Sail Date: January 2005
We stayed pre-cruise in Lauderdale by the Sea and arranged for a limo service to pick up four of us at 1 p.m., arriving at the pier after the short drive. There were no lines at all for embarkation, it may have taken 15 min at the most to ... Read More
We stayed pre-cruise in Lauderdale by the Sea and arranged for a limo service to pick up four of us at 1 p.m., arriving at the pier after the short drive. There were no lines at all for embarkation, it may have taken 15 min at the most to get on the ship, our rooms were ready when we boarded. The luggage started to arrive right away and all luggage was delivered within a half hour -- this ship was full with over 1800 passengers and we were amazed by how quickly we could get settled in. Our cabin was a bit smaller than on the Rotterdam, but it was comfortable and there was plenty of room to unpack for a 13 day cruise. The balcony was plenty big enough for two arm chairs, a footstool and a small table and we could open the partition between our cabin and our friend's. The bath is roomy and the beds are out of this world. My only complaint is that the desk is too small for the TV, wine bucket, ice bucket and such -- you have to put the ice stuff on the floor when you want to use the desk for primping. Our cabin steward Dana was super!! I have mixed feelings about the public spaces, they are bland, not classy but not offensive. The atrium is boring and inside there are a lot of weird corridors that gave me a closed in feeling -- there are no WOW look at that areas. Outside there are plenty of spaces for lounging both by the pools and on upper decks, on a full ship with lots of sea days you never had trouble finding a quiet place to sun. The Lido is well designed for traffic flow and the Crow's Nest feels like an old friend with spectacular views and great lounge chairs. The food is good, our waiters Made and Dalo were the best we have ever had -- PERIOD!! We took advantage of the first night bargain at the Pinnacle and the steak is to die for, it is worth the price of admission to smell the volcano cake, let alone eat it. I did think that the service we had from Made was better than the Pinnacle. This was a repositioning cruise so it was not a standard itinerary, but I feel that the shore excursion staff was uninformed about the port of Cartagena. I took a tour where I feel that 15 of us were put into a potentially dangerous situation. My friends took the city tour and were chased onto the bus by vendors and rumor was that people on the Rosario Island tour got their money back. I did ask for specifics of the tour before I took my chances and plunked my money down. For the other ports we took independent tours and fell in love with Mexico. The highlight was seeing whales in Cabo. The ship tour sold out well in advance of sailing but we were able to book a small boat on shore. If you need a big whale watching boat, book online as early as you can. This is a nice ship -- even when full it did not feel crowded. It is indeed the cleanest ship I have ever been on and I will say that overall this is the best crew we have ever seen, even on other HAL ships. I prefer the smaller ships but would not hesitate to sail on the Oosterdam again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2004
This was my first cruise with HAL. The other members on CC had me worried about cruising with HAL with lots of negative comments. HAL turned out to have many things that they did well, but also lacked a little in certain areas. Read ... Read More
This was my first cruise with HAL. The other members on CC had me worried about cruising with HAL with lots of negative comments. HAL turned out to have many things that they did well, but also lacked a little in certain areas. Read on...... EMBARKATION: Upon arriving at the port, the traffic was a bit hairy. Once you got out and got going it was ok, but the sign posted that said that tipping was not necessary was posted so that you would see it after the fact, but either way... The multiple cue lines were a decent idea, and the first cue line directing you to the appropriate station was all right, but kind of slowed down the flow of traffic. I found it amusing that the people who did web check in had to wait longer in line than those who didn't and they did web check in to save time. HA! We didn't have to wait long in line at all; 10 min tops. Then we were off and on our way to board. Because we arrived at 12 p.m. we were able to board directly without waiting for our number to be called. From the minute we made it through the metal detectors we experienced solicitor after solicitor. That was a bit much. On the other side of the doors from the metal detectors were spa people waiting for you, and then at the top of the escalator (mind you the spa people were at the bottom of the escalator) were wine stewards selling the wine packages and then next was the photographer taking pictures and selling the photo package. All of that made me think I was already on one of the islands. Once we made it across the gangway and had one foot on the ship someone was there asking my brother his age and giving him a CD holder with the daily programs for the week for CLUB HAL. This was a plus over Disney because their CD holder was of a nicer quality but was made incorrectly so you couldn't even use it. There was white glove service to the elevators upon entering the ship. Once in the Lido it was hard to find a seat, see the Ship Design section of my review for more info. Once again, as soon as we picked a table we were asked to buy a drink card. We did, we bought 3. As the day went by we were asked over and over again, even when just passing by the Olive Pit in the atrium. It was a bit much. Also funny, how they pushed them the first day, and then after that they didn't think it was so hot when you had one later on in the week. ROOMS: At about 1:30 p.m. there was an actual announcement that your room was ready for your enjoyment and to be checked out at your leisure. This was very nice, I have not experienced an actual announcement on other cruises, they just mentioned it as you got on that your room would be ready at a certain time. My room, because I was totally by myself, was just a Cat. N, so I was an inside stateroom, but it was a handicapped room so it was very spacious. The rest of my family had a Cat. SS suite on the corner aft of the ship where the ship widens. Their room was very nice and the verandah was unbelievable. Many of these positives come from the location of their room. Because of its location, both the room and the verandah were larger than a regular SS. My room, 1011, was way too large for just one person. The only complaint I have is that the doors did not have any weight to them (mostly so a handicapped person in a wheelchair wouldn't get caught by the door), but it caused them to not close unless actually pushed all the way shut. If the bathroom door was not closed it would swing back and forth, open and shut. Having the room furnished with a fresh basket of fruit was definitely a plus only HAL seems to provide, even at the Cat. N level. Also the HAL carry bag on the first night is great for the week and for identifying fellow passengers on land. I had friends in a regular verandah room, and that was extremely small. Also they had to put one night stand under the desk instead of putting the two in the middle. If they had put both nightstands between the beds one would have to crawl over the bed to get through the room. I had family in the fully obstructed view window rooms. The nice thing about these "windows" were that they were the size of sliding doors. The room was much more spacious than the verandah room my friends had. The set up of the verandah room was definitely lacking. FOOD/DINING: Ok....first the food itself. The consensus on the CC boards seemed to be that HAL really lacked in the food. My party of 14 found that this food was better than Carnival and even Disney. I thought their food was very good. I find on cruises that things look better than they taste, and I end up leaving half a plate of food because things didn't taste as planned. This was almost never the case. Very pleased. The dining room was all right. We are kind of sick of wasting 2 hours a night of our cruise sitting at dinner. We have had enough of it being such a drawn out process. Also we had a table of 8 and a table of 6 which makes it that much longer. Our waiter was very efficient and sweet. Our wine steward/drink waiter wasn't the brightest crayon in the box for sure. He had trouble getting our pops on a regular basis. I give them immense credit for the way they run Lido at night. We really enjoyed being able to go to the Lido and get the same food that is being served in the dining room, without having to wait 2 hours for it all to be served. ****Also the food was fresh in the Lido**** Rather than the food being made and sitting around waiting for waiters to come get it, the food was made right after you ordered it and brought to you, only a few feet away. I cannot even express how much we enjoyed their Lido dinner. We ended up there 3 nights. Another plus to the Lido was that you could see the food before you ordered it. This allowed you to mix and match parts of entrees. I would put the food as being one of HAL's strong suits. The dining room was definitely lacking.....again with the ships design....I did not like seeing people jogging and walking by and around the dining room on the Promenade deck. That was not so appetizing. ACTIVITIES: I'm used to having to choose between activities usually because there are so many. On HAL this was not the case. Not only were there very few activities throughout the day, but the activities that were going on were lacking. Their activities were limited to board games run by activities staff and Bingo. There weren't dancing lessons as many people talked about. There wasn't much of anything. ENTERTAINMENT: Carnival and Disney both have HAL beat single handedly. Their entertainment left something to be desired. Their cast was overly cheesy and not very entertaining and their comedians were funny, but like smirk at a joke funny, not laugh out loud until it hurts funny. I'm used to finding the latter on most ships. SPA: I did not have any spa treatments this trip. This is rare since I usually spend about $600 a trip in the spa. Maybe I just wasn't terribly inclined to be in their spa, unlike other ships. Also, see Ship Design review, you had to walk through part of the spa to get to the forward elevator on deck 9 and the gym was hard to locate because it was in the back of the spa. The hydrotherapy pool looked great though, never tried it. DEMOGRAPHICS: This seemed to be my key word on this ship. Yes, it was a much older group than I have ever seen before. This was good and bad. On the whole, the older crowd was very nice, if you got stuck behind them sometimes it was a bit rough. Because of this aging crowd HAL made some changes that were great. IE...Calling 92 to have your room service tray removed. IE....being able to stay in your room, or just leave your stuff in your room until you actually disembark. I must say that the latter was definitely a great perk. We had about 80 kids on our sailing, probably because it was so close to Christmas. There were probably about 30 singles on this cruise ranging from 18-35. Quite a few families were accompanying the 80 kids, but about 60% if not more of the ship was over the age of 55. This proved for an empty ship after 11 p.m. By 12 a.m. the casino was emptying out and the nightclub was not doing so great either. SHIP DESIGN: This I have mentioned, all in a negative manner, in all of my other posts. The CCers did get this right. The ship used up too much verandah space, making the public rooms very small. The layout definitely was lacking. The Lido had very limited seating and it was hard to find somewhere to sit on a regular basis unless you were there at an obscene time for the meal....like 2 p.m. for lunch. Also walking through the spa to get to the elevator on 9 forward and getting to the gym was a bit inconvenient. Having the gym in the spa is normal, yes, but it is usually much more visible. This was a bit of a maze to find it. Some say that HAL is trying to have a bigger ship but keep the smaller, cozy feel by using low ceilings and having rooms that you have to actually go in to see them. I found this to be a downfall. The atrium that was only 3 stories was sad. There isn't anything like having a 7+ story atrium and being able to see everything. That's just great, but instead of making the ship feel cozy it made it feel more like being in the mall, in a cramped store. The gift shop.....hahaha.....honestly worst layout for the gift shop ever. It had little nooks and crannies of stuff and it was like 5 stores that they built separately and then knocked down a wall in each of them to connect them and make them one. Very poor. Even worse was the gift shop staff, see STAFF for that review. The seating in the Vista Lounge was a bit annoying. A few chairs here and a bunch of couches everywhere. This provided for people to take up the room of 3 people by sitting in one seat. Also, since the couches curved on the ends the only person, if 3 were sitting on it, that was comfortable was the person in the middle. The people on the ends were sitting into a curve, very uncomfortable. The night club was designed so poorly that I noticed it from pictures I saw months before I went on the cruise. Right in the middle of the dance floor was a very large column. The casino was really tiny and when it got more than 30 people in it, it got very crowded. Same with the Northern Lights dance club. It didn't happen often, but when it did get more than 20 people on the floor, it was packed. Icing on the cake that sucked about this ship were the aft adult pool hot tubs. 3 adults, and I mean 3 adults that were skinny, couldn't even fit in the hot tub without being all over each other. The hot tubs in the Lido family pool were much larger, or at least one of them was. The family pool had 3 hot tubs, and the adult pool had 2. You were lucky to get 2 adults in the adult hot tubs. STAFF: The staff seemed to have an attitude that I have never experienced. Please note that there is staff and then there is crew. There is a difference. The staff acted like they were better than the guests and that we were on their turf. It was a bit of a shock to see the attitudes they had. CREW: The crew was great. Mostly Indonesian and mostly male they were all very sweet and genuine. The crew was always there to help the elderly or disabled to their destination whether it was the elevator, their room, their table. They were also always there to carry trays for the elderly or the young, like my brother. Their service was great and they were a very gracious group. Their crew show was a bit strange and brought a small crowd, but they tried their hearts out and meant well. I found it to be great, especially to do something like that after working the whole day long. DISEMBARKATION: HAL sure seemed to want to get rid of you. They did have a nice change in policy from other ships where you can stay in your room and leave your carry on stuff in the room until you actually disembark. That was nice, but they kept coming in your room to get it ready or check the mini bar so I know some people felt rushed. It seemed like they were ready to get rid of you. Even the TV stations weren't even working anymore. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
I would like to keep this ship a secret, but I can't. The Oosterdam is fantastic. Our room Steward, Imbang, was a joy and such a hard worker. All staff members, from deck swabbers to Captain Mercer (with one exception, the Guest ... Read More
I would like to keep this ship a secret, but I can't. The Oosterdam is fantastic. Our room Steward, Imbang, was a joy and such a hard worker. All staff members, from deck swabbers to Captain Mercer (with one exception, the Guest Relations Manager) were extremely friendly and helpful. Steve at the piano bar was a hoot! Anyone who can sing Eric Clapton is tops in my book! His humorous dialogue with the guests sitting around the piano made my day. The DJ (forget his name) in the Sportman's Bar Nightclub was extremely knowledgeable in music, and very accommodating. Knowing I liked a particular song, he would play it when he saw me come into the bar. Now that's service!!! My service dog and I danced the night away (and I suffered for it, but heck, it was a vacation!). The ship was clean, clean, clean. And the beds in the suites were so comfortable, I could have just stayed in the room. Breakfast on the veranda was a joy. Although we were not able to get off at Tortola due to not having a signed permit for my service dog (thanks to Hurricane Ivan) we were able to see St. Maarten and the Bahamas. Due to gale force winds and high seas it was unsafe to tender us to Half Moon Cay so that stop was cut out. But there was so much happening on the ship, if a person wanted to stay busy he/she could. I, however, chose to hang out in the casino where I came away a happy camper. I have been on the Zuiderdam, and I was so impressed with the staff and the ship of the Oosterdam, we are planning another cruise on this magnificent ship next year. I do think the cost of the Internet is too expensive, but you have to play with the cards you are dealt. If you want to email friends and family, expect to pay at least $10/session. Although my cabin mate and I chose to pay the $10/day gratuity, we still gave our room steward something extra. He worked quietly, efficiently and always with a smile. Yes this line caters to those of us over 39 (ok, way over 39) and what a joy not having youngsters/teens running amok. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
Fort Lauderdale: Before boarding the ship, we stayed two nights at The Pillars hotel. It is located on the Intercoastal and only a block from the beach. There were many nice restaurants nearby for lunch. This was THE most lovely & ... Read More
Fort Lauderdale: Before boarding the ship, we stayed two nights at The Pillars hotel. It is located on the Intercoastal and only a block from the beach. There were many nice restaurants nearby for lunch. This was THE most lovely & quiet hotel we have ever stayed at. We ate at The Capitol Grille and Blue Moon Fish Company for dinner, both were first rate restaurants with excellent food. While at the Blue Moon we watched the Winterfest Boat Parade, a little overrated, but we were glad that we saw it. Embarkation: A dream, it could not have gone any better! We arrived at the port (by taxi) just after 11 a.m., I thought for sure we were too early. However, once we walked in the terminal, we got right in line to go through security. We were in a suite, so we were able to use the suite line for embarkation. We were on board the ship and in the Neptune Lounge by 11:30 a.m. Our friends were not in a suite however, they arrived at about 1 p.m. & they said that it took about 1 1/2 hours. Cabin: We were in a Suite, #7048. I don't know if we'll ever be able to do it again...but if we can, we'll book it again in a heartbeat! It was pure luxury. Our cabin steward, Bach, was absolutely wonderful. He took wonderful care of us & our cabin. We had appetizers for us & our friends (4 people with no extra charge) in our cabin every night - the concierge, Beng, was very helpful in arranging this for us. We had a sewer smell in our room 1 night, but I turned up the plug-in deodorizer for awhile that I brought from home & that worked. Between the 2 of us we took 3 large suitcases of clothes, and we only used half of the storage space. We were next door to the Penthouse and they must have stereo speakers on their balcony, because in the morning & in the evening they would play music that we could hear (not very loud but you could hear it). Thank goodness they played opera, a lot of Andrea Bocelli, which we both like. It gave such a nice ambience when sitting on our balcony: watching the water flow by & listening to opera in the background. I know we got lucky on that one. Food: We ate in the Pinnacle Grill 2 nights. My husband had the Porterhouse one night, the best steak he has ever had (includes eating at Mortons, The Capitol Grille, & Ruth's Chris). The other nights we ate in the Dining Room. Between the 2 of us we only had 1 bad meal, but our dining steward got us something else. Our dining stewards, Beka & Andi, were special. Very attentive, friendly, & would take the time to talk with us. Overall...excellent food, far better than Norwegian's alternative restaurants that you had to pay extra for. Our favorite for lunch or for an afternoon snack was the pizza in the Lido - it was so gooood. Bars: Our favorite spot on the ship was a corner booth, port side, in the Crow's Nest. All the bar staff was extremely friendly. Half Moon Cay: We had booked the green cabana & were really looking forward to it. However, unfortunately we were unable to tender because of rough seas. We made the most of it though & had a great sea day. Tortola: We booked an all-day snorkeling trip with Patouche. The snorkeling was fantastic & sailing around all of the islands was a pleasure I'll never forget! Our friends took a taxi to Brewer's Bay (20 minute ride, they paid $18). On the way they got to see a lot of the island. They said that the beach was private & beautiful. St. Maarten: We spent time at Orient Bay (Bikini Beach). A little crowded (there were 5 cruise ships that day), but still nice. We rented 2 chairs & an umbrella for $15. We had lunch at Bikini Beach's restaurant...it was quite expensive. But if you go, you have to order the Mango Margarita...they were VERY good & well worth the price! Spa: I had a massage, from Dianne, out on my balcony. I highly recommend that over one in the spa, it was so relaxing listening to the water. She was very good. My husband had his massage in the spa and it cost $10 more than mine did for some reason. Entertainment: Disappointing! Our only complaint. We went every night, but would usually only stay about 5-10 minutes. We gave it a chance. The only one we stayed the whole time for was the comedian, Nick Arandes. He was okay, on a scale of 1-10, I'd give him a 5-6. He had some funny stuff, he just couldn't keep it going through the whole performance. This being said, this would not keep us from going on HAL again! Disembarkation: Again...a dream! This time though, it had nothing to do with us being in a suite. Disembarkation started a little after 8 a.m. We stayed in our cabin until we left at 8:55 a.m. We were outside waiting for our transportation at 9:05 a.m. From the time we walked out our cabin door until the time we were standing on the curb, it literally took us only 10 minutes. We were shocked because on Norwegian it took about 45 minutes. We had pre-arranged with "Limos of Miami" for transportation to the FLL airport. We used them last year from the Port of Miami. They were right on time & very friendly. The next time we leave from Port Everglades, we'll probably just hale a cab (there were many lined up & ready to go). Port Everglades is not near as hectic as the Port of Miami. Everything being said, we loved this cruise experience! We give it 4 out of 4 stars! I only hope our next cruise will live up to this one. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
About us: This cruise was our family Christmas celebration, December 19 - 26. My husband and I are 46 and 50, and sailed with our 17 year old son, my parents, 77 and 86, my brother 40, his wife 28 and my nephew 13 months. For the purpose ... Read More
About us: This cruise was our family Christmas celebration, December 19 - 26. My husband and I are 46 and 50, and sailed with our 17 year old son, my parents, 77 and 86, my brother 40, his wife 28 and my nephew 13 months. For the purpose of this review, "we" will mean myself, my husband and my son. Arrival and first impressions: We arrived at the port around 12:15, dropped off our luggage curbside (I did tip) and parked in the Midport garage. Embarkation went smoothly and took 30 minutes or so. Lido Restaurant was up and running, and we got lunch. By the time we were finished eating, they announced our rooms were ready. We went directly to the room and put up the Christmas decorations. Our cabin steward was great. We also liked the tub in the room. It was by far the roomiest bathroom of any line we've sailed on. Then, the muster drill, when we returned from that, all of our luggage had arrived. We went to the Seaview Bar where we met a couple from the Cruise Critic Roll Call board. We ordered drinks at the bar, the worst margarita I had ever tasted, and they made husbands cuba libre with spiced rum! So, we learned quickly that you have to specify the ingredients in your drinks! Didn't meet any others from the Cruise Critic board. The wind was a little cool outside, so we went to the Crow's Nest. Here, they made the drinks just right. The ship is beautiful and well designed, I thought. The crew had on Santa hats, and the holiday trees, lights, decorations, etc. were pretty. Food: Then, time for dinner on Deck 2 Vista Dining Room. We ate every night with the exception of one night in the main dining room. Food was very good. Service was good. A couple of times they were slow filling the wine glasses, but maybe we just drink fast! Breakfast and Lunch every day in the Lido Restaurant was always good, and only one time did we have trouble finding a table. There was always someone available to carry your tray and assist you if needed. We had at least coffee and juice delivered via room service every morning. Always on time, and coffee was hot and good. I had an espresso in the Windstar Cafe one afternoon and it was very good. The one night we did not eat in the dining room, we ate at the Poolside Barbecue Cookout and it was very good - big selection of food. Ports of Call and Shore Excursions: Our first port of call was Half Moon Cay which was cancelled due to the weather (very rough seas). I was really disappointed because I wanted to compare it to RCI and NCL's private islands. Our next stop was Tortola. I walked into town with my parents - not impressed. Then we took the ship's island tour with beach stop excursion. Now, I'm impressed. The views around the island and from Sky World are breathtaking. The next day was St. Maarten. We did a little shopping at the port stores early. That afternoon, my mother, sister-in-law, nephew and myself did the ship's Butterfly Farm excursion. We all enjoyed it. The AC on the bus wasn't working, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was. After the Butterfly Farm, my sister-in-law and the baby got off the bus in Marigot at the shopping stop to board another bus to take them back to the ship because it was so hot. When our shopping time was up and my mother and I went back to our bus, they had a different bus with WORKING AC. Thank goodness for that, but I hated that the rest of our party had to leave early. My son and brother did the ship's kayak excursion that day and they both loved it. Husband walked to the beach you can see from the ship's dock and got some sun. Sea Days and Spa: We were scheduled for 3 full days at sea, but of course with the HMC cx. that made 4. Laid back and relaxed. Plenty of time to explore the ship, get a tan, shop (not impressed with this ship's on-board shops) and spa. The Thermo Suite and the Hydro Suite at $15.00 each per day are the best bargain on the ship! They were both very relaxing - I highly recommend. They also offer an unlimited pass for these. Mother had a massage in the spa which she described as "heavenly." Disembarkation and Final Thoughts: We said our farewells to the rest of the family, as they were flying and we drove down. Our number was called about 9:25 and we were on Eller Drive out of the port at 10:00. We had a wonderful cruise. There were lots of families - 3 generations like ours - sailing this week and lots of children, all ages. I'm not sure I would sail HAL again if it's not during a holiday week. I spoke to a couple of crew members and they did report that the number of young families, and children sailing this week was not the norm. I think they were glad to have the younger people aboard! I don't mean to be negative, I just think the atmosphere would be a lot different if not sailing during a holiday. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2004
