168 San Diego Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews

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 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 April 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
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
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
I've just returned from my first cruise and it was brilliant! I am a 62 year old single man and I went on the cruise by myself. I splurged and got myself a superior veranda suite and it was worth it. I could have spent all 7 days in ... Read More
I've just returned from my first cruise and it was brilliant! I am a 62 year old single man and I went on the cruise by myself. I splurged and got myself a superior veranda suite and it was worth it. I could have spent all 7 days in the cabin and I would have been very satisfied, but I didn't. I found this website about three months before my cruise and read the reviews over and over again so I would get the most information. Most people wrote about how wonderful the embarkation proceeded. Well, it wasn't that way for my cruise which departed on Dec. 2nd. It seems there was a G.I. outbreak on the previous cruise and they gave the ship a "deep" cleaning before we were allowed to board. Inside, the terminal reminded me of Ellis Island because all the passengers were just sitting and waiting for their boarding number to be called. I finally boarded the ship at 2:15 after arriving at the pier at 12 noon. Once on board the ship, I was in another world and stayed in that world for 7 days. CABIN My cabin was very spacious. A queen size bed, a couch, two side chairs and all the drawer and closet storage you could want. The bathroom was much larger than I expected. It had two sinks and a large jacuzzi bathtub. It also had a separate stall shower. The veranda was also very large. It had a table and two chairs on one side and two other larger chairs with ottomans on the other side. Because I had read a previous review, I ordered eggs benedict for breakfast in my cabin every morning. Eggs benedict is not on the menu, but I just wrote it, as the previous reviewer mentioned, and VIOLA! the most delicious and hot breakfast was served on my veranda every morning. Every evening before going to dine at 8pm, I would order a margarita and Atlantic salmon appetizer. The room steward was alright. Not as good as I had expected from the other reviewers but he did keep the room clean. MEALS I don't care for buffets, so I never ate in the Lido restaurant. However, the variety of food was terrific and it seemed never ending. There is an ice cream station in the Lido, and I did enjoy it. I usually had a light lunch from the Terrace Grill just outside the Lido restaurant. They prepared cheeseburgers, hot dogs, bratworst and breast of chicken and they have very good french fries too. The Vista dining room more than met my expectations I was seated at a table for 10 but there were just nine of us. We all got along very well. There were two couples, three single ladies and one other single lady traveling alone, like I was. I couldn't believe how extensive the selections were every evening. I never had trouble finding something that pleased me. I'll add that I usually ordered more than one entree but never could finish both. I also ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night. The food was good but no that different from the Vista Dining Room. I wouldn't eat there again, but I think everyone should try it for the experience. The service was not anything to rave about. On Thursday night, they had a chocolate decadence dessert buffet in the Lido restaurant. It started at 10pm and I went to see it around 11pm. The chocolate creations were really masterpieces. I am a chocoholic and it was really special to see all the different desserts but I was so full from dinner, I didn't eat one thing. ENTERTAINMENT I found out that a string quartet played classical music in the Explorer Lounge every evening and after dinner, usually around 10pm, I would go straight to listen to them play. They were fabulous. I'm not a show person, so I only went to one show because one of my dinner couples asked me to go with them. I went to the magic show and it was sensational. However, that was the only show I attended. PORTS I went to a very special resort in Los Cabos called Las Ventanas. It was recommended by my daughter since she had stayed there and she suggested that I might have lunch there, which I did. However, I had to make a reservation with their Los Angeles sales office in order to get onto the property. You can't just show up. It was fabulous! The hotel, the pool, the food and whole resort would be a wonderful place to spend a few days on my next trip. I never left the ship in Mazatlan and I was glad that I stayed on board. I treated myself to a facial in the spa and it was great. It also was my first facial. Since most of the passengers were ashore, the ship was very peaceful and I spent most of the day reading and sunbathing by the pool on the rear of the ship. I had arranged for the Taste of Mexico shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about the city and we were able to walk around the downtown area before going to the restaurant for the cooking demonstration. It was lots of fun especially the tequila tasting at the end. Some people wanted to shop in the old part of the city. It was a beautiful part of the city since it wasn't a tourist area like the downtown area is. I went shopping there and to the downtown area before I took a taxi back to the pier to get a tender back to the ship. It had been over 30 years since I'd been to P.V. and of course, it has changed immensely. It was a good stop for me. OVERALL SERVICE The crew is very friendly and everyone makes sure to smile and say "hello". I also want to add that I felt very safe on and off the ship. The crew was very good about helping us board the tenders and being around the pier all day if we needed their assistance. I would also like to add that the cruise director, Michelle, was very friendly and encouraged participation in the ships events without being pushy. I was very happy with HAL and the Oosterdam. I was told that the broken azipod motor will be fixed in drydock in Victoria, BC in January. That will make a big difference since the time we were in a couple of the ports had to be shortened because the ship's speed was cut down to 17.5 knots. I've already booked my next cruise. It will be a 6 day, Pacific Coastal transition cruise on Princess Lines from Vancouver to Los Angeles in September, 07. I definitely would take another HAL cruise. One thing though. I never heard about the cruise critic meeting while I was on the ship and I'm sorry I missed it. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you find it helpful. David Phoenix, AZ Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
Travelers: Myself 40's, my mother 70, and my son 8. My aunt and uncle as joined us (60's) they stayed in a VC 5168. We flew in from Seattle on Friday and stayed at the Hampton Inn. It worked out well as they have a van that ... Read More
Travelers: Myself 40's, my mother 70, and my son 8. My aunt and uncle as joined us (60's) they stayed in a VC 5168. We flew in from Seattle on Friday and stayed at the Hampton Inn. It worked out well as they have a van that picked us up at the airport at 12:30 pm and took us to the hotel. I requested rooms toward the front and we got them. One of the rooms wasn't ready but one was we put our luggage in one room and took off for lunch. When we returned the other room was ready so we settled in and meet up again about 6:30 for dinner which we walked to at Anthony's Fish Grotto it was wonderful walked right in and were sat right away. I was expecting a wait being Friday night. I think this is a perfect hotel if the Holiday Inn is booked or if you want to save $50.00 or $60.00 a room. The hotel shuttle took us and all our luggage to the terminal the next morning. Embarkation: Went very smooth, we got our carry-on luggage and went through security, and got right up to check-in. we arrived at 11:30 and there was already quite a few people there, but the wait was short. We waited about 5 minutes and our number was called to board. We were on the ship about 20 minutes after arriving at the pier. We got a table in the Lido and I went right away to get our Pinnacle reservations confirmed. We got called to our rooms about 1:30. No luggage until about 4:00 but didn't really need except jackets for muster as it was chilly. Stateroom: We were in SS8072 a superior suite. It was perfect for the 3 of us. The bathroom was spacious and plenty of closet space, the beds were super comfy, even the sofa bed for my son was comfy (not as great as the beds, but we didn't tell him as he was happy with his). Flat screen TVs and DVD players. Our cabin steward was Harjo he was super. We had things before we asked. He loved to visit because he said he liked to practice his English. My son loved seeing what towel animal would be there each night waiting on his bed. Dining: We had table 28 which is on Deck 3 portside aft windows in the middle of the aft. Our servers Mat and Alit were great. They made every dinner wonderful. We had main seating at 8 to 9 but we were always there not later than 8:15. I fed my son at the Lido every day as he didn't want to miss Club Hal at 8. This worked out well for me as I was able to enjoy the leisurely dinner for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours which he would never have been able to sit through. Our dinner at the Pinnacle was fabulous I had the tenderloin and everyone else had the rib steak. The service was attentive and after they brought dessert they brought my mom a whole chocolate mousse cake(the reason for the cruise was her 70th birthday). They also let my son get his entrEe very fast so he could go to Club Hal. Ports of call: We only did Swim with the Dolphins in PV and that was worth every dollar. In Cabo we just walked around, shopped and ate at Cabo Wabo. Mazatlan we shopped and took a ride to Golden Zone and then to el Centro. Would book with Mazatlan Frank if possible or stay on ship and take advantage of spa specials. Entertainment: Julie Barr and Joel Mason were great. Bought his DVD and am so glad I did. We enjoyed this cruise very much and would do it again. There were negatives but they weren't big enough to interfere with our fun. There was a lot of kids on board but other than the 1st day and the last day I didn't notice them with exception of the brat pack that were running through the ship non stop. I went to a CC get together and Mr. Deering showed up, what a wonderful man he is. He answered all the questions about the azipod. The shortened port times were not a problem either and the $25.00 per person credit was much appreciated, spent on pictures and soda card. Sorry this is so long, but I really felt the Oosterdam was getting a bad rap for things that aren't that big of a deal. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Club Hal: My son had a great time, I was a leery about him checking himself in and out but after the 2nd day he was coming to the room and taking a nap so he could go back in the afternoon. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
Since the Oosterdam was my first cruise, I can't compare it to other lines/ships. BUT let me say that I had the BEST time on that ship!!! I was rooming with a friend, and we were both part of a group cruise for handbell ringing (if ... Read More
Since the Oosterdam was my first cruise, I can't compare it to other lines/ships. BUT let me say that I had the BEST time on that ship!!! I was rooming with a friend, and we were both part of a group cruise for handbell ringing (if that hadn't been a draw, I don't know if I'd have ever gotten around to cruising... SCARY THOUGHT!!). Flew into San Diego that morning, and got to the port in plenty of time (via pretty inexpensive taxi ride). Did the online pre-registration but there was still a long line. Still, it moved pretty fast. Separate line for suite guests. Had to hand over luggage, but most people kept one 'carry with' bag with essentials. We were in our room by 1:30 as I recall, and had a nice lunch on the Lido before that. Our whole week was very calm seas, which was nice. The week before it was rough going all the way. Go figure. The Oosterdam is really beautiful, art and sculpture everywhere, the Vista dining room is gorgeous, pretty colors and gorgeous ceiling. The atrium is pretty too, and they have live music everywhere you turn in the many lounges (string quartets, piano, bands in the Crow's Nest). FOOD: Dinners in the Vista were (I thought) fantastic and I'm vegetarian (lacto/ovo). There were excellent veg options every night save one, and the table steward offered to have a pasta dish made w/out the meat. IN fact, if he didn't see me eating much (not usually a problem) he would offer me more options. The chilled fruit soups were delicious, and the after dinner coffee with dessert was wonderful (even the decaf was yummy). Excellent service. I enjoyed having same table mates each night, and I didn't know any except my roomie. BEAUTIFUL china for dinners and roomservice (breakfast in bed twice). You could do 'open seating' downstairs if you preferred. NOTE: Vista for breakfast is a mistake if you're in any rush (slow to be served, plan on an hour or more for breakfast). I didn't go to the Pinnacle Grill, as I wasn't sure how many veg options there would be. Lido was great and FAST, ate all my breakfasts (aside from room service) and lunches there... great way to get a fast bite before an excursion. Room Service - a great way to have breakfast on disembarkation day, and it was very good. If I weren't so stuffed all the time I meant to get at least one 'midnight snack' -- the chocolate cake sounded wonderful. SHIP: The ship is pretty huge, and I think we made a mistake by spending the first several hours on the ship (after getting our room) trying to 'get our bearings'. We missed a nice Sail Away party and some other events because of that. The ship is too big to really get bearings fast. Much easier to just 'let that idea go and just review the deck layouts next to the midship elevators as you go. In retrospect I would have looked immediately at the Daily Schedule and see what events are happening. My sailing was absolutely full up (supposedly) on the ship, but there is still plenty of space and deck chairs to relax. Aft pool was for adults only, and quieter than the other pool area. Hottubs -- there were several but small and not as hot as I like. Didn't try the spa, but think I might this time? Noticed they had a mid-week 'spa special' where you got a little of everything (hydropool, scented saunas, warmed tile seats, facial, massage) for $99. My roomie did it, but wasn't prepared for the sales pitch on products , so she spent a bit more than that! ROOMS: The beds are SO COMFORTABLE!! The linens and bathrobes (you get in veranda stateroom and up) are so wonderful and soft. Bathroom in verandah staterooms were not too cramped, and shower/bathtub was roomy too I thought. Rooms are small, but I was expecting that. Wish I could afford to go 'suite' sometime. ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: They had a Daily Schedule which you got in your room each night (and when first check in). I kept it with me, as there were multiple activities going on all the time. I missed some things the first day because I didn't know to check the schedule. Kitchen tour was fabulous (apparently) but because I didn't know to watch for it, I missed it! Didn't see the American Idol thing, but heard it was good. Bingo often cancelled due to lack of players. I thought the entertainment was pretty darn good. The singer/dancer revues were great, the juggler was super, the magician was really awesome, the only thing I didn't like was the latin ballad singer. One late night comedian who was hilarious, I was in tears (and not too bad language). EXCURSIONS: The Cabo San Lucas stop I see now I could have missed. The whale watching tour at 1-3pm was disappointing, but the after us saw lots (go figure). everytime they'd spot whales, they'd turn towards them, leaving everyone not in the small area in front of the ship without a view. Cabo itself is tiny and there's nothing much to see. Next time I'll give it a miss. I went on the zipline tour in PV, and it was really fun. The DVD they sell you at the end was $40 so I gave that a miss. It was exhilarating but not too scary. At Mazatlan I had no excursions, just slept in then spent the day bumming around town. Took several taxi's here and there, and walked the lovely boardwalk for a long time (nice sculptures). Actually walked up the steps to what I thought was an old lookout on the boardwalk, and ended up having a cliff diver dive off right where I was! TIPPING: HAL lets you know that they add $10 pp/per day to your shipboard account, to be divvied up among the staff. I felt this to be really wonderful, I didn't feel like I had to have money with me to tip all the time, and I did give a little extra in person the last day to my table steward and my room steward. But I felt this made it much less stressful, as I've heard some cruise lines you feel like you're tipping all the time. This was a stress-free solution, and you could adjust your total tipping amount up or down at the end. FINAL WORDS: In a nutshell, I went a whole week without one bad thing happening (that I can recall) . Everyone was smiling, helpful, polite (including all the passengers)... I think if I'd asked one of the staff to carry me to dinner they would have done it! Plenty to do, and plenty 'not to do'. I'd planned this to be my 'one cruise' to say I'd done it. But it was such a wonderful, completely relaxing, fun, unstressful week that I couldn't wait to book another cruise! I'll be on the Oosterdam again only 8 months later, and will probably be a regular cruiser after this. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
My wife and I, along with another couple from San Diego area, and a third couple from the Seattle area cruised on the Oosterdam from San Diego on Jan 27th , a 7-day Mexican Riviera trip. We are all experienced cruisers. My wife and I have ... Read More
