I will start by saying that I have never been on a cruise that I did not enjoy. We have taken over 40 cruises with 8 different lines. When I write reviews, I tell em as I sees em. We chose this cruise because it started by going to ... Read More
I will start by saying that I have never been on a cruise that I did not enjoy. We have taken over 40 cruises with 8 different lines. When I write reviews, I tell em as I sees em. We chose this cruise because it started by going to several islands in the Caribbean before entering the Panama Canal. This is very unusual and seldom done by other cruise lines. We had booked two southern Caribbean cruises in the past but both were cancelled by us or the cruise line and this was the first time we were to see any islands in the southern part of the Caribbean. Those stops and seeing the new additions to the Panama Canal encouraged us to select this particular cruise. After entering Gatun Lake, the ship made a detour to see the new lock that will take larger ships into the lake.
This cruise started on a sour note because the fare for our cabin was reduced by $1,000 per person just after we made our final payment. I called our travel planner at Holland America to see what kind of adjustment they would make to our fare and was told that they would not do anything except offering us an upgraded cabin. Of course, if we took the upgrade, we would have to give up the booking bonus we got when we booked the cruise. The booking bonus was $200 per person onboard credit and two dinners at the specialty restaurants onboard. The upgrade was not in the location we wanted and the cabin offered was not that much better than ours, so we chose not to make the change. However, I was very surprised at Holland America’s attitude, since we have never had a problem getting price adjustments, refunds or onboard credit on any of the other lines with which we have sailed.
We chose a cabin in the forward location on the Upper Veranda deck so we would have easy access to the outside deck in front of the ship when we went through the Panama Canal. We had a similar cabin location on a previous canal cruise 15 years earlier and it worked out very nicely. We could watch the TV to see when we were approaching something of interest and then go outside on the front deck to get a better look at it. That way we were not constantly in the heat of the day. Fewer and fewer ships are being built with front decks that are open to passengers, so a ship that has these decks is a good choice for a Panama Canal cruise. We were again happy that we chose this location for our cabin.
We were in cabin 6017. It was somewhat typical of a veranda cabin with a small deck outside with two chairs. The bed was very comfortable and had adequate pillows and a nice comforter. Two small night stands each had two drawers. Reading lamps were built into the headboard. There was enough storage room under the bed for our suitcases. There was no more drawer storage in the room. A vanity near the door to the deck had a frig on one side and two shelves on the other side. The shelves were inconvenient for storage and the vanity chair was in front of the door to the deck making it inconvenient to come and go when someone was sitting at the vanity. There was a small couch across from the vanity and a table in between that was an additional hindrance to veranda access. A very small TV in the corner above the vanity was impossible to see from across the room because of its size. The screen was also very dark and there did not seem to be any way to adjust the brightness. We would have enjoyed seeing some of the first run movies that were shown each day, but that was not possible due to the dark screen. Most ships on other lines have a binder in the room that lists what movies are shown on the various TV channel each day. There was nothing like this in our room. I called the front desk and was told they did not have any kind of printed listing for the movies.
Two closets were available for hanging clothes and they were adequate for the 21 day cruise. A third closet had shelves and the safe. We managed to store clothes here that would usually have been put into drawers. The bath was OK but also had limited storage space. It had a tub. We would have preferred a shower, but managed with the tub. It had a hand held shower head that worked very well and there was always plenty of hot water. Adjusting the water for the correct temperature was very easy.
The first two days we were onboard, the toilet stopped flushing each day, but the repairmen came as soon as we called and fixed the problem. It worked properly for the rest of the cruise.
The air conditioning/heating system in the cabin was a mess. The knob had to be turned all the way to the right to get heat. If it was turned about 10 degrees to the left from that point, the room turned into an ice box. There was no happy medium. We had to wear sweaters during the day or swelter in the heat. At night we snuggled under the covers to keep warm.
We had two stewards that did an excellent job of caring for our room and always responded to any need we had.
We had anytime dining and usually arrived at the restaurant between 5:30 and 6:30 for dinner. We never had to wait for a table. We always got one immediately. The staff should be commended for developing a way to do this as other lines issue buzzers to guests and they often have people waiting for long periods before getting a table. The food in the main dining room was average to good. The service was excellent and quick most of the time. We appreciated the fast service so we were able to get to the early show each night.
The dining room was open for breakfast each morning and for lunch on sea days. It was a very pleasant alternative to the lido restaurant which was always overcrowded.
The food in the lido restaurant was tasteless and usually under or overcooked. The choice was almost always poorly prepared chicken and fish and one type of low quality meat at the slicing table. The only meat that seemed properly cooked and spiced was the turkey which they had a couple of times. The only food in the lido that was good was from the Asian location. The type of food here changed daily between Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc. It was always properly cooked and spiced very nicely. On the day they had Vietnamese food it included a type of noodle that was wonderful. Unfortunately, they never had that type of noodle again.
There was an Italian station in the lido that was horrible. They always had a couple types of pasta and would prepare a sauce to order. I chose to have a white sauce and asked for onions and mushrooms to be included with it. She put a ladle of white fluid in a pan and threw in some raw onions and the mushrooms and heated it until it was lukewarm, then poured it over some noodles. It tasted like skim milk with undercooked items added. There was also a casserole dish each day with some type of pasta in a sauce with lots of cheese on top. It too was terrible. The Italian station should be avoided at all times.
