Overall a wonderful trip!: Oosterdam Cruise Review by lavictoria

Oosterdam 4
Member Since 2009
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Overall Member Rating

Overall a wonderful trip!

Sail Date: April 2012
Destination: Hawaii
Embarkation: Vancouver
I picked this cruise because of the itinerary and because it left and returned to Vancouver (our neck of the woods). My husband and I are in the 35-54 demographic so wondered if Holland America was the right cruise line for us but were certainly willing to give it a try.

Turns out that there were only a few minor drawbacks to sailing on a line pretty much dedicated to not only seniors but the elderly. Yes, we saw a few children from time to time and a handful of couples under 40 but our general impression was that the average passenger was about 80. I believe that the same ease of transportation that attracted me to this itinerary was also a draw to many older seniors living on the lower mainland of BC and Vancouver Island.
Staff on board made mention several times that they had never seen so many mobility impaired pax on a single cruise and that their wheelchair facilities were stretched to the max. Also there were a lot of Canadians. I didn't get the stats but we did More run out of Clamato juice for Bloody Caesars so, yeah, lots of Canadians.

Embarkation was quick and easy. We had paid a little extra for an upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah which was roomy enough with lots of storage space and a big verandah (compared to my only other balcony on Celebrity). The stewards were very good; one was a bit shy about using English but there was no communication problem and they were both very quick to keep us in extra ice and laundry request sheets.

We choose the unlimited laundry and pressing option which for our 16 days was $119.00 and well worth it. There was also a $20.00/bag option but we're both XL-sized so wouldn't fit much in the bag. The first day out I sent my husband's dress shirts and two of my dresses for pressing so they looked pretty for dinner. The next day and every two days after that I sent socks, underwear and whatever else might need a wash so that when we got home there was only one small basket for me to tackle.

I've read some recent reviews complaining that the Oosterdam's furnishing are old, dirty and tatty. I noticed a few very faded lounge chair pads and some scarring on furniture but only when I was looking with a critical eye - generally I was so busy running from one event to another or meals or schlepping back to the cabin for a nap I never saw the imperfections.
The food was good to excellent. I was disappointed that the Chinese and Indonesian and Indian buffets were so mild but there was always Sriracha hot sauce or sweet chili sauce available to spice things up.

There were so many food choices that even with devoted attention to five or six meals a day I didn't manage to get "a bit of everything". Breakfast choices include: fresh fruit, danish pastries, donuts, congee, oatmeal, made to order omelets, waffles with choice of toppings (mango!), french toast, blueberry or banana pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns made with white and sweet potatoes, beans on toast, fresh squeezed orange juice, twenty types of tea, Swiss muesli, eggs benedict station with choices like Scottish (gravlax), St. George (real crab meat), and Messina (mushrooms and cheese sauce) oh, and bacon, eggs fried to order or scrambled, sausage links or patties, also bagels, cream cheese, gravlax, cheese slices and a few cold cuts just in case.

Early in the cruise they promoted a tour of the kitchens. There was one guy at the front of the line of passengers which stretched out as folks stopped to take pictures and look around. We didn't get to hear him at all but they did provide us with a map of our route and the stations we were passing. Some of the stations also put out samples. The pasta station had a nice display of ingredients (they use Barilla pasta) and plates of Italian sausage to taste. There were also big wheels of cheese with tastes, demos from staff making bread animals, fondant roses and ice carving, giant raw steaks that would be grilled up for dinner that night and a tray of warm cookies at the end.

We had the "As you wish" dining option which turned out pretty well for us. Again, because of the clientele we discovered quickly that planning for the later show (10pm vs. 8pm) and dinner anytime after 7:15 allowed us to ask for a table for two and frequently get it as well as choice seating for the show. Many sea days our evening went something like: 5pm happy hour with free hot appys in the Crow's Nest listening to Matt Murphy (excellent). Change for dinner, win trivia at 7pm (we got some great lootz) then head to MDR for dinner.

There was plenty to do on board. Trivia and karaoke seemed very popular on this sailing. Diane in the piano bar is fabulous and Matt the guitarist in the Crow's Nest knows almost as many songs as she does. Matt in particular likes to "adjust" the lyrics to the room and works the waitstaff into his act. The HALCats are great but I wasn't very keen on their vocalist. The Adagio Strings were also nice to listen to for awhile. The movies shown in the screening room during the day and twice instead of live entertainment on ports days included: The Help, War Horse, The Artist, Adventures of TinTin, Sherlock Holmes II, The Muppets, Mission Impossible IV, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (US). The screening room is too small for demand and we never arrived in time to get a seat but were able to sometimes catch the show we missed on the in-room TV the next day. No worries, there was always something to do even if it was time to lie in a lounger and read.

Speaking of reading I was pleasantly surprised by the scope and size of the library. In addition to many, many choices of books there were also two jigsaw puzzles on the go, chess table, daily Sudoku and crossword, as well as many board and party games available to borrow. Also in the Explorations Cafe (library and internet spot) you can get specialty coffees for almost exactly the same price as on shore. I only had one and it was very Starbucky. The barrista also has a little cooler with tea sandwiches, cookies and pastries. He'll offer you some with your beverage but I did see at least one person walk up and just get some goodies without purchase.

