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There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship. We've cruised 6 times previously on 3 other lines on itineraries ranging from 3 - 12 days but this was our first experience on HAL. The other ships have been fairly similar in size. We do travel with an elementary aged child so having a decent kids program is a must with us. We'd heard the average age of the HAL traveler was older than many other lines and were a bit concerned with how many children might be on this cruise. But as it was Spring Break, we took a chance that there would be a sufficient number to keep our daughter amused. On this particular sailing, there were 80 "Tweens" (aged 8-12) on board. There were a number that were younger and I only really saw a handful that appeared to be teenagers. All the youngsters were very well behaved without some of the running and yelling I've seen on other cruises. Not all the Tweens took advantage of Club HAL, which was a good thing because the facility is quite a bit smaller than we've experienced on 2 other cruise lines. The hours are limited on sea days to 9am-12pm, 2-4pm then 8-10pm. Childcare after 10pm was available in Club HAL for a nominal $5/hr. Activities were available on port days if you signed up the day before. I thought one of our previous sailings on another line had a better program, but my daughter was happy with what was offered on Oosterdam. She gave it a thumbs up. I didn't mind the 2 hour afternoon block but would have preferred the evening activities to start at 7pm since there'd be a long stretch between finishing dinner at main seating till Club HAL opened again. The hydrotherapy pool wasn't quite as nice as the ones we'd been in on Celebrity but the heated ceramic lounge chairs and aromatherapy steam rooms made up the difference. The hours were shorter than we would have liked (closed by 8pm most days but open till 10pm on 2 of the days). But it was never overly crowded at any time we were using it. We supposed that if it were more crowded, they might have a reason to extend the hours! The charge always seems high to use this part of the spa but is no worse than what many land based hotel spas charge per day for use of their facilities. We had found what we thought was a reasonable rate for a suite on this sailing and took advantage of it. It was also a plus that the 3rd/4th passenger rates with HAL were half of what we would be paying on the other ship/itinerary we'd been considering. On the advice of our TA, we booked an SB cabin located at what I referred to as the "love handle" portion of the ship. Not finding any other reviews or photos of one of these cabins, I really didn't know what to expect. We were happily surprised. The cabin was as large as a land based hotel room. The deck plan incorrectly showed the location of the cabin door though as where the bathroom actually is. Because the bathroom is set to the side, you feel as though there is much more floor space in this cabin than in the SA cabin next door to us. The tradeoff is that the sofa converts to a twin rather than queen sized bed (ok for us but not if you're travelling 4 to the cabin) and the verandah is shallower by about 4 planks (yes I counted). It does make a difference as the suite verandahs have a table for 4 as well as 2 chairs with footrests and a small cocktail table. The table was a little tight to get into for dining. If floor space in the cabin is more important to you than verandah space, I would take this cabin in a heartbeat since the bathroom appeared to be the same size as in the SA. The new SOE beds are a definite improvement over beds on our past cruises that had mattresses little better than camp beds. And no scratchy bedspreads but nice soft duvet covers instead and enough pillows that we didn't have to ask for more. This was not only our first HAL sailing but also the first time in a suite cabin. So what can a HAL suite passenger expect? Aside from the fruit bowl and small flower arrangements in each cabin, we also had a welcome bottle of champagne (quite tasty, I must say), a welcome cocktail party the first night and a suite luncheon on the last sea day. Both of those were attended by Captain Mercer, James Deering (the hotel manager), Jimmy Lynett (the cruise director) and a few other officers. This is a very accessible management group as we would also see them around the public areas mingling with the passengers throughout the cruise, always with a smile and greeting. We enjoyed use of the Neptune Lounge for a light breakfast and afternoon snacks (our own "high tea" time) as well as use of the coffee machine that provided cappuccino and lattes along with regular coffee. Our concierges, Rea and Michelle, took care of everything so we didn't have to go to the main desk (from shore excursion bookings and breaking bills to re-issuing room keys that kept de-magnetizing - 4 cards for our daughter on a 7 day cruise!) as well as ordering dinner off the dining room menu to be delivered to our stateroom for meals on the verandah (a highly underrated experience). Aside from free laundry and dry cleaning (embarrassing how much we sent out during the week), one of the best perks was taking breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill where the service was always superb and was a must on debarkation day when the lines in the Lido were out the door. We do tend to be a touch pickier about our food than most. Everyone else we spoke to were really enjoying their meals. I think our expectations had been higher based on some reviews we'd read. While the Lido had much better food than in similar areas on other ships we've cruised on, the overall dining experience based on taste was only a "B" for us. I was particularly disappointed with the heavy use of surimi (the fake crab) in both the lobster bisque and conch chowder. The Pinnacle Grill had been heavily lauded but the side dishes were bland and our Chocolate Volcano cake had been overdone with no "lava" in the middle. The filet and porterhouse we ordered were huge and the 3 sauces were very good. The crab cakes were very very good. I told the waiter he could just keep bringing me plates of those and skip the rest of the order! The Pinnacle chef provided a cooking demonstration one afternoon making both the crab cakes and the volcano cake. It was amusing to see that the recipes were for portions of 20-30 servings for each and the misspelling indicating you should use Dungeness "crap" meat. Service was superb throughout. It was very evident this crew enjoys working together. We will definitely sail with HAL again. Now if only we'd won the cruise lottery to the Caribbean.....

