5 Holland America Oosterdam Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

My partner and I, 55 and 58 gay men, decided pretty last minute to do this Alaska Explorer 7 night charter. We were able to get a good deal booking with the charter as we are alumni with many past cruises with them, and there were many ... Read More
My partner and I, 55 and 58 gay men, decided pretty last minute to do this Alaska Explorer 7 night charter. We were able to get a good deal booking with the charter as we are alumni with many past cruises with them, and there were many cabins to fill.....our luck. Also, we had never cruised with Holland American Line before and have wanted to for years, so a win-win all around! We flew in to Seattle arriving around 1pm for a 3pm at the lasted boarding time. We had thought we would simply grab an Uber or Lift to the pier, but after getting our bags, time was running out, and we discovered HAL had a service to transfer us by bus to the terminal....so we used that (both ways as it turned out).... Check in was easy as we were getting they later in the day and most had already boarded. Our veranda cabin on the 8th floor starboard was decent. Definitely could use an upgrade as there were repaired holes and such in the bathroom. The deck really needed to be washed, as it was all a mess and dirty. The beds were quite comfortable, slept well all 7 nights. The TV served up some good movies OD, a few TV channels, access to the bridge cams.....nice. I liked how the closets had shelves that could be swung up to make more room for hanging clothes....every cruise line should have this great idea. Cabin steward was efficient and did not see much of him. As for dining, we ate most meals in the main dining room and had mostly above average luck with our meals. We are mostly Celebrity Cruisers so that is what we are comparing to....I think Celebrity does food better, my partner thinks HAL is just a bit better. The Lido Market is not a bad place for snacks and small meal. Overall, the service onboard is wonderful. The staff seems to enjoy what they are doing and we enjoyed having one waiter all week who treated us great. I would say the general overall service seems a bit warmer on HAL that Celebrity. Also, the Oosterdam has a warmer feel to it than most of the Celebrity ships. The design is obviously night and day, with Celebrity more modern and HAL a bit traditional. I like the change and the size of the ship. As a charter ship, the on board entertainment was quite good. A few let downs, but over all some great comedy, music and dancing were well done. The ships own dancers did an awesome job the night I saw them, using the huge screens on stage to interact with....something new to me and fun to watch! Something else HAL does is the Lincoln Center Stage, with a string quintet and pianist play a huge variety throughout the cruise. I wish I was able to see more of them, but what I did hear was top-notch..... OK, the internet! I thought I would take advantage of buying a weekly package before boarding as I would save about $50 for the 'Premier' package and be able to stream shows if I would like. Well, the internet on the Oosterdam is a joke. I was never able to stream....downloading pictures from Facebook took many seconds, and often,,,,very often, the whole thing stopped and needed to be restarted.....not fun....the front desk passed on my concerns.....but while I was there at the front desk,(and every time I was there, btw) other passengers were also complaining and some were rather irate. I just put down my iPad and did not let it bother me. But just don't expect much in terms internet on the Oosterdam. We had been to Alaska a few times before, so did not do many excursions, but LOVE seeing Hubbard Glacier....always my favorite part of an Alaska cruise! We would certainly consider HAL again....we like the 1900 pax load. Not too small, not too big. The food was good and service great. While this review was a little boring, the ship was not! I would suggest this to those who like music, relaxed atmosphere and a ship not geared up with bells and whistles of all the newer ships like RCL and Norwegian and Carnival. I almost forgot my favorite place on the ship, the Crows Nest on the top deck.....great place to sit and stare out watching the world go by with the panoramic windows....and a bar and coffeeshop..... Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
Our third cruise, but the first with Holland America Line. Boarding as the usual stressful super heated mayhem. I wish cruise lines could learn something from Middle Eastern air carriers such as Emirates in that respect. The ship was clean ... Read More
