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8 Australia & New Zealand Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

the ship is new and has some quirky new features (bionic bar, the big arm that takes you into the air high above the ship by the way this is free) but they still allow smoking on the pool deck near the centre pools and kids area which most ... Read More
the ship is new and has some quirky new features (bionic bar, the big arm that takes you into the air high above the ship by the way this is free) but they still allow smoking on the pool deck near the centre pools and kids area which most passengers cannot believe as you have to walk through this stinking area to get to the wind jammers if you are coming from the front of the ship, RCCL should ban smoking all together or put the smoking area right down the back of the ship away from everyone especially KIDS. we stayed in a front cabin which are nice and well appionted below the bridge overlooking the helicopter pad (got to see a very smooth helicopter winch operation REALLY close up courtesy of RAC rescue WA off Bunbury and have video ) BUT these rooms get a lot of wave noise from the hull even in small swell so beware there can be a lot of booming which travels through the superstructure into these 9500, 9502 9504 etc ,etc. there was an out break of GI but you need to look at the bigger picture there were a lot of ignorant passengers who we witnessed NOT washing their hands so they only have them selves to blame, plus this ship did originate out of china and had been working the rounds there for some months so we firmly believe GI was already on the ship prior to boarding in Singapore. on a brighter note the diamond club was excellent and because there were so many D members on board they expanded the D club into the music hall which worked well. this was policed by staff so that only members were allowed to enter having to show your sea pass (stopped all the free loaders). all staff went above and beyond to make sure that all areas and passengers were constantly sanitised and could not have done a better job. we as many other passengers were not effected BECAUSE WE followed the rules and instructions. overall we had a pleasant time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
As soon as I knew this huge ship was coming to Australia, I was determined to sail away on her, even if it meant cruising solo Fortuneately I had the company of a very good friend and after booking a virtual balcony interior room many ... Read More
As soon as I knew this huge ship was coming to Australia, I was determined to sail away on her, even if it meant cruising solo Fortuneately I had the company of a very good friend and after booking a virtual balcony interior room many months ago, the upgrade fairy visited 2 days prior to sailing with a balcony on deck 13 This was a fabulous posltion, right opposite the lifts and one flight of stairs up to the solarium bistro and the adult only tiered pools...our room had the twin beds in the middle of the cabin with a lounge near the balcony doors, I prefer the bed to be nearer the balcony as I think it would give a more open area as we had limited area to get past but the beds were super comfy, so much cupboard space for 2 ladies and a fabulous on wall TV.... we loved the bathroom with a night light which was much appreciated by 2 older ladies We proceeded to the two70 lounge where we were lucky to get 2 comfy chairs right against the large 3-4 story windows and with a drink in hand, watched this massive beast reverse out of the overseas terminal and with the sydney harbour bridge in the background, it was full steam ahead This was an 8 night cruise to Hobart overnight in Tasmania and a visit to Adelaide, the ship is docked right in Hobart and lucky for us it was a Saturday, the famous Salamanca markets which meant lots of shopping with no worry about weight taking our purchases home Obviously over 4 sea days, we explored the ship from top to bottom but still not managing to see it all We did not like the 4 indiviual included in the fare restaurants as we felt they lacked atmosphere and seemed quite cramped so we elected to eat in the Windjammer and once at Jaimie Olivers and only twice in the American Grill....the choices in Windjammer were mind boggling, so many choices and beautifully presented but our favourite was the breakfast in the Solarium Bistro, only a small choice but we were able to get our selection and sit outside and linger in lovely surroundings We saw 2 shows, Pixels and The Dream, we regularly visit live theatre but even though the voices, sets and costumes were world class, we were left scratching our heads as to what it was all about...Pixels was very entertaining with the dancing screens and a variety of acts We pre booked some activities on board prior to sailing, this disappointed many older people, as they had no idea that this could be done and were left trying to queue for the Northstar and shows ...I didnt like this aspect but with 5000 odd passengers, I understand the reasoning but not exactly what you cruise for We loved the two70 lounge, the small deli connected to it with its wraps and soups and yummy desserts, we spent quite a bit of time in this