Sail Date: February 2004
The nice thing about the Oosterdam is the layout is exactly like the Zuiderdam which makes getting about the ship easy. The decor is elegant. Service on the ship was good for the most part. Our cabin steward was efficient and not to be ... Read More
The nice thing about the Oosterdam is the layout is exactly like the Zuiderdam which makes getting about the ship easy. The decor is elegant. Service on the ship was good for the most part. Our cabin steward was efficient and not to be seen, just the way I like it. Unfortunately our waiter in the main dining room spoiled our trip the fifth night into the cruise. I was never able to find out why he was so hostile as he would not speak to me about the problem. When I complained to the dining room manager, I got a very cold response without the slightest apology. Service in the bar lounge was a disaster one night. We finally gave up on our drink order and went to dinner disappointed. Others in the lounge were having an equally bad time of it. The shows were spectacular - we looked forward to every show! Food was for the most part what one would expect on a cruise ship, palatable but for the most part not great. Portions were small for the appetizers, I therefore ordered two at each meal, which seemed to perturb the waiter. Boarding was a fiasco in San Diego. Apparently the computer system was down, so we had to fill the forms already filled on the internet before our cruise. We stood in the hot sun for half an hour before even getting into the cruise terminal, then an hour sitting in their terminal before being boarded. I knew the room would be a small inside cabin, but was shocked by how small it was when we arrived. But, due to its nice decor and design, I got used to it quickly and enjoyed the stay. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
MS Oosterdam 29 Jan 2005 Mexican Riviera While this was our first pleasure cruise, I am not new to sailing. I have made 19 Atlantic crossings, the last being first class on the QEII, so I write with some knowledge and time spent on the ... Read More
MS Oosterdam 29 Jan 2005 Mexican Riviera While this was our first pleasure cruise, I am not new to sailing. I have made 19 Atlantic crossings, the last being first class on the QEII, so I write with some knowledge and time spent on the sea. Holland America was selected for their reputation of service first, the itinerary second and the fact that it would probably have fewer young families on board at this time. We were right on all counts! Overall, it was a wonderful 7 days and we have already begun planning our next trip with Holland America. We embarked at noon in San Diego in a very smooth process where everything was done in a very professional manner. Since we had done our immigration forms online and had completed our credit card form prior to appearing at the pier it was easy to move through the line and be on board within 30 minutes. We proceeded to the Lido restaurant for a great lunch and views of the city and the bay. By 1:15 the announcement came that we could proceed to our cabin, a superior suite, #8040 port side. This was a great cabin with a full verandah, which we used extensively. Our requests for an earlier seating for dinner (needed for medical reason) had been approved (we had been wait listed); we unpacked and began to explore the ship. This ship is very well appointed and it is very easy to get around with postings near the elevators for directional purposes. Everyone on board tried to make this a great experience and they pretty much accomplished that feat. Here are my specific comments: Overall service: Excellent from all crew. We did experience some disappointing service in the Vista dinning room table 114. It was a table for 6 and while we were all seated and ordered at the same time the meals we participated in frequently were not served together. Someone was always forgotten. We found a similar problem with lunch in the Vista. The Vista is loud, hurried and typical mass dining. Our solution was to up the already reserved dinners (3) in the Pinnacle grill to 5 nights. Was it worth the extra $40 per night? ... You bet. The food was excellent. Presentation was delightful and the service fantastic. Maitre d' Mike makes you feel like it is old home week and runs a tight ship in the room. (Ask for one of the cozy booths to make it an extra special dining experience. This will be the highlight of your trip, if you enjoy fine dining!) Cabin 8040/a Superior suite grade. Our cabin steward, Tonio, was excellent. He seemed to know exactly what we wanted and when. He was great, kept us in order and yet was unobtrusive. The cabin was a delight. Very spacious with a couch that could serve as a pull out bed and a very comfortable queen bed converted from 2 singles. While directly under the Lido deck we had very little noise from above except when people were playing ping-pong in the late evening. Then we could hear the ball bounce on the floor when they hit it off the table. Just a note, not a real complaint. The decor is pretty and well maintained. Shows/Entertainment We don't really care for much of the activity that is offered on board, preferring to do our own thing. The magician, Mel, was pretty good and the Bobby Black show was good. The cast show while a good attempt was not what we enjoyed so we left after 20 minutes. It was way too loud. We missed the "adult" comedian but heard many good things about him. If you wish to meet the Captain for the photo shoot, go early. One of the assistant cruise directors forced everyone in line to another entrance after about 20 minutes because the Captain needed to get backstage. We were 4 couple away from him after standing in line for 20 minutes. We then waited 30 minutes for him to appear on stage. We stayed out of the casino, but it seemed popular. The Piano bar, Crow's Nest and Ocean bar all had very nice lounge entertainment in the evening with accomplished musicians. Our favorite was the piano bar ... a throwback to the great little piano bars so many hotels had in the '50s, '60s and '70s. Excursions: We prefer to do our own exploring. I heard both positive and negative comments from folks who did the excursions. We already knew Mazatlan, Cabo is pretty sparse and we did our own tour of PV. The shopping advisor on board is obviously a paid representative of just a few stores that are part of the cruise-shopping network. I would suggest you save your time and simply read the excellent flyer produced each day, which has the same information and maps he discusses during his presentation. Disembarkation: We requested an early disembarkation on our form presented to the office and were called at 8:45 and in a cab by 9:00 and at the airport by 9:15 in Delta's Crown room by 9:25. It was all very smooth. And I might add that a Carnival ship docked the same time we did, so it could have been a real mess on shore, but it wasn't. Would we do it again? Yes! Same ship? Yes! Same port? Yes! Same Itinerary? Probably not. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
I can say without hesitation that the service, accommodations and general ambiance of the Oosterdam far exceeded my expectations! We got to the San Diego port area about 12:30 p.m. They immediately took our luggage and it was nice to get ... Read More
I can say without hesitation that the service, accommodations and general ambiance of the Oosterdam far exceeded my expectations! We got to the San Diego port area about 12:30 p.m. They immediately took our luggage and it was nice to get it off our hands. Embarkation was a breeze, and within 30 minutes we were in the Lido, their casual restaurant with a wide assortment of all different kinds of foods. The food is REALLY good and you can have as much of it as you can possibly eat. About 1:00 p.m., they announced the cabins were ready. Our luggage was already there, and the cabin (what they call a superior veranda suite) was just wonderful. About 400 square feet including the veranda. Tons of closet space, a dressing area, a large TV and CD player, a desk area with internet connection, king sized bed, 7 foot leather couch, coffee table, chairs, servibar. The bed was extremely comfortable, high thread count sheets. The bathroom was very large with a whirlpool tub and double sinks. The veranda had a table and 4 comfortable lounge chairs. It was perfect and worth every penny! I get up early, but I'm not actually functional for about an hour and a pot of coffee. Room service is included in the price, and we'd order it the night before for 6 a.m. I'd brought instant coffee thinking room service might be unreliable, but every morning at the stroke of 6, there'd be a knock on the door and our breakfast would arrive. It was great! I can't tell you how sweet the Indonesian/Filipino cabin stewards and staff were! I swear, there must be a factory with extremely high quality control where they make these guys because they're all perfect! I kept thinking they'd get tired by the end of the week and service would slip, but it never did. This ship is only a few years old so it's in beautiful shape. Very large, but fewer passengers and more staff than other ships that size. There were 2 swimming pools, one which could be covered in bad weather. Hot tubs, full-service spa with an INCREDIBLE hot tub area, beautiful library, large internet center, tons of beautiful lounges stuck around all over the place. Lots of shops. Really, anything plus more that you'd expect to find in a really fine hotel. All over the boat, in lounges and theatres, there's live entertainment. Live performances every night. Dancing if you're into that. Games and movies and stuff. We did shore excursions at all three ports (Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta). It was fun getting off the boat and having all the arrangements taken care of. We did the early dinner seating and the food was wonderful. There were 2 formal nights, and it was fun dressing up, but we could have gone to the Lido if we hadn't wanted to do that. All in all, it was as perfect an experience as I ever expect to get in this life. I LOVE Holland America!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
This is my second cruise with Holland America. My first cruise was on the smaller ship ms Zaandam. The Oosterdam is a much larger ship and sometimes a little confusing. However after the second day I was able to navigate the ship with ... Read More
This is my second cruise with Holland America. My first cruise was on the smaller ship ms Zaandam. The Oosterdam is a much larger ship and sometimes a little confusing. However after the second day I was able to navigate the ship with little difficulty. The staff and crew were pleasant and unobtrusive. The food and services were impeccable. I was a little thrown by the new $10/ per day per person gratuity that was automatically put on my ship board bill. I was also a little disenchanted with the constant offering of alcohol. (The alcohol, if accepted was also added to the ship board bill.) I am not a drinker and at times I felt pressured and besieged to buy the alcoholic beverages that seemed to be EVERYWHERE on board. After avoiding the Jello/vodka shooters, I had a wonderful time. The comedian, a woman named Janine, was not funny and her jokes had sexual content that was not appropriate for the the majority of the audience. I observed many people grimacing in embarrassment and looking decidedly uncomfortable rather than laughing. I was wondering if Holland America screens the acts for their floor shows. I large group of us found this comedian's humor to be in poor taste and racist/sexist in nature. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
Sailing on the Oosterdam was an exceptionally pleasant experience. Within the past year, I have also sailed with Celebrity and SilverSea, and the Oosterdam provided the most value for the dollar and the most comfortable, well designed ... Read More
Sailing on the Oosterdam was an exceptionally pleasant experience. Within the past year, I have also sailed with Celebrity and SilverSea, and the Oosterdam provided the most value for the dollar and the most comfortable, well designed stateroom of all. We booked a Deluxe Veranda Suite on Rotterdam Deck, and it was outstanding in every way...spotless, extremely comfortable beds, an expansive veranda with wonderful furniture, a spacious, well-designed bathroom with two enclosed medicine cabinets at either end of the double sink vanity, a dressing room which can be closed off from the main cabin using a drape, a wall of windows/doors which allow views of the sea, and excellent closets which contain shelves that can be "dropped" to provide shelf storage if you wish. The entry level suite on SilverSea is prettier, but does not function as well, and the veranda is useless as it is crowded with large furniture, which drops off the small teak deck area. On Celebrity, the veranda is large, but the furniture on the Galaxy was not particularly comfortable and had seen better days. (Note: Do not book a veranda stateroom beside the glass elevators, because passengers on the elevators can gaze right onto your veranda.) Service aboard the Oosterdam was outstanding. Without exception, the staff were welcoming and helpful, especially so in the Concierge Lounge on Rotterdam Deck, where food lovely food is available most of the day. Overall, the food is fine, but not outstanding. I do think that the buffet food is superior to Celebrity by far. One can always make a nice salad by visiting the various food stations throughout the Lido Buffet Restaurant. The Lido is open most of the day and also serves limited food quite late. The public rooms are varied in decor, with some rather glitzy and other understated. There are numerous lovely lounges throughout the ship. The real stars, however, are the outdoor, teak, wrap-around decks, which provide numerous areas to relax on lovely teak, padded, deck chairs. The decks which wrap all the way around the ship provide wonderful space for walking, and we saw many people taking advantage of them on the lovely evenings on board. Even though the ship was full, there was enough deck space for everyone. It never seemed crowded. The cruise director was the simply the best. Entertainment was also fine. It's not Las Vegas, but perfectly acceptable. Peter Daems, the cruise director, was a superlative host at the opening and closing of each show. My son, who is 28, enjoyed this ship more than any other he has experienced. We were surprised at how much we liked Holland America, and have booked another cruise on the Oosterdam for next year. We know we will be able to board at about 11:30AM and may remain in our stateroom the morning we disembark until our group is called. We will even have the option of ordering a hot room service breakfast the day we depart, and it will come hot, because heavy, metal heated servers will be positioned under the china plates. It will also be served on time by a courteous staff member. What a cruise line! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
My wife and I have cruised a few times already - some starter cruises out of LA and a week-long cruise to Alaska. We have been on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Embarkation: This was relatively effortless. We live in San Diego, ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised a few times already - some starter cruises out of LA and a week-long cruise to Alaska. We have been on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Embarkation: This was relatively effortless. We live in San Diego, so my brother dropped us off at the dock. There were plenty of staff there to help us figure out where to go. The line moved relatively quickly, and we were on the ship in short order. Unfortunately, with rare exception this was the last decent service we received until we returned to San Diego. See "Service" for complete details. Dining: The food was excellent, better than on past cruises. Of special note was Pinnacle, which was a top-notch experience in every aspect. Public Rooms: The rooms were OK, nothing special. There were quite a few small hallways that became quite clogged before/after meals, but the seats were all comfortable. Entertainment: In the main room, generally a dud. Only one of the four primary singers were decent, and there was only one good showgirl - and we learned that both were leaving when their contract was up a few weeks later. The alternate musicians were all pretty good, except for Larry the piano man's singing - stick to the piano. Cabin: The appointments were very nice. The bed was heavenly, and it was nice to have a tub. There wasn't much room for our own toiletries and the shower was dark because of the design of the curtain track. We did get some noise from when they were testing the mechanisms of the life boats (right outside our window), but it's good to make sure they work. :) Otherwise not much noise. Our room was categorized "partially obstructed view" because of the boats, but it was good enough for us - we could see the ocean and ports in the center third of the window. Fitness & Recreation (Optional): We each got a massage, and we found the staff to be professional. I also took advantage of the Thermal Suite and Thalassotherapy Pool for our first day at sea - I spent all day there and it was awesome. Service: I will start with our dining room service. Cruise Ships should all have top-notch service. Their ratings are generally from four stars to six stars, indicating top levels of everything. We have eaten in some of the finest restaurants in Europe, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas - we know the appropriate level of service. There were several key elements that raise service up to the expected heights of refinement that were missing - service was slow and inattentive, silverware was not cleared when appropriate, our napkins were not placed when we arrived at the table, our drinks were not refilled (we even had to refill our own wine glasses), service was not delivered and cleared from the proper side, and servers reached over other diners to deliver or clear place settings. These types of items seem like minor details, and many cruisers (especially first timers) would not even notice them, but they are key elements that make the difference between Coco's and Morton's of Chicago. Of much greater concern were the dining room service elements that would raise alarm even in a restaurant such as Coco's. We had food and drink orders that were forgotten, so we had to request them two or three times before they were delivered. The dirty plates were left on the table even as the next courses were being served. We did not receive food we ordered, and we received food that we did not ask for (the wrong meat dish, the wrong soup, the wrong starch side). Once I asked for skim milk and got whole milk mixed with water (yes, I can tell the difference). One time they neglected to take my order altogether. A final key difference between other ships was the friendliness. On other ships, the dining stewards were extremely outgoing and friendly. They were always talking and joking with us. The Oosterdam dining stewards were all very quiet and stoic, their smiles seemed forced and they were unenthusiastic about anything they were doing. However, I do not believe this was an isolated incident related to our individual wait staff. We experienced similar issues when we sat at other tables (with different servers) for the lunches at sea. This leads me to believe that the issues I encountered are across the entire dining room staff. Also, there was clearly not enough staff in the dining room. The 2nd Maitre D' who was responsible for our area came over every night to say hello, and ended up personally taking care of some element of our service that had been skipped - clearing dirty dishes, getting a plate of food that had not been delivered, repouring the wine. The staff in this dining room had too many responsibilities besides taking care of the guests, and the service suffered as a result. From talking to the staff, I believe that there were many emotional problems that were distracting them and keeping their minds off away from executing on the level of service we were expecting. Considering how many of the dining room stewards are from Indonesia, this does not surprise me. I fully understand that they have all signed contracts to work for a specific period of time, but Holland America's management should have taken better care of their mental health. It is the humane thing to make sure your employees are happy, or to release their contracts in extraordinary cases. Unfortunately, we encountered multiple other issues with the staff & crew of the Oosterdam, which leads us to believe that there is a systemic problem in training and/or motivation. The issues I can remember included: • Many employees were taking their breaks, still in uniform, in public areas of the ship. These chairs and lounges should be reserved for the paying customers, since I know (from speaking with current and past cruise ship employees) that the crew have their own lounges. • The crew doors were left open. I do not mean briefly when loading supplies from the holding area to the bar (and even that should not occur, the porter should close the door immediately after passing through). I mean extended time, when I'm walking up the hallway along the Queen's lounge or the Explorer's bar and the door is wide open with nobody around. • Employees were using the public elevators. There were times when they were carting around supplies in the main elevators, to the point that no guests were able to get on. I know there are dumb waiters and elevators inside the crew area, because I was able to see them through all the open crew doors. • We were still in the showroom when the crew turned on the house lights, opened the curtains, and began to take down the set. My wife and I have both worked in theater - you should NEVER take down the set with audience members still present. Also, it was very distracting to see members of the theater crew sitting in the light/sound booth, dancing the hula along with the dance troupe. • We also had some problems with our room steward. First off, his English did not pass muster. We were not able to understand just about anything he said to us, and I don't think he ever understood anything we asked him to do. He also left dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom when he turned down the sheets. In general, he seemed to be trained to follow a very short list of actions for each room, without any idea or desire to improve upon it. Here also, the personality falls short of what we have had on past cruises - no friendly discussions, no cute little decorative touches. Just make the bed and clean the bathroom in the morning, then turn down the bed and leave the paperwork and chocolate at night. • The final and possibly most disappointing aspect was the cruise director staff. Melissa was the only decent one of the bunch, including Jason the head cruise director. She was enthusiastic and personable. The rest seemed to have a severe attitude problem - they behaved like the cool kids in school, who disdained having to deal with most of the people most of the time. Jason's humor was a sarcastic type that did not go over well with the audience. He was insulting and disinterested, clearly not the correct demeanor for the ship's Cruise Director. He behaved as if he was interacting with people only because it was his job - he wasn't having any fun with it, and didn't seem to care to connect. We saw the same list of humorous questions people ask on other cruise lines, but the audience thought it was funnier the other times - probably because Jason presented it as derogatory rather than silly. There were a few activities the cruise staff did not show up for (such as name that tune), and a few others where they needed an attitude adjustment. For instance, we were playing Taboo and a group of us just wanted to play for fun, taking turns giving clues, when one of the assistants insisted we make teams and keep score against our wishes. Some events were cancelled without warning (like the scavenger hunt) or moved to an inappropriate venue without proper notice or consideration (moving bridge from a quite card room to a noisy central lounge). Others seemed to be planned without any consideration for location and timing - a blackjack tournament during one of the dinner seatings, alternating large events between deck 9 and deck 2, etc. My wife went to one of the movie showings, and there was not enough popcorn. When she enquired about getting more, they told her that they had already turned off the machine so no more would be made. Finally, Jason showed up visibly drunk to some of the activities, most notably the Oosterdam Superstar competitions - someone needs to tell him that it's still part of his job, and he needs to maintain the same (higher than present) level of decorum throughout the day, from the moment he steps out of his stateroom until after the last minute of the last show. Unfortunately, the service was SO BAD on this cruise that it outweighs all the good aspects of the ship itself. It really is about the people, and the people on this ship failed us. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
Just returned from a wonderful time on the Oosterdam. This was my first cruise in over 35 years and we had a blast!! The ship was beautiful, so clean and well kept up. The crew was so nice, especially in the Vista -- Main Dining Room. The ... Read More
Just returned from a wonderful time on the Oosterdam. This was my first cruise in over 35 years and we had a blast!! The ship was beautiful, so clean and well kept up. The crew was so nice, especially in the Vista -- Main Dining Room. The food was delicious in all the areas of the ship. We enjoyed the special dinner in "The Pinnacle" which was an extra $20.00 per person but worth every penny. The daily program had enough to keep any age entertained all day long. Bingo, trivia contests, exercise classes, ping pong tournaments, shuffleboard tournaments, bridge, cards, art sales, dancing, etc. Our only complaint would be the evening showtime. The cast tried hard but overall they were not great. I would consider them "typical cruise" entertainment. We had three teenagers with our family and two 80+ year old women. Everyone had something to do all day long if they wanted to. We barely had time to rest and need a vacation from our vacation. The ports of call were ok. Cabo San Lucas had so many people hawking their cheap wares, with small children trying to get you to buy their junk. We enjoyed Puerto Vallarta the best. What a beautiful town. Try the jungle zip lines. The allow you to fly like a bird over the top of the trees in the jungle. What a blast!! We highly recommend the Oosterdam if you want a great vacation. Bon Voyage!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
It's easy to see why so many seniors sail with Holland America Line (HAL), it's the service. I saw several people in wheelchairs at check-in and they did not have to ask for assistance -- a crew member took each one through ... Read More
It's easy to see why so many seniors sail with Holland America Line (HAL), it's the service. I saw several people in wheelchairs at check-in and they did not have to ask for assistance -- a crew member took each one through check-in and onto the ship. Once aboard crew members are always looking for ways they can assist passengers. Also on this ship they have come to the aid of those with vision problems. Cabin numbers are also in Braille and the elevators are interesting again with Braille lettering for each deck and when you arrive at a deck a voice announces both the name and number of the deck. Holland America is the cruise line to take if you are challenged and might be in need of assistance. Check-in in San Diego was a breeze; we live near by so our granddaughter drove us. We arrived at 11 a.m., which seemed the perfect time. We drove in next to the ship, off loaded our luggage which porters took and went inside to the check-in. It is not necessary to tip the porters, they are paid well but do have their hand out. By 11:30 we were on the ship and ten minutes after that were having a nice lunch in the Lido Restaurant. If you are also driving but need to park there is always plenty of parking right across the street from the ship. There is also a Holiday Inn right there if you want to arrive early and see a bit of San Diego. There is plenty of public transport near by. We were well satisfied with our cabin 5001 category SS. It was a wheelchair accessible cabin which I wanted. Because I made my travel arrangements with an online agency, I was able to select my cabin on-line by number. The cabins are smaller than those on the Statendam/Ryndam ships which we have also sailed on. The inside cabins were the smallest I have seen in memory. A nice touch is that there are no paper napkins or styrofoam cups in any of the dining rooms, all china and all linens. They even have linen towels in the public restrooms, they are individually rolled up and you use a fresh one each time you dry your hands. I don't see how anyone could complain about the food, the selection is extraordinary. At lunch in the Lido you can get hot dogs, cheeseburgers, fries, Mexican food, salads, soups, several different main dishes and on and on. The dessert bar is something else, pies, cakes, puddings, custards, ice cream, yogurt and more, what a pig I made of myself. You have several selections of where to eat for dinner -- the Odyssey Restaurant, Main Dining room or the Lido which serves the same menu and more than the main dining room. Eating in the main dining room is much like eating in Europe where things are at a slower pace. You can expect to spend a relaxing one and one half hours at dinner. If you are traveling with children or just like to gulp your food then the Lido is a much faster alternative. If you like flowers you will love the Oosterdam, they are everywhere, and beautiful. This would be a wonderful ship to take to Alaska or the Panama Canal because there are so many places to sit and view what is going on and there are several forward decks that would be wonderful to use while watching the canal locks open before you. HAL has always been weak on the entertainment side of cruising; Princess does an excellent job in this area. There were only two stage shows that we thought were any good but we did enjoy music and dancing to tunes from the '40s & '50s both before and after dinner in the Ocean Bar. The only tour we took was whale watching in Cabo San Lucas, we have been visiting Mexico since 1959 so we have taken most tours one or more times. The whale watching was not exceptional, one could do as well off the California coast, but it was fun. I signed up for the tour on-line before leaving home and our tickets were in our cabin on arrival, nice! If you wish one of the smaller whale watching boats, they are about 20 ft and get much closer to the whales, you can get those for the asking when you get off the ship tender in port. The price is $20.00 per person minimum two people for two hours. Unfortunately, many passengers became ill. I had what seemed to be a cold which kept me in bed for a straight 18 hours days 4 & 5, and even now two days after getting off the ship I have still not fully recovered. My wife became ill on day 5 and I had to request assistance in getting her off the ship, she is still quite ill. We were not alone. On the return we had to make an unscheduled stop in Cabo San Lucas so a passenger could go by air ambulance back to the US. Then when we arrived in San Diego an ambulance arrived to take another passenger and then I heard many other stories of those who were not well. But don't let this stop you from going. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