Cruise Date: 07/11/04 - 14/11/04 Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Nassau, Bahamas -- Philipsburg, St. Maarten -- Road Town, Tortola -- Half Moon Cay, Bahamas -- Ft. Lauderdale, FL Accommodations: Cabin: 1006, Main Deck, Cabin Category ... Read More
Cruise Date: 07/11/04 - 14/11/04 Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Nassau, Bahamas -- Philipsburg, St. Maarten -- Road Town, Tortola -- Half Moon Cay, Bahamas -- Ft. Lauderdale, FL Accommodations: Cabin: 1006, Main Deck, Cabin Category DD Dining: Early Lower, Table M Overview: This cruise was my fifth on Holland America, my first on the new Vista Class of ships. I have to say that the Vista Class is too large a ship for my taste. The cruise was, on the whole, everything I expect of Holland America, from service to atmosphere onboard. It was a relaxing cruise and one I would consider taking again, though not on a Vista Class. Specifics: Cabin: I always book a standard outside cabin on the lowest passenger deck, port-side if possible. I book this particular cabin because I find it to be not as affected by ship motion and I love to awake to the noises when docking or anchoring. I have been upgraded to both a mini-suite and a suite and I still prefer the outside cabins low down and forward. I particularly like being able to open the curtains and peer out at the passing ocean overnight. I found this cabin was smaller than similar ones on the S-Class vessels. I did like the shower stall in the bathroom; the sides of the tubs too high for comfort and the tub overall too narrow for comfortable use. So the shower was a nice surprise, however it was lacking in enough space to hold shower supplies -- shampoo, conditioner, and soap, as well as washcloths and all the other sundries one needs for bathing. Space overall was limited in the cabin. Closet space was decent, though much less than on the S-Class. The third closet was narrower than the other two, to allow for the door to open into the cabin, resulting in a tight fit for hangers in that closet. I would have moved the safe to that one, leaving the two larger closets free for hanging. The cabin itself was narrow and it was a tight squeeze on the sides of the bed, no matter which configuration they used. I did not like the lack of a sheer curtain layer. I was used to having the sheers as well as the room darkening curtains, most often using only the sheers. The lack of sheers made the room dark when dressing in the mornings in port. Compounding that was the act that lighting in the cabin was poor I could not figure out why the room lights were arranged in a way to make it impossible to leave the entry area light on without also having lights on over the beds. The lighting at the desk area is woefully inadequate. I do not wear make-up so the addition of the make-up mirror is not at all worthwhile. I have yet to determine the purpose of the bronze-tinted mirror at the desk. My cabin-mate suggested that maybe it was to make you feel as though you had gotten an excellent tan while sleeping. The addition of a mini bar -- which I did not use -- did not make up for the loss of drawer space. However the under-desk cabinet did come in handy for getting shoes out of the middle of the floor. So on the whole, the cabin was adequate, but not up to HAL standards. I would be remiss without a word for my excellent cabin steward, Pudji. He expertly made up my room twice daily, despite the obstacle course created by drying dive gear and an always-in-the-way dive gear duffel bag. My only complaint was that Pudji refused to go against "cabin-steward" training to make up the room when my cabin-mate was sleeping -- my cabin mate can, and has, sleep through bombs going off, so the cabin steward would not have disturbed him in the least. I was disappointed, but not unexpectedly so, by the refusal to make up the cabin while it was occupied. Dining: The food in the dining room was excellent. Service was superb. The Vista Dining Room was what I expected on Holland America. After the third meal, my waiter had learned to announce his presence behind me, and had taken to beginning with the opposite side of the table so as to not surprise me. The Lido was equally up to HAL standards. I especially liked the addition of the pasta station. I found the food at the Wok station to be rather bland, edible and certainly not bad, but lacking in spice and flavor. The taco station was excellent and the fries from the Terrace Grill were some of the best I have ever had. Also, do not miss schnitzel when they have it in the Lido. It is one of the reasons I book HAL cruises! Service in the Lido was excellent as usual. Tables were often at a premium, but that did not affect the service; in fact, if anything, I think the busy-ness of the Lido made the service a bit better. I particularly liked the roving coffee and tea service during breakfast hours. The one thing I did not like was the casual dinner in the Lido. On previous cruises with this option, dinner service in the Lido had different choices than in the dining room. I often chose the Lido dinner service option because none of the dining room choices were appetizing. I was disappointed to find that on this cruise the dinner options in the Lido were exactly the same as the choices in the main dining room. I would have preferred other options. I know that is a struggle for the kitchen staff, but more often than not, my choice to eat in the Lido was precipitated by a menu choice and not a dislike of dressing according to the dress code for the day. My last complaint is the fact that deserts in the Lido are rather bland. The rice pudding was wonderful and the ice cream and cookies are not to be missed, but the remaining desserts are all rather tasteless. Dessert in the doing room, however, were superb. It was always a struggle to choose just one dessert. Ship: The Vista Class ships are too large. They carry too many passengers. And too much public space has been sacrificed for verandah cabin space. The ship is tastefully decorated and kept immaculate, as expected of any Holland America vessel, but the public rooms are too small, too awkwardly arranged and too chopped to be useful. The outside deck space is practically non-existent and what is there is filled to brimming over with deck chairs and tables, which passengers insist on moving in such a pattern as to make walking from one side of the ship to the other impossible. I have never spent so much time in my cabin as I have on this cruise. That was partly because the overwhelming number of passengers made finding space in public rooms difficult, but also because the two groups on board has many public rooms reserved for seminars. Discounting the seminars, I found the public rooms to be awkwardly arranged and the furniture singularly uncomfortable and not at all conducive to reading or relaxing. Even conversation was difficult at most times. Don't misunderstand: the ship is tastefully decorated and the public rooms are beautiful; it is simply not well laid out, making it neither comfortable nor welcoming. The onboard shops are awkward, and in the middle of busy forward to aft passageways. Some public rooms are nearly hidden and others are split by walkways. I found the bars narrow and awkward; but bar service was excellent. The atrium, a hallmark of beauty on the S-Class vessels, was dark and cold-feeling. The atrium stairs are practically unusable due to width and location. There is a completely pointless staircase in the middle of the forward elevator lobby between decks 2 and 3, causing this area to be unnecessarily congested. The flow of the ship, both forward to aft, and port to starboard is complicated and must have been laid out by drunken traffic control engineers. The hallway on deck 2 between the Windstar Cafe and the Vista Dining Room has to be called the Black Hole by the crew, it is so dark. That made walking incredibly difficult, even on the calm days -- I did not even attempt to negotiate that area during the 24 hours of extremely rough seas we experienced. On the whole, I find the Vista Class ships poorly laid out and designed solely to afford the maximum amount of space to Verandahs. If that was the goal, they should have cut public space totally and had only Verandah cabins. Another big disappointment with this ship was that I found a class division distinctly noticeable on this ship. The separation between the haves (the verandah cabins) and the have-nots (standard outside/inside cabins) was only and over-emphasized by the fact that public space was limited to the bottommost and topmost three decks. Everything in between was devoted to verandah cabins. This is not the feeling I get on most other HAL ships. On most ships, where your cabin is does not affect how you are treated. On the Ossterdam, the class difference was palpable. I felt it especially when using the mid-ship glass elevators. If the elevator happened to stop on one of the (many) exclusive verandah cabin floors, I could feel the snubs of the verandah-dwellers when they got on with me. It was almost as thought I had no business riding above deck 3. That said, I would like to point out that the Captain was excellent. The opportunity to sail with him again was one of the main reasons I booked this cruise. His ships are always having fun. The staff and crew always look happy and interested in the passengers. None of them are ever too busy to stop to chat, and they all seem so approachable for passenger questions and concerns. And the Captain's noon reports from the bridge are a highlight of any day, not just the days at sea. And I would be doing them a vast disservice not to mention the staff of the front office on this ship were the most helpful and most interested of any of my cruises. Normally I find the Front Office staff aloof and disturbed when I have questions or concerns, but that was not the case this time around -- much to my relieved surprise! Ports: Nassau is not worth the effort. I did not book a tour -- the ship was only in port for 4 hours. After hearing others' comments, I feel I didn't miss much. There was the ubiquitous Caribbean gems/jewelry shopping, as well as cheap t-shirt vendors and "get-the-same-thing-everywhere" kind of shops. The streets were crowded with tourists and locals; the weather was hot and steamy and on the whole it was just not worth going ashore. Next time I may book a tour of the Atlantis Resort, or perhaps a semi-submersible tour -- the fish don't seem to care if you throw money their way -- but more than likely if I ever go back I'll just stay on the ship, enjoying a book in the quiet. In Philipsburg, I took the Butterfly Farm and Marigot tour and enjoyed that immensely. The tour guide was wonderful and very informative. And the island was very nice. I got a very nice deal on some perfume/cologne for my mother and brother's Christmas presents. That alone made the stop worth it. Marigot was nice, if crowded. Three other ships were in port with us. That is the problem with most Caribbean ports of call. Too many people all wanting exactly the same things at exactly the same time. I often wonder why the arrival/departure times of cruise ships are not staggered at the busy Caribbean ports. The Caribbean is over-cruised and over-populated as far as I can tell. The sheer numbers of invaders daily give most islands, and St. Maarten/S. Martin is no different, a discarded, throw-away appearance -- as though the actual location does not matter; almost as though you could be docked at "Anywhere, Caribbean." I dislike that sameness to my ports. I am glad I went to St. Maarten, but I see no need to go back, especially since it is interchangeable with most other Caribbean ports. Road Town: This stop made the cruise. It was clean, picturesque and full of helpful and happy residents. I took the North Shore and Pusser's Landing Tour. The tour guide was adequate, but the scenery more than made up for any shortcomings in that area. It was a tropical island just out of a Hollywood portrayal. The morning began overcast, with a heavy cloud layer and misty rain -- a perfect beginning to a day as far as I am concerned. As the morning wore on and the tour came down the mountain, the temperature warmed up and the skies cleared. But the idyllic setting did not change a bit. Shopping on the island is limited, but that's not such a bad thing. So many other Caribbean islands specialize in separating all-too-willing tourists from their cash that there is no need for Road Town to do the same. The lack of shopping only made the stop more genuine and enticing. If I take this cruise again, this will be the only stop where I get off the ship. It was simply fantastic. On every cruise I have been on, there has been one port that far surpassed the others and made me want to go back to spend a long land vacation there. Road Town was that stop in this cruise. Do not miss the opportunity to go if you ever get it. Half Moon Cay: I am reserving judgment on this port. The island may not have had much structural damage from the recent hurricanes, but damage to vegetation was sorely evident. I had booked an Eco-Lagoon Kayak adventure, but it was just too hot to even consider. The island was hot and humid -- a standard sweltering tropical morning, as far as I can tell. Some people may like that kind of weather, but when you get it for 10 months out the year at home, it gets really old, really fast, and on vacation I prefer a change of climate to go with the change of scenery. There was not even any shade in sight for relief -- so much of the vegetation had been devastated by salt-water intrusion that Holland America's private island paradise was broaching on becoming a Caribbean desert. I stayed ashore long enough to buy two postcards and mail them from the island post office. All told I must have been on the island for less than half an hour, and given prevailing conditions, that was half an hour too long. I can say that the situation on the island was not improved by having two ships in port. (I did, however, get some excellent pictures of the MS Rotterdam sailing away). Two ships in port overwhelms the resources of the island and were I HAL, I would consider that a situation to be avoided at all costs. I will have to go back to make a final decision on this port. I know I did not see it at its best. Embarkation: The smoothest I have ever experienced. The shore-side passenger check-in process was smooth. The lines were long, but they moved quickly and I was through the process and in the upstairs lounge waiting to board in just under half an hour. It was a very nice surprise to be able to board the ship as soon as check in was complete. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was very smooth and organized ship-board; the usual chaos once off in the terminal building. That is the one area where improvement needs to be made. I do not know what to suggest, but there has to be a better way to get that many people off the ship, pick up their luggage and shuttled off to other destinations more quickly and more effectively. However, being able to remain in your cabin until your disembarkation number was called seems to have eliminated the crowding of the stairwells and gangway area. Final Thoughts: This was another good cruise. The disadvantages of the Vista class ships were sorely evident throughout the cruise. But overall it was a relaxing vacation and an enjoyable trip. So much so that I cannot wait for the next one -- an already-booked 15-day roundtrip Hawaii adventure aboard the ms Amsterdam in December 2005. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
I want to start out by saying that I have read many reviews by people who have taken a cruise on this ship and a lot of the reviews were negative... were these people on a different ship???? This is my 5th cruise that I have been on and ... Read More
I want to start out by saying that I have read many reviews by people who have taken a cruise on this ship and a lot of the reviews were negative... were these people on a different ship???? This is my 5th cruise that I have been on and the Holland America Oosterdam was by far the nicest and most well maintained ship that I have been on. The staff on the ship was always very pleasant and would give you whatever you asked for at all times. The cabins on this ship were very large compared to other cruise ships I have been on. We booked an inside room because we spend very little time in our room and we can use the extra money for shopping in the ports. All public areas are very clean and the ship never seemed crowded at all. We were in Cozumel and were returning to our ship and we were able to walk right on our ship while the line for the Carnival Conquest was probably 50 yards long. The ship was very stable and we didn't notice much movement at all. The seas were relatively calm however so in rougher seas, the story may be different. There are definitely a lot of older couples on this ship 50+. I am 32 years old but really enjoyed the older crowd because I came to relax and unwind... not to party... I live in Vegas and can do that whenever I want. The food on the ship I thought was above average. The Lido serves basically the same food at night as the main dining rooms so if you don't feel like dressing up, you can go there and the staff will bring the food to your table. The lobster on the ship was great and my girlfriend and I ate 2 tails each! I heard reports about vibration in the lower dining room and can say that this is not true. We ate in there for lunch and the vibration was minimal to nonexistent. You have to remember that you are sitting on top of massive turbines and that slight vibration is going to happen no matter what ship you are on. The sandwiches and pizza at the Lido were very good and the ice cream they serve is awesome. Room service was always on time and the food was always hot. Our room steward Bonar kept our room in tip top shape and seemed to magically appear whenever we needed him. The only negatives I can speak of were very minor. I have read reports of a sewer smell on this ship and I can say that it is true. It seems to be only on the lower levels of the ship toward the front, but the smell was not constant. We never had the smell in our room and it was present maybe 3 of the days for half of each day. I feel that the wait staff in the main dining room needs assistant waiters. We had a few occasions where we had to wait for drinks or food, but that to me is to be expected when you are on a large ship. My girlfriend went to the salon to have her nails done and was disappointed with the service she received. The nail tech was not licensed and had only been on the ship for two weeks and did not do a very good job. Other than what was mentioned above, we felt this was a wonderful cruise. My personal opinion is that many of the people who write the negative reviews are WAY too picky and are the older individuals that I stated were on the ship. I want good service and to be pampered on vacation like everyone else, but I am also reasonable and understand that not everything in life will go my way. So if you are thinking about taking this cruise, please don't let some of the negative reviews stop you. The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship and its crew is very friendly and hard working. I will definitely sail Holland America again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2004
Here is a little information to put my review into perspective. I am 39 and my husband is 42. We have taken one other 7 day cruise 15 years ago on our honeymoon. (It was on NCL.) We have also taken a 4-day RCI about 5 years ago. So our ... Read More
Here is a little information to put my review into perspective. I am 39 and my husband is 42. We have taken one other 7 day cruise 15 years ago on our honeymoon. (It was on NCL.) We have also taken a 4-day RCI about 5 years ago. So our review is not comparative to other cruises - just what we found on the Oosterdam. We have 3 small children at home and were looking to relax, reconnect, and have a little fun in the sun. That being said.... We had to fly in a day early from the west coast and had a fine stay at the Hampton Inn. Clean, free shuttles from the airport and to the ship, and in a good area for last minute shopping. Embarking was smooth. We arrived at the port at 11:30, waited in a few small lines, and were on the ship. One irritation that prevailed throughout the week is the photographers. I do not mind them snapping pictures everywhere except when they create a bottleneck and we have to wait. That was the case when entering the ship. We were in a huge line with the only obstacle being the 'enter the ship picture'. It is one they could do without. Our room was 4005. That is the first floor available with balconies. We were all the way to the front of the ship. It was a good room. Space was used well, bed was great, and we really enjoyed the balcony. The ONLY complaint I could come up with is the completely lame, powerless hair dryer and its fixed location in a lower cupboard. It made drying my very thick hair a long, uncomfortable daily event. The ship is beautiful. It is squeaky clean. I don't know how they keep the public areas so fresh. You would be hard pressed to find a dirty glass sitting around anywhere at anytime. We sailed off in some rough seas. We had to miss Half Moon Cay which was really a disappointment for us. We were all about laying on the beach and had read so much about this beautiful Island. Oh well. The first night was VERY rough - felt like you could fall out of bed! The captain was able to pull behind an island the next night and we all got some needed sleep. I appreciated him doing that. So basically our 1st two days were at sea. Food...hummmm, what can I say. It was wonderful. We had the 8:30 sitting for dinner and loved every night of it. We dined in the dining room all nights except one. The service, wine, food, were excellent. We were at a table for 2 but it was lined up with other tables for two with enough room in between to sit down and for the waiter. It was great. We had a wonderful time with the couples on either side of us and enjoyed dinner every night. We ate breakfast in the dining room a couple of days - it was great. We did room service 3 of the days we were in ports so that we could get moving. That was great. It arrived hot and on time every time. We ate in the lido late each afternoon - between 2 and 5 - for lunch. It was nice. Most of the stations close down at 2 but the deli, dessert, pizza is open until 5. It was a great selection and not at all crowded. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them. We don't do that at home and found the singing and dancing great. One of the most fun things was the talent competition. Guests were invited to enter. It started with about 10 entries one night, then a semifinal, then the finals the last night. The judges were the cruise director (a VERY funny guy), his assistant, and two of the professional singers on board. This was hilarious in a very kind way. The talent some people have is amazing. Ports- Again, we were interested in white, sandy beaches, on a budget, and not really interested in learning much or seeing 'sites'. Lame, I know, but it is just where we are in our life now. Home is non stop go with our 3 kids and were are just looking to relax. That being the case - we had a hard time in ports! Where is the excursion that takes you to a great beach, period? Jamaica - We had someone suggest we go to Sandels resort for the day. That sounded great to us - we wanted to check it out. We asked several people - cruise staff, locals, etc - and were told that for $10 each we could spend the day there. NOT SO. When we got off in Jamaica, we asked a woman security guard how far away it was and about how much a taxi would be. She told us it was about 5 miles and a taxi would be around $5 - 10 dollars. OK, sounds good. We go out toward the road and fence and a gal in an official uniform asks where we want to go - we tell her - and she says OK - that is $35/per person taxi ride and $75/per person day pass. So our $50 day is now a $250 day. Not good. So we stand around a while and strike up a conversation with a guy who works for one of the tour companies...tell him our sad story...long story short, he calls a friend taxi driver who picks us up and does take us to Sandels with the understanding that if it doesn't work out he will take us to another beach. So we go, they do charge $75 for a day pass and we leave. The driver takes us to Mahogany beach. It was OK. A small beach - fairly crowded - but fine. I know that Jamaica must have some great beaches....this wasn't one of them. A fine day but frustrating. Grand Cayman - Fun. We took a taxi to 7 mile beach. Beautiful. Could get away from the crowds easily there was so much beach. Cozumel - I had read on this site that Paradise Beach was fun. We got off the ship and all the rates to various spots are posted. I like that. We paid $12 each way for a cab. It was $5 each to get in the beach. Nice big beach, lots of chairs, umbrellas, fun water toys, and snorkel gear included for $5. Quite a deal. We didn't eat but he food smelled delish and the beers were reasonable (5 beers for $12 in an iced bucket). We were happy. My husband (an accountant) loves a deal. We never did find the $1 beers he was hoping for. We shopped in all three ports - we needed something special for my mom who was in charge at home. We ended up with a great John Hardy bracelet for $200 in Cozumel. All in all, it was a wonderful trip. We loved HAL. We would do it again. I wish the excursion staff could be more helpful with things not on their list. I know they want you to take their packages but they are not for everyone. Hope this is helpful. I had so much fun reading the reviews before I went that I thought I would write one myself. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
