45 Holland America Westerdam Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We were advised that Holland America was the only way to cruise. This is a smaller ship which was just what we wanted and the Panama Canal had been on our bucket list for some time. We extended our cruise up to Vancouver bringing it up to ... Read More
We were advised that Holland America was the only way to cruise. This is a smaller ship which was just what we wanted and the Panama Canal had been on our bucket list for some time. We extended our cruise up to Vancouver bringing it up to 19 days in total. The crew were the best we have ever encountered on any cruise line and couldn't have been more helpful and friendly. Unfortunately the ship disappointed right from embarking in Fort Lauderdale. The first thing we noticed was the rust all round the glazed areas, not just the usual mooring scrapes that all ships suffer. The floor of our veranda was rusted and pushing up the non slip surface. Hand rails in corridors were falling off, the thresholds at fire doors were sticking up and frequently caused people to trip. Sections of the decking were either rotting or the steel floor beneath was rusting away. Deck furniture had wonky arms and legs though in fairness some of them were replaced during our journey. The wash basin in our cabin was badly cracked, the shower leaked and ran out on to the floor. The silvering was fading off the mirrors. General maintenance appeared to be virtually nil, even down to simple things like faulty lighting. Wall coverings were worn and shabby. The overall appearance of the ship was of a one time grand old lady in her death throes and her owners were not prepared to spend any money on maintaining her. Virtually every passenger complained about the cold in the public areas. Passengers would sit in the stage and bar areas with pullovers on and rugs around them. The food was excellent with a very good menu and was very well cooked. Unfortunately it was always cold by the time we were served and this was exacerbated by serving on cold plates. This would have been a wonderful cruise if it had been run by anyone other than Holland America. They couldn't even be bothered to clean the glass on the observation deck so the passengers could see the Panama Canal. This was despite their being a decked access area directly below it. They ask you to tell them about your experience so they can improve it yet they don't even offer an excuse never mind correct the problem. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We took this cruise for a chance to see the Panama Canal and all it's greatness. We arrived late at night the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We checked in online so our room keys were waiting for us. The ... Read More
We took this cruise for a chance to see the Panama Canal and all it's greatness. We arrived late at night the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We checked in online so our room keys were waiting for us. The Hotel was clean and the bed was compfy! We ate breakfast and took a taxi to the ship about 11am. The was no one in line, we went to the check-in counter, they took new pictures and we received our cabin keys. We only waited about 15minutes and our number was called to board the ship. After a little walk and an elevator we were in our cabin! The ship is in great shape! The Crows nest is gone :( was only negative we found. The Illusionist and John Denver group were the best. Entertainment was great the first couple of days and then was mediocre. The Room stewards, Sea View bar servers and Main dining room stewards were the best we have encountered on HA!!! Day 4:Cartagena, Colombia, too short a visit but Cartagens is nice (Hot always) Day 5: Panama Canal Was FANTASTIC! Day 7: Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica took a coffee tour, it was really nice.Tour guide was great. Day 8: Corinto, Nicaragua. Nicaraguan Treasures: El Viejo & Chinandega Our tour guide sucked, talked politics, hardly mentioned the country side. The meum was a few artifacts in a small building. Day 9: Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. Guatemalan Rum, Aged in the Clouds; and Antigua Sightseeing Tour was nice. Tour guide was informative and nice Day 10: Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapas through the Ages: Izapa Ruins & Tapachula tour was great once again, the guide was very informative and cared about the tour. The ancient Mayan archaeological site of Izapa is allot better than some reviews say. It is from 1500BC. Day 13: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Clean and no one pushing junk. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
My husband had always wanted to cruise the Panama Canal, so this time was his choice. This was our 4th Holland America cruise and it was a decent one, as they all have been, but the overall impression was of mediocrity. The food was OK, ... Read More
My husband had always wanted to cruise the Panama Canal, so this time was his choice. This was our 4th Holland America cruise and it was a decent one, as they all have been, but the overall impression was of mediocrity. The food was OK, the room was clean, our room stewards (Made and Rosa) were excellent, the entertainment was fine, although the Mainstage area was very cold. We also had a problem with dirty glassware in the Lido - something we had never experienced before. By the end of the trip, we were checking every glass for lipstick smudges or dried orange juice! I guess I was most disappointed with the offshore excursions. The only ones worth the time and money were in Huatulco - we went to the Zapotec ruins, which were interesting, and the coffee plantation in Guatemala, also extremely interesting, plus the lunch there was delicious! (coffee mousse, anyone?) They cancelled our snorkeling excursion on Half Moon Cay - they said the weather was too rough!??? - so that was a major disappointment. The trip to the old capital city of Leon in Nicaragua was also disappointing - they coupled it with a trip to the home of the poet Ruben Dario, and we spent far too much time there and not enough time in the small but very nice art museum. I could have easily spent another half hour or more in the museum as we only got to see a small portion of the artwork. It will be a while before we take another Holland America cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
WE decided to spare Captain Mark Rowden’s blushes. The gallant Yorkshire-born skipper of the Holland America Line’s Westerdam had probably had enough after his vessel was apparently, as the late Frankie Howerd might have said, ... Read More
WE decided to spare Captain Mark Rowden’s blushes. The gallant Yorkshire-born skipper of the Holland America Line’s Westerdam had probably had enough after his vessel was apparently, as the late Frankie Howerd might have said, verily thrice whupped by the Island Princess. Yet earlier, the Island Princess had been the butt of the jokes around his own ship. One of Westerdam lecturers was rash enough to show a map, pointing out: “The Island Princess had to go all the way round South America to reach Panama Canal. Yet it was almost on their doorstep in Fort Lauderdale.” But cliche though it might be ... it is still true that he who laughs last etc. So what happened? Well, the first hint of a reprisal came on the evening of March 16 when we were advised by a letter “there will be two ships in port and we will be sharing the same narrow pier to dispatch the tours”. Followed by a list of what NOT to do. So what happened? Although the Westerdam arrived first next day, the Island Princess had thoughtfully and craftily nicked all the best parking spots in advance for their tour buses in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The net result was that our tour was dispatched 45 minutes late. The following day, on the run in to the Panama Canal, the Island Princess whipped past us like Lewis Hamilton overtaking a backmarker. This meant, of course, they were tantalisingly ahead of us all day during the passage itself. And all the while there was great honking and tooty fruiting of sirens from both sides. Don’t know enough about ship points scoring even after 20-plus cruises to judge who won that battle. They were at it again in Cartagena, Columbia, where the best someone could do in the face of taunts from the Princess vessel was a rather pathetic sign saying: “Our balconies are bigger than yours.” Which was, fortunately, true. We had sailed on the Island Princess in 2015. The morning after our departure from Cartagena was accompanied by one of those freak weather scenarios where the wind was blowing so hard that it felt as though our balcony door was permanently locked. It took a massive heave from one of our cabin stewards to force it open. The floor of the balcony was littered with bits of detritus, including a pair of knickers. That very same morning Captain Mark was giving a sort of “My Job” talk in the theatre, followed by a question and answer session. Given the proximity of our forward balcony position virtually below the bridge we wondered whether it might be prudent