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 http://community.webshots.com/user/iggledoer Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we ... Read More
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we would not miss our cruise because of storms cancellations or flight delays. I checked into the Hyatt and had a fantastic view of the Navy and cruise ships in the bay. It was only about a 20-minute walk to the cruise ship the next day but we took a taxi to the port and avoided hauling the luggage by foot. The check in process took 45 minutes from when we dropped off our luggage to the time we walked onto the ship. The lady that checked us in was consistently sarcastic and confrontational stating that we should have provided out mariner ID # when we made our reservation and next time I should put a string around my finger. My last name was completely wrong and she blamed it on my travel agent. Finally we boarded, the line kept moving pretty fast. Once on board we had lunch at in the Lido and went to our rooms. I had a Superior Veranda Suite #6100, it was roomy, big balcony, nice bedding, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. I had the Mini Bar manager inventory the fridge and lock it so he would not need to knock on our door everyday chanting mini bar mini bar to see if we drank anything. Our stops were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, & Puerto Vallarta. We all were excited to register for the Canopy tour however it was sold out before everyone even came on board so my friends and I were pretty bummed out. They gave up trying and I checked the tour KIOSK every few hours and when someone cancelled their Canopy Tour and their ticket was for sale again I snatched it up. In Cabo San Lukas we did the Kayak and Snorkel adventure, we kayaked for about ½ mile and came right up to the sea lions&they were very cool and did not mind our curiosity, we then kayaked to lovers beach and rested. At lovers beach there are two sides, the calm side where you can snorkel and the Pacific side that you can look at but stay out of unless you want to be like a ant being washed out to sea & the waves on the Pacific Side were about 20 feet tall and very dangerous, my instincts told me to keep a healthy distance. Snorkeling in the calm side was very cold and uneventful as there were few fish. The Canopy tour in Puerto Vallarta was fantastic, we took a bus from the pier to a boat and then the boat took us to their office. Once at the office we took a truck to the canopy tour location. For about 14 separate (Zip Lines) we were flying sky high from tree to tree&Im afraid of heights but sometimes its good to face your fears&I loved it. At the end we rappelled back to the forest bottom, walked 20 minutes back to camp for the 1hour truck ride back to the pier leaving plenty of time to hit the city for shopping. Mazatlan was interesting, I grabbed a taxi and he took me to town &.there was a market place that was absolutely huge, bustling with the local residence shopping for this & that. There was pork for sale with the pigs head on top of the slabs of meat to let you know it was pork? (I was a vegetarian for a few days after that). Everything was for sale out of tents, on the sidewalk, and indoor warehouse shops. I walked around Mazatlan for about 6 hours breathing in the Diesel fumes and distinct odor of sewage before my headache said its time to go home. I know it may be strange to some people but I wanted to experience Mexico¬ just the shirt & sunglass shop at the end of the pier. The prices for CDs and DVDs were about 1 or 2 dollars. The prices for goods and services near the touristy hotels and the pier are about 2 or 3 times what people pay in the US however if you go where the locals go and can haggle& you can find good buys on everything from a fantastic 75 minute massage or that cool wood carving or porcelain dish you just have to have. Remember your taxi drivers at the pier usually speaks English and can take you to where ever you want just let them know exactly what you want, then haggle and agree over the price of the ride BEFORE you get in and off you go! Back at the ship I took a nap, shook off the headache, and grabbed a bite to eat. The employees on Holland Americas Oosterdam (Filipino and Indonesian) are friendly, helpful, professional, and hard working. The shows were so so and the Filipino Crew Show is always is a hit! The food is fantastic and I soon learned to avoid the long lines, crowding, and searching for a table on the LIDO deck, it was always more pleasant, & relaxing to have a site down meal (Breakfast & Lunch) in the dinning rooms - dressed casual. Dinner in the Vista Dining Room was outstanding, Charlie was our head waiter and he was great. Things are a changing for evening fine dinning&&..The surf and turf are now surf OR turf, & the sirloin strip steak, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, and chicken options at the bottom of the menu have been removed, & the cost of beer and cocktails have really gone up in a very short time. The 10 free minutes of internet access coupon comes with a hidden $4.00 activation fee and you need to negotiate the coupon with the internet manager, if you can find the internet manager that is&&.I say just save yourself the headache and ****throw the coupon away!