This was our 13th cruise and our seventh Holland American Line (HAL) cruise since 1995, with each cruise on a different ship. Our cabin was a deluxe verandah outside (Category B) on the Verandah Deck near of the stern of the ship.
We sailed on a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Livorno (Florence), Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco (tender service); Barcelona, Spain; Valletta, Malta; Kusadasi, Turkey; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy. Every port was most interesting.
We got an extra three-day pre-cruise package for Rome, but actually stayed southeast of Rome, in the little mountain town where the Pope has his summer residence, with daily sightseeing trips into Rome.
HAL used Lufthansa Airlines for the flights to and from Italy via Germany. These flights were very long (over 12 hours), the seats were too close together, and half of the video entertainment was in German. On the return flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, all of the HAL customers' luggage didn't get loaded onto our flight but was delivered to our homes two days after got back.
Faster than usual; a digital camera takes your photograph. Each time you re-board the ship your ship ID card is scanned and your photograph is displayed to the ship's security personnel, eliminating the need to carry a second form of ID with your photograph (driver's license, etc.). Also, every time you re-board the ship, all carry-on items (purses, cameras, etc.) will be scanned. Gone is the express check-in service for Mariners (repeat HAL passengers).
This was the 15th voyage of this ship -- one of the larger-sized ships that HAL calls its Vista class. It has 11 decks with 11 elevators, four of which are glass-walled and located on the outside mid-ship. The ship carries 1,848 passengers with a crew of 800.
Our room seemed smaller than the previous non-Vista class ship that we sailed on. In fact, it is smaller - on this ship, our deluxe verandah outside cabin was 254 sq. ft. including the verandah; on the smaller Statendam a similar cabin - verandah suite - was 284 sq. ft. Gone is the long set of three drawers, shelf of glasses, etc. In its place is a cabinet without drawers that barely holds the TV set and ice bucket. There are two drawers under the couch, two drawers in the two nightstands, and two drawers at the foot of the bed, but they are mostly used by the room steward for extra blankets, etc. There are three small closets for hanging your clothes. A hair dryer is mounted permanently in the cabinet below the TV. There is one medicine chest or cabinet in the bathroom. There's no curtain between bed(s) and couch/TV/chest of drawers. The curtain instead is located between the bed(s) and the bathroom/closets/inside door. The toilet is very loud. Housekeeping services were excellent. With the Statendam, in contrast to this ship, our verandah cabin had a whirlpool bath, a couch that you could lie down on, and VCR.
It has two chairs, one footrest, and a small table. On Previous HAL ships, one of the chairs always had a footrest so that you could stretch out or lie down. The partition between the verandahs on this ship may be folded back for easy access to the adjacent cabin(s) if you travel with other passengers who are staying next door.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM
There were no separate audio channels into the cabin, nor a special channel for hearing all ship announcements as on other ships. TV channels included CNN/ESPN/TCM/Cartoon Network, plus four on-ship movie channels and 10 other channels showing bow and stern views, ship and port shopping information, etc. Sometimes some of the ship's channels would be playing music without any video.
LAUNDRY There were no self-service laundry or room irons. A ship's bag full of laundry would be washed, folded, and returned in 48 hours for $15. Other laundry and dry cleaning services were available.
VISTA DINING ROOM
Some tables have benches instead of chairs. The room has four sittings - Early (5:45 and 6:15 p.m.) and Main (8:00 and 8:30 p.m.). The serving of dinner was slow every day as the servers appeared to be understaffed; frequently the table captains perform some of the server's duties, etc. The overall food seemed bland. The ship ran out of porterhouse steaks, milk in containers, certain salad dressings, and certain wines, very early in the cruise.
TERRACE GRILL (Outdoor fast food) – Next to pool; no longer exists.
The layout is somewhat open as opposed to the other ships; there were some benches instead of chairs. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge.
There's an automatic assessment of $10 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
At the Greece and Spain ports, local professional dancers and musicians were provided. The other nightly entertainment lacked the "Broadway" type of dance shows; the typical entertainment was a single singer, comedian, or magician.
Movies were shown in the Queen's Lounge - it's not a theater. The chairs and tables are movable and the rear area is open to a public walkway. The nice thing is that the sound track was not interrupted by the ship's public announcing system as on other ships.
The ship has nine bars; three don't open until after dinner. The price of a glass of wine varied at different bars from $4.50-7.50. The best price was at the Crow's Nest and the highest price was in the Ocean Bar.
CAPTAIN'S AND MARINER'S PARTY - The same as usual.
There seemed to be fewer but larger shops. The photo shop will burn a CD from your camera's memory stick for $14. It's cheaper to do it in town.
I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with the Westerdam. It is a large ship with small cabins. I will not sail again on another Vista class ship. Thank heavens for the Noordam, (old) Nieuw Amsterdam, Statendam, Ryndam, Veendam, and Amsterdam. Now a piece of trivia – the Westerdam was docked at the Athens port earlier this year and served as a hotel during the Olympics.