491 Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews

For longer than I can recall, I've wanted to honor a long time friend. So for his 79th birthday, I invited him to sail to Alaska. Wanting to celebrate the birthday while on board, I looked at the last weekend in July for a departure. ... Read More
For longer than I can recall, I've wanted to honor a long time friend. So for his 79th birthday, I invited him to sail to Alaska. Wanting to celebrate the birthday while on board, I looked at the last weekend in July for a departure. There were several from the west coast, I began the search back in late December 2012 and was close to booking on Norwegian when I read a review here on Cruise Critic with the headline saying something like "I would NEVER go on HAL". In reading this I learned that it was due to his being s student as was his sister. This lead me to an understanding of a mature cruisers oriented ship. Called HAL and began to build the journey. Choose the Oosterdam leaving on a 7 day Seattle round trip on July 28th. I originally booked a veranda cabin (5032). Two months out, the price for a SS category superior suite dropped to what I'd paid, when I called about this, I was immediately offered the upgrade, the final room assignment wasn't set until two weeks before departure. It was a big special weekend in Seattle so the hotel prices were up there for the night before stay. HAL suggested I stay at the Sheraton which was convenient ad the room was standard. The next morning we took a cab to the pier, bags were given to a porter, lots of hellos and smiles, ship card given and id photo taken, brief wait for those having their formal photos, and then on board. From hotel to pier to cabin (which was ready) took about 45 minutes. Cabin was clean with lots of space. We went to lunch in the Lido which was already really full with folks who either regular cruisers or folks waiting for their cabins. As expected, there were lots of options.To summarize the next week on board, we had sunshine every day, no rain, temperature in the high 60s. Alaska was magnificent. Ships crew went out of their way to be helpful,We had room service breakfast most mornings which was delivered on time each day, once there was no salt or pepper - but that's the only flaw. Had two lunches in the Main Dining room, food was good to very good. Enjoyed the mixed seating. Dinners were either in the Pinnacle or Canaletto. Pinnacle food was superb, though the "special"Le Cirque night was a bit over rated. Great wine steward, Ronald, who made excellent suggestions. Ani and Ricky were the stewards and took great care of use remembering preferences, names, etc. neCanaletto was fun and the Italian food was spot on. Alex and Ian made sure that everything was right. The stateroom ninjas kept the cabin spotless and checked regularly if we needed/wanted anything. Cruising was smooth. Negatives: the showroom entertainment was bland or tacky. The HAL Cats band was fun, the classical piano and violin duo was excellent though the violinist tended to look bored. Piano bar was always crowded and was usually fun. The fitness center is less than exciting and always seemed disorganized. The only fresh equipment were the treadmills which would have had a great view of the ocean except for the televisions stuck on top blocking the view. Limited weights which were always disorganized. Staff was too busy selling classes to help adjust a weight bench. So two complaints, lots of praise I chose the option to have my bags picked up and send directly to my final destination (SFO). It made disembarkation very smooth, I was at the airport and through the HAL expedited security in less than an hour. When I got to SFO my bag was the fifth one shot out of the conveyor. Great trip, relaxing, five pound weight gain, fantastic views and lots of whales. Looking forward to my next HAL trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
ALASKAN EXPERIENCE: I have a fair amount of ocean water under my keel on a variety of ships and to assorted destinations. For years I was totally indifferent about cruising Alaska. I just completed a 7 day Inside Passage RT Seattle on ... Read More
ALASKAN EXPERIENCE: I have a fair amount of ocean water under my keel on a variety of ships and to assorted destinations. For years I was totally indifferent about cruising Alaska. I just completed a 7 day Inside Passage RT Seattle on HAL's Oosterdam and can honestly say that I've joined the legions of Alaska cruise boosters. I'll not belabor the point about the grand scale and beauty of AK and its wildlfe. Suffice to say nohing in my previous travels ( including Norway)gave me the same sense of awe. I plan to revisit soon....perhaps a Cruise, Cruise Tour, Rail or some combination. The Alaska experience should not be missed by any thinking traveler. SUMMARY: A great trip that I waited too long to take. Holland America delivered a perfectly orchestrated cruise....but I came home with unfulfilled expectations. More about that below. A FEW NOTES ON NON-PORT PLACES: SEATLE: Flew in early and spent 3 days in SEATTLE. Most fortunate to catch 3 days of perfect, drizzle free, warm weather. stayed at the Mediteranean Inn on Queen Ann St.....a completely adequate 3 star travelers hotel in a center city location with near by restaurants and attractions.One quirk is that A/C costs extra.Not usually a big requirement in Seattle, but we caught temps in the 80's and regreted not having it. Don't miss a meal right up the street at the Mecca Cafe. No ,it's not a middle eastern buffet. Open 24 hours a day it's a classic American basic food bar/restaurant/hang out. Great meat loaf, pot roast,burgers, etc. If it hasn't been featured on the TV series "Diners, Dives amd Drive Ins" it should be. The packaged tour of Boeing is not good value. The factory tour is fine, but the majority of the 3 hour package is spent on a bus. Better to gather a few friends and rent or hire a cab and stay as long as you want at $25 instead of $60+ tour. Re: City Tours. The value and quality of any City Tour is always a function of the skill and personality of the tour guide....basically a shot in the dark. That's were honest reviews by prevous customers are valuable. We hit the jackpot with "David" from Customized Tours The chemistry was so good with our driver David that we took him to dinner at an excellent out of the way Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo he sugessted. Ask for Brooke as your waitress. Our 3 hour basic tour expanded to 8+ hours...with door to door delivery. Request David Tyler as your guide and you'l see and learn a lot of Seattle. FOOTNOTE FOR SMOKERS: We smokers have had to accept the slings and arrows, abusive behavior and condenscending insults from the pious reformed puffers. BEWARE...Seattle is not just aggresively non smoking....it's actually hostile and dangerous to the mental and physical health of smokers. For a City that takes pride in being gay, cannibus and hippie/biker friendly the locals will actually verbally assault anyone caught smoking anywhere. I witnessed my travel partner yelled at by a citizen at the smokers penalty box who ended his tirade with " I hope you die soon so yo'll stop poisoning our air !" This in a city that has designated one city park where it is legal to smoke pot, but illegal ($103 fine)to fire up a Marlboro. Welcome to Seattle. This is absolutely true. TRACEY ARM FJORD: Not a port call, but amazing and outstanding. Not all cruise lines have permisson to enter and/or the mega ships won't fit. It is so special that I would not book an Alaska trip that didn't go there. Picture continuously narrowing waterway between granite cliffs and tree covered mountains. Add complete silence and totally untouched terrain. Mix in the occasionl bear, eagle,et al. Now start dodging ice bergs until you come to the dead end whch is an active glacier. Turn the ship around and get another 3-4 hours in reverse. EMBARKATION AND GETTING OFF: Pier 91 is a modern facility shared by HAL and Princess.We boarded in 30-40 minutes... very smooth and efficient.Some others US ports should take note. THE STATEROOM: WOW! HAL had upgrded us to one of the largest Neptune Suites at the stern....700 sq ft. Thank you Holand America for recognizing a long time customer and fan. More closets than we could use, a separate dressing area for the lady,enormous bath, aft facing balcony...no whales sighted, but a meteor diplay every night. Spotless and perfectly serviced by excellent Stewards. Possibly the best cabin I have ever had. The beds are delightful and the fact that the TV is not interactive was of absolutely no concern. THE SHIP: Oosterdam may be the largest HAL ship I've been on, but remains fairly faithful to the HAL style of years ago. At 2000 passengers it avoids the Times Square feeling of the mega ships and encourages the passenger/crew interaction that many of us enjoy. It's been 10+ years since I've cruised with HAL and after a day aboard there was a not so subtle feeling that something was not quite as I remembered it. Conversations on the Lido with some other old salts confirmed and finally identified the cause. HAL still markets to a mature, experienced and fairly sophisticated clientel, but has felt compelled to "liven up" the image.Unfortunately this has been done at the expense of personality and style. Old Masters have been replaced with mediocre pop art,dress codes are very lax, furnishings and decor are an incompatible mix of classic and trendy, relaxed dining and lingering conversation is a thing of the past and the general sense of being treated like someone special seems to be missing. Nothing overt, but not the quiet elegence of a decade ago....pity. Whether it's nostalgia or Carnival Corporate or me simply getting older is hard to say. The ship is in excellent repair, perfectly clean with every thing operating as it should. Public rooms are very nice, but have little character....acrylic instead of crystal? Service at all levels is prompt and polite if lacking in a "personal touch". Lots of smiles, but no time for conversation. DINING: Contrary to the opinions of some other reviewers I found the menus and food quality in all the eateries to be very good. Virtually all cruise lines include steak as standard fare on their nightly menu and I've come to order it the first night out as a barometer of what to expect for the rest of the trip. Its ranged from fair to excellent. The Oosterdam rated a strong 4 and the rest of the week was right on target. HAL has never been overly exotic or spicy ( probably in consideration of the mature guests) , but variety, presentation and taste are very good IMO. A few of the classic HAL touches were missing...no crystalized ginger after dinner, high tea lacked the grace and formality of yesterday and....what happened to the midnight chocolate extravaganza? ENRICHMENT: On a trip with only 1 1/2 sea days you can't expect too much intelectual stimulation. There wasn't. The Alaskan lecturer who provided live commentary at Tracy Arm and other background talks was excellent and one of the best I have encountered. Dancing with the Stars was amusing , but hardly instructional. WOULD I DO IT AGAIN: Of course I will! Alaska deserves 2+ cruises...the longer the better. Despite the changes in the style of Holland America they still rank high in my personal hit parade.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska Cruise - Overall rating - 5 out of 5. This was our 10th cruise – first one on HAL.  (My scale - 1=stranded at sea, 3=average cruise experience, 5=Excellent and 5+ Perfection.) Perfect Weather (5+) – We had 7 ... Read More
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska Cruise - Overall rating - 5 out of 5. This was our 10th cruise – first one on HAL.  (My scale - 1=stranded at sea, 3=average cruise experience, 5=Excellent and 5+ Perfection.) Perfect Weather (5+) – We had 7 dry sunny days. This is highly unusual for a tropical area that gets 100’s of inches of rain each year. Let’s agree everybody is happier when the weather is good. Great Food (5) - The food quality was great in the dining room for breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Dinner menu in dining room had great variety. There are two formal nights on this cruise and for two other nights the staff changed the dining room decor. I had mostly red meat dishes, some lamb and chicken, no fish. The portions were satisfactory (some reviews said small), however nobody left the table hungry after 4 courses and if you wanted they brought you extra of anything. The dining buffet on Lido gets a 3-4. A lot of cafeteria style food with pockets of food made to order (Pasta, Sandwich Bar, Omelets in the morning and Burger station). I love a late night pizza snack – the pizza was a 4 and Lido shutdown by 11:30 every night. Afternoon daily Taco Bar and lunch Alaskan cookout were highlights up on Lido Deck. Did not try the specialty restaurants - other food was great - why pay extra. Service (5) – Our Cabin Attendants and Waiters were great. Also the rest of the crew was efficient and friendly. This included the officers who were routinely present and pitched in when necessary. We had early seating and as you would expect after the first night the dining room staff had caught on to the routines of our table of 7. Ice teas and sodas appeared and extra bread. Most noticeable – after trying to get our young traveler to try something other than chicken bites ... there was an endless supply of them every night and milk too. Our group is not hesitant about asking for items so the staff knew what we wanted and met every need. We never had any difficulty communicating with the crew, however, some in our group did indicate that the crew’s English communication could be improved. Service could have been a 5+ except for the last 8 hours – after departing Victoria and before debarkation the focus shifted from current to future guests. After Victoria all the guests headed towards the Lido buffet where the food was plentiful except they only had 1 person serving drinks and only 1 bar open. Also the ice cream person ran out of soft serve and was tense. The next morning someone noisily slipped the bill under the door at 6 PM (ran out of envelops) and at 8:30 AM the cabin stewards asked if they could make the bed for the next guests. We were not scheduled to debark until 9 AM. Safety (5) – Oosterdam lifeboat drill includes muster at the lifeboat station – not in some comfy lounge. During the cruise the crew had two other drills – 1 lifeboat and 1 fire fighting. Also for the first 48 hours at the Lido buffet HAL actively combated NoroVirus by placing crew between the food and guests. It felt odd – however – if anybody was sick they were not spreading it at the buffet. Cabin (3) - Veranda Port Side. Mid-Back Ship 4126. Low noise. Easy Access to back elevators. . Longest walk was to the Theatre at the front of the ship. Mechanical systems worked well. Layout was functional. Room really did not feel any different than our past veranda / ocean view cabins on this / other cruise lines. The bathroom laminate was tired (chips that had been patched) and the chalking around tub was “sloppy”. As mentioned in other reviews – our floor divots under the carpet were right inside the door by the bathroom entrance. Another couple with child had one of the large indoor cabins – they did not feel crowded and were happy that the darkness encouraged sleeping in. Ship (4) – Tired but the crew worked hard to keep it looking clean and in good repair. There was sanding and varnishing going on everyday. Air Travel (5) - Southwest – Direct flight to Seattle. This beat anything that HAL offered. We flew in one day early. For departure we add 1 PM flight no problem – others in the group made a 10:30 AM flight. Pre-Cruise Stay (5) - We stayed at the Hampton Inn Airport/28th Ave. Great rooms. Free airport pick-up and they will take you to restaurants within ½ mile of hotel. Free breakfast was good but busy on Saturday morning. Again cheaper than anything HAL add to offer, although their hotels were downtown. Transfers (5) – Seems all hotels in the area utilize same service to hotel to pier transfers. $12 per person. We were forgotten in the morning – however within 30 minutes they had us on a van. The pick up at the ship was a lot cleaner ... called once we had our bags and SUV was there in 10 minutes. Check in (4) – Lines, however, they did move quickly. We got to the ship at 1 PM – they had started boarding at noon. Place will resemble a mad house since two large ships use the same loading building. Friends landed at 1 PM and actually got on faster because they were a little later in the day. Cabins were ready and everybody was trying to eat on Lido deck. Entertainment (5) – Shows were good. Individual performers were real good. The lounge performers routinely drew a crowd. Entertainment department always had something going on – cooking demos, Bingo, line dance, dancing with the stars, etc. etc. Excursion (5) – HAL was comparable to what was offered on shore and they offered you everything on shore. Note that HAL excursions include a professional guide and the ship “probably” will not leave without you if you are on a HAL excursion. I did like two things – 1) you could change/cancel excursions up to 5 PM the previous day with no questions asked and 2) the excursions met on shore (no gathering in the lounge). Great Itinerary (5) – Tracy Arm, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. Tracy Arm – Great weather allowed us to sail all the way to the Glacier. Second time in 8 cruises. Juneau (11 hours) – This port has all the stores you are used to from the Caribbean. Stock up routine souvenirs at this port. I would also suggest that you use this port for any whale watching, floatplanes, etc because of the 11 hours. Even with a long excursion you still have time to see the shops. My wife took a small ship whale watching tour and say seals, whales, otters, close up. The small ships are a lot better at getting to the animals. I spent $16 dollars on a round trip shuttle to Mendenhall glacier (2 ½ hour including walking up to the water fall which is the closest you can get to the glacier (lake between you and the glacier). Sitka (Tender, 8 hours) – HAL was only ship in port. With 4 lifeboats doing the tender the lines moved quickly. My suggestion - see the National Park (Totem Poles) and tour the unique stores in this port. National Park is ½ hour walk from tender spot so I would walk here first – then work your way back to town and tender spot. Ketchikan (6 hours) – You can walk to Creek Street and see the stores and finish up with a Lumberjack show. We chose the one that finishes 15 minutes before sailing (do not worry about being left – the show is 5 minutes from ship, this is the show that HAL excursion uses, and the line to board was 15 minutes long). Victoria (6 hours) – I thought this would be a wasted port with it being the last night and it being 6 – midnight. Ship moves early dinner up 45 minutes so we were ready to go ashore by 7 PM. 30-minute walk and you are downtown on a Saturday night with a lot of locals. After 2-3 hours looking around make your way back to the ship with time to spare. Join the masses on Lido for a snack and then pack your bags and place them outside the cabin by midnight.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was our first cruise, and overall it was a wonderful experience because of the breathtaking scenery, the outstanding service, and the yummy food. However, we were unprepared for the degree of seasickness we both experienced. So, a lot ... Read More
