Dedicated Princess Cruiser Travels on Holland-America's Westerdam

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#1
Philadelphia, PA
740 Posts
Joined May 2002
This was my first time on Holland-America Line, so I thought I'd give some perspective on the experience, after 24-or-so cruises on Princess. I chose to cruise on the Westerdam in the Mediterranean based on itinerary alone. I especially wanted to cruise out of Venice. As we all know, Princess has been absent from Venice for a couple of years, and next year - sigh - will be no different. In 2014-2015, Venice banned all cruise ships greater than 96,000 tons from the Giudecca Canal and St. Mark's Basin. I was on the May 23, 2017, cruise on the "Mediterranean Dream" itinerary (12 days Venice, Sarandë, Argostóli, Katákolon, Nafplion, Athens (overnight), Mykonos, Santorini, Naples, Civitavecchia).

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.
#3
Philadelphia, PA
740 Posts
Joined May 2002
My cabin on the Westerdam was a Category VC on Deck 6 near the aft elevators, a "Veranda Stateroom." It was a cross between a deluxe balcony cabin and a minisuite on Princess. The balcony (or "veranda" in Holland-America speak) was completely covered and a decent size: larger than those on the Royal and Regal, smaller than those on Caribbean Deck on the Caribbean Princess and similar class ships. There were two chairs and two footrests, no table, on the balcony. The door to the balcony was not a slider; it was impossible to keep the door open while not on the balcony without devising an elaborate way to prop it open. For those who like to sleep with the balcony door open, this is probably not the ship for you. In addition to the bed (nice, new mattress!) there was a small sofa and nicely-sized coffee table, and a desk and chair. The refrigerator contained snacks, for which there would be a charge for any item consumed. I found the hair dryer in the desk. The plug was not permanently attached to the back of a drawer, as it is on Princess, so I found this hair dryer a lot easier to use. The T.V. is mounted on the wall, and is similar to the system found on Royal and Regal: lots of movies and t.v. shows from which to select, plus a few music channels. There were not many live t.v. stations: CNN, Fox News, BBC News, and two flavors of ESPN. The Westerdam does not have rebroadcasts of many of the activities on-board, such as the quiz shows on the Royal and the Regal. Plus, the Westerdam had a camera that overlooked the aft of the ship, rather than the bridge. There were three European-style wardrobes to hold clothing and shoes. One of the wardrobes had a full-length mirror mounted on the interior of a door. I prefer a full-length mirror that is mounted to the wall; it's easier to use. It's my impression that there is more space for clothes in a standard Princess cabin, but that's relative. There was more than enough space for what I brought with me. The bathroom contained a standard-sized tub shower, with a plastic shower curtain. Only once was I able to shower without having water leak onto the bathroom floor, and I tried my best to direct the shower head to an angle where that wouldn't happen. I've had water run from the shower onto the floor in cabins on Princess, too. All-in-all, I loved my cabin on the Westerdam, and I wouldn't hesitate to book another "Veranda Stateroom." It was quiet, the bed was comfortable, and it was in excellent condition.

Next: food and entertainment on the Westerdam
#5
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
5,405 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Hi and thanks for posting your review. Is it true that Holland does not have a 24 hour eatery like Princess or other cruise lines? Somewhere you can go if you get the munchies late late or coming back from an excursion and want to have a meal; but it isn't meal time.
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#6
Coastal North Carolina
6,891 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Am enjoying your review. We took two fabulous Europe cruises on HAL two and three years ago and like you chose the cruise based on itinerary. And we weren't disappointed!


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Sunsetbeachgal. Princess Elite Member, HAL *** Mariner
From the Sunny North Carolina Coast

Next: Scenic River Cruises Paris to Nice, Sept., 2017, British Isles, Royal Princess June, 2018