One of our booking bonuses was a dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. I had a fillet mignon and my wife had halibut. Both were excellent and the service was also. The lobster bisque was wonderful and the deserts were very good. On previous cruises with other lines, we have found the specialty restaurants to serve items that were no better than those found in the main dining room. This was not the case with the Pinnacle Grill. We would definitely try that again if we ever take another Holland America cruise.
We also had dinners at the Italian Restaurant which is created out of a portion of the lido restaurant in the evening. The service was good; the food was not memorable although the portions were huge. Nothing was any better than we would have had in the main restaurant.
There was a hamburger/hot dog grill near the indoor pool on the lido deck. It was always very busy and buzzers were provided because the service was so slow. The hamburgers were so/so, but the French fries were excellent. The hog dogs with all the trimmings were also very good.
Near the grill was make-your-own taco stand with all the trimmings in open buckets which were left out all afternoon. It looked like a good place to avoid.
We had several breakfasts and a couple of dinners delivered to our room. The service was very prompt and the food was always good. After each delivery, we received a call asking if the food had been delivered on time. We were always happy with this service.
The shows were average to good. They were certainly better than many we have seen on Princess but don’t compare with Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. They had a variety of comedians, a pianist, a violin player, etc. and a few production shows. We did not attend all of them, but enjoyed most that we did attend.
I attended a couple of camera and computer classes and found them to be excellent. I probably should have gone to more, but they often did not fit into our schedule.
The trivia contests seemed to attract a lot more people than we have seen on other cruises.
On other Holland America ships, there is a movie theatre where newly released films are shown each day. The Westerdam did not have a theatre but showed the films in a night club. It did not work. The room is built in a half moon shape and the sight lines were only good for the people seated in the center of the room with a direct line to the screen. Those on the sides could not see the screen well enough to fully enjoy the films. We only attended one.
Most of the other Holland America ships we have been on have had at least one self-service laundry on each passenger deck. This ship had none. It was necessary to send four bags of laundry out during the cruise. A full bag of laundry was $20 and you could stuff as much as you could in the small bag that was provided. The service was very good. Each load was returned within 24 hours and the pants and shirts were all pressed and returned on hangers. We were very happy with this service.
ILLNESS ON BOARD
I have frequently come down with a cough and cold like symptoms on many past cruises, but I never noticed many other passengers with like problems. Not so on this cruise. I started coughing around the third day on board and LOTS of others started doing the same. Many people had far more serious symptoms like sore throats, laryngitis, and stuffed sinuses. My wife was one of those. My symptom was just the cough and it is still with me now. My wife still has all her symptoms. I have had this cough hang on for as long as two months in the past. Hopefully, it will not do the same again as it is easing off a bit now.
The ship offered email and Internet service for the entire cruise at a cost of $200. I thought this price was a bit stiff, but decided to sign up for it anyway. The service was the worst I have experienced on any ship. It took up to an hour to get connected to AOL so I could check my email. The computers were located in the library which was located in the observation room on deck 10. The librarian was the person responsible for helping people having trouble with the service, but she could not always help and was not there much of the time. During the first few days she would show up at the appointed time and then put up a sign that said she was helping out at some other location on the ship and would be back in a few minutes.
She usually did not return.
After several days of having problems, I noticed a flyer in the library that said we should “ask one of our team members to help” if we had problems with the Internet service. Unfortunately, it did not say how to find a team member. I called the front desk and the person there said I should bring my device down to their location for help. I said I could not very well bring one of their computers down to the front desk and asked how to find the “team member.” I was again asked to bring my device down to the front desk. I gave up.
The computers were set up so anyone could access the Holland America web site with or without purchasing a subscription to the Internet service. I decided to send a request to the customer service department at Holland America asking how to get faster access to AOL. Nothing happened until the next day when someone on the Westerdam left a message on our phone saying our subscription fee had been refunded. However, he did not mention that he had also cancelled our subscription. I guess he decided that action was easier than solving the Internet problem. I was not happy, but decided it was not worth pursuing any further. We went without service for the balance of the cruise.
On most cruise ships, people going on a tour are asked to assemble at a particular room in the ship. Then they are led down to the gangplank or tender when the tour is ready to start. Holland America has taken an innovative approach to assembling the tour passengers. We were told to go to exit the ship at a certain time and look for our tour bus on the pier. The first day, several hundred people crowded into the hallway near the gangplank, but the ship had not yet been cleared and we all stood in this very close environment for almost an hour past the appointed time. FINALLY a crew member said we could sit in a night club until we were called. We never were called, but noticed that the line started to move, so we got up and followed the crowd. We then began to look for our bus on the pier, but it was not there and there was nobody around to tell us where we should assemble. We finally found the line and waited again for the rest of the tour group to make their way off the ship. Holland America needs to rework their innovative procedure.
We had very good tour guides on all the tours. When we visit a new location, we usually take a sightseeing tour to get acquainted with the general area. Unfortunately the three islands we visited in the southern Caribbean had very little of interest. The primary interest of tourists is getting sun and scuba or skin diving. All the best to be seen is underwater. My disappointment was probably my own fault. I did not do enough research before deciding to visit these islands. I had visions of beautiful landscapes and green mountains similar to what is seen in the south pacific. Some photos of Caribbean islands had led me to believe that all of them would look like that. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are all flat and drab. They had nothing in common with the type of tropical islands I was expecting to see.
On the Pacific side of the canal, we visited several countries again taking general interest tours. Unfortunately, these places have little of interest other than the typical town plazas and the local cathedral. Again, the tour guides worked very hard to help us enjoy their country, but it did not work for us. The very hot weather also made us very happy to return to the air conditioned ship as soon as possible. Read Less