My wife and I, along with another couple from San Diego area, and a third couple from the Seattle area cruised on the Oosterdam from San Diego on Jan 27th , a 7-day Mexican Riviera trip. We are all experienced cruisers. My wife and I have cruised on the Vista class ships of HAL before, including a 10 day Gems of the Baltic from Copenhagen on the Westerdam on June 30th, 2005. and on the Oosterdam this past Aug. to Hubbard Glacier with 67 classmates and friends. Our current group has cruised a total of 9 times previously with HAL on various ships, including an unforgettable journey on the Maasdam in the Caribbean on 9/11/2001. San Diego departures are the easiest we have encountered. Parking vouchers from HAL provided complimentary parking nearby with easy transfer to the pier. From time of arrival on the pier at 11:15am, pre-printed immigration information in hand, we waited no more than 15 minutes before boarding the ship. Then to the Lido for the buffet luncheon. Our cabins (SS8094, VA 8096, VC 5141) were ready by 1:15 and we had our bags by 2:30pm with plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular San Diego harbor scene. After the obligatory safety drill we departed on schedule toward Cabo San Lucas. The Oosterdam had received some upgrades since our sailing in August. Our stateroom, 8094) had new wall prints and flat screen TV and DVD player resulting in more desk space. This was the same cabin we had on the Alaskan cruise. I prefer the SS category staterooms with the larger decks, double sinks and a shower as well as a tub/shower combination. 8094 was our "meeting place" for this cruise. We were advised of the problem with the propulsion system and change in port call times. We all received a $25 per person ship board credit, as well as AAA credits of $25 each. I had read a number of critical reviews about this ship over the past couple of months, mainly about service and the slower cruising speed. Our group of cruisers will tell you that the service was wonderful in all aspects. We have two ladies with slight handicaps and they were never without an offer of assistance from staff, including letters advising them of the use of tenders and inquiring if they needed special assistance (they did not). On the issue of time in ports, we arrived on schedule and departed on schedule with the only shortened day being Puerta Vallarta. We departed at 6pm vs originally scheduled 11pm. The reason for this early departure was not "reduced cruising speed" but the fact we tendered to/from shore. The city had not completed the upgrade to the pier and only 1 ship could be in the harbor at a time, and that site goes to Carnival as they cruise there year around. Capt. Mercer obviously did not want to transfer guests to the ship in the dark from the tenders, and sunset occurred around 6pm. We arrived back in San Diego at 0530. Speed was not important. All shore excursions were well managed, and better than similar ones we had on a previous Mexican Riviera cruise 3 years before. Tour guides and were excellent. Dining: Thomas Krieger, executive chef, was on this ship during our Alaska cruise as well as on the Westerdam in the Baltic with us in 2005. In the dining room the variety of food and the quality on this cruise was outstanding, maybe the best we have had. We used the dining room for some breakfasts, a couple of lunches, and every dinner except one night at the Pinnacle Grill for a birthday celebration. The Lido breakfasts were adequate and fast and we all enjoyed the Terrace Grill for burgers and tacos on a couple of occasions. Room service in the morning and at lunch was on time and very good. I particularly enjoy the Wok in the Lido at lunch. The Pinnacle Grill was complimentary and a nice evenings experience. We all complimented both Thomas Krieger and Simon de Boer the Hotel Manager on the quality of the food, the outstanding service, and the overall cleanliness of the ship. As a retired infection control dental officer I can attest to the cleanliness of the ship and the attention to handwashing and sanitizing. Culinary Arts Center: a guest chef, Jason Wilson, presented two very entertaining and well done presentations. He is one of the "hot" new chefs in the Seattle area and spent some time training with Thomas Krieger in Singapore. Krieger assisted Jason in his presentations and their chemistry was wonderful. We plan to visit his restaurant "CRUSH" while in Seattle next month. This event was a great bonus on this cruise. Entertainment: The Oosterdam singers and dancers were in their last weeks of their contracts, and they were the same group we saw in August. Their dancing and singing was more polished than before, and overall very enjoyable. The other entertainers were fabulous: Derrick Easan, an HBO and Comedy Central comedian had both a general and an "adult" show and was very funny and engaging. Peter Fernandez, a Latin crooner was all energy with a wonderful ability to switch from English to Spanish in his music, and finished with classical songs. He was entertain us again anytime. And finally, Bob Cates, a comedian-juggler was unbelievable. The entertainment was not to be missed on this cruise. Staff: our dining room steward, Suparman (table 57) was very polished and attentive, and our cabin steward, Sugareta was a 10 year veteran. We did meet a few Lido and dining room staff from our August cruise and they remembered us this trip! Cruisers: Holland America caters to their Mariners, and this cruise found more than 900 of the 1800 passengers to be Mariners. Yes, they (we) are a little older group, and more so on this cruise than on the Alaska cruise when more families can get away in the Summer. Disembarking: our group specified leaving the ship at 9:30, and at 9:15 we heard our numbers called. We exited the ship, collected the bags, sent two guys for the cars, and were away from the pier by 10:15; and home by 11am. Next: A group of 8 couples head to Rome for a Sept. 25th 10 day cruise on the Westerdam to the eastern Mediterranean. We can't wait. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
Preface Although we have cruised quite often, this was our first cruise with Holland America. We had always heard so many wonderful things about HAL so that we decided to sail with them when we realized that HAL was one of the cruise ... Read More
Preface Although we have cruised quite often, this was our first cruise with Holland America. We had always heard so many wonderful things about HAL so that we decided to sail with them when we realized that HAL was one of the cruise lines sailing the ports of call we were interested in visiting. BUT due to a prevailing CLICHÉ about Holland America's demographics we were a bit worried that we would be surrounded by a sea of blue hair and a prevailing odor of moth balls FALSE,FALSE, FALSE! A diverse group of passengers, the greatest majority middle-age. There were also some teens and twenty-somethings, as well as a few teetering-tottering elderly passengers (my mother included) Due to scheduling conflicts, our friends, with whom we normally cruise could not join us therefore it was just me, my wife JoAnn and my mother. Since she can't vacation on her own due to mobility issues this was a nice way of getting her to go somewhere without her worrying about flights, transfers etc. Arrival & Boarding We flew into San Diego the day before the cruise on a non-stop flight from NYC on JetBlue. Kudos to JetBlue on every aspect of their flight. I would highly recommend this airline to anyone. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was only 1 block further inland from the Holiday Inn by the cruise terminal. Very nice accommodations, and with the money saved by staying at the Hampton Inn instead of the Holiday Inn we had a very nice dinner at Seaport Village which was within walking distance of the hotel. In the morning the hotel offered complimentary breakfast (which was very good) as well as complimentary shuttle service to the pier. In the morning I got up bright and early to see the Oosterdam pull into port. NO SHIP IN SIGHT. I checked every 15 min. or so and still NO SHIP IN SIGHT. Reason being due to very bad weather the ship docked late, but considering their late arrival, and everyone wanting to board early, the cruise line did a very nice job of getting everyone off as quick as possible and everyone on again as soon as possible. Check in at the pier was very well organized and it wasn't long before we entered the ship and were whisked off to the buffet area since the cabins were not ready yet. After a delicious lunch it was announced that our cabins were ready and we made our way to our home away from home for the week. We had a partially obstructed ocean view cabin on deck 4  very nice accommodations, floor to ceiling window, with plenty of closet space and the bathroom had a tub. Beds were comfortable, flat screen TV, and at night we were greeted by a towel animal with chocolate. A little after 3 pm we went out on deck 4 for the web cam wave, but a friend of ours called and said there was a pole in the way, so we trudged off to the observation deck on deck 10 where she said she could see us. Our muster drill at 4:15 was no more than a photo-op for the ship's photo staff. More people were busy chatting and waving into the cameras and video cameras than paying attention to the directions. More of a social event than anything else. Our ship left San Diego on time, and we watched San Diego disappear in the distance. Impressions of the Oosterdam  I thought the Oosterdam was comparable to staying at a classy boutique-style hotel. There was no massive lobby, or grand sized lounges. Everything was cozy. It doesn't take long to figure out that the to do decks were 2 & 3 and the buffet/pool deck was on deck 9. A very nice first time experience for us were the ocean view elevators which did get quite a few Oohs and Aahs the first few days. At first everyone wanted to take those elevators, but by the third day ANY elevator was fine. Very nice art work, murals and tile work abounded, and the fresh floral arrangements all around were soothing to the eyes. Since we were not thrilled with Personal Choice Dining on our last cruise with Princess, we made sure to book Traditional Dining as we always had in the past. We had upper level dining at 8 pm but unfortunately the dining experience always lasted till 10 pm ( which in my book is TOO long to sit for a meal) even though we arrived punctually at 8. Our dining room steward/busboy as well as our wine steward were very pleasant. My wife was a bit disappointed that they did not offer more choices for wine by the glass in the dining room. She enjoys trying a different wine every evening with dinner, but they push the wine by the bottle on HAL. We were seated with wonderful dinner companions who really made our dining experience a pleasure. We did not eat at the Pinnacle Grill, but in passing never noticed many people there. I suppose most people found the dining room food to be good enough not to have to pay a surcharge for better food. I cannot, in all fairness, say that HAL's service throughout the ship is better than other cruise lines we have sailed in the past. We have always been happy with the service on all our cruises as was the case on this cruise. Lido Buffet Two thumbs up!! If I had three thumbs, all three would be up. The BEST buffet restaurant of any cruise line we've ever sailed so far. The choices were amazing and it all tasted GREAT! We're not much into gambling, or lounge acts, or shows/revues, but by looking a the daily program it was very similar to those venues offered by all the mainstream cruise lines. My wife, who works in a library, was very impressed by the selection of books offered in the library. Internet Center TOO EXPENSIVE!! The shops on this ship were not separate stores, rather one big store arranged by areas and they carried the usual array of things you wonder why you bought them once you arrive home Culinary Arts: My wife signed up for one of the hands-on cooking classes ($29) and enjoyed herself immensely. I am looking forward to seeing those dishes on the dinner table one of these years! On Deck for the Cure: What a nice thing HAL is doing to help fight Breast Cancer. My wife took part in what ended up being quite a nice turn out for the 5K walk on Promenade Deck (9 times around the ship) Cascade of the Bells: Bell ringer group from Portland Oregon offered 2 concerts during the week. A very well performed special treat for us. Power Outage: For about 5 minutes the ship lost all power...we were out on the Promenade Deck. All the cabins went dark, but lobbies, lounges etc. maintained lighting. It was eerily quiet with no mechanical noises and no engines. I told my wife that now she know what it's like to sail on a Windstar Cruise (which we could not afford) Cruise Critic Gathering: Thanks to lougee for making arrangements with HAL for our meeting with Hotel Director James Deering, as well as constructiondude for keeping track of who's who throughout the posts. It was wonderful to FINALLY meet everyone face to face after months of chatting online. Mr. Deering is a very distinguished well spoken gentleman, and when it came to answering some of the sticky questions posed by fellow CruiseCritics members in regards to dress code, demographics etc very diplomatic. Dress Code The whole dress code issue that is a constant prevailing battle-rouser on the message boards was one of our biggest worries when planning our packing strategies for this particular cruise. I suppose from reading the message boards I was under the impression that I would be attending a Cotillion Ball on Formal Night& and Informal Night would be just a step below& First off- there was NO Informal Night! After all of our planning on what should we pack, not pack, what's right, what's wrong all for nothing! There were 2 formal nights and 5 casual nights. Interesting: when they explained in the Daily Program what is appropriate or not appropriate dinner attire in the dining rooms they only mentioned for the men! For example: FORMAL NIGHT: Jacket and tie for the gentlemen - tuxedo suggested Hmmm, no guidelines for the women!? CASUAL NIGHT: no shorts, swimwear or workout attire permitted. P.S. The word JEANS was never mentioned in the daily program. How did everyone dress for dinner?.. EXACTLY LIKE THEY DO FOR ALL THE OTHER CRUISES WE'VE BEEN ON except  we saw no one with baseball caps on. For formal nights most men wore suits, quite a few with sports jackets and ties (some with open collars) as well as a handful of tuxedos but tuxedos was not the majority. For the ladies, there were some evening gowns, some with cocktail length black dresses, and quite a number of women with black pants and a fancier blouse. Ports of Call I won't spend much time explaining what we saw or didn't.. since everyone has their own wants and needs once off the ship Our ports of call included Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. I still remember hearing those ports of call mentioned on the original Love Boat series. Since we have been to Cozumel and Playa del Carmen we already had an idea of what to expect when we arrived at these ports of call. All in all our favorite was Puerto Vallarta. It was the only stop where both my wife and I agreed that we could spend a week here at an all-inclusive resort. Final thought A week passes by quickly but thank goodness for a good memory and a good digital camera we will spend much time reflecting on our wonderful cruise aboard the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
Executive summary: Arrived a day early, stayed at Country Inn & Suites (fantastic hotel), met cruise critic friends at Anthony's, went on cruise had fantastic time, all areas of cruise was fantastic Except the weather, it was much ... Read More
Executive summary: Arrived a day early, stayed at Country Inn & Suites (fantastic hotel), met cruise critic friends at Anthony's, went on cruise had fantastic time, all areas of cruise was fantastic Except the weather, it was much colder than we expected. Embarkation was crowded, but moved along well (1.5 hours between arrival and in cabin), stateroom was great, got a balcony for first time ever, and people are right, once you've had one, I know I will never want to settle for anything less, food was great, service from crew was outstanding, vista dining room was beautiful, slots were loose all week till last sea day then they were tight as could be. Ports were good, first time in Mexican Riviera and we did whale watching in Cabo, horses with Randi in Mazatlan, and finally did Zip line in Puerto Vallarta. Enjoyed two sea days on way back, and finally disembarkation was a breeze a bit confusing we were in the Second group called to exit (after the self disembark, where you carry ALL of your luggage with you), and there were long lines of people carrying their luggage with them in front of us, once they cleared out it was a breeze. (time from being called to standing outside waiting on taxi ½ hour. Flew home that day no problems at airport. Book Portion: Jan 19: Left our Chesapeake Virginia house at 5:30 am, to rain and 35 degrees.  I hadn't packed my jacket, but decided to pack it at the last moment do to the cold outside, have no intention of wearing it after we get on the plane to Atlanta/San Diego. Arrived at airport 1 ½ hours before flight, plenty of time to breeze thru security. However, my Dear Wife, who doesn't travel a lot, and hasn't met a stranger yet, decides to start talking to security while they are opening up her bag, and says, be careful it might explode, I new instantly that was the wrong thing to say. She didn't even realize it till I started saying she meant it is packed very tightly. He didn't arrest her, or take us anywhere, but he did give her a bit of a lecture, and made sure she understood that certain words should not be used around security. Uneventful flight to Atlanta, Flight to San Diego was bumpy as we were passing over the ice storms affecting Texas. The captain kept the seat belt light on for most of the 4 hour flight, which made the passengers restless and several were complaining oh well no real problems.  