This was my thirty-third cruise overall and my sixth with HAL. It was also my second time on the MS Oosterdam; the first was Alaska Sept. 2004.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier (tent) at 11:00 AM and were onboard by 11:30. I gave my bride a brief tour of the ship and she seemed genuinely pleased. The cabins were available by 1:30 PM and I have to say we were extremely impressed. We had requested a Deluxe Verandah Suite and ours' was located on the stern, port side, deck four. The balcony was huge. It wrapped around the stern and was large enough to have a party for twenty persons. It was just great! We also enjoyed the exclusiveness of the Neptune Lounge and the numerous functions hosted by the Captain and Hotel Manager
The cabin was very spacious and my wife liked the separate dressing area very much. There was a complimentary bottle of champagne from the Captain and we saved that for my birthday which was one half way through the cruise.
We met our cabin steward (Tokieman) and he proved to be outstanding throughout the cruise. We wanted to take him home.
The ship had a different feel about it as opposed to the previous cruise on the Oosterdam. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but did soon enough. HAL has instituted a new program named "Signature of Excellence". It showed throughout the cruise. The ship had just left dry-dock and much of the carpet and furniture had been replaced. The entire ship was spotless, but the biggest improvement was the service and the food. Don't get me wrong, HAL has always had good food and the service has always been just great. But with this new program it was even better and it showed.
The Oosterdam has lost the use of one Azipod during the previous cruise and it was announced that we would bet traveling with only one and therefore our speed would be reduced from 24 knots to 19 knots. To compensate the passengers for this slight inconvenience we were given an onboard credit of $ 25.00 per passenger and a complimentary bottle of wine with our Sunday evening dinner. I heard that this Azipod situation will be partially corrected within two weeks and completely replaced during the April haul out.
Out itinerary included Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The tendering process was painless and done well in both tendered ports. We opted not to use HAL shore excursions and went on our own in each port. I enjoyed Mazatlan the most but my wife liked Puerto Vallarta the best. Cabo was OK, but hot and not too much going on. It was still worth seeing though.
Onboard we enjoyed the Crow's Nest, Ocean Bar, and Seaview Lounge the most. However they were all great. The casino took its usual toll from whoever went there and played.
One night we went to the Pinnacle Restaurant and again it was superlative. The upgrade is now $30.00 but well worth it. If you get a chance do go and book quickly as reservation fill up quickly.
We did not take in any shows but fellow passengers said they were OK. We also did not use the spa or gym.
Disembarkation at the end was done just right and we were of the ship at 8:30 AM promptly as requested.
Overall, I tip my hat to HAL. They are the best I've cruised with. I am happy the parent company Carnival has decided to let HAL operate to such a degree of excellence. Again I highly recommend HAL and it you can swing a Deluxe Verandah Suite, you should. What a treat!
Peter Cunningham Fairhope, AL