1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Oosterdam
Sept 4 oosterdam 12 nights VD 7097 Bucket list: Barcelona and Rome with a Sept 4 2016 cruise in the middle. This was perfect. We saw lots of places that would have been difficult to get to on our own. We took the initiative and booked our own tours, or just ventured out on our own whenever possible. Cruise Critic was great for helping to organize others to go with us. This was fun because many of us were on the same day tours in different ports. I highly recommend joining the tours after doing your own research. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Getting on at the beginning (taxi from B&B) and off at the end was a breeze. During shore visits getting on and off was very fast and easy as well. We were going to take the distant train to Rome, but joined with others for a van and were glad we did. We were drenched just walking to the nearby van in the downpour. Shore Excursions: Always did our own thing on cruises. Itinerary: Note: we always use Rick Steves for planning then take him along on our trips. :} We sure were glad we opted to end at Rome. For those going on, the departure was moved earlier and was cut too short to really see much because Rome is so far from the cruise port. Turkey was also cut out at the last. We stayed 5 days in Barcelona and 5 days in Rome on either end. Some of the land tours were headed by 1 person but a local guide took over at certain locations. What we enjoyed very much were the small tour groups we were with and the opportunity to mix in with the locals when we did our own thing away from tourists. We met lots of really nice helpful people and hubby had some very interesting conversations in Spain. Barcelona outings: Gaudi buildings (Sagrada Familia is a must), Montserrat...too far, too many people in very long line all at once. Not worth it. We got tired of crowds so ventured to Sitges, a decent beach town but we stumbled onto the nudist beach. Oops. Jazzsi club for a Flamenco show we loved. Authentic, tiny local venue, open seating anyplace you fit, affordable small bites. Non touristy but the show we saw was amazing. I didn't really know what real flamenco was till then. Girona/Pals/Palafrugell: Viator tours. Worst tour we have ever been on beginning to end. Too much too fast. No information the entire ride. Some simple ‘this is where Game of Thrones was filmed"….and very basic history. She knew very little. No mention of the cathedral or Girona stone. We were pickpocketed (and caught them) in Girona so there was no time to see anything because we spent it all looking for a police station which was locked. Be very careful. Guide wouldn't let us tell the rest of the group so they could check their belongings. Pals was fast in and out. In Palafrugel we were left on our own to eat and swim for about 2 hours. Swim didn't happen...no time, or place to change. Because we didn’t have reservations for any restaurants, they wouldn’t let any of us in to the places the guide recommended. One place took pity on us and squeezed us in. The entire time we sat there the empty tables at the other places remained empty. Reserved. That should never have happened on a tour Maybe we were just in a bad mood…..but others weren't happy either. Cadiz: we took the train to Seville on our own. Very hot! Take water from room and buy water when you get off train. The ship sells water as you get off but it is often more money. We had plenty of time to get to Seville and back. Gibraltar: No free transportation from ship to 'town' so we walked from ship to tram. There were lots of taxis along the way offering services up to top, but hubby knew they were more expensive than taking the tram. If you can't walk far, take the taxi because it is a long way. We took the tram up and walked up even higher and then walked back down to town. We don’t recommend this if you are not in good shape. We skipped the main monkey event but saw enough… a pink souvenir stuffed monkey stolen, a bag of oranges stolen, tug of war with old lady over her bag while onlookers watched and took pics (we were up above wondering why nobody helped) and a man's glasses stolen. I don't find that cute. St. Michaels cave is just another cave BUT there is an amazing cross-section of a huge broken off stalagtite. The view from top is amazing if you venture up. Walking down is long and dangerous the closer you get to the bottom. We had plenty of time but it was 8 hours of walking. We added another hour in town before returning to the ship. Malaga: Spain Day Tours trip to Granada/Alhambra very nice with Debbie. Great guide Maria at the beautiful alcazar. Alicante: Shuttle from Ship to edge of public area. We opted to take Rick Steves' advice for the easy to do L1 or L3 metro away from the tourist/cruise ship beach to San Juan Beach. I have seen many beautiful beaches and this one is one of the tops. It was huge, not crowded in September, and beautiful. When we returned to the ship we looked at the nearby beach - overpacked with people and not very pretty. On returning to the pickup point for the shuttle to the ship, some of us were lectured