Sail Date: February 2006
Sailed on Oosterdam 2/18-2/25/06...excellent ship with the most friendly staff and crew that I have come across in forty years of cruising. I asked the Hotel Manager if he gave them all Happy Pills every morning...each and every one of ... Read More
Sailed on Oosterdam 2/18-2/25/06...excellent ship with the most friendly staff and crew that I have come across in forty years of cruising. I asked the Hotel Manager if he gave them all Happy Pills every morning...each and every one of them were always smiling and most helpful. Embarkation was a breeze, at 3:30pm we went from curb to our cabin in five minutes. The ship was clean and neat in all areas. The cabin service was excellent each day with plenty of fresh fruit on the table. The Dining Room and Lido both had excellent food and service. The Pinnacle Grill was a mixed bag...excellent one nite and mediocre another! The service and food were perfect on the second nite of the cruise, but on the fifth nite it was a disaster with poor service and food problems. The chef undercooked the Halibut which was cold and raw in the center then he cooked it again in the microwave oven turning it into rubber...the baked Alaska also was a problem as they left pieces of the paper wrapper on the ice cream inside of the dessert...not acceptable in an upscale dining room with a $20 per person surcharge. The Pinnacle experience did not alter the fact that everything else on this fine ship was excellent. Kudos to DJ Matt and Asst. Cruise Director Adam for outstanding people skills. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only took a few minutes to park and start the boarding process. This went very smoothly and we were in our cabin within 15 minutes. Our first observation was the ship was looking a bit worn. (Passage walls scuffed up, the carpet in places slightly coming apart). The cabin,with a veranda, was adequate size and medium range in its finish. The bathroom had a tub with a shower. The weather was excellent with daytime temps in the 80's and lots of blue sky. We wonder sometimes why we leave the desert this time of year but the weather was better than at home. (low 60's and overcast most the week). The first night we were "comped" into the Pinnacle room because of our platinum AMEX card. I had read various reviews of the Pinnacle and we were anxious to try it. The furnishing of the room were nice but I would say "funky" as the chairs were wrought iron and not really "elegant" and the rest of the room rather plain. The service was very good. I ordered the porterhouse as they really touted their beef. My wife had the scampi. The steak was cooked correctly but tough and not too tasty...I think we get better beef at Costco. The shrimp came with their shells on and after struggling a bit with the shells the waiter came to help my wife, he also struggled but finally torn the shells off and her verdict was, they were "O.K." not great. The appetizer were forgetful...we both forgot what we ordered. The best part was the desert, a chocolate soufflE-like dish that was tasty. We made reservations for the last night in the Pinnacle. The next day I stopped to ask if we could have a table where we sat side by side as we hate yelling across the table and the Pinnacle is quite noisy. I was told first come, first served. What is the point of a reservation? They only have one seating in reality. After thinking about the low quality of the previous dinner and thinking why spend $40 for this I cancelled the next day. I think you are better off to apply this at Ruth's Chris and get a really good steak. We ate in the dining room the rest of the nights and I had one good meal, prime rib. The rest of the dinners were either poor choices on our part or nothing that great to order. My wife ordered veal one night and it was over cooked, tough and had no taste. The potatoes, vegetable etc. with the dinner was not to appealing, like it was prepared much earlier and was dried out or cold. They also had a number of standard items such as vichyssoise "style" soup which they were able to mess up quite handily by adding apple. Getting fancy didn't cut it. The Lido we used for breakfast most mornings and for lunch. I tried their sushi and found it to be unlike any I have ever had and hope never to have again. My wife being Asian refused to eat it after the first taste. The sandwiches they made were good because of really good bread. So that was our take on food. Our room steward Ardi was the best! He was almost clairvoyant to our needs. He was always smiling, cheerful and really a very nice guy. If only we could take him on every cruise with us. The rest of the staff were friendly and we surely had no complaints about them. We did get a call from the office on the 6th day asking how everything was. I suggested they read my review at Cruise Critic. The other passengers were definitely the older crowd. (At 65 I consider myself not quite there yet.) Most were "snow birds" and seemed to enjoy the cruise. The entertainment was O.K. Their stage productions were somewhat weak but we were not on the cruise to go to the theater. A "Beatles sound alike" group was good and a comic had a few great lines. A "Hollywood Idol" program was really quite good with the ship's Cruise Director, Jimmy being a great "Simon". The next night they had a "Newlywed, near newlywed and not so new newlywed" game. It was really a stitch! We laughed so hard it seemed some of the responses had to be rehearsed. The shore excursions were very good. Cabo San Lucas being the weakest. We went on a 40 minute boat ride that was good and then to a hotel for a "great view". For the length of the ride the "view" was a let down. We have been to Cabo four times previously, the last in 1997 to marlin fish. The town is so overgrown and American with American prices it really has lost its charm. Next was Mazatlan. We did a tour with a great guide, Sheila. Saw the cliff diver and then a folkloric show that was really very good. After that a great buffet at a local hotel and an afternoon walk along a very lovely beach. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Up at 6 A.M. to leave at 6:40 for a dune buggy adventure. What a kick, 3 1/2 hours of thick dust, muffler less engines and a real kickbutt ride over outback roads and a visit to a few small villages. My wife thinks she is Mario Andretti and really got to live her fantasy. We came back caked with dust and were really happy campers. This made our trip. We took a bus into downtown Puerto Vallarta that afternoon and had a pleasant walk back. Disembarkment was well planned and speedy. We were called at 9:10 A.m. for a 9:30 departure and were on the road by 9:30! So assessing the whole thing we could only say we were somewhat disappointed in HAL as a cruise line. The food probably made the biggest difference and the physical condition of a ship built in 2003 was also a downside. Our last cruises on Celebrity (Constellation in the Baltic and the Xpedition in Galapagos Islands) gave us some prospective in evaluating HAL. We have a world cruise segment planned for next year with HAL (the Amsterdam) because they are going to places we really, really what to see. We also have another cruise with them in 2007 from L.A. to New Zealand and have decided after this to probably cancel and fly there. There are too many days "at sea" and I would have trouble looking forward to eating with HAL that many days. So we would and are taking them again but mainly because they are going to where we want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
There are not many reviews on the Oosterdam so I wanted to be of some help to the people out there that may be looking at this cruise. First of all my husband and I have only taken a handful of cruises and only on Carnival so those of you ... Read More
There are not many reviews on the Oosterdam so I wanted to be of some help to the people out there that may be looking at this cruise. First of all my husband and I have only taken a handful of cruises and only on Carnival so those of you who are cruise snobs may disagree with my assessment. Embarkment- Our flight was late coming in so we had no lines but the red-jacketed staff was friendly, met us at the airport and we were on board in our room in less that 30min. Our luggage came quickly as again we were late boarding. Sea Days- The three at sea days were wonderful. Weather was beautiful, seas were calm. We had a balcony room (highly recommended) and we enjoyed breakfast delivered daily with the paper and enjoyed it on our balcony. The stateroom was very roomy, plenty of drawer space, be sure to check under the bed and couch (more drawers) Ports- Cabo- We had to tender here; a little bit of an issue. Be sure to leave very early or wait until after all the shore excursions to avoid the crowds. We just took a glass bottom boat $20 for two, to Lovers Beach; high waves, a few vendors but overall wonderful. The water taxi will come and get you and let you off by the pier or down by the hotels/restaurants. We also took a quick walk to Cabo Wabo's just to have a shot of Tequila. Had lunch at a new restaurant "Pepitos" food was great; service was FUN. This was by far our favorite beach. Mazatlan- We took a private tour with Mazatlan Frank We took the city/beach tour, if you want shopping, city and beach this is a great tour. We enjoyed the Church, art district and the overall tour however, the beach is not as nice as Cabo and the vendors are worse here than any other port. Frank will get you to and from the ship with plenty of time to spare. PV- We took a dune buggy trip into the Sierra Madre. I wish I could tell you who it was through however, we just got off the tender and found a little stand. Luckily the people were nice and honest. They took us to a garage outside of town, provided us with a guide, goggles and a bandana and we took off. Through small villages, up hills and through rivers. After we were totally wet and muddy they took us to the Tequila factory and after a few shots of free Tequila we got back on the dune buggies and rode back to town. Total cost $100 for two per dune buggy. We had a blast. As you can tell we loved every day of our trip. My husband and I are early 40s and left our kids at home so we enjoyed the Oosterdam because it caters more to an older crowd; very few children. The ship is very clean and the staff is attentive but not overly engaging (as on Carnival).We are thinking about doing the Alaskan cruise next September and we would take Holland American again.. I know a lot of the Holland America reviews state the food leaves something to be desired but, apparently the food was good because I gained 5 pounds. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
First of all, the weather was perfect. The shore activities (deep sea fishing, and the canopy adventure) were a lot of fun. We live in Orange County Ca., so the travel to the ship was easy and took less than an hour. We parked across the ... Read More
First of all, the weather was perfect. The shore activities (deep sea fishing, and the canopy adventure) were a lot of fun. We live in Orange County Ca., so the travel to the ship was easy and took less than an hour. We parked across the street after dropping off our bags. (The parking lot will give you a big discount if you use your AAA credit card to pay for the parking.) We arrived early before the crowd, so we were upstairs eating in the Lido Restaurant in less than 1/2 hour. The Lido was crowded during that period but, that was really the only time we were forced to wait in much of a line the whole week. Overall, I don't know how the week could have gone any better than it did. During this review I will focus on the positive things that happened during the cruise and include the small negatives afterwards. (nitpick) Our Superior Veranda Suite was roomy and well designed. The large Veranda was big enough for two easy chairs and a table and chairs for outdoor lunches. I thought my wife and I would use it more than we did. The room was like having a small hotel room with a balcony. It was perfect for our needs. Our man Bobby was great. He bumped into us the first day while he figured out our schedule then disappeared except for great service. Thank you Bobby The lifeboat drill was well coordinated and over quickly. Nitpick... We were standing next to an air vent on the deck when they talked about emergency procedures, and we could not hear what was being said. We danced in the Ocean Bar most evenings before our late seating, then walked down to the Vista for dinner. We were seated at a window table for six on the bottom level looking out at the propeller wake behind the boat. Nitpick... the propellers were a little too noisy some nights. The menu at the Vista changed every night, but most nights were good and the service was good. There were some unusual offerings like blueberry gazpacho soup, that turned out to be very good. The other people seated at our table were very pleasant to talk to and we stayed after the meals to finish several long winded conversations. Nitpick... My wife and I would prefer a more open seating type of dining after the first few nights. We made friends during the day, but could not go to dinner with them in the evening (unless we went to the upscale Pinnacle Grill).The food at the Vista was also good on the one breakfast and one lunch we ate there. (much better than the standard food in the Lido.) Nitpick... The staff in the Vista were eager to move us out after our meal even though we wanted to sit and talk. Those were the only rude moments on the whole cruise. We used room service for breakfast four days during the cruise. During the three shore days and the last day. The menu did not change. You filled out a preprinted card and placed it on your door the night before. The muesli was very good and so was the ham and cheese omelet. The food was always on time and hot. (Good job Oosterdam crew!) Disembarking We ate breakfast in our room while we waited for our group to be called. The room TV set could be turned to a channel that would announce the various groups that were disembarking. We waited till later, to allow people who were flying an earlier time. By the time we reached our luggage most of the ship was empty and we did not have to fight a crowd at the dock. We were home by noon. Ship Activities We danced most nights, and took in the shows if we were interested. They were fine for the most part. I had a massage the second day and she did a good job. $125 including tip. Nitpick...Twice we saw small small children dancing on the dance floor in stocking feet bumping into the adults. (This is not a HAL problem. This is a rude parent problem.) Also the massage table did not have a place that extended for your head, so it pinched my neck. And she cut me a few times with her long fingernails. At the end of the massage she launched into a sales pitch for some products instead of letting me lay there and relax. (this is a HAL problem.) Shore excursions The fishing trip out of Cabo was like every other fishing trip, (Good if you catch fish and bad if you don't.) A guy on our boat caught an eight foot long marlin, so we all had a good time. Nitpick... Cabo harbor is like riding a tilt-a-whirl, don't go if you get sea sick. Also the captain told the guy who caught the marlin that it would cost $1000 to mount it. When we got back to Cabo the price went up to $1700 and then after he paid he found out that the freight would cost another $400. I was glad it was his fish. Skip Mazatlan, I think this is just a cheap place for HAL to restock the ship. Lots of poor people sticking bracelets and baseball caps in your face where ever we went. Zipline canopy adventure. This was the most fun we had on the cruise! When we got off the tender boat our guide told us that we would be spending most of our time in the treetops as high up as the top of our cruise ship. We didn't believe her. After a one hour ride out of Puerto Vallarta in a troup transport truck, we pulled onto a small dirt road that led back to the ziplines. The guides were young but very careful with us. If you are afraid of heights stay off of this excursion! We swung around on small wires hung between trees approximately 100 feet in the air. At the end we were forced to rapelle down out of the last tree. The whole trip including the walk back up a steep hill took 2 hours. Nitpick... This is a dangerous activity! On the ship we heard stories of people breaking bones or rupturing spleens on other ziplines in other parts of the world. Also we paid $51 for a CD of the adventure but it still hasn't arrived. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was my first (and last) cruise. It's my own fault, I suppose, that I was ill-prepared for the experience. Somehow I imagined the salt spray in my face, the smell of the sea and so on. We stayed overnight in San Diego the night ... Read More