This was our first cruise, and overall it was a wonderful experience because of the breathtaking scenery, the outstanding service, and the yummy food. However, we were unprepared for the degree of seasickness we both experienced. So, a lot of the cruise ended up being a blur, as we were drowsy and woozy from the Dramamine we had to keep taking. Two nights were rough, but one night--the evening of Day 5, as the boat sailed south after our day in Sitka--was absolute hell. The boat was tossing to and fro so violently, we abruptly had to leave dinner in the dining room and attempt to get to our cabin to lie down. This was no small task, as we stumbled and lurched all over the hallways, clutching the railings for dear life. Fortunately, we found some discreetly placed containers of vomit bags near the elevators. (We would fill 3 of them by night's end.) The location of our cabin (8012) didn't help; we found out later that a cabin on a low deck, most toward the center of the boat, would have the least motion. If this is true, then we were seriously out of luck--our cabin was nearly the most forward, and on the highest cabin deck. The cabin itself was lovely; however. We didn't mind at all that it was a small, interior room. It was private and quiet, clean, and had tons of closet space. I was afraid we might feel claustrophobic, but we didn't at all. The bed was very comfortable; we had no problems sleeping. The bathroom had plenty of space, and the shower was spacious enough, had a detachable showerhead, and high-quality shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel in convenient dispensers. One problem we noticed with the room, however, would occur in the afternoons and early evenings (we took a lot of daytime naps because of the Dramamine)--there would suddenly be a very strong odor of some kind of chemical--it smelled like turpentine--that would fill the entire cabin and linger for hours. We smelled it all over the boat at various times and guessed it to be a cleaner or polish of some kind. Our toilet clogged one night for no apparent reason, but we called it in, and the repairman promptly came and fixed it. No problems after that. He was also quite helpful and showed us how to make our shower water hotter--the shower knobs were odd, and we hadn't realized that you could turn them counter-clockwise 360 degrees to get more hot water (still no idea what the red button is for). Our room stewards, Komang and Gede, were terrific. I can recall only a couple instances during the entire cruise that we did not see Komang somewhere on our hallway, joyfully calling out greetings to us by name. When we left to go to breakfast, we'd return to the room less than an hour later and find they had slipped in Ninja-style and cleaned already. We spent a lot of time on the Lido deck because the views were amazing and the food was terrific. We probably gained a good 30 lbs between the two of us during the cruise! The Lido breakfast was my favorite. I loved the eggs cooked to order, the amazing breakfast potatoes, and the delicious, fresh waffles with fruit compote of your choice. Also, the coffee was outstanding!! I drank their decaf coffee all day and evening because it was so good--hey, I'm from Seattle, and I know coffee--I still can't believe it was decaf; it was just. so. good. One complaint about the Lido that I should mention--FOOD ALLERGY SUFFERERS, TAKE NOTE--it was difficult to be certain about potential allergens in the Lido food offerings. In the Vista dining room, they bend over backwards to accommodate any food allergies you might have, but not so in the Lido. I am fatally allergic to nuts. One afternoon, during a quiet time when the Lido crowds had cleared out, my husband ordered a chocolate ice-cream cone for me. After a few bites of it, I crunched into a walnut. Turns out it was Rocky Road ice cream! My husband went back to the ice-cream lady and she explained, "Sometimes we have 'specialty chocolate' flavors, so when you order 'chocolate,' that is what you get." Wow. That could've ended really badly. At the very least, THE LIDO REALLY NEEDS TO PUT ALLERGEN LABELS ON ITS FOOD. We ate a handful of times in the Vista dining room for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner. The food was always great, and again, they took great care of me and my food allergies; but the meals were too slow-paced for us. One night, our dinner lasted well over 2.5 hours. Many people would like that, but it was just too long for us to be sitting in the same chairs. Also, set on the tail end of the boat, we experienced a great deal of motion in the dining room. Given our seasickness, this was not an ideal way to enjoy a meal. We didn't take advantage of as many shipboard activities as we would've liked, but we did enjoy Trivia in the Crow's Nest Lounge every day with Cruise-Director Drew. We won 3 times, and have lovely Oosterdam and Holland America pins to show for it. Drew made it fun; our only complaint was that there were never enough trivia questions. :-) Overall, we did have a wonderful time and enjoyed Holland America immensely. My husband and I are mature 42-year olds, so we fit in well with the majority of our fellow passengers. We wanted to avoid any semblance of loud, drunken partygoer types, rowdy children, packs of teenagers, college students, etc. Holland America was perfect for us, as mostly everyone was our age and beyond. Very quiet and relaxing. We will definitely cruise with Holland America again--but next time, we'll be more proactive with motion-sickness remedies! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Our Seattle to Juneau to Seattle cruise aboard the Oosterdam was the best vacation I can remember. We're new to cruising and this cruise has spoiled my wife and me for any other type of vacation. We're already planning a European ... Read More
Our Seattle to Juneau to Seattle cruise aboard the Oosterdam was the best vacation I can remember. We're new to cruising and this cruise has spoiled my wife and me for any other type of vacation. We're already planning a European cruise for just the two of us and an extended-family Caribbean cruise with my siblings and all of our adult and teen children. The ship was very comfortable in a sophisticated way, our balcony stateroom was large by cruise line standards and very comfortable, the food (with minor exceptions) was excellent, the entertainment was fun, the spa was luxurious but, above all, the service was phenomenal. Our Indonesian room stewards greeted us even before we entered our room, introduced themselves, learned our names and asked if we had any immediate requests. During the remainder of the cruise they greeted us warmly by name, made up our cabin when they wouldn't be in our way, provided a second sprucing up and turndown while we were out for the evening and left us needing nothing. The only staff that surpassed our cabin stewards for level of service were our dining room stewards. Our table steward and his assistant, both also Indonesian, were friendly, omnipresent without being intrusive, and concerned with making sure that everything, and I do mean everything, was perfect. We signed up for the late dinner service at 7:45 each evening. It worked wonderfully for us, giving us time to clean up from shore excursions, have a wonderful perfectly paced four-course meal and still have time for late shows or laid back time in one of the ship's lounges. We had a four-top dining table set for two right next to the windows looking out over the ship's wake. It was the little things that made the service top-notch. At our second dinner our friendly servers greeted us by name, paced our dinner perfectly for the two of us and, remembering that my wife had ordered after dinner coffee the previous night and I hadn't, served her coffee and asked me if I would like any. They had noted which bread we ate and which we left uneaten the night before and our basket was filled with our favorites and not the others for the remainder of the cruise. They quickly determined (correctly) that we liked efficient, unobtrusive service with a little chit-chat while the Japanese party of three at the next table preferred a quiet but more ostentatious presentation and close attention by the wine steward, and that the large younger group at the table on the other side of us wanted to have a lot of interaction and conversation with the wait staff. Everyone was catered to in the most amazing, personalized and pampering way. We had one pretty rough evening on the ship. Little white bags appeared next to all of the elevators and in our stateroom even before things got bad. At dinner, some of the tables were sparsely populated or outright empty. My wife had a single bite of her appetizer and one bite of her salad before deciding that she was going back to the cabin. She didn't feel like she was going to throw up, just that eating was completely unappealing for her. Our head table steward came over to me immediately after she left to inquire after my wife's welfare and make sure that there was nothing that they had done to cause her any problem. The next night their greeting included a hearty welcome back for her and what felt like real concern that she be feeling better. Barmen, lounge wait staff and lido deck food servers were all professional and quick to serve as well. As for the food, everything we had in the main dining room (breakfast, lunch or dinner) was very good to excellent, presentation was beautiful and freshness of ingredients was obvious. All of the sauces and soups we had were wonderful, seafood was fresh and cooked just right and steaks were cooked exactly as ordered. In most restaurants my wife, who likes her steaks rare, orders medium rare because so few places get rare right. She found that ordering a rare steak on this cruise produced one perfectly done. Salads were crisp and vegetables were never overcooked. The only things we found lacking in the dining room were the crusts on pies and other pastries. After the first couple of less than flaky, dry crusts we steered our dessert choices to wonderful chocolate cakes, elegant baked Alaska, etc. We ate in the extra cost Pinnacle Grill our second night on the ship to celebrate our 26th anniversary and had a pleasant experience but didn't think it was worth doing again. We paid $50 out-of-pocket for an upscale meal but were disappointed, not because it was bad but because the main dining room was so good that there wasn't much room for improvement. My filet mignon was a heavenly cut of meat cooked perfectly, but sides were average, prawns were slightly overcooked and we felt the level of service was not an improvement over our dining room experience. The food at the lido deck buffet stations was so-so. They did some nice things like cooked to order omelets and pressed sandwiches, and very fresh cut fruit and salads but the rest (Italian, burgers, pizza and Mexican) were average at best. We ate there only on embarkation day and if we missed times for meals in the main dining room. Okay, I admit I did make a few stops specifically for scoops of rocky road in waffle cones. The first 48 hours of the cruise the buffets were not self-serve as they were trying to avoid the possibility of any viral outbreaks so everything was served by staff. Entertainment was hit and miss. The ship's show singers and dancers were not very good. After the first welcome show we didn't attend any other shows with them. We had a magician one night and a ventriloquist/comedian another night. Both were pretty good and we enjoyed their shows. The best theatre show was the one put on by the Indonesian crew members. They showed us some of their culture, some talented song and dance performances and a little comedy, a very fun time. There were also small groups or individuals that performed in the ship's lounges. A classical duo of piano and violin was fun to listen to as we watched the ocean go by, a solo pianist in the piano bar led sing-alongs of Beatles songs one night and 60s and 70s music another. There was also a solo guitarist that played at night in the crow's nest lounge who had a pretty good set, took requests and had a lot of slightly sarcastic fun with the late night crowd. We ended up there on multiple nights. We attended a really fun karaoke night, a champagne art auction, cooking demos, small-scale drink tastings and a walkthrough of the ship's kitchens. We participated in trivia contests and I played in a Texas hold 'em tournament. We enjoyed happy hours and late night dessert showcases. We never made it to the movie screenings, computer classes or informational/educational lectures since we were busy doing other things. All-in-all we didn't feel like we were ever hurting for something fun to do. Most everything is geared to a bit older crowd. At 51 and 45 we were below average age on the ship. Our cruise had some young couples, a small number of teenagers and very few children. The public areas of the ship are very comfortable and generally well-appointed. The main theatre stage area seats a good number at tables in front and tiered seats behind and in the balcony, but there are several large columns that give some seats obscured views of the stage. Nearly every lounge/bar seat has an ocean view. Our favorites were the intimate piano bar and the crow's nest. The crow's nest has a bar on one side and a coffee bar on the other, a small dance floor, a large library, computer stations and lots of games, puzzles, etc. The 270 degrees of curved walls host seating with great views of the ocean. We loved sitting here with a drink or a coffee, watching the waves roll by and occasionally spotting a whale. Onboard shopping was overpriced, as expected, but they had some really nice things, duty free shops, etc. Our stateroom was good size, cozy but not too tight. The queen size Posturepedic pillow top bed was awesome, as good as any hotel bed I've slept on. I dread hotels because I sleep terribly in anything but my own bed at home. But even on open ocean nights with a good deal of ocean roll we fell asleep almost immediately and slept right through to the arrival of our morning room service. There is plenty of storage in the room. Our cruise was in Alaska so, of course, we brought a lot more clothing than we would on a tropical vacation. Even so, we found places for everything. There is more than enough hanging storage that can be converted to shelves and there are cubbies or drawers under beds and couches, below vanities and on open shelves. The bathroom was nothing special with a single small sink, an open shelf vanity, small shower with retracting clothesline and vacuum flush toilet similar to an airline toilet, but the room was efficiently laid out, water was hot and everything worked just as it should. Outlets are scarce so we brought a three-way splitter that allowed us to charge phones and tablets and use blow-dryers and other appliances. Our balcony was private and comfortable and even a little bigger than I had thought it would be. We spent a good deal of time sitting there or leaning on the railing when it wasn't too windy, watching the world go by. On our day in the Tracy Arm Fjord I was out there for hours. We went once to the spa. Services are pretty pricy but if you wait a few days into the cruise they start offering special packages. My wife signed up for a "ladies night" special that included an hour of massage and an hour in the hydrotherapy pool and on the heated tile chaise lounges, so relaxing. When she signed up she asked if husbands could take advantage of the promo as well and they readily signed me up. We paid $99 each for our two hours of pampering. It was great. I've never been more relaxed. Another reviewer complained about not having enough time in ports as if it were a surprise. The schedule of the ship stuck to the itinerary exactly. We knew going in that we weren't going to have a ton of shore time. That was fine with us since, as first time cruisers, we were fine with most of our time being onboard. Shore time IS tight on this particular cruise since it starts and ends in Seattle. They have a lot of ocean to cover in a tight time frame. You cruise the Tracy Arm Fjord, and have shore time in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan Alaska as well as Victoria, BC. Shore time was lacking in Ketchikan and Victoria at six hours each, but we still enjoyed all the wonderful towns we visited, some adventurous shore excursions and some casual shopping and dining on shore. If you want a cruise with a maximum amount of time on land, you'd be better off with one of the one-way Alaska cruises. As a first-time cruise experience this was better in every way than we had expected and, like I said, has spoiled us for any other vacation. We would definitely cruise with HAL again and we're busy recommending this cruise to friends and family, really anyone that will listen. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We had a perfect time on this trip - was our second time with Holland and will return. Was upgraded to a suite (7080) and it was beyond any cabin we have had in the past, was a last minute past passenger rate for $199.00 will always say ... Read More
We had a perfect time on this trip - was our second time with Holland and will return. Was upgraded to a suite (7080) and it was beyond any cabin we have had in the past, was a last minute past passenger rate for $199.00 will always say yes to this in the future - express checkin and lots of extra's came with the suite (even daily laundry). The service team was wonderful, great wine steward (Elmer) and room attend - suites come with a special lounge which was very nice before dinner and little treats throughout the day. Dinners were good but not excellent - was expecting more pacific coast seafood choices. Fitness area was good and lots to do on the ship. Was nice to bring our wine on board and enjoy it in our room. Not great for entertainment but ok - checked out the movies one afternoon. Beautiful trip and a solid full day down to Tracy Arms - great from the crows nest or your balcony - go up and back the same way so each side get the full experience. Did whale watching in Juneau was amazing a great place to walk around - on the dock is the Twisted Fish great for lunch. Then on to Sitka - did the Birds/Bears/Barnacle (sp) super fun kind of the non-profit experience and it was excellent - lunch at the crab shack I believe - excellent. Final stop was Ketchikan - do the Duck Tour is a great "local" experience. Overall a solid A. Checkout the Canaletto for dinner they have changed the menu and service - it was excellent. Great Service and variety - will return (and the weather was amazing). Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
W just returned from a family reunion cruise on the HAL Oosterdam sailing June 23rd. There were 23 of us, ranging in age from 80 to 7. HAL did, much to their credit, seat us in four adjacent tables for 6 in the raised center section of the ... Read More
W just returned from a family reunion cruise on the HAL Oosterdam sailing June 23rd. There were 23 of us, ranging in age from 80 to 7. HAL did, much to their credit, seat us in four adjacent tables for 6 in the raised center section of the dining room. It seems clear to me that the dining room is badly understaffed. We have more than a dozen cruises on the line and never seen such long waits as we had the first night, We had early seating at 5:15 but that night one table did not get their main course until after 7. (We were told someone dropped a tray). The little touches we remember such as cleaning the bread crumbs from the table are gone. The food seemed fine to me and the rest of our group and the staff did the best they could. We had fixed tables for early seating but it seems no one else did. Every night we had to push past hundreds of people on open seating waiting to be assigned tables. all we had to do was get in and sit down, In my view the entertainment was fair, poor and none The singers and dancers (2nights). were pretty good The magician (1 Night and an afternoon show) was good. The ventriloquist (1 night) was good and funny. On two nights there was NO show. Unacceptle to me. The game shows were REALLY BAD. The level of humor from the CD and his staff was 5th grade school boys bathroom. The weather was great in all our ports were great, We got off and looked around on our own and we did not take any of the ship's excursions. The ship had to take a roughly 6 hour detour to take a sick/injured passenger ashore after we left the last Alaska port so we did not get to Victoria until 9:30 PM, too late for any excursions.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
