We recently sailed on the Westerdam out of Seattle to Alaska in August of 2015. This trip was a family get together to celebrate my Mom’s 90th birthday. We booked this trip as a group, were assigned a group number, and since this trip was also booked on a prior HAL cruise we were eligible for the Explore 4 promotion. This promotion included a free Pinnacle Grill dinner per person, free beverage service of up to 15 items (alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic) per day, and a 50% booking fee. We had a total of 14 people in 7 cabins. Our problems started shortly after embarkation when we discovered that our daughter and her husband had been removed from our group booking. According to the folks in the front office this happened as a result of her upgrade from a D to a VE cabin. She actually paid additional cash for this upgrade. Surprisingly, my Mom also did this exact same upgrade with no ill effects. I had all the supporting documentation of this error that clearly showed that the error was HAL’s. There was only one individual in the frontoffice that took our side in this fight. She was Ms. Ninka Bakker, but she turned out to have no influence on the main office. She did take photocopies of all my confirmations and sent them to the main office in Seattle. Unfortunately, the other individuals at the front desk were simply rude.
Well, the first night of the cruise was actually my Mom’s birthday and we had the Pinnacle Grill scheduled for that, and it took quite a bit of complaining to get our daughter and son-in-law invited to that dinner as well. I had also ordered a cake for my Mom’s birthday 3 months in advance, and then I was asked to renew this order almost at monthly intervals. Well, when we checked with the restaurant to make sure that they had all the information, they had no clue that they were supposed to have a cake for my Mom. I luckily had all my supporting documents with me including the original cake order and the fax confirmation when I placed this order. They were able to their credit provide a cake at the last minute.
As the oldest daughter, I was responsible for coordinating this group excursion, and had a lot of interaction with the main office in Seattle. You probably wonder why I brought all the documentation with me onboard. It was actually quite a file of papers approximately 2 inches thick of standard computer paper some pages had print on two sides. It was my interactions with the folks at HAL that encouraged me to do this because I could see that there was NO communication between various departments, and the departments also did not know what the policies of the other departments were. In other words, management at HAL stinks. I can also say that my Mom who is a 4 star mariner with HAL was very disappointed and stated that their customer service has deteriorated over the years.
You will probably then ask, how did the rest of the cruise go? It was fair. The food was OK, with lines on the Lido deck, the dining room portions were small, but you could order multiple items if you chose. The ship itself is older, with areas needing extra care, rust was evident. Our bathroom was clean, but showed signs of inexpert caulking. The entertainment was fair, leaving not much to do on sea days, unless you were an aficionado of the casino or bars. There was Wi-Fi, which was dreadfully expensive and VERY slow. The only part of the cruise that was memorable was the shore excursions in Alaska. We had previous experience with an Alaska cruise with Princess, which we will do again.
I also sent complaint letters and emails to HAL in Seattle after the cruise and have NOT received any kind of reply, other than a confirmation that my email did arrive at the HAL main office.
We sailed from Vancouver down to San Diego and then on to Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The food was top notch, but the specialty restaurants was similar to the dining room. Our stateroom was fine, and the ship was well cared for... the staff was constantly cleaning and working.
The evening entertainment was definitely one of the high points of the cruise and was very professional. My only complaint was the daytime activities, or rather, the lack of daytime activities... NO enrichment speakers or crafts, just bingo and selling stuff. The poor activity director tried to give some talk that were "not very good," to be kind. Her talks were more like a school report of "What I did during the summer." If Holland thinks they are saving money by using the crew as "enrichment speakers," they are missing the boat and loosing rating stars.
I've read some of the reviews here that are less than flattering for the Westerdam, and I feel I must step in and say something. I've also noted, however, that some reviews are a bit outdated. So hopefully my review will help a bit, since my husband and I have just returned from a cruise in September of '13.
I will start with the cons of the Westerdam, as that won't take as long to describe. In the description of the formal evenings we were told that the men "sometimes choose to wear jackets" in the Vista Lounge. When we arrived at the Vista we were told that jackets were "required." So that was a bit of a surprise because my husband didn't bring a jacket. Fortunately they had jackets there for him to borrow. Also, there was one fellow in the Lido cafe who I noticed never smiled. Okay - those are my two "cons" with regard to the entire trip and the whole cruise line and the Westerdam itself.
