5 Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews for Senior Cruises to Panama Canal & Central America

The Oosterdam is one of the older Holland America ships but is attractive, well maintained, and comfortable and has probably the best service, certainly the friendliest service, of any of the Holland America ships that we have sailed on. ... Read More
The Oosterdam is one of the older Holland America ships but is attractive, well maintained, and comfortable and has probably the best service, certainly the friendliest service, of any of the Holland America ships that we have sailed on. The officers, too, are unusually cordial and went out of their way to greet and chat with guests. What I liked best about this 17-day Panama Canal transit cruise, though, was the location of our veranda stateroom, high on deck 10 adjacent to the Crow's Nest Lounge and the Observation Deck. For viewing the Panama Canal, the cabin couldn't have been better situated--and I loved being able to just walk out the door in the early morning for an espresso in the Crow's Nest and a quick check of the shelves of the briskly traded paperbacks at the entrance. (Why, oh why, has Holland America done away with a real library?!!!!) The Oosterdam veranda cabins have less storage space than the newer ships, but it seemed adequate, and the balcony space, at least on the 10th deck, is more narrow; there was not enough room for lounge chairs there. The bathtub showers, despite grab bars, are a little hazardous for old folk but I got used to being careful. Entertainment isn't usually the strong suit for Holland America, but this cruise had not only two performances by the stellar Step One Dance Company, but two crowd-pleasing performances by the handsome male-diva group calling themselves The Dutch Tenors, who were the stars of the ship. They not only received standing ovations but found themselves applauded when they entered the dining room. Everyone loved them. The BB King Blues Band on board the Oosterdam never seemed to play music really intended for dancing, so that was a letdown; we usually love dancing to 60's and 70's music and the BB King groups have been in the past a big part of why we chose Holland America. An expert on the Panama Canal came on board on transit day and gave nearly day-long commentary. (And to make the occasion even more special, trays of delicious Panama Buns stuffed with lemon-flavored custard were served with free morning coffee in all the lounges.) There were also two excellent lecturers on sea days--one on Costa Rica (birds, amphibians especially) and one on Mexican history and culture--but I missed the America's Test Kitchen lectures and demonstrations that have in the past been a big part of why I liked Holland America. Have these been phased out? Or was the Oosterdam just not equipped for a demonstration kitchen? All Holland America ships have tried to cut costs in recent years, especially in the dining room, so the food was good but not spectacular. Soups were inevitably a disappointment and I tasted few desserts that were worth their calories. A gala and expensive Valentine's Night dinner in the Pinnacle Grill was more ambitious than delicious, though it was beautifully presented and served (and the red rose for each female guest was a lovely gesture). There's no Tamarind Restaurant on the Oosterdam, which is usually my favorite Holland America specialty restaurant, so the Canaletto is probably the best bet for a surcharge meal. The Lido was better for breakfast than the dining room--there was a truly skillful eggs Benedict maker--and I enjoyed the array of fresh fruit, yogurts, and variety of nuts and seeds and toppings. And for lunch, good Lido salads and Asian foods--and those amazing french fries at the Dive-In are worth taking a Holland America cruise for. Completely addictive. We loved the Mangrove Swamp tour in Costa Rica where we saw crocodiles and exotic birds galore with a truly wonderful guide. The other tours were only so-so and the destinations in some cases a long, long way from the port. Going to Leon, Nicaragua, for example, especially in 99 degree heat, was exhausting, despite an art museum with a surprisingly good collection. There is little else to see in Leon. As always, I recommend Holland America ships for their smallish size, interesting itineraries, the plentiful and relaxing sea days, and the laid-back atmosphere. We enjoyed this cruise on the Oosterdam but were aware that not everyone would. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
My wife and I just completed a 17-day cruise on February 22 on the Oosterdam from Fort Lauderdale (February 5) to San Diego. The food and service were great. The ship was clean and crisp. The staff was always friendly and helpful. The ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a 17-day cruise on February 22 on the Oosterdam from Fort Lauderdale (February 5) to San Diego. The food and service were great. The ship was clean and crisp. The staff was always friendly and helpful. The headliner shows each evening were top notch. The Lido Market was well organized, much better than other cruise ships. However, we probably will not book another cruise on Holland America. We are an active couple of 70 and 72. We had little opportunity to dance to music that was danceable. The band at BB Kings was fantastic, yet only 15-20% was age appropriate or danceable. The age demographics for the cruise passengers would have preferred music from the 30s through the 70s. There