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Sail Date: August 2003
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The ... Read More
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The following review is fairly long, but I've tried to categorize it so that people can find particular sections that may interest them. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask: patricia_fessler@yahoo.com SHIP: m.s. Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, well designed and just the right size. Hardwood and brass abound, giving the ship an elegant, nautical feel. This is enhanced by excellent art and antiques, where there is an emphasis on Dutch and Asian pieces. Portraits of Holland America ships by Captain Stephen J. Card are a particular highlight. The library was good, well-stocked with books, stationery, and games. (There was one glaring omission in the book collection, though - "125 Years of Holland America Line" which is a great history of the company. I'm always surprised not to find it on their ships.) I'm a real stickler about upkeep, and I'm pleased to say that the Amsterdam was very well kept up: the flowers were always fresh, all the brass was polished, and the carpets were clean and unworn. I guess this may sound like an expected baseline, but believe me if you're obsessive like me, you see all kinds of flaws even at the nicest hotels, so it was a delight to see things just so. (One small gripe: during the cruise, it seemed like some kid scratched the brass button-plate in the elevator. HAL may wish to weigh the cost of replacing / sanding the brass periodically vs. installing cameras, like in many hotels.) With about 1500 people onboard (lots of families with 3+ a stateroom/suite), the ship was completely booked but never felt crowded. Lines were rare and short. I was reminded of the importance of a small(ish) ship when we docked next to the Radiance of the Seas, a mammoth ship that had enormous lines to get back on the ship. FOOD: This was by far the best food I've had on any cruise line. It totally eclipsed even Celebrity, which is supposedly known for its great cuisine. The presentation was lovely, the range and quality of ingredients was excellent, and the breadth of options was mind-boggling. Of particular note: - THE PINNACLE GRILL. I'd eaten at the Pinnacle on the Statendam in the Spring, and ever since had been dreaming about rare Sterling beef, seared at 1800 degrees. I was not disappointed. This place is a steak lover's dream, infinitely better than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. At $20 a person, it's a ridiculous bargain. One down side is the apparent removal of prime rib from the menu, which I'd had on Statendam. Nonetheless, the porterhouse was outstanding, as was the filet mignon. I read that on Oosterdam, HAL has introduced Hungarian waiters in the Pinnacle. I think this should be fine, but my Indonesian waiter (Tony) was knowledgeable, helpful, and never intrusive (something I found to be a problem with the over-chummy Hungarian waiters in specialty restaurant of Celebrity's Millennium). - DUTCH NIGHT. I never before associated the Dutch with fine cuisine, but I was wrong. Their version of Duck a l'Orange (I can't remember the Dutch name) was delectable, and a martini made with Dutch gin is really good (super-smooth and vaguely lemony). My mother said the Indonesian luncheon was also wonderful, but I was off exploring the port. - ROOM SERVICE. Frequently a weak point for many cruise lines, the room service was very good here, with attractive presentation, croissants wrapped in an insulating linen napkin (not plastic wrap), and bacon that made it to my mouth HOT. STAFF: HAL's staff has always been one of its great strengths, and the Amsterdam staff are no exception. They were cheerful and friendly, hard-working, remembered my name, and fulfilled assorted special requests (eggs done just so, sliced mangos at breakfast, etc). I'm also happy to report that the bar staff were right on the ball. HAL seems to have a policy of never wanting to intrude or hassle, which is good (especially compared to occasionally pushy tactics on other lines), but in the past I've sometimes had trouble getting a drink (!). Nowadays, I think the staff hit the balance just right - if I so much as raised a finger, someone came straight by, but if I was absorbed in a book, no one troubled me. I had the honor of meeting Captain van Zanne and Hotel Manager Henk Mensink; both were models of their professions. Apart from getting us from point A to B safely, Captain van Zanne was statesman-like and had a manner that made one feel confident that this was a well run ship. Mr. Mensink was charming, but also thoughtful, and the quality of the food and accommodations is a testament to his hard work and skill. The entertainment staff were a fun bunch, and kept the Crow's Nest rockin' until well after I had to go to bed. I did have one bad experience, with my dining steward. I asked him if some spring rolls contained shrimp, explaining that I am allergic to shellfish. He told me, with apparent confidence, that they were vegetarian. Fortunately, I cut open the roll and saw the shrimp before I could take a bite. I advised my dining steward and the supervisor, and got the impression my dining steward got a talking-to. The Port Shopping Ambassador, Ivan, seemed a little smarmy but I fear that's a function of his job. He seems like a paid shill because he is. (Ever see the Simpson's episode with the monorail salesman? He reminded me of that guy.) Maybe those recommended stores would be more relevant to me if I bought jewelry and other big-ticket items where a guarantee is important, but since I don't, I prefer to shop at small, independent places off the beaten path. Ivan's talks were easily avoided. More educational and interesting options that shopping abounded: The on-board naturalist was very good, and a great help to whale-watchers on deck. Her slide shows were also informative and entertaining. The native Alaskan artist, Moses, was a great story-teller, had lovely artwork, and was a truly charming guy. ENTERTAINMENT: In the evenings, the classical trio was absolutely amazing. They were called the Champagne Strings, but they were a different group than the guys of the same name on the Maasdam. I'd found those guys (led by "Papa Attila") to be fabulous, but these guys just blew me out of the water. Not only were they good enough to play without a lick of sheet music, they were good enough to really PLAY with the music. They would improvise and enliven classical music in a way I'd never seen before. Holland America, Hungarian musicians are definitely the way to go - as good as the Rosario Strings are (Filipino?), they can't hold a candle to the serious musicians from Hungary. (BTW, my family is Filipino and my aunt was a concert pianist, but by and large Filipinos are better at rock n' roll.) Incidentally, I thought it was very tasteful that the musicians didn't have a tip cup, but did sell CDs. Since they had them right there (no need to go to the shop), I happily bought a CD, and so did plenty of other people. I didn't catch a lot of the formal shows, because I preferred to listen to the classical music, dance, or just hang out with my family, but I did see the magician. I can't recall his name, but he was GREAT. He's one of the few magicians I've seen who blends magic and humor while still coming off as a great guy. (Copperfield, Sigfried and Roy, Lance Burton, etc. all seem to be real shmucks - to their assistants and their audiences.) His tricks were also excellent, especially one where he takes the wedding rings of three audience members, "magically" interlinks them, and has each man confirm that the ring is really his. Especially with projector screens showing the close-up detail, this trick brought the house down. SUITE: We were in 7058, a handicapped-accessible suite (for my mother). The suite was lovely, spacious, and had more storage space than you could shake a stick at. The bathroom had a flat-floor, handicapped-accessible shower, and ALSO a wonderful bathtub with whirlpool jets. The only mild downside with this cabin was that because we were high up and at the far end of the ship, we felt the motion of the sea more than other places on the ship. One suggestion for the shower: the emergency cord should be labeled as such. My mom pulled it, not sure what it did ... we found out when the front desk called to make sure everything was okay. The standard shampoo, soaps and moisturizer were good as usual, and I was pleased to see extra-nice "Institute Suisse" bath amenities in the medicine cabinet. Didn't use them, but a nice touch for the suites. As for the bed, the mattress was comfy, the pillows perfect, and the towels large and fluffy. In the past I always found HAL's regular staterooms very roomy and comfortable, but in addition to the extra space and whirlpool bath, a few special amenities made the suite really worth the splurge: - NEPTUNE LOUNGE. This charming, suites-only lounge always had delicious snacks prepared by the Pinnacle Grill chef; perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, a mid-day snack, another mid-day snack... you get the idea. Tony, our waiter in the Pinnacle Grill, worked here doing the day, and was again very charming. - CONCIERGE SERVICE. Snookie the concierge (I kid you not, that was her name), and her assistant Maria Rachel, were unfailingly helpful. We never had to wait in line at the front desk, the ladies handled all our shore excursion arrangements, and were a real delight. - COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY. This may sound silly to some people, but I loved the idea of going home with clean clothes! The laundry staff were amazing, in addition to impeccable work on my blouses, I believe they even ironed my underwear. Zounds! - SUITE RECEPTION / LUNCHEON. These were opportunities to meet the captain and the staff in a small, sociable setting. The food was, once again, delicious. Had caviar for the first time in my life ... apparently it was very good quality, but personally I like smoked salmon better. Champagne and wine flowed freely. I had a really chats with the Captain, the Hotel Manager, and the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager. EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION: Holland America has recently introduced new and very much improved embarkation and disembarkation procedures, they are now really rather pleasant. For some reason, lots of people always turn up well before the "official" embarkation window, in this case 3pm-5pm. In the past, they had to wait around a pretty barren room at the port (these ports are owned by the city, not the cruise line). Now, Holland America lets you get onboard much earlier, even as the staff are still cleaning up from the previous guests. You can't yet go to your stateroom, but you can hang out in the comparative luxury of the cruise line's lounges. Now, on our sailing extra cleaning needed to be done due to safety precautions around recent virus outbreaks (lots of people got sick on a Princess cruise, and a very few on the previous Amsterdam sailing). So while folks weren't allowed on the ship quite so early as usual, the company brought out refreshments to the waiting room, and people had a snack while they hung out. You could also book spa appointments, Pinnacle Grill reservations, and pre-order wines. PORTS: We went to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier (not really a port, but a destination), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. All were fascinating, and the shore excursions were well chosen to provide a range of activities for everyone. Also, we always had the BEST docking positions: right downtown. While other lines had further-out docks (eg, Princess) or even had to tender (eg, RCI), we got to walk ashore. (Everywhere except Sitka, which has no dock for cruise lines, and everyone had to tender.) My only small gripe was that I would have liked more time in Ketchikan ... but frankly that's just inspiration to go back! FELLOW PASSENGERS: A nice mix, with a surprising number of families. The kids seemed well entertained, and were never a bother. As usual on HAL, I met some really great people with amazing backgrounds. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Oosterdam 5/29-6/5 We arrived late Friday night in Seattle and just crashed at the airport Holiday Inn. Quick and easy shuttle transfer and a very nice buffet breakfast included. For some reason it took 20 minutes to get a taxi to the ... Read More
Oosterdam 5/29-6/5 We arrived late Friday night in Seattle and just crashed at the airport Holiday Inn. Quick and easy shuttle transfer and a very nice buffet breakfast included. For some reason it took 20 minutes to get a taxi to the hotel, but then it was a quick and scenic trip to the pier. It really is too bad that HAL and Princess have decided to use the new pier 30 facility. It's in the middle of the cargo area, not at all attractive and not convenient to the Seattle waterfront or downtown. Check-in for suite passengers was quick and efficient, with essentially no line. Filling out the embarkation forms online is definitely the way to go. Embarkation itself was a bit like running a gauntlet of crew members trying to get you to go to this or that raffle. They were more of a hassle than helpful. We embarked around 12:30 and were taken to our suite which was not quite ready. We opted for lunch in the Lido. While the Lido has potential, it is more often a confusing and fractured dining experience, especially when eating with several people. Also, finding a seat was next to impossible most times as it was a popular place to enjoy the scenery and instead of chair hogs by the pool, the Lido suffered from chair hogs in the dining room. Also, I found the Lido hours to be quite limited with several times during the cruise when one could not find food anywhere. The food was decent but several notches down from previous experience and the service was poor. Our suite (7132) was outstanding. We had the aft port suite on the 7th deck. While the suite itself was a bit smaller than the typical S suite, it was still larger than an SS suite and most important of all it had a HUGE wraparound balcony. In fact I would venture to say that the balcony is larger than many of the cabins. The balcony on the side was covered and the size of 2 A category cabin balconies, the rear balcony was at least 10 feet deep. It only had a 3 foot overhang, not enough to protect from rain, but enough that if sitting by the wall, you could not be viewed from above. We rarely saw anyone looking down on us from the Lido deck and likewise we rarely saw anyone on the balconies below us. Furniture on the balcony included a dining table with 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs, 2 padded chairs with ottomans and a small cocktail table. We only experienced soot on the balcony one day toward the end of the trip. In the suite was a (true) king size bed with a wonderful firm mattress, fantastic linens, a down duvet and 6 pillows. It was by far one of the most comfortable beds I've slept on. The couch was turned into a twin bed each evening by our steward. Additionally there were 3 leather chairs and a coffee table. The TV was a flat screen with an excellent picture quality. Beneath it were a CD player and a DVD player. We had brought our own music CDs and DVDs were available from the Neptune lounge. A granite minibar topped by a silver ice bucket and fruit bowl (with bananas, grapes apples and pears) finished out the main room. Next to the bathroom was a dressing room with 3 closets, all with full mirrors on the front. The lighting in here was not great. The bathroom had 2 sinks, a jetted tub with handheld shower head and separate shower stall with a handheld shower head. The shower stall was a bit tight, but not bad. The first day the towels had the HAL logo on them, afterwards they were very plush oversize plain white towels. Bathroom amenities included shampoo/conditioner (which was not at all conditioning, I'd advise bringing your own), lotion, a sewing kit and shower cap. Other suite amenities included two terry cloth robes, an umbrella, binoculars (Bushnell, good quality) and a hair dryer (not very powerful, and I have thin, easy to dry hair). When we arrived a bottle of champagne was chilling compliments of the captain. We also received personalized stationery and an invitation to the suite reception that evening. I had pre-ordered some wine and gin which were also in the room. Our room steward did a very good job making up the room twice a day. A daily program was delivered to the suite each evening along with what I felt to be quite a bit of "junk mail". Turn down service included a chocolate on the pillow. Each morning the dinner menu for the day was delivered. I really enjoyed that little bit of information. The Pinnacle Grill menu was in the leather suite information folder along with the rather limited room service menu. We received a corsage and boutonniere for the first Formal night (each a white carnation). Room service was not good. They continually refilled the mini bar with soda water when we used the tonic water. Getting through to room service was a challenge, several times we had to contact the concierge to have her contact room service. We never used room service for food, just tonic and ice. I ended up enjoying the Neptune lounge much more than I had anticipated. The cappuccino machine is fantastic!! The continental breakfast and snacks were high quality and frequently replenished. Many magazines were available. The concierge was friendly and tried hard but wasn't really of all that much help. I must have stopped in 3-4 times a day for coffee or snacks. Did I mention how much I loved the cappuccino machine? Other perks of the suite included free laundry which we used once during the week. They were very prompt, did a nice job and delivered the clean clothes to the cabin in a basket wrapped in tissue paper. Nice classy touch. We also had priority tendering privileges, we ended up not utilizing them as we only tendered in one port and by the time we went ashore, the tenders no longer required tickets. We were invited to a reception mid-week (not sure if this was a suite reception or exactly why we were invited) and to the suite lunch on the last day. The suite lunch was buffet held in the crow's nest, included drinks and was high quality food similar to that in the Pinnacle grill with an Indonesian twist. We also attended the Mariner reception held at 11:45 AM on the last day. The decor of the Vista class ships has been debated and discussed in some depth so I won't dwell on it here. I will say that it does seem like a departure form that of the older ships (especially the Niew Amsterdam I sailed on in 1992) While I really liked some of it ( the elevators are beautiful) other aspects I found strange. A weird mix of classic and contemporary, beautiful high quality art and "junk". The flow through the ship is not good especially on the promenade deck. The photo gallery impedes traffic badly outside the dining room and the shops are laid out in such a strange manner. Another comment on the shops; most of what they sell is tacky junk, they are laid out poorly and the selection changes daily. Not at all what I remember from previous cruises. The atrium is pretty but seems small and dark for a ship of this size. It is definitely not the focal point it could have been. There is an occasional sewage smell detectable on the 2nd and 3rd decks, primarily forward. I also smelled it once on the observation deck towards the front. It's not awful, but it's there. As for vibration, I felt none in the Vista dining room and only occasionally in our suite, especially when the seas were a bit rough. The ship did seem to move about more than I expected for a ship of this size and more than other ships I've been on. The midship pool is covered by a retractable roof, is heated and is freshwater. This is the family pool. The aft pool is also heated and freshwater but is not covered. It is designated adults only. I did not use the spa, but the facilities looked nice. The Gym was well equipped. The Crow's nest is a very pleasant lounge. There were drink specials every day and wine packages are available ($125 for 6 bottles). Hot appetizers are served in the lounges in the evenings. Service on the ship was highly variable. Our cabin steward was excellent, our waiter was erratic, the wine steward was often late getting to our table and there was none of the remembering of your name or preferences that I so vividly remember from my other HAL cruise. Lounge service was impersonal at best. Elsewhere on the ship we were often greeted by smiles but the level of service has dropped in my opinion. Perhaps they are just overwhelmed. Service in the Pinnacle Grill was very good with the exception of when the waiter made me walk back to my room to get the card indicating that I had pre-paid for my reservations even though the information was in the computer and I had confirmed it both with the concierge and maitre 'd. The Club HAL staff were pleasant and did a good job with the kids. They had a fairly full program which was broken into 4 age groups. The Kid's Club facility is rather small, but adequate. Food is always a personal matter, but I really feel the quality has slipped in the main dining room. Not that it is poor quality or tastes bad, but it really comes across as mass produced banquet food. No attention to detail, none of the beautiful garnishes I remember. Some of the best dishes are the Indonesian ones. The appetizers tended to be better than the entrees. The soups were good, the salads variable. Desserts were often a disappointment. The food in the Lido can be quite good but the arrangement of the room makes it awkward for several people to eat together and I felt as if I was running all over the place to get my meal together. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were very good, however the hours were very limited. The food in the Pinnacle Grill is excellent. One of the best steaks I've had, and the chocolate volcano cake truly is "to die for". Lobster is available every night in addition to the regular menu items. It is well worth the $20 surcharge. The itinerary itself was not quite what I had hoped for. We spent much more time in the open ocean with it's rougher water and lack of scenery that I imagined we would. Relatively little time was spent in the inside passage, which I feel is what makes an Alaskan cruise so special. We did arrive early at every port, which was very nice. We arrived in Juneau 2 hours early and in Victoria almost 2 hours early. Still too late and too little time in Victoria I'm afraid but it is quite a distance from Ketchikan and we did leave Ketchikan fairly early as well (1 PM). In Juneau we docked at the farthest pier from town. They did provide a shuttle to the base of the tramway but during the afternoon it inexplicably stopped running, leaving many passengers rather stranded with no choice but to walk back to the ship. At Hubbard glacier we had a prime viewing time from around 10 AM until 4 PM. There was quite a bit of ice in the water and the Captain did a fantastic job of picking his way through to get us as close as possible. The bow of the ship was accessible to passengers during this time and was a prime viewing spot. In Sitka we tendered into port, but as I recall, tender tickets were not needed after around 9 AM. In Ketchikan we docked right in town. In Victoria we docked about ½ mile from the inner harbour but no shuttle was provided. Shore excursions are easy to pre-book and our tickets were waiting in our suite when we arrived. We went sea kayaking in Juneau, which was strenuous but spectacular. We took the semi-submersible tour in Sitka which was fascinating. There is an immense amount of sealife in the Alaskan waters and seeing it up close was wonderful. My sister did the snorkeling tour in Ketchikan and gave it rave reviews as well. We went to the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan and thoroughly enjoyed it. Debarkation in Seattle was done well, very organized. We took a taxi to our hotel and were able to check in at 9 AM. I chose the Hotel Monaco because it seemed interesting, I got a good rate and it was centrally located. I'm glad I made the choice. It is a unique hotel with funky decor, goldfish "companions" in the rooms, leopard print bathrobes and a nightly wine tasting. Not your average hotel. To put this review in perspective, this was my 10th cruise and 2nd Alaska cruise. I've sailed with HAL once before, Princess twice, Celebrity once, Crystal once, Radisson Seven Seas twice, Windstar once and Disney once. I'm in my late 30's and was traveling with my husband, 5 year old daughter and my sister and her husband. I very much enjoyed this trip and think the Vista class ships, while not for everyone, are a good option. I do feel that HAL has made some improvements, especially regarding facilities but food and service have slipped. I'd put HAL up with Celebrity (and surprisingly, Disney) for overall quality. I would sail with them again, especially if I could have an aft suite! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
The first Alaska cruise ever of the Oosterdam was incredible. Everyone traveling to Alaska on her is guaranteed to have a wonderful trip. The Holland America line strives for perfection in everything they do with the realization that there ... Read More