This was my first cruise on HAL. I have mixed feelings about my trip. Majority of them are positive, but there are some negatives also. EMBARKATION: When I arrived at the port, I was amazed by the number of people waiting to board. ... Read More
This was my first cruise on HAL. I have mixed feelings about my trip. Majority of them are positive, but there are some negatives also. EMBARKATION: When I arrived at the port, I was amazed by the number of people waiting to board. However, the line moved very quickly. A word of advice, complete your paperwork on line. The line for the people that did this was very short!! The check in person was very nice and wished me a great trip. In all, I checked in and was on the boat within a hour. Due to the time I arrived on the boat, the rooms were not ready. Every one was greeted on board and directed to the Lido deck. The food was great, esp the bread (more on that later !!). We also found out that the ship was going back to the original travel plan (Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel) and we were going to be one of the first ships to return to the Caymans. When the announcement for the rooms arrived, I went to my floor and was greeted by an escort who directed me to my room. This was a nice touch and very helpful. CABIN: I had an oceanview room with a blocked view. However, I found the cabin to be beyond what I expected. The bathroom had a full size tub, and plenty of space for all my items. The closet was a fair amount of room. The safe was one that you set your own code for usage. The bed was great!! HAL has upgraded all the bedding and it was so great that I spent extra time in bed (esp afternoon naps). The desk had limited space with the TV taking the bulk of the space. A small sofa, table and nightstand completed the room. Also, two robes for usage was in the room (I traveled alone). My cabin steward came shortly and gave greetings. He asked when was my dining time, did I have any special needs and informed me that he would bring my luggage to the room. I'm sorry that I can't recalled my steward's name, but he really took care of me. I saw him from time to time and he always spoke and asked how I was doing. I made sure on the last day to give him something extra. PUBLIC ROOMS: I read some complaints about the Vista ships, but I have none. The ship was very clean. I could find plenty of places to read a book, enjoy the ocean, or a nice nook to have a drink and watch my fellow travelers. The layout was easy after the first day, but there were a few times I had to ask for help and there was always a helpful person around. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I had pre-book several items prior to sailing. I was looking forward to having a cabana on Half Moon Cay. However, all of the cabanas were not active and the due to booking date was the factor on deciding who received one. I received my purchase of $219 back and also was given a clamshell and a ticket for free drinks. I was very pleased with HAL's effort. I also booked a snorkeling trip in Cozumel and really enjoyed it. DINING: This was really my only bad part of my trip. But it wasn't from the employees, but my fellow cruise travelers. The first night in the dining room, I sat at the table alone because no one bothered to show up. The dining staff was quite kind and checked on me quite often to see if I was ok. I did not return to the dining room the next two nights (I had dinner in the Pinnical Grill and in my room). When I did return, there was one other person that was at the table. I could tell that he was not too happy to dine with with me and dinner was a force politeness (I guess due to fact that I was a black female). After that, I had my remaining meals in the Lido. The Lido offered the same items in the dining room in a causal setting. You had table service in the Lido and one night I didn't enjoy an entree and requested something else, it was quickly replaced. I really enjoyed the breads on this trip!! I had several slices with lunch and dinner. I went to the Pinnical Grill. It's worth the $20 price. It was an excellent meal. I ordered room service, esp for breakfast. They always brought it on time. I would order a cheese plate each afternoon to enjoy in my room. ENTERTAINMENT: I didn't attend any of the shows, so I can't say if they were good. I did enjoy the Bingo (I never won anything, but it was fun). I enjoyed the movies they offered, esp since there were some that I never had the time to go and see. OVERALL CRUISE: I really liked the Oosterdam, enjoyed the ports, the employees, and the food. However, a lot of my fellow travelers were very cold in manner and with few exceptions, I spent most of my time alone. Would I cruise on the Oosterdam again? Yes, but not alone!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
Although we had sailed on Holland America (Zaandam) previously, we were a little hesitant because of all we had read about bad experiences. I am happy to say that we found none of the negative experiences on our cruise. The verandah ... Read More
Although we had sailed on Holland America (Zaandam) previously, we were a little hesitant because of all we had read about bad experiences. I am happy to say that we found none of the negative experiences on our cruise. The verandah stateroom was roomy and had lots of storage space. The bed was extremely comfortable, and our steward was efficient and friendly. We ate on the Lido (buffet) only twice, but found the food vastly improved over our Zaandam trip. The waiters, however, were not the best. In the dining room, where we ate most of the time, it was totally different: the food was wonderful and our servers were competent and quick--even remembering our names and that my wife liked iced tea and I liked decaf cappuccino! We had some interesting conversations with our section head about his Indonesian homeland. The ports were fun. We went on our own at Nassau with "Dan the man," who gave us a very complete tour in a stretch Cadillac for $28 each, and that included the Atlantis Digs, the Queen's Stairway, etc. St. Maarten left something to be desired. We shopped in the morning and went to Orient Beach in the afternoon. I think nudity is better left to the extremely young! Tortola was beautiful. We took the ship-sponsored tour around the island and spent about an hour and a half at Cane Garden Bay, a superb beach. Of course, Half-Moon Cay was even better than we had remembered! We rented a "clamshell" and spent about 5 hours on the beach. Both embarkation and debarkation were smooth and quick. I would not hesitate to recommend the Oosterdam to any and all. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
This was my third cruise on a Vista class ship within one year and my 27th cruise overall. The Oosterdam is a sister ship to the Zuiderdam, thus no surprises. The only difference was the color scheme throughout the ship. Holland ... Read More
This was my third cruise on a Vista class ship within one year and my 27th cruise overall. The Oosterdam is a sister ship to the Zuiderdam, thus no surprises. The only difference was the color scheme throughout the ship. Holland America does a superb job overall. The more I sail with them the more I appreciate their efforts. Overall the cruise was wonderful with one minor exception with breakfast in the dining room. A new waiter just couldn't get it together and service really was lousy. I found the Hotel Manager and mentioned the problem and voila we were treated very well every morning after. Our cabin was sublime and the location Deck 8 starboard forward. I again will state that Class SS is a good bang for the buck. The weather was lousy the entire voyage, but we made the most of it. One day we were in thirty foot seas and in the Crow's Nest on top of the ship, we had a wild ride. I enjoy a little rough weather and the Oosterdam handled it like a champ. Our itineraries took us to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria BC. My only criticism might be to eliminate Victoria and include Skagway. We didn't arrive at Victoria until 1800 hours. The officers and entire crew were very professional. Everyone wants to please. The compliment of guests was diverse and as usual we met some great folks. The Mariner Society needs to think about giving onboard credits or points toward future cruises along with their medals and medallions. Just a thought! I am now booked the their MV Rotterdam for a 10 day Panama Canal cruise in March. (Working on that medal!) Peter Cunningham Fairhope, AL Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
I have read many reviews of this ship and of our ports. I feel that some people are extra critical are just searching for something to complain about. I think that I can give a pretty fair review! My husband and I were travelling with my ... Read More
I have read many reviews of this ship and of our ports. I feel that some people are extra critical are just searching for something to complain about. I think that I can give a pretty fair review! My husband and I were travelling with my parents and my father is slightly handicapped (walks with a cane) so we were a little behind the pack the entire week! But, I feel that it was a great trip and something that everyone should do. Embarkation was fairly easy. Someone met our taxi and took our bags inside the terminal. We had filled out our immigration forms online prior to departure, so we were able to stand in a shorter line. The process was quick. When you board the ship there is someone waiting to show you to your cabin. We had a Cat. SS cabin, which was very large and well worth some extra $$. On an Alaska cruise you are at sea quite a bit and are probably in your cabin more than you would be on a warm weather cruise. The bathroom was very spacious with a tub and separate shower. We received all of our bags by 4:30 or 5:00. As for service, in general I thought it was very good. Most of the crew made the effort to get to know our names. Their way of life has always fascinated me, how they leave their homeland for months at a time, with no days off and then take 1-2 months off to go home. Our cocktail waiter had not seen his baby girl for 6 months and had missed her first birthday. What a sacrifice and at the same time, a huge opportunity for him to earn a living and travel. Anyway, everyone was very attentive. Our cabin steward, dining room servers, front office people...HAL's new policy of adding the gratuities to the final tab is nice. No one was in your face on the last night looking for tips! The food on board was good to very good. I think it is amazing that it is as good as it is when they are feeding 1800 passengers plus crew. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido. It is a huge place, but it was difficult to find a seat in peak hours. Find a seat before you get your food! There is a very good selection of choices and pizza and pasta are available all the time. I didn't think the taco bar or the hamburgers were very good. I usually ate the pizza, salad bar, or the sandwich bar for lunch. My father seemed to like the stir-fry selections. We ate dinner there 2 nights and the prime rib was great. Better than the dining room. As for the main dining room, we had a 7:45 seating at table 1. Great table next to the window. You can view the menu ahead of time and there are 6 -7 entrees to choose from. I guess my only complaint would be that I always felt rushed. I'm sure they want to get the food out since it is prepared ahead. We had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill on Weds. night and it is fabulous!! Like other reviewers I think it is well worth the surcharge. We called before the trip and prepaid so we didn't have to worry about it later. My parents ordered room service for b-fast every morning and said it was always on time. The only night time we tried to order was the night we were in very rough seas and not many people went to the dining room. I could never get through on the phone. I think they were cutting me off on purpose. Finally, my husband went downstairs to the desk and told them and the food arrived in about 15 minutes. Since we took the last trip of the season to Alaska, the weather wasn't great. If I get the chance to go again, I would choose May or June. It rains a lot in some of these towns anyway, but you do miss out on some of the wildlife late in the season. We took 2 low key excursions (since we were traveling with 2 people in their 70s) In Juneau, we did the Mendenhall Glacier and City Tour. There's not much to the city tour in the pouring rain, but the Glacier part of the tour was great. The visitors center there is very nice and on a nice day you could walk around the area for hours. The stop at the salmon hatchery was sort of a waste, but we were there! In Sitka, we did the Russian America and Raptor Center. The Raptor Center was great. I could have stayed there much longer. The Russian part was a disappointment. The church was very small and had burned down a few times so it didn't seem very authentic. The dancers were very good, but not what I expected. They are a volunteer group of women, none of whom are Russian, who got together to preserve that part of Russian culture. The show was held at the local college gym. Again, not the greatest, but we can say we have been there. The Sitka National Park visitors center that houses the Alaska Indian Cultural Center was our last stop and was very nice. We didn't do an excursion in Ketchican, but I'm sure there are some good ones. Victoria was our last stop and I agree with most reviewers one evening is not long enough there. What a wonderful way to end the trip. The ship docks about 2 miles from town, but even if you haven't signed up for a tour, you can get the Gray Line bus into town ($5) It runs back every 10 minutes from the Empress Hotel. The scenery the entire day on the way to Victoria (Vancouver Island) was beautiful. Disembarkation was very easy. We were called at 8:15 and in a cab by 8:30. The worst part of cruising is having to leave the ship so early on the last day! I think that it was a great trip and the Oosterdam is a beautiful ship and I would encourage everyone to go at some point in their lives. Alaska is like nothing else I have seen. It is so remote and so unspoiled. In front of Hubbard Glacier, we saw this lone seal resting on an iceberg. It is almost like we aren't supposed to be there. That whole day was a once in a life time for most of us. I wish we had more time to do a cruise tour add-on, but maybe next time! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
My family of four (including two boys age 3.5 and 5.5) had a great time on the O! My older son was old enough for Club HAL (by himself) and had a blast everyday. Our head steward in the Vista Dining Room and his supporting cast were very ... Read More
My family of four (including two boys age 3.5 and 5.5) had a great time on the O! My older son was old enough for Club HAL (by himself) and had a blast everyday. Our head steward in the Vista Dining Room and his supporting cast were very attentive and dealt with our son's food allergies and his very restrictive diet in a very personal, customized, off-the-menu kind of way. To be sure, we had to fill out an SRI form more than 60 days in advance of our cruise, but once they had all of his food allergies documented, HAL pre-purchased food for him for the entire cruise (food not normally available on the ship in large quantities). Regarding Club HAL, it is said that all HAL ships will be re-configured to handle children as young as 3 years of age (to be left without a parent/guardian) by the year 2006. As for now on the Oosterdam, our 3-year-old was able to attend all Club HAL events but only with one of us present. The nightly shows were great. We especially enjoyed 'The Mikes' (they did an encore show for us on the last sea day as well!) and Escape. We bought a couple of pieces on the first day of the art auction and look forward to receiving those as the art work was definitely a good buy when there weren't bidding wars (compared to land prices). My wife and I had a romantic dinner at The Pinnacle Grill (request a booth in the back room ahead of time, as they only have four) one evening (while the nightshift front desk supervisor babysat our 3-year-old and our older one was at Club HAL) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the food, and the service. We highly recommend the restaurant as the $20/person surcharge is a pittance for the experience we enjoyed. Initially, we were a little annoyed with all of the roaming photographers, but then we saw the quality of their work and bought several great pictures, including an 18"X24" photo on canvas of our family. We also highly recommend the cruise chronicle DVD ($34.95) as it covers many excursions and behind-the-scenes areas of the ship that one doesn't normally get to see. By the way, we were very lucky playing Bingo for our first time in our lives, as my wife won a 7-day Caribbean cruise on HAL for two (inside stateroom which we can pay the difference to upgrade), and our certificate is good for up to 18 months! Any recommendations for when and which ship/itinerary to do (since neither my wife nor I have ever been to the Caribbean)? I'd love your expert advice out there. Finally, we were blessed with good weather throughout the cruise. We dodged the rain at every port and in Seattle on both embarkation and disembarkation days--quite a rarity to string so many rain-free days together during this time of year. The locals in each port said that this had been an especially warm and sunny summer--the most so in 20 years. Echoing others' comments, we never had to wait long for the tenders on and off the ship at Sitka. The boarding and disembarkation processes were smooth, and most events/shows started/ended on time. That's it for now, but I would be happy to answer any questions about the Oosterdam or the particular itinerary we took. We had a great time and still feel the earth moving beneath our feet! Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
All things considered, I liked the new Vista class ships based on my one cruise on the ms Oosterdam. She feels comparitively much larger but but not crowded. Embarkation was the only time that it felt like close to 2,000 people were ... Read More
All things considered, I liked the new Vista class ships based on my one cruise on the ms Oosterdam. She feels comparitively much larger but but not crowded. Embarkation was the only time that it felt like close to 2,000 people were aboard. Where do all those people go? It seemed like the same faces showed up for the same activities that I took part in. I made plenty of friends and had no problem seeing those again. The Oosterdam seems to be reaching out to families when the say "young" people. I was afraid that HAL was selling out to the party ship crowd when marketing these Vista ships towards younger people. Not a problem! She is just as classy and elegant as the Maasdam and Statendam in which I have been aboard. Unlike some ships out there the Oosterdam is still G-rated in all its shows. No profanity or off color jokes! There are some improvements that I noticed. The Cruise Director and his staff seem to be far more friendly and personable than in the past HAL trips. They took the time to learn my name! The Northern Lights Disco is a nice addition to HAL because it gives guest a choice of oldies in the Crows Nest or more modern sounds in the disco. The Queen's Lounge is a bit small for some activities they conduct in there. The Vista Lounge and the shows there were most impressive! The stage is high tech with pit lift and rotates. The lights and props help make the shows spellbinding. The shows are an improvement over the S-class ships from my point of view at least. Seating in the Vista lounge appears to be what is called stadium seating where everybody gets a good view. The Lido restaurant is an improvement over the older ships. The O-dam has food stations which break up much of the queue. Pizza and pasta was no wait for me at least. The Hydro pool with its extra cost was a waste of space in my opinion because there are 5 hottubs at no charge. The Coffee bar is cute, but coffee/tea is "free" on the Lido, so I didn't need to buy coffee or tea. The glass elevators on the outside were very cool! The "signature of Excellence" paid off with nice bath robes, thick towels, and improved sheets in my room. The Vista ships were built in large part to provide more Verandahs. I must say having a verandah made me feel nice. The main dining room and its food is on par with the other HAL ships that I have sailed on. I would have liked more flambe' deserts. The service on the Oosterdam was just wonderful! to be concise, the O-Dam is a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
HAL Oosterdam Alaska Cruise - July 24-31, 2004 Cast of Characters Me, Bryan - 44 Elizabeth - my wife Kevin - my son, age 15 Jeffrey - my son, age 13 Day One (and before) - Saturday, July 24, 2004 Anticipation has been building for this ... Read More
HAL Oosterdam Alaska Cruise - July 24-31, 2004 Cast of Characters Me, Bryan - 44 Elizabeth - my wife Kevin - my son, age 15 Jeffrey - my son, age 13 Day One (and before) - Saturday, July 24, 2004 Anticipation has been building for this cruise - our third overall and our first on Holland America. Last Friday, July 16, Beci, our travel agent, left a message on my e-mail asking where she could get a hold of me because she had news - I sent her the number at home and she called shortly. The first news was that our itinerary had changed slightly - we were to be a little longer in Juneau. The better news was that the upgrade fairy had smiled upon us - we were being upgraded from a Cat B to a Category S deluxe verandah suite! I was so excited and decided to keep it a surprise. As it turned out, I couldn't keep it a surprise until we got to the room, because when we checked in it was obvious it was into a suite. E, K & J were so excited when they found out. We took a taxi from our home in Sammamish, a Seattle suburb, at 10:30. The driver was a very nice Hungarian. We gave our luggage to be checked-in ourselves, since the porters didn't seem to be interested in our business. There was not a long wait at suite check-in and just a few people waiting in the standard line for regular checkin. In fact, we might have gone through faster in the other line. The checkin agent took our pictures and gave us all our documentation and ID cards and put a gold sticker on us. I can't remember if it said "Holland America" or "Oosterdam". I wasn't sure what the purpose of the sticker was at the time. We then proceeded to the security check and stopped by the table where they were selling the unlimited drink cards. We bought three, as I was planning on only drinking water. I don't think these charges ever showed up on our bill. Then we headed to the gangway. HAL & Princess share a common entrance to the gangway until you get close to the ship where the gangway splits - left for HAL and right for Princess. At this point it seemed clear to me that the sticker was so that the agents on the gangway could ensure that boarding passengers headed toward the correct ship. The photographer was there on the gangway just before we went on the ship, to get boarding pictures. We saw the photographer and videographer a lot during the cruise, but it didn't really bother us except once. After we passed the onboard security check we were greeted by a white-gloved crewman. The color of our card, a pale green, signaled that we were to be escorted to the Neptune Lounge. He took us up there, where we met Amber, one of the concierges, who persuaded us to make reservations at the Pinnacle grill, chose Dutch night (also Sitka night) because that's the least interesting menu, from a lo-carb point of view. We grabbed a few yummy appetizers while we were in the lounge. There was always something good to eat in there. All the little sandwiches were open faced. Amber told us they used to be true sandwiches with bread on both sides but that many people like us ate the filling and threw away the bread. So HAL decided it was easier to leave the sandwiches open faced. In the mornings there was always cereal and fruit, plus coffee and juice and at tea time there was appropriate fare, including one day strawberries dipped in white or milk chocolate. Speaking of strawberries, we thought it strange that we didn't see any until several days into the cruise. We had hoped that there would be some at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Since it was too early to go to our suite, we ate lunch in the Lido buffet. Since we were all carrying our handheld luggage I staked out a table with our affairs while the others went in search of food. When Jeffrey came back, I took my turn to find something to eat. I had ham & smoked turkey salad, tomato & onion salad, roast beef with broccoli, and some assorted cheese. We were sitting in the port side of the Lido so I didn't notice the little Chinese food station on the starboard side where today's offering was curry chicken. I did partake later in the cruise, and fortunately at this station they have a little bowl of hot pepper sauce so you can spice up your food a little. If you like your food more than bland, this is an important consideration. We found the food during the cruise to be mostly underseasoned. We toured the upper decks on our own but could not enter the spa until 2pm. Since it was nearing 1:30 we went to the stateroom - a beautiful suite with a welcome bottle of champagne compliments of Captain Mercer and the hotel Manager, Mr. Pells. There was a small fruit basket, an Alaska-themed coffee/hot chocolate/tea gift from Beci, an invitation to Suite reception in the Neptune lounge, and, on the desk, another gift from Beci (photo credit). The suite is beautiful. There is a large verandah with two rattan chaises lounges and a table with 4 rattan chairs. The suite is bordered by a see-through railing. Apparently the stateroom we were normally assigned (4155) had a solid railing. I need to remember to ask about then in future verandah bookings because it's so much pleasant when you can see the ocean while sitting