was dance music at 5 PM, yet dinner was at 5:30 PM, and there was only cocktail service for the first few days of the cruise during this time. Even that music could have been better selected for the age of the passengers. There was dance music after 10:30 PM – not a good time for the age of most passengers. Many fellow passengers shared our feelings about the music. The dueling pianos were good, but no place to dance. Plus, no sing-along director or leader. People recognized the songs from the 70s and 80s, but not enough to sing along. We usually cruise with Royal Caribbean. Not only do they provide age appropriate music, they also have it during good hours. Also, the activities staff was MUCH more visible and active on Royal. The staff made the passengers feel more like a community, not just individual passengers. Having Karaoke or activities in a bigger venue would help. On Royal we knew all five of the activities staff, on Holland just one person – the cruise/travel director. We felt that your daily Where and When bulletin provided little information about the activities and performers. For example, we had a performer one night and we had no idea what he was going to do. Was he a guitarist or singer? He was a pianist. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
We wanted a cruise where we didn’t have airfare to contend with. We can drive from Phoenix to San Diego, leave our car in a hotel that stores it for free, and take the free shuttle from the Best Western Yacht Harbor ($137 a night) to the ... Read More
We wanted a cruise where we didn’t have airfare to contend with. We can drive from Phoenix to San Diego, leave our car in a hotel that stores it for free, and take the free shuttle from the Best Western Yacht Harbor ($137 a night) to the cruise port. Perfect. This was only seven days but it only cost $1249 so we were very happy with that part of it. We love absolutely everything about this ship except the air-conditioning unit in our room. The food was really good, both in the dining room and the Lido deck, public spaces were lovely, staff were phenomenal, and the ports were typical but fine. But they couldn’t get our room warm. When we’d step from the hallway into our room we immediately needed to wrap up in a blanket. In fact they had so much trouble with the heating/air conditioning (they were there every day working on it) they gave us a $200 credit, which was nice but it didn’t solve the problem. I tend to get cold easier than my husband but he was bothered by it too. But if a cooler room doesn’t bother you, you’d be fine with the ship —honestly we loved everything else about it. Oh and 5 stars ⭐️ for their phenomenal organization getting on and off in San Diego. They made it so quick and simple. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We sailed on the Holland-America Oosterdam’s 18-day Panama Canal cruise (January 15-February 5, 2020) from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. My wife and I are in our 70’s, and we are four-star HAL Mariners. We had temperatures that were ... Read More
We sailed on the Holland-America Oosterdam’s 18-day Panama Canal cruise (January 15-February 5, 2020) from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. My wife and I are in our 70’s, and we are four-star HAL Mariners. We had temperatures that were mostly in the 70’s and 80’s and lots and lots of sunshine. (There was very little rain during these 18 days.) We packed sunscreen and some 30% Deet insect repellent (we did not experience much in the way of mosquitoes, but some of the tours advised using insect repellent). Dining: Before we sailed I noticed that there were some negative reviews about the Oosterdam posted on Cruise Critic. Our experience, however, was mostly positive and often extremely positive. For example, we’ve been on seven HAL cruises, and the food on this one was the best we’ve had. We ate dinner in the Main Dining Room each night except for one night at the Pinnacle Grill (very good), one at the Canaletto (extremely good – in fact, we enjoyed it more than the Pinnacle), and one night when we ordered dinner through Room Service off the Main Dining Room menu. (Since we did not eat at the Lido buffet, I can’t comment on that.) We did take advantage of the Main Dining Room’s Club Orange. It can get you into the Main Dining Room faster (priority seating), though not necessarily faster service once you’re seated. On our cruise it included an additional entrée each meal that was not included on the regular menu. One of our wine stewards (Joey) was especially good. I liked his recommendations. An added bonus was that he made some origami for us. (It was a side talent of his!) The Main Dining Room menus each night included a good mix of well-prepared popular dishes (steak, salmon) and some adventuresome gourmet food with an emphasis on dishes that reflected the ports we were visiting. The soups were outstanding. They were made with flavorful stocks, free of grease, well-seasoned with interesting combinations of ingredients. One negative was that during the first week of the cruise, getting seated in the Dining Room seemed hectic and somewhat disorganized. One night, in fact, they were totally confused as to which table we were being assigned to. As the cruise continued, things got better. I suspect that the staff were aware of the problem and taking steps to fix it. In addition, while always friendly, the serving staff seemed more pressured and harried than on previous cruises. I know that