15 Holland America Oosterdam Group and Theme Cruise Reviews

This was the best cruise ever! The staff was friendly and very helpful as well as cheerful. The food was delicious and plentiful.Every evening it was arranged with care and lovely.Our dining staff was wonderful, especially our wine girl ... Read More
This was the best cruise ever! The staff was friendly and very helpful as well as cheerful. The food was delicious and plentiful.Every evening it was arranged with care and lovely.Our dining staff was wonderful, especially our wine girl (Miraki(Sp?)-from Japan but living in Manilla). Our room was beautiful and the gentlemen that serviced it were quick and efficient. The ship was clean and everything was top notch. The entertainment was great! I can't rave about it enough. The spa package was awesome. Seaweed wrap a must. The girls in the spa were lovely and informative. Mary our morning dining room person was so nice and helpful. She helped us start our day with JOY! The BBKing review was great. We enjoyed the special music provided by WayFM every night. The wine tastings we attended were very informative. Everyone was fabulous! A TRIP FOR THE MEMORIES!!! I am recommending Holland-America to everyone I tell about our trip and I will book again.*** Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
My husband and I are semi retired and enjoy traveling. This cruise was advertised with a local tour group and Alaska had always been on our list for travel. We booked the Veranda for the balcony. This was an older ship. The cabins were not ... Read More
My husband and I are semi retired and enjoy traveling. This cruise was advertised with a local tour group and Alaska had always been on our list for travel. We booked the Veranda for the balcony. This was an older ship. The cabins were not very clean. I had spilled some ice on the carpet and in retrieving it, brought up a glob of someone else's hair! The dinners were just ok. We spent an hour and a half waiting on courses to be served, and the coffee came 10 minutes after our dessert. We paid to eat in another dining room. Having been on other cruises that offered beautiful food sculptures and chocolate fountains this was a "nothing special cruise". The entertainment was trivia in the bar, or two guys singing at a piano. We could have gone to the digital workshop?#* What! I'm on vacation. I went to the spa/salon to have my hair done for a gala evening. I don't think these people ever worked in a real salon. They washed my hair, blow dried it and tried to sell me products. The positives of this trip were the staff, Alaska and the shore excursions. We went fishing and were fortunate to catch some and have it sent home. We also went to the dog mushing camp. If you like dogs, this is it! In spite of the bad, we did enjoy ourselves and made the best of it. My husband and I are not rich, and felt that we had "splurged" going on this trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
Charter cruise for music fans. Delbert’s cruise is always a people pleaser. Arrived the day before cruise and stayed at Westin. Great beach location and great nearby restaurants. Ship was fine as well as the food. Friendly staff. This ... Read More
Charter cruise for music fans. Delbert’s cruise is always a people pleaser. Arrived the day before cruise and stayed at Westin. Great beach location and great nearby restaurants. Ship was fine as well as the food. Friendly staff. This cruise is like no other. Not your typical cruise. Non stop music from morning until the wee hours of the night. Our fourth time to do this cruise. Plan to return next year and will encourage friends to join us. We have done this cruise four times in the last six years. Although this is somewhat of an expensive cruise, it is worth it. The excursions to Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic were great. We especially enjoyed our time on the beach in the Dominican Republic - a 45 minute drive to Cocony Cove beach. The food and drinks were good and we did the all inclusive which was worth it. The Puerto Rico craft cocktail excursion through old town was the best. Our guide Rocio who is a native of Puerto Rico was great - along with our bartender Carlos at la factoria. Highly recommended excursion. Just be prepared to walk up hill. Lots of food and drink with this one and a good value for what you get. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My spouse and I chose this cruise because of the promotion by Christian radio group WAYFm. For King and Country, Brandon Heath, Mark Lee of Third Day and Rebecca St. James were the featured artists, and they were superb. We arrived in ... Read More
My spouse and I chose this cruise because of the promotion by Christian radio group WAYFm. For King and Country, Brandon Heath, Mark Lee of Third Day and Rebecca St. James were the featured artists, and they were superb. We arrived in Seattle a day ahead in part because we had never been and we wanted to allow for airline difficulties and bad weather. Neither were a factor, so we went to Pike Place Market the day before embarkation. Embarkation went quickly and smoothly, was impressed with the number of agents HAL had at the terminal. Don't know if we timed it right or they just have their act together, but spent very little time standing in line. We chose a large interior stateroom on the Rotterdam Deck (7) due to reviews here and elsewhere and because we are tall and need a king bed. The only down side here is no view. Wish we had splurged for a room with a balcony, but now we know. 7055 suited our needs, however. Service was another topic. Although our stewards, Kom and Subchi were very good, room service was spotty. We order a bottled water package and got two, the second of which sat on our stateroom floor taking up space for most of the trip. Repeated calls did not result in retrieval, although we were not charged for two pkgs. Distilled water and an extension cord for my cpap were delivered in a timely fashion, however, and we were not charged for either, though I expected to be for the water. Dining was fine, although