10 Rome (Civitavecchia) to Transatlantic 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
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
Our party consisted of two couples who had not sailed on Holland America in 20 years. When we saw the itinerary and price of this cruise we decided it was time to see how Holland America had changed. It has changed and not all for the ... Read More
Our party consisted of two couples who had not sailed on Holland America in 20 years. When we saw the itinerary and price of this cruise we decided it was time to see how Holland America had changed. It has changed and not all for the better. Holland America bills itself as an upscale line and it certainly used to be one of the more upscale lines, but it is now just a middle of pack cruise line that no should be regarded as high end. I will not review the ports of call in this review, but have posted recommendations under specific ports. This review will concentrate on the cruise itself and is pretty long. Embarkation We sailed from Rome and had airfare and transfers provided by HA. Usually, I book my own air, but the deal HA was offering was too good to pass up. Surprisingly the air schedule was very nice. FLL to ATL-- a two hour lay over and then nonstop to Rome on Delta. The flight was very nice. We arrived in Rome at 7 AM. After getting our bags we began looking for the HA rep. Finally found her, but Princess had people all over the place. The HA rep said to get our bags and meet her under the clock. We did and were then informed that we had to lug our bags out to a waiting truck in the rain. Princess was collecting all the bags inside and taking them to the truck for the passengers--much nicer. We then had to hike back inside and find out that the bus would leave in 45 minutes. Not too bad we had a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. The bus ride to the port was fine--about and hour and 20 minutes. When we got to the port we were told to go wait inside. Inside was a warehouse type building and we were told that boarding would begin at 11:30am. I understand why, but they could have provided coffee and snacks or at least have heat since they knew a ton of people would be getting there around 9 am. Once boarding began, it was quick and easy. On boarding the ship, the first thing we all noticed was that the old HA met you with a white gloved guide to your room. Not any more. There wasn't even someone to greet you or direct you to your room. We did find our room and headed off for lunch. The advertised dining room lunch for Mariner members did not exist so you had to go to the Lido for a buffet lunch. Not a problem, but it was the first of many broken promises. Room Our room was the largest and best arranged we have had on any ship. Very clean. Nice beds. Set up the way we requested and the best cabin stewards we have ever had. This was certainly up to the standard we expected from HA. Could not have been better. Public areas Very nice. The only area that was not very good was the shopping area. Strangely arranged and not much in the way of merchandise. Very clean ship. Maybe the cleanest we have sailed on. Great maintenance and they still had the wooden deck chairs with pads. Show room very nice. Facility wise, still among the best ships afloat. We really like sailing on a mid size ship. Dining Service Here was the first area we really noticed that HA has fallen way down. The dining room service was adequate to poor. Often got orders wrong and you just did not have attentive service. Not sure if anytime dining is the reason for the decline or automatic gratuities, but the service was really not very good. The Pennacle Grill, for which there is a $20 pp service charge was the poorest service we had on the ship! The Lido buffet has some nice touches, like table clothes at night, but seemed to have a real organization problem. Often ran out of coffee and plates and drinks. Many machines always seemed out of order. One person with one grill cannot keep up with grilled sandwich demands. So you have big bottlenecks in the line. Some days they had people wandering around with refills, other days not. You never knew what you should do and what they would do and DO NOT make a suggestion-- not welcome. The service in the Canaletto was much better. Food Very good-- not excellent, but very good variety and a few outstanding items. The onion soup was great. The steaks were very good. They do not have a clue how to cook a lobster. The food in the Lido, pretty much mirrored that served in the dining room. The breakfast in he Lido had anything you could want. The outside bar b q one night was not great. Could improve their pizza, but all the dishes in the Canaletto were good. Coffee is better than Princess, but still not great. Room service was prompt, but stick to cold items in the morning. Everything is cold in the morning from room service. Deck Service Very nice. Our ship was not full and so there was never a problem getting a chair and there were plenty of towels and bar service. Lots of places to sit if you did not want a deck chair. Very pleasant with the covered pool. Purser's desk