17 Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Alaska

We were on the Oosterdam last October for a Mediterranean Cruise and were very happy. When we booked this Alaska Cruise, we were thrilled to be on Oosterdam again. The staff, cabin stewards, food servers were wonderful and very helpful. ... Read More
We were on the Oosterdam last October for a Mediterranean Cruise and were very happy. When we booked this Alaska Cruise, we were thrilled to be on Oosterdam again. The staff, cabin stewards, food servers were wonderful and very helpful. We enjoyed the Lido Market and all the choices. We had our eleven year old grandson with us and he loved the ship and the Lido Market and the pool. He was in awe. Our grandson went to the Kids Club. He was in the 7-12 group, however, they seemed to group together the much younger kids with the older group. Most of the time, he enjoyed it. The food in the Dining Room had very small portions... not as I remembered. Entertainment was fabulous . I did not get a chance to take advantage of most the daytime activities this time. We enjoyed the Shore excursions and would definitely cruise on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We're first time cruisers & went with my parents for a 3 generations cruise(6 adults + 3 teens). There were not many kids on the ship, but that was ok with us. The kids utilized the HAL kids clubs and enjoyed their time away ... Read More
We're first time cruisers & went with my parents for a 3 generations cruise(6 adults + 3 teens). There were not many kids on the ship, but that was ok with us. The kids utilized the HAL kids clubs and enjoyed their time away from the adults. Only the indoor Lido pool was for kids and it was very full, most of the time. We got kicked out of the back outdoor pool as being Adult only(even though very few people used it). Would be nice if they had some family hours for that pool too. We stayed in the brand new rooms up on the 10th floor. It was a great location being next to the Crow's Nest & just above the Lido deck. The rooms were great & being new to cruising, had plenty of space and room. The bathroom was tight but we did ok. Our daughter liked the bunk bed they put up/down each day for her(watch your heads under it). We ate at 8pm in the dining room each night and our staff got to know us & interacted with us in fun ways. We celebrated a birthday and the staff sang and brought a piece of cake. Our package included the Signature Drink deal and I tried all kinds of drinks I wouldn't have tried anywhere else(all drinks up to $9). It included coffee drinks, Vitamin Water, & Cans of Pop. We never hit the 15 drink daily limit. We did have a problem in/with the SPA. We decided our big splurge would be getting a couple's massage. They talked us into upgrading to the hot stone massage and then the 75 minute massage was really only 60 minutes + a sales pitch at the end for 15 minutes on all the products we just "had" to buy and why we needed to go to their fat camp seminar. We also saw on the spa information guide a few days later that we should have had access to their spa mineral hot tub for the rest of the day since we got a massage, but that was never offered to us. Be prepared for a hard sell & make sure you insist you get what you paid for in the SPA if you use it. We would not use it again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
We enjoyed our cruise and would recommend the ship. It is older as others have mentioned but the food and service are very good. People do care about making you happy. I do have a few comments: 1. Vista fixed time seating is great ... Read More
We enjoyed our cruise and would recommend the ship. It is older as others have mentioned but the food and service are very good. People do care about making you happy. I do have a few comments: 1. Vista fixed time seating is great with great service. Open seating is less attentive. 2. HAL club really isn't for kids under 5. They have almost no toys and the activities are not that entertaining for those under 5. Also, they are very strict on the potty training so keep that in mind. Also the teenage area with video games was closed. 3. The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the Piano Man and Blues Club. 4. The Boat spends too little time in Ketchikan which is very disappointing. CELEBRITY arrived before us and left after us and still got to Vancouver before us. HOLLAND should adjust the schedule. 5. Holland does not advertise enough of the activities and excursions in the Seward area. We liked that area and Alyeska better than Denali. 6. The excursion people are not as knowledgeable as you would want. Make sure you book your excursions within the first 24 hours and adjust after that. Things fill up quickly. 7. The suites with verandah are very spacious. We loved our room. 8. As an aside the 4th of July celebration was disappointing. There really wasn't one. They could have at least had a band. Also, they were not prepared for how many people would want hamburgers. This cruise is for an older crowd but we had a great time. Alaska is beautiful. This was our second Holland cruise and I am sure we will do another one but maybe when our son is older. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
