I will start this review by noting that our cruise was the unfortunate cruise that followed the three passengers becoming gravely ill in Hawaii and was therefore shortened by a day. This shortened itinerary significantly impacted this cruise and made many aspects feel rushed but that is the worst thing I can say about this cruise.
Since we were both first-time cruisers we of course have nothing to compare our cruise to but the Holland America staff were nothing short of amazing! The people working on this ship were so incredibly warm and genuine smiles were abundant in every venue. They not only served us well but remembered our names and many of our preferences. Our room stewards Thofa and Sapto were like "ninjas" quietly slipping into our room when were weren't there and taking care of every last detail. For instance somehow our ice bucket was ALWAYS full no matter the time of day. You would see the same people working in the Lido Buffet in the morning and at lunch and many of them again at dinner in the main dining room. It was apparent that none of the staff sleep much! Everyone from food service to bartenders even shop staff were friendly and obviously recognized you. We kept running into this very nice young man named Adi that would just light up when he saw us and was very sweet. This kept happening everywhere we went. Anyone that says anything bad about these people needs to have their head examined.
I will start with the Lido Buffet. The food here is good and is of course abundant. With the exception of dinner the choices don't change much if at all. Once you've eaten there a couple of days you pretty much are eating the same things. If you want variety the main dining room is your best bet. Still for breakfast and lunch you can't go wrong as it is quick and you get what you want.
The Lido Buffet is of course not far from the Lido Pool and the Terrace Grill. This is an excellent alternative for lunch as they serve made to order hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs. From the second day forward there was also a buffet table set up outside the Terrace Grill with Mexican themed foods such as tamales, nachos, tacos, etc. Very tasty and interestingly enough just about the only food offered that was themed to our itinerary.
The Vista Dining Room (main dining room) was elegant and the service exemplary. We chose open dining as we did not want to be locked into one dining time as there is so much to do on the ships. This was an excellent choice as we met the most wonderful people on board and ended up dining with them throughout the remainder of our cruise. By the last night I think our table grew to over 9 people! The food was wonderful and as is the theme ABUNDANT. You can order as many appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, and deserts as you want and we did! We both gained over 5 lbs! Eeek! We also ate breakfast in the Vista Dining Room one time and it was excellent. The only reason we didn't eat breakfast there more often was the Lido Buffet was just quicker and more convenient for us.
We had coffee and danishes delivered to our stateroom every morning. This worked out well (too well) as it became our wake up call. The food and coffee was always the right temperature and was very good. One note on this, they have you choose a time frame to have the food delivered. If we chose between 6:30 and 7:00 it would generally be delivered between 6:00 and 6:30, waking us up. While this was a nice way to ensure we were up on time it never failed they would knock on our door before our alarm went off. I certainly cannot fault them for being late!
Skip the dessert extravaganza in my opinion. The desserts were just ok.
In short food is abundant, generally good, and usually the correct temperature. Occasionally a dish would be a bit cold (you don't have to eat it, there is more where that came from) but overall very good. The cruise line's weak point seems to be anything made from bread. Bread and cake items tended to be hard, dry, or very dense. I suppose this is the danger from producing food at such great quantities.
There are a lot of bars on this ship with an atmosphere to suit just about anyone's taste. The drinks are priced pretty much the same as land-based bars and they will make anything for you, just ask! The only venue we didn't really check out was the Piano Bar but the couple of times we poked our head in there everyone seemed to be having a great time! I highly suggest getting beverage cards as this keeps the dreaded bill you receive at the end of your cruise in check. We had a credit at the end of our cruise and this was a rare exception to the many people we spoke to.
We went to 4 shows in the Vista Lounge during our cruise and enjoyed all but one. Joel Mason (I believe that was his name) did an excellent Eagles tribute the first night but when he did a comedy act on the third we found the humor tacky and not terribly funny. Many left during that performance. The Holland America singers and dancers were amazing and so entertaining. Catch as many shows with them as you can.
DJ Brett kept the Northern Lights disco hopping every night with great music from all decades and was a lot of fun. He came out many times to boogie with all of us and was super funny. Truly enjoyed going here and closed it twice!