the buffet was always a zoo. There's got to be a better way to feed the hordes than standing in slow lines, especially for specialties such as omelets and salads, and hunting for seats like a scavenger. Drink service in the buffet was also spotty, Started out good, deteriorated badly as the week went on, unless you wanted soda or liquor, which was extra $$ and served by special waiters whose only job was selling those. A norovirus outbreak didn't help. The "free" beverage waiters/bussers had to man the drink stations to combat the virus. Evening meals were all in the main dining room and were very good, as was the service. All of the entertainment sponsored by the radio group was exceptional. The ship activities, not so much. We don't drink or gamble, and most of the other ship activities were stuff you could do at home: read, board games, movies, etc. Ports and excursions were mostly good. Juneau Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest was just OK. Too many people on the boat trying to see and snap pictures of very far off humpback whales. Rectified that by booking the Jet-Cat Wildlife Quest & Beach Exploration out of Sitka. Smaller boat, fewer people and an excellent young crew of Alex, Kara and Iris made this one worth it. Idled by a large raft of sea otters for several minutes, snapping happily away. Beach stop was not too taxing and very informative and enjoyable. Tip: it's worth the extra money to book whale & wildlife excursions on smaller vessels. The Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour out of Ketchikan is also worth the money. Great crew, very lively and passionate presentations and demonstrations by the ex-crabbers will keep you leaning forward. But the highlight of this tour is a bald eagle feeding time that brings a dozen our national symbols right up to the boat for a air and water show that is not to be missed. You can almost reach out and touch them (though you really wouldn't want to) as they soar and swoop in droves to grab and sometimes snatch in midair, large pieces of baitfish tossed out by the crew. Leaving and reboarding the ship at the various ports was quick and easy, although more information ahead of time about which floors and hatches were to be used for disembarking would have been nice. My favorite port experiences were shopping at two "local" stores: Tongass Trading Company in Ketchikan and Russell's in Sitka. Make sure you visit the second floor of the "big" Tongass store (they have several) for the real Alaskan outfitter goods. Russell's is just a smaller version of that in Sitka, with less inventory, but both have the XtraTuf boots favored by many of the locals in this rainy climate. Speaking of which, we had great luck with the weather. Only rained a little bit in Sitka on the way back to the ship. The rest of the ports and excursions, we were dry and comfortable. Temps were moderate, except during our visit to the Hubbard Glacier. But the cold was worth experiencing this wondrous marvel of nature. If you plan well and are willing to wait in line for a while, you can secure a great spot up front when they open the hatches to the ships bow. They also serve Dutch pea soup to guests who make it to that perch. All in all, a mostly postiive experience. Will we do it again? Maybe...in a warm weather climate! Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We chose this cruise for the theme. Ship is great. This was our second cruise with Holland. We will be going again next year on this type of theme(The Country Music Cruise)on one of their larger ships.. Our cabin was perfect, large ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the theme. Ship is great. This was our second cruise with Holland. We will be going again next year on this type of theme(The Country Music Cruise)on one of their larger ships.. Our cabin was perfect, large enough and close to everything we do. Plenty of food, all types. The entertainment was fantastic. The shore excursions good and plenty of variety. Our excursion had to be cancelled because of high winds. Thats okay. It was for our safety. That was going to be my first deep sea fishing trip. Maybe next yr. The weather will be better. I used the extra time for shopping. The service was great, very friendly and helpful. If we had a problem or needed something they took care of it. We are in our 70's. If we needed a litlle help we got it. We had a wonderfull time. Wish we were still there. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
I will never travel Holland again. Been on many cruises nothing for young adults going on. I`m 57, took my 35 year old son on his first cruise. They double charged all our guest credit cards. My son said first and last for him. He call ... Read More
I will never travel Holland again. Been on many cruises nothing for young adults going on. I`m 57, took my 35 year old son on his first cruise. They double charged all our guest credit cards. My son said first and last for him. He call it the Gray Pride cruise.Bad food, Customer service could not even figure my or my sons bill right.Finally found someone that could so we cashed out two days early. Also ordered a bottle of crown for our room 2 weeks early. didn`t come for 24 hours later give or take 2 or 3 hours. They kept saying its on it`s way.Cabin was good for stateroom. Men who cleaned room great. Worthy of a good tip. Nothing much going on at night.No pool party activity. That was the first for me,even through I`m not a big partyier. If your not over 65 don`t take this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
This was our first time on a large ship- Oosterdam has nearly 2000 passengers. The staff were superb and attentive, and the ship facilities extensive. The food was fairly good but not outstanding. The package was at first sight good value, ... Read More
