Westerdam November 13-20, 2011
We recently returned from an excellent Southern Caribbean cruise aboard the beautiful Westerdam. My husband and I are in our mid 60's and have taken many cruises on most of the major cruise lines. This was our 7th HAL cruise, the 3rd on the Westerdam. We have not cruised in three years because of family obligations which kept us close to home. We are now able to cruise again and booked this cruise at the last minute, about 5 weeks before the sail date. We were looking for some rest and relaxation and time to be together. Since we were familiar with the Westerdam and had taken this same itinerary on her three years ago, we felt that this cruise would be a good fit for us.
We arrived at the ship shortly before 11:00. After a short wait, we moved into a holding area inside the terminal. At 11:30, groups began to be called. Since we were suite passengers, we were very quickly processed and onboard the ship. Our cabin was not yet ready, so we left our carry on items in the Neptune Lounge and went to the dining room for lunch. As we were finishing lunch shortly before 1:00, an announcement was made that cabins were ready.
We were in a Deluxe Veranda Suite on the Rotterdam level. The cabin was roomy, comfortable and very well appointed. We spent a great deal of time on the veranda during the cruise and enjoyed the extra space. Our cabin stewards were terrific and made sure we had all that we required. We enjoyed the suite privileges and the Neptune Lounge.
We were seated in the main dining room, second seating, table for two for dinner. The dining room was just as lovely as we remembered, and the table settings are exquisite. Our dining stewards were attentive and friendly. The cutbacks in the dining room were obvious since our last cruise on the Westerdam three years ago . Our stewards were responsible for eight tables; two four tops and six two tops. Previously, servers had responsibility for four tables on average. According to a dining room supervisor that we spoke to, HAL corporate has now mandated that servers be responsible for 20-22 passengers at a seating. We have always believed that the dining stewards are strong ambassadors for the cruise line, some of our best cruise memories have come from meeting these hard-working individuals. What a short sighted corporate decision!
The food in the dining room ranged from excellent to average. There are fewer appealing menu choices, particularly fish dishes. Meat cuts are not the same quality we've experienced in the past. The Prime Rib is a new recipe with odd sauce, there were more cheaper cuts like flank steak and short rib dishes, and portions seem smaller than in the past (and we are not big eaters). The rack of lamb, for example, consisted of two small chops. They were excellently prepared and delicious but the serving was quite small.
We ate breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill or selected items available in the Neptune Lounge. Both were excellent and served our needs well. We ate most lunches in the dining room, which was generally good, although we encountered some spotty service. We were only in the Lido twice all week -â€" once for pizza and once for ice cream, both were fine. We did eat in Canaletto one evening and were not impressed by the food and the service.
In our experience, HAL's entertainment is not as good as other cruise lines. We were pleasantly surprised, however, that entertainment on this cruise was better than we have seen in the past. The stage shows were more entertaining, the piano bar singer was quite good, and the HAL cats were particularly talented. There was a guitar, folk and contemporary singer in the Crow's Nest who was good, but who looked bored or unhappy most of the time.
Half Moon Cay was wonderful as always. We enjoyed the beach and the barbeque.
Aruba is a very enjoyable port and a very beautiful island. We took a taxi to Eagle Beach and had a wonderful time sitting on the beach for the afternoon.
Curacao is a lovely port also. We enjoyed walking around town and visiting the floating market. Unfortunately, the swinging bridge was closed for repairs and we did miss walking over it and watching it open and close.
The crew and staff members on HAL are second to none! Every person we spoke with was courteous, professional and genuinely concerned about the passengers. Even though the work load for many has increased, the attitude and caring remains intact.
We met the Captain and several of the officers at the reception for suite passengers on the first evening. It was a lovely, well-attended event. We did attend the Mariners Brunch on one of the sea days. It was very well attended with the usual speeches by the Captain and Cruise Director. Most of the passengers on this sailing seemed to be Mariners so two brunches/lunches were held.
We elected to disembark carrying our own luggage. We were able to travel light because of the laundry service that was a suite perk. This kept our bags to a minimum. There was a slight delay leaving the ship because of a customs delay but we were soon off the ship and into a taxi to the airport without any difficulty.