16 Holland America Oosterdam Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and we like longer cruises. We booked the Signature Suite. We needed extra room for the walker and no accessible rooms were available. The first glitch we encountered was that there were only 3 people available to get the wheelchair passengers to their rooms so we waited an extra hour to board. Upon eventually arriving at our suite, we were distressed to find that they have scaled down their bathroom doors below standard size, so it isn't possible to get a standard sized walker through the door. He had to grasp the counter and walk the length of the room holding on to reach the toilet. There was a full sized bathtub--useless to us--and the shower was so small with only one grab bar that he could barely use it. It was just about impossible to shower without flooding the bathroom. After having paid a couple of thousand dollars extra for a suite, this was a disappointment. The balcony door is very heavy and the thresh-hold very high. The good: the showroom, The Main Stage, is great for the disabled; one could put another row of seats between the row of seats on the lower floor and access is great. They have UHD huge televisions in the staterooms and a fair assortment of late movies to choose from. However, we couldn't get enough volume to be able to understand the dialog in the movies, while on all other channels you could have blasted it high enough to hear for a half block in either direction. The Main Stage did blast all their shows that loud. We had to go through immigration twice and had a serious issue with getting wheelchair assistance to get on and off the ship. We were misinformed both times by Guest Services. Phone contact, and even personal contact with Guest Services was poor due to lack of fluent English on the part of staff and difficulty hearing them on the phone. We had a dinner in Canaletto's which wasn't any better than in the main dining room. We had lunch in the Pinnacle which was very good, except that they served instant coffee with our dessert. The "worker bees", as always on HAL are wonderful. Food was acceptable, if not great. Over all, I think many cruise lines are subtlety (sometimes not so subtlety) trying to discourage disabled passengers, while trying to appear welcoming for good public relations. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not organized and although our luggage was labeled "priority" it was the very last on - not that it mattered but what did is we kept wondering if it would show up at all. But note that the disembarkation was very well organized and fast. Holland America has figured out how to make money - we paid $150 for water, $300 for internet (it is just $150 if you stick to social media only) and they must have saved a lot by purchasing low quality food. The Gala Dinner with filet mignon and crab béarnaise was the worst with crab nearly too spoiled to serve a piece of meat that was not filet mignon but some grass-fed animal's "surprise." Some meals were good but spaced well apart and the Lido food began to taste the same no matter what you took. The crew was very well-trained and friendly. Our Neptune suite was ok but I do not believe this ship was updated in 2017 or 2018 as it was worn pretty well including our suite. The ports of call were good and although many were shipping ports, I understand it is hard to find dock space for a ship sized like Oosterdam. The people we encountered onshore were very friendly. We will use another cruise line for our next cruise maybe we just expected better like we got on the Ruby Princess last year. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose the cruise because of the itinerary (through the Panama Canal) and the fact we love HAL and prefer the smaller ships.We had done the Canal once before in 1996. We had the signature suite 8094, which was good size. Bathroom had ... Read More
We chose the cruise because of the itinerary (through the Panama Canal) and the fact we love HAL and prefer the smaller ships.We had done the Canal once before in 1996. We had the signature suite 8094, which was good size. Bathroom had a whirlpool tub and shower plus another free standing shower and two sinks. Large balcony. We ate breakfast daily in the Lido, usually at the omelet station, made to order. Food was always excellent. We had lunch either in the Lido or the Dive Inn hotdog, hamburger cafe outside. A lot of time they had "tapas" in the Lido which sufficed for lunch. Also made to order salads. We really didn't notice any wear and tear on the ship because we were having too much fun. Maybe some paint missing in the elevators was about it. Many raved about the Pinnacle Restaurant, which was an added charge. I didn't think it was worth the extra and the menu doesn't change. The Vista, Main dining room, was great and of course, the menu changed daily. We got a meal in the Cannaletto given to us by my travel agent. It was an added charge restaurant and although it was nice, we won't do it again. We had the signature beverage package so no worry about added charges at the end. Our favorite part of the trip was the staff we met in the bars around the ship. They were above awesome. I would take this ship again whatever the itinerary just for the same people. We became very close to them. We loved the Lido Bar, BB King bar, the Pinnacle Bar and Billboard Bar.We loved the Trivia games and Bingo. We used the spa more than previously. I had some acupuncture sessions for knee pain that were amazing. My daughter and sis had several facials and manicures they were very happy with. I used the fitness center daily which was quite adequate. The Crow's Nest was great for watching the ocean go by and reading or internet. Unfortunately the internet availability was awful. i would never have spent the money if I knew it would just be wasted. Their reason for bad internet might be because we were in the middle of nowhere. Last year we cruised Princess, a sister ship, around South America and had much better reception so middle of nowhere is no excuse. I didn't take any of the ship's excursions but my kids did and were happy with all. Maybe we should have, especially in Corinto, Nicaragua, because there was nothing to do at the port. Probably my favorite cruise of all time!!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This was our 3rd Winter in a row to sail the Oosterdam for our COLD weather get away. We weren't disappointed. Having never sailed from San Diego, we didn't know what to expect. We stayed the night before at Springhill Suites, ... Read More