**** I attended the Cruise Critic meeting and the hotel manager was there to answer any questions, instead of being defensive or making excuses for any faults that the cruise critic members brought up he simply agreed and explained in granular detail why things were the way they were and also gave us info on what cruises will be like in the future. I was shocked and very pleased with his integrity, frankness, and positive attitude. In conclusion, Holland Americas Oosterdam is a fine ship with a fine crew however it is owned by Carnival and is struggling to find its own unique identify. I was informed by a few Holland America employees that they are pressed with budget cuts, its a constant struggle to squeeze bigger and bigger profits out of its passengers with out being seen as just another generic run of the mill cruise line that nickels and dimes its passengers at every turn. Will Holland America maintain its premium status or will Holland Americas fleet be the same as Carnivals ships with a different paint job on the outside? I do not know the answer to this however the one consistent value I see that sets Holland America apart from the other major cruise lines is the noticeable lack of children (God Bless Them!) running around, undisciplined, screaming, unsupervised, and there is also a more mature passenger manifest that replaces the spring break students (God bless them all!) that come with their unique party hearty ambitions. If you're looking for a great value, peace, tranquility, boredom, then Holland America may be just the thing to get you relaxed and ready to take on the world! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Our cruise started in Seattle, overcast and humid not what we are used to coming from Phoenix. Transport from the airport to the ship was a very long confused wait. Once we got to the embarkation point things went quite smoothly. This was ... Read More
Our cruise started in Seattle, overcast and humid not what we are used to coming from Phoenix. Transport from the airport to the ship was a very long confused wait. Once we got to the embarkation point things went quite smoothly. This was my first cruise on a vista class ship, our party consisted of my mother, my daughter and her husband (his first cruise ever). I was awoken early the first morning by being rocked about in my bed, I opened the curtains and looked out and the first thing I thought of was the opening credits from the TV program of the 60's "Victory at Sea". It was rough, a double dramamine morning, breakfast forget it. Toward afternoon the captain announced we were altering our course and taking the inside passage which would add about 3 hours more to our sailing time but would be much smother, you could hear the cheer from the passengers, and the rest of the cruise was smooth sailing. We had requested the early seating at dinner but got the LATE seating, I found out you have a better chance of getting a private meeting with the pope then getting your seating changed. Due to the fact that there were 4 of us I was surprised to find we were sharing a table with another couple. Very nice couple from Minnesota taking a cruise for their 20th anniversary. Probably because we had the late seating service was quite slow and often inattentive. The food was quite good not 5 star french but this is a cruise ship not a 5 star french restaurant, though sometimes they were out of some items usually a desert that was popular with the earlier seating. I do have a complaint about being nickeled and dimed, in 1998 and 2001 we cruised with Hollandamerica and the Cappuccino and hot chocolate and muffins were free now you have to pay for them, it was not starbucks prices but come on, I could get the same muffins on the lido deck for free and the Cappuccino at dinner for free. The activities on the ship were good, you actually could not do all of them in a day there were so many. I really liked the culinary arts center. The tours were very good though the lack of wild life disappointed me, it appears you must take the 14 day cruise and tour through the national park to see more then 4 eagles and the tail of a whale as it swam away. With the exception of trying to get our plane in Seattle after the cruise (4 cruise ships disembarking at the same time) made it a nightmare! Over all the cruise was quite enjoyable. My son-in-law is sold on cruising, he packed on about 20 extra pounds. BUT the one thing I find unacceptable with the new vista class ships is there is NO self serve launderette. When I was on the Rotterdam in 1998 for 16 days with 3 children, wife and mother-in-law the launderette was invaluable. I was on a cruise with NCL around Hawaii in 2002, I was on the lido deck one day and over heard a couple who were aghast at the cost to send their and their 2 children's cloths to the ship laundry. Now that I am retired when I look for a cruise of more than 7 days (like the 12 day one I took in 2007 to the Baltic on the Rotterdam), if the Hollandamerica ship does not have a self serve launderette I look for another cruise line that does. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a ... Read More