Now the pros - the ship was clean, shiny, beautiful, well appointed and just plain incredible. (This was our thirdcruise and also the third cruise line we had tried.) The staff was beyond helpful, always smiling (except for that one guy in the Lido) and our steward even called us by name! Every single one always greeted us with a smile - every single time! There was ALWAYS a "Good morning madam," or "Good afternoon, how is your day?" It was amazing. One day we requested a banana for our room, and for the rest of the cruise we had bananas every single day. The food was wonderful, plentiful, and just plain terrific.
There were always great activities. "High Tea" included an amazing array of goodies that even my husband - a large eater and sugar addict - couldn't possibly finish. One night there was a barbecue featuring salmon and chicken, along with so much other fancy food, as well as a marzipan sculptured eagle and so many desserts. Other outdoor feasts included a HUGE banana cream pie, an apple pie, and a chocolate bread pudding - all to die for.
And, contrary to what another reviewer said, the performers possessed the most incredible talent I've ever seen. The choreography was mind blowing, and the singing - wow!!! The lead male singer had the best voice of any singer I've ever heard - hands down. That guy needs an agent. I don't know where HAL gets these talented people, but once a talent agent sees these kids they are out of there! There was a "Dancing with the Stars" contest where cruisers could try out their own abilities at dancing, and the winner would go on to compete with other HAL dance winners. They gave away a free cruise in a drawing, and had huge jackpots at several bingo games. There's not enough space to describe the daily activities that went on - geared to every age level and type of person - active, lazy, old, young, athletic, nerdy, etc.
We have been on a Royal Caribbean Cruise, Norwegian, and now Holland American. The best by far is Holland America. Do not be afraid to book a cruise on the Westerdam. You will love it.
This ship is small, but adequate. The decor is red with various oriental ornaments and art. We purchased a balcony room and I must admit, I expected a larger room. It was extremely small and quite cramped. The couch made out into a bed and it was impossible to access the balcony when this bed was down. The cabin service was adequate, but nothing special.
We ate in the dining room once and from them on, the buffet, which was very good. We found the dining room to be too slow and the portions too small. We had "ship envy" whenever we saw the gigantic Princess cruise ship near. It was 3 times the size of the Westerdam! Overall the trip was very good, but I would not book a cruise on this ship again. I have sailed with Royal Carribean, Carnival and Holland America and definately prefer Royal Carribean of the three.
This was our 22nd cruise and our eighth Holland American Line (HAL) cruise since 1995, with each cruise on a different ship, except that this is our second cruise on the Westerdam. Our cabin was a super verandah suite (Category SY) on the Upper Verandah Deck mid-ship. We sailed on a 12-day eastern Mediterranean cruise from Greece, to three ports in Turkey, to two ports in Israel, to one port in Egypt, and back to a different port in Turkey again, before returning back to Greece. Plus, there were three days at sea when going between two Turkey distant ports, from Israel to Egypt, and Egypt to Turkey. Every port was most interesting. In addition, we enjoyed a three-day pre-cruise in Athens staying at the Holland America approved hotel - the Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel.
FLIGHTS We selected Delta Airlines for the flights from Los Angeles to Athens with a change of aircraft in both directions in New York City. These flights were long (over 16 hours going and 17 returning). Because the flights were long, we upgraded to business class.
SHIP The Westerdam is one of the larger-sized ships of HALVista class. It has 11 decks with 11 elevators, four of which are glass-enclosed and located on the outside mid-ship. The ship has 972 cabins and carries 1,848 passengers with a crew of 800.
