Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Holland America Westerdam
3/1/14 to 3/8/14

Due to the length of the review, it is in two parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of the page.

Page 1  -  Embarkation; Ship Restaurants; Lounges; Other Venues

Page 2  -  Cabin; Dining; Entertainment; Activities; Ports of Call


We had originally gotten a good price on a balcony cabin; but as the prices for the cruise kept coming down, we accepted an offer to upgrade to a Signature Suite, cabin 8059.   We are so glad we did, since the cabin was almost twice the size of the one we had originally booked, 380 sq. ft. with veranda versus 212 sq. ft. for the standard veranda cabin.  Our cabin was well laid out with very comfortable furniture.  The couch was long enough for me to sleep on if I had wanted to. 



There was so much storage space.  In addition to three closets, there were drawers under the bed that worked out great for dirty clothes storage.

The bed was very comfortable.  So much so, that we didn’t have to request an egg crate topper, like we normally have to do.  The linens were also of a very good quality. 

The bathroom was quite large compared to most regular cabins we have stayed in.  It even had a double sink, along with a full whirlpool bath and shower.  We loved the large fluffy towels too. The shower was rather small though and it had a plastic shower curtain that had a tendency to move out of the shower and allow water to drain onto the floor; until I found out how to be really careful about backing into the curtain. 


In the below photo, you can see how there is a wire shelf that sticks out into the shower.  I was constantly hitting it with my arm.  I am not sure why it was even there, since there were dispensers on the shower wall for soap, shampoo and conditioner.  I wish there was a way to turn it up and away or just remove it all together.  It would have helped.

The veranda was very large with four chairs, two ottomans and two small tables.  With the weather being rather pleasant, we made good use of the balcony.  We absolutely loved that HAL has doors that swing out rather than sliding doors.  I don’t know why most cruise lines prefer the sliders, since a normal door seems easier to use for us.  Perhaps a swing out door would be an issue if the winds were very strong.


The view from the veranda looked down on lifeboats and the view forward saw more lifeboats from a differerent angle.


We had two outstanding cabin attendants, Eka and Wayang, from Bali.

Wayang                   Eka

Since I had been allowed to board the ship early to get photos of the Neptune Lounge, Michael, the Guest Relations Associate, also allowed me to get photos of two of the luxury suites on the ship.

Pinnacle Suite – The first suite was the largest on the ship, cabin 7045.  It is 1,150 sq. ft. including the veranda.  It is just massive with a large bedroom and living room.



There is also a nice dining room/office area.  In addition to the dining room there was a kitchen too.


Even the bathroom is elegant with the double gold sinks and large whirlpool tub.



The veranda is to die for with so much space, not to mention the hot tub.



Neptune Suite – The next one I visited was cabin 7053.  It was also very nice and large at 712 sq. ft. including the veranda.  It was almost twice the size of our roomy Signature Suite.  It was decorated a bit nicer than our suite, but the main difference was that it was just much more spread out. 



Another difference was that the bathroom had a nice dressing area adjoining it.


Dining ( Link to Menus )
I have included copies of the menus for the main dining room along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.

Vista Dining Room – We ate dinner at the main dining room on five of the seven days and had lunch there two days.  We had early seating and shared our table with a couple from Michigan, Tom and Gayle, and a couple from Ohio, Bill and Pam, along with Bill’s mother, Judy.  We had a very congenial group and thoroughly enjoyed sharing dinner with them.

Gail and Tom                                                        Pam and Bill


We had two excellent waiters, Oka and Putu, from Indonesia.  They treated us very well and made dinner most enjoyable.


We also had a very attentive assistant maître d, Rico.  He was very good at making sure everything was going well.

We had heard that HAL had good food and the reviews were very correct as far as we were concerned.  The meats were good quality and there was always a nice variety of vegetables, without having to repeat too many items during the week.  I found the cold soups to be just outstanding.  The desserts were well varied and there was always something that appealed to us.  I absolutely loved the “crisp of the day” for dessert.  They have a different flavored crisp each night; and every one of them were delicious.  The one item that really surprised me was the lobster that was served on the second formal night.  I normally don’t order lobster anymore when on a cruise, since most lines use the Caribbean lobsters that I find inferior to those from Maine.  HAL uses the Maine lobsters and they were quite delicious.

