3/5 of the way there: impressions 22 nights into our 36-night cruise
Updated: Jul 1
We boarded the Holland America ship Westerdam 22 nights ago, on October 2, 2022. Generally, we have been very pleased with this voyage. We are not frequent cruisers - unlike many of the passengers on board this trip, we have only taken a few cruises before this one, ranging from single day to a little over a week. Other than our short cruises in the Baltic Sea from Helsinki last May, we have sailed over holidays and usually with children. We worked full time and couldn't have taken a cruise of this length or this location in the past. Unsure how we would react to many days at sea, we have discovered that we are enjoying it quite a lot.
Overall good impressions:
1. The ship itself. This ship seems like a nice size. Not so big to be difficult to navigate, and not so small to have limited opportunities. The stairs are easy to use, and the layout is easy to navigate. There are deck maps on every floor, near the elevators, like this on on Deck 10:
While the ship is not full, there are about 1200 passengers and several hundred crew, but there are always spots to sit quietly, usually by a window, or walk about. It does not feel crowded most of the time. There are lots of outdoor spaces, with a broad, open deck 3 promenade (3 laps is one mile), two outdoor pools, and lots of deck chairs, benches and walking space.
The inside of the ship is decorated with pictures of Dutch sailing vessels, reproductions of famous Dutch paintings, and various whimsical nautical themes.
One final thing about the ship: every day, each elevator has a rug that says what day it is. Honestly, many days we would have no idea what day it is but for the rug. It is very useful!
2. The room. Like most ships, there are inside cabins, outside cabins with obstructed, partially obstructed, and sea views, balcony rooms and suites. We opted to reserve the largest inside cabin room, thinking the price increase based on size was a better value than the price increase for a room with a sea view. The night before we boarded, we were upgraded to an outside cabin with an obstructed view. It was a bit bigger, offering a king bed instead of a queen, with a decent space between the bed and desk, and a sitting area with a sofa, plus plenty of closet/shelves and a bathroom with a nice shower. There is a large-screen TV on the wall and a mini-fridge. For the most part, it doesn't feel cramped to the two of us. Here are photos of the room, 4097:
Our window looks at a lifeboat, but it does offer some light and gives us a feel for outdoor conditions. Occasionally, there are people doing maintenance on the lifeboat, so we've learned to look before assuming there is total privacy (we can always close the heavy drapes). This isn't a big deal to us, but might be for some people. The location is great - the 4th floor is a nice two-flight descent to the dining room and one-flight descent to a walking deck and a nice lounge. There are other cabins above and below us so we don't have to worry about noise. And, once in a while, we have a sea view! When we dock at a port where there is a tender to shore, they use "our" lifeboat for the tender, and it is moved away from the window! Nice. Here is our window when they are lowering the lifeboat, and when it is gone. The last photo shows the coast of Fiji from our window on a tender day.
Speaking of the lifeboats, there is something reassuring about a)noticing they maintain them regularly and b)using one for tender to port. Here is a lifeboat at the tender station in Kona, Hawaii:
3. Food. For the most part, the food is thoughtfully prepared and tastes good. Portion sizes in the dining room are good sized but not huge (a good thing!), and the waiters always ask if we want more. There is good variety of offerings for such a long cruise. In addition to the dining room, there is a buffet that is open more hours with lots of offerings, and a poolside burger/hot dog stand. There are bars throughout the ship which offer sodas, non-alcoholic mixed drinks and alcohol. There is a coffee bar in the observation deck on the 10th floor.
There are specialty meals and tastings for an additional price (optional). The main specialty restaurant in the Westerdam is the Pinnacle Bar and Grill, usually featuring steak and seafood. We ate there, but didn't find their fare any better than the dining room, which regularly offers steak and seafood, and therefore not really worth the extra price. There is also an Italian restaurant called Canelleto, but we have not tried it. It is listed as casual and there is Italian food on the regular menu. There are pop-up special meals at additional cost. Two we really liked: an Alaska boil and an Indonesian lunch. Both were excellent and, we thought worth the extra money.
4. The Staff. Everyone, from waiters, porters, cruise services and entertainers have been extremely nice and committed to making the cruise as positive an experience as possible. The captain communicates daily and updates are frequent. Not everything has gone to plan, but we've been kept in the loop. There are occasionally long lines, for tenders to port or money exchange, but in the main things are well organized. The staff are all extremely friendly and go out of their way to help.
5. Amenities. The ship has two pools, several hot tubs, a sauna, a gym and lots of activities.
We have learned we are not so much into group activities, such as trivia, bingo, pictionary, puzzles, or "guess the size of the gem", but those are all available daily. The biggest surprise has been a quality classical quartet (piano, cello, violin, & viola) who play several different concerts daily. They are amazing. Other music is offered through the B.B. King Review show with a dance floor, concerts on the main stage, and piano bars. Lectures occur daily during days at sea.
Are there some things we wish were different? Yes, a few. Kim likes to stretch in the mornings, but the stretching class is offered different times on different days. I think most people who want the routine of stretching would want it at the same time each day. There are more things you have to buy than we accounted for in our budget. We find ourselves ordering things like ginger ale, pina coladas and the occasional glasses of wine and those charges really add up. It would be nice if the sodas, at least, were part of the package. Internet service is extra, and we found ourselves needing the premium internet service to do some of our creative projects, and that is expensive. We pay $300 for it, and we can only have it on one device at a time, so we have to coordinate when we want to use it. Having said that, the $218 we are paying for unlimited laundry services is worth its weight in gold, especially given the humid weather. We find ourselves wishing the buffet food service was open all the time Too often, we're looking for food in between times they offer it, and while burgers and hotdogs are always available, they are high in calories and heavy on the stomach. Finally, we think there might be a market among the passengers for some other types of activities, such as a book club (I'm currently reading a book about the history of the Polynesian Islands, for example) or other interest groups (Paul wishes there were something more in line with his interests). Also, while the ship offers Pickleball games Paul would be interested in lessons since he doesn't know how to play. But all in all, we've been pretty satisfied and happy we're on this ship!