Sail Date: November 2010
First a bit of history. My wife and I have about 25 cruises under our belt. Celebrity is our fave but not by a huge margin. This was our first with HAL. We found the best deal which was a Superior Veranda for a little over $100 ... Read More
First a bit of history. My wife and I have about 25 cruises under our belt. Celebrity is our fave but not by a huge margin. This was our first with HAL. We found the best deal which was a Superior Veranda for a little over $100 p/p per day. Embarkation was very smooth, we took a cab from the airport but had the driver stop at a Ralph's where we went in and loaded up on wine and bottled water. HAL allows you to bring as much wine and champagne as you want which is very nice. Their $18 corkage fee is pretty steep and does not make it worthwhile to bring wine to dinner unless you're bringing very expansive wine so we ha d glass before dinner on the veranda. We were on deck 8, midship, port side. The room was terrific, the largest we've ever had. There was a bathtub, twin sinks and a separate shower. The veranda was huge. It had a table and two chairs suitable for eating at which we did for most breakfasts and two other more comfortable chairs for lounging about. The bed was really comfortable, there was lots of storage space. The a/c control worked very well the only thing, and this applies to every stateroom on every ship (that we have been on) I wish you could turn off the fan. Because of the size of our stateroom there were two ceiling outlets and therefore twice as noisy. Need to mention that we never ever heard anyone in the cabins on either side of us. The soundproofing was great. The ship is nicely decorated, clean and just the right size. Service was impeccable. Never saw the stateroom attendant after day one but the room was always clean and stocked. Special mention for the maitre d' who bent over backwards to make us happy. Waiter were standard i.e.: great Probably the biggest surprise was the quality and selection of food. For dinner there were 7 entrees to choose from on top of the items that are available every night. We did not have one meal that was not either very good or excellent. The lobster tail was not rubbery for once! Someone here mentioned that the desserts on HAL were a weak point. We certainly did not find that, they were great. The entertainment was a cut above as well. The singers and dancers we find are good on every cruise but they were especially good on the Oosterdam. Leo Ward the illusionist and Kevin Jordan the comedian were terrific. Ports of call really have nothing to do with HAL or the ship so I won't bother. It's Mexico and it was warm. Because of the size of the ship finding a spot by the pool was never an issue. Beer was on special all week by the pools (2 for 1) That helped keep the bar bill down! Easy to find wine in the dining room for under $30 as well. It was our first HAL experience but won't be our last. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
Our perspective is skewed to a moderate lifestyle so if you enjoy late night activities and bars, we aren't very informative. Retired since early 2002, we are both 58 and our idea of a good time is to go to the gym, attend an ... Read More
Our perspective is skewed to a moderate lifestyle so if you enjoy late night activities and bars, we aren't very informative. Retired since early 2002, we are both 58 and our idea of a good time is to go to the gym, attend an occasional show and be asleep by 10:00PM. Boring, as our kids would say. By way of comparison, 47 of our tribe were on the Norwegian Dawn in June. Last December we sailed the Celebrity Millennium. Just prior to that we were on the Emerald Princess. We can state unequivocally that the Oosterdam has the best food. The Celebrity is close and Princess is a little behind and of course, NCL is dead last or you wouldn't be reading a Holland America review anyway. But if you want to take a bunch of your kids and grandkids, NCL is the right cruise line. Wouldn't consider inflicting my grandkids on the Celebrity or Holland America crowd, we'd be a wreck trying to control them where as they fit in nicely with NCL. This may also be true for Carnival but I'll pass on finding that out. In my attempt to be truthful, I am sounding snobbish--sorry about that. This was our 5th trip down the Mexican Rivera and 4th on Holland America. They are top notch and cater to an older crowd. Their crew is well trained and a delight to interact with. We rate their food as the best we have experienced. The Italian specialty restaurant was very good but has a limited menu. Definitely try it. We chose to dine at Le Cirque the one night that it was available. They substitute their menu one night at the Pinnacle Grill and it was extremely good. The menu wasn't large, but a great experience. Entertainment consisted of a magician and comedian--both excellent! The magician was the best I've seen on a cruise ship. All other nights were what I like to call the ship's productions. They were very good but would have preferred another night or two of imported talent. Holland America is a nice crowd. There will always be an obnoxious jerk or two on board ship but less of a chance of encountering such behavior on Holland or Celebrity. We sat next to a California principle and a social worker in the MDR for early dinning. They may have thought I was a jerk because they got it out of me that I'm a partisan member of that other party. After being barraged with the liberal whine, in a moment of weakness asked how a state could elect Governor Moonbeam, who was governor back when I was in ROTC at UC Berkeley in the 1970s and elect him again 30 years later? If that wasn't mean spirited enough, I asked them how their proposition legalizing marijuana failed. A forgiving bunch, the blond put her hand on my thigh under the table the last night of the cruise only later to discover that she had balanced her card with contact information on it. Rather than shake hands or hug, this may be how they do it now in California or at sea. In an attempt to impress some of you, I'll admit that I gave the card to my wife; others may be disappointed. Holland America's smoking policy is behind the times. If the balcony next to you has a smoker, you probably won't use your balcony. My wife says she won't be sailing Holland again because of that. I was in line to get my room key fixed at the front desk. Two of us were waiting in line and the lady in front of me asked if I smoked. I admitted to less than libertarian leanings in regards to smoker rights, she said good and let it rip with the poor front desk clerk. Claimed she was in a cabin with triple the normal sized balcony, based upon dress, bearing and jewlry--I don't doubt it. Said if she ever booked Holland again it would be an inside cabin to get away from all the smoking on verandas. Holland needs to change their smoking policy. I'm told that 75% of the ships officers smoke and of course the owners are Europeans. This means to me that not much will change. They could make it a 100% smoking ship. Expand the casino and open more bars and perhaps make more money. I prefer that they adopt Celebrity's policy. We only got off in Puerto Vallarta. Mexico is way to dangerous at this time. Other than their smoking issue, they are a fine line. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
This was my 5th cruise and the 1st on Holland America. The others have been on NCL, Royal and Celebrity. The biggest difference I noticed between this cruise and the others I've taken is that on this cruise the average age of the ... Read More
This was my 5th cruise and the 1st on Holland America. The others have been on NCL, Royal and Celebrity. The biggest difference I noticed between this cruise and the others I've taken is that on this cruise the average age of the guests seemed much higher. After I booked my cruise, I heard that Holland caters more to older clientele, which appears to be true. The ship itself seemed just a little worn out in appearance. It's hard to really define why, but I didn't like the layout of this ship as much as the others I've cruised on. But to be be fair, other people we met on the ship loved the layout. Overall, the food was excellent. Except for one piece of meat in the main dining room that wasn't very good, everything else was excellent: -- LIDO (buffet): Always had a wide selection of good food and helpful staff running all over. -- CANALETTO: Other than its odd placement in a corner of the Lido buffet, the Canaletto Italian restaurant was very good, both food and service. And it's FREE! They really should expand this area or give it its own room so they can seat more people. (No shorts allowed here here.) -- PINNACLE: This steakhouse was excellent, everything about it. We ate there twice. There is a $20 charge per person for dinner and I think $10 for lunch, which some people may complain about. But you're getting a meal that would cost you many times more off the ship. (No jeans allowed here.) -- VISTA (main dining room): Only ate there once, but friends from the ship ate there every day and loved it. All of the staff on the ship were helpful and polite, especially the staff servicing the cabins, the bar staff and the dining room staff (which may be 95% of people you see). Overall, I would recommend this cruise to others. Just keep in mind you may not see the "party" atmosphere you see on other cruise lines, which some people may not want anyway. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
This was our 5th cruise, and second to the Mexican Riviera. Heard HAL was for the older crowd - I'm 50 so I don't know if that's older or not. Anyway off we went. San Diego is a nice port to leave from because it is small ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise, and second to the Mexican Riviera. Heard HAL was for the older crowd - I'm 50 so I don't know if that's older or not. Anyway off we went. San Diego is a nice port to leave from because it is small and only 10 minutes from the airport. Our cabin was way up front on deck four. We did experience a little more bouncing then in the past. This could be for several reasons: 1. We were way up front. 2. We were in the Pacific as opposed to the Caribbean. 3. The Oosterdam is a smaller ship. 4. We were in 5-7 foot waves - Ship's log said so. Again, not bad, just a bit more than I like. Cabin was fine. Plenty of storage. We had a broken toilet seat, reported it and it was changed the same day. Food was very good. I read that HAL food was bland but I didn't think so. Dinner offered 4 appetizers, 4 starters, and 5 entrees every night plus some "standard fare" if noting looked good. We were quite pleased. We did go to the Pinnacle Grill - the speciality restaurant one night. Wow. I know it's $20 bucks extra but, hey you're on a cruise. Food was excellent. Portions were huge. Service as expected. Shows were good. Typical sing and dance reviews. We really enjoyed the comedian/magician. He truly was amazing. HAL offers Microsoft Digital Workshop Classes. Great stuff if you want to know more about computers or uploading digital photos. Very helpful - hands on - they had about a dozen computers in use. Great library. Best of any ship I've been on. Other activities included little things around the ship. It's not that big so no mini-golf or rock climbing etc. Yes, the crowd was older but it was a pretty good mix of families as well. Really, no complaints and I will sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
After our last HAL cruise we decided to give them a break to see if they get back to the levels of service and cruising we had enjoyed from them in the past. Well, we are pleased to report that they have made a successful move in the the ... Read More
After our last HAL cruise we decided to give them a break to see if they get back to the levels of service and cruising we had enjoyed from them in the past. Well, we are pleased to report that they have made a successful move in the the right direction. Some background...we're experienced cruisers. I am retired and my wife is Graduate Student. We cruise, on average twice a year. We have cruised the entire North America/Central America West Coast, the Panama, The Caribbean, and the East Coast of South America as far south as the Amazon River, and up the Amazon River 1000 kms to Manaus. Our next cruise will be to Europe. For this most recent cruise we arrived in San Diego a day early and stayed at the the Hampton Inn down town near the cruise pier. We always try to stay in Hampton Inns where ever we travel in the US because we have found them to be extremely consist in quality, comfort, cleanliness, and service. This is the second time we have stayed in this particular Hampton in San Diego, and it did not disappoint. We measure embarkation based on a criteria of how long we have to actually stop to get our key card while moving towards the door on the ship from the door into the pier building! The rating begins to start to deteriorate if we have to stop, and collapses entirely if we have to sit down on a bench with a number to be called before we can continue forward motion! Others use a much fairer system of measuring the length of time it takes from entering the pier structure to entering the ship. Based upon their system it took from 12:00 noon until about 1:00 pm for us to reach our suite. This was our first cruise n Oosterdam and we were very impressed. We like the 'small' ships of HAL, and while Oosterdam is slightly larger than Veendam and Ryndam we found it to be much better appointed ship....more colurful....brighter...but not over the top like Carnival ships are. It is well decorated and very well laid out with two exceptions....the Explorations Cafe NEEDS to be somewhere in mid-ships, not at the very front of the ship. Obviously the designer never had to get up at 6:00 in the morning and walk from the aft cabins for coffee and cinnamon buns....dam that is a long lonely stroll!!! The other problem we had were the chairs in the Pinnacle...although very artistic and interesting to look at....they are not all that comfortable for a two hour + dinner. that said....we will be back on Oosterdam in a heart beat in the future. In fact we booked our Med cruise next fall on the Noordam because it is Oosteredam's sister ship. We had a Category SS Deluxe Verandah Suite on this trip. This suite is almost the size of the old Cat 11 on Carnival ships, but not quite. Large enough for two people for sure, with a queen size bed, 8 foot leather couch, two desks, (one doubles a place for the women to apply their make-up and do their hair....the other with a window to gaze out across the balcony while writing, etc.) Lots of closet space and under the bed drawers,a fridge, coffee table,flat screen TV and DVD player, two comfortable side chairs, and lots of nice bright lighting. The bathroom has a double sink, fill size jacuzzi bath and a separate shower stall. The balcony is roomy with two comfortable easy chairs and foot stools, a cocktail table and small round dining table. Room Stewards as usual were exceptional and left no room for discussion over whther they should receive an additional tip; as were the Room Service Waiters. Food in all venues, other than Canaletto was above average....well prepared....broad selection. As is usual with HAL the dessert selections were small and weak. The constant availability of good ice cream and exceptional bread pudding in the Lido (which is different and better in the Lido than in the MDR.....although I am not quite sure why.) The Pinnacle was absolutely incredible in both food and service....the chocolate volcano is a must!!! The Canaletto was interesting, but not 'smashing'. Portions were on the small size...a chef with a heavy salt hand didn't make thinks any tastier. Spaghetti and Meat Balls is a robust 'working class' meal and should be served as such.....large juicy meat balls....lots of rich tomato sauce on a mountain of pasta!! The Canaletto version with dainty meat balls, on a small mound of oiled pasta with no tomato sauce just doesn't make it. The Anti-Pasta platter was interesting with tasty offerings and the salad was good also. Wait staff was not as sharp as it could be, but they may have just been having an off night. Excursions were all right. This is our fourth trip to the area so it is not fair to say that we had the excitement of past stops. We booked through Johann and excursion booking agent for all our excursions. We have had excellent results using them in the past and have saved a lot of money for the same excursions offered by the cruise lines. This time they didn't do so well as in the past....there service in booking was spotty....but we might have just gotten an inexperienced employees. The driver/company they booked for us in Mazatlan was a little on the 'shady side' They took us to a jewelery store first thing, that they used as their collecting point for half a dozen different excursion departures. The store's salespeople then went to work on us selling us jewelery for half an hour before the actual excursion