Sail Date: January 2008
Three of us in 2 SS cabins. All three of us are Mariner Club members. All of us have at least 15 cruises under our belts. We are semi-retired and want value for money. We do not cruise in groups nor do we partake of many organized ... Read More
Three of us in 2 SS cabins. All three of us are Mariner Club members. All of us have at least 15 cruises under our belts. We are semi-retired and want value for money. We do not cruise in groups nor do we partake of many organized activities, preferring to fill our days as we see fit. We were advised by our travel agent two days prior to departure that the boarding would be pushed back to 3pm so the ship could be super cleaned following a norovirus outbreak. No other info was given nor could any more be gleaned. We arrived at the port about 2 pm to learn that boarding was at 4pm. The embarkation day was cold and wet and miserable in San Diego. Some effort to keep the passengers entertained was made but with the weather being so foul, few enjoyed the shuttles. San Diego is, to be sure, best enjoyed outdoors. After check in we were given a letter signed by the president of HAL that we could get a refund if we didn't want to take the trip or apply our payment to a future cruise. We had no idea what we were going to encounter so we decided to get on the ship and go. What a mistake - had we been told that our lives would be constrained to the point of nonsense and that decisions about our future would never be communicated to the passengers, we would have taken the money and rented a car and gone touring on our own! After a 4 hour wait, we finally got on the ship. Our cabin was great - big and spacious with lots of storage and a bathroom with two sinks and a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower (whose curtain got a bit personal from time to time!). We had none of the following: room service menu, tv remote, extra blankets, note pad, fruit, flowers, bible, nada. If it could be sanitized, it was. Things started showing up a few days after the cruise began but only in dribs and drabs. I know I sound like a whiny baby but common sense was in very short supply on this trip. I could cite endless contradictory examples but what's the point? The cabin itself was the only highlight of the trip. The crew was dead on its feet - going through the motions and struggling to get their regular, nevermind Code Red imposed, chores performed. None that I spoke to ever got off when we got to the various ports - they slept! Their fatigue was palatable and the strain made for few genuine smiles. The food was forgettable. I did not have a single meal I enjoyed. I could not believe this. The Pinnacle Grill was little better than the Lido. We opted for the open seating - twice we made reservations only to have to wait for folks who just walked up without them! Thereafter, we just walked up. We were seated with other couples three times. We prefer our own company, however. The entertainment was lame but that is all I expect on the big liners these days - Simon Cowell would have them booted from American Idol! Enthusiasm cannot overcome lack of talent in the long haul. Gone are the enrichment lecturers which we had always enjoyed. Shore excursion folks were, predictably, only interested in selling tours and none of the maps provided had anything but their shopping venues highlighted. As very experienced travellers, we always hire cars/drivers and this trip was no different. Got my only decent meal on shore. Did no shopping as we live close to Mexico and many of the goodies on offer are available in my town for less money! The trip was a grind and we were glad to be off the ship. Would I ever take another HAL trip? I don't know yet because I feel like the senior officers on the Oosterdam hid from the passengers and corporate HAL didn't get info to us in a timely fashion. I am sure they knew when they issued the late boarding notice that a refund would be offered. We will probably never know. I do know that I will never willing get on a ship which is under Code Red which is meant to keep us healthy but I believe it is driven by the lawyers, not the medical teams. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We set sail on the ms Oosterdam on Jan. 5, 2008. Things got off to a rocky start. First of all, the weather wasn't cooperating. There was light rain upon our arrival in San Diego. We arrived pier side in San Diego around noon and ... Read More
We set sail on the ms Oosterdam on Jan. 5, 2008. Things got off to a rocky start. First of all, the weather wasn't cooperating. There was light rain upon our arrival in San Diego. We arrived pier side in San Diego around noon and discovered we couldn't board the ship until after 4 PM. Apparently there had been a viral outbreak and they had to "scrub down" the ship. For this inconvenience they credited us $10 pp on our shipboard account. Towards 4 PM, there were 1800 people crammed into the pier building. A lot of people were looking for places to sit. Once onboard everyone was required to sanitize their hands and there were hand sanitizers positioned everywhere on the ship. At the buffet / drink stations you weren't allowed to serve yourself. They had attendants serving you. Needless to say this slowed down the process, however on the upside, no one in my party got sick. Better to be safe than sorry. We had a mini suite on deck 6. When we entered, we noticed that the balcony door had been propped open. We could tell that someone had been smoking in the room. The room was clean, minus the cigarette odors. Yuck. Our travel agent had ordered a bottle of champagne for us, however the bottle was not on ice and there were no champagne flutes for us. The ice bucket was also missing along with the glasses. I also saw that the