I have been on one previous Alaska cruise (a different cruise line) and one previous HAL cruise, on the Veendam. The Oosterdam seemed like a training ship for staff and crew not ready to actually serve clients.
My experience with the bad HAL website put me on notice to be sure to verify, verify, every arrangement. My friends and I booked spa appointments and excursions on line, as HAL encourages its passengers to do, but the repeated requirements to log in, log in again, and inability to toggle from one page to another, was silly. When I spoke to HAL representatives on the telephone, asking my specific questions, I seemed to stymie the telephone agents every time. They put me on hold, they’d inquire, and their answers seemed tentative and unreliable. I’d call back again the next day, go through the same routine, and sometimes was given different answers.
Back to the Oosterdam: The hard sell on everything from wine to spa appointment was obvious and annoying.Our so-called wine steward at dinner, was there to sell, not to advise. She had no expertise on wines other than what the packages cost. She overfilled our wine glasses too much and too frequently, even when we asked her not to, obviously so that she could sell more wine. In the pool area, within five minutes at least 3 waiters would come by and interrupt, asking if we wanted to order more drinks (our glasses were still almost full). This was not being attentive; this was relentless selling.
I found the English-speaking skills of the crew not up to snuff—certainly not compared to my previous cruise experience. Most requests that I made had to be repeated several times, with accompanying hand gestures.
I inquired at the beginning of the cruise about a Jewish religious service to be held on Friday night. I was assured at the front desk that there was a service leader arranged for (which I had not expected). There was no leader. The room provided for the gathering had blaring music piped in from a neighboring bar area. On behalf of the others, I had to leave to find a porter and through hand-gestures and limited English, asked him to turn off the music in that meeting room.
Our spa appointments, the same ones I’d verified on line and on the telephone before the cruise, were mixed up and had to be sorted out. Mistakes can happen, but the spa desk attendants were surly even though I showed them our printed reservations. Their correcting of the errors “in the system” were made grudgingly.
I sent one item of clothing out for expedited dry cleaning service. I gave it to my cabin steward one evening, to be returned by 5pm the following day. The item was not returned, and I made three phone calls between 5pm and 10pm. No one knew where the item was. The laundry manager tried to use the excuse that the laundry machines had all been busy on that “at sea” day—then I pointed out that this was not laundry but dry cleaning. By the end of the night, she told me that she was sure the cabin steward would return it to me the next morning. I asked her to note that he should not bring them to me before 8:00 am—I repeated that, and she agreed. What time did the cabin steward knock on my door the next morning? 6:40 am! Two different managers called me later that day to apologize, which was appreciated. Each of them offered to reverse the charge for the dry cleaned item. I thanked each of them. When I received my bill, the charge had not been reversed by either of them.
These incidents were small but irritating and, I feel there was a clear pattern of miscommunication, issues falling through the cracks, and poor training, that seemed to match the website experience, and the telephone agents as well.
We thought the dinner food to be of excellent quality. The Canaletto dining experience was superb—far exceeding my expectations. The breakfast and lunch food at the Lido buffet was okay.. By the last two days of the cruise, the buffet was running out of fresh fruit, the yogurts had gone bad, and some of the vegetables for omelets and salads had turned brown.. Someone told me that the provisions were put on the ship in Vancouver, starting with the northbound voyage, and probably nothing fresh could be added in Anchorage for the southbound trips. True or not, towards the end of our southbound cruise, the breakfast and lunch food was on its last legs.
The Oosterdam needs repairs. On two different days I saw buckets in corridors, put there to catch drips from the ceiling. Walls are scuffed. My cabin’s toilet seat was deeply stained. It wasn’t dirty—let’s just call it off-putting.
The cruise director, Ross, was excellent—just the right blend of enthusiasm, professionalism, and friendliness. The embarkation and disembarkation processes were flawless. I would sail on HAL again, but not on the Oosterdam.
most of the view was obscured by a lifeboat structure. Still, it was nice to have a window.This is a mid-ship location, the first room in its corridor as you leave the stairwell or elevators. I could occasionally hear the elevator bell, but this was not disturbing, and I am a light sleeper. I found the location very convenient.