This is not so much a detailed review as it is some notes and observations of my trip to Alaska on the Holland America's MS Oosterdam. We did the 11-day Denali, with the sea portion first, and the land portion second.
- Arrived in Vancouver to find that Delta tore open my checked piece of luggage forcing me to buy a new suitcase in the very expensive downtown area. Fortunately I found one on sale at a Bay Harbor store near my hotel.
- On-board staff was from Indonesia/Philippines. Nearly everyone worked hard, wore a smile, and was very patient and professional. There were a few exceptions though. Biggest complaint was that the language barrier could be an annoying problem. HAL really needs to make sure that crew members working in contact with customers have at least an average command of english.
- overall, the ship was clean and appeared well maintained.
- Room stewards were great and the towel animals were a nice touch. we gave them a pretty good tip at the end of the cruise for being on top of things and getting us some extra hangers, and extra sets of the daily schedule, keeping the fruit bowl filled, etc.. Again though, there were a few difficulties communicating due to our stewards having low english skills.
- On-board activities were pretty lame, at least for me, and I rarely saw anything on the daily ships itinerary to get excited about. I did the main shows in the Vista Lounge almost every night and they were fairly professionally done; but overall there was very few on-board activities that I was interested in, or even did… spending most of my on-board time on the decks or on my verandah, reading or watching the scenery.
Nearly every event or activity seemed to be trying to sell you something.
I don't gamble so the casino and bingo were out for me. The drinks were too expensive to hang out at the bars (which were empty half the time anyway). The art gallery was fun to look at only once and I was not there to buy art. The stores were pretty lame (unless you are a big jewelry shopper). I never once used their internet cafe or library. I went to one cooking demonstration just to do something but otherwise could care less about the "culinary arts program'. Would have loved to use the spa and get a message, but it was way too expensive. I did do a game of music trivia in the piano bar one evening that was OK. I never even found the fitness center. If it hadn't been for the shore excursions I would have been bored to tears.
- Food: I stuck with only the included meals. Either the Vista Dining Room or Lido Deck. I never used the Pinnacle grill or any other pay restaurants. The food on the Lido was average; though lots of choices. Breakfast opened a bit late for early risers. The scrambled eggs were absolutely disgusting - wet and sloppy!
Food in the Vista dining room was generally good, however portion sizes were really small on most items (they were clearly going for that 'gourmet' vibe). The NY Strip was good and a decent sized portion. I needed to order two of the surf and turf entrees on the final formal night because the steak and lobster portions were tiny. Service was average (sometimes slow) and often drinks and plates were mixed up. My Dad bought the three bottle of wine deal for the family, but at the end of the cruise it ended up on my charge account. I just left it there and paid for it. Soda cards kept getting mixed up also.
- I bought the soda card, but ended up not drinking enough soda to make it really worth while. There was no easy way to get a soda on the lido deck to have with your meal unless you walked to the forward or aft bars.
- Photo gallery prices were ridiculous and I never bought any photos. Not to mention, the blue background they used was gaudy imo. It was also annoying having the photographer coming around during dinner and snapping pics.
- Embarking and disembarking for excursions went fairly smoothly overall, though what deck was being used was not always communicated well. My father got poor treatment from one of the indonesian security guards. My Dad is not the quickest to understand things all the time, and the guard lost his patience with him because he was forgetting items in his pockets and ended up patted him down in a rude, impatient manner.
- There is no self-serve Laundry on this ship. They had a $20.00 all you could fit per bag service but you need to use their bag, and it's REALLY small!!! About the size of a plastic grocery bag. It also takes 48 hours to get the laundry back which is really unacceptable. I washed some things in the sink and hung them on the line in the shower - but they took FOREVER to dry, even rung out really well. I'm assuming it was because of the damp air.
- The whole land portion felt rushed and as though we never had the chance to relax. So much travel and in-and-out of hotels that it created an disturbing feeling. more exhausting than relaxing. All the hotel rooms needed better black-out curtains to help keep out the 'midnight sun'. The waitress at the Anchorage Hilton who served me in the sports bar overcharged me. It appears she must have given herself a bigger tip because it does not match my receipt.
--- Overall, I was fairly disappointed with the ship-life part of the cruise, but not the cruise itself. There was virtually nothing on the ships daily itinerary that interested me. If it weren't for the shore excursions, and the Alaskan towns and scenery, I would have been severely disappointed.
Not sure if I will ever book HAL again.
The cabin was small but nice, clean and had a lot of hidden storage. Not enough outlets for two people to be able to charge devices at the same time though. There was one outlet in the bathroom, and one in the cabin by the small desk. Loved the verandah and can't image cruising without one.Blackout curtains could have been better. Fortunately I had some spring clips along and was able to keep the curtains clipped together to help block out light, especially as we moved farther north and it was light out later.Two people trying to move around at the same time could be a challenge, with one having to move between beds or squeeze out of the way for another to pass. Especially if someone was coming out of the bathroom, while another was getting something from the closet. Watch out.