18 Rome (Civitavecchia) Holland America Westerdam Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise since we enjoy transatlantic cruising. We wanted to experience Holland America and it was a good value. The embarkation was the quickest we had ever experienced. The staff was friendly and appeared happy. Food ... Read More
We chose this cruise since we enjoy transatlantic cruising. We wanted to experience Holland America and it was a good value. The embarkation was the quickest we had ever experienced. The staff was friendly and appeared happy. Food selections were varied. We did not choose to go to the add on restaurants. My spouse attended the America Test Kitchen classes. It was great to have a Catholic priest on board for Mass. The Spanish ports were enjoyable. We liked our port side veranda. The public spaces were never crowded. We have taken five transatlantic cruises on different lines. Holland ranks right up at the top. Our only complaint was the disembarkation process which was an issue with customs in Ft. Lauderdale. There were six lines for foreign passengers and two for American citizens. The process took over one hour and not the best ending to our cruise experience. Other than this, it was a perfect cruise offering an additional seven hours of sleep! Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We booked this cruise just 2 weeks prior to sailing because the price was great. We enjoyed the ports, but had been to all of them multiple times. • Ship information o The ship was is in great shape, everything worked and all ... Read More
We booked this cruise just 2 weeks prior to sailing because the price was great. We enjoyed the ports, but had been to all of them multiple times. • Ship information o The ship was is in great shape, everything worked and all public areas were kept very clean. There are plenty of places for quiet alone time and small group board games. • Activities o I loved the Americas Test Kitchen as a man who, at 55 is just learning to cook. The demonstrations by professional chefs are fantastic. The Trivia sessions are good, as expected, some folk take it way too seriously. But the cruise director kept a tight rein on it. • Service o Everyone is very helpful and friendly. • Travel to embarkation port o Unless you are the person who needs to be 1st on the ship, wait an hour until after embarkation begins, the wait is so much shorter and the buffet is still open. Unless you have a suite, those folk go straight to the front of the line. • Dining o We had 8 pm dining at a large table every cruise. Every time we have enjoyed our tablemates as they turn into good friends. The main dining room is spacious and well tended. The staff was very receptive to our needs and wants. The food is good to great. The selection is adequate. • Entertainment o The BB King band was excellent. Great energy and great variety of classic R&B. The shows were good with one exception and I feel the need to point this out. A comedian who was marginal at best ended his show with a classic Simon and Garfunkel song that had no business in his show. I can only guess that he loved the sound of his 2 star voice. There were plenty of books available. • Disembarkation o As this was the 1st half a back2back, we just went into Fort Lauderdale to visit relatives. I wish there had some kind of meeting of back to back passengers. They could have given us In Transit information, answered the questions many of us had and we could have visited with folks who were going to spend a month with. Also, other lines will extend a courtesy laundry for ongoing passengers. • Summary o In hind sight, I would do this cruise the same way again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
After our 24 Day Adriatic & Mediterranean Dream cruise we are now 'rusted on,' Holland America devotees. The food quality and portions were perfect aboard the Westerdam. The staff have all undergone 'enhanced ... Read More
After our 24 Day Adriatic & Mediterranean Dream cruise we are now 'rusted on,' Holland America devotees. The food quality and portions were perfect aboard the Westerdam. The staff have all undergone 'enhanced customer-service training,' and it shows! Every staff member we met welcomed us with a lovely smile and warm greeting. We love Holland America's decision to retain attentive pool-side and Lido restaurant attendant service. We love the medium-sized ship feel of the Westerdam. We never had to wait too long for an elevator, or join excessively long queues for anything. We loved our room, #6009, and in particular the spacious bathroom with good lighting, double vanities and generous sized bathtub. The large-screen high-definition television made watching in-room movies a treat. Bathroom, bedroom, and living area lighting was excellent, the USB charger points and clever/subtle bedside lights were a treat. It was great to have a selection of pillows and cushions to choose from and prop oneself up with while reading or watching television. It is the little touches aboard the Westerdam that need to be acknowledged. The fresh flowers in room, the fresh palms poolside, the handheld magnifying make-up mirror, the glass verandah balustrading that offer unobstructed views of the ocean. Having undergone a mass refit earlier in the year the Westerdam felt 'fresh,' and extremely well maintained. We appreciated that our balcony was regularly washed down of the salt build-up during the voyage. I really liked the decor in our suite, in the dining rooms and Lido. I really disliked the new decor in the lobby area, (more reminiscent of a veterinary surgery waiting room). The new lobby is one of most unwelcoming spaces with bright white fluorescent lighting the vinyl faux timber flooring. The Billboard lounge and Gallery lounge decor was brash, shinny, brightly-lit and lacking the warmth synonymous with Holland America's 'old world luxury theme.' I don't know anyone who appreciates huge banks of bright and blaring televisions surrounding them while they sip on their drinks. We liked retreating to the 'Ocean Bar,' to socialise with new friends and enjoy the people watching. Another negative unanimous amongst fellow travellers was disappointment on discovering that Holland America has removed the guest library from the Westerdam. We very much hope that Holland America will re-think this decision and reinstate on-board lending libraries and passenger book-exchange areas. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
I chose this cruise because I sailed on Holland American before, liked HAL very much. The timing and port of calls fit our schedule and interests. Food on HAL is wonderful, crew are hard working and friendly. Not much on-board activities ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I sailed on Holland American before, liked HAL very much. The timing and port of calls fit our schedule and interests. Food on HAL is wonderful, crew are hard working and friendly. Not much on-board activities on this trip but it didn't matter to us because we went on shore every time the ship docked. In fact I think less on-board activities helps bring down the overall price of the cruise, which is better for us. I participated "walk on deck for cause", glad the ship arranged such activity that is close to my heart, and enjoyed it. However the amount of fund raised wasn't announced, or wasn't made aware in a noticeable way. No matter how little the amount raised was, it should be announced because it's inspiring. Over price/cost is another important reason why we chose this cruise. We booked when it was on promotion. Glad we did. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
Holland America Westerdam Mediterranean Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona June 2017 While everyone has their own likes and dislikes, there was very little not to like about this cruise on the Westerdam. This ship had been in ... Read More
Holland America Westerdam Mediterranean Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona June 2017 While everyone has their own likes and dislikes, there was very little not to like about this cruise on the Westerdam. This ship had been in drydock a few weeks earlier. Some of the rehab work took longer than expected and continued up until our voyage. By the time we got on, all of the work appeared finished. New carpet and drapes were just the start. The lobby was completely redone (the crystal chandelier is gone), along with most public areas of the ship. A few new cabins were added. The most controversial moves among the HAL devoted were the elimination of the old library and the Crow’s Nest, the former high front-facing bar/nightclub. The real consternation on message boards seems to be the worry that HAL is straying from the classic maritime look. After actually seeing the changes in person, I personally think the worry is overblown. The new look is definitely more “modern.” For the most part, the color palate is understated with grays, browns, golds and creams with a few other splashes of color carefully mixed in (frosted blue chairs in the cabin for example). Nothing screams at you. I remember the world almost came to an end when the Zuiderdam was first introduced with the bold loud colors. While some elements may not be my personal taste, the look is certainly fresh and clean, and I would argue, classy. This cruise represented a bit of a personal transition for our family. It was the first time our teenage boys (ages 14 & 16) were not active in Club HAL. This was quite a departure from previous voyages where one (or both) would rush through dinner to race up to the Club HAL room. We have great memories of Club HAL adventures over the years. My wife and I will never forget walking on the deck one evening after dinner and glancing in a window and spotting our boys, dressed in pirate hats and painted on mustaches, swinging swords as they marched through the ship. Our boys especially remember a few of the CLUB HAL counselors over the years, especially the guys who actively played with them instead of just babysitting. Kids grow up. Now we’re at that stage where the boys aren’t interested (yet) in a teen disco. Our boys played a few video games along with basketball and even soccer on the sports deck. We’re thankful they have each other. We are all creatures of habit and we like what we “know.” Count our boys in that category. Last summer, we took Princess to Alaska (my wife and I had taken HAL to Alaska before kids and we wanted a slightly different itinerary. During our entire trip on Princess, our youngest, talked about how he wished he was on HAL. He constantly pointed out the differences. Of course that immediately prompted comparisons the moment we stepped on the Westerdam. Despite the bias of a 14-year old, the service and staff on the Westerdam was really superior. We only saw natural smiles on the crew members. On this cruise, more than any other we’ve been on, we were constantly greeted and engaged by the crew. It is really an understatement to say we were pampered. In the Lido we were constantly asked if we wanted a refill on juice during breakfast. Plates were removed from the table without being intrusive. Staff members polishing the stairways would ask if we were having a good time—and really wanted to hear the answer. Our room steward Mawardi IMMEDIATELY knew our names when he first saw us. His assistant Wayan was almost as quick! Our luggage had gotten wet during our travels. Mawardi came to the rescue and volunteered to rush it to the laundry and got it back in three hours! During our cruise we came to know Mawardi as the outgoing type who would see us down the hall and call out our names. Wayan turned out to be more reserved but yet so kind. We had “Anytime Dining” which we had enjoyed on HAL before, but found it more cumbersome on Princess. Previously on HAL, we could make reservations (6:15 for example). We tried unsuccessfully to do that last year on Princess and ended up standing in line each night. Again, back on HAL, we made reservations for the full cruise and had the same wait staff. After the first night, our waiter Jro Gede had glasses of iced tea waiting on the table for us. A constant smile on his face even when he was busy. Again, like the assistant cabin steward, our assistant waiter Wayman (yes, similar name) was more reserved but was gracious and the ultimate professional. Throughout the cruise at least one of us at every meal would comment about how much better the food was on the Westerdam than Princess. My wife pointed out that it seemed we ate more quantity on Princess in an effort to find something that satisfied us. Our dishes were all well prepared. Some nights we even skipped a course or didn’t order dessert because we were full and happy and couldn’t hold any more. We did note a little pattern as the cruise went on with side dishes and garnishes. For example one night would be “eggplant” night and it would be used in some form or fashion on many dishes— main dish of eggplant parmesan, on another dish there be a slice or two of grilled eggplant as a side and a small wedge of eggplant would be used on yet another dish for a spot of color on the plate. Another night it would be spinach, risotto, broccoli or potato. We just found it amusing to see how many forms each one could take. We did not visit the Pinnacle Grill or Canaletto. The Lido has some subtle changes. It’s now called the “Lido Market.” Other than a few new fabrics, I really can’t see many physical changes. There are slight changes to the way some foods are presented and served. The hit seemed to be a somewhat expanded salad bar on both sides in the back – you tell them what you want in your bowl. You do not touch anything. They’ll even toss the salad for you if you’d like (just like some of those trendy big city salad restaurants). Many sandwiches are pre-made and put in brown wrappers. An Italian section is open almost all day and night where you choose your noodles, sauce and add-ins. This is also where the pizza station is. While lacking a large variety, the pizza HAS GREATLY improved. For years, the pizza on HAL was the worst on the planet. This is one area where Princess still prevails, but now HAL pizza is actually pretty good. It’s closer to Papa John’s as opposed to the sorry excuse for food it used to be. The next step would be more exotic toppings but I’ll gladly take this current offering as a decent option. The Dive-In is still a hit! The burgers are really excellent. We were split on the Dive-in fries. Two of us LOVED the seasoned fries. Two liked them but preferred regular fries. None of us cared for the hot dogs. They were big and plump but we all seemed to think the burgers were by far the better choice. The steam table next to the Dive-in had chips, salsa and other Mexican items. There was an excellent seafood salad and corn salsa. This is a chance to be creative. We had traditional Mexican food, but also experimented. Once we used the BBQ on top of the nachos instead of the traditional taco meat. Two things hold this back from being a spectacular experience-- the nacho chips themselves are really inferior from what people are used to now and the melted canned yellow cheese is tasteless goo that is not even served anymore at ballparks and amusement parks. A few other notes about the revamped Lido: More often than not, they bring drinks to you (or at least they offer). Scooped ice cream is still there with a rotating flavor in addition to the big three. The famous HAL bread pudding is at the ice cream station during lunch hours and I forgot all about getting some! In the evenings, the entire Lido is dressed up a bit with trendy bamboo looking placemats and a few other flourishes. The demise of the deck parties is apparently true. Totally gone. A few years ago we had lavish deck parties featuring food from the ports/country we were in. Two years ago, we noticed the number of deck dinners had been scaled back but yet there were still hors d’ordeuvres or appetizers served on some nights instead of full buffets. Of course the