landed in San Diego ½ hour late, got rental car (fox rent a car, 2007 mazda with 5 miles on it, for $25/day), immediately went to Old Towne and walked around and shopped till my wife's content. Went to Point Loma, drove around a bit, till we found the national park, and saw the sights from the top it was beautiful proceeded to Seaport Village, where once we walked around and shopped till my wife's content. (did go into the wyland gallery, and loved his paintings/prints!) Proceed to Anthony's Fish Grotto at 7:45pm, where we met up with some of the cruisecritic mates. Had a nice dinner, roughly 16 of us, and one travel agent, who proceeded to buy wine for the table. Very nice. After a nice dinner, and friendly atmosphere of getting to know each other, we left and went back to hotel (country Inn & Suites, mira mesa area, obtained thru priceline $61 total). Highly recommend Country Inn & Suites. Jan 20th: slept in, woke up well rested and ready to find the ship! however, we had to enjoy a quick breakfast at hotel, and make our obligatory stop at Wal-Mart first. (we can never go on a cruise without thinking of things we need and or can't do without this time side note: Very empty wal-mart, parked in 2nd row, no one in check out lines this at 10am things are very different in Chesapeake Virginia, always 6 to 9 people with carts in front of you, and parking is a success if you park in the front half of the parking lot. Drove by drop off pier, attempted to offload luggage then return car, but found a seemingly chaotic scene and decided to go ahead and haul luggage with us to rental car, and ask driver to drop us off at cruise terminal vice airport. He very willingly obliged us (rewarded him with $10 tip). There were Two Holland America ships in this morning (ours Oosterdam, and the Zaandam), so embarkation was quite crowded, but handled relatively efficiently, don't know what I would have done to speed things up, had all forms filled out ahead of time, and once we waited thru the lines, we were in our cabin by 1:30pm. We were NOT escorted to our cabin, like our previous cruise on the Maasdam. However, there were ample cabin stewards posted thru out ship to direct us to our first ever balcony cabin. Reserved a VF guarantee, and got upgraded to a VC. We were very happy with cabin, the cabin lights were different (multiple switches, and they came on in succession after each other so after you hit the button a minute later (ok maybe less) they would all come on. (I noted this because I work as a marine engineer and frequently deal with shipboard lights.) Made our way to Lido deck, noticed that we were definitely in the younger generation, but we enjoy the more laid back, relaxed cruise atmosphere vice that offered by carnival. Noticed that all food served on Lido deck was done by the workers, so we saw no one reaching in with their snot filled hands and infecting everyone. Actually, on this cruise they had the clear soap dispensers everywhere on the ship filled with disinfectant, and saw virtually everyone use them. (they must have heard about the noro virus too). The lido deck was usually full, but never seemed crowded to the excess, we were always able to find a seat (even if we had to look for a couple of minutes). Attempted to do the 3 o'clock wave, wandered around deck 3, 4, and finally 5 till we just stayed on deck 5 and went outside (even though there was a sign crew only). We waved, and waved, to no one in particular, there were I would guess 6-8 of use cruise critic types we could tell this was going to be a fun cruise! Went back to cabin, got our life jackets on, and proceed to drill, this was handled very efficiently, and with seriousness. We were on a different cruise line last summer, and we just went to the assigned lounges, actually being at the life boat, on deck lined up, gave the drill some reality. Went back to cabin, unpacked and got ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice, the waiter, TODOK was excellent!...and we found the Vista Dinning Room to be very eloquent and nicely decorated (although there were some weird things up on the ceiling, and when we asked the head waiter, he said they are decorations - you know Art. The room was a little bit dark, but we enjoyed this. Food/Variety/Presentation/and Taste were all excellent. After dinner the routine was to go to the casino and win a few dollars (till the last day, more on that later), then up to the room to watch a few more episodes of 24 season 1, which we brought with us on the nice Flat screen TV and associated DVD player. (yes, we went to bed every night very early, and did not see any shows). Jan 21th: breakfast in Lido (see above), toured ship, very nicely laid out, and I agree with previous posters who said it was a bit confusing, but I liked the layout, I never felt like I was on a huge ship. (except when I had to walk all the way from the stern to the bow). Met with the entire Cruise Critic gang up in the Oak Room where the ship supplied drinks, and cookies, and we all wore our beads (pre-arranged cruise critic thing). It was very nice putting faces to screen names.  we met the majority of the ship's officers..who are either excellent with names & faces or we made an impact on them, because everytime we saw Hans, Simon, or Roger they would directly acknowledge us! It was a very nice touch being a part of cruise critic and getting some special treatment. (more on that later). Ate lunch, on lido (see above wasn't that hungry but they have the best flat bread sandwiches so I guess being hungry doesn't matter that much when on a cruise) After lunch went down to windstar cafe to attempt to join a game of cards. (Bridge). I found a three-some that needed a fourth, and we played for the next 2 ½ hours had a great time, although we lost. I don't get to play very often, it seems that most people of my generation don't play, and I am not up to the caliber of duplicate yet. Went to dinner (see above). Had a very fast formal dinner, because we were anxious to see the last half of the Colts football game being shown in the sports bar. Needless to say, since I said the colts game, we were elated to see them beat the patriots their nemesis! Had a lively group, with several more patriots fans supporting their team..it was fun I lost my voice I was cheering so loud the whole last quarter!! I hope this weekend has equal results! then off to casino (next door), and did well (see above). Then off to cabin (24, see above). haven't mentioned the weather yet, it was chilly in San Diego as expected, but we did not expect it to be in the 50's on a sea day! so my wife and I intentionally found indoor activities. Jan 22: arrive in Cabo approx 10:30 went to queens lounge at 9:30am to pick up tender ticket, was told they were not distributing till 11am. Showed back up at 10:45 to find that I was able to get ticket number 10 went back to cabin, got my wife, and we were able to join group 10 just as they exited the lounge uneventful tender ride to shore, walked around tourist traps, made our way around the pier, crossed into downtown, made our way back to pier while shopping along side streets. Found some souvenirs and a couple T-shirts. Went back to tender drop off to get in line for our whale watching trip (booked thru ship approx $68/each?), attempted to book a whale watching tour online before leaving for cruise but they were all sold out, and with the shortened port times, I was unwilling to take the risk of a non-reimbursable deposit. Had a great time on tour, saw multiple whales (backs, tails, and fins, and several blows but no breaches). My wife got several pictures of the whales, and she thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We were surprised that the whales were so close to shore the only bad thing I can say was that it was cold. (I would guess upper 50's maybe into the 60's with strong winds). Back to ship dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above). Jan 22: arrived in Mazatlan to find the ship circling out in sea kept seeing same rock formations. Captain eventually informed us that because of strange weather pattern, and strong winds, he had made 3 attempts to try to get to port but had backed off each time and he would try one more time before 11 and if he didn't make it we would have a sea day instead. We went up to crows nest, and enjoyed the run into the port and it was kinda exciting not much room for error on either side of rock jettys. We were several hours late getting into port, and wandered if our pre-booked tour with Randi's Happy Horses had been canceled. Much to our delight, they were right where they said they would be holding their funky pink signs. The group of us (approx 10), made our way via a pick up truck converted to a taxi, a ride on a small boat across the waterway, and tractor ride (like a hayride) to the horses. We had a wonderful ride along miles of seashore&.we rode on the beach, and just over the sand dunes.  my horse wanted to gallop more than I wanted to.  since I am a beginner, so we lagged behind, but I think everyone had a great time. We then had lunch at Victor's garlic shrimp fantastic the only draw back was that there were several locals peddling their merchandise during our dinner on the beach.when we finished we headed back to the ship (via back of a tractor, and small boat ride &..the whole experience was different and extremely fun, and I highly recommend it for any adventurous types that are out there! ($45/each paid at end of ride). Back to ship, dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above). Jan 23: arrived in Puerto Vallarta, surprised to find us tendering again obtained tickets, went right to shore, took taxi to privately booked La Vista Canopy Tours ($68/ea) to their office. ($5 taxi ride). Found that we were about 45 minutes early, took another taxi back to port area and the Sams Club/Walmart. ($6 taxi ride). Wife needed to find some warmer clothes&found some then headed back out to grab same taxi to go back to tour office. ($6). Soon found another couple who found their way to the tour office from our ship by recommendation of a taxi driver, and the 4 of us departed for the mountains for our Zip line tour. After a 45 minute, bumpy free massage pick up truck ride to the mountain top, we enjoyed the spectacular views and were quickly given an introduction to Zip lining. We took 4 lines that were relatively close by the start point, so we could get introduced to zip lining&stopping, slowing down everything, then proceeded to the next approx 12 lines with varying heights, and lengths. On one of the steeper ones I came in a bit too fast, and needed the guides to help slow me down before I bowled them all over! (Ha). It was fun and enjoyable, and believe it or not, we actually got hot up there.  it was a clear sky, and in the upper 60's. However, I must confess, after every 2 or 3 lines there would be a hike back up to higher elevations and I did get tired of walking up the hills.  All in all, the guides were very friendly, and informative, there were 3 guides and 4 of us, extremely good ratio! Once we took the 45 minute bumpy ride back down to the cruise area we did more shopping and picked up more items to show for our first ever visit to the Mexican Riviera. Back on the ship we did weekly BBQ on the lido deck very good food. We were worn out from the day, but still found our way to the casino and were able to watch our two episodes of 24. Jan 24 Sea Day, slept in, did lido for breakfast (see above), read book in room till our lunch time date with the Pinnacle grill (provided as gift from TA). Very good, had the filet mignon. would not pay extra for this meal, but we both enjoyed the experience. Wife had digestive issues this day, so I represented our cabin for the cruisecritic cabin crawl!  Had fun going cabin to cabin.  Dinner (see above), casino (see above), 24 (see above). Jan 25th sea day, slept in, did Vista dining room for breakfast. Very enjoyable, different.  I would just assume go thru lido for breakfast and lunch. Packed then the story changes for the casino. Went down to the casino, proceeded to lose most all of our winnings all week. I would tell anyone, that the slots were loose all week, then this last day they tightened them as tight as they could! Anyway, we enjoyed our last day of cruising on the Oosterdam. Dinner (see above), casino (see above Yes we won again the last night), 24 see above. Put bags outside cabin, and lamented our last night was coming to a close. Jan 26. up by 7am, breakfast on Lido (see above), a bit more crowded, but still found a table. Found our cruisecritic friends and said goodbye to them waited for our number/color to be called we were first to be called after self assist however there were crowds of people stuck on stairway waiting for the self assist to debark I guess they were slower than expected&we were still in line, and they called another group and a loud BOO could be heard by all of us standing around waiting on the first group to completely exit. However, from the time our number was called till we were standing outside getting a taxi was only 30 minutes so it wasn't bad at all. Took taxi to airport ($12 with tip), breezed thru security (no comments this time), and awaited our flight home enjoyed California Pizza Kitchen's pizza for lunch there in the terminal at san diego, and had an uneventful flight home to Norfolk via Atlanta. (we watched the final 4 episodes of 24 on the way home and the time flew by!). To everyone who made it to the end I say thank you for taking the time to read my epic novel, and I apologize for all the grammatical and spelling errors, I R an engineer for a reason! (Ha). These are my views, and I want to reiterate how fantastic the crew was. We really enjoyed the cruise critic gang especially Kathy, Heather, Tim, and Dave. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
We recently returned from a 7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise on the Oosterdam. The overall experience for my wife and myself was excellent. We arrived in San Diego the night before the cruise. We stayed at the Residence Inn located about 4 ... Read More
We recently returned from a 7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise on the Oosterdam. The overall experience for my wife and myself was excellent. We arrived in San Diego the night before the cruise. We stayed at the Residence Inn located about 4 blocks from the Cruise Terminal. It was chilly in San Diego but it did not prevent us from walking along the pier to the terminal and having dinner at Ruth's Chris located across the street from the terminal. We spent a quiet night resting at the Residence and were up around 6:30am. After coffee and a light breakfast I strolled down to the pier. Once I rounded the corner past the City County building I saw the Oosterdam docked and looking beautiful. Pictures say a lot but seeing her in person is what does it for me. I walked back to the hotel anxious to get on board. We spent a leisurely morning at the Residence and at 11:30am headed for the Cruise Terminal. The Residence provides a free shuttle to anywhere within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. Upon arrival our bags were taken by a porter and we were directed into the terminal. We displayed our Identification to security and went through the detectors and around a corner where a staff person reviewed our documents and pre boarding material. She gave us a passing grade and directed us to the Suite window (we had a Deluxe Suite SA category cabin 7070). The process took no more than 10 minutes. We then were directed to the boarding area. Our picture was taken and up we went to the Main deck and were greeted by several ship personnel. We were directed to the elevators and were told our cabins would be ready at 1:30pm and that we could eat at the Lido and visit anywhere on the ship. The Lido was not crowded at all although there were still a number of people headed home and waiting for later flights and then of course those of us who could not wait to be on board. The Lido was to become our breakfast headquarters everyday except for one trip to the dining room for breakfast. We loved the Lido and all the choices for breakfast and lunch. Everything was fresh. My only criticism is that the coffee refill stewards are not around that much. Most often we just got up and went to the coffee machines and got our own. Can you imagine having to serve ourselves and actually get up and move (sad isn't it?). The coffee by the way is excellent. Lunch in the Lido is also great. The choices range from sushi to hamburgers and hot dogs. In between there is a variety of items to satisfy any palate. At 1:10pm it was announced that our cabin was ready. I was excited for my wife to see the cabin as we had never had a suite before and I really don't think she realized how nice it was. I directed us right to the cabin (I had every area of the ship memorized) and her response was worth the trip alone. The Suite (Deluxe) was over 500 Sq Ft and just very elegant. The King size bed, mirror along the bed wall, flat screen TV, DVD, leather sofa, two captains chairs, bathroom with a shower and a combo shower /tub, with the tub being a whirlpool was very nice. Bath robes were hanging up for each of us plus house shoes. The veranda is the biggest I have had (16 previous cruises). There was then a knock on the door and we were greeted by our room steward. He introduced himself as August ("not September" he said). He did a fabulous job the entire week. His towel animals on our bed every night was a pleasant ending to each day and on the last day his monkey looked like it should be fed a banana. We went to the Neptune Lounge as our luggage had not yet arrived. We met the concierge and made some changes to our dinner table and checked on an excursion I had booked. They were extremely courteous and helpful. The Neptune is a very comfortable area with treats throughout the day and fresh coffee, tea and a variety of juices. It also has a fairly large wide screen TV. We sat and watched the playoff games for a while then went back to our cabin. The bags had arrived and we unpacked finding we had ample closet and drawer space. The sailing was very smooth throughout the trip with the exception of one evening when we had some rough seas. The Oosterdam handles it very well and it was nothing that really bothered us. Each evening we slept like babies. The food was wonderful and the personnel were as friendly as any cruise I have been on. I have heard people critical of the food but I found it to be some of the best we have ever had. The presentation was a wonderful experience. Our one evening at the Pinnacle Grill was fabulous. We each had the filet. The brag about the Sterling Silver Beef and I was anxious to put it to the test. Well you will recall my saying we ate at Ruth's Chris the night before the cruise. Well I consider their steaks to be the best around. Pinnacle is better. The beef could have been cut with a fork. The service was perfect and it is everything it is advertised to be. The ship was extremely clean. The work that goes into keeping it clean was obvious throughout our cruise with crew members sweeping, polishing, dusting etc. They were replacing carpet in almost every area and they were at work each day in a different area. I did notice that the newer carpet is being put down with a better pad and feels much more plush. They were completing stairways while we were there. Throughout the cruise we sampled all the lounge areas and found them warm and inviting. Drink prices are reasonable however the wine prices are ludicrous. One bottle of wine in the dining room was priced at $39 a bottle. The same bottle at Sams is $9.95. This is the one area they need to get real. the other is the price of the many pictures they take. $10.95 for a picture. I guess they haven't noticed the many people with digital cameras. We took all our own this trip and already have them downloaded and some framed. AI think this process is going to become obsolete unless they get prices more in line. It is a beautiful cruise along the coast. Most relaxing although the weather was not at its best for us. I think Cabo is ok (I did love Cabo Wabo), I did not like Mazatlan, and I totally enjoyed Puerta V. Keep in mind due to the weather our plans for the beach were scrapped. That I am sure gave us a limited view of both Cabo and Mazatlan. Overall the week was wonderful and as always went too quickly. The day arrived for us to head home and we opened the cabin curtains to see the ship docked and the Vandaam alongside soon to be headed to Hawaii. We talked about sneaking on board but decided it was time to head home. The debarkation was as good as it gets. No more than ten minutes to get off. We found our bags immediately and walked another 25 yards and boarded our bus to the airport. During the flight home reality set in. Great trip 5 stars for Holland and the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
