Sail Date: December 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
I too experienced a horrible cruise on HAL Oosterdam. I truly understand that the GI illness is not completely their fault. However, the virus did in fact infect numerous people and was in fact encounter on ship. This said, I am sure many ... Read More
I too experienced a horrible cruise on HAL Oosterdam. I truly understand that the GI illness is not completely their fault. However, the virus did in fact infect numerous people and was in fact encounter on ship. This said, I am sure many people experienced a less than great trip as a result. The issue at hand for me is that HAL failed miserably in accommodating the sick and the families affect. While the Oosterdam staff conformed to CDC guidelines, they made few further efforts to make this issue palpable. Food line at all meals became unbearable, as guests were unable to serve themselves any longer. Staff was completely overwhelmed and could not accommodate nor serve guests timely or efficiently. Now guest were sick, short tempered, hungry, and impatient. The Oosterdam also closed many services that the guests came for and expected to enjoy, i.e., spa services, hot tubs, and steam rooms. Furthermore, HAL closed the children's play area and made not further attempt to accommodate recreation for children. This was exacerbated when the staff closed to family pool area for a number of hours to play a golf chipping game. As a result of the golf game taking over this pool, all children had to vacate the pool, were not allowed to take advantage of the Club HAL, the children play room, and were left with no place to play. While quarantine is understandable, what about guest comfort? Maid service was terminated and guests were left in their unkempt quarters. As many know, stateroom are generally small at best, even suites! Thus bed and bath linen was dirty, and rooms quickly became untidy and cramp. While the Oosterdam offer $100 a day in free room service, this hardly compensated for the incontinence of having complete families being confined to their rooms. Imagine food trays and dirty dishes piling up in and outside the room, sick loved ones, and short tempers being confined in an area under 200 sq ft. Here is a novel about providing a refuge for an hour or so while maid services cleans your room and a hot meal is provided at a proper table???? This would allow guests to at least be confined to a clean living space. Illness on ships is not a new issue. One has the right to question why procedures are not taken to make guest more comfortable. After all, much of the time, this illness was incurred on the ship and the cruise line must own up to this. There are MANY resorts and hotels that have such procedures in place. A ship is a floating resort and MUST address this!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My wife and I just returned from a 7-night New Year's cruise aboard Holland America's (HAL) Vista Class ship Oosterdam. We are in our late 30's and have 2 children ages 7 and 9 who also accompanied us. As a point of ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a 7-night New Year's cruise aboard Holland America's (HAL) Vista Class ship Oosterdam. We are in our late 30's and have 2 children ages 7 and 9 who also accompanied us. As a point of reference all of us have cruised extensively - this was my 40th cruise. This was our 2nd voyage in just over one year on the Oosterdam. Our first cruise on this vessel was October, 2005 again on the 7-night Mexican Riviera itinerary out of San Diego. During our first sailing on Oosterdam about 80 percent of the ship was chartered for a group of very large alternative lifestyle biker men who call themselves Chumley Bears (look them up on the web). We were never advised in advance by Holland America of this very large group. Being the minority on a ship where the majority was a special interest group who pre-reserved much of the ship for private functions was frustrating to say the least. Not only were we disappointed in HAL for not advising us of this special interest group and giving us the option to cancel or reschedule, but the cruise itself was mediocre at best and not consistent with our other HAL experiences. So here we are again giving the Oosterdam another chance for the New Year - what a mistake; never again! Embarkation in San Diego was very smooth and efficient. The HAL representatives were very courteous and well organized. My advice to anybody sailing HAL out of San Diego is to have ALL of your documentation filled out and available in advance as a document check is necessary before being directed to the check-in counter. I would highly recommend registering online and printing the forms to bring with you. In addition to these registration forms you will need your passports, tickets, and on board charge form. Upon arrival at the pier a HAL employee will have you fill out a form to indicate if you have recently or are currently suffering from a gastrointestinal illness. Ship DEcor/Layout is similar to the other 3 Vista Class vessels. In fact, this same hull design has been used for multiple Carnival and Costa ships. HAL was very concerned about introducing the Vista Class ships to their fleet as they felt ships of 80,000 tons carrying 1,800 passengers would be overwhelming and not received well by their loyal passenger base that are set in their ways and creatures of habit. Subsequently, HAL instructed the ships interior designers to make the Vista Class ships sport the feel of smaller more intimate ships. Unfortunately, the result is a drab, depressing, and poorly laid out ship. The flow in public areas is awful and bottlenecks often. The dEcor can be perceived as offensively obnoxious. For example, the Lido Cafe is adorned with bright red and canary yellow Formica which resembles the colors of McDonalds as opposed to a fine ship. Public rooms are not well ventilated. One smoker quickly fills a room with a cloud a smoke. On a positive note, the promenade deck on Vista Class vessels are amongst the nicest at sea being lined in real teak wood and sporting old fashioned steamer chairs with very comfortable cushions. The Promenade is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable places to sit and watch the sea. Cabins on Holland America are some of the best and biggest at sea. However, the colors schemes and furniture selections leaves a lot to be desired. We splurged for an SA Suite which comes with access to the Neptune Lounge and other amenities including priority embarkation, complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning (multiple items lost), upgraded bathroom amenities by Elemis, a stocked bar (no host), a bathroom with dual sinks, whirlpool bath with shower, separate stall shower, dressing area, large balcony, waffle type spa bathrobes, priority tender service, champagne on embarkation, breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill, full menu room service and a special welcome aboard reception as well as a farewell lunch the last day at sea. Other amenities available in all cabin categories include incredible beds with high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, flat screen televisions, magnified bathroom make-up mirrors, and fruit baskets replenished daily. Our suite was immaculately maintained