Completed: Regal Princess, Feb 2017, Oasis of the Seas, Nov., 2016, Regal Princess Repo. Oct. 2016, Scenic Cruises Rhine River, June, 2016, Coral Princess Carib., Jan, 2016, HAL Eurodam, N. Europe, June, 2015, Regal Princess Carib., Jan. 2015, HAL Prinsendam, No. Europe, Sept. 2014, Freedom of the Seas, W. Carib, March, 2014, HAL Eurodam, W. Carib. Nov., 2013, Royal Princess Grand Med., July, 2013, Emerald Princess, Carib., Jan. 2013, Sapphire Princess, California Coastal, Oct. 2012, Enchantment of the Seas-Bermuda, Aug. 2012, Freedom of the Seas-Carib., May, 2012, Star Princess, S. Carib. Mar., 2011, Ocean Princess-Greek Isles/Med-Sept., 2010, Crown Princess-W. Carib. March, 2010, Island Princess-Panama Canal, Nov. 2009, Emerald Princess S. Carib., Jan. 2009, Coral Princess-Alaska Cruisetour-June, 2008, Emerald Princess-S. Carib.- Jan., 2008, Mariner of the Seas-E. Carib.-January, 2007, Golden Princess-Med/Greek Isles-October, 2006, Star Princess-W. Carib.-January, 2006, Golden Princess-W. Europe/British Isles-June, 2005, HAL Zuiderdam-E. Carib.-Dec. 2003, HAL Volendam-W. Carib.-Dec. 2002. Silversea-Silver Whisper-Med.-May, 2002, Grand Princess-W. Carib.-Oct. 2001, Sea Princess-W. Carib.-Feb, 2000, Carnival Destiny-Canada/N.E.-June, 2000, HAL Maasdam-Baltic/Russia-July, 2000, Grand Princess-Grand Med.-June, 1999 and others...celebrating 35 years of cruising!
#7
Philadelphia, PA
740 Posts
Joined May 2002
Food on the Westerdam: We had a good executive chef on this ship. The dinner menus had a nice variety; the quality was decent; and the preparation was satisfactory. I never felt the need to send anything back to the kitchen. Just as on Princess, there were "always available" items on the dinner menu, such as a steak and a caesar salad. If you find the food somewhat decent on Princess, I predict that you will find it likewise on Holland America. The cuisine on Holland America is similar in quality to Princess. There is the occasional "drop-dead" memorable dish, but it isn't the way it used to be ten years ago. They served prime rib, lobster tails, Dover sole, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and other traditional dishes. Many people complained about the coffee on the Westerdam (sound familiar?), but I drank exclusively cappuccinos and espressos (my solution on Princess as well), so I have no complaints. There was no coffee card available for purchase, so I handed my card to the assistant waiter every morning and evening. I also ordered a glass of wine for dinner just about every night. There was a dedicated sommelier in the dining room; a nice touch! Now, where does Holland America fall down? Those of us who are used to 24/7 food availability on Princess are spoiled! First, there is no International Café. The dining room does not customarily serve lunch either in port or at sea. (I do believe there might have been lunch in the dining room on embarkation day, but I got on board too late to take advantage of it.) At 2:00 p.m., the buffet on Holland America shuts down until dinner, and the only thing open is the Pizza and Pasta station. Princess has the best pizza at sea. I eyed the pizza on Holland America, heard others' comments, and decided to pass. When famished and desperate, I chose pasta. I usually got back on-board from my shore excursions around 1:45 p.m., and would make a mad dash for the buffet. Sometimes I was successful in getting a nice lunch, sometimes not. This is when I really missed Princess. Yes, there was always room service, and tea was served at 3:00 p.m., but still, I missed continuous service of food. One other thing about the buffet. On Holland America, most of us never served ourselves, like we do on Princess. Each station was staffed by workers who would place the food on a plate and hand it to you. This, I'm sure, avoided a lot of NORO virus. For dinner I had traditional late dining that started at 8:15 p.m. I sat at a table for 6, with very compatible table-mates. Our waiter and assistant waiter were personable and wonderful, and addressed us by name after a couple of days. Those who had the equivalent of anytime dining were seated at tables among those of us who were on the traditional seating. There is only one dining room on the ship. I had breakfast in the dining room several times during the cruise. I enjoy sharing a table, so I was always seated promptly. I occasionally ordered breakfast from room service. There were scrambled eggs and bacon on the menu, in addition to the usual pastries and cereals, but the eggs tasted like egg-beaters. Still, it was nice to see a room service menu with more than "continental breakfast."