This was our 3rd HAL cruise and our 9th cruise overall. We enjoyed our cruise very much. The embarkation in San Diego was a breeze. We were through processing and on the ship at the Lido eating within 20 minutes of arrival on the pier. I ... Read More
This was our 3rd HAL cruise and our 9th cruise overall. We enjoyed our cruise very much. The embarkation in San Diego was a breeze. We were through processing and on the ship at the Lido eating within 20 minutes of arrival on the pier. I commend HAL for there organizational skills here. Our group of 4, ranged age wise from late 30's to early 50's. Once on the ship, we did find the Lido to be very packed (we arrived about Noon), not unexpected. The choice of food was very nice, from the salad bar, sandwich bar, Asian, etc. I think HAL does a good job with variety in the buffet on a daily basis, though we never ate there for dinner so cannot comment on that. Our cabin was nice - with a balcony towards the front of the ship. Plenty of storage in the closets. A sofa, chair and coffee table. Flat screen TV with DVD player. The beds were very comfortable. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo. We had no complaints with any noise nor any vibrations. Our cabin steward was very efficient and kept the room very clean. He made the animal towels nightly, which we very cute. Dining - we actually originally did the traditional (fixed) dining, but after 3 nights changed to the As You Wish new dining concept and found we actually enjoyed the flexibility. Sometimes we wanted to attend the early show, etc. The service at either dining was FANTASTIC. Our dining room waiters were terrific, attentive, made nice recommendations and were accommodating to giving us extra lobster tails and escargots during the 2nd Formal night. The wine stewards were good and we never noticed any lengthy wait to receive service. Overall, I believe we had better service on the Oosterdam than on our other 2 HAL cruises. Watch out for the vibration in the rear dining room level 2. One night they seated us in the direct back of the dining room and we had to ask to be moved. The food in the dining room- it was very good and the variety offered excellent. Only one night did I find the entrees lacking in offering (the so called Dutch night) and when I asked for something off the menu, they were able to accommodate me without problem. We ate several times in the formal dining room for breakfast and lunch and likewise found the food very good. We did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill - though have done so before on another cruise. I actually find the price (now $30 pp) to be expensive, when compared to what you get in the dining room for your cruise price. The atmosphere in the PG is very nice and if I received a free dinner there from my TA, I would eat there, but I do not see it as a must-do. They need to update their menu IMO. We also enjoyed the taco bar/grill - very nice. The room service was also great, and on time. Only one afternoon did we experience a 40 minute wait for a pre-dinner snack and room service told us up front it would take that long. Entertainment - I found this area to be lacking. We enjoyed one show very much - the Broadway musicals. The rest of the shows were so-so. Possibly one of the ships with the worst entertainment IMO. Also the construction of the Vista show lounge could be better - there are large posts that block views. The daily activities were ok as well. Pretty much similar to other HAL cruises. We attended some of the "game" show type of activities - some better than others. The Karaoke contest was quite fun and had a good attendance. We also enjoyed the cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Center. Would have like some more dance lessons other than line dancing and the fox trot. The casino was fine. A good size for the ship. The spa was nice and the thermal spa worth it for one day. The gym was nice as well, though I would like a few more elliptical machines. The ports of call were great as usually. Puerto Vallarta our favorite. The tendering was efficient and organized - perhaps the best we have seen on any cruise. We received a $25pp ship board credit due to an azipod which is not fully functioning. This was a nice touch from HAL. Our port times were somewhat reduced (which was disappointing). Average age on this ship was OLD! A lot of frail people on board! They apparently ran out of wheelchairs on embarkation! I think this contributed to the lack of nightlife and one of the reasons, we will probably consider another cruise line before returning to HAL. However, we had an excellent time due in part to the wonderful staff. I would recommend the Oosterdam and this itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
We had a fabulous time on the O. It is an absolutely beautiful ship with spectacular decor! Executive Summary: Best cabins/beds, Excellent Service, Beautiful dEcor, Superb Dining & Menu selection. This was our first cruise on HAL, ... Read More
We had a fabulous time on the O. It is an absolutely beautiful ship with spectacular decor! Executive Summary: Best cabins/beds, Excellent Service, Beautiful dEcor, Superb Dining & Menu selection. This was our first cruise on HAL, but our tenth cruise (Celebrity, Renaissance, RCCL, NCI, Viking). We went on this cruise for the cruise experience and were not interested in the ports as we have had been there before on land trips. We came in a day early and stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was very convenient and reasonably priced. We had dinner at Anthonys, but would not go there again as it was noisy and the food was very average. Embarkation was smooth. The cabin was our best yet, very large and I loved the bathtub. The bedding was better than most hotels. HAL really excels here. This was my first cruise where they had plenty of hangers in the closet and there was so much storage area that we did not use it all. The flat screen TV had movies and tour / port information available at all times which was much nicer than previous cruises. Our balcony was a large, with a table & two chairs for dining/playing cards as well as 2 with footrests for relaxing. Our steward was excellent, and returning to the cabin each evening to find a different towel animal was a delight. Dining: We dined primarily in the dining room because I have not liked the buffet areas on the ships we sailed on before. However, the buffet on the O is different in that it is beautifully decorated, extremely clean and the staff is friendly, helpful & on top of keeping all of the table clean even during the busiest times. The food there was very good, too; especially the pasta bar, salads & Asian, although the sushi was pretty basic compared with Celebrity. Now on to the dining room, which was superb. I had a different fish (mahi mahi, grouper, marlin, snapper) almost every night, and they were all prepared perfectly. DH had the meat dishes more often and he was very happy with them but they do cook their meat a little too much for our taste. The desserts were excellent, but the appetizers need improvement in terms of selection and preparation. Lunches and breakfasts were enjoyable. Our servers, Sodik & Suyra (spelling??) were top-notch, as well as the others in the dining room. All requests were addressed satisfactorily and pleasantly. We tried the Pinnacle Grill and the food & service here was also excellent. Tours: Although we were not interested in the ports, we did try one tour in Cabo, 2-hour whale watching, which we did not enjoy. The boat was uncomfortable and people we talked to saw more whales from their balconies that we did on the tour. We spent an hour chasing a spout far in the distance with the end result being a glimpse of a whale's tale. For us this was a wasted $140 as well as the precious time. Others did, however, appear to enjoy it and the tour guides tried very hard to be accommodating and provide a good time for everyone. We enjoyed the classical music in the Explorer's Lounge each evening before dinner and Jalynn & the Hal Cats after dinner for dancing. We did not attend the shows, but the showroom itself is nicely designed with what looked like good seats for everyone. We were disappointed in the piano music as that is usually our favorite entertainment, not in the pianists themselves, but they had some kind of electronic pianos, and we did not think they sounded like a piano should, but that again is a matter of taste. We participated daily in the trivial (never won), but had fun & met some interesting people. Disembarkation: Again HAL excels here. We had breakfast in the cabin and were allowed to stay in our cabin until our departure time was called rather than being herded into a room to sit uncomfortably. OK, we need to say something really negative - the olives in the martinis were too small & a little on the tart side & we would have liked hors devours to have been passed in all of the lounges before dinner. My overall impression of HAL is that it is an excellent comfortable cruise line, with exceptional service. I am looking forward to booking another cruise on one of the Vista ships as it is the perfect size for us - large enough to be interesting, but small enough so that you don't feel overwhelmed. We recommend this cruise very highly without any reservation. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
Travel to San Diego: We flew from Seattle to San Diego. The airport in SD is just a few minutes from the dock. Friends picked up us at the airport and we parked right across the street from the ship. Embarkation was a breeze; HAL was very ... Read More
Travel to San Diego: We flew from Seattle to San Diego. The airport in SD is just a few minutes from the dock. Friends picked up us at the airport and we parked right across the street from the ship. Embarkation was a breeze; HAL was very well organized. All was explained in the packet of information we received several weeks prior to our trip. Cabin: We had a main deck cabin with a window and unobstructed view. Very nice and worth the extra to upgrade from an inside stateroom. Room steward was excellent and kept our room spotless and well-supplied. Plenty of closet space and a nice if small bathroom. Crew and ship cleanliness: All the staff was friendly and the ship was immaculate. The ship has lots of polished brass, chrome and glass in the decor and it was kept gleaming by round the clock housekeeping. There were hand sanitizer dispensers located throughout the ship and the crew was dispensing it as you came on board after a port of call, and before meals. There were reminders all over the ship about handwashing and the restrooms were also kept very clean. Food: The food was excellent at both the Lido restaurant (cafeteria style) as well as at the Vista dining room (evening meals served in courses). There were other food venues such as the grill for burgers and hot dogs, a taco bar by the midships pool, and other special meals set up in buffets around the ship. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill which offered exclusive dining for an additional fee. Ports of Call-Cabo San Lucas: Very disappointing place to us as it is totally Americanized with high rise resorts and mostly populated by Californians. We took a city bus to San Jose del Cabo and that was the best part of the day as we had a chance to visit with the local people. The bus took almost an hour to travel 20 miles since it stopped at all the high rise hotels that span the beach between Cabo and San Jose. San Jose was a little better than Cabo. We found the original town square and church and spent some time walking around there the but prices we paid for lunch were American prices and the food was only so-so. Most of what we saw in the shops was tourist souvenirs from China. We recommend you don't bother--just stay on the ship and enjoy a day at the pool. Taxis here were a rip-off and beware of people selling tours and timeshares and everything else where you get off the ship. People were persistent to the point of following us and grabbing our arms to sell us stuff. We managed to run the gauntlet and get past these people but one lady on our ship managed to get caught up in a time share promotion deal (advertised as a "boutique hotel opportunity" Ports of Call - Mazatlan: We took a 4 hour city tour sponsored through the ship. It was a good overview of the city and worth the money we paid. Our driver was knowledgeable in the history of the area and pointed out a lot of interesting sights to see on your own. There is a gringo section of Mazatlan which is very Americanized with expensive hotels and high priced jewelry and leather shops. This did not appeal to us although my friend who was shopping for jewelry said the prices were good if you were willing to negotiate with them. We asked to be dropped off back in the old section of Mazatlan when the tour ended and spent a lovely afternoon wandering around on our own. I speak a little Spanish and that was sufficient to get us by. Many people spoke English but they seemed to appreciate the fact that I was trying to speak their language. They are a very gracious people. The architecture in old Mazatlan is wonderful and the cathedral there is worth a visit. Ports of Call - Puerto Vallarta: We did a self-conducted tour and thoroughly enjoyed Puerto Vallarta. We preferred the older section of town with its narrow winding cobblestone streets and wrought iron work. We spent some time along the boardwalk that runs south of the main town along the Playa del Sol and Playa del Muertes. The water was a little cold for swimming but we stuck our feet in and sat basking on the sand for a while. If you want to have a shaded table or palapas, you will need to either get a day pass from the hotel that lays claim to that stretch of beach, or plan on ordering food and drinks from the restaurant that has tables along there. There were locals who had brought their own beach umbrellas and chairs but since we didn't, we joined a restaurant there and had some excellent food and beverages while we lazed away the afternoon. Taxis were very reasonable here--$7 to go back to port from the very south end of the beach area. Entertainment on ship: There was a great string quartet from the Ukraine that played in one of the piano bars every evening. We saw all the floor shows which were very well done. We enjoyed the casino although if you are really into gambling then this is not the ship for you. The Casino is small and pretty low key. There was a multitude of dance venues with a variety of music. The pools were lovely--one family pool at mid ships with a cover for the windy days, and one aft designated as the adult pool. Both pools were fresh water but not heated and there are two hot tubs at each pool. The pool deck and area was kept very clean--something that I really appreciate. Lots of lounge chairs in the various decks available for sunning and a nice snooze. None of the entertainment areas ever felt crowded. It was hard to believe there were 1900 people on board. Disembarkation: All went smoothly and on schedule. I estimate less than 20 min. to get off, through customs and find our baggage. All in all the cruise was a delight with top notch service. Only one time did our room service order come up missing something, and that was remedied right away. Later we found a basket of chocolate covered strawberries in our stateroom with a note of apology from the Dining room manager for their mistake. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
This sunny cruise onboard the Oosterdam made us completely forget it was February! Travel to Port, Background, Hotel: We left Chicago on Thursday 15 February, encountering a several hour flight delay due to the storms on the East coast. ... Read More
