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LolaWiz

If you want a bedtime novel, here is my WESTERDAM W.CARIB REVIEW!

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It is long....

Please feel free to ask any questions as well :)

About the cruisers on this trip:

We had a wide range of ages from late teens to mid 60’s. My brother is 20, I am 22, husband is 23, mom is mid 50’s and in-laws late 50’s/early 60’s. This was everyone’s first cruise anywhere but myself and my husbands… this was our third, our second with HAL. We travel quite a bit but are always grateful and rarely find things wrong with any vacation.

 

Because my father in law is deathly afraid of flying, we drove from Michigan down to Ft Lauderdale.

On the way down to FLA, we were blessed with unseasonably warm weather, except there was quite a rain cloud all the way from Virginia and S. Carolina.

 

We choose HAL again simply because we loved our first experience on the Oosterdam one year ago. Although we are younger than the average HAL cruiser, we do not like a party type atmosphere and we think HAL is the perfect fit for us: wonderful attention to detail, attentive yet not intrusive service and wonderful staterooms.

Things like fresh flowers everywhere and beautiful artwork make a typical western Caribbean cruise something special and memorable for everyone.

 

Because of hurricane damage, our ports were changed from Cozumel to Costa Maya (which was better for us since my husband really wanted to see the Mayan ruins and Costa Maya is closer to them than Cozumel.)

 

Besides Costa Maya, other ports include Holland America Line’s private island Half Moon Cay (which is really Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.), Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island.

 

In our party of six, we have three different types of rooms ranging from a large inside stateroom, to deluxe verandah to a deluxe verandah suite (SA, SB, SC… our particular room is an SA)

I was lucky enough to persuade my dear husband to get a “real” suite from our last year’s cabin of an SS (superior verandah suite)

 

We drove in to FLA the day before and stayed about an hour away from Ft Lauderdale due to a swimming convention there. The hotel we got was a steal from priceline, especially for a doubletree.

 

On Sunday, we drove to the Park and Fly a few miles away from the port and were very glad we choose this route. We were picked up very quickly and there were only two other people in the shuttle with us. Also, this was a better idea because I know at times; the port is crazy to navigate for a first timer there.

 

When we finally got to the port, there was already quite a long line outside the terminal. I thought I made a big mistake getting there later than 11:30, but as we soon found out, the line was extremely quick to enter the HAL terminal.

 

Since we were in an S Suite, at the beginning of the winding line, we were whisked away to stand in our own check in. My in-laws had to wait in that line but it went fast as they had all 25 booths open for check in.

In our line, someone greeted us, and started getting all of our info ready for the actual check in process of issuing sea passes and the like. It took about 5 minutes and then we waited for the rest of our party. Once they were ready, we went through a very efficient security line and were on board in twenty minutes total.

 

At that time, it was about 12:30 and we were just going to drop our luggage at the Neptune lounge and go to the Lido, but when we got to the 7th floor, a crew complete in white gloves escorted us to our suite. Last year, we had an SS “suite” which was nice, but upon entering this cabin, my DH and I both knew that we could never go back to anything but this. The verandah was huge, the room VERY spacious with a wonderful king bed. All of our things were waiting for us like an invitation to a suite cocktail party that evening as well as everything for HMC the next day.

 

I quickly checked out the Neptune lounge and met Monette and Evelyn who were very happy to please the whole cruise. It was nice to be just a few seconds away from it for a quick espresso or mid day snack.

 

*Off subject a little bit here… Several weeks before we sailed, I faxed ship services a request for a window table on our early upper dining room seating. I know they said it was a request, but if you want a chance at all at a specific table, this is the best thing to do because with that quick request, we got one of the most amazing tables in the whole Vista dining room. Right at the back of the ship looking at the wake. Also, we found that the lower dining room is much louder and has a pretty noticeable “vibe” from the engine if the water is rough, so from now on, we will only request upper seatings. Just so you know, we had table 30. It was a table for 6 and was perfect.