This was our 3rd Winter in a row to sail the Oosterdam for our COLD weather get away. We weren't disappointed. Having never sailed from San Diego, we didn't know what to expect. We stayed the night before at Springhill Suites, right across the street from the pier. We easily walked across the street about 1045 the morning of the cruise. There was a long line in the terminal, but it moved quickly. We are 4 star mariners, so we got through the priority check in and were seated in the priority boarding area within 20 minutes. They started boarding by 1130 and we were quickly to our room. Our signature suite was remodeled a few years ago, but it was in great shape. Our cabin steward came to check our room right after we arrived. Both stewards were very friendly and efficient. Any requests we made were taken care of with a smile. The ship had a few more bangs and worn edges than it did last year, but it was still in good shape. It was going in for a 2 week dry dock after our cruise, so I imagine some carpet and upholstery will be changed. The crows nest, library area, and Explorations Coffee cafe upstairs was still nice. I understand that's all going to get the new "remodeling " to change it to the EXC area. We always ask for fixed main dining, table for 6. That's what we got and we enjoyed our evening meal. The dining room certainly wasn't full on any night. Our stewards were always happy and very attentive to our wants. We found the selections to be very good most nights and the food was very tasty except for 1 dry chicken dish. We thought 1 bad entree out of 16 night's chioices was pretty good. The lobster, shrimp, and fish dishes were all very tasty. We ate all breakfasts and lunches in the lido. There were plenty of choices and ( except for the final morning) the workers were always quick with clearing tables and offering you drinks. We favor the Asian or salad bar for lunch most days. There was an occasional Dive burger. The evening entertainment met our wants. We don't really care for the production shows, but really enjoyed the comedians and impressionist singer. Each evening we attended the Billboard piano entertainment. We really enjoy the sing along ( although some may not enjoy OUR sing along). We took 2 ship tours which were very enjoyable and they were as stated in the brochure. Our ports were Puerta Vallarta, Hutalco, Guatemala, Nicauragua, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, Aruba, and Half Moon Cay. All of these had a quality of their own and were enjoyed. Half Moon was shared with Koningsdam, so it got VERY CROWDED by noon. We chose Luggage Direct, so disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was very quick. We were the second group called off, so we left our cabin about 7:35 and were through and to a cab by 8:05. The crew, seas, weather, and ports were all better that we had hoped for. ALL of this made for a WONDERFUL 16 days on the oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise because it would cover the Thanksgiving Holiday. We have already done a Panama Canal trip but had not gone all the way to the Pacific Side. Embarkation was a a surpprising "snap" The ship was in excellent ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it would cover the Thanksgiving Holiday. We have already done a Panama Canal trip but had not gone all the way to the Pacific Side. Embarkation was a a surpprising "snap" The ship was in excellent condition for a ship the age of this one. and very clean The food was good,with nice menus. The Lido was not terrific for any meal accept for breakfast. The thing we noticed most from past trips with Holland was the lack of music in the bars at cocktail time,as well as very little live music around the ship during the day. The crows nest seemed to have a continuous tape that played over and over. Entertainment other than the HAL group was mediocre at best. Fresh flowers were hardly seen. As always the crew and all servers could not have been nicer. Beverages seemed to be priced fairly. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We wanted a Panama canal cruise and picked Holland because we wanted to try them. We have been on 7 cruises before this on other cruise lines. There must be something wrong with the stabilization system on that ship. It never stopped ... Read More
We wanted a Panama canal cruise and picked Holland because we wanted to try them. We have been on 7 cruises before this on other cruise lines. There must be something wrong with the stabilization system on that ship. It never stopped rocking. 15 days of walking like you were drunk. The night entertainment was cheap. Sitting through 45 minutes of piano playing by one man. On another night was one man playing saxophone for 45 minutes. A comedian that was so bad my wife and I left. One good night was a ventriloquist. He was funny. The food for lunch at the buffet was a different way to cook chicken for 6 days or how many different ways are there to serve fish. Very boring. Asian cooking also left us amused. Cashew chicken with no cashews. Sweet and sour pork was bad. Brisket that you could not chew. Tomato soup with barley that didn't taste like tomato and in the cup were only 14 pieces of barley my wife had 17. The food for dinner in the dining room was good though. Other ships we have been on have pool side entertainment. Like ice carving, or dance contests, house races. Pool games. Not this cruise, not a thing. So boring that my wife and I put together jig saw puzzles. The end was that they charge you $13.50 per person per day for hotel services. For what? That is the first time we have seen that. We will never go on another Holland cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