lounge as I could stare at the seas for hours on end....this area is utilised a lot during the day with a talk by a very yummy captain, a highlight The seaplex also had us tearing around in the dodgem cars, watching young adults playing dodgeball and attempting the roller skating, so much to do for teenagers, they could never get bored....we didnt try the flow rider or ifly but had fun watching people attempt and fail on this fast moving water....so many other things to do We loved the indoor air controlled swimming pool, this was a large size with some people able to do laps, i spent some time in the very heated tiered pools at the front of the ship but for some the smell of chlorine was quite over powering at times The main negative we heard from various people was the "friendliness" of the crew....someone described them as robotic, very attentive, polite, helpful but with none of the playfulness of other family geared cruise lines....it is a large ship and trying to find out information was not always easy, when the queues were too long, we retreated to our cabin and phoned, much quicker and query resolved I would prefer the big open dining rooms, where you felt you were part of a family and it would be easy actually to get a bit lonely unless you put yourself out there to talk to people We loved the silent disco, something you need to see but all "parties" were held indoors at the two70, I missed the deck parties usually associated with cruising This was only my 2nd RCL cruise as I am platinum on Carnival but wanted to experience this ship Would I cruise again??? definitely, in fact I booked another cruise for next year, 7 days was not enough to experience all this ship has to offer...obviously its more expensive but that is to be expected when you look at the maintenance and crew necessary to keep a ship 3 football lenghts operational Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Yes, there were long queues at embarkation but it's a world wide issue as port authorities ignore the need to rethink the embarkation process/facilities. All cruise lines are limited by the design of the terminals. Port authorities ... Read More
Yes, there were long queues at embarkation but it's a world wide issue as port authorities ignore the need to rethink the embarkation process/facilities. All cruise lines are limited by the design of the terminals. Port authorities need to allow for multiple entry points to the ships instead of funnelling thousands of passengers into one entry point. Enough said. Once on board, the Princess crew were all over the place providing assistance to locate our cabins. Food was already being served and it never stopped for the eleven days we were on board. The decor on the Emerald Princess is tasteful and subdued with a mix of many shades of blues and browns but lacking a little pizzazz. Nonetheless all areas and venues are clean and comfortable. Our mini-suite (D526) was immaculately clean and our cabin steward couldn't have been more helpful and responsive to our requests. As cabins go our mini-suite was very spacious and comfortable. When selecting the cabin, we didn't realise the balcony was open/visible to the decks above but worse, there was no relief from the sun. We did change the pillows for smaller ones as the standard ones were so big and luxurious we were almost smothered as our heads descended into pillow overload. The air-con all over the ship was on the cold side for my liking so make sure you take some longer sleeved items and a cardi/jacket. Of course you can buy on board! We didn't bother with the specialty dining venues (at additional cost) as the food in the main dining rooms was perfectly fine. A few misses but in the main, the options were many and varied and well cooked and presented. Still amazed at the precision and quality considering the number of passengers. We chose "anytime dining" and shared tables at lunch and dinner and we met many delightful people, some of whom we will keep in touch with. Great staff in the dining rooms too. We are not fans of buffets but when in port, it's the main eating venue on board. Food was fine. A tip for coffee lovers... there is often a long queue to order lattes etc. in the International Cafe (deck 5) despite having to purchase them. Just sit down at a table and flag a waiter who will order for you and deliver it to your table (even if you want takeaway). There is a variety of entertainment from musical stage productions, to comedy, mood music, ballroom dance lessons, line dancing, Zumba, a full gym, in cabin TV/movies, a giant screen for movies under the stars, a kids club, games on deck, art auctions, shopping sales, spa services, competitions, giveaways and if that's not enough you can attend churches services too! Excursions are not always good value for money but if you do your own thing you really need to do a lot of research beforehand and be aware if you don't get back to the ship on time, it doesn't wait for you! Some South Pacific Islands are really beautiful like Isle of PInes (not visited this trip) and Champagne Bay but Noumea is very tired looking and the locals not particularly friendly. Port Vila is run down and dirty but the people are all very friendly and chatty. Of course there is no need