This was the source of the first and maybe the biggest problem we had on board. We were suppose to receive an on board credit and some wine and soda cards. They were not in the room and when I went to check on them, with my printed receipt, they said they had no record of any credit. Well I showed them the receipt and they said they would check. Next day they said I would get nothing. I said why? They said you can't combine things with the low airfare. I said why didn't you tell us? They said contact your travel agent. So I sent an email. Travel agent said they sent the paper work in and HA was crazy that the airfare had nothing to do with the amenity package. Well to make a long story short. It took 5 days and a transatlantic phone call before the problem was resolved. HA did NOTHING to help except to tell me I should have booked directly with HA and not use a travel agent. I pointed out that their rate was $400 pp more than my travel agent. They said well you get what you pay for! Just were not helpful at all! In dealing with minor things they were fine. On Board Services Internet is a joke. Because HA won't buy more band width, service can be very slow when a number of people are on. It took me 25 minutes to load the front page of the NY Times. Thank goodness it was on the free portion. Internet was pretty fast at 4 am. Can get wireless in your cabin sometimes. Just very unreliable. On board port "expert" was worthless. Could not tell us how much the hop on hop off bus was-- response to "is there an internet cafe near the ship?" Well they do have them in Spain! Lots of help. If she was not reading from her prepared script, she was worthless. Photographers were good, but $20 for a 5 x 7 was a bit high. But they did not pester you. On board cruise consultant was OK, not real deals, but not his fault. Limited hours. Shopping on board was minimal. Make sure you take your own medications, because all they have is aspirin. Library was very nice and the Explorer's Lounge is a truly nice room. Again the ship is great, just not great service. Entertainment The worst I have ever seen. The singers and dancers could do neither and were saddled with really bad production numbers. The guest entertainers were better, with The Unexpected Boys really very good. But the on board entertainment was not even good. People just stopped going to the production shows. Otherwise the activities were very limited. Seldom was there more than one activity going on at a time and the daily schedule could have been Xeroxed. Nothing changed. Same thing very day at the same time. Often a time you could not figure out. They had a good program fro helping you with your photos and using your computer to store and enhance them. Held 3 pm while in port?? Or in the middle of the dinner hour?? Cruise director was a nice young man, but organization was not his strong point and he seemed to not have much help?? He hosted almost every event! No staff. This was a 18 day cruise and I can say that a lot of books were read-- nothing else to do. There was also no place on the ship to dance unless you liked to dance to progressive jazz. If you asked for a different kind of music you got a blank stare and then they made fun of your choice. The passengers on this ship were in the 50s to 70s and might appreciate a little slow dance music. Again just not good on passenger service. Conclusion Overall a very nice ship. Very clean. Good room service. Everything else was just adequate and you could see HA cutting corners. Most of the old time HA passengers I spoke with were not happy. It is too bad, because with a little better organization and little more emphasis on pleasing the passenger rather than the bottom line, HA could be great. But it is losing ground to Princess and RCCL and Celebrity and may go the way of Home Lines and Sitmar. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
There can be little more memorable than watching large, sleek cruise ship at anchor in the clear azure water of a Caribbean inlet like Half Moon Cay. Unless it's looking up at that very ship from a tender as you make your way back ... Read More
There can be little more memorable than watching large, sleek cruise ship at anchor in the clear azure water of a Caribbean inlet like Half Moon Cay. Unless it's looking up at that very ship from a tender as you make your way back from the pier at Monaco, the city climbing the ridge behind you. Or perhaps gazing out over the tiled rooftops of a small Spanish city like Almeria at that very same ship anchored in port beyond them. The Westerdam's Journey to the New World (transatlantic) cruise in October offered all those memories and more. I am a 60-year-old single male who traveled solo on this cruise. I booked this cruise based on the itinerary not because of expectations for the cruise line or the cruise itself. My perceptions and opinions may be somewhat different from those of many considering Holland America Line (HAL), the Westerdam, or a similar itinerary and should be read as one viewpoint among the many that can be found at CruiseCritic. I have tried to touch on points not covered by other reviews rather