My husband and I just returned from a wonderful cruise (June 9-16) Holland American America service was outstanding. This was our second cruise to Alaska the other previous cruise being nine years ago. On our previous cruise it rained ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from a wonderful cruise (June 9-16) Holland American America service was outstanding. This was our second cruise to Alaska the other previous cruise being nine years ago. On our previous cruise it rained every day, on this cruise we had beautiful beautiful weather and much warmer than expected. I am somewhat spoiled since our last three cruises have been on Oceania, which we enjoyed. Cabin - We booked the largest inside cabin 8041 since space meant more to us than a balcony. We did not ask for a free upgrade and were very happy with our cabin selection. It looked just like the picture on the website with a sofa a room to move around Dining - We ate most meals in the dining room and found most of the food to be tasty, hot and well prepared. The best part was Tedi our waiter on most nights. Portions for the entree are very small but most of the time we didn't mind since there are so many courses. I was upset when I ordered veal which was delicious but my portion was so much smaller than I saw other being served (3bites). If I asked, I am sure they would have brought more but I wanted to get to the show. Dinner didn't take an unreasonable amount of time and the dining room was open for lunch everyday except for one.I did not like the Mariners brunch. Only a few choices. I did like a salmon roast on deck and the salmon was good. I found a good variety of choices on most menus including several types of fish. I loved the soups available in the dining room much better than Oceania since most of their soups are cream based. I also loved their baked Alaska.We loved the specialty restaurants. My husband celebrated his birthday at the Pinnacle Grill. They surprised him with a cake and the food was comparable to an Oceania specialty restaurant?Ports - Tracy Arm was beautiful. Similar to Millford Sound in New Zealand but a lot closer to visit.Juneau - we had a beautiful day so Roberts tramway up the mountain was great no problem buying tickets when you get off the ships. 2 movies on top which we enjoyed. The views since it was a clear day made it well worth it.Sitka - Birds, Bears, Barnacles. Seeing bald eagles up close was fantastic, the bears were interesting. I didn't, care much for the Barnacle part of the tour since it was the wrong time of year for the salmon eqq process. We were glad overall that we did this tour.Ketchikan - just walked around town since we only had 4 hours and had been here before.Victoria - took Holland excursion Craigdarroch castle and city tour. We were disappointed. It's not really a castle like you see in Europe. Just an historical home. We didn't get to see the harbor until it was almost dark and the bus didn't even slow down for pictures. We would have been much better off going on our own directly to the harbor and china town which looked so interesting.Entertainment - it was fine. We enjoyed the shows. It's not Broadway but great after a nice dinner.The cooking demonstrations on the ship were great. As good as watching Julia Child. Informative and humorous. We had no problem with disembarkation and catching a cab to our Seattle hotel. Enjoyed Pikes market, gold rush museum (free from national park service), and the Chihuly garden and glass .We were glad that we selected Holland America. If you have reasonable expectations, I believe that they will be exceeded. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I have never written a review on a message board before but I read the reviews of the Oosterdam before we left (some good, some bad) and I wanted to share our experience (June 16-23, 2013) because it was such a good one. My parents took ... Read More
I have never written a review on a message board before but I read the reviews of the Oosterdam before we left (some good, some bad) and I wanted to share our experience (June 16-23, 2013) because it was such a good one. My parents took my family of 4 and my sister's family of 4 on this cruise. When we went to embark at 12:30 in Seattle it took about an hour to get on the ship. We were pleased with our room (see cabin description). We spent the first few days at sea exploring the ship and attending some activities (the high tea was delicious, the trivia was fun). Every time I went to the gym there was only about 10 people in there- which was great. I ran on the promenade and it was not crowded- everyone else was walking. The kids spent literally hours and hours in the Lido pool (sometimes the roof was closed, sometimes open). They also liked to play ping pong and giant chess there. They also loved the views from the Crow's Nest. We played basketball a little but it was very windy. The evening entertainment was good. The service was amazing- almost every employee we interacted with was very polite and competent. Our room steward was very friendly, quick and efficient. Our dining steward was wonderful- quickly learning the 4 children's names and dining preferences. The food in the main dining room was great- everything all 10 of us had we enjoyed. The food in the Lido buffet was not as good but still very good. If you have time (like when you are at sea) I do recommend having breakfast in the main dining room. Room service (two times) took about 30 minutes and was very good- as ordered. We were very fortunate with the weather- 70s the first few days and a high of 80 in Junea, 65 in Sitka, rainy and 55 in Ketchikan, then nice again (68) in Victoria. Cruising through the Inside Passage/ Tracy Arm Fjord was stunning. We stayed on our verandah the whole time. Used our good binoculars and zoom lens alot. We saw eagles, whales, porpoises, otters, and seals. My daughter and husband went ziplining in Juneau (through the ship's shore excursion) and loved it- though it was spendy. The rest of us took the tram to the peak and had a really good time hiking, seeing the eagle refuge, watching the movie and a family of musicians who were amazing. In Sitka we went hiking in the rain forest then to the museum which was free and very informative/interesting. In Ketchikan we went on the Duck Tour which was entertaining and a good way to see the whole town. My husband and son tried to go fishing there but the tours were full so if an excursion is important to you, you should book early. In Victoria we took a cab (50$ each way) to the Buschart Gardens (admission $30 for adults, only $3 for kids). They were incredibly beautiful. All four of us really enjoyed them. We saved $120 going it ourselves instead of booking through the ship. Disembarking was very quick- literally walking right off. Overall, a great experience. The only cons were the drinks ($8/each) and the photos ($40/each) were expensive. But of course, these are optional. I would definitely cruise on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
If you are looking for mini golf and water slides this is not the cruise for you. but if you like good food, good service and a touch of elegance then this is the cruise for you. Nice antiques adorn the common areas on Oosterdam. the ... Read More
If you are looking for mini golf and water slides this is not the cruise for you. but if you like good food, good service and a touch of elegance then this is the cruise for you. Nice antiques adorn the common areas on Oosterdam. the servants are polite and eager to please. request second seating for dinner if you want to avoid lines and crowds and get great service. We sat at table 22, in the back corner right by the window. We loved it. good view and great service. Our waiter Didic was great as was Adi his asst. They gave us double entre and appitizers every night not to mention desserts. The magician on board was world class and awesome. Better than anything I've seen in vegas. Dancing with the stars at sea was a delight for my wife. Casino staff was polite and patient with the novice. roland was the sports bar bartender, he was very professional and polite. The entertainment staff were exceptional. My only complaint was the photography dept charged 40$ per photo which i found to be a bit high. Do not bother with a black and white photo sitting. 600$ min. photo package. Waste of time. Even the Lido buffet staff was excellent. Aprillia was a delight as a staff member on the lido. Cabin stewards were proficient but not excellent. All in all a great deal. Do purchase the 30$ drink card. A bargain if you like to drink. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I have been wanting to go on a cruise for quite some time now--my family, not so much. For vacation, we usually take road trips or do timeshare exchanges, but going to Alaska has been one of my "bucket list" items and taking a ... Read More
I have been wanting to go on a cruise for quite some time now--my family, not so much. For vacation, we usually take road trips or do timeshare exchanges, but going to Alaska has been one of my "bucket list" items and taking a cruise seemed to be the best way to see tidewater glaciers. With two active teenagers, the Holland America Oosterdam was not my first choice in cruise ships. However, it was sailing the week my husband had requested for vacation, and, conveniently, the professional society he belongs to was offering continuing education classes aboard the ship. So after vacillating for many months, we reserved the last two adjoining balcony cabins still available after final deposit was due. The following, rather lengthy, review is from the perspective of a cruising newbie. The comments have been subdivided into various topics so that you may scroll down to find what might be of interest to you. However, allow me to make a disclaimer. Because I was charmed by the novelty of this adventure, I probably am not as discerning as I should be. Someone else on this exact same cruise, with more cruising experience, might be able to provide more insight. Be that as it may, I will provide a few comments from the perspective of a cruising beginner. Arrival Because of a family commitment, we were unable to fly early to Seattle. I've read a lot of discussion here on Cruise Critic regarding whether or not to arrive early to your port of embarkation. I think that if, like us, you have to arrive the day of the cruise, it's alright--especially if you take the first flight out, don't have bad weather or flight delays, and are flying within the same time zone. But definitely, it would be much nicer to come a little early to do some sightseeing first, particularly in a destination city like Seattle. Moreover, because we left so early in the morning we were a bit frazzled by the time we reached the cruise ship, and our embarkation photo looks like some sort of horrible mug shot! Embarkation At the advice of our travel agent, we did not book a ship transfer but instead caught a taxi from the airport to Smith's Cover Terminal 91 for $50 plus tip. Since there were four of us plus luggage, this seemed like a good deal. For that price, we also got to chat with the taxi driver about downtown development and the possibility of an NBA team coming to Seattle. Once at the cruise terminal, the check-in process was part airport security, part hotel registration, and part holding pen. The whole process went very smoothly, though: We arrived at the terminal at 10:30, checked in and waited until 11:30, then boarded and were having lunch by 12 noon. Tip: Have your passport and boarding pass ready as you enter the terminal and take advantage of the many hand sanitizer dispensers scattered throughout the building. Stateroom As mentioned above, we booked very late so were lucky to get two adjoining Verandah staterooms towards the back, or aft, of the ship. Level 5 or Verandah deck is quite nice: it is not too far of a walk up to the Lido Buffet and not too far down to the MDR. However, being in the back of the boat means quite a long walk to the Vista Lounge, the Fitness Center, and the Crow's Nest in the front of the ship. There was no door between our stateroom and our kids' room, but the steward opened the balcony partition and we were able to walk back and forth between the two rooms by going out on the balcony. I grew up vacationing in a motor home as a child, so I thought the stateroom's bathroom was quite spacious, much larger than any camper bathroom. However, the ceiling is a bit low, so if you are tall you might have to stoop a little. Counter space is limited, but there is a shelf below the sink for toiletries, and the shower/tub has a retractable cord for drying bathing suits. The hairdryer is not stored in the bathroom but outside in a cabinet in the vanity table. Across from the bathroom are three large closets, one has a locked safe and another has a full length mirror inside the door. The bed is two twins, pushed and locked together, or in my kids' case, separated with a nightstand in between. At the end of each twin is a large drawer, big enough for almost all of the contents of my suitcase, and the suitcases themselves can be stored underneath the bed to save space. The flat screen tv was a tad smaller than I'm used to, but I loved to turn it on to the ship information channel to play on a continuous loop. We also appreciated having a Verandah stateroom so we could prop open the door and get a little fresh air. I saw an Inside stateroom once while walking down the hallway, and it looked substantially smaller than our cabin. However, we met a couple at dinner who were staying in an Inside and who were completely satisfied. With the money they saved they were able to take a fishing excursion almost every day of their cruise! Tip: If you don't care for long treks from the back to the front of the ship, try booking a room more centrally located than we did. Dining I thought the food at the Lido Buffet and the MDR was fantastic, but admittedly, I'm not all that discerning when it comes to food. Any meal which I do not have to plan, shop, cook and clean up for is wonderful in my book, and my kids were thrilled to have steak and seafood every night. Such luxury. We loved all the choices, the food itself seemed to always be the right temperature, and the service in the MDR was efficient. My daughter and I discovered Afternoon Tea, which became our little ritual with a cup of English Breakfast and scones everyday at 3. Also, we noticed that if you make special requests, they are very accommodating. There was an extended Indian family who ate curry dishes every night. When my husband asked about this, our waiter said that we too could have Indian food, as long as we ordered it 24 hours in advance. Again, because we booked our cruise so late, we were only able to secure Open Seating Dining. Most nights this was not a problem since we didn't try to eat until after 8 pm, but there was quite a line on the first formal night. I didn't realize this, but you can make reservations for your table even if you are assigned the Open Seating Dining room. My other problem was trying to convince my teenage son that a polo shirt was much more acceptable in the MDR than a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Once he over came his aversion to the dress code, though, my son thoroughly enjoyed four-course dining. Tip: If you have Open Seating Dining, try making a reservation for the first formal night in order to avoid a lengthy wait. Activities Holland America is not known for it's onboard activities, but we found many things to do on the Oosterdam . The resident naturalist was quite good, and her lectures about glaciers and Alaskan wildlife were very informative. I went to several cooking demonstrations at the Culinary Arts Institute, while my husband attended the photography sessions. I think we would have enjoyed the "Dancing with the Stars" dance lessons, but my husband was busy attending his continuing education classes each afternoon instead. My son spent a good part of each day at the fitness center, but my daughter was too young to go. And I checked out a couple books from the extensive free library in the Crow's Nest, where my husband and daughter played a few games of chess. We never tried Bingo, and although the pool area had a retractable roof which made it possible to swim in all kinds of inclement weather, we only went once to jacuzzi in the very tiny, lukewarm hot tubs. Tip: if the coffee at the Lido Buffet is too weak for your taste, the Crow's Nest sells coffee which will perk you up while you browse through the library. Entertainment I think my family disagreed about the quality of the shipboard entertainment more than any other aspect of our cruise. My husband and son really enjoyed the live music, particularly the HalCats and the guitarist in the Crow's Nest, but neither one of them liked the large musical revues in the Vista Lounge. Although the songs the revue featured were for a much older crowd, I was impressed that the performers could sing and dance on a stage which moved with the sea swells. My kids and I thought the magician was quite entertaining, but my husband insisted that he had seen better. In fact, when the magician was scheduled for a special matinee feature, my kids and I made sure to go. Tip: the magic shows get crowded, so go early and sit down in front if you would like to participate. Summary of the Cruise The first full day was a Sea Day in which we cruised the Inside Passage heading north. It was definitely nice to be able to relax that first day, especially since the motion sickness medication made me a bit drowsy. Although the ocean was like a lake, I noticed that many other people had patches behind their ears, too. By the middle of the second day we arrived at Tracy Arm Fjord, and they opened Deck 4 at the prow of the ship for observation. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, with blue skies and even bluer water. Many people commented that the water looked like it could be in the Bahamas, except for the fact that there were iceberg chunks floating by. The fjord gets increasingly more narrow as you sail upstream until you reach Sawyer Island and the Sawyer Glacier. We got a kick out of the seals lounging on the ice floes. My daughter and I had Afternoon Tea, then walked around and around the Promenade Deck looking for the best spot to take pictures. My husband and son went back to our cabins and took pictures from our balcony. I heard that upstairs on the Observation Deck they were serving pea soup and warm blankets, but the day was quite balmy so we never went upstairs. They piped the naturalist's commentary over the loud speakers throughout the afternoon, who provided interesting information about the glacier and the geologic formations. During the next four days we stopped at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. I've written about each of these under the Port Review section if you need further information, but I want to point out that the Oosterdam is one of the few cruise ships which still stops at Sitka. Some time ago, the residents of Sitka voted not to make improvements to their deep water dock, so cruise ships are forced to tender their guests to the town. This can be quite pricy for the cruise line, and one Sitka local speculated that sometime soon the cruise ships might no longer stop in Sitka at all. However, the town is quite charming and the surrounding scenery is quite spectacular, so if you have a chance to go to Sitka, I would highly recommend that you go. Misc. Topics There are a few things which we did not experience directly. Although my daughter is a teenager, she refused to participate in any of the organized activities for her age group. One day we wandered up to the teen lounge, and we saw kids hanging out and having a good time, but she was too shy to join them. So, Holland America does have organized Children's and Teen's Programs, but I can't really tell you whether those programs are good or not. We also never signed up for any of the ship's excursions. These can be very pricy, but they come with the guarantee that you will be taken care of and you will always arrive back at the ship on time. I heard many people talking positively about their excursions, so I might be more willing to arrange something on my next cruise. Finally, on the very first day my daughter and I took a tour of the spa facilities. The thermal spa area looked nice, but my daughter was too young so I didn't even consider buying a package. Later in the cruise I was talking to someone who complained that unlike Holland America, there are other cruise ships which provide adults-only, spa like areas free of charge. Tip: if you are looking for a total spa experience or a free adults-only sanctuary during your cruise, the Oosterdam might not be the ship for you. Service Finally, I want to say that I was amazed by the friendly service provided by the crew of the Oosterdam. Every day they were up early with smiles on their faces, wishing us good morning. I know how hard food service can be, but the serving staff was courteous and professional, always trying to get anything you might need. Our room steward kept our cabin tidy twice a day. And my kids were surprised that the wait staff in the MDR remembered our names. I think Holland America excels in the area of service. Disembarkation Because our flight home was later in the day, we chose the last disembarkation time slot which allowed us to eat breakfast one more time in the MDR. My husband was a little disgruntled when he saw other people disembarking with their carry-on luggage while we had placed our suitcases outside our stateroom the night before. Personally, though, I was happy not to lug the suitcase any more than I had to. At the appointed time, we went down to the gang plank, walked down to the lower portion of the terminal to collect our luggage, went through customs, and then found the Alamo rental car kiosk just outside the terminal door. The whole process took no more than 15-20 minutes. Tip: Alamo, National and Enterprise will rent you a one-way car from the cruise terminal to Sea-Tac (for a slightly higher price than normal). The rental agencies shuttle you from the terminal to downtown Seattle where you can pick up the car. Sundays in Seattle are not crazy busy, so its possible to navigate the one-way streets. Also, if you are lucky enough to find metered street parking, it is free on Sunday. Would I Cruise Again? Yes, most definitely. I found that certain stereotypes about cruising do hold true: food is always available, you are herded on and off the ship, and some guests are never satisfied. But I was surprised at how social the experience could be. People were generally quite friendly, would ask me questions, and tell me interesting stories. I learned a lot, not only about the state of Alaska, but about what life is like in other parts of the US. I was surprised at how well-traveled people were, and how familiar they were with the region where I live. And I was thankful that I never saw anyone being rude to the crew. I've read horror stories here on Cruise Critic, and I dreaded observing some nasty altercation, but I was thankfully spared any such scene. Perhaps the stereotypical, mature Holland America guest, after a lifetime of working hard, can appreciate others working hard for them. Ten Reasons Why I Would Sail on Holland America Again: 1. Fresh flowers and live music 2. Robes in each stateroom 3. Turn down service with towel animals and chocolates each night 4. Excellent food and service in the MDR 5. Afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream 6. Very professional crew 7. Good enrichment programs 8. Not a lot of pushy sales tactics 9. An emphasis on safety 10.Fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast Five Things I Would Do Differently on My Next Alaskan Cruise: 1. Book a whale-watching excursion. We saw whales from the ship, but they were much too far away. If you were on a whale-watching boat, you could get up close and personal with the whales. 