My wife and I sailed on the Oosterdam on March 4th, 2005. We opted for this cruise only because we wanted to try something different than the Caribbean. This was our 14th cruise and 12 of them have been in the Caribbean. The other was last ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Oosterdam on March 4th, 2005. We opted for this cruise only because we wanted to try something different than the Caribbean. This was our 14th cruise and 12 of them have been in the Caribbean. The other was last summer on the Maasdam to Canada-New England. This was our 5th HAL cruise and they've all been very good. This was the first time we upgraded to an SS room. We loved the room, especially the extra space. Also neat to have both a separate shower and bathtub and the two sinks made getting ready for dinner very easy. The friends we travelled with noted that there was a Holiday Inn right across the street from the pier so we booked there. The hotel is very good and reasonable. On embarkation day we were able to walk across the street to the ship which made the whole experience incredibly easy. As usual getting on board was pretty simple. We were on the ship by noon and attacking our first of many meals shortly thereafter. We did try to get into our room, but they closed all of the doors to the rooms so you couldn't get into the area. However by 1:30 the rooms were ready and so were we. The first night at sea proved to be rather exciting. We were only about five hours out when one of the passengers aboard got very sick. So much so they couldn't provide the necessary medical attention and so the ship turned around and headed back toward San Diego, although at a very slow pace. This was to help Air Ambulance come out to get the passenger. The helicopter hovered above the ship as the patient and subsequently their loved ones got into a helicopter for much needed medical attention back in San Diego. We were never told how the patient fared, but it made for an interesting view to see the chopper hovering above the ship. I've been told on earlier cruises that they actually have a morgue on all the ships. Our first full day was a day at sea and it was nice to have this day to get one's sea legs. Our first stop was in Cabo. Here we booked a trip with one of the local boats for a trip to the amazing rock formations. Should note we never (rarely) book trips via the cruise ships because they tend to be very expensive and you can get your own cruise on shore much cheaper and often times get much better service. We went into town as well. Not much to see here, although we stopped at a bar called Cabo Wabo which is owned by the lead singer of Van Halen. Next day it was off to Mazatlan. This was the only stop where we docked, the other two stops required us to hop on a tender. Here we again hired a local guide and for a price of 20 dollars a head (five in our party) we had the driver to ourselves all day. He took us around town which was fun. Not much to see here, but it was still a very nice day. Our final stop was in Puerto Vallarta. Again we hired a driver who took us around to all of the neat parts of town. There's a large development called El Cid where you can find some very expensive homes. We walked into one under construction that the builder told us was worth around 10 million dollars. The workmanship was something to behold. It seems in Mexico they build everything with cement, in one case even the entire bed, save the mattress. In PV we also toured the town, went past the home Richard Burton bought Liz Taylor. Of the three stops on this trip, this was the most scenic. Having toured the Caribbean I'd say that the Caribbean has more going for it than the Mexican side. The water was quite cool and you never saw anyone in the ocean. The last two days of this cruise are on board the ship. It is a beautiful ship and the service is outstanding. Our waiter was pretty quiet. Some say that the service is not as good as it used to be when you actually tipped the waiters. They now have this policy of adding 10 dollars per day per person to your bill. So there's a feeling that the waiters etc., don't have to impress you as much anymore. This might be true in some cases, but our guys were pretty good. The couple we cruised with hadn't cruised since the early '70s when they were on the Mardi Gras. They were impressed with both the ship and the staff. We went to the Pinnacle Grill one night and as usual the food was amazing. Although the crab cakes were the size of a quarter and there were only two of them. But I guess the massive porterhouse steak made up for it. For the first time on this ship I had a facial. Now I'm a man and they tell me that about 20 percent of the clients getting facials these days are men. It was nice and relaxing and made me look about 20 years younger -- yeah right! The entertainment did leave something to be desired. I've seen better high school productions. They did have one good act there, a singer by the name of Bobby Bland (sp?). He had great range. Too bad they kept him till the last night. He had some cute lines as well such as, "How many people like Country Music" (applause) "OK today's country is Italy." Then he said, "In '93 and '94 I wrote some number one songs for Garth Brooks and one day when I get up the nerve, I'll send them to him." He's one guy worth seeing. The only downside to taking a cruise out of San Diego is getting there. We live in Ontario Canada and flights are not that easy to come by. So we got off the ship around 9:30 on Saturday and after a long delay in Las Vegas finally got home around 9:30 Sunday morning. Another reason we prefer the Caribbean. Overall though it was a great cruise, great people. Oh and did I tell you that three weeks prior to our cruise, the dock staff in in San Diego did something that has never happened in HAL's 143-year history ... they accidentally dumped a bin with luggage into the San Diego harbour. I understand that divers had to be called in to retrieve it. Many of the customers never got their clothes back, washed and pressed until a day before the end of their cruise. Glad it didn't happen on our cruise. If you're thinking of cruising, this ship deserves consideration. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
HAL's Oosterdam March 26, 2005 - Very Long! We departed from Chicago on the day of departure which is rare for us. We were fortunate though that our flight left and arrived on time as it snowed in Chicago the night before we left. ... Read More
HAL's Oosterdam March 26, 2005 - Very Long! We departed from Chicago on the day of departure which is rare for us. We were fortunate though that our flight left and arrived on time as it snowed in Chicago the night before we left. Once we left the 26 degrees that Saturday morning we had a beautiful flight to San Diego where it was in the 70's when we landed. San Diego is an incredibly beautiful city and I wished that we had gone in at least a day early to tour this city. Transfer to pier: The port is only about a mile or so from the airport and takes about 10 minutes or less to get there. DO NOT take the large vans to the pier unless you are traveling as a single. We were told at the airport that the van would only cost us about $20 but when we got there we were charged $60!! Our return cab rides (3 cabs) only cost us $33 total including tips. Embarkation: When we arrived at the pier we were already a bit ticked due to the van situation and the entry to the pier didn't make matters any better. First you have to get your luggage checked in with the pier porters who were standing where people were trying to get out from the ship and others were standing to get on the ship. My husband is disabled and was getting pushed farther back by people trying to get ahead of us checking in. When it was out turn to get through security just to get to the embarkation building no one would let my husband through to check in and one man had the nerve to tell me "tough" when I said we were all together. Not a good way to start the trip. Not Holland America's fault, just the fault of one ignorant person. Holland does need to work on a better way to get people off the ship while others are trying to get on though. We went into the building after that and were directed on what papers needed to be filled out before you could get into line (bravo HAL!) and given a number for boarding the ship. We had all our papers in order already so we were directed to a line to check in at. The person who checked us in must have been new, lucky us. It took a very long time for her to be able to process us and take our pictures. We had been the first of our group to check in and the last to finish. Because my husband is disabled they allowed the three of us (Husband, Son, and Me) to board immediately. We skipped the picture taking and unfortunately the kid's club registration as they wanted us on and their wheelchair back. When they scanned my husband's card we were told to immediately go to the main deck and have his picture taken again as it was blank. I know that she took his picture when we checked in but something happened from that point until we boarded. I had brought on 5 bottles of Champagne for sail off in our cabin and wanted to check our carry on bags with that bag as well, but when we got to where we were told to go (Queen's Lounge) no one was there to take anything. At this point I was getting too cranky and didn't want to let it all ruin my first impressions of this cruise so away we went straight to the Sea View Bar. Within a short time I was feeling much better and able to get my vacation mood going again. We parked our things at the tables by the pool and decided we'd take care of his picture later. The views were beautiful from this point and the weather was postcard perfect! A little bit of food from the Lido and a few drinks and we were having a great time. At 1:30 the announcement was made that our cabins were ready and away we went! Cabin #8081 Category SS cabin: Our cabin was great. The beds are the best that we've ever had on a cruise! Very glad that we chose this category as anything smaller for 3 people would have been way too cramped. As it was, our daughter was in a Cat VD cabin with my Mother and Aunt and they were VERY squeezed for space. We had 2 twins that made up to a large queen or small king, plenty of room - did I mention how comfy they were? We had a sofa bed that made up into a single bed the same size as the sofa. If you have anyone larger that 6' this will be too short for them. My nephew is 6' 3" and his feet were on the table at the end of the bed. There were also 2 desk areas, one with a large mirror and the other with a window out to the balcony. The bathroom has double sinks, a separate shower and a whirlpool bathtub. The closet has 2 areas for hanging clothes and one with selves and the safe. Both desks have drawers and the stool at the desk is hollow for storing items as well. The balcony has 2 chairs with ottomans and a table in between and then a round wood table with two chairs. We had side by side cabins with my Sister and Family (3 also) and we immediately had the cabin steward open the divider for us. We never felt crowded even when we had our sail away party. Our cabin steward was Hilman and he was wonderful! Always was able to accommodate our requests. We rate the cabins a 10! Muster drill: Muster was at 4:15 and was typical of most cruise lines. Put your life jacket on before leaving the room so that you don't trip on anything. Didn't take long maybe 15 minutes. Sail away: We had our party in the cabin prior to muster so we chose to go to the Lido Pool where the band was playing. There were the typical drinks and waiters walking around with tasty little bites. Space was limited so go early and get seats if you need them. Sailing out of San Diego was beautiful. As I have said earlier, it's a beautiful city. We went up a level to get some pictures and then back to our cabins to enjoy some peace and quiet as we left the bay area. As we were getting ready for dinner we were treated to a gorgeous sunset and then off to dinner. Dining Room: We had table 207 lower level at 6:15. Good location able to see a lot as it's elevated and center. We also had members of our group surrounding us for 4 tables total. The table for 2 was squeezed between the serving station and some sort of stone wall & storage area. They were moved to another location the next night. The food was great during this cruise but it seems the servers are covering too many tables. Good luck if you want refills on water or coffee. We had to ask for water refills each night and never got refills on coffee. Small point but irritating. Our last morning at sea we ate in the dining room for breakfast. We received our initial cup of coffee and I asked for refills 3 times and never got any. It was only once I got up and walked over to the serving station to pour a cup for myself did anyone pay attention. The best service that we got was the night we went to the Lido for dinner. We saw people wearing pretty much anything you want but no swimwear. We seemed over-dressed. You take a tray for the soup and appetizer and then place your order for the main course. Find yourself a table and they bring the main course to you. You can get up and get your own dessert and there was someone always near by for sodas, water, wine or beer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed eating there - I'm a dining room person when it comes to dinner. As I said earlier, the food was very good on this cruise and I have no complaints with that, just the service in the dining room. I did however, LOVE the assistant Maitre d' Reineir (spelling?) who was always near to assist if needed during the meals. No matter when we ate or where we ate, he seemed to be there! Always seemed to know us and had time to ask how our day was. Unfortunately the rest of the dining room staff that we encountered were not like this. But do not take this as a reason not to sail on this ship. It may have been a fluke and we dealt with it just fine. Cabo San Lucas: I woke up early this day and was able to see us sailing into the harbour. Incredibly beautiful! We sailed down the coast and right past Los Arcos, which you can see from the ship as you anchor there. We took the Land's End & Scenic Tour which was worth the money. We took the tender to the pier and boarded a boat that took us out along the stretch of beaches out to Los Arcos, we stayed in that area while they played a recording from the Cousteau Society regarding this area which was nice to hear. We saw Sea Lion's and then went around the point as certain areas were pointed out. As we turned to go back around the point and back to the harbor we were suddenly surrounded by dolphins swimming and jumping out all around us. I was in heaven! I tried to get pictures but was laughing and shooting at the same time so that didn't work so well!! When we got back we were then taken by van to Giorgio's Restaurant which has an incredible view of the bay. Once we got back we went to the ship for a quick bite to eat and then took the kids back into town. Found my nephew coming back from their fishing trip with a 95 pound Marlin! What an experience for him! After that had to take my now legal daughter to Cabo Wabo Cantina for her first drink. Fun place, great atmosphere, and reasonable drinks. This was a great day for us! Mazatlan: WOW! This was the day for my son and me! We did Randi's Happy Horses and I have to say if you are thinking about riding anywhere in the Mexican Riviera, do it here with her! I have a whole description on http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=160408 That pretty well describes the trip which is well worth the $45 per person cost! When we went to the next port we were surprised to see the condition of the horses that they used. I'm very glad we went with Randi. After Randi's we went and sat in the little shopping square they have and had a few Margarita's and listened to the Mexican music and the Flamenco dancers. We hated to go back to the ship that day. I could have stayed there forever! Puerto Vallarta: We again tendered at this port and considering the steep steps at the pier I was concerned that my husband (with MS) would not be able to get off the tender. Not to worry, those HAL guys are so good, quick, and all without making a fuss or calling attention to his disability which is a wonderful thing! Our tour was Off The Beaten Track. We spent most of the time on the van traveling around PV. We did make stops at the Guadalupe Church, Gringo Gulch and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's homes when they were filming Night of the Iguana. These were in poor condition and we were a bit shocked that they were not maintained better. We also stopped for a bathroom and refreshment break and then back into town for a very quick shopping stop and then back to the ship. We were there for spring/Easter break and it was very crowded and due to all the noise bustle and rush, we enjoyed this port the least. Our last two days were spent at sea which we used to work on our tans and just relax. The weather was perfect all but the last day at sea. Disembarkation: No problem here either! They give you bag tags and numbers based on your departure time. You can wait in your cabins and order room service until your number is called. It didn’t take too long to get off the ship but I think they called too many numbers all at once, again minor but could use some improvement. Found our bags very easy and then out to get cabs and fly home. Can’t believe how quick that week went by again! All in all, this was a fantastic trip, ship, and people on board were wonderful. We have made a lot of new friends with other passengers and I hope that our paths cross again some day! I hope all our voyages go this smoothly in the future! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This is my first attempt at writing a review and I feel obligated to do so because I've gained so much useful information from reading the reviews of others. First, some personal information: I am 60-years-old and my wife is, well, ... Read More
This is my first attempt at writing a review and I feel obligated to do so because I've gained so much useful information from reading the reviews of others. First, some personal information: I am 60-years-old and my wife is, well, younger. This is our fifth cruise, the second to the Mexican Riviera and the first on Holland America Lines. We loved it! The ship was not only beautiful but well maintained and the mostly-Indonesian crew was absolutely magnificent. From our room steward, Agus, to our head-waiter, Zaini, and his assistant, Jaswadi, the service we received from them and other Oosterdam crew members was uniformly wonderful. We would sail HAL again in a heartbeat and we would highly recommend HAL to others. The food in the main dining room was great and served in very generous portions but if we were still hungry we were always offered more. The jumbo shrimp cocktail appetizer was my favorite. The entertainment was also great. We had three rotating acts. The ship's singers/dancers performed two tributes, one to rock-and-roll and one to Broadway musicals. They were joined in the rotation by an extremely talented singer named Bobby Black and a fabulous comedian/juggler named Barnaby, a former college English literature professor who decided one day to take the road less traveled. Our itinerary was Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. The only tour we took was the combination Land's End and scenic drive in Cabo. In both Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta—which, by the way, is by far my favorite place in Mexico—we shopped and sampled the local beverages. There were a few bumps in the road. They were minor—some might even say petty—annoyances that in no way effected our enjoyment of the cruise. I mention them only because others may benefit from knowing about them. We had a mini-fridge in our cabin but it was crammed full of beer, hard liquor and water that HAL charged you for consuming. Bottom line, you had a fridge in your cabin that couldn't be used to keep anything of yours cold because there was no free space. Worse yet, HAL locked the fridge on the fourth day of the cruise. Disembarking was, for us, both good and bad. Customs cleared the first group of passengers at 8:30 and we were off the ship by 8:45. Pretty good! Unfortunately only one of our two bags was dockside. The missing bag problem, we found out, was caused by the color-coded luggage tag system used by many, if not all, of the cruise lines to identify the luggage of the various groups of departing passengers. We were given ivory-colored tags and one of our bags was inadvertently put with the yellow-colored tags. No big problem, except for the fact that US Customs hadn't cleared the yellow-tagged luggage and we had a plane to catch. We were lucky because the yellow-tagged luggage was cleared about 30 minutes after we got off the ship and we were able to find our other bag and get to the airport. One final thought: This was our first trip to San Diego and the little we saw of the city was beautiful. If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Just got back two days ago from a week on the Oosterdam, and wanted to enter my impressions while it was still fresh. What a great week! My wife and I (mid-late 40's) traveled with another couple and our 2 teenage daughters (1 each). ... Read More
Just got back two days ago from a week on the Oosterdam, and wanted to enter my impressions while it was still fresh. What a great week! My wife and I (mid-late 40's) traveled with another couple and our 2 teenage daughters (1 each). We had been on the Norwegian Sun with them 2 years ago so knew they were compatible cruising companions. This is our 4th cruise overall, second on HAL. This ship is superbly appointed. I would love to have most of the furniture in my house. Lots of leather and classic though modern design, and uniformly comfortable. Truly a first-rate impression (with the possible exception of the atrium, which crossed the line into 21st century cruise ship/bordello, although not as much as some ships I've seen). Also appreciate the effort to make the exterior look like a ship, rather than a sideways office tower. On to category by category: Embarkation In a word, the best I've experienced. Was helped somewhat by staying immediately across the street in the Holiday Inn at the Bay--our room's balcony directly faced the bow of the ship while in port, not more than 500 yards away. Amazing. All we had to do was shoulder our bags and walk across the street into the terminal building--no cab or shuttle necessary. The only drawback was that this hotel was the noisiest I've ever been in. No wall insulation, apparently, and could hear every car go by on Harbor Drive below. That, combined with concrete beds, made the first night on the ship true nirvana (more on that later). Once in the terminal building (we were there about 11:30 am) we walked right up to the check-in counter (no lines at all--there were numerous stations) and were on the ship by 12 noon, in the cabin by 3:00. Which leads us to: Cabin--5087, standard Verandah stateroom The good: a) OUTSTANDING, larger-than-queen bed, superb linens. Slept better than I do at home; b) roomy bathroom, with a decently sized (i.e., non-mini) tub and shower, good water pressure, plenty of shelves and storage; c) average sized balcony, but full adult sized, comfortable chairs (unlike Norwegian); d) tasteful, upscale decor. The ok: Storage. There are more storage areas than you first think, but several were full of extra blankets and such that required consolidation before usefulness. The bad: a) Get the TV up off the desk. It's a nice, big 20 incher, but it takes up half the desk--attach it to the wall, please; b) because of the large main bed, the foldout sleeper is loveseat sized and so folds out lengthwise (rather than the full sofa sized sleeper on Norwegian that folded out one cushion wide and saved on floor space), making it almost impossible to get to the balcony or open the fridge with the bed out--literally only about 6 inches between the bed and the desk; c) a nit, but bugged me: the reading lights are built into the wall only about 6 inches off the bed, below pillow level--not the best location. Fitness and Recreation Outstanding spa--everything you could ask for. Comprehensive workout facility, peaceful and spacious massage rooms, amazing 10 by 10 stainless hydropool, ceramic heated lounges, nice looking salon. First class. Dining Our first night meal at the Pinnacle was, by consensus, one of the best meals we've ever had, anywhere, not just on a cruise ship (and we live in Chicago, with no shortage of great restaurants). Even the coffee was terrific. The main dining room was also quite nice, with a good variety (like the nightly "comfort food" option), and nice presentation. Waiter Yohannis was pleasant and very accommodating. Wasn't crazy about having to look at the serving stations (we were between two), but I suppose there's nothing to be done about that. Nice to have 4 dinner times (5:45, 6:15, 8:00 and 8:30) on the upper and lower levels--we had 8 pm upper. The Lido buffets were great for lunch--deli sandwiches, Italian, Asian, full lunch, burgers/brats, taco bar; and for breakfast--continental with lots of fresh fruit, muffins, cereals and danish, omelet stations, and full breakfast with french toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. You can also get a full dinner in the Lido if you don't want to dress up, with many of the main entree options the same as the dining room. Much better than average cruise food, in my opinion. Entertainment Have to agree with the other reviewers on this; not the best. The comedians were very entertaining, and singer Bobby Black had a fine, effortless voice that adapted to a variety of songs, but the ship's company of singers and dancers was of only average talent at best and the productions way too cheesy for my taste. The hit of the cruise, it appeared, was the Oosterdam Idol competition, which pitted the passengers against each other in sort of a grand karaoke format. The final packed the Vista showstage and was the talk of the ship, but the whole thing didn't do much for me, personally--I hate karaoke. Ports Cabo: Tendered in; short ride, very efficiently organized (unlike Norwegian). Very pretty area at first look, quaint and resorty. We had rented a van to drive between the two main towns that make up Los Cabos, but upon arrival at the Dollar rent a car counter in town we were told sorry senor, your car is at the airport and won't be here for an hour, would you care to wait? Which was the same line the people in front of us got, but as they were in town for 11 days it probably didn't matter to them. We however said adios and headed to the beach, which we got to by walking behind the facade of the town, through a grungy neighborhood, next to trash-strewn lots and a half-finished shopping mall. Once at the beach, which was quite nice, we spent several hours fending off the constant stream of roving junk-sellers, to the point that I wanted one of them to tattoo "No, gracias" on my chest. Welcome to Mexico. Mazatlan: My wife was sick as a result of eating a bad burrito in Cabo the previous day, so we stayed on board while the other couple and the girls went sightseeing. It was a great, restful day, and there were no interesting excursions in Mazatlan anyway. Puerto Vallarta: Tendered in again (the Carnival Pride was at the only dock) and did a great excursion, boat trip through Vallarta Adventures out to the Marietas islands for snorkeling, dolphin watching (didn't see any), and beach visiting. The crew was very energetic, funny and helpful, the boat comfortable, and the destinations fascinating, although the water was pretty cold for snorkeling. After a quick shower we went back into town for some sightseeing. As in Cabo, the main street is charming and scenic, with a lovely boardwalk along the water's edge right across from the stores, but go one or two streets back and it gets cruddy again. Overall The shipboard part of the trip was great; the shoreside part not so hot. The ports were interesting, but I was glad to be staying in a place that could leave there, and have no desire to back to any of them, unlike the Caribbean. Shipboard was restful (mostly hung out on the forward Observation deck, where there were numerous wonderful padded teak deck chairs), with few interruptions from roving bar waiters (unlike Norwegian) which was a welcome relief after the Cabo experience. Disembarkation was without drama; you could wait in your cabin until your group was called--a nice touch, no congregating in the common rooms. I would travel HAL again anytime--a truly great ship. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved ... Read More
