Observations about Westerdam

PEB

Well-Known Member
We were on the Westerdam for 43 days that started March 24 and ended May 6 here are a few observations. The Crows Nest is now a lot of wasted space. There were many complaints about the changes. There are to many electronic devices set up that nobody uses and some are already broken down. It seems rare that someone uses that area. The new shop vendors have very little product at extremely high prices and most of the products have nothing to do with Holland America or the Westerdam. They do sell items related to the areas of cruising but for the most part you can buy those same items in the ports at much better prices.

During the day there are two places open to buy bar drinks, one the pool bar and two the Ocean bar, however on sea days the Ocean bar is taken over by the art auction and the only place to sit and get a drink is on the bar stools. These stools are high and hard for short people or handicapped people to get on.

The entertainment at times is good but not great. The main theater has a lot of poles blocking views on the second level of seating. The production shows have good singers but their dancing is very stiff. BB King does not play every night and when they play it is not for very long, however when they play it is the exact same songs in the exact same order every time and extremely loud. It is hard to be in the room to listen to them. The dueling piano's do draw a crowd. The Lincoln center does fill up for the classical music also.

In rough weather the ship rocks and rolls pretty much. It creaks and makes noises like from a horror movie in many places. Even though it had been dry docked last year there was not a lot done to most staterooms other than adding large TV's. Many of the public bathrooms had very rusty doors in the stalls. One elevator or another always seemed to be broken down. They were constantly doing maintenance so they are trying to keep up on things I just believe they are short staffed in many areas of the crew.

The food is subjective for me I had to turn away many dishes from the MDR but that is due to my taste preferences. The service was slow in the MDR but again that is due to short staffing not because the staff is not working hard. We had set dining at 5:30 PM and were lucky if we were done by 7:30 PM. We were at a table for 6 but usually only 4 people would show up.

The ship is in decent shape and we did have a good time. The crew did every thing they could to make it an enjoyable trip. The crew is very hard working and very friendly, I just believe they are short staffed. The staterooms were well kept up and of decent size, we had two balconies and one inside during our 43 days.

Ultimately I guess the question is would I cruise on it again? Yes I would because the crew was so good and I met a lot a lot of nice people. It would not be my first choice but if the destination and timing were right I would not hesitate to go on it again.
 

DrKoob

Well-Known Member
We were only on the Alaska portion of this cruise so I really can't comment on some of it. I didn’t see much of this but I can say that the BB King folks did NOT play the same thing every night, they played three 50 minute sets with 10 minutes between them and the last one had fairly small audience. And I have heard a lot louder music on ships and in concert. You should try a Garth Brooks concert if you want loud.

We don't shop on board so I can't speak to that. Never understood why anyone shops on a ship.

I didn’t hear a single creak but you did Hawaii to YVR so more open sea.

Biggest thing they added to cabins besides TVs (WHICH WERE AWESOME) was new beds. Really nice.

I like the EXC stuff in the crow’s nest. All of it worked for me. Plus there was always someone there to ask questions of, either one of the two EXC people or the naturalist. Had some nice talks with him.

Didn’t see a single rusty door. Crew was painting all the time.

Don’t day drink so didn’t notice the bar situation. What you didn’t mention or maybe you didn’t see was the bar in the crows nest would make you whatever you wanted whenever. And the gallery bar (next to the casino) was open most of the time.

Here's the review we posted on our website of the Alaska portion of this cruise: (CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS WITH PICS):

We have been off Westerdam on our first cruise aboard a HAL ship since 2008 for about a week as I write this. In our new roles as travel consultants with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers we were invited on this familiarization (FAM) cruise in late April/early May 2018.
The FAM part of the cruise was a hello cocktail party, three 2 hour plus classes, a dinner together at Pinnacle Grille and a farewell cocktail party, plus some other out-of-class bonding.

We were the only Americans in the FAM group. Everyone else was a Canadian and I was the only man in the group. Fun!
But the real reason we were on the cruise was to see if we could and would recommend to our clients that they book Holland America to Alaska. Well after a week, the answer is a resounding YES with only one major reservation. 