2. Go a little later in the summer when the salmon begin to run. 3. Take a float plane to Misty Fjord. There's not much to do in Ketchikan besides shop, and people have said that the fjord is amazing. 4. Take the ship's excursion to Butchart Gardens to have more time. 5. Stay longer in Seattle since there's a lot to see and do there. If you have never been to Alaska, consider an Alaskan cruise. The scenery, the wildlife and the tidewater glaciers are amazing.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We are seniors with considerable cruising experience. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. In recent years we have had several trips on Holland America and are three star Mariners. Holland America seems to fit ... Read More
We are seniors with considerable cruising experience. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. In recent years we have had several trips on Holland America and are three star Mariners. Holland America seems to fit our preferences. We flew to Seattle on Friday, June 14 and stayed two nights at a new Hampton Inn at the airport before boarding the Oosterdam on June 16. Embarkation was smooth except for a lack of porters at the pier. We had upgraded from a Verandah cabin to a Superior Suite (SY category) and were pleased to find the cabin with substantially more space than we have had on previous cruises. The cabin was ready for us; we had no problems with the cabin, everything worked and was in order for the entire week. We did not take any of the ship's excursions. Mainly we walked around the small towns on our own. We particularly enjoyed the cable car up to Mt. Roberts in Juneau and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka. The entertainment on the ship was fairly standard. We don't care for the singers and dancers and the loud music so skipped those shows. I enjoyed the ventriloquist and the magician, although my wife is less appreciative of those acts. We particularly enjoyed the Adagio duo and were in their small audience most nights. On most HA ships it's a string quartet but this time it was a piano-violin duo. Both were good musicians from Eastern Europe. I consider the computer classes provided on Holland America's ships to be a highlight of the trip. Rob, the techspert, was very good and explained some of Windows 8. We had open seating. We would have preferred early fixed seating but the demand for it is such that you have to book early fixed many months in advance. HA doesn't seem to want to expand the supply of early dining places in response to the clear demand. We accepted open seating and were seated at a table for four with one other couple each night. One night the maitre d' tried to put us at a table for 10 or 12;I declined and we were immediately put at a smaller table. Service was completely satisfactory every night. While the food was good, we did feel that the options were not very exciting. I made a decision on a main course but didn't feel that I was choosing one when I would have loved to have had three others. We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle Grill and it was excellent. Breakfast was usually in the Lido featuring a custom made omelette; I love those!! Lunch was either in the Lido or the Dining Room and was fine. I would not recommend this cruise for a first trip to Alaska. A first trip should include time on land. You cannot get a feel for the vastness of Alaska unless you spend time on land seeing sights such as Mt. McKinley and the train through Denali National Park. Also, Tracy Arm is not as spectacular as Glacier Bay. This cruise was fine for a second trip to see some of the towns with a chance to go to some truly great sights such as Mendenhall Glacier. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, although we preferred our previous experiences on the Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam. However, Holland America remains our favorite line for a good balance between cost and quality.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
For years my husband & I have dreamed about visiting Alaska by sea. We laugh now how things fell into place to bring the dream alive within a mere 26 days. Bill bought a new old Studebaker for half of what he budgeted so with his ... Read More
For years my husband & I have dreamed about visiting Alaska by sea. We laugh now how things fell into place to bring the dream alive within a mere 26 days. Bill bought a new old Studebaker for half of what he budgeted so with his savings, I called Alaska Cruise lines and booked a guaranteed outside balcony cabin aboard the Oosterdam's June 9 sailing. Upon online check-in with HAL, we received our cabin assignment. 8143 was at the very rear of the ship on Navigation deck. We had a spectacular 180 degree view that truly enhanced our cruising experience. We couldn't have asked for a better cabin. Embarkation was a breeze. We were dropped off at Pier 91 at 12:30pm and were sipping wine from the balcony of our cabin at 1:50pm. The process of embarking 1800+ passengers in a mere few hours involved what we felt was an efficient use of the Disney system of queuing. The lines moved in an orderly fashion and Bill & I were so busy talking to fellow passengers that we really didn't notice. I specifically chose the Oosterdam over NCL, RCL, and Carnival ships because it doesn't cater to families. There were families aboard and the children seemed just as happy with the ship as we were. I should mention we didn't know there was a kids' activity center on the Observation Deck until the last day at sea. And, because the Oosterdam stopped at Sitka. I'm not sure why the other ships don't tender into the port, but I'm rather glad they don't. Sitka isn't spoiled by 5000 tourists descending upon them at one time. It's a beautiful place with the warmest of people. Bill & I don't need much in the way of entertainment so we took great pleasure in spending our time walking the Promenade Deck, sitting outdoors by the Lido Pool, talking to fellow passengers, and viewing the coastlines of British Columbia and Alaska. So we weren't disappointed in any of the on board entertainment and activities. We didn't expect Las Vegas quality shows so weren't too critical of the entertainment. We enjoyed the on board naturalist, Jeanette, who prepared us for what to see and do in each port. We didn't pre-purchase any shore excursions. We opted to wait until we got into port and were glad we did. Each port has a line of kiosks offering sightseeing tours. A savvy traveler can save up to half the cost by waiting. However, I can't be sure this would be good advice during Alaska's high tourist season during July & Aug. There are limited tour operators and things could be tight when there are numerous cruise ships arriving at the same time. The ship has a Digital Workshop featuring quite a few Windows 8 computers. There are daily workshops that are very informative for the tech-interested. I learned SO much about using Windows photo programs. Techspert Rob has the patience of Job making sure everyone attending the class understands what he is explaining. The Behind the Scenes Kitchen Tour is a must for anyone interested in how a ship can prepare 15,000+ meals per day. It was enlightening and I must say, our food throughout the week was excellent. The variety, preparation, and presentation made each meal an event. We opted for open dining and always asked for a table for 8 with the desire to meet as many people as we could. Each evening we had a different server. Each server was anxious to please and treated us with such attention. Bill & I felt the portions were perfect. We're bragging the fact that we didn't gain a single pound yet we ate well and certainly didn't go hungry! While HAL has no control over the weather and we were certainly prepared for WET, to everyone's joy, our cruise week weather couldn't have been better for June. We had sun with 70 deg temps. The folks in Juneau were thrilled to see a break in the rain. I am reminded the first two days at sea were a bit choppy. Bill & I invested in "Sea Bands" to ward off any signs of sea sickness and they must have worked! We heard stories of a man yelling at the clerk at The Office demanding the captain do something about the tossing of the ship. We met folks who opted to wear the patch or had gotten a shot from the ship's doctor, but we preferred staying awake to being drugged. Sea Bands can be purchased at any pharmacy, but are not available in the ship's shop. Our cabin stewards, Handy and Amin, were so attentive.(Oh, how I miss them!)And the critters formed out of towels were such a small but anticipated delight. There was always a smile on their faces. I felt absolutely AWFUL when I broke a small table. I rested my foot on it and oops........Before I could find Handy/Amin to report & apologize, it was replaced during the short time we were out of the cabin. Like he had a 6th sense! And the lock on our cabin got stuck and was fixed by some invisible repair person.Our happiness was their first commandment. We were also very fortunate to sail the week the Philippines celebrated their independence. Bill & I felt the pride of the Filipino crew aboard. They also gifted passengers with a small glimpse into their culture by way of a late evening show. It was obvious to us the performers were giving up their free bit of time to present the show. Again, this isn't a Vegas production, but none-the-less enjoyable! As my mom used to say the last night of summer vacation, "All good things must come to an end." Seven days went by very quickly. There were so many things to notice and experience. What a bit of a shock to discover the beautiful parquet flooring as we were making our way down a corridor for the last time. I mean, when did they put in that floor!? This review is more about the ship and HAL than about the ports. There is so much to see and each port has its claims to fame that can be researched in a myriad of places. We're plotting our way back to Alaska next year. Glacier Bay, Haines, and Skagway will need to be on the ports of call. I hope a second trip doesn't mean Bill has to buy yet another Studebaker!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Background: We have never cruised with HAL, but had been on 2 Princess, 2 Carnival and 1 RC. We are 40 something's on a cruise with some good friends. We had been to Alaska before, back in 1997 on Princess. We flew in the day ... Read More
Background: We have never cruised with HAL, but had been on 2 Princess, 2 Carnival and 1 RC. We are 40 something's on a cruise with some good friends. We had been to Alaska before, back in 1997 on Princess. We flew in the day before, stayed at one of the hotels near the port and took their shuttle to the pier on day of departure. We were traveling together as 2 couples. We picked up my husbands scooter at the terminal. They had it ready for him. This was the first time it was not delivered to the cruise ship stateroom. As we proceeded through to embark, hubby and I were able to breeze through, but our friends had to go through as usual. I do not remember an embarkation taking so long as this one. We waited for them to get through the line and I believe we waited close to 2 hours. The line curved on forever. They did not have enough help to check people in. This was literally the worst thing on the entire cruise. Once they got through, we boarded and let the fun begin. Services: I enjoy going to the spa when on a cruise and this time was no exception. I really enjoyed the massage. I went on a port day and had no trouble getting into the time slot I wanted. The pool was very nice. Sat by that and caught some rays. A waiter was readily available should I need anything. Art Auction: My husband and I like going to the art auctions, but for some reason, this gallery and staff turned us off. One of the male auctioneers gave me the impression that he was too busy to stop and talk with me. Too bad for him, as we have purchased art before from other cruises. It is usually our reminder of the cruise and the good time we had. Instead, this trip I bought a Phillip Stein watch. Food: We ate in the main dining room at the anytime dining. We really enjoy that. 5 of the 7 nights we ate with our friends at a table for four. Food was excellent. In fact this is the best food we have had in a long time on a cruise. Only draw back was they kept seating us way in the back when my husband had his scooter. It was OK when we would go in because tables were empty going back, but when we would come out, the restaurant was packed and people had to get up and move their chairs in so he could get by. We suggested they seat us up front, but they always said no no no, it is no problem. We just nodded and said OK. Activities: Went to the Newlywed game- it was a blast. We haven't laughed that much in a long time. It was fun because the crowd was really into it also. We spent time up in the Crow's nest Lounge. We would play cards up there, have some cocktails and play trivia. Always a great way to spend a day at sea - great views!! Casino: Very nice Casino! Not too smoky. Huibby had a good time playing blackjack and even won a little. Casino staff very helpful. We enjoyed the slot tournaments they had. Disembarkation; Went very smooth. Much better than getting on. Little wait time. We were sad to be getting off. Wanted to stay another 7 days! Summary: We went to Alaska before with Princess Cruises in 1997. It was a different time and cruising was different. Food quality was so much better and this was our very first cruise and I think you always remember your first cruise. Having said that, I feel HAL was an excellent cruse to Alaska and I think the ports have improved since we were there. For seeing glaciers and the scenic shoreline, HAL was better! Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Departing on "Mother's Day" and also celebrating my daughter's birthday, this cruise was to be a special thing. Other than my daughters companionship, it was anything but special. The food was mediocre, the service ... Read More
Departing on "Mother's Day" and also celebrating my daughter's birthday, this cruise was to be a special thing. Other than my daughters companionship, it was anything but special. The food was mediocre, the service was almost non-existent and the cabin was lackluster. While aboard ship, we tried the Vista Dining Room, the Lido restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill (for lunch) and lots of room service. The Vista dining room service ranged from very slow to OK at the end of the cruise. Portions of food were small and sometimes not very warm. Anytime dining works only part of the time, as they tried to seat us and then told us the table was already taken, so we had to go back to the matre di's desk and wait. And, last but not least my daughter was celebrating her birthday and the waiter had identified her for most likely a piece of birthday cake, but the cake never came, in fact no desert menu ever came after 1 1/2 hours dining. We dined at "The Pinnacle Restaurant" for lunch. We ordered a filet of beef cooked medium rare, but received medium well. Something was lost in translation! We also had to send the bread basket back after discovering a hair. Room service is a joke. Every order we placed by telephone had something missing. The most laughable was when we ordered a carafe of coffee only to receive a pot of hot water. Other problems were no condiments for hamburgers, and no jam and butter for croissants. Customer service is generally lacking. Try to get someone to answer the telephone and you were on hold for thirty minutes. It took three hours to convert our bed from a king to two twins. One piece of luggage delivered to our cabin belonged to somebody else. Try to get your ice bucket filled or refilled, it's waiting forever or never. Cabin stewards disappear throughout the day. They must be doing double duty. After cruising seven times, this was the worst. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We've traveled on Holland many times, in fact switched from Princess to Holland due to the great service Holland provided and the great food. Seattle Embarkation was a breeze we were on board by 11:30 and our cabin was ready. We book ... Read More
We've traveled on Holland many times, in fact switched from Princess to Holland due to the great service Holland provided and the great food. Seattle Embarkation was a breeze we were on board by 11:30 and our cabin was ready. We book a suite because we like to use the Neptune Lounge and the other perks we get with a suite. However, this time our suite smelled of stale sweat and the drawers had some dirty kleenex and other debris inside. The cabin steward said he could not spray the room. I informed the gals in the Neptune Suite and next thing I knew the cabin steward was in the room spraying some nice smelling spray, he sprayed for the next few days and smell finally went away. I went to lie on the bed after lunch and found some foul smelling stain on the top sheet! He came back looked at it and changed the sheets right away. The bottom sheet also had a hole in it, remember we are in a suite! I was a little disappointed in the Lido fare also as it was the same everyday. The dining room menu was good, but a little to fancy with all the sauces and other things they were trying to do to make it a 5 star restaurant, last time the fare was wonderful. The table stewards were very slow and confused. The room service was not up to par either, we only ordered it once. I have to say I am very disappointed in the changes I saw on the ship, and I am usually an easy pleased person. I am thinking of going back to Princess! The disembarkation was a breeze in Seattle too and the Neptune gals, Ice and Essea, were wonderful and took care of all our needs. By the way, Alaska was wonderful as usual, sunshine and shorts for 5 days till Ketchikan then chilly and rainy. We did not get to go to Tracy Arm due to the wind, went to Endicate Arm instead. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
