. Didn't buy much as all of the shops there are the very high-end variety
Wednesday and Thursday at Sea were blissful and relaxing - hot and sunny on deck and what a great way to wind it all down.
We enjoyed room service Breakfast each morning on our balcony. On occasion, I would go to the Lido and grab some extra fruit. The quality of our breakfasts was excellent but you are advised to make sure that you check off everything that you want/need on the room service menu. For some strange reason the room service coffee was better (and hotter) than that from the Lido.
It distresses me that some people complain about the lunches at the Lido as there are more choices than you could ever imagine. We particularly enjoyed the Asian Station as they featured a different country cuisine each day. Some of the basic Sushi choices were available every day. It was all very good.
Having the Pizza Station open all day was good, too - on our way back to the cabin to prepare for dinner we would grab a piece or two and snack along with a libation. One day they had already started dinner service and I grabbed a plate of cold shrimp instead of the pizza.
We dined at 8pm in the MDR each night. Although I had requested a table for two, we were seated at a table for six and only one other couple ever showed up, a nice couple from England.
My favourite night in the MDR was the first night for the excellent Prime Rib.
The only dining quality concern all week for the MDR was for my DW who one night had the John Dory fish and she found it not to be as fresh as she had hoped. Everything else was very good. Excellent breads, soups, salads and desserts although I'm not a big dessert guy.
We dined at the Pinnacle Grill for DW's Birthday (Monday) and it was fantastic
She had the Lobster Tail and I had the Lamb Chops. Both were excellent. Our wine steward, Ramina was doll and engaged us both, especially when she learned that we were from Ontario. Her dream is to attend to the Niagara wine region to further her education.
DW was especially happy that they did not recognize her B-day with a big to-do but, they brought her the most incredible cake with a candle on it.
It was a night to remember.
On Tuesday night we ate at the Italian specialty restaurant, Canaletto; my Chicken Marsala was good but DW had the seafood linguine with not-so-fresh shrimp this time. The Antipasto plate was the best part.
If the food quality isn't enough for you at the PG and Canaletto, it is more than made up by the quality of the staff. Very friendly and they seem happy in their work.
The MDR staff is good, too but, they're very busy and don't linger to chat at your table as much.
For sheer bliss and enjoyment, this Westerdam Cruise was right up there with our nine-night Norwegian Jewel Cruise two years earlier.
There is no doubt in my mind however, that HAL is a step up in class and most definitely has the friendliest staff of any Cruise Line we've experienced prior.
One major complaint, though - our neighbouring balcony cabin housed smokers and they often did this on their Balcony, spoiling it for us. Especially for our room service breakfast on the balcony.