Sail Date: May 2004
EMBARKATION VENICE : Unorganized, luggage dropped off in a far away shack, walk to the check in pier across unmarked storage are. We arrived by taxi. FOLLOWING IS MY PERSONAL OPINION AFTER CRUISING ON 19 LINERS. The Ship is very ... Read More
EMBARKATION VENICE : Unorganized, luggage dropped off in a far away shack, walk to the check in pier across unmarked storage are. We arrived by taxi. FOLLOWING IS MY PERSONAL OPINION AFTER CRUISING ON 19 LINERS. The Ship is very pleasantly furnished,plenty of Lounges,the Atrium does NOT TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY and one might say is this it ? On this ship the WOW or AHA effect is MISSING ! The library did not offer books in different languages as common on Intl Cruise lines.NO daily programs offered in foreign languages and the menu only after inquiry. CABIN : Deluxe outside/balcony good, but small than described. Regular door to balcony (not sliding doors, therefore you need a chair to keep it open ).  Cabing is not frunished very efficiently-little  space, not even a drawere in the desk where most space is occupied by a TV! Not enought light in the small hallway, so dark in the closets. Air conditioning is the worst of all the19 cruises I have taken. Cold/warm no possibility to control air flow or shut it off.  The air blows E X T R E M E L Y, right down on the bed, resulting in heavy colds for both of us! Inquiry at the front desk: no reaction, no information, despite inquiring all over again. The very wise cabin steward helped us by fixing a shaped cardboard over the air conditioner housing, thanks Ruben! I don't know what kind of engineers HAL employs on board? Toilet odor in the bathroom (and somee areas near dining room) !!! But you will find a short tub with a shower curtain. Inquiry at front office, answer: We can't use leaning detergent. No interactive TV, no way to check your account in the cabin like on any other G O O D ship! You may pick up a printout at the front office, and you know what that means at the end of a cruise! Telephone (Message center always out of order, so stated by the front office).   FOOD : The Lido just STANDARD minus. Why be served mostly cold food and the plates covered when it is cold anyway. For that you even have to stand on line instead serving yourself like normal ships have??? DINING ROOM: Average cold food most of the time (TABLE 78 first sitting) even cold after serving it the 3rd time. Wine warm, glasses half full, pepper comes after you're done eating, lobster tail you de-shell yourself! Wines too expensive. Why have nice table settings rosenthal dishes and WMF silverware and serve beer in a tin can? The much advertised cakes etc etc by HAL just looked good, but all tasted the same ordinary way. ENTERTAINMENT: Good, mostly one man shows but like most ships too loud! Explorer lounge and the flambee after dinner was good specially with the classical strings. Can anyone explain why the flambee is part of the menu in the dinning room, but to be had in the Explorer Lounge only there, you have to pay for the coffee which you normally have with your crepe, don't you?    The staff at the front office absolutely unfriendly, not helpful, never there (GRM = guest relation manager). Unfortunately my partner broke a shoulder on shore and we encountered these people more than we would have liked!  She was taken care of by the ships doctor, only to find out, that the ship had no xray equipment available. The situation is under doctor's care here in Germany now.  Westerdam wanted no part of it, except offer us to get off the ship. Under what conditions they never mentioned (GRM). Disembarkation in Venice: very well organized by the ship up to where the lines for the taxis etc started. It seems like Venice only has a few taxis, most of them can only hold 3 suitcases. We then took the ATVO Blue Line Bus from Piazza Roma to the airport. The first bus did not accept our ATVO return ticket purchased at arrival, but the next one did---that is the Italian way. Disaster at Marco Polo Airport. We checked in 2 hrs prior to departure. We stood there over 1 hr  (Only 1 family from California in front of us) my wife with her arm in a sling, and were told no seats, then stood there. No more information from absolutely unqualified air dolomiti counter personnel. Finally made it, sitting apart, so I could not help my partner, but 2 seats were empty in the aircraft! I COULD GO ON AND ON. MY ADVICE : JUST TRY TO AVOID VENICE ! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
We flew to Venice through Vienna on Austrian Airlines from Canada. Three days in Venice prior to the cruise put us in the mood for Europe. We spotted the Westerdam on the date of boarding and were very impressed. The boarding was without ... Read More
We flew to Venice through Vienna on Austrian Airlines from Canada. Three days in Venice prior to the cruise put us in the mood for Europe. We spotted the Westerdam on the date of boarding and were very impressed. The boarding was without incident, taking in the fact that we did not receive any documents and that was our first cruise. We were impressed with the cabin and I had little trouble finding it with all the research I did on the internet prior to leaving Canada. The cruise gave my wife to do what she wanted to do......relax and I did what I wanted to do......photos, exploring and meeting and greeting. Neither of us are gamblers, so we only walked through the casino. I fell in love with the Greek Islands and Turkey, it is everything I thought it would but except better. Malta, what a surprise, so much history, great churches and very pleasant people. The ship, it was a large greyhound. Fast and sleek filled with a surprise around every corner. The shops were interesting with different sales each day. The crew of this ship are diamonds. The cabin, dining room, deck crew and the officers on this Holland America Ship were way above and far more than anything I would expect. The required tipping system was a little surprise. Required tip collected daily $10x2x12= $240 US. The tips, we are told are divided evenly among each and every member of the crew. The crew's salary dropped when this required tipping was set up. I have some wonderful memories of this ship and cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Please enter your review. Westerdam HAL We were very fortunate to take a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on the second voyage of the Westerdam. There were high notes, and not so high notes. We had a wonderful time and would do it again, ... Read More
Please enter your review. Westerdam HAL We were very fortunate to take a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on the second voyage of the Westerdam. There were high notes, and not so high notes. We had a wonderful time and would do it again, however, this is not a five star ship. It is close to a 4. We understand that many of the problems are because it is so early in the ships life. However, unless some changes are made this ship can never be called a luxury ship. The good things first: The ship is so stable, you never feel motion. The beds are fabulous. Best we have ever slept on in a ship. The cabins are roomy. Lots of closets, hangars and shelves. The verandah cabins have bathtubs. Not only does that offer the opportunity of a bath, but the shower is twice the size of a normal ship shower stall. The bathroom is really quite luxurious and the products are excellent. The towels are large and thirsty. The air conditioning works very well. Room service is quick and available 24 hours a day. There is no additional charge for espresso or cappuccino in the dining room. The ports are amazing. They included some new ports like Samos, Greece and Malta. The stage is phenomenal in the show venue. Everything is state of the art. The curtain is covered with fiber lights, the lighting is variable and beautiful, the stage has several elevated portions that rise and lower. The two revues by the ships cast ended with indoor fireworks. Issues: The couch, carpet and duvet in our cabin were all soiled. This is the second sailing. What will it be like in two months? The full-length mirror is located on the door of one of the closets. When you open the door to use the mirror, the door blocks the light and you cannot see. The reading lights above the headboard are so low they cannot be used for reading. The light switches do not allow you to keep just the entry light on. The hairdryer is located under the dressing table. It must be used when sitting; and it is never very strong or hot. The TV is on the dressing table leaving little space for cosmetics and toiletries. It is quite far from the bed and small. There are four seatings, 5:15, 5:45, 8:00 and 8:30. Those in the 5:15 were very unhappy that it was so early; we had the 8:30 and it was too late. We missed four shows because we were still eating at 10:45 and the show started at 10:30. The service in the dining room was not white glove; no one placed a napkin in my lap until I complained to the captain. The service was SLOW. The waiters didn't remember after a week that with every dinner my husband and I drink ice tea. Again I had to speak to the captain. The food is very average. The best meal was the next to last night when caviar made its only appearance. The a la carte Pinnacle restaurant is fabulous. Great service and great food. In the regular dining room they do not seem to understand that when the breadbasket is empty they should refill it. The salads, vegetables and starches were terrible. No presentation and nothing exciting. One evening my roasted vegetables were missing and when I asked the waiter lifted up my foil wrapped potato to show me the vegetables underneath. The good news was the only way you will gain weight is from the desserts. By the way, it you want a flambE they are not served in the dining room, you must go to the lounge outside the lower level dining room and wait in line. The wait is worth it as the ship made chocolates are also served there. The ships two reviews by their cast were great as was the magician and a super singer/comedian. Some of the shows were terrible and people left in droves. The magician has signed a two-year contract so you are assured of a good show from him. The Lido pool has a retractable roof, which allows HAL to put a better chaise in there. The outside pool chaises are not very comfortable. The Lido Pool chairs are so close it is impossible to gracefully sit or stand. I signed up for the unlimited hydrotherapy pool package in the SPA. As I exited the first day, I fell as my foot hit he wet floor. There was nothing to grab onto, and I took a nasty spill. I reported it to the desk and they did not even take my name. When I experienced pain the next day I called and they told me to go to the ships doctor. He told me it was muscular and would just take time. No one from the SPA or the ship called to see how I was doing until I told customer service of my disappointment. The gentleman made it clear that the SPA does not belong to the HAL. Fine, but my accident was on their ship. Nothing was done to prevent his from occurring again and later in the cruise another passenger also fell. Her fall was much worse than mine; she hit her head on the steps and passed out. Even after that no change was made to the facility. We would travel on the ship again, but, with the understanding this is at most a four star ship. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
We just returned from the Westerdam's 2nd voyage and it was a marvelous experience. I was a little leery of going on such an early voyage but Holland America outdid themselves on this cruise. The crew is friendlier than ever and ... Read More
We just returned from the Westerdam's 2nd voyage and it was a marvelous experience. I was a little leery of going on such an early voyage but Holland America outdid themselves on this cruise. The crew is friendlier than ever and more than willing to do anything for the customer. The ship itself is very spacious--even with a full contingent of passengers you never felt crowded. The only time I couldn't find a seat was at the disembarkation lecture so I just left and caught it later on the tv. The newly revamped Lido is outstanding. We hardly ever waited at all. The viewing from the Vista Lounge is excellent. But best of all is their newly implemented Signature of Excellence program. All staterooms have lovely linens and bathrobes. There are now 4 dining times which is an improvement. If only HAL would go to open dining so we could eat at 7:30 and with whomever we wanted--then their product would be the best in the market! But the best change was the addition of the gratuities to your shipboard account on a daily basis. This is so much fairer to all of the staff and takes away a lot of the negative feelings we always felt on the last night of a cruise. (It's hard enough to get off the ship anyway!) We participated in a lot of the shore excursions and felt they were very good value for the money. All guides were excellent and the ports were fascinating--Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Malta. We have cruised Radisson more than any other line and this experience ranked up there with those trips. The food was every bit as good. The decor was a bit more splashy than other HAL ships but very attractive. I particularly liked all the orchids and cloth towels in all the public restrooms. Treat yourself to a cruise on this ship and you won't be sorry! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
Please enter your review. REPORT ON THE WESTERDAM & THE NORWEGIAN CRUISE Introduction: My wife and I have just returned from the Norwegian cruise on the Westerdam. Before leaving I took the opportunity to read the reviews others ... Read More
