We were on the Westerdam in a cruise to Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands. This was the first trip of this ship to that destination and begun in San Diego on Sept 29th, 2011.
What you are going to read here is just my personal opinion which, by the way, could be very different from others.
But if you are looking for some information, maybe this could be useful to know how things are in this ship and what you will find in those islands.
Really fast. We took the shuttle from our hotel in San Diego and as soon as we arrived to the pier we didn't have to even touch our luggage. From the van, it went to a small cart and then we saw it again in our cabin. The paperwork process was fast after we crossed through the security check. Basically speaking in 15 or 20 minutes we were in our cabin and then seated in the Lido restaurant having lunch.
FYI: the first 48 hours they won't allow self service in the restaurant to avoid spreading viruses.
In February we made our reservation based on a VF category. Two weeks before sailing we were upgraded to VA. We got the #8117 on the Navigation Deck. Great location between the last set of elevators and the Aft. Very quiet with a nice balcony and bigger than the one we had in the Navigator of the Seas three years ago (particularly because of the washroom with a real bathtub).
Not bad but, for the money that we paid they could change the furniture. You will notice that the coach and the carpet are worn. Also, since they create a queen bed using 2 twins, only the sheet set was queen. Blankets are twin so they have to put them across and not in the normal way. Although I asked for a queen size, I never got it.
Regarding the storage capacity, we were a couple with two carryons and three luggagges and we had more than enough space to have everything well organized.
Life on board:
The Westerdam is a very fine and classy boat but, at the same time, with a very conservative style. It has all the latest technology but with the layout and decoration of the Titanic (Very stylish with touches of Art Deco). If you like this kind of ship, this is the one for you.
Anyway, just to give you a clearer picture, lets compare it with the Navigator of the Seas (Royal Caribbean):
Mathematically speaking, on the Westerdam you have more space p/passenger (as big as the Navigator but with only 1900 passengers) but, because of the layout, you won't notice it. The Navigator has more and bigger common areas which promote the interaction between people (particularly during the funny shows). Believe me, I am not a "groovy" guy and I need my quiet time but on the Navigator I had a level of fun that is impossible to achieve on the Westerdam. You'll find meetings and parties on the Navigator with a lot of fun while in the Westerdam they are not existent. (Although the live shows are VERY good).
On the Navigator you'll find an entire mall on the 3rd deck from Aft to Forward with almost everything you'd like to buy. On the Westerdam there are just a few and small shops with "basics".
If you want to try the SPA, be ready to pay for it (there is no real treatment for less than $100). That is why you can not see any price until you are there. Even the brochures on board have no prices.
Having said that, in general I have no complaints. The food, the service and the attention that we received were second to none. All the personnel were ALWAYS very kind with no exception. They strive to give you the best possible service, always with a smile.
Be aware that HAL (unless you change the amount) will take $11 p/person per day from your account which I think its too much. I understand that those people who serve me (but I don't see like cooks, etc) are entitle to a tip but I feel that HAL is making US to pay for the salary of its employees. My understanding is that from those $11, $4 go to the steward, another $4 for the waiters and the last $3 to other personnel. We were two people in the cabin... Don't you think that $8 p/day to the Steward for 30 days on a row is a little bit too much even if he's good?
Also, if I receive a very good service at dinner, I give an extra tip too because I feel obligated. I don't want to tip twice. Tipping Once is the right thing to do.
Besides, if that is not enough, you will be charge 15% extra every time that you ask for something at the bar. And I am not talking about an special elaborated drink. Just for giving you a can of coke from the fridge it will have the same effect. So... Keep your hands in your pockets.
As everything in life, small unknown details can ruin things. Maybe ignoring this was my mistake but I guess I am not alone in this.
When we planned this cruise, we read the itinerary, evaluate the price, see the pictures of the beautiful places that we were going to visit and, finally, booked the reservation. At that moment, automatically we installed in our minds the image of the idilic trip (blue skies, big sandy beaches) but, that was partially ruined for an uninvited guest: the bad weather. And I am not talking about stormy and dangerous weather but just windy, rainy and partially cloudy days which, apparently, are not uncommon in the Pacific. And we were there at the beginning of the rainy season !!! If you are going to take one of the next two trips (January or March with the Rotterdam) bring your umbrella and your raincoat.
Thanks to this the ship was not always rolling from left to right but also under the trembling effect of a turbulence (as in an airplane). It is incredible the effects that the waves have over the boat. You walk through the corridors as you were very drunk.
Anyway, this not only changed the "original dream" but also the itinerary because we couldn't visit Rarotonga. After four days at sea and after visiting Hawaii we were really excited and waiting for that stop but the weather burst our bubble. I don't understand why cruise ships insist with this place because most of the time they can't stop because tendering is impossible.
There are also other factors that lurk beneath the reality: partial information. An example of this is Bora Bora. It is a beautiful place but nobody tells you that the only way to enjoy that paradise is if you stay in those magical and expensive resorts. If you are with a cruise having only one day, you can do almost nothing because Matira (the only public beach) is not only in the other side of the island but also it is just about 300 meters long by 3 meters wide with absolutely nothing on it (no umbrellas, no chairs, no washrooms). The closest restaurant is about 6 blocks and you have to be very brave and having the skin of an elephant to be 2 or 3 hours under the sun in that area without protection. Besides, if you were hoping to walk or shopping "in the city", I am afraid that you will be disappointed: downtown it is only three blocks long and you'll have more of the same: pearls, pareos and T-shirts. In less than an hour you will be an expert in downtown Bora Bora. Although it is obvious, FYI, there is absolutely NO night life, the only real restaurant is Bloody Mary about 30 minutes by car and in the shops the prices are incredible high.
As you can imagine, not all of them worth the price. Actually, at least half of them are an attractive excuse just to get more money out of you (preying on your excitement, your lack of information, and using a colourful description of the tour).
Please, don't misunderstand me: all the places were beautiful but be aware that with a couple of pictures well taken and a poetic description in the brochure they can create magic out of something that does not deserve it. For example: paying $130 p/p just to be in a bus for three or four hours to go around an island (like "Natural Treasures of Tahiti") it is too much. If you stay close to port you'll have more or less the same view.
I don't want to sound "insensitive" because every place has its own beauty, but the reality is that a set of "mountain/lagoon/sea" is almost the same in all the islands. You don't have to go to the other side of the island to see another one.
A "beautiful rainbow fall" most of the times is only a small and very narrow stream of water falling from 30 meters high but they will advertise it as a great and incredible feature of the excursion.
Remember that after you paid, they don't care if you liked it or not because in few hours you will be on board again and there is no money back.
Please, remember that my opinion is based only on the things that I saw in the few hours that we stopped in every place. You won't have one week to explore every island. Your adventure will last only a few hours. If you chose the wrong excursion, your money and your time will be wasted.
But, having said that, there are three of them that you can not miss: Pearl Harbour, the pearl farm in Riatea and snorkelling with sting rays in Moorea. Great experiences.
Most of the above was written while at sea. At that moment I was thinking about how to answer the obvious question from my friends: "How was your trip?". Well... After a month at sea, I guess that it has more than one answer depending of what aspect of the trip they want to know about. Maybe for you, if you decide to make this trip, there will be several answers too.
In any case, although it was wonderful as a general balance, I would make you some suggestions:
1) Be VERY patient with your fellow passengers
2) Have an open and positive mind about the experiences that you will live.
3) Expect to gain some weight.
4) Keep your expectations low about the places you will visit.
If you apply them and "go with the flow", the result will be more satisfactory.