to go ashore as the entertainment just keeps going on board. We met many people who have cruised on Princess ships many times and some debatable incentives are offered for loyalty. There are still other cruise lines I wouldn't mind trying but I have no hesitation in recommending the Emerald Princess and may well cruise on her again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this cruise as it fitted in with our annual company closedown in January each year, when we must take most of our annual holiday leave. The price was great for this peak holiday time in Australia. Both the embarkation and ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it fitted in with our annual company closedown in January each year, when we must take most of our annual holiday leave. The price was great for this peak holiday time in Australia. Both the embarkation and disembarkation processes ran extremely well, no queues All food was fresh and good quality, with the dining room providing gourmet meals each night. We initially asked for extra vegetables with our meal, thereafter a separate plate of steamed vegetables was automatically provided for our table to share each night. Dining room service was excellent. The free food on the swimming pool deck was welcome, we have cruised with other lines three times & always needed to pay for food outside the dining room & cafeteria. In addition, each day a self-serve Mexican food bar was set up on that deck, enabling us to enjoy tacos & nachos - the pulled beef was yummy! WE dined in the Pinnacle Grill for lunch on two occasions. For an extra US$10 per head for three courses plus tea or expresso coffee, this was most worthwhile. The prawn bruschetta (entree) & seafood in tomato broth (main) were highlights. We were each able to take a 750ml bottle of wine aboard on embarkation, which we could drink in our cabin. To take a bottle to the main dining room incurred a corkage fee of US$18. When we visited a wine region in New Zealand, we were each permitted to take a further bottle aboard for use in the dining room, without incurring the corkage fee. A good move by Holland America. The first sitting for dining was at 5.30pm, which meant we sometimes missed dining there due to still being ashore on port days, or missed viewing the ship's departure from ports as we were in the dining room. In hindsight we would choose the later dining option. Our major gripe was with the cost on internet on board the ship, very expensive. Also quite slow according to those who did use it. Accordingly, we waited for port days to use free wifi at local libraries or cafes. However, in NZ this was not always satisfactory as it appears they are still using 3G, at times we were unable to read incoming emails & text messages, & most times could not send emails, although text messages were fine. The entertainment on board was first class, ranging from an in-house band, in-house singers & dancers, to guest comedians, musicians, & singers. There were a variety of classes especially on sea days, including a unique series of computer classes dealing with all aspects of Windows 10, & also several computer Q & A sessions .Everyone found these classes very helpful. Other activities included cooking demonstration, DIY cocktails, galley tour, fitness classes, health & beauty talks, excursion previews, just to name a few. We didn't take any ship organised excursions, mainly due to cost. As we travelled with another couple, we hired cars at two ports to travel further afield, & noticed other groups especially families, did this as well. One excursion I saw advertised privately online prior to the cruise for NZ$50 (Napier town tour 1 hr), yet the ship charged US$69 for exactly the same tour, with the same company, which was double the price (taking into account the exchange rate). This is something cruise ships need to look at closely, to encourage more use of their own shore excursions. For the cost of our cruise, we would definitely sail with Holland America again! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We have just got back from a three night comedy cruise and had a fantastic time on the Pacific Eden with our 6 year old daughter. We can't work out what the negative reviews have been about. Yes it's an older ship but the ... Read More
We have just got back from a three night comedy cruise and had a fantastic time on the Pacific Eden with our 6 year old daughter. We can't work out what the negative reviews have been about. Yes it's an older ship but the main areas have been revamped and our room was very clean and still in good condition. We had a balcony room and our room attendants Dave and Mel where excellent. The staff overall were very attentive and friendly unlike the staff we experienced on Royal Carribean's Explorer of the Seas at Christmas time. This is only our second cruise and were very surprised that in reading past reviews P&O has been referred to as a budget cruise line, yet provided better service and equal if not better food than the RCL cruise. This P &O cruise worked out at half of the cost pp per night compared to the Royal cruise. The food in Angelo's and the Dragon Lady was really nice. The Pantry was good as well despite it being buffet style only with servers so keep