Semi-live from Westerdam

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#1
Puget Sound area
3,549 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Hello CC'ers,

I am writing this early Monday morning as we are passing by Eluethra Island in the Bahamas, en route to Little San Salvador island, that we all know better as Half Moon Cay.


DW and I are on the beautiful MS Westerdam, and departed Fort Lauderdale yesterday afternoon on a seven-day Western Caibbean sailing. This is the first time I've attempted it, but I will try to do a semi-live blog of the trip.

We left the Washington, DC area Friday and drove down, staying in hotels in Florence, SC and Orlando on the way. Yesterday, we drove the Florida Turnpike from Orlando into Fort Lauderdale, an easy jaunt and something that kept us from going crazy waiting for boarding time. Even after getting caught in a traffic jam when the police stopped traffic at 17th St. and US 1 for a motorcycle procession (ah, spring break time), we were able to fill the gas tank, get back to the port and park, drop off our checked bags and get into the terminal before 11 a.m.

Check in was a breeze -- we went through security, went straight up to get the ship cards, and got a boarding number. Yesterday was beginning of daylight saving, and I think the ship was doing their best to clear in a bit less time than normal. Still, we only waited about 15 minutes before we were allowed to board.

We went to lunch in the Lido, and were able to get to our staterooms before 2 p.m. Most of our luggage came before lifeboat drill, and the last piece shortly after that.

The ship is as wonderful as we remember it from our b2b two years ago, although there have been some changes that we noticed:

- The Explorations Cafe is now in the starboard half of the Crow's Nest and includes what used to be the Oak Room.

- The Erasmus Library is closed, and the cases appear to be filled with jewelry displays; perhaps it is part of the shops complex now.

- The area forward of the library still has a small coffee bar area, but mostly is now shops as well.

- I don't know if it was only for embarktion day, but the Lido stations are a bit different: the sandwich line is the first half of the hot foods line; the salad bar is where the deli sandwich station was, and the area where the salads used to be was taken up with cold cuts and such things. There are still separate Asian and pizza/pasta stations. As others have reported, they had no trays, but we were not inconvenienced by that, and noticed that mobility-challenged people were being helped by staff as always. Once I figured out that I was really in the sandwich line instead of the hot line as I intended, it went very smoothly. I am always appreciative of the fact that we are now allowed on early instead of huddling in a terminal, and am impressed with how well the ship and staff can handle that influx of a large number of passengers whe are in mostly the Lido area -- not many people were in the other public spaces for the first couple of hours.

The captain is Henk Keijer, and the CD is Kerry Watkins. I've not seen the HM yet. The staff is as friendly and helpful as we have always found.
Probably because it is spring break time, the passenger mix seems different that usual, We have a good many children (by HAL numbers anyway), and a lot of younger people -- 20 and 30-somethings. We are in SY on the 6th deck, and our neighbors on one side consists of a family with young children, including a boy of about four who is having a wonderful time; we met in the passageway when he and his mother were returning to their cabin as I was returning to mine, and he enthusiastically greeted me -- I think he likes shipboard life, at least so far!

The cabin is great. We used to book "V" class cabins (or "A" or "B" on S-class ships), but had an SY on last fall's Noordam T-A. Well, SY is now the minimum standard for DW! It really is a comfortable cabin, with more space to move around in and more places to stow things, but the clincher is the bathroom, which has separate shower and tub, but most importantly to us, has double vanities and medicine chests and a long storage shelf.

We were suprised not to receive "The Voyage Begins" sheets with our room keys, or to find the first day's program in the stateroom, but both were delivered early evening. Here are some key info points:

- Formal nights are Monday (today, HMC day), and Thursday (Grand Cayman day). We had heard that the second formal night was Friday, but that is Costa Maya day, with long shore excursions and a later sailaway. We think Thursday makes more sense for the second formal, and suspect that Friday will be the steel beach picnic on Lido deck in the evening.

- Internet is $100 for 250 minutes, $55 for 100 minutes, or 75 cents per minute for pay as you go. We got a 20-minute bunus when we signed up for the 250-minute package. (Thanks to RevNeal for the tip on writing out the posts before logging on and then cutting and pasting to save online time. Great idea, Greg!)