Please enter your review. REPORT ON THE WESTERDAM & THE NORWEGIAN CRUISE Introduction: My wife and I have just returned from the Norwegian cruise on the Westerdam. Before leaving I took the opportunity to read the reviews others had placed on this site. I found them quite helpful so felt compelled to return the favor. Please remember that these ruminations are purely my own subjective views and that the ship is constantly working to improve its service. As a consequence it is altogether possible that conditions will change by the time you embark on your cruise. The Ship: The first thing that strikes you is the increased security embarking the ship. An electronic photo is taken of you upon arrival dockside, linked to your passenger card and carefully confirmed on every reentry. As one would suspect, the ship is in great shape. This was only its second or third voyage since being launched and the most apparent problem was the crew's never ending efforts to vacuum up the dust bunnies created by the brand new carpet nap. If you have sailed on the Amsterdam before you will feel right at home. The layout is very similar with the exception of the outside elevators and the ability to walk from the upper dining area directly to the nightly shows without going up and down on an elevator. The Crew I really can't say enough about the attentiveness and dedication to service HAL has been able to instill in their crew and staff. Special praise should be given to the Indonesian and Philippine contingents for their friendly engaging manner. They have a keen appreciation for the value of a life of service as an honorable profession, an attitude that has to a great extent been lost in the US The crew has, for the most part, been drawn from a number of other ships. This process not only insures continuity in service but also that all the crew contracts don't run out at the same time. I must admit that it is comforting when a staff or crew member remembers you from a previous cruise and stops to reintroduce him/her self. The Passengers: Although there are a small number of children aboard, the vast majority of passengers are retirees. My guess is that their mean age would be in the late 60's. It would appear that nearly half of those on board have been on previous cruises judging from the number of invitees at the Mariners reception we attended. At the event a number of medallions were given out to folks who had amassed 500 days on HAL ships. A few had racked up 700 days. All in all, these were relatively seasoned cruisers who understood the vicissitudes of nature and took it in stride when changes in the itinerary were forced upon us. I would say about 70-80% are Americans with other large contingents from Canada, Holland and England. The Internet: It's amazing how quickly this wonderful tool is taken for granted by all of us. When we're connected with a strong signal it is accepted as the norm. Unfortunately this is not always the case aboard ship and I was witness to a disgruntled businessman who said that he wouldn't have come on the trip had he known there was any chance of not being in touch via email for any extended period. We were on the Antarctic cruise in January so had previously experienced the phenomena of lost connectivity below 65 degrees south latitude. Well, surprise surprise, the same thing goes for above 65 degrees north latitude as well. Additionally, no service is available in many of the fjords due to the steep mountains on either side of the ship. This shouldn't be seen as a real negative. After all isn't that what we came to experience? It is also worth noting that the ship's service is turned off in some ports, I'm not sure exactly why. The Internet room has been enlarged from the six computers aboard the Amsterdam to what appears to be about twenty on the Westerdam. There are certain limitations these computers have (mostly concerning working on and transmitting your digital pictures) so on this trip I brought along my WiFi equipped portable laptop. There are three hotspots on the ship; in and around the Internet center, throughout the Atrium area, and in the area surrounding the pool on the Lido deck. Configuration was a snap and service at sea (i.e., below 65 degrees north latitude) was only interrupted occasionally. When the connection was up I spent about 25-30 minute a day reading and responding to my email, reviewing spreadsheets and reworking Word documents. I found this quite adequate for keeping current on my business. However, if the connectivity limitations I've listed above are unacceptable to you, I suggest you postpone this particular cruise till retirement. Amenities: First and foremost, the self service laundry has been eliminated. My wife really loved this on the Amsterdam and missed it more for the inability to give a quick pressing to some wrinkled garment than for doing the wash whenever you wanted to. The food is of a very high quality albeit institutional in nature. After all, they are feeding about 2000 folks three squares a day. If you want more, my suggestion is to patronize the Pinnacle restaurant. We went there twice on this 12 day cruise just for a change of pace. They have excellent food with excellent service. The free espresso coffee bar on the Amsterdam has been replaced with one that now charges for java. I only attended two or three of the nightly shows so will decline to comment on them. My wife did go to the crew show and found it great fun. Conclusion All in all I think that HAL does a very good job of giving you value for money spent. I have not reviewed the cruise itinerary or shore excursions as this particular trip is only given once a year. Generally speaking the weather was uncooperative for the first week with rain and cold putting a damper on most activities on shore. Never-the-less, we got what we came for, a good grounding in the history, geography and culture of Norway via the relative comfort of a large cruise ship. I would strongly recommend the line and this particular cruise to anyone with like-minded goals. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
My partner and I sailed on the Westerdam from Athens for a Mediterranean cruise. This was our second Holland America cruise, the first being on the Ryndam. Overall, the ship is beautiful and well worth sailing. The staff on the Westerdam ... Read More
My partner and I sailed on the Westerdam from Athens for a Mediterranean cruise. This was our second Holland America cruise, the first being on the Ryndam. Overall, the ship is beautiful and well worth sailing. The staff on the Westerdam was eager to please, as was the case on the Ryndam, and the food was a marked improvement over the Ryndam. The Westerdam had four dinner seatings which was part of their Signature of Excellence service HAL is implementing. We had the latest seating which was 8:30. The only recommendation I would make to Holland in the main dining room is to teach their servers to be a little more flexible in service according to each guests' need. I was with a party of four and we preferred to have each course brought out then order the next course. This kind of confused our server and at time on of the officers had to explain to our server how we wanted things. The Pinnacle Grille on board was excellent and we dined there five nights of the cruise. The staff was attentive with being overly so, and the food was excellent. One recommendation I would make to HAL regarding the Pinnacle Grille is to vary the menu somewhat or perhaps on certain nights add an item or two to the menu, i.e., lobster or shellfish. Otherwise, it was perfection. Our cabin was absolutely fantastic! We originally booked a regular verandah stateroom for the cruise. Two weeks out we checked with our travel agent to see if there were any upgrade specials being offered and at the time we called there wasn't. One week later, we got a call from our travel agent saying she had just received offers from HAL for upgrades. We upgraded to a deluxe verandah suite, approximately 512 sq ft and it was the best thing we could have done!! The balcony had a table with four chairs and two lounge chairs. The cabin was spacious and tons of closet space, double sinks in the bathroom, vanity mirror, 25 in tv, and a large bed that was wonderful. Full size couch, I can't say enough about the cabin. Plus, because we had an S category suite, we had access to the Neptune Lounge which was great. Besides being able to get espresso, coffee, soft drinks and food throughout the day, it was worth it just to have the Neptune Lounge Concierge take care of everything for us and not have to wait in line down at the front desk. To anyone considering booking that class of cabin, I strongly recommend it. And, we had complimentary pressing and laundry throughout the cruise which that alone was worth the upgrade. The public areas of the ship were done very tastefully, not as showy as I've read about the Oosterdam and Zuiderdam ships. Very easy to navigate around and not get lost. We'll definitely sail the Westerdam again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
We just returned from 14 nights aboard the Westerdam. Other than the fact that the ship is huge........we found ourselves getting off the elevator and trying to figure out which direction to go, and because it was huge many of the bars and ... Read More
We just returned from 14 nights aboard the Westerdam. Other than the fact that the ship is huge........we found ourselves getting off the elevator and trying to figure out which direction to go, and because it was huge many of the bars and entertainment centers felt empty....our trip was AWESOME!!! This is our first cruise with Holland America and they certainly know how to take care of their passengers....so just a few comments that may help future passengers.... Our fellow passengers ranged from honeymooners to those in their 90's with walkers!.......there were a few children aboard, but we seldom saw them. Embarkation and disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever encountered (have sailed with Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean in the past). All of the staff (with the exception of the spa manager)was always smiling and seemed to be truly concerned that all of our needs were being met. Spa services were wonderful and we were not given the "hard sell" for spa products, though we did purchase some. We were a bit disappointed that a $15 per day fee is charged for use of the Hydropool---as this is a free service aboard some ships. Dining room staff was friendly and efficient...... it was a bit difficult to find the wine steward, even though we order wine ahead for each dinner. The food was consistently good in both the dining room and at the Lido buffet. We enjoyed relaxing at dinner in the Lido after the LONG days of sight-seeing. Flaming desserts are no longer served in the dining room and are available in a lounge just outside the dining room. We really enjoyed the entertainment provided by the Westerdam troupe...do not miss these three shows! The other entertainment was usual fare---good, but usual fare! The ports were wonderful (Athens, Dubrovnik, Rome (Civitavecchia), Sicily, Tunis, Sardinia, Mallorca, Tarragona, Monte Carlo and Florence (Livorno). We took ship excursions in Dubrovnik, Sicily, Tunis, Sardinia, Mallorca, Tarragon and Monte Carlo....all were very well done and well worth the fee. In Athens, Rome and Florence we used private drivers that were arranged in advance, affording us the ability to bypass long lines and visit places that the busses could not go. I would recommend this to everyone and would be happy to share the names of our drivers with anyone who is interested, as they were all excellent! The only complaints heard from fellow passengers involved horror stories with air travel booked through HAL. We booked our air independently and had NO problem. However, MANY people encountered problems....including baggage that NEVER showed up, 24 hours of traveling from the east coast, bussing from one airport to another, and charter flights that were miserable. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2004
Review of Westerdam Cruise, 30 August-13 September 2004 In brief: The Westerdam (maiden voyage in April, 2004) is an excellent choice for a cruise. All aspects-accommodations, food, entertainment-are first rate. Accommodations: This is ... Read More
