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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Holland America Cruise Line

MS Westerdam

Rating:Four Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Holland America Line
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 2004 / 2004
Length / Tonnage: 936 / 82,348
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 958 / 1,916
Officers / Crew: Dutch / International
Operating Area: Alaska, Panama Canal

The Westerdam is the third of the new Vista class of ships for Holland America. At 85,000 tons, she and her sister ships are the largest ships in the HAL fleet. Like many other ships in the Carnival Family, she is a product of the Fincantieri Shipyards at Monfalcone, Italy. As such, she is based on the same hull design as Carnival's Carnival Spirit and Costa's CostaAtlantica although her interior layout has been adapted to meet Holland America's requirements. She entered service in April of 2004.

She is the third Holland America vessel to sail as the Westerdam.

The first Westerdam sailed for Holland America Line from 1946 to 1965. A combined cargo/passenger ship, with five cargo holds and accommodations for 143 first-class passengers and 126 crewmembers, the ship made the Atlantic crossing twice a month between Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and New York City. The 12,149-gross-ton, twin-propeller ship and its sister ship, Noordam II, took eight days to make the crossing.

The Westerdam was a survivor of three sinkings during World War II before it ever made its maiden voyage.

Its keel was laid in Rotterdam on Sept. 1, 1939, at the Wilton Feyenoord Shipyard, but construction was suspended when the Germans invaded Holland in 1940. On Aug. 27, 1942, the half-completed ship was bombed by Allied forces at its berth and sunk. German troops raised the ship, but in September 1944, it was sunk by Dutch underground resistance forces. Raised again by the Germans, it was sunk for the third time by the Dutch underground on Jan. 17, 1945.

After the war, the Westerdam was raised by the Dutch and construction was completed. On June 28, 1946, the Westerdam departed Rotterdam on its maiden voyage to New York. It continued regular trans-Atlantic service until it was sold to Spain for scrap on Feb. 4, 1965

The second Westerdam sailed on 643 voyages for Holland America Line during a career spanning more than 13 years with the company. The ship, which began service as the former Home Lines' Homeric in 1986, was named the Westerdam and officially entered service with Holland America Line on Nov. 12, 1988.

The Westerdam's arrival expanded the fleet to four ships and signaled the beginning of a new era of growth for Holland America that continues today. In 1989, the Westerdam underwent a notable $84 million renovation at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where it was originally built. During an extended drydock, it was "stretched" by a then-cruise industry record 130 feet, increasing its capacity 1,000 to 1,494 guests and its size from 42,000 gross tons to 53,872.

After carrying more than a million guests on Caribbean, Panama Canal and Alaska cruises, the ship left the Holland America fleet on March 10, 2002, transferred to sister company Costa Cruciere, where it will continue its career cruising European waters as the Costa Europa.

Public Areas
As a fan of Holland America's Statendam-class ships I was curious to see how this newest of HAL ships compared to her smaller fleet mates. From the beginning, Westerdam was designed to appeal to a younger crowd than HAL's traditional cruising base which has averaged over 50 years of age. She is bigger, has more cabins, more public spaces and more amenities than the other ships in fleet.

If you have sailed on the Statendam-class ships the first thing you notice when you board the Westerdam is the different colors used throughout the vessel. They are not nearly as dramatic as those on her sister Zuiderdam, but they are more diverse than those used on the older ships in the HAL fleet.

As with many of the other ships in the HAL fleet, her interiors were designed by Frans Dingemans of VFD Interiors. On the Westerdam though, the dark maroon and gold familiar from other HAL ships is accented by flashes of red and yellow plus the occasional abstract pattern. You will also find more extensive use of metal and glass throughout the interiors. "We have created a ship that is perhaps more stylized and quieter in design than Zuiderdam," says Frans Dingemans, principle architect and designer of all Holland America Line ships.