 

Dinner the first night was very nice. We met our assistant waiter as our main waiter was not able to be there that night. Deddy was a sweet young man (who was recognized for his service and is now on the Noordam) who after the first night knew that three of us always had an espresso after dinner (two were double shots) and the others in our party had specific coffee requests. He unfailingly brought our cups as we finished dinner each night. The second night, we met Chandra, our main waiter and found out why he was not there that first night. He was in charge of arranging ALL dining tables for the entire cruise so we forgave him for not being there ;)

 

I have to say that my husbands and my taste is quite rounded and we eat and enjoy meals from the most gourmet places to the almighty Taco Bell, so we know a thing or two about good food and presentation. That being said, the meals on the Westerdam were some of the BEST meals we have ever had… not just on a cruise ship, but anywhere including some very ritzy places in Hawaii. My husband noted that the tuna steak he had was the best he had ever eaten (it was seared) and I cannot say one meal was better than another because each dinner was better than the last. HAL to me, really is good at finding unusual ways to present appetizers and main entrees as well as prepare old favorites while giving the opportunity to try new dishes. We had some big eaters in our party who often times ordered more than one entrée or soup but they were never turned down with a double helping. A final comment about the dining room and food: On our final formal night the ever wonderful lobster was present on the menu but was different from our last cruise on the O in one very nice way, they gave a petite filet with it instead of another type of steak that we had last year. The Steak was very tender and flavorful and although the lobster tails ranged from very small (it could be eaten in one bite) to a little larger, a request for a number two and number three were always obliged.

 

The lido was as tasty as always with a nice selection and never a long wait for much. I think I ate about 5 pounds (no joke) of bread pudding the whole week and had a lot of wonderful coconut ice cream. The sushi was abundant, although tasted the same as the kind I could find at my local grocery store. The lido snack bar had wonderful hamburgers and nachos with loads of the bad for you cheddar cheese and guacamole.

 

....cont. in next post...

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It was nice to know the layout of the ship a bit as I previously stated that we had sailed the O a year ago. The color scheme was better in general except for one thing that I am still wondering why HAL did. The vista lounge has white leather seats… WHITE LEATHER. What genius interior designer thought that it was a good idea to have white leather on a ship with 1800 people a week was smoking something. Although it looked quite good for being 18 months old, you could defiantly see a lot of marks and stains.

 

While I am talking about the Vista, I will go into the entertainment aspect of the cruise. We had four headline acts, Frankie Pace (comic) Alfreda Gerald and THE ILLUSIONIST, and Antonio Salci a pianist, as well as the Westerdam cast of singers and dancers. The cast was ok. Nothing special, but not all that bad either. The comic was funny enough. (I regret not seeing his adult late act though) and the singer was good as well. I did not stay for her whole act because she just did covers that were a tribute to the Divas. The illusionist was hilarious and we should have watched both times. Antonio Salci was fantastic and had many older ladies swooning the whole cruise. His piano skills were not too shabby either!

We did frequent the Northern Lights nightclub almost every night and thought that DJ Geno was very good at keeping people dancing and having a good time. The cruise director staff was excellent, especially Holly (the Bingo Dolly). I will admit that I now agree that the cruise director Michelle Worthly was not who I would have chose. She was only mediocre and somewhat distant. It just seemed like there was something missing. My husband said she was too dramatic and not very personable.

 

The ship was very clean and while on board they replaced a lot of carpeting on several floors (deck 6, 7, 2 and 8) There were some things that were showing normal wear and tear but I was told by Captain Harris that the W was going in for her dry-dock in 2007 so those minor things will be taken care of then.

A quick note on Captain Peter Harris. He is a wonderfully friendly and down to earth guy. He was everywhere all the time. He had lunch in the Lido, walked around the pool and was seen in the casino as well. He joked around a lot and remembered my husband and I throughout the cruise. We gave my in-laws the vow renewal package for Christmas and were pleased with all the things that came with it. For 129$ it is a great deal. The ceremony was very touching and the Captain said it with great sincerity.

 

A final word about our cabins before the port review part:

 

My DH and I had the wonderful SA category which did include unlimited pressing, laundry and dry cleaning, use of the Neptune lounge and priority embark and disembarkation as well as some other very nice surprises. We had a lovely cocktail party the first night to meet the captain and HM as well as other officers and a very gourmet suite lunch in the Crows Nest the last sea day complete with unlimited drinks.

