Oosterdam Cruise Review by Lanmon
- Sail Date: October 2005
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
I decided to hire a van/limo for transportation because it was very convenient, non-stressful and really not that expensive. There were 12 people in our party—8 arrived at the cruise terminal in a large van around 1:00 PM. Our group consisted of an 86 year old woman who required wheelchair assistance and oxygen, and 11 adults, and no children (though we acted like kids at times!)
Embarkation: Upon arrival there were plenty of baggage handlers to bring luggage onto the ship. Security confirmed our tickets and passports prior to going into the cruise terminal. There were long lines to check-in but it seemed to go rather quickly. The check-in for the special assistance passengers was very quick and easy. At the special assistance check-in booth both tickets and passports were reconfirmed, pictures were taken and plastic cards were given to each individual that were to be used during the duration of the cruise. Passports were not requested again throughout the entire trip. One did not need passports at any ports of call.
Ship: Very beautiful and classy ship. Great stabilizers! We had a very smooth cruise even though we could see waves and swells outside our verandah. The air circulation was very good throughout the ship. There were many seniors, not many children on board. There were people in wheelchairs and special needs dog trainers. The ship has a poor layout to suit the needs of most activities. Locations such as the Queens Lounge, Piano Bar, and Northstar Night club could not accommodate the large quantities of passengers and were quite small for the activities. For example a golf putting activity was played in a hallway and movies were played in the Queens Lounge and many people could not see the screen. Most ship activities took place in the Queens Lounge and at times there was standing room only or Vista Lounge where the main performances were done at night.
Cabin 6058 was quite spacious compared to our family and friend's cabin. Joe, the cabin steward, greeted us by name and introduced himself the first day. Joe kept the room spotless. There was a lot of space in the bathroom, closets and drawers. Our luggage fit very easily under the bed. The hair dryer was located in a desk drawer and was not very powerful. Outside the cabin door was a mail box for each cabin that held invitations or announcements. Every night on the bed was the next day's schedule and a piece of chocolate. Some nights there was a creatively created toweled animal on the bed or hanging from a hangar. Verandah furniture was rattan furniture, not plastic as we saw on other cruise ships while in port.
Fire Drill: Specific locations were imprinted on each life jacket so it was easy for the staff to tell us the appropriate location. The fire drill lasted about 15 minutes.
Staff: Every staff member spoke English; we did not hear any foreign language spoken among the staff. All HAL employees were extremely friendly, and always available to assist our needs. The front desk provided some formal clothes, clothes were complimentary cleaned and gave a shipboard credit for incidentals to a passenger whose luggage was missing.
Cabo San Lucas: Due to hurricane weather the captain decided to take another route which made our arrival a few hours later than originally planned. Around 10:00 AM we tendered and passengers were allowed to leave the ship according to colored numbers that were distributed during the waiting period. One member in our party was missing a piece of luggage so the day was spent trying to purchase sundries and a bathing suit. In Cabo there is no such thing as negotiating. YOU are at the mercy of the businesses so expect to pay top dollar for everything. After spending 3 hours a bathing suit was finally purchased one for $172 US dollars. Local bars were also expensive. At Margaritaville the cost of a margarita was $20 US dollars! Cabo Wabo was closed and the Giggling Marlin had expensive drinks and appetizers. Tip: A taxi from the dock cost $25 to go 3 miles. Walk 4 blocks and get a white taxi for $5 for 3 miles.
Mazatlan: Rather than using HAL's expensive shore excursions a Stone Island tour was booked via the internet. A $30 tour included a tour to the Cathedral, cliff divers, a catamaran boat trip to the caves and then to Stone Island. At Stone Island there was an open bar, lunch and a selection of activities. We chose horseback riding along the beach and banana boating…after partaking in margaritas and shooters. What a blast!
Puerto Vallarta We had to tender in the early morning. Since another cruise ship was getting into port we stayed on the tender boat for over an hour…waiting for the cruise ship to dock. Several people got sea sick because the ocean was a bit rough. We took HAL's shore excursion Canopy Tours and had a fantastic time. We rode in an open truck outside the city into the jungle. After getting harnessed, being trained and meeting the guides we zipped from tree top to tree top 60-70 feet above the ground. There were 6 professional guides in our party of 11, and a photographer who took a video of the adventure. We purchased DVD's for $50 US Dollars that arrived 2 weeks after our trip. In the afternoon we walked to the shopping area near the dock for some last minute shopping. The shops had similar merchandise and would seldom decrease the sale price. I finally purchased at a grocery store---vanilla $2.50 instead of $3 per bottle. On the way back to the ship the seas were quite rough and tendering was challenging. People got seasick and a glass window broke inside the boat.
