58 Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Alaska

We are seasoned cruisers with 20+ cruises under our respective belts, both in our mid-50's. We traveled as a party of eight with our adult children aged 24 to 41 years. This is the fifth time we've visited Alaska, third time ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers with 20+ cruises under our respective belts, both in our mid-50's. We traveled as a party of eight with our adult children aged 24 to 41 years. This is the fifth time we've visited Alaska, third time we've sailed with HAL, and second time on the Oosterdam. The train from Anchorage to Seward was spectacular, with good food and comfortable seating. We missed the track wash-out by one day, thankfully. The ship is very pretty and well designed in her layout with an incredible amount of intriguing art. We never had a problem getting around and found all public spaces quite easily. The demographics onboard this particular sailing veered towards the over-70 crowd. There were very few young people and virtually no small children sailing this third week of June. We were a bit surprised by this as we typically have seen more families on cruise ships in Alaska. Surprisingly there were only two cruise directors onboard and a very limited number of activities day and night. There were daily trivia games, two karaoke hours for the week, some dancing, one hour of disco each night, a few production shows, and a VERY old and tired out piano bar set-up. We were (jokingly) asked to leave when we requested something a bit more rock-and-roll. We did leave. This ship tidied up and shut down by 10:30 or 11pm each evening. Oh, the magician and comedian were both excellent. If you're looking for night life... you won't find it here. That being said - the food was absolutely delicious, the service in the MDR was gracious, and our cabin steward was phenomenal. One food regret for me was the Pinnacle Grill. I had so looked forward to this and my steak was chalky and dry. Yuck. The chocolate dessert was an oily bowl of soup with no consistency. Very out of character. I also had a bit of trouble in Explorations Cafe. They just couldn't get the hot chocolate right and told me they were out of chocolate syrup. We found staff for the most part to be accommodating, friendly, and vivacious in most areas. Check out the Pinnacle Bar and Ocean Bar for some light-hearted fun with the bar staff. We didn't shop or use the computer at all so I can't comment to those areas. The spa was gloriously serene and the Thermal Suite/Therapy Pool areas were pure bliss. Passenger services were on top of the few issues we had and Captain Boss kept us well informed throughout the voyage. The aft balcony cabins we booked were amazing with very little jiggle.  We had four aft cabins on Deck 7 and loved them. The balcony doors were opened the entire time so we could visit and relax together. The bed was very comfortable and there was plenty of room with a smallish sofa, table, and extra storage seat. Our verandah had two wicker sitting chairs and one chaise lounge. There was plenty of hanging closet space and storage for everything we brought. We could easily have stored a few weeks' worth of clothes, shoes, etc. in this cabin. You may think there'd be noise in the back, but inside the cabin it was silent. The sound of the ocean and ship's wake were only heard on the balcony. Loved the bathtub/shower combination too - you won't find that on many other cruise lines in a lower category balcony cabin. Weather at this time of year was a bit rainy out of Anchorage, but the sun came out most every afternoon. Passing through Seymour Narrows at midnight was very cool. Would I book HAL again? Maybe for the food and service, but if I wanted to have a little more fun in the evenings, I might check out one of my other favorite cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
We had a wonderful cruise on the Oosterdam. We did our best to enjoy everything we could as the days flew by. We took full advantage of Seattle by arriving several days early. We toured through the city on our own. Some of the highlights ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise on the Oosterdam. We did our best to enjoy everything we could as the days flew by. We took full advantage of Seattle by arriving several days early. We toured through the city on our own. Some of the highlights were The Seattle Underground Tour in Pioneer Square, the Smith Tower observation deck (better than the Space Needle and cheaper), and Canon (an amazing bar with a 44+ page list of spirits and exquisite cocktails) Boarding went smoothly and we could go to our directly to our cabins then off to eat at the buffet on the Lido deck. Enjoyed eating by the pool as the weather was beautiful and sunny. Spa - Our group had a excellent sampling of many spa services. We tried massages, pedicures, manicures, and hair styling. All got high marks and there was not a big sales pitch during the treatment. Many of us got the Thermolounge/Hydropool passes. That was wonderful and included a quiet serene indoor heated pool, aromotherapy saunas and heated stone loungers with a view. Cabins and Room Stewards - We had a great idea to split our group up in such a way as to have balcony cabins on both sides of the ship. We also had cabins next to each other and the staff opened the dividers between them for us at our request. We could gather as a group on either side of the ship depending on the best view. Our stewards did a great job for us and we have no complaints. Teenage programs - Our teenagers loved it and made friends quickly. Seemed to be a pack of about 20 some teenagers. They spent a lot of late nights with their group, but joined the family for port excursions and meals. I heard about scavenger hunts, dances, mocktail mixing class and their own prom on the last formal night. Most of their evening activities started at times more convienent to those with early dining times. Main Dining Room - Service was slow as we often had a large group. May have been better to do fixed dining as reservations were difficult with a lot of people. Food was delicious which made the service a non issue for us. We needed plenty of time to catch up and the long dinner was perfect for us. Appetizers were always the highlight and many of us took to ordering several. Bread was consistently disappointing, not much flavor and typically hard rolls. Formal night was great as our group went all out and the men wore tuxes. We were in the minority, but it made for great pictures. My husband really enjoyed playing blackjack in his tux. Must of helped as he won over $700. Le Cirque Night - On Thursday night, the Pinnacle Grill is "transformed" into NYC's Le Cirque restaurant. There is a $39 charge, but it was worth it for us. The tables were set with genuine Le Cirque china (has a cute monkey on it) and fine glassware. Menu was amazing and plentiful. The deconstructed caesar salad was terrific and I think all caesar salads should come with a poached egg. The beef for the Chateaubriand was outstanding and so was the lobster salad. We couldn't eat it all. It was a memorable night with terrific service. Room Service - Excellent and plentiful. My kids took full advantage of it on a continual basis. Ordered milk and cookies, hot chocolate, cheese plates for everyone as we enjoyed our balconies while crusing through Tracy Arm. Hot breakfast was great too. Don't forget to call room service back when you're done so they can take the dishes back. Nightlife - On the dull side which was fine for our group. Apparently, this cruise did not have many late night partiers so casino and nightclub wrapped up around 1 a.m. The crew said this was unusual. Cocktail specials of the day were good and happy hour (2 for 1) at the Oceans bar was great. Wine list was disappointing and expensive for what you got. Fortunately, we knew this ahead of time and brought bottles of our own choosing on board with us. One special treat was the Louis XII cognac. My husband used some of his winning to try a shot of this special spirit since it was only $89 as opposed to the $250 back home. The bar staff was wonderful and made a big deal over this special order. Disembarkation was smooth and quick, however, we had not made prior arrangements for a taxi or van. Since we selected the last time slot for getting off the ship, the taxi van's were already gone with the first group of passengers, so the taxi wait was very long. Lesson learned. This was definitely a trip of a lifetime for our family. We enjoyed every minute. My 17 year old boy summed it up best when he proclaimed it "the best vacation ever!"   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
Holland America Oosterdam 7 Day Alaska Cruise 07/14/13 This was my 13th and my husbands 6th cruise. This was our third time to Alaska, but first time to Tracy Arm. Overall Holland America did an excellent job and the ship was impeccably ... Read More
Holland America Oosterdam 7 Day Alaska Cruise 07/14/13 This was my 13th and my husbands 6th cruise. This was our third time to Alaska, but first time to Tracy Arm. Overall Holland America did an excellent job and the ship was impeccably kept. EMBARKATION: We arrived at 1130, and were onboard in about 20 minutes and our cabin was ready. We dropped out bags and went to the Mariner Luncheon in the dining room. Much more relaxing that going to the Lido. Then everyone set off to make their spa, specialty dining reservations, as these get booked up quickly for the best times. DINNER RESERVATIONS. (WHAT A MESS): I attempted to fix our dinner reservations, as we were a group of 10 and been told they could do this once I was onboard. We were sent back and forth between the dining room and the gangway and in the end contrary to what we were told when we booked, they would NOT accommodate us for a guaranteed reservation at 630 or 7pm for the 10 of us every evening even if we were willing to have 2 tables. They said we should just show up and they will seat us as soon as they could. (I know there are only 2-4 tables for 10 in the dining room so we may be waiting for an hour!) So much for open dining, so much for being able to make reservations only confirmation we could get was early or late so we took 530pm. This issue affected our entire cruise, as we had to rush to get to dinner nightly. I have never had this issue with my other cruises for my family reunion groups. Usually a small group of up to 10 can get a confirmed reservation in open dining at the same time nightly and I have done so on Carnival, Princess, NCL, and HAL in the past. Perhaps it was because they had a very large private group of 800 onboard, I dont know. STATEROOM: We booked VD Balcony and ended up in 4052 a handicap stateroom, which had a lot more room than a standard balcony. The location in the forward of the ship was convenient for the getting to shows, spa, crows nest, explorations caf and lido. It was of course a bit of walk to the dining room, but we liked it. The location was very quiet even though we were around the corner from the elevators. The cabin was very large with a lot of storage space. Due to this being a handicap cabin, we didnt have a bathtub, but instead a roll-in shower, large bathroom with plenty of space. The room had also a roll out balcony with no lip, but a slight ramp to go out and come back in. Our balcony was larger than most, and to the left we looked down on lifeboats, and to the right we were obstructed view by the ship jutting out. The TV was far away from the bed and it was very small, but ok. Our room was clean and well kept. The lighting as usual leaves a lot to be desired. Bed was comfortable but the middle seam from joining them caused a valley so we asked for an egg crate and it was then fine. I also asked them to put a top sheet between the fitted and the covers and bring extra pillow (now 6!). While the rooms are clean and well kept, if you have been on newer ship builds, they are lacking the interactive TV for reservations, checking your shipboard account, and other features similar to what is standard in most ships today. With all ship staterooms the storage space is limited, but we could put all our 3 bags of clothes in the closet, ask for extra hangers! The 2 drawers under the bed came in handy for non-hanging items, and our empty suit cases slid under the bed for storage. I still recommend everyone bring a hanging bathroom bag, so you have more space for your items in the bath. Hanging organizers such as for shoes are also handy in the closet for small items, if you dont want to bend over to get to those lower drawers and shelves. Magnets are handy for posting up the daily programs and notes to your room steward or spouse of reminders. The room steward was awesome, and I just left written instructions for what I wanted and he performed everything wonderfully. However, his assistant didnt seem to understand as much English and was more difficult to communicate with. We always want a ton of ice, fresh towels, and clean glasses. Which he always seem to do, but we had to tell him, that we wanted an additional ice bucket for ice, as ours was tiny. We take the ice and fill out glasses and when it melts it makes good drinking water, ice our warm drinks, chill our wine, etc. One annoying thing, was the mini bar staff. We removed items from our mini bar to make room for our stuff and they kept bringing us the items we removed. Which was ok, but the way they did it, was to knock on the door, shove a water bottle or can of soda at us, without any explanation. One time they even just walked in on us weird. I finally had a chance to tell him not to refill our refrigerator or drop off any things, unless we request them I had to put my hand on his sleeve when he attempted to hand me my warm diet coke to put in the refrigerator. Because if I took what he handed me, he was quickly gone and I am then standing there with items I am billed for and do not want! DINING: Lido: Holland America has a policy of not allowing passengers to serve themselves at the lido buffet for the first 48 hours onboard to limit the spread of viruses. While this does clog up the lines a bit, I really appreciate it. Most passengers go straight from terminal right to the Lido buffet, think of how many hands and surfaces theyve come in contact with? At the entry to all the restaurants there is an attendant with hand sanitizer and they offer this to you. So I felt very safe eating at this facility and all others on the ship. The restaurant had stations setup with various offerings, and usually repeated the ones in high demand on both sides of the buffet. Drink station of ice tea, lemonade, juice, coffee, water. Breakfast had a wide variety of make to order omelet station, eggs, potatoes, bacon, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, fresh fruit juice. Pastries, Bagels, Smoked Salmon, etc. Lunch included sandwiches, salad stations, fresh fruit, and breads. Hamburgers, Chicken Tenders, Hot Dogs, Pizza/Pasta station, Entries for fish, beef, pork, etc. They also featured nightly a cuisine from several different cultures Indonesian, Philippines, Asian, German, etc. In addition to the normal fare, they setup special buffets by the pool on certain days that were themed. Such as during the Tracey Arm day, they did a seafood extravaganza. Canaletto: Canaletto, a tiny (54-seat) Italian eatery, has been carved out of a corner of the Lido Restaurant and is open for dinner with reservations for a fee of $10. They serve Italian family style to share. They offer a series of Three courses  il primo, il secondo, and il dolci  are offered, carefully selected to focus on fresh, authentic regional Italian cuisine. Basically an antipasto offered by the chefs choice, an appetizer, entries, and dessert. On our visit with 8 the service was good, but I didnt find much of the Italian food any better than the main dining room. In fact the fare was very light, so order more than you think you would share. The opinion from my diners was it was not worth the up charge. Although I could see how many, who really like Italian food and dont want to wait for their favorites to appear on the main dining rooms menu, may opt to just make their reservations here. I was with that group. Some items were only as good as that on the Lido, like spaghetti with meatballs. Others were very good as youd expect at a fine Italian restaurant, such as the seafood, clams, veal. I would definitely do this if I liked what was on the menu. I would be interested to know if this venue varies in its reviews so much by ship or by the menu? Pinnacle Grill: Excellent, Awesome, totally worth the $25 up charge and more. We got a table reserved for our family of 10 on our Tracey Arm day. When we arrived, they had us down for 8, but immediately assured us they would fix it. Hint: make your reservations ahead of the sailing, or this venue does book up completely for the cruise. I had the halibut, it was to die for. Lamb kabobs, Steaks, Fish, Chops, everyone just raved. Even our pickiest eaters. The only quirk was for coffee. One of our diners wanted coffee with his dinner, but they kept telling him to wait until dessert? The request was made 3 times with the answer the same. Finally I found the head waiter and he said they only serve coffee with dessert. I said we didnt want a fancy one, just a plain cup of coffee and could he accommodate that? Yes of course. Gee Whiz.This turned a perfectly fabulous dining experience into a coma for the poor gentlemen falling asleep at dinner, waiting 1.5 hrs for coffee. Explorations Cafe: This top spot for coffee seemingly has it all. Now included on all of Holland America's ships as part of the Signature of Excellence enhancement program, this seagoing bistro offers reasonably priced coffee drinks (try the caramel-flavored Carmelo Latte), complimentary pastries and snacks, an extensive library, condensed international newspapers, Internet terminals (including some free sites) and Wi-Fi, desks, cool tables with reusable wipe-off NYT crossword puzzles and lots of plush chairs and sofas, many with great views. With so much going on, Explorations Cafe has set the standard for top coffee spots at sea. This is also where you can always get your soda when other venues are closed if you need your morning jolt from that. Our family used this location as our go to spot to sit and talk, relax, play chess, etc. The snacks are free whether you buy a drink or not. By the way the coffee drinkers in my group said the Lido and MDR coffee was quiet good and free. Now they are also charging in the MDR for espresso and other specialty coffees. Vista Dining Room: We had the 530pm seating, a table for 10. We had wonderful waiters. Our family didnt always arrive all on time, and they accommodated those that were tardy by speeding things up for them. They lived up to the quiet and unobtrusive service allowing our family to catch up with each other. I cannot think of any of the food I didnt find as excellent. One night I had ordered the salmon and it was a bit overdone, and they immediately brought me lobster instead. I ordered multiple appetizers, and/or soup and salads, and they didnt blink an eye. Our wine steward was not that good (seems to be a trend with me, Am I wrong, but at regular restaurants you get a drink very quickly with a smile!) He had difficulty with getting us setup with our drinks, a couple of us had the all inclusive beverage cards, and some had soda cards. He seems to be inconvenienced by this. He took and incredibly long-time to come by and get our drink orders nightly, and a long time to bring them. Our waiters pitched in and took up his slack with a smile. PORTS: Juneau: Beautiful and unseasonable hot 80 degrees. Could have worn shorts, and by the end of the day wish I would have. Having been to this port twice before, we did not book any ship excursions, because I knew there would be booths for most of these excursions right off the ship, and at  the price. Unless youre doing something that has limited availability and space, this lets you set your own schedule. Took one of the $8 shuttle buses to Mendenhall Glacier. Hiked to Nugget Falls about 30 minutes, took the scenic trails hike looked for bears and found none. The Nugget Falls hike is really more of a walk now that have improved the pathway and blasted a path thru the boulders you used to have to actual climb/hobble thru. The buses loop every 30 minutes, so once we had our fill of the scenery and hiking, we just waited for the next bus at the bus stop. The drive up and back was very beautiful and along the highway the inlet had salmon just jumping like mad out of the water, and there were several eagles hunting them along the Gastineau Channel. We saw eagles everywhere like pigeons. We asked to be dropped downtown. Weve done the Mount Roberts Tram here and decided to skip it this time, it is beautiful up there. Went by Red Dog which was packed, instead opted to get a cool drink at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar that is very historic. Grabbed lunch at Tracy's Crab Shack (great as usual, but packed) and then just walked around town, headed back after picking up some wine, beer and souvenirs back to the ship, Sitka: Took a private tour with Sitka Tours. Our guide Caroline was excellent. My group originally had said they wanted to do their Russian Historical Tour, but changed their mind and wanted to see the Fortress of the Bear, Raptor Center and Sitka National Park she smiled and immediately agreed to change it up! We got a lovely shuttle coach that sat 20 people for just the 10 of us! Wow. She met as soon as we got off the tenders and away we went. She narrated the route and told us some interesting facts about Sitka and also about each of the stops we visited. I would highly recommend them. The Fortress of the Bear was a lovely drive and we ran into a section where there was road construction, and while we waited she entertained us. The Bears were awesome. We went in the morning about 10am before lunch so the Bears were very frisky. They had 5 there divided into two family groups. The founder setup some treats in a ball that the bears had to jump up and swat to get them to come out. The bears swam in the water, the other bears were a bit younger and they played and romped. Two of bears were kissing. One was making a sign to us for more the naturalist told us. I adored Toby the female red bear. She reminded me of a sweet dog. They have restrooms, a shop to buy water/snacks. They also have turkeys, goats, ducks, and huskies. The Alaskan Raptor Center was a great stop, they have an indoor space for injured birds you can see up close, and then they do a presentation and bring in a live Bald Eagle to see up close. Next you can view all the raptors in their outdoor habitats. We saw eagles, owls, and hawks, and a wealth of information about raptors and has a walking trail connected to its bird viewing area. The trail was very beautiful easy hike thru the forest. The Sitka National Park has a beautiful collection of totem poles, art and historical information on the culture of the Tlingit natives and history. Surrounding the park are several easy walking trails, one goes along the ocean and one goes to the salmon stream. From here we walked back into town, stopping off for some of the best spicy clam chowder, and then stopped at the Sheldon Jackson Aquarium. My son (18) and nephew (13) had to be pried out of the aquarium some 25 minutes later. The few closed tanks with small local fish and anemones were okay but the big attraction were five touch tanks filled with bright anemones, starfish in shades ranging from red/orange to purple (some huge), also found in local waters, and which here you could pick up and examine. They were slimy (and some sticky) to the touch, especially the anemones which actually shoot off little drops of poison not harmful to humans. Outside was a hatchery with baby king salmon. Stopped by the Bishop house and several other sites on the walking tour map. Gathered gifts and of course stopped for items at the local drug/liquor store in town. http://www.sitka.org/includes/media/docs/sitkaTownMap2007.pdf Ketchikan: I booked a salmon fishing trip with experienceone.com fishing charters. It was great! We walked right off the ship and Captain Johnny and JR we holding a sign waiting for our group. We took a 5 minute walk down the pier to his beautiful boat. We got an overview on the way out of the fishing process and filled out our fishing licenses and paid for them. Captain Johnny had a nice clean big boat that was stocked with iced sodas, smoked salmon, crackers, cheese, grapes and yummy cookies baked by his wife. He immediately got to his spot within 10 minutes and started rigging up his 6 poles to put in the water. By the time he got the 3rd one setup we already had salmon hitting. There were 6 of us that day, and it was incredible day for fishing, we caught so many pink salmon it filled the entire cooler, my nephew caught a rare ling cod. It was interesting looking monster with lots of sharp teeth. We also caught rock fish and silvers. The fish only gave us a couple lulls in our 7am-12pm fishing trip. The captain said the rock fish were no good and he said, Let me catch you and eagle. He threw the fish up into the air, and on cue a bald eagle swoops down, he misses and has to come back 3 times to pluck the floating fish out of the water. Amazing. I accused him of doing this every time, but he denied he had that eagle trained. Once our time was near, we packed up the poles and speed back to the dock. On this route we filled out our forms to have our fish processed and shipped back to us. At the dock, we gushed at the Capt and JR and thanked them so much! When I called to check on our fish, I was informed just our 2/3 was 5 We then walked to the grocery/liquor store for supplies and got in a huge line at noon with the whole ship to get aboard. Victoria: It started out raining and lightning but then cleared. We just walked around toured the Empress, Government Street, China Town, the waterfront, the open air market. Took the 8 dollar shuttle bus out and back. Got Toffee and Maple cream cookies for the kids. Almost all the other tours were starting at 7 or closed at night. So either get on a tour immediately, or everything else is closed. The BC museum was open to 10pm with an excellent Dinosaur display but we didn't want to miss walking and checking out all the historic buildings the city was filled with. ENTERTAINMENT: The Spa: Signed up for the use of the Thallasotherapy Pool for the week. Enjoyed the private womens/mens locker rooms with robe, shoes and towels. They had showers and nice lighting for putting on your makeup (unlike my stateroom). Got a wonderful facial, afterwards they right down what products they used and ask if you would like to purchase any of them. Not very pushy, just said Id think about it. Gym: Very nice, a lot of equipment well maintained. We used the bicycles and weight machines. During one of our stays there was a free lecture. Shows: This sailing only had a 930 show time for the main theatre. We saw a few of the productions, and thought they were as good as any others, but nothing special. We enjoyed the magician and the ventriloquist. We also saw the Dancing with the Stars At Sea, which was really fun. Music: Most of the clubs seem to be empty at night, probably due to the Gospel group onboard going to their own activities. The musicians did a good job, but nothing special or outstanding. The Piano bar was always packed and very funny and entertaining. Movies: They played a lot of newer movies in the small movie theatre (Identity Thief, etc), and also played them on the TV in your stateroom. In addition, you could borrow movies from the front office to watch in your room. Naturalist: Our naturalist onboard did a great job throughout the voyage, and she was also broadcast on the intercom for the Glacier Viewing of the Tracey Arm. Fellow PASSENGERS: We were mostly among older folks onboard this trip. Probably due to the demographics of the large Gospel group. The Gospel group was polite and well behaved. However there was a definite lack of children and young families on this particular sailing. My sons who were older 18 & 23 were hard pressed to find companions their age, The 18 year old is too old for the teen club, but too young for any of the over 21 activities. My 23 year old didnt see many college aged counterparts onboard. My niece and nephew (16, 13) found kids in the clubs to hang out with. While there may have been less children in the Club Hals this sailing, there were still enough for them to meet some new friends and they had a great time. I would say out of my 3 Alaska cruises this cruise had the fewest children and young families I have seen. It wasnt a HAL thing, I think it was due to the Gospel being a majority, and most them travelling were older and without children/grandchildren. CONS/IMPROVEMENTS: The cruise was excellent, it is not their fault that the demographics were older, that just happens sometimes. I would say overall I would like to see the following: Open seating reservations. Allow reservations to be made at least 24 hrs in advance for 6, 6:30 or 7pm for all parties dont limit it to early up to 545pm or late after 745pm. Improve your beverage services in the dining room and other venues get the drink order quickly with a smile, regardless of cards, etc. Improve the menu in Canaletto or make it complimentary or maybe $5.00. Pinnacle; please serve coffee before dessert if requested. Room service has definitely needs to be more consistent and accurate as to delivery times. Lido offer more grilled chicken/turkey options, without everything being in a sauce. SUMMARY: Overall ms Oosterdam delivered a consistent low-key relaxed experience with friendly service everywhere on the ship. This ship is excellent for family reunion groups, families, retirees and couples. This ship may not be the right fit for those that are looking for a younger college or twenty something crowd, extensive sports activities, water parks, and a lively night life. The ship is older and does not have some of the newer and more modern accommodations and baths, but it is impeccably kept and a romantic classic. The ship is medium sized making it easy to get around and find others in your group. TIPS: 1. Weather in Alaska is un-predictable; it can be sunny and 80 degrees, or rainy and windy 50 degrees. Plan to wear layers so you can add and remove throughout the cruise and the day ashore. Most of our trip was unseasonable warm and sunny, we could have easily wore shorts, except for early mornings. 2. Luggage Direct is a great way to end your cruise. Send your bags ahead to your home airport and use your time to take a tour before you have to catch your flight home. 3. Sitka has a lot to see and do, and if you are in good shape you can just take the walking map and tour on your own. If youre not taking a tour with Sitka Tours, they are wonderful and can customize the trip to meet your needs. 4. Juneau is the easiest port to just walk off the ship and find a tour at the line of vendors. Mendenhall Glacier and Mount Roberts are definitely easy to do right off the ship. If its the excursion that only takes a limited amount of people, book this ahead of your trip. Fishing here is a bit of a drive and longer out than other ports. 5. Ketchikan has great self tours with the free local bus, ask the visitor's center, but if you've done that I would highly recommend fishing here, we didn't have to go very far to fish, and it is the salmon capital of the world. The fishing for salmon here is best mid July. We used Experience One Charters and Captain Johnny is awesome! 6. Victoria. You can walk into to town, its about 10 to 20 minutes, but you arent here long, and many attractions close by evening, so youre better off to take a tour. Tours that pick you up at the pier are Hop on Hop off Bus, Gray line, Horse Drawn Carriages, Ghost Walk, and it's faster than waiting for the shuttle buses to fill up. 7. Avoid the Lido the day of disembarkation and either order room service or go to the dining room (before 8am). 8. Collect your photos daily and ask the Photo center to hold them until the day youre at Victoria and then finalize before 11pm. 9. Use your webmail not your outlook for email or retrieving boarding passes, remember everyone else will be doing so at about the same time ... so it will be slow.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