about being late. We had the paper that said what times the bus ran and we had plenty of time. The driver disagreed and was put off. On another note, if the ship head count showed everyone was back on the ship, it would leave port early, if possible. Palma- This port disembarkation process was confusing. We were told there was a bus for 5E each r/t to take us to town center or we could walk the 1 mile to town center. I was miffed that they charged. We paid for the bus which took us all the way to the cathedral area, not the 1 mile, several miles. Then again one could have probably caught the on/off bus and taken it to the cathedral, but I don't know. Cruise director said there was a tourist office at the end. (of what? we never found one where the bus took us). This was our 'funeral' day. My 96 year old father-in-law had died unexpectedly the evening of our arrival to Barcelona. We opted to not return home (7 other kids were there) and it was decided this would be the best day for the funeral and for is to listen in from shore as we couldn’t from the ship. We hung around town, visited the market, took the hop on/off bus the full loop. The castle Believer was pretty from a distance but not worth a separate trip except for the great views. The Cathedral was a lovely place to sit and meditate. Toulon: Tour to Marseille and Aix en Provence. Marseille was better than we expected. Aix was pretty but we ran thru it very fast and didn’t really get to see much. I wish we had more time there. We had a great group bathroom experience there. :) Very expensive waterfront restaurant with things most Americans don't eat and none of us were very hungry. There went my little French bistro experience… Calvi: We wanted to take the little train in town but the disembarkation guide from Calvi told us there wasn’t one. When we said there was and asked were was the stop she said to not go, just stay in town because that is where we should stay. Well, we did. We toured the fortress, saw a little tribute to the American pilots, took a walk up top to a cemetery and view, walked the boardwalk past the never ending stretch of rented beach chairs to a place in the sand for free. Water was too shallow to swim. Not much there. We should have taken the train. Monte Carlo: Italy tours Monte Carlo, Nice, Eze. It was a rainy, overcast day but we enjoyed the tour in spite of no great scenery pictures. Eze is pretty much a beautiful old town on a hilltop but it is all tourist shops. No need for a long stay if you are not a shopper. Tour included a stop at the perfume factory. which was a waste. Nothing was working. Their day off? I couldn’t understand a word the young factory guide said. She showed us the basics of scents and what may be a working demo on another day, and then led us into the store to shop. Nobody in our group bought anything. We were anxious to leave. However, Monte Carlo was beautiful and we really liked Nice. Livorno: ItalyTours. One of our better tours (but not best). We enjoyed the beautiful rainy drive to Florence (crowded). Most memorable was our Florence and Museum guide. She had a true love of the statue of David and her detail in educating us was remarkable. We came away with a greater appreciation than we would have had if we had gone on our own. We were dropped off to wander Pisa and take photos. Thats all. We loved the beautiful and interesting tower. Sadly there was a long line to get tickets to go up in the tower so we just wandered outside and took pictures. Rome: Viator trip to Vesuvius and Pompeii was our favorite tour of the entire trip. We had 2 amazing guides Becky and Sarah and their information at the end of our tour would have been very useful a week sooner! We should have done this trip on arrival to Rome. It seems we had an experienced bus driver, compared to the one ahead of us. The bus will leave you if you are late...and it did leave two people that didn't return when guide told all of us it was turn back time. Take water and rent the walking stick! Good Pompeii guide. Pizza afterwards went smoothly although I can’t say I came away loving italian pizza. Vatican- MUST get advance tickets! Even with them we didn’t know where to go. We found a guard that said ‘stand there’ and eventually he let us in the line. 40 years ago things were much different. Too many people this time. We had a hard time keeping up with our guide and I lost her a few times with all the pushing and shoving. Stark contrast to the feelings one is supposed to get. No photos. Look, step, look, step, look, step…and eventually you are out of the chapel. Half our postcards we mailed from the Vatican Post Office didn't make it. Coliseum- we still haven't received our refund for the rained out lower level tour ticket. That lower level tour would be hard to do on a shore excursion. The Coliseum is a must do even with headphone tour. We went to the San Calisto catacombes via foot, metro, bus, foot…great day away from crowds on Sunday. I have to make a note that I am an avid geocacher. That, combined with the fact that I typically prefer to not use past paced tours and go at our own speed, where we choose, my opinions