The first Alaska cruise ever of the Oosterdam was incredible. Everyone traveling to Alaska on her is guaranteed to have a wonderful trip. The Holland America line strives for perfection in everything they do with the realization that there is no such thing as perfection. They came pretty close on this cruise. Of course, I have a few thoughts on improvements, but overall this was an excellent value for a week long vacation. Embarkation. The travel tickets stated to embark at 2:00 p.m., but we arrived earlier. We arrived via shuttle express from the Seatac Airport. The cost for 5 adults was $37.50 total. There was a long line wrapped outside of the building and around the corner. A porter immediately took our luggage and we got in the line at 1:10 p.m. After a half an hour, a Holland America employee said all Penthouse, Deluxe Suites, and Superior Suites could go to the Suites only line. The sign said to the contrary, but I obeyed. As we were baking in the sun (I know it was hot and sunny in Seattle), we were happy to get into the building. We only had a Superior Suite so we were worried that we weren't supposed to be in the suite line, but no one ever said anything. In actuality the other line went faster since they had four ticket agents serving the suite line and about 14 agents serving the other line. The non-suite passengers behind us got to a ticket agent about 2 minutes before we did in the suite line. The agents were using a brand new computer system and there were some glitches. They took my picture three times, scanned my passport three times, and scanned my credit card two times. A different ticket agent gave my room card to another passenger who quickly realized that it was not her room key and returned it. When you get your picture taken, it is this little computer wand. We joked that it was like the wand in the move "Men in Black" and we would forget the line and have a wonderful cruise from that point forward. Next, you have the embarkation photo line. Next, you have the security and x-ray machine line. We took a lot of wine on board. They checked the bottles to make sure the foil was sealed and that we had not replaced the contents with other spirits. We then were off to the gangway and we boarded the ship at 2:45 p.m. We were pointed to our room (which actually was the wrong direction). After walking almost the length of the ship, I questioned why the numbers were going up and not down. We then had dissension in our group since the crew told us to go that way. When we got to our room, it was ready and the luggage was already there. I was impressed that our luggage had beat us to our room. Next, we went to the Lido for lunch. It was crowded. You needed to find a table before getting into line. We then toured the spa. Even if you don't plan to use the Greenhouse Spa, it is fun to see the spa rooms. Next, it was lifeboat drill time. I loved that it was women and children first with men in back. Many men didn't step back and I can imagine in a true evacuation it is every person for themselves. We then sailed away on our verandah drinking champagne and dreaming of the fun week to come. THE FOOD: There are four primary ways to eat on the ship: The Lido buffet, the Vista Dining Room, the Odyssey Restaurant at the Pinnacle Grill (the $ 20.00 charge restaurant), and room service. The Lido - The Lido has five stations on each side: a sandwich station, rotating hot entrees, desserts, and italian on port side or asian wok on the starboard side. There is a salad bar on the aft of the lido and beverage stations both forward and aft. You must remember it is a buffet not a gourmet restaurant. As far as buffets go, it was great. You are not allowed to serve yourself food except the salad bar, dessert bar, and pizza. The staff serves your entrees on the buffet line onto your plate. My theory is that it's done to help stop another break out of Norwalk virus from filthy non-hand washers. I loved that dirty hands were not touching the handles. At breakfast, the orange juice at the beverage stations is concentrate, but the OJ at the dessert station is fresh squeezed and yummy. At breakfast, you can get an omelette cooked to order or scrambled eggs cooked to order. The omelette line took about 10-15 minutes. Every day there is ham, thick meaty bacon, sausage link, sausage patty, and turkey sausage. There are no hashbrowns, but hashbrown tater triangles instead. The toast machine is not powerful so they have to send your bread, bagel, or muffin through twice so order toast right away. It is hard to get a coffee refill although they try. You can always get up and get it yourself. At lunch, there is very good pizza with a nice cornmeal crust. There are always two kinds of pasta with at least four different sauces such as pesto cream, bolognese, four cheese, meat, or marinara. The lunch items are various chicken, burgers, roasts, etc. At dinner, the menu is similar to the primary entrees being served in the Vista dining room. The lido menu is posted by the aft starboard elevators for each meal each day. I went to the late night asian buffet. There was hardly anyone there eating. They also had late night dutch, italian, french, and dessert. The dessert night was chaos. It is at the Lido pool on Thursday night and there were just too many people there. Vista Dining Room - They have breakfast every day. Any attire is allowed for breakfast or lunch. On port days they have express breakfast or lunch were you are guaranteed in and out service in 30-40 minutes. Express breakfast was scrambled eggs, tater triangles, two sausage, two bacon, half a grilled tomato, toast, juice, and coffee. It beat the chaos of the lido buffet. Lunch was usually multiple courses. Examples of starters are indonesian shrimp cocktail, scallop cocktail, calamari rings, fresh melon cocktail, and fresh fruit. There was a salad, clam chowder, crab chowder, bean soup, and similar soups next. Entrees varied from grilled pastrami on rye, hamburgers (with grilled onions, mushrooms, and swiss cheese) and fries, fish and chips, asian rice noodle stir fry, grilled sirloin on foccacia bread, or chicken caesar salad. Next desserts for lunch were ice cream, apple pie al a mode, chocolate mousses, and coffee flan. We only ate dinner three times in the Vista. We had dinner on Tuesday which was informal night, Wednesday which was dutch night, and Thursday which was formal night. The menu varied from pot roast, bami goreng, pecan crusted halibut, salmon, veal tenderloin, and lobster and filet mignon. I had heard discussion of the baked Alaska parade. They had it on Thursday night and it was wonderfully fun. We all clapped in unison as the staff paraded through with the baked alaska. Overall, the Vista dining room staff was extraordinarily attentive and friendly. You could order multiple entrees, desserts, etc. If you always ordered ice tea or milk, it would be waiting for you when you arrived. The new seating times are First Seating 5:45 p.m. upper level, Second Seating 6:15 p.m. lower level, Third Seating 8:00 p.m. upper level, and Fourth Seating 8:30 p.m. lower level. We had the second seating which was hard to make with the ports in Juneau and Victoria. Everyone wanted First or Second seating. The maitre'd had 250 requests for seating changes for him which were seven pages long. Our family was split between two tables and we wanted to be seated together. He was very discouraging as there was only one open seat at second seating in the entire dining room. I was polite and he accommodated us. Another lady was rude and she got no help. You have to be realistic. If you book the cruise only one or two months out, you will not be accommodated on seating as passengers who book one year or six months out will be rewarded. I believe this is fair to those who commit and book early. The Odyssey Restaurant at The Pinnacle Grill - This is incredible. We ate there three times. Some of our family at there four times. There is nothing better. It is half price on day one and $ 15.00 on Victoria day. All other days it is $ 20.00 and well worth the $ 20.00 price tag. It can only accommodate 120 to 150 guests each night so book early. We prepaid for the first night and made the reservation before boarding. We were charged for it a second time and the charge was readily removed from our bill. This restaurant is wonderful. Our table linens had been pressed so there were no fold marks in them. There are two wine glasses and one water goblet when you sit down. We ordered wine that required a different glass and they brought different wine glasses. We brought our own wine as well and they decanted it for us. The wine steward, Ferdinand Basa, is friendly and attentive. We loved chatting with him each night. The meal starts with three choices of bread with butter or basil olive oil. Next, you have chef's surprise which is salmon tar tar with caviar, walnut crusted goat cheese, and vegetarian sushi. Next, the appetizers choices are clam chowder, mixed greens with vinaigrette, crab cakes, duck breast, Thai chicken soup with coconut milk, and a one or two others. The entrees are the best filet mignon you could want. There are two sizes to choose from the petite cut or the pinnacle cut. It is so thick and tender. It makes the filet mignon in the Vista seem like a cowboy boot (just kidding). You can get a gigantic porterhouse steak, a rib eye steak, halibut, salmon, wild mushroom ravioli, rack of lamb, or lobster/surf and turf. The presentation of the food is beautiful. The service is exceptional. The water spots on the glasses are polished out. The china is Bulgari. The wine glasses are probably Riedel. The desserts are grand marnier chocolate volcano cake, baked Alaska (flamed with real alcohol table side), fresh fruit angel food cake, or fresh cheese plate. The desserts were almost too rich. I can't wait to go back. I may eat all my meals there next time. The coffee was delicious. It had a nice froth on top. It was just a normal coffee and not a speciality drink. If you have the penthouse suite and maybe Deluxe Superior Suites, you can breakfast and lunch there free of charge. Room Service. We only had room service three times. We had coffee and OJ in the morning. You give them a half an hour range to deliver it in. We said 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. and it arrived at 8:25 a.m. We tried ordering room service Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. and I was on hold waiting for someone to pick up for 20 minutes. Other food. There is a grill with hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs by the Lido pool. The french fries were piping hot and crunchy. I only had to wait 3-4 minutes for my food. There is also taco bar every day with nachos, rice, tacos, and basic mexican food. I did attend the Dutch High Tea on Sunday afternoon in the Vista Dining room. It was petite sandwiches, cream puffs, cookies, cheese, meats, eggs. A lot of the desserts were similar to the late night dessert buffet on Thursday at the Lido pool. While cruising the Hubbard glacier, there is dutch pea soup served on deck. There is a salmon barbecue on Friday afternoon at the aft pool deck. I saw the fresh salmon come on board in Sitka. THE CABINS: We had the superior suite. It was great. We had fresh fruit in our room the entire trip, blankets for the verandah, personalized stationary, chocolates on our pillows etc. We had plenty of room for three of us. We had a king size bed with a couch bed. We booked a room on the aft bulge so we had verandah sight lines both forward and back. We were on the port side of the ship. We had the disabled room so there were no thresholds in and out onto the verandah or into the bathroom. We had a 20" TV with DVD player. Our family members booked a non-disabled superior suite and they had a 27" TV with DVD player. The TVs seemed so large. The non-disabled room had tons of counter space in the bathroom. For new cruisers, flushing the toilet sounds like launching a torpedo. There is no quiet flushing in the middle of the night. The jacuzzi tub is a normal shaped bathtub (rectangular) with jets in it. It will only fit one person not two. There are about 200 plus DVD titles to rent from the front desk. We kept joking about renting Titanic or the Perfect Storm. There are 11 different HAL channels advertising excursions, the spa, the ports of call, the dreaded shopping ambassador channel, the aft camera, the forward camera. I loved tuning into the see the ships speed, conditions, GPS location etc. There are two movie channels, TNT, CNN International, and ESPN. There are no other channels. The cabin steward, Wulan, was great. On the lighter side, we joke that we were disturbed that Wulan was monitoring our bowel movements since the toilet paper and kleenex seemed to be folded into a little point all the time. How did he know? I suggest messing with your cabin steward and refolding the toilet paper into the little point. Just kidding. There was typically not much of a wait for the elevators. If you use the mid-ship elevators, there is the bank in the middle. On each end there are the pretty glass elevators with views of the ocean, 9 times out of 10 these elevators are faster as guests seemed to not be able to walk the 15 extra feet to push button for these. There are fresh flowers every one. You get a tiny bud base with three carnations in it in your cabin on arrival. We ordered the Bon Voyage bouquet which was three purplish antheriums with greenery. I would go with a different bouquet next time. There are blooming orchids on every table in the lido. These are spectacular. There huge flower arrangements in the Crow's Nest and around the ship. The table arrangements in the Vista were changed. PENTHOUSE SUITE Our table mates had the Abel Tasman Penthouse Suite which is starboard side. They paid for it and were not a free upgrade. They gave us a tour. It is about the size of four cabins. There is a tiny little kitchen slot narrower than the hallway with a full refrigerator, microwave, toaster, blender. The floor is marble. The main sitting area has a large high backed wrap around couch with extra tables and chairs. The TV is probably 50" with a full sound system, CD, DVD, Stereo. A queen bed folds out from under the entertainment center. There is a dining room table with side buffet. There is crystal glasses, silver service, china etc. A giant bowl of fruit. There is desk with an ocean view. There are two bathrooms. One with only a toilet and sink and the other with a full jacuzzi tub for two. The tile is hand painted. The bed linens are beautiful, but appear to be the same as the Deluxe Verandah suite. The curtains are automatic push button. There is a hot tub our on the verandah. It was very nice, but you can be just as happy in the Deluxe Verandah suite. As a side note, we raved about the Pinnacle to her so she wanted a reservation for Wednesday night and she could not get one even though she was in the Penthouse suite. ENTERTAINMENT: There was typically two movies a day in the Queen's lounge. One movie at 11:00 a.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. The other movie is at 10:00 p.m. The movies change every week but a sample of the movies are as follows: Big Fish, Against the Ropes, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Paycheck, The Big Bounce, Mona Lisa Smile, and Love Actually. The 10:00 p.m. movie becomes the two matinees for the next day. These same movies are also shown in your room on the ship's move channel less the popcorn. LOUNGE SHOWS: The Vista Lounge not to be confused with the Vista Dining Room has two shows night, 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The schedule was as follows: Saturday = magician Sunday = Show production Wild, Wild West (Rockin' Road) Monday = Trumpet virtuoso Tuesday = Comedian, Liar and Thief Wednesday = Magician Thursday = Show production Escape Friday = Movie Mystic River The magician was fun. I could see one of the tricks (excuse my illusions from the balcony) as the lovely assistant crammed into a hidden space in a trunk. He could use a little practice, but everyone seemed to have fun. I heard one lady gasp with glee at his reading the audiences mind trick. I liked Wild, Wild West. It is like a hokey clean Las Vegas show production. It was so cheesy that I loved it. I would go to it again. It was singing and dancing to Dolly Parton, Leonard Skynard, Garth Brooks, etc. My sister and her husband couldn't take it and left early. The Comedian was a special guest. He was very funny and there was standing room only. I would recommend seeing him. CRUISE DIRECTOR ACTIVITIES: The cruise director is Dane Butcher. I loved his name. There were trivia contests, bingo games, newlywed games, and name that tune. There was even a version of American Idol for the passengers so if you are talented, start practicing. There were various putting, chipping, and longest drive competitions. Where else can one hit whiffle golf balls into the middle of the pool? I did the kitchen tour on Sunday. I was very interested in the behind the scenes so it was fun. It takes about 20 minutes and is self guided with flyer. Take your time instead of stampeding through like cattle. There are cookie samples, cheese samples, and even reindeer sausage. They have pictures of how to plate the food and directions on building the perfect pastrami sandwich if you are observant. For example, the room service pastrami sandwich is to have ten slices of pastrami on it. CASINO: There are Casino tournaments every other day for slot machines (Sunday), Sports bar Poker ( Tuesday) and Black Jack (Thursday). The entry fee is $ 20.00. The prize for each tournament is $ 500.00. My brother-in-law won the black jack tournament. It is the person with the most chips after seven hands. We played craps at night and won a little money. The slots range from nickel to dollar machines. There are also video poker machines. There was no pai gow table game. They had single zero roulette, black jack, craps, let it ride, and maybe one other card game. The Art Auction looked like a dud. The pieces, except collector pieces don't include the frames, and had high reserves on the them. The reserves ranged from $ 60.00 to $ 1400.00. A lost of pieces had reserves of $ 300 to $ 400 each. There were no bargains to be had. It mostly like really expensive souvenir. STORES: The Shopping Arcade had some good prices. There was an Alaska Scrapbook for $ 9.95 that sold in port for $ 14.95. There is a middle kiosk area where the merchandise changes daily. It starts as liquor then jewelry, russian items while in Sitka, jade jewelry etc. There are free liquor samples when you board on Saturday only. THE SPA: The spa staff was very nice. I had the hot rock massage. It lasted about 1 1/2 hours and cost $ 159.00. I would recommend it highly as I enjoyed it very much. They are very discreet and your modesty is never compromised. They keep you covered in all the appropriate places. There is a work out gym at the front of the spa which is free of charge. Just walk right in and help yourself. The spa was booked up early so get your reservation as soon as you board the ship. THE SHIP: It is large and easy to get lost. It was extremely clean. The crew was painting, varnishing, and cleaning the promenade deck walls and rails the entire week. The public bathrooms are nice, private, and clean. The bathrooms are also plentiful. The aft pool is adults only. The pools open at 7am and close anywhere from 7pm to 9pm. The hot tubs close at 10pm each night. Only one of the two hot tubs worked on the aft pool. It is a very tight squeeze with four adults as these are small hot tubs. The pool is so warm and hot it is like swimming in a hot tub. The inside lido pool allows kids. Kids are to be 14 to go into the hot tub, but this rule was widely broken. There are three hot tubs at the lido pool. There is a retractable roof and it was opened during the trip since it was so nice. It was open while in port in Juneau and while we sailed away that night. The Crow's Nest was a favorite hang out. We took cards up there and played while enjoying one of the best views on the ship. There are these leather recliners that are highly coveted for the view and they were never vacant. The Ocean Bar is where the art auction takes place during the day. The Explorer's lounge is a nice place for an after dinner drink. The waiter brings around truffles to each table. The Northern Lights is the dance club. There was dancing past 1:30 in the morning. It is too loud to talk in there, but it was quite the happening place especially since drinks are 2 for 1 at 9:30 p.m each night. Overall, I found drink prices to be very fair. Booker's Whiskey which is a top shelf brand cost the same as Jim Beam. Almost all drinks on the rocks were $ 4.75 as well as the drink of the day. The drink of the day is $ 4.75 every day. The schedule of drinks was as follows: Sunday: Mojitos Monday: Handshaken Champagne dreams Tuesday: Handshaken Lemon Drops Wednesday: Handshaken Margaritas Thursday: Handshaken Spiced daiquiris Friday: Handshaken Lime Smashes. You can easily run up a several hundred dollar bar bill without even trying very hard at all. A very drunk stranger bought us drinks. We saw him later than evening and I don't think he knew who we were. I am sure his wife was flipped out when she got the bill at the end of the cruise. YOUR BILL: You can go to the front desk and get an update on your charges everyday. It takes only seconds. I ordered a mocha for $ 1.85 at the Windstar Cafe and walked one minute over to the front desk and the charge was already on my bill. We did have three different billing problems which were corrected either on the spot or by the next day. Keep all of your charge slips. We were mostly billed for drinks we did not order, but these were corrected without hassle. The front desk staff was polite and helpful. They cannot adjust bills for the concessionaires such as the spa, the photo gallery, or the shopping arcade. THE PORTS JUNEAU: We docked at 11:54 with the port side facing town. The Diamond Princess was ahead of us and the Royal Caribbean boat was tendering to the dock. We were off the ship with no big lines. We decided to do our own thing. We walked to the capital building. It is a ten minute up hill walk from the cruise dock. After we toured the building we flagged a cab to take us to Alaska Brewing Company. The charge was $ 17.00 for four adults. We then drank beer, toured, drank more beer, bought beer, and then took another cab. We took a cab for a 2 hour tour for $ 55.00. We drove to Mendenhall Glacier which was a must see. It was very pretty. There is twenty minute walk each way to a very large waterfall. We then took the cab to Chapel on the Lake which is a serene chapel with a view across lake Auke with Mendenhall Glacier in the background. We then went up onto Douglas Island across from town with views back to the ship. The best shops were the ones nearest the cruise ship docks. SITKA: This was my favorite port. You must tender off the ship here so I suggest booking a tour as you get priority for tendering off. There was still a tender line at 10:30am. We went fishing and got the first tender of the morning. There is not a lot to do here so I suggest taking a tour. It is all about the natural beauty of Alaska. The ship is in port for 11 hours. The starboard side faces town and the port side faces a beautiful mountain similar to Mount Fuji. There is some shopping which is Russian influenced. You can do the the Raptor Center, the Sitka National Park (a ten to fifteen minute walk), or Castle Hill where US purchased Alaska from Russia. It is the beauty of Sitka that will make you love her. We were the only cruise ship in town the entire day. KETCHIKAN: This is the rainiest city in North America and we got ripped off. There was not a cloud in the sky. It was sunny and I got sunburned. This is the best shopping of the entire trip. There are lots of fun stores. Again, I like the ones closest to the ship dock. The port side faced town. You are only here for less than five hours so the time will fly by you. VICTORIA: It is a long walk to town from the cruise ship dock. A cab ride is about $ 6.00 canadian to the Empress Hotel. Most shops stayed open. We did a pub crawl which was fun. The starboard side faced the Diamond Princess with the port side facing the harbor. EXCURSIONS: Sport Fishing in Sitka - We loved this excursion. There were four guests total on our boat. The boat is probably 25' long. There is not a lot of room to move about. We fished for king salmon and caught two total on the boat. They were very large fish for lower 48 state standards. One fish was about 32lbs and the other was over 40lbs. They was a lot of wind chop so the boat bobbed about. I took dramamine and still went chumming over the side. I would fish again. The captain kept us out until the last possible minute so we all could get fish. Sunny days are not the best for fishing as the salmon stay deeper so if it is cloudy you may have better odds. It was worth it. We tendered back to the ship with our salmon and purchased a box for $ 7.50 to place the salmon into for freezing for the rest of the trip. We had to cut the head and tails off and the 32lb. salmon barely fit in the large box. The salmon were frozen hard and waiting for us when we departed the ship on Saturday morning. Historical Tour and National Park in Sikta - My mom took this excursion and loved it. The tour guides they hire are top notch. They provide so much local history and information it makes for a great tour. My mom thought it was a good value as well. They saw 20 bald eagles in one tree. Even the tour guide who lived in the Sitka for the last twenty years was amazed. Adventure Kart and Jet Boat in Ketchikan - We enjoyed this adventure. The staff said it was even better when it is raining since the adventure carts are great in the mud. We took a specially built jet boat out past where the highway ends for a 55 minute ride. The jet boat is enclosed and goes 33 knots. There is a guide who provides very interesting local history. This trip was rated strenuous. There is nothing strenuous except you have to climb down a ladder to get off the jet boat. They provide rubber rain suits, helmets, goggles, and masks. It was so dusty since there was no rain. We got filthy on the adventure carts, but that was part of the fun. These are two seat Hammerheads. The scenery is great along a cliff with views of the water. I would recommend this trip. The description said we got to keep the driving gloves, but we didn't. You take a bus back to town on a logging road. The driver was hilarious. He drove the bus like an adventure cart since we were behind schedule. I spoke to others who did whale watching in juneau, wildlife viewing in Sitka, and the duck boat. Everyone loved the tour guides and found these to be fun tours. I was impressed with the quality of the tour staff. SCENERY: The scenery is impressive. We saw humpback whales on the way up and the way back from the ship. At the Hubbard Glacier, we saw two grizzly bears on shore. We saw seals at the Hubbard Glacier on the way up and back. There are schools of porpoises on the way up and back. Who said the bald eagle is endangered? They were every where at every port. The ship spent almost three hours cruising the glacier. The ship cruises it on both port and starboard sides so everyone can have a view from their verandah. They also open up the bow of the ship which you can enter special from level four. It never rained the entire trip. It was sunny and hot. Everyone complained how hot is was in port since everyone expected Alaska to be colder. We all baked in the sun and carried our coats around with us. The Alaskans were in t-shirts and tank tops. It was over 60 in every port and sunny. It was cold up next to the glacier, but there are tons of deck blankets everywhere. Alcohol In Juneau - our beer was confiscated when we reboarded. We bought alcohol Friday morning in the duty free store and we were allowed to take it back to our room, but prior to that time they stored it for you. We also bought beer on the last night in Victoria and took in back on board the ship. Canadian Customs hassled us that we were smuggling a national resource out of the country. As I said earlier, bring all the wine on board you want. There was wine, champagne, beer pilsner glasses, and high ball glasses waiting in our cabin plus a corkscrew. We tipped the wine stewards and we were charged the corkage fee about half the time. DISEMBARKING: You can wait in your cabin or a public area while waiting to disembark. The first group called was at 8:35 a.m. We were group 15 and we were not called until about 10:45 a.m. Customs was very slow as both the Oosterdam and Diamond Princess converge into a single customs area with about 14 agents. It took until almost 11:30 to clear customs. Our friends had group 38 so I had no idea when they got off the ship. People were lined up to get on the boat for next week, but they were not going to be ready for them for quite a while. ODD FACTS: We tried to declare our extra liquor in the library to the customs agent, but no one ever showed up. I then read the customs declarations laying out on the table signed by the ships Purser. The ship had $ 665,000.00 on board plus $ 8,415.00 in personal checks and traveller's checks. When you do your evaluations at the end of the cruise, personally name those who provide good service. It helps their performance reviews to include names. The new tipping policy did not go into effect despite a letter in my packet stating it would. The staff I spoke to felt they would not make as much money with the new system which surprised me. OVERALL It was a wonderful trip. I wrote on my evaluation form that I could die happy now after seven day on the Oosterdam. It is a most memorable time. Remember, you make your own fun and we had a blast. Nothing is perfect, they try pretty hard to make it that way. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