We were also impressed with the quality of the cloth napkins, dishes, glasses and solid silverware that was used.  It felt like we were eating in a specialty restaurant rather than the main dining room.  The staff was so eager to please that when Carol made a small suggestion, it was immediately implemented throughout the dinning venues.

We really enjoyed the Dining Room Manager, Himanshu Dogra.  We saw him at all the restaurants and he was always so pleasant.  A really nice guy.  One night he introduced us to the Executive Chef, Vinod Patil.  We told the chef how much we had been enjoying the great food all during the cruise.  I don’t think we were the first ones to tell him that.

Vinod             Himanshu

One thing that surprised us was how few men wore tuxedos on formal nights.  I own a tuxedo, but don’t normally bring one.  Since we thought that HAL might be a bit more formal, I chose to bring it this time.  I was in a very small minority of men who did wear a tux.  I won’t bring it again.  So this is probably the last photo I will have with my tux on.

But I was impressed that men entering the dining room on formal nights were told they needed to wear a coat to enter.  They even loaned out coats when needed.

In reading about HAL prior to the cruise, I had heard about the Yum Yum Man.  He stands at the back of the main dining room after dinner and offers everyone a choice of sweets.  It is a rather nice tradition that HAL has maintained.

Lido Buffet – We mainly ate at the Lido for breakfast.  The food quality and selection were very good.  Carol was happy to find a waffle station.  The Lido did get rather crowded on port days, since people ate prior to disembarkation.  Even when crowded we had no problem finding a table.

We only ate lunch in the Lido a few times and we mainly just had salads or pizza.  We just weren’t that hungry at lunch.  We did go to the Terrace Grill just outside the Lido for hamburgers.  They were just OK; but I recently read that they will soon be using fresh ground meat rather than frozen patties.  This should make a huge difference.

Pinnacle Grill – We have always read that the Pinnacle Grill had great food.  Since food quality and taste are so subjective, we looked forward to finding out for ourselves.  I must say that the reviews were right on.  We had probably one of the best specialty restaurant meals we have ever had at sea.  Below is the standard dinner menu.

After we placed our order, the waiter brought out the pre-dinner extra for the night.  It was an escargot with Riesling vinaigrette.  It was unlike any escargot we have ever had; but was just scrumptious.

Carol had the Lobster Bisque and I had the Tomato Broth with Spicy Lemongrass Chicken soup.  Both soups were very good.  I really loved my tomato broth because it tasted like a spicy Thai soup.


For the appetizers, Carol had the Dungeness Crab Cakes and I had the Steak Tartare.  I was surprised at the size of my serving.  I was starting to worry with the large bowl of soup and large appetizer that I might not be able to eat all of the main course.


We normally try to order different entrees so we get to taste two things instead of just one.  However, both Carol and I love veal chops and we had heard that they were very good, so we had to order the same thing.  The chops were both quite large and oh so good.  They were very tender and so delicious.  It was difficult to finish; but they were too good to waste.  The vegetable selections are served as a serving for two; although I would consider them large individual servings.  In either case, there was more than we could finish.


The only disappointment of the evening was the desserts.  Carol ordered the Creamy Homemade Raspberry Cheesecake and I had the Chocolate and Raisin Bread Pudding.  The cheesecake was more like a strange flavored pudding.  The bread pudding was like no bread pudding I have ever had.  It was more like a firm biscuit with a couple sauces.  Very disappointing after such a wonderful meal.  But since we weren’t the least bit hungry for dessert, perhaps it tainted our opinion.


Canaletto Restaurant – I was surprised that although the restaurant was just an area that is separated off from the Lido Buffet, it did feel like a different restaurant.  Having the waiters in gondolier shirts added a nice Italian touch. 

With the menus being encased in a shiny plastic, it was difficult to get clean photos; but I was able to clean this on up.  All courses are served family style, so in our case, each plate is to be shared by two people.

As with the Pinnacle Grill, we had a little extra before the meal.  It was a brie on a cracker with raspberry jelly.  Delish!