Our third cruise, but the first with Holland America Line. Boarding as the usual stressful super heated mayhem. I wish cruise lines could learn something from Middle Eastern air carriers such as Emirates in that respect. The ship was clean and well managed. That it was a Dutch boat showed by the fact that they had LGBT single parties. We (traditional married couple) booked a suite and our 'butlers' were great. Overall staff appeared to be happy and well taken care of. That's not the impression we had on a MSC ship. Ok, the good: - Entertainment (TV) system was airline style and great. - Super nice staff - Well maintained ship - Airline style PAs by the captain - Beautiful stateroom The not so good: - Complexity of beverage packages and their price. - A ton of flyers promoting extra cost stuff in your cabin every day. - The thermal suite package (not worth it) - The food was big corporation canteen style at best. We gave up on it and had great meals in every port. Still, overall happy and would book the same cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Overview: This was our first cruise with HAL, first time in the southern hemisphere, and first three week vacation. It was a specialty cruise where Atlantis Events chartered the entire ship for a primarily gay cruise starting in ... Read More
Overview: This was our first cruise with HAL, first time in the southern hemisphere, and first three week vacation. It was a specialty cruise where Atlantis Events chartered the entire ship for a primarily gay cruise starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Sydney, Australia for the Mardi Gras parade and Mardigrasland party. This was our third cruise and second with Atlantis. On the whole we enjoyed the trip, found the ship comfortable, most of the crew polite and friendly, made new friends, enjoyed most of the meals, and had some nice adventures on the excursions. Our previous two cruises were with RCI and we are likely to return to a Royal Caribbean ship for future cruises. We found the HAL experience rated just a little lower than RCI in almost every category except for cabin size and comfort. The cabin on this cruise was large, comfortable, and everything worked perfectly. Air travel: On the whole we logged more than 20,000 miles in three weeks for this trip. That's a lot of flying. To break up the trip, we flew Southwest Airlines from the east coast to Los Angeles and stayed with friends for two nights. We booked Air New Zealand (ANZ) to Auckland with a 9 hour layover in Honolulu to further break up the trip. I learned two things I want to share. First, ANZ partners with other airlines such as United. Even though all of your reservation documentation may show a ANZ flight numbers, you may still need to board another carrier's aircraft and flight number. Fortunately we were using the FlightTrack app so we didn't have our driver drop us off at the ANZ terminal #2. The app showed the flight was originally scheduled to leave Delta terminal #6 but was updated to United terminal #7 during our drive to the airport. Neither Delta nor United personnel claimed they found us in their system. I had to call ANZ and speak with someone with a strong New Zealand accent to learn which carrier and flight number on which we were booked to Honolulu. With the United flight number we approached the United counter again and successfully checked into the flight. Once in Honolulu we were upgraded by Dollar to a new, convertible Mustang and enjoyed exploring the island for a six hours. The flight to Auckland was a real ANZ flight. Their flight crew is very friendly, the aircraft modern with lots of entertainment options, food is delicious, and the safety video is Lord of the Rings themed and entertaining. After the vacation flying ANZ back to the USA resulted in more confusion. They received a new computer system the day before and their terminal and staff were in chaos. Eventually we learned ANZ had again passed us off to United so we had to make our way to United and check in with them for our direct flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. I'll avoid ANZ and look to Qantas in the future. The second thing I learned was flying from the USA to AU/NZ you lose one day and gain it back on the return. Embarkation: While I didn't expect embarkation to be pleasant, our experience at the Prince's Wharf in Auckland was worse than expected. Atlantis pushed embarkation time later to allow VIPs to board early. This narrowed the window for everyone else to less than three hours and the VIPs arrived late anyway. The terminal was very warm and and didn't seem to have any air conditioning. We joined the line with a good attitude and were making progress through one of the two available lines. An Atlantis employee appeared and scolded everyone for arriving early, closed one of the lines without telling the people in the 2nd line where to go. Fortunately another Atlantis employee noticed the confusion and instructed the people in line two who were now cut off to merge in with our line. He indicated this was done to allow the VIPs to enter first and this added about an extra hour wait to the hour we had already waited in line in this very hot building. When we reached a HAL representative we were told there was a problem printing our room keys and we should wait at the far side of the building by the exit. At least there