1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2006
BOOKING BLUES: We booked our Once in a lifetime cruise on HAL via an internet website. Everything was pretty neat and fast. I booked our Alaskan cruise on one of those DAM ships that started with a Z and we were quite excited to travel ... Read More
BOOKING BLUES: We booked our Once in a lifetime cruise on HAL via an internet website. Everything was pretty neat and fast. I booked our Alaskan cruise on one of those DAM ships that started with a Z and we were quite excited to travel on a pretty new HAL ship (2 years old). Our plans were made and the dates were confirmed in the early part of the year, about six months out. Then one day out of the blue I got the bad news from our travel agent, HAL booked a large group on the DAM Z ship, cancelled our reservations and we are now on the DAM O ship! I was so mad at the agent and HAL, we had travel plans, airline tickets already cut, time off of work and they cancel even though we had paid our deposit. The new cruise started one day later and had a slightly different itinerary. Well both the agent and HAL said to read the fine print. Well low and behold, the fine print states that they can do whatever they choose and we have no recourse. If this happens to you, dont bother calling HAL, they play pretty dumb and tell you they cant do much without talking to your travel agent. Of course they gave us and extra $100 on board credit which paid for our sodas, but other than that there was not much budging from HAL or the travel agent with compensation for a cancelled cruise. ROOM ASSIGNMENTS AND RESERVATIONS: So after a day or two of yelling and screaming, we still wanted to go on our cruise and ended up with the Oosterdam (3 years old ship). There were eight of us on the cruise all one family, grandma and grandpa, my bride and I of 25 years and our three adult children 18, 21 and 24 and our son-in-law. We booked four rooms. We paid for a VA and ended up with an aft room on the navigation level (8th floor). The other rooms were booked as inside cabin rooms. We chose to go with a guarantee room option and were not assigned rooms at the time of booking. Our travel agent told us we had a better chance of getting upgraded if we went with the guarantee room option. Being a little curious, we went ahead and played the waiting game with our room assignments. About a month out we received our room assignment on the 8th floor. Two weeks later the Grandparents received their room assignment an inside room on the 7th floor. A few days before the trip we found that our kids were assigned rooms on the 1st floor but they got upgraded to oceanview with a large porthole in their room. When we got to the pier, we found out that one of the rooms on the 1st floor was upgraded to a VA room on the 6th floor so we were quite pleased with the outcome. The biggest problem with the guarantee room option is that our four rooms were all over the ship. It really wasnt a problem and we got our needed private time because our room was so far away from everyone else. We were set to go, we booked our shore excursions online before the 10 day deadline and also filled out our immigration forms online. By the way, we found our room assignments on the HAL website while filing out our immigration forms. PRE-CRUISE TOUR: We made reservations to fly into Seattle a day early to visit some of the sites in the city but we ended up with an extra day because of the cancellation of our initial cruise. We stayed at the Loyal Best Western a few blocks from the Space Needle. It is not close to a four or five star hotel but was more than adequate for our needs. I think the room was about $89 a night which I found online. Free internet access, free parking and free breakfast and a very friendly front desk. Most hotels in the city run over $150- $250 a night. We rented a car from Alamo Rent-a-car from the airport. We really enjoyed our pre-cruise trip and enjoyed the Space Needle about $14.00 each to go to the top and toured many of the interactive attractions around the park. I was surprised how many hills were in the city and how large the Puget Sound is. EMBARKATION: The HAL pier was located on pier 30 which is on the far south side of the city close to the SAFECO baseball Field. They share a very large building with Princess Cruises, HAL on the south side of the building. Our hotel offered us a shuttle to the pier but it was on a first come first served basis so we decided to drop off the gang then return the car. We went to the Pier at 9:30 a.m. When we got there, there were lots of people all over the place. Mostly travelers heading out of the pier. However, there was a line up of early birds waiting to get their bags checked into the ship. I returned our Alamo car to the Seattle Hilton on 6th Ave and caught a cab back to the pier. There was no drop off charge to pick up an Alamo car at the airport and drop off in Seattle, however, be ready for a long line at the counter. The taxi bill was about $10.00 plus a tip. By 10:30 a.m. I was back and ready to join the rest of our group who were meeting us at pier 30. The embarkation process was a breeze. Our group had to wait for me before checking in the bags because I had all of the passports in my backpack. As soon as I got off the taxi, we walked all of our bags to the guy in the red coat, a fellow Hawaiian, and in a jiffy, we were in line to check in. Because we did our immigration forms online, we went to a counter with no line. We presented our health questionnaire (checking if you have a cough or are currently sick) got our pictures taken for their security system and we ready to go. We were issued cards that doubled as our ID as well as our key to our stateroom. While we were in line at about 11:15 a.m. the doors opened and everyone started to board the ship. We travel a lot and one thing I dont enjoy is stress, however, at this point I really did not experience any pre-trip stress as the process was simple, lots of friendly help in the building and everything went very smooth and fast. When we entered into the gate, there was a table with guys selling drinks and sodas for our on board use. We chose to purchase 4 cards of soda which was about 20 soda drinks per card for our seven days. That was a little too many sodas but it worked out much cheaper than buying sodas at the regular price. Once on board we were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. It was quite enjoyable and everyone was starting to get acquainted with the Lido deck and the buffet line. Time flew by and then it was time to pull off the dock. We went to the 10th level to watch the city of Seattle go by. Shortly after we took off we were invited to go to our rooms. We were quite happy to see that all of our bags made it into our room. There were tons of bags still in the halls so we were lucky to get our bags so early. It is amazing that the Oosterdam staff can take 2000 people off the ship and 2000 more back on the ship with just a few hours separating the two cruises, an amazing feat. THE OOSTERDAM: We were happy to meet our room steward, Inda, a very nice fellow from Indonesia. He was terrific and was very pleasant. The rest of our group eventually got their bags and we enjoyed the journey out of the Puget Sound. I know I get seasick when I go deep sea fishing or on roller coasters so I went to our doctor a few weeks before the cruise and requested the patch. I was told to put a patch behind my ear the night before the cruise. It worked very well and I never felt sick during the entire trip. Some in our group felt a little woozy but not much to keep any one out of commission of having fun. I was surprised how many other travelers had the patch on during the cruise. The Oosterdam was a great ship to be on. It is approximately 3 football fields long. Three times around the deck equals one mile to give you an idea how big the ship really is. We thought the ship was in very good condition, pretty clean, the beds were comfortable, pillows better than home and the giant fluffy white towels were great! We enjoyed messing up the bed at night, going to breakfast, coming back and having our beds are made, messing up our bed again, going to lunch, coming back before dinner and our beds are made again, then going out for entertainment and dinner and coming home to find our beds are turned down and all new fresh towels in the bathroom. Before leaving on our trip I read many reviews and the most helpful were found on cruisecritic.com. Some of the most helpful suggestions was purchasing the soda cards before going on board, taking a electrical power strip (cell phone charger, computer charger, video camera charger etc.), early boarding and having lunch in the Lido before the cruise. THE AFT ROOMS: I was concerned to be in the aft room but found it to be a very nice place to be. The lido buffet was one floor up and the Vista dining room was below us on the 2nd floor. Because we were on the 8th floor, our veranda was covered. It was a long walk to the Vista Lounge (showroom) but after eating dinner the walk was great! The aft room verandas are very large and spacious. he lower aft verandas are nice and has no covering. One problem is that everyone on the higher verandas can see you when you are out of your room. We didnt use our veranda very much because it was kind of cold most of the trip. Our room was basically a bed, small couch, TV and table. We had to take turns walking around the bed because it is very small walkway between the bed and the wall. At least the large mirrors made you think it was a little larger. Our bathroom was kind of tight but manageable but what do you expect on a cruise ship? It took awhile to get used to where we were on the ship and how to navigate around the 3 different banks of elevators. There was lots to see on several of the different levels of the ship. It took me two days to finally find the store and internet room. I wasnt really looking for it but I never went on the 3rd floor until I decided to look for the store. ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT: For entertainment we had a wide range of travelers, two in their mid 70's, two in their late 40's and four young adults. We took full advantage of all of the many onboard activities on the Oosterdam. The Cruise director and staff did an excellent job keeping us going with activities throughout the trip. Our two youngest played basketball on top of the ship, We participated in the Oosterdam Idol competition which was a total blast. Enjoyed the nighttime dancing and line dancing activities and singing in the piano lounge with the other guests. We also participated in some of the competitions like golf chipping, ping pong and scavenger hunt. We enjoyed the evening shows which were very exciting and professional. There were two comedians on our trip for the Vista show room. Both were totally 1st rate performers. The comedian/ventriloquist was one of the best ventriloquist I have ever seen. I really enjoyed the Oosterdam show. The dancing was great and the choreography was pretty moving as the dancers never stopped moving throughout the show. For on board entertainment we were quite pleased with the offerings on the Oosterdam. We played bingo a few times but the payouts were pretty low except for the final bingo day. The casino was fun but like normal, just fun depositing, but I must say, the staff in the casino was quite friendly. I think that our entire trip was just fun and exciting because we took full advantage of the entertainment and onboard activities. We never really had any bad experiences on board. There are bad seats in the Vista Show room with columns that block your view, but we found if we went early we could always find excellent seating. Every night we receive a notice for the next days activities. This became our entertainment guide book. At dinner the night before or at breakfast we would choose what activities we would participate in together. THE FOOD: The food at the Lido was great. Our #1 daughter thought the food was kind of bland, but the rest of us was doing what they told us at the orientation, IF YOU SEE IT, EAT IT! And eat we did, the selection of food was very good and adequate for breakfast and lunch. My wife especially enjoyed the freshly made waffles for breakfast. Finding a table for eight was a little challenging but after the first day we just sat at different tables which was just fine for all of us. The Vista Dining room was top notch. Our server was Beni, he was also from Indonesia. He had such as great personality and knew we enjoyed eating. I often had double entrees, a steak plus fish or lobster tail. You can order anything you want on the menu. On the lobster night I had two lobster tails plus a steak. It is better to order the extra items at the initial order to save time. The only draw back in the dining room was the length of time it took to finish our meal, average time was two hours. We had one dinner at the Pinnacle. We really enjoyed the steaks and seafood at the Pinnacle the service and baked Alaska was great. It was fun having all of the family dressed in formal attire in the Pinnacle. Best of all it was free, one of the perks from our travel agent (normally $20.00 each which would have been worth the money). Some of our relatives told us they didnt like HAL because of the formal nights. But we enjoyed dressing up for the two nights. TIPPING POLICY: HALs no tipping policy was okay for us. However, with eight people in our group, six of which I was paying for, the tips really added up. I think it is quite fair as long as the main people that helped us received the most of the money. According to our cruise director 100% of the money goes to the staff, 70% to the room attendants and dinner staff and 30% went to the behind the scene people. We still tipped our room attendant for his great service which was not required. PORTS OF CALLS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: Another element that made the trip so successful was great weather and once in a life time experiences at our ports of call and shore excursions. It was stress free to book our shore excursions online before the cruise. We never had to make decisions and we had guaranteed seats on our tours. We didnt do any real expensive tours because of the size of our group and shrinking pocket book. So we didnt walk on any glaciers or take a sea plane tour. JUNEAU: Our first port of call was in Juneau. We took the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour. This was absolutely one of the high lights of the trip. Being from Hawaii, we see Humpback whales quite often, but what we experienced was a thrill for everyone on board. The humpback whales were bubble feeding and we got to witness not one but three different pods of humpback whales bubble feeding on our 2 hour tour. The bubble feeding was much more exciting than one whale breaching. Some of the pods had as many as 8 to 10 humpback whales all springing up out of the water at once to catch their lunch. Along with the humpback whales, seals, sea lions and Alaska scenery, it was totally worth the cost of the tour. Mendenhall glacier was a must see in Juneau. They have a very nice new visitors center which was very comfortable but very busy. There were four cruise ships in dock in Juneau at the same time. HUBBARD GLACIER: Our next visit was at the Hubbard Glacier. We came into the Yakutat bay then into Disenchantment Bay and drifted slowing though the ice and got very close to the glacier. The glacier is so large that your reference to distance is off so I really dont know how close we were to the glacier. It was very cold on deck especially when the wind picked up. With the large Hubbard Glacier in front of us, it was like being in a ice box with wind blowing. We saw the glacier caving many times as the ship made a few turns in the bay. The staff brought out pea soup but because we were on the 7th floor level viewing the glacier we only watched as those on the bow got to have the soup. For lunch I was able to have some pea soup which was interestingly green but of course very delicious. The pea soup people couldnt find us on the 7th floor deck but the ships photographer found us, go figure. SIKTA: We were excited for our next port of call in Sitka because we arranged for four of us to go salmon fishing. We chartered our own boat though www.sitkacharters.com. The owner Angela was very professional and it was easy to get our booking, fishing license and payments to her. Coming in and going out of Sitka is a very beautiful and peaceful experience. The little islands and volcano are just so scenic. Once off the tender in Sitka, a representative to met us at the dock and took us to our boat. Captain Mike was a terrific Fishing expert and knew where the fish were biting. We were out to find Sliver - Coho salmon and King salmon which were still running. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and hardly any wave action to speak of. Within an hour we were getting strikes and the excitement and trill catching large salmon was becoming a reality. We were fishing at depths at about 100 feet. We ended our four hour fishing trip with five Coho salmon and two kings which all total weighed 71 pounds. We had the fish processed and shipped home to Hawaii. It was pretty costly but if you want to create memories with your family, this was one worth every penny. The pictures we took is our evidence to our family at home that this was no fish story. The other members of our family went to the Russian dancers and Raptor Center. They got to see totem poles and were quite satisfied with their tour of Sitka. KETCHIKAN: Ketchikan was a short stop for the cruise so we decided to take a Duck tour. It is a large amphibious vehicle that can go on land and water. Well when we reached Ketchikan in the morning it was raining pretty hard. We got on our Duck tour but could not see much because it was raining. The best part was going form the parking lot into the water. It was kind of a boring tour until the Eagle showed up towards the end of the tour. Then everyone in the vehicle started to perk up again. Shopping in Ketchikan was lots of fun and we got most of our souvenirs from here. There are lots of jewelry shops in town. By the time the ship was leaving, the rain and clouds lifted and we had a beautiful view of the port, sea planes and city as we left. VICTORIA: Our final port of call was in Victoria, Canada. This was the only port of call where we didnt purchase a shore excursion. When we got to Victoria we all headed out to the waiting taxis and tour vans. We were told that there was a shuttle bus for $5.00 RT to the middle of town at the Empress Hotel. No one really wanted to see the gardens so we went to town and found a fun water front in Victoria. They have many Bear statues all over the city which were kind of interesting. Apparently they will auction off the bears later in the year and a charity will benefit from the sale of the bears. The water front was fun as was the shopping in the town area. The street performers were professional and fun. There was a wide range of entertainment on the streets, we were there on a Friday night so along with thousands of tourist, the locals were out and showing off their supped up cars along the streets. It was just quite a fun afternoon with a beautiful sunset. DISEMBARKATION: On our last night we were told to put our bags outside our doors before 1:00 a.m., we had to make sure we kept enough clothes, shoes and toiletries for the next morning as the bags were gone by the time you woke up the next morning. Our youngest, packed her IDs and HAL card in her bags and didnt discover that until she woke up the next morning. They still let her off the ship. We were to disembark at about 9:30 a.m., we were sad to end such a wonderful trip. Finding all of our bags was a trick but we eventually found our bags and were off back to the real world again. I took a taxi back to the Hilton and picked up a Alamo SUV for our post tour of Seattle. We visited relatives in the area and caught a baseball game at the Safeco field. It took a day or two to stop rocking while we were standing. It was a great experience. We are ready for our next HAL cruise! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
This was our first time cruise. I had expectations yes, but the Oosterdam blew them away. it was so amazing. The luggage program blew me away too. You just leave your luggage and the counter and by 6pm all of your luggage is in your room. ... Read More
This was our first time cruise. I had expectations yes, but the Oosterdam blew them away. it was so amazing. The luggage program blew me away too. You just leave your luggage and the counter and by 6pm all of your luggage is in your room. and when you get off they color code your luggage and number them so they are in sections by numbers when you want to collect your luggage after the cruise. The crew did everything they could to help make the cruise as smooth flowing as possible especially our dining steward (Sugi) and our room steward (Aep). I mentioned their names because they should be recognized for their amazing work that they did. I was astounded. The food was amazing! It's different and has a great variety. I left the dining room satisfied every night. The entertainment was great too. The off-shore excursions were a major bonus too. I haven't had that much fun since our trip to Hawaii a couple years previous. The trips were organized and planned to make the transition very smooth, and it was. when you got off the boat the bus was waiting there for you to take you to your destination and everyone was helpful and polite. To all of the people reading these reviews hoping to get some information on cruise ships to take I HIGHLY recommend the Oosterdam. You will never encounter a better vacation on seas. All of the reviews about the food being bad or crew not doing what they're supposed to is just people being way too fussy and arrogant. They don't understand that the crew work on the boat 12 months a year straight and most of their wage is from tips and they sleep in small cots, yet they get up and go to work every day with a smile. The Oosterdam is honestly the greatest cruise ship ever and you're making a mistake to go somewhere else. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
This was my 10th cruise, my 3rd on HAL, and my 2nd time on the Oosterdam. I was still impressed as I was the first time (when we went to Mexico) but I had higher expectations then last time on the things that I didn't like. The ship ... Read More
This was my 10th cruise, my 3rd on HAL, and my 2nd time on the Oosterdam. I was still impressed as I was the first time (when we went to Mexico) but I had higher expectations then last time on the things that I didn't like. The ship itself is gorgeous inside, and out. They have many comfortable places to sit and relax and the ship is rather quiet. I (being 13) enjoyed the music of today that they played publicly because it wasn't too loud and you could get away from it very easily. EMBARKATION: We arrived in the port of Seattle and were happy that there were no lines. I was traveling with my dad (50), great aunt (84) and grandmother (81). One tip for future HAL traveling, fill out your immigration form online or before you get to the port because you DO have to fill it out before you go up to the desk. (Something we did not do). We got there at about 11:15 and they were actually not allowing people to get on yet. There weren't a lot of people there anyway (maybe 70?) and they said the wait wouldn't be much longer. SHIP INFO: The ship--even with being 900 ft. long and with 1800 people--seems rather small when you are on it. The Promenade and Upper Promenade deck can get very confusing but you can find your way easily. The elevators were very slow on our ship and I usually ended up running up 8 flights of stairs instead. The ship has 2 pools, one is really an "adult only" pool but I still saw kids in it. The pool with the closing roof really helped especially in Alaska where it was raining everywhere except for Ketchikan. DINING: The Vista Dining room is a very lovely atmosphere and the lower ceilings made it seem like a smaller room. We were in the very back on the first floor, and we had a window looking out at the stern of the ship. Gorgeous place to eat meals. The Lido Restaurant has anything and everything and the crew working there is very friendly. The morning breakfast rush could get congested but once you found your table and started eating, it died down. I have eaten in the Pinnacle Grill once before, not on this ship (though my family did) and they enjoyed it extremely. It's a very nice restaurant with good, fast service and great food. ACTIVITIES: I will confess, I'm a Bingo dork. I've won 5 times on 4 different cruises so I've had my share of luck. But I always love to play. The Bingo with Everett (senior assistant cruise director) and Stephanie (cruise activities staff) was VERY enjoyable and fun. (Sadly, I didn't win anything). The daily program did really have choices for anyone and I was never bored without something to do. The cruise activities staff were all very nice and lovely to talk too. SERVICE: I've been on a lot of high-end cruise ships where the service was a little more then outstanding. Like where the waiter will carry your tray every single step of the way during the buffet...I love that but sometimes you just want to do it yourself. The men who worked in the Lido would help you if you needed it and that is just enough for me. The room steward that we had was exceptional and did his work very fast. Our dining room waiter was very nice at recommending and making exceptions. All of the Filipino/Indonesian crew were always smiling and they would always want to please you. Service was very good. SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did not take any shore excursions on this cruise but I will tell you about the ports of call. First was Juneau...rainy Juneau...I'd been there before and it didn't blow me away. It had some very nice shops and of course we went to the Red Dog Saloon. It was still a very nice town. After Juneau, we cruised by Hubbard Glacier. That was absolutely gorgeous...we got 3/4 of a mile away from it (which sounds like a lot but it really isn't) and saw eagles, otters, and bears all from the ship. They opened all of the forward decks of the cabins (which are usually closed) so you could see it from about everywhere. Next was Sitka. I had never been their before but it was really boring. There were 3 other cruise ships that day but it still wasn't very crowded. Very cold, very wet, and nothing exciting. After Sitka was Ketchikan. I was there 3 years ago on 4th of July during a parade which stole a little of the atmosphere of the town. It was probably the best port that we went to in Alaska, only because it was a clean town, good shops, and nice people. We left Ketchikan early and so we had a long day at sea for the rest of that day and the next night ( 6 PM) we arrived in Victoria, B.C. We didn't have time, energy, or mood to do really anything so we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in an alley, about a 7 minute cab ride from the Empress hotel. (The ship provided shuttles to the hotel so that you were more in town). STATEROOM: My mom was our travel agent and guaranteed us a verandah room. Little did we know until we had arrived at the embarkation counter, that she had upgraded us to a suite! It was very exciting and the extra room really helped. (I shared a room with my dad). The balcony was large and the bathroom space was a lot better. We had a separate shower and bath, something you wouldn't get in a verandah cabin. There wasn't a lot of closet space however, but that didn't matter too much. CHILDREN'S CLUB: Kids/Tweens: I knew there were many kids onboard but I didn't see too many of them running around like mad. The kids counselors did a GREAT job keeping them entertained and having fun. Teens: The last time I was on the Oosterdam (in April, to Mexico) I went with my best friend. We went to the information meeting the first night but she wanted to leave, so I went with her. I never went back so I was hoping at this cruise that I would make some friends and go to it a lot. I was wrong. The group of kids weren't extremely welcoming and the counselor wasn't good at getting the group to do something. ENTERTAINMENT: I'm a theatre buff so I always enjoy the Broadway shows. They were the same ones I had seen in April but i still LOVED them. "Rockin' Road" is a different type of show but "Escape" is by far my favorite show. I love the music in it. It's like a tropical show in Margaritaville. Very, very good. The stage is very cool as it has many different elavations and the lighting was great...as were the costumes. The first night they had a comedian and he was very funny but the second night, were these 2 guys who were jugglers/comedians. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. They had amazing talent and were very funny. The next night was a Neil Diamond fan who did his tribute and I heard nothing about it. (I didn't go but I stood outside listening...I wasn't that impressed.) They also had a ventriloquist who was apparently exceptional but I didn't go to that either. Oosterdam Superstar (Karaoke competition) was one of my favorite things from the last cruise. They made it very, very funny and enjoyable. The Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed Game was a big hit as it was last time. They picked 3 couples and asked them questions (just like the TV show) and the outcome was hilarious. The whole entertainment crew were amazing. The cast was delightful to talk to as you would run into them in the elevators or public rooms. The cruise activities staff was still exceptional and the cruise director, Jimmy Lynett was sensational. He did so much and made the cruise so much more fun just with his personality. DISEMBARKATION: This process went very smoothly and started at about 8:00 AM I believe. A nice thing was them allowing us to stay in our rooms until we had to leave. We got off at about 10:30 as they wanted everyone off by 11:00. OVERALL: My second time on this ship was still an amazing experience. I defiantly would like to go back on this ship again as it met my expectations on just about everything. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
My wife and I took two of our grandsons on the July 8, 2006 Holland America Oosterdam Alaska cruise. My wife has wanted to visit Alaska all her life, and we give each grandchild a special trip on their eighth birthday so we combined the ... Read More
