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This was our eighth cruise with Holland America and our second on a Vista Class ship. By far, the Westerdam is at the top of our list and we would sail on this ship again. The ship recently came out of dry dock and all the common areas have been nicely refurbished. We do, however, miss the library and hope that Holland will find a way to incorporate that feature in the future. Our shipboard experience was very good. We had a wonderful captain, Mark Rowden, who consistently kept us updated and informed. He would also break in with announcements at various times to let us know if there were particular things that might be of interest, such as a wonderful sunset off the port side or the time we would be cruising the Gibraltar straights. The cruise director, Nathan Hinojosa, was one of the best we have ever sailed with. He took it to heart that it was his job to ensure that everyone was having a good cruise. The food generally on the ship was very good. Our waiter and wine stewards in the main dining room did an excellent job for us. The buffet at breakfast and the few times ate dinner there was very good, though lunch options were merely okay. We varied the routine by eating at the burger bar by the pool several times and occasionally in the main dining room. Dinner twice at the Pinnacle Grill was worth the upcharge. The first portion of the cruise – Venice to Cadiz – was very port intensive (thirteen ports in seventeen days). And while the second part of the cruise – eight days at sea – might seem excessive, we were in need of rest and found ourselves packing up for Fort Lauderdale before we knew it. We were blessed with wonderful weather. While we sailed from Venice in a dense fog, we had sunshine and blue skies in every port. Temperatures ranged from the low 60s to mid-80s, so never too hot or too cold. There was one very rough day at sea between Santorini and Naples; the captain gave plenty of warning so we could prepare. There was also one day of rain on the Atlantic crossing, but that was it. We had never cruised the Mediterranean before, so all the ports were new to us. In general, we enjoyed the ports in Spain (Cartagena, Malaga, and Cadiz) a bit better than the ports in Italy (Rome, Naples) and in Italy a bit better than the ports in Greece. That said, we did wonderful activities through the EXC shore excursions in all ports. We did only some of the activities on the ship. We enjoyed "Sip and Savor" with Alvin, one of the most personable cellar masters we have ever sailed with, as well as several of the wine events, such as "Wines of the World." We liked the general trivia games (though found the BBC Earth trivia boring in the extreme). Several guest lecturers were worthwhile, and the highlight of the trip was hearing Captain Albert speak about the history of Holland America.

Wonderful First Mediterranean Cruise

Westerdam Cruise Review by MostlyLegal

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: October 2017
  • Destination: Transatlantic
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
This was our eighth cruise with Holland America and our second on a Vista Class ship. By far, the Westerdam is at the top of our list and we would sail on this ship again.

The ship recently came out of dry dock and all the common areas have been nicely refurbished. We do, however, miss the library and hope that Holland will find a way to incorporate that feature in the future.

Our shipboard experience was very good. We had a wonderful captain, Mark Rowden, who consistently kept us updated and informed. He would also break in with announcements at various times to let us know if there were particular things that might be of interest, such as a wonderful sunset off the port side or the time we would be cruising the Gibraltar straights. The cruise director, Nathan Hinojosa, was one of the best we have ever sailed with. He took it to heart that it was his job to ensure that everyone was having a good cruise.

The food generally on the ship was very good. Our waiter and wine stewards in the main dining room did an excellent job for us. The buffet at breakfast and the few times ate dinner there was very good, though lunch options were merely okay. We varied the routine by eating at the burger bar by the pool several times and occasionally in the main dining room. Dinner twice at the Pinnacle Grill was worth the upcharge.

The first portion of the cruise – Venice to Cadiz – was very port intensive (thirteen ports in seventeen days). And while the second part of the cruise – eight days at sea – might seem excessive, we were in need of rest and found ourselves packing up for Fort Lauderdale before we knew it.

We were blessed with wonderful weather. While we sailed from Venice in a dense fog, we had sunshine and blue skies in every port. Temperatures ranged from the low 60s to mid-80s, so never too hot or too cold. There was one very rough day at sea between Santorini and Naples; the captain gave plenty of warning so we could prepare. There was also one day of rain on the Atlantic crossing, but that was it.

We had never cruised the Mediterranean before, so all the ports were new to us. In general, we enjoyed the ports in Spain (Cartagena, Malaga, and Cadiz) a bit better than the ports in Italy (Rome, Naples) and in Italy a bit better than the ports in Greece. That said, we did wonderful activities through the EXC shore excursions in all ports.