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a good value for the price point. If you're looking for 5-star accommodations, food and entertainment, you'll have to pay for it. This is an affordable enjoyable line with a very friendly and efficient staff who try to do their best. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Dallas Fort Worth International to San Diego Stateroom: 8095- We typically sail in this category or the one just below it. The cabins for the most part are comfortable and spacious for a ship and the verandas on this ship are fairly large for the cabin size. That's where the positive ends. This is the "Bacon/Sauerkraut" cabin. It has a direct vent to the kitchen and many times the air flow is such that when you wake up in the morning you think that breakfast has been set in front of you-- but at 4 a. m. when they begin preparing it. Remember what I said previously-- this ship is staffed with very friendly and efficient staff that will do everything to appease you if they can. Unfortunately-- we arrived home with luggage, clothes and ourselves wreaking of food odors. They were unable to abate the problem. Their idea of compensation however, was to offer us dinner at the Pinnacle Grill their upscale dining room. Did I mention that we already smelled like food--? Ship Info: The ship is in okay condition-- Unfortunately, on the larger ships when they are on short turnarounds things break down. The Oosterdam is a relatively young Vista Class ship and the thermos spa was in disrepair and minor things like that. Overall the ship is not as "Glitzy" as a Celebrity cruise Millennium class but it still has all of the same amenities. The ship is kept impeccably clean any time of the day or night there is someone cleaning something. We don't think we found a place that wasn't kept immaculate at any hour of the day. Dining: It is always miraculous how many meals can be served without insult or injury. If you're looking for an exotic menu-- this isn't the ship for you. The cuisine is average catering hall fare with a nice presentation. What makes it more acceptable is the fact that the staff serves it with pride and makes you feel as one of these 6,000 plates was especially made for you. If you're looking for lobster shooters with caviar and vodka-- this is NOT the line for you. We typically enjoy the food on this line. Gone are the days of ordering "off" the menu though-- so if there's nothing on the menu that you want-- you can call room service and get something else or try to get into the Pinnacle. Activities: Unlike many of the onboard revenue schemes that are on most lines Holland America does a good job keeping it contained so that you don't feel like you're being nickeled and dimed for everything once on-board. Many of the activities are free and those that aren't are very affordable and make sense to pay for. Service: The staff on the Oosterdam and the Westerdam we find to be more friendly then their counterparts on Celebrity-- Our ideal cruise line would take the food and the ships of Celebrity and the staff from Holland America. The staff are not intrusive and do their best to assist you any way that they can. Often times they are bound by the corporate office in what capacity they can assist. In our case their offer of compensation was to put us in a lesser room and comp a meal. I am typically very brand loyal and will avoid a company if I feel that I've been slighted. American Airlines has now lost over 149,000 in revenue from me not flying their airline for the last decade-- and this is their hub. I will do anything to avoid them. Do they care? Probably not. But, I spend my dollars where I'm treated fairly and with dignity. Entertainment: If you cruise regularly-- the entertainment is what it is. If you're used to Broadway or Vegas type entertainment this is it's cheapest cousin Minnie Pearl! The shows on Holland America run typically from 3 to 5 years before they're changed and so what's on one ocean-liner is the same on all of them with in the line. They have a group of young talent who typically do the best with what they've got. They often hang out at the disco off of the casino and are great to talk to after the show. Again if you're looking for Broadway or Vegas-- Go there-- if not then enjoy. It's amazing to see what they're able to produce on probably a community theatre's budget and amusement park talent. They do okay. If you're looking for the next Streisand-- not gonna happen. Shore Excursions: Like all cruise lines these are designed mostly for the over 60 set or the 9-11 set. However, Holland America does have some gems mixed in there that are well worth the money to take. Swimming with the Dolphins-- although it says "it's a life changing experience" it's more of a memory with pictures that no one should be without. It was great fun and one of the more active excursions. We like to take the Kayak tour and the mountain biking tours. These are made for weekend warriors like ourselves and we find them just enough exertion to make us feel like we've earned the prime rib we're about to eat for dinner. If you get to Cast Away Cay-- GO! It's a beach that only the Walt Disney Company could replicate. Great service, white sand, and swimming with horses! Great fun. Disembarkation: Easy and unrushed. Holland America triumphs over Celebrity in people moving. This is an art form and Holland America could use a little polishing here-- but when you think of the number of passengers-- This is well orchestrated. Summary: If you're looking for top of the line marble bathrooms, and white glove service-- this isn't the line for you. Cruising has become more relaxed-- and as far as bad puns go-- that ship has sailed. If you're looking for an affordable, relaxing vacation with a wide range of middle class folks from the US-- this is your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved ... Read More