are a bit colored. We were not allowed time to 'see' as much as we wanted but it gave us a taste of where we would go back to. About the ship: Cold, cold, cold. We were in ideal Mediterranean climate. Outside was perfect. Cabins were perfect. Interior of the ship was a refrigerator. Many of us were wearing coats. The Queens Lounge where many of the events are held was a refrigerator. So we rarely went there. MainStage was only slightly better but we went every night. Only once did I feel comfortable inside and that was a window seat at pinnacle grill. It took us awhile to find our way around, which is normal, but this time it was longer. I had no deck plan map. The other cruises we had done gave us a ship map. When I asked for one I was told there aren't any because the plans are in transition. We had to rely on the maps at the elevators. We were glad our room was by an elevator so we didn't walk the wrong direction all the time, and hubby has a far better memory than I do. A printed map from home is highly recommended. I appreciated the hand sanitary stations all over the ship and as we returned. In spite of that, hubby caught a cold from others we had been on tours with, which possibly spread to others we interacted with before he knew. Unlike our last cruise, there was actually room to sit around the pool. After 2 visits I discovered there were 2 pools. :} (Amazing how long it takes to orient to the ships). There were always available tables and chairs when we went. Food: Because we were doing so many long shore excursions and traveling alone, we opted for the open seating which we thoroughly enjoyed. We were seated almost immediately and we met many wonderful people each night. When we walked thru the lower dining room we were able to greet many from previous dinners, or tours. This is a relatively small ship so you see lots of familiar faces each day- especially with the CC group. (btw, the meet and greet is worth going to) We learned that if you are seated at a large table (10 or so) that service is very slow. You wait for the table to fill before ordering. You wait for all to eat each course before the next. You skip dessert or take it with you so you can get to the show. You can also request a window table if you smile pretty. :} The food was good. I appreciate that the portions are smaller than we have had on previous cruises. I don’t have restraint so less is good. I felt free to order two healthy starters. Sometime about the 5th day I happened to ask the waiter (all of them are wonderful) if there was any way to get vegetables. I was craving veggies because those on the menu are mostly for decoration. a few slivers of something. He asked me if I wanted steamed, roasted, boiled…? Oh, JOY! he brought us a platter of mixed steamed veggies. Hubby and I downed those before our meal. We continued to order veggies thru the trip. Many items on the menu had alcohol, lessening our options to choose from.. Lots of seafood, which was good for me, maybe not for others. Menu got repetitive when limited. We also discovered a diabetic menu with yummy options. Too late. Tap water every night for us by our choice. At the end of the cruise I discovered herb tea hidden at the check in desk in the DR. One later reviewer mentioned there was fruit juice. I would have killed for it if I had known. Night snacking...we went to bed before the 'good stuff' came out, as we discovered one later night. Pinnacle was better than Canaletto, BUT we had complimentary tickets with our cruise purchase. I wouldn't pay extra for it. Service was very good. We chose to do them (reservation) on our sea days. For the first time ever, at the beginning of the cruise, we ordered our breakfast in due to an early start. It was there, it was good, I wanted to do it again. Hubby didn’t want to. I think he feels guilty. I now know after booking our next cruise on NCL that room service isn’t free anymore. WHAT? We then ate breakfast in the Lido cafeteria area many times when we had excursions and no time to wait in DR. It was impossible to find a table so we just started joining (butting in politely) with other diners that had empty spaces. Often there were tables with dirty dishes but we didn’t know if they were taken. The service was still very good and they tried hard to help us. Hubby loved the ‘egg lady’ and how she made omelets. It wasn’t until the last 2 days or so I saw someone at the pool with a HUGE chef salad and I was so craving a salad. The hunt was on. You can tell when you have been deprived. :} Another reviewer posted the staff will cook you something you request. I didn’t know they would alter the nightly menu because I did ask if alcohol could be left out and was told no. Activities/entertainment: Mediocre to great. Our favorite nightly was the mini orchestra group. I forgot their name, in the Lincoln center. Always crowded but it was nice to sit in the back and listen to the end of the program after dinner. On mainstage, the best was possibly Julian Gargiulo, pianist. The worst was the night of Flamenco dancers. We usually had a long lull after the mainstage show, wandering around looking for something