down. Inside there was a large sitting area with long sofa and coffee table, a wonderful desk, plush beds with deluxe linens and duvet. The coffee table had a lovely little flower arrangement on it. The bathroom had a vestibule\makeup table, and a separate shower & bath. There were several closets and lots of drawer space. At 2pm we toured the spa, beautiful facilities, of course, but expensive treatments - much more than on the Disney Magic two years ago. I volunteered for the float bed, presented by Simon, with seaweed wrap, float & massage. There is a spacious forward-looking gym with Cybex workout equipment, bikes, treadmill, elliptical trainers, stair climbers, free weights and so forth. I usually work out at 3:30 or 4 every day, a time at which, an attendant informed me, the spa is fortunately uncrowded. We'll be able to work out 4 or 5 days on the cruise, I think. Darmawn is our steward (You can call me Darma). Since we don't drink, we offered him the champagne. Unfortunately, kidney stones prevent him from indulging. We went to the crow's nest at 3 to meet for a tour of the ship. A young man from Portland, OR was giving the tour - his first. He wasn't very good - didn't speak loud enough and gave no interesting information. "This is the pool", "This is the buffet", "These are the elevators", etc. We went by the adults only pool and there were several kids were in it. There was a sign or two informing users that this was not allowed but I understand Disney is the only one doing a good job of enforcing these rules. We dropped out of the tour halfway through after talking with a German man and his wife from San Diego - San Diego has gone downhill apparently. It's very hot here today (upper 90's) and I think they brought the heat with them. We went back down to the room, then to the concierge lounge to get the list of suite amenities, back to the room, where I read. Darma came by and introduced himself. I asked him to separate the beds, ensure there were more grapes in the daily fruit bowl and that there should be ice morning and evening. It wasn't necessary for him to bring any from 1:30 to 5, when he's off, even though he asked if he should , and the grapes could start tomorrow, today wasn't necessary. Very nice and pleasant, in addition to the automatic tip, I slipped him 4 or 5 dollars to start and gave him a 5 to 10 dollars every time I saw him. This in addition to the automatic tip. We called room service to see if they had any grapes, but they were unable to oblige. The luggage was all delivered by 3:45. We prepared for the life boat drill at 4:15. By now the sun was shining onto the promenade at station B10 and it felt more like a drill in Florida than in Seattle (did I mention that is was record heat today?), sail away party at 4:30, sailaway at 5pm. We went to the top deck on the starboard side for the sail away. The Diamond Princess, our companion vessel for much of the cruise, had already slipped away. Nevertheless, by next morning we had passed her. The same thing happened on the race from Ketchikan to Victoria. Captain Mercer informed us that he liked to beat her to port, even when she left before us, so that we could get our 1900 passengers of the ship before Diamond's 3200 created a lot of long lines. The breeze was nice as we started northward until we passed Seattle and got in the middle of Puget Sound where the temperature seemed to suddenly drop by 20 degrees. We stayed out just a little more, visiting with other passengers and then decided it was time to go inside. I forgot my walking shoes and Alaska guidebook. We went to the shops - very nice, with a large selection of high quality items of all kinds, including all kinds of clothing for those who forgot stuff for formal night. No shoes for men, though, but I did buy a guidebook to replace the one I left at home. I went back to cabin to shower and shave. We then went to the Captain's reception at the Neptune lounge, had some tasty appetizers and met the hotel manager and Captain Mercer Went to dinner through the photo studio - found our boarding picture already - and while we were there the steward came through with the chimes announcing that dinner was ready, so made our way to the lovely dining room where we soon met our tablemates - two couples from New York, one of them very opinionated about France. He started talking politics right away, a dangerous thing to do if you don't know who you're with and started ragging on France and the French, how he would never visit there or buy any French products, etc. My wife informed him that she was French (from Marseille) and his wife started telling him to shut up, kicking him in the legs, etc. Still, the rest of the meal went pleasantly. Every night there were so-called lo-carb options on the menu - I Ate Cilantro cured salmon with avocado and Pico de gallo salsa, baby spinach with white mushrooms, oven-roasted tomato, crisp bacon bits & blue cheese crumbles, Chicken Cordon bleu with arugula, red radish and broccoli salad. All very tasty and reasonable portions. However, I don't know what HAL's definition of lo-carb was because on several evenings there were decidedly non-lo-carb stuff in those options, including rice, carrots, beets, etc. We went back to the cabin to relax before going to the Welcome Aboard show. Neither of the boys decided to go to the Club HAL introduction. We went to the Vista Lounge where Jason, the assistant cruise director, introduced the staff. The Oosterdam dancers put on a lively and well performed show on a very sophisticated stage. Sam Powers, an illusionist/magician, performed a few effective tricks but had a hard time getting the audience aroused. I met him in the gym on the last day or two of the cruise where I told him the crowd didn't seem to appreciate his efforts. He said "You were at the late show, weren't you. It's always that way after second seating." We were sleepy by this time and went to bed after. Day Two - Sunday, July25 - At Sea I arose at 6:30 - all the others were still sleeping so I got dressed, and being unsure of the weather I wore jeans, but I think as long as I'm not topside, I'll be OK in shorts. I went up to the Lido with my novel. Out of the bay windows in the Lido I saw Diamond Princess at our port aft quarter, Oosterdam having overtaken and passed her during the night. I chatted for a while with a couple from Oklahoma here with a group from their Southern Baptist Church, and had some bacon and scrambled eggs because I was hungry. After I finished that I went through the Lido pool area, up the circular staircase and on to the observation deck where it was cold and windy, to the Crow's Nest, perched myself in a recliner at the bow and read. That was quite pleasant, relaxing in the recliner, reading and watching the sea. At 8 I went to the cabin to wake the gang, stopping by Neptune Lounge to request laundry bags as I couldn't find any in the suite. The concierge said she would send some right over - we intend to take full advantage of the free laundry. At the stateroom, Elizabeth was already up and I opened the curtains to wake the boys as breakfast will be arriving soon. We had ordered a full breakfast from the room service menu last night for delivery between 8:15 and 8:30. I sat down to a second (lo-carb) breakfast of ham & cheese omelet, sausage and bacon. I had a headache since before I got up so I took some Tylenol. After breakfast we walked 3 times around the promenade deck (1 mile), which was very nice - the rear of the promenade deck is open to the aft of ship, unlike on the Disney Magic. There are water fountains arranged along the promenade but several of them don't work. Then Elizabeth and I went to the Ocean Bar to read, laying on a sofa. The starboard Ocean Bar has smokers in it, which bothered us and we didn't realize that the port bar on the other side of the atrium is non-smoking. I ordered a club soda and then decided I would get the soft drink card after all, since even though I would rarely be ordering Diet Cokes and didn't want sugary drinks, I could order club sodas, which would be a change from ordinary water. I stopped drinking diet sodas a few weeks ago since I was on a plateau in the Atkins diet and realized the aspartame was preventing me from losing more weight. As soon as I stopped the diet sodas, I started losing again so in the month before the cruise I lost 10 more pounds (down 45 so far and feeling great!). At 10 when we toured the Pinnacle Grille and the Galley. While we were in the galley, the videographer had us wave at her camera. She caught us three or four more times on the cruise and sure enough, all of the takes ended up in the souvenir video. After the tour we looked at the menu at the Vista Dining Room for lunch on the way out then went back to the Ocean Bar to read. Jeffrey went to the Club HAL Ping Pong activity at 11 but there was no one there close to his age so he came back. At 12:15 we went to the photo shop to see our pictures, gave back the ones in the life jackets (no good - I'm sure every one looks their best in a life jacket) then headed up to the Lido buffet. The selection was good enough that we stayed. It was fairly hard to find a table. I had beef rouladen, green beans, cantaloupe, mango and cheese, and cheese crab chowder. Jeffrey came back with only pasta and then went out again but the lines were too long. After lunch we attempted to attend the naturalist's talk on Alaskan wildlife in the Queen's lounge but the sight lines are so bad that we wouldn't have been able to see any of the slides so we left. I went back to the room to work on the trip report and to relax and read. I went out on the verandah with a couple of blankets to enjoy the sea air. A small cabinet next to the verandah door contained 5 or 6 of the red plaid blankets you see all over the ship on the Alaska cruise and they sure come in handy. I assume that all staterooms with verandahs must need these. After a while I came back inside and did push ups, sit ups and stretching prior to a 3 mile run on the promenade deck with Kevin, who kept up all the way and Jeffrey, who tried valiantly to do so. Then we swung by the suite to get Elizabeth and headed to the spa, where we had a good workout on the Cybex equipment. After our workout we came back to the suite to get ready for formal night. I think I'll miss the full wrap-around promenade on the Mercury next February. We have second seating, which I prefer because our afternoon was not rushed for an early dinner and we had time to enjoy the gym when it was uncrowded. I had rented tuxes for me & Kevin, so this is Kevin's first tuxedo. I helped him put it on as he was unsure what to do with the cummerbund, the studs, the cufflinks and the bow tie. We went to have formal portraits taken and dropped by the art gallery to enquire about a painting we were interested in by Tomasz Rut - but it comes in at 2140 plus 15% - maybe next time, LOL A kind woman took our picture on the circular stair in the atrium with the Waterford crystal globe as background. We saw her taking a lot of other folks' pictures, too. Then it was time to head to the Vista Dining Room for dinner - our table mates were no shows - maybe it's because Elizabeth is French. I ordered the foie gras, lobster bisque (2 servings - love that bisque!), House salad, chateaubriand and sugar free jello with strawberries. Our server tracked down some heavy cream for me to put on the dessert. I made sure I tipped the servers extra a couple of times during the cruise. After dinner, we dropped by the room to drop off cameras and stuff before heading to the show. It's this cast's last week before their contract is up. Found a HAL tote bag on the bed plus info for tomorrow, including a notice that the clocks will all be turned back tonight. Incidentally, I don't know if I already mentioned that each morning that evening's dinner and dessert menu is left at the suite. In the Vista Lounge we saw "Rockin' Road" by the Oosterdam Singers and Dancers. It was their last performance of this show as they are at the end of their contract and will all be going their separate ways at the end of this week. There was a lot of energy both from them and from the audience and they really gave a fantastic show - excellent dancing, wonderful singing and a great show. At the end they were crying and Fred, one of the male dancers, was crying so much he couldn't sing. I have one complaint about the Vista Lounge - the seating in there, especially the red bench seating with the tall backs, seems very uncomfortable to me, although the staff I spoke with about said they had had no complaints. I prefer the Walt Disney Theater on the Magic. Day Three - Monday, July 26, 2004 - Juneau Even with the time change (you gain an hour going into Alaska) I woke up at 6:30 and rose ahead of everyone else. I forgot to get up at 5:30 to watch the whale pod that the captain announced yesterday we'd be passing through. After I was ready, I went up through the Lido pool area to deck 11 by the spiral staircase. First, though I swung by the buffet and swiped some cold cuts to tide me over until breakfast. The buffet was already bustling. Then I headed topsides. It was cold up there and I chatted with a lady who suggested that I would be sorry if I had not brought warm clothing, and that I should dress in layers. We did bring such clothing, especially because we're going to be out on the water today on our wildlife excursion. I went to the Crow's Nest to read but ended up spending the time chatting with a nice lady from Houston about this and that, including about what we should see in Galveston when we go through there on our Holiday cruise on the Galaxy in December 2005. Her sister arrived at about 7:45 and invited me to join them for breakfast, but I thanked them and declined. I felt I had better go down and awaken the family so we could have breakfast, and pack up the laundry for cleaning today. At the suite, they were all sleeping so I opened the curtains wide. I prepared the laundry and gave it to Darma then we went up to the Lido, had breakfast and ate it by the Lido pool. For the most part, they have the same thing everyday in the Lido for breakfast. At one station the sign says "Fried and Scrambled Eggs" but I heard one woman ask for fried eggs and she was told they couldn't make any for her. We went back down to the room to prepare for our day. The boys and I went out to the verandah to watch the docking procedure. We heard something that sounded like a gun shot and it turned out to be when they shot the first guy rope for the moorage ropes and watched the ship sidle up to the dock and the dock workers attach the ship. All the rest of the big ropes in the front were attached by strings to the first rope, so there was no more shooting. In fact, although we observed them tying up the ship both in Ketchikan and Victoria, this was the only time they used the pneumatic gun. There was a huge line to disembark the ship and all were leaving by the midship hatch. Finally a crewman guided some of us another way to the aft hatch so we could disembark sooner. We stepped out into the cool Juneau air and there were numerous people holding signs for various shore excursions. We showed one of them our tickets and they pointed us to the bus we should board. We took the bus on a long ride through town to Allen Marine, and boarded the St Nicholas for a 3-hour tour (shades of Gilligan's Island). Binoculars were provided but we brought our own so we wouldn't have to share. The whole thing was done in a very professional manor with a naturalist providing narration, and background information and helping us to spot the animals. Snacks and drinks were provided. There were lots of hunchback whales surfacing spouting, showing flukes, etc. We must have seen nine or ten pods. Several times saw the rare bubble-net hunting technique of the whales. The naturalist told us that only about 10% of viewers get to see that. We also saw a bald eagle in a tree feeding its young in its huge nest and saw sea lions on a buoy. At last, the boat returned and we boarded the bus for the Mendenhall Glacier. When we arrived we walked the main trail and toured the Visitors Center but didn't see the film. It was a good day to see the glacier since it was overcast. Apparently on days like this the blues stand out more. The lake in front of the glacier was full of floating blue and white ice, apparently from calving. At the appointed time we waited in the area where the bus was supposed to pick us up, but it was late due to the excessive crowding. We boarded the bus for an uneventful ride back to the dock. On the way back several folks asked the driver if he could drop us off in town, but no dice. The bus returned us to the dock where Jeffrey boarded the ship and the rest of us took a shuttle ($2) back to Juneau. It was a short ride to the bottom of the Mount Roberts Tramway where we got off and looked for something to eat, since we had no lunch (it's almost 5). The Zaandam, Diamond Princess and Radiance of the seas towered over the town and were docked very conveniently so that no additional transport was required. The tour was originally scheduled for 1:30 or so but the ship's schedule changed and we got in around 10, so no lunch. We found a little restaurant called Pizza Verona. Good service, good food, generous portions. I had chicken Caesar salad, E had greek salad, K had a Britain Burger. We stopped at a store which had post cards @ 6/$1 and then looked around. We were tired and most of the stores had the same thing as every other port of call (Columbian Emeralds, Little Switzerland, Diamonds International, Del Sol T-Shirts, etc) or as Seattle (Northwestern Native American art) so we walked back to the tramway and boarded the shuttle for the ship. I scanned the menus and the New York Times Summary that are delivered daily each morning and then prepared for dinner, although we had just eaten. It was casual night. I ordered: Sweet Tomato with Fresh Mozzarella Calironian Gourmet Greens with garlic herbed croutons, toasted nuts and orange segments Double Venison Loin with Gooseberry Confit Vanilla Crème de Pot with strawberry compote Our table mates were again no shows. Was it something we said? The ship left port just as we started dinner. I gave Davis (pronounced "Dah-fees") and Alit a cash tip to continue to encourage their excellent service. On the way out after dinner I succumbed to the charms of the YumYum guy and tried a candied ginger. Yummy! This was to become a habit for the rest of the cruise. We stopped by the photographer, bought the formal night portraits, and threw away the embarkation photos because my face was half hidden. E stayed in cabin to read while we went to see Lee Bayless - he was funny but I couldn't stay awake due to the time change. Also, we stayed after for the Indonesian Crew Show, which was good but I was sleepy since the show started at 11:30. I apologize to them because I dozed off a couple of times during this show as well. These poor guys did a good job but it must have been a sacrifice for them since they work such long hours. Still, they are happy to share their culture and are pleased by the interest of the passengers who come to the show. Apparently, they perform every other week. The other times, it's the Pilipino crew show. Tuesday, 27 July 2004 - Cruising Yakutat Bay & Hubbard Glacier The seas are rough today - the ship's been rocking for hours but fortunately I've got my sea legs. I was up at around 8:30 - I have to get up to put laundry out before 9am. The gray and foggy weather this morning is bad for wildlife viewing and the verandah is wet near the edges because it's been raining. We decided to eat in the Vista dining room for breakfast - I ordered corned beef hash with a poached egg and tomato sauce and also eggs benedict but didn't eat the English muffins. I nibbled just a little on the forbidden pastries (muffins and a donut). We headed back to the room to take our vitamins and brush our teeth before going topsides to look at the scenery. Too bad it's both foggy and raining, because it's almost impossible to see anything. We passed an RCI ship going the other way. We went up to Lido Pool but too much rain and fog to see much. The viewing windows are all fogged over and we stole a blue napkin from one of the tables to wipe the window. There were so many water droplets on the other side of the window, though, that visibility was still poor. They were serving pea soup here, but no one offered me any. I tried to get the eye of a waiter but the ones coming by only had empty bowls. As I saw we were now approaching the glacier, I went back down to the room to get the umbrella, binoculars and camera and went out on the bow. Lots of people were there but fewer and fewer stayed over time, perhaps due to the rain. Big umbrellas were often blocking the blocking view, even borne by people wearing hats or hoods, who technically didn't need their umbrellas in the light rain. We saw a little calving at first, then more and more bigger ones, including ones as large as great buildings. One particular one we wanted to fall was just huge, perhaps 30 or 40 stories, from top to bottom with a great crevasse behind it. Finally ice shot out of the crevasse a couple of times and then the whole thing, hundreds of feet wide and high fell outward and down into the water and created such a wave that it rocked the ship. The videographer was there and took my picture once again, as did the ship's photographer. Right about now, the pea soup would be pretty good. This was the highlight of the cruise for me - so wild and remote, with the 5-mile-wide, 300-500 ft tall glacier before, creaking and groaning, the occasional gunshot ringing out and small to enormous pieces of ice falling into the sea. I ran into an old friend, Brad Christensen from Novell, while glacier watching on the bow. I recognized his voice but didn't ask if it was him until someone called his name. Back at the Neptune lounge I asked the concierge to look him up and connect us. I talked to him and he said he and his wife Kim would meet us for lunch around the Lido pool. We caught up to to date and then invited them down to our suite, of which they were extremely jealous After they left I did my push ups and sit ups and was going to go out and run but when we got down to the promenade deck there was pouring down rain and wind that knocked over all the art when I tried to open the outside doors. So we went to the gym instead and did 50 minutes on the treadmill, visiting with a woman from Florida, Judy, who works for Remax and does Disney timeshare resales. So does her husband, and their kids are in real estate, too. It's hard to stay on the treadmill when the ships moving and I had to have my hands out to steady myself and grab the handles when the ships motion was trying to throw me off. Then I worked out on all the cybex machines, returned to the cabin, showered, read and dressed for dinner. Our laundry hadn't returned so I called the concierge, Darma came by and then checked the laundry and came back and told us it wasn't ready. I told him I needed the pants for informal night, so he went back and brought back what was ready. They can't find some underwear but everything else was ready. On and off during the cruise, Pete, the Bingo Dingo (one of the assistant cruise directors) made ship-wide bingo announcements. I found this very annoying. E & I went to the captains' reception for suites in the Northern Lights Disco, visited with the head of housekeeping and some folks from Bothell, WA (close to where we live), one of which is an 83 year old man who's going to do the India to Africa section of the Prinsendam around-the-world-cruise. We headed for dinner via the Photo shop where we saw my bow glacier watching picture, which was pretty good. At dinner our tablemates were again no shows. I had carpaccio of beef, Ketchikan smoked salmon chowder (quite good), sweet tomato, red onion and basil chiffonade salad, and a little osso bucco and Indian spiced lamb loin chops. I tasted Kevin's watermelon sorbet (yummy) and the Yukon sourdough bread pudding. I'm doing some cheating on this cruise, but I take CarbBlockers when I do. The net result is that I lost two pounds on the cruise. After dinner we stopped at the Yum Yum guy. Earlier, Elizabeth had to stop exercising because the rocking of the ship was making her sick, so she went down an took some Bonine. After dinner the Yum Yum guy's candied ginger made her feel a lot better. The boys, who met us at the Vista Dining Room, were present at its opening tonight and told us they like the chimes that call you to dinner. We returned to the suite to update this report and then went to see male a cappella group "The Mikes". They were great and have been performing on the O for several months now. They are all from New Brunswick and the lead, "Tony" proposed to his girlfriend during last week's performance. Jeffrey bought their CD for sale in the lobby. We kept on running into them, especially Brett, throughout the cruise, where they explained they're going to renew their contract. They love this cruise life, are treated as passengers (they have regular cabins and the run of the ship) and only have to perform once or twice a week. Sweet! Wednesday, 28 July 2004 - Sitka We were at anchor early. We got up around 8 and went to breakfast in the Lido. After breakfast we got ready and went to tender around 9 or 9:30. Since we were suite passengers we didn't need to pick up tender tickets in the Queen's Lounge. We just got in line. We tendered in to the O'Connell bridge and did our own walking tour of this quaint and picturesque little town. The shopping was more interesting and laid back here than in Juneau - not so many "port-of-call" stores - so we actually bought something here, including shirts for the boys, plus a lacquered Russian box and a small bottle of birch syrup for our neighbors. Plus, of course, we bought post cards at 5 for a dollar. We saw the Alaska Pioneers Home and garden (very well maintained and pretty), the fortress (nice views), and walked to the raptor center, which was a huge disappointment at $12 each, although the walk through town, across the waterfront and the park was pretty. I guess you get the guided tour only if you come on a ship excursion. We got back to the ship around 1:30 for lunch in the Lido then the boys went to play ping pong and Elizabeth and I went for a drink and to read in the Ocean Bar - this time on the non-smoking side. The waitress remembered us from before. We were there for a good 90 minutes. We decided we liked having a little time to ourselves so we changed the Pinnacle Grill reservation to just the two of us. Then we went back up and changed for exercise. Kevin & I ran three miles on the promenade deck while Elizabeth used the bikes in the gym, then we went up to the gym to do abs and check out the stair climbers. We