Sail Date: March 2008
We arrived in San Diego the day before and we excited to wake up and see that "our" boat was in port and ready to take off with our family on board. We traveled with another family and between us had two 16 year old boys and two ... Read More
We arrived in San Diego the day before and we excited to wake up and see that "our" boat was in port and ready to take off with our family on board. We traveled with another family and between us had two 16 year old boys and two 14 year old girls. I will try to answer all of the questions that I wanted answered before our cruise. Embarkation: I found it to be extremely easy. We stayed at the Days Inn Harborview and took a shuttle to the ship, dropped off our bags and headed out to walk the waterfront, take pictures, and check out Seaport Village. We went to board the ship about 1pm. You had to each fill out a health form and if you had your own pen, you could do it while you stood in line. Total time was less than 15 minutes. Just have your paperwork ready and BE ORGANIZED! It will save you time! Public Rooms: We rode the elevator up to deck 9 and a full buffet was ready for us. We spent most of our time on the aft deck and joined our friends for picture taking and fun. We boarded the ship around 1pm and our room was ready around 1:30. Cabins: We had previously traveled on Princess cruises and hands down HAL has it beat 10 fold! We actually could completely unpack a family of four and store our suitcases under our bed and not feel cluttered! Because we had a quad room, we lost a bathtub and only had a shower, but that was more than fine with us. Our cabin was on the main deck (floor 1)and had an ocean view. Our cabin steward was Matt and he did a great job the entire week. The only problem we had was that there were only a handful of hairdryers on the entire ship due to a problem with shipping replacements. That made getting ready for formal nights a challenge, but we just went out on deck and let our hair blow in the wind. You can make the best of anything if you just try :) Recreation: The kids really enjoyed the ping pong tables, but unfortunately over the week, others broke the balls and paddles. Next time we will bring our own and keep them to ourselves. Lesson learned! We enjoyed the various activities and participated in Team Trivia every day for fun and realized we all needed to go back to school. The teens did better than we did! The pool was great and the roof could be closed if it got windy or cold. Dining: We had late seating (8pm) on the second floor. Our server was Wayan and he was from Bali. It was fun to have the same server. We did free-style dining on our previous cruise and did not have the same server each time. We enjoyed trying new things at dinner. Some were hits, some were not. The buffet was pretty much the same everyday and by day 5 we were getting a little tired of it. Princess Cruises change up their buffet and offer different choices each day. The best thing on this ship is the free ice cream (we had to pay for it on Princess!). You can buy pop cards for $20.00 for 20 drinks. Princess offered an insulated cup for $25.00 unlimited. Not a real big deal, there was plenty of juice, water and ice tea for drinks. Entertainment: It may be that we were on the younger side of this entire cruise population, but the entertainment was not even comparable to Princess. We had a comic that, in my opinion, was terrible and a singer that was okay. The one saving grace was, Edge, the juggler and entertainer. He was fantastic! We also missed out on The Piano Bar player, we never made it there. He played one song at the end of the cruise and he was fabulous. They should headline him and lose the comic. Very talented! The Cruise Event Staff was great. Parker, Eric, Barrick, and Matt kept things moving. We really enjoyed the pool party night. My son and his friend won the belly flop contest towards the end of the cruise! Even if it seems cheesy, join in for the pool games, trivia, bingo etc! It makes it fun! They held and "American Idol" type contest and it was hilarious! Ports of Call: Cabo San Lucas was very overwhelming when you left the tender area. You get accosted by very aggressive people trying to take you places by water taxi and other excursions. We wanted to go to Lover's Beach and after negotiating a price of $6.00 per head (Cash/RT) for our group of eight, we finally boarded a oversized row boat. They tried to change the price "due to a misunderstanding" (are you kidding me?) and wanted us to get off the boat. My limited Spanish was tested when I asked the boat driver if $6.00 per head was fair? He said yes, got off the boat and told them we were leaving. He was great and came back and hour later to pick us up. Remember...bring enough cash to tip EVERYBODY. We tipped, Lupe, our driver both going and coming and even had to tip the guy that "helped" us back into the boat. If they help you with anything, the expect to be tipped. $5.00 usually appeased them. We then went to Medona beach and were constantly approached by venders. We rented jet skis and had some fun, but ended up walking back to the tenders (from Medona it is a good 25-35 minute walk) and ate a late lunch on the ship. Mazatlan: We hired a driver right outside the boat for $25.00 per head to give us a tour of the city. It was worth every dime and we ended up having a great day in Mazatlan! Our driver was at our disposal and he let us set the itinerary, but was a great source of information and fun! One note: If you are with a driver, you are not harassed by vendors because of this. Mazatlan was beautiful in areas and run down in others. The Golden Beach area is the more tourist area and bigger resorts are there. We ate in town without any problems, just ask for bottled water. Remember...everything is extra and be prepared for an expensive lunch. Puerto Vallarta (or Porto Wal-mart-o) was beautiful. We were docked across the street from Sam's club and Wal-mart. A great thing if you run out of stuff, such as sunscreen like we did. You can run over and get whatever you need. We walked to the Krystal Resort and paid $10.00 per family to use their pool and lounge chairs. Be careful, you can end up paying up to $40.00 per head if you talk to the wrong person. Just keep asking and the price will drop. Be kind and order something to drink and give them some business while you are there. The people could not have been nicer there! One thing we learned is to talk to the ship crew. They are a great source of information for where to go and what to expect to pay. Remember...they are there every week!! :) Overall, we had a great time. The final two days were at sea and there was not a lot of activities to keep you busy. If there were, they were sometimes scheduled at the same time, so it was impossible to make them and then there were stretches of nothing. The food was better on Princess and we missed the "Movies under the Stars" that Princess had. HAL had better service and a better Cruise Event Staff. We were privileged to know one of the Officers on the bridge and were able to have a bridge tour. I would definitely recommend this cruise on Holland America. The staff was fabulous and don't forget to look out for Hunke Dorie in the Buffet and Mr. K in the dining room! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Background Information: This was my 8th cruise; 6th on Holland America. There were four reasons I picked this particular cruise - price, embarkation port, itinerary, and the chance to cruise on a Vista class ship. Normally I book a ... Read More
Background Information: This was my 8th cruise; 6th on Holland America. There were four reasons I picked this particular cruise - price, embarkation port, itinerary, and the chance to cruise on a Vista class ship. Normally I book a cruise a year or more out, but I was seeing some great deals back in January and decided to do something more spur of the moment. Having sailed once before from San Diego, I knew what a great city it is and an easy port to cruise out of. It also helped that I had a free ticket on Southwest and enough points for a free hotel room. I was getting a little tired of the Caribbean and thought a Mexican itinerary would be a nice change of pace, although I was a little apprehensive that the ports - Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta - might resemble Tijuana. I stayed at the Hampton Inn on the Pacific Highway, and highly recommend it - centrally located, clean and modern, and shuttle service to and from the airport and cruise terminal. The hotel is such a short distance from the terminal that I didn't bother with the shuttle and just walked over. It was easy to navigate my way there, even while schlepping two suitcases. Embarkation: Boarding the ship through the San Diego cruise terminal was quick and easy. The cabins weren't ready, so we were directed to the Lido for lunch. I hit the salad bar, and then proceeded to try to find somewhere to sit. There were no empty tables to be found. Since I was sailing solo, I proceeded to ask people if I could join them. The reactions I got led me to believe I may be suffering from leprosy or the plague, or at the very least, using the wrong deodorant. In desperation, I went outside to the aft pool area and found an empty table with a dirty tray on it. One of the wait staff came right over and cleared it for me. Right after this, a young man wearing a staff nametag asked if he could join me for lunch. After what I'd been through myself, I urged him to have a seat. We had an enjoyable conversation, during which he told me he was from Belarus, and worked in the shipboard shop that sold alcohol and cigarettes. Ship: This was my first time on a Vista class ship, having previous sailed several of HAL's R and S class ships - Statendam, Maasdam, Zaandam, Veendam, and Volendam. Since I'd heard and read so much about the Vistas, I was looking forward to finally being able to sail on one of them. Quite frankly, I was a little letdown and disappointed. I was expecting something with a modern, brighter appearance. Instead, the Oosterdam's color scheme is dark blues, turquoises, and purples. The steps between decks are "short" and carpeted in navy blue, making it difficult to see them. I went up and down them very slowly, since I wasn't sure of my footing. I noticed that the bottom steps had an orange strip affixed to them. This needs to be done to all the steps, or carpet every other step with a lighter color or pattern. When using the stairs, many of the decks are indistinguishable from one another, making it difficult to know where you are. The decks aren't labeled near the staircases, only in the elevator lobby. More than one deck had the same "Ode to a Grecian Urn" loveseat near the elevators. The wrap around teak promenade is narrower on the Oosterdam, compared to the R and S class ships, and has some odd angles and turns that make walking difficult. What really bothered me was that the outside promenade is placed on the same deck as the Vista Dining Room. Having sweaty passengers in exercise togs circle the dining room as we ate detracted from the dining ambience. Another thing I didn't care for was the layout of the Lido with its various stations instead of a cafeteria type line. Every time I ate there I felt like I was running around trying to find things. The next to the last day I realized there was an Eggs Benedict station...who knew? That same day, I found a fruit and cold meat and cheese breakfast bar outside in the pool area. I had been "scavenging" at various stations trying to assemble my breakfast, when what I was looking for was all in one place. Although the Vistas carry more passengers, I never had the feeling that there were 400-600 more bodies onboard. Nor did I think the distance from one end of the ship to the other was noticeably longer. Cabin: I received an upgrade from an inside cabin to an unobstructed ocean view. This was my least favorite cabin in terms of layout and amenities. There were no drawers under the desk/vanity in which to place items like underwear and folded clothing. In place of the drawers was a mini-bar/refrigerator which I didn't use. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom was placed at an odd angle that didn't provide much in the way of usable storage space. The shelf to the right of the sink was also small. The light around the make-up mirror was dim, making it unusable unless I turned on several other lights in the cabin. A few days into my cruise, I discovered two drawers at the foot of the bed under the bedspread and dust ruffle. There were also drawers in the bottom of the loveseat, but you had to move the heavy table in front of the loveseat in order to get to them. In other words, there was technically plenty of drawer storage space, but none of it convenient or accessible. Things I DID like about the room included the safe that uses a code instead of a magnetic card, and the lower bathtub that was easier to get in and out of. Ports and Shore Excursions: My apprehension about the ports was unfounded. All of them contained beautiful sights and plenty to do, and were cleaner than many of the ports in the Caribbean. I booked three excursions through the ship, and all three exceeded my expectations, especially the walk through Old Mazatlan. In Cabo San Lucas I went on the Land's End Boat Tour & Scenic Drive. We rode in a catamaran around Land's End, which is where the Sea of Cortez joins the Pacific Ocean at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. From the boat we saw Los Arcos, a rock formation that juts out of the sea. There's a "key hole" through which you can see from either side. The water was pretty choppy, and I was glad I wasn't in one of the kayaks being tossed around by the waves. After the boat ride, we got in a van and rode through downtown Cabo to the Sunset Da Giorgio's Restaurant that sits on a hill overlooking the bay. We relaxed on the restaurant's patio and admired the view while sipping ice cold bottles of Pacifico beer. In Mazatlan I signed up for the Old Mazatlan Walking Tour that lasted over four hours. The tour started at the walkway that extends for nine miles along the beachfront. We watched some local cliff divers, and then continued on to the heart of the old downtown area where we visited restored homes, stores, and hotels, along with a museum and an opera house. Near the town plaza, we stopped at a cafe for a beer and chips with homemade salsa. The area around Mazatlan is known for its tomatoes, and the salsa was the best I've ever tasted. After visiting the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the tour ended at the city market where we caught a bus back to the ship. Next it was on to Puerto Vallarta for the Puerto Vallarta Overview. Our bus took us to Old Town where we got out and watched some Native Indians hang upside down from the top of a pole, and then make a circular descent while chanting and playing instruments. From there we walked by City Hall on our way to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Back on the bus we rode out to an upscale residential area called Conchas Chinas and saw where the movie "Night of the Iguana" was filmed. I declined to have my picture taken with a live iguana perched on my shoulder. On the way back to the ship we passed through Gringo Gulch where Elizabeth Taylor and the late Richard Burton have a home. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant and had a beer and tacos. The corn tortillas were made right there in front of us, and they were the best tortillas I've ever eaten. Service: As always, the service on HAL was friendly and attentive. I had great dining room servers and a wonderful room steward. My dealings with the front desk were always a good experience. I would pass by there several times a day on my way to and from my cabin, and the people who work there have to have the patience of Job to deal with some of the passengers and problems they're confronted with. The onboard cruise consultant was helpful and informative, as well as available. He had a very soft sell approach. I ended up putting $100 down on a Southern Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam for December, 2009. The deposit can "float" for up to four years, which means I can transfer it to another cruise. Plus I got some onboard credit ($25), so it was a no brainer to go ahead and book while I was onboard. I've never stayed on a deck that had a bar, but the Olive Pit in the atrium on Main Deck became my pre-dinner hangout. How fortuitous that martinis are my favorite adult beverage. I enjoyed talking with the bartender as well as the other wait staff. Food: Much better than my last HAL cruise on the Volendam. Some of my favorite dishes included the butternut squash and apple soup, Dover Sole, Osso Buco, rack of lamb, and the salmon salad Nicoise. I found the dinner menus on formal nights to not be very inspired. On one formal night, I amazed the waiter and my tablemates when I ordered the vegetarian entree. It was a sauteed patty made of chopped vegetables seasoned with Indian spices, accompanied by chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce and stir fried bok choy splashed with soy sauce. Very tasty and a nice change of pace. The Master Chef's Dinner, not one of my favorite things, was somewhat toned down from what I experienced on the Volendam. Apparently this is something new HAL is trying on the Oosterdam. There is only one "parade" of food, and ship's staff other than the dining room staff participates. Anytime Dining: Since I usually cruise solo, having a set table with the same dining companions each evening is very important to me. I was so relieved when I found out I got my request for Fixed Dining, as opposed to the newly instituted "As You Wish" Dining option. I wasn't interested in eating by myself at dinner, or having to try to round up dinner mates each evening. Worse yet was the thought of walking into the dining room and asking to be seated with others, only to be turned down by tables as an unacceptable addition. Unfortunately, fixed dining wasn't a very pleasant experience for me on this particular cruise. The first night only I and another lady showed up at our table for seven. At the end of the meal, one of the assistant dining room managers came over and told us the other five passengers wouldn't be joining us for the rest of the week. He offered to move us to another table of two in the same situation. After our meal, we went over to the new table so that we could introduce ourselves. The reception we got was rather cold. The next evening the four of us were joined by another couple, so a table of six was cobbled together. Quite frankly, the general attitude at the table was condescending. I had nothing in common with these people and almost left dinner in tears. I gave serious consideration to just eating by myself in the Lido each evening, or asking to be switched to "As You Like It" Dining (I changed the name to give it a more Shakespearean flair). I had spoken to a few people that day who, although they were cruising with their spouse or a friend or family member, had asked to be seated with others in the Anytime Dining Room. They had only good things to say about their experience, so I thought about giving it a try. However, I made the decision to tough it out at my table one more night. The next night was formal night, and one of the ship's officers and his wife joined us for dinner. They were an extremely pleasant couple and helped to improve the general mood at the table. At the end of dinner, they asked if they could join us again for the next formal night. I was so relieved that there would be at least one more night without a lot of tension at dinner. The next two nights we didn't have a full table as each of the couples (separately) opted for the alternative Pinnacle Grill. Not having a good dinner table really detracted from the cruise experience for me. Activities: I found the onboard activities to be rather lacking. I generally sail solo, and look forward to playing bingo and participating in games like trivia and name that tune. Puerto Vallarta was a long port day, and there was little to do onboard in the afternoon for those who chose to come back onboard after their shore excursions. No bingo whatsoever that day, no craft class, and no tournament games. Not even an afternoon movie. Puerto Vallarta was followed by two sea days, and it was more of the same. One can only walk around the deck and workout in the gym so much. Reading gets boring after a while. I wasn't interested in paying $11 for a spinning class or attending an art auction. I did win bingo twice, which helped to offset my martini bill. Bingo was well attended, and was held in the Crow's Nest. Not the best venue, but the Lounge was off limits during the day due to the new song and dance troupe holding rehearsals. The disc jockey who called bingo was funny, but too chatty. Calling the numbers almost seemed like an afterthought to him. I noticed that the Dutch High Tea was scaled back (no hot items like Chicken a la King served over puff pasty), but I did enjoy the Mariner's Lunch for past passengers. On prior cruises there was the Mariner's Cocktail Reception. We had a great Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet", followed by a lunch in the dining room on the last day. Everyone I met from our online roll call was friendly and outgoing. I had the opportunity throughout the week to share drinks, meals, and shore excursions with many of them. Disembarkation: My flight home wasn't until 3 pm, so I decided to take the ship's transfer that included a tour of San Diego. It was pricey - $71 - but it sure beat sitting in an airport for 5 or 6 hours. We saw quite a bit - Old Town, Balboa Park, La Jolla, Coronado Island, etc. - so it was worth it to me. Summary: All in all it was a very enjoyable, relaxing cruise, minus the strange dining experience. Although the Vista class ships aren't my favorite, if the price and itinerary are what I'm looking for, I'll go for it. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Feb. 2nd, 2008 Our trip started with a flight into one of our favorite cities in the U.S., the great city of San Diego. We arrived the day of the sailing from our home in Texas (husband/wife...early fifties), take a few days before the ... Read More
Feb. 2nd, 2008 Our trip started with a flight into one of our favorite cities in the U.S., the great city of San Diego. We arrived the day of the sailing from our home in Texas (husband/wife...early fifties), take a few days before the trip if you've never been to S.D. and find out why we love it so much. A short taxi ride later ($12) to the pier and we were checked in in minutes. Having been on 5 previous cruises we knew we needed some bottled water and diet drinks for the week (especially Mexico), so we headed to Little Italy and a CVS store which was very reasonable. By 12pm we were eating at the "Lido" on deck 9. This was the quickest Embarkation Process we've ever been through. The usual life boat drill was as boring as any other, but seemed to go by quicker than most. We had open dining picked for this cruise, our first time. I must say I was really surprised, I liked it more than I thought I would. My wife and I met a couple and hit it off the first night. We never ate dinner with them again but did share trivia contests them on a couple of occasions. Try the open seating, I think most will be surprised. This was Super Bowl weekend so the first day out to sea the ship put on a big Super Bowl Party in the Vista Lounge. First port.....Cabo San Lucas.....Whale watching a must ($80), saw a lot of grey whales, worth the couple of hours boat ride, drinks and salsa provided, friendly crew. Second Port.....Mazatlan.....City tour was a good deal at ($25), could see downtown just by walking or taking a bus. Getting to the outside of the port is done by bus, no walking to the gates allowed. Just an old Mexican town, might stay aboard next time. Third Port.....Puerto Vallarta....Took the Yamaha "Rhino" tour, expensive for a tour ($89), but it was a lot of fun, got to get wet and dirty on the ranch type setting. I would take in the bullfighting at 5pm the next time, within walking distance of the ship. Ship Rating.... Entertainment (Vista Lounge)....Great (Delisco, Edge...etc) Entertainment (Lounges)....Definitely for the older crowd. Room (Balcony)....Smaller and laid out less friendly than RCI. Fitness Area....much smaller than RCI....more of a focus on the spa area by H.A., the wet sauna unaccessible by "regular guests" requires $40 day spa fee to get a steam. Texas Holdem....Real dealers not video machine like R.C.I., spent some time every night playing, making friends. Food....A step above RCI in quality but not in selection. Miss the Quest, rock wall and mini sandwiches....but H.A. Oosterdam has great ice Cruise Mates....Definitely an older crowd, nice not so many kids aboard as is the usual case with RCI. Staff....Very helpful and friendly, mostly Indonesian or Philippine in origin,lots of fun to interact with if you take the time. Holland America....worth a try, especially for an older couple or group. the ship at airport by 8:30am dropping off bags for a 1pm flight. Took the 992 bus ($5-day pass)to downtown (8:45am)....Sea Port Village....walked to Little Italy for lunch and canoles to take home. San Diego is real easy to get around even without a car the transportation system is great. Overall....Very satisfied with service and quality. Ship in great shape. Lounges need more variety and pizzazz. Things more tucked away, hard to find if you don't know where you're going. Shops....tucked away not an open concept like RCI Explorer ships (Promenade)which were built before the Oosterdam. Would sail on 15 years! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