For appetizers we ordered the Canalleto Salad and Veal and Sage Polpettina.  The salad was just OK, but the Polpettina, which is basically meatballs in a sauce, was really good.


For the pasta dish, we ordered the Rigatoni.  It was quite tasty, but we didn’t eat much of it because we had a lot more food coming.

For the main course we ordered Sautéed Veal Piccata. They also had a special main course for the night which was Veal Osso Bucco.  Since we would be getting a portion for two of the veal, we asked if we could just get a small portion of the Osso Bucco to taste.  He brought out the whole order, which was a big piece.  We were glad he did, because it was outstanding.  We ate more of it than the veal, which was also very good.


Once again, we weren’t the least bit hungry for the dessert, but at least wanted to take a small taste to see if it was any good.  Carol ordered some pistachio ice cream and I tried the Torta al Cacao.  They were OK, but nothing special.  But it was a good ending to a very nice meal at Canalleto.


The Westerdam had a very enjoyable entertainment program.  The Cruise Director, Ross McTaggart, did a good job during the evening shows and other activities that he was in charge of.  He was from Zimbabwe; making him the first person I have met from there.

Performers –
We had some excellent performers on this cruise both in the main show lounge and other venues.  One thing that I found very nice was that the lounge performers stayed in the same lounge for several hours each night, rather than moving around on a different schedule each day.  It allowed you to hang around and enjoy the groups you enjoyed; as well as not having to look in the daily program to find out where they would be each day.

Adagio – This was an outstanding duo that played a violin and piano.  I, along with many others, made a regular stop in the Explorer’s Lounge to listen to these very talented musicians.  I was so glad that they played every night between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM with periodic breaks.  As a result most of our lounge time was spent there.  They also performed at a couple of the main theater shows.


B.B. King’s Blues Club – This blues/soul group played most nights in the Queen’s Lounge.  They were very popular and most nights it was standing room only. 

One night they were the main show in the Vista lounge.  They brought the house down.



Jimmy Maddox – Jimmy played every night in the Piano Bar.  He did a mix of singing, trivia and storytelling.  He was really good at what he does; but since the small venue was totally full every night, I didn’t get to spend much time listening to him.  With the lounge being quite dark, I had to use flash, so I only took this one photo of him in the lounge; but he did play in the theater during the welcome show too.


Gina – Gina played the acoustic guitar in the Crow’s Nest.  I only heard her once, since I was normally trying to read there.  I didn’t get her photo because I didn’t have my camera with me.

The HAL Cats – They were the theater band as well as entertainment in the Ocean Lounge.  Since we didn’t hang out at that lounge, I was only able to get one photo of them; and one of the musicians was sick that day.

Leon and Romy – This was an outstanding illusionist show in the theater.  We had previously seen them on TV, when they made it to the semi-finals on America’s Got Talent in 2013.  Here is a link to their website, www.leonetienne.com.  They are great! 




For several of the tricks Leon used members of the audience.  The tricks he did with a set of twins was just hilarious.  As was when he had someone help him put on a straight jacket.


In addition to the main show, they also did a show one afternoon of close up magic in the Queen’s Lounge.  Another amazing show.  Lots of audience participation for this show.  He even showed how he did a couple of the tricks.  If you ever get a chance to see them, do not miss it.


Kevin Jordan – Kevin is a former police officer who has appeared on Comedy Central.  He is a very funny man!  At times he would use a flashlight to point to people to harrass.  The audience loved him.  I would have liked to see more of him on an afternoon show; but unfortunately he didn’t have one.


Production Shows –
The two production shows had two male and two female singers.  They all did a good job, but one of the male singers was really good.  The dancers did a fine job also.

Stage and Screen – This production show focused on music from movies.  I enjoyed it, since most cruises have a lot of Broadway music.  I also enjoy Broadway; but this was nice for a change.








Rockin’ Roadhouse – As the name would suggest, this was a country rock production show.  As with Stage and Screen, it was nice to have a different type show than what we have become accustomed to.  With all the physical activity in the shows, the performers must be exhausted after doing two full shows each night.