This was our first time on a large ship- Oosterdam has nearly 2000 passengers. The staff were superb and attentive, and the ship facilities extensive. The food was fairly good but not outstanding. The package was at first sight good value, but the cost of optional extras was high: WiFi was extortionately priced, alcoholic drinks were very expensive, as was the spa, and shore excursions (though the ones we did were excellent). Entertainment on board was disappointing - we were hoping for some gentle ballroom dancing, but the dancing was either focussed on their dance competition, or cramped disco style. Talks were either all about on-shore shopping (yuk!) or very dumbed down where they were supposed to be informative. An irritation was lack of tea/coffee facilities around the ship - we had to go all the way to deck 9 for that. The ambience and style of the ship was brash and unimaginative : generally we found we couldn't wait to arrive in a port and get off - altogether a very forgettable experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 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
I have sailed with HAL before and liked it. It should have been the same this time. For the first time in my life I was to see Total Solar Eclipse. I did not want to gamble with this once in a life opportunity by trying to observe from ... Read More
I have sailed with HAL before and liked it. It should have been the same this time. For the first time in my life I was to see Total Solar Eclipse. I did not want to gamble with this once in a life opportunity by trying to observe from land and be depended on weather. At least cruise ship can seek clear skies. I was not in it for the cruise. I have seen all the ports before. We were there for one thing only,"Eclipse". We had extra sea day because of port cancellation. On the day of Solar Eclipse was some cloud with some patches of blue sky. In the distance we could see blue sky all around and light reflecting in the sea. Ship continued at cruising speed under the cloud as eclipse started. Astronomers were in contact with bridge urging to move from under the cloud into clearing and to gain some speed. None was done. Bridge staff informed that they are following way points. Just as the totality started clouds thinned and we were able to observe totality for 1min 20sec through thin clouds and then clouds blocked our view again. Totality should have lasted 2m 36s We lost half of the totality and second diamond ring. Once totality was over we entered clear skies for the rest of a day. We have been sitting under the cloud for the entire totality with blue skies all around us. We could have as well missed the eclipse has it not been for the thinning cloud. So the very reason why we were on the cruise has been denied to us for no good reason. We have not seen totality in its totality. The ship has maintained its position under the cloud with blue skies all around. Some explanation by HAL need to be made why no effort was made to get us into a clear skies just few miles away. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We arrived at the terminal at about 3:00 after driving from the Phoenix area. Except for a minor problem with the new to us car, it was an uneventful trip across IS 8. Since most of the passengers were on board embarkation was quick and ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal at about 3:00 after driving from the Phoenix area. Except for a minor problem with the new to us car, it was an uneventful trip across IS 8. Since most of the passengers were on board embarkation was quick and easy. The first intimation that HAL was losing it's class was the lack of a reception party to give directions to our cabin. Having more than twenty cruises under our belt, this gave us no problem, but one can imagine the confusion for the first timer. Since we were late, our cabin was ready for us. We dropped our carry-ons and proceeded to the Lido for something to eat. The ship was operating under high sanitation procedures so all buffet food had to be served by the staff. Chaos is the best description one can give it. We immediately found that many of our travel "companions" had little concept of manners or respect. Crowding and line jumping were rampant. Too make matters worse, the food was basically inedible. The meat was tough, the vegetables were cold, the drink dispensers were slow, and there was insufficient table space. We avoided the buffet as much as possible for the rest of the cruise. All-in-all, a bad start.Back at the cabin we found our luggage had been delivered. This was pleasant surprise given our late arrival. We found the cabin to be clean and in good condition, but a trifle smaller than we expected. Storage and closet space were very good. Quite surprisingly, we did not see our steward on the first day or for the rest of the cruise, except for the last day as we were leaving the cabin. He did, however, do a good job of keeping the room and bathroom clean and tidy.Back to the food issues. Meals in the main dining room tended to be mediocre and uninspired. Service for breakfast and lunch tended to be slow and erratic. This was a far cry from our previous experience on this ship five years previous. We ate two meals in the Pinnacle room where we found the food and service to be very good, however the Le Cirque experience was somewhat overpriced. Our meal in the Canaletto did little to inspire us since we could have obtained the same food in the buffet. Service was good, but not great.The only entertainment we attended was the Adagio Strings in the Explorer Lounge. This group of talented musicians from Romania provided a pleasant diversion. We did not attend any of the shows.Since we have been in both of the ports we visited, we spent little time ashore and took no excursions. The stop scheduled for Mazatlan was cancelled due to dangerous conditions there. In addition, one day of cruising was shortened to allow our ship to hurry to Puerto Vallarta to assist another ship there with engine problems.FYI. The casino is rather small for a ship of this size. We spent little time there since smoking is allowed. Note that you can now use your cruise card to play the machines (and the table games I surmise) This looks like a great way for the unwary to get into a lot of trouble. We did not see a lot of activity in this area.Make-up of the passengers seemed to be evenly spread from young families to senior couples. The timing of spring break, the relatively low cost, and the itinerary seems to have attracted significant numbers of passengers unaccustomed to cruising and social exposure. Rude behavior in the buffet, loud and inappropriate conversations, failure to make even the most perfunctory acknowledgment of dress "codes" all served to make activity in the public areas less than pleasant. As with all mass cruise lines, HAL is attempting to offset low initial cruise cost with nickel and diming on every thing from specialty coffees to overpriced photos. Disembarkation was well done and seemed to be one of the best organized activities of the week. I seriously doubt any future cruises on HAL for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
