This was our 20th cruise. Our most recent trips were on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Princess, so I've provided comparisons where I think they are appropriate.
Embarkation was very smooth. There was a shorter line for those who pre-filled the immigration forms on line and brought a printout than for those who did not. We missed the champagne welcome from Celebrity and escort to our cabin, although we had no trouble finding the cabin on our own.
Cabin. The new beds on the Westerdam are great - as good as Concierge Class on Celebrity. Lots of closet space, lots of hangars. Verandas are average size; we were with a group that had five cabins in a row and were especially pleased that part of the veranda dividers would open so we could freely move back and forth. We had bon voyage and farewell parties out there, and many nights "met" for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
The sewage odor we'd read about on the Zuiderdam is present on the Westerdam, especially outside the forward elevators and in the hallways. Some days we could smell it in the hall outside our cabin and onthe veranda. The front desk was pretty rude when I went there to inquire about it ("an engineer is working on it," "don't know when it will be fixed," tone of voice implied "don't bother us, we're sick of hearing it"). They acted like this was the first cruise where it happened. It stated the second or third day and never went away!
Customer service is very poor. The front desk staff was rude. When we asked for a deck of cards, they said, "we're out of them." We weren't looking for anything for free, and they didn't tell us we could buy them in the casino for $1. There is no equivalent we could find to future cruise/Capt. Club manager, social hostess, etc. To book a future cruise, they ask you to call Seattle (free of charge) from your cabin. I tried once, but got tired of holding. I don't think I'll be back on HAL any time soon, anyway.
Public areas - Celebrity Century and Millennium classes beat HAL Vista class by a mile. Westerdam theater had lots of poles and places where it was hard to see. Theater is small and not very attractive. There is a round box on either side of the upper level that the comedian appropriately dubbed "ashtrays." Very few seats had tables to include drinks; seldom saw a bar waiter before the show anyway. The ship as a very small atrium. Didn't like the décor nearly as much as Celebrity's.
Dining room didn't have that open, expansive feeling you get on Celebrity ships or even older HAL ships. Service was the worst we've had. We didn't even have the same waiter and assistant every night! Dining room food was mediocre. Steaks and other entrees can't compare to Celebrity. Lobster tails were small and part of surf-and-turf. No one removed the meat from the tail for you like they do on Celebrity and there were no seconds available. Food was mostly bland and sometimes overcooked. Desserts were pretty good though.
Westerdam left a note in each cabin discouraging people from ordering room service breakfast on port days. Although they said there would be delays, our traveling companions found that some mornings breakfast was too early and once it didn't arrive at all! Room service was OK at other times of the day.
The best food was in the Lido buffet, which beats Celebrity, RCCL and Princess by a mile! Great variety and traffic flow. Separate areas for deli, oriental, Italian, salad bar, and regular lunch foods. At the pool, you could have burgers, hot dogs and taco bar. Liked the flambé desserts in the Explorer Lounge and the Chocolate buffet.
Entertainment was excellent, but schedules were all geared to early seating. Karaoke was well run, but always in the smaller lounge, which was firetrap - people standing in aisles, sitting on floor. This was inexcusable when finals were held at a time when main theater was empty! The Elton John impersonator and the illusionist/comedian were both exceptionally good. Cruise Director and staff did a nice job (it was Jason's last cruise on the Westerdam; assistant CD was promoted and Jason moved to Oosterdam).
The Steiner Spa is not as well laid out as on Celebrity (and on M-class, thalissotherapy pool is free!). However, Westerdam had great port day specials, including 50% off all services over $79. I've never seen such good specials before; guess the passengers weren't booking without incentives!
Shops are not as good - mote crowded and less selection - then on Celebrity. I didn't buy a thing on the Westerdam - a first!
Private island - loved Half Moon Cay and our pink cabana. Service was excellent. Our friends who did the stingray and horseback riding excursions on HMC were very pleased. Tendering went smoothly.
Disembarkation went very well. We loved the fact that we could wait in our cabins or on our verandas and weren't crammed into the lounges until our color was called.
This was our 13th cruise and our seventh Holland American Line (HAL) cruise since 1995, with each cruise on a different ship. Our cabin was a deluxe verandah outside (Category B) on the Verandah Deck near of the stern of the ship.
We sailed on a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Livorno (Florence), Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco (tender service); Barcelona, Spain; Valletta, Malta; Kusadasi, Turkey; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy. Every port was most interesting.
We got an extra three-day pre-cruise package for Rome, but actually stayed southeast of Rome, in the little mountain town where the Pope has his summer residence, with daily sightseeing trips into Rome.
HAL used Lufthansa Airlines for the flights to and from Italy via Germany. These flights were very long (over 12 hours), the seats were too close together, and half of the video entertainment was in German. On the return flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, all of the HAL customers' luggage didn't get loaded onto our flight but was delivered to our homes two days after got back.
Faster than usual; a digital camera takes your photograph. Each time you re-board the shipyour ship ID 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. Gone is the express check-in service for Mariners (repeat HAL passengers).