to do before retiring. Nothing much to do. I didn’t go for the lively music in the freezing queens lounge. Not because of the music, it was good, just the discomfort. I would have loved to have had the Lincoln center open during that time so we could relax before going to bed. I found the show at Billboard not really worthy of my time but there were always people there with drink in hand. TV. Unlike other cruises, we finally have a very nice assortment of movies to choose from. Those shown in the theater were of no interest. Several days into the cruise we found the game lounge which had some nice options. For the most part, there wasn’t really much to do on the ship if you don’t want to listen to other people. No real outside activities. Some organized games we weren’t interested in. We just enjoyed the ride with fresh air from our balcony. Staff: I found the cruise director kind of annoying. Sorry. The Shore Excursion specialist Linda was pretty useless most of the time and I think we knew more than she did because of our research and planning. For example at a meeting about Gibraltar. Do the Taxis go all the way to the top? Does the tram? Can you walk up to the top from the tram? She beat around the bush and didn’t give an answer. Several of us wanted to know. She said she hadn’t been so didn’t know. That is her job. She had to be new to the route? When it came to departure for excursions, we never knew where we were supposed to go. The announcement said to look for a sign at the elevator. On the last excursion day I saw a 8x11 paper inside 1 elevator stating which floor to go to. I had been looking outside the elevators. Silly me. We often went in circles. Major props go out to the front desk staff. We found out the morning after we arrived in Barcelona (From Los Angeles) that my elderly father-in-law had died. There was no way to go home. Thru emails and phone calls we decided to participate in a remote funeral which was planned on a Shore day for us so we could have cell service. Elisabeth, from Munich, bent over backwards to help us with our needs. Unfortunately the staff was not ‘able’ to help us with our need to deal with a funeral. We paid just like everyone else for bad wifi to email out (make a copy before you send in case it doesn’t go thru) a tribute hubby spent our first sea day writing. They also couldn't help us with any type of connection. Our room team Agung and Aries were amazing. Dining room staff -amazing. All in all, we would love to sail HAL again. I just post negatives and tips so others are aware, just as I hope to read in other reviews. I am a big trip advisor reviewer and don’t put much weight on a ‘perfect’ with no comment review. :} There were LOTS of very negative ‘never again’ reviews. Like a previous reviewer stated…’Were we on the same ship?”. I agree completely. Room: Agung and Aries (VD 7907) cheerfully greeted us by name (how do they do that?) each time they saw us (a lot).What a great way to start your day. When I asked for a hairdryer that wasn't permanently attached to a lower cabinet I got it within minutes. (cord was too short for me to stand up). Room was always clean and spotless. I read some others reviews during this writing and am shocked at comments on rooms and stewards. We couldn’t have asked for more. They were always visibly working. This was our first balcony room (1st Celebrity was inside, 2nd RC was window, 3rd HAL was balcony). It was wonderful to be able to leave the door open at night or go out in the evening or morning and just sit. Room for two. 3 would be tight. The room itself was also much bigger than our others. I think it was just the design layout. Not having the box tv's makes a big difference. Since hubby wakes up very early we like to get a room where he can go elsewhere to read. At least the stateroom had a partial pull curtain and balcony. Very comfortable bed. Large enough bathroom with tub. We hand washed everything so had it strung all over the bathroom much of the time. We had plenty of closet space, although not enough hangers, and storage under the bed. Before our cruise I read a Critic recommendation to get a hair turbin towel due to the small towels. I followed the advice and it is my new travel 'friend'. It was a big help on the cruise as well as the hotels and travel for 2 months. I liked having our room just behind the elevators. Quick to anywhere. We used stairs to the dining room. We discovered 3 problems with the room: You cannot hear any announcements that are made. If we heard something we opened our door too listen. They said it should come over the tv, but it did't. We may have missed some important departure information. Usually it was just cruise director stuff we didn't care about. Tub wasn't draining- fixed immediately. Headboard lights stuck on or off- fixed. Bathroom sink hot water was scalding hot. They switched out the faucet immediately but it didn't help. Each time I turned the water on in the 'neutral' position I got burned, and I like hot water. It took a few days to retrain myself to put it at cold and turn slightly. Some other people we mentioned it to had also been burned. Beware.