and appeared as if we were the first guests to ever occupy it. Hats off to our room stewards. Unfortunately, the smell of sewage frequently was present in our suite and despite multiple complaints the engineers were unable to figure out the source. Food on board was a terrible disappointment. Menu choices were strange and lacked taste, quality and any type of creative presentation which would appeal to the senses. Most disappointing was one breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill where we were served molded cream cheese and stale bagels after literally begging to be served despite being only 1 of 2 tables occupying this room. This was after being verbally assaulted by one of the waiters and demoralized in front of my son. There were only about 6 guests in the Pinnacle on this day and we watched the 4 waiters huddled in a corner laughing while ignoring the guests in a passive aggressive manner. It was a struggle to get our order taken. The manager of this venue seemed indifferent to our bringing these issues to her attention. The main dining room is a disastrous design example of how the interior designers ruined this ship. Certainly, entering this strangely designed room is enough to take anyones appetite away. This room is dark and dilapidated with shades of red, gold, and dark wood tones which simply are depressing and poorly coordinated. The center of the two story room is decorated with some really strange Star Wars like fixtures with tiny blue lights sparkling as if they were meant to be stars. We were waiting for Scotty to beam us up! Unfortunately, I cannot report that we had one meal in either the Pinnacle or Vista (main) Dining Room which could be considered anything better than mediocre. The same can be said of the Lido Buffet for breakfast and lunch. Perhaps the best food on board could be had from room service a turkey club sandwich that is if they could get your order right! Lastly, HAL only spends about $10 per person per day on food. By comparison Seabourn spends just over $20 and provides one of the best culinary experiences on land or sea. If HAL increased the per person per day food budget by only $5 and passed this cost along to the passengers that translates to only $35 for a week long cruise! Perhaps the perception is that cheaper is better and thats what people want. Not on HAL. I'm confident that HAL passengers would gladly pay a slight premium to ensure a higher end culinary experience. Room Service was always a disaster. Orders were never correct and delivery always took more than an hour. In fact, we received a memo on the second day of our cruise to be patient with room service on our port days as they are frequently overwhelmed and delivery times would be delayed. This is shameful! If the ship can't handle room service they should not offer it. I blame the language barrier which was responsible for many of the botched orders. It does not seem unreasonable that a ship which caters to American English speaking passengers employ staff which is proficient in the English language. As an example we like to feed our kids through room service and then take them to Club HAL while my wife and I eat in the dining room. This is a win-win as our kids don't want to sit through a 2 hour meal and it allows my wife and I to have some quality time together. On several occasions after waiting in excess of 1 hour for my children's meals they arrived only to be the wrong orders. This would not be such a big deal if room service would simply apologize for such errors and correct them immediately. Both times we were told by room service that they should have the correct meals delivered in about an hour! When an order is screwed up that you already waited an hour for the correction should be almost immediate. There was no evidence at any time of anybody being accountable. Service and attitude of the ship staff is the worst I have experienced on any vessel! However, with all due respect, I must give kudos to housekeeping, Club HAL, and the Neptune Concierges all were wonderful! The staffs in all other departments were clearly unhappy and many times rude and miserable. It was obvious that most of the ship's employees did not enjoy their jobs or want to be there. In addition to poor, indifferent, and rude attitudes the language barrier was always a struggle. One morning while getting my breakfast from the Lido buffet a steward literally pushed me out of the way as the cook was preparing my plate of eggs and they started to drop the curtains on my head which cover the buffet as it was closing time. One of my more frustrating moments was when my daughter became violently ill with vomiting at 5am one morning which we believe was due to food poisoning. At this point I called the guest relations desk to send a steward with towels as we exhausted all we had cleaning up the mess. Additionally, we needed our carpets cleaned. I was left on hold for over 20 minutes until I got a hold of guest relations! She was rude and said it took so long to answer the phone because she was doing paperwork! Noro Virus seems to be alive well and flourish on board cruise ships. It is no wonder to me that Oosterdam has had its share of Noro Virus problems. The ship is absolutely filthy with staff frequently demonstrating dirty habits and no regard for cleanliness. On many occasions the public restrooms were out of soap and paper towels and dirty food trays were frequently left for hours at a time. By the pool sticky umbrella drinks and sodas were often spilled on the floor and when my wife brought these tripping hazards to the attention of deck staff nothing was done and she was told not to worry that they wash down the decks every night! One afternoon during lunch at the Lido Buffet I witnessed a server blowing his nose into a rag and then proceeding to serve guests. Unbelievable!!! That's not to say that this type of thing does not happen at land based restaurants, but one would think there would be a heightened awareness of disease on a ship given the publicity given to Noro Virus over the last few years. Diapers in the pools are clearly not allowed per the signage poolside. However, many parents insist on ignoring these signs and bringing their diapered children in the pools and Jacuzzis. It is a health hazard to have adults or children defecating and /or urinating in the ships swimming holes with or without diapers. I wish that that a policy requiring fecal and urinary continence was a requirement for swimming on board and was enforced for the protection of all passengers. HAL was in no way proactive in helping to prevent this health hazard. Certainly, I do place blame on the irresponsible parents who ignored the sign as well, but HAL should have enforced its own policy. Other passengers tended to be mostly older with the average age being well above 75. Wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and walkers were as commonplace as would be expected while visiting Aunt Millie at the nursing home. I felt as if I spent my week at an assisted living facility. 