My first time on cruise.Generally satisfied but taken by surprise that had to pay for plain water even from my room fridge. Alcohol OK but water? Also charges of 15% for service in bars or to servants-low ball. HAL charges enough for ... Read More
My first time on cruise.Generally satisfied but taken by surprise that had to pay for plain water even from my room fridge. Alcohol OK but water? Also charges of 15% for service in bars or to servants-low ball. HAL charges enough for trip. Dinners also could be better, chef was slipping at work. Attention to travelers problem from designated staff, poor. Long lines to service desk. And end of trip was the summary. We had to leave room at 9 am and waited until 12.30 to board bus to Anchorage, totally wasted time. Specially that after arrival to Anchorage was to late to go anywhere. My baggage was lost on the way to hotel and nobody know what happened, they have flyer blaming road construction for delays or lost baggage.I got my bag in Denali 30 h latter. Hal need big shake-up Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Wow, After reading some of the recent reviews, we were a bit concerned. But no need. Has cruising changed in 20 years, absolutely, is it for the better? Mostly not, so let me tell you what we liked and what we feel could have been ... Read More
Wow, After reading some of the recent reviews, we were a bit concerned. But no need. Has cruising changed in 20 years, absolutely, is it for the better? Mostly not, so let me tell you what we liked and what we feel could have been better. Could have been better, The ship, Oosterdam is old, it has been painted and varnished, updated etc., but she shows her age. It is not as clean as as newer ship, not as many neat features, etc. This is the main knock on this ship. The help on the ship isn't as friendly as we have seen in the past. I believe much of this is the culture of where the people come from. Nice enough, just not outwardly friendly, kind of quiet, keep to themselves. The boarding process was painful, the embarkation was a mess, they tried to get everyone checked in on the train, this worked well enough, but all it succeeded in doing was creating a massive traffic jam at security, where we waited for an hour anyway. Since we were traveling with my 85 year old parents, it was not a pleasant experience. We were staying in a Neptune suite and would have boarded much faster by refusing the train check in, taking the suite check in line at the port, much, much faster. As many people have noted, there is not much entertainment on this ship, but it wasn't what we were here for anyway. We were a bit disappointed that B.B. King blues club never seems to actually play any blues, the band was decent, just a bit loud. And lastly, they lack a bit of common sense, when it is raining, and it is close to all aboard time, maybe they could find a way to speed up the process? Hundreds of people standing in the rain, there has to be a better way to make sure the ship is secure, and the passengers are dry. Maybe two security check points? What we liked. The Neptune lounge, unlike the previous review, we loved Steph and Roxy, they were awesome, patient, and willing to help at any time. We had them change many of our reservations and every time they came through with a smile. One of the big advantages of being in a Neptune suite, is the lounge, food available all day, Roxy and Steph to help you, and much better coffee available here than elsewhere. A side benefit is you get to eat breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill, fresh, brought to you, excellent menu and service, we ate there almost every morning. Our waiter was Francisco and he was amazing, on the spot, always with a smile, a great way to start the day. Loved the food in the Grill, night or day, it is very good. We liked the crew in general, the Captain was very good at communicating where we were, what was going on etc. We liked our room, huge balcony, and it was nice to have 2 sinks and room to shower in the garden tub. We loved the Crows Nest lounge, up front, on top, spectacular view. We spent a great deal of time just watching Alaska go by as we sailed along. We enjoyed the main Vista dining room, two formal nights, two regular nights, food was good, true, it was not overly spiced, but they are cooking for 2000 mostly older adults, and I suspect they have learned to be easy on the spices. My parents are fussy eaters and they loved the food, we thought it was just typical for a cruise ship. The service was faster than many ships we have been on and we were thankful for that. We do not want to take 2 plus hours to eat. I have read about the south bound week having issues with fresh fruit and vegetables towards the end of the cruise, but there were no issues on this trip, plenty, right up to the day we got off. We bought most of our excursions from Holland America and they were all well managed, and we were happy with them. Getting off the ship went very well. If you are getting off or on for that matter in Vancover, the train station is right across the street, $2.75 to go to or from the airport, about 20 minutes, quick, clean trains, highly recommended. There is a luggage service at the port that will take your luggage for the day and you can then pick it up at the airport, very easy to use and to find. Summary, HAL is not the HAL of the past, particularly the food. More like NCL or Carnival, so I would not pay more to be on HAL, as you should know, it is an older crowd, quiet at night, and they can be a bit more demanding, service wise than younger passengers. Very few children on this ship, maybe 20 if that. I would recommend the Oosterdam to my friends and family, we have a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