I travelled with my family (daughter, son-in-law and two of my grandchildren). I had no idea what cruise line to choose, having never cruised before. They picked HAL, and said it would be more my style. We booked two VD cabins on the ... Read More
I travelled with my family (daughter, son-in-law and two of my grandchildren). I had no idea what cruise line to choose, having never cruised before. They picked HAL, and said it would be more my style. We booked two VD cabins on the upper promonade deck, but later upgraded to an SY and SB cabin on the upper veranda. Check-in began at noon or 1pm, but we didn't show up until a little after two. We were able to walk right up and check in. We checked out our cabins - I was impressed, and my son-in-law (with the SB cabin) was very impressed. We walked around awhile, and checked out the crows nest, and at 4pm we were on deck as the Oosterdam left Seattle. During the next seven days, I was totally pleased by the cabin, the service, the food, even the weather. As much as it rains in that part of the world, for us the sun shone every day. I've read other reviews by travelers on the same voyage, maybe it's all just luck -- we had a great cabin with no problems, our steward was friendly and attentive, the dining room service was wonderful (maybe just a little slow, but what's time when you're on vacation). I had a massage at the spa, and it was lovely, except for the sales pitch to buy products. We attended some of the shows in the Vista Lounge, they were nice, but not Vegas quality. Still, as I said, they were entertaining. There were not LOTS of kids on board, but enough so that my grandchildren made friends to swim, and play with. They enjoyed Club Hal, for the most part. If I have the opportunity, I will definately sail the Oosterdam again! Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We have cruised on many different lines before but never on HAL. When planning our trip to Alaska we chose the Oosterdam because of it’s size and itinerary and the great price we got. So glad we did, it proved to be one of the best ... Read More
We have cruised on many different lines before but never on HAL. When planning our trip to Alaska we chose the Oosterdam because of it’s size and itinerary and the great price we got. So glad we did, it proved to be one of the best vacations we have ever taken!Embarkation/Disembarkation: Both were very smooth and easy. We arrived at the port about 11:30 and were walking onboard about 11:45. Just remember that if you are carrying bottles of wine with you (that is allowed on HAL) that you pack them all in your carry on. If you pack them in your suitcases they will be flagged and checked to make sure you aren’t bringing hard liquor onboard. In your carry-on, the wine simply coasts right through the x-ray, no problem. We went directly to our stateroom and were so pleasantly surprised to find it clean and waiting for us. Our suitcases arrived a bit later while we were touring the ship and having lunch. For disembarkation, we decided to use the Luggage Direct program which costs $19.99 per person and assures that when you leave your luggage outside your door at midnight on your last night, you won’t even see it again until you arrive at your destination airport, very convenient if your flight isn’t until later in the day. The only drawback is that you must get off the ship with the first group at 7:30 a.m., not sure why really.Dining: We were traveling with a party of 10 family and friends so we chose the early seating with an assigned table in the Vista dining room. Our wait staff were all attentive, funny and accommodating. We found the menu choices always varied and served with detail to presentation. I must say that even with a group of 10, every single one of us loved the food in the dining room and when an occasional dish was not as expected, our waiter was eager to replace it with something else. When that did happen we also got a visit from the Maitre D to find out if there was anything else he could do for us. We had the best escargot we've ever had as well as many other dishes that were prepared perfectly. There were plenty of choices and if you just didn’t feel like eating at 5:30 you could visit the Lido with a multitude of choices, the hamburger bar by the pool or eat later in the second floor dining room. Of course you also had the option of eating in the Pinnacle Grill for an extra $25/pp fee, which we did one night but really, the food wasn’t that much better there than in the dining room. So in a nutshell…..best food we have ever had on a cruise. A tip when choosing early or late seating...we did hear from some other folks that some of the entree items were not always available at the late seating, although we did not experience this. We did order room service a few times (mostly breakfast)and it was always good, on time and hot.Stateroom: Cabin 8081 on the Navigation deck was near perfect and in great condition. It's located is on the starboard side of the ship just a few cabins back from mid-ship. It is roomy and well appointed with new looking furniture, bedding, patio furniture and beautiful carpet. The bathroom is very large with double sinks, a shower and a jetted tub, both with optional hand held shower heads. The flat screen TV is on a swivel so it can be viewed from either the bed or the sitting area. There is more than ample storage space (we actually had some extra drawer and closet space and our 4 suitcases fit easily under the bed. The cabin was very quiet and only once did we hear what sounded like noise above us, which was coming from the Lido Buffet dining area but not enough to even bother us only lasting a couple of minutes. The balcony is so spacious with plenty of room for the 2 chairs & table plus the 2 lounge chairs & side table. We didn't have any trouble with the door to the balcony sticking or locking unintentionally. We only saw our cabin steward once even though he kept it beautifully clean and supplied with fruit and fresh ice in the bucket every day. I would be very happy to travel in this cabin again if the opportunity arises.Entertainment: First and foremost, the HAL entertainment crew dance and sing their hearts out for you. It may not always be your style of music or dance but they are very talented and do a great job of pulling off their shows on the stage they have to work with. The costumes for the final show were absolutely gorgeous with many changes throughout the show. The Magician/Comedian was so great and the other musicians playing in other lounges on the ship were excellent. Just a tip about the shows...the late show (10 pm) has much more seating available but if you want to go to the first show at 8pm, you must get there about 20 min. early to get a good seat.There were only two things that we would like for HAL to fix ...... please make your ships non-smoking or at least offer a smoke-free casino. I enjoy doing some gambling while cruising but my husband can't tolerate cigarette smoke so we were not able to enjoy the casino together. The second item is the cooking class we took with the chef was very disorganized and we didn't really learn much. Although the cost of the class did include lunch in the Pinnacle Grill afterwards, it really wasn't worth the $30/pp.The ships captain and crew did an amazing job of maneuvering that huge ship around without even a hint of motion. Sometimes when we left a port we didn't even realize that the ship was moving until looking out the window. We had beautiful sunny weather throughout our entire cruise except for the morning we were in Ketchikan, where is sprinkled a little. The cruise up Tracy Arm was breathtaking and something we will always remember! Thanks captain, for making it up so close to Sawyer Glacier, and turning us around on a dime to cruise back down the fjord.What more can I say, we had a wonderful cruise and I personally can assure everyone that they really do give away the free cruise that they sell tickets for all week long(wink). We will definitely be cruising with HAL again within the next 18 months. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
I do not write many reviews but I feel compelled to add my comments about our recent cruise on the Oosterdam from Sydney to Seattle. I am going to make it short and to the point. I am not a complainer and for the most part the cruise was ... Read More
I do not write many reviews but I feel compelled to add my comments about our recent cruise on the Oosterdam from Sydney to Seattle. I am going to make it short and to the point. I am not a complainer and for the most part the cruise was just great. I'm just making my comments known in the hopes that someone at HAL reads this stuff and takes note. Food was for the most part good although often times in the Vista dining room the food was served cold. In the vista dining room there were far fewer waiters than usual. They also appeared to have many more tables to serve than observed on previous cruises. On larger tables, food was often delivered in stages, so that some folks had to wait several minutes to eat, until the rest of the table was eventually served. Getting bar drinks was also a challenge as the waiters were so busy. Really enjoyed the anytime dining and had no problems getting a table at whatever time we chose to eat. Buffet food in the Lido was for the most part good. Entertainment was usual array of jugglers, comedians, song and dance acts, and production shows. Nothing really notable and mostly enjoyable, other than a couple of acts where the audience basically walked out -- one was a dance duo that had videos playing that were out of sync with their performance. They asked the audience to stand and try a dance step, and at that point half of the audience left. The second was a comedian, named Cash something or other, that totally fell flat with the Australian / Canadian audience. No jokes, just kept picking on audience members in the hopes that he could find something funny. What was funny was the audience comments being yelled to the comedian on stage. Our general feeling was that there were far fewer staff on the ship. On previous cruises you would always be dodging the cabin stewards in the hallways. On this cruise we hardly ever ran across any of them. In fact after 22 days of cruising we couldn't even identify our stateroom person. The cabin was nicely serviced twice a day so no complaints there. A major highlight of this cruise was having two good lecturers on board. A fast talking Canadian lady, Beth Fagan, discussing famous people connected to the places we visited, and a really wonderful Geologist, by the name of Helena Aves, who we had previously met on another cruise over a year ago. Her lectures were really interesting and she delivered them to packed audiences in the Vista theater/lounge. In discussing her lectures with other passengers, they all commended Helena on her mastery of the subjects discussed, and her excellent way of delivering complex subjects, in a short amount of time, to a non technical audience. All concerned wished that HAL would have more such stimulating lecturers on their cruises. HAL sold the Vancouver to Seattle leg as a one night cruise. What a wake up call that was to the sleepy seniors that had been on Oosterdam since Sydney, or even Auckland. Suddenly the ship was transformed into a loud "booze cruise". The average passenger age dropped from 79 to 39 instantly. These one niters were loud and obnoxious and mostly drunk. The Oosterdam is a nice ship. The only criticism we have is that the Library is part and parcel of the Crowsnest lounge, the noisiest venue on the ship. How can one read with trivia, happy hour, internet cafe, and various other activities all going on simultaneously. We did manage to find a nice quiet place called the explorers lounge on deck two. However, on a few occasions, there was piped in pop music just to annoy those trying to read. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My husband and I travelled on a 37 day repositioning cruise which began in Auckland on March 30 and ended in Seattle on May 5, 2013. Overall, I would give good marks for the cruise. We prefer to take long cruises (rather than a lot of ... Read More
My husband and I travelled on a 37 day repositioning cruise which began in Auckland on March 30 and ended in Seattle on May 5, 2013. Overall, I would give good marks for the cruise. We prefer to take long cruises (rather than a lot of short ones) because we get more for our money on repositioning cruises, which have a lot of sea days and tend to visit places that are not the usual cruise destinations. This was our third such cruise. Visiting many destinations in a short period of time was the reason we took the cruise rather than a land tour, and it worked very nicely--we visited 13 ports (Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Akaroa/Christchurch, Dundedin, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, then on to Noumea (New Caledonia), Suva and Dravuni Island (Fiji), Samoa and American Samoa, Kauai, Honolulu, and Vancouver). The characteristics of the passengers tended to match the type of cruise. Those on the lengthy itinerary tended to be retired, and there were few childen on board. The educational lectures were given almost daily on the Sydney to Vancouver leg, and they were uniformly informative and excellent. On the shorter 14 day itinerary (Auckland to Sydney), the passengers were livelier and louder, and it was difficult to find tables in the Lido for breakfast. On the one day cruise from Vancouver to Seattle, the crowd was boistrous, young, noisy and boozed up. The Vista Dining Room, which was a fairly sedate and quiet place to dine on the longer cruise, was one loud and raucous buzz during dinner time on that final night. The food was fine, but on some days, we had trouble identifying anything that appealed. Fortunately, they do have available alternatives, such as a strip steak or salmon, and my husband must have had the French onion soup at least 20 times. We ate dinner in the Lido on one occasion, and I would never go back. We also had dinner once in the Pinnacle Grill, which was excellent. It would easily cost $200 ashore, but we paid $37.50 (as 3 star Mariners). The 3-flavored creme brulee was to die for. Breakfast in the Vista Dining Room is very nice (compared to the mob scene in the Lido), but the menu is quite limited and there can be a long wait for the food. The ship is 10 years old, and to my knowledge, has never been renovated. Now would be a good time. Our cabin was ok, but there were obvious signs of wear and tear, from the fairly threadbare sofa to the gouges in the bathtub, to the balcony door that was hard to unlock. We also noticed that the number of stewards seemed to have decreased. In the past, we could count on our rooms being done after returning from breakfast, but on this trip, it was not unusual to have to wait until 1 pm before the room was cleaned, even when we set out a "service please" sign. Each steward has to clean about 16 rooms, which is too heavy a load. I think 800 staffers for a ship that holds 2,000 passengers is too tight a staff/service ratio, and it shows. HAL needs to reverse some of its cutbacks. The entertainment was below par. The HAL dancers and singers did something like 2 1/2 shows, and one of them (Garage Band) was performed 3 times. The stage is not sufficiently large (I don't think) to cover a large production show, so most of the entertainment consisted of solo acts (singers, comedians, magicians) who were backed up by an overworked group of very professional ship musicians. Fitness and spa personnel provided a lot of talks which gave the initial appearance of being educational, but which were really sales pitches aimed at getting attendees to fork out funds for questionable and expensive treatments. The one I found the most objectionable was on "detoxing", where they spoke about their detox program consisting of algae capsules at "only" $200 a month. How they were to "monitor" the customer once they got off the ship was never mentioned. The spa pitch included ionithermie, which, for only $155 a pop (plus tip) will take 1-8 inches off your stomach. What they don't tell you is that they measure 5 different places, and take the difference between the "before" and "after". The high pressure sales pitch for products is very annoying. HAL will say this spa (Greenhouse, which I visited long ago, when they didn't do this kind of treatment) is only a contractor, but their practices certainly don't place HAL in a favorable light. One thing that did happen (probably a good thing) is that I drank very little coffee on the ship. The coffee was just atrocious. The water, however, is very good. One final note -- I really appreciate that HAL (despite the criticisms) is that treats returning passengers well. We were invited to two Mariners brunches, where the meal was several cuts above what was normally served in the dining room. They also had a cocktail party with generous servings of wine and other drinks. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the ... Read More
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the passengers from the previous cruise were still disembarking, so HAL decided to treat us to a two-hour bus tour of Sydney while we were waiting. We had a nice tour around town and a stop-over at Bondi Beach. Once back at the Oosterdam, we were shown to our cabins without further ado. We were so pleasantly surprised by our stateroom; it was on the Navigation deck (8079), starboard center, with a gigantic verandah. The room itself was spacious and had ample luggage and storage room. Our two cabin stewards, Indra and Sutarno, were outstanding in every way. We got to know them quite well while on our twenty-seven day journey on the ocean waves. I would describe the Oosterdam as an elegant ship, neither dazzling nor garish. She was more cozy and comfy, with some nice artsy touches. Everything seemed to be spotless, which is, as they say, next to godliness. I noticed the profusion of hand-cleansing dispensers scattered around the ship. This gave me a clear impression that the management was dead serious about stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses through unwashed hands. Good for them! The food in the Lido Lounge was, um, average-to-slightly above-average most days. The best meals in the Lido, I think, were the breakfast omelets, Panini sandwiches, pasta bar, and dessert bar. The entrees could be hit or miss, depending on the day. There was also a little hamburger station at the Lido pool which served great burgers and hot dogs. A "Mexican" station was also set up by the Lido pool, and I hear the best item was the shrimp/guacamole/mandarin salad. We only dined in the Vista Lounge twice, and both times our steaks were as tough as a cadaver. With almost a month on board one gets a good feel for the ship's milieu. The Oosterdam was no exception, as we became settled into a routine on sea days. I know my husband complained a little about there not being much activity on board, and a slight insouciance by the athletic staff to organize sports activities during the day, especially table tennis. It would also be safe to say that there was very little activity for young children or teenagers onboard, as the Oosterdam is geared mostly for mature adults, although, ironically, the adults we spoke to all said that there should be more sports activities around the Lido pool area for adults. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Oosterdam was the Crow's Nest, a lovely atrium-like area with great views and a nice little library and computer area. Each day the Cruise Director would host a Team Trivia game, and this proved to be a big hit. There was also Happy Hour at the Crow's Next bar and the Queen's Lounge, where passengers could buy their second drink for $1. I won't go into detail about ports visited, except to say that the process was very smooth indeed, even when we had to use the ship's tenders. One memorable occasion was when our tender was halfway between the ship and the Akaroa dock when the engine stopped. We floated for a good fifteen minutes and then, voila, the engines started up again. I'm glad they did, because Akaroa was a beautiful little town in a most picturesque and sheltered bay. There were many highlights of our cruise on the Oosterdam, not the least of which was our good fortune to meet some lovely people from Australia. These folks made our trip so memorable, along with the excellent Oosterdam Captain Arjen Van der Loo and his outstanding crew. All in all, it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Background and Planning: Later this year I turn 50 years old. While previous milestone birthdays did not bother me, for some reason this one does. Luckily, most days I feel like I am in my 20s, and I still possess the strong desire and ... Read More
