18 Rome (Civitavecchia) to Europe - Western Mediterranean Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews

The old joke says HAL cruises are the ones on which senior citizens take their parents. But both groups are dying off, one by one, and the company can’t seem to define its replacement audience. I rate this cruise a B-plus, but only ... Read More
The old joke says HAL cruises are the ones on which senior citizens take their parents. But both groups are dying off, one by one, and the company can’t seem to define its replacement audience. I rate this cruise a B-plus, but only just. We purchased a low-cost upgrade to a Signature Suite, which gave us the best cabin we’ve had on a cruise ship in many years, including the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on. What else was praiseworthy? The service, in almost every area. HAL’s Filipino and Indonesian staff are still the best at sea. Our cabin steward was a gem, ditto our waiters in the dining room. The send-out 48-hour laundry service worked just fine. We sent out four bags ($30 each): two were returned within 12 hours and all the clothes were perfectly washed. The main dining room was excellent. I found too few creative main courses on the menu, and too many repeats, but the array of appetizers and tasty desserts made up for it; often, we would have three appetizers plus dessert and be fully satisfied. Holland America has cut back portion sizes but that’s no problem for us; in fact, gigantic American-style entrees are a turn-off so their absence is no loss. We spent much more on ship’s shore excursions than we normally do, trying (successfully) to spend the US$1,674 in onboard credits our suite deal gave us. The excursions were off-puttingly overpriced ($199.95 to go to Seville, for example) but, with a couple of exceptions, the quality was good. The shorex manager was highly informed and most helpful. In more than half the 18 ports we did our own thing, often using hop-on buses to get around and see the highlights. Some passengers made use of the excellent European train systems to reach shoreside attractions (often a long way from the port) and save lots of money. The Front Desk was mostly efficient and responsive, unusual for almost any cruise line these days. My room-service breakfast showed up on or before time every day, although, typically, the ship ran out of Raisin Bran. The ship’s photographers – employees, not contractors – were laudably respectful of passenger privacy: to them, “no thanks” actually meant no thanks. The cruise line’s air program worked fine; transfers, embarkation and disembarkation were generally smooth with an occasional glitch. But there were too many negatives. The Lido Market tops the list. Some passengers liked it; we certainly didn’t. In an effort to save money by cutting back food consumption, HAL has eliminated trays, forcing passengers to juggle plates of food. Plates, cups and glasses are smaller and most portions are doled out by crew members, which means you seldom get the amount you want. The alternative is to pick up pre-packaged food, like sandwiches which taste like cardboard. I actually lost weight on this cruise, thanks to the Lido and the Dive-In hamburger place, where the meat was overwhelmed by huge and boring buns. And what kind of cruise line runs out of lemonade? This cruise offered big discounts on cabin fares, so the line has to make it up somewhere. Bar and wine prices seemed sorely inflated. There was no longer a Captain’s Toast or welcome party, replaced by a Q&A with the boss-man. Unfortunately, when asked about Holland America’s vision for the future he rattled on about the next new ship at the builder’s yard. That’s not a vision, needless to say. The entertainment was mediocre, not a big surprise except that the line has been touting improvements of late. The ship’s orchestra was outstanding, but the song-and-dance troupe reached only a college-level standard of performance. Featured performers were by no means noteworthy, no comedian appeared during 24 days, and four nights were devoted to movies and documentaries. The Mainstage Theatre itself is very badly designed: lousy sightlines, too many pillars, uncomfortable seats and an audience sequestered far from the stage. HAL has added three nightclubs – B.B. King’s, the Lincoln Center Stage and the Billboard twin singer-pianists. The classical musicians were talented and popular, but the overall impact was unimpressive. The Oosterdam was pretty dead after 10 p.m. It was also pretty quiet in daylight, even on the four at-sea days: very few attractive events but an emphasis on anything which increased revenue for Holland America. Little wonder we spent lots of time in our cabin! Three more things, none unimportant when you’re aboard for 24 days. There were far too many PA announcements, most of them intended for crew only and therefore an annoyance to passengers. The Cruise Director, Hamish Davies, talked exclusively in cliches and affected a sophomoric enthusiasm. The Voyage App on the in-cabin TV was close to useless, lacking most of the data of the system it replaced. And, last, I was shocked by the lifeboat drill, a very serious business and long a Holland America strength. We were rushed through it, there was no officer present; crew members on hand seemed only to care that they’d scanned your cabin keycard to prove you were there. The safety information provided was disjointed and disorganized; one shivers to think what chaos might occur in the event of a real emergency. So, a B+ for this cruise. We hope HAL decides what kind of cruise line it wants to be; in the meantime, we’ll be back only with a great itinerary plus a significant upgrade and a big discount. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
On the Oosterdam...everyone was friendly and happy. Many employees (of all levels of employment) ate in the buffet area and got along with each other and the passengers. The stateroom (aft, end stateroom) was large and quiet. The room ... Read More
On the Oosterdam...everyone was friendly and happy. Many employees (of all levels of employment) ate in the buffet area and got along with each other and the passengers. The stateroom (aft, end stateroom) was large and quiet. The room stewards were a hoot, it seemed everyone loved working there! The breakfast buffet was spread out and varied menus offered as was the case for lunches and dinners. The entertainment was good and the bars offered a Happy Hour where you buy one and get one for a dollar...we hit all three most days. The stops were not all that interesting and the shore excursions were expensive and not very interesting either,(tour office people were rather short with passengers and were seldom available) but I was prepared and we made our own excursions and had a good time! ( I have an entire portfolio of port information if anyone needs anything.) They celebrated our anniversary and my birthday was a big deal! I even got a bottle of champagne for it! Halloween was festive and fun! We made a lot of friends on board and settled into a favorite bar for the evening Happy Hours. We had a SMALL problem with the toilet and were sent a bottle of wine as an apology, I made a positive comment about the staff to the front desk and was rewarded with a bottle of wine....everything was just wonderful! I would HIGHLY recommend this ship! This ship had some T Shirt sales and inexpensive things for sale. The menu's at dinner were always new and exciting. There were many rotations on this cruise...people getting off and on at different locations, but the dinning room did not repeat any menu's. Service was classy and friendly. Some nights I did not care for much on the menu so I was told to order what I felt like eating and it was served quickly! (As a background, we had just left the Queen Victoria and that ship was such a disappointment. This ship was a breath of fresh air!) Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We chose this cruise because we like Holland America and we liked the itinerary. We are more interested in exploring ports than ship-board activities and Holland America suits us for this purpose. We do not, for the most part, do ship ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we like Holland America and we liked the itinerary. We are more interested in exploring ports than ship-board activities and Holland America suits us for this purpose. We do not, for the most part, do ship excursions, preferring to participate in smaller group tours. This worked well for us on this voyage. Service was up to HA standards, We had cheerful and helpful cabin stewards and dining room staff. We choose fixed seating for dining as it gives an opportunity to get to know the staff and your dining companions. The ship had to cancel one stop due to expected bad weather. High winds would have made tendering a problem in St. Tropez. The good news was that the ship was able to organize an alternative stop in Genoa that day. We were impressed with the ease of the adjustment by the company. All in all a nice selection of ports and a most enjoyable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We often take a year-end cruise in the Mediterranean and enjoy visiting various ports along the way. This cruise focussed on the western Mediterranean and then crossed the Atlantic, ending up in Tampa. In all, we spent 39 days on the ... Read More