to ask him whether any of his crew might claim ownership of the said undergarment ... or alternately, know who the owner might be. Eventually, after a discussion, we decided to spare him any further embarrassment. The excursions themselves were generally acceptable with the exception of the first rather humble one in a very crowded and noisy Puerto Vallarta. But, annoyingly, all the guides insisted on leading from the front at a pace which would have made them genuine contenders for a 10km walk medal in the Olympics, completely ignoring the average age of their charges. We were reminded of that on the very first day when we entered the Lido Market casual dining area to be greeted by a flustered senior woman steward, busily mopping the floor with tissues and informing us: “Please be careful where you tread. A lady has just peed on the floor.” Or the couple who arrived an hour late for an excursion, blissfully unaware that the time had moved another hour foward the previous night. The ship travelled 4,301 miles from San Diego where boarding was amazingly rapid. Less than an hour after being picked up at our pre-cruise hotel we were in our cabin. Praise was slighly tempered when the ship departed an hour late without a proper explantion. The odyssey ended in Fort Lauderdale where chaos reigned supreme and we parked next to a building site. On the way we visited Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco in Mexico, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Corinto in Nicaragua, Puntarenas in Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Cartagena (Columbia) and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, where we might have created a record by catching one ferry out and the next but one back. We admit we’re not beach people and there was no wi-fi on this private Holland America island. And talking of wi-fi ... we were sent pre-cruise data with their prices. The offer of $100 for 250 minutes seemed a fair deal but when we rang the desk to book it, we were told the offer had now been withdrawn. Yes. Thank you. Other niggles: Complete confusion over departure arrangements. We were sent Pink 1 luggage tags and told our approximate departure time. It was just as well we rang the information desk to check something. They then informed us we had been sent the wrong tickets. They should have been Red 1 and new ones were duly supplied with an apology and a different departure time. Plus note: We were were allowed to stay in our cabin and have breakfast there until we got the call. Departure from the ship was amazingly fast, too. It then took an hour to clear customs and and a further hour waiting in broiling sunshine for the coach to take us to Fort Lauderdale airport. Bad one Holland America! Good points: 1.) Sya, the ship’s towel folding star, and his mate Alan were our pleasant and capable cabin stewards. Hope they were happy with their tip. 2.) The courtesy throughout the ship was impeccable. 3.) Top-class live band in B.B. King’s theatre. Fair points: 1.) Entertainment quality rather mixed although we only once used those “bummer” seats next to the aisle in the Mainstage Theatre which enable people to leave without disturbance if the show is a bummer. 2.) We always eat in the Lido-style establishments. It’s quicker and there is a wider choice. It was on the whole, though, only marginally above average in quality. 3.) As so often happens on cruise ships, the temperature was far too cold in some places, particularly the Mainstage Theatre and some of the bars. *The ship was nicknamed the “Westerdram” by the heavier whisky drinkers in Gallery Bar. Not guilty, m’lud! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We had not cruised with Holland America before so we gave it a try. The ship was quite, the bathroom was bigger than the shower rooms on other ships. There were no lectures or line dancing for my wife during days at sea which if it had of ... Read More
We had not cruised with Holland America before so we gave it a try. The ship was quite, the bathroom was bigger than the shower rooms on other ships. There were no lectures or line dancing for my wife during days at sea which if it had of rained there would not be much to do. The shows were not very good only the ventriloquist was worth seeing very funny. the food in the main restaurant in the evening was disappointing not much choice on the menu, the onion soup was disgusting. they only had one specialist coffee which was on deck 10 no coffee card. The on board shop was boring we had $300 dollar on board spend. The crew were excellent always polite and smiling. Very good embarkation/disembarkation but got us to the airport far too early 8 hour wait for our flight and 4 hour wait to book in. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This cruise represented a couple of firsts for us; it was the first time we had booked air and transfers with the cruise line, and the first time we had a verandah stateroom, both of those proved to be nice additions to the cruise ... Read More
This cruise represented a couple of firsts for us; it was the first time we had booked air and transfers with the cruise line, and the first time we had a verandah stateroom, both of those proved to be nice additions to the cruise experience. As this cruise started out of San Diego we took a risk and booked our flight for the departure day as it is only a two hour flight from home and there are a multitude of flights everyday. We had the quickest check-in experience we have ever had, perhaps because we were later in the day. It was a little odd that some of the online check-in information such as credit card info and the request for twin beds had not come through, but those things were taken care of quickly. Our stateroom was a good size for two with enough room to unpack our things, though slightly more counter space might have been nice. The verandah was more enjoyable and useful than we had anticipated. We used it as a quiet place to read and for bird watching during the day, and for stargazing at night. We were at the stern and just one deck above the Promenade. The stern of the Promenade is closed to passengers during the canal transit so it was a great advantage to have this verandah as it provided an up close rear view going through the locks. The ship has beautiful and interesting artworks throughout, I particularly loved the floor mosaic which was slightly damaged but still very beautiful, although I cannot now recall whether it was on the Promenade or Lower Promenade deck. Some new touches since the last time we sailed with Holland America that we enjoyed were: Lincoln Center Stage where there were 45 minute classical music concerts by a piano quintet five nights a week at 7:00 and 9:00 (and sometimes in the afternoon); EXC Guides, whose job is to tell you how to enjoy the port on your own, not the shopping stops or a big upsell for the shore-excursions, but facts about the country and area you are visiting and practical tips for how to get around and sights you might like to visit (some of the presentations were more helpful and informative than others); America’s Test Kitchen presentations which are a lot like watching a semi-live episodes of the show. We did not attend many of the evening shows, just the Planet Earth II in concert which was marvelous, and an Argentine group which was quite good. The food was, on the whole, excellent. We ate breakfast and lunch (when on board) in the Lido and dinner in the Dining Room each night. We had free seating and went to dinner between 5:15 and 5:45 every night which meant we never had a wait, but there were some long waits for those arriving later, particularly on gala nights. At breakfast the waits for omelets could sometimes be longish but generally not too bad and it was, as usual for Lido on every ship I have been on, often difficult to find a place to sit. At lunch there was a great variety in what was offered. The best were often the asian dishes, (the Indian food was amazing!) but they also offered some excellent vegetarian sandwiches. The taco bar was probably under-utilized and so offered a quick tasty lunch if you did not feel like standing in line for something. The burger/hot dog counter seemed to always have a huge wait, they even gave you a buzzer so you could sit while you waited, if you could find somewhere to sit. Dining room service could be slow, but the food was beautifully presented. There were a couple dishes that I did not like, but most were tasty and a few were excellent, including an amazing chocolate dessert which had a long name we had never heard of and cannot remember, so be sure to ask what something is on the menu if you don’t recognize it. For disembarkation we did not put our bags out as we only had carry-on sized luggage and we had booked an excursion and transfer (our flight was in the evening) so we were in the third group called after the expedited passengers and those who took advantage of the ships luggage direct service which transferred checked bags to the airport and checked them for you. The times were slower than expected so rather than being called at 7:45 we were called at 8:25 so we got