Background and Planning: Later this year I turn 50 years old. While previous milestone birthdays did not bother me, for some reason this one does. Luckily, most days I feel like I am in my 20s, and I still possess the strong desire and curiosity to see as much of the world as possible. So what better way to celebrate the half-century mark than to take to the skies and the sea to explore new and exotic locales? My partner is just as adventurous as I am and is the perfect traveling companion. When he turned 50 a few years ago we spent 12 fantastic days and nights sailing around Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. In our 18 years together we have spent a significant amount of time in Europe, and since moving to California eight years ago have traveled extensively in Asia. When we sat down early last year to plan my 50th birthday trip, we decided that we wanted to travel in early 2013 (even though my birthday is in July) and go somewhere in the warm Southern Hemisphere. Our first thought was a cruise around South America's Cape Horn. We also considered doing an adventure cruise from South America to Antarctica. In the end, and after watching The Lord of the Rings for the tenth time, we ended up looking at cruises in and around Australia and New Zealand. As seasoned cruise experts and after researching cruise lines and itineraries, we decided on a 14 night voyage on Holland America Line's ("HAL") Oosterdam from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand, with a variety of interesting ports-of-call along the way. I booked the trip online in late April 2012 using HAL's website. At that time, there was a plentiful selection of cabins in all categories. I chose a Superior Verandah Suite (category SS) on the starboard side of the ship's Navigation Deck (deck 8). Once I had the cruise dates, I worked on getting us from our home near San Francisco to our embarkation port -- Sydney, and back home from our disembarkation port -- Auckland. Given the length of the flights (12 to 13 hours), there was no way that I was going to fly coach. I first checked with United Airlines to determine if I could get us two-business class seats using either accumulated miles or systemwide upgrade certificates. As a United 1K passenger, my preference was to buy two coach tickets and then upgrade to business. Unfortunately, for the dates that we need to travel there was nothing available. My next call was to American Express. As a Platinum Card member, I am entitled to use Amex's 2-for-1 international business class ticket program. After 20 minutes or so discussing options with the very pleasant and knowledgeable Amex agent, I had two business class tickets from San Francisco to Sydney (via Auckland), with a return nonstop from Auckland to San Francisco. Although I had to pay for one full fare business class ticket, as well as the taxes and fees for the "free" ticket, it was still a bargain, and since the business class ticket is in my name, I received miles toward my 2013 elite status on United. While I was on the phone with American Express, I also booked one night at the Four Seasons in Sydney. A note here about trip insurance -- buy it!!! My mother became very ill in May 2012. By October, she had been in and out of the hospital three times and was moved into a skilled nursing facility. In November, everything seemed very bleak and I thought we were going to lose her. Luckily, she bounced back in December, although she is still in a nursing home. In any event, I am glad that I had the foresight to purchase HAL's Platinum Protection Insurance Plan. We thought a couple of times about canceling our trip -- with the insurance we would have received most of our money back. Moreover, although we did not purchase our air travel through HAL, the Air New Zealand tickets were fully refundable up until the time of departure. If for some reason we need to return to California early, we could make changes without a penalty. Our Down Under Adventure started on Sunday, February 3 at home in Northern California. After a morning spent packing and running last minute errands, our car service picked us up at 2:10 p.m. After a harrowing drive down the 101 and across the Golden Gate Bridge, we arrived at San Francisco International Airport a little more than an hour later. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., we checked our bags all the way through to Sydney and received our boarding passes. The process was very easy and we were on our way to security in no time. As is our tradition, we walked through International Terminal G and domestic terminal 3 to kill some time. Eventually we made our way to the EVA Airlines Evergreen Club, which we could use because we were flying in business class. As a member of the United Club, we could have gone there, but decided to try something different. Although EVA's lounge is very small, it was comfortable and offered significantly better food and drink options than the United Club. We hung out there for about an hour and then made our way to Gate 93 for boarding. We were on board by 6:55 p.m. and quickly made ourselves comfortable in seats 6K and 7K on the B747-400 aircraft. The Air New Zealand crew was spectacular. They were friendly, attentive and helpful. As soon as we sat down the flight attendant came by and introduced herself by name and asked if we would like a pre-flight cocktail. We, of course, asked for a glass of champagne to toast the beginning of a wonderful holiday. We then quickly settled into our seats for the nearly 13-hour flight across the equator and international date line to Auckland. The door to the airplane closed shortly after 7:30 p.m. and at 7:50 p.m. we pushed back from the gate. The giant 747 taxied to runway 28L and at 8:05 p.m., we began our takeoff roll and then lifted off into the night sky. About 30 minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants began the in-flight meal service. In business class we were offered four entrees for dinner -- steak, prawns in chili sauce, pasta or chicken. I ordered the chicken, which came with a Parmesan cheese risotto cake and baby bok choy. The antipasti appetizer included a small asparagus salad, roasted artichokes and cured Italian meats. The meal ended with a very delightful tiramisu. Snacks (cookies, crackers, fruit) were available in the galley throughout the flight. Approximately 2.5 hours before arriving in Auckland, the flight attendants offered us either a light continental breakfast or a more hearty full American breakfast. I opted for the latter, which included scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, and my choice of hot bakery items. Of course, the coffee flowed freely. Overall, I would rate Air New Zealand's food as adequate. As with most airline food, it was nothing to write home about. The dinner was tasty, but the portions small. The breakfast was unremarkable and the powdered scrambled eggs were bland and watery. As we approached Auckland, we descended into heavy clouds. It was dark and rainy when we touched down on Runway 23L and taxied to Gate 9 at Auckland International Airport. We exited quickly and proceeded through a security checkpoint before heading to our connecting flight -- Air New Zealand 101 to Sydney. For this 3.5 hour flight we were on a 767 in business class seats 2J and K. Boarding was very smooth and we again received excellent service from the cabin crew. We pushed back from Gate 10 right on time at 7:00 a.m. and taxied to Runway 23R for our takeoff at 7:10 a.m. We quickly climbed through the clouds and into the morning sunshine. About 30 minutes after departure, we were offered a delicious banana yogurt fruit smoothie, as well as a full breakfast. I opted for the omelet, which was much better than the runny scrambled eggs on the previous flight. After breakfast, exhaustion set in and I fell into a deep sleep for about 90 minutes. When I awoke, we were about 100 miles off the Australian coast and the cabin crew was preparing for landing. We approached Sydney from the southeast and flew north of the city before turning 180 degrees back toward the airport and a landing on Runway 16L. After a very long taxi, we finally parked at the gate around 8:30 a.m. and deplaned shortly thereafter. Although the customs hall was crowded, we made our way through in about 25 minutes. Our driver was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and by 9:15 a.m. were were whizzing toward the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney's Central Business District. By this time a full 24 hours had passed since we left our home in California. What can I say about Sydney, except that it is a beautiful city. Although we were only there for 36 hours, we loved every minute. When we arrived at the Four Seasons around 9:45 a.m., our room was not ready. At check-in, the desk clerk offered us a free upgrade to a city view room, with the caveat that we could not occupy it until later in the day. We agreed, and after checking our baggage we headed out for a very long walk around the Sydney Opera House, through the Royal Botanical Gardens, and down the shopping streets surrounding Pitt and George streets. We found a nice pub for lunch and finally headed back to the Four Seasons around 2:00 p.m. When we arrived, our room was ready -- great timing because we both needed a nap. After a good three hour snooze, we awoke, cleaned up and headed to Cafe Sydney on top of the Old Customs House on Circular Quay for dinner. We had a wonderful outside table with spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the opera house. We ate and drank as the sun set. It was the end of a very long day. The next morning we awoke early and went for a quiet walk through The Rocks neighborhood at the end of the harbour bridge. We took some excellent photos of the sun rising over the harbor and the opera house, before making our way up to the Sydney Observatory for a panoramic view of the city. By now we were hungry, so we headed back to the Four Seasons for breakfast (included with our room rate.) After breakfast, we walked back down George Street to the Swatch store on the Old Victoria Building -- my partner needed a new watch band. By 11:00 a.m., we were back at the hotel to catch a taxi to the pier where Holland America's Oosterdam awaited us. To refresh your memory, we embarked the Oosterdam in Sydney on Wednesday, February 6 and disembarked in Auckland on Wednesday, February 20. Although we originally booked a Superior Verandah Suite (category SS), a week before departure we accepted HAL's reasonable upgrade offer to a Deluxe Verandah Suite (category SA). Our suite -- 7053 -- was on the Rotterdam Deck (Deck 7). Itinerary: Australia Wed., Feb. 6: depart Sydney 6:30 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 7: sea day Fri., Feb. 8: Melbourne Sat., Feb. 9: sea day Sun., Feb. 10: Hobart (Tasmania) Mon., Feb. 11: sea day New Zealand Tues., Feb. 12: sea day Wed., Feb. 13: Milford Sound and cruising Fjorland National Park Thurs., Feb. 14: Dunedin Fri., Feb. 15: Akaroa (Christchurch) Sat., Feb. 16: Wellington Sun., Feb. 17: Napier (departed at 2:00 p.m.) Mon., Feb. 18: Tauranga Tues., Feb. 19: sea day Wed., Feb. 20: arrive Auckland Embarkation: HAL offers online check-in, so we printed out all of our documentation and luggage tags before leaving home on Sunday, February 3. Because we arranged our own flights, we did not attach the luggage tags to our three suitcases until the morning of embarkation. After a quick cab ride from the Four Seasons to the wharf at Barangaroo on Darlington Harbour, we quickly handed over our bags to the stevedores and entered the makeshift terminal (a very large tent) to receive our boarding passes. The Celebrity Solstice was docked at the nicer cruise ship terminal on Sydney Cove near Circular Quay and across from the Sydney Opera House, so our first welcome to the Oosterdam was not very glamorous. Still, the temporary terminal was better than the run down piers where the Queen Elizabeth 2 use to dock on Manhattan's west side before Cunard built its new terminal in Brooklyn. In any event, who really cares what the terminal looks like? Because we were in a deluxe suite, we received priority check-in and boarding. The check-in process was very easy and within 10 minutes of arriving at Barangaroo, we had our ship identification card (which was also our room key) and our Group 1 boarding passes. At 12:30 p.m., boarding commenced, and somehow my partner and I were the first two passengers to board the ship via the gangway to the Main Deck (Deck 1). An Oosterdam crewmember welcomed us graciously and offered to escort us to our suite. We declined because we wanted to explore the ship before going to our cabin. Bottom line: a quick, easy and efficient embarkation; we were off to a good start. Disembarkation in Auckland was seamless as well. The Ship: Deck Layout (top to bottom) - Sports Deck (Deck 11) - Observation Deck (Deck 10): Crow's Nest Bar - Lido Deck (Deck 9): spa, fitness facilities, Lido and Canaletto restaurants, pools - Navigation Deck (Deck 8): bridge, cabins - Rotterdam Deck (Deck 7): cabins, Neptune Lounge - Upper Verandah Deck (Deck 6): cabins - Verandah Deck (Deck 5): cabins - Upper Promenade Deck (Deck 4): cabins - Promenade Deck (Deck 3): outdoor promenade, shopping arcade, ocean bar, upper Vista Dining Room, Vista Lounge balcony, meeting rooms, photo shop - Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 2): Vista Lounge upper main floor, lower Vista Dining Room, casino, piano bar, sports bar, Northern Lights night club, Queen's Lounge, Pinnacle Grill and Pinnacle Bar - Main Deck (Deck 1): front desk, excursion desk, future cruise consultant, atrium bar; Vista Lounge lower main floor - A Deck: Medical offices, tenders The Oosterdam is clean, comfortable and easy to navigate. She does not have the bells and whistles of some of the newer ships, but is a wonderful place to spend 14 days. There are numerous public rooms, and the crew keeps the ship meticulously clean. (While I appreciate the attention to detail and cleanliness, I was disappointed that numerous times in the evenings, the crew would do a "deep cleaning" around us. One night, this even included washing and painting the ceiling in the Explorer's Lounge as we had a pre-dinner drink.) Bottom line: While she has some rough edges and an eccentric color scheme in some of the public rooms, I would definitely sail on the Oosterdam again. The Crew and Passengers: Although I have read complaints in other reviews about the Oosterdam's crew, I found everyone to be delightful. Crewmembers greeted us with smiles and "hellos" each time they passed us in the hall. Service in the restaurants, bars and casino was exceptional, and we truly enjoyed talking with many of the crewmembers. Both on the Oosterdam and on previous cruises, I am continually amazed at how rude some passengers can be to the crew. Yes, the crew is there to provide excellent customer service, but they are people too and there is no reason to talk to them like they are stupid or personal slaves. The passenger manifest included a good mix of American, Canadians, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders. We also met people from Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. There also was a sizeable Chinese contingent. One of the crew told us that only seven children were on board. Overall, the crowd tended to be older, and included many retirees. We made friends with a number of people (primarily Canadians) and tended to "hang out" with the same people. (A special "hello" to Kristina and Alan from Ontario -- we spent a lot of time with them and had many laughs!!!) Bottom Line: The Oosterdam has a warm, friendly and knowledgeable crew. As on any cruise you tend to gravitate to passengers with similar backgrounds and experiences. Our Cabin: As mentioned above we were in cabin 7053, a deluxe verandah suite on the starboard side. As described on the HAL website, the deluxe verandah suites include: 2 lower beds convertible to 1 king-size bed, bathroom with dual sink vanity, full-size whirlpool bath, shower stall, large sitting area, dressing room, private verandah, 1 sofa bed for 2 persons, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Moreover, we received complimentary laundry service throughout the cruise, in-room afternoon high tea and/or hors d'oeuvres served before dinner each evening on request, priority boarding and disembarkation, priority dining room requests, and exclusive access to the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast, among many other "perks." We also had exclusive access to the Neptune Lounge, which was just steps away from our cabin. The lounge is a private place to relax, have a bite to eat, visit with other passengers and enjoy the personalized service of a concierge. We took full advantage of many of the deluxe suite amenities, especially the free laundry service (we arrived home with only a small amount of dirty clothes) and the Pinnacle Grill breakfast (Sebastian and his team are top notch.) We also appreciated the assistance of the concierge, who helped us with a number of issues and questions; she also made sure we had dinner reservations each night at a table of our choosing. One fabulous highlight of the cruise was the special lunch for deluxe suite passengers in the Pinnacle Grill. We were served an Indonesian Feast, which was one of the best meals we had on board. The cabin itself was very comfortable. The large bathroom was a dream and we spent a lot of time on the verandah soaking up the sun and watching the beautiful blue sea. Ary, our cabin attendant kept our cabin clean and was always available when we needed him. Bottom line: Our cabin was terrific and the upgrade was well worth the money. The Food: The Oosterdam's food was fantastic. The portions were perfect, the selection varied and the taste delicious. Although we ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido on a few occasions, we preferred sit down service for most of our meals. The main dining room -- the Vista -- is your typical cruise ship dining room; a large, two story facility with hundreds of tables designed to seat from two to ten persons. Although we could have opted for either "early" or "late" dinner seating, we were very happy with HAL's "As You Wish" dining option, which allows you to eat dinner whenever you want. We ate at 7:45 p.m. nearly every night, and the concierge at the Neptune Lounge always reserved us a nice table. I did not have a bad meal at the Vista. The highlights were the soups, the vegetarian channa masala, the salmon and the barramundi. My partner also enjoyed his meals, although one night he ordered Australian short ribs, which were fatty and inedible. The service in the Vista was excellent. We often sat in Ahmed and Dany's section (table 127) and they became two of our favorite crewmembers. Before we left home, I made dinner reservations at both the Pinnacle Grill and the Canaletto. There is a small surcharge to eat at both, but it is well worth it. The Pinnacle Grill is quiet, sophisticated and small. We both had the sumptuous and rich lobster bisque. I also had the tasty Caesar Salad prepared tableside and the wonderful grilled lobster tail. The entire dinner was fantastic and the service was impeccable. We ate breakfast at The Pinnacle on most mornings. We enjoyed the personal service and the made-to-order, fresh and hot options. The Canaletto was a real surprise. It is located in a corner of the Lido Restaurant and serves traditional Italian fare. I had the Chicken Cacciatore over a bed of polenta, which was one of the best meals of the entire trip. Like the Pinnacle and the Vista, the service in the Canaletto was top notch. I don't have much to say about the Lido. I generally stay away from cruise ship buffets. The food was adequate and the service was acceptable. We