Setting sail for the New Year on board Holland America’s Westerdam

Leaving the "competition" behind in Ft. Lauderdale
Leaving the “competition” behind in Ft. Lauderdale

ABOARD MS WESTERDAM – After a thankfully uneventful flight from Hartford to Ft. Lauderdale, my blended family of 10 enjoyed a painless embarkation onto Holland America’s MS Westerdam.
As we joined some 2,000 other passengers in the Port of Ft. Lauderdale terminal to show our documents etc, there was a fellow passenger who somehow had left his passport – needed for embarkation – in his suitcase. It was painful to watch the horror on his face as he rifled through pockets and carry-ons and realized that it was missing. Fortunately, the mounds of suitcases – including his – were still in the area and with the help of very accommodating porters, he was able to retrieve it. Crisis averted!

I have to say that the boarding process was amazingly seamless considering the number of passengers eagerly waiting to board at the same time.

Sailing away
Sailing away

My group included seven adults and three children and even though HAL’s website (and our travel agent) indicated that minors traveling with only one parent must travel with notarized permission from the other parent, I was surprised that no one asked for this “necessary” documentation.

We sailed through the boarding process and entered our home at sea for the next seven days. Not a bad way to bid farewell to the old year, and kick off the new one! With such an auspicious start, the New Year promises to be wonderful.

MS Westerdam, our home at sea
MS Westerdam, our home at sea

We’re sailing on the seven day “Eastern Caribbean Holiday,” with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, HAL’s private island.

My “blended family” on this voyage consists of 10 people. I have to admit to some trepidation in traveling with such a collection of personalities! The good thing about a ship of this size is that there are plenty of places in which to hide out…if necessary!

Seasonal décor is evident throughout
Seasonal décor is evident throughout

Fortunately, our cabins were ready when we boarded so after stowing our belongings, we set off to the Lido Deck for a delicious lunch and prepared for our “sail away.”

A class act and classes galore

Launched in 2004, the Westerdam is a “Vista” class ship with a capacity for 1,916 passengers in 958 staterooms and suites. Most of the staterooms have ocean views and many have private verandahs.
With nearly 20 public rooms – between lounges, dining rooms, casino, spa and shops, they feature a host of places to explore, along with many classes and activities offered along the way.

Our first sunset at sea.
Our first sunset at sea.

Classes include Culinary Arts, Digital Workshops led by Microsoft-trained “techsperts” who teach you how to take better vacation photos, make movies, edit pictures etc. There are also art auctions, spa seminars, mixology classes and a host of other activities to keep you busy when you’re at sea.
In keeping with the season, the ship is decked out in holiday décor throughout, adding a special touch to the adventure we’re about to embark on.

So far, so good and everybody’s happy as we set sail.

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