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Let me say at the beginning that this was an excellent cruise. I had been on Holland America (HAL) about 15 years ago on the Westerdam in the Caribbean. At that time HAL attracted an older crowd and was at the high end of the mass market (as opposed to luxury lines). I believe that HAL has maintained the same standard of excellence while attracting more diverse passengers. I will say more later. Four of us were going on the cruise. All of us checked into the Executive Inn in Louisville the night before departure for Seattle. We prefer to leave our car at the airport motel and use their shuttle service. It proves to be very economical considering the current cost of airport parking. It also helps with early departure times. Our trip to Seattle was a disaster. Our Northwest 7:00 AM flight to Minneapolis had mechanical problems resulting in a 5 hour delay. We were rescheduled with a 4 hour layover in Minneapolis and an additional connection in Portland. We arrived in Seattle at 11:30 PM, 12 hours late! We were very fortunate to have planned our travel the day before our cruise. We stayed at the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle. The hotel was older but very nice and the rooms were small but comfortable. The hotel was located just a few blocks from Pike's Market and the downtown end of the shuttle that goes to the Space Needle. We didn't have time to tour Seattle but went to Pike's Market on Saturday morning before departing for the ship. I believe we made a good choice of places to see as the flowers, fishmongers and various stores make this a "must see". We headed to Pier 30 around noon on Saturday. Our cab ride was $15.00 and took around 10 minutes. We had to stand in line for approximately an hour even though we were pre-registered. Pre-registration just saved you some time when you actually got to an agent. We were assigned an SS category suite on Deck 8. Our cabin was spacious (~390 sq. ft. including a large verandah) and very well appointed. We had a large bed, a sleeper sofa, three chairs and a coffee table in the main cabin. Closet and drawer space was abundant. Two telephones, a large TV and DVD player complemented the furnishings. The balcony had four chairs, two foot rests and a table. The bathroom had double sinks, a whirlpool tub and a separate shower. A hair dryer was provided in the main cabin. Light switches were everywhere and somewhat of a learning experience. A verandah cabin may not seem necessary for Alaska, but we found it to be a real plus for sightseeing as the scenery is beautiful. The Oosterdam is one of HAL's Vista class ships. At 85,000 tons the passenger capacity is 1850 with a crew of 800. I would characterize the demeanor of the ship as subdued compared to the bling-bling of competitor's ships. The ship is about 5 years old and in excellent shape, a direct reflection of the Captain and crew. The crew was mostly Indonesian and Philippine, very efficient and cheerful. There was an earthquake in the Philippines on our first night at sea and our cabin steward Widi told us that he had lost his home but his family was all right. Even though you could sense his concern it did not affect his dedication to cheerful service. Dining was excellent. The first night we opted for the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person surcharge. Everyone's meals were outstanding. I had the best halibut steak I have ever tasted in my life! Dining room food was also above normal compared to other ships of this size. Breakfast and lunch are open-seating. Dinner seating was at an assigned table but a window was established for early and late seating. For late seating you could show up in the dining room any time between 8 and 9 PM. As long as you and your table mates arrived at the same time it wasn't any different from the established fixed seating fixed time arrangement. Buffet food is a real plus for HAL as this was way above average. To minimize congestion serving areas are segregated according to the type of food; e.g. salad bar, Italian (pizza and pasta), sandwich station, deserts, Terrace Grill (hamburgers, brats, chicken), Taco Bar and drinks (coffee, tea). A soda card was purchased at embarkation at $18.00 for 20 soft drinks. Our ports were Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. A word of advice -- Alaska is no place to skimp on shore excursions. They're expensive, but they're worth it! Hubbard Glacier was the highlight of the trip for us. The sun, tides and temperature were perfect for calving. We would hear the shotgun sound and rumble of the giant blocks of future icebergs falling every five minutes. The ship was less than 750 feet from the face of the glacier for close to two hours. Having visited Glacier Bay on a previous cruise I preferred Hubbard Glacier, but it may have been the timing. Our traveling companions went on the helicopter-dog sled tour in Juneau. Even though it is very expensive it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An Iditarod competitor was their tour guide for the sledding. They said the helicopter ride above the mountains and glaciers was beautiful. We walked around the city and rode the Mt. Roberts tram to a scenic overlook. In Sitka we did the "Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest". In addition to the tours' namesake we saw whales, sea lions and numerous bald eagles. We walked around the city after the tours. Sitka was the only port in which we had to tender. We walked around Ketchikan. It was raining but we managed to visit Creek Street and some shops. In Victoria we went on the Butchart Gardens tour. This tour was also excellent and I would highly recommend it, especially to weekend gardeners. Ship activities were not as plentiful or rowdy as some of the other lines, but there was always something going on. The 7 days went way too fast. The weather was good by Alaskan standards, 50-60's during the day. Even though it rained and there was considerable fog while we were at sea, we only encountered rain in Ketchikan while we were in port. In summary, I would recommend Holland America, especially the Oosterdam, and this itinerary. The passenger make-up covered all age groups, from young children to the wheelchair crowd. I would think the younger crowd would prefer one of the other party lines, but HAL is perfect for the middle age and up experienced cruisers.