This sunny cruise onboard the Oosterdam made us completely forget it was February! Travel to Port, Background, Hotel: We left Chicago on Thursday 15 February, encountering a several hour flight delay due to the storms on the East coast. (We rationalize this several day ahead departure as cheap trip insurance.) Since all of the port area hotels/motels were completely booked, we had reserved a room at the La Jolla Estancia and rented a car to drive up there. It was a most pleasant interlude at a deluxe hotel. Saturday, 17 February, at 9:45 am, despite dire warnings about traffic (what traffic?), we left, drove the car to Budget and called a Yellow Cab for the trip to the pier. Hotel to airport-Budget to ship terminal took no more than one hour. We were at the dock at 10:45, showed our tickets and passports to the friendly security staff and went inside the waiting room. A small crowd had gathered, sandwiches and lemonade were being served, and we were in group 2 for boarding! We were onboard by 11:45. We went directly to the Lido, sat in the sunny pool area, and happily ate! (Or, a great suggestion from RandyandTina of CC, deposit your suitcases and head over to the Midway Museum, for a 3 hour self-guided tour of the aircraft carrier.) Ship: I like the Vista class ships because of the moderately priced balcony cabins and because of the hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite in the spa. Purell hand sanitizer is ubiquitous. Stateroom: The balcony is a real asset on this cruise so you can view the spouting whales and leaping dolphins. It was our second time on the O, and on this trip we finally discovered the seat can be removed from the ottoman for storage, and also found 2 drawers beneath the loveseat. The elemis shampoo, conditioner, gel, body lotion and soaps are very nice; I should have left all my products at home and saved a few pounds of checked baggage. Due to my booking mix-up, we ended up in 6150 instead of 6050—and 6150 only has a shower, rather than the combination. It is well located on the "food" end of the ship! Up to the Lido and down to the Vista Dining Room! We also received first towel animals ever in our 16 years of cruises. Dining: HAL seems to have really focused on dinner menus. Presentation was improved; we liked everything. Salads (one of the day plus Caesar) were more generous than we recall, rack of lamb, lamb chops were on the menus, escargot and tuna carpaccio were good, surf and turf a favorite…fewer vegetables…a flambe each night. The variety at breakfast (the raisin buns are still there-good with butter and marmalade) and lunch buffets seems to be limited in comparison to past trips, the stir-fry at poolside is gone. But more ice cream flavors are available, so HAL seems to be responding to its American customers. We ate in the dining room every night, as we prefer formal dining. The "leisure" dining is just a new moniker for traditional dining. Our table for 6 all arrived at 8—to scatter our arrival times between 8 and 9, as was suggested, would have thrown off the steward and presumably disturbed our tablemates. We had lunch in the dining room twice, during at sea days, had our own table for two once. The formal afternoon tea was quite nice, just like Christmastime at the Ritz! But, just stick to what is offered, please—tea, sweets and sandwiches, scones, whipped cream. The crowd came in asking for this and that and this is not the venue for that. Try to pretend you are at the Ritz paying $30 each for your teacup and treats and behave accordingly. We did not try the Pinnacle this trip; there are many steakhouses here in Chicago. We ordered room service breakfast on our early shore-excursion day. Again, the menu seems to have been limited from prior years, but we thrived! Nightly buffet is from 11 to 12, but since we were finishing dinner at 10 to 10:30, we only made it to the Thursday night Chocolate Dessert Extravaganza. We ate a few pieces of fruit dipped in the chocolate fountain…. Wine card worked well for my husband, offering 10 glasses at a discount. The card was purchased at the terminal, and then punched in the dining room. Since he was the only wine drinker, it worked better than the discounted bottle selection he purchases when the family travels. . Activities: I signed up for the spa pool and thermal suite for the week for $150, and then added on my husband for $100. We especially enjoyed this on the cooler days into and out of SD. On a port day, the stone massage was only $99, so I did that and it continues to be my favorite. I didn't have any sales pitches here. We tried for a mile on the decks daily, but it was very windy first and last days. I paid $11 for a pilates class, but I am so into my present routine, it was hard to adapt. I attended the two kitchen talks with Chef Krieger, emceed by CD Dan, in the new Culinary Center, Every seat was taken, good tips, lots of laughs, a chance to get questions answered, and an hour well spent. Kitchen tour also good time to see how ship prepares thousands of meals, Good selection of library books. These now require a $30 deposit, taken off the bill when book is returned. Backstage tour was a chance to meet the dancers. Animal towel folding class provided a handout, demo and a new skill for me! Entertainment: We thought CD Dan and his ACDs did a nice job this week. (Hello, Ashleigh!) Do attend the crew show at 11:30 pm. The Indonesian show was featured our week (it alternates with the Filipino show) and it was wonderful, lots of talent, lots of laughs too. Our week featured Janine Gardner, a female comedian; DV8, funny husband and wife magic act; Peter Fernandez, a wonderfully versatile vocalist (from I Love Lucy theme to Turandot); talented Jalynn and the Cats poolside and in the Crow’s Nest as well as the cast. Entertainment was probably the best assembled group we have seen onboard HAL. The CD did a good job auditioning the entertainment. We especially liked the 4 cast members presenting a cabaret style show in the Queen’s lounge one evening. The Ocean Breeze string quartet, performing nightly pre-dinner, was standing room only. Shore Excursions: Pirate Ship Whale-Watching in Cabo was good adventure on the high seas and yes, we spotted whales breaching and blowing. Binoculars helped. Ladies, be careful not to drink too much-the head is a backwards trip down the hatch! The most rugged shore excursion seemed to be the kayaking trip—those folks were really tested by the surf. Taste of Mexico in Puerto Vallerta with guide Rosy was a lot of walking on cobblestones-one couple returned to the bus-but for the rest of us it was sightseeing plus a stop in an open air restaurant to make our own tortillas, salsa, tostados and enchiladas. It was not a class in technique for the home chef, but it was fun and informal. We sat in pairs and ate what we made. We had been to Mazatlan before, so stayed onboard, but all of our tablemates took tours and enjoyed their stay and the sunny day. Service: Service did not falter and was excellent and gracious throughout the week. The ship was very organized. The Captain and the Officers were highly visible. Many smiles on board; the crew and staff worked very well together. Irman our waiter handled our table graciously, efficiently and professionally. Our cabin steward Andy was excellent and on his way home after a long contract. Disembark: As we turned our cell phones on Saturday am to find our return flight had been canceled, we spent breakfast trying to rebook and got Monday flights. We left the ship and pulled our bags across the street to the Holiday Inn, which had no vacancies. We sat in the lobby and on advice from our world-traveler tablemates, found a room at the Old Town Hacienda Best Western. Their van driver came to the pier and retrieved us, and that is the start of another happy story! Summary: Our experience on the Oosterdam was top-notch and provided us with a relaxing and delightful week. San Diego is a welcome change from the Florida ports since it is so accessible and passenger-friendly. The Mexican Riviera itinerary in February is also a nice change from the Caribbean ports at this time of year. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
My wife, 5year old daughter and I are just back from the March 3 sailing of the Oosterdam from SD to the Mexican Riviera. We were looking for a week of relaxation, but I was skeptical of the quality of the ship as I have been spoiled by ... Read More
My wife, 5year old daughter and I are just back from the March 3 sailing of the Oosterdam from SD to the Mexican Riviera. We were looking for a week of relaxation, but I was skeptical of the quality of the ship as I have been spoiled by sailings on the SS France, QE2 and QM2. While nothing will likely ever match the service and food of the SS France, we found the Oosterdam to be on par and in some areas even better than the QM2. Embarkation was fine. Security wouldn't allow our cab into the actual terminal so we had to schlep our bags through the initial gate. If you have a lot of luggage, insist that your vehicle pull up to the luggage carts. We breezed through check-in. Another Holland America ship was undergoing a super thorough cleaning, so their embarkation was delayed until 4:30. The ship is a class act. We are not huge ship people (that being said, the QM2, while large, never feels crowded) and so we were thrilled with the intimacy of the Oosterdam. Furnishings and dEcor are pleasing and overall elegant. The stateroom was comfortable and large enough for the three of us, with sufficient storage and closet space. The bathroom was excellent: large, with a tub(!) and lots of storage in the medicine chest and below the sink. This is the first time we have had a stateroom without a balcony, I was leery of my reaction to having no fresh air, but in truth, while the balcony would have been nice, it would not have been worth the extra $500. We were a few rooms forward of the aft elevators on the main deck, with a good view of the Pacific. By the way, the sound and vibration of the azipod (one was still unworkable on our sailing) were unnoticeable in our room. Our room steward did what was needed. We dined in the main dining room every night, entering a few minutes after the 8PM start time, seldom waiting more than a minute to be seated. We also ate here for a few lunches and breakfasts. We had an excellent table alongside a window. Service here was extraordinary! The staff was knowledgeable and helpful with everything. The food was equally impressive. Let me make clear that we are food snobs; I was expecting quality and taste on par with maybe one of the chain restaurants one finds outside the mall, a step above say a Marie Callendar's, but below that of a real restaurant. We were thrilled to discover that overall the dishes were diverse, pleasantly presented and pleasing to the palette. Highlights included a salmon and shrimp cake, lobster bisque, escargots, salmon tartare, broiled halibut in a beurre blanc, a perfectly cooked sirloin (available nightly), and several tasty vegetarian dishes. The Caesar salad is worth ordering as are other salads. Special requests were always granted (pairing a main course say, with the side dishes of a different entrEe) and the few dishes that we did not enjoy were immediately replaced by something else. The desserts were overall less appealing, with the exception of the to-die-for apple strudel (NOT the no sugar version). Everyone raves about the bread pudding; I found it to be too eggy. We went with the lovely cheese plates most nights. The vibration of the azipod was highly noticeable and annoying in the rear of the dining room, especially downstairs, although where we were nearer the middle, it was a minor issue. We ate in the Lido dining room for most our breakfasts and lunches. While not on par with the main dining room, it also impressed us. The dEcor was very attractive, with comfortable tables and chairs. The service staff were everywhere with extra linen napkins, beverages, clearing trays and plates, and the offer to carry trays to the table. While busy, the Lido had short lines and wait times for food, and special requests were granted as asked for. Compared to the QM2, we have to make the comparison to the vaunted Cunard brand (sorry, it's not really the Cunard line anymore), the buffet style dining experience and the quality of food in both areas were far superior on the Oosterdam. Holland America served us good food while the QM2 created fancier and more complex dishes that quite frankly rarely tasted good. Oh. And lastly, the ice-cream bar that everyone raves about: come on, it's just ice-cream, and not even of the highest quality. The public rooms on the ship were more than adequate. The atrium is a fine performance space. The many other small spaces and bars are wonderful for reading, staring at the sea, or listening to string quartets and other musicians. The Windstar Cafe takes care of the latte fix, or for free one can order the same in the main dining room. The library is a cozy space with sufficient books and was rarely used. I wish they stocked more magazines and newspapers. My sense is that during the daytime, Holland America prefers that people spend money in the shops, on art, playing bingo, or in the casino, as many of the public spaces are devoted to these pursuits. Many, if not most of the passengers seem to be either in these spaces or eating. We, preferring more quiet and intimate settings, found plenty of these on the promenade deck or in a few seldom used rooms. The pools, both covered (when cool) and aft (windblown) and the four Jacuzzis were fine. Afternoon tea was pleasant and the Indonesian tea is worth attending. I'll say little about the ports, as we did no Holland America excursions and if we were going to explore Mexico we would do it ourselves over the course of a week or more. If going into Puerto Vallarta, skip a $12 cab ride. Walk out of the terminal, head south, change $5 into pesos at the super market (I bought a pack of gum) and take any bus heading towards "el Centro" for 5 pesos or .50 cents each. Do the same on your return. Lastly, for our daughter, the Hal Club was the true low point. There were about 30 kids on our cruise, with only six in our daughter's age group of 3-7 years old. We were provided with a schedule of the week's activities; sometimes this schedule wasn't followed and at times the replacement activities and even the regularly scheduled ones were inappropriate. Case in point, for a group of five kids ages 4 and 5, they gave them an hour in the video arcade, where all the games but one involved shooting at things. Another time they were given an hour on PS2 consoles. Two movies shown (one in place of a scheduled craft activity and games) were Hook and Nanny Mcphee; not my first choices for kids of that age (what's wrong with a G-Rated film?), but more importantly why show the kids a film during the day at all? The woman staffing the Hal Club were gentle and kind and some of the activities were engaging, the pirate night was great fun, but overall the experience felt like average baby sitting rather than worthwhile activities. And now the few other items needing improvement: There was mold on our shower curtain lining, scuff marks and pen on parts of our walls, and a noticeable and periodic smell of rotten eggs (sewage?) in a few of the hallways. The beer and wines by the glass selections were poor. The lamb, in all lamb dishes, was a bit gamy, and I love lamb. The music in the pool areas was awful, noisy covers (I guess Holland America doesn't want to pay the royalties for real music); always on and always loud. Low quality lotions and soaps in the staterooms. I wish passengers dressed better at dinner. Even during the two formal nights there were a noticeable number of men not even in suits and the other five nights were casual. I like seeing everyone dressed up and dolled up at dinner time on a ship; it's so 1920's! Again, the service, from top to bottom was consistently top notch. Our daughter was fawned upon by the crew. Unprompted, they made her an origami frog, brought her a Caesar salad every night after she discovered she liked it, and always served her a glass of milk with dessert. Wherever we went on the ship staff would ask her her name and then everyday after would say hello to her by name! We like to start dinner with a beer, so a chilled beer and beer steins were always waiting for us; my wife mentioned really liking a type of cracker served with the cheese plate, and for the next five nights the same crackers were on our table before we were seated. Disembarkation was a breeze. Overall, the voyage was well worth the investment in money and time, both of which are actually limited in one's lifetime. We came back totally rested and well fed, with happily only a few pounds gained, thanks to daily three mile runs around the promenade deck. Compared to the QM2? On the one hand, the much higher cost is hard to justify. On the other hand, a transatlantic crossing has its own magic—a sense of timelessness. The QM2 is more elegant and there was something special about the elegant and classy nature of the passengers, with three formal nights of mainly tuxedos and gowns and only one casual night. If money were not really an issue, we would try the QM2 again; otherwise, we would be happy with the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
My family and I sailed on the March 3rd sailing from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. For my wife and I this was our 8th cruise on Holland America. For our two sons this was their 6th cruise on Holland America. Given the time of year, ... Read More
