Sail Date: January 2008
Background: My wife and I have each cruised a number of times before, but this was our first cruise together and our first on HAL. My son lives in San Diego, so we flew out a day early to spend some time with him. We spent Friday night in ... Read More
Background: My wife and I have each cruised a number of times before, but this was our first cruise together and our first on HAL. My son lives in San Diego, so we flew out a day early to spend some time with him. We spent Friday night in the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island and took the hotel's shuttle to the cruise ship terminal. We had checked a number of hotels in San Diego and found that most have shuttles to the pier. San Diego is very easy to get around in at times other than rush hour, so it was an easy trip to the pier on Saturday morning. Embarkation: Embarkation was smooth. Baggage handlers met us as the shuttle arrived on the pier and promptly took our bags off our hands. All bags arrived in our stateroom. The check in procedure was smooth, and we were quickly aboard the ship. Stateroom: We were extremely pleased with the stateroom. I'm 6'4", and we need a king bed, and we were surprised, but pleased, to find that the advertised "two single beds which make into a queen" actually made close to a king sized bed. The bed was comfortable too. The head was much larger than any other head I've seen on a cruise ship with a double vanity and a shower and a jacuzzi. The room itself was comfortable, but possibly could have been made more comfortable if one or two of the chairs had been removed. The veranda was nice with comfortable patio furniture. The climate control in the room was easy to operate and maintained a pleasant temperature in the room. Dining: My wife is difficult to please when it comes to food, but she was happy with the food in the Vista Dining Room. Her comment was that it was not gourmet food, but neither was it "down home" food. We chose the "dine as you wish" option and that worked out well. When we tried to make a reservation the first night, there were no times available except for very early and very late. We learned, however, that we could walk in just about anytime and as long as we were willing to sit with others, that we could be quickly seated. I have noted that others have said that service was slow in the Vista Dining Room, but I don't think it was as slow as service is in any decent restaurant in our city on a Friday or Saturday night. I might note that we were pleased with "dine as you wish" and will do that on future cruises. We never had a bad experience with our table partners in the Vista and met some very nice folks that way. With regard to the buffets on the Lido Deck, vacant tables were hard to find at times, and, as a result, we did not eat there often, but we found the food to be generally good when we did. Entertainment: My wife and I are ballroom dancers. In response to a question I had posted on one of the message boards, we learned that the dance floors on this class of HAL ship are small, and that was accurate information. However, there were only a few ballroom dancers on this cruise, so there was generally plenty of room to dance. On other cruises, however, with more dancers, the two lounges will be woefully short of space to dance, and we hope HAL will restructure the two lounges to provide more dance floor. Particularly, more space for dancing could be made in the Crow's Nest by simply moving tables. The ship had a wonderful dance band named "Counterpoint", and I hope we have a chance to dance to their music again. In sum, we danced til we could dance no more most nights and that helped make our cruise was wonderful as it was. The only complaint we had about the two lounges, the Ocean Lounge and the Crow's Nest Lounge, is that HAL apparently allows smoking in the lounges. We had to leave the Ocean Lounge one night because of cigarette smoke. We enjoyed the shows, but other than the two piano players, did not find the shows to be particularly exciting. Gym: The O has a great gym; we were surprised to find such a well equipped gym on a cruise ship. Movement of the ship: As a Navy retiree, the ship's movement did not bother me and made me feel that I was at sea on a real ship and not a floating hotel, but my wife had a moment of nausea the first day, and we noticed that others had similar problems at various times during the week. The O not only rolled a bit, but pitched as we returned north and the bow was into the Alaskan Current. I've noticed that others have mentioned this problem in their reviews of the ship Obviously, I didn't have a way to measure the rolls, but I don't think they were more than two or three degrees which is a very small amount of roll for a ship. I recall that waters off Southern California are generally rougher than most and that ships tend to roll when the seas are on the quarter as it was on our way south, so it may be that the O will not roll and pitch in other areas. My wife said that once she got her "sea legs", she enjoyed the gentle rolling, particularly at night. However, those who are prone to seasickness should go prepared. Service: Our room steward did a magnificent job. I've never had that job done so well before. A+ to him. Service elsewhere was very good. Shore Excursions: We took only one, being the "Rhythms of the Night". We had expected a high energy dance, but it was more of a ballet. It was very good, and we enjoyed it thoroughly, but the one hour each way boat ride detracted from it. Passengers: I noted at least one complaint in these reviews from a former passenger who apparently felt that the average age on the O was a bit too much for him. We are both 61 and felt that we were about at the average age on the ship. We both think that we have never met so many very nice people in one week as we did on the O. Disembarkation: It also went smoothly; all luggage showed up and we were off the ship and on our way to our hotel quickly. Two Minor Complaints: (1) I had written HAL before the cruise (sent by e mail, U. S. Mail and facsimile) requesting a tour of the ship, and I've never had a response from HAL. I could understand if my request could not be accommodated, but someone with HAL should have responded. (2) Why does HAL allow smoking aboard its ships? As noted above, we had to leave the Ocean Lounge one night because of cigarettes smoke, and it was always an issue anywhere near the casino - and one must pass through the casino to get from one end of the ship to the other on that deck. HAL should reconsider its smoking policy and ban smoking aboard its ships! Summary: We agree that this was the best cruise we have had. We plan to return to HAL soon, and, hopefully, another cruise on the O. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We left from San Diego shortly after the first of the year for our 12 cruise with HAL and 21 cruise in general. This was the first time I had the pleasure to cruise on the Oosterdam and it was majestic as it pulled in early the day we left ... Read More
We left from San Diego shortly after the first of the year for our 12 cruise with HAL and 21 cruise in general. This was the first time I had the pleasure to cruise on the Oosterdam and it was majestic as it pulled in early the day we left and we watched a few of the guests from the previous cruise head home. Public Rooms: The public rooms onboard the ship are great. HAL has added another smaller show lounge and I found that a nice place for other entertainment. The art work was beautiful and it was an improvement over other ships I have traveled on. Staterooms: The rooms were nice, They say they are larger than other ships in their class and I found that to be true. Entertainment: I really enjoy their knockoff of American Idol. It can really be a good time and it creates some week long celebrities out of some of the guests. Dining: I tried the "As you wish" dining and I really think its a great idea but I don't think they quite have it down yet. Waits would sometimes be longer for a table. But they still offer the old style of dining. Food in the Lido and in the Dining room was great as usual. Overall it was another homerun for HAL. They continue to be one of my favorites and I will travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
Because this was a charter some of the usual features of a regular cruise were not observed. Embarkation - The in-processing by HAL was fantastic. The only negative was luggage porters were not available to off load luggage from the cab ... Read More
Because this was a charter some of the usual features of a regular cruise were not observed. Embarkation - The in-processing by HAL was fantastic. The only negative was luggage porters were not available to off load luggage from the cab and transport to the ship area. We had an inside, aft cabin on deck 4. This gave us quick and easy access to the elevators and to the Lido deck; plus one deck down to the main dining room. Lido Restaurant - the food and the service was excellent. Main Dining Room - dining times were from 5:30 - 7:30 and there were no reservations, but we never waited more than five minutes to be seated. The food was average, but the service was slow. I am sure it is difficult to determine appropriate staffing when the ship does not know how many or when people are coming to dinner. Excursions - We took one excursion we booked outside the ship and it was fantastic (zodiac whale watching with Oceanriders in Cabo). We talked with people who booked other tours through the ship and they were pleased. Spa - My wife loved the spa. Disembarkation - Everything went smoothly. We enjoyed the trip although the weather was bad. The ship and staff could not have been more hospitable. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We set sail on the ms Oosterdam on Jan. 5, 2008. Things got off to a rocky start. First of all, the weather wasn't cooperating. There was light rain upon our arrival in San Diego. We arrived pier side in San Diego around noon and ... Read More
We set sail on the ms Oosterdam on Jan. 5, 2008. Things got off to a rocky start. First of all, the weather wasn't cooperating. There was light rain upon our arrival in San Diego. We arrived pier side in San Diego around noon and discovered we couldn't board the ship until after 4 PM. Apparently there had been a viral outbreak and they had to "scrub down" the ship. For this inconvenience they credited us $10 pp on our shipboard account. Towards 4 PM, there were 1800 people crammed into the pier building. A lot of people were looking for places to sit. Once onboard everyone was required to sanitize their hands and there were hand sanitizers positioned everywhere on the ship. At the buffet / drink stations you weren't allowed to serve yourself. They had attendants serving you. Needless to say this slowed down the process, however on the upside, no one in my party got sick. Better to be safe than sorry. We had a mini suite on deck 6. When we entered, we noticed that the balcony door had been propped open. We could tell that someone had been smoking in the room. The room was clean, minus the cigarette odors. Yuck. Our travel agent had ordered a bottle of champagne for us, however the bottle was not on ice and there were no champagne flutes for us. The ice bucket was also missing along with the glasses. I also saw that the robes were missing as well as the fresh flowers that are normally in the suites. The flowers never arrived, however the champagne was put on ice on the 3rd day and the flutes miraculously appeared. The ice bucket, glasses and bathrobe arrived on the 3rd day as well. Wasn't the 5 star as advertised, but probably had something to do with the top to bottom cleaning they were doing on Saturday. In the mini suite, we had a small refrigerator, which was nice to have and it had a small LCD television with several channels, including CNN, Discovery, TNT and Cartoon Network. There were 2 sinks as well as a Jacuzzi bathtub and a small walk in shower. The shower had barely enough room for one person. There were plenty of storage spaces in the room. The balcony was also decent sized with a table and plenty of chairs. Too bad the weather didn't cooperate. During the sea days, it was always too cold to sit outside. The first couple of days, the cushions were wet from the rain. The room steward was efficient and cordial. Everything we asked for, he took care of. Some of the complaints we had, probably couldn't be helped. Food service and variety was very good. This was our eighth cruise, with this being the fourth cruise with Holland America. Asep was our dining room steward and he was excellent. His assistant Diky was great also. They took very good care of us in the dining room. Food quality was good. There was good variety and the food was served fresh and warm. The drinks were good also. We purchased a cocktail drink card, good for 10 drinks. Each time you ordered a drink, they punch a hole in your card. We tried couple of different flavored mojitos as well as other alcoholic beverages and they were all very well made and refreshing. We sail with HAL mostly because of the food and service. The entertainment was decent. The cruise director seemed kind of stressed out. Probably because of the bad start we had. Most of the cruise directors I have encountered have all been very outgoing, happy and warm, however this guy seemed reserved and worried. The production shows were good. The dancers and singers were very entertaining. The lead female singer had a great voice. One of the best I've heard on a cruise ship. There was a couple doing magic tricks and they were okay. I believe they were called DV8 (deviate) Reality Magic. Nothing that would wow you, but okay for a cruise ship show. It was kind of annoying when they kept mentioning the DVD they had for sale on the ship. There was another couple singing songs while they played the piano. They were called the Amazing 88's, I think. My wife enjoyed it, but I thought it was just okay. The casino seemed pretty quiet, but I think there were a lot of winners. I saw lots of jackpots on the slot machines, with winnings between $200 to $500. I won $340 myself on the $1 Wheel of Fortune game. We worked out in the gym a couple of times. The equipment were all top notch, except some of the treadmills were malfunctioning. One machine wouldn't work period and on several others, an error message kept creeping up. Also the TV screens didn't work either. It wouldn't be so bad, except you are staring at a blank TV screen instead of the beautiful ocean out in front of you. The ports are nothing special. This is the 3rd time we've done this itinerary. Cabo hasn't change much and neither has Mazatlan. Puerto Vallarta seems to have grown, with a lot more development as well as traffic. The last time we were here was about 2 years ago. One of the benefits of sailing on Holland America out of San Diego is the ability to stay in port longer than the other ships sailing out of Los Angeles, such as Princess, Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The only gripe I have is that all the Jacuzzi's on the ship were all drained. For the entire week, no one got to use the Jacuzzi. The pools were available, however it was a little too cold for me to be in the pool. The kids club was good. My young one enjoyed it. All the counselors seemed very nice. I did notice that on the Oosterdam, the hours have been shortened. I'm not sure if this is in effect for the entire fleet or just for this ship. The morning hours are still from 9 AM to 12 PM. However the afternoon hours have been shorten by an hour from 2 PM to 4 PM and the evening hours have been shorten by an hour as well from 8 - 10 PM. Oh, the $10 pp they credited to our account for the inconvenience. Well forget about it. A few days into the cruise, they sent out a letter indicating they had miscalculated the port taxes and was debiting $5.63 pp for the difference. There were many first for this cruise. Waiting till 4 to board the ship due to a gastrointestinal illness outbreak. Getting a $10 credit then having them take $5.63 away. Not having my champagne chilled and flutes available for a bon voyage toast. Not being able to get my own drinks at the buffet. An additional stop at Cabo to drop off a sick passenger on the way back to San Diego. Reduced hours at Club Hal and finally winning $340 at the slot machine. Was it worth it? You bet. Overall it was a very good cruise. Nothing spectacular, but it met our expectations. Everyone on the ship was very nice and the service on board was excellent. Now if HAL would just stop letting people smoke in the staterooms that would be even better. A lot of the other cruise lines have halted smoking in the staterooms and I think its time for HAL to do the same or at least have non smoking rooms designated. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We cruised aboard the ms Oosterdam in January and had a very nice time. Overall, the service was excellent and the ports were wonderful. THE SHIP: This is on of HAL's vista class ships and is just beautiful. We've been on other ... Read More
We cruised aboard the ms Oosterdam in January and had a very nice time. Overall, the service was excellent and the ports were wonderful. THE SHIP: This is on of HAL's vista class ships and is just beautiful. We've been on other ships before, and this was one of our favorite. The state rooms are bigger than other cruise lines and ours was very clean. I wish the pools were a bit bigger and more conducive to laying out, but they were okay. FOOD: They started a new "dine as you wish" program which they seemed to still be figuring out. However, I think this is a good concept that will appeal to more people. We thought the food overall was excellent. Our best meal was dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. Definitely check this out!! SERVICE: Just like on all cruise ships, these crew members work so hard and are so gracious. Our cabin steward was excellent (though he spoke little english). We heard a few complaints about the front desk staff, but never had any problems ourselves. PORTS: I love the Mexican Riviera. The best port was Puerto Vallarta. The weather was pretty good. ENTERTAINMENT: The casts shows were okay. There was one guy singer who was really good. Otherwise, I have seen better performers in better shows. The variety acts were a comedian with a guitar (very funny!), a magic act (they were really cute), and a piano act called the Amazing 88's. They were our favorite! Just so much fun!! The entertainment around the ship was just okay. We didn't attend the Karaoke competition but heard it was fun. Overall, this ship was great. I'd definitely sail again! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was our first sailing out of San Diego. I have to say that getting to the ship was not a problem, but the traffic at the pier when we returned was unbelievable! Stick to LA/San Pedro when possible. On to HAL and the Oosterdam... The ... Read More
This was our first sailing out of San Diego. I have to say that getting to the ship was not a problem, but the traffic at the pier when we returned was unbelievable! Stick to LA/San Pedro when possible. On to HAL and the Oosterdam... The week before we sailed there was a virus outbreak causing restrictions like, not self serve buffet, no flowers or fruit in the cabins, and a barren cabin for the first two days! There was no compensation from HAL for the inconvenience, but the staff was very apologetic. Once things were as close to normal as possible the cruise was pleasant and peaceful. The Ship This ship is truly a step or two above RCCL and five steps above Carnival. The decor is beautiful and elegant. The Passengers Most of those traveling were over forty. However, there were still large numbers of those traveling in their twenties and thirties. If you like a sailing experience that is more relaxed, that does not mean boring, this is a great line to sail with. The Food I have to admit that by day four I was stuffed with all the rich food. It was very good! I would not consider myself a gourmand, but I do love good food and I think most people would be very pleased with the variety and quality of the meals. (French toast and eggs benedict, though not on the in cabin breakfast menu, can be ordered.) The Club, Shows, and Bars I caught one show and it was pretty good. I'm not a big show fan, but the talent wasn't too bad. The bars were so stealthily placed that you really had to look for them. Fear not, the bar staff were always accessible and you will never go thirsty. I have to save the club for last. The Northern Nights Club is a small, relaxed, fun place. They offer Karaoke, Line Dancing, Disco, Rap, Rock, 80's, etc. You can go and have fun at any age, race, weight, etc. The DJ, Jazzy, is the heart of it all. Jazzy is PURE FUN! He'll keep you laughin' and dancin'! (One of the nicest most sincere people on the ship.) The Staff Our cabin steward, BanBang, was excellent. THANKS! He was going home the week after we sailed. (Safe travels.) He met our every need. I always feel guilty when I sail, knowing that the staff work so very hard to allow me to be pampered. Our head waiter and second waiter were wonderful as well. (Gusti & Mizan)They were pleasant, professional, and always attentive! *As You Wish dining is now a part of the Oosterdam. So if you want to eat in the upper dining area at 5:45...GOOD LUCK! The embarkation rating is blank since they had to clean the ship, per the Center for Disease Control, and we could not get on until 4:00 p.m. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Background - we are in our mid to late 50's, retired, married for 30+ years, this is our 8th cruise but first time on this ship and this itinerary. We arrived in San Diego the morning of the cruise (flew via Southwest Airlines). We ... Read More