I have never written a cruise review before because we've never been cruising but I just had to! Please be patient, because we (husband and I) are still so amazed at what took us so long. Just got home from the MS Oosterdam's ... Read More
I have never written a cruise review before because we've never been cruising but I just had to! Please be patient, because we (husband and I) are still so amazed at what took us so long. Just got home from the MS Oosterdam's maiden voyage to Alaska and our first cruise ever. Wow, we're hooked! First, we chose Alaska because we're not hot weather fans. We chose Holland America because we like a more sedate vacation, and our parents like HAL better than the other one they went on (this is their sixth cruise). And we chose the Oosterdam because 1) it starts in Seattle (we live just outside of the city) and 2) it's newer than the Amsterdam, which is also out of Seattle. Plus we wanted to be one of the first out of the block to Alaska. The EMBARKATION process was a little rough. HAL has a new terminal in the middle of the working harbor and I guess they were still getting used to it, this being the opening day of cruise season. It was confusing and the building is like a warehouse with minimal restroom amenities. The check-in staff was not particularly computer-literate and the dim lighting made it worse for them. But they were nice. As Deluxe Verandah Suite (S) passengers, we had our own line and that made it more tolerable. We were able to board the ship in a half hour of arrival at the terminal and went to the Lido Deck and sat out by the pool until our cabins were ready. HAL has a nice early embarkation deal where you can board early and have lunch from the Lido Deck. Evidently, the Oosterdam had been sitting in Seattle for several days prior to this cruise, having been repositioned across the Panama Canal, so everything was sparkling clean, clean, clean! DISEMBARKATION was extremely quick and easy. I think it was another S category per. The SHIP Oosterdam has been reviewed at other websites so I won't go into it. And since this was our first cruise, we had nothing to judge it by. We were very impressed with the subtle colors, the artwork and artifacts and the general condition they constantly maintained. If you can do it, book a DELUXE VERANDAH SUITE (S). It is tres roomy, the dressing room and bathroom have plenty of space, and the balcony is quite large. Lots of storage space, great water pressure in the shower and the amenities are WONDERFUL!!! The flowers, boutonniere and champagne from the Captain and staff, the thick robes, the seven pillows (feather pillows on request), free laundry and pressing, full breakfast, high tea and pre-dinner hot appetizers in your suite, priority tender service to Sitka, preferential reservations for the Pinnacle Grill, the Captain's receptions and oh my, don't miss the Captain's Luncheon toward the end. That was incredible! My husband, Mr. LatteandCookie-Head thought that the endless lattes alone were worth the money. They have a great espresso machine in the Neptune Lounge that is a do-it-yourself specialty coffeemaker. It also makes regular coffee and decaf versions of the specialties. The concierges were great answering questions and making arrangements. The CRUISE to Alaska was incredible! We had sunshine EVERY SINGLE DAY and someone said one day it got up to 70° (in Sitka). The visibility was terrific and we even saw two grizzlies high up on a mountainside near Hubbard Glacier. Lots of tanning (burning?) going on and people were actually in the outdoor pool with the retractable roof open at the glacier. Supposedly May is considered one of the dryer months in Alaska. It was truly magnificent!!! Also unusual, so don't count on it. The FOOD experience overall was not particularly outstanding but it was okay/good. The food in the Vista Dining Room was inconsistent. Some good, some not so good, most came out just warm to cold. The filet mignon a la Oscar on formal night was excellent! On the last night we chose to go to the dining room and I bypassed everything except the salad and then had two entrees. Yikes! But they were both very good. The experience at the Pinnacle Grill was phenomenal. Unfortunately my first rib steak came out overdone so they fell over each other apologizing and bringing out a second whole rib steak with three more warm side orders (yes, I ordered three side dishes). We thought it was worth the $20 since you could have as much or as little as you want of anything. Our STEWARDS were wonderful. And friendly and polite and hard working. We have absolutely no complaints. If he's there, go see the comedian Lee Bayless. He's from Oklahoma, and he had even the very serious Mr. LatteandCookie-Head doubled over. And we really enjoyed the last show which showcased the cruise staff. It was a tearjerker. I want to go on and on but I'm afraid I'm boring you. The gym was great, didn't try the foo-foo spa stuff. Liked our shore excursions (Sitka Bike & Hike was too short but the Mendenhall helicopter ride was DYNO!!!) But I do want to let you know that after all that hard work eating, the magic number is 2lbs. Thank goodness for stretchy fabric. If I can answer any questions, let me know. Now we are believers! WooHoo and Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Ms Oosterdam Alaska May 08 to May 15, 2004 Superior Veranda Suite Cabin 6117. This was our second cruise, our first on Holland America. (Norwegian Sun, Alaska, August 2003). My husband and I had a fabulous time. We are both in our ... Read More
Ms Oosterdam Alaska May 08 to May 15, 2004 Superior Veranda Suite Cabin 6117. This was our second cruise, our first on Holland America. (Norwegian Sun, Alaska, August 2003). My husband and I had a fabulous time. We are both in our mid-30s with no kids. I would choose HAL again for a cruise. Our biggest complaint: the other passengers, not the ship nor the crew. Out of the 1800 passengers on board, 1200 of them were with a group called "Stampin Up." This was a reward cruise and convention for them. From reading other posts, I think this was not the typical HAL clientele. Many of them were rude, but we ignored them and had a great time. We brought our own wine and champagne on board, paying the $10 corkage fee in the Vista Dining Room and the Pinnacle. This was really worth it. We got to drink what we enjoyed at a reasonable price. (It is still cheaper to buy it and pay the corkage fee than to pay for wine on board.) They will not let you bring beer or hard liquor as we purchased Alaskan Brewing Beer in Juneau and had to check it. It was delivered to our room at the end of the cruise. The Pinnacle was delicious! It is worth the $20 per person price. My filet mignon was fabulous and the surf and turf (5 oz filet mignon with lobster tail) is available every day (another delicious entrEe). If you make your reservation through the 1-800 number, it is only $10pp on departure day. It is a much quieter atmosphere, romantic if planning a special evening alone. Vista Dining Room: The food was tasty with a good variety. The table service was good. However, when we went for lunch with friends, the host tried to seat 5 of us at a table for 4, ran off, then we couldn't get any help to find a larger table. On the second formal evening, they did the flaming baked Alaska parade. It was fun to watch. I like it. Lido Buffet: The layout with multiple stations eased crowding. The table clean-up service was too slow and could use improving - especially before and after port stops when it was crowded. They do cook to order omelets for breakfast. This is too slow and the omelets are awful (an exception). Most of the food was good. The ship is well lit and easy to navigate (although the stairwell sign near the front office has the fore and aft arrows pointing the wrong way). The glass elevators mid-ship are much quicker than the central elevators. The quality of the room steward varied. We had horrible service the first two nights (no soap in the bathroom - we had to ask for it), then it improved. We compared notes with friends who had the same style/size room in another part of the ship. They received much better service. We did the fishing excursion in Sitka. If you catch a fish, you can pay to have it processed ($4.50/lb) and shipped home ($2.50/lb) OR pay $7.50 for a Styrofoam lined cardboard box and HAL will freeze it for you on board. The box will fit one king salmon. You just pick up your box on your way off the ship in Seattle. This worked great for us as we are from the Seattle area. You do have to tender off the boat in Sitka. If you are on a HAL excursion, you get priority to tender. We were supposed to tender beginning at 7am, but were delayed by customs/immigration until 8am. There was still a line at 10:30am waiting to tender. The Hubbard Glacier was beautiful. The ship zigzagged back and forth so those on either side would have a good view. We saw sea lions, porpoises, whales and bears from the ship. Beautiful, scenic, awe-inspiring. We also did the Adventure Kart and Jet Boat Expedition in Ketchikan. The jetboat ride is great. It is a big, covered boat as you would expect for sightseeing. We rode the jetboat up to the Adventure Kart site. The karts were great! It is fun zipping along logging roads, taking a few sightseeing breaks. We saw a deer and eagles quite close up. The brochure description is a bit misleading. The jumpsuit is a big rubber jacket and pants. (Very hot as we had good weather.) The snack and beverage is a snickers or granola bar and a bottle of water. We were not given driving gloves as "yours to keep." The ride back to the Oosterdam was on a bus. It was thrilling and fun; I would do it again. HAL headquarters/reservations have a few issues. 1) I ordered flowers sent to a friend on board. They got to the right room, but were addressed to the wrong person. 2) I made a pre-paid reservation for the Pinnacle. I received a card acknowledging the payment for embarkation day, but they lost the reservation and billed my shipboard account for the pre-paid meal. I discovered the mistake upon review of my shipboard account. The front office immediately fixed it. Great service by the front office. 3) I received a letter with my HAL travel documents stating the new tipping policy would go into effect on this cruise. This was not true. The tipping fee was not added to the shipboard account. I fear many employees were stiffed because the guests believed the letter. Overall it was a great experience. I would travel HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We ... Read More
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We are both in our late 50's. Having the two weeks also gave us more time to get acquainted with the ship and staff. We definitely knew (mostly) what to expect by the second week. These ratings and comments will be mine, as my friend went with me as a favor to me, and he frankly expected more than I did. He had a good time but he would possibly not rate some things as highly as I do (like the food). Embarkation - with an S category cabin we had no line to wait in, but the HAL people seemed in general to be harried and overwhelmed. They were mostly less than friendly. The woman who took our tickets might have been new because she made quite a few mistakes, had trouble understanding that we were boarding for two weeks (English was her first language), made mistakes we had to correct, and seemed not to know quite what she was doing through the whole process. Cabin - As several people have said on the boards, the S cabins are worth every penny. At first I wondered why there was both a tub (with whirlpool) and shower, and another separate shower, other than for people in a rush to get ready for formal night, and maybe if more than 2 people were in the cabin. However, on the days when we had some rather rough seas, I was really glad we had the "extra" enclosed shower with three sides that were easy to lean into, rather than the two sides of the tub/shower combination. The two sinks and vanity cabinets were a plus. These cabins are about 518 sq. ft. including verandah, and they are not only roomy, but come with extras like a flat screen TV that swivels for viewing anywhere in the room, DVD player, lots and lots of places to put all the clothes we brought (and didn't need) for two weeks, plenty of comfortable seating and/or napping room, not to mention the Neptune Lounge. Did I mention the Neptune Lounge! That is another huge plus for many reasons, one of which is the coffee. Room service coffee is undrinkable, in my opinion (I have high standards in that department) and being able to step into the Neptune Lounge for the best-from-a-machine-coffee I've ever had, was terrific. They also have wonderful things available in the food category from morning to night. However, getting half and half is another matter. The Neptune Lounge sometimes had half and half, sometimes it was 1%. I'm not kidding! Our first night in the Pinnacle Grille, our waiter told us they had no half and half. I asked another waiter, and she said the same thing. About half way (no pun intended) through the meal, our waiter ceremoniously brought some half and half. Our second night in the Pinnacle, they had cream. In the Vista dining room, sometimes there was cream, sometimes something else entirely. I think I always got half and half from room service, but I had my friend buy two pints of half and half in Juneau (our first port) since if you can't tell, I'm a little fanatical about my coffee and cream. Staff - and stewards - a mixed bag but mostly very good. The concierge's were always helpful and were we ever glad we had them, several times, to straighten things out for us. For example, they made reservations and got a confirmation for us the first week for the Pinnacle Grille for our second Saturday. The concierge logged it, as they log everything they do for guests, including the fact that the reservation was made and confirmed through Peter, the Pinnacle manager. That Saturday, we were informed by the Pinnacle staff that there was no reservation and that they could not accommodate us. The concierge got on the phone (as did I) and about 2 hours and several conversations later, they informed us that they'd moved heaven and earth to fit us in. Now I know that it's not necessarily the tables available but the wait staff available that determines reservations, but guess what? There were two to three other couples, at the most from 6:00 PM that night (our requested time) to 7:20 PM, when a few more people started to arrive. There were other lapses that should not have occurred, but most of the staff were generally very good to excellent. Our cabin steward, waiters and assistants, and the concierge's were wonderful as were many of the HAL people, but others, a few too many "others", were not up to any standard that HAL should be aiming for. Whoever handled the phone calls in the Pinnacle about our lost reservation was terrible (may have been more than one person) as they kept trying to shift the blame to the concierge staff. Some of the staff in the Lido were sour and sometimes they didn't know where things were, like the milk. Turns out that wasn't at the "drinks" station but at the ice cream station. Room service was prompt, often coming way too early. Mostly that wasn't a problem for me but an hour earlier than requested on many occasions, even when specifically requested "no earlier than" could use some improvement. Food - in general was pretty good. My filet mignon was really well-done on our first night in the Pinnacle, and yes, I could have sent it back but I really didn't want the fuss or the wait. The flavor was excellent. The Vista dining room is mostly pretty good, but not excellent. Presentation seems to be most important. As others have said, some food is pretty bland (and I'm not a big fan of hot spicy food!). The Lido has an okay selection of food, but the strong smell of garlic (and I love garlic) was a little too strong. Room service food is okay. Never more than that. They did their best to accommodate "off menu" requests, however. I'm going to give my opinion on the art with a caveat first - I'm no expert. Nonetheless, I think the art is overrated by HAL. I'm just not sure where they spent that $1 million. Maybe $100 (dollars) here and $150 there. Atmosphere - I didn't like the so-called art auction's noise level, the daily pieces of junk mail advertising ship's specials and other shopping specials or the loud announcements about bingo and some of the other entertainment. They could seriously tone down the consumeritis level. I was grateful that none of these announcements were piped into the cabins. But I did like the many small areas to sit and read, visit, watch the beautiful scenery go by, or just daydream. Except for those darn hawking announcements and the intrusively noisy art auctions. That stuff is Not classy (didn't think I'd ever say something like that about a HAL ship). Since no one else has mentioned this in any of the reviews I've read, or on any of the boards, I'm mentioning it twice with the expectation that it will not change unless others feel the same and say so. Excursions - I went on one only; the floatplane to the Misty Fjords. That was stunning despite the low cloud cover, well organized and definitely worth the money. The only down side, if it mattered to anyone (and it didn't matter at all to me) was the in-flight narration on tape that skipped many parts. My friend went on the helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier and he said that was spectacular and the bus driver was funny and informative. I did not leave the ship for any sightseeing as that was not my interest. Passengers - the first week were fine and mostly were fine the second week except for the group that was somewhere over our head that week. We could have asked the concierge, or someone else, to speak to them, or probably even found them ourselves with little difficulty, but we didn't. Partly the white noise from the air conditioning helped to lessen the impact of all the jumping up and down and slamming of doors and partly I was too relaxed to let myself work up enough energy to do anything about it. I didn't go to any shows as again, that was not my interest. I did hear the music from small groups as we walked by and they were okay. The musicians in the Vista dining room on our second formal night were better. I might go with HAL again, but definitely not on a Vista class ship or any ship for over 1,000 passengers. Just too much of the hawking and herd mentality. It was not my first choice to begin with but the ships I might have preferred were not where I wanted to be sailing. Again as others have mentioned, I went with a positive attitude and was willing to overlook most problems unless there was a fairly simple way to fix it. When I say I was "relaxed" enough to overlook the passengers overhead, that really means something, as I would normally have a big problem with that level of noise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. ... Read More
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. There seemed to be plenty of staff involved in the process, and they knew their jobs. **We opted for a balcony for the first time, and, in the case of an Alaskan cruise, it is worth the difference. There is almost always scenery on this cruise. (Don't' expect a larger room, however; the extra square footage is the balcony.) **The food was the best we have encountered, though no one will like every entrEe, of course. Contrary to what we had been reading, the dining room service was excellent. There are now four seatings, and that may have improved the situation. The upper level on the main dining room (Vista) was used for the first seating at 5:45 p.m., and the lower for the 6:15 seating. I assume a similar process was in place for the two later seatings. **The crew of the ship (again contrary to some reviews) was extremely friendly. **The casino was a congenial one and featured looser slots than those in most casinos. **The show lounge is truly a show place and features $6M - $7M in the latest staging, lighting, and sound equipment. **The ship's library is a special place. Don't overlook it. **The ports are varied and, despite hosting as many as four ships in one or two locations, didn't seem crowded. **The Glacier Bay stop was outstanding; the captain maneuvered the ship about as close to the glacier as was practical and safe. **The four-glacier helicopter tour at Juneau is worth the money. We'll never forget landing and walking about on a glacier. We booked directly online with ERA Aviation and saved $44 per person compared to what the ship was charging for the same excursion. **At Stika, the "Russian" dance performance is fun. If you buy tickets on your own in town, they are only $7 each at the civic auditorium. **Disembarkation went very smooth for us. Only 20 minutes passed from the time we left our cabin until we were through the process and in a taxi. NEGATIVES **The entertainment was the weakest we have encountered. The guest magician and comedian were good, but the ship's troupe needs some work. Also, the selection of shows seemed odd given the destination and the average age of the audience. The loud, high-energy, production shows were more suited for a Carnival ship in the Caribbean **The ship's Internet rate of 75 cents per minute is far too high. Find an Internet access facility in the ports and prices will range from 5 to 25 cents per minute. **Last year, on a Princess ship, coffee was complimentary at every bar. On the Oosterdam, you either pay bar prices or make a journey to the Lido Deck every time you want a cup of coffee. **The stop in Victoria was disappointing. I suppose geography necessitates the late hours (8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.), but HAL should build in the price of the shuttle buses into town. Charging $5 just to get to the destination from the port on the edge of town is a bit tacky. There was no charge for similar shuttle service in Juneau when the ship had to dock 1.1 miles from city center. SUMMARY If you are cruising to Alaska on the Oosterdam this year, you are in for a treat! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
This was our first cruise, but certainly will not be our last. From the first moment of embarkation to our last day on board, our time on Holland America's 'Oosterdam' was a wonderful experience, the crew could not have been ... Read More
This was our first cruise, but certainly will not be our last. From the first moment of embarkation to our last day on board, our time on Holland America's 'Oosterdam' was a wonderful experience, the crew could not have been more friendly, helpful and hard working. We were blessed with the hottest weather Alaska has ever seen, and all our excursions booked via Holland America gave us never to be forgotten experiences. The views approaching Juneau in the very early hours were awe inspiring, the colors of the sky as the sun rose over the mountains was unforgettable. It was a wonderful experience to see so much wildlife up close, humpback whales, porpoises, sea otters, seals and sea lions, and a special mention to the staff (and eagles!) at the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. We were extremely impressed by the efficiency and teamwork of the 'Oosterdams' dining room crew, all of our meals were delivered very quickly and were of the highest standards. Our room service was also very fast and efficient. The interior of the ship was very tastefully decorated throughout, and the artwork on display gave an air of opulence. Our captain made very good time into all of the ports, beating the 'Princess' ship on every occasion to give his passengers an early start at the excursions, without having to wait in line. So, if you are thinking of cruising to Alaska, we can heartily recommend Holland America's 'Oosterdam'. We took many photos, and if you would like to see some of them please visit our website at http://www.bondpix.com/Alaska_Cruise.htm Thanks David and Valerie Williams Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
Over the years a friend and I have organized many cruise groups for a hospital based group from Indiana. We are nurses not travel agents. We always end up with some additional participants made up of friends and family or others who have ... Read More
