Take a Gamble on Cruising


BOTH OF US AGREE THAT CRUISING is a great kind of vacation. There is entertainment on board, many interesting ports of call, activities such as dancing, trivia contests, listening to various kinds of music, just relaxing by the pool or hot tubs, and so much more all contribute to the mix. The one part of cruising that Irene hasn’t really experienced is the casino. On this latest cruise, however, if it weren’t for the casino, she might not have been on board at all.


The cruise industry offers inducements to their frequent gamblers. Cara is one of those “gamers” and Holland America Cruise Line made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Robert Doherty, Casino Manager on Holland America’s Westerdam, explained that for many, gaming is an alternate form of entertainment. Along with the popular slot machines, there is craps, roulette, and various other table games as well as an electronic poker table offering cash games and tournaments. Nightly promotions make it even more enticing and casino hosts offer free drinks and other perks.


For “gambling light”, Bingo is a regular activity offered by Cruise Director, Shane Michaels, and his Entertainment staff. Shane, who has been with Holland America for 14 years, has as his priority to make sure that everyone has a good time. He hosts various events around the ship with a wry sense of humor and a litany of corny “stories.” These events include the Westerdam singers and dancers, piano bar, “the Band” for dancing at the Ocean Bar, classical music with the Adagio Duo and more. One activity unique to Holland America is “Dancing With the Stars at Sea.” Cara was one of the finalists in the competition and had the opportunity to cha-cha with dance captain, Gene Biscontini.


The master of the Westerdam, Captain Rens Van Eerten, is an experienced mariner who projects a stern image during the mandatory safety drill with a demand for silence. This impression is deceiving as he is a charismatic man of many accomplishments. It is Captain Van Eerten who motivates the staff and crew to perform at the highest levels.


As on any cruise, food is a major focus. There is something for every appetite ranging from hot dogs and hamburgers poolside to impeccable service and cuisine at the alternative dining, Pinnacle Grille. In between there is the Lido Café offering a wide variety of choices buffet style or the more formal Vista dining room where you could not go wrong by following the recommendations of the personable and knowledgeable wait staff. Both, Irene and Cara were particularly fond of the daily baked goods, the output of a 24 hour bakery operation. Options are available for traditional early or late seating or anytime dining.


As this was an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, ports of call included Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island. The Westerdam is a small ship compared to many of the newer megaships, but to us it’s comfortable and familiar design made it feel like coming home. – Irene & Cara Herman