dessert extravaganzas are totally gone as well. I understand the issue of running into sanitation regulations with the deck dinners but the loss is still there. I also admit the dessert functions had gotten smaller and less “extravagant” and were much less tasty or tempting. But they did add energy and provided an “event” to each cruise. The entertainment puzzle is a hard one to solve. I’m really not sure if there is a way to put all of the pieces together and make everyone happy. We enjoyed some of the offerings, others we didn’t care for. We did appreciate the flow and timing of the entertainment— so that when one event ended, another act would be starting in another venue. As the cruise went on, our routine seemed to settle on the main showroom and then exiting to the duel pianos (called “billboard onboard). But we did stop by Lincoln Center Stage (classical) and BB King’s Blues Club a few times. With a music and entertainment background, we found the production shows good to OK. We never had a problem getting a great seat -- and that actually saddens me. If people do not attend, they’ll stop mounting these production shows. On the other hand, if the quality were boosted just a bit, then I think people would respond. Generally, the production shows lacked personality. They were machines on the “automatic” setting. The people who put these shows together obviously favor dance movements over vocal. I watched as the performers “pranced” through the paces. We used to call it “voguing,” where someone struts across the stage as if they’re on a fashion show runway. The dancing was sharp and very good—but the performers were robots. One guy, Gene, gave it his all night after night, every single second he was on the stage, but he was the exception. The vocalists could all sing but the shows did not allow them to show off their talents. The shows followed a formula with the six vocalists trading off solos and a few duets. There were very few times when the six sung at the same time to create a strong wall of sound. The shows had many successful ingredients, but when baked, they lacked the flavor. The electronic sets, combined with the costumes, were really stunning. The song choices though baffled me—some were obscure, others left me shaking my head asking, “why did they pick that?” If the audience does not know the song, then it better be so intense, so well done, so strong, that the audience gets caught up in the pure talent. Otherwise, pick songs that are familiar. On nights when then there were not production shows, the entertainment had a wide range: -A Tina Turner sound-alike (haven’t I seen this before) -A magician (Ruben Vilagrand – I wasn’t excited about seeing this but he was an original spin on a magic show) - Musician who played many instruments (Andy Bunger – Different!! Panpipes, marimba and others) - Spanish musician Andrea Amat (Let’s just say it’s hard for one person to hold a stage for an hour.) The Mainstage highlight turned out to be a movie???!!! In a fairly new concept, a one hour nature film, Frozen Planet Live,” was shown on the digital background in brilliant HD. All of the ship’s instrumentalists were pulled together from the Lincoln Center Stage, BB King and the Mainstage. They performed the musical score live (but somebody please move them over a little bit so they don’t block the view of the screen). It was absolutely beautiful and was the only time that people were excitedly talking about how good the show was as they were leaving the showroom. Even ship officers and staff members came in to watch. I should also single out that part of the renovations of the ship included opening up the piano bar to the casino. The lack of walls invited people to stop and listen for a while. The piano bar concept is now TWO pianists and singers. The two guys were incredibly talented. They took turns playing/singing and they would also sing together and harmonize. The two seem to enjoy each other and that attitude filled the huge space. One minor criticism was that both had higher voices and a lower key would have made it easier for the audience to sing along. We appreciate the effort to keep PA announcements to a minimum but we rarely heard or saw Cruise Director Hamish. I do wish he had pumped a few of the shows by saying something like, “you’ve got to come to the Mainstage tonight for ‘Planet Frozen.’ It’s a totally new concept on HAL with super crisp HD images of penguins and polar bears and every musician on the ship will be on stage to play the score live.” On past cruises the cruise director would push and promote one big thing each day so people knew what they should not miss. Several cooking demonstrations were offered during our cruise. Have things changed? We were surprised no “nibbles” were offered of the dishes they were showing. I REALLY wanted a bite of those “Ultimate Brownies.”  The chef (I never caught his name) was excellent and engaging. Only one hands-on class was offered and it happened to be on a PORT DAY when we were off the ship. We found ourselves with extra on-board credit and opted for a spa visit. My wife described the treatment as wonderful but was a bit turned off by the “product sell” at the end of the session. She said it negated some of the relaxation treatment she had just received. As with every cruise, we get off regretting we didn’t sit on the balcony more! But having it there with the large windows is sure nice. All cabins now have large screen TV’s. Our was mounted to the wall instead of the small box tv sitting on a shelf. The TV’s come with on-demand movies, music channels, some live TV channels, shore excursion information and more. This is a huge improvement. We will admit to binge watching (it’s vacation and during the school year we don’t have time for movies!). So while it was nice to watch in bed (stayed up too many evenings!), we do miss the dedicated movie theater and the popcorn that came with it. We really had one true frustration. While I would not call it a “complaint,” others on our cruise did! There were several points (Livorno, Sete, Marseille and Barcelona) where the ship was docked at a large port and shuttles were needed to transport guests to the city entrance. The city of Sete provided a free shuttle but Livorno and Barcelona required an extra charge. We had private tour companies come to the ship and pick us up in Livorno and Barcelona, so we did not have to deal with the shuttles. In Marseille, we were told we had to buy shuttle tickets or use a cab, but thankfully I had read on the internet that a free shuttle was provided by the port if you followed the path (the ship did not mention this to passengers). We heard others who were “mad” they had to pay extra just to get off the ship. I believe the cost was about $16 each, but obviously that adds up for large families or groups. Our frustration was more about getting information. There was a cloud of suspicion that ship personnel were not forthcoming about land transportation so you would buy a shuttle ticket or a shore excursion. While that suspicion may not be founded in fact, there is the issue of perception. To sum up the cruise itself, we felt like we were on a new and fresh ship. EVERY crew member seemed happier than any other cruise we’ve ever been on and our food seemed especially well prepared. ----------- Our ports of call: Rome (Civitavecchia) Livorno, Italy (Pisa/Florence) Monte Carlo, Monaco Villefranche-sur-Mer, France (last minute change from St. Tropez,France) Ajaccio, Corsica, France Almeria, Spain Ceuta, Spanish Territory Marseille, France Sete, France (Carcassonne) Barcelona, Spain We had difficulty finding information about some of the ports, so I’m including this: Rome— We pre-booked the TAM bus from the airport to the main train station for five euros. Note while you book a “time,” there is no problem simply jumping on the next bus if your flight arrival time changes. We stayed at the Boscolo Exedra Roma using Marriott points. This hotel was awesome. It was in an historic building and was unique and different from a sterile Marriott! Elite members are offered a huge free breakfast buffet that was also unique with meats, cheeses, European cakes and even a salad bar. We walked almost everywhere. (There is also a metro stop at the hotel front door.) PLENTY of restaurants are nearby. We used walksofitaly.com to book two tours (easy process on-line). One was a night visit to the Colosseum (we picked a 7pm time and got to experience both daylight and night). Our other tour was the night Multimedia Tour Inside The Forum. Both experiences were neat. I will note, it appears private tour companies buy these tickets in bulk and resell them. Your “added benefit” to justify the price markup is a guide that talks to you for about an hour before turning you over to an official guide at the venue. Yes, we learned more with those extra tour guides, but I’m not sure the extra cost was worth it. However, you may not have a choice because individual tickets are hard to come by for these venues at night. During the day, we did a six hour bike tour on the ancient Appian Way with topbike rental. This was excellent. They provide “e-bikes,” which made your ride much easier. You don’t have to be an athlete to do this. It would be suitable for regular people, young and old, as long as they are somewhat comfortable on a bike. The ride took us out of Rome along the Appian Way. The original stones on the old Roman road create a bumpy ride, so we mostly rode beside it (hee-hee). We stopped for several breaks, including a tour of some catacombs and a park to view the aqueducts. On our second day we pre-booked a tour with Eating Italy Food Tours. This was also a fantastic experience. It took us just outside the main tourist areas through the Testaccio neighborhood. We visited a gourmet grocery store where we tasted “aged” olive oils, sandwich and pastry shops, a produce and food market, had a pasta lunch at a neat restaurant inside what used to be a Roman trash dump (a mound made out of broken pottery jars) and were taught how to spot “real” gelato from the mass produced stuff. In between all of this, we visited the monuments and fountains. Rome to Civitavecchia: Pre-booked train tickets on Trenitalia (five euros). Walked with our rolling luggage several blocks from hotel to train station. The train ride was just over an hour. The walk from the Civitavecchia train station to the port property was easy (a wide sidewalk lined with vendors selling t-shirts, hats and art. After walking through the gate, we weren’t sure how to get to the ship. We started walking and lucked out on finding the free port shuttle. That bus took us to a staging area where all cruise ship passengers get on buses to individual ships. This process took more than an hour. It would be impossible to do this with a lot of luggage. We did not see any cabs outside the Civitavecchia train station (they have to be there somewhere???) Apparently a cab can take you directly to the ship. Livorno, Italy (Pisa/Florence) We hired a private car (Nicola Scovenna) which met us at the dock. Our driver took us to Pisa and drove us around the town for a few minutes before letting us out at the gate to the Leaning Tower/Church property. Nicola Scovenna arranged for timed tickets for us to climb the tour and enter the church. We were told to spend as much time as we wanted and spent about 90-minutes there. He then drove us to Lucca for a great afternoon. Our driver actually lives in Lucca and he drove us around the “new” portion of the city for a few minutes and then took us to the “old walled” city. Cars are not allowed inside the old city. He took us to a bike shop where we rented bikes for two hours and we rode on top of the old city walls (very level and easy). Then we rode the bikes through the skinny streets of the city and explored. Later, we met our driver back at the bike shop and he drove us around to another side of the walled city and let us out at the edge where he pointed us to a gelato shop (CHEAP compared to Rome) that’s been in business for nearly 100-years. After our snack and more time to explore another part of the town, we headed back to the ship. Our driver stopped by a huge grocery store/mall where we bought a large package of Coca-Cola for five euros to take onto the ship. We could have done most of this by train and saved a few dollars. But our driver arranged our tower tickets, we didn’t have to manage train schedules, and he took us directly to the bike shop in Lucca and to the gelato place and we stopped by the grocery store. All of this was still less than expensive than the ship tour. I should point out we chose Pisa and Lucca because we were docked on a Monday and some museums and attractions are closed in Florence on Mondays. Monte Carlo My original plan was to jump on the Hop on hop off bus (La Grand tour red bus) that stops at the cruise dock. The line was long and after waiting for two buses and realizing we didn’t stand a chance of getting on a bus anytime soon, we set out on foot. I read on the internet there are easier ways to go “up” the hill toward the palace, but I couldn’t figure out how. Many would not want to walk and climb the stairs we did! We toured the palace and watched the changing of the guard and then walked the streets and the parks and visited the Cathedral. We decided to return to the ship and ate lunch and set out again to see the car museum and look for an ATM. After returning to ship again for dinner, we took an evening stroll over to the famous casino (another long walk). The Grand Prix had just been the week before so we walked in front of the grandstands on the streets that are used for the track route. We made it to the casino at dusk and got some beautiful pictures of the casino and watched the expensive cars arrive. The evening walk and pictures were probably our favorite part of our day. Villefranche-sur-Mer, France High winds prevented us from docking at St. Tropez. After two attempts the Captain pulled back and headquarters sent our ship to Villefranche-sur-Mer. We were so glad the day worked out like this! The extra time on the ship allowed us to rest and take it easy. We docked around lunchtime, so most people ate on board before getting off. There was a beach within easy walking distance. After spending three hours on the beach, we explored the charming town. There were many sidewalk cafes along the waterfront where we saw many from our ship soaking in the atmosphere. I didn’t hear one person complain about our change, in fact most seemed happy about it! Ajaccio, Corsica, France This port has been described as the perfect kind of stop—easily walkable. This was market day in the town square and we saw many tents selling meats and cheeses that are special to the region. Too bad we had no way to buy and transport those tempting foods home!! This town is known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. We paid a small fee and toured his small house (more interesting than we expected). This was another place where it’s best to simply walk and explore. Almeria, Spain We normally make our own plans in port and book with private vendors. But after finding very little information about this port on the internet, we ended up taking a ship tour of the Tabernas Desert. The tour was actually pretty cool. We boarded buses that took away from the port to our restroom stop (about a 20-minute ride) where we were divided up to ride in jeeps. Each off road vehicle held between eight passengers along with a driver. We toured the desert and learned that it is actually quite famous. Hollywood discovered the location decades ago. Our guides provided pictures of famous movie scenes and so we could easily see what had been filmed in specific spots. The desert is used so often that electric power cables are even buried in the ground to help moviemakers. The desert has been used for westerns, action films and war movies. The producers are required to return the desert back to the original condition. We even heard stories about production assistants carefully putting small three inch rocks back in the correct spots after filming. A small theme park is nearby built around some of the old western movie sets but we didn’t go there. After our jeeps left the desert, they dropped us off at an olive oil production facility. Since harvest season is in the fall, we were able to tour the entire factory. Ceuta, Spanish Territory This was also a port where I had difficulty finding information about private tours and vendors. We opted for the ship tour into Morocco. Looking back, this is one of those rare cases where I’m glad we took the ship tour instead of trying to do it on our own. The bus ride to the Moroccan border was less than ten minutes. Moroccan authorities took our passports and kept them until we returned. On the bus, our Moroccan guide told us how safe we are in his country. However, we were advised to stay with the group once we got to Tetouan, Morocco because the tour of the Medina (the old city market) was like a maze and we could get lost. Unlike European markets that are in large squares and along wide streets, a Medina in many middle-eastern countries is located in skinny alleys. Think about spy movies where a chase takes place—where people are running and tripping over animals, produce boxes and sneaking down small side alleys. All was good until we turned a corner. I was in the back of our group and I heard commotion at the front. A man came running up to our group and punched a lady in the face while screaming in Arabic. Thankfully, after getting over the shock, the lady was ok. It was then we realized we had four bodyguards with our group… including an undercover police officer. They quickly went into action and wrestled the suspect down. The suspect’s pants got pushed down during the scuffle and revealed more than you wanted to see. It was a dramatic few minutes. The undercover officer put handcuffs on the suspect and led him away with his pants still down enough to reveal every “thing.