other reviews have found them to be understaffed, and I am inclined to agree. Talks: Edgar Jiménez, HAL’s Mexican Cultural Ambassador, was outstanding. His lectures covered a great deal of Mexican history, culture, geography, and geology and lots of information about the Mexican ports we visited (Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Huatulco, and Puerto Chiapas). He was enjoyable, entertaining, and a gifted teacher/lecturer. Much less successful, I think, were the talks given by the ship’s cruise director. His presentation on the Panama Canal was particularly disappointing. He admitted that he had never been to the Canal before and was using a PowerPoint and script that had been prepared for him in HAL’s corporate offices in Seattle. I was surprised that a Panama Canal cruise did not bring onboard speakers who were knowledgeable about the history and engineering of the Canal. Transiting the Canal was, of course, the highlight of the cruise. Some of us were up as early as 5:30 a.m., though it wasn’t until 6:30 a.m. that we could start witnessing anything. It takes most of the day to transit the Canal, and throughout the journey the TVs in the rooms and the loudspeakers on the decks broadcast commentary at key points in the transit. I re-read David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas while I was on this cruise, and I am glad I did. It added a lot to my appreciation of what we were seeing. Entertainment: The Lincoln Center Stage quintet (string quartet plus pianist) was outstanding! They played to mostly packed houses. I liked that they discussed the music they were about to play and why it meant so much to them. We saw a few Mainstage performances. The comedian, Tim, was funny. I liked the dancers, too. The most unforgettable was the live music they provided to accompany a screening of the BBC Planet Earth II video. The nature photography was spellbinding, and the music was the perfect accompaniment to it. We didn’t spend too much time at the piano bar, but the two guys who performed there and their audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Internet and HAL’s Navigator App: Our package included Premium Internet Service, and it was mostly great. This was our first experience with loading HAL’s Navigator App on our phone and iPad. The app still needs some work, I believe, but it was helpful, especially since you could access shipboard events from it. I liked that it let me see the day’s dinner menus, though, curiously, it did not include the desserts. (You could see the desserts if you accessed the menu from the room’s TV, however.) In addition, it wasn’t always able to pull up my account, though, again, I could see it on our TV. I hope that future enhancements include being able to pull up such useful information as which location they are disembarking the ship from when we are in port. Since it is not always easy to hear announcements from the captain or cruise director (the Oosterdam’s sound system could use an update!), it would also be helpful to post these announcements to the app (or at least allow you to replay them from the app. The Casino: The big plus was that there was no smoking allowed in the casino, which passengers often traverse in order to get to the Mainstage on Deck 2. I do very little gambling, but on previous cruises I might play blackjack for one or two nights on an 18-day cruise. I didn’t play at all on this cruise because their blackjack table paid only 6 for 5 for a blackjack, instead of the usual 3 for 2 and let dealers hit soft 17’s. Worse yet, the lowest minimum bet was $6. When I asked the bit boss what they paid for a blackjack on a $6 bet, he answered $7. Of course, no serious gambler would ever play blackjack on a cruise ship and I expect the house to have an edge, but this seemed so downright greedy and excessive that I decided not to play. Smoking: Smoking was prohibited in the staterooms and balconies and public areas and was allowed only on one small section of the ship – outside by the Seaview Pool Bar on Deck 9. So this was a great cruise for non-smokers, and a lousy one for heavy smokers. A few other notes: We booked our pre-cruise hotel through HAL and came three nights before to enjoy San Diego. The hotel was the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, and, frankly, it was a disappointment. While the staff were friendly, our room was a bit dismal. It overlooked a parking lot in the Main Tower. Something was out of whack with there HVAC system, which meant that the public rooms were uncomfortably cold, and so, too, was our room. It was not a hotel I’d return to. We heard very few complaints from other passengers onboard except for complaints about the time it took to get seated in the Main Dining Room. I noticed that later in the cruise the Maître D’ staff and chefs were going from table-to-table to ask passengers what they thought. They seemed genuinely interested in listening, and I respect that a lot. We appreciated the fact that HAL cruises do not bombard you with lots of intrusive announcements over the ship’s PA system. Like all HAL cruises this was a great choice for an older crowd who want a relaxing experience and like to read, listen to music, play card games, have good conversations with fellow passengers, and eat well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
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
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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