This was my first (and last) cruise. It's my own fault, I suppose, that I was ill-prepared for the experience. Somehow I imagined the salt spray in my face, the smell of the sea and so on. We stayed overnight in San Diego the night before embarkation to ensure an early arrival. By 11:30 a.m. we were being quickly moved through an enormous room, credit card info and photos taken and my first glimpse of cruise life, being "nickel-and-dimed" to death. Before even boarding we were induced to spend $20 to buy a "soft drink card". I had not expected to be charged for sodas, bottled water and so on, being used to Club Med type inclusive vacations. We sprang for a veranda room at the very back of the ship. This was about the only fresh air available, (or would have been if every gentleman in all the surrounding staterooms had not been on Their verandas day and night puffing on Cuban cigars.) This is not Holland America's fault, of course. What WAS their fault was having our verandah soaked with filthy water being hosed down from the Lido deck three times in 6 days; the first time at 3:00 a.m., the second time as we stepped outside in our formal diner attire at 7 pm, and the third time 12 hours later, at 7:00 a.m. Yes, we complained each time and were given a plate of chocolate covered strawberries in recompense. Of course, each time it happened, the steward had to come in, remove all the soaking furniture cushions, mop down the verandah and replace wet towels (we stopped leaving books and swimsuits outside). The ship is beautiful, the service is perfect. But if you haven't cruised before, and thought a trip to the Mexican Riviera would in any way resemble being on the Mexican Riviera, think again. A cruise ship is a hermetically-sealed 10 story floating hotel. Every hallway is packed with people, standing sideways to let others pass. The Lido deck's sliding roof is usually closed, making it hot and stuffy. The adults only pool outside is so windy I hardly ever saw anyone in it. Unless you enjoy casinos, dressing up for dinner, cheesy entertainment and being herded like pampered cattle from one excursion bus to the next, you probably won't enjoy being on a cruise. The only thing that lets you know you are on the ocean was the neverending rolling from side to side. We finally stopped being nauseated about 4 days into the trip. Also, it was disconcerting to find out that many of the employees earn no salary, but rely on tips for their income, and on "Perfect" guest evaluations for a day off. All in all, I'll pick a resort by the sea under a palm tree for my next Mexico vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a ... Read More
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a great cruise until the last day. We have heard people complaining that about all kinds of minor distractions, seeking compensation. We once overheard a couple complaining that their whale watching tour went off late and they might have missed seeing that elusive grey whale, so they demanded their money back (for the tour, not the cruise). While I tend to be critical of little things, it is only done in the spirit of making things better and pointing out the little differences between all the cruise lines. My wife and I like to try different cruise lines rather than settling on one. We always have a fear that if we return to the same cruise line too often, we will quickly get bored with the same menu, same entertainment, same ambience, etc. We have cruised on Celebrity four times (including the old Chandris Lines), Crystal twice, Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and even Carnival when they were first starting out with weekend cruises. Having lived in Holland for two years, we always wanted to try a Holland America Line ship but the opportunity never presented itself. We signed up for this Oosterdam cruise on a spur of the moment about six weeks before our embarkation. We had a big birthday coming up and we knew we didnt want to be in town for it! What better way than to find a cruise and just go somewhere. We had been to the Mexican Riviera before and werent especially interested in the region. We chose this cruise more because of the timing, the weather and HAL reputation. To us the ports are irrelevant, we prefer to stay on board during port days anyway and take advantage of the ambience with less crowding. We work in customer service positions and look forward to observing outstanding customer service techniques associated with cruising. HAL shined with their people in this regard. Their unabashed enthusiasm set the personality of the cruise experience. Embarkation: We drove down from the Bay Area the night before. We stayed in LA overnight and drove down the morning of embarkation. Embarkation was uneventful There was a special line for suite passengers. If there was any delay in that line it was my fault in dragging all my carry on stuff too slowly. The non-suite line appeared to move along quickly as well. We were told that the suites were ready when we checked in (around Noon). We went right to our room and our steward said that he hadnt finished yet. It looked fine to us, but we left our carry-ons and toured the ship. Accommodations: We booked a SC aft suite (6187) with an obscenely large verandah. The room was rather odd shaped but seemed to work well. Lots of closet space. We couldnt decide what to put where, but thats our problem! TV reception was the best Ive seen on any ship. Consistently clear. There were a limited number of channels, CNNI, ESPNI, and TNT mainly, plus some channels produced on the ship. On our last Celebrity cruise, the TV said that the ship was out of satellite range as we cruised into New York harbor! While our room was impeccably clean upon our arrival, we noted something rather unusual  no life vests. Our steward went on a search mission and the errant vests were finally located under the bed! No big deal but it led us to believe that attention to detail was lacking in room preparation. Of all of my cruises, this room was among the noisiest. Lots of little creaks and squeaks. In an aft cabin, this is more common, but seemed to be more prevalent here. On the good side, none of the creaks were loud and never interrupted our sleeping. There was also a large clock on the wall and you could hear it advance by the minute. Again, not a sleep-interruptor. Deluxe suites come with free laundry, very handy! Our steward, Arson, did everything we threw at him with quiet unassuming professionalism. It just got done! On the first night out, a fire alarm sounded about 4 AM. Apparently a smoke detector in the incinerator room activated (yes, we know all about the purpose of an incinerator). The Captain went on the PA system and explained what was happening. Five minutes later he announced that a small fire was extinguished. We heard several passengers grumbling about being awoken for nothing. I thought differently  the system works and it was reassuring to hear that the crew did such a great job. I wonder if something really bad had happened, how the media would handle it. Fire officials havent made a final determination of the cause, but they suspect it was Arson. Spa  Thermal Suite: We took advantage of the spas Thermal Suites offer ($250 for a couple for the week) and found it was money well spent  an oasis from the hustle of the rest of the ship. The masseuses tried to push their products more than on other ships, but after we each emphatically said no the first time, they didnt push their pitch again. The spa (Steiner employees) front desk staff was often curt when we asked for a key to the Thermal Suites. We already paid our money up front, now they couldnt be bothered with us. What was more disturbing was that twice we went to go to the thermal suites after dinner, only to find out that they decided to close earlier than the hours published in the daily program. They didnt seem to be concerned that the hours were incorrectly posted there. Tough luck! Dining: We booked the Pinnacle Grill for two nights in advance of the cruise. The higher quality service and food was well worth the surcharge. While not quite as good as the specialty restaurants on Celebrity or Crystal, the Pinnacle didnt try as hard to be as special and thus was not nearly as pretentious either. Celebrity often tries to hard and occasionally misses. One Golden Moment challenge is that I asked for a rather unique after dinner coffee. It has gotten to the point that I bring my own flask of flavored syrup on board cruises. Well the folks at HAL got creative and combined two different coffees to get a close approximation to what I wanted. The wait staff was unusually efficient, to the point of making us feel rushed on occasion. Rarely was there a wait between courses. Live music showed up for only the last two days. It would have contributed to the overall ambiance of the setting. Another Golden Moment came when we went to the Lido Cafe about 9 PM when my wife and daughter wanted chocolate ice cream. There was no chocolate flavors among the four flavors available (rather surprising in itself). The server said he couldnt get more. As we walked away ice creamless, I saw one of the Lido Managers and asked him why they couldnt fulfill a simple request like chocolate ice cream. He immediately sent a steward down to the second-floor galley to fetch two servings for us. Another customer save! Thanks JT!!! We noted that the smoked salmon was hand sliced, not machine sliced and pre-packaged as on most other cruise lines. We usually have liked to have breakfast in the main dining room, but found on the Oosterdam, the choices and quality were better on the Lido. My favorite foods on the ship were the hash browns in the Lido buffet and the bratwurst and knockwurst at the burger bar. Normally, we prefer fancier foods but when a dining venue does simple things exceptionally well, it should be noted. Public Rooms: Decorated not to our tastes  too busy with conflicting color schemes and off-beat patterns. Layout got a little confusing at first. We noticed a more intimate, boutique atmosphere. The big ship feel just isnt there. The dining room, although it seats close to 1000 had a more intimate feel. Service: Most of the cruise lines offer a butler at this level of accommodations. HAL has a concierge room, the Neptune Lounge, staffed with two all too helpful ladies, Marj and Esther. Since we rarely took advantage of butler service anyway, we were interested to see if a concierge would be more to our liking. Unlike most of the suites, we were far away from the Neptune (Concierge) Lounge. The lounge was a nice place to go and relax when we had grown tired of the four walls of our room. The concept of a concierge rather than a butler was a plus, in my opinion. We never quite figured out what to do with them anyway. When needed, they even came to our room to fix things, just like a butler would. We looked for other customer service golden moments, times where the staff has the opportunity to shine. The Oosterdam staff succeeded in most of these situations. However, in one situation, the result was less than desirable. There was a Walk a mile activity scheduled for 5:15 one day. When no staff members were there at the appointed time, I took off walking anyway. After the first turn of the Promenade Deck, we encountered about 10 staff members, sitting out on the deck, smoking. Not the best way to encourage healthy living. After another quarter of a turn, we found that the Promenade Deck had been closed for maintenance (cleaning). Come on guys - get the maintenance and the event staff to talk to each other! A key plus was Linda, the shopping hostess, who we saw while shopping at Mazatlan. Our daughter had a dilemma, she had picked out a necklace and bracelet she wanted but couldnt find a matching set of earrings. Linda checked and located the matching earrings. Another keeper was Christopher, a lovely young man who works in the Windstar Cafe (coffee bar). I gave him a complicated order for three drinks and he kept on getting them confused. He was constantly getting interrupted by passers-by who asked him various questions, at which point he had to ask me repeatedly about my order. One man insisted that Christopher find a cribbage board for him. Poor Chris didnt have a clue even what Cribbage was, but the man was insistent. He handled it all with aplomb and when he couldnt locate a container to take these drinks up to our room, he loaned me a serving tray (actually he first offered to bring them to my room), on the promise that I return it as soon as possible. Resourceful under pressure. On embarkation we asked our steward to empty out the minibar so we could put bottled water in it. Before noon the day before disembarkation, our steward emptied out and locked the minibar. I guess the cruises hospitality ends about 24 hours before the cruise did. Activities: My wife is happy just hanging out on her balcony, catching up on her reading and listening to her music. As a result, we are not the gadfly types. To get us to participate in any activity has to be incredibly attractive to us. The daily program had a number of activities that we almost participated in, but either the balcony or the thermal suite beckoned. Entertainment: Once again, HAL keeps it simple and doesnt try harder to accomplish what it cannot achieve. The simple productions are on the mark. Although not as lavish as Celebrity or other lines, the performers were better in the basic things that they can do well. Perhaps why they call it the Vista Lounge, more of a large night club than a theater. Itinerary: We arent really into ports, and didnt spend much time on shore during the cruise. To us, the best time to be on board is during port days. Less crowded. It appeared that the ports and activities overall were better than on a Caribbean cruise. The layout of the itinerary (Embarkation day, one sea day, three straight port days, two sea days, then disembarkation day) was probably the most conducive for getting into the cruise experience. We talk about getting into cruise mode (where you forget your work and home responsibilities, throw away your watch and adopt a dont care attitude) as fast as possible and the layout of this itinerary made the most of this. Disembarkation: The best weve seen. We were called around 8:40 AM, picked up our bags, called for the parking shuttle and had our car packed and on the road at 9:08 AM. It would have been faster if we had called for the shuttle earlier (right after clearing customs rather than waiting till we hit the curb. Couldnt have been quicker or easier! Odds and ends: This section will reference some of the questions often asked on the CC Boards. We took a laptop with Wi-Fi access and bought 250 minutes for $100 on embarkation day. I was curious to see where reception was. I got a very weak signal from the aft veranda, but it was unusable. We got a strong signal in most public areas, which was sufficient for our needs. The speed wasnt broadband, but was quite a bit faster then the two times telephone modem speeds that was advertised. There were 4 open 110 Volt, three-pronged receptacles in the cabin. I bought along a power strip and also a new device called the Squid, which consist of five wires and outlets coming out of one plug. If you have appliances that have transformers in the plugs that block access to all the power strip receptacles, this is for you. You can put five different transformers on the plugs without any interference. We then attached a power strip and an extension cord to the squid so we could use some appliances/chargers in other areas around the room. Observations and Comments: We noticed that on, other cruise lines, the staff seemed to be programmed on exactly what to say in common situations. If you ask a steward how they were doing, theyd all reply, Excellent! The staff of the Oosterdam had a lot more leeway in their responses and this contributed to the relaxed, informal atmosphere. It appears that all cruise lines are becoming more homogenized and middle of the road. HAL seems to be losing its own identity and heritage, the things which sets cruise lines apart. There was a lack of anything Dutch on the ship. The personality of the ship was homogenized American. We were hoping for some Dutch remnants as we lived in Holland in the early 90s. We asked for fritesaus and pindasaus at the burger bar and got knowing smiles from the staff but, alas, nowhere were these delicacies available. Before cruising we ordered two Coffee Card Specials (6 coffees and a travel mug) online for our daughter and ourselves. Our daughter got hers delivered to her room on the first day. We never got ours. When we asked, they said that they were no longer available, in effect denying the existence of our daughters card. One of the highlights of the ship is the wrap-around Promenade Deck. It is a vanishing perk and was thoroughly enjoyed. There was a large (32 inch) CRT TV sitting on the desk, or rather taking over the desk. Since there is little to watch on ships TV anyway, a smaller TV would have been more helpful. When walking down a hallway, we observed a woman talking to a steward, asking if she could come into a room (not hers). She said she just wanted to see what the rooms were like on the fourth floor. The steward allowed this. We call this a security breach. At the muster drill, we were led down a staff stairway to our muster station. Along the way we passed a sign, intended for the staff, that said something like No is not an option. Well, were often told No several times by stewards and staff, only to get things as we requested when we went to supervisory staff. It shouldnt happen this way. The service staff should say something politely I dont have that, but Ill check it out and then go to the supervisors for help. But No is so final and the requests were so minimal (like chocolate ice cream), that one has the impression that the staff prefers to avoid going to their supervisors and instead leave their customers disappointed. If the staff were more empowered to take action, service standards would be elevated. The first formal night was Super Bowl Sunday. While there some very nice parties arranged around the football theme, it was somewhat awkward to watch the game and eat the munchies in formal garb. Wouldnt it have been better to move formal night to another evening? Summary: Overall, a very nice cruise, a small step below Celebrity, which also has fallen, in my opinion. Would I cruise Holland America again? Absolutely, just not for awhile. We would rather try a variety of cruise lines before coming back to HAL, perhaps next time on a smaller, more intimate liner. For photos of this cruise go to Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was my 6th cruise, my partner's 2nd. It's the first time I've sailed Holland America, my previous 5 cruises have all been on Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships. I am 37 years old. We sailed out of San Diego. A friend ... Read More
