A week off the Oosterdam and thought I should finally write my first review/story, since I read a lot of other people's experiences. Firstly, we are a family of three, early fifties with a teenage daughter who will be attending ... Read More
A week off the Oosterdam and thought I should finally write my first review/story, since I read a lot of other people's experiences. Firstly, we are a family of three, early fifties with a teenage daughter who will be attending University this fall. This would be our 6th cruise as a family, 7th for the Wife and I, 3 with Princess, 2 with Norweign and 2 with Holland America. We don't expect a lot on our trips, just good food and clean surroundings.
We flew in a day earlier and stayed at the Hilton Marina Hotel. This is our second time there and will be the last only because it is not worth the money. We left the room around noon, cab fair was six bucks each plus the bag guys at the dock we were generous and spent 25.00 bucks already. Holiday spirit I guess. Embarkation was incredible as usual with HA. Line up for check in wasn't too long. We dropped bags in our room, headed for lunch at lido. It was exactly 1:18 when we sat down with food and drink. One hour and eighteen minutes from hotel to Holiday I think is fast.....and away we go.
We pre-booked a clam shell which we could not do without. Very hot first day. I proped the back of it up with a rock to get a bit of airflow. The one we had was set up on a sand/rock ledge so you could see over the chairs in front. Clam shells are first come when you get to the beach. Find a yellow shirt and give them you ticket. Facing the ocean, the ones on the right are in a single row, go left, one behind each other and further from the water so get there early. Beach is beautiful and clean. Another HA ship was also there but the beach didn't seem crowded. Lunch was very good. The only complaint, which will probably be posted several times was the smoke from the BBQ.
There were times it was so thick you couldn't see, eyes watering, it was terrible for everyone standing in the line. You just have to laugh about it, nothing they could do. Watching everyone leaving with tears in their eyes, running down there cheeks, you would have thought we were at a funeral. I love holiday's:)We have the all inclusive drink package, 15 drinks a day under 8 bucks which covers beer and mixed drinks. Didn't work on the island. Had to charge to the room. I'll wait to see if they are on our bill at the end.
Started off doing some shopping at the port and then lunch at Margaritaville. We just ordered some nachos and drinks. Didn't stay long though. I can't stand country music, especially in the Caribbean. Headed down the beach to Jack's. The girls found lots of sea glass on the way, mostly dark but some yellow and blue. When we arrived at Jacks we were greeted by his famous dog and then Jack himself. Jacks dog searches for sand crabs so when he starts diggin don't get behind him. Sand flies everywhere. Great entertainment. We spent the afternoon here then stopped back at the shops to get some snacks; small selection on ship; before boarding.
I wanted to go back to the beach on the mainland, just outside the town but I was outnumbered and it was decided we would pay the 45 bucks each and go to Cayo Lavendato instead. Great people here. Chairs are free but there was an older guy who would clean them and set them up for you. Gave him 10 bucks. He immediately thanked me and ran to get the beachtender who would get our drinks and food. For 10 bucks these two guys gave us great service, with huge smiles, stories and jokes that made our day. Beach time was only three hours as we were told to meet the tender at 2:30 to return tho the ship. We spent the rest of the day by the pool as we departed.
First full day at sea was pretty quiet. Breakfast, lounge chair, lunch, lounge chair and drinks, pool then more drinks. Time flies when ur hav'in rum.
I can't or maybe won't comment on the food. I have never thought the food was anything special on any cruise. It's not bad or anything like that It's just buffet style stuff, quantity. Even the main dining room, food is good, but not "wow was that good" kinda food. That being said we will be dining at the Pinnacle on the next sea day so we'll see.
I reserved a truck so we could do our own tour. I would advise against renting a golf cart to do this. Very very hot and it's far enough to travel. Tried to book through some of the businesses mentioned here but were either not available or wanted 3 day day rental. I ended up reserving through Budget, which is at the airport. Booked with Vanessa for 69.00 fully insured with no credit card required. They picked us up at the pier and brought us to the airport where we filled in the paperwork and off we went. Headed straight south to see the salt, slave huts, lighthouse. We saw a total of 3 flamingo's. Not many but they were really close. There is security where you stop to look at the salt so don't bother trying get over to the piles. If you walk under the conveyer system you can find pieces there. Local fella says 90% of the salt is shipped to Florida and is made into water softener salt, not road salt. The remaining is used locally. We then followed the road around to Sorobon Beach. Not much to see between the Lighthouse and the beach, six wild donkeys,very rugged along the coast. Had lunch at Jibe City. Very good salads and chicken. It was fun watching the wind surfers while enjoying our lunch. Next stop was the Donkey Sanctuary. We were greeted by a very nice young lady who explained the reasoning behind the sanctuary and quickly charged us 6 bucks each to drive through and feed the "sad faced" donkeys some carrots at 3 dollars per bag. Sounds fun doesn't it. So camera at the ready we proceeded into the reserve. Oh, we were told to keep the windows down as the donkeys might get hurt because they can't see the glass, something like that. We crossed a little bridge like thing and then it began. Donkeys everywhere and they all wanted carrots. Picture driving through a herd of cows that were starving. Two sometimes three heads through each window and I mean into the truck. Remember these vehicles are small. Could barely move with donkeys everywhere around the vehicle. Couldn't go around them, large stones on either side, could barely weave my way through them. Sound like fun? This went on for about 500 meters. Finally there was a brake and I sped up to get away. Big mistake, they ran beside the truck, head still in window. Bent mirrors in, donkey slober everywhere. There was a bang at the back of the truck, no I didn't run over one although it's amazing I didn't. Way to aggressive to call it fun. We made it to the far end of the park, donkeys in tow, no carrots left. I swear they had a plan. A few would stand in the middle of the road and make you stop while the other fifty surrounded you. As we rounded the corner for the home stretch everything calmed down. Put her in second gear and let's get out while we can.We stopped outside the main donkey part to see them feed two baby donkeys. The youngest was rescued when the mother was hit by a car.