Review of Westerdam Cruise, 30 August-13 September 2004 In brief: The Westerdam (maiden voyage in April, 2004) is an excellent choice for a cruise. All aspects-accommodations, food, entertainment-are first rate. Accommodations: This is the first time we have had a cabin with excess storage space. Other passengers reported a similar experience. Our cabin had a large bathroom with two sinks, two medicine cabinets, a stall shower, and a full size ""Whirlpool"" bath, The only minuses: the bed was oriented such that the sitting area could not be curtained off from the bed, and the lounge chairs were uncomfortable wicker chairs instead of the usual sunning lounges. Food: The dining room (four sittings on two level) featured very good food, especially the meat, poultry, and seafood. The fish (fresh frozen, of course) were less successful. The menus were imaginative and varied. When I ordered chocolate souffles for dessert (not on the menu) they were produced without demurrer. But the star was the Lido. Food there was fresh, often cooked to order, not left-overs. There was a great variety from sandwiches made to order, to stir-fries,to conventional lunches of meat of chicken, to salads of the make your own variety to pastas and pizzas. And a wide variety of sweets, including a modest selection of sugar-free desserts. The variety was sufficient to cover most dietary variations. Of course, if you are on a high carbohydrate, high fat diet, you have absolutely no problem-just eat everything. (Some did!) The Pinnacle Grill was top notch, well worth the cover charge of $20/pp. Entertainment: The show lounge had the usual variety of entertainers. The stars were the resident singers and dancers who were first rate (standing ovations) including a soprano (Jill Persig) with an operatic voice. Most of the other entertainers were good to very good. Other notes: There is not a single lounge chair on deck where one can take the sun in a prone position without significant discomfort. There are plenty of chairs, however, so one need not hunt for a space. One pool can be covered in inclement weather. The port talks are divided between a lecture on the general attributes of the sponsored tours, and a separate talk (usually short) related to shopping. Tours are efficiently conducted, with the usual variability in quality of the local guides. It goes without saying that service is first rate. Lines at the front desk and the tour office move rapidly. There was little in the way of enrichment lectures: three talks by a single lecturer regarding the general area (the Mediterranean basin) we were visiting. Bingo represented the major intellectual challenge! Embarkation was swift, unobtrusive, and efficient. Our bags were in our cabin when we returned from lunch. At disembarkation we waited in our cabin till called. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2004
The Westerdam is a new "big" ship. I'm only going to comment on the pros and cons. Pros: lovely service, great Indonesian staff in the dining room, excellent cuisine, very entertaining shows. Cons: If, like me, you love to ... Read More
The Westerdam is a new "big" ship. I'm only going to comment on the pros and cons. Pros: lovely service, great Indonesian staff in the dining room, excellent cuisine, very entertaining shows. Cons: If, like me, you love to sit on the Promenade deck or some other nook and cranny and enjoy the sea with a good book, you can forget that on this ship. Horribly noisy air vents are everywhere and quietest place on the ship is the inside Lido swimming pool with tons of people. Everyplace else is hopeless. For this reason alone I would not sail her again. Secondly, the design is frankly irritating. Instead of a soaring centrum, here is this tiny affair with a chandelier that is longing for more space to show itself off. Instead, now in the centrum we have the "separate, pay-for restaurant" taking up a lot of once beautiful public space. The show lounge is irritatingly heavy, and puts one in mind of an old Studebaker. The carpet throughout the ship is garish orange and dark blue, making some stairs difficult to maneuver at night. There are some gorgeous art and decor pieces to be sure, a couple of wonderful, inlaid marble floor medallions, and then you come to the aft Lido pool where what at first appears to be a blown-up kid's pool toy is perched on the pool. Folks, this is art. What were they thinking? As to cabin...we had an outside cabin on the main deck #1122. That cabin and I imagine at least eight others along there are subject to the clamorous noise from the kitchen galley above, together with the scraping and bundling around of the manifold deck below. Impossible! These cabins should only be sold as "noise obstructed". We had requested a table for 8, but learned that most of the tables are two's and four's and it appears that the larger tables are for large groups. The dining room is dark and intimate, but again heavy with a low ceiling which fails to show off the gorgeous glass flowered lighting. I longed for the soaring design seen on Celebrity's Century and although this dining room has two stories, you aren't really visually aware of that. The voyage ended in Rome, following a great itinerary. Ahead of time, we arranged a limo to our hotel for $31 euros each. The ship charges $75 to take you to the airport where you have to pay another 50 euros to get back to Rome. Email me if you are interested in any other tips. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2004
We had a nice SS cabin plus 2 days in Barcelona at the Gran Havana Hotel, which was quite nice and conveniently located. Embarkation was a disaster with all 1800 passengers arriving at one time, or so it appeared. There was a special ... Read More
We had a nice SS cabin plus 2 days in Barcelona at the Gran Havana Hotel, which was quite nice and conveniently located. Embarkation was a disaster with all 1800 passengers arriving at one time, or so it appeared. There was a special line for PH and full suite guests. There was no one to help carry bags to the stateroom. The stateroom was nice, over 300 sq. feet with a balcony large enough for a table, 2 chairs and 2 padded chairs with hassocks. Plenty of storage space with 3 closets, full size tub with separate shower and 2 sinks. Food service was average- no bad meals, an occasional plate that had to be reheated. The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding- well worth the $20.00 charge per person- we had the lamb and the large filet. The fruit was quite limited with no mangos, papayas or pineapple, and they ran out of prunes and several types of cereals before the end of the cruise!! The entertainment was quite good, with Jacqui Scott as on of the features- she had been on Crystal cruises on 2 occasions with us. The ship's singers and dancers were excellent and they had a big band on for the crossing. Only one real cocktail party- the Captain's reception, but 5 formal nights. On one they had the Black and White Ball in the Crow's Nest at 1030 p.m. for both seatings. Even with most people not attending it was very overcrowded. The outside elevators were a nice feature, but the overall appearance fared poorly when compared to the Rotterdam- too gaudy for my taste- orange and blue angels on the benches! All and all not an experience we would want to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Thoroughly enjoyed our recent 17-day cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. BOOKING & FLIGHT: Arrived two days early for an opportunity to see and enjoy Barcelona. Our hotel and travel package was booked through ... Read More
Thoroughly enjoyed our recent 17-day cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. BOOKING & FLIGHT: Arrived two days early for an opportunity to see and enjoy Barcelona. Our hotel and travel package was booked through HAL and we stayed at the AC Diplomat in Barcelona. Our flight was booked with Air France and was very uncomfortable in coach. The seating was so close that when the passenger in the forward seat reclined their seat back it actually touched my chest, until I too placed the seat back further back. This made eating almost impossible and in eight hours only one trip to the facilities was possible. Our recommendation, fly business class if you can afford it. The flight into Paris was late and the one hour transfer time for our Barcelona flight reduced to twenty minutes. Air France was on the spot with transportation for our group and ensured a direct drive to the next terminal, otherwise we would have been on our own to walk across the complex. The Air France Airbus flight to Barcelona was pure luxury with all the seating space anyone could ask for. The arrival procedure at Barcelona Airport was great with HAL representatives waiting at the door and assisting with the limited customs procedures and immediate transportation to the hotel. PORT ACCOMMODATIONS: The AC Diplomat is a lovely and very modern hotel with very comfortable beds, a luxurious bathroom furnished completely in marble, fridge. fully stocked with complementary beverages each day and cable television. The heating and air conditioning system was great. With the HAL booking the free breakfast was very nice. EMBARKATION: Bus transportation and city tour was provided from the AC Diplomat, although it took five buses for all HAL guests. The downside was that all 1,800 plus passengers seemed to arrive at the very small terminal at the port within the same hour. The processing was quick, taking no more than 30 minutes, at which time we were surprised with an upgrade from a AA Suite to a SS Suite. SUITE ASSIGNMENT: The SS Suite was large, especially with the additional shower and sink in the bathroom. The three closets were spacious and the drawer space in the desk adequate. Plenty of room under the King sized bed for luggage storage. The larger size television and DVD player made watching the occasional movie more comfortable. PUBLIC AREAS: We missed the larger public rooms of the Statendam. Even the Ocean Bar of the Vista Class ship was smaller. The casino was larger and well designed for gaming variety. The Atrium lacks the style of previous Holland America ships. Having a bar in the first level of the Atrium, adjacent to the customer service areas of the ship was odd. I did use the bar area here for Internet access with the best wireless signal in any public area. The garish color design in most public areas made us wonder who selected the interior fabric and style. DINNING: We found it necessary to request a table reassignment four nights into our cruise. The noise level in the upper dinning room adjacent to the serving area was unacceptable. The menu was good to exceptional most evenings, but the soup and salads lacked any excitement. Several evenings the meat dish was not cooked to order and one evening the lamb dish was so undercooked that the head waiter was visibly upset when we pointed out the blood red lamb. The steak orders were never cooked or served correctly. Breakfast in the Lido was good, although the menu choices lacked the variety of previous HAL cruises. Several breakfast items ran short after the 15th day of the 17 day cruise. Our servers were very friendly and quick to correct any problems brought to their attention. TOURS: Barcelona--took advantage of the Red and Blue Bus Line Tours in the city. A great way to see the sights at your leisure for only about $13 (depending when you bought your Euros). Would like to have had two more days in Barcelona. Holland America is now charging $5 per person for each direction off the ship into Tarragona. The same applied for Funchal, Madeira and the Canary Islands. The Casablanca, Morocco city bus tour was less than pleasant, having boarded the oldest and dirtiest bus available to our group and our tour guide was well past his retirement age and had obvious respiratory problems. The biggest problem was that he was unwilling to answer most questions about the tour route. The St. Maarten tour was delayed due to poor communication and a lack of buses. We ended up in a last resort transportation alternative for the tour. The tour guide blamed the ship and the ship blamed the tour group. Not acceptable. The tour on Half Moon Cay was canceled due to water clarity conditions, no notice and little effort was made to refund the fee. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows were lively, well designed and performed. The variety of guest entertainment good to excellent. The casino was the best we have seen on board a ship with plenty of tournament action and instruction from the casino personnel. We did see quite a few people hit sizable jackpots and had a good gaming experience. The Karaoke competition was great with several nights of great fun. We are looking forward to our next Vista class experience on the Oosterdam in February '05. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our honeymoon cruise. We are in our mid 40s, and this was our 3rd cruise together. We arrived for embarkation early and got onboard quickly. It took a few hours to get our luggage. (not a problem) One of the first things we do ... Read More
This was our honeymoon cruise. We are in our mid 40s, and this was our 3rd cruise together. We arrived for embarkation early and got onboard quickly. It took a few hours to get our luggage. (not a problem) One of the first things we do when we get onboard is to go to the spa and check out any specials. We were pleasantly surprised to find the pay as you go Hydro pool, and thermal spa. We treated ourselves to an unlimited full length cruise pass that cost us $320 as a couple. This proved to be the best investment we've ever made on a cruise ship. We spent at least two hours a day in the spa. It was great after spending all day on a shore excursion, and returning sore, and worn out. We had a late seating for dinner. The service was just above average, but the food was exceptional. The entertainment was the best!! They had a large variety of acts (comedy, juggler, Big Band, and the show troupe was top notch). The cruise staff all knew us by first name after the first day. We were given a handicapped cabin, that was fine with us because of the size, it was very roomy. The bed was the best we've ever had on a cruise. Our steward was very attentive, and our cabin was spotless. There was lots of closet space, and the bathroom was big. The casino was very lively and was packed most of the time. The payouts were in abundance. My wife left the cruise on the winning side after winning on many occasions with $200 and $400 wins. I didn't play much, but broke even. The ports were very lively and we had a great time at every one. Overall we had a great time and will be sailing on Holland America again very soon. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
This was the Westerdam North American inaugural cruise. It was a cruise with Mr. Kruse, the president of Holland America. It was a preview of the new enhancements on Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island. The passengers were provided ... Read More