My sister and I recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America's OOSTERDAM. Entire ship was chartered by Christian entertainer Michael W. Smith and he brought along pastor/author/speaker Max Lucado, award winning singer Natalie ... Read More
My sister and I recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America's OOSTERDAM. Entire ship was chartered by Christian entertainer Michael W. Smith and he brought along pastor/author/speaker Max Lucado, award winning singer Natalie Grant, singer Matthew West, comedian Henry Cho, and others. That alone was worth the trip! Howver, my total experience was MAGNIFICENT!! I would go again in a heartbeat and so would my sister. Our shipmates were from all over the world,including all 50 states, Australia, Canada, South America, and Europe The OOSTERDAM was beautiful and the only TINY complaint we had is that there is a shortage of outlets in the cabins. Since my sister has cruised previously, we prepared for that by bringing extra plug-in outlets with multiple ports. Otherwise, everything was wonderful. Staff, food, decor, were all top-notch and the beds, although small, were very comfortable. That was good because our 2nd day at sea was rough (10' waves and gale winds) and about 1/2 the passengers were sick, including me. I just stayed in my comfy bed and lovely cabin all day. I enjoyed Michael's programs in the Vista Lounge each night and the seats were very comfortable. Only complaint is the poles. Best to get there early to avoid sitting behind one. Otherwise, it's a very nice theater. Inspiration Cruises put together this cruise and did a terrific job. My sister and I are widowed and we were seated with 8 other single women, all divorced, all in our general age group. We bonded the first night and spent a lot of time together. We plan to keep in touch and maybe take another cruise again- hopefully on the OOSTERDAM! Alaska is so spectacular it's really hard to describe. It was a trip that was on my "bucket list" and I'm so,so glad I went. Glacier Bay was just awesome! I would definitely recommend some excursions, if you could possibly manage it. In Juneau, we splurged and took a helicopter over the Juneau ice fields and saw several glaciers. We landed on one and walked around. AMAZING! However, you can also take a floatplane for less money and just fly over the glaciers. I'm sure that would be wonderful also. These are the only ways to really appreciate the enormity of the glaciers. In Sitka, we walked a few blooks to a Native American cultural center and watched native dancers and got to speak with them. You can get the show times at the info booth at the dock in Sitka. Pay at the theater. (You have to take a tender from the ship). Cost was $8.00 each. Very nice experience. I also took a city tour by motorcoach followed by a trip to the Raptor center. That's a gorgeous facility/park where volunteers help injured raptors such as eagles, owls, falcons, etc. Weather was sunny and nice (a light sweater or windbreaker). In Ketchican, I took a motorcoach to Auke Bay in the morning (about 20 mins from ship) where I picked up a catamaran/boat and went whale watching. Saw quite a few humpbacks and some of their calves. Saw 2 Orcas. WOW!! Very enjoyable. That afternoon, my sister and I took a floatplane to the Misty Fiords National Monument. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING! We landed on Rudyard Bay and got out for a few minutes. This is a "must see", as you will never understand the true beauty and magnificence of Alaska simply by walking around in town. You fly over mountains, valleys, lakes, streams, pass between sheer cliffs of trees, and see lovely waterfalls. My sister and I are "talkers" so we met and spoke with quite a few Alaskans who gave us interesting information and insights. I could go on and on, but just know that this was the BEST trip I ever went on- and I've traveled a lot! I thought Hawaii was the best, but I'd have to put Alaska above it. We did spend a few hours in Victoria, BC which was very pretty. To pass time, we took a motorcoach tour of the city and then had "High Tea" at the exclusive Empress Hotel. It was enjoyable, but nothing special. Since I've been to many "high teas", I expected our server to spend more time with us and really serve. Instead, she put everything on the table and left us. She only came by at the end. Unless you take a "rickshaw" type vehicle or cab, into town, there's nothing to see by the pier. The area near the Empress hotel is really nice and not too far from the pier. There are lots of shops and restaurants. I think it's a bit too far to walk. Alaska and ship weather- Bring a lined wind-breaker jacket with hood. It drizzles a lot in Alaska, but no need for an umbrella- it gets in the way. Long-sleeved clothes are best and maybe a sweater for under the jacket, as needed. For the glacier, I wore a long-sleeved shirt, 2 light sweaters, a wind-breaker, gloves and a hat, but I really didn't need those extras for anything else. No need for heavy coats or bulky sweaters. We brought way too many clothes, trying to be prepared for all kinds of weather. There are inside and outside pools and a hot-tub, so a bathing suit is appropriate. I don't want to forget one person- I had a first-rate experience with one of the Holland