Over the years a friend and I have organized many cruise groups for a hospital based group from Indiana. We are nurses not travel agents. We always end up with some additional participants made up of friends and family or others who have heard about our group. I look for specific criteria for each trip based on ports of call, size of the ship and cruiseline. Many of our participants are Mariners so Holland America was on the top of the list. When making the ship selection I focus heavily on keeping the bottom line price affordable for our participants on a budget yet the Holland America Line offers the luxury and amenities we all enjoy. Sailing out of Seattle also allowed for more competitive flight prices and allowed those with sky miles the opportunity to use them. I will also add that a few years ago several of us had already sailed the inside passage with HAL so I was looking for some variation. The Amsterdam met all of our needs. Our group of 28 was made up of 18 people traveling as couples and 10 solo travelers. There were 10 nurses in this group. Most of us flew in from Chicago Midway with group rates on ATA. We met up with some others coming in on other flights from Atlanta, California, Iowa and South Dakota. Our Grayline charter bus took us to The Paramount Hotel on Pine Street in downtown Seattle for a one day visit of the city prior to embarkation. All were pleased with the hotel location and accommodations. Sunday morning our Grayline charter was there at 8:45AM for boarding and a city tour. Our guide did an excellent job providing highlights and history of the city. She had us at the pier promptly at 12 noon where we walked right in and found no lines. The embarkation process was a breeze! We all gathered in the Lido for a wonderful lunch and at 1PM there was an announcement that the cabins were ready. Members in our group had booked Suites, Verandah Cabins, many in MMs and everything in between. I chose an outside aft cabin (G) with easy access to observation area outside and a staircase to the lower promenade deck. ALL were perfectly pleased with their choices! The ship is decorated in very tasteful colors and my favorite lounges included the Crow's Nest and the Explorers lounge. The Queens Lounge was also elegant and had comfortable seating. Another favorite gathering spot we enjoyed was the Java Bar where you could stop by for a cappuccino. We found that deck viewing areas were plentiful and it was easy to find a place to watch scenery and observe glaciers. The onboard naturalist enhanced this experience. She also made herself available for questions on the decks and lounges. I had the opportunity to tour several cabin categories. We had group members very comfortable in their inside category MM and L. My husband and I were pleased with our aft category G. Some others in the group had standard outside cabins and they were also very satisfied. All cabins had hair dryers, safes, bathrobes and plentiful storage areas. A few chose the verandah cabins and we had one couple that chose a suite. Our cabin steward Santos was attentive and pleasant. He did a wonderful job taking care of our cabin. Once again the attentive service provided by HAL did not let us down! Excursions: In Juneau the ship was docked a mile from town. There was a $2 shuttle fee. While in Juneau a small group of us decided to take one of the $5 shuttles to the Mendenhall Glacier. What a wonderful low cost excursion it turned out to be. Others went on the ship's whale watching and reported the sightings were plentiful and the boat was quite comfortable. Several of us signed up for the Sitka Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. This turned out to be a fantastic excursion. It focused more on the narrow island passages and the scenery was spectacular! Wildlife sightings included humpback whales, seals, otters, eagles and more. There were many close up sightings in remote tranquil areas. In Ketchikan my husband enjoyed his Knudson Cove Salmon fishing excursion booked through HAL. All six adult participants came back with 5 pink salmon each. He was on a boat called Killing Time and had made arrangements to ship back his catch! He gave a thumbs up for this trip! I will add that I am writing this review one week after the trip and the vacuum packed frozen fish have arrived safely. He had some of the catch smoked. Our cabin steward left us 2 red plaid blankets to take on the Victoria Butchart Garden tour. On Saturday nights in July and August the gardens feature spectacular fireworks display. Be sure and stake out a place in the fireworks viewing area early. Much of this artistic display is ground based so good seating is essential. The display is set to music and is truly one of the best I have ever seen! By the way, the gardens are lovely too! This trip far exceeded my expectations. Dining: All I can say is Gusti our waiter and Andy his capable assistant did a wonderful job taking care of the 16 of us that chose the lower early seating. We had gracious, cheerful and personal service. The food selections offered a wide variety of well prepared dishes. The formal evening we had lobster and filet that pleased us all with it's exceptional quality. Serving sizes were perfect and presented in an attractive manner. We did try the Pinnacle Grill one night to mixed reviews. I agree that the steaks were the best choice. I can honestly say we had better service in the main dining room but I was glad we tried it! Many of us ordered the house wines prior to departure and Sam served them nightly for our table. We were very pleased with the selections. The breakfasts and luncheons in the Lido offered a great variety and the quality always rated an A+! Made to order omelets, stir-frys and for goodness sake don't forget the bread pudding were favorites! Service staff in the Lido was excellent! Tables were promptly cleaned, lines were minimal and passengers that required assistance were well cared for! Entertainment: Here I must admit I usually do not attend the shows. I will add the the members in my group raved about the performances! Several musicians played in the various lounges throughout the sailing. I did manage to make it to a classical performance in the Explorers Lounge. Activities: Many of our members enjoyed participating in the planned activities. We had representatives in the trivia contests, ship building and even our group comprised the entire Marvin Gaye and the Raisins act in the lip sync show! All of this added to our fun but we also had some who enjoyed checking out a book from the library for some quiet time. Some treated themselves to spa treatments or found their way to the gym for some exercise. Our solo travelers were never short of companions to join them in the above activities. Passengers: We found that fellow cruise passengers were friendly, courteous and pleasant. All age groups were represented. I noted a few passengers navigating around on their scooters. Everything seemed quite accessible for them. Several families with children were found onboard but most were well mannered. I enjoyed meeting several senior cruisers who were cruising for the first time and their children paid for the trips! (you must have done a great job of raising them! I'll be sure and tell my kids about them as a future hint) Tipping Policy: We were all more than pleased with the automatic $10 a day added to our ship board account for pooled tipping but to be honest almost everyone I knew gave additional funds for "service above and beyond" for our dining staff and cabin stewards. Disembarking: This was the first time that I can remember a group of mine being assigned our own color coded bags and disembarking letter. We had a 12 noon flight out of Seattle and I would say we were called in plenty of time. When we entered the great hall of luggage it was a pleasure to find all of our groups luggage together. All bags were quickly accounted for. As we proceeded to the shuttle area I checked with a HAL representative there and she checked her clip board and told me our private shuttle bus number and pointed it out! Wow! I was so impressed. The conclusion of this trip went as smooth as the beginning. By 9:30AM we were at the Seattle airport. Participants left with fond memories of this delightful cruise. Many were already asking me when the next cruise was planned?? I guess I better get busy! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
All things considered, I liked the new Vista class ships based on my one cruise on the ms Oosterdam. She feels comparitively much larger but but not crowded. Embarkation was the only time that it felt like close to 2,000 people were ... Read More
All things considered, I liked the new Vista class ships based on my one cruise on the ms Oosterdam. She feels comparitively much larger but but not crowded. Embarkation was the only time that it felt like close to 2,000 people were aboard. Where do all those people go? It seemed like the same faces showed up for the same activities that I took part in. I made plenty of friends and had no problem seeing those again. The Oosterdam seems to be reaching out to families when the say "young" people. I was afraid that HAL was selling out to the party ship crowd when marketing these Vista ships towards younger people. Not a problem! She is just as classy and elegant as the Maasdam and Statendam in which I have been aboard. Unlike some ships out there the Oosterdam is still G-rated in all its shows. No profanity or off color jokes! There are some improvements that I noticed. The Cruise Director and his staff seem to be far more friendly and personable than in the past HAL trips. They took the time to learn my name! The Northern Lights Disco is a nice addition to HAL because it gives guest a choice of oldies in the Crows Nest or more modern sounds in the disco. The Queen's Lounge is a bit small for some activities they conduct in there. The Vista Lounge and the shows there were most impressive! The stage is high tech with pit lift and rotates. The lights and props help make the shows spellbinding. The shows are an improvement over the S-class ships from my point of view at least. Seating in the Vista lounge appears to be what is called stadium seating where everybody gets a good view. The Lido restaurant is an improvement over the older ships. The O-dam has food stations which break up much of the queue. Pizza and pasta was no wait for me at least. The Hydro pool with its extra cost was a waste of space in my opinion because there are 5 hottubs at no charge. The Coffee bar is cute, but coffee/tea is "free" on the Lido, so I didn't need to buy coffee or tea. The glass elevators on the outside were very cool! The "signature of Excellence" paid off with nice bath robes, thick towels, and improved sheets in my room. The Vista ships were built in large part to provide more Verandahs. I must say having a verandah made me feel nice. The main dining room and its food is on par with the other HAL ships that I have sailed on. I would have liked more flambe' deserts. The service on the Oosterdam was just wonderful! to be concise, the O-Dam is a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
HAL Oosterdam Alaska Cruise - July 24-31, 2004 Cast of Characters Me, Bryan - 44 Elizabeth - my wife Kevin - my son, age 15 Jeffrey - my son, age 13 Day One (and before) - Saturday, July 24, 2004 Anticipation has been building for this ... Read More
HAL Oosterdam Alaska Cruise - July 24-31, 2004 Cast of Characters Me, Bryan - 44 Elizabeth - my wife Kevin - my son, age 15 Jeffrey - my son, age 13 Day One (and before) - Saturday, July 24, 2004 Anticipation has been building for this cruise - our third overall and our first on Holland America. Last Friday, July 16, Beci, our travel agent, left a message on my e-mail asking where she could get a hold of me because she had news - I sent her the number at home and she called shortly. The first news was that our itinerary had changed slightly - we were to be a little longer in Juneau. The better news was that the upgrade fairy had smiled upon us - we were being upgraded from a Cat B to a Category S deluxe verandah suite! I was so excited and decided to keep it a surprise. As it turned out, I couldn't keep it a surprise until we got to the room, because when we checked in it was obvious it was into a suite. E, K & J were so excited when they found out. We took a taxi from our home in Sammamish, a Seattle suburb, at 10:30. The driver was a very nice Hungarian. We gave our luggage to be checked-in ourselves, since the porters didn't seem to be interested in our business. There was not a long wait at suite check-in and just a few people waiting in the standard line for regular checkin. In fact, we might have gone through faster in the other line. The checkin agent took our pictures and gave us all our documentation and ID cards and put a gold sticker on us. I can't remember if it said "Holland America" or "Oosterdam". I wasn't sure what the purpose of the sticker was at the time. We then proceeded to the security check and stopped by the table where they were selling the unlimited drink cards. We bought three, as I was planning on only drinking water. I don't think these charges ever showed up on our bill. Then we headed to the gangway. HAL & Princess share a common entrance to the gangway until you get close to the ship where the gangway splits - left for HAL and right for Princess. At this point it seemed clear to me that the sticker was so that the agents on the gangway could ensure that boarding passengers headed toward the correct ship. The photographer was there on the gangway just before we went on the ship, to get boarding pictures. We saw the photographer and videographer a lot during the cruise, but it didn't really bother us except once. After we passed the onboard security check we were greeted by a white-gloved crewman. The color of our card, a pale green, signaled that we were to be escorted to the Neptune Lounge. He took us up there, where we met Amber, one of the concierges, who persuaded us to make reservations at the Pinnacle grill, chose Dutch night (also Sitka night) because that's the least interesting menu, from a lo-carb point of view. We grabbed a few yummy appetizers while we were in the lounge. There was always something good to eat in there. All the little sandwiches were open faced. Amber told us they used to be true sandwiches with bread on both sides but that many people like us ate the filling and threw away the bread. So HAL decided it was easier to leave the sandwiches open faced. In the mornings there was always cereal and fruit, plus coffee and juice and at tea time there was appropriate fare, including one day strawberries dipped in white or milk chocolate. Speaking of strawberries, we thought it strange that we didn't see any until several days into the cruise. We had hoped that there would be some at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Since it was too early to go to our suite, we ate lunch in the Lido buffet. Since we were all carrying our handheld luggage I staked out a table with our affairs while the others went in search of food. When Jeffrey came back, I took my turn to find something to eat. I had ham & smoked turkey salad, tomato & onion salad, roast beef with broccoli, and some assorted cheese. We were sitting in the port side of the Lido so I didn't notice the little Chinese food station on the starboard side where today's offering was curry chicken. I did partake later in the cruise, and fortunately at this station they have a little bowl of hot pepper sauce so you can spice up your food a little. If you like your food more than bland, this is an important consideration. We found the food during the cruise to be mostly underseasoned. We toured the upper decks on our own but could not enter the spa until 2pm. Since it was nearing 1:30 we went to the stateroom - a beautiful suite with a welcome bottle of champagne compliments of Captain Mercer and the hotel Manager, Mr. Pells. There was a small fruit basket, an Alaska-themed coffee/hot chocolate/tea gift from Beci, an invitation to Suite reception in the Neptune lounge, and, on the desk, another gift from Beci (photo credit). The suite is beautiful. There is a large verandah with two rattan chaises lounges and a table with 4 rattan chairs. The suite is bordered by a see-through railing. Apparently the stateroom we were normally assigned (4155) had a solid railing. I need to remember to ask about then in future verandah bookings because it's so much pleasant when you can see the ocean while sitting down. Inside there was a large sitting area with long sofa and coffee table, a wonderful desk, plush beds with deluxe linens and duvet. The coffee table had a lovely little flower arrangement on it. The bathroom had a vestibule\makeup table, and a separate shower & bath. There were several closets and lots of drawer space. At 2pm we toured the spa, beautiful facilities, of course, but expensive treatments - much more than on the Disney Magic two years ago. I volunteered for the float bed, presented by Simon, with seaweed wrap, float & massage. There is a spacious forward-looking gym with Cybex workout equipment, bikes, treadmill, elliptical trainers, stair climbers, free weights and so forth. I usually work out at 3:30 or 4 every day, a time at which, an attendant informed me, the spa is fortunately uncrowded. We'll be able to work out 4 or 5 days on the cruise, I think. Darmawn is our steward (You can call me Darma). Since we don't drink, we offered him the champagne. Unfortunately, kidney stones prevent him from indulging. We went to the crow's nest at 3 to meet for a tour of the ship. A young man from Portland, OR was giving the tour - his first. He wasn't very good - didn't speak loud enough and gave no interesting information. "This is the pool", "This is the buffet", "These are the elevators", etc. We went by the adults only pool and there were several kids were in it. There was a sign or two informing users that this was not allowed but I understand Disney is the only one doing a good job of enforcing these rules. We dropped out of the tour halfway through after talking with a German man and his wife from San Diego - San Diego has gone downhill apparently. It's very hot here today (upper 90's) and I think they brought the heat with them. We went back down to the room, then to the concierge lounge to get the list of suite amenities, back to the room, where I read. Darma came by and introduced himself. I asked him to separate the beds, ensure there were more grapes in the daily fruit bowl and that there should be ice morning and evening. It wasn't necessary for him to bring any from 1:30 to 5, when he's off, even though he asked if he should , and the grapes could start tomorrow, today wasn't necessary. Very nice and pleasant, in addition to the automatic tip, I slipped him 4 or 5 dollars to start and gave him a 5 to 10 dollars every time I saw him. This in addition to the automatic tip. We called room service to see if they had any grapes, but they were unable to oblige. The luggage was all delivered by 3:45. We prepared for the life boat drill at 4:15. By now the sun was shining onto the promenade at station B10 and it felt more like a drill in Florida than in Seattle (did I mention that is was record heat today?), sail away party at 4:30, sailaway at 5pm. We went to the top deck on the starboard side for the sail away. The Diamond Princess, our companion vessel for much of the cruise, had already slipped away. Nevertheless, by next morning we had passed her. The same thing happened on the race from Ketchikan to Victoria. Captain Mercer informed us that he liked to beat her to port, even when she left before us, so that we could get our 1900 passengers of the ship before Diamond's 3200 created a lot of long lines. The breeze was nice as we started northward until we passed Seattle and got in the middle of Puget Sound where the temperature seemed to suddenly drop by 20 degrees. We stayed out just a little more, visiting with other passengers and then decided it was time to go inside. I forgot my walking shoes and Alaska guidebook. We went to the shops - very nice, with a large selection of high quality items of all kinds, including all kinds of clothing for those who forgot stuff for formal night. No shoes for men, though, but I did buy a guidebook to replace the one I left at home. I went back to cabin to shower and shave. We then went to the Captain's reception at the Neptune lounge, had some tasty appetizers and met the hotel manager and Captain Mercer Went to dinner through the photo studio - found our boarding picture already - and while we were there the steward came through with the chimes announcing that dinner was ready, so made our way to the lovely dining room where we soon met our tablemates - two couples from New York, one of them very opinionated about France. He started talking politics right away, a dangerous thing to do if you don't know who you're with and started ragging on France and the French, how he would never visit there or buy any French products, etc. My wife informed him that she was French (from Marseille) and his wife started telling him to shut up, kicking him in the legs, etc. Still, the rest of the meal went pleasantly. Every night there were so-called lo-carb options on the menu - I Ate Cilantro cured salmon with avocado and Pico de gallo salsa, baby spinach with white mushrooms, oven-roasted tomato, crisp bacon bits & blue cheese crumbles, Chicken Cordon bleu with arugula, red radish and broccoli salad. All very tasty and reasonable portions. However, I don't know what HAL's definition of lo-carb was because on several evenings there were decidedly non-lo-carb stuff in those options, including rice, carrots, beets, etc. We went back to the cabin to relax before going to the Welcome Aboard show. Neither of the boys decided to go to the Club HAL introduction. We went to the Vista Lounge where Jason, the assistant cruise director, introduced the staff. The Oosterdam dancers put on a lively and well performed show on a very sophisticated stage. Sam Powers, an illusionist/magician, performed a few effective tricks but had a hard time getting the audience aroused. I met him in the gym on the last day or two of the cruise where I told him the crowd didn't seem to appreciate his efforts. He said "You were at the late show, weren't you. It's always that way after second seating." We were sleepy by this time and went to bed after. Day Two - Sunday, July25 - At Sea I arose at 6:30 - all the others were still sleeping so I got dressed, and being unsure of the weather I wore jeans, but I think as long as I'm not topside, I'll be OK in shorts. I went up to the Lido with my novel. Out of the bay windows in the Lido I saw Diamond Princess at our port aft quarter, Oosterdam having overtaken and passed her during the night. I chatted for a while with a couple from Oklahoma here with a group from their Southern Baptist Church, and had some bacon and scrambled eggs because I was hungry. After I finished that I went through the Lido pool area, up the circular staircase and on to the observation deck where it was cold and windy, to the Crow's Nest, perched myself in a recliner at the bow and read. That was quite pleasant, relaxing in the recliner, reading and watching the sea. At 8 I went to the cabin to wake the gang, stopping by Neptune Lounge to request laundry bags as I couldn't find any in the suite. The concierge said she would send some right over - we intend to take full advantage of the free laundry. At the stateroom, Elizabeth was already up and I opened the curtains to wake the boys as breakfast will be arriving soon. We had ordered a full breakfast from the room service menu last night for delivery between 8:15 and 8:30. I sat down to a second (lo-carb) breakfast of ham & cheese omelet, sausage and bacon. I had a headache since before I got up so I took some Tylenol. After breakfast we walked 3 times around the promenade deck (1 mile), which was very nice - the rear of the promenade deck is open to the aft of ship, unlike on the Disney Magic. There are water fountains arranged along the promenade but several of them don't work. Then Elizabeth and I went to the Ocean Bar to read, laying on a sofa. The starboard Ocean Bar has smokers in it, which bothered us and we didn't realize that the port bar on the other side of the atrium is non-smoking. I ordered a club soda and then decided I would get the soft drink card after all, since even though I would rarely be ordering Diet Cokes and didn't want sugary drinks, I could order club sodas, which would be a change from ordinary water. I stopped drinking diet sodas a few weeks ago since I was on a plateau in the Atkins diet and realized the aspartame was preventing me from losing more weight. As soon as I stopped the diet sodas, I started losing again so in the month before the cruise I lost 10 more pounds (down 45 so far and feeling great!). At 10 when we toured the Pinnacle Grille and the Galley. While we were in the galley, the videographer had us wave at her camera. She caught us three or four more times on the cruise and sure enough, all of the takes ended up in the souvenir video. After the tour we looked at the menu at the Vista Dining Room for lunch on the way out then went back to the Ocean Bar to read. Jeffrey went to the Club HAL Ping Pong activity at 11 but there was no one there close to his age so he came back. At 12:15 we went to the photo shop to see our pictures, gave back the ones in the life jackets (no good - I'm sure every one looks their best in a life jacket) then headed up to the Lido buffet. The selection was good enough that we stayed. It was fairly hard to find a table. I had beef rouladen, green beans, cantaloupe, mango and cheese, and cheese crab chowder. Jeffrey came back with only pasta and then went out again but the lines were too long. After lunch we attempted to attend the naturalist's talk on Alaskan wildlife in the Queen's lounge but the sight lines are so bad that we wouldn't have been able to see any of the slides so we left. I went back to the room to work on the trip report and to relax and read. I went out on the verandah with a couple of blankets to enjoy the sea air. A small cabinet next to the verandah door contained 5 or 6 of the red plaid blankets you see all over the ship on the Alaska cruise and they sure come in handy. I assume that all staterooms with verandahs must need these. After a while I came back inside and did push ups, sit ups and stretching prior to a 3 mile run on the promenade deck with Kevin, who kept up all the way and Jeffrey, who tried valiantly to do so. Then we swung by the suite to get Elizabeth and headed to the spa, where we had a good workout on the Cybex equipment. After our workout we came back to the suite to get ready for formal night. I think I'll miss the full wrap-around promenade on the Mercury next February. We have second seating, which I prefer because our afternoon was not rushed for an early dinner and we had time to enjoy the gym when it was uncrowded. I had rented tuxes for me & Kevin, so this is Kevin's first tuxedo. I helped him put it on as he was unsure what to do with the cummerbund, the studs, the cufflinks and the bow tie. We went to have formal portraits taken and dropped by the art gallery to enquire about a painting we were interested in by Tomasz Rut - but it comes in at 2140 plus 15% - maybe next time, LOL A kind woman took our picture on the circular stair in the atrium with the Waterford crystal globe as background. We saw her taking a lot of other folks' pictures, too. Then it was time to head to the Vista Dining Room for dinner - our table mates were no shows - maybe it's because Elizabeth is French. I ordered the foie gras, lobster bisque (2 servings - love that bisque!), House salad, chateaubriand and sugar free jello with strawberries. Our server tracked down some heavy cream for me to put on the dessert. I made sure I tipped the servers extra a couple of times during the cruise. After dinner, we dropped by the room to drop off cameras and stuff before heading to the show. It's this cast's last week before their contract is up. Found a HAL tote bag on the bed plus info for tomorrow, including a notice that the clocks will all be turned back tonight. Incidentally, I don't know if I already mentioned that each morning that evening's dinner and dessert menu is left at the suite. In the Vista Lounge we saw "Rockin' Road" by the Oosterdam Singers and Dancers. It was their last performance of this show as they are at the end of their contract and will all be going their separate ways at the end of this week. There was a lot of energy both from them and from the audience and they really gave a fantastic show - excellent dancing, wonderful singing and a great show. At the end they were crying and Fred, one of the male dancers, was crying so much he couldn't sing. I have one complaint about the Vista Lounge - the seating in there, especially the red bench seating with the tall backs, seems very uncomfortable to me, although the staff I spoke with about said they had had no complaints. I prefer the Walt Disney Theater on the Magic. Day Three - Monday, July 26, 2004 - Juneau Even with the time change (you gain an hour going into Alaska) I woke up at 6:30 and rose ahead of everyone else. I forgot to get up at 5:30 to watch the whale pod that the captain announced yesterday we'd be passing through. After I was ready, I went up through the Lido pool area to deck 11 by the spiral staircase. First, though I swung by the buffet and swiped some cold cuts to tide me over until breakfast. The buffet was already bustling. Then I headed topsides. It was cold up there and I chatted with a lady who suggested that I would be sorry if I had not brought warm clothing, and that I