This was my 6th cruise, my partner's 2nd. It's the first time I've sailed Holland America, my previous 5 cruises have all been on Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships. I am 37 years old. We sailed out of San Diego. A friend of mine drove us to the port, which is very near the airport, and very easy to locate. We embarked around 2:30pm on Saturday and were surprised at how smooth and easy it was. We didn't have to wait in line at all. We were onboard in a matter of minutes. We made our way to our stateroom, number 6016, which is near the bow of the ship. The stateroom was very nice, and about the same size as the cabins on the Royal Caribbean ships. The bed was far better though! It was bigger and extremely comfortable. I think they have pillowtop mattresses or something, because it was just amazingly comfortable. While the bathroom was a little bit dark and dingy, it was nice to have a small bathtub instead of just a shower stall. The verandah was very nice. It felt slightly bigger than on the Royal Caribbean ships, and had nice, wicker furniture. While the average age on board seemed somewhat older than on the other ships I've been on, this was actually perfect for the type of cruise we were looking for. We wanted a low-key relaxing vacation, which is what we got. There are plenty of activities onboard, and we did participate in some of them: line dancing, Karaoke, casino, sail-away parties. If you're looking for a relaxing cruise, Holland America is really quite perfect, I thought. The ship was very nice, but there were a couple of things I didn't like about it. To me, the main pool area was very poorly designed. I know they put the retractable cover on it because the ship also sails to Alaska, but it creates a very closed feeling in that area. It also makes the observation deck above it pretty unattractive. I much prefer the open, tiered-deck set-up of the RCCL Voyager class ships. That being said, the aft pool area, which was the Adults Only pool area, was quite nice. It was open, and had a much better feel to it. We spent all of our outdoor time there, hardly going to the other pool area at all. We also like the fact that you can go to the very tip of the bow on the RCCL ships. We couldn't get there on this ship. The food on this cruise was excellent, definitely a step up from the other cruises I've been on. The service was professional without being intrusive. The dining room was very elegant and nicely lit. We took a tour of the kitchen one day, which was interesting and see where the magic happens (yes, we're total foodies). We switched dining tables after the first night because we wanted a smaller table with some people we had met the first day, and the dining room staff was very accommodating and helpful in getting us the table setup we wanted. Kudos to Holland America there. What we saw of the entertainment was generally good. I wasn't expecting it to be as good as on the Royal Caribbean ships from what I'd read/heard, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cast for the production shows was equal to those that I've seen on RCCL ships. I thought they did an excellent job. We opted to skip the juggler/comedian show and a Beatles cover band show. Other people told us they were very good, but we just weren't that interested. We went to the Superstar (American Idol type) competition one night in lieu of the show, and stayed in Puerto Vallarta until 9:30pm the other night. Ports of call were generally good. We went whale watching in Cabo - made arrangements with someone on the pier for $35/person. It was great! They took us out (just the two of us) in a small motor boat. We were able to get very close to the whales, and also saw dolphins and manta rays. Very cool! We also ate at a great Mexican cantina here called Pancho's. Mazatlan was interesting, but very poor. We walked through the streets of Old Mazatlan and were struck by the amount of poverty. We took a ferry over to Isla de la Piedra where there was a nice, secluded beach. It was nice and relaxing. Puerto Vallarta was, by far, our favorite port. We had some friends there, who took us to a beautiful beach, showed us around town, took us to a fantastic restaurant called Le Bistro, followed by a gallery walk to many of the local art galleries. What an amazing day/evening! The service on this cruise was top-notch. The cabin steward was excellent. He remembered our names, and always greeted us in the hallway. He learned our schedule (we sleep late), and never interrupted us. Our room was spotless every time we came back to it. We used room service for breakfast on the verandah twice. This is one of my favorite things to do on a cruise! The food was delicious, and showed up right on time. Service in the dining room was terrific as well. Bar servers were good too, and were a little less pushy with drinks than on RCCL. Disembarkation was very easy and well organized. The fact that you can wait in your cabin until your group is called to disembark is fantastic! We were actually able to sleep in until 8:30am on the morning of disembarkation. This is a rarity on cruises. Holland America gets serious props for this policy. We had a fantastic time on this cruise, and were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked Holland America and the Oosterdam. I highly recommend this ship and cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Likes: Vista Class ships are large, but not too large to limit individual contact between passengers and crew on a recurrent basis. Cabin amenities and quality of cabin service are well above average. Food variety and preparation, as ... Read More
Likes: Vista Class ships are large, but not too large to limit individual contact between passengers and crew on a recurrent basis. Cabin amenities and quality of cabin service are well above average. Food variety and preparation, as well as cleanliness and speed of delivery, rate from high average to superior. Hotel manager Deering is probably the best in the business, bar none. This ship never feels crowded in spite of some narrow access points (like the shopping areas or the Lido seating areas). Unlike some other HAL ships, the current front office staff is uniformly competent and smooth in its operation. No glitches occurred in either boarding or disembarkation. Dislikes: Truly awful music in most public areas, intrusive and unbearable to the ears. Everyone complained about it, only to hear the lame excuse that it was programmed and conveyed to the ship from corporate headquarters. As in other HAL ships, shows were a mixed bag, ranging from vulgar attempts at comedy to some truly professional presentations. No lectures on this particular route, very sad in view of much history and environmental context. Be prepared to have your credit card nicked as well for a wide range of extras, including virtually mandatory tips and service charges. Novelties: An experimental scheduling in the main dining room came off very well indeed. This involved offering a single timing at each of the two evening seatings instead of the usual staggered intervals. Guests choosing the sit-down dinner were offered either 5:30 p.m. with a half-hour entry door or a similar late seating arrangement in which plenty of time to arrive at the dining room obtained. The staff seemed to take it in stride, even though it meant dealing with more latecomers and serving the soup to a table where others were already on dessert. Off-the-cuff comments: HAL strives to maintain some old cruise decorum in dining by stressing the pleasures of fixed dining times and occasional dress-up nights. Its Pinnacle Grill at extra cost may or may not appeal to the majority, but here again on some ships and routes it augurs back to the old days of the Queen's Grill and thus has many takers. Most cruisers seem not even to notice it, and the Lido is invariably where the hoi polloi meet and eat at all hours. As an early riser (5 a.m.), I love spending an hour with coffee watching the sun rise from the Lido windows before all but other old geezers are up. If only it weren't for that darned canned music (if indeed it can be called music at all). Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
A wonderful cruise experience. This was our 4th. cruise. We have sailed on the Celebrity Constellation,the NCL Pride of Aloha and the Golden Princess, all of which were in balcony cabins. This was our first cruise on Holland American and ... Read More
A wonderful cruise experience. This was our 4th. cruise. We have sailed on the Celebrity Constellation,the NCL Pride of Aloha and the Golden Princess, all of which were in balcony cabins. This was our first cruise on Holland American and our first cruise in an inside cabin. We were concerned that we would find it claustrophobic. The Oosterdam provided us with exemplary service every where on the ship; and to our surprise we experienced no problems staying in our inside cabin. We arrived in San Diego a day early and stayed at the Best Western Bayside Hotel located approx. 4 blocks from the boat terminal. Our hotel room was clean and comfortable. Boarding the Oosterdam the next day around noon took about 25 minutes. Food and drink was available and after eating we found our room was ready although it would be another hour before all our luggage arrived. We found the Oosterdam to be slightly smaller than the other ships we had sailed on. The Oosterdam was maintained throughout the cruise in an excellent state of cleanliness. Our inside cabin on the upper verandah deck had plenty of storage space. There were three closets and storage shelves and drawers everywhere in the cabin. Our empty luggage was stored below the bed. Our bed was firm and comfortable and more than wide enough for two people. Our room steward could not have been better. The room was always promptly cleaned and the bed made-up. There was always ice in our ice bucket and chocolates and towel art creations (towels tied into animal shapes)on our bed when we came in each night. My only observation about our room that may be construed as a negative is that because there were no portholes or balcony doors to admit sunlight each morning we had trouble getting motivated to get out of bed in our dark cabin each morning. In spite of a 7:30 wake up call and an 8am room service breakfast each morning we stayed in bed till around 9:30 watching the Turner movie channel on TV. We discovered that although we will always prefer a balcony cabin, we have no objections to an inside cabin. Food: The Oosterdam does an excellent job with its preparation and presentation of food everywhere we went on the ship. The food at the buffet, the main dining room the Pinnacle speciality restaurant and the hamburger grill was very good to excellent. The fish that I had was always fresh tasting and moist, the vegetables were perfectly seasoned and cooked enough. The breakfast omelets were light and fluffy and the sausage was tasty. The ice cream and sorbets (homemade?) were excellent with a different flavor introduced each day. (surprisingly, only the vanilla tasted bland and not exceptional) My only complaints on the food are as follows: The orange and grapefruit juices were excessively watered down. The pizza instead of being chewy with a crispy crust were always mushy tasting. My waffles were never cooked enough. There were not enough fresh ripe tropical fruits served (mango, papaya, pineapple,etc.) Although I did go to the gym each day I gained 10 pounds on this cruise. Gym: Spacious and adequate facilities although the rug in the gym area needed vacuuming. The men's locker room and showers were always clean, comfortable and fully supplied. Pools: The 2 pools and four woefully small hot tubs were not large enough to handle the crowd on board when the ship was at sea. Excursions: We did no excursions on this cruise and maybe that's why I gained so much weight on this cruise from the continuous eating from morning to midnight. At each port we got off the ship and did some shopping in town. Entertainment: I did not find the entertainment very professional, although everyone else on board appeared satisfied. Passengers: I am in my 60s. This cruise appeared the have a higher percentage of seniors in their 60s, 70s and 80s than on my other cruises. Conclusion: We had a wonderful time on the Oosterdam although we did not go on any exciting excursions. It was the excellent service, accommodations and foods that made it great for us. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
What a blast. This was our first cruise and did not expect to have so much fun. The age range on the boat also was a surprise. We hope we would not have been the only couples under 35 and we were not. They catered to all age groups. We ... Read More
What a blast. This was our first cruise and did not expect to have so much fun. The age range on the boat also was a surprise. We hope we would not have been the only couples under 35 and we were not. They catered to all age groups. We only saw two shows and both were really good. We did an ATV tour in Cabo and would pass on that if we had to do it again. On the advice on many we did not go into port in Mazatlan. Instead we enjoyed a quiet day on the boat that relaxing and less crowded. We did the Green Hous Spa on the boat. That was a let down for the money. I guess I am spoiled to have great spas close to home. In PV we did two tours with the Vallarta adventures that were sold on the boat. The first one was the adventure canopy tour. We went on a 20 minute mule ride and then did zip lines through the jungle and rappelled down water falls. You do get really wet on this tour but worth it. The guide make us laugh and feel very safe. They were very funny. From a chicken do this tour. We also went to the Rhythm of the Nights tour. The guys on the boat kept us laughing the entire boat ride. The only let down on the trip is getting your bill the afternoon before you leave. I guess we cocktailed it more than we thought. Getting off the boat could not have gone any smoother. HAL has this nailed. From the time our group was called we left our cabin and was in our car in 30 minutes or less. This is a great ship and has a great staff. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
My husband and I just returned from our cruise on the Oosterdam. WOW! This was our seventh cruise with Holland America and we were thoroughly impressed! The ship was wonderful and the crew fantastic. From boarding the ship to ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our cruise on the Oosterdam. WOW! This was our seventh cruise with Holland America and we were thoroughly impressed! The ship was wonderful and the crew fantastic. From boarding the ship to disembarkation there was absolutely nothing about the cruise to complain about. Our cabin steward, Widi, kept everything in the cabin in immaculate condition and always went the extra mile. The food was fabulous in the Vista dining room. Rafiq from the dining room entrance always made the evening a happier event with his smile and personality. The service as always went the extra mile. We had dinner in the Pinnacle grill one evening and the dinner and dessert and service were all excellent. The entertainment onboard was varied and we thoroughly enjoyed every show we attended. The Oosterdam Superstar contest was so much fun to attend and the Vocalist, Alfeda Gerald had a magnificent voice, the comedian was very funny and the Beach Toys group and John Davidson were great! It was apparent that the crew all liked each other and it showed. Captain Mercer runs a very tight ship and it was obvious that he was well thought of. The cruise director, Jimmy was by far the best cruise director we have ever experienced. It was clear that he and his staff were truly enjoying themselves day after day. It made the whole trip even more enjoyable. The shore excursions were interesting. I will say however that riding around Puerto Vallarta was interesting! Not a lot of apparent traffic laws there! The worst things about the whole experience were the very pushy vendors in the ports and having to disembark the ship! I would highly recommend this ship and cruise to anyone and will definitely cruise Holland America again! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
