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Just got back two days ago from a week on the Oosterdam, and wanted to enter my impressions while it was still fresh. What a great week! My wife and I (mid-late 40's) traveled with another couple and our 2 teenage daughters (1 each). We had been on the Norwegian Sun with them 2 years ago so knew they were compatible cruising companions. This is our 4th cruise overall, second on HAL. This ship is superbly appointed. I would love to have most of the furniture in my house. Lots of leather and classic though modern design, and uniformly comfortable. Truly a first-rate impression (with the possible exception of the atrium, which crossed the line into 21st century cruise ship/bordello, although not as much as some ships I've seen). Also appreciate the effort to make the exterior look like a ship, rather than a sideways office tower. On to category by category: Embarkation In a word, the best I've experienced. Was helped somewhat by staying immediately across the street in the Holiday Inn at the Bay--our room's balcony directly faced the bow of the ship while in port, not more than 500 yards away. Amazing. All we had to do was shoulder our bags and walk across the street into the terminal building--no cab or shuttle necessary. The only drawback was that this hotel was the noisiest I've ever been in. No wall insulation, apparently, and could hear every car go by on Harbor Drive below. That, combined with concrete beds, made the first night on the ship true nirvana (more on that later). Once in the terminal building (we were there about 11:30 am) we walked right up to the check-in counter (no lines at all--there were numerous stations) and were on the ship by 12 noon, in the cabin by 3:00. Which leads us to: Cabin--5087, standard Verandah stateroom The good: a) OUTSTANDING, larger-than-queen bed, superb linens. Slept better than I do at home; b) roomy bathroom, with a decently sized (i.e., non-mini) tub and shower, good water pressure, plenty of shelves and storage; c) average sized balcony, but full adult sized, comfortable chairs (unlike Norwegian); d) tasteful, upscale decor. The ok: Storage. There are more storage areas than you first think, but several were full of extra blankets and such that required consolidation before usefulness. The bad: a) Get the TV up off the desk. It's a nice, big 20 incher, but it takes up half the desk--attach it to the wall, please; b) because of the large main bed, the foldout sleeper is loveseat sized and so folds out lengthwise (rather than the full sofa sized sleeper on Norwegian that folded out one cushion wide and saved on floor space), making it almost impossible to get to the balcony or open the fridge with the bed out--literally only about 6 inches between the bed and the desk; c) a nit, but bugged me: the reading lights are built into the wall only about 6 inches off the bed, below pillow level--not the best location. Fitness and Recreation Outstanding spa--everything you could ask for. Comprehensive workout facility, peaceful and spacious massage rooms, amazing 10 by 10 stainless hydropool, ceramic heated lounges, nice looking salon. First class. Dining Our first night meal at the Pinnacle was, by consensus, one of the best meals we've ever had, anywhere, not just on a cruise ship (and we live in Chicago, with no shortage of great restaurants). Even the coffee was terrific. The main dining room was also quite nice, with a good variety (like the nightly "comfort food" option), and nice presentation. Waiter Yohannis was pleasant and very accommodating. Wasn't crazy about having to look at the serving stations (we were between two), but I suppose there's nothing to be done about that. Nice to have 4 dinner times (5:45, 6:15, 8:00 and 8:30) on the upper and lower levels--we had 8 pm upper. The Lido buffets were great for lunch--deli sandwiches, Italian, Asian, full lunch, burgers/brats, taco bar; and for breakfast--continental with lots of fresh fruit, muffins, cereals and danish, omelet stations, and full breakfast with french toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. You can also get a full dinner in the Lido if you don't want to dress up, with many of the main entree options the same as the dining room. Much better than average cruise food, in my opinion. Entertainment Have to agree with the other reviewers on this; not the best. The comedians were very entertaining, and singer Bobby Black had a fine, effortless voice that adapted to a variety of songs, but the ship's company of singers and dancers was of only average talent at best and the productions way too cheesy for my taste. The hit of the cruise, it appeared, was the Oosterdam Idol competition, which pitted the passengers against each other in sort of a grand karaoke format. The final packed the Vista showstage and was the talk of the ship, but the whole thing didn't do much for me, personally--I hate karaoke. Ports Cabo: Tendered in; short ride, very efficiently organized (unlike Norwegian). Very pretty area at first look, quaint and resorty. We had rented a van to drive between the two main towns that make up Los Cabos, but upon arrival at the Dollar rent a car counter in