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The Oosterdam is about as large a ship as I'd want to get on. Even with "only" 1800 passengers, there are still crowds for popular activities such as meals, pool, deck, disembarkation at ports, etc. The cruise itself was very enjoyable despite windy weather and rough seas on the first and last nights of the trip. We discovered (by chance) the 50% off dining cover charge - $10/person at the Pinnacle Grill. HAL had somehow given our kids a different seating and time for dinner than us. Rather inexcusable, but they did make up for it quickly (just not in time for the first meal). At any rate, the Pinnacle was a great restaurant, and it was even better at half price. The Filet Mignon was steak size, and it was cooked to perfection. On big ships, you go for the amenities, and in this regard, the Oosterdam does not disappoint. Even our relatively small outside cabin had plenty of room. (We'll look into a suite next time, however, just for the extra roominess). In our case, the kids were in one room and we were in an adjoining room. The steward opened the privacy panel on the veranda, and we had plenty of back and forth access. The kids liked the independence of having their own place, and it was nice not to have to deal with 4 people and one bathroom. For the Alaska cruise, it's really not critical whether or not you book an even or odd numbered cabin, as both sides get equal "land treatment". We were in an aft cabin, and there was no engine noise on deck 7. One bit of advice would be to bring your own sodas (I'd say beer, too, but they won't let you do that). The drink card is OK, but most of the bartenders don't jump at the chance to serve you if they know you're just getting a Coke. In addition, drinks with meals are not easy to come by, and don't expect a refill. One attendant you'll want to meet is Emilio. If you travel the Oosterdam, you're bound to meet him. He exemplifies the positive attitude of most of the service crew. He'd go out of his way to bring drinks, be they beer, soda, whatever. Meals are served in both the Lido buffet and the Vista Dining Room. Those expecting some kind of culinary artistry will be disappointed, but the meals compared with most of the better places I've eaten on land. In either the buffet or the dining room, you can order as much or as little as you want. We never had problems ordering more than one entree (some nights it was just too hard to decide). One minor complaint we heard from a few other people, and noticed ourselves, was that the decision to go "regional" with the daily Salmon dishes made for fewer choices in other fish categories. They had cod one night and halibut another, but those were the only "other" fish choices. (We did have crab legs one night, and they were quite good). The scenery and shore excursions are the most outstanding part of this particular cruise. Even on our two bad weather sea days (luckily or unluckily, depending on who you asked), the scenery was astounding. After dinner, we headed for the aft hot tub as the ship left Juneau. The sun was out, most folks were still recovering from the day or getting ready for the late dinner, (one fringe benefit of a line that seems to attract the older folks). We'd been on the sled-dog adventure that day, and it just seemed like a fitting end to a perfect day. Emilio brought a bucket of beer, and we had the entire aft section of the ship and the Alaskan wilderness to ourselves. The Hubbard Glacier destination is a good one, quite possibly better than the Glacier Bay route. We were fortunate to have good weather, and no other ships in sight as we made our way up the bay to the glacier. I'd say we spent the better part of the morning and afternoon there. We got extremely close to the face of the glacier. The naturalist (who we could have done without - who needs constant commentary when you're experiencing something like that for yourself) said it was the closest she'd ever been on one of the cruise ships (yeah, right). Well, despite her intrusion on a pretty awesome event, the ship came to for about an hour, and then came about so the other side of the ship could view. In all, about an hour of straight on viewing at the bow (not counting the approach) an hour starboard viewing and an hour port viewing. This made veranda viewing quite popular. The aft deck filled up quite quickly that afternoon, since it was sunny. I headed for the hot tub, but they were full (they only hold about two people comfortably anyway) The day at the glacier is something you won't forget. Wanting to see some wildlife close up, we'd signed up for the Sea Otter Quest in Sitka. The boat took us right from the Oosterdam and after an eventful 3 hour trip, dropped us in town where they loaded us onto a bus for the Raptor Center. Though the center is worth seeing, the amount of time scheduled for this excursion was too short by about an hour. After being returned to Sitka, there was still the rest of the afternoon to sightsee and shop around. (however, in Sitka, that takes all of about an hour). The time in this port was way too long. (we could probably have booked another tour for the afternoon) So, know ahead of time that this port is a long stay and plan accordingly. In Ketchikan, we took the Orca Beach Adventure. By the time we were taken to the marina at Knudson Cove (about 1/2 an hour away) and then went on the Zodiac to the island for about a one hour hike, the morning was gone. The trip itself was worthwhile. You see all of these little islands along the way and wonder what they're like. This excursion answered that question. Most of the people we talked with who went on the myriad Misty Fjord excursion options were happy with their choices, too. Since