Savoring the Journey on the Westerdam

Sailing the ocean blue aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam today, as we make our way back to San Diego. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Let’s talk about how fantastic the entertainment is aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam.
I’ve been sailing with the line since 2005, and had amassed two-star Mariner status (30+ days) with the line before I ever started writing about cruises as a career seven years ago. I preferred to cruise with Holland America over other lines because I liked the design of their ships, the favorable single-occupancy rate, and their traditional take on the modern cruise experience. While I continued to sail with other lines, I always seemed to find myself back on a ‘dam’ ship.

Westerdam’s gorgeous atrium. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Reception and Shore Excursions desks flank the atrium on Deck 1. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

But, if I’m being honest, the line’s onboard entertainment wasn’t anything to write home about. Evenings tended to be sleepy, with most guests retiring around the 8pm marker. The glory days of live big-band music and packed dance floors seemed to be behind the line, a victim of a changing economy and demographics.

With a nice lazy day at sea…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…I chose to explore and photograph Westerdam’s gorgeous interior spaces. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Today was a lovely day filled with plenty of at-sea fun as we cruised northward towards San Diego and the conclusion of our weeklong voyage to the Mexican Riviera. But tonight I saw what could be the winner for the best musical entertainment at sea.
Evenings aboard a Holland America ship are even better now than they used to be. There’s live big-band music in the Ocean Bar each night, which is always played to a packed crowd – even moreso when drinks are “Buy one, get the next for $2”, which usually happens between 4pm and 5pm.

The Explorer’s Lounge on Deck 2 is the place to be for classical music onboard Westerdam. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The cozy seating options here are a real bonus. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Then, you’ve got classical music by the Adagio Duo in the Explorer’s Lounge on Deck 2 for nearly four straight hours, minus a few breaks for the performers here and there. Like the Ocean Bar, the Adagio Duo can really pack them in: good luck finding a seat if you’re wandering out from dinner in the Vista Dining Room further aft.

I love the funky, purple-on-yellow look of the Piano Bar on Deck 2 forward. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This room’s days are numbered: in the spring, it will be ripped out to create a new open space known as Billboard Onboard. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

And if piano is your game, the Piano Bar on Deck 2 forward offers two sets of music each night, typically at 9pm and 11pm. The small room – decorated in shades of purple and yellow that manage to look quite good together – is packed to capacity.
The best of the best on Westerdam, though – and quite possibly the best entertainment I’ve seen outside of Cunard Line’s legendary Queen Mary 2 – my personal litmus test for fabulous onboard music – can be found at Holland America Line’s new B.B. King’s Blues Club.

You can also find entertainment of a different sort in the Sports Bar on Deck 2, just aft of the Piano Bar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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