than give my impression of ports of call and the like. As a result this is a somewhat longer review than many. Precruise visit to Rome I booked a short precruise visit to Rome and used HAL to reduce the potential for disruption and problems. If I were to do it again, I would have certainly used HAL for the air travel and transfer to the port, but not for the rest. The transfer to the hotel was poorly organized, slow, and chaotic. HAL's contractor for the transfer provided guides whose English left a lot to be desired, a problem that they compounded by providing little useful information. I believe I could easily have found a better-located hotel at a more reasonable price at this time of the year. The hotel was the Parco Dei Principi, which was a good 20-minute walk from the central part of the city. While the Villa Borghese Park separating the hotel from the city is very pleasant and great for walks (and from all appearances very safe) the streets in the park are somewhat confusing and many of them did not appear on any of the four maps that I was using. The Galleria Borghese is within walking distance. I had no difficulty getting a ticket with an almost immediate entrance time late in the afternoon there. Hotel staff were efficient, responsive, and knowledgeable. I ate dinner in the dining room the night I arrived and the staff was very accommodating, going out of their way to make a single traveler feel comfortable. The food was so-so. Many people have written reviews about visits to Rome and I will not duplicate what they have written. My only suggestions are definitely prebook a tour for the Vatican early and if you want to see the inside of the Coliseum, buy the combination ticket at Palatine Hill (allowing you to see both this fantastic ancient palace area and the Coliseum). The lines are much shorter there. The Ship The Westerdam is a relatively new ship that was refurbished earlier this year. As part of that process the Lido restaurant was expanded, which was badly needed since it is still too small to accommodate all 1800 guests on sea days. Despite the fact that the ship was just in for updating there are noticeable signs of wear. As an example, the seating outside the dining room on Deck 2 is thread bare and worn through. Carpets in many areas are a monstrous riot of reds and blues that is discordant with the crystal, prints, and statues found in various parts of the ship. HAL advertises the quality of the "art" displayed around the ship. It is true that there were no velvet bullfighter pictures in gilt frames, but beyond that I'm not sure it rises to the level of 'art'. I booked an inside cabin that was more than large enough for my needs. I didn't miss having a porthole or a verandah and in fact I found it much easier to sleep in the darkness that the interior cabin afforded. It was my plan to spend minimal time in the cabin and I elected to spend the money elsewhere (HAL cooperates with that by giving you lots of opportunities to spend, spend, spend). There was plenty of storage in terms of closets for one person, although drawer space was quite limited. I can believe that a couple or a person with more "gear" (such as make up) might find the lack of counter space a severe limitation. There were several other problems as well. The lighting is quite good in the central part of the cabin, but the configuration was such that the closets were very dark and it was often hard to find things in them, especially in a hurry. Additionally, the walls are thin and I sometimes heard the people next to me (or their television). HAL does provide toiletry items and a hair dryer; however the shampoo and body wash were quite thin and the hair conditioner was so thick that it was very difficult to get it out of the bottle. I would carry my own if these items are important. The hair dryer is mounted under the counter in the sleeping area and did not appear to be moveable. If using a hair dryer at the sink is important bring your own. The Westerdam offers a range of television programming, including a wide selection of movies. Unfortunately its not possible (or at least I didn't figure out how to) tell what movie is being shown when. Some of the channels offer ship information (weather log, navigator log, and so forth) and information about ports of call. Others are pretty much a shill for HAL products and services. More information on ship activities as well as more detailed weather reporting would be helpful. HAL talks about flat screen televisions. I didn't see any. One of the real attractions was Westerdam's exercise facility. The ship has a fairly large number of Cybex treadmills, stair steppers, a rowing machine, and weight machines as well as exercise classes (for a fee; always for a fee). Additionally there is a spa facility that offers a wide, wide range of services and packages. Incidental feed back about the spa was uniformly good. The promenade deck was a great place to walk (3 laps equals one mile) or to run, although casual walkers frequently had a problem making passing room (or understanding the courtesy involved in doing so) and were dangerous at times. Westerdam's crew