Hi everyone, We LOVED our cruise on the 11/5 Westerdam sailing and wanted to share some photos and a brief about our experience (photos can be found in my signature). Feel free to ask any questions. This was our first cruise with HAL (we’ve sailed Princess recently and Carnival many years ago). We were thoroughly impressed by little luxuries HAL has to offer, and most importantly, the service.

The cruise was 99% fabulous, with 1% not-so-great, which is normal for any vacation. Most of our issues were with our hotel in our embarkation Port of Fort Lauderdale (yucky and moldy Hyatt Regency Pier 66) and the airport shenanigans, so let’s get to the good! We do not recommend this hotel. Despite the Hurricane damage caused at the time of travel, this hotel was dirty and substandard and overpriced.

Our cabin- We were in 4183, AFT and wake facing. The beds are amazingly comfy for a cruise ship. Great job HAL! Great room, huge balcony due to position on ship, but be aware that the reports of the balcony being quite toasty and the ask and/or soot are true. We are not sure if the folks smoking cigars (lots o’ cigars) above us had anything to do with the ash, but the balcony was always dirty. **NOTE: There is major vibration, and what my husband refers to as “shimmy” in this cabin. Lots of side to side movement from the engines and being aft, and very strong vibrations at times (for those of you from California, think of a really mild earthquake). We enjoyed the lull of the motion back in the cabin, it rocked us to sleep, but if you are a light sleeper, beware of the aft.

Food- Food and service were nice on this cruise. We had upper main 8pm seating with waiters Kodak and Yudhi. We adored getting to know them and liked traditional dining very much after sailing Princess. Although, there are many aspects of “anytime” on Princess which we like. The main thing being we waited in line every time we wanted to eat on the Westerdam whether it was to enter the main dining room or eat at the Lido. Not a big deal, but we were sort of compelled to compare eating experiences. While the Lido food quality was great, there were too many lines and it was hard to scope out what you wanted before you ate it. We ordered room service a lot, and applaud HAL for their hot breakfast choices and expanded menu. Great club sandwich and excellent ham omelettes delivered through room service. Yum.

The ship- Very pretty and well laid out. We took stairs all week to burn calories, and enjoyed the friendly layout of the ship. The decor is rather bold and bright, but things like fresh flowers add class to the ship. There is teak everywhere and this ship has a classically nautical feel to it. Walking the promenade deck or any other area is a relaxing activity!

Ports- Wow. Tortola, HMC, St. Maarten could not be better. Nassau is (as many agree) sort of a waste. Sun went down fast in St. Maarten, and we returned to the boat after we did our excursion. Tortola and HMC were highlights of our cruise. Lovely places. More detail soon…

Spa- Kelly does a great job with the pedicure ladies (and gents). I recommend you do this while waiting for your stateroom to be ready on embarkation day. What a way to start your cruise! The spa is desolate and you will get special service. I was treated to a mimosa as well. The spa is pricey, but the last day special ($25 20 min facial and $25 foot and ankle massage) was WELL worth the hour spent and the $50.00. Check for this if you sail. It is a bargain compared to their normal prices.

Excursions/Activities-

Nassau (none). Just took a cab to Atlantis and walked to a beach.

St. Maarten- Rhino Riders. These are the little boats that fly to a distant beach for a brief snorkel. We had a great time, but were ALL told we were late despite entire group from Westerdam meeting at the proper time. The tour was cut short to get the other HAL ship’s group back in time for their departure. Fun, but probably not worth the $. People in St. Maarten seemed cranky the day were there. Wish we had more time to get to see the area. Great shopping here!

Tortola- Aaah. This place is gorgeous. We missed our Patouche sailaway (booked independently) because the “local official” did not clear the boat til 9:30 am. We were 90 minutes late to leave the ship. Lemons turned quickly to lemonade when we hopped on Speedy’s fairy to Virgin Gorda and went to the Baths. This is the 8th wonder of the world. We will go back. Be sure to take plenty of time here, wear safe shoes (no flip flops or you will break an ankle traversing the rocky trail to the beach) and venture out to the beach that is accessible by trail. Heaven awaits you! Take lots of film and an underwater camera and some bottled water.

HMC- Half Moon Cay is HAL’s little secret…well, not anymore. What can I say…this place is heavenly. Loved it. Would not change a thing except more time on the island. We did the AquaTrax. “Holy adrenaline batman”….this was a rush!!!!!!!!! Please, ask me if you have questions, but this is not for the faint of heart. This is high speed and for the wild at heart.

We also snorkeled with the ship’s tour. VERY strong current, and high waves, but we were warned. It was worth the boat trip to see and photograph the lovely water and see a bit more of the island, but next time, I’d live in my clamshell all day on the island and just relax.

Feel free to ask any questions, and bon voyage! This is a wonderful itinerary, and were impressed with HAL’s level of service and little touches (like espresso after dinner for no charge, the unbelievable beds, and the amazing dining room and stateroom stewards). We will sail HAL Again next year.