My wife and I took two of our grandsons on the July 8, 2006 Holland America Oosterdam Alaska cruise. My wife has wanted to visit Alaska all her life, and we give each grandchild a special trip on their eighth birthday so we combined the events into our first cruise. One grandson was ten, the other turned eight during our cruise. Boarding: Boarding in Seattle was the first of many good impressions. Holland America has this down to a well-oiled procedure and this left a good taste in our mouths. Theres lots to do on boarding but we felt things went well. We were welcomed on the ship with: Welcome to the experience of a lifetime! While thats an overstatement, it was part of the ship boarding process that got our cruise off to a good start. First Impressions: The shipped seemed massive, Im sure they all do. Everything was clean and well lit, there was art everywhere. This is a level of vacation experience weve never experienced and it set the tone for a great week. There were two pools, one amidships on the ninth floor, one of the aft deck outside. Both were a pool-within-a-pool, designed to handle the inevitable sloshing that characterizes a pool at sea. That is why you wont find pool tables on cruise ships  no way to keep them level while underway. The boys loved the pools and went swimming every day. That was important for them. I was struck by the emphasis on hygiene. There were dispensers of cleaning lotion everywhere, and when you went to the Vista restaurant, there was a steward who gave you a spritz on your hands. It was both comforting and a reminder that many folks get sick on cruises. But we were fine and there was no outbreak on this cruise. Our Stateroom: Our room seemed small by comparison to hotel rooms but I understand the need to pack us in. Increase the room size by 20% and increase the fare a corresponding amount and we probably couldnt have taken this trip. The room was sparkling clean, well maintained by our cheery young steward from Indonesia. Every hotel room Ive stayed in had maid service; all the staterooms had steward service (I believe) and they all were from Indonesia or the Philippines. Every day our steward did a new towel sculpture. With only the addition of two half-moon black eyes, he carved a new animal with a towel. Very imaginative, very cute. They train them to do this and he did it well. The room seem almost brand new, with two comfortable single beds made together. They had a bunk that pulled out of the ceiling for one grandson, and our steward made the sofa into a bunk for the second so we were all right. It was cozy, but clean. The TV was good to provide some diversion for the boys and me, and Ellen and I appreciated being able to view where we had gone and where we were going. Our Cabin Steward was from Indonesia and was exceptionally nice; Mr. Joe is what he called me. I felt totally comfortable with him as our room steward. He kept things clean and did the daily towel sculptures. We learned that Holland America steward schools in Indonesia and the Philippines. Many of the cabin and food stewards are men with families. They sign a contract for a year and work on a cruise ship to make money for their families. Dui has a wife and daughter, one of our food stewards has two small children. Im glad for this opportunity for them, but its hard to be away from their families. Meals: The meals were fabulous. Most of the dishes were top notch and we enjoyed  make that over enjoyed each meal. Each meal came in courses, including breakfast. I should explain the eating options. You can eat all three meals in the Vista restaurant; dinner was at an assigned table, breakfast and lunch were wherever they sat you. There were two levels in the Vista restaurant, and in the curving stairway separating them three men played pleasant dinner music on stringed instruments and a piano. We had 11-piece silverware settings (including a dessert setting), white cloth tablecloths, white cloth napkins, doilies aplenty etc. Everything was splendid, a level of luxury we never experience. It was slow  one and one half to two hours per meal, but you get used to it. The Lido restaurant never closed, although there was more food available at mealtimes than other times. Service was faster than the Vista restaurant, with a nice variety of food. We are several meals there. Lastly are the specialty restaurants, which you paid extra for, so we never went. But we heard that they were beyond fabulous. The Vista restaurant was wonderful for us and we do not regret skipping the other restaurants. You also could eat at different parts of the ship. One day we had Indonesian and Mexican food served poolside. Although we over ate while on the cruise, the food was good enough that we were able to get a good mix of fruits and vegetables, so we felt good. Yes, this was one of the best parts of the cruise. Entertainment: Every night there was something in the three-story Vista lounge. There were several Broadway-style performances. The highlight for us was a magic show from Las Vegas. Drew and Angela are a husband-and-wife team, hes the magician, shes the assistant and they make a very fine couple. The show plays on the husband-and-wife theme nicely without overdoing it. Drews magic is professional and convincing. Yes, weve seen most of it before and it continues to dazzle. The boys absolutely loved it, as did I. The singing and dance shows were good, something we rarely go to so I dont know how they sized up against other performances. There was lots to see and do aboard ship and if we had not had our grandchildren, we could have seen and done more. Stops: The Juneau stop was wonderful, as the weather was warm and clear. We have a friend in Juneau who drove us around so we were not left to our own devices. The Mendenhall glacier was nice. The Hubbard Glacier stop was fabulous, at it was a perfect day and the captain took us to ¾ of a mile from the glacier. Calving was infrequent but if you watched long enough, you could see it take place. Sitka was okay, maybe better than okay. But we had to be tendered to shore and that five-minute ride was rocky, I didnt enjoy it. The family loved the Raptor Center where injured bald eagles are rehabilitated. Ketchikan was basically a shopping stop. Victoria was okay but too short. En Route: My wife had widely selected an inner cabin on the lowest passenger level, deck 1. I recall the first night at sea as we both made a bathroom break in the middle of the night. Were rocking and rolling now, was her comment. (We were glad we brought a night light, one of the few items you need to bring.) But due to our location, we experienced no hard rocking and, fortunately, no illness. We heard of one man who wound up on the floor one night and I spoke to several folks with shipmates who were ill but we were fine. It was nice to have a TV image from the front and back of the ship always available in our room. Disembarking: As with boarding, this was a smooth process. Unlike other cruise ships, this one allowed us to remain in our rooms until our color was called, then we exited without rubbing shoulders with hundreds of people. Customs was quick too. We heard from other passengers that other ships require you to meet in some large central area before departing but we waited in our room until our color was called. Worked so well that we had to call our pickup to come and get us earlier. General Thoughts: Dont expect perfection on a cruise and you wont be disappointed. In a crew of 800 people, theres bound to be some who dont quite measure up. Weather varies, as do the seas. Its vital to remember that sea travel is subject to lots more variables than air travel and nothing is guaranteed. Dont schedule your airplane departure after the cruise in such a way that a delay in docking makes you miss your flight. I dont want to overstate these things but people who expect clockwork schedules and smooth sailing and not being realistic about what cruising can be like. Our cruise experience was great with no problems and many are. But dont count on it with every cruise. Overall: We paid full price for the four of us for this cruise, and we feel we got our moneys worth. The entertainment was good, the food was great. Cruising is a luxury for us, not a vacation option so were not sure when well be able to do this again. We have a very good feeling about Holland America based on our experience, but just as you dont limit yourself to a wonderful restaurant, well likely try other cruise lines if we cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Let me say at the beginning that this was an excellent cruise. I had been on Holland America (HAL) about 15 years ago on the Westerdam in the Caribbean. At that time HAL attracted an older crowd and was at the high end of the mass market ... Read More
Let me say at the beginning that this was an excellent cruise. I had been on Holland America (HAL) about 15 years ago on the Westerdam in the Caribbean. At that time HAL attracted an older crowd and was at the high end of the mass market (as opposed to luxury lines). I believe that HAL has maintained the same standard of excellence while attracting more diverse passengers. I will say more later. Four of us were going on the cruise. All of us checked into the Executive Inn in Louisville the night before departure for Seattle. We prefer to leave our car at the airport motel and use their shuttle service. It proves to be very economical considering the current cost of airport parking. It also helps with early departure times. Our trip to Seattle was a disaster. Our Northwest 7:00 AM flight to Minneapolis had mechanical problems resulting in a 5 hour delay. We were rescheduled with a 4 hour layover in Minneapolis and an additional connection in Portland. We arrived in Seattle at 11:30 PM, 12 hours late! We were very fortunate to have planned our travel the day before our cruise. We stayed at the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle. The hotel was older but very nice and the rooms were small but comfortable. The hotel was located just a few blocks from Pike's Market and the downtown end of the shuttle that goes to the Space Needle. We didn't have time to tour Seattle but went to Pike's Market on Saturday morning before departing for the ship. I believe we made a good choice of places to see as the flowers, fishmongers and various stores make this a "must see". We headed to Pier 30 around noon on Saturday. Our cab ride was $15.00 and took around 10 minutes. We had to stand in line for approximately an hour even though we were pre-registered. Pre-registration just saved you some time when you actually got to an agent. We were assigned an SS category suite on Deck 8. Our cabin was spacious (~390 sq. ft. including a large verandah) and very well appointed. We had a large bed, a sleeper sofa, three chairs and a coffee table in the main cabin. Closet and drawer space was abundant. Two telephones, a large TV and DVD player complemented the furnishings. The balcony had four chairs, two foot rests and a table. The bathroom had double sinks, a whirlpool tub and a separate shower. A hair dryer was provided in the main cabin. Light switches were everywhere and somewhat of a learning experience. A verandah cabin may not seem necessary for Alaska, but we found it to be a real plus for sightseeing as the scenery is beautiful. The Oosterdam is one of HAL's Vista class ships. At 85,000 tons the passenger capacity is 1850 with a crew of 800. I would characterize the demeanor of the ship as subdued compared to the bling-bling of competitor's ships. The ship is about 5 years old and in excellent shape, a direct reflection of the Captain and crew. The crew was mostly Indonesian and Philippine, very efficient and cheerful. There was an earthquake in the Philippines on our first night at sea and our cabin steward Widi told us that he had lost his home but his family was all right. Even though you could sense his concern it did not affect his dedication to cheerful service. Dining was excellent. The first night we opted for the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person surcharge. Everyone's meals were outstanding. I had the best halibut steak I have ever tasted in my life! Dining room food was also above normal compared to other ships of this size. Breakfast and lunch are open-seating. Dinner seating was at an assigned table but a window was established for early and late seating. For late seating you could show up in the dining room any time between 8 and 9 PM. As long as you and your table mates arrived at the same time it wasn't any different from the established fixed seating fixed time arrangement. Buffet food is a real plus for HAL as this was way above average. To minimize congestion serving areas are segregated according to the type of food; e.g. salad bar, Italian (pizza and pasta), sandwich station, deserts, Terrace Grill (hamburgers, brats, chicken), Taco Bar and drinks (coffee, tea). A soda card was purchased at embarkation at $18.00 for 20 soft drinks. Our ports were Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. A word of advice -- Alaska is no place to skimp on shore excursions. They're expensive, but they're worth it! Hubbard Glacier was the highlight of the trip for us. The sun, tides and temperature were perfect for calving. We would hear the shotgun sound and rumble of the giant blocks of future icebergs falling every five minutes. The ship was less than 750 feet from the face of the glacier for close to two hours. Having visited Glacier Bay on a previous cruise I preferred Hubbard Glacier, but it may have been the timing. Our traveling companions went on the helicopter-dog sled tour in Juneau. Even though it is very expensive it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An Iditarod competitor was their tour guide for the sledding. They said the helicopter ride above the mountains and glaciers was beautiful. We walked around the city and rode the Mt. Roberts tram to a scenic overlook. In Sitka we did the "Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest". In addition to the tours' namesake we saw whales, sea lions and numerous bald eagles. We walked around the city after the tours. Sitka was the only port in which we had to tender. We walked around Ketchikan. It was raining but we managed to visit Creek Street and some shops. In Victoria we went on the Butchart Gardens tour. This tour was also excellent and I would highly recommend it, especially to weekend gardeners. Ship activities were not as plentiful or rowdy as some of the other lines, but there was always something going on. The 7 days went way too fast. The weather was good by Alaskan standards, 50-60's during the day. Even though it rained and there was considerable fog while we were at sea, we only encountered rain in Ketchikan while we were in port. In summary, I would recommend Holland America, especially the Oosterdam, and this itinerary. The passenger make-up covered all age groups, from young children to the wheelchair crowd. I would think the younger crowd would prefer one of the other party lines, but HAL is perfect for the middle age and up experienced cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Let me be the first to post regarding the Alaska season with HAL. Terrific! We booked the cruise directly on the HAL web page again and it was flawless, and when we finalized everything 5 months prior to sailing we received an very fair ... Read More
Let me be the first to post regarding the Alaska season with HAL. Terrific! We booked the cruise directly on the HAL web page again and it was flawless, and when we finalized everything 5 months prior to sailing we received an very fair discount as having sailed previously on HAL. This was our first experience sailing to Alaska (having cruised 7 times with HAL and RCL) and I heatedly recommend sailing RT out of Seattle as this cruise itinerary gives you a good first look at Alaska without the grueling inland tours or flying home from Anchorage. Seattle is also a great place to spend a few days before and after. The Oosterdam is a wonderful mid-sized ship in the Vista class size, and you won't get lost aboard. HAL is also a great brand to sail with if you want to be in charge of your schedule, have quiet time aboard, sleep wonderfully on new beds, and dine with more than adequate food quality and quantity-I hardily suggest the Mueslix for breakfast. Do not use HAL if you want a party...the average age was around 55 and we all got along great. The few children seemed out of place. The ship handled one choppy night very well, and most of the time if you didn't see the ocean move past the rail you wouldn't know you were moving. The stateroom was very comfortable with an efficient steward (Suri) who was almost never seen keeping our cabin spotless, a delightful Jacuzzi tube, and the previously mentioned sleeper beds. We heard no noise from adjacent cabins, although with the air temp at 42 degrees very few were on their verandahs. Hint-bring a clock radio and power strip; and the laundry and dry cleaning prices are fair. Dining areas were as expected, food quality again was well above average; and if you can't decide on which entree to eat, order another. Pinnacle Grill on last night was best meal of the week and worth the surcharge. Ports were interesting, with a visit to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier tour, Sitka and Otter/Whale trip (great), Mendenhall Glacier (too spectacular for words and the power in the silence as we sat dead calm 100 yards from the cracking ice), and Ketchikan (too little time here). There are Bald Eagles almost everywhere, and the Alaskans are most friendly and cordial, especially as we were the first ship since September. We did not go ashore in Victoria due to a short time in port, but hear it is worth a separate visit. We also did not see any shows in the Vista lounge as I have seen too many jugglers and comedians and the small and cozy casino worked for us just fine. Even the movie theatre on board showed decent movies. We are going again to Alaska, next time from Vancouver with 3 other couples and in September-the leaves should be beautiful. HAL and Oosterdam are worth a trip and you may come well rested. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Review (LONG): Oosterdam, Alaska, May 27, 2006 Well, I hope this is better late than never. So, who wouldnt want to see the beauty of Alaska? Recently I felt a little more sense of urgency since many Glaciers are receding globally. This ... Read More
Review (LONG): Oosterdam, Alaska, May 27, 2006 Well, I hope this is better late than never. So, who wouldnt want to see the beauty of Alaska? Recently I felt a little more sense of urgency since many Glaciers are receding globally. This itinerary: SeattleSea dayJuneau Hubbard Glacier SitkaKetchikanVictoria Seattle gave a good snapshot of Alaska. Since it was roundtrip Seattle, it was more economical. Our group was all family. A well traveled bunch with ages ranging from myself at 49 yrs., up to 83 yrs.. I left Austin Tx. with the preconception that the little ports of Alaska would likely be overrun with passengers. However, this was minimized by the fact that the Oosterdam was usually first in port. Our captain was known for this, and this opportunity gave us a definite advantage. I was also pleased to find that you didnt have to go very far outside the port city, just a few blocks actually, to get away from us tourists. Lastly, I discovered that the port cities had some pretty cool things to see and do. Pre-cruise: We purchased air, transfers and tours on our own. The cruise was booked through an agent in Houston. She just plain spoiled us and really put the finishing touches on our cruise; which was much appreciated. We all rendezvoused in Seattle at the Comfort Suites SeaTac a day before embarkation. This was a satisfactory hotel which offered an airport shuttle plus limited restaurant shuttle service. There was an expanded continental breakfast buffet. Nothing fancy but nice, seemed clean and the front desk provided me with toothbrush and paste which I managed to forget. There are 2 buildings at this hotel. One of our rooms was in the farther building and it seemed to take forever navigating to different levels to and from the lobby. The closer building would be a wise choice here. Rooms were approx. $90. through AAA. Embarkation: Before flying out to Seattle we had reserved shuttle service pick up to the port with the Seattle Express at 10:30 am for $10.00pp. They were prompt and made one additional stop for some Princess cruisers then dropped us off right in front of the Holland check-in building. Princess check-in was on the opposite side of the same building. We grabbed a porter and by the time we were processed HAL had opened up the entrance way to the ship, around 11:15. There was a separate check-in area adjacent to the main line with seating available for persons needing physical assistance. There was a table set up for purchasing wine packages. The staff said it would not be offered again during the cruise, so it would be a good idea to think about it before you arrive. There were a couple of people in the HAL check-in with gorgeous bouquets of flowers they had purchased at Pikes market, we were jealous. We were having lunch around 11:45 while waiting for our cabins -- which were ready around 1:30 or 2:00.. Ship Impressions: Beautifully elegant would sum up my description. Ships I have been on to compare are Norwegian Sun, Carnival Destiny and the Jubilee; RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas; American Queen and Celebrity Galaxy. The artwork and dEcor is somewhat eclectic and interesting but still refined. Gorgeous use of colors and highly textured fabrics in some of the lounges like the Explorers lounge. Even the elevator doors were beautifully sculpted. The ship looked clean and well kept. There were several hand sanitizing units throughout, of coarse one positioned at the spot where you are fumbling to retrieve your card key when boarding. Staff encountered was friendly and courteous. This included the front desk when we had a minor issue; there was not only resolution but follow-up. The first night on-board we met up with a fun group from Cruise Critic. The hotel manager, James Deering hosted us up in the crows nest. We really enjoyed our conversation immensely with Mr. Deering. He is a very engaging individual and both he and the captain were quite visible throughout the cruise. I regret that I came down with a cold and did not attend a reception he and the captain hosted. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: This is not a party vessel. The mood was very relaxed. One night my sisters and I headed up to check out the disco but there were only a handful of people scattered here and there. We ended up in a small alcove off the lobby called the Ocean bar where a Filipino band was playing, good music and people watching. I did not bring my teens along this trip and only saw a handful of children so I cannot report on the childrens facilities/activities. We somehow missed many of the activities despite looking over the Daily program. We were frustrated more than once because we would miss something in the program. A big surprise to me was the shows. Although the singing was a little weak, the choreography was phenomenal. There were many dance routines that were complicated with frequent costume and stage changes. This ship by far had the best shows I have seen ship board. There was a comedic ventriloquist that was hilarious; an Elton John impersonator that we enjoyed; good crew show; and the usual magic show called DV8 Magic which was a little weak. The Queens lounge doubled as a movie theatre, one movie was King Kong. We attended a class on Digital photography there also that gave some good photo tips. The gym was nice with plenty of treadmills. Exercise classes such as aerobics, pilates, cycling and yoga usually had a fee except there was occasionally an 8:00 am class with no fee. There was a walk a mile (non-hosted) group Promenade Deck usually at 0730. I once saw a game show going on in the Queens lounge with electronic podium scoring systems and all that looked fun. There was the usual Karaoke & Superstar contests, ship & kitchen tours, ice carving; bingo; sail away festivities, dancing. ... Overall reminded me of about the level of activity youd find on Celebrity and RCCL. It was plenty for us but we were there to relax. There were also the revenue producing venues going on such as the shore excursion talks; Art shows; the Greenhouse Spa services with thermal pool; wine/martini tasting promotions; bingo and casino gaming. Staterooms: At check-in we got news that one of our cabin locations had been changed. Oh no, I said -- We had strategically picked our three cabins all together so this was a little shock at first. I was insisting to be given the reason behind this. I was very insistent and no one could explain why. I finally shut up when I asked whether it was an upgrade. I have rarely heard of such an extreme upgrade as this was. My sister looked on a deck plan and low and behold -- one of our little Inside staterooms had been changed to an 8th floor balcony! Originally we were booked for 2 inside cabins #5177 and #5173 and 1 aft balcony #5183. The upgraded Cabin #8121 was lovely, although the weather on the balcony was a little too cool about half of the time on this itinerary. This was not the case however with the Aft balcony for #5183. This aft balcony had very little cover, which allowed the sun to warm us and the wind was blocked due to the aft location. It was a much larger balcony than I expected; almost what Id expect for a suite. All six of us could sit comfortably, it was a dream. Yes, people could enviously look down on us from an aft upper deck but this was not a problem for us. The inside #5177 had a different layout than the typical cabin.. The use of square footage did not appeal to me because of this. As you enter in the center, a small table and chair are immediately at the doorway. The beds to the right, then B.R./closet hall to the left. If someone is using the chair, they have to make room for you to enter the cabin. The Inside cabin had shower, others had shower with bath tub. Plenty of storage in all; nice drawer under foot of bed. Phones had voice mail. There was mini a bar fridge. and blow dryer. No clocks.FOOD: We chose the early seating and glad we did because there was a two hour time difference from Texas then another hour back after we set sail. We had an aft lower level table in the Vista dining room. There was a pretty significant vibration/hum but we got used to it. I think there was music but we could not hear it. Our table servers were efficient. The decor was nice and didnt seem over crowded. Some of our dinners were excellent and some just ok. Overall we enjoyed the food and I am pretty picky. Desserts though as a whole were a real disappointment. The desert extravaganza was beautiful and fun but had no taste. The ice cream was good at least, and one night we ordered a great chocolate coated ice cream ball called the Cappuccino Bomb!. We quickly spoke with our waiter about saving some for us and we enjoyed them again another night. A few dishes that stood out for me were: the escargot, prime rib, Alaskan Halibut and rack of lamb. The lobster was another stand out which was actually not overcooked! I ordered 2 tails on my Surf and Turf which was a good thing since the beef filet was not good. The fish in general was prepared well but our beef other than the prime rib was not very flavorful and dry. Shrimp were very small unless stated on the menu otherwise. King crab legs were not good. I am sure all the above vary from cruise to cruise. We did not bring wine on-board. We had several gift bottles of champagne and wine but we would always forget to chill them. As a courtesy, the wine steward would simply exchange it for a cold one if on the Oosterdam wine list without the corkage fee. We heard others had simply asked their cabin steward to supply a wine bucket with ice, then took the chilled bottle with them to dinner. The wine and cocktail prices were typical for a cruise. Prices ranged around $4.50-$6.00 for cocktails, and seemed a little on the weak side, then wine starting at about $25.00 on up per bottle. You can bring your own wine for a corkage fee at dinner. I brought some liquor for the room in my checked baggage without a problem. We enjoyed the Pinnacle restaurant one night. We had a complimentary card; normally it is a $20pp fee. I would recommend going at least one night. The food was overall excellent. Particularly the beef, the marbling was perfect. I had read a lot about the crab cakes. They were good but not the best since the meat is blended rather than lump crab and tasted more like snow crab. The deserts were much better here, the crème Brulee had not separated like in the Vista dining room. The Pinnacles china was beautiful and the lighting in the restaurant was whimsically pretty. The ceiling decor had pods of floral shaped jelly fish like lights that would flare and then dim. As far as the service, they treated us very very well. The room service menu was also pretty good and it was always delivered a little earlier than expected; appropriate temperature. The buffet was hit and miss with quality, overall good for a cruise ship. I appreciated all the different food type stations which helped with the passenger flow. You had to work a little to get a table sometimes but we just began the routine of &ok, you scout for tables while we get in line sort of thing. Occasionally spotted crew assisting with trays. Buffet closed around 2:00pm after lunch, then around 10:00pm. The buffet extended the hours for the Victoria port stop since we did not dock until after 6:00pm. There was an outdoor grill with burgers, dogs, pizza and fries which were average to good. Small bits and pieces: A few memories of small details I appreciated on the Oosterdam were: cloth hand towels in the public restrooms; the dining rooms after dinner mint/ginger station; nice dinner china esp. in the Pinnacle restaurant; hot chocolate at the Oosterdam dock in Sitka; the Explorers lounge luscious trays of Gourmet chocolates in the evening; unique towel animals; nice complimentary toiletries; exotic tapestry covering placed at foot of bed. Ports: You will most likely have some rain at some point in Alaska so just be prepared. When the weather breaks it is spectacular, and can change your view of a town in an instant. Juneau: We were docked at a pier and took a cheap city shuttle ride to town. We did a whale watching tour through Orca Enterprises that we reserved about 1 week before the cruise. They were very courteous and knowledgeable. Captain Larry was a very colorful individual and really worked hard for us to see whales in one of his speedy and comfortable boats. We saw many humpbacks, even showing us some tail several times. This was supposedly not the best time of year for Orca though and did not see any. Our Naturalist also pointed out two Glaciers; it was a beautiful tour. They provided some refreshments about mid-way. We would highly recommend this outfit. We still had time to do a little tourist shopping in town. I found a drug store near a McDonalds and bought some cold meds and a clock for our cabin. Since I am a fan of Alaskan Amber ale and enjoy local bars, Captain Larry suggested The Alaskan Hotel and Bar, but I ran out of steam. Other cruisers enjoyed the view from the Roberts Tram. Others raved about a salmon bake. Although I am sure the salmon would be great on this tour, take note that the Vista dining menu included salmon dishes every evening. Hubbard Glacier: Our captain nosed us right up to the face of the Hubbard Glacier, very impressive. Thunderous cracks were loud and clear, followed by lots of caving. We seemed to be the only ship this close. We lucked out with beautiful weather but we were still freezing cold standing outside. Be prepared for this as you dont want to miss gazing at this magnificent glaciers beauty. Its a show stopper! Sitka: This was a tender port. The tender took us to a pier a little farther from the one stated in our Daily Program. This was my favorite port but I may have been influenced by the nice weather. Have good walking shoes even though the distances are not very far. The only transportation I saw was a van that dropped you off at their jewelry store and we werent sure how far off the beaten path it would be. We saw no other transportation and my mother aggravated her heal spur here for the rest of the trip because of her shoes. We saw St. Michaels Cathedral which was kind of over hyped but nice since the clergy was making himself available and seemed pleased to have visitors. We walked about 20+ min from the center to the Sitka National park. We watched a historical film in the Visitors center mostly about the Tlingit Indians, very interesting; observed one of the locals carving a totem in a studio; viewed various exhibits; then wandered through the totem park on their Totem Loop which was enjoyably easy. Ranger led talks and walks are available. There were nice restrooms and a book store. Very enjoyable and good photo ops..When we headed back towards town on Lincoln Street we stopped at a small hands on aquarium/store on the water side, across the street from a college. Worth a visit if you have time, fee was donation only. My sisters stopped for tea at the Lime Curd Tea shop and enjoyed. Back at the shuttle pier the Oosterdam was providing hot chocolate. The shuttle crew gave me some 3rd degree questioning there since I only brought my sail card and forgot identification. They eventually found me on a roster and quizzed me a little to make sure who I said I was. Ketchikan: I admit part of the reason this town was not as enjoyable to me was because of the constant rain. The town is nice and quaint actually with Creek street and there was some pretty good tourist shopping to be had right where the ship docks. We picked a flop of a tour though by choosing to go on the DUCK Tour for around $35.pp. The tour guide on this Duck tour was a real quack and actually gave inaccurate information at times which really got on my nerves after a while. The weather did not help since the windows were fogged up with the rain. We were treated however to seeing many bald eagles during our tour. The eagles were hanging around the rocky shore line right in town! The Duck tour in Seattle is however a do not miss! Hilarious and informative. Victoria: We only arrived in port at around 6:00pm because of some docking issue. There was a cheap double decker shuttle bus ride provided right at the dock which drops you off in front of the Empress hotel. We ruled out going to Buchart Gardens thinking we would not have enough light to see, since it is maybe a 45 min. drive to get there. Later we heard other cruisers actually did have enough time and light and highly recommend it. We took a horse drawn carriage tour which was a little pricey but fun and informative. The waterfront is very scenic with the Empress Hotel front and center and then at night when the government building nearby lights up with strings of white lights. There was some pretty good shopping heading away from the Empress and government building. We topped off the evening with an Alaskan Amber ale at the Empress hotel. We found a nice bar in the lower level below the lobby level, very enjoyable. There were a few shops and a public restroom on this level of the hotel. Disembarkation: What a pleasant way HAL handles things. We enjoyed a leisurely morning with room service. You can stay in your room until your color is called. We found our luggage in the terminal, customs asked the usual did you enjoy your cruise? while giving you the visual once over. Then we were headed to Seattle in one of the many taxis available. Post cruise: Our hotel in Seattle this time was the Comfort Suites Downtown Seattle Center for around $145.00 through AAA. We could walk about 3 blocks and we were at the Space Needle. We also had a view of the Needle from our room. It was a good value considering the location. Parking is a premium in the area so to being able to park free in a gated covered garage and walk, was a cost saver. They had a nice courtyard and expanded continental breakfast. There is a Duck tour next to the Needle that is great for around $23.pp. Across the street a McDonalds for an ice cream and restroom stop. Go up the needle and watch the Oosterdam sail out again. I was shocked they would leave without us! Sure enough an NCL ship was trying to catch up with her to no avail.. We also went to the Science fiction exhibit at the wild shaped Music Experience building at the base of the needle. Viewing it from the needle, the roof resembles a smashed guitar. I enjoy sci-fi but this was a big disappointment for the money, maybe if youre a Trekkie or similar you might enjoy. We heard the music exhibit there is good though. In Seattle we enjoyed dinner at a water front restaurant called Elliots. We sat at an outside table and watched a ferry go back and forth to an island nearby. We missed seeing the valet parking; we found a parking garage across the street and the restaurant kindly validated our ticket but there were some restrictions on this, call ahead to ask. Overall this was a fantastic cruise which I would love repeating with the family. It was refreshing to see so much rugged beauty still left in our world. Happy Travels. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Oosterdam by Dick Stein Alaska Inside Passage May 13, 2006 This was our 7th Holland America Cruise, our 3rd Alaska Cruise with this line, we also have two previous Alaska cruises with each Princess and Celebrity. I ... Read More