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved children. I didn't mind all the children as HAL has an excellent program for the younger crowd. The ship did not have that "overcrowded" feel. This is a 4-star (out of six stars) ship. That doesn't mean you can't have a 6-star vacation! It is a cruise ship fit for your family and not about luxury. HAL has tried to position itself as a premier line, but for the "middle class" Celebrity Cruises just does it better. Instead of writing about the destinations and such I'll just put my own views of the pros and cons of the ship. There are a great many well-done reviews of Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Pros: Food - better than all of the other middle class cruise lines Lido - Fine choices, but some of the Oriental dishes (?) I have never had before and I am Oriental. As an example - Miso soup without Miso and tastes like mushroom soup Crow's Nest - nicely appointed, comfortable setting San Diego Embarkation Port - allows a full day in Cabo San Lucas vs. a half day out of Los Angeles Bands - Cruise Control and Take Five are excellent Windstar Lounge - coffee! Decent, but slow service Casino - You can play for awhile and lose slower than on most other cruise lines Cruise Director and staff - young and good Clean - can be repeated again and again. Clean is good Staff - friendly, but overworked Elevators - glass outdoor ones! Short skirts are fine if you are not shy Cons: Service - Just calling it light is a compliment. Wait in line, get your own coffee in Lido. Lack of assistant waiters making some meals agonizingly long. Really I can't believe that HAL can get away with such light staffing. I felt the same way on the Rhyndam two years previously. Head waiters need a bit more seasoning (nuff said). Tender waits - overly long, longer, time to take a nap Entertainment - no orchestra/big band, shows not worth seeing. Indonesian staff show!? Embarrassing. I don't want to comment on this poorly done, but sometimes ok show. Cheap labor! Cheap! Okay - low cost. Disco - small dance floor with a huge column in the center of the floor. Unbelievable bad design. Spa - pay $15 a day to use the service. A first! Ambiance - Carnival plus Internet - I don't mind paying for quality, but paying by the minute when speeds are slower than dial-up is just bad business. Drink prices - smuggle your own Decor - Carnival plus Captain's Party - boring!!!!! Band? No big band! Dance on a postage stamp floor - so you don't dance. Photo prices - bring your own camera, better yet - bring your own cameraperson. Conclusion: Fine family vacation. Fine ship. As always could be better. Solidly 4-star. Put it this way, Crystal, Radisson, Cunard are 5-6 star ships. How can HAL be higher? Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Oosterdam 5/29-6/5 We arrived late Friday night in Seattle and just crashed at the airport Holiday Inn. Quick and easy shuttle transfer and a very nice buffet breakfast included. For some reason it took 20 minutes to get a taxi to the ... Read More
Oosterdam 5/29-6/5 We arrived late Friday night in Seattle and just crashed at the airport Holiday Inn. Quick and easy shuttle transfer and a very nice buffet breakfast included. For some reason it took 20 minutes to get a taxi to the hotel, but then it was a quick and scenic trip to the pier. It really is too bad that HAL and Princess have decided to use the new pier 30 facility. It's in the middle of the cargo area, not at all attractive and not convenient to the Seattle waterfront or downtown. Check-in for suite passengers was quick and efficient, with essentially no line. Filling out the embarkation forms online is definitely the way to go. Embarkation itself was a bit like running a gauntlet of crew members trying to get you to go to this or that raffle. They were more of a hassle than helpful. We embarked around 12:30 and were taken to our suite which was not quite ready. We opted for lunch in the Lido. While the Lido has potential, it is more often a confusing and fractured dining experience, especially when eating with several people. Also, finding a seat was next to impossible most times as it was a popular place to enjoy the scenery and instead of chair hogs by the pool, the Lido suffered from chair hogs in the dining room. Also, I found the Lido hours to be quite limited with several times during the cruise when one could not find food anywhere. The food was decent but several notches down from previous experience and the service was poor. Our suite (7132) was outstanding. We had the aft port suite on the 7th deck. While the suite itself was a bit smaller than the typical S suite, it was still larger than an SS suite and most important of all it had a HUGE wraparound balcony. In fact I would venture to say that the balcony is larger than many of the cabins. The balcony on the side was covered and the size of 2 A category cabin balconies, the rear balcony was at least 10 feet deep. It only had a 3 foot overhang, not enough to protect from rain, but enough that if sitting by the wall, you could not be viewed from above. We rarely saw anyone looking down on us from the