If there is any particular theme to the art aboard the Westerdam it reflects the diversity of the world during the 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was exploring the spice routes to Asia and the Dutch West India Company (WIC) was operating in West Africa and the Americas.

Like the Volendam, and Rotterdam before her, the Westerdam continues the evolution of he funnel for HAL. In fact she has two closely spaced funnels located in the same general area where one large funnel can be found on the other HAL ships. While the Westerdam has many of the features that HAL veterans will recognize including the Crows Nest Lounge, Explorer Lounge and Ocean Bar, the layout of her public rooms is markedly different. To help you familiarize yourself with the Westerdam let's take a tour beginning at the top of the ship.

The uppermost deck is the Sports Deck (Deck 11), which consists of an observation area overlooking the bow of the ship. This is a great place to get away from the crowd or take in the arrival or departure from port.

One deck down, The Crows Nest Lounge occupies the forward portion of the Observation Deck (Deck 10). With it's spectacular 280 degree forward view, the Crows Nest Lounge is the perfect place to relax and take in the sights during the day or meet for pre-dinner cocktails in the evenings. If you are looking to get out of the sun, the leather covered recliners here are ideal for reading - or napping. The Oak Room is tucked into the back of the lounge area and is one of the few places on board where you are welcome to light up a cigar. Suprisingly, the furniture is made of light colored wood - an oak bar is supposed to be dark isn't it - and it features a fake fireplace. With seating for only 26 it can get crowded at times.

Moving aft on the Observation Deck takes you outside to an open deck area lined with comfortable chairs. This area also includes the sliding glass roof that covers the main swimming pool one deck below.

Continuing aft brings you to the youth activities area which includes the Kid Zone (ages 5-8) and Wave Runner (9-12) rooms. Holland America has a youth program for kids and teens age 5-17. Children under 5 can participate as long as they are accompanied by a parent. Each ship is staffed with a professional Club HAL Director and staff to supervise and organize youth activities. If you sign up to participate in Club HAL (it's free) an activity schedule for each age group will be delivered to your stateroom each evening. Both the Kids Zone and Wave Runner rooms are supervised by Club HAL staff during the days at sea and provide kids and parents with a nice break when needed.

The aft portion of the Observation Deck is open deck - although not teak - and as the name suggests, it is a fine place to observe the sights and sea during your cruise, or catch a few rays when the areas around the pools gets crowded. A large net covers the sports courts located in the central area between the twin funnels and the sliding roof over the pool.

The next deck down, Navigation Deck (Deck 9), consists almost entirely of passenger accommodations in the form of Suites and Min-Suites. There are also two sets of elevators with sea views on either side of the deck, midships. The next deck, Rotterdam Deck (Deck 8), also contains passenger accommodations. The most expensive cabins are located on this deck including two Penthouse Suites.

If you take the forward elevators down to the next deck, Lido Deck (Deck 7), you will find yourself just outside of the Gymnasium and the Hydro Pool. The Gym, which features a clear view over the bow, is a bit larger than those found on the S-class ships and is well equipped with the expected assortment of weight machines, treadmills and stair steppers.

The Greenhouse Spa and Salon is also located in this area along with co-ed Thermal Suites and a Hydro Pool. The There is $15 charge to use the sauna and steam rooms. If that gives you pause, it's probably for the better as the rooms feature sauna- and steam-unfriendly seating in the form of tile and marble respectively. Vinyl cushions are available, but that kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?

As you exit the spa area heading aft you come to the midships Lido Pool which is surrounded by tables and chairs. Where the Lido Pools on many of the S-class hips feature a jumping dolphin sculpture, this pool features a Susanna Holt sculpture of a group of penguins standing on an iceberg as if ready to plunge into the sea. The Lido Bar and Terrace Grill are located just past the pool. The Grill serves hot dogs, hamburgers and other grill foods from lunch until early afternoon.