I have never written a review on a message board before but I read the reviews of the Oosterdam before we left (some good, some bad) and I wanted to share our experience (June 16-23, 2013) because it was such a good one. My parents took ... Read More
I have never written a review on a message board before but I read the reviews of the Oosterdam before we left (some good, some bad) and I wanted to share our experience (June 16-23, 2013) because it was such a good one. My parents took my family of 4 and my sister's family of 4 on this cruise. When we went to embark at 12:30 in Seattle it took about an hour to get on the ship. We were pleased with our room (see cabin description). We spent the first few days at sea exploring the ship and attending some activities (the high tea was delicious, the trivia was fun). Every time I went to the gym there was only about 10 people in there- which was great. I ran on the promenade and it was not crowded- everyone else was walking. The kids spent literally hours and hours in the Lido pool (sometimes the roof was closed, sometimes open). They also liked to play ping pong and giant chess there. They also loved the views from the Crow's Nest. We played basketball a little but it was very windy. The evening entertainment was good. The service was amazing- almost every employee we interacted with was very polite and competent. Our room steward was very friendly, quick and efficient. Our dining steward was wonderful- quickly learning the 4 children's names and dining preferences. The food in the main dining room was great- everything all 10 of us had we enjoyed. The food in the Lido buffet was not as good but still very good. If you have time (like when you are at sea) I do recommend having breakfast in the main dining room. Room service (two times) took about 30 minutes and was very good- as ordered. We were very fortunate with the weather- 70s the first few days and a high of 80 in Junea, 65 in Sitka, rainy and 55 in Ketchikan, then nice again (68) in Victoria. Cruising through the Inside Passage/ Tracy Arm Fjord was stunning. We stayed on our verandah the whole time. Used our good binoculars and zoom lens alot. We saw eagles, whales, porpoises, otters, and seals. My daughter and husband went ziplining in Juneau (through the ship's shore excursion) and loved it- though it was spendy. The rest of us took the tram to the peak and had a really good time hiking, seeing the eagle refuge, watching the movie and a family of musicians who were amazing. In Sitka we went hiking in the rain forest then to the museum which was free and very informative/interesting. In Ketchikan we went on the Duck Tour which was entertaining and a good way to see the whole town. My husband and son tried to go fishing there but the tours were full so if an excursion is important to you, you should book early. In Victoria we took a cab (50$ each way) to the Buschart Gardens (admission $30 for adults, only $3 for kids). They were incredibly beautiful. All four of us really enjoyed them. We saved $120 going it ourselves instead of booking through the ship. Disembarking was very quick- literally walking right off. Overall, a great experience. The only cons were the drinks ($8/each) and the photos ($40/each) were expensive. But of course, these are optional. I would definitely cruise on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
If you are looking for mini golf and water slides this is not the cruise for you. but if you like good food, good service and a touch of elegance then this is the cruise for you. Nice antiques adorn the common areas on Oosterdam. the ... Read More
If you are looking for mini golf and water slides this is not the cruise for you. but if you like good food, good service and a touch of elegance then this is the cruise for you. Nice antiques adorn the common areas on Oosterdam. the servants are polite and eager to please. request second seating for dinner if you want to avoid lines and crowds and get great service. We sat at table 22, in the back corner right by the window. We loved it. good view and great service. Our waiter Didic was great as was Adi his asst. They gave us double entre and appitizers every night not to mention desserts. The magician on board was world class and awesome. Better than anything I've seen in vegas. Dancing with the stars at sea was a delight for my wife. Casino staff was polite and patient with the novice. roland was the sports bar bartender, he was very professional and polite. The entertainment staff were exceptional. My only complaint was the photography dept charged 40$ per photo which i found to be a bit high. Do not bother with a black and white photo sitting. 600$ min. photo package. Waste of time. Even the Lido buffet staff was excellent. Aprillia was a delight as a staff member on the lido. Cabin stewards were proficient but not excellent. All in all a great deal. Do purchase the 30$ drink card. A bargain if you like to drink. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I have been wanting to go on a cruise for quite some time now--my family, not so much. For vacation, we usually take road trips or do timeshare exchanges, but going to Alaska has been one of my "bucket list" items and taking a ... Read More
I have been wanting to go on a cruise for quite some time now--my family, not so much. For vacation, we usually take road trips or do timeshare exchanges, but going to Alaska has been one of my "bucket list" items and taking a cruise seemed to be the best way to see tidewater glaciers. With two active teenagers, the Holland America Oosterdam was not my first choice in cruise ships. However, it was sailing the week my husband had requested for vacation, and, conveniently, the professional society he belongs to was offering continuing education classes aboard the ship. So after vacillating for many months, we reserved the last two adjoining balcony cabins still available after final deposit was due. The following, rather lengthy, review is from the perspective of a cruising newbie. The comments have been subdivided into various topics so that you may scroll down to find what might be of interest to you. However, allow me to make a disclaimer. Because I was charmed by the novelty of this adventure, I probably am not as discerning as I should be. Someone else on this exact same cruise, with more cruising experience, might be able to provide more insight. Be that as it may, I will provide a few comments from the perspective of a cruising beginner. Arrival Because of a family commitment, we were unable to fly early to Seattle. I've read a lot of discussion here on Cruise Critic regarding whether or not to arrive early to your port of embarkation. I think that if, like us, you have to arrive the day of the cruise, it's alright--especially if you take the first flight out, don't have bad weather or flight delays, and are flying within the same time zone. But definitely, it would be much nicer to come a little early to do some sightseeing first, particularly in a destination city like Seattle. Moreover, because we left so early in the morning we were a bit frazzled by the time we reached the cruise ship, and our embarkation photo looks like some sort of horrible mug shot! Embarkation At the advice of our travel agent, we did not book a ship transfer but instead caught a taxi from the airport to Smith's Cover Terminal 91 for $50 plus tip. Since there were four of us plus luggage, this seemed like a good deal. For that price, we also got to chat with the taxi driver about downtown development and the possibility of an NBA team coming to Seattle. Once at the cruise terminal, the check-in process was part airport security, part hotel registration, and part holding pen. The whole process went very smoothly, though: We arrived at the terminal at 10:30, checked in and waited until 11:30, then boarded and were having lunch by 12 noon. Tip: Have your passport and boarding pass ready as you enter the terminal and take advantage of the many hand sanitizer dispensers scattered throughout the building. Stateroom As mentioned above, we booked very late so were lucky to get two adjoining Verandah staterooms towards the back, or aft, of the ship. Level 5 or Verandah deck is quite nice: it is not too far of a walk up to the Lido Buffet and not too far down to the MDR. However, being in the back of the boat means quite a long walk to the Vista Lounge, the Fitness Center, and the Crow's Nest in the front of the ship. There was no door between our stateroom and our kids' room, but the steward opened the balcony partition and we were able to walk back and forth between the two rooms by going out on the balcony. I grew up vacationing in a motor home as a child, so I thought the stateroom's bathroom was quite spacious, much larger than any camper bathroom. However, the ceiling is a bit low, so if you are tall you might have to stoop a little. Counter space is limited, but there is a shelf below the sink for toiletries, and the shower/tub has a retractable cord for drying bathing suits. The hairdryer is not stored in the bathroom but outside in a cabinet in the vanity table. Across from the bathroom are three large closets, one has a locked safe and another has a full length mirror inside the door. The bed is two twins, pushed and locked together, or in my kids' case, separated with a nightstand in between. At the end of each twin is a large drawer, big enough for almost all of the contents of my suitcase, and the suitcases themselves can be stored underneath the bed to save space. The flat screen tv was a tad smaller than I'm used to, but I loved to turn it on to the ship information channel to play on a continuous loop. We also appreciated having a Verandah stateroom so we could prop open the door and get a little fresh air. I saw an Inside stateroom once while walking down the hallway, and it looked substantially smaller than our cabin. However, we met a couple at dinner who were staying in an Inside and who were completely satisfied. With the money they saved they were able to take a fishing excursion almost every day of their cruise! Tip: If you don't care for long treks from the back to the front of the ship, try booking a room more centrally located than we did. Dining I thought the food at the Lido Buffet and the MDR was fantastic, but admittedly, I'm not all that discerning when it comes to food. Any meal which I do not have to plan, shop, cook and clean up for is wonderful in my book, and my kids were thrilled to have steak and seafood every night. Such luxury. We loved all the choices, the food itself seemed to always be the right temperature, and the service in the MDR was efficient. My daughter and I discovered Afternoon Tea, which became our little ritual with a cup of English Breakfast and scones everyday at 3. Also, we noticed that if you make special requests, they are very accommodating. There was an extended Indian family who ate curry dishes every night. When my husband asked about this, our waiter said that we too could have Indian food, as long as we ordered it 24 hours in advance. Again, because we booked our cruise so late, we were only able to secure Open Seating Dining. Most nights this was not a problem since we didn't try to eat until after 8 pm, but there was quite a line on the first formal night. I didn't realize this, but you can make reservations for your table even if you are assigned the Open Seating Dining room. My other problem was trying to convince my teenage son that a polo shirt was much more acceptable in the MDR than a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Once he over came his aversion to the dress code, though, my son thoroughly enjoyed four-course dining. Tip: If you have Open Seating Dining, try making a reservation for the first formal night in order to avoid a lengthy wait. Activities Holland America is not known for it's onboard activities, but we found many things to do on the Oosterdam . The resident naturalist was quite good, and her lectures about glaciers and Alaskan wildlife were very informative. I went to several cooking demonstrations at the Culinary Arts Institute, while my husband attended the photography sessions. I think we would have enjoyed the "Dancing with the Stars" dance lessons, but my husband was busy attending his continuing education classes each afternoon instead. My son spent a good part of each day at the fitness center, but my daughter was too young to go. And I checked out a couple books from the extensive free library in the Crow's Nest, where my husband and daughter played a few games of chess. We never tried Bingo, and although the pool area had a retractable roof which made it possible to swim in all kinds of inclement weather, we only went once to jacuzzi in the very tiny, lukewarm hot tubs. Tip: if the coffee at the Lido Buffet is too weak for your taste, the Crow's Nest sells coffee which will perk you up while you browse through the library. Entertainment I think my family disagreed about the quality of the shipboard entertainment more than any other aspect of our cruise. My husband and son really enjoyed the live music, particularly the HalCats and the guitarist in the Crow's Nest, but neither one of them liked the large musical revues in the Vista Lounge. Although the songs the revue featured were for a much older crowd, I was impressed that the performers could sing and dance on a stage which moved with the sea swells. My kids and I thought the magician was quite entertaining, but my husband insisted that he had seen better. In fact, when the magician was scheduled for a special matinee feature, my kids and I made sure to go. Tip: the magic shows get crowded, so go early and sit down in front if you would like to participate. Summary of the Cruise The first full day was a Sea Day in which we cruised the Inside Passage heading north. It was definitely nice to be able to relax that first day, especially since the motion sickness medication made me a bit drowsy. Although the ocean was like a lake, I noticed that many other people had patches behind their ears, too. By the middle of the second day we arrived at Tracy Arm Fjord, and they opened Deck 4 at the prow of the ship for observation. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, with blue skies and even bluer water. Many people commented that the water looked like it could be in the Bahamas, except for the fact that there were iceberg chunks floating by. The fjord gets increasingly more narrow as you sail upstream until you reach Sawyer Island and the Sawyer Glacier. We got a kick out of the seals lounging on the ice floes. My daughter and I had Afternoon Tea, then walked around and around the Promenade Deck looking for the best spot to take pictures. My husband and son went back to our cabins and took pictures from our balcony. I heard that upstairs on the Observation Deck they were serving pea soup and warm blankets, but the day was quite balmy so we never went upstairs. They piped the naturalist's commentary over the loud speakers throughout the afternoon, who provided interesting information about the glacier and the geologic formations. During the next four days we stopped at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. I've written about each of these under the Port Review section if you need further information, but I want to point out that the Oosterdam is one of the few cruise ships which still stops at Sitka. Some time ago, the residents of Sitka voted not to make improvements to their deep water dock, so cruise ships are forced to tender their guests to the town. This can be quite pricy for the cruise line, and one Sitka local speculated that sometime soon the cruise ships might no longer stop in Sitka at all. However, the town is quite charming and the surrounding scenery is quite spectacular, so if you have a chance to go to Sitka, I would highly recommend that you go. Misc. Topics There are a few things which we did not experience directly. Although my daughter is a teenager, she refused to participate in any of the organized activities for her age group. One day we wandered up to the teen lounge, and we saw kids hanging out and having a good time, but she was too shy to join them. So, Holland America does have organized Children's and Teen's Programs, but I can't really tell you whether those programs are good or not. We also never signed up for any of the ship's excursions. These can be very pricy, but they come with the guarantee that you will be taken care of and you will always arrive back at the ship on time. I heard many people talking positively about their excursions, so I might be more willing to arrange something on my next cruise. Finally, on the very first day my daughter and I took a tour of the spa facilities. The thermal spa area looked nice, but my daughter was too young so I didn't even consider buying a package. Later in the cruise I was talking to someone who complained that unlike Holland America, there are other cruise ships which provide adults-only, spa like areas free of charge. Tip: if you are looking for a total spa experience or a free adults-only sanctuary during your cruise, the Oosterdam might not be the ship for you. Service Finally, I want to say that I was amazed by the friendly service provided by the crew of the Oosterdam. Every day they were up early with smiles on their faces, wishing us good morning. I know how hard food service can be, but the serving staff was courteous and professional, always trying to get anything you might need. Our room steward kept our cabin tidy twice a day. And my kids were surprised that the wait staff in the MDR remembered our names. I think Holland America excels in the area of service. Disembarkation Because our flight home was later in the day, we chose the last disembarkation time slot which allowed us to eat breakfast one more time in the MDR. My husband was a little disgruntled when he saw other people disembarking with their carry-on luggage while we had placed our suitcases outside our stateroom the night before. Personally, though, I was happy not to lug the suitcase any more than I had to. At the appointed time, we went down to the gang plank, walked down to the lower portion of the terminal to collect our luggage, went through customs, and then found the Alamo rental car kiosk just outside the terminal door. The whole process took no more than 15-20 minutes. Tip: Alamo, National and Enterprise will rent you a one-way car from the cruise terminal to Sea-Tac (for a slightly higher price than normal). The rental agencies shuttle you from the terminal to downtown Seattle where you can pick up the car. Sundays in Seattle are not crazy busy, so its possible to navigate the one-way streets. Also, if you are lucky enough to find metered street parking, it is free on Sunday. Would I Cruise Again? Yes, most definitely. I found that certain stereotypes about cruising do hold true: food is always available, you are herded on and off the ship, and some guests are never satisfied. But I was surprised at how social the experience could be. People were generally quite friendly, would ask me questions, and tell me interesting stories. I learned a lot, not only about the state of Alaska, but about what life is like in other parts of the US. I was surprised at how well-traveled people were, and how familiar they were with the region where I live. And I was thankful that I never saw anyone being rude to the crew. I've read horror stories here on Cruise Critic, and I dreaded observing some nasty altercation, but I was thankfully spared any such scene. Perhaps the stereotypical, mature Holland America guest, after a lifetime of working hard, can appreciate others working hard for them. Ten Reasons Why I Would Sail on Holland America Again: 1. Fresh flowers and live music 2. Robes in each stateroom 3. Turn down service with towel animals and chocolates each night 4. Excellent food and service in the MDR 5. Afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream 6. Very professional crew 7. Good enrichment programs 8. Not a lot of pushy sales tactics 9. An emphasis on safety 10.Fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast Five Things I Would Do Differently on My Next Alaskan Cruise: 1. Book a whale-watching excursion. We saw whales from the ship, but they were much too far away. If you were on a whale-watching boat, you could get up close and personal with the whales. 2. Go a little later in the summer when the salmon begin to run. 3. Take a float plane to Misty Fjord. There's not much to do in Ketchikan besides shop, and people have said that the fjord is amazing. 4. Take the ship's excursion to Butchart Gardens to have more time. 5. Stay longer in Seattle since there's a lot to see and do there. If you have never been to Alaska, consider an Alaskan cruise. The scenery, the wildlife and the tidewater glaciers are amazing.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This cruise has been great. Alaska is beautiful; Holland America is well above my expectation. This is simply the best cruise I've ever had, and I would easily go on HAL again. I have never seen such personal services from any ... Read More
This cruise has been great. Alaska is beautiful; Holland America is well above my expectation. This is simply the best cruise I've ever had, and I would easily go on HAL again. I have never seen such personal services from any other travel companies before. To keep this review brief, I'd like to first address some of the main concerns that others mentioned in earlier reviews: 1. Tracy Arm: It is beautiful. The captain took us all the to as close to the glacier as possible. We even had dinner right by the glacier! I believe this is all dictated by the weather... 2. Victoria: Yes, we're late. But at least we got the free shuttle to downtown. No other ship had that... 3. Food: it is very personal. But I found Holland try hard to satisfy everybody. (And their dining room service is efficient and quick.) I believe that if one doesn't like the food, it's not because of the quality but because of the difference in taste. 4. Fellow passengers: Yes, Holland has among the oldest passengers. But I do not understand why that bothers anyone? In fact, it is great: The public rooms never seem to be crowded, because many of the older folks elect to stay to in their (nice) cabins most of the time... 5. Programs: This is all measured on expectation. I was there to relax, so I thought the programs were perfect. If one wants days full of active programs, Carnival or Norwegian would be the way to go. I'd also like to compare my experience at Oosterdam with a cruise I took in late 2008 on Celebrity Solstice (their second voyage), arguably the gold standard of all mass market cruise lines: 1. Embarkation and disembarkation: They are about equal. Both are very efficient and painless. 2. Staterooms: Although the room size, comfort, and amenity are similar, Celebrity has a slight edge because of its youth. 3. Ship itself: This is where Celebrity shines. Solstice looks so much more grand than Oosterdam, although the later is no slouch. I have to say, though, the public rooms on Oosterdam are a lot less crowded... 4. Programs: They are about equal. Both are on the quiet and intellectual side. For those who are looking for more "active' stuff to do on board, look to Norwegian, Carnival, or Royal Caribbean instead. 5. Dining: They are about the same in the main dining room. Celebrity has an edge in buffet layout (but not necessarily the selection). But Holland's room service is simply EXCELLENT: All breakfast came within 10 minutes of specified time, and the eggs were HOT! 6. Entertainment: I can only say "WOW" to the Holland performances. They are over-the-top good: great choreography, stage work, and dancing/singing performance. Compared to that, Celebrity performances were just luck warm and OK. 7. Service: This is where Holland really shines. On Celebrity Solstice, I felt that service was nice, tight, and formal. But on Oosterdam, everything is so personal and warm. Where else would would you get your servers to sing Indonesian Happy Birthday to you, watch a "Filipinos Crews show," get to know the performers face-to-face, and talk to the captain in his very own cooking show? Holland tries very hard to make connection between its crews and the passengers, and I have to say that it works great! 8. Value for the money: This is one thing I REALLY don't understand. How can people pay the same amount for Holland or Celebrity as a Norwegian or Carnival ship? But that's what the pricing often looks like. So in the future, do yourself a favor: If you see a fare on HAL close to that of Norwegian or Carnival, grab it when you can. You will get so much more for the same amount of money you spend. And you would never look back. I hope my review has convinced everyone that Holland, in particular Oosterdam, is a great ship to be on. The service alone is worth every penny, let alone the great performances, ship itinerary, cabins, etc. I know I will return to Holland soon... Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We took the 7-day Alaskan Explorer Cruise on the Holland America Oosterdam from June 17 to 24. This was our seventh cruise and our third cruise to Alaska and they have all been on Holland America cruise ships. We enjoy the size of the ... Read More
