Embarkation: Very, very quick and easy. Friendly, welcoming staff this sets the tone for a wonderful vacation.
Ship: Very clean, you will constantly see crew polishing and cleaning. As other reviews have stated, it does look a bit worn. You will notice furniture, carpet, tile, ect, that probably should be replaced. It was not a big deal to us, it doesn't feel "ugly" by any stretch, but if you like the latest and greatest, you might be disappointed in this ship.
Staff: As I read earlier, extremely friendly! Everyone is very kind and is always smiling. This is a huge plus for us. We like being around happy, friendly people.
Stateroom: Ok, we go budget. Cheapest room we could book. Our kids sailed for $199...how can we go wrong with that?? But, that being said, you have to expect and tolerate some mess and chaos.
If you have 4 people in a room, expect to have stuff laying everywhere, there is just not enough closet/drawer/bathroom space for everyone. I think our room steward pretty much gave up trying to keep the room tidy. The bunk bed pulls down from the wall, over the king bed. The couch pulls out into a single cot. A WORD OF CAUTION: that pull down bed will get you! We smacked out heads at least nightly on that thing, you can't sit up without hitting it. Every night, we'd tell ourselves to remember it, then BANG, we'd whoop our head again. (ow!!!) It isn't an ideal setup, but it was workable. I'd say, if you are a neat freak and can't handle clutter, go for an extra cabin. I went knowing it would be messy, and just decided I wasn't going to let it annoy me.
Another tip for sharing cabin with more than 2 people. Go up and take your shower/get ready in the spa locker room. The showers there are wonderful and there is space to move around as well as a hair dryer and large mirror. I took my showers up there after the first day and met other people doing the same thing. This helped the stress of too many people in the room getting ready. (teenage girls, ya know!!!)
Food: The presentation and quality were wonderful in both the lido buffet and dining room. Very, very good. I was so surprised the lido deck had such good food.
Special requests for food: Sorry, the Oosterdam gets an D- on this one. They just don't want to deviate from their menus. As an example. my husband was told no Caesar salad available at lunch, no tortilla chips for the guac in the dining room, no NY strip steak available on the last night, (had to get the beef tenderloin) I asked if I could have frozen choc yogurt the last night, nope, everyone gets Baked Alaska. Couldn't just get fresh fruit in the dining room if it wasn't a menu selection either. Please don't misunderstand, it wasn't a huge deal to be told no, but if this is important to you to get things the way you like them, you'll probably be disappointed, or mad. (some people were!)
Service: The dining room was inconsistent. Very slow sometimes. Expect to take 2 hours for dining. Then another time, we were rushed and done in an hour. This didn't seem to matter whether we were a table of 4, or 8. The buffet runs pretty smoothly, but expect to wait for omelets and special orders, like sandwiches, waffles. BTW, Mario, the omelet guy, is absolutely wonderful. He alone, will make your cruise a fun experience!! Go find Mario for your omelet. I tipped him at the end of the week, as did several other people. Great guy!
Passengers: A little bit of everything, (and lots of Californians!! :) We saw young, old, newlyweds, families, gays, girl getaways, different races. Lots of kids. Everyone seemed to be having fun. This was the most unexpected, the variety of people on the Oosterdam. Everyone was friendly and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Shows: The magician, Leo Ward, was outstanding. So entertaining and funny. GO TO HIS SHOW!!! The comedians were pretty good. The singing dancing shows were interesting. Lots of costume changes. The singing was ok, I liked the dancing. Some people will not like these shows, really a personal choice. The Liar's Club was hilarious, the funniest show all week. GO see it!!! The random, on the spot humor was very genuine and funny. I believe it was on Thursday night.
I also enjoyed the piano bar and the music in the Explorer's lounge. Nice variety of music choices.
Teen club: Our girls had the time of their lives!!! They had so much fun with the other kids on the ship. I'm not sure if it was the actual club that facilitated that, or the kids just clicked, but they loved the cruise. There were lots of planned daily activities for the kids. Thanks HAL!!!
Ports: I think this is so variable by what you do at the port. We enjoyed both ports of call. Went and had a couples massage at the Krystal Hotel in PV. Very nice!
All and all, we had a great time, Very relaxing. Friendly and fun. I would say, go with the flow and don't expect perfection, but rather a sincere staff who desires to please but might have a few limitations on what they can do.