My wife and I are very regular travelers. We are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises. We have been on approx. 20 cruises to date from the Princess to the Crystal cruise line. This is ... Read More
My wife and I are very regular travelers. We are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises. We have been on approx. 20 cruises to date from the Princess to the Crystal cruise line. This is our first time with HAL and this is probably our last time with HAL based on the experiences we had on this 13-days Panama Canal cruise on the Oosterdam.
To begin, let us at least say a few positive words about the cruise and the ship. FIRST, our cabin was on 8th deck, one of the SS suite. The cabin was very spacious, with plenty of cabinets and drawer space for clothes and miscellaneous. The cabin steward was nice and quite attentive to our needs. The veranda was large and well-partitioned for privacy. SECOND, the front office staff, especially the pursers, were very friendly and they tried diligently to answer questions and solve problems to the best of their abilities. THIRD, the Pasta Station in the Lido deck made one of the best pasta (cooked to order) better than most cruise ships including the Crystal Harmony and Serenity. FOURTH, embarkation and disembarkation were orderly and swift. We were aboard the ship in less than 1/2 hour after we checked in. Likewise, we were able to get off the ship quickly and early enough to catch an earlier flight home.
PRECRUISE: Since we are from the West Coast and bought our own plane tickets, we needed to travel to Ft. Lauderdale one day early to avoid any uncontrollable delays and therefore miss the ship. We took the pre-cruise hotel package from HAL, staying in the Hyatt Regency in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel staff, from the bellman to the coffee shop waitress, were rude, unfriendly, and incompetent. The room was dirty and had stains all over the carpet. The bellman walked off with our luggage without indicating where he was headed towards. The waitress presented us with the wrong check, and when we questioned her, she refused to make any changes until we talked to the coffee shop manager. We realize that HAL has no direct control over the service and room conditions of the hotel, but since this is a pre-cruise hotel package and part of the cruising experience, we paid HAL for arranging the pre-cruise package. Therefore, HAL should shoulder the responsibility for their choice of offered hotel in their pre and post cruise packages.
THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE: The layout of the ship is difficult to comprehend. Maybe this is such a large ship and HAL's idea to give the ship and cozy and intimate feel, is to chop up the public rooms, ie the bars and the lounges were divided into myriads of different compartments and tucked into corners and corridors. The atrium and the lobby were so small and uninviting. It is not a place one would like to linger to share a drink and enjoy visiting unless you had business with the front/excursion desks. The hallways were dark and narrow, like going through dark tunnels to no where, ie out of no where there is a stairwell or a lounge or an elevator or a wall blocking your passage. If you wanted to go from the front of the ship to the back of the ship or vice versa, you had to navigate your way through the casino, and or the gift shops with merchandise arranged half hazardly blocking your way.
The dinning room is like a large cafeteria with tables back-to-back barely having enough room for the waiters to walk behind the table to serve the food. The music pit is in the middle of the dinning room and was so dark that the musicians were like playing music under a darkened mushroom canopy. FOOD: the quality of the food in the Lido is typical cafeteria food. There were a lot of choices, but the quality and taste needed much improvement. The best was the Pasta Station and the worst was the Asian food station. The rice was not cooked properly and the so called asian menu of Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino food were comparable to the worst of any asian cafeteria in San Francisco. The food in the Vista dinning room is uneven. You have both good and bad meals. Steaks and beef dishes were good, chicken dishes were so-so and the seafood dishes were not fresh. The couple of times that we had lobster dinners, the lobster was slimy and had a rotten taste. The shrimp and the shrimp cocktails were not that much better. The salads were occasionally brown and wilted. The Pinnacle Grill is definitely not worth a visit. We had a free dinner from our nice travel agent, but still I have to say that the Pinnacle Grill is over-rated. The steaks were dry and burnt. The scampi was dry, tough and without any sauce and taste.
ENTERTAINMENT: the dance music on this ship is not for dancing. The dance music was to put the passenger to sleep early. The music from all the bands and groups had no rhythm, beat, and energy. This was a Panama Canal, Mexico cruise, you would think the music would be lively and reflect the rhythm of the ports, ie, some mariachi, salsa, folkloric, latin music. The production shows were second rate. The singers and dancers had a lot of energy, but unfortunately the sets and costumes did not give them justice for their efforts. On most 12 days cruises we have been on, there were at least 3 production shows with great sets and complements of talented magicians and comedians. There were only two shows on this long cruise and the singers and comedians were amateurish.
SERVICE: service on this ship was not something to brag about either (to my great surprise based on HAL's advertisement of outstanding service). The waiters and assistant waiters in the main dinning room provided adequate service, but when they rotated up to the Lido deck they somehow turned into a different mindset when servicing the guests . For example, when one of the guests on our table asked for tea, the waiter pointed to the tea station and indicated for her to serve herself. Another waiter proudly told us (and I hope he was in jest) that he liked rough seas because the guests would get seasick and not come to dinner and therefore save them a lot of work. Very seldom did I observe a waiter helping a guest with his/her tray, they generally congregated in small groups and chatted with each other. The servers behind the Lido counters were rude and had little patience in serving the food, they tended to just slop the food on the plate and pass the plate to the guest. HAL Oosterdam's Food and Beverage dept. is definitely not up to the standard of a premium cruise line.
LAUNDRY SERVICE: Since there were no laundromats on board, you had to send your laundry out to wash every few days. The laundry service was always late in returning your clothes, (supposed to be returned within 48 hrs.).
ORGANIZATION: the ship's management is not well organized. The first day after embarkation we waited for more than an hour to see the dinning room head waiter to ensure that we had the correct table and dinner time. The waiting line was so long that it caused frustration amongst the guests, who started to push each other around to try to get closer to the front of the line. This could be prevented if HAL were more organized and attuned to the guests' needs. Likewise, on the first tour day to Cartegena, the waiting line for the city tour was so long, that the guests had to wait for close to an hour just to get a bus ticket/assignment. These incidences were not necessary and could have been avoided by better planning on HAL's part.
The ship's crew were also constantly trying to sell spa and related services. Every time you turned around their were crew members, especially spa staff, trying to sell spa packages, soft drinks packages and seminars on board. One of the purpose of taking a vacation is to have temporary reprieve from constant solicitations and hustling. HAL is overdoing their selling products efforts.
Based on our experiences during this cruise,( mainly the food, the entertainment, the services and the organization of the ship and its management), we found this cruise was overrated and overpriced for a very mediocre, undistinguishable cruise. Read Less