Cruise Critic Meet and Greet (www.cruisecritic.com) - We always look forward to the Meet and Greet, where the people we have been communicating with on our roll call get to meet each other.  We had around 60 people sign up for the get together, which was held at 11:00 AM in the Crow’s Nest.  Unfortunately there was a culinary event that started at the same time and I think that many must have gone to it, since we only had 7 people show up at 11:00 AM.  This was really a shame since the Captain, Rens Van Eerten, and Cruise Director, Ross McTaggert, showed up to welcome our group to the Westerdam.  It was quite embarrassing to have such a poor showing.  They didn’t hang around too long; but Carol did manage to get a photo with the two of them.

Even though we started off with a small group, it eventually grew to 15 people and we had a nice time meeting everyone.  We took some group photos; but the person who volunteered to take one with all of us in it, was a bit shaky, so the photo didn’t come out.  But I did take one; obviously without me in it.

Captain’s Welcome Aboard Toast – The first full day of the cruise was a formal night.  The Captain, Rens Van Eerten, introduced his officers and led a toast to everyone for the start of the cruise.  In addition to the other officers, we were pleased to see Hotel Director, Simon Tanner, again.


Mariner’s Society Brunch – We attended brunch for returning HAL cruisers on the last sea day of the cruise.  Most cruise lines just have a cocktail hour for returning passengers; which is fine, but the lunch really felt special for some reason.  The food was good; but more importantly there was a real feeling of appreciation for the returning passengers.  The Captain and Cruise Director really gave a heartfelt talk.  It made the lunch quite special.  As everyone was leaving the brunch, the Yum Yum Man handed out a lovely tile with a Vista Class ship on it.  It was a quality piece.  Apparently each cruise, the returning cruisers receive one.  I was told that the tile design changes each year.

Captain’s Reception – We were also invited to the Captain’s Reception where we could meet all of the ship’s officers and enjoy after dinner cocktails.  Carol was able to get in a photo with the Captain and Hotel Director; as well as one with the Dining Room Manager, Himanshu.   It was a very nice event.



Ports of Call

Grand Turk, British Virgin Islands
We were excited about visiting Grand Turk, since it was an island that we had not previously been to.  It was also the only island that we planned on doing any kind of organized excursion, since we had been to some of the ports many times.  We just wanted to take a quick tour of the island so we booked HAL’s Historic Island Tram tour.  I had originally looked at a private company; but decided to just take the HAL tour, since it was the same price. 

The Westerdam was docked next to the Carnival Breeze.  It was a pretty good hike to get to the welcome sign.  But it was such a pleasant walk with the view of the beautiful aqua water.  The weather was gorgeous with a temperature in the 70’s.


We were told to meet our tour at the end of the dock; but it was actually at the far end of the large square.  The small booth passed out tickets for various tours.  The first photo below was taken in the afternoon after everyone was gone.  It shows how big the square is.  We weren’t sure which booth we were supposed to go to, since the signage wasn’t great and there was no one waving signs with the tour name on them, as we are used to. 


Since we had a sea day before arriving at Grand Turk, we were anxious to find some free Wi-Fi.  I assumed we could accomplish two things at once by walking over to see the very popular Margaritaville pool area while utilizing their Wi-Fi.  The pool area was much larger than I expected.  I can see why so many people visit there. 



With so many people anxious to check their email, the Wi-Fi access was very poor.  We were told that the Froots shop on the square also had free Wi-Fi, so we went over there, since it was closer to the tour meeting spot.  I was able to download my mail when I first arrived.  But lots of people were doing the same thing and I was soon locked out.  Not a big deal, since it was time for our tour to start.

The ticket collector/tram driver/tour guide walked us to the tram where everyone loaded up.  As we left the area we passed a nice vegetation display. 

In fact one of the things we noticed about the island was the lack of flowers.  We didn’t see any in the yards around the houses.  Most Caribbean islands abound in colorful flowers, but here the only ones you see are around government buildings.

The guide did a very nice job of telling us about the geography and history of the island. The first photo opp was of a replica of the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule.  John Glenn splashed down close to Grand Turk in 1962.  The capsule is at the entrance to the airport.

The drive to our first stop showed us a lot of the terrain.  Most of it looked like the below photo.  Not too pretty.

But all that was quickly forgotten when we came up to the beach and our first stop.  Just gorgeous.  The two canons seemed outof place; but I assumed that there was some historical significance for them.