never ate dinner at the Lido and did not take advantage of any of its late night meals. On two mornings, we ordered breakfast room service. It was delivered on time and we loved the ability to enjoy a leisurely meal on our verandah. I'm not a drinker, so you will need to look elsewhere for opinions on the Oosterdam's wine selection. I became addicted, however, to the non-alcoholic "Cucumber Cooler," which I had almost every evening during the 2-for-1 happy hour in the Crow's Nest. As far as dessert is concerned, I can't remember anything that was particularly memorable. Everything was good, but nothing really knocked my socks off. Bottom Line: The dining room and specialty restaurant food was wonderful, the portions perfect and the service excellent. Entertainment: We don't go on cruises for the entertainment, and we did not make it a priority to get to the Vista Lounge for each night's show. Having said that, the "headliner" entertainment was mediocre. The Oosterdam's singers and dancers were talented, but nothing to write home about. We went to one of their shows and it was enjoyable, but forgettable. We also saw an illusionist, a voice impersonator and a young Australian-Vietnamese pianist. We had fun watching all of them, but enjoyed the pianist the most. By the second week of the cruise we stopped going to the shows and instead spent our time after dinner hanging out with new friends in one of the bars or spending time in the casino. The casino staff was excellent and dealt me good cards. I walked off the ship with $400 in winnings. Given the number of sea days on this cruise, there were a number of activities available to passengers throughout the day, including: cooking and mixology classes, computer classes (which were always full), various games and contests, and port lectures. Moreover, the spa and fitness center staff offered a number of "lifestyle" classes. One of the great things about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want. I preferred the latter. While at sea, all I wanted to do was sit in a lounge chair or on the verandah reading a good book and listening to music. The only sacrosanct appointment that I kept each day was the Team Trivia Challenge in the Crow's Nest. We had a good group of new friends that we met each day, and thought that cruise director Michael did an excellent job despite continual griping from some of the other teams. Although we didn't win the grand prize (this was a cumulative challenge held over the two weeks), we came in fourth or fifth and had a great time. Bottom Line: There was as much entertainment as one might expect and the cruise director and his staff were friendly and approachable. We never felt pressured into being anywhere at a certain time or doing anything that we didn't want to do. Excursions: We learned our lesson on this cruise. Take the time to do some research before leaving home and make your own shore excursion arrangements. In most cases, you will save money and get a better value. More importantly, you won't be marshaled onto a bus with 75 other people. Being experienced cruisers, we should have known better. However, the months leading up to our departure were stressful and busy, and we found it easier to pre-book and pre-pay for our shore excursions on the HAL website. We booked the following through HAL: - Melbourne: kangaroos & koalas at the Serendip Wildlife Sanctuary and the You Yangs Park (1/2 day) - Hobart: Tahune Forest Air Walk (1/2 day) - Dunedin: Otago Peninsula and Yellow-Eyed Penguins (1/2 day) - Akaroa: Southern Alps, Arthur's Pass & Tranz Alpine Express (full day) - Wellington: Lord of the Rings Tour and Weta Cave (1/2 day) - Naiper: No excursion - Tauranga: Waitomo Cave and Kiwi Bird House (full day) - Auckland: City Highlights with Airport Transfer (6 hours) All of our excursion tickets were waiting for us in our cabin on embarkation day. Each excursion day we reported to the Vista Lounge and waited for the staff to direct us to the gangway/tenders and our tour buses. This was an easy process and the staff executed it well. Our excursions in Melbourne, Dunedin and Wellington were excellent. We had interesting guides, saw interesting sites and generally had a good time. The Hobart, Akaroa and Tauranga excursions included some very long bus rides to get from the ship to sites. On the Hobart excursion, the guide was horrible. She read verbatim from a script and was very bossy. The Akaroa excursion included two very long bus rides, in addition to a two-hour ride on the Tranz Alpine Express railroad. Luckily, the sites were incredible, especially the views from the top of Arthur's Pass. After the rail journey, we faced another two-hour bus ride back to the Oosterdam. Our very friendly and knowledgeable bus driver/guide obviously has a two martini (or more) lunch while we were on the train. He reeked of alcohol. Of course, there was not much we could about it except inform the excursion staff when we returned to the ship. Without a doubt, however, the Tauranga excursion was the worst. HAL billed it as a 90-minute ride through the New Zealand countryside to the Waitomo Caves (to see the glow worms), the Otorohanga Kiwi House and lunch at a working dairy farm. After we boarded the bus, the driver told us that it was a THREE-HOUR bus ride to our first stop. In the end, we were in the caves for 45 minutes and at the kiwi house for 30 minutes. The lunch at the working dairy farm was excellent; however, after rushing us through the caves and the kiwi house, the driver said that we had two hours for lunch, to be followed by a THREE-HOUR bus ride back to the Oosterdam. Everyone was done with lunch in about 45 minutes, so we forced the driver to take us back to the ship after only one hour on the dairy farm. By the time we returned, my nerves were raw and my butt was very sore. The Auckland highlights tour was nice and gave us a good overview of the city. Moreover, it was a good way to kill some time before our flight home. (We disembarked the Oosterdam at 9:00 a.m. and our flight home did not leave until 7:30 p.m.) Bottom Line: While the logistics of getting everyone off the ship and onto the tour buses was seamless, HAL's excursions are very expensive and not described very well on the website or in the brochure. We know better and next time will do more research and plan our own excursions. All in all, we had a great time on a great ship. We definitely would sail with HAL and on the Oosterdam again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Background and Planning: Later this year I turn 50 years old. While previous milestone birthdays did not bother me, for some reason this one does. Age, of course, is just a mindset. Luckily, most days I feel like I am in my 20s, and I ... Read More
Background and Planning: Later this year I turn 50 years old. While previous milestone birthdays did not bother me, for some reason this one does. Age, of course, is just a mindset. Luckily, most days I feel like I am in my 20s, and I still possess the strong desire and curiosity to see as much of the world as possible. So what better way to celebrate the half-century mark than to take to the skies and the sea to explore new and exotic locales? My partner is just as adventurous as I am and is the perfect traveling companion. When he turned 50 a few years ago we spent 12 fantastic days and nights sailing around Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. In our 18 years together we have spent a significant amount of time in Europe, and since moving to California eight years ago have traveled extensively in Asia. When we sat down early last year to plan my 50th birthday trip, we decided that we wanted to travel in early 2013 (even though my birthday is in July) and go somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. In the end, and after watching The Lord of the Rings for the tenth time, we ended up looking at cruises in and around Australia and New Zealand. As seasoned cruise experts and after researching cruise lines and itineraries, we decided on a 14 night voyage on Holland America Line's ("HAL") Oosterdam from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand, with a variety of interesting ports-of-call along the way. I booked the trip online in late April 2012 using HAL's website. At that time, there was a plentiful selection of cabins in all categories. I chose a Superior Verandah Suite (category SS) on the starboard side of the ship's Navigation Deck (deck 8). Once I had the cruise dates, I worked on getting us from our home near San Francisco to our embarkation port -- Sydney, and back home from our disembarkation port -- Auckland. Given the length of the flights (12 to 13 hours), there was no way that I was going to fly coach. In planning our air travel, I first checked with United Airlines to determine if I could get us two-business class seats using either accumulated miles or systemwide upgrade certificates. My next call was to American Express. As a Platinum Card member, I am entitled to use Amex's 2-for-1 international business class ticket program. After 20 minutes or so discussing options with the very pleasant and knowledgeable Amex travel agent, I had two business class tickets from San Francisco to Sydney (via Auckland), with a return from Auckland to San Francisco. Although I had to pay for one full fare business class ticket, as well as the taxes and fees for the "free" ticket, it was still a bargain, and since the business class ticket is in my name, I received miles toward my 2013 elite status on United. While I was on the phone with American Express, I also booked one night at the Four Seasons in Sydney. A note here about trip insurance -- buy it!!! My mother became very ill in May 2012. By October, she had been in and out of the hospital three times and was moved into a skilled nursing facility. In November, everything seemed very bleak and I thought we were going to lose her. Luckily, she bounced back in December, although she is still in a nursing home. In any event, I am glad that I had the foresight to purchase HAL's Platinum Protection Insurance Plan. We thought a couple of times about canceling our trip -- with the insurance we would have received most of our money back. Moreover, although we did not purchase our air travel through HAL, the Air New Zealand tickets were fully refundable up until the time of departure. If for some reason we need to return to California early, we could make changes without a penalty. Our Down Under Adventure started on Sunday, February 3 at home in Northern California. After a morning spent packing and running last minute errands, our car service picked us up at 2:15 p.m. After a harrowing drive down the 101 and across the Golden Gate Bridge, we arrived at San Francisco International Airport a little more than an hour later. The Air New Zealand check in counter did not open until 4:00 p.m., so we killed some time walking around the international terminal and constantly checking our iPhones for Super Bowl score updates. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., we checked our bags all the way through to Sydney and received our boarding passes. The process was very easy and we were on our way to security in no time. As is our tradition, we walked through International Terminal G and domestic terminal 3 to kill some time. Eventually we made our way to the EVA Airlines Evergreen Club, which we could use because we were flying in business class. As a member of the United Club, we could have gone there, but decided to try something different. Although EVA's lounge is very small, it was comfortable and offered significantly better food and drink options than the United Club. We hung out there for about an hour and then made our way to Gate 93 for boarding. We were on board by 6:55 p.m. and quickly made ourselves comfortable in seats 6K and 7K on the B747-400 aircraft. Business class on this plane was divided into two lower deck cabins, and part of the upper deck. We were in the very front portion of the lower deck, where rows 1-7 consisted of an "A" seat and a "K" seat. The Air New Zealand crew was spectacular. They were friendly, attentive and helpful. As soon as we sat down the flight attendant came by and introduced herself by name and asked if we would like a pre-flight cocktail. We, of course, asked for a glass of champagne to toast the beginning of a wonderful holiday. We then quickly settled into our seats for the nearly 13-hour flight across the equator and International Date Line to Auckland. The door to the airplane closed shortly after 7:30 p.m. and at 7:50 p.m. we pushed back from the gate. The giant 747 taxied to runway 28L and at 8:05 p.m., we began our takeoff roll and then lifted off into the night sky. About 30 minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants began the in-flight meal service. In business class we were offered four entrees for dinner -- steak, prawns in chili sauce, pasta or chicken. I ordered the chicken, which came with a parmesan cheese risotto cake and baby bok choy. The antipasti appetizer included a small asparagus salad, roasted artichokes and cured Italian meats. The meal ended with a very delightful tiramisu. Snacks (cookies, crackers, fruit) were available in the galley throughout the flight. Approximately 2.5 hours before arriving in Auckland, the flight attendants offered us either a light continental breakfast or a more hearty full American breakfast. I opted for the latter, which included scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, and my choice of hot bakery items. Of course, the coffee flowed freely. Overall, I would rate Air New Zealand's food as adequate. As we approached Auckland, we descended into heavy clouds. It was dark and rainy when we touched down on Runway 23L and taxied to Gate 9 at Auckland International Airport. Once at the gate, we exited quickly and proceeded through a security checkpoint before heading to our connecting flight -- Air New Zealand 101 to Sydney. For this 3.5-hour flight we were on a 767 in business class seats 2J and K. Boarding was very smooth and we again received excellent service from the cabin crew. We pushed back from Gate 10 right on time at 7:00 a.m. and taxied to Runway 23R for our takeoff at 7:10 a.m. We quickly climbed through the clouds and into the morning sunshine. About 30 minutes after departure, we were offered a delicious banana yogurt fruit smoothie, as well as a full breakfast. After breakfast, exhaustion set in and I fell into a deep sleep for about 90 minutes. When I awoke, we were about 100 miles off the Australian coast and the cabin crew was preparing for landing. We approached Sydney from the southeast and flew north of the city before turning 180 degrees back toward the airport and a landing on Runway 16L. After a very long taxi, we finally parked at the gate around 8:30 a.m. and deplaned shortly thereafter. Although the customs hall was crowded, we made our way through in about 25 minutes. Our driver was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and by 9:15 a.m. we were whizzing toward the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney's Central Business District. What can I say about Sydney, except that it is a beautiful city. Although we were there for only 36 hours, we loved every minute. When we arrived at the Four Seasons around 9:45 a.m., our room was not ready. At check-in, the desk clerk offered us a free upgrade to a city view room, with the caveat that we could not occupy it until later in the day. We agreed, and after checking our baggage we headed out for a very long walk around the Sydney Opera House, through the Royal Botanical Gardens, and down the shopping streets surrounding Pitt and George streets. We found a nice pub for lunch and finally headed back to the Four Seasons around 2:00 p.m. When we arrived, our room was ready -- great timing because we both needed a nap. After a good three-hour snooze, we awoke, cleaned up and headed to Cafe Sydney on top of the Old Customs House on Circular Quay for dinner. We had a wonderful outside table with spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the opera house. We ate and drank as the sun set. It was the end of a very long day. The next morning we awoke early and went for a quiet walk through The Rocks neighborhood at the end of the harbour bridge. We took some excellent photos of the sun rising over the harbor and the opera house, before making our way up to the Sydney Observatory for a panoramic view of the city. By now we were hungry, so we headed back to the Four Seasons for breakfast (included with our room rate.) After breakfast, we walked back down George Street to the Swatch store on the Old Victoria Building -- my partner needed a new watchband. By 11:00 a.m., we were back at the hotel to catch a taxi to the pier where Holland America's Oosterdam awaited us. To refresh your memory, we embarked the Oosterdam in Sydney on Wednesday, February 6 and disembarked in Auckland on Wednesday, February 20. Although we originally booked a Superior Verandah Suite (category SS), a week before departure we accepted HAL's reasonable upgrade offer to a Deluxe Verandah Suite (category SA). Our suite -- 7053 -- was on the Rotterdam Deck (Deck 7). Itinerary: Australia Wed., Feb. 6: depart Sydney 6:30 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 7: sea day Fri., Feb. 8: Melbourne Sat., Feb. 9: sea day Sun., Feb. 10: Hobart (Tasmania) Mon., Feb. 11: sea day New Zealand Tues., Feb. 12: sea day Wed., Feb. 13: Milford Sound and cruising Fjorland National Park Thurs., Feb. 14: Dunedin Fri., Feb. 15: Akaroa (Christchurch) Sat., Feb. 16: Wellington Sun., Feb. 17: Napier (departed at 2:00 p.m.) Mon., Feb. 18: Tauranga Tues., Feb. 19: sea day Wed., Feb. 20: arrive Auckland Embarkation: HAL offers online check-in, so we printed out all of our documentation and luggage tags before leaving home on Sunday, February 3. Because we arranged our own flights, we did not attach the luggage tags to our three suitcases until the morning of embarkation. After a quick cab ride from the Four Seasons to the wharf at Barangaroo on Darlington Harbour, we quickly handed over our bags to the stevedores and entered the makeshift terminal (a very large tent) to receive our boarding passes. The Celebrity Solstice was docked at the nicer cruise ship terminal on Sydney Cove near Circular Quay and across from the Sydney Opera House, so our first welcome to the Oosterdam was not very glamorous. Still, the temporary terminal was better than the run down piers where the Queen Elizabeth 2 use to dock on Manhattan's west side before Cunard built its new terminal in Brooklyn. In any event, who really cares what the terminal looks like? Because we were in a deluxe suite, we received priority check-in and boarding. The check-in process was very easy and within 10 minutes of arriving at Barangaroo, we had our ship identification cards (which were also our room keys) and our Group 1 boarding passes. At 12:30 p.m., boarding commenced, and somehow my partner and I were the first two passengers to board the ship via the gangway to the Main Deck (Deck 1). An Oosterdam crewmember welcomed us graciously and offered to escort us to our suite. We declined because we wanted to explore the ship before going to our cabin. Bottom line: a quick, easy and efficient embarkation; we were off to a good start. Disembarkation in Auckland was seamless as well. The Ship: Deck Layout (top to bottom) - Sports Deck (Deck 11) - Observation Deck (Deck 10): Crow's Nest Bar - Lido Deck (Deck 9): spa, fitness facilities, Lido and Canaletto restaurants, pools - Navigation Deck (Deck 8): bridge, cabins - Rotterdam Deck (Deck 7): cabins, Neptune Lounge - Upper Verandah Deck (Deck 6): cabins - Verandah Deck (Deck 5): cabins - Upper Promenade Deck (Deck 4): cabins - Promenade Deck (Deck 3): outdoor promenade, shopping arcade, ocean bar, upper Vista Dining Room, Vista Lounge balcony, meeting rooms, photo shop - Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 2): Vista Lounge upper main floor, lower Vista Dining Room, casino, piano bar, sports bar, Northern Lights night club, Queen's Lounge, Pinnacle Grill and Pinnacle Bar - Main Deck (Deck 1): front desk, excursion desk, future cruise consultant, atrium bar; Vista Lounge lower main floor - A Deck: Medical offices, tenders The Oosterdam is clean, comfortable and easy to navigate. She does not have the bells and whistles of some of the newer ships, but is a wonderful place to spend 14 days. There are numerous public rooms, and the crew keeps