If you are looking for something more substantial in a meal, continue aft to the Lido Restaurant. This space serves as the primary casual dining area on board and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bright green adn purple carpet, lively artwork and wooden furniture give this restaurant a more lively feel than those found on the rest of the HAL fleet. In addition to two buffet lines, the room also features a number of normally less crowded stations which serve regional dishes.

The Aft Pool, which is located just outside the Lido Restaurant, occupies the rest of the Navigation Deck. Sporting a set of four glazed ceramic chairs by Dutch artist Jan Snoeck, this is the largest pool on the ship and is usually less crowded than the Lido Pool. It's the better choice if you are looking for a place to get in a few early morning or late-afternoon laps. The small, circular Sea View Bar is located near the pool.

The next two decks, Upper Verandah (Deck 6) and Verandah (Deck 5) consists almost entirely of passenger accommodations. On the Upper Verandah Deck, the larger suite accommodations are located midships and aft. Accommodations on the Verandah Deck consist mostly of Category B staterooms.

Note that the cascading effect of these decks at the ship's stern make the balconies of the cabins located here visible from the decks above. More specifically, passengers leaning on the railing of the Aft Pool area look directly down onto the balconies of suites S6158, S6156, S6167, and the S6169 on Upper Verandah Deck. Passengers in these cabins in turn look down into the balconies on the Verandah Deck.

More passenger accommodations take almost all of the next deck, the Upper Promenade Deck (Deck 4). The Category G and Category H cabins located midships on this deck look out at the lifeboats. Keep this in mind if you are looking for an ocean view as the Category G cabins having partially obstructed views and the Category H cabins have fully obstructed views.

The upper level of the two-story Vista Dining room occupies the aft portion of the next deck, the Promenade Deck (Deck 3). While the room is similar to the dining rooms on the S-class ships with large windows dominating the side and back walls, it seats significantly more passengers and lacks the intimacy found on the smaller ships. The combination of red and blue abstract pattern carpet and burgundy and gold patterned chairs give the room a stylish look which is complemented by the gold accented ceiling sculpture, brass railing and creative glass fixtures. Artwork based on 'still life with fruits' by artists Stefan Bräuniger and Giuseppe Linardi can also be found in the Dining room.

As you exit from the dining room and walk forward, you pass through the Photo Gallery where pictures taken by the ship's staff are displayed daily. After the Photo Gallery, you arrive at the Ocean Bar which has been a fixture on HAL ships for decades. Unfortunately, unlike the older HAL ships where the Ocean Bar is adjacent to the Atrium or main lobby, on the Westerdam the Ocean Bar has been wrapped around the Atrium. While this allows for more seating, it also spreads out the seating and robs the room of much of the intimacy the Ocean Bar is known for on other HAL ships. It's more like three rooms instead of one. It features a large detailed model of the steamship Alabama which served during the US Civil War.

Suprisingly, on a ship known for being bigger in every way, The Atrium on the Westerdam is actually smaller than the same area on the HAL ships. It is dominated by a large Waterford crystal globe that is suspended from the ceiling.

Moving forward from the Atrium brings you to first to a small foyer with access to the two sets of sea-view elevators that run up either side of the ship. As you pass through this area, or board the elevators, make sure to take note of elaborate cast-aluminum elevator doors designed and executed by artists Gilbert Lebigre and Corinne Roger of Pietrasanta, Italy. The doors are inspired by art deco designs from the Chrysler Building in New York.

Continuing forward brings you to the Shopping Area with its typical assortment of expensive souvenirs, shipboard necessities and non-essentials. The Erasmus Library is located on the port side in this area and includes a nice variety of books and periodicals.

Next is the Java Corner where you can relax with a complimentary exotic coffee or tea. A series of three interconnected Meeting Rooms are located across the hall from the Java Corner. They can be combined into one large room or divided into the following smaller rooms: Half Moon Room (seats 46), Hudson Room (seats 24 and Stuyvesant Room (seats 20).