We did only some of the activities on the ship. We enjoyed "Sip and Savor" with Alvin, one of the most personable cellar masters we have ever sailed with, as well as several of the wine events, such as "Wines of the World." We liked the general trivia games (though found the BBC Earth trivia boring in the extreme). Several guest lecturers were worthwhile, and the highlight of the trip was hearing Captain Albert speak about the history of Holland America.
MostlyLegal’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VB 4145
Our cabin, 4145, was a balcony (VB category) in the aft section of the ship. The bedroom part of our cabin had been freshened, but the bathroom is showing some wear. (It was clean and perfectly functional). The cabin itself was adequately sized and we did not feel cramped on the balcony. We were a bit too close to the elevators, but we were only rarely bothered by the noise. Our only serious complaint is that there were only two TINY drawers in the nightstands and absolutely no drawer space anywhere else. I would gladly have sacrificed the mini-bar in the vanity for extra storage. It would have been fine for a week, but for any future cruise of twenty-five days we need a cabin with more space.
Observation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Argostoli (Kefalonia)
    Our first view of Greece, and frankly, disappointing. Our shore excursion was merely OK. We visited a winery, which was really below average.
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  • Acropolis
    Sadly, we found Athens a huge disappointment. The city is dirty, polluted, and covered in graffiti. That said, we are glad we can say we have climbed the Acropolis even though it was horribly crowded and the paths are anything but safe. Construction at the sight made it a less than stellar experience. We did have a wonderful and informative guide. Lunch at a local hotel was very good, as was the afternoon at the archeological museum.
    View All 330 Acropolis Reviews
  • Cartagena (Spain)
    Beautiful harbor! The old town is within walking distance of the ship. There are a lot of fun palces to get tapas and some local beer, wine or coffee.
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  • Katakolon (Olympia)
    We had one of our best excursions of the entire cruise in this port! We first visited the ruins of Olympia, where our guide provided a lot of historical information and we had time to roam around on our own. It was early in the morning and not yet too crowded or too warm; in fact, it was a beautiful day and the sight is peaceful and lovely. We then went to Mercouri’s winery where we had a wonderful wine tasting – tables were set up for six with a bottle of white, a bottle of red, and heavy snacks (bread, olives, cheese, salami, vegetable) which most of us found was an ample early lunch. The winery itself is in a beautiful setting and we were met by the owner himself. As with all Holland America shore excursions that visit wineries, we could each take a bottle back to the ship without a corkage fee, which we did. (In fact, we later enjoyed one of the wines we purchased with a dinner in the Canaletto).
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  • Alhambra Palace and Gardens
    The only downside to this tour was the long (2 hours +) commute from the port to Granada. However, much of it is through beautiful mountains, so the scenery made up for the time involved. The Alhambra was one of the highlights of the trip and was certainly worth the aggravation to get there. In fact, we would willingly have sacrificed the 45 minutes of free time to be able to spend more time in the gardens, which are spectacular.
    View All 51 Alhambra Palace and Gardens Reviews
  • Mykonos
    We had always heard that Mykonos was beautiful, but we failed to see why. The island was in drought and everything was brown and dry. We visited an interesting monastary and a village, saw an OK beach, and a bit of an average seaside town. Nothing special.
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  • Naples
    We had a very good guide through the ruins of Pompeii, which are far more extensive than we had imagined. It was a very worthwhile and enjoyable tour. We definitely saw the highlights, though we felt a bit rushed at the end of the tour and could have used another 20 minutes or so to explore a few additional sights. The afternoon at the museum was informative and interesting. The only downside of the tour was lunch, where the food and wine was not very good.
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  • Rome (Civitavecchia)
    This was a long and extensive tour, made more so by the fact that ship is berthed nowhere near Rome and the commute is almost two hours. While Rome can hardly be seen in a day, we definitely saw the highlights – including the Coliseum, Trevi fountain, Pantheon, and St. Peter’s. We were fortunate to have an extremely experienced and knowledgeable guide. Beware: this tour involved a lot of walking and was exhausting. As with Naples, the only downside of the tour (other than the length) was lunch, where the food and wine was not very good.
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  • Santorini
    This was a stunning island and we had a very good, comprehensive tour. If anything, the tour was a bit too short as we would have loved more time there. The village of Oia is what every trourist thinks Greece is and should be. The island is not for the faint of heart, as the walking up and down streets can be treacherous. Returning to the tender boats via the cable car is a heart stopping experience!!
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  • Seville
    By far, Seville was our favorite port. The old city is, as the name of the tour implies, stunning; we had a wonderful walking tour. The Alcazar is second only to the Alhambra. The cathedral (third largest in the world) is breathtaking, as is Spanish Square. Again, a tour that is worth the drive (over an hour) from the port.
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  • Venice
    Venice was our embarkation port. We did book a pre-cruise hotel and transfers through Holland America.

    We were met at the airport and taken to a water taxi (along with several other passengers and our luggage) almost immediately. Transfer to the Hotel Bonvecchiati was very expeditious. The service at the hotel was outstanding and the breakfast buffet was very, very good. When the air-conditioning went out in our room the first day, the hotel upgraded us to a better room (with great air-conditioning) without our even asking. Transfer to the ship was prompt and professional. Embarkation was a breeze. We were able to enjoy a leisurely embarkation lunch in the main dining room and our luggage was in our room (and unpacked) before the safety drill. All in all, the experience was seamless and enjoyable.
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