robes were missing as well as the fresh flowers that are normally in the suites. The flowers never arrived, however the champagne was put on ice on the 3rd day and the flutes miraculously appeared. The ice bucket, glasses and bathrobe arrived on the 3rd day as well. Wasn't the 5 star as advertised, but probably had something to do with the top to bottom cleaning they were doing on Saturday. In the mini suite, we had a small refrigerator, which was nice to have and it had a small LCD television with several channels, including CNN, Discovery, TNT and Cartoon Network. There were 2 sinks as well as a Jacuzzi bathtub and a small walk in shower. The shower had barely enough room for one person. There were plenty of storage spaces in the room. The balcony was also decent sized with a table and plenty of chairs. Too bad the weather didn't cooperate. During the sea days, it was always too cold to sit outside. The first couple of days, the cushions were wet from the rain. The room steward was efficient and cordial. Everything we asked for, he took care of. Some of the complaints we had, probably couldn't be helped. Food service and variety was very good. This was our eighth cruise, with this being the fourth cruise with Holland America. Asep was our dining room steward and he was excellent. His assistant Diky was great also. They took very good care of us in the dining room. Food quality was good. There was good variety and the food was served fresh and warm. The drinks were good also. We purchased a cocktail drink card, good for 10 drinks. Each time you ordered a drink, they punch a hole in your card. We tried couple of different flavored mojitos as well as other alcoholic beverages and they were all very well made and refreshing. We sail with HAL mostly because of the food and service. The entertainment was decent. The cruise director seemed kind of stressed out. Probably because of the bad start we had. Most of the cruise directors I have encountered have all been very outgoing, happy and warm, however this guy seemed reserved and worried. The production shows were good. The dancers and singers were very entertaining. The lead female singer had a great voice. One of the best I've heard on a cruise ship. There was a couple doing magic tricks and they were okay. I believe they were called DV8 (deviate) Reality Magic. Nothing that would wow you, but okay for a cruise ship show. It was kind of annoying when they kept mentioning the DVD they had for sale on the ship. There was another couple singing songs while they played the piano. They were called the Amazing 88's, I think. My wife enjoyed it, but I thought it was just okay. The casino seemed pretty quiet, but I think there were a lot of winners. I saw lots of jackpots on the slot machines, with winnings between $200 to $500. I won $340 myself on the $1 Wheel of Fortune game. We worked out in the gym a couple of times. The equipment were all top notch, except some of the treadmills were malfunctioning. One machine wouldn't work period and on several others, an error message kept creeping up. Also the TV screens didn't work either. It wouldn't be so bad, except you are staring at a blank TV screen instead of the beautiful ocean out in front of you. The ports are nothing special. This is the 3rd time we've done this itinerary. Cabo hasn't change much and neither has Mazatlan. Puerto Vallarta seems to have grown, with a lot more development as well as traffic. The last time we were here was about 2 years ago. One of the benefits of sailing on Holland America out of San Diego is the ability to stay in port longer than the other ships sailing out of Los Angeles, such as Princess, Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The only gripe I have is that all the Jacuzzi's on the ship were all drained. For the entire week, no one got to use the Jacuzzi. The pools were available, however it was a little too cold for me to be in the pool. The kids club was good. My young one enjoyed it. All the counselors seemed very nice. I did notice that on the Oosterdam, the hours have been shortened. I'm not sure if this is in effect for the entire fleet or just for this ship. The morning hours are still from 9 AM to 12 PM. However the afternoon hours have been shorten by an hour from 2 PM to 4 PM and the evening hours have been shorten by an hour as well from 8 - 10 PM. Oh, the $10 pp they credited to our account for the inconvenience. Well forget about it. A few days into the cruise, they sent out a letter indicating they had miscalculated the port taxes and was debiting $5.63 pp for the difference. There were many first for this cruise. Waiting till 4 to board the ship due to a gastrointestinal illness outbreak. Getting a $10 credit then having them take $5.63 away. Not having my champagne chilled and flutes available for a bon voyage toast. Not being able to get my own drinks at the buffet. An additional stop at Cabo to drop off a sick passenger on the way back to San Diego. Reduced hours at Club Hal and finally winning $340 at the slot machine. Was it worth it? You bet. Overall it was a very good cruise. Nothing spectacular, but it met our expectations. Everyone on the ship was very nice and the service on board was excellent. Now if HAL would just stop letting people smoke in the staterooms that would be even better. A lot of the other cruise lines have halted smoking in the staterooms and I think its time for HAL to do the same or at least have non smoking rooms designated. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
My wife and I who are in our mid fifties took a Mexican Riviera cruise on the Oosterdam departing from San Diego on January 11, 2008. This was our fifteenth cruise in total and the first on a Holland America Line ship. Our previous cruises ... Read More
