We booked our Oosterdam cruise over a year ago after our return on the same ship in August of 2008 in Alaska. Our Alaska cruise had been so fabulous that we were excited to book the same ship in Europe! A place that was sure to excite the whole family! We asked for main dining over a year ago and was never granted our wish. I will say however that even tho it was a pain to call every morning for dinner reservations, the reservations guy was so nice to get us the same table and waiter every night for the 12 night cruise. Part of our enjoyment of cruising is having fixed dining every night. Our waiter, Arun was the highlight of our cruise! He was absolutely a wonderful person and dedicated hard worker! We decided to go to Barcelona 2 days early since we were travelling with our children (13 and 11) and my parents (both in their 80s). We arrived in Barcelona only to be ripped off in the taxicabs and dumped in front of our hotel on Las Ramblas. While my parents watched the More
luggage that my husband and i were transporting into the hotel, my husband's computer was stolen right from under my mother's nose. The hotel manager just shrugged his shoulders and said, "it happens". We spent the first night in Spain, in the police station. While we decided to try to have a good time, since we were embarking on our cruise, we took another taxi (that again, totally ripped us off by traveling to the ship which was about 10 mins away and they charged us $90) we deposited our luggage with the holland america staff and proceeded on our journey. We entered our large cabin (we had actually asked not to be upgraded as we had one of the largest inside cabins that you can have and with a family of four, that was important) around 130pm which was very nice and received 6 of our 7 bags all in the matter of about 2hours. We inquired about the 7th bag and they told us that sometimes larger bags get separated and not to worry it would come by 9pm. Off to dinner we went and by 1030pm still no bag. After already having been robbed, we were not pleased. We stood in the enormous line at the front desk and inquired about our bag. I was getting very irritated and demanded that it come that evening. Finally we received the bag with some excuse that we had written the wrong room number on it and it was delivered to the wrong state room which we knew was not true. If it was delivered to the wrong stateroom, just tell me and i'm fine with the truth!
We stayed overnight in Spain and the next day finally set sail for 9 ports. It was a very exhausting and grueling trip especially since you feel compelled to tour around all the ports since you may never get back to these places again. It was very difficult on my 82 year old father and he finally stopped getting off because there was so much walking involved! Everyday it was between 95 and 100 degrees fahrenheit with complete sun. Not that i'm complaining but it was brutally hot every single day. One of the reasons that we cruise is that there is always something for everyone and with children that is important. Our daughter turned 13 and was very excited to be finally joining the teen group. I had my reservations since I feel there is a big difference between a 13 year old and a 17 year old and I expressed that to the staff. They assured me that everything would be fine. Everynight was a battle with her since the "teens" had a planned program that started at 1130pm in the disco and ended at 1am. My husband and I felt that that was too late for a 13year especially since we were taking port excursions leaving around 8 am most mornings. So everynight we battled with our child over this disco. Each night begrudgingly she came in at 1130 but was unhappy to attend the disco. In general the children could have cared less about the ports and more about the "friends" that they had made on the ship. Our particular date had the most children that HAL has ever had in their history over their entire fleet of ships....200. Needless to say that presented additional challenges.
The ports were lovely but hot, the food was very good, the service in the Vista dining by Arun was suberb, our wine steward, Arnold was outstanding so things were going ok.
By the second week we were eating dinner and our daughter and her friend came to our dinner table to inform us that our son (11years old) had been hurt, was crying and that the children's program staff had left us a message in our stateroom. He had been attacked by a 14year boy, chased 10 flights of stairs, choked and drug back up the stairs to the club HAL crying and barely breathing. This all happened on the first floor in front of the front desk and no one did anything. We called security and confronted the single mother who was aboard ship with her two other children. She seemed clueless and definitely had no idea how to control her children. The security officer warned the child who proceeded to stalk my son and his other little friends to point that he had to sleep with us at night and we had to follow him around at all times with the phone close by at all times in order to call security. The boys were walk the perimeter of the pool intimidating the little boys and then sit at the bar and stare at my husband and i. It was hard to imagine that we had a "gang" on our ship but we did. We got to the point that we couldn't wait for this expensive vacation to end and all we wanted to do was go home.
When we got off the ship, the people on the ground were rude and very unhelpful. The briefing that we received to disembark never once mentioned that you needed to take a bus to the luggage terminal. After retrieving the luggage, we had to sit in the Venice airport for 10 hours waiting for our return flight home. We had had hopes of walking around Venice before the flight took off, which we did do alittle of but it cost $60+ dollars to "store" your luggage at the airport. When we finally got to the time we could check in, Aer Lingus wasn't going to allow us the luggage that we were allowed on the way over so that was a fight for about 30mins. We finally boarded the late flight and flew to Dublin where we had a layover til the next morning. We went from 104 degrees in Venice to 40 degrees in Dublin and stood in a 40+min taxi line to just go to the hotel at the airport that we had booked ahead of time. We did have a very nice room and very nice people that eventually helped us and the taxi drivers weren't rude or didn't try to rip us off. When we finally boarded our USAIR flight to Philadelphia, my seat was broken and the stewardesses were rude and unhelpful. I wasn't going to sit forward for 7.5 hours and they were just plain rude. We had two bathrooms in our section of the plane. One bathroom was broken before we left and consequently the whole plane smelled like urine. They squirted some cinnamon spray inside and just wrote a note, "out of order". This left only one bathroom for most of the plane to use for almost 8 hours. Needless to say it wasn't pretty. The best part of the trip was arriving HOME! Less
While we had a very large inside cabin, every night we were kept awake by a noise. We finally figured out that we were beside the rooms where the washing machines are. We were kept up most nights by the washer and the dryer.
our next next port was Messina, Sicily. We went to the beach. It was crowded and just a factory of people. Not great but at least we were in the water out of the heat. Then we hit two ports in Greece. Olympia was really really nice. Hot but nice. Navpilon was great and the tours of the ruins were very interesting and not to be missed. Then we hit Corfu. We decided that we we'd try to find a beach since i had researched their beaches before we left. We had been advised to rent a car. They were all gone when we got there about 930am. We asked about a taxi and the driver wanted 120euro to go about 15miles. A huge ripoff. We finally figured out the public transportation system and paid 1.30euro to go to a different beach. Not a great one but at least cheaper than 120euro. Not a great day. By the time we hit Croatia, we were just done with places. It was a beautiful looking place and my mother took a city tour and said it was fabulous but we'd had enough. Maybe someday i'll get back there to do it justice.
We all took the transfer to Rome with a guide then were given 10 hours of free time. We were there during the most celebrated religious holiday (more than Christmas) so all the museums were closed, the Vatican was closed and the public transportation was running at a holiday schedule. When we tried to ask the shore excursion people on board the ship, they were rude and unhelpful to us. The only person who was helpful was the future cruise people. It was 104 degrees, we sat on the top of the HO/HO bus and baked to a crisp. It was a horrible experience and too long.
We arrived in Venice and it was just breath taking. We took the daytime gondola ride and it was very worth it. The streets of Venice (where you can walk) are very crowded. It was extremely hot and you have to watch your things but it was very nice. I had wanted to get one of those paintings by local artists but we didn't have alot of time (and i didn't have alot of euros on my and they only took cash) so we decided that since we had time to kill the next day after we stored our luggage at the airport, we'd come back. Well what was 30euros on Saturday was suddenly 70euros on Sunday. The vendors must know that there will be a change over in cruiseship passengers so they think nothing of upping the price. So needless to say, i passed. There were at least 6 ships in port when we were docked.