We often take a year-end cruise in the Mediterranean and enjoy visiting various ports along the way. This cruise focussed on the western Mediterranean and then crossed the Atlantic, ending up in Tampa. In all, we spent 39 days on the Oosterdam (two 12-day collector cruises and a 15-day transAtlantic cruise). Although we were supposed to join the ship in Civitavecchia, our Alitalia flight from Toronto was delayed four hours and this meant our arrival time was set for 5:00 pm - the ship was sailing at 6! Luckily we had booked our flight with Holland America and, once we phoned to alert them, they arranged for us to fly on from Rome to near Florence where we were put up in a hotel overnight and driven to the ship in Livorno the next day. Full marks to Tom in HAL's Seattle Office on this one for arranging everything - on arrival we found a bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin and $50 credit each for our meals. Having sailed with Holland America several times since 2007, we have noticed that while service levels from the Indonesian cabin stewards and waiters remain excellent, the rest of the experience is slowly being devalued. The first thing we noticed was that under normal circumstances, it's very difficult to get a seat in the Lido for breakfast or indeed lunch. This is thanks to the extra passenger capacity added since the ship was built. Another sign of decline is that the latest re-fit has almost done away with the Library which is now part of the Explorer Cafe and Crow's Nest. There is no librarian, you simply take the books that you want away with you (they must stay on the ship). If you like the quiet atmosphere of the library and a place to use your laptop on other ships, you'll hate this arrangement as both the noise of the cafe, art and Crow's Nest activities invade this small corner making it difficult to focus. Food is still generally good but decline is creeping in - for example, the only milk available for your cereal is UHT milk (with its distinctive taste) and it comes only in Tetra Paks meaning that you have to insert the straw and squeeze the carton repeatedly (think milking the cow) in order to pour your milk. Full fat plain yogurt is not available. In terms of sanitation, for the last leg of our trip, we noted that many passengers had no idea how to keep their hands off the food and plates. They would touch food or dishes / cutlery etc and return it. One gentleman was seen picking just the fruit he liked off individual fruit plates and putting them on his own. There should have been better supervision to deal with people like this. The last few days were spent in 'Code Red' thanks to an inevitable Norovirus outbreak. As always, an excellent room service menu is available with prompt and cheerful service and we found it to be a good alternative to the Lido crowds at breakfast. We had fixed seating for dinner in the main dining room and our waiters were excellent although they seem to have to work harder than ever before. One thing in large supply is wine stewards but we don't usually bother with wine since wine prices are high and the quality low. Our cabin stewards were excellent and worked around our schedule. Entertainment: there was a fair amount of entertainment but we generally like early nights. I took part in the quizzes but entertainment staff often repeat the same old questions making it a memory rather than a knowledge competition. Some staff tend to drone on about themselves or the many money-making activities on the ship. We didn't use the gym - the spa is very expensive. I find that keeping off the elevators and walking a mile on sea days helps keep the pounds off. We became 4-Star mariners by the Transatlantic portion and though we were entitled to 4-Star privileges, we had to pester front office staff several times to expedite this and missed out on our free wine-tasting. Not a big deal but if they're offering this, passengers shouldn't have to chase it down. It was nice having free laundry privileges. Speaking of Front Office Staff, we found a great variation in their levels of willingness to help. Often we would report a problem and find that we would have to explain everything all over again the next day since the original person failed to make notes. One was outright rude and accused us of being freeloaders when we asked about a wine package that HAL had given us. Lastly, we paid HAL for a transfer from the ship to Tampa Airport. The process was a total shambles with porters holding people to ransom inside the terminal and total chaos getting onto the bus organized by HAL. A sign indicating where to catch the bus would have helped. Once we had scrambled onto the bus, we had to get off to check that our luggage had been loaded. Adding to the fun, the air conditioner apparently couldn't operate if the bus wasn't moving so we sat and sweltered through the loading and checking process. Hint: take a taxi - they're cheaper, cooler and you won't worry about your luggage. In summary, we find that we're outgrowing Holland America - the quality of the experience is going down. They seem to be moving towards being a budget cruise line and attempting to extract money from passengers once they're aboard. We'll be looking elsewhere for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
The ship was fine, the Neptune Suites seemed smaller and less well laid out than other ships on the Holland line. The entertainment was only OK at best, but perhaps that was because we only had 2 sea days. What was surprising to me, having ... Read More
The ship was fine, the Neptune Suites seemed smaller and less well laid out than other ships on the Holland line. The entertainment was only OK at best, but perhaps that was because we only had 2 sea days. What was surprising to me, having been on several other Holland America cruises was that the quality of food had declined so dramatically. I took my 14 year old granddaughter who loves to eat, and she lost 5 lbs in 12 days, because she found the meals of such poor quality. I guess they are fine for those who like duck, lamb, and beef, which they seemed to have on a daily basis. We both ordered the salmon one night and found it to be terrible and only ate one bite. We come from Pacific Northwest where salmon is pretty much a staple, and we had no idea salmon could actually be prepared in a way that was not edible. However the service was good. We opted to take tours by locals rather than the ship tours most of the time. They were far less expensive and no more than 12 people. I would highly recommend booking local tours ahead of time. You see more, have better guides, have an opportunity to stop for photos, etc. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We are a family of 4, mum, dad and twoo teenage daughters. This was our 6th cruise with HAL, all in the Med. The Oosterdam was recently refurbished in dry dock. She looked very fresh. We used anytime dining but with an angoing reservation ... Read More
We are a family of 4, mum, dad and twoo teenage daughters. This was our 6th cruise with HAL, all in the Med. The Oosterdam was recently refurbished in dry dock. She looked very fresh. We used anytime dining but with an angoing reservation at 6:30 pm. This is a great way to have fixed dining (and sometimes even fixed seating) but not to be limited to the regular fixed dining times 6 pm or 8 pm. The entertainment was great. The cast was excellent and performed in 3 shows during the 12 night cruise. Great addition with the upgrade from the piano bar to Billboard onboard. We loved Diego and Meagan on the dueling pianos. We upgraded to a suite from a verandah stateroom to a neptune suite. The suites were brand new and gave nice perks like breakfast at the Pinnacle Grill and of course the great service of the Neptune Lounge stewards. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We had wanted to take a Mediterranean cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary. Since we own 4 weeks with Marriott, we were able to use our vacation club points to choose this cruise. We booked this in the summer of 2015 and were able to ... Read More
