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Sail Date: November 2014
This cruise was our fourth with Holland America and was a more relaxed experience than on other of their ships. This may well have been because the Rotterdam was well below capacity (900 instead of 1400) presumably because the itinerary ... Read More
This cruise was our fourth with Holland America and was a more relaxed experience than on other of their ships. This may well have been because the Rotterdam was well below capacity (900 instead of 1400) presumably because the itinerary was changed with three ports of call being changed/modified because of the ebola situation in west Africa (We still have never been officially notified by HAL of the change and only found out by noticing a credit card refund for pre-booked shore excursions in cancelled ports of call). The change to the itinerary meant at one stage of the cruise there was a seven day stretch of sea days. But, with smaller capacity, finding a table in the Lido buffet was never a problem. And that the waiting staff were not as pressured and rushed and were themselves more relaxed and able to spend time chatting with us as they served our meals. Certainly there was not the feel exhibited by the staff we experienced in other HAL ships of having to rate well to get another contract. Beyond that the other aspects of the cruise bore the usual hallmarks (and comments and criticisms) of HAL experiences – overpriced shore excursions and internet service, overkill on flogging Signature shop and Greenhouse spa sales (they must destroy a forest per cruise in flyers advertising the latest daily 50% off deals). The shows and food varied in quality but generally were OK, the art auctions attracted very few bids and no real bargains anyhow, the casino catered for the rusted on gamblers, bingo, bridge, basic IT classes, wine tasting, cooking were available for those bored along with excursions which overall were varied and worthwhile while embarkation and disembarkation were painless . With the longer voyage and the time of year there were no children on board and the passengers were mostly in the older aged group.Thank God for Kindle and I pads because while the Explorations cafe is sumptuous the selection of reading material within it is not. One day HAL will realise that there are people from many and varied nationalities on board and that an available compilation of books on little known past insignificant US politicians, actors and sports people holds little interest or appeal for many on board and that history does extend beyond the borders of continental USA. One would think that a selection of books pertaining to the history and features of places the ship will visit would be a sensible part of planning but at present the collection looks more like a one made up of donated used out of date books found at some Lions charity book sale from some county in mid west USA. Our Stateroom was 7045.Avoid this and other staterooms nearby on deck seven (Navigation deck) like the plague. It was directly under the smoking section on the lido deck immediately above. Every and any time a table or chair was moved it scraped and could be heard in our stateroom below. And being where it was this happened at all hours day and night. This was particularly annoying late evening when the smoking desperates were on deck and also in the morning, sixish when the crew were cleaning and rearranging. Then during the day whenever we went out onto our balcony the smoke wafted down from above driving us inside. Do not accept a stateroom assigned to you in this area if you value uninterrupted sleep and clean air!!! Overall, it was a typical HAL no frills, comfortable, cruise which in this case visited some different places that appealed. It matched our expectations and again the friendliness and tolerance of the stateroom, servers, dining and beverage stewards in the face of some fairly rude and demanding travellers was outstanding.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2014
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the ... Read More
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canaries, Agadir, Casablanca, and Tangier Morocco, Cadiz and Vigo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. As usual the service on Holland America was excellent. There were only 900 passengers on this last leg of voyage which basically circumnavigated Africa for 88 days. With so few passengers, the crew was even more attentive than usual. Many cancelled this leg of the voyage due to the Ebola virus. But, safety first, Holland America cancelled port calls in countries anywhere near the outbreak. The weather was perfect throughout the cruise. During sea days we were kept busy with excellent lectures on topics concerning ocean travel, its luxuries and travails and on wild life. The usual crafts, dancing and bridge activities were popular. You could even attend computer classes. The only portion of the voyage that did not measure up to Holland American standards were the shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers. Otherwise the entertainment was very good. We're told Holland America will not be offering the circumnavigation of Africa cruise in 2015, but Princess has a comparable cruise on its website. Bill Reynolds   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2010
Last April we booked a charter repositioning cruise on the Westerdam which was sold by a German company through a South African travel agency. The cruise went from Cape Town to Rotterdam from 12-26 July, 2010. Unfortunately the German ... Read More