Entertainment on the Westerdam: Let me first say that this was a port-intensive cruise, and that I chose to have dinner at the traditional late sitting (8:15 p.m.). That meant I finished dinner around 10:00 p.m., and often chose to return to my cabin to relax and sleep. I must have walked miles and climbed small mountains every day in port (slight exaggeration). I never went to the production shows. Instead, I saw the two comedians. There was a party band that played R & B and had everyone hopping, there were "dueling pianos," and there was the chamber quintet. Some evenings, when walking from one venue to another, I found myself alone. Nobody strolling, nobody conversing as they went from one lounge to another. It was, as they say, dead. I've heard that about Holland America. However, there were people in the various lounges. They just didn't seem to go from one place to another. It was just a totally different atmosphere from Princess. Another thing I missed: no ballroom dancing. None. This was not a deal-breaker on a port-intensive cruise, but I'd think twice about cruising on Holland America in the Caribbean or on a more-relaxed itinerary. One of my favorite activities is trivia. There were two trivia competitions every evening: one on a special topic, the other one general. The prizes were embarrassing: pins from the Caribbean or Hawaii, never from the Mediterranean. It was just, well, chintzy. Well, truth to be told, most people do not play trivia for the prizes. As always, I met wonderful people there, and we enjoyed each others' company. As for daytime activities, I don't remember any other than port lectures. No crafts, no pool games. On the two days at sea, I caught up on R & R.

Miscellaneous items: For the Muster Drill, we were made to go outside to the deck by our assigned lifeboat, where staff scanned our cruise cards. We did not bring our life-jackets with us. Thankfully, it was not a steaming-hot day. I prefer Princess' Muster Drills, where we sit inside. On Debarkation Day, we were instructed to wait in our cabins until our color was called. That was wonderful!!!! I hate dragging my luggage to a departure lounge, like we do on Princess.

So, to conclude, I was happy with my cruise on Holland America's Westerdam. If I had to choose between identical itineraries, I'd still choose Princess in a heartbeat, but, just to demonstrate how much I enjoyed this cruise, I plunked down a future cruise deposit on Holland America. I'll be back. (Next up is the Regal Princess for the fourth time, next winter.)
#8
Philadelphia, PA
740 Posts
Joined May 2002
AF1: there's always room service if you get munchies. Although, I'd just grab items off the buffet and stuff them in my cabin refrigerator in case pangs struck. It's not the same as Princess, let's face it.
#9
Orange Park, Florida
4,749 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
As I recall on HAL the cabins are not available until bout 2 PM. If that is still the case, I guess it's the trade-off of being able to stay in your cabin until your debarkation color is called. It's been years since we sailed HAL (also Westerdam) but feel sure things have changed.

One thing I liked about HAL was that even in an OV cabin there was a loveseat/sofa and table and the bath had a bath tub/shower.
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Happy Cruising!!
Gloria

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#10
Las Vegas
10,715 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by PhillyCruiser
This was my first time on Holland-America Line, so I thought I'd give some perspective on the experience, after 24-or-so cruises on Princess. I chose to cruise on the Westerdam in the Mediterranean based on itinerary alone. I especially wanted to cruise out of Venice. As we all know, Princess has been absent from Venice for a couple of years, and next year - sigh - will be no different. In 2014-2015, Venice banned all cruise ships greater than 96,000 tons from the Giudecca Canal and St. Mark's Basin. I was on the May 23, 2017, cruise on the "Mediterranean Dream" itinerary (12 days Venice, Sarandë, Argostóli, Katákolon, Nafplion, Athens (overnight), Mykonos, Santorini, Naples, Civitavecchia).

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.
Hopefully w paragraphs so it can be read.

DON
#12
Minneapolis, MN
2,151 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
I have taken two HAL cruises: an eastern Mediterranean on the Noordam and a Caribbean on the Eurodam. The eastern Med was my best vacation ever but that was due to the itinerary. I don't think it would have mattered what cruise line we were on as long as it was pretty good ship.

The Caribbean cruise on the Eurodam was nice but with one exception I prefer Princess. The Crow's Nest was our favorite hangout during sea days. We loved it. To hear that HAL has moved the shore excursion desk there is a disappointment. If Princess had a Crow's Nest like I experienced on the Eurodam it would be fantastic. I would never even consider another line. I guess glad to stay a loyal Princess cruiser. I'm sure there are many who are happy to sail HAL.


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Susan in Minneapolis
#13
near Lake Huron, Canada
2,743 Posts
Joined Aug 2013
Originally posted by GloriaF
As I recall on HAL the cabins are not available until bout 2 PM. If that is still the case, I guess it's the trade-off of being able to stay in your cabin until your debarkation color is called. It's been years since we sailed HAL (also Westerdam) but feel sure things have changed.