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Oosterdam by Dick Stein Alaska Inside Passage May 13, 2006 This was our 7th Holland America Cruise, our 3rd Alaska Cruise with this line, we also have two previous Alaska cruises with each Princess and Celebrity. I got my red pin (50 days) on this cruise. I got a upgrade to an SS suite due to the fact that they were selling suites 30 days out for what I paid for a balcony and both me and my agent complained. This is just a caution to those who might book an early May Alaska cruise. I did my own travel arrangements arriving a day early and stayed at the Hampton Inn airport the day before. Took my bags to the Seattle airport at 10:30 AM, bought a travel voucher at the HAL desk and I was on a bus to the dock within an hour after arrival at the airport. Embarkation: Arrived at dock, lines were short and we were on the ship at 11:30 AM. Went to the Lido for lunch with our carry on bags as they said the cabins would be ready at 1 PM. Lunch in the lido was fine. The cabin was ready at 12:30 when I checked. Cabins: The cabin 8061 (cat. SS) was attractively decorated and good sized for the price. The balcony offered privacy and had wood tables and chairs which we used frequently. We had a good size shower and a separate bath/shower with a double sink. The shower had a hose and wand arrangement like Celebrity offers. Cabin service was efficient and unobtrusive. We had them clean out the mini bar and used fridge to keep drinks cold. The wife liked the bed, make up mirror and the suite in general. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. Only complaint was the toilet paper. A letter to the Hotel Manger with a sample netted me better toilet paper after Juneau. Public Areas: The public areas are nice and never feel crowded. The ship doesn't feel crowded. Enjoyed the small intimate bars. They had good shows on board and the singers, dancers and comedians were great. The bars had a buy 5, pay for four Heineken special in a ice bucket at the Lido bars that I got all cruise long. I missed some shows that were early due to being in second seating. There was plenty of activities to keep you busy all day. They had church services for all which I do not see on all lines. Dining: I requested 2nd seating dining when I booked and I got four real good tablemates and a good waiter too. We ate all our meals here except when we were in port and the main restaurant was closed for lunch. We went to the open seating for breakfast and lunch in the Dining room every day when not on tour. The attendance in the main dining rooms was far less that capacity due to number eating in Lido. The food in the main dining room was excellent, very close in quality to Celebrity and we enjoyed all the meals. We had pizza, and hot dogs several times for a snack. The food in the Lido was also good including an Indonesian and German lunch they had near the lido pool. Tours: We did tours in Juneau and Ketchikan. In Juneau we did the whale watching tour and saw whale three time, seal lion once and a eagles nest. In Ketchikan we took the tour to Misty Fjords and enjoyed it also. We saw killer whale and harbor seals on this tour also. We did not do a tour in Sitka as we had been there before and it rained all day so we stayed on the ship. We stayed on the ship in Victoria also as we were there the week before in the Vision of the Sea and did our tours then. All tours we took were good. Disembarkation: This was smooth. We were off the ship at 10 AM, and at the airport checking in where the bus stopped. I was on United and they took our bags and gave us boarding passes there. We then took our time walking through security, to the gate and had lunch at Burger King prior to board the plane. The flight home was pleasant as I made arrangements. There was only a short walk between gates at the transfer in Denver. Overall, I was satisfied and will consider this line again as they give you good value for your money. My only complaints were the toilet paper and lack of benefits for repeaters that I enjoy with my elite status on Princess and Celebrity and Diamond status on RCCL. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
We have cruised on 7 previous occasions, all with Holland America Line (HAL). We have enjoyed every one so much we have not managed to leave HAL for someone else, yet. However, after a cruise in the Caribbean last year we did think about ... Read More
We have cruised on 7 previous occasions, all with Holland America Line (HAL). We have enjoyed every one so much we have not managed to leave HAL for someone else, yet. However, after a cruise in the Caribbean last year we did think about it as we found the process of flying to the East coast of USA and then having to deal with the rude and unhelpful people we encountered there something we did not want to do again. Please note we are not saying that everyone who lives on the East coast is that way just the ones we met in the process of going on a cruise. Anyway, a deal came up for a back to back from San Diego to the Mexican Rivera and then on to Vancouver. We flew to San Diego and stayed in the Holiday Inn at the Bay the night before we were due to depart. The hotel is, literally, across the street from the dock and we could see the Amsterdam from our window on the day we arrived and the Oosterdam the following morning. As we were a day early we spent the afternoon walking around the centre o f the town and we very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. The people we encountered were friendly and courteous, the architecture was delightful and worth seeing and it was very quiet. I have never been in a city which was so quiet. We visited the Maritime Museum which was educational and generally most enjoyable. Well worth a visit. The following morning we did not need a shuttle as we could walk to the dock. We were able to progress from the gate to the luggage drop off to the check in desk in under 10 minutes. We did have to wait for over one hour to board the ship but that was as a result of some problem with US Customs. Security was swift and efficient and we were on the ship. As we have cruised with HAL before and have sailed on the Vista class ships we do not feel that they are in any way unusual so we do not experience the sense of unfamiliarity which one might. That said we do feel the excitement of the experience every time we board. We were met by the Indonesian crew who will escort you to the lifts and direct you to the Lido until your room is ready. We heard a great deal of complaining about staterooms not being ready for the new passengers and, perhaps, understanding how and why this happens will help new cruisers relax. Most of the ships dock at the terminus at about 7am. Disembarkation begins at about 8am and embarkation begins at about 11am, roughly. As HAL do not turn you out of your cabin at some ungodly hour, the cabins are not all available to the cabin staff for cleaning and remaking. This means that they have to turn around all 924 cabins in about 3hours. This simple is not possible, so they ask the embarking passengers to wait in the Lido until the job is done properly. This is nary a hardship as there is food a plenty and it is quite safe wander off and explore the ship. You can be fairly sure that when you are told that your cabin is ready it will have been prepared for you to the highest standard. As we were sailing on a Vista ship we booked a Balcony room and we were on the Upper Promenade deck. The balcony was not private as we were overlooked from one side and above, due to those balconies being set at angles, and on the other side were the life boats which seemed to require a steady stream of maintained people. They would suddenly appear from no where on the walkway by our balcony. However, the facility of being able to sit on ones own balcony is appreciated. The Vista class ships are a fairly recent addition to the HAL fleet and they are larger than the previous classes. We feel, having sailed on a number of the ships, that the general feel of the Vista class ships is not one we like as much as the smaller ships. I feel that the Vistas lack the personal touch which one would find on the Volendam or even Statendam class. Due to the large number of passengers the crew do not have the time to spend with each passenger and so, I feel, the service suffers, however, not to the extent that it no longer exists. HAL prided itself on the quality of service and the Indonesian crew certainly do provide service with a smile. I think that the Vistas are better suited for families and those who are happier in a larger crowd. During our cruise HAL had their top chef aboard the Oosterdam and we felt that the food was better then usual, although we think the food is pretty good at the best of times. We really like the varied selection for lunch in the Lido and find the Wok provides some tasty and lower fat options. The last time we sailed on a Vista class ship they were trying out a new idea of buying, in advance, one glass of wine per night with dinner. We thought it was a wonderful idea as we do not want a bottle every night. That didnt take on it seems. This time they were trying out a more varied seating arrangement for dinner. If your table was for 5:45 or 6:15 you could arrive at the dining room any time from 5:45 until 6:30 and if you were booked for the later seatings you could turn up from 7:30 until 9pm. The advantage was that you had a little more flexibility but the disadvantage was that you may not be sitting at YOUR table. In order to accommodate everyone they often had to make up table parties as they went along. All the HAL ships have plenty to do and the two pools, spa, gym and casino are soon all in operation. We called at the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on consecutive days. We have visited Cabo before and did not really care for it. It seemed to us to be a small village ravaged by commerce but with no real improvements to the village itself. We knew where to go to get internet access and where to use a phone to call home so we set off to walk about the town and attend to these things. It was hot and humid on the day we were there. Mazatlan was a complete surprise to us. I have a friend who owns a resort there and she told me that Mazatlan was a dreadful place, so we were expecting to take a quick peek and return to the ship. We rarely book tours as they are so expensive and spending the day on a bus with heaps of other people is not our idea of a good day out. We prefer to walk and see the places in which we are docked for ourselves. Of course, this is not always possible or advisable but when we can we do. We walked around the Old Town of Mazatlan, for over 4 hours in 93º heat and were charmed by all that we saw. I am sure there were other areas which were less attractive but the Old Town was full of character and well worth walking around. It was also quite safe. The third of our port days saw us in Puerto Vallarta which, again, we expected to be very commercialised and modern. We shared a taxi, from the dock to the Hard Rock Cafe, with people from a Princess ship and then walked all over the Old Town. The street right on the front was just one long shop. Everything your heart could wish to buy was there and the bay was on the other side of the street. If shopping is all you cruise for then Puerto Vallarta would send you in to raptures as you can have some pleasing scenery and the shops all at once. However, if you want to see something of Mexico you only have to go one street back and you have architecture and quaintness that may as well have been under a rock for all some people saw of it. With each street back that you venture it gets more beautiful. Again we spent over 4 hours in the heat walking up and down hills and sets of stairs being drawn into the old town and never going near a shop. In the evening we met people who were horrified at the amount of walking we did and that we did not buy anything. They, they said, had had a wonderful day buying all sorts of stuff and hardly had to walk anywhere. I am glad they enjoyed their day but I also think How sad. After our three ports in a row we had a day at sea to relax. I love the sea days but I can never relax as I find there is so much to see. I am not interested in the casino or the bingo or anything else they organise I just love to people watch and to view the scenery from the decks. Simply being at sea is, for me, a thrill. For those who hate the days at sea because there is nothing to do the companies keep activities going day and night, so really there is no excuse for having time you can not fill, should you so wish. Our last port of call on the 1st leg was San Diego. We have so much enjoyed our first visit there a week earlier that we were looking forward to returning. We decided to spend part of the day walking (yes, we walked again) around the town centre and the other part of the day aboard the retired aircraft carrier Midway I found it interesting, my husband found it fascinating. Not being Americans we found the hype rather too much, but being aboard the ship, seeing how it operated was worthwhile. I spent some time in the Royal Naval Cadets and being on the Midway certainly brought back memories. It was quite an amazing thing to view the Midway from the dock and think how enormous it is and then to see the Oosterdam from the Midway and experience the sudden shrinkage of the Midway. The Midways displacement is nearly 60,000 tones and the Oosterdam is nearly 82,000. Of course, the shape is different but the over all size of the Oosterdam in comparison was remarkable. Sailing out of San Diego we felt like old hands as we viewed the city from the water for the second time. The only stop on our four day 2nd leg was San Francisco. We were told that we would sail under the Golden Gate Bridge in the early hours of the morning and that it would be strung with lights. My husband and I decided that we would sleep through this and see it in the daylight instead. As it so happened I awoke and looked out of our cabin window as we were just beginning our passage under the bridge. I woke my husband who leaped out of bed and was on the veranda before he knew why he was there. The view was rather disappointing from the strung with lights point of view and we thought that it was a sight, certainly, but not really greater than the Lions Gate in Vancouver. This opinion was reaffirmed later in the day when we sailed out of the bay in day light and totally shattered when we sailed into Vancouver 3 days later. It is astounding the tricks ones mind can play and how difficult it is to retain certain information, such as colour and size, accurately. We still love sailing under the Lions Gate Bridge but we have to concede that the Golden Gate Bridge is considerably the larger and more impressive. You will never guess what we did in San Francisco! No, we walked. We walked along the water front visited Fishermans Wharf where we caught a cable car to China town. From there we walked around the streets looking at the shops, it reminded us of Victorias china town, which like San Franciscos was the largest in its country at one point in history. Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill afforded us a wonderful view of the bay and the murals were worth seeing even if the outside view had not been available. In Cheimanus on Vancouver Island there are murals on many of the buildings, but here they were all inside on the walls. They depict the life of the working man of the 1930s and are completely fee to view, although one must pay to climb to the top of the tower. We viewed Lombardi Street from both ends (I though it would have been longer) and we strained our necks looking up at the wonderful Art Deco buildings. Do remember to look up in San Francisco. The time we had to see San Francisco was all too short as we only had a half day but we will certainly return. The weather had been hot and sunny but as we began to prepare for the sail away it was getting windy. The wind increased in strength as we sailed out of the bay and we were concerned that it may get quite choppy before the day was out. Captain Mercer told us that is was necessary, in order to arrive in Vancouver on time, to maintain full speed from here on and that we were due in Vancouver at 7 am the day after tomorrow. The following day Captain Mercer informed us that for our comfort and safety he had reduced speed to half and that we would now be arriving in Vancouver at 4pm. For those interested in such things we had been, were currently and would be for some time to come, sailing in a force 11 Gale. For those not au fait with the Beauford Scale a force 11 is described as a violent storm Winds can reach between 62 and 74 miles per hour and ships can be lost to sight in the waves for a time. The next level up, which is, incidentally, the last, is Hurricane force (12) where winds are measured at between 73 and 83 miles per hour. The Beauford Scale has been used by mariners since 1805 and is regarded to be as accurate to day as it was then. Captain Mercers decision, along with the design of the Oosterdam which made her remarkable stable in such conditions, saved many from misery and harm, but to hear the complaints you would have thought that it was a force 1 and that he was being unreasonable. Naturally people missed flights and were in need of rearranged travel arrangements. HAL, like all the other major lines are not exactly stupid, they knew this and their staff, on board and in Seattle worked tirelessly to re-arrange flights and buses for everyone who needed them. What they could not do was rearrange the lives of passengers who had foolishly regarded a cruise as a boating trip on the local pond. A word to the wise here. DO NOT arrange the most important business meeting of your career for the day after you are due home form a cruise. DO NOT assume that if Granny is looking after your kids that she can go home the day you are due to return. Make arrangements to extend your holiday by one day to cover this kind of eventuality. If Captain Mercer had held full speed we may have made it to Vancouver on time, I do not know, but, having been in a force 12 in the Bay of Biscay I can tell you, there would have been many sick and injured on board by the time we did reach port. What is it in the American psyche that causes so many to find fault at all times? The captain deserved praise and gratitude not attack. For us the added advantage of being late (along with the comfort factor) was that we got to sail through the Straits of Jan de Fuca and Georgia in daylight. The scenery as we rounded the tip of Washington and passed through the channel between that State and Vancouver Island, the Strait of Jan De Fuca, was wonderful. We saw Victoria from the sea and watched Mount Baker loom from the dark into view and appear to move from directly ahead to our starboard side. The later arrival was, for us, a real bonus and we would like to see more cruises through this stunning area in day light hours. We actually arrived at about 2pm and we swiftly processed to disembark. As always the service was professional and the terminal staff must be some of the best in the world for their courtesy and efficiency. Before we really knew it we were once more aboard a ship for the final journey home. We sailed from Tsawwassen to Duke Point on the slow ferry as the sun was setting in the Howe Sound. What a day for scenery! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was our 20th cruise and 5th on HAL. The prior two cruises were on two of Celebrity's Millennium class ships and we were anxious to compare the two. We were on the maiden voyage of the QM2 and it ranks just above Princess at the ... Read More
This was our 20th cruise and 5th on HAL. The prior two cruises were on two of Celebrity's Millennium class ships and we were anxious to compare the two. We were on the maiden voyage of the QM2 and it ranks just above Princess at the bottom of our list. First I must say that the ship is beautifully decorated. We were taking pictures everywhere we went. HAL beats Celebrity on this one. Although we had a Deluxe Verandah Suite, it was in the back on the corner of deck six and in my opinion was nowhere near the advertised 510 sq. ft. The verandah was huge but privacy was certainly an issue. We had a Sky Suite on both the Infinity and the Millennium, both of which came with a Butler, so Celebrity gets the edge here. The Neptune Lounge is a non issue. Food. We ate every night at The Pinnacle speciality restaurant but we got the dining room dinner menus in our stateroom every night and quite honestly, I was not impressed. Celebrity definitely wins here. As for The Pinnacle, very limited menu with a Northwest US theme. The food was for the most part excellent as was the service. However, in all honesty, the variety and the individual service was better in the Celebrity speciality restaurants. Unfortunately, the decor in Celebrity's speciality restaurants couldn't touch HAL. Crystal is as good as it gets on this benchmark. The Lido on the Oosterdam was a zoo. Lots of really cool choices but just try to find a table after you have gotten your food. Staff. The captain was English and very friendly. The ship's staff was overall not half bad. I left Jose in the Crow's Nest a $100 tip which I have never done before. Embarkation and disembarkation were relatively easy. Would we go on the Oosterdam again? You bet we would. But I'm anxious to try the Constellation and the Noordam as well. Kudos to both HAL and Celebrity for providing us with a cruise experience that caters to our tastes and is reasonably priced. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
Before I say anything else, I must make the following two comments: This cruise was just about everything one could want in a cruise vacation. The Oosterdam deserves its number one rating. A very big thank you and word of congratulations ... Read More
Before I say anything else, I must make the following two comments: This cruise was just about everything one could want in a cruise vacation. The Oosterdam deserves its number one rating. A very big thank you and word of congratulations to the many parents of the more than 400 children on board. They were so well behaved as to be almost un-noticed. They must have been brought up right. Now, the cruise. Embarkation is a breeze. One arrives at the dock, checks luggage and if driving a personal car parks across the street and walks to the welcoming area. (A note of warning, watch out for individuals in the parking lot attempting to scam you with a hard luck story) In our case, the entire procedure from dropping the luggage to sitting on the Lido having lunch was no more than 45 minutes. We have never had it so easy in more than 15 cruises prior. Note: Cabin access is limited prior to 1:30 or so. This allows attendants to get them ready for you. (See disembarkation below) Lunch is available on the Lido deck. The ship is beautiful. The artwork spread throughout all decks and public areas is varied and interesting. One could spend hours just looking at it. The color selection is appropriate for a vessel catering to a more up-scale, adult clientele. The Vista showroom is large, comfortable, and as far as we could tell provided good sight lines from almost all seats. There are plenty of public areas for get-togethers, or just sitting and people watching. The Vista dining area is lovely, well laid out and does not give the feel of being crowded. All-in-all, a very comfortable ship. The cabin: Not as large as one could have hoped for but still quite sufficient. These is plenty of storage space, (be sure to look under the foot of the bed and under the couch). Note also that there are fold down shelves in the closets. The bathroom is somewhat larger than most with a tub for those so inclined. The veranda is large enough for a couple of chairs and a small table, but is not totally private. There is only one electrical outlet at the dressing table, so bring a power strip if you have more than one appliance to plug in. The bed is just as comfortable as has been described in other reviews. The food: The menu is not as varied as we remember from previous H-A cruises. However, the quality was just as high. The Lido deck provides an alternate to the dining room. There is the same variety of choice as one finds in the dining room. As with all cruise lines, the drinks are expensive, but they are well prepared. There is a wine program where one can buy four or six bottles ahead of time and save a little money, (If you like wine). Be sure to try the cold soups, they are delicious. The shipboard activities are more in keeping with an older more mature clientele. There is plenty of music that sounds like music, two venues for dancing, (We particularly liked the Ocean Bar and the Crossover group), a pretty good piano bar, classical music area, and the ever present Karaoke. The last was somewhat disappointing in that the music selection tended to be directed to a much younger taste than ours. There were the usual games one finds on ship, nothing too distasteful. In our case the daily trivia contests became addictive, as they must have with many others considering the turnout and the competitiveness. Now for the most important part; the people. This is the happiest ship we have ever sailed on. All contact personnel, the officers, and even those one would see working on keeping the vessel shipshape and clean smiled, offered assistance, or just a nice "hello". It was wonderful. I want to mention particularly, our cabin steward, Linda; our table stewards Dudi and Yayan; the chief steward, Badar (r,r,r,); and the entire service crew in the Ocean Bar. You made out trip memorable. I have not mentioned the ports visited. This is not an oversight, they just were not of great interest to us. (We have been there several times). We did note, however, the steep increase in costs of shore excursions both on the ship and on shore. Also, the cities have become pretty much tourist traps. Watch out for low quality goods at high prices. There is a shopping advisor on the ship, however we were totally turned off by what seemed to be a blatant shill rather than an unbiased advisor. If you would like lunch on shore, try the sushi restaurant on the dock in Cabo, and the el Gruto in Puerto Vallarta. Prices are good and so is the food. It is said that experienced cruisers sail for the ship not the ports. This is particularly true of this ship on this itinerary. Go for the on-board experience. It is truly remarkable. Finally, a word about disembarkation. H-A has instituted a program that allows you to stay in your cabin until called to leave the ship. This is a great improvement over all passengers going into overcrowded public areas to wait. Thank you H-A. It is just as easy to get off the ship as it was to get on. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship. We've cruised 6 times previously ... Read More