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved children. I didn't mind all the children as HAL has an excellent program for the younger crowd. The ship did not have that "overcrowded" feel. This is a 4-star (out of six stars) ship. That doesn't mean you can't have a 6-star vacation! It is a cruise ship fit for your family and not about luxury. HAL has tried to position itself as a premier line, but for the "middle class" Celebrity Cruises just does it better. Instead of writing about the destinations and such I'll just put my own views of the pros and cons of the ship. There are a great many well-done reviews of Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Pros: Food - better than all of the other middle class cruise lines Lido - Fine choices, but some of the Oriental dishes (?) I have never had before and I am Oriental. As an example - Miso soup without Miso and tastes like mushroom soup Crow's Nest - nicely appointed, comfortable setting San Diego Embarkation Port - allows a full day in Cabo San Lucas vs. a half day out of Los Angeles Bands - Cruise Control and Take Five are excellent Windstar Lounge - coffee! Decent, but slow service Casino - You can play for awhile and lose slower than on most other cruise lines Cruise Director and staff - young and good Clean - can be repeated again and again. Clean is good Staff - friendly, but overworked Elevators - glass outdoor ones! Short skirts are fine if you are not shy Cons: Service - Just calling it light is a compliment. Wait in line, get your own coffee in Lido. Lack of assistant waiters making some meals agonizingly long. Really I can't believe that HAL can get away with such light staffing. I felt the same way on the Rhyndam two years previously. Head waiters need a bit more seasoning (nuff said). Tender waits - overly long, longer, time to take a nap Entertainment - no orchestra/big band, shows not worth seeing. Indonesian staff show!? Embarrassing. I don't want to comment on this poorly done, but sometimes ok show. Cheap labor! Cheap! Okay - low cost. Disco - small dance floor with a huge column in the center of the floor. Unbelievable bad design. Spa - pay $15 a day to use the service. A first! Ambiance - Carnival plus Internet - I don't mind paying for quality, but paying by the minute when speeds are slower than dial-up is just bad business. Drink prices - smuggle your own Decor - Carnival plus Captain's Party - boring!!!!! Band? No big band! Dance on a postage stamp floor - so you don't dance. Photo prices - bring your own camera, better yet - bring your own cameraperson. Conclusion: Fine family vacation. Fine ship. As always could be better. Solidly 4-star. Put it this way, Crystal, Radisson, Cunard are 5-6 star ships. How can HAL be higher? Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
HAL's Oosterdam March 26, 2005 - Very Long! We departed from Chicago on the day of departure which is rare for us. We were fortunate though that our flight left and arrived on time as it snowed in Chicago the night before we left. ... Read More
HAL's Oosterdam March 26, 2005 - Very Long! We departed from Chicago on the day of departure which is rare for us. We were fortunate though that our flight left and arrived on time as it snowed in Chicago the night before we left. Once we left the 26 degrees that Saturday morning we had a beautiful flight to San Diego where it was in the 70's when we landed. San Diego is an incredibly beautiful city and I wished that we had gone in at least a day early to tour this city. Transfer to pier: The port is only about a mile or so from the airport and takes about 10 minutes or less to get there. DO NOT take the large vans to the pier unless you are traveling as a single. We were told at the airport that the van would only cost us about $20 but when we got there we were charged $60!! Our return cab rides (3 cabs) only cost us $33 total including tips. Embarkation: When we arrived at the pier we were already a bit ticked due to the van situation and the entry to the pier didn't make matters any better. First you have to get your luggage checked in with the pier porters who were standing where people were trying to get out from the ship and others were standing to get on the ship. My husband is disabled and was getting pushed farther back by people trying to get ahead of us checking in. When it was out turn to get through security just to get to the embarkation building no one would let my husband through to check in and one man had the nerve to tell me "tough" when I said we were all together. Not a good way to start the trip. Not Holland America's fault, just the fault of one ignorant person. Holland does need to work on a better way to get people off the ship while others are trying to get on though. We went into the building after that and were directed on what papers needed to be filled out before you could get into line (bravo HAL!) and given a number for boarding the ship. We had all our papers in order already so we were directed to a line to check in at. The person who checked us in must have been new, lucky us. It took a very long time for her to be able to process us and take our pictures. We had been the first of our group to check in and the last to finish. Because my husband is disabled they allowed the three of us (Husband, Son, and Me) to board immediately. We skipped the picture taking and unfortunately the kid's club registration as they wanted us on and their wheelchair back. When they scanned my husband's card we were told to immediately go to the main deck and have his picture taken again as it was blank. I know that she took his picture when we checked in but something happened from that point until we boarded. I had brought on 5 bottles of Champagne for sail off in our cabin and wanted to check our carry on bags with that bag as well, but when we got to where we were told to go (Queen's Lounge) no one was there to take anything. At this point I was getting too cranky and didn't want to let it all ruin my first impressions of this cruise so away we went straight to the Sea View Bar. Within a short time I was feeling much better and able to get my vacation mood going again. We parked our things at the tables by the pool and decided we'd take care of his picture later. The views were beautiful from this point and the weather was postcard perfect! A little bit of food from the Lido and a few drinks and we were having a great time. At 1:30 the announcement was made that our cabins were ready and away we went! Cabin #8081 Category SS cabin: Our cabin was great. The beds are the best that we've ever had on a cruise! Very glad that we chose this category as anything smaller for 3 people would have been way too cramped. As it was, our daughter was in a Cat VD cabin with my Mother and Aunt and they were VERY squeezed for space. We had 2 twins that made up to a large queen or small king, plenty of room - did I mention how comfy they were? We had a sofa bed that made up into a single bed the same size as the sofa. If you have anyone larger that 6' this will be too short for them. My nephew is 6' 3" and his feet were on the table at the end of the bed. There were also 2 desk areas, one with a large mirror and the other with a window out to the balcony. The bathroom has double sinks, a separate shower and a whirlpool bathtub. The closet has 2 areas for hanging clothes and one with selves and the safe. Both desks have drawers and the stool at the desk is hollow for storing items as well. The balcony has 2 chairs with ottomans and a table in between and then a round wood table with two chairs. We had side by side cabins with my Sister and Family (3 also) and we immediately had the cabin steward open the divider for us. We never felt crowded even when we had our sail away party. Our cabin steward was Hilman and he was wonderful! Always was able to accommodate our requests. We rate the cabins a 10! Muster drill: Muster was at 4:15 and was typical of most cruise lines. Put your life jacket on before leaving the room so that you don't trip on anything. Didn't take long maybe 15 minutes. Sail away: We had our party in the cabin prior to muster so we chose to go to the Lido Pool where the band was playing. There were the typical drinks and waiters walking around with tasty little bites. Space was limited so go early and get seats if you need them. Sailing out of San Diego was beautiful. As I have said earlier, it's a beautiful city. We went up a level to get some pictures and then back to our cabins to enjoy some peace and quiet as we left the bay area. As we were getting ready for dinner we were treated to a gorgeous sunset and then off to dinner. Dining Room: We had table 207 lower level at 6:15. Good location able to see a lot as it's elevated and center. We also had members of our group surrounding us for 4 tables total. The table for 2 was squeezed between the serving station and some sort of stone wall & storage area. They were moved to another location the next night. The food was great during this cruise but it seems the servers are covering too many tables. Good luck if you want refills on water or coffee. We had to ask for water refills each night and never got refills on coffee. Small point but irritating. Our last morning at sea we ate in the dining room for breakfast. We received our initial cup of coffee and I asked for refills 3 times and never got any. It was only once I got up and walked over to the serving station to pour a cup for myself did anyone pay attention. The best service that we got was the night we went to the Lido for dinner. We saw people wearing pretty much anything you want but no swimwear. We seemed over-dressed. You take a tray for the soup and appetizer and then place your order for the main course. Find yourself a table and they bring the main course to you. You can get up and get your own dessert and there was someone always near by for sodas, water, wine or beer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed eating there - I'm a dining room person when it comes to dinner. As I said earlier, the food was very good on this cruise and I have no complaints with that, just the service in the dining room. I did however, LOVE the assistant Maitre d' Reineir (spelling?) who was always near to assist if needed during the meals. No matter when we ate or where we ate, he seemed to be there! Always seemed to know us and had time to ask how our day was. Unfortunately the rest of the dining room staff that we encountered were not like this. But do not take this as a reason not to sail on this ship. It may have been a fluke and we dealt with it just fine. Cabo San Lucas: I woke up early this day and was able to see us sailing into the harbor. Incredibly beautiful! We sailed down the coast and right past Los Arcos, which you can see from the ship as you anchor there. We took the Land’s End & Scenic Tour which was worth the money. We took the tender to the pier and boarded a boat that took us out along the stretch of beaches out to Los Arcos, we stayed in that area while they played a recording from the Cousteau Society regarding this area which was nice to hear. We saw Sea Lion’s and then went around the point as certain areas were pointed out. As we turned to go back around the point and back to the harbor we were suddenly surrounded by dolphins swimming and jumping out all around us. I was in heaven! I tried to get pictures but was laughing and shooting at the same time so that didn’t work so well!! When we got back we were then taken by van to Giorgio’s Restaurant which has an incredible view of the bay. Once we got back we went to the ship for a quick bite to eat and then took the kids back into town. Found my nephew coming back from their fishing trip with a 95 pound Marlin! What an experience for him! After that had to take my now legal daughter to Cabo Wabo Cantina for her first drink. Fun place, great atmosphere, and reasonable drinks. This was a great day for us! Mazatlan: WOW! This was the day for my son and me! We did Randi’s Happy Horses and I have to say if you are thinking about riding anywhere in the Mexican Riviera, do it here with her! I have a whole description on http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=160408 That pretty well describes the trip which is well worth the $45 per person cost! When we went to the next port we were surprised to see the condition of the horses that they used. I’m very glad we went with Randi. After Randi’s we went and sat in the little shopping square they have and had a few Margarita’s and listened to the Mexican music and the Flamenco dancers. We hated to go back to the ship that day. I could have stayed there forever! Puerto Vallarta: We again tendered at this port and considering the steep steps at the pier I was concerned that my husband (with MS) would not be able to get off the tender. Not to worry, those HAL guys are so good, quick, and all without making a fuss or calling attention to his disability which is a wonderful thing! Our tour was Off The Beaten Track. We spent most of the time on the van traveling around PV. We did make stops at the Guadeloupe Church, Gringo Gulch and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s homes when they were filming Night of the Iguana. These were in poor condition and we were a bit shocked that they were not maintained better. We also stopped for a bathroom and refreshment break and then back into town for a very quick shopping stop and then back to the ship. We were there for spring/Easter break and it was very crowded and due to all the noise bustle and rush, we enjoyed this port the least. Our last two days were spent at sea which we used to work on our tans and just relax. The weather was perfect all but the last day at sea. Disembarkation: No problem here either! They give you bag tags and numbers based on your departure time. You can wait in your cabins and order room service until your number is called. It didn’t take too long to get off the ship but I think they called too many numbers all at once, again minor but could use some improvement. Found our bags very easy and then out to get cabs and fly home. Can’t believe how quick that week went by again! All in all, this was a fantastic trip, ship, and people on board were wonderful. We have made a lot of new friends with other passengers and I hope that our paths cross again some day! I hope all our voyages go this smoothly in the future! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a ... Read More
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a good value for the price point. If you're looking for 5-star accommodations, food and entertainment, you'll have to pay for it. This is an affordable enjoyable line with a very friendly and efficient staff who try to do their best. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Dallas Fort Worth International to San Diego Stateroom: 8095- We typically sail in this category or the one just below it. The cabins for the most part are comfortable and spacious for a ship and the verandas on this ship are fairly large for the cabin size. That's where the positive ends. This is the "Bacon/Sauerkraut" cabin. It has a direct vent to the kitchen and many times the air flow is such that when you wake up in the morning you think that breakfast has been set in front of you-- but at 4 a. m. when they begin preparing it. Remember what I said previously-- this ship is staffed with very friendly and efficient staff that will do everything to appease you if they can. Unfortunately-- we arrived home with luggage, clothes and ourselves wreaking of food odors. They were unable to abate the problem. Their idea of compensation however, was to offer us dinner at the Pinnacle Grill their upscale dining room. Did I mention that we already smelled like food--? Ship Info: The ship is in okay condition-- Unfortunately, on the larger ships when they are on short turnarounds things break down. The Oosterdam is a relatively young Vista Class ship and the thermos spa was in disrepair and minor things like that. Overall the ship is not as "Glitzy" as a Celebrity cruise Millennium class but it still has all of the same amenities. The ship is kept impeccably clean any time of the day or night there is someone cleaning something. We don't think we found a place that wasn't kept immaculate at any hour of the day. Dining: It is always miraculous how many meals can be served without insult or injury. If you're looking for an exotic menu-- this isn't the ship for you. The cuisine is average catering hall fare with a nice presentation. What makes it more acceptable is the fact that the staff serves it with pride and makes you feel as one of these 6,000 plates was especially made for you. If you're looking for lobster shooters with caviar and vodka-- this is NOT the line for you. We typically enjoy the food on this line. Gone are the days of ordering "off" the menu though-- so if there's nothing on the menu that you want-- you can call room service and get something else or try to get into the Pinnacle. Activities: Unlike many of the onboard revenue schemes that are on most lines Holland America does a good job keeping it contained so that you don't feel like you're being nickeled and dimed for everything once on-board. Many of the activities are free and those that aren't are very affordable and make sense to pay for. Service: The staff on the Oosterdam and the Westerdam we find to be more friendly then their counterparts on Celebrity-- Our ideal cruise line would take the food and the ships of Celebrity and the staff from Holland America. The staff are not intrusive and do their best to assist you any way that they can. Often times they are bound by the corporate office in what capacity they can assist. In our case their offer of compensation was to put us in a lesser room and comp a meal. I am typically very brand loyal and will avoid a company if I feel that I've been slighted. American Airlines has now lost over 149,000 in revenue from me not flying their airline for the last decade-- and this is their hub. I will do anything to avoid them. Do they care? Probably not. But, I spend my dollars where I'm treated fairly and with dignity. Entertainment: If you cruise regularly-- the entertainment is what it is. If you're used to Broadway or Vegas type entertainment this is it's cheapest cousin Minnie Pearl! The shows on Holland America run typically from 3 to 5 years before they're changed and so what's on one ocean-liner is the same on all of them with in the line. They have a group of young talent who typically do the best with what they've got. They often hang out at the disco off of the casino and are great to talk to after the show. Again if you're looking for Broadway or Vegas-- Go there-- if not then enjoy. It's amazing to see what they're able to produce on probably a community theatre's budget and amusement park talent. They do okay. If you're looking for the next Streisand-- not gonna happen. Shore Excursions: Like all cruise lines these are designed mostly for the over 60 set or the 9-11 set. However, Holland America does have some gems mixed in there that are well worth the money to take. Swimming with the Dolphins-- although it says "it's a life changing experience" it's more of a memory with pictures that no one should be without. It was great fun and one of the more active excursions. We like to take the Kayak tour and the mountain biking tours. These are made for weekend warriors like ourselves and we find them just enough exertion to make us feel like we've earned the prime rib we're about to eat for dinner. If you get to Cast Away Cay-- GO! It's a beach that only the Walt Disney Company could replicate. Great service, white sand, and swimming with horses! Great fun. Disembarkation: Easy and unrushed. Holland America triumphs over Celebrity in people moving. This is an art form and Holland America could use a little polishing here-- but when you think of the number of passengers-- This is well orchestrated. Summary: If you're looking for top of the line marble bathrooms, and white glove service-- this isn't the line for you. Cruising has become more relaxed-- and as far as bad puns go-- that ship has sailed. If you're looking for an affordable, relaxing vacation with a wide range of middle class folks from the US-- this is your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Let me start by saying that this is my 11th cruise so I have a good idea on what to expect on a cruise. I'm 45 and my wife is 40. We usually sail Princess, so expect comparisons and no I don't work for them nor does anyone I ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this is my 11th cruise so I have a good idea on what to expect on a cruise. I'm 45 and my wife is 40. We usually sail Princess, so expect comparisons and no I don't work for them nor does anyone I know. We have been on NCL and RCL. We usually do at least one cruise a year. We decided to try HAL, the Oosterdam to Mexico, to break away from Princess to see how the other half lives so to speak. We soon discovered how good we have it on Princess. We had heard some good things about HAL and knew that it was more sedate and an older crowd. That was ok as we were looking for a very relaxing time. We also knew that dinner times were set as opposed to Princess where you dine when you want, anytime between 5:30 and 10pm. Boarding: When we got on the ship around noon, all cabins were off limits until 1:30 pm. You could check your carry on bags at a room but it was soon overrun so we had to carry or bags for about 1.5 hrs. This was a hassle especially trying to eat lunch. On Princess, we have always been able to go right to our cabin and drop our bags. If princess can do this on a ship of 2500, why can't HAL manage it on a ship of 1800? When I did get to my cabin, the bottle of JD I had preordered to be in my cabin was not there. After two complaints to the front desk, 3 hours apart, the bottle showed up after dinner. By the way, that bottle of JD cost me $54. The last time on Princess it cost me $27. The thing that really ticked me off about HAL is that they tried to sell me the same bottle to take off the ship for $17.95. Talk about feeling gouged. Cabins: Our cabin, a superior verandah suite, was very nice and the bathroom was great. One complaint about the cabin is that they use the fridge as a mini bar so you can't store anything in it. Also, the water temp in the shower kept alternating hot and cold. Very irritating. We had a DVD player and a 25 inch TV that were great. We also had a big balcony. Breakfast Lunch and Dinner: Breakfast in the Lido buffet was the usual fare but less of a selection than on other lines. The food is good, not great but no complaints about quality. Breakfast in the dining room was good but the service uneven. Be warned, the lower dining room at the back of the ship when under power vibrates a lot. Once I ordered smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel, got the salmon but no bagel. The coffee always was just luke warm. Lunch on the Lido buffet was the same as breakfast but only served between 11:30 - 2pm. At 2pm they were closed and the only thing you could get at that point was a slice of pizza warming under a heat lamp. On Princess, they have a true Pizzeria that you can order what you want. Dinner was fine, we had no complaints except for the strict dining times which we knew going in. We had first sitting, upstairs. Be warned they have a policy that you have 15 minutes to show up for dinner and then the doors are closed. While we had no complaints about the food or service in the dining room, we did meet a couple who had stopped going as two nights in a row their food showed up cold. The said they were frustrated. One last note, our wine steward Ruby was exceptional. She was friendly, never let our glass get empty and was the first person to greet us at our table most nights. We never dined at the Pinnacle Grill, but it seemed underutilized from what we saw. Maybe most people don't want to pay the extra $20 per person. Staff: The staff was very friendly and helpful although we didn't see our cabin steward much although he kept our cabin spotless and well stocked with fresh towels etc. We had one odd experience where 3 days out, a bartender asked us how our cruise was going. We said ok and he replied that many people had complained to him that the service and the food was not as good as it used to be and they were not returning to HAL. Maybe it's the one year contract they have to agree to. I think on Princess it's 6 months. Entertainment: The shows and musicians were ok. Our featured entertainer was a singer named Bobby Black. He was introduced at the beginning of his act as, "Straight from Las Vegas". You later find out that he doesn't perform there, he lives there. According to him, he spends 40 weeks a year on cruise ships. It's obvious why. The production shows are so so. The Northern Lights disco is odd in that it's tiny. Ship: The layout of the ship was fine for its size and was for the most part comfortable. One major complaint that was a complaint of many was the restrooms. Why in heavens name you would close the main restrooms right outside the dining room for cleaning an hour into dinner is beyond comprehension. This happened more than once. They also did this same routine outside the main show lounge one night as the show was letting out. People were furious. One night at dinner my wife had to use the restroom. The room outside the dining room was closed for cleaning. she then had to go halfway through the ship only to find that restroom out of order. She had to go one deck down to find an operating restroom. She returned absolutely furious. Whoever is in charge of this aspect of the ship should be replaced, that is if anyone is in charge of this. I have never, ever had this happen on any other ship. Ports of Call: Cabo was great. Go to Cabo Wabo, Sammy's place and get the Lobster tacos. WOW!. Mazatlan was good, go to Senior Frogs, you won't be disappointed. Puerto Vallarta was also fine. If you want to call home, get a phone card for $5 at most small stores and they work in the public phones. Shopping wise, it's the same tourist stuff in every store in every port. Final Misc: HAL like many lines now offer an unlimited soda card. Unless you consume massive quantities don't buy it. Bring your soda on with you or buy it in the ports and bring it back on. The card with gratuity added brings it over $40 a person. By comparison, Princess charged $22.50 a person last cruise. HAL also plays a little game in that they only give you the soda in a small glass, making you work for it. Again by comparison, Princess will give you a giant glass if you ask for it and also gives you a large refillable insulated container for free when you buy the card. Overall it seemed the staff was not happy and relaxed. Don't get me wrong, they were very friendly and helpful when serving or helping you but other than that they didn't smile a lot. They also didn't joke a lot or interact on their own with the passengers very much. Maybe that's a symptom of their long contract. It also seemed to me that there was less supervision of the staff. Our very candid bartender also told us that it was almost impossible to suspend or fire someone for bad service as they were so tight on staff that they couldn't be replaced. The cruise staff seemed very young and inexperienced. One morning upon meeting in the Vista lounge for our shore excursion, everyone was just told to go in and sit down and wait for their turn to be called. We were then told to follow a crew member to the tender deck, who half way down said he forgot his pen and left us going down stairs on our own. When we got to the bottom we didn't know where to go. By comparison, sorry, Princess has the room marked with signed sections like a concert, and plenty of staff to direct you and answer questions. In our room, there was nobody. All in all, HAL was not as polished, organized or well managed as other cruises I've been on. In my opinion they charge excessively for most items, are not as flexible as they could be as in the dining times etc., and don't take into account passenger comfort and convenience when planning events and ship maintenance. The last thing I will relate is that not one couple or person we talked to said they would return to HAL again. Reading this you may think that I've been too picky and just complaining about the small stuff. Well, it may all be small stuff but it adds up. I get precious little vacation time and when I spend the time, money and effort to cruise, it doesn't have to be perfect but it should be close. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