should dress in layers. We did bring such clothing, especially because we're going to be out on the water today on our wildlife excursion. I went to the Crow's Nest to read but ended up spending the time chatting with a nice lady from Houston about this and that, including about what we should see in Galveston when we go through there on our Holiday cruise on the Galaxy in December 2005. Her sister arrived at about 7:45 and invited me to join them for breakfast, but I thanked them and declined. I felt I had better go down and awaken the family so we could have breakfast, and pack up the laundry for cleaning today. At the suite, they were all sleeping so I opened the curtains wide. I prepared the laundry and gave it to Darma then we went up to the Lido, had breakfast and ate it by the Lido pool. For the most part, they have the same thing everyday in the Lido for breakfast. At one station the sign says "Fried and Scrambled Eggs" but I heard one woman ask for fried eggs and she was told they couldn't make any for her. We went back down to the room to prepare for our day. The boys and I went out to the verandah to watch the docking procedure. We heard something that sounded like a gun shot and it turned out to be when they shot the first guy rope for the moorage ropes and watched the ship sidle up to the dock and the dock workers attach the ship. All the rest of the big ropes in the front were attached by strings to the first rope, so there was no more shooting. In fact, although we observed them tying up the ship both in Ketchikan and Victoria, this was the only time they used the pneumatic gun. There was a huge line to disembark the ship and all were leaving by the midship hatch. Finally a crewman guided some of us another way to the aft hatch so we could disembark sooner. We stepped out into the cool Juneau air and there were numerous people holding signs for various shore excursions. We showed one of them our tickets and they pointed us to the bus we should board. We took the bus on a long ride through town to Allen Marine, and boarded the St Nicholas for a 3-hour tour (shades of Gilligan's Island). Binoculars were provided but we brought our own so we wouldn't have to share. The whole thing was done in a very professional manor with a naturalist providing narration, and background information and helping us to spot the animals. Snacks and drinks were provided. There were lots of hunchback whales surfacing spouting, showing flukes, etc. We must have seen nine or ten pods. Several times saw the rare bubble-net hunting technique of the whales. The naturalist told us that only about 10% of viewers get to see that. We also saw a bald eagle in a tree feeding its young in its huge nest and saw sea lions on a buoy. At last, the boat returned and we boarded the bus for the Mendenhall Glacier. When we arrived we walked the main trail and toured the Visitors Center but didn't see the film. It was a good day to see the glacier since it was overcast. Apparently on days like this the blues stand out more. The lake in front of the glacier was full of floating blue and white ice, apparently from calving. At the appointed time we waited in the area where the bus was supposed to pick us up, but it was late due to the excessive crowding. We boarded the bus for an uneventful ride back to the dock. On the way back several folks asked the driver if he could drop us off in town, but no dice. The bus returned us to the dock where Jeffrey boarded the ship and the rest of us took a shuttle ($2) back to Juneau. It was a short ride to the bottom of the Mount Roberts Tramway where we got off and looked for something to eat, since we had no lunch (it's almost 5). The Zaandam, Diamond Princess and Radiance of the seas towered over the town and were docked very conveniently so that no additional transport was required. The tour was originally scheduled for 1:30 or so but the ship's schedule changed and we got in around 10, so no lunch. We found a little restaurant called Pizza Verona. Good service, good food, generous portions. I had chicken Caesar salad, E had greek salad, K had a Britain Burger. We stopped at a store which had post cards @ 6/$1 and then looked around. We were tired and most of the stores had the same thing as every other port of call (Columbian Emeralds, Little Switzerland, Diamonds International, Del Sol T-Shirts, etc) or as Seattle (Northwestern Native American art) so we walked back to the tramway and boarded the shuttle for the ship. I scanned the menus and the New York Times Summary that are delivered daily each morning and then prepared for dinner, although we had just eaten. It was casual night. I ordered: Sweet Tomato with Fresh Mozzarella Calironian Gourmet Greens with garlic herbed croutons, toasted nuts and orange segments Double Venison Loin with Gooseberry Confit Vanilla Crème de Pot with strawberry compote Our table mates were again no shows. Was it something we said? The ship left port just as we started dinner. I gave Davis (pronounced "Dah-fees") and Alit a cash tip to continue to encourage their excellent service. On the way out after dinner I succumbed to the charms of the YumYum guy and tried a candied ginger. Yummy! This was to become a habit for the rest of the cruise. We stopped by the photographer, bought the formal night portraits, and threw away the embarkation photos because my face was half hidden. E stayed in cabin to read while we went to see Lee Bayless - he was funny but I couldn't stay awake due to the time change. Also, we stayed after for the Indonesian Crew Show, which was good but I was sleepy since the show started at 11:30. I apologize to them because I dozed off a couple of times during this show as well. These poor guys did a good job but it must have been a sacrifice for them since they work such long hours. Still, they are happy to share their culture and are pleased by the interest of the passengers who come to the show. Apparently, they perform every other week. The other times, it's the Pilipino crew show. Tuesday, 27 July 2004 - Cruising Yakutat Bay & Hubbard Glacier The seas are rough today - the ship's been rocking for hours but fortunately I've got my sea legs. I was up at around 8:30 - I have to get up to put laundry out before 9am. The gray and foggy weather this morning is bad for wildlife viewing and the verandah is wet near the edges because it's been raining. We decided to eat in the Vista dining room for breakfast - I ordered corned beef hash with a poached egg and tomato sauce and also eggs benedict but didn't eat the English muffins. I nibbled just a little on the forbidden pastries (muffins and a donut). We headed back to the room to take our vitamins and brush our teeth before going topsides to look at the scenery. Too bad it's both foggy and raining, because it's almost impossible to see anything. We passed an RCI ship going the other way. We went up to Lido Pool but too much rain and fog to see much. The viewing windows are all fogged over and we stole a blue napkin from one of the tables to wipe the window. There were so many water droplets on the other side of the window, though, that visibility was still poor. They were serving pea soup here, but no one offered me any. I tried to get the eye of a waiter but the ones coming by only had empty bowls. As I saw we were now approaching the glacier, I went back down to the room to get the umbrella, binoculars and camera and went out on the bow. Lots of people were there but fewer and fewer stayed over time, perhaps due to the rain. Big umbrellas were often blocking the blocking view, even borne by people wearing hats or hoods, who technically didn't need their umbrellas in the light rain. We saw a little calving at first, then more and more bigger ones, including ones as large as great buildings. One particular one we wanted to fall was just huge, perhaps 30 or 40 stories, from top to bottom with a great crevasse behind it. Finally ice shot out of the crevasse a couple of times and then the whole thing, hundreds of feet wide and high fell outward and down into the water and created such a wave that it rocked the ship. The videographer was there and took my picture once again, as did the ship's photographer. Right about now, the pea soup would be pretty good. This was the highlight of the cruise for me - so wild and remote, with the 5-mile-wide, 300-500 ft tall glacier before, creaking and groaning, the occasional gunshot ringing out and small to enormous pieces of ice falling into the sea. I ran into an old friend, Brad Christensen from Novell, while glacier watching on the bow. I recognized his voice but didn't ask if it was him until someone called his name. Back at the Neptune lounge I asked the concierge to look him up and connect us. I talked to him and he said he and his wife Kim would meet us for lunch around the Lido pool. We caught up to to date and then invited them down to our suite, of which they were extremely jealous After they left I did my push ups and sit ups and was going to go out and run but when we got down to the promenade deck there was pouring down rain and wind that knocked over all the art when I tried to open the outside doors. So we went to the gym instead and did 50 minutes on the treadmill, visiting with a woman from Florida, Judy, who works for Remax and does Disney timeshare resales. So does her husband, and their kids are in real estate, too. It's hard to stay on the treadmill when the ships moving and I had to have my hands out to steady myself and grab the handles when the ships motion was trying to throw me off. Then I worked out on all the cybex machines, returned to the cabin, showered, read and dressed for dinner. Our laundry hadn't returned so I called the concierge, Darma came by and then checked the laundry and came back and told us it wasn't ready. I told him I needed the pants for informal night, so he went back and brought back what was ready. They can't find some underwear but everything else was ready. On and off during the cruise, Pete, the Bingo Dingo (one of the assistant cruise directors) made ship-wide bingo announcements. I found this very annoying. E & I went to the captains' reception for suites in the Northern Lights Disco, visited with the head of housekeeping and some folks from Bothell, WA (close to where we live), one of which is an 83 year old man who's going to do the India to Africa section of the Prinsendam around-the-world-cruise. We headed for dinner via the Photo shop where we saw my bow glacier watching picture, which was pretty good. At dinner our tablemates were again no shows. I had carpaccio of beef, Ketchikan smoked salmon chowder (quite good), sweet tomato, red onion and basil chiffonade salad, and a little osso bucco and Indian spiced lamb loin chops. I tasted Kevin's watermelon sorbet (yummy) and the Yukon sourdough bread pudding. I'm doing some cheating on this cruise, but I take CarbBlockers when I do. The net result is that I lost two pounds on the cruise. After dinner we stopped at the Yum Yum guy. Earlier, Elizabeth had to stop exercising because the rocking of the ship was making her sick, so she went down an took some Bonine. After dinner the Yum Yum guy's candied ginger made her feel a lot better. The boys, who met us at the Vista Dining Room, were present at its opening tonight and told us they like the chimes that call you to dinner. We returned to the suite to update this report and then went to see male a cappella group "The Mikes". They were great and have been performing on the O for several months now. They are all from New Brunswick and the lead, "Tony" proposed to his girlfriend during last week's performance. Jeffrey bought their CD for sale in the lobby. We kept on running into them, especially Brett, throughout the cruise, where they explained they're going to renew their contract. They love this cruise life, are treated as passengers (they have regular cabins and the run of the ship) and only have to perform once or twice a week. Sweet! Wednesday, 28 July 2004 - Sitka We were at anchor early. We got up around 8 and went to breakfast in the Lido. After breakfast we got ready and went to tender around 9 or 9:30. Since we were suite passengers we didn't need to pick up tender tickets in the Queen's Lounge. We just got in line. We tendered in to the O'Connell bridge and did our own walking tour of this quaint and picturesque little town. The shopping was more interesting and laid back here than in Juneau - not so many "port-of-call" stores - so we actually bought something here, including shirts for the boys, plus a lacquered Russian box and a small bottle of birch syrup for our neighbors. Plus, of course, we bought post cards at 5 for a dollar. We saw the Alaska Pioneers Home and garden (very well maintained and pretty), the fortress (nice views), and walked to the raptor center, which was a huge disappointment at $12 each, although the walk through town, across the waterfront and the park was pretty. I guess you get the guided tour only if you come on a ship excursion. We got back to the ship around 1:30 for lunch in the Lido then the boys went to play ping pong and Elizabeth and I went for a drink and to read in the Ocean Bar - this time on the non-smoking side. The waitress remembered us from before. We were there for a good 90 minutes. We decided we liked having a little time to ourselves so we changed the Pinnacle Grill reservation to just the two of us. Then we went back up and changed for exercise. Kevin & I ran three miles on the promenade deck while Elizabeth used the bikes in the gym, then we went up to the gym to do abs and check out the stair climbers. We told the boys they were on their own for dinner - they didn't seem too disappointed and took it well. Then the boys and I went out to the verandah and watched them bring in the tenders. One of the tenders was hoisted up right under the verandah, so we got a close up view. The boys ended up not eating together - Kevin went to the Lido and Jeffrey went by himself to the Vista Dining Room because he didn't want to miss Dutch night and wanted to see what the hats were all about. He sat all by himself at our big table ? but Davis and Alit took good care of him and kept him entertained. Elizabeth and I ate at the Pinnacle Grill - I had chicken Thai soup and duck, filet mignon with bEarnaise sauce, asparagus with bEarnaise sauce, grilled mushrooms, and we shared chocolate volcano cake and vanilla, coffee and chocolate crème brulee. The service was very nice. I dressed up a little and wore my sport coat, even though it was casual night. We went by the room afterwards to change into something more casual before heading to Sam Powers' magician act. It was the best saw-a-woman-in-half act I've seen and some other amazing illusions. However, the audience didn't seem to rise to the occasion, which Sam told me is typical for second seating. Thursday, 29 July 2004 - Ketchikan and Sea Day We got up early this morning, around 6 so we could eat before the rush to get offshore for our shore excursion to see the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show at 8:30. The Diamond Princess is next to us on the dock and the Coral Princess is off our starboard side, tendering in. We ate in the Lido and then disembarked around 7:45. As you disembark the ship, there's a nice store off to the left, so we looked around in there a little. Then we asked one of the guides hanging around outside where we were to meet for the excursion. She explained that we should just walk there, and showed us the way on the map. Ketchikan is a pretty town, but full of the typical shops. We walked over to the Great Alaska Lumberjack show, just a little ways from the ship, next to the water and on the way to Creek Street, our next destination. This is a great and fun show and the mistress of ceremonies really got the crowd worked into a frenzy. We were on the American side (Timber Beasts, Spruce Mill) and Brad Christensen's (the friend I ran into while glacier watching - did I mention his parents bought the cruise for him and all his brothers and sisters and their spouses - 14 in all?) family was on the Canadian's Dawson Creek (Wood Bulls). We won most of the competitions but they won the match because of the 3 point relay at the end. For the relay they pick one volunteer from each viewing section. On our side, an old man named Mike, really hammed it up on the way down to the front, using a cane and pretending to need a walker. Then he got up and threw an ax right into the bull's eye! After the show we look around the adjacent shop, lots of cute stuff and then walked to Creek Street and toured Molly's House and bought some copper bracelets and a very sturdy ice cream paddle. Molly's House is a former brothel. The hostesses hang around out front in their slink turn of the century dresses and garters, looking like 'working girls' from a hundred years ago. Creek Street is quite charming and the shops there are more interesting than those in town. We walked back through the town, peeking into various shops, mailing some postcards and gawking at the enormous cruise ships towering over the little buildings. We arrived back at the ship around 11:30 to beat the rush for boarding and lunch. For once we got a windowside view table in the Lido - then E & I went to read in the Ocean Bar. While we were in the bar, the ship set sail for Victoria and another HAL ship was right behind us to take our place. An RCI ship passed us to take the place of the Diamond Princess, which had left just a few moments before. I decided I wanted a HAL fleece so we went to the ship's shopping arcade to see if we could find one. I didn't find exactly what I wanted so we just bought an Alaska Calendar for E's parents. At 3 K & I went running on the promenade 3 miles plus 1 mile walk to cool down then headed up the gym to do upper body workout on the Cybex and abdominals. I love taking advantage of the gym. Brent, from the Mikes was in the gym and told us there would be a bonus show tomorrow at 2:30. Showtime is early tonight, before dinner, since we lose an hour going back to Pacific time. We saw "Escape" which was a lot of fun, with good singing and dancing, beautiful sets and lavish costumes. We visited with companions Bill & Adam from Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, who cruise 4 or 5 times a year and seem to be groupies of the show performers, especially of "The Mikes". Bill doesn't like the Vista class ships as much as the smaller ones, think the food and service and entertainment are not as good and says that the O is the biggest money maker for HAL, especially from the bars and casino. I ran into Jason, the Cruise Directory, after the show, and told him I didn't think they needed to move up the show, but he assured me that on this night, because of the time change, if they didn't, they'd only have 35 people in the audience for the late show. Since the show got out at 7:15 we hung out in the piano bar and had hors d'oeuvres and nuts listening to the pianist while waiting for dinner time. At dinner, our new table mates showed up - we didn't know we had any. It turns out after the New Yorkers left to get their own table, this family was assigned to join us but ate in the buffet all week because of their kids. We're sorry they didn't join us earlier because we got along really well with them and would have enjoyed their company. They're both from Houston but she was originally from Mexico City and he from Lebanon. They had an 11 year old girl and 14 year old son who were both polite and interesting. He wants to hire me as a freelance programmer to do his website for his diamond business and invited us to see them in Houston after our Holiday cruise out of Galveston next year. We failed, however, to exchange numbers or e-mail. I ate "melon medley" sprinkled with port wine (couldn't taste the wine) and escargots bourguignons, cream of green asparagus soup, two lobster tails (and they will plate stuff up on demand - no rice as I asked and two tails instead of filet mignon and tail). No dessert. Went to the shop and bought a nice HAL logo sweatshirt at ½ price and Jeffrey bought a stuffed moose which he named Chocolate. E bought some silver jewelry, also half price. We then spent a few minutes listening to the ensemble in the Ocean Bar. Set clocks forward 1 hour tonight. In our mail slot we found an invitation to a suite brunch with Captain Mercer and the Hotel Manager Pells in the Crow's Nest at 12:30 tomorrow. Friday, July 30, 2004 - Sea Day and Victoria We woke up around 8 to a bright and sunny morning, the first such weather in days. We got ready, got the laundry ready, then I read yesterday's USA Today and my novel on the verandah for a while until all were ready for breakfast. We ate breakfast by the Lido pool again, then bought some half-price logo shirts at the sale by the Lido pool before coming down to work on my trip report. The ship news said the sale would begin at 9am but they only just started setting up at 9. The sunshine has disappeared as we turn into the straits and it's now overcast and foggy. At 10:30 E & I went to the debarkation talk and crew farewell. After that we went to the Ocean Bar to read. While we were there they conducted the trivia contest, which, had I entered I would have done pretty well on, but not won. At 12:30 we went up to the Crow's Nest for the suite brunch, stopping at the suite to drop off our books. The suite brunch was very nicely done. I had some caviar, surprisingly good (just tasted like salt, really, plus all the stuff you eat with it helps, such as onion, egg yolk, sour cream, etc.) and lots of other good food, well served, with a lovely ice sculpture of a swan in the center. After that we headed down to the Vista Lounge for the behind the scenes tour and to meet the cast. However, they didn't really demonstrate the capabilities of the stage because they had to put up the Rockin' Road sets because tomorrow morning early the new Oosterdam cast is coming aboard to rehearse for their first real show. The stage technicians each talked about themselves and their jobs and some of the Oosterdam crew did the same and then answered questions. Around 2pm I went up to get the boys while E saved seats for the 2:30 "The Mikes" encore. The Mikes were wonderful and Jeffrey got them all to sign his CD that he had bought after their first performance the other night Then all four of us went to work out. K & I walked 1 mile and ran three on the promenade then went to the Ocean Spa to work out our legs on the Cybex machine and do abs. Sam Powers, the magician, was there with an assistant he was training in dance moves and Chris, one of the Oosterdam Cast lead singers was there with headphones running through his dance moves. He's staying on board to work with the new cast. We were very close to Victoria now and when we came back to the room, the ship was docking. We watched that process and then I took a shower and got dressed for dinner. We've been here before so we're probably not going to disembark. They have a lovely greeting for the ship here. At the bottom of the gangway there is a Victorian streetlamp with flower baskets hanging from it and several men and women dressed in Victorian garb passing out tourist literature and greeting visitors. From the verandah we could see a line of surreys and flower-bedecked horse drawn trolleys waiting to take visitors across Stanley Park and into town. Captain Mercer made sure that we arrived ahead of the Diamond Princess' 3000 passengers so that those who desired could get through Canadian Customs without a huge line. Sure enough, soon after the Diamond docked, there was a long line backing out of the customs building in the port. I read my novel on the verandah for a while then got ready for dinner. In Victoria, 1st & 2nd seating is moved up to 5pm and 3rd & 4th seating to 7pm so we had an "early" dinner. I had Portabella and Ricotta Crostini w\ smoked chicken breast, Crab & Artichoke dip with foccacia, cream of white mushroom soup and Mustard and Onion Grilled Chicken breast. The chicken with its accompanying polenta was tasteless. IMHO, much of the food on this cruise is fairly bland and underseasoned. I finished with Linzer Torte with whipped cream, one of the "no sugar added" options. The Indonesian Servers all gathered on the stairs in the dining room to sing a traditional Indonesian song of farewell. It was quite charming. Our new tables mates did not show up, but we knew that they had wanted to get off the ship, so were not surprised. We made one last stop to see the Yum Yum Guy and then E & I went to the Crow's Nest to listen to music and read, and watch the sunset, and then down to the Explorer's Lounge to listen to the pianist, who was quiet good. So many people have gotten off in Victoria that the ship is fairly quiet. We ordered breakfast room service to be delivered tomorrow morning between 7:45 and 8 so we could avoid the rush in the Lido and then read in bed until about 11:30. Darma had already picked up the rental tuxes when we got back. We did not put out our luggage since it was small roll away luggage that we could easily take off the ship ourselves. That made life so much simpler. Saturday, July 31, 2004 - Debarkation We are not in any hurry to get off the ship this morning as we live near Seattle, so I got up about 6:30, cleaned myself up and went out on the verandah to read until 7:30. Of course, we are already in port. I woke up the gang at 7:30 and breakfast, still warm, was delivered promptly at 7:45. While packing up I checked the drawer beside my bed and found socks and underwear belong to previous passengers - I took them to Darma. Then we just packed up in a leisurely fashion until all was ready, carefully checking everywhere to make sure that we left nothing behind. From time to time Jason made announcements over the intercom and channel 39 about which priority numbers or letters were being let off the ship. Ours, 'S', was first, which really meant that we could get off any time. This disembarkation is much better than on Disney. Everyone is assigned a number, unless you're in the suites, in which case you're assigned S and may disembark at any time. You may stay in your stateroom until your number is called. Around 10 or so we were finished and schlepped our belongings down to deck 2 (I think, or is it 4?) and off the ship. The longest wait was to get through immigration, where we breezed through, and then through customs, no problems there. Of course, we avoided the whole luggage pick up area. In front of the building we found a taxi, who was surprised to take us home, instead of to the airport. This driver seemed rather familiar though, like Mr. New York, going on and on about politics with people he didn't even know. We listened politely, even though we didn't agree with him about some of the positions he was taking. Summary This was a wonderful cruise. Of course, the suite upgrade was fantastic, the suite large and nicely furnished, the service excellent. The free laundry was a nice perk and we made good use of it. I'm not sure I could afford a suite again, but I'd sure like to try! The food was abundant and there was quite a variety but it was mostly underseasoned, to my taste, and sometimes served not as hot as it could be. The portions were small, which I like, since it discourages overeating and waste and you can always order more if you're hungry. The dining room servers and sommelier were attentive and friendly. We had a window seat in the dining room which was nice, since we could look out and see the ocean. The kids never used the pool or Club HAL but did make some use of the video arcade on deck 10. There is also an arcade on deck 1 at the entrance to the Vista Lounge but when we found it there was some creepy guy in there who looked at us like "What do you want?" I didn't feel good sending my kids down there since I felt that it was remote and out of the way and something nasty could happen. Still, they had a good time and enjoyed the shows and the cruise over all. The entertainment was varied, somewhat typical (comedian, illusionist, production show) but well-done I think. The Mikes were unique and we enjoyed them the most. We liked the shows, but others might disagree. Holland America has invested a lot in the Vista Lounge, in any case. I found the seating spread out, which was nice, but somewhat uncomfortable. The ports were interesting. Obviously we would do different things the next time. Elizabeth and I would like to come back on our own and do some of the pricier excursions, such as the glacier helicopter flights or Misty Ford Flightseeing. I'd like a cruise that combines Skagway, which wasn't on this itinerary, with the Hubbard Glacier again. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Of course, there was a little wear and tear, but that's to be expected. The colors are more harmonious than on the Zuiderdam and there is lots of different art displayed everywhere. It didn't take me long to find my way around the ship. We'd like to try the Amsterdam next time, though, to experience the classic HAL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