- Laundry deals are: $20 for a bag full, or $45 for unlimited. Unlimited pressing is $30 for the cruise. We usually get the unlimited laundry package on longer cruises, but will just go with the bag-full deal, and probably only once on the seven-day cruise.

There are a few other CC'ers on board, and we tried an informal gather in the Crow's Nest after the muster drill, which was a 4:15, which seems a bit earlier than it used to be. Our sailaway was about 4:45, which also seems earlier, but there were a LOT of cruise ships sailing yesterday, so that was probably our departure slot in a complicated port loading plan. At any rate, a few of us gathered in the Crow's Nest. When the ship started sailing, the others moved to the Lido party, and I rejoined DW for unpacking and then our first traditional seating dinner time.

I asked for a table for 2 when I booked the cruise, and we actually got one! We have only last night to judge so far, but we enjoy it very much. While we have met some wonderful table partners over the years, we dsicussed last night that this makes it a "cruise off" where we can just enjoy each other's company at dinner.

For the first time, we ordered a wine Navigator package -- we bought the Admiral's package, five bottles of premium wine for $199. We had a very nice chianti last night, and have ordered a pinot grigio for tonight. The way it works is, we tell the wine steward which wine from the list we want when we want it; we didn't have to pick the five bottles at the beginning.

We did a bit of slots action in the casino, introduced ourselves to the staff in the Ocean Bar, and turned in early (we are early risers). We missed the show, which was only offered at 10 p.m.; we are not big fans of Broadway-style productions, and we had been up since about 5 a.m. (in anticipation of going on cruise!). Perhaps we'll take in a show if there is a comedian or magician, but we usually pass on them. Tonight is supposed to be the Captain's Welcome toast before the show, but we will probably not attend.

We still haven't checked out the Explorers Lounge, Pinnacle, etc., etc. More to follow, but now it is about time for one of my favorite cruise moments -- coffee on our balcony with DW while the sun rises. If you have any questions, let me know, and I'll try to find the answers (or maybe I'll just make it up ).

Dave
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#2
Melbourne
1,592 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Thankyou for your review so far...

It feels like we are sailing with you!!!

I am intrigued with the navigator wine package... Wondering what your other choices are?

Originally posted by RetiredMustang
For the first time, we ordered a wine Navigator package -- we bought the Admiral's package, five bottles of premium wine for $199. We had a very nice chianti last night, and have ordered a pinot grigio for tonight. The way it works is, we tell the wine steward which wine from the list we want when we want it; we didn't have to pick the five bottles at the beginning.
Have a wonderful time.. We will look forward to your updates..

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#3
1,647 Posts
Joined Oct 2002
Thanks for taking us along with you! We'll be on the Westerdam in a few weeks, so I will be following along with great interest.
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#4
112,920 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Thank you for checking in and letting us know how thigs are going.

When we were on the Westerdam last April/May -- they were converting the Erasmus Library from an area that had Travel books and where the port person's desk was located to another boutique.
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Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement!
Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
#5
112,920 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
This was the list that we saw on our recent cruises:


Navigator's Choice of White Wine:
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Rirsling - CA
Monkey Bay Chardonnay - New Zealand
Caliterra Cgardonnay - Chile
Danzante Pignot Grigio - Italy
Blackstone Sauvignon Blanc - CA

Navigator's Choice of Red Wine:
Twin Fin Shiraz - CA
Three Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon - CA
Veramonte Merlot - Chile
Ravenswood Zinfandel - CA
Marchesi Di Frescobaldi Remole - Italy
Kiara Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - CA
Laboure-Roi Pinot Noir - France

Admiral's Choice of White Wines:
Four Emus Chardonnay - Australia
Columbia Winery Gewurztraminer - WA
Silverado Sauvignon Blanc - Napa, CA
Laboure-Roi, Macon Villages, France
Franciscan Chardonnay - Napa, CA

Admiral's Choice of Red Wines:
Spellbound Cabernet Sauvignon - CA
The Jibe Pinot Noir - New Zealand
Niner Merlot - Paso Robles, CA
Marchesi Di Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chanti - Italy
Blackstone Syrah - CA
Ravenawood Icon - Sonoma, CA
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Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement!
Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
#6
Illinois
6,506 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Thanks for doing this Westerdam thread. She was our first HAL ship, and will always be special to us because of that. I look forward to more of your interesting reports.
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<br>Donna, of Jon & Donna