My wife and I who are in our mid fifties took a Mexican Riviera cruise on the Oosterdam departing from San Diego on January 11, 2008. This was our fifteenth cruise in total and the first on a Holland America Line ship. Our previous cruises have been on Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. We flew into San Diego the day before the ship departed and stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn on Pacific Highway which is quite near the cruise ship dock. The Hampton provides free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and will take guests from the hotel to the cruise ship terminal as well. San Diego is a beautiful city and we greatly enjoyed walking around and trying some of the fine seafood restaurants. After the cruise we stored our luggage and spent a few hours in Sea Port Village and Horton Plaza. I also toured the Maritime Museum while my wife was shopping. The airport is only a ten minute ride from this area so we arrived in plenty of time for our flight and returned to Cincinnati with no problems. The two preceding paragraphs summarize the high points of the trip, however. Embarkation was relatively smooth because we completed the paperwork electronically before leaving home. We spent some time questioning passengers as they left the Oosterdam for any advice they might wish to share and were surprised to receive so many negative comments. We were anticipating a great trip on a five star ship but the departing ship's guests complained about crowded conditions in the Lido buffet and problems with the free style dining option. The virus that was present on their cruise as well as the one preceding theirs was also an obvious concern. We couldn't dismiss these reviews as isolated issues since they were uniformly negative and were all describing the same problems. However, we hoped for the best and boarded the ship. All guests who wanted something to eat had to go to the Lido buffet and we were unable to secure a table until a nice fellow from Chicago asked us to join him at his outside spot. The food was buffet like, nothing special and it was difficult to get a beverage of any kind because the crew had to serve them as a preventive measure because of the virus. We left the ship and walked around the port again before re-boarding in time for the lifeboat drill. The staff member directing us to our cabin recommended that we call for reservations even though we had chosen the free style dining option. I did so and was told that the only times available to us were 5:15, 5:30 and 8:00 PM. We continued to make early reservations each night because being unable to eat until 8:00 PM would be too late for a couple of Midwesterners. The food was very good at most meals served in the dining rooms and average for a cruise ship in the Lido buffet. An afternoon tea is served each day although not well advertised. At breakfast the buffet has fresh squeezed orange juice which is a little hard to find but a really nice treat. Other passengers told us that they just appeared at the Vista dining room for dinner and were admitted at any time they chose. I discussed this option with the dining room staff and they insisted that I make reservations, which I continued to do. Rather than continue documenting each thing about this cruise I'll just add some general comments. This is not a five star ship in reality although websites give it that rating. It's actually an average four star experience. There are so few activities on board that the boredom began to show itself as stress and tension among passengers. One of the activities actually appearing on the schedule was a self guided tour of the ship library. How weak is that? The ports visited were no more than the average Mexican tourist areas with moochers, panhandlers and children selling Chicklets. Other passengers who took excursions to interior areas enjoyed them a great deal and an especially popular trip was Rhythm of the Night at Puerta Vallarta. Oosterdam is not a smooth sailing ship and even at anchor at Cabo the ship rolled significantly. Several passengers complained of motion sickness. The demographic of this ship is primarily older people ranging from 70 to 80+ and perhaps the lack of activities met their needs which seemed to be eating huge amounts and then sleeping in the lounge chairs with their jaws agape. The view on the promenade deck after lunch was like that of visiting one's grandmother's nursing home. These passengers seemed to have no problems with the cruise and navigated along with their walkers, canes and wheelchairs at a steady slow pace everywhere. In summary, had this been our first cruise it would have been our last and it will be our first and final HAL trip. For the right people who can deal with a lack of planned activities, complaining and gorging senior citizens and several naps per day this might be just your trip. For others, especially persons under sixty please carefully consider before booking this cruise. We felt trapped, bored and stressed out and couldn't wait to get back to San Diego. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We cruised aboard the ms Oosterdam in January and had a very nice time. Overall, the service was excellent and the ports were wonderful. THE SHIP: This is on of HAL's vista class ships and is just beautiful. We've been on other ... Read More