the ship pulled out at 1:00, there was little or no time for other exploration. The itinerary would be improved by making Sitka a 1/2 day stop and Ketchikan a full day. We didn't sign up for anything in Victoria, since it was just a brief 4 hour stop to satisfy the international port of call requirement. We walked to town (about a mile or so) and saw the neighborhoods and the downtown area. There were lots of restaurants, so dinner on shore might be an option for some. One word of caution, however, the small customs house gets quickly overwhelmed, so be back on time. The nightlife on the ship was variable. The evening shows were OK, some people really liked them others didn't, and I was pretty neutral about them. It's not top-rate talent, but they entertain lots of the cruisers. The ship pretty much winds down about 10:00 or so. The casino and the Northern lights bar were always up and running at that time. Other places were open too, but not really doing any business. Many of the bars (along with the pools) close at 10:00. Not a big problem, however, as we were pretty beat most nights. Movies were OK, though the Queen's lounge is not the best venue for seeing a movie. (Many of the movies didn't start until about 10:00 PM). Popcorn was a nice touch. Service, as mentioned was a high point in the cruise. The staff is all very happy, and they seem to really enjoy being that way. Our servers in the Dining room were quite nice, funny, and as they got to know us, did little things that made a big difference. Our head waiter was quite adept at magic tricks and entertained all of his tables. Our kids weren't interested in the Club HAL offerings, and that was fine with us (they also cut off the wrist bands that they were given at embarkation - to show where their assembly station was located. All passengers 16 and under apparently get to wear these until they wise up and remove them). Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze compared to some other cruises we've been on. Being able to wait in your room until you're called to disembark is a nice touch. I'd say the entire ship was emptied by 10:30. It's amazing when you consider that the next group of cruisers is already beginning to queue up for an 11:30 embarkation. One sour note had nothing to do with the cruise. We were remiss in considering our exit strategies, and ended up at the airport 6 hours before our flight. Next time I'll forego the HAL reservation and make my own. We probably could've been off the boat and on a plane home before lunch. You might not want to cut it that close, but the way things went at disembarkation, we were completely out of the cruise terminal long before noon. You would definitely be safe in booking a flight yourself by 2:00, and probably safe to do one at 12:00 noon.

Oosterdam - Alaska

Oosterdam Cruise Review by bigez

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2005
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Standard Interior Stateroom
The Oosterdam is about as large a ship as I'd want to get on. Even with "only" 1800 passengers, there are still crowds for popular activities such as meals, pool, deck, disembarkation at ports, etc.
The cruise itself was very enjoyable despite windy weather and rough seas on the first and last nights of the trip. We discovered (by chance) the 50% off dining cover charge - $10/person at the Pinnacle Grill. HAL had somehow given our kids a different seating and time for dinner than us. Rather inexcusable, but they did make up for it quickly (just not in time for the first meal). At any rate, the Pinnacle was a great restaurant, and it was even better at half price. The Filet Mignon was steak size, and it was cooked to perfection.
On big ships, you go for the amenities, and in this regard, the Oosterdam does not disappoint. Even our relatively small outside cabin had plenty of room. (We'll look into a suite next time, however, just for the extra roominess). In our case, the kids were in one room and we were in an adjoining room. The steward opened the privacy panel on the veranda, and we had plenty of back and forth access. The kids liked the independence of having their own place, and it was nice not to have to deal with 4 people and one bathroom. For the Alaska cruise, it's really not critical whether or not you book an even or odd numbered cabin, as both sides get equal "land treatment". We were in an aft cabin, and there was no engine noise on deck 7.
One bit of advice would be to bring your own sodas (I'd say beer, too, but they won't let you do that). The drink card is OK, but most of the bartenders don't jump at the chance to serve you if they know you're just getting a Coke. In addition, drinks with meals are not easy to come by, and don't expect a refill. One attendant you'll want to meet is Emilio. If you travel the Oosterdam, you're bound to meet him. He exemplifies the positive attitude of most of the service crew. He'd go out of his way to bring drinks, be they beer, soda, whatever.
Meals are served in both the Lido buffet and the Vista Dining Room. Those expecting some kind of culinary artistry will be disappointed, but the meals compared with most of the better places I've eaten on land. In either the buffet or the dining room, you can order as much or as little as you want. We never had problems ordering more than one entree (some nights it was just too hard to decide).
One minor complaint we heard from a few other people, and noticed ourselves, was that the decision to go "regional" with the daily Salmon dishes made for fewer choices in other fish categories. They had cod one night and halibut another, but those were the only "other" fish choices. (We did have crab legs one night, and they were quite good).