4 passengers were removed from the ship for medical reasons before we even sailed from San Diego which delayed our departure. In fact, one lady died tumbling down the stairs shortly after embarkation. Holland America claims they have tried to attract a younger and more active clientele in recent years, but to date has failed. If HAL can't attract a younger crowd or families on a holiday sailing there is no hope. Fellow passengers tended to be fussy, easily agitated, and downright rude. The broken Azipod meant that we could only spend 6 hours in Cabo San Lucas and our stays in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta were also shortened. Incidentally, my wife and I chose this cruise out of San Diego versus a similar one out of Los Angeles due to the extra port time in Cabo when sailing from San Diego. Being that we live in Los Angeles it would have been much easier to sail from San Pedro. It was rather strange to look off the back of the ship and see a wake from only the starboard Azipod. There was no other consequence of the broken Azipod. Most disturbing is that unless one was savvy enough to read Cruise Critic posts or know a passenger on a recent Oosterdam sailing the broken Azipod would come as a surprise upon embarkation. HAL has known about this for months, but up until this point decided it would be best to fail to notify passengers in advance of this problem. I called the toll free HAL number just for kicks before the cruise for an update and was told the problem was fixed and not to worry! Many passengers were complaining as they made plans on their own for the whole day in Cabo San Lucas (golf, etc.) which had to be cancelled. Some passengers even complained of non-refundable deposits they made for tours which they would not be able to make. Shame on HAL for being purposefully negligent and failing to advise passengers in advance of this issue. Forewarned is forearmed and I'm sure many passengers would have appreciated advance notification. In fact, I'm willing to bet that very few if any passengers would have cancelled due to this issue, but it would have been courteous to be in the know. HAL's intentional cover up of this issue speaks volumes about the lack of integrity of this company, their disregard for honesty and lack of respect for its loyal passengers the very people whose success of the company can be attributed. Hats off to Hotel Manager James Deering who finally convinced corporate that covering up this problem is not the proper way to handle the situation. As of last week, HAL is now notifying passengers and travel agents in advance of the Azipod issue and the expected impact on their sailing. The Late Arrival in San Diego was attributed to the inclement weather. We arrived after 10AM on Saturday, January 6th. The captain actually had the nerve to advise passengers that the strong winds and high seas delayed us. This was yet another lie to hide the truth. The truth is that we did have 35 knot winds, but only steaming forward on one Azipod made it impossible to overcome these conditions. The Diamond Princess left Cabo San Lucas the same time the Oosterdam did, but was bound for Los Angeles where she tied up dockside at 0630am on Saturday, January 6th. Keep in mind that Los Angeles is 100+ miles north of San Diego! Passengers on the Oosterdam were angry as they felt they were deceived and wanted only the truth. Many passengers had independent air arrangements which HAL said they were not accountable for changing. There was a lot of bad will and angry passengers on this ship. Club HAL (the children's program) remains one of the best programs at sea according to my children. We usually feed my kids early at the Lido and then drop them for a few hours at Club HAL as they have no desire to sit through a 2 hour meal in the dining room. Quite frankly, it is the only time of day that my wife and I have time alone to ourselves and we value this time. Unfortunately, Club HAL does not open until 8pm making it difficult if not impossible to have any time for a before dinner drink or trip to the casino, shops, etc. Nonetheless, the counselors do a wonderful job and keep the children engaged. Hats off to this terrific program which my children rate a perfect 10! The Neptune Lounge serves its purpose and provides suite passengers with a retreat whereby one can avoid the lines of the front desk as most shipboard passenger business can be taken care of here. The concierges were wonderful and very accommodating (Jun and Louise). However, the concierges are merely glorified front office staff who rotate and have little authority or power to make anything happen. The food and beverage presentations which are changed multiple times a day in the Neptune Lounge are a nice touch, but are merely fluff and pretty to look at. The best part of this lounge was the cappuccino/coffee machine which always provides a delicious cup of java. Disembarkation was the most disorganized disaster we have ever experienced. I will leave it at that. In summary, Holland America claims that they strive to provide passengers with A Tradition of Excellence. Unfortunately, the poor attitude of this ship's staff, pathetic and often non-existent service, deceptive practices, and horrible quality and presentation of the food made this Oosterdam cruise far less than excellent. My kids now refer to this ship as the Sewerdam. I would not recommend this ship. Twice now, Oosterdam does not fairly reflect our experiences on the other ships in the HAL fleet. I'm not sure what has gone wrong with Oosterdam, but she is definitely broken and I'm not just referring to the Azipod. Additionally, the upper management of HAL is clearly sleeping on the job. If HAL does not begin ingratiating their product to a younger generation they will find that their passenger base will quickly become extinct as these are passengers who became loyal many years ago when HAL was a different product. HAL is doing nothing progressive to win over my generation of cruise passengers. Royal Viking Line had a similar management philosophy and management drove that line into bankruptcy Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My wife I had booked the Mexican Rivera Cruise leaving from San Diego. Since it is our home, we decided that it would be nice for a change not to deal with airlines etc. Two days enroute to our first destination, Cabo, my wife became ... Read More
My wife I had booked the Mexican Rivera Cruise leaving from San Diego. Since it is our home, we decided that it would be nice for a change not to deal with airlines etc. Two days enroute to our first destination, Cabo, my wife became very ill 3 hours after dinner. Around 9am the next morning she spoke to the ship's infirmary regarding her condition. They advised that we would both be quarantined for a 24 hour period. They were very helpful. We believed it to be food poisoning due to the quick onset. Shortly thereafter a Captain's letter came in our stateroom mail box stating that he would be increasing health conditions by shutting down the spas, Lido buffet lines, and increase sanitization throughout the ship. Little did we know that more than 300 individuals as well as crewmembers had already contracted Norovirus. At any rate we applaud the Captain's immediate attention to curtail the widespread sickness. More so during our quarantine to our room while in Cabo, we learned just how some of the Holland America staff were not so "Customer Service oriented". We experienced some very poor behavior by food service members, retail ship's store personnel and front desk uniformed personnel. To put it bluntly, The service overall was Rude. We were very disappointed in the lack of Customer Service and in-attention to detail by many of the employees. Everyone can have a bad day. Unfortunately the negatives just outweighed the positives. With that said, this will be our last Holland America Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Cruise Critique Ship: Holland America Oosterdam Port of sail San Diego, Ca Date: Dec. 16 - Dec. 23 Passengers: Michael Nagy, James Osborn, Louise Wardell, Jill Rothman Cabin Numbers: 5091 and 5093 This is our tenth cruise, our ... Read More