Lido deck and likewise we rarely saw anyone on the balconies below us. Furniture on the balcony included a dining table with 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs, 2 padded chairs with ottomans and a small cocktail table. We only experienced soot on the balcony one day toward the end of the trip. In the suite was a (true) king size bed with a wonderful firm mattress, fantastic linens, a down duvet and 6 pillows. It was by far one of the most comfortable beds I've slept on. The couch was turned into a twin bed each evening by our steward. Additionally there were 3 leather chairs and a coffee table. The TV was a flat screen with an excellent picture quality. Beneath it were a CD player and a DVD player. We had brought our own music CDs and DVDs were available from the Neptune lounge. A granite minibar topped by a silver ice bucket and fruit bowl (with bananas, grapes apples and pears) finished out the main room. Next to the bathroom was a dressing room with 3 closets, all with full mirrors on the front. The lighting in here was not great. The bathroom had 2 sinks, a jetted tub with handheld shower head and separate shower stall with a handheld shower head. The shower stall was a bit tight, but not bad. The first day the towels had the HAL logo on them, afterwards they were very plush oversize plain white towels. Bathroom amenities included shampoo/conditioner (which was not at all conditioning, I'd advise bringing your own), lotion, a sewing kit and shower cap. Other suite amenities included two terry cloth robes, an umbrella, binoculars (Bushnell, good quality) and a hair dryer (not very powerful, and I have thin, easy to dry hair). When we arrived a bottle of champagne was chilling compliments of the captain. We also received personalized stationery and an invitation to the suite reception that evening. I had pre-ordered some wine and gin which were also in the room. Our room steward did a very good job making up the room twice a day. A daily program was delivered to the suite each evening along with what I felt to be quite a bit of "junk mail". Turn down service included a chocolate on the pillow. Each morning the dinner menu for the day was delivered. I really enjoyed that little bit of information. The Pinnacle Grill menu was in the leather suite information folder along with the rather limited room service menu. We received a corsage and boutonniere for the first Formal night (each a white carnation). Room service was not good. They continually refilled the mini bar with soda water when we used the tonic water. Getting through to room service was a challenge, several times we had to contact the concierge to have her contact room service. We never used room service for food, just tonic and ice. I ended up enjoying the Neptune lounge much more than I had anticipated. The cappuccino machine is fantastic!! The continental breakfast and snacks were high quality and frequently replenished. Many magazines were available. The concierge was friendly and tried hard but wasn't really of all that much help. I must have stopped in 3-4 times a day for coffee or snacks. Did I mention how much I loved the cappuccino machine? Other perks of the suite included free laundry which we used once during the week. They were very prompt, did a nice job and delivered the clean clothes to the cabin in a basket wrapped in tissue paper. Nice classy touch. We also had priority tendering privileges, we ended up not utilizing them as we only tendered in one port and by the time we went ashore, the tenders no longer required tickets. We were invited to a reception mid-week (not sure if this was a suite reception or exactly why we were invited) and to the suite lunch on the last day. The suite lunch was buffet held in the crow's nest, included drinks and was high quality food similar to that in the Pinnacle grill with an Indonesian twist. We also attended the Mariner reception held at 11:45 AM on the last day. The decor of the Vista class ships has been debated and discussed in some depth so I won't dwell on it here. I will say that it does seem like a departure form that of the older ships (especially the Niew Amsterdam I sailed on in 1992) While I really liked some of it ( the elevators are beautiful) other aspects I found strange. A weird mix of classic and contemporary, beautiful high quality art and "junk". The flow through the ship is not good especially on the promenade deck. The photo gallery impedes traffic badly outside the dining room and the shops are laid out in such a strange manner. Another comment on the shops; most of what they sell is tacky junk, they are laid out poorly and the selection changes daily. Not at all what I remember from previous cruises. The atrium is pretty but seems small and dark for a ship of this size. It is definitely not the focal point it could have been. There is an occasional sewage smell detectable on the 2nd and 3rd decks, primarily forward. I also smelled it once on the observation deck towards the front. It's not awful, but it's there. As for vibration, I felt none in the Vista dining room and only occasionally in our suite, especially when the seas were a bit rough. The ship did seem to move about more than I expected for a ship of this size and more than other ships I've been on. The midship pool is covered by a retractable roof, is heated and is freshwater. This is the family