your expectations realistic, and there never seemed to be any problems with huge cues, we could always find somewhere to sit. Sorry, at the water front there were cues and we chose not to stand in those cue's at peak times and just went to an alternative place to eat. Once we did cue for a few minutes at the Water front and were given a pager and asked to wait in one of the bars. How, bad can it be, have a drink in a lovely bar why you wait twenty minutes. We went to the Blueroom which we loved and frequented regularly. Some folk may complain some serves of food are a bit small but if we were still hungry we would ask for another main and that was no trouble for the staff. You could also just go to the pantry and have another entire meal. The live shows were fantastic, both comedy and musical. The live music in the bars and at the pool was also great. The bar areas on the Eden were very comfortable and made you feel relaxed. The bar staff were great as well. A huge contrast to the surly bar staff we experienced on RCL, in case we haven't already provided that comparative. Our daughter had a ball in the kids club and at the pool and the staff were lovely to her. She did not need rock climbing walls and ice skating. This cruise was at capacity but never showed as we always found a table and could easily get a drink. It was a great little ship which we found we liked after the cruise on a huge ship such as Explorer of the Seas ( so size dose not always matter) and the staff seemed much more happy on the Eden. Our only negative and why it does not get 5 out of 5 is that the ship had some strange smells in some areas, which may be due to its age and plumbing issues, but saying that there were plumbing issues on Explorer as well. Bits of Eden are showing there age like the balconies and seals and finishings around Windows being very weathered. Overall we had a great time and we will definately sail P&O again even though there ships are smaller and a bit older. No point paying the extra money for big flash ships like Royal offer when the staff are unhappy and overall vibe is not there. That is our experience based on only two cruises and I'm sure others experiences on both ships may differ to ours, but for us P&O comes out in front. We will be doing a Princess Cruise New Years so we will see how they fair. In saying all that I think any cruise is a good cruise, beats being at work and at the end of the day it's how you ride the bumps and make the most of what you have paid for. The options are there, you just need to grab them when things aren't what you expected. We are hooked. Great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
As the title suggests, the cruise was pretty good overall, but not perfect by any means and not as good as it could have been with better management. This was our 6th cruise and having sailed with P & O and Celebrity, we had ... Read More
As the title suggests, the cruise was pretty good overall, but not perfect by any means and not as good as it could have been with better management. This was our 6th cruise and having sailed with P & O and Celebrity, we had obviously experienced both ends of the spectrum of quality, with P & O clearly the worst of the cruise lines on just about every front and Celebrity so far ahead a telescope would be required to see them. Before this cruise we tried to find out if we should have a drinks package, but despite a considerable effort, we could not find a definitive price list for on board drinks, so I wrote to both Princess and my own agent with a handful of questions. Oddly enough I received mixed replies and none of them accurate. For example, Princess sent me a list of prices which were so under priced as to suggest they were either from a different cruise line or decade and my agent categorically stated we would require a US electrical converter! So just to set the record straight let me list a few prices and facts here for anyone else trying to organise themselves before departure. A Crown lager is $7.95, cocktails start at around $10 and a half decent wine was $10 a glass. A bottle of red would set you back around $35, but remember all these prices are subject to a 15% gratuity. And talking of gratuity, Princess state that passengers will be automatically charged a per night gratuity of around $12 per person, unless they opt out, but in fact if you book in Australia for a cruise from Australia, they DONT charge gratuities at all and you need to make your own arrangements or opt IN to do it. There was a universal plug socket in the cabin (a mini suite of very generous proportions indeed} and the choice of in room movies was beyond impressive - we are talking dozens of them and several VERY new releases. The TV channels however were to put it mildly very poor. Having said that, we have found they usually are on Cruise ships. Now for some personal highs and the odd lows of the cruise. Embarkation at the Sydney International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay has been improved over the past couple of years and is virtually seamless, swift and painless. We were given a boarding time and arrived about 30 minutes early. Our cases were dropped off before entering the terminal and we were on board in our cabin