“ Our tour continued with the guide and authorities grabbing native costumes and dresses from vendors and using the attack victim as a model and then giving her the clothing to take home. She ended up with a nice collection of goodies. A delicious lunch was in a restaurant with musicians and dancers. After lunch there was the expected rug store stop which most people seemed to take in stride. Much to our surprise, some people actually bought! I personally don’t see how anyone could make a decision about a large and expensive rug in such a rushed manner. But to each his own. I would certainly take this tour again. I didn’t feel unsafe before our “incident.” And after discovering we had bodyguards, I totally felt safe. I’m sure the suspect was dealt with severely. Marseille, France During research, I read how easy it would be to take a bus to Aix-en-Provence. It turned out to be super easy (almost)! Passengers were told it was not possible to walk from the ship to the city and that shuttle tickets could be purchased that would take you to the city. I hated the thought of buying four shuttle tickets, but still be faced with the task of getting to the train/bus station. We asked on board about a city bus (thinking that would get us to the bus station) and couldn’t get a firm answer. We got off of the ship and started walking looking for the port exit to get a city bus. After a five minute walk, we came to an area with benches and a sign that said “FREE SHUTTLE for cruise passengers. We saw a port security guard and he told us the shuttle would be coming in a few minutes. Another option was we could have walked to a nearby gate and gotten a city bus. After a 30-minute wait, the shuttle arrived. The shuttle ride was long—so it would have been impossible to walk to the city square. On the far end of the square, there was a metro (subway) station. We easily bought subway tickets and rode two stops to the train station (I’m told walking is possible but we wanted to maximize our time). At the fairly large train station, we found the city bus parking lot (plenty of bus signs in the train station) and found the #50 bus. There was a bus ticket window inside the train station but we were told to pay the bus driver. The ride was about five euros each and took about a half an hour. The buses travel between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence frequently (roughly every ten minutes). Exiting the bus station in Aix-en-Provence we turned left and walked down the street about three blocks and were in front of the large visitor’s center and a large modern glass Apple Store. We got a map inside the visitor’s center and spent several hours exploring. This was a Tuesday and was market day and was one of the most expansive street markets we had seen. It covered blocks. A few of the tents and stands sold food. Mostly the vendors were selling women’s dresses, scarves, hats and shoes. A few offered linens (table runners and tea towels). We are not shoppers and grew tired of the market fairly quickly. But wandering the streets of the historic town was nice. There were cafes, bakeries and many shops selling only nougat (A Confection: Main ingredients: sugar or honey, nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, egg whites, sometimes candied fruit). We visited some sites/churches and made our way back to the bus station for our return. Aix-en-Provence is picturesque (go on the side streets off the main road) and well worth a few hours. We again went to the FREE SHUTTLE stop near the city square and waited about 20-minutes for the shuttle to arrive. Because of this, we decided not to venture back into Marseille late in the afternoon. Sete, France (Carcassone) A free shuttle was provided by the town to take you from the ship to the edge of the port where you could walk into the town. It is described as a movie set, an ideal seaport town with art deco buildings along the Canal Royal. We did not see it. Instead, we went to Carcassonne, the number two most visited site in France behind the Eiffel Tower. But getting started was the hard part. In researching options, I found some opted for a train to Carcassone and others chose a rental car. Of course the ship tour is always an option as well. Before the trip, I didn’t see any information about how to get to the train station. In addition, a map showed it was not near the ship. I also didn’t see much information about how to get from the train station to the historic site. I saw one person mention using Europcar for a rental. But again, the office didn’t appear close to the port. I chose to use Hertz and got a fantastic deal with my corporate code (less than $50 for an automatic) for a somewhat decent sized car. By looking at the map, I was going to have to take a taxi to either the train station or a rental car location, so I chose Hertz for the price and to get points . On the ship, I had the hardest time getting information about how/where to catch a taxi in the port. When we got off, Sete shore representatives were super nice and called a taxi to meet us at the shuttle drop off location at the edge of the port. It took 30-minutes for a taxi to arrive. I’m not sure what we would have done if we had taken the shuttle directly to the port gate because I didn’t see any cabs. The taxi took us to the Hertz location (which was actually part of a Toyota dealership). It took quite some time to complete the paperwork even though I’m gold. Once we were in the car we followed Mapquest or an hour and 20-minute ride. Whew! Carcassone was neat. It’s a walled city that dates back to Roman times. Walking around inside the walled village is free. There are restaurants, candy stores, bakeries, clothing shops and even a hotel. It was easy to think you were in a manufactured fantasy land at an amusement park, but the buildings were REAL. The main attraction is the castle. The entrance fee for that includes an audio guide. While standing in line to buy entrance tickets, a group of people wearing the cruise ship tour stickers came up behind us. In other words—the ship “tour” was transportation to Carcassone—They still had to buy tickets to visit the castle. The castle history was interesting. I note there were no furnishings in the rooms. After our tour, we walked along the ramparts (along the top of the walls). There was a beautiful cathedral in the village and a music concert happened to be going on inside when we were there. We left around 2:30 and started back to Sete. There was a shopping center with a grocery store and a McDonald’s and gas station. We zoomed in there to refill the tank. The gas pump wouldn’t take my card and I had trouble finding someone who spoke English. Finally I figured out I had to fill up my tank and then drive to a booth and then pay before I could leave the gated area. Once back at Hertz, we asked them to drive us back to the port. We didn’t have enough time to really see or walk around Sete. I would estimate our total cost of the day was around $125. Barcelona, Spain In an effort to maximize our time in Barcelona, we hired Barcelona Day Tours for a half day tour. They met us at the ship which meant we didn’t have to bother buying tickets for the ship shuttle. The ship was docked a L-O-N-G way from the port entrance. We had a driver and guide and they moved us quickly through the city and showed us the highlights. A skip-the-line ticket at Park Guell was included (we had roughly 45-minutes there). After four hours, they dropped us off near the Palau de la Musica Catalana (the music hall) where we had tickets for the 3pm English tour. At this point, since we knew where we were, we explored and looked for a quick lunch spot and found a Spanish fast food restaurant called Pans (a mixture of a Subway and a McDonald’s). We went back to the Palau de la Musica Catalana for our tour. Well worth it!!! The building is noted for a giant stained glass roof. You’ve no doubt seen pictures of it advertising TV sets in the Best Buy ads. After our tour we grabbed a cab (very reasonable) to travel across town to Sagrada familia for our 4:45 timed ticket entrance that we bought in advance (highly recommend buying in advance to avoid the LONG line). At this point in our trip (and combined with other vacations) our teenage boys really didn’t want to see “another church.” But I promised them this one would be different. Words can’t even begin to describe this. The story behind it is incredible. The construction techniques are unbelievable and the beauty of the interior is genius. Our ticket included a trip up in an elevator in the “Nativity Tower” (walk down winding stairs). Construction is expected to continue until 2026. My family wants to go back then! We spent three hours there taking the audio tour, the tower climb and looking at the exhibits in the basement. We took some absolutely gorgeous pictures of the light coming through the stained glass windows. Another cab took us to a dinner location for tapas—TAPS (Mare de Deu Del Remei 53). The food was reasonable and good (but choices were more limited than I expected). After dinner, we walked to watch the magic fountain show. The streets and sidewalks are packed around the main fountain. When the show started there was excitement in the air. Everyone was smiling and enjoying and EVERYONE was taking pictures. The fountain is historic. It dates back to the 1929 World Exposition. The show itself lasted a solid 45-minutes. You’ve probably seen other water fountain shows with a few more tricks thanks to modern technology, but again, this was fun and happy and a great way to end our day and our vacation. We easily hailed a cab when the show was over and it took us directly back to the ship (again bypassing the need for the paid shuttle bus). Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
This was the first cruise after dry dock. We did not experience any issues in our stateroom. We did see some steps in the main dining room where the carpet needed to be tacked down. Deck 10 was closed but this was not a problem for us. HAL ... Read More
This was the first cruise after dry dock. We did not experience any issues in our stateroom. We did see some steps in the main dining room where the carpet needed to be tacked down. Deck 10 was closed but this was not a problem for us. HAL generously compensated us with a $200 on board credit to make up for this issue. This was our 3rd HAL cruise but probably our 20th cruise in total--losing track! The food exceeded my expectations for the most part. I did have to send back under cooked salmon one night in the main dining room. We loved having the drink package and took advantage of the chocolate shakes available at the pool bar and the coffee bar on deck 3. A few annoying things--it is nearly impossible to get half and half for coffee. Everything labeled cream barely colors the coffee. Cappucino with steamed milk was a palatable solution. Also, the orange juice seemed to be watered down in the Lido. On a positive note, the Omelet bar is a great option for breakfast and I loved the raisin bread. The Pinnacle was good for a filet mignon. We went a second time and had the halibut but it wasn't worth the upcharge. The Canelleto restaurant was a nice change from the main dining room. We went to one show. It was a musical production. The performers were good singers with one exception. People seemed to love the Billboard Piano Bar and the BB King lounge. We did not spend much time at either venue. There were never enough bartenders at any of the lounges which sometimes made it difficult to take advantage of the drink package in the evening. This was a very port intensive cruise so we were back in our cabin by 10 PM most nights. We did go to the casino and it was fine. We never saw America's Test Kitchen when it was open. Seemed to operate at odd times. We did not take any of the ship's excursions. We had a large Roll Call but HAL did not provide anything for the Meet and Greet which was well attended. Loved all of the ports--most surprised by Slovenia because I had no expectations. Embarkation was quick but not fun. It was pouring and there was no covered walkway to the ship. Disembarkation was very smooth--no complaints! We did not have any discrepencies with our shipboard account, we were able to stay in our room until called and we found our luggage immediately. Overall, a very enjoyable cruise! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We are equal opportunity cruisers…we will consider almost any line and choose based on itinerary, schedule, and price. As an example, our last four cruises have been Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and most recently Holland ... Read More