We enjoyed our time and would do HA again

Oosterdam Cruise Review by RicksClan 2

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: September 2016
  • Destination: Western Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Sept 4 oosterdam 12 nights VD 7097


Bucket list:

Barcelona and Rome with a Sept 4 2016 cruise in the middle.

This was perfect. We saw lots of places that would have been difficult to get to on our own. We took the initiative and booked our own tours, or just ventured out on our own whenever possible. Cruise Critic was great for helping to organize others to go with us. This was fun because many of us were on the same day tours in different ports. I highly recommend joining the tours after doing your own research.

Embarkation/Disembarkation:

Getting on at the beginning (taxi from B&B) and off at the end was a breeze. During shore visits getting on and off was very fast and easy as well. We were going to take the distant train to Rome, but joined with others for a van and were glad we did. We were drenched just walking to the nearby van in the downpour.

Shore Excursions: Always did our own thing on cruises.

Itinerary:

Note: we always use Rick Steves for planning then take him along on our trips. :}

We sure were glad we opted to end at Rome. For those going on, the departure was moved earlier and was cut too short to really see much because Rome is so far from the cruise port. Turkey was also cut out at the last.

We stayed 5 days in Barcelona and 5 days in Rome on either end. Some of the land tours were headed by 1 person but a local guide took over at certain locations.

What we enjoyed very much were the small tour groups we were with and the opportunity to mix in with the locals when we did our own thing away from tourists. We met lots of really nice helpful people and hubby had some very interesting conversations in Spain.

Barcelona outings:

Gaudi buildings (Sagrada Familia is a must),

Montserrat...too far, too many people in very long line all at once. Not worth it. We got tired of crowds so ventured to Sitges, a decent beach town but we stumbled onto the nudist beach. Oops.

Jazzsi club for a Flamenco show we loved. Authentic, tiny local venue, open seating anyplace you fit, affordable small bites. Non touristy but the show we saw was amazing. I didn't really know what real flamenco was till then.

Girona/Pals/Palafrugell: Viator tours. Worst tour we have ever been on beginning to end. Too much too fast. No information the entire ride. Some simple ‘this is where Game of Thrones was filmed"….and very basic history. She knew very little. No mention of the cathedral or Girona stone. We were pickpocketed (and caught them) in Girona so there was no time to see anything because we spent it all looking for a police station which was locked. Be very careful. Guide wouldn't let us tell the rest of the group so they could check their belongings.

Pals was fast in and out.

In Palafrugel we were left on our own to eat and swim for about 2 hours. Swim didn't happen...no time, or place to change. Because we didn’t have reservations for any restaurants, they wouldn’t let any of us in to the places the guide recommended. One place took pity on us and squeezed us in. The entire time we sat there the empty tables at the other places remained empty. Reserved. That should never have happened on a tour Maybe we were just in a bad mood…..but others weren't happy either.

Cadiz: we took the train to Seville on our own. Very hot! Take water from room and buy water when you get off train. The ship sells water as you get off but it is often more money. We had plenty of time to get to Seville and back.

Gibraltar: No free transportation from ship to 'town' so we walked from ship to tram. There were lots of taxis along the way offering services up to top, but hubby knew they were more expensive than taking the tram. If you can't walk far, take the taxi because it is a long way. We took the tram up and walked up even higher and then walked back down to town. We don’t recommend this if you are not in good shape. We skipped the main monkey event but saw enough… a pink souvenir stuffed monkey stolen, a bag of oranges stolen, tug of war with old lady over her bag while onlookers watched and took pics (we were up above wondering why nobody helped) and a man's glasses stolen. I don't find that cute. St. Michaels cave is just another cave BUT there is an amazing cross-section of a huge broken off stalagtite. The view from top is amazing if you venture up. Walking down is long and dangerous the closer you get to the bottom. We had plenty of time but it was 8 hours of walking. We added another hour in town before returning to the ship.

Malaga: Spain Day Tours trip to Granada/Alhambra very nice with Debbie. Great guide Maria at the beautiful alcazar.

Alicante: Shuttle from Ship to edge of public area. We opted to take Rick Steves' advice for the easy to do L1 or L3 metro away from the tourist/cruise ship beach to San Juan Beach. I have seen many beautiful beaches and this one is one of the tops. It was huge, not crowded in September, and beautiful. When we returned to the ship we looked at the nearby beach - overpacked with people and not very pretty.

On returning to the pickup point for the shuttle to the ship, some of us were lectured about being late. We had the paper that said what times the bus ran and we had plenty of time. The driver disagreed and was put off. On another note, if the ship head count showed everyone was back on the ship, it would leave port early, if possible.