Last April we booked a charter repositioning cruise on the Westerdam which was sold by a German company through a South African travel agency. The cruise went from Cape Town to Rotterdam from 12-26 July, 2010. Unfortunately the German company ran into financial difficulties, we were told and, at the last minute, sold cabins in Germany for as low as 800Euros, which included transport to the airport in Germany, flight to Cape Town, 14 nights in an outside cabin, and transport by bus from Rotterdam to Germany! As a result what should have been a quiet repositioning cruise turned into an overcrowded cruise with most of the passengers being amongst the most unpleasant, rude, aggressive and arrogant that I have ever encountered. Out of over 1700 passengers, about 1400 were Germans and most of the activities were geared towards them. The 300 South Africans felt they were on board to subsidize them as they had paid very much more than what the Germans were bragging they had paid. This being said, we met very elegant, educated, pleasant Germans, but they were very much in the minority and looked as shell shocked as we were. I will thus review the Westerdam in light of the above, as I don't think we had the regular experience. The ship She is not the prettiest inside - whoever was in charge of the decor must have been on some very strong hallucinogen at the time. Horrific colour schemes in the public rooms with ghastly pseudo-Egyptian and other massive pieces of decorative furniture everywhere (and a Reinie Mackintosh style love seat thrown in for good measure). But she grows on you and by the end of the cruise you'll love her. Cabin We booked a Deluxe Verandah Stateroom which was excellent. Pleasing colour scheme, well appointed, loads of storage, large, comfortable bed, mini bar, television, good lighting, etc. The cabin was very clean. We spent quite a lot of time in the cabin listening to our music on the computer and watching the ocean go by. Cabin stewards Impeccable. Very friendly, pleasant stewards as well as efficient. We had breakfast at 8h00 every day and our cabin was cleaned when we returned. I surprised myself by looking forward to the towel creatures they made every night - I found them quite amusing. Dining The first day at sea we went to the Lido Restaurant for lunch as we both like the concept of eating different cuisines at convenient times. However, on arrival we were met with a scene of complete chaos, with passengers fighting over food and nowhere to sit. I renamed the Lido Restaurant experience "Dining as a combat sport". We decided to retreat to the Dining Room - unfortunately, we were informed by the dining room man in dark blue uniform that the dining room closed at 13h00 for lunch and it was 13h02 so we could not be served. Fair enough. The next days we were on time and had lovely lunches with a nice chilled bottle of white wine. From then on we took all our meals in the Vista Dining Room and enjoyed the food very much. There was great variety to please all palates. We had one meal at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was fine, but the atmosphere was cold and the service not up to standards. We found this restaurant not worth the supplement charged. Dining Room staff The dining room assistant-manager lady was extremely welcoming and pleasant to all passengers. The waiters, though very much overworked were always smiling, friendly, polite and efficient. The wine waiters both at lunch and dinner were attentive and remembered our favourite wines. Entertainment Was geared for the German contingent so we avoided it. We did enjoy the Adagio Strings in the Explorers Lounge. We went there every night before dinner - quite a pleasant, soothing experience. Pool Facilities Not tested. Never even contemplated trying to get a deck chair. We gave up on Deck 9 after the first day. We even had problems walking on the Promenade Deck as the passengers were moving the deck chairs to follow the sun - as a result there were sometimes 2-3 rows of deck chairs on the sunny side. I suppose we could have always walked back and forth on the shady side. Cruise Staff/Daily activities Invisible. It may be explained by the charter but non-German passengers were neglected. For instance the daily programme every day showed at 11h00 and 15h00 "Bridge and Card Play in the Hudson Room". This room was freezing cold the whole two weeks despite complaints, was full of chairs stacked against a wall and had only three bridge tables. The first day we arrived a cruise staff member showed up with decks of cards, small white writing pads and pencils. That was the contribution of the cruise staff. Get together and play! No scoring sheets, no bidding boxes, nothing. When asked why there was no bridge organized, the young lady said it was only organized on 16 day cruises and ours was only fourteen days! Three of the activities cost $12 each. It was not all bleak, one day I could have learned how to make my own postcards and another how to set a table!!!! The cruise director finally surfaced for the disembarkation talk. He made the usual tired jokes about inane questions asked by passengers (do you use salt water in the toilets? Etc. ) to generate laughter from the audience. I think making fun of passengers, however silly the question, shows a lack of respect and may be an indication of the disdain he feels for passengers. He certainly did not come through as affable or interested. Library Good. However, magazines were dated May 2010 for a cruise in July. One magazine had a recipe in it I would have liked and I asked the young lady if I could have the magazine at the end of the cruise - no, she said, we will use it for the next cruise ... starting July 26! Gymnasium Excellent facilities. Summary In summary, despite the lack of help from the cruise staff, thanks to the professional, efficient and gracious service from the rest of the crew, we managed to carve out a pleasant cruise from what could have been the cruise from hell. Thank you crew of the Westerdam. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2009
Cruise from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale   It started out with a price I could not turn down. It was an outside cabin on the lower promenade deck on a 22-day cruise from Capt Town, South Africa to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for less than ... Read More
