We did a 12 day cruise out of Barcelona ending in Rome on the Westerdam in September, 2017 in celebration of a friend's retirement. We have sailed many times with other cruise lines (Oceania, Norwegian, Celebrity) but had never ... Read More
We did a 12 day cruise out of Barcelona ending in Rome on the Westerdam in September, 2017 in celebration of a friend's retirement. We have sailed many times with other cruise lines (Oceania, Norwegian, Celebrity) but had never before sailed with Holland America. We booked a year and a half in advance and had booked veranda with balcony staterooms that were aft facing and adjoining our friends. We used a travel agent to make the reservation. About two weeks before we sailed, we were offered an upgrade, at $499/person, to a Neptune Suite. We accepted. It was the right decision resulting in a spacious cabin (king bed, large sofa, two chairs, coffee table and wide screen tv) with a ton of closet space, a big bathroom with two sinks, separate tub and shower, and all the suites were recently redone from top to bottom with the renovation of the ship earlier this year. Our friends were also upgraded to a Neptune Suite with a balcony that wrapped around the rear and side of the ship - perfect for 5:00 cocktail parties every afternoon. A concierge comes with Pinnacle and Neptune Suites which is really two wonderful individuals in the Neptune Lounge who cater to your ever need and solve all your on board problems (dinner reservations, printing boarding passes, arranging excursions, etc). The lounge has an extensive continental breakfast in the morning and food all day along with an honor bar that starts in the afternoon. It is very nice to have a nice quiet place away from the hectic Lido Dining room to get a bite to eat at breakfast or lunch. We used the snacks in the lounge for our daily cocktail parties as well. Laundry and dry cleaning services are free with suites. We had no idea how valuable this service is. We could have packed much lighter with the ability to wear things several times. So, if you can book a suite - I highly recommend it.
As for the ship, we loved both the Westerdam and Holland America. The ship is exceptionally quiet. Only one announcement in the morning with the basics of the day lasting a couple of minutes. When the ship is in motion, it is hard to tell she is moving. I have never been such a quiet ship even when docking or leaving port.
Staff service is excellent. Well beyond that provided by Norwegian and Celebrity and on par with Oceania, but with better processes for moving everyone on and off the ship - where Oceania has failed us in the past.
Food was very good. We had the help of the concierge with reservations in the main dining room which was a big help. I would recommend picking one time in advance and getting it booked with your reservation. Many people had to wait for a table. With the suite advantage, we never waited and always had a good table. Selections were many and all the food was well prepared and delicious. The sommelier was helpful pairing wines with the courses. Bottles of wine can be held over from one night to the next which was most helpful.
At 4 p.m. two of the bars on board have drink specials where the second drink ordered is all of $2. This really held down the bar bills. We did not bother with the beverage package given the low price of the cocktails and the fact that we were going to be off the ship on excursions most days. Also, with the suite, we got 3 bottles of champagne at sailing from the ship, one from our travel agent, and we won a bottle of red wine on board.
One thing we liked best about the ship was the evening entertainment that was available after dinner. We very much enjoyed Billboard Lounge where two pianists play songs with different themes, or the B B King Nightclub with a blues band that kept everyone singing and dancing, or the Lincoln Center Stage with top notch talent (Julliard, Peabody, Manhattan School of Music) playing classical. We did not go to the larger, more usual cruise line shows in the big theater.
We liked the option of having two outdoor pools - one with a cover that could be closed on cooler days, and another at the rear of the ship with a wonderful view of the water.
We used the hot tubs every day -there are two - and had no trouble finding a seat poolside.
The ship at 1,900 people had us concerned that it would be congested, but it never felt crowded. No lines at the elevators. Again, we avoided the Lido for breakfast where we might have encountered crowds, but in moving around the ship, you did not feel like you were with 1,900 people.
Our only criticism is that they have ruined our favorite part of a cruise ship - the upper deck above the navigation deck where you have a glass of champagne and watch the ship pull out of port in the evening. They have converted that space on the ship to a coffee bar with lots of empty portals that have meaningless information on the ports you are going to. No one was ever there to help answer questions (we used our concierge instead). Even the office to book a future cruise was usually empty. Pointless use of prime real estate. The area on the first deck in front of guest services (without windows) is where all this stuff belongs.
We would gladly sail with Holland America again. And if were were again so lucky to be offered an upgrade to a suite, we would grab it again in a second! Read Less