Background - we are in our mid to late 50's, retired, married for 30+ years, this is our 8th cruise but first time on this ship and this itinerary. We arrived in San Diego the morning of the cruise (flew via Southwest Airlines). We were at the San Diego Port for Embarkation at 11am, the porters took or 3 very large suitcases and we proceeded inside to check in. Weather was overcast and chilly (dare I say cold at 57). Check in was a breeze, we waited about 15 minutes and started on board. We were directed to the Neptune Lounge but our suite (7058 was directly across from the Neptune Lounge doors) was ready and so we went right in. It wasn't but a moment before our room steward came in and introduced himself. I slipped our steward $20 for speedy luggage delivery and by 12:30 our luggage was in our cabin. We proceeded up to the Lido for a bite of lunch. Embarkation day is tough as everyone is trying to get a feel for the ship. We had no problems filling up on great food and meeting our fellow cruisers. We then went into the dining room to see where our table was located (table for 2 lower, late 8:30 seating) - perfect. Since this was our first time on a Vista Class Ship, we walked around best we could and decided what we would do our first night onboard. Back to our cabin and the Neptune Lounge - our Deluxe Verandah Suite was wonderful but we weren't expecting it to be so much smaller than the Maasdam (also had a suite). Both the cabin itself and the verandah were noticeably smaller. On the upside, the amount of storage boggles the mind, we had 150 pounds of luggage and never came close to filling up the closets and shelves least of all the drawers and nooks and crannies - Wow!! The other upside was the Neptune Lounge (there wasn't a Neptune Lounge when we were on the Maasdam). We used this space more than any other space on the ship. Everything we asked of the concierges was carried out with grace and ease except for paring down the hors dourves we had arranged for each evening.........on this topic - way too much food was delivered each evening at 6pm especially since there was also food right out our door in the Neptune Lounge. Unless you are a heavy eater, don't order hors dourves to be delivered to your suite. The first day at seas was too cold to utilize our wonderful verandah and so instead we used this day to better acquaint ourselves with the Ms. Oosterdam. Of course some of our time each day was spent in the casino - which I thought was a perfect size. The machines although not as loose as ones I've found in Vegas, weren't all that tight either - we had a good time. We saw some big winners throughout the cruise so it can happen, just didn't happen to me. I also entered a slot tournament and thought it was terribly disorganized - a waste of money to be sure! Cabo San Lucas was beautiful and we loved our day there. We did a catamaran excursion through the ship and it was perfect. We got to see probably a half dozen or more whales breaching, we got up close and personal. There was an open bar onboard (limited) and chips and fresh salsa - great! The excursion people were kind and funny and just generally a great group of people. We enjoyed this 3 hour trip very much!!! After the catamaran we took a taxi into town - very beautiful and no vendors bothered us at all. Mazatlan was a disappointment. The port is industrial (shipping containers and such) and you have to take a tram in order to get out of the port area but first you have to make your way (intentionally) through the masses of vendors and private excursion people in order to get into the shopping venue. Needless to say, we didn't stay long at all and headed back to the ship - disappointed. Puerto Vallarta is lovely. The port area is very nice and there is a shopping venue right there (the vendors are pushy but you can get almost anything you want right there). We booked a shore excursion through the ship of an Overview by motorcoach. This excursion was a disappointment. Puerto Vallarta is a large city with much to see and do even without beaches and such. This excursion required a great deal of walking (not difficult for us but was for the majority of the passengers) and we really didn't see that much in 3 hours. The next time we visit this port we will do it on our own and go into the city center for shopping and eating and drinking and we will savor each and every moment. The streets all over PV are cobblestone, old cobblestone, charming. We found everyone we met in PV to be very kind and informative and most spoke at least some english. The last two days at sea were spent enjoying our cabin and the ship itself, indulging in eating, drinking, and just general relaxation. Debarkation was smooth - we were given the first color off (our flight was at 12:30) to get off at 8:30am. We were up, showered, had breakfast and waited in our cabin until our color was called. We waited probably 10 minutes in line and started off the ship, we were at the airport before 9am - seriously. There were two other ships in San Diego this morning - Carnival Spirit and Silver Seas' Shadow. Because we checked in online during our last day at sea and it was early when we debarked, checking in luggage was a breeze, only one person ahead of us at Southwest. Within 45 minutes the airport was a zoo and continued that way until we left at 12:30 (probably was still that way at 5pm but we didn't see it). Was a wonderful cruise and I would do it again with this ship, this crew, this itinerary in a flash!! NOTE: The best part of this cruise however was the people I met onboard at our rollcall prior to the cruise - we are "private" friends now and hopefully we will cruise together again. To Mary & Dick - You made this cruise for us - Thank You!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
We just got back from a wonderful cruise on the Oosterdam. Where do I begin? Everything about this ship was truly an experience we won't shortly forget. This ship is beautiful! Easy to get around and within the first few hours it ... Read More
We just got back from a wonderful cruise on the Oosterdam. Where do I begin? Everything about this ship was truly an experience we won't shortly forget. This ship is beautiful! Easy to get around and within the first few hours it truly became our home. The crew were so attentive and friendly. Our ship's steward was impeccable. Our room was a little smaller than we had expected but larger than any other we had on other cruise ships. This a 5 star ship! Most of the crew was Indonesian and Filipino. Sweetest. hard working people you could ever meet The show were so entertaining we even stayed to watch again missing dinner one nite. Our ship's Captain David was wonderful, so talented and kind. He works so hard. Julie Barr is the ship's funny! Singers and dancers too were great. I could go on and on but it really was just wonderful. We will probably sail again on Holland America. It is an excellent shipline. I highly recommend this cruise to others. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was my third cruise, and first with HAL. I was most impressed with the ratio of guests on this size of ship. It never felt crowded - you could get a chaise lounge by the Lido pool at prime time, and there were rarely lines for ... Read More
This was my third cruise, and first with HAL. I was most impressed with the ratio of guests on this size of ship. It never felt crowded - you could get a chaise lounge by the Lido pool at prime time, and there were rarely lines for anything. My travel companions for this trip ranged in age from 2 to 60 years old, and we all had fun. STAFF AND GUESTS There was a great mixture of guests. All generations were represented. The staff was attentive and always smiling. Specifically: Hakim from the Vista dining room, waiters Wayan and Rizqon, wine stewart Thomas, and room stewart Harris. FOOD The selection of food in the Lido and on the room service menu was excellent. If you missed your main dining room time, you could still eat well. The only area that could use improvement is the quality of desserts in the Lido. You MUST try the "Chocolate Bomb" in the main dining room! ENTERTAINMENT Shows were okay for a cruise ship. The Casino was small, and not conducive to socializing with other guests. Only go to the Casino if you are strictly into gambling. People tended to congregate either in the Northern Lights Disco (after 11pm) or the Crow's Nest. PORTS Mexico is Mexico. Our expectations were met. Swimming with the Dolphins was amazing, and zip lining through the rain forest was adventurous yet fun(both through Puerto Vallarta Adventures). The Mazatlan tour with Papantla Flyers was easy and fun - I recommend it for people traveling with children or seniors. OVERALL This was a good dam trip!!! HAL's attention to the little details and the spacious feel of the Oosterdam helped to make this a special family vacation. I am hooked on HAL! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Having sailed before on Admiral, Carnival, Princess, Costa, RCCL, NCL (3) we had some expectations. Most were met and exceeded. Here's the low-down. Let me start by saying that I really think that not every cruise line is suited to ... Read More
Having sailed before on Admiral, Carnival, Princess, Costa, RCCL, NCL (3) we had some expectations. Most were met and exceeded. Here's the low-down. Let me start by saying that I really think that not every cruise line is suited to every individual. We are neither low key or overly rambunctious folks in our late 40's - early 50's. We enjoy meeting people, cocktails, playing cards in the casino, going to some shows, laying by the pool and participating in few shipboard activities. We don't attend religious services, port talks, shopping talks, bingo. We have, in the past paid for dining outside the main dining rooms. With that said....... We loved the Oosterdam. We arrived late due to a late flight and an offsite parking lot that made us wait for a ride. We opted not to buy the transfers as we were meeting family. Nearly the last to board at approx. 3:30 or 4:00 - there were virtually no lines. I (the seasoned cruiser) forgot to PRINT my embarkation documents after filling them out online. So we had to stand there and fill it all out again, by hand, on two separate documents. Upon boarding there were the usual photo ops but no one to greet us at the door and welcome us on board or direct us to the cabin. No big deal. We can read signs and we finally got someone to point us in the right direction. (How hard could it be... our cabin was AFT ... as in totally in the back with a balcony facing the wake of the boat!) Our cabin was FABULOUS. I shouldn't let out the secret. GET AN AFT CABIN if you can. It was great. The balcony is larger and the walls dividing the cabins on the aft balcony shielded nearly all wind and even though the weather wasn't as warm as we liked it - we could lay out and feel the warmth of the sun. Especially going northbound. Take note. On level 4 we could lay out in the buff without being noticed from above. We could tell that if you were on 5 or up you probably couldn't do that. Also the corner mini suites had less privacy from above. We spent more time on our balcony this time than previously. You could eat out there, sun bathe, read the mornings news with breakfast served in the cabin. Our steward was pleasant and efficient, but not worth mentioning. We had to ask for shampoo. He didn't understand what a feather pillow was. And he didn't clean up the ash off the balcony each day that accumulates from the smoke stacks. By the way ... that is one of the drawbacks, but it is hardly a problem. I wouldn't wear white clothes out there - We never saw it fall but it was always there in the morning. Nuff said. I will always get an aft balcony whenever possible. We strolled through most of the public rooms. Had cocktails just about everywhere. We were less than thrilled with the ambience music in various bars. Many folks were really enjoying a chamber quartet a few nights and as I passed by I thought ... I might enjoy it too if I could slow down for a minute. Next time. We were not bored at the shows but they didn't measure up to NCL's on board performers (The Jean Ann Ryan Company). The Comedienne Julie Barr was very funny and interactive with the audience. The headliner who I never heard of was a Vegas type entertainer who sang for some big names and did his own tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. He had a very high energy entertaining show and encore presentation on the last night. We skipped the former Olympic gymnast Lance ___? but saw a few minutes of him on encore night. Not our cup of tea. As for the HAL singers and dancers. One good lead singer, the rest were so so. The men in our party were enjoying "Barbie" ... need I say more? They had an on board talent competition which lasted 3 nights like American Idol. Complete with judging by the comedienne Julie Barr, Jazzy (the right hand of the cruise director) and someone whose name I can't remember. That seemed to be the hit show of the cruise. We never sat down to watch it entirely but caught the finale on Friday afternoon. I am a sucker for amateur talent (and lack thereof!) Dining is the thing worth boasting about on HAL. We really missed regular dining after our last two NCL cruises and that "whatever" dining. We enjoy the familiarity of our regular waiter, busboy and wine steward. Gustavi at table 162 was great. Always attentive, always remembering our personal tastes. Once I ordered a capuccino after dinner (NO CHARGE by the way) and the busboy asked me each night after that. Capuccino? I love that. You can't get that with open dining. Oosterdams food was extraordinary (we thought) at dinner. So much so that we canceled our dinner reservations for the 2nd formal night at the Pinnacle dining room. 1st of all.. why pay $60 for a dinner when you can have a perfect meal included in your cruise cost? We always chose to try other restaurants on NCL because their food isn't so hot. HAL on the other hand had a very good chef. We wish we could remember the name of the corporate chef we met (who lived down the hall from us) - he is responsible for it all ... him and hundreds of others all doing a good job. To me, every night seemed like GALA night on the menu. All except one. Which was not bad, it was just odd. Items I never heard of... or read about... or ever want again! I had entrees of Prime Rib, Cojo Salmon, Pepper encrusted NY steak, Sirloin and Lobster tails (2 tails). I ordered some items like it were my last meal. "I'll have this.. AND ...that". What gluttons. We ate last. 2nd late seating. Wish we had opted for 1st late. It was a bit too late. We never finished before 10:00 pm after arriving at 8:30 (ish). Our adorable wine steward Jenalyn .... we hope gets promoted to cruise director. We told her so and she insisted we erred. She wanted to be Captain! She was so pleasant, we looked for her every night. She remembered us and found us by day at the Lido restaurant, always stopping by to share a slice of her life with us. >>> Those are the people who make cruising so fabulous. We took no tours from the ship (against our religion) and they were sold out of everything we wanted before we got on board! BOOK EARLY if that is how you like to travel. In Cabo we rented jet skis for $80 an hour after haggling. We ran out of gas 1/2 way through and got a refund for 1/2 the hour from the portion of the rental which actually went to the owner of the jet ski. We took a cab tour of Cabo.. again.. got slightly ripped off. I did this before and got lucky. This time our guide didn't speak enough English and took us to a closed hotel for a drink! These are small $55 mistakes that you LAUGH about later. In Mazatlan we walked to Old Town, had beers and guac in the plaza, shopped for an hour and then went to the Joes Oyster Bar in the Zona Dorada beach area for 1 hr of sun before heading back to the ship. In Vallarta we scattered. I used to live there so we met a friend in town for Chillaquiles at Las Palomas Restaurant and then walked through town to Los Muerto Beach and had too many margaritas at La Palapa Restaurant. A dozen RAW oysters on the beach and I am still alive to tell you about it. Live Large! We did our tequila shopping at Wal Mart next to the pier in Vallarta. Such a deal. Back to the ship review. We paid our tips on our daily bill, $10 per day per person. No shore excursions, 1 photo for $14.95 which they messed up on while cropping out the unsightly parts of my legs... $30 in souvenirs, $100 at the casino, -$100 on board credit, $118 worth of 3 bottles of wine... $150 for the spa. I signed up for a week of the thermal suites... WAY TOO much money for that. I didn't even use it on the port days. Next time I will do it day by day when I know I will use it. It should be free and with reserved times of use .. very very nice feature but overpriced. The tile beds are so nice to read on in the morning. The steam and sauna and cold rooms are fresh and rejuvenating. The hydro-pool is hype. We had one on NCL .. free... outside. (but it was salty.. on HAL it was fresh) By the way, the pools and hot tubs are all fresh water. The hot tubs are approx 100 degrees...... (we keep our tub at home at we had a "feeling" for the temp) - better than some shipboard tubs kept at 98. Never used the pool. Also first time with a slider canopy over the Lido deck. Nice feature for colder windy days. Disembarkation .. sad but efficient. We put our things out the night before and whoosh... there it goes. Our only complaint about disembarkation is that we were told we could stay onboard until 10:00 am. We had a late flight and didn't had anything to do. But our cabin steward came into the room while we were still there trying to make up the room with us sitting there. It was uncomfortable. Only other complaint was the gal who books future cruises. We were ready to lay down $100 per person for a future cruise within 4 years but she set an appointment for us and then didn't attend to us when we arrived on time. She let another couple slide in who were supposed to be "just asking a quick question"... 45 minutes later she attended to us. Needless to say she didn't win our return business. But that doesn't mean we won't be returning. I can't wait to book a new cruise and it will definitely be on HAL. Try and AFT cabin. You will love it. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
My wife and I recently took the Oosterdam on a 7 day 'Mexican Riviera' cruise. (Dec 8-15 2007). I should point out this was only my second cruise, her first, so we're not experts. We travel extensively, and know our way ... Read More