was professional, efficient, and responsive; however, I didn't notice the level of personalized customer care that others comment on here. Passengers were asked to complete comment cards by Saturday morning. Services and attitude both seemed to decline after that point. Another interesting event occurred when HAL hosted an officer's reception. This event was attended by Westerdam ship's officers as well as other members of the crew (mainly those having to do with customer services). HAL provided free drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) to its personnel, but charged passengers bar rates (which are quite steep) for the same products at the reception. I find this sort of behavior outrageous. At $2.00 US for a soda and $5 to $7 dollars for an alcoholic drink like wine or a cocktail HAL can easily afford to comp attendee drinks (at least nonalcoholic ones) rather than so blatantly treat their passengers like cash cows. Passenger Characteristics HAL's reputation is generally as a refuge for the pale and frail. The passengers on this cruise fit that profile with both its benefits and detriments. There were no loud parties or packs of drunken passengers coursing through the corridors in the middle of the night. On the other hand (setting aside some very clear exceptions) a significant percentage of the passengers were slower, more muddled, and more whiny than average. There is, in addition, an incredible sense of privilege, entitlement, and superiority in certain quarters. Piano Man Kory's parody of passenger behavior entitled "Get Out of MY Way" (sung to "I did it My Way") on the last night of the cruise highlighted this unattractive behavior among some passengers. If this behavior (the presumption of privilege, not the making fun of it) irritates rather than amuses you, then you would be well off to look at other cruise line alternatives. Food Westerdam food was significantly better than I expected it to be, although it is far from gourmet. I am a diabetic and carefully watch what I eat, so I signed up for a healthy diet dinner selection; however, I found lots of diversity on the menu and decided to order from it instead. In addition to a range of dishes that varied from night-to-night plain fish, chicken, and steak alternatives were offered every day. These dishes were grilled and served with steamed vegetables. I had no problem keeping my glucose levels within target over the entire 16-day cruise. I had lunch in the dining room only one day. The food was similar in type to that offered at dinner and was quite good. I visited the dining room once for breakfast, where I asked to be seated alone as I was planning to read. After waiting for 10 minutes for service I left and went to the Lido instead. As a rule, I found, HAL tolerates single travelers rather than welcomes them and this was one example of how HAL tends to make the single traveler feel like a burden. Most of my lunches and breakfasts were eaten in the Lido. The Lido is organized as a series of buffet type stations, which helps keep the lines down, but on sea days the dining room was slow and crowded anyway. It offers healthy alternatives (baked fish and roasted meats along with healthy vegetable selections and sushi) as well as no sugar added deserts of several types. Sugar free pancake and waffle syrup is available, if you ask for it. Westerdam offers free coffee and tea at the Lido. All other drinks (including coffees in the cafes) are on a cost basis. Soda, wine, and cocktail cards are available and are convenient, but not really a bargain. Unfortunately the ship ran out of most of the better wines long before the cruise ended (even in the house pour categories). Since Westerdam operates on a cashless basis (all costs are charged to the cabin account) it is very easy to run up significant bills one soda at a time without realizing it. I checked my bill periodically to stay on top of charges and ended the cruise within budget. Entertainment I found that I enjoyed the entertainment thoroughly, much to my surprise. There were two acts that more or less fell to my expectation: a juggler and a magician. The others were much better. I especially enjoyed the oboist, the pianist (Amy Ambler, who has incredible energy) and the pianist/classical singer duo. Other aspects of the entertainment program were well attended and I think enjoyed by most passengers. There were a couple of lecturers, one of whom was excellent; the other was less so. There were many and varied classes, meetings, and lessons. Shopping The Westerdam offers a range of shops, especially selling watches and jewelry. There were continuing sales and specials that resulted in feeding frenzies of various levels of intensity. Prices are hefty and it would be wise to buy staples (motion sickness and cold pills and most types of clothes) before starting the cruise. Shore Excursions and Visits The Westerdam had an interesting itinerary as well as a five sea-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Shore Excursion Office on Board is open several hours a day. In addition there is an electronic booking kiosk that can be used anytime. We visited