We took the 7-day Alaskan Explorer Cruise on the Holland America Oosterdam from June 17 to 24. This was our seventh cruise and our third cruise to Alaska and they have all been on Holland America cruise ships. We enjoy the size of the ships, the friendliness and attention, and the wonderful cuisine and service. We flew nonstop to Seattle via SW Airlines. We had transfers to the Hilton Seattle Airport Hotel, but it would have been just as easy without the transfers, as the Hotel Shuttle was our transfer. The hotel was very nice, but next time, we will make our own hotel reservations and stay closer to the downtown area. We ate dinner in the hotel at Spencer's Steak & Chop Restaurant and it was excellent. We also had transfers to Pier 91, but the HAL bus was not leaving the hotel until 11:30 a.m. so we had the concierge get us a town car. This allowed us to get to the pier early and board the ship earlier. The embarkation process at the pier was run very efficiently. Upon boarding, we went to see the dining room maitre de in the Explorer's Lounge as we had Open Seating and wanted to reserve a table for two at 5:15 p.m. This allowed us to sit at the same table each evening and get to know our waiters and wine steward. It is very comparable to fixed seating which always seems to be closed when we make our reservations. Our cabin was 5109 on the Verandah Deck with a balcony ocean view. We had never experienced a balcony before, but now I don't know if I want to cruise without one. We enjoyed it immensely. Our cabin was ready when we arrived which was so nice. We went to the Mariner's Luncheon, signed up for Internet usage, and purchased a 7-day wine package. When we returned to our cabin, our luggage had arrived, so we unpacked. We set sail at 4:12 p.m. after the mandatory emergency drill. After dinner, we listened to the Adagio Duo in the Explorer's Lounge. The duo was a pianist and a violinist from Hungary. We were used to hearing a string quartet on the other cruises, so at first we were disappointed. That feeling lasted about two minutes as these two men were outstanding. We listened to them every evening. We then went to the Vista Lounge and were entertained with a show to meet the Oosterdam singers and dancers as well as a comedy routine by Julie Barr -- very funny. We attended every show in the Vista Lounge. Julie Barr was hilarious and the comedian-ventriloquist, Mike Robinson was also great. The other shows were with the Oosterdam singers and dancers. We enjoyed the "Stage & Screen" production better than the "Garage Band" production. The singers and dancers did an outstanding job, but the Garage Band was a bit overpowering. Our day-to-day schedule was pretty routine. My husband and I do not do many excursions as we cruise to enjoy the relaxation of the ship. We like to read, attend the lectures and demonstrations, walk on the deck, go to wine tastings, play trivia, meet new people, eat, go to the shows, and watch the ocean. The first day out we experienced rough seas and there many passengers who stayed in their cabins that day; but then it was smooth sailing!! We cruised Tracy Arm and our ports of call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, Canada with disembarkation in Seattle. The week went entirely too fast. We used the Express Checkout so we didn't see our luggage until we arrived back in Kansas City. The only negative was that one piece of my luggage wound up at LAX and not MCI! Luckily, we picked it up at the airport the next day. I'm not sure if I would use Express Checkout again, but it was very convenient not to lug the suitcases around at the airport. We have never been disappointed with the Holland American Cruise Line and can't wait until our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
My cruise was almost a year ago and I'm just now writing a review. I know that's horrible of me, but I was too depressed to even come onto this website! I had so much fun planning our time on the Oosterdam and in Alaska, and ... Read More
My cruise was almost a year ago and I'm just now writing a review. I know that's horrible of me, but I was too depressed to even come onto this website! I had so much fun planning our time on the Oosterdam and in Alaska, and when it was over I seemed to go into a post-cruise funk! But I have another cruise booked, so the clouds are leaving my mood. :-) We were in a Deluxe Verandah Suite, and man were we spoiled. If you have the means, I would definitely recommend one of these suites. Even better we were in an aft corner cabin that wraps around the side of the ship, and I couldn't have asked for anything better. I'd read reviews about the poor condition of the Oosterdam, but she was lovely. There was one of our deck tables that had some scuffs if you really want to get picky, but you could really only see them up close. The railings were painted/stained the day we sailed and looked perfect. The aft wraparound is the way to sail. Huge balcony to enjoy sail away and just staring at the wake and the glorious scenery. So amazing, and can't wait to do it again. This balcony (4185) doesn't have much cover, but for Alaska I think it was perfect. There were no rooms below us so it was a clear view to the water, and there was only one or two times where it was too rainy/stormy to enjoy the balcony. But in truth it was stormy enough that even with an awning we wouldn't have gone out there during those times. Our Stewards were attentive and helpful without being over-bearing. They always had a smile and our room always looked wonderful. Alaska is amazing and I can't wait to go back. You won't be sorry for choosing this ship! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
This was our second HAL cruise. It may be our last. We had taken this cruise five years ago on the Norwegian Pearl, but this time we wanted to try HAL as a previous repositioning cruise with HAL was very nice. We thought the food and ... Read More
This was our second HAL cruise. It may be our last. We had taken this cruise five years ago on the Norwegian Pearl, but this time we wanted to try HAL as a previous repositioning cruise with HAL was very nice. We thought the food and service might be better than on the Pearl. We were right about that. It was what we didn't know that would have caused us to choose the Pearl again. DEPARTURE HOTEL We always fly in a day before the cruise and out the day after a cruise primarily because my wife does not have a lot of stamina as a result of a medical condition. This time we chose the Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle and loved it. We took the train from the airport to the hotel, which has the advantage of being both very inexpensive and ending in the mall next door to the hotel. Fortunately the ride was on a Saturday afternoon and the train was not crowded - there is really no place to store Pepto and Bismal, our very large, very "findable" hot pink suitcases. (This was their first trip with us and they provided many a laugh while never being hard to spot in the sea of suitcases!) The hotel is about 5 blocks from Pike's Place Market. Being Mother's Day weekend the market was more awash in flowers than usual. We love street vendors, and we found a wonderful leather bag to replace one we'd bought 18 years ago in St. Thomas. EMBARKATION The Mayflower's van vendor is wonderful, and they delivered us to the ship at about 11:15 a.m. We were in our room by 11:45, and eating lunch by 12:15. STATEROOM We stayed in 6175, which is a handicapped aft suite. It was a wonderful room, with more room than the three of us needed. I have never seen so much storage! It was nicely appointed with excellent craftsmanship (I'm a woodworker, so I notice such things). The bed was excellent. The window was quite big with a wonderful desk in front of it and sash big enough to sit in. The balcony was very large with a table, 5 chairs and a chaise lounge. Previous reviews I'd read had warned that there is virtually no overhang over the balconies on deck 6 aft and that proved to be a handicap on the few times it rained during the cruise. I would have loved to have had the corner suite next door so I could have seen "around the corner" on the wrap-around balcony, but the very nice folk that stayed in it had booked before I. We had never sailed in an aft cabin. Though I don't care to not being able to see where we were headed, the advantage of very little wind as the ship moved through chilly air was nice indeed. The biggest disadvantage, at least on the Oosterdam, was at Tracy Arm. The captain got us there just fine, but once there he kept the ship pointed forward for a short time, then turned it around and promptly left. We only had moments to see the glacier and the harbor seals on the ice. Had I known that's what he was going to do I would have fought the crowds and gone forward for a while. Our room stewards Joe and Tree were just exceptional, astoundingly wonderful, beyond words, etc. DINING The food in the main dining room was excellent - almost every dish was as good as one could get anywhere. The service was mostly good except at lunch a couple of times. The Pinnacle was mediocre, crowded, with inadequate seating, and it always closed before the posted closing time. We always had our "first breakfast" via room service ordered for 6 a.m., and it always arrived at 5:30 a.m. It was quite tasteless. We were thankful for the order forms we filled out the night before and hung on the door, as room service did not answer the phone one single time on our cruise. As a result, we consider HAL's claim that food is available 24 hours a day just so much hot air. If you are hungry after about 8:30 at night, your menu choices are pizza and ice cream, at least until about 11. After that, forget it. We learned quickly to buy food in port, or get extra yogurt at breakfast for those late night snacks. What became amusing, but nice, was that later in the cruise coffee that we didn't order started showing up about an hour after breakfast was delivered. ACTIVITIES AND SHIP SHOPPING The "activities" were a source of derision, especially to our 20 year old daughter. It reminded me of the days I have visited folks in adult daycares. But, I don't go on cruises for ship activities, so that might explain why I thought they were so funny. My girls are professional shoppers and it didn't take them long to explore, then dismiss shopping on board - they forgot swimsuits and were out of luck as there were none. For me - no bandaids or (few) toiletries or socks or underwear? Wow. I've gotten on ships before with little or no extra clothing - on purpose - to just buy it there without having to bring a big bag, and it's a good thing I did not try that on Oosterdam! ENTERTAINMENT The one show we went to was ok; the female lead singer was very good, and some of the dancers were excellent. The routines were a mixed bag from mediocre to quite good. The comedian, Julie Barr, was quite funny. PORTS We love any port in Alaska and either shop or just walk around town visiting with locals. When shopping we avoid the cruise line's in-pocket shops and seek out locally owned places. Sitka is wonderful, as there are only about 3 places affiliated with the cruise lines. We found an amazing piece of whale bone art at Sitka Rose Gallery, and I could have maxed out a credit card or two there. (The piece beat us home to Oklahoma too!) The walk to, and around the national park in Sitka is stunning and not to be missed. I loved Sitka so much that I am going back in August for a week just to fish and hang out. There was a native art place in Ketchikan back from the harbor near the Creek Street shops that had an amazing piece of marble bear and seal (I can't remember the name of the shop), but ma wouldn't let me spend $4,000 on a rock! Darn. I'm still thinking about tracking the place down and calling them to get it. The State Museum at Juneau is small, but fun. One of the displays was a spoof and I felt rather silly after saying "Oh, give me a break" several times, then seeing the explanation outside the room only upon leaving it. We love shopping in Victoria, but unfortunately our favorite shop closed down/changed its inventory "because the younger generation does not care for fine woolens" drats. However, as I've detailed below (and noted that cruise reviews for the week before ours say the same thing), don't count on anything happening in Victoria as there is not time there- a pox on HAL! If you do get a little time in Victoria the taxis are half the cost of ship-provided transportation, and there was absolutely no waiting for one either to get to town or back to the ship. THE "YUCKIES" This ship had some mechanical issues. The toilet seemed to have a mind of its own re: flushing. Some of the time flushing occurred successfully upon pushing the button. Other times it might flush five minutes after pushing the button. Many other times it would flush an hour later. And at least 6 times it would not flush at all and we had to call maintenance. On one visit the tech actually admitted that they were having system problems all over the ship and whole sections would become inoperable because of "air locks". I asked a few of our neighbors if they were having problems, and all said "Oh, yes." I found it odd that most of the propulsion came out of the port side propeller. I even asked the captain himself about it and he gave me some nonsensical mumbo jumbo; I didn't care until it became obvious that the ship was running slow everywhere it went. We sat for four hours outside the Sitka harbor while they repaired "a problem with the anchor." Apparently it wouldn't come aboard. They only managed to make up 2.5 of the hours, so we were late getting into Ketchikan and lost that hour and a half in that port. As other Oosterdam cruisers have reported, we left Ketchikan half an hour ahead of the Norwegian Pearl, but the Pearl passed us late afternoon. We got into Victoria an hour and a half late and saw the Pearl already docked and unloaded on time. We ran into a local who claimed his brother was a harbor pilot, who explained that Oosterdam had a history of running late; that the pilots thought it was because the captain wanted to collect his fuel savings bonus, and that none of the cruise lines wanted to stop in Victoria anyway but were required by law to do so. Who knows if this is true or hogwash, but at any rate, the whole is not a positive. The end result, whether because of ship issues or captain's motives, we lost a lot of time in port. So, if I ever go HAL again, I will assume that the itinerary is probably baloney. DISEMBARKATION Walked right off at 9 a.m., found our suitcases immediately, and were outside in the van back to the Mayflower by 9:30. SUMMARY The food was worthy, the cabin extremely nice, and most of the service was outstanding. However, if we do a third Alaska cruise, we will go on the Pearl again, or try some other line. Toilets are things one only notices when they don't work, and dishonored itineraries left me feeling less than comfortable about trying this one again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This being our second HAL cruise and reading the reviews of the ship, we travelled with somewhat lower expectations than our previous HAL cruise. Overall the cruise exceeded our expectations; however we were deeply disappointed on ... Read More
This being our second HAL cruise and reading the reviews of the ship, we travelled with somewhat lower expectations than our previous HAL cruise. Overall the cruise exceeded our expectations; however we were deeply disappointed on several counts but mainly by an incident regarding the final port of Victoria. HAL seem to be making cut backs and its starting to show. Seattle Found this a great place, very clean and friendly. Well worth a couple of days pre or post cruise. The highlight for us was a tour of the Boeing factory. Highly recommend this tour even for no aviation fans like us. Embarkation Things seemed a little hectic and messy but this was expected as this was the first cruise out of Seattle this season There was poor signage (towards the suite check in) and the checking of Non US ID took a bit longer as staff had to refresh their memories and check which nationals required VISAS. Not all the security screening points were operational. The line for the remainder of the cabins seemed long. Security check took around 20 Mins and the suite check in took around 15 mins after security. Boarding Nice and easy as always on HAL Ships. Cabin ready on arrival and baggage fast and ready on return form an excellent buffet in a very busy Lido. ( The Lido seemed very over crowded compared to normal, this put down to Roof open in pool area and weather fairly cool) Cabin and Ship Condition Many of the reports on this site mention the poor condition of the ship, we found no evidence of this other than a small amount of rust on a small number of pillars on our aft corner balcony. The balcony furniture was fine and the cabin well maintained and clean as always. The cabin team do a great job. Food Overall the Food was excellent as always. Lido Buffet Although food was excellent, some choices ran out early both at lunch and dinner. Late buffets seemed more to the benefit of the ships officers and ended too early. The Pinnical As always the food and service were second to none. Well worth the $25 surcharge for dinner and $10 for lunch. Breakfast for Suite guests also proved the upgrade in cabin well worth the additional costs. The Canneletto The only real food disappointment. Service was far to slow and waiters did not seem to know what was going on. The highlight of the meal was watching the Whale just off the ship. Main Dining Room Only ate here once (On disembarkation day), Open dining did not seem to work without a reservation. Had to wait in line for over 30 mins, but after that given a buzzer and about 15 mins later seated. Room Service Breakfast always delivered to room earlier than booked, could not fault the service otherwise. Would like to have Fries available with the main meals rather than just chips ( Crisps). Just be prepared to wait about 45 -- 60 mins, which is reasonable. Entertainment & Facilities Overall ok, but not much need for entertainment with the Scenery outside. Main Shows Only went to 2, but the ones we went to were the usual standard for cruise liners. Disappointingly they seemed to be the same as over 14 months ago on the New Amsterdam. Piano Bar Well worth the visit (and in our case the hangover the next day!) HAL Cats Again proved much more entertaining than the Main show Future Cruise Representative not very helpful ( probably as like others in the crew had throat infection). Inventory for next year not yet available other than Holiday season. Neptune Longe Great service as always Tour Organiser Very well informed and gave great talks. Shame the tour desk was not of the same standard ( when open!) Public Restrooms Sad to say HAL are letting themselves down. Either not working or very Smelly! Ports, Scenery and Tours Tracey Arm Fjord - Fantastic Scenery, great to get to the front of the ship. Shame the ship was unable to go the full distance, but must have been a very cautious captain! Watch for the amazing blue ice floating by and glaciers. Juneau -- An amazing place, make sure to visit Mendenhall Glacier and the Whale watching trip. Did the combination tour through HAL. The Glacier was a slight let down, you don't get up and close, just seem from the distance. Would have liked more time to walk the trails. This was more than compensated for by the excellent crew who took us out to watch the whales and other marine life. Sitka -- Not much around port, more on offer for the sporting type. Very scenic though. Ketchikan -- Love the old style and History of this port. Did a tram bus tour arranged off ship and well worth it to get more of the history and background of the town. Victoria -- Did not get to see, please see my big whinge further down the report! Disembarkation We made a big mistake by not booking the Airport transfers earlier! They had sold all space available half way through the 7 days! This has never happened to us before, luckily 3rd party shuttle busses available at pier, but again as first cruise of the season this was a bit chaotic and had to wait around for about an hour. The general disembarkation for guest well organised an fast. Sorry to say they did not offer early morning of departure pick up of luggage for suite guests as in the past. Finally the Big Issue! -- Only if the Crew had been open and honest with the passengers this would not have escalated into a major issue for us and our fellow passangers! I have contacted HAL and are awaiting a response on the below, but this really has left us regretting paying deposits for 2 future cruises with HAL. Having left Ketchikan on the cruise for the final port of call in Victoria, we were followed out of dock by a NCL cruise ship. On arriving over 3 hours late in Victoria the NCL cruise ship had already docked next to us. On disembarking the ship we asked the passengers of the NCL cruise ship as to what time they arrived. NCL had docked on schedule at 6PM. During the journey on the Friday nothing had been communicated to the passengers by the ship's crew. There was noticeably no update from the captain during that day on the progress of the journey. On Saturday afternoon there was eventualy an update on the cruise from the captain, during which he mentioned that as the ship was running behind schedule and would arrive late in Victoria. He mentioned that all the tours in Victoria would be cancelled and credited to the room accounts. We note this was not mentioned until after the disembarkation brief and the customer surveys had been completed. No mention was made to the reason for the delay. To add to our suspicions we had found is strange that in the Morning that the tours desk had been closed and that the Neptune lounge were very vague when we tried to book an excursion in Victoria in the morning for that afternoon / evening. Eventually on disembarkation in Victoria, there was dangerous overcrowding in the stairwells leading to the gang way to shore, as most of the ships passengers attempted to leave the ship quickly to make the most of the 2 hours we had remaining in Victoria. Speculation was rife amongst the masses of passengers. The most common theory amongst others was that the ship had failed to take on enough fuel prior to departure. On questioning the crew about the delay at this time the only answer given was "Only the Master Knows". Many passengers were asking if the ship would still be leaving on time and were disappointed with a very blunt "Yes" response. Later on returning to the ship and asking other crew members for the reason for the delay we were told it was due to "Operational Reasons". It is also worth noting that the ship did finally dock early on its return to Seattle. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
First let me say that I did a lot of research on Alaska cruises prior to booking. My research included the individual cruise lines comparing pricing, accommodations, services and dining, as well as through sites like cruisecritic.com. We ... Read More
First let me say that I did a lot of research on Alaska cruises prior to booking. My research included the individual cruise lines comparing pricing, accommodations, services and dining, as well as through sites like cruisecritic.com. We ultimately booked through an independent agent through the Internet due to some booking incentives. After booking I started watching the blogs closely in anticipation to our cruise on the HAL Oosterdam leaving Seattle, WA on Sunday, May 13, 2012. We arrived a couple of days prior to the cruise and stayed in Seattle, arguably one of our favorite places in the US. We arrived at the port for embarkation early (about 10:30am) and met DW's sister and her DH. Porters were available everywhere and before we were able to put a foot on the ground one was there ready to take our bags. The awesome service had begun. We entered Terminal 91 and found it to be clean and very well marked. The brother-in-law had rented a powered scooter and it was ready and waiting for him when they arrived at the terminal (big plus). As we entered the terminal, it became clear that one hand didn't always know what the other hand was doing. We were ushered toward an elevator (because of the scooter) but my DW was in the bathroom. The nice man that had offered the elevator had stepped away and a not so pleasant woman, pointing toward the elevator said "GO OVER THERE". Mind you, I am just starting my long awaited vacation...RUDE was not what I was looking for. Just as I started to chime in, the nice man returned and got us on the elevator. Security screening was not horrible, but I did have too many carry-on's (not more than I could physically handle, but more than I wanted to handle) so I was getting a bit crabby standing in line that wasn't moving as quickly as I would have liked. As we reached the front of the line, we were ushered to a nice lady that had a total of 3 people standing behind her...helping her. Not only was she new, but they were learning a new booking system as well. She did the best she could with what she had to work with, and surprisingly enough, I let it roll off. We were inside the terminal with check-in completed and waiting to board by 11:10a Boarding began promptly at 11:30, and being in the front of the disabled line we were on board by 11:45. As we walked on, I asked if we could wait for our cabins in the Vista Dining Room - the response was "your cabins are ready". WOW! That has never happened on Carnival - we have always had to wait until at least 1pm. We were on and our vacation had begun. Now, all of the things that I had read in the blogs that I would like to comment on. CABINS: We booked a guaranteed SY category "Superior Suite". We were upgraded to an SS in cabin 8042. Upon entering the cabin we were definitely in love. Very large (for a cruise ship) bathroom with 2 sinks, tub with Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. There was lots of storage space, not only in the 4 closets but in drawers around. The sofa was a red leather color, but was very comfortable. I laid on it most every evening for movie night. There are 3 nice chairs and a footstool. The lighting could be better, especially in the entry hall. We had a slight problem with the in-room safe, but the staff came and took care of it. This cabin is shown as having a queen sized bed - we had a king. I had heard that the refrigerators were more like cooling boxes. I can tend to be very critical about things, but I must say, it worked much better than I expected. It was nice having it in the room. We brought on a 12-pack of soda and some bottled water and it was very drinkable. The veranda was spacious with 2 chairs and footstools, as well as a round table and 2 chairs. We were impressed by the cabin, and more so after looking at the other part of the family is 8027 veranda. It was quite a bit smaller and more cramped than ours. The upgrade was worth it for us. CREW: The reviews that I have read about the crew were pretty right on. The staff that we dealt with (excluding the front desk staff) were awesome and always willing to go the extra mile. Our room stewart ("Su") always had the room cleaned and turn down down while we were out. He tried once when we were on the balcony, and when we offered to vacate so he could work he apologized and said that he would come back. Awesome... The Vista Dining Room staff (Mafood and Gun) were great - could not have asked for better service. The front desk staff were not so great. I found it very difficult to communicate with them over the simplest of issues. Their English was not horrible, but the accent does tend to get in the way when you are frustrated and trying to deal with a problem. We had purchased a soda card ($25 for a $50 card) - it was a good deal, but it would not activate and I took it back. After about 10 minutes of explaining the problem about 4 times, she gave me a new card. I didn't look real close and we tried to use it at dinner and it didn't work because it had not been "activated", which is supposed to happen the 1st time you use it - it didn't. I took it back a 2nd time - frustration level climbing - only to find that they replaced the soda card with a $50 beverage card and charged me for both. After explaining the problem to someone else again...they were able to make it right, and charge all of our soda purchases that had not been covered on the card. FOOD: Let me start with our top pick. The Pinnacle Grill was amazing! It was definitely worth the additional money. We ate there once for dinner and once for lunch. Would highly recommend. The Vista Dining Room - as I said, the staff was excellent. I was really looking forward to the food after reading through the blogs and HAL's website. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the food was nothing special. The shrimp that they served had no taste, the steaks were less than prime and not very tasty. I could go on and on - but, it didn't ruin our cruise. If we had be left only to the Lido I would have jumped overboard - even in frigid waters. The only word to describe it is "gross". I had better food in boot camp. The oatmeal was paste, the scrambled eggs were powered, and everything I tried (outside of the hamburger, taco bar and the ice cream) didn't get finished. SHIP: I had heard differing comments about the condition of the ship. I found the ship to be very clean and in good condition. I did not notice the areas of disrepair that were mentioned - and I was looking for them. One thing that was not mentioned was the on-board photography. The sister-in-law found a package deal on HAL's website for $299 - all photo's taken on board included. We figured that we would look when we arrived and decide after that. Once on-board we found that the package had increased $50. If you like good photo's this is a good deal even at full price. We ended up with about 20 different seating's for photos, and came home with a ton of photo's. You can go to any of the places on ship where they are taking photos as much as you want, change cloths and go back if you like. If they are not busy, they will often do as much as you want, and as goofy as you like. DW took advantage of it and we go our monies worth. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