town we were told sorry senor, your car is at the airport and won't be here for an hour, would you care to wait? Which was the same line the people in front of us got, but as they were in town for 11 days it probably didn't matter to them. We however said adios and headed to the beach, which we got to by walking behind the facade of the town, through a grungy neighborhood, next to trash-strewn lots and a half-finished shopping mall. Once at the beach, which was quite nice, we spent several hours fending off the constant stream of roving junk-sellers, to the point that I wanted one of them to tattoo "No, gracias" on my chest. Welcome to Mexico. Mazatlan: My wife was sick as a result of eating a bad burrito in Cabo the previous day, so we stayed on board while the other couple and the girls went sightseeing. It was a great, restful day, and there were no interesting excursions in Mazatlan anyway. Puerto Vallarta: Tendered in again (the Carnival Pride was at the only dock) and did a great excursion, boat trip through Vallarta Adventures out to the Marietas islands for snorkeling, dolphin watching (didn't see any), and beach visiting. The crew was very energetic, funny and helpful, the boat comfortable, and the destinations fascinating, although the water was pretty cold for snorkeling. After a quick shower we went back into town for some sightseeing. As in Cabo, the main street is charming and scenic, with a lovely boardwalk along the water's edge right across from the stores, but go one or two streets back and it gets cruddy again. Overall The shipboard part of the trip was great; the shoreside part not so hot. The ports were interesting, but I was glad to be staying in a place that could leave there, and have no desire to back to any of them, unlike the Caribbean. Shipboard was restful (mostly hung out on the forward Observation deck, where there were numerous wonderful padded teak deck chairs), with few interruptions from roving bar waiters (unlike Norwegian) which was a welcome relief after the Cabo experience. Disembarkation was without drama; you could wait in your cabin until your group was called--a nice touch, no congregating in the common rooms. I would travel HAL again anytime--a truly great ship.

Oosterdam - Mexican Riviera

Oosterdam Cruise Review by red herring

Trip Details
Just got back two days ago from a week on the Oosterdam, and wanted to enter my impressions while it was still fresh. What a great week! My wife and I (mid-late 40's) traveled with another couple and our 2 teenage daughters (1 each). We had been on the Norwegian Sun with them 2 years ago so knew they were compatible cruising companions. This is our 4th cruise overall, second on HAL.
This ship is superbly appointed. I would love to have most of the furniture in my house. Lots of leather and classic though modern design, and uniformly comfortable. Truly a first-rate impression (with the possible exception of the atrium, which crossed the line into 21st century cruise ship/bordello, although not as much as some ships I've seen). Also appreciate the effort to make the exterior look like a ship, rather than a sideways office tower. On to category by category:
Embarkation
In a word, the best I've experienced. Was helped somewhat by staying immediately across the street in the Holiday Inn at the Bay--our room's balcony directly faced the bow of the ship while in port, not more than 500 yards away. Amazing. All we had to do was shoulder our bags and walk across the street into the terminal building--no cab or shuttle necessary. The only drawback was that this hotel was the noisiest I've ever been in. No wall insulation, apparently, and could hear every car go by on Harbor Drive below. That, combined with concrete beds, made the first night on the ship true nirvana (more on that later). Once in the terminal building (we were there about 11:30 am) we walked right up to the check-in counter (no lines at all--there were numerous stations) and were on the ship by 12 noon, in the cabin by 3:00. Which leads us to:
Cabin--5087, standard Verandah stateroom
The good: a) OUTSTANDING, larger-than-queen bed, superb linens. Slept better than I do at home; b) roomy bathroom, with a decently sized (i.e., non-mini) tub and shower, good water pressure, plenty of shelves and storage; c) average sized balcony, but full adult sized, comfortable chairs (unlike Norwegian); d) tasteful, upscale decor. The ok: Storage. There are more storage areas than you first think, but several were full of extra blankets and such that required consolidation before usefulness. The bad: a) Get the TV up off the desk. It's a nice, big 20 incher, but it takes up half the desk--attach it to the wall, please; b) because of the large main bed, the foldout sleeper is loveseat sized and so folds out lengthwise (rather than the full sofa sized sleeper on Norwegian that folded out one cushion wide and saved on floor space), making it almost impossible to get to the balcony or open the fridge with the bed out--literally only about 6 inches between the bed and the desk; c) a nit, but bugged me: the reading lights are built into the wall only about 6 inches off the bed, below pillow level--not the best location.