We wanted to write an accurate, timely review as a "thank you" for others on this board who've done so similarly. This was a first time cruise for us; we traveled with two children (12 & 10) and an 80 year old relative. ... Read More
We wanted to write an accurate, timely review as a "thank you" for others on this board who've done so similarly. This was a first time cruise for us; we traveled with two children (12 & 10) and an 80 year old relative. I'll try to break up the review by appropriate section. ARRIVAL....Not as smooth as I would have expected. Loaded with bags when we arrived around 10:30am, we were unceremoniously pointed towards the warehouse where the bags were taken. From there, we were directed towards the security screening area, where the personnel (non-HAL) had the charm of greeters at Ellis Island. ("Move down ALL the way!! Move down ALL the way!!") From there, we were handled efficiently, boarding the Oosterdam around 11:30. We went immediately to the Lido deck, where we found a windowside table and enjoyed a terrific buffet lunch. The food choices were mind-boggling....everything we heard about the food was spot on. STATEROOM....No disappointment here; just as advertised. We had a Verandah room with balcony. Although tight, it worked well for us during the trip, including the adjoining room. UPSELLING....We wanted to highlight this aspect, as we weren't expecting it. By "upselling," we mean an effort by HAL to have you buy add-ons, like alcohol, excursions, pictures, etc. I'm sure this isn't limited to HAL, but I wish they could be a little more subtle. It starts in the embarkation area, with them trying to sell wine packages. It continues onboard, with the bar staff being especially irritating by asking if I wanted a "bucket" (6 beers) when I ordered a single beer. I'm sitting by myself and the guy asks me if I want a bucket! I also had another waiter try two or three times to sell me a drink card ("pay for 9, get 10"). When I said "no," he kept asking like he couldn't hear me. Irritating, and I hope HAL's beverage managers take note. This, though, abated after about Day #2. ClubHAL....Somewhat disappointing. Our 10 & 12 year olds went to one function and told us they would not return. Not necessarily ClubHAL's fault, as their staff appeared to try very hard. One issue we had is what was offered didn't seem to match the brochure (the "Oasis"....with hammocks, etc.). To be fair to HAL, though, there may have been an asterisk saying those amenities weren't available on the Oosterdam. Nevertheless, the kids got a little tired of ping-pong and semi-flat basketballs in the sports loft. FOOD....They do a wonderful job. Great selection and (usually) great quality. We choose what is now the 5:45pm seating. We actually had chosen the 6:15 seating, but this was eliminated after our booking when HAL began to offer "as-you-wish" seating; the Oosterdam converted one entire dining room to this option. The main dining room then is divided into 5:45 & 8pm seatings. 5:45 was too early as we discovered. We were staying out fairly late, seeing the shows, going to the casino, etc., so breakfast was around 9-10am, lunch at 1pm, then dinner at 6pm. It felt rushed. We'd STRONGLY recommend to those who are semi-nightowls to go with the 8pm seating. Even if you are like us and eat every night religiously at 6pm, 8pm will not be too late on this (or other) cruises. If you're hungry at 3pm **trust me** you'll find something to eat. We'd also recommend the formal seating, which we and our kids loved. We enjoyed being served by the same staff every night, as they were wonderful. We were also fortunate enough to get a window table immediately off the stern. The sunsets and general vistas were amazing. Loved this part. Some final notes on food & adventuresome....try some things you would never have at home. For one of us, it was escargot (they're great, by the way). Have two appetizers or a dinner of just appetizers. You can do it! If you order room service (you should....especially if you have a balcony), always order the time slot with the late end of the time range as the time you want it served. For example, if you want breakfast delivered at 9am, check the box for 8:30-9am, as it always seemed to show up at the late end of the time range we selected. Finally, I was a little suspicious of the scrambled eggs on a couple occasions, as they had a slight quality of pre-cooked eggs (e.g., shiny texture, porous holes in the eggs). I despise packaged eggs and am always on the outlook for them. I was wary of them a couple times, including our disembarkation day. BAR SERVICE....We didn't follow our friends' advice and smuggle booze onboard. The drink prices are not exorbitant ($7.45 for a Tanqueray martini), though the wine prices can be a little silly. SHORE EXCURSIONS....We never bought a HAL-sponsored excursion, as most left earlier than our older relative could do. We tried to do it by ourselves in Cabo & Mazatlan with mixed results. First off, Cabo and Mazatlan are terrible tourista traps. (You can keep Mazatlan for all we care....) Our strategy was to go to big, brandname resorts for lunch and to see if we could rent aquasports equipment. This strategy largely didn't work. We were pounced on at every hotel we entered, as most require ID like wristbands to be on the premises. (They apparently have a problem with non-guests wandering onto the premises and using the facilities.) We were also offered free taxis, food and facility usage if we would look at their timeshare units. NO THANKS! So, if you're like us and want to go to a hotel to eat in a restaurant with a printed menu containing prices, good luck. If we had to do it again, we'd take a tour in Cabo and Mazatlan. For Puerto Vallarta, I think it's probably easier to go downtown and be "normal" (go to a restaurant, visit the beach, etc). We didn't do this, as we visited a friend in their condo in PV. CASINO....Pretty nice. Some of the staff had a little trouble with Craps, but it was great fun while playing in a tuxedo. Do it....the closest you'll get to playing James Bond! ENTERTAINMENT....Overall, impressed. I think they really try to do a quality job, and it shows. The Broadway shows are very campy and over the top. The featured singer--Delisco--was talented. The house band (The HALCats) are excellent. Go to the shows (provided you read our caveat below in "OVERALL"). ACTIVITIES....Our advice is exploit what the ship has to offer. Plan your day. Read the daily schedule the night before. You'll get a lot more out of your vacation if you actively plan your next day aboard. Try different stuff, like Team Trivia and Bingo. You'll enjoy it. OVERALL....This was a fun vacation, and we would like to travel with HAL again. (Probably on a cruise with more sea days, however, as we liked that far more than port days.) To fully enjoy your trip, our advice is MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. The food is great, but it's not Le Cirque. The entertainment is entertaining, but it's not Celine Dion in Vegas. We viewed the trip as a chance to kick back, have great food and fun with no housekeeping chores. We succeeded and look forward to future trips. We hope you'll find this review helpful. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
This was our 8th cruise and the second on Holland America. So far both Holland American cruises are our favorite. The embarkation dock was a problem and my husband tripped and hurt himself. They really need to fix all the holes. After that ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise and the second on Holland America. So far both Holland American cruises are our favorite. The embarkation dock was a problem and my husband tripped and hurt himself. They really need to fix all the holes. After that it was a great trip. We started in the back bar and met our favorite cocktail waitress Mabel. She immediately new our drinks and remembered our cabin number for the rest of the trip. Our room was nice, but next time we will go with a bigger room. The decorating was very nice. The food was a pleasant surprise after a few Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises. Always plenty of chairs at the pool and room at the bar.. Ice cream is included!! As far as the itinerary we probably won't do the Mexican Riviera again. The whale watching was good, but the water doesn't compare to the Caribbean. Mazatlan was a dump. The Cruise Authority handled the arrangements and everything went very smoothly. We asked for and received early debarkation and were at the airport by 9:30. Bingo was a bit of a let down until I won twice! I also won in the Casino which makes for a good trip. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our 4th cruise, 1st with HAL, 1st out of California. Flew in a few days early and stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street the night before, so the 1st day was a breeze. No embarkation problems, did all the pre registering on ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise, 1st with HAL, 1st out of California. Flew in a few days early and stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street the night before, so the 1st day was a breeze. No embarkation problems, did all the pre registering on line. Cabin was nice, very front of the boat with a veranda, so there was a constant breeze to be dealt with. Cabin steward was switched in mid cruise, we guess our 1st one had a bout with the intestinal problems going around. The 2nd steward was less friendly and less accessible, but I believe he was suddenly saddled with a double work load, so I understood. The food was always excellent, did not try the Pinnacle, we had a scheduled time for dinner so we just stuck to that. I did not attend many of the entertainment acts but the others in my party did and all said they were very good, especially the comedian. We won one of the trivia contests and my 18 year old son finished 2nd in one of the Texas Hold Em tournaments, so of course we enjoyed those activities. The weather was not exactly stellar, so laying by the pool was kept to a minimum. Our shore excursions consisted of the Jeep Desert Safari in Cabo which was alot of fun and swimming with the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, which everyone enjoyed. The outbreak and subsequent sanitizing activities were very evident, but it seemed to me that all was going smooth. Aside from the loss of our 1st cabin steward, I don't think we were inconvenienced at all and I thought the crew did an exceptional job given the situation. I will cruise again with HAL, as we booked a Panama canal trip while on this cruise, so we are looking forward to that. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our 7th cruise and first on HAL. We have been on Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. DH is retired and DW is close. We travelled with another couple - sister-in-law and DH. Having been told that nobody on HAL is under 50, we ... Read More
This was our 7th cruise and first on HAL. We have been on Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. DH is retired and DW is close. We travelled with another couple - sister-in-law and DH. Having been told that nobody on HAL is under 50, we noted that at least two-thirds of this cruise were indeed under 50. Boarding was a snap, very slick. Lovely ship, every nook and crannie seems to be filled with some objet d'art. Atrium is not impressive though, it's as if it had been crowded in to create more square feet for revenue-producing activities. We liked the historic black and white photos that lined our corridor. Proper lifeboat drill at the your station with roll-call. It's a pain but full marks to HAL for doing it. We decided on an inside room for this cruise and it was the tightest we have ever seen on any ship. Seven days was enough - a longer cruise on this ship would have to be in a bigger space. Bed was comfortable though. We did not experience any line-ups at any time. Met the famous Hunky Dory in the Lido. The guy is amazing. He came up to DH and called him by name although he had never met him. He recognized DW and had memorized who she was sailing with. The Lido was the best buffet we have seen at sea, good variety and quality, lots of stations. Bread pudding was delicious and well-tested. No dancing lessons, no classes at sea, no guest lecturers, no midnight buffets, can't check your room charges on the TV. Pinnacle grill food was excellent but we felt service was rushed. Wine list was very expensive and all from Washington State. Did we enjoy the Grill? Yes. Was it worth it? No. Would we do it again? Highly unlikely. The main dining room food was very good but too often was not as hot as it should be. Our wine waiter (Leo) was excellent and had our cocktail sitting on the table when we entered. Several times during the week waiters would appear around the ship with trays of canapes, very nice too. New Year's Eve was fun, with the captain ringing a ship's bell at midnight. Lots and lots of bubbly, funny hats, party favors etc. and a good band for dancing (Counterpoint). The ship has a decent size of dance floor in the Crow's Nest, unlike many others, and there were plenty of keen dancers in the crowd. We liked deck 3, our favorite place to sit on a bed reading and watch the world go by. It is also a nice feature for walking - three times around is a mile. The sliding roof over the pool is also a nice feature since the first and last days may be on the cool side. On one of the sea days, we went for lunch in the dining room. We particularly wanted a table for two. "Very sorry, we can normally do it but today we are short staffed." The logic of that escapes me. We went to the Lido instead but were not pleased. We had an outbreak of the dreaded norovirus. We thought that HAL dealt with it very well and it really was a minor inconvenience. Disembarkation was a bit of a shambles. We were scheduled to tie up at 6:15 but the captain made several attempts (three?) to get snug in so we were late. Hence immigration clearance was late. Our scheduled 8:15 expedited departure was an hour late by which time there was a huge crowd at the exit and too many people thinking they had the right to jump the queue. There was also a terrible lack of staff to impose some discipline on the proceedings. The rain was pelting down and it was a nasty day in San Diego. Once off, high marks to U.S. Customs - they were expediting things very well indeed. Overall, an excellent cruise and we'll be back on HAL in future. Not exclusively though, we'll take the others when it suits us. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
This cruise was perhaps out 8th or so. We were a family that included 3 teens. We traveled with other families with a similar make-up on this Thanksgiving week. Embarking in San Diego is a breeze. Do not buy the cruise line transfers. I ... Read More
This cruise was perhaps out 8th or so. We were a family that included 3 teens. We traveled with other families with a similar make-up on this Thanksgiving week. Embarking in San Diego is a breeze. Do not buy the cruise line transfers. I would suggest a taxi. The port is about 5 minutes from the airport and the taxi will be cheaper and less of a hassle. Holland America has it together at this port. Getting on was a breeze. Although the rooms are not usually ready until 1:30, you can check your carry-on gear near the front pool area. Ship was in good shape. Previous reviews commented on rug deterioration, but the crew is replacing the rug as time goes on. Food is respectable. One member of our party wanted more of a healthy selection, so she would choose her selections the night before and it would be prepared by a special chef using low-fat type of ingredients. It worked out fairly well. Our food service was fair to poor. During previous cruises, one would order an appetizer, salad, soup and then entree because each was grouped in it's own section on the menu. On this cruise, the first three were all in one section. This may have caused some confusion in the service and maybe in the kitchen also because not everyone ordered a appetizer, soup and/or salad. The wine steward was great. Professional and personable. For those you don't consume huge amounts of wine, think about purchasing a 10 or 20 glass wine card. It is worth it. Buffet was good. If you are a creature of habit for breakfast, then no problem enjoying the food. Our room was on the Rotterdam desk. Clean and reasonable size. The hair dryer could had a bit more power though. The room steward was friendly and cleaned the room when expected. The kids room was a big mess. It was not the room steward fault, but the kids. We told the steward to just make sure the toilet was clean and they had toilet paper. After five days, the kids got tired, cleaned the room and we told the steward it was safe to return. Although there were many kids on this Holiday week, it was not out of control. Our kids were really too old for the kid's program, but other kids we knew just loved it. The Las Vegas entertainment was OK. Julie Bar the comedian, Elton John impersonator and the gymnastics person were very good. The cruise director was humorless and hardly entertaining. There were a couple of house bands on the ship, but they generally played only an hour a day somewhere on the ship. The amount of on-board activities seems to have dropped. There was bingo, trivia and thank goodness Thanksgiving day football on the big screen in a lounge. The fitness room was adequate. There were also ample number of classes to take, but most had a fee. The Greenhouse spa allowed access for a fee of $250 per couple for the entire week, which included unlimited use between 8AM and 10PM. This included warming chairs which was comprised of heated tiles. Very soothing and I fell asleep more than once. Also included was wet and dry saunas and a private mineral pool set at body temperature (could have been warmer). Holland America limits the amount of people that can purchase the package and thus the warmer chairs were available 11 of the 13 times we visited. We did not attend any of the free or pay-for cooking demonstrations. Members of our group did attend the pay-for Martini Mixer class and enjoyed it. Would we travel on this ship with this cruise line again. You bet. We saw no reason to shy away from Holland America or the Oosterdam. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2007
We are a couple in our early fifties with grown children. This was our sixth cruise: the second to the Mexican Riviera and the first on a Holland America Ship. Since we live in California we drove to the San Diego pier and were able to ... Read More
We are a couple in our early fifties with grown children. This was our sixth cruise: the second to the Mexican Riviera and the first on a Holland America Ship. Since we live in California we drove to the San Diego pier and were able to park right across the street. That was very handy, especially when we returned. EMBARKATION/LUGGAGE SERVICE/DISEMBARKATION The embarkation process went very smoothly even though the computers were down. We had pre-printed our boarding passes and had entered our credit card information on the HAL web site which helped us get processed without delay. The line was fairly long, but moved quickly. The HAL agent who served us was quite tired having just returned form a long voyage himself that morning, but quickly had us checked in and was very pleasant. We were quite impressed that once on the ship we were able to check our carry on luggage. Since we had driven to the ship we had used two large hanging bags to avoid wrinkled clothing. It was so nice to have a place to hang them while we enjoyed lunch. Our luggage arrived quicker than we have ever experienced. Within 15 minutes after are cabin was ready we had our checked luggage. We were amazed at the efficiency of HAL in this area. On criticism I would have is that the Life Boat drill was the longest we have ever experienced. We had to wait quite a while until stragglers arrived and were checked off the list. Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation. HAL allows you to remain in your stateroom until it is time for you to disembark. Again, it was nice to be able to eat breakfast and then return to our room for our carry-on luggage. Another nice feature was HAL allowing you to choose what time you wanted to disembark if you had your own travel arrangements. THE SHIP We were quite impressed with the beauty of the Oosterdam. We have sailed on other ships that we considered more elegant, but the art collection on the Oosterdam was the best we have seen. We downloaded the podcast tour for the Oosterdam before sailing and it was a great way to experience the art collection aboard the ship. It took us about 90 minutes to take the tour which included the optional climbing up and down stairwells to view the art there. The lay out of the ship is very nice and we quickly found our way around. The public areas were very nice and we were pleased that second-hand smoke was not too noticeable. It was quite easy to detour around areas where smoking was permitted. (We have sailed on ships where you had to walk through a smoking area to enter the restaurant on the side where our table was located.) Our stateroom was a basic ocean view, but certainly more than adequate since we spend little time in our cabin. The bed was amazing. It was by far the most comfortable bed we've had at sea. In fact, my wife wondered if she slept better than at home because of the bed or the gentle rocking of the ship or a combination of both. I walk daily when at sea and have really enjoyed the walking deck on previous cruises. Since the walking decks I have experienced have always been near the top of the ship I wasn't sure about the promenade deck for walking, but I found I liked it even better being closer to the ocean. One the one day we had a bit of rain I could still walk since much of the deck was covered. OFFICERS & CREW We found the crew and officers exceptional in most areas. I had made the arrangements for our CC Meet and Greet and for our Banner Wave ahead of time. I had a note from the Beverage Manager in my cabin asking me to drop by his office to go over the arrangements. Everything was in order and HAL provided us with refreshments in the Oak Room on our first sea day. I also met the Hotel Manager, Doug Hernandez, before sailing to get the CC banner for our banner wave. He told me he was glad that we had scheduled our Meet and Greet for he afternoon so that he would be able to attend. We collected the names and cabin numbers at our Meet and Greet and we were invited to a cocktail party with the captain and several other officers later in the week. Doug also invited me to a Q & A session in his office on our last sea day along with a few others. I was quite impressed with the accessibility of the ship's officers. The front desk personnel and the future cruise consultant were all excellent in their service. We were a bit concerned about our cabin steward on our first day when our room had still not been made up at 3:30 in the afternoon. He was no where to be seen so I went to the front desk to see if there was a problem. It turns out that he had simply overlooked our room and thought he had already cleaned it. It was promptly cleaned. He apologized the next day and our service from then on was wonderful. He was very friendly, but I was a bit surprised that he didn't make an effort to learn our names. On previous cruises we've always been greeted by name by our cabin stewards. We were greeted by almost every member of the crew that we passed on the ship. They were very friendly and seemed eager to please. DINING We were quite surprised after embarkation to find that we had a choice of eating at the Lido buffet or in the restaurant. We chose the restaurant where we had a quite lunch while looking out at the San Diego Bay. It was a great way to begin the cruise. We asked to be seated at a large table and were at a table for 8 at the 8:30 seating. Dinners lasted almost 2 hours every night, but this was because we were at a table where we all enjoyed leisurely dining and conversation. We were often one of the last tables to leave. It was truly a highlight of each day. Our servers were quite friendly, but not the most efficient. Several times starters that were ordered never arrived. Again, I was surprised that our servers never made an effort to learn our names. Our waiter was quite good when it came to recommendations. When I had a hard time choosing I would asked him for his suggestion and I was never disappointed. Overall, the food was good, but not great. The salads were better than we've experienced, but the entrees were not quite as good. The desserts were often a disappointment. Our wine steward was wonderful. She has been with HAL for 10 years and even though she had many more tables than our servers she knew all of our names and greeted us by name each evening. We bought a wine card from her and drank only house wine so she didn't have great incentive to be so efficient, but she was anyway. I did tip her on the last night since we were so pleased with her service. We rarely ate at the Lido, but I did like the way they had separate stations. We are light breakfast eaters and the continental breakfast station was perfect for us and there was never a line there. We did eat lunch there once. I had sushi which wasn't too good and my wife got a hamburger from the grill which she said was ok. We did go to the Royal Dutch Tea which had a very long line. We were disappointed. We far prefer the formal teas we have experienced on another line where we were served by the waiters and the passengers had to dress for tea. We also went to the Indonesian Tea. We thoroughly enjoyed that. PORTS & EXCURSIONS CABO SAN LUCAS We booked an excursion online for the Yellow Submarine. It is a small fiberglass boat that holds 12 passengers. It has a lower deck with a bench and a large window on each side which are below water. It's like snorkeling without getting wet and with a much better view. We saw thousands of fish and there was only one other couple on our excursion so we had lots of room. They took us out past the arch and we saw the sea lions up close. There was also an opportunity to swim or snorkel for a short time. It was to last two hours, but went a bit longer. It's a new excursion and they have discontinued it until after whale watching season is over. Our guide's name was Marina and she was amazing. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone prone to sea sickness. It's a very light boat and rocked a lot whenever another boat passed. To get below you had to go down about six steps on a ladder so it would not be a good excursion for anyone with mobility issues or who is claustrophobic. MAZATLAN We love the Old Town in Mazatlan. We walked form the ship to Old Town. It's about twenty minutes, but I would only recommend walking to those who know how to get there. We started at the Cathedral where we entered and just sat for about 15 minutes in solitude to experience the beauty of the architecture and the furnishing. From there we visited a shop we discovered last winter called Nidart (Nest of Artists). It's owned by three families who make most of the art themselves. We went specifically to buy two leather masks as gifts. We bought three. (We already own two, so we decided to add another to our wall in addition to the two we bought as gifts. We also bought three small clay masks for our Daughter and her husband. They gave us a map to other galleries so we did visit those also and bought a couple of kaleidoscopes made of bamboo, hand made jewelry, pottery and a couple of wool scarves. These shops in Old Town are amazing although they can be difficult to find. We walked to Olas Altas and walked along the ocean taking pictures of bronze statues and saw the cliff divers. We then returned to Plaza Machado and had lunch and margaritas at Altazors ars Café before returning to the ship. PUERTO VALLARTA We were part of a group that our travel agent has put us in and we got a free excursion in PV. It was a city tour and Mexican Fiesta. It was OK, but not great. We did see the Cathedral which was nice. We were then taken to a Hacienda where we spent a lot of time touring their tequila factory which was interesting, but far too long. We had a mediocre Mexican lunch-no where near as good as the Mexican food in our little town in Central California. Afterwards there was an interesting show. The MC wasn't too good, but the dancers were very entertaining and a dancing horse proved to be the highlight of the tour. The "hacienda" had lots of venders hawking their wares. After returning to the ship we walked 5 minutes to Sam's Club and bought tequila and Kahlua for gifts at great prices. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was quite mixed with some being very good and some not. We enjoy the shows and were quite disappointed that there was only one show on the first night and that it was during our dinner. Perhaps this was usual for HAL to have only one show, but it seemed as if we were penalized for choosing the late seating. The two cast shows were ok, but seemed to be planned around one singer who was quite good. The dancers were not together and a couple of the singers were weak. The shows themselves weren't choreographed too well, and overall were a disappointment. Lance Ringnald, former Olympic gymnast and a gold medalist performed one night. He is amazing, but he could use a good choreographer. He did many of the same things made popular by Cirque du Soleil performers, but without the artistry. His skill level; however, was probably greater than we've seen before. Joel Mason "Elton John" show was amazing. He's funny and quite talented. He plays the piano quite well. He is a great entertainer. The final show was a variety show put together by Joel Mason. I liked him even better at this show where he demonstrated his wide range of talent. He featured many other entertainers who were on the ship and let them shine. I was really impressed by that and by him. There were a couple of good pianists in the bars and an amazing string quartet. The HAL Cats band was good, but the singer was very weak. OVERALL This was our first HAL cruise. It was a good cruise, but not the best cruise we've had; however, the price was great which made it an exceptional value. We do plan to sail again on HAL next summer to Alaska based on price and itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
My sister and I booked a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam; Nov.10th through Nov. 17th. My sister lives in San Diego, so a friend drove us right to the baggage drop off area. We had no problem with the check-in process. We had ... Read More
My sister and I booked a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam; Nov.10th through Nov. 17th. My sister lives in San Diego, so a friend drove us right to the baggage drop off area. We had no problem with the check-in process. We had done the preliminary on-line check-in, so we were in and out in a matter of minutes. We were given our room/charge card, with a dining time of 8:30 PM. (We were hoping to change that time to 8 PM, and did later in the day, no problem.) Evidently, there was an on-line glitch and embarking was taking much longer than normal. We were given a number (36) and we sat down to wait our turn. A sweet little man that reminded us of Santa asked what number we had, and in a minute was back with the number that was boarding (21) Nice! It took us about 30 minutes in line to embark on the ship, but met some fun people while we were going up the plank. One guy had a huge box filled with wine and champagne. We brought a few bottles ourselves. We walked up to the Lido deck and had a little lunch. Roasted chicken, fresh salad and fruit. And of course the ships signature bread pudding with custard sauce. (Which we had every day of the cruise) Then it was on to check out our cabin for the next 7 days. Our cabin was #8027, outside balcony. The linens and towels were very nice. There were 2 bathrobes hanging up for our use. Bath and shampoo gels in little bottles (I like this better than the dispenser) and a well-stocked refrigerator. After a bit of juggling, we fit most of our things in the closet, shelves and found the drawers under the end of the bed as well as under the sofa, and filled the nightstand as well. There is also the vanity stool. The top opens! We packed our souvenirs in there. We went out on deck and watched as the Oosterdam pulled away from the docks, then went to our cabins to relax and wait for the infamous lifeboat drill. When the drill sounded, off we went to the designated station. Both of us had our jackets fastened fancifully but incorrectly, but there were employees who were helping everyone. Hopefully, we would not have a need to recall the procedure. We went up to the Lido to enjoy the sail away, then to the Ocean Bar for a bit of a cocktail. Waiters brought little fruit sticks and cold cuts. One waiter proudly showed us his fish he carved from a melon. Our first dinner on board had to be at 8:30. We were able to change to 8pm after that. Our tablemates this evening were a young couple and full of interesting cruises they had already been on. A long walk after dinner and we were back in our cabin. There was our towel animal, a fish! Also a chocolate treat, room service tag and a Daily Program for the following day. This happens every night by the way. The next morning we were out for a run/walk on deck. Lots of folks about and everyone was smiling and friendly. We went up to the Lido and played Ping-Pong and had a nice breakfast. Then we took showers, walked about the ship and took in a cooking show performed by one of the Master Chef's. After his show, waiters brought trays of food out that the chef had been preparing. It was fun. Back up on Lido, my sister had signed up for the "golf tournament". You chip a plastic ball into a life ring in the pool. She won 5 "dam bucks" to be used for buying T-shirts and what not. We caught the very end of the High Tea in the Main Dining Salon, then put our suits on and relaxed by the pool. Tonight was our 1st formal night. Our table mates were a couple from the San Diego area and another couple from back east. They had taken many Holland America cruises and were way up the chain on the Medallion member's list. After dinner, we walked past a lounge that had Billy, who sang Frank Sinatra songs. We were only able to catch the last few songs, but he promised us he would be playing again on our cruise and to watch the program guide. Back in our cabin, our towel animal (a lobster) greeted us with chocolates and Program guide for the following day. The night was so beautiful; we propped the door open with the deck table and went to sleep. The next day we were docked in Cabo San Lucas. Not our favorite town. But the following day, Mazatlan was fun. We walked into town and rented our own driver to take us about. Raul took us to see the cliff divers, a leather factory, gave us a great tour and also provided us with complimentary water and of course, Corona beer! (The Cervecchia del Pacifico factory is here) The van was new, air conditioned and seated 8 of us just fine. The other 6 people were actually from our cruise ship. The tab came to $20 each, which included the tip. We didn't have exact cash and no one could come up with a combo, so one of the fellow cruisers offered to loan us the money till we got back on the ship. He was then known as "The Banker" for the rest of the cruise. This evening, we made a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill. Although the dinner was very nice and the restaurant was beautiful, I am not sure if I would book again in the future. The filets were dry as were the vegetables. The waiter kinda hovered too much. There was hardly anyone seated at 8 PM, except for a table of 12 gorgeous gay guys that were having a big time. Our towel animal this night: peacock! Our tour guide from Cabo, Raul, highly recommended a tour guide for our next destination, Puerto Vallarta. (There is certainly a little networking going on here) Our little group decided to all go together again, since we had so much fun together in Mazatlan. Pedro was waiting for us as soon as we got off the ship with a sign that said "Friends of Raul's" Cute! Pedro took us past the Bull Ring, resorts, and shops, all along the beautiful ocean front. Then took us to a restaurant just below the rainforest. It was in the treetops, with birds everywhere (parrots? Macaws?) It was a fabulous day. But not so fast! Pedro decided he would take us to a Tequila factory. We had a guided tour of the place, with tequila tasting and a guide that took a liking to my sister. He wanted a picture with her. We wondered later how many tequila tastings this guy does a day... After we were safely back to our ship and on board, we played some Ping-Pong, took a little nap and off again for dinner. Haven't we had about 20 dinners so far? However, tonight was wonderful. We were served the best lamb shanks I believe I have ever had. Melt in your mouth and savory. Scrumptious! Took in a show and our towel treasure for the night (a shaggy dog) was waiting for us to say good night. The following day we were at sea, played games and enjoyed the perfect weather. For my birthday gift, my sister booked us massages. The spa was so relaxing. We enjoyed the nice big showers, and since our cabins hair dryer was barely blowing, took advantage of the spas nice hairdryers! Later, we met our tablemates for a pre-dinner champagne invitation. We had the Baked Alaska show that night, followed by the chocolate extravaganza on the Lido deck, along with ice carvings and beautiful flowers. I think I took a thousand pictures. It was amazing. Floppy eared bunny for the towel gig tonight. Opened the balcony door and was fast asleep. The beds are addicting. Our final day met us with a beautiful calm morning. We took the kitchen tour, which was so much fun. Got to see the guy who made so many fruit carvings and the guy who made the little dough critters that were all over the dining areas. That afternoon we went to the Indonesian tea. (It was ok) Had our last dinner with our mates. Swapped addresses and emails hugged and tipped our waiter. Went to see "Frank Sinatra". He was great. Back to our cozy cabin for a last nights sleep. Next morning, we were supposed to wait till our number was called, but decided to see if we could creep off. As we walked to the gangway, we wondered where the heck anybody was? There was no one about! So we walked off the ship, down the gangway, right into the terminal where we saw our luggage awaiting us. Perfect end to a perfect cruise! A few notes: If you ever need serious medical attention at sea: We had a call over the speaker from our captain. A cruise passenger was critically ill and there was a Coast Guard helicopter enroute to pick the person up in a litter basket. The ship slowed down, but did not fully stop. The passenger was lifted off the ship and off they went. Now we know. The shows were just "lukewarm". The magicians were a husband and wife combo who were cute, but after awhile I found myself squirming. NOT that we have anything at all against gays, but the dance troupes were absolutely openly gay. The (gay) disc jockey and co-host of an American Idol type singing contest among cruise members made very off colored gay remarks and after awhile was not funny at all. Internet: Slow, slow, slow. Very expensive. Save your money. At every port I found an Internet cafe for a few bucks. On board shops: Wait till nearly the end of your cruise. Items go on sale and there are all sorts of T-shirts and things that they bring up on the Lido deck to sell. Library: There is a $30 check out fee for books. You get charged when the book is taken out, then get a credit back when it is returned. Look at your final charges to make sure the credits are there. Food: Don't leave the ship till you've tried a bread pudding! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
10 Tips You Need to Know About the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise This review became longer than expected! We split it into sections if you want to read just those areas of interest. There are also 10 specific tips included in our ... Read More
10 Tips You Need to Know About the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise This review became longer than expected! We split it into sections if you want to read just those areas of interest. There are also 10 specific tips included in our review. OVERALL. For us, any cruise is a spectacular and wonderful experience. We really enjoyed the food, service, cabin, ship, entertainment and ports on this cruise. If you are considering this cruise - go! This was our 3rd cruise and our first with HAL. We have also cruised with RCL and Princess. We did this same itinerary last year on the Diamond Princess. This cruise on the Oosterdam left from San Diego and made stops in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta and then back to San Diego. This was our first cruise in a Suite. Our 3 cruises have been in an ocean view cabin, a balcony and now this suite. The suite was by far the largest cabin we have experienced. Overall, we were just as happy with the balcony and will probably stick to balcony cabins on future cruises unless the suite price is close to the balcony price Now that we've taken a few cruises, we have points of reference to compare our experiences. We were expecting HAL to be a notch above RCL and Princess since they are a "premium" cruise line. This was a great cruise, but we would rank our RCL and Princess cruises as slightly better than this HAL cruise. There were a number of minor issues, but nothing interfered with our complete enjoyment and relaxation during this cruise. We've made notes of our minor issues in the sections below. AIRPORT TO CRUISE TERMINAL. Our flight arrived at the San Diego airport. This was a chartered cruise and the travel agency had arranged transfers to the pier for most passengers. After getting our bags at the airport, we were informed that there would be a long wait for the group shuttles to the pier. We opted to take a short taxi ride to the pier rather than wait with the crowd at the airport. We also took a cab back to the airport at the end of the cruise. Cab fare from the airport to the pier is cheap - about $10 and about a 10 minute ride. TIP 1: Save money on transfers and just take a cab if you need to get from the San Diego airport to the pier for a cruise - it is quick and cheap! CRUISE TERMINAL. We arrived at the dock at about 1 PM, and there was a small line waiting to check baggage outside the cruise terminal. You drop your bags outside in the parking lot before you enter the cruise terminal - we started to take our bags with us into the terminal and had to do an about face to drop them off. We then entered the cruise terminal and were pleased to find very short lines through the security check point. We moved quickly through security and then found ourselves in a much longer line to get to the HAL check in counters. Even so, the wait was less than 30 minutes to the counter. We had done the online check in and had our HAL pre-boarding passes, so we were shuttled to the shorter line. Those without their pre-boarding passes had to wait in the longer lines. TIP 2: Have your passport & HAL online pre-boarding passes when you arrive at the terminal and you'll get onboard quicker! CABIN. By 2 PM we were onboard and found our cabin was ready. We dropped our carry on bags in the cabin and headed to the Lido Buffet and then on to exploration of our new home for the week. Our suite was SS8082 on the Navigation deck. This is the highest deck with cabins on the ship. The suite is very large. The bathroom is spacious with 2 sinks, a full-size jetted bathtub and a separate shower. There is a large queen bed with 6 pillows - 2 each of soft, medium and hard pillows. We loved the extra pillows. There was also a sofa, plenty of drawers and closet space and a very large verandah. The verandah included a small table and chairs for eating or drinks plus 2 comfortable cushioned chairs with ottomans. We love having a balcony and will select a balcony cabin for future cruises. We're not as convinced on the suite. The 2 advantages of the suite compared to a balcony are the bathtub and the extra storage space. We brought plenty with us, but there was so much room, we didn't use all the storage space provided. TIP 3: If you can live without a bathtub and a lot of extra storage space, save some money and reserve a balcony cabin. If you love a nice bath - then spring for the suite on this ship! SAN DIEGO. Since we arrived & boarded fairly early we had time to explore the exterior decks and take in the views from onboard ship in the harbor. To the south of the ship, we could see the docked USS Midway & museum. While in port there were a few air force jets that screamed over the harbor - what a thrill! On the north side, we could see Star of India (the world's oldest active ship) and the B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine museum. There were boats and activity all around the harbor next to the cruise terminal. We also noticed that there is a Holiday Inn at the Bay straight across the street from the cruise terminal. TIP 4: If you can add a day before or after your cruise, stay at the Holiday Inn at the Bay. You can WALK from the hotel to the cruise terminal and there are an incredible variety of inviting activities and restaurants right at your doorstep! WINE & SPIRITS ONBOARD. We had read online that HAL sells wine cards for house wine during the cruise. We like wine, so we wanted to taste the house wine. The house Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were all fine for Dan but the house White Zinfandel was not as good for Janean. We bought a wine card for Dan and opted to buy wine by the bottle and glass for Janean. We had to ask 4 servers before we found someone with a wine card we could buy. The servers seemed less than excited about selling the wine cards, but the card worked nicely once we found it and it saved us money. The house selections are limited and may not work for you, but if you can find a house wine, it will only cost about $4 per glass with the wine card (compared to $40-60 plus for a bottle or $6-10 plus for wine by the glass). On day 1, we also had an enthusiastic server sell us a cocktail card for discounted cocktails. He was persuasive and fun, so we bought a card. The cocktail card was a little more frustrating to use. HAL has a limited definition for "cocktails". If you don't order a specific "foo-foo" drink, your drink won't work with the cocktail card. Dan likes a bourbon and water after dinner, but that is not a "cocktail" on the Oosterdam. We had to resort to asking for a whisky-sour, but "hold the sour and add water instead" to be able to use the card. The servers were put out and pretty rigid about what could and couldn't be ordered with the cocktail card. The cocktail card cost is about $5 per drink, which can be lower than the $5-$8 price per cocktail depending upon what you order. TIP 5: If you drink wine or spirits, wait until you are on the ship and taste the house wine or confirm that your preferred drink is on the "cocktail" list. The cards can save you money, but make sure you like what you can order with the cards before you buy the card. THE SHIP. The Oosterdam has 936 cabins and will accommodate 1848 guests. It is easy to find your way around this ship. We really liked the 4 glass elevators which are mid-ship - a pair on the starboard and another pair on the port side. The glass elevators seemed to be less busy also. The Lido Buffet takes up most of the Lido deck. You can't miss it once you're on the Lido deck. The Vista Dining for dinners is aft and again, once you get aft and on the right deck - you can't miss it. The Promenade deck has a deck that completely encircles the ship. It is a pleasant way to walk off some of those big meals! Three laps around the ship equals one mile. We very much enjoyed the upper observation deck. You can sit in the hot tub, lie in a lounge