Palma- This port disembarkation process was confusing. We were told there was a bus for 5E each r/t to take us to town center or we could walk the 1 mile to town center. I was miffed that they charged. We paid for the bus which took us all the way to the cathedral area, not the 1 mile, several miles. Then again one could have probably caught the on/off bus and taken it to the cathedral, but I don't know. Cruise director said there was a tourist office at the end. (of what? we never found one where the bus took us). This was our 'funeral' day. My 96 year old father-in-law had died unexpectedly the evening of our arrival to Barcelona. We opted to not return home (7 other kids were there) and it was decided this would be the best day for the funeral and for is to listen in from shore as we couldn’t from the ship. We hung around town, visited the market, took the hop on/off bus the full loop. The castle Believer was pretty from a distance but not worth a separate trip except for the great views. The Cathedral was a lovely place to sit and meditate.

Toulon: Tour to Marseille and Aix en Provence. Marseille was better than we expected. Aix was pretty but we ran thru it very fast and didn’t really get to see much. I wish we had more time there. We had a great group bathroom experience there. :) Very expensive waterfront restaurant with things most Americans don't eat and none of us were very hungry. There went my little French bistro experience…

Calvi: We wanted to take the little train in town but the disembarkation guide from Calvi told us there wasn’t one. When we said there was and asked were was the stop she said to not go, just stay in town because that is where we should stay. Well, we did. We toured the fortress, saw a little tribute to the American pilots, took a walk up top to a cemetery and view, walked the boardwalk past the never ending stretch of rented beach chairs to a place in the sand for free. Water was too shallow to swim. Not much there. We should have taken the train.

Monte Carlo: Italy tours Monte Carlo, Nice, Eze. It was a rainy, overcast day but we enjoyed the tour in spite of no great scenery pictures. Eze is pretty much a beautiful old town on a hilltop but it is all tourist shops. No need for a long stay if you are not a shopper. Tour included a stop at the perfume factory. which was a waste. Nothing was working. Their day off? I couldn’t understand a word the young factory guide said. She showed us the basics of scents and what may be a working demo on another day, and then led us into the store to shop. Nobody in our group bought anything. We were anxious to leave. However, Monte Carlo was beautiful and we really liked Nice.

Livorno: ItalyTours. One of our better tours (but not best). We enjoyed the beautiful rainy drive to Florence (crowded). Most memorable was our Florence and Museum guide. She had a true love of the statue of David and her detail in educating us was remarkable. We came away with a greater appreciation than we would have had if we had gone on our own. We were dropped off to wander Pisa and take photos. Thats all. We loved the beautiful and interesting tower. Sadly there was a long line to get tickets to go up in the tower so we just wandered outside and took pictures.

Rome: Viator trip to Vesuvius and Pompeii was our favorite tour of the entire trip. We had 2 amazing guides Becky and Sarah and their information at the end of our tour would have been very useful a week sooner! We should have done this trip on arrival to Rome. It seems we had an experienced bus driver, compared to the one ahead of us. The bus will leave you if you are late...and it did leave two people that didn't return when guide told all of us it was turn back time. Take water and rent the walking stick! Good Pompeii guide. Pizza afterwards went smoothly although I can’t say I came away loving italian pizza.

Vatican- MUST get advance tickets! Even with them we didn’t know where to go. We found a guard that said ‘stand there’ and eventually he let us in the line. 40 years ago things were much different. Too many people this time. We had a hard time keeping up with our guide and I lost her a few times with all the pushing and shoving. Stark contrast to the feelings one is supposed to get. No photos. Look, step, look, step, look, step…and eventually you are out of the chapel. Half our postcards we mailed from the Vatican Post Office didn't make it.

Coliseum- we still haven't received our refund for the rained out lower level tour ticket. That lower level tour would be hard to do on a shore excursion. The Coliseum is a must do even with headphone tour. We went to the San Calisto catacombes via foot, metro, bus, foot…great day away from crowds on Sunday.

I have to make a note that I am an avid geocacher. That, combined with the fact that I typically prefer to not use past paced tours and go at our own speed, where we choose, my opinions are a bit colored. We were not allowed time to 'see' as much as we wanted but it gave us a taste of where we would go back to.