I am submitting the latest laundry package options for Oosterdam. I hope you find it helpful. These prices were current as of November 2017. Many times, laundry was returned clean in 12 hours, some times less. We had no issues with the ... Read More
I am submitting the latest laundry package options for Oosterdam. I hope you find it helpful. These prices were current as of November 2017. Many times, laundry was returned clean in 12 hours, some times less. We had no issues with the quality of the laundry service. I will say that my entire family enjoyed the cruise very much. The Panama Canal was amazing. The staff was great and attentive. The food was wonderful and tasty and convenient. On our return home, more than once we sat around the table, after dinner, wondering when someone would serve us dessert! Just kidding... We do miss having dessert every night. The pools were not suited for swimming laps but that's no problem since we disembarked and swam at multiple beaches. The rooms were quite comfortable. I did have some bug bites, which I believe were in my bed. However, my wife who slept in the same bed, did not have any bites. Go figure. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
I normally don't write reviews anymore, but having just read two reviews rating their Panama Canal cruises as average, I feel I need to give my opinion to help bring the average up to where it belongs. The ship is not ... Read More
I normally don't write reviews anymore, but having just read two reviews rating their Panama Canal cruises as average, I feel I need to give my opinion to help bring the average up to where it belongs. The ship is not "tired" as one reviewer said, in my opinion of course. The ship is in great shape. The food is "good but not excellent" one reviewer said. That can be said about almost every cruise and cruise line. This was my 37th cruise so I do have many with which to compare. There were many activities on board to keep one involved during the days and evenings. During the evening there was a quartet playing classical music, a couple at two pianos playing and singing popular music as well as the main shows, movies and the casino. The enrichment speaker and the Panama Canal movies were excellent. The cruise director, TJ, and his assistant Francisco were excellent, friendly and good humored. They were the only cruise director staff on this cruise so they had a lot to do. The trivia games were well attended and varied, being competitive and fun. The evening main shows were the best I have encountered on recent cruises. The ports were not very exciting to me but that is to be expected traveling from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. we did take a tour to San Jose, Costa Rica, and tour old town Cartagena, Columbia. It was the transit of the Panama Canal that was the feature of the cruise. We were well informed before entering the canal by the enrichment speakers and movies so we were prepared to see the highlights. There was a running narration as we progressed through the canal which also helped. Overall it was a wonderful cruise on a great ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We always wanted to see the Panama Canal, and it was amazing considering it was built so many years ago, and there are few changes. However, the ports left much to be desired. Most were industrial so you had to take a shuttle bus, or ... Read More
We always wanted to see the Panama Canal, and it was amazing considering it was built so many years ago, and there are few changes. However, the ports left much to be desired. Most were industrial so you had to take a shuttle bus, or walk a distance to get out of the industrial area. I walked into Nicaragua and walked three blocks and returned to the ship. It is dirty port with more street vendors then you can imagine. Cartagena is all grown up, but very crowded. The ship is tired..but clean, and the housekeeping service is wonderful. They kept it clean, and were available for all needs. The food is only average. Canaletto has some of the most gregarious staff, and the food was good. We did not go to Pinnacle this time as we have done it other times, and it is good, but over priced in my opinion. They have a hamburger/hot dog bar that is great with the best french fries! The food in the dining room was good, and the staff was excellent. A wine steward made wonderful origami for me after each meal. Would I take a trip again with this many days at sea? No, but I am a sightseer. We did enjoy our trip from Boston to Montreal, and the Alaska cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We chose this cruise because we love to end up at home, no travel day at the end. We had been on ship in January and you can view my rave review on this site. We loved the whole experience. It was an eye opener, all the changes in a ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we love to end up at home, no travel day at the end. We had been on ship in January and you can view my rave review on this site. We loved the whole experience. It was an eye opener, all the changes in a couple of months and not is a happy way. The positives: The staff, the service, the cabin attendants, the food, and the entertainment all wonderful. Professional, attentive, and appropriate to audience. After that you may