or Adirondack chair or kick back with a drink at a table. Dan particularly enjoyed the wide-angle view of the sea and the horizon off the aft observation deck - the wake view from the rear of the ship is amazing. TIP 6: Take an exploration stroll around the public areas of the ship during the day and find a great window seat for ocean viewing - there are many choice seats in the empty bars with great views of the ocean. Related to the ship, there were a few issues. We noticed stray "sewer" smells around different parts of the ship and at different times of the day. We haven't noticed unpleasant odors on the other cruises we've taken, but we had at least 2-3 encounters with this unpleasant odor every day while on the Oosterdam. Also, our dinner companions had a plumbing problem during the cruise. We're not sure what happened or what caused the problem, but a number of cabins were without water for several hours on one day during the cruise. The A/C didn't keep up with the heat while docked in Puerto Vallarta. The Oosterdam uses ocean water to help cool the ship. While we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, the ship's temperature rose into the 80s everywhere onboard. It hit the crew of the ship hardest - they had been in the cool Alaskan climate all summer - this was their first cruise of the season to Mexico. The afternoon and evening in Puerto Vallarta were uncomfortably warm everywhere on the ship making passengers and crew pretty uncomfortable. ENTERTAINMENT. Showtime with Joel Mason is a tribute/comedy act to Elton John and he is AMAZING! The Romanian Tempo String Quartet in the Explorer's Lounge was wonderful! The karaoke competition on this cruise was incredible. Most of the participants had already cut CDs of their own music. We would have paid to see most of the karaoke performers at their own shows! The Broadway shows (A Rock & Roll tribute & An Island Music tribute) were ok. The comedienne Julie Barr was funny. The piano player in the Piano Bar didn't keep us in the Piano Bar (which is unusual for us - we love piano players). We missed the magic show and the piano player in the Crow's nest. TIP 7: Do NOT miss the Showtime with Joel Mason - Elton John show! DINING. HAL is still pretty traditional. We prefer the anytime dining options and less formal attire. We were stuck with 5:30 PM early seating and missed dinner 3 times on this cruise due to the early start time. We prefer less formal attire for dining options - which are very limited on this ship. Men are asked to wear a suit or tux for the 2 formal nights and a coat to dinner ALL other nights on this 7 day cruise. According to HAL policy, if you're not in a coat, your only other dining option is the buffet or room service. Thankfully, reality onboard is much different than the written HAL dress code. Most fellow cruisers were less formally dressed than we were - and BRAVO to them! HAL should loosen the written dress code because reality is much less formal than their dress code states. We would have packed much lighter and enjoyed the cruise more if we had known that the dress code is not really that formal. TIP 8: If you prefer informal, you can pack lighter and dress less formally than HAL requests - long pants and a button up shirt are the only real requirement for men - even on formal dining nights. VISTA DINING ROOM. The food was spectacular and the dining room service was great! There was one minor annoyance at dinner. Dan used his discount wine card to order wine with our dinners. He received more than one lecture and scowl, complete with cringed nose about drinking the "cheap" wine when he used his wine card at dinner. Yes, the house wine costs less with the card and isn't as good as the $10 per glass vintages, but it was very acceptable to Dan. We're guessing that the wine stewards may be paid a commission on their wine/spirits sales. Whether that is the case or not, the service shouldn't be based on the price of the wine. Dinners would have been more enjoyable if the wine steward had pleasantly served the house wine & wished him bon appEtit. LIDO BUFFET. The food and service were great. It can be hard to find a seat at times. Janean loved the fresh garlic on the dishes at the pasta bar. Dan is an ice cream freak - he attacked the ice cream bar often. He also loved the dessert cheese plates. There is a stand-out food server onboard & if you're lucky you'll have him at your dinner table. But, if not, he is also at the Lido Buffet for breakfast and lunch to greet EVERYONE. His name is Hunky Dory (sing it when you say it!) and everyone on this cruise knows who he is! By day 2 Hunky Dory knew our names and greeted us by name every day the rest of the cruise. He was calling all the guests by their first name. What a fun & amazing young man - he personalized the service and made dining an experience! CABO. We took the Todos Santos (Hotel California) shore excursion. We recommend avoiding this shore excursion for the next several months. There is significant highway construction north of Cabo on Highway 19. The 42 mile drive took about 2.5 hours each way. We're not sure when the construction will be finished but any shore excursions that go north of Cabo will head right into the heart of the construction. We spent about 5 hours on the bus and barely over an hour in Todos Santos. The drive up the peninsula was pretty - but that is too much bus time for us. Also, Hotel California was hardly accessible on the tour - they weren't quite ready for the tourist season. The shore excursion season had just started, but this trip was a bust for us. Tip 9: If you don't like to spend precious shore excursion time on a bus, avoid road trips and excursions heading north of Cabo until highway 19 construction is done. MAZATLAN. We took the Copala/Concordia shore excursion. The brick making stop is an interesting and informal stop on the side of the road to watch an adobe brick making demonstration. It will make you appreciate your job - whatever it is! The man making the bricks had a 6-pack of muscles - on his back! The furniture/pottery making was a little disappointing. The bus stops at the "furniture factory" which is really a souvenir shopping stop. They have the power tools and there is actual woodworking being done, but it's a stop to sell you their stuff. The wooden rolling pin we bought split within days after we returned home. We're glad we didn't shell out more money for anything else at this stop. In Concordia, there is a laid back pueblo and a 16th century cathedral but not much time to explore. Copala is the highlight of the trip. It is a 16th century gold & silver mining pueblo, now home to 900 people complete with cobblestone roads, donkeys, a small art gallery, a cathedral and a great Mexican lunch buffet. The surrounding jungle mountains are gorgeous. It was a beautiful setting and a fun shore excursion for us. TIP 10: The jewelry at the informal brick making stop was the lowest priced jewelry we found on all of our Mexico stops - if you want some inexpensive jewelry buy it where you see the brick making demonstration. PUERTO VALLARTA. We had planned on the Yelapa/Majahuitas catamaran shore excursion. The brochure said that we would have access to 2 private beaches on this trip. Fortunately, we read the cards about the shore excursion that were left in our cabin. We discovered that there was "no beach access" on this trip. This was the Oosterdam's first trip to Mexico of the season. It appears they hadn't worked out the kinks yet. The revised excursion would have had us on the catamaran all day in the hot sun with only kayaks and snorkeling allowed when we stopped - no beach access. The front desk told us we would be charged 10% for canceling. We appealed based on the change from what was printed in the brochure. It was fairly frustrating having to show them their own brochure and explain what had changed. To their credit, they did cancel and did not charge us the 10% fee. We made up our own excursion. We took a 30 minute cab south to the El Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, had lunch next to the beach, used their secluded beach, had massages on the beachfront, saw 2 turtles hatch, swam in the ocean with a couple of manta rays and had a wonderful time. All told, we spent about the same including massages as we would have on the catamaran excursion. We were happy that we changed our plans. DISEMBARKATION. We were in the last group to disembark. We were off the ship by about 11 AM. We did cut our flight a little close as the process took longer than we had expected, but fortunately the airport is close to the cruise terminal. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
We just returned from a very memorable journey on the ms Oosterdam. We sailed on July 13 from Seattle. We spent the night before at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Seattle. A short ride to Pier 30, this location was OK. We were told ... Read More
We just returned from a very memorable journey on the ms Oosterdam. We sailed on July 13 from Seattle. We spent the night before at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Seattle. A short ride to Pier 30, this location was OK. We were told that it was closer to Pike's Market than it was, but that was alright...we were pooped from a long day of travel anyway. EMBARKATION Embarkation was simple and hassle-free. It's a lot less luxurious than the Disney cruise we went on last year, as the embarkation takes place in a warehouse-type building.'s very simple, and easy to figure out your way around. We were delayed 45 minutes during the embarkation process, and there weren't many chairs, so it meant standing. We didn't care, though! We were heading on a cruise...plenty of time to relax later. Upon boarding the ship, we realized that the delay came from leaks in the ceiling. There were several buckets spread about Level 2, but it seemed they disappeared by mid-afternoon. We were immediately escorted to the Vista Dining Lounge...that was so relaxing and much less congested, I hear, than trying to haul luggage around in the Lido buffet line. What a great treat to be welcomed with shrimp, pasta, and chocolate mousse! CABIN We were pleasantly surprised with our verandah cabin on floor 5. It was shorter in length than the Disney line, but it had tons of storage! I loved the bathroom...the tub was huge, the water pressure was great, the amenities were wonderful, and the towels were large! The beds are also worth bragging about. The sheets are wonderful and so is the comfort of the mattress. There is a mini-bar in the room that is restocked daily. There was no alarm clock/clock in the room, so I was glad I read about that ahead of time. We truly enjoyed the balcony, especially with so much Alaskan scenery to see at all time. We were on the inner passage, and it seems like there is always a change in scenery. We were on our balcony a lot...taking pictures of all the scenery as it passed by. FOOD Upon returning home, the scale tipped 5.2 pounds higher and I consider that a victory since we were amid tons of delicious food all week. We ate in the Vista Lounge every night and loved the portion sizes and the variety. There was always something new to try, and like all cruise dining, if you don't like something, ask for a replacement. That never happened at our table. We were pleased with all the entrees. We were most fortunate to have Hunky Dory as our steward. He's very well-known on the ship by everyone...whether you have him as your steward or not. He knows everyone's name and there's a reason he's Employee of the Year! Food in the Lido was good, but I wouldn't give it bragging rights. Maybe we got a little spoiled with the fanciness in the Vista. There was a great variety, but many of the foods (salads, desserts, pastries, breakfast entrees) were repeated day after day. The Dutch chocolate dessert buffet was impressive, but after a late seating, we were too full to indulge again at 10:30 p.m. Instead I walked around taking pictures of the display and gained 3.4 pounds just from the rich smell! CROWDED? The layout of the ship is nice, even though I couldn't find my way around - even until the last day! I was always turning the wrong corner...and I have a great sense of direction! There are plenty of small lounges/bars throughout the ship. Upon arriving on the ship, I worried that there'd be no seating in these small areas, but it was amazing at how empty the ship always seemed. I never felt crowded and I always felt like there were plenty of places to escape to when I needed it. CLEANLINESS/APPEARANCE The general cleanliness of the ship was great, but there were areas that could have used some touch up from general wear and tear. My mom was traveling with me and she's cruised with HAL before. She was less impressed with the ms Oosterdam than she was with the other ships, stating that the others seemed much fancier. This ship is quite fancy, but I think the color scheme (teal, etc) makes it look dated even though it's a fairly new ship. DRINKS There is always a wonderful drink special of the day with a discounted price. I think I was most disappointed in the lack of free sodas from a fountain machine. Having cruised with Disney, I think I became quite spoiled with getting a diet soda anytime I wanted...for no charge. I'm not a tea or coffee drinker so my caffeine cost me money all week. KIDS We opted for a "no kids" vacation, and on Holland America it seems that others opt for the same plan. HAL is not set up for kids like Disney or Royal Caribbean. It is truly geared for couples. There were a few kids on our ship, but I think I could have counted them on two hands. I think they spent their entire time in the pool as there wasn't anything else for them to do. PORTS Our itinerary included Juneau, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC. Juneau It was raining as we came into port and because we were the third of three ships docked for the day, we parked a mile out of the downtown area and relied on busses to take us downtown. We chose the Whale Watching Quest and Mendenhall Glacier as our excursion package and we were SO happy we did. We saw 25 whales up close and watched them breaching and bubble net feeding, which is rare to see. It rained during most of our excursion on the water, but we were in an enclosed boat, so it was just fine. The Glacier was beautiful and so worth the money. It was pretty packed there so getting into the visitor's center without being bumped around didn't happen. We spent some time in downtown Juneau and even had an Alaskan Summer Ale at the famed Red Dog Saloon. That's worth a stop for sure! By the end of the day the sun was out, and we were walking back to our ship in short sleeves. Sitka This was a beautiful little town with great views from the top of the hill. We needed the tender, but that was very convenient. We were the only ship in town for the day, so it wasn't crowded. Some of the little shops were closed because it was sunny. I guess the store owners close down when the sun comes out because it's so rare and they want to get out and enjoy it. The people are all very friendly, but the prices are very high if you plan to eat off the ship. I'd fill up first because just a hot dog is $4.50...better to eat what you already paid for on the ship. Hubbard Glacier We were one of the lucky groups to see another sunny day at Hubbard Glacier and enjoy quite the display of calving (when the face of the glacier breaks off). It was amazing, and I couldn't stay there long enough! I guess we were two miles from the glacier, but it felt like we were ¼ mile away. When we got there, there were two other ships just leaving so that was fun to watch them as they sailed against the majestic backdrop. Ketchikan Again...another quaint little town that started out cold and rainy and ended up being a very nice and warm day. Creek Street is a fun walk full of shops behind the main street. Lots of historic buildings. We went in the visitor center and learned about the Tlinket people and the history. I'm not normally one who likes that kind of thing, but it was neat...and only $5. It was very crowded as three ships were in town, so the stores were extremely busy. Victoria, B.C. I'd been told that this wasn't that great of a stop, but I felt much differently. You're a cab ride or a short walk to the part of town where you'd probably hang out. For $7.50, a cab will take you there, but be sure to let them know you're not going to the Gardens. For some reason, the cabbies want to take you to the Gardens and that is a 30 minute drive. 20 minutes into ours, we realized we were being "taken for a ride", and he wasn't happy that we only wanted to be dropped off downtown. The flowers are just beautiful...there are thousands of hangings baskets of multi-colored flowers. DISEMBARKATION This went very smoothly. We opted for a late disembarkation because we had a late flight out of Seattle. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and weren't called to leave the ship until 9:15. Finding luggage wasn't a problem...everything was very organized. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
We splurged on the penthouse since we were traveling with kids and wanted the privacy of a separate bedroom, but at the same time wanted our 'tween kids in the same room (instead of a separate cabin or on a couch next to our bed). The ... Read More
We splurged on the penthouse since we were traveling with kids and wanted the privacy of a separate bedroom, but at the same time wanted our 'tween kids in the same room (instead of a separate cabin or on a couch next to our bed). The suite was huge and well worth the expense. However, we were surprised at how much the wooden walls and ceilings squeaked when we were at sea. For a 4 year old ship, this seemed unusual and something we have not noticed on other cruises we have been on. The food was quite good, considering the number of people being served at one time, and the service was truly excellent. The waiters, cabin steward, and women in the Neptune Lounge were extraordinarily helpful and nice. We all also loved Hunky Dory, one of the staff in the Lido Buffet that remarkably could remember everyone's name. We really enjoyed the village tour outside of Mazatlan and the canopy tour in the mountains an hour outside of Puerto Vallarta. We loved flying through the trees on zip lines. I would recommend both of those tours. The snorkeling in Cabo was disappointing as the water was freezing and we saw no fish. Overall, we had a great time!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
My second cruise, first was on NCL to Central America one year ago and enjoyed it. Traveled with my 19 year old son during his college spring break. Picked this cruise because we were traveling from Idaho and this left at 5 PM on a ... Read More
My second cruise, first was on NCL to Central America one year ago and enjoyed it. Traveled with my 19 year old son during his college spring break. Picked this cruise because we were traveling from Idaho and this left at 5 PM on a Saturday and arrived back at 8 AM on a Saturday, allowing us to fly in and out on those days. We included transport to and from airport with our booking, and HAL was very efficient. We were on the ship 30 minutes after landing at San Diego, and at the airport 30 minutes after disembarking the ship. We had all forms filled in that were either available on line or mailed to us, and that greatly decreased the check in time. The ship was built in 2003, and over all is very clean and well kept. Holds around 1900 passengers and 800 crew. Wait staff and room stewards are Indonesian, bar staff Filipino. We booked a Veranda Suite - SY 6059 - and it was a nice sized room, around 390 square feet including balcony. Had a whirlpool bath/shower combo and a stand alone shower, two sinks in the bathroom, plenty of closet and drawer space, two desks, bath robes, flat screen TV, veranda had 4 chairs and a table - we were very pleased with the room. Most mornings ordered a room service light breakfast, and it was delivered within 20 minutes. If you know when you will be up, they provide forms so that you can order room service the night before, if you desire. Also provided a slip to fill out indicating the type of fruit you will like restocked in your room each day. Ate two or three breakfasts and all lunches in the Lido dining room (buffet style) and it offered lots of selections - very easy to eat a healthy meal, if you so elected. HAL has just recently liberalized its evening dining policy. Rather than having to show up at a specific time, you now show up within a window - if assigned to early dining you show up between 6 and 6:30, if late, you show up between 8 and 9 - we requested late dining in order to avoid conflict with excursions and liked the system. All of our dinners were in the Vista dining room except one night at the Pinnacle Grill. Our wait staff was excellent, really enjoyed talking to Rudi and Freddy, our stewards, about their Indonesian homeland, and the meals were good with a good variety each night. Pinnacle Grill was also very good, but not worth the extra $30/person "nominal fee" and its portions were too large, in my opinion. We weren't interested in many of the traditional cruise activities, like bingo, shopping seminars, jewelry shopping, art auctions and towel folding lessons, so did not participate in those. I did go on a tour of the kitchens, and it was very interesting to see how they put together thousands of meals a day. The show productions were somewhat disappointing - the singers and dancers were talented and energetic, but the music in the shows was dated - mostly 70s stuff - and just not that interesting. A couple of comedians were ok, some guy they call a humorist - playing a ukulele and telling old jokes - was horrible. The highlight of the entertainment was an American Idol type Karaoke competition that ran all week with the finals on Friday. We were fortunate to have some very talented folks on board, so it was fun to watch and filled up the main showroom for the finale. The entertainment around the ship - pianist in the Piano Bar, string quartet in another bar, the band and its lead singer that played in different venues - all were talented and entertaining. Excursions were typical tourist oriented stuff - in Cabo, took a boat tour out to El Arco - lands end - and it was pretty dramatic. Also went to a restaurant for refreshments high above Cabo overlooking the bay and visited Cabo Wabo, Sammy Hagar's bar noted for its smooth tequila. Met friends in Mazatlan, so no excursion. In Puerto Vallarta, went on a whale watching, snorkeling and beach boat trip with Vallarta Adventures - kind of hokey with crew dancing and putting on skits, but did see whales and enjoyed the beach. Snorkeling doesn't compare with Caribbean. Also visited the Cuban bar downtown (can't remember the name) but it is a neat place with signatures all over the walls and pictures of celebrities - famous for its Mojitos (they are good). Would like to eat there if we ever return. Exercise facilities are adequate and the walk around the promenade is a great way to start the day - 3 laps equal a mile. All kinds are out there every morning, the strollers usually carrying a book, cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, the power walkers with arms flailing and the joggers - I swear one little Japanese lady cut through at midship just so she could lap me a few extra times. Biggest disappointment was the lack of decent sports coverage. There is a sports bar on the ship, but its only feed was an international ESPN that only seemed to cover rally racing and European basketball. They did obtain a bizarre feed of the NCAA basketball tournament - it was a raw feed with no cut aways for commercials, highlights from other games, halftime reports. On NCL they had very good sports coverage. Another strange development was that our port times were changed after booking apparently because of problems with one of the engines - the ship couldn't travel as fast - so our port times were cut down. Everyone was given a $25 credit to make up for the problem. HAL has a reputation for having an older clientele. Perhaps because it was spring break time, there were a large number of 16-25 year olds on board, all traveling with their families and all appearing to have a good time. HAL seems trapped by its reputation, and needs to update some of its entertainment to appeal to folks younger than 60. Overall, we had a great time, the service was outstanding, the facilities were nice, the food was good, really enjoyed visiting with fellow passengers and most folks seemed to enjoy their trip. Most importantly, my 19 year old son also had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem ... Read More