My wife and I recently took the Oosterdam on a 7 day 'Mexican Riviera' cruise. (Dec 8-15 2007). I should point out this was only my second cruise, her first, so we're not experts. We travel extensively, and know our way around. We're in our mid-fifties, but are very active. The ship itself is everything we'd hoped for. Decent sized cabin with good sized veranda. Nicely appointed ship. All the amenities. Wonderful bed and linens. The staff was a joy, thoroughly helpful, courteous, and happy. We used room service extensively, (I sprained my ankle a week before the cruise), and service was very fast, food was hot every time. Our cabin steward never let me run out of ice for my ice pack. And he was uncanny in his ability to find the right time to attend our room twice a day. I can't say enough about the staff. Shore excursions appeared to be the standard fare. Here's an idea folks: Make your own shore excursions! Do a little research! Save a lot of money, get away from the crowds! Plan a personal adventure tailored to your particular interests. In most towns, esp. in Mexico, you can hire a cab for all day, for about half the cost of what one person pays for a cruise ship sponsored shore excursion. Go parasailing. Do a SCUBA dive. Explore the old town. Visit a flea market. Get out of town for cocktails and lunch at a more remote village. This is especially true for a group of 4 or more, but works for a couple too. We cruised with a large family group, and I was the tour guide for groups of 5 to 10 people, because I'd done the research. Let's talk about the food. I'm a gourmand. If you don't know what that means, this part of my review is probably not for you. The food was dull. Plain and simple. In the main dining room, the dinner menu looked great, but the food was not anything like we'd hoped. French onion soup should be BAKED! With bread in it. And ONIONS! Lots of them! Overcooked lamb, undercooked steak. Medium rare does not not mean raw. Tasteless lobster was a real disappointment, the one night it was offered. The Lido buffet (basically the only other dining option) could take a few lessons from Royal Fork or Old Country Buffet. How about roast beef every night, not just the first night? Mashed potatoes and gravy shouldn't be too difficult. How about springing for some spices in your pasta? Maybe just some gourmet soups? We never even tried the pizza, one look was enough. I must admit that our expectations were high, we heard this was supposed to be a great dining experience. Sorry, it was all flash and no substance. In a nutshell, I'd have to say that the Oosterdam was a great value. I don't believe other ships will have better dining, it's all about trying to appeal to American tastes. As long as you don't have high expectations, you'll eat well. If you don't like kids running rampant, this is a great cruise ship! Spa was well rated by those in our group who used it, albeit expensive. We were not impressed by the music and shows, but that's all about our personal tastes, others in our group enjoyed them. One final note. Everyone in our group seemed to pay a different price for the cruise, even though we all had the same cabin class. We paid about $400 less than most. Do your research! Unless you don't care about cost. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Overview My husband and I (who are in our late 20s) as well as my mother and grandmother took this 7 day cruise to the Mexican Riviera for Thanksgiving. This was the first time we had sailed Holland America after sailing on almost all the ... Read More
Overview My husband and I (who are in our late 20s) as well as my mother and grandmother took this 7 day cruise to the Mexican Riviera for Thanksgiving. This was the first time we had sailed Holland America after sailing on almost all the other cruise lines, and we used to work as Cruise Staff on Carnival. We drove to San Diego from L.A. The drive was not bad and we parked in the lot across the street from the ship. Parking was easy but costs $15 per day. Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 11:30am-12:00pm. Embarkation was smooth and we were on the ship in no time. Stateroom We were very impressed with Holland America. The service was excellent! The ship was beautiful! We had an outside stateroom category HH with an obstructed view. I was surprised to find that while we did have a lifeboat blocking our view, the natural sunlight poured in during the days. It was wonderful! The room was a nice size with a small sitting area including a couch, table and chair. The rooms have flat screen TVs and DVD Players. The bathroom was very nice and the shower was extremely clean. Our cabin steward was excellent as well. The bed was very comfortable and the sheets and pillows were of good quality. Public Areas/Lounges All of the public areas of this ship were beautiful. The casino was medium sized but I never found it crowded. The gift shop had more jewelry than anything else. The crow's nest which is the lounge on deck 10 forward is really nice for looking out at the ports and ocean. It has a great view. Activities There were a bunch of activities to participate in, more on sea days, but it still seemed like there should have been more. The trivia's were too hard and the same people would play and win every time. Bingo was fun and was pretty well priced at $10 for a single card and $20 for a triple card, and most sessions were 4 games. The cooking demonstration was very nice and my grandmother enjoyed that more than I did as I don't cook. Dining Because the ship was over capacity at 2,100 guests, we had late sitting dinner at 8:30pm. The Oosterdam still has fixed traditional dinner sittings. No mention of the anytime dining yet. The food was excellent! Everything we had tasted great. We all ate too much! We had turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. All the dining room servers were great. The lido buffet was also great. The ice cream bar with waffle cones is especially nice. They also have a tasty taco/fajita bar by the pool as well as a burger bar. All of it was great! Entertainment The entertainment on the ship was very good. The singers and dancers in the production/Las Vegas style shows were only ok. Carnival has much better production shows. We left half way through the first production show and didn't even see the second show. The dancing was good but the singing was not very good. And the sound was really bad. It sounded like someone was playing a tape recorder. All of the other shows were excellent. The comedian Julie Barr was hysterical. And Joel Mason doing the Elton John show was great! My favorite was Lance Ringnald the Olympic Gold Medalist. He performed a gymnastics/comedy show. Don't miss this show! And the last show of the night had Julie Barr, Joel Mason and Lance Ringnald. That was the funniest show and definitely not to be missed. Ports of Call We visited Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. While we had been to these ports a few times before, it was still nice to visit. We did not book any ship excursions but hired a taxi to take us around to see the sights. They are all nice and pretty much offer the same things - shopping and beaches. Beware in Mazatlan, as right off the ship are many vendors offering free tours and rides but in exchange you have to go to the Golden Zone and listen to a time share presentation. It was quite annoying after being approached by 10 people within 10 minutes. Just say no thank you and look for a taxi driver with a sign that says no time share. Other important things The ship offers movies to check out and watch on your DVD player in your stateroom. They keep a list of these movies at the front desk. They are free to rent but you have to put down a $30 deposit on your shipboard account. It is refunded back to your account when you return the movie. I really enjoyed this feature although most of the movies I wanted to see had already been checked out. But you are only allowed to keep a movie for 2 days so check back if you really want to see a particular movie. The library has a lot of games and puzzles to play with. I wanted to purchase a deck of cards so I went to the gift shop. The only set they had was 2 decks for about $7.00. I passed and later found out that I could purchase a deck of cards in the casino for $1. They are cards that have previously been used in the casino but are in great condition. A great deal! Every day there is a different special - the drink of the day. This is a good deal at $5.25. Most drinks are about $7.50. If you purchase you drink of the day from the casino bar you get a $5 casino card to play on either blackjack, roulette or craps. Another good deal. Tea time is fun and relaxing. Servers come around with various teas and desserts and appetizers. All are tasty. Disembarkation Disembarkation was smooth as well. We chose expedited service and carried our own luggage off the ship. We were among the first off the ship around 8:15am-8:30am. All we had to do was show our ship card to be logged off and then hand in our customs form. And we were on our way home! Summary My family and I had a great time on the Oosterdam. We were very impressed with Holland America in all aspects. The rooms were very nice, the food delicious, the service excellent, the entertainment great and overall everything was wonderful. I will definitely sail on Holland America again. I am interested in seeing the differences between the newer bigger Holland America Ships and the smaller older ones. For anyone wanting to book a cruise on this ship don't hesitate. It is wonderful! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Embarkation was smooth. Lunch served on the Lido, very nice. We had an inside cabin, as it was Thanksgiving, and not much was left. Our friends has balconies, very nice. Our room was huge. Room steward pretty good, I think he was new. ... Read More
Embarkation was smooth. Lunch served on the Lido, very nice. We had an inside cabin, as it was Thanksgiving, and not much was left. Our friends has balconies, very nice. Our room was huge. Room steward pretty good, I think he was new. Beautiful ship. Fantastic entertainment. Cruise director was not the usually guy. Too bad, because our guy 'Rob' was pretty boring. They cd the weeks before was very funny. (my parents went 2 weeks prior). Asst. cruise directors didn't have too much to say either. Rarely saw them. The dancers/singers were really great. The Elton John impersonator was fabulous, don't miss this show. They didn't have as much to do on board as Princess and CArnival. That was ok with us, because we just wanted to relax and read, but some people wished there were more activities. The food was the best we've ever had. Usually you have some hits and misses, but all were hits! I was so glad they brought in the surf and turf night, even though they had a Thanksgiving dinner. I really liked that there was very little smoking on board, that was a treat! Gift shops were good, and the library is great. They have an art tour you can take with an ipod, which I recommend. There is over 2 million worth of art on the ship, it's really like a museum. An art lovers dream! We've done these ports many times, so we just went to resorts and relaxed. Had the massage at the Krystal. I'm not sure if it was good, as I was really sore afterwards. Maybe that is how you are supposed to feel after a deep massage. But it was nice, and the hotel was lovely. Canopy Tour in PV, and kayaking in Cabo. Great day! Things were pretty quiet after about 10:00 p.m., but this cruise had 500 kids on board! yikes! I don't know if I would do Thanksgiving again, too many kids, but they were fairly well behaved. Unfortunately, they completely took over the pool. Overall, this was a great cruise, I would highly recommend it to anyone. I don't think I would take teenagers on a non-holiday. Beautiful ship Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
My wife and I were looking forward to our first cruise. We got all sorts of advise from all sorts of folks. Of course, everyone had a different opinion. We took the advice of my elderly cousins that said HAL was the best line out there ... Read More
My wife and I were looking forward to our first cruise. We got all sorts of advise from all sorts of folks. Of course, everyone had a different opinion. We took the advice of my elderly cousins that said HAL was the best line out there based on their 45 years of cruising. Given they've been all over the world, we felt comfortable giving HAL a shot. We booked via their website. It was about 45 days away from departure and got a great deal on a veranda cabin. It was a guarantee cabin but were bumped up to VB a week or so later. This was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to San Diego. First Impressions: We flew from SFO to Vancouver on Alaska. HAL reps were in baggage claim and directed us to our bus which arrived within 30 minutes of picking up our bags. Bus was clean and everyone onboard was looking forward to the cruise. Embarkation: Vancouver has a great facility. Check-in was efficient. We received our luggage tags from HAL in the mail and got our keys etc with no issues. The Ship: Having studied HAL from every angle via the net, I knew that Oosterdam had not yet received it's upgrade in Italy (scheduled for April 2009). Some of the carpet in high traffic areas looked worn but the ship was clean and polished. The Vista class ships are laid out logically and it was easy to figure out where things were. Departure was on-time and smooth. We did the life boat drill thing then went to the Crow's Nest for a cocktail, watch the sunset and see the harbor/barrier islands slip by. It was a pretty full cruise with a mix of folks (though very few kids). No kids was fine by us since this cruise was an escape from our two toddlers! We brought on-board champagne and wine (we live in the wine country) and indulged heavily as we unwound from a stressful last few months. The passage through the Juan de Fuca straight was rough and there was some roll but we were so exhausted that we hardly noticed. Food: We thought the food was great and there was plenty of it. We lucked out with a table for two in the main dining room for the late sitting. We are foodies and were suitably impressed with the menu. We dined one night at the Pinnacle Grill and it was outstanding. Staff: From cabin steward to dining room to bartenders, the staff was friendly, helpful and made sure things went smoothly. Cabin: We were able to get to our cabin about 2 p.m. and it was spotless. Our cabin steward was unobtrusive but friendly. Yes, he was great at the little towel animals as well. These cabins aren't large (compared to shore-side accommodations) but were fine for two people. With kids, it would have been tight. Our cabin was aft and we did notice vibrations from the pods in rough seas (as they worked to stabilize the ship) and maneuvering into ports but it wasn't bad. Activities: We didn't book this cruise to take part in every activity. Frankly, we wanted to get to know each other again after baby number two arrived and just recharge our batteries. We did do the culinary show (which was good though some folks ducked out due to sea sickness in some rough seas). The Elton John singer was on this trip and was great. The crowd wasn't what you would call lively (slanted towards older and stoic variety) and he gave them grief for that-which we loved. We skipped most of the rest of the organized stuff; we just loved walking around the decks in the fresh air and indulging in the food and wine on offer. Ports of Call: There was one-Astoria, Oregon. It was interesting to see how a ship this size maneuvers into the Columbia River given the tricky currents and this ship didn't disappoint. My wife slept through the port call while I wandered the town, which is nice and there are some great Victorian homes near the port. Spa: We bought the all access pass the minute we boarded and weren't disappointed. The spa was relaxing, clean and well appointed. We did a couple's massage and thought the masseuses were great. The only negative we can think of for this ship is the air blowers run 24/7 on this ship. I guess it's good white noise but didn't see why it was necessary. Exercise Area: Good range of equipment. It was pretty much empty during our cruise so we had the run of the place. I've read reviews on all sorts of cruise lines and ships (we are getting ready to do Alaska in May of 2009). I think folks need to decide what their priorities are when booking a cruise..especially if they've never cruised before. For us, this was a perfect, relaxing escape from careers, kids and the craziness of daily life. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Just returned from a wonderful week at sea on the Oosterdam. Everything was as we expected and the trip was very exciting. Embarkation- Arrived around 11:00 a.m. with no waiting line so check in was fast and easy. Waited about 20 - 30 ... Read More
Just returned from a wonderful week at sea on the Oosterdam. Everything was as we expected and the trip was very exciting. Embarkation- Arrived around 11:00 a.m. with no waiting line so check in was fast and easy. Waited about 20 - 30 min. to board and was on ship by 11:45 a.m. sitting in the Lido restaurant having lunch. Great way to start out. By 1:00 p.m. rooms were ready and luggage came within 30 minutes of that. Ports- Juneau was our least favorite, however, we still enjoyed the visit. Saw lots of whales and the weather couldn't have been better. Sunny and 65. Sitka was nice port however prices for souvenirs are higher than the other ports. Only bought a couple of things, toured on our own and had good time. Rained all day. Ketchikan was our favorite. Did the Lumberjack Show and toured on our own. Such a quaint town and it didn't rain while we were there. Good place for souvenirs and also for totems. Victoria was very pretty, however, we didn't go into to town but for about 1 hr. We are not really into flowers and gardens, but it was a nice stop. Room- We booked a deluxe verandah suite w/ all the perks included. Some were useful others were not. It was nice having laundry done daily and we used this each day. The room was nice and large as was the balcony. We had room service for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was nice to enjoy the view with our meal. The bathroom was wonderful as it was large enough for us both to get ready at the same time. Ship- Beautiful and very clean. They were constantly vacuuming and polishing so we never saw a mess anywhere. Lots of elevators, but we used the steps as much as possible to help with the weight issue as we ate alot. The shops were nice and had a good selection of different things. The food was good, however, a little too much froo-froo for us. Never a bad meal though and the service was always great. We just felt bad if we didn't eat all our food because we were wasting it. There was something though for everyone if you didn't want to eat in the dining room. Not alot of people dressed up for dinner which I was surprised about. Even though I'm in my 30's, I feel that when you go to the dining room for dinner that you should dress up nice. If you don't want to then the Lido restaurant is open for casual dress. I understand that not everyone else feels the same and I respect that, I just wish they had dining for formal/semi formal and then a restaurant for casual dress. Just my preference. The shows that we went to were okay. Missed the magic show and one other one due to motion sickness. Thermal Suite/pool- We used this each day for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours and usually afternoon. It was 250.00 for 2 for the week. Which is not too bad when you average it out and the thermal suite was incredible. We took naps in there and it was great. Don't know if we will do it again, but it was nice for a once in a lifetime thing. Perks for suite guests-Neptune Lounge was nice. Didn't eat in there much because we had plenty to eat at each meal. Did use them to change excursions and use the internet which was a great benefit. Would not have been beneficial if I had been on another deck because all public areas are set up for wifi. Also, laundry was nice and was used often. Separate line for embarkation, but not useful as there was no line and people in regular cabin checked in same time as we did. Priority tendering in Sitka, however, if you were booked an excursion to meet onboard didn't help you any. Also, we toured on our own and had no wait in line. For me the only advantage was room size, balcony size and laundry. Do not regret booking this type of suite and would do so again as they are enough perks for me. All in all great trip and hated that it ended so soon. Will cruise with Holland again as they are a great line. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Transfer to ship: Transfer to the Oosterdam from the Sea-Tac Airport was smooth. There were tons of Holland reps around to steer you to the correct location to board the bus to the pier. The Holland people also take your luggage, which ... Read More