4th time cruising but first HAC cruise. 3 others were Carnival. I've always heard Carnival is the worst cruise line but I have never had any complaints. Currently on Day 5 of the Oosterdam, 7 Day Alaskan Cruise and I have a long list ... Read More
4th time cruising but first HAC cruise. 3 others were Carnival. I've always heard Carnival is the worst cruise line but I have never had any complaints. Currently on Day 5 of the Oosterdam, 7 Day Alaskan Cruise and I have a long list of complaints. Going to start with the positive: -Check-in in Vancouver was much easier than past experience, quick easy and friendly -Alaska is beautiful, once ported and on land our experience has been wonderful -The excursions so far are unbeatable. (Ziplining in Ketchikan, Taku Lodge Seaplane in Juneau) -Our room host is friendly, and stays out of the way mostly -Room is standard with balcony, nice size for a ship, clean... just as expected This has been such a wonderful experience seeing Alaska for the first time, I just wish we had chosen a different way to do it. We are a family group of 12, ranging 3 generations ages 18-78, so spending time with our family of course has been great. We have cruised before as a family and the ship/staff was very accommodating because we were a large, fun group. We almost feel unwelcome here and an inconvenience to most staff members. On the first night we went into dinner in our matching "family" shirts, and some of the young adult in nice shorts, one of three wearing shorts got sent away from the dining room to change, although dress code is "smart casual". Smart casual is not defined clearly I guess. Our servers at dinner are not friendly and are very slow. Slow is fine we understand the logistics are difficult, but an attempt at friendliness would be nice. Food is not good, no flavor. We did eat at one of the other restaurants, food was better, but dinner service took 3 hours and orders were mixed up. We laugh about it, but at a restaurant other than the main dining room we expect better service I guess. Staying on the topic of food, the Lido deck buffet for breakfast and lunch is horrendous. Food is disgusting, even the "regulars" like pizza and tacos are gross. Not sure what they are doing different from the Carnival ships I've been on, but it's bad. I will only eat dinner on the ship (because we have to) for the remaining time. They also don't have the late night food options like most cruises, everything but a select few room service items are pretty much shut down by 9:30-10:00pm. Late night room service also takes an hour minimum... so be prepared to wait. They also make you feel like you are inconveniencing them by ordering from the 24 hour room service menu. Speaking of shutting down, everything is empty by like 10:00pm. Mostly due to the age of the majority of the guests on the boat we assume. That's fine, maybe our fault for choosing this cruise line, but there is a definite stigma against young adults. We ended up in the casino every night so far, mostly because that is the only activity to do. We have heard the shows are bad, comedies are not funny, other activities are just trying to sell you stuff you don't want. The casino is fine, most staff is friendly, but we also feel like they don't want to be there, as the night gets later they just want to shut down and we are again, inconveniencing the staff. Casino is done by midnight or earlier each night. Last night they didn't even open the craps table due to "lack of staff". This is so much different than previous cruises where they wanted us to stay in the casino longer than we wanted to stay. We do appreciate the friendliness of the casino staff. Once the casino shuts down there are no options, bars/clubs that claim to be open til 2am on the information sheet are closed by 10:00-11:00pm. Lastly, currently in Skagway our excursion got cancelled due to an incident the previous day. Totally understandable, obviously not the cruise lines fault. We received a notice to call by 10:00am to receive our money back for the excursion. We called at 9:30am and she gave us a hard time even though we have a paper that says call by 10:00am. This issue was resolved quickly, but still, just be friendly!! There were some other little things that I would feel bad bringing up because after all we are on a cruise ship in Alaska and we are so appreciative of that. I just feel overall, we feel like an inconvenience to the staff and that they don't want to be here. There is a negativity on the ship that is very hard to ignore. We paid a lot of money for this trip and just expect good service. We were jealous when we met another couple on the Princess Cruise Line in Juneau raving about the service and staff. Next time, yes to Alaska, and a big no to the Oosterdam and HAC.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
