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We were on the Oosterdam for the November 18 - 25 Thanksgiving sailing. This was our sixth cruise and our first on HAL. We had a group of ten including my husband and two kids, my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, and two friends. Embarkation was very smooth. We live in San Diego but because of a commitment didn't get to the dock until after 2 pm. We parked our car across the street from the pier, which is very convenient. There were no lines at the check-in, but the computer systems were all down so they couldn't take our pictures our process our paperwork online. Minor inconvenience - we had to go stand in at the front desk the next day to get our picture taken - but since our keycards kept magically demagnetizing we spent a lot of time down there anyway. We made our way to our aft VA cabins. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the cabins. They look tiny in the pictures, but are actually very livable for two but I wouldn't want to put three in one cabin. We had two cabins next to each other for our immediate family so we had our room steward, Joe, open the verandah divider between the two cabins. This was great for us so we could go back and forth without going into the hallway. The verandahs (we were on deck 5) were very large. We had a lounge chair, wicker chair with ottoman, and two side chairs and a small table with lots of room to move around. The cabin has plenty of storage, was very clean, and the beds are very comfortable. I had seen pictures of the Oosterdam and wasn't sure I was going to like the decor, but in most cases it was actually very nice. We absolutely did not like the layout of the ship. In all of my cruises, even on ships of the same size (Celebrity Summit) this was the most crowded and cramped ship I have been on. The public spaces are tiny. Lots of little bars, but the Vista Lounge was so small, the casino was tiny, the front desk area on deck 2 is so small there was always a line that blocked traffic. I hated having to walk through the photo gallery to go from dinner on deck 3 to the Vista for the show. Traffic flow was a nightmare there. The shopping arcade is also laid out like an afterthought, and it seemed they devoted the most space on the ship for the stupid art auctions. Because this was a Thanksgiving cruise there were many large family groups and over 400 children on board. Club Hal was a real disappointment for my kids. I knew there would be a lot of kids, but I thought HAL would be able to handle the crowd. My kids were in the Tweens group and they had to meet in one of conference rooms on deck 3 with nothing but chairs and a table in the room. The staff was great, but there were no video games and it wasn't a kid-friendly space. The worst part about Club Hal is they force you to let your kids check themselves in and out. If you don't allow it, they will take your 8 - 13 year old and put them with the 7 and under group. My kids are very responsible, but it's not them I worry about when they are wandering around on the ship. The counselors didn't care where they went when they left. We made a deal that one of my kids (the other one decided the first day he didn't really want to participate) that he could check himself out at a specified time and come right to the cabin. One day he checked himself out early, went to the cabin and we weren't there, wandered around for an hour looking for us, then checked himself back in to the club. Meanwhile, we went to Club Hal looking for him and they didn't even know he had left. I think this is an accident waiting to happen and they need to figure out a better system. Needless to say that after that fiasco we came in person to drop him off and pick him up. If HAL is going to advertise itself as family-friendly, then they need to step up and provide the services the other cruise lines do. I found overall the service on the ship to be very bad. Our cabin steward was the only bright spot and he was fantastic. Our dining room staff was simply awful. First, there was a mixup on the early/late seating and table numbers. Six of our group wanted early seating and were waitlisted for three months. The two older couples with us wanted to eat late seating and were confirmed, but when we got onboard we all had early seating but at two different tables. My sister stood in line to straighten it out with the maitre d and he was extremely rude and said that maybe he would fix it the next day. By the time the cruise was over, my parents and their friends had been moved from early to late seating (on the third day) and at late seating were moved to three different tables. The maitre d was completely unapologetic. We were at the same table the whole time, but our service was terrible. They are obviously understaffed in dining room. It was the most impersonal service I have ever received on a cruise ship. Many nights the wine stewardess (who was great) would take bar and wine orders, but I would never get an iced tea or milk for my kids even if we asked a couple of times. The waiter would forget to bring some of the food we ordered or mix up who ordered what. They got a little friendlier as the week went on, but it didn't make up for the first night when my husband asked for a shrimp cocktail and was told it wasn't on the menu so he couldn't have it, or the night when my son wanted a steak and the waiter told us no and had to call over the head waiter to get approval so my son could get his steak and french fries. It became very obvious that the waiters didn't want to do anything outside of their normal routine and they seemed afraid to ask the kitchen for something special. The food in the