Executive summary: Arrived a day early, stayed at Country Inn & Suites (fantastic hotel), met cruise critic friends at Anthony's, went on cruise had fantastic time, all areas of cruise was fantastic Except the weather, it was much colder than we expected. Embarkation was crowded, but moved along well (1.5 hours between arrival and in cabin), stateroom was great, got a balcony for first time ever, and people are right, once you've had one, I know I will never want to settle for anything less, food was great, service from crew was outstanding, vista dining room was beautiful, slots were loose all week till last sea day then they were tight as could be. Ports were good, first time in Mexican Riviera and we did whale watching in Cabo, horses with Randi in Mazatlan, and finally did Zip line in Puerto Vallarta. Enjoyed two sea days on way back, and finally disembarkation was a breeze a bit confusing we were in the Second group called to exit (after the self disembark, where you carry ALL of your luggage with you), and there were long lines of people carrying their luggage with them in front of us, once they cleared out it was a breeze. (time from being called to standing outside waiting on taxi ½ hour. Flew home that day no problems at airport.
Jan 19: Left our Chesapeake Virginia house at 5:30 am, to rain and 35 degrees. I hadn't packed my jacket, but decided to pack it at the last moment do to the cold outside, have no intention of wearing it after we get on the plane to Atlanta/San Diego. Arrived at airport 1 ½ hours before flight, plenty of time to breeze thru security. However, my Dear Wife, who doesn't travel a lot, and hasn't met a stranger yet, decides to start talking to security while they are opening up her bag, and says, be careful it might explode, I new instantly that was the wrong thing to say. She didn't even realize it till I started saying she meant it is packed very tightly. He didn't arrest her, or take us anywhere, but he did give her a bit of a lecture, and made sure she understood that certain words should not be used around security.
Uneventful flight to Atlanta, Flight to San Diego was bumpy as we were passing over the ice storms affecting Texas. The captain kept the seat belt light on for most of the 4 hour flight, which made the passengers restless and several were complaining oh well no real problems. landed in San Diego ½ hour late, got rental car (fox rent a car, 2007 mazda with 5 miles on it, for $25/day), immediately went to Old Towne and walked around and shopped till my wife's content. Went to Point Loma, drove around a bit, till we found the national park, and saw the sights from the top it was beautiful proceeded to Seaport Village, where once we walked around and shopped till my wife's content. (did go into the wyland gallery, and loved his paintings/prints!) Proceed to Anthony's Fish Grotto at 7:45pm, where we met up with some of the cruisecritic mates. Had a nice dinner, roughly 16 of us, and one travel agent, who proceeded to buy wine for the table. Very nice. After a nice dinner, and friendly atmosphere of getting to know each other, we left and went back to hotel (country Inn & Suites, mira mesa area, obtained thru priceline $61 total). Highly recommend Country Inn & Suites.
Jan 20th: slept in, woke up well rested and ready to find the ship! however, we had to enjoy a quick breakfast at hotel, and make our obligatory stop at Wal-Mart first. (we can never go on a cruise without thinking of things we need and or can't do without this time side note: Very empty wal-mart, parked in 2nd row, no one in check out lines this at 10am things are very different in Chesapeake Virginia, always 6 to 9 people with carts in front of you, and parking is a success if you park in the front half of the parking lot. Drove by drop off pier, attempted to offload luggage then return car, but found a seemingly chaotic scene and decided to go ahead and haul luggage with us to rental car, and ask driver to drop us off at cruise terminal vice airport. He very willingly obliged us (rewarded him with $10 tip). There were Two Holland America ships in this morning (ours Oosterdam, and the Zaandam), so embarkation was quite crowded, but handled relatively efficiently, don't know what I would have done to speed things up, had all forms filled out ahead of time, and once we waited thru the lines, we were in our cabin by 1:30pm. We were NOT escorted to our cabin, like our previous cruise on the Maasdam. However, there were ample cabin stewards posted thru out ship to direct us to our first ever balcony cabin. Reserved a VF guarantee, and got upgraded to a VC. We were very happy with cabin, the cabin lights were different (multiple switches, and they came on in succession after each other so after you hit the button a minute later (ok maybe less) they would all come on. (I noted this because I work as a marine engineer and frequently deal with shipboard lights.) Made our way to Lido deck, noticed that we were definitely in the younger generation, but we enjoy the more laid back, relaxed cruise atmosphere vice that offered by carnival. Noticed that all food served on Lido deck was done