a bit worried that we had somehow missed the call, It is the first time we have been on a ship that did not allow persons with only carry-on bags to depart whenever they wished. Puerto Vallarta Took “Two if by sea” excursion by motor Catamaran. The morning was cool and the water somewhat rough. On the way out we were given breakfast and an introduction to the area. We paused briefly at Los Arcos, small rocky islands, to see nesting Blue-footed Bobbies, Pelicans and Cormorants. We then suited up with snorkel, mask and fins for the first stop Majahuitas Cove. Our guide, a marine biologist, led the snorkeling bringing up sea creatures like urchins and sea cucumbers from the bottom for everyone to experience. Visibility was good near the rocks where we entered the water and there was a lot to see, then as we swam toward the beach where the boat tied up, reduced to almost nothing. It was a fair distance swimming and one man became exhausted and had to be towed back to the boat. The water was quite cold and the boat apparently had wet suits available, but I did not learn that until I was already in the water. There was a chance to kayak for those interested. After the water activities, brunch was sandwich fixings, including some really awesome roasted vegetables, more fruit, a macaroni salad, water and juice, and the bar was open for those so inclined. At the second stop, Yelapa we walked through town and up to a waterfall the guide went sometimes a little too quickly as some people got behind and did not get to hear some of the commentary about local plants and etc he shared along the way. It was a pretty little waterfall and a cute little town. We then had an hour on the beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas. On the way back to the ship the captain took a route further out to sea and we spotted a sea turtle, several Manta Rays, and we were very lucky to spend several minutes with Humpback Whales, a mother and baby. The crew put on a fun and rather silly lip sync show to keep us entertained when not spotting wildlife. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale ... Read More
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale restaurants, but elected not to do so since the regular food service and quality were very good. Our Wine Steward, Yohan, was exceptional and most helpful. Being that the cruising itinerary has almost 7 sea days, the entertainment and ship-board amenities have to be good. The Lincoln Center Stage quintet was excellent, and, although we did not see all the stage presentations, the few that we saw were very professionally done. Land tours were good, and the bus lines were not long, given that there were several handicap people on board. The several tour guides that we experienced all spoke with different levels of English competency, which is to be expected. All in all, they were knowledgeable and had good senses of humor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
14 of us book a cruise from our bridge club. We notified HAL we needed a table and bridge supplies and they said "no problem" Had we known they wouldn't supply anything we could have brought our own stuff. This where the bad ... Read More
14 of us book a cruise from our bridge club. We notified HAL we needed a table and bridge supplies and they said "no problem" Had we known they wouldn't supply anything we could have brought our own stuff. This where the bad started. LIES, LIES, LIES after they get you money your just screwed. At one point of the cruise at port the closed the kitchen for hot foods saying the power went out. MORE LIES. There was hot food available for people willing to pay extra. The port times were really short and to far away from most things. Best way is to buy the excursion from the ship and shop on the internet before you go. They DO guarantee price matching. It was by for the best part of the cruise. Sad to say. The entertainment was crap. A talking dummy, ventriloquist. That's the best they could do. One night they even made the crew put on a show. SAD The pool in the back of the ship often got blasted with black blobs burnt oil from the diesel engines. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
My husband and I planned this cruise a while back and looked at a lot of reviews before we booked this cruise. Our age group is between 49-54 and we thought this was a perfect cruise for us. It turned out even better than we could have ... Read More
My husband and I planned this cruise a while back and looked at a lot of reviews before we booked this cruise. Our age group is between 49-54 and we thought this was a perfect cruise for us. It turned out even better than we could have imagined. Just a piece of advice, if you are into dancing and being up late at night this cruise is NOT for you. Also if you are traveling with children of any age this cruise is NOT for you. The night life on the ship is minimal and so is the entertainment during the day. BB Kings and the Billboard have some fun evening entertainment that we enjoyed. During the day American's Test Kitchen was good but packed so get there early! I wish they would have given you a taste of what they were making. There was live music on the deck by the pool a couple of days but mostly there was music playing over a speaker. This was fine with us and where we spent most of our time. We read and people watched most days. The ship was on the smaller side and very easy to navagate. Our cabin was nice and our balcony was great! It was always kept clean by our very nice room stewarts. We did not eat in the dining room at all so I can't comment. We ate most of our meals in the Lido Market and the food was outstanding! They served the same food in the Lido Market as they did in the dining room and it was just so much easier picking out what we wanted to eat. The service on this ship was great. The bar tenders in several bars knew our names on the second day and were always helpful. The ports we visited were very interesting and the excursions were all great! Puerto Chiapas, Mexico was the only bad port. If you are going here please book an excursion because there really is nothing to do except shop at the market by the port. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We chose this cruise primarily based on timing and the beginning/end points. Less on the cruise line. Holland America met our needs for our criteria. In spite of all that we'd heard about HAL catering mostly to elderly clients, we ... Read More
We chose this cruise primarily based on timing and the beginning/end points. Less on the cruise line. Holland America met our needs for our criteria. In spite of all that we'd heard about HAL catering mostly to elderly clients, we signed up for a 15 day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego. Leaving Ft. Lauderdale, our first stop was Half Moon Cay. Overall, less touristy and was fine for the short time we were there. After 2 sea days, we hit Cartagena. We were there for a half-day. Didn't have time to really go anywhere other than a quick city tour. Honestly, not sure why we visited this port. Would have gladly traded Cartagena for a day in Panama City, Panama. The canal was everything we had heard it would be. The views were amazing and the trip transiting the canal was something we'll never forget. The crew did a nice job making folks comfortable. Seriously made the entire trip worth it. This is where the wheels started coming off. The first thing we found was the hot tub closed at 10 pm. Having dinner at 8 pm made this problematic. Wasn't much else to do after dinner so this was the logical choice for our 40/50 year-old group. There were six of us cruising so we thought we would ask for a little extension for one of the hot tubs. We were quickly told no. The staff was beyond confused when we told them their simple no wasn't good enough and we would like to escalate the issue to a higher authority. This really threw them for a loop. After a fair amount of complaining and 7 days into the cruise, the Captain firmly and finally said no. Guess he wasn't too interested in our opinion or issue. The second issue involved shipboard credits and the communication form our travel agency. It's too long and involved for this but suffice it to say, the crew was little to no help with this issue either. Overall, we found the staff beyond our cabin stewards and waiters to be pretty bored and less than concerned about pretty much anything beyond the basics. Couple that with the fact that everything other than ice water and coffee (even coffee in some areas of the ship were costly) were charged. HAL seems intent on getting every possible cent from their passengers. As I said, the crew was generally not helpful. Not sure if this is the HAL culture or a profound lack of leadership from our particular captain. The ports were a mixed bag with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala being the best by far. Chiapas, Mexico was a serious waste of time. The crew admitted there was absolutely nothing to do there. Again, not sure what we stopped there. Have to say I've taken my last cruise on Holland America Lines. Not impressed in any way. Oh,the best part of the ship was our shower was the best I've ever had on a cruise ship. This is our 8th cruise overall and was the most disappointing when it comes to the cruise line. The rep they have catering to elderly passengers is well-deserved and earned. We felt totally out of place. Should have listened to my gut! Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We chose this cruise because it went through the entire Panama Canal and ported at places we had not seen. It satisfied all those. Unlike Caribbean cruises, each and every port had different ethnic, social and landscape. We learned a ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went through the entire Panama Canal and ported at places we had not seen. It satisfied all those. Unlike Caribbean cruises, each and every port had different ethnic, social and landscape. We learned a lot about the history of the locality. We chose a variety of HAL sponsored excursions and three private tours. I highly recommend the private ones. The HAL ones were crowded and some were not staffed with adequately knowledgeable tour company staff. The highlight of the tour was transiting the Canal. We did marvel at the engineering necessary by the French and Americans to complete the task. We did NOT like that the commentary by the 'expert' was doing from the Captain's deck was not able to be heard any place but the aft deck, the Promenade Deck and the Crow's Nest. It was not transmitted to other decks or onto balconies/verandas. Since this was for sure the main reason people took this cruise, it should have been. Also noted that daily morning announcements, times to disembark or other information - including emergency ones - were not able to be heard unless you had your cabin door open. We encountered multiple incidents where information given to me by Guest Services was contradicted by information given to my husband. Also many of the GS attendants spoke with such an accent that it made understanding them and them me, difficult. I have nothing but praise for our room steward, dining room attendant and assistant attendant and maitre d. They were always anxious to please us. The wine steward was less so once we told him that we were not interested in purchasing a wine package or even a bottle. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise for the Panama Canal full transit, and the plus that the ms Westerdam was refurbished earlier this year. I read several reviews before the cruise about the refurb modernizations, mostly people missing what was no ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the Panama Canal full transit, and the plus that the ms Westerdam was refurbished earlier this year. I read several reviews before the cruise about the refurb modernizations, mostly people missing what was no longer there. One major change, and one I never saw mentioned, was the addition of 4 USB charging ports in our cabin: 2 at the desk and 1 at each night stand. Had I known, I would have left the mini-extension-cord-with-USB at home. At least I didn't need to use it - ever! The other changes to the ship's decor and style felt like an upgrade for me, also. I remember the previous HAL style from trips about her sister ship, ms Zuiderdam, and similar styles on the Eurodam and Ryndam, and while I enjoyed those ships repeatedly none of the changes felt "drastic" or "out-of-character" with Holland America's general sense of class and elegance. The public areas were gracefully appointed and comfortable. The background muzak for some areas was unpleasant but that may have only been our take on it. HAL needs to reaffirm her role by bringing the next generation into the ship and my choices may not always be the most popular or current. I'd rather adapt than see the cruise line falter and loose markets. The food was a better than last year's cruise and that was a pleasant surprise. I expect good food from HAL and am usually only mildly disappointed by a dish now and then. But the current kitchen has surpassed my expectations and on this 14 day cruise I actually was looking to try more new dishes each day rather than resort to those I had earlier in the week and thought were good. The crow's Nest Bar has changed - the coffee machines are now a permanent part of the bar but that turned out surprisingly well, since I never would bother to walk around the corner with the old layout. I read about people missing the library but really don't understand since any time I tried to find a book (since 2009) the selection was never what I expected and I always just settled for something. I was so grateful to start using a tablet when they were available to bring all the books (and more) that I want. I miss the teak loungers on the promenade deck. Those aluminum and nylon contraptions they have were not any more comfortable and far less appealing to me. But I bet the maintenance people are pleased with the lower upkeep for them.I would certainly never keep a teak lounger at home for that reason. We are not big on the shows in the mail showroom. The couple we attended were good and well visited. And the discussions we heard from others on board indication most we're pleased with what was offered. The Lincoln Center Stage was often come-early for seating, and the crowd around the piano duet only got more involved each night. The ports were different for us and while Guatemala and Nicaragua are still industrial ports, HAL does a decent job of getting you out into the countryside. One word of caution - we talked to vendors at the port, and negotiated for a tour in Corinto, Guatemala only to be told we could not pay with a credit card as we were getting into the van. The bus driver would "take us into town to an ATM where we could get cash" but that had too many red flags for us to find it acceptable. Nothing was said during any of the negotiations that the deals was for cash payment. And our concern was that once away from the port, and stuck, the price would not be the same. And again, inside the "hospitality center" that large room with the musicians and tour desks, we were initially told we could use our credit card only to have the older woman at the counter tell the clerk that no, we could only use the card "in town at an ATM" to get cash to pay. Our advice - either book with HAL or book online before you get there. Our cabin service was a good as usual, although later in the day than we expected. I feel that HAL is reducing staff to improve margins and that's unfortunate, if they have. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Let's get the rotten things out of the way first: Not just a late embarkation, but vague, smarmy excuses instead of real information. No library. At all. Except for a very few "give and takes." Beware of chocolate ... Read More
Let's get the rotten things out of the way first: Not just a late embarkation, but vague, smarmy excuses instead of real information. No library. At all. Except for a very few "give and takes." Beware of chocolate cheesecake. One version is good. The other is a layer of wet cake on top of a layer of dry cake, both approximately chocolate. Oh, dear. Probably not HAL's fault but in Puerto Quetzel, we had to take a 20 minute school bus shuttle ride to exit the port by way of the shops when another exit was two minutes away. UHT Milk. Gravy. Only the lamb gravy is any good anymore but less weight to gain. Cushions on Lido deck chairs often wet. Chairs would dry faster without them and were comfortable when we flipped away the wet cushions. Maybe skip the cushions in rainy climates if not willing to keep bringing them in when it rains. The lentil soup. I thought it was burnt. My husband said it was just bad. No running deck; it must have been replaced by the new cabins on 10. This means runners and walkers are both trying to share the deck. Rather damages a nice quiet stroll to have runners zooming up behind you and not ideal for them having to veer, slow down and dodge. They sent hundreds and hundreds of non Americans all at the SAME time to the SAME place to get our passports stamped. It was so unnecessary, tedious and thoughtless. Disembarkation wasn't great either. They were quite adamant that all expedited passengers carrying their own baggage leave within the same half hour, which was silly, officious and inefficient. This caused traffic jams and elevator waits in the terminal. Greedy things: Westerdam has a charge for the Thalassotherapy pool and the cabanas on ten. So they were never used. Hoping to collect a couple thousand dollars, HAL lost two valuable selling points to future cruisers. They have changed the internet deal. No more packages of minutes. You must buy the "all you can use" plan either for a day or for the whole trip. This makes emailing home for word on children, sick, elderly or disabled family members and friends impossible or expensive. Another disincentive to cruise with HAL. There were lots of good and wonderful things: Almost NO smoking. Only on one half of the back Lido deck. The cutlery is already on the tables, except the back Lido deck. Sometimes glasses and cups are, too. Inside the Lido, that is. Sometimes the Lido staff come around