told the boys they were on their own for dinner - they didn't seem too disappointed and took it well. Then the boys and I went out to the verandah and watched them bring in the tenders. One of the tenders was hoisted up right under the verandah, so we got a close up view. The boys ended up not eating together - Kevin went to the Lido and Jeffrey went by himself to the Vista Dining Room because he didn't want to miss Dutch night and wanted to see what the hats were all about. He sat all by himself at our big table ? but Davis and Alit took good care of him and kept him entertained. Elizabeth and I ate at the Pinnacle Grill - I had chicken Thai soup and duck, filet mignon with bEarnaise sauce, asparagus with bEarnaise sauce, grilled mushrooms, and we shared chocolate volcano cake and vanilla, coffee and chocolate crème brulee. The service was very nice. I dressed up a little and wore my sport coat, even though it was casual night. We went by the room afterwards to change into something more casual before heading to Sam Powers' magician act. It was the best saw-a-woman-in-half act I've seen and some other amazing illusions. However, the audience didn't seem to rise to the occasion, which Sam told me is typical for second seating. Thursday, 29 July 2004 - Ketchikan and Sea Day We got up early this morning, around 6 so we could eat before the rush to get offshore for our shore excursion to see the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show at 8:30. The Diamond Princess is next to us on the dock and the Coral Princess is off our starboard side, tendering in. We ate in the Lido and then disembarked around 7:45. As you disembark the ship, there's a nice store off to the left, so we looked around in there a little. Then we asked one of the guides hanging around outside where we were to meet for the excursion. She explained that we should just walk there, and showed us the way on the map. Ketchikan is a pretty town, but full of the typical shops. We walked over to the Great Alaska Lumberjack show, just a little ways from the ship, next to the water and on the way to Creek Street, our next destination. This is a great and fun show and the mistress of ceremonies really got the crowd worked into a frenzy. We were on the American side (Timber Beasts, Spruce Mill) and Brad Christensen's (the friend I ran into while glacier watching - did I mention his parents bought the cruise for him and all his brothers and sisters and their spouses - 14 in all?) family was on the Canadian's Dawson Creek (Wood Bulls). We won most of the competitions but they won the match because of the 3 point relay at the end. For the relay they pick one volunteer from each viewing section. On our side, an old man named Mike, really hammed it up on the way down to the front, using a cane and pretending to need a walker. Then he got up and threw an ax right into the bull's eye! After the show we look around the adjacent shop, lots of cute stuff and then walked to Creek Street and toured Molly's House and bought some copper bracelets and a very sturdy ice cream paddle. Molly's House is a former brothel. The hostesses hang around out front in their slink turn of the century dresses and garters, looking like 'working girls' from a hundred years ago. Creek Street is quite charming and the shops there are more interesting than those in town. We walked back through the town, peeking into various shops, mailing some postcards and gawking at the enormous cruise ships towering over the little buildings. We arrived back at the ship around 11:30 to beat the rush for boarding and lunch. For once we got a windowside view table in the Lido - then E & I went to read in the Ocean Bar. While we were in the bar, the ship set sail for Victoria and another HAL ship was right behind us to take our place. An RCI ship passed us to take the place of the Diamond Princess, which had left just a few moments before. I decided I wanted a HAL fleece so we went to the ship's shopping arcade to see if we could find one. I didn't find exactly what I wanted so we just bought an Alaska Calendar for E's parents. At 3 K & I went running on the promenade 3 miles plus 1 mile walk to cool down then headed up the gym to do upper body workout on the Cybex and abdominals. I love taking advantage of the gym. Brent, from the Mikes was in the gym and told us there would be a bonus show tomorrow at 2:30. Showtime is early tonight, before dinner, since we lose an hour going back to Pacific time. We saw "Escape" which was a lot of fun, with good singing and dancing, beautiful sets and lavish costumes. We visited with companions Bill & Adam from Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, who cruise 4 or 5 times a year and seem to be groupies of the show performers, especially of "The Mikes". Bill doesn't like the Vista class ships as much as the smaller ones, think the food and service and entertainment are not as good and says that the O is the biggest money maker for HAL, especially from the bars and casino. I ran into Jason, the Cruise Directory, after the show, and told him I didn't think they needed to move up the show, but he assured me that on this night, because of the time change, if they didn't, they'd only have 35 people in the audience for the late show. Since the show got out at 7:15 we hung out in the piano bar and had hors d'oeuvres and nuts listening to the pianist while waiting for dinner time. At dinner, our new table mates showed up - we didn't know we had any. It turns out after the New Yorkers left to get their own table, this family was assigned to join us but ate in the buffet all week because of their kids. We're sorry they didn't join us earlier because we got along really well with them and would have enjoyed their company. They're both from Houston but she was originally from Mexico City and he from Lebanon. They had an 11 year old girl and 14 year old son who were both polite and interesting. He wants to hire me as a freelance programmer to do his website for his diamond business and invited us to see them in Houston after our Holiday cruise out of Galveston next year. We failed, however, to exchange numbers or e-mail. I ate "melon medley" sprinkled with port wine (couldn't taste the wine) and escargots bourguignons, cream of green asparagus soup, two lobster tails (and they will plate stuff up on demand - no rice as I asked and two tails instead of filet mignon and tail). No dessert. Went to the shop and bought a nice HAL logo sweatshirt at ½ price and Jeffrey bought a stuffed moose which he named Chocolate. E bought some silver jewelry, also half price. We then spent a few minutes listening to the ensemble in the Ocean Bar. Set clocks forward 1 hour tonight. In our mail slot we found an invitation to a suite brunch with Captain Mercer and the Hotel Manager Pells in the Crow's Nest at 12:30 tomorrow. Friday, July 30, 2004 - Sea Day and Victoria We woke up around 8 to a bright and sunny morning, the first such weather in days. We got ready, got the laundry ready, then I read yesterday's USA Today and my novel on the verandah for a while until all were ready for breakfast. We ate breakfast by the Lido pool again, then bought some half-price logo shirts at the sale by the Lido pool before coming down to work on my trip report. The ship news said the sale would begin at 9am but they only just started setting up at 9. The sunshine has disappeared as we turn into the straits and it's now overcast and foggy. At 10:30 E & I went to the debarkation talk and crew farewell. After that we went to the Ocean Bar to read. While we were there they conducted the trivia contest, which, had I entered I would have done pretty well on, but not won. At 12:30 we went up to the Crow's Nest for the suite brunch, stopping at the suite to drop off our books. The suite brunch was very nicely done. I had some caviar, surprisingly good (just tasted like salt, really, plus all the stuff you eat with it helps, such as onion, egg yolk, sour cream, etc.) and lots of other good food, well served, with a lovely ice sculpture of a swan in the center. After that we headed down to the Vista Lounge for the behind the scenes tour and to meet the cast. However, they didn't really demonstrate the capabilities of the stage because they had to put up the Rockin' Road sets because tomorrow morning early the new Oosterdam cast is coming aboard to rehearse for their first real show. The stage technicians each talked about themselves and their jobs and some of the Oosterdam crew did the same and then answered questions. Around 2pm I went up to get the boys while E saved seats for the 2:30 "The Mikes" encore. The Mikes were wonderful and Jeffrey got them all to sign his CD that he had bought after their first performance the other night Then all four of us went to work out. K & I walked 1 mile and ran three on the promenade then went to the Ocean Spa to work out our legs on the Cybex machine and do abs. Sam Powers, the magician, was there with an assistant he was training in dance moves and Chris, one of the Oosterdam Cast lead singers was there with headphones running through his dance moves. He's staying on board to work with the new cast. We were very close to Victoria now and when we came back to the room, the ship was docking. We watched that process and then I took a shower and got dressed for dinner. We've been here before so we're probably not going to disembark. They have a lovely greeting for the ship here. At the bottom of the gangway there is a Victorian streetlamp with flower baskets hanging from it and several men and women dressed in Victorian garb passing out tourist literature and greeting visitors. From the verandah we could see a line of surreys and flower-bedecked horse drawn trolleys waiting to take visitors across Stanley Park and into town. Captain Mercer made sure that we arrived ahead of the Diamond Princess' 3000 passengers so that those who desired could get through Canadian Customs without a huge line. Sure enough, soon after the Diamond docked, there was a long line backing out of the customs building in the port. I read my novel on the verandah for a while then got ready for dinner. In Victoria, 1st & 2nd seating is moved up to 5pm and 3rd & 4th seating to 7pm so we had an "early" dinner. I had Portabella and Ricotta Crostini w\ smoked chicken breast, Crab & Artichoke dip with foccacia, cream of white mushroom soup and Mustard and Onion Grilled Chicken breast. The chicken with its accompanying polenta was tasteless. IMHO, much of the food on this cruise is fairly bland and underseasoned. I finished with Linzer Torte with whipped cream, one of the "no sugar added" options. The Indonesian Servers all gathered on the stairs in the dining room to sing a traditional Indonesian song of farewell. It was quite charming. Our new tables mates did not show up, but we knew that they had wanted to get off the ship, so were not surprised. We made one last stop to see the Yum Yum Guy and then E & I went to the Crow's Nest to listen to music and read, and watch the sunset, and then down to the Explorer's Lounge to listen to the pianist, who was quiet good. So many people have gotten off in Victoria that the ship is fairly quiet. We ordered breakfast room service to be delivered tomorrow morning between 7:45 and 8 so we could avoid the rush in the Lido and then read in bed until about 11:30. Darma had already picked up the rental tuxes when we got back. We did not put out our luggage since it was small roll away luggage that we could easily take off the ship ourselves. That made life so much simpler. Saturday, July 31, 2004 - Debarkation We are not in any hurry to get off the ship this morning as we live near Seattle, so I got up about 6:30, cleaned myself up and went out on the verandah to read until 7:30. Of course, we are already in port. I woke up the gang at 7:30 and breakfast, still warm, was delivered promptly at 7:45. While packing up I checked the drawer beside my bed and found socks and underwear belong to previous passengers - I took them to Darma. Then we just packed up in a leisurely fashion until all was ready, carefully checking everywhere to make sure that we left nothing behind. From time to time Jason made announcements over the intercom and channel 39 about which priority numbers or letters were being let off the ship. Ours, 'S', was first, which really meant that we could get off any time. This disembarkation is much better than on Disney. Everyone is assigned a number, unless you're in the suites, in which case you're assigned S and may disembark at any time. You may stay in your stateroom until your number is called. Around 10 or so we were finished and schlepped our belongings down to deck 2 (I think, or is it 4?) and off the ship. The longest wait was to get through immigration, where we breezed through, and then through customs, no problems there. Of course, we avoided the whole luggage pick up area. In front of the building we found a taxi, who was surprised to take us home, instead of to the airport. This driver seemed rather familiar though, like Mr. New York, going on and on about politics with people he didn't even know. We listened politely, even though we didn't agree with him about some of the positions he was taking. Summary This was a wonderful cruise. Of course, the suite upgrade was fantastic, the suite large and nicely furnished, the service excellent. The free laundry was a nice perk and we made good use of it. I'm not sure I could afford a suite again, but I'd sure like to try! The food was abundant and there was quite a variety but it was mostly underseasoned, to my taste, and sometimes served not as hot as it could be. The portions were small, which I like, since it discourages overeating and waste and you can always order more if you're hungry. The dining room servers and sommelier were attentive and friendly. We had a window seat in the dining room which was nice, since we could look out and see the ocean. The kids never used the pool or Club HAL but did make some use of the video arcade on deck 10. There is also an arcade on deck 1 at the entrance to the Vista Lounge but when we found it there was some creepy guy in there who looked at us like "What do you want?" I didn't feel good sending my kids down there since I felt that it was remote and out of the way and something nasty could happen. Still, they had a good time and enjoyed the shows and the cruise over all. The entertainment was varied, somewhat typical (comedian, illusionist, production show) but well-done I think. The Mikes were unique and we enjoyed them the most. We liked the shows, but others might disagree. Holland America has invested a lot in the Vista Lounge, in any case. I found the seating spread out, which was nice, but somewhat uncomfortable. The ports were interesting. Obviously we would do different things the next time. Elizabeth and I would like to come back on our own and do some of the pricier excursions, such as the glacier helicopter flights or Misty Ford Flightseeing. I'd like a cruise that combines Skagway, which wasn't on this itinerary, with the Hubbard Glacier again. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Of course, there was a little wear and tear, but that's to be expected. The colors are more harmonious than on the Zuiderdam and there is lots of different art displayed everywhere. It didn't take me long to find my way around the ship. We'd like to try the Amsterdam next time, though, to experience the classic HAL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
This was our first cruise, but certainly will not be our last. From the first moment of embarkation to our last day on board, our time on Holland America's 'Oosterdam' was a wonderful experience, the crew could not have been ... Read More
This was our first cruise, but certainly will not be our last. From the first moment of embarkation to our last day on board, our time on Holland America's 'Oosterdam' was a wonderful experience, the crew could not have been more friendly, helpful and hard working. We were blessed with the hottest weather Alaska has ever seen, and all our excursions booked via Holland America gave us never to be forgotten experiences. The views approaching Juneau in the very early hours were awe inspiring, the colors of the sky as the sun rose over the mountains was unforgettable. It was a wonderful experience to see so much wildlife up close, humpback whales, porpoises, sea otters, seals and sea lions, and a special mention to the staff (and eagles!) at the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. We were extremely impressed by the efficiency and teamwork of the 'Oosterdams' dining room crew, all of our meals were delivered very quickly and were of the highest standards. Our room service was also very fast and efficient. The interior of the ship was very tastefully decorated throughout, and the artwork on display gave an air of opulence. Our captain made very good time into all of the ports, beating the 'Princess' ship on every occasion to give his passengers an early start at the excursions, without having to wait in line. So, if you are thinking of cruising to Alaska, we can heartily recommend Holland America's 'Oosterdam'. We took many photos, and if you would like to see some of them please visit our website at http://www.bondpix.com/Alaska_Cruise.htm Thanks David and Valerie Williams Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We ... Read More
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We are both in our late 50's. Having the two weeks also gave us more time to get acquainted with the ship and staff. We definitely knew (mostly) what to expect by the second week. These ratings and comments will be mine, as my friend went with me as a favor to me, and he frankly expected more than I did. He had a good time but he would possibly not rate some things as highly as I do (like the food). Embarkation - with an S category cabin we had no line to wait in, but the HAL people seemed in general to be harried and overwhelmed. They were mostly less than friendly. The woman who took our tickets might have been new because she made quite a few mistakes, had trouble understanding that we were boarding for two weeks (English was her first language), made mistakes we had to correct, and seemed not to know quite what she was doing through the whole process. Cabin - As several people have said on the boards, the S cabins are worth every penny. At first I wondered why there was both a tub (with whirlpool) and shower, and another separate shower, other than for people in a rush to get ready for formal night, and maybe if more than 2 people were in the cabin. However, on the days when we had some rather rough seas, I was really glad we had the "extra" enclosed shower with three sides that were easy to lean into, rather than the two sides of the tub/shower combination. The two sinks and vanity cabinets were a plus. These cabins are about 518 sq. ft. including verandah, and they are not only roomy, but come with extras like a flat screen TV that swivels for viewing anywhere in the room, DVD player, lots and lots of places to put all the clothes we brought (and didn't need) for two weeks, plenty of comfortable seating and/or napping room, not to mention the Neptune Lounge. Did I mention the Neptune Lounge! That is another huge plus for many reasons, one of which is the coffee. Room service coffee is undrinkable, in my opinion (I have high standards in that department) and being able to step into the Neptune Lounge for the best-from-a-machine-coffee I've ever had, was terrific. They also have wonderful things available in the food category from morning to night. However, getting half and half is another matter. The Neptune Lounge sometimes had half and half, sometimes it was 1%. I'm not kidding! Our first night in the Pinnacle Grille, our waiter told us they had no half and half. I asked another waiter, and she said the same thing. About half way (no pun intended) through the meal, our waiter ceremoniously brought some half and half. Our second night in the Pinnacle, they had cream. In the Vista dining room, sometimes there was cream, sometimes something else entirely. I think I always got half and half from room service, but I had my friend buy two pints of half and half in Juneau (our first port) since if you can't tell, I'm a little fanatical about my coffee and cream. Staff - and stewards - a mixed bag but mostly very good. The concierge's were always helpful and were we ever glad we had them, several times, to straighten things out for us. For example, they made reservations and got a confirmation for us the first week for the Pinnacle Grille for our second Saturday. The concierge logged it, as they log everything they do for guests, including the fact that the reservation was made and confirmed through Peter, the Pinnacle manager. That Saturday, we were informed by the Pinnacle staff that there was no reservation and that they could not accommodate us. The concierge got on the phone (as did I) and about 2 hours and several conversations later, they informed us that they'd moved heaven and earth to fit us in. Now I know that it's not necessarily the tables available but the wait staff available that determines reservations, but guess what? There were two to three other couples, at the most from 6:00 PM that night (our requested time) to 7:20 PM, when a few more people started to arrive. There were other lapses that should not have occurred, but most of the staff were generally very good to excellent. Our cabin steward, waiters and assistants, and the concierge's were wonderful as were many of the HAL people, but others, a few too many "others", were not up to any standard that HAL should be aiming for. Whoever handled the phone calls in the Pinnacle about our lost reservation was terrible (may have been more than one person) as they kept trying to shift the blame to the concierge staff. Some of the staff in the Lido were sour and sometimes they didn't know where things were, like the milk. Turns out that wasn't at the "drinks" station but at the ice cream station. Room service was prompt, often coming way too early. Mostly that wasn't a problem for me but an hour earlier than requested on many occasions, even when specifically requested "no earlier than" could use some improvement. Food - in general was pretty good. My filet mignon was really well-done on our first night in the Pinnacle, and yes, I could have sent it back but I really didn't want the fuss or the wait. The flavor was excellent. The Vista dining room is mostly pretty good, but not excellent. Presentation seems to be most important. As others have said, some food is pretty bland (and I'm not a big fan of hot spicy food!). The Lido has an okay selection of food, but the strong smell of garlic (and I love garlic) was a little too strong. Room service food is okay. Never more than that. They did their best to accommodate "off menu" requests, however. I'm going to give my opinion on the art with a caveat first - I'm no expert. Nonetheless, I think the art is overrated by HAL. I'm just not sure where they spent that $1 million. Maybe $100 (dollars) here and $150 there. Atmosphere - I didn't like the so-called art auction's noise level, the daily pieces of junk mail advertising ship's specials and other shopping specials or the loud announcements about bingo and some of the other entertainment. They could seriously tone down the consumeritis level. I was grateful that none of these announcements were piped into the cabins. But I did like the many small areas to sit and read, visit, watch the beautiful scenery go by, or just daydream. Except for those darn hawking announcements and the intrusively noisy art auctions. That stuff is Not classy (didn't think I'd ever say something like that about a HAL ship). Since no one else has mentioned this in any of the reviews I've read, or on any of the boards, I'm mentioning it twice with the expectation that it will not change unless others feel the same and say so. Excursions - I went on one only; the floatplane to the Misty Fjords. That was stunning despite the low cloud cover, well organized and definitely worth the money. The only down side, if it mattered to anyone (and it didn't matter at all to me) was the in-flight narration on tape that skipped many parts. My friend went on the helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier and he said that was spectacular and the bus driver was funny and informative. I did not leave the ship for any sightseeing as that was not my interest. Passengers - the first week were fine and mostly were fine the second week except for the group that was somewhere over our head that week. We could have asked the concierge, or someone else, to speak to them, or probably even found them ourselves with little difficulty, but we didn't. Partly the white noise from the air conditioning helped to lessen the impact of all the jumping up and down and slamming of doors and partly I was too relaxed to let myself work up enough energy to do anything about it. I didn't go to any shows as again, that was not my interest. I did hear the music from small groups as we walked by and they were okay. The musicians in the Vista dining room on our second formal night were better. I might go with HAL again, but definitely not on a Vista class ship or any ship for over 1,000 passengers. Just too much of the hawking and herd mentality. It was not my first choice to begin with but the ships I might have preferred were not where I wanted to be sailing. Again as others have mentioned, I went with a positive attitude and was willing to overlook most problems unless there was a fairly simple way to fix it. When I say I was "relaxed" enough to overlook the passengers overhead, that really means something, as I would normally have a big problem with that level of noise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. ... Read More