Vista Dining was pretty good, but not as good as some of the other cruises we have been on. They have a problem with their beef and pork - it was not prepared well at all. No matter how you ordered it, it was always overcooked, dry and chewy. The fish was very good, the breads were excellent, and many of the appetizers were really nice. Overall, I didn't think the food was anything to brag about (and yes, I understand that it is basically banquet food and can't be compared to a good restaurant). We ate a lot of meals in the Lido (we ate breakfast and lunch one day in the dining room and service was, like at dinner, pretty indifferent). The Lido food was the best of any ship I have been on. Lots of variety and we loved the stations. The sushi was good but the same every day. The Asian food was not so good, but the pasta station was very good. We all enjoyed the excellent ice cream and desserts. The staff was pretty friendly in the Lido, but there was never silverware available when it was crowded (can't tell you how many times we had to search around for silverware), there was never any ice in the machines, the staff never took our trays, and they ran out of milk on Thursday, but it was scarce even before then. We did eat in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the ship (compliments of our travel agent). So many people got that gift that by noon on Saturday all of the big tables were booked for the week and the only spot for a party of four was Friday at 6:30. If we had known our travel agent was giving the Pinnacle meal to us we would have booked in advance. I was not that impressed with the food. The decor in the room was beautiful, but the service was only fair. Our waiter was very nice, but he couldn't tell us the dessert special for the day. The wine steward charged my sister's wine to the wrong room and then argued with her that he hadn't made a mistake. The appetizers were very good, but the steak I ordered medium was well done (not pink at all) and while it may have been a good piece of meat at one time, it was so overcooked it was hard to tell. We had three porterhouses at our table, two medium and one medium rare, and they got the orders mixed up so the medium rare steak (actually cooked to medium) went to the wrong person. At that point, after a week of bad service, I opted to just eat it and not complain. The side dishes were unmemorable. I had a baked potato and mushroom caps that I could have cooked at home. My appetizer was the heirloom tomatoes that looked really pretty but were utterly tasteless. The creme brulee trio (plain, coffee, and chocolate) was tasty but nothing special. We had great weather the whole trip and had great days in all three ports. We booked the Baja Jeep Safari for Cabo and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it. We went from the desert to the beach with a stop in Candalaria, a tiny town in the desert. Our tour guide was great, but we had to cut the tour short because of the shortened port hours and the problem tendering in. In Mazatlan we just hired an open-air jeep taxi to drive us around the old downtown area. We went to the cathedral and the big mercado and saw a lot of the old city. We returned to the ship for lunch, then hired another taxi to go the El Cid hotel on the gold coast so we could use the beach and the pool. We bought drinks there and they didn't seem to care we weren't hotel guests. In Puerto Vallarta we had independently booked a dolphin-watching excursion in a zodiac boat (they also do whale watching but it's too early for whales). It was a great day and we got to see lots of dolphins close up. Our two guides were naturalists who work with marine life and were experts on the dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, fish and birds that we saw. We also got to snorkel at Los Arcos. This was a great excursion and I would do it again. The entertainment on the ship was mixed. The singers and dancers were very talented and the first show Roadhouse was entertaining. We walked out of the second show they did Escape since it was very amateurish. We never saw Julie Barr, the comedian. Joel Mason, the Elton John impersonator, was fantastic and I usually don't like shows like that. He was genuinely funny. The magic act, DV8, was pretty bad. They copied the jokes from Joel Mason the night before. I think Dwight is a good magician, but my son described the act as cheesy. Even my stepmother, who has been on a gazillion cruises (over 150 days on HAL alone) and likes any kind of entertainment, hated the magic act. We felt there were a lot of activities, but most of them were geared toward making money for HAL (like bingo and events in the casino). The trivia was run by a couple of cruise staff who were all business and not friendly. The library was nice but always crowded. The Lido pool was fun for the kids, but needless to say with 400 kids on board it was always crowded. My sister took the two culinary classes with the chef from the Pinnacle and really enjoyed them, although he got his recipes out of a magazine - they are not his original recipes. We didn't do anything in the spa, but heard good reports on the pilates and stretching classes. As we got off the ship today we discussed taking another HAL cruise and decided that unless the itinerary was fantastic and couldn't be duplicated by another line we probably would not go out of our way to book with HAL. We had fun on the cruise (like always) but the bad service really made a big impression on us. I didn't think it came close to the service and quality we had on Celebrity and although it was a little more sophisticated in feel than Royal Caribbean, I think we prefer those two lines to HAL.

