Here’s what started as a brief review of my first cruise and my lovely girlfriend’s third. After much research I decided the Westerdam Eastern Caribbean cruise would be a great way to give cruising a try. We embarked on 12/7 for a week of fun. To provide a bit of background we’re in our late thirties and travelled without my teenage son.
Embarkation: We arrived at around 12:30 and were through security, the waiting room, photos and in our cabin on the upper verandah deck by 1:00 pm. So far so good. We booked a specific SY cabin and that’s what we received. No offers or upgrades though this may have had more to do with the discount online agency than HAL. A lesson learned there.
Suite and service: Layout was great. Some furnishings showing wear but nothing that was too off putting. The bed was extremely comfortable and I slept better on the cruise than I have in years. Perhaps it was the quiet, perhaps it was the motion. Cleanliness on the other hand was a different story. Our room stewards and their service were perhaps the most disappointing area of our entire cruise. On arrival there were stray hairs in the bathroom, a forehead print on the balcony window and a general feeling of neglect. One day there was no turn down / evening service at all. The request for an additional towel had to be communicated each day otherwise it was not provided. Upon return from Grand Turk there was a little sand / shell fragments that unfortunately fell out of a drying bathing suit onto the bathroom floor. These remained on the floor and were still present at the end of the cruise. A telephone request to pick up a couple of dishes we brought back from the Lido and didn't want in the room all night went unheeded until a second call was placed three hours later. A second request was also needed hours later to receive additional ice one day. Cabin carpet was only vacuumed on the last day of the cruise. I've seen on the boards how people rave about their cabin stewards. As a first time cruiser I guess I just don't get it. Other than relatively poor housekeeping and a daily ice delivery I didn't see any additional service.
Spa Facilities and Services: We had purchased the Hydro pool / Thermo suite package prior to the trip and found this to be well worth the cost. Additionally my wonderful girlfriend had 2 massages and an acupuncture treatment. I had one massage. She was extremely happy with all services as was I. My only complaint about the spa is the lack of amenities in the changing / locker rooms. I’ve never been to a spa that didn’t include amenities such as cotton swabs, combs, deodorants etc. I think we spent a substantial amount of money in the spa, is a cotton swab and a comb or brush too much to ask for? Maybe it’s a small thing but it definitely creates a perception of austerity.
Canaletto: We ate our first night in Canaletto and were extremely surprised / impressed with both the service and the quality of the food. So much so that we returned a few nights later. The service at our second meal was also excellent though the food was not quite as good. The service we received in Canaletto was the best we received anywhere the entire cruise. Both the waiter and sommelier were wonderful.
Pinnacle Grill: We ate in the Pinnacle both formal nights and the final night of the cruise. Our first experience the food and service were both very good. The second night a neighboring table received our appetizers and we later received their entrees. No harm was done and everyone was very nice. The final night was as good as our first night with the exception of the scallop potatoes which weren’t as good. As a side note we brought our own wine on board and the sommelier here was a bit of a prig about uncorking for us and not selling us a bottle. Nothing overt, just a general attitude but a night and day difference between him and the young lady in Canaletto.
We never ate in the MDR so I can’t comment on that.
Lido for breakfast was good, and the service was always pleasant. For lunch sandwiches were generally good but they were out of croissants the first couple of days that I tried to get a sandwich made with one. Hot entrees were basically banquet food quality. Not terrible but nothing to get too excited about. Desserts were also a bit of a disappointment as most of the ones we tried looked good but were relatively tasteless.
Room service: We tried this one night and the order arrived minus an entrée. A call to room service and this was quickly rectified. Breakfast deliveries were all on time and very good. I couldn’t have been happier.
General observations: There were children on board, not dozens but I’d say a dozen or so that I noticed. Of them there was only one that seemed to be running amok. He seemed to be in the Explorations café 3 of the 4 times I was there or at the Lido pool whenever we walked by on the way to the spa. We laughed it off but some parents/ grandparents just don’t seem to have any regard for others. The counterpoint to this was a family of four with 2 young children that sat beside us in the Pinnacle on the second formal night who were very attentive to and had the most well behaved children. It was truly a joy to watch.
I was surprised the Culinary Arts Center / Queen's Lounge is not used for more cooking classes. Only one on a seven day cruise and it was for a Caribbean dish I didn't wish to learn about. I personally was looking forward to taking some classes. I attended a couple of demonstrations and while pleased to pick up the recipe cards thought the demos themselves were pretty weak.
We enjoyed the casino a few times and the BB King show a couple of nights in the Queen’s Lounge.
As for ports we had a great time on Grand Turk tooling around in our golf cart from Nathan’s, enjoyed St. Maarten in our rental car from Coastal though I would have loved a few more hours there. San Juan has never been one of my favorite places but old town is much nicer now than it was several years ago. Half Moon Cay was a nice break. It feels a little like a movie set but a nice relaxing few hours.
In reading the above it sounds like we had a terrible time and were miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth. We really enjoyed our cruise. As a first time cruiser I may have had a few expectations that weren’t met but that’s probably more my fault than HAL’s. I loved the Westerdam and think she is a beautiful ship with a wonderful crew. We enjoyed being on board, most meals and the common areas. When we pulled into the different ports next to the Carnival Breeze or the Celebrity don’t remember the name I was thankful to be on the Westerdam and not one of the others.
So the big question: Would I cruise again? Yes. Would I cruise on HAL? Absolutely. In fact we were already talking on the flight home about a Med cruise in the spring.