the following ports: Livorno/Florence Florence is a beautiful city with better prices and friendlier people than Rome. Tickets to the Uffizi and to the Accademia (home of Michelangelo's David as well as home to a Stradivarius violin) can be ordered via the Internet and will save you significant amounts of time (I used Florence Art) and doing it as early as humanly possible. I booked a couple of months out and had significant limitations on hours available. Getting into the Uffizi is time consuming and involves several lines and stops. It's well worth the effort. The Duomo and the Santa Croce church are both worth seeing. The Santa Croce houses the graves of a number of famous Florence citizens. As in Rome sidewalks are narrow and crowded in Florence. It therefore takes longer to walk anywhere than you would normally expect. Also (as in Rome) the streets are twisty and often change names from one block to another. Bring more than one map and consult them frequently. Everyone knows you are a tourist and looking at a map won't make it any worse. Florence is definitely a more refined, pleasant, cleaner, and friendly Italian city than Rome (which is, after all Rome). I will definitely visit Florence again. Monaco We tendered into Monaco, a very pleasant and well organized experience. I took the tour to Nice, Eze, and Monaco, which I thought was excellent and well run. While Eze is picturesque and lovely it is high on a hill and involves lots of walking. Marseilles I took the tour to Arles and Le Baux, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Again the tour operated smoothly and on time. Le Baux, like Nice and Eze, is a great place to buy souvenirs of Provence. I have always found French people to be incredibly warm and friendly (especially if you try to speak a little French) and the people of southern France seemed even more so. I look forward to revisiting this area in the future. Barcelona/Valencia I had a cold these two days and limited myself to short shore visits in both cities. Both Barcelona and Valencia are beautiful and clean cities (although pick pockets appear to be active in both places). I thought that Las Ramblas in Barcelona offered little beyond the very standard tourist fare. Almeria This is a small city on, I believe, the Costa Del Sol. I visited the Abacazar, a restored Moorish citadel, which is well worth the climb and the visit (and its free!). The ship docks within walking distance of most sites, which is uncommon, but Almeria offers limited alternatives for tourists. Ponta Delgada We visited Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island on a Sunday and little was open. I took a bus tour that allowed me to see much of the island, which is very lovely. The tour also visited Riberia Grande on the north coast. This is a small town with a lot of charm. Watch for the cows! Half Moon Cay Half Moon Cay is privately owned by HAL and offers many water sports as well as horse back riding (which is not so widely advertised). There are also a few souvenir shops, a replica of a Caribbean village, a dining pavilion and several bars. After five days at sea, several of them quite rough (waves in the 12 foot range) being on dry land was a wonderful experience in and of itself. Visits to Half Moon Cay are also via tender; however these tenders are based at the Cay and the process worked far less effectively than Westerdam's visit to Monaco. Waiting for the tenders on Half Moon Cay can be a debilitating experience as chairs are provided in the hot sun and the wait can be 20 minutes to half an hour (HAL staff on duty at the embarkation point are given a tent fly for shade; passengers have no cover). Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarkation was incredibly smooth and fast. I registered online and there was literally no wait in CIVITAVECCHIA. My cabin was ready by the time I boarded (about 12:30) and luggage arrived shortly thereafter. The boat drill was very well managed and provided excellent preparation for emergencies. Disembarkation was much less successful. Stewards began coming around at 7:30 trying to begin making up cabins. I felt we were herded into public rooms, where we waited until nearly 9 before disembarkation began. There was no water available and the ship was hot. The baggage area was chaotic and although luggage was sorted it was very difficult to locate (the signs weren't accurate). There reputedly were fights in the baggage area, which I can understand given the crowded conditions and the sense of entitlement some passengers held dear. While immigration and customs were well handled by the federal people there was practically no direction or assistance from HAL in boarding buses to the airport. Again, if I were to do it over I would handle that transfer myself and would probably carry my own luggage off (an option offered by HAL). Security The Westerdam is a very secure facility. All boarders are screened at entry. Safes with electronic locks are available in all cabins. The ports that we visited are well known for pickpockets. I purchased a messenger bag from Travel Smith that was very secure (zippered pockets within zippered