Transfer to ship: Transfer to the Oosterdam from the Sea-Tac Airport was smooth. There were tons of Holland reps around to steer you to the correct location to board the bus to the pier. The Holland people also take your luggage, which reunites with you in your stateroom later in the afternoon. Embarkation: Embarkation also went smoothly. I recommend listening to Holland's reminders to check in online. If you do that, most details are taken care of so that once you arrive at the check in desk, there's little left to do other than take your picture and get your key. Room: Room was a VH category. It was in good shape and well maintained throughout the cruise. There is lots of hidden storage space to take advantage of -- under the beds, in the stool at the dresser, in the sofa, etc. so that you can keep your cabin tidy and easy to move around in. Food: Loved the HAL food as always. Always hear of the type of food others get on different cruise lines and they never seem as happy with their food. The Lido Restaurant ran efficiently, even during peak hours, and provided mostly terrific food throughout the cruise. Don't miss out on the bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Too bad the Lido's dinner offerings aren't that broad, though. Also, if you want something different, make sure to check out the Wok food counter in Lido. Terrific Asian dishes and good sushi, too. Room service was terrific, too. Always prompt and friendly, with many choices to eat for each meal of the day. For breakfast, all you have to do is mark a flyer and post it on your door before 2 am and you'll get what you want at the desired time frame. Then just call again to have them pick up the trays, etc. The Vista Dining Room was its typical great self. The only problem was choosing what to eat -- talk about opportunity cost. Had everything from crab legs to lobster to escargot and marvelous desserts. The new relaxed seating policy lets you arrive from 5:30 pm to 6 pm for early seating or from 8 pm to 9 pm for late seating. Liked that flexibility a lot. The Pinnacle Grill was fabulous. Had the best filet mignon ever there. HAL had many offerings that were low sugar, vegetarian, etc., available. Atmosphere: A very relaxing cruise. It was easy to always find quiet and empty areas to relax. I liked the new policy of not broadcasting into the staterooms. Ports of Call: Didn't get to do Skagway due to very high winds, but HAL scrambled and got us a replacement called Hoonah, which was picturesque, though it didn't offer much to do. Juneau was very interesting and pretty -- you have to get out and see the surroundings and the Mendenhall Glacier. Ketchikan offered nice weather and a beautiful environment with lots of outdoor activities. Glacier Bay National Park was a magnificent experience. HAL even opens up the ships bow and serves split pea soup that day from 10-11 am. The number of excursions at each stop were varied and there was probably something for nearly everyone. Entertainment: This is a HAL weak point, especially when it comes to night life. We didn't even attend the nightly shows since none looked enticing. The night club was pretty laughable, too, as it was on a previous cruise two years ago. And of course, being more traditional, HAL doesn't offer megaships with ice rinks, climbing walls, etc. However, still always had simple things to do like walk the Promenade, play ping pong, swim, attend seminars, relax in Lido, watch movies (you can rent them on board or watch what's on the channels), read, etc. Crew: As usual, the crew is happy and friendly and pampers you to the point that once the cruise is over, the return to reality is painful! Disembarkment: Also went very smoothly though we were sad to leave. HAL asks for your post-cruise plans early in the cruise and then tries to accommodate. They offer a very early disembarkment if you meet certain criteria. They met our needs perfectly. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
My wife and I took the Oosterdam for a 7 night Alaska inside passage cruise leaving Seattle on June 2 and returning June 9, 2007. We stayed in a balcony cabin on deck 5. Overall, we were very pleased with all aspects of the ship, the ... Read More
My wife and I took the Oosterdam for a 7 night Alaska inside passage cruise leaving Seattle on June 2 and returning June 9, 2007. We stayed in a balcony cabin on deck 5. Overall, we were very pleased with all aspects of the ship, the cruise, the itinerary and the service on board...except for the entertainment. Let me firstly get the bad news out of the way...we took in 6 shows...three of them that involved the singers and dancers were top notch...there was an acrobat/circus type performance one night...and a comedian from Brooklyn on another...these two were atrocious. From what I've read on other posts, this is an on-going problem with HAL...their entertainment productions are often third our case, the Broadway style shows were actually very good...the others half the audience walked out of the theater. Now that that's out of the way...all else about this cruise was extraordinary. The service was wonderful...from our dinner server our cabin attendant the entire staff...they couldn't do enough for us and all on board during the cruise. We ate at the 8PM late dinner sitting...and the food was very good....variety, quality and nice presentation....we were very pleased with the food. Typically, for breakfast and most lunches, we ate in the Lido and the food there was also fine. So you know, we don't take a cruise to eat and so many others seem to do.....but from what we did partake, it was very good all in all. The itinerary included Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria and the Hubbard glacier......nicely planned...easy off/back on ship at all ports.....HAL seemed adept at moving people when needed. We would highly recommend HAL, the Oosterdam and this Alaska/Inside Passage cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
We had an excellent week on the Oosterdam. Our reservations were made through an internet travel agency somewhere around 60 days out - right about the time the good "last minute" bargains began to emerge. What began as a low ... Read More
We had an excellent week on the Oosterdam. Our reservations were made through an internet travel agency somewhere around 60 days out - right about the time the good "last minute" bargains began to emerge. What began as a low priced "no view" category H cabin turned into a Category D "wonderful oceanview" cabin by the time we boarded. We went into Seattle the night before to avoid travel issues, spent a restful night at an airport area hotel, and went back to the airport around 10:30 AM on our sailing date to begin the transfer/embarkation process. Embarkation was very stress-free; we were on board by a little before Noon; had a nice lunch on the Lido deck and were just about to get up from lunch when they gave an announcement that the cabins were ready for occupancy - great timing. Food was very good to excellent compared to other cruise lines and other destinations we've used in the past. The seafood offerings were tastefully prepared and service in all dining locales was quite good. Sure there was a miscue here and there but most could be blamed on cross-cultural communication blips. Wildlife viewing/whale watching trips were quite worth our while and our money. The semi-sub excursion in Sitka should only be taken by those who like to view kelp, kelp, more kelp - and the animals that live on kelp. The Ketchikan lumberjack show was a lot of fun. On-board entertainment was excellent with the young cast of singers and dancers - a notch above previous cruises we've taken. A couple who did magic were quite good. But, alas, a gentleman who did "physical comedy" was not very good at all. Our cabin steward was as green as they get (he got on the ship for the first time after we boarded) but he did an outstanding job all week long. Our biggest problem all week came at the Seattle airport AFTER we were handed off by the cruise line and the transfer folks. The wait to check in with the airline was VERY long - one agent to cover a line which consisted of dozens of people and continued to grow larger. If I knew then what I know now I would have gladly paid the extra $20 per person for express baggage service, skipping the check-in line and gone straight to security with my boarding pass already in hand. In the end, the week was what we needed it to be - a VERY restful vacation with things to do when we wanted to be active and lots of time to rest and read when we wanted to relax. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
After asking my travel agent to book us on one of Holland America's newer Vista class ships, I immediately started to regret it after reading all the horrible reviews from last December's Norovirus disaster on the Oosterdam. Then ... Read More
After asking my travel agent to book us on one of Holland America's newer Vista class ships, I immediately started to regret it after reading all the horrible reviews from last December's Norovirus disaster on the Oosterdam. Then the azipod was out, and I wasn't sure we had made the right decision, but the airline tickets were bought, and we would just hope for the best. Then we started reading about the Oosterdam from various Cruise Critic members and hearing about the wave. Thanks to everyone, we started looking more and more forward to our cruise to Alaska. This would be our third time to the Great White North, first back in 1993 on Rotterdam V, then in 2005 on Zaandam. On the Rotterdam V, we were with a large group that took over the whole ship for 11 days, so there were a few firsts on that cruise including Rotterdam's first stop in Skagway and the first time she cruised through the Misty Fjords. That was a sight with the sheer walls and waterfalls outside, while we had tea in the Queen's Lounge watching it all go by. While there is nothing like dancing in the Ritz Lounge on the Rotterdam V, we were ready for a new adventure on the Oosterdam. Susan and I are in love with the Big Band era and the essence of old fashioned cruising. My great grandmother and other relatives came to America, then Canada on the Queen Mary, so we have spent many a happy evenings on board her now that she is in Long Beach (they put on a great New Year's Eve party). She reminds us of days gone by and a time period we really enjoy. Between the Big Band, Jazz, and Art Deco, we enjoy that period. I only bring this up, as we are a pretty unique couple and know that Holland America doesn't represent the typical interests of everyone. So many of our friends are looking for an all night party on a cruise. While Holland America is a party at sea, it's a party that like Cinderella's ball is pretty much over by midnight (if not before). Even the ship exudes old sailing charm with that dark blue hull and gleaming white top. If it is an escape you are after on a cruise, the escape on a Holland America ship is an escape into civility, calm, and serenity. It's not everyone's cup of tea, in fact lots don't even drink tea, but to us it suits us perfectly. So if you are looking for a retreat into another world, where passengers get dressed for dinner, where people say hello in the hallway, and where you start up conversations with people you have never met before, then Holland America may be the cruise line for you. Adventure started with a few days in Seattle prior to our sail away. The Marriott Waterfront provided the perfect backdrop to our easing into vacation. We were lucky enough to have Puget Sound view rooms on the Concierge level, where they had a full breakfast in the morning, wine and salmon in the afternoon, with coffee and cookies at night while watching the ferries come in. The first day we took our nine year old son to "nerd-vana" - the Boeing assembly plant in Everett on a Gray Line tour. The bus picked us up at the hotel, then transferred at the Sheraton for a 4 hour adventure out to the largest building I had ever seen. Disneyland could literally fit inside her walls. The production facility for 767, 777, and the new 787 were shown right in front of us. Very cool. The following day we saw the Oosterdam brightly in Victoria at Ogden Point, since we had taken the Clipper over to see my grandmothers. While the Oosterdam would be back in Victoria in a week, getting over to their separate places after 6pm wouldn't really be feasible, so we came over for a day on the Victoria Clipper and were back in Seattle Friday night to enjoy the wine, coffee and cookies. After a good night's rest we were up early in the morning (still on East coast time) and made our way up to Pike's Place Market to grab a huge bunch of flowers to take on the ship. You have to love the HAL staff at check-in when they ooh and ahh at the flowers, when they probably see multiple bouquets every day. They know how to make you feel really good. Check in was a breeze and very organized with different stations, so that there were no line ups throughout. I remember in Vancouver two years ago there being many more line ups and issues. Once we waded through the greeters on the ship and got the information on Club HAL for my nine year old son, we were shown down to the Vista Dining Room, which was such a pleasant surprise. With our carry on bags and our load of flowers, I was loathe to try to find a table in the Lido, and then what a pleasant surprise to have a table waiting for us in the Vista with a beautiful lunch. With our newly acquired soda cards in hand, and after my favorite Grey Goose martini, we were on our way to our rooms right after lunch to get settled in. Bags came throughout the afternoon to our adjoining rooms of 5131 and 5133. Dolf, our room steward, was the perfect mix of friendliness and non-imposition. He always was there to say hi, but never in our way. Well he immediately introduced himself and let us know where my son's service dog, Werin's "area" was, which was a beautiful 4x6 sod box, just as requested through Seattle. The day and cruise were shaping up very nicely as I headed down to the front office to collect the CC Wave Banner for our wave I wasn't exactly sure where to go, but headed to the front office on those lovely glass elevators. My son was in heaven (I mean what 9 year old wouldn't love glass elevators on the outside of a ship), and I was pretending not be thrilled as well (very cool and collected you know). Down at the front office, when I asked for the banner to take for the Wave, she looked at me a little funny and then asked for me to wait while she went to Mr. Deering's office. After a while she came back and said to follow her and that another Cruise Critic member had picked up the banner. "No problem," I said, "I'm glad someone got it". By that time we were at Mr. Deering's office, so I poked my head inside and saw Lisa and Tom and was pretty much speechless. My mind went blank (I had been working my brain pretty hard to remember Vickie, Dick, Sue, Steve, Richard and Carolyn's names for the Wave) I was shocked, but they were so gracious. Lisa was there to have lunch with Mr. Deering and had a visitor badge. They were all set to go, so we headed up to the 5th deck for the wave. I went to collect the rest of my family including Werin and my Mom and Dad and we all headed out, including Mr. Deering for the wave (I guess his last one on Holland America as it looks now) Werin shook everyone's hand and I ended up not waving, as I had Werin put her paws up (I held them since I didn't want her to scratch the beautiful railing). Well the rest is history since Lisa put them on line that night while she was in Seattle waiting for the Noordam. What a start to our week! Thanks to the tips on line, I ran to the spa after the wave and bought Thermal Suite passes for the week for Susan and I and Mom and Dad. What a treat. We are all believers and the thermal suite along is a reason to cruise with Holland America. If you haven't been, it is heaven on earth. Six ceramic heated loungers look out at the sea with 4 different showers to the side with different lighting, rainshower heads and cool mountain mist nozzles to cool you down. Then there are rooms behind including a steam room, an aromotherapy room, and a wet sauna with ceramic benches and a fountain. The spa (new age) music flows out and your mind gets whisked away just looking out. On top of that you have unlimited weekly access to the therapy pool, which is about 1/2 the size of the Lido pool, but with bubbles coming out of the floor and surrounding your body with relaxation. One of the pool is built into a chaise, so that you can lie there just thinking of all the future cruises you are going to book, just so you can come back to the thermal suite. We found that one of the best times to go to the thermal suite was first thing when they opened in the morning (8am) and also during the show at night. No one around and we could have it all to ourselves. Neither Susan nor I are big show fans, but more time in the Thermal Suite was PERFECT! For less than a stone massage, we had a full week of relaxation. I believe they limit the number of passes they sell, so make sure to head up and grab a pair right away. We started enjoying it the first night. Our rooms of 5131 and 5133 had the shorter balcony, but since we opened up the divider between the rooms, it seemed huge with four chairs and two tables. Poor Dolf had to vacuum out there, since Werin was in shedding season (or maybe that's all the time), so we brushed her out there. Nothing like that Alaska scenery with little tufts of dog hair floating by. The rooms also had adjoining doors, so that Cameron could go to bed, one couple could go out and the other could stay in their room with the door open to watch Cameron. With Werin, Cameron didn't really want to go to Club HAL, as we would have had to come along. He was just happy to go every day to the Lido pool with Dad and Gramps. We could have made a killing, selling inflatable "Dam" ships. I picked one up on the Zaandam two years ago, but I couldn't find another one in the shop. Cameron took it to the pool everyday and everyone asked him where he got it. Too bad Holland America, you've missed another way to make some bucks. There were about 100-120 children on board, and aside from the pajama party night, we didn't really see them all week, except when they would stop by to pet Werin. Club HAL kept them entertained with all kinds of games and get togethers. HAL has a relationship with Cranium (which is our favorite games), so there were lots of games to play if we needed them. Our room had enough room to put in our own water and a few drinks that we had bought onboard without having to take out all the other mini-bar stuff in there. The bathroom was perfect for us three and we didn't find the room crowded, since the triples have a large curtain that nearly separates the couch from the bed to make two rooms. Cameron could watch the DVD player and flat screen with the Netflix movies we brought, while we read or went out when Nan and Gramps were watching him. Movies are also available downstairs from the Front office, but they are gone virtually the first day, and without a rental fee -- you won't see them back all week. It was easier just to bring our own and then drop them off in the mail when we were done with them back to Netflix. The bed was wonderful and comfortable. We are spoiled at home with a tempurpedic mattress, but this was very close. The lighting was created in zones, so that Cameron could sleep and we still had lots of light to stay up, go out, or come back late and get ready for bed without waking him. Werin had room as well, but only if we put the extra chair outside. We spent sail away in our room and on the balcony (we are not huge crowd fans) and watched land slip away just in time to head for dinner to meet our dining and wine stewards for the week. We had the perfect table on the main floor. Just up a few steps with seats to look out the window, but not right next to them where it would get hot (we had a table right by the back window on the Zaandam and it got steamy) From our position in the dining room, close to the stairs, we didn't have any rumbling from the engines. Our table was for five and Werin went where she is used to going, right underneath. Deden and Tri were our dinner servers with Leo as our wine steward. All were great. They got Cameron his kid's menu right away (PERFECT) and our menus all had choices that we enjoyed every night. We noticed that the steaks and