left. The driver in PV on the other hand was really good. He stopped at an artisans shop for us to shop for local handcrafted ceramics and silver. We got some excellent goods at very fair prices. The difference was that the shop was not a tourist shop.... but a local's shop....and that made all the difference in price, quality and service. In Cabo we we only stay long enough to find our driver and head north to spend the day in San Jose Del Cabo a small 17th century town 20kms from Cabo. We have been there four times now so we wander the streets to our favourite shops seeing what new good they have. It is an artisans town so there are lots of high quality art to buy. There is also the Tropicana Hotel and restaurant that spills out onto one of the main streets. This is the place for lunch.....then finally a long stop at the glass factory in Cab0....not the one on the highway....but the original one right in replace the wine glasses that we bought two years ago there and have now fallen to their destructions. All said and done a great cruise....disembarking in San Diego is always a pain and will remain so until they get a new cruise facility built....its just one of those things you have to live with. This is a fun and worthwhile cruise....we recommend it to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was our first cruise on Holland America having cruised on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. The 7 night Mexican Riviera is hardly a new itinerary for us as it is a nice get-a-way with limited travel time to the ship and ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Holland America having cruised on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. The 7 night Mexican Riviera is hardly a new itinerary for us as it is a nice get-a-way with limited travel time to the ship and relatively low cost. In something very un-characteristic our Southwest was delayed over an hour, putting our schedule a lot tighter than I thought is would be. When we finally arrived at San Diego we caught the last shuttle to the ship, I know it was the last since the greeting staff rode with us to the pier. The greeters were friendly and I think maybe glad that their day was finally over. Arriving at the pier we did find that Holland had shut down most of their check in counters so there was what seemed like a long wait in the not too pleasant facility. (Note you have a choice to get to the ganway of stairs or only ONE ELEVATOR! San Diego really need to improve this facility.) It was warm and I noticed that the fans,which might have offered some relief were not turned on. Once we were checked in it was a matter of a few minutes till we were on board and in our stateroom. The Oosterdam impressed me right away, it is not "glitzy" but in good repair, the stateroom was clean and everything in good repair. We soon met our stateroom attendants Mulyono and Randy who were busy every time we saw them over the next week. Their efforts did not go un-noticed as they made sure our ice bucket was full and went out of their way to make sure our stay was comfortable. There is a fine line between being efficient and being overbearing, it was obvious to me that these two gentlemen knew exactly how to treat their guests and did it with a smile and greeted us by name starting the first evening. Oh, the beds were comfortable as well! Because we had reservations for the Pinnacle Grille that evening we made a quick trip to the buffet on the Lido Deck and sampled the fare there, even though it was mid afternoon everything was fresh and service was prompt. The Pinnacle is a dining experience! The service was superb and the food even better. Our waiter was a big Elvis fan and we had a lot of fun interacting. In the 14 cruises I have been on prior to this one I never saw a Caesar salad prepared at the table and the Baked Alaska also flamed table side. The Pinnacle is a must for the experience! During the cruise we ate several meals in the dining room, we opted for open dining, and two dinners in the Canaletto the Italian restaurant on Lido Deck. The service at the Canaletto was very good, with the Manager, Alexander, keeping things moving. It should be noted that he ALWAYS took time to say hello and was genuinely interested in how we enjoyed our meal and again after the first meeting called us by name. One thing I was really impressed with was that Holland American still uses real china in all their dining venues not the plastic that the other lines have switched to in their buffet's. During the cruise I had interaction with the Cruise Director John Mann and D.J. Ty, both were friendly and I give them credit they always were in a great mood in spite of working what I considered to be terribly long days. Entertainment on board was pretty standard cruise ship fare, but good. We saw three production shows and the magician. The Vista lounge is a comfortable theater I love the seating and the sound system was good and not overbearing. I was impressed that Holland allowed the Phillipino staff to stage a show it was quite interesting seeing their native dances and learning a bit about their culture. We had no desire to go ashore on any port days, opting instead to stay on board. I found a comfortable deck chair and spent several hours each port day enjoying that location. I do have to admit I was a bit disappointed that there were not more on board activities on port days as I love to play trivia and found that not much went on while were were in port. Other than a lack of activities on port days my only other complaints were that the Lido pool did not offer any shade, since I try to avoid sun, that was a downside for me. Another mild complaint would be that while the food was very good, the menu could have had a bit less fowl and fish, as I do not really care for either. Dis-embarkation was pretty smooth there was a somewhat lengthy delay once we were on the bus in departing the terminal that had a couple of passengers upset. I also must compliment Holland on their choice of charter buses they were clean and comfortable. The worst part of the trip had to be San Diego Airport, what a mess and VERY VERY LONG LINE to check in at Southwest, the wait over one hour. San Diego needs to spend some money to improve their facilities and Southwest needs to be ready for the massive invasion of cruise ship passengers. None of that is Holland American's fault, but I mention it purely to advise passengers using that port that they may wish to re-think flying out the same day they get off the ship, I know I will. During the cruise I heard some complaints from other passengers that there weren't enough shops, etc, I have to think that these people were mismatched to this ship and nothing Holland did pleased them since they didn't have a large number of shops to spend their money in. as for us, both my wife and I agreed that Holland American did well and impressed us on our first and definitely not our last cruise with them, 9 out of 10 for Holland, WAY TO GO! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
Overview: My husband (age 30) and I (age 30) booked this cruise to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. This was our very first cruise. We booked with Holland America Line because of their reputation of providing great service and not being ... Read More
Overview: My husband (age 30) and I (age 30) booked this cruise to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. This was our very first cruise. We booked with Holland America Line because of their reputation of providing great service and not being a party ship. Embarkation: We arrived at Pier 91 around 11:15 AM and were eating in the Lido by 12:15 PM. When we received our cabin keys, we did not receive our Daily Program. Public Rooms: No complaints. The ship was well taken care off. The crew was constantly cleaning or touching up areas of the ship. State Room: We stayed in Cabin # 5014, a deluxe veranda outside stateroom. Our room stewards were Ratno and Alus. We only spent the first few days on the balcony because the weather turned very wet and cold. The bed was very comfortable. The room stewards kept the room very clean and tidy, even when we retreated to our cabin for an afternoon nap. The bed would be made a second time and turned down for the evening when we returned from dinner. Dining: The Lido - We had a few meals in the Lido. Breakfast consisted of waffles, ham, hash browns, fresh fruit, pastries, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Lunch was always grilled sandwiches or hamburgers, which were fine. We tried the taco bar, but did not enjoy it. My favorite dessert of the entire cruise was on the first day, Dutch Chocolate Cake. It was so yummy! We also had ice cream every day around 2:00 PM. The Main Dining Room - We had late dining. Our dining stewards were Didiet and Dika, both were very personable and provided great service. We enjoyed most of our meals in the MDR. My favorite dinner was southwestern manicotti with fontina cheese (and I don't even like cheese.) We were at a table for six, but only one other couple was ever there. Upon exiting the MDR after dinner there is a gentleman, Jetro, serving after dinner mints and ginger. He would ask for use to sing song to him, "yummy, yummy, good for your tummy" before we received our mints. He was a riot. Breakfast and lunch service was slow at times, but the food was never cold. It was fun meeting new people at every breakfast and lunch. There was only one awkward meal conversation that got a little heated between a few other guests. Pinnacle Grill - We did not have a good experience at the Pinnacle Grill. Our server was not very friendly or attentive. We both ordered the filet mignon cooked medium plus and they came out very rare. We tried to eat them, but it was nearly impossible. The server took the steaks back to the grill and they were brought back charcoaled on the outside and medium rare on the inside. The sauce that was served with the steaks did not taste good and the texture was off. They maitre'd offered to comp our meal and bring us dessert, but our server never brought the dessert menu. The area where the Pinnacle Grill is located is by a main traffic area and was very noisy. Based on our experience, we would not spend an extra $40 to eat at the Pinnacle Grill. Entertainment: We only caught a few shows, a comedian named Max Elliott and an illusionist named; both shows were great. We did not see any show by the onboard singers or dancers. Spa Services: On embarkation day, we went to the spa open house. I wanted to sign up for a pedicure, and we also ended up signing up for a hot stone massage and a facial. I would not recommend the hot stone massage. The pedicure was fine, but expensive considering the service was not that of a high-end salon. The facial was relaxing. Staff: Overall very friendly, courteous, and warm. Our cruise director, John, was funny and the Captain was informative. Sea Days: We experience very rough seas on our first day at sea. We would highly recommend taking less drowsy Dramamine for departures out of Seattle. I took it from day one and didn't have any seasickness. My husband was seasick for four hours, but once his pills kicked in he was fine. There were many open seats in the MDR that night. We cruised Glacier Bay. It was a beautiful, albeit cold day. Before we entered Glacier Bay we saw humpback whales. After entering Glacier Bay we saw sea otters, harbor seals, and glaciers. The glaciers were interesting. We saw the Johns Hopkins Glacier since the weather was cooperating. It calved many times. Disembarkation: We chose the expedited self services to get off the ship as quickly as possible since we wanted to take full advantage of the day. We had about six pieces of luggage (various sizes). It was manageable, but I would only recommend it if it is absolutely necessary to get off the ship first thing. Overall Experience: We had a wonderful time. We missed being on the water so much that we booked a second cruise, with HAL, less than a month after we disembarked the Oosterdam. We will be cruising the Eastern Caribbean on the Eurodam in December 2010. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
Rather than focus on upgraded cabins, pre-boarding privileges, Neptune amenities this will be written from a first-time cruiser that just did the basics. One thing to remember, with rare exceptions, everything on-board the ship is ... Read More
Rather than focus on upgraded cabins, pre-boarding privileges, Neptune amenities this will be written from a first-time cruiser that just did the basics. One thing to remember, with rare exceptions, everything on-board the ship is available to everyone. Can't say enough about the service crewmembers on-board. While talking to them discovered that it's not an easy life for them. Most live on-board 10 1/2 months, with yes, "free board and room", but average pay is just $1000 a month. That money is sent home, frequently to provide an education for their children. Yet, there was hardly a time when they weren't smiling. The antics of the crew's special dinner presentation were particularly great. We were always surprised when they specifically remembered the four of us, and our beverage selection, even though it had been a day or so since they last saw us. Or the case when one of the Signature shop staff, remembered that we had mentioned this was our anniversary/husband's birthday and the next day he made a point of greeting us in the buffet line, offering his handshake to my husband, and gave me a hug. Then of course the food. The first two days, as has been mentioned in other reviews, the servers passed out the food at the buffet line, but they were very willing to give extra helpings if you wanted more. And at dinner in the main dining room, again, they freely gave a second helping [of king crab]. We enjoyed the "as you wish" dining option, but always were able to get reservations when we wanted.Only point of disappointment was that the stewards, at this cruise at least, were allowing diners to enter even though not in compliance with the so stated dress code. Eg, my husband pointed out the number of male diners in jeans [while I had insisted he couldn't wear jeans in the MDR] Or even a few men that were wearing colored sports shirts for formal night. It detracted from the "special event" feel for the evenings. The decor and the cleanliness of the ship were flawless. There always was someone cleaning the bright work; reminded me of my 2 1/2 year "cruise" on the USS Lexington. Had to watch out for wet paint, and wet varnish signs on the outside decks. And the stewards always seemed to know when you weren't in the room to come and clean, including vacuuming or bring ice etc. Speaking of ice, our steward finally found a large wine cooler in which to bring our nightly ice ration as we had to frequently refill the small ice bucket since we use a full glass of ice with our drinks. In regards to shore excursions, we found there were plenty of opportunities to get just what you wanted once you got into port. And there were tours that were not offered by HAL. Important to the locals who were seeing such a dearth of travelers since the head tax imposed by Alaska -" in Anchorage where they don't get cruise ships" They sincerely appreciated our business.There's so many more memories to share, if you would like to see some pictures, enjoy this link.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