We are equal opportunity cruisers…we will consider almost any line and choose based on itinerary, schedule, and price. As an example, our last four cruises have been Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and most recently Holland America. Our next cruise is on Regal Princess so maybe we're repeating the cycle, who knows? We were on the first Westerdam cruise following dry dock at the end of April. Our cruise was extremely port intensive. It was a 12 night cruise with only one sea day. My husband and I thought the ship was an excellent choice for such a port intensive itinerary, but I don't think we would choose it for an itinerary with a lot of sea days. For a cruise with a lot of sea days, we prefer a larger ship with a wider variety of venues and activities. We didn’t do too much in the evenings because of the type of cruise…we were worn out after full days of touring! One change that was made during drydock was the addition of Billboard Onboard, a dueling piano bar that packed people in every night. That venue and Lincoln Center Stage were always crowded and had loyal followers. We appreciated the smoke-free casino but didn't spend too much time there. I was lucky enough to hit a decent payout on a slot machine early in the cruise and thought it prudent to lock up the cash and stay out of there! I can't tell you much else about the nightlife because our days were so long and tiring we became early to bed cruisers! In my opinion, the food in the dining room and Lido was very good. I liked having items served in the Lido, and the limited hours were not a problem for us because we usually had lunch on shore. We had any time dining and never had to wait for a table. The burgers and fries at the "Dive-In" window were excellent! We also enjoyed specialty dining in the Pinnacle Grille and Canaletto. We were in a Neptune Suite which had been beautifully refurbished during the dry dock. Service throughout the ship was exceptional, and we had no problems that were related to the drydock. The Crow's Nest was closed during our cruise due to continuing construction. We were given a $200 OBC each for that inconvenience. I thought the ship was a great choice for the ports that we visited. My preference on this kind of itinerary is for a "smaller" ship, which ruled out quite a few options. My other requirement was a minimal number of sea days since I can get those closer to home without spending the money to fly transatlantic. Believe it or not, I actually could have used an additional sea day! We loved the places that we visited, but it really was very tiring. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of planning. I read/heard complaints about a lack of things to do in several of our lesser known ports, but we had a great time on the independent excursions we booked. We thought variety was important…you can only walk around so many ancient walled cities without a plan! I would put HAL at the top of my list for this kind of cruise, and I would visit again at the same time of year. Because it was early in the season the ports weren’t too crowded and we were able to dock in ports we had anticipated would be tender ports. We wanted a ship to truly be our floating hotel on this trip, and the Westerdam did the job perfectly! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
I chose this cruise for the destinations especially Dubrovnik and a chance to relive memories of Malta and Gozo. On arrival at the embarkation I could not believe how simple and easy check in went - on board within 30 minutes of ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the destinations especially Dubrovnik and a chance to relive memories of Malta and Gozo. On arrival at the embarkation I could not believe how simple and easy check in went - on board within 30 minutes of arrival. Apparently the ship had been in dry dock and some work would continue during the cruise. A benefit of $200 each for the inconvenience was added to our onboard account as a gesture of goodwill. Some noise was evident but as the cruise only had a single sea day this was not a problem. Part of the ship were out of use but this did not hamper our enjoyment. Valletta - choose the hop on hop off bus tour which is value for money . Red route in the morning ,blue route in the afternoon. Gives a good impression of Malta but having revisited Bugibba ,St. Julian's etc. I don't want to see them again. Gozo - very pretty on arrival but unfortunately I damaged my meniscus on alighting the tender in choppy seas and lasted only 15 minutes on Gozo. On return to Westerdam I made my way to the Ship's medical centre and was seen by the excellent Dr Dupreez and his team . We were given the option of early disembarkation,not a nice situation to be in. Having weighed up the options this seemed to be the way forward having now been fitted with a full leg brace and on crutches . The next day being a sea day gave me a little more thinking time before our arrival in Corfu where I spent most of the day in a clinic for more X-rays etc. We made our way back to the ship with 20 minutes to spare. The option of leaving the ship was discussed but the only suitable flights were some 19 hours duration with a couple of stops on the way. Faced with recovery at home or on the ship we chose the later and we were allowed to stay on board. I missed out on Dubrovnik and a couple of destinations as I couldn't board the tenders but having said that we managed to get a lot of enjoyment out the cruise and the kindness of the ship's company due to my lack of mobility. Kotor - very pretty and fairly easy to get around. Busy market Korcula - tender transfer so unable to vist. Split - Probably the best location for my limited mobility . Very busy with many market stalls and numerous ferry passengers. Koper - Sunday visit so most things closed but pleasant ambling around. Venice - misty arrival but very busy with at least three cruise ships in dock. Always a memorable place to visit and this was no different. Cabin 7015 - well tended by Bagus and Sugiman , well sited for Lido breakfast . Not so for the main dining area when on crutches. Dining - always a good standard in the Lido. The main Dining room served by Alip and Fauzi , a good choice throughout the courses and superbly tended by the afore mentioned gentlemen. However the best meal was served in the Pinnacle Grill. I have never seen prawns so large and the filet mignon was outstanding. It was unfortunate that there was a ' bright star ' medical emergency during our dinner and suddenly reality bites. I hope the lady in question has now fully recovered. I will revisit on our next cruise with Holland America. B.B.Kings club is always to our taste rather the shows on the main stage but from the small amount of viewing the performers were very capable and professional. One small gripe , why have music trivia quizzes at 9:00 when most people are still in the late dinner sitting. 9:30 would have been better from our point of view. Service - throughout our cruise,through the ups and downs of medical problems this has been the best cruise I have been on . We didn't t get the feeling that everything as a cost and suffer the perception that you have to pay for every thing, however small. Congratulations to the Hotel staff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
The laundry is piled up and gradually working through the machines. Just returned home yesterday after 18 days at sea, boarding in Rome, Italy and disembarking in Fort Lauderdale. Eight port cities, some surprises, and seven lovely days at ... Read More
The laundry is piled up and gradually working through the machines. Just returned home yesterday after 18 days at sea, boarding in Rome, Italy and disembarking in Fort Lauderdale. Eight port cities, some surprises, and seven lovely days at sea on the HAL Westerdam. We traveled with another couple whose cruising experience was limited to a couple FL/Bahamas excursions. It was interesting "seeing" this extended cruise through their eyes. Specifically booked on a Vista class ship for the hydro pool and "lizard lounges" in the Thermo suite. Also, this ship itinerary had an overnight in Funchal, Madeira which was highly recommended as a must-see by friends. Did not disappoint. Received a super upgrade from HAL - booked lowest level outside (fully obstructed view) cabin. Were immediately upgraded to a full view outside cabin, then ten days before sailing, was offered balcony (VA) cabins for $99 each - took the offer, obviously and sailed on the Rotterdam deck. Entertainment was superb - continually surprised that it didn't disappoint. You learn early to not assume anything with regards to the vista lounge entertainment. Don't judge a comedy/juggler until AFTER you've seen his act! Food was good, as always. Crew were friendly and helpful, always. Passengers, not always so much. Took some issue with the information (or lack) regarding the ports we were visiting. Of course, the incentive is to book excursions through the ship, which we only did twice (Funchal and Malaga for the Alhambra). Other ports, there were some unpleasant surprises re: getting into town (buses, long lines to board, pushy passengers, and Euros needed for transport) Needed a little more info from the ships crew re: what to expect. don't mind paying for a bus, but would rather have the Euros in hand ahead of time; not have to ask the bus driver "how much?" All said, another great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Having learned so much from these boards, I wanted to share my thoughts on our recent Med cruise aboard the ms Westerdam departing and returning to Rome. Ports of call included: Naples, Messina Sicily, Corfu Greece, Dubrovnik Croatia, ... Read More
Having learned so much from these boards, I wanted to share my thoughts on our recent Med cruise aboard the ms Westerdam departing and returning to Rome. Ports of call included: Naples, Messina Sicily, Corfu Greece, Dubrovnik Croatia, Venice, Malta and Salerno. EMBARKATION: If you are departing from Rome, keep in mind that the port of Civitavecchia is a good hour drive from Rome. As our driver approached the port, I was craning my neck to get a glimpse of the Westerdam. And then, suddenly, there she was! Embarkation was a snap. We were aboard by 12:30 pm, had lunch in the Lido and our cabins were ready by 1:30. CABIN: We had booked a verandah cabin as I can't imagine doing a cruise without having a balcony. What I was not prepared for was the amount of storage space; we had packed tons of clothes and found room for everything with storage space to spare. (Hint: the round stool beneath the desk has a removable lid even more storage space.) The bathroom layout was amazing for a cruise ship with full-size tub/shower, plenty of storage and good water pressure. WESTERDAM: The ship is beautiful, if only very slightly worn around the edges. I had read here that she had recently undergone a makeover while in drydock with the installation of flat screen tv's and DVD's. We did not find this to be the case at all. Indeed, the desktop tv would swivel back and forth with the movement of the ship. Some peeling wallpaper in the corridors, minor fraying of carpet seams in elevator lobbies and some burnt out bulbs among the countless light fixtures aboard all indicated to me that things were not quite as up-to-snuff as they could have been. FOOD: I cannot say enough about the quality of food in the dining room. We had late seating and the food was absolutely First-Class. As mentioned here, portions are small, but requesting a second appetizer or entree was accommodated with no questions asked. The Lido was a different story. I don't know how to put this. Breakfast was adequate with an omelet station and the usual sides along with fruit, yogurt, breads, scrambled eggs, etc. One would certainly never start the day hungry, but it was average buffet food to say the least. Except for the inedible hash brown patties. Just awful. We did order breakfast with room service a couple of mornings and it was fine except the first morning when our meal was accompanied by those horrible hash browns. For other meals there is a sandwich station, an Asian station, a pizza and pasta station and the Terrace Grill with hamburgers, fries and a Mexican buffet. While the hamburgers were passable, the fries were terrible. The Mexican buffet was tasty, but not well stocked. The evening offerings in the Lido looked appetizing. Walking through one evening, I saw prime rib offered which I did not experience in the dining room unless we missed it one night. Most frustrating of all was that the fact that our party went to the Lido for dinner at 9:45 on a Saturday night and the only option available to us was the pizza and pasta station. DRINKS: If I recall correctly, cocktails were $5.25 plus a 15% gratuity. Nothing more than an even shot was ever poured and served in 12-16 oz glasses which resulted in a very diluted cocktail. Of course, ordering a double made the drink more palatable, but doubled the price. What you may not know is that if you specify any brand other than well, there is a $1 upcharge per shot and if it is a premium brand, add another 50 cents. Again, all of this is served in a tall glass. The best bargain was ordering the drink or martini of the day. You can't go wrong with a Bombay Sapphire martini for $5.25. Surprisingly enough, the prices of the cabin mini-bar were comparable in price to drinks elsewhere on the ship. Trying to convince our cabin steward to keep the mini-bar stocked, however, was another matter. Which leads me to... SERVICE: I have read so often on these pages of the personalized service offered by the staff of the Westerdam. Friendly, yes. Incredibly efficient, there is no doubt. BUT. We returned one day at 6:45 pm after touring all day to find our cabin still being cleaned. A couple of days later we returned at 8:00 pm and again found our cabin in the midst of being cleaned. After our second or third night in the dining room, we ended up with a server who embodied everything I have read about service aboard the Westerdam. By our second night with him, he knew our names and preferences. If you ever voyage aboard the Westerdam, ask for Herdi in the dining room; you won't be disappointed. We still keep in touch with him via email. THOUGHTS: Traveling to the Med in August can be a challenge. Weather is hot, humid and there are hordes of tourists from all over the World. I packed way too many long pants and not nearly enough short pants. Forget what everyone else says on these boards about looking like an American. Dress for comfort. I bought more clothes for this cruise than I even packed and would have been far more comfortable in my everyday shorts and tennis shoes. While everyone we dealt with was helpful and friendly, I might still caution against wearing the red white and blue, rah-rah, my country right-or-wrong type of apparel. IN CONCLUSION: While I might not consider doing such a port-intensive cruise again in the near future, I would not hesitate to sail with Holland America again. We had a great time with good friends and wonderful food. We got to see so much. Even with ten days there was not nearly enough time to see everything. The whole trip remains a blur, but this cruise is one that will be remembered for a lifetime. And that is exactly what we had hoped for. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Westerdam: Eastern Mediterranean July 20 Ten night sailing 1. Embarkation We traveled independently and took the train from Rome Termini Station to Civitavecchia. The cost of the train for 2 people was 9 Euros (about 13USD). We found ... Read More