My family of four (including two boys age 3.5 and 5.5) had a great time on the O! My older son was old enough for Club HAL (by himself) and had a blast everyday. Our head steward in the Vista Dining Room and his supporting cast were very ... Read More
My family of four (including two boys age 3.5 and 5.5) had a great time on the O! My older son was old enough for Club HAL (by himself) and had a blast everyday. Our head steward in the Vista Dining Room and his supporting cast were very attentive and dealt with our son's food allergies and his very restrictive diet in a very personal, customized, off-the-menu kind of way. To be sure, we had to fill out an SRI form more than 60 days in advance of our cruise, but once they had all of his food allergies documented, HAL pre-purchased food for him for the entire cruise (food not normally available on the ship in large quantities). Regarding Club HAL, it is said that all HAL ships will be re-configured to handle children as young as 3 years of age (to be left without a parent/guardian) by the year 2006. As for now on the Oosterdam, our 3-year-old was able to attend all Club HAL events but only with one of us present. The nightly shows were great. We especially enjoyed 'The Mikes' (they did an encore show for us on the last sea day as well!) and Escape. We bought a couple of pieces on the first day of the art auction and look forward to receiving those as the art work was definitely a good buy when there weren't bidding wars (compared to land prices). My wife and I had a romantic dinner at The Pinnacle Grill (request a booth in the back room ahead of time, as they only have four) one evening (while the nightshift front desk supervisor babysat our 3-year-old and our older one was at Club HAL) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the food, and the service. We highly recommend the restaurant as the $20/person surcharge is a pittance for the experience we enjoyed. Initially, we were a little annoyed with all of the roaming photographers, but then we saw the quality of their work and bought several great pictures, including an 18"X24" photo on canvas of our family. We also highly recommend the cruise chronicle DVD ($34.95) as it covers many excursions and behind-the-scenes areas of the ship that one doesn't normally get to see. By the way, we were very lucky playing Bingo for our first time in our lives, as my wife won a 7-day Caribbean cruise on HAL for two (inside stateroom which we can pay the difference to upgrade), and our certificate is good for up to 18 months! Any recommendations for when and which ship/itinerary to do (since neither my wife nor I have ever been to the Caribbean)? I'd love your expert advice out there. Finally, we were blessed with good weather throughout the cruise. We dodged the rain at every port and in Seattle on both embarkation and disembarkation days--quite a rarity to string so many rain-free days together during this time of year. The locals in each port said that this had been an especially warm and sunny summer--the most so in 20 years. Echoing others' comments, we never had to wait long for the tenders on and off the ship at Sitka. The boarding and disembarkation processes were smooth, and most events/shows started/ended on time. That's it for now, but I would be happy to answer any questions about the Oosterdam or the particular itinerary we took. We had a great time and still feel the earth moving beneath our feet! Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
Embarkation/Debarkation-Arrived at the port at 12n, on board by 12:30, in the Lido for lunch at 1, baggage in room when we got back. I have been on 10+ cruises, and this may have been the best. Everything about the Amsterdam is top notch, ... Read More
Embarkation/Debarkation-Arrived at the port at 12n, on board by 12:30, in the Lido for lunch at 1, baggage in room when we got back. I have been on 10+ cruises, and this may have been the best. Everything about the Amsterdam is top notch, no,wonder she is the flagship of the fleet(we have been on some not so good HAL ships). This is a smooth running vessel from the Captain down the entire line of employees. Immaculate throughout, and obvious that the crew cares about the ship and it's passengers. Well laid out and easy to get around. Sized right at 1300+ passengers. Average age 50's+ very few children. Cabin: Have learned that aft and low is the best ride for me. Ample room with plenty of space all around, all the special things one would look for. Reasonable sized bath with linens that were replaced frequently throughout the day. Cabin steward outstanding, room made up while we were at breakfast. Very comfortable all around. Food:With all of the alternatives available, you can't go wrong, as far as quality, service. presentation etc. 5 stars here!! Entertainment, tours, and all the rest of the the things to do. Top notch! Run with precision and professionalism all around. Summary: I will be back on the Amsterdam some day. I will try her competitors, but on this occasion she will be hard to beat. Oh, yes, debarkation,off at 8am in the airport by 9:30. Fantastic!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
We were on the cruise 9/26-9/30 and enjoyed the cruise. We booked the cruise online with cruiseshopping.com and worked with an efficient representative named Michelle. She is prompt and to the point in replying all the emails. Embarkation: ... Read More
We were on the cruise 9/26-9/30 and enjoyed the cruise. We booked the cruise online with cruiseshopping.com and worked with an efficient representative named Michelle. She is prompt and to the point in replying all the emails. Embarkation: We arrived at Seattle about 10:30 a.m. from Toronto and took a limo and arrived at the terminal around 11:00 a.m. There was no line up and it took 10-15 minutes to check in. It was smooth and fast. Ship: It is a beautiful ship with rosewood panels everywhere and brass railing. It looks very elegant with many sculptures. Cabin: We've booked an "I" class inside cabin but was "upgraded" to HH forward outside cabin with fully obstructed view. Although all outside cabins were supposed to have bathtub and shower, this one doesn't. Compare the bathroom with NCL Sun, it's a bigger bathroom. However, the cabin is narrow and smaller than a NCL inside cabin. It has a safe for your valuables and ID but no fridge or kettle like any standard NCL cabin. Food: The food in the dining room was really good and fast. I've had lamb shank, duck and steak and they are all good. However, the desserts are only so so. The first night I had the cheesecake which is by far the best dessert I have had on the ship. The desserts in the following nights include cheesecake samplers, banana foster & crepe suzette were not so good. Only one of the dining waiters took the time to introduce himself, the other two didn't bother though they are quite friendly. We have breakfasts and lunches in the Lido deck. It was supposed to buffet setting. However, I called that cafeteria rather than buffet since most food is served instead of self serve. The line is usually long since it takes time for them to serve you after you stand there to figure what you want. I really like the freshly squeezed orange juice in the continental breakfast station. However I found the dessert selection at lunch and dinner to be very limited and if you get there late they'll be all gone. It's really odd that there is a person at the coffee / tea station to push the buttons for you when you are perfectly capable of doing that yourself. I don't think this service is necessary and sometimes even hold up the line. Ports of Call: We got off at three different ports--Astoria, Oregon, Victoria & Vancouver, B. C. Astoria is an interesting small town for shopping and strolling. A very long day at Victoria for those who aren't doing excursions. I would prefer a longer stay in Vancouver since there's more to see in the city than Victoria. Overall it's all very nice since we have sunny weather of 15-20C. Entertainment: The shows were superb. The dancers are very professional and they are able to do so many numbers in the one-hour show. I am so amazed how they get ready so quick. Other than the old movies there aren't other on ship activities (crafts, talks, etc.) during the cruise. I went to the gym once during the day but was closed at 10 p.m. so I can't go late at night. The library however is opened 24 hours but the shelves are locked with no librarian in sight. I ended up only reading the magazines laying on the table. Getting off the ship was a breeze and we headed straight to the airport. Overall speaking, the cruise was below my expectation. After cruising with NCL Sun for Alaska in Aug. I found that the service of HAL has not lived up to the 4-5 stars standard as expected. It's probably because this is a short cruise. Anyway, it's a pleasant trip. For those who like to take short cruise, this itinerary is great. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
This was my third cruise on a Vista class ship within one year and my 27th cruise overall. The Oosterdam is a sister ship to the Zuiderdam, thus no surprises. The only difference was the color scheme throughout the ship. Holland ... Read More
This was my third cruise on a Vista class ship within one year and my 27th cruise overall. The Oosterdam is a sister ship to the Zuiderdam, thus no surprises. The only difference was the color scheme throughout the ship. Holland America does a superb job overall. The more I sail with them the more I appreciate their efforts. Overall the cruise was wonderful with one minor exception with breakfast in the dining room. A new waiter just couldn't get it together and service really was lousy. I found the Hotel Manager and mentioned the problem and voila we were treated very well every morning after. Our cabin was sublime and the location Deck 8 starboard forward. I again will state that Class SS is a good bang for the buck. The weather was lousy the entire voyage, but we made the most of it. One day we were in thirty foot seas and in the Crow's Nest on top of the ship, we had a wild ride. I enjoy a little rough weather and the Oosterdam handled it like a champ. Our itineraries took us to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria BC. My only criticism might be to eliminate Victoria and include Skagway. We didn't arrive at Victoria until 1800 hours. The officers and entire crew were very professional. Everyone wants to please. The compliment of guests was diverse and as usual we met some great folks. The Mariner Society needs to think about giving onboard credits or points toward future cruises along with their medals and medallions. Just a thought! I am now booked the their MV Rotterdam for a 10 day Panama Canal cruise in March. (Working on that medal!) Peter Cunningham Fairhope, AL Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
I have read many reviews of this ship and of our ports. I feel that some people are extra critical are just searching for something to complain about. I think that I can give a pretty fair review! My husband and I were travelling with my ... Read More
I have read many reviews of this ship and of our ports. I feel that some people are extra critical are just searching for something to complain about. I think that I can give a pretty fair review! My husband and I were travelling with my parents and my father is slightly handicapped (walks with a cane) so we were a little behind the pack the entire week! But, I feel that it was a great trip and something that everyone should do. Embarkation was fairly easy. Someone met our taxi and took our bags inside the terminal. We had filled out our immigration forms online prior to departure, so we were able to stand in a shorter line. The process was quick. When you board the ship there is someone waiting to show you to your cabin. We had a Cat. SS cabin, which was very large and well worth some extra $$. On an Alaska cruise you are at sea quite a bit and are probably in your cabin more than you would be on a warm weather cruise. The bathroom was very spacious with a tub and separate shower. We received all of our bags by 4:30 or 5:00. As for service, in general I thought it was very good. Most of the crew made the effort to get to know our names. Their way of life has always fascinated me, how they leave their homeland for months at a time, with no days off and then take 1-2 months off to go home. Our cocktail waiter had not seen his baby girl for 6 months and had missed her first birthday. What a sacrifice and at the same time, a huge opportunity for him to earn a living and travel. Anyway, everyone was very attentive. Our cabin steward, dining room servers, front office people...HAL's new policy of adding the gratuities to the final tab is nice. No one was in your face on the last night looking for tips! The food on board was good to very good. I think it is amazing that it is as good as it is when they are feeding 1800 passengers plus crew. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido. It is a huge place, but it was difficult to find a seat in peak hours. Find a seat before you get your food! There is a very good selection of choices and pizza and pasta are available all the time. I didn't think the taco bar or the hamburgers were very good. I usually ate the pizza, salad bar, or the sandwich bar for lunch. My father seemed to like the stir-fry selections. We ate dinner there 2 nights and the prime rib was great. Better than the dining room. As for the main dining room, we had a 7:45 seating at table 1. Great table next to the window. You can view the menu ahead of time and there are 6 -7 entrees to choose from. I guess my only complaint would be that I always felt rushed. I'm sure they want to get the food out since it is prepared ahead. We had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill on Weds. night and it is fabulous!! Like other reviewers I think it is well worth the surcharge. We called before the trip and prepaid so we didn't have to worry about it later. My parents ordered room service for b-fast every morning and said it was always on time. The only night time we tried to order was the night we were in very rough seas and not many people went to the dining room. I could never get through on the phone. I think they were cutting me off on purpose. Finally, my husband went downstairs to the desk and told them and the food arrived in about 15 minutes. Since we took the last trip of the season to Alaska, the weather wasn't great. If I get the chance to go again, I would choose May or June. It rains a lot in some of these towns anyway, but you do miss out on some of the wildlife late in the season. We took 2 low key excursions (since we were traveling with 2 people in their 70s) In Juneau, we did the Mendenhall Glacier and City Tour. There's not much to the city tour in the pouring rain, but the Glacier part of the tour was great. The visitors center there is very nice and on a nice day you could walk around the area for hours. The stop at the salmon hatchery was sort of a waste, but we were there! In Sitka, we did the Russian America and Raptor Center. The Raptor Center was great. I could have stayed there much longer. The Russian part was a disappointment. The church was very small and had burned down a few times so it didn't seem very authentic. The dancers were very good, but not what I expected. They are a volunteer group of women, none of whom are Russian, who got together to preserve that part of Russian culture. The show was held at the local college gym. Again, not the greatest, but we can say we have been there. The Sitka National Park visitors center that houses the Alaska Indian Cultural Center was our last stop and was very nice. We didn't do an excursion in Ketchican, but I'm sure there are some good ones. Victoria was our last stop and I agree with most reviewers one evening is not long enough there. What a wonderful way to end the trip. The ship docks about 2 miles from town, but even if you haven't signed up for a tour, you can get the Gray Line bus into town ($5) It runs back every 10 minutes from the Empress Hotel. The scenery the entire day on the way to Victoria (Vancouver Island) was beautiful. Disembarkation was very easy. We were called at 8:15 and in a cab by 8:30. The worst part of cruising is having to leave the ship so early on the last day! I think that it was a great trip and the Oosterdam is a beautiful ship and I would encourage everyone to go at some point in their lives. Alaska is like nothing else I have seen. It is so remote and so unspoiled. In front of Hubbard Glacier, we saw this lone seal resting on an iceberg. It is almost like we aren't supposed to be there. That whole day was a once in a life time for most of us. I wish we had more time to do a cruise tour add-on, but maybe next time! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
This was our first cruise with Holland America, and could end up being our last. This particular cruise departed on Friday, May 6th from Seattle- spending Saturday in Victoria, B.C. - and docking at Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday morning. It ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Holland America, and could end up being our last. This particular cruise departed on Friday, May 6th from Seattle- spending Saturday in Victoria, B.C. - and docking at Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday morning. It was billed as a "Mother's Day cruise", a fun weekend getaway, and an introduction to Holland America. I should preface at this point by saying that we discovered once onboard that we were joining up with the last segment of a 22 day transit cruise that started in Tampa, through the Panama Canal, and ended in Vancouver. Many people had been onboard for 20 days already. We also discovered that this Seattle-Vancouver portion is a apparently a "maintenance" cruise for most of the public areas. During our cruise - the carpeting was pulled out, the chairs were removed and reupholstered, the ship was being washed with solvents and repainted, etc. There were 5 of us traveling together, 3 in a suite, and two of us in an inside cabin. I personally stayed in the inside cabin, number 750 - on "A" deck about mid-ship. Although we had fun - We were really disappointed with the poor service and lack of coordination among the Holland America staff - it became immediately apparent that the majority of them were departing when the boat docked on Sunday, and as such they just stopped caring about their passengers a few days too soon. They did not have their act together in the slightest, and gave the impression of a bunch of high school kids with only 2 days of school left - very, very anxious to leave with no tolerance left for us "passenger" types who only seem to want things from them. Also - just about everything on the ship was closed on Saturday, which was the only "full day" we were onboard. The casinos, the shops, the salon, the spa - everything was closed the entire day. This was not advertised. ("Duh! Who'd want to advertise THAT!" you are probably thinking...) Yeah, well, it would have been good to know beforehand. I also want to preface that I am not one of those well-to-do types that gives out low ratings because the color of the duvet was slightly too red, or the champagne too effervescent, or whatever. You really have to go out of your way to try my patience, and unfortunately, the Holland America people really did. No one thing really went disastrously wrong, but when you take them all together... well you be the judge. To counterbalance, many things also went well, and so I will break this out into two sections. -------------------- First, here are some of the things that went pretty well: 1) Actual embarkation was extremely smooth. There was no line at all, and as we had all our forms already filled out and ready, we breezed through in under 5 minutes. The Seattle debarkation staff was very friendly and helpful. Zip, zam, and we were on board. 2) After getting on the ship, I forgot my camera at the security station, and didn't realize it until I got to the cabin. The staff already had it stored at the front desk, and I was able to retrieve it with a quick phone call and trip to the front office, much to my relief! (Being a photography nut, you can imagine this would have ruined my trip more than anything.) 3) The cabins themselves were ready when we arrived and very nice. The inside cabin had room for a nice "loveseat" sofa and little table which really made it feel roomier than many inside cabins. The bed was firm but still soft, and the decor was pleasing. The usual "welcome aboard" documents were in place. The suite was quite impressive - a lot of room to spread out and a HUGE balcony. 4) The ship itself is pretty nice. I particularly like the upper "sun dome" pool deck (which I didn't get to try out due to the short nature of this cruise) and the Crow's Nest lounge. The Crow's Nest in particular - I wish every ship had a lounge like this - it's perched right over the bridge and looks forward with some terrific views. Service was also very good in the Crow's Nest - something that stood out markedly from what we experienced everywhere else. Decor across the ship is well done and it's a pretty nice place to be. More upscale than a lot of ships. 5) The ship runs very quietly. There was no discernible engine noise other than a VERY faint hum. I only actually felt the boat "move" twice, both during sharp turns. Granted we weren't in "open seas" at any time, since the Puget Sound is pretty calm. 6) The food, once you could convince someone to bring some for you, was pretty good. I am sure the most discerning palettes would disagree, but I enjoyed the meals served in the Rotterdam dining room - a nice place! Good views out the rear and sides of the ship. The Lido ice cream parlor was also okay - not particularly premium ice cream, but hey, it's ice cream! (You just walk up and they give it to you! You probably know this! It still excites me though!) The food areas were open throughout the ship at the scheduled times, unlike some of the other services on this cruise. 7) We had room service deliver breakfast on Saturday morning at 9:30am, and it was very good. Hot food, well done, and delivered right on time with a smile. Top marks for room service. I also heard several others saying that room service was one of the highlights of the (longer 22) day cruise. 8) Victoria, our Saturday port of call, went very smoothly. Getting off the ship was easy and quick, as was getting back on. Transportation to downtown was cheap ($5) and readily available. Victoria is a great city to see and we had the entire day to see it - although since we had been here before we opted for about 6 hours and then returned to the ship for dinner, etc. -------------------- Here's the things that did not go so well: 1) We embarked at 3:00pm, which we were told repeatedly by communications from Holland America was the earliest time we could possibly get on board the ship. Turns out a good portion of passengers actually boarded about 12:00 with no problems at all, apparently oblivious to the fact that they weren't allowed to, and had time to get a nice lunch. Rather annoying, as we would have liked to have boarded earlier if someone had communicated this. Sometimes being oblivious pays off, I guess. 2) Upon arrival in our cabin, we discovered that the safe was broken. The safe operates by scanning a credit card through it, which locks it. Ours was not working, it just beeped. We tried over 10 different cards. We called the information desk, and they took some convincing, but reluctantly sent down someone to take a look. The lady that arrived then demonstrated by running her safe master key through about 20 times that the safe was working fine - which it was, with her key. I then showed her that it was not working with any actual credit cards - and of course her reaction was to say "you have a bad credit card". So I patiently explained and showed her that none of the other 10 cards we had worked either. Still not believing me, she took out one of her own, tried it, and VOILA - it didn't work. Finally convinced, she left and said she would send down a locksmith. 3) The locksmith arrived, verified that the safe wasn't working with credit cards, removed the safe door and disappeared. We left to look around the ship at that point, and it was reattached upon our return. It still didn't work or anything, but it was back. We just gave up at this point. Especially since we could just store things in the locking night stands, right? Which leads us to: 4) Both the locking nightstands were broken. One of them could simply not be opened, nor the key removed. The other one was jammed also. We were eventually able to get this second one to pop open by bending the key back to be semi-straight. Rather than having to deal with explaining another problem to the front desk again, we made due and kept our valuables in this for the cruise, carrying around the bent key and wrestling it open when necessary. 5) We called for an extra blanket on our second night of the cruise. It arrived quickly and with a smile. We went up to get some drinks in the Crow's Nest. Upon returning, the cabin had been entered and the blanket had been removed. Time elapsed: approximately 30 minutes. I still don't understand this- Did he think we just needed a blanket for a few minutes? It took another phone call and patient explanation to get our blanket back. 6) The "cabin directory" has information like phone numbers, room service menu, stationary, etc in it. Someone had spilled water on the phone number page, rendering it unreadable. I pointed this out to our cabin steward as a friendly "FYI" while leaving the room once. Upon our return, the entire directory had disappeared, never to return again- An innovative, if rather unhelpful solution. I kind of wanted one of the post cards they put in there too, so this was disappointing. 