There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship. We've cruised 6 times previously on 3 other lines on itineraries ranging from 3 - 12 days but this was our first experience on HAL. The other ships have been fairly similar in size. We do travel with an elementary aged child so having a decent kids program is a must with us. We'd heard the average age of the HAL traveler was older than many other lines and were a bit concerned with how many children might be on this cruise. But as it was Spring Break, we took a chance that there would be a sufficient number to keep our daughter amused. On this particular sailing, there were 80 "Tweens" (aged 8-12) on board. There were a number that were younger and I only really saw a handful that appeared to be teenagers. All the youngsters were very well behaved without some of the running and yelling I've seen on other cruises. Not all the Tweens took advantage of Club HAL, which was a good thing because the facility is quite a bit smaller than we've experienced on 2 other cruise lines. The hours are limited on sea days to 9am-12pm, 2-4pm then 8-10pm. Childcare after 10pm was available in Club HAL for a nominal $5/hr. Activities were available on port days if you signed up the day before. I thought one of our previous sailings on another line had a better program, but my daughter was happy with what was offered on Oosterdam. She gave it a thumbs up. I didn't mind the 2 hour afternoon block but would have preferred the evening activities to start at 7pm since there'd be a long stretch between finishing dinner at main seating till Club HAL opened again. The hydrotherapy pool wasn't quite as nice as the ones we'd been in on Celebrity but the heated ceramic lounge chairs and aromatherapy steam rooms made up the difference. The hours were shorter than we would have liked (closed by 8pm most days but open till 10pm on 2 of the days). But it was never overly crowded at any time we were using it. We supposed that if it were more crowded, they might have a reason to extend the hours! The charge always seems high to use this part of the spa but is no worse than what many land based hotel spas charge per day for use of their facilities. We had found what we thought was a reasonable rate for a suite on this sailing and took advantage of it. It was also a plus that the 3rd/4th passenger rates with HAL were half of what we would be paying on the other ship/itinerary we'd been considering. On the advice of our TA, we booked an SB cabin located at what I referred to as the "love handle" portion of the ship. Not finding any other reviews or photos of one of these cabins, I really didn't know what to expect. We were happily surprised. The cabin was as large as a land based hotel room. The deck plan incorrectly showed the location of the cabin door though as where the bathroom actually is. Because the bathroom is set to the side, you feel as though there is much more floor space in this cabin than in the SA cabin next door to us. The tradeoff is that the sofa converts to a twin rather than queen sized bed (ok for us but not if you're travelling 4 to the cabin) and the verandah is shallower by about 4 planks (yes I counted). It does make a difference as the suite verandahs have a table for 4 as well as 2 chairs with footrests and a small cocktail table. The table was a little tight to get into for dining. If floor space in the cabin is more important to you than verandah space, I would take this cabin in a heartbeat since the bathroom appeared to be the same size as in the SA. The new SOE beds are a definite improvement over beds on our past cruises that had mattresses little better than camp beds. And no scratchy bedspreads but nice soft duvet covers instead and enough pillows that we didn't have to ask for more. This was not only our first HAL sailing but also the first time in a suite cabin. So what can a HAL suite passenger expect? Aside from the fruit bowl and small flower arrangements in each cabin, we also had a welcome bottle of champagne (quite tasty, I must say), a welcome cocktail party the first night and a suite luncheon on the last sea day. Both of those were attended by Captain Mercer, James Deering (the hotel manager), Jimmy Lynett (the cruise director) and a few other officers. This is a very accessible management group as we would also see them around the public areas mingling with the passengers throughout the cruise, always with a smile and greeting. We enjoyed use of the Neptune Lounge for a light breakfast and afternoon snacks (our own "high tea" time) as well as use of the coffee machine that provided cappuccino and lattes along with regular coffee. Our concierges, Rea and Michelle, took care of everything so we didn't have to go to the main desk (from shore excursion bookings and breaking bills to re-issuing room keys that kept de-magnetizing - 4 cards for our daughter on a 7 day cruise!) as well as ordering dinner off the dining room menu to be delivered to our stateroom for meals on the verandah (a highly underrated experience). Aside from free laundry and dry cleaning (embarrassing how much we sent out during the week), one of the best perks was taking breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill where the service was always superb and was a must on debarkation day when the lines in the Lido were out the door. We do tend to be a touch pickier about our food than most. Everyone else we spoke to were really enjoying their meals. I think our expectations had been higher based on some reviews we'd read. While the Lido had much better food than in similar areas on other ships we've cruised on, the overall dining experience based on taste was only a "B" for us. I was particularly disappointed with the heavy use of surimi (the fake crab) in both the lobster bisque and conch chowder. The Pinnacle Grill had been heavily lauded but the side dishes were bland and our Chocolate Volcano cake had been overdone with no "lava" in the middle. The filet and porterhouse we ordered were huge and the 3 sauces were very good. The crab cakes were very very good. I told the waiter he could just keep bringing me plates of those and skip the rest of the order! The Pinnacle chef provided a cooking demonstration one afternoon making both the crab cakes and the volcano cake. It was amusing to see that the recipes were for portions of 20-30 servings for each and the misspelling indicating you should use Dungeness "crap" meat. Service was superb throughout. It was very evident this crew enjoys working together. We will definitely sail with HAL again. Now if only we'd won the cruise lottery to the Caribbean..... Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
What a blast. This was our first cruise and did not expect to have so much fun. The age range on the boat also was a surprise. We hope we would not have been the only couples under 35 and we were not. They catered to all age groups. We ... Read More
What a blast. This was our first cruise and did not expect to have so much fun. The age range on the boat also was a surprise. We hope we would not have been the only couples under 35 and we were not. They catered to all age groups. We only saw two shows and both were really good. We did an ATV tour in Cabo and would pass on that if we had to do it again. On the advice on many we did not go into port in Mazatlan. Instead we enjoyed a quiet day on the boat that relaxing and less crowded. We did the Green Hous Spa on the boat. That was a let down for the money. I guess I am spoiled to have great spas close to home. In PV we did two tours with the Vallarta adventures that were sold on the boat. The first one was the adventure canopy tour. We went on a 20 minute mule ride and then did zip lines through the jungle and rappelled down water falls. You do get really wet on this tour but worth it. The guide make us laugh and feel very safe. They were very funny. From a chicken do this tour. We also went to the Rhythm of the Nights tour. The guys on the boat kept us laughing the entire boat ride. The only let down on the trip is getting your bill the afternoon before you leave. I guess we cocktailed it more than we thought. Getting off the boat could not have gone any smoother. HAL has this nailed. From the time our group was called we left our cabin and was in our car in 30 minutes or less. This is a great ship and has a great staff. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
My husband and I just returned from our cruise on the Oosterdam. WOW! This was our seventh cruise with Holland America and we were thoroughly impressed! The ship was wonderful and the crew fantastic. From boarding the ship to ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our cruise on the Oosterdam. WOW! This was our seventh cruise with Holland America and we were thoroughly impressed! The ship was wonderful and the crew fantastic. From boarding the ship to disembarkation there was absolutely nothing about the cruise to complain about. Our cabin steward, Widi, kept everything in the cabin in immaculate condition and always went the extra mile. The food was fabulous in the Vista dining room. Rafiq from the dining room entrance always made the evening a happier event with his smile and personality. The service as always went the extra mile. We had dinner in the Pinnacle grill one evening and the dinner and dessert and service were all excellent. The entertainment onboard was varied and we thoroughly enjoyed every show we attended. The Oosterdam Superstar contest was so much fun to attend and the Vocalist, Alfeda Gerald had a magnificent voice, the comedian was very funny and the Beach Toys group and John Davidson were great! It was apparent that the crew all liked each other and it showed. Captain Mercer runs a very tight ship and it was obvious that he was well thought of. The cruise director, Jimmy was by far the best cruise director we have ever experienced. It was clear that he and his staff were truly enjoying themselves day after day. It made the whole trip even more enjoyable. The shore excursions were interesting. I will say however that riding around Puerto Vallarta was interesting! Not a lot of apparent traffic laws there! The worst things about the whole experience were the very pushy vendors in the ports and having to disembark the ship! I would highly recommend this ship and cruise to anyone and will definitely cruise Holland America again! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Sailed on Oosterdam 2/18-2/25/06...excellent ship with the most friendly staff and crew that I have come across in forty years of cruising. I asked the Hotel Manager if he gave them all Happy Pills every morning...each and every one of ... Read More
Sailed on Oosterdam 2/18-2/25/06...excellent ship with the most friendly staff and crew that I have come across in forty years of cruising. I asked the Hotel Manager if he gave them all Happy Pills every morning...each and every one of them were always smiling and most helpful. Embarkation was a breeze, at 3:30pm we went from curb to our cabin in five minutes. The ship was clean and neat in all areas. The cabin service was excellent each day with plenty of fresh fruit on the table. The Dining Room and Lido both had excellent food and service. The Pinnacle Grill was a mixed bag...excellent one nite and mediocre another! The service and food were perfect on the second nite of the cruise, but on the fifth nite it was a disaster with poor service and food problems. The chef undercooked the Halibut which was cold and raw in the center then he cooked it again in the microwave oven turning it into rubber...the baked Alaska also was a problem as they left pieces of the paper wrapper on the ice cream inside of the dessert...not acceptable in an upscale dining room with a $20 per person surcharge. The Pinnacle experience did not alter the fact that everything else on this fine ship was excellent. Kudos to DJ Matt and Asst. Cruise Director Adam for outstanding people skills. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
There are not many reviews on the Oosterdam so I wanted to be of some help to the people out there that may be looking at this cruise. First of all my husband and I have only taken a handful of cruises and only on Carnival so those of you ... Read More
There are not many reviews on the Oosterdam so I wanted to be of some help to the people out there that may be looking at this cruise. First of all my husband and I have only taken a handful of cruises and only on Carnival so those of you who are cruise snobs may disagree with my assessment. Embarkment- Our flight was late coming in so we had no lines but the red-jacketed staff was friendly, met us at the airport and we were on board in our room in less that 30min. Our luggage came quickly as again we were late boarding. Sea Days- The three at sea days were wonderful. Weather was beautiful, seas were calm. We had a balcony room (highly recommended) and we enjoyed breakfast delivered daily with the paper and enjoyed it on our balcony. The stateroom was very roomy, plenty of drawer space, be sure to check under the bed and couch (more drawers) Ports- Cabo- We had to tender here; a little bit of an issue. Be sure to leave very early or wait until after all the shore excursions to avoid the crowds. We just took a glass bottom boat $20 for two, to Lovers Beach; high waves, a few vendors but overall wonderful. The water taxi will come and get you and let you off by the pier or down by the hotels/restaurants. We also took a quick walk to Cabo Wabo's just to have a shot of Tequila. Had lunch at a new restaurant "Pepitos" food was great; service was FUN. This was by far our favorite beach. Mazatlan- We took a private tour with Mazatlan Frank www.mazatlan-frank.com We took the city/beach tour, if you want shopping, city and beach this is a great tour. We enjoyed the Church, art district and the overall tour however, the beach is not as nice as Cabo and the vendors are worse here than any other port. Frank will get you to and from the ship with plenty of time to spare. PV- We took a dune buggy trip into the Sierra Madre. I wish I could tell you who it was through however, we just got off the tender and found a little stand. Luckily the people were nice and honest. They took us to a garage outside of town, provided us with a guide, goggles and a bandana and we took off. Through small villages, up hills and through rivers. After we were totally wet and muddy they took us to the Tequila factory and after a few shots of free Tequila we got back on the dune buggies and rode back to town. Total cost $100 for two per dune buggy. We had a blast. As you can tell we loved every day of our trip. My husband and I are early 40s and left our kids at home so we enjoyed the Oosterdam because it caters more to an older crowd; very few children. The ship is very clean and the staff is attentive but not overly engaging (as on Carnival).We are thinking about doing the Alaskan cruise next September and we would take Holland American again.. I know a lot of the Holland America reviews state the food leaves something to be desired but, apparently the food was good because I gained 5 pounds. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
First of all, the weather was perfect. The shore activities (deep sea fishing, and the canopy adventure) were a lot of fun. We live in Orange County Ca., so the travel to the ship was easy and took less than an hour. We parked across the ... Read More
First of all, the weather was perfect. The shore activities (deep sea fishing, and the canopy adventure) were a lot of fun. We live in Orange County Ca., so the travel to the ship was easy and took less than an hour. We parked across the street after dropping off our bags. (The parking lot will give you a big discount if you use your AAA credit card to pay for the parking.) We arrived early before the crowd, so we were upstairs eating in the Lido Restaurant in less than 1/2 hour. The Lido was crowded during that period but, that was really the only time we were forced to wait in much of a line the whole week. Overall, I don't know how the week could have gone any better than it did. During this review I will focus on the positive things that happened during the cruise and include the small negatives afterwards. (nitpick) Our Superior Veranda Suite was roomy and well designed. The large Veranda was big enough for two easy chairs and a table and chairs for outdoor lunches. I thought my wife and I would use it more than we did. The room was like having a small hotel room with a balcony. It was perfect for our needs. Our man Bobby was great. He bumped into us the first day while he figured out our schedule then disappeared except for great service. Thank you Bobby The lifeboat drill was well coordinated and over quickly. Nitpick... We were standing next to an air vent on the deck when they talked about emergency procedures, and we could not hear what was being said. We danced in the Ocean Bar most evenings before our late seating, then walked down to the Vista for dinner. We were seated at a window table for six on the bottom level looking out at the propeller wake behind the boat. Nitpick... the propellers were a little too noisy some nights. The menu at the Vista changed every night, but most nights were good and the service was good. There were some unusual offerings like blueberry gazpacho soup, that turned out to be very good. The other people seated at our table were very pleasant to talk to and we stayed after the meals to finish several long winded conversations. Nitpick... My wife and I would prefer a more open seating type of dining after the first few nights. We made friends during the day, but could not go to dinner with them in the evening (unless we went to the upscale Pinnacle Grill).The food at the Vista was also good on the one breakfast and one lunch we ate there. (much better than the standard food in the Lido.) Nitpick... The staff in the Vista were eager to move us out after our meal even though we wanted to sit and talk. Those were the only rude moments on the whole cruise. We used room service for breakfast four days during the cruise. During the three shore days and the last day. The menu did not change. You filled out a preprinted card and placed it on your door the night before. The muesli was very good and so was the ham and cheese omelet. The food was always on time and hot. (Good job Oosterdam crew!) Disembarking We ate breakfast in our room while we waited for our group to be called. The room TV set could be turned to a channel that would announce the various groups that were disembarking. We waited till later, to allow people who were flying an earlier time. By the time we reached our luggage most of the ship was empty and we did not have to fight a crowd at the dock. We were home by noon. Ship Activities We danced most nights, and took in the shows if we were interested. They were fine for the most part. I had a massage the second day and she did a good job. $125 including tip. Nitpick...Twice we saw small small children dancing on the dance floor in stocking feet bumping into the adults. (This is not a HAL problem. This is a rude parent problem.) Also the massage table did not have a place that extended for your head, so it pinched my neck. And she cut me a few times with her long fingernails. At the end of the massage she launched into a sales pitch for some products instead of letting me lay there and relax. (this is a HAL problem.) Shore excursions The fishing trip out of Cabo was like every other fishing trip, (Good if you catch fish and bad if you don't.) A guy on our boat caught an eight foot long marlin, so we all had a good time. Nitpick... Cabo harbor is like riding a tilt-a-whirl, don't go if you get sea sick. Also the captain told the guy who caught the marlin that it would cost $1000 to mount it. When we got back to Cabo the price went up to $1700 and then after he paid he found out that the freight would cost another $400. I was glad it was his fish. Skip Mazatlan, I think this is just a cheap place for HAL to restock the ship. Lots of poor people sticking bracelets and baseball caps in your face where ever we went. Zipline canopy adventure. This was the most fun we had on the cruise! When we got off the tender boat our guide told us that we would be spending most of our time in the treetops as high up as the top of our cruise ship. We didn't believe her. After a one hour ride out of Puerto Vallarta in a troup transport truck, we pulled onto a small dirt road that led back to the ziplines. The guides were young but very careful with us. If you are afraid of heights stay off of this excursion! We swung around on small wires hung between trees approximately 100 feet in the air. At the end we were forced to rapelle down out of the last tree. The whole trip including the walk back up a steep hill took 2 hours. Nitpick... This is a dangerous activity! On the ship we heard stories of people breaking bones or rupturing spleens on other ziplines in other parts of the world. Also we paid $51 for a CD of the adventure but it still hasn't arrived. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was my 6th cruise, my partner's 2nd. It's the first time I've sailed Holland America, my previous 5 cruises have all been on Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships. I am 37 years old. We sailed out of San Diego. A friend ... Read More
This was my 6th cruise, my partner's 2nd. It's the first time I've sailed Holland America, my previous 5 cruises have all been on Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships. I am 37 years old. We sailed out of San Diego. A friend of mine drove us to the port, which is very near the airport, and very easy to locate. We embarked around 2:30pm on Saturday and were surprised at how smooth and easy it was. We didn't have to wait in line at all. We were onboard in a matter of minutes. We made our way to our stateroom, number 6016, which is near the bow of the ship. The stateroom was very nice, and about the same size as the cabins on the Royal Caribbean ships. The bed was far better though! It was bigger and extremely comfortable. I think they have pillowtop mattresses or something, because it was just amazingly comfortable. While the bathroom was a little bit dark and dingy, it was nice to have a small bathtub instead of just a shower stall. The verandah was very nice. It felt slightly bigger than on the Royal Caribbean ships, and had nice, wicker furniture. While the average age on board seemed somewhat older than on the other ships I've been on, this was actually perfect for the type of cruise we were looking for. We wanted a low-key relaxing vacation, which is what we got. There are plenty of activities onboard, and we did participate in some of them: line dancing, Karaoke, casino, sail-away parties. If you're looking for a relaxing cruise, Holland America is really quite perfect, I thought. The ship was very nice, but there were a couple of things I didn't like about it. To me, the main pool area was very poorly designed. I know they put the retractable cover on it because the ship also sails to Alaska, but it creates a very closed feeling in that area. It also makes the observation deck above it pretty unattractive. I much prefer the open, tiered-deck set-up of the RCCL Voyager class ships. That being said, the aft pool area, which was the Adults Only pool area, was quite nice. It was open, and had a much better feel to it. We spent all of our outdoor time there, hardly going to the other pool area at all. We also like the fact that you can go to the very tip of the bow on the RCCL ships. We couldn't get there on this ship. The food on this cruise was excellent, definitely a step up from the other cruises I've been on. The service was professional without being intrusive. The dining room was very elegant and nicely lit. We took a tour of the kitchen one day, which was interesting and fun...to see where the magic happens (yes, we're total foodies). We switched dining tables after the first night because we wanted a smaller table with some people we had met the first day, and the dining room staff was very accommodating and helpful in getting us the table setup we wanted. Kudos to Holland America there. What we saw of the entertainment was generally good. I wasn't expecting it to be as good as on the Royal Caribbean ships from what I'd read/heard, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cast for the production shows was equal to those that I've seen on RCCL ships. I thought they did an excellent job. We opted to skip the juggler/comedian show and a Beatles cover band show. Other people told us they were very good, but we just weren't that interested. We went to the Superstar (American Idol type) competition one night in lieu of the show, and stayed in Puerto Vallarta until 9:30pm the other night. Ports of call were generally good. We went whale watching in Cabo - made arrangements with someone on the pier for $35/person. It was great! They took us out (just the two of us) in a small motor boat. We were able to get very close to the whales, and also saw dolphins and manta rays. Very cool! We also ate at a great Mexican cantina here called Pancho's. Mazatlan was interesting, but very poor. We walked through the streets of Old Mazatlan and were struck by the amount of poverty. We took a ferry over to Isla de la Piedra where there was a nice, secluded beach. It was nice and relaxing. Puerto Vallarta was, by far, our favorite port. We had some friends there, who took us to a beautiful beach, showed us around town, took us to a fantastic restaurant called Le Bistro, followed by a gallery walk to many of the local art galleries. What an amazing day/evening! The service on this cruise was top-notch. The cabin steward was excellent. He remembered our names, and always greeted us in the hallway. He learned our schedule (we sleep late), and never interrupted us. Our room was spotless every time we came back to it. We used room service for breakfast on the verandah twice. This is one of my favorite things to do on a cruise! The food was delicious, and showed up right on time. Service in the dining room was terrific as well. Bar servers were good too, and were a little less pushy with drinks than on RCCL. Disembarkation was very easy and well organized. The fact that you can wait in your cabin until your group is called to disembark is fantastic! We were actually able to sleep in until 8:30am on the morning of disembarkation. This is a rarity on cruises. Holland America gets serious props for this policy. We had a fantastic time on this cruise, and were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked Holland America and the Oosterdam. I highly recommend this ship and cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Likes: Vista Class ships are large, but not too large to limit individual contact between passengers and crew on a recurrent basis. Cabin amenities and quality of cabin service are well above average. Food variety and preparation, as ... Read More
Likes: Vista Class ships are large, but not too large to limit individual contact between passengers and crew on a recurrent basis. Cabin amenities and quality of cabin service are well above average. Food variety and preparation, as well as cleanliness and speed of delivery, rate from high average to superior. Hotel manager Deering is probably the best in the business, bar none. This ship never feels crowded in spite of some narrow access points (like the shopping areas or the Lido seating areas). Unlike some other HAL ships, the current front office staff is uniformly competent and smooth in its operation. No glitches occurred in either boarding or disembarkation. Dislikes: Truly awful music in most public areas, intrusive and unbearable to the ears. Everyone complained about it, only to hear the lame excuse that it was programmed and conveyed to the ship from corporate headquarters. As in other HAL ships, shows were a mixed bag, ranging from vulgar attempts at comedy to some truly professional presentations. No lectures on this particular route, very sad in view of much history and environmental context. Be prepared to have your credit card nicked as well for a wide range of extras, including virtually mandatory tips and service charges. Novelties: An experimental scheduling in the main dining room came off very well indeed. This involved offering a single timing at each of the two evening seatings instead of the usual staggered intervals. Guests choosing the sit-down dinner were offered either 5:30 p.m. with a half-hour entry door or a similar late seating arrangement in which plenty of time to arrive at the dining room obtained. The staff seemed to take it in stride, even though it meant dealing with more latecomers and serving the soup to a table where others were already on dessert. Off-the-cuff comments: HAL strives to maintain some old cruise decorum in dining by stressing the pleasures of fixed dining times and occasional dress-up nights. Its Pinnacle Grill at extra cost may or may not appeal to the majority, but here again on some ships and routes it augurs back to the old days of the Queen's Grill and thus has many takers. Most cruisers seem not even to notice it, and the Lido is invariably where the hoi polloi meet and eat at all hours. As an early riser (5 a.m.), I love spending an hour with coffee watching the sun rise from the Lido windows before all but other old geezers are up. If only it weren't for that darned canned music (if indeed it can be called music at all). Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
A wonderful cruise experience. This was our 4th. cruise. We have sailed on the Celebrity Constellation,the NCL Pride of Aloha and the Golden Princess, all of which were in balcony cabins. This was our first cruise on Holland American and ... Read More
A wonderful cruise experience. This was our 4th. cruise. We have sailed on the Celebrity Constellation,the NCL Pride of Aloha and the Golden Princess, all of which were in balcony cabins. This was our first cruise on Holland American and our first cruise in an inside cabin. We were concerned that we would find it claustrophobic. The Oosterdam provided us with exemplary service every where on the ship; and to our surprise we experienced no problems staying in our inside cabin. We arrived in San Diego a day early and stayed at the Best Western Bayside Hotel located approx. 4 blocks from the boat terminal. Our hotel room was clean and comfortable. Boarding the Oosterdam the next day around noon took about 25 minutes. Food and drink was available and after eating we found our room was ready although it would be another hour before all our luggage arrived. We found the Oosterdam to be slightly smaller than the other ships we had sailed on. The Oosterdam was maintained throughout the cruise in an excellent state of cleanliness. Our inside cabin on the upper verandah deck had plenty of storage space. There were three closets and storage shelves and drawers everywhere in the cabin. Our empty luggage was stored below the bed. Our bed was firm and comfortable and more than wide enough for two people. Our room steward could not have been better. The room was always promptly cleaned and the bed made-up. There was always ice in our ice bucket and chocolates and towel art creations (towels tied into animal shapes)on our bed when we came in each night. My only observation about our room that may be construed as a negative is that because there were no portholes or balcony doors to admit sunlight each morning we had trouble getting motivated to get out of bed in our dark cabin each morning. In spite of a 7:30 wake up call and an 8am room service breakfast each morning we stayed in bed till around 9:30 watching the Turner movie channel on TV. We discovered that although we will always prefer a balcony cabin, we have no objections to an inside cabin. Food: The Oosterdam does an excellent job with its preparation and presentation of food everywhere we went on the ship. The food at the buffet, the main dining room the Pinnacle speciality restaurant and the hamburger grill was very good to excellent. The fish that I had was always fresh tasting and moist, the vegetables were perfectly seasoned and cooked enough. The breakfast omelets were light and fluffy and the sausage was tasty. The ice cream and sorbets (homemade?) were excellent with a different flavor introduced each day. (surprisingly, only the vanilla tasted bland and not exceptional) My only complaints on the food are as follows: The orange and grapefruit juices were excessively watered down. The pizza instead of being chewy with a crispy crust were always mushy tasting. My waffles were never cooked enough. There were not enough fresh ripe tropical fruits served (mango, papaya, pineapple,etc.) Although I did go to the gym each day I gained 10 pounds on this cruise. Gym: Spacious and adequate facilities although the rug in the gym area needed vacuuming. The men's locker room and showers were always clean, comfortable and fully supplied. Pools: The 2 pools and four woefully small hot tubs were not large enough to handle the crowd on board when the ship was at sea. Excursions: We did no excursions on this cruise and maybe that's why I gained so much weight on this cruise from the continuous eating from morning to midnight. At each port we got off the ship and did some shopping in town. Entertainment: I did not find the entertainment very professional, although everyone else on board appeared satisfied. Passengers: I am in my 60s. This cruise appeared the have a higher percentage of seniors in their 60s, 70s and 80s than on my other cruises. Conclusion: We had a wonderful time on the Oosterdam although we did not go on any exciting excursions. It was the excellent service, accommodations and foods that made it great for us. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
