What a wonderful time we had on the HAL Oosterdam! My family (DH and two daughters, ages 9 & 14) and I flew down to San Diego one day early. (We left Seattle with temperatures in the low 30's and a threat of snow.) We stayed at the Hampton Inn for one night. This hotel is very close to the cruise terminal.....about 3 blocks away. Although we had a room in the back, next to the train tracks, the noise at night didn't bother us too much. If you go to sleep early and wake up late, you might be bothered by the noise, but we went to bed after 10:00 p.m. and got up before 7:00 a.m. This hotel also has a very reliable, complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport and to the cruise terminal. Our stay here also included a complimentary expanded continental breakfast and chocolate chip cookies in the evening. The rooms are very clean and the front office very friendly and helpful.
EMBARKATION: Very easy, if you have all of completed the on-line check-in process. At about 11:30 a.m. we dropped off our luggage at the dock, filled out the health questionnaire, and completed check-in in about 15 minutes. We then waited another 10 minutes before the ship's photographer took our picture and then boarded the ship. Then we were off to the Vista Dining Room for lunch. The Staterooms were promptly ready by 1:30 p.m. Everything was extremely organized and quick.
STATEROOM: We had an inside quad. The room was very spacious, even for 4. Lots of closet space, but wished there was more drawer space. The space where there is usually more drawer space was taken by a small refrigerator with sodas, water and small bottles of liquor. Our cabin steward was Wagiman. He was excellent. He was in and out of our cabin so quickly, doing a wonderful job. We hardly ever ran into him except for the hallways. Our room was always clean and well maintained the entire cruise. Our daughters loved the nightly towel animals! The only problem we had was that, at times, we smelled cigarette smoke coming from the vents. Perhaps this is because our cabin was directly below the casino. Other than that, everything else was great.
DINING: We had the early traditional seating for dinner. Our Waiter and Asst. Waiter were Soleh and Parwata. Both very friendly and provided us with great service. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and desserts. There was always something on the menu that appealed to us. Our daughters also selected items from the adult menu. They love trying new foods, especially the chilled soups. The Lido Restaurant also had wonderful service. We met the famous Hunky Dory. We really didn't eat in the Lido very often, but Hunky Dory remembered a couple of our names, which was amazing! We also had wonderful service from Muli……always greeted us by name as we walked through the Lido Restaurant. The Lido also has wonderful ice cream, almost 24 hours a day.
ENTERTAINMENT: We attended the shows every night, except for the comedian who performed a late night act. Edge, the juggler was fantastic and funny. We totally enjoyed his performances. Delisco, a singer, was also very good. The production shows were very good, with some excellent vocalists and dancing.
ACTIVITIES: There was always something going on on the ship. We attended many of the Culinary Arts demos, the Newlywed not so newlywed game, played bingo, and attempted the daily trivia from the library. Melissa, the Party Planner is hilarious! Our daughters really didn't participate in Club HAL, but wanted to hang out with us. That was ok with us, because it was a family vacation. The pool was quite crowed on sea days, and most of the children on board were well behaved. There was a pool party one evening with a dessert buffet and dancing. The chocolate fountains were especially fun and delicious. Parker, the Cruise Director was excellent! He and his staff did a great job with all of the activities.
PORTS OF CALL: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta - We really didn't go on any excursions, but basically did some shopping around each port. One note of caution……watch out for all of the vendors and tour guides who mob you, once you get off the ship. One vendor even put jewelry on my daughter, trying to get us to buy it! Also, in Mazatlan, the taxi drivers drive wild. My daughters and I feared for our lives at times, barely missing other moving vehicles, including a bus and pedestrians.
DISEMBARKMENT: Very organized and easy. We put our luggage out the night before disembarkation and we didn't see it again until we got off the ship, waiting for us in an exact location, color and number coded. Each cabin was giving a color which designated a specific time to disembark. Each color is assigned a time and you just to the gangway at your scheduled time. It's that simple. No constant announcements were necessary.
SUMMARY: Overall, we totally enjoyed our Oosterdam cruise and would highly recommend HAL to others. The ship is spotless, always seeing a crew member vacuuming, cleaning glass doors, or polishing the brass railings. The service is EXCELLENT. We were always greeted with friendly smiles from the crew as we walked along the hallways. The front office staff was also very helpful and friendly. We were very sad to leave....wish we could have stayed on the ship for, at least, another week. We have sailed with HAL a total of 3 times and would definitely sail with them again.