American reps in the Shore Excursion dept. Her name was Anja. She and I emailed and spoke on the phone a few times. She had taken the same trip last year and was so helpful and honest. She even sent me lots of photos of her trip to help me decide. By following her advice, my trip was unforgettable! Thankfully, we booked our excursions through Holland America because our trip to the glaciers ran very late due to weather postponments earlier in the day. We were late getting back to ship- my sister and I were the very last. However, the ship waited because we booked through them! Some helpful information: I am a young "senior". I get VERY, VERY motion sick, but not on this trip (other than that stormy night). I took 2 Meclizine pills daily, starting the night BEFORE boarding. This is the same as Bonine. I also took 2 Ginger pills daily, and wore Sea Bands continuously. I don't know what did it, but something, or a combination, worked!! I wouldn't have believed it. I also suffer from acrophobia- fear of heights- and have 2 knee replacements. BUT, I overcame these disabilities in order to get the full experience of Alaska. If I can do it, anyone can! I loved the OOSTERDAM and would definitely cruise on it again! We spent the night before the cruise at the Silver Cloud Inn in in Seattle. Nice hotel with free breakfast in the morning. Used AAA rate. Spaceious room, comfy beds. After the cruise we took a 2 hour boat ride around the Lakes of Seattle. Enjoyed it. Stayed that night at Klimpton Vintage Park Hotel. Absolutely gorgeous boutique hotel. Used AAA rate. BEAUTIFUL room, lots of space and VERY, VERY comfortable beds with 900 thread sheets and down (I think) comforters. We had the double, double deluxe room. We hated to leave in the morning. They also have a wine reception in the lobby at 5 pm daily. While in Seattle, we ate at 3 recommended restaurants and loved all of them. I made my reservations for the first 2 over a month in advance! Wild Ginger; Pink Door Restaurant (homemade Italian food- yummy- and entertainment including a trapeze artist); Cutters (on the water adjoining Pike's Market). Made advance reservations with AAA Airport Service (206-271-3761)to pick us up at SEATAC airport and take us to hotel before the cruise. Only cost $40. total door to door, plus tip. They use Lincoln town cars and were cheaper than taxis and better than getting to a shuttle and then riding around town dropping off other people. Very pleased with them. During brief stay in Seattle, we met a Yellow Cab driver who owned his own cab. Same rates as others (regulated by city), but very accommodating. He took me to Target on the way to the airport because I needed another suitcase! He got a very nice tip!! We arranged for him to pick us up when we went back to the airport- $32. plus tip. Mike- 206-618-9506 Hope this review was helpful! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This is the second time the my wife and I have taken a cruise on the Oosterdam. The first cruise being 2 years ago on the Mexican Rivera. Second time around was not a charm. There are almost as many bad things to write about the cruise as ... Read More
This is the second time the my wife and I have taken a cruise on the Oosterdam. The first cruise being 2 years ago on the Mexican Rivera. Second time around was not a charm. There are almost as many bad things to write about the cruise as there are good things. So I will start with the good things and for those who don't want to find out about the bad I'll warn you in advance before I start writing. First thing- it not often that you can go on a 12 day cruise and see Spain, Italy, France, Monaco, Greece, and Croatia. Such a whirlwind ! My favorites were Venice and Rome. My wife has her favorites of Venice, Rome, and Dubrovnik (in Croatia). We decided to do something different while we were in Corfu, Greece and rented a car for the first time overseas. Talk about freedom to meet the locals. Our room attendants (Sri and Henri) were top notch. Same can be said for our table attendants (Made and Efendi).  Being on a 12 day cruise is awesome because the first couple of days your unwinding and you still have 10 days of cruising to go. On a shorter cruise- you barely start to unwind and half the cruise is over with. Now for the BAD.....We went to the Pinnacle Grill for my wife's birthday. Service was extremely slow. It took 1 1/2 hours just to get to the main course. There were 3 unauthorized charges that were put on our account and it took 5 trips to the front desk to finally get them removed. The Oosterdam is not being maintained as well as she should be. Frayed carpets everywhere. Our toilet broke for 1 day. The Cappuccino machine broken for several days of the cruise. This is not what you expect from a ship that just came out of drydock. As much as we loved seeing so many different locations; it was an itinerary not designed for most of the clientele that sail on Holland America (I.E senior citizens). By the end of the cruise there were several people sporting crutches and arm slings.  It is to much to expect people in their 60s and 70s to be able to go on a 9 hour tour one day then turn around and go on a 11 hour tour the next day. There was only 1 sea day out of the 12. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Where to begin. This is my first review and only write it because of how disappointing my experience was while cruising with Holland America (Oosterdam). I realize everyone has a different experience and reserve the right to say my ... Read More