less than 30 minutes later and our bags were delivered soon after. Another high is the food, which in our opinion is better than Celebrity in as much as Celebrity seem to serve their food with an American twist, meaning everything is OVER sauced, over flavoured and very salty, whereas Princess 's food was delicate and subtle with LOTS of seafood across the 13 days. We chose anytime dining and had the choice of four silver service restaurants to eat at at any time in the evening we wished along with the trough - err sorry I mean the buffet upstairs, a grill with burgers and hot dogs and a pizza bar. ALL of these are included in the fare and require no surcharge. For breakfast and lunch the choice of dining venues was more limited but still more than ample with breakfast in the main Princess dining room offering table service and the trough - sorry again - the buffet offering self service and these being joined by the grill and pizza bar for lunch. The main dining room also offered a totally unnecessary but still pleasant afternoon tea as well. There are a large number of bars on the ship as you would expect, but this leads me to my first negative of the cruise. I am a rather large individual, standing over 6 foot and not exactly slim in stature, yet gaining the eye of the waiters in most bars was virtually impossible on most occasions, though I would stress there WERE the odd exceptions. I am not used to being invisible and can only surmise that the staff have somehow perfected the art of not seeing people waving frantically, with arms over their heads directly in front of them - having given up on waiting for the staff to come over of their own free will. Could only describe this aspect of the cruise as abysmal, made worse by the fact we had purchased a drinks package for over $700 and therefore it was the drinks we had already paid for they werent serving us!!! Having said that, Skywalkers Bar and the Churchill Bar were exceptions to this with excellent service and a delightful young girl called Ruri ran herself off her feet serving everyone in various bars at different times, while some of her colleagues chatted to their mates behind the bar!!!!! Other pluses included the on board musical group Evolution who were very VERY good and very , VERY approachable and pleasant, with a stunning repertoire of songs crossing all genres and datelines. The best on board entertainment ever! I wont dwell on the odd negatives, though a couple were pretty bad. One involved the staff tying up 3 out of 4 aft lifts for the benefit of around 200 passengers to the detriment of the remaining 2000, turning what was normally a good and reliable method of transport between decks into a completely useless system and forced many less mobile passengers to become prisoners of their cabin or to be exiled from their cabin if they were elsewhere when the exercise started. Another was the refusal of the International Dining room Maitre D to allow passengers to be seated as on 2 seater tables on the final morning - forcing them to sit on large tables with other passengers. This is fine for most, but not for all and the minority should have been accommodated. My final is about the disembarkation process which went horribly wrong for about an hour and a quarter through no fault of the shipping line or its staff, but which should have been handled better on board with a bit of intelligence by the officers. Basically the Immigration departments computers went on the blink and the disembarkation process all but stopped. NO announcements were made for the best part of 3/4 of an hour and when it was explained, there was no guide as to how likely it was to be fixed in the short term. As I said NOT the crews fault in ANY way that the problem occurred, BUT keeping the passengers informed as quickly as possible and keeping them, updated VERY regularly would have avoided stress for those with a timetable to keep to. Personally I would have given free internet wifi for all passengers during the delay. This would have allowed those WITH a time problem to deal with the problem using the internet on their phones and kept the other passengers occupied as they either read the news, played games or communicated with family and friends. Simple, but NOT offered. All we got was silence! Moving back to the more pleasant aspects of the trip, the tendering service from the Diamond Princess is brilliant. With 6 tender vessels operating, the longest we waited was 20 minutes to get a ride ashore. That is remarkable. The ships singers and dancers were very entertaining and the special effects, props and costumes were all excellent for all their shows. Having said that the theater didnt seem to be large enough for the number of passengers with all seats filled with 1/4 of an hour to go till the first show started. The second performance usually had a little more space. The shows were generally around 30 minutes long, which was about half the length of those on the other cruises we have done, but they were very fast paced and well choreographed. Personally, we didnt like ANY of the invited guest performers, but I guess that was just us. I havent mentioned the shops and wont, other than to say there were less shops, less variety and very little value