My husband and I researched the Oosterdam thoroughly in preparation for our trip over spring break, and read such a strong pull of opinions on either side (good or bad), that we realized we just wouldn't truly know until we took the trip ourselves.
Because of such mixed reviews and not knowing who to believe, I am hoping to do you a favor by providing you with the complete details of the Oosterdam ship that will hopefully benefit your travel preparation! I have traveled on three different ships (Carnival, Disney and HAL), so I think I have a pretty good background to compare this trip to.
We waited about 45 minutes between arriving at the cruise terminal in San Diego, and getting to our room. There were people standing around the lobby areas to direct people to their rooms, but approach people-- just sort of stood and waited. I'm 26, and it took me about 5 nights to finally remember how to get to my room! I think the signage on the ship could be better.
While we waited to leave, the Lido was open for lunch buffet, and I liked the fact that for 72 hours, HAL staff served foods. During the end of flu season, I saw people sneezing into their hands, and was glad they weren't helping themselves. :) They also have hand sanitizining stations everywhere-- so to the best of my knowledge, there were zero stomach bug outbreaks! Hooray!
The rooms were surprisingly clean. I was surprised how many different things in the room the staff sanitizes between guests (I saw them doing it)-- telephone, room magazines, remote controls, door handles, etc. Plus, our steward cleaned our rooms twice a day and changed our bedding every day! I was really pleased with how clean everything was-- bathroom and everything. The only thing I didn't like was how we had a concrete verandah so we couldn't see the ocean sitting down. I will definitely research that one more thoroughly next time.
This was the downside. The only excellent meal we had on the ship was in the Pinnacle Grill. The rest of the food was just decent. It definitely bore the feeling of being prepared in a hurry and without any thought put into it. Eating for pleasure didn't happen for us on the ship-- we just ate to fill a hunger pang. The Lido was actually better than Vista in our opinion, because the food was prepared fresh right in front of you. The Vista chefs just seemed really overloaded and overwhelmed. Fruit was soggy, entrees were bland, etc. I would recommend booking at least two nights at Pinnacle if you can-- it was literally one of the best meals we had ever! Expect dinners at Vista and Pinnacle to last a minimum of two hours.
We had open seating and really enjoyed not only being able to eat when we felt like it, but meeting new people because we'd all sit together. We made a ton of friends this way! Unless you're traveling with a big party, I think you should definitely sign up for the open seating option.
Also- HAL's biggest disappointment was how terrible their room service was. Every time we ordered breakfast it was cold and almost inedible, and when we ordered lunch or a snack, we would receive it about 1 - 1 /2 hours late-- again, cold and inedible. Their room service needs total improvement- don't order unless you are ordering the cookies or something.
We loved the magician we saw, but the productions were really hokey and honestly not entertaining. We liked doing karaoke and bingo (of course didn't win), and also somewhat enjoyed the comedian. There was tons of raunchiness amongst the entertainment folks on this ship, which is unfortunate given their average guest is 65 years old. People didn't seem to think all of the sexual jokes were that funny. If you're bringing kids, I'd recommend only bringing them to the musical and the magic show. We only went to three performances out of seven because they just weren't great. We'd go somewhere and listen to live jazz or piano and have a glass of wine instead.
If you're 35 or below, they have a great dance club that opens at 10:00pm. My husband and I had fun dancing and then just walking back to our room a couple of times. Overall we didn't really feel like entertainment options were lacking on this ship-- they just weren't things we really enjoyed doing.
Ports of Call:
Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas were awesome. The only excursion we did was visiting Las Caletas, and we had an amazing time. I highly, highly recommend going there, even over Rhythms of the Night. We had some friends who did both, and enjoyed the day at Las Caletas much more. We just walked around town the second day and relaxed. When we went to Cabo San Lucas, we had an incredible time swimming at a nearby resort (Sirena Del Mar). Unless you are passionate about visiting Cabo Wabo and being ripped off by the local merchants, head to a hotel for the day. It's the right way to experience Cabo!
Also, don't go to Diamonds International or Tanzanite International. The ship has a huge kickback program with them, but the diamonds they tried selling me were so much more expensive than back home, and they were damaged by so many fingers trying them on then putting them back- yuck. I visited three to price shop, and was incredibly unimpressed and disappointed with Holland America for trying to dupe their passengers so much. You'll see what I mean when you attend the shopping meeting. :)
Overall, for $600 pp, this ship was a great experience. You get what you pay for. If I were paying $1500 pp, I would have been sorely disappointed. I don't recommend paying more than $800pp-- you can get much more for your money with Disney or Princess if you are going to pay over $1000! HAL is budget travel at best- and if anything, a great way to see Mexico!