This was the Westerdam North American inaugural cruise. It was a cruise with Mr. Kruse, the president of Holland America. It was a preview of the new enhancements on Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island. The passengers were provided with lovely gifts to commemorate this sailing. There was a Royal Goedewaagen Plate, two miniature tiles with magnets, 2 suede luggage tags and a lovely hard covered Westerdam book. We usually do not go on 3-day cruises but since I received the promotional e-mail on this cruise and managed to get a real deal airfare from Chicago we booked the trip. We also were interested in seeing the Vista Class ship. We usually prefer smaller crowds but I figured a 3-day cruise was the time to try out the new Westerdam. We extended this weekend by arriving early and staying at the Renaissance Hotel. This hotel was my first attempt with Priceline and it turned out wonderful. We took the 11 a.m. shuttle from the hotel and arrived at embarkation before 11:30. There were no lines and check in was a breeze. There was a short wait in the upstairs waiting area. When we boarded the ship we were quite surprised to see that lunch was not being served in the Lido. There was really only a short delay explained to us later that health inspections were being done. The ship rated a 100%!! Good job! As we toured the public rooms I was amazed by the magnificent pieces of art that were around each corner or curved hallway. Each lounge area had it's own distinct ambiance. It might be the elegant, refined look of the traditional Explorer's Lounge or the contemporary vibrant colored Northern Lights Nightclub. One display in a hallway features priceless antiques while down another hall some vibrant colored decorative platters catch your eye! The Lido pool area featured some fish shaped barstools where the tail whimsically became your seat! When touring the Observation Deck a huge chess set surprises you on the deck. The decorators did an excellent job of blending the old and the new! There is always a surprise around every corner! The art lovers will really enjoy this ship! We usually book a low priced outside cabin and we did our usual for this sailing. Cabin 6002 was on the upper verandah deck. When we looked from our window we saw where we were arriving before anyone else! Although this cabin did not have a verandah we did have access out a door to a remarkable viewing area nobody else seemed to use. The cabin itself was comfortable but not as large as other HAL outside cabins we had stayed in on previous cruises. The bed was really comfortable and I did notice the upgraded bedding. We never felt any movement in this cabin. It could be due to calm seas or a remarkable ship? It was also a very quiet cabin. My only criticism was lack of drawer space. There were two little drawers on the bedside stands and shelves in one of the three closets but only one drawer under the bed. We did have fresh flowers and a fruit bowl. It was a nice cabin. I met our cabin steward the first day and I did happen to notice him way down the hall cleaning cabins. I could only assume he had that whole line of cabins. He always smiled and called me by name as we passed in the hall. Our only port of call was Half Moon Cay. We rented a clamshell and loved it. We also booked the Aqua Trax jet ski excursion which I posted about on the HAL board. It was a great experience for those who enjoy that sort of experience. We both enjoyed it! Dining on this ship was quite the experience. I must say the Lido food stations really are a great innovation. Walking through the Lido at lunch hour, I learned you really must browse all the options before making a decision. The Italian station had the aroma of sauteed garlic drifting through the air and don't forget the pizza which was the best I ever had on a ship! Moving on to the Stir Fry station the sizzle there was making the decision tougher. Then on to the traditional line where jumbo shrimp and chateaubriand were the fare of the day. I don't want to forget the salad bar where fresh crisp greens and all the fixings tempted me. Absolutely everything we tried there was excellent! The staff in the Lido was always cheerful, pleasant and helpful. Our dinner table was #132 overlooking the aft of the ship. We loved the view. We were seated one with one friend of ours traveling solo and five of the most delightful pleasant table mates. Our waiter Antonio did an excellent job. His capable assistant MuMu kept thing moving smoothly. We followed his recommendations most evenings and found the food well prepared to our liking. One comment here is I did notice that the wait staff seemed to have more tables to take care of. This limited the casual conversation time we usually enjoy. The wine steward, Antonio, also was also attentive and timely. All things considered they all provided very efficient and pleasant service. Casino.. The slot machine lovers have a nice variety of machines to play on this ship. Now I want to tell you that I was truly a lucky charm on this ship! Each night I went down to the casino and promptly lost my allotted gambling money but whoever I sat next to won the biggest jackpot!! This happened night after night. The last night one guy won 1000 quarters. He got up and walked away and a lady sat at the same machine and promptly won 800 at the same time my machine gobbled my very last gambling quarter! Well I had fun watching them!! :-) My overall feeling was that The Westerdam is a lovely ship. I went on this ship thinking that I probably would not like the size and passenger count. I must say that I never felt like I was in long lines or in crowded situations. The flow of the ship is quite nice. In the past I made an effort to choose smaller ships. Part of me prefers the S class ships since I normally cruise with a group and I think the lower passenger count favors us spending more time together. But on the other hand, I will admit this ship was a delight! Problem corner: I have cruised many times with Holland America. I always felt well treated on board. For some unknown reason on this sailing there were some disturbing events I feel I must report. It started when my pre booked and paid for shore excursion tickets arrived in my cabin. I noticed the time I booked changed. I went to the tour office with my printed computer confirmation. My time was changed from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. with no explanation. There was no reason given to me. If someone would have called me and asked I probably would have agreed but I made a point of selecting my time slot early only to get bumped. I was not happy but I was going to make the best of it when I found that others had also been bumped from pre booked (and paid for) excursions. One couple was bumped from the Pinnacle Grill, another lost a cabana she booked in September. I then met a lady in my Aqua Trax group who was also bumped from her time slot. I find this to be a VERY disturbing policy that was being instituted on this cruise. This past July I was a group leader for 28 people on The Amsterdam all of which pre booked excursions and nobody had anything changed even though it involved multiple ports. How could there be so many people bumped with a 3-day cruise and one stop?? Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
This was the 3rd cruise my husband and I had ever taken and the first time we hadn't taken a Carnival cruise. We booked our own travel and had family take us to Port Everglades. The port was HUGE, but there was adequate support ... Read More
This was the 3rd cruise my husband and I had ever taken and the first time we hadn't taken a Carnival cruise. We booked our own travel and had family take us to Port Everglades. The port was HUGE, but there was adequate support staff and labeling to allow us to easily find our ship. We arrived after the "rush" (about 1:30) so we were on the ship in under 15 minutes. We had an inside cabin that was smaller than on our previous cruises but was nicely decorated. Our cabin steward was very attentive to our needs and knew us by name within a few hours. The bed was very comfortable and the halls were quiet allowing us a good night sleep. The ship was beautifully decorated and there was amazing art work throughout. We traveled the week before Christmas and there were gorgeous decorated Christmas trees everywhere. The decor was top notch with no expense spared. Our dining experience was fair. We had wonderful table mates who really helped enhance our dining experience. The food was good for the most part. The desserts were average with the exception of the German chocolate cake which was to die for!! Our waiter and assistant waiter tried hard but lacked experience. They often brought the wrong orders and offered little effort to correct them. Our dining room service was slightly below average. The nightly entertainment was outstanding with good variety. The daytime activities were unique and fun. The activities were in a whole different class than the ones on Carnival ships(hairy chest contests were replaced with golf putting, and paper ship regattas). We didn't take our son and didn't see a lot of children on the ship. The age of the cruisers on this ship was much older and more mature than the other cruise line we were use to. All of our shore excursions were booked through the ship and were very well organized and outstanding. Half Moon Cay (the private island) was spectacular and so relaxing. Tendering in to ports was a pain. You had to go to a lounge, get a number, and wait for your number to be called to get a tender. The wait was pretty lengthy on some days. Disembarkement was good. This was the first time we got to wait in our cabin until our color was called. It was so much nicer than having to wait in a lounge or hallway somewhere. The disembarkement talk was helpful to make the process go quickly. The process was painless and we were off the ship in good time. Overall we had a very good experience on the Westerdam and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a more laid back, relaxed, upscale cruise. If you're a partier you may want to stick with the "fun ships". Just F.Y.I. my husband and I are in our mid thirties. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
The cabin was fine and for the most part the food was ok, not exceptional. They ran out of steak and chicken by the fifth night so the people we dined with didn't eat a main course as there was nothing to their liking on the menu. The ... Read More
The cabin was fine and for the most part the food was ok, not exceptional. They ran out of steak and chicken by the fifth night so the people we dined with didn't eat a main course as there was nothing to their liking on the menu. The area captain was rude when they asked about having steak and said the maitre d' was too busy to talk to them. When they finally got to talk to the maitre d', he basically said, that's tough. He wouldn't go to the Pinnacle and get a steak for them. The buffet ran out of tuna fish and sliced turkey by about the fifth day. We ate in the Pinnacle one night and it was terrific, worth every dime (sorry, I mean $20). Even the Pinnacle ran out of Porterhouse steak (one of their signature items) around mid-week. The Pinnacle has the same menu every night. We probably would have eaten there again if the menu had changed. The ship is beautiful but I wouldn't rate it 5 stars. It might be 3.5 or so. This was our fourth HAL cruise and the service has really deteriorated, especially since they were taken over by Carnival. Many people joked that the line has been "Carnivalized." They now charge for everything. The classes in the gym are $11 each. Additionally, in order to use the spa's steam room (the only one on board) and the hydropool, there was a $25 per day fee. When we got on board, passengers had already pre-booked all massages for the sea days, and there was a 3-4 hour line at the spa for sign-ups before we even sailed. When we had to go to the lifevest drill, we simply lost our place in line. The biggest problem we had with the ship had to do with an emergency health care experience we became part of. After dinner one night, my wife and I found a young man (15) on the steps outside the dining room having seizures. I called his parents and the ship's 9=1=1. The mother and the ship's nurse both arrived 25 minutes later. We did our best to make the boy comfortable but if this had been a heart attack, those extra minutes could have been the difference between life and death. Fortunately, the boy was taken to the infirmary, medicated and was fine. I went to the front desk and asked to have the Hotel Manager call me. Two days later, when I hadn't yet heard from him (Stan Kuppens), I intentionally attended the Mariner's reception so I could get his attention. I gave him my cabin number and told him I was very disappointed that I hadn't heard from him. He called about 5 p.m. that day and I met with him for about 45 minutes. He took notes but at no point did he thank me (or my wife) for helping the young man. A "thank you" would have been appreciated. The other serious problem we had was a sewage smell in the hallways in the fore of the ship, especially when in port. I discussed that with the Hotel Manager and was told that it was a design flaw of the Vision ships when the wind in port was blowing in a certain direction. Many passengers were discussing it. Most of the entertainment was terrible until the last few nights. One couple did a juggling act and we were embarrassed for them. Alfreda Girard (singer) and Leo Ward (illusionist) were excellent and they were repeated on the final night of the cruise. The comedian was OK during his regular show and excellent at his adult show. The ship's cast was just OK, certainly not "Broadway Caliber" as the promotions read. The documents we received showed that this cruise would have three formal nights (including New Year's Eve) but there were only two and no explanation. That was fine with us but some women may have gone out of their way to purchase and bring three formal outfits. Despite these problems and weather that did not cooperate, we had a restful vacation. We have cruised on other 4 and 5 star lines and prefer them to HAL. We will probably not return to HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