Where to begin. This is my first review and only write it because of how disappointing my experience was while cruising with Holland America (Oosterdam). I realize everyone has a different experience and reserve the right to say my experience could have been a minority (or rare) experience. The embarkation process was probably the absolute best I have ever experienced. I was truly amazed at how efficiently I boarded the ship. The process (regrettably) elevated my expectations to a level that was unfortunately non-sustainable. No cruise has been without problem but the manner in which the problems were dealt with were vastly different. Day one: When I opened the cabin door, I was blown away by the intense odor of smoke. The steward did his best to deal with the smell (de-ionizer) but even this could not remove the smell. I was able to pin point the smoke odor (it was the curtains) and asked that they be removed. They were not! Instead, the staff just sprayed the room (daily) with some type of spray which did "mostly" remove the smoke odor. Despite the steward's best efforts, the smoke odor remained albeit, tolerable (did I have a choice?). I have to give props to my steward; he busted his butt for me (and was rewarded for his efforts). Day two: The toilet backed up 3 times. This was the first cruise this ever happened to me. Was it me? The crew did "fix" the problem but it was just another blemish on the cruise experience as it took them three attempts to get things right. This was NOT a major blemish rather cumulative. Day three: Here is where it got bad. The GI virus (Norwalk Virus) broke out on the ship. The ship's crew implemented a "code red" (their term) status. I immediately noticed breeches in their own policies and quickly pointed the breeches out to crew. Unfortunately either they did not know how to implement the ship's code red policies or did not care. I continued to complain. I actually called the ship's medical crew and was told by the crew member, "that is not my job". Whether it is or isn't can be debated. However, maintaining proper Hygiene controls is EVERYONE'S job!!! According to the Captain, the crew would serve the passengers from all "common" sources (food, drinks, towels, utensils). For the record, the virus is spread via contact. After day 5 and several more complaints that the crew were not implementing the Captain's orders, they FINALLY got it! However, how many more people got sick because the crew did not know what to do or did not care to follow orders? All I know is what *I* observed. As a final note, I observed (on day 6) a crew member in a shop lick his fingers while handling a cruise card. Was the passenger sick? Who knows. If they were, then that crew member would have (potentially) spread the disease (virus) to more passengers. I have not mentioned the food service (well the lack of service) because it is possible many of the crew were infected which would have weakened the wait staff to a point of being unable to properly serve dinner. However, if they were not sick, the service was absolutely unacceptable. Again, this was not my first cruise thus, I had a benchmark to compare HA Oosterdam by. Finally, the part which put me over the edge was the way in which I was "handled" by the front office when I called to point out the breeches of sanitation. On one of my calls, the first thing out of the staff was "what other safety concerns do you have now Mr. "Smith" not, how may I help you. It was not of a tone of concern rather the tone of OMG, another complaint. I don't know about you, but hygiene is one of the MOST important issues facing a cruise (the boats are otherwise extremely safe). Will I sail with Holland America again? I understand they are part of a conglomerate or outright own other lines (of which I have sailed with) but will never step foot on one that says Holland America!!! Peace and happy sailing, Acetylsleeper Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Unlike some, we cruise on occasion - but still enjoy other types of vacationing as well. That being said, this was our fifth cruise (and the second on Holland America) over the last ten years. This was also our second trip to the Mexican ... Read More
Unlike some, we cruise on occasion - but still enjoy other types of vacationing as well. That being said, this was our fifth cruise (and the second on Holland America) over the last ten years. This was also our second trip to the Mexican Riviera as we did a similar itinerary several years ago on NCL. My wife and I are early 60's (she's retired and I continue to work full time). While we've also cruised on NCL and Princess, we think Holland America provides one of the best rides going. Our group arrived on Thanksgiving day and spent two days seeing the San Diego sights prior to boarding. We rented a car and stayed at the Hampton Inn Sea World because of the proximity to Old Town. We also enjoyed Gas Light area restaurants as we stayed over a night upon returning at the Gas Light Marriott. Also, I must add that this particular cruise was a CardPlayers.com poker cruise (with about 500 poker players) and as a result, had a larger cross section of age groups than we saw on our earlier HAL trip. I'm sure this younger than normal crowd also affected late night activities in the Casino and other lounges. Having this group aboard, however, didn't appear to have any adverse affects on anything except for the fact that the Crow's Nest lounge was taken over by this group and not available for any other ship's activities. Embarkation - We arrived around 11:30....stood in line for 10-15 minutes and were on the Lido deck enjoying a great bloody mary and buffet lunch shortly after noon. State rooms were ready, as advertised, at exactly 1:30pm. For this cruise, we had chosen an aft veranda cabin (5180) which was fantastic. The balconies on the end of the ship are huge - we had two chairs, two chaise lounges and a table and still had tons of room. The king sized bed was very comfortable and we had more than sufficient space for all of our belongings. One note here, "bring half as many clothes and twice as much money as you think you will need" - that's the motto of my niece, a former travel agent, who along with her husband were also with us on this trip. We also opted for the unlimited laundry - at $45 for the week, we think this is one of HAL's better bargains. Don't forget, however, that your cutoff to send laundry in is 48 hours before the ship returns (or 10am on the next to last morning). As we had spent two days in San Diego before boarding, the first thing we did was to fill the laundry bag and call for pickup. We also met other CCers for the Banner Wave