The following review is long, and each topic will be capitalized so you can read its entirety or skip through until you find a topic of interest.
REASON FOR BOOKING ON HAL'S MS. OOSTERDAM: We are three generations. Two grandparents (70's), two parents (40's), and two teenage children (13 & 16). We wanted to find a cruise that would please all ages. Did a lot of research, spoke with travel agent, and asked a lot of questions on the Cruise Critic's message board. Finally went with the bit "0" for its value, and newness of this ship. We had all previously sailed with HAL before, and Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, the Big Red Boat, and NCL. After booking this cruise last summer, started reading some negative reviews about this ship and her sister the Zuiderdam, will address this later.
CRUISE DATE: Sunday, March 14 - Sunday March 21, 2004, leaving from Ft. Lauderdale.
EMBARKATION: Flew into Ft. Lauderdale, arriving at approximately 9:40am, claimed luggage and took taxi to pier 27. Arrived at 10:30am, entered building and got in que by 10:40, was on board the ship by 11:15, and having a leisurely lunch in the Lido. Cabin was ready by 12:45. Effortless, and pain-free. Wonderful!
CABIN: We booked two adjoining cabins on the Verandah Deck, 5089 and 5087. This was our very first balcony cabin, and we can never go back! These cabins are triples. We were three to each cabin and very comfortable. The room configuration has a nice size bath with tub/shower combination, medicine cabinet, and storage underneath the sink/counter. Lots of hooks abound. Three closets, with shelves that tilt out for storage or fold up for hanging dresses. Middle closet has full length mirror on interior door, nice touch. There is a privacy curtain in this area that can be drawn for changing or keeping room dark. Two twins beds that can be made into a queen, with wall of mirrors, and two nightstands. Small reading light, and lighting controls at head of each bed that control entire cabin lighting. Another privacy curtain that pulls half way across the room, with a sofa sleeper, chair, table, and desk with mini bar and stool, another large mirror, and separate make-up mirror. On desk is silver tray with silver ice bucket.
In cabinet of desk are wine and champagne glasses along with a silver cork screw, this is where the hair dryer is stowed too. TV sits on desktop. Door to balcony opens out with handle, this is not a sliding door. On the balcony there are two chairs and one ottoman. Becareful when entering the cabin from balcony, door is heavy and can scrape barefeet,speaking from experience. The colors are dusty pomegranate and a soft gold. With colorful prints on the walls of butterflies and flowers or fruit. Our room was kept spotless and always had fresh ice and fruit. Thanks to our wonderful Cabin Steward, Heru! These rooms were mid-ship and very conveniently located to everything, but never heard any noise from outside, nor up, or down or adjoining walls.
TOUR OF THE SHIP: You get the feeling that you are on a ship, not a floating hotel, or shopping mall. There are views of the water on each level from various public spaces and the oceanview elevators, located mid-ship. A lot of the public walk ways are curving, not straight lines. Making you want to follow their paths. Nice touch. There is a full promenade in teak. Three times around equals one mile. Beautiful teak benches and loungers all around. The colors of the Oosterdam are elegant and understated jewel tones, bringing a feeling of calm. There is wonderful butter soft leather seating in just about all lounge areas. Polished teak and granite abound. Beautiful art throughout all levels, forward, mid, and aft. Elegant and fun lighting, look up and all around. Wonderful and artful benches everywhere.
RESTAURANTS: LIDO: Five different stations, duplicated on port and starboard. What fun! Area is decorated with bright fun colors, lamps and patterns. Views of ocean can be seen from all seats. The stations serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch choices were deli, Italian, hot entree, asian, salad bar, and desserts, with beverage stations at each end. Hours are 7-10am for breakfast. 11:30-2:00pm lunch, 11:30 - 1:00am(thats right, A.M.) for pizza and pasta and ice cream. 6:30-8:00pm casual dinner, 11:00pm-12mid-night for late night snack. In other words, you will not go hungry with the Lido almost always open! Food was of excellent quality and variety. The ice cream was wonderful with flavors like, cinnamon, rum raisin, coconut in a waffle cone, regular cone, or dish. Nice cookies always nearby, macadamia nut, oatmeal raisinut, chocolate chip and peanut butter. The desserts are wonderful too, with a nice selection of sugar free desserts.
GRILL & TACO BAR: Open 11:30-5:00pm daily. Choice of hamburger, cheeseburger, hotdog, knotworst, or veggie burger, and fries at the grill. Taco bar has hard taco shells, warm soft flour tortillas, seasoned hamburger meat and seasoned chicken, guacamole, tomatoes, and all the trimmings. This area is located on the lido aft, poolside.
ODYSSEY: Open from 6-9:30pm by reservation only. This is a surcharge restaurant that we did not use. You can see it from the atrium area and it certainly looks very elegant.