We have cruised on 7 previous occasions, all with Holland America Line (HAL). We have enjoyed every one so much we have not managed to leave HAL for someone else, yet. However, after a cruise in the Caribbean last year we did think about ... Read More
We have cruised on 7 previous occasions, all with Holland America Line (HAL). We have enjoyed every one so much we have not managed to leave HAL for someone else, yet. However, after a cruise in the Caribbean last year we did think about it as we found the process of flying to the East coast of USA and then having to deal with the rude and unhelpful people we encountered there something we did not want to do again. Please note we are not saying that everyone who lives on the East coast is that way just the ones we met in the process of going on a cruise. Anyway, a deal came up for a back to back from San Diego to the Mexican Rivera and then on to Vancouver. We flew to San Diego and stayed in the Holiday Inn at the Bay the night before we were due to depart. The hotel is, literally, across the street from the dock and we could see the Amsterdam from our window on the day we arrived and the Oosterdam the following morning. As we were a day early we spent the afternoon walking around the centre o f the town and we very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. The people we encountered were friendly and courteous, the architecture was delightful and worth seeing and it was very quiet. I have never been in a city which was so quiet. We visited the Maritime Museum which was educational and generally most enjoyable. Well worth a visit. The following morning we did not need a shuttle as we could walk to the dock. We were able to progress from the gate to the luggage drop off to the check in desk in under 10 minutes. We did have to wait for over one hour to board the ship but that was as a result of some problem with US Customs. Security was swift and efficient and we were on the ship. As we have cruised with HAL before and have sailed on the Vista class ships we do not feel that they are in any way unusual so we do not experience the sense of unfamiliarity which one might. That said we do feel the excitement of the experience every time we board. We were met by the Indonesian crew who will escort you to the lifts and direct you to the Lido until your room is ready. We heard a great deal of complaining about staterooms not being ready for the new passengers and, perhaps, understanding how and why this happens will help new cruisers relax. Most of the ships dock at the terminus at about 7am. Disembarkation begins at about 8am and embarkation begins at about 11am, roughly. As HAL do not turn you out of your cabin at some ungodly hour, the cabins are not all available to the cabin staff for cleaning and remaking. This means that they have to turn around all 924 cabins in about 3hours. This simple is not possible, so they ask the embarking passengers to wait in the Lido until the job is done properly. This is nary a hardship as there is food a plenty and it is quite safe wander off and explore the ship. You can be fairly sure that when you are told that your cabin is ready it will have been prepared for you to the highest standard. As we were sailing on a Vista ship we booked a Balcony room and we were on the Upper Promenade deck. The balcony was not private as we were overlooked from one side and above, due to those balconies being set at angles, and on the other side were the life boats which seemed to require a steady stream of maintained people. They would suddenly appear from no where on the walkway by our balcony. However, the facility of being able to sit on ones own balcony is appreciated. The Vista class ships are a fairly recent addition to the HAL fleet and they are larger than the previous classes. We feel, having sailed on a number of the ships, that the general feel of the Vista class ships is not one we like as much as the smaller ships. I feel that the Vistas lack the personal touch which one would find on the Volendam or even Statendam class. Due to the large number of passengers the crew do not have the time to spend with each passenger and so, I feel, the service suffers, however, not to the extent that it no longer exists. HAL prided itself on the quality of service and the Indonesian crew certainly do provide service with a smile. I think that the Vistas are better suited for families and those who are happier in a larger crowd. During our cruise HAL had their top chef aboard the Oosterdam and we felt that the food was better then usual, although we think the food is pretty good at the best of times. We really like the varied selection for lunch in the Lido and find the Wok provides some tasty and lower fat options. The last time we sailed on a Vista class ship they were trying out a new idea of buying, in advance, one glass of wine per night with dinner. We thought it was a wonderful idea as we do not want a bottle every night. That didnt take on it seems. This time they were trying out a more varied seating arrangement for dinner. If your table was for 5:45 or 6:15 you could arrive at the dining room any time from 5:45 until 6:30 and if you were booked for the later seatings you could turn up from 7:30 until 9pm. The advantage was that you had a little more flexibility but the disadvantage was that you may not be sitting at YOUR table. In order to accommodate everyone they often had to make up table parties as they went along. All the HAL ships have plenty to do and the two pools, spa, gym and casino are soon all in operation. We called at the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on consecutive days. We have visited Cabo before and did not really care for it. It seemed to us to be a small village ravaged by commerce but with no real improvements to the village itself. We knew where to go to get internet access and where to use a phone to call home so we set off to walk about the town and attend to these things. It was hot and humid on the day we were there. Mazatlan was a complete surprise to us. I have a friend who owns a resort there and she told me that Mazatlan was a dreadful place, so we were expecting to take a quick peek and return to the ship. We rarely book tours as they are so expensive and spending the day on a bus with heaps of other people is not our idea of a good day out. We prefer to walk and see the places in which we are docked for ourselves. Of course, this is not always possible or advisable but when we can we do. We walked around the Old Town of Mazatlan, for over 4 hours in 93º heat and were charmed by all that we saw. I am sure there were other areas which were less attractive but the Old Town was full of character and well worth walking around. It was also quite safe. The third of our port days saw us in Puerto Vallarta which, again, we expected to be very commercialised and modern. We shared a taxi, from the dock to the Hard Rock Cafe, with people from a Princess ship and then walked all over the Old Town. The street right on the front was just one long shop. Everything your heart could wish to buy was there and the bay was on the other side of the street. If shopping is all you cruise for then Puerto Vallarta would send you in to raptures as you can have some pleasing scenery and the shops all at once. However, if you want to see something of Mexico you only have to go one street back and you have architecture and quaintness that may as well have been under a rock for all some people saw of it. With each street back that you venture it gets more beautiful. Again we spent over 4 hours in the heat walking up and down hills and sets of stairs being drawn into the old town and never going near a shop. In the evening we met people who were horrified at the amount of walking we did and that we did not buy anything. They, they said, had had a wonderful day buying all sorts of stuff and hardly had to walk anywhere. I am glad they enjoyed their day but I also think How sad. After our three ports in a row we had a day at sea to relax. I love the sea days but I can never relax as I find there is so much to see. I am not interested in the casino or the bingo or anything else they organise I just love to people watch and to view the scenery from the decks. Simply being at sea is, for me, a thrill. For those who hate the days at sea because there is nothing to do the companies keep activities going day and night, so really there is no excuse for having time you can not fill, should you so wish. Our last port of call on the 1st leg was San Diego. We have so much enjoyed our first visit there a week earlier that we were looking forward to returning. We decided to spend part of the day walking (yes, we walked again) around the town centre and the other part of the day aboard the retired aircraft carrier Midway I found it interesting, my husband found it fascinating. Not being Americans we found the hype rather too much, but being aboard the ship, seeing how it operated was worthwhile. I spent some time in the Royal Naval Cadets and being on the Midway certainly brought back memories. It was quite an amazing thing to view the Midway from the dock and think how enormous it is and then to see the Oosterdam from the Midway and experience the sudden shrinkage of the Midway. The Midways displacement is nearly 60,000 tones and the Oosterdam is nearly 82,000. Of course, the shape is different but the over all size of the Oosterdam in comparison was remarkable. Sailing out of San Diego we felt like old hands as we viewed the city from the water for the second time. The only stop on our four day 2nd leg was San Francisco. We were told that we would sail under the Golden Gate Bridge in the early hours of the morning and that it would be strung with lights. My husband and I decided that we would sleep through this and see it in the daylight instead. As it so happened I awoke and looked out of our cabin window as we were just beginning our passage under the bridge. I woke my husband who leaped out of bed and was on the veranda before he knew why he was there. The view was rather disappointing from the strung with lights point of view and we thought that it was a sight, certainly, but not really greater than the Lions Gate in Vancouver. This opinion was reaffirmed later in the day when we sailed out of the bay in day light and totally shattered when we sailed into Vancouver 3 days later. It is astounding the tricks ones mind can play and how difficult it is to retain certain information, such as colour and size, accurately. We still love sailing under the Lions Gate Bridge but we have to concede that the Golden Gate Bridge is considerably the larger and more impressive. You will never guess what we did in San Francisco! No, we walked. We walked along the water front visited Fishermans Wharf where we caught a cable car to China town. From there we walked around the streets looking at the shops, it reminded us of Victorias china town, which like San Franciscos was the largest in its country at one point in history. Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill afforded us a wonderful view of the bay and the murals were worth seeing even if the outside view had not been available. In Cheimanus on Vancouver Island there are murals on many of the buildings, but here they were all inside on the walls. They depict the life of the working man of the 1930s and are completely fee to view, although one must pay to climb to the top of the tower. We viewed Lombardi Street from both ends (I though it would have been longer) and we strained our necks looking up at the wonderful Art Deco buildings. Do remember to look up in San Francisco. The time we had to see San Francisco was all too short as we only had a half day but we will certainly return. The weather had been hot and sunny but as we began to prepare for the sail away it was getting windy. The wind increased in strength as we sailed out of the bay and we were concerned that it may get quite choppy before the day was out. Captain Mercer told us that is was necessary, in order to arrive in Vancouver on time, to maintain full speed from here on and that we were due in Vancouver at 7 am the day after tomorrow. The following day Captain Mercer informed us that for our comfort and safety he had reduced speed to half and that we would now be arriving in Vancouver at 4pm. For those interested in such things we had been, were currently and would be for some time to come, sailing in a force 11 Gale. For those not au fait with the Beauford Scale a force 11 is described as a violent storm Winds can reach between 62 and 74 miles per hour and ships can be lost to sight in the waves for a time. The next level up, which is, incidentally, the last, is Hurricane force (12) where winds are measured at between 73 and 83 miles per hour. The Beauford Scale has been used by mariners since 1805 and is regarded to be as accurate to day as it was then. Captain Mercers decision, along with the design of the Oosterdam which made her remarkable stable in such conditions, saved many from misery and harm, but to hear the complaints you would have thought that it was a force 1 and that he was being unreasonable. Naturally people missed flights and were in need of rearranged travel arrangements. HAL, like all the other major lines are not exactly stupid, they knew this and their staff, on board and in Seattle worked tirelessly to re-arrange flights and buses for everyone who needed them. What they could not do was rearrange the lives of passengers who had foolishly regarded a cruise as a boating trip on the local pond. A word to the wise here. DO NOT arrange the most important business meeting of your career for the day after you are due home form a cruise. DO NOT assume that if Granny is looking after your kids that she can go home the day you are due to return. Make arrangements to extend your holiday by one day to cover this kind of eventuality. If Captain Mercer had held full speed we may have made it to Vancouver on time, I do not know, but, having been in a force 12 in the Bay of Biscay I can tell you, there would have been many sick and injured on board by the time we did reach port. What is it in the American psyche that causes so many to find fault at all times? The captain deserved praise and gratitude not attack. For us the added advantage of being late (along with the comfort factor) was that we got to sail through the Straits of Jan de Fuca and Georgia in daylight. The scenery as we rounded the tip of Washington and passed through the channel between that State and Vancouver Island, the Strait of Jan De Fuca, was wonderful. We saw Victoria from the sea and watched Mount Baker loom from the dark into view and appear to move from directly ahead to our starboard side. The later arrival was, for us, a real bonus and we would like to see more cruises through this stunning area in day light hours. We actually arrived at about 2pm and we swiftly processed to disembark. As always the service was professional and the terminal staff must be some of the best in the world for their courtesy and efficiency. Before we really knew it we were once more aboard a ship for the final journey home. We sailed from Tsawwassen to Duke Point on the slow ferry as the sun was setting in the Howe Sound. What a day for scenery! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from ... Read More