with coffee, water, juice. If they don't offer what you want, you can say that you wanted water/juice/whatever and sometimes they will bring you that. I makes life without a tray somewhat easier. And it is civilized. They actually put ice in the ice bucket in the cabin. So useful for water bottles. We have an insulated water bottle that goes into an insulated carrier that's invaluable on hot days. Sometimes they didn't jam everyone into one tight corner of the Main Dining Room for lunch or tea. Breathing space is so lovely. The Main Dining Room now has the best acoustics at sea. They haven't carved off half of one floor for suites passengers like Celebrity and they have put a sort of circular acrylic wall around the "pit"' area. This means you can talk quite softly to your dinner mate and it is just beyond wonderful. The walking deck. It goes all the way around like good walking decks should. Three laps to the mile. They didn't close it off again and again as often happens on cruises. AND there were multiple drinking fountains. A wise, courteous and delightful touch. The day we went through the canal they opened up the bow sections on decks 4,5 and 6. This really helped reduce the crowding of people wanting to see ahead. Crab cakes in MDR Persimmon, star fruit, plums and passion fruit all appeared in the Lido. Never waiting for an elevator. The waiter. Our waiter Sukirman was wonderful. Efficient, pleasant, knowledgeable. The Diabetic: The bread basket buns are yummy, so be warned. Take a room at the front of the boat like we did and you will walk at least a mile just getting to meals and back. All of the sugar free tortes are terrific. And so is the sugar free kiwi Pavlova. The rest are just ok. The ice cream area is usually closed, unmanned or lacking sugar free ice cream. When the staffer WAS there I am not convinced they understood what "sugar free" meant, and the sugar free is always grainy and frozen and melted too many times so it's no good anyway. Save the calories. Good news, though, the chocolate chip cookies are small and good. There is no sugarfree drink except black tea, coffee or water. Squeeze a lemon wedge and add sweetener for lemonade. Bring baggies from home each with a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Mix with cream and sweetener, likely three sweeteners, then top up with hot water. The waffles are often cold, not very good anyway and they dole out whipped cream by the level teaspoon. Save the calories and don't bother. The sugarfree chocolate chip muffin was messy but pretty tasty. The flourless chocolate cake is so delicious it is evil for diabetics. I ate most of it anyway and it was my one splurge. Plan to walk a few laps of the deck to burn it off. Peanut butter was easy to find and plentiful for morning protein if you don't want bacon, eggs etc. The omelettes were good, never raw in the middle. Crab and avocado were both offered as add ins. They did offer plain yoghurt that wasn't too high in sugar. I added Splenda and fruit which helped a lot. Sort of. Cottage cheese if often offered across from the beverage stations. Oddly they often sprinkle cinnamon on it. Another protein choice for breakfast after I scraped off the cinnamon. The MDR main courses are no longer too big. I skipped whatever carb they put on the plate so I could have a brown bun from the bread basket. This worked pretty well for me. I was able to eat pretty well and get lots of wholesome exercise on the Westerdam. All things considered, I would probably do Westerdam again, but I would bring more books and resign myself to it's inadeqacies in advance. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We booked this cruise just 4 weeks prior to sailing because it was the 2nd half of a back to back. We enjoyed the ports, but had been to most of them multiple times. • Ship information o The ship was is in great shape, everything ... Read More
We booked this cruise just 4 weeks prior to sailing because it was the 2nd half of a back to back. We enjoyed the ports, but had been to most of them multiple times. • Ship information o The ship was is in great shape, everything worked and all public areas were kept very clean. There are plenty of places for quiet alone time and small group board games. • Activities o I loved the Americas Test Kitchen as a man who, at 55 is just learning to cook. The demonstrations by professional chefs are fantastic. The Trivia sessions are good, as expected, some folk take it way too seriously. But the cruise director kept a tight rein on it. • Service o Everyone is very helpful and friendly. • Travel to embarkation port o Unless you are the person who needs to be 1st on the ship, wait an hour until after embarkation begins, the wait is so much shorter and the buffet is still open. Unless you have a suite, those folk go straight to the front of the line. As we were already on the ship the in Transit system was poorly organized. According to others, there was a huge delay in boarding due to the immigration checks taking longer than expected. We zoomed to the front of the line passed upset onlookers at about 3:30 or so. • Dining o We had 8 pm dining at a large table every cruise. Every time we have enjoyed our tablemates as they turn into good friends. The main dining room is spacious and well tended. The staff was very receptive to our needs and wants. The food is good to great. The selection is adequate. • Entertainment o The BB King band was excellent. Great energy and great variety of classic R&B. The shows were good. The variety was adequate and for those who take the time to review the “When and where” pamphlet everyday, keeping busy is not a problem. • Disembarkation o We walked off the ship with our luggage which saves a lot of hassle IMHO, but I get those that do not. San Diego is a great port as all the transportation options are very close bye. We chose to walk to the train station 2 blocks away and everything went smooth except for my oversized bag that Amtrak charged me $20 to carry on. • Summary Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Embarkation was smooth and seamless HAL has everything well coordinated. Our balcony cabin was the same as all signature class ships but our Room stewards were great. Matter of fact as we have come to expect with HAL the entire crew was ... Read More
Embarkation was smooth and seamless HAL has everything well coordinated. Our balcony cabin was the same as all signature class ships but our Room stewards were great. Matter of fact as we have come to expect with HAL the entire crew was excellent. Friendly beyond belief and they work so hard. The ship is scheduled for dry dock so I am hoping that the public areas get a little TLC. You can sure tell that the sea salt was winning over maintenance. Entertainment was ok nothing special an area HAL is working to improve but haven't succeeded yet. Food. Excellent best thing on HAL cruises is the food. For my dollar no other cruise line comes close but again my opinion. The food and service in the Lido and MDR is excellent. I am amazed the after one sitting our MDR team knew our names and shortly after what we liked. Shore Excursions were all done through HAL and they were all well coordinated. We do know that doing excursions on our own may be cheaper but the peace of mind that the ship will wait if a problem arrises is reassuring. Disembarkation was a bit of an experience Customs had two officers on duty so it was a very long and slow process. Friends we met on the ship spent over two hours in line. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We chose MS Westerdam for our Panama trip, decidedly for the itinerary. The number and destination of ports compared to cruise duration was exactly what we wanted. All the stops were very interesting. We booked several shore excursions, ... Read More