This is an area that suffers a bit on this ship in my opinion. While the staff is wonderful and the products generally high quality it is a very small area and therefore selection is limited. There is a fine jewelry and watch area, a Holland America branded merchandise area, a venue that changes depending on the traveling "show" that is on that cruise (ours was colored glass jewelry), a small makeup and perfume/cologne area, and a liquor area. In addition to this there is a separate fine jewelry store the showcased different designers. While this may seem extensive they have gone to great trouble to make shopping more about the $300 and over merchandise than anything else so if you like us are shopping for souvenirs and personal items you may find the selection to be pretty limited. Also there was scarcely few items specific to our itinerary.
On this shortened itinerary we couldn't attend as many of these as we would have liked. The ones we did attend were hit and miss unfortunately. My significant other attended a workshop on shopping in Puerto Vallarta that ended up being an advertisement for their diamond and tanzanite jewelry store partner in Puerto Vallarta, which he found to be a complete waste of time. We both attended a mixology class next to the Lido pool that showcased some of our bartenders making drinks in a very entertaining way and taught us how to make three of their signature drinks. This was entertaining, informative, and you get to try all three drinks they teach you how to make. For $12.50 this was very worth the money IMO. We were so enamored by our little towel animals that we attended a towel folding class the last day of our trip. While this ended up basically being a way to sell a towel folding instruction book it was fun and it was amazing watching the cabin stewards quickly make these towel animals. We bought the book for about $14 and they signed it. Makes a great souvenir.
The Lido Pool was a must the first day as it was cold outside and windy at the Aft Pool. The Lido Pool had a lot of children so not for someone seeking peace and quiet. Once we were further down the Mexican coast (around Cabo) the air temperature went up significantly and the Aft pool was full with adults only. We spent a great deal of time here. Speaking of Cabo we had an unscheduled stop in Cabo due to a crew member needing medical assistance. This did not impact our cruise but provided an unexpected preview to this wonderful place. We sincerely hope the crew member is ok.
I'm going to start this by commenting on excursions. TAKE THEM. The reason I say this is the stops are so short if you venture out on your own you could end up with a stop like we had in Puerto Vallarta. I had already been there so we opted for a cab ride to the Malecon to do some shopping and made our way down to some friends on a beach area known as "Blue Chairs". The shopping was a complete bust as was the food along the Malecon, the prices they wanted for their merchandise was ridiculous! We've had better Mexican food at taco shops in San Diego and the vendors weren't haggling at all (likely due to two cruise ships being in port). By the time we got to the blue chairs our day was more than half over and we only got a couple hours on the beach. We had a great time but since a second day that was supposed to happen at this stop was cancelled we felt like we were running to get everything in. Not at all relaxing.
We took the Chilean Bar snorkeling tour in Cabo and every aspect of it was amazing. The catamaran was beautiful, the crew was wonderful, and the snorkeling was so incredible. The water here is a beautiful azure blue and the fish and reefs were so very beautiful. On the way back they served endless drinks and snacks. This was easily the highlight of our vacation and was reasonable given all that was included. Once we got back to land we went to Cabo Wabo for margaritas and lunch and shopped our way back to the ship. The food was good (if not a bit expensive) but again the shopping was a bust. Too expensive. Still because we took the excursion we felt like we accomplished something and had a wonderful day. We will definitely return to Cabo!
Oosterdam Final Thoughts
Many have said the ship is dated and tired. In some aspects they are correct and I guess if you look for bad things you'll see them. There was evidence of worn cushions and one of our friends had torn drapes in their cabin along with a somewhat worn couch. Our room was in better shape but our veranda room was designed for a maximum of 2 people while theirs slept up to 4 I believe. This seemed to make a difference. Our cabin 8105 was on the top cabin deck and was so conveniently located to the elevators, Lido Buffet, and Aft pool. Overall though the ship is in great repair and there was someone cleaning, painting or doing some kind of maintenance all day and all night. I would gladly cruise on her again if she wasn't leaving San Diego indefinitely next year.
Someone said a cruise in what you make it and they are so right. Go aboard looking for a great vacation and I assure you the Oosterdam, Holland America, and their wonderful crew will give you just that. Go aboard looking for deficiencies and you will most certainly find them. My advice don't look for deficiencies. Have a good time, we did and booked our next cruise to the Southern Caribbean. We look forward to seeing you there!