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from late 20s to mid 60s. We arrived in San Diego the day of the cruise. The port is only minutes away from the airport, which was nice. Embarkation was very quick and pleasant. We arrived on the ship early and were not allowed to go to our cabins, but were shown to the buffet where we had lunch. Our cabin was a balcony. The size was comparable to all other lines. I liked that the bathroom had a bath/shower combo. Dining was good. We ate in the main dining room all but 2 nights. We had two dinners in the specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle. Excellent food and service in The Pinnacle. When comparing this ship to others I have been on, I didn't think that it measured up in terms of activities or entertainment. They seem to cater to the older crowd and by 10pm, the ship is very quiet. The younger people in our group managed to make their own fun by whooping it up at Northern Lights - the disco next to the casino. The ports were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Cabo was our first stop. It is beautiful! We went to the beach in the morning and attended my sister's wedding on Pedgral Beach in the afternoon. I experienced Stone Island beach on Mazatlan which was AWFUL! It was dirty, the water was muddy, there were dogs running around urinating. Absolute YUCK! Would never go back there. My husband played golf, however, at Estrella Del Mar which he loved. Next stop was Puerto Vallarta, which was awesome. It is so beautiful and there is so much to see and so much to do. A lot of the people on the group did the canopy tour which received great reviews. My husband and I and another couple hired a driver to give us a 3 hour tour to see all the highlights of the area. He charged us $45/per person and it was well worth it. He would have charged us less if we waited for more people to join us in the van, but it is worth it to go with a smaller group. The two days at sea before returning to San Diego were pretty sedate. The weather on the ship was cool and windy. We spent a lot of time in the casino - slots were very tight, blackjack was OK. We had two people in our group win big in craps. Disembarkation was extremely quick. We had originally been given a 10:20am flight back home and changed it because we were afraid it was too early. It would have been no problem at all. We were in the airport by 9:00am. All in all, it was a nice vacation. For my age group, however, I would prefer to stay on Norwegian, Carnival or Royal Caribbean for any future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was our 20th cruise and 5th on HAL. The prior two cruises were on two of Celebrity's Millennium class ships and we were anxious to compare the two. We were on the maiden voyage of the QM2 and it ranks just above Princess at the ... Read More
This was our 20th cruise and 5th on HAL. The prior two cruises were on two of Celebrity's Millennium class ships and we were anxious to compare the two. We were on the maiden voyage of the QM2 and it ranks just above Princess at the bottom of our list. First I must say that the ship is beautifully decorated. We were taking pictures everywhere we went. HAL beats Celebrity on this one. Although we had a Deluxe Verandah Suite, it was in the back on the corner of deck six and in my opinion was nowhere near the advertised 510 sq. ft. The verandah was huge but privacy was certainly an issue. We had a Sky Suite on both the Infinity and the Millennium, both of which came with a Butler, so Celebrity gets the edge here. The Neptune Lounge is a non issue. Food. We ate every night at The Pinnacle speciality restaurant but we got the dining room dinner menus in our stateroom every night and quite honestly, I was not impressed. Celebrity definitely wins here. As for The Pinnacle, very limited menu with a Northwest US theme. The food was for the most part excellent as was the service. However, in all honesty, the variety and the individual service was better in the Celebrity speciality restaurants. Unfortunately, the decor in Celebrity's speciality restaurants couldn't touch HAL. Crystal is as good as it gets on this benchmark. The Lido on the Oosterdam was a zoo. Lots of really cool choices but just try to find a table after you have gotten your food. Staff. The captain was English and very friendly. The ship's staff was overall not half bad. I left Jose in the Crow's Nest a $100 tip which I have never done before. Embarkation and disembarkation were relatively easy. Would we go on the Oosterdam again? You bet we would. But I'm anxious to try the Constellation and the Noordam as well. Kudos to both HAL and Celebrity for providing us with a cruise experience that caters to our tastes and is reasonably priced. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
Before I say anything else, I must make the following two comments: This cruise was just about everything one could want in a cruise vacation. The Oosterdam deserves its number one rating. A very big thank you and word of congratulations ... Read More
Before I say anything else, I must make the following two comments: This cruise was just about everything one could want in a cruise vacation. The Oosterdam deserves its number one rating. A very big thank you and word of congratulations to the many parents of the more than 400 children on board. They were so well behaved as to be almost un-noticed. They must have been brought up right. Now, the cruise. Embarkation is a breeze. One arrives at the dock, checks luggage and if driving a personal car parks across the street and walks to the welcoming area. (A note of warning, watch out for individuals in the parking lot attempting to scam you with a hard luck story) In our case, the entire procedure from dropping the luggage to sitting on the Lido having lunch was no more than 45 minutes. We have never had it so easy in more than 15 cruises prior. Note: Cabin access is limited prior to 1:30 or so. This allows attendants to get them ready for you. (See disembarkation below) Lunch is available on the Lido deck. The ship is beautiful. The artwork spread throughout all decks and public areas is varied and interesting. One could spend hours just looking at it. The color selection is appropriate for a vessel catering to a more up-scale, adult clientele. The Vista showroom is large, comfortable, and as far as we could tell provided good sight lines from almost all seats. There are plenty of public areas for get-togethers, or just sitting and people watching. The Vista dining area is lovely, well laid out and does not give the feel of being crowded. All-in-all, a very comfortable ship. The cabin: Not as large as one could have hoped for but still quite sufficient. These is plenty of storage space, (be sure to look under the foot of the bed and under the couch). Note also that there are fold down shelves in the closets. The bathroom is somewhat larger than most with a tub for those so inclined. The veranda is large enough for a couple of chairs and a small table, but is not totally private. There is only one electrical outlet at the dressing table, so bring a power strip if you have more than one appliance to plug in. The bed is just as comfortable as has been described in other reviews. The food: The menu is not as varied as we remember from previous H-A cruises. However, the quality was just as high. The Lido deck provides an alternate to the dining room. There is the same variety of choice as one finds in the dining room. As with all cruise lines, the drinks are expensive, but they are well prepared. There is a wine program where one can buy four or six bottles ahead of time and save a little money, (If you like wine). Be sure to try the cold soups, they are delicious. The shipboard activities are more in keeping with an older more mature clientele. There is plenty of music that sounds like music, two venues for dancing, (We particularly liked the Ocean Bar and the Crossover group), a pretty good piano bar, classical music area, and the ever present Karaoke. The last was somewhat disappointing in that the music selection tended to be directed to a much younger taste than ours. There were the usual games one finds on ship, nothing too distasteful. In our case the daily trivia contests became addictive, as they must have with many others considering the turnout and the competitiveness. Now for the most important part; the people. This is the happiest ship we have ever sailed on. All contact personnel, the officers, and even those one would see working on keeping the vessel shipshape and clean smiled, offered assistance, or just a nice "hello". It was wonderful. I want to mention particularly, our cabin steward, Linda; our table stewards Dudi and Yayan; the chief steward, Badar (r,r,r,); and the entire service crew in the Ocean Bar. You made out trip memorable. I have not mentioned the ports visited. This is not an oversight, they just were not of great interest to us. (We have been there several times). We did note, however, the steep increase in costs of shore excursions both on the ship and on shore. Also, the cities have become pretty much tourist traps. Watch out for low quality goods at high prices. There is a shopping advisor on the ship, however we were totally turned off by what seemed to be a blatant shill rather than an unbiased advisor. If you would like lunch on shore, try the sushi restaurant on the dock in Cabo, and the el Gruto in Puerto Vallarta. Prices are good and so is the food. It is said that experienced cruisers sail for the ship not the ports. This is particularly true of this ship on this itinerary. Go for the on-board experience. It is truly remarkable. Finally, a word about disembarkation. H-A has instituted a program that allows you to stay in your cabin until called to leave the ship. This is a great improvement over all passengers going into overcrowded public areas to wait. Thank you H-A. It is just as easy to get off the ship as it was to get on. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship. We've cruised 6 times previously ... Read More
There are a number of other reports out there that will better review the itinerary. This will cover some of the questions I had that weren't answered for me while I was researching this ship. We've cruised 6 times previously on 3 other lines on itineraries ranging from 3 - 12 days but this was our first experience on HAL. The other ships have been fairly similar in size. We do travel with an elementary aged child so having a decent kids program is a must with us. We'd heard the average age of the HAL traveler was older than many other lines and were a bit concerned with how many children might be on this cruise. But as it was Spring Break, we took a chance that there would be a sufficient number to keep our daughter amused. On this particular sailing, there were 80 "Tweens" (aged 8-12) on board. There were a number that were younger and I only really saw a handful that appeared to be teenagers. All the youngsters were very well behaved without some of the running and yelling I've seen on other cruises. Not all the Tweens took advantage of Club HAL, which was a good thing because the facility is quite a bit smaller than we've experienced on 2 other cruise lines. The hours are limited on sea days to 9am-12pm, 2-4pm then 8-10pm. Childcare after 10pm was available in Club HAL for a nominal $5/hr. Activities were available on port days if you signed up the day before. I thought one of our previous sailings on another line had a better program, but my daughter was happy with what was offered on Oosterdam. She gave it a thumbs up. I didn't mind the 2 hour afternoon block but would have preferred the evening activities to start at 7pm since there'd be a long stretch between finishing dinner at main seating till Club HAL opened again. The hydrotherapy pool wasn't quite as nice as the ones we'd been in on Celebrity but the heated ceramic lounge chairs and aromatherapy steam rooms made up the difference. The hours were shorter than we would have liked (closed by 8pm most days but open till 10pm on 2 of the days). But it was never overly crowded at any time we were using it. We supposed that if it were more crowded, they might have a reason to extend the hours! The charge always seems high to use this part of the spa but is no worse than what many land based hotel spas charge per day for use of their facilities. We had found what we thought was a reasonable rate for a suite on this sailing and took advantage of it. It was also a plus that the 3rd/4th passenger rates with HAL were half of what we would be paying on the other ship/itinerary we'd been considering. On the advice of our TA, we booked an SB cabin located at what I referred to as the "love handle" portion of the ship. Not finding any other reviews or photos of one of these cabins, I really didn't know what to expect. We were happily surprised. The cabin was as large as a land based hotel room. The deck plan incorrectly showed the location of the cabin door though as where the bathroom actually is. Because the bathroom is set to the side, you feel as though there is much more floor space in this cabin than in the SA cabin next door to us. The tradeoff is that the sofa converts to a twin rather than queen sized bed (ok for us but not if you're travelling 4 to the cabin) and the verandah is shallower by about 4 planks (yes I counted). It does make a difference as the suite verandahs have a table for 4 as well as 2 chairs with footrests and a small cocktail table. The table was a little tight to get into for dining. If floor space in the cabin is more important to you than verandah space, I would take this cabin in a heartbeat since the bathroom appeared to be the same size as in the SA. The new SOE beds are a definite improvement over beds on our past cruises that had mattresses little better than camp beds. And no scratchy bedspreads but nice soft duvet covers instead and enough pillows that we didn't have to ask for more. This was not only our first HAL sailing but also the first time in a suite cabin. So what can a HAL suite passenger expect? Aside from the fruit bowl and small flower arrangements in each cabin, we also had a welcome bottle of champagne (quite tasty, I must say), a welcome cocktail party the first night and a suite luncheon on the last sea day. Both of those were attended by Captain Mercer, James Deering (the hotel manager), Jimmy Lynett (the cruise director) and a few other officers. This is a very accessible management group as we would also see them around the public areas mingling with the passengers throughout the cruise, always with a smile and greeting. We enjoyed use of the Neptune Lounge for a light breakfast and afternoon snacks (our own "high tea" time) as well as use of the coffee machine that provided cappuccino and lattes along with regular coffee. Our concierges, Rea and Michelle, took care of everything so we didn't have to go to the main desk (from shore excursion bookings and breaking bills to re-issuing room keys that kept de-magnetizing - 4 cards for our daughter on a 7 day cruise!) as well as ordering dinner off the dining room menu to be delivered to our stateroom for meals on the verandah (a highly underrated experience). Aside from free laundry and dry cleaning (embarrassing how much we sent out during the week), one of the best perks was taking breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill where the service was always superb and was a must on debarkation day when the lines in the Lido were out the door. We do tend to be a touch pickier about our food than most. Everyone else we spoke to were really enjoying their meals. I think our expectations had been higher based on some reviews we'd read. While the Lido had much better food than in similar areas on other ships we've cruised on, the overall dining experience based on taste was only a "B" for us. I was particularly disappointed with the heavy use of surimi (the fake crab) in both the lobster bisque and conch chowder. The Pinnacle Grill had been heavily lauded but the side dishes were bland and our Chocolate Volcano cake had been overdone with no "lava" in the middle. The filet and porterhouse we ordered were huge and the 3 sauces were very good. The crab cakes were very very good. I told the waiter he could just keep bringing me plates of those and skip the rest of the order! The Pinnacle chef provided a cooking demonstration one afternoon making both the crab cakes and the volcano cake. It was amusing to see that the recipes were for portions of 20-30 servings for each and the misspelling indicating you should use Dungeness "crap" meat. Service was superb throughout. It was very evident this crew enjoys working together. We will definitely sail with HAL again. Now if only we'd won the cruise lottery to the Caribbean..... Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
This was my thirty-third cruise overall and my sixth with HAL. It was also my second time on the MS Oosterdam; the first was Alaska Sept. 2004. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier (tent) at 11:00 AM and were onboard by ... Read More