For a bit of context, my wife and I have been on 12 cruises and this was our first time with Holland. We have cruised with Princess and Royal and once each with Celebrity and Carnival. I think we have developed a pretty decent ... Read More
For a bit of context, my wife and I have been on 12 cruises and this was our first time with Holland. We have cruised with Princess and Royal and once each with Celebrity and Carnival. I think we have developed a pretty decent perspective on cruising over the years and before we cruised with HAL my perception was that HAL was likely a 3.5 star cruise experience compared to Carnival at 2.0 , Royal at 2.5, Princess at 3.0, Celebrity at 3.5 to 4.0 and the real high-enders at 5.0. I use Cruise Critic for 2 reasons: to gain insight into private excursion possibilities and to get familiar with the ship we are sailing on. In doing my research prior to our HAL cruise on the Oosterdam I saw a significant range within the reviews from readers on their cruise experience with this ship. I'm accustomed to seeing this -- where we have been very satisfied with the same cruise that other fellow passengers have been highly critical of. So with this being our first HAL cruise I was curious to see if the same would hold true. Having just returned from our first cruise to Alaska with HAL, I can report that our cruise was excellent, HAL and the Oosterdam were just fine, and I'm further convinced that there are people out there that just should not cruise. My perceived ranking of 3.5 for HAL would remain largely unchanged compared to the other lines and I would most certainly cruise with HAL again. As I had thought, HAL is a cruise offering that is more suited to mature adults, has a more refined culture about it, has a quieter atmosphere and delivers above average service and food quality. Based on the reviews and the passenger experience on our cruise, it had the same spectrum of people when it comes to outlook and attitude that I'm pretty sure you will find on every cruise. Quite simply, no matter what line you cruise with there are going to be people that apparently can't be pleased and are not happy unless they find something to complain about, there are those that choose to focus on the good versus the bad and are determined to enjoy the their holiday despite the small issues, and there are those that fall somewhere in the middle. My wife and I are of the opinion that there can be no such thing as a bad cruise holiday. Sure there are things that may not go right or as expected, but surely even a bad day on a cruise is still better than a good day off a cruise!! Surely there are more reasons than not to be happy and positive. Yet, it seems that some people are simply not happy unless they are whining or complaining or sending a message about how important they are relative to others. The absolute worst thing about cruising -- we have found -- is not the level of service or the food or the state of the ships furnishings, it's some other people on the cruise. Don't get me wrong, one of things we love about cruising is the people we meet and the ability to meet people, but the behaviour of too many people on cruises is appalling and reprehensible. For as nice and as well-raised as many of these people appear to be, they can be the most inconsiderate, rude and obnoxious people you could ever meet. They act as if they are above others and are entitled to act however they choose. We call them "cruise-spoilers" and while we largely try to ignore them, we have at times 'called them out' if their behaviour is bad enough to affect other people than just ourselves. Enough of that though. My wife and I had a great time and rather than ramble on with every detail of our cruise, I'll share what we felt were the pros and the cons of HAL and the Oosterdam that stood out to us from other ships and cruise lines. And since the pros far outweighed the cons and since it is always nicer to talk about good things, let's start with the pros. The Oosterdam is a very clean and well maintained ship. Staff and crew were always at work keeping her up to snuff. The decor in a couple of lounges seemed a little dated, but was certainly not out of line with the modern art deco style employed by some cruise lines. The overall theme is less flashy and more sophisticated with the use of rich woods, brass and darker colours. Very appealing. Holding just under 2000 passengers, the ship was a nice size providing ample privacy and a quieter atmosphere. This is not your cruise lines if you are looking for the noisy, partying atmosphere found on Carnival or even Royal. Suites were ample in size and very well laid out. Plenty of storage, large, well furnished verandahs and larger bathrooms that any other line we have been on. The Superior Verandah suites have a double door plus a separate window which makes the room seem open and airy. Food in the dining room was excellent. Each night offered at least 4 appetizers, 3 soups and 6 entrees. Lamb chops, shrimp cocktail, escargot, lobster tail and mahi, mahi were all there, and more. Quality and selection with HAL is only exceeded by Celebrity in our opinion. If there was one surprise, it was their Caesar salad which consistently arrived limp and saturated. Breakfast in the Lido Cafe was very good. Highlights included a waffle bar with various fruits and whip cream, an eggs benedict bar with 7 options to choose from and some of the best sticky cinnamon walnut buns I have had. Except for the crowds, breakfast was a treat. The Crow's Nest lounge at the front of the ship on the 10th floor is a very welcoming and comfortable area to spend free time, especially on an Alaskan cruise when the weather keeps you indoors on sea days. With plenty of room to relax, read or visit, the panoramic windows surrounding the lounge allow you to take in the spectacular views from 3 sides of the ship at once. With the library on one side of the lounge and the bar on the other, the Crow's Nest is a cross between Chapters and Cheers. We have not experienced a lounge or an atmosphere like it on any other ship. It also becomes a great happy hours spot from 4 to 5 and they have an outstanding guitarist/vocalist named Matt Murphy. He is perfectly suited to the Alaskan itinerary. A must see. By far the best bar beverage offering that we have had on a cruise in a long while. Excellent quality and quantity. Cocktails-of-the-day run $5.95, all other cocktails run $6.95 and beer runs from $4.75 for domestic to $4.25 for premium brands. Even better, from 4 to 5 every day in the Crow's Nest and the Ocean Bar they run a Happy Hour special where you get a second drink for an extra $1. Wow!! HAL does not overdo it on the 'hawking' side. It is very low key when it comes to pushing photography and anything else most cruise lines try to push onto you. Well done HAL. Disembarkation was very pleasant and relaxing. No gathering in lounges and waiting to be called. You are given a tag with your departure time and then you can start your day with a leisurely breakfast and wait in your stateroom or on a deck until your time arrives. Then you go to the gangway for an orderly departure. How civilized! There were only a few cons that stood out enough to be mentioned, but clearly not enough to spoil the cruise experience or turn us off of HAL. These included: Checking-in and getting onto the ship was the slowest we have experienced. Perhaps it was because this was the first Alaskan cruise of the season for HAL. They must be good at this though because it was the same at almost every port when you re-boarded the ship from shore. Slow line-ups and slow security. My-Time Dining. This was our first experiment with this option because HAL does not take many reservations upon booking for the early seating. Given that our daughter was with us and does not like to eat late, we figured we would give it a try. First two nights we waited in a line that never moved until we finally gave up and went up to the Lido Cafe. While they served some of the same food, the Lido dining experience obviously did not match the formal dining room experience that we really enjoy. We spoke with the dining room doorman and were able to get an early dining seating, and all was good from that point on. The Lido Buffet on sea days is very busy. Line-ups are slow and seating is hard to find, and is made even worse by inconsiderate passengers that choose to sit and visit long after they have finished eating. There is also a lot of space taken up with tables designed for 6 or 8 people when smaller tables for 2 or 4 would be more eficient. Photo's are more expensive than most other lines and while HAL offers some packages that include digital prints, they are not brave enough to offer digital only packages for either some or all of the pictures taken. Such a waste, such an opportunity on all cruise lines. Major CON with all cruises including HAL continues to be the passengers that should simply not cruise. These people take no notice of others, jump into lines wherever they choose, are rude and ungrateful to staff and act in general as if they are above all others. I say to these people, please stay home and allow appreciative cruisers the opportunity for an even better holiday. Alaska with HAL and the Oosterdam was a wonderful cruise. While it had never been a top priority or 'bucket list' holiday for me, it was a very unique cruise experience that I would highly recommend to anyone with a sense of adventure and enjoyment for life. The trick we have learned with cruising is that not all cruise lines and not all ships are made for all cruise passengers. Each has its own unique culture and character. The trick is to find the one that suits you and your style, and then make up your mind to enjoy your holiday. We will definitely cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We're a family of three, two adults and one 10 year old girl. This was our second cruise, the first being on The Disney Dream. We chose HAL for Alaska because they have permission to enter Glacier Bay and were recommended by a few ... Read More
We're a family of three, two adults and one 10 year old girl. This was our second cruise, the first being on The Disney Dream. We chose HAL for Alaska because they have permission to enter Glacier Bay and were recommended by a few trusted friends - people who've taken multiple cruises and know our family's preferences. It turns out the Oosterdam was a solid pick. Port Seattle's downtown area is perfectly situated right next to where the ships dock. We arrived in the evening, spent a day doing activities in Seattle, spent a second night at the hotel (We could see our ship come in from the Westin Seattle) and embarked the next day. If you have the time, here a few restaurant recommendations: Top Pot for Doughnuts, Pike Brewery for just about any meal, Belltown Pizza for casual late night dining and Oddfellows for lunch. We also enjoyed a meal and a Greek restaurant called Lola, not too far from The Westin. Embarkation The most pleasant embarkation to date! Port employees were genuinely friendly and helpful. Our photos were taken promptly and we were on our way to our room, which lo and behold was ready! This was a first. Cabin Loved it. Having read the editorial review, I worried we'd be cramped and lack storage. It was a non-issue. We felt we had as much living space as we did on The Dream and the overall design of the cabin was relaxing. Speaking of which, the beds were incredibly comfortable -- better than our bed at home and with nicer linens. I was also impressed with the bathroom. The spa line of toiletries had this great smell, the shower had excellent water pressure and the bath was a decent size. The balcony was also big enough to fit 2 chairs for an adult and a small child, so that worked out well for us. Note: Having cruised twice, I probably would not bother traveling without a verandah. Waking up to see a new landscape is priceless. We met our cabin steward (who did a great job, btw and made excellent towel animals) briefly then headed straight to the Lido for lunch. Food The Lido was a bit crowded on the first day, but we managed to find a seat by the large window and head over to the buffet. Compared to our other cruise, this food was just as good. I'd resigned myself to the idea that cruise food is not always going to be as good as what you'd get ashore, but HAL exceeded by expectations in many respects with the freshness of the produce, fruit and quality of the beef. I can't comment on the seafood as I don't eat it, but the other types of meat (including lamb) were all very tasty. The only thing I found disappointing was some turkey I had one day at lunch, but there was some really good ham that made up for it plus a lot of other things to choose from. There weren't a lot of ethnic choices - just an Asian station with mediocre sushi and the usual Americanized stir-fry dishes, but my husband enjoyed his stir-fry. Because there were so many other choices, I never even made it to the Asian station. So in terms of variety, I thought it was fine. Plus if you're observant, you will also notice they change up the salad selections every day, so if you like various whole grain salads with wheat berries and such, always take a pass by the salad station. Whales and Porpoises Saw quite a few throughout the cruise. If you spend a lot of time looking out the window, you're bound to see one and usually when there's on there are more. First you see the spouts, then you see the whales. Porpoises just kind of come out of nowhere and then start jumping alongside the ships. The three we saw did a little synchronized act alongside the ship. I think they like playing in the wake. Passengers I like babies and don't mind hearing them cry, but when kids get unruly it can be a stress for the parents therefore a ship full of babies can mean a ship full of harried parents. This was not the case on HAL. People seemed fairly mellow and happy. The crowd may have skewed a wee bit on the older side, but I find that a bonus as I tend to enjoy the company of people with more experience on this planet - especially healthy, happy, seasoned travelers. There were also happy young couples and plenty of middle aged parents with kids my daughter's age. It was a nice mix of people from different walks of life. I didn't feel that "I'm here to drop the kids off at the club and get toasted" vibe. Crew Having traveled only on a very large ship, it was nice being on a somewhat smaller ship and having access to the crew. I actually knew the cruise director's name and loved that he participated in game shows and ran trivia. His name was JT and while he was not the captain, he was kind of the voice (along with the captain) of the ship and seemed like someone you could trust to handle any problem that arose. The party planner and culinary host (Kirby) was delightful, the guy who led the tech classes was funny, the spa staff were always visible and friendly, and the captain was the best! He even participated in a culinary demonstration in which he made Dutch pancakes and answered questions about life as a captain. It was truly fascinating and if HAL offers that again, I recommend you go even if you don't have kids. By the end of the tour we felt like they were part of our family and it was kind of sad to leave. By the way, I realize how cheesy that sounds and I never thought I'd say that in a review, but the staff were just so warm and efficient and genuine. Which leads me to the dining room staff. We were supposed to be at a table of 8 but they gave us a table of 4 which meant the three of us weren't sharing a table with another family. It was actually kind of nice not having to make small talk every evening, but even better knowing we'd have the same waiter, Freddy, every night. He was kind to our daughter, remembered our preferences, and very professional at the same time. Okay, so that's enough about the great service. But let's get back to the food. Main dining room food was VERY good. We didn't go until the third night because we had our first dinner at Canaletto and second at Pinnacle, but the main dining room was a sideways step rather than a step down, in my opinion. Pinnacle was good and the steak at Pinnacle was a tiny bit better than the one I had on surf and turf night in the MDR, but the service on the upper level of the MDR was better and overall. That being said, I'd definitely have another evening at Pinnacle for the great steak and maybe a chance to try some other things. As for Canaletto, It was solid and we had excellent service. The food was good, but not quite in the same league as Disney's Palo. Then again, you have to pay extra for Palo. My chicken Marsala was tasty, but it was on par with Macaroni Grill (which I happen to like for casual dining, knowing full well it's not the utmost in cuisine). Okay, moving on. Whoops . Not moving on. Desserts! We loved the desserts on HAL. The cookies were okay, but not very imaginative. They had sugar, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. Maybe they could throw in a more imaginative cookie? I suggest big ginger cookies for HAL. Seems like they wouldn't be too difficult. The cakes were excellent - moist and in varied flavors and the other desserts were quite inventive. I also loved eating different takes on Baked Alaska every night. The chefs would make it with different flavors of Ben & Jerry's and different sauces each evening. Good thing we could order as many desserts as we wanted. The sundaes, cakes and tarts were all great. There was a cheesecake which I didn't care for because it tasted more like icebox cake than real New York cheesecake, but it wasn't terrible like the gelatinous mess I'd had on the other ship. They also had sugar free desserts such as pudding, Jell-O, some sort of apple thing and chocolate mousse. The breads were all good too, though the muffins were a little heavy and not really my style. The wine by the glass list was rather limited and the bottled wines were all marked up. I never thought I'd say this, but it might be work taking your own wine on board and paying whatever corkage fees they charge. That, or just order wine by the glass. If you do order a bottle of wine, they cork it when you're done and bring it out the next meal. That was kind of nice, as we don't typically drink a bottle of wine every night. Activities We loved going to the daily trivia game, culinary demos, craft session and game shows. Bingo was a lot of fun too and there were plenty of kids in attendance, which is always a riot. We only did one Bingo game because you have to pay for it, but next time I'll budget for more bingo. When there weren't activities going on, we either swam or read books and played games in the Explorations lounge (more on that later.) Entertainment The singers and dancers were fine, but they could use some new material to work with. We still enjoyed watching them. The magician, Leo Ward, was fantastic. Our daughter couldn't stop talking about him. The whole family also liked the comedian who was funny without being raunchy. I'll also add that we went to all the 10:00 shows. That's way past the usual kid bed time, but on a cruise it didn't seem to matter and there were other well-behaved kids in attendance. Kid's Area It was small and homey with lots of planned activities games and I believe, X-boxes. Kids came and went. It never seemed over-crowded, but there were always enough people for our daughter to play with. She only went twice in 7 days, but the Kid's Club staff remembered her and wrote her a personal goodbye letter on the last day. Oh, and they kids did a talent show one day! They got to perform in the Queen's Lounge on a real stage and everyone on the ship was invited (though not everyone came, thank goodness). The staff were so encouraging and supportive of the kids' talents. Again, that was just another advantage of a small kid's club. Not having a toddler, I didn't pay any attention to policies on toddlers, but I really didn't see a lot of them on board anyway. Pool Always a nice place to swim and never too crowded. Hanging out by the pool was fun because it always smelled like hamburgers. There were lots of comfy chairs and of course, a nice view out of the windows. Because we were in a cold climate, it was covered, though the top of the deck as a big skylight type thing that they can open during nice weather. Explorer's Lounge/Crow's Nest Filled with periodicals, books, a paperback exchange (I traded two new good books for two new good books), puzzles and games, this little coffee lounge was our favorite room. It had really comfortable chairs (3 or 4 were Eames) and sofas and you could always find a place to sit back and enjoy your book without being secluded or truly alone because the Explorer's Lounge connected with a much larger lounge called Crow's nest which had a big wall of windows. It was pretty much the living room of the ship - always busy, but never over-crowded or unpleasant. Casino I've been known to throw money in the slots from time to time, but this room didn't appeal to me. It was dark and smoky. We always walked through it really quickly. The casino host seemed really nice, though. If you don't mind the smoke and like games, it seems like a fun place to learn some gaming lessons. I just can't sit very long in a room full of smoke, but I'm probably not the casino's target audience anyway. I'm not sure we'll ever see non-smoking casinos, sadly. Overall Opinion Our first cruise set the bar pretty high. This one was a completely different experience which had a completely different bar set at that same level just in a different spot. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We arrived in Seattle a few days early to spend some time with my son who is in grad school in Portland and a dear family friend who also lives in Washington. We had lots of fun and the weather was great in Seattle before we left on our ... Read More
We arrived in Seattle a few days early to spend some time with my son who is in grad school in Portland and a dear family friend who also lives in Washington. We had lots of fun and the weather was great in Seattle before we left on our cruise. Our hotel dropped us off at the dock. Even though we ended up toting our baggage to the building, it wasn't a big deal. This was nothing like the last cruise I went on via Houston, Texas, where it was wall to wall people and cars and pandemonium. We quickly went through security and dropped off our bags. Very easy! Then walked to the window and got our key cards. We waited for about 45 minutes (there were no chairs available but fortunately I found an extra chair by a wine tasting sign up area with a young couple going on their honeymoon. I hope they had a great time!) I really needed a chair. My knees and legs got inflamed when we got to the airport in Seattle and thought the light rail was close by. Be prepared for a long walk dragging your heavy bags if you decide to use this mode of transportation. It really messed my legs up which gave me mobility issues during the entire cruise and trip. Our group was called and we quickly entered the ship. We found our stateroom (no luggage yet) and then went to the Mariner's Lunch. My sister and brother in law, our cruising companions, had cruised on Carnival and so that entitled them to the Mariner's Lunch. It was no problem for us to join them. It was a lovely lunch and after walking (or me limping) around the deck, we went back to our rooms and our luggage had arrived. We booked the VH category which came with a balcony. Since we had rooms side by side, our steward opened the divider between the balconies so we could enjoy the scenery together. The room was very clean and the view of Seattle was spectacular. We very much loved the balconies. We ate in the MDR for dinner and met our server, Freddie. He was a great server and treated us very well. The food was all very good for the most part. I only had a couple of meals that I didn't care for. For the most part, our group thought the desserts were not that spectacular. Since we were on CST, I changed us to the late dinner seating. That was a big mistake because we couldn't go to any 8 p.m. shows due to the 7:45 dinner seating (and you can't go to the MDR at 5:45, they won't allow you to eat during that time if you have the 7:45 set time). And by 10 p.m., we were too tired to stay up that late. We did go watch Leo the magician's show after reading so many good reviews on CC. We ate the second night (at sea) at the Italian restaurant. My lasagna was dried out and I couldn't eat it. BUT everyone else in our group thought the food was good. We had rough seas that night and so it took me a while to feel back to normal the next day at Glacier Bay. We did go to the Crow's Nest which I had read about on CC, but the first time we went was super crowded. Hubby and I went a second time, enjoyed a happy hour drink special and listened to the guitarist. I regret that we didn't get to see more shows but the time change was a killer for us. Alaska time is an extra HOUR added on so we were three hours off our regular time. We did go watch the Dutton Family (from Branson and Mesa, AZ) who made a special appearance for a cruise group that had organized. That was in the afternoon and we enjoyed watching the very talented family perform. We had terrific weather for the cruise -- only that one rough day. The crew was very welcoming and made each person feel special. We ate in the Lido from time to time. I loved the Asian station. I think those noodles were my favorite. It is kind of pandemonium there and we got tired of it so we ended up eating the rest of our dinners in the MDR. We ordered room service every morning so that we could have coffee in our room. I don't think I would ever go cruising again without that balcony. I LOVED whale watching, dolphin watching, site seeing - everything was so much better being able to have my own balcony. With my mobility issues, it was great that I didn't have to go find a window to look out. Our stateroom bed was FANTASTIC! It was nice not having to bring shampoo, conditioner and soap. There is a blow dryer and we did have a fridge in our room. But nothing else was in there like cotton swabs. We had no issues with any mysterious charges on our bill. The small couch in our room was very uncomfortable as was the worn chair. Definitely needs to be replaced. But the rest of the ship was fine. I didn't see any wear and tear that was super noticeable. All in all it was a great cruise and I have no issues with the ship at all or HAL. I think some folks who post here are super critical or maybe I am just easy to please and happy to be on vacation! I would highly recommend this cruise. The trip to Glacier Bay was the HIGHLIGHT of our cruise. The weather was spectacular and we watched the glaciers calve several times. Bald eagles were flying around it. This is what makes this particular cruise/cruise line so awesome to be able to be up close and personal with a huge glacier! My one caveat is that if you truly want to experience the real Alaska, you won't on this cruise due to the time limitations of the ports. Now for those who do float plane trips, (I don't do little planes!) maybe they have a different opinion. I'll give a port by port review but each ship docks right in the heart of tourist traps. Many of the shops are even owned by the cruise lines and all have the same stuff. I kept asking the local bus driver in Sitka where do the locals go for lunch. She just brushed it off that they don't eat out. My next trip there (if I can walk!) would probably be by plane and then with a car so I could really see and experience the real Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
As seasoned Holland America cruisers, we definitely expected better. Having gone to Alaska about 8 years prior, and taken the Oosterdam just 7 months ago (January 2011), we were sadly disappointed by the lack of maintenance in the ship, ... Read More
