Back from the HOLLAND AMERICA (HAL) Oosterdam February 6-20 Australia & New Zealand cruise... here our (wife & husband, mature couple) report:
The ship (Oosterdam) is great, recently refurbished, nicely decorated interior, very good facilities. Our stateroom (Category SY) was spacious, well appointed and clean. On embarkation the "VIP Reception" (as older HAL clients) was impeccable. The room service personnel did an excellent job during the whole cruise. Unfortunately (compared to our HAL Rotterdam Panama Canal cruise 2 years ago) the general HAL level diminished evidently -- we assume due to Carnival's (who owns HAL) tightening the proverbial financial screw on them.
- all dining room(s) personnel (incl. maitre d') was exclusively Indonesian & Phillipino, some w. a rather "summary" comprehension of English
- occasionally huge (up to 1 hr!) dinner waiting times
- the Pinnacle Grill price supplement went up from $20 to $25... the meals quality... let's not go there! More - no more free water for the shore excursions
- no more self-serve laundromats; the smallest load to be done by the ship personnel was $20
- bedside night-table telephone defect; couldn't be fixed till the end of the cruise
- rather weak shore excursions presentations; the Cristchurch shore excursion was a misrepresentation! As sorry as I am for the residents, after the 2010-11 earthquake there was literally nothing to see... just ruins and huge heaps of rubble...
- the steaks were absolutely miserable: irrespective of the cuisson ordered, all we got was hardened shoe sole! Upon numerous complaints (by everyone!) the staff accused the poor quality of the Australian beef... We gave up meat dishes approx. Â½ time into the cruise, switched to fish/seafood only. Fact is that we had excellent steaks in Sydney and Hobart, it's just that HAL obviously bought the lowest quality meat available!
- Â½ the time the telephone cards sold by HAL did not work, and it was a chore to obtain a time refund. The front desk accused a third party contractor for the intermittent service. Fact is that HAL sold the service and they had the responsibility for its function!
- the daily "home" (Canadian, UK, etc.) newsletter distribution in the door-pocket was cancelled; there was only a New York Times summary available in insufficient numbers, to be picked up at uncertain points on the ship... by the early risers!
- On some evenings the dance orchestra took inordinately long pauses, sometimes leaving just 2 performers to play... in a rather indifferent, almost annoyed mood! Obviously most of the public left, so by the time the full orchestra (with vocalist) reappeared, the lounge was empty, and the atmosphere... somber!
- Last but not least... my wife just received in the mail an upgrade of her HAL Mariner Society status to "Two Star", with a nice bronze pin. I DID NOT... in spite of the fact that we took the cruises TOGETHER!
Adding insult to injury, we convinced a couple of dear old friends to join us on this cruise... It was their first HAL cruise, and...one can imagine our embarrassment!
Definitely this was not the Holland America of the old, but a thinned-down, penny pinching shadow of it!
Our (and a few other passengers we befriended and talked to) decision was not to ever return to HAL... at least not as long as they are still owned by Carnival. Less
It was a thorough disappointment! After the 2010-2011 earthquake Christchurch is almost a total ruin, practically nothing to see, except for huge piles of rubble... No access to the Cathedral, everything is fenced off for reconstruction...
Bothersome that the cruise line (HAL) charged for the return commute from Port Chalmers (nothing to do there!) to Dunedin.
Dunedin: Nice, historic/romantic place. Very good restaurants, great shopping.
Don't miss the excellent "Settlers' Museum"!
Bus commute (5 minutes) to downtown was free. Beautiful Art Deco (small) city. We were very fortunate since arrived there exactly the Sunday (February 17) of a week of Art Deco celebrations: most of the local population was dressed in 1930-1940's cotumes, lots of visitors from all the New Zealand North Island also in epoch attire, many 1930-40-50's cars, the whole waterfront was set up with tents & pavillions in the same style, with the people picnicking... A most pleasant and unique experience !
Again, the cruise line (HAL) did not offer the port (where there was nothing to do!) to downtown commute, we had to purchase it from a local operator.
The city is great, modern, lots of things to see & do.