Overview: What a beautiful ship!! One of the prettiest HAL ships I have ever seen. Decorations were lovely and very spacious and handy to get around. Embarkation: Disaster...long long, long lines through security with only one open ... Read More
Overview: What a beautiful ship!! One of the prettiest HAL ships I have ever seen. Decorations were lovely and very spacious and handy to get around. Embarkation: Disaster...long long, long lines through security with only one open security station until about 2 p.m. Even when preregistered it was confusing. The main excuse was that it was not their regular (HAL) terminal, which could be because disembarkation was an absolute breeze....the best I have ever had. Dining: Beautiful dining rooms but food more average than my last HAL cruise. Service was very slow the first 2 nights but improved after speaking to one of the officers. Very nice table companions and good selections. As always, the Lido buffet was very good and had several different options, but they seem to have cut back in some areas that I miss like homemade breads and more salads. We ate at the Lido on formal nights and got almost the same thing as the main dining room, just missed out on the Lobster Tails and Crab Claws. Everyone who ate at the Pinnacle Grill was extremely pleased and said it was well worth the extra money. However, I remember 2 years ago when it was no charge on the Rotterdam!! So we did not try it this cruise. Public rooms were very nice...especially the Explorer Lounge, library, Internet cafe and Show Lounge. Lots of good views in the show lounge, only a couple of blocked places. The cabins were very nice, we had a balcony. However, they have replaced drawer space with a minibar.....and so the cabin seemed short on storage. There was some space above the hideabed but it was too high to use comfortably. Very little counter space in bathroom. The pillow top mattresses were divine. We visited a friend's larger suite at the rear of the ship and it was fantastic. I don't think I would have ever gone on the upper deck if I had one of those!! Entertainment from the ship's dancers and singers was excellent, especially the last show. The costumes and changes were awesome and the show a lot of fun. I did not like the other singer but many did, and the magician was liked by several. I did not hear about the comedian. The cruise director was very young but very nice and had a great staff. I like the fact that there is not a lot of frenetic activity on HAL ...it is a lot more laid back and relaxing. The highlight of the ship was the Greenhouse spa and fitness rooms....the Thallasotherapy pool and steam room and sauna and ceramic heated loungers was very enjoyable. I was a bit disappointed that the cost was so high ($25 a day's use) but I guess that is to keep it from being crowded. I did treat myself to a hot stone massage and was so impressed with the masseuse.....and she didn't try and sell me anything, which was a wonder in itself!! Some of the receptionist staff however seemed a bit rude and cold....not the most welcoming bunch and totally different from every other Elemis spa I have encountered. I also am very appreciative of the passengers on the ship..most were friendly and conversational. We had a great group that met online on the Cruise Critic boards and we had a sailaway party and saw each other two or three times on the cruise. The itinerary was a bit iffy......St. Maarten was very crowded and the weather was not great. I took the Golden Eagle Catamaran and loved it but we did not get to sail to Tintamar due to weather. Tortola was not that interesting in town, but I went to Virgin Gorda and enjoyed the cruise over and back almost as much as visiting the "Baths." Caution for those with any physical limitations, you do not want to do that tour. Great for youngsters and kids however!! As always for me the highlight was Half Moon Cay...such a divine beach and barbecue..I literally could "stay there forever!!r" All in all I was again pleased with Holland although I think they are making some "cuts" that may distress many of their most loyal customers and they should think about that. They do not need to be a "Senior Carnival." I am also concerned about the number of ships and their sizes in these small ports. They are overwhelmed and it is no fun for anyone when you can't even walk down a street due to the crowds. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
Although we returned from our cruise on December 19th, this is my first opportunity to set down in writing some thoughts about the experience. Considering the wealth of information shared on the CC board and the number of times I have ... Read More
Although we returned from our cruise on December 19th, this is my first opportunity to set down in writing some thoughts about the experience. Considering the wealth of information shared on the CC board and the number of times I have gleaned valuable and necessary information, I wanted to pass on some notes on my experience as well. Rather than an exhaustive retelling of each moment of our cruise, I will comment on the general areas of knowledge around which I see regular questions on the board. With the usual caveats of observer's perspective, etc. firmly in place, I offer the following trip notes and hope you might be able to find something useful for your own cruise experience. MS Westerdam / Eastern Caribbean / December 12th -19th, 2004 THE SHORT VERSION Of the 17 people that were in my traveling party, 19 had a great vacation. One of our numbers apparently suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder so we can say he gets at least 2 extra votes. Seriously, though, the trip was very enjoyable and everyone found something to like. If I were comparing this cruise vacation to cars, I'd say the HAL Westerdam cruise was a Buick Park Avenue - utterly vanilla but eminently respectable and comfortable. THE CRUISERS' PROFILE There were 17 people in our party ranging in age from late 20's to over 60. We had 1 gay couple, 3 sets of unmarried but coupled straight friends, 3 sets of married couples, 1 younger single male, 1 slightly middle aged single female and 1 widowed older male. We ran the gamut of "types" in other areas as well - with some very wealthy and some not so well off, some very well traveled and some new to virtually any kind of travel experience. About half the group had cruised before - 7 of us with one additional HAL cruise under our belt. This cruise started with only my partner and I planning for a vacation - the others were added in ones and twos to arrive at our final number. The last cruiser was added the week we left. We're straight and gay, Republican and Democrat, straight-laced and slightly more flamboyant. Clearly our group represented a decent cross section of travelers from differing walks of life and with differing world views. Consequently, our expectations and evaluations of the product were colored by those differences. The good news is that all of our travelers found that there was something to enjoy. PLANNING We had booked our cruise through an agency that was recommended on the CC board. We used them for our Oosterdam cruise in January and enjoyed the same agent for our group on this cruise as well. They have what for me is a nice combination of online access with the personal interaction that I prefer. Because I had a fair number of first time cruisers, I prepared a companion booklet for their planning highlighting some areas that I thought would be of concern or interest in helping them to avoid any obvious pitfalls and generally enhance their experience. This little booklet also served to prepare them for realistic expectations about lines, crowds, tipping, dress codes and other things that can cause distress. This "little" book ran to 32 printed color pages when it was completed and included personalized luggage tags, cruise "business cards" and "find me" inserts for the inside of luggage. This effort turned out to be a real help during the course of our planning and actual travel. I know with certainty that it reduced or eliminated a lot of the questions and problems that can naturally occur when shepherding a group of 17 disparate individuals from four states on a vacation like this. PRE-CRUISE DAY Only one of our number flew into Fort Lauderdale the day of the cruise. The rest of us arrived a day early and stayed at either the Hyatt Pier 66 or The Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale. My partner and I stayed at Pier 66 on our last trip and at The Renaissance on this trip. We found them to be about equal in value (we used Priceline both times with very favorable results) and our other travelers felt the same. In reference to questions about whether we had been treated "differently" in any way at either of these locations because of the source of our booking and the price paid, the short answer is no. We were provided with the same service and amenities as any other traveler. We did however pay attention to the very clear notices in the Priceline booking process and in the hotel's websites that did state that certain kinds of limitations on our room types, etc., did apply. This was not a problem but I imagine some people would find this to be a negative if they had not actually read the stipulations about deeply discounted rooms. Aside from the hotels, which were fine, our experience with Fort Lauderdale was largely negative. The notable exceptions were the crew on the Water Taxi when we went out to enjoy the views of the lights, yachts and waterfront homes on the way to Las Olas from the hotel. We were provided with a very informative and even fun narrative during our ride and tipped the speakers accordingly. Unfortunately, this was the exception.. We found (all of us separately and with different kinds of activities) that to an alarming degree, the service staff in the shops, stores and restaurants we visited were decidedly unfriendly. They were not just disinterested - they were overtly rude and seemed genuinely aggravated that we had come into their places of business. Fortunately, we were not of a mind to have our trip diminished to any real degree by these people. So in spite of the best efforts of some of the denizens of Ft. Lauderdale to spoil our fun, we opted to have a good time anyway. One of the fun things we did on arrival at the hotel was walk across the street to the Walgreen's to buy decorations for our cabin including garland, lights, door wreath , ornaments and a 4½ foot lighted Christmas tree. We had also brought from home a large snow-family holiday decoration (4' x 6') for the outside of the ship along the side of our cabin. Since we were going to be hosting a small gathering for sail away we wanted to add some touches to make it more festive. We'd had an identical cabin on a previous sailing, so we knew with some certainty what kind of spaces we would be working with. CRUISE DAY & EMBARKATION Using separate taxi services, we all managed to arrive at the pier for departure at about 11:15 a.m. The doors were not open for security checkpoints until 11:30 a.m. The lines built up fairly quickly. All passengers, regardless of cabin grade had to pass through this first security gauntlet before being redirected into appropriate lines (suite, on-line forms, etc.). My partner and I were in an S cabin so were directed to the line with no people in it. A relatively nice person checked us in for the ship in about 45 seconds, turned over our boarding documents, took a security picture, gave us our goofy gold sticker and sent us off to board the ship. The other members of our group had about the same kind of experience - essentially pain free and uneventful. A note to the uninitiated: go with the knowledge that there are lots of people tying to do the same thing you are. There will be lines. Be patient. Breathe. Breathe again. We were once again able to bypass the ubiquitous photographers and went straight aboard the ship. Since we had sailed previously on the Oosterdam, we knew the general layout of the ship and took the early boarding opportunity to begin preparations (with room service and the Neptune Lounge) for our sailaway party. We met up with other members of our group in he Lido and took seats near the pool area to await the cabin ready signals. Right on schedule at 1:30 p.m. the general announcement was made and we were off to our cabins. CABINS My group occupied a range of cabin types. We had 6 S Suites: 3 on the side (Deck 7) and 3 of the Aft Corner S suites (decks 4, 5 and 6.) We also had 2 Cat A balconies on the stern, 1 side AA balcony and 1 Cat N inside on deck 4. My partner and I stayed in Cabin 5187 - an aft wraparound. We had stayed in 5186 on the Oosterdam in January and we took this ship and date specifically to have this same cabin location and configuration - just on the starboard rather than port side this time. For my partner and I, the trade off between the additional space in cabin on the side suites and the fantastic space of the wraparound on the aft verandah is a good one. We spend a lot of time on the verandah and not so much time in other parts of the ship. And, for what it's worth to potential cruisers, the 5186/5187 cabins do have the largest interior square footage and verandah space of the available aft suites - only 30 square feet smaller then the side suites. The recognizable difference in the aft vs. side suites (using 5187 as the comparison) is