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem in early Dec by reading the reviews on WWW.CRUISECRITIC.COM . The travel agent was notified by HAL for the first time on 12/12/2006 and they advised us that HAL would not return our funds if we cancelled the cruise. Other passengers we met on this cruise stated HAL's management decision unethical. WE AGREE! The only information that HAL is now providing is a revised 'time in port schedule'. BITE THE BULLET HAL AND FIX OR REPLACE THE ENGINE. AS A RESULT OF HAL's MANAGEMENT DECISION WE WOULD NEVER AGAIN CONSIDER ANOTHER CRUISE ON ANY SHIP OWNED BY CARNIVAL (CARNIVAL, PRINCESS OR HOLLAND AMERICA) despite the fact we truly enjoy thE Caribbean Princess. We value ethical management. Somehow that characteristic PERVADES everything else you experience on board. If you stay in SD overnight stay at the Holiday Inn. It's just too convenient. We did not experience many of the problems that were cited in prior Cruise Critic passenger comments such as poor service, odor/sewerage problems and we did not detect any sign or discussion of passengers with norovirus. There were an abundance of dispensers to sanitize hands through out the ship. CABIN SS 8087 was very comfortable with an abundant amount of storage and a large outside deck, probably 14 ft wide, wider than the Caribbean Princess suite deck and a very comfortable bathroom facility. CABIN ATTENDANT was wonderful even though it was his last cruise! FOOD SERVICE was wonderful. Some FOOD was good, some was marginal. We complained once about a waiter and he was immediately replaced and the service was very pleasant and wonderful. Do not order a steak from the 'alternative menu'. It is just not a good alternative. Lido buffet is not our approach to dining. VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 3 ASSIGNED SEATING - If you select this approach, as soon as you can after boarding check the table. If it is near a wait station, either change the table or change to OPEN SEATING on VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 2. It does not make sense to listen to clanging dishes for an entire week. You can reserve a specific table in the Vista deck 2. The vibration in Vista deck 2 seems to be bad about 30 feet forward of the stern of the ship. The very back tables overlooking the stern of the ship are very pleasant for either lunch or dinner. We preferred tables 128 & 137. WINE TASTING - Whatever you do DO NOT pay $35 to sample premium wines on Thursday. Four out of the six higher priced wines sampled were absolutely terrible. Could not believe the wines they selected for wine tasting. Lower priced wines (Sunday) were good. The discord during the sampling was boring and repetitious. However, some excellent wines (eg Jordan Cabinet Savignon) are offered in the dining rooms. Entertainment was good! CABO SAN LUCAS - The very best shore experience was to have lunch at the ESPERANZA RESORT. The resort was very pleasant and it may be the best resort we have ever been too. Based on the comments of a prior Cruise Critic passenger we contacted La Ventanas Resort and asked to arrange lunch. This resort is about a 30 minute cab ride from the boat They were very pleasant but suggested the Esperanza about a 10 minute ride. They said the view was 10 times better and it truly was. Be sure to contact the resort (LA office) in advance and make a reservation. Security at this resort was tight and excellent. Before booking be sure to check if the boat docks or tenders passengers. FORGET CRUISES THAT TENDER PASSENGERS TO THE DOCK. INCONVENIENT, A WASTE OF TIME AND SOMETIMES TOO ROUGH. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt ... Read More
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt brought some fliers to a family function and was trying to get the whole family to book. We thought it looked great and booked in February. I probably should have done more research before booking, but I think we got lucky. Because it was a very nice cruise. The stateroom was small but reasonable(my husband is 6'4" and didn't hit himself on anything) we had a nice couch (that can fold out to a queen bed) and private veranda w/ rattan furniture. Quite charming. The shower had a removable wand which was very convenient and a small, but moderately deep tub. They don't have any non-smoking rooms, which concerned me, but there was no sign of previous smoking in our room. When we arrived at the port a porter quickly took care of our luggage and directed us to check in. The staff seemed quick and efficient. We filled out forms registered our passports and took photos for room key data-base. Once on the ship there was plenty of staff to direct you to your cabin - and in tidy bell-hop uniforms w/ white gloves(a nice touch). Most of the crew is from Indonesia and they were all so friendly and helpful. Extremely nice! Leaving San Diego was really rough, but the front desk gives you free motion-sickness pills(nice!). After the lifeboat drill there was a "fiesta" sail-away party on the lido deck. The lido deck had the family pool(inside w/ retractable sunroof), the buffet/casual dining restaurant spa and adult pool outside. They had a party every time we left a port but the buffet food served was not the best. We had "leisurely" late dining- show up between 8-9. We enjoyed the flexibility. The food was quite good in the beautiful Vista dining room, but the soups were a little weird. I had excellent lamb and also very moist duck. My husband liked the prime rib. They had an abundance of fresh, ripe fruit which we enjoyed. The lido restaurant is casual and made up of themed stations(Italian, Asian, etc...) you go to the station and the staff serves you. Dinner is crazy there(families) so we only went for late lunch or breakfast. The pancakes tasted like whole grain, and they eggs were soft - not dry. There were also homemade pastries, and an ice-cream bar. You could also order breakfast in your room the night before w/ a form. They deliver it when you want. Also there's 24 free room service. Sometimes it was hard to get through - you would be on hold a long time and delivery could take an hour during peak times. However the food was delicious and it was convenient. I wished that the full lunch was served later in the day(esp. w/ late dinner) but there was always pizza and pasta which was very good. Not like Fresh Choice. Shore excursions- we booked several offered by the ship and the Mexican tour guides really took good care of you, were very friendly and spoke English fluently. There were many choices in the "catalog" water sports, walking tours/bus tours, shrimp feasts, nature hikes... If you don't know the ports I recommend booking a shore excursion. We went kayaking in Mazatlan, and took a city/country & tequila factory tour in Puerto Vallarta. Some ports didn't have docks and so the ship would anchor near the shore and "tender". They used the very nice lifeboats(no orange rafts!)to ferry you back and forth as much as you wanted. Several crew members helped you in and out of the boats. In the morning if you wanted to go ashore you had to get your party together then get "tender tickets" after that you could go anywhere on the ship and wait for them to call your number. It was a very efficient process. The boats do rock a bit so you if you get motion sickness take out some "insurance". Shopping-the shops on board were not that exciting, they had some nice tropical clothes, and men's accessories and a lot of jewelry. It seemed like a typical resort store. The sundries area is very limited so try to bring everything you might need. I went to the shopping ambassador's talks, which was like watching QVC, but she had some good advice and tips about shopping in Mexico. She also handed out maps. I bought jewelry in recommended store in Puerto Vallarta and got a substantial discount just by mentioning her name. Entertainment-there were many options on the ship. Everyday an easy to read schedule was delivered to your room w/ a list off all the days activities. There's a casino, night club, piano bar, various lounges, movie theater, and a main showroom. We're not much for casinos, but if you are into that sort of thing they had all kinds of events. I didn't get to the movies, but I saw some of the live shows. The musicals were rather cheesy and the dancers weren't always in sync. The best was Joel Mason- an Elton John impersonator. He was very funny and a great showman. He said he was coming to the end of a long contract on this ship so I don't know what they will have next. There was also an illusionist, an adult comedian, crew talent show, and a variety show at the end (w/ Joel doing different material). The nightclub, "northern lights" was small and rather warm, but the decoration was fun and whimsical. It's popular w/ the younger set. During sea days they had a least 5 activities to choose from each hour. It seemed like they had something for everyone. My husband liked to lay out on the deck. I enjoyed selecting activities and particularly enjoyed the culinary demonstrations w/ the executive chef. I also enjoyed the afternoon tea, but it was a little crazy and understaffed. Once a week they have the "royal Dutch tea" which was a spectacular buffet style event w/ loads of pastries, and canapes and string quartet. Don't miss it! The spa- the Greenhouse Spa was quite lovely and offered a variety of exotic treatments(including acupuncture!) at exotic prices. They offered specials on port days and the last sea day. I got a massage, facial and foot rub and it was very pleasant, but the table was too narrow. They use Elemis products(and toiletries in your room) which didn't irritate my sensitive skin. They had a gorgeous hydrotherapy pool I wanted to try but they closed it and all the hot tubs due to a stomach flu outbreak. Kids: HAL caters to an older crowd and it was a very quiet ship for the most part. There were 450 kids on the ship but you never would have known it. They offer "club hal" on the 10th deck for the kids and a mom said her young son loved it and spent all day there. Debarkation. A packet was delivered to your door the night before w/ necessary forms, luggage tags, and instructions. You tear off the colored stubs of your luggage tags then place luggage outside your door that night. The porters come and take care of it for you. We chose to have breakfast delivered to our room the morning of, but they also were serving an early meal in the Lido restaurant and Vista dining room. After breakfast they start calling numbers by color and you are free to walk around the ship or hang out in your room while waiting for your number/color. It was fast, and once you got off luggage was organized by color group. Other details: drinks: Free 24hr tea, coffee, juice and hot chocolate in the lido restaurant. Soda was 1.75/can or at the bar. They offer a discount via soda card for $20. They punch it each time you order one. Booze: a lot of people complained about the high prices, but I say "what did you expect?" There were drink specials, but expect typical bar/club prices + a %15 gratuity. Everything(shopping, shore excursions...) is billed to your room card which is linked to your credit card. You cannot pay cash, but you could put down a cash deposit w/ your room card. Tipping is included in the $10/day per person "hotel fee". $3.50 goes to your cabin steward, $3.50 to your dinning staff and $3 to "unseen" staff. You can adjust rate up/down at front desk. Sickness- if you contracted the stomach flu virus going around(every effort was made to stop it -purell everywhere) your cabin was quarantined for 24 hrs, but they allowed you to order from the dining room menu via room service and offered free laundry and dvds and ship board credit. All in all I would say it was an excellent cruise and we didn't want to leave. I was very fond of our dining steward and was sad to say goodbye. As I mentioned HAL does cater to an older crowd - my husband and I are young and enjoyed the atmosphere. If you want a wild party scene you may want to look elsewhere. If you want a relaxing, fun cruise with great food then I recommend this ship! We are already thinking about booking another cruise w/ HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 ... Read More
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 am. We took a taxi to the port and dropped our luggage off at the ship around 10:15. We exited and walked around the port and visited the USS Midway museum. We returned to the cruise port at around 12:15, and got in line to board the ship. The embarkation process went pretty smooth considering the Holland America reservation computers were down. We boarded the ship by 12:40 and proceeded to the Lido deck for lunch. At 1:00 they announced we could go to our rooms. We had booked a Deluxe Verandah Outside room (5125 on the Verandah deck). Since we were a group of 3, I would say the room was a little small. I think if it were just my wife and I the room would have been fine. The balcony was small with a door that opened out. Also with the couch made into a bed you couldn't easily access the balcony. But it had a nice sized bathroom with a tub. Also I will say that the bed was by far the most comfortable of any of the cruises we've been on. We ate most of our meals in the Lido buffet, but did have one meal in the Vista dining room. We did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill. The food I thought was very good to excellent. The variety of food was good. Typically for dinner you ordered your meal and it was plated and brought to you by the wait staff. I miss having the Muesli for breakfast. The experience on the ship was different from our other cruises. We've sailed on 2 of the Princess Grand class ships, and a Royal Caribbeans Radiance class ship. The Oosterdam isn't as big as either class of ship. The ship public areas seem small. This gives the ship an intimate feel. The atrium was small and not as impressive as on other ships. Getting around in the public areas on decks 1, 2, and 3 sometimes seemed like a maze. But the ship had a lot of elevators and stairs that made getting to the different decks easy. With the exception of the Lido buffet, during meals, the public areas were never crowded. The housekeeping crew kept the ship immaculately clean! One thing that was interesting compared to our other cruises was the room steward. Our steward never came up and introduced himself. Likewise you never had the big housekeeping cart sitting out in the hallway all day long. Unfortunately one of the ships azipods was not working which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Likewise there was a pronounced vibration on the back of the ship. I don't know if this was because we were running on one pod and it had to work harder. The crew all seemed very nice and helpful. As I mentioned we didn't get to know the room steward but he did a good job of taking care of us. The wait staff in the dining room were very courteous, and efficient. We were part of a Cruise Critic meet and greet forum. The cruise line helped one of the members arrange a meet and greet, and we met the cruise director. The photography staff didn't seem as pushy as with other cruise lines, which was appreciated. This was our first cruise down the west side of Mexico. I had wanted to do this itinerary for a while. As I mentioned the ship was running on only one engine, which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Our first stop was Cabo San Lucas. Due to the engine troubles we were limited to about 5 hours in port. We arrived at noon, and they started issuing tender passes about 12:30. This is a tender port, and the winds kicked up the waves a little. The ship enlisted additional port tenders from the city, and thank goodness they did. The ships tenders had problem getting into position to load people. More than once I saw one of the ships tenders hit the side of the ship. It seemed to take 3 times longer for the ship tenders to get into position to load passengers. The port tenders would pull up and dock with no problems, and probably made twice as many trips as the ship tenders. Needless to say it took almost 2 hours for them to get to our pass number. We got to port about 2:45. With the little time left about all we could do was wander through town and shop. We did receive a twenty-five dollar per person credit for the reduce time we had in port. Cabo San Lucas looks like a really nice place. The street vendors were very aggressive! The next port was Mazatlan! We didn't preplan any excursions through the cruise line, but had planned to see what we could arrange in port. We found a group that offered all day tours of the city and would drop you off in the resort area for a few hours before taking you back to the port. The tour was really interesting and we were able to see a good cross section of the town and population. We arrived at the resort area and the driver recommended a restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed the meal, particularly the margaritas. The beach was really nice. After eating we went to a small shopping area where we bought some souvenirs, and then returned to the ship. The last port was Puerto Vallarta. Again we arranged a tour at the port. The guide was excellent, taking us through a good portion of town and south down the coast to several points of interest and places to take pictures. Last we ended up in a small village where they had a Tequila factory. We did a tasting and roamed around the village. It was fascinating and we bought some more souvenirs. Later we returned to the port, where my son returned to the ship. My wife and I ate lunch in port and did some more shopping, finally moving to the beach and wading in the ocean. We tendered back to the ship and cleaned up and relaxed. Later on they had a cook out and mariachi band in the Lido Deck pool area. The city and port are beautiful, and I really enjoyed Puerto Vallarta. The last two days (including Thanksgiving) were spent at sea heading back to San Diego. We had a traditional dinner on Thanksgiving. The sea days were nice with lots of activities on the ship to keep you busy. We visited the casino a couple time, and I actually won a little money (which is really unusual for me). I also spent quite a bit of time on the balcony reading and relaxing. We bought an Internet access package, and used out laptop and wireless network card in certain parts of the ship (usually the Crows Nest lounge). Access wasn't particularly fast but it wasn't dial up slow. Finally the cruise came to an end. On Friday we received our disembarkation packet. We packed and placed our bags outside our door prior to going to bed. Upon arrival in San Diego we enjoyed our breakfast, and returned to our room and waited to be called to disembark. We were called about 10:00 and we proceeded to the gangway and were checked off the ship. We presented our immigration documents in the terminal and our customs sheet. Then to the baggage area to pick up our luggage! I must say that this was by far the easiest and most convenient disembarkation process I've ever had. I wish all of the cruise lines would be this easy. We caught a taxi to the airport to drop off our luggage and then returned to town to look around some more. Finally we returned to the airport to catch our 3:00 pm flight home. This was a wonderful trip! I do wish that we had been able to enjoy all of the time advertised in each port. But the ship was very nice as was the ships staff. I wouldn't mind doing this itinerary again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
The O-Dam ship was selected for following reasons: We have sailed the Zuiderdam Twice and are booked for a third on March 31, 2007. Both sailings to the caribbean were outstanding. The pool roof closes and traveling to Seattle was less ... Read More
The O-Dam ship was selected for following reasons: We have sailed the Zuiderdam Twice and are booked for a third on March 31, 2007. Both sailings to the caribbean were outstanding. The pool roof closes and traveling to Seattle was less expensive than to Vancouver. I traveled with my wife, 42 and my son, 9. I am 52 This was our 12th cruise. 3 HA, 5 RCCL, 2 Disney, 1 Celebrity (very disappointing), and one Carnival (yuk). Having sailed on the Zuiderdam we are very knowledgeable of the ship and therefore did not have to spend any time getting trying to figure out where everything was. We are from the east coast and my wife and son had never seen SF so we flew into SF on August 17 and spent two wonderful nights at the Nob Hill Motor in located about 1+ to the wharf. We did as much of the tourist things we could (Aquarium, SF Zoo and the night tour at Alcatraz) and had a 9 AM flight to Seattle from Oakland on August 19. The Seattle airport does not seem to have Taxi's at the arrival terminal. You had to lug your luggage to the other side of the parking lot to pick up a cab. We did use a Limo service which was a few dollars more. $35 as compared to $28 for a cab ride. (We did take a cab back)The cab back does drop you off at the departure terminal. (Go figure) On to the cruise: Embarkation was a breeze. Its always good to do things on line. We always look warn from the travel and never stop for the customary take you embarkation photo. There should be one line for the photo and anther to bypass getting a photo. We also booked our excursions online prior to the cruise. Did not wish to miss out on doing the things we wanted to do. The Lido is laid out very nice. Two stations for Sandwiches and two for the buffet. One for sushi and another for pasta and Pizza. We were able to go to the rooms as it was about 12:45 when we got on the ship. We put our carry on in the room. We carry Walkie Talkies to keep track of each other. Make sure you have a 3 watt+ radio as to penetrate all the walls on ships you need the extra power. Family radios just wont do it. We had a balcony cabin which is very nice but more important to have on a caribbean cruise. It gets just to chilly at night or even day to be out there too long. Even when we got to Hubbard Glacier, we went to the front of the ship to mingle with others and took several photos of the glacier. The service on this cruise was not up to the standard we were accustom to with the Zuiderdam. Our room stewart was very good however, the dining room staff was lacking. I'm still waiting to be greeted by the head waiter. As vets of HA cruise will know, the majority of the workers are from Indonesia. I do like the diversity you find with workers from all parts of the globe you find on other cruise lines. I believe the service is weaker when the workers pretty much get a standard tip each cruise. By HA adding the suggested to the onboard account most people do not bother to adjust the amount up or down. Entertainment. Michelle was the Cruise director. Michelle along with the assistant cruise director (Everett) did a very nice job of keeping you entertainment and informed. As two of the three judges for their Superstar competition they played off one another very well. Everett played the part of Simon to as annoying level as possible. He did his job well as he was booed and hissed at continually. Comedians - was just OK. They were family shows and were under control. I wish they had had a late night comedy as we have seen twice on the Zuiderdam. Both times Julie Barr was wonderful. I really missed this on this cruise. The illusionist was terrific and put on several performances and the two production shows were typical cruise line shows. The daily entertainment was less than what we previously have experienced with HA. I suppose that has more to do with less outside activities due to the weather. However, the daily team trivia is always competitive. The evening had a couple of game show mania's. The one run by DJ Roy was far better than the one run by Everett. He made a poor mockery of the game whereas DJ Roy did a superb job running the game on the second night. Each contestant won the same prize for being up there. This was also run differently on the Zuiderdam as the winner received a little nicer of a gift. There was also TV tune trivia one night and music trivia on another. To my surprise DJ Roy let teams mark their own papers. Scores were much higher (I wonder why???) The ports and excursions: Juneau We went to something called Sled Dog Summer Camp. It was completely Sled Dog abuse. I cannot believe this excursion cost $149PP to see the how poorly treated these dogs were. They were skin and bones and I wish I could of let them all go. They stood a better chance of survival if they would have been turned loose. They are tied