Westerdam: Eastern Mediterranean July 20 Ten night sailing 1. Embarkation We traveled independently and took the train from Rome Termini Station to Civitavecchia. The cost of the train for 2 people was 9 Euros (about 13USD). We found other people at the train station in Civitavecchia and shared a cab with them to the ship (2.50 Euros each). Embarkation was very smooth. We had done online check-in previous to arrival. All documents were processed in less than 2 minutes at the pier. There was no line when we arrived. Note: The brochure notes that it "strongly suggested" your passport not expire for 6 months after travel date. However, in reality, HAL will not let you complete embarkation if your passport expires within that period. Trust me: my partner's passport expired in October and he had to run to Philadelphia 2 days before we traveled and get a new one. 2. The ship a. Entire ship At first, as many of us are, I was not overly impressed. But as the 10 days went along, I really came to enjoy the layout and feel of the ship. The corridors had a nice flow. It was very clever the way the gift shops open up to one large area. The glass elevators overlooking the sea are so much nicer than those on other ships that merely overlook an atrium or public area. It was great to see a real wood Promenade Deck, which was used by many of us for walking and jogging. Of course, HAL has those great deck chairs on that deck. Put me in one with a book, look at the sea, and I'm asleep! My only concerns were the atrium and some of the dEcor. The atrium was clearly too small and always seemed tight. There is a bar on Main Deck right in the center, which obstructs traffic flow. Some of the dEcor is eclectic, at best. While the elevator doors are designed with beautiful metal designs, the interiors are modern with strange colors and the areas in front of the elevator also had a mixture of classic and modern styles. b. Dining Room The dining room is very attractive. Get a table near a window; part of the dining room is windowless. The service was wonderful, as it usually is on HAL. I did my best to learn some basic phrases in Indonesian and Tagolog, showing the wait staff interest in their culture. c. Spa/Gym While I didn't use the spa, I did use the gym every day. It's the not the biggest and is missing cross-training machines, which I prefer. Nearly half of the gym floor was taken up with exercise classes, which did not often take place. d. Cabins Nicely decorated, though the art work was a bit strange. There was plenty of 'secret' storage space. I discovered midway through the cruise there were drawers under the cushion portion of the couch, and on the last day realized that there were very large drawers under the bed. The bathroom was attractive and offered sufficient room. The amenities were plentiful and of high quality. e. Activities/Shows I participated in many trivia contests, although I was disappointed that many occurred during late "main" seating dinner. I would suggest having them very late 10:30, or before late seating. The shows were much better than I expected. The house is large, but there are many poor sight lines. I always have trouble with canned singing on cruise ships, but the dancing was excellent. 3. Food a. Breakfast - We ate most meals in the dining room, planning our day, so that we gave ourselves enough time to enjoy it. Nearly everything that was offered in the Lido buffet was offered in the dining room. b. Lunch - This we had to take in the Lido, since we were off the ship during lunch hours. I was impressed with fact that there was an Asian station, which stayed open throughout the afternoon. There was usually a vegetarian meal. Occasionally, we ordered sandwiches in the room when we returned from touring. They were tasty and presented with class. c. High Tea - One of the highlights of the day. Between trips to the gym, we indulged on pastries and scones with clotted cream at high tea. The service was white glove and a very professional string quartet entertained. d. Dinner - We took this in the dining room each night, except when we stayed in Santorini for sunset. (On that night, there was a barbeque buffet poolside. We returned at 9:15 and it seemed disorganized and sloppy.) Dinner was always presented with style and was prepared and plated well. I usually had 2 appetizers, since portions were small and some were just wonderful! Kudos to the Head Chef for having an abundance of mango an papaya selections. I couldn't get these in the Caribbean!! Not being a meat eater, I cannot speak to those dishes, but I can tell you the fish was excellent, particularly the sea bream and Dover Sole. 4. Ports of Call. -- I must preface all ports by saying there was a heatwave. It was 100o or higher many days and touring was just tiring. I carried liters of water with me and still looked like I just ran a marathon. a. Dubrovnik - This was one of the highlights of the cruise. We shared a taxi from the ship to the city walls. I think it was 5 or 10 Euros for the cab. Cab drivers will try to sell you tours. That's your call. We walked the entire city walls. Well worth it—the highlight of the city. We visited churches and synagogues in the city and stopped for a beer (a daily ritual). b. Corfu - The weakest port. We walked to town. Big mistake (well, I got lost!). We should have taken a cab. (HAL had shuttle bus service, but it was always more than sharing a cab.) Corfu had little to offer. We stopped for a Greek (Turkish) coffee and beer and visited St. Spyridon church, paying respects to the saint and icons. A priest blessed all who saw the crypt. c. Katakolon - I had been here before, but didn't go to Olympia. We found a well air-conditioned new train that goes from Katakolon to Olympia for 1 Euro (yes ONE euro). The ship did not mention this. We found some other cruise passengers who joined us. We visited the Museum in Olympia, before seeing the ruins. The museum is well worth it; those on the tour who did not see the museum were disappointed. d. Santorini - We took the donkeys up the mountain. Faster (and smellier) than the cable car, whose line seemed to wrap around the island). Hint: go after 12 pm, most people have made the assent by then. We enjoyed the shopping and tiny streets. We found some churches and took tons of pictures. We stopped for a beer (surprised), high above the harbor. 3 cruise ships were in. We returned to the ship at 1pm and came back to Santorini (tendered) at 7pm for sunset and another drink. Do this—all the visitors do e. Athens - We walked to the Metro (mistake—take the #845 bus) and then took the Metro directly to Monastiraki, where we shopped, visited the Agora and Temple of Hepheastion. We had been to the Acropolis, so we skipped it this time. Besides, it was 8 bi-zillion degrees. Again, we stopped for a cold local beer. (Beer note: I'm a dark beer drinker. It's very hard to find any dark beers in the Med and on the ship, there are NONE for sale.) f. Kusadasi - we enjoyed shopping in the city. I bought a 14k ring and some cheap souvenirs. Everything is walkable. We found the mosque and visited it. A local showed us the proper way to wash our feet. We took a shore excursion to Ephesus - the only shore excursion we took. We really enjoyed it, even with the extreme heat. It's really spectacular g. Messina - We really wanted to go to Taormina (having been there before) and would have taken the train, but the ship departed at 2pm. Therefore, we walked around the city, visiting 5 churches. The most fascinating (and we found it by accident) was a monastery where we saw the preserved body of a female saint. (I'm sorry; I cannot remember her name). We found a way up to pay respects, high above the alter. h. Rome - We stayed in Rome one night before the cruise, and again, one night after the cruise. On the first day, we saw (via bus and Metro) all of the major sites, except for the Vatican Museum (line too long). As tired as we were, on the return to Rome, we took a train to Assisi for a quick 3 hour visit. The train ride was worth it; Assisi is truly unique. Our hotel in Rome was the Diocleziano, near the train station. Well worth the $120 euros. We could walk to and from the train station. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
We sailed on the Westerdam this last July 2007. It was FABULOUS!! Embarkation was smooth and easy, very organized. Once we got on the ship which was early, we went right up to the Vista dining room and had lunch. The food was very good and ... Read More
We sailed on the Westerdam this last July 2007. It was FABULOUS!! Embarkation was smooth and easy, very organized. Once we got on the ship which was early, we went right up to the Vista dining room and had lunch. The food was very good and plentiful. By about 1 PM our room was ready. We were in a deluxe veranda stateroom. It had a balcony but no plexi glass, which was fine. We just stood up and looked out to see everything. The ship left Civitavecchia port at around 6PM. We went to dinner that night and the food was just outstanding in the main dining room. We had the 8PM seating which is really the best one to be at. After a long day in the ports, it was nice to come back and relax and shower before having to go to dinner. The service again was outstanding....they couldn't do enough for us. The dining room is clean, new, and lovely. A very nice and classy group of people on this ship also. We traveled with our two teenagers and they enjoyed it very much. The Ports: Monte Carlo: We got the half day tour to Nice and Eze. First they took us around on a bus all over Monte Carlo, then we went to Eze and Nice. Went to the flower market at Nice and it was really beautiful.....I highly recommend that. After the tour, we walked up to the Palace and saw Princess Graces grave, where she was married and all that. We even saw Prince Albert drive by in his Bentley! What a thrill! Florence: Florence was just wonderful! We took the bus in to Florence where they just dropped us off for the day. What a wonderful city! We ate gelato, went to see the statue of "David", and just walked all over the city...had lunch in a cafe. I highly recommend this. Barcelona: We did not book a tour, we just took a city bus from the port to the city and then walked all along the "Gothic Quarter". This area is only a couple streets to the right of "Las Ramblas Blvd." It is much better, not as touristy, has much better food and sangrias. We bought tickets for the "hop on hop off" bus and rode all over the city which was great, got to see a lot, even went right by the "Sagrada de Familia". You can get off there if you want and go tour it, but there was a huge line so we didn't. Then we got off the bus and walked up "Las Ramblas". It is very touristy and busy and we stopped for another Sangria and some appetizers, but the food and such aren't nearly as good there. Mallorca: We did not get a tour here either. We just took a taxi from the port to the beach and sat on the beach all day and swam. Right across the street is places to shop and eat. We ate spanish "paella" at a restaurant that overlooks the beach there. What a view! Then we took a taxi back to the ship. Tunisia: We actually did not get off the ship here. We were very tired from all the touring, and thought this would be a good time to stay on board. Several people who got off the ship said it was just "OK". They are much more aggressive here, like trying to get you to come into their shops and buy something. No one felt unsafe, it was just something that we as americans are not used to, that's all. Sicily: We took the half day tour to Cefalu. And I highly recommend this. Cefalu was probably one of my most favorite places. Its a really neat seaside town, about an hour out of Palermo. Busy, but not super touristy. Great little shops, cafes and the best gelato we found...homemade! Try the Melon...it's fabulous! Sicily is beautiful! Then we went back to the ship for a rest, then we walked back over to Palermo. It's literally right across the street from where the ship is docked. We went in and did some shopping and had a nice sicilian lunch at a sidestreet cafe of olives, pasta, eggplant....and some great beer! Naples: We took the all day tour that stopped in Sorrento and then drove us all the way around the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento was really a neat busy town. We bought handmade wood boxes in a shop there. Then the drive to Amalfi took us thru Positano and all along the coast. It's very windy and up high right next to the cliff.....so if this doesn't bother you, then it's just beautiful! When you look below, you can see some yachts that the rich and famous come here to vacation on, and the town of Positano is just like a postcard...really beautiful! Then we stopped in the town of Amalfi for about an hour. What a beautiful place! Kind of reminded me of an italian "Rodeo drive". Had some iced cappuccino and gelato there. Then we drove on around to Salerno and then back to the ship. Was just lovely! After that we docked back in Civitavecchia. Then we spent 3 days in Rome which was fabulous! I really have nothing bad to say about the Westerdam or this whole cruise. The service was great, the shore excursions were planned and organized just perfect. On the "at sea" days, we would go to "high tea" or go to the spa. The spa services are quite expensive, so if you don't want to splurge, then I wouldn't do it. The shows were great. They had comedy one time, they had an illusionist another time. Disembarkation again was very smooth and no problem. We had a great time and can't wait to go on the Westerdam or any other Holland America Line cruise ship again. Well worth every penny! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Background There were five of us in family myself, wife, (40's) and three kids ages 19, 14, and 7. We traveled with our friends from the US that included a Mom and 3 kids 15 - 12. Third cruise all with Holland America. Pre Cruise ... Read More
Background There were five of us in family myself, wife, (40's) and three kids ages 19, 14, and 7. We traveled with our friends from the US that included a Mom and 3 kids 15 - 12. Third cruise all with Holland America. Pre Cruise Accommodation. Stayed at Hotel Mediterraneo in Civitavecchia and it was good, if a little pricey I thought for what you got, I would definitely venture that the room prices vary depending on cruise ship arrival and departures. The Hotel itself is ideally located on the sea front, and 200yds to the train station and port shuttle in either direction, i.e. on exit turn left for train, turn right to port. At the port entrance there is a free shuttle bus to your ship. Trains to Rome Termini every 30-40 mins up until 11.20pm about €9 return, journey time varies from 55 to 70 mins Embarkation. I did not file on line check in, so I had to queue a little, but all in all a breeze. We were on the ship on the day of departure at 12.30pm and in the room immediately so relaxed until our 6.30pm sail away. The Ship. Cabin We had two inside cabins which was a first for us (i.e. no balcony) and they were spacious and very comfortable. Benny the steward was excellent, which pretty much sums up all the crew aboard the Westerdam. Restaurants Bars and Food. Cannot say enough about the service, food, it was par excellence, and I just do not know how so many meals are prepared to that standard every day on that ship. On one of the nights there was a dessert extravaganza at the Lido pool and we're talking sinful calories but I've never witnessed anything so amazing as the culinary display before me that night. The bars and lounges were also good with me being my usual adventuresome self and only ever having a Heineken, and never tempted venture to the cocktails at all. One silly idea though was the farewell dinner was 3 days before our cruise ended!! Please I'm not even thinking of leaving yet! Casino. Still a casino virgin, not my scene at all but I do like to see how it's done, and have to say some of the croupiers have the patience of Joab dealing with some of the more belligerent punters at the table. Entertainment. I went to two only shows all week, a comedian and cockney magician / comedian both were excellent, and I had tears flowing down my cheeks. Did stop by the piano bar some nights and it was good, I do need to mention the resident band who appeared every night in the Crows nest and at sail aways, the lead singer had a voice from heaven and truly seduced you with her voice. Public Areas. This ship is beautiful, really no more to add. You never feel you are on a vessel that carries 1,800 passengers; it is intimate and yet spacious enough for comfort. The art collection is stunning and tasteful. The dEcor throughout the vessel is eclectic and maybe not everyone's choice but this passenger found it very refreshing. Kids club, teen clubs. 