VISTA DINING ROOM: Has a first seating at 6pm, second at 8:15pm. Two level dining room with large ocean views windows throughout. Circular staircase in center with middle level for musicians who play each night for entire dinner, strings and piano. Very lovely. Colors are warm burgundy, golds, on walls and floor, nice prints of fruits and flowers. Metalic flower sculptures on ceiling in upper level, tables are elegantly set, with fresh flowers, lovely china with gold and blue pattern. Menu offers usually three appetizers, two soups, two salads, four or five entrees of beef, pork, chicken and fish, two from the grill choices, and always a heart healthy choice. Usually three desserts, and two sugar free desserts and always ice cream, and fruit and cheese. Our waiters were very nice, especially our assistant waiter Safari! Always remembering our cappuccino after dinner.
YUM-YUM MAN: This always pleasant and smiling gentleman is at the exit door while leaving dinner, offering mints, figs and dates, and candied ginger. He is dressed in a red and blue uniform trimmed in gold with matching hat. He also walks the public areas right before each dinner seating, while playing the chimes, "ding, din, dong" dinner is served!
ROOM SERVICE: Always prompt and delivered in a half hour time choice. Available 24 hours with limited menu and specific breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours with larger menu. Info and menu is in your cabin. We enjoyed ordering coffee, oj, and danish from room service and eating on the verandah each morning before getting dressed and going to the dining room.
LOUNGES: We visited most lounges and public areas, they are all beautiful and each different. WINDSTAR CAFE: cute nook for coffee and pastries, there is a small charge for coffees here. Nice teak and leather seats and ocean views. EXPLORER'S LOUNGE: elegant, leather, polished granite and oil paintings abound. The wonderful Monarchia Strings are here each evening, and not to miss, flambe desserts can be ordered and enjoyed in this lounge, no charge! SPORTS BAR: plays ESPN channel all day and evening from many tvs. Fun seating in this bar. OCEAN BAR: upbeat and spacious, Uptown plays here each evening for pre-dinner dancing, nice! Art auctions are also held here. Neat table lighting. CROWS NEST: Loved this area! Marble and butter-soft leather everywhere, very open, plus two separate side areas for more quiet conversations, B-4 plays a very wide variety of tunes here each evening. Wonderful and plenty of space for dancing. Nice views during the day while at sea!
PIANO BAR: Fun, intimate area, piano is truly a bar, wonderful Gayle Leali tickles the keyes each evening! NORTHERN LIGHTS DISCO: Fun, flashy, lights and fog! Funny, dry witted DJ Marc keeps things spinning all night long. CASINO: Lots of slots, black jack tables, very open and spacious, not too lucky for us though. QUEENS LOUNGE: This is the only area that disappointed us. There are very bad sight lines here. This area is used for various entertainment and talks and movies. If you want to watch the movie, go early and get front row seats, otherwise you will see only the heads and shoulders in front of you. On the plus side you get free popcorn! VISTA LOUNGE: Bright with fun, hugh lamps at each side. Nice sight lines from most seats, even balcony, beware of a few poles. If you get here late and see an open seat, it probably is directly behind one of those dreaded poles. LIDO BAR: Fun dolphin seats, you must at least try out once. The pool has retractable cover with cute flock of penguins guarding it. LIDO AFT: this is where the pool and hot tub action is. Island sounds of the Caribbean Breeze play here throughout the day - no worries - just HAPPY!
GREENHOUSE SPA & SALON: Never used this area, but took a tour and everything looked nice.
GYM: Nice and not crowded, husband and son used this area daily and enjoyed the sauna.
INTERNET CENTER: Very nice area with oceanviews. Plenty of screens. Package plans if you use a lot. I think I paid about $9.00 for 12 minutes that I used to confirm on our own shore excursion in St. Martin. Well worth it.
LIBRARY: Very beautiful and elegant space, if you don't use you must drop by.
PHOTO GALLERY: Large area nicely spaced, with lots and lots of pictures of yourself to look at.
SHOPS: Nice variety of sundries, tee-shirts, logo items, jewelry, liquor, watches, etc.
ENTERTAINMENT: Wow, we really enjoyed all the shows. We usually don't make the effort to attend all shows, but these were so good we went to all but one. I don't know if the entertainment changes from sailing to sailing. We enjoyed the ships' fabulous dancers and singers, comedian Don Ware was superb! (Don Ware for President)! Illusionist Leo Ward, good. Juggler Mike Price, wonderful. The acapella group the Mikes was phenomenal!!!! The cast production Escape was awesome!
STAFF and CREW: All were truly wonderful and gracious service abounded. This particular sailing had two Captains. The first Captain had to fly off to attend a conference. Wait staff was gracious and never pushy in public lounge areas. We loved our waiters and especially our Cabin Steward Heru! The Cruise Director Dane very pleasant and funny, kept things moving. Our Wine Steward, Edward, was so very nice and pleasant to talk to, and remembered us throughout the ship. Photography, very pleasant and not pushy.