This was our 8th cruise, our first HAL cruise on the Oosterdam, first cruise to Mexican Riviera. We have been on cruises with family members and cruises with friends. This cruise was a combined cruise—family and friends. I decided to ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise, our first HAL cruise on the Oosterdam, first cruise to Mexican Riviera. We have been on cruises with family members and cruises with friends. This cruise was a combined cruise—family and friends. I decided to hire a van/limo for transportation because it was very convenient, non-stressful and really not that expensive. There were 12 people in our party—8 arrived at the cruise terminal in a large van around 1:00 PM. Our group consisted of an 86 year old woman who required wheelchair assistance and oxygen, and 11 adults, and no children (though we acted like kids at times!) Embarkation: Upon arrival there were plenty of baggage handlers to bring luggage onto the ship. Security confirmed our tickets and passports prior to going into the cruise terminal. There were long lines to check-in but it seemed to go rather quickly. The check-in for the special assistance passengers was very quick and easy. At the special assistance check-in booth both tickets and passports were reconfirmed, pictures were taken and plastic cards were given to each individual that were to be used during the duration of the cruise. Passports were not requested again throughout the entire trip. One did not need passports at any ports of call. Ship: Very beautiful and classy ship. Great stabilizers! We had a very smooth cruise even though we could see waves and swells outside our verandah. The air circulation was very good throughout the ship. There were many seniors, not many children on board. There were people in wheelchairs and special needs dog trainers. The ship has a poor layout to suit the needs of most activities. Locations such as the Queens Lounge, Piano Bar, and Northstar Night club could not accommodate the large quantities of passengers and were quite small for the activities. For example a golf putting activity was played in a hallway and movies were played in the Queens Lounge and many people could not see the screen. Most ship activities took place in the Queens Lounge and at times there was standing room only or Vista Lounge where the main performances were done at night. Cabin 6058 was quite spacious compared to our family and friend's cabin. Joe, the cabin steward, greeted us by name and introduced himself the first day. Joe kept the room spotless. There was a lot of space in the bathroom, closets and drawers. Our luggage fit very easily under the bed. The hair dryer was located in a desk drawer and was not very powerful. Outside the cabin door was a mail box for each cabin that held invitations or announcements. Every night on the bed was the next day's schedule and a piece of chocolate. Some nights there was a creatively created toweled animal on the bed or hanging from a hangar. Verandah furniture was rattan furniture, not plastic as we saw on other cruise ships while in port. Fire Drill: Specific locations were imprinted on each life jacket so it was easy for the staff to tell us the appropriate location. The fire drill lasted about 15 minutes. Staff: Every staff member spoke English; we did not hear any foreign language spoken among the staff. All HAL employees were extremely friendly, and always available to assist our needs. The front desk provided some formal clothes, clothes were complimentary cleaned and gave a shipboard credit for incidentals to a passenger whose luggage was missing. Cabo San Lucas: Due to hurricane weather the captain decided to take another route which made our arrival a few hours later than originally planned. Around 10:00 AM we tendered and passengers were allowed to leave the ship according to colored numbers that were distributed during the waiting period. One member in our party was missing a piece of luggage so the day was spent trying to purchase sundries and a bathing suit. In Cabo there is no such thing as negotiating. YOU are at the mercy of the businesses so expect to pay top dollar for everything. After spending 3 hours a bathing suit was finally purchased one for $172 US dollars. Local bars were also expensive. At Margaritaville the cost of a margarita was $20 US dollars! Cabo Wabo was closed and the Giggling Marlin had expensive drinks and appetizers. Tip: A taxi from the dock cost $25 to go 3 miles. Walk 4 blocks and get a white taxi for $5 for 3 miles. Mazatlan: Rather than using HAL's expensive shore excursions a Stone Island tour was booked via the internet. A $30 tour included a tour to the Cathedral, cliff divers, a catamaran boat trip to the caves and then to Stone Island. At Stone Island there was an open bar, lunch and a selection of activities. We chose horseback riding along the beach and banana boating…after partaking in margaritas and shooters. What a blast! Puerto Vallarta We had to tender in the early morning. Since another cruise ship was getting into port we stayed on the tender boat for over an hour…waiting for the cruise ship to dock. Several people got sea sick because the ocean was a bit rough. We took HAL's shore excursion Canopy Tours and had a fantastic time. We rode in an open truck outside the city into the jungle. After getting harnessed, being trained and meeting the guides we zipped from tree top to tree top 60-70 feet above the ground. There were 6 professional guides in our party of 11, and a photographer who took a video of the adventure. We purchased DVD's for $50 US Dollars that arrived 2 weeks after our trip. In the afternoon we walked to the shopping area near the dock for some last minute shopping. The shops had similar merchandise and would seldom decrease the sale price. I finally purchased at a grocery store---vanilla $2.50 instead of $3 per bottle. On the way back to the ship the seas were quite rough and tendering was challenging. People got seasick and a glass window broke inside the boat. Pictures: The photographs were not very professional looking at all. In fact, my digital camera took better pictures! Our friends had formal pictures taken with a white backdrop. Other backdrop selections were a red spiral staircase and a dark blue moonlight night. The photographer instructed people to remove their shoes so the final pictures showed people without any shoes! Some photographers took single photos while others took group pictures. I wished I would have asked for group photos. HAL needs to train their photographers better. Food: The Lido had a wide variety of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has different sections so check out everything before making a final decision of what to eat. We did not have any problem with seating or having dirty tables. The staff cleaned all tables very quickly and efficiently.. A beverage cart of wine, water and soda came around on a regular basis. On Wednesday night there was a BBQ for dinner and I heard the food was not very good. We ate most meals in the Vista Dining Room and were extremely impressed with the service as well as selections. We enjoyed the maitre'd coming to the table to discuss the meal and our day's activities. I requested a shrimp cocktail and another person requested a crab salad every night. I really enjoyed the alternative selections on the menu—the grilled sirloin steak was delicious, very, juicy and tender. (I would think the Pinnacle Grille would have this kind of steak!) Normally celebration cakes are made and frozen ahead of time. However, for my mother's 86th birthday the Maitre'd requested a cake be made from scratch to accommodate our party. Several people selected more than one dessert because it was difficult to select just one. Pinnacle Grille: For 5 nights of having delicious food at dinner we were wondering how HAL could do any better at the Pinnacle Grille. Unfortunately our entire party thought the Grille was a disappointment. We had an 8:00 PM seating. The PG waiter was not as friendly as our dining room waiter and it seemed we were being rushed even though there restaurant was not crowded. All selections were served cold. The clam chowder was watery, clamless and cold. The vegetables were cold. The steaks were very thick, tough and difficult to cut with an ordinary knife, and cold. I requested my steak to be returned because it was too rare. The chocolate lava cake and crème brule were just okay. I could hardly wait to go back to the dining room the next night. However, some friends at another table had exceptional service…and hot food. Liquor: The drinks on board needed improvement. The rum and coke, mai tais, margaritas, pina coladas and cosmos did not have any liquor. Our TA advised us to bring only two bottles of wine per person. Some people were able to bring on bottles of liquor on board without any problem. Soda card: Cost was $35 and which was shared among the group. There was no problem requesting a can of soda instead of a glass in all locations. We brought the soda back to the rooms for future use. Entertainment: We really enjoyed the HAL dancers who performed Rockin Roads and Energy on the 2nd and 5th night. George Solaman a singer and entertainer was very good. The magician and his wife were okay and the comedian was okay. The Indonesian night was quite interesting but some performances were too long. We looked forward to the piano bar at night to sing and be entertained by Kory Simon. Kory not only plays the piano but sings and has a lot of fun with all passengers. Get there early for a good seat. Seminars: There were some seminars on board ship. We attended the diamond seminar which was quite interesting. I would like to have had a seminar about Mexico and their culture. Shops on Board: Lots of expensive jewelry at very high prices. Other cruise lines have better selections of merchandise. Disembarkation: On the 3rd day of the cruise each cabin had to submit their disembarkation plans (i.e. airport flights reservation information, city tour excursion requests etc.) On the last night luggage tags are given to each cabin for the luggage. Passengers were to be notified when to disembark according to luggage color tag and number. Disembarkation began around 8:00 AM (however, there were some passengers who had earlier flights and were escorted off the ship at 6:00 AM). Since we were local residents and did not have a plane or tour we were the last passengers to leave. Our colored tags and numbers were finally called at 10:00 AM. We just gave our declaration forms to the customs attendant as we walked off the ship. Our luggage was located without any problems and it was no problem to get a baggage handler for assistance. Now we are back home and thinking about our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
Just got back from the 10/22 Oosterdam. We have cruised other lines but this was our first HAL cruise. My hubby (Willie) and I were celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary and were traveling with my BIL (Tony) and SIL (Patty). Heres ... Read More
Just got back from the 10/22 Oosterdam. We have cruised other lines but this was our first HAL cruise. My hubby (Willie) and I were celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary and were traveling with my BIL (Tony) and SIL (Patty). Heres my review on this cruise. Saturday 10/22 We flew down to San Diego from Portland, OR. We arrived to find sunny San Diego overcast, drizzly, and cool. It is a very short cab ride from the airport to the terminal. We waited in line about 20 minutes, got our picture taken and boarded the ship at 12:15. We went up to the Lido Buffet and got a bite to eat. We were very impressed with the variety and freshness of all the food. Before we boarded the ship, we were given a paper explaining the new Leisure Dining. It said if we had any questions that a table would be set up outside the Vista Dining Room from 1- 4 pm. Needless to say, I was the first one in line as the paper was written very poorly and was confusing. I explained that I still wanted my same table, with the same people I booked with, with the same server every night, and at the time that I had booked, which was 8:30. He put all of this into his computer and said that it would be taken care of. Our cabin was ready at 1:10 and we went to see our home for the next 7 days. We had booked a SS (6072) and were very surprised how big it was. The bathroom was wonderful, with its 2 sinks and jacuzzi tub. We always had inside or outside cabins in the past so the balcony was spectacular. We met our room steward Djoko. He was like a stealth bomber. We hardly ever saw him but our room was always well taken care of. We asked him to unlock the partition between our room and Tony and Pattys. If we asked for anything, he would always arrive with a smile. We had ordered 2 bottles of Skyy vodka from Ship Services to be waiting for us in our room but they werent there. We called and asked that they be delivered to our room. They said they would send them right up. And so began the great bottle fiasco. LOL After 45 minutes and still nothing, we called again and they said it was on its way. We went out to look around the ship. I met Rita (Renorita) and we went up to the bow to wave to the port web cam. Lisa (LaffNVegas) was nice enough to capture and post the pictures of us waving like two crazy women. Willie and Tony were having beers by the Lido pool and started talking to a guy at the next table. Turns out it was Phil who is married to Jackie (Hairbender), who was on our roll call. I thought I heard the song Its A Small World when he told me about it. Phil and Jackie would end up becoming one of our crazy group. When we came back to the room, there still werent any bottles. By this time I was starting to wonder if we had made a mistake by booking HAL. I found a card on the bed saying that they didnt have Skyy on the ship and they would credit my account. I had just passed a bar and had seen that familiar blue bottle sitting there. I called them up and informed them that they must have made a mistake because I just saw it. They said they would check into it and get back to me. After 30 minutes and no call, I called back again. She said that the bottle I saw was the only one on the ship and since it was already opened, they couldnt give it to me. I asked her what other kind of vodka they had and she named off 4 kinds. I asked her the prices of them and &&.. you guessed it; she said she would have to call me back with that information. By this time it was ready for the Muster Drill, so we grabbed our life jackets and off we went. The Drill lasted about 15 minutes. We headed back to our room looking forward to having a drink on our balcony during sailaway. We walked in and saw NO BOTTLES!! My sweet hubby, who by this time had lost some of his sweetness, went over to the phone and called again. She told him the prices and he said send Absolut instead and have it here in 5 minutes. She said she would. We waited 15 and still nothing so we decided to go up to the Sailaway party. Just as we walked in, my hubby spotted Angie the Asst. Beverage Manager and told her of our problem. She said she would take care of it immediately. Sailaway was dampened somewhat by the weather but we were so excited to begin our cruise, that we just ignored the weather and celebrated the fact that we were off. When we arrived back in our room the bottles were there. Angie called later to check and make sure that they had arrived. Not only is she beautiful but very efficient too. Also, we had chocolate covered strawberries delivered the next day from Vangie and Sandra (the telephone concierges) with a nice note apologizing for the inconvenience we had experienced. By this time I needed a drink. LOL As we started to get ready for dinner, my hubby said, I think we have a problem. I thought what the heck is it now. He said, I dont have any pants. I looked at him and said, Are you kidding me? He said, Im not kidding. All my pants are back home hanging in the closet. I started to laugh until I had tears running down my face. The only pants he had were the jogging pants he had on and the pants to his suit!! We went downstairs to the shops as we figured that they must have some type of mens wear. Wrong!!! If you need a dress, shoes, jewelry, purses, shorts, t-shirts or sweatshirts, then you can shop till you drop. Poor hubby would just have to get by with his suit pants until we could buy something in Cabo on Monday. We called room service and had shrimp cocktails, cheese, and smoked salmon delivered to our room. Tony and Patty came over and joined us. We then headed up to the Vista Dining Room to see how this new dining thing would work. We were shown to our table (243), which was a table for 10. Rita and her DH Dru were there and also Rob (Lopaka007) and his DW Marty. We had crossed referenced our booking numbers to make sure we would all be together. The other 2 mystery people never showed up that night but thats another story. Our server was Charlie and he was wonderful. Always smiling, very nice, and always willing to get us whatever we asked for. Charlie was really put to the test all week long by Tony, who always ordered like he was eating for 2. It became quite the joke as the week went on. Our wine steward was name Willy, which made for some laughs as my DH is Willie. I really wish I had written down what we ate each night as it was always fabulous. After dinner, we all went to the disco and did some dancing. The music was good and fit the age of the crowd. The DJ was Melis and she is an Asst. Cruise Director. What an asset she is to HAL. She is personable and very nice. She would take requests too. Our server in the disco was Arin. He was always smiling and checking up on us. We had the same booth every night. I had a friend from this board (Copper) suggest I order a Wang-Wang to drink. It was a good suggestion and it became my drink of choice for the cruise. As we left the disco to head off to bed, Willie and I took a stroll around the promenade. This became a nightly ritual. It was a nice time to talk about the days events and what we had planned for the next day. It was a good first day! Sunday 10/23~Sea Day We slept in until 9:30 because those HAL mattresses are so darn comfortable. We showered, dressed and went up to the Crows Nest for some Team Trivia at 10:30. This was perfect, as I had planned a CC get together for our Roll Call from 11 to 12 there. I had made the arrangements with HAL a month before. Our trivia team didnt win but we had a lot of fun. A little before 11, I saw them setting up the coffee, tea, and cookies that HAL provided for us at no charge. Shirley (Wandering Winos) had made invitations that I had the front desk deliver the night before. Attached to the invitation was a list of the names and room numbers of all those on our roll call, which I had put together. This came in handy during the week. Shirley also made door signs for Rita and I too. She is very creative. It was a great turn out. Almost everyone who had been posting on the roll call for the last 10 months showed up. It was wonderful to be able to put a face to the name. We talked like we had been friends for years. It was a great group of people and it was nice to see a familiar face to say Hi to as you walked the ship in the days to come. Id love to mention each one by name but the list is long (46 people). For those of you that were there, please know that I have fond memories of that party. We left the party a little after 12 and went to the disco, as there was a line dancing class with DJ Melis at 12:15. She taught us 3 dances and made it look so easy. But when we tried it, we didnt look quite as smooth as her. LOL But we did get a little better as the class went on. We had a lot of fun and laughs too. We had missed breakfast and were hungry, so up to the Lido we went. I had a huge salad with all sorts of goodies on it. Their salad bar is quite good as is their ice tea also. Willie had a panini, which became his lunch choice everyday. By then it was Name That TV Tune at 2:15 in the Disco, so we went back to spend some time with DJ Melis. We got 14 out of 20, which gave us second place. The first place team got 18 correct. Darn them, I really wanted that key chain. At 3:15, it was up to the Vista Dining Room for Royal Dutch Tea. There was a wonderful array of pastries and chocolate covered fruit. The tea was good but not very hot. It is a nice tradition and one not to be missed. We had been on the go since we had gotten up so went back to the room for a little rest and relaxation. Love that mattress!! It was our first formal night. We had cocktails in the room while dressing and then met everyone in the Crows Nest for pre-dinner dancing. The group Tonis Boys was playing and they are quite good. We decided to skip the Captains Champagne Reception, as the line was soooo long to get in. We stopped and had formal pictures taken before going in to dinner. It was so nice to see everyone dressed in their finest. I didnt see one person who wasnt dressed up. But the most eye-catching outfit was a guy who had an all red suit, with a red shirt and red tie. This outfit was topped off by matching gloves, shoes, and a hat. All I can say is you had to see it, to believe it. It was another fabulous dinner. Jackie and Phil joined us as Rita and Dru had gone to the Pinnacle for dinner. The 2 mystery people didnt show up again tonight. Since this was the second night they hadnt shown up, we had Jackie and Phil moved to our table permanently. After dinner, it was off to the Disco for some Karaoke. It was the auditions for the Oosterdam Superstar. Some of them were painful to listen to and some were great. Patty, Dru, and Jackie all sang beautifully and made the cut. We stayed around for some dancing afterwards. Then it was time for our Promenade stroll before calling it a night. We filled out our room service breakfast order and hung it on the door before retiring. Another wonderful day!! Monday 10/24~Cabo We awoke to a beautiful view. Lucky us, we had a room on the port side and we were anchored facing El Arco (the arch). There were already many boats out by it and a graceful clipper ship was just passing by. The weather at 8 am was already warm. We had breakfast delivered to our balcony at 9 am. We did this for the entire cruise. It was the perfect way to start the day. This must be a little taste of how the rich live. LOL It was delivered on time and it was hot, not warm. That really surprised us, as it hasnt been the case on other lines we have sailed with. Thumbs up for HAL! I am starting to understand how the HAL fans feel about this line. We enjoyed the ham and cheese omelets, english muffins, fresh fruit, and juice. The little jar of red raspberry preserves was outstanding. It was almost as good as mine. We hadnt planned on getting off the ship in Cabo as we have been there so many times. But since my husband only had 1 pair of long pants for the trip, we had to. I went down to the Queens lounge to pick up our tender numbers. We were given # 38 and they were only on # 21. I went back to the room to put on sunscreen, as it was suppose to get into the low 90s that day. Grabbed a hat and my sunglasses, and we were off to the Queens lounge to wait for our number to be called. They were only on # 28 when we got back. A few minutes after we sat down, a lady came up to us and asked if we would like to switch numbers with her. Her friend wasnt feeling well and had gone back up to the room for a bit. Her number was 31 and was just being called, so we said yes and thanked her. In all our previous cruises we had never tendered, so it was somewhat exciting to see how this would work. The water was pretty calm so we didnt have the problem of getting on, as Ive read so much about. The only thing I dont like about them is there isnt any open windows and it was really hot in there. We arrived at the dock and so began the quest for a pair of long pants. I thought we would find them fast and be back on the ship for an afternoon by the pool. How wrong I was about that. LOL The front desk had suggested that we go to Puerto Paraiso Mall, which is about a 10 minute walk from the dock. They said that they would have the most selection. It is a beautiful mall and the air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat. We stopped in the first shop that had mens wear and asked if they had long pants. By the look on the womans face, you would have thought we were martians asking to be taken to her leader. LOL We finally got out of her that they didnt carry any and we left. This mall is a womans dream. At least 75 percent of the shops are womens clothes!! The other 24 percent are assorted shops of household goods, pharmacies, and souvenir shops. The other 1 percent is mens wear. We finally found the other mens store and they had a pair of pants that were OK but nothing special. But since this was all we could find, we thought we might as well get them. We asked the price and I nearly fell over when she told us $210 U.S.!!! I laughed and looked at my hubby and said, Your suit pants will work fine for another day. He agreed, as he would never spend that much on a pair of pants either. We left the mall and started back toward the ship. As we walked through the town, we looked for something that might resemble a pair of slacks or Dockers. Everywhere you look, you see men in long pants. Im not sure where they buy these at because we couldnt find any. Maybe we will have better luck in Mazatlan tomorrow. This quest for the pants had been going on for over 3 hours. It was really hot by then. All I wanted to do was get back on the ship and take a nice swim in the pool, while drinking something strong that would come with a paper umbrella. I loved the fact that as you get back to where the tenders are waiting, HAL has cold water and lemonade waiting for you. Just another one of the little touches that is slowly making me become a HAL fan. When we got back to the ship, I wasnt feeling really well. I thought it was hunger so off to the Lido we went. Had a few bites of a salad and the feeling got worse. I went back to the room to lie down for a while. I think the heat had gotten to me. After an hour, I was feeling better and went down to the aft pool. As I walked out and all I saw was&..Big, Burly, Bears everywhere!! Now before you think that HAL has added a zoo to the ship, let me explain. These bears were Chumleys Bears, which is a gay mens group of large men. There had to be close to 150 of them. They seemed to take over the entire aft pool. At first look, they were a little intimidating as there was so many of them. But myself, being the shy wallflower that I am, I just walked right over and plopped myself down in a lounge chair. After reading these boards, I had decided that no group was going to keep me out of anything. These guys were a lot of fun. My only complaint was that a few of them seemed to feel the need to shove their lifestyle in everyones face. I dont want to see gay or straight people grabbing each other or playing tonsil hockey. JMHO Spent a little time getting some sun and hanging out in the pool when it became too hot. Funny story that happened by the pool that day: One of the Bears chair back had broke and one of his friends was trying to fix it for him. He kept on trying and couldnt get it fixed and was starting to get frustrated. He finally said in a really loud voice, Where the heck are the lesbians when you need them? A couple of women sitting off to the side raised their hands and said Were over here, what do you need? Everyone by the pool started howling with laughter. Went back to the room later and took a nap. That hot Mexican sun can really zap you. We went to dinner about 8:00. We had asked Charlie the night before if we could come sooner than 8:30 that night. Our 3 Superstars had to be in the Queens Lounge by 9:15 and we didnt want them to be late. Charlie was fantastic!! He flew us through dinner and we were able to get there on time. We even got front row seats to root our 3 favorites on. The missing tablemates still havent shown up. The competition had 18 people in it. The cruise director Jimmy played the Simon part, the female lead singer from the shows played Paula, and the guy who handles all the stage shows was Randy. Forgive me as Ive forgotten their names. It was a whole lot of fun to watch. The comments and critiques made by the judges were funny. Just as the previous night, some were great and some were not. After all had sung, the judges had to pick the top 5 to move on to the next round. We were really hoping that Patty, Dru, and Jackie would all make it. After a few minutes, they announced the top 5. PATTY MADE IT!! We were sad that all 3 hadnt made it but at least we had 1 to root for during the next round. Afterwards we went to the disco as it was all requests night. Had a great time dancing, then spent a little time in the casino. I lost at slots and Willie won at craps, so it all worked out evenly. We called it an early evening as we had to get up for our shore excursion at 7:00 the next morning. Took our nightly stroll on the promenade and went back to our room. Hung our breakfast order on door and were soon asleep on that fabulous HAL mattress. Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!! Tuesday 10/25~Mazatlan Up at 7:00 and had breakfast delivered at 7:30. It was delicious and hot as usual. No tendering today so getting off the ship went very fast. The weather was a warm 88 degrees. We had booked Randis Happy Horses a few months before. I had found this excursion on the CC board and it was a really good choice. Dru, Rita, Patty, Willie, and myself would be riding and Tony would go and wait for us at Victors. Shirley (Wandering Winos) would be riding with her group too. Randi was waiting for us at 8:30 and took us to the boats, which would take us to Stone Island. It is a place that takes you back in time. Not the hustle and bustle of the big city but life in a much simpler time. We arrived at Stone Island and a tractor pulling an open seating area, took us through the town and up to where we would be getting on our horses. Randi is a wonderful and interesting woman with a great sense of humor. She told us the history of Stone Island and the people who lived there. We finally arrived where the horses are. They asked you if you were an experienced rider or not and they gave you the right horse for you ability. The horses are beautiful and very well taken care of. I was given a horse called Pelican. He is also known by his nickname Snacker, which became very apparent as the ride went on. We started out and rode through beautiful plantations and ended up on the beach. This is not a nose-to-tail type of ride. The only thing that Randi asks is that you keep the group in site. My horse was slow and was always in the very back of the group on the first half of the ride. But that didnt bother me as I was enjoying the scenery. You ride down the beach on the waters edge. Some of the group were very good riders and were galloping down the beach. Others were just walking along slowly. Willie looked like a professional gaucho on his horse. And Patty rode like she had been doing this all her life. Note to potential women riders: Wear a good supportive or sports bra. You will definitely need it!! LOL When you get to a certain spot on the beach, you stop and hand your camera to one of the guides. They take your picture with the water as the background. It is a wonderful memento of a great ride. But for me the fun part of the ride was just beginning. My slow, pokey horse must have decided that he had had enough of this heat and wanted to get back to the cool of the shade trees. A couple of horses took off galloping and you would have thought that someone put a firecracker in my horses behind. We were off like a bolt of lighting!! I was hanging on for dear life and bouncing up and down on that darn horse. I finally was able to stop him. He kept on trying to run again but I had had enough of that for the day. One of the other woman riders caught up to me and said what a wonderful rider I was to be able to gallop like that. Little did she know!!! LOL We got back to where we would leave the horses and it was a little difficult to get down from that horse. Thank goodness for the guides that help you down. It felt like I was walking like I had been riding for days. We walked slowly over to Victors restaurant, which is right on the beach. What a great place this is! Randi shows you which 2 tables she has reserved for you. There are vendors all around and Randi will tell you which ones she can vouch for. If any of them start to bother you, Randi takes care of them. I bought a beautiful pair of turquoise earrings for $16. Tony and Patty both got Henna tattoos, which last about 2 weeks. The guy who applied them did a wonderful job. Patty also picked up a few necklaces for her daughter. Rita and Dru bought the cutest little bear carved out of Ironwood for the person who was taking care of their dog back home. If you are ever there, order the garlic shrimp. They are to die for!! If you part of a large group, order the platter. It has garlic and fried shrimp, BBQ ribs, and a whole grilled fish, which I think was Dorado (mahi). The food was great and the beers are cold. You stay at Victors for about and hour and a half. You can swim in the ocean, take a walk along the beach, or take a nap in one of the hammocks. All too soon it was time to leave. Another tractor ride and then on to the little boats to go back to the terminal. If you are ever in Mazatlan, treat yourself to a day with Randis Happy Horses. It is terrific and you wont be disappointed. By the terminal, there are all sorts of shops. We continued the quest for the long pants. Not a pair to be found anywhere. What do quys wear with all those shirts that the vendors were selling? We could have gone into town and looked some more but we were tired. Got back on the ship and went out to the aft pool for a while and then back to the room for nap. Im really starting to like this afternoon nap thing. We had everyone over to our room for cocktails and hors doeuvres at 7:00. We ordered cheese and smoked salmon from room service. It was the perfect couple of items to tide you over until dinner. Phil, Jackie, Rob, and Marty all went to Senor Frogs that day and we loved hearing about their adventure. Charlie had told us last night that we could come at 8:00 for dinner instead of 8:30 for the rest of the cruise. It made it nicer not to have to rush through dinner to get to a show. It was another wonderful meal with great service by Charlie. And the missing tablemates still havent shown up. Cant figure this one out yet. We went to the 10:30 show of Whyte. This is a musical tribute to the Beatles. It is performed by two brothers, Alan and Harry White, ages 20 and 21. They were quite good. They dressed in outfits like the early Beatles and played guitars from the 1960s to make a wonderful visual effect. With the age group of the audience, it was one big sing along. Afterward we stopped in the disco to get our daily dose of DJ Melis. It was Night Fever night and they played hits from the 70 and 80s. We all danced a lot that night, which was amazing after the horseback riding that day. LOL We ended the night with our usual Promenade stroll and went back to our room. Sitting on our bed was a towel elephant. He was really cute and we put him up on a shelf for the rest of the cruise. I had called that afternoon and asked if I could get Eggs Benedict through room service as it is not on the menu. They told me to just write it in. So I filled out our breakfast order and hung it on the door. After the days activities, that HAL mattress felt even better than is usually did. What a memorable day in Mazatlan!! Wednesday 10/26~Puerto Vallarta Today was our 20th wedding anniversary. We awoke to room service knocking on the door at 10:00. We had overslept and Im going to blame it on that fabulous HAL mattress. We had a romantic breakfast on the balcony. My Eggs Benedict were delicious. Starting out the day like this is something I recommend to everyone. It is so much nicer than heading up to the Lido or dining room. The food always arrived hot and on time. I had made reservations at 1:30 for 2 couples massages at the Krystal Resort a few months ahead of time. I had found out about this place on CC also. PV time is one hour LATER than the ships time. They ask you to keep your watch on ships time. We went down to the tenders and got right on as there wasnt any line. The temperature today was 92. Rob came with us as he and Tony were planning on going parasailing before the massages. Rob had already been to the Krystal before and knew the short cut. We walked and it took us about 5-7 minutes. It is an older resort that was probably very high-end about 10 years ago. It is well taken care of and the pools are beautiful. There is a main one with a bar and loud music. Over by the spa there is another one, which is much quieter. Tony and Rob went down to the beach to find the guy who Rob had heard about. He was in front of the hotel next door. The two of them tried to talk Willie, Patty, and myself into doing it also but that was a big fat chance. We watched them from the safety of our lounge chairs. LOL They said it was fantastic and very peaceful and quiet up there. It looked like fun but its not something I would ever do. If Im going to be up in the air, I want to be in a plane. The two of them loved it and would do it again. The cost was $40 each. We checked in with the spa and they made us wait a few minutes, as our rooms werent ready yet. We had booked 2 rooms so all four of us could get our massages at the same time. The rooms are very clean and there is soft, soothing music playing. There is a beautiful stained glass window that lets in just enough light. I had requested that women do the massages. They were very professional and had magical hands. We all agreed that it was one of the best massages we had ever received. It lasted 75 minutes and cost only $30. We tipped our girls $10 each and they were worth every penny of it. If my husband could have, he would have taken his masseuse, whos name was Perla, home with him. LOL Afterwards we spent some time by the pool. Make sure to bring your own towel, as they dont supply them. We still were on the long pants quest for Willie and today would be the day we would find them. Where the tenders leave you off, there is a Wal-Mart right across the street!! We walked over from the Krystal but I would take a cab if I had to do it again. My legs felt like rubber and I was so relaxed after the massage that it seemed like a really long walk. The air conditioning was a welcome relief as we walked through the doors to Wal-Mart. It was great to look at all the different items they have in theirs. It was funny to see the prices in pesos, which made everything look like it cost hundreds of dollars. But we were on a mission so off to the mens department we went. Their selection was decent and we found a pair of pants that were perfect. YIPPEE!!! The quest was over and we could go back to the ship. Once on board, we stopped at the Lido for a quick bite and then back to the room for a little siesta. My husband is starting to wonder if I have a thing going with that HAL mattress. LOL We had 8:00 dinner reservations for four at the Pinnacle that night. But since Patty had made it to the semi-finals of Superstar, we had called earlier to have it changed to 6:45. I had requested a window table and Michael the Maitre d showed us to our table. It was perfect as you could see the lights from PV and also the lights from another ship in port. From everything I had read on the boards, I was expecting to be wowed. I have to say that I wasnt that impressed with the service or the food. Both my husband and myself have been in the restaurant business for over 25 years so I feel we do have some knowledge in this area. As for the service, he didnt take the womens order first. This is just common etiquette. Also, not once did any of the food we ordered, get delivered to the person who had ordered it. We were constantly switching plates. The food was OK but nothing special. I think they should call the crab cakes nuggets instead as they are so small. The filet wasnt that great either. It had a mushy feel and taste to it. We had a couple of different desserts. I had the crème brulee, which was so-so. Willie had the volcano cake and thought it was good. But Tony ordered what we all felt was the winner of the night. He ordered the Near Baked Alaska, which is made with Cherry Garcia ice cream, covered in meringue, and smothered in flambEd bing cherries. This dinner was a gift from our TA. If we had paid for it, I would have been truly disappointed. We all felt the food in the dining room was just as good or better. And the service we got from Charlie was far superior to what we received in the Pinnacle. I know that everyone seems to love this place but it is something that we probably would not do again. JMHO We left and went to the Queens Lounge for Superstar. We arrived early to make sure we could get a good seat. We met the rest of our group there and asked if the missing tablemates had shown up that night. They hadnt. We were starting to wonder if the word had gotten around the ship about our group. LOL The show was a lot of fun. Patty looked fabulous and sang For Once In My Life beautifully. The other 4 were Julius, David, Melissa, and Vicki. Julius was a crack up. Not that good of a singer, more of a screamer. David had a beautiful voice and did a great job singing Spanish Eyes. Melissa sang I Will Survive and knocked it out of the ballpark. Vicki sang some country song, which was funny as Jimmy had already made the comment the night before that he didnt like country music. The wait for the decision was nerve racking. They finally announced the winner and Patty didnt make it. The 3 finalists would be David, Melissa, and Vicki. Oh well, as Patty said It would just free up our next two sea days. LOL Afterwards we went to the 10:30 late night comedy show in the Vista Lounge starring Mike Robinson. He was a ventriloquist and was pretty funny. The Filipino crew show was right after that. We didnt stay for all of it. What we saw of it, it was very good and the crew is quite talented. Our Martini Bar bartender, Bong, was the MC of the show. Remember that name, as there are more adventures with him to come. We had wanted to check out the Piano Bar since we boarded the ship. Last year when we had sailed on RCIs Explorer of the Seas, we had gone to the Schooner Bar, which is their version of a piano bar. We really enjoyed it and spent most of our nights there, as the disco was overrun with spring break kids. Kory Simon is the man who tickles the ivories nightly in the Piano Bar on the Oosterdam. He is quite talented and is very funny too. A couple of our roll call people were there and we had a lot of fun singing along. All too soon it was time to leave and we took our nightly Promenade Stroll. I highly recommend this romantic idea for anyone sailing as a couple. We would walk hand-in-hand singing our favorite songs. Im sure who was ever watching the security cameras had a good laugh every night watching us. Back at the room, we were surprised with a towel dog on our bed. He was so cute and we placed him on the couch for the rest of the cruise. Filled in our breakfast order, hung it on the door and we were soon sound asleep on that cloud-like HAL mattress. It was a wonderful 20th Anniversary!! Thursday 10/27~Sea Day I love sea days!! For us, the ship is always the destination and the places it goes is just an added bonus. We slept in and breakfast was delivered at 9:30. It still amazes me how they could cook it, get it up to my room, and it would still be hot. It was a beautiful morning and we loved watching the ocean. At 11:15 we went to the Crows Nest for some Team Trivia. We came in second again. Looks like we are going to have to buy that HAL coffee mug ourselves. LOL Tony entered the Blackjack tournament, which had qualifying rounds from 11:30 to 2:30. He was in the top three for quite a while. But by the end, other players passed him and he ended up in 10th place. They only took the top 7. I went out to the pool with Patty about 12:15 and we met Jackie and Phil. The weather was perfect, not too hot. We grabbed a lounge chair and settled in for a couple of hours in the sun. At 1:15, they had 2 guys do ice carvings by the pool. It is totally amazing what they can make out of a big chunk of ice. They just kept chiseling away and before long you could see the finished product. One of them made an Indian Chief with a full headdress and the other was a beautiful sailfish. What an incredible talent! At 1:30, it was Wet and Wacky pool games. I had just gotten my lunch from the Lido and brought it out to enjoy while watching the fun and games. Well, they needed 2 more women for one of the teams and Patty said Come on, lets do it. It sounded like silly fun and so up our hands went and we were in. My lunch would have to wait. LOL They had 2 teams of 6, 3 men and 3 women on each one. We named our team Wang Wang after my favorite drink and the other team was called Rehab which was self-explanatory. Obviously, two totally different types of players. LOL The first game was the famous passing the orange under the chin. You had to line up boy/girl and pass it all the way down the team line and back again. Now we have all played this game at some time in our lives. But playing it in a bathing suit brings it to a whole different level. If your orange slips, it can have all kinds of hilarious results. Ill let you imagination run wild with this one. Our team came in second but we had the crowd roaring with laughter. The second game was passing the hula hoop while holding hands. We lined up holding hands. You had to get it over your head, step through it, and get it to the next person without letting go of each others hands. We did this one very well and came in first. It was all tied up at one a piece!! The third game was synchronized swimming. They gave us one minute to come up with a routine. Team Rehab went first and their entry into the water was very good. Their routine was OK but nothing outstanding. Our turn was next and our entry wasnt as good as theirs. But our routine was very good. Even the guys looked very graceful. We came in second, which I think was because of our entry. The score was now 2 to 1, in favor of team rehab. The last one was swimming with a ship between your legs. They had a blow-up ship that was about 16 inches long. You had to put this between your thighs, dive into the water, swim the pool back and forth, and then pass it off to the next player. Sounds so much easier than it is! I was the second one in line for our team. The hand off was smooth and I put it between my thighs and dove it. As soon as I hit the water, the ship shot out into the air like a rocket! After getting it back in position, I was laughing so hard that it was hard to keep swimming. Our team came in second and we lost to Team Rehab. But we did win a key chain and they gave us a yummy rum punch drink. It was a lot of fun and we made the DVD that you can buy at the end of the cruise. Im not sure if that is a good thing though. LOL At 3:30, it was off to Martini class with Bong and our entire group went. Bong is wonderful and makes this class a lot of fun. Or maybe it was just the martinis that made it seem that way. LOL They charge $20 to take this class but it was worth it in drinks and entertainment. This was the second of 3 classes. Some of our group made the first one but I didnt. After this class, I wish I had. The three we tasted were a Green Apple, a Blue Glacier Drop, and a Chocolate martini. They all were great and you get a full martini glass of each! Bong mentioned that his last class had shown up wearing their bathrobes to the graduation class. He said it was funny and something he would remember. I guess he forgot which group he was talking to as that was like the gauntlet being thrown in front of us. LOL Our minds started racing and we came up with a better idea. But youll have to wait until tomorrows installment to see what that was. After the class, I stopped by the front desk to buy my cruise lottery tickets. It is $10 for one or $20 for 3 chances. If you win, it is a free Caribbean cruise for two!!! Not a bad pay off if you win, which I didnt. But the dream kept me going until they announced the winner at 10 pm on Friday night. We went back to our room to get ready for the last formal night. It was early but I wanted to see the show Escape at 6:30 in the Vista Lounge before dinner. Willie stayed in the room and finished the book he was reading. What a fabulous show!! Lots of music from the 70s and 80s. The two lead singers were very good but just didnt have the romantic chemistry between them that they were trying to portray. But the singing and dancing was entertaining. I would see it again if I had the chance. I went back to the room afterwards to get Willie and we went down to have formal pictures taken. They turned out really well and we ended up buying one on Friday. We always buy one of the formal night ones for a special souvenir. Just before Willie and I showed up at the dinner table, guess who finally showed up? The famous missing tablemates!! Phil said they just sort of stood by the table and stared. After the 2nd night they hadnt shown up, we had moved Jackie and Phil to our table permanently. They just kept staring so Phil got up and talked with them. He explained to them that since they hadnt shown up, we figured they had made other arrangements and had moved another couple to our table. Charlie then came over and showed them to another table. And I missed the whole darn thing!! All I know about them was that is was two women. I still cant believe that they would show up after not being there for 6 nights. They hadnt even come in once to say hello or say that they would be eating somewhere else on any given night. By their manners, I would say we didnt miss much with these two. It was steak & lobster night in the dining room. All of us had been looking forward to this all week long. We had warned Charlie the night before that we would be partaking of more than just one lobster each. He didnt fail us!! I had 3 and they were very good, not over done or mushy. But Tony was the winner that night with 10 lobsters, 3 escargots, soup, salad, and his usual 3 desserts. But it was also Baked Alaska night and he had some of that too. LOL The steak was about the size of a hockey puck and tasted like one too. It was a disappointment not to have the Baked Alaska parade through the dining room. I know some people dislike it but for me its a tradition that is part of the cruise. They had it for the 5:30 seating but for the leisure seating, it was just brought to the table by your waiter. We left the dining room and went to the Queens Lounge for the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game at 9:45. The place was packed to the rafters! Im not why they didnt hold this in the Vista Lounge as it could hold more people. The second showing of Escape had gotten over around 9:30 and it would have been open. We only stayed for a few minutes. It was standing room only and it was just too crowded and hot in there. But heres a funny story about one of the couples on stage. It was the oldest couple and they had been married for over 60 years. The question they asked the woman was What is his favorite kind of condiment? She answered Ketchup. They then brought the man out and asked him the same question. His answer was&&&. TROJANS!!!! He obviously hadnt heard the question correctly and thought they had said condoms. The whole place erupted in laughter and the cruise director Jimmy was speechless. The look on the wifes face was priceless!! We left and went to the Piano Bar but it was packed, so it was off to the Disco to see DJ Melis. That night was called Dance Through The Decades and it was music that started in the 50s and went through the 80s. We grabbed our usual booth and had a great time that night. The Dessert Extravaganza was that night from 10:15 until 11:30. We were all so full from dinner that only Patty went and brought back some goodies for us. The chocolate covered strawberries were very good. They tasted like they had just been picked that morning. Willie and I went over again to try and see Kory in the Piano Bar at 11:30 but the place was still packed. He is so much fun that people go there and just stay for the evening. We went back to the disco and stayed until the wee hours of the morning. When we left, we went on a secret mission around the ship to get things for our surprise for Bong and the martini class tomorrow. We had a lot of fun and laughs doing this. Holding our treasures in our hands, we made our nightly stroll around the Promenade. It was a little windy and cool that night. We saw 2 other people that night, which was a first. Maybe they were security keeping an eye on us. LOL Back at the room, we had a towel monkey hanging from one of the pictures. We had seen Rita and Drus days before. Their room steward whos name was DaDing, kept adding new items to it every time he was in their room. Rita and Dru added items to it too. It was the cutest thing by the time the cruise ended. We filled out our breakfast order, hung it on the door, and headed off to dream land on our dream mattress. Looking forward to our last sea day tomorrow!! Friday 10/28~Sea Day I cant believe that this cruise is almost over. We had our breakfast delivered at 9:30. It was almost bittersweet eating it. I am really going to miss this morning ritual when I get home. We had planned on going to the disembarkation talk in the Vista Lounge at 10:30 but decided to skip it. We knew that they would be showing it on TV later that day and we could watch it then. We had some time to kill so we started packing. Its hard to believe that this cruise is almost over. We had a bunch of poker players in our group so we decided to have a Texas Hold Em game in our room at noon. Tony went down to the casino and got rolls of quarters for each of us. It was a $10 buy in. We had a lot of fun. Most of the group were very good players but Im not. I had to use a cheat sheet so I would know what hand would beat another. LOL But when the game was over, I came out $1 ahead so I guess I didnt do so badly. At 1:15, it was time to get ready for our 2:00 martini class and our surprise for Bong. We had decided to come to the class dressed in TOGAS!! Im not sure which one of us came up with this idea. Each of us had gotten king size sheets from our room stewards. It was really funny trying to explain to Djoko what I needed these for. I dont think he understood the toga thing but he got them for us anyway. Rob and Marty decided not to join us for this adventure. Willie and I had borrowed some fern fronds from some flower arrangements the night before. Jackie and Phil had gotten some too on their secret mission. Jackie made Phil a glorious crown with them. She made a beautiful crown for herself out of some paper streamers that had been hanging in the disco. She also made earrings and a necklace out of the little chocolates they leave on your bed. Phil also scored on some plastic grapes from a display somewhere. The two of them looked spectacular!! The boys got dressed in our room and the girls went to Tony and Pattys room to get dressed. Im not sure what went on in their room but we had a lot of laughs in ours. None of us had ever been to a toga party before and trying to get those things on was hilarious. Patty decided that she wanted her toga to be a little different so she used the cloth shower curtain as hers. After lots of wrapping, tying, and safety pinning, we went over to the boys room. They looked fabulous!! Tony had made himself a medallion necklace out of one of my chocolates. I had brought double-sided poster tape with me to hang some door decorations. This came in quite handy to attach the ferns to Willie, Tony, and Drus head. LOL We were all ready so off to the class we went. What a sight the 8 of us were!! We heard people say, I didnt read about a toga party in the bulletin. Others asked us where the party was being held. But the best one was the 2 sweet little old ladies who asked us, Which one of you got married? It was all we could do not to totally crack up. I had nametags left over from the CC get together. We all made up names and put them on. Heres a small sample of some of the names: Trojan Troy, Caesar Salad, Goddess of Mammories, and Philicious. For those of you who havent been on this ship, the Martini Bar is right across from the front desk. The looks on the girls faces as we passed by was priceless! We came up to the bar and sat down on our stools. I thought Bong was going to fall on the floor laughing!! He looked at us and said, You win!! I have to admit that those outfits beat anything Ive ever seen. Willie had arranged with the ships photographer to be at the Martini Bar to take pictures at 1:45. He showed up right on time. He took pictures of each couple and a group one on the staircase. The group one turned out really good and I bought it for my cruise scrapbook. By this time, we were starting to draw a crowd. Word must have gotten out about the crazy people at the Martini Bar. Even the cruise director Jimmy stopped by. Quite a few people stopped to take pictures. The 3 martini drinks Bong taught us were a Candy Apple Cosmopolitan, a Kiwi Drop, and an Espresso Martini. All 3 were very tasty. Our buddy Bong was nice enough to make sure he refilled our glasses with the extra ones he had made. After the class we all went up to the Lido and got some goodies to bring back to our room. We had paninis, sub sandwiches, pizza, cookies, and veges with some dip. We hadnt eaten any lunch and we were all were starving, which is very hard to do on a cruise. To see all these people wearing togas and carrying trays of food through the ship had be to quite funny. The reason we had everyone back to our room was Willie was going to hook up our digital camera through the TV and show the pictures we had taken of everyone during the cruise. Rob and Marty joined us there. We had a great time!! We all came up with funny comments about each of the pictures. Some of the pictures were quite funny. Nothing better than taking someones picture when they are least expecting it. LOL After everyone left, Willie and I finished our packing. I think I hate doing that more than leaving the ship. I can never fit all that stuff back in the same suitcases. Afterwards we went down to the shops. I bought myself a DAM SHIPS t-shirt. I like to plan ahead and Ill need that for our group cruise next October. We also bought some booze to