lobster seemed much bigger on this cruise then two years ago, but the food quality (while still wonderful) wasn't quite as great as on the Rotterdam V about 15 years ago. It could have been because it was a first cruise together, but that trip it was heavenly. However, I do have to say that we didn't feel we missed anything by not going to the Pinnacle Grill as the meat, seafood, salads and getting to see our stewards each night was a thrill. Plus for all of us to go would have been $150, so we enjoyed the main dining room for dinner each night. The only experience I didn't enjoy in the dining room was the sugar free tart the first night -- but what was I expecting? Also, I thought it was odd to have Baked Alaska on the menu every night. It just seemed a bit much and isn't it supposed to be special for the parade? We enjoyed a couple bottles of wine during the cruise, and yes, I did have my grey goose martini nearly every night (I strayed with some martini's of the day, but always came back to my fav.) We also got hooked on the liquor for the evening and would get one or two to share at the table and keep the glass. Leo was extremely friendly and competent as our wine steward and even gave us table magic card tricks several nights which were GREAT. Seattle: Jewel of the Northwest, the three days we were in Seattle were "generally" sunny, but while there was a little bit of wet sunshine we always head out anyway, though it is good to have a towel nearby, since others don't necessarily like wet dog around them. When we arrived in Seattle, we had preordered some Rice Milk at Whole Foods which was a short cab ride away. With Cameron's autism, there are some limited food requirements and Rice Milk is one of those. We walked along the waterfront towards the new sculpture garden and to a dog park, which Werin and all of us enjoyed each afternoon. Cameron loved going to the Old Spaghetti Factory right on the water one evening, and we ate the other evening in. One full day was spent on the Victoria Clipper, where once we got to Victoria we rented a car and took Werin to the Dog park, then on to see my 90+ year old grandmothers. They got a kick out of Werin and Cameron -- Susan and I were just along for the ride. It was a great and very full day. No sightseeing this time, since I spent years in Victoria we have seen most of the things to see and spent our time getting together with family. We did get to take a peek at my folks new townhouse that they are moving into on the 8th and 9th floor with their penthouse patio garden in downtown Victoria. Great views to the ocean and mountains behind! JUNEAU: We were all ready to head up to the glacier on the helicopters, which I had booked online prior to the cruise, but our morning in Juneau was a bit foggy with low hanging clouds. The helicopters were able to go later in the afternoon, but our 11:45am flight was cancelled. Cameron took it VERY well, and decided that it was worth waiting for next time (get the hint Daddy -- Next time . . .) He was ready to watch Cars with Gramps in the cabin, so I took off with Susan taking the $2 shuttle into town (little Alaska secret -- if you walk in the mile to town, you can ride the shuttle back for free -- not that we did that). The shuttle drops you off at Mt. Roberts tramway, which the day we were there was shrouded in fog. After beating our way through the Diamonds International and other jewelry merchants, we took a back street up the hill, and found quite a few nice shops including the Friends of the Alaska State Museum shop, which had some great native art. They also shipped our treasures home as most other shops did as well. After wandering around, we found ourselves at the Juneau City Museum, which had the best 30 min. video on Juneau that I had seen. Went through all the mining history with Mr. Roberts, which I was unaware of in that much detail. Great little exhibits that were well worth the $4.00 admission price (don't worry we are not cheap, just were saving for Grey Goose Martinis and Thermal Suite passes!) A wander back through town down the hill was much easier than heading up got us back at the T-shirt shop to get something for Cameron. We ended up finding a "Pirates of the Inside Passage" skull and crossbones t-shirt that glowed in the dark -- PERFECT. NOTE ON PHOTOGRAPHERS: I know all you regulars typically hate the intrusive photographers at every stop. I mean who wants a picture of you in your rain slicker next to one of the photographers dressed up as a fisherman? Well there are several ways to look at them. Last cruise, I got all snooty, and would keep saying "No, No, not today" and argue with them why I wouldn't want my picture. This time, we took every picture, and found that we spent less time taking the picture than arguing why you don't want it taken. Here are a few thoughts you might want to consider during your next cruise for the photographer: - Pretend that you are Kathy Griffin on the "D" list and are happy to have anyone willing to take your picture for the publicity. - Imagine a red carpet before you and remind yourself why being a celebrity might not be a great life. - Get off the ship about an hour after you dock, after the hordes have made it down and find that the photographers are LONG gone to develop the pictures of your fellow passengers that were rushing to get off to their shore excursion. HUBBARD GLACIER: Not exactly a port of call, but well worth the time. While the ice flows right in front of the glacier were all packed in, so that we didn't get to get that close to the glacier or see any calving, we did see beautiful quiet oceans and ice flows. Looking from our balcony with tea and coffee in hand was a great way to spend the afternoon viewing the shoreline looking for bears with our binoculars. I found the beauty of the mountains much more amazing than Glacier Bay, but did miss seeing calving and hearing the "rice crispies" sound of all the ice. As Cameron says, "We'll see it next time, Daddy". SITKA: This was one of the main reasons to go on this cruise, as when we went 13 years ago on the Rotterdam V, it was too late in the season to see Sitka, due to a storm (You don't want to be on the Rotterdam V in a big storm), so that port was cancelled and instead we took the ship inside Misty Fjords -- a rare treat. But we always felt we missed out on seeing Sitka. Coming into port in the morning I found Sitka one of the most visually stunning ports for just viewing from the ship. Islands all around, and mountains with ice streaked across the sky. Eagles flying over town were relatively easy to photograph. We walked across the street from the tender drop off to see town from Castle Hill and read about various history surrounding Sitka. Cameron wanted to see "Meet the Robinsons" back on ship at 2pm, so we had to keep moving through town, seeing the church of course, and then along the waterfront. We were originally going to take the city bus out to the Raptor Center (one of the tips from my travel book), but never quite got hooked up to it. We did however get a new Gameboy Advance game, Madden 07, which Cameron and I both enjoyed later in the cruise. Susan found a great hot dog stand in town and we all had a dog for lunch while people watching (actually this is fun with Werin, as we generally catch people's eyes as they look over to Werin and try to figure out her "job". Cameron being mobile makes it quite a game. Everyone is very well intentioned and calls from "There goes a dog in training" to "that's a seeing eye dog" if Cameron has sunglasses on are spoken out as if we aren't there. We have a good time with it trying to remember the strangest story someone had made up about us as we are walking around. The reality is a trip like this would be not only be very difficult without Werin, but Werin also has improved Cameron's verbal and emotional skills, so having her close by is a constant therapy moment for Cameron in addition to all the social practice when people ask her name and the like. Before getting back on the tender we found a health food store right by the dock that had Cameron's Rice Milk, which was a perfect find, which allowed us not to have to stretch it! We made it back to the ship by about 1:30pm and caught up with a new friend for Cameron, whom he invited to the movie in the Queen's Lounge. If there is one disappointment on the ship, it was the movie in the Queen's Lounge. Can't they get a larger screen to show the movies on, rather than an old fashioned 3 tube projector and a small square screen. Uggh -- At least the popcorn was good (but no bartender for the parents -- another problem) KETCHIKAN - In Ketchikan we considered the floatplanes to replace the glacier walk, but decided to go with a newer tour, the Photographer's tour of Ketchikan. Now we just have a Canon Powershot, so I knew going in that we would have camera envy (you know they types -- the people that work out so that they can hold their two foot lens still for thirty minutes to catch that eagle), but decided that even if we didn't take any pictures, the visuals would be worth it to go. It was a four hour tour that started first thing in the morning (this time we were down the plank before the ship photographers were even set up). The nine of us on the tour got into a mini bus with Chris and Joyce. Chris was in his early 20s I think and Joyce was a native first nations grandmother. I think this was their first time doing the tour together. Chris was the driver, but he was used to telling stories on the mike on his big bus, and not quite used to having to give the stage over to someone else. One can only wonder what he had done wrong to be demoted to a minibus from the big coach, but what you do in Ketchikan, stays in Ketchikan. Joyce told us that she typically drives and talks as well, but there was some sort of mix-up with her driver's license for this type of vehicle (never really got the full story on that one either), so she would be just narrating today. We were to start with a "city tour", but instead of the traditional sites like the salmon run and other buildings of interest, we had Joyce trying the mike out at different levels, finally taking it off, then putting it up to her mouth manually with the classic "Can you hear me now" while Chris basically went up one hill only to turn on one street with Joyce saying, "Where are you going?" Chris replies, "This is where the big buses go, it's the way I know." Joyce states, "Well usually we go this way and see this". By this time we are almost down the other street in Ketchikan so by the time they figured out where they were going the only sight that Joyce could point out was the high school she attended over 30 years ago that had since been closed -- so much for Ketchikan. We all must have had our coffee, since the nine of us thought this was hilarious and were trying to keep our stifled laughter to mere snickers as Chris and Joyce tried to figure out what they were doing next. Chris and Joyce were WAY BETTER than the regular tour bus! Once out of town, Joyce started telling stories of the surrounding industries - the mines, the gold, the paper mill -- all of which had come and gone until we were are left with "you" the beautiful tourists. Ha, ha. After only one nearly wrong turn, Chris got us to our destination, a beautiful round house and dock where we got suited up in rain suits to go on a coast guard style boat to take in the natural beauty for an hour. The captain and two naturalists where very much at ease in front of the group and had been working together for some time. They made all of us feel comfortable with their jokes and information. After seeing several eagles at the top of their nests, they threw out some fish for bait and the eagle on cue came swooping down to pick up the fish. AMAZING! Next they took us out to a cove where there were some old shipwrecks, jellyfish, and starfish along the rocks. The naturalists pointed out all kinds of trees and flora on the islands, and were surprised themselves to see two deer on the shore. Apparently three years ago, wolves at swum over to the island and hunted all the deer, so they hadn't seen any deer in that time, until the day we were there. Everyone was excited and after seeing more waterfalls, fern grottos we headed back to the dock for hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies by the fireplace. I have to say that the small gift shop was PERFECT and have everything we were interested in. Cameron is doing a state report on Alaska next year in school, so the skipper gave him an old Alaska license plate for his report. They had his favorite "DK" books and one on whales, so we got that. They also had great zippered sweat shirts that were the best prices we had seen, so we had a great time. Back on the bus, Joyce told us First Nations bedtime scary stories (egged on by Chris) that her grandmother told her, so that she wouldn't go in the woods by herself. Guess they worked as I certainly won't be going in the woods by myself after those stories as well (You will need to go on the tour yourself to hear them -- I can't deny HAL all their opportunities to make money). After hearing her last story we had made it to the totem park. This park is a newly developed park, with several sample ceremonial buildings and a resident totem carver. The woman carver had taken a carving class to learn more about heritage for her daughter, and ended up making a career of it by carving for native families and for this up and coming Totem Park. A large native gift shop was close by, with selections of work on display. Joyce really came alive with native stories as we walked through the Totem Park and buildings. The owner of the gift shop also collects classic cars including Model T and a Stanley Steamer. There was also an antique gun collection. Very eclectic stop which included a few minutes with the carver (Joyce got is us in to her workshop, since they were friends) to view her latest work in progress and ask any questions we wanted. By the time we got back to the ship, we all agreed we had a great time with Chris and Joyce and while it "real" at times that was what made the tour special and much more memorable than your typical tour. VICTORIA: Well, since I was born in Victoria, my aunt and uncle wanted to see us so they walked down to the ship and we walked together to the open dog park and back for Werin. We had a great time with them talking and showing other tourists where to head or answering questions. For those of you heading to Victoria and are able bodied, the walk to downtown is not far at all, approx. 1.3 miles and is laid out quite easily. The dock at Ogden Point is in the James Bay community full of many cute and restored war time houses. James Bay tearoom is also close by and is much locally flavored that the Empress tea. Mom and Dad (since they live in Victoria) stayed on board and took in their last night at the Thermal Spa watching the harbor. CRUISE CRITIC MEET AND GREET: Scheduled for the Oak Room, the first day at sea on Sunday morning, the staff got the cigar smokers out of the there and set up a great table of cookies, coffee and tea. Mr. Deering came right away after a staff meeting and arrange for mixed drinks, sodas, whatever we wanted (what a host). He answered questions for nearly an hour, which I do have to say with the news that he is planning on moving to another ship is not all together surprising based on his candor in the meeting. My Mom reveled in his honesty and upfrontness about the cruise, staff conditions and ship, which has made her a cruising convert (the thermal suite didn't hurt either). Mr. Deering gave all attendees his card for any needs that we had and made sure he had all our cabin numbers. The banner was up (thanks so much Peg for making that one). While we couldn't figure out how to get Werin's paw print on there, I did draw one for everyone to know that she had been there. It was a wonderful morning and great to meet all the CC'ers that I had been meeting online. VISTA SHOW ROOM: We took in two shows (the rest of the time was literally in the thermal suites for the other shows). After the prior review of the shows I wasn't that excited to attend, but I do have to say that the Broadway medley show with just singing and no dancing was VERY good. The harmonies were superb and it was evident that the four best singers were utilized for this show. We saw the DV8 magic act the next evening and weren't impressed by the jokes or the magic. I have to agree with prior postings about the design of the VISTA SHOW ROOM. Why all the poles right in the view of many. We took in shows in the box seats and that was perfect. DVD RENTAL: All I can say is get down to the front desk the first day if you plan to rent any DVDs, because if you don't go the first day, you selection will not be there. I liked the fact that it was free, but there may have been more selection available if there was a daily charge as people would have returned them. FRONT DESK STAFF: God bless them. From overhearing the fuss that they have to put up with, my heart went out to them. They did a fantastic job in a trying position. One gentleman was completely upset and put out that Southwest didn't participate in the Priority Express baggage service. Literally yelling and threatening not to go on Holland America again. Give me a break. They don't participate at Disney either. PRIORITY EXPRESS BAGGAGE SERVICE: Well worth the extra money not to have to wait in that huge line at the counter with literally thousands of others in Seattle trying to get on flights the same day. While you have to get off the ship first, we were lucky to have Platinum American Express that gets us into the Airport Lounge to wait until our flight was ready. OCEAN BAR: Love the band at night for dancing. There were some regulars that we kept meeting up with that liked the jazz combo sound as well. Bartenders weren't very attentive, but eventually got around to everyone. LIDO: Someone will have to explain it to me, but why do people go up here for breakfast to fight for a table and carry your own food, when you can order pretty much whatever you want from room service and have breakfast in bed. I must be weird, but I haven't figured that one out yet. We used the Lido for snacking and ice cream which worked out great. I LOVED having the Vista Dining Room open for lunch as you arrived. This was a huge improvement over the Lido for lunch the first day. It's not that the LIDO is bad, but I enjoy sitting down for meals or having it in the room over eating cafeteria style. ROOM SERVICE: Almost every order correct and a follow up call to ensure that all was well. I love that breakfast, and that they bring things that you just write on the card before bed as well. All food was hot and came on time as promised. CASINO: The Oosterdam has a large casino with many slots and a few tables. Not as lucky as last time with a $2,500 slots win, but held my own until the last night and only down about $80 bucks. Not so bad. With Cameron with us and not having completely switched over from East coast time we didn't stay up very late, so it seemed that every time we went to the Crow's Nest they were in between gigs or nothing was going on. However, the Piano Bar was another story. I wish we had found it sooner, as it was the hot spot with regulars and every table full each night. Everyone was having a great time singing along with silly songs that the time we stopped in we had a ball. GLASS ELEVATORS: We all loved these, especially the painting on the ship as you went inside that showed the sea life at the surface, and got darker and darker as you went farther down inside the ship. None of us got tired of riding them. Loads of fun. VIP PARTY: We were honored as CC'ers to be invited to the Captains VIP party (thanks to Mr. Deering) where there were about 20 of us being entertained by the officers. Wine, mixed drinks and warm and cold appetizers were flowing from the crow's nest. While I was standing there talking to the future cruise consultant and the shopping ambassador, two whales blew off just in front of the ship -- it was great. Later that evening we saw about 60 whales that we counted over about a 30 minute period from our balcony. They were everywhere. We had a wonderful week and were very sad to see it end. However, we did book next year's cruise on the Maasdam on August 16th from Boston to Montreal while on board to take advantage of the $100 deposit offer. Look forward to seeing some of you there . . . Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Returned from Alaska on the Oosterdam last weekend, am I still having trouble getting it sufficiently out of my head so that I can function at home. What an amazing trip. It's rare that we go anywhere anymore that nothing in our ... Read More