This is our sixth cruise- second on Holland America. I am 54 and travelled with my husband who is 55. Sailed on New Year's Eve cruise out of San Diego. Spent pre-cruise night at Holiday Inn Bayside- nice hotel picked us up from ... Read More
This is our sixth cruise- second on Holland America. I am 54 and travelled with my husband who is 55. Sailed on New Year's Eve cruise out of San Diego. Spent pre-cruise night at Holiday Inn Bayside- nice hotel picked us up from airport within 5 minutes of calling and transferred us to ship next morning. Embarked at about 11.30 am- no waiting in line- we were on board within 5 minutes. Made reservations for Pinnacle for first night- it is only $10 per person and $20 per person for next cruise nights. Had a leisurely lunch at the Lido restaurant and spent time out on Lido deck until announcement to say staterooms were ready- this was about 1 pm. We had stateroom 8064 which is mid-ship and 2 cabins away from elevators. I am a light sleeper and can honestly say heard no noise from elevators. This cabin is very well situated and same size as other staterooms we have had on other cruise lines of this category. Plenty of closet space and bathroom was a good size with small bathtub and mirror cabinet for toiletries. Very comfortable bed. First night dinner in Pinnacle was very good- had fillet mignon which was perfect. Had baked alaska which was ok- nothing special. Service was very good but no better than in Vista dining room. Don't think meal is worth an extra $20- $10 is about right. The food on this cruise was excellent- from the self service Lido to the Dining room. The cruise was fully booked yet there were no lines for the self service stations and we always found a table to sit at. The food in the Vista dining room was excellent as was the service. The open dining worked very well for us- we were on second sitting and went in anytime between 8 pm to 8.45 pm - depending on what was going on and what we felt like doing. Whatever time we went in the service and food were just as good. Spent sea days sunbathing- there were always plenty of loungers available considering there were so many people on the cruise. New Year's Eve was excellent. Most people made the effort to dress up-the dinner was wonderful and from about 11.30 pm free champagne was served. The main celebration was in the Vista lounge where there was live music and a balloon drop at 12. The decorations were a delight- they had gone to a lot of effort to make the ship look extra special. Ports of call were ok- not as nice as Caribbean but that is only my opinion. Went on Whale watching in Puerto Vallarta- made arrangements with local company at dockside- $40 per person for 4 hours and this included free drink and food. Saw plenty of whales and dolphins which was really exciting. Would recommend to anyone. Other ports of call had the usual thing- mostly shopping!! There were some nice beaches though. The entertainment was ok but nothing special- there were two productions put on by cruise singers and dancers, a magician, an impressionist and one night was evening of singing and dancing put on by Filipino crew. The best entertainment for me was the talent show entered by guests on cruise- done like American Idol with a panel consisting of cruise director and 2 other entertainment staff members. The service on this cruise was EXCELLENT. The cabin steward was very good- we never saw him but he always knew when we were not in the cabin to service the room. Never used room service so cannot comment on that. As I have already mentioned, service in the Dining room was very good from the waiters to wine stewards. Disembarkation was also a breeze- you wait in your cabin until you are called. Once we had cleared immigration, we found our luggage very quickly- this is very well organised in colour and number zones. We stayed post cruise night at Holiday Inn on the Bay. This is across the road from the port and all we had to do is wheel our luggage there- took only a few minutes. Though it was only 9 am- they had a room for us and we checked in right away and were free to explore San Diego. The next morning there was a shuttle to the airport. Sailed on the Zuiderdam last november and although it is Oosterdam's sister ship it is not as nice. The Oosterdam is more elegant and the food much nicer. Would recommend this ship to anyone and would definitely sail her again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
Day One 11/11/2005 Woo..Vacation starts today! My flight was scheduled to leave Oakland at 12:45pm, the actual departure was at 1:15pm due late plane arrival. I thought that laptop was broken after it didn't turn on after getting ... Read More
Day One 11/11/2005 Woo..Vacation starts today! My flight was scheduled to leave Oakland at 12:45pm, the actual departure was at 1:15pm due late plane arrival. I thought that laptop was broken after it didn't turn on after getting through security and spent most of time waiting for flight talking with HP on the cell phone. I couldn't get the laptop to work and was seriously bummed out since I had hauled it with me to use the wireless onboard the ship. It was a very full flight, but nicely uneventful. I arrived in San Diego at 2:30pm. One of the handles on my luggage was broken, but Southwest has a luggage policy that does not include handles, so I was out of luck. I watched the Holiday Inn On the Bay shuttle leave the airport as I arrived at the shuttle stop. It was only a 15 minute wait for the next shuttle, so no big deal. The Holiday Inn On the Bay is very nice. It doesn't feel like a Holiday Inn. I've heard people complain that the rooms are small, but mine was quite large and very comfortable. I really appreciated having individual thermostats in every room and a completely non-smoking floor that included the balconies. If you stay here, get a South Tower room 8th floor or above to have the best view of the cruise line terminal and ships. I had a room on the 6th floor and my view was of a lovely Palm tree that blocked the view of a Celebrity ship. Still, with a view of a palm tree, I'm not about to complain. The hotel offers free wireless in the lobby and the rooms. My laptop decided to start working again, (yeay!), so I was able to take advantage of a reasonably fast connection. I had a decent sized balcony with two chairs and a table. The hotel was very quiet and I didn't hear any other hotel guests, well, until 2am when a male/female couple just below me came home drunk. They proceeded to have a very loud conversation with their balcony door open. They finally went to sleep (or passed out) around 3am. With the balcony doors closed, I didn't hear any traffic noise or train noise. Planes started taking off around 7am, but the noise was fairly muffled. I did hear the Oosterdam dock around 6am, but that was a happy noise! The hotel has two restaurants and one deli type store with breakfast, cold beverages, coffee and espresso drinks and sandwiches that's open from 6am to 7pm. Seaport village is an easy 15 minute walk from the hotel. It's a pretty walk right by the water and Seaport village is a cute shopping area. I walked down to Seaport village and wandered around for bit. Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up and out to Anthony's Seafood Grotto for dinner. I got to Anthony's around 6:00pm and was told that there was a 40 minute wait for the window seat that I had requested. No problem, I had my book and I love people watching. Even though I'm traveling and dining solo, I still wanted a window seat. I'm glad that I asked for one as the restaurant is one big open room with multiple rows of tables. I'm claustrophobic and being in the middle of a crowded room would have not been relaxing. 20 minutes later, I was seated at my window table, which was absolutely perfect. I had an inattentive, crabby waitress, who I think was annoyed that I was a solo diner. I ordered a glass of wine (or two), cup of clam chowder (free with coupon from Anthony's website)a salad, grilled red snapper with a baked potato. I also took a piece of cheesecake back to the room with me for a late dessert. The meal was very good with the clam chowder full of clams and very tasty. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly and was very fresh. The only disappointment was the cheesecake, but it may have suffered by being held outside the fridge for 3 hours in my room. By the time I was done with dinner, it was 7:30 and freezing! I had wanted to go for a walk to help settle dinner, but it was too cold! So, I had a luxurious evening doing absolutely nothing productive. ? Day two 11/12/05 - San Diego Happy Birthday to me! I woke up around 7am and lazed around until 8am. From my obstructed view balcony, I saw the bow of the Oosterdam! Woo! With my balcony doors open, I could hear the rising ding Ding DING of the Oosterdam's announcement system. I felt like I was on the ship already! I picked up some yogurt, fruit and a very good Mexican mocha (espresso, chocolate, cinnamon and steamed milk) from the hotel's deli and had breakfast out on the balcony. After breakfast, I wandered down to the Marine time museum and boarded the "Surprise" a tall ship that was the ship n the movie Master and Commander. I also went on the Russian submarine. The sub was very tiny and difficult to move around in as to get from section to section; you had to climb through a small round hatch. I couldn't imagine living on the ship and dealing with the very tight quarters! By the time I was done touring the ships, it was time to board the Oosterdam! I got my bags and walked across the street at 11:00. There was a very short line to get inside the terminal. Be aware that the security checks your documents before they allow you on the pier, before they allow you into the embarkation building and then again when you check in. They really want to make sure that you belong there! They also handed out Norwalk Virus surveys asking if you've had any symptoms of GI Upset or fever over the last 7 days. I hope that people would be honest about their symptoms, but I have my doubts. The terminal is a huge warehouse with a small store selling touristy crap and a bar that had many crew members at it. There are two lines, one for suite passengers and one for non-suite passengers. There are around 20 stations for passengers to check-in, register their credit card for their shipboard account, have their picture taken and get their room key. It was here that I learned that I no longer had the 6:15 dining time I had been expecting and instead had been moved to 5:45pm. I was not happy and was informed, that any dining changes were to be made on the ship that afternoon. I was onboard the ship by 11:45 and dealing with the crowded Lido. It was an absolute zoo with everyone dragging their wheeled carryon's while trying to manage trays of food. I found a quiet table by the pool and enjoyed my first slices of delicious crispy HAL pizza. The special pizza was "California" and it had jalapeño's in it. I love spicy food and this was very good. I had a little pineapple soft serve ice cream with fresh pineapple chunks and strawberry sauce for dessert. I booked my spa treatments and signed up for a series of three yoga classes on sea days at 9am for $33. I also got the thermal suite package for the entire cruise and signed up for internet. If you get the internet package on the first day, you get 20 bonus minutes. The cabins were available at 1:30 and I got my first look at the C-GTY that I booked, I got cabin C-1077. I miss having a balcony, but the cabin is very nice. Best of all, the wife got me some beautiful surprise birthday presents. She got me a dozen long stemmed roses, the "birthday package" that included a HAL mug filled with chocolates, balloons, flowers and a beach towel. HAL left a note that they didn't have any beach towels on the ship, so they gave a credit to my shipboard account instead. My cabin smelled like roses and they were so pretty. I met my cabin steward, Indra Maulana, who was very nice and very invisible. I looked for him after my luggage arrived at 3pm because I had some things I wanted pressed, but I never found him again that evening and only saw him once or twice throughout the week! He was also very pleasant and called me by name the rare occasions when we saw each other. The Maitre D' was available outside the Explorer's Lounge from 1:30 - 4:00pm to deal with any dining issues. There was a HUGE line as many people were upset with the dining changes. HAL eliminated the 6:15 and 8:30 seating, so there was only 5:45 or 8:00pm. Some people who, had requested to be seated together, were now split to different tables and a few groups were split to different seating times! I had been assigned table 312, a table for 6 at 5:45, when I had asked for a 6:15 seating at a table for 10. I looked on the dining room map to try and find my table and table 312 didn't exist! There weren't any tables with number above the 200's. I asked a nearby frazzled steward where my table was located and it turned out that table 312 is also known as table N. Weird. Once I found out that the 6:15 time had been eliminated, I just walked away. There was nothing I could do. It turned out that I had wonderful tablemates and we all entered the dining room at 6:00 every night, just before the doors closed, so the timing change didn't really matter. Sail away was at 5pm and there was a party at the aft deck pool. So, with a margarita in my hand, I waved goodbye to San Diego. A little word about the ship. It's beautiful! There are delightful fresh flowers all over the ship and the art work is exquisite. There are some patches of worn carpet, especially on the edges of the main stairs. The midship elevators also have quite a few scuff marks on the walls, but when you consider the ship sails with 1800 passengers each week, some minor wear and tear is no big deal. The crew is constantly polishing and cleaning something. They re-varnished a large section of railing on the Promenade deck while in San Diego port. The staff is very friendly, always saying hello or good evening. There is some drink pushing, but it's manageable. It's very obvious that some bartenders do NOT like the soda card. I asked for a Diet Coke with a lemon and showed my soda sticker on my room card and the bartender at the Lido bar sighed and rolled his eyes! The passenger next to me and I just looked at each other in amazement. The bartender handed me my fountain soda without the lemon and I asked again for the lemon. He hesitated and I thought he was going to ask me to pay for the lemon slice! He reluctantly slapped a lemon slice in the glass and handed it to me. So far, the only not so great service I received was when I asked for a soda on the first day. Dinner was at 5:45, I got there around 6:00 and there were only two other people at my table for 6. They were traveling with a group of 20 who had tables around where we were sitting. They all work at the same dental office together and travel every couple years as a group. They pretty much adopted me and we hung out together throughout the week. They were all very nice, although I think we drove our waiter nuts because we kept moving to different tables throughout the cruise. :) This is the big advantage to traditional dining for a solo cruiser. If we had had "leisure dining", I never would have met my new friends and would have missed out on getting to know some really wonderful people. Anyway, back to dinner. Our server was BamBang H. Apparently there are four BamBang's on the ship as it is a common name in Indonesia. He was very nice, professional and friendly. He remembered everyone's names and any specific preferences that they had. He also recommended certain dishes or would gently steer people away from dishes that weren't so good that day. For dinner, I had a smoked salmon appetizer, mushroom and spinach salad and grilled mahi-mahi. The dinner was excellent. I ate lots of fish throughout the week and it was all very good. I asked for the Indonesian hot sauce, called Sambal, and while it tasted very good, it smelled awful! BamBang was surprised that I knew about sambal and every evening he made sure to have it available for me. The first night he had to go all the way up to the Lido restaurant to get it! After dinner, I went and saw the show which was very cheesy, but they tried hard. There was also a comedian who played the hardware store employee on the show Home Improvement. I can't remember his name. I thought he was mildly amusing, but there were people absolutely rolling in the aisle. After the show I wandered through the shops, nothing very interesting. I also listened to the Champagne Strings and walked along the Promenade. The ship was really rocking the first night and passengers were falling into the walls. The motion was very significant. Thank goodness for Bonine! Clocks were set ahead one hour at 2am. Day 3 Sunday 11-13-05 At sea There were heavy seas all night long. The head of my bed faced the window, and the ship was rocking from side to side, so it felt like my head was down, then up, then down, then up..all night long. I got used to it quickly though and with those fantastic HAL beds, I was asleep quickly. I had the two beds pushed together to make a queen sized bed and I could easily feel the split where the beds were pushed together. This surprised me as last time the wife and I cruised together on the Zuiderdam, we couldn't feel that split. It didn't bother me though and I slept better on the ship than I have in years. :) Up at 7:00am. Breakfast in the Lido - fruit, muesli, coffee, oj. The Lido wasn't crowded at all and the food stations moved very quickly. I've heard negative things about the coffee, but I thought it was excellent. The creamy muesli with the little pieces of dried fruit in it, was as tasty as I've heard. I now understand what the fuss is all about. :) 9:00 - Yoga class. There were 8 people signed up for the class. Most people had done some yoga before, but there were a few that had never tried it. I take yoga twice a week and found the class to be very basic. However, the rocking of the ship made several of the poses very challenging! 10:15 - Tour of the ship's galley. This was a very popular tour and the line extended past the Explorer's Lounge. It's amazing how many meals are made in such a small space! There were samples of some dishes and a lovely presentation of lunch dishes in the Pinnacle Grill. 11:00 - Well Being Massage and Silk Facial. So relaxing! It wasn't the best massage I've ever had, but it was still very good. The only thing that bothered me was that during the facial, the therapist didn't tell me what she was doing or applying to my skin. I asked her a few times and then just gave up. She also gave some misinformation about skin anatomy and causes of rosacia. She told me that rosacia is caused by the water from the shower hitting your face! I had a really hard time keeping quiet about that one and decided to just tell my dermatologist about it. *grin* 1:00 - Lunch. At the beginning of every station in the Lido, at the entrance to the main dining room and the Pinnacle Grill, at the Lido Grill and in the gym, were automatic hand sanitizer stations. I saw several people using them and I used them frequently throughout the day. There were just as many people who didn't use them and I just kept hoping that they had washed their hands recently. I made a salad from good variety of fresh veggies at the salad bar and then went to the taco bar and added taco meat (a little greasy), beans and guac for a tasty taco salad. I also had to try a small piece of chicken salad in sliced avocados. I got a Diet Coke Can with coke card without an attitude from a soda station set up by the pool. During lunch I sat by the pool and watched some "wacky pool games", such a golf in the pool. It was quite fun. Then I went to the Therapy. Pool and Thermal Suites. Heavenly Sunday night was the first formal night and the Captain's cocktail hour. I wore a floor length backless black dress and most women were wearing floor length dresses. About 20% of men were wearing tuxes the rest in dark suits and ties. 4:45 - I stood in a very long line that went from the door to the Vista lounge in the very front of the ship, all the way back past the Queen's lounge to the midship elevators, to have my picture taken with the Captain. He was very nice and offered me "a wing" to hold onto during the picture. He also shook everyone's hand, which surprised me because of Norwalk. The last time we were on the Zuiderdam, the Captain didn't shake anyone's hands. After a picture with the Captain and two other pictures, I made it into the Vista lounge and the free champagne and hors d'oeuvres of scallops wrapped in bacon, fried shrimp, sausages and other unidentifiable fried nibbles of something. The champagne was quite tasty and glasses were kept full. I had an interesting conversation with a person who identified herself as traveling with her church group. It was only after we had a long conversation about how traveling solo is a great growing experience and how positive thinking can help keep the immune system strong, (she doesn't believe that virus's exist!) that I learned she was a Scientologist. I "came out" as a psychologist and she moved to a different seat soon afterwards. I got a giggle out of that. 5:45 - Dinner. I met my friends at dinner and had a delicious meal of shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, Caesar salad, grilled miso salmon and watermelon pie. I have never ever had such a delicious dessert as the watermelon pie. It was watermelon sorbet with a dark chocolate crust, absolutely amazing. 8:30 - Show. Some dance thing. I don't remember much about it. I came to look at the 8:30 - 9:30 show times as something to do to keep awake until the fun stuff started at 9:30. 9:30 - Karaoke in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was packed and the karaoke was wonderfully awful! There were a few outstanding singers and then there was the rest of us. :) My dental group friends (with much liquid courage) sang a couple numbers, which was great fun. There was one very tall, very powerful woman who sang a Rolling Stones song and she was amazing. Everyone who sang at karaoke was invited to be a part of Oosterdam Superstar, an American Idol type show that started the next night. After Karaoke I walked around the Promenade and enjoyed the warm evening weather before heading to bed. Day 4 Monday 11-14-05 - Cabo San Lucas I was up at 6:30 am with the sunrise. I had put out my room service breakfast order on the door tag the night before and asked for it to be delivered between 7 and 7:30am. At 7:25, I called to find out where my breakfast was. They said it would be right there. 10 minutes later it arrived. I think that they forgot about it! I had a cold toasted bagel with cream cheese, non-fat yogurt, banana, coffee and OJ. It would have been good if the bagel had actually been warm, but oh well. The coffee was hot and that was really the important part. The tour was scheduled to leave at 8am and they ask people to be in the Vista Lounge ten minutes before the tour is scheduled to start, so I ate quickly and ran to the Vista Lounge. Actual departure time was at 8:30am, so I could have had time to enjoy a more calm breakfast. I did the Chileno Bay Sail and Snorkel excursion and it was fantastic. We boarded a catamaran for a sail past Lover's Beach and The Arch, before heading to Chileno Bay for snorkeling. It's about an hour ride on the catamaran and it went so quickly because the water and the tropical scenery was absolutely lovely. They provided fruit (apples and bananas) and juice on board for breakfast if you'd like. They also provided masks, fins and snorkels. I brought antibacterial wipes to clean everything and shared with others who appreciated it. The snorkeling was great! Saw thousands of fish in schools and wandering around solo. They weren't as colorful as the fish in the Caribbean, but I did see lots of yellow fish, purple striped fish and ones with blue tipped fins. I also saw a big eel and what looked catfish with big whiskers by their mouths. I swam from the boat to the shore and walked on the beach for awhile. It felt so wonderful to walk on the soft sand with the warm sun and the sound of the waves hitting the beach. We had 1.5 hours to swim and enjoy the beach. The crew was professional and kept a careful watch on the swimmers from the boat and a dingy. There was a water slide from the boat to use if desired and many people did desire! They warned us about jellyfish, but no one saw any and no one got stung. The water temp was 81 degrees and the air temp was 92 degrees. It couldn't have been any better. After swimming, back on board you got a fresh water shower from a hose to rinse off the salt. There were packaged snacks (cheese-n-crackers, chips, and cookies), sodas, and an open bar with alcoholic drinks. The rum punch was very tasty. They put ice in the drinks unless requested otherwise. I saw a lot of people getting ice in their drinks, I didn't, but I'm overly cautious. On the trip back they played '50s dance music, with lots of Elvis. Many people, myself included, danced back to the dock. It was quite fun. I also saw a friend of a friend from Berkeley California on the catamaran. So she and I chatted on the trip back. Back to the ship for a swim in the Therapy Pool. I love being on the ship during port days. The ship is so quiet and uncrowded. I had the entire therapy pool to myself. I had a shower in the gym's showers. I was disappointed with the gym showers. I had heard that they were very good with lots of water pressure, but there was no shower gel or shampoo in the containers and the water wasn't any more powerful than in the cabins. There were lots of fresh towels and pleasant surroundings though. Lunch - I was trying to eat healthy on this cruise, but the cheeseburger and fries beat out a salad today. After all that swimming, I was very hungry. They do have the best cheeseburgers and the fries were nice and crispy. I tendered back to shore for some shopping. I was only passenger on the tender, with three crew members, so the tender driver went very fast and bounced across the wake. It was very fun. It's only about a 7 minute tender from the ship to the shore, even with a full tender. So it's really no big deal. I sat in the fold down crew seats by the doors on every tender and that minimized any feelings of claustrophobia or over heating. Those tenders do get very hot and stuffy in the sun as the windows don't open. The tenders are actually lifeboats, so of course they don't want lifeboats with open windows! On shore, there were very aggressive vendors outside the port area. They walked up to me and kept walking with me, even after I'd said No Thank you, several times. Perhaps being a female walking alone made them more aggressive than they would be if I was with someone or male, I'm not sure. I wanted to walk downtown, but I gave up out of annoyance. I walked back to the port and bought a couple of things from the "Arts and Craft's Market" by the pier where they were less demanding. There was water and lemonade provided by HAL at the tender dock, which was very appreciated as the weather was very hot. After I got back to the ship, I fed my Bingo addiction at 4:15. I almost won! I had a bingo, but I noticed it after the next number was called. The rules are that if you have a bingo, you have to call it out before the next number is read. Bummer. Everyone had to be onboard by 5:30pm and sail away was at 6:00pm. Dinner - We were all a little sunburned, but very happy from a good day on shore. Most of my tablemates spent the day shopping in Cabo and had some beautiful new bracelets and rings to wear. They said that the prices weren't that much different from the US, so I didn't feel bad for not going into town. I had tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar (crunchy tomatoes), california green salad with goat cheese and mandarin oranges, grouper with black bean sauce and spinach, and peaches flambe for dessert. The salads were all crisp and fresh. The fish was excellent. The show that night was actually good! It was a Magic Show by a group called, DV8 Their website is http://www.dv8realitymagic.com/ and if you have a chance to see them on a ship or in Las Vegas, I highly recommend them. I couldn't figure out how they did any of their tricks and I usually can. They were very funny and entertaining as well. Oosterdam Superstars was right after the show. Again, it was very packed. I sat with my dental group friends and we picked out our favorites. There were many people eliminated that night, but there were several very good singers with high energy. It was a very fun show. If you go to this, get there early to get a good seat as it fills up quickly. After the Superstars show, it was country music dance night in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was very crowded and there were lots of people dancing. The crew also taught some line dances, which was very fun. I had another early morning the next day, so I just danced a few dances and then headed off to that wonderful HAL bed. Speaking of which, I can't remember what nights there were, but I did get towel animals! I got a lobster, an elephant and a swan. They were all very cute and I loved seeing them perched on my bed. I saved them all by putting them on the couch, so I had a little zoo by the end of the cruise. Day 5 Tuesday 11-15-05 - Mazatlan 7:00am wakeup time. Why it is so much easier to wake up when on vacation? I went to the Lido for breakfast after yesterday's bad room service breakfast experience. My healthy eating plan continued to deteriorate. I had 2 eggs, over easy, bacon, english muffin, fruit, OJ and coffee. I walked a mile on the Promenade to work off breakfast. 