My family and I sailed on the March 3rd sailing from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. For my wife and I this was our 8th cruise on Holland America. For our two sons this was their 6th cruise on Holland America. Given the time of year, we decided to fly out to San Diego a day earlier, just in case old man winter tried to ruin our vacation plans. We also purchased comprehensive travel insurance for the first time for the same reason. We left Newark Liberty Airport on time, which was a surprise, since the Northeast got hit with a tough storm that day. We even arrived in San Diego an hour earlier. Because there was four of us with luggage instead of just grabbing taxis, we took one of the convenient shuttles to our hotel. We decided to stay at the Marriott GasLamp district. The hotel is very nice and is right next to Petco park. Our room on the 18th floor overlooked the stadium. If the Padres were playing, you could see the entire game from our room without having to buy a ticket. Because of the late time of arrival at the hotel; we checked in and decided to eat in the restaurant adjoining the hotel. We made arrangements with the concierge to have a van take us to the ship. Normally, we like to bring a few fine bottles of wine to open at dinner on selected nights. Because of the new TSA regulations on liquids we decided against chancing it(packing them in our suitcase and hoping everything would not be purple when we unpacked). We found a great liquor store close to the hotel, the Wine Bank, and we purchased some great wine and spirits. Please note that HAL has gotten very strict on bringing beverages aboard. The wine and champagne are fine but any hard liquor is a no-no. So the great bottle on single malt scotch was impounded until the last day of the cruise. We arrived at the Pier at approximately 1:15PM, embarkation was a breeze with the dedicated line for Penthouse and Deluxe Suites, this is one of the Holland American perks for a SA suite. We were aboard and in the Neptune lounge within 15 minutes. At first, we were surprised by how many of the cruise wanted to give you a fast splash of Purell, but given what has happened with Norvo it makes a lot of sense. Our Deluxe Suite 7052 was similar to the other suites we have had on the other vista class ships. Plenty of room and nice amenities. My one issue on the design of the suite is about the bathroom. While there is a full size jacuzzi tub with shower and a separate shower, the size of the alone shower is too small for a person over 6ft., it is a waste of valuable space. Everything is the suite was top notched from the bed linens to the SPA supplies. Our cabin steward, Rudi was terrific; all week his service was great. Any thing we needed, Rudi saw that we had it in short order. The cruise staff is one of the main reasons I continue to sail with Holland America. We pulled out of San Diego after 5:30pm, there was some late luggage and passengers because of the bad weather back east. As we set sail from the bay, a full moon came over the San Diego skyline for some unbelievable pictures. We ate in the Vista dining room for five nights. Our dining stewards, Rufki and Ali were terrific. Besides the great service, they remember each of our favorites and saw that if they were on the menu we would have them. The other two nights we ate in the Pinnacle Grill. The first time in the Pinnacle we enjoyed a very good dinner, while I know people debate whether it is worth the surcharge, I believe it is. The second time we ate in the Pinnacle was the Winemakers special dinner. The Winemaker was Holly Turner of Three Rivers in Washington state. There were 16 of us at the dinner and probably the same number of wait staff. Being into wines, this was a great experience talking to her about her wines and the industry in general. It was one of the highlights of our cruise. Highly recommend it to anyone, if it available on your next cruise. Also, the food seemed to be even better that the first night we at in the Pinnacle. Our first stop was Cabo, we wanted to just relax so we did not prebook any excursions. We dropped anchor next to the famous rock formations that tell you it's Cabo. Ashore we decided to just stroll and figure out what we wanted to do. After walking around for a while we headed over to Cabo Wabo to have some refreshments. In the Catina, there was a live band so we decided to spend some time listening, relaxing and having beverages. Cabo seems to be a port that is trying to change itself to become more attractive to cruise ship travelers. Our next stop was Mazatlan, we went on the Pacifico brewery tour and town. It was a lot of fun traveling around on the open air bus seeing the sights and having cerveza. We found some of the best prices for silver jewelry here. Last stop was PV, we took the Tequila and town tour. It was very interesting seeing a small town outside of PV and how they live. We toured Dona Engracia Hacienda and Tequila Factory. The tequila was excellent and better than Patron or other high end tequilas we have had back in the States. The two days at sea were very relaxing except the last day on board the weather got cloudy and a bit cool to work on that winter tan to make everyone back east jealous. In summary, I would take this trip again and am planning my next cruise on Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
OOSTERDAM-Mexican Riviera-Roundtrip San Diego St. Patrick's Day-17 March to 24 March 2007-7 Days by Patrick & Harriette Regan We thought that this cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta would be a nice change ... Read More
OOSTERDAM-Mexican Riviera-Roundtrip San Diego St. Patrick's Day-17 March to 24 March 2007-7 Days by Patrick & Harriette Regan We thought that this cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta would be a nice change from the rainy winter of Vancouver, BC. VALUE The Internet is full of cruise deals lately just a few weeks from sailing dates, and we grabbed this cruise with a category SY suite guarantee. This was the first time we have ever taken the guarantee route. We're glad we did. We got a next category upgrade, 'SS,' which is a superior veranda suite; this gave us a cabin with more square footage. However, this suite does not come with the special privileges of a deluxe suite, which has access to a private lounge/breakfast room, free laundry service, priority tendering and embarkation, etc. If you're retired or have a flexible work schedule, we recommend checking the Internet cruise sale sites on a regular basis and subscribing to their e-mailings of last minute bargains. There are many choices and discounts now, especially in the Caribbean. SAN DIEGO We flew to San Diego on Alaska Airlines. We had one 30 minute stop in San Francisco, where we just stayed on the plane. There were no non-stops from Vancouver to San Diego that we could find this time of the year. San Diego is beautiful. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt on a good Priceline rate. The Grand Hyatt is a twin towered, 1600 room, marble lobbied Hotel with excellent service and good food, located 5 minutes from the cruise terminal and 10 minutes from the airport. We had a room on the 22nd floor with a harbor view and electric drapes. We skipped renting a car and cabbed around downtown and the Gaslamp District near the hotel. We had a tasty Italian meal in the trendy Gaslamp District at a restaurant called Boca, and we bought a couple of bottles of wine for the cruise and cabbed back to our hotel. There was no problem bringing wine aboard but you can't bring hard liquor. EMBARKATION was a pleasure. We had completed our immigration forms on the Internet, and with our passports in hand and a quick credit card swipe, we were quickly processed and given our cruise cards. We strolled toward the ship passing long lines of passengers still filling out forms and fumbling with their proof of citizenship. WELCOME ABOARD PHOTO We were photographed during the boarding process in front of a backdrop of 3 tired looking Mexican blankets. We don't understand why they don't take the pictures in a better spot. When the pictures were displayed that evening they had photo-shopped in the cruise date and ship information but there was no real sense of a cruise ship in this photo. The price of $20.95 for the picture with the 3-blanket background made it easy for us not to buy it. HAND SANITIZER It's a hand sanitizer world now. Finally. We first saw it on a ship in 2002. We have been carrying a small bottle of it at all times, not just on cruises. It's everywhere on this ship, offered during the boarding process, at the dining rooms and buffets, etc. We've sailed on a ship with a code red, Noro virus protocol and it's not very cruisey. Most of these viruses are spread by shaking hands or by touching railings, elevator buttons, door knobs and handles, etc. We have sailed on a ship where the Captain did not shake hands with anyone. We feel that no Captain, Hotel Director, Cruise staffer, waiter, steward or any crew should offer to shake hands with any passenger, as a health precaution. We saluted the amused Captain of the Oosterdam at a reception. CABIN/BATHROOM We like this spacious, Vista class ship cabin of 398 square feet including the balcony. There are double sinks in the bathroom, with a mirrored and canted medicine cabinet at each end of the counter -- it allows you to see front, back and sideways. There were soothing jacuzzi jets in the tub, and a separate stall shower. There are good mattresses, nice robes and a great cabin layout. There is a vanity table with excellent lighting and a separate writing and working desk with an electrical outlet. There are 2 phones and, on each side of the bed, lighting controls to regulate the ambiance in the cabin, which includes small nightlights you can use to get around a dark cabin. There is an additional window, and I'm writing this sitting at the writing desk looking at the scenery go by through this extra window. There are drawers everywhere in this cabin, along with 2 closets and plenty of shelves and 2 very helpful, well placed hooks. This cabin outshines those of Celebrity M class and Royal Caribbean Radiance class. The balcony is extra large also, with 4 comfortable wicker-like chairs. Good width and depth. We've had balconies on other cruise lines that had only enough depth to sit straight up in a chair without being able to fully extend one's legs. The balcony's see-through barrier under the well maintained varnished railing is sparkling clean. This is also a totally private balcony. Our cabin attendant is Sutoyo, and he is thorough and unobtrusive, quickly adapting to our dining and recreation schedules. There's always something to deal with, though. The cabin heat and AC work very well. Too well. There is no 'on/ off' switch for the very loud ceiling fan that propels the system in the cabin. You can't change the fan speed or turn the fan off. It's not that noticeable during the day, but when the ship quiets down the "white noise" is intolerable. When I called the front desk about this they quickly sent us earplugs, so this is not the first time they have heard about the never-ending fan. Ramona, the Guest Relations Supervisor, came to our rescue. She coordinated a meeting with us and Jerry, the Air Conditioning tech, in our cabin. After everyone understood the problem, she listened to the fan with us while Jerry went to isolate our cabin in the centralized AC/Heating system and lower our fan in the control room. Problem solved. Thank you, Ramona and Jerry. DAILY PROGRAM is the ship's newspaper, with a well organized schedule of the day's activities, dining etc. Under the continuing heading of 'there's always something,' the paper told us under the boldfaced heading "IMPORTANT TIME CHANGE" that during the night of Saturday/Sunday the ship's clocks will be set FORWARD one hour... 'Please adjust your watches and clocks before retiring Saturday night', our first night on the ship. It was wrong info and shouldn't have been in the paper. We adjusted our timepieces and prepared to go to the dining room for breakfast. We saw the clock display on the ship's TV channel and called the front desk and found we were one hour early. The desk told us it was the same paper from last week and last week they did the time change and decided not to this week but the paper was already printed. We wish they had posted notices in the elevators and announced/posted the mistake on the ship's TV channel and not just in the Vista Lounge during the welcome aboard show. The Daily Program has a conveniently perforated edge, which detaches the lower half of it. This portion includes the daily event and show schedule on one side and a separate listing of the food/bar service hours and locations of all of the food venues on the reverse. There is an additional entertainment and services listing with hours and locations. It all folds easily into one's pocket. The ads are on a separate pull out sheet. This is the best organized ship's paper we have seen. TV & DVD PLAYER This is the first cruise we have been on that our cabin had a DVD player. There is also a DVD catalog at the Hotel Desk where you can check out some DVD's. The TV is a good sized flatscreen that can be easily turned on a pedestal. We always bring DVD's for the airplane ride to watch on our laptops, and it's a pleasure to be able to watch on a cabin TV instead of a laptop with headphones. One minor cavil: the spiffy LG flatscreen has the jack blocked where you would connect a home video camera, so you can't plug in your vidcam even though this is a nice modern TV. We want better satellite programming too from North American stations when we are cruising in North America. There were also some recent movies and some film classics shown on one of the ship's TV channels. PERSONAL CELL PHONES The ships are now charging you to use your cell phone at sea. They have installed repeaters/signal boosters that they are selling as an attractive feature, but that surcharge your personal cell at a high rate. They don't do this when the ship is in a port, though. HAL was upfront and there was info about this in the cruise documents. Thank you, HAL. We cruised on the Celebrity Summit on an Alaska cruise in May '06 and found ourselves surcharged to a bill of nearly $600.00, because we were not informed by Celebrity that this charge was being added. The charge was $3.00 per minute. We ended up getting a small credit from our service provider and from Celebrity customer relations, but this didn't even begin to cover the big bill. We used to use our cells whenever we could get a signal, but that's changed now. EDUCATIONAL INTERACTIVE DRINKING We didn't make this phrase up, it's a heading in the Daily Program newspaper about wine tasting seminars. We quote: "These are excellent opportunities to learn what the process is for developing and selecting a fine wine. These interactive experiences are also a fun way to meet and socialize." We never knew drinking was such a noble undertaking. Strolling an area of the main deck a few days later, we saw a notice guiding us to our 'Martini class graduation certificate.' LIDO BUFFET We were in the Lido asking a staff member where we could find the dessert that looked like lemon meringue pie, which we had seen pass by on a cruiser's tray (but it was not pie; it was custard), and who should come up to our conversation but Executive Chef Andreas Sommerfeld, himself! There will be carrot cake though, we learned -- a second favorite. The Lido is very clean. No residual smell of meals past, because the buffet serving lines are always being wiped down. There are trays and assistance for those who need it. Tables are bussed quickly and readied for the next passenger. The napkin and silverware setups are placed on the tables, ready when you arrive -- no holding up the buffet lines with passengers fumbling for silverware. There is a deli/wrap station, a pasta & pizza bar, ice cream station, taco bar, omelet station and a Wok station with sushi, fried rice, etc. -- just about anything you could ask for in a buffet setting. There is the Terrace Grill outside the buffet in the pool area with hamburgers, hot dogs and a taco bar. The Lido buffet is the best tasting buffet we've eaten from in a while, and the salad bar is always fresh. Dinner is also served in the buffet area for those who prefer to dine there. We notice there are passengers who never want to dress and venture into the main dining room, and they too are very happy with this buffet. There is free, high quality ice cream available too, not just free during regular meal times. Celebrity is charging for ice cream in the off meal hours now. VISTA DINING ROOM On 2 levels aft. Big windows. Feels very plush and cruisey. Reds, oranges and dark woods everywhere in the familiar Holland America style. Fresh one or two page menus are used depending on the time of day. We bring up the menus because we have been unhappy on some other cruises to be handed a menu placed in a dirty menu cover. The Oosterdam keeps it simple, and when they proffer a menu or menu cover it is clean. At the other end of the ship is the Vista Lounge, the ship's theatre. We understand that HAL would want its new ship class/brand 'Vista' (the Oosterdam is one of 4 new Vista class ships) to be reflected in the names of the ship's major venues, but we found this doubling up on the name 'Vista' didn't help us getting around the ship at first. Those corridors can be long when you have to double back, especially since that involves meandering through lounges and the casino. On noticing that the Vista Lounge has no vista, we just mentally called it the 'no Vista Lounge,' and went the other way. (By the way, it is also not a lounge; it is the theatre, and functions for various cruise staffed events.) We thank our dining room steward Tua and his assistant Dian. They quickly have become familiar with our preferences. We switched from the early seating, very desirable to most passengers, to the second seating, with the assistance of Second Maitre d' Fabian. We made this change because we will not be stuck with a time that's too early or too late for us. We like the new dinner time schedule that Holland America has instituted. First seating passengers may arrive at the dining room anytime between 5:30 and 6PM. Second seating diners may arrive anytime between 8PM and 9PM. The comfort of having the same wait team and table with flexibility time wise is great. The food is excellent. This dining room seems to even surpass Celebrity's, which has been the standard by which we compare other cruise lines in this price range. The food is really good in this room. We didn't have to resort to the default menu with the always available chicken breast or steak on this cruise. We saw Executive Chef Andreas Sommerfeld at various different times, checking on his food venues. Thank you, Chef! This dining room also serves free cappuccino with meals. The other cruise lines are charging for this now, even in the main dining room. LOBSTER NIGHT A nice succulent lobster tail has become an endangered species on cruise ship dining room menus. On our Sept. '06 Radiance cruise, lobster was available only one night, as part of a seafood brochette on the final formal night. On the Oosterdam also it was available only once, on the final formal night as part of a surf and turf entree, coupled with a small filet. The lobster tail was about 2 1/2 inches long. We ordered another to confirm this measurement and are sad to report that the dinky piece of lobster is all you get now. But, they very graciously brought us more! PINNACLE GRILL Is the Oosterdam's alternative restaurant. Beautiful room. Passengers in Deluxe category suites may breakfast here with the same menu as the main dining room. For lunch and dinner, the cafe is open to all passengers for a service charge of $15.00 at lunch and $30.00 for dinner. We never see many passengers using the place at lunch and not that many more at dinner. We tried it for lunch and had a lovely soup, salad