the ship meticulously clean. (While I appreciate the attention to detail and cleanliness, I was disappointed that numerous times in the evenings, the crew would do a "deep cleaning" around us. One night, this even included washing and painting the ceiling in the Explorer's Lounge as we had a pre-dinner drink.) Bottom line: While she has some rough edges and an eccentric color scheme in some of the public rooms, I would definitely sail on the Oosterdam again. The Crew and Passengers: Although I have read complaints in other reviews about the Oosterdam's crew, I found everyone to be delightful. Crewmembers greeted us with smiles and "hellos" each time they passed us in the hall. Service in the restaurants, bars and casino was exceptional, and we truly enjoyed talking with many of the crewmembers. Both on the Oosterdam and on previous cruises, I am continually amazed at how rude some passengers can be to the crew. Yes, the crew is there to provide excellent customer service, but they are people too and there is no reason to talk to them like they are stupid or personal slaves. The passenger manifest included a good mix of American, Canadians, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders. We also met people from Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. There also was a sizeable Chinese contingent. One of the crew told us that only seven children were on board. Overall, the crowd tended to be older, and included many retirees. We made friends with a number of people (primarily Canadians) and tended to "hang out" with the same people. (A special "hello" to Kristina and Alan from Ontario -- we spent a lot of time with them and had many laughs!!!) Bottom Line: The Oosterdam has a warm, friendly and knowledgeable crew. As on any cruise you tend to gravitate to passengers with similar backgrounds and experiences. Our Cabin: We were in cabin 7053, a deluxe verandah suite on the starboard side. As described on the HAL website, the deluxe verandah suites include: 2 lower beds convertible to 1 king-size bed, bathroom with dual sink vanity, full-size whirlpool bath, shower stall, large sitting area, dressing room, private verandah, 1 sofa bed for 2 persons, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Moreover, we received complimentary laundry service throughout the cruise, in-room afternoon high tea and/or hors d'oeuvres served before dinner each evening on request, priority boarding and disembarkation, priority dining room requests, and exclusive access to the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast, among many other "perks." We also had exclusive access to the Neptune Lounge, which was just steps away from our cabin. The lounge is a private place to relax, have a bite to eat, visit with other passengers and enjoy the personalized service of a concierge. We took full advantage of many of the deluxe suite amenities, especially the free laundry service (we arrived home with only a small amount of dirty clothes) and the Pinnacle Grill breakfast (Sebastian and his team are top notch.) We also appreciated the assistance of the concierge, who helped us with a number of issues and questions; she also made sure we had dinner reservations each night at a table of our choosing. One fabulous highlight of the cruise was the special lunch for deluxe suite passengers in the Pinnacle Grill. We were served an Indonesian Feast, which was one of the best meals we had on board. The cabin itself was very comfortable. The large bathroom was a dream and we spent a lot of time on the verandah soaking up the sun and watching the beautiful blue sea. Ary, our cabin attendant, kept our suite clean and was always available when we needed him. Bottom line: Our cabin was terrific and the upgrade was well worth the money. The Food: The Oosterdam's food was fantastic. The portions were perfect, the selection varied and the taste delicious. Although we ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido on a few occasions, we preferred sit down service for most of our meals. The main dining room -- the Vista -- is your typical cruise ship dining room; a large, two story facility with hundreds of tables designed to seat from two to ten persons. Although we could have opted for either "early" or "late" dinner seating, we were very happy with HAL's "As You Wish" dining option, which allows you to eat dinner whenever you want. We ate at 7:45 p.m. nearly every night, and the concierge at the Neptune Lounge always reserved us a nice table. I did not have a bad meal at the Vista. The highlights were the soups, the vegetarian channa masala, the salmon and the barramundi. My partner also enjoyed his meals, although one night he ordered Australian short ribs, which were fatty and inedible. The service in the Vista was excellent. We often sat in Ahmed and Dany's section (table 127) and they became two of our favorite crewmembers. Before we left home, I made dinner reservations at both the Pinnacle Grill and the Canaletto. There is a small surcharge to eat at both, but it is well worth it. The Pinnacle Grill is quiet, sophisticated and small. We both had the sumptuous and rich lobster bisque. I also had the tasty Caesar Salad prepared tableside and the wonderful grilled lobster tail. The entire dinner was fantastic and the service was impeccable. We ate breakfast at the Pinnacle on most mornings. We enjoyed the personal service and the made-to-order, fresh and hot options. The Canaletto was a real surprise. It is located in a corner of the Lido Restaurant and serves traditional Italian fare. I had the Chicken Cacciatore over a bed of polenta, which was one of the best meals of the entire trip. Like the Pinnacle and the Vista, the service in the Canaletto was top notch. I don't have much to say about the Lido. I generally stay away from cruise ship buffets. The food was adequate and the service was acceptable. We never ate dinner at the Lido and did not take advantage of any of its late night meals. On two mornings, we ordered breakfast room service. It was delivered on time and we loved the ability to enjoy a leisurely meal on our verandah. I'm not a drinker, so you will need to look elsewhere for opinions on the Oosterdam's wine selection. I became addicted, however, to the non-alcoholic "Cucumber Cooler," which I drank almost every evening during the 2-for-1 happy hour in the Crow's Nest. As far as dessert is concerned, I can't remember anything that was particularly memorable. Everything was good, but nothing really knocked my socks off. Bottom Line: The dining room and specialty restaurant food was wonderful, the portions perfect and the service excellent. Entertainment: We don't go on cruises for the entertainment, and we did not make it a priority to get to the Vista Lounge for each night's show. Having said that, the "headliner" entertainment was mediocre. The Oosterdam's singers and dancers were talented, but nothing to write home about. We went to one of their shows and it was enjoyable, but forgettable. We also saw an illusionist, a voice impersonator and a young Australian-Vietnamese pianist. We had fun watching all of them, but enjoyed the pianist the most. By the second week of the cruise we stopped going to the shows and instead spent our time after dinner hanging out with new friends in one of the bars or spending time in the casino. The casino staff was excellent and dealt me good cards. I walked off the ship with $400 in winnings. Given the number of sea days on this cruise, there were a number of activities available to passengers throughout the day, including: cooking and mixology classes, computer classes (which were always full), various games and contests, and port lectures. Moreover, the spa and fitness center staff offered a number of "lifestyle" classes. One of the great things about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want. I preferred the latter. While at sea, all I wanted to do was sit in a lounge chair or on the verandah reading a good book and listening to music. The only sacrosanct appointment that I kept each day was the Team Trivia Challenge in the Crow's Nest. We had a good group of new friends that we met each day, and thought that cruise director Michael did an excellent job despite continual griping from some of the other teams (who need to learn the difference between a carnivore and an omnivore.) Although we didn't win the grand prize (this was a cumulative challenge held over the two weeks), we came in fourth or fifth and had a great time. Bottom Line: There was as much entertainment as one might expect and the cruise director and his staff were friendly and approachable. We never felt pressured into being anywhere at a certain time or doing anything that we didn't want to do. Excursions: We learned our lesson on this cruise. Take the time to do some research before leaving home and make your own shore excursion arrangements. In most cases, you will save money and get more "bang for your buck." More importantly, you won't be marshaled onto a bus with 75 other people. Being experienced cruisers, we should have known better. However, the months leading up to our departure were stressful and busy, and we found it easier to pre-book and pre-pay for our shore excursions on the HAL website. We booked the following excursions through HAL: - Melbourne: kangaroos & koalas at the Serendip Wildlife Sanctuary and the You Yangs Park (1/2 day) - Hobart: Tahune Forest Air Walk (1/2 day) - Dunedin: Otago Peninsula and Yellow-Eyed Penguins (1/2 day) - Akaroa: Southern Alps, Arthur's Pass & Tranz Alpine Express (full day) - Wellington: Lord of the Rings Tour and Weta Cave (1/2 day) - Naiper: No excursion - Tauranga: Waitomo Cave and Kiwi Bird House (full day) - Auckland: City Highlights with Airport Transfer (6 hours) All of our excursion tickets were waiting for us in our cabin on embarkation day. Each excursion day we reported to the Vista Lounge and waited for the staff to direct us to the gangway/tenders and our tour buses. This was an easy process and the staff executed it well. Our excursions in Melbourne, Dunedin and Wellington were excellent. We had interesting guides, saw interesting sites and generally had a good time. The Hobart, Akaroa and Tauranga excursions included some very long bus rides to get from the ship to the sites. On the Hobart excursion, the guide was horrible. She read verbatim from a script and was very bossy. The Akaroa excursion included two very long bus rides, in addition to a two-hour ride on the Tranz Alpine Express railroad. Luckily, the sites were incredible, especially the views from the top of Arthur's Pass. After the rail journey, we faced another two-hour bus ride back to the Oosterdam. Our very friendly and knowledgeable bus driver/guide obviously has a two martini (or more) lunch while we were on the train. He reeked of alcohol. Of course, there was not much we could about it except inform the excursion staff when we returned to the ship. Without a doubt, however, the Tauranga excursion was the worst. HAL billed it as a 90-minute ride through the New Zealand countryside to the Waitomo Caves (to see the glow worms), the Otorohanga Kiwi House and lunch at a working dairy farm. After we boarded the bus, the driver told us that it was a THREE-HOUR bus ride to our first stop. In the end, we were in the caves for 45 minutes and at the kiwi house for 30 minutes. The lunch at the working dairy farm was excellent; however, after rushing us through the caves and the kiwi house, the driver said that we had two hours for lunch, to be followed by a THREE-HOUR bus ride back to the Oosterdam. Everyone was done with lunch in about 45 minutes, so we forced the driver to take us back to the ship after only one hour on the dairy farm. By the time we returned, my nerves were raw and my butt was very sore. The Auckland highlights tour was nice and gave us a good overview of the city. Moreover, it was a good way to kill some time before our flight home. (We disembarked the Oosterdam at 9:00 a.m. and our flight home did not leave until 7:30 p.m.) Bottom Line: While the logistics of getting everyone off the ship and onto the tour buses was seamless, HAL's excursions are very expensive and not described very well on the website or in the brochure. We know better and next time will do more research and plan our own excursions. All in all, we had a great time on a great ship. We definitely would sail with HAL and on the Oosterdam again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We took our first cruise ever with HAL in the Western Med back in 2011 and just loved it. So, eager to experience another cruise holiday, we chose an itinerary from Sydney to Auckland that would not require too much travelling time to ... Read More
We took our first cruise ever with HAL in the Western Med back in 2011 and just loved it. So, eager to experience another cruise holiday, we chose an itinerary from Sydney to Auckland that would not require too much travelling time to begin our vacation. As locals we know that Jan - March is when the weather in NZ is at its most reliable for warmer temperatures and least wind. We certainly were not disappointed as the seas were calm and the sun shone at every port of call for us, except Fiordland, where it obviously rains a lot & often. The itinerary, which included quite a bit of scenic cruising, was everything we hoped for and so much more, with little surprises at every turn. Each city/town had it's own unique way of making visitors feel welcome, for instance in Dunedin we were farewelled by a group of bag pipers and in Napier (where we caught the last day of the Art Deco Festival) a rag-time band played on the pier as we prepared to depart. Even for us locals, there were many 'first ever' experiences, such as Milford Sound, Akaroa Harbour and White Island, just to name a few. NZ came across as a clean, beautiful & fun place to visit. Unfortunately the travel commentary on board was largely read from a script and not entirely accurate on many of the specifics of our ports of call. We could not see the point of being read screeds of historical & geographical facts about a place were were just sailing out of. If people are interested in that level of detail they will research it for themselves; or have already done so. We would have preferred something about what we could see as we sailed away or just silence to enjoy the view! The lovely ms Osterdam met and often exceeded our expectations for stateroom comfort, food and entertainment, even compared to the high benchmark set by the Nieuw Amsterdam back in 2011. Fabulous variety of well prepared and nutritious food at every mealtime made it very hard to portion control! Everything on board is clean and shiny and the health & safety of all on board is obviously taken very seriously. The Captain was charming and informative and we assume that the generally happy atmosphere amongst the senior officers, entertainment team and crew is attributable to his leadership and people management skills. In particular the Cruise Director, Michael did a wonderful job of communicating everything we needed to know each day. Our cabin and dining room stewards were excellent. In summary, a very highly recommended ship and itinerary. We will definitely be travelling with HAL again in the near future. Theresa & Mark Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
A little about us first, my husband is in his sixties and I am 55, we have cruised over 20 times on numerous lines from the 320 passenger Paul Gaugian to the Queen Mary. We cruise two to three times a year departing from different ports ... Read More
A little about us first, my husband is in his sixties and I am 55, we have cruised over 20 times on numerous lines from the 320 passenger Paul Gaugian to the Queen Mary. We cruise two to three times a year departing from different ports around the world, our cruises range from 12-22 days. This was our second cruise with HAL, our first being on the Volendam. We had booked an SY guarantee and were lucky enough to get an up-sell to a SA suite. EMBARKATION/SUITE Our embarkation point was originally to be the overseas passenger terminal in Sydney but because of issues related to the Australia Day Celebrations the ship docked in the Darling Harbour area. Passengers were informed that due to the later arrival of the Oosterdam boarding would not commence until 1.00pm. We arrived at the wharf just after 11.00am and handed in our suitcases. We were one of the first to check in as we had priority boarding however the process was delayed due to a breakdown with the computer system, once checked in it was suggested that we go for a walk and have a look at the local area and return after 1.00pm. We decided to wait it out and were allowed to board at 12.30pm, we were met with smiles as we boarded and given directions to out suite. In the past we have normally had verandah cabins and this was our third experience in a suite. Dennis and I were very impressed with our room, en suite with double basins, separate shower and jacuzzi, we fell in love with our large balcony and spent a lot of time out there. Opposite our cabin was the Neptune Lounge which became our second home over the next 11 days, the Neptune lounge is exclusively for the use of Penthouse and Deluxe veranda suite guests,we would drop in for cold drinks, coffee, tea and nibbles throughout the day and were looked after by the fabulous Diane and Essay who were always so welcoming and remembered our names from the first day! We availed ourselves of the light lunch most days and canapes in the afternoon to get us through to dinner. On our previous cruises we have not really taken advantage of room service however with the larger balcony most nights we ordered dinner from the Main Dining room menu and ate on our balcony as the sun set! It was truly magical. Room service normally quoted a wait of 45 minutes but in reality it was never more than a 30 minute wait, the food always arrived hot and very well presented. Suite guests also have the benefit of enjoying breakfast in the Pinnacle grill, a very refined and soothing experience, staff were great and always remembered our names and beverage preferences, some mornings we just enjoyed room service and ate on the balcony. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill one night and the food, ambiance and service were surreal, it was our 20th wedding anniversary and one we will always remember. ENTERTAINMENT We attended a couple of shows and really enjoyed them, we found the venue to be well laid out and never had any problems seeing the stage from the circle, drink service was very efficient. STAFF From our arrival until that sad final walk down the gangway we found the staff to be excellent, always willing to chat and ask how our day in port had been, our room stewards Ary and Bagus were excellent and took very good care of us. THE SHIP we loved the Oosterdam, loved the bright colours, art work, lamps and everything else about her, we liked that there were many little bars and no large atrium where crowds tend to gather. Thinking back the only thing I think I would change would be the lounge/cafe/library/computer room/bar at the top front of the ship, just make it a lounge with bar and move the cafe, library and computes elsewhere. We found the Oosterdam to be sparkling clean and there always seemed to be staff cleaning, yes she could do with some minor updates but we love her as she is. THE FOOD We really enjoyed the food as previously mentioned, our couple of visits to the MDR were not disappointing, we were on select dining but never had to wait for more than 10 minutes. I cannot comment on the buffet lunches as we would normally eat in the Neptune Lounge. PORTS We had six ports, we missed one due to weather, two of the ports were tender and three docked. Tender process was not a problem for us as we had priority tendering. Our favourite port was the Ile de Pins in New Caledonia, a superb beach and the softest sand. We did not do any of the ships excursions, this cruise was about lying on beautiful beaches and relaxing. THE END With heavy hearts we left the Oosterdam with promises to return, this has been one of our favourite cruises and one we will not forget. There is something about the Oosterdam that endears her to us, can't put a finger on it but we will return again for her to work her magic on us. Marina and Dennis Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
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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