take home as the prices were just to good to pass up. We then went over to the photo gallery. I have a system about pictures. During the week, I find ours and put them all together in the same spot. Then, on the last night we sit down and go over all of them and decide which ones we want. I find that we get a better price with the package deals than if we buy them one at a time. Purchases in hand, we went back to the room to get ready for our last dinner together with our wonderful group. Oh, I forgot something!! At 4:00 was the finals for the Oosterdam Superstar. We didnt go as we were having the party in our room at that time. But the one we had been hoping would win did. It was David!! His voice was very good, smooth, and velvety. We were very happy that the judges recognized that and picked him. Before dinner, I took the time and filled out our comment card. I made sure that I let them know that I didnt care for this test run of Leisure Dining. I had made sure it didnt affect our table but I dont want them to change from the traditional dining. It was the reason we chose HAL over all the other choices out there. I know a lot of you reading this review feel the same way as I do about it. At 8:00, we arrived in the dining room. It was a great dinner and Charlie gave us his usual superior service. We tipped him extra for being so good all week. Between the wine packages and TA wine gifts that needed to be finished, we had a very good time. LOL Everyone exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. We each said a little something about what this cruise and our new friends meant to us. Rita, Dru, Willie, and I are already booked for the CC group cruise in Oct.06. Our goal is to get the rest of the group to book it also. After dinner we all went to see DJ Melis one last time in the disco. Tonights theme was rock it till we dock it. From 10:30 to 11:30, it was Karaoke so we tried the Piano Bar. The place was packed again so we went to the casino for one last shot at lady luck. Lady luck shot us down!! The slot machines were like a vacuumed cleaner; sucked it all up and nothing came back out. LOL We went back to the disco for a couple of dances. I also wanted to find our cocktail server Arin and give him a little something extra. He had taken really good care of our group. One more dance and then we left. So much for rock till we dock! LOL With tonight being our last night on the ship, we strolled twice around the Promenade. It was a very cool and windy night and the sea was quite choppy. I noticed when we went down for dinner that there were little holders hanging by the elevators filled with empty barf bags. This was the first time Id ever seen that and we have sailed during a hurricane once. It must be just another wonderful HAL touch. All too soon it was time to go back to the room. I was hoping to get one last towel animal but no luck. The funny thing about that was I had looked in the stool under the vanity earlier in the week. There were 4 towel animals stored in there. Im not sure why Djoko decided to only give us three. But he had been wonderful all week long so we have no complaints. We tipped him extra also. No breakfast form to fill out as we all had decided to meet for breakfast in the dining room at 7:30. Stood out on the balcony for a few minutes not wanting to let the night end. Tomorrow and reality would come soon enough. Finally, I could hear that fabulous HAL mattress calling my name and I came back inside. Next: Breakfast, disembarkation, and final thoughts Saturday 10/29 Since we had to be up so early, we had asked for a wake-up call to our room. When that phone rang, reality started to set in. Our cruise would be ending in just a few hours. It was at that time that I wished it had been a 10 day cruise or that we had booked a back-to-back. It had all seemed to fly by so fast. It was sunny and warm in San Diego that morning. All I could think about was how lucky the people who would be getting on the ship were. The sailaway party is much more fun when the weather is nice. Took a quick shower and packed up the last of our carryons. We met the rest of the group in front of the Vista Dining room. The Maitre d asked how many of us there were and we said 10. By the look on his face, I knew there would be a problem. He said that we would have to be sat at two different tables. I explained that we all wanted to sit at the same table and he said that would be impossible. We were shown to 2 tables, which happened to right next to the table we had eaten dinner at for the entire cruise. It was EMPTY!! I asked why we couldnt sit at that one and the guy said that it wasnt available. I said it looked like it was. He said that it wasnt set for breakfast. I said that it looked like it was set with all the same stuff as the one they wanted to seat us at. By this time Phil was starting to get mad at the absurdity of all this and said he would be right back. Im not sure what he said to the Maitre d' but when he came back, we were sat at the table for 10. Way to go Phil!! It was wonderful to be able to sit all together at our table for one last time. Service was good although it wasnt our Charlie. He must have had the morning off or was working somewhere else on the ship. The food was good but I was disappointed not to see Eggs Benedict on the menu. I had really wanted to have one last order before I left the ship. When we were done with breakfast, we stopped outside the Vista Lounge and took a couple of group pictures. We all hugged and said our good-byes. Willie and I went back to our room to wait. I love this about HAL!! They let you wait in your room until your number is called. Every other cruise line we have sailed with makes you go to a lounge or somewhere to wait. Just one more little touch that has made me a true HAL fan now!! All too soon our number was called and it was time to disembark. It went very smooth and fast. The only thing that was weird was when we went through immigration, they never looked at our passports!! They just took our form and sent us on our way. If this is how they handle security in our ports, I think they better step up their game a lot. It was a short cab ride back to the airport. Jackie and Phil were flying out also, so we sat and talked while we waited for our flights. The flight home was smooth and we soon arrived in rainy Oregon. What a change from what we had just experienced the last 7 days!! But we do have another cruise to look forward to. We left the ship on 10/29 and in one year, on the same date, we will be getting on the Westerdam for our group cruise. Final Thoughts: This was our first HAL cruise. I had researched HAL quite a bit before we booked. I had heard all the things about this being an old persons cruise line. Nothing could be farther from the truth!! It was a nice mix of ages, with a lot of baby boomers on it. We saw very few kids and the couple we did see, were very well behaved. The pictures in the brochure or online dont do this ship justice. I had thought by the pictures that the color scheme was a little loud and obnoxious. But seeing them in person, they are really quite beautiful. The artwork around the ship is gorgeous. So many beautiful statues and I loved the benches with the pads on them. And the paintings are breathtaking and very well done. It adds so much more to the cruise to be surrounded by these things. I loved the elevators that are on the outside at midship. It was always fun to see outside instead of looking at the doors. LOL The teak lounge chairs on the promenade are a great place to watch the ocean go by. Those reclining chairs in the Crows Nest are to die for. What a wonderful place to relax, read, or take a nap. The service we encountered for the most part was very good. Everyone was friendly, personable, and always smiling. They all seemed to like their jobs. Being in the restaurant business, I know how demanding some guests can be. At all times was the staff professional, even when they werent treated with the respect that they deserved. After reading the boards for almost a year, I had my doubts that HAL could really be as good as everyone had said. I was wrong and I am now a HAL fan!! What really made this cruise special were the new friends we made. It would have been a good cruise but meeting them made it outstanding. We had so much fun, laughs, and good times with our crazy group. I have wonderful memories of all of them and I hope that we will all sail together again someday. Big hugs to each and every one of you!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
Just returned from our first cruise yesterday. It was wonderful! We didn't know what to expect, because none of the local agents recommended us going on Holland America. They must not get the same commission rates because we have ... Read More
Just returned from our first cruise yesterday. It was wonderful! We didn't know what to expect, because none of the local agents recommended us going on Holland America. They must not get the same commission rates because we have nothing negative to say! My wife and I are 35 and we were prepared to enter a floating nursing home. not only was this not the case, we "hung out" with a couple who were 10 years younger than us. We also hung out with a couple that were 10 years older than us! It was a blend of all ages. The ship is absolutely immaculate. The service was absolutely perfect! Read carefully the reviews that complain about lack of service, most of them involve the Lido restaurant. Remember that the Lido is a buffet that is basically open all day. People are always in and out and the only real job of the staff is to bus tables. The crew are also extremely friendly, it is impossible to pass one without them checking on your well being! There are tons of bars and lounges throughout the ship to satisfy all tastes. The entertainment was good and offered a wide variety. Embarkation, shore tenders and excursions, and Disembarkation were well organized and a breeze. There were more activities and parts of the ship than one could really take in, even on a 7 day trip! We really enjoyed our trip and would not hesitate to recommend Holland America. If you absolutely have to have a hairy chest contest or a "guess your spouse's buns" contest, you may want to try another line. On the other hand, you could just start your own contest and still get the great Holland America Service and elegance. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
Day One 11/11/2005 Woo..Vacation starts today! My flight was scheduled to leave Oakland at 12:45pm, the actual departure was at 1:15pm due late plane arrival. I thought that laptop was broken after it didn't turn on after getting ... Read More
Day One 11/11/2005 Woo..Vacation starts today! My flight was scheduled to leave Oakland at 12:45pm, the actual departure was at 1:15pm due late plane arrival. I thought that laptop was broken after it didn't turn on after getting through security and spent most of time waiting for flight talking with HP on the cell phone. I couldn't get the laptop to work and was seriously bummed out since I had hauled it with me to use the wireless onboard the ship. It was a very full flight, but nicely uneventful. I arrived in San Diego at 2:30pm. One of the handles on my luggage was broken, but Southwest has a luggage policy that does not include handles, so I was out of luck. I watched the Holiday Inn On the Bay shuttle leave the airport as I arrived at the shuttle stop. It was only a 15 minute wait for the next shuttle, so no big deal. The Holiday Inn On the Bay is very nice. It doesn't feel like a Holiday Inn. I've heard people complain that the rooms are small, but mine was quite large and very comfortable. I really appreciated having individual thermostats in every room and a completely non-smoking floor that included the balconies. If you stay here, get a South Tower room 8th floor or above to have the best view of the cruise line terminal and ships. I had a room on the 6th floor and my view was of a lovely Palm tree that blocked the view of a Celebrity ship. Still, with a view of a palm tree, I'm not about to complain. The hotel offers free wireless in the lobby and the rooms. My laptop decided to start working again, (yeay!), so I was able to take advantage of a reasonably fast connection. I had a decent sized balcony with two chairs and a table. The hotel was very quiet and I didn't hear any other hotel guests, well, until 2am when a male/female couple just below me came home drunk. They proceeded to have a very loud conversation with their balcony door open. They finally went to sleep (or passed out) around 3am. With the balcony doors closed, I didn't hear any traffic noise or train noise. Planes started taking off around 7am, but the noise was fairly muffled. I did hear the Oosterdam dock around 6am, but that was a happy noise! The hotel has two restaurants and one deli type store with breakfast, cold beverages, coffee and espresso drinks and sandwiches that's open from 6am to 7pm. Seaport village is an easy 15 minute walk from the hotel. It's a pretty walk right by the water and Seaport village is a cute shopping area. I walked down to Seaport village and wandered around for bit. Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up and out to Anthony's Seafood Grotto for dinner. I got to Anthony's around 6:00pm and was told that there was a 40 minute wait for the window seat that I had requested. No problem, I had my book and I love people watching. Even though I'm traveling and dining solo, I still wanted a window seat. I'm glad that I asked for one as the restaurant is one big open room with multiple rows of tables. I'm claustrophobic and being in the middle of a crowded room would have not been relaxing. 20 minutes later, I was seated at my window table, which was absolutely perfect. I had an inattentive, crabby waitress, who I think was annoyed that I was a solo diner. I ordered a glass of wine (or two), cup of clam chowder (free with coupon from Anthony's website)a salad, grilled red snapper with a baked potato. I also took a piece of cheesecake back to the room with me for a late dessert. The meal was very good with the clam chowder full of clams and very tasty. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly and was very fresh. The only disappointment was the cheesecake, but it may have suffered by being held outside the fridge for 3 hours in my room. By the time I was done with dinner, it was 7:30 and freezing! I had wanted to go for a walk to help settle dinner, but it was too cold! So, I had a luxurious evening doing absolutely nothing productive. ? Day two 11/12/05 - San Diego Happy Birthday to me! I woke up around 7am and lazed around until 8am. From my obstructed view balcony, I saw the bow of the Oosterdam! Woo! With my balcony doors open, I could hear the rising ding Ding DING of the Oosterdam's announcement system. I felt like I was on the ship already! I picked up some yogurt, fruit and a very good Mexican mocha (espresso, chocolate, cinnamon and steamed milk) from the hotel's deli and had breakfast out on the balcony. After breakfast, I wandered down to the Marine time museum and boarded the "Surprise" a tall ship that was the ship n the movie Master and Commander. I also went on the Russian submarine. The sub was very tiny and difficult to move around in as to get from section to section; you had to climb through a small round hatch. I couldn't imagine living on the ship and dealing with the very tight quarters! By the time I was done touring the ships, it was time to board the Oosterdam! I got my bags and walked across the street at 11:00. There was a very short line to get inside the terminal. Be aware that the security checks your documents before they allow you on the pier, before they allow you into the embarkation building and then again when you check in. They really want to make sure that you belong there! They also handed out Norwalk Virus surveys asking if you've had any symptoms of GI Upset or fever over the last 7 days. I hope that people would be honest about their symptoms, but I have my doubts. The terminal is a huge warehouse with a small store selling touristy crap and a bar that had many crew members at it. There are two lines, one for suite passengers and one for non-suite passengers. There are around 20 stations for passengers to check-in, register their credit card for their shipboard account, have their picture taken and get their room key. It was here that I learned that I no longer had the 6:15 dining time I had been expecting and instead had been moved to 5:45pm. I was not happy and was informed, that any dining changes were to be made on the ship that afternoon. I was onboard the ship by 11:45 and dealing with the crowded Lido. It was an absolute zoo with everyone dragging their wheeled carryon's while trying to manage trays of food. I found a quiet table by the pool and enjoyed my first slices of delicious crispy HAL pizza. The special pizza was "California" and it had jalapeño's in it. I love spicy food and this was very good. I had a little pineapple soft serve ice cream with fresh pineapple chunks and strawberry sauce for dessert. I booked my spa treatments and signed up for a series of three yoga classes on sea days at 9am for $33. I also got the thermal suite package for the entire cruise and signed up for internet. If you get the internet package on the first day, you get 20 bonus minutes. The cabins were available at 1:30 and I got my first look at the C-GTY that I booked, I got cabin C-1077. I miss having a balcony, but the cabin is very nice. Best of all, the wife got me some beautiful surprise birthday presents. She got me a dozen long stemmed roses, the "birthday package" that included a HAL mug filled with chocolates, balloons, flowers and a beach towel. HAL left a note that they didn't have any beach towels on the ship, so they gave a credit to my shipboard account instead. My cabin smelled like roses and they were so pretty. I met my cabin steward, Indra Maulana, who was very nice and very invisible. I looked for him after my luggage arrived at 3pm because I had some things I wanted pressed, but I never found him again that evening and only saw him once or twice throughout the week! He was also very pleasant and called me by name the rare occasions when we saw each other. The Maitre D' was available outside the Explorer's Lounge from 1:30 - 4:00pm to deal with any dining issues. There was a HUGE line as many people were upset with the dining changes. HAL eliminated the 6:15 and 8:30 seating, so there was only 5:45 or 8:00pm. Some people who, had requested to be seated together, were now split to different tables and a few groups were split to different seating times! I had been assigned table 312, a table for 6 at 5:45, when I had asked for a 6:15 seating at a table for 10. I looked on the dining room map to try and find my table and table 312 didn't exist! There weren't any tables with number above the 200's. I asked a nearby frazzled steward where my table was located and it turned out that table 312 is also known as table N. Weird. Once I found out that the 6:15 time had been eliminated, I just walked away. There was nothing I could do. It turned out that I had wonderful tablemates and we all entered the dining room at 6:00 every night, just before the doors closed, so the timing change didn't really matter. Sail away was at 5pm and there was a party at the aft deck pool. So, with a margarita in my hand, I waved goodbye to San Diego. A little word about the ship. It's beautiful! There are delightful fresh flowers all over the ship and the art work is exquisite. There are some patches of worn carpet, especially on the edges of the main stairs. The midship elevators also have quite a few scuff marks on the walls, but when you consider the ship sails with 1800 passengers each week, some minor wear and tear is no big deal. The crew is constantly polishing and cleaning something. They re-varnished a large section of railing on the Promenade deck while in San Diego port. The staff is very friendly, always saying hello or good evening. There is some drink pushing, but it's manageable. It's very obvious that some bartenders do NOT like the soda card. I asked for a Diet Coke with a lemon and showed my soda sticker on my room card and the bartender at the Lido bar sighed and rolled his eyes! The passenger next to me and I just looked at each other in amazement. The bartender handed me my fountain soda without the lemon and I asked again for the lemon. He hesitated and I thought he was going to ask me to pay for the lemon slice! He reluctantly slapped a lemon slice in the glass and handed it to me. So far, the only not so great service I received was when I asked for a soda on the first day. Dinner was at 5:45, I got there around 6:00 and there were only two other people at my table for 6. They were traveling with a group of 20 who had tables around where we were sitting. They all work at the same dental office together and travel every couple years as a group. They pretty much adopted me and we hung out together throughout the week. They were all very nice, although I think we drove our waiter nuts because we kept moving to different tables throughout the cruise. :) This is the big advantage to traditional dining for a solo cruiser. If we had had "leisure dining", I never would have met my new friends and would have missed out on getting to know some really wonderful people. Anyway, back to dinner. Our server was BamBang H. Apparently there are four BamBang's on the ship as it is a common name in Indonesia. He was very nice, professional and friendly. He remembered everyone's names and any specific preferences that they had. He also recommended certain dishes or would gently steer people away from dishes that weren't so good that day. For dinner, I had a smoked salmon appetizer, mushroom and spinach salad and grilled mahi-mahi. The dinner was excellent. I ate lots of fish throughout the week and it was all very good. I asked for the Indonesian hot sauce, called Sambal, and while it tasted very good, it smelled awful! BamBang was surprised that I knew about sambal and every evening he made sure to have it available for me. The first night he had to go all the way up to the Lido restaurant to get it! After dinner, I went and saw the show which was very cheesy, but they tried hard. There was also a comedian who played the hardware store employee on the show Home Improvement. I can't remember his name. I thought he was mildly amusing, but there were people absolutely rolling in the aisle. After the show I wandered through the shops, nothing very interesting. I also listened to the Champagne Strings and walked along the Promenade. The ship was really rocking the first night and passengers were falling into the walls. The motion was very significant. Thank goodness for Bonine! Clocks were set ahead one hour at 2am. Day 3 Sunday 11-13-05 At sea There were heavy seas all night long. The head of my bed faced the window, and the ship was rocking from side to side, so it felt like my head was down, then up, then down, then up..all night long. I got used to it quickly though and with those fantastic HAL beds, I was asleep quickly. I had the two beds pushed together to make a queen sized bed and I could easily feel the split where the beds were pushed together. This surprised me as last time the wife and I cruised together on the Zuiderdam, we couldn't feel that split. It didn't bother me though and I slept better on the ship than I have in years. :) Up at 7:00am. Breakfast in the Lido - fruit, muesli, coffee, oj. The Lido wasn't crowded at all and the food stations moved very quickly. I've heard negative things about the coffee, but I thought it was excellent. The creamy muesli with the little pieces of dried fruit in it, was as tasty as I've heard. I now understand what the fuss is all about. :) 9:00 - Yoga class. There were 8 people signed up for the class. Most people had done some yoga before, but there were a few that had never tried it. I take yoga twice a week and found the class to be very basic. However, the rocking of the ship made several of the poses very challenging! 10:15 - Tour of the ship's galley. This was a very popular tour and the line extended past the Explorer's Lounge. It's amazing how many meals are made in such a small space! There were samples of some dishes and a lovely presentation of lunch dishes in the Pinnacle Grill. 11:00 - Well Being Massage and Silk Facial. So relaxing! It wasn't the best massage I've ever had, but it was still very good. The only thing that bothered me was that during the facial, the therapist didn't tell me what she was doing or applying to my skin. I asked her a few times and then just gave up. She also gave some misinformation about skin anatomy and causes of rosacia. She told me that rosacia is caused by the water from the shower hitting your face! I had a really hard time keeping quiet about that one and decided to just tell my dermatologist about it. *grin* 1:00 - Lunch. At the beginning of every station in the Lido, at the entrance to the main dining room and the Pinnacle Grill, at the Lido Grill and in the gym, were automatic hand sanitizer stations. I saw several people using them and I used them frequently throughout the day. There were just as many people who didn't use them and I just kept hoping that they had washed their hands recently. I made a salad from good variety of fresh veggies at the salad bar and then went to the taco bar and added taco meat (a little greasy), beans and guac for a tasty taco salad. I also had to try a small piece of chicken salad in sliced avocados. I got a Diet Coke Can with coke card without an attitude from a soda station set up by the pool. During lunch I sat by the pool and watched some "wacky pool games", such a golf in the pool. It was quite fun. Then I went to the Therapy. Pool and Thermal Suites. Heavenly Sunday night was the first formal night and the Captain's cocktail hour. I wore a floor length backless black dress and most women were wearing floor length dresses. About 20% of men were wearing tuxes the rest in dark suits and ties. 4:45 - I stood in a very long line that went from the door to the Vista lounge in the very front of the ship, all the way back past the Queen's lounge to the midship elevators, to have my picture taken with the Captain. He was very nice and offered me "a wing" to hold onto during the picture. He also shook everyone's hand, which surprised me because of Norwalk. The last time we were on the Zuiderdam, the Captain didn't shake anyone's hands. After a picture with the Captain and two other pictures, I made it into the Vista lounge and the free champagne and hors d'oeuvres of scallops wrapped in bacon, fried shrimp, sausages and other unidentifiable fried nibbles of something. The champagne was quite tasty and glasses were kept full. I had an interesting conversation with a person who identified herself as traveling with her church group. It was only after we had a long conversation about how traveling solo is a great growing experience and how positive thinking can help keep the immune system strong, (she doesn't believe that virus's exist!) that I learned she was a Scientologist. I "came out" as a psychologist and she moved to a different seat soon afterwards. I got a giggle out of that. 5:45 - Dinner. I met my friends at dinner and had a delicious meal of shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, Caesar salad, grilled miso salmon and watermelon pie. I have never ever had such a delicious dessert as the watermelon pie. It was watermelon sorbet with a dark chocolate crust, absolutely amazing. 8:30 - Show. Some dance thing. I don't remember much about it. I came to look at the 8:30 - 9:30 show times as something to do to keep awake until the fun stuff started at 9:30. 9:30 - Karaoke in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was packed and the karaoke was wonderfully awful! There were a few outstanding singers and then there was the rest of us. :) My dental group friends (with much liquid courage) sang a couple numbers, which was great fun. There was one very tall, very powerful woman who sang a Rolling Stones song and she was amazing. Everyone who sang at karaoke was invited to be a part of Oosterdam Superstar, an American Idol type show that started the next night. After Karaoke I walked around the Promenade and enjoyed the warm evening weather before heading to bed. Day 4 Monday 11-14-05 - Cabo San Lucas I was up at 6:30 am with the sunrise. I had put out my room service breakfast order on the door tag the night before and asked for it to be delivered between 7 and 7:30am. At 7:25, I called to find out where my breakfast was. They said it would be right there. 