3 laps around = one mile. There were a few people jogging on deck. I didn't see any signs stating No Jogging. The deck was wet, so I was concerned about people slipping, but I guess the runners didn’t have any problems. By 8:30am, the ship had cleared immigration and I was off to find my group for horseback riding. The ship docked in Mazatlan, which made disembarkation very easy, no tenders! You do have to take a tram through the industrial port to the tourist shopping mall, but it is a less than three minute ride. We docked right behind a Princess ship. I'm completely biased, but I thought the Oosterdam was much nicer looking. The Princess ship looked like a big box, while the Oosterdam looks like an elegant ship. Once in the overwhelming tourist mall, I saw a big pink sign with Randi's Happy Horses on it, being held up by Randi herself. She already had a group around her, including EastBay Don and his wife Susan. It was great to meet other Cruise Critic members. We waited for the rest of the riders and chatted for a few minutes. There were only nine riders and we left the port area by 9:00am. We took two open air taxi's to the pier. I know that there are very lovely areas of Mazatlan, but I certainly didn’t see it. The area around the port is very crowded, poor and industrial. The traffic is positively frightening; with large trucks going very fast and lots of horns honking. We got to the dock where we would meet the water taxi over to Stone Island. The area by the dock is a working fish market, so I feel like we got a glimpse into real life Mazatlan. This is not your typical nice varnished tourist area. This is the real deal. There were lots of pelicans munching on fish that the fishermen were hauling out of their boats. There was a distinct odor of fishies, but that’s what you expect at a fish market. We took the water taxi, just across the inlet to Stone Island. You do have to wear lifejackets in the very low riding boat, but that was just fine with me. We got a great view of the Pacifico Brewing company (my favorite beer even in the states) as well as a pretty picture of the Oosterdam and the Princess ship. Once on Stone Island (which really isn’t an island, but a peninsula),we got on a cart type thing that was pulled by a tractor. Tractor’s and 4x4’s seem to be the most common ways that people get around on Stone Island. Again, the poverty was striking. Randi mentioned that the average daily wage was only $15. We went to Tony and Maria’s house, Randi’s guides for the horseback riding portion of the excursion, and were able to drop off any bags that we had that we didn’t want to take on the horses. I kept my wallet and my camera, but left a bag with my sunscreen and some other stuff in it, at the house. After the ride, all of our stuff was waiting for us. There was also a bathroom available for those of us who needed it. Just don’t expect cushy American style houses or bathrooms. The horses certainly are happy and well fed. It’s very obvious that Randi knows what she’s talking about in regards to a lot of thing, but especially the horses. They are very well taken care of and there are “lazy” horses (as Tony puts it) and more energetic horses, depending on your skill level. I’ve done a lot of riding in my life and was so hoping to get a horse with some spunk. I rode Blanco (Whitey) and he was wonderful! He was so responsive that just a little squeeze with my legs and a little cluck with my voice and he stepped right out. We had a momentary battle at first as he wanted to know if I really was in charge or not, (fences are not for scraping humans off of your back) but after that first bit of resistance, he and I were a good team. There were about 3 or 4 of us who were experienced riders and the rest who were a bit more uncertain, so we ended up with two groups. The ride was spectacular. The three of us trotted, cantered and galloped our way down the beach and had our own ride. Blanco liked cantering through the water and it was wonderful to go splashing through the ocean with the spray being thrown up by the horse’s hooves. It was like we were the only people out on the beach. There are no buildings or hotels or vendors or anything except coconut groves and the long stretch of empty beach. It was an experience that was beyond words. I cannot say enough good things about this day. Riding with Randi was the excursion I had been most looking forward to and it certainly was the one that I will remember with the most fondness. My only suggestion is that if you go on this ride, is to wear long pants. I knew this, yet I made the very wrong decision to wear shorts. Do Not Wear Shorts. By the end of the nearly 2 hour ride, I could feel two spots on the back of my thighs and on my calves were sore. I knew I was going to be unhappy later, but I just had to have one more gallop along the sand. Well, I ended up with two hand sized abrasions on each thigh and about a palm sized abrasion on each calf, where the skin had been rubbed completely off. This was seriously painful. I now understand what saddle sores are. One week later, I still have them, and they make sitting very interesting. My skirts and dresses stick to the sores and when I move, rip the skin off again. So, again, wear long pants. You can always change into shorts at Victor’s. Speaking of which, Victor's has amazingly good garlic shrimp with onion rings, cabbage salad and rice for $11 plus tip. It’s a lot of food for one person, but I ate it all, well, except for a few pieces of shrimp that I gave to Shadow, the very cute gray cat. Shadow got my 1st two shrimp, but to Anna, the owner’s, dismay. She was really upset that I fed Shadow first, but he was certainly in need of food more than I was. I’m not sure how much the beers are, as I only had one and Randi buys the first drink. There were several vendors that stopped by, Randi lets you know which ones are “family” to Tony and Maria and Anna and she assists with bartering. I bought a pretty silver bracelet for $12 and also got a few hair braids. After everyone had eaten and a couple of people went swimming and Don, Susan and I pushed a guy’s truck out of the sand, (long story), we reversed our route and went back to the ship. We were back to tourist mall (i.e. hell) by 2:00pm. Some people went into the town of Mazatlan for shopping, others stayed in the touristy areas and others went back to the ship. Just outside of the tourist area, there’s a man with a fresh fruit juice stand. It you go to Mazatlan, do stop at this guys stand. He makes the most delicious watermelon juice that I have ever had. It’s like drinking nectar. It’s very refreshing and at $1 is certainly less expensive than the $3.50 I saw for one beer! I wandered around the tourist mall, but didn’t really see anything interesting. After I got back to the ship, I swam in the Therapy Pool to relax those tense horse back riding muscles. I also had just a smidge of pistachio ice cream with some chocolate sauce on top. Mm..so good. Then I headed back to the cabin and watched a movie called "The Perfect Man" and fell asleep for a nice nap until sail away at 5:30pm. We left early because everyone was onboard. Tuesday night was informal night and that seemed to cause some confusion with my tablemates. People really weren’t quite sure how to dress, so there was a range from casual to nearly formal. Several people took taxi tours to Old Mazatlan and reported that it was very beautiful there. They also said that the taxi drivers told them that only foreigners live in Old Mazatlan. They saw the cliff divers and said that they were amazing. We had a nice time chatting about our day. I had baby shrimp with brandy and pineapple sauce (can’t get enough shrimp), chicken gumbo (very good!), green salad with ranch dressing, perch with asparagus and new potatoes with dill, bananas foster. People at my table had discovered that they could order more than one choice off the menu, so there were many soup choices, entree choices and dessert choices! The show was “Whyte”, two brothers from England who sang Beatles songs. Well, I left after the first song. They were very out of tune and I'm very sensitive to pitch, so I left. Other people thought that they were wonderful, so other’s perception may vary greatly from mine. The abrasions on my legs were throbbing by then, so I went to the infirmary where the nurse said “ouch” and gave me antibiotic ointment to put on them. No charge for the visit or the ointment. I went back to my cabin, put on the comply, soft HAL robe and watched the end of Perfect Man that I didn't see before when I fell asleep. Day 6 Wednesday 11-16-05 - Las Caletas Hideaway 6:30 wake up time. I seriously considered sleeping in and skipping the trip as my abrasions hurt and I was tired. However, Puerto Vallarta called, so I got up. I went to the Lido for breakfast and was walking towards the healthy cereal and fruit, when I passed the Belgian waffle station. The smell of freshly made waffles was irresistible. So I had crispy, light, perfectly made waffles, fruit and lots of coffee. Tendering for Las Caletas started at 7:45 and by 8:00 I was on shore. PV Adventure tours were right at the pier and we boarded their boat very quickly. They already had people who booked the tour independently from HAL, from hotels and the Carnival Pride, onboard so as soon as the people from the Oosterdam were onboard, we were off. It was a 45 minute trip to Las Caletas. We saw wild black spotted dolphins jumping in the water. They were beautiful! Las Caletas is a little cove with a small sand beach with beach chairs, a restaurant, several bars, hammocks, a spa with very reasonably priced massages, ($25 for 30 minutes, $50 for one hour) kayaking, snorkeling, yoga, a nature walk, a little monkey and macaws. While a group headed out for snorkeling, I made myself very comfortable in a beach chair with a good book and some fresh fruit. I had every intention of doing yoga, but that didn't happen as the beach chair grabbed me and held on. ? The snorkeling crew didn't last long as there were many big jellyfish in the water. EastBay Don and his wife, Susan, snorkeled for awhile. Then Susan and I went out on a kayak and did very well! They didn't give us any instructions on how to kayak, but we figured it out very quickly. There were two rather large gentlemen who flipped their kayak and then swamped it with water, but everyone else seemed to do quite well. While Susan and I were on the kayak, Don went to a cooking class to learn how to make paella. Then he and I and 40 other people (too many people!), went on a nature walk up in the hills behind the beach. There were several large spiders, causing one inebriated woman to scream in a most annoying matter. Have I mentioned that there’s an open bar included in the excursion? This woman started drinking when she got on the island and didn’t stop until we were docked back in PV. She was really obnoxious. There were several mutterings amongst the rest of us about how to keep her quiet and away from the bar. The guide, Kimi, was very knowledgeable about the plants and animals in the area and stopped several times to point out insects and interesting plants. He really cares about the environment and is very proud of the beauty that exists in the tropical forests of Mexico. I would have liked to have walked with him further, but it was time for lunch. Lunch was a buffet including salad, the paella that Don made ;) , rice, beans, ribs, chicken and tortillas that were made right there. They also had dessert of fruit, flan, cheesecake, rice pudding and cookies. After lunch there was more beach time and just enjoying the beautiful view of the area. All too soon, we had to leave Las Caletas. I do wish that we had more time there. We left around 1:30 PV time and it really was too short a day. It was a lovely ride back, enjoying the mountains and the fresh air. The crew also provided entertainment, but I just enjoyed looking at the scenery. We were back at the pier by 3:00pm and I was back on the Oosterdam by 3:30. I'd gotten a little too much sun and the spa was having a milk wrap with massage special. The proteins in milk help to sooth sunburned skin, even better than aloe does. I was sure that there wouldn’t be any appointments available, but I decided to try anyway. To my happy surprise, there was a 4:30 appointment open! Woo! I went to the Therapy Pool and the Steam room as had become ritual after a day in port. Anna, the same massage therapist that I had before, found me in the Thermal Suite and took me to the therapy room. I was massaged and wrapped and generally pampered, which all felt incredibly wonderful. In fact, I was so relaxed that after my massage, i went back to my room and napped for awhile. :) The Oosterdam was in port until 10:00pm in PV, so they have a BBQ on deck for dinner. I decided to go to the Pinnacle Grill instead. I had a wonderful waiter named Petre. I had originally been seated in the middle of the restaurant, which is an awful spot for a solo diner. I asked to be re-seated by the rail overlooking the atrium and was moved very quickly. This was a much more comfortable spot. Petre was very nice, chatting with me for a bit and stopping by frequently to see if there was anything that I needed. He did the whole presentation of the raw meat (which I find rather amusing) and both of us agreed that 22 ounces of meat is like ½ a cow! *grin* I had the crab cake starter, petite fillet with grilled asparagus, and the scrumptious volcano cake for dessert. My filet was probably the best steak I've had in a very long time. It was cooked medium rare, just as I had requested and was soooo good. The volcano cake is a warm dark chocolate soufflé and it comes with whip cream that you spoon onto the soufflé and it melts into the chocolate and is just to die for. After I waddled out of dinner, it was time for the second round of Oosterdam Superstars. The field was narrowed down even further to three finalists. The crowd was wild and we all sang along. The show was a ventriloquist who apparently had been on the Alaska cruises as most of his jokes were about Alaska. I made it through about 20 minutes before heading to the piano bar to sing along with Kory. Kory is absolutely hysterical. He’s a great singer and everyone in the piano bar sings along. He has a sarcastic dry humor and a great wit. He gets most offended if people walk out of the lounge while he is singing and he isn’t shy about letting people know about his offense! The only way to leave while he’s singing, without offending him, is to dance out of the lounge. Several people in my group danced out, only to dance back in again a few moments later. The Indonesian crew show was very good, but it started at 11:30pm and by midnight, I was falling asleep. With all of the excitement of the day, it was so nice to retreat to a quiet, soothingly dark cabin and slip into the soft sheets of the HAL bed. Thursday 11-17-05 Sea Day I love how relaxing sea days are. I woke up around 8:00 and had breakfast in the Lido. I had heard negative things about the scrambled eggs, so I had to give them a try myself. They are soft scrambled, which is how I like them, so I was very happy. I also had bacon (they don’t scrimp on the serving sizes of the bacon, I always had more than I could eat), english muffin, fruit, coffee At 9:00 was the 2nd of three yoga classes. It was nice and I added some different poses to stretch muscles that were stiff. 10:00 –I walked a mile or so around the Promenade deck. There seemed to be more people out walking than in past days. I went to the aft pool and tried to read, but it got way too windy. I couldn’t even hold my book upright. So, I moved to the Lido pool and around 11:00 they opened the cover that they can close over the pool. I thought this was perfect. There was a slight breeze to keep things cool and fresh and lots of sunlight. They had a brats and sauerkraut buffet set out for lunch. I thought that was an odd choice considering that we were in Mexico. A Mexican buffet would have been much more appropriate. However, I saw lots of people chowing down on big sausages and even bigger hand made pretzels, so the buffet was popular. Not my thing though. I had a taco salad, tomato with shrimp salad in it and a couple warm gooey chocolate chip cookies After lunch I went to the Therapy Pool and Thermal suite. I actually fell asleep on one of the heated ceramic chairs in the thermal suite, so I figured I should head back to the cabin for a nap. I slept right through to dinner. Oh, I did watch a little bit of the movie “March of the Penguins”, but I had to turn it off because it was so sad! No one told me how sad that movie is. I was all nice and warm and being pampered constantly and they are showing these little penguins freezing their tails off in the ice and snow! I felt so bad for the poor little guys. Back to the happy stuff. This was the 2nd formal night and people didn’t seem to dress up as much. I wore an ankle length dress and saw many women in cocktail length dresses and men in dark suits. There were very few tuxes. I had the fresh fruit cocktail with apple “foam”, cream of asparagus soup (a taste of the strawberry soup which was amazing), surf-n-turf with two tiny lobster tails and baked Alaska. They did the fun baked Alaska march and everyone waved their napkins in the air. It’s silly, but fun. ? After dinner was a Jeopardy type show. The staff person kept getting really irritated at the audience because we kept giving out the answers. The questions were mostly about old TV shows or music questions. I thought it was fun and even more fun due to the staff member’s annoyance. I went to the Newlywed, not-so-Newlywed show. They had a couple who had been married for 7 months, 26 years and 51 years! The older couple was so cute and the guy was hysterically funny without meaning to be. The people in the audience were in stitches. Showtime – I don’t remember was this was. The only thing I wrote down about it in my notes was “lame”. I do have to give HAL some credit, it is very difficult to find entertainment that people in their 20's and people in their 90's like. I just found that the choreography to be frantic, even during slow songs and the song choice was lacking. But again, this is very subjective and other people absolutely loved the shows. I went to the piano bar and played Name that Tune with Kory. He’s always great. Friday 11-18-05 Sea Day At 5:00am there was noise in my cabin like someone scraping paint, from the side of the ship right below my head, or like a giant rat chewing on metal grating. I called the front desk and they wanted to send someone to my room to listen to it. I asked them to just see if there was anything below me that would explain the noise, otherwise forget it. I really didn’t want to have to wake up and be fully functional at 5:00am I slept intermittently until 7:30 when I gave up and got up. The noise seemed to stop soon after I got up, either that or I didn’t hear it once I was away from the bed. I went up to the Lido for breakfast - muesli, banana, coffee, juice. There were whales breaching on the starboard side of the ship, so I got a great show with my breakfast. I wanted to see more whales, so I walked a mile around the deck and just had a beautiful view of the whales and the ocean. 9:00 – yoga. This was the 3rd day of yoga and I was bored with doing the same routine. It would have been nice if the instructor had varied it, even a little bit. I just added my own stuff and it was fine. 10:00 - hot tub at aft deck. The weather was much cooler than it had been in days past. It was still too windy at the aft pool so, I found a spot on deck 10 that was sheltered from the wind. It was nice and warm out of the wind. For lunch they had an Indonesian buffet at the lido pool. It was very good and similar to Thai food. I like spicy food and this was only mildly spicy, but they did have that tasty sambal available. During lunch there was a build a boat contest at Lido pool. There were some very creative entries! Someone built a boat out of styrofoam food containers and water bottles that held 10 full cans of coke! Highly impressive. There was also a pretty ship made out of half a scooped out water melon with a pineapple sail. After lunch was my ritual time in the T. Pool and Thermal suite. I was so sad to think that this would be my last day enjoying the special treats on the Oosterdam. To completely bum myself out, I went back to the cabin and packed :( But, then there was another round of bingo to cheer me up. Dinner: This was the first meal that wasn't that good. I had a crab and Artichoke dip (very good), conch chowder (tasted like cambels vegetable soup), greek salad (greek because it had a couple drops of feta and one olive) rare tuna steak (not good at all), pineapple flambé (with only 4 small chunks of canned pineapple). My tuna tasted off and a tablemate had a steak that was obviously spoiled. It’s too bad because the food had been very good up to this point. The Jeopardy-type show followed dinner and again, was a lot of fun. Part of what was so funny was that one of my dental group friends had a large rubber rat that he brought up to the podium with him. The crabby cruise staff wasn’t quite sure what to do with that and it threw her off her usual routine. The rat had fun and actually won the game! The show was probably the best so far. It combined the three contracted acts, the magic act, the ventriloquist and Whyte (who I still didn’t care for) and they each did 15 minute segments. That was just about enough. The best part was the magicians who are beyond excellent. Final bingo game followed the show as well as the Win a Cruise for 2 lottery. Someone won over $3k in bingo and two cruises were won. Sadly, I didn’t win either of them, but it was still fun to play. There’s just that anticipation of maybe..possibly..I could win..maybe? :D Oosterdam Superstars was at 11:30 and the Vista Lounge was packed with people. It was the three finalists and they were all SO very good, in their own unique ways. I was voting for a young guy from Oakland California who did his final song with his shirt off! He had a star tattoo around his nipple and that threw the judges completely off. It was so funny! All of them gave a very good performance and had really amazing talent. Sadly, the Oakland guy didn’t win, but a man who had a very good voice and good stage presence did win. So, I guess it was fair. After the show, I went to the piano bar for the final sing a long with Kory, before one last night’s sleep on the Oosterdam. *sniffle* Saturday 11-19-05 Disembarkation The ship docked at 6:00am. My cabin window faced the San Diego pier, so when I opened my blinds in the morning, I got a very close view of the docking. It was a little unnerving to see the pier come so close, but the captain did an excellent job of docking. I got up at 7:00am and went to Lido for breakfast. It wasn’t anymore crowded than at a sea day. I had seen many Room Service tags on people’s doors the night before, so I suspect that room service was very busy that morning. I had pancakes (fluffy and light), bacon, an egg over easy, fruit, coffee juice. I left my cabin at 8:00am to give steward access to room. I had left an envelope with an extra tip in it as he was so wonderful to me. He saw me later in the hallway and thanked me profusely for the tip. He seemed so overly thankful, that I really wondered just how much of the automatic tip they get each week. While waiting for my disembarkation number to be called, I walked a mile and watched all the port day activities. They sure do carry a lot of stuff on and off the ship! I had been told that my number and color would be called around 10:00am. Well, at 9:00, my number and color was announced, so with great regret, I left the ship. I had been seriously considering just staying on board, but alas, reason set in and I had to leave. I easily found my luggage and was out of terminal by 9:15. I walked across the street and caught the free Holiday Inn shuttle to airport. I got to the airport and was checked in and at my gate by 10:00am. My flight wasn’t until 1:00, so I had plenty of time to think about the fantastic week I had just had. I was still feeling like I was on the ship for about four days after I got off of it! The first two days were the worst and I kept walking sideways in our house! It’s pretty funny. Now I only feel wavy when I’m sitting still. So, if you’ve actually read this whole thing, I hope that you enjoyed it. I hadn’t quite expected it to get so long, but so it goes. I welcome questions and comments. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
Hello from Nebraska! As I sit here on New Years Eve, the most rememberable time of 2005 was our cruise to Mexico. This was a special cruise for us, for several reasons. It was our 20th wedding anniversary,we had our son who will be ... Read More
Hello from Nebraska! As I sit here on New Years Eve, the most rememberable time of 2005 was our cruise to Mexico. This was a special cruise for us, for several reasons. It was our 20th wedding anniversary,we had our son who will be graduating from high school, and we went over the Thanksgiving holiday. Arriving in San Diego on a beautiful sunny day, Holland America Reps. were there to greet us and make sure we got on the bus with our luggage. All went smooth at the airport. Embarkation was a breeze, and partly it was because we had all our paperwork filled out online beforehand, and partly because we had a Deluxe Suite, which definitely is worth the amenities. I think it only took about 30mins. and we were on board and to our room. The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship, and we explored the ship while waiting to sail off into the sunset. They had food and drinks available while we waited for the sailoff party. Everything was clean, and the room even smelled clean. We had a bottle of Champagne and a surprise bouquet of a dozen red roses from our friends back home, honoring our anniversary. So of course we had to start celebrating! The cabin is very comfortable for 3 people, and we spent a lot of time on the balcony enjoying the views. The 3 ports we visited were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Our favorite was Cabos. We went horseback riding on the beach, which was a great view, but the poor mexican horses were on the skinny and overroad side. We own horses, so this was a big disappointment to us. The town, is clean and friendly, and easy to get around in. We didn't spend any time in Mazatlan, because we chose the tour of Stone Island...It is a very laid back Mexican village, with a beautiful beach. If you don't like vendors, then you'll be bothered by them on the beach. We spent the whole day there, just relaxing and took a small tour of the village in a horse and cart. Learned a little of the lifestyle of the fishing village, ate some of the local food. It was good. Puerto Vallarta is basically Miami! We saw Wal-Marts, KYC, and lots of American influences. We took the Dune Buggy tour up into the MTs. and it was a very dirty but truly fun trip. Also did some parasailing from the beach. My guys really enjoyed that. Did a little shopping on the boardwalk, but didn't find any real bargains. I'm sure if we spent more time looking we would of found other interesting things to do, but we were tired and went back to the ship early evening. Now for the best part of the cruise. We had arranged beforehand to Renew our Wedding vows. It is something every couple should do on a cruise ship. The ship had all the formalities covered, from the invitations,to the ceremony...which by the way was performed by the Captain himself..John Mercer..who is a very outgoing and pleasant man. To the reception, and even a violinist,with a piano player, in the background. There were 4 couples that nite, and the Captain did each one of the Renewal Vows separately. It was a very romantic ceremony, and very emotional for all of the couples. Our son was there with us and even he was impressed. So take my advice and go for it... Dinner in the Pinnacle grill was spectacular, part of the vows package also. Then the ship presented us with a photo album with photos and a copy of the vows we said, plus a signed certificate from the captain...Very well done Holland America. The food on the ship was always great and presented well. We enjoyed the shows, and attended as many as we could. The teen room must of been a good hangout, since we hardly saw our son the whole trip. He met several kids his age, and they all got along great. He's made some good friends. They always had something going on for them to do in the evenings especially, which my son attended and then talked about it the next day...that's a good sign. There were 400 kids on the cruise and we hardly ever saw any of them...so I think the kids program worked well. As usual, the cruise ended way to soon for me, and then it's back to reality..and doing my own cooking and dishes. The amenities that come with a Deluxe Suite is quite a treat for us, and I won't cruise any other way. The Neptune Lounge just for Suite guests was very handy for many things...including wonderful snacks all the time. The laundry service that comes with it..is very handy to have. The entire cruise was wonderful and a great time to spend with my family. The views of Mexico are breathtaking and even the weather wasn't to bad. Good cruise for all ages,,,by the way we are mid forties...and there were a lot of younger families on this cruise, which I'm sure was because of the thanksgiving holiday. So we were kind of the "older crowd"..so to speak. I could go on and on..but hopefully this will give you an idea of how what the ship Oosterdam has to offer, and a little insight on the Renewal Wedding Vows package...All of it was well worth our money. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful 2006 as you cruise off into the sunset. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
