The ship: The Westerdam was built in 2004 in the Fincantieri-Marghera Shipyard, so it is the same age as the Caribbean Princess, which was built at Fincantieri-Monfalcone. It is a "Vista class" ship, a common hull-design shared by several Carnival Corporation brands (Cunard, Costa, P&O). It is approximately 82,000 tons, a much smaller ship than the Caribbean Princess at approximately 113,000 tons. That reason alone allows it to dock in Venice. The Westerdam recently emerged from dry-dock in Sicily with refurbished interiors, and a set of new cabins on Deck 10. In terms of the decor of the public rooms, I greatly prefer Princess to Holland America. The Westerdam was done in dark colors, such as browns, rather than the warmer colors used in Princess ships. There is no piazza on the Westerdam, just a small atrium on Deck 1 where Passenger Services is located. Passengers do not congregate in that atrium as they do in the piazza. The Captain's Welcome party was held in the theatre. The Dining Room is two-stories high, at the rear of the ship. Panoramic windows overlook the stern. There is a modest spiral staircase that connects the 1st story with the 2nd. The public rooms are on Decks 2 and 3. One very nice feature of the post-drydock Westerdam for those of us who love classical music is Lincoln Center Stage, on Deck 2. It is a small room with a stage and classroom-style rows of seats with a center aisle, and a couple of sofas along the side. Every evening, a wonderful string quintet played three concerts there. By the end of the cruise, the string quintet's performances were standing-room-only, due to the wonderful programming and the excellence of the performances. This compares to Princess' more modest (but beloved) classical music performances by string quartets in the center of the piazza, where the performances are more background music to those who are snacking and drinking at the various venues located around the piazza. I did not "contribute" to the casino on the Westerdam, but it was noteworthy that smoking was banned from the area. Imagine, a casino without smoke! The retail venues on Deck 3 were modest affairs that lacked the pizzazz of the shops on Princess. There was less merchandise from which to choose, and less traffic in the shops. They carried many items familiar to those of us who cruise Princess, "Inch of Gold," $10 handbags, watches, etc. I didn't spend much time there. For those who love the "Christmas sale" on Princess (not I!), with merchandise displayed on tables in one of the dining rooms that entices crowds of people who sort through the piles looking for the ultimate bargain, you may be disappointed with Holland America Line (tongue-in-cheek). I won't comment about the other public rooms on the Westerdam, as they are similar to those on any cruise ship: nicely-decorated places to gather, socialize, enjoy the view, and listen to entertainment. Deck 9 has the main swimming pool with a retractable glass roof, and no Movies-Under-The-Stars blaring screen. It's nice; very nice. There is also a decently-sized aft pool, just like on the Caribbean Princess. The aft pool was my favorite spot to be when leaving port. The Lido Market is the buffet restaurant on the Westerdam. It was redone in the style of the Horizon Court on the Royal and the Regal Princess. No pastry aisle with an espresso machine, though. On Deck 10 is the Crow's Nest Bar, which now shares space (since drydock) with the shore excursions office and the future cruises office. This space overlooks the front of the ship, and is another great place to be when arriving in or departing from port. I didn't care for the hybrid use of such nice real-estate. All in all, I prefer the design and decor of a Princess ship, but, to be fair, the design and decor of the Westerdam would not stop me from traveling on a Holland America ship again.
Next, I'll discuss my cabin.