Our one reservation
The service in the main dining room (and to some extent, the buffet) is HORRID! It’s not the individual servers, but the systems. Some examples:
At dinner every night (we love to eat in the dining room to meet new folks) it took forever to get food once our orders had been taken. By forever, I mean 30 to 45 minutes between appetizers and entrée. That’s too long.
We noticed that while on other cruise lines, servers would bring a tray of plates to place on a folding stand near our table and then serve from that stand right to the table. On HAL, servers would bring individual dishes from quite a ways away (we couldn’t see where they got it from—it was that far away). What this meant was that when our server brought food for two out of the six of us, he had to then disappear to get the next two and then the next two. Which meant that those who got their food first, either ate cold food or were rude and started eating a good 10 minutes before everyone else at the table.
We ate breakfast in the main dining room three times because the food was outstanding…when it got there. On one morning at a table for six, it took 30 minutes to get any food and when it arrived, my order was wrong so our server had to reorder it. I told everyone else to eat, which they did immediately but their food was still cold. Mine arrived warm. I guess it pays to have your order wrong.
On disembarkation day, the dining room opened at 6:30. Since we didn’t have to be off the ship until 8:50 we thought this was great. We were at a table for six with a couple from Japan and a nice couple from Australia who had to be off the ship for an excursion at 8:00. We ordered within 10 minutes of sitting down at 6:40. And we still didn’t have our food at 7:30. 7:30! We finally flagged down a maitre’d and he said he would expedite our orders. Within 10 minutes, our orders arrived as did those of the Japanese couple (who were not the ones about to miss breakfast to make their tour and then be dropped at the airport). A full five minutes later, the Australian couples food arrived. Three pancakes each! Seriously.
The reason I am still willing to give HAL a high grade in Alaska is that the main dining room is a fixable problem. They just need someone to step in and fix their systems.

Now on to the good stuff that we loved!
Our stateroom

We were in 4145, a balcony stateroom on deck 4. Loved being there near the stairs/elevator. Good stuff in the cabin included:
The most amazing water pressure ever.
So much hot water. So much. I took two showers a day because it felt so good.
Great beds, lots of good storage and the most unbelievable 4K TV I have ever seen in a ship stateroom or a hotel room for that matter.
Kathleen loved the fact that it is a bathtub and not a shower stall. I honestly didn't care.
The plethora of USB plugs around the cabin. Not only where there three charging plugs on the desk, there was one on either side of the bed. I had brought a plug strip but by the third day, I wasn’t using it anymore. I also love having light switches on both sides of the bed so that either of us could turn them on and off and a reading light.
Let’s talk about that TV
I know, we were on a cruise…but there were two sea days and other down time. And since HAL has a partnership with BBC Earth, the programming on the TV was amazing. As Kathleen will tell you, I am not a big nature doc fan but these were AWESOME (I now owe Bob $1) as was the huge selection of FREE movies available. There were great films that were just out of theaters as well as a bunch of classics. They did have a hard time getting them categorized correctly but they were still good. And the navigation map is awesome. with five different levels of magnification.
A note about laundry
We didn’t use the laundry as we were coming right from home. HAL does not have self-serve laundries on their ships but they do have something others told us about: $49.95 for UNLIMITED laundry cleaned and pressed on a seven day cruise. OMG! We were shocked. Some of our fellow travel consultants had been in Vancouver for a week or more and needed laundry done and what a great value for them.
HAL's outstanding web app
HAL has an OUTSTANDING web app that you can add to your phone in your browser just by logging into their WiFi network—at no charge—which allowed us to see the daily program on the ship, our onboard account, the menus in the dining room and specialty restaurants. You could also book spa reservations, specialty restaurant reservations and more. And we were thrilled to see we could keep up with the news since HAL gave us the NY Times free. That’s better than we can get at home. Not only that, but the app gave us free chat with each other and anyone else we exchanged numbers with.
I also want to add that the daily announcements that you found in your room each night were the best I have ever seen, graphically speaking. Easy and a joy to read (that's the graphic designer in me talking).
The entertainment is outstanding including:
The BB King Blues Club where we stopped by every night it was open (5 out of 7 nights). That band was hot. Three shows a night with a 15 minute break between them. People danced, clapped and just loved the experience. If we had a free blues (and soul and rock and more) club like this in our town, we would go every night.
The Billboard Onboard dueling pianos. Pretty good stuff, just not as good as the BB King Blues Club but that might just be a matter of taste. We stopped by a couple of nights and liked what we heard.
Lincoln Center Stage is a series of classical concert performances that happened most nights and some afternoons on board. They were well attended and we walked by and saw quite a few of them but once we had gone to the Blues club we never went back. Shame on us as everyone who did said it was excellent.
We went to two main stage shows in the big showroom. One was a comedian who was moderately funny. The ship also had two big showcase type shows (singers, dancers, etc.) and we skipped those. We have lost interest as they tend to me the same on every cruise.
The other main stage show we went to besides the comedian was worth the entire cruise to me. I would go back and I would recommend HAL just for this show. HAL and their musicians as well as the musicians from the Lincoln Center Stage combined on stage to play some original orchestral music while an incredible video screen behind the musicians showed a series of Alaska films created by BBC Earth. Combining these two amazing groups (the musicians and BBC Earth) at the end of the day when we had been to the incredible Glacier Bay is what an Alaskan cruise is all about. One other thing about this show: HAL, do this show multiple times. We would have gone again and others missed it. Maybe in the afternoon if there isn’t a problem with musical rights.
 