10 minutes later it arrived. I think that they forgot about it! I had a cold toasted bagel with cream cheese, non-fat yogurt, banana, coffee and OJ. It would have been good if the bagel had actually been warm, but oh well. The coffee was hot and that was really the important part. The tour was scheduled to leave at 8am and they ask people to be in the Vista Lounge ten minutes before the tour is scheduled to start, so I ate quickly and ran to the Vista Lounge. Actual departure time was at 8:30am, so I could have had time to enjoy a more calm breakfast. I did the Chileno Bay Sail and Snorkel excursion and it was fantastic. We boarded a catamaran for a sail past Lover's Beach and The Arch, before heading to Chileno Bay for snorkeling. It's about an hour ride on the catamaran and it went so quickly because the water and the tropical scenery was absolutely lovely. They provided fruit (apples and bananas) and juice on board for breakfast if you'd like. They also provided masks, fins and snorkels. I brought antibacterial wipes to clean everything and shared with others who appreciated it. The snorkeling was great! Saw thousands of fish in schools and wandering around solo. They weren't as colorful as the fish in the Caribbean, but I did see lots of yellow fish, purple striped fish and ones with blue tipped fins. I also saw a big eel and what looked catfish with big whiskers by their mouths. I swam from the boat to the shore and walked on the beach for awhile. It felt so wonderful to walk on the soft sand with the warm sun and the sound of the waves hitting the beach. We had 1.5 hours to swim and enjoy the beach. The crew was professional and kept a careful watch on the swimmers from the boat and a dingy. There was a water slide from the boat to use if desired and many people did desire! They warned us about jellyfish, but no one saw any and no one got stung. The water temp was 81 degrees and the air temp was 92 degrees. It couldn't have been any better. After swimming, back on board you got a fresh water shower from a hose to rinse off the salt. There were packaged snacks (cheese-n-crackers, chips, and cookies), sodas, and an open bar with alcoholic drinks. The rum punch was very tasty. They put ice in the drinks unless requested otherwise. I saw a lot of people getting ice in their drinks, I didn't, but I'm overly cautious. On the trip back they played '50s dance music, with lots of Elvis. Many people, myself included, danced back to the dock. It was quite fun. I also saw a friend of a friend from Berkeley California on the catamaran. So she and I chatted on the trip back. Back to the ship for a swim in the Therapy Pool. I love being on the ship during port days. The ship is so quiet and uncrowded. I had the entire therapy pool to myself. I had a shower in the gym's showers. I was disappointed with the gym showers. I had heard that they were very good with lots of water pressure, but there was no shower gel or shampoo in the containers and the water wasn't any more powerful than in the cabins. There were lots of fresh towels and pleasant surroundings though. Lunch - I was trying to eat healthy on this cruise, but the cheeseburger and fries beat out a salad today. After all that swimming, I was very hungry. They do have the best cheeseburgers and the fries were nice and crispy. I tendered back to shore for some shopping. I was only passenger on the tender, with three crew members, so the tender driver went very fast and bounced across the wake. It was very fun. It's only about a 7 minute tender from the ship to the shore, even with a full tender. So it's really no big deal. I sat in the fold down crew seats by the doors on every tender and that minimized any feelings of claustrophobia or over heating. Those tenders do get very hot and stuffy in the sun as the windows don't open. The tenders are actually lifeboats, so of course they don't want lifeboats with open windows! On shore, there were very aggressive vendors outside the port area. They walked up to me and kept walking with me, even after I'd said No Thank you, several times. Perhaps being a female walking alone made them more aggressive than they would be if I was with someone or male, I'm not sure. I wanted to walk downtown, but I gave up out of annoyance. I walked back to the port and bought a couple of things from the "Arts and Craft's Market" by the pier where they were less demanding. There was water and lemonade provided by HAL at the tender dock, which was very appreciated as the weather was very hot. After I got back to the ship, I fed my Bingo addiction at 4:15. I almost won! I had a bingo, but I noticed it after the next number was called. The rules are that if you have a bingo, you have to call it out before the next number is read. Bummer. Everyone had to be onboard by 5:30pm and sail away was at 6:00pm. Dinner - We were all a little sunburned, but very happy from a good day on shore. Most of my tablemates spent the day shopping in Cabo and had some beautiful new bracelets and rings to wear. They said that the prices weren't that much different from the US, so I didn't feel bad for not going into town. I had tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar (crunchy tomatoes), california green salad with goat cheese and mandarin oranges, grouper with black bean sauce and spinach, and peaches flambe for dessert. The salads were all crisp and fresh. The fish was excellent. The show that night was actually good! It was a Magic Show by a group called, DV8 Their website is http://www.dv8realitymagic.com/ and if you have a chance to see them on a ship or in Las Vegas, I highly recommend them. I couldn't figure out how they did any of their tricks and I usually can. They were very funny and entertaining as well. Oosterdam Superstars was right after the show. Again, it was very packed. I sat with my dental group friends and we picked out our favorites. There were many people eliminated that night, but there were several very good singers with high energy. It was a very fun show. If you go to this, get there early to get a good seat as it fills up quickly. After the Superstars show, it was country music dance night in the Northern Lights Disco. The disco was very crowded and there were lots of people dancing. The crew also taught some line dances, which was very fun. I had another early morning the next day, so I just danced a few dances and then headed off to that wonderful HAL bed. Speaking of which, I can't remember what nights there were, but I did get towel animals! I got a lobster, an elephant and a swan. They were all very cute and I loved seeing them perched on my bed. I saved them all by putting them on the couch, so I had a little zoo by the end of the cruise. Day 5 Tuesday 11-15-05 - Mazatlan 7:00am wakeup time. Why it is so much easier to wake up when on vacation? I went to the Lido for breakfast after yesterday's bad room service breakfast experience. My healthy eating plan continued to deteriorate. I had 2 eggs, over easy, bacon, english muffin, fruit, OJ and coffee. I walked a mile on the Promenade to work off breakfast. 3 laps around = one mile. There were a few people jogging on deck. I didn't see any signs stating No Jogging. The deck was wet, so I was concerned about people slipping, but I guess the runners didn’t have any problems. By 8:30am, the ship had cleared immigration and I was off to find my group for horseback riding. The ship docked in Mazatlan, which made disembarkation very easy, no tenders! You do have to take a tram through the industrial port to the tourist shopping mall, but it is a less than three minute ride. We docked right behind a Princess ship. I'm completely biased, but I thought the Oosterdam was much nicer looking. The Princess ship looked like a big box, while the Oosterdam looks like an elegant ship. Once in the overwhelming tourist mall, I saw a big pink sign with Randi's Happy Horses on it, being held up by Randi herself. She already had a group around her, including EastBay Don and his wife Susan. It was great to meet other Cruise Critic members. We waited for the rest of the riders and chatted for a few minutes. There were only nine riders and we left the port area by 9:00am. We took two open air taxi's to the pier. I know that there are very lovely areas of Mazatlan, but I certainly didn’t see it. The area around the port is very crowded, poor and industrial. The traffic is positively frightening; with large trucks going very fast and lots of horns honking. We got to the dock where we would meet the water taxi over to Stone Island. The area by the dock is a working fish market, so I feel like we got a glimpse into real life Mazatlan. This is not your typical nice varnished tourist area. This is the real deal. There were lots of pelicans munching on fish that the fishermen were hauling out of their boats. There was a distinct odor of fishies, but that’s what you expect at a fish market. We took the water taxi, just across the inlet to Stone Island. You do have to wear lifejackets in the very low riding boat, but that was just fine with me. We got a great view of the Pacifico Brewing company (my favorite beer even in the states) as well as a pretty picture of the Oosterdam and the Princess ship. Once on Stone Island (which really isn’t an island, but a peninsula),we got on a cart type thing that was pulled by a tractor. Tractor’s and 4x4’s seem to be the most common ways that people get around on Stone Island. Again, the poverty was striking. Randi mentioned that the average daily wage was only $15. We went to Tony and Maria’s house, Randi’s guides for the horseback riding portion of the excursion, and were able to drop off any bags that we had that we didn’t want to take on the horses. I kept my wallet and my camera, but left a bag with my sunscreen and some other stuff in it, at the house. After the ride, all of our stuff was waiting for us. There was also a bathroom available for those of us who needed it. Just don’t expect cushy American style houses or bathrooms. The horses certainly are happy and well fed. It’s very obvious that Randi knows what she’s talking about in regards to a lot of thing, but especially the horses. They are very well taken care of and there are “lazy” horses (as Tony puts it) and more energetic horses, depending on your skill level. I’ve done a lot of riding in my life and was so hoping to get a horse with some spunk. I rode Blanco (Whitey) and he was wonderful! He was so responsive that just a little squeeze with my legs and a little cluck with my voice and he stepped right out. We had a momentary battle at first as he wanted to know if I really was in charge or not, (fences are not for scraping humans off of your back) but after that first bit of resistance, he and I were a good team. There were about 3 or 4 of us who were experienced riders and the rest who were a bit more uncertain, so we ended up with two groups. The ride was spectacular. The three of us trotted, cantered and galloped our way down the beach and had our own ride. Blanco liked cantering through the water and it was wonderful to go splashing through the ocean with the spray being thrown up by the horse’s hooves. It was like we were the only people out on the beach. There are no buildings or hotels or vendors or anything except coconut groves and the long stretch of empty beach. It was an experience that was beyond words. I cannot say enough good things about this day. Riding with Randi was the excursion I had been most looking forward to and it certainly was the one that I will remember with the most fondness. My only suggestion is that if you go on this ride, is to wear long pants. I knew this, yet I made the very wrong decision to wear shorts. Do Not Wear Shorts. By the end of the nearly 2 hour ride, I could feel two spots on the back of my thighs and on my calves were sore. I knew I was going to be unhappy later, but I just had to have one more gallop along the sand. Well, I ended up with two hand sized abrasions on each thigh and about a palm sized abrasion on each calf, where the skin had been rubbed completely off. This was seriously painful. I now understand what saddle sores are. One week later, I still have them, and they make sitting very interesting. My skirts and dresses stick to the sores and when I move, rip the skin off again. So, again, wear long pants. You can always change into shorts at Victor’s. Speaking of which, Victor's has amazingly good garlic shrimp with onion rings, cabbage salad and rice for $11 plus tip. It’s a lot of food for one person, but I ate it all, well, except for a few pieces of shrimp that I gave to Shadow, the very cute gray cat. Shadow got my 1st two shrimp, but to Anna, the owner’s, dismay. She was really upset that I fed Shadow first, but he was certainly in need of food more than I was. I’m not sure how much the beers are, as I only had one and Randi buys the first drink. There were several vendors that stopped by, Randi lets you know which ones are “family” to Tony and Maria and Anna and she assists with bartering. I bought a pretty silver bracelet for $12 and also got a few hair braids. After everyone had eaten and a couple of people went swimming and Don, Susan and I pushed a guy’s truck out of the sand, (long story), we reversed our route and went back to the ship. We were back to tourist mall (i.e. hell) by 2:00pm. Some people went into the town of Mazatlan for shopping, others stayed in the touristy areas and others went back to the ship. Just outside of the tourist area, there’s a man with a fresh fruit juice stand. It you go to Mazatlan, do stop at this guys stand. He makes the most delicious watermelon juice that I have ever had. It’s like drinking nectar. It’s very refreshing and at $1 is certainly less expensive than the $3.50 I saw for one beer! I wandered around the tourist mall, but didn’t really see anything interesting. After I got back to the ship, I swam in the Therapy Pool to relax those tense horse back riding muscles. I also had just a smidge of pistachio ice cream with some chocolate sauce on top. Mm..so good. Then I headed back to the cabin and watched a movie called "The Perfect Man" and fell asleep for a nice nap until sail away at 5:30pm. We left early because everyone was onboard. Tuesday night was informal night and that seemed to cause some confusion with my tablemates. People really weren’t quite sure how to dress, so there was a range from casual to nearly formal. Several people took taxi tours to Old Mazatlan and reported that it was very beautiful there. They also said that the taxi drivers told them that only foreigners live in Old Mazatlan. They saw the cliff divers and said that they were amazing. We had a nice time chatting about our day. I had baby shrimp with brandy and pineapple sauce (can’t get enough shrimp), chicken gumbo (very good!), green salad with ranch dressing, perch with asparagus and new potatoes with dill, bananas foster. People at my table had discovered that they could order more than one choice off the menu, so there were many soup choices, entree choices and dessert choices! The show was “Whyte”, two brothers from England who sang Beatles songs. Well, I left after the first song. They were very out of tune and I'm very sensitive to pitch, so I left. Other people thought that they were wonderful, so other’s perception may vary greatly from mine. The abrasions on my legs were throbbing by then, so I went to the infirmary where the nurse said “ouch” and gave me antibiotic ointment to put on them. No charge for the visit or the ointment. I went back to my cabin, put on the comply, soft HAL robe and watched the end of Perfect Man that I didn't see before when I fell asleep. Day 6 Wednesday 11-16-05 - Las Caletas Hideaway 6:30 wake up time. I seriously considered sleeping in and skipping the trip as my abrasions hurt and I was tired. However, Puerto Vallarta called, so I got up. I went to the Lido for breakfast and was walking towards the healthy cereal and fruit, when I passed the Belgian waffle station. The smell of freshly made waffles was irresistible. So I had crispy, light, perfectly made waffles, fruit and lots of coffee. Tendering for Las Caletas started at 7:45 and by 8:00 I was on shore. PV Adventure tours were right at the pier and we boarded their boat very quickly. They already had people who booked the tour independently from HAL, from hotels and the Carnival Pride, onboard so as soon as the people from the Oosterdam were onboard, we were off. It was a 45 minute trip to Las Caletas. We saw wild black spotted dolphins jumping in the water. They were beautiful! Las Caletas is a little cove with a small sand beach with beach chairs, a restaurant, several bars, hammocks, a spa with very reasonably priced massages, ($25 for 30 minutes, $50 for one hour) kayaking, snorkeling, yoga, a nature walk, a little monkey and macaws. While a group headed out for snorkeling, I made myself very comfortable in a beach chair with a good book and some fresh fruit. I had every intention of doing yoga, but that didn't happen as the beach chair grabbed me and held on. ? The snorkeling crew didn't last long as there were many big jellyfish in the water. EastBay Don and his wife, Susan, snorkeled for awhile. Then Susan and I went out on a kayak and did very well! They didn't give us any instructions on how to kayak, but we figured it out very quickly. There were two rather large gentlemen who flipped their kayak and then swamped it with water, but everyone else seemed to do quite well. While Susan and I were on the kayak, Don went to a cooking class to learn how to make paella. Then he and I and 40 other people (too many people!), went on a nature walk up in the hills behind the beach. There were several large spiders, causing one inebriated woman to scream in a most annoying matter. Have I mentioned that there’s an open bar included in the excursion? This woman started drinking when she got on the island and didn’t stop until we were docked back in PV. She was really obnoxious. There were several mutterings amongst the rest of us about how to keep her quiet and away from the bar. The guide, Kimi, was very knowledgeable about the plants and animals in the area and stopped several times to point out insects and interesting plants. He really cares about the environment and is very proud of the beauty that exists in the tropical forests of Mexico. I would have liked to have walked with him further, but it was time for lunch. Lunch was a buffet including salad, the paella that Don made ;) , rice, beans, ribs, chicken and tortillas that were made right there. They also had dessert of fruit, flan, cheesecake, rice pudding and cookies. After lunch there was more beach time and just enjoying the beautiful view of the area. All too soon, we had to leave Las Caletas. I do wish that we had more time there. We left around 1:30 PV time and it really was too short a day. It was a lovely ride back, enjoying the mountains and the fresh air. The crew also provided entertainment, but I just enjoyed looking at the scenery. We were back at the pier by 3:00pm and I was back on the Oosterdam by 3:30. I'd gotten a little too much sun and the spa was having a milk wrap with massage special. The proteins in milk help to sooth sunburned skin, even better than aloe does. I was sure that there wouldn’t be any appointments available, but I decided to try anyway. To my happy surprise, there was a 4:30 appointment open! Woo! I went to the Therapy Pool and the Steam room as had become ritual after a day in port. Anna, the same massage therapist that I had before, found me in the Thermal Suite and took me to the therapy room. I was massaged and wrapped and generally pampered, which all felt incredibly wonderful. In fact, I was so relaxed that after my massage, i went back to my room and napped for awhile. :) The Oosterdam was in port until 10:00pm in PV, so they have a BBQ on deck for dinner. I decided to go to the Pinnacle Grill instead. I had a wonderful waiter named Petre. I had originally been seated in the middle of the restaurant, which is an awful spot for a solo diner. I asked to be re-seated by the rail overlooking the atrium and was moved very quickly. This was a much more comfortable spot. Petre was very nice, chatting with me for a bit and stopping by frequently to see if there was anything that I needed. He did the whole presentation of the raw meat (which I find rather amusing) and both of us agreed that 22 ounces of meat is like ½ a cow! *grin* I had the crab cake starter, petite fillet with grilled asparagus, and the scrumptious volcano cake for dessert. My filet was probably the best steak I've had in a very long time. It was cooked medium rare, just as I had requested and was soooo good. The volcano cake is a warm dark chocolate soufflé and it comes with whip cream that you spoon onto the soufflé and it melts into the chocolate and is just to die for. After I waddled out of dinner, it was time for the second round of Oosterdam Superstars. The field was narrowed down even further to three finalists. The crowd was wild and we all sang along. The show was a ventriloquist who apparently had been on the Alaska cruises as most of his jokes were about Alaska. I made it through about 20 minutes before heading to the piano bar to sing along with Kory. Kory is absolutely hysterical. He’s a great singer and everyone in the piano bar sings along. He has a sarcastic dry humor and a great wit. He gets most offended if people walk out of the lounge while he is singing and he isn’t shy about letting people know about his offense! The only way to leave while he’s singing, without offending him, is to dance out of the lounge. Several people in my group danced out, only to dance back in again a few moments later. The Indonesian crew show was very good, but it started at 11:30pm and by midnight, I was falling asleep. With all of the excitement of the day, it was so nice to retreat to a quiet, soothingly dark cabin and slip into the soft sheets of the HAL bed. Thursday 11-17-05 Sea Day I love how relaxing sea days are. I woke up around 8:00 and had breakfast in the Lido. I had heard negative things about the scrambled eggs, so I had to give them a try myself. They are soft scrambled, which is how I like them, so I was very happy. I also had bacon (they don’t scrimp on the serving sizes of the bacon, I always had more than I could eat), english muffin, fruit, coffee At 9:00 was the 2nd of three yoga classes. It was nice and I added some different poses to stretch muscles that were stiff. 10:00 –I walked a mile or so around the Promenade deck. There seemed to be more people out walking than in past days. I went to the aft pool and tried to read, but it got way too windy. I couldn’t even hold my book upright. So, I moved to the Lido pool and around 11:00 they opened the cover that they can close over the pool. I thought this was perfect. There was a slight breeze to keep things cool and fresh and lots of sunlight. They had a brats and sauerkraut buffet set out for lunch. I thought that was an odd choice considering that we were in Mexico. A Mexican buffet would have been much more appropriate. However, I saw lots of people chowing down on big sausages and even bigger hand made pretzels, so the buffet was popular. Not my thing though. I had a taco salad, tomato with shrimp salad in it and a couple warm gooey chocolate chip cookies After lunch I went to the Therapy Pool and Thermal suite. I actually fell asleep on one of the heated ceramic chairs in the thermal suite, so I figured I should head back to the cabin for a nap. I slept right through to dinner. Oh, I did watch a little bit of the movie “March of the Penguins”, but I had to turn it off because it was so sad! No one told me how sad that movie is. I was all nice and warm and being pampered constantly and they are showing these little penguins freezing their tails off in the ice and snow! I felt so bad for the poor little guys. Back to the happy stuff. This was the 2nd formal night and people didn’t seem to dress up as much. I wore an ankle length dress and saw many women in cocktail length dresses and men in dark suits. There were very few tuxes. I had the fresh fruit cocktail with apple “foam”, cream of asparagus soup (a taste of the strawberry soup which was amazing), surf-n-turf with two tiny lobster tails and baked Alaska. They did the fun baked Alaska march and everyone waved their napkins in the air. It’s silly, but fun. ? After dinner was a Jeopardy type show. The staff person kept getting really irritated at the audience because we kept giving out the answers. The questions were mostly about old TV shows or music questions. I thought it was fun and even more fun due to the staff member’s annoyance. I went to the Newlywed, not-so-Newlywed show. They had a couple who had been married for 7 months, 26 years and 51 years! The older couple was so cute and the guy was hysterically funny without meaning to be. The people in the audience were in stitches. Showtime – I don’t remember was this was. The only thing I wrote down about it in my notes was “lame”. I do have to give HAL some credit, it is very difficult to find entertainment that people in their 20's and people in their 90's like. I just found that the choreography to be frantic, even during slow songs and the song choice was lacking. But again, this is very subjective and other people absolutely loved the shows. I went to the piano bar and played Name that Tune with Kory. He’s always great. Friday 11-18-05 Sea Day At 5:00am there was noise in my cabin like someone scraping paint, from the side of the ship right below my head, or like a giant rat chewing on metal grating. I called the front desk and they wanted to send someone to my room to listen to it. I asked them to just see if there was anything below me that would explain the noise, otherwise forget it. I really didn’t want to have to wake up and be fully functional at 5:00am I slept intermittently until 7:30 when I gave up and got up. The noise seemed to stop soon after I got up, either that or I didn’t hear it once I was away from the bed. I went up to the Lido for breakfast - muesli, banana, coffee, juice. There were whales breaching on the starboard side of the ship, so I got a great show with my breakfast. I wanted to see more whales, so I walked a mile around the deck and just had a beautiful view of the whales and the ocean. 9:00 – yoga. This was the 3rd day of yoga and I was bored with doing the same routine. It would have been nice if the instructor had varied it, even a little bit. I just added my own stuff and it was fine. 10:00 - hot tub at aft deck. The weather was much cooler than it had been in days past. It was still too windy at the aft pool so, I found a spot on deck 10 that was sheltered from the wind. It was nice and warm out of the wind. For lunch they had an Indonesian buffet at the lido pool. It was very good and similar to Thai food. I like spicy food and this was only mildly spicy, but they did have that tasty sambal available. During lunch there was a build a boat contest at Lido pool. There were some very creative entries! Someone built a boat out of styrofoam food containers and water bottles that held 10 full cans of coke! Highly impressive. There was also a pretty ship made out of half a scooped out water melon with a pineapple sail. After lunch was my ritual time in the T. Pool and Thermal suite. I was so sad to think that this would be my last day enjoying the special treats on the Oosterdam. To completely bum myself out, I went back to the cabin and packed :( But, then there was another round of bingo to cheer me up. Dinner: This was the first meal that wasn't that good. I had a crab and Artichoke dip (very good), conch chowder (tasted like cambels vegetable soup), greek salad (greek because it had a couple drops of feta and one olive) rare tuna steak (not good at all), pineapple flambé (with only 4 small chunks of canned pineapple). My tuna tasted off and a tablemate had a steak that was obviously spoiled. It’s too bad because the food had been very good up to this point. The Jeopardy-type show followed dinner and again, was a lot of fun. Part of what was so funny was that one of my dental group friends had a large rubber rat that he brought up to the podium with him. The crabby cruise staff wasn’t quite sure what to do with that and it threw her off her usual routine. The rat had fun and actually won the game! The show was probably the best so far. It combined the three contracted acts, the magic act, the ventriloquist and Whyte (who I still didn’t care for) and they each did 15 minute segments. That was just about enough. The best part was the magicians who are beyond excellent. Final bingo game followed the show as well as the Win a Cruise for 2 lottery. Someone won over $3k in bingo and two cruises were won. Sadly, I didn’t win either of them, but it was still fun to play. There’s just that anticipation of maybe..possibly..I could win..maybe? :D Oosterdam Superstars was at 11:30 and the Vista Lounge was packed with people. It was the three finalists and they were all SO very good, in their own unique ways. I was voting for a young guy from Oakland California who did his final song with his shirt off! He had a star tattoo around his nipple and that threw the judges completely off. It was so funny! All of them gave a very good performance and had really amazing talent. Sadly, the Oakland guy didn’t win, but a man who had a very good voice and good stage presence did win. So, I guess it was fair. After the show, I went to the piano bar for the final sing a long with Kory, before one last night’s sleep on the Oosterdam. *sniffle* Saturday 11-19-05 Disembarkation The ship docked at 6:00am. My cabin window faced the San Diego pier, so when I opened my blinds in the morning, I got a very close view of the docking. It was a little unnerving to see the pier come so close, but the captain did an excellent job of docking. I got up at 7:00am and went to Lido for breakfast. It wasn’t anymore crowded than at a sea day. I had seen many Room Service tags on people’s doors the night before, so I suspect that room service was very busy that morning. I had pancakes (fluffy and light), bacon, an egg over easy, fruit, coffee juice. I left my cabin at 8:00am to give steward access to room. I had left an envelope with an extra tip in it as he was so wonderful to me. He saw me later in the hallway and thanked me profusely for the tip. He seemed so overly thankful, that I really wondered just how much of the automatic tip they get each week. While waiting for my disembarkation number to be called, I walked a mile and watched all the port day activities. They sure do carry a lot of stuff on and off the ship! I had been told that my number and color would be called around 10:00am. Well, at 9:00, my number and color was announced, so with great regret, I left the ship. I had been seriously considering just staying on board, but alas, reason set in and I had to leave. I easily found my luggage and was out of terminal by 9:15. I walked across the street and caught the free Holiday Inn shuttle to airport. I got to the airport and was checked in and at my gate by 10:00am. My flight wasn’t until 1:00, so I had plenty of time to think about the fantastic week I had just had. I was still feeling like I was on the ship for about four days after I got off of it! The first two days were the worst and I kept walking sideways in our house! It’s pretty funny. Now I only feel wavy when I’m sitting still. So, if you’ve actually read this whole thing, I hope that you enjoyed it. I hadn’t quite expected it to get so long, but so it goes. I welcome questions and comments. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