My husband and I just returned from a 7 day Alaskan Cruise out of Seattle. We celebrated my birthday and it was our first cruise. Driving up to the port I was in awe of the size and beauty of the ship. Getting on the ship was a breeze! We ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from a 7 day Alaskan Cruise out of Seattle. We celebrated my birthday and it was our first cruise. Driving up to the port I was in awe of the size and beauty of the ship. Getting on the ship was a breeze! We are frequent flyers and the quick security and the ease of getting onto the ship was a dream come true. We even got to keep our shoes on! The Oosterdam allows wine and beer to be brought on of course we had our carry ons packed with wine. I had envisioned myself sitting on the balcony of our suite sipping wine and ordering the free room service. The wine packages are a good deal as well. These can be served at your table (as the other wine your bring on must remain in the room unless you want to pay the corking fee of 13-18$) WINE TIP: unless you are very familiar with the wine that you are ordering in the packages its not easy to tell if its such a good deal or not. It's certainly convenient but once we drank up the 3 bottles we paid for (we will get the larger packages next time for sure).. you are tempted to buy the single bottles of a wine you really liked. A single bottle cost us 54$ (same one we had paid 30$ for in the package)..but we got home and looked up the wine, we found that it was only sold for $9.95 on line! so I MAY take on board the wines I know I like.. say a 10$ wine, and pay the corking fee and still get it for less than the packages. Just a thought. PORTS OF CALL: The balcony was usually too cold and windy to enjoy for more than a few minutes.. so bundle up! Watching the glaciers calve from our own balcony was well worth the price.. and a good reason to open up one of these boxes of wine we hauled on board. The views are amazing and especially the morning we pulled into Juneau.. waking up and seeing the town fogged wrapped was so beautiful..Ketchikan was gorgeous as was Sitka but Sitka was more of a cultural exploration and I was very disappointed to find NO Russian cuisine ( especially after it had been touted as having so much Russian influence). If you get a chance to see Sitka Tango the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Dog and his humans go over and buy their books..pat the dog meet, the kid.. We did a photography Land and Sea tour in Juneau and it was wonderful.. Jennifer was our guide and she taught me how to use my camera! That was well worth the cost of the Safari.. we saw whales and the Mendenhall Glacier and met some wonderful people along the way. TIP: you may want to save your excursions for Sitka as there's so much to do in Juneau and I feel I missed half the town because I had a 2:00 excursion. Sitka had less to offer me than the other towns did.. so that would have been a good port to go out and about. BUT you definitely want to see the Mendanhall Glacier in Juneau... and there's a GREAT bead shop in town if you're into crafts. STAFF,TOILETS AND FORMAL WEAR: The staff was always so courteous and prompt and the only glitches was for some reason our toilet would quit working every morning about 4 am and at first we took the blame as its like an airline toilet and maybe we didn't treat it properly, but after the 2nd and 3rd time in a row i refused to be the blame for its malfunction. Even though they fixed it right away, when we were pulling into Sitka they couldn't work on it until we docked so we had to go find public facilities to use. That was kind of a pain. We also had ordered some formal wear to be delivered to our room.. I found this to be totally unnecessary. Even though my husband looked sharp in the tux he wore it only once. The skirt and shoes I ordered were uncomfortable and never fit right so I called it good by just wearing black jeans with my sequined tops and flip flops and it fit right it no problem. So NO you don't have to wear a tux and evening gown and I packed WAY too much stuff. OTHER FUN STUFF: -The Microsoft classes were such a surprise.. my husband is a real techie but he learned a lot from the Techspert Anna Laura.. We took in 3 of her classes during the day at Sea on Monday and came away each time very pleased with her knowledge. -We had a couples Message the first day on board.. they kept telling us that we got it for a discount if we booked that day ( 20% off) but later we saw that the discount was even better the later into the cruise we went.. and the charged us twice for it ( by mistake I am sure) so always dbl check your bill in the end. -The Signature Shop has a half off sale mid way into the cruise but don't expect to see some of those nice glittery shirts.. its mostly the t shirts and some outer wear but we spent a lot of money there anyway. -I discovered the Crows nest way too late. The Observation Deck has some of the best seats for reading or just relaxing. I wish I had been a bit more adventurous right away but as it was i didn't really know my way around the ship until Wednesday. -The casino is great! slots are fairly loose and hubby won 200$ total on some penny slots. -You can get your Iphones to tether to you laptop in all the ports.. so yes you can catch up on your email and make cell phone calls home when you pull into a port. Just make sure your data roaming is OFF or you will get a nice HEFTY bill. Also the entire city of Sitka had free Internet! OVERALL IMPRESSION: We are already planning our next cruise with HAL.. back up to Alaska perhaps at the beginning of the season next May so we can see the Glaciers at their best...and now I know my way around the ship and the the things I want to do again, the things i wont do again (like OVER eat.. I gained 4 pounds!).. we may upgrade from the Superior Suite we had to the Deluxe Suite as the Neptune Lounge is a great place for coffee. This time i want to take my parents.. i am sure they will do OK there and have a wonderful time! Getting off the ship and having our ride pick us up in Seattle was a nightmare.. give yourself at least an hour of wait time. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2010
My sister and I recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America's OOSTERDAM. Entire ship was chartered by Christian entertainer Michael W. Smith and he brought along pastor/author/speaker Max Lucado, award winning singer Natalie ... Read More
My sister and I recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America's OOSTERDAM. Entire ship was chartered by Christian entertainer Michael W. Smith and he brought along pastor/author/speaker Max Lucado, award winning singer Natalie Grant, singer Matthew West, comedian Henry Cho, and others. That alone was worth the trip! Howver, my total experience was MAGNIFICENT!! I would go again in a heartbeat and so would my sister. Our shipmates were from all over the world,including all 50 states, Australia, Canada, South America, and Europe The OOSTERDAM was beautiful and the only TINY complaint we had is that there is a shortage of outlets in the cabins. Since my sister has cruised previously, we prepared for that by bringing extra plug-in outlets with multiple ports. Otherwise, everything was wonderful. Staff, food, decor, were all top-notch and the beds, although small, were very comfortable. That was good because our 2nd day at sea was rough (10' waves and gale winds) and about 1/2 the passengers were sick, including me. I just stayed in my comfy bed and lovely cabin all day. I enjoyed Michael's programs in the Vista Lounge each night and the seats were very comfortable. Only complaint is the poles. Best to get there early to avoid sitting behind one. Otherwise, it's a very nice theater. Inspiration Cruises put together this cruise and did a terrific job. My sister and I are widowed and we were seated with 8 other single women, all divorced, all in our general age group. We bonded the first night and spent a lot of time together. We plan to keep in touch and maybe take another cruise again- hopefully on the OOSTERDAM! Alaska is so spectacular it's really hard to describe. It was a trip that was on my "bucket list" and I'm so,so glad I went. Glacier Bay was just awesome! I would definitely recommend some excursions, if you could possibly manage it. In Juneau, we splurged and took a helicopter over the Juneau ice fields and saw several glaciers. We landed on one and walked around. AMAZING! However, you can also take a floatplane for less money and just fly over the glaciers. I'm sure that would be wonderful also. These are the only ways to really appreciate the enormity of the glaciers. In Sitka, we walked a few blooks to a Native American cultural center and watched native dancers and got to speak with them. You can get the show times at the info booth at the dock in Sitka. Pay at the theater. (You have to take a tender from the ship). Cost was $8.00 each. Very nice experience. I also took a city tour by motorcoach followed by a trip to the Raptor center. That's a gorgeous facility/park where volunteers help injured raptors such as eagles, owls, falcons, etc. Weather was sunny and nice (a light sweater or windbreaker). In Ketchican, I took a motorcoach to Auke Bay in the morning (about 20 mins from ship) where I picked up a catamaran/boat and went whale watching. Saw quite a few humpbacks and some of their calves. Saw 2 Orcas. WOW!! Very enjoyable. That afternoon, my sister and I took a floatplane to the Misty Fiords National Monument. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING! We landed on Rudyard Bay and got out for a few minutes. This is a "must see", as you will never understand the true beauty and magnificence of Alaska simply by walking around in town. You fly over mountains, valleys, lakes, streams, pass between sheer cliffs of trees, and see lovely waterfalls. My sister and I are "talkers" so we met and spoke with quite a few Alaskans who gave us interesting information and insights. I could go on and on, but just know that this was the BEST trip I ever went on- and I've traveled a lot! I thought Hawaii was the best, but I'd have to put Alaska above it. We did spend a few hours in Victoria, BC which was very pretty. To pass time, we took a motorcoach tour of the city and then had "High Tea" at the exclusive Empress Hotel. It was enjoyable, but nothing special. Since I've been to many "high teas", I expected our server to spend more time with us and really serve. Instead, she put everything on the table and left us. She only came by at the end. Unless you take a "rickshaw" type vehicle or cab, into town, there's nothing to see by the pier. The area near the Empress hotel is really nice and not too far from the pier. There are lots of shops and restaurants. I think it's a bit too far to walk. Alaska and ship weather- Bring a lined wind-breaker jacket with hood. It drizzles a lot in Alaska, but no need for an umbrella- it gets in the way. Long-sleeved clothes are best and maybe a sweater for under the jacket, as needed. For the glacier, I wore a long-sleeved shirt, 2 light sweaters, a wind-breaker, gloves and a hat, but I really didn't need those extras for anything else. No need for heavy coats or bulky sweaters. We brought way too many clothes, trying to be prepared for all kinds of weather. There are inside and outside pools and a hot-tub, so a bathing suit is appropriate. I don't want to forget one person- I had a first-rate experience with one of the Holland American reps in the Shore Excursion dept. Her name was Anja. She and I emailed and spoke on the phone a few times. She had taken the same trip last year and was so helpful and honest. She even sent me lots of photos of her trip to help me decide. By following her advice, my trip was unforgettable! Thankfully, we booked our excursions through Holland America because our trip to the glaciers ran very late due to weather postponments earlier in the day. We were late getting back to ship- my sister and I were the very last. However, the ship waited because we booked through them! Some helpful information: I am a young "senior". I get VERY, VERY motion sick, but not on this trip (other than that stormy night). I took 2 Meclizine pills daily, starting the night BEFORE boarding. This is the same as Bonine. I also took 2 Ginger pills daily, and wore Sea Bands continuously. I don't know what did it, but something, or a combination, worked!! I wouldn't have believed it. I also suffer from acrophobia- fear of heights- and have 2 knee replacements. BUT, I overcame these disabilities in order to get the full experience of Alaska. If I can do it, anyone can! I loved the OOSTERDAM and would definitely cruise on it again! We spent the night before the cruise at the Silver Cloud Inn in in Seattle. Nice hotel with free breakfast in the morning. Used AAA rate. Spaceious room, comfy beds. After the cruise we took a 2 hour boat ride around the Lakes of Seattle. Enjoyed it. Stayed that night at Klimpton Vintage Park Hotel. Absolutely gorgeous boutique hotel. Used AAA rate. BEAUTIFUL room, lots of space and VERY, VERY comfortable beds with 900 thread sheets and down (I think) comforters. We had the double, double deluxe room. We hated to leave in the morning. They also have a wine reception in the lobby at 5 pm daily. While in Seattle, we ate at 3 recommended restaurants and loved all of them. I made my reservations for the first 2 over a month in advance! Wild Ginger; Pink Door Restaurant (homemade Italian food- yummy- and entertainment including a trapeze artist); Cutters (on the water adjoining Pike's Market). Made advance reservations with AAA Airport Service (206-271-3761)to pick us up at SEATAC airport and take us to hotel before the cruise. Only cost $40. total door to door, plus tip. They use Lincoln town cars and were cheaper than taxis and better than getting to a shuttle and then riding around town dropping off other people. Very pleased with them. During brief stay in Seattle, we met a Yellow Cab driver who owned his own cab. Same rates as others (regulated by city), but very accommodating. He took me to Target on the way to the airport because I needed another suitcase! He got a very nice tip!! We arranged for him to pick us up when we went back to the airport- $32. plus tip. Mike- 206-618-9506 Hope this review was helpful! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
My husband and I returned home last night from our 7 day Alaska cruise on the Oosterdam with Holland America Line. We went from June 20th-27th. This was our first cruise and it met all of our expecations in every way. The Ship and Our ... Read More
My husband and I returned home last night from our 7 day Alaska cruise on the Oosterdam with Holland America Line. We went from June 20th-27th. This was our first cruise and it met all of our expecations in every way. The Ship and Our Stateroom: The Oosterdam is a beautiful and well-run ship. We had purchased an SZ superior suite. We were upgraded to an SS- two levels up. The cabin was large and comfortable. Lots of storage space for suitcases and clothes. We expected everything to be much smaller. The verandah was big with space enough to hold a table and two chairs, and two armchairs with . We loved the lighting in the room. There were lots of switches to play with to get any mood you want. There was even a reading light on each side of the bed. One of the things we liked about this ship is that there are many many bars all over the ship with lovely sitting areas where you can sit and read and watch the ocean- with or without buying a drink. Service: There wasn't one area of service, from the room steward to the staff in the dining areas , that wasn't outstanding every interaction we had with them. They took care of everyting quickly and efficiently and always, with a smile. An example: I had gotten a service in the spa/salon. It was so noisy that I couldn't enjoy the service. The manager then offered me the same service again, no charge, in a quieter space. Food: We took the open seating and were really glad we did. We don't like to eat the same time every night and we like meeting different people or dining by ourselves when we felt like it. We never had a problem getting reservations. I do advise making reservations if you have open seating. Even when we couldn't get a reservation for two, by the time we got down to the dining room, they were always able to accommodate us. The dining staff were wonderful and we found that if we wanted the same waiters, we could request a certain table and, in most cases, our requests were granted. The choices and quality of food in the dining room were just unbelievable. We often had lunch on the Lido deck and although not everything there was to our taste, it was typical of all buffets- some things were perfect for us and some weren't. But, that's what was so great about this one. There were a ton of choices and there was always something that worked perfectly. We mostly had breakfast delivered by room service which was always on time. Once or twice, the order got messed up. When I called, it was quickly fixed. Tip: When you embark on the ship, everyone is directed to the Lido deck to eat lunch but, they are also serving in the dining rooms and it's much nicer there for the first meal. Entertainment: We loved the evening entertainment. We would go to late seating in the dining room and then to the show. Every show was great- really! Before or after the show, we spent a lot of time in the piano bar. We loved the singer, Randall, and even won a "Name that Tune".... Ports: We weren't lucky enough to have good weather. We hit rain or very overcast days throughout the whole trip. Glacier Bay was the highlight for us. The calving was amazing. We liked Ketchikan ( did the floatplane over the fjords- great). Juno was okay. We didn't like Sitka. We hear that Skagway is a much better port than Sitka so, if you are looking into a HAL Alask cruise, you might want to leave from Vancouver and do Skagway , not Sitka. Debarkation at all ports was fairly easy. Even Sitka, where they had to use tenders, went smoothly. Activities: We loved the digital classes and took a few. We also loved the Exploration lounge. Not only is it everything HAL tells you about, but, they also have a lending library right there so, you don't have to even bring a book on this cruise. There are tons available. My husband felt there wasn't enough variety in the activities but, I was fine. I went to bingo, digital classes, the spa, and on and on. Another nice thing is that every night, when we went to our room, there was a flyer out lining everything we needed to know for the next day including program schedule, port information, info on which eating areas were open at what times etc. Dress: Don't believe anything you read or hear about what you must or must now wear on a cruise ship. People- including us- wore jeans to dinner every night. On the two formal nights, women wore everything from a pair of slacks and top to formal gowns. If I had to guess percentages, I'd say far far fewer dressed really formally than nice-but-not-too-formal. Day attire is absolutely casual. But, you do have to pack a wide variety of clothes and layer. Everyone is right about that. It's because Alaska weather is so variable. You never know if it will be hot or cold, rainy or sunny, and you need to be prepared for anything. Negatives: Not many but, there are always a few, aren't there? - Sitka was a negative for us. And we heard others on the cruise say that too. - We took the HAL provided transportation to the Oosterdam from the airport. We won't do that next time. Too long a wait. It's easier to just take a cab and not much more expensive. - We were on the 8th floor, under the Lido deck. Way too noisy- some kind of scraping/banging going on a lot from above, especially early in the morning. Overall, we loved this cruise. We are already planning our next one and will definitely make it on a HAL ship if we can! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
