WOW. What a wonderful experience. I waited for several days to see if someone else on the cruise wrote a review before I ventured into the cruise review territory. No luck so I guess I will take a stab at a review. First let me explain that my husband has mobility limitations so of course the majority of the excursions are unavailable to us. Not really much of a problem for us as we cruise for the experience of cruising and don't really need zip line adventures to enjoy ourselves. We arrived at the Port Lauderdale airport and waited about 2 hours for the bus to arrive. The bus trip was short and pleasant. We arrived at the terminal about 1:00 and there was a short line. Once we were inside the terminal, the wheelchair patrol arrived and we were whisked to check-in. Since we are repeat HAL cruiser - no pictures necessary, however after looking at my security photo - I want a new picture! We were sent directly to our cabin and met by Buddy our steward who introduced himself and showed us the cabin features. Before we knew it was time for the lifeboat drill and the sail away. I can say without a doubt that the people that live along the sides of the port are the most wonderful folks. They really knew how to send us on our way. As usual the food was wonderful. The mandatory 48 hour service in the Lido was not an issue and I think actually moved things along a bit. Tell them what you want and they hand you a plate. The main dining room staff was great. By the third time they had our likes and dislikes down and were able to make appropriate recommendations. Please note that we don't like to eat every dinner in the main dining room. We like a little variety so we eat at the Lido for dinner or one of the specility venues. The food at the Lido is basically the same as the main dining room just not the same presentation, which or course is wonderful in the main dining room. Another problem is those wonderful high teas. At 3:00 in the afternoon, sometimes it was just to close to the 5:45 dinner seating.
Aruba was the surprise port for us. I don't know what we expected but it is a very nice port, full of helpful people. It was hot - to hot to be ashore very long but there was a nice little white sand beach just behind the first row of shops that was easily accessible and covered with seashells. We spent some time there and then worked our way back to the ship.
The Panama Canal was the reason for the trip and it did not disappoint. We were up early and enjoying Panama buns. Don't know what is in those little bits of heaven but I really don't care, they are melt in your mouth. The locks were very interesting and the whole process was explained by the CD and his staff. It took about 8 hours but we enjoyed every minute of it.
The next port was in Costa Rica. Made it to dry land and turned around and went back to the ship. Nothing there if you don't take an excursion. As my sainted mother would say, "didn't leave anything there, no reason to go back."
Nicaragua is without a doubt the poorest of the ports. There is a little shopping plaza within walking distance of the ship. Recommend it just to see what little people can do with.
Guatemala was next, again a shopping plaza within walking distance of the dock. Nicer but still a very challenged area of the world. No curb cuts.
The next two ports were in Mexico. Again, shopping areas within walking distance of the ship, local entertainment and things to do rather than rush back to the ship. The last two ports in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo were big cities with a lot of $$. Not much to write about except that Cabo is a tendered port and those are always a challenge for those with mobility issues.
The worst part of the trip was San Diego. We didn't get off the ship until after 10:00 because someone thought that the immigration screening was for everyone except them. I know that some people missed flights because of the immigration hold up. Retrieving luggage is always a problem if you are pushing a wheelchair and I hate to say it, but at San Diego the porters were working the taxi crowd and ignoring the bus transfer crowd. The buses got blocked in by a firetruck and ambulance so it took quite a bit of time to get out of the terminal area. I know that people that took the ship to airport excursion were very frustrated that it was not handled well. They didn't know where to go or which bus to get on.
The Westerdam is a wonderful ship - a little scrapped up on her sides by the canal sides when we left her and I hear she had a little problem with an iceberg in Alaska, but a good ship full of great people that worked hard to make our Panama Canal experience wonderful. She needs a little spiffing up in some areas. They really need to do something about the problem with the hydro pool dumping out into the hallway in rough water. They also need to get rid of every one of those artfully designed steak knives, that they use in the main dining room. They won't stay on your plate unless you glue them down and are awkward to use. I think they are top heavy or something. They just aren't right. The staff is hard to beat in my opinion. The busing staff in the Lido are quick to jump to your aid and carry whatever needs carrying since they did away with trays. Not sure that was a good move but I do understand the reasoning. My wish for the Westerdam and HAL in general in continue doing what you do the way they do it.