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#7
28 Posts
Joined May 2008
Thank you for taking us along. We will be sailing her the end of this month and can't wait. I would love to see the menu if you can manage that. Thanks!
#8
New Jersey
5,136 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I was so excited when I saw a "live from" (or almost) thread that I almost cried! As you will note, I was supposed to be on this cruise, but we had to cancel because DBF had a medical procedure. I can now follow the cruise vicariously through your thread. THANK YOU!
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#9
Oakville, Ontario
1,126 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Thanks so much for posting Dave. I will be on the Westerdam at HMC in just three short weeks . I will be following your reports with great interest and hope you don't mind answering some questions if you have time.

I spend a lot of time on a cruise reading, and was hoping to not have to add to my already overweight luggage by choosing books from HAL's normally well-stocked library. Now your comments on the library have me somewhat concerned. Where is the library now? I recall they had moved the library on the Zuiderdam up to the Crow's Nest area along with the Explorations Cafe. Can you tell me if that is where the library is now, and does it seem to be well stocked?

Have a great cruise!

Bonnie
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#10
Raleigh, N.C.
13,361 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
Thanks for posting. We'll be onboard next week. My co-worker did your itinerary three weeks ago and loved it and the ship.
#11
Puget Sound area
3,549 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
All,

Well, the sun rose this morning, but it was mostly overcast. We pulled into HMC on time, and were cleared right away to go ashore. DW remarked that we had not filled out a Bahamas entry card -- apparently either Bahamas has changed their procedures, or HAL has a way now of reporting passenger information to the Bahamas immigration. Easier on us, the passengers.

We went ashore in one of the first launches. It stayed overcast for the first couple of hours, but then the clouds burned away and the sun came out, and the sand gleamed, and the bay was azure! We walked all the way to the end of the beach -- or a least to where a rock outcrop blocked the way and a sign said going further was dangerous and forbidden. In all, a mile or more.

I took a high-density shot back along the beach, so that it appears that the island is deserted, with a pristine white-sand beach fading into the distance. That will greplace a smaller, similar shot in a frame DW has at home that contains the first verse of "Sea Fever" -- she uses it when doing relaxation drills or as an anticipation of the next Caribbean cruise.

We then nabbed front-row seats at the I Could Stay Here Forever bar and watched the parasailers and sun worshipers (and sun-burners) in the chairs on the beach. We came back to the ship after having a barbeque lunch, with the semi-wild chickens and other birds offering to share. A lazy afternoon followed, and we are about to dress for the first formal night -- me in my Caribbean mess dress (formal fish bowtie and cummerbund) and DW in her La Isla Bonita dress.

To answer some questions:
1.The wine navigator offers the following choices:

Navigator's Choice:
- Robert Mondavi Private Selection Reisling (Calif.)
- Monkey Bay Chardonnay (New Zealand)
- Caliterra Chardonnay (Chil)
- Danznte Pinot Grigio (Italy)
- Blackstone Sauvignon Blanc (Calif.)
- Ravenswood Zinfandel (Calif.)
- Sylvester Kiara Reserve Canernet Sauvignon (Calif.)
- Three Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon (Calif.)
- Frescobaldi Remole (Italy)
- Veramonte Merlot (Chle)
- Twin Fin Shiraz (Calif.)
- Laboure'-Roi Pinot Noir (France)
Price: 3 bottles $89; 5 bottles $149; 7 bottles $199

Admiral's Choice:
- Four Emus Chardonnay (Australia)
- Columbia Winery Gewurztraminer (Wash.)
- Estancia Pinot Grigio (Calif., and $9.99 a bottle at the Arlington VA Total Wine)
- Silverado Sauvignon Blanc (Calif.)
- Franciscan Chardonnay (Calif.)
- Laboure'-Roi Macon Villages (France)
- Spellbound Cabernet Sauvignon (Calif.)
- Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)
- Mark West Pinot Noir (Calif.)
- Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti (Italy)
- Capalon Merlot (Calif.)
- Blackstone Syrah (Calif.)
Price: 3 bottles $118; 5 bottles $199; 7 bottles $269

And yes, a 15% service charge is added to the above totals. OK, we get Estancia Pinot Grigio at home for $10 a bottle, so the mark-up is high, but we only wanted to drag along a few half-liter boxes of suille wine for in the room. (That's swill if you are winos -- suille if you are wineaux like us.)