I normally wouldn't take the time to write a review like this, but there were so few reviews written by moms/dads traveling with their kids, that I thought it might be helpful. We traveled with my mom, and our 3 girls - 7 yo, 4yo and ... Read More
I normally wouldn't take the time to write a review like this, but there were so few reviews written by moms/dads traveling with their kids, that I thought it might be helpful. We traveled with my mom, and our 3 girls - 7 yo, 4yo and 21 months. Since we live in the Pacific NW, we didn't include Seattle sightseeing in this trip. We drove up the morning up the cruise to Seattle. My husband dropped all of us off at the pier with the luggage, and then went and parked the car. A porter took the luggage, and it was only a short 15 min before he returned on the shuttle. The embarkation process was very smooth. We went through an expedited line because we had a suite. The whole thing took 10 minutes, and we were on board! The first evening and then the next full day at sea were a little "bumpy". Nothing we needed to take anything for, and the kids didn't seem to be bothered, but there were motion sickness bags by all the elevators, and we saw some people not feeling so well. My only experience with cruising is on the smooth waters of Mexico. I had read that we shouldn't experience any rough water, so this was a little surprising. By the morning of the second day, it was fine. We were in a deluxe verandah suite (7048). (My mom was in an inside cabin down the hall with one of the girls.) As I had read, it was definitely worth the extra cost. We needed the room with a play pen and all of us in there using the balcony. It was quite spacious. The balcony was great, the room location was very quiet, and just a few doors down from the Neptune Lounge (the exclusive lounge for suite/penthouse guests). There was tons of closet and drawer space. The bathroom had a tub and separate shower. There were double sinks. There was also a separate vanity area. The couch, which pulled out into a bed, was not comfortable. It was very deep and the cushions did not fit into it well, which meant that they kind of sloped down. It was difficult to sit on. The throw pillows need to be thrown! There are several amenities that come with staying in the suites, too many to list. Besides the space, the use of the Neptune Lounge and personal concierge were the most important. We dealt with one person for all our needs. Whether it was milk for the baby, movie rentals, or general questions, Nette took care of it all. Dining. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido. There were lots of choices, and it was fine. We had the early assigned dining time of 5:45 in the Vista Dining room. The food was better than I thought it would be. The first couple of nights, meat was overcooked, but it was quickly fixed. The first couple of nights were also a bit slow, but that seemed to improve as well. We are foodies. My expectations of the food going into it were very low! I was pleasantly surprised. We ate 2 times at the Pinnacle Grill. It was clearly different than the dining room (we wondered if the food really all came from the same place?) It didn't! It really was excellent - and worth the $20 surcharge. (There was no charge for the kids.) We did bring 6 bottles of wine on board. There is an $18 corkage fee - worth it for us! Formal nights. I have 3 girls. We love to dress up! We went all out! My husband actually rented a tuxedo from the on board program. We thought it would be easier than packing his suit. The quality of the tux was poor. He wouldn't do that again. I didn't pay super close attention to the dress, but from what I did notice, people did follow the guidelines. We enjoyed formal nights. We would go to the bar before dinner and get the girls a shirley temple. They thought this was pretty fun! Service. The service was very good! Our room steward was very attentive - but not overbearing. The Neptune Lounge service was exceptional! The main dining room steward made a point of learning the kids' names the first night. Every night he greeted them by name and had their place mat with crayons ready in their "regular" seat. He always had fruit and extra bread for the kids ready, and he brought their meals out early if ours were taking longer. He was very apologetic when things were a bit slow the first couple nights (wasn't his fault!) The crew moving around the ship were very friendly, and even more so with the kids. ClubHal. The 7 and 4 year old went to Club Hal the first evening for the "welcome aboard" activities. The staff were very friendly. But - the girls were not impressed after we left, and thus didn't want to go back. We did try one other activity, but when my husband took them up there, he said everything was very chaotic, kids were running all over, it was really loud, and our kids didn't want to stay. I'm not sure they gave it a fair shot, but that was our experience. There was a list of activities that came out every evening for the next day. There seemed to be lots of fun things. It is broken up by ages. We heard that the "teen" group was having a blast. Spa/Gym. I didn't do any spa services on this trip. We did use the gym 4 days. The first 2 were busy of course, the last few, not so much. The cardio equipment looks out to sea through big picture windows. The first day especially was tough to run because of the rough water! My only complaint here is that a fair number of machines (treadmills, stairclimbers, eliptical, bikes) were out of order. With as busy as it was, this was unacceptable in my opinion. Entertainment. We have seen lots of "shows" in our traveling. As a whole, these were definitely the best! There wasn't a huge amount of variety, but they were good, so it didn't matter. The dancers were very talented, with several women on point. There was an illusion show which was pretty impressive. The show times were at 7 and 9pm. This was great for the kids! We usually finished up with dinner at 7:05 and were there just a few minutes late. Usually the shows start so late, this was a big plus for us, because the kids really enjoyed the shows. Disembarkation. We had a late disembarkation time of 9:30. That way we didn't have to wake the kids up super early. We had breakfast and were able to have a fairly leisurely morning. Getting off was fine. The luggage situation was fairly well organized. At the advise of the porter, my husband went by himself to get the car, and we waited with the luggage. Mistake!! The traffic flow was horrible, the car lines were long to pick up passengers, the people directing traffic didn't care if the cars were by the people/luggage they needed to get. This system needs to be improved. (This is a port issue and has nothing to do with Holland America though.) Packing. The hardest thing about packing for Alaska is the weather. It was 65 in Glacier Bay, 50 and raining in Juneau, and 65 coming into Victoria. We definitely packed with the "layering" idea in mind. It was just a whole lot of stuff for a family of 5. Just a few things: I had fleeces and water/wind proof lightweight jackets for the kids (no heavy coats). We also had long underwear - which they used a couple of times. Jeans were the mainstay during the day. We tended to dress up a little more in the evening, even for the smart casual nights - just because we like to. I had to pack diapers, wipes, some crafty things to do when the baby was sleeping, etc. It all adds up. A few tips that I had gotten from another review that were really helpful: We tied bright colored ribbons on both the room doors. The girls (and us!) could easily spot our room in the long hallways. So many people commented that it was a great idea! We also tied a red balloon on our balcony. The kids could see our room when we were in port. I also brought a over the door shoe holder. They pack so easily at the bottom of the suitcase, and were great for all the "little things" - shoes, hair things, gloves, etc - that tend to pile up on the counter space. There was enough closet/drawer space in the suite that this wasn't absolutely necessary, but it was still nice. I also brought a pop-up hamper. That helped with organizing the dirty clothes. I put them all in one suitcase, and packed all the leftover clean clothes in another suitcase. This was helpful for unpacking. Traveling with kids. If you are reading this, you probably are used to traveling with your kids, or maybe considering it. I had heard that there wouldn't be many kids on the ship, that Holland America tends to cater to an "older" group that may not be as tolerable of kids. We did not feel like a minority. There were a fair number of families on the ship, and a large handful with kids our ages. (There were only 1 or 2 other kids under 2). Our kids are used to traveling and to eating out. There was an 18 month old close to us that wasn't the happiest little guy at dinner time. They were asked to take him out of the dining room. There had been several complaints. I think it was reasonable. Disney cruises would probably be more tolerable of this kind of stuff, but in a formal dining room, a crying baby through all of dinner should be taken out! (IMHO) When our 21 month old got squirmy, we took turns getting up and walking with her - just like we would anywhere else! Summary. We would definitely do another cruise with the kids. Probably not back to Alaska (there are so many places in the world to see!) We were very happy with the service, food and Holland America in general. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
Here’s my first attempt at writing a review, although it’s untimely, I still wanted to let readers know about our experience. It was our first cruise and we chose ms Oosterdam, part of Holland America’s fleet traveling to Glacier ... Read More
Here’s my first attempt at writing a review, although it’s untimely, I still wanted to let readers know about our experience. It was our first cruise and we chose ms Oosterdam, part of Holland America’s fleet traveling to Glacier Bay, round trip Seattle, also visiting Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. We would be leaving June 27, 2010 for 7 luxurious days. Since this was our first cruise I asked my sister, who had cruised before and she suggested getting an inside room, since we would not be spending that much time in our room. Thanks Big Sis, but I wanted to enjoy the view and when I found a great deal for a Verandah, I booked it. Now I have learned some tricks of the cruising world, but back then I just was so excited to be able to go, I didn’t care where our room would be located on the ship, and purchased a guarantee. We arrived at the port shortly before our designated time. We checked in easy enough and received our cabin assignment, VA8001. I was elated. I hoped for a high deck and I got it, and all the way forward. Things were certainly going our way. While waiting, the couple next to us, told us about all (did I say ALL) their cruises and indicated our cabin wasn’t all that great. (I guess if you are used to suites, a balcony isn’t much; and I sure didn’t know about riding the waves!) It didn’t matter to me; nothing was going to ruin my excitement. We waited a brief time and then finally got to board. Yes they took pictures every time we boarded, just smile you are not obligated to purchase any! We were directed to the lunch room: Lido Restaurant, if anyone could not find something to eat, they must be very picky eaters, fresh fruits, veggies, meats, potatoes and breads, plus dessert and ice cream. And the decorations: The crew did a great job of sculpting the fruits and veggies for passengers viewing pleasure. One day they even did an ice sculpture for us. After eating we were allowed to go to our cabin. I don’t know what the square footage was, but there was plenty of space for two adults. The closet easily held our clothes and we stored the suitcases under the bed. Sorry no pictures of the bathroom, it was tiny, what else do I need to say, it served our needs and did not smell like some of those RV bathrooms I’ve used. The balcony was great; we did enjoy the view every day! Two straight back chairs and a small table were provided. First day was the muster drill, which took place on the deck near our replacement craft, should we need it. All was fine and we headed back to unpack and then to the dining room for dinner. All the food was delicious and presented with such style, you were sure to enjoy its appearance as well as the taste. We enjoyed the shows and even participated in one of the shows. We played bingo once and I attended some of the photography classes. There was so much to do, it was hard to be in two places at the same time. One thing I really enjoyed: Holland America arranged for a guide to board our ship and give a talk as we traveled through Glacier Bay. The picturesque landscapes we saw while on this cruise were breathtaking. Day before last I found out you could order cookies and milk through room service and they would deliver HOT cookies. I guess it was a good thing I didn’t know this before, because they served awesome chocolate chip cookies. The ports of call were interesting, we did not arrange any excursions, since this was our first trip, but enjoyed many local shops and museums. We were provided robes to enjoy during the cruise and our room was well taken care each day. Disembarktaion was as smooth as embarktation. We arranged for our luggage to go directly to the airport and we arranged a transfer for us while on board. This was a great first cruise and Holland America did a great job. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
This was our introduction to cruising, and we booked through a local Pacific NW travel agency. The deal seemed pretty good: about $1000 for two of us, including airfare from Seattle to San Diego, transfers from the airport to the pier, an ... Read More
This was our introduction to cruising, and we booked through a local Pacific NW travel agency. The deal seemed pretty good: about $1000 for two of us, including airfare from Seattle to San Diego, transfers from the airport to the pier, an upgraded stateroom with a veranda, and a chartered bus back from Vancouver to Seattle at the end of the trip. Check-in at the pier was completely painless. We arrived at the airport at about 2:30 and were onboard the Oosterdam by 3:30. Most of that time was waiting for our luggage at baggage claim at the airport. Our cabin was much more spacious than we had expected. It was immaculate (thanks, Sam and Jadi!), and very quiet. We never heard noises from the adjoining cabins. The good: the Oosterdam itself. It shows some wear in places (carpets a bit worn, some scuff marks from suitcases), but everything was very clean. The good: The mostly Indonesian crew were uniformly friendly, courteous, and very helpful. They seemed genuinely interested in helping. There's a cover over part of the aft pool deck, and twice I saw crew members up there cleaning it. The good: the food. Buffets can be hit-or-miss, but the Lido restaurant was uniformly top notch. The salad items were fresh, the entrees were tasty, and I'm STILL wondering how they can do scrambled eggs for 1,900 guests with such uniform high quality. We ate in the main dining room twice and were impressed both times. And we ate once in the Pinnacle Grill, and were REALLY impressed with the quality of the food and the service. The not-so-good: the weather sucked for a day and a half: force nine winds and 15-18 foot swells. I know the stabilizers were working overtime, but walking about was an adventure at times. The not-so-good: the bar prices. Drink prices were more expensive than in almost any cocktail lounge I've ever been in. Soft drinks were $2.00 each. The not-so-good: lines. There were lines for almost everything. Especially in the Lido restaurant at lunch. We struggled to find a table a couple of times. The ugly: our arrival in Vancouver. This was NOT Holland-America's fault. The Oosterdam arrived on a Saturday morning, shortly after the Zuiderdam, and just before a ship from NCL. So there were about 6,000 people trying to disembark all at about the same time. And there were ANOTHER 6,000 people simultaneously trying to get onboard. Combine that with the fact that this was the first cruise weekend in Vancouver, and the result was, to put it mildly, chaotic. We were 90 minutes late disembarking, it took 20-30 minutes to clear customs, and it took more than an hour for our chartered buses to arrive and pick us up. When our bus finally cleared the loading area, we could see that the line to get to embarkation went through the building, across the loading zone, up the sidewalk, and around the block. I didn't envy them, but at least it was sunny and warm. Because we were so late in getting on our bus, and because a few of the other passengers had flights to catch in Seattle, we drove straight through. So our last breakfast onboard had to last until dinner. The wife and I stopped at a Burger King not long after getting back in our car - quite a change from the luxury we'd grown accustomed to onboard. Will we cruise again? Definitely. But we'll think twice about disembarking in Vanouver on the first weekend of cruising season. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