pockets and a steel cable in the strap, which was long enough to slip over my head). I was very careful to watch the street in all of the cities that we visited and to keep my bag close to my body. I also made sure to carry only a limited amount of cash and one credit card. I had one encounter with what I believe to have been a pick pocket team in Barcelona, which I circumvented by slipping around them. In Conclusion I took this trip in order to visit the ports at which the Westerdam stopped and for the experience of sailing across the Atlantic rather than for the cruise experience itself. On that basis the ship was a delivery system for me that was cost effective (room and board are in US dollars not in far more expensive Euros) and pleasant. I would equate the "hotel" aspects of the Westerdam with those of a reasonably good hotel chain in the US. I would sail on a HAL vessel in the future if it "going my way" as it were. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
Review of European Crossing Holland America Westerdam October 4-21 Arrival and Transfers We flew from Austin to Rome via New York (JFK) on Delta Airlines. The Austin-New York leg was fine but the transoceanic flight to Rome was ... Read More
Review of European Crossing Holland America Westerdam October 4-21 Arrival and Transfers We flew from Austin to Rome via New York (JFK) on Delta Airlines. The Austin-New York leg was fine but the transoceanic flight to Rome was terrible. We flew a Boeing 767-300 in coach class. There was absolutely no leg room for anyone over five feet ten inches. We were cramped beyond belief and thus got little sleep on the flight. Our arrival at Rome's Leonardo De Vinci Airport was uneventful as all our checked baggage arrived safely. Holland America (HAL) provided for transfer to the Westerdam at the port of Civitavecchia. After a long uncomfortable flight, it took close to two hours to transport all guests to the ship. Embarkation Check-in at the ship was pleasant and efficient. We were provided our passkeys and other documents quickly and cheerfully. Our baggage arrived in our cabin within an hour or so of boarding which was very quick based on other cruises we have made. Ports of Call The Westerdam sailed from Civitavecchia and stopped in Livorno, Monte Carlo, Marseilles, Barcelona, Valencia, Almeria, and the Azores. The only complaint was that the port visits in Monte Carlo and the Azores were on Sundays and most of the shops were closed. Ship tours were informative and interesting. In some ports we chose to sightsee on our own and this worked out just fine. We did have a final stop in Half Moon Cay, a HAL island in the Bahamas. This is one stop that could have been skipped as it offered very little to guests. Accommodations We received a cabin upgrade to one with an obstructed window view mid-ships. The cabin was quite large with adequate storage space. The bath included a bathtub as well as a shower. Location on the 4th deck was perfect. During some days when the seas were a bit rough, we barely noticed the roll when in our cabin. Ship Condition The Westerdam entered the HAL fleet in 2004. The crew has done well to maintain the vessel. There were some minor issues such as jammed exterior doors and non-working sinks in public toilet areas but overall the material condition of the ship was excellent. Crew members were observed painting, scraping and polishing each and every day. Food The Westerdam food was ordinary and average for a cruise ship. The Vista dining room menu was varied but portions for many entries were very small. Many of the selections were over salted and required a substitute in some cases. Salads in the dining room were uninspiring to say the least. The Lido buffet was better than the dining room in many cases. The Lido layout facilitated diners and long lines were the exception. Desserts are the hallmark of HAL ships and the Westerdam was no exception. Desserts were varied and delicious. We also ate one meal in the Pinnacle Grill, the high-end restaurant. The steaks were outstanding but the entire meal was not worth the extra $30 a piece to eat there. I discovered several sanitation issues in the Lido. However, when I brought these to the attention of the Food and Beverage Manager, he willingly discussed them in person and promptly rectified the situation. He deserves a emphatic well-done for his customer service response. Service The Philippine and Indonesian crewmembers were simply outstanding. Food service in all dining areas was prompt, cheerful and efficient. Our waiter and assistant waiter were the best we have ever experienced in twelve years of cruising. Not only were they attentive to our needs but also they went out of their way to know our names and recognized us when they were working the buffet as well as the dining room. Our room steward was rarely visible but the room was always clean. And any requests were promptly filled. One negative was the shipboard laundry service. Clothes were cleaned, pressed and returned to us within twenty-four hours; however, HAL raised their prices by over 100% in the past six months so the service was very expensive. There