Continuing forward brings you to the upper level of the main entertainment venue on board, the Vista Lounge. With seating for 867 on three levels, this room hosts the nightly production shows and concerts. Patterned after the great European opera houses of the 18th century, the comfortable seating and clear sight lines make this room a popular destination each evening.

Promenade deck also features a complete walk-around teak deck lined with wooden steamer chairs. This is popular place during sea days and you will find many passengers relaxing here with a good book or just watching the sea pass by. It is also popular with walkers - especially in the morning - but jogging is not allowed. If you want to run, your best bet is the Observation Deck.

The second level of the Vista Lounge occupies the forward portion of the next deck, the Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 2). Proceeding aft from the Vista Lounge brings you to the Casino on the port side and the Piano Bar to starboard. The Casino like many of the other rooms on board is very red - carpet and chairs - and is outfitted with the standard complement of gaming tables and plenty of slot machines. The lighted pattern in the ceiling makes it one of the more Carnival-esque places on board. The Piano Bar, with its bright blue patterned carpet, high-backed red chairs, and scoop bar stools looks like it could have been designed in the 1960's.

Continuing past the Piano Bar brings you to a new room for HAL ships, the Sports Bar. The good news is that with the exception of the televisions located on the wall behind the bar, it doesn't look much like a sports bar. The combination of chestnut bar area surrounded by darker woods on the floor and lighter woods on the walls gives the room an almost art deco feel. It is hard to say whether the overgrown, toy-like, chairs scattered about add to, or detract from the overall look.

The Northern Lights Night Club which is located across from the Sports Bar, features a distinctive black and white pattern on the dance floor and "groovy" lighting which combine with the stylish seating to give the area a distinctive "retro" look.

From a visual perspective, things settle down a bit as you continue aft and reach the Queen Lounge. With seating for 170 and a large dance floor, this area serves a variety of purposes throughout the day. At times it serves as a movie theatre replacing the Wajang Theatre found on the other HAL ships. Fresh popcorn is still served but the room is too big and open to work well as a movie theatre. At other times, you might find a band playing on the small stage and ballroom dancers moving across the floor.

Continuing aft brings you to the middle level of the Atrium. The Pinnacle Restaurant is located off to port. With seating for 130, the Pinnacle Restaurant offers passengers an alternative to the main Vista Dining Room for a $15 fee. If you want to eat here - or even want to have the option of eating here - make your reservations as soon as you board the ship as she books up quickly. The decor could be described as "Modern Italian" with metal chairs, marble floors and lighted ceilings.

The Windstar Cafe and Coffee bar are located across the way. For a fee, the Windstar Cafe offers pastries, baked goods and an assortment of coffees not available elsewhere on the ship. The name comes from the Windstar motor-sailing vessels operated by sister company Windstar, and a model of one of those ships is on display.

Continuing aft brings you to another HAL staple, the Explorer's Lounge. On the Westerdam, this area extends along the starboard side all the way back to the entrance to the Vista Dining room. A small Art Gallery is tucked off to one side. With it's dark wood and muted colors, the Explorer's Lounge will be a familiar and welcome stop for HAL veterans.

The lower level of the Vista Dining Room occupies the remainder of this deck. The upper and lower levels of the dining room are connected by a sweeping stairway which includes space for musicians who play nightly during the first part of dinner.

The next deck, Main Deck (Deck 1) includes both public areas and passenger accommodations. The main level of the three-level Vista Lounge occupies the forward portion of this deck while the lobby level of The Atrium is located amidships. The Front Office is adjacent to the Atrium on the port side while the Shore Excursion office is located to starboard. A small bar and seating area are is tucked into the back of the lobby.

The two-deck high Vista Dining Room aboard the Westerdam provides excellent ocean views with windows on three sides but don't worry if you don't get a table by the windows. There is always one available during open seating at breakfast and lunch and during dinner it's usually dark - at least during second seating - so you won't miss anything.