We chose MS Westerdam for our Panama trip, decidedly for the itinerary. The number and destination of ports compared to cruise duration was exactly what we wanted. All the stops were very interesting. We booked several shore excursions, mostly at destinations we had not previously visited. Overall the Westerdam is simliar to all other Holland America ships, however it does seem to be well worn, tired and in need of some attention to repairs. This is the only disappointing part of our trip was condition of the ship. Since our last HAL trip they have added a great salad bar which was a welcome addition. Otherwise food was good, but typical ship fare. However if you missed dinner by 8:30 your only option until 10:30 was pre-sliced pizza and pasta and no dessert option. Our room 5188 was well researched prior to booking. Deck 5 balconies are larger than other decks. The balcony is 100% covered which is good to provide shade during the day and coverage if raining. This is great for late afternoon when looking for respite from sun. Entertainment on board is very typical of cruise ships. However the B B King band was FABULOUS. Their band is truly amazing and we spent many evenings listening to band and dancing. The piano bar entertainer Damien was not very enjoyable as he tends to bang the piano rather than play and is not a very good singer. Overall service on the ship is good, however we found that the aft pool deck service could be drastically improved. During breakfast service it was difficult to find anyone to clean a table or provide coffee, during the day there was many dirty dishes and cups laying around and few people to take orders. This is also the first time on any ship that we found a couple of rude and seemingly resentful staff. We would take a Holland America cruise again if the price and itinerary was a good bargain, but HAL would not necessarily be our first choice. Puerto Vallarta -local bus to Bucerias. There is a Walmart right across from the cruise ship terminal just in case you forgot anything. Manzanillo - walked around the immediate area which has good shopping, interesting local sites. Huatulco - took local taxi to La Crucecita - $4. Back at cruise ship terminal there is a fabulous beach with a great swimming area, some watersports and on the beach restaurants with cheap beer. Guatemala - WONDERFUL took a shore excursion to Antigua which is one of the most beautiful clean cities we have visited. Spent several hours in Antigua looking at local sites and wished we had more time. Found the city to be very clean and felt comfortably safe. The site of volcanoes were amazing Nicaragua- took a shore excursion to Leon. Cathedral was interesting with beautiful views, but overall Nicaragua was very dirty and we did not venture very far from the town square as we did not feel safe. Costa Rica - beautiful, lush and very clean. Shore excursion to coffee plantation was very interesting and great trip through countrysite. Panama Canal - was much more interesting than expected. Local canal expert was on board ship for the entire transit providing details and history of the canal as we progressed. The front bow of the ship is opened and set up for viewing for the entire day. Next time I would like to read more about the history and details of the canal before cruise. Aruba - shore excursion to snorkel sites. Antilla shipwreck was beautiful with lots of fish; wreck was interesting and easy to see. second dive site was Ok but lacked variety of fish. Next time in Aruba we would most likely do similar dive but book on shore to save money. Curacao - spent most of day exploring Punda and Otrabanda. Beautiful locations, clean and we felt safe wandering around the town. Local restaurant upstairs in old fort by cruise ship terminal provided great views and excellent local beer. Jamaica - we had been advised not to venture out of cruise ship area on our own so we took an shore excursion to a local beach. This turned out to be a wise choice as outside the terminal is quite run down and mostly shanty housing. Beach was mostly clean with good facilities. Cruise ship terminal is a very unfriendly place where it seems the locals are not thrilled to have tourists there and also extremely expensive. We purchased a cup of coffee that was $5 for nothing special. Grand Cayman - our only tender site. George town was crazy busy with cruise ships but everything seemed to move along quite quickly. Since we knew ahead of time that there was going to be 6 ships in port that day we booked a shore excursion to Tiki Beach. This facility is clean and well run, however there is not much of a swimming area as there is a coral reef about 6 - 10 feet off shore. Next time I would most likely get off ship and take a taxi to a different beach club. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
The cruise was chosen because it went the whole length of the Panama Canal and we wished to visit the ports on the Pacific and in the Caribbean. To that end, we thoroughly enjoyed the climate, environment, people and places all very new ... Read More
The cruise was chosen because it went the whole length of the Panama Canal and we wished to visit the ports on the Pacific and in the Caribbean. To that end, we thoroughly enjoyed the climate, environment, people and places all very new to us. Just about all of the passengers were "seniors". Many were youthful, energetic and sharp-witted, but not all.. The Westerdam, despite being only 15 or so years old, seems tired and the forthcoming refit really needed. A/C was very dry and there very many people coughing. Not a good sign. The Vista Lounge (theatre) was smaller than i expected seating around 600 people, about a third of the 1,800 on board. Also, many seats have restricted view, so effectively reducing capacity further. The food was generally good and very good in the Vista Dining Room. The Lido self-service tended to be high in salt, sugar and fat, though the salads were first class. I suppose the casino make money but its presence saddened me. Sorry but I don;t go away for three weeks to play blackjack or a one armed bandit. There was a lot of marketing and selling which I don't recall from my last HAL cruise, but that was over 5 years ago. The service charge on drinks was a mystery, Why don't they just add 15% to the price of the drinks and display it on the menu? The supposedly duty free well known goods in the shop are cheaper here at home duty paid - though I admit many of the variations of spirits and liqueurs are export only. Excursions were well managed, though there could have been more that were cultural and educational. I realise there's a convenience and guarantee with these excursions, but they did seem to be expensive. The ship's library was not particularly comprehensive though I did find a couple of gems. The staff were first class and they delivered everything punctually, politely and courteously. Our only delays were not of HAL;s making - we spent far too long queuing at US immigration.. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We wanted to see the Panama Canal and Central America countries. This cruise not disappoint. All except the tour in Costa Rica on a boat and a train. So disappointing . On the boat thought we'd see bunches of monkeys and other wild ... Read More
We wanted to see the Panama Canal and Central America countries. This cruise not disappoint. All except the tour in Costa Rica on a boat and a train. So disappointing . On the boat thought we'd see bunches of monkeys and other wild creatures , plus many crocs. Saw th e head of a croc and no. Monkeys..only a few birds..no big deal. The train ride was hot and uncomfortable. Th e ships areas differed in ho t and freezing cold that we had to buy sweaters on ship as area going into the entertainment area was like walking into a freezer. I wish there was more information by people from the different countries to explain their country to us..before our tours. Our room stewards and our wait staff in the dining room were excellent and couldn't have been more helpful . The staff in the buffet areas were right on top of keeping the tables cleaned and couldn't have helped more with coffee, juice, etc. the people behind the food area were friendly, helpful and pleasant. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
I have to say, when we booked a cruise for 21 days we were wondering if it just might be too long!!! We had three other couples traveling with us (John and Sandy from Canada, Rich and Sandra from Calif., Marty and Lisa from Ohio and we ... Read More
I have to say, when we booked a cruise for 21 days we were wondering if it just might be too long!!! We had three other couples traveling with us (John and Sandy from Canada, Rich and Sandra from Calif., Marty and Lisa from Ohio and we are from Byrdstown, Tn.). We left from Ft. Lauderdale.............went to private beach in the Bahamas, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Caracao), then to Cartegena Columbia. We did a full transit of the Panama Canal.....then to Guatemala, Nicaragra and up the coast of Mexico (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan........) and ended up in San Diego California. After the 21 days, we all agreed that, if we could, we would stay on the ship and go all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale for another 21 days!!! At our dinner table, there were the eight of us and a new couple joined our table. Their names were Jens and Inge from Denmark. They were a wonderful addition to our group!! We had the pleasure to have them at our dining table every night and they joined us on shore also. I hope we always keep in touch with them and hope they join us again! We met John and Sandy from Canada on a cruise probably 13 years ago and they have joined us every cruise since!!! So you can make some really awesome new friends. Lets start with our room and the ship. The ship was WONDERFUL!!! Clean, colorful and had the best staff ever. Everyone that waited on us for our food and cocktails were the best. Smiling faces and so very helpful. I have to say, the people that manned the guest relations desk left ALOT to be desired!!!! They weren't the most friendly people I've seen on a ship ( and this was probably our 17th cruise!!!.....and we went on many different lines). Before we booked our air flight, we got in touch with Holland America and asked if an 11:35 am flight would be too early to catch...........we were told that would be fine. Well, we found out after we