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. There seemed to be plenty of staff involved in the process, and they knew their jobs. **We opted for a balcony for the first time, and, in the case of an Alaskan cruise, it is worth the difference. There is almost always scenery on this cruise. (Don't' expect a larger room, however; the extra square footage is the balcony.) **The food was the best we have encountered, though no one will like every entrEe, of course. Contrary to what we had been reading, the dining room service was excellent. There are now four seatings, and that may have improved the situation. The upper level on the main dining room (Vista) was used for the first seating at 5:45 p.m., and the lower for the 6:15 seating. I assume a similar process was in place for the two later seatings. **The crew of the ship (again contrary to some reviews) was extremely friendly. **The casino was a congenial one and featured looser slots than those in most casinos. **The show lounge is truly a show place and features $6M - $7M in the latest staging, lighting, and sound equipment. **The ship's library is a special place. Don't overlook it. **The ports are varied and, despite hosting as many as four ships in one or two locations, didn't seem crowded. **The Glacier Bay stop was outstanding; the captain maneuvered the ship about as close to the glacier as was practical and safe. **The four-glacier helicopter tour at Juneau is worth the money. We'll never forget landing and walking about on a glacier. We booked directly online with ERA Aviation and saved $44 per person compared to what the ship was charging for the same excursion. **At Stika, the "Russian" dance performance is fun. If you buy tickets on your own in town, they are only $7 each at the civic auditorium. **Disembarkation went very smooth for us. Only 20 minutes passed from the time we left our cabin until we were through the process and in a taxi. NEGATIVES **The entertainment was the weakest we have encountered. The guest magician and comedian were good, but the ship's troupe needs some work. Also, the selection of shows seemed odd given the destination and the average age of the audience. The loud, high-energy, production shows were more suited for a Carnival ship in the Caribbean **The ship's Internet rate of 75 cents per minute is far too high. Find an Internet access facility in the ports and prices will range from 5 to 25 cents per minute. **Last year, on a Princess ship, coffee was complimentary at every bar. On the Oosterdam, you either pay bar prices or make a journey to the Lido Deck every time you want a cup of coffee. **The stop in Victoria was disappointing. I suppose geography necessitates the late hours (8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.), but HAL should build in the price of the shuttle buses into town. Charging $5 just to get to the destination from the port on the edge of town is a bit tacky. There was no charge for similar shuttle service in Juneau when the ship had to dock 1.1 miles from city center. SUMMARY If you are cruising to Alaska on the Oosterdam this year, you are in for a treat! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
The first Alaska cruise ever of the Oosterdam was incredible. Everyone traveling to Alaska on her is guaranteed to have a wonderful trip. The Holland America line strives for perfection in everything they do with the realization that there ... Read More
The first Alaska cruise ever of the Oosterdam was incredible. Everyone traveling to Alaska on her is guaranteed to have a wonderful trip. The Holland America line strives for perfection in everything they do with the realization that there is no such thing as perfection. They came pretty close on this cruise. Of course, I have a few thoughts on improvements, but overall this was an excellent value for a week long vacation. Embarkation. The travel tickets stated to embark at 2:00 p.m., but we arrived earlier. We arrived via shuttle express from the Seatac Airport. The cost for 5 adults was $37.50 total. There was a long line wrapped outside of the building and around the corner. A porter immediately took our luggage and we got in the line at 1:10 p.m. After a half an hour, a Holland America employee said all Penthouse, Deluxe Suites, and Superior Suites could go to the Suites only line. The sign said to the contrary, but I obeyed. As we were baking in the sun (I know it was hot and sunny in Seattle), we were happy to get into the building. We only had a Superior Suite so we were worried that we weren't supposed to be in the suite line, but no one ever said anything. In actuality the other line went faster since they had four ticket agents serving the suite line and about 14 agents serving the other line. The non-suite passengers behind us got to a ticket agent about 2 minutes before we did in the suite line. The agents were using a brand new computer system and there were some glitches. They took my picture three times, scanned my passport three times, and scanned my credit card two times. A different ticket agent gave my room card to another passenger who quickly realized that it was not her room key and returned it. When you get your picture taken, it is this little computer wand. We joked that it was like the wand in the move "Men in Black" and we would forget the line and have a wonderful cruise from that point forward. Next, you have the embarkation photo line. Next, you have the security and x-ray machine line. We took a lot of wine on board. They checked the bottles to make sure the foil was sealed and that we had not replaced the contents with other spirits. We then were off to the gangway and we boarded the ship at 2:45 p.m. We were pointed to our room (which actually was the wrong direction). After walking almost the length of the ship, I questioned why the numbers were going up and not down. We then had dissension in our group since the crew told us to go that way. When we got to our room, it was ready and the luggage was already there. I was impressed that our luggage had beat us to our room. Next, we went to the Lido for lunch. It was crowded. You needed to find a table before getting into line. We then toured the spa. Even if you don't plan to use the Greenhouse Spa, it is fun to see the spa rooms. Next, it was lifeboat drill time. I loved that it was women and children first with men in back. Many men didn't step back and I can imagine in a true evacuation it is every person for themselves. We then sailed away on our verandah drinking champagne and dreaming of the fun week to come. THE FOOD: There are four primary ways to eat on the ship: The Lido buffet, the Vista Dining Room, the Odyssey Restaurant at the Pinnacle Grill (the $ 20.00 charge restaurant), and room service. The Lido - The Lido has five stations on each side: a sandwich station, rotating hot entrees, desserts, and italian on port side or asian wok on the starboard side. There is a salad bar on the aft of the lido and beverage stations both forward and aft. You must remember it is a buffet not a gourmet restaurant. As far as buffets go, it was great. You are not allowed to serve yourself food except the salad bar, dessert bar, and pizza. The staff serves your entrees on the buffet line onto your plate. My theory is that it's done to help stop another break out of Norwalk virus from filthy non-hand washers. I loved that dirty hands were not touching the handles. At breakfast, the orange juice at the beverage stations is concentrate, but the OJ at the dessert station is fresh squeezed and yummy. At breakfast, you can get an omelette cooked to order or scrambled eggs cooked to order. The omelette line took about 10-15 minutes. Every day there is ham, thick meaty bacon, sausage link, sausage patty, and turkey sausage. There are no hashbrowns, but hashbrown tater triangles instead. The toast machine is not powerful so they have to send your bread, bagel, or muffin through twice so order toast right away. It is hard to get a coffee refill although they try. You can always get up and get it yourself. At lunch, there is very good pizza with a nice cornmeal crust. There are always two kinds of pasta with at least four different sauces such as pesto cream, bolognese, four cheese, meat, or marinara. The lunch items are various chicken, burgers, roasts, etc. At dinner, the menu is similar to the primary entrees being served in the Vista dining room. The lido menu is posted by the aft starboard elevators for each meal each day. I went to the late night asian buffet. There was hardly anyone there eating. They also had late night dutch, italian, french, and dessert. The dessert night was chaos. It is at the Lido pool on Thursday night and there were just too many people there. Vista Dining Room - They have breakfast every day. Any attire is allowed for breakfast or lunch. On port days they have express breakfast or lunch were you are guaranteed in and out service in 30-40 minutes. Express breakfast was scrambled eggs, tater triangles, two sausage, two bacon, half a grilled tomato, toast, juice, and coffee. It beat the chaos of the lido buffet. Lunch was usually multiple courses. Examples of starters are indonesian shrimp cocktail, scallop cocktail, calamari rings, fresh melon cocktail, and fresh fruit. There was a salad, clam chowder, crab chowder, bean soup, and similar soups next. Entrees varied from grilled pastrami on rye, hamburgers (with grilled onions, mushrooms, and swiss cheese) and fries, fish and chips, asian rice noodle stir fry, grilled sirloin on foccacia bread, or chicken caesar salad. Next desserts for lunch were ice cream, apple pie al a mode, chocolate mousses, and coffee flan. We only ate dinner three times in the Vista. We had dinner on Tuesday which was informal night, Wednesday which was dutch night, and Thursday which was formal night. The menu varied from pot roast, bami goreng, pecan crusted halibut, salmon, veal tenderloin, and lobster and filet mignon. I had heard discussion of the baked Alaska parade. They had it on Thursday night and it was wonderfully fun. We all clapped in unison as the staff paraded through with the baked alaska. Overall, the Vista dining room staff was extraordinarily attentive and friendly. You could order multiple entrees, desserts, etc. If you always ordered ice tea or milk, it would be waiting for you when you arrived. The new seating times are First Seating 5:45 p.m. upper level, Second Seating 6:15 p.m. lower level, Third Seating 8:00 p.m. upper level, and Fourth Seating 8:30 p.m. lower level. We had the second seating which was hard to make with the ports in Juneau and Victoria. Everyone wanted First or Second seating. The maitre'd had 250 requests for seating changes for him which were seven pages long. Our family was split between two tables and we wanted to be seated together. He was very discouraging as there was only one open seat at second seating in the entire dining room. I was polite and he accommodated us. Another lady was rude and she got no help. You have to be realistic. If you book the cruise only one or two months out, you will not be accommodated on seating as passengers who book one year or six months out will be rewarded. I believe this is fair to those who commit and book early. The Odyssey Restaurant at The Pinnacle Grill - This is incredible. We ate there three times. Some of our family at there four times. There is nothing better. It is half price on day one and $ 15.00 on Victoria day. All other days it is $ 20.00 and well worth the $ 20.00 price tag. It can only accommodate 120 to 150 guests each night so book early. We prepaid for the first night and made the reservation before boarding. We were charged for it a second time and the charge was readily removed from our bill. This restaurant is wonderful. Our table linens had been pressed so there were no fold marks in them. There are two wine glasses and one water goblet when you sit down. We ordered wine that required a different glass and they brought different wine glasses. We brought our own wine as well and they decanted it for us. The wine steward, Ferdinand Basa, is friendly and attentive. We loved chatting with him each night. The meal starts with three choices of bread with butter or basil olive oil. Next, you have chef's surprise which is salmon tar tar with caviar, walnut crusted goat cheese, and vegetarian sushi. Next, the appetizers choices are clam chowder, mixed greens with vinaigrette, crab cakes, duck breast, Thai chicken soup with coconut milk, and a one or two others. The entrees are the best filet mignon you could want. There are two sizes to choose from the petite cut or the pinnacle cut. It is so thick and tender. It makes the filet mignon in the Vista seem like a cowboy boot (just kidding). You can get a gigantic porterhouse steak, a rib eye steak, halibut, salmon, wild mushroom ravioli, rack of lamb, or lobster/surf and turf. The presentation of the food is beautiful. The service is exceptional. The water spots on the glasses are polished out. The china is Bulgari. The wine glasses are probably Riedel. The desserts are grand marnier chocolate volcano cake, baked Alaska (flamed with real alcohol table side), fresh fruit angel food cake, or fresh cheese plate. The desserts were almost too rich. I can't wait to go back. I may eat all my meals there next time. The coffee was delicious. It had a nice froth on top. It was just a normal coffee and not a speciality drink. If you have the penthouse suite and maybe Deluxe Superior Suites, you can breakfast and lunch there free of charge. Room Service. We only had room service three times. We had coffee and OJ in the morning. You give them a half an hour range to deliver it in. We said 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. and it arrived at 8:25 a.m. We tried ordering room service Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. and I was on hold waiting for someone to pick up for 20 minutes. Other food. There is a grill with hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs by the Lido pool. The french fries were piping hot and crunchy. I only had to wait 3-4 minutes for my food. There is also taco bar every day with nachos, rice, tacos, and basic mexican food. I did attend the Dutch High Tea on Sunday afternoon in the Vista Dining room. It was petite sandwiches, cream puffs, cookies, cheese, meats, eggs. A lot of the desserts were similar to the late night dessert buffet on Thursday at the Lido pool. While cruising the Hubbard glacier, there is dutch pea soup served on deck. There is a salmon barbecue on Friday afternoon at the aft pool deck. I saw the fresh salmon come on board in Sitka. THE CABINS: We had the superior suite. It was great. We had fresh fruit in our room the entire trip, blankets for the verandah, personalized stationary, chocolates on our pillows etc. We had plenty of room for three of us. We had a king size bed with a couch bed. We booked a room on the aft bulge so we had verandah sight lines both forward and back. We were on the port side of the ship. We had the disabled room so there were no thresholds in and out onto the verandah or into the bathroom. We had a 20" TV with DVD player. Our family members booked a non-disabled superior suite and they had a 27" TV with DVD player. The TVs seemed so large. The non-disabled room had tons of counter space in the bathroom. For new cruisers, flushing the toilet sounds like launching a torpedo. There is no quiet flushing in the middle of the night. The jacuzzi tub is a normal shaped bathtub (rectangular) with jets in it. It will only fit one person not two. There are about 200 plus DVD titles to rent from the front desk. We kept joking about renting Titanic or the Perfect Storm. There are 11 different HAL channels advertising excursions, the spa, the ports of call, the dreaded shopping ambassador channel, the aft camera, the forward camera. I loved tuning into the see the ships speed, conditions, GPS location etc. There are two movie channels, TNT, CNN International, and ESPN. There are no other channels. The cabin steward, Wulan, was great. On the lighter side, we joke that we were disturbed that Wulan was monitoring our bowel movements since the toilet paper and kleenex seemed to be folded into a little point all the time. How did he know? I suggest messing with your cabin steward and refolding the toilet paper into the little point. Just kidding. There was typically not much of a wait for the elevators. If you use the mid-ship elevators, there is the bank in the middle. On each end there are the pretty glass elevators with views of the ocean, 9 times out of 10 these elevators are faster as guests seemed to not be able to walk the 15 extra feet to push button for these. There are fresh flowers every one. You get a tiny bud base with three carnations in it in your cabin on arrival. We ordered the Bon Voyage bouquet which was three purplish antheriums with greenery. I would go with a different bouquet next time. There are blooming orchids on every table in the lido. These are spectacular. There huge flower arrangements in the Crow's Nest and around the ship. The table arrangements in the Vista were changed. PENTHOUSE SUITE Our table mates had the Abel Tasman Penthouse Suite which is starboard side. They paid for it and were not a free upgrade. They gave us a tour. It is about the size of four cabins. There is a tiny little kitchen slot narrower than the hallway with a full refrigerator, microwave, toaster, blender. The floor is marble. The main sitting area has a large high backed wrap around couch with extra tables and chairs. The TV is probably 50" with a full sound system, CD, DVD, Stereo. A queen bed folds out from under the entertainment center. There is a dining room table with side buffet. There is crystal glasses, silver service, china etc. A giant bowl of fruit. There is desk with an ocean view. There are two bathrooms. One with only a toilet and sink and the other with a full jacuzzi tub for two. The tile is hand painted. The bed linens are beautiful, but appear to be the same as the Deluxe Verandah suite. The curtains are automatic push button. There is a hot tub our on the verandah. It was very nice, but you can be just as happy in the Deluxe Verandah suite. As a side note, we raved about the Pinnacle to her so she wanted a reservation for Wednesday night and she could not get one even though she was in the Penthouse suite. ENTERTAINMENT: There was typically two movies a day in the Queen's lounge. One movie at 11:00 a.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. The other movie is at 10:00 p.m. The movies change every week but a sample of the movies are as follows: Big Fish, Against the Ropes, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Paycheck, The Big Bounce, Mona Lisa Smile, and Love Actually. The 10:00 p.m. movie becomes the two matinees for the next day. These same movies are also shown in your room on the ship's move channel less the popcorn. LOUNGE SHOWS: The Vista Lounge not to be confused with the Vista Dining Room has two shows night, 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The schedule was as follows: Saturday = magician Sunday = Show production Wild, Wild West (Rockin' Road) Monday = Trumpet virtuoso Tuesday = Comedian, Liar and Thief Wednesday = Magician Thursday = Show production Escape Friday = Movie Mystic River The magician was fun. I could see one of the tricks (excuse my illusions from the balcony) as the lovely assistant crammed into a hidden space in a trunk. He could use a little practice, but everyone seemed to have fun. I heard one lady gasp with glee at his reading the audiences mind trick. I liked Wild, Wild West. It is like a hokey clean Las Vegas show production. It was so cheesy that I loved it. I would go to it again. It was singing and dancing to Dolly Parton, Leonard Skynard, Garth Brooks, etc. My sister and her husband couldn't take it and left early. The Comedian was a special guest. He was very funny and there was standing room only. I would recommend seeing him. CRUISE DIRECTOR ACTIVITIES: The cruise director is Dane Butcher. I loved his name. There were trivia contests, bingo games, newlywed games, and name that tune. There was even a version of American Idol for the passengers so if you are talented, start practicing. There were various putting, chipping, and longest drive competitions. Where else can one hit whiffle golf balls into the middle of the pool? I did the kitchen tour on Sunday. I was very interested in the behind the scenes so it was fun. It takes about 20 minutes and is self guided with flyer. Take your time instead of stampeding through like cattle. There are cookie samples, cheese samples, and even reindeer sausage. They have pictures of how to plate the food and directions on building the perfect pastrami sandwich if you are observant. For example, the room service pastrami sandwich is to have ten slices of pastrami on it. CASINO: There are Casino tournaments every other day for slot machines (Sunday), Sports bar Poker ( Tuesday) and Black Jack (Thursday). The entry fee is $ 20.00. The prize for each tournament is $ 500.00. My brother-in-law won the black jack tournament. It is the person with the most chips after seven hands. We played craps at night and won a little money. The slots range from nickel to dollar machines. There are also video poker machines. There was no pai gow table game. They had single zero roulette, black jack, craps, let it ride, and maybe one other card game. The Art Auction looked like a dud. The pieces, except collector pieces don't include the frames, and had high reserves on the them. The reserves ranged from $ 60.00 to $ 1400.00. A lost of pieces had reserves of $ 300 to $ 400 each. There were no bargains to be had. It mostly like really expensive souvenir. STORES: The Shopping Arcade had some good prices. There was an Alaska Scrapbook for $ 9.95 that sold in port for $ 14.95. There is a middle kiosk area where the merchandise changes daily. It starts as liquor then jewelry, russian items while in Sitka, jade jewelry etc. There are free liquor samples when you board on Saturday only. THE SPA: The spa staff was very nice. I had the hot rock massage. It lasted about 1 1/2 hours and cost $ 159.00. I would recommend it highly as I enjoyed it very much. They are very discreet and your modesty is never compromised. They keep you covered in all the appropriate places. There is a work out gym at the front of the spa which is free of charge. Just walk right in and help yourself. The spa was booked up early so get your reservation as soon as you board the ship. THE SHIP: It is large and easy to get lost. It was extremely clean. The crew was painting, varnishing, and cleaning the promenade deck walls and rails the entire week. The public bathrooms are nice, private, and clean. The bathrooms are also plentiful. The aft pool is adults only. The pools open at 7am and close anywhere from 7pm to 9pm. The hot tubs close at 10pm each night. Only one of the two hot tubs worked on the aft pool. It is a very tight squeeze with four adults as these are small hot tubs. The pool is so warm and hot it is like swimming in a hot tub. The inside lido pool allows kids. Kids are to be 14 to go into the hot tub, but this rule was widely broken. There are three hot tubs at the lido pool. There is a retractable roof and it was opened during the trip since it was so nice. It was open while in port in Juneau and while we sailed away that night. The Crow's Nest was a favorite hang out. We took cards up there and played while enjoying one of the best views on the ship. There are these leather recliners that are highly coveted for the view and they were never vacant. The Ocean Bar is where the art auction takes place during the day. The Explorer's lounge is a nice place for an after dinner drink. The waiter brings around truffles to each table. The Northern Lights is the dance club. There was dancing past 1:30 in the morning. It is too loud to talk in there, but it was quite the happening place especially since drinks are 2 for 1 at 9:30 p.m each night. Overall, I found drink prices to be very fair. Booker's Whiskey which is a top shelf brand cost the same as Jim Beam. Almost all drinks on the rocks were $ 4.75 as well as the drink of the day. The drink of the day is $ 4.75 every day. The schedule of drinks was as follows: Sunday: Mojitos Monday: Handshaken Champagne dreams Tuesday: Handshaken Lemon Drops Wednesday: Handshaken Margaritas Thursday: Handshaken Spiced daiquiris Friday: Handshaken Lime Smashes. You can easily run up a several hundred dollar bar bill without even trying very hard at all. A very drunk stranger bought us drinks. We saw him later than evening and I don't think he knew who we were. I am sure his wife was flipped out when she got the bill at the end of the cruise. YOUR BILL: You can go to the front desk and get an update on your charges everyday. It takes only seconds. I ordered a mocha for $ 1.85 at the Windstar Cafe and walked one minute over to the front desk and the charge was already on my bill. We did have three different billing problems which were corrected either on the spot or by the next day. Keep all of your charge slips. We were mostly billed for drinks we did not order, but these were corrected without hassle. The front desk staff was polite and helpful. They cannot adjust bills for the concessionaires such as the spa, the photo gallery, or the shopping arcade. THE PORTS JUNEAU: We docked at 11:54 with the port side facing town. The Diamond Princess was ahead of us and the Royal Caribbean boat was tendering to the dock. We were off the ship with no big lines. We decided to do our own thing. We walked to the capital building. It is a ten minute up hill walk from the cruise dock. After we toured the building we flagged a cab to take us to Alaska Brewing Company. The charge was $ 17.00 for four adults. We then drank beer, toured, drank more beer, bought beer, and then took another cab. We took a cab for a 2 hour tour for $ 55.00. We drove to Mendenhall Glacier which was a must see. It was very pretty. There is twenty minute walk each way to a very large waterfall. We then took the cab to Chapel on the Lake which is a serene chapel with a view across lake Auke with Mendenhall Glacier in the background. We then went up onto Douglas Island across from town with views back to the ship. The best shops were the ones nearest the cruise ship docks. SITKA: This was my favorite port. You must tender off the ship here so I suggest booking a tour as you get priority for tendering off. There was still a tender line at 10:30am. We went fishing and got the first tender of the morning. There is not a lot to do here so I suggest taking a tour. It is all about the natural beauty of Alaska. The ship is in port for 11 hours. The starboard side faces town and the port side faces a beautiful mountain similar to Mount Fuji. There is some shopping which is Russian influenced. You can do the the Raptor Center, the Sitka National Park (a ten to fifteen minute walk), or Castle Hill where US purchased Alaska from Russia. It is the beauty of Sitka that will make you love her. We were the only cruise ship in town the entire day. KETCHIKAN: This is the rainiest city in North America and we got ripped off. There was not a cloud in the sky. It was sunny and I got sunburned. This is the best shopping of the entire trip. There are lots of fun stores. Again, I like the ones closest to the ship dock. The port side faced town. You are only here for less than five hours so the time will fly by you. VICTORIA: It is a long walk to town from the cruise ship dock. A cab ride is about $ 6.00 canadian to the Empress Hotel. Most shops stayed open. We did a pub crawl which was fun. The starboard side faced the Diamond Princess with the port side facing the harbor. EXCURSIONS: Sport Fishing in Sitka - We loved this excursion. There