2. Menus: I'm not certain if I can take photos of and post menus, but will try to keep track. Last night they offered as entrees a penne with a tomota-base sauce, prime rib (which I had), an eggplant canneloni over risotto (which DW had, it was eggplant slices wraped around cheesy filling).

3. Jerzbird: I am so sorry you could not make it; blonde21 tried to organize us, and I met her and her DW yesterday as well as SteveinPhilly, but I don't know if they ever met up with other CC'ers.

More to follow,

Dave
#13
Woodstock GA
133 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Originally posted by waiting2retire

I spend a lot of time on a cruise reading, and was hoping to not have to add to my already overweight luggage by choosing books from HAL's normally well-stocked library. Now your comments on the library have me somewhat concerned. Where is the library now? I recall they had moved the library on the Zuiderdam up to the Crow's Nest area along with the Explorations Cafe. Can you tell me if that is where the library is now, and does it seem to be well stocked?


Bonnie

We are equally as concerned. On board for 14 days and don't want to weigh ourselves down with a ton of books, But reading while sunning or relaxing is essential. Please say the Library is intact somewhere!!
Debbie
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#14
Puget Sound area
3,549 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
All,

Last night was the first formal night, and everyone seemed to adhere to the code. There were a few tuxes for the men, but most were in dark suits and a few were in sports jacket and tie. The ladies were dressed ranging from full gowns to cocktail dresses and pant suits. No overalls or jeans cutoffs were to be found (at least until we turned in -- they may have come out later.) If I did it right, I have attached a photo of me in my formal fish.

Dinner was wonderful. I'm not expert enough or my laptop lacks the software to crop, enlarge, etc. photos so I won't try to post the photos I took of the menus, but they are typed below. DW and I both had the four mushroom soup (very tasty), and she had Beef Wellginton while I had the fettucine ai frutti di mare (scallops and mussels and clams, oh my!) The fettucine was fresh-made, and the shellfish was in a lobster cream sauce -- very good.

This morning is also looking like it is mostly overcast. I hope it burns off by late morning as we have a snorkel trip lined up in Grand Turk, and its better snorkeling if the sun is out.

For waiting2retire and Samsmom, sorry I wasn't complete in my descriptions -- yes, there is still a library, and it is in the Explorations Cafe on Deck 10. The choice of books seems about the same or a little less than when it was down below. If you don't bring your own books, I would recommend that one of your embarkation day activities be to hit the libary before all the good titles are checked out.

Westerdam dinner menu, March 10, 2009

Appetizers
- Melange of Tropical Fruit - with an intriguing cilantro balsamic maple reduction
- Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail - plump cilled hsrimp with an American coctail sauce
- Beef Carpaccio - Thinly sliced beef served with capers, pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese
- Cribbean Fish Cakes - moist and tender, flavored with capers, leek, jalapeno, bell pepper and served with a smoky cjipotle lime sauce

Soups and Salads
- Cream of Four Mushroom Soup - A rich and warming blend of oyster, shiitake, button and enoki mushrooms
Jamaican Chicken and Callaloo Soup - Shredded chicken breast with butternut squash, callaloo greens, garlic and thyme, combined in a flavorful chickeb broth and toppe with toasted coconut
- Chilled mango Gaspacho - Our Master Chef's unique and incomparably refreshing version of a classic gazpacho
- Chopped armer's Salad - Baby spinach with red onion, tomato, cucumber and feta cheese