was some fresh air by the tent exit. After 20 minutes our room keys had not appeared. An Atlantis employee was no help and seemed annoyed while implying we were being impatient. He thought we were waiting at the right place and indicated a couple of other passengers had the same issue with their keys earlier. After another ten minutes I found another HAL employee and asked. She indicated we needed to board the ship and go to the front office for our keys. I did point out the HAL employee who had misinformed us and also let the Atlantis employee know the procedure in case this happened to others. We were exhausted and soaked with sweat by the time we boarded the ship. Ship: We found the Oosterdam to be in good condition and easy to navigate. From photos I expected the colors and decor to be gaudy, but on the whole the design was appealing and I enjoyed the nautical themed art throughout the ship. The only exceptions I found odd include the childish looking modern sculptures at the aft pool (an adults only pool -- no wonder others complain about children ending up there) and the odd center ceiling with flashing color lights in the main dining room. Okay, I thought the Pinnacle Grill pacific northwest themed decor was ugly too. Mechanically everything worked properly and the elevators were amazingly speedy. A trick I learned to quickly identify fore and aft directions is that the benches are always on the aft wall in the elevator lobbies. Cabin: Our cabin was the largest we have had and found it to have significant closet and storage space. It was located in the aft part of the ship on deck 5. Crew and Atlantis staff: We found most of the crew to be polite, friendly, and helpful. Our cabin stewards (we had two) never stopped by to introduce themselves so I wrote them a note to tell them our names and ask for theirs. In the note I included the types of fruit we liked, indicated we used a lot of ice, and asked for a laundry bag. For the rest of the cruise, they provided fruit and maintained two containers of ice for us. The first two towel animals were unidentifiable but they got better and better as the cruise progressed. We did leave extra tips for them when they surpassed our expectations. We did have a few bad experiences with bar staff. After ordering two rum and Coke's a bartender asked if I would prefer a "strong double." I responded no, and he proceeded to pour extremely weak drinks. I commented, "Wow, that's a very weak single." He nodded in affirmation. I turned away and was talking to someone in line when he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and he showed me a cup almost full of alcohol and said, "This is a strong double." I was stunned and disappointed. The roving wait staff offering drinks were too aggressive with constant pressure to purchase drinks. They have an incentive to do this for the automatic 15% gratuity and it was a gay cruise to it's possible this occurred because additional staff were on board to serve alcohol. We received massages at the spa and were a little disappointed in the quality. We expected a relaxing experience and instead received deep tissue massages followed by a couple of days of sore muscles. Atlantis staff seemed less organized and friendly on this cruise. They also provide a 2nd cruise director in addition to the HAL one. The Atlantis cruise director is the same person we had on our Med cruise seven years ago. I heard a comment that this was his 104th Atlantis cruise. It shows. He didn't seem friendly or approachable and actually came off as cranky. With the exception of one Atlantis staff member who was on his first Atlantis cruise, they all seemed a bit cranky, unorganized, and unhelpful. I think it's time for new blood at Atlantis. Food: We found food on the Oosterdam to be good although some selections were tiny. I found myself trying to read between the lines of menu descriptions to decide if it would be a tiny morsel instead of a traditional course. Our specialty cruise was 100% open seating and at sea days a brunch was served in the MDR, which I don't think is normally done. With open seating it's often nice to meet and dine with new people but I do miss having the same waiters who learn your preferences. One night we were seated with a passenger who ordered one of every dessert. Even though I bore no responsibility, I was embarrassed and the time it took almost made us late for a show. We especially enjoyed dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and were served the best crab cakes I've ever had, delicious steak, and very showy, flaming baked Alaska desserts. Most nights had theme parties that ran into the early morning hours and HAL always had a very nice variety of good food in the Lido for hungry guests. Entertainment: Since this was a specialty cruise, entertainment duties were shared by HAL and Atlantis. We attended several of the shows by entertainers hired by Atlantis and enjoyed them although we didn't find them as good as our previous Atlantis cruise in the Mediterranean. The