About the ship:

Cold, cold, cold. We were in ideal Mediterranean climate. Outside was perfect. Cabins were perfect. Interior of the ship was a refrigerator. Many of us were wearing coats. The Queens Lounge where many of the events are held was a refrigerator. So we rarely went there. MainStage was only slightly better but we went every night. Only once did I feel comfortable inside and that was a window seat at pinnacle grill.

It took us awhile to find our way around, which is normal, but this time it was longer. I had no deck plan map. The other cruises we had done gave us a ship map. When I asked for one I was told there aren't any because the plans are in transition. We had to rely on the maps at the elevators. We were glad our room was by an elevator so we didn't walk the wrong direction all the time, and hubby has a far better memory than I do. A printed map from home is highly recommended.

I appreciated the hand sanitary stations all over the ship and as we returned. In spite of that, hubby caught a cold from others we had been on tours with, which possibly spread to others we interacted with before he knew.

Unlike our last cruise, there was actually room to sit around the pool. After 2 visits I discovered there were 2 pools. :} (Amazing how long it takes to orient to the ships). There were always available tables and chairs when we went.

Food: Because we were doing so many long shore excursions and traveling alone, we opted for the open seating which we thoroughly enjoyed. We were seated almost immediately and we met many wonderful people each night. When we walked thru the lower dining room we were able to greet many from previous dinners, or tours. This is a relatively small ship so you see lots of familiar faces each day- especially with the CC group. (btw, the meet and greet is worth going to) We learned that if you are seated at a large table (10 or so) that service is very slow. You wait for the table to fill before ordering. You wait for all to eat each course before the next. You skip dessert or take it with you so you can get to the show. You can also request a window table if you smile pretty. :}

The food was good. I appreciate that the portions are smaller than we have had on previous cruises. I don’t have restraint so less is good. I felt free to order two healthy starters. Sometime about the 5th day I happened to ask the waiter (all of them are wonderful) if there was any way to get vegetables. I was craving veggies because those on the menu are mostly for decoration. a few slivers of something. He asked me if I wanted steamed, roasted, boiled…? Oh, JOY! he brought us a platter of mixed steamed veggies. Hubby and I downed those before our meal. We continued to order veggies thru the trip.

Many items on the menu had alcohol, lessening our options to choose from.. Lots of seafood, which was good for me, maybe not for others. Menu got repetitive when limited. We also discovered a diabetic menu with yummy options. Too late. Tap water every night for us by our choice. At the end of the cruise I discovered herb tea hidden at the check in desk in the DR. One later reviewer mentioned there was fruit juice. I would have killed for it if I had known. Night snacking...we went to bed before the 'good stuff' came out, as we discovered one later night.

Pinnacle was better than Canaletto, BUT we had complimentary tickets with our cruise purchase. I wouldn't pay extra for it. Service was very good. We chose to do them (reservation) on our sea days.

For the first time ever, at the beginning of the cruise, we ordered our breakfast in due to an early start. It was there, it was good, I wanted to do it again. Hubby didn’t want to. I think he feels guilty. I now know after booking our next cruise on NCL that room service isn’t free anymore. WHAT?

We then ate breakfast in the Lido cafeteria area many times when we had excursions and no time to wait in DR. It was impossible to find a table so we just started joining (butting in politely) with other diners that had empty spaces. Often there were tables with dirty dishes but we didn’t know if they were taken. The service was still very good and they tried hard to help us. Hubby loved the ‘egg lady’ and how she made omelets.

It wasn’t until the last 2 days or so I saw someone at the pool with a HUGE chef salad and I was so craving a salad. The hunt was on. You can tell when you have been deprived. :} Another reviewer posted the staff will cook you something you request. I didn’t know they would alter the nightly menu because I did ask if alcohol could be left out and was told no.

Activities/entertainment: Mediocre to great. Our favorite nightly was the mini orchestra group. I forgot their name, in the Lincoln center. Always crowded but it was nice to sit in the back and listen to the end of the program after dinner. On mainstage, the best was possibly Julian Gargiulo, pianist. The worst was the night of Flamenco dancers.

We usually had a long lull after the mainstage show, wandering around looking for something to do before retiring. Nothing much to do. I didn’t go for the lively music in the freezing queens lounge. Not because of the music, it was good, just the discomfort. I would have loved to have had the Lincoln center open during that time so we could relax before going to bed.