Cruise from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale   It started out with a price I could not turn down. It was an outside cabin on the lower promenade deck on a 22-day cruise from Capt Town, South Africa to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for less than $60 a day per person. Florida was still relatively cool and dry. That means that the daytime high is below 90 degrees and the humidity is around 80 per cent. I usually wait until the first of June before leaving Florida for most of the summer. That is why we had the time available for this "last minute" cruise.   Looking for more justification, I perused the ports of call. There were nine ports of call that would be new. In fact, the only place that I had been before was Fort Lauderdale. To be perfectly truthful, however, the only place that was really on my "to do" was Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the rest I had never even heard of.   Another motivation was that my last cruise four months ago on the Holland America, Veendam had been less than sterling. Don't get me wrong! It was a very good cruise but just a little to "Carnivalized" for my liking. I wanted to see if the Rotterdam was still in the tradition of the Holland America I had come to adore.   With all those sea days scheduled, I thought my wife and I needed another couple for cards etc. so I asked my brother and his wife to join us. They jumped at the chance so the decision was made to join the Rotterdam in Cape Town for the 22-day cruise to Fort Lauderdale, a leg of the Holland America 2009 World cruise.   We decided to schedule the flight to Cape Town a few days early to see some of the South African sights before embarking upon the cruise.  There was so much that we wanted to do that the few days turned into five. We stayed at the Clarendon in Bantry Bay and the guesthouse was fabulous. The people were great. The breakfasts and tea times were not to be missed and the view from the guest rooms was to die for. The five days were jammed packed with day trips to the wine country, Robben's Island, the Cape of Good Hope, table rock mountain, the Victoria and Alfred shopping malls and a one day photo safari to the Aquila animal preserve. We were so exhausted that by the time we boarded the Rotterdam, we were looking forward to that first sea day.   Embarkation was a dream. Since the cruise was part of a World Cruise, there were only about 300 people embarking in Cape Town. Twenty minutes after we got to the dock we were in our cabin unpacking our hand luggage before hitting the buffet line on the Lido deck. There, we had the preview of the quality and variety of great food we were going to receive for the entire voyage. This was our 38th cruise and by far we had the best dining experience ever as far as variety, quality and service is concerned. In fact, my advice to HAL is "you got it right, don't change".   We quickly got into our routine. We had early seating for dinner so we would go to the show lounge after dinner that was about one hour before the show started. This usually assured us of a good seat down front. My wife, Velma, would read and I would work my Sudoku while waiting for the show to begin. The first evening the routine went off like clockwork.   The next morning I got to the Lido deck for coffee at my usual six o'clock and went out to the pool deck to work Sudoku and people watch. My wife joined me at about seven o'clock and Dick and Mary (brother and sister-in-law) joined us about half passed seven. We met a few people that had been on the cruise since the beginning. This was day 93 of their cruise. Needless-to-say, we had a lot of questions about such a long cruise.   On sea days, after breakfast Velma would do her water aerobics and I would lounge around and before you knew it, it was time for lunch. On days that we were in port we would take shore tours or go ashore on our own in the morning getting back in time to get a snack and rest before dinner. On sea days the afternoons were spent taking in the many activities on board or playing cards with Dick and Mary. One of our favorites activities was the afternoon movie. For the most part the movies were good considering the number of movies needed for such a long cruise and the differing tastes people had. There was so much to do that I could not see how anyone could not find something to his or her liking.   It was the third day on board that the routine was interrupted. When we got to the show lounge at our usual time "our seats" were taken. There were only two people in the theater and they chose to sit in our usual place. No problem, we just sat a row back. The next night when we arrived at our usual time we found four people in the theater and the other two were sitting where we sat the night before. No problem, we found seats in the same spot but on the other side of the theater. Evidently, these seats were not worth the effort for those world cruisers who embarked before we did to get to the lounge early enough to get them. From then on we watched the seating drama that took place each evening. Some times it was even more fun than Sudoku.   We soon found out that there was a difference between the "newbies" and the veteran world cruisers. Many of them had over ninety days to form their cliques. However, most of the passengers accepted us and some even liked the new blood on board.   We had our favorite cabin on Holland America. It was 3388 near the center of the lower promenade deck and just ten steps from the lifeboat station and about the same distance to the elevators and staircase. This minimized our walking and swaying and I thought that we would get enough exercise walking from the dining room to the theater anyway.   