7) On the second evening, we returned after drinks to discover our radio was on, and would not turn off. It's built into the side of the cabin, and none of the buttons were working at all, nor was there any way to "unplug" it. We called to the front desk, and they suggested we just turn it off. This took another patient explanation. Eventually they rousted our cabin steward, who arrived and apologized for leaving the radio on, hit the button to turn it off, and turned to leave. Before he got out, we pointed out that the radio was still, in fact, on. He returned and did the "mash every button possible" dance we had done earlier, without any luck. He left with a promise to have a technician come down. When we returned from dinner and our evening a few hours later, the radio was still on. We called the front desk, and were put on hold for ~30 minutes. Someone finally picked up the phone, and hung up without saying a word. I was in the process of putting my shoes on to walk upstairs to complain when mysteriously, and with no visible trigger, the radio turned just turned itself off. Luckily it stayed that way. 8) A few more cabin nitpicks - all of which would have been completely overlooked if not for the service issues mentioned above. The sink had two settings: off and fire hose. The shower temperature fluctuated rapidly between "Refreshing and Warm" and "The Alaskan Iceberg Experience", which made for a rather musical showering experience. What looked like "dirt" started appearing in the toilet the night before departure. Flushing it to get rid of the dirt would actually get you even more dirt. (This was ship-wide, as it also affected those staying in the suite.) No idea what this was from - maybe the water tanks were running low? 9) Our party members staying in the suite reported a few anomalies also - only 2 of them had their names on the stationary and welcome champagne. The hide-a-bed was not turned down the first night, despite both an individual request to the cabin steward and a phone call asking that it be done. (The second day he asked if there were three of them staying in the room...) Apparently the entire "white glove" suite service was almost non-existent in the suite. The lady staffing the private lounge spent most of her time talking on the phone about her job worries to someone on the other end, and essentially ignored the first class guests actually in the lounge, much as you would expect from a New York convenience store clerk. In summary, mirroring our own experience, the cabin was nice but the service and coordination was just not there. The crew seemed only dimly aware that someone was actually staying there. Since they paid several hundred dollars more per person for this suite - you can imagine that they were expecting more than this. 10) Our cabin steward never did figure out that we had an 8:00 dinner reservation, not 5:30. He tried on both nights multiple times to come turn down the beds while we were getting ready, at which time we would explain again that we were not eating until 8:00, and may be using the room until then to get ready. He seemed absolutely crestfallen and mystified by this, but that wouldn't prevent him from trying again in half an hour. 11) Speaking of dinner reservations - this turned out to be a comedy of errors. We arrived the first evening at 8:00 which was our scheduled time, and I told the maitre d' that we were in table 47. Unfortunately, table 47 was already occupied. I thought maybe I had the wrong table, so I left to get our reservation card. Sure enough, we had 47. He was very friendly about it, but I got the impression that this sort of thing had never happened before, because he seemed entirely unsure what to do about it. He left for about 10 minutes, and finally returned with room for us against a window table. He told us that the next day we would be in table 17. On Saturday evening, we discovered we had been moved from table 17, and were now to sit at 46. We did so, and it was fine. But through the whole thing, it just seemed like they really had no idea what to do with us, as if we were somehow unexpected to show up for dinner? 12) As for dinner - As I mentioned above, dinner itself was pretty good. The issue I had was in the speed of the service - they really didn't seem to know what to do with us, and serving us took FOREVER. We did not get finished until 10:05 the first night, and 9:50 the second night. And we eat pretty quickly, too. The first night was 45 minutes between the time our salads arrived and the entree finally arrived. That's a long time to wait! At least the "bar server" was very quick; he refreshed our drinks many times during this period. 13) Entertainment on this cruise was comically bad. The show Friday night in the main showroom was so bad as to be funny. No amount of describing it can do it justice, but I will try anyway. Imagine about seven gals/guys in bright purple jumpsuits leaping across the stage doing various pirouettes with big silver balloons while singing "He sure plays a mean pinball". I felt bad for them- in-between my hysterical tears- because a few of them actually had nice voices. 14) Speaking again of entertainment, we had drinks and appetizers in the Crow's Nest during a scheduled "performance" time. There was a trio- keyboardist, singer, and "guy playing with amplifier". Their sole performance over the entire 45 minute period we were there was to say "Testing, 1-2-6, Testing, 1-2-6." into the microphone. They did this every few seconds, for the entire 45 minutes, and "guy playing with amplifier" was not happy. He never got happy, and so the singer would again repeat "Testing 1-2-6" while he frowned at things. They did provide a bit of campy entertainment in the speculation of why 1-2-6, particularly? Were 3-4-5 given the night off? Was 1-2-6 their cabin number? Did they require the proper sequenced response before they would actually sing something? It was a mystery. If you ever do see the 1-2-6 Trio, but sure to let me know if they actually ever play anything, they looked like they might be good. 15) We did not see the cruise director even once on this cruise. We only heard from him over the loudspeaker when he was announcing the mandatory lifejacket drill, or asking cabin numbers to come settle their bill, or when announcing departure numbers. Previous cruise directors have been MUCH more energetic and welcoming (as well as occasionally "visible"), and this guy gave the impression that he had just given up even trying. 16) There was not a SINGLE thing done for Mother's Day. No events, no announcements, no dinner desserts, No "Happy Mother's Day" in the ship notes, NOTHING. Whoever billed this as a Mother's Day cruise did not apparently get to talk to anyone on board the ship?? 17) From our inside cabin, there was a VERY loud metal crashing noise late the first night and again early in the morning that bolted me upright out of bed and genuinely concerned me. Turns out this was the apparently how they get the gangplank hatch opened (explosives, perhaps?) because it happened each time. So just fair warning that if you're on the lowest deck on the Veendam and don't react well to occasional loud noises, don't near get cabin 750. 18) The Casino was never open. In retrospect, I understand why since you need to be in international waters to do this, and we really never were. I think they should publicize this though. 19) The Shops and services did not open at all on Saturday. That means we had to do all our shopping immediately after boarding the cruise on Friday night. I presume this was due to the maintenance that was going on? Still pretty disappointing. 20) Due to the maintenance, there were areas of the ship that could overpower you with fumes. The paint fumes wafted up to the deck of the suite and ensured that we didn't spend more than about 30 seconds on the balcony while in Victoria. The cleaning agents used in the promenade deck had a similar effect. Even half of my favorite lounge the "Crow's Nest" had half of it's seats removed at one point. I recognize the need to do cleaning and maintenance, but when everything is being done at once it makes it pretty hard to find a "safe" spot. I imagine they were trying to get the ship ready for the Alaska season, but I will know better next time to beware of these short transit cruises for just this reason. 21) Disembarkation - This is a long section. I will summarize the general attitude of disembarkation as "OKAY PEOPLE, GET THE HELL OFF OUR SHIP!" The gloves were off now, you could tell. They wanted us gone, and they wanted us gone NOW! (Presumably so they could go home too.) The day before, we were given our debarkation number - 23. In other words, the rats in the ship's hold probably had a lower debarkation number than us. This was fine though, expected with an inside cabin. We aren't morning people and weren't anxious to rush out anyway. We packed up the night before and planned to rise about 7:15. It was to begin at 8:15am. At 7:20, while my gal was in the shower and I was still asleep, someone showed up at our room to "check the wet bar". He knocked a few times and then just marched right on it, ignoring the "privacy please" marker, turning on the lights, walking right by my gal who was wearing nothing but a hastily covered towel, and ignoring the fact that we did not even HAVE a wet bar. He glanced at something on the counter, grumbled something and then beat a hasty retreat. I don't know who he was, but this guy should get fired - he was VERY rude and definitely invaded our privacy. I wish I'd gotten his name. Then began the announcements from the cruise director, which consisted of an hour of nothing but calling off a number of cabins who had to come down and settle their accounts. This consisted of several hundred cabin numbers, which he would repeat every 5 minutes with more and more urgency. (".. and finally cabin 820. We strongly insist that you to come to the front desk. Now. Really.") You could tell he was tired. Finally, at about 8:20, they began disembarking, starting with number one. The instructions given us, which I will quote verbatim here, read as follows. "Holland America is concerned about the comfort of our guests, and would therefore like to invite you to remain in your cabin until your disembarkation number has been called. Please do not congregate in the public areas of the ship, as this will slow down the disembarkation process." We figured it would be about 10:00am for our number. So at 8:25, our cabin steward showed up, and was very concerned that we were still in our cabin. We explained to him that we were number 23, and would probably be there for some time. This alarmed him greatly, and he urged us to go upstairs to the Lido deck to get some breakfast, so that he could prepare the cabin for arriving guests. I said we'd be happy to, except that according to the schedule breakfast ended at 8:00. He assured us that breakfast was being served all morning, and we could remain on the Lido deck until our number was called. So we took our belongings, left the cabin and went up to the Lido deck where - SURPRISE! - breakfast was no longer being served. We were given a few sidelong glances by the crew who were obviously concerned with our "congregating" in public areas. At this point, we joined our suitemates (debarkation number ONE, but who were patiently waiting for us), and we decided that we had just been upgraded to first class. We marched off the ship together, ignoring requests for our debarkation number. 22) The pièce de résistance was parking. As mentioned, this was not a round trip cruise, it was one way from Seattle to Vancouver. We parked at the Seattle cruise ship terminal on Friday night, and took a train from Vancouver to Seattle to get back. After parking, we inquired to make sure that we would be able to get our car out on Sunday night. “Oh yes, it will be open at that time” we were assured by the port staff. It wasn’t. It was completely locked. We were fortunate only in that a man who had the same problem had arrived earlier and had finally managed to get the gate codes to let us out of the parking lot. Since the “dock area” of Seattle is not particularly known as a safe spot to be around 10:00pm on a Sunday night, we were very fortunate he was there. If you take a one way cruise from Seattle, and park at the cruise ship terminal, do NOT BELIEVE THEM if they say you will be able to get your car out of parking! Park somewhere else! I’d only park here again on a roundtrip cruise. --------------------- In summary, this was not Holland America at its finest. The combination of this being the "end-of-the-line" for most of it's crew, combined with the maintenance work being done, probably make this type of transit cruise one to avoid for the future. I don't think this cruise was representative of most Holland America cruises, but it could be representative of how badly things COULD go. Since a cruise line is only as good as its worst cruise, I have to give this one pretty low marks. We actually had a pretty good time, despite what this review may indicate - as most of our time was NOT spent dwelling on any of these problems - and as said earlier nothing by itself was too serious. It was just the combination that gave things a sour flavor. But our fun was in spite of service we received, not because of it. I definitely will be trying out some of the other cruise lines before venturing back out with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Having read numerous reviews about the Oosterdam it was clear that half were positive and half were negative. While I was hoping to be in the positive half suffice to say that it did not meet up with my expectations. We have cruised with ... Read More
Having read numerous reviews about the Oosterdam it was clear that half were positive and half were negative. While I was hoping to be in the positive half suffice to say that it did not meet up with my expectations. We have cruised with both Princess and Celebrity and Holland America does not come near to either of these with regards to service or value. I will try and give a detailed review in hopes that others are prepared in advance as we were. The check in was surprisingly a positive given we did not have a suite. It was rather smooth with the only negative the long line to pass through the security check after you did finish registering in. Many reviews had the same complaint regarding the Lido buffet and I have to agree. HAL made a major error here as there is not enough seating to accommodate the demand and I highly recommend that you obtain a table before you get your food. In fact during the sea days they even set up additional folding tables by the pool and this still did not satisfy the demand. The way the buffet is handled with the separate stations is good for controlling lines but the full benefit is not realized as almost every item is served to you rather than serve yourself which slows down the process. Our ports of call Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan were all magnificent. The shore excursions are grossly overpriced and I would recommend going off the ship as you can obtain most of the same excursions for 30-40% less than what they cost onboard. We had one breakfast in the dining room, to alleviate the crowds at the buffet, and the service was outright awful. They were rude and inconsiderate and we even spoke to the maitre d' after it and got the feeling he could care less. The service at dinner started off a bit rocky but turned around (after our complaint) and was acceptable. I believe, as others do, that the automatic tipping policy is counter productive to providing good service as there is no incentive. We did adjust it at the end and tipped the few who did provide excellent service like our cabin steward who was phenomenal. I found the decor and the ship to really not have that "wow" factor as I have found on two Princes ships. In fact I walked past the atrium three times looking for what I expected to find in an atrium and came to find out I was already in it. It was small and nowhere near what we have seen on the Princess lines. While most cruise lines nickel and dime for everything this one was even greater. For example the internet access required that you "establish an account" that cost $3.95. Then unless you purchase a plan the charge was .79 per minute which is higher than what I paid on Princess. The account is a joke as all you do is enter your name and cabin number. On Princess all you did was swipe your card and away you went. The entertainment was very good with good shows and the times being 8:15 and 10:15 worked out well with our early dinner seating. They only have one alternative dining restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, which I highly recommend. If you book it the first night the service charge is 1/2 off $10.00 instead of $20.00 per person. The other cruise lines had numerous alternative dining options available. The food on the buffet was OK typical buffet food. The deserts were mediocre and the food in the dining room was a bit boring. They also were limited in optional choices that were available every night again unlike Princess. We had four in our cabin which while tight at times was bearable. The one down side was that the fourth bunk folded down from the ceiling over the main bed and only left 10" of room between your head and the bottom of the bunk when you were laying in the bed. Needless to say the first two days you woke up a bit sore having bumped your head getting up at night and forgetting it was there. Princess has theirs fold down over the pull out sofa which is a much better set up. Make sure you get a balcony as the views are spectacular especially the Hubbard Glacier which the ship did get very close to. Needless to say we were quite disappointed and given a choice would not sail on HAL again. Our future cruises will be confined to Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Our cruise started in Seattle, overcast and humid not what we are used to coming from Phoenix. Transport from the airport to the ship was a very long confused wait. Once we got to the embarkation point things went quite smoothly. This was ... Read More
Our cruise started in Seattle, overcast and humid not what we are used to coming from Phoenix. Transport from the airport to the ship was a very long confused wait. Once we got to the embarkation point things went quite smoothly. This was my first cruise on a vista class ship, our party consisted of my mother, my daughter and her husband (his first cruise ever). I was awoken early the first morning by being rocked about in my bed, I opened the curtains and looked out and the first thing I thought of was the opening credits from the TV program of the 60's "Victory at Sea". It was rough, a double dramamine morning, breakfast forget it. Toward afternoon the captain announced we were altering our course and taking the inside passage which would add about 3 hours more to our sailing time but would be much smother, you could hear the cheer from the passengers, and the rest of the cruise was smooth sailing. We had requested the early seating at dinner but got the LATE seating, I found out you have a better chance of getting a private meeting with the pope then getting your seating changed. Due to the fact that there were 4 of us I was surprised to find we were sharing a table with another couple. Very nice couple from Minnesota taking a cruise for their 20th anniversary. Probably because we had the late seating service was quite slow and often inattentive. The food was quite good not 5 star french but this is a cruise ship not a 5 star french restaurant, though sometimes they were out of some items usually a desert that was popular with the earlier seating. I do have a complaint about being nickeled and dimed, in 1998 and 2001 we cruised with Hollandamerica and the Cappuccino and hot chocolate and muffins were free now you have to pay for them, it was not starbucks prices but come on, I could get the same muffins on the lido deck for free and the Cappuccino at dinner for free. The activities on the ship were good, you actually could not do all of them in a day there were so many. I really liked the culinary arts center. The tours were very good though the lack of wild life disappointed me, it appears you must take the 14 day cruise and tour through the national park to see more then 4 eagles and the tail of a whale as it swam away. With the exception of trying to get our plane in Seattle after the cruise (4 cruise ships disembarking at the same time) made it a nightmare! Over all the cruise was quite enjoyable. My son-in-law is sold on cruising, he packed on about 20 extra pounds. BUT the one thing I find unacceptable with the new vista class ships is there is NO self serve launderette. When I was on the Rotterdam in 1998 for 16 days with 3 children, wife and mother-in-law the launderette was invaluable. I was on a cruise with NCL around Hawaii in 2002, I was on the lido deck one day and over heard a couple who were aghast at the cost to send their and their 2 children's cloths to the ship laundry. Now that I am retired when I look for a cruise of more than 7 days (like the 12 day one I took in 2007 to the Baltic on the Rotterdam), if the Hollandamerica ship does not have a self serve launderette I look for another cruise line that does. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
The Oosterdam is about as large a ship as I'd want to get on. Even with "only" 1800 passengers, there are still crowds for popular activities such as meals, pool, deck, disembarkation at ports, etc. The cruise itself was ... Read More
The Oosterdam is about as large a ship as I'd want to get on. Even with "only" 1800 passengers, there are still crowds for popular activities such as meals, pool, deck, disembarkation at ports, etc. The cruise itself was very enjoyable despite windy weather and rough seas on the first and last nights of the trip. We discovered (by chance) the 50% off dining cover charge - $10/person at the Pinnacle Grill. HAL had somehow given our kids a different seating and time for dinner than us. Rather inexcusable, but they did make up for it quickly (just not in time for the first meal). At any rate, the Pinnacle was a great restaurant, and it was even better at half price. The Filet Mignon was steak size, and it was cooked to perfection. On big ships, you go for the amenities, and in this regard, the Oosterdam does not disappoint. Even our relatively small outside cabin had plenty of room. (We'll look into a suite next time, however, just for the extra roominess). In our case, the kids were in one room and we were in an adjoining room. The steward opened the privacy panel on the veranda, and we had plenty of back and forth access. The kids liked the independence of having their own place, and it was nice not to have to deal with 4 people and one bathroom. For the Alaska cruise, it's really not critical whether or not you book an even or odd numbered cabin, as both sides get equal "land treatment". We were in an aft cabin, and there was no engine noise on deck 7. One bit of advice would be to bring your own sodas (I'd say beer, too, but they won't let you do that). The drink card is OK, but most of the bartenders don't jump at the chance to serve you if they know you're just getting a Coke. In addition, drinks with meals are not easy to come by, and don't expect a refill. One attendant you'll want to meet is Emilio. If you travel the Oosterdam, you're bound to meet him. He exemplifies the positive attitude of most of the service crew. He'd go out of his way to bring drinks, be they beer, soda, whatever. Meals are served in both the Lido buffet and the Vista Dining Room. Those expecting some kind of culinary artistry will be disappointed, but the meals compared with most of the better places I've eaten on land. In either the buffet or the dining room, you can order as much or as little as you want. We never had problems ordering more than one entree (some nights it was just too hard to decide). One minor complaint we heard from a few other people, and noticed ourselves, was that the decision to go "regional" with the daily Salmon dishes made for fewer choices in other fish categories. They had cod one night and halibut another, but those were the only "other" fish choices. (We did have crab legs one night, and they were quite good). The scenery and shore excursions are the most outstanding part of this particular cruise. Even on our two bad weather sea days (luckily or unluckily, depending on who you asked), the scenery was astounding. After dinner, we headed for the aft hot tub as the ship left Juneau. The sun was out, most folks were still recovering from the day or getting ready for the late dinner, (one fringe benefit of a line that seems to attract the older folks). We'd been on the sled-dog adventure that day, and it just seemed like a fitting end to a perfect day. Emilio brought a bucket of beer, and we had the entire aft section of the ship and the Alaskan wilderness to ourselves. The Hubbard Glacier destination is a good one, quite possibly better than the Glacier Bay route. We were fortunate to have good weather, and no other ships in sight as we made our way up the bay to the glacier. I'd say we spent the better part of the morning and afternoon there. We got extremely close to the face of the glacier. The naturalist (who we could have done without - who needs constant commentary when you're experiencing something like that for yourself) said it was the closest she'd ever been on one of the cruise ships (yeah, right). Well, despite her intrusion on a pretty awesome event, the ship came to for about an hour, and then came about so the other side of the ship could view. In all, about an hour of straight on viewing at the bow (not counting the approach) an hour starboard viewing and an hour port viewing. This made veranda viewing quite popular. The aft deck filled up quite quickly that afternoon, since it was sunny. I headed for the hot tub, but they were full (they only hold about two people comfortably anyway) The day at the glacier is something you won't forget. Wanting to see some wildlife close up, we'd signed up for the Sea Otter Quest in Sitka. The boat took us right from the Oosterdam and after an eventful 3 hour trip, dropped us in town where they loaded us onto a bus for the Raptor Center. Though the center is worth seeing, the amount of time scheduled for this excursion was too short by about an hour. After being returned to Sitka, there was still the rest of the afternoon to sightsee and shop around. (however, in Sitka, that takes all of about an hour). The time in this port was way too long. (we could probably have booked another tour for the afternoon) So, know ahead of time that this port is a long stay and plan accordingly. In Ketchikan, we took the Orca Beach Adventure. By the time we were taken to the marina at Knudson Cove (about 1/2 an hour away) and then went on the Zodiac to the island for about a one hour hike, the morning was gone. The trip itself was worthwhile. You see all of these little islands along the way and wonder what they're like. This excursion answered that question. Most of the people we talked with who went on the myriad Misty Fjord excursion options were happy with their choices, too. Since the ship pulled out at 1:00, there was little or no time for other exploration. The itinerary would be improved by making Sitka a 1/2 day stop and Ketchikan a full day. We didn't sign up for anything in Victoria, since it was just a brief 4 hour stop to satisfy the international port of call requirement. We walked to town (about a mile or so) and saw the neighborhoods and the downtown area. There were lots of restaurants, so dinner on shore might be an option for some. One word of caution, however, the small customs house gets quickly overwhelmed, so be back on time. The nightlife on the ship was variable. The evening shows were OK, some people really liked them others didn't, and I was pretty neutral about them. It's not top-rate talent, but they entertain lots of the cruisers. The ship pretty much winds down about 10:00 or so. The casino and the Northern lights bar were always up and running at that time. Other places were open too, but not really doing any business. Many of the bars (along with the pools) close at 10:00. Not a big problem, however, as we were pretty beat most nights. Movies were OK, though the Queen's lounge is not the best venue for seeing a movie. (Many of the movies didn't start until about 10:00 PM). Popcorn was a nice touch. Service, as mentioned was a high point in the cruise. The staff is all very happy, and they seem to really enjoy being that way. Our servers in the Dining room were quite nice, funny, and as they got to know us, did little things that made a big difference. Our head waiter was quite adept at magic tricks and entertained all of his tables. Our kids weren't interested in the Club HAL offerings, and that was fine with us (they also cut off the wrist bands that they were given at embarkation - to show where their assembly station was located. All passengers 16 and under apparently get to wear these until they wise up and remove them). Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze compared to some other cruises we've been on. Being able to wait in your room until you're called to disembark is a nice touch. I'd say the entire ship was emptied by 10:30. It's amazing when you consider that the next group of cruisers is already beginning to queue up for an 11:30 embarkation. One sour note had nothing to do with the cruise. We were remiss in considering our exit strategies, and ended up at the airport 6 hours before our flight. Next time I'll forego the HAL reservation and make my own. We probably could've been off the boat and on a plane home before lunch. You might not want to cut it that close, but the way things went at disembarkation, we were completely out of the cruise terminal long before noon. You would definitely be safe in booking a flight yourself by 2:00, and probably safe to do one at 12:00 noon. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