7 year old did join and made friends and the staff were attentive, but he did not have the staying power and preferred meeting the new buddies during the day and hanging out and swimming in the pool. The other two kids made no effort or preference to join so no point in me offering a review, safe to say they met kids their own age and had a ball. Ports of Call Monte Carlo. Ship docked in port, we walked to the cathedral where Princess Grace is buried and took a tourist train around the sights Casino, Royal Palace, Grand Prix circuit, Aquarium all excellent and a beautiful city. My daughter took a trip in a Ferrari around the F1 circuit costing €45 and was her highlight of the trip. Livorno. Booked the on shore excursion through HAL here, and had a long day in Florence and Pisa, with lunch included. As the weather was very hot it probably was not for younger kids but for the older ones (us incl.) with a basics of Art history appreciation it was excellent. I will say this though VERY expensive. I would prepare myself a bit better if going again, and train and taxi the trip, which would save a huge amount of money. But all in all excellent. Barcelona. Ship docked in port €3 shuttle bus to Columbus monument where we bought 5 tickets for open top bus tour. Saw all the sights over the 4 - 5 hours and good value for money. Lunch in Hard Rock Cafe was good value. Gaudi's work was stunning. If you have a yearning to see the 120,000 seat Nou Camp (largest stadium in Europe, home of FC Barcelona soccer team) take my advise and avoid, it's really disappointing and not worth the money. But we all felt, including my soccer mad sons that we had done that, seen that (Stadium that is)but never to return. Barcelona city was beautiful. Palma Majorca. As we have been to Majorca many times we did not get off the ship here. I would recommend the Caves of Drac if you venture here. Mind your purse and wallet in Palma. La Goullet Tunisia Our second Holland America shore excursion to Cartage Roman ruins. Not as expensive as the Florence / Pisa but take my advise and grab a cab. Fraction of the cost and is worth seeing, it is very much a different port of call to most typical cruise stops and for that alone I thought it worthwhile and interesting. The street traders do not hassle you as much as in Morocco, or as much as the tour guide who was excellent warned us. Palermo Sicily Transport strike on this day in Palermo which resulted in traffic chaos, we had opted for open bus top tour which we waited for at a bus stop for about an hour, no show, so we returned to point of purchase and got our €70 back, we were luckier than some other passengers who did not get their money back, not a HAL issue just the independent on-shore tour bus company . We then did a deal with a taxi for all the sights including the beautiful bay of Mondello for €85 (don't be afraid to haggle). Word of caution...the Catacombs in Cistercian abbey in Palermo is not for the sensitive and younger ones. I could not go in there and those of my group who did regretted it so be warned. Naples. Just had to see Pompeii so again bartered with a taxicab in the port and he drove us there and waited (or arrived back 2.5hrs later) and showed us the Sorrento coast all for €100 not bad. Again it was very hot that day so 7 year old was dragging a bit. Rome. Disembarkation again a breeze Got train to termini in Rome €4.5 per person. Stayed in Hotel Raffello near the Piazza Republica. Check in staff / person was rude and abrupt but accommodation was good overall. We did the Vatican and Sistine Chapel that day, incredible but a lot of walking and again very hot and too much for kids. Overall. This was the vacation of my life so far, everything was great, particularly the ship's staff who I think ARE what make Holland America great. As we reluctantly got off this beautiful ship a fellow passenger in the elevator wished us a safe trip home, we of course returned the compliment and wished her safe journey home too, to which she replied "oh I'm not goin home yet I'm stayin on for another 10 days he he" Lucky her. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
My family just returned from the June 9, 2007 sailing of the Westerdam in the western Mediterranean. There were a total of nine of us on the cruise--my wife and I, my brother and his wife, my brother's three children (ages 21, 15 and ... Read More
My family just returned from the June 9, 2007 sailing of the Westerdam in the western Mediterranean. There were a total of nine of us on the cruise--my wife and I, my brother and his wife, my brother's three children (ages 21, 15 and 12), one other niece (age 21) and my mother. Overall, the trip was wonderful. My wife and I had been on six previous cruises (five with Holland America and one with Royal Caribbean) and found the Westerdam to be the most logically laid out ship, particularly given its size. Pre-cruise: We flew Delta through Atlanta to Rome, arriving the Wednesday before our Saturday embarkation in order to enjoy Rome before the cruise. We booked four rooms at the Hotel Manfredi, a block or so from the Spanish Steps on the Via Margutta. The Manfredi is a small hotel on the third floor of a palazzo in a prime location. Rates included a continental breakfast (very good) and clean, comfortable rooms. We reserved three superior rooms and a junior suite for three in order to accommodate the nine of us as we had read reports that the regular rooms were somewhat cramped. The rooms were nice, well air conditioned and were exactly what we were looking for in the price range. Aside from the terrific, central location, the other benefit to the hotel was the friendly and helpful front desk staff. They were always available to give directions, arrange transportation and provide recommendations for restaurants. Following their recommendations we enjoyed great meals that were also affordable. While in Rome we visited the Borghese Museum, the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, the Mouth of Truth, Pantheon, Piazza Navonna and the Trevi Fountain (all on our own). In addition, on Friday we had a private driver reserved from Driverinrome.com, Remo and Daniele Melaragno's company. Remo himself guided us that day. On a previous Mediterranean cruise in 2003 we had used Remo on tours in Livorno and Naples and felt fortunate to experience his unique knowledge and humor in his home town! We had planned to spend the morning in the catacombs, have lunch and then be dropped off for a trip through the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter's in the late afternoon. However, because the Vatican Museum had been closed on Thursday and President Bush was visiting the Pope on Saturday, the lines at the Vatican Museum were astronomical. Sensing our disappointment at missing an opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel, Remo worked his magic during lunch and was able to get us added to an existing tour already scheduled that afternoon. By the time lunch was over we were dropped off outside the Museum and were added to the group without delay. As this was the first time in Europe for my brother and his family, I was so happy they were able to experience the Vatican. Embarkation: Saturday after a lunch at McDonald's by the Spanish Steps (the teenagers could only handle so much fine dining) we were picked up by Driver-in-Rome for our transfer to the Westerdam. We arrived at about 2:30 PM to absolutely no lines and the embarkation was fast and efficient. The Westerdam: Our previous Holland America cruises were aboard the Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Prinsendam and Zaandam so this was our first experience with the larger vista class ships. Although we understood the ship to be at capacity, it never felt crowded and other than by the pool at lunch time, we never had trouble finding a place at which all nine of us could sit together. Service: The service on board was up to the standards we have come to expect. Our dining stewards Putra and Danaan worked very hard but always with a smile and time for a short conversation. Our wine steward Maila would often stop by after the initial crush of filling orders in her section to see how our day had been or to talk about her family. We find these times to be some of the nicest memories and what keeps us coming back to Holland America. One of the front desk staff, Rea Apole, was very helpful as we had a mix up regarding the laundry service (my fault) which was quickly rectified as well as some small paperwork issues that were handled by her very efficiently. People usually only go to the front desk when there is a problem and it amazes me how well the staff does in handling any and all types of problems in such a courteous and professional manner. Finally, while the service was very good throughout the ship, I particularly enjoyed the casino staff. It is a talent to make losing money fun, and Marevic, Raquel and Errol have raised that talent to an art form! Staterooms: We had five cabins on the Upper Promenade deck, category VD close to the forward elevators. The balconies were nice (my wife enjoys going out and looking at the stars just before bed), and the cabins themselves spacious for two people. The location close to the elevators created a central meeting point but there was never any hallway noise that we heard from the room. My brother and his wife had neighbors who would play their television at a high volume such that it could be heard in their room, but that is not a design flaw regarding the ship, and it wasn't irritating enough to get others involved. The beds were comfortable, the water pressure in the shower was fine, and our room was always refreshed when we left. One positive change was a note in our room indicating that fresh fruit was available for the room but that we should indicate what type we liked and then the room steward would bring that and keep it replenished. There is so much food available on board that we have never eaten the fruit left in our room so it was nice not to have it sit there for ten days going to waste. Food: Universally good, and with such a wide range of ages and tastes, our group tried everything. We like that the portion sizes are not super-sized, but rather more realistic and healthy, and the presentation in the dining room is beautiful. There were two formal nights and one 'formal optional' with the rest of the dinners casual. There were more suits than tuxes on the formal nights (2/3 to 1/3), but everyone looked good and appeared to have a good time. We had one meal in the Pinnacle Grill (great steak, nice wine selection) but otherwise took all our dinners in the main dining room. Ship Layout: The new Explorations Cafe/Library and Internet Center integrated as part of the Crow's Nest Lounge was a brilliant design move. The Crow's Nest attracts a more sedate crowd to begin with, and having the books and internet on that level creates a destination for relaxing and enjoying the views as you drink a Latte and catch up on email. Every time we were up there people were accessing the space. Although we did not do much shopping on board, having the halls flow through the shops was really very nice. Finally, having the Casino directly outside the Vista Show Lounge made for lots of activity as each show let out. In addition, we accessed the Spa (Pedicures, Facials and Hairstyling for the women, Massages and the Gym for the men), The Lido, Piano and Ocean bars for relaxing, the Vista Lounge for the entertainment and the Lido for breakfast and lunch. All were nice and consistent with our other cruises. Ports of Call: This was a ten day cruise with stops in Monaco, Livorno, Barcelona, Tunisia, Malta, Palermo and Naples. Monaco: We tendered in Monaco and decided to tour on our own. We walked along a bit of the Grand Prix circuit, then took the elevators up to the train station and caught a short bus ride (6 euros for the nine of us) to Monte Carlo. We did not go inside, but spent some time sightseeing, had an ice cream break, then took another bus ride over to the Royal Palace. There we walked through the park, shopped, saw the church where Grace Kelly is buried and had beer before heading back to the ship. Monaco is a pretty port and is easily manageable in a few hours. Livorno: We again used Driver-in-Rome to take us to Pisa (we had reserved tickets to climb the tower first thing in the morning) and then drove to Florence for the rest of the day. Pisa was beautiful and peaceful at 8:30 AM before the crush of tourists. When we were getting ready to leave it was already filling up. Since it was a Monday, the museums were closed so we were unable to access them, opting instead to see the Duomo, shop on the Ponte Vecchio, have a nice lunch and then visit Santa Croce to see the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli and to do a bit more shopping. After a brief stop at a scenic overlook above Florence, it was back to the ship. Barcelona: We had reserved Jose Soler from Pepitotours.com to take us on a full day tour of Barcelona. What a fantastic experience! Jose met us at 9:00 AM and took us directly to see the Sagrada Familia (the Gaudi designed church still under construction 100 years after it was started). This is a must see in Barcelona. Afterwards, we dropped the nieces and nephew at the beach and proceeded to the Gothic Quarter for a 45 minute walking tour. Then it was time for an early Tapas lunch. We ate at a restaurant just at the top of Las Ramblas and had wonderful sangria and an assortment of small dishes recommended by Jose, who graciously joined us for lunch. I would move to Barcelona on the basis of that meal alone, it was that good. While we were eating, Jose sent his driver to pick up the kids at the beach and made sure they got sandwiches before re-joining the tour. After lunch we visited Park Guell (another Gaudi designed site), the Olympic stadium and finally Montserrat for a beautiful view of Barcelona. Tunisia: We took the ships tour of Carthage and Sido Bou Said in this port. We were excited to be in Africa, but there is not much left of Carthage and Tunisia is a few years away from developing the infrastructure to be a really interesting stop on a cruise such as this. Malta: We took another Holland America tour that included a cruise around the harbor in small traditional boats and a walking tour around the streets of Valletta's old town. The Malta harbor is really beautiful and the scenic cruise was relaxing. Our guide for the walking portion of the tour was excellent and took tremendous pride in her country. My only complaint about this tour was that Holland America booked too many people for one guide to effectively handle on a walking tour with no amplification for her voice. Palermo: Our last Holland America tour was the Mysteries of Palermo. This tour included a visit to a Norman Palace, the catacombs of the capuchin monks (with thousands of mummified bodies literally on display) and some church now used for concerts. We may have just picked the wrong tour, but this was the worst of all of our stops on the cruise. Holland America had four buses doing this tour, all leaving within minutes of each other and all hitting each site at the same time. This was especially problematic in the Norman Palace where there was not enough room for one group to move about effectively. What should have been a fifteen minute stop on the tour took an hour and a half, with the majority of the time spent waiting for the group ahead of us to move to the next room. For a cruise company that gets so much else right, I was surprised they would have had such poor planning regarding this tour. The catacombs were interesting but the final church felt very much like time filler so that the tour would take the allotted four hours. In reality, there was probably about an hour and a half of content in this four hour tour. Naples: Our last port was Naples and we had again arranged with Driver-in-Rome for a private guide and driver. We were off the ship at 8:00 AM and were met by our guide Santiago and driver Massimo. Our first stop was Pompeii. My wife and I had been to Pompeii twice before (both times using a private guide) but Santiago far surpassed either of the previous experiences in both his knowledge and passion for the subject. After Pompeii we drove to Sorrento for some shopping in that beautiful city and then on to Positano for a lunch at Constantino's, high up on the hill overlooking the town. Constantino's owner, Luigi, personally served us at a long table set next to the open windows with breathtaking views and a cool breeze. Our lunch was served family style and included fresh anchovies, bruschetta, a caprese salad, two pastas, fresh grilled swordfish, plenty of wine, dessert, limoncello and espresso. It was too much, but possibly some of the best food on a trip that was brimming with excellent meals. After our late lunch we drove back to Naples to board the ship for our last night. Disembarkation: We had a private transfer to the airport and were off the ship by 8:30 AM the next morning for the ride to the airport. Disembarkation was again a smooth process, but it was running a little later than anticipated so I was glad that our flight was not scheduled until 12:45. At the airport the lines were extremely long, but we hired porters to carry our luggage and they managed to get us through the check in process very quickly. The flight home was uneventful and after two weeks away we were happy to get home and back to work and our normal routine. Summary: The Westerdam is a great ship, Holland America's people continue to be something special and the Mediterranean may be one of the best itineraries if you are an ancient history buff. We particularly loved this itinerary because it embarked from Rome, a city that you cannot do justice to as a port stop and this allowed us the ability to incorporate a pre-cruise stay in this eternal city. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Westerdam Cruise Review 10 Day MEDITERRANEAN ENCHANTMENT We sailed on June 9th, 2007 Group of 5 - Ages 29 - 44 J Class Cabin - Main Deck Booked Online and Phone We traveled with 5 members of our group all long times friends with a wide ... Read More
