Oosterdam Cruise Review by DisneyDestroyer
- Sail Date: February 2005
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
- Cabin Type: Large Outside Stateroom (partial sea views)
Embarkation: This was relatively effortless. We live in San Diego, so my brother dropped us off at the dock. There were plenty of staff there to help us figure out where to go. The line moved relatively quickly, and we were on the ship in short order. Unfortunately, with rare exception this was the last decent service we received until we returned to San Diego. See "Service" for complete details.
Dining: The food was excellent, better than on past cruises. Of special note was Pinnacle, which was a top-notch experience in every aspect.
Public Rooms: The rooms were OK, nothing special. There were quite a few small hallways that became quite clogged before/after meals, but the seats were all comfortable.
Entertainment: In the main room, generally a dud. Only one of the four primary singers were decent, and there was only one good showgirl - and we learned that both were leaving when their contract was up a few weeks later. The alternate musicians were all pretty good, except for Larry the piano man's singing - stick to the piano.
Cabin: The appointments were very nice. The bed was heavenly, and it was nice to have a tub. There wasn't much room for our own toiletries and the shower was dark because of the design of the curtain track. We did get some noise from when they were testing the mechanisms of the life boats (right outside our window), but it's good to make sure they work. :) Otherwise not much noise. Our room was categorized "partially obstructed view" because of the boats, but it was good enough for us - we could see the ocean and ports in the center third of the window.
Fitness & Recreation (Optional): We each got a massage, and we found the staff to be professional. I also took advantage of the Thermal Suite and Thalassotherapy Pool for our first day at sea - I spent all day there and it was awesome.
Service: I will start with our dining room service. Cruise Ships should all have top-notch service. Their ratings are generally from four stars to six stars, indicating top levels of everything. We have eaten in some of the finest restaurants in Europe, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas - we know the appropriate level of service. There were several key elements that raise service up to the expected heights of refinement that were missing - service was slow and inattentive, silverware was not cleared when appropriate, our napkins were not placed when we arrived at the table, our drinks were not refilled (we even had to refill our own wine glasses), service was not delivered and cleared from the proper side, and servers reached over other diners to deliver or clear place settings. These types of items seem like minor details, and many cruisers (especially first timers) would not even notice them, but they are key elements that make the difference between Coco's and Morton's of Chicago.
Of much greater concern were the dining room service elements that would raise alarm even in a restaurant such as Coco's. We had food and drink orders that were forgotten, so we had to request them two or three times before they were delivered. The dirty plates were left on the table even as the next courses were being served. We did not receive food we ordered, and we received food that we did not ask for (the wrong meat dish, the wrong soup, the wrong starch side). Once I asked for skim milk and got whole milk mixed with water (yes, I can tell the difference). One time they neglected to take my order altogether.
A final key difference between other ships was the friendliness. On other ships, the dining stewards were extremely outgoing and friendly. They were always talking and joking with us. The Oosterdam dining stewards were all very quiet and stoic, their smiles seemed forced and they were unenthusiastic about anything they were doing.
However, I do not believe this was an isolated incident related to our individual wait staff. We experienced similar issues when we sat at other tables (with different servers) for the lunches at sea. This leads me to believe that the issues I encountered are across the entire dining room staff.
Also, there was clearly not enough staff in the dining room. The 2nd Maitre D' who was responsible for our area came over every night to say hello, and ended up personally taking care of some element of our service that had been skipped - clearing dirty dishes, getting a plate of food that had not been delivered, repouring the wine. The staff in this dining room had too many responsibilities besides taking care of the guests, and the service suffered as a result.
From talking to the staff, I believe that there were many emotional problems that were distracting them and keeping their minds off away from executing on the level of service we were expecting. Considering how many of the dining room stewards are from Indonesia, this does not surprise me. I fully understand that they have all signed contracts to work for a specific period of time, but Holland America's management should have taken better care of their mental health. It is the humane thing to make sure your employees are happy, or to release their contracts in extraordinary cases.
Unfortunately, we encountered multiple other issues with the staff & crew of the Oosterdam, which leads us to believe that there is a systemic problem in training and/or motivation. The issues I can remember included: • Many employees were taking their breaks, still in uniform, in public areas of the ship. These chairs and lounges should be reserved for the paying customers, since I know (from speaking with current and past cruise ship employees) that the crew have their own lounges. • The crew doors were left open. I do not mean briefly when loading supplies from the holding area to the bar (and even that should not occur, the porter should close the door immediately after passing through). I mean extended time, when I'm walking up the hallway along the Queen's lounge or the Explorer's bar and the door is wide open with nobody around. • Employees were using the public elevators. There were times when they were carting around supplies in the main elevators, to the point that no guests were able to get on. I know there are dumb waiters and elevators inside the crew area, because I was able to see them through all the open crew doors. • We were still in the showroom when the crew turned on the house lights, opened the curtains, and began to take down the set. My wife and I have both worked in theater - you should NEVER take down the set with audience members still present. Also, it was very distracting to see members of the theater crew sitting in the light/sound booth, dancing the hula along with the dance troupe. • We also had some problems with our room steward. First off, his English did not pass muster. We were not able to understand just about anything he said to us, and I don't think he ever understood anything we asked him to do. He also left dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom when he turned down the sheets. In general, he seemed to be trained to follow a very short list of actions for each room, without any idea or desire to improve upon it. Here also, the personality falls short of what we have had on past cruises - no friendly discussions, no cute little decorative touches. Just make the bed and clean the bathroom in the morning, then turn down the bed and leave the paperwork and chocolate at night. • The final and possibly most disappointing aspect was the cruise director staff. Melissa was the only decent one of the bunch, including Jason the head cruise director. She was enthusiastic and personable. The rest seemed to have a severe attitude problem - they behaved like the cool kids in school, who disdained having to deal with most of the people most of the time. Jason's humor was a sarcastic type that did not go over well with the audience. He was insulting and disinterested, clearly not the correct demeanor for the ship's Cruise Director. He behaved as if he was interacting with people only because it was his job - he wasn't having any fun with it, and didn't seem to care to connect. We saw the same list of humorous questions people ask on other cruise lines, but the audience thought it was funnier the other times - probably because Jason presented it as derogatory rather than silly.
There were a few activities the cruise staff did not show up for (such as name that tune), and a few others where they needed an attitude adjustment. For instance, we were playing Taboo and a group of us just wanted to play for fun, taking turns giving clues, when one of the assistants insisted we make teams and keep score against our wishes. Some events were cancelled without warning (like the scavenger hunt) or moved to an inappropriate venue without proper notice or consideration (moving bridge from a quite card room to a noisy central lounge). Others seemed to be planned without any consideration for location and timing - a blackjack tournament during one of the dinner seatings, alternating large events between deck 9 and deck 2, etc. My wife went to one of the movie showings, and there was not enough popcorn. When she enquired about getting more, they told her that they had already turned off the machine so no more would be made. Finally, Jason showed up visibly drunk to some of the activities, most notably the Oosterdam Superstar competitions - someone needs to tell him that it's still part of his job, and he needs to maintain the same (higher than present) level of decorum throughout the day, from the moment he steps out of his stateroom until after the last minute of the last show.
Unfortunately, the service was SO BAD on this cruise that it outweighs all the good aspects of the ship itself. It really is about the people, and the people on this ship failed us.
250,000+ people have entered their email