and appetizers. We foolishly chose the 'gourmet hamburger' as our entree and were disappointed. One slice of a tired tomato and wilted lettuce were part of this, so called gourmet, entree. We couldn't discern much difference from the free burgers grilled by the pool other than size. We had swell desserts and cappuccinos to make up for it. The Pinnacle menu also promised us shoestring fries but they were the heftier kind. We were served a burger in the main dining room at lunch a couple of days later, and we had a better burger with real, crispy shoestring fries. We've eaten at alternative ship's restaurants before and have had much more food and better service. That's what the extra charge is about. We arrived at the restaurant at 12:40 (the Pinnacle opened at noon on this day). We requested a change of tablecloth because our high quality linen tablecloth was visibly and colorfully dirty in four places. The staff instead suggested a change of table. We didn't want to move from our nice window table and asked again to change the filthy tablecloth and they did so grudgingly. There was only one table occupied other than ours in this very empty restaurant, and we waited awhile before someone took our order. The wine steward became our intermediary going to get a waiter for us on 3 occasions. There was very poor service, which indicates very poor management in this venue. We suspect the waiters are demoralized by the lack of attendance and tips at the restaurant and were also unhappy we came in 20 minutes from closing on the day we were docked in Mazatlan. We have mixed feeling about these alternative 'fee' restaurants. We like to try them, but for the extra $$$$ the food has to be measurably better than that available in the main dining room, or it is not worth it. We'll stick with the main dining room here on the Oosterdam. We have trouble believing that Chef Andreas Sommerfeld had anything to do with our meal at the Pinnacle. The Lido buffet is much better for lunch than this place. ROOM SERVICE Good menu, a variety of food and drink. Very cruisey feeling to breakfast on our balcony. Hot items properly hot and cold items cold. I don't think we've ever before had room service deliver an English muffin still hot from the toaster. Don't forget to tip these servers who bring food to your cabin. ADDITIONAL TIPPING We get a package of 100 one dollar US bills and feel free to tip at will. There is always something left from the package of one dollar bills. We do not spoil it for other travelers, by over tipping. We tip porters, room service, bar servers & soda servers, jitney drivers, etc. We are retired, but we can't in good conscience ignore the hard working staff who don't fall in to the dining steward or cabin attendant, ten dollar per passenger, per day, tip pool or bar waiter 15% on call drinks. We watched an expensively dressed couple get off a jitney in Mazatlan laden with packages and goodies. The jitney driver helped them off with their packages and they ignored his tip bucket. They merely waved goodbye to him. A buck or two says thank you in any language for a service. CASINO Tighter than previous cruises. Even the small coin denomination slots are "they get nothing" tight. I guess they figure they have a captive audience who's leaving soon so they get all they can. Speaking of shipboard casinos, why can't we get a sports bet down during the NCAA March madness? TIRED CREW We understand that work has to be done seven days a week. We would be glad to have one cruise day a week where the dining room was closed. It would mean eating at the buffet instead, and the cruise line could also have a barbecue or additional theme buffet in the pool area. We know that wait staff need to work these events, but hopefully schedules could be juggled so that they could have at least one day a month off. We would have no trouble with the automatic tipping for that off day either. We wouldn't mind one day without our cabin steward too. We would be glad to make our bed that day. These hard working troops are visibly tired and continue to soldier on behalf of the passengers. One day off a month could be done. SODA AND WINE CARDS This is the first time we have seen a bar/fountain soda card with a drink limit. The price was reasonable, $19.00 US, which was less than half of what we paid on Royal Caribbean in Sept. '06. The HAL card limits you to 20 soda drinks from the bar soda machine. No cans. In reality they use cans some of the time and give you a smaller drink than on the other cruise lines by giving you part of a can in a shorter glass. We're happy with the fountain soda and prefer the tall soda glass used on many cruise lines. We've seen wine packages before on HAL but this is the first wine card. There is Merlot, white, blush and champagne offered with the card. The card was $36.00 US, making house wine $3.60 per glass. We were told by the steward who sold us the card that the tip is included in the package. We like to give the hard working servers a dollar or two with our order when we order drinks using the wine or soda card. If you buy a cocktail at the bar a 15% tip is built in; the tip is not as much with the wine and soda cards. We spoke to knowledgeable staffers who say the card system is unfair, because the card seller gets the lion's share of the wine or soda card tip at the time most cards are purchased, during the boarding process. If a cocktail server is on a different shift or manning another venue, they miss out on the tips to be made selling the cards. It's hard on their morale and removes their incentive to sell more drinks in the case of the wine card. We tipped our dining room wine steward a dollar per drink whenever we used the wine or soda card. He seemed to be walking around wearing a sandwich board that said "I really am too good for this." Use of the wine card reduces their ability to sell wine upgrades, lessening the wine steward's income. HAL is going to have to speak with their wine stewards about this. I understand HAL counting the wine carefully, but not the fountain soda. I don't want to carry a soda punch card. I just want a sticker on my room card. We find ourselves two days before the end of the cruise, rushing to get our cards fully punched. LIBRARY Nice cozy room. Decent variety. Librarian keeps regular hours. Here's the bad part: When you check out a book, a $30.00 charge goes on your bill. When you return a book the charge is to be reversed. We're about to look for a receipt for a book that was returned but the bill shows no credit for it. They debit you in the computer when you check out books, but give you a hand written receipt upon return of the books that takes a couple of days to get posted to your hotel bill. You have to check your hotel bill to make sure these charges get reversed. I recognize that some people can't help stealing books, but thirty dollars is a bit stiff for books that are mostly used and dirty and didn't cost thirty when they were new. Some of the books are extremely stained with food and drink, have multiple dogeared pages, etc. GYM All the way forward. Great views. Clean and well maintained equipment. The music played sometimes in the Gym was of low volume so that when you turned on your IPod you weren't bothered by the music of the gym. Some ships leave the sound in the Gym to the level of a nightclub. ANNOUNCEMENTS Not many, we're happy to report. We were bombarded on our last RCCL cruise. The Captain's daily report came into the cabin. No other cabin announcements were heard other than the obligatory lifeboat drill. The rest of the announcements were heard only in the public areas, or broadcast on Channel 40. Capt. Jonathan Mercer has excellent microphone technique, making it a pleasure to listen to his informative daily report. CRUISE DIRECTOR/ENTERTAINMENT Daniel McLellan is the Cruise Director. The announcements are kept at a minimum, and there are a lot of cruise staffed happenings every day. We are retired from the entertainment business but we don't attend many shows on board because as 2nd seating diners we have to go to the late show in order to see it. We would attend more shows if the Oosterdam had scheduled some early shows for the late diners, instead of us having to always stay up for a 10:30 PM show. Our last Celebrity Cruise had 6:30 PM shows for the late diners. We spoke to some of the performers on that cruise and they like to do early shows too. Our wish for an early show was granted the last full day of the cruise with a 6:45 PM show instead of a 10:30 PM. The one comedian we saw was Janine Gardner, and she put on a great show that "killed" as they say in the comedy game. We enjoyed her immensely. She did only one show, at 10:30 PM, with her act billed as an adult show, and she was worth staying up for. We skipped the other Vista Lounge acts and preferred listening to the various smaller venues, such as the piano playing in the Crow's nest, Bob Style in the piano bar and the C-Sharp Quartet who play for dancing in the Ocean Bar. The Show band also plays for dancing in the Crow's nest, but when there is a show to do they are replaced some of the time by a solo piano player. Dancers need more than just a piano. HOTEL MANAGER AND STAFF I saw the hotel manager, James Deering, here, there and everywhere around the ship; talking to cabin stewards, chefs, passengers etc. So many hotel managers hide out from the public. Mr. Deering was front and center. The ship is well managed and sparkling clean, not just vacuumed and dusted. Ramona, the Guest Relations Supervisor, and the front desk staff were truly customer service oriented, and the Cabin Concierge Mica Castillo was very helpful. We appreciate their can-do, at-your-service attitude. We liked seeing that the cruise 'big-wigs' worked in offices accessible to the passengers, and kept the doors open. SERVICE We can't ever remember having this level of service in this cruise price range. There are 1906 passengers on this voyage, and we are all well served in all areas. VISTA LOUNGE Nice room, good sightlines, located on decks 2 and 3. The sound was always perfectly done during the shows. Not too loud or too soft. Topnotch work by the technical crew. So many ships don't pay much attention to showroom sound. CROW'S NEST Deck 10 all the way forward. Breathtaking views. There is a row of lazy boy type reclining chairs right in front of the windows. That's the good news. The bad news was that all but one of them is broken. When you sit down the chair back falls back into a reclining position without a lever being pulled. PUBLIC AREAS Flowers and art works are everywhere. Lots of highspeed elevators. There is background music piped in. It's hard to find a lounge or bar that isn't engulfed in music. We love some of this music and welcome it at the right times, but when a bar or lounge isn't open and there are soft inviting sofas and chairs to sit in next to the big windows, we would prefer no music during the daylight hours in these venues. It's nice to have other quiet places during the day than just one's cabin. CABO SAN LUCAS We anchored offshore with a view of the rock formations at land's end. We tendered into town and walked the short distance around the marina to the hotels. An open taxi took us within a very short walk of a restaurant called 'The Crazy Lobster' (La Langosta Loca in Spanish), where we have had memorable meals on cruise stops. We first mentioned the place in our review of our Crystal Harmony cruise in 2002. The place is still memorable -- funky and inexpensive, with delicious food served in a very clean, pleasant open-sided structure with clean restrooms. We had huevos ala Mexicana (eggs scrambled with onions, tomatoes, and hot peppers), tortillas, guacamole as we like it (no dairy, the star of the show being a perfect avocado), and frijoles, with Pepsi's. It was under $12 US for the two of us. Lobster tail is $5 US per person. This restaurant is located on Calle Hildago at the Corner of Calle Zapata, a couple of blocks up from the main drag in front of the marina/hotel area, where the tenders land. The jewelry and trinkets shops are better priced here in this area, where the store rents are lower. On the way to 'The Crazy Lobster' we passed a jewelry store called 'Silverado's Queen,' which we stopped into after lunch. Harriette came away with a short strand of silver beads, and a necklace fashioned of braided and flattened strands of silver wire. This braid can be easily shaped by hand to conform to the wearer's neck. The blue of the water is intense around Cabo San Lucas; a narrow strip where the water meets the tall jagged rocks appears emerald green. MAZATLAN An open air jitney takes you from the ship's gangway, across an area next to the berth which is filled with cargo containers, with trucks and oversized forklifts bustling about very close to the area where the taxis and local tours await. We are very glad that we were given a safe ride across this hard hat area. There is also an Internet cafe and a shopping plaza. Grab a taxi, and spend the day in the upperscale Gold Zone where the better hotels are, or head downtown for a taste of shopping at non tourist prices. We chose downtown. PUERTO VALLARTA Gets bigger and bigger every trip we make there. Construction everywhere. There seem to be no pollution controls on any vehicle. We like to souvenir shop across the street at a big Wal-Mart/Sam's Club complex. They have put in a pedestrian friendly traffic light, but the whole area is fenced. The Carnival Pride is berthed across our bow, and we are in the farthest away berth. Instead of going out the pedestrian gate next to the bus stop and the traffic light/crosswalk, right in front of where we docked, the gate guard is under orders that everyone walk around to a main driveway deeper within the complex, where taxis and vans await, and where a shopping plaza affiliated with the port is located. Instead of the walk to Wal-Mart being about 200 meters each way it's about 1600 meters each way. Made us a bit grumpy. We could have understood if no guard had been manning the gate and if the gate hadn't been in front of the new pedestrian traffic signal and the city bus to town stop. HAL needs to provide jitneys if we are to walk this far to just get off the ship and out of the port area. We capitulated and took a cab to the front door of Wal-Mart after we reached the cab stand. The fare was 5.00 dollars US. There is a shopping trap similar to this in Cozumel, which prevents you from just getting off the ships there. Not very cruisey. SUMMING UP We enjoy the "cruising" part of cruising. The sound of the ocean and the ship. Sailing into ports at dawn and sailing out in the late afternoon. We love to sit on the balcony watching the water gliding past and looking for sea life. The service was excellent in all departments we came in contact with. The only cruise line we have ever sailed on with better food was Crystal. Celebrity has been the best for us food wise but we were amazed at the food taste right down to the salads and appetizers available here on the Oosterdam. The buffet has so much to offer, all of it first rate. We would like higher quality beef. The preparation is good but the meat is of a lesser quality. We would like Internet packages that are a bit more reasonable with maybe a discounted middle of the night rate. We want to be able to access our cruise account on the in room TV. We would like to have a jazz trio with a vocalist to listen to. This trio could also cover for dancing while the house band is doing the production show. There were some great theme buffets held in the pool area adjacent to the regular buffet during regular meal hours, which made them easy for us to attend, and the pull-out-all-the-stops 'Dessert Extravaganza' -- chocolate and crepes and pastry galore -- was held at the accessible hour of 10:30PM, not at midnight. We thank Oosterdam hotel management for this. We had a very enjoyable and pleasant cruise on the Oosterdam. We'll be watching the Internet for more cruise specials on HAL's Vista class ships. THE FUTURE Cruising continues to evolve. We prefer ships like the Oosterdam where cruisey feelings abound. We can't handle the mega ships with their nearly three thousand passengers, where every event is a herd rushing around like the crowd at a sporting event. We're looking forward to cruising out of Vancouver for our 2nd voyage on the Celebrity Mercury on May 4th, to Alaska. We'll see if Celebrity is keeping up with HAL in the food and service area. We are cruising to Antarctica on the Azamara Journey, sailing on 9 February 08. Patrick and Harriette Regan Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
My wife and I were interested in taking her mother with us on a cruise to Mexico during spring break. The criteria included a short plane trip, easy access from the airport, a highly rated ship, a smaller ship and reasonable rates on a ... Read More