Cruise Critique Ship: Holland America Oosterdam Port of sail San Diego, Ca Date: Dec. 16 - Dec. 23 Passengers: Michael Nagy, James Osborn, Louise Wardell, Jill Rothman Cabin Numbers: 5091 and 5093 This is our tenth cruise, our first one with Holland America. Embarkation: The Ship is located practically right next to the airport no need for transfers at $16 each when a cab ride cost us $8.00 for the 4 of us. San Diego is a big city with a small airport. Everything went smoothly here. When we arrived at the port, we dropped off the luggage and went in line. The lines moved very fast and we were aboard the ship almost immediately. The port is not of the fancy variety, I overheard several san diegoans talk about it's a political controversy over spending more money on a better port. The Room: we were on the Verandah deck 5 with category ve cabins. The room was very nice lots of room and low and behold a BATHTUB!!! We were impressed with the room. The beds are one of the most comfortable beds we have slept on. The room steward was practically invisible, although he did a great job cleaning the room. My only complaint with the room was that we had a balcony and we asked them to open the balcony between the rooms when this is done, you can only get out of one door to the balcony, since the balcony door is pinned against one of the glass doors if not, the balcony door swings back and forth as he ship moves and makes a banging noise&.one of our neighbors complained about the banging, so we went back to individual balconies. This was not designed well. The Food: I have a lot to write about here. My major complaint is this. When we were in port shopping and got back to the boat for a late lunch, say around 230 - 3pm there was hardly any choices available. Pizza, sandwiches, and burgers were about all that you could count on at that time. The Lido buffet was closed till around 4pm.  On all the ships we have been on, the buffet was never closed it just changed sides of opening from lunch to dinner. We chose the late seating for dinner. The food was of very good quality. The variety was very good as well. Our waiters were a little slow getting the courses out to us, and we could not understand since it looked like they did not have a lot of people to service. Sometimes he would get the order incorrect or serve the wrong food..but all and all it was good. We ate breakfast in the lido deck most of the time with only one occasion in the dining room. Entertainment: This is where I thought that Holland America did its best. They had a guy on by the name of joel mason who did Elton John impersonation  it was worth paying for! Also a comedian by the name of Julie Barr. We caught her late adult show and laughed and laughed. The shows with the dancers and singers were also great quality performances. The piano bar singer/player kory was also very nice. Casino: The casino is very small on this boat and the staff is not that friendly. Ports of Call: We have done soooooo much in the Caribbean and gulf of mexico side that we thought we would try something different. So we flew from Tampa to San Diego to do the Mexican Riviera. Cabo San Lucas:. Very run down place, same Mexican stuff we could buy in cozumel or Grand Cayman. We had to tender here, wait in line to get tender tickets, then wait for our number to come up. It went pretty smoothly and quickly Mazatlan: Another loser. Very poor country where they send out their 3 and 4yr olds with bobbing turtles to sell for a dollar. No tender ride. Puerto Vallarta: This was the best stop. More of a port like St Thomas or Martinique. Another Tender ride here. MAJOR COMPLAINT: Our travel agents, Diane at Vacations to Go was very nice to provide us with 2 bottles of wine per room. They also gave us a free 6 x8 picture and dinner for all 4 of us at the Pinnacle restaurant. The Pinnacle is the place where you pay extra for dinner or lunch, its suppose to be higher quality. When we tried to make reservations for dinner (the first day) we were told that they were booked through the week and we could be put on a waiting list?...WHAT? we already had gift certificates and they were not going to honor them?...they told us they could offer us a lunch instead mind you that lunch is an extra $15per and dinner is a $30 per. We said if that is the case then why can we not get 2 lunches?...we were told that the travel agent only pays $18 for the $30 dinner. GREAT ANSWER we decided to do the lunch as to not waste the gift. THE LUNCH WAS TERRIBLE. We ordered coffee, never came to the table. The potatoes were over cooked, and they forgot to give us our soup, so out came the lunch, then when we complained, they gave us the soup. Don't even think of spending any extra money here. The photo staff allowed us to pick out a free 8 x 10 with our gift certificate. Now on to the wine. The boat was rocky the first day and the last day. Also, this was a SICK ship. We were told that a lot of people were getting sick and to take extra precaution in washing our hands. The ship went into where you could not touch anything. At the buffet stood people putting the food on your plates kinda defeats the purpose of the buffet don't you think? But we understood the cause. Because of the sickness, and the rocky boat, we did not want to drink the wine and so we thought we could just bring it home. Next to the last night, we asked for a box for the wine. We were told that they could not give us a box. WHAT? They only had enough boxes for anyone who wanted to purchase from them. But wait, this was already a purchase through the travel agent, sorry no box. So on the last night of dinner, we traded in one bottle of the four and got diet cokes! We left the other three on board. I am sure like a lot of you out there that have cruised before and had excellent times, that you expect that when you book again. This ship was not the best to say the least. It had some very good qualities, but paying the extra money for a flight to get there, traveling all day we just expected better service. If I were to give this ship a grade it would be around a B-. Now I know some people would say that would not be so bad. But when you are use to A service, nothing can compare. We probably will not chose Holland America again. There are too many others, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess that are much better. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Ship: Holland America Oosterdam Port of sail San Diego, Ca Dates: Dec. 16 - Dec. 23 Cabin Numbers: 4015, 4013, 4037, 4039 This is my sixth cruise, first one with Holland America. I've sailed with Celebrity four times, and ... Read More