My husband and I sailed on HAL's Oosterdam 23 May - 31 May 2010. A little about us: we are in our early 40s, no children, both work for the Department of the Army. At the time of our trip we were living (stationed) in Hawai'i. My ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on HAL's Oosterdam 23 May - 31 May 2010. A little about us: we are in our early 40s, no children, both work for the Department of the Army. At the time of our trip we were living (stationed) in Hawai'i. My cruise background includes two sailings on RCCL and one on NCL, all during my 20s, (in other words, many moons ago...!). My husband's only cruise was with the now-defunct Windjammer line ~15 years ago. We decided on HAL due to my family's experience with it in 2008 when they did an Alaskan cruise. My family (aside from me) has sailed RCCL, NCL, Costa, and Princess. Their experience with HAL was exceptionally positive so my husband and I put faith in their recommendation as we went forward with planning our Alaskan cruise vacation. We booked our trip through American Express travel and were pleased with the service. Booking through them enabled us to get double points on our card and other perks such as shipboard credit, a free dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, and 2 bottles of bubbly awaiting us in the cabin (Yippee!!). We did a quick cost benefit analysis on room price/sq foot and decided to book cabin category SY. More details on this cabin to follow but needless to say we were delighted with it! Our flight was a red-eye out of Honolulu (HNL) direct to Seattle (SEA). Fortunately we have friends in Seattle who didn't mind picking us up at such an early hour. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together at an *amazing* mom-&-pop/local place called "Señor Moose" then went to the port. Though our friends are well-acquainted with the port's location I will say it would have been easy to find had we had to do so ourselves. There were two ships in the port (our own and a Princess ship) preparing to sail, which made for a large sea of humanity milling about but it didn't make for frustration or confusion; we attributed this to the excellent signage and overall well-organized pier operations. The building where baggage is checked and boarding passes are issues is clean and laid out efficiently. We can't emphasize the importance of online check-in (printing and bringing your check-in documents) if your cruise line offers it. Check-in was a breeze for those who did so, and further it helped the "herd" move more quickly and smoothly through the queue. From what we witnessed there were people boarding as early as 1130. Our first few hours on the ship were spent exploring the layout: entertainment at the bow, food at the stern. My husband grabbed a bite to eat on the Lido deck and at 1430 or so we had access to our cabin. It was fantastic! Very spacious compared to cabins I remember! The double vanity was exceptionally nice, and is one of the reasons we chose this cabin type. Drawer space was plentiful, there were three closets, and all of our luggage fit under the bed. Mind you, as practically novice cruisers we over-packed a bit but there was room for it all. Having a desk AND a vanity in the cabin was so helpful in terms of keeping our miscellany organized. There was plenty of light both in terms of natural and electrical, the latter with many options. Our verandah was exceptionally spacious—we could enter and exit without having to move tables and chairs around. Overall we were very happy with the cabin size, quality, and amenities. Someday we will upgrade to the level that has Neptune Lounge access—probably on a longer cruise where we would make the most use of it. We couldn't have been more pleased with our cabin stewards (Mo and Rifqi)! These two could teach graduate-level cabin stewardship courses. We felt badly for them because it was clear they and the other Stewards were exhausted that first day. Both Mo and Rifqi always had smiles on their faces and tended to any of our requests—their exemplary service was never in question. But as we observed from the first and then the last day of our voyage, that 24-hour span of time between sailings is hell for all the cabin stewards. They are responsible for luggage collection on the last day of the ship, farming it to the area for off-loading, transporting the newly-arrived bags to the correct cabins, and preparing the cabins for the next passengers. All of them had dark circles under their eyes. HAL needs to give these folks some relief and I included that on my comment card. We ordered breakfast in our cabin 6 mornings out of 7; the first morning it was 35 minutes late but it was on time the rest of the week. Again, this supported our theory of the end-to-beginning of any given sailing being extremely taxing on the staff. The single morning we ventured to the Vista for breakfast resulted in a 45-minute wait (!) for a table! We were two groups from the front of the line waiting for a table; the line extended all the way back to the stairwell! Some folks in line sent a "scout" up to the Lido to check on its seating situation. We overheard reports of the Lido turning away people because there was no place to sit down. It was evident to us and others in line that there were a LOT of empty tables in the Vista—several agitated (and hungry!) people asked why the Mâitre d' would not open up these tables. His explanation was that there wasn't enough waitstaff to handle additional tables. Clearly this wasn't the fault of the Mâitre d'...the ship is understaffed in this area. We felt badly for the Mâitre d', who was having to "dodge attitudinal bullets" from the unhappy masses in line. He handled it professionally and with aplomb...but he shouldn't have had to had staffing been adequate. One of our AmEx perks was a free dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and it had to be used our first night at sea. My husband and I are "foodies" with an appreciation for fine wine, too. The Pinnacle Grill service was stellar as we had three different people assigned to our table along with a sommelier. The food was better than we had expected. Unfortunately the reservations are booked quickly and our additional three trips for dinner to the Pinnacle were at 2000. It was worth it to us to pay the premium and eat a little later than we prefer because the food was better than the Vista. That's not to say the food in the Vista was bad; the food in the Vista is decent. Our choice to eat in the Pinnacle was to avoid the wait (we were open seating), to be in a more private atmosphere, and to have better food. I must say, however, that we met very nice people when we dined at shared tables in the Vista. We never had an opportunity to try Canaletto but will do so on our next voyage. With regard to the wine available on board it's a fair selection. I thought the prices were a bit steep considering what one would pay for the same bottle at a wine store. We did the research: one of the ship's mediocre bottles with a $40 price tag cost $15 in a store. We purchased a $22 bottle in a store, brought it aboard, paid the corkage fee ($18), and came out ahead because we had a better quality bottle of something we both knew was good wine. Mind you, we are wine geeks (a.k.a. cork dorks) so we are admittedly picky about our fermented grape libations! Speaking of wine we attended both wine tastings. The first was held in the Vista. It was geared for beginning wine-tasters and well done. The second was held in the Pinnacle Grill. We really enjoyed this one. The Head Sommelier on our ship was very educated on wine, charismatic, and presented an excellent wine lesson. We sampled different wines against tastes such as sweet, sour, umami, etc., so it was a good learning experience no matter which level oenophile you are. I really credit the Ship's Chief Sommelier for taking a good class and making it a great and entertaining session! Back to the food...the food on the Lido was better than we anticipated. We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of healthy selections. I am lactose intolerant, I avoid gluten, and I don't eat meat: there was plenty for me to choose from even with my finicky restrictions. The work-out room was excellent! We regularly exercise so we were thrilled to see such a well-equipped gym and modern machines! And it was never crowded. We didn't attend any of the classes (yoga, spinning, etc.) so I can't remark on them. Unfortunately we never made it into the spa for a session, though we toured it and it seemed well appointed. I assured my wonderful husband we would be using the spa facilities on our next sailing...! ;-) We can't give fair assessment of the entertainment on board as we didn't sit through any of it. We spent our evenings in the Crows Nest, which was supposed to have an acoustical guitar player. The poor guy missed the boat in Sitka I believe, and that was the last we saw of him! Truthfully we enjoyed the atmosphere of the Crows Nest even without music. There were absolutely gorgeous sunsets and moonrises to behold from our perch—enough for all the senses! Overall there seemed to be an adequate amount of evening entertainment to satisfy everyone's preference. One thing we'd suggest is that HAL consider another Explorations Cafe-style venue. There were always people standing around the jigsaw puzzle table and draped comfortably in the chairs with a good book. Our first full day at sea to Glacier Bay saw some rough water. I brought homeopathic seasickness medicine because I've always suffered the first few days at sea. I've tried pills and the patch; both left me with terrible dry-mouth. The homeopathic remedy worked like a champ as long as it's taken at recommended intervals. Be warned: the ship's Infirmary has seasickness medicine but it may put you to sleep! We met a couple who took the ship-issued seasickness medication and they slept for 20 hours! We had wondered why the ship's passageways seemed so empty on Formal Night; apparently everyone slept through dinner. Upon arrival to Glacier Bay we attended the lecture given by the Forest Service Ranger. She was super-informative, professional, and pleasant to listen to. This lecture merits attendance. While up on deck to view the glaciers do not miss the split pea soup—it's an incredible accompaniment to the gorgeous scenery. We meandered around the decks for glacier viewing then went to our verandah. The ship turns as you're in the Bay so it doesn't matter if your verandah is port or starboard. Our first stop after Glacier Bay was Juneau. We booked the "Pilot's Choice" helicopter glacier trip through HAL and it was well worth the splurge. There were the two of us and another couple on the helo. Jaime was our pilot from TEMSCO. He was exceptionally knowledgeable, professional, and personable. We visited two spots that were "untouched" and really off the beaten path--just amazing scenery! After the helo ride we had lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant (El Sombrero) then headed to the Alaska State Museum—well-done and very interesting! Following that we still had some time to kill before the ship left so we walked to Cope Park and found a trail that led up (and UP, and UP!) to Mount Roberts. Suffice to say this is not a hike for the weary: it takes 2 hours, lots of endurance, sturdy hiking footwear, and bottled water. We decided it qualified for *two* visits to the ship's gym!! Next was Sitka. We visited the Russian Orthodox church (beautiful!!) then walked around the town a bit. Sitka has a lot of cute shops and the people are exceptionally friendly. We went on foot from town to the Raptor Center. The purpose of the center is to rehabilitate birds (eagles, hawks, owls) that have been injured by nature or man. It is such a well-done facility; the volunteers love their jobs and are truly dedicated to the magnificent creatures that have had to take residence through unfortunate circumstances. We highly, highly recommend visiting the Raptor Center—take a taxi if you don't have comfortable walking shoes. Ketchikan was the last of our AK stops. We booked a seaplane (floatplane) ride through HAL to see the Misty Fjords. Again, we weren't disappointed! Our pilot (Scott) landed the seaplane in a lake at the top of a waterfall and allowed us to get out on the pontoon! He was an excellent host/pilot and narrated the tour to include interesting factoids about his own Native American upbringing and the culture. Afterwards we walked around Ketchikan a little prior to departing. It didn't have quite the charm of Sitka or Juneau but the folks were friendly nonetheless. Try not to judge Ketchikan on the tourist trap-style shops immediately at the end of the gangplank—there is more to it than that as we learned through exploration. Victoria BC was unique and we wished we had been able to spend more time there. AmEx Mariner's Club had arranged a tour of Abkhazi Gardens, but it fell through due to our late arrival at the venue (our delay disembarking from the ship was because another cruise ship was having issues with its departure from Victoria). Fortunately our AmEx host had a "Plan B" and swiftly maneuvered the tour group to Butchart Gardens. It was exquisite! We were able to see the gardens with gradual ending of day's light, to dusk, to dark. The up-lighting came on at just the right time to allow for yet another perspective of the garden's stunning beauty. It's a bit of a drive to the gardens but well worth it! Note: though it was warm during daylight as soon as the sun went down it was quite chilly! Thankfully the snack shop on the premises served hot beverages. Overall I'd say we were younger than the average passenger but this wasn't an issue at all. We met a lot of great people of various ages, backgrounds, etc. With regard to high-energy activities, we really were on this trip to relax—no Conga line around the Lido deck for us! The recreational offerings were just right. There weren't a lot of kids on this particular sailing but it seemed as if there was plenty for them to do in their age-respective lounges. To sum it up, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Cruising is most definitely a great way to spend a vacation and we will absolutely be doing so again and again! We are thankful for this excellent website and all the CC'ers who take time to share their experience and knowledge. Positives: Ship cleanliness; friendly, hard-working staff; Pinnacle Grill; the beauty of southeast Alaska and Victoria, BC. Could be better: Wine selection; color/dEcor of Lido dining area; more passengers respecting HAL's recommended dress code. Negatives: HAL overworking its staff. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
This was our honeymoon cruise and first ever for DH. I have cruised on several lines including RCCL and NCL, but HAL is my hands down favorite. I have previously been on the Zuiderdam and the Eurodam. We decided to get married in May and ... Read More