Westerdam Cruise Review 10 Day MEDITERRANEAN ENCHANTMENT We sailed on June 9th, 2007 Group of 5 - Ages 29 - 44 J Class Cabin - Main Deck Booked Online and Phone We traveled with 5 members of our group all long times friends with a wide ranges of ages. We are adventuresome and are city dwellers. We flew from Chicago to JFK then on to Rome on American Airlines. Arrived in Rome in the early morning the day before the cruise. Took a train from the Airport to the main Termmi station (10 Euro's) Walked about 4 blocks to our hotel. We stayed at a small hotel and rooming house called Ares Rooms near the Termmi station. Small but, worked for one night. And about 40 euro each. Just remember that 5 of us in one room, one bathroom one shower. Thank goodness we are all friends. Next morning after some breakfast and quick sightseeing were off on the Termmi station to get onboard our train to the port of Civitavecchia. This was a wonderful train ride, you got to see lots of the city and countryside along the way, and it was only 7 euros each. (Note - its very crowed and used by locals, if you have a lot of luggage and not used to riding on crowed commuter trains don't' try this. Take a rented Car.) Upon arriving in Civitavecchia main station, cabs and taxis were everywhere. About 15 euros for a van load to get to the ship. Takes about 10 min to get to the Holland America embarking area. Once arrived the checking process was 10 min. the best I have ever seen any cruise line. It pays to do all your online Pre-Check in stuff in advance. All we had to do was show ID's and the credit card and away we went. After we drooped off our stuff in our stateroom we heading for a quick bite and a refreshing cocktail out on deck. After this is back to our rooms for a quick nap before the Mandatory life boat drill at 430pm before departure at 6pm. It's not the best part of the trip people but, it might save your live. The Ship- The Cabins- The cabins are nice on the Westerdam. We had 3 people in our room so we booked a larger inside stateroom. J1019. Wow about 200 sq ft of comfort. The room was nice a calm with blue, tan, and brown accents. Our room had the standard amenities two twin beds that convert to a queen-size bed, bathroom with shower, minibar, TV, in room movies, telephone, and data port. Even with the pull out bed for the 3rd person there were still lots of room to move about the cabin. This was a J class cabin on the main deck. We really enjoyed his location, a few steps from the elevators for easy access to the Vista Show Lounge and access to the upper decks of the pool and explorations lounge which we spent about of our times. This location also came in handy for excursion tour days, when you had to meet in the Vista Lounge, less then 50 steps and you are there. Vista Dining Room is one beautiful room, worthy of the excellent meals served there. A grand stairway cuts through the center of the room, linking upper and lower levels. The upper level has an intimate feeling. The ceiling is glass, muted-multi colored morning glory style ceiling fixtures, which cast a serene rainbow glow. Fine Rosenthal China and sparkling stemware on crisp white table linens lay in wait for you. All the meals here were fantastic. From the rack of lamb to the lobster, this place was completely satisfying to the pallet. The Lido Restaurant - with its pool and terrace on one side and the ocean all around this is a wonderful place, there is no match for the extensive menu, such as carved meats, fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, pastas, pizza station and salads. And as always, impeccable service provided by the attentive, yet unobtrusive staff which is never far away. And who doesn't like ice cream and pizza 18 hours everyday. The Crows Nest- The forward upper lounge area... A nice bar area with wonderful seating in a relaxed atmosphere, entertainment varied between a piano player and a house band, nice area for dancing. Nice for an after dinner drink and to mix and mingle. Explorations Cafe - A grand coffee house environment where you can browse through one of the best selections of books, check out DVDs for cabin viewing, play board games or simply read the morning paper. The coffee drinks were extra, but, if you are a city dweller, $2 bucks for a cappuccino is no big deal. (Note cappuccino's and espressos are free in the dinning room with dinner). Our group spent a number of evening relaxing in this lounge. I think we are bringing the games Yatzzee and Sorry back. We seemed to attract a crowd nightly when we played. Entertainment and Fun The Pools - Westerdam has two pools: The Lido Pool and a smaller adult aft pool, both popular for sunning, swimming, and napping. The aft pool is surrounded by a teak deck and has two adjoining whirlpools, while the Lido area has three whirlpools and a composite deck that's soft and cool to bare feet. The alt pool at one time was for adults only, but on this past trip, I did not see any signage declaring this to be true. But after 7pm most evening this area of the ship was quiet and a wonderful place to have a late night dip under the stars. Northern Lights Nightclub- Well, a lot can said for what people call a nightclub- It reminded me a Holiday Inn lounge of the 70's with a disco ball. I think if the cruise lines would let the DJ's be DJ's and let them do their thing, the music programming would be better. YMCA twice in a 2 hour period, kids lets get real. (And no it wasn't 70's Night) I realize they are aiming at a general 25- 55 year old Market, but there are other venues for that. Let the 30- something's dance. Vista Show Lounge - There was a different show every night. And ranges from Magicians, to vocal artists to Las Vegas style productions. All were nicely done and enjoyable. One Note - Ms. Alfreda Gerald was one of the best Vocal Performers I have seen in a long time. Great soulful voice, she made for a wonderful evening. Well done floor shows by the house dancers. Casino - Nice casino, if you are used to Vegas, Look away, Look far away. But, if ya just want to feel like Vegas for a few hours, then jump right on in. Lots of slots, a few table games and a few tournaments during the cruise. Older crowd in the early evening, a bit younger in the late night hours. Nice room. Shore excursions - We took several of the tour excursions that Holland America offered. They had it was a nice choice of tours include something for everyone's ability or age. As I can not walk for long periods of time, the staff helped pick up tours that would best work with my abilities and take in account for everyone in our party. (Note- on the tour information that is listed from Holland America most are marked difficult. Check with the Tour Desk, most of them are listed that way because most of Europe is not wheelchair friendly). If you can walk most tours are okay for you. The Highlights Tour of Tunis and the Tour of Pompeii were standouts offered by Holland America. The Ports of Call- Rome - So much can be said about Rome. Is the capital city of Italy and of the Lazio region, as well as the country's largest and most populous areas, with more than 2 million residents? We arrived in Rome a day before the cruise to experience all that is Rome. We took a tour of the Coliseum which was wonderful; it's truly amazing once you see it in person. Just break taking. If you have time, just spend an afternoon wondering around. It is amazing what you will find off the beaten path. If you are urban and city savvy, take a local train to the end of the line and back for a real view of the city. Costs about 8 euros each way. Beware of Pickpockets near the train stations and big attractions. Always use a traveler's wallet. Florence- Livorno is the port city to Florence and Pisa, the gateway to Tuscany. We took the shuttle bus into Florence for a look around this famous city. Wonderful, the best-known site and crowning architectural jewel of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo. The magnificent dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. This was jaw dropping and a must see when in Florence. We had a wonderful Coffee Break here. (Note- the tour buses can only come within a few miles of city limits - so there is a 10 min walk from the bus to your tour meeting area.) COMFORTABLE SHOES A MUST Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. It is the northernmost African country and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. This was very cool. This was the most exciting experience for me. We docked in La Goulette just outside Tunis the Capital city in Tunisia. The city center is a cultural mix of English, French and Arabic speaking people. Beware of many of the customs in this part of the world. For most women, no shoulders and knees can be shown. Its best to take a cruise ship excursion here, unless you are familiar with Middle Eastern culture. The Holland America tour" highlights" tour is wonderful about 4 hours and gives you just enough time to spark your interests from the comfort of a tour bus, with a few stops for pictures. Malta is wonderful and I would love to visit again. This trip was unplanned, since the Westerdam was due to call at Palma de Majorca, and Malta was substituted port at the last minute. We got up early to see us sail into the long inlet to the inner harbor, passing ancient buildings built into limestone cliffs, a city and a sight unlike no other. Valletta is an awesome sight by sea. The people are wonderful and really love there country. It is something I will always remember. Naples is one heck of place, more Italian than Rome, really. Dogs barked and played, running in and out of the shops dockside. Ferries constantly arriving and leaving the port. The place was intoxicating. The tour with Holland America was great. The Tour of Pompeii. This was truly wonderful, I suggested it to anyone, but, remember do as they say bring lots of water and wear a hat, it can get hot and little or no shade once you enter the grounds of Pompeii. The Staff The Staff- Every one was great, and always a smile from everyone. One note- the assistant cruise director - Jeffery went above the call of duty to help us plan out actives for our group. Also Jeffery always stopped us in the hall to say hello and ask if we needed anything. This makes the Holland America Line top notch and we will travel her again. Check Out was flawless and easy. Our flight home was tiresome, but, slept most of the way. The layover in London was 3 hours locked in a room with 200 other travelers. Not Fun. In conclusion, We had a good time this trip. Holland American and the staff of the Westerdam are awesome. The ship and staff are some of the best in the industry. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
My husband and I are back from our 10 day eastern Med cruise on the Westerdam. We are in our mid-40s and this was our 8th cruise. Our early cruise experiences were with HAL and this was the first time back in 5 years after trying out other ... Read More
My husband and I are back from our 10 day eastern Med cruise on the Westerdam. We are in our mid-40s and this was our 8th cruise. Our early cruise experiences were with HAL and this was the first time back in 5 years after trying out other lines (Princess, RCCL and German based Aida). We flew from Germany to the small Ciampino Airport which caters to european charters and discount airlines. Transfer per Taxi to our hotel was 55€. They charge 30€ up to the Aurillian Wall and the taxi meter goes on for the rest of the trip. The driving in Rome is nerve racking, they don't stay in lanes! It is just one big high-speed merge along the roads. I was glad to arrive safely! Pre-Cruise We stayed in Rome 3 days pre-cruise in the Sofitel Hotel, a bit expensive (250€-/night) but in a good location near the Via Veneto with a wonderful quiet room. We did the hop-on hop-off bus to orient ourselves on the first day. We then used the Metro with a day pass (4€/person) for the rest of our sightseeing. We also used a taxi at the end of a long day touring. We found it easiest to hail taxis close to a bus stop. After the bus pulls out the taxi can pull in easily. We didn't see taxi stands any place other than the train station Termini. I wanted to visit at least one museum so DH and I walked up to the Bourghese Gallery. I was at their web-site pre-cruise to verify opening times. We got there later in the day hoping to avoid crowds and got a big surprise. You need reservations to visit the Gallery! They could fit us in on Thursday at 3pm. Unfortunately we would be in Dubrovnic on Thursday. Tip: Make your reservation for the Bourghese Gallery online in advance! Another Tip: The Coliseum is open til sunset, so visit it after 5 pm and have it (practically) to yourselves. (You do not need a reservation here!) Earlier in the day the ticket line was verrrrry long. We had a private transfer to Civitavecchia with Romana Limo for 125€. They weren't the cheapest but were prompt answering my e-mails. Service was excellent, I would use them again. Embarkation Pre-boarding begins at 11 am. We arrived at the pier at noon and were onboard in the Lido having lunch at 12:15. It was the fastest check-in that we have ever experienced. The captain made an announcement shortly after 1:00 pm that the cabins were ready. We had SS Stateroom 8082 (upgraded from a SZ guarantee). It was a good size with a large balcony. The bed was very comfortable and the linens were ultra soft. We loved the pillow combination (three different kinds to mix and match). The balcony had two lounge chairs with footrests and a table with two chairs large enough for dining. We had breakfast there almost every morning. Simply wonderful! Sea Day I love a sea day at the beginning of a cruise. We got to know the ship and were able to start touring relaxed. We cruised past Stromboli Volcano while enjoying breakfast on our balcony. What a way to vacation!!!! Dubrovnic We used the HAL Shuttel (5$/each way) that dropped us off in front of the Pile Gate. Right inside the gate to the left are the stairs to walk the wall. You could pay in euro or dollar (8€ or 10$? I think) and rent a narrative for a few euros/dollars more. The stairs are steep with little or no railing. The views from the wall are impressive. Watch out for your children!!!! There are many spots where the drop is steep with no railing at all! There are a few places along the way where cold drinks are sold. We went half-way around the city wall then went down into the town (the rented Narrative was collected at the foot of the stairs). We visited the aquarium which was small but cool and quiet making it a nice break. From there we wandered through the old town back towards Pile Gate. We had lunch in one of the many restaurants. They accepted euro and dollar almost everywhere but gave us change in local currency. Corfu We did the ships tour to the Achillion Palace. The palace