We cruised aboard the ms Oosterdam in January and had a very nice time. Overall, the service was excellent and the ports were wonderful. THE SHIP: This is on of HAL's vista class ships and is just beautiful. We've been on other ships before, and this was one of our favorite. The state rooms are bigger than other cruise lines and ours was very clean. I wish the pools were a bit bigger and more conducive to laying out, but they were okay. FOOD: They started a new "dine as you wish" program which they seemed to still be figuring out. However, I think this is a good concept that will appeal to more people. We thought the food overall was excellent. Our best meal was dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. Definitely check this out!! SERVICE: Just like on all cruise ships, these crew members work so hard and are so gracious. Our cabin steward was excellent (though he spoke little english). We heard a few complaints about the front desk staff, but never had any problems ourselves. PORTS: I love the Mexican Riviera. The best port was Puerto Vallarta. The weather was pretty good. ENTERTAINMENT: The casts shows were okay. There was one guy singer who was really good. Otherwise, I have seen better performers in better shows. The variety acts were a comedian with a guitar (very funny!), a magic act (they were really cute), and a piano act called the Amazing 88's. They were our favorite! Just so much fun!! The entertainment around the ship was just okay. We didn't attend the Karaoke competition but heard it was fun. Overall, this ship was great. I'd definitely sail again! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was our first sailing out of San Diego. I have to say that getting to the ship was not a problem, but the traffic at the pier when we returned was unbelievable! Stick to LA/San Pedro when possible. On to HAL and the Oosterdam... The ... Read More
This was our first sailing out of San Diego. I have to say that getting to the ship was not a problem, but the traffic at the pier when we returned was unbelievable! Stick to LA/San Pedro when possible. On to HAL and the Oosterdam... The week before we sailed there was a virus outbreak causing restrictions like, not self serve buffet, no flowers or fruit in the cabins, and a barren cabin for the first two days! There was no compensation from HAL for the inconvenience, but the staff was very apologetic. Once things were as close to normal as possible the cruise was pleasant and peaceful. The Ship This ship is truly a step or two above RCCL and five steps above Carnival. The decor is beautiful and elegant. The Passengers Most of those traveling were over forty. However, there were still large numbers of those traveling in their twenties and thirties. If you like a sailing experience that is more relaxed, that does not mean boring, this is a great line to sail with. The Food I have to admit that by day four I was stuffed with all the rich food. It was very good! I would not consider myself a gourmand, but I do love good food and I think most people would be very pleased with the variety and quality of the meals. (French toast and eggs benedict, though not on the in cabin breakfast menu, can be ordered.) The Club, Shows, and Bars I caught one show and it was pretty good. I'm not a big show fan, but the talent wasn't too bad. The bars were so stealthily placed that you really had to look for them. Fear not, the bar staff were always accessible and you will never go thirsty. I have to save the club for last. The Northern Nights Club is a small, relaxed, fun place. They offer Karaoke, Line Dancing, Disco, Rap, Rock, 80's, etc. You can go and have fun at any age, race, weight, etc. The DJ, Jazzy, is the heart of it all. Jazzy is PURE FUN! He'll keep you laughin' and dancin'! (One of the nicest most sincere people on the ship.) The Staff Our cabin steward, BanBang, was excellent. THANKS! He was going home the week after we sailed. (Safe travels.) He met our every need. I always feel guilty when I sail, knowing that the staff work so very hard to allow me to be pampered. Our head waiter and second waiter were wonderful as well. (Gusti & Mizan)They were pleasant, professional, and always attentive! *As You Wish dining is now a part of the Oosterdam. So if you want to eat in the upper dining area at 5:45...GOOD LUCK! The embarkation rating is blank since they had to clean the ship, per the Center for Disease Control, and we could not get on until 4:00 p.m. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
My husband and I had been planning to take our first cruise for 2 years. We talked to various friends and family to make the best possible choice and chose Holland America. We were never disappointed! The Oosterdam was a beautiful vessel. ... Read More
My husband and I had been planning to take our first cruise for 2 years. We talked to various friends and family to make the best possible choice and chose Holland America. We were never disappointed! The Oosterdam was a beautiful vessel. The size of the ship was a bit intimidating at first but once we learned our way around, we discovered both places to get away as well as places to be active and social. We were impressed that we never felt crowded especially since the ship was at full capacity. As promised by so many recommendations to go with Holland America, the ship was beautifully maintained and clean. It was obvious that attention to detail is a high priority to HAL. The windows, deck, elevators, carpeting, dining facilities, bathrooms, etc. were immaculate. The fresh flowers everywhere were an added treat that did not go unnoticed. SERVICE I have never been treated with as much kindness and graciousness. The entire service staff was outstanding. Never once did I feel like I couldn't ask a question or have any need met. The service staff is highly committed to the ultimate in customer service. Many became our friends but also knew when to leave us alone. Probably this above all made our cruising experience the very best it could be. SHORE EXCURSIONS We did our own thing but appreciated the choices available. Each destination had it's own charm and distinct characteristics. Mexico is a great destination for tourists as there is so much to see and do. The