in the space available between the foot of the bed and the wall. The loss translates into a smaller sofa (a thinner and shorter straight leather couch vs. the wider and longer angled one) and some loss of walk space when the chairs and table are in place in front of the sofa. Frankly (and this is strictly my opinion), the room should not be called a suite. It's a very nice space and the best on board (short of the Penthouses) but is not luxurious by any means and is not a "suite" of rooms at all. The bathroom on these ships continues to mystify me - it is entirely okay but utterly cheap looking. Another poster at one point called it a Holiday Inn bathroom. Of course the dEcor of the bathroom is not a deal breaker but it is interesting to note that lower tier suite level accommodations on RCI (as an example) provide a much nicer blend of materials (wood and marble) to make the space seem more inviting. That said, the suite space is fine and the closet space is outstanding! The beds are as good as everyone says they are. Another poster said that their increased "volume" made the cabin seem smaller. When we came into our cabin initially, we thought the space seemed smaller. On reflection, I believe it was the extra "visual" space that the bed takes with it's higher profile that contributed to the perception of a smaller space. SAILAWAY Our cabin steward came to introduce himself to us shortly after we arrived at our cabin. His name was Johanes and he was a gem from the start. We took a moment to advise him that we were planning to have a party in the cabin for sailaway and apologized in advance for the extra clean-up work this would no doubt cause him. So we immediately gave him a few extra twenties to take out some of the sting. He retreated down the hall and came back in less than a minute with two bottles of better than standard champagne to help out with the party! Throughout the cruise, Johanes continued to be one step ahead of our needs. We had another pleasant surprise when our names called from the corridor - it was Hari, the young man who had been our cabin steward on the Oosterdam. We were able to inquire after his family (he had suffered a terrible personal tragedy during our prior cruise and had to leave the ship mid-cruise) but he was happy to report that life was getting back on track. He made a point of telling Johanes to take extra good care of us! I really enjoyed that personal touch as a way of starting the cruise off right. One side comment: instead of the usual bottle of champers with the "captain's compliments" we were provided with a bottle of merlot. It worked out fine for us since we don't drink enough to fill a teacup during a normal year and could care less whether it's there or not, but we did want to have every little sparkling libation possible for our sailaway party. We did manage to get all of our Christmas decorations up and they looked great to me. I like a little sparkle for the holidays. Johanes said he and the other crew would be happy to use the decorations when we finished using them for the cruise. So that all worked out well for everyone I'd say! We had met a fair number of Cruise Critic members on the Roll Call thread for this sailing and arranged to have a party at our place for sailaway. Since we had the big verandah there was plenty of room. Between my group and the CC members who came to visit we had 40-50 people comfortably accommodated during the time we had the party going. It all worked out very well with room service providing trays of hot and cold appetizers and additional plate and beverage setups. CC'ers brought special cheeses, chocolates, crackers, sausages and other kinds of treats along with more wines and champagnes. All in all, it was a great welcome aboard and a nice way to put faces to the names we'd met on the boards. It was especially nice to have people we felt like we already knew to say hello to during the cruise. If you've never availed yourself of the opportunity to meet other CC members on board, I would encourage you to step out and say hello. It's a very warm and pleasant way to meet people that you might otherwise pass without knowing how interesting, kind and generous they could be. SERVICE NOTES Since we tend not to make a lot of use of the ship facilities with the exception of the casino and main dining room, I am reticent to comment too extensively about on board service. I will say that the great majority of our interactions with service staff were congenial. The overall feeling seems to be "correct" rather then warm. The real stars for us (on this trip) were Johanes, our cabin steward and Celine in the Neptune Lounge. In the main dining room, we were served by Joko (our waiter) and Yudi (his assistant). Yudi was unfailingly warm and friendly with a constant smile while Joko was a bit more conservative. There were no real service issues to speak of. DINING We tended to have breakfast every day on the verandah (a high point for us) and dinner in the main dining room. A few times we tried to eat lunch in the Lido but this only reconfirmed my perception of this place as a particular horror. Rather than go into why I believe this place is so abhorrent to me, I will just say that it is probably my distaste for mass feedings and tray service with disinterested servers and leave it at that. Other people (including some of my traveling party) find the Lido wonderful and I'm glad that the majority find it to be a win. It's just negative enough for me to want to avoid it altogether. One bright spot in the feeding frenzy was the young man I encountered twice at the hamburger grill station near the pool. He was especially bright and shining. On boarding day, the poor guy was already being harangued by some hateful old harridan and he was clearly feeling it. Although his smile never wavered and he did nothing to indicate how he might be feeling, he had a kind of slump that spoke volumes. When she moved away from the counter, I pulled a twenty out and gave it to him, called it hazard pay and told him I was sorry he had to endure that kind of nonsense. We had our dinner in the main dining room for all but one night. The food onboard was uniformly edible. Again, my metaphor of the Buick seems appropriate. Nothing outstanding, nothing disgusting. It was completely fine. I can't even remember now what we ate except that my memory of it is that it slightly better than average banquet food. Considering the number of meals being handled, I think they do a fine job in providing a sufficient number of variants and preparation styles to suit as many types of dining requests as could be reasonably expected. I will say that in comparison to the service flow on the Oosterdam earlier this year, the Westerdam service flow seemed more even and faster paced - even with our large group. Maybe it was luck of the draw, maybe it was management style, maybe it was increased familiarity - whatever it was, it seemed more smooth and we had no complaints. We did arrange to have dinner in the Pinnacle Grill one evening. I find, as other posters have stated, that the entrees are quite nice and the side dishes are the red-headed step-children. Unless I were introducing someone who had a special request to experience the Pinnacle, I probably would not dine there again. I find the mechanical service staff to be not just cold but so distant as to make the evening uncomfortable. I do realize (as some of our more vocal posters have stated) that it's not the job of the service staff to be my friend. However, I do think that one of the hallmarks of the truly exceptional service is that one is made to feel welcomed and at home. Personally, I couldn't wait for that experience to end. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Nassau - more angry shopkeepers. We did enjoy a little jaunt over to the Atlantis Resort to see what all the fuss was about. Because of the short shore time, there's just not a lot that can be accomplished. If we were to do this itinerary again, we would probably just sleep in and loll about on the verandah. St. Maarten - instead of being docked this time, we were anchored and tendered onto shore. We were joined in the seagoing suburbs by Celebrity and NCL's Dawn. In all there were 7 ships in port the day we were there. We spent some time shopping (I bought two rings to replace some lost in a home robbery earlier this year) and beaching it. We got rained on during the day but that was more fun than not. It added some spice to the adventure. We had a rainy sailaway but that didn't stop me from being out on the verandah again to watch Philipsburg recede from my railing. Tortola - in January I took a very short walk and otherwise just stayed on the ship and would have preferred that we not go there again. This year though we signed up for the Virgin Islands Sail-a-way and 13 members of our group went. We sailed on a trimaran rather than the advertised catamaran which was kind of a novelty to me. We left under a lowering sky and fully expected to be cancelled or otherwise rained on all day. In fact, we sailed right out of the port and, on reaching the first destination (Norman Island I believe) we had clear skies and beautiful waters in which to swim and snorkel. I can safely say that I have not had this much fun in 20 years. This was a fantastically good time - including having engine trouble and missing Virgin Gorda completely! But the convergence of good people and good attitudes made the trip perfect. Okay, the rum punch may have helped some also! We absolutely ZOOMED across the waves under sail on he way back to the ship and I was able to ride the bow and be relentlessly splashed by the sea as we bounced across the waves. It was outrageous and more fun that I could possibly have imagined. My face hurt from the amount of smiling and laughing I had to do! Half Moon Cay - another day in Paradise. We had the Purple and Pink Cabanas for our use during the day and two extraordinary stewards serving our needs. Ryan and Norman took care of us beautifully! In addition to the $50 apiece that we paid them as a base rate, I know that other individuals in the group gave them $10 per person in addition. I'm glad they made out well with our group - this was money well deserved. They catered to us far more than any reasonable person should expect. And even though we had cloudy skies for some of the day and the sea was a bit colder, we had a great time. I honestly would love to have a cruise that did nothing but sail around some and then park at HMC for a few days. TIPPING We consider the basic pre-tipping charge to be part of the cruise cost and feel it covers the basics only. We enjoy rewarding the people who make our trips special and did so regularly. As I said, we had some stars during our cruise who deserved and received far more than the minimum. I can't imagine a condition that would be so bad that we would remove the auto tip. OVERALL HAL offers a perfectly sound product. On a rating scale, I'd say this was a solid 8.5 out of 10. Some aspects were well over 10. Since I'm new to HAL I can't compare it to the "old days." It seems perfectly acceptable to me in many ways. We rebooked with HAL for this cruise in large part because of the aft suite and balcony configuration on a class of ship that we knew from prior experience. The price to value ratio worked for us as well. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to someone whom I knew well enough to know would appreciate the pro's of the experience and not be put off by what I am hesitant to call the con's. Would I sail this ship again? Absolutely - provided the price point were not much different. Would I sail with HAL in general on another ship/itinerary? Almost certainly. While there were few "raves," the entire experience was very acceptable - even good. After all, a Buick is a nice, comfortable and, above all, non-surprising ride! Cheers to all and may your cruises all be First Class! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Overall, a brief, but very good trip. The ship was wonderful, on a rather short itinerary. The trip got off to a good start. we learned were upgraded from an obstructed standard stateroom to one on the Verandah deck with a balcony before ... Read More
Overall, a brief, but very good trip. The ship was wonderful, on a rather short itinerary. The trip got off to a good start. we learned were upgraded from an obstructed standard stateroom to one on the Verandah deck with a balcony before we left for the ship. The trip from Ft. Lauderdale airport to the airport was less than $10 by cab- don't bother with Holland's transfers, they're not worth it. The airport itself was somewhat chaotic, with a bit of a wait for a cab. Embarkation was great- we'd done as much of the preboarding as we could over the internet, and it really helped. There were two lines- internet and others. We were able to board the ship and were having lunch by 1130am. The cabin was great- the bathroom even had a tub! We found the room quite spacious, and enjoyed it for the duration of the trip. We had meals in the main dining room and the Lido deck. All the food was enjoyable; the portions seemed smaller than on some other cruise lines (Carnival) but of high quality (on par with Celebrity). At random intervals, they ran out of chocolate ice cream on the Lido deck! Very high marks overall. We only sampled one stage show- it was okay, but nothing extraordinary. The ship was quite impressive overall. Immaculately clean, well appointed, and it even LOOKED like a ship, if you know what I mean. The clientele was mixed in age- we'd been expecting an older crowd. However, we found quite a few young families, so the atmosphere was very pleasant. The cruise went to Half Moon Cay, Nassau, Key West, then back to Fort Lauderdale. We didn't book any activities through the ship, but "did our own thing". Unlike some ships, it wasn't possible to view our account in our cabin, but there were no billing difficulties. Half Moon Cay was lovely- the beach was well maintained, the water gorgeous, good amenities. We were disappointed that Holland charged for any kind of activity, including the use of SHADE!!! Our analogy would be to compare this to a beachfront resort, where we feel it would only be reasonable for the guests to be use non-motorized watersports, etc, without having to pay. Nassau was, well, Nassau. Interesting to walk around and sample the activities. Similarly, Key West was also enjoyable. We were shuttled from the dock into town. We took the "Trolley Tour" and found it a good overview of the island. Disembarkation was also well organized and trouble-free. We chose to request breakfast in our cabin the last day, to avoid having to compete for space in the dining room or on the Lido deck. We had been hesitant to travel with Holland, first because it was owned by Carnival (and we'd expected cheapening of the brand) and secondly because of the passenger demographics. We were very pleasantly surprised- with the exception of charges in Half Moon Cay, there was no "nickel and diming" of the guests, and the mix of people on the ship made for a lively and enjoyable experience. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
