DH and I have cruised nine times. This was our first HAL cruise. We live NW of Baltimore. We're in our 40's but have two little ones that we left at home this trip.
We flew from DCA to MIA because we found a great deal on airfare. We normally fly from BWI. Since we were leaving on a Saturday afternoon, we didn't hit any DC traffic and getting to the airport was simple. One factor we didn't consider when comparing prices was parking. We park at BWI for $7 and the cheapest at DCA was $12.
Our flight was on time and uneventful.
We picked up a rental car at MIA through Priceline. We got Alamo, which offers a free shuttle from FLL to Port Everglades. We did have to show our receipt to board the shuttle.
We had dinner with my sister-in-law, so we booked a hotel in Coral Gables, specifically the Hyatt, again through Priceline. This was a very nice hotel and we were quite pleased with our $65 bid. In the morning, we walked around the corner to Graziano's Market, where we had a great breakfast and picked up wine for our cruise.
We were in no hurry to board. We checked out of the hotel around 10:00, drove Biscayne Blvd, looped around the port of Miami and over to South Beach for a few hours. We arrived at FLL around 1:30, where we returned the rental car and caught the shuttle to this ship. We handed our bags to the porters, walked directly through security, right up to check-in and then right onboard without a second's wait. We were onboard by 2:00.
This was our first time on a HAL ship. We prefer 'smaller' ships, so the Westerdam, at around 2,000 passengers, was perfect for us. I liked everything about the ship -â€" the dÃ©cor, the layout, the lack of crowds.
I loved the Promenade deck and will miss that from now on if we go on a ship without one. I am a runner and it was so much nicer than a windy upper deck that required 12 laps for a mile.
Runners, walkers and strollers seemed to get along very well. We all looked out for one another and everyone was courteous. There was a problem with a service dog that pooped at the wrong end of the ship. There were two little grass boxes at the bow, but the dog left a gift right at the starboard side corner. Unfortunately, the couple with the service dog evidently told no one about it, and it stayed there the whole time I was running.
I watched this cruise for months because it was out of our price range, but I really wanted this itinerary. I then found that because I was a past Carnival passenger, I could get a Mariner account. With the Mariner account, I grabbed an SY Guarantee at a good price.
When cabins were assigned, we got 8085, an SS connecting cabin directly under the Lido buffet area. I was very concerned about noise, but we never had a problem. The connecting door meant we lost a closet, but we still had more than enough room for storage.
Main Dining Room
We had traditional, late seating dining. We were at a table for six in the very aft of the top level of the dining room. Only two of our dining companions ever showed up and we really enjoyed their company.
And it's a good thing we did, because dinners took a long time. Now we choose late dining because we like leisurely dining. I don't like the feeling of being rushed out so that someone else can have my table. I prefer to linger at the table, perhaps having a second cup of coffee.
However, there is an extreme and this cruise was it. There was not a single night we were out of the dining room before 10:00 when the show started. And not once did we have a second cup of coffee. The time between ordering and getting our appetizers was quite long. Then there was another lag while we waited for our entrees. I don't blame this on the waiter as it was happening at other tables around us too. It was the worst on the first night, but then only improved slightly later on.
I enjoyed the Lido buffet. The first two days, we were served by staff, which made it a bit slow. But selection, taste and presentation were always good. I tried the famed bread pudding twice. Once it was delicious and once it had been sitting out too long.
We ordered room service once, at 2:00am. The "plate of cookies" contained just two cookies, but they were on a plate. They were delivered quickly.
We did not order from the Explorations Cafe, nor eat at Canaletto or Pinnacle Grill.
Because of the dining, we never made it to the beginning of any of the nighttime shows. We did come in late and stay for a comedian and enjoyed it. We also saw some of one production show and the sound was bad. The music overpowered the singers.
We attended a few activities in the kitchen center and enjoyed them. My husband attended all three mixology classes and earned his certificate, which he was quite proud of. He's yet to make me a cocktail since we've been home.
We enjoyed Happy Hour at the Oceans Bar. It was was from 4:00 -â€" 5:00. There were two others at other bars, one from 6:00 -â€" 7:00 in the Atrium bar and another from 8:00 -â€" 9:00 in the Crow's Nest.
Half Moon Cay
What can I say? I LOVE this island! This was our second time there, last time was in June 2009 with our children on the Carnival Pride. It was even better this time, because it wasn't as hot and I didn't have to chase after 3 and 5 year olds!
We didn't arrive until 1:00, but we had a nice day. We got off the ship and walked to the bridge, where we caught a taxi to Hato Caves. It was about a 20 minute ride and we spent a few hours at the caves and grounds. The taxi driver charged us $50 and he waited for us.
After returning from the caves, we crossed the bridge and walked around. I am not a shopper so we just checked out the market then sat at a cafÃ© where my husband had a beer. We got back to the waterfront in time to see the bridge open and shut and then returned to the ship around 6:00.
We booked a private excursion with Woodwind Bonaire. This was a super day and the widest variety of fish I've ever seen snorkeling. We took the afternoon excursion, which was scheduled for 12:20 to 3:20. Our onboard time was 4:30, so I was confortable because the catamaran's dock was just a 10 minute walk from the ship's dock.
We had a 12:05 flight from MIA, so we did Expedited disembarkation. We took all of our own luggage off around 8:00, just before they started calling numbers. We walked right off the ship and right up to Customs. We were out the door and putting our luggage in a taxi without a second's delay. Our taxi driver must have thought we were in a rush, either that or he thought I-95 was the speed limit, because we were at MIA, checked-in and through security by 9:30. It was amazing!
We had a nice cruise. The cabin was great. The ports were fantastic. But I think my expectations for HAL were just a bit too high. There's no one thing to point a finger at, but we just didn't come off this ship really wanting to jump back on. I don't know that we'll come back to HAL again or not.