people are friendly and very anxious to please. There are also wonderful bargains to be found. STATEROOM Ours was an outside stateroom. It was very quiet and the bed was luxurious and comfortable. How nice to have so much privacy and amenities. Who would have thought that our room would be cleaned twice daily?! The towels were also fantastic! DINING The food was phenomenal. So many people had warned us about overeating but we could have as much or as little as we wanted with healthy choices in addition to the splurges! The variety was excellent and the portion sizes were just right. The presentation of the food could not have been better. We also loved having breakfast room service. The quality was just as good with nothing left out. This was a real treat for us! ENTERTAINMENT If there was one thing I would like to see, it would be to offer more of a variety of music. The piped in music on deck and in the Lido Buffet is very old style and dated. It probably works out great for the 80 plus year old crowd but for the majority of passengers, a variety of peaceful instrumental music, Michael Buble, country, modern pop, etc. would have been preferred. The lead singer with the HAL Cats seemed off even though she tried very hard. The band was excellent! Another thing we would have enjoyed would be some country line dancing opportunities. The disco seemed to be mostly focused on 80's music (we love it) but maybe a night of another kind of music would have been nice also. The HAL dancers and singers were excellent. The comedians were very funny and we sincerely appreciated how clean the entertainment was. All was in good taste but at the same time FUN! EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION As new cruisers we were treated for the most part respectfully at the front end of our cruise. The disembarkation was smooth and very organized! I HIGHLY recommend Holland America and plan to cruise again with them without hesitation!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Feb. 2nd, 2008 Our trip started with a flight into one of our favorite cities in the U.S., the great city of San Diego. We arrived the day of the sailing from our home in Texas (husband/wife...early fifties), take a few days before the ... Read More
Feb. 2nd, 2008 Our trip started with a flight into one of our favorite cities in the U.S., the great city of San Diego. We arrived the day of the sailing from our home in Texas (husband/wife...early fifties), take a few days before the trip if you've never been to S.D. and find out why we love it so much. A short taxi ride later ($12) to the pier and we were checked in in minutes. Having been on 5 previous cruises we knew we needed some bottled water and diet drinks for the week (especially Mexico), so we headed to Little Italy and a CVS store which was very reasonable. By 12pm we were eating at the "Lido" on deck 9. This was the quickest Embarkation Process we've ever been through. The usual life boat drill was as boring as any other, but seemed to go by quicker than most. We had open dining picked for this cruise, our first time. I must say I was really surprised, I liked it more than I thought I would. My wife and I met a couple and hit it off the first night. We never ate dinner with them again but did share trivia contests them on a couple of occasions. Try the open seating, I think most will be surprised. This was Super Bowl weekend so the first day out to sea the ship put on a big Super Bowl Party in the Vista Lounge. First port.....Cabo San Lucas.....Whale watching a must ($80), saw a lot of grey whales, worth the couple of hours boat ride, drinks and salsa provided, friendly crew. Second Port.....Mazatlan.....City tour was a good deal at ($25), could see downtown just by walking or taking a bus. Getting to the outside of the port is done by bus, no walking to the gates allowed. Just an old Mexican town, might stay aboard next time. Third Port.....Puerto Vallarta....Took the Yamaha "Rhino" tour, expensive for a tour ($89), but it was a lot of fun, got to get wet and dirty on the ranch type setting. I would take in the bullfighting at 5pm the next time, within walking distance of the ship. Ship Rating.... Entertainment (Vista Lounge)....Great (Delisco, Edge...etc) Entertainment (Lounges)....Definitely for the older crowd. Room (Balcony)....Smaller and laid out less friendly than RCI. Fitness Area....much smaller than RCI....more of a focus on the spa area by H.A., the wet sauna unaccessible by "regular guests" requires $40 day spa fee to get a steam. Texas Holdem....Real dealers not video machine like R.C.I., spent some time every night playing, making friends. Food....A step above RCI in quality but not in selection. Miss the Quest, rock wall and mini sandwiches....but H.A. Oosterdam has great ice cream....free. Cruise Mates....Definitely an older crowd, nice not so many kids aboard as is the usual case with RCI. Staff....Very helpful and friendly, mostly Indonesian or Philippine in origin,lots of fun to interact with if you take the time. Holland America....worth a try, especially for an older couple or group. Disembarkation.....off the ship at 8:15am....at airport by 8:30am dropping off bags for a 1pm flight. Took the 992 bus ($5-day pass)to downtown (8:45am)....Sea Port Village....walked to Little Italy for lunch and canoles to take home. San Diego is real easy to get around even without a car the transportation system is great. Overall....Very satisfied with service and quality. Ship in great shape. Lounges need more variety and pizzazz. Things more tucked away, hard to find if you don't know where you're going. Shops....tucked away not an open concept like RCI Explorer ships (Promenade)which were built before the Oosterdam. Would sail on again....in 15 years! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Hey Everyone - Here's my very belated review of our February 2nd - February 9th, 2008 Mexican Riviera Cruise on the Oosterdam. This is my first review here at Cruise Critic - I've read so many reviews and threads that I thought ... Read More