This was my thirty-third cruise overall and my sixth with HAL. It was also my second time on the MS Oosterdam; the first was Alaska Sept. 2004. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier (tent) at 11:00 AM and were onboard by 11:30. I gave my bride a brief tour of the ship and she seemed genuinely pleased. The cabins were available by 1:30 PM and I have to say we were extremely impressed. We had requested a Deluxe Verandah Suite and ours' was located on the stern, port side, deck four. The balcony was huge. It wrapped around the stern and was large enough to have a party for twenty persons. It was just great! We also enjoyed the exclusiveness of the Neptune Lounge and the numerous functions hosted by the Captain and Hotel Manager The cabin was very spacious and my wife liked the separate dressing area very much. There was a complimentary bottle of champagne from the Captain and we saved that for my birthday which was one half way through the cruise. We met our cabin steward (Tokieman) and he proved to be outstanding throughout the cruise. We wanted to take him home. The ship had a different feel about it as opposed to the previous cruise on the Oosterdam. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but did soon enough. HAL has instituted a new program named "Signature of Excellence". It showed throughout the cruise. The ship had just left dry-dock and much of the carpet and furniture had been replaced. The entire ship was spotless, but the biggest improvement was the service and the food. Don't get me wrong, HAL has always had good food and the service has always been just great. But with this new program it was even better and it showed. The Oosterdam has lost the use of one Azipod during the previous cruise and it was announced that we would bet traveling with only one and therefore our speed would be reduced from 24 knots to 19 knots. To compensate the passengers for this slight inconvenience we were given an onboard credit of $ 25.00 per passenger and a complimentary bottle of wine with our Sunday evening dinner. I heard that this Azipod situation will be partially corrected within two weeks and completely replaced during the April haul out. Out itinerary included Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The tendering process was painless and done well in both tendered ports. We opted not to use HAL shore excursions and went on our own in each port. I enjoyed Mazatlan the most but my wife liked Puerto Vallarta the best. Cabo was OK, but hot and not too much going on. It was still worth seeing though. Onboard we enjoyed the Crow's Nest, Ocean Bar, and Seaview Lounge the most. However they were all great. The casino took its usual toll from whoever went there and played. One night we went to the Pinnacle Restaurant and again it was superlative. The upgrade is now $30.00 but well worth it. If you get a chance do go and book quickly as reservation fill up quickly. We did not take in any shows but fellow passengers said they were OK. We also did not use the spa or gym. Disembarkation at the end was done just right and we were of the ship at 8:30 AM promptly as requested. Overall, I tip my hat to HAL. They are the best I've cruised with. I am happy the parent company Carnival has decided to let HAL operate to such a degree of excellence. Again I highly recommend HAL and it you can swing a Deluxe Verandah Suite, you should. What a treat! Peter Cunningham Fairhope, AL Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
I have been on many cruises, and have always enjoyed them. This was the first time I took a cruise which left from San Diego. Since San Diego is my home, I didn't have to travel to get to the embarkation port. I thought this would ... Read More
I have been on many cruises, and have always enjoyed them. This was the first time I took a cruise which left from San Diego. Since San Diego is my home, I didn't have to travel to get to the embarkation port. I thought this would make everything easy, but that was not the case. I had a serious problem with a missing piece of luggage, which I will discuss later on in this review. The embarkation itself was OK, although it took a very long time. Our stateroom, which had a verandah, was quite pleasant. The only problem was that we hardly slept the first night because some pictures which were attached to the wall kept banging. We had them removed the next day, and all was well. The ship was nice. I especially liked the Promenade deck which was good for taking walks. I did not partake of any spa activities. Dinners were adequate, but not special. The Pinnacle Grill, for which you pay something extra, did provide an excellent dinner, and I would recommend that. (However, on previous cruises I have taken, the food in the dining room was excellent, without paying extra.) For our lunches, we went to the Lido buffet. Again, the food wasn't spectacular, but there was a lot of variety, and it was fine for a light lunch. For breakfast, we ordered room service using the card on the door at night. It generally came on time in the morning, and was OK. The shipboard activities were good. I particularly liked the demonstrations/discussions about the animal towel folding, ice carving, and digital cameras. The entertainment was pretty good. We especially liked the piano bar, the comedian, and the Elton John impersonator. We didn't go on any shore excursions. This was partly because the time in ports was considerably shorter than it was supposed to be because of the broken azipod which caused the ship to travel slower than it should. (This problem was described in an earlier review by someone else.) The service relative to the cabin was good. The room was always clean, and the fresh fruit was replenished. However, the service provided by guest relations regarding my missing suitcase was abominable. Here's what happened: My husband and I watched a porter (hired by a company which was hired by HA) put our 4 properly-labeled suitcases on a cart to be brought to the Oosterdam. By some fluke, one of my suitcases ended up on another ship! (This happened to at least one other person on the same cruise.) After many days, HA found out where my suitcase was, but they couldn't be sure when I'd get it back. The ship's administrators could only repeat We're sorry, and sounded arrogant and insincere. I had to buy some essential clothing items in Mazatlan. These same officials told me that they couldn't pay me back, but that Seattle headquarters had been contacted. They said that Seattle would decide about compensation on a case by case basis, and that it would depend on the number of days I was without my suitcase. After 4 days of aggravation, I got a letter from the manager of guest relations on the ship offering a small shipboard credit as a gesture of goodwill. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling much goodwill towards the staff. On day 5 (on a 7-day cruise) my case was returned, in a somewhat damaged condition, and with some items missing. On the last day of the trip, I was told that HA wouldn't pay anything to cover my financial outlay. (The total amount was only $300.) I have been fighting HA ever since, including sending a letter to the CEO of the company. It was just turned over to the original person who said that nothing would be done. I have only been able to speak to 2 subordinates. They told me that the goodwill credit I received was all that HA would pay for a suitcase whose misplacement they were responsible for. When I reminded them that the ship's management told me that the goodwill credit was separate from compensation for what I spent, they said that those people had made a mistake, and HA wasn't going to take responsibility for what they said, even though I have it in writing. This attitude is unconscionable. (Some people might say that the ship's management lied to me, as several other critics on this web site have noted.) It was bad enough that I was missing clothing I had carefully selected for the cruise, but what made it worse was the arrogant and uncaring attitude of the ship's management, and then the lack of courtesy of the Seattle administrators who didn't return phone messages or letters. The disembarkment went smoothly. I liked that you could relax in your cabin until your group was called. We were even able to find our suitcases relatively easily. The problem happened the night before. When we went back to our cabin to finish packing and then relax, we found that our card keys no longer worked. Repeated visits to the front desk to get the keys fixed didn't help. We ended up standing in the hallway for an hour until guest relations found someone who had an actual metal key which unlocked the door. In summary, even though I was particularly upset due to the lack of help from guest relations, other people I spoke with were also disappointed in this particular cruise. In general, things on this cruise were adequate, but not special. I will certainly never cruise on a Holland America ship again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
I'm not sure I sailed on the same Oosterdam as the other people. Mine was marginal, at best. Mexican Riviera, 10/21-10/28/06 As has been reported, one Azipod was inop. Without notice of this prior to boarding, we sailed from San ... Read More
I'm not sure I sailed on the same Oosterdam as the other people. Mine was marginal, at best. Mexican Riviera, 10/21-10/28/06 As has been reported, one Azipod was inop. Without notice of this prior to boarding, we sailed from San Diego into the projected path of Hurricane Paul!! With the Captain's assurances that passenger safety was his first priority. (??) It all worked out, but not before wandering around at sea in the vicinity of Cabo San Lucas for 36 hrs with a short last minute stop at Cabo primarily for crew disembarking, and skipping Mazatlan entirely. Finally Paul dissipated and we did make it to Puerta Vallarta on schedule. Us, the Rotterdam and two other cruise ships, all totaling about 10,000 people. As on the previous two HAL cruises we've taken, stateroom and dining room service were excellent. However, room service was a disaster, time after time. We had a Deluxe Verandah Suite and ordered coffee for delivery between 7:30-8:00 each morning. It was ALWAYS early. Knocking on the door usually began at 7:10 or so and was our wakeup call. And lunch one day with guests in our suite took 1:45 to arrive, in spite of repeated calls and being told it was ready and would be up soon. Numerous little things on the ship were broken, like elevator buttons, the phone messaging system, light bulbs out, our toilet leaking, etc. And most were not addressed during our cruise. They did fix the toilet though. But it all added up to an impression of uncaring maintenance. They could have at least removed the broken chair from the front row of the Crows Nest. The Deluxe Verandah Suite we purchased seemed to buy us nothing. We did get a special line at check in and use of the Neptune Lounge, where the poor ladies acting as concierge got to deal with our repeated calls. They really did try hard and were truly concerned, but resolutions to our problems were out their control. And in spite of buying HAL's airport transfer, we were among the last off the ship and dropped at the San Diego airport on a Saturday morning with 25 minutes to plane time. So much for suite privileges. It didn't help that, as we learned, there were 1200 travel industry persons aboard and HAL kept closing public areas such as bars, deck pools, Crows Nest, etc for their prime time private parties. And the ship's officers who were supposed to host functions for the suite customers only briefly showed up, if at all. Guess they were busy elsewhere. We weren't the only passengers who experienced our frustrations. Our dining room tablemates were also suite occupants and they had the same experiences and observations we did. It was an anniversary cruise for them and his first (and I think last) cruise. So now we'll cancel our deposit on the Westerdam for an Eastern Med. cruise next May and be looking at other lines for future cruising. We sure liked our previous HAL cruises but this just smacked of a big decline in attitude. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise 11-25-06 to 21-2-06 by AZjohn OK, this will be my first cruise review I have ever done. I hope to offer a brief overview of my wife and my experience onboard and a few shore excursions that we did which ... Read More
Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise 11-25-06 to 21-2-06 by AZjohn OK, this will be my first cruise review I have ever done. I hope to offer a brief overview of my wife and my experience onboard and a few shore excursions that we did which maybe a little different than our fellow Cruse Critic members. By the way, we had the best Cruise Critic group, period!!!! Personal Background: We are a couple in our late 40's /early 50's who have cruised 4 times previously to this in the past 3 years (we became quickly addicted to cruising after our first experience in 2003). The previous cruises were on Carnival, NCL, Oceania, and HAL, with this cruise being our second time on HAL. We basically look for two different ways to enjoy a specific itinerary on a cruise. Either a port intensive exploration of towns or a simple R&R escape from a busy life. This particular cruise was deemed as totally R&R with no need for anything but nice weather and a comfortable lounge chair. The Ship: The Oosterdam was an inviting and gracious ship. Our stateroom was a VB veranda # 6112 on the port side. It was typical in size but got to say the bed was much larger than we ever experienced on any ship before. It felt close to a king size rather than a small queen size, which is a huge bonus for us both. We also enjoyed the view on the veranda through the glass and the bathtub is what the wife enjoys over any other cruise line. Our steward, Tony, was great and always took care of us in the standard HAL way. The flow of the inside public areas were kind of different than what we have experienced before. It seemed to kind of wonder or snake around from fore to aft with a lot of small secluded sitting/bar areas. I found it interesting to seem to find a new area of the ship most everyday. Our favorite spot for lounging in the sun was on deck 10 by a spiral staircase you can find by the lido pool. There wasn't much traffic up there or music playing, which was exactly what we enjoyed about it. Just the sound of the ocean and the sea breeze blowing across the deck, ahhhhh. We had the first dinning time in the main dinning room on deck 2 (lower). We had a great crew taking care of us there with a can do or will do attitude. We were seated at a table for 4 and the other couple was friends of ours. Now this really helped with the flex dinning time of between 5:30 and 6:00 because we were always either running early or late to dinner. It was great to ask the other couple what time we want to meet for dinner an hour before hand, so we never had to wait for each other before we ordered. I could imagine if it was another couple we didn't know who was sharing the same table, we would have problems if we showed up at 6:00 and they showed up at 5:30. We did have dinner one night in the Pinnacle Grill which was the only negative experience we had on the whole cruise. The overall condition of the ship I would rank as excellent. I finally got to meet James Deering at our CC party and I can tell he runs a great ship and he is a nice person. I thought it was very cool he took time out of his day to meet our group and talked very candidly about the ship. This leads me to the topic of the port side azipod. Other than showing up at noon in Cabo and leaving PV at 6:00 or 7:00, there wasn't anyway I could tell there was a problem with the azipod. Plans are to replace the azipod with a new one which will be shipped at the first of the year. When it will be replaced in dry dock is yet to be determined by the headquarter offices in Washington. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze in San Diego. What a pleasure it is to show up at 10:30 and be on the ship at 11:30 having lunch. Our cabin was ready at 1:30 and Tony was there to greet us with a smile. The following Saturday (I will refer to as the saddest day of the cruise) we were able to order room service for breakfast and hang out in our room or lounge at my favorite spot on deck 10 until 9:45 when we were called to leave the ship. Took us only 15 minutes and we had our luggage and cab heading for the airport. Ports Of Call: Cabo was a short day due to arriving at noon. We took the Swimming with the Dolphins excursion through HAL. What an experience!!!! There were 5 groups of 6 people in each who got to go in the huge pool and play and swim with dolphins. I don't know how to describe this experience the way it should, but I will just say that everyone should try this once in their life, it's truly worth the cost. In Mazatlan we booked and 4 and a half hour massage at Aroma Spa (use to be called Royal Spa). I got to tell you that this was an awesome experience and the service was great. An American named Knute owns this and was great to deal with. We pre-purchased these massages on e-bay for about $70 each (what a deal). Now I got to warn you that if you are shy this may not be a massage you would enjoy because the therapist will massage every inch of your body with the exception of your private areas, but they came close to those&LOL. Just a small towel is used to cover those areas, but I personally enjoyed my buns massaged and am not usually shy or bashful. The spa is located about a mile or two from the pier but would recommend getting a taxi to take you there because it would have been impossible to find just by walking (a lot of one way streets to get there). PV was our favorite stop on the cruise. We walked directly to Krystal Resort from the ship (thanks to the CC members who gave directions). Now they do charge $20 to get into the resort but I just flashed them a copy of my e-mail conformation for our massage appointments and told the security guard we are here for a massage. They let us in with no problem without paying the $20 each. Once inside we headed for the beach part of the resort to find some lounge chairs on the beach. We found a guy dressed in a brown uniform that was in charge of assigning the beach lounge chairs and handed him $5 and asked for 2 chairs under a straw umbrella next to the shore line. He gave us the best he had, wiped off the chairs and got us a table and then called our waiter over for us. At noon we headed over to the massage area (can you see a pattern here?) and had another exceptional massage at the price of $35 for 75 minutes. The rest of our day was spent lounging on the beach, eating and drinking, and just enjoying life. Our bill at the end of the day for 2 lunches and 5 drinks was something like $20, so we gave the waiter a nice tip and called it a great day! Oh, and I tried parasailing there for the first time in my life and what another great experience! Summary: My wife and I had a very enjoyable and relaxing week vacation. Because we were just looking for kicking back and not having to be entertained or partying all the time, this cruise worked out perfect. We do enjoy HAL for many personal reasons but understand they may not be right for everyone. I don't think we will ever book a cruise on a larger ship than the Oosterdam and will probably stick with the Volendam size ship next time we book a HAL cruise. Not that there is anything wrong with the Oosterdam, she is a beautiful ship, but we both kind of have fond memories of our first cruise on the Volendam last summer in Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