Oosterdam - Alaska

Oosterdam Cruise Review by dj_crusin

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2006
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Signature Superior Verandah Suite
Let me say at the beginning that this was an excellent cruise. I had been on Holland America (HAL) about 15 years ago on the Westerdam in the Caribbean. At that time HAL attracted an older crowd and was at the high end of the mass market (as opposed to luxury lines). I believe that HAL has maintained the same standard of excellence while attracting more diverse passengers. I will say more later.
Four of us were going on the cruise. All of us checked into the Executive Inn in Louisville the night before departure for Seattle. We prefer to leave our car at the airport motel and use their shuttle service. It proves to be very economical considering the current cost of airport parking. It also helps with early departure times.
Our trip to Seattle was a disaster. Our Northwest 7:00 AM flight to Minneapolis had mechanical problems resulting in a 5 hour delay. We were rescheduled with a 4 hour layover in Minneapolis and an additional connection in Portland. We arrived in Seattle at 11:30 PM, 12 hours late! We were very fortunate to have planned our travel the day before our cruise.
We stayed at the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle. The hotel was older but very nice and the rooms were small but comfortable. The hotel was located just a few blocks from Pike's Market and the downtown end of the shuttle that goes to the Space Needle. We didn't have time to tour Seattle but went to Pike's Market on Saturday morning before departing for the ship. I believe we made a good choice of places to see as the flowers, fishmongers and various stores make this a "must see".
We headed to Pier 30 around noon on Saturday. Our cab ride was $15.00 and took around 10 minutes. We had to stand in line for approximately an hour even though we were pre-registered. Pre-registration just saved you some time when you actually got to an agent.
We were assigned an SS category suite on Deck 8. Our cabin was spacious (~390 sq. ft. including a large verandah) and very well appointed. We had a large bed, a sleeper sofa, three chairs and a coffee table in the main cabin. Closet and drawer space was abundant. Two telephones, a large TV and DVD player complemented the furnishings. The balcony had four chairs, two foot rests and a table. The bathroom had double sinks, a whirlpool tub and a separate shower. A hair dryer was provided in the main cabin. Light switches were everywhere and somewhat of a learning experience. A verandah cabin may not seem necessary for Alaska, but we found it to be a real plus for sightseeing as the scenery is beautiful.
The Oosterdam is one of HAL's Vista class ships. At 85,000 tons the passenger capacity is 1850 with a crew of 800. I would characterize the demeanor of the ship as subdued compared to the bling-bling of competitor's ships. The ship is about 5 years old and in excellent shape, a direct reflection of the Captain and crew. The crew was mostly Indonesian and Philippine, very efficient and cheerful. There was an earthquake in the Philippines on our first night at sea and our cabin steward Widi told us that he had lost his home but his family was all right. Even though you could sense his concern it did not affect his dedication to cheerful service.
Dining was excellent. The first night we opted for the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person surcharge. Everyone's meals were outstanding. I had the best halibut steak I have ever tasted in my life! Dining room food was also above normal compared to other ships of this size. Breakfast and lunch are open-seating. Dinner seating was at an assigned table but a window was established for early and late seating. For late seating you could show up in the dining room any time between 8 and 9 PM. As long as you and your table mates arrived at the same time it wasn't any different from the established fixed seating fixed time arrangement.
Buffet food is a real plus for HAL as this was way above average. To minimize congestion serving areas are segregated according to the type of food; e.g. salad bar, Italian (pizza and pasta), sandwich station, deserts, Terrace Grill (hamburgers, brats, chicken), Taco Bar and drinks (coffee, tea). A soda card was purchased at embarkation at $18.00 for 20 soft drinks.
Our ports were Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. A word of advice -- Alaska is no place to skimp on shore excursions. They're expensive, but they're worth it!
Hubbard Glacier was the highlight of the trip for us. The sun, tides and temperature were perfect for calving. We would hear the shotgun sound and rumble of the giant blocks of future icebergs falling every five minutes. The ship was less than 750 feet from the face of the glacier for close to two hours. Having visited Glacier Bay on a previous cruise I preferred Hubbard Glacier, but it may have been the timing.
Our traveling companions went on the helicopter-dog sled tour in Juneau. Even though it is very expensive it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An Iditarod competitor was their tour guide for the sledding. They said the helicopter ride above the mountains and glaciers was beautiful. We walked around the city and rode the Mt. Roberts tram to a scenic overlook.
In Sitka we did the "Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest". In addition to the tours' namesake we saw whales, sea lions and numerous bald eagles. We walked around the city after the tours. Sitka was the only port in which we had to tender.
We walked around Ketchikan. It was raining but we managed to visit Creek Street and some shops.
In Victoria we went on the Butchart Gardens tour. This tour was also excellent and I would highly recommend it, especially to weekend gardeners.
Ship activities were not as plentiful or rowdy as some of the other lines, but there was always something going on. The 7 days went way too fast. The weather was good by Alaskan standards, 50-60's during the day. Even though it rained and there was considerable fog while we were at sea, we only encountered rain in Ketchikan while we were in port.
In summary, I would recommend Holland America, especially the Oosterdam, and this itinerary. The passenger make-up covered all age groups, from young children to the wheelchair crowd. I would think the younger crowd would prefer one of the other party lines, but HAL is perfect for the middle age and up experienced cruisers.
dj_crusin’s Full Rating Summary
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