think, what more is there on a cruise that's important - well fed and entertained by genuinely engaged people. The issues: The se Asian/Dutch colonial culture has suddenly gone. The differentiation from other midstream carnival lines has gone away. Good food, good entertainment - princess or celebrity, or royal Caribbean. Holland has always had a little Dutch colonial kind of niche but it has gone. Since January! No more, are there curries or Indonesian entrees on the dinner menu, yes some times available at lunch on lido but ... no Indonesian or Phillip into crew shows., no modified chongsams on lady servers. No Indonesian lunch. Apart from the cultural shift - the activities - well, new "when and where" except it has a daily insert which really/sort of tell you what's going on- but it's not dated so if it gets mixed with the other paper you receive daily, who knows what's going on. The majority of activities were cash driven. Never seen so many sidewalk junk sales, spa seminars, jewelry eminars, slot tournaments, wine tastings and art auctions . But minimal enrichment, BBC earth was great, but no engineer or about the Panama Canal before transit?! No bridge, no crafts, no photo contest, not much of anything. There seemed to be midmanagement problems starting with cruise director, no culinary arts person, no mariner hostess. Cruise director - very personable but ... if holland still has gala nights, maybe the cruise director should have a tux to respect the passengers who like to dress up?, maybe he should announce when the ship is cleared instead of telling us to sit tight , maybe his staff should not be loud and rude in the show lounge during performances. In San Diego, the senior management including the CEO got on - one would expect a kick up in the ambience on board - not so much. Not one of them ever communicated with the guests - as a group they were loud, obnoxious and drunk in public. Next time go to Vegas where no one knows you! However that would align the significant cultural change, Botoom line, we are 4 star mariners and are wondering why choose holland as all lines have good food, good entertainment, and good service. It's the differentiators that make it unique. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Embarkation did not go very well. People were jammed all over the terminal waiting. Why? Holland did not allow enough time with the ms Oosterdam returning from Europe and having to have the crew go through Customs and Immigration on ... Read More
Embarkation did not go very well. People were jammed all over the terminal waiting. Why? Holland did not allow enough time with the ms Oosterdam returning from Europe and having to have the crew go through Customs and Immigration on arrival at Ft. Lauderdale, and still have the ship prepared for embarkation at the time Holland stated. If you have ever embarked on a Carnival cruise from Long Beach you will understand how bad it was. We elected to try a guaranteed cabin for the first, and now our last time. We informed Holland that we are non-smokers, so Holland assigned us a smoking cabin that the previous cruisers had smoked heavily in. It was so bad that even the cabin stewards were embarrassed and had an ozone machine in the room when we arrived after 1400, to try and make it more bearable. My wife went to the pursers desk to see if there was anything that they could do to assist us. We already knew that the ship was full from cruise critic chats, so we knew that there would be no upgrade available, but maybe some help in ridding the room of the smoke smell. They told my wife that there was nothing that they could do and went on to the next customer. Thankfully our cabin stewards, Yon and Abdul, were great and realized the problem and spent extra time attempting to make the cabin more bearable for our first night. My wife woke up the next morning hardly able to breathe as she was so congested from the smoke residue. She was very happy to take the tender to Half Moon Cay and get out of the cabin. The cabin stewards then shampooed the carpet while we were gone to try and help us. The next day they had to wash all of the curtains too as the smoke smell was still so strong. There were also many people who complained of not receiving their luggage until well after dinner, once again due to the crew Custom and Immigration check. Food in the dining room, first seating, was very good with a varied choice each night. Food On the Lido deck was also very good, even though some people did not like the fact that Holland does not have trays anymore. I thought that it worked very well myself. The ms Oosterdam is not in as good a shape as her sister ship the ms Norddam. There were rust spots along areas of the Promenade deck and the carpet is getting a bit worn. Some deck chairs were broken, were they could not be moved from the up-right position, and a few did not have a cushion. One day the crew water sprayed the Promenade deck and then proceeded to chip and scrape paint off above the deck so the paint chips fell all over the deck. They did not close off that section of the deck so that as people walked over the chips paint was all over the place. Poor planning on the part of the crew. Disembarkation was very good, the only complaint being one could not always hear what they were announcing. The Panama Canal was the highlight of the cruise and is worth the time and effort to go through it. Great lectures from Mr. McCLelland on the area. The port of Fuerte Amador ( Panama City ) is not listed in the port reviews section so here it is. We did the El Valle tour and it was very good. Our guide was very informative and helpful. Some of the dining table mates went to Panama City and enjoyed it Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. Once again there isn't much at the port itself, as it is a container dock port. There was a good band playing