On certain full days in port there is no dining room lunch service, so passengers must take lunch, if not breakfast, from the buffets in the Lido Restaurant and the Terrace Grill. Late nights bring ethnically theme buffets like German, French, Japanese and Mexican while Indonesian and Filipino lunch buffets are further HAL signature items. The line's specialty Dutch dinner is also a tradition and has a few items worth eating although I cannot ever remember getting excited about going out for Dutch food at home... Anyway...the Westerdam will feed you very well.

Finally, if you don't want to get up early to visit the Lido you can get eggs and bacon as part of room service. That's an improvement from some of our other trips where breakfast was limited to breads and cereals.

The quality of the food and level of service is fairly consistent across the HAL fleet so you can expect a fine dining experience in the main dining room. Early service problems on the Westerdam seem to have been resolved so be prepared to enjoy the friendly service and quality meals that has become a trademark of the line.

The service and quality of the food in the Pinnacle Restaurant is even better. The menu here is described as "Pacific Northwest" and a typical evening's menu might include Dungeness Crab Cakes with Spiral Shaved Cucumber & Sweet Chili Sauce, Seared Duck Breast and Beefsteak Tomato Salad. Depending on the timing of your cruise, entrees may include Pan-Seared Rosemary Chicken with Cranberry Chutney, Grande Wilde Mushroom Ravioli with Pesto Cream Sauce, or Lamb Rack Chops with Drizzled Mint Sauce.

Also available are premium "Sterling Silver" hand-selected cuts of beef including bone-in Delmonico rib-eye steak, center-cut Porterhouse steak and two sizes of filet mignon. Side dishes feature such choices as Washington Spuds au Gratin, Grilled Asparagus avec Béarnaise, Sautéed Button Mushrooms or a Honey Maple Three-Bean Ragout. Desserts featuring Pacific Northwest ingredients include Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake, a Lemon Berry Angel Shortcake, and Not-so-Classic Baked Alaska.

With only 130 passengers to serve, the staff has time to be more attentive and the overall experience is relaxed and refined. Not that a $15 per person fee is charged for eating here.

A hotel service charge of US $10 per passenger is automatically added to each guest's shipboard account on a daily basis. Passengers can adjust this amount at the end of the cruise by visiting the hotel manager's desk. A 15% service charge is automatically added to bar charges and dining room wine purchases.

Onboard you can expect to see reviews a la Broadway, musicals and both an Indonesian or a Filipino crew show. Beyond that the Westerdam lacks for no recreational facility a ship can legally or morally offer. She has the same extensive recreational opportunities - from working out and aerobic exercise, jogging and stationary bikes to snoozing atop comfy pads on wooden deck chairs, this ship features it all. Swimmers have the same choice of either of two pools that the passenger in the sister ships get (...both pools were filled with fresh water on our trip - we miss the salt water pool)... there are whirlpools next to both pools.

Do be careful if you don't much like lots of children, because as on many ships today certain holiday sailings find the Westerdam carrying lots of kids. On those sailing make sure you get up early if you want to get in a few laps since the little ones tend to gravitate to the pool during the day.

Another thing to keep in mind if you have a specific shore excursion in mind - sign up early! Not sure if it was because of the number of people but many of the shore excursions were full prior to the lifeboat drill. They were able to create additional excursions for some activities but if you ever go on a holiday cruise we strongly suggest you consider signing up immediately after you board (...even before you board if that option is available). This goes for the Odyssey alternative restaurant as well. By early evening on the first day almost everything was booked with the exception of some tables for the last night.

For those of you looking for more sedate activities, the video library boasts over 300 selections and of course all deluxe cabins and penthouses have VCRs but standard cabins have TV only.

The Westerdam offers more deluxe verandah staterooms than the Rotterdam and the Statendam-class ships. She features two penthouse suite, 60 deluxe verandah suites, 100 superior verandah suites, 461 deluxe verandah staterooms, 165 standard outside staterooms and 136 standard inside staterooms. In addition, 28 staterooms equipped for the physically challenged.

