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We recently enjoyed a week long cruise on the MS Oosterdam sailing from Seattle to Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria BC. Overall the itinerary was very good, although the arrival time of 6pm in Victoria BC was a little late to feel we could fully enjoy the port. Some context - this was our third cruise, having previously sailed a very similar route on the Norwegian Pearl around 5 years ago, plus a Mexican Riviera cruise with Carnival two years ago. This time our party consisted of my husband and I plus our three sons (16, 15, 11) and my husband's mother, brother and sister. The trip was a celebration of my mother in law's 80th birthday. The whole family had a fantastic time on the Oosterdam. One of the great joys of cruising a large ship such as this for us was that there are so many ecosystems on board that everyone was able to find their niche without feeling we were permanently compromising, but we also had many shared experiences to enjoy being together. Our biggest impression was that Holland America in general and the MS Oosterdam in particular are extremely well run. It really felt like this cruise line knew everything there was to know about how to run the ship as efficiently and effectively as possible. Other cruisers: Generally genteel and older (55+) with limited younger families and really very few children given the fact we were in the school holidays. However our sons didn't feel unwelcome or out of place. The crew: Easily the best part of the cruise. Great crew, super cheerful, eager to help and make your stay better, absolutely went the extra mile in all areas. Really, jobs on a cruise are not always the most pleasant, but the HAL crew rose above what must be very repetitive and hard work to make you feel special. Big thumbs up. The ship: Although a little older than other ships we have sailed in, the Oosterdam was extremely well maintained and exceptionally clean. Some of the decor felt a little dated to me, even for a cruise ship, and some of the room fixtures were showing a little sign of wear. However, overall the word 'immaculate' sprang to mind. When we did spot a few items that needed attention and mentioned them to the staff they were fixed immediately. There was limited pool space on the ship, which was fine for Alaska but I think would have been an issue on a hotter route. There was a limited size pool on the rear of the ship outside on deck 9, and another midship on 9 with a sliding roof which was nice touch. A third pool can be found in the Spa, but this was on a fee basis (except when in port) and was typically full of the much older cruisers and didn't really appeal to us. We all really enjoyed the Crow's Nest on deck 10. Great views at the front of the ship, excellent library of novels, periodicals, and non-fiction including large print. My sons enjoyed playing chess in this area, and older family members sat with coffee (fee based) whilst enjoying the wildlife. The Crow's Nest had a really nice atmosphere throughout the day, and there was a really good singer/guitar player who entertained in the evening. My teen sons went to 'The Loft' most days to meet up with their peers. The facilities were limited and the activities a bit lame (scavenger hunt - really it's time to rethink that one!) - but I think just the opportunity to find other kids their own age was good enough and they seemed ot enjoy the facility. The basketball court on deck 10 was also fun but a bit of a challenge in the sea winds. There are also shuffleboard areas on 10, and ping pong/giant chess available on Lido 9. We went to the gym pretty much everyday. I didn't particularly like the facility since it was quite small and also quite hot, however other family members thought it was fine. Location was a bit odd since you had to go through the spa area to access, but it was at the front of the ship with a great view. Promenade deck on 3 was a nice feature. It was very busy in the mornings but quite quiet later in the day. The only downside here was the maintenance crew were painting something down here all week so it was a bit smelly at times. There was a nice movie theater on deck 3 - we went there most evenings after dinner since the movie selection was quite good with high quality recent releases. The seats were super comfortable/recliners, and there was fresh popcorn which was a nice touch. However the layout wasn't great so in fact there were far fewer seats available than really could have been, and it was consistently cold. I particularly liked the outer glass elevators mid ship - nice to be able to still see wildlife and the outside. Cabin: We were in a balcony on deck 5. This was immediately above the lifeboats which initially put me off the view a bit, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Bed was v. comfy and big, bathroom large (even had a bath), lots of clothes storage space, room for cases under the bed. Only gripe was the desk area was a bit crowded. Nice that there were many in room DVD movies available although a limited selection for kids. Food: Overall very good. The restaurant food was far superior in my opinion to the Lido. Evening meals were generally good with a great choice although I think they overdid the adventurous soup route a bit too much. Great fun watching my 16 year old son's face crumple when he discovered what Gazpacho was though! In the Lido, salad and fresh fruit choice was good but I thought the hot meals both at lunch and in the evening led a lot to be desired. Room service food was very good. The coffee throughout the ship was awful. There was a chocolate buffet one evening which looked great and was visually appealing but taste and texture were both a bit lacking. Restaurants: Ambiance and service in the main dining room were very nice. The Lido was OK but really not big enough for peak times when it was a challenge to find somewhere to sit. We didn't use the fee based restaurants. Internet: Our one BIG gripe. This is 2011, the era of facebook and texting. HAL (or maybe it's all the cruise lines?) seem to be in denial over the internet. There was WiFi but it was a ridiculous rate and very slow so pretty much unusable. Get into the 21st century please - free wifi should be seen as necessary as electricity and water, and surely much more important than towel animals at bedtime? Who knows, we might even post our fab pictures of our fab vacation live while we have R&R time and give you some great PR and marketing? There's no option to review Glacier Bay as a port so I'll add our review here. I think this is the highlight of the itinerary, and wouldn't consider a cruise that didn't visit Glacier Bay. What a sight! We sailed in close to the Johns Hopkins glacier for a while, then back out and up to the Marjorie which was absolutely spectacular. Such a great day on the cruise, everyone out on the decks enjoying the gorgeous scenery, hot pea soup, tartan blankets to keep warm, hot cocoa. Local park rangers join the ship to give a great commentary. Even my cave dwelling teenagers came blinking wildly out of the depths of the teen club to soak in the grandeur. 5+++ stars. We had a great cruise for wildlife and scenery. On the first day at sea were treated to whales, dolphins, flying fish as we ate in the Lido. Lots of whales as we headed up to Glacier Bay, and again at Juneau and Sitka. Eagles everywhere. My eldest son even saw a momma bear and three baby bears wandering the streets on the edge of Juneau. Sea Otters, Puffins, Deer, Goats on the wildlife tour. And of course the spectacular blue/grey/white creaking grandeur of the glaciers.