We had wanted to take a Mediterranean cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary. Since we own 4 weeks with Marriott, we were able to use our vacation club points to choose this cruise. We booked this in the summer of 2015 and were able to get a Neptune Suite for the cruise. Our plan was to arrive early in Rome, stay several days there first, and then board the cruise. We stayed at the Boscolo Exedra in Rome and booked a car service to take us to the port, which is a good distance from the center of Rome. We arrived at the port around 230p and were promptly met by stewards to assist with tagging our luggage. We had expedited check-in and basically walked right to our room. Our luggage was brought about 1.5 hours later. After the required muster drill, we went back to unpacking and setting up for the cruise. Our Suite: We were in suite 7089 on the Rotterdam deck. Our suite gave us access to the Neptune Lounge on the same level. This was a nice perk if you wanted to grab a quick cup of coffee or tea and a snack without having to go to one of the dining rooms. The suite itself was quite spacious with plenty of room to store luggage, clothes, and personal items. There was a large screen TV with access to limited live TV, plenty of movies, music, and more. Our bath had a separate shower as well as a shower with tub. There were 2 sinks and a small vanity area to put on makeup. Dryer, magnifying mirror, iron and board were all provided. Toiletries were from Elemis, the same as the on-board spa. The electrical ports were abundant and worked for US or foreign adapters. It was also nice that each side of the bed had 2 USB connections that could be used for charging as well. We also had free laundry and dry cleaning for the cruise as a bonus for being in a Neptune Suite; this was appreciated and helped limit the amount of laundry to do once we returned. The ship was refurbished in April 2016 and is in great shape. It is a nice size - about 2000 people and 800 crew - and does not feel too big. There are 2 pools - both on the Lido deck. The one for kids is in the front and where the Dive In cafe is. The adult pool is in the back of the Lido deck and there are plenty of lounge chairs and seating chairs for use. Spa & Fitness: The spa is medium size, but they offer quite a bit of services - from massages and waxing to hair and nails to fillers. The fitness center is adequate with most folks using the treadmills or free weights. They publish a list of classes that can be taken during the cruise and sign up is easy. Dining: There are several restaurants on the ship for dining. We mainly ate at the Lido Market for the majority of meals when not on an excursion. Canaletto and the Pinnacle Grill were two of the special restaurants that have an added charge; we ate at both and thought the food and service was good. There were several mornings where we had breakfast by room service; this was a nice treat as well. Tours: We booked all our excursions prior to the cruise. All of them were very good with knowledgeable tour guides and drivers. The tours that included meals were in very nice restaurants and added to the ambiance of the visit. We were given ample time for bathroom breaks, time to eat, time to visit, and time to shop. My only complaint was that I did not think the original info was clear about final port tours; they made it seem that only those staying on the ship could book the published tours and that was not the case. (And the reason we made separate arrangements for Barcelona.) Entertainment: There is a small casino on the ship and they try to make it fun for the passengers with tournaments. Many bars are on the ship and each offers its own ambiance. With the exception of the dueling piano singers by the casino, all the entertainers were very good. The movie theater is a good size and we watched one film there during a day at sea. You can purchase internet access packages while at sea; the information is provided in the suite when you arrive. Disembarking was fairly simple. We had made prior arrangements to leave early in the morning because of a mid-morning flight so we had an expedited exit from the ship. The final bill was left for us outside our door before we left; there are kiosks on the ship on the 1st desk where you can check you bill during the trip. This is smart so that any problems with billing can be taken care of in advance and not on the day before leaving. Overall, we loved this cruise and plan to take another one in the future with HAL. The staff were all so friendly and pleasant that we really felt at home on the ship. We look forward to cruising on the Oosterdam again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We selected this cruise based on two criteria: the itinerary and it was a HAL cruise. HAL is our absolutely favorite cruise line based on the service, value, dining and size of their ships. We really don't enjoy the large or very ... Read More
We selected this cruise based on two criteria: the itinerary and it was a HAL cruise. HAL is our absolutely favorite cruise line based on the service, value, dining and size of their ships. We really don't enjoy the large or very large cruise ships; taking a vacation w/ 3000 or more people in a very confined space is not my idea of a good time. The itinerary was wonderful; 9 ports in the Mediterranean Riviera with 6 ports being new stops for us. The cruise embarked in Civitavecchia and disembarked in Barcelona. We arrived 2 days early & spent our time in Rome. This was our 4th trip to Rome, so we did not go to the big tourist spots, but visited some museums. We always stay near the Pantheon; love the piazzas in that area & the restaurants. Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze with this cruise. We left out stateroom and were off the ship in 10 minutes when we disembarked. This was due to an overnight stay in Barcelona(didn't have to dock in the AM) and majority of the passengers stayed on for the next leg of the cruise. First time on the Oosterdam and HAL has done a beautiful job of updating the interior of the ship. The public areas and our cabin (SC suite) have been refurbished and are very stylish. Added lots of charging areas to the suite, so everyone's electronics cd/ stay charged, thank goodness or my 14 year old daughter might have jumped overboard(LOL). Service, as always, was very good in all areas of the ship. It does seem that HAL has cut back on service personnel however; there were some bar areas you cdn't find anyone to take your orders. The food in the dining room was very good to excellent each dinner and we ate in the dinning room every night. There was only one entrée that I didn't enjoy; shrimp & grits-had a tomato sauce rather than a Cajun sauce. I will say if the portions get any smaller, you will need to order a minimum of 4 courses every night. I found the portions to be just right for myself & my daughter, but my husband was left hungry if he didn't get 2 entrees. We did go to a show or musical venue every evening. Our favorite was the Lincoln Center Stage wh/ featured classical music performed by a quintet-4 strings & piano. This group was excellent and very enjoyable. We took 5 shore excursions at 5 different ports. Our 1st adventure was @ Livorno where we went to Cinque Terre for the day. What a beautiful place, but boy was it crowded. 2nd adventure was @ Monte Carlo where we went to Nice & Eze ; 2 more beautiful places. In St Tropez, we just took the tenderi in, spent the day in town & enjoyed mussels for lunch. It was Saturday, so the fresh market was open. Next stop was Ajaccio; it was Sunday, so lots of shops were closed. We went to Napoleon's house & museum. In Almeria, we walked up to the fortress on top of the mountain overlooking the city. Well worth visit. Our next shore excursion was in Ceuta Spain; we took the trip in to Morocco Africa. This was my least favorite excursion. In Marseille, we took a walking tour(as recommended by Rick Steves' guide), visited the cathedral that overlooks the Bouillabaisse. Our next outing was at our Sete port where we visited Carcassonne. What a fantastic fortress/castle. This was my daughter's favorite tour; they had just finished studying the Medieval times at school. By the time we arrived in Barcelona we just decided to hit the beach, so we took an excursion to Sitges, a lovely sandy beach 30 minutes outside of Barcelona. Our entire family enjoyed this cruise; it is one of our top 3 favorite cruises we have taken(and we have enjoyed 25+ cruises), with the other top 2 being Alaska & the Greek Isles. Would recommend this in a heart beat to anyone wanting to enjoy the Spanish, French & Italian Riviera. Love that HAL is always looking to add different and new ports to their itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Although we have built up points on 13 cruises with another line we had heard good things about Holland America so we decided to give it a go when they made an offering with ports-of-call which were new to us. After spending a week in ... Read More