Ship: Holland America Oosterdam Port of sail San Diego, Ca Dates: Dec. 16 - Dec. 23 Cabin Numbers: 4015, 4013, 4037, 4039 This is my sixth cruise, first one with Holland America. I've sailed with Celebrity four times, and Carnival once. Embarkation: The Ship is located downtown near the airport. Easy to get to on Saturday morning. There is parking across the street for $12/ day ($96 for the entire cruise). Everything went smoothly here. When we arrived at the port, I dropped off the other members of my party of 8, with the luggage and went to park. Once I was back, and got in line, the lines moved very fast and we were aboard the ship within 15 minutes. The Room: we were on the Verandah deck 4 forward. The rooms were very nice. A lot of room and the best bathroom I've experienced on ship. The beds were comfortable. The balcony was also very large. The room steward was practically invisible, but he did clean the room twice a day as expected. I am used to Celebrity where the stewards are very helpful and always around. My sister complained that he didn't refill their ice bucket routinely (which they specifically requested several times), and he didn't replenish any of the bathroom items (soap) until we asked. Overall, the rooms were the best part of the trip. The Food: This is a main area of complaint. The food was so-so, bordering on poor. Every meal there was at least one dish that wasn't edible (bananas foster comes to mind). I'm a dessert person, and none of them were good. The steaks were bad particularly the first night. Nothing was outstanding. My meals were better on Carnival, and much better on Celebrity. The service in the dining room was poor. The service was slow, and several times we would not get what we asked for, and got served at different times. It seemed like the ship was very understaffed, but it also didn't seem like the dining room was that busy especially after the first night. Our waiter was not friendly at all, hardly said anything beyond what would you like to order? Our water was not refilled for long stretches. The wine steward wasn't knowledgeable or friendly. Room Service: Wow they were really bad. Apparently very understaffed because it would take at least an hour to get served during meal times. Even the breakfast ordered the night before via card was served 10-15 minutes after the designated time (i.e. requested between 8 and 8:30, served at 8:45). The also actively tried to get you not to order (it's going to be at least an hour, do you still want it?) I called at 9:55 one morning to get breakfast (served until 10) for my husband who wasn't feeling well, and still in bed. The guy said he wasn't serving breakfast anymore. When I said I thought breakfast was until 10? He said well if you insist. Money: Watch out for this one. They have no ATM on the ship, and you can't get cash in the casino like you can on Celebrity. You have to get a cash advance at the front office with a 3% surcharge. Ports of Call: Cabo San Lucas: Very run down place, but not quite as bad as Ensenada. We had to tender here. Most of us went on a ship excursion Chileno snorkel and sail. It was a great snorkeling trip a lot of fish. The boat was nice, included drinks and snacks, and the crew was very friendly. I recommend it. Afterwards we walked around for about an hour before we had to return to the ship. Mazatlan: Better than Cabo. We had a private excursion set up with Mazatlan Frank. He is outstanding. We did a country side tour in the morning, and a city tour in the afternoon. We stopped for lunch at Tony's on the beach, which was great. Puerto Vallarta: This was the best stop. More like cool places in the Caribbean. Another Tender ride here. We had another private tour lined up with a contact of Mazatlan Frank's, Alfredo (el Oso). He wasn't as good as Frank, but still a great day. We saw the city, had lunch at a good restaurant in the rain forest, and swam with the dolphins in the afternoon. Alfredo was very nice, and accommodating to our needs. Overall: I am sure like a lot of you out there that have cruised before and had excellent times, that you expect that when you book again. This ship was not the best to say the least. The service was really poor when compared to my other experiences. The ship had some good qualities, but the bad outweighed the good for me compared to my other trips. I would rate this ship/trip as a C. We will not chose Holland America again. We're planning an Alaska trip for summer 08 and will definitely go Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt ... Read More
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt brought some fliers to a family function and was trying to get the whole family to book. We thought it looked great and booked in February. I probably should have done more research before booking, but I think we got lucky. Because it was a very nice cruise. The stateroom was small but reasonable(my husband is 6'4" and didn't hit himself on anything) we had a nice couch (that can fold out to a queen bed) and private veranda w/ rattan furniture. Quite charming. The shower had a removable wand which was very convenient and a small, but moderately deep tub. They don't have any non-smoking rooms, which concerned me, but there was no sign of previous smoking in our room. When we arrived at the port a porter quickly took care of our luggage and directed us to check in. The staff seemed quick and efficient. We filled out forms registered our passports and took photos for room key data-base. Once on the ship there was plenty of staff to direct you to your cabin - and in tidy bell-hop uniforms w/ white gloves(a nice touch). Most of the crew is from Indonesia and they were all so friendly and helpful. Extremely nice! Leaving San Diego was really rough, but the front desk gives you free motion-sickness pills(nice!). After the lifeboat drill there was a "fiesta" sail-away party on the lido deck. The lido deck had the family pool(inside w/ retractable sunroof), the buffet/casual dining restaurant spa and adult pool outside. They had a party every time we left a port but the buffet food served was not the best. We had "leisurely" late dining- show up between 8-9. We enjoyed the flexibility. The food was quite good in the beautiful Vista dining room, but the soups were a little weird. I had excellent lamb and also very moist duck. My husband liked the prime rib. They had an abundance of fresh, ripe fruit which we enjoyed. The lido restaurant is casual and made up of themed stations(Italian, Asian, etc...) you go to the station and the staff serves you. Dinner is crazy there(families) so we only went for late lunch or breakfast. The pancakes tasted like whole grain, and they eggs were soft - not dry. There were also homemade pastries, and an ice-cream bar. You could also order breakfast in your room the night before w/ a form. They deliver it when you want. Also there's 24 free room service. Sometimes it was hard to get through - you would be on hold a long time and delivery could take an hour during peak times. However the food was delicious and it was convenient. I wished that the full lunch was served later in the day(esp. w/ late dinner) but there was always pizza and pasta which was very good. Not like Fresh Choice. Shore excursions- we booked several offered by the ship and the Mexican tour guides really took good care of you, were very friendly and spoke English fluently. There