The music on board was outstanding. From 4:30pm until dinner, the Station Band played dance music in the Ocean Bar while the Peacefulls played in the Crow's Nest. They were both very good. However, we had to choose since they played at the same time before dinner. We finally settled on the Station Band simply because they were closer to our cabin and the dining room. However, we did get to listen to the Peacefulls during lunch on the Lido deck. After the show it was up to the Explorer's Lounge to listen to the Rosario Strings. The group were outstanding musicians and could play just about any song you requested. Here again we had to choose between the Rosario Strings and the piano bar and the strings won out.   Our ports of call in Namibia were Luderitz and Walvis Bay. They were quiet laid back towns and we enjoyed just walking around the towns for a few hours and getting back on the ship to enjoy the on-board activities. Many of the passengers took tours and had nothing by good reports but we preferred our favorite pastime, relaxing in the lounge chairs on deck or the easy chairs in the library when the weather got warm.   After Namibia, we island hopped all the way to Fort Lauderdale. St Helena was noted for the place where Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in exile. We also found it to be the home of Jacob's ladder, 699 stair steps from the town to the top of the nearby mountain. I climbed the first five steps, took some pictures and called it quits. We walked up the main street to the post office for some stamps, rested awhile in chairs on the porch of the local hotel and chatted with some locals before retracing our steps back to the dock to tender back to the ship. It was hard to believe that people lived on such a small island 1200 miles from the nearest land but they seemed to enjoy it.   Two days later we anchored off the coast of Ascension island. The sea was a little rough so we decided not to try getting on the tenders for the ride to shore. Their main claim to fame was their postage stamps and the fact that they were once a down range tracking station for NASA in the 1960's. On-board activities were going strong. "Yes Man" was showing at the theater and it was Dutch night in the dining room. We all donned our Dutch hats and had a ball. It was the birthday of Queen Juliana, the mother of the current Queen Beatrix and is called "Koninginnedag".   After four sea days we arrived at Devil's Island. We had not been able to visit Devil's Island last year on a repositioning cruise to Rome because of high seas so we were looking forward to this visit. After all we had paid dearly for those yellow fever shots last years and wanted to get use out of those shot records that nobody even asked about or looked at. The island was a pleasant surprise. It was beautiful with lots of flowers, greenery and animals the likes of which I had never seen. No matter what they call them, they still looked like giant rats. After about an hour of walking around the island it was back to the ship and on to Trinidad.   There was a light rain in Trinidad, the only bad weather we encountered the entire cruise. We took a tour of the city, the botanical gardens and took in a show at the local playhouse. The city of port of Spain was much larger than I had expected and had the usual traffic jams of all large cities we had visited all over the world. The government was renovating much of the city but the going was slow and the money scarce. When the older buildings are restored and the new convention center is complete, it would be nice to go back and visit the city again.   Barbados was the next island we visited and it was like most Caribbean islands but showed more affluence. We enjoyed a walk through Bridgetown where we bought some souvenirs before taking a taxi back to the dock.   Our final island stop was in St. Barts and it was a surprise. It is the most affluent island that we had visited in the Caribbean. The harbor was full of million dollar yachts and the town was full of up-scale shops. St Barts is a collectivity of France and the currency is the Euro. When we walked around the harbor, I stopped to read the menu at an outdoor restaurant and a hamburger with fries went for 18 Euros or about $25. It was time to return to the ship where dining was good and free.   Two days later we disembarked in Ft Lauderdale in time for my brother and sister-in-law to make a 10:00 am flight to Atlanta. It was tight but he made it. Disembarkation was quick without any problems. I love those small ships.   In addition to comfortable cabins and common areas, outstanding service, exceptional food and great music, the entertainment was as good as we have seen, especially on a long cruise. From production shows that were fabulous to Folkloric shows that were both entertaining and educational the shows covered just about every aspect of the entertainment spectrum. There was something for everyone and I liked it all. Steel drums and flaming limbo dancers, singing and dancing with costumes by Mackie backed by a band that could play anything was a joy to behold. There was a ventriloquist, violinist, mind reader, pianist, classical guitar player and male and female comedians, male and female vocalists and several singing groups.   Chita Rivera showed that she could still sing and dance on the stage of a swaying cruise ship in high-heeled shoes at an age approaching that of the Holland America passengers. It was hard to believe that it had been 50 years since I had seen the "West Side Story".   However, my favorite show was the singing group, The Unexpected Boys. They were four exceptionally talented young men with energy to spare that put on two great shows plus a cameo appearance that brought down the house even though we had heard the songs before. They could do it all. Whether it was songs from Les Miserable or solos from Jekyll and Hyde, barbershop or modern, they did it with a flare.   If you want to cruise, I suggest you start with the best, Holland America, and the best of Holland America is their world cruises. If you are like me and are not ready for a 100+ days on a cruise select a leg of the world cruise you like and go for it. You will not be disappointed. Read Less
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