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digby

Westerdam Cruise 5/7

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We spent 12 days on the brand new Westerdam sailing 5/7 to and from Venice to Croatia, Turkey, Greece (5 ports) and Malta. It was only the second cruise for this fine new ship. It was our first Holland America cruise, and because of reading the reports and opinions of the HAL cruisers the last couple of years I had very high expectations. HAL cruisers seem to have an almost religious zeal in their feelings about this line.

 

We are fairly new to cruising, but in the last couple of years we’ve been on three cruises. The first was in an Owners Suite on the NCL Dream. The second was in a Penthouse Suite on the NCL Sky. The third was this Westerdam cruise in an “S†Class Deluxe Verandah Suite. So I’ll be comparing these different cruises in terms of cabins and services. Since many people seem to turn up their noses at NCL, I was expecting this cruise to be MUCH better in every aspect to the first two. Although we had a great time, I must say we got more ‘bang for the buck’ on NCL.

 

We flew from SFO to VCE by way of Frankfurt. We decided to spend the first night at the Laguna Palace in Mestre and take the HAL transfer to the ship the next morning. We did this because we knew we’d be very tired after the long trip, we’d been to Venice before, and we would be spending 3 days in Venice including the day on the ship. HAL had not given us any information about the transfer and the hotel staff had no information either. I was told that there would be a HAL rep. in the lobby the next morning at some time. So I went down at 9 AM and found a HAL table at which a women sat to sign us in and tell us what was going to happen. We were transferred around 11 AM, and it took about 15 minutes to get to the pier.

 

Check in for the suites was very slow as they only had one person at that counter. Finally after much moaning from those in line, a second agent was added to the position and things moved more quickly. We had quite a walk from the check in place to the gangway. I walked onto the ship expecting to be escorted to our cabin as I had been on NCL. But we were totally on our own. We decided to go the Neptune Lounge to wait for the cabin to be made ready. The Neptune Lounge is a very nice place in the middle of deck 7 for suite occupants. There are comfortable seats and tables, a TV, snacks and drinks, and the Concierge. She was supposed to let us know when the cabin was ready. After a snack or two, we decided to explore the ship on our own. We left our carry on bags in the lounge and went to see the ship.

 

We were generally impressed with the ship. It looks a lot better in ‘person’ than the early photos made it look. The colors in the photos made it look almost cartoonish, but the colors were much more muted especially at night with soft lighting. There is a small atrium with a beautiful Waterford Crystal ship revolving slowing in the middle. I thought all the public rooms were well done. The two story dining room is quite elegant although the lights could be a bit dimmer. The Lido Restaurant is very attractive and functional -- and served some of the best food on the ship at breakfast and lunch. (I never tried it for dinner.) The food there was tasty, plentiful, and of great variety.

 

Finally as we walked by our cabin, I decided to just use my key and see if I could get in. I could -- it was ready and waiting. We had Cabin 7132 which is an aft cabin on the back corner of the ship. We picked this particular cabin because of the size and position of the verandah. (What is the difference between a verandah, a balcony, and a deck? I use the terms interchangeably.) The cabin was nicely decorated, but was definitely NOT a suite. It was a single room cabin which was considerably bigger than ‘normal’ cabins. (On my NCL cruises both suites were actually two rooms.) In the one room cabin was a king size bed (one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on), a sofa which could be made into a single bed, a small oval cocktail table, a counter with a 27†TV placed in front of the window(!), a mini bar with a small bar above with glasses and ice buckets, and lots of closet space. There was no table to use for dining other than the low coffee table. As you walked into the bathroom there was a small vanity across from more closets. The bathroom was roomy enough. It had a double sink, a whirlpool tub and separate stall shower. There was no bidet. To my surprise, the counter with the sinks and the tub and shower were all made of very tacky pre molded plastic as you might find in a Motel 6. The tub and shower had regular shower curtains instead of glass doors as I expected. The flooring was of cheap looking vinyl tile. The room was certainly functional, but looked cheaply done.

 

The deck, however, was all we hoped for! It was HUGE! It was about 15’ deep and nearly 23’ long across the back of the ship. It also ran up the side of the cabin along the side of the ship for another 6’ by 20’. The deck had a round table with 5 chairs, two chairs with cushions and foot stools, and two very comfy chaise lounges. It was great for entertaining. We had 4 or 5 sail away parties with up to 8 people during the cruise and could have accommodated twice as many.

 

The food in the dining room was generally fine, but hardly exceptional and certainly no better than on our NCL cruises. (What is it people rave about the lobster? We were served a half of a frozen lobster tail which could be found at a Red Lobster. As one who spent a summer cooking 300 lobsters a day on Cape Cod, I know these were not the best they could have done.) We ate at the Pinnacle Restaurant twice. The steak and lobster there were very good. The room is quite beautiful except for the hideous ‘murals’ of vegetables which are brightly lighted from behind. They seemed more appropriate for a Denny’s!

