This was a seven day Caribbean cruise calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. The cruise began and ended in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Although Westerdam is one of Holland America Line's larger ships, she is a medium size cruise ship in comparison to the mega-cruise ships being built today for other lines.
Consistent with Holland America's objective of providing a sophisticated and cultured cruise experience, Westerdam has no amusement park features or gimmicks. Outdoor facilities are essentially limited to two swimming pools (one of which is covered by a retractable roof), a sports court, and open deck space for sun loungers. The ship also has a wrap-around outdoor promenade that is a favorite of early morning walkers.
Inside, Westerdam's public rooms have a contemporary décor that is overlain with museum-quality artwork. It is not flashy but neither is it old-fashioned. Rather, it is a style an educated, professionally-accomplished audience would find appealing.
To further appeal to this audience, Westerdam offers a good enrichment program. Its Culinary Arts Center offers cooking demonstrations and other programs relating to home entertainment
In the Microsoft Digital Workshop, a Microsoft-trained teacher conducts classes on a range of technology-related topics in a dedicated classroom that is equipped with computers. I found these quite useful. Although I use computers constantly, much of my knowledge of computers is the result of trial and error. The classes closed many of the gaps in my knowledge. In addition, Westerdam's tech expert helped me download some useful free software onto my computer.
On past Holland America cruises, lecturers spoke on the history and culture of the area in which the ship was cruising. Sadly, there was no such lecturer on this cruise. Instead, discussion of the ports was left to the shore excursions staff and the port shopping expert.
Westerdam also offered many of the usual cruise ship day time activities including trivia contests, bingo, art auctions, spa seminars, Recent movies were shown in the Queens Lounge.
I was impressed by Westerdam's strong line-up for night time entertainment. The production shows were a notch above the average cruise ship production shows, often visually stunning. In addition, the visiting entertainers offered strong performances. These included comedian Buzz Sutherland and “rock illusionists” Leon and Romy. The latter gave a high energy magic show in the ship's main theater as well as an interesting program on how to perform some illusions in the more intimate Queens Lounge.
Another enjoyable part of the evening entertainment was the B.B. King Blues Club. A band of musicians selected by the late blues guitarist's company performed in the Queens Lounge most evenings. The music that they performed was primarily soul and R&B rather than classic blues. However, the performances were very good and enjoyable.
Turning to the dining, the offerings in the main dining room were good and had variety. For the most part, the food had a mild, conservative flavor. An exception was the curry offerings. Most cruise ship curries are designed for Western tastes and are very mild. While not as spicy as true Asian curries, the curries on Westerdam had personality and thus were more satisfying.
You can always count on the Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant for an enjoyable dining experience. Excellent lobster bisque. Filet minion, tender and cooked exactly as ordered, is my favorite. The beef can stand on its own but the sauces are worth a try. The individual-size Baked Alaska incorporating Ben & Jerry's ice cream is delicious.
Westerdam only has space for one real specialty restaurant. However, on certain nights the Pinnacle Grill becomes a seagoing version of New York's Le Crique. A different menu, utilizing recipes from the famous restaurant is used, and the tables are adorned with Le Cirque place settings. The restaurant transforms from an upmarket steak and seafood venue to more of a fine dining experience. Rack of Colorado Lamb was beautifully prepared. The chocolate souffle, which uses gelatto instead of the traditional sauce, was somewhat disappointingly dry, however.
A portion of the ship's buffet restaurant becomes Canaletto, an extra-tariff alternative restaurant, in the evenings. The menu is based upon Italian cuisine. While not the Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto offers yet another worthwhile dining experience.
The Dive In Burger Bar by the Lido Pool is a new addition to Westerdam. It is a complimentary premium burger venue and is excellent. (See separate review).
The service in all of the restaurants and throughout the ship was very good. The crew seemed happy and were consistently friendly.
Most of the passengers on this cruise were in their 60s. However, there were a number of younger couples. Very few children were aboard.
Leaving Florida, Westerdam passed through a storm. This caused a number of passengers to mention the motion of the ship. However, it did not prevent them from venturing out from their cabins and using the various features that Westerdam has to offer.
In sum, Westerdam offers a very civilized cruise experience. It is not flashy or shock and awe. Rather, the cruise experience unfolds in a quiet, relaxed but nonetheless stimulating manner.
Cruise review - - Holland America Line - - Westerdam