were many choices in the "catalog" water sports, walking tours/bus tours, shrimp feasts, nature hikes... If you don't know the ports I recommend booking a shore excursion. We went kayaking in Mazatlan, and took a city/country & tequila factory tour in Puerto Vallarta. Some ports didn't have docks and so the ship would anchor near the shore and "tender". They used the very nice lifeboats(no orange rafts!)to ferry you back and forth as much as you wanted. Several crew members helped you in and out of the boats. In the morning if you wanted to go ashore you had to get your party together then get "tender tickets" after that you could go anywhere on the ship and wait for them to call your number. It was a very efficient process. The boats do rock a bit so you if you get motion sickness take out some "insurance". Shopping-the shops on board were not that exciting, they had some nice tropical clothes, and men's accessories and a lot of jewelry. It seemed like a typical resort store. The sundries area is very limited so try to bring everything you might need. I went to the shopping ambassador's talks, which was like watching QVC, but she had some good advice and tips about shopping in Mexico. She also handed out maps. I bought jewelry in recommended store in Puerto Vallarta and got a substantial discount just by mentioning her name. Entertainment-there were many options on the ship. Everyday an easy to read schedule was delivered to your room w/ a list off all the days activities. There's a casino, night club, piano bar, various lounges, movie theater, and a main showroom. We're not much for casinos, but if you are into that sort of thing they had all kinds of events. I didn't get to the movies, but I saw some of the live shows. The musicals were rather cheesy and the dancers weren't always in sync. The best was Joel Mason- an Elton John impersonator. He was very funny and a great showman. He said he was coming to the end of a long contract on this ship so I don't know what they will have next. There was also an illusionist, an adult comedian, crew talent show, and a variety show at the end (w/ Joel doing different material). The nightclub, "northern lights" was small and rather warm, but the decoration was fun and whimsical. It's popular w/ the younger set. During sea days they had a least 5 activities to choose from each hour. It seemed like they had something for everyone. My husband liked to lay out on the deck. I enjoyed selecting activities and particularly enjoyed the culinary demonstrations w/ the executive chef. I also enjoyed the afternoon tea, but it was a little crazy and understaffed. Once a week they have the "royal Dutch tea" which was a spectacular buffet style event w/ loads of pastries, and canapes and string quartet. Don't miss it! The spa- the Greenhouse Spa was quite lovely and offered a variety of exotic treatments(including acupuncture!) at exotic prices. They offered specials on port days and the last sea day. I got a massage, facial and foot rub and it was very pleasant, but the table was too narrow. They use Elemis products(and toiletries in your room) which didn't irritate my sensitive skin. They had a gorgeous hydrotherapy pool I wanted to try but they closed it and all the hot tubs due to a stomach flu outbreak. Kids: HAL caters to an older crowd and it was a very quiet ship for the most part. There were 450 kids on the ship but you never would have known it. They offer "club hal" on the 10th deck for the kids and a mom said her young son loved it and spent all day there. Debarkation. A packet was delivered to your door the night before w/ necessary forms, luggage tags, and instructions. You tear off the colored stubs of your luggage tags then place luggage outside your door that night. The porters come and take care of it for you. We chose to have breakfast delivered to our room the morning of, but they also were serving an early meal in the Lido restaurant and Vista dining room. After breakfast they start calling numbers by color and you are free to walk around the ship or hang out in your room while waiting for your number/color. It was fast, and once you got off luggage was organized by color group. Other details: drinks: Free 24hr tea, coffee, juice and hot chocolate in the lido restaurant. Soda was 1.75/can or at the bar. They offer a discount via soda card for $20. They punch it each time you order one. Booze: a lot of people complained about the high prices, but I say "what did you expect?" There were drink specials, but expect typical bar/club prices + a %15 gratuity. Everything(shopping, shore excursions...) is billed to your room card which is linked to your credit card. You cannot pay cash, but you could put down a cash deposit w/ your room card. Tipping is included in the $10/day per person "hotel fee". $3.50 goes to your cabin steward, $3.50 to your dinning staff and $3 to "unseen" staff. You can adjust rate up/down at front desk. Sickness- if you contracted the stomach flu virus going around(every effort was made to stop it -purell everywhere) your cabin was quarantined for 24 hrs, but they allowed you to order from the dining room menu via room service and offered free laundry and dvds and ship board credit. All in all I would say it was an excellent cruise and we didn't want to leave. I was very fond of our dining steward and was sad to say goodbye. As I mentioned HAL does cater to an older crowd - my husband and I are young and enjoyed the atmosphere. If you want a wild party scene you may want to look elsewhere. If you want a relaxing, fun cruise with great food then I recommend this ship! We are already thinking about booking another cruise w/ HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Having only cruised once before some 15 years ago, I was really looking forward to taking the family on a cruise to Mexico just before Christmas. Unfortunately the trip just wasn't that memorable and a lot of the reason was HAL's ... Read More
Having only cruised once before some 15 years ago, I was really looking forward to taking the family on a cruise to Mexico just before Christmas. Unfortunately the trip just wasn't that memorable and a lot of the reason was HAL's Oosterdam. The trip started out fine. No problem getting on the ship in San Diego. We were lucky that we had family members in southern California who dropped us off right in front of the terminal. We didn't experience any lines getting on board at around 2pm for the 5pm sailing. I knew this wasn't the smooth Caribbean when we started rocking at sea shortly after leaving San Diego. The seas did get smoother as we traveled south but were heavy again the final two days coming back to port. As others have written, this was a sick cruise and I came down with the GI virus on day two. It felt like a very bad case of the stomach flu and I couldn't get out of bed, other than to throw-up, all day. Luckily my family left the ship early without me and had a great time on a snorkel trip out of Cabo. They even ran into some whales performing some high jumps on the way back from the Sea of Cortez. When they returned they,as well as I, were quarantined on the room for the rest of the night. I missed the one side trip I was really looking forward to and didn't feel like eating or drinking for a couple of days...not a plus on any cruise. Once the captain announced the GI virus outbreak the cruise went backwards..the spas closed, the buffet slowed down with the crew handing out the food and drinks...sports equipment was put away and many passengers looked like they were actors from "The Dawn of the Dead." The crew did their best but they seemed tired and disinterested. The food was just OK...the entertainment was good but I missed the Elton John imitator due to quarantine. More people got sea sick on the way back to San Diego due to rough seas. By the end of the week the kids were bored and refused to go to ship activities. Most parents on board said they wished they had gone on a Fun Ship or Disney cruise. The ship was just lacking in features and attitude hard to explain. We won't be back on HAL. 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: January 2007
