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Introducing the ms Westerdam

I’ve spent the past few days aboard Holland America’s ms Westerdam, a ship whose onboard atmosphere is appreciated by a very specific demographic. This cruise is filled with retirees, and guests under the age of 40 are a rare commodity. Younger guests would certainly enjoy the ship and its Mediterranean itineraries, but they won’t find many fellow cruisers of their generation.

My verandah cabin is a standard size, with two twin beds and a pull-out love seat. The bathroom is quite roomy for a ship, with a full-size tub and plenty of storage space (though the toilet sits at a funny angle). Three closets, drawers under the bed, and shelves above the couch mean my luggage and clothing aren’t crowding the room, especially handy on a 10-night cruise.

The ship’s decor is a mix of classy and cheesy. The bar areas are lovely, and the buffet restaurant is one of the nicest I’ve seen. Even the lounge chairs and balcony furniture are wicker with soft cushions, rather than hard plastic. But the ship also has some sort of mythology theme going on with tacky statues of fauns and sea gods sprinkled throughout the ship.

The food is unimpressive at the buffet, mixed in the Vista dining room, and amazingly wonderful at the Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle Grill is worth every penny of the $30 guests are required to fork over to eat there. So far, it’s been half empty each night, and I think it’s a tragedy that more guests won’t experience the scrumptious steak and seafood dishes (vegetarians, the mushroom ravioli is to die for—as is the chocolate volcano dessert).

The spa is quite large with a thalassotherapy pool and aromatherapy steam room to which guests can buy passes. The list of treatments ranges from hot stone massages to seaweed anti-toxin wraps, Reiki treatments, and teeth whitening. The fitness center is small and unsurprisingly vacant. Guests can purchase three-class packages for Pilates, yoga, and spinning, but single classes seem scarce.

From what I’ve seen so far, the entertainment is typical of cruise ships. The first production show featured one superb singer and three mediocre ones, and a cast of dancers with varying abilities. The show had a “Grand Tour” theme–the costumes were colorful and creative, but the can-can number was clichéd and the Ireland medley (complete with green outfits and curly red wigs for the gals) was close to insulting. The comedian the next night seemed to have culled his jokes from a book of old comic standards (“My brother was named for my father—he’s the only kid in school named Pop”). Much better were the lounge singer and a string quartet in two of the ship’s lounges.

For the most part, the Westerdam is a great ship, and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot if you’re a cruising senior. Families and honeymooners, unless you can find a summer sailing that skews younger, this is not the cruise for you.

Stay tuned for future reports on the western Mediterranean ports and Holland America’s shore excursion options.

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