was nice but very crowded. We left the group and walked through the palace on our own then went out to enjoy the gardens. The gardens are definitely the highlight of the visit. There are shops outside of the palace near the busses with drinks, postcards and souvenirs. The bus brought us into Corfu Town where the group went to visit a church. We wandered throughout the streets, had lunch and enjoyed the atmosphere. We ordered an appetizer plate and a carafe of local wine so we would be able to try the local specialties. We were disappointed to get a mixture of deep fried fish, meats and cheese with a few cucumbers and tomatoes on the side. It was good but not what we were looking for. The wine was nice. We met at the bus at a pre-arranged time to go back to the ship. About half of the group stayed in town. There were lots of taxis to go back to the ship on. We spoke to fellow cruisers that afternoon who did the Villa tour with a garden lunch. They loved the tour and they said that the luncheon was memorable. Katakolon We did the ships excursion to the ancient Olympia Site with a short visit to the museum. We had a wonderful guide who really made the site and its history come alive. He took us through the site as if we were participants of the games and showed us how a typical “day in the life” was back then. When we arrived back in Katakolon we walked down the (short) street that went along the harbor. There were lots of shops and restaurants to choose from. We ordered an appetizer plate again hoping to get a different combo. Alas, it was the same thing! Lots of deep fried sardines and calamare, a few meats and cheese (deep fried) with cucumber and tomato on the side. The quality was better than in Corfu Town but again it wasn’t what we were looking for. Live and learn…. We have a few more greek ports ahead of us to try the local cuisine! Santorini I had been looking forward to Santorini. We made an early stop for all bus tours to disembark. The busses had to climb a very steep cliff, switch-backing along the way. I had to close my eyes and pray we would make it safely to the top. Of course every bus made it safely but it is not for the faint of heart. Oia was very nice, probably a lot nicer when the bus tourists are gone. We saw a lot of fellow cruisers getting off the local bus but it was standing room only. There were 3 other cruise ships anchored on that day so the public transportation was much in demand. I was glad that we decided to take the ships tour instead of doing it on our own. The streets in Oia are very narrow and the crowds massive. Our bus took us back to Fira where we were given tickets for the cable car. We walked around the charming streets but were again overwhelmed by the masses of tourists. We went to a local restaurant on a back street to try yet again the local greek cuisine. We ordered Suvlaki and a carafe of the local wine. Lunch was very nice. Our tablemates told us that evening at dinner that they rented a scooter for 15€/day and went to Oia. They told us it would have been better to rent the Quad (four wheel scooter), it cost a little more but would have been safer and more comfortable. Our other tablemates did the hot spring / volcano crater tour and were disappointed. It was very difficult climbing to the crater and to get to the hot springs, they had to jump overboard into deep water and swim to the springs. Consult the shore excursion staff before booking that one. Athens We were told the evening before that there would be seven ships in port. When the shore excursion guide tells you to expect crowds they are not kidding! We booked the full day tour of Posidons Temple, lunch and the Acropolis. After driving over an hour to get there, Posidons’s Temple was disappointing, just a small ruin site, a few columns. The stop was just over an hour, half of which I spent waiting to use the rest room. We walked up to the temple then back to the shop. We drove another hour back to Athens along the same route and went to a large hotel’s banquet room for lunch. 6 Busses of HAL tourist joined us for a very nice buffet lunch. After lunch, we drove on to the Acropolis. The walk from the bus station to the top of the Acropolis was steep. Our guide took us up a few levels then stopped to narrate. The ruins are impressive, the architecture fascinating. The temples of the Acropolis are a site to see and worth every step of the way! The bus went directly after the Acropolis back to the ship. Looking back, I would not recommend taking the time to visit Posidon’s Temple. The time would probably have been better spent in Athens. Kasudasi / Ephesus We booked a private tour with Ekol Tours. The private tour for the two of us was less expensive than the ships tour. The guide and driver met us on time where we drove first to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis then on to Ephesus. The ruins of Ephesus were the highlight of the entire cruise! There are not just a few stones piled up but an entire city! We went to the Terrace houses on the site, do not miss going in there!!!! Fascinating! From the public toilets on to the local house of ill repute continuing to the Library and the theater. The tour went downhill after Ephesus. Our guide told us we would stop at his friends place for a snack and refreshment. His friend was a carpet salesman. I told him right away that we were not interested in buying a carpet. We were shown how the carpets are made and given a delicious snack and cold drink. Then two men started rolling out the carpets. They must have rolled out 20 of them while the salesman kept telling us how the poor women in the villages have only these crafts to make their livelihood. Then he went on about what a great investment the carpets are. In a few years you won’t be able to get carpets of this quality……Get me out of here!!!!! We went back to Kasudasi port where we were to leave our guide. We paid ($119 + tip) and thought it was over until the guide brought us over to a jewelry shop to what seemed to be a pre-arranged visit. Two salespersons started fawning over us bringing tea and pulling out jewels for us to look at. We were not interested but they would not listen! The salesman started talking prices and we kept saying no thank-you. He went down in price we still said no thankyou. We finished our tea, thanked them and left. We went on to a leathershop close by. DH just wanted to look and see but that is not possible in the turkish bazaar. We saw many beautiful well priced leather jackets but were not interested in buying. We left that shop and took a few steps and were dragged into another leather shop! He must have seen us leave the first shop without a bag and kept saying that it was now his turn to show us his jackets! Okay, we were on vacation and tried to just go with the flow. We looked at his jackets. Very nice, well-priced (the price dropped 50% while we kept saying no thankyou) and we then tried to leave. The salesperson followed us, his boss accosted us un the stairs asking why we didn’t buy anything, he could make a better price!!! Help, get me out of here!!! We went straight back to the ship. That afternoon and evening we met many fellow cruisers who had the same experiences with carpet salesmen and bazaar harassment. So, if you go to a turkish bazaar be aware that any interest you show in their wares is an invitation to bargain with the shopkeeper. It did not seem possible to just browse. If you are interested in buying you can easily find great leathergoods, jewels, gold and of course, carpets. Know your prices and value of the goods beforehand and bargain away! Sea day We slept in and relaxed. I was disappointed that HAL did not offer any Edu-tainment courses or lectures. I had taken a Photo-Shop editing course and enjoyed investment info lecture on a Princess cruise and was hoping to find similar things here. We watched a few movies that we had missed in the theaters and had a nice day anyway. Messina Sicily We did the ships tour of Taormina with the Greco-Roman Theater. The town was nice, it was great to be able to browse in the shops! We had great views of Mount Etna from the town square area. Disembarkation They began calling colors/numbers a little late but by 7.30 everyone was back on time. We had room service breakfast in the stateroom (the balcony was being prepared for the next cruise) and waited to be called. We had the latest Disembarkation called (9am) but were called at (last call) 8.30am. Our transfer with Romana Limos (125€ port/airport) was waiting for us and we got to the airport with time to spare. Last notes The Westerdam is a beautiful ship, the layout took us a few days to master but was fine. The new Explorers Café with the internet lounge were very nice. Internet was (as on every ship I have sailed on) very slow. It took 5 minutes to load a secured site, sending or receiving e-mails with attachments took just as long. The food in the dining room was very good. There was always something to tempt me. It was served well. We only used the Lido a few times. The set up with a Deli, Pasta, Pizza, Tacos , Burgers, Chinese or warm meal areas was well done. The food there was okay, I just do not care for buffets. As mentioned above, we had room service for breakfast almost every morning. It arrived early and as ordered most mornings. The shows were okay, the highlight being an australian pianist who was fantastic. We spent a lot of time in our stateroom just relaxing. The Greek Isles are beautiful and worth visiting. Temperatures (early June) were comfortable at around 80-85°F for all of our morning tours. This itinerary was the right combination of sightseeing and relaxation for us. We enjoyed the cruise with HAL and will cruise with them again. Happy cruising everyone! Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
I don't know what ship the other TA reviewers traveled on, but the Westerdam didn't match those reviews. We found the staff to be exemplary, the ports were very good (Casablanca being the exception, but it's a third-world ... Read More
I don't know what ship the other TA reviewers traveled on, but the Westerdam didn't match those reviews. We found the staff to be exemplary, the ports were very good (Casablanca being the exception, but it's a third-world country, so what did we expect?), the food was good without being overly filling, and the ship was immaculate. This was our first HAL cruise. We've done RCCL a few times before (including an abbreviated cruise on the Monarch in Dec. 1998), and the Big Red Boat a loooong time ago. Of the 1800 passengers, we were probably among the youngest, being in our mid 40's. This made for a nice, quiet cruise. Exactly what we were looking for. This was a Big Band cruise where we were serenaded by the Nick Ross Orchestra throughout. We had five days at sea between Funchal (absolutely beautiful port) and St. Maarten (our favorite Caribbean island). Only one night at sea did the ship see movement, but there were 18-27 foot seas that night. The rest of the time, it was smooth as glass. Embarkation was a breeze -- the easiest we've ever experienced. Debarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was a zoo, but only AFTER we got off the ship. We liked that we could wait in our cabin for our number to be called, rather than milling about in a common area. The staff was extremely accommodating, on board activities (cooking school, dance instruction, even computer classes) were better than expected. Entertainment was good. We were privileged to see the last performance of a show cast that had been together for nearly a year. Yes. We'd sail her again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
Summary. This was a fantastic voyage on a first class ship. Embarkation. The port in Civitevecchia is an industrial port. The HAL terminal was a series of tents. These were very well organized with air-conditioning and lots of places to ... Read More
Summary. This was a fantastic voyage on a first class ship. Embarkation. The port in Civitevecchia is an industrial port. The HAL terminal was a series of tents. These were very well organized with air-conditioning and lots of places to sit. We arrived at about 1:30 pm, having caught the train from Rome. Check-in was smooth, efficient and completed in about half an hour. The Ship. The ship is beautiful. Even though she is very modern, she retains many nautical features such as teak decks, wrap around promenade, wooden doors and lots of varnished railings. The public rooms are mostly on an intimate scale, with nooks and crannies everywhere. It was very easy to find a quiet place to sit, even though the ship was pretty full. The artwork was amazing. We were still finding new pieces to enjoy at the end of the voyage. The fresh flowers everywhere were a nice touch. There were many interesting arrangements and they seemed to be changed regularly. The Cabin. We were in cabin 4174, an Aft VA verandah. The cabin and verandah were huge compared to a regular VA cabin. This cabin is about 6 inches narrower than a regular cabin. This was noticeable in the bathroom/closet area. This didnt worry us too much, as there was a lot of extra length in the living area, which more than compensated. The verandah was very large with a full lounger, arm chair and two regular chairs. There is noticeable vibration in this cabin, especially when coming into port, or when the ship is running at high speed (above 20 knots). We became accustomed to it within a day, so we didnt consider it a negative. We did have to take some care on the verandah as there was some soot from the exhaust from time to time. There was no problem with being overlooked on the verandah  we simply didnt look up! The Food. Discussing food on ships is fraught with danger, but here goes. We thought the food on this voyage was amongst the best weve had at sea, both in the dining room and the Lido. (cant comment on Pinnacle - we didnt want to miss a meal in the dining room). This ship seems to cater for varied tastes. Even though you could have beef at every meal if you wanted, there were many alternative choices to keep the eclectic eater happy. (even an Asian styled breakfast in the Lido which was very good). The Dutch/Indonesian influence was evident in several of the menus. My only negative comment about the food is the amount of salt used in its preparation; it was way too much. Its easy to add salt at the table, but you cant take it out. The Service. The service on board was by far the best weve had at sea. Everyone was friendly and helpful at all times. Our room steward and waiter/assistant waiter were all excellent. The bar staff were friendly, but not pushy. The ship seemed very clean. Entertainment. Well, it is a ship! I cant say we saw too many shows, but the ones we did see were okay. The musicians performing around the ship were competent. This was a big band cruise with the Nick Ross Orchestra from the UK. They were really good, and seemed to be performing all the time. They did shows in the Vista Lounge, sets before and after dinner in the Crows Nest, and lunchtime shows by the pool. Ports of Call. Gibraltar Good. Took a tour by mini bus to the top of the rock. Cadiz Lovely town. Went by train to Seville  beautiful Casablanca An acquired taste. Bought a leather jacket in the Medina  bargain Madeira Just beautiful  full day tour by mini van. St Maarten Under the weather  missed it! Half Moon Cay Nice way to finish the cruise. Took a Hobie Cat out for an hour. Disembarkation We had late disembarkation as we were transferring to Celebrity Summit for a Panama Canal cruise. We stayed in the cabin until the designated time. The ship was deserted by the time we left (10:15), and we breezed through immigration and were off the ship in about 15 minutes. Epilogue. Well, this was our first HAL cruise. We were very impressed and rate it 9.5 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
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 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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