While stopped, people went to some of the local shops and to the rest rooms.  I found a small shop that had free Wi-Fi and Turk’s Head Beer.  Sounded like a great combination.  The Wi-Fi was very good; but I found the beer to be a bit more bitter than I like.   At least I was able to Tweet out pics of the beautiful water to my buddies surviving the cold weather in the Pacific NW. 

Looking out over the water, we could easily see where the beautiful aqua colored water became a very dark blue.  Since it was such a distinct difference, I quizzed our guide about it.  He said that about 200 ft. out from shore, there is an immediate drop-off straight down to 7,000 feet.  That causes the dramatic difference in color.

The name Grand Turk comes from the Turk’s Cap Cactus.  We saw a statue of one on the top of a building. 

Our next stop was at Cockburn Town.  There was a small museum there, more shops and a lot of booths set up for street vendors.  I was able to get a photo of the tram we were taking the tour in.  I was also able to see the more substantial tram that the private tour company used that I originally planned on taking.  It was a lot nicer.  Plus I found out that this was our last stop before returning to the ship.  The private tour continued on to the lighthouse; which I had hoped to see.  I asked our guide why we didn’t go there.  He told me that the tram they use doesn’t have enough power to get up the hill near the lighthouse.  Oh well, it was still a nice way to see more of the island than just the area around the port.

Our Tram                                                                The Other Tram

On the way back to the ship we passed by several Salinas or salt ponds.  It takes 120 days for the water to evaporate and leave the salt.  Salt used to be the main export from the island, but they stopped exporting it in 1973 and now tourism is king.

When the tour ended, Carol went shopping and I went exploring.   I walked along the beach to try to get a nice photo of the Westerdam.  Due to the angle of the dock, it wasn’t right; but I did come across some interesting things.  The first was a whale statue.  It is 12 ft. high and 38 ft. long. 

The next one was a NASA exhibit also along the beach.  It was dedicated in 2011 and has replicas of the Atlas Rocket, Friendship 7 capsule and statue of John Glenn in a replica of his space suit.

My main destination for our visit to Grand Turk was to visit the popular bar and grill, Jack’s Shack www.jacksshack.tc.  I had read glowing reviews about their jerk chicken and cocktails.  It was about a 10 minute walk down the beach; but quite pleasant.  The beach was very popular.

At last I came to it.  The first view didn’t look like much; but what I had seen was just the smoke house.

Once I got to the front, it looked much more like what I was expecting.  In addition to the round covered bar, there is a lot of seating on the large patio.  There is also a souvenir shop. 


I ordered a great drink that has a name that I would rather not put in the review; but it was so good.  I had to control myself not to get a second one; since I did need to walk 10 minutes back to the ship.  Before ordering the jerk chicken, I wanted to see what it looked like; as well as to get some reviews from my neighbors at the bar.  Since it looked good and I was getting thumbs up from those eating it, I placed my order.  After about a ten minute wait, I picked up the plate from the smokehouse.  The chicken was great and the spicy sauce with it was outstanding.  I am now a Jack’s Shack fan.  It was well worth the walk to get there.

Looking back toward the dock, the walk didn’t look that far.  And it was hard to complain about, since I was walking along the gorgeous beach.


The view from the ship as we were leaving port was the type of view you expect from a tropical paradise. 



San Juan, Puerto Rico
We had been on a cruise that stopped in San Juan just three months earlier.  That cruise was supposed to arrive at 3:00 PM and stay until 10:00 PM; which didn’t leave much daylight time for looking around.  Plus it was delayed and we didn’t arrive until after 5:00 PM, so we didn’t walk around San Juan at all.  With this cruise arriving at Noon and staying until 8:00 PM, I would get to do some of the things I wanted to do previously.

A must do for any cruise into San Juan is to be outside on the decks while entering the harbor to get a great view of the El Morro Fortress.  The fortress is impressive and the waves crashing into the rocks and the view of the beaches are a “must see”.   The 18 foot thick walls have stood up well for almost 400 years.


We also passed by La Fortaleza, which is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.  I had hoped to visit there on this trip; but ran out of time.  Since I am sure we will visit San Juan again, I will have something to see on that cruise.

