Westerdam 12/14/08, Southern Caribbean (Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao)
A little about us: we are 40’s/50’s. This was our 12th cruise, first on HAL. Previous cruises 2x on Carnival, 2x on NCL, 7x on Princess. Our group’s ages ranged from mid 40’s to mid 80’s, all have previously cruised, but not on HAL. We live in FL, so we took the Cruise Connection bus to FLL.
When we cruise, we like to just sit back and relax ( i.e. sit in a lounger and read all week). This cruise was very enjoyable for us. We did travel with 6 others, the majority I think prefer Princess over HAL, mainly because of the food/entertainment. Embarkation/disembarkation were excellent ~ very short lines. Every crew member we encountered was very friendly and courteous…noticeably better than on any cruise we’ve taken. The lack of announcements made it a very quiet and relaxing cruise.
We did not participate in the formal nights, took our meals in the Lido or the grill. We did not have any problem finding a large table for our group. We did not use room service. I thought the drink prices were very reasonable, especially in comparison to NCL. Most were under $6-7.
The Crow’s Next/Explorations Café is a great place to relax. Very comfortable seating, leather chairs/recliners. Promenade, another great place to relax. The atrium wasn’t as inviting as some are. The ship was clean and in good shape, but not as pretty as some of the Princess ships or the NCL Pearl. The shops were not very impressive. They had cheap and high priced…not much in between. I think all I bought on the ship was a package of cough drops!
We bought a day pass for the hydropool/thermal loungers. Most of the time we were the only ones there. I’m glad we only did a day pass on this cruise, as we were traveling with a group and would not have gotten our money’s worth if we got for the week. We don’t often do any ship’s excursions, so we figured we’d spend the money this way. On our cruise, there weren’t many kids, but the Christmas week, I heard would have about 350 kids. I definitely would have wanted a week pass on that one!
I think the demographics on this cruise were comparable to Princess ~ a variety of ages. I think some people were probably bored, as the activities were lacking compared to other lines I’ve been on. I don’t know how the kids club is, but it sure looked empty when I went by. I would think the kids would be more likely to be bored on this line than some of the others. If you are looking for a more active cruise, you might want to consider another cruiseline.
As far as attire goes, what I did see was pretty much the same as on the other lines.
Half Moon Cay ~ very nice. We spent a couple of hours on the beach, then went back to the ship. Excellent beach, plenty of loungers. Not much in the shops.
Aruba ~ it rained that day, so we only went shopping, then back to the ship. We were there a few years ago and really enjoyed the island.
Curacao ~ took a taxi to the Con Tiki beach resort area that we read about in other reviews. Admission was $3, chairs $3. We got there early and had chairs under an umbrella. Very nice day. I thought the taxi was pricey ($20 each way), but I hadn’t researched it, so I’m not sure if it’s the going rate or not. We arranged with the driver to come back for us. It’s a bit out of the way, so I don’t know how much luck we would have had finding a ride back otherwise.
Overall, we thought it a very nice cruise and if the right deal came along, we’d do HAL again. We do prefer Princess’ ships, but it’s nice to have another option.
• Service was Excellent ~ best of any cruise we've taken. All crew were very friendly and greet you with a smile and pleasant greetings.
• Embarkation/disembarkation ~ excellent!!!
• Quiet ~ lack of announcements and silent disembarkation made it very pleasant
• Hydropool ~ mineral water is gentler on my skin than regular hot tubs. Day pass kind of pricy for one day, but we did enjoy it.
• Half Moon Cay very nice
• Food ~ not bad, but I prefer to get my own in a buffet
• On-deck barbeque ~ was pretty good, entertainment after was great too.
• Large Inside cabin was nice, convenient location (8041)
• When pool chairs were taken, could usually find some on the promenade (although there were several broken ones).
• Elevators were very fast!
• Layout of the Lido Buffet is too spread out and requires you to be in a few lines to fill your plate. By the time you get everything, the hot dish isn’t so hot.
• Only 2 pools – they also closed the larger indoor pool 2 evenings for a private group gathering (of course, those were the nights we wanted to swim).
• The way they do lifeboat drill. Saw a couple of people fall down the stairs. You can't see the steps when you are wearing the life vests. I prefer the drills where you carry the vest down, and are taught how to properly put it on when you get there.
• Entertainment ~ didn’t care for the assortment of entertainers on this cruise, with the exception of the DJ (Jazzy) Illusionist (Leo Ward) and one piano player (Nathan Temby). These few were great! This is the first cruise I’ve ever seen a show lounge half empty, which it was for the 3 shows we attended. They started closing the balcony, I wondered if it was to make the audience appear fuller to the performers.
• Daytime activities ~ there didn’t seem to be much during the day other than bingo, seminars, napkin folding, mixology. Certainly not enough to have to choose between them.