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
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
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
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
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
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research. Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on ... Read More
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research. Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on excursions. I entitled my review (and included) lessons learned not to complain, but to help others in their research. While I was researching Alaska, I had a lot of this advice available to me (and listened to most of it) but made choices based on our entire group and what I thought was right for us based on our travel preferences and history. There were SEVERAL things I would have done differently if I had it to do over. But overall I would say that this was a fantastic trip and I would HIGHLY recommend Alaska, HAL, and the Oosterdam to all! Thanks to all of the Cruise Critic family for your help in planning our trip! About Us: A family group ranging from 20s to 80s. First Time for HAL and Alaska! We set sail on the Oosterdam out of Seattle on June 13th, 2010. Ports of Call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. - with a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Some first time cruisers, most of us have a couple of cruises under our belts on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We are from Colorado and Wyoming. Comparisons of HAL with CCL & RCI: This was a topic I was very interested in myself. As usual there are more similarities than differences, but HAL shone in several areas above the previous cruise lines. Food a. MDR: HAL definitely won out in the main dinning room and the lido buffet over other lines, but especially in the seafood area (salmon, shrimp, lobster tails), as these were plentiful in selection and reliably good to great. Beef was very similar to Carnival and below par to RCI, which we feel, is RCI's food strong suit. The hours for MDR for breakfast and lunch are miniscule so plan ahead to eat here. We had anytime dining and this worked well for our Alaska schedule but I missed having the same waiter. We never had anyone fantastic enough to warrant a special request for his or her section. It was also difficult to remember everyone when it came to give extra tips at the end. Lesson: If you are anytime dining - tip a small amount extra in cash on the table each night that way no one misses out. b. The Pinnacle Grill (we ate here twice for dinner) was very good but only slightly better than the Main Dinning Room for seafood (lobster tail, shrimp, and salmon) while the beef was worth the $20 surcharge. Of the filet minon, ribeye, and ny strip steak, the ribeye was the standout. The Golden Fleece Super Club on Carnival is much better in terms of both service and food quality - however, it is a $35 surcharge - so that may not be a fair comparison. Lesson: Eat Beef here for your money's worth. Drinks a. Compared to CCL and RCL the drinks here are MUCH better - stronger, hand mixed, better selection (can you say Mojito!) and the cocktail card, which was given to us by our travel agent, worked really well for us (especially since it was complimentary). We would not get a cocktail card usually though, because the drink prices are just so darn reasonable. There was only one cocktail waitress (who shall remain nameless) in the Queen's lounge who was extremely rude about the cocktail card and always forgot our drinks and gave us constants scowls and eye rolls. The only negative to this was that we loved the Queen's lounge and were there a lot and as she was so rude to my Grandma we were all reluctant to order drinks here. However she was an absolute exception to all of the other drink servers who were fantastic! Service We had heard a lot about the quality of service on HAL surpassing other lines. This is absolutely true. The staff was all soooo friendly and engaging and helpful. This is a definite stand out for HAL and as we were doing a family trip with many different age groups and abilities - this was the absolute right choice for us. I swear my Grandma had a smile plastered on her face 95% of the time (see Queen's lounge waitress above). You will be spoiled all week by smiling and cheerful faces. Live Music The quality and availability of live music on board was excellent! We absolutely loved this! We thought that Jenny and the HALcats were a blast. We loved the Neptunes and the Adagio Strings. The piano bar was also fun but needed to have less trivia and more sing along time. There was definitely something for everyone here. Ports of Call/Excursions: 1. Cruising Glacier Bay National Park: We definitely endured extra costs and scheduling constraints to make this a part of our cruise, as there are limited permits into this area. WORTH IT!!!! Although I have not been to Tracy Arm or Hubbard - this may have been one of my favorite days. We saw 4 Glaciers (several calving events), probably about 20 whales, seals and eagles on icebergs, Dahl porpoises and beautiful scenery. I would rate this as a 10 out of 10 - it far exceeded my expectations (I thought it would be boring). Lesson: Hold out for Glacier Bay on your itinerary. 