Oosterdam - Mexican Riviera

Oosterdam Cruise Review by mom2m&a

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2006
  • Destination: Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
We were on the Oosterdam for the November 18 - 25 Thanksgiving sailing. This was our sixth cruise and our first on HAL. We had a group of ten including my husband and two kids, my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, and two friends.
Embarkation was very smooth. We live in San Diego but because of a commitment didn't get to the dock until after 2 pm. We parked our car across the street from the pier, which is very convenient. There were no lines at the check-in, but the computer systems were all down so they couldn't take our pictures our process our paperwork online. Minor inconvenience - we had to go stand in at the front desk the next day to get our picture taken - but since our keycards kept magically demagnetizing we spent a lot of time down there anyway.
We made our way to our aft VA cabins. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the cabins. They look tiny in the pictures, but are actually very livable for two but I wouldn't want to put three in one cabin. We had two cabins next to each other for our immediate family so we had our room steward, Joe, open the verandah divider between the two cabins. This was great for us so we could go back and forth without going into the hallway. The verandahs (we were on deck 5) were very large. We had a lounge chair, wicker chair with ottoman, and two side chairs and a small table with lots of room to move around. The cabin has plenty of storage, was very clean, and the beds are very comfortable.
I had seen pictures of the Oosterdam and wasn't sure I was going to like the decor, but in most cases it was actually very nice. We absolutely did not like the layout of the ship. In all of my cruises, even on ships of the same size (Celebrity Summit) this was the most crowded and cramped ship I have been on. The public spaces are tiny. Lots of little bars, but the Vista Lounge was so small, the casino was tiny, the front desk area on deck 2 is so small there was always a line that blocked traffic. I hated having to walk through the photo gallery to go from dinner on deck 3 to the Vista for the show. Traffic flow was a nightmare there. The shopping arcade is also laid out like an afterthought, and it seemed they devoted the most space on the ship for the stupid art auctions.
Because this was a Thanksgiving cruise there were many large family groups and over 400 children on board. Club Hal was a real disappointment for my kids. I knew there would be a lot of kids, but I thought HAL would be able to handle the crowd. My kids were in the Tweens group and they had to meet in one of conference rooms on deck 3 with nothing but chairs and a table in the room. The staff was great, but there were no video games and it wasn't a kid-friendly space. The worst part about Club Hal is they force you to let your kids check themselves in and out. If you don't allow it, they will take your 8 - 13 year old and put them with the 7 and under group. My kids are very responsible, but it's not them I worry about when they are wandering around on the ship. The counselors didn't care where they went when they left. We made a deal that one of my kids (the other one decided the first day he didn't really want to participate) that he could check himself out at a specified time and come right to the cabin. One day he checked himself out early, went to the cabin and we weren't there, wandered around for an hour looking for us, then checked himself back in to the club. Meanwhile, we went to Club Hal looking for him and they didn't even know he had left. I think this is an accident waiting to happen and they need to figure out a better system. Needless to say that after that fiasco we came in person to drop him off and pick him up. If HAL is going to advertise itself as family-friendly, then they need to step up and provide the services the other cruise lines do.
I found overall the service on the ship to be very bad. Our cabin steward was the only bright spot and he was fantastic. Our dining room staff was simply awful. First, there was a mixup on the early/late seating and table numbers. Six of our group wanted early seating and were waitlisted for three months. The two older couples with us wanted to eat late seating and were confirmed, but when we got onboard we all had early seating but at two different tables. My sister stood in line to straighten it out with the maitre d and he was extremely rude and said that maybe he would fix it the next day. By the time the cruise was over, my parents and their friends had been moved from early to late seating (on the third day) and at late seating were moved to three different tables. The maitre d was completely unapologetic. We were at the same table the whole time, but our service was terrible. They are obviously understaffed in dining room. It was the most impersonal service I have ever received on a cruise ship. Many nights the wine stewardess (who was great) would take bar and wine orders, but I would never get an iced tea or milk for my kids even if we asked a couple of times. The waiter would forget to bring some of the food we ordered or mix up who ordered what. They got a little friendlier as the week went on, but it didn't make up for the first night when my husband asked for a shrimp cocktail and was told it wasn't on the menu so he couldn't have it, or the night when my son wanted a steak and the waiter told us no and had to call over the head waiter to get approval so my son could get his steak and french fries. It became very obvious that the waiters didn't want to do anything outside of their normal routine and they seemed afraid to ask the kitchen for something special.