for most hours of the day to a post in front of a green hut. They have very little interaction with one another due to the fact that they are not fixed. There was no vet on staff. When I asked about this one of the "kids" who worked there simply said "we are around the dogs so much we know what to do when they need treatment" (I bet we all know what that meant" Finally, they were tied to a sled on wheels once a day to run. We videoed this and will send it to animal planet for them to see how mistreated these animals are. The town was very nice and there were several ships in port at the same time. Including the Zuiderdam, the sister ship which we enjoy so much. We went over to it to see if we could visit some of the staff that we grew fond of on previous sailings. They both however were out on excursions themselves when we checked in with security. Hubbard Glacier was an experience however we are not there long enough. You can hear more of the calving than you can see as it takes place in sections beyond your viewpoint. DONT FORGET BINOCULARS AS THEY RIP YOU OFF IF YOU TRY TO BY THEM ON THE SHIP. Sitka a small town with not much to talk about. My wife did the 1/2 day Salmon fishing and caught two. She said that each person caught two. Ketchikan was very nice. However, once again, we were not there past 1pm. We had a 9:30 excursion via seaplane to see the bears feasting on the salmon. The seaplane ride was about 25 mins and takes you to the middle of nowhere. You are picked up by a man who looks like the Stinky Pete character from the Toy Story II movie. He takes a one mile ride in a van and you go to an observation platform to view the bears. You have to walk about a 1/4 mile to get there and he carries a first aid kit and a 30 06 loaded rifle. You have to keep the children in the middle of the group as you walk to the deck. We saw three bears and we were there for about 90 or so mins. We arrived back to the ship as the last excursion to return so I never saw anything of town of Ketchikan. We usually enjoy walking the streets of wherever we go. Always go on ship excursions that leave the area. You never know. Victoria: The mandatory stop. A city that was nothing more than lots of overpriced stores. You cannot pay with US dollars and expect US dollars in return. They give you Canadian money which is not too well accepted in the US. You will have to charge everything. BTW, Most shops did not appear to accept Discover. MC and Visa were the most accepted. Club HAL: My son loves club HAL. the counselors give each child tremendous one on one attention. These people are the reason adults with children have the opportunity to enjoy the adult activities available to us onboard. My son stayed late night each evening and could not wait for the club to open each evening at 8PM. Thanks again for a terrific job HA in keeping the children entertained. The Vista Class Ships have done a very good job of attracting families. The overall food level: To tell the truth. We preferred the Dining experience in the Lido over the dining room. Service was better and the same food is available. The salad bar was very good also. We did not do the Pinnacle on this trip but in the past that was a very nice experience. Disembarkation: We had a 10:45 flight and HA had us off the ship at 8:20. We found our luggage in about 10 mins or so and we called the limo who took us but I kept receiving a voice message and thus we took a cab. Because we were first off the was a few mins wait. We were at the airport at 9:15 and checked in by 9:45. An hour later we were on our way back home. Overall: Alaska needs to be seen more than once. I don't know when I will get back there again but I would like to go again. The weather ranged from about 48 to 62 F and it rained almost daily. Next time I would like to go from Vancouver and do more of the inside passage and also see Glacier Bay. The only way to go i believe is with HAL as they appear to have the best spots to dock. Where we were docked other ships had to tender. I suppose its because HA was one of the first to go to Alaska and get the best spots to dock. Experience counts. Looking forward to my next cruise in March, 2007 on the Zuiderdam to The Caribbean followed by the Explorer of the Seas in August of 2007 from NY to the caribbean. Thanks for staying with me this long and happy sailing to all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2006
The ship itself is gorgeous inside, and out. They have many comfortable places to sit and relax and the ship is rather quiet. I (being 13) enjoyed the music they played publicly because it wasn't too loud and you could get away from ... Read More
The ship itself is gorgeous inside, and out. They have many comfortable places to sit and relax and the ship is rather quiet. I (being 13) enjoyed the music they played publicly because it wasn't too loud and you could get away from it very easily. The art is gorgeous to look at with pictures of some of the other HAL ships a few years ago, and the colors blend well nicely. (Lots of reds, dark pinks, purples) EMBARKATION: We arrived in the port of Seattle and were happy that there were no lines. I was traveling with my dad (50), great aunt (84) and grandmother (81). One tip for future HAL traveling, fill out your immigration form online or before you get to the port because you DO have to fill it out before you go up to the desk. (Something we did not do). We got there at about 11:15 and they were actually not allowing people to get on yet. There weren't a lot of people there anyway (maybe 70?) and they said the wait wouldn't be much longer. SHIP INFO: The ship--even with being 900 ft. long and with 1800 people--seems rather small when you are on it. The Promenade and Upper Promenade deck can get very confusing but you can find your way easily. The elevators were very slow on our ship and I usually ended up running up 8 flights of stairs instead. The ship has 2 pools, one is really an "adult only" pool but I still saw kids in it. The pool with the closing roof really helped especially in Alaska where it was raining everywhere except for Ketchikan. DINING: The Vista Dining room is a very lovely atmosphere and the lower ceilings made it seem like a smaller room. We were in the very back on the first floor, and we had a window looking out at the stern of the ship. Gorgeous place to eat meals. The Lido Restaurant has anything and everything and the crew working there is very friendly. The morning breakfast rush could get congested but once you found your table and started eating, it died down. I have eaten in the Pinnacle Grill once before, not on this ship (though my family did) and they enjoyed it extremely. It's a very nice restaurant with good, fast service and great food. activities: I will confess, I'm a Bingo dork. I've won 5 times on 4 different cruises so I've had my share of luck. But I always love to play. The Bingo with Everett (senior assistant cruise director) and Stephanie (cruise activities staff) was VERY enjoyable and fun. (Sadly, I didn't win anything). The daily program did really have choices for anyone and I was never bored without something to do. The cruise activities staff were all very nice and lovely to talk too. SERVICE: I've been on a lot of high-end cruise ships where the service was a little more then outstanding. Like where the waiter will carry your tray every single step of the way during the buffet...I love that but sometimes you just want to do it yourself. The men who worked in the Lido would help you if you needed it and that is just enough for me. The room steward that we had was exceptional and did his work very fast. Our dining room waiter was very nice at recommending and making exceptions. All of the Filipino/Indonesian crew were always smiling and they would always want to please you. Service was very good. SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did not take any shore excursions on this cruise but I will tell you about the ports of call. First was Juneau...rainy Juneau...I'd been there before and it didn't blow me away. It had some very nice shops and of course we went to the Red Dog Saloon. It was still a very nice town. After Juneau, we cruised by Hubbard Glacier. That was absolutely gorgeous...we got 3/4 of a mile away from it (which sounds like a lot but it really isn't) and saw eagles, otters, and bears all from the ship. They opened all of the forward decks of the cabins (which are usually closed) so you could see it from about everywhere. Next was Sitka. I had never been their before but it was really boring. There were 3 other cruise ships that day but it still wasn't very crowded. Very cold, very wet, and nothing exciting. After Sitka was Ketchikan. I was there 3 years ago on 4th of July during a parade which stole a little of the atmosphere of the town. It was probably the best port that we went to in Alaska, only because it was a clean town, good shops, and nice people. We left Ketchikan early and so we had a long day at sea for the rest of that day and the next night ( 6 PM) we arrived in Victoria, B.C. We didn't have time, energy, or mood to do really anything so we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in an alley, about a 7 minute cab ride from the Empress hotel. (The ship provided shuttles to the hotel so that you were more in town). STATEROOM: My mom was our travel agent and guaranteed us a verandah room. Little did we know until we had arrived at the embarkation counter, that she had upgraded us to a suite! It was very exciting and the extra room really helped. (I shared a room with my dad). The balcony was large and the bathroom space was a lot better. We had a separate shower and bath, something you wouldn't get in a verandah cabin. Their wasn't a lot of closet space however, but that didn't matter too much. CHILDRENS CLUB: Kids/Tweens: I knew there were many kids onboard but I didn't see too many of them running around like mad. The kids counselors did a GREAT job keeping them entertained and having fun. Teens: The last time I was on the Oosterdam (in April, to Mexico) I went with my best friend. We went to the information meeting the first night but she wanted to leave, so I went with her. I never went back so I was hoping at this cruise that I would make some friends and go to it a lot. I was wrong. The group of kids weren't extremely welcoming and the counselor wasn't good at getting the group to do something. ENTERTAINMENT: I'm a theatre buff so I always enjoy the broadway shows. They were the same ones I had seen in April but i still LOVED them. "Rockin' Road" is a different type of show but "Escape" is by far my favorite show. I love the music in it. It's like a tropical show in Margaritaville. Very, very good. The stage is very cool as it has many different elevations and the lighting was were the costumes. The first night they had a comedian and he was very funny but the second night, were these 2 guys who were jugglers/comedians. ABSOLOUTLY AMAZING. They had amazing talent and were very funny. The next night was a Neil Diamond fan that did his tribute and I heard nothing about it. (I didn't go but I stood outside listening...I wasn't that impressed.) They also had a ventriloquist who was apparently exceptional but I didn't go to that either. Oosterdam Superstar (karaoke competition) was one of my favorite things from the last cruise. They made it very, very funny and enjoyable. The Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed Game was a big hit as it was last time. They picked 3 couples and asked them questions (just like the TV show) and the outcome was hilarious. The whole entertainment crew were amazing. The cast was delightful to talk to as you would run into them in the elevators or public rooms. The cruise activities staff was still exceptional and the cruise director, Jimmy Lynett was sensational. He did so much and made the cruise so much more fun just with his personality. DISEMBARKATION: This process went very smoothly and started at about 8:00 AM I believe. A nice thing was them allowing us to stay in our rooms until we had to leave. We got off at about 10:30 as they wanted everyone off by 11:00. OVERALL: My second time on this ship was still an amazing experience. I defiantly would like to go back on this ship again as it met my expectations on just about everything. This was my 10th cruise, my 3rd on HAL, and my 2nd time on the Oosterdam. I was still impressed as I was the first time (when we went to Mexico) but I had higher expectations then last time on the things that I didn't like. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
OK...Here it is.... Oosterdam Alaska July 15-22, 2006 R/T Seattle Ports: Monday-Juneau Tuesday- Hubbard Glacier Wednesday- Sitka Thursday- Ketchikan Friday PM- Victoria, B.C. Cabin: VA 8112, Deck 8 (Navigation) Aft (Immediately below the ... Read More
OK...Here it is.... Oosterdam Alaska July 15-22, 2006 R/T Seattle Ports: Monday-Juneau Tuesday- Hubbard Glacier Wednesday- Sitka Thursday- Ketchikan Friday PM- Victoria, B.C. Cabin: VA 8112, Deck 8 (Navigation) Aft (Immediately below the Lido exit onto the aft pool deck, port side) Cast of Characters: Captain: Olav van der Waard HotMan: Firmin van Walle Cruise Director: Jimmy Lynett Cruise Staff: Sr. Ass't CD: Everett (the Baby-Faced Bingo Boy) Daryl (Team Trivia), Lee (DJ). Stephanie, Terri Cruiser #1 and ATM Machine: Cindy (aka Mom) Cruiser #2 and June high school graduate: Anne (age 18) This will take some time, so grab a snack, a pillow, and a blanket. I have many pages of notes. I will try to categorize so you can skip parts. DISCLAIMER: I realize that HAL does not run the cruise line specifically to my taste, and that's fine. And, as my dad always said, It's a difference of opinion that makes horse races. Having said that, I wonder if I was on a different ship than all of you who think the Oosterdam is the best ship ever. I really didn't like it from the first hours on board. More on that later. CABIN: I decorated our cabin door with a poster commemorating Annie's graduation. Shoot me. We were on kind of a dead end hallway, and few people had to pass by and look at it. Our neighbors thought it was great. The mailboxes were a good addition. Kept me from breaking my bloomin' neck from sliding on flyers on the floor. The cabin location was not good. It was very noisy on the aft pool deck, and from people going in and out of the Lido. We even heard a group up there moving tables and chairs and laughing at 4:00AM. And of course we heard the deck cleaning crew early every morning. This was an upgrade from VH Guarantee. Sounds like a good deal. But even though the VH was a small forward cabin with steel verandah railing, I'd bet it wasn't nearly as noisy. Avoid any cabins on Deck 8 under the pool areas, as you will hear people scooting chairs and tables, kids running and jumping, people dropping things, and women walking in high heels. Maybe under the Lido restaurant is OK because it's carpeted. Our cabin steward, Inda, was superb. I spoke to him in Indonesian phrases I learned from postings on the board (thank you, Brian and others) and he really got a kick out of my efforts. I also learned as I went along, and practiced on the Lido staff and our dining room stewards. They appreciated it as well. If you can, please make the effort. It makes all the difference. We had towel animals twice a day, and they had a class on making them yourself on the last sea day. Some of the animals were very cute, and some kind of, um, scary. We saved a couple of them on the back of the couch for the entire cruise. Note: All verandah pax are no longer gifted with personalized stationery as in years past. This is now only provided to Suite pax. EMBARKATION: Pretty fast, and efficient, but there is a lot of walking involved. Roller skates would help. If one is not up to a lot of walking, HAL provides wheel chairs. If you have used the ship's transfer service, there is a long walk from the baggage claim area at Sea-Tac to the buses. At least it's not under construction anymore. The bus dropped us off on the Princess side of the pier, so it was a hike around to the south side to the HAL area. And it was a hike through the building and out to the gangway. High tide, so the gangway was uphill. Upon entering the ship on Deck 2, we found that HAL has embraced the idea of, We'll sort of wave you in the general direction of your cabin and you can read the numbers on the doors. But this was OK, and it probably saves wear and tear on the carpet from all the stewards running back and forth to the Atrium. Once we got to our cabin, we were able to divest ourselves of our carry-on bags, which by this time had become a grand nuisance, and we couldn't stand the sight of them anymore. We kicked them under the bed. Which is about the only storage space you have, incidentally. The only drawers are in the night stands, and two big drawers under the ends of the beds. But the steward uses these for the bedspreads. The closets, with pull-down shelves, are thankfully quite generous. The safe had a number pad (choose your own 4 digits). Our checked luggage arrived just shortly after we did: Us-about 1:45PM....Luggage-about 2:00PM. LIDO RESTAURANT: Not stopping to unpack, and following the urge to get started on the week's consumption of huge amounts of food, we headed up to the Lido (just out to the aft staircase and up one floor...very convenient!) When we got to the top of the stairs, we were at once amazed and confused (or maybe dazed and confused!) It is pretty jazzy dEcor for and purple and yellow. And instead of one food line, there are stations: deli, hot food (The Bistro), The Wok, Italian, desserts, and the cut-throughs (2) have Continental breakfast and beverages in the morning, and salad bar and beverages the rest of the day. Plus an extra beverage bar forward of the lines. There is also an eating area forward of the stations that has a wood floor and wicker chairs. Very pretty. The stations are a pretty good plan, as it is no longer necessary to enter the Lido, grab a tray, and wait interminably while the diners ahead of you in line stare at the cheese as though they've never seen it before, holding up the line something fierce. You should be able to find sustenance at whatever station you manage to stumble across...and stumble is the operative word here. The food service area is a very cramped and crowded place. It is difficult to move (especially with a tray) and not be in someone's way, much less try to pass port-to-port. And there are traffic cones around the Italian station (why?????) which does not help. Usually, a smiling steward will take your tray at the end of the line, find you a table, and fetch your beverage. Or maybe they just did that for me because I'm old. Who knows. Anyway, it cuts down on folks wandering around trying to find beverages, salads, and desserts. There were several lunches and one dinner where seating was at a real premium. For instance, the day in Ketchikan, which had a 12:30PM All Aboard plus the salmon bake on the Lido pool deck, was just bedlam. After making TWO full circuits (two port and two starboard) of the entire Lido Restaurant, the Lido pool deck, and even the aft pool deck (even though it was raining buckets) we said, Nuts to this, and took our trays down to our cabin. Same thing the evening of the Victoria call. I was only able to enjoy bread pudding once. It was not offered at the dessert station, and I asked for it one day and the steward disappeared and never returned. Anne brought me a dish of it one day, and I said, Did you have to go to the back door, knock three times, and say Joe sent ya? Too bad. It was one of my favorite things, along with the muesli (which is now just Muesli and not Bircher's Muesli. Same great stuff, though. Desserts are so pretty and taste so bland. Don't know how they do it. I think the chefs are unaccustomed to the American Sweet Tooth, and the fact that we like our treats SWEET! At this point I would like to enter a personal observation, and I am hoping that my characterizations do not reflect the majority of HAL pax. Our cruise seemed to have an inordinate amount of folks whom HAL had convinced in the brochure that they were The most important people on Earth. because lots and lots of people acted as if they were just that. And it was our job (the polite and considerate folks) to A) Get out of their way at all times, and B) Let them push in ahead of you at every opportunity. This condition also applied if they were finished with their meal, but not yet done chatting, or deciding on shore excursions, or just gazing out the window. Never mind the multitude of souls with a full tray in search of a place to sit. Myself, I just can't imagine being that inconsiderate. But I guess a lot of folks can, and do. Amazing. Note to HAL: get rid of the piano and provide some space for people to MOVE AROUND! One other note about the Lido and I'll move on: At lunch, the Italian station and/or the Wok uses so much garlic that it is almost to the point of Appetite Suppression. I do not like garlic, its aroma, or its affect on my digestive system. And being blasted with its essence in this way is very off-putting. Just my opinion. I'm sure there are those who think this olfactory assault is just short of Heaven. Good for them. GETTING AROUND: For a ship of this size, this is more difficult than you might think. I do not like the way this ship is designed and laid out in the public areas. Aisles are narrow, and since people travel in pods, getting around all the mobile roadblocks was sometimes very frustrating. And I certainly do not mean to cast aspersions on my fellow travelers who are mobility impaired, but the proliferation of scooters doesn't help matters. One of those in the elevators, and you're waiting for the next car. And since I've brought it up, I cannot understand why it was designed so that the forward set of elevators/stairs, when accessing Deck 9 (Lido Deck), dumps people out in the middle of the Spa. The WayOut is to the port side only, and through a narrow hallway. Also concerning elevators: the mid-ships glass elevators are nice, but if you happen to have an adjacent verandah cabin, don't count on a lot of privacy. There will be elevators whizzing by at all times, and most of the folks riding them will be looking over to see what you're up to on your verandah. The Shops-oy!