at 3pm and HAL provided us with a nice complimentary "meet and greet" on the first sea day. Spa - my wife and my niece opted for the hydrotherapy package ($150 a piece or $250 a couple - they were able to sign up together and got the couple's rate). This provides unlimited use of the hydrotherapy pool, heated lounges, sauna, changing rooms and showers for the week - another great bargain. The best part is that this package is limited to the first 50 people that sign up so that it is almost always available for use. My wife and niece can expand on this further - Niece: The heated thermal lounges were quite comfortable and offered floor to ceiling windows for fantastic sea views. One late day visit offered a gorgeous sunset. The thermal lounges are warm, but not overly hot - Perfect for relaxation, reading or a nap. The heat in the dry sauna was much hotter than the thermal lounges if your body needed the hotter temperature. I guess that's my (wife) cue . . .If left up to me, I would not have mentioned the hydrotherapy package. Why? Because when I cruise again with HAL, I don't want everyone else to beat me to this tremendous offer! I can't say anything negative about this package. Having the freedom to go as often as you want is wonderful. We never found it overcrowded and if you chose to stay on board during a port of call, you basically had the entire spa to yourself. The only thing that could have made it better, in my opinion, would be the hours of operation. On our cruise, the spa opened at 8:00 and closed at 10:00 p.m. A little earlier opening for the hydrotherapy pool would have been wonderful. Food - barely enough (ha)....We opted for the late traditional seating - we would have preferred the early seating, however it was already "sold out" when we made our reservations. HAL's main dining room is on two decks connected by a stairway - the upper deck is reserved for traditional seating whereas the bottom deck is available for "as you wish" dining. There is also one "extra cost" dining room, the Pinnacle Grill. My niece and husband had lunch there one day but gave it only "average" reviews. One comment however about the Pinnacle Grill, the head chef there, a Canadian, did a French Cuisine session (a $29 cost) on one of the sea days - both my wife and niece attended and gave it rave reviews - I'll let my wife expand on this as well. It's my (wife) cue again. . .the French Cuisine Culinary Arts class was fantastic! My niece is somewhat a gourmet cook in her own right, but for a very basic cook such as myself, I found this to be the absolute BEST VALUE of the entire cruise. We had the completely devoted time of Chef Brandon as he prepared 3 wonderful dishes and allowed us to help. We were served wine, given the recipe cards, an apron AND tasting rights of the meal. We were there approximately 2 hours and it was absolutely the BEST! I'll break the review into Dining Room, Lido Buffet and Room Service. Dining Room - we love the traditional dining where you have the same wait staff each evening. We really enjoy getting to know them and, assuming the service is good, provide an extra gratuity on the last night. Try as we did, we never really got the hang of our server's name (he was from Indonesia and had been with HAL for seven years). He was, however, excellent and we really enjoyed him. One night my wife went to use the pepper shaker and the lid came off. He, the waiter, was visibly upset over this and immediately grabbed up her plate and ordered a new entree' brought out for her. After that, each evening when we arrived for dinner he would pick up the salt and pepper shakers in our presence and ensure they were correctly fastened - we gave him some good-natured teasing about it as well. Also one night when my wife didn't come to dinner - he wanted to know if she was ok and I told him she was feeling a little under the weather. He replied that he would pray for her. When she appeared the next evening, he gave her a big hug to welcome her back. As for the food - it was certainly ok, however nothing really overly special and in fact, could have been a bit hotter on occasion. The highlight was the escargot - wish I'd have ordered two (or more). Soups were also very good overall. Desserts, on the other hand, were average at best. The turf portion on "surf and turf" night was very rare - which I love, but might not have been to all other's taste. Lido Buffet - We primarily ate there for breakfast with eggs/omelettes/eggs benedict to order were all hot, well prepared and very good. They also had a wide variety of toppings for waffles and the meats, breads and juices, etc were all excellent. Late night Italian buffet was average at best. We also ate off the hamburger bar which was good as well and made great use of the free ice cream bar. I also enjoyed the cookies as I'm something of a "cookie monster." All in all, I'd say the buffet was better than average just because of the breakfasts and everything seemed to be well prepared and presented. Room Service - We ordered breakfast on two occasions via the hang the request on your door the night before as well as another occasion when my wife slept in. On all occasions, everything arrived right on time and with the exception of the toast was hot and very tasty. HAL is the only ship we've been on that provides eggs/omelettes for room service breakfast - NCL and Princess were only continental breakfasts the last time we sailed with either. Overall, I'd say the food was good, not outstanding....the service in the dining room could be a bit slow on occasion but that, I think, is to be expected. Shipboard entertainment: Casino - my wife played the slots primarily and won more than she lost (which is always nice)....I tried the blackjack on one occasion. Overall the table games were priced well (several $5 blackjack games) and were quite busy in the evenings even with a plethora of poker players off playing poker in the Crow's Nest. I did have occasion to talk with a number of these folks and they seemed overall to be happy with the poker tour. Daily trivia - Our group did well here, winning on a