The food in the Vista Dining was pretty good, but not as good as some of the other cruises we have been on. They have a problem with their beef and pork - it was not prepared well at all. No matter how you ordered it, it was always overcooked, dry and chewy. The fish was very good, the breads were excellent, and many of the appetizers were really nice. Overall, I didn't think the food was anything to brag about (and yes, I understand that it is basically banquet food and can't be compared to a good restaurant). We ate a lot of meals in the Lido (we ate breakfast and lunch one day in the dining room and service was, like at dinner, pretty indifferent). The Lido food was the best of any ship I have been on. Lots of variety and we loved the stations. The sushi was good but the same every day. The Asian food was not so good, but the pasta station was very good. We all enjoyed the excellent ice cream and desserts. The staff was pretty friendly in the Lido, but there was never silverware available when it was crowded (can't tell you how many times we had to search around for silverware), there was never any ice in the machines, the staff never took our trays, and they ran out of milk on Thursday, but it was scarce even before then.
We did eat in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the ship (compliments of our travel agent). So many people got that gift that by noon on Saturday all of the big tables were booked for the week and the only spot for a party of four was Friday at 6:30. If we had known our travel agent was giving the Pinnacle meal to us we would have booked in advance. I was not that impressed with the food. The decor in the room was beautiful, but the service was only fair. Our waiter was very nice, but he couldn't tell us the dessert special for the day. The wine steward charged my sister's wine to the wrong room and then argued with her that he hadn't made a mistake. The appetizers were very good, but the steak I ordered medium was well done (not pink at all) and while it may have been a good piece of meat at one time, it was so overcooked it was hard to tell. We had three porterhouses at our table, two medium and one medium rare, and they got the orders mixed up so the medium rare steak (actually cooked to medium) went to the wrong person. At that point, after a week of bad service, I opted to just eat it and not complain. The side dishes were unmemorable. I had a baked potato and mushroom caps that I could have cooked at home. My appetizer was the heirloom tomatoes that looked really pretty but were utterly tasteless. The creme brulee trio (plain, coffee, and chocolate) was tasty but nothing special.
We had great weather the whole trip and had great days in all three ports. We booked the Baja Jeep Safari for Cabo and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it. We went from the desert to the beach with a stop in Candalaria, a tiny town in the desert. Our tour guide was great, but we had to cut the tour short because of the shortened port hours and the problem tendering in.
In Mazatlan we just hired an open-air jeep taxi to drive us around the old downtown area. We went to the cathedral and the big mercado and saw a lot of the old city. We returned to the ship for lunch, then hired another taxi to go the El Cid hotel on the gold coast so we could use the beach and the pool. We bought drinks there and they didn't seem to care we weren't hotel guests.
In Puerto Vallarta we had independently booked a dolphin-watching excursion in a zodiac boat (they also do whale watching but it's too early for whales). It was a great day and we got to see lots of dolphins close up. Our two guides were naturalists who work with marine life and were experts on the dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, fish and birds that we saw. We also got to snorkel at Los Arcos. This was a great excursion and I would do it again.
The entertainment on the ship was mixed. The singers and dancers were very talented and the first show Roadhouse was entertaining. We walked out of the second show they did Escape since it was very amateurish. We never saw Julie Barr, the comedian. Joel Mason, the Elton John impersonator, was fantastic and I usually don't like shows like that. He was genuinely funny. The magic act, DV8, was pretty bad. They copied the jokes from Joel Mason the night before. I think Dwight is a good magician, but my son described the act as cheesy. Even my stepmother, who has been on a gazillion cruises (over 150 days on HAL alone) and likes any kind of entertainment, hated the magic act.
We felt there were a lot of activities, but most of them were geared toward making money for HAL (like bingo and events in the casino). The trivia was run by a couple of cruise staff who were all business and not friendly. The library was nice but always crowded. The Lido pool was fun for the kids, but needless to say with 400 kids on board it was always crowded. My sister took the two culinary classes with the chef from the Pinnacle and really enjoyed them, although he got his recipes out of a magazine - they are not his original recipes. We didn't do anything in the spa, but heard good reports on the pilates and stretching classes.
As we got off the ship today we discussed taking another HAL cruise and decided that unless the itinerary was fantastic and couldn't be duplicated by another line we probably would not go out of our way to book with HAL. We had fun on the cruise (like always) but the bad service really made a big impression on us. I didn't think it came close to the service and quality we had on Celebrity and although it was a little more sophisticated in feel than Royal Caribbean, I think we prefer those two lines to HAL.
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