Was it fun, sure, after the fact. I would recommend getting full insurance and if something does happen don't tell the rental agency where you were because it probably won't be covered. When we mentioned our experience to the locals, they were upset and were actually petitioning for the closer of the "Donkey Prison".
Back on the road we headed to Rincon to get some rum. Beautiful drive, lots of cactus and iguanas along the way. We arrived at the Cadushy distillery and were quickly welcomed and treated to some samples. Very tasty and unique. The process of extracting the alcohol from the cactus was explained then back for more samples, rum this time. This is a small place, very personnel and accommodating. They don't cater to tours or tour busses. In the past they felt like a free drink and washroom break stop, not for what they really are. If you enjoy liqueurs, rum or whiskey, this is a must. We bought a small selection of the liqueurs and a bottle of there private 5 yr aged rum which Eric was kind enough to personally sign for me. Mission complete, we headed back to town. Quick note, you can't travel along the coast, heading south from Rincon,one way only, so we had to back track the way we came. Dropped truck back at airport around 2:30. Cost of vehicle was around 69.00 with insurance, gas was 5.00, left airport at around 9:30. Pretty cheap self guided tour. Then drove us back to town. Remember the bang I herd, no dent just scuff marks at the back of the truck. Budget let it go. Whey!
Had a bite at Karl's on the water, decent food, slow service, nothing special. Did some shopping, some nice shops and vendors then headed back to ship. Fantastic Day.
Shopping day. Promised the Mrs. Wandered around Punda for the morning took pics at the Dushi and the Curacao sign, then back across the bridge to the Steak and Ribs at the Riff Fort. We have been here before and were looking forward to the crab salad here which is delicious. Lunch and drinks complete we shopped around then headed back to ship around 4.
We had reserved a table at Scampis for supper and arrived at 6:30 to eat and watch the sun set. Very nice setting with decent food. Service was excellent. Dinner complete we headed back past the Casino/ Hotel on the point and as we turned the corner there it was. Queen Emma bridge, neon lights, ship in background, simply beautiful. Got some pics and hung around for a while before heading back to ship around 9.
Last port. We planned on a bit of beach time and some shopping but it turned out to be National Flag Day. A local lady greeted us and welcomed us to her beautiful island. She encouraged us to explore the island and see all the natural beauty. We agreed with her and mentioned that we had visited previously and agreed her island was indeed beautiful. Most stores were closed except the ones on the main drag, and the vendor market. Good thing for us. There was a parade. I don't mean just any kind of parade either. Hundreds and hundreds of people, kids, marching bands,Boy and Girl Scouts, swimming club, cars, motorcycles. Absolutely beautiful. I think we stood in the sun for well over an hour and a half watching all this. Every kid on the island had to be in this parade. There were folks from Curacao and Bonaire in the parade. That changed the day pretty quick. We had lunch at Mojitos, poor food poor service, maybe because it was a holiday and everything was supposed to be closed. Did a bit of shopping before heading back, 4:30 departure today. Met the same lady when we left and I mentioned to her that all of her island beauty was downtown today. She smiled and very proudly mentioned she had grandkids in the parade. Told us we were welcome to come back anytime. Enough said.
Sea Day 2&3
Nothing much to tell. Lounged around, played bingo and relaxed. Deck 3 is my favourite. Shade, old time loungers and you can see everything, no glass, tankers, other cruise ships, some private vessels and even some whales.Dinner at the pinnacle grill. Filet Mingon, lobster, crab legs, ceasre salad, shrimp cocktail, all excellent. Should eat here every night. Impeccable service. Each course was served to each of us at the exact same time. Salad prepared at the table. Lettuce was tossed, amount of dressing at your discretion, then placed on the plate. Croutons were individually placed around the outside of the plate. I do mean placed, each piece of the salad. Impressed the heck out of my daughter. Well worth the extra dollars. Lasted two hours.
Disembarkation was a breeze. There was a line up but of no significance. We stayed another day at the Westin Beach Resort, thinking we could have another beach day. Nope, very cold today.
All in all this was another great cruise for us. Ship was clean, staff friendly and always greeted you with smiles. Islands felt safe and people were friendly. The ship was not noisy with no vibrations to speak of. We were on deck 6 forward.I don't know about worn carpets because I don't walk with my head down or did I notice fading paint on the walls or ceiling as I don't walk with my nose in the air either. If the ship is getting old and a bit ragged, it really doesn't concern us. Good food, cleanliness, safe ports are more important.
The majority of the cruisers were older, some elderly which would frustrate some people with their slower pace and inability to figure out the ice machine, hand wash thing, elevators. Too bad actually because we should all be going their speed.
It is a holiday after all... Read Less