Oosterdam Mexican Cruise 11/18/06  11/25/06 Embarkation  We arrived about 11:45 on Saturday the 18th. We dropped our bags at the terminal and then I parked the car in the lot across the street, very convenient. There were 4 of us and ... Read More
Oosterdam Mexican Cruise 11/18/06  11/25/06 Embarkation  We arrived about 11:45 on Saturday the 18th. We dropped our bags at the terminal and then I parked the car in the lot across the street, very convenient. There were 4 of us and our check-in went smoothly the computers were down so they could not take our pictures at check-in. (We had our pictures taken that night at the front desk took all of 5 minutes). We were given a number (17) and were asked to wait until it was called to board, we waited about 15 minutes and then were on to the ship. The 4 of us were escorted to the Lido deck after checking in our carry on baggage (this was nice as we did not have to lug our baggage around with us). At approximately 1:00 PM the call came that our cabins were ready picked up our carry on bags and preceded to the cabins. Cabin 5002 this is a handicap cabin at the front of the ship (I recently had knee surgery) the cabin was nicely laid out and the cabin steward (NaNang) was at our beck and call. We had minor problems with the toilet not flushing the first day and he got it fixed in a matter of hours. We also had an AC problem after some maintenance was done near our cabin and NaNang got it fixed right away. Great Steward and very friendly he always greeted us with a smile. This cabin has lots of storage we did not use all the shelves and drawers. The verandah is a great place to watch dolphins surfing in the wake of the ship and flying fish. Those going on this cruise in Jan  Mar 07 should be able to see whales from the verandah. Early Dining (5:30 - 6:00)  We had 3 different waiters (Guru, Iip, Artha) during the cruise  lucky for us the asst. waiter (Prince Rama) was with us every night. Here we had a little concern, this is the first time I have been on a cruise ship that almost every dish had onions in it, even chilled Mango soup. This is a problem as I am allergic to onions. After some discussions with the waiters and head waiter, I was allowed to see the next evening menu prior to leaving each night, this way I could order and they made sure no onions were served to me. As for selection on the menus it seemed that it was not as good as on the Maasdam, this could be for many reasons but I believe it is the chef's choice as to what is served or offered. Thanksgiving the menu options included a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner and a lot of people ordered that. Two of those at our table requested more gravy as not much was on the plate - messes up the presentation so the Asst. Waiter got them their own gravy boat full of gravy. Because the Thanksgiving the Surf and Turf usually scheduled for Formal Night was offered on Wednesday night. Lido - we ate most breakfasts and lunch in the Lido and found the service could have been better. It is a little hard to handle a tray of food with one hand while walking with a cane. Lucky for me after the 2nd day Iip (who worked the Lido for breakfast and Lunch) saw me and made sure someone assisted with the tray. The selection in the Lido was one of the best I have seen on any ship. The bread pudding was great however if you didn't get any by 2:00 pm each day they seemed to run out. The selection of sugar free/no sugar added desserts were ok. Pinnacle - we ate in the Pinnacle on Monday evening, gift from our TA, there were six of us and we each had something different. The service was good however probably would not pay the $30 per person to dine here. This is just my opinion. Lay out of the ship- Talked with Mr. Dearing the Hotel Manager about the choke points in the ship - Photo Gallery and Shopping Arcade - he stated that it was designed that way so you have to go through those areas. The designers thought it would help photo and shop sales, in my opinion I don't think it worked as we went on Deck and around those areas when it was crowded. Casino - We felt the casino was about the right size. We never had a problem finding a slot machine or a gaming table. One of the group actually got a blister on her finger from playing one of the games. However, I thought it was weird to have the Texas Hold'em table in the sports bar. Photographers - The photographers were not as insistent as on other cruises we have been on. This was a good thing, once we told them we were not interested they left you alone. Shopping Guide - Linda the shopping guide assisted our wives in getting some good prices on jewelry. She went out of her way and delayed going back to the ship to help our wives out. She was very knowledgeable on what a good price was and how far you could negotiate with the local dealers. Shows - The shows were the usual cruise faire except for Julie Barr the comedian, she gave two shows one was a family show and one was for Adults. Both of her shows were outstanding she gets the audience involved in the show and that was great. Mariner Party - The Mariner Party with the Captain was not well attended, approximately 200 out of 700 Mariners appeared at the party. We also attended a smaller party with the Captain and Officers in the Oak Room; we were able to actually speak with a number of officers, the Cruise Director and others about the ship and what we could expect during the cruise. This was a very informative and insightful gathering. Green House Spa - I had a rock massage and would not recommend it to anyone. After the massage I felt like my shoulders and back was still knotted up. I had the same massage on the Maasdam in February and felt great afterwards. Ports of Call: Cabo San Lucas - There were relatively high seas and since you tender in this port it took awhile to load the tenders and get ashore. HAL did hire extra tenders to help with the tendering process. We picked up our tender tickets (# 45) at about 12:30 and were not called to get on the tender until 1:40. As we are fisherman we just went to the pier and talked to the locals about the fishing, saw a lot of Marlin, and Dorado being brought in. We plan on coming back on a land vacation to do some fishing. Mazatlan - We tied up to the pier here and disembarkation went very smooth. We did not have a shore excursion planned here and ended up getting a local tour operator to take us around for $20 per person. He was knowledgeable, however we were put with a group of people who just wanted to see the local churches, and our wives wanted to shop so he had a hard time pleasing both groups. I believe next time we will take a taxi or a HAL shore excursion. Puerto Vallarta - This was another tender port, the seas were calm and tendering went fast. We took the Town and Country Tequila tour, it was well worth it, and our guide Jose (Pepe) was very knowledgeable and made the tour very interesting. Learning how Tequila was made was educational and the tasting wasn't bad either. We did have a couple that did not return to the Bus when we were downtown and Jose waited about a ½ hour for them and then left them in town. The way I look at it is if 20+ people can make it back on time then it was only their fault they got left in town. Sea Days - There was so much going on you could not physically do everything so you had to choose what you wanted to do or just relax by one of the pools. We had a great time just watching others have a good time. The Cruise Director and her staff did a good job getting people involved in the activities. Disembarkation - This went very smooth, being able to stay in your cabin until your number is called is great. However, there were still people who lined up in the passageways around the gangplank with their luggage to wait for their number to be called. Finding the our bags was easy, just asked the HAL rep were Orange 4 was and found our bags were all together in one area. First time we haven't had to hunt for our bags. Since we parked across the street I went and got the car and pulled up to the terminal and we were on our way back to LA before 10:00 AM. Miscellaneous - Everyone who was on this cruise has a different experience, we enjoyed ourselves and thought the crew went out of their way to accommodate us. The vibration from running on one Azipod was more noticeable in the aft part of the ship and when the ship was going at least 16 knots, the further forward we wend the less noticeable it was for us. However in some moderate seas 7 to 10 feet we felt the roll of the ship more in our cabin than our friends did in their Aft-ship cabin. Overall this was a great experience and we can't wait to go on the Volendam in January. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 ... Read More
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 am. We took a taxi to the port and dropped our luggage off at the ship around 10:15. We exited and walked around the port and visited the USS Midway museum. We returned to the cruise port at around 12:15, and got in line to board the ship. The embarkation process went pretty smooth considering the Holland America reservation computers were down. We boarded the ship by 12:40 and proceeded to the Lido deck for lunch. At 1:00 they announced we could go to our rooms. We had booked a Deluxe Verandah Outside room (5125 on the Verandah deck). Since we were a group of 3, I would say the room was a little small. I think if it were just my wife and I the room would have been fine. The balcony was small with a door that opened out. Also with the couch made into a bed you couldn't easily access the balcony. But it had a nice sized bathroom with a tub. Also I will say that the bed was by far the most comfortable of any of the cruises we've been on. We ate most of our meals in the Lido buffet, but did have one meal in the Vista dining room. We did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill. The food I thought was very good to excellent. The variety of food was good. Typically for dinner you ordered your meal and it was plated and brought to you by the wait staff. I miss having the Muesli for breakfast. The experience on the ship was different from our other cruises. We've sailed on 2 of the Princess Grand class ships, and a Royal Caribbeans Radiance class ship. The Oosterdam isn't as big as either class of ship. The ship public areas seem small. This gives the ship an intimate feel. The atrium was small and not as impressive as on other ships. Getting around in the public areas on decks 1, 2, and 3 sometimes seemed like a maze. But the ship had a lot of elevators and stairs that made getting to the different decks easy. With the exception of the Lido buffet, during meals, the public areas were never crowded. The housekeeping crew kept the ship immaculately clean! One thing that was interesting compared to our other cruises was the room steward. Our steward never came up and introduced himself. Likewise you never had the big housekeeping cart sitting out in the hallway all day long. Unfortunately one of the ships azipods was not working which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Likewise there was a pronounced vibration on the back of the ship. I don't know if this was because we were running on one pod and it had to work harder. The crew all seemed very nice and helpful. As I mentioned we didn't get to know the room steward but he did a good job of taking care of us. The wait staff in the dining room were very courteous, and efficient. We were part of a Cruise Critic meet and greet forum. The cruise line helped one of the members arrange a meet and greet, and we met the cruise director. The photography staff didn't seem as pushy as with other cruise lines, which was appreciated. This was our first cruise down the west side of Mexico. I had wanted to do this itinerary for a while. As I mentioned the ship was running on only one engine, which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Our first stop was Cabo San Lucas. Due to the engine troubles we were limited to about 5 hours in port. We arrived at noon, and they started issuing tender passes about 12:30. This is a tender port, and the winds kicked up the waves a little. The ship enlisted additional port tenders from the city, and thank goodness they did. The ships tenders had problem getting into position to load people. More than once I saw one of the ships tenders hit the side of the ship. It seemed to take 3 times longer for the ship tenders to get into position to load passengers. The port tenders would pull up and dock with no problems, and probably made twice as many trips as the ship tenders. Needless to say it took almost 2 hours for them to get to our pass number. We got to port about 2:45. With the little time left about all we could do was wander through town and shop. We did receive a twenty-five dollar per person credit for the reduce time we had in port. Cabo San Lucas looks like a really nice place. The street vendors were very aggressive! The next port was Mazatlan! We didn't preplan any excursions through the cruise line, but had planned to see what we could arrange in port. We found a group that offered all day tours of the city and would drop you off in the resort area for a few hours before taking you back to the port. The tour was really interesting and we were able to see a good cross section of the town and population. We arrived at the resort area and the driver recommended a restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed the meal, particularly the margaritas. The beach was really nice. After eating we went to a small shopping area where we bought some souvenirs, and then returned to the ship. The last port was Puerto Vallarta. Again we arranged a tour at the port. The guide was excellent, taking us through a good portion of town and south down the coast to several points of interest and places to take pictures. Last we ended up in a small village where they had a Tequila factory. We did a tasting and roamed around the village. It was fascinating and we bought some more souvenirs. Later we returned to the port, where my son returned to the ship. My wife and I ate lunch in port and did some more shopping, finally moving to the beach and wading in the ocean. We tendered back to the ship and cleaned up and relaxed. Later on they had a cook out and mariachi band in the Lido Deck pool area. The city and port are beautiful, and I really enjoyed Puerto Vallarta. The last two days (including Thanksgiving) were spent at sea heading back to San Diego. We had a traditional dinner on Thanksgiving. The sea days were nice with lots of activities on the ship to keep you busy. We visited the casino a couple time, and I actually won a little money (which is really unusual for me). I also spent quite a bit of time on the balcony reading and relaxing. We bought an Internet access package, and used out laptop and wireless network card in certain parts of the ship (usually the Crows Nest lounge). Access wasn't particularly fast but it wasn't dial up slow. Finally the cruise came to an end. On Friday we received our disembarkation packet. We packed and placed our bags outside our door prior to going to bed. Upon arrival in San Diego we enjoyed our breakfast, and returned to our room and waited to be called to disembark. We were called about 10:00 and we proceeded to the gangway and were checked off the ship. We presented our immigration documents in the terminal and our customs sheet. Then to the baggage area to pick up our luggage! I must say that this was by far the easiest and most convenient disembarkation process I've ever had. I wish all of the cruise lines would be this easy. We caught a taxi to the airport to drop off our luggage and then returned to town to look around some more. Finally we returned to the airport to catch our 3:00 pm flight home. This was a wonderful trip! I do wish that we had been able to enjoy all of the time advertised in each port. But the ship was very nice as was the ships staff. I wouldn't mind doing this itinerary again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