Happy hour (all of them) was always popular. 4-5 Ocean Bar, 5-6 Crow's Nest, 7-8 Ocean Bar, 9-10 Crow's Nest, 11-midnight Northern Lights. Second drink for $1 and a little dish with hot appys like mini crabcakes, chili rellenos, or siu mai.

I used the gym a couple of times before I got too lazy. The movement of the ship on the second and third days out made standing exercise challenging so I worked out from a mat on the floor. Really enjoyed the Lido pool. It was never very busy. On the rougher sea days it was actually the best place to avoid sea-sickness since you're body is completely in sync with your senses. It was also a hoot playing in the waves created by the ship's movement. The Lido pool was covered for much of the trip to and from Hawaii and the dome opened when we were in port. Very convenient.

The evening entertainment was also geared to what people think the older crowd likes. We found it mildly entertaining but somewhat cheesy and didn't even bother the last few nights.

The two things that were really outstanding were the Travel Guide Kainoa and most of the cooking events in the Culinary Arts Center. Kainoa is a gentle giant of a Hawaiian man who knows something about anything you could care to ask him about the history, traditions, culture, natural environment and food of Hawaii. I thought he was brought on board specifically for the Hawaiian cruise but he's been working for Holland America for years and is equally adept at lectures about Alaska and Mexico - who knew?

The events in the Culinary Arts Center were pretty much the on-ship highlight of this cruise. Young Daniel (a chef tournant, meaning he can work any station in the kitchen) from Vancouver and with the help of perky party planner a girl named Kyle entertained us every sea day with cooking demos of different foods made on board. Most demos ended with a tasting. Daniel also was the instructor for four hand-on cooking lessons ($29.00 each) where he had classes a large as 9 and as small as 4 put together several recipes into a meal which we then plated for ourselves and snuck into the back door of the Pinnacle Grill where we ate our creations with fancy table settings and wine service. I thought it was totally worth the money but now what do I do with 4 aprons...

The only other "enrichment" event we attended was the Digital Workshop on Making Movies using Windows Live Movie Maker. Even though we consider ourselves tech savvy we hadn't used this program before and are now much more likely to.

We even got along really well with the photographers on board who were very open to us using our own props (my husband brought his ukulele) and inventing our own poses to suit our personality. I strongly recommend if you want great pictures the photo staff would be delighted to do something different and have a chance to express their creativity. (Especially Daniel Gabor).

Port reviews appear separately.

We really enjoyed ourselves. The median age of the passengers didn't really bother us. We met nice people who just happened to be our parent's generation and they seemed to think we were cute, so it's all good. I will probably not pick Holland America for my next cruise but I certainly haven't written it off for the future. Less

Published 05/08/12
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review: VA7130 Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

Good sized balcony with two chairs, one foot stool and a tiny table. Big enough for two people to move around comfortably. Lots of closet space with fold-away shelves that customize to your needs. Drawers underneath the foot of the bed(s). Comfy bed, some wear on furnishings but not enough to detract from the overall comfort. Excellent sound-proofing and generally very quiet, though in high winds balcony dividers did rattle. Although "a problem with one of the tanks" was reported there was no smell in the bathroom only a several second delay occasionally when flushing. Given a choice I would ask for a similar cabin closer to midships for convenience sake, but would happily accept this one again.

Read All Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom (VA) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Imiloa Astronomy Center

There were more people booked for this excursion than the tour bus would hold and I ended up in a seven person over-sized mini-van with the overflow. "Auntie Karen" a mid-westerner who has lived on the big Island many years and married a Japanese-Hawaiian, was our tour guide. Not of Polynesian/Hawaiian descent herself, but a typical Hawaiian nonetheless. Driving out of the gridlock of the harbor area she told us about Ohana (family), and how every adult is Auntie or Uncle to small children. She also had good knowledge of the tsunamis that had changed the Hilo area over the years but admitted she lacked for statistics. Our first stop at the Big Island Candies was basically a shopping stop. In spite of being told that this is the "only place you can get these" there is a second Big Island Candies store in the Ala Moana Center on Oahu. Lots of tasty samples (don't miss the coffee) but other than some beautiful packages for Japanese style gift giving I felt shortbread just wouldn't scream "Hawaii!" to the folks back home. Traveling along Banyan Drive we were given a short history lesson and saw trees planted by various luminaries. A quick stop at the shore demonstrated the "mud" was actually very fine black volcanic sand. Off to Rainbow Falls for a photo op of the falls and a lovely garden setting. Auntie Karen, hula enthusiast, showed us how to use ti leaves to make a grass skirt. We were ushered rapidly through the Imiloa center and only given about 15 minutes to go back and look more closely at the displays before the start of the planetarium show. The presenter was a young woman involved in the research from data collected by the radio-telescope array and the show ranged from basic ("here is Orion") to a demonstration of recent space debris data in 3D addressing objects in low-, mid-level and geosynchronous orbit which was more than a little mind-blowing. Recommended with the caveat that if the Astronomy Center is your main goal you will feel rushed to get through all the exhibits.