This was our 20th cruise. Our most recent trips were on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Princess, so I've provided comparisons where I think they are appropriate. Embarkation was very smooth. There was a shorter line for those who ... Read More
This was our 20th cruise. Our most recent trips were on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Princess, so I've provided comparisons where I think they are appropriate. Embarkation was very smooth. There was a shorter line for those who pre-filled the immigration forms on line and brought a printout than for those who did not. We missed the champagne welcome from Celebrity and escort to our cabin, although we had no trouble finding the cabin on our own. Cabin -- The new beds on the Westerdam are great -- as good as Concierge Class on Celebrity. Lots of closet space, lots of hangars. Verandas are average size; we were with a group that had five cabins in a row and were especially pleased that part of the veranda dividers would open so we could freely move back and forth. We had bon voyage and farewell parties out there, and many nights "met" for a pre-dinner glass of wine. The sewage odor we'd read about on the Zuiderdam is present on the Westerdam, especially outside the forward elevators and in the hallways. Some days we could smell it in the hall outside our cabin and on the veranda. The front desk was pretty rude when I went there to inquire about it ("an engineer is working on it," "don't know when it will be fixed," tone of voice implied "don't bother us, we're sick of hearing it"). They acted like this was the first cruise where it happened. It stated the second or third day and never went away! Customer service is very poor. The front desk staff was rude. When we asked for a deck of cards, they said, "we're out of them." We weren't looking for anything for free, and they didn't tell us we could buy them in the casino for $1. There is no equivalent we could find to future cruise/Capt. Club manager, social hostess, etc. To book a future cruise, they ask you to call Seattle (free of charge) from your cabin. I tried once, but got tired of holding. I don't think I'll be back on HAL any time soon, anyway. Public areas -- Celebrity Century and Millennium classes beat HAL Vista class by a mile. Westerdam theater had lots of poles and places where it was hard to see. Theater is small and not very attractive. There is a round box on either side of the upper level that the comedian appropriately dubbed "ashtrays." Very few seats had tables to include drinks; seldom saw a bar waiter before the show anyway. The ship as a very small atrium. Didn't like the dEcor nearly as much as Celebrity's. Dining room didn't have that open, expansive feeling you get on Celebrity ships or even older HAL ships. Service was the worst we've had. We didn't even have the same waiter and assistant every night! Dining room food was mediocre. Steaks and other entrees can't compare to Celebrity. Lobster tails were small and part of surf-and-turf. No one removed the meat from the tail for you like they do on Celebrity and there were no seconds available. Food was mostly bland and sometimes overcooked. Desserts were pretty good though. Westerdam left a note in each cabin discouraging people from ordering room service breakfast on port days. Although they said there would be delays, our traveling companions found that some mornings breakfast was too early and once it didn't arrive at all! Room service was OK at other times of the day. The best food was in the Lido buffet, which beats Celebrity, RCI and Princess by a mile! Great variety and traffic flow. Separate areas for deli, Oriental, Italian, salad bar and regular lunch foods. At the pool, you could have burgers, hot dogs and taco bar. Liked the flambE desserts in the Explorer Lounge and the Chocolate buffet. Entertainment was excellent, but schedules were all geared to early seating. Karaoke was well run, but always in the smaller lounge, which was firetrap -- people standing in aisles, sitting on floor. This was inexcusable when finals were held at a time when main theater was empty! The Elton John impersonator and the illusionist/comedian were both exceptionally good. Cruise Director and staff did a nice job (it was Jason's last cruise on the Westerdam; assistant CD was promoted and Jason moved to Oosterdam). The Steiner Spa is not as well laid out as on Celebrity (and on M-class, thalissotherapy pool is free!). However, Westerdam had great port day specials, including 50% off all services over $79. I've never seen such good specials before; guess the passengers weren't booking without incentives! Shops are not as good -- crowded and less selection than on Celebrity. I didn't buy a thing on the Westerdam -- a first! Private island -- loved Half Moon Cay and our pink cabana. Service was excellent. Our friends who did the stingray and horseback riding excursions on HMC were very pleased. Tendering went smoothly. Disembarkation went very well. We loved the fact that we could wait in our cabins or on our verandas and weren't crammed into the lounges until our color was called. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This was our first cruise with HAL (Holland America) and we had sailed with Disney to Bahamas and Star Cruises in SE Asia. We decided to go with HAL this time because of the newer Westerdam and competitive pricing. It was a 7-day Western ... Read More
This was our first cruise with HAL (Holland America) and we had sailed with Disney to Bahamas and Star Cruises in SE Asia. We decided to go with HAL this time because of the newer Westerdam and competitive pricing. It was a 7-day Western Caribbean departing Fort Lauderdale on 03/27/05. Our stateroom number was 1085 on the main deck and has a window and bunk bed. It was spacious for two adults and two kids(9 and 5). The closet space was more than enough and practical. The bed was so comfortable that my kids slept like baby and took a nap in the afternoon everyday. The bathroom had a tub which my kids loved and my 5'10" 170lb body could fit in nicely for a soothing bath. One annoying thing about our cabin was the random rumbling noise/vibration from below. It did not happen on the first two days of the cruise. It lasted about 3 to 4 seconds each time every few hours. I had notified the front desk and they did not have a clue. Ship Interior : It is contemporary style and leather furniture is everywhere Food was good in general. We loved the pasta on Lido Deck. Vista Dining Room was good too. Me and my wife spent one evening at Pinnacle Grill while our kids were checked in at Club HAL. I had filet mignon and she had halibut steak. The food quality at the Pinnacle Grill was definitely better than Vista Dining Room. While eating at Vista Dining Room one evening, I found eggshell fragment on my broccoli and the dessert glass was chipped. I had notified the head steward and he promised the situation would be rectified. We wish there were more seafood selection on the menu. Vista Dining Room offered grouper, snapper, salmon and lobster tail on different evenings. The baby shrimp cocktail was mushy. However jumbo shrimp cocktail on the first formal night was delicious. On Disney cruise, there was tiger shrimp and stone crab claws available at buffet. We missed them. I guess that's why it costs more to sail on Disney. Over the 7 days, I had prime rib, sirloin steak, shank of lamb leg, filet mignon and they were good. My kids loved the dinner rolls and mashed potato. Stewards were very courteous and took the initiative to greet or chat with us at every opportunity. Shore excursions : first stop was Half Moon Cay. The water was crystal clear and the sand was fine and powdery like pancake mixing literally. There was a lot of tropical fish. My kids loved the water slides. We had a BBQ lunch on the private island and had a lot of fun. Ocho Rios Jamaica : We had the catamaran and beach tour. We took a van from the dock to the back of a local hotel to board the catamaran which took us to a private beach. We snorkeled and saw a lot of sea urchins and tropical fish. The snacks provided at the beach were basically watermelon, papaya,coconut and honey dew. Apparently it was not enough to feed 50 people. We were glad we brought boxes of cereal for our kids. Drinks were plentiful though. Crews were attentive. George Town, Cayman : We joined a tour to visit the Hell, Turtle Farm and the Stingray observatory. My kids loved the turtle farm where they could touch and hold baby turtles. There were 7 ships docking the day we got there. The pier was packed with tourists like us. It was quite chaotic. Tour operators openly solicited tips and I found it was quite rude. Damage from last year hurricane was still visible everywhere on the island. HAL crews were passing out orange juice and water at the pier while people waited for the tender in the sun to get back to the ship. I found it was very considerate. Cozumel, Mexico : I love this place at first sight. Unlike the previous ports of call, it was so clean and organized. There was a brand new shopping mall by the pier. We rode on the Atlantis Submarine and it was quite an experience. The crews did not solicit tips at all. Taxi drivers were fluent in English. We wish we could have spent more time in Cozumel. Entertainment : Every night my kids could not wait to see the shows which consisted of stand up comedy, magic show, juggler, singing and dancing. Me and my wife enjoyed the shows too. CLUB HAL : my kids were at Club HAL for one hour or so while we dined at Pinnacle Grill. They did not want to leave when we picked them up. This was the only time we took advantage of the service. There were about 420 kids out of 2000 passengers on this cruise. Swimming pools : There are only two swimming pools on Westerdam and one for adults and one for kids. Library : my daughter wrote postcards and letters in the library which was quiet and spacious. Upon returning from dinner on the first evening, we found a box of gifts in the cabin. Things like swimming google, sunscreen, sunglasses, yo-yo, chapstick and etc. It was a nice touch. We took our kids to an environment presentation which covered the topics of garbage disposal, water treatment, hazardous materials on ship. It was informational and educational. Disembarkation : The night before returning to Fort Lauderdale, we were given color-coded baggage tags so that we could find them easily the next day after disembarkation. As it turned out, it was quite a mess. Bags were placed randomly in the baggage claim area, not grouped by the color-coded tags. HAL needs to do a better job in this area. Overall, we are very happy with the cruise and will definitely sail on HAL again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This is for the 3/20/05 cruise and it's from the perspective of a 1st time cruiser. It was a very good vacation. My wife and I had a wonderful time, the Westerdam is a terrific ship. I have always been hesitant about a cruise ... Read More