were on the ship that if you wanted to be off the ship early..........YOU HAD TO CARRY YOUR OWN LUGGAGE OFF THE SHIP AND DOWN THE GANGWAY!!! Normally, this might have been a challenge, but totally do-able. But while on the ship I developed back problems which made it virtually impossible for me to carry half our luggage (I even went to the ship doctor so they could verify my problem)!!!! I went to the desk and asked, since I could not lift anything, if we could get a cart so we could put our luggage on it......they said NO. Asked if they had any suggestions..........they said NO!!!!!! They could care less if we were going to have problems!!!!! Luckily everyone in our group helped us with the luggage to the gangplank........but were not allowed to go any further or they couldn't get back on the ship!!!!! Now, you would think that early departures would be for people who had flights, buses, etc....... to catch. But some people just wanted to get off. Therefore, the people who had schedules to meet had to wait for hundreds of people who were just getting off because they felt like it (with no hurry or plans once they disembarked!!!). Add this to the fact that the foreign people started to get checked out around 6:30 in the morning and at TEN THIRTY they were still not finished!!!! Which delayed the early departure people!!!! We got off the ship around 10:45! Made it to the airport by the skin of our teeth........ran to our gate and got right on the plane!!!! WHEW!!!! They really need to work on the disembarking priorities and procedures. It was the worse I have ever seen!!!!! The customer service desk and the disembarking was what kept this cruise from rating excellent on all points. So.......putting that behind.........everything else on the ship was GREAT!!!! Our whole group had balconies.......which they all loved!!! We had an outside room on the main deck and it was just wonderful ... it was midship and it was one of the biggest and most comfortable rooms we have had. It had a nice big window and we felt absolutely no motion!!!! Would definitely recommend it!!! The food was delicious. We went to the buffet for both breakfast and lunch and were never dissappointed. A few in our group ordered breakfast in their room and they said it was hot and delicious!!!! The dining room is beautiful and the wait staff (we had Yessir and Putu) were the best!!! The were fun and very efficient and friendly. We all looked forward to dinner every night!! The choices were great and the appetizers, dinner and desserts left nothing to be desired. The entertainment was great, and the bingo was fun. I really was disappointed that there was NO MUSIC at the pools!!!!!! That definitely left something missing as far as we were concerned. I won't go into all the ports.........but I will say in Cartegena you should see the old part of town with the inquisition palace, etc......but GO WITH A GROUP!!!! Just for safety! ABC islands are fun places to shop and walk around (Aruba is actually my least favorite of all three islands!) and the transit of the Panama canal was really interesting. It was very hot....probably around 95 degrees....but we loved it. After reading all about the Canal and the locks, etc........it was really interesting to see it up close and personal! Nicaragua and Guatemala had some shopping and fun straw markets........and we enjoyed Cabo and Puerto Vallarta except for the fact that it was just soooo commercial. You needed to take transportation to get to some shops. It was like being dropped off in San Diego or Ft. Lauderdale. The areas near the ships are just way to commercial. But in Cabo San Lucas.....you should definitely go to Cabo Wabo (bar and restaurant).... owned by rocker Sammy Hagar. It was a fun place and had great food and atmosphere!!!! I would definitely recommend Holland America (Westerdam) and a 21 day cruise to anyone who enjoys cruising. The time flew by.......and the ship made you feel comfortable and at home. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Going through the Panama Canal is a bucket list item. I've looked at many cruises going through but most where you go all the way through the canal have such minimal port you visit between and many sea days. We still have a fair ... Read More
Going through the Panama Canal is a bucket list item. I've looked at many cruises going through but most where you go all the way through the canal have such minimal port you visit between and many sea days. We still have a fair number of sea days 7 in total, but a smaller percentage than others. This cruise was different that we spent over a week in the Caribbean before going through the canal, 6 ports in mexico and 3 central america countries. I go on cruises to visit the places and have new experiences not to sit on a ship. Which this cruise completely met. Boarding was pretty simple, we arrived early to find many others had also arrived early and were filling up the waiting area. It didn't take too long once they started boarding to get on-board. HAL has done away with the mariners lunch which is sad, but we did have a reception in the afternoon. Gala nights were wonderful, we were joined by 2 of the crew members each time. Once with the guest relations and the second time with the head of excursions. So interesting to talk to crew and ask them about what they do and life on board ship. Plus they each provided us with free wine :) Something else about the dinning room is they have gone to a new system (I think) all the wait staff were carrying around ipad/tablets. The tablet has each table and who is sitting there along with your picture, so they can greet you by name. They were also able to show you pictures of each of the meals and answer detailed question about what is in the food. Entertainment was for the most part very good, we liked the special entertainers and were rather disappointing in the on staff entertainment. Second night on board while a comedian was on stage they had a emergency with a potential fire, the comedian went with it and we were laughing about the potential of a problem, he joked that we weren't going to get our cookies tomorrow. Some people thought it was part of the act. It wasn't, but it was a great way to keep everyone calm. There was no fire so we were fine and cruise continued without a problem. The entertainment over all was varied, from piano player, comedian, magic, violinist, singers, and gymnast. Crew was amazing. They were very attentive. Our state room attendant was very quick to clean our room and always greeted us with a big smile and by name. We became friendly with some of the beverage staff to the point that in the theater at night he would serve us our drink without our having to ask, and he also provided us water as we left the ship also without having to ask. The crew did mention that they were just shifting off of a 7 day Caribbean cycle of the same cruise over and over and were looking forward to actually getting to know the customers now. Gave a new view of the job the crew does with new people coming in, it appears the like the longer cruises as well so they can get to know us. As I said the ports of call were the reason for this cruise. They did not disappoint. We booked all our excursions through HAL, which does tend to be more expensive, but if we want to trade out something it makes it easy. We were in Antiqua for good friday and were able to experience a once in a life time experience with the good friday procession the largest of the kind in the world. Plus we got to see the volcano erupt on our drive into town. Another service I think is very improved on the westerdam is the internet service. They are testing a new series of internet plans The service was very good, I purchased a plan that covered the whole trip, it was unlimited time but limited to a single device. It was nice that I was able to login to wifi from my phone and carry it around without worrying about how many minutes I was using up. It let me send text through facebook and whatapp to friends and family back home much more easily than ever before. I really hope they roll this out to all the other ships. It truly is much better service than their normal plans. My only complaint is about the average age. I'm 44 an I was often the youngest person around. I normally don't have a problem with this, I actually like hanging with the older crowd, but sometimes I just wanted to talk or spend time with people my age. Doesn't help that this was a longer cruise and most people who work can't get a month off to go play. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
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. CABIN 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. FOOD 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. ROOM SERVICE 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. ENTERTAINMENT 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. LAUNDRY SERVICE 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. INTERNET SERVICE 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. TOURS 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
Sail Date March 2016