On one of our first visits to San Juan many years ago, I visited the restaurant bar, Barrachina.  It is famous for being recognized as the birthplace of the original Pina Colada.  My memory was that they were very expensive and not as good as I expected.  I still wanted to go back and try another one.  I was so glad I did.

It was just a short walk along some narrow streets to get to Barrachina.  I stopped to take a photo of a garita or dome covered sentry box.  They are at the corners of the fortress walls and have become the cultural symbol of Puerto Rico.  There were also some strange looking chairs in front of it that looked like animals.


Had I not looked on my GPS, it would have been very difficult to find Barrachina, since it is in a nondescript building.  It was quite nice and large inside though.  It had been over ten years since I had first visited and I think that the Pina Colada price was still the same $9.00.  But now, it wasn’t that expensive compared to other bars.  They were also really good this time.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stop there and looked forward to my walk to San Cristobal Castle.


The walk passed by some of the narrow streets and brightly colored houses that San Juan is know for.


The walk up to the road along the coast wasn’t as far as I thought.  The San Cristobal walls extended out far from the main structure, so there were photo opps all along the walk.  It was most enjoyable with pretty views of garitas and the beautiful water. 


One of the benefits of being a senior citizen is that we can purchase a $10 lifetime National Parks pass.  It allows for free entrance to any US National Park.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that San Cristobal was a National Park, so I didn’t bring the pass.  I did feel better when I found out that it was only a $3.00 entrance fee.  With the castle being on a hill, the view looking back from where I came was quite nice, as was the view through a windows in the thick walls.


On the first level are two large wells along with a museum contained in several of the rooms along the walls.


There is a ramp as well as long tunnels that go to the upper level.  I took the ramp up.  Once again there were high walls and even a stack of cannon balls.


The views of the city and the ocean from the upper levels was worth the walk up.


On the way down, I took a tunnel.  It was a gradual decline, which made it a longer walk and a different experience.

Even though the walk back to the ship, wasn’t that far, I wanted to try out the San Juan Free Trolley.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the exterior of San Cristobal while waiting at the trolley stop.

The trolley itself was a pleasant way to get around; but it took longer than walking due to the heavy traffic and numerous stops it made.

When I got back on the ship, I was able to get a nice photo of the Caballito del Mar (Seahorse) fountain.  It is 38 feet tall and quite a nice addition to the waterfront.

Also in port was one of the largest private yachts in the world, the Attessa IV.  It is 328 feet long (4th longest in the world) and valued at $300,000,000.

As we were leaving port at 8:00 PM, the rain started.  We had lucked out again with beautiful weather.

St. Maarten , Netherland Antilles
I should know better than to trust the weather forecast.  Because I was able to use the Internet in San Juan, I had expected rain when we arrived in St. Maarten.  Especially after the downpour we had while leaving Puerto Rico.  In the morning when we opened the curtains, it was another beautiful sunny day.  While on our balcony looking out at the island, Carol could see a strange looking red boat in the distance.  She was curious as to what it was.  Later in the day I was able to get a photo of it for her to satisfy her curiosity.  It looked like a pirate ship to me.

Since we had just had an island tour in St. Maarten three months before this cruise, we only planned to have a leisurely day in port.   This would be a special day in St. Maarten, since there were only 3 ships in port.  Normally there are 5 or 6.  The cruise director said that there would be about 8,000 passengers in port, where there are normally 20 to 25 thousand.  As we walked off the dock into the main tourist area, it was so much more open than normal without all the crowds.

Since we have always had some type of excursion booked for our previous visits to St. Maarten, I thought it would be nice to just take the water taxi into the main town of Philipsburg and walk around to check out the area.  I also wanted to hook into some free Wi-Fi.   Since Carol isn’t in to long walks, she decided to check out the shops near the port while I went into town.  The water taxi dock and ticket office is very close to the cruise ship terminal.  The tickets were $5 for a one-way ride or $7 for a round trip.  As we left the dock we could see the three ships lined up next to each other.

When I got to town and headed for the boardwalk, I was shocked at how few people were there.  On one of our previous visits, I had done a Segway tour and it was a real challenge to avoid all the people on the boardwalk.  It now appeared that I could drive a bus down the boardwalk.