 

I could have done without the three formal nights, but managed to get through them. No tux for me. A jet black suit with white starched shirt and black tie was as close as I would go. I still think there is something odd about telling grown men how to dress for dinner. I think a few of the ladies could have benefited by a notice on how to dress. A pastel polyester pants suit does not scream formal to me, especially with the husband all decked out in a tux.

 

We went to 3 big production shows which got better as we went along. The first night they were so over miked that it became unpleasant to be there. The performers were quite good. I think they need to rethink the music in the other venues. Only the man in the piano bar was entertaining to us after dinner. One bar had a classical duo/trio playing which seemed an odd choice to us. The Crow’s Nest and Ocean Bar had loud ‘music’ which we found unlistenable. I would have liked to see and hear a jazz group someplace on the ship.

 

The staff were all very nice and did a good job in the dining room and cabin. I would have liked to tip them additional money, but we were told by the cruise director that all additional money would be pooled and divided among the staff including the ship’s cleaners and chefs. (When did we start to tip these people?)

 

On NCL we had Butler and Concierge services. Within an hour of boarding, both came to the suites to introduce themselves and tell what they could do for us. We used both services a lot and tipped accordingly. On the Westerdam we would never have even met the Concierge if we had not gone to the Neptune Lounge, and there was no Butler service. Each afternoon on NCL the butler would bring a tray of wonderful canapés and would arrange all that was needed for cocktail parties for up to 12. On the Westerdam, canapés would come if you ordered them. When they were delivered they were in bowls covered in aluminum foil instead of displayed on a platter. The cold canapés were usually only half edible.

 

Disembarkation was well done until we went to claim our luggage! We were allowed to get off whenever we wanted, and since we were going to stay in Venice for two days we didn’t need to leave early. Around 9 AM we made our way to the luggage shed. There were only about 8 bags left in our section. Three were ours, but one of ours was missing. It was a garment bag with a suit, 11 shirts, and other things which would be need for the upcoming week in Italy. The missing bag was black with at least 4 name tags on it as well as orange masking tape across it to help it be identified. When we went to tell one of the HAL people who were wandering around with their clip boards, we were basically told to just keep looking on our own! After an hour of this and having spoken to at least three HAL people, we were told to fill out a report. We took pains to include all the information about the 4 hotels we would be at during the week. Before leaving we wrote down the tag information on the one bag left behind that was similar although it was blue and had easy to read name tags of a man from Yakima, WA. Off we went to the Westin Europa and Regina Hotel expecting a call from HAL soon after we got there. At check in the clerk said that another passenger had checked in from the cruise missing one bag too. (While filling out the lost bag report, we noted 3 others in the same situation.) Well, we NEVER heard a word from HAL! We were sitting on the terrace outside our hotel suite the next day as the ship sailed. I figured the bag was going on another cruise, but I was wrong. HAL never did a thing and never contacted us. We had to call them after getting home to find out that the bag was enjoying a stay in Paris! It seems that Mr. Yakima took the wrong bag and for some reason held onto it during his travels! I assume he must have a seeing eye dog if he could not tell the difference between those two bags! The bag arrived a couple of days after we got home by FedEx. None of our other baggage made the plane connection going back in Frankfurt and arrived here over the next two days. So we left home with a total of 6 bags and arrived home with one carry on. At least the wandering bags all made it home eventually!

 

All in all, I’d surely book another HAL cruise. I generally liked the ship and most aspects of the trip. I will just be more realistic when thinking of HAL. They are generally very good, but far from perfect which makes them like most cruise lines.

 

Next trip will be an Oceania Cruise around South America/Antarctica in December.

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Thanks for the review of this new ship. We were on the old Westerdam a few years ago and are looking forward to trying the new one out.

 

Have a GREAT next cruise.

 

HAL Noordam 3/97 West Carib

Hal Westerdam 12/97 East Carib

HAL Veendam 11/98 East Carib

Hal Zaandam 12/00 South Carib

HAL Veendam 10/01 Panama Canal

RCCL Enchantment 09/02 W.Carib

Costa Atlantica 12/02 E.Carib

HAL Noordam 03/03 S.Carib

Golden Princess 07/03 Med

Celebrity Zenith 12/03 W.Carib

HAL Maasdam 05/04 Canada

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Thanks for your review. We're on the Westerdam in July to the baltic sea ports. This is our first cruise and thanks for helping keeping our expectaions in check.

 

You're story about your luggage is hilarious (while I know it wasn't at the time!)

