Oosterdam Cruise Review by HeidiK
- Sail Date: July 2007
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
EMBARKATION Embarkation was simple and hassle-free. It's a lot less luxurious than the Disney cruise we went on last year, as the embarkation takes place in a warehouse-type building. Still...it's very simple, and easy to figure out your way around. We were delayed 45 minutes during the embarkation process, and there weren't many chairs, so it meant standing. We didn't care, though! We were heading on a cruise...plenty of time to relax later. Upon boarding the ship, we realized that the delay came from leaks in the ceiling. There were several buckets spread about Level 2, but it seemed they disappeared by mid-afternoon. We were immediately escorted to the Vista Dining Lounge...that was so relaxing and much less congested, I hear, than trying to haul luggage around in the Lido buffet line. What a great treat to be welcomed with shrimp, pasta, and chocolate mousse!
CABIN We were pleasantly surprised with our verandah cabin on floor 5. It was shorter in length than the Disney line, but it had tons of storage! I loved the bathroom...the tub was huge, the water pressure was great, the amenities were wonderful, and the towels were large! The beds are also worth bragging about. The sheets are wonderful and so is the comfort of the mattress. There is a mini-bar in the room that is restocked daily. There was no alarm clock/clock in the room, so I was glad I read about that ahead of time. We truly enjoyed the balcony, especially with so much Alaskan scenery to see at all time. We were on the inner passage, and it seems like there is always a change in scenery. We were on our balcony a lot...taking pictures of all the scenery as it passed by.
FOOD Upon returning home, the scale tipped 5.2 pounds higher and I consider that a victory since we were amid tons of delicious food all week. We ate in the Vista Lounge every night and loved the portion sizes and the variety. There was always something new to try, and like all cruise dining, if you don't like something, ask for a replacement. That never happened at our table. We were pleased with all the entrees. We were most fortunate to have Hunky Dory as our steward. He's very well-known on the ship by everyone...whether you have him as your steward or not. He knows everyone's name and there's a reason he's Employee of the Year! Food in the Lido was good, but I wouldn't give it bragging rights. Maybe we got a little spoiled with the fanciness in the Vista. There was a great variety, but many of the foods (salads, desserts, pastries, breakfast entrees) were repeated day after day. The Dutch chocolate dessert buffet was impressive, but after a late seating, we were too full to indulge again at 10:30 p.m. Instead I walked around taking pictures of the display and gained 3.4 pounds just from the rich smell!
CROWDED? The layout of the ship is nice, even though I couldn't find my way around - even until the last day! I was always turning the wrong corner...and I have a great sense of direction! There are plenty of small lounges/bars throughout the ship. Upon arriving on the ship, I worried that there'd be no seating in these small areas, but it was amazing at how empty the ship always seemed. I never felt crowded and I always felt like there were plenty of places to escape to when I needed it.
CLEANLINESS/APPEARANCE The general cleanliness of the ship was great, but there were areas that could have used some touch up from general wear and tear. My mom was traveling with me and she's cruised with HAL before. She was less impressed with the ms Oosterdam than she was with the other ships, stating that the others seemed much fancier. This ship is quite fancy, but I think the color scheme (teal, etc) makes it look dated even though it's a fairly new ship.
DRINKS There is always a wonderful drink special of the day with a discounted price. I think I was most disappointed in the lack of free sodas from a fountain machine. Having cruised with Disney, I think I became quite spoiled with getting a diet soda anytime I wanted...for no charge. I'm not a tea or coffee drinker so my caffeine cost me money all week.
KIDS We opted for a "no kids" vacation, and on Holland America it seems that others opt for the same plan. HAL is not set up for kids like Disney or Royal Caribbean. It is truly geared for couples. There were a few kids on our ship, but I think I could have counted them on two hands. I think they spent their entire time in the pool as there wasn't anything else for them to do.
PORTS Our itinerary included Juneau, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC.
Juneau It was raining as we came into port and because we were the third of three ships docked for the day, we parked a mile out of the downtown area and relied on busses to take us downtown. We chose the Whale Watching Quest and Mendenhall Glacier as our excursion package and we were SO happy we did. We saw 25 whales up close and watched them breaching and bubble net feeding, which is rare to see. It rained during most of our excursion on the water, but we were in an enclosed boat, so it was just fine. The Glacier was beautiful and so worth the money. It was pretty packed there so getting into the visitor's center without being bumped around didn't happen. We spent some time in downtown Juneau and even had an Alaskan Summer Ale at the famed Red Dog Saloon. That's worth a stop for sure! By the end of the day the sun was out, and we were walking back to our ship in short sleeves.
Sitka This was a beautiful little town with great views from the top of the hill. We needed the tender, but that was very convenient. We were the only ship in town for the day, so it wasn't crowded. Some of the little shops were closed because it was sunny. I guess the store owners close down when the sun comes out because it's so rare and they want to get out and enjoy it. The people are all very friendly, but the prices are very high if you plan to eat off the ship. I'd fill up first because just a hot dog is $4.50...better to eat what you already paid for on the ship.
Hubbard Glacier We were one of the lucky groups to see another sunny day at Hubbard Glacier and enjoy quite the display of calving (when the face of the glacier breaks off). It was amazing, and I couldn't stay there long enough! I guess we were two miles from the glacier, but it felt like we were ¼ mile away. When we got there, there were two other ships just leaving so that was fun to watch them as they sailed against the majestic backdrop.
Ketchikan Again...another quaint little town that started out cold and rainy and ended up being a very nice and warm day. Creek Street is a fun walk full of shops behind the main street. Lots of historic buildings. We went in the visitor center and learned about the Tlinket people and the history. I'm not normally one who likes that kind of thing, but it was neat...and only $5. It was very crowded as three ships were in town, so the stores were extremely busy.
Victoria, B.C. I'd been told that this wasn't that great of a stop, but I felt much differently. You're a cab ride or a short walk to the part of town where you'd probably hang out. For $7.50, a cab will take you there, but be sure to let them know you're not going to the Gardens. For some reason, the cabbies want to take you to the Gardens and that is a 30 minute drive. 20 minutes into ours, we realized we were being "taken for a ride", and he wasn't happy that we only wanted to be dropped off downtown. The flowers are just beautiful...there are thousands of hangings baskets of multi-colored flowers.
DISEMBARKATION This went very smoothly. We opted for a late disembarkation because we had a late flight out of Seattle. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and weren't called to leave the ship until 9:15. Finding luggage wasn't a problem...everything was very organized.
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