We both vowed to get this cabin category again if at all possible. People often say that it is not worth it for a verandah let alone a suite since you are hardly ever in your room, but we do spend a nice amount of time there and feel the extra space is very worth the price. It was wonderful to relax on the verandah in the morning or even mid day to tan privately. One night it was so wonderful out, I fell asleep on it and was the most wonderful sleep I had in a long while. P.S. our wonderful room steward made towel animals too!

 

My in-laws had a normal balcony cabin, which was very nice for first time cruisers although it was smaller than my mom and brothers inside stateroom.

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PORT REVIEWS:

HMC

I was hoping and praying for months that we would be able to tender at HMC and we did. I was lucky enough to convince my party to reserve a cabana with the Butler service and it was worth every penny. The night before we were to arrive, the concierge at the Pinnacle called us and wanted to go over the menu with us. He was even going to come to our cabin, but we met at the Neptune instead. He told us how things would work and what we could have for lunch. Our butler would arrive at our cabin the morning of to take out bags to the tenders. For the menu, it was unlimited drinks, bottled water, soda, beer, etc as well as fresh veggies, guacamole, salsa and chips. For lunch, you could choose between jumbo prawns or a petite filet along with a very tasty potato salad and steamed veggies. For dessert, it was a honking piece of rich chocolate cake or rum soaked fresh fruit. Before the main course, we were served lobster club sandwiches and chilled gazpacho in bowls made from pineapples. By the end of the day, we were stuffed. The pink cabana itself was in a fantastic location far enough away from the largest part of the crowd, but still close enough with a short walk to the restrooms. It was nice to have floating mats to use anytime as well as snorkel gear. The day went by very fast but was an amazing memory to keep. Half Moon Cay really is a little piece of paradise.

 

OCHO RIOS

I had heard not a lot of good things about Ocho Rios from many on the Port boards on here and was hesitant to book a private horseback riding tour for the ladies in our party, but I did anyways and could not have been happier with the outcome. I booked with hooves-jamaica.com because of some praises and felt very safe with them the whole time. It was better than doing a similar mountain to beach horseback ride with HAL because I was told there would be over 40 people on that excursion and it didn’t seem like it would be worth 100$ being lead along like cattle. With Hooves, there were only five of us in our group along with two guides, one in front, one in back. When we got to the ocean, we changed into our suits and were given refreshments. Riding in the water is something I will never forget. We rode for a nice amount of time and it was worth every penny. I had not rode on HMC, but spoke with people that had and I am glad I did the riding in Jamaica.

 

My husband and his dad did not have such a positive experience there. He told me they were just going to stay on the ship, but instead, hired a taxi driver for the whole day to take them around. (my DH knows better than that, but his dad insisted on doing it). Less than an hour into the “tour” they got a bit frightened and asked to be driven back to the ship. DH said that he kept thinking that they wanted to buy drugs so the guy kept taking them to these “questionable” places.

Our experience just goes to show that one stop can be night and day for people. Jamaica is a beautiful island, but with much poverty. It also did not help that we got the “ghetto” pier to dock at either. Since the Mariner was also in port, we were docked about a mile farther and were not able to really walk to the main shopping plaza.

I can understand why HAL is not stopping in Jamaica anymore and instead to Turks and Cairos.

 

GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN

Due to very rough seas, this port was cancelled and an unexpected sea day was given. I was sad that we could not stop, but I understand they are looking out for our safety. It was very thoughtful of the captain to give champagne to everyone that night as a “We are sorry for not being able to stop”.

 

Costa Maya, MEXICO

We were almost not able to stop here because of wind, but fortunately, the wind did die down and I am glad it did. The port itself is very nice (although I do know it was made specifically for cruise ships.) We had a private tour with the Native Choice to see the ruins so we took a bus to the main Mahahual town to catch the tour there. It was only about 3$ pp and a quick ride.