in any of them, which surprised us a LOT. Cant really explain why they would be so much worse than on all our previous cruises, but there you go, Princess Cruises saved us a bit of money we WOULD have spent on board, so thanks! So in summing up, the ship is in great condition, rides the waves very well due to her size and offers plenty of variety for dining, drinking, entertainment and pretty much all the sorts of activities you would want on board. I would recommend it to anyone who doesnt mind large numbers of people around them and a fair number of kids. Again speaking personally, I would rate the Celebrity above the Diamond Princess but there again you pay for that difference - our Mini Suite was about $2200 each with a few on board credits included, where as our ordinary Balcony suite with Concierge class service was $2500 each, and that went to the much cheaper destination of the Pacific Islands and Fiji compared to New Zealand and at a lower season time of year. Diamond Princess is however miles ahead of P & O which has slumped from its once average to poor level of service, to its current dreadful state with ancient ships, and a policy of trying to suck money out of every passenger on ANY excuse once they get on board. We really enjoyed the cruise which seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Met some nice people and would not rule out travelling with Princess in the future if Celebrity arent going where we want to go! Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Overview: This was our first cruise with HAL, first time in the southern hemisphere, and first three week vacation. It was a specialty cruise where Atlantis Events chartered the entire ship for a primarily gay cruise starting in ... Read More
Overview: This was our first cruise with HAL, first time in the southern hemisphere, and first three week vacation. It was a specialty cruise where Atlantis Events chartered the entire ship for a primarily gay cruise starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Sydney, Australia for the Mardi Gras parade and Mardigrasland party. This was our third cruise and second with Atlantis. On the whole we enjoyed the trip, found the ship comfortable, most of the crew polite and friendly, made new friends, enjoyed most of the meals, and had some nice adventures on the excursions. Our previous two cruises were with RCI and we are likely to return to a Royal Caribbean ship for future cruises. We found the HAL experience rated just a little lower than RCI in almost every category except for cabin size and comfort. The cabin on this cruise was large, comfortable, and everything worked perfectly. Air travel: On the whole we logged more than 20,000 miles in three weeks for this trip. That's a lot of flying. To break up the trip, we flew Southwest Airlines from the east coast to Los Angeles and stayed with friends for two nights. We booked Air New Zealand (ANZ) to Auckland with a 9 hour layover in Honolulu to further break up the trip. I learned two things I want to share. First, ANZ partners with other airlines such as United. Even though all of your reservation documentation may show a ANZ flight numbers, you may still need to board another carrier's aircraft and flight number. Fortunately we were using the FlightTrack app so we didn't have our driver drop us off at the ANZ terminal #2. The app showed the flight was originally scheduled to leave Delta terminal #6 but was updated to United terminal #7 during our drive to the airport. Neither Delta nor United personnel claimed they found us in their system. I had to call ANZ and speak with someone with a strong New Zealand accent to learn which carrier and flight number on which we were booked to Honolulu. With the United flight number we approached the United counter again and successfully checked into the flight. Once in Honolulu we were upgraded by Dollar to a new, convertible Mustang and enjoyed exploring the island for a six hours. The flight to Auckland was a real ANZ flight. Their flight crew is very friendly, the aircraft modern with lots of entertainment options, food is delicious, and the safety video is Lord of the Rings themed and entertaining. After the vacation flying ANZ back to the USA resulted in more confusion. They received a new computer system the day before and their terminal and staff were in chaos. Eventually we learned ANZ had again passed us off to United so we had to make our way to United and check in with them for our direct flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. I'll avoid ANZ and look to Qantas in the future. The second thing I learned was flying from the USA to AU/NZ you lose one day and gain it back on the return. Embarkation: While I didn't expect embarkation to be pleasant, our experience at the Prince's Wharf in Auckland was worse than expected. Atlantis pushed embarkation time later to allow VIPs to board early. This narrowed the window for everyone else to less than three hours and the VIPs arrived late anyway. The terminal was very warm and and didn't seem to have any air conditioning. We joined the line with a good attitude and were making progress through one of the two available lines. An Atlantis employee appeared and scolded everyone for arriving early, closed