couple of occasions. This is always a fun event for us. Other activities - ping pong, golf, basketball, bingo, etc were all available but my group participated only briefly in any of these. I did enjoy the hot tubs and pool as well as the plentiful deck chairs for reading and just overall relaxation while on-board ship. I tend to get a tad restless on the last day at sea and this time was no exception, however, the dam superstar competition and a special evening show on the last day were exceptional and made for a good finish to a great cruise vacation. Ship entertainers - Singers and Dancers did three shows and to be honest, I found them quite boring. I did watch a singer's only show in the Queen's lounge one night (Broadway to Queens) and found this to be quite entertaining so I'd say they may need to hire a new producer/choreographer for the song and dance group. The magician was superb and put on a very good show and certainly in the "don't miss" category was Joel Mason and his salute to Elton John - what a fantastic performer. The whole cast to include singers/dancers, magician, the HAL-cats musical group, and Joel Mason did a final night show called Joel Mason and friends - and it really brought the house down - what a fantastic way to finish the cruise. We were so wound up after watching this show that we stayed up and partied a while and almost forgot that we had to pack and have our bags out by 1 am - we made it, just barely. We briefly heard some of the lounge singers - the piano bar entertainer was also quite good. We also enjoyed the Ocean Bar piano and music -prior to going to dinner. The staff also hosted their version of American Idol called the "dam superstar". The cruise director, Jason, one of the male singers and Joel Mason served as judges - this is also in the "not to be missed" category - what a great time for everyone - audience and those in the show. One final note here on the entertainment, the cruise director, Jason Veneer was perhaps as good as they get - He, unfortunately for HAL and for anyone reading this was making his final cruise - He WILL be missed. Ports of Call/Excursions: Cabo San Lucas - This is the only stop requiring tender ships. We were in port with two other cruise ships (pretty much the same in all three stops) so the town was pretty full of folks. My group went on the dune buggy ride to the beach and we all got too much sun (don't forget the sun screen - ha). Our buggy also had the adventure of running out of gas just as we were trying to get up onto the highway - the trail vehicle had some gas for us and we were again soon on our way. Overall this was an "ok" adventure for the group - the beach we went to was also inhabited by one of the snorkel tours as well. Mazatlan - A first for me and my nieces husband, we went on the zip line canopy tour and had a blast! I had wanted to do this on another cruise a few years ago but for one reason or another opted out. This is one excursion, however, that I would definitely do again. The Mazatlan crew did a great job - there were 39 of us in our group. They broke us down into 3 groups of ten and one of nine....fitted us with gear, gave us a short demonstration and a safety briefing and we were zip lining through the trees in short order. I must say that never once did I not feel safe - it was a great time. We then made a stop at a working tequila factory where they assured us that the second free sample would be better than the first so, of course, I had to check them at their word and found it to be so (ha). They were selling the tequila, of course, for $30 a bottle (a so-so price). Had it not been for having to fly home afterwards and concern about packing the bottle in my luggage, I'd have probably spent the money - especially after the second shot. Puerto Vallarta - We took the advice of many of cc'ers here and made the trek across the street from where we docked to buy souvenirs at the local Wal-Mart. They also had a great selection of tequila as well - my niece bought some here for her son. The only excursion we did here was called "Rhythms of the Night" which was absolutely fabulous. I'd read other accounts where cc'ers were saying this was the best excursion they'd ever been on so was a little concerned that all that hype might be for naught. On the contrary, we loved it....the boat crew on the way to Las Caletas does a great job of entertaining you and providing as much as you care to drink. Then the evening show was fantastic and the buffet dinner complete with wine and candlelight right next to the shore line was very romantic. On the ride back, the crew of the boat continued where they'd left off on the ride over - got every one up and dancing and of course the drinks continued. I highly recommend it. I believe in tipping for good service and these folks received the highest tips I've ever doled out for an excursion. Disembarkment - Alas, all good things must come to an end but to Hal's credit this was "the best" disembarkment we have ever had. We filled out a form early in the week indicating what time we wanted to be off the ship. On the day before arrival back in San Diego, we were given luggage tags to coincide with our selected times and provided information about when to leave the ship. They made one announcement about 8:15 am or so that everyone could begin and after that, whenever your time window arrived, you left the ship. We chose not to leave until 9:30 - slept in until around 7:30 (as we hadn't gotten in bed until after 1 am), got dressed and enjoyed a final breakfast in the Lido. At 9:30 we made one last trip to the restrooms, took the elevator down to deck 2 and literally walked off the ship into a waiting cab. Couldn't have been smoother and left a great "after"taste for Holland America lines. One final remark would be, again, given the value for dollar, level of service and quality of overall cruise, Holland America leads the pack above the others that we've cruised. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
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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