Great Time on the Oosterdam

Oosterdam Cruise Review by arpsrd

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2011
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
We recently enjoyed a week long cruise on the MS Oosterdam sailing from Seattle to Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria BC. Overall the itinerary was very good, although the arrival time of 6pm in Victoria BC was a little late to feel we could fully enjoy the port.



Some context - this was our third cruise, having previously sailed a very similar route on the Norwegian Pearl around 5 years ago, plus a Mexican Riviera cruise with Carnival two years ago. This time our party consisted of my husband and I plus our three sons (16, 15, 11) and my husband's mother, brother and sister. The trip was a celebration of my mother in law's 80th birthday.



The whole family had a fantastic time on the Oosterdam. One of the great joys of cruising a large ship such as this for us was that there are so many ecosystems on board that everyone was able to find their niche without feeling we were permanently compromising, but we also had many shared experiences to enjoy being together.



Our biggest impression was that Holland America in general and the MS Oosterdam in particular are extremely well run. It really felt like this cruise line knew everything there was to know about how to run the ship as efficiently and effectively as possible.



Other cruisers: Generally genteel and older (55+) with limited younger families and really very few children given the fact we were in the school holidays. However our sons didn't feel unwelcome or out of place.



The crew: Easily the best part of the cruise. Great crew, super cheerful, eager to help and make your stay better, absolutely went the extra mile in all areas. Really, jobs on a cruise are not always the most pleasant, but the HAL crew rose above what must be very repetitive and hard work to make you feel special. Big thumbs up.



The ship: Although a little older than other ships we have sailed in, the Oosterdam was extremely well maintained and exceptionally clean. Some of the decor felt a little dated to me, even for a cruise ship, and some of the room fixtures were showing a little sign of wear. However, overall the word 'immaculate' sprang to mind. When we did spot a few items that needed attention and mentioned them to the staff they were fixed immediately.