while were docked and there is shopping in the building at the dock also. We found some very good things there at a very good price. The people were very friendly and helpful. We took the mangrove tour from the ship and we were able to see some of the country side that way also. Our guide and driver were one of the best that we have ever had. The guide would point to a flower on the road side and start to talk about it and the driver would stop and go out and take a cutting from it so that we could touch and smell it. This happened a quite a few times and was a very nice touch to the tour. The tour was on a pontoon boat and there was enough of a breeze most of the time to make it very enjoyable. Our guide from the motor coach came along and with the guide from the boat tour we were kept very entertained. We managed to see blue herons, caymans, iguanas and macaws. There was a light brunch after the boat ride with plenty of fresh fruit, beer and bottled water. There were also very clean bathrooms. They also had items for sale there too. We did find out after the fact that the shops at the dock are about half of the price of those at the boat tour. So do your shopping at the dock. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala We did the tour to the old capital of Antigua. The coach ride took about an hour or so. The city is lovely and well worth the trip to see it. When you get off the coach at the Jade factory, the tour guide will tell you the coach number and the time to be back for departure. There are good bathrooms at the Jade Factory to use before you start to wander the city. The driver or guide will also give you a bottle of water when you get off the coach. We wandered around the city and enjoyed our time there. The main plaza is wonderful and there are many places to look at and places to buy items. We ventured to the market area and found some great gifts. The street vendors can be a bit much some times but if you bargain with them you will get some really great deals. My wife still wishes she would have bought more while she was there. There was plenty of shopping near the dock also but we were shopped out by that time. Puerto Chiapas, Mexico The Mexican Government has spent a lot of money to try and get tourists to this area. There is a brand new dock and and shopping building next to it. There is also a restaurant with a kiddies swimming pool and lots of grass to just lay on and relax. We took the shuttle into town, it is $10 dollars pp/rt in a supposedly air conditioned coach. Ours didn't have any AC so everyone was hot and sweaty after sitting in the coach for the 20 minute ride into town. Once in town, you are let off at the center of town, there is a tourist info booth right there and they were extremely helpful. One problem is that there are very few people in the area who speak English so shopping downtown is an adventure. We went with another couple and once we arrived downtown the ladies informed us that we were not going to ride that coach back to the ship. So we talked to the young lady at the tourist info booth about getting a tour to the Iztapa ruins and the Chocolate city and she went and talked to the cab drivers and got us one to do that for $40 for the four of us. The cab wasn't in the best of shape and didn't have AC but the driver drove fast enough that we had a good time and it wasn't too hot either. The ruins aren't much yet as only about 2% of them have been uncovered so far. It was still a nice way to spend part of the day. We then went to the Chocolate city and watched a demo on how they work with the bean to make the cocoa powder and they had samples of the paste and drink to try. We bought some of the paste as the price was so good and it tasted lovely. Then the drive took us back to the ship so the ladies didn't have to use the shuttle coach. Hualtulco, Mexico Another port with a new dock. The port area has some of shopping and walking area, but there were signs that the economy has hit hard there too, or it is just too new to be established yet. There are nine bays in the area. It is a beautiful place and we were told that it is one of the new "in" places to vacation at or buy a home. It is very nice there. We walked around the port area and talked to a man about a boat tour to some of the bays. Once again there were four of us. We managed to have a really nice guy, Louis, take us out to five of the bays with a stop at the most popular swimming beach for an hour. The fee for this was $20 pp. Louis was very informative and helpful. We had a very, very good time doing this. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We took this cruise as an end of year celebration. There were plenty to choose from but the idea of this itinerary captivated us as we had the Panama Canal on our bucket list and this was the opportunity to enjoy an extended voyage on a ... Read More
We took this cruise as an end of year celebration. There were plenty to choose from but the idea of this itinerary captivated us as we had the Panama Canal on our bucket list and this was the opportunity to enjoy an extended voyage on a vista class ship. It is unusual to get 19 nights on one of these ships unless you do a back to back cruise as they tend to do shorter, regular itineraries for a whole season. Embarkation for this cruise in Fort Lauderdale ran fairly smoothly, though the ship was running a little behind due to crew immigration and coast guard drill checks. The Oosterdam had come in from Europe across the Atlantic and had apparently had very rough seas with lots of breakages, and a galley fire in the middle of one night. We had no idea of any prior drama as the welcome aboard was the usual efficient and friendly one with a superb lunch waiting on board on the Lido deck. Cabin: We chose cabin VA6173 for this cruise. It is a wake view cabin with a nice sized veranda. The room is