This was our first cruise out of San Diego, and our 5th cruise with Holland America.
Firstly, it was an absolute pleasure to sail from San Diego. The pier is a quick 1.5 miles from the airport, and Hertz shuttled us over at no cost. San Diego is a great place to explore, and next time I will schedule more time, but for this trip it was in the night before the cruise.
I will start this review by telling you that I am not particularly fond of Holland America because the crowd is generally too old for me. I am 41, and my mother is 64. We tend to cruise together since dad passed so we compromise on selection of cruises. Holland America is ALWAYS a compromise for me because of the elderly crowd which it attracts.
That being said, I was very happy with the speed of check-in which started at about 11:30AM. The ship had 940 passengers out of a possible 1980 so there was another reason to be happy.
Upon boarding, we were not met with the normal white-gloved escorts, but told that we can leave our carry-ons in the lounge and proceed to the Lido for a buffet lunch as cabins would not be available until 1:30PM. So there was everyone, with luggage, sitting around the Lido waiting like caged animals. After all, your carry-on usually has the important stuff like jewelry, medicine, or laptops so who wants to leave it unattended?
Upon entering our cabin (1049 on the Main Deck), we were VERY happily surprised. If you look at the deck plans for the Oosterdam, Westerdam, and Zuiderdam (all sister ships), you will see that the insides along the corridor between the Purser's Desk and the forward elevators appear to be double the size of the outsides across the hall. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE!
These are the cabins normally available to families, but they are regular J category so available to anyone! I highly recommend them. The steward told us they were 255 sq ft each.
We immediately called an booked a spot at the Pinnacle Grille for the 3rd night of the cruise. Good thing we did because the service in the Vista Dining Room was HORRIBLE!
DINING ROOM: As the ship was only half full, they decided to only use one level of the dining room and hold open seating for dinner from 6:00PM to 9:00PM. This was a HUGE mistake for a cruise line that advertises 5-star service.
When you walked into the dining room, a Head Waiter with a laptop asked for your room number and then assigned you a table after he asked your preference- IE window, 2/4/6/8 seat table, etc. The problem was that they were seating people around the dining room in a haphazard manner.
Therefore, when we were seated the first night, our waiter was serving dessert to the next table, mains to another, salads to a third while taking our order. It was completely confusing and out of sync to the waiters- and it showed in their service. It did not improve the entire cruise for lunch or dinner.
After the first dinner, we spoke to the Head Waiter who apologized profusely, and promised us his best waiter the next night. The next afternoon, he sent a personal note an chocolate covered strawberries to the cabin. Nice touch, but service did not improve.
Food was good but not extraordinary. Generally not hot in temperature and not seasoned all that well. Their fish dishes, however, were outstanding.
On the last night, we ate in the Pinnacle Grille. We had done this on the Ryndam last May in Alaska and had a WONDERFUL time. The cover charge in May was $20pp and completely worth every penny.
On the Oosterdam, the Pinnacle Grille was twice the size. Service was just as exceptional, but the Ribeye was chewy. When the check came, the cover charge was raised to $30pp. Given the meal quality, I was not as happy this time. In fact the Executive Chef was table hopping and I told him of my chewy steak, and he agreed that Holland America has not been receiving good Ribeyes from their supplier. So why serve them? He did nothing about the service charge for an uneaten steak, nor did they offer to replace it with something else. This experience was reflected on the survey at the end of the trip.
Lido Dining on the first day was good, but we do not normally do buffets so I have no consistent experience.
Entertainment was routine stuff- 2 reviews and one comedian.
Disembarkation was horrible in Victoria, Canada. It was raining and the terminal is about the size of a 3 room house so the line extended about 300 feet out of the building in the rain. Bad planning, and the ship should have held people on until the line thinned, but they kept them coming off.
Holland America bus transfer tot he airport was convenient, but we sat for 30 minutes waiting for the bus to fill up, but this happens at every port.
Overall, we paid $172pp for a 3 night repositioning cruise, and I feel that I got good value, but was disappointed in the service level. While Holland America may not be MY first choice because of the older crowd, I do give them very high marks for service. Unfortunately, I did not see it on this cruise.
As a point of interest, this ship was scheduled into a 2 week drydock at the end of our cruise to fix one of the Azipod engines and spruce up for the Alaska season.
Would I take Holland America again? Sure. They sell service which I have definitely received in the past. The ship was very nice itself.