First Look: MS Westerdam

| May 3, 2004

Christening Ceremony

On April 25 in Venice, Holland America christened its newest vessel, MS Westerdam. This 82,000-ton, 1,848-passenger vessel is the third Holland America ship to bear the name -- the line has a tradition of naming new vessels after ships it has retired.

Photos of the inaugural ceremony here:

This new Westerdam is also the third vessel in Holland America's new Vista Class of ships, which each carry a name representing a compass direction. The first was the Zuiderdam (meaning "south") delivered in 2002, followed by the Oosterdam ("east") last August. Westerdam is number three, and the new Noordam ("north") is scheduled for delivery in January 2006.

These Vista-class ships offer the most diverse seagoing experience from Holland America yet, with more verandah cabins, more suites, more dining venues and more menu selections than earlier ships. The casinos are larger and the entertainment venues are snazzier than those on older Holland America vessels. In addition, this new Westerdam is the first ship to be delivered under the aegis of a new Holland America initiative called "Signature of Excellence," a $225 million effort to enhance the fleet in five important areas: cuisine, stateroom amenities, service, onboard activities and new destinations.


Crystal Ship
The first Vista-class ship, Zuiderdam, was purpose-built for year-round Caribbean cruising. It hit the seas with a dazzling display of textures and colors that prompted CruiseMates' Anne Campbell to write, "You won't need morning coffee!"

The Westerdam offers a warmer décor – contemporary classic styling in soothing colors. Its rich hues of blue and red fabrics are accented by blonde wood framing, and everything is dramatically illuminated with strategically placed track lighting. No neon or fluorescent lights here.

As on other Holland America ships, Dutch designer Frans Dingemans has imbued the public rooms with an assortment of museum-quality art works. The basic theme for the Westerdam's collection is the Dutch heritage in the New World, lending new significance to the name "Holland America." There are paintings of historic Dutch ships, including Henry Hudson's Half Moon, and a statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New York. Contemporary pieces include an original Andy Warhol portrait and the signature sculptures of jumping dolphins by Sedona artist Susanna Holt gracing the pool area.


The atrium on Westerdam is modest compared to other lines -- only three decks tall -- but it is much more alive than on the older Holland America S-class and R-class vessels. It includes the Windstar Café, where one can order fruit smoothies, custom coffees, teas and sweets throughout the day until late at night.

The casinos are the biggest Holland America has ever offered, with enough seats and slots for everyone to play. In addition to blackjack, they now include craps and Caribbean Poker. The library has hundreds of hardback book titles to choose from, and offers cozy leather chairs and writing desks. The Internet café has plenty of workstations available, plus wireless "hot spots" for laptops. Those traveling with laptops can also have in-cabin access for an extra charge.

Crow's Nest
The Crow's Nest on Deck 10 is the best lounge for scenic views. At night, it turns into another entertainment venue with either a pianist or a DJ spinning records late into the night. Unlike other Holland America classes, the Vista class ships including Westerdam offer a separate disco called Northern Lights next to the casino for the young, and young at heart, to gather for dancing and libations into the wee hours.

The Queen's Lounge is a secondary live entertainment venue, and also the site for gatherings such as bingo, tea, art auctions and daytime feature film showings. Perhaps the sole aspect of the Vista class that might be considered a downgrade is the omission of the dedicated movie theater, a staple of Holland America ships for decades.


The Vista Show Lounge is the main theater for live performances. With raked seating for the main floor audience, the sight lines are fantastic for every seat in the house. The shows on the inaugural voyage of Westerdam were much improved over those on older Holland America ships, with bigger and more talented casts, over-the-top lighting equipment, opulent costuming and a better selection of material, including songs that aren't afraid to appeal to adult sensibilities. For the first time, one can truly say Holland America stage shows are on a par with any other cruise line.

See pictures from the Westerdam shows here:


Pinnacle Grill
The two-story Vista Dining Room now offers a choice of four dinner seating times. The fare is continental, with a different menu every night. Appetizers might include a tasty and generous portion of caviar or a shrimp cocktail. Entrees include succulent meats or pasta choices. In addition, some standard menu items are available every night, and any special diet can be accommodated with advance notice.