much the same as all of the other balcony rooms on the Oosterdam except for a little more space. The additional space on the veranda allows for a sun lounger, though the lack of shade makes it very hot in full sun. We liked this size of room and it was more than enough for us. There was plenty of storage and we were able to fit our 3 full size hard shell suitcases underneath the very comfortable "signature of excellence" king sized bed. The sofa is not as large as on other HAL ships, but was comfortable for the small amount of time we used it. Dining: We decided on open seating in the main dining room. We prefer this option as there is flexibility in seating time and you can move around if you have a preference for particular staff. We made a reservation on the first day for a seat in an area by the windows we have previously enjoyed, though we did move around a bit when we joined other friends for dinner. The food varied between average and excellent. We were happy with the choices and certainly never went hungry. Our waiters and wine server were well trained and always delighted to see us and ask about our day. We learned very quickly to trust their opinions about what were good choices from the menu on the day as they had seen it all and also the reactions of those that dined before us. This proved a good strategy in finding the excellent end of the wide range of meal choices. The absence of the Master chef's dinner was noted, though there was a traditional bomb Alaska parade. We ate a couple of times in the Pinnacle Grill. It is worth the additional and we enjoyed fine service. There were new female servers freshly graduated from the Holland America school in Jakarta who looked after us very well. On one night we ate at the Canaletto and thought it was a great idea. The penne in a vodka cream sauce was outstanding and the Canaletto wines at $22 a bottle were a real bargain. The extended choice gets top points. Lido: The lido has not changed much in the time we have been cruising with Holland America and this is for good reason. It really is consistently good. There is so much to choose from at breakfast and lunch that it would be your own fault if you couldn't find something to satisfy. Much of the food service is carried out by the chefs instead of by the passengers helping themselves which is no doubt more hygienic. Picks at breakfast were the poached eggs and the waffles. At lunch, the freshly made sandwich bar and wok station were very good. The ice cream bar was so hard to walk by without stopping after lunch. We were always able to find a table and our only grumbles were about other passengers who did things like stick their hands in the platter of potato chips, or filling their used water bottles up at the water/iced tea dispensers. In between meals: We never really found a need to snack between meals, but there were choices when we were late back to the ship and missed lunch. In the afternoon, there was always pizza, pasta, tacos, burgers and hot dogs, and in the evening cookies were always left out. The nibbles in the ocean bar at cocktail hour were excellent and when we particularly liked something, more were brought on request. Entertainment: The entertainment on this cruise was excellent. The dancers and singers were very talented and their shows were a step up from what we have seen before. During the cruise there were many different performers who got on and off including a violinist, comedians, magicians, ventriloquists and singers. Dolores Park in particular was fantastic and certainly earned her standing ovation. The guest speakers who lectured about the Panama Canal and the history of the region were very knowledgeable and it was sometimes difficult to get a seat as they were in such demand. Outside of the main theatre, Randall entertained and led sing a longs in the Piano bar to a standing room only late night crowd. There was a string quartet, the HAL cats, and a very smooth jazz singer named Taylor Brown who performed in different places around the ship. We were very impressed with the line up. The Oosterdam: This ship is well maintained and in good shape. We did have occasional plumbing issues but they were quickly sorted out. The railing on our balcony was varnished during the cruise and we didn't really see any wear and tear that was mentionable. Ports: There was a great variety of ports on this extensive cruise. We most enjoyed the ports where it wasn't too far to get into town. Highlights were Panama City and Acapulco. Half moon Cay is superb and it is certainly understandable why cruisers love it so much. The tender ports were more challenging as the life boats used for the process get very hot. Our only criticism of the cruise was the Holland America shore excursions as the descriptions sometime promised a little more than what was delivered. We did not know whether this was because the local operators descriptions are a little exaggerated or because HAL hypes them up, but this is one area we were a little disappointed with. That aside, the day cruising through the Panama Canal and the excitement at the locks was the highlight of this trip and will never be forgotten. Time to go: The Oosterdam arrived quietly into San Diego an hour before its due time of 7am. There were over 350 non USA/Canadians on board and they all (including us) had to be cleared by the customs officials who got on once the ship berthed. This took a few hours and disembarkation did not begin until after 830am. Many had chosen the self disembarkation and struggled with their large and heavy suitcases down the stairs as we passed by them to pick up our bags which were neatly lined up in the terminal. There were plenty of cabs and shuttles to the airport. The wrap: This cruise was our most memorable yet. We really enjoy the consistent approach that comes with sailing on HAL and were not let down on this sailing. The Oosterdam is a beautiful vessel and we were very proud to be getting back onto her when there were other ships in port. The Panama Canal is a fantastic memory to have and we look forward to our next cruise in the not too distant future, hopefully on a Holland America ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Holland America Line ** Oosterdam ** Panama Canal Cruise ** 02 - 21 Nov 2009 What was right? The transfer from Miami airport to the Marriott North, Ft Lauderdale was efficient and without too much delay. The hotel itself was of a far ... Read More
