Somehow when sailing with Holland America we always end up on one of the same 3 ships – either the Oosterdam, Westerdam, or Veendam, even though none of the cruises have been repeats of a previous cruise and the starting points have varied from San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, Boston, and Vancouver. Oosterdam (which we have sailed on twice)and Westerdam are similar both being in the same class of ships (along with P&O’s Arcadia which we also cruised on once.) Veendam (which we have also been on twice) is an older, smaller ship, different from the other two. Veendam has passenger laundries, the other two do not. Our first cruise on the Westerdam was a one week round trip from Fort Lauderdale going to the Caribbean, the second a round trip from Seattle for a week to Alaska. The third one being 28 days from Vancouver, Canada to Shanghai, China. A self-serve passenger laundry would really have been nice for a long cruise like that one.
About the Ship
Holland America Westerdam is a Vista class ship directionally named for the west. Sister ships include the Oosterdam (east) Noordam (north) and Zuiderdam (south.) Westerdam is the third ship of this class launched in 2004. Coincidentally it is also the line’s third ship to bear the name Westerdam. The Westerdam is 936 feet long, just over 105 feet wide, and has 11 passenger decks. It holds just over 1900 passengers and about 800 crew. The fifth sister ship in this class sails for P&O under the name Arcadia.
The current Westerdam began service in 2004 and was refurbished recently with an update to much of the décor in public areas. The second ship bearing the name Westerdam was purchased from another cruiseline in 1988 and lengthened by 130 feet before joining Holland America’s fleet as the Westerdam. It went on to become the Costa Europa in 2002 and currently sails with Thomson Cruises as MS Thomson Dream.
Holland America’s first ship bearing the name Westerdam sailed from 1946 to 1965 carrying cargo as well as passengers. Like other Holland America ships, one of the stairways of the Westerdam has paintings of the current ship on some stairway landings, with older renditions of ships bearing that name on other landings of the same staircase on lower decks. Westerdam has a couple older still paintings of ships with similar names, the Westerdyk and Westernland. The suffix dyk means cargo ship while dam means passenger vessel. Holland America had cargo ships back then and eventually also owned the Westernland, though it originally sailed for another line.
Décor on the ship still includes a collection of artwork depicting Dutch heritage in the new world with paintings of things like historic Dutch ships and flowers, traditional on Holland America’s ships. The lowest level of the atrium on deck 1 is now a small museum with a few paintings by famous artists on the walls surrounding the area and an ever-changing video display of artworks on one wall inside the atrium. Guest Services is still nearby, but the shore excursions desk has moved into the Crow’s Nest Lounge on deck 10. Space for passengers to put puzzles together is now on the deck 1 level of the atrium on the opposite side from Guest Services. For anyone into coloring there is a display of colored pencils at the center of the atrium, and color-book style outlines of paintings in wall racks near the puzzles for people to take if they want something to color.
Though some ornate statues remain along with the paintings, much of the décor on the ship has been changed from its prior elegance to more of a modern minimalist style, far more plain than the previous décor. The theater is fairly plain now with very uncomfortable seating and the new furniture about the ship is of a plainer style than what I’ve seen on Holland America in the past. The atrium used to have a beautiful gold and crystal sailing ship as the centerpiece hanging from its 3-deck high ceiling. Now there is just some sort of swirly thing partway down which in my opinion is nowhere near as nice as the ship they had hanging there before. Like much of the ship’s décor it has gone from old-world elegance to plain and uninteresting. The swirly thing is easier to photograph than the boat was, but not much to look at when you are there, where the boat had lots of details that don’t really show up in the picture.
The Westerdam has all of Holland America’s usual eateries with the Lido buffet and main dining room as the main eateries, and also complimentary Dive In burgers place and taco bar on the Lido’s central pool deck. For an extra fee it offers the upscale Pinnacle Grill and at dinnertime Canaletto for Italian food on the Lido. Gluten free buffet options are available at the pasta bar, which is the waffle and crepe station at breakfast time. They have gluten free items available at breakfast as well, and can also make gluten free pancakes. Dining room menus usually have some items marked as gluten or dairy free or vegetarian, but anyone needing to adhere to a strict diet would be best off to arrange with their waiter to order dinners the night before so menu selections can be altered to suit their needs. You can ask on the spot in the dining room for things like a gluten free bun on a burger at lunchtime or gluten free cookies for dessert at dinner without making prior arrangements, but some things can’t be altered without asking in advance.
The dining room is normally open at breakfast, dinner, and afternoon tea, and on most sea days also for lunch. The Lido buffet serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late night buffet daily. Hours vary often with earlier breakfast start times on port days and sometimes extended lunch or dinner hours on port days as well depending on the hours the ship spends in port. The pasta station and Dive In grill are open throughout the afternoon and the pasta station through the evening as well so there is food available even when it is not the dining room or main buffet hours. Room service is also available 24 hours a day.