Hey Everyone - Here's my very belated review of our February 2nd - February 9th, 2008 Mexican Riviera Cruise on the Oosterdam. This is my first review here at Cruise Critic - I've read so many reviews and threads that I thought it was about time I gave a little something back. Beware - it turned out a lot longer than I expected....a lot longer. Background My partner and I are both "near 40", him on the better side, and me on the other and have been on eight previous cruises including NCL (never again), RCCL, Celebrity and HAL. We enjoy all types of travel - adventure, leisure, educational etc... Due to a hectic work schedule in the past few months, this was purely a leisure trip (if something had any historical significance or value, we weren't interested). We also enjoy good food and service along with a relaxing, upscale atmosphere. The Oosterdam did not disappoint. Great Beginnings We started our vacation right with First Class on our evening flight out of our hometown of Atlanta (turned in Delta Skymiles). We arrived in San Diego around 11pm and headed straight for our hotel - The Westin (turned in Starwood points). They had a free shuttle which was at the airport in a few minutes and greatly appreciated. Check in was easy and since it was almost 3am to us, we were off to get some sleep. The Westin was great and we had a wonderful bayview room on the 17th floor. Love those beds!! Woke up really really early and looked out the window to see the Oosterdam arriving which only made it impossible to go back to sleep. After making enough random loud noises, the other half woke up (and yes, I did look over and say "oh, are you up?" and no, he didn't buy it) and so we made the Starbucks coffee provided in the room and headed off for a quick look around downtown San Diego. As luck would have it, we happened upon Richard Walkers Pancake House. As this was our vacation and no calories actually counted from this point on, we headed straight in and let loose. Can't recommend this restaurant enough, service and food were great. After a quick walk around Seaport Village and Horton Plaza, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Port. Check In Check in was a breeze and we were on the ship in about 15 minutes. Cabins were not ready yet so we hit the buffet (more on food later) and sat out relaxing around the seaview (aft) pool with a great view of San Diego and the Bay. No worries, no complaints, just relaxation and an attitude of gratitude. What a great start. Staterooms Staterooms were ready maybe around 1:30 so we headed down and on the way met our steward Buty. He turned out to be just the type of steward we liked, friendly and generous with the smiles, but never obtrusive and hardly seen. We were lucky enough to have a suite (#7053) so there are obviously no complaints about our cabin. Balcony was huge, bed and linens were wonderful and we even had extra storage after unpacking. The bathroom was roomy and had a separate tub and shower and dual sinks. The floors and shower were tiled in marble and except for the hospital like countertops, it was very nice. Out of all the cruise lines we've been on, my personal opinion is that HAL is the best when it comes to stateroom amenities - best beds, best linens and best bathrooms. So then we headed to the Neptune Lounge to meet our concierges and see if they were the same as when we were on the Oosterdam in June and also to just get a "look at" the snacks (yeah right). We had new concierges and they were just as great as the ones from June. So after loading up a plate full of chocolate and hitting up the cappuccino machine, we headed back to the cabin to relax until muster and sailaway. Being that we were both so worn out, we skipped going to the dining room and had dinner at the Lido that night. Food Which is a great lead into the food. We are always impressed with the food on HAL and this cruise gave us more of the same. None of the other cruise lines we've been on have ever offered items like Lamb Shank with Polenta or Guava Stuffed Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes. It was like dining in a nice neighborhood bistro each night. And I need to say a special hello to our incredible tablemates - Nancy, Doug, Cathy and Robert - who we missed on formal nights (we didn't bring any tuxes this cruise). They all helped make our cruise a great experience. Dining room service was excellent. The lido had so much to choose from and I found the quality to be really high. Hot was hot, cold was cold and nothing seemed to have sat around waiting to be claimed as part of someone's meal. Did I want a panini, maybe some pasta, fresh Chinese or what was at the carving station. There was always the salad bar (which I passed daily and always promised to "have tomorrow"). Outside there were burgers, the taco buffet and a special themed buffet that changed daily. The Indian was great. The only thing I wasn't crazy about though were the waffles, which were always undercooked and the pizza, which didn't ever seem to have enough cheese and the cheese it did have seemed slimy, which I didn't think was a quality cheese could have?? Finding a seat was never a problem. The staff continually cleaned up the tables, even clearing plates as you finished and I always saw them offering to carry trays for everyone and bring more coffee etc... This type of service was found everywhere on the ship. We didn't do dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, although we did do breakfast twice and both times, service and