were no coin-operated laundry facilities on board so guests were captive audiences. Activities The Cruise Director, Rebecca, and her staff left a lot to be desired. Except for introducing the evening entertainment, we rarely saw her about the ship. Her staff members were on occasion rude and condescending to passengers. More activities could have been planned, especially for the at-sea days. The guest lecturers were boring and dull in their presentations. The duplicate bridge instructor/host was the worse I have seen since I began cruising. Rather than host duplicate games, he ensured that he and his partner played in every game, even turning away other guests in the process. Evening Entertainment Holland America is not known for outstanding entertainment. However, this cruise was a pleasant surprise. The HAL singers and dancers were below average for cruise ships. However, the Three Tenors, David Copperfield, and Amy Abler were outstanding, and gave memorable performances. The other entertainers were very good as well. This was by far the best evening entertainment we have ever seen on a HAL ship. Fitness Center The Westerdam fitness center is barely adequate for a ship of her size. It was made worse when staff members decided to use the equipment during peak morning hours. I brought this to the attention of the Greenhouse Spa and Fitness Center Manager as well as the Office but no action was taken. To add insult to injury, staff members never wiped their equipment when finished with disinfectant wipes. Debarkation Debarkation in Fort Lauderdale was a complete farce. Many passengers had HAL transfers to either the Miami or Fort Lauderdale airports. There was mass confusion with the buses. No one seemed to be in charge and people were boarding buses based on the amount of luggage they had rather than where they stood in line. Some guests were put on a bus while their spouse was asked to board a different bus! HAL needs to review their debarkation process and institute significant improvements. Overall Assessment Overall the cruising experience on the Westerdam was positive. There were problems which I enumerated above. I have seen similar concerns with other ships and cruise lines. I felt the positives far outweighed the negative. We would do a few things different to mitigate some of the concerns such as taking a cab to the airport rather than rely on the HAL transfer. We plan to cruise Holland America again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
Background: This was my 3rd cruise within the past 2 years, my first on a HAL ship, my first time visiting European ports, and my first Trans-Atlantic cruise. I'm a woman in my 40's, traveled solo but had family members also on ... Read More
Background: This was my 3rd cruise within the past 2 years, my first on a HAL ship, my first time visiting European ports, and my first Trans-Atlantic cruise. I'm a woman in my 40's, traveled solo but had family members also on board, did most activities on my own. Hotel Info: We were in Rome for 5 days pre-cruise and stayed in an apartment which we found through the Bed & Breakfast Association of Rome, after reading about it on our ship's roll call board. It was clean, large, nicely furnished, in a decent neighborhood (Trastevere) and it was convenient to a train stop that took us into the central area after about a 10 minute ride. It was also very affordable compared to the price we would have paid for 3 separate hotel rooms. Communication with our hostess was a bit challenging as she spoke little English and we spoke little Italian, but we knew that would be the case for the apartment we chose. I would utilize that association again for future accommodations. I enjoyed Rome and have already decided to go back after my next cruise lands in Barcelona next spring. I found it very easy to get around the city on foot and much less time consuming, enjoyable and entertaining than to utilize the public transportation. I found most people of Rome to be pleasant and helpful. I enjoyed the food and wine, especially at the restaurants in the neighborhood we stayed in. Transportation from airport to Rome and from Rome to the Port: We arranged in advance to have a van pick us up at the airport then deliver us to our apartment, then pick us up at the apartment for travel to the Port. It went very smooth and was very affordable for 5 people and lots of luggage, at 55 euros from the airport, then 75 to the port. We used a service found on these boards. Embarkation: It was quick & easy; we had filled out our immigration information online, had our boarding passes, and were on board quickly after arriving at the Port about 11am. Lunch was being served in the Lido, cabins were ready about an hour later, followed by our luggage in about another hour. Cabin: My balcony cabin was on the 4th deck, starboard, only a few cabins back from the very front. It was large, the balcony was larger than I had expected, the storage was great and would have been suitable even if I wasn't traveling alone. The bed and bedding were very comfortable. It was nice having a bathtub. Ship: I thought the ship was beautifully