I found the show at Billboard not really worthy of my time but there were always people there with drink in hand.

TV. Unlike other cruises, we finally have a very nice assortment of movies to choose from.

Those shown in the theater were of no interest.

Several days into the cruise we found the game lounge which had some nice options.

For the most part, there wasn’t really much to do on the ship if you don’t want to listen to other people. No real outside activities. Some organized games we weren’t interested in.

We just enjoyed the ride with fresh air from our balcony.

Staff:

I found the cruise director kind of annoying. Sorry.

The Shore Excursion specialist Linda was pretty useless most of the time and I think we knew more than she did because of our research and planning. For example at a meeting about Gibraltar. Do the Taxis go all the way to the top? Does the tram? Can you walk up to the top from the tram? She beat around the bush and didn’t give an answer. Several of us wanted to know. She said she hadn’t been so didn’t know. That is her job. She had to be new to the route?

When it came to departure for excursions, we never knew where we were supposed to go. The announcement said to look for a sign at the elevator. On the last excursion day I saw a 8x11 paper inside 1 elevator stating which floor to go to. I had been looking outside the elevators. Silly me. We often went in circles.

Major props go out to the front desk staff. We found out the morning after we arrived in Barcelona (From Los Angeles) that my elderly father-in-law had died. There was no way to go home. Thru emails and phone calls we decided to participate in a remote funeral which was planned on a Shore day for us so we could have cell service. Elisabeth, from Munich, bent over backwards to help us with our needs. Unfortunately the staff was not ‘able’ to help us with our need to deal with a funeral. We paid just like everyone else for bad wifi to email out (make a copy before you send in case it doesn’t go thru) a tribute hubby spent our first sea day writing. They also couldn't help us with any type of connection.

Our room team Agung and Aries were amazing.

Dining room staff -amazing.


All in all, we would love to sail HAL again. I just post negatives and tips so others are aware, just as I hope to read in other reviews. I am a big trip advisor reviewer and don’t put much weight on a ‘perfect’ with no comment review. :}

There were LOTS of very negative ‘never again’ reviews.

Like a previous reviewer stated…’Were we on the same ship?”. I agree completely.


Room:

Agung and Aries (VD 7907) cheerfully greeted us by name (how do they do that?) each time they saw us (a lot).What a great way to start your day. When I asked for a hairdryer that wasn't permanently attached to a lower cabinet I got it within minutes. (cord was too short for me to stand up).

Room was always clean and spotless. I read some others reviews during this writing and am shocked at comments on rooms and stewards. We couldn’t have asked for more. They were always visibly working.

This was our first balcony room (1st Celebrity was inside, 2nd RC was window, 3rd HAL was balcony). It was wonderful to be able to leave the door open at night or go out in the evening or morning and just sit. Room for two. 3 would be tight. The room itself was also much bigger than our others. I think it was just the design layout. Not having the box tv's makes a big difference. Since hubby wakes up very early we like to get a room where he can go elsewhere to read. At least the stateroom had a partial pull curtain and balcony. Very comfortable bed. Large enough bathroom with tub. We hand washed everything so had it strung all over the bathroom much of the time.

We had plenty of closet space, although not enough hangers, and storage under the bed.

Before our cruise I read a Critic recommendation to get a hair turbin towel due to the small towels. I followed the advice and it is my new travel 'friend'. It was a big help on the cruise as well as the hotels and travel for 2 months.

I liked having our room just behind the elevators. Quick to anywhere. We used stairs to the dining room.

We discovered 3 problems with the room:

You cannot hear any announcements that are made. If we heard something we opened our door too listen. They said it should come over the tv, but it did't. We may have missed some important departure information. Usually it was just cruise director stuff we didn't care about.

Tub wasn't draining- fixed immediately. Headboard lights stuck on or off- fixed. Bathroom sink hot water was scalding hot. They switched out the faucet immediately but it didn't help. Each time I turned the water on in the 'neutral' position I got burned, and I like hot water. It took a few days to retrain myself to put it at cold and turn slightly. Some other people we mentioned it to had also been burned. Beware.
RicksClan 2’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Service
Onboard Experience
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Holland America Oosterdam price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VD 7097
Wonderful See info in complete review.
Rotterdam Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins