We are still recovering from our first cruise experience! We had a wonderful time aboard the Oosterdam and found that we really had two holidays in one. We understand now why so many people do countless cruises year after year...It is a fun and economical way to travel. I travelled with my husband, we are both in our late twenties from Melbourne, Australia. Anyway, on with my (point form) review!
-We arrived in Sydney around 9.30am so had time to kill. Boarding commenced at 1pm and the queue at this time was massive! I was pleased that we could drop off our suitcases, allowing us to relax by the harbour sipping wine, admiring the ship until we were ready to embark.
-customs was very easy, we embarked around 3pm and there was hardly anybody else getting on so it was quick.
-looked majestic in Sydney Harbour, sailing out was definitely a highlight (shame we didn't disembark in Circular Quay on our return)
-tastefully decorated, beautiful, very elegant decor, always clean and tidy, never found it to be particularly busy in one spot and rarely had to queue for long which surprised us given there were 1,900 guests on board,
-it did take a little while to spot some younger travelers (no disrespect intended!) but frankly, we loved cruising with an older crowd because they were so much fun and easy going I always felt safe on board, could leave my purse on the table with no concern of it being stolen, there were no drunk troublemakers and we could just have a fun time doing things like bingo and line dancing without anybody judging us!! :)
-Only a small group of kids on board and they seemed to be well taken care of by the kids club. Aside from often taking up the pool and hot tubs, the kids were fine and not too rowdy!
-a very good range of activities every hour to choose from. Particularly liked the sail away BBQ's, bingo, trivia, game shows and karaoke competitions.
-well organised, Jazzy (show host) and Michael (cruise director) were especially vibrant and entertaining.
-even if there were no activities of interest on, there was always a band playing somewhere or a cocktail calling our name!
-only used the Lido pool once, didn't go in the Sea View pool as the wind was always unpleasant on the decks! The one time we used the pool it was quite literally standing room only. Hot tubs were very powerful!
-We used the Greenhouse spa, my husband had a full body massage on his birthday and said it was great. I used the hydrotherapy whirlpool thingy and the thermal suite which was very relaxing and a nice quiet space. The staff here were very helpful.
-Majority of the staff are from Indonesia and the Phillippines, very sweet natured, gentle and welcoming, always remembered our names and did a great job servicing our room. No complaints!
-I noticed that next year, HAL will no longer be tendering at Gisbourne and going to Picton instead. Wise choice as we were back on the ship within an hour in Gisbourne, not much to do here. Otherwise, happy with the ports of call although for first timers to NZ, I think a campervan type holiday would have been better to see inland and particularly more of the south island.
-we did not book any excursions with the ship as found them very overpriced and not of interest to us. We pre-booked just 2 tours with private companies in Akaroa and Napier and also hired a car to drive around Rotorua/Hobbiton. Both tours were custom designed for cruise ship passengers, picking us up at the dock and getting us back with plenty of time to spare.
-we were very impressed with how quickly the ship gets all the passengers on and off especially when tendered, communication was great and the ships shuttle buses were plentiful once in town.
-verandah suite, very comfortable bed, quiet, spacious, shower temperature always perfect, balcony was great especially for cruising the Fjordland whilst enjoying our breakfast.
-TV had basic channels, only news was CNN, sport and movie channels, movies very repetitive. Would have liked a channel with talk shows/sitcoms etc as we actually did spend a lot of time in our room. There was a catalogue of free DVDs to borrow but we didn't do this.
-I found I would wake up most nights shivering and there were no spare blankets in the room, resorted to covering myself with the robe!
-we only visited the dining room once, had any time dining and didn't realise we would be sharing with others at a table. Specialty dining booked out very quickly so we had a combination of room service and lunch at the Terrace Grill, but had most of our meals at the Lido buffet.
-a friend recently cruised with Carnival and said that room service was not complimentary and I know that with P&O, you have to pay for some food after 4pm.
-Breakfast was always delicious and filling, loved the salad bar and pizza/pasta station. Very good quality food overall and room service was very good too!
-We liked the convenience of grabbing a burger by the pool and the mexican buffet was really nice!
-We had our fair share of cocktails on board, all reasonably priced compared to other lines and delicious! My favourites were Fashionista, Tropical Cable Car and Ultra Strawberry Lemonade.
-Found ourselves at the Ocean Bar and Crows Nest most nights, having a drink and listening to great live music.
-Only suggestion would be more drink service in the Lido buffet as we often struggled to find a waitress while we were eating. Service was abundant by the pools. Perhaps a soda fountain would be good too with free drinks just during dining hours?!? Hmm...not sure if that will ever happen!
-Fantastic!!!! 10/10!!! Shows in the Vista lounge every night at 8pm and again at 10pm. Filled up very quickly so we would try to arrive at least 15 mins early to get a booth at the front.
-The "HAL Cats" band was great, as I said earlier there was always some form of entertainment happening on the ship. The game shows, "Dancing with the Stars" competition and karaoke were thoroughly entertaining.
-Only critique, I purchased a DVD of the entertainment expecting full length recordings of each show but was disappointed with a "highlights" compilation. If I'd known the shows weren't recorded, I would have done so myself! Would love to watch them all again :(
-In regards to internet connection: it was very slow as expected, especially in our cabin. At every port, there were "Free WiFi" stickers everywhere so in hindsight, I wouldn't have purchased an internet plan on board.
-Again, very easy, well organised process. We were off the ship and in a taxi within 30 minutes.
-Had to leave our suitcases outside our cabin by midnight the night before so had to think ahead regarding clothes and supplies for the next morning.
-Was expecting to go through customs/metal detectors in the terminal but literally grabbed our cases, handed over our immigration card and walked out!
-We absolutely loved our first cruising experience with HAL! Would definitely sail with them again, would love to try their other ships.
-Beautiful ship, a bounty of activities and entertainment for every age group and service with a smile!
-I think that cruise holidays are something you either love or hate. I did heaps of research before booking our trip, read A LOT of reviews/forums to find out if it was for us. My advice for first time cruisers is do your research and make sure you get the most for your money.
-We were not disappointed with Holland America and the best thing for me personally was that I felt safe and relaxed surrounded by an older crowd.
I hope you enjoyed my review and find it helpful!
Thanks for reading :)