My wife and I were interested in taking her mother with us on a cruise to Mexico during spring break. The criteria included a short plane trip, easy access from the airport, a highly rated ship, a smaller ship and reasonable rates on a suite. The Mexican Riviera cruise on the Oosterdam seemed to meet our needs. Actually, we had sailed to Alaska on the same ship in July of 2005. We flew into San Diego the morning of the cruise, were on the ship by noon and the stateroom was available at 1:00 p.m.. Unlike us, the Oosterdam showed no signs of aging during the past two years and the crew was extremely helpful and friendly. The suite was about 400 square feet and featured an entrance/bathroom (7x12) with three small closets, a double sink, a shower and a bathtub/shower combination. The living area (19x12) contained a queen or two twin beds, a sofa/bed, a desk and dressing table. The balcony (7x12) had two wicker chairs with footrests and a table with two chairs. The cabin seemed almost new with no visible signs of wear and the steward was outstanding. The evening meals were taken in the main dining room. The food was exceptionally well-prepared and the service was impeccable. The other meals were in the Lido buffet or room service with no drop in quality. The nightly entertainment included the initial show with a preview of the entertainers, two production shows by the 10 dancers and four singers, one show by John Davidson, and evenings with an illusionist and a comedian. The venue is two-tiered and features a large stage with a lift and multiple devices. On our previous cruise the ship's band accompanied the acts but the band is down to one horn and rhythm section or just a tape for this cruise. John Davidson, of television fame, is an accomplished singer and the other entertainers were strong. The three destinations (Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta) are not world-class, but certainly an enjoyable day can be had in each port. I was interested in getting an overview of each area for future vacation reference. Since my mother-in-law has trouble walking distances, we took a catamaran tour of Cabo, which proved to be a winner. The route goes from the harbor around the scenic arch to the pacific side where whales were abundant and backtracks along the east coast where the resorts are located along the beach. An overview of Mazatlan by bus stopped at the main square, drove through the town and settled at a shopping area where a folkloric show was given. The bus tour of Puerto Vallarta stopped at the main square to get a brief history and reloaded to drive to a restaurant for a drink. Afterwards, the bus continued south along the highway to view prominent water areas and resorts, a discussion of the Night of the Iguana film and a stop at a government store. As a destination Cabo has possibilities due to the small town atmosphere, new resorts, good beaches and water activities. Mazatlan didn't hold much interest but Puerto Vallarta is an established city with multiple restaurants and a Mediterranean atmosphere. After our experiences, don't take any ship tours that include a bus. There are three sea days on this cruise and, if inclined, one can choose from a myriad of informational classes and activities. The library and internet center are large and well-decorated. Wireless internet is available in all the public areas for a fee, ranging from 35-75 cents/minute depending on the plan. The speed is about half as fast as DSL. If you desire privacy, there are multiple lounges on the ship where you can be isolated. Departure times seem to be ill-defined, making it difficult to book and make a flight. We took the first available time at 8:30 a.m. and did get on a 10 a.m. flight but the airport was a zoo. Based on my limited research, this was the best cruise for the money and based on my Oosterdam experience, the research proved correct. While I usually don't have much brand loyalty in that I usually take the best combination of quality and price, I can see why so many of the people onboard are repeat Holland America cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
We stayed overnight at the Best Western Bayside and found it quite nice. It was a twelve dollar taxi ride from the airport and we had a lovely view of the dock from our windows. We ate both lunch and dinner at a small Italian restaurant ... Read More
We stayed overnight at the Best Western Bayside and found it quite nice. It was a twelve dollar taxi ride from the airport and we had a lovely view of the dock from our windows. We ate both lunch and dinner at a small Italian restaurant directly across from the hotel and the food and service was exceptional, it was quite reasonable in price. The hotel had a shuttle service to the dock and embarkation was quick and hassle free. We did have all our paperwork done in advance. On board we acquainted ourselves with the ship and I made reservations for a manicure and facial, there was no line up. I would unequivocally recommend if you have a facial that you request the girl from Scotland. She is delightful and gave me the best relaxing facial that I have ever had. We had lunch in the Lido restaurant and our suite was ready in about two hours. We had a Superior Veranda Suite which was very nice, the cabin attendant kept the room and bathroom spotlessly clean. There was ample closet space, a flat screen TV, a very comfortable queen size bed with nice linens and bathrobes. The bathroom had a double sink, Jacuzzi and a separate shower stall. The balcony was roomy with table and chairs and two chairs for lounging with footstools. We used room service for breakfast only and the food arrived piping hot and on time. The kippers were fantastic though why they were served with potatoes and scrambled egg was a mystery to me. I requested balsamic vinegar and to slightly raised eyebrows it was delivered promptly. We would have killed for some HP Sauce when we had eggs and bacon but no luck there. Ah well. We ate in the dining room every night with the exception of one meal in the Pinnacle and our last meal on Friday which we ate in the Lido. I found the food in the dining room to be adequate but nothing I would call top notch. The two waiters we had for our particular table of six were outstanding, polite yet friendly. The entrees were varied but seemed to me to lack in imagination though they were by no means pedestrian; on the whole I was disappointed with the desserts. The cheese plate for example was dull and unappetizing with extremely meager portions and only a scanty portion of blue cheese, the remaining cheeses were tiny, unrecognizable, tasteless and extremely bland. We had wine every night with dinner and the wine steward to put it bluntly was arrogant and not overly helpful. The Pinnacle dining room was tastefully appointed and the service was very good. The food was haute cuisine. We both had crab cakes as appetizers which were very good and for an entrEe we had planked prawns with asparagus. The prawns were delicious; the asparagus was rather stringy; the bernaise sauce was good, though by no means as good as I can make it. The desert was a disaster, I ordered Crème brulee which came in a dish divided into three separate portions, Crème brulee it was not, rather three separate flavored Jello puddings would be my guess. My husband had ice cream which he said was OK. For a combined cost of sixty dollars and in my opinion a too overly large tip it did not by any stretch of the imagination live up to our expectations. We ate lunch every day in the Lido and really enjoyed it. The English fish and chips are wonderful and the bread pudding is to die for. The varied assortments of cheesecakes made me think that I had died and gone to cheesecake heaven. In summation all I can say is "hats off to the chefs in the Lido." We ate dinner in the Lido our last night and had skewered filet mignon steak, absolutely fantastic. We were served at our table on table linen and by a charming waiter. The vegetables accompanying the deliciously tender steak were hot and crisp, the potato wedges melted in your mouth. I had crème brulee for dessert and it was the best that I have every tasted. We had a glass of house wine and it too was quite good. Our one dinner in the Lido far surpassed any meal we had in the dining room and was way superior to the sixty dollar dinner we had in the Pinnacle. The entertainment was pretty good though the volume of the speakers was way too loud for comfort. The casino looked OK if you could stand the second hand cigarette smoke which hung like a thick cloud over everything and drifted into the adjoining hallways. We couldn't tolerate the heavy smoke and the ghastly odors and beat a hasty retreat. The popcorn in the movie theatre was frightful, absolutely horrible. The stores were abysmal; the adjective to describe most of the items for sale would be tacky. The jewelry for sale was to my mind over priced and I had some doubts regarding the authenticity of some of it. The store selling clothing had some quality items though I thought that they too were a tad overpriced. The Oosterdam was kept spotlessly clean with much evidence of continual sanitization being carried out. We were really impressed with the measures being taken to prevent any outbreak of the Norwalk virus. I can't honestly say I was overly impressed with the color scheme throughout the ship, to be scrupulously fair I must admit my tastes run to more subdued colors. I can't speak too highly of the personnel at the front desk, they were friendly and helpful and extremely courteous. We disembarked on Saturday with no problems; everything was orchestrated to be hassle free, which it was. Over all we enjoyed our cruise with Holland American and I definitely would recommend it. We plan to travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
3/17/07 Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise We returned yesterday from a 'fun in the sun' 7 day relaxation vacation with our cruise buddies, Tom and Lisa, to celebrate their 30 year Renewal of Vows. As it turned out, we had the ... Read More
3/17/07 Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise We returned yesterday from a 'fun in the sun' 7 day relaxation vacation with our cruise buddies, Tom and Lisa, to celebrate their 30 year Renewal of Vows. As it turned out, we had the most agreeable weather, the Ship was fabulous, and my only complaint is that the cruise just flew by much too quickly. The Oosterdam is designed primarily in royal hues. It is a Vista ship with a pax compliment of appx. 2,000, but rarely seemed crowded. The Ship is well maintained and the color scheme is very rich and warm, a trademark of HAL ships. We were fortunate and were able to book an SC aft suite, cabin 4180. The views from that aft cabin are so spectacular!! We awoke every morning to the spectacular panorama view of the ocean. Of course the beds are clad in 350 count Egyptian cotton sheets, with pillow top mattresses and piled with 8 soft pillows, it is truly a decadent experience. We flew down to San Diego and after a 2 attempt landing due to heavy fog, we were glad to step onboard the Oosterdam promptly at 11:30. We met Tom and Lisa as we waited to board as well as Tija and Pat from LV also. With priority boarding we were some of the first to step onboard and found our way to the Neptune and then the Lido for lunch until the rooms were ready. Unlike some of the other ships, the corridors are actually closed and manned prior to 1:30 making that quick peek in the room undoable. But precisely at 1:30 we were able to wander back to our aft corner suite on the Upper Promenade floor. We found the views while laying in bed to be some of the best we have had. We really enjoyed the room and didn't notice any excess vibrations being in the aft. Fact be know, we prefer the aft as well as lower floors, I like to be closer to the water. (Probably has something to do with being very nearsighted!) The balcony was the largest we have had ever and we enjoyed the extended views around the side. I did miss the shade at times, and would sit on the side decking reading out of the sun. (Tip: Upper Promenade decks on both sides of the ship are actually wider than those above them, so if you are considering a veranda cabin, you actually get a bit larger balcony than those above for a cheaper price. (VD vs. VA).) The bed in our cabin was in great condition as was the cabin. The large couch is covered in a nice leather (or was it pleather?) which was holding up nicely. There is a huge flat screen TV and loads of pillows to relax on. I counted 8 full size pillows on our bed. The linens are really nice as are the duvets the suites have, I slept soooooo well! Our outside furniture was nice but the hot sun has really worn it more than those with covered balconies, and it needs replacing. We attended the Oosterdam's infamous 3 pm wave and got an idea of some of the special energy this cruise would hold. We all waved, hooted and hollered, and made sure we all signed the lovely banner. 33 of our compadres attended including HM James Deering and Beverage Manager Hans Becker, both of whom seemed to take it all in great fun. We attended a festive sail away party on Lisa and Tom's large aft balcony. What a spectacular sailaway you experience from San Diego!! The sailaway celebration truly set the tone of letting the good times role for the entire week. Our first morning at sea was relatively calm but foggy till just about 1pm as predicted by Captain Jonathan Mercer. At 11:00 AM we attended a CC get together in the Oak Room. A nice spread of cookies and teas were provided as well as mimosas and Bloody Marys. A big thank you to Hans Becker, who took such good care of us. We were pleasantly surprised to have Mr. Deering stop bye and discussed the state of cruising, our love for HAL, and its' future. We spoke of the keel laying of the Eurodam which was to occur and the additional services to be offered on the ship as well as the drastic redesign of the Explorations Cafe and the viability of locating it next to the Crows Nest. I found Mr. Deering's candor and honesty to be totally refreshing. It was evident as our cruise continued how well respected he is onboard and how happy the crew on the Oosterdam seems to be. Captain Mercer and HM Deering are to be congratulated on the wonder job they and the crew are doing. We relaxed in the afternoon, falling into the wonderful rhythm of a sea day. I sat out on our balcony and devoured a portion of a new novel, one of my favorite sea day activities. The second night was formal and most of the pax that I observed were dressed appropriately. There were a fair number of kids onboard, all of which appeared to be very well behaved. There was a little guy (16 Mo.?) sitting next to our table with Mom and Dad and a beaming Grandma and Grandpa who kept us all entertained during the week with his " funny old man" faces, what a good baby he was during dinner! Our dining steward was Reno, he is a gem and HAL is lucky to have waiters of that caliber. The dining room was run very well, kudos to Dining Room Manager Sanjay Nariani, a very handsome gentleman we've cruised with before. Kudos also to Exec. Chef Andreas Sommerfield and Stephan Schuetz, many of the dishes we'd had previously on other HAL cruises, but they really knew how to bring out the best in the menu. We awoke the next morning to find that although the revised schedule said we were to be in port at 12:00, we actually were coming into Cabo at 9 am!! It was a beautiful day and tendering began at 9:15 am, a record since the pod problems. A fabulous day was had by all in Cabo, and most of us returned with a little more color in our cheeks that night. I elected to snorkel with a ship excursion called "Chilleno Bay snorkel". It was very toasty in Cabo (90F) and the catamaran ride was beautiful, we even got to see whales, which wasn't part of the excursion. The snorkeling unfortunately is not like that in the Caribbean, the water is colder and the fish lack the outrageous colors. During the entire trip there were beverages served, alcohol being served after the snorkeling. The catamaran was very clean and the crew very accommodating. We came back to another lovely dinner and we retired soon after sitting on our balcony and enjoy the balmy breezes. The exercise I got snorkeling made me sleep wonderfully. The next morning we awoke as we docked in Mazatlan. The last time I'd been there I'd not been particularly impressed, this time I enjoyed it immensely!!! Our day started by hiring a driver of a Pulmonia (a car somewhat like the VW thing that is manufactured there in Mazatlan). This is truly the authentic way to see the city. The fresh air A/C system is wonderful and the views are great. The town really grew on me this time. We managed to be in Mazatlan on the first day of spring and happened upon a parade/fundraising drive for the Mexican Red Cross. The kids in the parade were dressed in their finest for the celebration and parade. We found the old town to be charming. After seeing all of the usual sites and getting to tour the well preserved old part of town we met our group for a wonderful lunch of margaritas and shrimp before returning to the ship to prepare for the ROV ceremony. The ROV ceremony (Renewal of Vows) itself was wonderful and the dinner following was spectacular! It was wonderful to share such a happy occasion with new friends! Lisa looked just stunning and Tom seemed a wee bit nervous, they made a darling couple!! Dinner ended late and we all headed to our cabins after a full night of an unforgettable celebration. Just when we thought the cruise, couldn't get any better, we arrive in Puerto Vallarta. As I'd had many a Christmas in PV as a child in the 60's, we elected to go into old town and walk the Malecon which has been beautifully extended across the river. Again, we happened upon a parade of cars carrying many children dressed in their finest, and throwing candies, to celebrate spring. They were just darling and happy, and reminded me of our wonderfully hokey parades at home that the kids just adore! After some shopping we met the group for a lunch on the beach, very literally. We were able to sit and dine right there on the sand at La Palapa. Boy where those margaritas tasty!! Even more lovely was the opportunity to meet fellow HAL cruisers Ine and Ton from the Netherlands. It's such fun to finally put names with faces of folks you've talked with for years! I also managed to wander down that area of beach, as it looked very familiar to me. Sure enough I found that a portion of the hotel I stayed in during the 60's was still there 40 years later. It was fabulous day including a walk down memory lane of the small town I loved 40 years ago with it's cobbled streets, friendly occupants and beautiful Cathedral. That night we saw another of the fabulous sunsets we'd had all week. Our next two days were sea days and the first day Lisa and I bought a day pass for the hydrospa ($40). I got my money's worth by using the spa in the morning and afternoon. By dinner I was as relaxed as a wet noodle!! Dinner was another formal one, with surf and turf being ordered by most at our table. Dinner was once again fabulous and was topped off by the Baked Alaska parade. Never have been too wild about the dessert, but it's a cruising tradition I've grown to appreciate! On the final day we attended the Mariners awards which were held at 11:15am. This was the first time we'd attended a day time reception. Interestingly, approximately 50% of the pax had not cruised HAL before. I have to tell you I never overheard a complaint all week, which was really exceptional. But then again, there is nothing I can think of to complain about on the Oosterdam!! We had an exceptional and very relaxing cruise, albeit much too quick. DH and I look forward to many more cruises on the 'O' as she is a fabulous ship with an equally wonderful staff!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
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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