This was our honeymoon cruise and first ever for DH. I have cruised on several lines including RCCL and NCL, but HAL is my hands down favorite. I have previously been on the Zuiderdam and the Eurodam. We decided to get married in May and booked this trip online in March so not much time for me to plan as I am a big time planner. We flew to Seattle the day before and stayed at the Edgewater Hotel. What a unique property right on the water and just a few blocks away from Pike Place Market which we had to see. We are both Starbucks junkies so of course we had to see if the latte's are better in the "original"..they weren't. LOL. Back to the hotel....I ususally don't spend too much on a hotel to save more money for the cruise, but since our honeymoon I made an exception. It is a unique mix of modern and eclectic with a fireplace in the room and teddy bears on the bed. The bathroom was gorgeous with stone and granite. The lobby had trees in it and comfy furniture with a great view of the harbor. We got to watch our ship come in with the sun rising...DH got some great pics. Embarkation was pretty quick although we did have to wait for about 30 minutes after getting our checkin...not too bad but DH is not very patient. Having sailed on other HAL ships in this class I found my way around pretty quickly and found the ship to be in good condition. I loved the colors of the ship although some of the artwork and benches etc...were very strange...a blue merman bench?? We chose open dining as we don't like to be scheduled. I made reservations for Canaletto the first night and hubby liked it so much we ate there 3 times. The antipasta platter is worth the trip alone not to mention the yummy cotton candy. Something about eating cotton candy on china with a glass of wine is so cool. We ate 2 nites in the Lido and twice in the Pinnacle Grill. Although I have sailed HAL before this was my first time to dine there and it was delicious. I had the veal chop and he had the 18oz bone in ribeye both were cooked perfectly and service was impeccable. The second nite there he got the ribeye again as he loved so much and I had Steak Diane. The filet was cooked and broght tableside where the sauce was flamed with congnac. So good, but I couldn't eat it all as I saved room for the chocolate cake...the reviews on this were right on....totally fabulous. We did not eat in the MDR at all and didn't miss it. Glacier Bay- totally beautiful and saw some calving while there. Loved being out on deck for viewing. Juneau- did the Photo Safari offered through the cruiseline. Had a great guide and learned how to better use my new SLR camera. Great tour for photo amateurs like me though DH didn't learn anything new. Saw lots of humpbacks and sea lions and so many bald eagles we lost count. Our guide said we were lucky as many only see one or two on this tour. Stopped at Mendenhall Glacier and did a short hike to the lake. WOW what a beautiful place. We had time to take more pics and the guide got some great ones of DH and I in front of the glacier. Back to the cruise dock boarded the ship had quick lunch and spent afternoon going through shops. Found a great coffee shop with free WIFI and sent emails home to the family. Sitka- We were supposed to to the Ocean Raft and 4x4 excursion, but it was cancelled at the last minute as we were told the boat was broke down. We tendered to town and walked to the Raptor Center which was way cool. The bald eagles and other birds of prey there were great. Did not find the shops very good and bought nothing. Back on the ship pretty early. This was our least favorite port though that might have been different if we had gotten to enjoy our excusion. Ketchikan- Misty Fjords flightseeing with Island Wings. Had an amazing trip and the weather was beautiful. Landed on a little island on an alpine lake for 30 minutes and took pictures. The pilot Michelle was great and took pictures of us in front of the plane...some of the best from our trip. We went back to town after our great flight and did a great deal of shopping. There were many stores near the dock and bought gifts for Christmas for the family. Wanted to do Creek Street, but not enough time. We loved Ketchikan and would have liked to stay longer (7am-1pm) Victoria- We were so tired and not feeling good that day so we stayed on th boat, but had fun watching all the people get off the 3 cruise ships there from our balcony. Cabin- We had a balcony toward the front of the ship and loved it. My first time to have one and now spoiled forever. We used it extensively during this trip and found the extra room to be very nice. Our cabin steward did a fine job and took care of everything we needed. He was always smiling and speaking to us. I actualy saw him more than usual on a cruise which was nice,. I found the service to be good in all areas of the ship. I booked the thermal suite for the week and used it every day. I have only gotten day passes in the caribbean, but really loved the pool and heated loungers after chilly days in port. I got to see an orca while laying in the heated loungers and it was really close to the ship. That very quiet room got quite animated to say the least. It is a bit pricey for the two of us at $250, but I used it and loved it. We did not go see any of the shows but watched a movie in the screening room every day. Great comfy chairs and popcorn is a nice touch. It would be nice if they offerred drink service there as popcorn makes you thirsty. We had a fantastic cruise and hubby is hooked on cruising and loves HAL as much as I do. I keep thinking of trying other lines, but why leave something that works for you. We are booked on the Westerdam next spring and can't wait. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
We recently cruised to Alaska aboard the Oosterdam. This was our first cruise with Holland America, and our daughter and her boyfriends' first cruise ever. We took her for her 21st birthday. Embarkation in Seattle was very smooth, we ... Read More
We recently cruised to Alaska aboard the Oosterdam. This was our first cruise with Holland America, and our daughter and her boyfriends' first cruise ever. We took her for her 21st birthday. Embarkation in Seattle was very smooth, we were on the ship and eating lunch in about 20 minutes. We had a balcony room for all 4 of us. Let me just say I would never do 4 adults in a room again. It was very cozy. We LOVED having the balcony, the scenery in Alaska is incredible. We were most impressed with the crew. Everyone was wonderful. We had open seating for dinner, so when we got the same waiter two nights in a row, we were shocked and pleased that he remembered everything we liked! The food in the dining room and the buffet was very good. Room service was good also. Loved having coffee first thing in the morning. One of the highlights of the cruise was the mixology class. We learned how to mix drinks, learned a lot of history of different drinks, and actually won free drinks by answering questions correctly. The bartender, Nic, was so funny!!! My biggest gripe on the cruise were the other passengers. One lady who was standing behind us at the mixology class, (She didn't pay the $12 that we did) actually tried to take one of my daughter's drinks off of the bar!! After the class her son came up and took all of the drinks that were left over, but had been drank out of!!!!!!!!! I was also upset with people constantly talking through lectures, comedy shows, movies, etc... The dress on this cruise was very casual. Everyone wore jeans to dinner, except on formal night. I packed way too many nice clothes and not enough casual. The ports were wonderful. Juneau and Ketchikan were favorites. The Buchart Gardens in Victoria are a MUST SEE. All in all, a wonderful cruise I would do again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
We live in San Diego so getting to the parking garage and shuttle to the cruise terminal was quick and painless. We got there about 12:30. Since we are first time cruisers it would have been more helpful to have more signage telling ... Read More
We live in San Diego so getting to the parking garage and shuttle to the cruise terminal was quick and painless. We got there about 12:30. Since we are first time cruisers it would have been more helpful to have more signage telling people where to go first. We stayed in line to find out we did not need to stand in line to just drop off our luggage because we already had luggage tags on. Just needed to load them onto the large luggage carts and go through security. Security was very quick and then a short line to check in and get our ship/room/charge key cards. I think all in all we spent less than an 30 minutes from the luggage line to getting to our room which was already ready. We were in a quad as we had our 2 boys (ages 8 & 11) with us. We dropped our carry on items headed up to the Lido deck for lunch which my boys fell in love with right away - Pizza and ice cream all day every day! The food was always fresh, hot and easy to attain. The first 48 hours the staff serve you to cut down on illnesses - nice! Previous reviews complained about the food - but we were quite happy with all our choices. By the time we looked around and went back to our room our luggage was already there. We unpacked a little and then participated in the emergency drill. We set sail a little after 5:00. We had a balcony with the concrete or they say steel covering (all of 4th or 4000 cabins) as opposed to floors above us with clear or plexiglass coverings. Our Verandah was a little longer out but later in the cruise we picked up things spilled or dropped from floors above us. Next time I would move up a floor or two. We were also above the Vista Lounge where the shows were so in the evening you could hear the sounds from the shows as we were in the front of the ship. It never really bothered me that much. My kids and I fall asleep to the TV and I always take Tylenol PM whenever and wherever I travel so sleeping was not a problem. Vista Dining was also excellent - service and choices of food were fabulous each night. We chose open dining and never had a problem with getting a seat. Be sure to make a reservation on formal night and the last night in the dining room as it is a great show!! We spent one evening - no kids - at the Pinnacle Grill which is worth the extra $20 each. Caneletto was OK - appetizers and desserts were great - entree's were so-so. My kids are not used to sitters or afterschool programs - stay at home daddy - so they weren't really excited about Club HAL - but liked it enough to go at least once a day. Ports of call were nice - Puerto Vallarta 2 days and Cabo San Lucas one day. We did Las Caletas shore excursion through Vallarta Adventures and Cabo Dolphin Encounter through Cabo Adventures. Both were fabulous memorable experiences. Next time I would book on my own online as it would be a slight savings. We felt safe in both ports. Our second day in Puerto Vallarta we went shopping in town on a quick cab ride - only $1.50 each on anapproved taxi service right outside the ship. Always bargin with vendors you can get them down to reasonable prices. Wished we had another day in Cabo to enjoy the beach it looked nice. Biggest complaint would be the street vendors in each port - people calling out to you all the time. 'Hey Lady - you want to look around?" If you just keep walking and ignore people they go on to the next person. Every port took american dollars - just be sure to bring lots of 5's, 10's and 1's. Merchants don't like to break $20's and will try to bargain with you for the whole $20.The ship ride out of San Diego and back into San Diego were the rockiest. Not enough to make me or the kids ill, but I did hear about others and it did make things rocky when walking or a bit queasy. Spent one hour in the casino and won $20 on slots, and attended the magician show. He was funny and good! On our last night my husband and I found the guitarist in the Crow's Nest and wished we had found him earlier. He was great. Randall in the Piano Bar was funny and had great Name that Tune Games. Towel Folding demonstration was fun and great to learn how they make all those towel animals you get in your room. I loved, loved, loved the guest chef and demonstrations by Chef Kelly English - who's restaurant was featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate. I'm a big foodie so this was impressive. We bought two bottle of Vodka for cheap and was tax and duty free the day before we had to disembark. Disembarkation was scheduled to your time liking. Book it early if you want to leave early. Overall a great time was had by all everywhere. Don't listen to the complaints others had about the food. It was excellent. Service and folks on board were as nice as could be and always smiling. Really makes you want to go back. First vacation I had that I came home relaxed!! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
This was our second time on the OOSTERDAM...previous cruise was four years ago. We found the ship to be clean, well maintained and offering the same great HAL service that we have come to know and like aboard the ships of HAL!!! Having ... Read More
This was our second time on the OOSTERDAM...previous cruise was four years ago. We found the ship to be clean, well maintained and offering the same great HAL service that we have come to know and like aboard the ships of HAL!!! Having been on many Mexican Rivera cruises, we did not take any excursions, opting for a little on our own time which included a beautiful day at the beach in Puerto Vallarta and shopping in Cabo. We were very glad to see that the OOSTERDAM at the age of eight is looking great with crew obviously working hard to maintain the paint, carpeting and upholstery in top condition. We were also happy to find that the food in the MDR and Lido is still very good, althought the lack of trays in the Lido is a real pain in the butt...six trips back and forth to the table for breakfast is not exactly relaxing (more like a marathon) but I guess I'll learn to live with it or go to the MDR for breakfast with the rest of the Seniors!!! The Pinnacle Grill continues to be excellent...both the food and the service are well worth the twenty dollar charge (less for us 3 & 4 star people)...reserve early if you don't want to eat very early or very late as space goes quickly. This voyage was with Captain Jeroen Baijens who did an excellent job keeping us informed and docked the ship with the precision of a skilled master, never once did we feel the ship bumping against any dock!!! Kudos also go to Cruise Director Matt Ferrell who has to be one of the hardest working and friendly CD's in the fleet!!! The big "O" is off to Alaska next week for the summer season and I would not hesitate to tell you to book this great ship for your Alaskan adventure. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Holland America's Oosterdam was the perfect vessel for a gorgeous week at sea during our early spring break. My husband and I booked this easy trip online through Holland America and couldn't have found the process any easier. ... Read More
Holland America's Oosterdam was the perfect vessel for a gorgeous week at sea during our early spring break. My husband and I booked this easy trip online through Holland America and couldn't have found the process any easier. Getting going was easy as we drove to San Diego from Phoenix. We used Aladdin Parking and their shuttle was quick and easy, dropping us off right at the pier terminal. Embarkation was not too bad, though we were loading at the same time as Celebrity Constellation and they were a bit late that morning. We stood on the boardwalk in San Diego for about 35 minutes but it was a pretty day and we encountered lively conversation with those around us. Once inside the terminal the wait was a mere 10 minutes and we were onboard for a lunch buffet in no time at all. This was our 15th cruise, but our first on the Oosterdam. We were not disappointed! We were welcomed aboard handsomely and the service continued at an extremely high level throughout the trip. The ship itself is quite nice with a few tiny scratches and smudges here and there. Nothing, absolutely nothing that I would complain about. Our room was clean and we loved having a tub in this balcony room. There was plenty of room for clothing and moving about and our balcony was a good size for us. The crowd aboard this sailing was varied as it was spring break, but filled with a ton of people from Arizona. We enjoyed meeting people of all ages from a 20-somethings to octogenerians. It was a great mix. There were about 300 children aboard but we rarely saw them and when we did they were very well supervised. We actually saw all the little darlings having their picture taken with the captain and it was precious. By the way, this Captain was probably the most visible we have ever sailed with and he had a wonderful way about him. You can tell when a ship is humming along smoothly and people enjoy working for their boss. The satff was so gracious and we commented over and over how lucky we were to be taken care of so beautifully. Food was probably the best we have ever had while cruising; quite similar to Celebrity in many ways. Yum. Yum. Yum. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night and had some of the best ribeye steaks we've ever had. (Unfortunately their lunch wasn't as tasty as their dinner.) We truly enjoyed the special dinner in the main dining room on the last night at sea. The waiters danced and prepared our meal tableside and it was both fun and delicious! The Ocean Bar served up some of the tastiest beverages we have tried in recent years and we loved their 3:30 to 4:30 half-price Happy Hour - wow! The daily activities onboard were mostly calm though there were a few intriguing classes offered in the Culinary Center. We used most of our time to read and relax and found the Oosterdam library to be one of the largest we've ever encountered on a ship. That Crow's Nest library/coffee bar is a very nice place to relax and gaze out over the ocean. There were quite a few sightings of whale and dolphin around the ship throughout the week. We did not use the spa facilities this time around but took the tour and found the space to be quite welcoming. One tiny side note here - we were invited to a special brunch for returning Holland America patrons. The service here and the brunch itself was the most disappointing part of the entire cruise. We couldn't figure out why they would not make this a highlight since it was a reward for loyalty.. no idea at all. Other than that tiny hiccup, this was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship with an extraordinarily gracious crew and a fine captain as well. We would recommend this ship to anyone searching for a lovely week at sea. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Took this same cruise in 10/2005. Boarded this time with our two children, 11 & 8. Booked a balcony cabin this time as opposed to an inside. I was wary of constantly comparing this cruise with the previous one. I was also curious as to ... Read More