EMERGENCY: unfortunately my Father was taken off the ship while in port in Tortola. He had been experiencing some pain and getting worse, visited the doctor. They thought he might need immediate emergency surgery and made arrangements for him to be brought to the local hospital. He and my Mother went together. The ships agent in Tortola was very helpful to all of us. Once it was determined that he did not need the surgery and was able to fly, she made arrangements for both of them to fly into Ft. Lauderdale to await our return two days later. The front desk was very helpful to me in providing information to get in touch with them at the hospital in Tortola, and the ships agent emailed me that all was well and their flight arrangements. Once that was settled we did enjoy the rest of our cruise, missing our parents very much. A big thanks to all the Doctors, Nurses, and Staff, who were so very helpful and compassionate!
HALF MOON CAY: Wonderful, beautiful island! They should all be this lovely, private, and peaceful. Very nice barbecue lunch, snorkeling with some very friendly fish who expected to be fed, and nice walking paths. Refreshing and relaxing time was had by all! We were the only ship on the island and it was not crowded. Not much wait for the tenders, coming or going. Fun day!
PORTS OF CALL: Nassau, very short time in this port 7am-12noon. We usually like to snorkel on our own but felt we did not have enough time. We took in the Queens staircase, Fort Fincastle, the tower and straw market. With six ships in port most attractions were crowded. St. Martin, visited Phillipsburg and had some loose gemstones set while in port. Also went horseback riding for 2 hours ending with a swim with the horse in the ocean, fun. Three of us rode and the other three went to Mullet Bay. Nice beach but no snorkeling, better snorkeling to be had at Dawn Beach. Tortola, since we had already been to Virgin Gorda and the Baths (which is a must see) we decided to try a beach on Tortola, after a thrilling rollercoaster ride(taxi) to Brewers Bay, we snorkeled the day away. Very nice beach with small beach bar, not crowded or commercialized. Excellent snorkeling. This island is genuinely friendly, beautiful and not yet overrun with tourism.
Concerns: As previously mentioned above, I had read some negative comments, and had some concerns about this ship, I'll try to address each one. l. Only the over 75 crowd are passengers on HAL. Our ship sailed at full capacity during spring break. We had all ages, and the variety seemed to be divided equally. Lots of families of two or more generations. Plenty of children, young through teenagers, but never were any of them obtrusive. Many participated in Club HAL, but our teens chose not to and had fun with the family.
2. Ship is new, but shows age, i.e., rust spots on outside of hull, teak rails peeling, carpet worn. I did see some rust spots on outside of this ship, but while in port, the crew is constantly painting different areas, outside and in. Did notice our balcony rail was peeling, but saw the crew systematically taking individuals rails and painting and sealing them. These are open to the ever present salt air and sea spary and need constant attention, which I observed being done. Carpet was fine. Only wear I saw was on the Atrium stair case, which probably gets the most foot traffic daily. Wouldn't have noticed, had someone not posted a complaint.
3. Sewage smells. A few times while the ship was docked in port, if the wind was blowing the wrong way, a slight sewage odor could be detected. The Oosterdam is a "green ship" which processes waste by filtering then incinerating. I would guess the smell came from the incinerator and the fact that the ship was not moving. Again, something I would not have noticed had it not been mentioned on the message boards. Chalk it up to being on a ship.
So, none of the concerns panned out, and the ship and cruise were delightful.
AMBIANCE: This ship is an elegant one. Beautiful art, lovely lighting, warm jewel tones, ocean views everywhere, fine leather, polished granite and marble. Elegant, low key, relaxing, sort of the "BMW" of cruising! Loved it!
NOT TO MISS AND SPECIAL HAL TOUCHES: 1.Beautiful fresh flower arrangements all throughout the ship!
2.Artwork throughout, don't miss the lovely oil paintings on each landing of the forward staircase. This huge oils are of various HAL ships, all painted by one of HAL's own Captains.
3. Enjoy a delicious flambe dessert prepared before your eyes in the elegance of the Explorer's Lounge, while listening to the Monarchia Strings.
4. A visit to the YUM-YUM Man!
5. Enjoy the gracious service of the wait staff and crew!
6. Dutch Night.
7. Chocolate Extravaganza.
8. White-gloved Afternoon Tea.
DISEMBARKATION: Went just as smooth as embarkation. We were allowed to wait in our cabin until our number was called on the tv and speaker. We were off the ship by 9am and at the airport by 9:30am
ALL IN ALL: The Ms. Oosterdam is a beautiful, elegant ship. We would sail on her again and again! Everything was enjoyable and memorable, from ambiance, decor, food service and presentation. I would recommend this ship if you are looking for an elegant, relaxing, low key cruise, with gracious, unobtrusive service.
Sue Z. Read Less