by the workers, so we saw no one reaching in with their snot filled hands and infecting everyone. Actually, on this cruise they had the clear soap dispensers everywhere on the ship filled with disinfectant, and saw virtually everyone use them. (they must have heard about the noro virus too). The lido deck was usually full, but never seemed crowded to the excess, we were always able to find a seat (even if we had to look for a couple of minutes). Attempted to do the 3 o'clock wave, wandered around deck 3, 4, and finally 5 till we just stayed on deck 5 and went outside (even though there was a sign crew only). We waved, and waved, to no one in particular, there were I would guess 6-8 of use cruise critic types we could tell this was going to be a fun cruise! Went back to cabin, got our life jackets on, and proceed to drill, this was handled very efficiently, and with seriousness. We were on a different cruise line last summer, and we just went to the assigned lounges, actually being at the life boat, on deck lined up, gave the drill some reality. Went back to cabin, unpacked and got ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice, the waiter, TODOK was excellent!...and we found the Vista Dinning Room to be very eloquent and nicely decorated (although there were some weird things up on the ceiling, and when we asked the head waiter, he said they are decorations - you know Art. The room was a little bit dark, but we enjoyed this. Food/Variety/Presentation/and Taste were all excellent. After dinner the routine was to go to the casino and win a few dollars (till the last day, more on that later), then up to the room to watch a few more episodes of 24 season 1, which we brought with us on the nice Flat screen TV and associated DVD player. (yes, we went to bed every night very early, and did not see any shows).
Jan 21th: breakfast in Lido (see above), toured ship, very nicely laid out, and I agree with previous posters who said it was a bit confusing, but I liked the layout, I never felt like I was on a huge ship. (except when I had to walk all the way from the stern to the bow). Met with the entire Cruise Critic gang up in the Oak Room where the ship supplied drinks, and cookies, and we all wore our beads (pre-arranged cruise critic thing). It was very nice putting faces to screen names. we met the majority of the ship's officers..who are either excellent with names & faces or we made an impact on them, because everytime we saw Hans, Simon, or Roger they would directly acknowledge us! It was a very nice touch being a part of cruise critic and getting some special treatment. (more on that later). Ate lunch, on lido (see above wasn't that hungry but they have the best flat bread sandwiches so I guess being hungry doesn't matter that much when on a cruise) After lunch went down to windstar cafe to attempt to join a game of cards. (Bridge). I found a three-some that needed a fourth, and we played for the next 2 ½ hours had a great time, although we lost. I don't get to play very often, it seems that most people of my generation don't play, and I am not up to the caliber of duplicate yet. Went to dinner (see above). Had a very fast formal dinner, because we were anxious to see the last half of the Colts football game being shown in the sports bar. Needless to say, since I said the colts game, we were elated to see them beat the patriots their nemesis! Had a lively group, with several more patriots fans supporting their team..it was fun I lost my voice I was cheering so loud the whole last quarter!! I hope this weekend has equal results! then off to casino (next door), and did well (see above). Then off to cabin (24, see above). haven't mentioned the weather yet, it was chilly in San Diego as expected, but we did not expect it to be in the 50's on a sea day! so my wife and I intentionally found indoor activities.
Jan 22: arrive in Cabo approx 10:30 went to queens lounge at 9:30am to pick up tender ticket, was told they were not distributing till 11am. Showed back up at 10:45 to find that I was able to get ticket number 10 went back to cabin, got my wife, and we were able to join group 10 just as they exited the lounge uneventful tender ride to shore, walked around tourist traps, made our way around the pier, crossed into downtown, made our way back to pier while shopping along side streets. Found some souvenirs and a couple T-shirts. Went back to tender drop off to get in line for our whale watching trip (booked thru ship approx $68/each?), attempted to book a whale watching tour online before leaving for cruise but they were all sold out, and with the shortened port times, I was unwilling to take the risk of a non-reimbursable deposit. Had a great time on tour, saw multiple whales (backs, tails, and fins, and several blows but no breaches). My wife got several pictures of the whales, and she thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We were surprised that the whales were so close to shore the only bad thing I can say was that it was cold. (I would guess upper 50's maybe into the 60's with strong winds). Back to ship dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above).