2. Juneau: As we had a 13-hour call here, our plan for Juneau was to go fly-fishing all day with Luke of Sea Runner Guide service that operates out of the Juneau Fly fishing shop. My husband loves to fly fish and he has always wanted to go in Alaska. We knew that July was a better month for this, but with a family trip and his brother's wedding in mid July we thought we would give it a try anyway. Even though salmon aren't in the streams in June this is prime time for Dolley Varden and since it is catch and release we were just looking forward to having some fun fly-fishing in scenic Alaska. Luke was on time at our meeting place and took us to Auke Bay to get the boat - we saw lots of humpbacks and eagles en route to the site. As we got closer, the water became extremely rough and he said that there was a storm coming in and we would have to turn back or we might get stuck. He said that because of the time of year that there were really no other options for places to go for fishing. He took us back to the fly shop. We were out with him about 2 ½ - 3 hours total. The fly shop refunded our entire fee and apologized. We were not unhappy with them but severely disappointed, as this was our expensive big ticket Alaska item. We had backup plans of course, but were soooo disappointed that we went back the ship and ate lunch to regroup and find a plan B, such as the shuttle to Mendenhall or taxi to the Brewery. We ate and couldn't rally so we went to the spa for massages (great package) and to hang out in the Thermal Suite. It was nice and relaxing with great scenery - especially because we were both SO depressed. Others in our group did the Grand Tour of Juneau through the ship (Glacier, Gardens, Salmon Hatchery) and loved it - they thought the Glacier and Gardens were spectacular where the hatchery was so-so. Lesson: If we could do it over again we would have booked a tour that did a Glacier walk or at least stop at the visitors center and combine with a whale watch - for the cost of fishing we could have done these two things which are much more reliable, recommended on these boards, and representative of things you can see in Alaska and not in Colorado/Wyoming. I should have realized this, but I hope it will help future cruisers. I would rather know that we are going to get to do something fun than take the chance that if everything falls into place we might have a fantastic experience. We loved Juneau and would consider this as a week long stop for a future trip. We are also hoping in the future to do a fly fishing trip to a more northern part of Alaska. 3. Sitka We walked around town in the morning and saw the Russian Bishop's House, St. Michael's Cathedral, and shopped. In hindsight, I would have gone to the Park first (we ran out of time and could not go) and then if we had time visited these two stops. I despise shopping in port and only did this to accommodate the shoppers in our group ;). I do not want to spend time in Alaska in a store. In the afternoon we took a three-hour marine wildlife watching tour with Captain Davey. This was fantastic - we wish that we could have booked the four-hour tour but it was taken over 8 months in advance, so book as early as you can for this one. Because of the three-hour tour we had to pick between puffins and whales - be upfront with Davey and let him know your preference - we went with puffins as we had already seen a bunch of whales in Juneau and Glacier Bay, but it would have been nice to do both. I cannot say enough about Davey - he made it really special and my Grandma and Mom had the best time - he was really good at questions and such a knowledgeable and passionate guy. One of the reasons we chose this sailing was the opportunity to stop at Sitka - which turned out to be the most authentic of any of our calls. Lesson: Book popular independent tours AS SOON AS you know your date. Even an 8-hour call is short enough that you need to plan your time very carefully. If others in your group refuse to do so - make your own plans without them! 4. Ketchikan Hubby, MIL, and I booked with Ken of Northern Lights as our trip was in Primetime King Salmon season. Ken picked us up right at the pier and we went out on his boat, which was parked right next to the ship. He took us out to see an eagle, which would catch fish that he threw in the air. He warned us that the Orcas had been in the bay three days before and that the Salmon were being a little weird the day before and he only caught 1 King, 1 Halibut, and 1 Rockfish. We went out several places and were excited to see the king salmon jumping out of the water everywhere the whole time we were out. Ken and his buddies kept in contact all day and basically no one was having any luck including us. Hubby got one bite, which dropped the hook. That was the only action we saw. Ken worked so hard for us to get a fish and we could tell that he felt so bad that we did not have any better luck. He said that it was incredibly rare for him to not get a fish at this time in the season and that he wished we would have not gone out. He also said that he would tell the people tomorrow that maybe they should go hiking or to Saxman instead. As this was a very short call (6 hours) by the time we got back we just had time to make a loop around the shops and get back on board. No fish the entire trip - what a let down! See Lesson from Juneau. If we could do it over again we would have gone to Saxman. 