Took this same cruise in 10/2005. Boarded this time with our two children, 11 & 8. Booked a balcony cabin this time as opposed to an inside. I was wary of constantly comparing this cruise with the previous one. I was also curious as to cutbacks considering the economy and the fact that I didn't pay much more for this cruise despite the better room and 2 more passengers. Here's how I saw it. Embarkation:Still very swift and organized. They still do early embarkation at 11:30 even though they don't advertise it. Tip:If you take a taxi or a private car, ignore the line that is forming down the boardwalk. The driver will be able to go in and drop you off in the front. We made the mistake of getting out by the line because we didn't want to walk all the way back. Turns out, the cabs can take you right in. We used Greenride from our hotel, $12.50 plus tip for private town car up to 4 people. Ship:Looks exactly the same. The cabins have some wear, but it's from people slamming and banging thier luggage into the walls. Some changes have been made for the better. Movie theatre, new coffee bar and library, and culinary arts center have been added. Kids Club: our kids loved it. They had a full slate of age appropriate activities. There were 250 kids on the ship, which is about 3 times as many as usual on this ship. They were prepared and had extra staff on from other ships. On Board:There was a full slate of activities, however, due to the presence of our children and our balcony, we spent most of our time at the main pool or relaxing on the verandah. one complaint here is that they only did two culinary arts activities and only accepted 15 people. These were highly coveted activities, seems they should have been able to work some others in. No backstage tour on this cruise. The shows we're 100% better than the last time, it really appears Holland America has put more into this. It also seems Holland America is carving a niche of being more low key. Only 2 announcements a day. Not really any hard sells on extras. Cabin:perfect for 2 tight for 4. Plenty of storage and room for clothing. Preparing for formal night was a task with 4 people. balcony was awesome. Whales, dolphins, etc, all while enjoying room service for breakfast. Dining: Main Dining was much the same as the first time around. Food was good.Service was good, but the formal dining is about a 90 minute process. Did not eat in the lido the first time, but was here much more often due to the kids. Honestly, didn't like it. It's a multi station set up and your always in one line or another. Food was a little exotic for a buffet. Best part of the lido was the dessert stations. Had roomservice for breakfast each day. The food was good, but the orders were only correct once. Mild Complaints:Beverages. There is no shortage of service to get you soda's or alchohol(which you pay for) but the only place with the complimentary drinks(water, tea, juice)is in the lido. the glasses are very small. Bring a souvenir cup otherwise you'll be constantly getting up and standing in line to get a drink. As stated above, only 1 room service breakfast order was correct. Disembarkation was delayed 2 hours due to some international passengers going AWOL. Unforseen circumstance, but more announcements would have been helpful, there was mass confusion among passengers and crew. Our cabin steward kept coming to clean the room and I kept explaining that they won't let us off yet.Returning guests perks were non-existent. The mariner society brunch was a formal lunch that was too long. No giveaways or entertainment. We frequent Sandals and Beaches and they usually give us several nice little ammenities and usually a free shore tour. Overall: Both adults and kids enjoyed ourselves on the ship and in the ports of Mexico. We have no problem recommending Holland America to others and will sail with them again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2010
This was our second cruise on HAL and our first on a Vista-class ship. Both cruises lived up to HAL's stated mission of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every time, and the two experiences make for complementary observations. ... Read More
This was our second cruise on HAL and our first on a Vista-class ship. Both cruises lived up to HAL's stated mission of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every time, and the two experiences make for complementary observations. Points of comparison: ** The R-class Zaandam provides self-serve laundries. The Vista class ships do not, but do offer several laundry options. Midway through the cruise we availed ourselves of the "all you can cram into a blue fabric bag for 20 bucks" deal, and, as others have noted, it is amazing how much that bag will hold. Although I would expect that midweek must be point of highest demand, the turnaround was amazing. Our underwear and socks were neatly folded, the bundles were wrapped in tissue paper, and the slacks, knit shirts, and t-shirts were all arranged on hangers. It's a small point, but on the whole I would rather have the option of a self-serve launderette. ** I much prefer the dEcor of the Oosterdam. The music/instrument theme of the Zaandam grows tiresome. The ersatz pipe organ in the atrium is a monstrosity. And what's the deal with the Escher etchings in the stairways? For anyone at all prone to motion seasickness, a ship is already a sufficiently unsettling environment that one doesn't need the further disorientation of Escher's spatial anomalies. ** The Explorations Cafe is one of my favorite spots on board a HAL ship. On the Zaandam it is situated on the Upper Promenade deck directly across from the Explorer's Lounge. It is a destination in its own right. As of the Oosterdam's recent drydock, the Explorations Cafe is now part of the Observation deck, where, to my mind, it seems cramped and comes across as an appendage to the Crow's Nest. ** While speaking of the Explorer's Lounge, I must mention how much DW and I appreciate relaxing there and especially enjoying the music of the Adagio Strings (a quartet consisting of two violins, one viola, and one cello). But once again, in our private head-to-head comparison, Zaandam came out ahead. The musicians on our Zaandam cruise were Filipino. Those on the Oosterdam were Polish. Shame on me for indulging a preconception that Europeans would be superior musicians! That prejudice is wrong all by itself, but in this case it was decidedly not true. My recollection of the Zaandam complement is that they engaged their audience, and played enthusiastically and with verve. They had a broad repertoire ranging from classics, to light classics, to show tunes and movie themes and popular tunes (including one especially delightful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's El Condor Pasa). Their Oosterdam counterparts, by sorry contrast, seemed to unsteady in their command of the English language to engage with the audience, spent long periods of "dead" time deciding what number to play next, and spent inordinate time on breaks. It may just have been our bad luck, but they seemed to be in a pattern of 30 minutes performing (including the long intervals just noted) alternated with 30 minutes on break. They played, at least in our hearing, no show tunes and no popular music, sticking with the old masters peppered with occasional light classics. Considering the nature of their repertoire, heavily weighted toward the classics, I was amazed that they could not perform on request Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, especially given that this is the centennial of Barber's birth and that they perform under the name Adagio Strings. ** The most disappointing point of comparison is with the Thermal Suites. The cost is considerably higher on the Oosterdam. This is no doubt due to the Hydro-Therapy Pool, which Zaandam lacks. I was unimpressed; the Hydro-Therapy Pool looks snazzy but delivers less than a regular Jacuzzi or hot tub. The ceramic loungers are a major attraction, and DW and I spent many blissful hours basking in their radiant heat on the Zaandam but, strangely, they seemed to be under-powered and underwhelming on the Oosterdam. Another factor contributing to the disappointment is their relative placement. The Oosterdam's Thermal Suite faces out a bank of windows on the starboard side. On the Zaandam, the windows wrap around thus affording a spectacular view looking forward, directly under the starboard side of the Crow's Nest. Plus, the Zaandam's Thermal Suite has a door leading outside to a small deck. Even though we were plying our way up and down the Alaska coast, it was glorious to step out, wrapped in the quilted, terry-cloth bathrobe, onto the deck and feel the cool air and smell the sea breeze. If I had it to do over, I would have saved the $249 (thanks to a $50 discount owing to the unavailability of a sauna) on the Oosterdam. In the future we are unlikely to sign up for this option on another Vista-class ship but so long as HAL retains the current configuration of spa facilities on the R-class ships. I will consider the Thermal Suites a great use of my vacation dollars. Other observations, in more or less random order: ** Shore accommodations: Like many cruisers, we are unlikely to book our flights to arrive at the port on the date of embarkation. Given the likelihood of weather delays and other interruptions, we book overnight accommodations. In this case, because of the vagaries of frequent flyer miles, we could not find a return flight until the day after debarkation. So, we had two overnights bookending our cruise. In this case we stayed at the Holiday Inn On the Bay, directly across the street from the cruise terminal. One can't beat it for location. It maintains a continual shuttle service between the Inn and the airport, a scant three miles away. Unfortunately, it is one of approximately 4 Holiday Inns that do so, none of which services the guests of any other. Owing to the high volume of airline crew and cruise pax who frequent the Holiday Inn On the Bay, the shuttle had to skip over our little group waiting with growing impatience at our appointed place, and we stood there 40 minutes while other shuttle buses completed two or even three circuits. The front desk personnel were without exception cordial, pleasant, and helpful. Even though we arrived shortly after 1 o'clock, we were issued a room right away. Upon debarkation we were even earlier at the front desk, but were greeted as if we were old friends and given a room immediately. On the trip in, we were placed in the south tower. It is old and tired. Both in the common areas and in the room it shows a lot of wear and tear. The east tower, where we lodged on the homebound end, was a much different story; not only were the common areas sprucer than the south tower but our room was fresher and more commodious too. ** Embarkation: The Holiday Inn we stayed at is right across the street from the cruise terminal. One of the complimentary services it offers is a curb-to-curb shuttle, which sounds like a major benefit. In actuality, however, it ended up beside the point. Starting in the early morning, the concierge booked timeslots, at 15-minute intervals, on a first-come-first-served basis for any guests who wished to be shuttled across the street. The plan soon went awry, as terminal authorities started turning shuttle buses away from unloading their passengers at the entry to terminal. A long line had formed stretching far down the street, and passengers were told to schlep their stuff to the back of the line. As a result, the Holiday Inn suspended its shuttle service for several hours. DW and I were fortunate to claim a bench in the shaded area in front of the hotel, and watched the slow progress of the line. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, we gave up on the prospect of a shuttle ride, gathered up our gear, and walked over - the equivalent of maybe two city blocks. The line was no longer stretching along the street. We presented our passports and boarding documents at the iron grill that serves as entryway. After passing that inspection, we walked another city block to drop our baggage (two roll-a-boards and one folded up garment bag) with the handlers (whom I tipped $10). A Celebrity ship was onboarding at the same time. We followed the arrows pointing us in the direction of the Oosterdam and were herded (word chosen advisedly and with deliberation) into stalls consisting of two rows of benches facing each other antiphonal style. As these stall would fill up, an official would remove the tape barriers and shepherd us toward the metal detectors, where our persons and carry-on luggage were inspected. At that point we had a Disney World experience. Remember how after waiting and waiting outside for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction you triumphantly turned the corner only to find another maze of stanchions you had to snake your way through? We were given our health questionnaires to fill out, and wended our way through the maze for another 45 minutes until we got to the Promised Land where our passports were scanned, our boarding documents validated, and our keycards issued. The studios photos of the passengers taken at the point of embarkation show that the ordeal took the bloom off the rose for most. We made it to our cabin by 2:30 p.m., which, blessedly, was absolutely ship-shape. I don't remember that the process of embarkation was so protracted and difficult when we boarded the Zaandam in Seattle, but that may be one of the differences with the larger Vista-class vessels. ** Cruise Critic Meet & Greet: Although we got off to a rocky start (the original poster identified our sailing date as March 20, 2009 instead of 2010), our CC roll call became a particularly active one. I think that some enduring friendships will come of it. One of our stalwarts made the necessary arrangements both shoreside and with the Hotel Manager to get the renowned banner out of storage and proudly unfurled for the "traditional" webcam wave at 3 o'clock on embarkation day. (Anyone interested in seeing a webcam screenshot of our wave can check page 16 of our roll call thread at The following day, at 11 o'clock Sunday morning, we had a CC meet 'n greet in the Captain's Corner of the Crow's Nest. Many thanks to Jocelyn Larson at HAL Corporate for handling the arrangements for us. We had a full house, with well over 30 people in attendance. It was great fun to meet people we had been openly corresponding with for weeks and even months. It was a little awkward at first to attach real/genuine names to people we knew only under the message board "handles." I'm glad I brought nametags and Sharpies and encouraged everyone to put not only their real names on the tags but also their handles. I have heard reports that it frequently happens that officers join the meet 'n greet; in our case the only staff member to appear was Michael the Future Cruise Consultant. In the future I will organize (or suggest to whoever is organizing the event) a second meet 'n greet for the tail end of the cruise. It would have been great to share experiences and thoughts with each other again at the end. The connection we already felt with each other from the roll call made for an instant community. Even in the congenial precincts of a cruise ship, it's nice to come across familiar faces. ** Special kudos to J.T., our esteemed Cruise Director. He is a fine specimen of a rare breed. Ubiquitous, unflappable, charming and in no way patronizing. Our CC gang formed our own team for the daily trivia challenge in the Crow's Nest, right before Happy Hour. If J.T. had awarded prizes for second place, we