The scenery and shore excursions are the most outstanding part of this particular cruise. Even on our two bad weather sea days (luckily or unluckily, depending on who you asked), the scenery was astounding. After dinner, we headed for the aft hot tub as the ship left Juneau. The sun was out, most folks were still recovering from the day or getting ready for the late dinner, (one fringe benefit of a line that seems to attract the older folks). We'd been on the sled-dog adventure that day, and it just seemed like a fitting end to a perfect day. Emilio brought a bucket of beer, and we had the entire aft section of the ship and the Alaskan wilderness to ourselves.
The Hubbard Glacier destination is a good one, quite possibly better than the Glacier Bay route. We were fortunate to have good weather, and no other ships in sight as we made our way up the bay to the glacier. I'd say we spent the better part of the morning and afternoon there. We got extremely close to the face of the glacier. The naturalist (who we could have done without - who needs constant commentary when you're experiencing something like that for yourself) said it was the closest she'd ever been on one of the cruise ships (yeah, right). Well, despite her intrusion on a pretty awesome event, the ship came to for about an hour, and then came about so the other side of the ship could view. In all, about an hour of straight on viewing at the bow (not counting the approach) an hour starboard viewing and an hour port viewing. This made veranda viewing quite popular. The aft deck filled up quite quickly that afternoon, since it was sunny. I headed for the hot tub, but they were full (they only hold about two people comfortably anyway) The day at the glacier is something you won't forget.
Wanting to see some wildlife close up, we'd signed up for the Sea Otter Quest in Sitka. The boat took us right from the Oosterdam and after an eventful 3 hour trip, dropped us in town where they loaded us onto a bus for the Raptor Center. Though the center is worth seeing, the amount of time scheduled for this excursion was too short by about an hour. After being returned to Sitka, there was still the rest of the afternoon to sightsee and shop around. (however, in Sitka, that takes all of about an hour). The time in this port was way too long. (we could probably have booked another tour for the afternoon) So, know ahead of time that this port is a long stay and plan accordingly.
In Ketchikan, we took the Orca Beach Adventure. By the time we were taken to the marina at Knudson Cove (about 1/2 an hour away) and then went on the Zodiac to the island for about a one hour hike, the morning was gone. The trip itself was worthwhile. You see all of these little islands along the way and wonder what they're like. This excursion answered that question. Most of the people we talked with who went on the myriad Misty Fjord excursion options were happy with their choices, too.
Since the ship pulled out at 1:00, there was little or no time for other exploration. The itinerary would be improved by making Sitka a 1/2 day stop and Ketchikan a full day.
We didn't sign up for anything in Victoria, since it was just a brief 4 hour stop to satisfy the international port of call requirement. We walked to town (about a mile or so) and saw the neighborhoods and the downtown area. There were lots of restaurants, so dinner on shore might be an option for some. One word of caution, however, the small customs house gets quickly overwhelmed, so be back on time.
The nightlife on the ship was variable. The evening shows were OK, some people really liked them others didn't, and I was pretty neutral about them. It's not top-rate talent, but they entertain lots of the cruisers. The ship pretty much winds down about 10:00 or so. The casino and the Northern lights bar were always up and running at that time. Other places were open too, but not really doing any business. Many of the bars (along with the pools) close at 10:00. Not a big problem, however, as we were pretty beat most nights.
Movies were OK, though the Queen's lounge is not the best venue for seeing a movie. (Many of the movies didn't start until about 10:00 PM). Popcorn was a nice touch.
Service, as mentioned was a high point in the cruise. The staff is all very happy, and they seem to really enjoy being that way. Our servers in the Dining room were quite nice, funny, and as they got to know us, did little things that made a big difference. Our head waiter was quite adept at magic tricks and entertained all of his tables.
Our kids weren't interested in the Club HAL offerings, and that was fine with us (they also cut off the wrist bands that they were given at embarkation - to show where their assembly station was located. All passengers 16 and under apparently get to wear these until they wise up and remove them).
Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze compared to some other cruises we've been on. Being able to wait in your room until you're called to disembark is a nice touch. I'd say the entire ship was emptied by 10:30. It's amazing when you consider that the next group of cruisers is already beginning to queue up for an 11:30 embarkation.
One sour note had nothing to do with the cruise. We were remiss in considering our exit strategies, and ended up at the airport 6 hours before our flight. Next time I'll forego the HAL reservation and make my own. We probably could've been off the boat and on a plane home before lunch. You might not want to cut it that close, but the way things went at disembarkation, we were completely out of the cruise terminal long before noon. You would definitely be safe in booking a flight yourself by 2:00, and probably safe to do one at 12:00 noon.
bigez’s Full Rating Summary
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