Hi, I'm Traveling Dot and this is my fourth cruise on Hal. We have done Canada/Maasdam (round trip Boston to Boston), Alaska/Statendam (Fairbanks to Vancouver) and the Panama Canal/Rotterdam (from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale).
We flew from Boston to San Diego on Jet Blue the day before we were scheduled to sail. Would recommend Jet Blue for the extra leg room they provide at coach prices. We were met at the airport by HAL representative and helped us to the shuttle to the Sheraton Marina Hotel. Our room faced the harbor and the next morning we could see the Oosterdam from our balcony. The provided shuttle to the pier was flawless and being my husband walks with a cane we got special attention both at the hotel and at the pier.
Check-in went smoothly and we took the elevator to the boarding level of the ramp to the ship. Our cabin was ready on our arrival and we met our room steward, Eric. He was a great help throughout the cruise and whenever I needed something he was right there. Our room was always clean and everything was taken care of fast considering how many cabins they had to care of. We had a veranda room on deck 4 almost mid-ship. This ship is a lot bigger than the ships that we have sailed on previously.
After we dropped off our carry ons in the cabin we went to the Vista Dining Room for lunch with other fellow Mariners. When we finished lunch and went back to our cabin our suitcases had arrived and I was able to unpack and get settled. At 3 PM we met the other cruise critic passengers for a Banner Wave from the fore deck and we took pictures and got to know each other. Our meet and greet was scheduled for the next day in the Crow's Nest.
Our next order of business was the lifeboat drill where everyone had to attend or they would be asked to leave the ship. Roll Call was held and everyone was accounted for or they were called personally and told to get to their station. We found out after the drill that the Catholic Priest did not make the ship and we would not have one on board. This was a downer for us because we sail with HAL because they do have a priest on board. And especially because this was Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
The first night out was a rough one. We had 36 hours of bad seas and winds and a lot of people were seasick by dinner time. Barf bags were to be found by the elevators on each deck. I would suggest if anyone going on this cruise even thinks they may get seasick to take something as soon as they board just to play it safe. It is not a pretty sight to see people getting sick while you are trying to eat or just walk to another end of the ship. I just wish those who were sick had stayed in their cabins.
By the second day things started to calm down and people were getting their sea legs and didn't sway from side to side as they walked. Each day got calmer and warmer as we neared Hawaii.
Finally on day 6 we arrived in Hawaii, I opened the curtains to see the island in the distance. We didn't dock until 11 AM because we had slowed down because of the rough seas the first day. We had arranged a private tour with four other people from the cruise critic group. We were met at the end of the pier by our driver and we walked to were he parked his van. The tour we received was well worth the money and we got to see all the places that were offered by HAL without the crowds. We had a tour of Hilo, went to Volcano National Park, walked through the lava tube, saw lava fields and the Rainbow Falls before going to the Moana Loa factory and then back to the ship in time for boarding.
Our next port of call was Honolulu for two days where we took the ship excursions. On day one we went to Pearl Harbor and the Mighty Mo and that night we we went to the Paradise Cove Luau. Day 2 we did the Little Circle Tour of Oahu.
Next port of call was Kauai and now I know why it is so green, rain. We took the Scenic Hanalei Valley tour and it seemed to rain while we were on the bus and stop when we arrived at a scheduled stop. So it wasn't all rain there was a lot of sun too.
The last port of call was on Maui, on this island we did the Maui Tropical Plantation and Ocean Center Tour. The Ocean Center was very interesting and worth the time to see it, the tram ride at the Plantation was not what I expected and I could have skipped that. Being this was a tender port we did not rush back to the ship and took the bus to Hilo Hatties and did a little shopping before taking the free shuttle back to the area by the pier. We had lunch at a place across the street from the dock which was nice but everything is on "Hawaii Time" (slow).
The cruise back to San Diego was uneventful and mostly smooth. We made the mandatory stop in Mexico before heading to the US. Some people got off the ship but we stayed on and were serenaded by some seals on the shore next to the ship. I have one thing to say about the cabin with the door closed you did not hear the loud barking of the seals.
The travel guide on our cruise was Kainoa who was very knowledgeable about the islands and very entertaining. He even taught us how to hula. We had some very good entertainers on the cruise and we enjoyed the shows. The food was good no matter where we ate, the Lido, the Dining Room, the Pinnacle Grill, or the Terrace Grill. The only place we didn't try was Canaletto, I'm not big on Italian food. Pizza at the Lido was good enough for me.
All the crew members that we met were very pleasant and always had a smile and hello for you. I did the Ship Tour (cost $150) and it was very interesting to see the different areas of the ship and how they are run. From the Engine Room to the Bridge, from the garbage room to the kitchen to where they store the food and beverages, it was all very, very interesting. And we met the Captain (had a picture taken with him) and learned how the ship is navigated. After the tour we had a cocktail and canapes and received a goody bag and the picture of us with the Captain. It was worth the money and if you want to know what goes on behind the scenes it is a must do.
Overall we had a great cruise and plan on sailing with HAL in the future.