Although we have built up points on 13 cruises with another line we had heard good things about Holland America so we decided to give it a go when they made an offering with ports-of-call which were new to us. After spending a week in Lucignano we arrived at Cevitavecchia around 11 to find the streets mobbed with tourists. Do not be fooled, the north entrance by the traffic circle is the one to use for embarkation, the south entrance by the old fort is for pedestrian traffic on day excursions. (If attempting a drop off for Avis/ Budget do not look for a company parking area, simply park on the street as close as possible and walk into their office) Arriving at the Holland America check-in area we were required to fill-in a short info sheet, were issued a number and waited about half an hour for our number to be called to allow access to security and then the ship. We were allowed a bottle of wine each in our carry-on luggage and had no problem with our two bottles of bubbly. Our cabin, luggage already arrived, was ready immediately and we were enjoying the ship's offerings around noon. (Please see my cabin description for further details.) There is a need for cleanliness so having your food - including salad - individually prepared by the staff is perfectly understandable but due to the limited number of stations one must be prepared for queues at the buffet. This situation might be improved by increasing the staffing. There was a large choice of ingredients for the salads including nuts, seeds, meat and cheese which made this an excellent station. Unfortunately the other stations remained a disappointment; one would think that with the large number of Asian employees the Asian offerings would be quite delicious; the opposite was true as everything was completely bland. This held for the dining room as well: bland bland bland. Our standard joke is that there is a de-schmeckifier in the kitchen through which all food must pass before being served. I did have a nice trout in the dining room on the last day and the mushroom soup was lovely but on a 12 day cruise this is pitiful. Our fondest memory will be of the entertainment. Holland America has partnered with New York's Lincoln Centre for classical musicians who provided a number of sets most days, and a permanent BB King theatre provides marvelous blues music in three sets almost every evening. The main theatre was smaller than expected and a large number of posts throughout restricted viewing. We were not overly impressed by any of the offerings in this venue. Karaoke was provided 3 times during the cruise. Trivia was a popular activity especially in the Crow's Nest lounge around happy hour. This lounge also had one of the best bartenders on land or water - be sure to say hello to Oliver. Although my spouse usually purchases a drink package, I am not a drinker so with Holland America requiring both people in a cabin to purchase packages, this became an unaffordable option. With two happy hours (4-5 and 9-10) where drinks up to $8 could be bought with a second for $1, we found our alcohol needs were comfortably met. A computer lab with about a dozen computers provided instruction and the popular classes were filled to overflow on both sea days; perhaps more frequent classes might be considered on these days. There were destination lectures provided in the main theatre. The main pool area was quite nice with towels freely available and lounge chairs never fully occupied. The best part was the lack of noise - it was kept quiet so people could enjoy reading. There is nothing worse than having loud piped music wherever one goes - this was a major complaint of mine on other ships. Service was eagerly provided with a smile and we never had a problem with any staff. All in all this was a pleasurable cruise but I doubt we will be in a hurry to return due to the disappointing food. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We chose this cruise for the itinerary, which included the Riviera, several stops in Provence, and a stop for the Alhambra (although Granada was quite a distance from Almeria, it was worth the trip). We are 2 active Americans in our 30s, ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary, which included the Riviera, several stops in Provence, and a stop for the Alhambra (although Granada was quite a distance from Almeria, it was worth the trip). We are 2 active Americans in our 30s, no kids. We went in late May and had PERFECT weather: only a few sprinkles here and there, temperatures never above 75 F! We stayed one night in Rome fairly close to Termini station, and found the train to Civitavecchia to be very nice, although you have to walk quite far to get to the platform. Once we arrived in Civitavecchia station it was a bit confusing how to get to the ship; there's supposed to be a bus but we didn't find it. It was a bit too far to walk with luggage, but we made it. Embarkation was a breeze, and disembarkation was very nice - we really liked being able to stay in our state room until our group was called. We waited about 30min after it was called and walked right off, got our luggage, and were on to the next adventure. The ship itself is very elegant. Almost all of the staff are Indonesian, unlike other ships we've been on that had more diversity. They were all very friendly and spoke good English. The clientele of the ship was significantly older than we're used to (we've only sailed Princess and Seabourn before). We were (jokingly) asked several times if we'd wandered onto the wrong ship. I counted a grand total of 6 children onboard the entire time, and only a few other middle-aged couples like us; at least 90% of the pax were in their late 60s to 80s. Mainly Americans, but quite a few Australians too. Because of the small size of the ship (or the age of the pax?) there weren't a lot of activities onboard, but we were in port most of the time anyway. We did miss the people watching we've previously enjoyed in the Princess atrium. The overall atmosphere was very quiet and peaceful. Service was generally very friendly and helpful, except for the people in the Lido buffet who either didn't speak good English or were cranky. While I felt everything was sanitary, some details of cleanliness were less than stellar. For example, the phones and makeup mirror in our cabin had clearly not been wiped in some time, and there was crud around the edge of the bathtub that floated atop my bath every night (I easily scrubbed some of it off with a washcloth the first night, but it reappeared from somewhere to leave a brown ring around the tub every night). We were pleased with 'anytime' dining; we had a grand time dining with a big table of CC'ers we'd met through this forum! Dinner selection was good, breakfast ok, and Lido not so great (but we never like the ship buffets much). We didn't have much lunch onboard since this was a port-intensive cruise, but we did enjoy the afternoon tea service a few times. They had a crepe station one afternoon which was a nice treat. We aren't big drinkers so we just ordered a few drinks a la carte; prices are reasonable. The coffee was TERRIBLE, including the espresso, so we stuck to tea. We also brought our bottles of wine onboard (1 each), but there was no corkscrew in the cabin to open it! We had some onboard credit which we used at Pinnacle Grill one night, but we didn't think it was really worth it. I ordered the crab legs, which were also available in the MDR later in the cruise, and was served an obscene quantity (perhaps 5lbs?), half of which was overcooked. We only did one ship excursion, to the Alhambra (Granada) from the port of Almeria. The rest of our excursions we arranged with private tour guides and fellow pax from the "roll call" forum. These all turned out to be really good experiences, and we enjoyed meeting the other passengers from the forum. Livorno: we've seen the sights in Florence, so we decided to DIY to Lucca, Italy. This required 2 buses and 2 trains; while not particularly difficult, it seemed like more effort than the little town was worth. The Puccini museum was a rip-off. Monte Carlo: the seas were very choppy and we later learned we were lucky to get to shore, as they stopped the tenders completely by noon. The marvelous Michel of Revelation Tours picked us up at the dock and took us to several beautiful Provencal villages including St Tourettes sur Loup, St Paul de Vence, Eze, and