Fitness and Recreation
Outstanding spa--everything you could ask for. Comprehensive workout facility, peaceful and spacious massage rooms, amazing 10 by 10 stainless hydropool, ceramic heated lounges, nice looking salon. First class.
Dining
Our first night meal at the Pinnacle was, by consensus, one of the best meals we've ever had, anywhere, not just on a cruise ship (and we live in Chicago, with no shortage of great restaurants). Even the coffee was terrific. The main dining room was also quite nice, with a good variety (like the nightly "comfort food" option), and nice presentation. Waiter Yohannis was pleasant and very accommodating. Wasn't crazy about having to look at the serving stations (we were between two), but I suppose there's nothing to be done about that. Nice to have 4 dinner times (5:45, 6:15, 8:00 and 8:30) on the upper and lower levels--we had 8 pm upper. The Lido buffets were great for lunch--deli sandwiches, Italian, Asian, full lunch, burgers/brats, taco bar; and for breakfast--continental with lots of fresh fruit, muffins, cereals and danish, omelet stations, and full breakfast with french toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. You can also get a full dinner in the Lido if you don't want to dress up, with many of the main entree options the same as the dining room. Much better than average cruise food, in my opinion.
Entertainment
Have to agree with the other reviewers on this; not the best. The comedians were very entertaining, and singer Bobby Black had a fine, effortless voice that adapted to a variety of songs, but the ship's company of singers and dancers was of only average talent at best and the productions way too cheesy for my taste. The hit of the cruise, it appeared, was the Oosterdam Idol competition, which pitted the passengers against each other in sort of a grand karaoke format. The final packed the Vista showstage and was the talk of the ship, but the whole thing didn't do much for me, personally--I hate karaoke.
Ports
Cabo: Tendered in; short ride, very efficiently organized (unlike Norwegian). Very pretty area at first look, quaint and resorty. We had rented a van to drive between the two main towns that make up Los Cabos, but upon arrival at the Dollar rent a car counter in town we were told sorry senor, your car is at the airport and won't be here for an hour, would you care to wait? Which was the same line the people in front of us got, but as they were in town for 11 days it probably didn't matter to them. We however said adios and headed to the beach, which we got to by walking behind the facade of the town, through a grungy neighborhood, next to trash-strewn lots and a half-finished shopping mall. Once at the beach, which was quite nice, we spent several hours fending off the constant stream of roving junk-sellers, to the point that I wanted one of them to tattoo "No, gracias" on my chest. Welcome to Mexico.
Mazatlan: My wife was sick as a result of eating a bad burrito in Cabo the previous day, so we stayed on board while the other couple and the girls went sightseeing. It was a great, restful day, and there were no interesting excursions in Mazatlan anyway. Puerto Vallarta: Tendered in again (the Carnival Pride was at the only dock) and did a great excursion, boat trip through Vallarta Adventures out to the Marietas islands for snorkeling, dolphin watching (didn't see any), and beach visiting. The crew was very energetic, funny and helpful, the boat comfortable, and the destinations fascinating, although the water was pretty cold for snorkeling. After a quick shower we went back into town for some sightseeing. As in Cabo, the main street is charming and scenic, with a lovely boardwalk along the water's edge right across from the stores, but go one or two streets back and it gets cruddy again.
Overall
The shipboard part of the trip was great; the shoreside part not so hot. The ports were interesting, but I was glad to be staying in a place that could leave there, and have no desire to back to any of them, unlike the Caribbean. Shipboard was restful (mostly hung out on the forward Observation deck, where there were numerous wonderful padded teak deck chairs), with few interruptions from roving bar waiters (unlike Norwegian) which was a welcome relief after the Cabo experience. Disembarkation was without drama; you could wait in your cabin until your group was called--a nice touch, no congregating in the common rooms.
I would travel HAL again anytime--a truly great ship.
red herring’s Full Rating Summary
Embarkation
Dining
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Entertainment
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Ages 13 to 15
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