Two gentlemen have been running this tour company for one year and are the most informative and kind folks we have ever met on a tour. They love their job and it shows. The bus ride to the ruins was a longer one (about 1 hour) but it was air conditioned and someone was there to talk to us about México and what we were passing along the side of the road.

Again, I was unsure if it was the right thing for me to do booking a private tour, but I got very positive information about it on CC and was glad I did. In our tour, there were twelve folks and two tour guides. We were told that that was a large group for them and normally they only like having about half that number. We got to the ruins early and were glad we did. As we were finishing up our tour, HAL’s tours were just starting. I counted over 50 people in most groups. Too many for me. The ruins themselves are amazing to see. Just being able to touch something that was over 2000 years old is an experience. This was my husband’s favorite tour out of all of the Caribbean and Mexico.

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Holland America is an amazing line. Captain Harris said that HAL has the largest repeat pax from all public lines and i can see why. Crew and staff are always helpful and genuinly willing to please.

 

I am happy to say that i plan to sail HAL as many more times as i possibly can. The experiences keep getting better and better.

 

On our cruise, there were 5 people getting their Gold Medallions for cruising over 500 days at sea!:eek: It really was amazing (and i hope i can be one of those folks by my 45th birthday ;) ) and i felt so wonderful celebrating in this very special accomplishment with them.

With the other 4 first time cruisers, they are now looking forward to their next HAL cruise.

I am happy to be able to post this long review, but sad as well because it just means i am back in cold dark Michigan. :(

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Thanks for the great review! Reading it makes me hope the next 12 days until we get on the Westerdam go quickly.

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Thanks for writing the review. Enjoyed it. have also booked the private tour in Costa maya and can't wait. any problem with mosquitos there?

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Thanks for writing the review. Enjoyed it. have also booked the private tour in Costa maya and can't wait. any problem with mosquitos there?

i was told by our guide david, that because it was the winter, bugs were not a problem... and it was true. all of the places i noticed there were no bugs at all. :)

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What a wonderful review. Thanks so much for sharing with us :). When are you sailing next???? It's the only way to cure PCD :).

 

Marie

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LolaWiz,

Wonderful review!! I really enjoyed reading it. As a gold medallion holder, I certainly hope you too can obtain your gold medallion. What a great goal!!!!!!!!! May you have many, many more cruises in your future. Adele

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Great review! It really does bring back memories of wonderful times on the Westerdam. Just curious, do you remember who the other people were on the cruise director's staff besides Holly and Geno? We had some problems w/ some of the cruise staff on our Nov. 2005 cruise, and I was wondering if those people are still there.

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Great review! It really does bring back memories of wonderful times on the Westerdam. Just curious, do you remember who the other people were on the cruise director's staff besides Holly and Geno? We had some problems w/ some of the cruise staff on our Nov. 2005 cruise, and I was wondering if those people are still there.

 

I know they just got a new staff member (a younger gal) and then there was an aferican american younger guy and then maybe another girl... none really stood out besides Geno (who was gone as of our last day, he did not want to cruise anymore but was really nice) and Holly. They other ones were just kind of there. Not too nice. I hate to say that i honestly could do a much better job than Michelle. SHe was just no personable. WIth Holly, she made you feel like you knew her for years. It seemed like she was always willing to stop and chat even if she was crazy busy.

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Great review! I had the same itinerary on the Nov. 27 sailing and I agree wholeheartedly about the cruise director. Did you meet Alex & Sonte?

AH! those were the two others!!! I didnt meet them, but my mom was on Sante's team for pool games and he seemed quite fun.

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I enjoyed your review!! I was on the 11/13/05-11/20/05 sailing and it was one of the best cruises ever!! You are right about Geno, the dj in the Northern Lights!! I visited the club several times during the trip and it wasn't uncommon to see Geno on the dance floor also.

But the food and the service was great!!

I'm still raving about my trip and now I have a few people looking into HAL (sorry Royal Caribbean) because all I talk about is my last trip.

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Wonderful review! We are leaving on the same cruise 4/9/06 and have the terra cotta cabana with the butler, it sounds like it is going to be worth the splurge.