There was limited pool space on the ship, which was fine for Alaska but I think would have been an issue on a hotter route. There was a limited size pool on the rear of the ship outside on deck 9, and another midship on 9 with a sliding roof which was nice touch. A third pool can be found in the Spa, but this was on a fee basis (except when in port) and was typically full of the much older cruisers and didn't really appeal to us.



We all really enjoyed the Crow's Nest on deck 10. Great views at the front of the ship, excellent library of novels, periodicals, and non-fiction including large print. My sons enjoyed playing chess in this area, and older family members sat with coffee (fee based) whilst enjoying the wildlife. The Crow's Nest had a really nice atmosphere throughout the day, and there was a really good singer/guitar player who entertained in the evening.



My teen sons went to 'The Loft' most days to meet up with their peers. The facilities were limited and the activities a bit lame (scavenger hunt - really it's time to rethink that one!) - but I think just the opportunity to find other kids their own age was good enough and they seemed ot enjoy the facility.



The basketball court on deck 10 was also fun but a bit of a challenge in the sea winds. There are also shuffleboard areas on 10, and ping pong/giant chess available on Lido 9.



We went to the gym pretty much everyday. I didn't particularly like the facility since it was quite small and also quite hot, however other family members thought it was fine. Location was a bit odd since you had to go through the spa area to access, but it was at the front of the ship with a great view.



Promenade deck on 3 was a nice feature. It was very busy in the mornings but quite quiet later in the day. The only downside here was the maintenance crew were painting something down here all week so it was a bit smelly at times.



There was a nice movie theater on deck 3 - we went there most evenings after dinner since the movie selection was quite good with high quality recent releases. The seats were super comfortable/recliners, and there was fresh popcorn which was a nice touch. However the layout wasn't great so in fact there were far fewer seats available than really could have been, and it was consistently cold.



I particularly liked the outer glass elevators mid ship - nice to be able to still see wildlife and the outside.



Cabin: We were in a balcony on deck 5. This was immediately above the lifeboats which initially put me off the view a bit, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Bed was v. comfy and big, bathroom large (even had a bath), lots of clothes storage space, room for cases under the bed. Only gripe was the desk area was a bit crowded. Nice that there were many in room DVD movies available although a limited selection for kids.



Food: Overall very good. The restaurant food was far superior in my opinion to the Lido. Evening meals were generally good with a great choice although I think they overdid the adventurous soup route a bit too much. Great fun watching my 16 year old son's face crumple when he discovered what Gazpacho was though! In the Lido, salad and fresh fruit choice was good but I thought the hot meals both at lunch and in the evening led a lot to be desired. Room service food was very good. The coffee throughout the ship was awful. There was a chocolate buffet one evening which looked great and was visually appealing but taste and texture were both a bit lacking.



Restaurants: Ambiance and service in the main dining room were very nice. The Lido was OK but really not big enough for peak times when it was a challenge to find somewhere to sit. We didn't use the fee based restaurants.



Internet: Our one BIG gripe. This is 2011, the era of facebook and texting. HAL (or maybe it's all the cruise lines?) seem to be in denial over the internet. There was WiFi but it was a ridiculous rate and very slow so pretty much unusable. Get into the 21st century please - free wifi should be seen as necessary as electricity and water, and surely much more important than towel animals at bedtime? Who knows, we might even post our fab pictures of our fab vacation live while we have R&R time and give you some great PR and marketing?



There's no option to review Glacier Bay as a port so I'll add our review here. I think this is the highlight of the itinerary, and wouldn't consider a cruise that didn't visit Glacier Bay. What a sight! We sailed in close to the Johns Hopkins glacier for a while, then back out and up to the Marjorie which was absolutely spectacular. Such a great day on the cruise, everyone out on the decks enjoying the gorgeous scenery, hot pea soup, tartan blankets to keep warm, hot cocoa. Local park rangers join the ship to give a great commentary. Even my cave dwelling teenagers came blinking wildly out of the depths of the teen club to soak in the grandeur. 5+++ stars.