and comfortably decorated. The artwork throughout was interesting and I thought it was enjoyable to look at. There were lots of public areas, inside and outside, with comfortable seating. I like to walk outside whenever possible, but I found this ship not very conducive to that. The only deck one could really walk around on easily, without a lot of obstructions, was the Promenade Deck, and the only outside stairs were between the Lido and the Observation Decks. One area I particularly did not care for was on the Lido deck, the hallway from the front elevators is narrow and goes right through the front desk for the salon and spa. The layout of that hallway was awkward, frequently overcrowded, and the staff at that desk seemed to rarely smile. Activities: The spa did have what I thought were some good deals on treatments, and the gym was nicely equipped with a fantastic view, but was too crowded many of the times I went there. The culinary demonstration area was also difficult to enjoy unless you went there way ahead of time. The in-room movie selection was good but lots of people couldn't seem to find their schedule - it's located inside the hard cover book that also includes the room service menu's and other usual hotel-type info. Shore Excursions: I didn't utilize the ship's shore excursions except for Half Moon Cay, opting instead to explore the Ports on my own. In many Ports, we had to take a shuttle bus from the ship to outside the port area and then in the reverse. This wasn't organized, and most times seemed to result in a lot of pushing and shoving, downright rude behavior by passengers, and a couple times I witnessed bouts of swearing between passengers. It was these times that I found the general crowd to be made up of people I really didn't want to be on a ship with; men who seemed to abandon all thoughts of being a gentleman (even towards the very elderly folks with special needs), and loud, pushy women who wouldn't recognize lady-like behavior if they saw it. Truly it often was a disgusting display of human behavior. I enjoyed all the ports but feel most of those are best discussed on the boards since this review is long enough as it is. However, I will say that Half Moon Cay was an island paradise. I had booked the horseback riding and swimming with the stingrays, which were both adventures I really enjoyed. Worth every dime in my opinion. The water was so nice that it was impossible to stay out of it. Dining: Personally, I much prefer anytime dining. However, I enjoyed the dining room atmosphere, our waitstaff, and I found the selection on the menu to be nicely varied. Certainly there were repetitions, but it was a 16-day cruise. The dishes considered the chef's specialties were marked as such, which I thought made it nice to try new things. I never had a bad meal. The lobster was really good, which is not always the case on a ship. I always enjoyed the soups (hot or cold selections). One thing I really liked was that I could order room service off of the dining room menu during dining room hours. I simply had to call room service to ask for a menu; they were very nice and very quick. Once they forgot my silverware, but they brought it very quickly after I called. Next day I was surprised to get a nice plate of chocolate strawberries with their apologies. Ordering off the dining room menu truly was a nice bonus because about 9 days into the cruise I developed a nasty cold so was keeping myself away from other people. Had I not been able to enjoy the dining room food, and enjoy the ocean from my private balcony, I would have been a very sad, sick, puppy. The Lido restaurant did a nice job with breakfasts and lunches, and I understand the dinners were very nicely varied, although I never had dinner there. Although the staff in the Lido seemed to be very on top of their duties, that's the other area of the cruise that I often encountered very rude behavior from fellow passengers. It was quite ordinary to have people literally trying to push their way ahead, or around, those already in line. I heard so many rude comments from other passengers about others that it was really disheartening. The rooms did get quite crowded at peak times, making it difficult to find seating especially when the weather wasn't nice enough to be outside. Disembarkation: I thought it was the nicest I've experienced yet. I felt no rush to be out of my cabin, enjoying a room service breakfast and movie before leaving my cabin around 9:15 to hang outside on the Lido deck until we were called off about 10:30. Summary: Beautiful and comfortable ship, great itinerary, very relaxing atmosphere. That said, it wasn't what I could consider a fun ship by any means, I was really turned off by the rude and generally unpleasant crowds, and I was way too young for this cruise. I had read that about HAL prior to booking, but booked because I really liked this itinerary. I don't think I'll be swayed again by an itinerary into booking with HAL anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date October 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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