CABIN Our cabin was larger (384 square feet) than on our previous 2004 Westerdam cabin (254 square feet) when we sailed the western Mediterranean. Plus, we were on one deck higher. And like on the previous cruise, we had a nice large verandah. Our cabin had air conditioning, bottled water, comfortable king-size bed with four pillows (actually two single beds placed together, with room to place your suitcases under) with two night stands, safe, bathroom amenities, bathrobes, hair dryer, three chairs, small coffee table, two desks with eight drawers, three closets, toilet, bath and shower, a separate shower, two sinks, fresh fruit, etc. Both 110 and 220 volts electrical outlets. HAL previously provided a special luggage tags containing our cabin number and our luggage arrived in our cabins before we did.
VERANDAH The large verandah (130 square feet) had three chairs with separate footrests, and one table.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM A color TV with 18 channels including CNN, BCC, ESPN, several movie channels, views of the ship’s bow and aft, etc. A DVD player with a choice of over 900 DVDs to choose from the ship’s library (action, comedy, drama, family, horror, romance, sci-fi, and television).
DINING ROOMS The main one is the Vista (decks 2 and 3), and the others are the Pinnacle Grill (deck 2), Canaletto and Lido (deck 9), and Exploations Café (deck 10). In the Vista dining room, at our assigned table, the overall and service food was good. For some unknown reason, HAL’s famous Baked Alaska dessert was not offered anytime. The Pinnacle Grill is only available by making a reservation. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge.
BARS There are seven bars = Piano, Pinnacle, and Sports (deck 2), Ocean (deck 3), Sea View and Terrace (deck 9), and Crow’s Nest (deck 10). We always enjoy the Crow’s Nest, especially when leaving a port before dinner, as the room overlooks the ship’s bow and the direction in which the ship is sailing. There is a minor problem with the Crow’s Nest as it is so popular, you often find all of the tables being used by non-drinking passengers either reading books or even just sleeping. HAL should correct this problem.
TIPS There's an automatic assessment of $11 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
CHECK-IN Faster than usual, during check-in before initial boarding, digital camera takes your photograph. Each time you board the ship, your cabin card is scanned and your photograph is displayed to the ship's security personnel; eliminating the need to carry a second form of ID with your photograph (driver's license, etc.). Also, every time you re-board the ship, all carry-on items (purses, cameras, etc.) will be scanned.
TOURS There are ten ports and here is the most interesting thing in each port. Greece: Athens - Acropolis and the changing of the guards at the palace. Turkey: Istanbul - Blue Mosque, Antalya - ancient Roman city, Iskenderun - the cave church of St. Peter and the Roman mosaics, and Kusadasi - the house of the Virgin Mary. Israel: Ashdod - the tomb of the Virgin Mary and the Sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem - a museum to the Jews who died in World War II. Egypt: Cairo - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Every port was most interesting. Many of the tours were long - some lasting up to 12 hours. Because of these long tours, we didn’t visit the spa, library, Movie Theater, evening entertainment, etc. However, the meals on the tours were very good; frequently served in the dining rooms of five-star hotels. There is a problem when the shipboard personnel are assigning the passengers to various tour buses, etc. The problem is that they gather all the passengers into the ship’s auditorium at the same time and then call them to leave by their tour name. HAL should assign the passengers to sit in designated sections of the auditorium at specified times to avoid the mass confusion and large groups of passengers attempting to leave all at once, etc.
ON SHIP ILLINESS About halfway thru the cruise, a serious illness problem aboard affecting both a small group of passengers and crewmembers was reported. The problem was Norwalk virus causing those affected to have stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The ship personnel immediately sanitized the ship, closed popular common areas - the library, some dinning areas, etc., and we were given frequently and lots of special hand cleaner. After about two days, the problem was eliminated. Westerdam did a good job on this. And we were never medically affect in any way.
OVERALL OPINION I'm impressed with the Westerdam since it was remodeled a couple of years ago. And the tours were very interesting.
This was the worst cruise we had ever taken. We were to go to 4 Island only went to 3. Then there was a lifeboat in front of our window,here we are out at sea and we hear scraping and banging right in front of our window ones are working on the hanging lifeboat right there and looking in our window. I called the front and they said we'll have them move, which they did only to come back later that day. Why would they do this when ones are at sea and can be in the cabins? Then then the shore excuision thur the ship as a joke not good at all. Would never go with Holland America again.