Nice. Though the Grand Prix Historique was going on, we had no trouble getting in/out of MC. Michel gave us fascinating details about the history and geography of the region as we drove. In Nice I really enjoyed the Chagall museum (he's my favorite painter), while the others in the group enjoyed a tour of the city. The boardwalk in Nice is also very beautiful. Near Eze we stopped at the Fragonard factory; we probably should've skipped this, as it wasn't that interesting even to the ladies. We had planned to go back out and see the casino in the evening, but the tenders were not running and we were too tired anyway. St Tropez: Again the wonderful Michel met us at the port and took us to the villages of Grimaud, Port Grimaud (none of us liked this "Disney-esque" resort), Ramateulle, and Gassin. He also took us to a wine tasting at a winery where they make the local (excellent) rose. Again we'd planned to go out and people watch in the evening but were too tired after dinner to venture back out. Ajaccio: We didn't have a tour arranged from this port, as there weren't many good options. We walked around the markets and the boardwalk, and then along the beach for awhile. We were back on the ship in time for a late lunch, along with most of the passengers. It was pretty but not particularly interesting. Almeria: This was the only ship excursion we took. It was quite a distance (2 hour drive), but the Alhambra is worth it! However, the excursion only spent an hour at the site and then 2.5 hours on lunch - I would've much rather flipped that proportion. Ceuta: We were really at a loss as to activities here, since we weren't interested in going to Morocco. An Australian couple we'd met earlier in the cruise attempted to DIY the border crossing and were deterred by "guides" insisting on hundreds of Euros to take them across. Others we talked to later said the ship excursion was worth it, though. We just walked around the small town, had some really great coffee, and walked along the beach for quite awhile. (The beach was fairly nice, and it was sandy unlike the rocky beaches of Europe). At least we can say we've set foot on the continent of Africa now! Marseille: We had a little difficulty finding our guide (Delphine, arranged for us by Nancy McGee), since the port won't allow private tour vehicles to park very close to the ships. Delphine took us to Aix-en-Provence, which was very beautiful and clearly more wealthy than other villages we had seen so far. There were very large markets going on while we were there. Since it was a perfectly clear day, she then drove us up to the highest European cliff at Cap Canaille for a spectacular view over the Med! We were amazed to see rock climbers on the sheer face. After that we took a short boat ride from Cassis to the Calanques, which are very unusual white rock formations that fall right into the sea. People were out sunbathing on the rocks, which looked very uncomfortable to us. Back in Marseille, Delphine drove us up the hill to Notre Dame, which was very beautiful inside and enjoys beautiful views over the city. Sete: At first we were confused on how to find our private guide, but then we realized we had to take the short bus ride to the port gates, where our guide was waiting. We were back with Michel, who showed us the Versailles-like gardens and Roman ruins of Nimes. The Colisseum-like arena (later turned bullring) was very well preserved. Then he took us to Uzes, which was one of our favorite villages. However, the highlight of the trip was the visit to the old Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard! Barcelona: We were docked overnight here, and opted to take the ship's shuttle, which was worth it - it dropped us at the maritime museum. On disembarkation day we took a taxi directly to our hotel, where we stayed a few more nights. We enjoyed all the usual sights in Barcelona via metro or on foot, and especially appreciated the much cheaper prices on food and shopping! The beach at Barceloneta is pretty and well attended (including by topless and fully nude sunbathers). We booked timed entry tickets for La Padrera, Park Guell, and the Sagrada Familia, which helped with the crowds. A highlight here was the Camp Nou Experience, which was well done even for someone like me who doesn't really care for soccer (football). Though we enjoyed our cruise, we would probably not sail with HAL again due to the vast age difference, unless the itinerary was something we couldn't find elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Just back from a wonderful yet very busy cruise aboard the lovely Oosterdam. We took the second upsell offer (half the price of the first one) and enjoyed our first Neptune suite and the perks associated with it. Our stewards Tri and Kadek ... Read More
Just back from a wonderful yet very busy cruise aboard the lovely Oosterdam. We took the second upsell offer (half the price of the first one) and enjoyed our first Neptune suite and the perks associated with it. Our stewards Tri and Kadek were wonderful at keeping the cabin spotless and well stocked. This was the O's third cruise after dry dock. There was still some work being completed but it did not impact us at all. Our friends were in the new cabins on Deck 10 and were told they were the first to use the cabin. We enjoyed listening to the talented musicians. There was music for all tastes from the Lincoln Centre (more classical) to the pianist to the B B King Blues Club, to the piano duo at Billboard to the Oosterdam's own singers and dancers. I was a bit upset that I could not hear the cruise director's announcements on the tv,,as I had done on previous cruises. I did look under Services but perhaps I was not looking in the right place. It was the same with the Port Talks. When asked if her talks would be available on TV, the presenter said no. There are now kiosks near the front desk where you can check your statement. Although hubby and my accounts were linked, I could not check. It had to be the credit card holder. This was a port intensive cruise with only 2 sea days, the first being almost a week after boarding. The Cruise Critic group met after muster, which was at 4:45 and over by 5:05, for an informal gathering in the Crow's Nest. This was our chance to meet our fellow travellers and firm up the tour arrangements. I am just going to highlight some of the things we did or learned in each port. Hopefully, the info will be useful to others. Civitavecchia. We stayed again Hotel Traghetto which is close to the shuttle bus stop. The Todis grocery store close to the hotel has a limited wine selection but we did find a Trebianno d'Abruzzo, (Brecciola) which we enjoyed. We took our 2 allotted bottles but no one checked them. Livorno. We went to Lucca/Pisa with others from Cruise Critic. The cost was €40 per person. Our van was equipped with WIFI, so we all enjoyed checking our email. FYI...Although we did not use it,,there was a shuttle from the ship. I believe the cost was €5. Monaco. This was a tender port since the Historique Car Race was being held the day we were there. It was quite the bumpy ride to shore at Fontvieille and at one point, they actually stopped the tenders. We asked about getting to the palace and were told by the gal from the tourist office that there were lots of stairs, no bus or taxis. Well, we discovered a series of escalators and elevators (near McDonalds, the supermarket Carrefour, and an indoor shopping mall) and then a short walk took you to the bus stop where you caught the bus to the top. Cost was €2. We waited almost an hour in the rain for the tender back to the ship. St. Tropez We were there on a Sunday and it was very busy. We just walked along the boardwalk admiring the multi-million dollar yachts, enjoying the sunshine. Corsica. We were tendered in Ajaccio, something I was not expecting. It was market day with lots of olives, dried fruits, produce etc. We took the bus tour €10 for 1.5 hour ride. The ticket booth is very close to the tender spot, just opposite Place Foch. The train and the bus go to similar places. Be sure to check the hours for Napoleon's house. It did close for part of the day. The beaches looked great. Almeria. We had hoped to go to the Alhambra with a group from CC but were unable to secure tickets. Although some people did walk, we took the city bus (€1.05) up to the Alcazba, the old fortress overlooking the city. Beautiful views and ruins and a fair bit of climbing. We took the bus back down although our friends did walk. After lunch, I took the tourist train (€5) which started/stopped right by the ship. It went around the downtown area but the commentary was difficult to understand and was out of sync with the tour. There were no photo