8 Rome (Civitavecchia) to Europe - Western Mediterranean Holland America Westerdam Cruise Reviews

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
The MS Westerdam October 21 - November 12 Western Mediterranean Cruise was as different as any Holland as any Cruise I have been on. (Which now is twelve) This was my fortieth cruise overall.We embarked from Civitavecchia after three days ... Read More
The MS Westerdam October 21 - November 12 Western Mediterranean Cruise was as different as any Holland as any Cruise I have been on. (Which now is twelve) This was my fortieth cruise overall.We embarked from Civitavecchia after three days in Rome. The ports of call were as follows: Livorno, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon and Funchal Madeira. I won't dwell on the ports as everyone's perception of a destination is completely different. I enjoyed them all and some were repeats and Malaga, Cartagena, Livorno and Madeira were new to me. I enjoyed Funchal the most as we were there overnight and the island is just simply stunning.In my opinion HAL has been downgraded in several ways. The first thing I noticed was laundry was four days instead of next day service as advertised. I travel in the SA Class as I am used to getting one day service and therefore bring fewer clothes. When I complained I was given a lecture by my cabin steward (twice) stating they were understaffed and I should not expect the kind of service I am used to. I certainly am not used to this kind of disrespect from the crew and I was rather amazed.The next thing lacking was entertainment. In the Crow's Nest, for instance, they had for the entire eighteen days one singer from eight until nine and that was it. No HAL Cats or anything else. There was some entertainment in the Ocean Bar and the Queen's Lounge but the quality was poor. The shows were typical cruise fare and generally were terrible.On a positive note, the food was good, the Spa was great and the ship impeccably clean. I had lunch with the Captain one day and he was a jolly fellow, though quite serious.The ship seemed very understaffed and lines in the Lido were long. Also there was an outbreak of the Norwalk Virus during the cruise which slowed things down around the ship with their prevention methods.The seven Sea days from Funchal to Fort Lauderdale were dreadfully boring as there was little offered to the passengers during the day other than normal cruise ship fodder such as bingo and trivia games.Embarkation and disembarkation in all ports was efficient. We tendered in Monte Carlo and that was smooth as well.Another point of concern is now HAL has changed their Mariner recognition codes. I am now level three, yet no pin was awarded. I was told it will be mailed to me. We were given a lunch, but no personal recognition was given to long time passengers as in the past.I have to say this was the first time I was happy to leave the ship. Usually I can't get enough. My future plans will have to be reevaluated regarding cruising. One last issue. My travel agent sent me a bottle of Scotch for my cabin. It never arrived. I contacted the Cellar Master, a Erik Van Kampen, and he assured me credit would be issue to my account. This did not happen. I will be looking at upgrading to Silver seas or Seabourn as I feel I was on a Carnival cruise on this last one.If you have any questions please contact me at peterc6@bellsouth.net.Peter CFairhope, AL Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
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
This was our 20th cruise/8th with Holland America. Embarkation was a breeze - absolutely no waiting. We took a van from Rome and cost was about 160 euro for 8 people. Westerdam is impressive - large for Holland America. The ship was ... Read More
This was our 20th cruise/8th with Holland America. Embarkation was a breeze - absolutely no waiting. We took a van from Rome and cost was about 160 euro for 8 people. Westerdam is impressive - large for Holland America. The ship was immaculate - staff always cleaning the railings, carpets, hallways. The ship layout was good with most public areas on decks 2 and 3. The casino was quite busy every night, and offered lots of slots, roulette, Black Jack, 3 card poker, Let it Ride, Caribbean Poker and even Texas Hold-em. We spent lots of time in the piano bar - Kory the Piano man was excellent and not to be missed! We saw several shows - thoroughly enjoyed the magician and comedian. Service onboard was excellent - staff always friendly and outgoing. My only negative observation - we never saw the cruise director. Rebecca (I believe that was her name) made periodic announcements but was never to be seen around the ship. Not that we missed her, but information seemed lacking regarding onboard activities. The gift shop area on Deck 3 was very nice and organized - more like walking through a department store - excellent design. The gym facility was ok - nothing special, and the sauna was quite small - room for maybe three. Seems unusual for such a large ship. The food (both dining room and Lido buffet) was average - nothing special. This was a disappointment as Holland America has always been a cut above the rest. The steaks were small and tough - not what you would expect. The dining room staff and wine stewards (Zuleman and Ana) were exceptional - always friendly and inviting! Ports of Call - Monte Carlo - beautiful and a must see. We spent the entire day exploring. Lots of people watching. It's probably the cleanest place on earth - nothing out of place. The public bus system cost 1 euro and was a great was to travel from one end of town to the other. The Palace (on the hill) is not to be missed. There's an old city there with lots of shops and restaurants. Pisa/Florence - We had arranged for a private van for the day to tour Pisa, the Tuscany countryside and Florence. This was a great day - lots to see. Pisa is only about 20 minutes from where the ship docked, and was great to see - it really does lean. Tours are available about every 30 minutes to climb the tower. Florence was beautiful with lots to see and do. David is a must - simple amazing. Lots of shopping opportunities. Word of caution - keep your wallet and purse close at hand - lots of thieves - one in our group had their backpack (with wallet and passports) stolen out of our van - they had distracted our driver. Barcelona - a great European city - only wish we were there overnight. The open roof double decker bus is the way to go - you get headsets for a narrative tour as your drive around the city. Lots to see. Beautiful architecture. Las Ramblas is main street - lots of shops and things to see - street vendors galore. We took a cab from the cruise terminal to the foot of Las Ramblas - about 8 euro. Palma de Mallorca - fabulous - definitely a place I could live. A small but cosmopolitan Spanish city. Beautiful harbor area that rivals Monte Carlo for yachts. Great shopping in the old town area. We took cab from the cruise terminal (don't wait for the bus) and it dropped us in the old town - about 10 euros. We spent about 4 hours wondering through the old town area, then took a 15 minute cab ride to a nearby beach resort area. Great beach for the kids - water was warm and calm. Lots of water activities nearby - jet skis, parasailing etc. Tunis - interesting - definitely worth seeing. We hired a van to take us to the old town (Medina) area. The guide stayed with us the entire time - important as I don't think you would want to wonder around on your own - very easy to get lost. Good shopping opportunities for perfume (they make their own). The driver then took us to the other side of town Carthage. This is where some ruins are (not many) but the area is much more upscale with shopping. Palermo/Sicily - the city is much larger than I imagined. Traffic is heavy. We spent the morning walking through Palermo - lots to see and lots of shops. In the afternoon we took the bus (line #389) 1 euro up the mountain to a very quaint town of Monreale with an incredible view of Palermo and the coast (not to be missed). There's shopping, restaurants and a wonderful Duomo - the ceiling all gold mosaic. Naples - We had arranged for a private van and guide, and spent the day touring the Amalfi Coast(Positano), Sorrento and Pompeii. All great places and not the be missed. Positano is the place you see on all the postcards - a seaside village built into the side of the mountain - fabulous. Lost of shopping and dining opportunities, and there's a sandy beach. Sorrento is a beautiful town also right on the water. Great shopping and dining. The ruins at Pompeii are not to be missed. I was amazed at how large this is - you can spend hours walking down the ancient streets, through buildings, homes. It's simply amazing how well these ruins survived. This was a great trip. Summer is hot but bearable, the food in Italy is fantastic - eat pasta wherever you go! The only downside is Europe is quite expensive - the exchange rate was about 70 euros to 100 dollars. Beers were typically 6-7 euros, simple pasta 8-10 euros. 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
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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