There were a lot of people at the beach, but nothing like we have previously experienced.  As usual the view from the beach was awesome.

I had read that one of the best places to get free Wi-Fi was at the McDonalds on Front Street, which is one street back from the boardwalk.  The traffic on the back streets is normally very bad; but not so this day.  With the large variety of shops, bars and restaurants, there is a lot to look at.


When I came to the McDonalds, it was closed; since they open at 10:00 AM and I was a bit early.  It actually worked out better for me, since I could get a good signal by just standing outside of it.  Once they opened, people came in to eat and use the Wi-Fi; which overloaded the bandwidth. 

While walking along Front Street, I came to the Methodist Church.   It really stood out amongst all the commercial establishments on the street.  The church was established in 1851.  I liked the aqua and white interior.


Another building that was picturesque was the courthouse.  I got a kick out of the pineapple on the top of the courthouse.  It made me think I was in Hawaii.

All the bars in St. Maarten advertise for guavaberry coladas.  I had planned on trying one on our last visit; but forgot to.  With me now having plenty of leisure time, I walked over to the Greenhouse Restaurant to try one and of course use their free Wi-Fi.  The guavaberry has a very mild taste, so I didn’t find it to be that special.  I much prefer a pina colada or mango colada.  But I was able to check off guavaberry colada on my drink bucket list.

After I had experienced enough of Philipsburg, I headed back to the water taxi dock to return to the ship.  It was a fast and pleasant ride.  The view back to the beach shows off the beautiful aqua blue of the ocean.  We also passed what appeared to be a wrecked tug boat.  I can’t understand why it was still there and still floating.


Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
After seeing all the beautiful water from the previous ports, I was really looking forward to HAL’s private island, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  It was supposed to have the best beaches for swimming on this cruise and I was looking forward to a relaxing beach day.  As we approached the island, I could see where the island got the Half Moon Cay name from.  One end of the beach was curved around in the shape of a half-moon; but most of the beach extended further down the island. 


The beaches and water looked just lovely.  We did have some clouds and the wind was strong; but everyone was ready to hit the beach.  HAL has large tender boats on the island that allow for more passengers than the ship lifeboats that are sometimes used for tenders.  They are also easier to get on and off; and are open to allow for better air circulation.   One of the tenders was up at the boat; but no announcement had been made to disembark.


After a while the captain announced that we would not be able to disembark at the island due to safety concerns.  The winds were at 30-40 knots or 35-46 miles an hour.  As a result, he couldn’t maintain the ship at a location where the tenders would be safe to board.  Since we have boarded tenders when the sea conditions were pretty rough, I can understand his concern; but we were quite disappointed.  He only stayed at the island for about 30 minutes and we left.  Everyone was surprised that he didn’t wait around longer to see if the weather would improve; but we have to assume that he had checked the forecast and knew better than us.  As it turned out he did; the winds increased shortly after we left.  So I took a few photos of the island from the ship and enjoyed our last day on the Westerdam as a sea day.


Disembarkation day is never fun; but I must say that HAL does a great job of making it as easy as possible.  We were allowed to stay in our cabin until our numbers were called; which was so much better than previous cruises where we had to join a crowd in a lounge or the theater to wait.  It left a very good feeling for the way HAL takes care of their passengers.

Getting off the ship was relatively easy, since people were in their cabins rather than standing around in the public areas waiting for their numbers to be called.  We quickly found our luggage and then headed for immigration.  We were no longer under HAL’s control and had a very long line to wait in.  It moved along quickly; but it still took 25 minutes to finally get through it.  Since we just had a 45 minute drive home, it wasn’t a big deal for us; but that delay could be a problem for passengers with early flights to catch.


We took this cruise more to try out a well-respected cruise line that we had not cruised on before, than for the ports.  We both felt that HAL exceeded our expectations in the food, entertainment and ship itself.  But most importantly the service we received was just outstanding.  And we found that our fellow cruisers weren’t any older than most of the cruises we have been on.  We have now joined the large group of people who are HAL fans.  We had a great cruise and will certainly look forward to cruising on HAL again in the future.




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