5. Victoria, B.C. Another short (6 hour) call. To add to that we were about an hour late getting into port (but at least we didn't get in at 9pm like last week). Knowing the common complications of this port we booked the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens all together, mainly so that Grandma could see it (I thought it would be boring!). Getting off the ship was a cluster**** and took almost an hour (excuse me but there is nothing else strong enough to describe it). By the time we got to the Gardens we only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to see it. That was kind of a let down because this place was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! Totally worth it! I could easily spend all day here. We had to rush but I would highly recommend it! Lesson: Booking the ships tour was worth it for this short and often shortened port of call. Entertainment: Shows were pretty similar quality to other ships, but I thought the themes were a lot more interesting (movies, Broadway, ballroom dancing) and relevant to pop culture than other ships I have been on. We also sometimes opted for the Spa or Live Music at night - a mix of these was perfect for us. The Ventriloquist and Magician were just fantastic - best shows I have seen at sea - hands down! Oosterdam: Great ship, all of our cruises have been on ships of this general size and we really like it - enough going on not to get bored, but small enough to get the layout down quickly and have quaint, relaxing areas to gaze at the sea. Until 11pm there was lots to do, after wards, really only the casino and northern lights, but for us that was plenty! Equipment: We bought Nikon Trailblazers ($125) and Bushnell Perma Focus ($50) binocs - both 10x 50 both Fog free/waterproof and were glad to have them. The Monarchs are of noticeably better quality but for the difference in price and how often we use binoculars this was a good choice for us. As for cameras we have a nice Panasonic with a 12x optical zoom with interchangeable lens and filters and a small Canon. We bought a few filters and such for this trip, but I regret that we did not take the plunge and buy the SLR camera we have been drooling over. We brought lots of cards, extra batteries, and our Dell mini to unload the cards frequently and we used everything we brought. Lesson: If you are considering upgrading your camera before this trip - DO IT. Also: keep your binocs (everyone should have their own) and camera on you all the time - it's worth lugging them around - trust me! Pre/Post Cruise Seattle: Port Choice: We chose this itinerary for several reasons - we wanted Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Victoria. Also we wanted to be able to fly nonstop from Denver due to one in our group being wheelchair bound and having extreme difficulty flying and especially transferring planes (we almost always miss our connection or have a terrible experience with the aisle chair). Port of Seattle: No HAL porters! Grandma had to haul her luggage all the way - Princess porters were everywhere. BOO to HAL for this! The Trade off: The first day at sea was the worst I have ever experienced - strong motion for about 24 hours straight - it's a good thing there are handrails in the shower! We knew that this was a possibility and took Bonine a couple of days before and were lucky enough not to get seasick. Others in our group did NOT take this precaution (or used Dramamine) and were sea sick for about a day and a half. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Lesson: Prepare your self by taking seasick meds ahead of time! Flights: We flew direct from Denver on Alaskan Airlines for $180 each RT with taxes - Great Value. Great airline! Some in our group flew Delta from Wyoming and had to connect - their connection was canceled and their flight delayed - glad we flew in a day early or they would have missed the ship. Delta also lost their bags on the way home. Lesson: Fly in the day ahead ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight. Hotel: We price lined a 4 star in down town and won the Grand Hyatt on Pine Street for $95/room. LOVED this hotel! Close to Pikes Place and beautiful accommodations. They even let us check in early at 11am! Great service and great location! Luxurious rooms! Lesson: Priceline and Downtown are good choices for Pre Cruise Seattle. Transportation: Used a mix of cabs and town car services. Nothing fantastic and cabs were pricey! Lesson: We did not plan ahead and wished we had prearranged the same town car service (and preferably a better one) for all of our transportation. Sights: Pike Place, Etta's, Space Needle, Hiram Chittenden Locks. All fun - could have spent the whole time at the Market and would definitely do a food tour next time! Did not have enough time to ride the ferry system or do the wineries, but will make time next time! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, ... Read More
