EMBARKATION - SAN DIEGO:
We arrived at the port at 10:45am. They were still disembarking passengers so it was a mess in trying to get in with luggage as you could not be dropped off at the area you were supposed to be. The people in the terminal were very nice but the terminal itself was more like a large warehouse with benches. The delays and overall inefficiency was purportedly caused by passengers not cooperating with immigration debarkation procedures on the ship(you know who you are!). Not a good way to start the cruise but this was frankly the only "blemish" on an otherwise great cruise.PUBLIC ROOMS:
The Oosterdam is a lovey ship with an outstanding crew but, as with any high use public area/building built in 2003, she needs some TLC. No, not in cleanliness which is a super strong point of the crew but in the condition: Missing tiles on the Lido Deck around the pool, carpets and upholstery that need replacing. That kind of stuff. If memory serves, the last dry dock was sometime in 2009. Think it is time for this to happen again.
CABIN: First I have to give a shout out to our cabin steward, Frans, who we had the pleasure of cruising with again. He remembered us and some of our likes from our September cruise and he was just absolutely outstanding - I cannot say enough about this gentleman. Note to HM Douglas Hernandez - Don't let this guy get away from you. He's going home in April for well deserved vacation and we wish him all the best and hope to see him again next March on the O.
Now, to the cabin: Very nice interior size but the balcony - WOW! The VA's on the stern are huge. Enough for two loungers AND two chairs plus plenty of extra room. The soft goods, like the public rooms, have seen better days. All however was spotless and no residual smells of anything from prior guests. Yes, I would book this cabin again and again and again.DINING: Main Dining Room - In a word: Fabulous. Yes, I said that. I would say that 99% of everything put in front of me and my DH was hot/cold as appropriate, properly seasoned and absolutely delicious. We had Main Dining, Upper at a table for two and were very well taken care of by Verry and Ari, our wonderful dining stewards and Elma our wine steward who was just a gem. Alex was the assistant DRM and stopped by every night to chat with us and see how things were. The Master Chef dinner was, surprisingly, low key compared to past ones. The meal at this event was also much, much better than previous cruises for the MCD. I would encourage those who have avoided this "entertainment" to try it once more. They can ditch the show IMHO so I hope they are listening to our comment cards.
Pinnacle Grill: Last September, I was not overwhelmed. Meaning that I found no difference in the MDR and PG. This time, it was a 180 degree difference. The meal we had was the best on the cruise with our filets fork tender and all courses presented were superb in flavor and presentation. Our server Raj was outstanding the whole meal. Definitely a "home run" this time.
Canaletto: Ruddin and crew did it again - another great meal that showcased Italian cuisine. And its free. Get to the dining podium upon boarding first day to make a reservation pronto. A very lovely dinner and a nice change of pace from the MDR.
Terrace Grill and Lido: I'm not much of a buffet gal. So we only ate here once for breakfast and then two days for hamburgers or sandwiches by the pool. For a buffet it was fine (except for cold french toast - bah, humbug!) but there were a lot of people eating there daily so it must be good. A side note: The worst thing on a buffet for breakfast are the scrambled eggs. I am happy to report that the eggs on this day were hot, soft and very tasty - a happy surprise!
Room Service: Had room service breakfast just about every morning. From omelets to oatmeal, everything was delivered on time, hot/cold as appropriate and very tasty. Delivery was absolutely on time as requested AND the coffee was great. They must be listening to us coffee hounds finally.
Explorations Cafe: The daily iced mochas were very good and cheaper than Starbucks. Service was good.
Bar Service / Staff: Lots of staff still there from our September cruise who I'd like to mention. Reynan in the Sports Bar - We must have made an impression (maybe good, maybe not???) on our last cruise that he remembered us on sight. So even though neither of us smoke (a topic for a little later) and I don't gamble, he was our "go to" guy when we thought we needed refreshment. We have agreed to meet again next March if the planets align on the Oosterdam for more good times.
The guys in the Ocean Bar for Happy Hour: "Papa" Bill, Gabriel, Roman, Gene and the rest - they made Happy Hour "happy" indeed. Lots of peanuts, Goldfish, "Good Nuts" on formal nights and of course, hot and delicious snacks during Happy Hour. HH was in both the Ocean Bar and Crows Nest each day for those interested.
Seaview Bar and Lido Bar: These guys were slammed each day which meant that service while good was not up to par with the rest of the bar service on the ship. Maybe HAL needs to ensure more resources are deployed in this area?
ENTERTAINMENT: We saw one show, Joel Mason....HAL, please more Joel Mason! Willie Tyler and Lester (a comedian and ventriloquist) was also on board and may commented to us that he was funny. Other than that, we didn't see many shows as we had late seating for dinner.
CASINO: DH won at Bingo the last day which "helped" the OB account ;) However, because of the smoking allowed in the casino (and NO, repeat NO nights for non-smokers) we didn't get in to play any tables. Which leads me to my bone of contention:
SMOKING: If there was a separate section for a rating, I'd give HAL a 1. I was really repulsed this cruise by having to run almost through the cabin area all the way to the back of the ship to get to my cabin because of all the smoke seeping out from the rooms into the hallway. Thank goodness that we only had to walk through it and not have it next door. Also, we are thankful that, being at the stern, we didn't have problems with smokers next door to us, or if we did having their smoke blow into our area. I can live with smoking in the casino and sports bar as that is a fair deal for all, but they have got to eliminate it in cabins. Period. Non-smokers can avoid the smoking areas and if I happen upon them, I do not complain or make "choking sounds" as that is not right. However, we do have to sleep in our cabin and have also paid for our balcony to use and cannot change that to get away from the disgusting smells and its affects on DH's asthma. In fact how HAL handles this will affect our plans for our Panama Canal cruise decision. I want to go with HAL but on the smaller ships, I'm afraid that it will even be worse. OK...off my soapbox.
DISEMBARKATION: Again, if you are NOT a US Citizen, you must go through immigration on the ship. Several passengers were called over the PA to get through customs - at 9:00am. Which means everyone was delayed getting off the ship and I hope no one had to miss a flight. So please, anyone reading this going to disembark in San Diego, make sure you do your immigration work at the appointed time for the sake of everyone.
We decided to take a last minute cruise and whale watching tour in CSL which we enjoyed. Snacks and an open bar were included. The tour went out to Lands End, Lovers Beach and of course, looked for whales which we found (Humpbacks). The thing that was different with this whale watching tour from those in the states and Canada was that these boats got extremely close to the whales and there were many boats all clumped together! I guess regulations are different in Mexico than elsewhere. In all a good time was had and I would recommend it.
Spent the rest of the day around the tender area where DH bought a hat at Senor Frogs and some tequila at Tequila Town (recommend you at least stop in here and talk to the gentlemen who run the shop - a very fine discussion of tequila and a tasting) while I bought Kahlua, Vanilla and a silver pendant.
One point that was a turn off: Very aggressive "vendors". They literally fall all over one another to get to you. But at least they were polite.
The weather all during the cruise was wonderful.
A note about the Tsunami from the Japan Earthquake: I would like to commend Captain Arjen van der Loo and the entire crew for their professionalism and care during this catastrophe. The captain was in frequent communication with Seattle HQ and he in turn kept us informed by the hour. It is my hope that HAL recognizes the wonderful work this crew did during this time.