This was the 15th voyage of this ship -- one of the larger-sized ships that HAL calls its Vista class. It has 11 decks with 11 elevators, four of which are glass-walled and located on the outside mid-ship. The ship carries 1,848 passengers with a crew of 800.
Our room seemed smaller than the previous non-Vista class ship that we sailed on. In fact, it is smaller - on this ship, our deluxe verandah outside cabin was 254 sq. ft. including the verandah; on the smaller Statendam a similar cabin - verandah suite - was 284 sq. ft. Gone is the long set of three drawers, shelf of glasses, etc. In its place is a cabinet without drawers that barely holds the TV set and ice bucket. There are two drawers under the couch, two drawers in the two nightstands, and two drawers at the foot of the bed, but they are mostly used by the room steward for extra blankets, etc. There are three small closets for hanging your clothes. A hair dryer is mounted permanently in the cabinet below the TV. There is one medicine chest or cabinet in the bathroom. There's no curtain between bed(s) and couch/TV/chest of drawers. The curtain instead is located between the bed(s) and the bathroom/closets/inside door. The toilet is very loud. Housekeeping services were excellent. With the Statendam, in contrast to this ship, our verandah cabin had a whirlpool bath, a couch that you could lie down on, and VCR.
It has two chairs, one footrest, and a small table. On Previous HAL ships, one of the chairs always had a footrest so that you could stretch out or lie down. The partition between the verandahs on this ship may be folded back for easy access to the adjacent cabin(s) if you travel with other passengers who are staying next door.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM
There were no separate audio channels into the cabin, nor a special channel for hearing all ship announcements as on other ships. TV channels included CNN/ESPN/TCM/Cartoon Network, plus four on-ship movie channels and 10 other channels showing bow and stern views, ship and port shopping information, etc. Sometimes some of the ship's channels would be playing music without any video.
LAUNDRY There were no self-service laundry or room irons. A ship's bag full of laundry would be washed, folded, and returned in 48 hours for $15. Other laundry and dry cleaning services were available.
VISTA DINING ROOM
Some tables have benches instead of chairs. The room has four sittings - Early (5:45 and 6:15 p.m.) and Main (8:00 and 8:30 p.m.). The serving of dinner was slow every day as the servers appeared to be understaffed; frequently the table captains perform some of the server's duties, etc. The overall food seemed bland. The ship ran out of porterhouse steaks, milk in containers, certain salad dressings, and certain wines, very early in the cruise.
TERRACE GRILL (Outdoor fast food) – Next to pool; no longer exists.
The layout is somewhat open as opposed to the other ships; there were some benches instead of chairs. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge.
There's an automatic assessment of $10 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
At the Greece and Spain ports, local professional dancers and musicians were provided. The other nightly entertainment lacked the "Broadway" type of dance shows; the typical entertainment was a single singer, comedian, or magician.
Movies were shown in the Queen's Lounge - it's not a theater. The chairs and tables are movable and the rear area is open to a public walkway. The nice thing is that the sound track was not interrupted by the ship's public announcing system as on other ships.
The ship has nine bars; three don't open until after dinner. The price of a glass of wine varied at different bars from $4.50-7.50. The best price was at the Crow's Nest and the highest price was in the Ocean Bar.
CAPTAIN'S AND MARINER'S PARTY - The same as usual.
There seemed to be fewer but larger shops. The photo shop will burn a CD from your camera's memory stick for $14. It's cheaper to do it in town.
I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with the Westerdam. It is a large ship with small cabins. I will not sail again on another Vista class ship. Thank heavens for the Noordam, (old) Nieuw Amsterdam, Statendam, Ryndam, Veendam, and Amsterdam. Now a piece of trivia – the Westerdam was docked at the Athens port earlier this year and served as a hotel during the Olympics.
I'm not sure how many cruises I have taken. But it has to be at least 20. Most cruise lines and to many destinations. I have to say the of all of them, The Westerdam has to be the worst. We took a verandah cabin on the starboard side, about midships. These new "Vista" class ships of Holland America Line are way too big. Three football fields long... At dinner time, it was a real hike from our cabin all the way to the stern, have dinner, then walk all the way forward to the show lounge, and back to the cabin to sleep. For breakfast and lunch, same thing. For disembarkation, and embarkation, same thing. We noticed in the hallways outside some cabins, some childrens toys with wheels, where the parents would pull the children along as it was too far to walk and the children were too slow.
Many times to avoid the walk (many times I need a cane) I would order breakfast in our cabin. Not in 14 days did it come close to arriving at the requested time. Most times at least 30mins before or after.But then with nearly 2000 passengers, I must be amazed that it was even that close. The cabin seemed so much smaller than the Verandah cabin on the Amsterdam. Which I think is a fabulous ship. Our ports of call were superb, and we much appreciated two full days in St.Petersburg, the highlight of the cruise. I (We) will not travel on any of the "Vista" class ships ever again however. That is The Zuiderdam, The Oosterdam, or The Westerdam. We shall stick with the Amsterdam,Ryndam, Maasdam etc. So much nicer, I think.