Entrees
- Fettucine Frutti di Mare - Plump scallops, shrimp clams and mussels tossed in lightly whipped lobster brandy cream with chopped Italian parsely
- Oven Roasted Quail - Stuffed with spinach and goat cheese on a bed of shiitake mushroom brown rice with glazed pineapple
- Filet of Beef Wellington - Mouthwatering tenderloin of beef wrapped with a duxelles of duck liver and mushrooms, wrapped in a puff pastry, served on a mirror of Madeira sauce with duchesse potatoes and a medley of green asparagus and Chinese pea pods
- Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb - Rubbed with Dijon mustard and garlic herb crumbs, served with a full-flavored Pinot Noir sauce, minted virgin olive oil, robust ratatouille, and savory potato pie
- Baked Mahi-Mahi Filled With Shrimp Mousse - Served with steamed crab legs, poached red skin potatoes, steamed spring vegetables and garlic herb butter sauce
- Seared Beef Tataki Salad - Quickly-seared lime-cilantro garlic marinated flank steak, served rare with avocado, tomato, mixed greens and tossed with wasabi vinaigrette
- Couscous Florentine - Couscous and spinach served with a grilled vegetable kebab accompanied by a dill-flavored nonfat sour cream sauce


Westerdam dessert menu March 10, 2009
- Master Chef Rudi's Double Strawberry Cheesecake - A luscious blend of low-fat cream cheese, fresh eggs and sugar, served in a shimmering fresh strawberry sauce
- Chocolate Souffle' - Satiny French chocolate lightened with egg white foam and baked to lofty heights, served with Amaretto sauce
- Strawberry Romanoff - Grand Marinier marinated strawberries topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream
- Crepes Suzette - Crepes smothered in a warm orange-caramel sauce with Grand Marinier
- lmond Fruit Cake - A moist almond butter cake layered with cherries ande Frangelico whipped cream
- Slice Fruit Plate
- Assorted Cheese Plate

More later,
Dave
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Formal Fish.jpg (11.5 KB, 190 views)
#16
Illinois
6,506 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Your reports are great ... they make me hungry. We love your tie and cummerbund - how unusual. Very nice!
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<br>Donna, of Jon & Donna

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#17
New Jersey
5,136 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
A lovely formal fish tux, indeed. Thanks for sharing! The menu looks wonderful. I'll have the lamb, please.

If I read correctly, they have done away with the Oak Room. Is there a place for the cigar smokers now? They also used to have Friends of Bill W and Friends of Dorothy meetings there and some other small gatherings. Any idea where they've been moved?

I'm really enjoying your reports. Thank you for taking the time to do so. I eagerly await your next one! Say hi for me to any fellow CC members you run into!

Maureen
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#18
Puget Sound area
3,549 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
As we wait to dock at Grand Turk.

First, the menus were from March 9 (last night), not tonight's menus.

There is no Oak Room any more so far as I can see. Cigar smokers are asked to smoke in the aft pool area. What used to be the library was open last night and it does appear to be part of the jewelry area of the shops. Friends of Dorothy are meeting in the Ocean Bar, and at least for the first day anyway the Friends of Bill W. met in the Piano Bar. That seemed odd to us, but of course the actual bar is not open at the time they meet.

Dave
#20
America's Hometown
17,223 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Originally posted by jrzebird
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I was so excited when I saw a "live from" (or almost) thread that I almost cried! As you will note, I was supposed to be on this cruise, but we had to cancel because DBF had a medical procedure. I can now follow the cruise vicariously through your thread. THANK YOU!
Thank you, Dave, for your live from thread...everyone always enjoys those!

jrzebird...I am so sorry to hear that you had to cancel this cruise! I hope there's another on the horizon for you.
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Sheila
"innlady1"
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Future Cruises
MS Veendam - Bermuda - 05/18
Past Cruises
MS Veendam - Bermuda - 05/15
MS Nieuw Amsterdam - Eastern Caribbean - 02/15
MS Noordam - Southern Caribbean - 02/14
MS Maasdam - Eastern Caribbean - 01/14
MS Nieuw Amsterdam - Med/westbound TA B2B- 10/13
MS Ryndam - Southern & Western Caribbean B2B- 02/13
MS Veendam - Bermuda - 05/12
MS Maasdam - Caribbean - 01/12
MS Maasdam - Caribbean - 01/11
MS Noordam - Caribbean B2B - 01/10
MS Noordam - Caribbean B2B - 01/09
MS Noordam - Caribbean - 02/08
MS Noordam - Caribbean - 02/07
Caribbean Princess - Eastern Caribbean - 02/06