DrKoob

Well-Known Member
Here's the rest of it:

Canaletto Italian restaurant was very good.
It’s the ship’s “other” specialty restaurant and is located (only at night) in one section of the buffet. There is an extra charge ($15) and we felt it was well worth it. The service was excellent (if a little hovering) and the food was superb. They recommend that everyone at the table order an appetizer and then share a pasta and an entrée for each two people. The food is served family style so you pass the plates. We wish we had gone with four other people to try even more items. What we had was outstanding.
Other food venues
We ate most lunches and three breakfasts in the buffet and it was crowded and sometimes entire sections would close at the strangest times but there was always plenty to eat any time you wanted it.
The burger/hot dog bar called Dive-In needs work on their systems as well. Food was outstanding but I should NOT have to wait 30 minutes for a hamburger or hotdog. They also supervise the Mexican food/nacho bar near the pool which was just fine.
EXC–Shore Destinations
HAL is now doing some amazing things with their destination talks/tours, etc. They call it EXC (Explorations Central) and it is centered in the former Crow’s Nest on deck 10 at the front of the ship. HAL has installed some pretty incredible interactive screens that you can use to plan your (independent) tours at your destinations. It is fully staffed much of the day either by EXC specialists or the ship’s naturalist (a very fine fellow). HAL seems to be all about experiences and this new EXC set up is outstanding.
Summing up
First, this was our sixth cruise to Alaska and three of those were from Seattle and three (including this one) were from Vancouver. We will never sail to see Alaska from Seattle again. What I mean by that is that next summer if we go to Alaska on RCL we will sail from Seattle because that cruise will all be about the ship (taking the grandkids) one of RCL’s big ones but if you want the real Alaska experience, sail out of Vancouver.
Why? The biggest reason is that when you leave Seattle and get to the Straits of Juan de Fuca (between Victoria and Port Angeles) you take a hard left turn and head out to sea and that means that on your sea day getting to Alaska and getting back you are truly at SEA! You can only see land far in the distance.
On the other hand, when you leave from Vancouver, those first and last sea days are spent in the glorious Canadian Inside Passage. Don’t get me wrong. All Alaskan cruises go through the Alaskan Inside Passage but that’s not until the ship gets all the way up to Alaska. And in the Canadian Inside Passage, the weather is always better. We had so much sunshine coming back, people were actually laying by the pool…in early May! And all the way we were in a narrow channel with small Canadian towns slipping by us as well as lots of incredible mountains on either side.
Another reason to choose Vancouver is that with the Jones Act in full force, every Seattle ship has to stop for a few hours in Victoria to make sure they stop in a foreign port. That means that the only ship sailing near us, the Norwegian Pearl (which had sailed from Seattle) had less time in every port than we did. They had to leave each port earlier so they could be on time to stop in Victoria from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm on the last night of their cruise. Not enough time to even really see Victoria but required by law. For that reason when we have sailed out of Seattle, we have always felt like we were rushing.
One more thing. To see the real Alaska, go early in the season. We were in Skagway last year in June when four ships were in port. It was slammed. You could barely walk on the sidewalks. See the pic above, no one. not a soul on the street. We were able to walk into shops and actually talk to the owners. Wonderful.
And lastly, we have discovered that it is wonderful to be on the first cruise of the Alaskan season. Why? Because we were one of two ships in Alaska that week which meant that unlike when we had been here in summer 2017, we were able to walk on the sidewalks in Skagway and get lunch without waiting at the brewery. It was heavenly. It was like Alaska used to be back when we first were here on the original Westerdam in 2000.
 

BSeabob

Forum Manager
Staff member
I did not take a $1.00 bet from this doctor. Thanks for the very detailed review.. Come back soon.
 

PEB

Well-Known Member
It was true that the crew was painting and working on the cruise all the time but there were rusty doors in stalls in various public rest rooms always at the bottom of the doors. During our trip several outside doors were replaced. With being on the ship for 43 days I could tell you exactly when the BB King band would be taking a break or ending for the night by what song they were playing. There were more people in the BB King room on the 7 night Alaskan cruise than on the Panama Canal and the Hawaiian cruise. In the Crows Nest they may have finally replaced some of the computer screens but believe me they were missing during much of our 43 days., I quit going there because it was no longer a place I cared to be. Even crew members complained about how dead it was there and how they could not make money when they worked the Crows Nest.

I do not want people to think we did not have a good time on the Westerdam because we did enjoy our time on the ship. It is not our favorite ship but the crew was great and I am and will stay in contact with some of them. I do feel that in some areas of the ship they are under staffed so some of the service can be slow. It is not slow to the crew not working it is slow due to the lack of staff. The crew worked hard and were very friendly.
 

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