stops. Ceuta. We had thought of doing a ship's tour here but left it too late to book. The ship was docked fairly close to the main sights. I found a supermarket a five minute walk from the ship where I stocked up on water and pop. The tourist office, near the Plaza of Africa, was not open first thing in the morning ( it was on our way back to the ship). Free WIFI at McDonalds, which is near the Pillar of Hercules. Marseille Here we did a private tour with CC members. We met Delfina and after her papers were checked by the police, we were off to Aix en Provence. It was market day and we strolled through 4 markets. Again, beautiful flowers, produce and smells. Then it was off to Cassis. We went up to a panoramic look-out and had a fantastic view of the town. After a quick lunch, we took a little boat tour to see 3 of the picturesque calanques. Then it was onto Marseille where we visited Notre Dame de la Garde Church. We were able to park quite close and there is an elevator for those who cannot climb the stairs. A quick drive around the port area and then back to the ship. Sete. We did not dock where the map said we would. We had to cross a floating pontoon bridge/gangway to get to shore. It was quite windy but there were crew members available to assist. There were free shuttles which took you closer to the main area. We took the Tourist Train around the city. We inquired about going up to Mont Saint Clair and were told to take bus #5. Unfortunately, we never saw a bus (maybe they don't run on Sunday) and ended up walking up and down. The view was worth the hike. Barcelona. I had arranged a tour to Montserrat for 8 members from CC. After a short delay, sorting out missing names and picking up 2 other couples at their hotels, we were off to Montserrat. There were many groups there that day. The queue to see the Black Madonna was quite long. Two of our group did go up the funicular while others listened to the choir. Flight Home. We were off the ship very quickly and arrived at the airport before the wickets opened. Once they did, we were informed that our flight was delayed until 9pm, 12 hours later. We stayed on that main level for a while but when we tried to go through Security, we were were told our flight had been cancelled. We learned what Air Canada was going to do for us about 12 pm and we were driven to Sitges, a lovely seaside town about 30 minutes from the airport. Others on the plane were put up at other hotels. Those who had gone through security very early did not learn of the cancellation until 6 pm. No one heard any announcement about the cancellation. We chose this cruise because of the different itinerary. It certainly was a great way to explore some different ports in the Mediterranean. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
My 20-year-old daughter and I took the 12-night Western Med cruise leaving out of Rome, and just returned a few days ago. The cruise definitely exceeded our expectations. We flew into Rome, and took advantage of HAL's air program. I ... Read More
My 20-year-old daughter and I took the 12-night Western Med cruise leaving out of Rome, and just returned a few days ago. The cruise definitely exceeded our expectations. We flew into Rome, and took advantage of HAL's air program. I was able to get air for just $804 round trip pp through them, and that was a direct flight from Chicago. We stayed at a wonderful B&B near the Vatican (Al Colonnato di San Pietro Bed and Breakfast), number one on tripadvisor, and I can see why. Reasonably priced, perfectly located, and the proprietor, Rosa Maria, took care of us like family. After four glorious and extremely tiring days in Rome, We were ready for our cruise. We took the train from Rome to the port, Civitavecchia, and then simply took a cab to the ship after we arrived. It was only 20 euros, and well worth avoiding the hassle of waiting for a bus. Additionally, we had saved a ton taking the train down, at only like 5 euros each. Embarkation was a breeze. Very little waiting and super organized. Our room was actually ready when we arrived as well, and we were early at just before 1 p.m. We had chosen an inside cabin, 8126. The cabin had tons of storage, so we were able to get everything organized and put away. Very little noise and very little movement. Our stateroom was attended by Asis and Eko, and they were just phenomenal throughout the cruise taking care of the cabin. When we arrived, the room was made up into a king, but when we asked, they quickly changed it to two twins. The ship itself is a moderate sized ship. I was told we had just over 1800 passengers on board. The majority of the passengers are over 65. There were virtually no passengers my daughters age, and only a few my age. That did not remotely diminish our experience however. We have both been on multiple cruises on lines including Celestyal last year, Costa, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and NCL. We both agreed this line had the best food and the best staff of any we have sailed on, and we truly had a tremendous time. We opted for the open seating option for dining. Because this cruise was extremely port intensive with only 2 sea days out of 12, we weren't sure when we would be ready to eat each day. That option was definitely perfect for us, as we ate anywhere from 5:15 (when the dining room opened) to 8:45 p.m. We never waited for a table. They always were able to seat us immediately. They gave us the option to share or to sit alone. Most nights we shared, and we met many wonderful people on board. All of the passengers we met were extremely well-traveled, and it made for really awesome dinner conversation. Staff was amazing and super friendly. Food was superb. Best we have had on any cruise line by far. I had duck several nights, pheasant, quail, lobster, filet, salmon, just to name a few of the entrees. There were numerous options in every category every evening, and everything was prepared perfectly. With all of the people we sat with, and many quite hard to please, none had anything negative to say about the food or service. I just wish I had taken more of their names to give each recognition here. There were so many who went above and beyond for us. One evening, we arrived back from Barcelona extremely late. We knew we were going to miss the show. When the Maitre'D heard we were wanting to make the show, he found us a table for 2, and had us surrounded by staff. He assured us we would make that show, and we did, with time to spare. It was amazing, and made us feel really special. Mornings before a port, we would have room service, which was always prompt and very good, or we would go to the Lido, and have something made for us to order. The crepes were amazing. Staff there was attentive as well, and always made sure to find us a table, and keep our drinks filled. We were pretty tired in the evenings, but still managed to make most of the shows. Our favorites included a magician, an impersonator/comedian, and an incredible piano player. The band was also excellent. I would have enjoyed some music pool-side on our sea days, but it was still pleasant to sit by the pool. We played ping pong and shopped, went to the teas, and rested up on these two days. Spa options were long and rather pricey. Some short options for massage would be my only request. There was internet available, and I bought a package. Every line I have sailed on has had fairly poor internet service, and this was no exception. It rarely wanted to connect without a very lengthy amount of time, and we went through our minutes very quickly and had really looked nothing up. I would recommend to wait for shore. Our ship stopped in Livorno, Monte Carlo, St. Tropez, Corsica, Almeria, Ceuta, Marseilles, Sete, and Barcelona. In Livorno, we grabbed a cab to the train station and then took a train to Pisa. I had made arrangements in advance to climb it, and we had lunch literally looking up at the leaning tower. Pure magic. We then took the train to Lucca, and rented bikes, and biked all around the wall of the town. Took our bikes down to a little cafe and had croissants. It was a truly splendid day. Hint: Cabs are plentiful and much quicker than the bus service and parked right there at the dock. However, returning to the train station in the afternoon, it is difficult to find a cab. Make sure to leave plenty of time for this. In Monte Carlo, the Antique Grand Prix was going. This definitely added to the event, and we could see the cars racing below from the palace, as well as hear them zooming past us on the streets behind barricades. We loved it, but admittedly it made it trickier to get around. Gorgeous yachts were in the port. We saw the changing of the guard at the palace, went and lost a little money