-the Shops! Way too much merchandise in way too little space. It is impossible to seven browse, much less stop to look at anything, without being in someone's way. The layout is worse than a maze...little dead end areas that you can't get out of because everybody else has followed you in. And on the first day when they are restocking, don't even think about it. Also, if they are having a drawing for Inch of Gold or whatever (a not uncommon occurrence), hopeful winners all congregate in the aisle to wait, so if you're headed to the Vista Lounge, the Internet Center, or the Library, it's better to just turn around, go down to Deck 2, forward, and back upstairs. The Photo Gallery is another bottleneck. Folks looking at pictures along the walls can bollix up traffic going to the Dining Room to no end. And the Promenade deck! At the points where the ship indents in the middle, the deck is constricted to a passage for one person to get by. The morning of On Deck For the Cure (for which HAL deserves much praise!) the 150 of us who were walking all came to a crashing halt at these points. I am astonished at the design. Running or jogging on this deck is not prohibited as it is on the other classes of ships. I suppose this is because there is a public deck below, and not cabins. It is still annoying to be in the library and hear Thump, thump, thump above your head. Overall, the layout is nice if there are maybe 100 people on the ship, but not 1800. To me, this ship is just not very user friendly for this number of passengers. ENTERTAINMENT: Moving right along, we come to the entertainment portion of the review. First off, I will whine about why they chose dark green paper and black printing for the Today at a Glance portion of the Daily Program. It is hard enough for us old folks to read without this adding to the problem. Plus, the highlighters don't work worth a crap on dark green paper. The special Lido pool deck lunches were not mentioned in Today at a Glance, but in tiny print at the bottom of the FOOD column on the backside of the page. I didn't even know to look there until the last day. Also not mentioned in Today at a Glance was the Daily Quiz. Anne and I have enjoyed doing the Quiz on all of our cruises, and we won every day! (Maybe a new HAL record??) Our Cabin Steward was more astonished with each passing night when he delivered our prizes. But because of the lack of notification, we also speculated that we were the only two playing! By the end of the week, from Quizzes and Trivia, we had accumulated so many dam prizes, we said we were having a HAL Logo Sale in our cabin Friday morning. We had 6 O dam mugs, 3 luggage straps, a key chain, a luggage tag, and a flashlight. We ended up giving most of it away. Team Trivia with Daryl was just about our favorite activity. We had different partners almost every day, and won 3 or 4 times. We had a great time with the Scavenger Hunt, and the games before Late Seating dinner, except that they should start them 15 or 30 minutes earlier, as they ran over into dinner. I realize we had a window of 8-9 to arrive at dinner, but our table mates were always there promptly at 8, as were we, since it was 10:00PM back home and way past my bedtime, much less dinner time. We did not play Bingo. Well, one day we wandered in under false pretenses. The session was advertised as Bring a piece of chocolate and receive a Bingo card! Since we had saved most of our nightly pillow treats, we showed up ready to be given lots of cards. Actually what the deal turned out to be was that for every pack of cards you bought, if you brought a chocolate, you would be given a free card equal to the number you bought. Buy One, Get One Free, in other words. Since the cards were sold in $20 packs, we decided we didn't want to play that bad, so we sat and watched and ate the chocolates we brought! We watched the Superstar shows and enjoyed the many lectures that were offered on the many facets of life in Alaska. The Tlingits who boarded at Yakutat to narrate the Hubbard Glacier visit also gave a wonderful presentation about their lifestyle in Yakutat. The Naturalist, Cindy, (no relation) got us all up to the Crow's Nest early Monday morning to watch for whales in Frederick Sound south of Juneau. Alas, the professional entertainment was disappointing. The cast of singers and dancers were very talented and full of energy, happy to be doing what they were doing. The costumes and sets were good, and the stage had multi-level areas, and an a section that lowered for scene changes. But the shows.....not good. Maybe it was just me, but the songs chosen were trite and unimaginative. We saw Rockin' Road and Escape. Both almost boring. The brought-on-board entertainers weren't much better. For the fourth cruise in a row (different ships) we were subjected to Drew and Angela DV8 Reality Magic. We didn't like it the first time, and never went back to see if it had gotten any better. On the Veendam two years ago, we even went to see the pair give a talk and demo in the afternoon, and they are very friendly and nice folks. Their show just sucks. The comic was Bernie McGrenahan, who was kind of on auto-pilot, and was his own best audience. There was a ventriloquist, Mike Robinson, with the requisite smart-aleck dummy. We lasted ten minutes at that show. And there was the Neil Diamondwell, I don't know what to call it. Stylist, I guess. He talked and sang like Neil Diamond. It's OK if you like that sort of thing. Everybody loved him. Except me. The Elton John guy is much better. I always used to look forward to the evening's entertainment, but this cruise really did not meet my expectations. I have been on cruises where one or two acts weren't so good, but never the whole week. The one exception was the Crew Show. We were fortunate to be on board the Indonesian week, and it's my favorite. The Angklung (and you can bet I had to go dig out the program and look up how to spell THAT!) Orchestra really fascinates me. On previous cruises, usually after the late show Anne and I would head off to bed, or for a last cup of tea and reading in the Lido. But Daryl insisted that we come to Northern Lights every night. And did we have fun! Tuesday was Disco Night, and it was a blast. I did the Electric Slide, the Hustle (this was my era, gang!) and Lee and Everett taught us new dances. The next night was Country Night, and even though it's not my favorite type of music, I was out there learning the Cotton Eyed Joe and lots of other dances. The last night was 15-20 minutes of music from each decade, starting with the '60s. Every time the decade changed, we had New Year's Eve and threw streamers. What a great time! I think I blew out my knee, though. But it was worth it! CLUB HAL: Needless to say, Anne did not join Club HAL on this cruise, but there were many kids on board. I want to say that the Club HAL counselors did a fantastic job of keeping them busy, as they were never intrusive or running wildly around the ship. They had their own clubhouse way up on the Observation Deck, and it seemed to be where they mostly stayed. The teen group had their own space as well, with video games and computers. NEW DINING STYLE: As many of you know, an experiment is taking place on the Oosterdam concerning a rather watered down version of free style dining. I didn't really think it was a good compromise. If you're going to offer variable dining times, seat people as they come into the dining room and fill up tables with those who arrive at the same time. OR stick to the regular set times so that all are served the same course at the same time. The eight at our table were all there promptly at 8, but at tables where folks wandered in at all times, the poor stewards looked like Keystone Kops trying to keep up with who was having which course. This seems to me to be a huge burden on the stewards, whose job is difficult enough as it is. But the Suits in Seattle don't have to implement it, so they think it's a brilliant idea, I suppose. Just a quick note to address a subject on the boards: there IS a definite vibration in the lower dining room aft. We ate breakfast back there one morning, and I had to take my coffee cup out of the saucer and put it on the tablecloth before it drove me nuts. PINNACLE GRILL (or, since the Odam has not undergone the upgrade yet, The Pinnacle at the Odyssey): Good food. Wonderful presentation. Nice surroundings. One tiny problem. I made the reservation (a gift from our TA, and there seemed to be a lot of these) IN PERSON on Sunday morning. The young lady entered the reservation into the computer (a phrase I've come to hate) as Tuesday evening, 6:00PM (a much better dinner time for me.) When we presented ourselves at 5:58PM on Tuesday, our reservation could not be found. The gentleman asked if I could have confused Tuesday at 6:00PM with Thursday at 6:30PM. No. So they squeezed us in, even though the room was occupied by perhaps four other parties. Having read that the service in the Pinnacle was glacially slow, I was expecting to spend some time here. But the service from Chris and Ohno was efficient and timely. Chris was rather taken with Anne, so I guess that helped. Or maybe since they were squeezing us in they needed to turn the table. Whatever. We both had the small filet. Delicious. I had scalloped potatoes and spinach. Also delicious. For dessert I enjoyed the triple crème brulee, and Anne had the most ginormous piece of Baked Alaska I have ever seen. With Cherries Jubilee on top. Flamed. Amazing. A good experience all around. I'm glad we went. If you are really into slow, long drawn-out meals, I suggest you eat breakfast or lunch in the main dining room. Only the lower room is open for breakfast, and the day we ate there, only three other tables were occupied. But man, it took almost an hour for orange juice, one of the daily specials, and coffee. I noticed they offered a 30 minute Express Breakfast with limited items. My guess is the items were water, and the rolls already on the table. TRANSPORTATION: Major beef here. First, may I say that I am a very easy going person, and if a trip goes reasonably well, I'm happy. I am not one who has to have everything perfect and has the Complete Come-Aparts if the least thing goes awry. We were told that because of the Odam's size, we had to dock at the far south dock in Juneau. The Zuiderdam was there at the same time, and she was made to anchor, even though there was pier space available. Be that as it may, they were charging $2 a head to shuttle you back and forth to town. On Gray Line buses. Which HAL owns. Same thing in Victoria, except it was now $5 per person (US) for half the time in port. Gray Line buses. This is Revenue Enhancement on HAL's part, pure and simple. Two years ago when we docked in Seward, the shuttle buses to downtown Seward were free. Is gas that expensive that they can't provide free shuttle service anymore? To make things more annoying, the port time is so short in Victoria. The Odam was putt-putting down the west side of Vancouver Island on Friday, flat calm, at 12 knots. Why not put on a little speed and change that Victoria port time to, say, 3 or 4PM to midnight? I'm not talking about just this cruise, but as a schedule change in future? I understand that extra time is planned into the schedule to perhaps allow for rougher seas and longer transit times. But wouldn't it be better to schedule an earlier port and then MAYBE be a little late? Our whale watching excursion returned to the west end of the harbor (pretty long walk from downtown) at 10 PM. The last shuttle left the Empress at 11:15 for an 11:30 All Aboard. The guide told us the bus driver would take those of us who wished to shop downtown before taking the others back to the pier. It was a double decker bus and took 15 minutes to load, and the bus driver evidently was unaware of the plan. He headed straight to the pier. By this time it was nearly 10:30PM. Once we unloaded at the pier (only slightly faster than loading) I asked if he was taking the bus back downtown. He asked if I had a ticket. I said, No. The shore excursion bus picked us up at the pier and took us to the harbor. Well, if I wanted to go downtown (obviously the last trip of the night) I still had to cough up $10 for the two of us. Anne was planning on buying lots of Canadian items, and really wanted to go. By the time we got back to the Empress, it was 10:40PM, and most shops were closing. We dashed into one, bought stuff, and barely made the last shuttle back to the pier. The message I received was: Hey! Come to Canada! Spend your money, We love it! But we are going to make it as difficult as we possibly can. Maybe it was because it was the end of the cruise, and I was depressed due to that, and tired from all the disco-ing, but this situation destroyed my last nerve. And I was a pretty sad/mad panda when we embarked the Odam that Friday night. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I wasn't going to go into shore excursions, as that is so subjective. Let me just say that Allen Marine is the best in Southeast Alaska at boat-based tours. In Juneau we saw 11 humpbacks bubblenet feeding, which is a rare sight. Digital cameras suck for this. In Sitka, we saw hundreds of sea otters (male raft) and Sitka Sound was so smooth, they took us all the way out to St. Lazaria Island Wildlife Refuge. I have been to Sitka maybe 20 times, and I have never gotten to go out there, though I've always wanted to go. It was beautiful! Lots and lots of puffins and guillemots. Hundreds of sea stars (purple and orange) and sea anemones (green) at the tide line. What a trip! Our kayaking trip in Ketchikan was canceled, not because it was raining (if they did that for all activities in Ketchikan, they would never do anything!) but after they took us all the way out to Knudson Cove (about 30 minutes), we found out that the first two groups had encountered strong winds and were stranded on the island. (They had to be rescued later by a landing craft!) Disappointing, but understandable. Luckily, our bus driver had not left to go back to town yet, or we would have been stuck out there for a while. So we ended up returning to town with plenty of time to spend money. Which we did. DISEMBARKATION: This was easy and extremely well organized, considering all the luggage taken off the ship in a short amount of time. This was the only morning we had room service, as I could only imagine the nightmare in the Lido. We breezed through the terminal and on to the bus to Sea-Tac. Why does getting off the ship seem to go so much faster? Here are the good things about Sea-Tac. If you are flying on certain airlines (Alaska was one, but I can't remember the others, sorry.) You are dropped at a tent at the north end of the terminal to check your bags. No long lines. Easy. Quick. Much better than the big lines inside the terminal. Also, air side of security, there is a huge place right in the middle of the terminal called Pacific Marketplace. Great shops. Huge food court with many choices (Ivar's seafood chowder in a bread bolle-terrific!) Huge windows with great panoramas of planes and scenery. Oh, and all the doors on the stalls in the women's restrooms open OUT! (Ladies will understand and appreciate this fact.) CONCLUSION (FINALLY!!!): If you have stayed with me to this point, I thank you for listening. All in all, it was a wonderful week. The good ole HAL spirit and signature of excellence is thriving. The worst day cruising...etc. It went way too fast. I told the World Ocean and Cruise Liner Society in my report card that I am disinclined to sail the Odam again. Or any Vista Class ship. I look at some of the features of the ship and ask myself, What were they thinking??? I think that in some areas they sort of missed the boat. Just personal opinion. And the difference of opinion makes horse races! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
My husband and I needed a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation after several years of heavy stress. We found all that and more on the MS Oosterdam May 27th sailing to Alaska. We independently booked air, but we purchased HAL transfers. The ... Read More
My husband and I needed a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation after several years of heavy stress. We found all that and more on the MS Oosterdam May 27th sailing to Alaska. We independently booked air, but we purchased HAL transfers. The agents meeting passengers were a little difficult to find in the baggage claim area -- they were short, had colored clipboards they held at chest level, and were often in the middle of large groups so that they were essentially invisible. However, once we found them, we quickly linked up with the buses and we were on our way to the ships. The pier is located near the airport, so the transfers were short. Check-in went quickly because we used the internet pre-registration. We were shortly on the ship and were taken directly to our cabin. It was several more hours before all of our luggage arrived, but we used the time to have lunch in the Lido and join the cast-off party. We found our cabin to be comfortable and quite spacious. The verandah looked directly over a lifeboat and we would occasionally have maintenance workers on top of the lifeboats when we least expected it. We soon learned to shut our curtains whenever privacy was important. The beds were much more comfortable than the other two cruiselines I have spent time on (Royal Caribbean and Disney). The towels were large and fluffy. The pillows were heavenly (I wanted to steal a couple to bring home but my luggage was overpacked with souvenirs). Perhaps the only downsides were that our room was not as clean as I would have liked (I am admittedly quite picky about cleanliness), the desk was almost entirely covered with TV, a tray with ice and glasses, a makeup mirror, and a bookrack for cruiseline promotional material, and the table was broken so that it could not be lowered. Also, the guest guidebook was very cheap and had poor photocopies inside. Not exactly what I was expecting from HAL. Food was excellent in all areas on ship. Room service was prompt, hot, and topnotch. The Lido was the nicest buffet I've seen on any ship and the food was excellent (especially breakfast) although finding a table required becoming friends with strangers because you inevitably had to ask to share with others because no single table was empty. The Vista dining room had wonderful service and the food was excellent. Our favorite, the Pinnacle in the Odyssey Cafe, was exceptional. We chose to eat there three nights and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (although I would have enjoyed a daily special or changing menu to see what else they were capable of). The filet mignon was simply the best steak I've ever eaten anywhere. It was well worth the $20 cover charge. Desserts onboard were probably my only disappointment. They tended to be bland and rather unimaginative. Even the Dessert Extravaganza (which offered the best desserts of the cruise) was not what I had hoped for. We did not spend any time in the bars or casino and we chose to miss the shows (we preferred to retire earlier and watch the movies in our stateroom). I heard a lot of positive comments about all of the entertainment, but it just wasn't our speed. The spa looked very interesting and several passengers said that it was worth every cent. Due to a recent surgery, we didn't avail ourselves of the spa, but we were awfully tempted. We didn't travel with children, but we looked into Club HAL because we'd like to take our children. The facilities looked like something our children would have loved and we asked several young passengers on our last day what they thought. They said it was great. The itinerary was wonderful. In Juneau, we went on a whale-watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and salmon bake shore excursion. It was an outstanding day and well worth the money. We loved Juneau and would have liked more time in port. In Sitka, we went to the raptor center (the only part of the shore excursion worth seeing), saw St. Michael's church, and watched the Russian Dancers (a major disappointment and waste of time and money). We found the shopping in Sitka to be less than hoped for. We would not choose to return to Sitka again. In Ketchikan, we went on the horse-drawn trolley tour of the town (a fun overview) and we spent a lot of time shopping (this is where to shop for souvenirs). It was a short day in Ketchikan but we enjoyed every minute. We did not disembark in Victoria. A special note about Hubbard Glacier. It was truly an awe-inspiring experience. We saw the Princess ships turn away from the mouth of the bay (I would have been deeply disappointed had we been on those ships). Our captain carefully navigated the ice flows to bring us within 1/3 mile of the glacier which was calving almost non-stop for the 2 hours we were in front of it. It was amazing and truly not to be missed. For that reason alone, I would sail with HAL again to Alaska. Plus, they seemed to have premium berths and docking times. We were a little put off by the mandatory tipping -- I would rather see them increase the price of the cruise than resort to this. We tried to reallocate some of the tip to those who had served us in the Pinnacle Grill and were told that it was not possible. In fact, the ladies at the Front Desk were, for the most part, generally not helpful and rather condescending. I was glad we didn't need to have much to do with them. The clerks in the shops were also less than friendly and we chose to do most of our shopping off the ship. This was rather surprising because we found the rest of the staff onboard to be warm and very friendly. This cruise and the way things are run on an HAL ship allowed us plenty of time and space to relax. Disembarkation was smooth. And, although sad to see the cruise end, we came home feeling like we had achieved the relaxation and rejuvenation we needed. One final note, booking shore excursions online and registering the immigration form online made a major difference in how smoothly things ran for us. Definitely take the time to do it before going onboard -- a few minutes investment before the vacation will make things run that much smoother. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from ... Read More
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from late 20s to mid 60s. We arrived in San Diego the day of the cruise. The port is only minutes away from the airport, which was nice. Embarkation was very quick and pleasant. We arrived on the ship early and were not allowed to go to our cabins, but were shown to the buffet where we had lunch. Our cabin was a balcony. The size was comparable to all other lines. I liked that the bathroom had a bath/shower combo. Dining was good. We ate in the main dining room all but 2 nights. We had two dinners in the specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle. Excellent food and service in The Pinnacle. When comparing this ship to others I have been on, I didn't think that it measured up in terms of activities or entertainment. They seem to cater to the older crowd and by 10pm, the ship is very quiet. The younger people in our group managed to make their own fun by whooping it up at Northern Lights - the disco next to the casino. The ports were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Cabo was our first stop. It is beautiful! We went to the beach in the morning and attended my sister's wedding on Pedgral Beach in the afternoon. I experienced Stone Island beach on Mazatlan which was AWFUL! It was dirty, the water was muddy, there were dogs running around urinating. Absolute YUCK! Would never go back there. My husband played golf, however, at Estrella Del Mar which he loved. Next stop was Puerto Vallarta, which was awesome. It is so beautiful and there is so much to see and so much to do. A lot of the people on the group did the canopy tour which received great reviews. My husband and I and another couple hired a driver to give us a 3 hour tour to see all the highlights of the area. He charged us $45/per person and it was well worth it. He would have charged us less if we waited for more people to join us in the van, but it is worth it to go with a smaller group. The two days at sea before returning to San Diego were pretty sedate. The weather on the ship was cool and windy. We spent a lot of time in the casino - slots were very tight, blackjack was OK. We had two people in our group win big in craps. Disembarkation was extremely quick. We had originally been given a 10:20am flight back home and changed it because we were afraid it was too early. It would have been no problem at all. We were in the airport by 9:00am. All in all, it was a nice vacation. For my age group, however, I would prefer to stay on Norwegian, Carnival or Royal Caribbean for any future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap although I might add that we arrived at the pier early, 10:30 a.m. long before the transfer buses from the airport began to appear. There were ample porters and enough staffers to eliminate the long lines however, as usual; there were some individuals who had neglected to complete the pre boarding paperwork prior approaching the agent. As many correspondents have written, this slows the process to a crawl for those just arriving. Our boarding number was called within 5 minutes and we made our way up the gangway greeted by a young Indonesian in a bell hop suit from the 50s. He directed towards the elevator and we made our way to the Lido Deck for a buffet. It wasnt too long before the crowds began to muster and there was a noticeable lack of children and an even more noticeable proliferation of wheel chairs and walkers. The jury is still out as to which is the most difficult to deal with in a buffet line, I tend to opt for the children rather than to watch my youth disappear as I wait behind our most elder statesmen as they load their plates with prunes and oatmeal. (I am not being cruel here, as I am approaching my later years at breakneck speed, I am only commenting that a buffet may not be the answer for them). Our cabin was a mini suite with a very large veranda. Everything was nicely appointed right down to the teak lounge chairs on the balcony. The room had a large whirlpool tub with absolutely no instructions on how to operate (I think it was Italian) and a large stall shower as well. Overall the ship was very clean, not spotless. It showed signs of quick turn around back and fourth to Mexico and I noted from our room that new carpeting was being loaded into the holds along with the baggage and foodstuffs. I gather that they had carpet layers working overnight which, on Holland America is very quiet. By 10 p.m. you could shoot off cannons and not hit a soul! As long as I am on carpeting, as a frequent user of the stairs, they a carpeted in deep blue and all of the landings with a contrasting color making things somewhat difficult with regard to depth perceptions as to the exact