This was our first time sailing on Holland America Line, and we were pretty impressed.
We’re younger than the typical HAL cruiser, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying all that the MS Westerdam had to offer. We selected this cruise for the itinerary first. We'd also heard good things about the food and service on HAL, so we were interested in giving it a try.
The ship was great. We love the intimacy of a smaller ship, and the renovations HAL has done on the Westerdam seemed tasteful and appropriate.
The entertainment was interesting. We didn’t care much for the production shows, but the live music (especially Lincoln Center) was quite good…and a nice change from the typical cruise fare.
The itinerary was wonderful – the perfect ratio of ports to sea days for our taste. The food was quite good, especially in the Pinnacle Grill.
The service was mixed. We LOVED the staff in the Neptune Lounge and Pinnacle Grill. Our room stewards and service team in the dining room were a mixed bag…not all of the staff seem to engage with the guests in a meaningful way, which I really crave.
We only took one ship excursion. We weren’t really interested in the excursions offered by HAL for most of the ports – somehow they felt limited or too basic for us…we really like to dive in head-first to new places. The excursion we DID do through HAL was quite boring and a significant amount of time was spent on a "shopping opportunity” that would have been better spent seeing more of Siagon.
Overall, we’d definitely sail HAL again (we actually are booked on a Baltic cruise later this year because of an excellent deal), but it wouldn’t be our first choice.
This was our first suite experience…and I can’t recommend it enough. The perks of “suite life” are really enticing, but its the extra space in the cabin that makes it worth the extra cost. Besides having 2+ times the amount of space of a normal balcony cabin, you also have a ton of additional storage for clothing (and this was a 15-night cruise, so that really came in handy) as well as lots of seating. There are even 2 sinks and 2 showers (well, a shower stall and a tub/shower combo)! It makes it feel much more luxurious.
We shared a transfer to Bangkok with 8 other Cruise Critic folks, which was fab. My only disappointment was that the ship wasn’t in port for longer…we had a full day there, but had to be back early enough the next day that we didn’t really have time to do anything that morning.
This port is complicated.
The people and the place are wonderful. However, it presents as a third-world country. I travel the world to experience how other cultures and peoples differ from my own experience of the world…so, I found it fascinating. That said, a number of our shipmates were VERY put off by the squalor, apparent poverty and trash-filled streets/beaches.
We loved this port. We did a cooking class with another couple from Cruise Critic. We had the class to ourselves…which was awesome. Our guide picked us up from the port and took us to the market. He made it clear that we were going to the “real” market…not the touristy market, which was great. Next, we went to his home – where he and his wife taught us how to make several interesting and tasty dishes. My only disappointment was that we didn’t get printed recipes to take home...
Again, we joined forces with a Cruise Critic group totaling 16 for our Halong Bay cruise. We loved it! We cruised around the bay, experienced the Surprising Cave (which was AMAZING!), climbed to the top of Ti Top Island (which was narrow and crowded, but SO worth it!), and we got to kayak into a beautiful lagoon. The lunch provided on the boat was quite delicious, and the guide was knowledgeable and warm.
The crowds at Ti Top Island and the kayak/bamboo boat launch were insane. Finding the guide at the port was not ideal (I would have paid more for them to meet us at the ship.) Also, while our visit to a Pearl farm was interesting, I resent having our sightseeing time hijacked by a sales pitch (they even had crappy knock-off scarves and stuff to sell us on the boat).View All 65 Halong Bay Reviews