Excellent ship. Service was terrific. Entertainment and "things to do" if you took part, covered your day. meals were so -so at times. Some of the dinner entrees and appetizers were dull. The Thanksgiving meal was terrible. ... Read More
Excellent ship. Service was terrific. Entertainment and "things to do" if you took part, covered your day. meals were so -so at times. Some of the dinner entrees and appetizers were dull. The Thanksgiving meal was terrible. Although i appreciated the sushi each deal at lunch it was very flat in taste and had no imagination. The was was in terrific shape being only 3 years old. However somewhere along the line they lost one of the Azipod engines and we had to run on only one. Couldn't notice the loss of the engine but it did require a shorter time in the ports as we couldn't make up the speed. As an fyi...the beds on this ship are terrific..big thick mattresses and excellent pillows. Balcony cabin was small Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
We were on the Oosterdam for the November 18 - 25 Thanksgiving sailing. This was our sixth cruise and our first on HAL. We had a group of ten including my husband and two kids, my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, and two friends. ... Read More
We were on the Oosterdam for the November 18 - 25 Thanksgiving sailing. This was our sixth cruise and our first on HAL. We had a group of ten including my husband and two kids, my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, and two friends. Embarkation was very smooth. We live in San Diego but because of a commitment didn't get to the dock until after 2 pm. We parked our car across the street from the pier, which is very convenient. There were no lines at the check-in, but the computer systems were all down so they couldn't take our pictures our process our paperwork online. Minor inconvenience - we had to go stand in at the front desk the next day to get our picture taken - but since our keycards kept magically demagnetizing we spent a lot of time down there anyway. We made our way to our aft VA cabins. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the cabins. They look tiny in the pictures, but are actually very livable for two but I wouldn't want to put three in one cabin. We had two cabins next to each other for our immediate family so we had our room steward, Joe, open the verandah divider between the two cabins. This was great for us so we could go back and forth without going into the hallway. The verandahs (we were on deck 5) were very large. We had a lounge chair, wicker chair with ottoman, and two side chairs and a small table with lots of room to move around. The cabin has plenty of storage, was very clean, and the beds are very comfortable. I had seen pictures of the Oosterdam and wasn't sure I was going to like the decor, but in most cases it was actually very nice. We absolutely did not like the layout of the ship. In all of my cruises, even on ships of the same size (Celebrity Summit) this was the most crowded and cramped ship I have been on. The public spaces are tiny. Lots of little bars, but the Vista Lounge was so small, the casino was tiny, the front desk area on deck 2 is so small there was always a line that blocked traffic. I hated having to walk through the photo gallery to go from dinner on deck 3 to the Vista for the show. Traffic flow was a nightmare there. The shopping arcade is also laid out like an afterthought, and it seemed they devoted the most space on the ship for the stupid art auctions. Because this was a Thanksgiving cruise there were many large family groups and over 400 children on board. Club Hal was a real disappointment for my kids. I knew there would be a lot of kids, but I thought HAL would be able to handle the crowd. My kids were in the Tweens group and they had to meet in one of conference rooms on deck 3 with nothing but chairs and a table in the room. The staff was great, but there were no video games and it wasn't a kid-friendly space. The worst part about Club Hal is they force you to let your kids check themselves in and out. If you don't allow it, they will take your 8 - 13 year old and put them with the 7 and under group. My kids are very responsible, but it's not them I worry about when they are wandering around on the ship. The counselors didn't care where they went when they left. We made a deal that one of my kids (the other one decided the first day he didn't really want to participate) that he could check himself out at a specified time and come right to the cabin. One day he checked himself out early, went to the cabin and we weren't there, wandered around for an hour looking for us, then checked himself back in to the club. Meanwhile, we went to Club Hal looking for him and they didn't even know he had left. I think this is an accident waiting to happen and they need to figure out a better system. Needless to say that after that fiasco we came in person to drop him off and pick him up. If HAL is going to advertise itself as family-friendly, then they need to step up and provide the services the other cruise lines do. I found overall the service on the ship to be very bad. Our cabin steward was the only bright spot and he was fantastic. Our dining room staff was simply awful. First, there was a mixup on the early/late seating and table numbers. Six of our group wanted early seating and were waitlisted for three months. The two older couples with us wanted to eat late seating and were confirmed, but when we got onboard we all had early seating but at two different tables. My sister stood in line to straighten it out with the maitre d and he was extremely rude and said that maybe he would fix it the next day. By the time the cruise was over, my parents and their friends had been moved from early to late seating (on the third day) and at late seating were moved to three different tables. The maitre d was completely unapologetic. We were at the same table the whole time, but our service was terrible. They are obviously understaffed in dining room. It was the most impersonal service I have ever received on a cruise ship. Many nights the wine stewardess (who was great) would take bar and wine orders, but I would never get an iced tea or milk for my kids even if we asked a couple of times. The waiter would forget to bring some of the food we ordered or mix up who ordered what. They got a little friendlier as the week went on, but it didn't make up for the first night when my husband asked for a shrimp cocktail and was told it wasn't on the menu so he couldn't have it, or the night when my son wanted a steak and the waiter told us no and had to call over the head waiter to get approval so my son could get his steak and french fries. It became very obvious that the waiters didn't want to do anything outside of their normal routine and they seemed afraid to ask the kitchen for something special. The food in the Vista Dining was pretty good, but not as good as some of the other cruises we have been on. They have a problem with their beef and pork - it was not prepared well at all. No matter how you ordered it, it was always overcooked, dry and chewy. The fish was very good, the breads were excellent, and many of the appetizers were really nice. Overall, I didn't think the food was anything to brag about (and yes, I understand that it is basically banquet food and can't be compared to a good restaurant). We ate a lot of meals in the Lido (we ate breakfast and lunch one day in the dining room and service was, like at dinner, pretty indifferent). The Lido food was the best of any ship I have been on. Lots of variety and we loved the stations. The sushi was good but the same every day. The Asian food was not so good, but the pasta station was very good. We all enjoyed the excellent ice cream and desserts. The staff was pretty friendly in the Lido, but there was never silverware available when it was crowded (can't tell you how many times we had to search around for silverware), there was never any ice in the machines, the staff never took our trays, and they ran out of milk on Thursday, but it was scarce even before then. We did eat in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the ship (compliments of our travel agent). So many people got that gift that by noon on Saturday all of the big tables were booked for the week and the only spot for a party of four was Friday at 6:30. If we had known our travel agent was giving the Pinnacle meal to us we would have booked in advance. I was not that impressed with the food. The decor in the room was beautiful, but the service was only fair. Our waiter was very nice, but he couldn't tell us the dessert special for the day. The wine steward charged my sister's wine to the wrong room and then argued with her that he hadn't made a mistake. The appetizers were very good, but the steak I ordered medium was well done (not pink at all) and while it may have been a good piece of meat at one time, it was so overcooked it was hard to tell. We had three porterhouses at our table, two medium and one medium rare, and they got the orders mixed up so the medium rare steak (actually cooked to medium) went to the wrong person. At that point, after a week of bad service, I opted to just eat it and not complain. The side dishes were unmemorable. I had a baked potato and mushroom caps that I could have cooked at home. My appetizer was the heirloom tomatoes that looked really pretty but were utterly tasteless. The creme brulee trio (plain, coffee, and chocolate) was tasty but nothing special. We had great weather the whole trip and had great days in all three ports. We booked the Baja Jeep Safari for Cabo and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it. We went from the desert to the beach with a stop in Candalaria, a tiny town in the desert. Our tour guide was great, but we had to cut the tour short because of the shortened port hours and the problem tendering in. In Mazatlan we just hired an open-air jeep taxi to drive us around the old downtown area. We went to the cathedral and the big mercado and saw a lot of the old city. We returned to the ship for lunch, then hired another taxi to go the El Cid hotel on the gold coast so we could use the beach and the pool. We bought drinks there and they didn't seem to care we weren't hotel guests. In Puerto Vallarta we had independently booked a dolphin-watching excursion in a zodiac boat (they also do whale watching but it's too early for whales). It was a great day and we got to see lots of dolphins close up. Our two guides were naturalists who work with marine life and were experts on the dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, fish and birds that we saw. We also got to snorkel at Los Arcos. This was a great excursion and I would do it again. The entertainment on the ship was mixed. The singers and dancers were very talented and the first show Roadhouse was entertaining. We walked out of the second show they did Escape since it was very amateurish. We never saw Julie Barr, the comedian. Joel Mason, the Elton John impersonator, was fantastic and I usually don't like shows like that. He was genuinely funny. The magic act, DV8, was pretty bad. They copied the jokes from Joel Mason the night before. I think Dwight is a good magician, but my son described the act as cheesy. Even my stepmother, who has been on a gazillion cruises (over 150 days on HAL alone) and likes any kind of entertainment, hated the magic act. We felt there were a lot of activities, but most of them were geared toward making money for HAL (like bingo and events in the casino). The trivia was run by a couple of cruise staff who were all business and not friendly. The library was nice but always crowded. The Lido pool was fun for the kids, but needless to say with 400 kids on board it was always crowded. My sister took the two culinary classes with the chef from the Pinnacle and really enjoyed them, although he got his recipes out of a magazine - they are not his original recipes. We didn't do anything in the spa, but heard good reports on the pilates and stretching classes. As we got off the ship today we discussed taking another HAL cruise and decided that unless the itinerary was fantastic and couldn't be duplicated by another line we probably would not go out of our way to book with HAL. We had fun on the cruise (like always) but the bad service really made a big impression on us. I didn't think it came close to the service and quality we had on Celebrity and although it was a little more sophisticated in feel than Royal Caribbean, I think we prefer those two lines to HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
We boarded the Oosterdam at San Diego on December 9th. As we live in San Diego, travel to the cruise terminal was no problem. We boarded about 12:30 PM and the process went rapidly. We were in our stateroom exactly one hour after we left ... Read More
We boarded the Oosterdam at San Diego on December 9th. As we live in San Diego, travel to the cruise terminal was no problem. We boarded about 12:30 PM and the process went rapidly. We were in our stateroom exactly one hour after we left home. Round trips out of San Diego are obviously great for us. This was our 4th cruise on Holland America and our third on Holland America to the Mexican Riviera. The ship was clean and well maintained. Our room steward took care of things expeditiously and the room was as expected. This was his first trip, so we did not get any towel monkey hanging from the ceiling, however I never had trouble finding my sunglasses. Interesting that there were no drawers in the stateroom. There was a closet of shelves which we used for the stuff we would usually stashed in the drawers. We went ashore at each port and we walked or used local cabs. Weather was excellent at all three ports and was not too warm. We revisited some of the sites and locations that we had been to previously on purchased shore tours. Our pace was relaxed. We had our customary Corona at the Giggling Marlin in Cabo. Holland America decided to test a new dining schedule for this trip. We were notified ahead of time, so it was no surprise. If you had early dining, you could arrive between 5:30 and 6:00. Late dining was between 8:00 and 9:00. You were still seated at your assigned table. The plan offered some additional flexibility, but most people still showed up shortly after the doors opened. Service in the dining room was very good and the selections were about the same as previous HAL cruises. In general, I was disappointed with the quality of the food. Eggs benedict for breakfast did not include the usual slice of Canadian bacon and was served on an un-toasted English muffin. I ordered various beef dishes four times at dinner and they were all overcooked and very dry. That included the "surf and turf" selection on formal night. The lobster tail was good. The rear of the dining room on deck #2 was subject to serious vibration as a result of operating one pod at 100%. We ate one breakfast in that area and avoided it thereafter. According to some previous reviews, the Azipod problem has been going on for some time, yet we were told they were "working on it" as if it had just occurred. Entertainment was excellent and there were two full-blown production shows during the seven nights. They had a great comedian on board for the entire trip and she did a full show one night and contributed to other shows. Music was very good, although a little loud for my taste. The magician and his wife put on a fabulous performance one night and were part of the joint effort on another. The cooling system went south in Puerto Vallarta and we spent the next two days and nights with very uncomfortable public areas, a very hot cabin and almost no sleep because of the excessive temperature. Not my idea of a fun cruises either. A memo from the captain said they were "working on it" and that was the last we heard. It got cooler on the way to San Diego because the outside temperature headed into the low 60's. Got some sleep the last night. Compared to prior experiences on the Statendam, Maazdam and Ryndam, this ship is not what we expected from Holland America. Management needs to look at some of the previous Cruise Critic reviews regarding food service, technical problems and employee attitude. We will probably not use Holland-America again unless future reviews indicate that they have made some serious changes, especially in the food quality area. The Oosterdam was a disappointment. They need to look after the little stuff as that is what makes great service. Read Less
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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