Returned from Alaska on the Oosterdam last weekend, am I still having trouble getting it sufficiently out of my head so that I can function at home. What an amazing trip. It's rare that we go anywhere anymore that nothing in our experience prepares us for, but Alaska was all of that and more. My wife and I had been on the Oosterdam before for the Mexico itinerary, so I'm going to skip general ship comments in this review unless something changed since then. My review of that cruise is posted here for 3/05 if you want to check my general impressions. Pre-Cruise In addition to our firm belief that one should not attempt air travel on the day of a cruise (the stress would kill me), Seattle is one of my favorite places, so we flew in Thursday morning and spent two very nice days at the Inn at the Market, located just a half-block east of the Pike Place Market. It's a very nice midsize hotel with a great roof deck overlooking Elliott Bay, and an easy walk to everything (Seattle is a very nice walking town). The only caveat would be to be sure to get a room as high up as possible on either the north or west sides—lower rooms or those on the other sides can have a fair amount of street noise. Walked to Lake Union on Friday and did an Argosy boat tour of it and Lake Washington, and a great lunch at Duke's Chowder House after. Save room for dinner! Embarkation In a word, effortless. Got up, got some Seattle's Best (better than Starbucks), some outstanding Russian pastry across from the Market, sat on the roof deck for a leisurely breakfast. Mt. Rainier was totally clear and amazing to our south, the Olympics equally clear across the Bay to the northwest. I could get used to this. After a little bit of repacking, we hopped in a cab about 10:45 for the 10 minute ride down to Pier 30. The Golden Princess was head to head with the Big O—was not the last time we would see her that week. We walked right in to the check in area, were greeted by a HAL representative who asked if we had the this and that, pointed to the baggage handler who stuffed our bags onto a conveyor, moved over to one of about 15 check-in folks who were sitting all by themselves, and after less than 5 minutes we were on our way out and onto the long ramp leading to the Big O. I think we were on the ship by 11:10. Since we'd been on before we didn't need to spend time familiarizing, so we had a spot of lunch and sat in the nice padded teak deck chairs. I had no sooner gone down for a supplementary taco than it was announced that our cabins were ready. It was 1:00. Cabin We were in 8107, a verandah stateroom, same type of room as when we were on the O before (in 5087 then). Perhaps because we had been on Princess in a mini-suite since, it seemed a little smaller than before, and our daughter was with us then and not now. It's a nice enough cabin, but how the heck we ever had 3 people in it is a mystery to me. They swapped out the tube TV that used to sit on the desk for a flat panel job on a high shelf, with a DVD player (good move), but removed the overhead storage compartments that used to be over the couch (not so good). There are, however, now drawers under the end of the bed, and since this couch didn't fold out there were drawers under it as well, so overall not bad storage space for two. There's precious little surface space in the cabin though, for cameras and binoculars and the like—everything has to go on the desk. The head was just fine—tub w/shower worked very well and drained nicely (unlike Princess where you stood ankle deep for your whole shower), and good storage. Closets were fine except the one hinge that shrieked like a scalded cat whenever the door opened. Very simple intuitive safe, again unlike Princess which required you to go through about seven steps to lock/unlock the thing. I was a little concerned about the cabin's location, being behind one of the aft elevator banks, but we never heard a peep from anybody all week and found that the ability to go up one flight of stairs into the Lido was quite handy for breakfast and late afternoon cheese trays on the balcony. Dining At table 32 with the legendary Hunky Dory as waiter, and his reputation is well-deserved. I swear by Tuesday he knew the names of every passenger on the ship (he worked the breakfast line as well), and was always friendly and entertaining. Leo as Wine Steward was also most personable (if a bit overworked at times), and gave me the answer to a question I had always wondered about—why is the food staff all Indonesian and the beverage staff all Filipino? In two words, compatibility and harmony—the Indonesians don’t think they’re better than the other Indonesians, and since they don’t directly compete with the Filipinos, there’s no friction there either. I know other lines don’t do it this way, and the service we get on HAL is always exemplary, so it must be working. The food was first class as always, and in a strange plus I was happy that the portions were smaller than on Princess—I could eat everything, and wasted nothing. Full, but not stuffed. If you wanted you could always order two entrees, but with the quality of the salads, appetizers and desserts…I just don’t eat that much. Entertainment Fairly standard cruise fare. Enjoyed the magic/illusionist team of Drew and Angela, but the broadway singing/dancing shows are just not our thing. Capably performed, I guess, but…I can’t impartially review something I just don’t care for as a matter of taste, so it would be unfair to continue. With the sun rising at 4:15-4:30 and the 3 hour time difference we found that heading for bed at about 10 (the sun was ALMOST down by then) was just fine anyway. Ports Juneau: We camped out in the Crow’s Nest for the entry into Juneau—scenery on all sides is breathtaking. About a mile from town, as if staged, two bald eagles flew by the front windows at eye level, causing a spontaneous round of applause—Welcome to Alaska. There was only a smaller Royal Caribbean ship in port when we arrived, so I was surprised that we ended up at the far south end of the harbor, requiring a short shuttle ride to town. Was even more surprised later upon return from our excursion when the RC was bumped out to anchor mid-harbor and the two in-town docks were occupied by our Princess shadow and our sister Zuiderdam. Hey! We were there first! But no matter really. Did the town/Mendenhall Glacier/salmon hatchery tour, and bus driver Mark was very friendly, knowledgeable and funny. Not much to the town tour—just a description of this and that, but it’s not really a very big town anyway. The salmon hatchery I actually could have lived without as well, and although it unquestionably does good things—wild salmon would be in serious trouble without it—the “tour” was not so much. Mendenhall Glacier, on the other hand, was spectacular and not to be missed, and judging by the number of helicopters flying overhead at any given time (I kept humming the theme from “Apocalypse Now”), not too many people did. It was just fine at ground level though, in my opinion, and the sounds of the immense waterfall down the west side were part of the experience. Strolled through town after a return to the ship for a quick lunch. Although touristy and obviously cruise ship oriented (what are Caribbean jewelry stores doing in Alaska?), it retained a quaint postcard look that was very appealing. Do not miss having (at least) one of dozens of beers on tap at Hangar on the Wharf while enjoying a spectacular view of the whole harbor through the floor to ceiling glass. Food is supposed to be terrific, too, although we did not indulge. Bank thermometer said 70 degrees, and just a few wispy clouds—sensational weather for Alaska. Glacier Bay: Again, few clouds, bright sun, but a little cooler (you’re surrounded by ice, after all). The bow of the ship is opened up with wine, cheese, and Dutch pea soup available. A great vantage point (probably the closest you can get to the water, which snaps and pops constantly in the ice field like Rice Krispies) to take in the once in a lifetime scenery, the bright blue sky setting off the brilliant white-blue of the glaciers. Got to within about a half mile of the face, which I understand is about as close as you can get. Unbelievable. Sitka: Our first marginal day weatherwise, but somehow not disappointing given the outstanding weather so far. Also have not mentioned that the Pacific has been like a millpond—barely a ripple, making for great sealife watching. Saw a pod of 4 Orcas less than a half mile away from the ship on the way down to Sitka last night—truly astounding. Tendering in was a complete non-event—there wasn’t even a line waiting for the boats and they stopped handing out tickets since it was going so smoothly. HAL has this amazingly under control compared to some other companies that shall be nameless (NCL), where the process looked like the men’s room line at halftime of a Bears game. We took the “Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest”, which was a 3 hour cruise on a very comfortable power catamaran through the islands off Sitka. Saw seals, the promised otters (a huge colony), and at least 4 humpback whales about 2 miles out. Other than the windows on the boat fogging up for the first part of the trip (later fixed by turning on the air), it was all we had hoped. Upon return to town we walked around for a bit and stumbled onto the Sitka 4th of July parade—truly something to see, and a little different than parades back home. Suburban Chicago parades don’t have Mountain Rescue, Smokey the Bear, the Coast Guard, or the Coho Queens (don’t ask). A very nice town. Ketchikan: As the O docked right in the middle of town, access was easy. Since we were only there until 12:30 there were more people than usual waiting to get off, but still no problem. Being right across from the lumberjack show venue and a showtime in less than 10 minutes, we decided to give it a try. Now I’m not generally much for staged entertainment, but this was very enjoyable and professional. Highly recommended. The town itself was very nice, and very walkable—take a stroll along the creek to Park Ave. and head uphill—what a beautiful street. If you take a right at Venetia Ave. you can climb a lot of steps to the Cape Fox Lodge at the top of the hill and then a nice walk back down on a raised wooden trail through the woods back to Creek street, where there are a lot of galleries. Too short a stop here—will have to go back. Victoria: Speaking of too short a time in a port, Victoria is #2—in at 6 pm, out at midnight. The only good thing is that you have time to pack while at sea before getting in so you don’t have to do it after you get back from town (bags are due outside at 1 am). You can take a shuttle bus into town for $6, but I highly recommend walking out of the port and taking a left on Dallas Rd. down to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll pick up a great walking trail along the water of the Inner Harbour into town. Fisherman’s Wharf itself is fun—an eclectic mix of floating houses and businesses. The fish & chips at Barb’s are not to be missed. We were just in town long enough to know we need to go back, asap. We were married not far from here, so have a soft spot for this area. Disembarkation As uneventful as Embarkation. Our flight wasn’t until 2 pm so we were in no rush, which was a good thing since we never heard our group called and got off when they said “Everybody Off”. All that meant was that there weren’t 200 other people hunting through the same group of bags, so I might remember that for future trips—there was no one at our bag area when we got there, and ours were easily located. This was a tough one to come home from—Alaska is not to be missed, and if you’d rather 1) set your own agenda for shipboard time without requiring something structured to do 24/7; 2) be responsible for knowing the ship’s schedule without having the hallway PA’s blaring announcements at all hours (Princess); 3) travel with a little older crowd than gangs of roving, bored teens; 4) have excellent food in reasonable amounts instead of mountains of more average fare; or 5) seek out beverages when you want them instead of having them shoved on you whenever you pause for a breath; then HAL is your line, and the Oosterdam is your ship. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
The Internet can be a useful tool when looking for information to help decide on a cruise. There is plenty of data available, with some of it even being accurate. If even half of what I've read is true, I thought I could expect the ... Read More
The Internet can be a useful tool when looking for information to help decide on a cruise. There is plenty of data available, with some of it even being accurate. If even half of what I've read is true, I thought I could expect the following on my first HAL cruise; Dining on bland, easy to chew, cuisine, topped off with a glass of fine Ensure. Swapping stories about the good old days with tablemates like Jessica Fletcher, Matlock and the Golden Girls, then dancing to the rocking tunes of a Lawrence Welk cover band to the wee small hours of, say, eight or eight thirty. Cautiously walking the passageways, always on the lookout for stampeding wheelchairs. These assumptions proved to be so wrong, on so many levels, it's almost laughable. Last October, while my Wife and I were still suffering withdrawals from our September Mercury cruise (which is another story,) we received a flyer from HAL advertising a sale on suites for the 2007 Alaska season. In our "cruise vulnerable" state we took this as an omen and dropped a deposit immediately. We booked directly through HAL on this, and would not hesitate to do so again. We've heard the stories about TA's getting the greatest deals, perks, freebies, upgrades etc. We've also heard the stories about TA's completely dropping the ball and leaving the customer holding the bag (again, that information is courtesy of the Internet.) My previous 3 cruises, on three different cruise lines, were booked online, and I've never had a problem. Maybe just lucky. The gentleman I talked to at HAL could not have been more helpful. He knew the ship, and made some cabin recommendations without pushing an up sell. During the time between our booking, and our actual cruise, I called him back several times with questions and he always had, or easily got the right answer for me. HAL Customer Service gets big points. Anyway we got a fair deal on a Superior Veranda Suite (#6090) along with a one night, pre-cruise stay, at the Olympic Fairmont in Seattle. I casually followed the prices for the cruise, through some on line Travel Agencies, after I booked, and I never saw it offered for much better than what we paid (I think $45.00 less was the best I found) and it didn't include the hotel stay. Again, I think I got a fair deal. Like I mentioned, this is our fourth cruise on our fourth different line. Though this hardly makes us cruise veterans, we do have a little cruise savvy. Our first cruise was the third sailing of the new Grand Princess (NICE!!) Our second was a 3-day Mexico/California on the Carnival Ecstasy (not as nice as the Grand) and our third was a Pacific Northwest on Celebrity Mercury. Bottom line is, my Wife and I are low maintenance cruisers. A decent meal, a cold martini and a friendly staff are all we need to keep us happy. Not much to ask I think. Okay, enough pre-cruise stuff and on to the cruise. We booked last October, got a free night at the Fairmont Olympic, which is one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in (best described as old school classy) and had a great evening. The room was not large, but well furnished and comfortable. The food, drinks and service were top notch. The Fairmont chain sets the bar high, and does not disappoint. We were given an envelope on check in, from Holland America, with instructions to meet the HAL Representative in the lobby the following morning. Let me start by saying that HAL has this whole operation organized. We met with the Rep in the morning and he explained that we could leave our bags with him, check out of the hotel, if we wanted, and be back at 11:30 to catch the shuttle. He kept a running tally of everyone's bags and made sure they all made their way to the ship. We checked out and strolled down to Pikes Market for a look around. My Wife and I love Seattle, and Pikes is always fun to visit. We got back to the hotel about 11:30 and hung out in the Garden Room with some of our fellow passengers (we all had that goofy "Night Before Christmas" look on our faces.) Looking around the room, it appeared that the median age was mid to late sixties BUT, as I'm reminded of, again and again, age is less about actual calendar years than it is about attitude. Boarded the shuttle for the short ride to the pier and finally caught my first real glimpse of the Oosterdam. In short, the Oosterdam looks like a ship. We saw it moored next to the Golden Princess, which looked more like a hotel that just happens to float. Holland America boasts (rightfully so) a strong maritime heritage, and it is well reflected in the ship design. Good lines, and a nice color scheme. Stepped off the bus, stepped into the check-in line and were through in about 10 minutes. The people working the counter were really scrambling, and I'm certain that they, this being the first cruise of the season, just hadn't hit their stride yet. From the Representative we met at the Hotel, to the last employee we saw on disembarkation, HAL made a favorable impression on us. Up the gangway, to the top landing, and we were greeted with wide smiles, and the compulsory hand sanitizer, from a young man in an old fashioned Bellhop uniform - could this get any better?? Oh yeah. Through security and on to the ship, we ran smack into the Martini Bar (I admit choking up a little at that.) We expected to be pointed towards the Lido Buffet, but an Officer directed us to the Vista Dining room for a sit down lunch (this was a first for me.) We were shown to a table for 2, handed menus (limited, but good, choices) ordered, and started to take it all in. The dining room was dark, and nicely decorated (In contrast to our Carnival cruise in which the dining room looked like "Circus, Circus." The lunch service, like the check in, was efficient, but a little harried, and I'm certain for the same reason. By the evening of the first day, the crew had their rhythm down and never missed a beat. Strolled up to the Lido for a drink and a view of the Seattle skyline, one of the prettiest anywhere. We cruised with some good friends, who are HAL 1st timers also, and share our opinions of the cruise. At around 1:30 they announced that the cabins were ready. We walked down to our cabin and discovered that it was quite a bit bigger than we had expected. A large (and very comfortable) bunk, sofa, 3 chairs and, surprise, enough room to move around them easily. The balcony (which I refuse to cruise without) had 2 easy chairs, a small table (w/chairs) and plenty of room. I think we made a good choice on the cabin; anything bigger (for us anyway) would have just been overkill. A discrete knock at the door and our smiling Cabin Steward, Arafin (just call me "Fin,") introduced himself, and presented us with his card (nice touch.) This pattern of service was evident throughout the entire ship, for the entire cruise. On my past cruises, I have always seen the service as being both polite and efficient, but I have to say that the service on HAL was truly gracious. The staff never hovered, but always seemed to be there when needed. Drink of choice, as well as your name, was remembered by the bar staff. A genuine smile, and greeting, was always offered (and always returned) by all hands. The legendary Hunky-Dory, who I had the pleasure of meeting the 2nd day, had powers of recollection that bordered on the supernatural. Back up on deck, armed with a martini and awaiting the sail away, the Captain announced that the 1600 sailing would be postponed, as there were some late arrivals. Hmmmm, on the deck of a beautiful ship, drink in hand, scenic skyline in the background - oh yeah, a delayed sailing would be a living hell. Once underway we quickly unpacked our four bags and found we had closet and storage room to spare (uncommon.) As expected, some of our garments didn't travel