Photos of the inaugural ceremony here: http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=1852
This new Westerdam is also the third vessel in Holland America's new Vista Class of ships, which each carry a name representing a compass direction. The first was the Zuiderdam (meaning "south") delivered in 2002, followed by the Oosterdam ("east") last August. Westerdam is number three, and the new Noordam ("north") is scheduled for delivery in January 2006.These Vista-class ships offer the most diverse seagoing experience from Holland America yet, with more verandah cabins, more suites, more dining venues and more menu selections than earlier ships. The casinos are larger and the entertainment venues are snazzier than those on older Holland America vessels. In addition, this new Westerdam is the first ship to be delivered under the aegis of a new Holland America initiative called "Signature of Excellence," a $225 million effort to enhance the fleet in five important areas: cuisine, stateroom amenities, service, onboard activities and new destinations.
The Westerdam offers a warmer décor – contemporary classic styling in soothing colors. Its rich hues of blue and red fabrics are accented by blonde wood framing, and everything is dramatically illuminated with strategically placed track lighting. No neon or fluorescent lights here.
As on other Holland America ships, Dutch designer Frans Dingemans has imbued the public rooms with an assortment of museum-quality art works. The basic theme for the Westerdam's collection is the Dutch heritage in the New World, lending new significance to the name "Holland America." There are paintings of historic Dutch ships, including Henry Hudson's Half Moon, and a statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New York. Contemporary pieces include an original Andy Warhol portrait and the signature sculptures of jumping dolphins by Sedona artist Susanna Holt gracing the pool area.
The casinos are the biggest Holland America has ever offered, with enough seats and slots for everyone to play. In addition to blackjack, they now include craps and Caribbean Poker. The library has hundreds of hardback book titles to choose from, and offers cozy leather chairs and writing desks. The Internet café has plenty of workstations available, plus wireless "hot spots" for laptops. Those traveling with laptops can also have in-cabin access for an extra charge.
The Queen's Lounge is a secondary live entertainment venue, and also the site for gatherings such as bingo, tea, art auctions and daytime feature film showings. Perhaps the sole aspect of the Vista class that might be considered a downgrade is the omission of the dedicated movie theater, a staple of Holland America ships for decades.
The Vista Show Lounge is the main theater for live performances. With raked seating for the main floor audience, the sight lines are fantastic for every seat in the house. The shows on the inaugural voyage of Westerdam were much improved over those on older Holland America ships, with bigger and more talented casts, over-the-top lighting equipment, opulent costuming and a better selection of material, including songs that aren't afraid to appeal to adult sensibilities. For the first time, one can truly say Holland America stage shows are on a par with any other cruise line.
See pictures from the Westerdam shows here: http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=1854
All the Westerdam restaurants offer health-conscious cuisine including meatless items that can also be prepared without eggs or dairy upon request. Room service is available 24 hours a day; menu choices vary according to the hour, and all cabins now offer in-cabin service of menu items from the main dining room during the dinner hour.
The Greenhouse Spa, found on all Vista-class ships, includes an 11x22-foot hydrotherapy pool with heated seawater and high-powered jets for soothing tired muscles. Cost for access to the pool is $15 per day, and one may come and go at leisure. Another $15/day option is the thermal suite, which includes steam rooms, dry saunas and aromatherapy shower rooms with citrus and spice-laden mists raining down. Between sessions, relax on heated tile chairs and watch the world go by through picture windows.
Other standard spa options include massage, facials, hair and nail treatments and more. The ship's large fitness center is open to all passengers, with aerobic machines and free-weights as well as classes like Pilates, yoga, stretching and aerobics. Some carry a nominal charge. The ship also has a basketball court, volleyball court and jogging track.
Some 85% of the staterooms on the Westerdam have ocean views, and 67% include verandahs. Holland America's passenger accommodations have always been among the best in the industry, and including the verandahs they are also some of the largest at sea. The verandahs are larger than the industry average, at 54 to 318 sq. ft. depending on which of four verandah categories one chooses. They all have privacy screens, a table and deck chairs.
All staterooms also include data-ports for laptop computers (Internet access is an additional fee) and mini-bars. In-cabin television provides free movie channels plus information on the ship and itinerary. Unlike some lines, Holland America does not require pay-per-view to watch quality movies in the cabins.
The Westerdam has a variety of suites, including some fabulous rooms with whirlpool tubs and picture windows, large flat-panel TVs and commodious living and dining rooms for entertaining guests. All penthouse and suite passengers have access to the Neptune Lounge, a private concierge facility with sweets, coffee and tea, books, and a staff person on duty to handle special requests.
IN CONCLUSIONIn total, the new Westerdam is one of the brightest stars in the Holland America fleet. It has many qualities of luxury-category vessels such as spacious staterooms with premium amenities, large verandahs, alternative dining with elegant choices such as caviar, a large library and plenty of quiet nooks with teak deck chairs. At the same time, it offers many aspects of higher-capacity vessels such as first-rate entertainment, active nightlife, and a large casino. The Westerdam is one Holland America ship that one can truly say has appeal for almost any class of cruiser, yet still maintains the Holland America signature of quality.
Westerdam is slated to cruise in Europe through the summer of 2004. She is currently on the first of three 12-day cruises out of Venice to Dubrovnik, the Greek islands, Kusadasi, Sicily and Malta, followed by a "Grand European" voyage to Rome, Monaco, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Vigo (Spain) and Le Havre. Next comes a trek up to the North Cape, visiting nine Norwegian and two Danish ports including five fjords, and ending in Copenhagen. Next are three cruises to the Baltic including stops in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Warnemunde and Oslo. She returns to a variety of Mediterranean and Aegean cruises for the balance of the summer season until her transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Ft. Lauderdale.