I was somewhat weary of taking a cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday, but wanted to take my mother away for the holiday. Holland America offered a very reasonable rate for two, single-occupancy, inside state rooms, so I booked them. I ... Read More
I was somewhat weary of taking a cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday, but wanted to take my mother away for the holiday. Holland America offered a very reasonable rate for two, single-occupancy, inside state rooms, so I booked them. I have been on two Holland America cruises in the past. The first on the Zaandam, which I thought was a magnificent ship perfectly suited to my needs. And another on the Maasdam, which while not as nice as the Zaandam, still suited me very well. I am a fairly young man (about to turn 40) but prefer quieter, more elegant cruises. I enjoy cruising with older folks, as I find that it makes for a much more relaxing experience. This is why I like Holland America, and it's this quieter, and more elegant style of cruising I had come to expect from this cruise line. I found the boarding procedures greatly improved from my previous Holland America cruises. We were able to drive up to the terminal, drop our bags, and then park the car; a great convenience when travelling with my 6X year old mother. We got into the terminal at about 2pm, and there were virtually no lines, and no wait to board. I had even forgotten my Tuxedo, had it overnighted to the ship, and it was waiting for me right inside the terminal's front door; very impressive! We immediately made our way to our rooms, which were clean and all ready for occupancy. My luggage had already been delivered, my mother's arrived about an hour later. The rooms were the first disappointment. They were by far the smallest of any cruise ship I have ever been on, including NCL. I was of course a bit disappointed that we hadn't gotten an upgrade. My Mother, however, rightly reminded me that we were the last people who would be upgraded from the smallest rooms, because we were two single-occupancy guests. Who was more perfect to put into these small rooms? I agreed, and quickly got over my disappointment. Just be fairly warned that these are not the standard inside and outside staterooms on HAL's older ships, they are much, much smaller and I really can't imagine a couple fitting comfortably in them. (I took lots of pictures of the rooms, which I will also post on this site.) Other than their size, the rooms are fairly well-appointed. However, the TVs are not flat panel, and there were no bathtubs in the bathroom. The new bedding program was very nice, and the beds were the most comfortable I've been on at sea. I had a problem with the room not being cool enough on the first night at sea. Admittedly, I like to keep my room very cold. Although I had the thermostat at its coolest, the room was still oo warm. I called the front desk and although they couldn't address the a/c immediately they did send me a huge floor fan (took up half the room) which was adequate for the first night. The next morning they had done something that made my room much much cooler...well done. The ship was not gaudy as some have described it. All of the Holland America ships incorporate different levels of creative and stylish design. I remember the Zaandam having beautifully designed chairs and lamps in their lounges. On the Oosterdam the color schemes have changed a bit, but the general aesthetic of high-style and quality furnishings and appointments hasn't slipped. I will say, however, that I think the new layout is quite hodgepodge compared with some of the older ships. The spaces seemed more open and inviting on the Zaandam and Maasdam. Here the space felt somewhat circuitous...like it was just one little room after the other. The flow was definitely adversely affected. My main complaint regarding the Oosterdam was the quality of the service. If there was ever an argument to be made against compulsory tipping my experience on Holland America is it. When I travelled on Zaandam and Maasdam, tipping was done voluntarily (or actually I should say that it was not expected.) However, when someone does a good job of serving you, it's natural to want to thank them with a tip. My cabin stewards and dining stewards on those two older ships were absolutely top notch, and they earned themselves very generous tips. Holland America's new compulsory tipping (it's added automatically to your stateroom bill) has had the very obvious effect of creating a generally indifferent service staff. Service in the dining room was awful. We'd order a soda, or glass of wine and would wait a 1/2 hour...no beverage. We'd ask someone else where our drink was....and they'd disappear. By the time it was brought to us, dinner was over. This happened almost every night. Our servers, while nice, were just not very good at their jobs. One of our dinner companions was diabetic. Every night she'd give clear instructions as to how she'd need her dinner served (no sauce, etc.) Every night she'd have to send back her meal, because her instructions were completely missed. These are things that dining room staffs need to be expected to handle with aplomb...they simply could not. My room steward, again while a very nice fellow, was simply poorly trained. Every day I asked for laundry bags, every day they were not left in the room. Lot's of little things were missed every day, which left me in the position of having to track him down and make special requests....it just shouldn't be that way. Holland America's service, which in my opinion was its strongest, differentiating characteristic has clearly slipped. My final complaint was about the programming. Again, while the cruise director's staff all seemed very nice, they seemed to forget what people come on a cruise for: namely peace and quiet. Why have cruises become another venue for overly loud music and compulsory participation? I enjoyed going to the shows, some of which were fairly good, but the music played before the shows was so inappropriate and loud it made it painful to sit through. -- Dear staff: every venue is not a New York City night club, improved only through the volume of the pounding thump of the bass -- Music -- at all times -- needs to be appropriate for the crowd, and played at a reasonable volume. The shows, while ok, were all over the map, and failed to really get anyone too excited. When will cruise ship show directors realize that bigger, flashier and louder productions won't necessarily get a crowd into their shows... I feel that Holland America is suffering from split personality disorder. It can't decide if it wants to be the classier, quieter, big cruise line, or go after the families and partiers. I'm sure it feels lured by the successes of RCCL, but how will it differentiate itself in the marketplace? I hope they realize that not all younger cruisers (is 39 still younger??) want to be blasted out of their seats with too loud music or be over-programmed. I go on cruises, because I long to get away, sit in a deck chair and read good books. It looks as if this will become more difficult on Holland America Line. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
Hello from Nebraska! As I sit here on New Years Eve, the most rememberable time of 2005 was our cruise to Mexico. This was a special cruise for us, for several reasons. It was our 20th wedding anniversary,we had our son who will be ... Read More
Hello from Nebraska! As I sit here on New Years Eve, the most rememberable time of 2005 was our cruise to Mexico. This was a special cruise for us, for several reasons. It was our 20th wedding anniversary,we had our son who will be graduating from high school, and we went over the Thanksgiving holiday. Arriving in San Diego on a beautiful sunny day, Holland America Reps. were there to greet us and make sure we got on the bus with our luggage. All went smooth at the airport. Embarkation was a breeze, and partly it was because we had all our paperwork filled out online beforehand, and partly because we had a Deluxe Suite, which definitely is worth the amenities. I think it only took about 30mins. and we were on board and to our room. The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship, and we explored the ship while waiting to sail off into the sunset. They had food and drinks available while we waited for the sailoff party. Everything was clean, and the room even smelled clean. We had a bottle of Champagne and a surprise bouquet of a dozen red roses from our friends back home, honoring our anniversary. So of course we had to start celebrating! The cabin is very comfortable for 3 people, and we spent a lot of time on the balcony enjoying the views. The 3 ports we visited were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Our favorite was Cabos. We went horseback riding on the beach, which was a great view, but the poor mexican horses were on the skinny and overroad side. We own horses, so this was a big disappointment to us. The town, is clean and friendly, and easy to get around in. We didn't spend any time in Mazatlan, because we chose the tour of Stone Island...It is a very laid back Mexican village, with a beautiful beach. If you don't like vendors, then you'll be bothered by them on the beach. We spent the whole day there, just relaxing and took a small tour of the village in a horse and cart. Learned a little of the lifestyle of the fishing village, ate some of the local food. It was good. Puerto Vallarta is basically Miami! We saw Wal-Marts, KYC, and lots of American influences. We took the Dune Buggy tour up into the MTs. and it was a very dirty but truly fun trip. Also did some parasailing from the beach. My guys really enjoyed that. Did a little shopping on the boardwalk, but didn't find any real bargains. I'm sure if we spent more time looking we would of found other interesting things to do, but we were tired and went back to the ship early evening. Now for the best part of the cruise. We had arranged beforehand to Renew our Wedding vows. It is something every couple should do on a cruise ship. The ship had all the formalities covered, from the invitations,to the ceremony...which by the way was performed by the Captain himself..John Mercer..who is a very outgoing and pleasant man. To the reception, and even a violinist,with a piano player, in the background. There were 4 couples that nite, and the Captain did each one of the Renewal Vows separately. It was a very romantic ceremony, and very emotional for all of the couples. Our son was there with us and even he was impressed. So take my advice and go for it... Dinner in the Pinnacle grill was spectacular, part of the vows package also. Then the ship presented us with a photo album with photos and a copy of the vows we said, plus a signed certificate from the captain...Very well done Holland America. The food on the ship was always great and presented well. We enjoyed the shows, and attended as many as we could. The teen room must of been a good hangout, since we hardly saw our son the whole trip. He met several kids his age, and they all got along great. He's made some good friends. They always had something going on for them to do in the evenings especially, which my son attended and then talked about it the next day...that's a good sign. There were 400 kids on the cruise and we hardly ever saw any of them...so I think the kids program worked well. As usual, the cruise ended way to soon for me, and then it's back to reality..and doing my own cooking and dishes. The amenities that come with a Deluxe Suite is quite a treat for us, and I won't cruise any other way. The Neptune Lounge just for Suite guests was very handy for many things...including wonderful snacks all the time. The laundry service that comes with it..is very handy to have. The entire cruise was wonderful and a great time to spend with my family. The views of Mexico are breathtaking and even the weather wasn't to bad. Good cruise for all ages,,,by the way we are mid forties...and there were a lot of younger families on this cruise, which I'm sure was because of the thanksgiving holiday. So we were kind of the "older crowd"..so to speak. I could go on and on..but hopefully this will give you an idea of how what the ship Oosterdam has to offer, and a little insight on the Renewal Wedding Vows package...All of it was well worth our money. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful 2006 as you cruise off into the sunset. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
This is our sixth cruise- second on Holland America. I am 54 and travelled with my husband who is 55. Sailed on New Year's Eve cruise out of San Diego. Spent pre-cruise night at Holiday Inn Bayside- nice hotel picked us up from ... Read More
This is our sixth cruise- second on Holland America. I am 54 and travelled with my husband who is 55. Sailed on New Year's Eve cruise out of San Diego. Spent pre-cruise night at Holiday Inn Bayside- nice hotel picked us up from airport within 5 minutes of calling and transferred us to ship next morning. Embarked at about 11.30 am- no waiting in line- we were on board within 5 minutes. Made reservations for Pinnacle for first night- it is only $10 per person and $20 per person for next cruise nights. Had a leisurely lunch at the Lido restaurant and spent time out on Lido deck until announcement to say staterooms were ready- this was about 1 pm. We had stateroom 8064 which is mid-ship and 2 cabins away from elevators. I am a light sleeper and can honestly say heard no noise from elevators. This cabin is very well situated and same size as other staterooms we have had on other cruise lines of this category. Plenty of closet space and bathroom was a good size with small bathtub and mirror cabinet for toiletries. Very comfortable bed. First night dinner in Pinnacle was very good- had fillet mignon which was perfect. Had baked alaska which was ok- nothing special. Service was very good but no better than in Vista dining room. Don't think meal is worth an extra $20- $10 is about right. The food on this cruise was excellent- from the self service Lido to the Dining room. The cruise was fully booked yet there were no lines for the self service stations and we always found a table to sit at. The food in the Vista dining room was excellent as was the service. The open dining worked very well for us- we were on second sitting and went in anytime between 8 pm to 8.45 pm - depending on what was going on and what we felt like doing. Whatever time we went in the service and food were just as good. Spent sea days sunbathing- there were always plenty of loungers available considering there were so many people on the cruise. New Year's Eve was excellent. Most people made the effort to dress up-the dinner was wonderful and from about 11.30 pm free champagne was served. The main celebration was in the Vista lounge where there was live music and a balloon drop at 12. The decorations were a delight- they had gone to a lot of effort to make the ship look extra special. Ports of call were ok- not as nice as Caribbean but that is only my opinion. Went on Whale watching in Puerto Vallarta- made arrangements with local company at dockside- $40 per person for 4 hours and this included free drink and food. Saw plenty of whales and dolphins which was really exciting. Would recommend to anyone. Other ports of call had the usual thing- mostly shopping!! There were some nice beaches though. The entertainment was ok but nothing special- there were two productions put on by cruise singers and dancers, a magician, an impressionist and one night was evening of singing and dancing put on by Filipino crew. The best entertainment for me was the talent show entered by guests on cruise- done like American Idol with a panel consisting of cruise director and 2 other entertainment staff members. The service on this cruise was EXCELLENT. The cabin steward was very good- we never saw him but he always knew when we were not in the cabin to service the room. Never used room service so cannot comment on that. As I have already mentioned, service in the Dining room was very good from the waiters to wine stewards. Disembarkation was also a breeze- you wait in your cabin until you are called. Once we had cleared immigration, we found our luggage very quickly- this is very well organised in colour and number zones. We stayed post cruise night at Holiday Inn on the Bay. This is across the road from the port and all we had to do is wheel our luggage there- took only a few minutes. Though it was only 9 am- they had a room for us and we checked in right away and were free to explore San Diego. The next morning there was a shuttle to the airport. Sailed on the Zuiderdam last november and although it is Oosterdam's sister ship it is not as nice. The Oosterdam is more elegant and the food much nicer. Would recommend this ship to anyone and would definitely sail her again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we ... Read More
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we would not miss our cruise because of storms cancellations or flight delays. I checked into the Hyatt and had a fantastic view of the Navy and cruise ships in the bay. It was only about a 20-minute walk to the cruise ship the next day but we took a taxi to the port and avoided hauling the luggage by foot. The check in process took 45 minutes from when we dropped off our luggage to the time we walked onto the ship. The lady that checked us in was consistently sarcastic and confrontational stating that we should have provided out mariner ID # when we made our reservation and next time I should put a string around my finger. My last name was completely wrong and she blamed it on my travel agent. Finally we boarded, the line kept moving pretty fast. Once on board we had lunch at in the Lido and went to our rooms. I had a Superior Veranda Suite #6100, it was roomy, big balcony, nice bedding, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. I had the Mini Bar manager inventory the fridge and lock it so he would not need to knock on our door everyday chanting mini bar mini bar to see if we drank anything. Our stops were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, & Puerto Vallarta. We all were excited to register for the Canopy tour however it was sold out before everyone even came on board so my friends and I were pretty bummed out. They gave up trying and I checked the tour KIOSK every few hours and when someone cancelled their Canopy Tour and their ticket was for sale again I snatched it up. In Cabo San Lukas we did the Kayak and Snorkel adventure, we kayaked for about ½ mile and came right up to the sea lions&they were very cool and did not mind our curiosity, we then kayaked to lovers beach and rested. At lovers beach there are two sides, the calm side where you can snorkel and the Pacific side that you can look at but stay out of unless you want to be like a ant being washed out to sea & the waves on the Pacific Side were about 20 feet tall and very dangerous, my instincts told me to keep a healthy distance. Snorkeling in the calm side was very cold and uneventful as there were few fish. The Canopy tour in Puerto Vallarta was fantastic, we took a bus from the pier to a boat and then the boat took us to their office. Once at the office we took a truck to the canopy tour location. For about 14 separate (Zip Lines) we were flying sky high from tree to tree&Im afraid of heights but sometimes its good to face your fears&I loved it. At the end we rappelled back to the forest bottom, walked 20 minutes back to camp for the 1hour truck ride back to the pier leaving plenty of time to hit the city for shopping. Mazatlan was interesting, I grabbed a taxi and he took me to town &.there was a market place that was absolutely huge, bustling with the local residence shopping for this & that. There was pork for sale with the pigs head on top of the slabs of meat to let you know it was pork? (I was a vegetarian for a few days after that). Everything was for sale out of tents, on the sidewalk, and indoor warehouse shops. I walked around Mazatlan for about 6 hours breathing in the Diesel fumes and distinct odor of sewage before my headache said its time to go home. I know it may be strange to some people but I wanted to experience Mexico¬ just the shirt & sunglass shop at the end of the pier. The prices for CDs and DVDs were about 1 or 2 dollars. The prices for goods and services near the touristy hotels and the pier are about 2 or 3 times what people pay in the US however if you go where the locals go and can haggle& you can find good buys on everything from a fantastic 75 minute massage or that cool wood carving or porcelain dish you just have to have. Remember your taxi drivers at the pier usually speaks English and can take you to where ever you want just let them know exactly what you want, then haggle and agree over the price of the ride BEFORE you get in and off you go! Back at the ship I took a nap, shook off the headache, and grabbed a bite to eat. The employees on Holland Americas Oosterdam (Filipino and Indonesian) are friendly, helpful, professional, and hard working. The shows were so so and the Filipino Crew Show is always is a hit! The food is fantastic and I soon learned to avoid the long lines, crowding, and searching for a table on the LIDO deck, it was always more pleasant, & relaxing to have a site down meal (Breakfast & Lunch) in the dinning rooms - dressed casual. Dinner in the Vista Dining Room was outstanding, Charlie was our head waiter and he was great. Things are a changing for evening fine dinning&&..The surf and turf are now surf OR turf, & the sirloin strip steak, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, and chicken options at the bottom of the menu have been removed, & the cost of beer and cocktails have really gone up in a very short time. The 10 free minutes of internet access coupon comes with a hidden $4.00 activation fee and you need to negotiate the coupon with the internet manager, if you can find the internet manager that is&&.I say just save yourself the headache and ****throw the coupon away!**** I attended the Cruise Critic meeting and the hotel manager was there to answer any questions, instead of being defensive or making excuses for any faults that the cruise critic members brought up he simply agreed and explained in granular detail why things were the way they were and also gave us info on what cruises will be like in the future. I was shocked and very pleased with his integrity, frankness, and positive attitude. In conclusion, Holland Americas Oosterdam is a fine ship with a fine crew however it is owned by Carnival and is struggling to find its own unique identify. I was informed by a few Holland America employees that they are pressed with budget cuts, its a constant struggle to squeeze bigger and bigger profits out of its passengers with out being seen as just another generic run of the mill cruise line that nickels and dimes its passengers at every turn. Will Holland America maintain its premium status or will Holland Americas fleet be the same as Carnivals ships with a different paint job on the outside? I do not know the answer to this however the one consistent value I see that sets Holland America apart from the other major cruise lines is the noticeable lack of children (God Bless Them!) running around, undisciplined, screaming, unsupervised, and there is also a more mature passenger manifest that replaces the spring break students (God bless them all!) that come with their unique party hearty ambitions. If you're looking for a great value, peace, tranquility, boredom, then Holland America may be just the thing to get you relaxed and ready to take on the world! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap although I might add that we arrived at the pier early, 10:30 a.m. long before the transfer buses from the airport began to appear. There were ample porters and enough staffers to eliminate the long lines however, as usual; there were some individuals who had neglected to complete the pre boarding paperwork prior approaching the agent. As many correspondents have written, this slows the process to a crawl for those just arriving. Our boarding number was called within 5 minutes and we made our way up the gangway greeted by a young Indonesian in a bell hop suit from the 50s. He directed towards the elevator and we made our way to the Lido Deck for a buffet. It wasnt too long before the crowds began to muster and there was a noticeable lack of children and an even more noticeable proliferation of wheel chairs and walkers. The jury is still out as to which is the most difficult to deal with in a buffet line, I tend to opt for the children rather than to watch my youth disappear as I wait behind our most elder statesmen as they load their plates with prunes and oatmeal. (I am not being cruel here, as I am approaching my later years at breakneck speed, I am only commenting that a buffet may not be the answer for them). Our cabin was a mini suite with a very large veranda. Everything was nicely appointed right down to the teak lounge chairs on the balcony. The room had a large whirlpool tub with absolutely no instructions on how to operate (I think it was Italian) and a large stall shower as well. Overall the ship was very clean, not spotless. It showed signs of quick turn around back and fourth to Mexico and I noted from our room that new carpeting was being loaded into the holds along with the baggage and foodstuffs. I gather that they had carpet layers working overnight which, on Holland America is very quiet. By 10 p.m. you could shoot off cannons and not hit a soul! As long as I am on carpeting, as a frequent user of the stairs, they a carpeted in deep blue and all of the landings with a contrasting color making things somewhat difficult with regard to depth perceptions as to the exact location of those last couple of steps&.on the way down! At 4 a.m. on the first night out of San Diego we were all, I mean all, with a fire alarm followed by several announcements from Captain Van Whatshisname and the Cruise Director. Seems they had a bit of a fire somewhere where they incinerate garbage and the fire brigade put it out but not before the computer systems woke everybody onboard. During the following days the ship began to smell a bit like a Hong Kong Dumpster, I trust that the situation was remedied on our return to San Diego. The cuisine in the restaurant was good, certainly not great. One does have to consider than when cooking for 1000 plus individuals at the same time, it is difficult sometimes to conjure up that medium rare steak. The service people were all very good to excellent and were mostly Indonesian with a smattering of Filipinos running the pubs and liquor. The Lido buffet is very good however be prepared for the very slow lines. The room service menu is superb something that I believe goes un-noticed by many patrons on Holland America. The entertainment on the other hand is somewhere between very poor to non existent. Its a must to sit near the door on a Holland America Cruise while attending the show in order to make a quick escape. The Indonesian Crew Show is the only one I would consider sitting through again and I have seen that same one twice. Others have commented on the ports of call and being that we have done similar cruises before; we elected not to participate in the shore excursion programs. We always went ashore and hired a taxi to take us to our favorite digs. Disembarkation was nearly as easy as the departure phase. The night before arrival in San Diego everyone receives a color code to attach to their baggage and then simply wait in your cabin until your color is called&..that is, if you are up for that! I had notified the pursers office on day 1 that I had a commitment in Los Angeles the afternoon after our arrival and when my color was not called in the first three groups, I simply discharged myself and was pleasantly surprised that my baggage color code area was void of other passengers&&I was gone with bag in hand and no crowds. Overall the cruise was a satisfactory experience. I must add that Holland America is changing and that change may not be welcomed by the loyal customers from years gone by. I noticed a marked change in the overall quality from a cruise taken on HA just three years ago although that may be due in part to the relative size of this newer ship Read Less
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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