While the cabins and suites in the Westerdam are similar in design and execution to the private quarters in the other Statendam-class ships they also include the extra four inches of ceiling height found on board the ROTTERDAM.

They are all very comfortable, beautiful cabins, decorated in earth tones and with Indonesian inspired fabrics for curtains and bedspreads. The standard cabins on these ships are 194 square foot in size and are well designed with lots of storage space. The penthouses here are similarly an 1,000 square foot apartment featuring a 318 square foot verandah, living room, dining room, bedroom and two baths and well equipped butler's pantry! Usually sold out are the ship's 60 deluxe verandah suites where 510 to 700 square feet of space includes sitting area and a large private veranda. The line's "Suite Life" program of amenities and perquisites add a special cachet to these accommodations.

Some of the best bargains for the money aboard the Westerdam are the 461 deluxe category A and B cabins (254 square feet including veranda), each one provided with VCR, minibar, and sitting area. In the bathroom of every deluxe cabin is a whirlpool bath.

Alternatively, you will be comfortable in most of the 165 outside and 136 inside standard cabins and they deserve special praise because they are among the best at sea. All designed for the long haul traveler, each has a variety of cabin lights and is roomy enough for a sitting area but more important is the availability of ample storage space. You will sleep soundly on extra fluffy pillows and the beds can be pushed together to have a roomy queensize. Of course every cabin has its own bathroom, all outsides have tubs, insides showers only and all have a hair dryer.

Passengers seem to like the thick bath and hand towels (and the Line does not skimp if you want more just ask), complimentary fine soaps, shampoos and ginseng body lotion. With the exception of some of the obstructed view category G and H cabins on the Upper Promenade, there aren't any bad cabins aboard the Westerdam, just some more desirable than others.

If you want a lot of sunlight and demand total privacy, avoid anything on Promenade Deck because strollers tend to peek in, and since the form of the ship has the cabins set back from the ship's sides, they are shaded. Remember that one way glass does not always provide anonymity especially at night when it is hopeless as a means to provide a measure of privacy, so keep the curtains drawn unless you get off on exposing yourself to the inquisitive.

Who Goes
While the bulk of the HAL fleet caters to the older, experienced passenger the Westerdam's size and itienaries are likely to attract a younger crowd. Expect plenty of families with kids during the summer and winter holidays. Expect the soft, wonderful service from some of the ship's Indonesian and Filipino service crew - though don't expect a deep philosophical discussion with them. They speak English, but more of the kind of English they need for their service industry jobs though you will find some wonderfully fluent. Even with new tonnage joining the fleet, Holland America's training school in Jakarta turns out competent stewards and hotel crew so you can expect good service.

The Westerdam operates popular 7-day Caribbean itineraries all year long so she is more likely to attract an younger crowd looking for an alternative to Royal Caribbean or Carnival. Expect a fair number of first timers as well with a smattering of HAL veterans who are curious about the new ships in the fleet. Wherever she goes, she is not the ship for the tank top and gym shorts for dinner crowd nor is she the place for the raucous and the wild.

The Westerdam will spend the summer sailing on a number of extended Mediterranean itineraries before crossing the Atlantic to Ft. Lauderdale in November. Once there she will sail from Ft. Lauderdale on alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries year round. The Eastern Caribbean itineraries include stops at San Juan, St.Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau plus two days at sea. Western Caribbean itineraries include stops at Key West, Cozumel (Mexico), George Town (Grand Cayman), Half Moon Cay (Bahamas private island) plus two days at sea.

If you are a Holland America veteran, you may find yourself uncomfortable with the size, decor and layout of the Westerdam. Alternatively, if you have never tried Holland America before and are looking for something different than Carnival or Royal Caribbean, the Westerdam might be just the right ship for you. She offers most of the amenities and activites found on the larger ships sailing the Caribbean but she does so with a touch more class and style.

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