 

A couple questions. Where did you get the fax # to request a window table? we have the lower level.

 

If you want one, two, three, or more lobster tails LOL, do you need to order the extra when you place your dinner order or can you ask for more later in the meal.

 

Thanks for all your info

 

katie

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Wonderful review! We are leaving on the same cruise 4/9/06 and have the terra cotta cabana with the butler, it sounds like it is going to be worth the splurge.

 

A couple questions. Where did you get the fax # to request a window table? we have the lower level.

 

If you want one, two, three, or more lobster tails LOL, do you need to order the extra when you place your dinner order or can you ask for more later in the meal.

 

Thanks for all your info

 

katie

Katie,

I called and got a fax number for Ship Services.

This is what i wrote:

Dear Holland America Ship Services:

My husband and I are delighted to be sailing with Holland America again.

This sailing, we have invited four family members, none of which have cruised before, with us.

We want to show them the excellence in which we have encountered previously with Holland America Line.

On our first cruise, we had the opportunity to have a wonderful dining room table next to the window over looking the beautiful azure ocean. We hope to extend this same experience to our family members. (Our table for 6) My husband and I hope you can show these first time cruisers a taste of true luxury.

We look forward to enjoying a new Holland America ship with new ports of call next month!

Sincerely,

LolaWiz

Sailing January 15th 2006

MS Westerdam

 

That was the best thing i could have done. I planned EVERYTHING and i mean everything for all of us for this cruise and i wanted it to be perfect and it really was.

 

In regards to the Lobster, they just asked for extra lobster when they ordered :)

 

PS, i will make another post with my few photos of our trip as well! :)

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I truly enjoyed reading your report, and am very glad you had such a good time and want to sail HAL again.

But you didn't tell us---how did the four first-timers feel about it? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. Do the relatives want to sail again, too?

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I truly enjoyed reading your report, and am very glad you had such a good time and want to sail HAL again.

But you didn't tell us---how did the four first-timers feel about it? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. Do the relatives want to sail again, too?

oh geeze.. i totally forgot to post about that... My in laws were saying they had to plan the next one on day two. (thats amazing because my FIL is somewhat of a "complainer" and nothing is ever right) but he was definatly enjoying the crew and service as well as the food and of course the casino.

My MIL didn't talk at dinner because all she kept saying was MMMmmm!

My brother and mom kept saying how it was so amazing. They had never been waited on like that. They were in shock that so many people (crew) remebered their names and what their preferances were.

 

They are so glad that I choose HAL for them because of an incident with a few Carnival pax in Costa Maya!

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Nice report Lola. Did you see any children on board?

there were hardly any. I would venture to guess (and very accuratly) that there were about 20 children under 16 and about 8 ages 16 to 21. (there was a college age meet a few times and needless to say, they ALL fit in a hot tub)

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Hi Lola,

 

Just want to say "thank you" for posting your extensive trip review and your photos for us so promptly. That was very kind of you! I imagine that it helps you to "relive" your cruise when you write about it:) Sorry you are back in the Michigan winter:( My parents lived in Grand Rapids for a short while, and boy, the winters there are NASTY.

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They are so glad that I choose HAL for them because of an incident with a few Carnival pax in Costa Maya!

Well? We're waiting....

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Well? We're waiting....

LOL... well, in costa maya, there were about 20 guys (younger) who were so drunk, they were yelling hardcore obcenities to people (random people) who passed by them. The started stripping when they left the bar and got on to this trolly to take them back to the pier. We of course were on that same trolly and they kept getting louder and louder to the point that people were telling them to get off to which they just got more beligerant. My MIL was very offended to what they said as i am sure most others were as well.

 

I got so upset that when everyone was dropped off, my judgement got the best of me and i said to them "YOU are the reason i will never sail Carnival". Not my proudest moment and i know they were just a few bad seeds, but it was upsetting to many around them (most of which were older people) but i was almost hoping a cop or someone would have stepped in.

 

Thats all. I will not repeat what was said to me or some others.

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"YOU are the reason i will never sail Carnival".

<Sound of applause.>

Good for you! :)

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