This is for the 3/20/05 cruise and it's from the perspective of a 1st time cruiser. It was a very good vacation. My wife and I had a wonderful time, the Westerdam is a terrific ship. I have always been hesitant about a cruise because my wife and I work very hard and when we vacation it's for relaxation, to get away from schedules and crowds. A cruise is not for that type of vacation yet we still enjoyed ourselves. Having never been on another line all I can compare it to is 30 years of travel to resorts and major cities. HAL is not a luxury or sublime resort. The easiest way to explain the cruise is that the total cruise is better than the sum of it's parts. It's quite good overall but each aspect lacks sophistication and luxury. embarkation: It's a process that must be endured but there needs to be a better way than just dumping your luggage on the curb and tipping the porter to ensure you get you luggage later on, we did, very timely actually. There was someone waiting with paper cups of water and OJ. Rum punch would be luxury and Champagne would have been sublime. We loved to stroll the 3rd deck outside and the top deck. Never saw the work out rooms or spa. A lot of people complained about the massages so we didn't bother. The opinions of others varied. Out main dining room companions were very experienced cruisers and said this was the best. Another couple complained about being nickeled and dimed to death, I agree. Charging money for soda is stupid and insulting, especially at meals. Having read so many postings on the message board I was nervous about Holland America. Many posters on the boards are sycophants of HAL, fortunately, the people on the ship were by and large very nice and well mannered. No Kool Aid drinkers. Dining: Pinnacle Grille was amazing. Food, service and ambiance was 1st class. The filet was perfect the fish was great and the hor d'oeuvres were fabulous. Though desserts all over the ship leaves alot to be desired, Pinnacle is no exception. Main dining room was attractive but service was more like a wedding with a menu than anything else, rushed. The idea isn't that I asked to slow things down but I shouldn't have to. When I ordered soup and my wife ordered salad, they wouldn't; serve the salad until after the soup was served. Again, an easy correction, but superior service doesn't require corrections or suggestions. The food was well presented, with smallish portions and good, but nothing special. The gazpacho was very good, anything with salmon was good. A 9 year old boy was explaining the Baked Alaska to his grand mother and his description was perfect, Neapolitan ice cream with whip cream. About 70% of the men wore tuxes on the 2 formal nights. We ate at the late seating which was a younger crowd, young & middle aged adults. We didn't see the elderly at the 8:30 meals. Lobster, caviar, shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller should be options 5 out of 7 nights, not a once a week specialty. Obviously a raw bar selection can't be accomplished on a ship, but no fresh fish at all is silly on a Caribbean cruise. Lido Buffet, a very good buffet, no problems. It's good as an alternative. Breakfast was very good, loved the sliced ham and eggs. They ran out of bagels after 3 days, wassup with that. They ran out of guava juice after 5 days. Pineapple was never ripe. The barbecue on the Lido was excellent, the ribs were great, the brats were very good and the small steaks were good. The ice cream tasted like Breyers, on a Holland America cruise I was expecting Ben & Jerry's or Hagen Daaz. The Shows: The Vegas style shows were not to our taste but alot of people did like them. The magician was great, the comic was good, but he was basically a poor man's Don Rickles with old material. LOVED THE CASINO, good times. We don;t do auctions, bingo, parlor games or pool games so I can't comment. The pools: on sea days people were jammed around the pools to the point that it wasn't fun just smelly and crowded, but if you went to the top of the ship there were nice place to lay out. SS cabin: very nice, but I would never cruise with a smaller cabin. If you're used to hotels, it'll take a little getting used to having such a small room. BUT, apparently the SS cabin is considered large by cruise ship standards. We really did enjoy the cabin, the veranda and the views. But smelling other peoples' cigarettes and cigars was vulgar. The room stewards did everything right, nothing special, but a fine job, just as advertised. Great in room movies. Bathroom was a good size, a tub/shower and a stall shower, just like home. Excursions, Expensive. BUT, always do an excursion from the ship or don;t get off unless you really know what you're doing. The British Virgin Islands are the best, the Sail Away and snorkel was great, they should have just allowed more snorkel time and more sailing and less beach time. I rode the Horses on Half Moon. Everyone said it was worth it, even if the ride was too short. A BLAST TO BE REMEMBERED. Too many old people who do nothing, a very depressing sight. Way too many obese people. Too much smoking in the casino which was well ventilated. I loved just sitting around watching the water. It certainly helped that the weather was perfect everyday and no bad seas. The food could be better, the desserts much better, the service could have anticipated needs, the shows less cheesy and the pools less crowded, yet still it was a very good time and I would cruise again. The Westerdam is a fine ship. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Embarkation: Much too slow, taking about two hours. Had we been told to fill out and submit our immigration forms on the Internet, our processing would have been completed in a fraction of the time. Next time, we will know better. Public ... Read More
Embarkation: Much too slow, taking about two hours. Had we been told to fill out and submit our immigration forms on the Internet, our processing would have been completed in a fraction of the time. Next time, we will know better. Public areas: The Westerdam has intimate sitting areas scattered mainly throughout the second deck. This is a classic Holland America vessel, gleaming brasswork, and marble inlaid floors. However, although this is a relatively new ship, carpets are beginning to show signs of dirt and wear. Steps leading down to Atrium level #1 from level #2 are carpeted in dark blue causing the outlines of the individual stair surface to blur and become indistinct. What we have here is an incident waiting to happen. Entertainment: Aside from a "ho-hum" illusionist , a generic juggler and an Aretha Franklin/ Whitney Houston wannabe, the sets and costumes for production numbers showed originality. Overall, the singing was mediocre and the dancing was uninspired. For me, the surreal high point was a Filipino singer doing an old Irish ballad. He was laughing while I was hurting. Food: Breakfasts were good, even though they tried substituting "Tang" for real orange juice. Lunch and dinner offerings were glowingly described on the menus, but they turned out to be very poor in execution. Quality of the beef was uniformly low, with one inedible sirloin steak followed by another tough filet mignon. I stopped ordering sherbets for dessert because my portion appeared to contain what looked very much like maggots. I called this to the maitre d's attention and he removed it immediately, but nothing was ever done about it. Summary: I usually gain weight on a cruise but here I lost eight pounds in seven days. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This was my 27th cruise, but my 1st on HAL. We stayed at The Sleep Inn in FLL the evening before. We took a cab to the pier and arrived there around 11:30. There was already a line waiting outside the closed doors of the pier. We gave our ... Read More
This was my 27th cruise, but my 1st on HAL. We stayed at The Sleep Inn in FLL the evening before. We took a cab to the pier and arrived there around 11:30. There was already a line waiting outside the closed doors of the pier. We gave our 2 suitcases to a porter and tipped him $5.00. We waited in line about 15 min, and then everyone stormed inside to register and get onboard. It went fast and we got onboard about 12:30. They were shunting everyone up to the Lido cafe for lunch. The lunch was good and then we walked around a bit. They made an announcement and we were able to go to our cabins at 1:30. We had a balcony cabin on Deck 5, which was nice. It was close to the elevators and I would not do this location again. I have had lots of cabins over the years close by the elevators (on different cruise lines) and have NEVER been bothered by noise before. This time, the constant "dinging" of the elevator bells just about drove me insane. I asked to be moved to a different cabin, but they said the ship was full. The cabin and balcony were a nice size and had plenty of storage. I have to say that the cabins on the Westerdam must be soundproofed very well, as we were never bothered by sounds in the adjoining cabins. But being on the balcony next to 2 chain smokers is a different story! I thought the ship was very nice and the Internet cafe was very good and opened 24 hours a day. I was surprised in the quality of the food, as I had always heard that HAL was a tad bit better than RCI/Princess. I think the meals were on the same page with RCI/Princess, and not as good as Celebrity or Cunard. Our waiter was good, but not overly friendly and did not laugh and joke around, as on most other cruise lines I have been on. Our room steward was a disappointment. Not once during the entire week did he or she ever come by and introduce himself to us. On all the other cruises I've been on, they always come by the first or 2nd day and introduce themselves and see if there is anything special we need. I never even saw him/her. I had to call to the Housekeeping Dept 3 days in a row, as the room had not been made up by 2 p.m. But, once he/she got there, they did a good job cleaning the room. We had a good time on the islands. The pool area was very nice and there were always PLENTY of deck chairs available. That was sooooo nice! You didn't have to get up there at 7 a.m. to get a chair. Sitting our on deck was great! Entertainment in the evenings left a lot to be desired (in our opinion). There wasn't much to do after the main show. The illusionist was superb and truly awesome! We did the self-disembarkation and it was a breeze! We were at the airport by 9:00 a.m. I would go again on another HAL cruise........... Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
"Not your father's cruise line" Well folks suffice it to say....the image of an old man's cruise line is in our opinion way off base. This was our second HAL cruise...Zuiderdam Aug. 04 and this one. In both cases it was ... Read More
"Not your father's cruise line" Well folks suffice it to say....the image of an old man's cruise line is in our opinion way off base. This was our second HAL cruise...Zuiderdam Aug. 04 and this one. In both cases it was mix of young and not so young! (baby boomers) and their families. Can't say it was all old folks as many say about HAL....perhaps it's true on other HAL ships and maybe at other times of the year but we've had nothing but FANTASTIC experiences on their Vista Class ships with young and seniors alike! Makes for a much more interesting crowd when there is a mix of ages. While nothing is perfect...our cruise this past week on the Westerdam was nearly perfect in every way. Food was outstanding!!!!!! My wife and I are fond of fine dining and upscale restaurants and we were not disappointed with either of our cruises on HAL. Service was also topnotch with attentive waiters and friendly dining room staff. Our only complaint is that the long tables so often seen on HAL ships (rather than rounds) tend to be cramped and pushed too close to one another. However we dealt with that minor inconvenience as the quality and variety of food was super! I mean all in all that's a minor issue considering the value of what we received on this cruise! Our S cabin was a joy...nice clean stateroom with sophistication and comfortable ambiance. As veteran Celebrity cruises...HAL exceeds in this category hands-down!! Embarkation and disembarkation was professionally handled down to every detail...Not to mention how super the entertainment was on this ship. Our 21 year old daughter and best friend were on the week before us for a back to back and they both commented on how great the shows were! We had to agree especially the lead singer from Yanni's tour...(Alfreda Gerald) what a magnificent voice! Truly a memorable part of the week onboard! We are pleased to recommend this beautiful ship. Lots of quiet spots even on seadays...(although forget the Lido for lunch on seadays on any ship) this ship was one of many in the western caribbean on springbreak period and it was crowded for sure in every port. However the Westerdam crew did a fine job of making sure everyone was well fed and comfortable at all times. The whole crew went out of their way each and every day to ensure we were well fed, entertained, safe and happy! You can't argue with that! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2005
The Westerdam is a large, beautiful ship. Unfortunately, as expected, when you cruise with 2000+ passengers, you become a number. Our cruise was remarkable in several different ways. As previously stated, the Westerdam is a beautiful ... Read More
The Westerdam is a large, beautiful ship. Unfortunately, as expected, when you cruise with 2000+ passengers, you become a number. Our cruise was remarkable in several different ways. As previously stated, the Westerdam is a beautiful ship and the accommodations are exceptional. The service is excellent and the crew is exceptionally courteous. But, this is where the good ends. Piracy at sea is not dead.....Holland America has managed to find ways to charge for everything imaginable and, in some instances, exorbitantly. Believe it or not, you have to pay to take most of the aerobic classes, pay to use the steam room sauna, pay for shuttle buses, pay outrageous amounts for use of the internet, pay for all drinks except for ice tea, They have their hands out just about everywhere you turn. Finally, they tell you how much you have to tip and automatically put it on your bill. Regarding the food, both in the dining room and buffet, not very much good can be said. In the dining room, the presentation was generally good, but the food was totally tasteless. The Italian dishes were especially bad, with much of the food pre-cooked. At the buffet, it was a dreary repetition, with mediocre food at best. The Italian station had good pizza, but forget about the pasta...it was precooked, with the same sauces day in and day out. The cheese was misrepresented as real Parmesan cheese, when in reality is was a cheap copy. All in all, we will not sail on this ship again as the bad far outweighs the good......... Read Less
Westerdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.5 3.9
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 2.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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