Jan 22: arrived in Mazatlan to find the ship circling out in sea kept seeing same rock formations. Captain eventually informed us that because of strange weather pattern, and strong winds, he had made 3 attempts to try to get to port but had backed off each time and he would try one more time before 11 and if he didn't make it we would have a sea day instead. We went up to crows nest, and enjoyed the run into the port and it was kinda exciting not much room for error on either side of rock jettys. We were several hours late getting into port, and wandered if our pre-booked tour with Randi's Happy Horses had been canceled. Much to our delight, they were right where they said they would be holding their funky pink signs. The group of us (approx 10), made our way via a pick up truck converted to a taxi, a ride on a small boat across the waterway, and tractor ride (like a hayride) to the horses. We had a wonderful ride along miles of seashore&.we rode on the beach, and just over the sand dunes. my horse wanted to gallop more than I wanted to. since I am a beginner, so we lagged behind, but I think everyone had a great time. We then had lunch at Victor's garlic shrimp fantastic the only draw back was that there were several locals peddling their merchandise during our dinner on the beach.when we finished we headed back to the ship (via back of a tractor, and small boat ride &..the whole experience was different and extremely fun, and I highly recommend it for any adventurous types that are out there! ($45/each paid at end of ride). Back to ship, dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above).
Jan 23: arrived in Puerto Vallarta, surprised to find us tendering again obtained tickets, went right to shore, took taxi to privately booked La Vista Canopy Tours ($68/ea) to their office. ($5 taxi ride). Found that we were about 45 minutes early, took another taxi back to port area and the Sams Club/Walmart. ($6 taxi ride). Wife needed to find some warmer clothes&found some then headed back out to grab same taxi to go back to tour office. ($6). Soon found another couple who found their way to the tour office from our ship by recommendation of a taxi driver, and the 4 of us departed for the mountains for our Zip line tour. After a 45 minute, bumpy free massage pick up truck ride to the mountain top, we enjoyed the spectacular views and were quickly given an introduction to Zip lining. We took 4 lines that were relatively close by the start point, so we could get introduced to zip lining&stopping, slowing down everything, then proceeded to the next approx 12 lines with varying heights, and lengths. On one of the steeper ones I came in a bit too fast, and needed the guides to help slow me down before I bowled them all over! (Ha). It was fun and enjoyable, and believe it or not, we actually got hot up there. it was a clear sky, and in the upper 60's. However, I must confess, after every 2 or 3 lines there would be a hike back up to higher elevations and I did get tired of walking up the hills. All in all, the guides were very friendly, and informative, there were 3 guides and 4 of us, extremely good ratio! Once we took the 45 minute bumpy ride back down to the cruise area we did more shopping and picked up more items to show for our first ever visit to the Mexican Riviera. Back on the ship we did weekly BBQ on the lido deck very good food. We were worn out from the day, but still found our way to the casino and were able to watch our two episodes of 24.
Jan 24 Sea Day, slept in, did lido for breakfast (see above), read book in room till our lunch time date with the Pinnacle grill (provided as gift from TA). Very good, had the filet mignon. would not pay extra for this meal, but we both enjoyed the experience. Wife had digestive issues this day, so I represented our cabin for the cruisecritic cabin crawl! Had fun going cabin to cabin. Dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above).
Jan 25th sea day, slept in, did Vista dining room for breakfast. Very enjoyable, different. I would just assume go thru lido for breakfast and lunch. Packed then the story changes for the casino. Went down to the casino, proceeded to lose most all of our winnings all week. I would tell anyone, that the slots were loose all week, then this last day they tightened them as tight as they could! Anyway, we enjoyed our last day of cruising on the Oosterdam. Dinner (see above), casino (see above Yes we won again the last night), 24 see above. Put bags outside cabin, and lamented our last night was coming to a close.
Jan 26. up by 7am, breakfast on Lido (see above), a bit more crowded, but still found a table. Found our cruisecritic friends and said goodbye to them waited for our number/color to be called we were first to be called after self assist however there were crowds of people stuck on stairway waiting for the self assist to debark I guess they were slower than expected&we were still in line, and they called another group and a loud BOO could be heard by all of us standing around waiting on the first group to completely exit. However, from the time our number was called till we were standing outside getting a taxi was only 30 minutes so it wasn't bad at all. Took taxi to airport ($12 with tip), breezed thru security (no comments this time), and awaited our flight home enjoyed California Pizza Kitchen's pizza for lunch there in the terminal at san diego, and had an uneventful flight home to Norfolk via Atlanta. (we watched the final 4 episodes of 24 on the way home and the time flew by!).
To everyone who made it to the end I say thank you for taking the time to read my epic novel, and I apologize for all the grammatical and spelling errors, I R an engineer for a reason! (Ha).
These are my views, and I want to reiterate how fantastic the crew was.
We really enjoyed the cruise critic gang especially Kathy, Heather, Tim, and Dave.