Oosterdam - Mexican Riviera

Oosterdam Cruise Review by Sale Away

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2006
  • Destination: Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Neptune Deluxe Verandah Suite
There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship.
We've cruised 6 times previously on 3 other lines on itineraries ranging from 3 - 12 days but this was our first experience on HAL. The other ships have been fairly similar in size. We do travel with an elementary aged child so having a decent kids program is a must with us.
We'd heard the average age of the HAL traveler was older than many other lines and were a bit concerned with how many children might be on this cruise. But as it was Spring Break, we took a chance that there would be a sufficient number to keep our daughter amused. On this particular sailing, there were 80 "Tweens" (aged 8-12) on board. There were a number that were younger and I only really saw a handful that appeared to be teenagers. All the youngsters were very well behaved without some of the running and yelling I've seen on other cruises. Not all the Tweens took advantage of Club HAL, which was a good thing because the facility is quite a bit smaller than we've experienced on 2 other cruise lines. The hours are limited on sea days to 9am-12pm, 2-4pm then 8-10pm. Childcare after 10pm was available in Club HAL for a nominal $5/hr. Activities were available on port days if you signed up the day before. I thought one of our previous sailings on another line had a better program, but my daughter was happy with what was offered on Oosterdam. She gave it a thumbs up. I didn't mind the 2 hour afternoon block but would have preferred the evening activities to start at 7pm since there'd be a long stretch between finishing dinner at main seating till Club HAL opened again.
The hydrotherapy pool wasn't quite as nice as the ones we'd been in on Celebrity but the heated ceramic lounge chairs and aromatherapy steam rooms made up the difference. The hours were shorter than we would have liked (closed by 8pm most days but open till 10pm on 2 of the days). But it was never overly crowded at any time we were using it. We supposed that if it were more crowded, they might have a reason to extend the hours! The charge always seems high to use this part of the spa but is no worse than what many land based hotel spas charge per day for use of their facilities. We had found what we thought was a reasonable rate for a suite on this sailing and took advantage of it. It was also a plus that the 3rd/4th passenger rates with HAL were half of what we would be paying on the other ship/itinerary we'd been considering.
On the advice of our TA, we booked an SB cabin located at what I referred to as the "love handle" portion of the ship. Not finding any other reviews or photos of one of these cabins, I really didn't know what to expect. We were happily surprised. The cabin was as large as a land based hotel room. The deck plan incorrectly showed the location of the cabin door though as where the bathroom actually is. Because the bathroom is set to the side, you feel as though there is much more floor space in this cabin than in the SA cabin next door to us. The tradeoff is that the sofa converts to a twin rather than queen sized bed (ok for us but not if you're travelling 4 to the cabin) and the verandah is shallower by about 4 planks (yes I counted). It does make a difference as the suite verandahs have a table for 4 as well as 2 chairs with footrests and a small cocktail table. The table was a little tight to get into for dining. If floor space in the cabin is more important to you than verandah space, I would take this cabin in a heartbeat since the bathroom appeared to be the same size as in the SA. The new SOE beds are a definite improvement over beds on our past cruises that had mattresses little better than camp beds. And no scratchy bedspreads but nice soft duvet covers instead and enough pillows that we didn't have to ask for more.
This was not only our first HAL sailing but also the first time in a suite cabin. So what can a HAL suite passenger expect? Aside from the fruit bowl and small flower arrangements in each cabin, we also had a welcome bottle of champagne (quite tasty, I must say), a welcome cocktail party the first night and a suite luncheon on the last sea day. Both of those were attended by Captain Mercer, James Deering (the hotel manager), Jimmy Lynett (the cruise director) and a few other officers. This is a very accessible management group as we would also see them around the public areas mingling with the passengers throughout the cruise, always with a smile and greeting. We enjoyed use of the Neptune Lounge for a light breakfast and afternoon snacks (our own "high tea" time) as well as use of the coffee machine that provided cappuccino and lattes along with regular coffee. Our concierges, Rea and Michelle, took care of everything so we didn't have to go to the main desk (from shore excursion bookings and breaking bills to re-issuing room keys that kept de-magnetizing - 4 cards for our daughter on a 7 day cruise!) as well as ordering dinner off the dining room menu to be delivered to our stateroom for meals on the verandah (a highly underrated experience). Aside from free laundry and dry cleaning (embarrassing how much we sent out during the week), one of the best perks was taking breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill where the service was always superb and was a must on debarkation day when the lines in the Lido were out the door. We do tend to be a touch pickier about our food than most. Everyone else we spoke to were really enjoying their meals. I think our expectations had been higher based on some reviews we'd read. While the Lido had much better food than in similar areas on other ships we've cruised on, the overall dining experience based on taste was only a "B" for us. I was particularly disappointed with the heavy use of surimi (the fake crab) in both the lobster bisque and conch chowder. The Pinnacle Grill had been heavily lauded but the side dishes were bland and our Chocolate Volcano cake had been overdone with no "lava" in the middle. The filet and porterhouse we ordered were huge and the 3 sauces were very good. The crab cakes were very very good. I told the waiter he could just keep bringing me plates of those and skip the rest of the order! The Pinnacle chef provided a cooking demonstration one afternoon making both the crab cakes and the volcano cake. It was amusing to see that the recipes were for portions of 20-30 servings for each and the misspelling indicating you should use Dungeness "crap" meat.
Service was superb throughout. It was very evident this crew enjoys working together. We will definitely sail with HAL again. Now if only we'd won the cruise lottery to the Caribbean.....
Sale Away’s Full Rating Summary
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