 

Also from San Francisco,

Carin

 

Westerdam - Baltic Sea

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All luggage arrived back in SF eventually! Glad it didn't happen on the way to the ship!

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Digby: "One bar had a classical duo/trio playing which seemed an odd choice to us."

 

The "strings" is one reason that I prefer HAL. A nice jazz group would be nice, also.

 

Thanks for the complete review.

 

SFJ

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nice review...

Had you looked on the boards prior to booking you cabin there are many threads about the aft S cabins. Some people love them (for the balcony) some hate them(because as you pointed out they are not large - esp for a suite). There are even pictures to illustrate these points...

I think the other point which you made about the mainstream cruiselines being more alike than different is also well taken. These comments seem to be on all the boards.

Just a note if you have booked an owners suite on the Oceania there is also a story to tell on these ! I was on teh TP last summer and there were about even comments in terms of people either beign dissapointed or liking them. To the extent that people know their shortfalls they seemed to like them much more ! Often its a matter of expectations not meeting the reality.

 

Jacqueline

Constellation 3/20/04

HAL Westerdam 7/30/04

Tahitian Princess August 2003

Grand Princess Western Caribbean 2003

Brilliance of the Seas Baltic 2002

Ocean Princess- Alaska 2001

Celebrity Zenith- Bermuda 2001

Grand Princess Med 2000

 

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I did know in advance that it would be one room, but it certainly was better than the 'regular' size cabins. On Oceania we have booked a Penthouse suite which I think is the same as a "S" class on HAL. We are wait listed for an Owner Suite.

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BTW what did you do in Malta ?

 

Jacqueline

Constellation 3/20/04

HAL Westerdam 7/30/04

Tahitian Princess August 2003

Grand Princess Western Caribbean 2003

Brilliance of the Seas Baltic 2002

Ocean Princess- Alaska 2001

Celebrity Zenith- Bermuda 2001

Grand Princess Med 2000

 

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looks like the pH is the minisuite on Princess (deck 8). I think that these are very nice- esp since you can see straight out your balcony (look at the picture on the website carefully). The OS have a solid steel hull from the railing down- no view unless you are standing. No view from your room. BUT these cabins are huge (two full rooms and a bath and a half) Beautifully finished. Frankly, i did not need the space and would have liked the see thru balcony.

ALSO foward there is the noise of the anchor (this bothers some people a lot and others a little). When sailing there is too much wind to be out on the balcony. IF you look carefully you will see that the view is over the ropes deck.. AFT is bigger cabins and deck but more vibration and movement. This did not bother me. I would think twice before gettting a foward OS on this ship, but might consider an aft if I really needed all that space.

 

Jacqueline

Constellation 3/20/04

HAL Westerdam 7/30/04

Tahitian Princess August 2003

Grand Princess Western Caribbean 2003

Brilliance of the Seas Baltic 2002

Ocean Princess- Alaska 2001

Celebrity Zenith- Bermuda 2001

Grand Princess Med 2000

 

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Digby,

I am new to these message boards so just read your fine review of the Agean Odyssey cruise--we were on board also although in a lesser cabin (SS suite). It was our second HAL trip and I will go on them again although we are not fans of big ships. We despise being told when to eat and with whom every night for dinner. Like yourself our next cruise will be on Oceania Nov. 23 in the Carribbean. We are very anxious to see how they compare to Radisson as most of our cruises have been on their smaller ships. We are looking forward to their open seating dining and their smaller size. But back to the Westerdam--fortunately we had none of the luggage problems you encountered at least with HAL--we did get caught in the middle of a vaporetto strike in Venice after disembarkation while we had our luggage (we also stayed over in Venice) and it was the only wrinkle in the whole trip. We just loved the itinerary and can't wait to go back to that area of the world again. Definitely want to see more of Turkey and maybe Crete, Mykonos and Corfu. I find watching all the Olympic stuff really fascinating after being to Athens and Olympia, don't you? A couple of comments you made I really agree with especially that ugly lit up fruit painting in the Pinnacle (fortunately, my back was to it!) Also, the bit about pooling all the tips so as to discourage one from rewarding someone for exceptional service. Since this cruise was early in their new tipping guideline maybe they will get it all straightened out before we sail them again. I know Oceania also auto bills your account the tips but I wonder what they will say about individual tipping? We were nervous about going on a ship's second cruise but felt everything went exceptionally well--if their next new ship the new Noordam has an itinerary to our liking we will definitely try it early also. There is something about knowing everything (mattresses, pillows, sofa, carpet etc.) is all new that really appeals to me! Enjoy your journey to South America!

Barbarag (from NC where Hurricane Charley is upon us as I write!)

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