I've just returned from my first cruise and it was brilliant! I am a 62 year old single man and I went on the cruise by myself. I splurged and got myself a superior veranda suite and it was worth it. I could have spent all 7 days in the cabin and I would have been very satisfied, but I didn't. I found this website about three months before my cruise and read the reviews over and over again so I would get the most information. Most people wrote about how wonderful the embarkation proceeded. Well, it wasn't that way for my cruise which departed on Dec. 2nd. It seems there was a G.I. outbreak on the previous cruise and they gave the ship a "deep" cleaning before we were allowed to board. Inside, the terminal reminded me of Ellis Island because all the passengers were just sitting and waiting for their boarding number to be called. I finally boarded the ship at 2:15 after arriving at the pier at 12 noon. Once on board the ship, I was in another world and stayed in that world for 7 days.
CABIN My cabin was very spacious. A queen size bed, a couch, two side chairs and all the drawer and closet storage you could want. The bathroom was much larger than I expected. It had two sinks and a large jacuzzi bathtub. It also had a separate stall shower. The veranda was also very large. It had a table and two chairs on one side and two other larger chairs with ottomans on the other side. Because I had read a previous review, I ordered eggs benedict for breakfast in my cabin every morning. Eggs benedict is not on the menu, but I just wrote it, as the previous reviewer mentioned, and VIOLA! the most delicious and hot breakfast was served on my veranda every morning. Every evening before going to dine at 8pm, I would order a margarita and Atlantic salmon appetizer. The room steward was alright. Not as good as I had expected from the other reviewers but he did keep the room clean.
MEALS I don't care for buffets, so I never ate in the Lido restaurant. However, the variety of food was terrific and it seemed never ending. There is an ice cream station in the Lido, and I did enjoy it. I usually had a light lunch from the Terrace Grill just outside the Lido restaurant. They prepared cheeseburgers, hot dogs, bratworst and breast of chicken and they have very good french fries too. The Vista dining room more than met my expectations I was seated at a table for 10 but there were just nine of us. We all got along very well. There were two couples, three single ladies and one other single lady traveling alone, like I was. I couldn't believe how extensive the selections were every evening. I never had trouble finding something that pleased me. I'll add that I usually ordered more than one entree but never could finish both. I also ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night. The food was good but no that different from the Vista Dining Room. I wouldn't eat there again, but I think everyone should try it for the experience. The service was not anything to rave about. On Thursday night, they had a chocolate decadence dessert buffet in the Lido restaurant. It started at 10pm and I went to see it around 11pm. The chocolate creations were really masterpieces. I am a chocoholic and it was really special to see all the different desserts but I was so full from dinner, I didn't eat one thing.
ENTERTAINMENT I found out that a string quartet played classical music in the Explorer Lounge every evening and after dinner, usually around 10pm, I would go straight to listen to them play. They were fabulous. I'm not a show person, so I only went to one show because one of my dinner couples asked me to go with them. I went to the magic show and it was sensational. However, that was the only show I attended.
PORTS I went to a very special resort in Los Cabos called Las Ventanas. It was recommended by my daughter since she had stayed there and she suggested that I might have lunch there, which I did. However, I had to make a reservation with their Los Angeles sales office in order to get onto the property. You can't just show up. It was fabulous! The hotel, the pool, the food and whole resort would be a wonderful place to spend a few days on my next trip. I never left the ship in Mazatlan and I was glad that I stayed on board. I treated myself to a facial in the spa and it was great. It also was my first facial. Since most of the passengers were ashore, the ship was very peaceful and I spent most of the day reading and sunbathing by the pool on the rear of the ship. I had arranged for the Taste of Mexico shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about the city and we were able to walk around the downtown area before going to the restaurant for the cooking demonstration. It was lots of fun especially the tequila tasting at the end. Some people wanted to shop in the old part of the city. It was a beautiful part of the city since it wasn't a tourist area like the downtown area is. I went shopping there and to the downtown area before I took a taxi back to the pier to get a tender back to the ship. It had been over 30 years since I'd been to P.V. and of course, it has changed immensely. It was a good stop for me.
OVERALL SERVICE The crew is very friendly and everyone makes sure to smile and say "hello". I also want to add that I felt very safe on and off the ship. The crew was very good about helping us board the tenders and being around the pier all day if we needed their assistance. I would also like to add that the cruise director, Michelle, was very friendly and encouraged participation in the ships events without being pushy. I was very happy with HAL and the Oosterdam. I was told that the broken azipod motor will be fixed in drydock in Victoria, BC in January. That will make a big difference since the time we were in a couple of the ports had to be shortened because the ship's speed was cut down to 17.5 knots. I've already booked my next cruise. It will be a 6 day, Pacific Coastal transition cruise on Princess Lines from Vancouver to Los Angeles in September, 07. I definitely would take another HAL cruise. One thing though. I never heard about the cruise critic meeting while I was on the ship and I'm sorry I missed it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you find it helpful. David Phoenix, AZ