As seasoned Holland America cruisers, we definitely expected better. Having gone to Alaska about 8 years prior, and taken the Oosterdam just 7 months ago (January 2011), we were sadly disappointed by the lack of maintenance in the ship, and the lack of courtesy offered by the crew. We have been on 10 cruises before this one, 2 on Carnival, 1 on Norwegian, and the rest with Holland. We have grown to love Holland for the courtesy offered by the crew members, the general relaxed and slow-pace of most of the other cruisers, and the satisfaction we generally get from cruising on this line. Unfortunately, this was not a good example of the quality we have come to know and expect. Emabarkation was a breeze, as usual, there was hardly any waiting at all to get on the ship once you'd arrived at the pier. Day 1 was at sea, which was fine, we walked around the ship, visited the shops, ate, checked out the movie (which we'd already seen), etc, etc, etc. A typical day at sea. Day 2 was at Glacier Bay. I don't remember exactly what the bay looked like last time we came to Alaska, but I'm fairly certain it looked nothing like what we saw this time - dirt covered snow. I'm from Calgary, Canada, and well, it just wasn't exciting. It was almost like trying to build a snowman, and ending up with all that grass. (Example here: http://www.geekfill.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/e-vs-r-6.jpg) BUT we did see quite a few whales and some maybe seals/sealions. We were disappointed that the captain/cruise director didn't announce sightings of wildlife over the P.A. like the cruise director from our last trip to Alaska did.Day 3 was at Juneau. We didn't join any excursions as we'd already seen Mendenhall Glacier, and pretty much all the excursions went to Mendenhall Glacier. We did do some tourist shopping through the town, however, visiting the jewellery boutiques and the T-shirt factory. It was a fairly good day. Warm, fairly sunny. Day 4 was in Sitka. It was drizzly, but not too bad. We went around on our own again, as the excursions were either a repeat of our last trip or not suited to our interests. Sitka was a quaint little town, quite interesting, and we managed to walk by St. Micheal's Cathedral, as well as tour a Russian Museum, which we'd seen in the excursions. We also found a shop that sold Russian dolls (the kind that comes apart and has lots of 'babies,' which was fairly interesting. We also had to tender to port, but that wasn't a big deal, the system was fairly efficient and worked fairly well.Day 5 was in Ketchikan, which the crew members had nick-named Catch-it-if-you-can. We had to be back on ship by 12:30 in the afternoon. I would have liked to have a tad more time here, as we felt somewhat rushed, but we visited most of the places we wanted to. Day 6 was in Victoria. We were allowed off ship around 6 and had to be back on board around midnight. We decided to follow the Walk Victoria signs around to the Fisherman's Wharf, etc, as we'd already been here many times and had visited the Buchart Gardens, etc. on our own. The walk was good, and we noticed that many other people had decided to explore Victoria on their own as well. Day 7 was disembarkation. This went as it usually does. Nothing special. Except we found it odd that the Cruise Director didn't call out the colors for disembarkation. Usually, the times are listed and the colors are called, but this time it seems it was expected that you would get off at the appropriate time yourself, and there was only an announcement for the first people disembarking, and the last call. Not a big deal, but worth noting. All of the ports were ok. And if this review ended here, our cruise would have been pretty good. However...The snowballing of all the incidences which occurred left us wondering if Holland America as a line has truly deteriorated, or if it's only this ship and most of the crew members on it.1) We returned to our cabin one day to find someone working in the bathroom with both the bathroom door and the cabin door closed. If not for him flushing the toilet, we probably wouldn't have realized he was inside until we had to use the bathroom. We felt that this was unacceptable. 2) The cappuccino machine was broken - all through the trip. Not a huge issue, but when questioning our dining room stewards (Usman and Beng Beng - who were both fantastic) we found out that it was because Holland had decided to install new machines, but fail to provide the ship with adapters for the power source. This seemed a little ridiculous. 3) A toothbrush was misplaced. When we asked our cabin stewards to see if they could find it maybe accidentally grabbed with the towels or something, we were scoffed and told "We don't steal toothbrushes." We were not accusing them, and felt that being snickered at was both inappropriate and rude. Inquiries made to front desk were redirected with a "I'll ask them to look for it." Which was fine, BUT a second question "What if they don't find it?" was answered with "We have toothbrushes for sale in the shops." We found this answer to be unsatisfactory. 4) A 15" stuffed animal (with a gel pack inside) was taken. One of the members of our party is a young adult who is diagnosed with Autism. In order to sleep comfortably, she needs both her Lavender spray and her stuffed animal. At home, we could warm up the gel pack on cool nights, or for whatever reason, and basically, she has it every night (but leaves it in the cabin during the day). She distinctly recalls it being on the bed in the afternoon (day 3) after the beds were made, and gone when she looked for it at bedtime. Other members of our party remember seeing it the previous night, but not in the afternoon after the beds were made. Either way, when we realized it was lost, it was late, and so we tried to make due with more Lavender spray and reassuring words. We inquired with the cabin stewards the next morning. They replied that they would look for it. Then we thoroughly searched the entire cabin, but did not find it. We asked them the next day and the next if they had found it. All replies were negative. Finally, on Day 5 we went to the front desk and notified them of the missing item. They said that they would look for it, contacted the supervisor of our cabin stewards, and said they would let us know whether or not they found it. We received no calls, no messages, nothing. The next day, Day 6, we went to front desk again. No news. They suggested we complete a 'lost item' form. Needless to say, we didn't find it. All involved seemed apathetic and seemed to simply brush aside our frustrations with trained smiles and apologies. 5)The ship, in general, seems to be in disrepair. The seal on our bathroom door was falling off, the glass paneling at the ice cream station was cracked.... Before going on this cruise, we'd read reviews from previous travelers, and it seemed that this ship had gone downhill since April. Having just cruised in January, we doubted it, but were sadly mistaken. This ship has deteriorated, and if this was the first time we'd sailed with Holland, it would probably be the last. And 6) a minor, but still noteworthy point. The songs and dances (shows) that were presented each night were exactly the same as when we'd been on the ship in January. This was disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our first experience with Holland America and our second trip to Alaska. My wife and I have been on three other cruises, two with Princess and one with Carnival. I blame myself for the initial stress I experienced since I ... Read More
This was our first experience with Holland America and our second trip to Alaska. My wife and I have been on three other cruises, two with Princess and one with Carnival. I blame myself for the initial stress I experienced since I didn't realize my wife's passport had expired and I was concerned that a driver's license and birth certificate wouldn't be enough for her to fly and cruise with. After some phone calls and web research I was assured we would be fine since we were sailing round trip from Seattle but I couldn't relax until we were on the ship. As it turned out, everything went smooth as silk, even when entering Canada, and I was able to enjoy the trip. I booked my own plane tickets out of Detroit and opted out of the HA transfer to the pier hoping to save a little money. A little research after the fact showed that a cab ride was about six or eight bucks less and you had to handle your own bags at the pier. When we got to Seattle we went to the HA desk, bought transfers, handed them our luggage and got on the bus. Worked out just fine. Not only was it worth a few bucks more to forget about the bags until after we got on the boat, the HA people made sure you got to where you needed to be with minimal hassle. There was a HA and a Princess boat at the pier loading at the same time. There were a lot of people being moved through the pier but the lines moved quickly and efficiently and we were on the Oosterdam in no time. At 4pm we were on our way to Glacier Bay. The second day was a full day at sea. This was a great opportunity to get acquainted with the ship and research shore excursions since we didn't have an opportunity to do so before we left. Excursions were easily purchased at the excursions desk or at one of the automated touch screen kiosks around the ship. The Oosterdam is an attractive, nicely appointed vessel though, as others have commented, may be starting to show her age particularly along the waterline. The captain reminded us that the ship was due for dry-dock soon and I'm sure she'll be good as new in no time. The interior of the ship was very clean and well maintained. Being able to close the roof over the pool was a nice touch that kept the pool area usable the entire trip. They push the spa facilities pretty hard and the spa looked well equipped. We are not spa people so we never used it. My wife found it very handy to be able to use her "keycard" in the casino machines in addition to cash. Day three in Glacier Bay was as we remembered it from our last visit 15 years ago, spectacular! We had a beautiful sunny day and the mountain views and glaciers did not disappoint. Day four was another beautiful sunny day spent in Juneau. Like all the cities visited, downtown Juneau was the usual collection of shops selling overpriced jewelry and cheesy souvenirs. We purchased a shore excursion to go whale watching and visit Mendenhall Glacier. The whales were very active and put on a great show. Mendenhall Glacier was awesome though we wish we had a little more time there. Sitka was next. A drizzly, cloudy day but hey, it's Alaska. You've got to expect it. Weather never keeps things from happening though. The port doesn't accommodate cruise ships so we tendered to shore. A well organized, relatively quick process. Weather cleared nicely by the time we got to shore but Sitka was a bit of a disappointment for us. We didn't buy a shore excursion and the city attractions were mostly cultural and centered around a church in the middle of town, Zzzzzzz. Other than that was the usual souvenir shops selling the same stuff every other city has. We highly recommend a shore excursion here. I'm sure we would have benefited from one. Day six was spent in Ketchikan. Once again the weather cleared as we exited the ship. We remembered Ketchikan as a good place to see the salmon running but I guess we were a little too early in the season this time and there wasn't much to see in the way of fish this time around. There were four cruise ships docked so the city was really busy. We took in the lumberjack show which was quite entertaining. We had to be back on the boat by 12:30p in order to make Victoria, BC by the next day. Wouldn't have minded a little more time in Ketchikan though. Victoria was a little odd. Travelling at full steam from Ketchikan we didn't get to Victoria until 7pm the next day. Then it was all aboard by 11:30pm. Victoria was a big modern city and was worthy of a little more time to explore. The short amount of time spent there almost felt like an afterthought. I'm sure the schedule is based on port availability as there are many cruise ships making this run this time of year. There was almost always another ship visible from ours while at sea and every port but Sitka had at least three cruise ships at their docks. Still, it was a very pretty city and I would like to go back and stay a while some time. Between the flat rate, pre-billed tipping and the smooth, well organized disembarkation in Seattle, Holland America made the end of the trip easier to deal with than any previous cruise we had been on. When I was researching cruise lines one of the standout complaints about Holland America was the poor food quality. Unfortunately, I would have to agree. One of the standout memories from our two Princess cruises was the incredible food. Large portions and very high quality. We never felt that way with the meals on the Oosterdam. Although we never walked away from the main dining room hungry, we also never found ourselves saying, "that was a great meal!" Any of the meats served were tough and grizzly and didn't seem to be of very high quality. Perhaps the better cuts of meat were saved for the other, added cost, reservation only restaurants. Appetizers were bland and forgettable. Soups and salads were just OK. I'm not saying the food was bad, it just wasn't great. I wont even bother commenting on the buffet. Certainly nothing special but how special should a buffet be? It served its purpose as a handy, reliable source of tolerable sustenance. Price was the main decision maker in giving Holland America a try. Although we thoroughly enjoyed the trip we are going to think twice next time based strictly on the uninspiring food. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We decided on a family cruise to Alaska since it also give us a chance to visit relatives in Seattle. Based on experience with HA a number of years ago we picked them. Although we waited to get to the ship so that we would not wait in ... Read More
We decided on a family cruise to Alaska since it also give us a chance to visit relatives in Seattle. Based on experience with HA a number of years ago we picked them. Although we waited to get to the ship so that we would not wait in line, we still waited over 30 minutes to board the ship since baggage scanning equipment kept breaking down. Since we were in a deluxe suite, we were supposed to get priority boarding but that did not happen. The suite was great with plenty of room inside and out and the steward was totally helpful. There was plenty of storage space for 3 people including the wine and water we brought on-board. HA has great policy compared to most other lines since they allow unlimited quantities of wine. We bought mostly Washington state wines from wine tasting trip 2 days before the cruise. We paid the corkage when we had the wine at dinner. A good deal for all parties. Generally we had breakfast in the room but went to the Lido a few times since they had smoked salmon which was not on the room service menu. We alternated between the Lido and Vista for lunch. Although other reviewers were critical of the Lido, I generally found a good variety and the food was tasty. The Vista experience was less satisfying for lunch and dinner. For lunch the main courses and even the hamburgers were not tasty. Only one of the three dinners in the Vista was really good and it was the first night. We opted for the Pinnacle Grill 3 times and twice it was excellent and really a great meal. the third night was their special Le Cirque night where they have a special menu and a higher cover charge. The quality was poorer and certainly not worth the extra $$$. Skip it! The worse meal of the cruise was at Canelleto which is separate area off the Lido. The pasta was overcooked and the veal dish was like breaded cutlet. In addition to the food there was a noisy large group at the table next to us. The management refused to ask them to be lower the volume but was willing to move us. Upon seeing that happen, I got the impression that they raised the volume to compensate for the distance. DO NOT TRY THEIR FOOD. The Entertainment was ok and was a poor Las Vegas act. A couple of the food demonstrations were fine and gave us some recipes to try. The Casino was small and low key except for one issue. A family member was winning a reasonable amount of money at Blackjack and they asked her to leave the casino for a short break. The fitness center was small and the first few days it was crowded and you had to wait for access to the equipment even at 630 in the morning. By the end of the week, it was almost empty. The Spa was fine but it books up early. The excursions at several ports were interesting. In Juneau, I booked the tours directly with the tour company. It was about 25% cheaper than the ship price for the small tour. We also booked a few excursions on the ship and these were fine except that the excursion department booked one of the events twice at different times and called early in the morning(6 am) to see why we were not at the meeting point. We found our tickets and they said 8 am on them. Finally DO NOT go on an Alaska cruise that does not stop at Glacier Bay. It was the highlight of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Oosterdam Alaska from Seattle Review- July 17-24th 2011 This was a wonderful and relaxing trip. DH, 50; DD,16; and I, 49; had been on the Oosterdam to the Mexican Riviera a few years before and it was fun to notice a few changes but ... Read More
Oosterdam Alaska from Seattle Review- July 17-24th 2011 This was a wonderful and relaxing trip. DH, 50; DD,16; and I, 49; had been on the Oosterdam to the Mexican Riviera a few years before and it was fun to notice a few changes but was easy to feel at home. The noticeable change was the library/coffee/ internet area area was now in the crow's nest. I thought that was great. I am not a good writer and I will not get the ship terms correct but I have always flaked on doing a review so this time I'm doing one! We stayed At the Arctic Club Doubletree Seattle for three nights before embarkation. It was a very nice hotel but a bit pricey. The ship: This is the only time I have been on a ship twice and it was great to feel at home right away. I thought the ship was in great condition and was very clean. My husband noticed some more wear and tear and felt it wasn't kept as clean as last time. Our suite was kept immaculate though there was some grout in bathroom that had some mold in a few places - no big deal. Our room stewards did an excellent job keeping everything spotless. They told us they had 30 rooms. Wow. I did call for housekeeping service the first day when our rooms with sofa bed (couldn't use sofa) were still not made up by 11am, after that they came the minute we left our room. I thought the ship was well arranged and easy to get around. It was very easy to avoid smoking areas. Just made sure to take floor 3 to the showroom. This ship felt empty the whole week and we had bars and the promenade to ourselves many times. The Lido never had lines of more than 2 or 3 people - maybe we ate at odd hours??? Our Suite: we had room 7151 SB aft suite on the Rotterdam deck. It is definitely a little smaller than the SA's but the amazing deck was worth it. The deck was rather gritty but was swept about 5 days in. We had such nice weather this week, we were out there a lot. Being on the back of the ship the cool wind was blocked and it was quite cozy out there. People could look down on us if we were out by the railing. It was fun talking to those above and below us. I loved it so much! I expected some shuddering or vibration but there was none. The bed was perfect, bedding amazing. They give you 6 pillows of every variety, hubby likes medium, I like soft...perfect. We slept really well. Our 16 yr. old DD, said the sofa was very comfortable. The storage space is more than anyone could need. A solid wall of closets in the room and more closets in the changing area. The fridge was full of sodas and water but we still placed some of our items in there as well. We left valuables such as cameras, laptops and never felt they needed to be locked up. The safe works well with a four digit combo, we kept wallets and passports in there. We brought wipes and wiped down everything down first day and then knew the room was very clean. It stayed that way. The Flat screen TV blocks part of the desk and can't be moved but no big deal, just a weird placement. This room is VERY quiet since it is at the very end of a hallway - loved this. Also loved the daily laundry service. We used it every day, including embarkation (we had been travelling for a week already). Only the dry cleaning took 2 days (DH's tux and my formal outfit). Embarkation Seattle: We arrived by vehicle at 10:30am. It was a bit rainy. DH dropped DD and I off while he went to park the car. It was very difficult to find a porter. We finally got smart and sent DD to front of Bldg. to grab a porter. That worked and we finally got rid of our 6 bags (gave $10 tip). We waited out front on a bench for DH. He parked off sight and it took maybe 20 minutes for him to make it back. Suite check-in went very quickly. They basically just gave us our keys and sent us on our way. No info on where to go next or about Mariner lunch...oh well. We were group one which was supposed to embark at 11:30. There seemed to be some confusion on how we were to line up but finally about 11:45 we were going aboard! The Restaurants- We ate at the Canaletto, The Pinnacle Grill, LIDO, and MDR. The Canaletto - We made reservations thru the Neptune lounge right when we got on the ship. This has no additional cost. We ate there our first night. We had three servers and felt quite spoiled. Started with a delicious antipasto platter that they serve you from. I asked for one of everything and it was delicious. We had salad, minestrone, seafood soup, pasta and meatballs, veal scaloppini, linguini frutti de mar, and dessert of trio of tiramisu. We all enjoyed our meals tremendously. It was very empty, no idea where all the passengers were but we loved the great service, and food. My daughter LOVED the surprise (I won't ruin it for you) we received right before dessert; it brought big smiles to everyone's faces! A great experience and wonderful views as well. MDR - We enjoyed our meals here over 95% of the time. We had anytime dining! We did the embarkation lunch - they did not ask for an invitation (I asked at check in and they said I did not need one. I noticed that they did not announce that the MDR was available and we were not told about it at check in even though we are mariners. This was also empty with only 20 or so tables. Very nice lunch! The 4 dinners we ate here were very good. Twice we made reservations, twice just showed up with no waiting. We ate by ourselves once and with a group of three the other times. We were matched up with wonderful families each time and enjoyed them tremendously. My only food mishaps were extremely salty fish at the Mariners lunch and the Chile Rellenno sp? the last night (not spicy had a basic tomato sauce I wanted salsa!). Ahhh, the Master Chef's dinner; I had planned to skip this after reading about it but somehow we ended up there that night (Fri). As we introduced ourselves to our tablemates, I started looking for my napkin and thought maybe it had slipped from my lap, others at our table also doing the same. Then, the music started up and dancing servers twirling napkins arrived. Next, the Salad dance (actually pretty amusing) then later, a dessert dance. Everyone at our table decided to go with it and had a great time. I can imagine it could get a little old for frequent cruisers but for one night, pretty fun. We found our MDR experiences to be great. Of course it was nothing like the caliber of the Pinnacle Grill. Pinnacle Grill: We never had breakfast here...sorry. Heard it was great though! We ate here twice. The idea was that we would eat once by ourselves and once with our daughter. She ended eating with us both times! We had wonderful service. Our first time we were seated with a view of the atrium/stairs, the second time with a fabulous secluded table with a sea view. We commented on our better table and our server mentioned that the view tables go to those that asked. We just got lucky since I didn't think to ask for a view table! We loved every bite of what we had: (1st time)Tableside Caesar salads ( asked for extra anchovy - yum), shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, a lobster mousse palate refresher, lobster bisque, lamb chops, rib eye steaks cooked perfectly, sides - creamed spinach, onions, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, crème brulee, choc. SoufflE and cinnamon ice cream. We also had a bread basket, three kinds of butter and we brought our own wine ($18 corkage) and our glasses were kept filled. (2nd time) Better table. Besides what we had above, a few changes: Surf and Turf - cooked perfectly and huge prawns! And Chocolate lava cake and crème brulee trio for dessert. Another perfect meal - no complaints. LIDO - I loved the layout but then it seemed the ship was empty and never any big lines! We had breakfast here or Neptune lounge every day. I loved the eggs benedict station. They had it 5 different ways but I always asked for the regular way. It is made in front of you but only takes a minute - delicious. The fresh squeezed OJ was fantastic. Danishes, especially chocolate croissant -yum. I had a few omelets which are also made your way and only had one person in front of me each time. DD loved the waffles. DH loved fresh fruit and breakfast parfaits. Rarely had lunch but tried the pizza - just so-so but DD liked it. Salad bar good too! Usually made my lunch out of hordervous in Neptune lounge. Neptune Lounge: Love this perk. Never had to stand in long line at front desk. We made reservations, changed luggage tags, checked onboard account with concierge. Had Cappuccino daily - love that machine! It was a lonnnggg walk from our room or probably would have used it even more. They had fresh fruit, Danishes, parfaits in the morning and really yummy hordervous afternoon and evening. Sometimes hordervous would run out and they did not seem to be in a hurry to replace them. They also had water and juices all day. This is forward on Rotterdam deck. There are no views from here, so no point in hanging around! They do have a selection of magazines and internet here as well. The Gym - Enjoyed the gym. DH did all 3 spin classes thought they were good. Teen Program - DD loved the teen program and spent lots of time there. Back to the room at midnight each night. There were 90 teens on the ship. Maybe 30 used the teen program a lot. Others occasionally dropped by. They had one young woman on staff there. The Shows: We didn't participate in many of the activities - our balcony was way too awesome, but we did the 10pm show most nights. I enjoyed the dance shows quite a bit, but they aren't a Vegas caliber show but lots of fun just the same. By far my favorite was "Garage Band". The comic, Mike Robinson was an excellent ventriloquist and lots of fun. The best show was the Illusionist, Leo Ward. He was hilariously funny and the Illusions were excellent. Do not miss this show! Danced to Tina Lou and the Halcats once and had tons of fun, thought they sounded great. Also peeked in on the game show, the Liars Club. It was so funny. Wish I had gone to more game shows after seeing that! The Captain: I was very impressed with Captain Arjen Van Der Loo! He was so dynamic, funny and interesting to listen to. He spoke for a good twenty minutes at the first show and was very amusing. At the Mariner brunch, he also spoke quite a while. He told us lots of info on the Oosterdam. She will go into dry-dock (new carpets, cleaning, internal stuff) after Alaska itinerary in Victoria BC and then try a new itinerary to Hawaii /and old itinerary to Mexico. Later to New Zealand... Great guy! He also did a good job keeping us informed of the tragic event of our missing 20 year old passenger. He was not found. The Ports: Glacier Bay: I know, not a port but one of the most awesome days! DD and I did a 12 person cooking class at 11am ($29 fee) and I was worried about missing some sights but it turned out fine. This class was an awesome experience. Chef Pablo was wonderful and the food we cooked was terrific. Loved the apron we got to keep. We also got recipe cards. Wine included as well. A fun two hours. After the class, rushed out to sightsee. The fog and clouds were just lifting. It took another two hours, about 3pm for the first glaciers. The best glacier sightings were around 5pm - the Marjorie glacier where we stopped and turned for about an hour. It calved 3 times! Lots of cracking and beautiful sunshine. This was a sight I will never forget. Worth the price of the cruise all by itself! As we left, two whales made their appearance. Just fabulous. Juneau: No excursions planned so we took our time getting off the ship. We walked to the State Capitol building and took the free tour. This turned out to be wonderful. The young woman who gave the tour was very knowledgeable about all things Alaska and gave a very interesting tour. Next, DH and DD decided to do the 2 ½ mile hike up Mt Roberts while I took the Tram. Of course, even after a trip back to the ship, I beat them to the top and hiked some of the gorgeous trails at the top. It was sunny, warm, and I got some awesome pictures! We met up for lunch (tasty, not too expensive, but very slow service). DH says the trail is very muddy steep and treacherous. No way would they hike back down! Luckily, having lunch gave them a free pass to ride the $27 tram back down. Loved the long day here. We had more time so we took the shuttle ($8) to Mendenhall Glacier. Very nice visitor Center (another $3) and nice viewpoints for pictures. We weren't as close as to Marjorie Glacier but a great excursion. We also stopped by the Salmon run which was by the shuttle stop. Lots of bear warning signs there but no bears. Walked thru town. Terrific post office with cards and gifts as well. Sitka: We slept in and waited for the early tours to tender. By the time we got to the tenders (no need for suite guests to get a tender ticket) we got right on and were walking in town 15 minutes later. I loved this stop. This town is so cute and easy to get around. Another gorgeous sunny day. We decided to walk to the raptor center. On the way, we stopped at the Bishops House (Forest Service attraction free for 1st floor). This is a short worthwhile stop. Probably a good mile or more to the Raptor Center. Stopped at National Cemetery on the way. The Raptor Center is a very special place. Make sure you see the talk with the Eagle. The cost was $12. You get very close to lots of Bald Eagles. Next, we went across the street to the back entrance to the Totem Park. Beautiful in there. We hiked thru and headed back along the shore to town. Time for some souvenir shopping...Plenty of shops in town. Finished our day with an Alaskan Beer at a cafe near the tender stop. Another fabulous special day. Ketchikan: Had to be up very early for this port! Wish we were here longer. We did excursions here. DD and DH did a zip line which ended with a slide. They seemed to like it but weren't raving about it. I did Eagle Island Kayak. I loved it. Once again, we were very fortunate and the sun came out. Due to wind, the kayaking was a bit challenging but really fun. It was my first time kayaking and I can't wait to go again. Yes, we saw Eagles! No other wildlife though. Very nice place for an excursion and terrific guides. They also do Mt Biking and have a zip line there as well. We had to be back on the ship at 12:30pm so I had no time to check out the town...darn! Victoria: I definitely want to come back here someday (added to my Bucket list). I don't do crowds well, so we skipped the excursions. We arrived late into port. Think we finally got let off around 8pm and had to be back by 11:30. We paid the $8.50 for the shuttle into town waited with the crowds to get on a bus and made it to downtown. Next time we would just walk - it's not that far if you walk straight thru a neighborhood to downtown. Well, the town is really beautiful. There was some kind of fair going on and it was fun seeing the entertainment and the sights. We visited a cute Gelato shop- yum. Just walked around then back to the ship. Watched a seal feeding on small fish right by the ship, very cool. Later talked to many people who said the Fireworks and scenery at Buttchart were the best ever. BUT, the crowds fighting to leave afterwards was awful... I was pleasantly surprised by the prices in the ports. Postcards 20cents each, reasonable T-shirts, candy...of course plenty of very expensive items as well. No such thing as inexpensive crab by the way. More reasonable at Costco! Debarkation: Seattle Smooth and easy. A nice warm and sunny day. Whew! I can't say enough about Holland America. I am in my 40's but consider it a great fit. I love the elegance, the truly amazing service, the warmth of the staff, the ship ... all of it. This was an awesome cruise and I would recommend it to anyone. One very sad part, After Ketchikan we started hearing announcements for someone to contact front desk right away. After a couple of these announcements, the Captain made an announcement about a missing 20 year old young man and to please look at his picture and keep an eye out. At Debarkation he was still missing. I felt so bad for his family. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Another great cruise on HAL, been on the Oosterdam several times and will be back on board in December for Hawaii...the ship, as many have stated here, does show some signs of wear, but give me a break folks, ships are used 24/7 by ... Read More
Another great cruise on HAL, been on the Oosterdam several times and will be back on board in December for Hawaii...the ship, as many have stated here, does show some signs of wear, but give me a break folks, ships are used 24/7 by thousands of passengers and just like your favorite hotels, they get refurbished periodically...last time for "O" was in 2009 and it will be done again this year, the last week in September. A few specifics...embarkation was a breeze as usual...have your boarding pass and passport in hand...grab your room key from the friendly shore staff and viola...you on the ship very fast!!! After more than forty cruises on different lines, HAL is our favorite, the food and service are always good...don't miss eating in the Pinnacle Grill at least once, it's well worth the extra money and do try Canaletto too!!! Our cabin and the stewards were fine as usual and for relaxation, we do highly recommend the thermal suite and spa, no better way to prepare for dinner. I feel that I must mention the Master of Oosterdam, Captain Van der loo, with whom we have sailed previously...he is first of all a gentleman, but also a very responsible professional that has a funny side that makes him very well liked by both the his passengers and his crew. Some captains are very aloof and out of touch with the passengers, but not this guy!!! Also, cruise director J T Watters on this voyage is probably one of the best and most fun CD's that we have had in a long time...he works extremely well with Captain Van der loo to enhance the whole cruise experience. Looking forward to Hawaii in December after the refurbishment in drydock!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was a great trip overall the port selection is perfect & everyone should go on this venture - just maybe with another cruiseline. Glacier Bay Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan & and very brief stop in Victoria. Oosterdam was just OK ... Read More
This was a great trip overall the port selection is perfect & everyone should go on this venture - just maybe with another cruiseline. Glacier Bay Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan & and very brief stop in Victoria. Oosterdam was just OK - Checkin and departure - very very fast and organized. Food service and dining a major let down - so we ate off ship a good amount of the time. The rooms (5139) was very nice and a good size for two people, both closets are good size and we are over packers. First the good things clean, gym huge, walking desks and outdoor time perfect. Pool choices & lounges are many and fun & there was not the "saved" lounges we see so much - plenty of space. Casino was fun as well. So off to the bad & I am not one that spends lots of time on the dining but this just never worked for us. We had the open seating which was either full or changed for that night, we tried the extra fee "grill" and it was 1 hour to get salads started and 3 hours to finish dinner - got our $20.00 per person refunded, the buffet never seemed to be in full service - one area here and there were open (could have been our timing) but only two hot entrees at 7:30 to pick from - a bit weird. Enjoyed the Canneloni (sp?) reservation but no $$ dining very small and enjoyable. The shopping was terrible on board including the art shows (I guess I just love Princess & how they organize this) The gym and spa was very nice & they ran some great specials all days - wait until day 3 to book the spa - better deals.Arrived in Seattle a day early to explore (very fun) stayed at the Marriott Waterfront AAA rates were $205.00 - very easy for getting around the city (pikes market 5 min, space needle 30 min walk) and also a $7.00 shuttle to the ship which is out on Pier 91 - nice treat again.Overall we will do this again within 2 years just will move back to Princess or NCL. Do not miss this experience in Alaska Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Our family had the opportunity to cruise on the Oosterdam out of Seattle for a large family outing. In total there were ten of us, including four kids. The ages of the kids were 17, 14 and two 12 year old boys. Two of our party were ... Read More
Our family had the opportunity to cruise on the Oosterdam out of Seattle for a large family outing. In total there were ten of us, including four kids. The ages of the kids were 17, 14 and two 12 year old boys. Two of our party were frequent HAL cruisers, my family had cruised Disney and RCCL (this was our 4th cruise) and one family had never cruised before. We sailed June 12-19, 2011. The ship made calls in Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. We enjoyed the ports tremendously. Sitka was a tender port, so be prepared if you are not on a ship excursion you will need tickets to get off the ship. Pre-Cruise. Needless to say we were excited that our adventure was about to begin. We had waited over 18 months for this trip which was a celebration of a 50th wedding anniversary. We flew into Seattle the day prior and had an opportunity to check out Pike Market and stop at the original Starbuck's as well as enjoy some great seafood. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel on 6th and Pike. The hotel was very nice with a pool on the 35th floor where you can see the sound and ships sailing by. The two families with children took the light rail from Sea-Tac and it was only $16 (three adults and one 12 & under) per family, a real bargain. Two of the family stayed with a family friend and would join us at the port the next day. We traveled with all carry ons, and had only one checked bag (a rolling garment bag). The light rail was easy to manage, and well-marked. We would have taken the light rail back at the end of the cruise, but a van had already been booked for the return trip. Our hotel was only two blocks from the last station on the light rail and we did not find it a problem to walk with our luggage. As we could not get a good flight on the Sunday of disembarkation we spent one more night in Seattle and this time stayed at the Monaco- our room had a goldfish to keep us company. It was also a nice hotel, right downtown. Now knowing how easy the light rail is I might consider staying out by the airport and taking the rail downtown to enjoy the day next time. If you enjoy fresh flowers in your stateroom you should make it a point to stop at the Market before boarding. The steward's will find you a vase and you can get lovely arrangements for as little as $5 to $10. We did this, and we enjoyed our fresh flowers for the entire week. We took a van from the hotel to Pier 91 for $10 per person. We booked the van for 10:00 through the hotel (no free shuttles) and he was right on time. We were at the Pier in about 15-20 minutes. Check in was a breeze, very easy. Our carry on bags were dropped at security and we proceeded upstairs to get our keys and wait for boarding. We boarded promptly at 11:30 and were excited to get started. Our two Mariners arrived at the pier shortly after we boarded and enjoyed their lunch in the dining room while the rest of us went to the lido. The staff served the food at the lido for the first 48 hours to help prevent Noro. This slowed moving through the Lido, but I am all for this precaution so that we could hopefully avoid the illness. After lunch we explored the ship and some went swimming. Of course we went to the sail-away to wave good-bye to Seattle! HAL now has rooms ready at 11:30, which is great if you are getting on the ship- but I think it puts a great stress on the staff. Our room was ready, and just as we had wanted by one room that was to have split beds for a brother and sister was made up as a queen bed (that took until 9:30 PM to get solved) and one room that was to be a queen bed was split. Our staterooms were on the main deck, just forward of mid-ships, with the adults in outside rooms and the children in insides across the hall. The insides were a great value, they were larger and had more storage than the adults rooms. They also had the advantage of being dark, and allowed the kids to sleep much better than their parents. I would have been very happy with the interior that they had. Please note on all Seattle itineraries, you will be sailing up to Alaska in the northern Pacific. Be prepared if you are prone to motion sickness at all. No one in our party of 10 became sea sick on our first day out, but plenty of people were ill. We were sailing in 10-12 foot seas. The worst we had of it was looking like we had too many Alaskan beers as we walked down the hall. The medical staff will give you free sea-sick pills if you need them. We enjoyed the ship, but as noted by others it is worn and in need of the upcoming dry-dock. A plus for HAL is fresh flowers in all of the public rooms and free popcorn at the movies. A downside, the pools and the hot tubs closed up early in comparison to other lines we have sailed on. This is a problem when you have young people looking for something to do and enjoy using the pools. Also the hot tubs are extremely small, two person tubs at the aft-pool. We really enjoyed the Crow's Nest located forward (not aft as a previous poster noted). It is on Deck 10 and only the forward elevators will get you right up into the area. It is an easy walk on the 10th deck outside however if you find yourself in the aft by mistake. From the Crow's Nest we watched whales almost every evening, and even saw Dahl Porpoises. We always had great attention from the bar staff, and when they would see us in other bars knew immediately what we usually ordered. Glacier Bay was the main reason we booked this cruise and it did not disappoint! We spent the entire day out on decks. It was a cool day for the folks from the southern part of the US, with the high temps that day no better than the low 50s but we were comfortable in turtle necks, fleeces and vests. I did wear a hat, but never did put on my mittens that I had brought. There were plenty of blankets for those who desired them. We were extremely lucky and did not have rain at all. The teens were spilt on the teen club. Never saw the 17 year old when we were on board, and the 14 year old did some of the activities. The 12 year old boys were extremely disappointed as they put 8-12 together and there were way too many 8 year olds for the 12 year olds. As one 12 year old was an experienced cruiser whom almost always has to be pulled out of the clubs he was disappointed. This led to large groups of 12 year old boys roaming the ship looking for something to do in the evenings (as the pools were closed). On RCCL the 12 and 13 year olds were grouped in the "teen" area, but with different activities. My 12 year old did do the Junior Ranger program on board because I encouraged him to do it, but that was the last time he participated in organized activities in the club. With over 200 kids 17 and under on board there was plenty of life on the ship. Overall, the service on the ship by the stewards and MDR staff was hit or miss. This was a disappointment to the two frequent HAL cruisers who also agreed that for some reason the service was not what they were used to. There were many new contracts on the ship, our room steward had just boarded that day. If there were many new in the dining room and kitchen this may have caused some of the issues in the MDR. Service was much slower than we have normally experienced. Not sure if that was due to us being a table of 10, or our request to be at a table of 10 which put us on the first level of the dining room with open seating. Food was fine, although the one major meat eater of the bunch was disappointed in the selection of beef (although he understood it would be heavy in seafood, he just didn't expect quite that much). The Lido is not set up as nice as either the Voyager or the Radiance of RCCL (think of a cafeteria and not a food court), and the selections not as nice either but it was adequate for a buffet. Soda needed to be ordered from the bar staff instead of walking up to the drink area and buying it there. The kids enjoyed the ice cream and pizza. Our family enjoyed the entertainment offered to varying degrees. The magician was very fun, and later in the week he offered a second show designed to give you a more up close view of magic. The singers and dancers put on nice shows as well. One night there was an adults only comedian and she was just ok, but what I found interesting was the number of people who seemed to be offended by her humor, even though they were told it was adults only. Karaoke was offered several nights and we enjoyed watching the other passengers perform as well. The night club "Northern Lights" never seemed to have anyone in it. The scenery was the best entertainment as we often spent the evenings watching the world go by as the sun didn't set until 10 or so. In the ports our family group of 10 each did our own thing. We booked and independent whale watching tour in Juneau with Dolphin Tours, while one family booked through HAL. Both had good experiences. In Sitka everyone did the town on their own, shopping, visiting museums and the national park. Ketchikan was the only port where we all did an excursion through HAL, the "Deadliest Catch" Bering Sea Fisherman's Tour. Yes, we were not in the Bering Sea but this tour was very informative on the fishing industry in Alaska, and if you are a fan of the show they candidly answer questions about the show as well. All agreed it was well worth it. For Victoria only two booked a tour, and that was to the Butchart Gardens which they enjoyed tremendously. The others took a bus for $7.50 per person downtown where we enjoyed street performers and walked around the inner harbor stopping by the Empress Hotel to visit the Tea Room and the gardens. We were back on the ship by 9:00 to finish our packing. Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. We chose to carry our own luggage off and we were off and through customs in no time at all. If we would do Alaska again and wanted to do Glacier Bay we would sail HAL again and perhaps choose one of their smaller ships. It is interesting even in our own group people differed on how busy the ship seemed. Those of us used to RCCL thought the lounges and shows were fun and that there was plenty to do if you wanted to without it being too much, the kids were looking for more to do (except the 17 year old!), and others thought the ship was "a bit of a party ship" and a little too big for their taste. We love to cruise, and pick the itinerary over the ship. The ports on our cruise were just what we were looking for. It would have been nice to have had more time in Ketchikan, but because of the time it took to get back to Seattle it was only a half day port on this journey and our tour that morning was three hours, giving us just about an hour to do a quick walk around. We hope someday to return to Alaska and maybe be able to do a land and sea tour. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Bckground: We originally decided to do an Alaskan cruise when Disney announced they were heading to Vancouver. Then had to change our direction a bit after researching and realizing that Glacier Bay was going to be a must for our trip and ... Read More
Bckground: We originally decided to do an Alaskan cruise when Disney announced they were heading to Vancouver. Then had to change our direction a bit after researching and realizing that Glacier Bay was going to be a must for our trip and as Disney wasn't authorized, we had to look elsewhere. We also wanted a R/T itinerary and preferred Seattle for airfare budget purposes. Our options were NCL, Princess, and HAL. After mind numbing amts of research and review reading, we ended up choosing HAL. We booked our trip over a year in advance. We were also travelling with my sister in law (37) and my inlaws (upper 50's). As our only other cruise was Disney, it is my only point of comparison. Pros: 1) Embarkation/Debarkation were both fast and efficient. Thanks to CC I knew in advance to sign up for luggage direct, wonderful and worth every penny.Advantage HAL 2) Crows Nest and Explorations Cafe: Beautiful views, yummy coffee drinks, great games, books, magazines, and enjoyed Gaither on guitar. Advantage HAL 3) Our inside cabin: We thought it was very roomy and storage was amazing. We even had a pack n play set up the whole time. Our last cruise we had an ocean view and I was regretting the inside view choice until we got on board. I have never slept in such wonderful darkness. Our daughter turned 2 on board and she too slept great the entire trip, including her usual naps. 4) Service: We had a great room steward, Rio, all smiles, always handy if we needed anything, always called us by name. Our dining room server Djucko and wine steward Joseph were also good. Christian the assistant dining room manager was wonderful as well, we always saw him doing anything that was required to help in the dining areas. I have no idea when any of these people sleep, I'm pretty sure they don't. Also, noone bothered us to buy things, if we wanted a drink they were there if not they were gone. Advantage HAL 5) Laundry service: Another tip from CC. For $49, our entire cabin sent our laundry out and it was always delivered within 24hrs (although they say 48), clean and pressed. This is most helpful with children. 6) Leo Ward the illusionist: This was the only show we went to in the evening. From 11-59, we were entertained. Lots of laughs and "how'd he do that" Although I did not attend the show on Saturday afternoon, my 11 year old came back with several tricks and jokes, big thumbs up. 7) Adiago Strings: Usually playing after we came out from dinner, just delightful music, our 2 year old always wanted to swing by for a bit, no pun intended. 8) Glacier Bay and Ports: All were amazing, none disappointed. 9) Covered swimming pool that children can use: this is one of the reasons we chose the Oosterdam. This was a big hit with our son, although I thought it seemed closed alot without any communication as to why or how long. But overall, big plus! 10) Fellow cruisers: Although we really didn't meet anyone, this was a nice crowd with what seemed like alot of big groups (families, reunions, etc) travelling together. I never saw anyone out of hand or making a scene. People seemed pleasant and laid back overall. Advantage HAL 11) Cleanliness: This is big. I never went into a dirty bathroom or saw a bit of trash. Tables were cleaned quickly in public areas. I actually like the staff serving in the Lido the first 48hrs, it got much messier once the guests got involved:) 12) DVD lending library: Free and great choices 13) The beds, linens, and robes: super comfy, dreaded coming back to my own bed and pillows. 14) Drinks: Well mixed and reasonable prices, no more expensive then your local Applebee's or TGI Fridays Disappointments: 1) The Food: Overall, I would give it a C+. This was a huge disappointment for us. It wasn't terrible, just very mediocre. The Lido reminded us of a cafeteria, not so much a buffet, (a buffet with amazing views though). Is there really a request for Hungarian Goulash? We love food and food is a big part of our vacation. I was expecting amazing seafood considering this was an Alaskan cruise. What I had, 3 times (trying to give it a chance) were 3 different fish entrees, all very dry and very fishy tasting. Beef was mediocre as well. We ate at Pinnacle once, and I would say it was worth the charge but I wouldn't say it was amazing. It def did not compare, in our opinion, to Palo on the Disney Wonder. We ate 5 dinners in the MDR and really enjoyed the staff and the view from our table, but the food was the least impressive thing about the dining experience. Small things like serving cold food on cold plates, I do not want my entree salad in a warm bowl with warm lettuce and tomatoes, nor do I want ice cream in a warm dish. Shrimp or seafood cocktail was also warm a few times. 2) Kids club: Very small, space wise. Not alot of overly creative themes, topics. I know this is not a line known for catering to children but I also know they are trying to broaden the demographic they serve ($199 3rd and 4th passengers) so I think there is room for improvement in this area. Our boat had 200 children on board and I think there were 6 counselors, 2 for each age group. Our son went a few times and had fun when he went but he also often forgot it was even there. 3) The ship: I know she is heading to dry dock soon and I would say the timing is right. Just a bit worn out. Overall, inside and out, no comparison to the beauty of the Disney boats. 4) Movies: Great little theater but Kenny Chesney is the movie you show on our day at sea? I have nothing against him at all, but our group was really disappointed as we were really wanting to catch a big budget thriller or family comedy or something that day. 5) Fitness Center and it's equipment were pretty worn out So, 13 Pros and 5 whiny cons. This was an amazing trip and we had a great time. This cruise is all about the destination anyway. I think for future cruises we'd like to try some of the other fish in the sea, we'd def go back to HAL if they expand/improve their dining options and children's activities/options. We certainly loved the staff and clientele. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Oosterdam ReviewAlaska, May 21st - 29th, 2011BackgroundWhile this was my 14th cruise, this was my first time sailing aboard Holland America (HAL). Previous cruises have been on Royal Caribbean (6), Disney (3), NCL (2), Princess (1), and ... Read More