Also beware of the casino. They will let you have $1000 a day credit per person in your room. And you will lose. So watch out for that snake pit!
By the way, we had a verandah room. The verandah, or tiny little outside deck, is way nicer than the room.
The rooms are about the size of a large walk in closet -- very tiny.
Also watch out for the constantsales pitches. They have whole channels on television devoted to selling you stuff on the ship. The shore excursions are dynamite, but my advice is for the price you pay just to get on the boat, fly to a city, and pay for your excursions, staying in a nice hotel room. You not only get a way nicer place to lay your head, but you can pay for way more excursions also. You can easily spend several thousand dollars on shore excursions off the ship, and they are expensive!
Also watch out for illness. Way easy to get sick on this ship.
Holland America devotes a whole channel on the stateroom tv to selling you jewelry.
They have seminars on the ship just to sell you stuff.
I have cruised 8 times on Holland America, starting with the days before the cruise line was bought by Carnival. These were the days when tipping on the cruise was "optional" and Holland America was classier than the competition.
This time, several offerings were notably missing: no Captain Reception with champagne, no midnight buffet with beautiful carved statues, no Baked Alaska processions after dinner, and no delicacies on the dinner menus, like lobster.
Instead, we were bombarded constantly with "buy buy buy" announcements and leaflets on our beds. We were automatically charged "prepaid gratuities" every night ($12.50 per person per night) and service fees whenever we ordered a drink (15%). In addition we were overcharged for a drink we didn't order and didn't receive. Since Holland America does not now require the purchaser's signature when delivering the drink, we could not prove that it was not us who ordered the overcharged drink.
We booked our first Holland America cruise with high expectations. We had heard so much about the quality of food on the ship and the Holland experience that we just had to try them. To say the least, I was very disappointed with the cruise! The food was some of the worst I have had at sea and the overall experience was somewhat lacking.
Embarkation was a breeze and hats off to Holland for making it a easy enjoyable experience! Debarkation was another thing though and seemed to take forever as only 2 lines were open at Customs which bottle necked the process. We had a balcony cabin, room 5133, which had some nice features to it, Wicker furniture on the balcony and a actual bathtub in the restroom. Quality liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower was another added bonus. I expected the room to be a little bigger then it was but was actually the same size as any other cruise line. Our cabin steward barely spoke English and only did a O.K. job keeping the room clean. Room service was nice as the items on the menuwere better then most cruise lines and were delivered on time every time.
The decor of the ship was pretty bland with nothing really exceptional to speak of. The overall layout of the ship was good and easy to maneuver front to back.
The food overall was fair! The buffet was the worst I have seen on a cruise ship. It felt more like going through a restaurant at work where you went along and everything is put on your plate by the employees. The selections were not very good and were mostly tasteless. The one place Holland excelled were the deserts, which were the highlight of every meal. The main dining room, the Vista dining room was 2 story and very well organized. We had the anytime dining and never had to wait to be seated. The menu had less selections to choose from then other cruises we had taken. There was normally 4 main entrees each day as well as 3 selections that were every day menu items. The appetizers list was small and mostly consisted of salads and soups and portions were very small. We also ate at the "Dive In" burger and dog place on the lido deck and was not impressed with their food at all.
The afternoons on sea days were very boring. I guess they think everyone likes to sun bath during the afternoons. Most event took place in the mornings and the scheduling was very sad. Many times there were things we wanted to do but they were all scheduled to happen at the same time. One would think that they would like to spread out the different things their customers most like to attend to include the afternoon, but they didn't. One example of bad scheduling was having bar trivia at the crows nest at 7pm. 7 pm is right in the middle of eating or getting ready to eat diner so the turn out wasn't very good.
Entertainment was good if not light. The shows the singers and dancers put on were very good but basically the same as you see on every cruise ship. The group in the BB King Blues club was very good and we really enjoyed their performance. Other then that they had a duo who played classical music in one bar, the Piano bar guy who didn't start performing till 9pm and a lady who played the steel drum during the afternoon on the Lido deck. The sports bar is right next to the casino and the only bar that serves the casino. Trying to watch sports was rough there because of all the noise the casino put out.
