Oosterdam Cruise Review by Westsiders
- Sail Date: February 2008
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
ARRIVAL....Not as smooth as I would have expected. Loaded with bags when we arrived around 10:30am, we were unceremoniously pointed towards the warehouse where the bags were taken. From there, we were directed towards the security screening area, where the personnel (non-HAL) had the charm of greeters at Ellis Island. ("Move down ALL the way!! Move down ALL the way!!") From there, we were handled efficiently, boarding the Oosterdam around 11:30. We went immediately to the Lido deck, where we found a windowside table and enjoyed a terrific buffet lunch. The food choices were mind-boggling....everything we heard about the food was spot on.
STATEROOM....No disappointment here; just as advertised. We had a Verandah room with balcony. Although tight, it worked well for us during the trip, including the adjoining room.
UPSELLING....We wanted to highlight this aspect, as we weren't expecting it. By "upselling," we mean an effort by HAL to have you buy add-ons, like alcohol, excursions, pictures, etc. I'm sure this isn't limited to HAL, but I wish they could be a little more subtle. It starts in the embarkation area, with them trying to sell wine packages. It continues onboard, with the bar staff being especially irritating by asking if I wanted a "bucket" (6 beers) when I ordered a single beer. I'm sitting by myself and the guy asks me if I want a bucket! I also had another waiter try two or three times to sell me a drink card ("pay for 9, get 10"). When I said "no," he kept asking like he couldn't hear me. Irritating, and I hope HAL's beverage managers take note. This, though, abated after about Day #2.
ClubHAL....Somewhat disappointing. Our 10 & 12 year olds went to one function and told us they would not return. Not necessarily ClubHAL's fault, as their staff appeared to try very hard. One issue we had is what was offered didn't seem to match the brochure (the "Oasis"....with hammocks, etc.). To be fair to HAL, though, there may have been an asterisk saying those amenities weren't available on the Oosterdam. Nevertheless, the kids got a little tired of ping-pong and semi-flat basketballs in the sports loft.
FOOD....They do a wonderful job. Great selection and (usually) great quality. We choose what is now the 5:45pm seating. We actually had chosen the 6:15 seating, but this was eliminated after our booking when HAL began to offer "as-you-wish" seating; the Oosterdam converted one entire dining room to this option. The main dining room then is divided into 5:45 & 8pm seatings. 5:45 was too early as we discovered. We were staying out fairly late, seeing the shows, going to the casino, etc., so breakfast was around 9-10am, lunch at 1pm, then dinner at 6pm. It felt rushed. We'd STRONGLY recommend to those who are semi-nightowls to go with the 8pm seating. Even if you are like us and eat every night religiously at 6pm, 8pm will not be too late on this (or other) cruises. If you're hungry at 3pm **trust me** you'll find something to eat. We'd also recommend the formal seating, which we and our kids loved. We enjoyed being served by the same staff every night, as they were wonderful. We were also fortunate enough to get a window table immediately off the stern. The sunsets and general vistas were amazing. Loved this part. Some final notes on food & dining....be adventuresome....try some things you would never have at home. For one of us, it was escargot (they're great, by the way). Have two appetizers or a dinner of just appetizers. You can do it! If you order room service (you should....especially if you have a balcony), always order the time slot with the late end of the time range as the time you want it served. For example, if you want breakfast delivered at 9am, check the box for 8:30-9am, as it always seemed to show up at the late end of the time range we selected. Finally, I was a little suspicious of the scrambled eggs on a couple occasions, as they had a slight quality of pre-cooked eggs (e.g., shiny texture, porous holes in the eggs). I despise packaged eggs and am always on the outlook for them. I was wary of them a couple times, including our disembarkation day.
BAR SERVICE....We didn't follow our friends' advice and smuggle booze onboard. The drink prices are not exorbitant ($7.45 for a Tanqueray martini), though the wine prices can be a little silly.
SHORE EXCURSIONS....We never bought a HAL-sponsored excursion, as most left earlier than our older relative could do. We tried to do it by ourselves in Cabo & Mazatlan with mixed results. First off, Cabo and Mazatlan are terrible tourista traps. (You can keep Mazatlan for all we care....) Our strategy was to go to big, brandname resorts for lunch and to see if we could rent aquasports equipment. This strategy largely didn't work. We were pounced on at every hotel we entered, as most require ID like wristbands to be on the premises. (They apparently have a problem with non-guests wandering onto the premises and using the facilities.) We were also offered free taxis, food and facility usage if we would look at their timeshare units. NO THANKS! So, if you're like us and want to go to a hotel to eat in a restaurant with a printed menu containing prices, good luck. If we had to do it again, we'd take a tour in Cabo and Mazatlan. For Puerto Vallarta, I think it's probably easier to go downtown and be "normal" (go to a restaurant, visit the beach, etc). We didn't do this, as we visited a friend in their condo in PV.
CASINO....Pretty nice. Some of the staff had a little trouble with Craps, but it was great fun while playing in a tuxedo. Do it....the closest you'll get to playing James Bond!
ENTERTAINMENT....Overall, impressed. I think they really try to do a quality job, and it shows. The Broadway shows are very campy and over the top. The featured singer--Delisco--was talented. The house band (The HALCats) are excellent. Go to the shows (provided you read our caveat below in "OVERALL").
ACTIVITIES....Our advice is exploit what the ship has to offer. Plan your day. Read the daily schedule the night before. You'll get a lot more out of your vacation if you actively plan your next day aboard. Try different stuff, like Team Trivia and Bingo. You'll enjoy it.
OVERALL....This was a fun vacation, and we would like to travel with HAL again. (Probably on a cruise with more sea days, however, as we liked that far more than port days.) To fully enjoy your trip, our advice is MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. The food is great, but it's not Le Cirque. The entertainment is entertaining, but it's not Celine Dion in Vegas. We viewed the trip as a chance to kick back, have great food and fun with no housekeeping chores. We succeeded and look forward to future trips. We hope you'll find this review helpful.
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