at the Grand Casino and went to a great market there. We also took the train to Eze that day. Had lunch at Le Chevre D'or, a two michelin star restaurant overlooking the Med. The view was pure magic. Even got a little teary as they showed us to our table. It was that spectacular, and I had read about the place long ago. The medieval village of Eze was gorgeous. We did some shopping there. A little rain came, and we went and took a wifi break and waited it out. It was a great day. Hint: Take the bus to Eze. The train station is a long long distance from the village and is at the base of the cliffs. It is really not walkable. The bus does pick up there in front of the train station however, and will get you to Eze. We had difficulties finding the bus station in Monte Carlo, as the stop we needed was barricaded up. In St. Tropez, I had also been given some erroneous information, making it sound like Pampelonne Beach is walking distance. It very definitely is not. Of course we realized this once we were about 25% there on a road with no place to walk and surrounded by vineyards lol. Ended up finding this strange oasis in the middle of nowhere, where we bought fruit, and the proprietor called a taxi for us for the rest of the way. 30 euros to go 2-1/2 miles was a bit extreme, but we were just happy to not be on the side of the road anymore. I would have paid anything lol. Went to Nikki Beach Club, so my daughter could finally see some people her age. We were there a bit early, and it was super quiet, so headed to the beach. Daughter rented a jet ski for 65 euros for 20 minutes, but the guy took a liking to her and she ended up out there for about 45 minutes, then had lunch at a great french restaurant literally right on the beach. After lunch, headed back to Nikki's. It was now PACKED. Loud music and a fashion show going on. The bouncer found us a bed and we enjoyed music and laid out the rest of the afternoon. It was a great day. Had a mercedes sedan take us all the way back to the ship and he charged 30 euros as well. Just be prepared.. In St. Tropez.. Have a lot of money. We spent almost 100 euros for lunch. The beds were 20 euros apiece. It's not a cheap place lol. In Ajaccio, Corsica, I really wanted to take one of their boat tours; however, literally none of them worked with out time in port. We had eight hours, and but they literally all were approximately 15 minutes off. We took the petit train tour of the town. Saw all the sights of Napolean's birthplace, and then went to a great market right in the town square. Ended with some great food right on the dock, and then went back to the ship. Pretty laid back and relaxing day. I had a private tour arranged in Almeria, Spain with Jackie Bragg of Costa Almeria Tours. She took my daughter and I on a tour to Cabo de Gata. My daughter is specifically interested in flamingos, and she assured that she was able to see them there. The tour also included a boat ride to see the cliff formations and some sea life. We ended the tour at a lovely fishing village and had an amazing lunch there. Absolutely breathtaking view and a really awesome time. Jackie went out of her way to make sure we had a great time, and she assured we got back to the ship in plenty of time as well. In Ceuta, Spain, we went with the ship's tour to Tetouan, a medina on the African side of Morocco. The tour originally was sold out. I had been on the waiting list for over a month prior to the cruise. In the end, the ship was able to accommodate the 100 plus guests on the waiting list by taking multiple buses. We absolutely loved this tour. The border crossing would have been impossible to do on our own in just 7 hours in port. They kept us in smaller groups and then took us on a tour of the medina. We had a very small amount of time to shop and then had a truly wonderful lunch with traditional moroccan food and dancing. We were very happy with the tour. In Marseilles, we were bussed to the port area, and did pay a small fee for the transportation. We took a boat tour of the calanque formations out of the port for 27 euros each. We then went to lunch at Miramar Restaurant, a very swanky port-side restaurant. At 113 euros, it was an expensive lunch, but the food was quite good. In the beginning, the hauty waiter was ignoring us. We noticed French patrons around us talking about us and motioning to us. Suddenly, the couple sitting to our right complained about our service, and suddenly everything changed. We had great service after that, and our fresh fish was amazing and swimming in butter. Yummmm. We also took a boat out to the Island of If, where there is an old prison, made famous in the book, The Count of Monte Cristo. We had fun exploring that as well. Bus service back to the ship was quite slow to arrive, and many passengers were getting disgruntled about that. In the ship's defense, everyone arrived looking to go back around the same time, so that is rather hard to avoid. In Sete, we had very little planned. Just an easy day sightseeing this pretty little town with canals. We went to an awesome bakery and had croissants, and then went over to the town market. Fresh so fish it was still moving! :/ Dear daughter bought some strawberries and we found some wonderful soaps and sachets from the region's lavender. Had lunch in a little bistro in town, and then headed back to the ship. Our last port was Barcelona, where we overnighted. It ended up being our favorite port. We started out in La Rambla and enjoyed that immensely. Mimes, and booths of very type abound there. We ended at this square (Placa de Catalunya) that is literally covered in pigeons. Dear daughter bought some seeds and they were all over her. After lunch at an awesome little bistro nearby, she wanted to come back and do that again. Got some great pictures, and then took the subway to La Familia Sagrada (powerful and breathtaking), followed by another subway trip to Park Guell. Hint: Park Guell is a very long and strenuous walk from the subway station. A cab might be a good idea. If you want to enter La Familia Sagrada, be sure you have made a reservation before arrival. We thoroughly enjoyed Barcelona and definitely would like more time there. It was nice that the ship overnighted there, but we had to leave the next morning, so we went back around 8:00 to have dinner and pack. Overall, it was a lovely cruise. I would highly recommend Holland America Line. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and cannot say enough about how great the staff is. The food was wonderful and the ship was beautiful and kept very clean. Entertainment was very good, and certainly in adequate supply given such a port-intensive itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This is for the Oosterdam sailing from Rome on 18 April, right after it came out of dry dock. First the good: The staff was generally excellent. We had a Neptune suite, and the Neptune Lounge being right across the hall from our ... Read More
This is for the Oosterdam sailing from Rome on 18 April, right after it came out of dry dock. First the good: The staff was generally excellent. We had a Neptune suite, and the Neptune Lounge being right across the hall from our room was a great convenience. The Lounge staff were like personal concierges who could handle most anything we might need on ship. They could also make change in euros, which was handy before excursions. And they somehow learned everyone's name in about two seconds. I was very impressed. The Maitre' d in the Pinnacle Grill was the same - after our first night in the dining room he knew us by name. The Pinnacle Grill was by far the best dining on the ship (duh!). We went to dinner there upon embarkation (using a promotion coupon), and twice more, including the Le Cirque evening. The Le Cirque escargot was so good that we ordered another and then got the recipe. The bone-in ribeye was also delicious. Another perk of having the Neptune suite was breakfast in the Pinnacle - the food was the same menu as the Main Dining Room's breakfast, but with superb service. I don't believe that they were open for lunch, at least on this sailing. While talking about food, the MDR was generally good, but without any real "Wow!" moments; the braised Ox tail is about the best we had. We ate there on four evenings, The Gala night menus seemed no better than any other night to me. The Dive Bar burgers were pretty good, and the fries were excellent. Sadly, this was about the only place on the ship to get food in the late afternoon, except for canapes in the Neptune Lounge. Though we used room service multiple times for breakfast (and once for dinner) it was hit or miss - on most occasions something ordered was missing. Our suite was appointed well, with new