one of the lines without telling the people in the 2nd line where to go. Fortunately another Atlantis employee noticed the confusion and instructed the people in line two who were now cut off to merge in with our line. He indicated this was done to allow the VIPs to enter first and this added about an extra hour wait to the hour we had already waited in line in this very hot building. When we reached a HAL representative we were told there was a problem printing our room keys and we should wait at the far side of the building by the exit. At least there was some fresh air by the tent exit. After 20 minutes our room keys had not appeared. An Atlantis employee was no help and seemed annoyed while implying we were being impatient. He thought we were waiting at the right place and indicated a couple of other passengers had the same issue with their keys earlier. After another ten minutes I found another HAL employee and asked. She indicated we needed to board the ship and go to the front office for our keys. I did point out the HAL employee who had misinformed us and also let the Atlantis employee know the procedure in case this happened to others. We were exhausted and soaked with sweat by the time we boarded the ship. Ship: We found the Oosterdam to be in good condition and easy to navigate. From photos I expected the colors and decor to be gaudy, but on the whole the design was appealing and I enjoyed the nautical themed art throughout the ship. The only exceptions I found odd include the childish looking modern sculptures at the aft pool (an adults only pool -- no wonder others complain about children ending up there) and the odd center ceiling with flashing color lights in the main dining room. Okay, I thought the Pinnacle Grill pacific northwest themed decor was ugly too. Mechanically everything worked properly and the elevators were amazingly speedy. A trick I learned to quickly identify fore and aft directions is that the benches are always on the aft wall in the elevator lobbies. Cabin: Our cabin was the largest we have had and found it to have significant closet and storage space. It was located in the aft part of the ship on deck 5. Crew and Atlantis staff: We found most of the crew to be polite, friendly, and helpful. Our cabin stewards (we had two) never stopped by to introduce themselves so I wrote them a note to tell them our names and ask for theirs. In the note I included the types of fruit we liked, indicated we used a lot of ice, and asked for a laundry bag. For the rest of the cruise, they provided fruit and maintained two containers of ice for us. The first two towel animals were unidentifiable but they got better and better as the cruise progressed. We did leave extra tips for them when they surpassed our expectations. We did have a few bad experiences with bar staff. After ordering two rum and Coke's a bartender asked if I would prefer a "strong double." I responded no, and he proceeded to pour extremely weak drinks. I commented, "Wow, that's a very weak single." He nodded in affirmation. I turned away and was talking to someone in line when he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and he showed me a cup almost full of alcohol and said, "This is a strong double." I was stunned and disappointed. The roving wait staff offering drinks were too aggressive with constant pressure to purchase drinks. They have an incentive to do this for the automatic 15% gratuity and it was a gay cruise to it's possible this occurred because additional staff were on board to serve alcohol. We received massages at the spa and were a little disappointed in the quality. We expected a relaxing experience and instead received deep tissue massages followed by a couple of days of sore muscles. Atlantis staff seemed less organized and friendly on this cruise. They also provide a 2nd cruise director in addition to the HAL one. The Atlantis cruise director is the same person we had on our Med cruise seven years ago. I heard a comment that this was his 104th Atlantis cruise. It shows. He didn't seem friendly or approachable and actually came off as cranky. With the exception of one Atlantis staff member who was on his first Atlantis cruise, they all seemed a bit cranky, unorganized, and unhelpful. I think it's time for new blood at Atlantis. Food: We found food on the Oosterdam to be good although some selections were tiny. I found myself trying to read between the lines of menu descriptions to decide if it would be a tiny morsel instead of a traditional course. Our specialty cruise was 100% open seating and at sea days a brunch was served in the MDR, which I don't think is normally done. With open seating it's often nice to meet and dine with new people but I do miss having the same waiters who learn your preferences. One night we were seated with a passenger who ordered one of every dessert. Even though I bore no responsibility, I was embarrassed and the time it took almost made us late for a show. We especially enjoyed dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and were served the best crab cakes I've ever had, delicious steak, and very showy, flaming baked Alaska desserts. Most nights had theme parties that ran into the early morning hours and HAL always had a very nice