location of those last couple of steps&.on the way down! At 4 a.m. on the first night out of San Diego we were all, I mean all, with a fire alarm followed by several announcements from Captain Van Whatshisname and the Cruise Director. Seems they had a bit of a fire somewhere where they incinerate garbage and the fire brigade put it out but not before the computer systems woke everybody onboard. During the following days the ship began to smell a bit like a Hong Kong Dumpster, I trust that the situation was remedied on our return to San Diego. The cuisine in the restaurant was good, certainly not great. One does have to consider than when cooking for 1000 plus individuals at the same time, it is difficult sometimes to conjure up that medium rare steak. The service people were all very good to excellent and were mostly Indonesian with a smattering of Filipinos running the pubs and liquor. The Lido buffet is very good however be prepared for the very slow lines. The room service menu is superb something that I believe goes un-noticed by many patrons on Holland America. The entertainment on the other hand is somewhere between very poor to non existent. Its a must to sit near the door on a Holland America Cruise while attending the show in order to make a quick escape. The Indonesian Crew Show is the only one I would consider sitting through again and I have seen that same one twice. Others have commented on the ports of call and being that we have done similar cruises before; we elected not to participate in the shore excursion programs. We always went ashore and hired a taxi to take us to our favorite digs. Disembarkation was nearly as easy as the departure phase. The night before arrival in San Diego everyone receives a color code to attach to their baggage and then simply wait in your cabin until your color is called&..that is, if you are up for that! I had notified the pursers office on day 1 that I had a commitment in Los Angeles the afternoon after our arrival and when my color was not called in the first three groups, I simply discharged myself and was pleasantly surprised that my baggage color code area was void of other passengers&&I was gone with bag in hand and no crowds. Overall the cruise was a satisfactory experience. I must add that Holland America is changing and that change may not be welcomed by the loyal customers from years gone by. I noticed a marked change in the overall quality from a cruise taken on HA just three years ago although that may be due in part to the relative size of this newer ship Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only took a few minutes to park and start the boarding process. This went very smoothly and we were in our cabin within 15 minutes. Our first observation was the ship was looking a bit worn. (Passage walls scuffed up, the carpet in places slightly coming apart). The cabin,with a veranda, was adequate size and medium range in its finish. The bathroom had a tub with a shower. The weather was excellent with daytime temps in the 80's and lots of blue sky. We wonder sometimes why we leave the desert this time of year but the weather was better than at home. (low 60's and overcast most the week). The first night we were "comped" into the Pinnacle room because of our platinum AMEX card. I had read various reviews of the Pinnacle and we were anxious to try it. The furnishing of the room were nice but I would say "funky" as the chairs were wrought iron and not really "elegant" and the rest of the room rather plain. The service was very good. I ordered the porterhouse as they really touted their beef. My wife had the scampi. The steak was cooked correctly but tough and not too tasty...I think we get better beef at Costco. The shrimp came with their shells on and after struggling a bit with the shells the waiter came to help my wife, he also struggled but finally torn the shells off and her verdict was, they were "O.K." not great. The appetizer were forgetful...we both forgot what we ordered. The best part was the desert, a chocolate soufflE-like dish that was tasty. We made reservations for the last night in the Pinnacle. The next day I stopped to ask if we could have a table where we sat side by side as we hate yelling across the table and the Pinnacle is quite noisy. I was told first come, first served. What is the point of a reservation? They only have one seating in reality. After thinking about the low quality of the previous dinner and thinking why spend $40 for this I cancelled the next day. I think you are better off to apply this at Ruth's Chris and get a really good steak. We ate in the dining room the rest of the nights and I had one good meal, prime rib. The rest of the dinners were either poor choices on our part or nothing that great to order. My wife ordered veal one night and it was over cooked, tough and had no taste. The potatoes, vegetable etc. with the dinner was not to appealing, like it was prepared much earlier and was dried out or cold. They also had a number of standard items such as vichyssoise "style" soup which they were able to mess up quite handily by adding apple. Getting fancy didn't cut it. The Lido we used for breakfast most mornings and for lunch. I tried their sushi and found it to be unlike any I have ever had and hope never to have again. My wife being Asian refused to eat it after the first taste. The sandwiches they made were good because of really good bread. So that was our take on food. Our room steward Ardi was the best! He was almost clairvoyant to our needs. He was always smiling, cheerful and really a very nice guy. If only we could take him on every cruise with us. The rest of the staff were friendly and we surely had no complaints about them. We did get a call from the office on the 6th day asking how everything was. I suggested they read my review at Cruise Critic. The other passengers were definitely the older crowd. (At 65 I consider myself not quite there yet.) Most were "snow birds" and seemed to enjoy the cruise. The entertainment was O.K. Their stage productions were somewhat weak but we were not on the cruise to go to the theater. A "Beatles sound alike" group was good and a comic had a few great lines. A "Hollywood Idol" program was really quite good with the ship's Cruise Director, Jimmy being a great "Simon". The next night they had a "Newlywed, near newlywed and not so new newlywed" game. It was really a stitch! We laughed so hard it seemed some of the responses had to be rehearsed. The shore excursions were very good. Cabo San Lucas being the weakest. We went on a 40 minute boat ride that was good and then to a hotel for a "great view". For the length of the ride the "view" was a let down. We have been to Cabo four times previously, the last in 1997 to marlin fish. The town is so overgrown and American with American prices it really has lost its charm. Next was Mazatlan. We did a tour with a great guide, Sheila. Saw the cliff diver and then a folkloric show that was really very good. After that a great buffet at a local hotel and an afternoon walk along a very lovely beach. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Up at 6 A.M. to leave at 6:40 for a dune buggy adventure. What a kick, 3 1/2 hours of thick dust, muffler less engines and a real kickbutt ride over outback roads and a visit to a few small villages. My wife thinks she is Mario Andretti and really got to live her fantasy. We came back caked with dust and were really happy campers. This made our trip. We took a bus into downtown Puerto Vallarta that afternoon and had a pleasant walk back. Disembarkment was well planned and speedy. We were called at 9:10 A.m. for a 9:30 departure and were on the road by 9:30! So assessing the whole thing we could only say we were somewhat disappointed in HAL as a cruise line. The food probably made the biggest difference and the physical condition of a ship built in 2003 was also a downside. Our last cruises on Celebrity (Constellation in the Baltic and the Xpedition in Galapagos Islands) gave us some prospective in evaluating HAL. We have a world cruise segment planned for next year with HAL (the Amsterdam) because they are going to places we really, really what to see. We also have another cruise with them in 2007 from L.A. to New Zealand and have decided after this to probably cancel and fly there. There are too many days "at sea" and I would have trouble looking forward to eating with HAL that many days. So we would and are taking them again but mainly because they are going to where we want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a ... Read More
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a great cruise until the last day. We have heard people complaining that about all kinds of minor distractions, seeking compensation. We once overheard a couple complaining that their whale watching tour went off late and they might have missed seeing that elusive grey whale, so they demanded their money back (for the tour, not the cruise). While I tend to be critical of little things, it is only done in the spirit of making things better and pointing out the little differences between all the cruise lines. My wife and I like to try different cruise lines rather than settling on one. We always have a fear that if we return to the same cruise line too often, we will quickly get bored with the same menu, same entertainment, same ambience, etc. We have cruised on Celebrity four times (including the old Chandris Lines), Crystal twice, Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and even Carnival when they were first starting out with weekend cruises. Having lived in Holland for two years, we always wanted to try a Holland America Line ship but the opportunity never presented itself. We signed up for this Oosterdam cruise on a spur of the moment about six weeks before our embarkation. We had a big birthday coming up and we knew we didnt want to be in town for it! What better way than to find a cruise and just go somewhere. We had been to the Mexican Riviera before and werent especially interested in the region. We chose this cruise more because of the timing, the weather and HAL reputation. To us the ports are irrelevant, we prefer to stay on board during port days anyway and take advantage of the ambience with less crowding. We work in customer service positions and look forward to observing outstanding customer service techniques associated with cruising. HAL shined with their people in this regard. Their unabashed enthusiasm set the personality of the cruise experience. Embarkation: We drove down from the Bay Area the night before. We stayed in LA overnight and drove down the morning of embarkation. Embarkation was uneventful There was a special line for suite passengers. If there was any delay in that line it was my fault in dragging all my carry on stuff too slowly. The non-suite line appeared to move along quickly as well. We were told that the suites were ready when we checked in (around Noon). We went right to our room and our steward said that he hadnt finished yet. It looked fine to us, but we left our carry-ons and toured the ship. Accommodations: We booked a SC aft suite (6187) with an obscenely large verandah. The room was rather odd shaped but seemed to work well. Lots of closet space. We couldnt decide what to put where, but thats our problem! TV reception was the best Ive seen on any ship. Consistently clear. There were a limited number of channels, CNNI, ESPNI, and TNT mainly, plus some channels produced on the ship. On our last Celebrity cruise, the TV said that the ship was out of satellite range as we cruised into New York harbor! While our room was impeccably clean upon our arrival, we noted something rather unusual  no life vests. Our steward went on a search mission and the errant vests were finally located under the bed! No big deal but it led us to believe that attention to detail was lacking in room preparation. Of all of my cruises, this room was among the noisiest. Lots of little creaks and squeaks. In an aft cabin, this is more common, but seemed to be more prevalent here. On the good side, none of the creaks were loud and never interrupted our sleeping. There was also a large clock on the wall and you could hear it advance by the minute. Again, not a sleep-interruptor. Deluxe suites come with free laundry, very handy! Our steward, Arson, did everything we threw at him with quiet unassuming professionalism. It just got done! On the first night out, a fire alarm sounded about 4 AM. Apparently a smoke detector in the incinerator room activated (yes, we know all about the purpose of an incinerator). The Captain went on the PA system and explained what was happening. Five minutes later he announced that a small fire was extinguished. We heard several passengers grumbling about being awoken for nothing. I thought differently  the system works and it was reassuring to hear that the crew did such a great job. I wonder if something really bad had happened, how the media would handle it. Fire officials havent made a final determination of the cause, but they suspect it was Arson. Spa  Thermal Suite: We took advantage of the spas Thermal Suites offer ($250 for a couple for the week) and found it was money well spent  an oasis from the hustle of the rest of the ship. The masseuses tried to push their products more than on other ships, but after we each emphatically said no the first time, they didnt push their pitch again. The spa (Steiner employees) front desk staff was often curt when we asked for a key to the Thermal Suites. We already paid our money up front, now they couldnt be bothered with us. What was more disturbing was that twice we went to go to the thermal suites after dinner, only to find out that they decided to close earlier than the hours published in the daily program. They didnt seem to be concerned that the hours were incorrectly posted there. Tough luck! Dining: We booked the Pinnacle Grill for two nights in advance of the cruise. The higher quality service and food was well worth the surcharge. While not quite as good as the specialty restaurants on Celebrity or Crystal, the Pinnacle didnt try as hard to be as special and thus was not nearly as pretentious either. Celebrity often tries to hard and occasionally misses. One Golden Moment challenge is that I asked for a rather unique after dinner coffee. It has gotten to the point that I bring my own flask of flavored syrup on board cruises. Well the folks at HAL got creative and combined two different coffees to get a close approximation to what I wanted. The wait staff was unusually efficient, to the point of making us feel rushed on occasion. Rarely was there a wait between courses. Live music showed up for only the last two days. It would have contributed to the overall ambiance of the setting. Another Golden Moment came when we went to the Lido Cafe about 9 PM when my wife and daughter wanted chocolate ice cream. There was no chocolate flavors among the four flavors available (rather surprising in itself). The server said he couldnt get more. As we walked away ice creamless, I saw one of the Lido Managers and asked him why they couldnt fulfill a simple request like chocolate ice cream. He immediately sent a steward down to the second-floor galley to fetch two servings for us. Another customer save! Thanks JT!!! We noted that the smoked salmon was hand sliced, not machine sliced and pre-packaged as on most other cruise lines. We usually have liked to have breakfast in the main dining room, but found on the Oosterdam, the choices and quality were better on the Lido. My favorite foods on the ship were the hash browns in the Lido buffet and the bratwurst and knockwurst at the burger bar. Normally, we prefer fancier foods but when a dining venue does simple things exceptionally well, it should be noted. Public Rooms: Decorated not to our tastes  too busy with conflicting color schemes and off-beat patterns. Layout got a little confusing at first. We noticed a more intimate, boutique atmosphere. The big ship feel just isnt there. The dining room, although it seats close to 1000 had a more intimate feel. Service: Most of the cruise lines offer a butler at this level of accommodations. HAL has a concierge room, the Neptune Lounge, staffed with two all too helpful ladies, Marj and Esther. Since we rarely took advantage of butler service anyway, we were interested to see if a concierge would be more to our liking. Unlike most of the suites, we were far away from the Neptune (Concierge) Lounge. The lounge was a nice place to go and relax when we had grown tired of the four walls of our room. The concept of a concierge rather than a butler was a plus, in my opinion. We never quite figured out what to do with them anyway. When needed, they even came to our room to fix things, just like a butler would. We looked for other customer service golden moments, times where the staff has the opportunity to shine. The Oosterdam staff succeeded in most of these situations. However, in one situation, the result was less than desirable. There was a Walk a mile activity scheduled for 5:15 one day. When no staff members were there at the appointed time, I took off walking anyway. After the first turn of the Promenade Deck, we encountered about 10 staff members, sitting out on the deck, smoking. Not the best way to encourage healthy living. After another quarter of a turn, we found that the Promenade Deck had been closed for maintenance (cleaning). Come on guys - get the maintenance and the event staff to talk to each other! A key plus was Linda, the shopping hostess, who we saw while shopping at Mazatlan. Our daughter had a dilemma, she had picked out a necklace and bracelet she wanted but couldnt find a matching set of earrings. Linda checked and located the matching earrings. Another keeper was Christopher, a lovely young man who works in the Windstar Cafe (coffee bar). I gave him a complicated order for three drinks and he kept on getting them confused. He was constantly getting interrupted by passers-by who asked him various questions, at which point he had to ask me repeatedly about my order. One man insisted that Christopher find a cribbage board for him. Poor Chris didnt have a clue even what Cribbage was, but the man was insistent. He handled it all with aplomb and when he couldnt locate a container to take these drinks up to our room, he loaned me a serving tray (actually he first offered to bring them to my room), on the promise that I return it as soon as possible. Resourceful under pressure. On embarkation we asked our steward to empty out the minibar so we could put bottled water in it. Before noon the day before disembarkation, our steward emptied out and locked the minibar. I guess the cruises hospitality ends about 24 hours before the cruise did. Activities: My wife is happy just hanging out on her balcony, catching up on her reading and listening to her music. As a result, we are not the gadfly types. To get us to participate in any activity has to be incredibly attractive to us. The daily program had a number of activities that we almost participated in, but either the balcony or the thermal suite beckoned. Entertainment: Once again, HAL keeps it simple and doesnt try harder to accomplish what it cannot achieve. The simple productions are on the mark. Although not as lavish as Celebrity or other lines, the performers were better in the basic things that they can do well. Perhaps why they call it the Vista Lounge, more of a large night club than a theater. Itinerary: We arent really into ports, and didnt spend much time on shore during the cruise. To us, the best time to be on board is during port days. Less crowded. It appeared that the ports and activities overall were better than on a Caribbean cruise. The layout of the itinerary (Embarkation day, one sea day, three straight port days, two sea days, then disembarkation day) was probably the most conducive for getting into the cruise experience. We talk about getting into cruise mode (where you forget your work and home responsibilities, throw away your watch and adopt a dont care attitude) as fast as possible and the layout of this itinerary made the most of this. Disembarkation: The best weve seen. We were called around 8:40 AM, picked up our bags, called for the parking shuttle and had our car packed and on the road at 9:08 AM. It would have been faster if we had called for the shuttle earlier (right after clearing customs rather than waiting till we hit the curb. Couldnt have been quicker or easier! Odds and ends: This section will reference some of the questions often asked on the CC Boards. We took a laptop with Wi-Fi access and bought 250 minutes for $100 on embarkation day. I was curious to see where reception was. I got a very weak signal from the aft veranda, but it was unusable. We got a strong signal in most public areas, which was sufficient for our needs. The speed wasnt broadband, but was quite a bit faster then the two times telephone modem speeds that was advertised. There were 4 open 110 Volt, three-pronged receptacles in the cabin. I bought along a power strip and also a new device called the Squid, which consist of five wires and outlets coming out of one plug. If you have appliances that have transformers in the plugs that block access to all the power strip receptacles, this is for you. You can put five different transformers on the plugs without any interference. We then attached a power strip and an extension cord to the squid so we could use some appliances/chargers in other areas around the room. Observations and Comments: We noticed that on, other cruise lines, the staff seemed to be programmed on exactly what to say in common situations. If you ask a steward how they were doing, theyd all reply, Excellent! The staff of the Oosterdam had a lot more leeway in their responses and this contributed to the relaxed, informal atmosphere. It appears that all cruise lines are becoming more homogenized and middle of the road. HAL seems to be losing its own identity and heritage, the things which sets cruise lines apart. There was a lack of anything Dutch on the ship. The personality of the ship was homogenized American. We were hoping for some Dutch remnants as we lived in Holland in the early 90s. We asked for fritesaus and pindasaus at the burger bar and got knowing smiles from the staff but, alas, nowhere were these delicacies available. Before cruising we ordered two Coffee Card Specials (6 coffees and a travel mug) online for our daughter and ourselves. Our daughter got hers delivered to her room on the first day. We never got ours. When we asked, they said that they were no longer available, in effect denying the existence of our daughters card. One of the highlights of the ship is the wrap-around Promenade Deck. It is a vanishing perk and was thoroughly enjoyed. There was a large (32 inch) CRT TV sitting on the desk, or rather taking over the desk. Since there is little to watch on ships TV anyway, a smaller TV would have been more helpful. When walking down a hallway, we observed a woman talking to a steward, asking if she could come into a room (not hers). She said she just wanted to see what the rooms were like on the fourth floor. The steward allowed this. We call this a security breach. At the muster drill, we were led down a staff stairway to our muster station. Along the way we passed a sign, intended for the staff, that said something like No is not an option. Well, were often told No several times by stewards and staff, only to get things as we requested when we went to supervisory staff. It shouldnt happen this way. The service staff should say something politely I dont have that, but Ill check it out and then go to the supervisors for help. But No is so final and the requests were so minimal (like chocolate ice cream), that one has the impression that the staff prefers to avoid going to their supervisors and instead leave their customers disappointed. If the staff were more empowered to take action, service standards would be elevated. The first formal night was Super Bowl Sunday. While there some very nice parties arranged around the football theme, it was somewhat awkward to watch the game and eat the munchies in formal garb. Wouldnt it have been better to move formal night to another evening? Summary: Overall, a very nice cruise, a small step below Celebrity, which also has fallen, in my opinion. Would I cruise Holland America again? Absolutely, just not for awhile. We would rather try a variety of cruise lines before coming back to HAL, perhaps next time on a smaller, more intimate liner. For photos of this cruise go to Read Less
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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