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Holland America Lines’ Westerdam


Courtesy Holland America Line

After my pierside inspection report on Holland America Lines’ Westerdam in September, I learned that one of my old college buddies, Jon London, and his wife, Bess, had recently returned from Alaska on the ship.

Since the Londons are veterans of 32 cruises, I asked Jon to share a few thoughts with me on their experience.

He was well pleased with the ship in general, as well as with their balcony cabin, their cabin steward and the steward’s assistant. He particularly liked the forward top-deck lounge with large picture windows, although, interestingly enough, he was unhappy that on several days a substantial portion of it had been reserved for a large group aboard.

In regard to the entertainment program, Jon felt that the production shows were uniformly excellent and that only the performer in the piano bar was below par.

Minor irritants included the long lines for embarkation — this may have had more to do with the Port of Seattle than the specific ship — and the typically exorbitant charge for Internet access that I mentioned last month.

Worthy of special praise was a Ketchikan shore excursion, the captain’s ability to maneuver the ship very close to the face of the Hubbard Glacier and that all forward and bow areas of the ship were opened to allow guests to get great views and pictures of the glacier.

It is a shame that the Londons never discovered the ship’s well-hidden and only full-time, forward-facing, open exterior observation area, especially since Bess is an accomplished photographer.

Jon and Bess were on “anytime” dining, which worked to their satisfaction — meaning without a significant wait in line — if he arose every day at 7:30 and reserved a table for two at the specific dinner time of their choice.

They found that “the food was consistently excellent. Holland [America] does not seem to have yet gone the way of most of the other midpriced cruise lines, which have reduced the quality of the food in the dining room in order to encourage passengers to visit the extra-cost specialty restaurants.”

The one night they did eat in the Pinnacle Grill, they did not find the food sufficiently better to justify the extra expense, although the featured fare there is prime steaks and the Londons are not steak-eaters. They were, however, quite pleased with the no-extra-cost Italian-themed dinner restaurant option that offers table service in part of the daytime Lido Buffet area.

Innovations at Celebrity

Following its new collaboration with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to raise funds and awareness, Celebrity Cruises is now enhancing its onboard activities program through collaboration with Rodale Inc., a leading authority on health and wellness. New activities will draw on Rodale’s expertise featured in their New York Times best-selling “Eat This, Not That!” series.

Celebrity’s version of “Eat This, Not That!” will be an interactive trivia game challenging guests’ knowledge of healthy eating and promoting ways to make smart choices when dining out. “Cook This, Not That!” demonstrations will highlights ways to maximize flavor and nutrition with fewer calories when cooking at home, while “Drink This, Not That!” presentations will offer tips for serving tasty libations while avoiding unnecessary calories.

Also in the beverage department, Celebrity has modified a portion of its 2012 European lineup to present a series of vacations designed to appeal to wine enthusiasts and travelers who enjoy the beauty and culture of the top wine-producing regions in France, Spain and Portugal.

Quick updates
Louis Cruises has announced that its Louis Majesty will operate two new programs in 2012, a four-day/three-night Greece and Turkey itinerary beginning in March and a four-day/three-night Aegean Legends offering starting in April.

Windstar Cruises now offers complimentary soft beverages on all voyages.  Included are bottled and sparkling water, sodas, fresh juices, milk, fruit smoothies, tea, coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and espresso.

Guests sailing on 2012 Cunard Line voyages will be invited to “feel famous” by dressing up and dancing to a live orchestra during Royal Nights themed balls. Also, those who wish to participate in the gala celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on June 5, marking the 60th anniversary of her coronation, can continue to celebrate aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth, as all three ships will simultaneously depart for Europe later that day.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has developed multigenerational, family-friendly river cruises specifically to appeal to grandparents and parents who wish to travel with the young people in their lives. Programs tailored specifically for the family feature special 50 percent off cruise pricing for those between the ages of 4 and 18 when traveling with an adult.