variety of good food in the Lido for hungry guests. Entertainment: Since this was a specialty cruise, entertainment duties were shared by HAL and Atlantis. We attended several of the shows by entertainers hired by Atlantis and enjoyed them although we didn't find them as good as our previous Atlantis cruise in the Mediterranean. The HAL shows we saw were okay, but again we didn't find them as enjoyable as entertainers on RCI cruises. Excursions: We booked a mixture of HAL and independent excursions. When scheduling allowed we booked small group, independent excursions through Viator. Even many of the HAL excursions were customized to include only passengers from our ship which resulted in smaller groups which enhanced the experience. Although we were sad to learn we would miss Christchurch because of the distance from Akaroa, NZ we really enjoyed the Duncan Barber Sheep Farm and later the two hour nature cruise in the port of Akaroa. We also really enjoyed lunch on the Colonial Tram in Melbourne. The food, service, and sightseeing was extraordinary. We found it a great way to tour Melbourne in comfort. Another highlight was a small group Blue Mountains day trip we booked in Sydney through Viator. We reached the Featherdale animal park just as they opened and were able to feed and pet animals including kangaroos and koala bears. The trip continued to uncrowded viewing location of the Blue Mountains, Olympic Park, and a cruise back to Circular Quay which avoided rush hour crowded highways. Our itinerary was adjusted for this specialty cruise and was shortened to 12 days. We had an overnight in Melbourne and an overnight in Sydney which required omitting a couple of the regular Oosterdam ports. One thing we would not do again is book the very expensive Glamstand Glambar for viewing the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney. We were promised free gourmet food and an open bar served by waiters. In reality the bar had a long, slow line with a limited selection of pre-mixed, cocktails in aluminum cans. The food was good but sparse and there were zero chairs for patrons of the "Glambar." People who opted for lower priced Glamstand tickets had stadium seating. For most Oosterdam passengers this will not be an issue since this was part of our specialty cruise. Conclusion: We enjoyed our adventure Down Under and made some great friends. HAL staff and the Oosterdam made for an overall good experience. Atlantis Events did an okay job, but missed an opportunity to make the trip amazing. 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Sail Date February 2013
The Volendam was chartered on this cruise by Atlantis Events, a US based gay and lesbian travel operator, and timed to arrive in Sydney on the day of the Mardi Gras parade. Accordingly, I haven't included any comments about ... Read More
The Volendam was chartered on this cruise by Atlantis Events, a US based gay and lesbian travel operator, and timed to arrive in Sydney on the day of the Mardi Gras parade. Accordingly, I haven't included any comments about entertainment as this was specific to this cruise. Summary: an acceptable 4 star experience (even though my comments below look more critical than that) but overpriced for what it delivered. Cabin: we had a verandah cabin. It was spacious. It was well kept, though clearly showing signs of age. It must be said that the ship needs a refurbishment. This is not to say that the cabin was unpleasant, however for the price (USD$3,350 per person plus the USD$11 per day per person service charge) it did not present good value or an exceptional experience. Pools and other common areas: the pools were small but ok. Again, the areas needed refurbishment. The Explorer's Cafe area and the Crows Nest were very nice spaces. Dining: the main restaurant (the Rotterdam) was efficiently run. The food was of average to good quality and perfectly acceptable for a facility that serves many people per sitting. It was open dining and there was never a wait for a table. The Lido buffet was unexceptional but well run with good food choices. The Pinnacle Restaurant: we thought that this experience was not much superior to the main dining room. The best feature was that it was small and quiet with good (but, it must be said, over attentive) service. The food varied from virtually inedible (yes, really) in the form of the small taster of ravioli which was first offered, to bland (tasteless prawn/shrimp cocktail) to very good (filet mignon, although cooked extremely rare rather than the medium rare ordered) and a dessert souffle. I wasn't expecting anything out of the box and in that respect the restaurant was no great surprise. Although only a small charge (USD$20 per person), in my view not worth a visit. Service standards in the shop generally : friendly but no effort to deliver any more than a basic pleasant service. Ports: Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Melbourne. Had a great time in each because we made our own arrangements (ship organised excursions were ridiculously overpriced). In Christchurch and Dunedin we hired a car and headed out of town to some wonderful scenery. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010

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