pool. The aft pool is also heated and freshwater but is not covered. It is designated adults only. I did not use the spa, but the facilities looked nice. The Gym was well equipped. The Crow's nest is a very pleasant lounge. There were drink specials every day and wine packages are available ($125 for 6 bottles). Hot appetizers are served in the lounges in the evenings. Service on the ship was highly variable. Our cabin steward was excellent, our waiter was erratic, the wine steward was often late getting to our table and there was none of the remembering of your name or preferences that I so vividly remember from my other HAL cruise. Lounge service was impersonal at best. Elsewhere on the ship we were often greeted by smiles but the level of service has dropped in my opinion. Perhaps they are just overwhelmed. Service in the Pinnacle Grill was very good with the exception of when the waiter made me walk back to my room to get the card indicating that I had pre-paid for my reservations even though the information was in the computer and I had confirmed it both with the concierge and maitre 'd. The Club HAL staff were pleasant and did a good job with the kids. They had a fairly full program which was broken into 4 age groups. The Kid's Club facility is rather small, but adequate. Food is always a personal matter, but I really feel the quality has slipped in the main dining room. Not that it is poor quality or tastes bad, but it really comes across as mass produced banquet food. No attention to detail, none of the beautiful garnishes I remember. Some of the best dishes are the Indonesian ones. The appetizers tended to be better than the entrees. The soups were good, the salads variable. Desserts were often a disappointment. The food in the Lido can be quite good but the arrangement of the room makes it awkward for several people to eat together and I felt as if I was running all over the place to get my meal together. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were very good, however the hours were very limited. The food in the Pinnacle Grill is excellent. One of the best steaks I've had, and the chocolate volcano cake truly is "to die for". Lobster is available every night in addition to the regular menu items. It is well worth the $20 surcharge. The itinerary itself was not quite what I had hoped for. We spent much more time in the open ocean with it's rougher water and lack of scenery that I imagined we would. Relatively little time was spent in the inside passage, which I feel is what makes an Alaskan cruise so special. We did arrive early at every port, which was very nice. We arrived in Juneau 2 hours early and in Victoria almost 2 hours early. Still too late and too little time in Victoria I'm afraid but it is quite a distance from Ketchikan and we did leave Ketchikan fairly early as well (1 PM). In Juneau we docked at the farthest pier from town. They did provide a shuttle to the base of the tramway but during the afternoon it inexplicably stopped running, leaving many passengers rather stranded with no choice but to walk back to the ship. At Hubbard glacier we had a prime viewing time from around 10 AM until 4 PM. There was quite a bit of ice in the water and the Captain did a fantastic job of picking his way through to get us as close as possible. The bow of the ship was accessible to passengers during this time and was a prime viewing spot. In Sitka we tendered into port, but as I recall, tender tickets were not needed after around 9 AM. In Ketchikan we docked right in town. In Victoria we docked about ½ mile from the inner harbour but no shuttle was provided. Shore excursions are easy to pre-book and our tickets were waiting in our suite when we arrived. We went sea kayaking in Juneau, which was strenuous but spectacular. We took the semi-submersible tour in Sitka which was fascinating. There is an immense amount of sealife in the Alaskan waters and seeing it up close was wonderful. My sister did the snorkeling tour in Ketchikan and gave it rave reviews as well. We went to the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan and thoroughly enjoyed it. Debarkation in Seattle was done well, very organized. We took a taxi to our hotel and were able to check in at 9 AM. I chose the Hotel Monaco because it seemed interesting, I got a good rate and it was centrally located. I'm glad I made the choice. It is a unique hotel with funky decor, goldfish "companions" in the rooms, leopard print bathrobes and a nightly wine tasting. Not your average hotel. To put this review in perspective, this was my 10th cruise and 2nd Alaska cruise. I've sailed with HAL once before, Princess twice, Celebrity once, Crystal once, Radisson Seven Seas twice, Windstar once and Disney once. I'm in my late 30's and was traveling with my husband, 5 year old daughter and my sister and her husband. I very much enjoyed this trip and think the Vista class ships, while not for everyone, are a good option. I do feel that HAL has made some improvements, especially regarding facilities but food and service have slipped. I'd put HAL up with Celebrity (and surprisingly, Disney) for overall quality. I would sail with them again, especially if I could have an aft suite! Read Less
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
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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