food were perfect. Ship and Services We really appreciate the interior design of the HAL ships. Sure there are some "misses", but overall it's a very nice, upscale setting. The gym is great and had all the machines and equipment we needed to do our daily workouts. The Casino is sort of small, but even so, it never seemed crowded. I even walked with $100 - that I actually won (not from the ATM). We find the layout of the ship is nice and easy to navigate. Ship was extremely clean and I didn't notice anything in disrepair. The spa was also great. I had a scrub and massage and didn't get any type of "sell" afterward. We didn't attend any of the shows or go to the Disco so I can't comment on those activities. Regarding the design of HAL ships, I am kind of bummed that the Eurodam is going to have the same basic layout. After four cruises on the Vista Class, we were hoping for a little shake up. Oh well, if that's my biggest problem in life..... Ports As this was purely a leisure trip, we didn't sign up for any of the shore excursions from the ship, but decided to just land and explore. I did do a little research beforehand and so we kind of knew what we would be doing, but for this cruise and what we were looking for it to be, it was nice to just get off when we wanted go at our own pace. I know these ports have been reviewed over and over, but as this was our first time to any of them, I wanted to give a first timers view. Cabo San Lucas - Great port even though I did get the feeling that we were just in a Southern California resort. I knew from reading the boards here on Cruise Critic that it would be whale season and that there would be plenty of opportunities to catch a boat for watching once we arrived ashore. We lucked out and found a private charter on a small, but new and comfortable boat for $40 per person. For that, we got a private 3 hour tour of the marina and bay along with incredible close up encounters with the whales. And I do mean close up. The seas started to kick up and we were getting soaked so we headed back to the marina. I would definitely recommend bringing a change of clothes (which we did) if you are going whale watching on a small boat as everyone we saw getting off the other boats, like the zodiacs etc..., were very wet. Ate a great lunch on the far side of the Marina at the Hotel Marina Fiesta and then headed back to the ship. All in all a great day. Mazatlan - Have to say that this was not my favorite port. Very industrial and not what I would call a resort town, although that doesn't mean that it didn't have its charm or have anything to offer. HAL was very nice to warn us that the city was having it's Carnival celebration and would be closing off some of the main roads in the early afternoon and to make our plans to get back to the ship in time accordingly. Thanks to these boards, I was able to do enough research to know to go over to Stone Island (the island to the starboard side of the ship when coming into the harbor) to hang out on the beach and have lunch at one of the family owned and run palapas. Lunch was great and I think I had the best chicken fingers I've ever had (dusted in cornmeal). The beach/sand is only ok but the setting is nice and relaxing and the industrial aspect of the town is not within view. After that we had a lot of time left so we walked (yes walked) into town and went through a local market. Town was busy and noisy, but the market was fun and we enjoyed seeing the locals doing their thing. Headed back to ship after our walk, up to the Neptune for chocolate and coffee and then off to dinner followed by a little gambling. Puerto Vallarta - Had a great time in Puerto Vallarta and could have stayed a while longer. Nice walking town (once you get to town) and had a lot of charm. Took a taxi from the port to the flea market in old town for $12. The flea market is right on the north side of the river that flows through the town. Walked around, found a Starbucks and then headed to our part of the beach. Stayed a while and enjoyed the great weather and the fact that we had nothing to do or worry about. Walked down to La Palapa, a restaurant recommended by someone on the ship, and enjoyed a late lunch. I think sitting there, listening to Brazilian Jazz sipping a diet coke under the thatched roof with the waves crashing and breeze blowing, it might have been the highlight of the trip. Took a taxi back towards the ship and decided to go on to the Marina to walk around and look at the boats. Saw said boats and then headed back to the ship. Had a great dinner, gambled a little and then sat out on the balcony for our late departure. Disembarkation Pretty eventless, had breakfast and then just walked off the ship when they called our color and number. Headed over to the W where we stayed an additional evening (again with the Starwood points). Enjoyed San Diego and then headed back to Atlanta. I'd say one of our best cruises, but with HAL, I always end saying that after each Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
My wife and I booked our own flights and arrived late on Thursday evening in San Diego. We also booked our own hotel and stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay. This Inn is very, very convenient (literally right across the street from the ... Read More