We had a great cruise for wildlife and scenery. On the first day at sea were treated to whales, dolphins, flying fish as we ate in the Lido. Lots of whales as we headed up to Glacier Bay, and again at Juneau and Sitka. Eagles everywhere. My eldest son even saw a momma bear and three baby bears wandering the streets on the edge of Juneau. Sea Otters, Puffins, Deer, Goats on the wildlife tour. And of course the spectacular blue/grey/white creaking grandeur of the glaciers.
arpsrd’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VC 5072
5072 - nice view although immediately above the tender/lifeboats. Good size, comfy beds, nice size storage for clothing. Space under the bed for cases. Small desk area was a bit cramped though.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Juneau
    Juneau was a nice stop - we headed out to the Mendenhall Glacier early in the day which was a great choice. The local bus was cheap but took an hour and stopped a mile short of the Glacier, so we opted for the blue school bus which was $16 round trip direct to the visitor center with local commentary (25 mins each way). Bus leaves from the bottom of the Mt Roberts tramway every 30 mins. Arriving early at the Glacier was a great move. We did the 1.5 mile hike (easy, flat) to the waterfall, and by the time we got back the main tour buses had arrived and it was a bit too busy for us. Great to get this close to a real glacier, although the marketing hype that you can walk on it didn't hold true. Very beautiful and well worth the visit.
    On return to Juneau we had lunch back on the ship and then headed up the Mt Roberts tramway. It's far more impressive from the top than you might think from the bottom. One of our party hiked down and enjoyed that. The only downside was the price, I think a bit steep at $27 but I guess they have a limited operational window given the seasons and inclement weather.
    Worst part of Juneau was the shops. There were FIVE cruise ships in town and it was really unbearable. So many people crammed into largely tacky nasty shops selling very predictable goods.
    Lots of other people on the ship went whale watching in Juneau and we didn't hear a bad review, would certainly do this in the future.
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  • Ketchikan
    Ketchikan was a pleasant spot to disembark. The town is small and typically full of cruise oriented shops, but they seemed less crowded and superior in quality and choice to those in Juneau. We went to the Lumberjack show which is right in town - very good entertainment if a little hokey. However we did see the same show around 5 years ago and pretty much NOTHING changed so I think it's not really a repeat experience.
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  • Sitka
    We loved Sitka! It was grim and rainy when we arrived, but the little town was very pleasant and has great character. Of the ports we visited this actually seemed a bit real as opposed to totally geared to cruisers and run by the cruise ships, probably because not many lines dock there (we were the only ship in that day). Very cool Russian Orthodox Church in the town, and a raptor center a short walk away. We did a tour (through HAL) Sea Otter and Wildlife - 5+ stars. Nice warm, comfortable boat which seemed very stable even though the sea was a bit choppy. Super knowledgeable and friendly crew - found us a whale which conveniently breached twice up close, sea otters (so cute), eagles, puffins, deer. Just gorgeous scenery. Freshly cooked snacks and hot drinks. This was a great excursion, probably the best we have ever done - $119 pp.
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  • Victoria
    The ships dock around 2 miles from the city center so a taxi is required (around $10 CDN each way). Main drop off area is in front of the Empress Hotel is very nice, Government buildings are impressive. Colorful area with arty/craft booths and some interesting street performers. The main shopping street in Victoria has a nice mix of regular and tourist shops. However my main issue with Victoria on both my visits has been that the streets are filthy and there seem to be a lot of homeless people and younger drunks out on the streets. Since the cruise ship didn't arrive until 6pm, it was a bit disturbing to be walking around with my 11 year old dodging the dog poo and steering him away from street beggars. We ended up going back to the ship a bit early since we encountered what seemed to be two stag groups out on the streets. I think we'd have enjoyed this port as a family much more if we'd arrived earlier in the day.
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