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Caribbean 0105
Caribbean 0105

Cruising on the Westerdam

Ft Lauderdale - Nassau, Bahamas - at sea - Philipsburg, St. Maarten - Road Town, Tortola - at sea- Half Moon Cay - Ft Lauderdale


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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

Our first HAL cruise on the Maasdam was a bit disappointing, so we thought we would give HAL a second chance. We booked a balcony on the brand new Westerdam with Marj's sister and brother-in-law. The new Vista class ships looked very similar to the Millenium class Celebrity ships that we liked so much.

Day 1 (Jan 8/9) - Boarding in Ft Lauderdale

We flew down to Ft Lauderdale a day early, just so we wouldn't miss the ship. Joan and Dave were already down there, as they did a week in Ft Lauderdale before the cruise. We did a bit of shopping and ate at a pretty good rib house.

We arrived at the terminal in Port Everglades about 11:30 and boarding went pretty quickly. We dumped our carry-on in our cabin and headed to the buffet for lunch (we do this every cruise!). After lunch, we explored the ship. The art work is very interesting - not your typical HAL schema. The lifeboat drill was about 4 PM and sail-away soon after. Then it was dinner time and the opening theatre show.

Day 2 (Jan 10) - Nassau, Bahamas

We arrived in Nassau just after sunrise and, as usual, had a half day there. We hadn't booked an excursion, so just walked around the town and did some shopping. There were some changes in town since we were last here, and they were in the process of moving the large market to a new location. There's not much to do in town, so next time we'll have to book an excursion. The ship left at noon, so the afternoon was spent at sea.

They seem to do two shifts of cruise ships each day in Nassau. I guess they have limited docking facilities and it is a very popular port.

Day 3 (Jan 11) - A Day At Sea

A day at sea means time to check out the ship. It really is a beautiful ship. The size and layout reminds me very much of the Constellation. The library was absolutely the nicest we have seen and it had a wonderful selection of books.

Every ship seems to have some area that is "off the beaten track". On the Westerdam, there is a small outside deck just in front of the gym. To get to it, you go down a narrow corridor that looks like it doesn't go anywhere. At the end there's a door that takes you outside to the deck. Being at the front of the ship, it was a great place to watch as the ship pulled into a port.

Day 4 (Jan 12) - Philipsburg, St. Maarten

We pulled in to St. Maarten rather late in the morning, about 10:00 AM. This was going to be an interesting day as there were 9 ships scheduled to be in port. Four of the ships (not ours!) were docked at the pier, and the other five had to anchor and tender. Fortunately we didn't book an excursion. There are only two tender slips in the town, so five ships unloading tenders created quite a traffic jam. Although we arrived at 10 AM, we didn't get onshore until about 2 PM. Once in town, it was wall-to-wall people. What a zoo!

We did a bit of shopping and then headed back to the peace and quiet of the ship. The wind had come up and the waves were quite large as we tendered back to the ship. It took about an hour to get to the ship's loading dock because we had to wait for a previous tender to unload. The tender was really bouncing beside the ship, and each time we rose level with the ship's dock, one person would be shoved from the tender onto the dock. It seemed kind of dangerous, especially for the folks with limited mobility.

As we were leaving the port, the captain announced that the total passenger and crew population for the 9 ships was 29,000 people! From now on when we book a cruise, we'll check www.cruisecal.com to verify the number of ships at each stop.

Day 5 (Jan 13) - Road Town, Tortola, BVI

We pulled in to Tortola at sunrise. There were a lot of clouds in the sky and it looked like it could be a stormy day. We didn't have an excursion booked, so we jumped ship and walked in to town. Sure enough, when we had walked some distance into the town, the skies blackened and it poured in rain. We sprinted from store to store trying to keep dry. It eventually stopped raining and the sun came out. We bought a couple of t-shirts and then headed back to the ship for lunch.

We spent the afternoon aboard the ship relaxing. Both of us love being on the ship. If we haven't signed up for an excursion, we generally find that a couple of hours in town is plenty.

Day 6 (Jan 14) - Another Day At Sea

Another wonderful day at sea. We enjoy these sea days just as much as we do port days. The Westerdam is a much nicer ship than the Maasdam. I guess I just like new things! The public spaces seemed larger and the people were more spread out. The artwork and decor was very colorful, if not somewhat gaudy. I would definitely do this ship again.

Day 7 (Jan 15) - Half Moon Cay

This was our second visit to Half Moon Cay. It was every bit as nice as it was the first time. It is definitely our favorite beach in the Caribbean. We had booked for a snorkel trip, but the tour operator explained that the water was choppy and murky at the snorkel site. We were given the option of going anyway, or getting a refund. We opted for the refund. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we donned our snorkel gear and swam out along the tendering channel. There were lots of fish and the water was quite clear. We really enjoyed the snorkel. Then we sat on the beach and enjoyed pina coladas, complements of Dave (I think he owed us, or something). Ahh, what a life!

We decided to eat back on the ship at the sit-down lunch rather than do the beach barbeque. In the afternoon, we relaxed on the ship, did a gym workout and got ready for dinner. A fabulous day!

Day 8 (Jan 16) - Ft Lauderdale

Early the next morning, before sunrise, we were navigating in to the harbour at Port Everglades. The disembarkation went pretty smooth and we took the HAL transfer bus to the airport.

The Westerdam was a lovely ship and we really enjoyed being on it. I guess the biggest disappointment was the overcrowding at St. Maarten. Actually, a HAL cruise that hit Half Moon Cay, then 5 days at sea, and then Half Moon Cay again would be ideal!