After being on the Oosterdam where smoking was only allowed on one section of the back deck we were quite impressed with Holland America’s updated policies, only to be very disappointed a few months later on the Veendam where people could still smoke inside the ship in the casino. According to information I looked up on their website before sailing on the Westerdam their smoking policy varies from ship to ship. That info said it is just the Oosterdam and Eurodam that are completely smoke-free inside, and other ships still allow active slot players to smoke in designated areas – but of course the smoke does not stay within those areas or even within the casino. In actuality the Westerdam’s rules turned out to be the same as for the Oosterdam – at least on this voyage – with no smoking anywhere except the smoking shelter on the back deck of the Lido, making it quite easy to avoid. I’m allergic to tobacco smoke so the easier it is to avoid it the more pleasant the cruise is for me.
According to Holland America’s dress code casual attire is appropriate most evenings. No pool or beachwear, distressed jeans or men’s tank tops in the dining room or fine dining restaurants. No shorts at dinnertime. Jeans without holes, tears, or embroidery are allowed on casual nights. Collard shirts are required for men on all nights. On Gala nights dressy attire is appropriate – dresses, skirts, and slacks are all acceptable. While jackets and ties are the preferred gala night attire for men they are not required. Jeans are not allowed in the dining room or fine dining restaurants on Gala nights, but they are always allowed in the buffet.
In actual fact on casual nights people tended to come to dinner in whatever is comfortable for them, which is jeans for some and business casual to church type clothes for others. Some men wore shirts without collars and did not get turned away. They did send people in shorts at dinner away to change. Sometimes people skated in with beachy looking sandals or flip flops, but not always. I also saw people who tried to come to the dining room in sweats on gala night get sent away to either change clothes or eat at the Lido buffet.
On formal nights people dressed nicer for them than on casual nights, which as in other nights meant some dressed up more than others. The ones who usually come in jeans often wore business or church type clothes on gala nights, and the ones who tended to dress that way on casual evenings were more likely to come in suits and ties or evening dresses. Anything that sparkles is always popular among the women on gala nights.
The Westerdam has a variety of bars, music venues, and places to eat. Each evening brings music at the Ocean Bar and later in the “music walk” area at Billboard on Board and Lincoln Stage Center. The ship has nightly shows in the theater with an early show at 8pm and late show at 10pm most nights. Shows may be production numbers with the Westerdam’s singers and dancers, or guest performances by musicians or comedians. Our cruise even included a couple local shows by performers from the port area exhibiting their traditional dances, one in Japan and one in China when the ship was docked in ports there.
Lectures are popular and available throughout the day. Some of the lectures are by guest speakers on a variety of topics, often related to the ship’s itinerary. Others are from the shore excursion staff, of which they have people who talk about excursions from the ship and different people who give insights on each of the ports for people who prefer to explore on their own. Daytime entertainment also incluces classes, test kitchen demonstrations, trivia games, or self-entertainment from puzzles or games around the ship or use of the ship’s hot tubs or pools. Some people prefer to relax by the pool or watch the scenery go by with a bow view from the Crow’s Nest or side view from the Explorer’s Lounge or other areas with scenic windows. Sometimes there are afternoon movies in the theater, and there’s always a selection of movies and shows available for the in-cabin TV. There’s also an assortment of shops.
Things To Do
Besides things to watch like lectures, shows, cooking demonstrations, or TV, there are also games like trivia or bingo (for a price) and classes where passengers can be active participants like exercise classes, computer classes, or dance lessons. Most are free, though some of the exercise classes like yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling have a fee. Sometimes there are times on the schedule for people to meet for games like bridge, poker, or basketball. Of course there is also a casino.
The ship has a spa with massages, acupuncture and other treatments, and a hair salon. Of course all of those things come with a price. The spa also has a thermal suite where passengers can get a full cruise package or a one day pass. The thermal suite has an indoor heated pool with a variety of features like a rack that sits over jets, a high-jet area in a circle, hot tub style jets along the walls, and a couple intense shower type sprayers. Also included in the thermal suite are a couple steam rooms, a sauna, and nearly everyone’s favorite heated ceramic chairs. Although it’s not cheap, we purchased the full cruise thermal package and that area was our favorite hang-out on the ship.
There are often times scheduled during the day where people can go to the Crow’s Nest Lounge and meet with the independent shore advisors over an interactive map for individual advice on where to go and what to do in upcoming ports. The Crow’s Nest also has a coffee bar, screens with navigation information, and a great view. For other things to do there’s always the atrium area’s museum, puzzles and coloring. There’s no longer a library on the ship, but people tend to bring their own books, and since most people read electronic books on their tablets or phones these days anyway finding a place to sit near a window and read is also a popular pastime.
The outside promenade deck goes all the way around the ship and is a popular place for people to walk or run every day except when outside decks are closed due to stormy seas or windy weather. It has 3 drinking fountains spaced out around the deck, which comes in handy for long walks or runs. One sea day they had an organized 5K walk for a cause on the outside promenade to raise money for cancer research.