We had essentially the same itinerary in March 2015 on the Ryndam prior to her transfer to P&O Australia. We opted for the same trip on the Oosterdam with Mahogany Bay taking the place of Banana Coast Honduras.
As always, the service in the main dining room and the attentiveness of our cabin stewards were exemplary. A special dietary need, which we arranged for at the time of booking, was well accommodated by the cooks.
Unfortunately, like many of the other long time HAL cruisers we spoke with onboard there was an issue with proper attire. On our last few HAL cruises there was no enforcement of a dress code on "Gala Evenings" (formerly known as formal nights). We've had people show up for supper wearing t-shirts and blue jeans when the vast majority of diners were dressed appropriately without a word said by the dining room staff. There were also a couple people that showed up at the Mariner brunch wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Rather than setting an example for other cruise lines, Holland America seems to be gradually lowering themselves to the standards of others.
Unlike Christmas last year on the Zuiderdam, we saw very few young children on this early-December cruise. Perhaps this sailing didn't mesh well with holiday schedules for many elementary and middle schools.
The entertainment with a comedian was far better than a magician/illusionist. Stage productions by Oosterdam employees were as good as we've seen on six previous sailings. This was the first time that I noticed backdrops on the stage that consisted of full color dot-matrix displays. These were a very welcome addition to the stage shows and included full motion video of a quality, from the audience's perspective, equal to what might have been obtained from a projector.
Maps were one of our points of contention. In the past, we received deck plans with detailed layouts of each level. We received no deck plan on check-in this time but did pick up one at the Front Desk onboard. It only shows a cross section of the ship with lists of the venues on each deck and only their general locations. This is a big step down. Fortunately, I had printed out detailed deck plans from HAL's web site and had that with us.
We were also unable to obtain maps of the ports at the gangway like we had on previous cruises. This may have been because we didn't rush off the ship as soon as it docked. The maps in the "Explorer" guide in our cabin were nearly useless and included at least one venue that was replaced by a different one over five years ago.
Having celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary recently we sprung for a Signature Suite. Although we've booked Verandas and outside cabins on other sailings, a little over half of our cruises have been in this cabin category. With a CPAP we make use of an electrical outlet near the bed in an SS rather than running an extension cord across the floor in a Veranda cabin. The larger cabin isn't a necessity but access to an electrical outlet is. For example, our "C" outside cabin on the Ryndam also had a well-placed outlet for the CPAP.
The SS has experienced some upgrades since our last time in one. Our dinner companions had a rear-facing VB cabin and it did not include any of these upgrades.
- The old dark countertops have been replaced by light colored ones.
- There are two additional outlet pairs (120 volt and 220 volt), one above each nightstand.
- The nightlight we usually bring along remained in our suitcase because there are now two LED nightlights in the ceiling of the bathroom.
- The TV on the desktop has been replaced by a huge widescreen LED TV on the cabin wall. This freed up a lot of counter space.
- The old mirrored cupboards are now gone from the bathroom. A drawer between the two sinks somewhat makes up for that lost storage space.