Shrimp Cocktail
The Lido restaurant buffet area offers a variety of cuisine from an array of dedicated food stations -- a salad bar, a deli-style sandwich bar for made-to-order Dagwoods, an Asian wok for custom stir-fry dishes and sushi during lunch, and an Italian pizzeria and pasta buffet. For breakfast, a separate station serves up made-to-order omelets, which speeds up the buffet line considerably. The famous Holland America ice cream bar now also includes an assortment of cakes and pastries under glass, as well as the line's signature bread pudding.

Teak Deck
The Pinnacle is a reservations-only alternative restaurant with a Pacific Northwest theme and a $20 per person surcharge. Entrees include salmon and a wonderfully tender filet mignon. The desserts are delicious and generous (try the crème brulee sampler). Table settings feature beautiful Italian Frette linens, Bulgari show plates crafted by Rosenthal, and Reidel stemware.

All the Westerdam restaurants offer health-conscious cuisine including meatless items that can also be prepared without eggs or dairy upon request. Room service is available 24 hours a day; menu choices vary according to the hour, and all cabins now offer in-cabin service of menu items from the main dining room during the dinner hour.


The Greenhouse Spa, found on all Vista-class ships, includes an 11x22-foot hydrotherapy pool with heated seawater and high-powered jets for soothing tired muscles. Cost for access to the pool is $15 per day, and one may come and go at leisure. Another $15/day option is the thermal suite, which includes steam rooms, dry saunas and aromatherapy shower rooms with citrus and spice-laden mists raining down. Between sessions, relax on heated tile chairs and watch the world go by through picture windows.

Hydrotherapy Pool
Thermal Suite

Other standard spa options include massage, facials, hair and nail treatments and more. The ship's large fitness center is open to all passengers, with aerobic machines and free-weights as well as classes like Pilates, yoga, stretching and aerobics. Some carry a nominal charge. The ship also has a basketball court, volleyball court and jogging track.


Some 85% of the staterooms on the Westerdam have ocean views, and 67% include verandahs. Holland America's passenger accommodations have always been among the best in the industry, and including the verandahs they are also some of the largest at sea. The verandahs are larger than the industry average, at 54 to 318 sq. ft. depending on which of four verandah categories one chooses. They all have privacy screens, a table and deck chairs.

The staterooms on the Westerdam already include the new Signature of Excellence touches slated for deployment fleet-wide over the next two years. These include plush Euro-top mattresses; 250-thread count cotton linens on the beds; extra large, fluffy Egyptian cotton towels; and two deluxe bathrobes in every cabin. All bathrooms now come with massage showerheads, 5x magnifying mirrors, and extra powerful yet quiet hair dryers. Fruit baskets and stainless ice buckets and serving trays are included in every room.

All staterooms also include data-ports for laptop computers (Internet access is an additional fee) and mini-bars. In-cabin television provides free movie channels plus information on the ship and itinerary. Unlike some lines, Holland America does not require pay-per-view to watch quality movies in the cabins.

The Westerdam has a variety of suites, including some fabulous rooms with whirlpool tubs and picture windows, large flat-panel TVs and commodious living and dining rooms for entertaining guests. All penthouse and suite passengers have access to the Neptune Lounge, a private concierge facility with sweets, coffee and tea, books, and a staff person on duty to handle special requests.


In total, the new Westerdam is one of the brightest stars in the Holland America fleet. It has many qualities of luxury-category vessels such as spacious staterooms with premium amenities, large verandahs, alternative dining with elegant choices such as caviar, a large library and plenty of quiet nooks with teak deck chairs. At the same time, it offers many aspects of higher-capacity vessels such as first-rate entertainment, active nightlife, and a large casino. The Westerdam is one Holland America ship that one can truly say has appeal for almost any class of cruiser, yet still maintains the Holland America signature of quality.


Westerdam is slated to cruise in Europe through the summer of 2004. She is currently on the first of three 12-day cruises out of Venice to Dubrovnik, the Greek islands, Kusadasi, Sicily and Malta, followed by a "Grand European" voyage to Rome, Monaco, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Vigo (Spain) and Le Havre. Next comes a trek up to the North Cape, visiting nine Norwegian and two Danish ports including five fjords, and ending in Copenhagen. Next are three cruises to the Baltic including stops in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Warnemunde and Oslo. She returns to a variety of Mediterranean and Aegean cruises for the balance of the summer season until her transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Ft. Lauderdale.

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