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 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
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem ... Read More
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem in early Dec by reading the reviews on WWW.CRUISECRITIC.COM . The travel agent was notified by HAL for the first time on 12/12/2006 and they advised us that HAL would not return our funds if we cancelled the cruise. Other passengers we met on this cruise stated HAL's management decision unethical. WE AGREE! The only information that HAL is now providing is a revised 'time in port schedule'. BITE THE BULLET HAL AND FIX OR REPLACE THE ENGINE. AS A RESULT OF HAL's MANAGEMENT DECISION WE WOULD NEVER AGAIN CONSIDER ANOTHER CRUISE ON ANY SHIP OWNED BY CARNIVAL (CARNIVAL, PRINCESS OR HOLLAND AMERICA) despite the fact we truly enjoy thE Caribbean Princess. We value ethical management. Somehow that characteristic PERVADES everything else you experience on board. If you stay in SD overnight stay at the Holiday Inn. It's just too convenient. We did not experience many of the problems that were cited in prior Cruise Critic passenger comments such as poor service, odor/sewerage problems and we did not detect any sign or discussion of passengers with norovirus. There were an abundance of dispensers to sanitize hands through out the ship. CABIN SS 8087 was very comfortable with an abundant amount of storage and a large outside deck, probably 14 ft wide, wider than the Caribbean Princess suite deck and a very comfortable bathroom facility. CABIN ATTENDANT was wonderful even though it was his last cruise! FOOD SERVICE was wonderful. Some FOOD was good, some was marginal. We complained once about a waiter and he was immediately replaced and the service was very pleasant and wonderful. Do not order a steak from the 'alternative menu'. It is just not a good alternative. Lido buffet is not our approach to dining. VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 3 ASSIGNED SEATING - If you select this approach, as soon as you can after boarding check the table. If it is near a wait station, either change the table or change to OPEN SEATING on VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 2. It does not make sense to listen to clanging dishes for an entire week. You can reserve a specific table in the Vista deck 2. The vibration in Vista deck 2 seems to be bad about 30 feet forward of the stern of the ship. The very back tables overlooking the stern of the ship are very pleasant for either lunch or dinner. We preferred tables 128 & 137. WINE TASTING - Whatever you do DO NOT pay $35 to sample premium wines on Thursday. Four out of the six higher priced wines sampled were absolutely terrible. Could not believe the wines they selected for wine tasting. Lower priced wines (Sunday) were good. The discord during the sampling was boring and repetitious. However, some excellent wines (eg Jordan Cabinet Savignon) are offered in the dining rooms. Entertainment was good! CABO SAN LUCAS - The very best shore experience was to have lunch at the ESPERANZA RESORT. The resort was very pleasant and it may be the best resort we have ever been too. Based on the comments of a prior Cruise Critic passenger we contacted La Ventanas Resort and asked to arrange lunch. This resort is about a 30 minute cab ride from the boat They were very pleasant but suggested the Esperanza about a 10 minute ride. They said the view was 10 times better and it truly was. Be sure to contact the resort (LA office) in advance and make a reservation. Security at this resort was tight and excellent. Before booking be sure to check if the boat docks or tenders passengers. FORGET CRUISES THAT TENDER PASSENGERS TO THE DOCK. INCONVENIENT, A WASTE OF TIME AND SOMETIMES TOO ROUGH. 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: February 2007
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy as it only ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy as it only took a few minutes to park and start the boarding process. This went very smoothly and we were in our cabin within 15 minutes. Our first observation was the ship was looking a bit worn. (Passage walls scuffed up, the carpet in places slightly coming apart). The cabin, with a veranda, was adequate size and medium range in its finish. The bathroom had a tub with a shower; the weather was suburb with daytime temps in the 80's and lots of blue sky. We wonder sometimes why we leave the desert this time of year but the weather was better than at home. (Low 60's and overcast most the week). The first night we were camped into the Pinnacle room because of our platinum AMEX card. I had read various reviews of the Pinnacle and we were anxious to try it. The furnishing of the room was nice and I would say "funky" as the chairs were wrought iron and not really "elegant". The service was very good. I ordered the porterhouse as they really touted their beef. My wife had the scampi. The steak was cooked correctly but tough and not to tasty....I think we get better beef at Costco. The shrimp came with their shells on and after struggling a bit with the shells the waiter came to help my wife. He to struggled but finally torn the shells off and her verdict was, they were "O, K." not great. The appetizer were forgetful...we both forgot what we ordered. The best part was the desert, a chocolate soufflE like dish that was tasty. We made reservation for the last night in the Pinnacle after dinner. The next day I stopped to ask if we could have a table were we sat side by side as we hate yelling across the table and the Pinnacle is quite noisy. I was told first come first served. What is the point of a reservation? They only have one seating in reality. After thinking about the low quality of the previous dinner and thinking why send $40 for this a cancelled the next day. I think you are better to apply this at Ruth Crests and get a really good steak. We ate in the dining room the rest of the nights and had one good meal. Prime rib. The rest of the dinners were either poor choices on our part our nothing that great to order. My wife ordered veal one night and it was over cooked, tough and had no taste. The potatoes, vegetable etc. with the dinner was not to appealing, like it was prepared much earlier and was dried out or cold. They also had a number of standard items such as vichyssoise "style" which they were able to mess up quite handily by adding apple. Getting fancy didn't cut it. The Lido