The port of Honolulu is very tourist friendly for adventuring out on your own. On foot or by The Bus (highly recommended) it's easy to find cool stuff nearby. I never thought that "going to a mall" would be a good tourist activity but I had a great time. The Bus cost $2.50 at the time of our visit, a four-day pass for $25.00 is available from the ubiquitous ABC Stores. Not only is Ala Moana the biggest mall I had ever seen, its design is uniquely Hawaiian, the food court has lots of choices not found on the mainland and there's a Zippy's (what Hawaiians eat) in the Sears store. Every day at 1pm there is a very professional hula demonstration on a stage in the main concourse with a live singer. (Get there early for a good seat!) I wandered through Foodland looking at interesting stuff we don't see at home (a cooler full of leis next to the flower arrangements). Bought a musubi at the deli (don't ask, just eat), and a few bits and bobs. The Barnes and Noble store has a big selection of Hawaiian music in their CD department and listening stations so you can check them out. After picking up a few trinkets here and there I had a shave ice in the food court while people watching, then took the bus back to Aloha Tower (pier landmark). Was lucky enough spend our second day in Honolulu at the 10th Annual Spam Jam. Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki was closed down for the event, wreaking havoc on the Shopping trolly and all other transportation. I just took The Bus and sat in air-conditioned comfort listening to the relaxing, mellow voice of the recorded bus announcements and looking past the grid-lock at the scenery. The Spam Jam itself was a hoot and I spent several hours grazing on Spammy concoctions and enjoying the live entertainment. Stopped at Hula Dog at the edge of the International Marketplace for another shave ice before heading back (by taxi since it was getting late - $20.00).
Read 504 Honolulu Reviews

Kauai was the last port of call after four days of going flat-out in other locations so we weren't particularly adventurous. There were the usual free shuttles waiting at the end of the gangway. I wanted to go to the beach so we got aboard the Harbor Mall shuttle which dropped us off across the road from Kalapaki Beach behind the Marriot resort (5 minute walk from back of mall where shuttle stops). The beach was very pleasant. The weather the day we visited was somewhat overcast and breezy which didn't bother me but probably kept the crowds away. There is a surf school on site as well as Duke's Barefoot Bar/Restaurant but I just spread out a towel and alternated between playing in the relatively gentle surf and resting on the beach. After working up an appetite playing in the water I wandered back to the mall which is small and only has 4 food choices (pub, pizza, Mexican). I picked the Kalapaki Joe's sports restaurant which seemed to have as many locals as tourists. I chose the Blackened Ahi Salad (13.99), a big chunk of ahi with a tasty sesame dressing on the side over a massive plate of salad. I ate all of the fish and half of the salad so I could have the Kauai pie for dessert (8.99 but worth it - could easily be shared). Not much at this struggling little mall; thought about walking down the road to the Anchor Cove mall but decided to head back to the ship and wash the sand out of my hair. Shuttle comes by every 10-12 minutes, traffic not an issue on Kauai. Security checked ID and room keys from the shuttle so he could drop us right next to the ship; less walking on the way home=priceless.
Read 407 Kauai Reviews

Atlantis Submarine

The Atlantis Submarine company is very polished and organized with up-to-date equipment and friendly knowledgeable staff. That said, my husband and I who are admittedly large people found our discomfort in the sub detracted from our experience. (Yes, I should have known and I do not fault Atlantis for our obesity.) We did see many types of fish and a sand shark. The company has a sunken vessel they paid for themselves, creating an artificial reef guaranteeing a variety of fish and several large schools are always available for viewing. This excursion is well worth it if you do not want to snorkel and if you can comfortably sit in a small space for about 45 minutes. In Lahaina Atlantis shuttles you to their submarine in a boat which was a bit of a rough ride - fun! You get to watch the sub surface - fun! and then the staff quickly transfer the previous group off the sub and your group on and down - expertly! I do have minor mobility issues but never felt worried about falling. THE PORT OF LAHAINA is very small and requires tendering. I was led to believe that the number of tenders allowed at the dock per ship is limited. The day we arrived there was already a Royal Caribbean ship anchored and between regular dock traffic and tenders from the two ships significant time spent idling in the tender waiting for our turn enter the harbor area left many passengers over-heated, crabby and just plain impatient. (In one case the 10 minute journey took 35 minutes and the motion of the near empty tender caused a couple of cases of sea-sickness.) Unfortunately this also meant that the dinner-time rush back to the boat ended in a queue that I overheard was "hours" long. On the other hand even though I went ashore twice I never waited more than 20 minutes at either end. My recommendation? Take a cab/bus (long walk) out to Aloha Mixed Plate for an inexpensive meal with a nice view and the sounds of the Old Lahaina Luau next door and head back to the ship after everyone else but still an hour before last tender.

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