This was our very first cruise. Went to Alaska in September on the last cruise of the season. While the weather was cold and rainy, and seas were very stormy, we still enjoyed every minute of this trip. We chose HAL based on comments here on CC regarding their service and food and we were not disappointed.
I wanted to clarify one subject. Previous posters have said the ship is worn out and run down. I have to disagree. This ship is NOT run down. Everything seems to be in good condition and extremely clean. Since the ship is exposed to the sea air and it serves almost 2,000 passengers per day, naturally, the ship will have some scratches, dents, and stains. But overall, this ship was excellent. Employees can be seen constantly cleaning and maintaining the ship.
Embarkation / Disembarkation - sailed out of Seattle. All of the port personnel were very helpful and friendly. Check-in was a breeze and we were on the ship within a half hour. Once on the ship, our room was ready. Dropped off our carry on bags and ate at the Lido Buffet. We then toured the entire ship by ourselves. Luggage was on our bed well before the lifeboat drill. Disembarkation was even simpler. It was very quick and ahead of schedule.
Room - we had an outside cabin with a partially obstructed view near the lifeboats. This was fine for us. There was still enough view to see the ocean and the weather each morning. The cabin was slightly larger than expected. Very clean and comfortable. Our steward always had our cabin cleaned while we were out. Room seemed very quiet. No problems with noise.
Food - we were very pleased with the quality of food.
Lido - good variety of food. Desserts were good, as well as a lot of salads and fruits. We also enjoyed their late night snacks that had a theme each night (Indonesian, Victorian, Chinese, etc.). There was pizza too. Lido can get crowded, but lines were never long and we were always able to find seats. Ship was at capacity so we expected long waits.
MDR - excellent. We had open seating. Tried to go early since we wanted a table for 2. While it was busy, it was never packed to capacity and noticed most guests did not have long waits. We enjoyed the elegant MDR.
Pinnacle Grill - ate here twice. Food and service were excellent. You must try this at least once. Steaks were excellent. Only negative was that I made one reservation for a non-formal night, but apparently it was a formal night. I was dressed in dress slacks, long sleeve dress shirt, and a tie. But upon checking in, was told a jacket was required. But the host said no problem and grabbed a jacket and seated us. He just draped the jacket on my chair and said that I didn't need to wear it. Thought that was a very nice classy touch. Saw other men with polo or dress shirts and they too had to 'carry' the house jacket and place it on their chair. While I respect those who want to dress formally, it doesn't make sense to require jackets when you are on vacation and with all the baggage fees nowadays. From what I saw, around 70% were in suits, while the rest were in acceptable country club attire. Did not see anyone in shorts, workout clothes, or swimsuits.
Canaletto - another good restaraunt. Again, good food and service. We enjoyed this change of pace. Just remember to make reservations since it is fairly small.
Terrace Grill - hamburgers, hot dogs, and tacos were available next to pool. These were very good to enjoy for lunch. Also, one night there was a 'dessert extrvaganza' which was very nice.
Activities / Entertainment - we tried to attend all of the shows. While others have commented that these were not as good as Las Vegas, we enjoyed all the music, dancers, and magic/comedy. Thought that they did a great job. Also checked out the live disco band and game show in the Queen's lounge. A lot of fun. We also signed up for many activities such as cooking demos, bingo, computer classes, and wellness classes. Very well organized. My only complaint here is that the computer classes fill up quickly and is held in a very small area. Also, the instructor allowed the overflow crowd into one of the classes, but he did not allow questions from any of the overflow folks. He said that it would slow him down. Made use of the casino and fitness center which were both enjoyable. Also, checked out the gift shop and their sales near the pool. Not sure if this is because of the end of season or if they always have these sales? But we got some really good deals on shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts. The ship generally had an older crowd, but there were many 'younger' folks (30s, 40s, 50s). Everyone seemed to have fun but it was not a party ship full of young drunks. That was perfect for us.
Tours - did not take any tours. We just walked around the city and shopped. Probably worked out since one port was cancelled and the entire schedule was changed due to the storms at sea. Enjoyed Ketchikan since there is a lot to see in very close proximity to the pier. Victoria is a very nice city. You need to catch a bus ($7 all day pass) to get to the middle of the city which is worth it. You can walk, but it might be a slightly long walk.
Service - this is where HAL gets a 5+ from us. Every employee was very pleasant and helpful. No one was ever rude and all of the employees seemed very happy. We were told this was the strong point of HAL and we have to agree. Service was awesome! I must say a big thank you to our MDR servers (ASEP and YUDI both from Indonesia) and our LIDO server (NICKY from Indonesia). I wish I had asked for their email addresses to keep in tough. They treated us like family. All of them remembered our names and remembered what we needed with our food and drinks. Hope we run into them again sometime.
We are so happy that we chose HAL and its Oosterdam. Although we have nothing to compare to since it was our first cruise, this was a dream trip for us that we will never forget. I highly recommend this cruise and line. We will return!!!