HAL shows we saw were okay, but again we didn't find them as enjoyable as entertainers on RCI cruises. Excursions: We booked a mixture of HAL and independent excursions. When scheduling allowed we booked small group, independent excursions through Viator. Even many of the HAL excursions were customized to include only passengers from our ship which resulted in smaller groups which enhanced the experience. Although we were sad to learn we would miss Christchurch because of the distance from Akaroa, NZ we really enjoyed the Duncan Barber Sheep Farm and later the two hour nature cruise in the port of Akaroa. We also really enjoyed lunch on the Colonial Tram in Melbourne. The food, service, and sightseeing was extraordinary. We found it a great way to tour Melbourne in comfort. Another highlight was a small group Blue Mountains day trip we booked in Sydney through Viator. We reached the Featherdale animal park just as they opened and were able to feed and pet animals including kangaroos and koala bears. The trip continued to uncrowded viewing location of the Blue Mountains, Olympic Park, and a cruise back to Circular Quay which avoided rush hour crowded highways. Our itinerary was adjusted for this specialty cruise and was shortened to 12 days. We had an overnight in Melbourne and an overnight in Sydney which required omitting a couple of the regular Oosterdam ports. One thing we would not do again is book the very expensive Glamstand Glambar for viewing the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney. We were promised free gourmet food and an open bar served by waiters. In reality the bar had a long, slow line with a limited selection of pre-mixed, cocktails in aluminum cans. The food was good but sparse and there were zero chairs for patrons of the "Glambar." People who opted for lower priced Glamstand tickets had stadium seating. For most Oosterdam passengers this will not be an issue since this was part of our specialty cruise. Conclusion: We enjoyed our adventure Down Under and made some great friends. HAL staff and the Oosterdam made for an overall good experience. Atlantis Events did an okay job, but missed an opportunity to make the trip amazing. 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Sail Date February 2013
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be ... Read More
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be repaired or replaced. It didn't help that we had to leave a note on the first day for the room steward to please vacuum all the crumbs off of the carpeting from the previous occupants and to replace the torn shower curtain that was laying on the bottom of the tub. We finally met our invisible room steward on the fourth day and he was never seen again the entire cruise!!! The food and service were excellent on this voyage, despite three days of Code Red (no self service) which is a big pain for both the passengers and crew. The Pinnacle Grill always exceeds our expectations in both food and service, it is well worth the extra charge. The spa continues to be one of the Oosterdam's highlights and really adds that extra bit of relaxation to make you feel that life is a pleasure. Our main complaint (as with many fellow passengers) was that we went to Mazatlan on this voyage while every other cruise line including Carnival had cancelled it. What were they thinking???...a military helicopter and many many soldiers with big machine guns did not make us feel secure enough to get off the ship when the TV news had stories of more violence the day before. Only the passengers that had tours were brave enough to get off and it mostly seemed like a sea day onboard in this wasted port of call. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an ... Read More
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an oceanview. The second was also to the Caribbean on the Volendam in an oceanview.) This cruise was to the Mexican Riviera out of San Diego. We weren't looking specifically for this destination, but the rate was too good to pass up. It was SO much less expensive than comparable length Caribbean cruises at the same time. This seems to be one of HAL's best value cruises since it is still substantially cheaper than other HAL offerings a year later. ABOUT THE EMBARKATION PORT. San Diego was a pleasure compared to Fort Lauderdale (where we sailed from on our previous cruises). You could even walk from the airport to the cruise terminal if you didn't have to deal with luggage! (It's about 2 miles.) We flew in a couple days before and stayed in one of the several hotels that is within a few blocks of the terminal. We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was a two block walk to the ship. We walked pulling our wheelies behind. There is a high-rise Holiday Inn immediately across the street from the terminal - after checking out from your hotel, all you need to do is negotiate a crosswalk to check in for the ship. The whole experience of airport-to-hotel-to-ship transfers were absolutely painless. The proximity