This was our 8th cruise, our first HAL cruise on the Oosterdam, first cruise to Mexican Riviera. We have been on cruises with family members and cruises with friends. This cruise was a combined cruise—family and friends. I decided to ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise, our first HAL cruise on the Oosterdam, first cruise to Mexican Riviera. We have been on cruises with family members and cruises with friends. This cruise was a combined cruise—family and friends. I decided to hire a van/limo for transportation because it was very convenient, non-stressful and really not that expensive. There were 12 people in our party—8 arrived at the cruise terminal in a large van around 1:00 PM. Our group consisted of an 86 year old woman who required wheelchair assistance and oxygen, and 11 adults, and no children (though we acted like kids at times!) Embarkation: Upon arrival there were plenty of baggage handlers to bring luggage onto the ship. Security confirmed our tickets and passports prior to going into the cruise terminal. There were long lines to check-in but it seemed to go rather quickly. The check-in for the special assistance passengers was very quick and easy. At the special assistance check-in booth both tickets and passports were reconfirmed, pictures were taken and plastic cards were given to each individual that were to be used during the duration of the cruise. Passports were not requested again throughout the entire trip. One did not need passports at any ports of call. Ship: Very beautiful and classy ship. Great stabilizers! We had a very smooth cruise even though we could see waves and swells outside our verandah. The air circulation was very good throughout the ship. There were many seniors, not many children on board. There were people in wheelchairs and special needs dog trainers. The ship has a poor layout to suit the needs of most activities. Locations such as the Queens Lounge, Piano Bar, and Northstar Night club could not accommodate the large quantities of passengers and were quite small for the activities. For example a golf putting activity was played in a hallway and movies were played in the Queens Lounge and many people could not see the screen. Most ship activities took place in the Queens Lounge and at times there was standing room only or Vista Lounge where the main performances were done at night. Cabin 6058 was quite spacious compared to our family and friend's cabin. Joe, the cabin steward, greeted us by name and introduced himself the first day. Joe kept the room spotless. There was a lot of space in the bathroom, closets and drawers. Our luggage fit very easily under the bed. The hair dryer was located in a desk drawer and was not very powerful. Outside the cabin door was a mail box for each cabin that held invitations or announcements. Every night on the bed was the next day's schedule and a piece of chocolate. Some nights there was a creatively created toweled animal on the bed or hanging from a hangar. Verandah furniture was rattan furniture, not plastic as we saw on other cruise ships while in port. Fire Drill: Specific locations were imprinted on each life jacket so it was easy for the staff to tell us the appropriate location. The fire drill lasted about 15 minutes. Staff: Every staff member spoke English; we did not hear any foreign language spoken among the staff. All HAL employees were extremely friendly, and always available to assist our needs. The front desk provided some formal clothes, clothes were complimentary cleaned and gave a shipboard credit for incidentals to a passenger whose luggage was missing. Cabo San Lucas: Due to hurricane weather the captain decided to take another route which made our arrival a few hours later than originally planned. Around 10:00 AM we tendered and passengers were allowed to leave the ship according to colored numbers that were distributed during the waiting period. One member in our party was missing a piece of luggage so the day was spent trying to purchase sundries and a bathing suit. In Cabo there is no such thing as negotiating. YOU are at the mercy of the businesses so expect to pay top dollar for everything. After spending 3 hours a bathing suit was finally purchased one for $172 US dollars. Local bars were also expensive. At Margaritaville the cost of a margarita was $20 US dollars! Cabo Wabo was closed and the Giggling Marlin had expensive drinks and appetizers. Tip: A taxi from the dock cost $25 to go 3 miles. Walk 4 blocks and get a white taxi for $5 for 3 miles. Mazatlan: Rather than using HAL's expensive shore excursions a Stone Island tour was booked via the internet. A $30 tour included a tour to the Cathedral, cliff divers, a catamaran boat trip to the caves and then to Stone Island. At Stone Island there was an open bar, lunch and a selection of activities. We chose horseback riding along the beach and banana boating…after partaking in margaritas and shooters. What a blast! Puerto Vallarta We had to tender in the early morning. Since another cruise ship was getting into port we stayed on the tender boat for over an hour…waiting for the cruise ship to dock. Several people got sea sick because the ocean was a bit rough. We took HAL's shore excursion Canopy Tours and had a fantastic time. We rode in an open truck outside the city into the jungle. After getting harnessed, being trained and meeting the guides we zipped from tree top to tree top 60-70 feet above the ground. There were 6 professional guides in our party of 11, and a photographer who took a video of the adventure. We purchased DVD's for $50 US Dollars that arrived 2 weeks after our trip. In the afternoon we walked to the shopping area near the dock for some last minute shopping. The shops had similar merchandise and would seldom decrease the sale price. I finally purchased at a grocery store---vanilla $2.50 instead of $3 per bottle. On the way back to the ship the seas were quite rough and tendering was challenging. People got seasick and a glass window broke inside the boat. Pictures: The photographs were not very professional looking at all. In fact, my digital camera took better pictures! Our friends had formal pictures taken with a white backdrop. Other backdrop selections were a red spiral staircase and a dark blue moonlight night. The photographer instructed people to remove their shoes so the final pictures showed people without any shoes! Some photographers took single photos while others took group pictures. I wished I would have asked for group photos. HAL needs to train their photographers better. Food: The Lido had a wide variety of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has different sections so check out everything before making a final decision of what to eat. We did not have any problem with seating or having dirty tables. The staff cleaned all tables very quickly and efficiently.. A beverage cart of wine, water and soda came around on a regular basis. On Wednesday night there was a BBQ for dinner and I heard the food was not very good. We ate most meals in the Vista Dining Room and were extremely impressed with the service as well as selections. We enjoyed the maitre'd coming to the table to discuss the meal and our day's activities. I requested a shrimp cocktail and another person requested a crab salad every night. I really enjoyed the alternative selections on the menu—the grilled sirloin steak was delicious, very, juicy and tender. (I would think the Pinnacle Grille would have this kind of steak!) Normally celebration cakes are made and frozen ahead of time. However, for my mother's 86th birthday the Maitre'd requested a cake be made from scratch to accommodate our party. Several people selected more than one dessert because it was difficult to select just one. Pinnacle Grille: For 5 nights of having delicious food at dinner we were wondering how HAL could do any better at the Pinnacle Grille. Unfortunately our entire party thought the Grille was a disappointment. We had an 8:00 PM seating. The PG waiter was not as friendly as our dining room waiter and it seemed we were being rushed even though there restaurant was not crowded. All selections were served cold. The clam chowder was watery, clamless and cold. The vegetables were cold. The steaks were very thick, tough and difficult to cut with an ordinary knife, and cold. I requested my steak to be returned because it was too rare. The chocolate lava cake and crème brule were just okay. I could hardly wait to go back to the dining room the next night. However, some friends at another table had exceptional service…and hot food. Liquor: The drinks on board needed improvement. The rum and coke, mai tais, margaritas, pina coladas and cosmos did not have any liquor. Our TA advised us to bring only two bottles of wine per person. Some people were able to bring on bottles of liquor on board without any problem. Soda card: Cost was $35 and which was shared among the group. There was no problem requesting a can of soda instead of a glass in all locations. We brought the soda back to the rooms for future use. Entertainment: We really enjoyed the HAL dancers who performed Rockin Roads and Energy on the 2nd and 5th night. George Solaman a singer and entertainer was very good. The magician and his wife were okay and the comedian was okay. The Indonesian night was quite interesting but some performances were too long. We looked forward to the piano bar at night to sing and be entertained by Kory Simon. Kory not only plays the piano but sings and has a lot of fun with all passengers. Get there early for a good seat. Seminars: There were some seminars on board ship. We attended the diamond seminar which was quite interesting. I would like to have had a seminar about Mexico and their culture. Shops on Board: Lots of expensive jewelry at very high prices. Other cruise lines have better selections of merchandise. Disembarkation: On the 3rd day of the cruise each cabin had to submit their disembarkation plans (i.e. airport flights reservation information, city tour excursion requests etc.) On the last night luggage tags are given to each cabin for the luggage. Passengers were to be notified when to disembark according to luggage color tag and number. Disembarkation began around 8:00 AM (however, there were some passengers who had earlier flights and were escorted off the ship at 6:00 AM). Since we were local residents and did not have a plane or tour we were the last passengers to leave. Our colored tags and numbers were finally called at 10:00 AM. We just gave our declaration forms to the customs attendant as we walked off the ship. Our luggage was located without any problems and it was no problem to get a baggage handler for assistance. Now we are back home and thinking about our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
Just got back from the 10/22 Oosterdam. We have cruised other lines but this was our first HAL cruise. My hubby (Willie) and I were celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary and were traveling with my BIL (Tony) and SIL (Patty). Heres ... Read More
Just got back from the 10/22 Oosterdam. We have cruised other lines but this was our first HAL cruise. My hubby (Willie) and I were celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary and were traveling with my BIL (Tony) and SIL (Patty). Heres my review on this cruise. Saturday 10/22 We flew down to San Diego from Portland, OR. We arrived to find sunny San Diego overcast, drizzly, and cool. It is a very short cab ride from the airport to the terminal. We waited in line about 20 minutes, got our picture taken and boarded the ship at 12:15. We went up to the Lido Buffet and got a bite to eat. We were very impressed with the variety and freshness of all the food. Before we boarded the ship, we were given a paper explaining the new Leisure Dining. It said if we had any questions that a table would be set up outside the Vista Dining Room from 1- 4 pm. Needless to say, I was the first one in line as the paper was written very poorly and was confusing. I explained that I still wanted my same table, with the same people I booked with, with the same server every night, and at the time that I had booked, which was 8:30. He put all of this into his computer and said that it would be taken care of. Our cabin was ready at 1:10 and we went to see our home for the next 7 days. We had booked a SS (6072) and were very surprised how big it was. The bathroom was wonderful, with its 2 sinks and jacuzzi tub. We always had inside or outside cabins in the past so the balcony was spectacular. We met our room steward Djoko. He was like a stealth bomber. We hardly ever saw him but our room was always well taken care of. We asked him to unlock the partition between our room and Tony and Pattys. If we asked for anything, he would always arrive with a smile. We had ordered 2 bottles of Skyy vodka from Ship Services to be waiting for us in our room but they werent there. We called and asked that they be delivered to our room. They said they would send them right up. And so began the great bottle fiasco. LOL After 45 minutes and still nothing, we called again and they said it was on its way. We went out to look around the ship. I met Rita (Renorita) and we went up to the bow to wave to the port web cam. Lisa (LaffNVegas) was nice enough to capture and post the pictures of us waving like two crazy women. Willie and Tony were having beers by the Lido pool and started talking to a guy at the next table. Turns out it was Phil who is married to Jackie (Hairbender), who was on our roll call. I thought I heard the song Its A Small World when he told me about it. Phil and Jackie would end up becoming one of our crazy group. When we came back to the room, there still werent any bottles. By this time I was starting to wonder if we had made a mistake by booking HAL. I found a card on the bed saying that they didnt have Skyy on the ship and they would credit my account. I had just passed a bar and had seen that familiar blue bottle sitting there. I called them up and informed them that they must have made a mistake because I just saw it. They said they would check into it and get back to me. After 30 minutes and no call, I called back again. She said that the bottle I saw was the only one on the ship and since it was already opened, they couldnt give it to me. I asked her what other kind of vodka they had and she named off 4 kinds. I asked her the prices of them and &&.. you guessed it; she said she would have to call me back with that information. By this time it was ready for the Muster Drill, so we grabbed our life jackets and off we went. The Drill lasted about 15 minutes. We headed back to our room looking forward to having a drink on our balcony during sailaway. We walked in and saw NO BOTTLES!! My sweet hubby, who by this time had lost some of his sweetness, went over to the phone and called again. She told him the prices and he said send Absolut instead and have it here in 5 minutes. She said she would. We waited 15 and still nothing so we decided to go up to the Sailaway party. Just as we walked in, my hubby spotted Angie the Asst. Beverage Manager and told her of our problem. She said she would take care of it immediately. Sailaway was dampened somewhat by the weather but we were so excited to begin our cruise, that we just ignored the weather and celebrated the fact that we were off. When we arrived back in our room the bottles were there. Angie called later to check and make sure that they had arrived. Not only is she beautiful but very efficient too. Also, we had chocolate covered strawberries delivered the next day from Vangie and Sandra (the telephone concierges) with a nice note apologizing for the inconvenience we had experienced. By this time I needed a drink. LOL As we started to get ready for dinner, my hubby said, I think we have a problem. I thought what the heck is it now. He said, I dont have any pants. I looked at him and said, Are you kidding me? He said, Im not kidding. All my pants are back home hanging in the closet. I started to laugh until I had tears running down my face. The only pants he had were the jogging pants he had on and the pants to his suit!! We went downstairs to the shops as we figured that they must have some type of mens wear. Wrong!!! If you need a dress, shoes, jewelry, purses, shorts, t-shirts or sweatshirts, then you can shop till you drop. Poor hubby would just have to get by with his suit pants until we could buy something in Cabo on Monday. We called room service and had shrimp cocktails, cheese, and smoked salmon delivered to our room. Tony and Patty came over and joined us. We then headed up to the Vista Dining Room to see how this new dining thing would work. We were shown to our table (243), which was a table for 10. Rita and her DH Dru were there and also Rob (Lopaka007) and his DW Marty. We had crossed referenced our booking numbers to make sure we would all be together. The other 2 mystery people never showed up that night but thats another story. Our server was Charlie and he was wonderful. Always smiling, very nice, and always willing to get us whatever we asked for. Charlie was really put to the test all week long by Tony, who always ordered like he was eating for 2. It became quite the joke as the week went on. Our wine steward was name Willy, which made for some laughs as my DH is Willie. I really wish I had written down what we ate each night as it was always fabulous. After dinner, we all went to the disco and did some dancing. The music was good and fit the age of the crowd. The DJ was Melis and she is an Asst. Cruise Director. What an asset she is to HAL. She is personable and very nice. She would take requests too. Our server in the disco was Arin. He was always smiling and checking up on us. We had the same booth every night. I had a friend from this board (Copper) suggest I order a Wang-Wang to drink. It was a good suggestion and it became my drink of choice for the cruise. As we left the disco to head off to bed, Willie and I took a stroll around the promenade. This became a nightly ritual. It was a nice time to talk about the days events and what we had planned for the next day. It was a good first day! Sunday 10/23~Sea Day We slept in until 9:30 because those HAL mattresses are so darn comfortable. We showered, dressed and went up to the Crows Nest for some Team Trivia at 10:30. This was perfect, as I had planned a CC get together for our Roll Call from 11 to 12 there. I had made the arrangements with HAL a month before. Our trivia team didnt win but we had a lot of fun. A little before 11, I saw them setting up the coffee, tea, and cookies that HAL provided for us at no charge. Shirley (Wandering Winos) had made invitations that I had the front desk deliver the night before. Attached to the invitation was a list of the names and room numbers of all those on our roll call, which I had put together. This came in handy during the week. Shirley also made door signs for Rita and I too. She is very creative. It was a great turn out. Almost everyone who had been posting on the roll call for the last 10 months showed up. It was wonderful to be able to put a face to the name. We talked like we had been friends for years. It was a great group of people and it was nice to see a familiar face to say Hi to as you walked the ship in the days to come. Id love to mention each one by name but the list is long (46 people). For those of you that were there, please know that I have fond memories of that party. We left the party a little after 12 and went to the disco, as there was a line dancing class with DJ Melis at 12:15. She taught us 3 dances and made it look so easy. But when we tried it, we didnt look quite as smooth as her. LOL But we did get a little better as the class went on. We had a lot of fun and laughs too. We had missed breakfast and were hungry, so up to the Lido we went. I had a huge salad with all sorts of goodies on it. Their salad bar is quite good as is their ice tea also. Willie had a panini, which became his lunch choice everyday. By then it was Name That TV Tune at 2:15 in the Disco, so we went back to spend some time with DJ Melis. We got 14 out of 20, which gave us second place. The first place team got 18 correct. Darn them, I really wanted that key chain. At 3:15, it was up to the Vista Dining Room for Royal Dutch Tea. There was a wonderful array of pastries and chocolate covered fruit. The tea was good but not very hot. It is a nice tradition and one not to be missed. We had been on the go since we had gotten up so went back to the room for a little rest and relaxation. Love that mattress!! It was our first formal night. We had cocktails in the room while dressing and then met everyone in the Crows Nest for pre-dinner dancing. The group Tonis Boys was playing and they are quite good. We decided to skip the Captains Champagne Reception, as the line was soooo long to get in. We stopped and had formal pictures taken before going in to dinner. It was so nice to see everyone dressed in their finest. I didnt see one person who wasnt dressed up. But the most eye-catching outfit was a guy who had an all red suit, with a red shirt and red tie. This outfit was topped off by matching gloves, shoes, and a hat. All I can say is you had to see it, to believe it. It was another fabulous dinner. Jackie and Phil joined us as Rita and Dru had gone to the Pinnacle for dinner. The 2 mystery people didnt show up again tonight. Since this was the second night they hadnt shown up, we had Jackie and Phil moved to our table permanently. After dinner, it was off to the Disco for some Karaoke. It was the auditions for the Oosterdam Superstar. Some of them were painful to listen to and some were great. Patty, Dru, and Jackie all sang beautifully and made the cut. We stayed around for some dancing afterwards. Then it was time for our Promenade stroll before calling it a night. We filled out our room service breakfast order and hung it on the door before retiring. Another wonderful day!! Monday 10/24~Cabo We awoke to a beautiful view. Lucky us, we had a room on the port side and we were anchored facing El Arco (the arch). There were already many boats out by it and a graceful clipper ship was just passing by. The weather at 8 am was already warm. We had breakfast delivered to our balcony at 9 am. We did this for the entire cruise. It was the perfect way to start the day. This must be a little taste of how the rich live. LOL It was delivered on time and it was hot, not warm. That really surprised us, as it hasnt been the case on other lines we have sailed with. Thumbs up for HAL! I am starting to understand how the HAL fans feel about this line. We enjoyed the ham and cheese omelets, english muffins, fresh fruit, and juice. The little jar of red raspberry preserves was outstanding. It was almost as good as mine. We hadnt planned on getting off the ship in Cabo as we have been there so many times. But since my husband only had 1 pair of long pants for the trip, we had to. I went down to the Queens lounge to pick up our tender numbers. We were given # 38 and they were only on # 21. I went back to the room to put on sunscreen, as it was suppose to get into the low 90s that day. Grabbed a hat and my sunglasses, and we were off to the Queens lounge to wait for our number to be called. They were only on # 28 when we got back. A few minutes after we sat down, a lady came up to us and asked if we would like to switch numbers with her. Her friend wasnt feeling well and had gone back up to the room for a bit. Her number was 31 and was just being called, so we said yes and thanked her. In all our previous cruises we had never tendered, so it was somewhat exciting to see how this would work. The water was pretty calm so we didnt have the problem of getting on, as Ive read so much about. The only thing I dont like about them is there isnt any open windows and it was really hot in there. We arrived at the dock and so began the quest for a pair of long pants. I thought we would find them fast and be back on the ship for an afternoon by the pool. How wrong I was about that. LOL The front desk had suggested that we go to Puerto Paraiso Mall, which is about a 10 minute walk from the dock. They said that they would have the most selection. It is a beautiful mall and the air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat. We stopped in the first shop that had mens wear and asked if they had long pants. By the look on the womans face, you would have thought we were martians asking to be taken to her leader. LOL We finally got out of her that they didnt carry any and we left. This mall is a womans dream. At least 75 percent of the shops are womens clothes!! The other 24 percent are assorted shops of household goods, pharmacies, and souvenir shops. The other 1 percent is mens wear. We finally found the other mens store and they had a pair of pants that were OK but nothing special. But since this was all we could find, we thought we might as well get them. We asked the price and I nearly fell over when she told us $210 U.S.!!! I laughed and looked at my hubby and said, Your suit pants will work fine for another day. He agreed, as he would never spend that much on a pair of pants either. We left the mall and started back toward the ship. As we walked through the town, we looked for something that might resemble a pair of slacks or Dockers. Everywhere you look, you see men in long pants. Im not sure where they buy these at because we couldnt find any. Maybe we will have better luck in Mazatlan tomorrow. This quest for the pants had been going on for over 3 hours. It was really hot by then. All I wanted to do was get back on the ship and take a nice swim in the pool, while drinking something strong that would come with a paper umbrella. I loved the fact that as you get back to where the tenders are waiting, HAL has cold water and lemonade waiting for you. Just another one of the little touches that is slowly making me become a HAL fan. When we got back to the ship, I wasnt feeling really well. I thought it was hunger so off to the Lido we went. Had a few bites of a salad and the feeling got worse. I went back to the room to lie down for a while. I think the heat had gotten to me. After an hour, I was feeling better and went down to the aft pool. As I walked out and all I saw was&..Big, Burly, Bears everywhere!! Now before you think that HAL has added a zoo to the ship, let me explain. These bears were Chumleys Bears, which is a gay mens group of large men. There had to be close to 150 of them. They seemed to take over the entire aft pool. At first look, they were a little intimidating as there was so many of them. But myself, being the shy wallflower that I am, I just walked right over and plopped myself down in a lounge chair. After reading these boards, I had decided that no group was going to keep me out of anything. These guys were a lot of fun. My only complaint was that a few of them seemed to feel the need to shove their lifestyle in everyones face. I dont want to see gay or straight people grabbing each other or playing tonsil hockey. JMHO Spent a little time getting some sun and hanging out in the pool when it became too hot. Funny story that happened by the pool that day: One of the Bears chair back had broke and one of his friends was trying to fix it for him. He kept on trying and couldnt get it fixed and was starting to get frustrated. He finally said in a really loud voice, Where the heck are the lesbians when you need them? A couple of women sitting off to the side raised their hands and said Were over here, what do you need? Everyone by the pool started howling with laughter. Went back to the room later and took a nap. That hot Mexican sun can really zap you. We went to dinner about 8:00. We had asked Charlie the night before if we could come sooner than 8:30 that night. Our 3 Superstars had to be in the Queens Lounge by 9:15 and we didnt want them to be late. Charlie was fantastic!! He flew us through dinner and we were able to get there on time. We even got front row seats to root our 3 favorites on. The missing tablemates still havent shown up. The competition had 18 people in it. The cruise director Jimmy played the Simon part, the female lead singer from the shows played Paula, and the guy who handles all the stage shows was Randy. Forgive me as Ive forgotten their names. It was a whole lot of fun to watch. The comments and critiques made by the judges were funny. Just as the previous night, some were great and some were not. After all had sung, the judges had to pick the top 5 to move on to the next round. We were really hoping that Patty, Dru, and Jackie would all make it. After a few minutes, they announced the top 5. PATTY MADE IT!! We were sad that all 3 hadnt made it but at least we had 1 to root for during the next round. Afterwards we went to the disco as it was all requests night. Had a great time dancing, then spent a little time in the casino. I lost at slots and Willie won at craps, so it all worked out evenly. We called it an early evening as we had to get up for our shore excursion at 7:00 the next morning. Took our nightly stroll on the promenade and went back to our room. Hung our breakfast order on door and were soon asleep on that fabulous HAL mattress. Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!! Tuesday 10/25~Mazatlan Up at 7:00 and had breakfast delivered at 7:30. It was delicious and hot as usual. No tendering today so getting off the ship went very fast. The weather was a warm 88 degrees. We had booked Randis Happy Horses a few months before. I had found this excursion on the CC board and it was a really good choice. Dru, Rita, Patty, Willie, and myself would be riding and Tony would go and wait for us at Victors. Shirley (Wandering Winos) would be riding with her group too. Randi was waiting for us at 8:30 and took us to the boats, which would take us to Stone Island. It is a place that takes you back in time. Not the hustle and bustle of the big city but life in a much simpler time. We arrived at Stone Island and a tractor pulling an open seating area, took us through the town and up to where we would be getting on our horses. Randi is a wonderful and interesting woman with a great sense of humor. She told us the history of Stone Island and the people who lived there. We finally arrived where the horses are. They asked you if you were an experienced rider or not and they gave you the right horse for you ability. The horses are beautiful and very well taken care of. I was given a horse called Pelican. He is also known by his nickname Snacker, which became very apparent as the ride went on. We started out and rode through beautiful plantations and ended up on the beach. This is not a nose-to-tail type of ride. The only thing that Randi asks is that you keep the group in site. My horse was slow and was always in the very back of the group on the first half of the ride. But that didnt bother me as I was enjoying the scenery. You ride down the beach on the waters edge. Some of the group were very good riders and were galloping down the beach. Others were just walking along slowly. Willie looked like a professional gaucho on his horse. And Patty rode like she had been doing this all her life. Note to potential women riders: Wear a good supportive or sports bra. You will definitely need it!! LOL When you get to a certain spot on the beach, you stop and hand your camera to one of the guides. They take your picture with the water as the background. It is a wonderful memento of a great ride. But for me the fun part of the ride was just beginning. My slow, pokey horse must have decided that he had had enough of this heat and wanted to get back to the cool of the shade trees. A couple of horses took off galloping and you would have thought that someone put a firecracker in my horses behind. We were off like a bolt of lighting!! I was hanging on for dear life and bouncing up and down on that darn horse. I finally was able to stop him. He kept on trying to run again but I had had enough of that for the day. One of the other woman riders caught up to me and said what a wonderful rider I was to be able to gallop like that. Little did she know!!! LOL We got back to where we would leave the horses and it was a little difficult to get down from that horse. Thank goodness for the guides that help you down. It felt like I was walking like I had been riding for days. We walked slowly over to Victors restaurant, which is right on the beach. What a great place this is! Randi shows you which 2 tables she has reserved for you. There are vendors all around and Randi will tell you which ones she can vouch for. If any of them start to bother you, Randi takes care of them. I bought a beautiful pair of turquoise earrings for $16. Tony and Patty both got Henna tattoos, which last about 2 weeks. The guy who applied them did a wonderful job. Patty also picked up a few necklaces for her daughter. Rita and Dru bought the cutest little bear carved out of Ironwood for the person who was taking care of their dog back home. If you are ever there, order the garlic shrimp. They are to die for!! If you part of a large group, order the platter. It has garlic and fried shrimp, BBQ ribs, and a whole grilled fish, which I think was Dorado (mahi). The food was great and the beers are cold. You stay at Victors for about and hour and a half. You can swim in the ocean, take a walk along the beach, or take a nap in one of the hammocks. All too soon it was time to leave. Another tractor ride and then on to the little boats to go back to the terminal. If you are ever in Mazatlan, treat yourself to a day with Randis Happy Horses. It is terrific and you wont be disappointed. By the terminal, there are all sorts of shops. We continued the quest for the long pants. Not a pair to be found anywhere. What do quys wear with all those shirts that the vendors were selling? We could have gone into town and looked some more but we were tired. Got back on the ship and went out to the aft pool for a while and then back to the room for nap. Im really starting to like this afternoon nap thing. We had everyone over to our room for cocktails and hors doeuvres at 7:00. We ordered cheese and smoked salmon from room service. It was the perfect couple of items to tide you over until dinner. Phil, Jackie, Rob, and Marty all went to Senor Frogs that day and we loved hearing about their adventure. Charlie had told us last night that we could come at 8:00 for dinner instead of 8:30 for the rest of the cruise. It made it nicer not to have to rush through dinner to get to a show. It was another wonderful meal with great service by Charlie. And the missing tablemates still havent shown up. Cant figure this one out yet. We went to the 10:30 show of Whyte. This is a musical tribute to the Beatles. It is performed by two brothers, Alan and Harry White, ages 20 and 21. They were quite good. They dressed in outfits like the early Beatles and played guitars from the 1960s to make a wonderful visual effect. With the age group of the audience, it was one big sing along. Afterward we stopped in the disco to get our daily dose of DJ Melis. It was Night Fever night and they played hits from the 70 and 80s. We all danced a lot that night, which was amazing after the horseback riding that day. LOL We ended the night with our usual Promenade stroll and went back to our room. Sitting on