Pictures: The photographs were not very professional looking at all. In fact, my digital camera took better pictures! Our friends had formal pictures taken with a white backdrop. Other backdrop selections were a red spiral staircase and a dark blue moonlight night. The photographer instructed people to remove their shoes so the final pictures showed people without any shoes! Some photographers took single photos while others took group pictures. I wished I would have asked for group photos. HAL needs to train their photographers better.
Food: The Lido had a wide variety of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has different sections so check out everything before making a final decision of what to eat. We did not have any problem with seating or having dirty tables. The staff cleaned all tables very quickly and efficiently.. A beverage cart of wine, water and soda came around on a regular basis. On Wednesday night there was a BBQ for dinner and I heard the food was not very good.
We ate most meals in the Vista Dining Room and were extremely impressed with the service as well as selections. We enjoyed the maitre'd coming to the table to discuss the meal and our day's activities. I requested a shrimp cocktail and another person requested a crab salad every night. I really enjoyed the alternative selections on the menu—the grilled sirloin steak was delicious, very, juicy and tender. (I would think the Pinnacle Grille would have this kind of steak!) Normally celebration cakes are made and frozen ahead of time. However, for my mother's 86th birthday the Maitre'd requested a cake be made from scratch to accommodate our party. Several people selected more than one dessert because it was difficult to select just one.
Pinnacle Grille: For 5 nights of having delicious food at dinner we were wondering how HAL could do any better at the Pinnacle Grille. Unfortunately our entire party thought the Grille was a disappointment. We had an 8:00 PM seating. The PG waiter was not as friendly as our dining room waiter and it seemed we were being rushed even though there restaurant was not crowded. All selections were served cold. The clam chowder was watery, clamless and cold. The vegetables were cold. The steaks were very thick, tough and difficult to cut with an ordinary knife, and cold. I requested my steak to be returned because it was too rare. The chocolate lava cake and crème brule were just okay. I could hardly wait to go back to the dining room the next night. However, some friends at another table had exceptional service…and hot food.
Liquor: The drinks on board needed improvement. The rum and coke, mai tais, margaritas, pina coladas and cosmos did not have any liquor. Our TA advised us to bring only two bottles of wine per person. Some people were able to bring on bottles of liquor on board without any problem.
Soda card: Cost was $35 and which was shared among the group. There was no problem requesting a can of soda instead of a glass in all locations. We brought the soda back to the rooms for future use.
Entertainment: We really enjoyed the HAL dancers who performed Rockin Roads and Energy on the 2nd and 5th night. George Solaman a singer and entertainer was very good. The magician and his wife were okay and the comedian was okay. The Indonesian night was quite interesting but some performances were too long. We looked forward to the piano bar at night to sing and be entertained by Kory Simon. Kory not only plays the piano but sings and has a lot of fun with all passengers. Get there early for a good seat.
Seminars: There were some seminars on board ship. We attended the diamond seminar which was quite interesting. I would like to have had a seminar about Mexico and their culture.
Shops on Board: Lots of expensive jewelry at very high prices. Other cruise lines have better selections of merchandise.
Disembarkation: On the 3rd day of the cruise each cabin had to submit their disembarkation plans (i.e. airport flights reservation information, city tour excursion requests etc.) On the last night luggage tags are given to each cabin for the luggage. Passengers were to be notified when to disembark according to luggage color tag and number. Disembarkation began around 8:00 AM (however, there were some passengers who had earlier flights and were escorted off the ship at 6:00 AM). Since we were local residents and did not have a plane or tour we were the last passengers to leave. Our colored tags and numbers were finally called at 10:00 AM. We just gave our declaration forms to the customs attendant as we walked off the ship. Our luggage was located without any problems and it was no problem to get a baggage handler for assistance.
Now we are back home and thinking about our next cruise.
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