As a smoker, it was a joy to be able to sit on my balcony and smoke! Smoking in other parts of the ship was a big problem though. The only 2 areas to smoke were small areas fore and aft that were covered with tarps. The fore area never seemed to have ashtrays and the crew themselves used that area a lot to smoke also. The area in the back, near the rear pool was always filled with people and finding a seat to smoke during the day was next to impossible. The casino only offered a small area of machines to smoke at and when you asked a waitress for a ashtray it seemed like it would take her all day to find one for you.
Holland America will not be high on my list of cruiselines to book again. While everyone is different, this line just doesn't fit me and the way I like to cruise.
This was the worst cruise I've been on by far. Ever since being acquired by Carnival, Holland-America line has been steadily declining. This was my second HAL cruise. 6 years ago, I cruised on the Veendam and had a wonderful experience. ALOT has changed since then.
When Carnival "updated" the ship in 2010, they removed most of the common areas from the 9th deck. The library and internet center were moved to the Crow's nest. The movie theatre was removed entirely and movie showings were in the Queen's Lounge, deck 2, which was very inadequate given the number of people on the ship. All of this was done in order to make room for more staterooms on the 9th deck. So instead of carrying 1500 passengers like the ship used to, it now carried close to 2000. The ship was very crowded.
The first night we went to dinner in the Vista dining room, we were made to wait 45 minutes before being seated. Once seated, I noticed at least half of the tables in the dining room were open, yet hundreds of people were still waiting to be seated. It became veryapparent that the ship was understaffed. Lines in the Lido restaurant were ridiculously long.
Service overall was terrible. There simply were not enough staff to take care of the number of passengers. It was very obvious to me that the staff were not happy, probably due to being overworked. When you called room service, it would take at least 45 minutes for someone to show up.
In typical Carnival tradition, I felt like HAL was nickel and diming us the entire cruise. You want popcorn with your in room movie, sure, it will be $5. They even started charging $20 per passenger for carrying your bags off the ship at the end of the cruise. Hotel service charges were tacked onto the bill for each person staying in a cabin (they used to charge one service charge per cabin, regardless of number of guests) Shore excursions were ridiculously overpriced. For example, 6 years ago, we went whale watching in Juneau for $40 per person. It now costs $140 per person to book on the ship. Need internet access? That will be 75 cents per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee. The majority of the ships activities each day were designed around the idea of selling your something(art, jewelry, etc.)
And then there were the little things we noticed. No more ice sculptures. No more fresh fruit in your stateroom basket. No more chocolate extravaganza. I guess those activities were affecting the bottom line.
The food was mediocre at best. The food in the lido was okay if you could tolerate the long lines. The main dining room food was very disappointed, with some nights verging on being edible. One night, I tried 10 different options from the menu in an attempt to find something decent. I gave up and ordered a hamburger from the stateroom. When the hamburger arrived, you could hardly recognize it as such. It was burnt beyond recognition.
We noticed that our time in port was much shorter as compared to six years ago. Then we discovered the cause. HAL has decreased energy consumption by 10 percent in the last 4 years. Now, they will tell you that it is all in the name of "going green" and being environmentally friendly, but in reality it is all about the money. By slowing the ships down, they save alot of money in fuel costs. Also, the shops onboard have to be closed while in port. If the shops are closed, they can't sell you something, and they would rather you spend your money on the ship rather than at the port. So spending more time at sea helps accomplish that goal.
This was our last Holland-America cruise. We will now be trying Celebrity or Reagent. It is sad that Carnival has ruined what was once possibly the finest cruise line around.
My wife and I took a week long cruise from Seattle along the coast of Alaska. It was fantastic! Holland America's Westerdam was a first class ship. From the boarding experience to the cuisine and accomodations. We had two meals in the Pinnacle Grill - and both were great.
Our stateroom had a balcony and the views were very impressive. The only thing we saw that could use some improvement were the "Big Shows" in the Vista Lounge. They were more suitable to a high school production.