This was our 22nd cruise and our eighth Holland American Line (HAL) cruise since 1995, with each cruise on a different ship, except that this is our second cruise on the Westerdam. Our cabin was a super verandah suite (Category SY) on the Upper Verandah Deck mid-ship. We sailed on a 12-day eastern Mediterranean cruise from Greece, to three ports in Turkey, to two ports in Israel, to one port in Egypt, and back to a different port in Turkey again, before returning back to Greece. Plus, there were three days at sea when going between two Turkey distant ports, from Israel to Egypt, and Egypt to Turkey. Every port was most interesting. In addition, we enjoyed a three-day pre-cruise in Athens staying at the Holland America approved hotel - the Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel.
FLIGHTS We selected Delta Airlines for the flights from Los Angeles to Athens with a change of aircraft in both directions in New York City. These flights were long (over 16 hours going and 17 returning). Because the flights were long, we upgraded to business class.
SHIP The Westerdam is one of the larger-sized ships of HAL Vista class. It has 11 decks with 11 elevators, four of which are glass-enclosed and located on the outside mid-ship. The ship has 972 cabins and carries 1,848 passengers with a crew of 800.
CABIN Our cabin was larger (384 square feet) than on our previous 2004 Westerdam cabin (254 square feet) when we sailed the western Mediterranean. Plus, we were on one deck higher. And like on the previous cruise, we had a nice large verandah. Our cabin had air conditioning, bottled water, comfortable king-size bed with four pillows (actually two single beds placed together, with room to place your suitcases under) with two night stands, safe, bathroom amenities, bathrobes, hair dryer, three chairs, small coffee table, two desks with eight drawers, three closets, toilet, bath and shower, a separate shower, two sinks, fresh fruit, etc. Both 110 and 220 volts electrical outlets. HAL previously provided a special luggage tags containing our cabin number and our luggage arrived in our cabins before we did.
VERANDAH The large verandah (130 square feet) had three chairs with separate footrests, and one table.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM A color TV with 18 channels including CNN, BCC, ESPN, several movie channels, views of the ship’s bow and aft, etc. A DVD player with a choice of over 900 DVDs to choose from the ship’s library (action, comedy, drama, family, horror, romance, sci-fi, and television).
DINING ROOMS The main one is the Vista (decks 2 and 3), and the others are the Pinnacle Grill (deck 2), Canaletto and Lido (deck 9), and Exploations Café (deck 10). In the Vista dining room, at our assigned table, the overall and service food was good. For some unknown reason, HAL’s famous Baked Alaska dessert was not offered anytime. The Pinnacle Grill is only available by making a reservation. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge.
BARS There are seven bars = Piano, Pinnacle, and Sports (deck 2), Ocean (deck 3), Sea View and Terrace (deck 9), and Crow’s Nest (deck 10). We always enjoy the Crow’s Nest, especially when leaving a port before dinner, as the room overlooks the ship’s bow and the direction in which the ship is sailing. There is a minor problem with the Crow’s Nest as it is so popular, you often find all of the tables being used by non-drinking passengers either reading books or even just sleeping. HAL should correct this problem.
TIPS There's an automatic assessment of $11 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
CHECK-IN Faster than usual, during check-in before initial boarding, digital camera takes your photograph. Each time you board the ship, your cabin 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.
TOURS There are ten ports and here is the most interesting thing in each port. Greece: Athens - Acropolis and the changing of the guards at the palace. Turkey: Istanbul - Blue Mosque, Antalya - ancient Roman city, Iskenderun - the cave church of St. Peter and the Roman mosaics, and Kusadasi - the house of the Virgin Mary. Israel: Ashdod - the tomb of the Virgin Mary and the Sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem - a museum to the Jews who died in World War II. Egypt: Cairo - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Every port was most interesting. Many of the tours were long - some lasting up to 12 hours. Because of these long tours, we didn’t visit the spa, library, Movie Theater, evening entertainment, etc. However, the meals on the tours were very good; frequently served in the dining rooms of five-star hotels. There is a problem when the shipboard personnel are assigning the passengers to various tour buses, etc. The problem is that they gather all the passengers into the ship’s auditorium at the same time and then call them to leave by their tour name. HAL should assign the passengers to sit in designated sections of the auditorium at specified times to avoid the mass confusion and large groups of passengers attempting to leave all at once, etc.
ON SHIP ILLINESS About halfway thru the cruise, a serious illness problem aboard affecting both a small group of passengers and crewmembers was reported. The problem was Norwalk virus causing those affected to have stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The ship personnel immediately sanitized the ship, closed popular common areas - the library, some dinning areas, etc., and we were given frequently and lots of special hand cleaner. After about two days, the problem was eliminated. Westerdam did a good job on this. And we were never medically affect in any way.
OVERALL OPINION I'm impressed with the Westerdam since it was remodeled a couple of years ago. And the tours were very interesting.