Holland America Line ** Oosterdam ** Panama Canal Cruise ** 02 - 21 Nov 2009 What was right? The transfer from Miami airport to the Marriott North, Ft Lauderdale was efficient and without too much delay. The hotel itself was of a far higher standard than expected. The transfer and cruise check-in ran smoothly, especially given the volume of passengers. The cabin (stateroom) could not be faulted. We had the SS grade on Deck 8: a large verandah with table, chairs, 2 deep wicker chairs and foot stools; the bathroom had a full size whirlpool bath, separate shower and 2 wash basins; the main room was spacious with generous wardrobe space, king-size bed with 3 pillows for each person (very comfortable), 2 armchairs, settee, fridge, flat-screen TV, dressing-table and desk, bathrobes were also provided. The 2 cabin stewards worked efficiently, discreetly and quickly. Everything was very clean. The ship itself is a handsome vessel with a well-planned arrangement of lounges, restaurants, pools and sundecks. Easy to find your way around. Plenty of elevators too with rarely a wait for one to arrive. Reassuring to see plenty of hand-sanitisers around the ship - but why didn't more people use them??! The Panama Canal transit was an amazing and unforgettable experience enhanced by the very informative onboard commentary which ran for the duration - 5 stars for that!! On the last morning of the cruise guests were allowed the use of their stateroom right up until the time of disembarkation in San Diego. It was the first time I had experienced this - usually cabins have to be vacated at the crack of dawn and the crew can't wait to see the back of you(!) - it made the whole procedure of leaving the ship far less stressful. And what wasn't ..... At the time of booking, only the late-sitting dining time was available. At 8pm that's a little late for us so, after 3 nights, we switched to "open seating" meaning we could eat any time between 5.15 and 9pm. This was a much more convenient option. Unfortunately, in both dining rooms, the service was very slow, the food often arrived barely warm on cold plates, vegetables were under-cooked, orders were muddled, waiters clearly under pressure. I know the Pinnacle Grill offers an alternative dining opportunity at an additional $20 a head but one shouldn't have to pay extra just to get an acceptable meal. At the Lido Deck Buffet it's only "help-yourself" for certain dishes (eg Continental breakfast, salads and desserts) for everything else one has to queue up and wait to be served. Once again the food was often not hot enough - although of unquestionably good quality - and served on cold plates. Ironically, plates and dishes for fruit, salads and dessert were invariably hot! There was often a long wait for omelets and cooked breakfast and one wondered if there was sufficient crew on duty. Pasta dishes were fantastic - but often not hot enough. The Asian food at lunch time was also wonderful - but only if you we lucky enough to get it straight from the wok. There always seemed to be a queue for tea and coffee with dispensers not working or breaking-down. Towards the end of the cruise it even looked as if there was a teabag shortage! Generally the attitude of the dining stewards was indifferent. The final straw was the evening I found a piece of hard plastic in my salad! I reported it to one of the dining stewards, giving my room number, but I heard nothing more. Photographs at $39.95 a sheet were very over-priced. Why did the Captain's Champagne Welcome last less than 10 mins? We blinked and missed it. Room Service seemed to be non-existent - on 2 mornings we waited more than 30 mins for tea and coffee and gave up after that. All drinks from the bar are subject to a 15% service charge - in common with all other cruise companies, as far as I know. Compared to, for example, the Queen Mary 2, we found the cost of drinks to be far higher on the Oosterdam and as a result, consumed very little alcohol during the 19 day cruise. It may have benefited our health and our pockets but I can't help feeling this was a missed opportunity for Holland America Line - if their bar prices were a little lower, people would surely be encouraged to enjoy the very fine wine list. On the first day of the cruise we ordered a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne (reasonably priced on QM2), not only did the waiter pour it incorrectly so that half a glass was wasted as it overflowed the glass, but the final bill of $115 made it even harder to swallow! As it was, we saw very few people drink anything other than water at meal times and virtually nobody drinking in the bars and lounges. Don't bother getting off the ship at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, unless you book a shore excursion because there's absolutely nothing there! When is a formal evening not a formal evening? It was difficult to tell what the dress code was meant to be. There were 4 "Formal Evenings" on this cruise requiring at least a jacket and tie for men and any kind of dress (short or long) or trouser suit for the ladies - the rest of the evenings were termed "Smart Casual" when one could wear just about anything apart from shorts and tee-shirts. The boundaries were so blurred that it was sometimes impossible to tell what kind of evening it was. Personally I feel the dress standard for "formal" should be set a bit higher - at least a dinner jacket/tuxedo for men and full-length dress or evening trouser suit for women. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned but when you've carefully packed and transported your posh evening gear across the Atlantic to join what sounds a very sophisticated cruise it makes you wonder why you made the effort. This was our first experience of Holland America Line. Having read all the brochures, publicity, website etc I must say I was expecting something a bit more classy than this. There was a certain "feel" to HAL's marketing that led me to think I was going to experience something much better than MSC or Princess Cruises. Silly me! I obviously formed the wrong impression. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We are resubmitting this review because the previous submission on January 2005, after our trip, did not get posted. We are regular travelers and are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or ... Read More
We are resubmitting this review because the previous submission on January 2005, after our trip, did not get posted. We are regular travelers and are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises (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. 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 a 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. 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 were so-so and the seafood dishes were not fresh. 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 compliments from our travel agent, but still I have to say that the Pinnacle Grills 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 passengers 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 guest 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 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. 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. The 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 there were crew members, especially spa staff, trying to sell spa packages, soft drinks packages and seminars on board. One of the purposes 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 organization of the ship and its management), we found this ship was overrated and overpriced for a very mediocre, undistinguishable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2005
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
Sail Date January 2005
We stayed pre-cruise in Lauderdale by the Sea and arranged for a limo service to pick up four of us at 1 p.m., arriving at the pier after the short drive. There were no lines at all for embarkation, it may have taken 15 min at the most to ... Read More
We stayed pre-cruise in Lauderdale by the Sea and arranged for a limo service to pick up four of us at 1 p.m., arriving at the pier after the short drive. There were no lines at all for embarkation, it may have taken 15 min at the most to get on the ship, our rooms were ready when we boarded. The luggage started to arrive right away and all luggage was delivered within a half hour -- this ship was full with over 1800 passengers and we were amazed by how quickly we could get settled in. Our cabin was a bit smaller than on the Rotterdam, but it was comfortable and there was plenty of room to unpack for a 13 day cruise. The balcony was plenty big enough for two arm chairs, a footstool and a small table and we could open the partition between our cabin and our friend's. The bath is roomy and the beds are out of this world. My only complaint is that the desk is too small for the TV, wine bucket, ice bucket and such -- you have to put the ice stuff on the floor when you want to use the desk for primping. Our cabin steward Dana was super!! I have mixed feelings about the public spaces, they are bland, not classy but not offensive. The atrium is boring and inside there are a lot of weird corridors that gave me a closed in feeling -- there are no WOW look at that areas. Outside there are plenty of spaces for lounging both by the pools and on upper decks, on a full ship with lots of sea days you never had trouble finding a quiet place to sun. The Lido is well designed for traffic flow and the Crow's Nest feels like an old friend with spectacular views and great lounge chairs. The food is good, our waiters Made and Dalo were the best we have ever had -- PERIOD!! We took advantage of the first night bargain at the Pinnacle and the steak is to die for, it is worth the price of admission to smell the volcano cake, let alone eat it. I did think that the service we had from Made was better than the Pinnacle. This was a repositioning cruise so it was not a standard itinerary, but I feel that the shore excursion staff was uninformed about the port of Cartagena. I took a tour where I feel that 15 of us were put into a potentially dangerous situation. My friends took the city tour and were chased onto the bus by vendors and rumor was that people on the Rosario Island tour got their money back. I did ask for specifics of the tour before I took my chances and plunked my money down. For the other ports we took independent tours and fell in love with Mexico. The highlight was seeing whales in Cabo. The ship tour sold out well in advance of sailing but we were able to book a small boat on shore. If you need a big whale watching boat, book online as early as you can. This is a nice ship -- even when full it did not feel crowded. It is indeed the cleanest ship I have ever been on and I will say that overall this is the best crew we have ever seen, even on other HAL ships. I prefer the smaller ships but would not hesitate to sail on the Oosterdam again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2005
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

Find an Oosterdam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click