This was my first cruise to Alaska and I can't wait to go back! Here is my opinion of what I experienced this trip. The Oosterdam was a great ship. She is showing her wear in some places but the ship was clean and well-kept. We had a ... Read More
This was my first cruise to Alaska and I can't wait to go back! Here is my opinion of what I experienced this trip. The Oosterdam was a great ship. She is showing her wear in some places but the ship was clean and well-kept. We had a balcony room which was great, especially in Alaska. Was my first cruise on HAL and I'll definitely cruise with them again. Staff was friendly, especially August and Carlos (bartenders at the Crows Nest). Embarkation in Seattle was painless compared to what I've experienced in other ports. We stayed an extra night in Seattle on each end of the cruise and highly recommend exploring Seattle while you're there. Stayed at the Sheraton and the Westin and both were excellent. We took the 3 hour city tour. Very informative and well worth $38. Ports of call were great and Hubbard Glacier was breathtaking. The size of the glacier wasn't apparent until we were leaving and there was another ship in front of it which put the size of the glacier into perspective. WOW! Food was good but found the Pinnacle Grill lacking in both service and quality compared to what I've experienced in the past in similar restaurants. The beef was excellent but found everything else to be average. Spa was pricey but service was good. Booked all our excursions thru HAL. Whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Bake in Juneau...worth the money!!! Wildlife Expedition in Sitka....good, but probably wouldn't do it again. Wish we could have gotten closer to the wildlife! Wilderness Crab Expedition and Feast in Ketchikan....very good but didn't think it was worth the price. Orca Watching by Night in Victoria...worth the money. I would definitely take this cruise again!! There is so much more to see and do than we had time for in each port. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
This was our first cruise. We drove to Seattle, stayed overnight on a "park & sail" pkg at Red Lion. They took us to the port & picked us up after the cruise. Traffic was bad, glad we got to Seattle a day early. We got ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We drove to Seattle, stayed overnight on a "park & sail" pkg at Red Lion. They took us to the port & picked us up after the cruise. Traffic was bad, glad we got to Seattle a day early. We got to the port at 12:30pm, were on the ship by 12:45 just in time to hear the cabins were ready. I had filled out immigration form online, this saved quite a bit of time, and had all our other documents in hand when we got to the counter. Our outside cabin was on deck 1 (Dolphin) between midship and the stern. Had a bath/shower combo, lots of closet space. Our steward was perfect, helpful but not intrusive. He brought wine glasses & on our anniversary brought an ice bucket & glasses for our champagne. We had early upper seating for dinner (5:30pm). DH ordered 2 entrees just about every dinner so as to try new things. The food was good, soups were especially tasty. On our anniversary they sang to us and gave us a cake. The Lido buffet was surprisingly good, both food and service. We had most breakfasts & lunches there, and 2 dinners. Oh, and the Dutch chocolate midnight buffet was a real treat. We had one room service breakfast which was also good and on time. We went to 3 of the nightly shows and enjoyed them: a comedian,a magic show and a musical performance. We also liked the live music elsewhere on the ship, especially the piano & violins. This cruise goes in open sea north to Glacier Bay. The seas were rough the first couple of days, we used both sea bands & Bonine and spent most of the first sea day napping in our room. We were very glad to be on a low deck away from the bow. Our morning flightseeing excursion was canceled in Juneau due to rain & low clouds. DH did gold panning which he enjoyed & actually found some gold flakes. We did a Clover Pass kayak trip in Ketchikan which was disappointing - of the 3 hrs, 2 of them were getting there & back only about an hour of actual kayaking. However the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest from Sitka was fantastic! We had the first morning trip, they picked us up at the ship and we spent 3 hrs seeing more bald eagles than we could count, including a nest with young eagles. Sea otters, more birds, jellyfish swimming by and then the whales - wow! Mostly humpbacks but one minke which they said is rare. In Sitka we also walked to the national park & on the totem pole trail. On Glacier Bay day, we didn't get to the glaciers until about 3pm, not much to see until then. We were on the bow when we got there, it was the best place to get up close. HAL had some extras we appreciated, such as hot chocolate at the dock in Sitka, and free espresso/cappuccino drinks at the Java Bar & Lido. We didn't order many drinks onboard, we did fall prey to the hot chocolate + brandy in a logo mug on Glacier Bay day. It was nearly $30 for 2. We brought our own wine & champagne on board, and drank it in our room. We bought 4 liters of liquor onboard to bring home, we had to declare it for customs but they waived duty (US citizens allowed 1 liter each). We didn't participate in many of the onboard activities, wish we had read our daily planner more carefully and done some of those. Debarkation was smooth and quick. We were off the ship by 8am. It was nice to have time for breakfast before, and we were allowed to stay in our cabin until our number was called. There were long lines for customs & immigration since we got to Seattle same time as the Sapphire Princess but it went really fast. Some areas we felt could use some improvement: we didn't get our final bill on debarkation day - we went to the front desk to find out why, oh they said it's because you have money coming back (we didn't spend all the credit for the canceled shore excursion). It would have been nice to know that beforehand, maybe a note on our preliminary statement. At the pre-debarkation talk they said only had to see the customs agent onboard if spent over $800, well we had to see him about our 4 liters of liquor too, and we didn't find that out until about 5 min before we needed to be there - fortunately DH had the customs form in his pocket. The port & shopping talk was 99% a commercial for Diamonds International. We had a good time, HAL was the best choice for us - smaller ship, fewer people, with plenty of public areas and things to do. We had the best "parking place" at each port so not far to walk to stuff (except Victoria). The crew did a great job in all areas. Lots of stores were having end of season big sales, including the shops onboard. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
Oosterdam Better Than Ever! Accommodations: The main reason one books an aft-corner suite on the Vista-Class is the wrap-around verandah. 4185 (Category S/SC) offers a nice balance of openness and privacy - if you wish to see the upper ... Read More
Oosterdam Better Than Ever! Accommodations: The main reason one books an aft-corner suite on the Vista-Class is the wrap-around verandah. 4185 (Category S/SC) offers a nice balance of openness and privacy - if you wish to see the upper decks, you can stand at the aft rail and look up & back, but just two steps in and you're in almost total privacy with little wind while underway. The deck on the side is also about a foot deeper than the verandahs above, but is more susceptible to the wind and some of the view is partially blocked by a piece of machinery whose function I never did figure out. The interior is a fair bit smaller than the Category S/SA Suites located on the side - think of an SS plus the dressing room, angled dry-bar, twin beds that make into a king and all the Deluxe Suite perks and you'll get the picture. The Neptune Lounge is a bit of a hike, but just lift the phone and the concierge team is not only friendly and efficient, but also eager to please and can take care of most needs over the phone. It would seem that no reasonable request is too big or too small for them to handle for the Deluxe Suite passenger (and sometimes their guests!) The best news about this location besides the panoramic view off the verandah, and the sight of the wake from your bed is that it's a short wander down one flight of stairs to the Vista Dining Room. The worst news is that while underway, the noise and vibration from the azipod propulsion units 5 decks below is somewhat more apparent when quietly lying in bed then when at table in the boisterous dining room just below. Food: Speaking of the Dining Room, the quality of food aboard Oosterdam in the Vista Dining Room is quite an improvement over what has come from the HAL kitchens in recent years. Although the presentation and ingredients used have always been quality, flavor has often been lacking. Well, no longer does one have to try to recall from past cruises what was good and what was bland - the menus have been updated and the flavors are top-drawer! Even the Baked Alaska is better! Of course, the Pinnacle Grill is exactly as good as it's always been - but now that the staff has been 'edited', the service is so much friendlier. One thing that is relatively new in Pinnacle is the luncheon service: 3 courses for $10, no reservations required. The luncheon menu is completely different from the dinner menu, but no less enjoyable. A new personal favorite is the Thai Beef Salad: petite filet medallions on mescalun w/ roasted peanuts, crispy fried cellophane noodles and fried lotus root topped w/ a slightly sweet Thai dressing. Room Service is much improved as well - butters, jams, cream for coffee and sugar for tea are all in place on the breakfast trays - no more calling back for little incidentals. Delivery is always prompt, and metal discs keep plates warm. Within 5 minutes of receiving a delivery, the phone rings to ensure that everything is all right. You can tell that efforts are being made to ensure that every room service order is perfect. Of course, the Lido Restaurant is as it's always been - all kinds of good food served practically round the clock. The Staff: We've never experienced a friendlier or more welcoming staff and crew than were assigned to Oosterdam for our week in Alaska. Captain Jeroen Van Donsselaar is the most engaging captain that I've had the pleasure to meet. He and Hotel Manager James Deering are incredibly gracious hosts - they will make a great team again when they transfer to Zuiderdam in mid-October. Cruise Director Steve Gayda clearly loves his job - he had a grin from ear-to-ear the entire week witnessing the ship's company enjoying themselves. The concierges in the Neptune Lounge, Lizzie (sic) and Marj are tireless in their efforts to take care of our little needs - even running to the back of the ship to deliver a pair of tuxedo pants to replace ones that were forgotten at home! Peter Allen, the Pinnacle Maitre d' never complained when I added guests to an already full dinner table. Our steward in the Vista Dining Room (Table 135) spent time chatting with us while his assistant performed goofy magic tricks for us (Hey, it's funny after a couple glasses of wine...) When wine steward Ferdinand delivered two cases of champagne on ice for a party to my suite, he asked if I needed someone to come back to serve on my verandah - He then proceeded to set up tables for hors d'oeuvres and glasses - then came back and stayed for over 2 hours serving and cleaning up afterwards! The next morning when he came in to check the mini-bar, he took one look at me in my hung-over state and asked if I'd like his cappuccino - he hadn't had any yet. When I responded that I couldn't take his coffee from him, his reply was "It looks like you need this a lot more than I do", and when I tried to give him a tip to pay for it, he brushed off my money saying "That's not necessary: This is how we take care of our guests." Even our cabin steward Fausi was tireless in running errands & getting our laundry done in record time. The Ship: Oosterdam is as beautiful as ever and well maintained. Everywhere, one could see freshly varnished teak furniture and railings, gleaming hardware and spotless glass - however one can also see signs of wear and tear such as frays at carpet joints in some elevator lobbies, scuffs on corridor walls at the 90-degree turns, slashes in some vinyl elevator door upholstery, wear on the backs of the wicker lounge chairs on our verandah and on the seats of the chairs in our suite. Hopefully when she goes in for her first drydock next year, she'll receive more wear-resistant materials in these areas. And unfortunately, the Smoking Room at the aft-end of the Explorers Lounge is now locked up and reserved for ship's photographers and their equipment for private photo sessions. The Olive Pit martini bar at the bottom of the atrium under the stairwell is a great use of that out-of -the-way space, and Edwin gets raves from everyone he serves! Sadly, over in the Explorer's Lounge there was only one steward assigned there after dinner, so he was having a difficult time trying to fulfill orders for après-dinner liqueurs - but that may have been because all the other available bar stewards were up in the more populated venues for this charter cruise. The Itinerary: This being my second time to Alaska, I knew to expect outstanding scenery, variable weather and rough seas. We got the first two - not bad at all! Juneau was rainy and chilly - a perfect day to stay in, but we went to Mendenhall and Buchert Gardens anyway. Thankfully, the folks at the visitor center tell us that Mendenhall had a better year and didn't recede half as much as last year. Buchert Gardens is a great place if you're into rocky trails, plants, little waterfalls and upside down trees... Hubbard Glacier & Disenchantment Bay is so much more impressive than Glacier Bay - the ice is bigger and bluer and we were witness to several calvings! This is why you get a corner verandah in Alaska! Haynes is the town that's named after your underwear (...or so the joke went aboard ship that week) I didn't go ashore, and from what I was told and from what I could see from deck, I didn't miss much except the cool vintage DeSoto's being used to give guided tours of this cute little town. Personally, I'd have rather gone into Sitka again. Ketchikan is just too much like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf unless you can get away from the piers. Unfortunately, unless one purchases a pricey excursion such as floatplanes to the Misty Fjords, you'll probably end up just wandering the streets near the ships. We did go see the Lumberjack Show, which was great fun if somewhat kitschy - especially for the young kids who got to help keep score! One bothersome thing that happened was that passengers from the two Mega-Princess ships were incredibly rude, exiting en-masse halfway through the show! Did someone hear a chow-bell, 'cause the boats weren't leaving? Sailing to Victoria, we saw a great number of whales - it was amazing! Even as we were on deck getting some sun one afternoon (!) we could see spouts and hear the clap of Humpbacks fluking... Victoria: What's the point in getting off the ship? We hosted our traditional rowdy "Drink-the-last-of-the-wine-and-gift-champagne" dinner party in the half-empty Pinnacle and had a great time enjoying the company of our shipboard friends... Room for Improvement: One thing that doesn't make much sense is the big SOE hullabaloo about the new flat screen TVs. If they were flat TV's (LCD/Plasma) - that would be a great thing, but these are still great big tube televisions that take up as much space as the old ones and impinge on desk space, so they're no big deal. Another thing that disappoints slightly is the lack of input jacks in the TV & Stereo so that one can't plug in their own music/video from an iPod or camcorder, but I understand that most HAL guests aren't that up-to-date w tech. And am I the only one who thinks that the little faux-silk pillows on the leather sofas in suites are kinda cheesy? How 'bout some of that cool Batik from the spa? And the coffee tables in staterooms - they really ought to be adjustable in height so that one can enjoy room service indoors without being uncomfortably bent over. I also understand that the stateroom corridors on Noordam will receive some colors and artwork to brighten them up - I certainly hope that Oosterdam and her sisters will receive similar updates, as her corridors are tract-house drab in comparison to her lobbies, staircases and public rooms. Overall, I have to say that this, my 3rd HAL cruise, and my second aboard the beautiful Oosterdam has been my best cruise thus far. Many of her staff and crew are moving on to other ships, including the new Noordam, and I look forward to meeting them again on other ships of the Holland America fleet. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
This was our first cruise! We had read some good reviews of HAL and were impressed with the descriptions and photos of the Oosterdam. It really is a nice, big ship. Our embarkation in Seattle went pretty well. The line looked long, but ... Read More
This was our first cruise! We had read some good reviews of HAL and were impressed with the descriptions and photos of the Oosterdam. It really is a nice, big ship. Our embarkation in Seattle went pretty well. The line looked long, but moved steadily and the staff was very professional and knowledgeable. We started exploring as soon as we boarded. All luggage had arrived by dinner (1 piece at a time). We enjoyed a nice sunny departure from Seattle as we were eating our first dinner! The food in the Vista dining room was great - it truly was the meal to look forward to each day - ever-changing menu and clever appetizers. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill - the food in the Vista room was special enough for us. All of the servers were attentive - granted they were not "in front" of you at every pace, but were available if needed. Finding available tables in the Lido Restaurant became tricky, we found ourselves walking around trying to find a table the first few times. After awhile, we found a nice nearly-always-empty area in the center, nicer rattan chairs also in this area (at first we thought it was a "reserved" section for handicapped travellers only!) We tried room service one morning - was not impressed - ordered cereal and no milk came with it (even though it was ordered) We received no "room service breakfast order form" after that day (but noticed that SOME rooms had them in their Mail Slots each night before!?)...interesting. Our room, Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (5158) was nice enough for 2 people, had plenty of storage, decent bathroom, and veranda was a nice bonus. We had excellent weather throughout our cruise - many of the ship's crew remarked that we were really "lucky" - the few cruises before ours had lots of rain and overcast skies. We did not sign up for any HAL shore excursions, found them to be pricey. However, when stopping in each port, we noticed many "kiosks", independent folks who do their own excursions to same areas as HAL. Only difference was there was no HAL bus waiting right at the curb, usually had to catch a shuttle, $2-$5 short distance to town. All of the towns (Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan) are easy walking distance. Our one DISAPPOINTMENT during the entire cruise came near the end. I had been concerned that the ship would arrive later in the day into Victoria, BC. We watched a beautiful sunset upon entering the harbor, but by the time we got off the ship (we weren't the last ones off) and onto the shuttle, it was 8:00pm and DARK. I really had no interest in seeing Butchart Gardens in the dark, even if they have lights on. PLUS, we had to be back on the ship by 11:00pm (the ship departs at 11:30pm) This is not much time ashore to do much of anything. I think the cruise line should either get there earlier or cut out the stop altogether. Perhaps Victoria is more enjoyable in the summer when the sunset is later, but it doesn't work for early September. The entertainment onboard was of great value I thought. The performers were all talented. The show lounge for the live acts was big enough, however the smaller Queens Lounge, although cozy, was NOT the place to show small screen movies. All the seats are the same height, so unless you are 7 feet tall and sitting in the back row (or lucky to get one of the maybe 10 seats in the very front row) all you will see is the back of someone's head. There was a lot of promotion of jewelry on our cruise - daily specials for the next day were with included with our printed itinerary each evening. The ship promotes jewelry shops at the various ports also - there is even an shopping orientation talk that will enhance your shopping skills required at the various ports (!) We did not partake in Bingo either - but there are MANY opportunities each day to play that. The disembarkation talk (given the day before arriving back in Seattle) was very informative and helpful. I suggest 1 person from each room go to this, however if you both go, you will enjoy a heart-rendering "farewell song" from as many of the crew staff they can fit on the stage - it nearly brought tears! The actual disembarkation went EXTREMELY well in Seattle. Our "group" was called and we were walking down the gangway at 8:35am, breezed through Customs, found our bags instantly in the proper designated area, and were out-the-door by 9:05am. We even had to call our transportation to pick us up earlier - we didn't think we would be off the ship before 11am! For those of you who are prone to motion sickness (like me, who gets nauseous in IMAX theaters!) not to worry. There was only 1 night that the ship was rocking a bit (during dinner) and they had sick-bags near the elevators. Bonine works very well, doesn't make you drowsy like Dramamine, and I think it was the only brand offered in the ship's store. Overall, a very pleasant experience. I would definitely cruise with HAL again. Happy Travels! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
This was our 5th cruise overall, 3rd one on HAL. My husband and I are in our mid 50s,married 38 years. My brother and wife the same age, married for 37 years. We drove to Port from Oregon. My brother and His wife flew NW from TN, with no ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise overall, 3rd one on HAL. My husband and I are in our mid 50s,married 38 years. My brother and wife the same age, married for 37 years. We drove to Port from Oregon. My brother and His wife flew NW from TN, with no problems. The cruise was 09/17 to 09/24, last cruise of the season. Have to congratulate the Oosterdam and her captain on a wonderful cruise, despite 24 hours of rough seas (25 to 35 foot seas) at the start of the cruise. The seas were so rough, that 7 TVs fell on the floor in the staterooms one night. There were a lot of people sea sick one day, I stayed fine on Bonine. We had rain the first day or two and then the skies were blue and sunny and the sea was calm for the rest of the cruise. Rain is usually the norm for Alaska in fall. The captain decided to forgo Hubbard glacier (and more rough seas), and instead visit Glacier National Park---- What a wonderful surprise !!! Words can not describe the beauty of seeing the glaciers for the first time. We visited Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC, and had 2 days of sea days. We are not party animals, but enjoy the relaxation of the sea and visiting new places. I am a semi-retired RN and my husband works full-time and has his own business. Sitka was our favorite, we saw whales, eagles and even 3 black bears. We did our own land tours. We just walked off the ship and booked with one of the local tours and had a great time. If you are into kayaks, Sitka looks like the place to do it. A cruise to Alaska is more expensive, but well worth it. There are ways to save expenses and still have a good time. Do your own tours, bring your own alcohol, avoid soda pop for a week and realize that Alaska scenery is there for free. Thanks again Captain for the wonderful and safe cruise. HAL is for you if you want a refined, beautiful ship, with large nice staterooms, a crew that are eager to please, and food that is great. Read Less
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