would have done well. As it was, we had to find our consolations elsewhere. While we're on the topic of fellow passengers, it's worth noting that this was a spring break cruise. DW and I were sailing at this time because it was spring break week at the university where she teaches. Many others we met were also teachers, at any level, on spring break. And the average age was much lower than on other cruises. Many college-age cruisers were among us, and DW and I enjoyed their company without exception. Finally, I must mention the large number of children on this cruise. I did not encounter or observe any who were obnoxious or obstreperous or insolent or running amok or any of those other things people complain about on the Cruise Critic boards. After an extraordinary evening session of trivia, our team was hanging around in the Queen's Lounge for a bit when the teen youth director came in looking haggard and advised us that the precincts were soon to be overridden with adolescents with their throttles in the full open position. Pleased to heed her warning, we beat a hasty retreat. ** One of the aspects of HAL I appreciate most is that they still accommodate the religious needs of the passengers by offering free passage to a chaplain. In our case the padre was Father Tom Mills, a priest of the Diocese of Halifax in Nova Scotia. He was both a congenial table companion and a first-rate minister of the Gospel. A surprisingly large number of cruisers came together for worship not only on Sunday but also for daily Mass - which made for further community with fellow passengers. ** As You Wish Dining: DW and I prefer open seating. We always instruct the maitre d' to seat us with others. For us the variety of mealtime companions is a major attraction. Not once did we encounter "difficult" tablemates. Conversation flows easily and smoothly (Where are you from? Have you cruised before? Is this your first with Holland America? Tell me about your family.) and it's not difficult to get people to share parts of their story. We are fairly adventurous eaters, but don't have particularly well developed palates. The regular fare in the Lido and the MDR is adequate for our needs and tastes. We appreciate that the MDR chefs maintain the sense of portion control. The portions served in most U.S. restaurants nowadays have gotten grotesque, and have done deadly damage to our sense of what is a regular portion. For the most part we enjoyed the leisurely pace of meals in the MDR. Entertainment: The few shows we attended in the Vista Lounge were pleasantly diverting. The room looks opulent but whole sections of seating are rendered superfluous because pillars obstruct what should be normal sight lines. I would gladly have enjoyed the Adagio Strings more, but I discuss them above. We have no complaints, however, with the prodigious artistry and showmanship of the man starring in the Piano Bar. His repertoire is vast, so much so that requests for the old standards/favorites, even when granted, are greeted with sighs of exasperation. But the teasing is given and generally taken all in good fun. Rarely was there an empty seat in the Piano Bar while he was holding forth. Maintenance and overall condition: To my relatively untrained eye, except for the Thermal Suites (see above), the ship was in fine condition and order. I am always impressed to observe how crew members are forever scrubbing, swabbing, varnishing, painting, and polishing. We spent far more of our waking hours on the ship than in port, and rarely if ever did I observe anything amiss from a housekeeping and maintenance standpoint. ** I credit the cabin stewards with doing an amazing job under trying conditions. Ours were amply up to snuff on both the major services (replenishing towels, refilling the ice bucket, replenishing the fruit bowl, cleaning the glassware, making the bed, etc.) and on the small special touches (chocolates, towel animals, as notable examples). It leaves us thoroughly befuddled therefore why the top sheet was never tucked in. The amazingly comfortable beds are one of the elements that distinguish Holland America from the competition, and lovely though the blanket and duvet certainly are, I like the feel of a topsheet directly on top of me - but (alas!) not so much that I would remake the bed myself. As I stated at the beginning, on the two cruises where we have enjoyed Holland America's hospitality, HAL achieved its mission of creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for DW and me. With the single exception of the Oosterdam Thermal Suites, we got good value for the money we invested. As others have noted before, a ship has a sort of character and personality all its own. Based on Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
This was my fourth Oosterdam cruise and my third cruise in as many months (the others were on different ships on different lines). I went on this cruise not expecting much. My purpose was to get over the HAL's magic 200 day hurdle and ... Read More
This was my fourth Oosterdam cruise and my third cruise in as many months (the others were on different ships on different lines). I went on this cruise not expecting much. My purpose was to get over the HAL's magic 200 day hurdle and get my fourth star (and free laundry!). Prior to this cruise, my 37th in total, I had accumulated 199 days. While not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised. HAL did a great job with just a little bit to complain about -- but no cruise is entirely perfect. I drove to San Diego and took the park and cruise package at the Bayside Holiday Inn. This is an outstanding deal if you drive to San Diego. Embarkation was a breeze, but the San Diego facility could use some upgrading. It was spiffier at the turn of this century. Since we would be eating HAL-fare for the next week, when we got our boarding cards, we left the pier for lunch at Anthony's, the seafood restaurant up the block and boarded the Oosterdam at 1:30PM. I have to say that she looks good. I like the changes. The Exploration whatever, aka the ship's library now shares space with the Crows Nest. While one is a bar/nightclub, the partnership works out surprisingly well. In the past the Crows Nest had some wasted space which is now put to good use. The aft pool deck has been expanded. There are lots of shaded tables near the Lido and the chaise space has not been compromised. The store area on deck three (forget what it's proper name is) is much easier to navigate. There is a small and very deluxe movie theatre in deck two, The Screening Room. No popcorn, but the room is very luxe. We had a basic veranda room. Having recently been in a similar class cabin on the Sapphire Princess, HAL wins hands down. The bathroom has a small tub, no get the shower water all over the floor, the room is bigger with a small couch, and the outside area is much larger and more private. The cabin need a little fixing, ie the shower needed adjusting as did the adjustable coffee table and the chair was stained. I mentioned all this to our steward, and everything was fixed and the chair replaced. I often wonder if other people who don't get this cooperation are just unpleasant to the staff. Incidentally, HAL's beds are the best. I have never thought that HAL had the best food at sea. Certainly they do not in the dining room. However, this is a blessing for me, since I would rather gain weight on the munchies in the Ocean Bar and in the cafeteria line at the Lido. Sorry purists the Lido is really a cafeteria! However. the service was a little disjointed on several nights. We got two plates of wonderful chocolate strawberries for our inconvenience. Now here is what is really good -- the new restaurant in the Lido, Canaletto. It is a new no charge restaurant with absolutely great Italian food. The menu is not huge and everything is made to order. The staff are all old standby HAL types. Perhaps because of Canaletto, HAL now serves the best Pizza afloat, not in this restaurant, but as a standby in the Lido. It is available at all hours, at least after the Lido closes at eight. All the old standbys are still alive and well -- the chocolate buffet, the HAL tiles, the munchies in the bars, the good nuts on formal nights, and HAL's best kept secret, for me at least, the Wine Card! I won't talk about the ports or the evening entertainment, except for my eating/drinking comments above. So to conclude HAL is still a fine line, at least as good as the competition in its class. Disembarkation was a bit, only a bit confusing, but who really wants to get off a fine cruise ship anyway Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We embarked from San Diego, which is a wonderful port in itself. Spent the night at the Hampton Inn (very close to the cruise port) the night before. Embarkation was a bit slow, but in light of increased security, it was understandable. We ... Read More
We embarked from San Diego, which is a wonderful port in itself. Spent the night at the Hampton Inn (very close to the cruise port) the night before. Embarkation was a bit slow, but in light of increased security, it was understandable. We like the Celebrity process where previous cruisers with the line have an expedited boarding. But this wasn't bad. Our cabin, 8033, was one of the smaller veranda cabins. It was really small, but offered enough storage. If and when we sail again with Holland America, we would choose a suite. We were traveling with friends who did just that and they had an incredible cabin with a large bath and sitting area and larger balcony. Everything was very clean and the bed was super comfy. We had courtesy robes, which makes it much more pampering. The balcony was large enough with nice wicker chairs (one with ottoman). We were on the starboard side and we always had good views the way we were docked in each port. One thing that stood out on this ship was the entertainment. All of the performers were a notch above the standard cruise fare. Very talented entertainment crew and wonderful choice of guest entertainers. We had Leo Ward, a magician and illusionist, who was also very funny---loved him. We had a comedian named Barnaby who we adored and another comedian/ventriloquist named Don Bryan who was hilarious and the best we've seen. We also saw Delores Park, a singer, who was incredible. Just fabulous entertainment and we looked forward to each night's offering. Okay, there has to be a few things that we weren't crazy about. The dining room was beautiful, but there was no background music, which would have been nice. Our wait staff was wonderful. Our waiter was Viand and he couldn't have been nicer and more attentive. But the menu----I admit we are just plain old Southerners with not the most sophisticated palettes on the planet. But the offerings on the menu were extremely gourmet and the items offered all the time were limited. I love a shrimp cocktail. I only got one and that one had 3 medium sized shrimp. We never had lobster offered. The entrees were heavy. They always had a spa offering which was lower in calories and fat. The only other thing I could criticize on this cruise or the ship was the smoking policy. I have asthma and did not appreciate the fact that smoking was allowed in the casino and the sports bar. I don't know if it was allowed in any other public rooms, but we had to go through the casino often and it was horribly smoky. Also, we would have like to go to the casino occasionally, but couldn't. The Australian Open was on during the cruise and we wanted to go to the sports bar to see it on a bigger screen, but couldn't because of the smoke. There are cruise lines who have a stricter policy and unfortunately, we will have to go to them even though we prefer Holland American. The Fitness Center was very good and the staff were very helpful. We didn't use the spa, so can't speak to that. The Lido Grill is probably the best at sea. There are so many choices. There is a Bistro section (sandwiches, deli), an Asian section, etc. Something for everyone. The Pinnacle Grill was the alternative dining with charge ($20 pp at night, $10 for lunch). The menu is very good, the food excellent and the presentation is beautiful. We didn't think the wait staff were very friendly, compared to our regular dining room. We ate there for our anniversary evening and for my birthday. Our cruise director, Patty, was down-to-earth, friendly and made the cruise fun. She is one of the very best cruise directors we have had. We've been on twelve cruises and we've seen all kinds. The Ports: Mazatlan was okay. We didn't do a shore excursion and opted for a taxi ride to the old town to do some looking around and shopping. We had lunch, then back to the ship. Puerto Vallarta is beautiful and easy to get around. We lived there for a short time, so we love going back as often as we can. We got a taxi and took our friends for a tour of the town. There are scads of 4 and 5 star restaurants there, so food is not a problem. Shopping is good too. Look for the Mexican pewter bowls and platters---very pretty and useful. The Malecon is great for walking along the water and people watching. Hautulco was extremely old and dirty. We walked around a bit. It was very hot. Not much shopping. There were some interesting excursions offered. That it the best bet in this port. Acapulco has a lot to see. The cliff divers are the most interesting. We took an excursion on a boat around the coastline of Acapulco, saw the cliff divers and a lot of famous homes. Very nice. Cabo San Lucas is a wonderful port. Scenic and clean. We walked around, got a water taxi to The Office, a cute little beach restaurant that is very famous. On the way, our captain took us to Los Arcos and the rocks where the sea lions gather. This is a bargain ($20 for two) and you get to see a lot. Disembarkation was a snap. You receive a color luggage tag and you remain in your cabin until called. They were running a little late,due to having to clear some guests through customs, but we were off the boat by 10:30 am. We had a 2:00 flight back to Florida, so we had plenty of time. There is an expedited disembarkation offered at $19 pp for luggage and $19 pp for transportation. We just got a shuttle and went to the airport, which was about 5 minutes from the port and it cost $10. The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship, Holland American does it right. This was our second cruise aboard Holland. This itinerary was perfect for us with 5 days at sea and 5 ports (6 including San Diego). We were rested when we got home. Love those longer cruises!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
My husband and I had not travelled on HAL for 8 years as he become weary of the dress code and the set dining so we switched over to Oceania with their open seating and smart casual dress code. We understood that their policy on dining and ... Read More
My husband and I had not travelled on HAL for 8 years as he become weary of the dress code and the set dining so we switched over to Oceania with their open seating and smart casual dress code. We understood that their policy on dining and dress code had changed so when we saw this cruise advertised we thought it would be a good opportunity to try HAL again and to also get some sunshine. We were very impressed with the entire experience and are very happy with some of their innovations. Positive impressions for us were the following: Entertainment-Best we have ever experienced on any cruise. Activity Staff- Patty and her staff were also the best we have ever experienced and Capt. Vanderloo has to be one of the most personable Captains afloat. Lido Restaurant-We really liked the idea of the separate food stations Culinary Centre-Great idea and enjoyed the cooking classes and culinary chats Crew-Friendly and efficient Cabin-Roomy with lots of storage space and nice sized balcony Cleanliness-We have always been impressed with HAL in this area and with the concern of the outbreak of a gastric infection on one of the other ships in port in Acapulco with thought the manner in which the Oosterdam went into alert was excellent. It says something for the staff when you have the entertainers working in the Lido pleasantly handing out food in the daytime and then putting on a fabulous show for us at night. Only negative that we thought could be handled more efficiently, was the immigration process for non US Citizens. There were several of us on this cruise and they did not allow enough space for folks in wheelchairs to get up to the officers. The delay of the disembarkation time was not HAL's fault but that of passengers not reporting on time. Overall a great experience and we shall be sailing again on HAL. The other positive for us was San Diego as the port of embarkation. Great destination in itself. We flew down the day before and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express,Downtown which we would highly recommend. Good accommodation and they provide a free shuttle from the airport and to the ship. 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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