Living in St Petersburg, Tampa is our home port, just 45 minutes from home to terminal 3 where the Oosterdam was docked. I have cruised from Tampa before, as my first ever cruise was 28 years ago on the Veracruz, a 10,000 ton ship that ... Read More
Living in St Petersburg, Tampa is our home port, just 45 minutes from home to terminal 3 where the Oosterdam was docked. I have cruised from Tampa before, as my first ever cruise was 28 years ago on the Veracruz, a 10,000 ton ship that did a 2 night cruise to nowhere. We had a wonderful time on it despite a tiny inside room with no frills what so ever. I think it was $119 each.
Having graduated up to Holland America in 2003, on the previous Noordam, never really envisioned a ship the size of the Oosterdam (82,000 tons) sailing from Tampa. When questioned at the Captain's chat, Captain Robert Jan Kan responded that the Oosterdam has about 2 meters (6 feet) clearance under the Skyway Bridge which spans Tampa Bay near the entrance from the Gulf of Mexico. That is if it passes directly under the middle, which we did, about 6:30 pm after leaving the dock in Tampa quite promptly at 4:00. Prior to Oosterdam, HAL has never had a ship here bigger than the S class; Veendam and Ryndam were the biggest HAL ships here.
This was the first 14 day cruise of the season and only the second Oosterdam cruise from Tampa. Captain Albert was also aboard as the traveling and training officer. Probably with the head navigation's decision as he has been in and out of Tampa about 300 times over the years by his own figures. It was great to read his blogs of exactly what the bridge was doing while we were enjoying.
We booked a verandah knowing how nice they are for warm weather cruises. Just 2 days before leaving, we got the upsell email to change to a Signature Suite, deck 8 mid ship. Knowing that the suites had been completely redone on the O'dam, we added the additional charge to our credit card, and must say we were pleased with it. The SY suite was like a new ship with what is probably the Koningsdam colors and features. The verandah has 2 padded chairs that recline with padded ottomans and a table. It took until the second week for us to have room service coffee and juice delivered to it early enough to enjoy sunrise which was about 6:30 am. Then we would go down the mid ship glass elevator to the promenade deck (3) and do a few laps around before returning to our room and cleaning up for breakfast in the MDR. The bathroom has 2 sinks and a shower plus tub/shower and great lighted mirrors so a couple can both use the bathroom at the same time if necessary! The bathroom has a night light when the lights are turned off which we loved, too. The bed side lights also glow very faintly at night.
We ate most of our breakfasts in the MDR and all of our dinners except one Pinnacle and one Canaletto night. Lunch was at the Lido Market, which also looks like new with new tile floors and trim and new chairs and tables. The meals were very good to excellent with very few exceptions. The service was prompt and gracious. The staff remains as one of the best reasons to cruise with Holland America! Lido table service, although sometimes challenged at peak times, is much appreciated. Ice tea, water, coffee were brought to us along with refills as needed.
In addition to the upgrades to the physical ship, the entertainment has also been boosted impressively. The singers and dancers from the Koningsdam had just started new shows on the O'dam and with new LED panels and technology in the theater they were excellent. Look for "A Thousand Steps", "Musicolgy", and "Off The Charts" as the productions. Also the BBC production the Frozen Planet was beautiful. The Lincoln Center consisted of 2 violinists, a viola, a cello, and piano where they play a variety of classical music. Much better than just the duo previously in the Exploration Lounge, which is still there only smaller.
Billboard on Board replaces the piano bar. Two pianos in a more open setting. Nice variety of oldies and new. I would miss the regular piano bar on a longer cruise. BB King in the Queens Lounge is the high energy venue. The Ocean Bar now has just a pianist for the quieter bar. The new Gallery Bar off the casino replaces the disco bar and it is stunning with nice paintings and a big screen TV for sports and comfy chairs.
Trivia games abound around the ship with different. Sometimes they even awarded something better than a dam pin. Did I spell that right??? Jordan, who was the assistant cruise director, was our favorite trivia host. He had a most enjoyable personality and looked like he should be a personal trainer. The CD was Simon James, with a nice UK speech, was also enjoyable. He has worked on the mega ships of NCL and RCCL and seemed honestly happy to be CD on HAL. Can you imagine being in charge of anything on a ship with 6000 guests....just getting to the right place at the right time is a challenge.
Our room stewards were fine. How they smile and ask if we need something when working long hours cleaning, is so appreciated. Only thing we asked for was more ice several times; the little ice buckets are small and the weather was warm on the verandah. Of course at home my servants do the same for me....in my dreams. We brought 2 bottles of wine with us and were given another, so we enjoyed them in the comfort of our suite on sailaways.
Key West. Docked next to Mallory Square. Wonderful. Walked Duval and back the side streets.
San Juan: Docked next to Old San Juan. Walked and rode free tram. Also took city bus to Conando Beach. Full day as we left at 10:30pm.
St Thomas: Docked at Havensight Pier rather than Crown Bay. Took open air taxi to Red Hook and ferry to St John's VI. Nice day
St John's, Antigua: First time here. Took mini van with another couple around island to English Harbor and Nelson's Dockyard. Huge super yachts there for a regatta. Not a favorite island for us.
Castries, St Lucia: Ships tour on a mini bus to the south end of the island by Pitons and drive in volcano. This island, with its rainforests and winding road along the cliff, was our favorite. The tour was excellent, we were on it the whole day for 6 hours, and felt we saw and did a lot. The O'dam cruised down to the Pitons after departure and did 360 turns for everybody to see. Perfect sail away!
Curacao: Queen Emma Bridge a delight. We docked just outside the entrance as Zuiderdam got the closest spot. Did a tour to the countryside. Good day
Aruba: Took city bus to the lighthouse, well almost to it. Got in the water before going back. It was a short day, but nice.
Grand Caymen: Took a van to the east end of the island and back for $10 US each. A UK lady who stays there often said she only pays $5. Much better than staying in port with 4 other ships there. Tender port.
Overall: A great cruise on the OOsterdam! Highly recommend the 14 day over the western Caribbean 7 day. The updated ship and entertainment were much appreciated. Read Less