I have been on numerous cruises and have enjoyed Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney (Disney is not recommended by me). This was my first Holland America Cruise. Overall we had a wonderful vacation and I would recommend HAL and the Oosterdam. Alaska was truly magnificent! Such Beauty! If you have never been, you should go!
Smooth! There were long lineups but everyone just kept moving along. From arrival to the pier, we were on the ship in 45 minutes. It was nice that the rooms were ready by 1:30 as it was nice to drop off our bags before exploring the ship and eating lunch.
The Oosterdam herself was a lovely ship. Our verandah stateroom was spacious, extremely clean and had lots of storage space. We were in stateroom 4053 which had an extended verandah. I was worried as we were right beside the lifeboats but there was no obstruction at all. The public areas were very nice. They were kept very clean and there were so many little sitting areas tucked in and around the ship that we could sit and relax or read. The decks never felt crowded. I loved the touch of all of the fresh flowers. Even the lido buffet had an orchid plant on every table. At first I didn't think all of those flowers were real, I even had to touch them to see.
The food was delicious! There wasn't a dish in the main dining room that I didn't enjoy. We loved our waiters in the main dining room and had a romantic table for two. The lido buffet was good for breakfast. The waffles with the bing cherry sauce was amazing (they also served the bing cherry sauce on the baked Alaska...mmmmm)! I didn't really enjoy the lido buffet for anything other than breakfast as there are far too many people and it was just painful to work my way around the crowd to find anything I liked. For lunch we enjoyed the main dining room, the terrace grill (which was good...Carnival does their pool side grill better) and room service.
The Pinnacle was really nice. I personally do not think it was worth the $25 pp because we had such great food and service in the main dining room. I am glad we tried it but probably won't do it again in the future. The reason we booked the Pinnacle was that our dining time was 8pm and we did not want to miss Victoria. We made reservations ahead of the cruise to eat at 6pm. In the end we didn't have to worry about missing Victoria (see below) but are glad we still booked the Pinnacle as they did not have 2 seatings on the last night and it was a huge mess at 5pm at the open seating. How unpleasant it would have been on our last night to be in mass chaos that was the main dining room (we saw the madness when we walked down to the main dining room).
I also loved the man who was at the exit of the main dining room each night giving us little napkins full of mints, figs, dates and ginger. He always remembered my name.
The one annoying thing was that the first 48 hours of the cruise the lido buffet was not self-serve. It is to avoid sickness, so it is for a good reason. What was absurd was that this included the beverage station. There were only two beverage stations on the ship and one little guy working each of them. While he was filling up 3 iced teas, the coffee machine sat unused. One guy getting one drink at a time. The beverage line up was LONG. Just let me pour my own coffee!!! Once the 48 hours had passed, life was better. Oh, and on a positive note, the coffee was good!
Tracy Arm was beautiful! It is amazing how the ship can go into such a small area. We were so close to shore. This is such a difference from the Caribbean where all you see is ocean then you approach the island and you are there. This is such beautiful scenic cruising. We were told that if ice conditions were not good that we would not be able to make it to Sawyer Glacier. After two hours cruising through Tracy Arm, we just turned around and left. Neither the captain nor our "Travel Expert" who narrated during the scenic cruise did not say anything. No explanation or apology saying the conditions were poor. As you read my Victoria review, you will see that communication was an issue with this captain.
We wanted to go to Mendenhall Glacier and didn't want to be with an organized tour. The excursions were quite costly and I read that we can take a shuttle there for $8 each way. We did and it was really easy to find the shuttles. It was nice walking the trails at our leisure. The glacier was beautiful! Nugget falls were incredible. After our time there, we took the shuttle back to town. I like poking around the residential areas to see what life is like for the people living there. It was lovely city with beautiful homes. We walked up to the Governor's Mansion. We had a couple of Alaska Ales at the Red Dog Saloon. This was a great place with saw dust floors and life music. Great fun!
I loved Sitka. Again, we did not take an excursion but did a lot of walking around. We walked up to the Raptor Centre to see all of the eagles, owls and other birds. That was a highlight! If you are looking for bald eagles, that is the place to go. We also walked around some hiking trails, plus walked up to Castle Hill wear the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag was raised. This was a tender port and I expected the tender process to be a lot worse than it was.
This was a great port. Again, a lot of walking around. We only had from 7am -- 12:30pm which was sad. I would love to go back to Ketchikan again someday.
I see that I am not the only reviewer that is going to give this whole fiasco a bad review. We arrived in Victoria over 3 hours late. We left the same time from Ketchikan as the NCL Pearl. The Pearl cruised right past us early Saturday and THEY got to Victoria on time. The captain came on the intercom in the afternoon and without reason told us we would be late getting into Victoria and all excursions were cancelled and refunded. If the Pearl wouldn't have beat us, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. I know that weather can be rough which can make it difficult for a ship to keep schedule but this was not the reason. Then on arrival at 9:30pm the hallways were jam packed and people were desperate to get off and enjoy the two hours we had at port. The stairwells were not safe and the staff were not helping at all. Usually the cruise director would come on and tell us it was ok to leave but this time nothing! No message...nothing! Just people desperately trying to get off. My spouse knows Victoria well so we got off, sprinted to downtown and then walked back to the ship. The ship didn't even provide a good map. They gave everyone a map of only downtown. It didn't even show the route from the ship to downtown. It is a 10 minute walk (walking fast) and most people cabbed it or took shuttles as they had no idea how to get there. It really seemed that Victoria meant nothing to HAL. They basically stop there because they must fulfill the PSVA requirement. There has been theory on cruise critic blogs saying that the Oosterdam missed a dry dock and has growth on her that she must go slow or else increase fuel consumption and the cost goes up too high. I don't know the reason as we were never given one when asked. I really dislike poor or compete lack of communication.
This went extremely smoothly. I have never had a "silent disembarkation" where they didn't announce what colour or number were next to leave the ship. We literally walked off the ship, got our luggage, walked through customs and got in a cab for downtown. I have to say it was all less than 30 minutes.
Other than the Victoria mess, we really enjoyed ourselves. I would definitely cruise Holland America again.