of the airport made catching your flight home much less stressful, too. ABOUT THE CABIN. We booked an SY cabin (Superior Veranda Suite) for about $800. Some time before saildate (maybe 6-8 weeks) we got a call from HAL asking if we wanted to upgrade to SA (Delux Veranda Suite) for $295pp. We jumped at it. The total for the cruise was just a little over $1300pp for the second largest stateroom on the ship. Was it worth it? Oh yes! It definitely was. The stateroom was more than 500sf with a very large and comfortable sitting area and a huge bathroom with two sinks, a jacuzzi tub and separate shower. There was a large, well-lighted dressing area with lots of closet space. The veranda was large enough for two lounges and a table & chair set. Waiting for us in the room was a bottle of wine (or was it champagne?). The stateroom was nicer than many hotel rooms I've stayed in. To give you a sense of how large it was: without moving furniture around, there was enough open floor space for the two of us to stretch out on the floor and do yoga! Another benefit about having a suite is you get priority boarding and departure. We didn't know this when we checked in, but as soon as we cleared check in, we were told to go right on board. A nice unexpected perk. NAVIGATOR LOUNGE. For passengers booked into Deluxe Veranda Suites and Penthouse Suites, there is a Navigator Lounge. It is a large, comfortable room in the center of the ship (no windows). There is constantly food and drink (coffee, tea, juice) available for self-service. (The staff will also offer to have you sit and they will get what you want.) We got our breakfast from this Lounge every morning and walked down the corridor to our room to enjoy our breakfast on the veranda. There is a nice breakfast selection, an excellent variety for a light lunch, hors d'ouvers in late afternoon, pastries and sweets all along the way. We would also go to the lounge to have tea and play cards mid-afternoon. It is a very quiet, comfortable, welcoming place. SPA & HYDRO-THERAPY SUITE. We splurged ($250/cpl) for the week and used the hydro-therapy suite. The eucalyptus steam rooms, heated ceramic lounges, and luxurious, quiet and large therapy pool were totally worth it. I lost many hours that week in utter relaxation! THE SHIP. I was a bit concerned about the size of the Vista Class ship. Our two previous cruises were on significantly smaller ships. One of the things I liked about those experiences was the lack of crowds. I was pleasantly surprised. The only time I felt at all crowded was our first night going into the dining room. There was a long line with people waiting to be shown to their tables. That didn't happen subsequent nights because people knew where their tables were. The ship felt exactly like the other HAL ships I was on. I liked the familiarity and definitely liked how the 1800+ passengers seemed to disappear nicely! It was never even a problem finding a deck chair at the pool or on the Promenade. THE FOOD. I have read mixed reviews about the food on HAL. Personally, I have yet to be disappointed. We're both "foodies" and appreciate fine dining. The meals in the main dining room consistently surprised me. I always marvel at how they serve so many people such high quality food. The Pinnacle Grill is very much worth the small surcharge. The meat that I've had there surpasses what I've had at most dining establishments on land. SERVICE. We had a table mix up our first night. Since this cruise was a celebration for our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to have a table for two. We were seated at a table for six (or was it even larger?). This was a big disappointment (and the only one on the cruise). We chose not to dine there that night after discussing the mix up with the dining room manager. The next day we got a call in our stateroom from the manager - he would have us seated at a table for two for the rest of the cruise. One night we off-handedly mentioned to our waiter that it was our anniversary. The next night he surprised us with a "Happy Anniversary" cake. This was particularly nice because, as a gay couple, we really appreciated the being treated as a couple. The dining room manager even wished us a happy anniversary when he next saw us. These little personal touches are the types of things that have happened on each of our HAL cruises - and it's one reason why we're brand-loyal. NOTABLE POINTS ABOUT THIS CRUISE. I particularly liked that 3 of the 7 days were at sea. I really enjoy at sea days. I wish HAL had more cruises to nowhere. When I'm looking for a cruise I look for one with a high ratio of at sea days. We had lots of whale and seal sightings on this cruise. We enjoy jazz and classical music. Each night in the Explorer Lounge after diner there was a string quartet that was truly excellent. It was a lovely way to close the evening. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
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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