Oosterdam ReviewAlaska, May 21st - 29th, 2011BackgroundWhile this was my 14th cruise, this was my first time sailing aboard Holland America (HAL). Previous cruises have been on Royal Caribbean (6), Disney (3), NCL (2), Princess (1), and Carnival (1). My most recent cruises have been on Disney in January of this year aboard the Wonder, the Magic the previous year, and NCL Norwegian Dawn in 2009. To further allow you to gauge this review, I will tell you that I am a college professor just shy of 40, and was travelling with my wife, son (4), brother—who has cruised with HAL twice previously, and mother.I will admit that I was excited to try HAL based on what I've read on Cruise Critic and because of interviews I've listened to from HAL personnel (e.g., captains, cruise directors, etc.) stating that HAL was a "five star" line. While I enjoyed the cruise, I personally did not feel that HAL delivered anything above and beyond what the lines I've sailed have delivered. That said, I did enjoy my cruise and will second what many others have said; the Oosterdam cruise is extremely friendly, always saying hello and going out of their way to engage guests in conversation. However, I felt that the crew on Disney was equally friendly.I was hoping to fall in love with HAL and make them my "new" cruise line of choice looking for something that was the next step up without the extreme costs of the premium lines. While this unfortunately did not happen, I will not count HAL out in the future. They provided a good product for the amount paid, had nice cabin accommodations, and have competitive third person rates. And as of yesterday, our next scheduled cruise will be aboard the Maasdam in May 2012 from Montreal to Boston for the Canada/New England itinerary. My wife liked the itinerary in a mailing we received from HAL, even though she isn't particularly fond of cruising overall.The remainder of this review will read as a daily travelogue. However, due to its length, I do provide a general overview at the end after the day-by-day travelogue for those who are not interested in this level of detail. As always, remember that these are just my opinions of this particular cruise given my age, expectations, background, previous cruises, etc. So please just take it as that and don't attack the messenger should you disagree with my opinions as they are just that . . . opinions!Saturday, 05/21/11, Pre-CruiseToday began with my mother and brother meeting at my house at approximately 7:45 a.m. so that we could take our dogs to my in-laws for the week. We then returned to my house to load the SUV with the luggage hoping that it would all fit and eliminate the need to take two cars to the airport. With some creative packing, we were able to fit our entire luggage in the cargo area and the five of us were off to the airport.Fortunately, Saturday is not a busy travel day at the San Diego Airport, so parking the car offsite and shuttling to the airport was uneventful other than the schlepping of luggage. Once at the airport, we quickly checked our bags and quickly made it through airport security. With the family settled, I went back out through security, got us breakfast and allowed my son to play before the flight.While we had a direct flight on Southwest Airlines, it was not a nonstop flight. That's Southwest language for a landing and takeoff mid-route without having to get off the plane. Thus, our air route took us from San Diego to Oakland and then from Oakland to Seattle. My son opted to sit with my mother and brother, so we had a peaceful first flight and he fell asleep during the second flight which made it that much more quite.Upon arrive at SeaTac, we collected our bags and called for a limo from the public information phones. In less than 10 minutes, we were met by STILA limo (actually a Tahoe in this case), loaded our bags, and were off to downtown all for $45. I highly recommend simply calling for a limo/town car when arriving at SeaTac rather than taking a taxi as the fare is about the same and you don't have to worry about paying for stopped traffic should there be any as the prices are fixed.Our precruise stay had us at the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. The hotel was quite nice and we got an excellent rate through Hotels.com that included parking (not needed), internet (not used), and breakfast (enjoyable). It appeared that the hotel had been recently refurbished, but was a bit modern for my liking (e.g., frosted class bathroom doors that only offered pseudo privacy). The only down sides were that bell service was extremely slow—half hour wait—and avoided on Sunday morning and they needed more elevators at peak times. Also, there are no waiting cabs, so you will need to have the front desk call one for you.Sunday, 05/22/11 - EmbarkationI awoke early in anticipation of boarding the Oosterdam. I also discovered that I didn't have enough shaving cream, so I ended up heading down to the local downtown grocery store to buy some, and then to Starbucks for coffee. Then after a little walk for some early morning exercise, I returned to the hotel to have breakfast with my family in the hotel restaurant as it was provided in our room rate. Breakfast was good (breads, cereals, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, juice, etc.) and met our needs.While eating breakfast, my son asked if I had brought his goggles for the pool, which I hadn't, so we ended up going down to the CVS a couple of blocks away to buy some. After the short detour, we returned to our hotel, called for bell service, but were unwilling to wait a half hour. Thus, we hauled our own bags to the lobby, checked out, asked the front desk to call us two cabs, and went to the curb to wait.Because there were five of us, one cab wasn't large enough for our group given the amount of luggage that we had. Thus, we opted for two cabs, which was still cheaper than a town car. Fares ran $12 for my mother and brother and $13 for us as there is a surcharge when there are more than two passengers. I'd estimate that Pier 91 was approximately 10 minutes from downtown and given that it was Sunday traffic was light.Entering Pier 91 was easy and I was actually surprised that we didn't have to show ID or our cruise documents as we always have had to in the past. Once we were dropped off, we waited for porter service, but they were all going to the private vehicle drop-off areas rather than to the taxi drop-off areas; thus, we had to haul our own bags into the terminal as there is no bag drop outside for already tagged bags. Since the signage is inadequate, be advised that you have to enter the terminal, walk past the lines heading upstairs to check-in, drop off your checked bags, and then return to the check-in lines. Also, keep in mind that HAL checks everyone in on the right side of the terminal, while Princess uses the left side.Because we had a stroller and my mom has mild mobility issues, we were able to bypass the first floor lines and use the elevator. Once in line upstairs, everyone was asked to have their cruise documents and passports available for viewing before entering the x-ray and metal detector screening area. This was also the first time while passing through ship security that I had to remove my laptop from my carryon bag. While this is common at airports, I've never had to do this before while boarding a ship and didn't know I had to since there were no signs or people stating as much. Thus, if you have a laptop, remove it from your carryon luggage for x-ray screening.Check-in was fairly efficient although we later found out otherwise when we discovered that my brother did not receive his invitation for the Mariner's Lunch and that they banded my son with the wrong muster station number. Even though we arrived early, just before 11:00 a.m., we still received Boarding Number 5. We also received a letter discussing that some of the crew had been ill and that additional hygiene measures were being taken. I really think the letter was simply meant to forewarn of Code Orange during the first 48 hours of the cruise, which is a nuisance but makes a lot of sense in reality.By 11:30 a.m., they began boarding the ship. Unfortunately, the gangway had broken so everyone had to take stairs back down to port level and then board via a ramp leading to Deck 1. This also meant taking the elevator once again, but this time we had to be escorted by a port employee as we had already passed through the security screening.We immediately went to our cabins: a Category SY for my immediately family (6069) and a Category D (1033) for my mom and brother. The SY was a nice configuration with the best bathroom I have had in all of my cruises. However, for some reason the cabin didn't feel as big as it was in terms of square footage. I'm guessing this had something to do with the size of the bathroom and that it was more square than rectangular. Even so, it was plenty of room for the three of us, and didn't even feel crowded when all five of us were gathered there for Glacier Bay. In addition, it was nice having a wider hallway in the cabin than that which is in the standard cabins.Once all of our bags were in our rooms, we headed to the main dining room for lunch as my brother is a past passenger. Unfortunately, we were met by a very rude dining room manager who insisted that my brother needed an invitation. When I asked why, he couldn't answer other than stating that the luncheon was for past passengers. When I finally pressed and asked which level of Mariner one had to be to have lunch there, the dining room manager said it was for 4 Star Mariners only, which I found highly unlikely. My brother later complained to guest relations and they stated that he should have never been turned away, and that he should have received an invitation. Further, the in-room documentation for the Mariner Society states that an embarkation lunch is one of the benefits of all Mariners, not just 2, 3, or 4 star ones. The Assistant Guest Relations Manager, Mila, handled this superbly, sending both of us an apology note, chocolates, and providing us with lunch in the Pinnacle, which later turned into dinner due to a variety of other issues that occurred throughout the week.Denied lunch in the main dining room, we headed to the Lido, which was total chaos. While I understand why HAL implements Code Orange, it doesn't work well in the Lido. Further, it was inconsistent and in some places they kept the serving utensils accessible to guests, so they ended up serving themselves anyway. And if HAL was truly concerned about hygiene, one would think they'd at least enforce hand sanitizer usage. In my last four cruises (Disney and NCL), one couldn't even enter the buffet or the dining room without sanitizing his or her hands, yet on HAL there was no such enforcement.Once we had our food, finding a seat was another challenge. Staffing was poor, the few tables that became available were not bussed quickly, and when the dirty dishes were removed and the tables cleaned, utensils and napkins were rarely left on the tables. However, it was nice to finally have a place to sit and to eat, even if the food was mediocre at best and some of the dishes that might have been good and/or worth trying weren't worth the wait in line. While I don't recall what I had, the only thing that stood out was the peanut butter cookies. My wife raved about them and she's not actually a fan of peanut butter cookies; unfortunately, they were available all too infrequently which was a major disappointment.My son was eager to try out the pool, so we returned to our cabin as we had packed our swimsuits in our carryon luggage and I wanted to get the swim in before the muster drill. As was common throughout the week, we were the only ones in the pool, which was cool although not cold. This was also only one of two days that the roof was open, the other being the last day of the cruise. As we played, several passengers, many of whom were passing by on a ship's tour, stopped to ask me if the water was heated. We also were able to enjoy the music of the HAL Cats as they played poolside today.The muster drill was rather quick and this is the first time on a cruise that attendance had not been taken. While I like the fact that life vests are not needed anymore, my wife still believes that should be worn so that people know how to wear them. I did have some concern, however, because we were assigned Muster Station 7, although my son's bracelet had the number 5 on it. When we asked one of the crew, they said it was fine and I assumed that perhaps they "shared" bracelets. That is, children in assigned to stations 1 and 3, receive a 3, those in 5 and 7 receive a 5, and so on. Logically, this made sense to me as the stations were adjacent to one another and would be a time saving strategy in an emergency. We later discovered, however, that there were bracelets for each station and that my son had been given the wrong bracelet at check-in, which I think is a gross oversight and something that should have been known and verified by the muster personnel. I will say that the guest relations staff were not too pleased when they discovered this.During the muster drill, it was also announced that Lifeboat 14 was left in Seattle for repair, but the passengers were assured that there were enough lifeboats for everyone and that those assigned to Station 14 should not worry. While I do believe this, I'm not sure how confident I'd be if I showed up to a muster station only to discover that my lifeboat was not hanging overhead.Upon returning to our cabin, we discovered that our checked luggage had arrived and we were pleased that it was placed inside the room rather than in the hallway as has occurred on previous cruises. We did discover that we needed more hangers, and although I called and asked for them, they never arrived, so I had to then ask our cabin steward. We also requested a child's robe, which took a couple of days to receive, and a child's life vest that didn't arrive until day 5 of the cruise even though it was requested several times. It wasn't until I finally raised a concern with Guest Relations that we received the child life vest and even then it took an additional day before it arrived.While I realize that there are plenty of life vests onboard and at the muster stations, I still wanted a life vest in the cabin. I was also troubled that it took asking multiple times and that no action was taken on the issue even though multiple crew were asked. The matter was only resolved when my brother spoke to Guest Services, and then it still took a day for the life vest to arrive.Upon returning to the cabin after the muster drill, we called to order my son a movie, but were told that there was a 1 hour wait; instead, we opted to pick up the movie at Guest Services. As an aside, HAL advertised a movie snack pack that seems like a pretty good deal for $10. It includes four sodas or bottles of water, two bags of popcorn, mixed nuts, and a choice of candy bars.After picking up the movie from Guest Services, we headed to an advertised wine sampling. Unlike wine tastings, there was a $2 charge per glass and the choices were limited to a few house wines. Unfortunately, the event started late and the bar server was new, so it took way too long; otherwise, it was a good value. I also liked that they served the nuts small glass bottles that you needed to pour from so that you knew the nuts hadn't been touched by others.Dinner tonight was in Canaletto, which we had reserved through the telephone concierge upon reaching our cabin. We were seated promptly at a nice table for 8 that had bench seating on one side and chairs on the other. My wife, son, and I were seated on the bench and were fortunate enough to have a clear view to the windows, so we were able to enjoy the view through dinner as we sailed out of Puget Sound.Overall, Canaletto was our best overall dinner onboard in terms of consistency across all courses, level of service, taste, etc. While there were excellent items in the Pinnacle and the main dining room, the quality varied from course to course as did the service from night to night. If we had it to do over again, we would have eaten at Canaletto at least one more night.Dinner started with a selection from an antipasto tray that is brought to the table, which was excellent. We also found the soups to be good, including a seafood soup that I didn't think I'd be fond of. The cod dish that my wife had was excellent, and probably the best piece of fish we had during the entire cruise. I opted for the chicken marsala, which was very good. My brother had the pasta with vodka sauce, which he said was good to very good, and seemed to enjoy very much. Dessert at the table consisted of the tiramisu sampling and the gelato, both of which were excellent. I also found the coffee to be the better here than in the main dining room for some reason.While our dinner was excellent, we later discovered that we had missed out on Alaskan king crab legs in the main dining room and were told, when I asked, that that was the only night they were served. While we were disappointed by this, we had plans to eat at Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau, so we had that to look forward to.We spent the evening exploring the ship while my son played with grandma. The night included exploring the shops, liquor tasting, attending a raffle at the shops, and attending the production show. The show itself was very good and the seats were very comfortable. I was also impressed with the staging, and the small size of the cruise director's staff, which was excellent by the way. The only downside of the theater was that there were several seats that had poor sight lines.While I expected the cigarette smoke to be bad from the Cruise Critic postings on the HAL board, I wasn't particularly bothered by it even though I am sensitive to cigarette smoke. However, I could smell it in the corridors when passing a room where smoking was occurring as all stateroom doors had vents on them like you might find in laundry rooms.Reflecting on the first day and what I had read on Cruise Critic, I felt that the ship was dark overall. Many of the corridors did not have windows and the overall dark color scheme of the interior made it feel darker. I also wasn't a fan of the carpeting choices. In addition, there was some noticeable wear and tear, although I expected it given that the Oosterdam is scheduled for dry dock at the end of the Alaska season. Examples included the window frame of my mother and brother's cabin showing serious rust, and a shower curtain that was too short in our SY cabin that the door frame of the bath room's door was nearly rusted through as a result of continuous water exposure.Staff was friendly overall, with the exception of my brother being turned away at the Mariner's lunch. However, this was later rectified by Guest Services, who provided us with free meals at the Pinnacle.Monday, 05/23/11 - At SeaToday, it was obvious that we were in open waters as we could feel the motion of the ship once we had left the channel. Once we had rounded Vancouver Island in the early morning, the motion started.The first of perhaps two announcements today occurred at 9 a.m., which actually woke us. Upon waking, we ordered room service for a light breakfast, which took about 35-40 minutes to arrive. We then reviewed the daily program to see what activities we might be interested in attending today. We really liked the layout of the daily program as it was easy to follow and included a nice tear-off section, although I would have preferred an insert as to keep the program intact. My wife particularly liked the daily program after Disney as she thought their daily program was like the "TV guide from hell" with various grids outlining family activities, activities by age level, etc.Lunch today was in the main dining room with the entire family. Service was fairly efficient and we were seated quickly even though there was a line when we arrived. Overall, food and service was good, but not great. For example, the waiter forgot to bring the soup I ordered and the fries served with my burger were cold. Fortunately, the burger itself was very good and the cold pear soup was excellent. My wife had the teriyaki salmon, which was fair at best, while my son had the mac and cheese that was very good. I finished lunch with a blueberry sundae and a cappuccino which were good, while my wife opted for peanut butter cookies form the lido afterwards.We did note that the dining room on HAL was very similar to that of Disney. The only difference was that as you entered and exited the dining room, there were a bunch of parked electric scooters and walkers lining the wall rather than strollers.Like most afternoons, this one was spent in the pool, which was seriously underutilized on this cruise by others, making it a more enjoyable experience than on Disney as there was never a crowd. Fortunately, the dome was closed today, making it a bit warmer than yesterday. However, the movement of the ship was very noticeable in the pool with serious wave action as the pool sloshed back and forth.Prior to dinner, we had our photos taken in the main atrium. We then headed to dinner. Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the Captain's Gala menu and this might have been a better night for Canaletto. That said, there were some good items. At the table, we had Carpaccio (poor), seafood cake (good), beef wellington (good), mushroom risotto (good) and the always available steak (very good). The standout dish tonight, surprisingly, was the sweet and sour shrimp, which was excellent. The tempura shrimp alone make this the dish to order. Desserts were good to fair overall. The chocolate trio I ordered was not as described on the menu and was fair at best. My wife order a custom made sundae using the toppings from the baked Alaska, which she enjoyed. My brother had the always available fruit crisp with ice cream, which he stated was good to very good. The standout dessert, which my son ordered, was the watermelon sorbet pie with chocolate seeds. I wish I had taken a picture of it as it was very creative and actually looked like a wedge of watermelon. While I personally thought it was good as I had to try a sample, I wouldn't have order it again; however, my son wanted it nearly every night even though it wasn't available.After dinner, we attended the production show. I also liked the fact that the Captain's reception was held in the theater and drinks were handed out as you entered. This seemed more convenient and less chaotic than those on other cruises were it took place in the atrium. Overall, the show was fair, although the staging was excellent and included the use of hydraulic lifts, turntables, etc. The big turnoff for me, though, was a song/dance number that included a mock suicide, which caused us to leave the show early as I didn't want my son exposed to such imagery at his age.After the production show, we returned to the cabin where my son watched a ship-provided DVD while we watched some recorded TV programs brought from home. My son really enjoyed his movie as I stopped by the screening room and grabbed some popcorn on our way back to the cabin.We finished the night by enjoying our pillow chocolates—the best we've had on a ship—and turning our clocks back 1 hour. We also completed and hung the breakfast order form for the next morning.Tuesday, 05/24/11 - Glacier BayRoom service breakfast arrived today halfway through the selected time window. Unlike other cruise lines, however, there was no call prior to delivery, only a knock on the door. While I did tip, the server seemed quite surprised and I seriously believed that a tip was not expected. The order was nearly correct; however, I did not receive the hot chocolate I ordered although I did receive the carafe of hot water for it.We left the room for a little more than two hours this morning and were surprised to return to the cabin only to find that it had not been cleaned. This was problematic as we were expecting to host my brother and mother in the cabin while we cruised Glacier Bay. As a result, we had to call for service twice as we needed the extra bed turned back into a couch. While I would have attempted it myself, there was a sign stating otherwise and to call.We stopped briefly at the lido, but there were no seats available. As a result, we ended up taking the few items that we selected back to the cabin. My wife also visited the taco bar, but thought it was poorly laid out and not restocked timely. We supplemented the lido with room service and as expected, there was a 10 minute wait on hold and an hour wait for food. When the food arrived, it was good, not great, and not particularly hot.Having been on an Alaska cruise before, Glacier Bay was about what we expected and it was nice having a large balcony and a cabin to retreat to for warmth. In addition, this was my brother and mother's first time to Alaska, and they really enjoyed the scenery and long sail into and out of Glacier Bay. And although I was concerned about having a cabin on the starboard side based on what I had read on Cruise Critic, we actually ended up spending more time facing the glacier than the port side, which was good as my son fell asleep before we reached the glacier. Fortunately, though, he woke before we left and was able to see it and watch if calve. He just couldn't understand why we couldn't go ice skating on it—after all, it's made of ice—or why we couldn't stop along the shore to play in the snow.This afternoon, we received a plate of chocolates from Guest Services for being turned away at the Mariner's lunch and because of another minor issue. While we chose not to complain, the Guest Services person saw our reservation was linked with my brother's, so she sent a note and the chocolates as a result. Nice touch!Tonight's dinner menu wasn't very appealing, so we ended up in the lido for dinner. Food was okay and it would have been nice to have beverage service. In addition, my mother was told that they were out of some of the entrEes they had on display. Further, service was nearly nonexistent. I really expected more service in the lido based on experience on other cruise lines.The main show tonight was okay. The performer was an impressionist that was on one of the reality TV competition shows. What really surprised me, however, was his appeal at the end of the show to make comments on the guest survey. While I've come to expect this from the cabin steward, dining room team, etc., I've never seen a performer make such an appeal.After the production show, we attended the Love and Marriage game show, which was hilarious. We particularly liked the cruise director's personality and his ability to poke fun at the cruise line and its reputation for attracting seasoned adults.Wednesday, 05/25/11 - JuneauWe started the morning with room service breakfast as usual and as expected delivery occurred in the middle of the selected half hour time window. Today, however, the kitchen/server forgot to include spoons for our three bowls of cereal. Fortunately, we had the spoon from my coffee; otherwise, we would have been out of luck.Having been to Juneau before, we opted to take one of the blue shuttles to Mendenhall Glacier. Although we were planning on being on the first bus, our timing was a bit off so we headed out to the glacier on the second bus. Upon arrival, we headed to the view point and came across my mother, which was a nice surprise as we didn't expect to see her until lunch as she and my brother were on a HAL "Juneau Highlights" tour that they later reported liking.After visiting the view point and taking pictures of the lake and the glacier, we decided to head to the waterfall, approximately a ¾ mile walk each way according to the signage. Along the way, we were able to see pieces of the glacier that either came ashore or were pulled ashore by others. The only downside was that my son "ran out of energy" as he says on the way back, so I ended up carrying for about ½ a mile back to the bus.After spending about two hours at Mendenhall, we caught the bus back to the ship as we were meeting my brother and mother at the dock for lunch. Meeting up with them at Tracy's Crab Shack, I was excited to try the crab legs based on reviews and their menu online. Unfortunately, their prices were significantly higher than online, so we ate lightly and still spent just over $100 sharing three sample plates (1 crab leg, 2 mini crab cakes, and crab bisque).Overall, I felt that while Tracy's Crab Shack was good, it wasn't anything special and I would have been just as happy buying King Crab legs at Costco and cooking them myself. The legs were no more impressive nor better tasting. And the price, while very reasonable based on the menu that was posted online, was about one-third higher than I expected. That said, the crab bisque was amazing, so I would recommend trying it. It was fabulous, meeting, and the best bisque I have ever had; all four adults at the table were in agreement with this.Having split three meals across five people, we reboarded the ship to supplement our lunch and to regroup. We then headed to the tram up to Mt. Roberts. To expedite the trip up, we used the self-serve kiosk to buy our tickets; unfortunately, there was no definition of "child" on the kiosk or on the signage at the ticket desk, so I ended up buying a ticket for my son that I later discovered wasn't needed as children under six do not require their own ticket.The views from Mt. Roberts are fabulous and being able to see the rehabilitated eagle up there is a treat. However, our true purpose was for my son to experience snow and we weren't disappointed. Less than 50 yards from the main building at the top of the tram, we came across a trail that was completely covered in snow, giving my son ample opportunity to play.For those wishing to hike, there are hiking sticks as you exit the building, which we missed the first time. Although we didn't go far, we heard from others that the trails were very slippery, muddy, and snow covered. At one point, we saw someone nearly hip deep in the snow even at the end of May.As far as my son was concerned, the trip up to the mountain was a success and we were able to build a snowman, have a snowball fight, and the like over about a two hour period while my wife shopped for a large portion of the time. While she didn't buy anything, she thought the shop had a good selection and some nicer, higher end items that weren't available in town. And although my son wished for more snow to play in, this was the one and only opportunity he had to do so.Upon returning to the dock, we shopped a little bit before returning to the ship empty handed as we couldn't find anything that interested us. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the cabin and likely taking my son swimming, although I don't recall precisely. We were also excited as tonight was our night to try the Pinnacle Grill.After dropping my son off with my mother, we headed to the Pinnacle for dinner. Upon checking in, the host asked us where our little one was, which was a nice touch. When we told him it would just be the two of us, he showed us to a nice booth next to the window, which allowed us to watch the coastline as we sailed away during dinner. What I wasn't prepared for was to see that the dress code was not enforced and some dinners were wearing shorts while others were wearing t-shirts.Overall, we found the entrees to be excellent (bone-in rib eye steak and lobster tail), but were not impressed with the side dishes, except for the sautEed mushrooms. The scalloped potatoes had too much garlic in my opinion and the creamed spinach lacked flavor. As far as the appetizers went, they were good, but not great, with the exception of the seafood platter that included smoked fish. In addition, the waiter did deliver crab cakes that were not order, which were good and a nice touch for otherwise lackluster service.While I do believe the waiter tried to be efficient, he and his assistant just didn't deliver. Simple requests weren't responded too (e.g., a glass of ice requested by my wife) and water glasses went unfilled even when a request for more water was made. Finished plates were also left on the table for much too long and the waiter did not check on us during dinner to see how the meal was or to ask if anything was needed. Further, when we stated that we weren't fond of the soufflEs as they lacked flavor, he seemed insulted and then whispered something to his assistant at the bussing station who then looked back at us. We then waited too long for a replacement dessert and I was never asked if I wanted coffee, which I would have liked.Given the large portion sizes, I did ask to take the remainder of my steak back to the cabin, but I was told that I couldn't as it was against policy. Even so, he did wrap it in foil, but said "he didn't do it," if I was caught. This was extremely surprising since it was almost encouraged and Disney at the waiters there even insisted on making an entirely new plate to take back to the cabin. While I could understand this if it were a second entrEe, given that it was the only entrEe ordered, I just didn't understand why this was the case.Thursday, 05/26/11 - SitkaToday started like most days with room service breakfast delivered halfway through the desired delivery window. Unlike yesterday, though, the order was complete.As we had a ship's tour, we were scheduled to meet in the Vista Lounge at 8:45 for a 9:00 tour. As usual, though, we ended up waiting in the lounge until almost 9:30. And while CNN was playing on the big screen as a diversion, the news stories weren't always child friendly.When we were finally called, we boarded directly onto the Allen Marine vessel for the Sea Otter and Fortress of the Bear tour, which lasted about 3 hours and was excellent. During our time on the water, we saw hump back whales, bold eagles in their nests, sea otters, a harbor seal, a bear, and perhaps one or two other animals. I would, however, suggest bringing along a snack as what was served as the included snack was a cracker with some smoked salmon, although small scones, coffee, and hot chocolate were served earlier. There were other snacks that could be purchased onboard for those less prepared.The tour itself was excellent overall with a naturalist onboard providing audio commentary and cabin assistance to provide help to guests. In addition, a map was provided in addition to binoculars for those who didn't have them or didn't bring them. There were also bathroom facilities onboard for those who needed them. I'd also suggest the upper deck for the best viewing. While a bit colder, it is enclosed on three sides with a large open deck on the back half of the vessel for taking unobstructed photos.Upon arriving at the dock, we waited for a bit before boarding a bus to the Fortress of the Bear. While I really enjoyed our visit here and really appreciate what they are doing, I personally wouldn't go out of my way to go there. However, it was a good place to see bears up close and the commentary provided was excellent. Of course, my son was more interested in the petting zoo than the bears.On our way back to the dock, my son made friends with a girl who was on the bus and who also had the cabin next to ours. As they talked, they began comparing their past cruises and I think it was at this point that my son developed an interest in the kid's club because he knew his "new friend" would be there. We also discovered that my son had been given a wrist band with the wrong muster station based on the number the girl had on her wrist band, even though we had asked at the muster drill.Before returning to the ship via tender, we shopped a bit, picking up a couple of inexpensive t-shirts for my son. We also stopped at Del Sol as my son wanted another "free color changing ring," but none was offered at this location.After returning to the ship, we grabbed a bite to eat and were surprised to discover that my son's life vest had still not been delivered. After some time in the pool, we returned to the cabin to get ready for dinner.We arrived at the dining room at 7:00 p.m. only to be told that we'd have to wait until 7:45 p.m. as it was the Master Chef menu. Somehow, I didn't realize that anytime dining didn't apply tonight. Thus, we asked my son if he'd like to go to the Club Hal for a half hour, which he did, and then we headed to the lounge for a drink and visited with each other. Then shortly thereafter, I headed up to Club Hal and returned to the lounge with my son, who then decided that he'd rather go back to Club Hal than to dinner.After one more trip to Club Hal, we headed off to an adult only dinner. I must admit that I wasn't fond of the Master Chef menu or the "show." I'll admit that it was different, though. My wife also didn't like that they wanted to bring things to the table that weren't ordered, so she graciously informed the waiter that she only wanted what she ordered so that food wood not be wasted.The only item that I can say was very good to excellent was the Oxtail Soup en Croute; and although the shrimp were good, the sauce was terrible. Everything else was fair at best, including desserts. Service also suffered tremendously tonight.Feeling unsatisfied with dinner and not really having much dessert, we headed to Club Hal before hitting the Lido for dessert. However, to our surprise, our son was not there as they were on a Pirate Adventure. So, we headed to the Lido for ice cream, only to see my son and about six other kids come marching through looking for pirate clues. While I feared my son might want to leave upon seeing us, he was having a blast and simply said hello and goodbye before heading back to Club Hal as that is where the clue sent them. Once he returned there, he and the rest of the kids found the "pirate chest" and each were able to take two "treasures" from it.With Club Hal closing at 10 my son went to my mother's cabin so that we could see the main show with my brother. Tonight's show was magician Leo Ward. His show was fabulous and probably the best cruise show I have ever seen, including those on Disney.Upon picking up our son and returning to the cabin after the show, he asked if he could go back to Club Hal tomorrow. While it took awhile, it was nice that he had now taken to the club.Friday, 05/27/11 - KetchikanAs usually, we started today with breakfast from room service, but this time it was delivered at the beginning of the delivery window rather than halfway through as on the previous days. The server today was particularly efficient and verified that we didn't want coffee, stating that he could get us some if we wanted it; I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the offer even though it wasn't wanted. While I tipped a couple of dollars as usual, the server seemed surprised by the tip as did most of the servers. Thus, while I felt it wasn't expected it was generally appreciated. The only thing missing today was the jam for the bagel.Today we had a 9:00 a.m. Duck Tour scheduled with the whole family. My mom wasn't initially going to go, but we convinced her otherwise. The tour was longer than advertised and provided a good overview of Ketchikan and was better than the horse drawn trolley tour we did previously. My only disappointment is that we didn't get closer to town when on the water. Afterwards, my mom returned to the ship with my son as he wanted to go to Club Hal while we went off to shop.I noted a lot of seafood shacks along the pier and would have tried a couple if I had had more time. In addition, the crab was a lot cheaper than in Juneau and some of the shacks offered some of the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. We would have definitely tried one or more of them if we had time.Personally, I believe that Ketchikan deserves a longer port stop. There's a lot to see and some excellent shopping to be had here, and there simply isn't enough time to do much of either. I would have preferred a shorter stop in Sitka in favor of a longer stop here. And while it rained, it was more of a drizzle and I did fine without a jacket, although I would have worn if I hadn't given mine to my wife. I had another in my backpack, but it wasn't bad enough to take off to get another jacket.We enjoyed the emporium (Tongass Trading Company) right at the dock and purchased a number of items at an excellent price using the coupons we received in Seattle while checking in. They offered a number of freebies in addition to excellent prices on socks, t-shirts, etc. They also offered glow in the dark and color changing t-shirts, although the coupon ones were cheaply made and it was worth purchasing those that weren't on discount. They also offered six packs of soda and water at a very reasonable price with coupon for those interested. And while they have three stores, the largest is right there at the dock making it very convenient.Upon returning to the ship, which was more efficient than in Juneau thanks to two gangways, we met my mother, after she retrieved our son from Club Hal, and brother at the main dining room for lunch. We were given a table in the aft at a table next to the rear windows, which provided an excellent view during lunch and allowed us to see as we sailed away and the Celebrity Century move in to take our spot at the dock.Lunch today was enjoyable. My wife and I split the salmon and a white fish dish, which were both good although neither was excellent. The standout item of this meal was the whipped sweet potatoes. My mom had the honey glazed short ribs, which were good, and the buttermilk mashed potatoes, which were excellent. My brother had the chicken sandwich, which he said was good as well. The other standout item that my son loved was the cold grape and cranberry soup. Sadly, the desserts were only fair, lychee sundae and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Overall, service was sluggish, which made us late for our Black Label photo shoot that we had reserved a few days earlier.While getting changed for the photo shoot, we received a phone call for the Assistant Hotel Manager asking if my son's life vest had been delivered and I informed her that it had not. It did arrive later today well into the cruise. While I wasn't worried about the life vest as they are plentiful at the muster stations, it was disappointing to see how slowly HAL responded to this issue.We had high hopes for the Black Label Photography session, but we found the experience underwhelming at best. The photographer seemed to lack experience with children and spoke to our 4 year old at a level well beyond his understanding. She kept telling him to "just relax," and I'm not sure any 4 year old really knows how to do this. In addition, he has a lot of experience with photographers and has been used by some in photo competitions because he's very cooperative and photogenic, so we were really surprised when there were only three or four shots that we really liked. And the price alone, $595, was really revolting given the limited amount of time that the photographer spent with us and the fact that the photographer didn't listen to what we really wanted from the photo shoot.After the photo shoot, we allowed my son to nap and then spent some time walking around the ship as my brother took our son swimming. We stuck mainly to the 9th and 10th decks as we wanted to be able to check on our son periodically and were surprised at how underutilized the pool was yet again. At no time during the entire week were there more than 3 or 4 people in the main pool.During our walk, I finally made it up to the Crow's Nest which was very popular at this time because of happy hour. All of the tables were full and everyone seemed to be having a good time. And although we weren't partaking, the service was excellent and we were immediately asked if we wanted something upon entering. If I had it to do over again, I would have made a point to visit the Crow's Nest more and would have planned on partaking in happy hour. Perhaps on the next HAL cruise.Upon returning to the pool, I was surprised to find that my son, brother, and an older gentleman were all playing catch with a small soft ball and they all seemed to be having fun. With some coaxing, I was able to get my son out of the pool so that we could get ready for dinner.On our way to dinner, we had a few pictures taken in the lobby by a younger American photographer we took a liking to. Afterwards, we took my son to Club Hal and later reported that he enjoyed the "unbirthday party" that they had there.Upon arrival at the main dining room, we had to wait approximately 15 minutes to be seated. However, when finally shown to a table, I was left wondering why we had to wait as there were a large number of empty tables, many of which remained empty throughout our dinner. However, given the quality of service we had tonight, it was probably a good thing that all of the tables were note occupied. While service wasn't bad, it was inconsistent with a couple of courses coming timely, and then long pauses between the main course, simple requests, and dessert.As for the actual meal, the escargot, which is a dish I order on every cruise when it is available, was very good and the most tender I have had on any cruise. It would have rated excellent had it had more garlic; even so, it's worth ordering again. While I had high hopes for the cream of four mushrooms soup, it was terrible and probably the worst soup of the entire trip. Tonight was also "lobster night" in the form of a surf and turf option. I order the surf and turf, which I thought was very good, but would order the sauce they serve with the lobster tail on the side next time. In addition, the filet mignon was the smallest I had ever seen, so take note if you're a huge beef fan. My wife ordered the same thing, but asked for the turf to be held. She was pleased when her plate arrived with an additional lobster tail in place of the steak.Although the service was inconsistent tonight, the server was very attentive otherwise. For example, when he removed my lobster tail from its shell, he noted how small it was and insisted that he get me another one without being asked. We finished off the meal with the brownie hot fudge sundae for dessert, which was excellent even though my sundae was missing the brownie.After dinner, we went to the "Liars Club" game show in the Queens Lounge. The cruise director, someone from marketing, and Leo Ward, the magician, were the contestants. The show itself was hilarious and I laughed throughout the entire show. I highly recommend attending, although I am sure that the quality of the show depends on the contestants.Just before 10 p.m., we picked up our son from Club Hal; this time, he didn't want to leave and we had to explain that they were closing. We ended up going to the production show, which was good, but we left about halfway through as we had seen enough.Tonight was also the "Dessert Extravaganza," so we headed up to the pool deck to check everything out. Personally, I thought the event was overstated as it is on most cruise lines. While the displays were pretty, many of the items lacked flavor. In addition, half of the items that they advertised would be served were nowhere to be found, including chocolate covered strawberries which are my son's favorite. Fortunately, I had ordered a couple of plates throughout the cruise, so he was satisfied there. In addition, the "ice cream" parlor that was advertised was no different than what was traditionally offered in the lido.Saturday, 05/28/11 - VictoriaWaking up earlier than planned, I tried to attend the disembarkation talk, but when I arrived the show lounge was packed and there was no way to get in. Have cruised before, I wasn't too worried and simply headed to the coffee bar instead, which offered good coffee at an extremely reasonable price.Today was also the Mariner's Brunch, which we attended. The menu was quite limited (2 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 1 dessert). Complimentary wine was also served. Among the table, we had the quiche (good) and the braised short ribs (very good). A cold pear and apple soup was also served, but in my opinion it tasted more like applesauce than a soup; even so, my son enjoyed it.With only one dessert choice, we decided to hit the Lido for dessert and ended up with the standby (ice cream and cookies). And while HAL makes the absolute best peanut butter cookies, which were extremely popular, they were rarely available—a big disappointment in the end.With our dessert cravings satisfied, we went to the shops to buy our nieces a gold-by-the-inch bracelet we had liked for their birthdays. What they don't tell you in the advertised price is that there is an additional $5 charge per bracelet for the clasp. I also made the mistake of suggesting that it was plated gold to my wife and ended up receiving a lecture from the clerk regarding the "golding" process and how it is better and guaranteed for life. In reality, I didn't care as it was a gift I thought my nieces (6 and 9) would enjoy and something I didn't want to invest too much in as the likelihood of them getting lost was high.With Club Hal reopened after lunch, we dropped our son off there before returning to the room to pack and complete our customer comment forms. Although I had anticipated questions about smoking from the Cruise Critic boards, none were asked probably because a decision regarding the smoking policy had already been made as announced after we returned. What was odd, though, is that the questionnaire asked about the ports of call, including Victoria, which we hadn't yet visited. While I understand why they want feedback, HAL wanted the forms returned by 6 p.m., which was the time we were scheduled to dock.Afternoon was spent in the pool then to dinner as soon as the opened so that we would be ready for our tour of Butchart Gardens. Dinner tonight was the first night that we ordered for my son off of the children's menu, which was a huge mistake and delayed service tremendously. While our waiter kept us posted, he explained that they only have one chef for "specialty meals," which includes the kid's menu and that he was inundated with orders; as a result, we had to wait. Given that it was spaghetti and meatballs, I didn't think it would be such a hassle especially since they could have sent someone up to the Lido in less time. I had the always available steak with mashed potatoes (both good) and my wife had the chicken and beef sautE, which she rated as fair. Unfortunately, by the time my wife got the sour cream for her baked potato, it was cold, although the waiter did offer to get her another baked potato.Seated near the window, it was nice to be able to see us sailing close to Vancouver Island. However, it was also obvious that we were running late as we finished dinner before we had even entered the harbor. While this was a blessing in terms of not being rushed, we knew it would impact our time at the gardens. Fortunately, we had been there previously and this was mainly a trip for my son to enjoy the gardens.After a brief stop to the cabin to grab my backpack and my son's stroller, we headed to the Vista Lounge to wait with everyone else. The staff there did keep us updated and quickly cleared us out of the lounge as soon as we were docked. From there, we went through the terminal building to a number of waiting busses. Unfortunately, because of our late arrival, we didn't reach the gardens until 8:30 and thus only had 90 minutes to enjoy the gardens, which is about 1/3 the amount of time that you need. Therefore, we only got through the "sunken gardens" and not through the other three or four that are there. If it weren't for my son, we would have stayed in the harbor area given the short amount of time in port. In fact, on our last Alaska cruise, we didn't even bother to get off the ship as it wasn't worth the hassle for such a short amount of time ashore.We were fortunate to have a very good bus driver who provided us with a tour and overview of Victoria on the return trip. Unfortunately, due to our late return, the only thing we had time for was the small souvenir shop at the terminal building that Princess and NCL were docked at as the HAL terminal was undergoing renovations. Finding nothing of interest, we reboarded the ship; however, the elevator situation was pretty bad given that they had locked down some of the elevators for luggage collection purposes.Hungry, we headed to the Lido to grab a bite to eat and were grateful that HAL had an fairly substantial offering at this late hour as in days past. I was concerned that they might close things up early because it was the last night onboard. While there was a bit of a wait for food, it wasn't terribly bad. However, there was no seating to be found, so we headed off to our cabin to eat and to put our bags out. We also needed to get our son to sleep.With a request for all luggage to be in the hallway by 1 a.m., we ate and then quickly finished up the limited packing that remained. I then put the bags in the hallway, where they were quickly collected. Then packing as much of our carry-ons for the next day, my wife discovered that she had not placed a jar of pickled kelp from Sitka in our checked bags. Not wanting to deal with it in the morning, I found our luggage in the elevator lobby and was able cut off the zip tie, repack the bag, and rezip tie the bag without ever being noticed, which was a bit concerning for me and why I like to secure my bags with zip ties so that I know if they've been tampered with.Finally ready for bed, we hung our breakfast order on the door for the morning and got a few hours of sleep.Sunday, 05/29/11 - DisembarkationDisembarkation was excellent overall. We had the 8:30-9:00 a.m. departure window and it was nice being able to stay in our cabin until called. There other plus was the ability to order room service breakfast. Overall, I would say HAL provides the best disembarkation experience of any cruise we've been on.Waiting until almost 9:00 a.m., we were able to simply walk off without any wait. The cruise director was also at the gangway to bid farewell to passengers, which I thought was very high class and a nice touch. Unfortunately, once we were off the ship, the port building was a bit of a mess with two ships disembarking at the same time; however, we were able to locate our luggage and eventually made our way through U.S. Customs and then waited for my mother and brother to make it off the ship.The lines for taxis and busses were incredibly long and we ended up taking a "gypsy" van to the airport for $10 per person. While the driver was part of a registered limousine service, he wasn't authorized to pick up at the port. In the end, it worked out and we arrived at the airport quickly.If you are flying out on disembarkation day, I highly recommend a flight no earlier than noon, and 1 p.m. for comfort as three ships disembark on Sundays. The lines to check luggage were incredibly long, particularly at Southwest Airlines, with a line wrapping around the entire check-in counter building. Despite the length of the line, we still were able to get our bags checked within an hour of getting in line, probably closer to 45 minutes. That said, there were several who were shocked at the length of the line and concerned about making their flights. The line at curbside check-in wasn't much better.Once we had checked our bags, we were lucky enough to find that Sea-Tac offered a family security check line that was relatively short. For those interested, the airport uses backscatter x-ray machines for the full-body scans. What was nice about the airport, though, is that they have a number of eateries and a child's play area, so we were able to enjoy lunch and allow my son to burn off some energy before boarding our flight, which was uneventful overall.General ThoughtsThe sea view elevators were a big hit with my son. I particularly liked that the doors were also made of glass, so they served as windows when the elevator car wasn't there.The ship is in need of dry dock. While the wear and tear did not take away from our vacation, it was obvious that some things needed to be attended to, particularly rust in our bathroom and around the window frame in my mother's cabin. In addition, some of the soft good, including our verandah furniture and couch pillows, needed to be redone. However, I purposely looked based on what has been stated on Cruise Critic, so it's possible such things might not be noticed by others and that other cabins are in better condition.I wasn't a huge fan of the ship's overall design. The general layout seemed darker and more crowded than other ships I've been on, many of which were of similar size. I believe this resulted from the dark color scheme of the interior, lack of a grand atrium with skylights, and mostly interior corridors as small lounges took up most of the windowed areas. That said, if you are someone who enjoys lounging in the public areas, this is the ship for you. However, I did like the design of the daily program as it was extremely easy to follow and to see what was being offered throughout the day.The Crow's Nest was a fabulous place. Definitely go there at least once and keep in mind that happy hour is from 4-5 p.m. The coffee bar is also located nearby and had very reasonable prices compared to land-based coffee shops and other cruise lines.The seating in the main theater is very comfortable; however, be careful when selecting seats as there are many seats that have obstructed sight lines.The lido is too small—at least in terms of seating capacity—for the size of the ship. However, the selection was very good overall and they served the best peanut butter cookies I have ever had and I'm not a particularly big fan of peanut butter cookies compared to other flavors. The pool grill was mediocre at best and never served a decent order of french fries all week and were typically served cold. Disney's pool grill wins hand down in terms of selection, quality, and freshness of items served.Room service was good and offered a decent variety of items particularly for breakfast. We were able to write in a few things on the breakfast order form and always received them. It was particularly nice to be able to enjoy room service on disembarkation morning. The downside is that there was usually a 45 minute wait when ordering off of the in-room menu. As for other food, the dining room was hit and miss with more fair to good items than very good to excellent items, although I realize the food is subjective. What surprised me, however, is how much we liked Canaletto, both in terms of food quality and service. We'll definitely be dining at Canaletto on future HAL cruises.While HAL does not offer an "unlimited" soda card like other cruise lines do, I actually liked the $50 for $25 better as service was always good. One of the complaints on other lines is that the servers are not motivated to serve soda as there is no tip in it for them. HAL's system eliminates this entirely as the waiter is receiving the traditional auto tip that he/she would receive otherwise.The crew seemed very friendly overall and went out of their way to say hello, carry on conversations, etc. However, I wouldn't say they were any friendly than Disney nor would I say they were less friendly. I also really liked the crews' uniforms. Service was mostly efficient in the main dining room even though we had anytime dining.While we never had a chance to watch an entire movie in the Screening Room, we did stop by. The seats were extremely comfortable, but the screen was much too small. The seating layout also seemed like a waste of space and only offered seating for about 30 people. I would say it was on par with what I've experienced on NCL and I won't make a comparison with Disney as Disney has a real movie theater onboard. Personally, I would have preferred different movies playing throughout the day rather than the same movie playing all day long.I wasn't thrilled with the security of the kid's club. Check-in and check-out consisted of simply signing on a roster and indicating where you might be. There were no pages are phones issued in case there was an emergency. In addition, the door to the club was not secured in any way making it possible for a child to leave unnoticed as there are blind spots when the adjacent room is used. That said, there were only about 8 kids in the club at any given time, so I'm sure it was easy to keep track of everyone. And whn ile we were supposed to give a password when picking up, it was never asked for. Surprisingly, however, I think HAL did a decent job with the limited space and staff that they had and I actually think my son preferred HAL's club over Disney's.I enjoyed having a DVD player in the room. The DVD lending library was an additional bonus. We only had this available to us once before and that was when we were staying in a suite on NCL. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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