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, with our parents and a couple seniors. All in all, it was a great trip... the ship was great, service excellent, and Alaska was breathtaking. Embarkation: A breeze we arrived to the Pier in Seattle around 11:35, and were on board in 15 minutes. Service: Excellent in general. Room stewards were great. Bar servers were extremely personal and went out of their way to learn your name. We found dining room service to be very average, and wine service in the Vista Dining Room to be poor. However, our two nights in the Pinnacle Grill provided EXCEPTIONAL service. Entertainment: Solid all around. Was not expecting shows up to Carnival or RCCL's caliber in the show room, but they were still pretty good. The magician was phenomenal one of the best I've ever seen. Comedian was great too. The Cruise Director (forgot his name) and the cruise staff were great, and made sure that there were activities to be had for people of all ages. There was MUCH more to do aboard than I anticipated. Nightlife: Again, LOTS more than we thought. The casino was of adequate size with friendly dealers. The Piano Bar was a BLAST. Sports bar was okay; poker room was a HIT. Northern Lights was hit and miss more of a crowd on formal nights, though it seemed teens took it over at times. Food: I'll break the food up in three categories, because they deserve to be recognized individually. Vista Dining Room: A MAJOR part of our cruise is meeting every night for dinner in the main dining room. We were traveling with friends we haven't seen in years, and our family does not get to get together that much. We realized we would not have one table for 11, but thought we would be next to each other. Unfortunately, there ended up being a couple tables in between. We tried to change to no avail, so we had to live with it. Fine, we'll accept it. Unfortunately, we found the food in the Vista Dining Room to be marginal at BEST. All courses were wildly inconsistent, and entrees tasted like they had been sitting out for a while. Normally a highlight of the cruise, we found the dining room food to be very disappointing. We ate in the Vista the first and second nights. We ate in Juneau on land, and returned to the Vista after Hubbard Glacier night. Another sub-par dinner made Tuesday our last trip to the Vista for the week. We spent the rest of the week either at the Pinnacle Grill or eating on shore. I don't think I had unreasonable expectations for this dining room food we just found it to be WELL below the quality of the main dining room food on the last DOZEN cruises we have taken (mainly on Carnival). Pinnacle Grill: In my opinion, this restaurant really MADE the cruise for us. We had made reservations for 11 for Sitka night before the cruise. Our waiters (Jay and another couple servers) were OUTSTANDING. Everyones meals were phenomenal and cooked perfectly. We all were able to sit at one table, and had a great time. We tried to book again for Thursday, but were told that it was sold out. Thursday afternoon, we went by to check if there were any cancellations, and we were in luck! They were able to squeeze our party of 11 in again, and we all enjoyed another near perfect meal. This place is WELL worth the $20 cover. Our experience here was superior to our experiences in Carnival's Supper Clubs (which are also fantastic). Lido: I ate all my breakfasts and most lunches in the Lido. The breakfast selection was great. I really enjoyed the eggs benedict station and the belgian waffle section sooo good. Lunch also had a wonderful selection, and I usually opted for the Asian food. Debarkation: Painless. We were off the ship by 9am after a leisurely breakfast in Lido. Miscellaneous: I'm not going to cover the ports too much, as those can be researched separately. I will say that the tendering process in Sitka was pretty poor if you didn't book an excursion. I did not have a problem, but many in our party had to wait almost 2 hours in order to be called to shore. - The ship was clean and laid out generally well. I really appreciated all the nightlife activities being together on deck 2. I didn't really like the setup of the gym, but it was adequate for the crowd on board. For the size of the ship, I prefer the layout of Carnival's Spirit-class. In conclusion... this was a very good cruise. We LOVED Alaska, and especially enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Our sub par experience in the Vista Dining Room did actually detract from our enjoyment of the cruise because it is such a large aspect of OUR cruise experience. However, other than that, it was a good time, and everything else was generally good to excellent as we expected. Would I sail HAL again? Sure... for the right itinerary and right price. Would I go out of my way to sail HAL? Not at all. Being in my mid-20s, I did not at all feel out of place, or feel like there wasn't enough for me to do. This actually surprised me, and I would not at all mind sailing with them again. Other than some big improvement to make in the kitchen, the Oosterdam was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
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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