Great cruise and great excursions in the 13 ports visited. Sea days were filled with 10 computer classes, lectures on the regions visited, port excursions, movies, and mixology classes. Embarkation was smooth. We had to wait but were ... Read More
Great cruise and great excursions in the 13 ports visited. Sea days were filled with 10 computer classes, lectures on the regions visited, port excursions, movies, and mixology classes. Embarkation was smooth. We had to wait but were seated in a big room. Disembaration was smooth. We had to wait to get a taxi to our hotel. The balcony cabin seemed small when we separated to two twin beds but we managed. We enjoyed the balcony when we cruised through the canal. We ordered room service breakfast so we could watch everything in the locks. Our starboard side was perfect. We were forward so we could watch the ship officers two decks above us. We ate most nights in the main dining room. Two different ship officers dined with our table on two different nights. We enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill and Cannelo as well. The nightly entertainment was spectacular. We had a hard time picking what was our favorite act because they were all good. Service on board was fantastic. Our room stewarts introduced themselves on the first day. Most port excursions were good. There was confusion in Guatamala because of the Good Friday processions in Antigua. We signed up for the guided walking excursion which turned out to be more than a 5 mile walk through crowded streets. It was worth it to see some of the processions. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
My wife and I booked a balcony stateroom on deck 6. This was our first cruise with Holland America and our 7th overall. Rather than trying to comment on every aspect of the experience, what I will focus on is what we particularly liked ... Read More
My wife and I booked a balcony stateroom on deck 6. This was our first cruise with Holland America and our 7th overall. Rather than trying to comment on every aspect of the experience, what I will focus on is what we particularly liked or what we particularly disliked. Liked: • The embarkation/disembarkation process – it was the smoothest we have ever encountered. • Our room had an unobstructed view and adequate storage. • Open seating plan for dining – no set time requirement. • Beautiful grand spaces (the main dining room, the stage, the Crows Nest Lounge, etc) – the ship was built in Italy and had some stunning visual flair. • The first line staff – mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines. Wonderfully accommodating. • Plenty of interesting lectures and things to do aboard – I particularly enjoyed the Windows 10 seminars. • The Canal transit itself was the highlight of the trip. Holland America did a great job in presenting background and running narrative on what we were seeing. Felt privileged to have experienced this first hand. Disliked: • Our bed – experienced back problems throughout the trip, even with special effort on their part to make modifications. • Experienced both electrical and plumbing issues in our room, neither of which were completely resolved to our satisfaction. The electrical problem caused difficulty with using my CPAP machine, which ultimately led to a very useful tip which I will try to share in an appropriate blog space on cruising with a CPAP. • Food quality was almost universally low. Problem was not so much in preparation as in the purchase of low quality ingredients by the cruise line to start with. This held true even in their premium Pinnacle Grill. We are foodies and this was a deal-breaker issue for us in terms of considering Holland America for future cruises. • Décor and color schemes outside of the grand rooms were so eclectic and gaudy as to be detracting. • Temperatures in the public areas were kept so low that the temperature differences in moving about the ship promoted a very high degree of sickness among the passengers. This was really serious. My wife caught a cold early; recovered, and got sick again before we disembarked. I picked-up a bad upper respiratory illness around day 8 and had to see the ship’s doctor for antibiotics. I would guess that more than half of the passengers were similarly affected. • Average age must have been in the 70’s for this particular passage – we found the ambiance was a bit geriatric. They had a disco, for example, but nightly attendance never seemed to exceed 8 or 9 people at a time. For us, the Dislikes were rather serious in nature and overall this means that we are not likely to cruise with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
PROS: 1. The dining staff and cabin staff are wonderful and will do anything to help you. Cheerful and sincere. 2. There are few lines for anything, even with a relatively full ship. 3. Embarkation and disembarkation at all ... Read More
PROS: 1. The dining staff and cabin staff are wonderful and will do anything to help you. Cheerful and sincere. 2. There are few lines for anything, even with a relatively full ship. 3. Embarkation and disembarkation at all ports is handled very well and, again, almost no waiting. 4. There are many venues on board for your amusement, from good classical music to games to culinary shows to bad art for sale to overpriced jewelry to good computer stations and a small library, lots of different style bars, a small casino and a variety of restaurants. There is a wide variety of music and there are a variety of shows; not everyone will like every show but everyone will like some of them. 5. There are free daily newspaper summaries at the front desk for several countries and you can read the NYTimes for free on wifi. 6. Alcoholic drinks are reasonably priced. 7. Great lecturer on board. 8. Very interesting "navigation updates' almost daily by members of the bridge. 9. Captain was very informative on the progress of the ship.10. The menu at the Vista dining room changes daily but the menus bear no relation to the ports visited. CONS: 1. EVERYTHING costs extra. You have to pay for bottled water. You have to pay for soft drinks. You have to pay for lattes and espressos which are not even available in some of the dining areas. You have to pay outrageous amounts for internet service. I have no problem paying for alcohol, wine and beer, but water???? Please!! Coffee???? Please!! 2. All day, every day, there are efforts to sell you things: art, jewelry, spa services, drink specials, more excursions, photos, videos, etc., etc. It gets tiresome. 3. There is a 'SERVICE CHARGE' added to your bill every day. Holland America says this is instead of tips. Tips, excuse me, are voluntary and personal for special service. Holland America says you can remove this from your bill but then they work to make you feel guilty. They are not paying their behind the scenes staff and the 'service charge' doesn't just go to your waiters and cabin attendants; it goes to the people who clean the ship, the people who do the laundry and all the invisible others who should be paid by the cruise line. If you delete the 'service charge,' these poor people are then getting shafted. In other words, you are being charged a fare to go on the cruise and then you are being charged $10-12 per day per person more to pay their basic employees. This is like going to a department store and buying a shirt for $30 and then being told it really costs $35 because the $5 extra is a 'service charge' to compensate the people who put the shirt on the shelf and the people who clean the store at night. This is not right and needs to be changed to eliminate the appearance of deceptive pricing. 4, The shore excursions are generally quite good but they are not all good so read the reviews before signing up. 5. The food is good but not excellent; the baked goods (bread, rolls, desserts) are just barely passable, hard, cold, no better than Denny's; the meats and fish are excellent and the service is outstanding. The wine packages are actually a good deal and the wines available are consistently very nice. The specialty restaurants, Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto, are nothing special at all and not worth extra money. The big deal special restaurant -- once a cruise -- Le Cirque, is also just fine but not worth any extra money; the food in these restaurants are the quality that all the meals should reach. [But the specialty restaurants still had the same bad baked goods!] All in all a very good cruise but there is no question that all day every day, Holland America is counting the money it can bring in over your fare. The low point is selling you water bottles as you leave the ship to go on excursions when it is over 100 degrees outside! This is our 4th cruise and the only time we have felt like we have been so pushed to spend money every time we turned around. We will likely be moving to other cruise lines to avoid the sense of being more like profit centers than guests. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
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 3.9
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

Find a Westerdam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click