linens, carpet, and upholstery. It was quite a treat, but was honestly more space than we needed. Having two sinks and being able to shower simultaneously (in tub & shower) was wonderful, but the vanity seating outside the bathroom was inconvenient, making a real pain for anyone to get past while seated at the vanity. We used the lounge chairs on the veranda to enjoy drinks while sailing, but our attempts to eat out there were wiped out by wind, so the table went unused. We got to know several other people on the ship, starting (as it turned out) on an excursion in Rome the day before we sailed. We enjoyed trivia, and should make a special call-out to the Irish lass "Carrie from Derry", who had the room in puzzled stitches with some of her Irish word pronunciations, and who handled our subsequent "abuse in the workplace" with great cheer. One team saved up the best of these words for use as their team name, making her say them all when they won at the end of the cruise, to the great mirth of the regulars (ask her to say "Paris", "Town", "Moose" or "Horrors"). The Bad: The ship was not ready when we sailed. I'll get to some of the issues in the next section about that, but it started out with a champagne-fueled Bon Voyage party that was supposed to see us sail away from Civitavecchia at 6pm, but instead had us sitting there until Midnight. Of course the champagne dried up right on schedule; it would have served HAL right to keep the aft deck alcohol taps open until we actually sailed. For the most part we were not at all impressed by the on-ship entertainment, though admittedly we sort of gave up on it after awhile. The only thing we saw on the main stage was the song & dance troupe doing numbers that were perhaps appropriate for the era when The Love Boat was still on prime time TV. That's a half-hour of my life that I can't recoup. At least the guy stacking wine glasses about 9 trays high was impressive, particularly as the ship was pitching a bit. Nidia's talks about the ports coming up were generally pretty good, if a bit superficial. And they were usually packed in the Queen's Lounge. We were told later that her SRO talks in the Queen's Lounge could not be in the larger Main Stage because they were practicing the show; they sure as heel needed the practice, but I thought that was a lame excuse for poor customer service. We had heard great reviews of the BB King band, but when we saw them at the Queen's Lounge, the audio balance was all wrong, with vocals drowned out by the instruments. We left after perhaps 15 minutes of that. We did hear some really good string music on the Lincoln Stage. Shame on us that we never went to the Billboard On Board stuff as we heard it was quite good. We paid one evening for the premium Italian restaurant on the Lido, and while the first courses were good, the main course was both under and overcooked, with rubber pork and nearly crunchy beans. The next day a bottle of (cheap) wine showed up in our suite with a note of apology. It might have been for the dinner, but we're not sure which transgression was being being atoned for, as it could have been one of several. In general the Lido food was OK as a salad bar and had a large variety of mediocre food. The pizza on the Lido was utterly atrocious - a soggy goopy mess. While the Dive Bar was fine, the taco bar next to it looked pretty sad, with tortilla chips that looked like they came from a Dollar Store closeout sale. The Ugly: Our room was not ready when we sailed, and in my view there was NO excuse for that. While there were towels in the room and the bed was made, we did not have a waste basket, or bathrobes, or a corkscrew, or a laundry bag, or soap, or any of the promised suite amenities. Again, in a ship that had been in dry dock for two weeks, I cannot see any reason why the room was not in textbook perfect shape for our arrival. Further, no one stopped in the first day to show us the room or explain how everything worked. There was some sort of espresso maker that was never plugged in, in part because we didn't know how it worked. It was no loss as neither of use are coffee drinkers, but it exemplifies the lack of attention to detail of the cabin stewards (which is odd because they were cheerful and lovely every time we encountered them). I'm not sure if this is a dry dock related thing, but the trim around the shower where it met the bathtub was bent and the caulk seal was open. There was mold growing in the opening. About halfway into the cruise a workman came and bleached the opening, then caulked it shut. That's good, I suppose, but the room reeked of bleach for awhile. The crew also went through and varnished the deck rails one day, which was not so bad though I did accidently touch it. One of our Trivia friends said they had painted her veranda, causing her room to smell like paint. This all brings us around to the main ugliness of the trip - a ship that was not ready to sail. We got to be beta testers (alpha testers the first couple of days), with only a $100 on-board credit in compensation. The first day an early impression was that the toilet had remnants of someone else's leavings in it when I arrived, which I flushed in a hurry. There was no hot water, which made for a very cold shower after arriving all sticky from the ride in. In short, a room that was not ready in a ship that was not ready. The hot water showed up for us by the third day, but the unreadiness of the ship never really ended. Others we talked to reported having no toilets for several days into the cruise. And the construction continued as well. The sound of metal grinding would start at about 7AM daily, and last until about dark. As we sailed, they were adding staterooms on deck 10 just behind the Crow's Nest bar, which led to lots of screeching noise and various smells (like carpet glue) throughout the cruise that affected Decks 9 & 10, and anything outside. I would have enjoyed spending more time in the Crow's Nest bar were it not for the racket, which was often like fingernails on a chalk board. The flat screen TV in the stateroom was nice, and they had a decent selection of movies available to watch for those times when we were just worn out after an excursion. But I found it amazing that we could not see what our room charges looked like on the screen; you had to go to a kiosk at Customer Service on Deck 1 for a printout to see that. Seriously?? Do they not understand that this can be a very convenient computer terminal? I also was astounded that when the ship's time would change that it was not immediately updated on the screen. My T-Mobile phone knew the local time long before the TV screen showing our approach to Dubrovnik was updated, yet the ship's time was supposed to change at 2 AM - again, no excuse for that. Conclusions: We had a good time and the itinerary was FABULOUS - Ephesus/Kusadasi was a real surprise - but the cruise itself was not so great. The staff was generally very good, and in some cases exceptional, but the problems outweighed the good. It was our first experience with HAL, and while I would not say "never again" it certainly won't be at the top of the list for our next cruise, or even in the middle of the list. Prior experience on Princess is that the food and entertainment is much better on that line, which was echoed by a traveler we met who had just come off a Princess cruise to this one. So we will unfortunately look elsewhere for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Always enjoy the service and accomodations on Holland America. First group to set sail after it had been in dry dock with 2 weeks of upgrades. A beautiful ship with a great transformation. The Northern Lights bar exit and the new lounge ... Read More
Always enjoy the service and accomodations on Holland America. First group to set sail after it had been in dry dock with 2 weeks of upgrades. A beautiful ship with a great transformation. The Northern Lights bar exit and the new lounge addition was awesome. Great staff in the newest bar. As always, the Pinnacle Grill and the Italian restaurant were outstanding. A very busy itinerary with only one sea day, but a lot to see and the proper amount of time in port to see the cities.Embarkation in Rome and disembarkation in Venice went flawlessly - much better that getting on and off the ships in Ft Lauderdale! Customs was a breeze. Dining in the Main Dining room was 5-star. Food portions were a little less than what I have previously experienced, but no one was ever shorted or ever refused a second helping. Dining staff and housekeeping staff were second to none. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
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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