as well as we did, so we sent some things out for pressing (fair prices on this.) Met up with our friends for early seating, lower level, at 5:30 and were shown to our table for 6. With the new dining concept, you can show up for early seating, anytime between 5:30 and 6:00, and be seated. I was worried that the service, and food quality, would suffer because of this, but it seems to work well. As with lunch, the service the first night was a little hectic (not slow by any means) but for the rest of the cruise, the service was stellar. Our waiter, Nyoman, Bus person Wira and the Wine Steward Priscilla could not do enough for us. Friendly and professional all of them. The food throughout the cruise was uniformly great, with enough variety to keep all hands happy (or at least pacified.) The portions were just about right and, though nobody in our group ever asked for seconds (came close with the escargot though,) I'm sure they were available. As with all cruises, some dishes are better than others but nothing came close to being sent back, and I can't recall anything ever being left on a plate (that is a high compliment to the Chef.) The first evening's dinner was deemed "casual." For some passengers, casual seemed too formal a description. Bid goodnight to our friends and tablemates, and headed back to the cabin, stopping to admire some of the ship's artwork along the way. Met "Fin" in the passageway, and were given a pleasant good night. The bunk was neatly turned down, but apparently the towel animals were still in their cages below. The sea was a little choppy but we slept like babies. We awoke Sunday morning to a room service breakfast, gray skies, and drizzle. Oh, and 10 to 15 foot seas (wheeeeeeee!) Personally, I like the rough seas, and the motion of the ship that goes with it, but I'm certain I'm in a minority here. After breakfast we just sort of toured the ship. One major difference in the Oosterdam (probably on other HAL ships as well) is that instead of one or two main gathering areas (read "Bars") the "O" has several smaller, more intimate, ones. I like it. We played some cribbage, hooked up with our friends to graze at the buffet, and sampled a cocktail or two. A tough life to say the least. The Wife went down to the spa for a facial and gave it high marks. She was asked by the staff if she was interested in buying some products but a polite "no thanks" ended the sales pitch. I've heard about some hard sell tactics in some ship's spas but this wasn't the case here. She was so impressed with the Greenhouse Spa that she booked me for a facial the following Tuesday. Pause here for laughter. So with a little free time on my hands, I thought I'd amble down to the casino and try my luck on the machines. Long story short, I've gotten better payouts from a parking meter (and no, that didn't dissuade me from returning several more times during the week.) The casino, while not big, is laid out nicely. A few gaming tables, poker machines, slots, the usual. One evening of the cruise is dedicated "smoke free" in the casino. Good idea. On the upside, the casino bar makes a great martini. Win some, lose some. Headed back to the cabin to change into the good duds for the formal night, and noticed seasick bag stations had sprung up around the ship. Good planning on someone's part. We stopped at the Olive Pit (THE martini bar onboard) for a little pre dinner aperitif, and saw the Captain and Mr. Deering nearby. I know of Mr. Deering's reputation from the Cruise Critic Boards, so I though I'd introduce myself as (I think) the only CC member aboard. A pleasant gentleman, who took the time to chat for a few minutes, despite having what must be a punishing schedule. We bumped into him several times on the cruise and would always stop for a short talk and seemed genuinely concerned if we were having a good time (despite the big, dopey, grins on our faces that I mentioned earlier.) This was the pattern with all of the Officers we encountered on board. Never too busy for a quick chat. High marks again for the crew. We had some formal shots done that evening and they came out nice. Walked down to the dining room and, as if by magic, a Sapphire Martini, up, w/a twist of lime was waiting at my place, courtesy of Priscilla, our Wine Steward. I'm not a wine drinker so this would just have to suffice. Is this anyway to run a ship? The dinner was superb but, due to the seas, some passengers excused themselves early. One of the friends we traveled with got one or two bites down, and quit while she was ahead. Our waiter, Nyoman, picked up on this and, once he was sure that it wasn't the food, immediately produced a plate of sliced green apples, as a sure fire remedy for seasickness. On a similar note, there is a special section on the room service menu for "passengers that are feeling the sea" consisting of green apples, beef broth and crackers. A very considerate touch I thought. We finished dinner and headed up to the Crow's Nest for a nightcap and, up there, you can REALLY feel the sea. Loved it. People were tacking back and forth across the room, with the motion of the ship, and I noticed more than one passenger who was "a little green around the gills." I watched one lady (easily 75 years old) enter the room in a gown, and very high heels, and I remember thinking "oh, this won't be good," but she walked across the room, without missing a beat, and plopped herself down at the bar. Bless her, I wanted to buy her a round (She'd probably drink me under the table too.) With a full day behind us, we headed down to the cabin to find (again) a neatly turned down bed and an expertly crafted lobster towel animal. Life is good. Awoke to some calmer seas and another good room service breakfast. Weren't due in to Juneau until 11:00 so we broke out the cribbage board to kill some time (I won.) Headed down with our friends to disembark at 11:20 or so, and found the lines to get off pretty long. We thought we'd play it safe and head to the Ocean Bar until the queue thinned out. Half an hour later the queue had thinned out. One hour later and we were still in the bar. Go figure. We didn't sign up for any shore excursions on this cruise (though there were some really great ones offered) due to the fact that the weather could turn really revolting, really fast and I had no desire to be cold and wet on some expedition (I'm cold and wet a lot in my job, and I prefer warm and dry on vacation whenever possible.) So we just walked around Juneau and did some shopping and sightseeing. The shopping is best described as interesting. All the shops in the main shopping area pretty much sell a lot of the same things (Alaska T-Shirts, jackets, hats etc) but take the time to look around and you can find some unique items. Some other passengers said that there are some good jewelry bargains to be had in Juneau and Ketchikan (low state tax) so this might be an attraction for some (and a deterrent to others.) Also, at the risk of being slammed, there are some great deals on furs (as in coats, hats and stoles.) Note: I don't take sides in the whole fur issue, much safer that way. We stopped in for a late lunch at the Red Dog Saloon and you shouldn't miss this place, if for no other reason just to say you've been there. Back to the ship to change for dinner, and this evening we were going try the Pinnacle Grill. I've read some rave reviews about the Pinnacle (and some scathing ones as well) so one way or the other it should prove interesting. My parents (veteran HAL cruisers) gifted us dinner for 2 at the Pinnacle and, as I discovered when I went to make reservations, so did Holland America. I think that since we booked directly through HAL, this was given by them as a gift (who needs a TA?) Anyway, if HAL is reading this, thank you very much. We used the HAL gift to treat our friends to dinner (no hassle on this at all) and allowed them to pick up the tab for the drinks. Good deal for all. High marks all around on the Pinnacle. The place settings, service, decor and, naturally, the food, were first rate. This is definitely a haven for carnivores. Once our drink orders were taken, the waiter brought over what I like to call "The Cart-O-Meat" They offer several different cuts, and all were displayed, and explained, in great detail. If you shy away from dining on our barnyard friends, don't despair. Some very unique, and fresh, seafood items are offered. I had the plank roasted prawns, with cilantro butter, and could have eaten it three times a day and still not gotten tired of it. I kid you not, it was that good. The Wife (the Consummate Carnivore that she is) had the fillet and didn't leave a morsel (I had to beg for a bite.) Our friends had the fillet and the lamb chops and I recall very little food left on the plates. The Pinnacle bar offered wine flights (small tastings of several different wines) and the others went with this (I stuck with my usual libation - why break precedence?) I'm not a big dessert eater, but the Wife and I shared a cheese plate (excellent presentation and variety) and our friends went with the ice cream and a VERY impressive looking Crème Brule (if you eat there, try this just for the presentation.) So we rolled out of the Pinnacle and decided to take in a show. That evening there was a comedy juggler named Charlie Brown (no, really,) so we thought we'd give him a shot. Funny guy, and some good, wholesome, entertainment. Nice. A quick stroll up to the Crow's Nest for a night cap and we called it an evening. What was the towel animal du jour you may ask? An elephant! Drifted off to sleep with Hubbard Glacier looming in the distance. We entered Yakutat Bay at around 10:00, and the deck railings were crowded with spectators (here's the advantage of having a balcony.) The stewards were walking the deck, offering cups of Dutch Pea Soup (which is not to be missed!) to take off the chill. After a cup, we hit the Ocean Bar for an alternate method of taking off the chill. The four of us went down to our cabin to enjoy the view of Hubbard Glacier (which we got to about noon.) As we were going in, I caught a glimpse of the Mercury (fresh from a dry dock) just leaving. Good memories on that ship. Hung out on the balcony until the chill drove us back inside (40 degrees +/-) and back up to the Ocean Bar (getting thirsty again.) We didn't get that close to the glacier face, due to the ice pack I think, but it was still spectacular. Some of the ice chunks were a shade of blue that has to be seen to be appreciated. Left Hubbard around 1:30, and since there wasn't much going on, we grabbed a short siesta before we threw caution to the wind and played some bingo. I can't remember the last time I played bingo, but thought it might be fun. It was. The caller kept the game moving, and had a good enough sense of humor to keep it enjoyable. Went back every day for the rest of the cruise and, Just like at the casino, didn't win. Another fine dinner (martini at my place at the ready when I sat down) and we called it a night. Up early for a quick breakfast and took a little exercise. The most endearing feature on the Oosterdam has got to be the wraparound promenade deck. I mentioned earlier about how the "O" looks like a real ship, and the promenade really puts the icing on that cake. This is the first ship I've cruised on that actually has one. Sort of conjures images of well-dressed couples, walking arm in arm (martini's in hand, natch) in the moonlight. So after a few laps around, we went to hit the tender line (bypassing the Ocean Bar this time.) I try to avoid tendering like the plague, whenever possible, but Sitka looked like such a neat port we just had to get off. I tendered once on another cruise line (which shall remain nameless) and I've witnessed multi-car pileups on the interstate that were better organized. I give HAL much credit for having this tender business well organized (like everything else associated with this cruise.) Went down to the Queen's Lounge, took a numbered ticket, and waited for the number to be called (about 10 minutes.) 5 Minute tender ride and we were there. A scenic town, with some great photo material and friendly locals. Sitka offered many of the same souvenir shops but, like the other ports, if you look closely, you can find some very nice things. We bought a very unique cribbage board (which we sort of collect) and a small whalebone carving for fairly reasonable prices. I'd go back and spend a few days anytime. Grabbed some lunch in town (fresh fish galore,) made another loop of the shops to make sure we didn't miss anything, and headed back to the ship. Again the tendering went well. Our boat was only about 1/3 full, but since no one else was waiting to board, they headed back to the ship (no waiting for a full tender to make the trip.) A while later I was looking out my balcony and saw a group of 3 seals, on the surface, sharing a salmon the size of a Volkswagen. A group of 4 Bald Eagles kept diving in and trying to take it away. This by itself was worth the price of the cruise (like watching live National Geographic Channel.) We went up on deck for the 5:00 sail away (yes, drinks in hand) and could not stop admiring the scenery. I think that of all the ports we hit, this was my favorite. Once we got into the main channel, we again noticed that the "Golden Princess" was still eating our wake. We had been playing tag the entire trip (we docked together in Juneau) and they couldn't seem to keep up (guess that new pod installed in dry dock paid off.) The cruise director eventually started calling it "The Alaska Talladega 500." We ran into some cruisers from the "Golden," who live not far from us, and I remember them saying "I wish we were on your ship." I think that says it all. So we dressed out for dinner (smart casual again) and stopped by the Olive Pit for some refreshments. I should mention at this point that there were two groups on board with us. There has been much discussion regarding groups on cruises (much of it negative.) The first group was around 400 folks from Australia. Aussies are some of the most amiable, fun loving, and unpretentious people on the globe. I think we were lucky to have them aboard. The second group was (if you can believe this) the North American Pauly Shore Fan Club. We didn't have any trouble with these people and both members of the group seemed very nice (okay, this one's a joke, but there really were a fun group of Aussies on board.) Dinner was great this evening. The usual choices, plus an Indonesian Rice Plate, Nasi Goreng (that I had been waiting for.) Our waiter, Nyoman, was pleased that someone at the table ordered it, and had some knowledge about Indonesian cuisine. If I could make one recommendation on the food, it would be to incorporate more Indonesian dishes into the menu. If you've never sampled their fare, you are missing out. I wish the Pinnacle could add a few of these dishes to their repertoire. I'm sure HAL already has the talent on their staff already to do this. Back to the room to discover a Stingray (and a couple chocolate's) had taken up residence on our bunk. This was the absolute greatest towel animal I've ever seen. If I could have gotten it into my bags, without wrecking it, it would be sitting here right now. The Wife called it a night and I hit the casino to make another deposit (unlucky at cards, lucky in love, C'est la vie.) Our ship had a nice roll and, again, we slept like babies. Ketchikan (and a couple's massage) tomorrow. Had a light, room service, breakfast of toast & coffee (room service I could get used to) to ward off any of those embarrassing "growlings" during our massage. I'm not what you'd call a big "Spa" person but the Greenhouse is a pleasant place to be. I went in for a facial earlier in the cruise (Okay, I can hear you laughing at me) and thoroughly enjoyed it. What I'd like to see offered for men is an old fashioned, hot shave, with a straight razor This would beat any facial hands down and I'd bet that the men on board would be lined up out the door to get one at almost any cost. I understand that another cruise line (again, no names) offers "The Ultimate Shave" with hot lather, hot towels, and a disposable razor. Tacky, Tacky. So my Wife and I were introduced to our Masseuses and led into the couple's room. Nicely appointed with some soothing music in the background (God I sound girly!) My masseuse, a petite smiling thing, seemed a little undersized for the job, but, well, I guess she knows what she's doing. I swear this girl could have crushed rocks in her bare hands. I could picture her beating up Hulk Hogan, and taking his lunch money, without breaking a sweat. She asked if I liked a hard, soft, or medium massage. I figured medium would be fairly safe for a deep tissue massage and, though it was a little less than comfortable once or twice, it was a great, relaxing, experience that I'd do again in a second. Top marks for the spa. Met up with our friends, and walked right off the ship, without a wait, into Ketchikan. Strolled the streets, had some coffee and bought (more) souvenirs. If you're shopping for jewelry, they say this is the place to buy it. I've never seen so many jewelry stores, in such a small area, in my life! We tied up with the Golden Princess again and, again, their passengers looked longingly at the Oosterdam. We learned that the "Golden", while not that much bigger than the "O," holds 2600 passengers (and I understand it was at capacity.) Can you say sardine can? Climbed back on board for the 50K Snowball Bingo (nope, didn't win again but had fun.) Headed up to the cabin to change for the second formal night. The Wife had picked up a new gown prior to cruising and I went with the Kilt again. I like the formal evenings, but it seemed that we took the dress code a bit more seriously than many of the other passengers. This entire dress code subject has been beaten to death, many times over, so I'll just let it go at that. Had a fine meal of lobster tail and, for the finale, we were treated to the Baked Alaska Parade, mercifully, to the strains of a Sousa March and not "Hot-Hot-Hot." Thank the Almighty. We planned to eat ashore in Victoria, the next evening, so we took this opportunity to thank our table staff for all they've done for us. Like the whole dress code issue, the tipping thing is a minefield that I won't step into here. We brought along a package of small thank you cards, with a modest amount of filler, for a little extra compensation (I felt it was well earned.) The envelopes were proffered discretely, and accepted with a slight bow, a large smile and a sincere thank you. I've witnessed what could best be described as greed, on other lines, but saw no evidence of it here. We're aware of how the tips are distributed but recognized those that really gave the great service. We made the rounds of the bars onboard, our last couple days, and slipped a few dollars to the Bartenders, and Servers, we had the pleasure of dealing with. Made us feel good. A similar envelope was offered to our cabin Steward, who we would have brought home with us if possible. We were also delivered volume 1 of our shipboard bill. The purser informed us that they had to have more paper brought in to finish our printout, and that volume 2 of our bill would be delivered, via hand truck, later in the evening. Once again, our bill made the National Debt pale in comparison and, once again, it was well worth every penny. We attended the disembarkation talk in the afternoon, before we docked in Victoria, and the Cruise Director took the time to recognize all the crewmember's contributions, and even singled out Hunky-Dory as a HAL Icon (well earned.) Pulled into Victoria at about 6:00 and finally got off about 6:30. There was a line of shuttle buses at the pier, going to the downtown area (I think it was about a mile and a half walk, which I would have made if we had more time.) Round trip shuttle ticket, to downtown, ran $6.00 and the shuttles ran about every 15 minutes. Good system. Like Sitka, I would have liked to spend more time in Victoria. So we walked down to Chinatown and enjoyed an excellent Chinese meal. Back to the ship at about 9:00 and called it a night. We finished our packing, and left the bags outside our door (the cutoff for this was 1:00 A.M.) The disembarkation was well organized and we were assigned a color, and a number, which they'd call when it was your turn to be dragged off the ship, kicking and screaming. We had breakfast in the Lido, while waiting to be called, and managed to run into some of our table staff for some last minute goodbyes and thank you's. Left the ship (grudgingly,) found our bags, segregated by color, and hoped in a cab for the ride to the airport (the shuttles are a great service, but a little on the slow side.) Made it to SeaTac in plenty of time for our 11:10 flight and we were on our way. During this week on the Oosterdam, I learned why so many people are so loyal to this line. Holland America will be seeing us again (please notify the Martini Bar.) Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
