Our plan was to fly into San Diego on Friday night, 11/11/11, however due to flight issues, we ended up missing our connection in Atlanta and had to spend the night there and head to San Diego on Saturday, the 12th. We arrived in a very wet San Diego on time. We heard several times that it hasn't rained that hard there in several years.
Embarkation was a breeze as we visited with family and friends in San Diego until about 3 pm before heading to the pier. We were the only 5 people in line and was on the ship in about 15 minutes time after we got out of the car.
I knew going into this that Holland America was well known for their elder clients with many "life cruisers". What I didn't expect was for all of these elder people to be so rude. My husband (38) and I (37) were both raised to respect all people, including our elders, but these 14 days tested my patience on every level in dealing with fellow cruisers. We were forever waiting behind people with canes, walkers and wheelchairs. They would cut in front of us in line, run into you with their scooters, push you out of their way, etc.
The staff on this cruise was the friendliest group of people I have ever encountered. We were treated like royalty in every aspect. One of the people traveling with us had questions about dinner and wanted some of this and some of that every night and our waiter put up with it with a smile every single night. What a trooper he was!
Our stateroom, 5115, was located pretty much mid ship so the location was great. The bed was very comfortable and the bed linens were very nice. The stewards kept our room and bathroom clean and stocked. There is storage under the beds for your luggage and drawers at the end of the beds for clothes.The closets are a good size. There is also storage space over the couch.
The room itself shows a lot of wear and tear. I guess I didn't expect this since the ship was just dry-docked 1 cruise prior to our sailing. The upholstery on the couch was very dirty, the "throw" pillows, should have been thrown away, the carpet was stained and the curtains were stained and torn. Don't get me wrong, I did expect a little wear and tear on the fixtures, etc, but I didn't expect to feel like I was staying in the no-tell motel when I paid for the Ritz. This however, did NOT ruin my trip. I have read many reviews from people who felt their entire trip was ruined because of these kinds of things. I am simply giving my observations as part of my review. One more thing, Ladies with thick hair, you might want to bring your own shampoo and conditioner. My hair never felt clean or conditioned using the ship's shampoo and conditioner.
The public areas of the ship are all very nice. The Vista Lounge is the only place that seemed cramped, but this was during the 8 o'clock shows. I imagine most of the folks attended that one because the 10 o'clock show was too late for them.
The casino is adequate, my husband played a lot of roulette, he was up and down the whole trip we think he ended the cruise about even. I too was up and down on the slots the whole trip, but ended up cashing out with some money to bring home!! I played in my first live cash game of Texas Hold 'em and did a pretty good job of taking the other player's cash home with me too.
The food in the Terrace Grill is good and always hot - hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian sausages, and fries. The breakfast in the Lido is EXCELLENT. There wasn't one day that I didn't enjoy breakfast. About the only thing I liked during the lunch hour was the sandwich bar. Any combination you can think of can be created. One disappointment for me was that they never had French dressing for the salad bar. We ate dinner at the Lido one evening and I did not enjoy it at all. I tried the pasta and Alfredo sauce and it was very "wet". No flavor at all, just wet noodles. The pizza is always good for a late-night snack. We ate at the free Italian restaurant, Cantenello, once and it was DELICIOUS. Dessert comes with a plate of cotton candy, which was a bonus! We also indulged at the for fee restaurant, Pinnacle, where I encountered the best tasting steak I have EVER had. There were five of us and we each had something different and every meal was great. Well worth the $25 per person cover charge. The sad part was that we were so full from dinner that we could not eat dessert. We had room service a couple of times - just cheeseburgers and club sandwiches. We knew going that there was usually a long wait for room service, but I don't think that we ever waited more than 30 minutes. There was always a good variety of food in the main dining room for dinner. The food mostly had a good taste and the presentation of the food was always exciting. I have two bad notes about the food in the MDR - the bread was always hard and the steak was never done. On 4 different occasions one or more of us ordered the steak well done and it came out, every time, still very pink in the middle and a couple of time still bloody. Beverages-- on previous lines we had fruit punch as a choice in the buffet, but on this cruise it was water or tea. I did not care for the tea, it is not fresh-brewed, it tastes like Nestea or something and it is lemony. I drank a lot of water, which is a good thing. I came home weighing 4.5 pounds lighter than when I started this journey!
The seas were really rough on our first day at sea - it seems like nearly everyone on board was sick that day. Then we had calm seas until we reached Hawaii and then on the way back, the first day at sea was calm and a picture perfect day, and the next three days were very rough. I have been off the ship for over 24 hours now and I still feel myself moving!! - Again these are just observations for anyone reading the review if trying to decide on this cruise. HAL nor the captain can control the weather or the seas.
We used the ship's unlimited laundry service (the Oosterdam does not have self-service laudry) It was $98 for our 14 day cruise. Well worth it; next time I can pack 1/2 as much!! (this is laundry only, dry cleaning is extra)
Hawaii was everything I dreamed it would be. I would love to go back and spend more time on each of the islands to see what we didn't see during this trip. We took HAL excursions in all four ports. I felt that three of them were well worth the money. The forth was just a motor coach drive to the beach, which, don't get me wrong, we LOVED the beach, but I think $64 a person is a bit much for that "excursion". We did have $100 shore excursion credit from our credit card company so I like to think that that particular excursion only cost us $28! We did not exit the ship in Ensenda Mexico because we had been there before and we were only docked for 3 1/2 hours at night...
Disembarkation was also a breeze. If you can get past all the people gathered at the gangway waiting to exit the ship. I don't understand why, if you're scheduled to exit the ship at 10 am, you are blocking me from exiting at 9 am when I am supposed to be exiting. Our luggage was right where they said it would be.
Overall we enjoyed this vacation.
If you do not enjoy long, leisurely days at sea, this is not the trip for you because you are at sea for a long time. If you do not have a ton of patience, this is not the cruise for you. This is not a "party" cruise line, it caters to older cruisers and they know it and take full advantage of their status in life.