Westerdam Cruise Review by extomcruise: Relaxing Holland America Cruise Delivers Almost 100%
Overall Member Rating
Relaxing Holland America Cruise Delivers Almost 100%
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
My Wife & I along with our 16 year old son & friend (separate cabin) sailed the 7-day Thanksgiving week Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Westerdam. We're experienced cruisers & 3-Star HAL Mariners (90+ sea days). This is a somewhat exhaustive but hopefully entertaining & informative account of our voyage.
Embarkation: Some studdering here. The first line outside the terminal slowly moves inside where our party is given a number & directed into a holding area, this one for the X-ray machine - only. Takes a half hour to be called. Once through, next herding, er, ... holding area is for check-in, again, wait a half hour. Check-in is smooth, but then yet another sit & wait to actually board. Finally on the ship after 1 p.m.; hey, what the heck, we're on our long awaited vacation. At least by the time we board the cabins are ready. Grade: C-.
The Ship: Ahh, HAL, where every vessel is the same in layout, only slightly different in decor, like seeing an old, More welcoming friend. The Westerdam is over 10 years old & a little worn in spots, but she is kept absolutely spic n' span. And no cruise line tops the Indonesian service staff. Grade A+.
Our Cabin: Our 30th Anniversary, we sprang for a Cat. SY Superior Veranda cabin & in hindsight well worth it. Large balcony (table & 2 chairs, 2 recliners & ottoman), large bathroom (double sinks, hydro bathtub with separate shower) & the cabin space itself just noticeably easier to move around than a standard stateroom. T.V. (flat screen) a tad archaic: no interactive capabilities for account status or excursion booking or movie rentals, but there was a free CD movie library & CD player in the cabin. Grade A.
Dining; & Food as Entertainment: Food was good, especially in the Lido, not so much room service. We had anytime "open" seating dinner & the first nite presented ourselves just after 8 (20 minutes in line to get to the Maitre' D), table for 2 please. Immediate seating if you'll dine with others, but we're given a beeper & retreat to the adjacent Explorer's Lounge & enjoy the soothing Adagio strings. We're beeped a half hour later & enjoy a leisurely dinner for 2. Waiter surprisingly chides me for double appetizers & entrees, seemingly in good fun (?).
For any T.V. food show even semi-afficiandos, the Culinary Arts Center put on several well attended cooking demonstrations. The Culinary Arts Center features a dedicated stage with full kitchen, with overhead cameras & T.V.s throughout the venue (NFL games were also shown here). Each is a recorded production played later on T.V. The banter between Host Kirby & Chef Fred makes for an entertaining & professional show.
9 means 9!! or you won't dine!! Wow, does HAL whiff here & ruin our evening the second nite, the Gala Welcome Aboard dinner. To avoid the prior evening's wait we show up at 9:15, but I misread the cutoff time of 9 (I swear it was 9:30 the first nite). Alas, "we are no longer serving". 15 minutes?? Would not a so called 5-star, premium cruise line have served us? It was not a "Signature of Excellence" moment; HAL blew it here & we succumbed to room-service hamburgers - bummer.
It should be noted the dining room wait-time became non-existent the second half of the voyage.
We dined once in Canaletto, the alternative Italian Restaurant inside the Lido (no additional cost but reservations required); good, rich Italian fare. Grade: B+ with one glaring F-.
Activities: This was an unexpected highlight. Port & especially sea days offered an impressive array of enrichment activities from fitness (yoga, Tai Chi, acupuncture; a rather small gym) to cooking (DW did the hands-on culinary class, $29) to camera and computer classes. 4 clinics of each type daily. Grade A+.
A Little Port Talk: We really enjoyed Grand Turk, our first visit there, a sort of scaled down version of the Costa Maya cruise port in Mexico, where the dedicated cruise dock is a destination unto itself. Steps off the ship in grand Turk is the world's largest Margeritaville, plenty of new & modern shops (Ron Jon Surf Shop & clothes boutiques) & a Flowrider wave machine. And of course a beautiful powder-sand beach with a million beach recliners under palm trees in every direction. The thought occurred to me that if Disney put a cruise port together this is what it would be. St. Marteen gets better & better each time we're there. Shops, restaurants & hotels line the main street & upscale to hole-in-the-wall bars along the beach just behind them. Some of the friendliest people in the Caribbean. Always a favorite. Puerto Rico is also fun with a charm of its own. Grade: A.
Miscellany and Voyage's End: HAL goes to great efforts to prevent neauro illness: antiseptic palm dispensers everywhere & Lido personnel serve all food & drinks so passengers don't touch a plate or glass until it is handed to them for the first 2 days.
For imbibers, various lounges have a 1 hour Happy Hour each evening (second drink $1) which can really add up (or down ship-board account wise) over the length of the cruise.
The boys quickly made friends & said the teen program was good & they had a great time. As expected, we didn't see much of them.
I will end by imparting my version of Nietzsche's "Eternal Recurrence" idea: it's just after 7 a.m., me with a Grande Americana Expresso coffee in the Explorations Cafe (Crow's Nest), perusing the N.Y. Times Digest & ship's program for the day, while the deep blue sea slips by outside, the vessel gently swaying as she sails along. A more pleasant way to start another day on a cruise vacation cannot be imagined.
Bons voyages always. extom. Less
Read more Westerdam cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic's Westerdam Review >>
Go to another cruise line and ...
NOT UP TO CARNIVAL STANDARDS!
Conquest Not Up to Par for Car...
Older ship, nice cruise.
Liked the cruise, not the ship...
Okay, but come on, duct tape o...
End of September to Alaska, mo...
Holland America - False promis...