My wife and I took the first cruise of the season up to Alaska at end April 2007. We live in South Africa and had to use a local agent- but the reservation was very smooth indeed. All the info we needed was on the website, so it was a ... Read More
My wife and I took the first cruise of the season up to Alaska at end April 2007. We live in South Africa and had to use a local agent- but the reservation was very smooth indeed. All the info we needed was on the website, so it was a piece of cake to brief the travel agent. On arrival embarkation in Seattle was very smooth indeed though there were serious long queues. They moved quickly however and I reckon we were on-board in 40 minutes after arrival. We'd booked a suite- so through the trip had access to the private lounge, priority embarkation and disembarkation, and to a couple of drinks/ cocktail events with the Captain. The cabin itself was great. Luxurious, spacious and well appointed. The balcony was fabulous for just relaxing on, though the temperatures- always around 2-10 degrees obviously limited our usage! Service was fabulous, and Rudi- our steward- was incredibly efficient and polite.(By the way that extended to all crew members- they were fantastic!) The one thing that struck my wife and I about the Oosterdam was that though the cruise was full, there very seldom appeared to be any crowds. There was always an available bar stool, or seat on deck, or table in the restaurant. The food? Uniformly it was excellent. We ate in the main diningroom, the a'la carte restaurant, and the less formal Lido restaurant where a variety of food stations serve up fastish food. The menu every evening- we took the 8pm sitting, was however fabulous, and especially so for the black-tie evenings. In fact by the end of the cruise I'm ashamed to admit, I'd reached the stage where I could eat no more! We stopped at Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. It really breaks the trip having a day ashore, though in reality, whilst quaint and retro, none of them are more than small quaint towns, and can be seen in a couple of hours. But that's not really what one does the cruise for is it? We also did the tour and tea in Victoria, and that was interesting and worth the money, just to have done something a bit different. This was our first cruise though we have travelled extensively worldwide. I found everything to be run like clockwork- with the smallest of details covered. Information was distributed a couple of times a day to the cabin, informing one of the days events, or details on what to do when ashore. This was backed up by an info channel on TV- so one was never neurotic as to what was going on. All in all I just wonder why it took me so long to do my first cruise! The Oosterdam- a first class understated, 5 star experience! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
Having cruised many times, this was my first trip with Holland America. As a suite traveler, embarkation and disembarkation processes were the most facilitating. The suite was well appointed and with ample space. The room was clean and ... Read More
Having cruised many times, this was my first trip with Holland America. As a suite traveler, embarkation and disembarkation processes were the most facilitating. The suite was well appointed and with ample space. The room was clean and with more than adequate close space. The shower and jacuzzi tub were both extremely clean. The Neptune Lounge was a God send. The young ladies who managed the lounge were efficient and pleasant. A place to have issued solved quickly without a long line at the pursers desk. I had a cocktail reception for 7 others in my traveling party. Abigail , one of the Neptune hostesses, made all the arrangements. Delivery of the hot and cold hors d'oeuvres was quite prompt. Every thing was nicely arranged. The Pinnacle Grill was well worth the $30. The food ,service and attention were notably distinctive. The Royal Dutch High Tea and the Indonesian Tea were quite special. However no Devonshire cream with the scones. The shops were not well appointed. Appeared rather common and with not much variety. Overstocked to some extent. I did not utilized the Lido Restaurant too often. One day they happen to run out of juice glasses and tea cups. A 10 minute wait before they were replenished. I did not participate in any organized tours. There were some days of high waves. disappointedly the ship creaked very often . The closets doors opened frequently with the rolling making a sound as if some one was knocking at the cabin door. HAd to get out of bed a few times to close the doors ,as well as make sure that no one was at the cabin door. Annoying!! The Formal Nights lacked some of the usual festive atmosphere. Some fellow travelers and their children ignored the dress code "FORMAL" and opted for the jeans and polo or tee shirt attire. HAL needs to address this faux pas. Overall, I had a pleasant cruise. The niceties of the Neptune Lounge was well worth it. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
My wife, 5year old daughter and I are just back from the March 3 sailing of the Oosterdam from SD to the Mexican Riviera. We were looking for a week of relaxation, but I was skeptical of the quality of the ship as I have been spoiled by ... Read More
My wife, 5year old daughter and I are just back from the March 3 sailing of the Oosterdam from SD to the Mexican Riviera. We were looking for a week of relaxation, but I was skeptical of the quality of the ship as I have been spoiled by sailings on the SS France, QE2 and QM2. While nothing will likely ever match the service and food of the SS France, we found the Oosterdam to be on par and in some areas even better than the QM2. Embarkation was fine. Security wouldn't allow our cab into the actual terminal so we had to schlep our bags through the initial gate. If you have a lot of luggage, insist that your vehicle pull up to the luggage carts. We breezed through check-in. Another Holland America ship was undergoing a super thorough cleaning, so their embarkation was delayed until 4:30. The ship is a class act. We are not huge ship people (that being said, the QM2, while large, never feels crowded) and so we were thrilled with the intimacy of the Oosterdam. Furnishings and dEcor are pleasing and overall elegant. The stateroom was comfortable and large enough for the three of us, with sufficient storage and closet space. The bathroom was excellent: large, with a tub(!) and lots of storage in the medicine chest and below the sink. This is the first time we have had a stateroom without a balcony, I was leery of my reaction to having no fresh air, but in truth, while the balcony would have been nice, it would not have been worth the extra $500. We were a few rooms forward of the aft elevators on the main deck, with a good view of the Pacific. By the way, the sound and vibration of the azipod (one was still unworkable on our sailing) were unnoticeable in our room. Our room steward did what was needed. We dined in the main dining room every night, entering a few minutes after the 8PM start time, seldom waiting more than a minute to be seated. We also ate here for a few lunches and breakfasts. We had an excellent table alongside a window. Service here was extraordinary! The staff was knowledgeable and helpful with everything. The food was equally impressive. Let me make clear that we are food snobs; I was expecting quality and taste on par with maybe one of the chain restaurants one finds outside the mall, a step above say a Marie Callendar's, but below that of a real restaurant. We were thrilled to discover that overall the dishes were diverse, pleasantly presented and pleasing to the palette. Highlights included a salmon and shrimp cake, lobster bisque, escargots, salmon tartare, broiled halibut in a beurre blanc, a perfectly cooked sirloin (available nightly), and several tasty vegetarian dishes. The Caesar salad is worth ordering as are other salads. Special requests were always granted (pairing a main course say, with the side dishes of a different entrEe) and the few dishes that we did not enjoy were immediately replaced by something else. The desserts were overall less appealing, with the exception of the to-die-for apple strudel (NOT the no sugar version). Everyone raves about the bread pudding; I found it to be too eggy. We went with the lovely cheese plates most nights. The vibration of the azipod was highly noticeable and annoying in the rear of the dining room, especially downstairs, although where we were nearer the middle, it was a minor issue. We ate in the Lido dining room for most our breakfasts and lunches. While not on par with the main dining room, it also impressed us. The dEcor was very attractive, with comfortable tables and chairs. The service staff were everywhere with extra linen napkins, beverages, clearing trays and plates, and the offer to carry trays to the table. While busy, the Lido had short lines and wait times for food, and special requests were granted as asked for. Compared to the QM2, we have to make the comparison to the vaunted Cunard brand (sorry, it's not really the Cunard line anymore), the buffet style dining experience and the quality of food in both areas were far superior on the Oosterdam. Holland America served us good food while the QM2 created fancier and more complex dishes that quite frankly rarely tasted good. Oh. And lastly, the ice-cream bar that everyone raves about: come on, it's just ice-cream, and not even of the highest quality. The public rooms on the ship were more than adequate. The atrium is a fine performance space. The many other small spaces and bars are wonderful for reading, staring at the sea, or listening to string quartets and other musicians. The Windstar Cafe takes care of the latte fix, or for free one can order the same in the main dining room. The library is a cozy space with sufficient books and was rarely used. I wish they stocked more magazines and newspapers. My sense is that during the daytime, Holland America prefers that people spend money in the shops, on art, playing bingo, or in the casino, as many of the public spaces are devoted to these pursuits. Many, if not most of the passengers seem to be either in these spaces or eating. We, preferring more quiet and intimate settings, found plenty of these on the promenade deck or in a few seldom used rooms. The pools, both covered (when cool) and aft (windblown) and the four Jacuzzis were fine. Afternoon tea was pleasant and the Indonesian tea is worth attending. I'll say little about the ports, as we did no Holland America excursions and if we were going to explore Mexico we would do it ourselves over the course of a week or more. If going into Puerto Vallarta, skip a $12 cab ride. Walk out of the terminal, head south, change $5 into pesos at the super market (I bought a pack of gum) and take any bus heading towards "el Centro" for 5 pesos or .50 cents each. Do the same on your return. Lastly, for our daughter, the Hal Club was the true low point. There were about 30 kids on our cruise, with only six in our daughter's age group of 3-7 years old. We were provided with a schedule of the week's activities; sometimes this schedule wasn't followed and at times the replacement activities and even the regularly scheduled ones were inappropriate. Case in point, for a group of five kids ages 4 and 5, they gave them an hour in the video arcade, where all the games but one involved shooting at things. Another time they were given an hour on PS2 consoles. Two movies shown (one in place of a scheduled craft activity and games) were Hook and Nanny Mcphee; not my first choices for kids of that age (what's wrong with a G-Rated film?), but more importantly why show the kids a film during the day at all? The woman staffing the Hal Club were gentle and kind and some of the activities were engaging, the pirate night was great fun, but overall the experience felt like average baby sitting rather than worthwhile activities. And now the few other items needing improvement: There was mold on our shower curtain lining, scuff marks and pen on parts of our walls, and a noticeable and periodic smell of rotten eggs (sewage?) in a few of the hallways. The beer and wines by the glass selections were poor. The lamb, in all lamb dishes, was a bit gamy, and I love lamb. The music in the pool areas was awful, noisy covers (I guess Holland America doesn't want to pay the royalties for real music); always on and always loud. Low quality lotions and soaps in the staterooms. I wish passengers dressed better at dinner. Even during the two formal nights there were a noticeable number of men not even in suits and the other five nights were casual. I like seeing everyone dressed up and dolled up at dinner time on a ship; it's so 1920's! Again, the service, from top to bottom was consistently top notch. Our daughter was fawned upon by the crew. Unprompted, they made her an origami frog, brought her a Caesar salad every night after she discovered she liked it, and always served her a glass of milk with dessert. Wherever we went on the ship staff would ask her her name and then everyday after would say hello to her by name! We like to start dinner with a beer, so a chilled beer and beer steins were always waiting for us; my wife mentioned really liking a type of cracker served with the cheese plate, and for the next five nights the same crackers were on our table before we were seated. Disembarkation was a breeze. Overall, the voyage was well worth the investment in money and time, both of which are actually limited in one's lifetime. We came back totally rested and well fed, with happily only a few pounds gained, thanks to daily three mile runs around the promenade deck. Compared to the QM2? On the one hand, the much higher cost is hard to justify. On the other hand, a transatlantic crossing has its own magic—a sense of timelessness. The QM2 is more elegant and there was something special about the elegant and classy nature of the passengers, with three formal nights of mainly tuxedos and gowns and only one casual night. If money were not really an issue, we would try the QM2 again; otherwise, we would be happy with the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
My family and I sailed on the March 3rd sailing from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. For my wife and I this was our 8th cruise on Holland America. For our two sons this was their 6th cruise on Holland America. Given the time of year, ... Read More
My family and I sailed on the March 3rd sailing from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. For my wife and I this was our 8th cruise on Holland America. For our two sons this was their 6th cruise on Holland America. Given the time of year, we decided to fly out to San Diego a day earlier, just in case old man winter tried to ruin our vacation plans. We also purchased comprehensive travel insurance for the first time for the same reason. We left Newark Liberty Airport on time, which was a surprise, since the Northeast got hit with a tough storm that day. We even arrived in San Diego an hour earlier. Because there was four of us with luggage instead of just grabbing taxis, we took one of the convenient shuttles to our hotel. We decided to stay at the Marriott GasLamp district. The hotel is very nice and is right next to Petco park. Our room on the 18th floor overlooked the stadium. If the Padres were playing, you could see the entire game from our room without having to buy a ticket. Because of the late time of arrival at the hotel; we checked in and decided to eat in the restaurant adjoining the hotel. We made arrangements with the concierge to have a van take us to the ship. Normally, we like to bring a few fine bottles of wine to open at dinner on selected nights. Because of the new TSA regulations on liquids we decided against chancing it(packing them in our suitcase and hoping everything would not be purple when we unpacked). We found a great liquor store close to the hotel, the Wine Bank, and we purchased some great wine and spirits. Please note that HAL has gotten very strict on bringing beverages aboard. The wine and champagne are fine but any hard liquor is a no-no. So the great bottle on single malt scotch was impounded until the last day of the cruise. We arrived at the Pier at approximately 1:15PM, embarkation was a breeze with the dedicated line for Penthouse and Deluxe Suites, this is one of the Holland American perks for a SA suite. We were aboard and in the Neptune lounge within 15 minutes. At first, we were surprised by how many of the cruise wanted to give you a fast splash of Purell, but given what has happened with Norvo it makes a lot of sense. Our Deluxe Suite 7052 was similar to the other suites we have had on the other vista class ships. Plenty of room and nice amenities. My one issue on the design of the suite is about the bathroom. While there is a full size jacuzzi tub with shower and a separate shower, the size of the alone shower is too small for a person over 6ft., it is a waste of valuable space. Everything is the suite was top notched from the bed linens to the SPA supplies. Our cabin steward, Rudi was terrific; all week his service was great. Any thing we needed, Rudi saw that we had it in short order. The cruise staff is one of the main reasons I continue to sail with Holland America. We pulled out of San Diego after 5:30pm, there was some late luggage and passengers because of the bad weather back east. As we set sail from the bay, a full moon came over the San Diego skyline for some unbelievable pictures. We ate in the Vista dining room for five nights. Our dining stewards, Rufki and Ali were terrific. Besides the great service, they remember each of our favorites and saw that if they were on the menu we would have them. The other two nights we ate in the Pinnacle Grill. The first time in the Pinnacle we enjoyed a very good dinner, while I know people debate whether it is worth the surcharge, I believe it is. The second time we ate in the Pinnacle was the Winemakers special dinner. The Winemaker was Holly Turner of Three Rivers in Washington state. There were 16 of us at the dinner and probably the same number of wait staff. Being into wines, this was a great experience talking to her about her wines and the industry in general. It was one of the highlights of our cruise. Highly recommend it to anyone, if it available on your next cruise. Also, the food seemed to be even better that the first night we at in the Pinnacle. Our first stop was Cabo, we wanted to just relax so we did not prebook any excursions. We dropped anchor next to the famous rock formations that tell you it's Cabo. Ashore we decided to just stroll and figure out what we wanted to do. After walking around for a while we headed over to Cabo Wabo to have some refreshments. In the Catina, there was a live band so we decided to spend some time listening, relaxing and having beverages. Cabo seems to be a port that is trying to change itself to become more attractive to cruise ship travelers. Our next stop was Mazatlan, we went on the Pacifico brewery tour and town. It was a lot of fun traveling around on the open air bus seeing the sights and having cerveza. We found some of the best prices for silver jewelry here. Last stop was PV, we took the Tequila and town tour. It was very interesting seeing a small town outside of PV and how they live. We toured Dona Engracia Hacienda and Tequila Factory. The tequila was excellent and better than Patron or other high end tequilas we have had back in the States. The two days at sea were very relaxing except the last day on board the weather got cloudy and a bit cool to work on that winter tan to make everyone back east jealous. In summary, I would take this trip again and am planning my next cruise on Holland America. Read Less
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.5 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.5 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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