we used for breakfast most mornings and for lunch. I tried their sushi and found it to be unlike any I have ever had and hope never to have again. My wife being Asian refused to even try it after the first taste. The sandwiches they made were good because of really good bread. So that was our take on food. Our room steward Arty was the best! He was almost clairvoyant to our needs. Always smiling, cheerful and really a very nice person. If only we could take him on every cruise with us. The rest of the staff was friendly and we surely had no complaints about them. We did get a call from the office on the 6th day asking how everything was. I suggested they read my review at Cruise Critic. The other passengers were definitely the older crowd. (At 65 I consider myself not quite there.) Most were "snow birds" and seemed to enjoy the cruise. The entertainment was O.K. Their stage productions were somewhat weak but we were not on the cruise to go to the theater. A "beetles sound alike" group was good and a comic had a few great lines. A "Hollywood Idol" program was really quite good with ships Event Director being a great "Simon". The next night that had a "Newlywed, near newlywed and not so new newlywed" game. It was really a stitch! We laughed so hard we guessed some of the responses had to be rehearsed. The shore excursion were very good. Cabo San Lucas being the weakest. We went on a 40 minute boat ride that was O.K. and then to a hotel for a "great view". For the length of the ride the "view" was a let down. We have been to Cabo 4 times previously, the last in 1997 to marlin fish. The town is so overgrown and American with American prices it really has lost its charm. Next was Mazatlan. We did a tour with a great guide. Saw the cliff divers and then a Culture show that was really very good. Then a great buffet at a local hotel and an afternoon walking a very lovely beach. The next day Puerto Vallarta. Up at 6 A.M. to leave at 6:40 for a dune buggy adventure. What a kick, 3 1/2 hours of thick dust, muffler-less engines and a real ride over outback roads and a visit to a few small villages. My wife thinks she is Mario Andretti and really got to live her fantasy. We came back caked with dust and really happy campers. This made our trip. We took a bus into downtown Puerto Vallarta that afternoon and had a pleasant walk back. So assessing the whole thing we could only say we were somewhat disappointed in HAL as a cruise line. The food probably made the biggest difference and the upkeep and shape of a ship built in 2003 was a downside. Our last cruises on Celebrity (Constellation in the Baltic and the Expedition in Galapagos Islands) gave us some prospective in evaluating HAL. Would we use HAL again, possible for a short focused cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 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: March 2007
"The Luck of the Irish?" The day of our highly anticipated cruise had finally arrived (St. Patty's day)! Flashback to Fall of 2006 - During a Fall cruise of the New England States, we especially enjoyed the company of two ... Read More
"The Luck of the Irish?" The day of our highly anticipated cruise had finally arrived (St. Patty's day)! Flashback to Fall of 2006 - During a Fall cruise of the New England States, we especially enjoyed the company of two couples we met from San Diego (We are from the Chicagoland area). We decided to keep in touch by e-mail and try to cruise together sometime again. Early in 2007 the cruizin bug hit and we all planned this Mexican Riviera trip. I was the advocate for HAL, having enjoyed their Alaska trip five years ago. HAL and Celebrity ran neck and neck as my favorite cruise lines. We arrived in San Diego a day early, staying at the downtown Embassy Suites hotel (great beds, good service,nice breakfast and in close proximity to everything we wanted to do). We were planning on eating at Anthony's, but staff persuaded us to go to the Fish Market. We arrived shortly before 6:00, and with no reservations, it was a good thing! After a 15 min. wait, we were seated at a window table with nice view of the ocean and the setting sun! Food and service was great! What a super start! Next, we headed to the much hyped Gas Light district. I don't know if it was our age (early 50's) or the fact that being from a big city (Chicago) had jaded us, but we were somewhat disappointed in the scene. We then grabbed a cab and headed to Extraordinary Deserts. THIS IS A DON't MISS! (tip: portions are large, so you may want to split something). The next day I slept in and DH headed to USS MIDWAY ship museum and then RALPH'S to buy wine for the cruise. We embarked around 2:30 - the smoothest ever! Grabbed lunch with our friend's, then room was ready & luggage had arrived - all by 3:30! I can't say enough about how comfortable the beds are on HAL! Our room steward was also so efficient the entire week! As a matter of fact, all service the entire cruise was excellent - I did note that while efficient, most workers seemed subdued (celebrity workers have always seemed very happy to us). Comparing the dining experience to Celebrity, as well as the HAL trip 5 years ago,HAL has slipped. While the ambience and service were well above average, the selection and flavor of the meals have declined significantly in our opinion. Main seating for dinner worked well with our daytime events, but did interfere with evening entertainment we would have liked to attend. The stage shows weren't really our cup of tea, but the ones we did attend were filled with energy and professionalism. The one tender to shore was extremely efficient and well organized! This was the 1st cruise ever that we did not book ship excursions. We didn't want to be held to any timetables and felt we were able (thru research on cruisecritic) to navigate quite well on our own! As recommended here, we booked the massages at Krystal resort PV - THE BEST WE'VE EVER HAD!! And I get regular weekly massages. I feel this gives a fairly just overview of what one might expect on an HAL cruise. However, every individual's expectations, preferences and experiences are unique. On that note, I feel I must include two negative situations we experienced - One of the couples we traveled with had a 4th floor room with balcony. The ship had some type of sewage problem and the smell permeated their room. This was only their second cruise ever and it really wrecked the experience for them. When they reported it, HAL responded by sending a goodie basket to the room - the problem was never rectified!! Needless to say this was their first and last HAL cruise! Also at the last port, Puerta Vallarta, just after my marvelous massage, I was knocked over by a seven foot wave in the ocean and sprained my knee. There were two days left on the cruise, and HAL stated that they only rented wheel chairs by the week, and the fee would be $125.00 - full price - even though there was only two days left. I really resented this - so much for good will! I can tell you that this left me with a very negative feel when I think of HAL, and it will probably influence my future cruise line choicemaking. Read Less
Sail Date: March 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
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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