We were a party of "3 girls", me (47), my mom (82) and my cousin (51). We have all sailed HAL before, and had all been on the Oosterdam at least once. We had sailed 7-10 days in the past, and were looking for a longer trip with more sea days. This was a logical choice as we all live on the West coast.
Travel to San Diego and Embarkation:
We flew into San Diego the morning of embarkation, 2 of us from Portland, 1 from San Francisco. We had a family member pick us up and he dropped us at the cruise terminal at about 11:30am. There was another ship in port and a lot of people waiting in line! There seemed to be a lack of organization on the part of the port authorities. We were in line about an hour; once we dropped our bags on the luggage cart and entered the terminal, things were much smoother. We went to the short line for suite guests, and were onboard a short 15 minutes later, by about 1pm. We went directly to our room and our luggage arrived by 2pm; our case of wine which had been left with our luggage arrived by 4pm.
We had sailed in a Superior Suite on the Oosterdam before so we knew what to expect. Our suite was lovely, with plenty of closet space (and trust me, we didn't pack light!). We found the bathroom to have more than enough space for all of us and didn't use all of the storage in the stateroom. The beds, including the sofa bed, were very comfortable and we had no issues throughout the trip. In fact, twice during our stay, maintenance knocked on our door to repair issues with a shower head and a door that didn't close properly. Both had been reported by our cabin stewards...we hadn't even noticed!
We had read several reviews prior to sailing, and several had commented that the ship looked rundown and in need of sprucing up. We didn't really see that; sure if you looked hard enough you might see a pillow or cushion that could have been replaced, but overall, this is a beautiful ship that has been well cared for. There certainly wasn't anything that would have prevented us from having a great time. We are just not very critical I guess.
One word....FABULOUS!! I don't recall a single meal that we didn't completely enjoy. We ate breakfast all over...the Lido, the Vista and many days in the Pinnacle Grill. What a nice treat for suite guests. Same menu as the Vista, but a really calm, pleasant way to spend your morning! We had room service for breakfast a few times...always right on time, and the coffee was always hot. I had read several reviews that mentioned the temperature of the toast from room service, and honestly, I don't understand why someone would expect toast to be hot. The sheer distance from the kitchen to the stateroom should explain why the toast wasn't hot! Heck my toast at home isn't usually hot by the time I get it from the toaster to the table. Needless to say, the toast was warm and just fine! We had dinner (early seating) most nights in the Vista and our servers were wonderful, always remembering that we liked our skim milk and that I had a food allergy. We celebrated mom's birthday in the Pinnacle Grill; we loved it so much we made another reservation on the way out. The grilled salmon was out of this world and the others said it was the best lobster they had ever had! Most days we had a later breakfast, and with the early seating at dinner, we often just grazed at the Lido or the Neptune Lounge at lunchtime. We did have burgers at the Terrace Grill once, and they were very good.
As I said, we were here to relax and get away from very stressful jobs, so we spent a lot of our sea days on our verandah with a cocktail and our Kindles. We did take part in Team Trivia several days, and completely enjoyed The Marriage Game with CD Eric Dowis. That man has more energy and enthusiasm than any other CD I have sailed with! We went to several sessions of "Good Morning Oosterdam" where Eric would interview members of the crew. Very interesting conversations. We went to several of the cooking demonstrations but our favorite was when our Captain Arjen van der loo made his Dutch Pancakes. Between his cooking and his interview with Eric, Captain van der loo found 3 new fans in us. What a great sense of humor and upbeat personality. Far and away, the most personable Captain we have seen. We never saw him around the ship without his big smile! Our first few days at sea were pretty rough, but we felt very safe in his capable hands!
In my opinion, this is where HAL really shines. Smiling faces, always willing to help, and how do they remember all our names?? This is what brings me back to HAL time and again. Special kudos to Ruel and Candice in the Neptune Lounge. Always happy, and willing to help with anything that we needed!
Ports and Shore Excursions:
We didn't schedule any excursions and did things on our own. We missed Hilo due to the rough seas the first few days. In Honolulu, we spent the day with a friend and went to Pearl Harbor and then just toured the city. We had been there before. In Nawiliwili, we took a shuttle bus and did some shopping. We found a great little restaurant, JJ's Oceanfront Broiler. Nice beachside views, great beer and wonderful homemade potato chips. In Lahaina we went to the Maui Ocean Center which was very nice and then spent the afternoon walking around town. The local artists that are under the BIG banyan tree have some fantastic crafts at very reasonable prices.
One big problem. They told me I had to get off the ship. I did everything I could think of to stowaway, but in the end, we took our bags (we had opted to handle our own luggage) and left this lovely ship under protest. We were in off the ship by 8:15am. Dropped my cousin at the airport at 8:45am and she was home by 11am thanks to a standby flight. We were safely back in Portland by 3:30pm, already plotting our next HAL adventure!
In summary, we can't think of a single thing that would have made our trip more enjoyable. What a lovely ship, with a fantastic crew. A very special shout out to CD Eric and Captain van der loo. The two of them make an outstanding team, and we hope we can sail with them again. We are already looking to book a trip to Alaska this summer on the Outstanding Oosterdam!