were four guests total on our boat. The boat is probably 25' long. There is not a lot of room to move about. We fished for king salmon and caught two total on the boat. They were very large fish for lower 48 state standards. One fish was about 32lbs and the other was over 40lbs. They was a lot of wind chop so the boat bobbed about. I took dramamine and still went chumming over the side. I would fish again. The captain kept us out until the last possible minute so we all could get fish. Sunny days are not the best for fishing as the salmon stay deeper so if it is cloudy you may have better odds. It was worth it. We tendered back to the ship with our salmon and purchased a box for $ 7.50 to place the salmon into for freezing for the rest of the trip. We had to cut the head and tails off and the 32lb. salmon barely fit in the large box. The salmon were frozen hard and waiting for us when we departed the ship on Saturday morning. Historical Tour and National Park in Sikta - My mom took this excursion and loved it. The tour guides they hire are top notch. They provide so much local history and information it makes for a great tour. My mom thought it was a good value as well. They saw 20 bald eagles in one tree. Even the tour guide who lived in the Sitka for the last twenty years was amazed. Adventure Kart and Jet Boat in Ketchikan - We enjoyed this adventure. The staff said it was even better when it is raining since the adventure carts are great in the mud. We took a specially built jet boat out past where the highway ends for a 55 minute ride. The jet boat is enclosed and goes 33 knots. There is a guide who provides very interesting local history. This trip was rated strenuous. There is nothing strenuous except you have to climb down a ladder to get off the jet boat. They provide rubber rain suits, helmets, goggles, and masks. It was so dusty since there was no rain. We got filthy on the adventure carts, but that was part of the fun. These are two seat Hammerheads. The scenery is great along a cliff with views of the water. I would recommend this trip. The description said we got to keep the driving gloves, but we didn't. You take a bus back to town on a logging road. The driver was hilarious. He drove the bus like an adventure cart since we were behind schedule. I spoke to others who did whale watching in juneau, wildlife viewing in Sitka, and the duck boat. Everyone loved the tour guides and found these to be fun tours. I was impressed with the quality of the tour staff. SCENERY: The scenery is impressive. We saw humpback whales on the way up and the way back from the ship. At the Hubbard Glacier, we saw two grizzly bears on shore. We saw seals at the Hubbard Glacier on the way up and back. There are schools of porpoises on the way up and back. Who said the bald eagle is endangered? They were every where at every port. The ship spent almost three hours cruising the glacier. The ship cruises it on both port and starboard sides so everyone can have a view from their verandah. They also open up the bow of the ship which you can enter special from level four. It never rained the entire trip. It was sunny and hot. Everyone complained how hot is was in port since everyone expected Alaska to be colder. We all baked in the sun and carried our coats around with us. The Alaskans were in t-shirts and tank tops. It was over 60 in every port and sunny. It was cold up next to the glacier, but there are tons of deck blankets everywhere. Alcohol In Juneau - our beer was confiscated when we reboarded. We bought alcohol Friday morning in the duty free store and we were allowed to take it back to our room, but prior to that time they stored it for you. We also bought beer on the last night in Victoria and took in back on board the ship. Canadian Customs hassled us that we were smuggling a national resource out of the country. As I said earlier, bring all the wine on board you want. There was wine, champagne, beer pilsner glasses, and high ball glasses waiting in our cabin plus a corkscrew. We tipped the wine stewards and we were charged the corkage fee about half the time. DISEMBARKING: You can wait in your cabin or a public area while waiting to disembark. The first group called was at 8:35 a.m. We were group 15 and we were not called until about 10:45 a.m. Customs was very slow as both the Oosterdam and Diamond Princess converge into a single customs area with about 14 agents. It took until almost 11:30 to clear customs. Our friends had group 38 so I had no idea when they got off the ship. People were lined up to get on the boat for next week, but they were not going to be ready for them for quite a while. ODD FACTS: We tried to declare our extra liquor in the library to the customs agent, but no one ever showed up. I then read the customs declarations laying out on the table signed by the ships Purser. The ship had $ 665,000.00 on board plus $ 8,415.00 in personal checks and traveller's checks. When you do your evaluations at the end of the cruise, personally name those who provide good service. It helps their performance reviews to include names. The new tipping policy did not go into effect despite a letter in my packet stating it would. The staff I spoke to felt they would not make as much money with the new system which surprised me. OVERALL It was a wonderful trip. I wrote on my evaluation form that I could die happy now after seven day on the Oosterdam. It is a most memorable time. Remember, you make your own fun and we had a blast. Nothing is perfect, they try pretty hard to make it that way. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
I have never written a cruise review before because we've never been cruising but I just had to! Please be patient, because we (husband and I) are still so amazed at what took us so long. Just got home from the MS Oosterdam's ... Read More
I have never written a cruise review before because we've never been cruising but I just had to! Please be patient, because we (husband and I) are still so amazed at what took us so long. Just got home from the MS Oosterdam's maiden voyage to Alaska and our first cruise ever. Wow, we're hooked! First, we chose Alaska because we're not hot weather fans. We chose Holland America because we like a more sedate vacation, and our parents like HAL better than the other one they went on (this is their sixth cruise). And we chose the Oosterdam because 1) it starts in Seattle (we live just outside of the city) and 2) it's newer than the Amsterdam, which is also out of Seattle. Plus we wanted to be one of the first out of the block to Alaska. The EMBARKATION process was a little rough. HAL has a new terminal in the middle of the working harbor and I guess they were still getting used to it, this being the opening day of cruise season. It was confusing and the building is like a warehouse with minimal restroom amenities. The check-in staff was not particularly computer-literate and the dim lighting made it worse for them. But they were nice. As Deluxe Verandah Suite (S) passengers, we had our own line and that made it more tolerable. We were able to board the ship in a half hour of arrival at the terminal and went to the Lido Deck and sat out by the pool until our cabins were ready. HAL has a nice early embarkation deal where you can board early and have lunch from the Lido Deck. Evidently, the Oosterdam had been sitting in Seattle for several days prior to this cruise, having been repositioned across the Panama Canal, so everything was sparkling clean, clean, clean! DISEMBARKATION was extremely quick and easy. I think it was another S category per. The SHIP Oosterdam has been reviewed at other websites so I won't go into it. And since this was our first cruise, we had nothing to judge it by. We were very impressed with the subtle colors, the artwork and artifacts and the general condition they constantly maintained. If you can do it, book a DELUXE VERANDAH SUITE (S). It is tres roomy, the dressing room and bathroom have plenty of space, and the balcony is quite large. Lots of storage space, great water pressure in the shower and the amenities are WONDERFUL!!! The flowers, boutonniere and champagne from the Captain and staff, the thick robes, the seven pillows (feather pillows on request), free laundry and pressing, full breakfast, high tea and pre-dinner hot appetizers in your suite, priority tender service to Sitka, preferential reservations for the Pinnacle Grill, the Captain's receptions and oh my, don't miss the Captain's Luncheon toward the end. That was incredible! My husband, Mr. LatteandCookie-Head thought that the endless lattes alone were worth the money. They have a great espresso machine in the Neptune Lounge that is a do-it-yourself specialty coffeemaker. It also makes regular coffee and decaf versions of the specialties. The concierges were great answering questions and making arrangements. The CRUISE to Alaska was incredible! We had sunshine EVERY SINGLE DAY and someone said one day it got up to 70° (in Sitka). The visibility was terrific and we even saw two grizzlies high up on a mountainside near Hubbard Glacier. Lots of tanning (burning?) going on and people were actually in the outdoor pool with the retractable roof open at the glacier. Supposedly May is considered one of the dryer months in Alaska. It was truly magnificent!!! Also unusual, so don't count on it. The FOOD experience overall was not particularly outstanding but it was okay/good. The food in the Vista Dining Room was inconsistent. Some good, some not so good, most came out just warm to cold. The filet mignon a la Oscar on formal night was excellent! On the last night we chose to go to the dining room and I bypassed everything except the salad and then had two entrees. Yikes! But they were both very good. The experience at the Pinnacle Grill was phenomenal. Unfortunately my first rib steak came out overdone so they fell over each other apologizing and bringing out a second whole rib steak with three more warm side orders (yes, I ordered three side dishes). We thought it was worth the $20 since you could have as much or as little as you want of anything. Our STEWARDS were wonderful. And friendly and polite and hard working. We have absolutely no complaints. If he's there, go see the comedian Lee Bayless. He's from Oklahoma, and he had even the very serious Mr. LatteandCookie-Head doubled over. And we really enjoyed the last show which showcased the cruise staff. It was a tearjerker. I want to go on and on but I'm afraid I'm boring you. The gym was great, didn't try the foo-foo spa stuff. Liked our shore excursions (Sitka Bike & Hike was too short but the Mendenhall helicopter ride was DYNO!!!) But I do want to let you know that after all that hard work eating, the magic number is 2lbs. Thank goodness for stretchy fabric. If I can answer any questions, let me know. Now we are believers! WooHoo and Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Ms Oosterdam Alaska May 08 to May 15, 2004 Superior Veranda Suite Cabin 6117. This was our second cruise, our first on Holland America. (Norwegian Sun, Alaska, August 2003). My husband and I had a fabulous time. We are both in our ... Read More
Ms Oosterdam Alaska May 08 to May 15, 2004 Superior Veranda Suite Cabin 6117. This was our second cruise, our first on Holland America. (Norwegian Sun, Alaska, August 2003). My husband and I had a fabulous time. We are both in our mid-30s with no kids. I would choose HAL again for a cruise. Our biggest complaint: the other passengers, not the ship nor the crew. Out of the 1800 passengers on board, 1200 of them were with a group called "Stampin Up." This was a reward cruise and convention for them. From reading other posts, I think this was not the typical HAL clientele. Many of them were rude, but we ignored them and had a great time. We brought our own wine and champagne on board, paying the $10 corkage fee in the Vista Dining Room and the Pinnacle. This was really worth it. We got to drink what we enjoyed at a reasonable price. (It is still cheaper to buy it and pay the corkage fee than to pay for wine on board.) They will not let you bring beer or hard liquor as we purchased Alaskan Brewing Beer in Juneau and had to check it. It was delivered to our room at the end of the cruise. The Pinnacle was delicious! It is worth the $20 per person price. My filet mignon was fabulous and the surf and turf (5 oz filet mignon with lobster tail) is available every day (another delicious entrEe). If you make your reservation through the 1-800 number, it is only $10pp on departure day. It is a much quieter atmosphere, romantic if planning a special evening alone. Vista Dining Room: The food was tasty with a good variety. The table service was good. However, when we went for lunch with friends, the host tried to seat 5 of us at a table for 4, ran off, then we couldn't get any help to find a larger table. On the second formal evening, they did the flaming baked Alaska parade. It was fun to watch. I like it. Lido Buffet: The layout with multiple stations eased crowding. The table clean-up service was too slow and could use improving - especially before and after port stops when it was crowded. They do cook to order omelets for breakfast. This is too slow and the omelets are awful (an exception). Most of the food was good. The ship is well lit and easy to navigate (although the stairwell sign near the front office has the fore and aft arrows pointing the wrong way). The glass elevators mid-ship are much quicker than the central elevators. The quality of the room steward varied. We had horrible service the first two nights (no soap in the bathroom - we had to ask for it), then it improved. We compared notes with friends who had the same style/size room in another part of the ship. They received much better service. We did the fishing excursion in Sitka. If you catch a fish, you can pay to have it processed ($4.50/lb) and shipped home ($2.50/lb) OR pay $7.50 for a Styrofoam lined cardboard box and HAL will freeze it for you on board. The box will fit one king salmon. You just pick up your box on your way off the ship in Seattle. This worked great for us as we are from the Seattle area. You do have to tender off the boat in Sitka. If you are on a HAL excursion, you get priority to tender. We were supposed to tender beginning at 7am, but were delayed by customs/immigration until 8am. There was still a line at 10:30am waiting to tender. The Hubbard Glacier was beautiful. The ship zigzagged back and forth so those on either side would have a good view. We saw sea lions, porpoises, whales and bears from the ship. Beautiful, scenic, awe-inspiring. We also did the Adventure Kart and Jet Boat Expedition in Ketchikan. The jetboat ride is great. It is a big, covered boat as you would expect for sightseeing. We rode the jetboat up to the Adventure Kart site. The karts were great! It is fun zipping along logging roads, taking a few sightseeing breaks. We saw a deer and eagles quite close up. The brochure description is a bit misleading. The jumpsuit is a big rubber jacket and pants. (Very hot as we had good weather.) The snack and beverage is a snickers or granola bar and a bottle of water. We were not given driving gloves as "yours to keep." The ride back to the Oosterdam was on a bus. It was thrilling and fun; I would do it again. HAL headquarters/reservations have a few issues. 1) I ordered flowers sent to a friend on board. They got to the right room, but were addressed to the wrong person. 2) I made a pre-paid reservation for the Pinnacle. I received a card acknowledging the payment for embarkation day, but they lost the reservation and billed my shipboard account for the pre-paid meal. I discovered the mistake upon review of my shipboard account. The front office immediately fixed it. Great service by the front office. 3) I received a letter with my HAL travel documents stating the new tipping policy would go into effect on this cruise. This was not true. The tipping fee was not added to the shipboard account. I fear many employees were stiffed because the guests believed the letter. Overall it was a great experience. I would travel HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
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 ... Read More
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. ENJOY! Sue Z. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This could be a first for the Cruise Critic board- this is a combined report from 2 people who met on the CC board prior to their cruise- met on board and decided to combine reports Prior to boarding ship: Lougee1043 left Portland, ... Read More
This could be a first for the Cruise Critic board- this is a combined report from 2 people who met on the CC board prior to their cruise- met on board and decided to combine reports Prior to boarding ship: Lougee1043 left Portland, Oregon on wed 3/17 on a red eye to Orlando, Florida and then a car ride to our sons new home in Palm Bay to spend a few days with them and the new grandson- who gave us his cold which we didn't discover til after we boarded. My turn! Here goes nothing or something, take your pick. RandyK47 and Mrs. K (aka Carey) traveled to Ft Lauderdale on Saturday, 20 March. We stayed at the Westin as arranged by HAL. Luckily Carey is a member of Westin's preferred visitor club and we were upgraded to a suite for the evening. Smart lady. No wonder I married her! Not a bad way to start a cruise. Might add that the Westin is a bit out of the way and we prefer Pier 66 but HAL actually handled the transfer quite well so no real complaints there. Boarding ship: Lougee1043: We were at the terminal about 11:00 after turning our rental car in - there were about 100 people lined up outside when we got there- met 2 other couples from the cc board before we even got into the building -doors opened at 11:30 and we processed through without incident - it is really helpful if you did your immigration questionnaire online --we had an S class cabin so there was no line in getting our documents for boarding - they now take your pix at that time and it is part of the mag strip on the back of your room key. Were allowed to board almost immediately -- because of the new early boarding procedure there were no escorts to the cabins - I thought that the S class pax would at least be escorted to the Neptune lounge but that didn't happen either - thanks for the HAL web site we did know where it was and we proceeded there - met up with one of the couples we met outside and had some snacks before going up to the lido for lunch- then it was back to the cabin for a little leisure time prior to lifeboat drill and unpacking. RandyK47: We left the Westin about 1:30 PM on the HAL provided transportation. Bus arrived at the terminal at about 2:00 PM. Agree with Lougee1043....have all your documents filled out and HAL will get you on the ship quite quickly. Interestingly we got called to Window 21 which was the day of the sailing, it is my birthday, and our wedding anniversary. All good omens! Check in went quickly and we were on the ship by 2:15 PM and escorted to SS6060. We took a few minutes to look around the cabin and within 15 minutes our steward showed up with our luggage. We unpacked, relaxed and waited for the boat drill. Our cabin: Lougee1043: We were on the Rotterdam deck S7061 and it was an absolutely perfect location -a few feet from the midships elevators and even closer to the Neptune lounge. According to the Brochures the s cabins on the vista ships are smaller then the ones on the S class ships. Actually liked this layout a little better ---the bathroom in our cabin was to the right of the entryway as you come in the door-not through a doorway along side the bed as was on out last cruise- bathroom was more private ---dressing area did not have a sink in it but that didn't seem important---double sinks and the Jacuzzi/tub/shower—in addition there was another shower stall that I used once but it was claustrophobic in size - similar to a toilet on the airplane RandyK47: Our cabin was on the Upper Verandah deck almost amidships. Elevators were close enough but not right on top of us. Maybe by the luck of the draw or maybe by it's placement we found the cabin to be very quiet and rarely heard our neighbors on either side or passage traffic. This was our first time in an SS category cabin. Prior cruises were in mini-suites or full suites. My best estimate is that an SS is a third again as large as a mini-suite and very well arranged. The bathroom is nice with double vanities, a Jacuzzi tub, and a shower. By the way, the shower is a bit of a waste...about the size of a phone booth and not all that comfortable to shower in. Drop the soap in there and you're backing your bare backside half way across the bathroom to pick it up. After one try each we both switched to showering in the tub which worked just fine. Lido: Lougee1043: Didn't eat very often in the Lido because of Jan's not feeling well and what was available across the hall in the Neptune. RandyK43: Carey and I ate breakfast most morning and lunch a couple of times in the Lido. Took a little time to figure out the several stations but once we did it wasn't all that hard to find what we wanted. Only a couple of times were we faced with long lines so getting what we wanted was not a problem. Seems they'd picked up the service in the Lido from previous cruises based on what I've read here but generally we had no problem finding a table. One thing...coffee....hard to get refills from the servers and not very good! Oh well....can't have everything Lifeboat drill: Lougee1043: As usual with some people not attending which tends to delay the whole procedure. RandyK47: About the same as Lougee1043. We were missing one or two couples but they eventually showed up and we got through it. Just one of those cruise things you've got to do. Sail a way party: Lougee1043: Great weather and all couples that had met on the internet showed up for face to face intros and that was nice because we kept running into each other on the ship or ashore RandyK47: Sail away party with Lougee1043 and all the others was great. Fantastic sunset as we cleared the harbor and really started the adventure. Should add that Lougee and I had become pretty good email "friends" over the past month or so and joked about what would happen if we liked one another but the ladies didn't get along. Would have hated to start the cruise with a divorce! Actually, the ladies hit it right off and chatted a lot during the cruise. Dinner-Vista: Lougee1043: No first nite escorts to our tables a steward at the entry kept saying odd numbered table to the left and even numbered tables the right- after blundering around for a few minutes - the big white numbered signs that used to appear on the tables have been replaced with small triangular signs that you cant see unless you are standing right in front of it- we asked a waiter and preceded to lead us off in the wrong direction but a captain came to his rescue and we finally ended up at our table -very nice tablemates - 2 men from boston and a newly wed couple. Service the first nite was extremely slow and we found out that all of our CC couples felt the same way and that included the pinnacle—comment was also made of the lack of warmth from the European staff and after a week with them in the Neptune lounge I had to agree .  Mentioned to our captain Harry about the service and he assured us that it wouldn't happen again - he checked on us several times a nite and the service improved after that our waiter was rachman and the wine steward was Ricardo- we were seated at table 69 - most of the tables at the windows were tables for 8 and most of the 6s were inside that circle - the dress up nites were tues-wed-thur- thought that was a little strange because the last day was a sea day and as I recall that was generally the last formal nite RandyK47: Geez...you'd swear Lougee and I were on the same cruise...wait we were! Yep...no escort. Luckily we had table 71 which is a table for eight in the center and we found it quite quickly. Might note that Lougee and Jan were right next door at table 69. We also had great tables mates who turned into real friends over the next week. Two couples from Canada and a couple from Wisconsin. Ah service....I remember service...from a previous cruise, not this one. Drinks were hard to get, never got a chance for a second, and one night we arrived to find our wine already on the table and opened.....good thing we both wanted the beef dish that night or a good red wine would have been wasted. The food was generally good. A couple of the salads over the week had what my wife called "tired lettuce" but all in all not bad. Never did learn the names of our waiter, busboy or wine steward....didn't see them enough. And for the first time on HAL I only briefly talked to only one of the senior staff in the dining room. At best I'd rate the service as uneven...sometimes acceptable, sometimes slow. Not at all what we expected or had experienced before on HAL. Part 2 Neptune Lounge: Lougee1043: A nice uncrowded hideaway --- always a nice variety of items available depending on the time of day ---Gary and Rachel were of great help if you had a question or needed a last minute excursion ---they seemed to always have the answer and were very efficient. The Europeans just seemed more interested in getting done with their shift with the least effort-- rather then make several trips back and forth from the cabin I asked one of them if there was a tray and was told that there wasn't any ..so I got the basket that the laundry is delivered in and used that -- a while later I suggested to gary that there should be a few trays available and he suggested that I ask the steward for one and I told him that I had and had been informed that there were none-gary disappeared for a second and returned with one - that was the only negative thing that occurred in the Neptune. RandyK47: Not much to say here since we were in a SS category cabin. There have been other threads asking if this category got any specific considerations similar to the S or PS category rooms. The answer is simple....no, at least not things like access to the Neptune Lounge, priority tender passes, or special embarkation/disembarkation privileges. We had robes and personalized stationary. Nice but no big deal. Having been a full suite passenger on previous cruises I'd say it comes down to economics and an individual desire for a large stateroom. Can't say I felt like I missed much but certainly wouldn't have turned an upgrade down if offered. By the way, there were apparently no upgrades, at least at this level, offered on our cruise. There were signs at the check-in that announced that the cruise was sold out and that there would be no upgrades. Half moon cay: Lougee1043: Tendered ashore and we got a ride to our cabana ---we had blue and that was the one that was closest to the tenders -activities - restrooms and the food---we were given a ride to the cabana and when we got there -it was occupied by 6 people that simply wandered in because they got there before we did - the driver asked them to leave and they did so- In our cabin was the cabana acknowledgement and the list we could beverages from - there was also beer on that list that I did not recall seeing on the CC board posts.