our bed was a towel elephant. He was really cute and we put him up on a shelf for the rest of the cruise. I had called that afternoon and asked if I could get Eggs Benedict through room service as it is not on the menu. They told me to just write it in. So I filled out our breakfast order and hung it on the door. After the days activities, that HAL mattress felt even better than is usually did. What a memorable day in Mazatlan!! Wednesday 10/26~Puerto Vallarta Today was our 20th wedding anniversary. We awoke to room service knocking on the door at 10:00. We had overslept and Im going to blame it on that fabulous HAL mattress. We had a romantic breakfast on the balcony. My Eggs Benedict were delicious. Starting out the day like this is something I recommend to everyone. It is so much nicer than heading up to the Lido or dining room. The food always arrived hot and on time. I had made reservations at 1:30 for 2 couples massages at the Krystal Resort a few months ahead of time. I had found out about this place on CC also. PV time is one hour LATER than the ships time. They ask you to keep your watch on ships time. We went down to the tenders and got right on as there wasnt any line. The temperature today was 92. Rob came with us as he and Tony were planning on going parasailing before the massages. Rob had already been to the Krystal before and knew the short cut. We walked and it took us about 5-7 minutes. It is an older resort that was probably very high-end about 10 years ago. It is well taken care of and the pools are beautiful. There is a main one with a bar and loud music. Over by the spa there is another one, which is much quieter. Tony and Rob went down to the beach to find the guy who Rob had heard about. He was in front of the hotel next door. The two of them tried to talk Willie, Patty, and myself into doing it also but that was a big fat chance. We watched them from the safety of our lounge chairs. LOL They said it was fantastic and very peaceful and quiet up there. It looked like fun but its not something I would ever do. If Im going to be up in the air, I want to be in a plane. The two of them loved it and would do it again. The cost was $40 each. We checked in with the spa and they made us wait a few minutes, as our rooms werent ready yet. We had booked 2 rooms so all four of us could get our massages at the same time. The rooms are very clean and there is soft, soothing music playing. There is a beautiful stained glass window that lets in just enough light. I had requested that women do the massages. They were very professional and had magical hands. We all agreed that it was one of the best massages we had ever received. It lasted 75 minutes and cost only $30. We tipped our girls $10 each and they were worth every penny of it. If my husband could have, he would have taken his masseuse, whos name was Perla, home with him. LOL Afterwards we spent some time by the pool. Make sure to bring your own towel, as they dont supply them. We still were on the long pants quest for Willie and today would be the day we would find them. Where the tenders leave you off, there is a Wal-Mart right across the street!! We walked over from the Krystal but I would take a cab if I had to do it again. My legs felt like rubber and I was so relaxed after the massage that it seemed like a really long walk. The air conditioning was a welcome relief as we walked through the doors to Wal-Mart. It was great to look at all the different items they have in theirs. It was funny to see the prices in pesos, which made everything look like it cost hundreds of dollars. But we were on a mission so off to the mens department we went. Their selection was decent and we found a pair of pants that were perfect. YIPPEE!!! The quest was over and we could go back to the ship. Once on board, we stopped at the Lido for a quick bite and then back to the room for a little siesta. My husband is starting to wonder if I have a thing going with that HAL mattress. LOL We had 8:00 dinner reservations for four at the Pinnacle that night. But since Patty had made it to the semi-finals of Superstar, we had called earlier to have it changed to 6:45. I had requested a window table and Michael the Maitre d showed us to our table. It was perfect as you could see the lights from PV and also the lights from another ship in port. From everything I had read on the boards, I was expecting to be wowed. I have to say that I wasnt that impressed with the service or the food. Both my husband and myself have been in the restaurant business for over 25 years so I feel we do have some knowledge in this area. As for the service, he didnt take the womens order first. This is just common etiquette. Also, not once did any of the food we ordered, get delivered to the person who had ordered it. We were constantly switching plates. The food was OK but nothing special. I think they should call the crab cakes nuggets instead as they are so small. The filet wasnt that great either. It had a mushy feel and taste to it. We had a couple of different desserts. I had the crème brulee, which was so-so. Willie had the volcano cake and thought it was good. But Tony ordered what we all felt was the winner of the night. He ordered the Near Baked Alaska, which is made with Cherry Garcia ice cream, covered in meringue, and smothered in flambEd bing cherries. This dinner was a gift from our TA. If we had paid for it, I would have been truly disappointed. We all felt the food in the dining room was just as good or better. And the service we got from Charlie was far superior to what we received in the Pinnacle. I know that everyone seems to love this place but it is something that we probably would not do again. JMHO We left and went to the Queens Lounge for Superstar. We arrived early to make sure we could get a good seat. We met the rest of our group there and asked if the missing tablemates had shown up that night. They hadnt. We were starting to wonder if the word had gotten around the ship about our group. LOL The show was a lot of fun. Patty looked fabulous and sang For Once In My Life beautifully. The other 4 were Julius, David, Melissa, and Vicki. Julius was a crack up. Not that good of a singer, more of a screamer. David had a beautiful voice and did a great job singing Spanish Eyes. Melissa sang I Will Survive and knocked it out of the ballpark. Vicki sang some country song, which was funny as Jimmy had already made the comment the night before that he didnt like country music. The wait for the decision was nerve racking. They finally announced the winner and Patty didnt make it. The 3 finalists would be David, Melissa, and Vicki. Oh well, as Patty said It would just free up our next two sea days. LOL Afterwards we went to the 10:30 late night comedy show in the Vista Lounge starring Mike Robinson. He was a ventriloquist and was pretty funny. The Filipino crew show was right after that. We didnt stay for all of it. What we saw of it, it was very good and the crew is quite talented. Our Martini Bar bartender, Bong, was the MC of the show. Remember that name, as there are more adventures with him to come. We had wanted to check out the Piano Bar since we boarded the ship. Last year when we had sailed on RCIs Explorer of the Seas, we had gone to the Schooner Bar, which is their version of a piano bar. We really enjoyed it and spent most of our nights there, as the disco was overrun with spring break kids. Kory Simon is the man who tickles the ivories nightly in the Piano Bar on the Oosterdam. He is quite talented and is very funny too. A couple of our roll call people were there and we had a lot of fun singing along. All too soon it was time to leave and we took our nightly Promenade Stroll. I highly recommend this romantic idea for anyone sailing as a couple. We would walk hand-in-hand singing our favorite songs. Im sure who was ever watching the security cameras had a good laugh every night watching us. Back at the room, we were surprised with a towel dog on our bed. He was so cute and we placed him on the couch for the rest of the cruise. Filled in our breakfast order, hung it on the door and we were soon sound asleep on that cloud-like HAL mattress. It was a wonderful 20th Anniversary!! Thursday 10/27~Sea Day I love sea days!! For us, the ship is always the destination and the places it goes is just an added bonus. We slept in and breakfast was delivered at 9:30. It still amazes me how they could cook it, get it up to my room, and it would still be hot. It was a beautiful morning and we loved watching the ocean. At 11:15 we went to the Crows Nest for some Team Trivia. We came in second again. Looks like we are going to have to buy that HAL coffee mug ourselves. LOL Tony entered the Blackjack tournament, which had qualifying rounds from 11:30 to 2:30. He was in the top three for quite a while. But by the end, other players passed him and he ended up in 10th place. They only took the top 7. I went out to the pool with Patty about 12:15 and we met Jackie and Phil. The weather was perfect, not too hot. We grabbed a lounge chair and settled in for a couple of hours in the sun. At 1:15, they had 2 guys do ice carvings by the pool. It is totally amazing what they can make out of a big chunk of ice. They just kept chiseling away and before long you could see the finished product. One of them made an Indian Chief with a full headdress and the other was a beautiful sailfish. What an incredible talent! At 1:30, it was Wet and Wacky pool games. I had just gotten my lunch from the Lido and brought it out to enjoy while watching the fun and games. Well, they needed 2 more women for one of the teams and Patty said Come on, lets do it. It sounded like silly fun and so up our hands went and we were in. My lunch would have to wait. LOL They had 2 teams of 6, 3 men and 3 women on each one. We named our team Wang Wang after my favorite drink and the other team was called Rehab which was self-explanatory. Obviously, two totally different types of players. LOL The first game was the famous passing the orange under the chin. You had to line up boy/girl and pass it all the way down the team line and back again. Now we have all played this game at some time in our lives. But playing it in a bathing suit brings it to a whole different level. If your orange slips, it can have all kinds of hilarious results. Ill let you imagination run wild with this one. Our team came in second but we had the crowd roaring with laughter. The second game was passing the hula hoop while holding hands. We lined up holding hands. You had to get it over your head, step through it, and get it to the next person without letting go of each others hands. We did this one very well and came in first. It was all tied up at one a piece!! The third game was synchronized swimming. They gave us one minute to come up with a routine. Team Rehab went first and their entry into the water was very good. Their routine was OK but nothing outstanding. Our turn was next and our entry wasnt as good as theirs. But our routine was very good. Even the guys looked very graceful. We came in second, which I think was because of our entry. The score was now 2 to 1, in favor of team rehab. The last one was swimming with a ship between your legs. They had a blow-up ship that was about 16 inches long. You had to put this between your thighs, dive into the water, swim the pool back and forth, and then pass it off to the next player. Sounds so much easier than it is! I was the second one in line for our team. The hand off was smooth and I put it between my thighs and dove it. As soon as I hit the water, the ship shot out into the air like a rocket! After getting it back in position, I was laughing so hard that it was hard to keep swimming. Our team came in second and we lost to Team Rehab. But we did win a key chain and they gave us a yummy rum punch drink. It was a lot of fun and we made the DVD that you can buy at the end of the cruise. Im not sure if that is a good thing though. LOL At 3:30, it was off to Martini class with Bong and our entire group went. Bong is wonderful and makes this class a lot of fun. Or maybe it was just the martinis that made it seem that way. LOL They charge $20 to take this class but it was worth it in drinks and entertainment. This was the second of 3 classes. Some of our group made the first one but I didnt. After this class, I wish I had. The three we tasted were a Green Apple, a Blue Glacier Drop, and a Chocolate martini. They all were great and you get a full martini glass of each! Bong mentioned that his last class had shown up wearing their bathrobes to the graduation class. He said it was funny and something he would remember. I guess he forgot which group he was talking to as that was like the gauntlet being thrown in front of us. LOL Our minds started racing and we came up with a better idea. But youll have to wait until tomorrows installment to see what that was. After the class, I stopped by the front desk to buy my cruise lottery tickets. It is $10 for one or $20 for 3 chances. If you win, it is a free Caribbean cruise for two!!! Not a bad pay off if you win, which I didnt. But the dream kept me going until they announced the winner at 10 pm on Friday night. We went back to our room to get ready for the last formal night. It was early but I wanted to see the show Escape at 6:30 in the Vista Lounge before dinner. Willie stayed in the room and finished the book he was reading. What a fabulous show!! Lots of music from the 70s and 80s. The two lead singers were very good but just didnt have the romantic chemistry between them that they were trying to portray. But the singing and dancing was entertaining. I would see it again if I had the chance. I went back to the room afterwards to get Willie and we went down to have formal pictures taken. They turned out really well and we ended up buying one on Friday. We always buy one of the formal night ones for a special souvenir. Just before Willie and I showed up at the dinner table, guess who finally showed up? The famous missing tablemates!! Phil said they just sort of stood by the table and stared. After the 2nd night they hadnt shown up, we had moved Jackie and Phil to our table permanently. They just kept staring so Phil got up and talked with them. He explained to them that since they hadnt shown up, we figured they had made other arrangements and had moved another couple to our table. Charlie then came over and showed them to another table. And I missed the whole darn thing!! All I know about them was that is was two women. I still cant believe that they would show up after not being there for 6 nights. They hadnt even come in once to say hello or say that they would be eating somewhere else on any given night. By their manners, I would say we didnt miss much with these two. It was steak & lobster night in the dining room. All of us had been looking forward to this all week long. We had warned Charlie the night before that we would be partaking of more than just one lobster each. He didnt fail us!! I had 3 and they were very good, not over done or mushy. But Tony was the winner that night with 10 lobsters, 3 escargots, soup, salad, and his usual 3 desserts. But it was also Baked Alaska night and he had some of that too. LOL The steak was about the size of a hockey puck and tasted like one too. It was a disappointment not to have the Baked Alaska parade through the dining room. I know some people dislike it but for me its a tradition that is part of the cruise. They had it for the 5:30 seating but for the leisure seating, it was just brought to the table by your waiter. We left the dining room and went to the Queens Lounge for the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game at 9:45. The place was packed to the rafters! Im not why they didnt hold this in the Vista Lounge as it could hold more people. The second showing of Escape had gotten over around 9:30 and it would have been open. We only stayed for a few minutes. It was standing room only and it was just too crowded and hot in there. But heres a funny story about one of the couples on stage. It was the oldest couple and they had been married for over 60 years. The question they asked the woman was What is his favorite kind of condiment? She answered Ketchup. They then brought the man out and asked him the same question. His answer was&&&. TROJANS!!!! He obviously hadnt heard the question correctly and thought they had said condoms. The whole place erupted in laughter and the cruise director Jimmy was speechless. The look on the wifes face was priceless!! We left and went to the Piano Bar but it was packed, so it was off to the Disco to see DJ Melis. That night was called Dance Through The Decades and it was music that started in the 50s and went through the 80s. We grabbed our usual booth and had a great time that night. The Dessert Extravaganza was that night from 10:15 until 11:30. We were all so full from dinner that only Patty went and brought back some goodies for us. The chocolate covered strawberries were very good. They tasted like they had just been picked that morning. Willie and I went over again to try and see Kory in the Piano Bar at 11:30 but the place was still packed. He is so much fun that people go there and just stay for the evening. We went back to the disco and stayed until the wee hours of the morning. When we left, we went on a secret mission around the ship to get things for our surprise for Bong and the martini class tomorrow. We had a lot of fun and laughs doing this. Holding our treasures in our hands, we made our nightly stroll around the Promenade. It was a little windy and cool that night. We saw 2 other people that night, which was a first. Maybe they were security keeping an eye on us. LOL Back at the room, we had a towel monkey hanging from one of the pictures. We had seen Rita and Drus days before. Their room steward whos name was DaDing, kept adding new items to it every time he was in their room. Rita and Dru added items to it too. It was the cutest thing by the time the cruise ended. We filled out our breakfast order, hung it on the door, and headed off to dream land on our dream mattress. Looking forward to our last sea day tomorrow!! Friday 10/28~Sea Day I cant believe that this cruise is almost over. We had our breakfast delivered at 9:30. It was almost bittersweet eating it. I am really going to miss this morning ritual when I get home. We had planned on going to the disembarkation talk in the Vista Lounge at 10:30 but decided to skip it. We knew that they would be showing it on TV later that day and we could watch it then. We had some time to kill so we started packing. Its hard to believe that this cruise is almost over. We had a bunch of poker players in our group so we decided to have a Texas Hold Em game in our room at noon. Tony went down to the casino and got rolls of quarters for each of us. It was a $10 buy in. We had a lot of fun. Most of the group were very good players but Im not. I had to use a cheat sheet so I would know what hand would beat another. LOL But when the game was over, I came out $1 ahead so I guess I didnt do so badly. At 1:15, it was time to get ready for our 2:00 martini class and our surprise for Bong. We had decided to come to the class dressed in TOGAS!! Im not sure which one of us came up with this idea. Each of us had gotten king size sheets from our room stewards. It was really funny trying to explain to Djoko what I needed these for. I dont think he understood the toga thing but he got them for us anyway. Rob and Marty decided not to join us for this adventure. Willie and I had borrowed some fern fronds from some flower arrangements the night before. Jackie and Phil had gotten some too on their secret mission. Jackie made Phil a glorious crown with them. She made a beautiful crown for herself out of some paper streamers that had been hanging in the disco. She also made earrings and a necklace out of the little chocolates they leave on your bed. Phil also scored on some plastic grapes from a display somewhere. The two of them looked spectacular!! The boys got dressed in our room and the girls went to Tony and Pattys room to get dressed. Im not sure what went on in their room but we had a lot of laughs in ours. None of us had ever been to a toga party before and trying to get those things on was hilarious. Patty decided that she wanted her toga to be a little different so she used the cloth shower curtain as hers. After lots of wrapping, tying, and safety pinning, we went over to the boys room. They looked fabulous!! Tony had made himself a medallion necklace out of one of my chocolates. I had brought double-sided poster tape with me to hang some door decorations. This came in quite handy to attach the ferns to Willie, Tony, and Drus head. LOL We were all ready so off to the class we went. What a sight the 8 of us were!! We heard people say, I didnt read about a toga party in the bulletin. Others asked us where the party was being held. But the best one was the 2 sweet little old ladies who asked us, Which one of you got married? It was all we could do not to totally crack up. I had nametags left over from the CC get together. We all made up names and put them on. Heres a small sample of some of the names: Trojan Troy, Caesar Salad, Goddess of Mammories, and Philicious. For those of you who havent been on this ship, the Martini Bar is right across from the front desk. The looks on the girls faces as we passed by was priceless! We came up to the bar and sat down on our stools. I thought Bong was going to fall on the floor laughing!! He looked at us and said, You win!! I have to admit that those outfits beat anything Ive ever seen. Willie had arranged with the ships photographer to be at the Martini Bar to take pictures at 1:45. He showed up right on time. He took pictures of each couple and a group one on the staircase. The group one turned out really good and I bought it for my cruise scrapbook. By this time, we were starting to draw a crowd. Word must have gotten out about the crazy people at the Martini Bar. Even the cruise director Jimmy stopped by. Quite a few people stopped to take pictures. The 3 martini drinks Bong taught us were a Candy Apple Cosmopolitan, a Kiwi Drop, and an Espresso Martini. All 3 were very tasty. Our buddy Bong was nice enough to make sure he refilled our glasses with the extra ones he had made. After the class we all went up to the Lido and got some goodies to bring back to our room. We had paninis, sub sandwiches, pizza, cookies, and veges with some dip. We hadnt eaten any lunch and we were all were starving, which is very hard to do on a cruise. To see all these people wearing togas and carrying trays of food through the ship had be to quite funny. The reason we had everyone back to our room was Willie was going to hook up our digital camera through the TV and show the pictures we had taken of everyone during the cruise. Rob and Marty joined us there. We had a great time!! We all came up with funny comments about each of the pictures. Some of the pictures were quite funny. Nothing better than taking someones picture when they are least expecting it. LOL After everyone left, Willie and I finished our packing. I think I hate doing that more than leaving the ship. I can never fit all that stuff back in the same suitcases. Afterwards we went down to the shops. I bought myself a DAM SHIPS t-shirt. I like to plan ahead and Ill need that for our group cruise next October. We also bought some booze to take home as the prices were just to good to pass up. We then went over to the photo gallery. I have a system about pictures. During the week, I find ours and put them all together in the same spot. Then, on the last night we sit down and go over all of them and decide which ones we want. I find that we get a better price with the package deals than if we buy them one at a time. Purchases in hand, we went back to the room to get ready for our last dinner together with our wonderful group. Oh, I forgot something!! At 4:00 was the finals for the Oosterdam Superstar. We didnt go as we were having the party in our room at that time. But the one we had been hoping would win did. It was David!! His voice was very good, smooth, and velvety. We were very happy that the judges recognized that and picked him. Before dinner, I took the time and filled out our comment card. I made sure that I let them know that I didnt care for this test run of Leisure Dining. I had made sure it didnt affect our table but I dont want them to change from the traditional dining. It was the reason we chose HAL over all the other choices out there. I know a lot of you reading this review feel the same way as I do about it. At 8:00, we arrived in the dining room. It was a great dinner and Charlie gave us his usual superior service. We tipped him extra for being so good all week. Between the wine packages and TA wine gifts that needed to be finished, we had a very good time. LOL Everyone exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. We each said a little something about what this cruise and our new friends meant to us. Rita, Dru, Willie, and I are already booked for the CC group cruise in Oct.06. Our goal is to get the rest of the group to book it also. After dinner we all went to see DJ Melis one last time in the disco. Tonights theme was rock it till we dock it. From 10:30 to 11:30, it was Karaoke so we tried the Piano Bar. The place was packed again so we went to the casino for one last shot at lady luck. Lady luck shot us down!! The slot machines were like a vacuumed cleaner; sucked it all up and nothing came back out. LOL We went back to the disco for a couple of dances. I also wanted to find our cocktail server Arin and give him a little something extra. He had taken really good care of our group. One more dance and then we left. So much for rock till we dock! LOL With tonight being our last night on the ship, we strolled twice around the Promenade. It was a very cool and windy night and the sea was quite choppy. I noticed when we went down for dinner that there were little holders hanging by the elevators filled with empty barf bags. This was the first time Id ever seen that and we have sailed during a hurricane once. It must be just another wonderful HAL touch. All too soon it was time to go back to the room. I was hoping to get one last towel animal but no luck. The funny thing about that was I had looked in the stool under the vanity earlier in the week. There were 4 towel animals stored in there. Im not sure why Djoko decided to only give us three. But he had been wonderful all week long so we have no complaints. We tipped him extra also. No breakfast form to fill out as we all had decided to meet for breakfast in the dining room at 7:30. Stood out on the balcony for a few minutes not wanting to let the night end. Tomorrow and reality would come soon enough. Finally, I could hear that fabulous HAL mattress calling my name and I came back inside. Next: Breakfast, disembarkation, and final thoughts Saturday 10/29 Since we had to be up so early, we had asked for a wake-up call to our room. When that phone rang, reality started to set in. Our cruise would be ending in just a few hours. It was at that time that I wished it had been a 10 day cruise or that we had booked a back-to-back. It had all seemed to fly by so fast. It was sunny and warm in San Diego that morning. All I could think about was how lucky the people who would be getting on the ship were. The sailaway party is much more fun when the weather is nice. Took a quick shower and packed up the last of our carryons. We met the rest of the group in front of the Vista Dining room. The Maitre d asked how many of us there were and we said 10. By the look on his face, I knew there would be a problem. He said that we would have to be sat at two different tables. I explained that we all wanted to sit at the same table and he said that would be impossible. We were shown to 2 tables, which happened to right next to the table we had eaten dinner at for the entire cruise. It was EMPTY!! I asked why we couldnt sit at that one and the guy said that it wasnt available. I said it looked like it was. He said that it wasnt set for breakfast. I said that it looked like it was set with all the same stuff as the one they wanted to seat us at. By this time Phil was starting to get mad at the absurdity of all this and said he would be right back. Im not sure what he said to the Maitre d' but when he came back, we were sat at the table for 10. Way to go Phil!! It was wonderful to be able to sit all together at our table for one last time. Service was good although it wasnt our Charlie. He must have had the morning off or was working somewhere else on the ship. The food was good but I was disappointed not to see Eggs Benedict on the menu. I had really wanted to have one last order before I left the ship. When we were done with breakfast, we stopped outside the Vista Lounge and took a couple of group pictures. We all hugged and said our good-byes. Willie and I went back to our room to wait. I love this about HAL!! They let you wait in your room until your number is called. Every other cruise line we have sailed with makes you go to a lounge or somewhere to wait. Just one more little touch that has made me a true HAL fan now!! All too soon our number was called and it was time to disembark. It went very smooth and fast. The only thing that was weird was when we went through immigration, they never looked at our passports!! They just took our form and sent us on our way. If this is how they handle security in our ports, I think they better step up their game a lot. It was a short cab ride back to the airport. Jackie and Phil were flying out also, so we sat and talked while we waited for our flights. The flight home was smooth and we soon arrived in rainy Oregon. What a change from what we had just experienced the last 7 days!! But we do have another cruise to look forward to. We left the ship on 10/29 and in one year, on the same date, we will be getting on the Westerdam for our group cruise. Final Thoughts: This was our first HAL cruise. I had researched HAL quite a bit before we booked. I had heard all the things about this being an old persons cruise line. Nothing could be farther from the truth!! It was a nice mix of ages, with a lot of baby boomers on it. We saw very few kids and the couple we did see, were very well behaved. The pictures in the brochure or online dont do this ship justice. I had thought by the pictures that the color scheme was a little loud and obnoxious. But seeing them in person, they are really quite beautiful. The artwork around the ship is gorgeous. So many beautiful statues and I loved the benches with the pads on them. And the paintings are breathtaking and very well done. It adds so much more to the cruise to be surrounded by these things. I loved the elevators that are on the outside at midship. It was always fun to see outside instead of looking at the doors. LOL The teak lounge chairs on the promenade are a great place to watch the ocean go by. Those reclining chairs in the Crows Nest are to die for. What a wonderful place to relax, read, or take a nap. The service we encountered for the most part was very good. Everyone was friendly, personable, and always smiling. They all seemed to like their jobs. Being in the restaurant business, I know how demanding some guests can be. At all times was the staff professional, even when they werent treated with the respect that they deserved. After reading the boards for almost a year, I had my doubts that HAL could really be as good as everyone had said. I was wrong and I am now a HAL fan!! What really made this cruise special were the new friends we made. It would have been a good cruise but meeting them made it outstanding. We had so much fun, laughs, and good times with our crazy group. I have wonderful memories of all of them and I hope that we will all sail together again someday. Big hugs to each and every one of you!! 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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