One thing I liked about HAL was that even in an OV cabin there was a loveseat/sofa and table and the bath had a bath tub/shower.
Cabins are usually ready on HAL when you board. At least, on our last 2 cruises they were, and we were on board by noon.
#15
Tampa, FL
1,517 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Loved the comparison. We would like to try Holland America at some point but can't pull ourselves away from Princess (and the Elite perks).

When is your next cruise on the Regal?

-Andrew
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#16
Palmdale, Ca
32,733 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
OP;

Thanks for taking the time to compose and post your review.....

Bob
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#17
SF Bay Area
2,512 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Originally posted by GloriaF
As I recall on HAL the cabins are not available until bout 2 PM. If that is still the case, I guess it's the trade-off of being able to stay in your cabin until your debarkation color is called. It's been years since we sailed HAL (also Westerdam) but feel sure things have changed.

One thing I liked about HAL was that even in an OV cabin there was a loveseat/sofa and table and the bath had a bath tub/shower.
It was probably 3-4 years ago that we cruised on the Westerdam and other HAL ships and we were always able to get into our cabins as soon as we were on board and we always got on early.

One reason I was often amused when people would rave about that being the case on Princess. I had simply always expected it.
#18
781 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Our last cruise was on HAL after most of our cruises having been on Princess ships. Reading your review, I concur with most (if not all) of your observations. We too had a desire to sail into Venice(we embarked in Rome), and Princess' offerings were limited to do so. We also considered Celebrity, but decided on HAL -- as their itinerary was the best offered during our preferred time to sail.

We are primarily itinerary based cruisers, and as such, found that HAL provides very well for an itinerary-heavy sailing. The cabins are comfortable/well appointed, and the overall atmosphere is relaxing(good for R&R after long days touring in port). For those looking for activities to keep them busier on sea days and the evenings, Princess might be a better option.

We were usually pretty wiped out most days sailing a similar Adriatic/Eastern Med. itinerary. Most evenings we were content to simply have dinner and retire to our cabins after a drink or two with newfound friends aboard. On a handful of nights, we still caught a few (comedian/production)shows in the theater as well as the B.B. King blues venue one occasion.

I agree that the pool and large deck aft is a very nice spot to hang out. On one evening, a large Mediterranean themed spread was served with plenty of table-clothed banquet dining tables that were set up. It made for a very nice Al Fresco dining experience.

Overall, we found that the MDR food and service on HAL was comparable to that on Princess. Having the option to dine Asian/Fusion at a specialty restaurant was nice for a change. Where we find the buffets on Princess to be a little tight and chaotic(w/ people going both directions at times), the more open Lido Marketplace design was also pleasant change from the set-up on Grand-Class vessels. However, the non self-serve set-up on HAL did create for an effect creating confusion among passengers at times.

Often returning later from (and having lunched) ashore, we personally didn't find the lack of casual food offerings in the early-to-mid afternoon on board to be an issue. We did notice that HAL's room service was much better than that on Princess (w/ both the hot breakfast offerings and the wider selection of anytime options available).

We both decided that we have would have zero reservations about booking with HAL again for a unique itinerary-heavy sailing. The ship made for a nice and relaxing venue to accommodate for what was otherwise a somewhat strenuous schedule of touring during days in port. The smaller mid-size ship never felt crowded, and for us, it made for a more intimate cruising experience. Most of our fellow passengers were well heeled/traveled and provided for friendly and interesting conversations.

For a cruise in the Caribbean, or a sailing with a larger ratio of sea days/port days, we would likely look stronger at additional cruise line options, but certainly wouldn't nix HAL from consideration -- Especially for a unique itinerary visiting less common ports or a longer 'true' 12-14 day 'Circle Caribbean' style of cruise -- that Princess rarely (if ever) offers.

If we were to sail The Western Med., SE Asia or Northern Europe/Baltic, HAL might be a favored choice over Princess, although the British Isles itineraries that Princess offers do look pretty good.
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#20
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
5,405 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Originally posted by PhillyCruiser
AF1: there's always room service if you get munchies. Although, I'd just grab items off the buffet and stuff them in my cabin refrigerator in case pangs struck. It's not the same as Princess, let's face it.
THANKS for your reply
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