—there was fresh vegetables and dips as well as fresh fruit -the cabana has a misting shower- a regular shower a/c and a fan—we invited all of the people we met on the cc board to drop in and have a beer or something -so we had company all day and that was really nice- there was no followup from anyone during the day and we really didn't need anyone—some guy came walking up while there were five or 6 of us sitting around and asked it he could use the shower -couldn't think of a diplomatic way to say no ---telling him that we payed for the privilege of having our own shower seemed to be a bit short so I said yes and we all sat around watching this stranger take a shower---wrote down the colors of the other cabanas in order of closeness to all activities but I cant find it -I think orange was next and that pink was somewhere further down the line -----will try to rent one again on the next trip -one of the people that we met on line also booked a cabana and hal screwed up because the cabana was occupied when she got there and everyone's documents were in order- so she left and spoke to the people on board and they refunded her money for the cabana -sent her a bottle of champagne and gave her all the excursions that she wanted to book at the next 3 ports for free ---now that's customer service. RandyK47: Half Moon Cay was beautiful this trip. This is the third time we've been there and really enjoyed ourselves. Have to thank Lougee for a lot of that as we kind of camped out at their cabana for 99% of the time. The company was great and we enjoyed getting to know Lou and Jan better. Sea day: Lougee1043: Passed uneventfully except for both of us to go down and see the doctor who prescribed some antibiotics RandyK47: A very nice sea day spent mostly relaxing at the aft pool chatting with new friends. Room service: Lougee1043: Jan had dinner in the room 3 nites in a row in order to be as well rested for the shore days-every meal delivered either had something missing or on one occasion was delivered with 2 different entrees and then another order showed up about 30 minutes later ---anything that was missing was promptly replaced -one nite the order was delivered and the waiter said he didn't bring the dessert because he didn't want it to melt-asked when he should deliver it and he showed up on time with a dessert that had not started melting --- thought that was service above and beyond RandyK47: We used room service for early breakfast every morning....really my wife's required coffee transfusion each morning. Simply mark on a card what you want the next morning, the time you want it and hang it the outside door. Just make sure you mark exactly what you want and how many of each. One morning I marked a "2" for breakfast rolls, assuming that since the bottom of the form asks how many people in the cabin and I'd marked 2 I'd get a total of 4....wrong....got 2. Anyhow, other than my mistake that one morning everything was delivered as requested at the time requested. Good service Part 3 Neptune Lounge: Lougee1043: A nice uncrowded hideaway --- always a nice variety of items available depending on the time of day ---gary and Rachel were of great help if you had a question or needed a last minute excursion ---they seemed to always have the answer and were very efficient. Imo the Europeans just seemed more interested in getting done with their shift with the least effort-- rather then make several trips back and forth from the cabin I asked one of them if there was a tray and was told that there wasn't any ..so I got the basket that the laundry is delivered in and used that -- a while later I suggested to gary that there should be a few trays available and he suggested that I ask the steward for one and I told him that I had and had been informed that there were none--Gary disappeared for a second and returned with one - that was the only negative thing that occurred in the Neptune. RandyK47: Not much to say here since we were in a SS category cabin. There have been other threads asking if this category got any specific considerations similar to the S or PS category rooms. The answer is simple....no, at least not things like access to the Neptune Lounge, priority tender passes, or special embarkation/disembarkation privileges. We had robes and personalized stationary. Nice but no big deal. Having been a full suite passenger on previous cruises I'd say it comes down to economics and an individual desire for a large stateroom. Can't say I felt like I missed much but certainly wouldn't have turned an upgrade down if offered. By the way, there were apparently no upgrades, at least at this level, offered on our cruise. There were signs at the check-in that announced that the cruise was sold out and that there would be no upgrades. Half moon cay: Lougee1043: Tendered ashore and we got a ride to our cabana ---we had blue and that was the one that was closest to the tenders -activities - restrooms and the food---we were given a ride to the cabana and when we got there -it was occupied by 6 people that simply wandered in because they got there before we did - the driver asked them to leave and they did so- In our cabin was the cabana acknowledgement and the list we could beverages from - there was also beer on that list that I did not recall seeing on the CC board posts.—there was fresh vegetables and dips as well as fresh fruit -the cabana has a misting shower- a regular shower a/c and a fan—we invited all of the people we met on the cc board to drop in and have a beer or something -so we had company all day and that was really nice- there was no followup from anyone during the day and we really didn't need anyone—some guy came walking up while there were five or 6 of us sitting around and asked it he could use the shower -couldn't think of a diplomatic way to say no ---telling him that we payed for the privilege of having our own shower seemed to be a bit short so I said yes and we all sat around watching this stranger take a shower---wrote down the colors of the other cabanas in order of closeness to all activities but I cant find it -I think orange was next and that pink was somewhere further down the line -----will try to rent one again on the next trip -one of the people that we met on line also booked a cabana and hal screwed up because the cabana was occupied when she got there and everyone's documents were in order- so she left and spoke to the people on board and they refunded her money for the cabana -sent her a bottle of champagne and gave her all the excursions that she wanted to book at the next 3 ports for free ---now that's customer service. RandyK47: Half Moon Cay was beautiful this trip. This is the third time we've been there and really enjoyed ourselves. Have to thank Lougee for a lot of that as we kind of camped out at their cabana for 99% of the time. The company was great and we enjoyed getting to know Lou and Jan better. Sea day: Lougee1043: Passed uneventfully except for both of us to go down and see the doctor who prescribed some antibiotics RandyK47: A very nice sea day spent mostly relaxing at the aft pool chatting with new friends. Room service: Lougee1043: Jan had dinner in the room 3 nites in a row in order to be as well rested for the shore days-every meal delivered either had something missing or on one occasion was delivered with 2 different entrees and then another order showed up about 30 minutes later ---anything that was missing was promptly replaced -one nite the order was delivered and the waiter said he didn't bring the dessert because he didn't want it to melt-asked when he should deliver it and he showed up on time with a dessert that had not started melting --- thought that was service above and beyond. RandyK47: We used room service for early breakfast every morning....really my wife's required coffee transfusion each morning. Simply mark on a card what you want the next morning, the time you want it and hang it the outside door. Just make sure you mark exactly what you want and how many of each. One morning I marked a "2" for breakfast rolls, assuming that since the bottom of the form asks how many people in the cabin and I'd marked 2 I'd get a total of 4....wrong....got 2. Anyhow, other than my mistake that one morning everything was delivered as requested at the time requested. Good service. Part 3 Ocho Rios -Jamaica Lougee1043: Took a bumpy bus ride of over an hour to Marthas Bay for the raft ride down river- very relaxing , peaceful and most enjoyable - toward the end of the ride the raft captain tried to sell us some hand carved gourds- we expressed no interest in buying any and he simply put them away---none of the pushiness that I have read about at dunns falls or in the markets-----this was our least favorite of the 3 stops. RandyK47: This was a great stop. The ship tied up at the old Reynolds Pier so no tender ride. Carey and I did the swim with the dolphins and Dunn's River Falls climb in a combined shore excursion package. First of all, the swim with the dolphin was incredible. We got Calypso as our dolphin. You break up into groups and there were about 8 of us. It was still fairly early in the morning so climbing into the ocean was a bit of an adventure but the thrill of being in the water with a dolphin made us quickly forget that. You do have to wear a life vest (like a water skier's) so keeping afloat is not a problem. There was a bit of a current in the little enclosed bay so you did have to swim enough to hold your position. Spend about 30 minutes in the water with Calypso and got to touch her a couple of times and got a dolphin "kiss". They take the pictures and won't let cameras in with the dolphins but that's partly because of safety and partly (obviously) because they want to sell you the pictures. It was well, well worth it and one of our best moments and memories of the cruise. Highly recommend it. From there we went to Dunn's River Falls. Got hooked up with a group and a guide and off we went. Since we signed up over the internet we knew what we were in for and had brought our own water shoes. You can rent or buy water shoes at Dunn's River so you don't have to bring your own. Tennis shoes really aren't a good option because they'll probably get ruined and are pretty heavy once they get wet. The climb was fun but extremely crowded. We made it the whole 900 feet, partly because we were motivated and partly because we moved fairly slowly so we really didn't get tired. While not as much fun as the dolphin we're glad we did it. From there we caught a shuttle back to town and headed for Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Very load but lots of fun. Had a couple of their margaritas and infamous cheeseburgers. Wow.....what a margarita! Easily walked back to the ship and boarded. Want to add here that HAL gives you a plastic ID card, like a credit card, and you use that to get off and on the ship. It works pretty slick and we never had any problem getting back on the ship at any stop. Grand Cayman: Lougee1043: Our major excursion--swimming with the stingrays was cancelled because of rough seas-we chose not to go to the turtle farm or hell based on comments made on this board -after talking with people who took the trip to hell I concluded that we made the right decision to pass that excursion up-walked through town and did a little shopping but generally took it easy--small world - saw the courtesy clerk from our local safeway walking up the street with her husband. RandyK47: No excursion here for us. This was our shopping port and that's what we did. I know for sure my wife had lots and lots and LOTS of fun here. This was a tender port and a rough day but got through it with no problem. Oh....this port can get really crowded. I counted 4 other major boats at anchor that day. They had to have dumped 8,000 to 10,000 people in the town. Add that to the other tourist and locals and it was a bit busy. Cozumel - Mexico: Lougee1043: Very busy day in port- we were docked at the pier closest to the center of town - there were 6 or 7 ships in at the same time so it was a bit crowded---decided at the last minute to try and join the taste of cozumel and folkloric show- with a little help from the Neptune lounge we made it - the dance show is in a theatre located on the 2nd floor of a diamond mall ----very very interesting show, music and costumes - if you want to appreciate the diversity of the Mexican people their dance and music is a good way to experience it --- free drinks after the show and then a bus tour around the island - had a young interesting guide and it was and enjoyable 4hours --- had lunch at panchos backyard - cool and shady with excellent drinks and good food- my son wanted me to bring him a bottle of "real tequila" with a worm in it - after a bit of research I learned that worms come in bottles of mescal- a slightly stronger drink then tequila - found one called mr. Scorpion ----no worm just a scorpion - hope that will be "real enough" for him - the bottle of liquor was taken when we reboarded the ship - was given a receipt and the liquor was returned to my cabin the following afternoon. RandyK47: This port was our other shore excursion adventure. Because of my interest in Egypt my wife thought I'd like to see Mayan ruins. She was right so we took the Tulum Mayan ruin tour. This tour is long, like the better part of 8 plus hours. Requires that you take a water taxi off the island to mainland Mexico. The ride is about 45 minutes and it was not a calm day. Thank goodness we'd gotten used to a little of that during the cruise however, not everybody was so lucky and we had at least one couple and their children who dropped out of the tour because the husband had gotten so sick on the way over. I have no idea how he got back and I didn't run into him during the rest of the cruise to see how he was doing. Last I saw him he had that "please shot me" green look so the bus ride to Tulum wasn't a good idea. Anyhow, Tulum is another 45 minutes or so away by bus. Great tour at the ruins with a guide. Had a small Subway sandwich, chips, and drink as part of the tour as there wasn't much time for a stop for food. After the ruins it was back on the bus and then the water taxi. Had about 45 minutes to kill before the water taxi ride so it was off to Senor Frog's for another margarita....hmm...I see a pattern here. Since we were in Cozumel until 11 PM we decided to eat in town near the ship and we tried Senior Frog's on that side. A bit noisy and active but kind of fun and they had great margaritas! Only port we bought liquor in and that was taken away from us when we boarded the ship and return Saturday night before disembarkation. Part 4 Ship: Lougee1043: My wife, the interior decorator, approved of all of the colors, appointments etc of the ship and I as a dutiful husband agree. I thought that the ships layout was familiar and a bit confusing at the same time- more twists and turns in certain areas of the ship- imo the shopping arcade was like a rats maze- I always buy a ships T-shirt in blue or gray with strips that has the name of the ship and a small hal logo on it ----not stocked-replaced with what I considered inadequate replacements- oh well that's just me----also thought that the variety of items available were less then was I saw in the past. RandyK47: The ship was beautiful and in great condition but, of course, it was only 6-7 months "old". Carey and I have to agree with Lou, while familiar from our previous HAL cruises, it was a bit confusing. The shops were not well designed or laid out. Finding your way at times could be confusing as they added variety by adding the twists and turns Lou mentioned. After almost half of the cruise we kind of figured it out. Lougee1043: Personally didn't like the layout of the casino- on the s ships the slots are more toward one end of the casino with the other games at the other end- on this ship the table games are in the center of the ring and are surrounded with slots - thought the casino was a lot nosier then in the past and the ventilation system left a lot to be desired as the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming - you could smell it before you actually entered the casino ----also our favorite game of open face blackjack was only available on one evening- so we left less money behind then we usually do and maybe that was a good thing RandyK47: Darn it Lou....you type first and then I feel like a parrot! OK, OK...Lou is right on here. The casino is not the best layout. Really like the "S" class layout better. However, the staff was friendly and it wasn't a bad place to play table games or throw money at the slot machines. We didn't play as much as we had on previous trips so we didn't WIN as much. (Take that Lou!) Actually, the last night of the cruise we stopped in to break some larger bills for tips. Carey went to a quarter machine and I hit one of the dollar slots. In ten minutes time we both hit for more than enough to play all the tips we planned to hand out. Lougee1043: Attended less of the shows then usual-- the show "escape" was in my opinion the one of the best revue shows if not the best that I have seen ----the back portion of the main show floor seats have limited visibility because of the sloping seating area -the support columns and the overhanging from the balcony seating RandyK47: We couldn't attend less than we normally do because we don't go to the shows and stayed with that tradition this time. In other words, no comment. Suites: Lougee1043: Imo its like first class air travel over priced but nice if you want to spring for the bucks- we have and will continue to do it in the future because Jan likes the extra space- On the last nite all luggage have to be in the hallway by one am -as a suite pax we don't have to put our luggage out til 5am--- since I didn't plan to stay up that late just to take advantage of this benefit I put our stuff out the same time as everyone else. RandyK47: We opted for an SS category cabin as the brochure and web made it look pretty nice. It was a great cabin and we were very comfortable. I could easily see taking a longer cruise in this "suite" without the slightest problem. The veranda was a nice size with two cushioned chairs and ottomans and a table with a couple of chairs. We could both be out on the verandah at the same time and not have to do any gymnastics to get around or pass one another. Miscellaneous Observations: Lougee1043: Overall it was an excellent cruise and I appreciated the experience of the vista ship - I think that in the future where I have a choice of ships I will choose an s class over a vista but I would not even consider canceling a cruise because a vista was the only ship available RandyK43: There you go again Lou! Yes, it was an excellent cruise. Certainly the Vista class ships are very nice. However, like that other person, Carey and I prefer the smaller "S" class ships. Would we cruise on a "V" class again? Absolutely. Debarking: Lougee1043: We hung out in the Neptune lounge after breakfast because they wanted the rooms cleared by 8 am-only time we saw the Neptune lounge standing room only- everyone had to be off the ship by 10am- we took a cab to the fll airport and sat around til our 2pm departure which left late - had about 30 min to make a plane change in Chicago and then the plane took off 90 min late because of a rain storm--- all planes were fully loaded and food is now being sold on them----arrived in Portland about 45 min late and completely shot RandyK47: We actually were allowed, in fact, encouraged to stay in our cabin. After breakfast we went back to our room and just relaxed for an hour talking about what a great time we'd had. It was nice to have the quiet time together to soak in the last few minutes of a great time. Because HAL had us on a fairly early flight we didn't really wait that long. Getting off the ship, finding our baggage, and getting transported to the airport went very well. The airline was well organized with a separate setup for cruise customers. All of our tickets and luggage tags were preprinted and waiting for us. Couldn't have taken 5 minutes to check in! From there on out the flights were on time and we arrived back in San Antonio at 4:30 PM. NEGATIVE COMMENT Lougee1043: I found out today that my broker sent me an email on wed 3/23 that was NEVER delivered to my cabin - have written to HAL and am waiting for a response. RandyK47: Gosh Lou....I didn't get an email from my broker either....of course I don't have one so maybe that's the problem. Doubt HAL would help me out there. OK...my biggest complaint is the slippage in service on HAL. Having not been on a cruise for several years we really noticed it. In talking to our room steward we got some idea why it had slipped. He said he'd gone from having to take care of 9 rooms to 12 in the SS category. When he worked the mini-suites they gave him 17 instead of the previous 12. A little math and that sounds like a 30% cut in staff. It shows!!! Our room steward apologized and said he liked to spend a lot more time with his guests but just couldn't. INTERESTING COMMENT Lougee1043: There were 6 couples that met on the cruise boards and 2 of them split the snowball jackpot by winning within 50 numbers - 2 people completing the board within 50 numbers imagine that RandyK47: Made eight, great new friends on this trip and we're already planning to maybe cruise with several of them again. Cruising is so great!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
The ship is really great. Plenty of space we never felt crowded. The Delux Veranda Suite is well worth the money both in form of space, and the veranda outside which was huge. We had 2 lounge chairs, two chairs with ottomans, and a round ... Read More
The ship is really great. Plenty of space we never felt crowded. The Delux Veranda Suite is well worth the money both in form of space, and the veranda outside which was huge. We had 2 lounge chairs, two chairs with ottomans, and a round dinning table with 4 chairs, and plenty of room in between them. We could order off the dinner menu and eat on our veranda. The room had huge closet space with a CD player, DVD player and nice size TV. We were provided bath robes, the suite include pressing, laundry, and dry cleaning services at no charge, which I wished I knew before we packed. The food in the Pinacle room was excellent and worth the upcharge of $20 each, but so was the dinning room food. We had room service every morning on our veranda from room service which was great, or as suite guests we could go to the Pinacle room for breakfast. AT 5:00 each day we had both hot and cold appetizers delivered to our room (high tea) but we always skipped the tea. They were really nice. I had only been on one cruise before and it took 15 years to get me to try another. I lost 10 pounds on my first cruise because the food was not edible, I tried to control my eating on this one but still gained, the food was really very good. I would highly recommend the extra money for the Delux Veranda Suite because it made the whole cruise worth it. On the subject of bringing liquor on board, if it is you carry on they take it a deliver it to your room on the last night of the cruise. My suggestion is pack it in you luggage if you want a bottle in your room. When your in the delux Veranda Suite your treated like a king everything is special even you embarkation is treated special, you get priority passes for exclusion departures. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
My husband and I just returned from the Oosterdam and found it to be the best cruise we've ever been on. We've cruised with RCCL, Disney and Premier and found HAL top notch in every way. We read many reviews on this ship both ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the Oosterdam and found it to be the best cruise we've ever been on. We've cruised with RCCL, Disney and Premier and found HAL top notch in every way. We read many reviews on this ship both positive and negative and decided to give it a try. We booked directly through HAL at the last minute and got a terrific deal on an outside cabin with obstructed view. They told us picture window but to our surprise it had floor-to-ceiling windows which was wonderful. We were really surprised at this. The cabin was spacious with lots of shelves for everything. I loved the tub in the bathroom as most ships do not have this. The bathroom itself was plenty big to move around. We can't say enough about the ship and its staff - wonderful, sweet people. The age group did not matter to us. We are in our late 40s with no children and did not seem out of place in any way. Since we like to go casual - we only used the Vista dining room for two breakfasts and found it beautiful. Everything well presented. All other meals we ate at the Lido which has a great set up with all the different food stations. Never any lines and a great variety. We especially liked the many nooks and crannies of this ship - lots of places to relax and plenty of room and chairs at the pools. Great things to do during the daytime like digital camera classes, yoga classes, massage classes for couples. We especially liked the many games like team trivia, Boggle, etc. The ports of call were fine with us. We never have been to Jamaica and booked a private guide and enjoyed this island and it's people very much. We saw the "real Jamaica" and found it the best port of call. Grand Cayman lovely with mostly shopping. In Cozumel we decided to visit an all-inclusve resort for the day at just $35 per person at the Allegro Cozumel. This was a wonderful deal. A short taxi ride from the pier. All drinks included alcoholic an non-alcoholic, food and use of all non-motorized beach equipment. My husband had a great time snorkeling and saw many exotic fish. I enjoyed just relaxing under the tiki hut on the beach and reading. Great place wonderful staff. The Guest Relations Manager greeted us at the door as I had Emailed him prior to our arrival. It was wonderful and he treated us so well. Later on we enjoyed the shopping in Cozumel - the farther back we walked - the better the prices by far. All in all wonderful cruise with HAL - we are anxious to go back. We can't find anything negative at all to say about this cruise or its hard-working staff. Also - the Spa is heaven! Give HAL a try, you won't be disappointed. Read Less
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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