Background: My DH, DS (17) and I have been on eleven cruises. We are not big drinkers or party people. DH and I both work really hard professionally and DS is always deluged with school work, so when we go on vacation, we just want to relax and enjoy each other's company. We appreciate good food and good entertainment, prefer larger staterooms, like our spa treatments and don't care too much about excursions. DS is a shy guy and hasn't participated in a kids' program since he was about 12
Embarkation: We stayed at the Residence Inn Downtown in San Diego. The property was within walking distance of the port and they had a free shuttle to the ship which was very helpful. We arrived a couple of hours after boarding had commenced, so it wasn't too crowded. The downside was that there weren't any available porters to meet the van, so DH had to carry our bags to the porter. After that, we had already done online check-in, so boarding was pretty efficient and we received our luggage in the stateroom in a timely fashion.
Stateroom: We find the HAL superior verandah suites ideal for a family of 3. DS sleeps on the convertible bed, but he is getting a little tall for it and may need his own stateroom soon. The bathrooms are spacious and have both a stall shower and a combined jacuzzi tub/shower. The room was very clean and in good condition. Although it didn't come with concierge service, it had some nice perks such as the phone concierge, fresh fruit daily and delivery of DVDs from the front desk. Firdaus and David, our stewards, did an excellent job of keeping the stateroom spotless and delivering our favorite fruits. We also noticed that HAL has stopped giving little mini-size Elemis toiletries in favor of big pump containers installed in the bathtub and shower. I think this is an improvement because the stewards don't have to constantly replace these items.
Dining: The food was fabulous and Arif, our server, outdid himself with remembering our favorite dishes and beverages every night. The blackened tuna with jalapeno creamed corn was especially delicious. The menu has a variety of choices and "spa cuisine" options every night. We chose to dine at the 7:45 p.m. seating every night. Other guests seemed happy with the "As you wish" dining, but we prefer the consistency of an assigned dining time.
Entertainment: "The Marriage Game" was hysterical and it was never vulgar. "The Liars' Club" was also very, very funny. We enjoyed Randall Powell in the piano bar and Leo Ward's magic show. Kevin Jordan's stand-up act was also funny. We didn't see any of the production shows as they are not really our style. We played trivia several times and won the "Name That Tune" contest. Again, we are not looking for big parties or anything like that. The entertainment on HAL was perfect for our family trio to laugh and have a good time. The librarian, Amanda and the travel expert, Monique, were both delightful and helpful.
Spa: We all had massages and they were excellent. DS and I used the thermal spa and it was very relaxing.
Ports; We walked around the downtown of Puerto Vallarta and it was very nice, especially if you veered off the main drag and checked out the local crafts shops and the candy store. The sand sculptures along the beach are amazing. Los Palomas, one of the restaurants, made us wait forever for our meal and then when it came out, it was cold. I would avoid this restaurant. We never left the ship in Cabo because the view we had from our stateroom of the tip of Cabo and the arch was unbeatable.
Overall: I would recommend the Oosterdam's voyage to the Mexican Riviera without hesitation. It is beautifully run ship and an interesting itinerary.