My wife and I booked our own flights and arrived late on Thursday evening in San Diego. We also booked our own hotel and stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay. This Inn is very, very convenient (literally right across the street from the cruise terminal). They were very accommodating and have a wonderful "English style" pub and restaurant on site. On Friday we took a tour of San Diego on one of the "canned" trolley tours. We had a wonderful guide by the name of Hatch. Had a wonderful day which included a great Mexican style lunch at Old Town Cantina. On early Saturday PM we met our son (and family) from the Fresno area and boarded the Oosterdam. Our group totaled 7 and ranged in age from 19 months to 68 years. Boarding went smoothly and our cabins were large and comfortable. Our room steward was very very helpful through the entire cruise. We selected early seating dining in the Main dining room. This, we found our to our disappointment was a mistake. The food in the Main dining room was very average and not at all at the same quality or presentation levels of Princess and Celebrity. We ended up skipping this dining on (2) nights and found that the buffet actually served better prepared food which served immediately after it was freshly prepared to our order. However our dining complaint regarding the main Dining room was not with the serving temperature but with the overall food quality. For example a desert that attracted both my son and I that was on the Friday evening menu was a "molter chocolate cupcake with chocolate and vanilla sauces. It was dried out and we could not find any chocolate filling (molten or otherwise). The dining room staff were not the friendliest and were not good at seeing to our needs. Again, for example, we were never asked about coffee or tea on that last Friday night. Our grand daughter, who is 5 1/2 went to "Club Hal". They have a wonderful staff and she thoroughly enjoyed the time that she spent there. We took on shore excursions on all 3 ports of call. They were Cabo San Lucas and the Pirate Ship and whale watching were wonderful. We took a tour of the country, etc. around Mazatlan and this was average. Last we took a tour of the city at Puerto Vallarta which included helping to make our own Mexican lunch. This also was wonderful. All in all we had a wonderful time and the weather was great. However, this was our 1st experience with Holland America and it will probably be our last. They definitely are not in the same class as Celebrity and are below Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
We wanted to write an accurate, timely review as a "thank you" for others on this board who've done so similarly. This was a first time cruise for us; we traveled with two children (12 & 10) and an 80 year old relative. ... Read More
We wanted to write an accurate, timely review as a "thank you" for others on this board who've done so similarly. This was a first time cruise for us; we traveled with two children (12 & 10) and an 80 year old relative. I'll try to break up the review by appropriate section. ARRIVAL....Not as smooth as I would have expected. Loaded with bags when we arrived around 10:30am, we were unceremoniously pointed towards the warehouse where the bags were taken. From there, we were directed towards the security screening area, where the personnel (non-HAL) had the charm of greeters at Ellis Island. ("Move down ALL the way!! Move down ALL the way!!") From there, we were handled efficiently, boarding the Oosterdam around 11:30. We went immediately to the Lido deck, where we found a windowside table and enjoyed a terrific buffet lunch. The food choices were mind-boggling....everything we heard about the food was spot on. STATEROOM....No disappointment here; just as advertised. We had a Verandah room with balcony. Although tight, it worked well for us during the trip, including the adjoining room. UPSELLING....We wanted to highlight this aspect, as we weren't expecting it. By "upselling," we mean an effort by HAL to have you buy add-ons, like alcohol, excursions, pictures, etc. I'm sure this isn't limited to HAL, but I wish they could be a little more subtle. It starts in the embarkation area, with them trying to sell wine packages. It continues onboard, with the bar staff being especially irritating by asking if I wanted a "bucket" (6 beers) when I ordered a single beer. I'm sitting by myself and the guy asks me if I want a bucket! I also had another waiter try two or three times to sell me a drink card ("pay for 9, get 10"). When I said "no," he kept asking like he couldn't hear me. Irritating, and I hope HAL's beverage managers take note. This, though, abated after about Day #2. ClubHAL....Somewhat disappointing. Our 10 & 12 year olds went to one function and told us they would not return. Not necessarily ClubHAL's fault, as their staff appeared to try very hard. One issue we had is what was offered didn't seem to match the brochure (the "Oasis"....with hammocks, etc.). To be fair to HAL, though, there may have been an asterisk saying those amenities weren't available on the Oosterdam. Nevertheless, the kids got a little tired of ping-pong and semi-flat basketballs in the sports loft. FOOD....They do a wonderful job. Great selection and (usually) great quality. We choose what is now the 5:45pm seating. We actually had chosen the 6:15 seating, but this was eliminated after our booking when HAL began to offer "as-you-wish" seating; the Oosterdam converted one entire dining room to this option. The main dining room then is divided into 5:45 & 8pm seatings. 5:45 was too early as we discovered. We were staying out fairly late, seeing the shows, going to the casino, etc., so breakfast was around 9-10am, lunch at 1pm, then dinner at 6pm. It felt rushed. We'd STRONGLY recommend to those who are semi-nightowls to go with the 8pm seating. Even if you are like us and eat every night religiously at 6pm, 8pm will not be too late on this (or other) cruises. If you're hungry at 3pm **trust me** you'll find something to eat. We'd also recommend the formal seating, which we and our kids loved. We enjoyed being served by the same staff every night, as they were wonderful. We were also fortunate enough to get a window table immediately off the stern. The sunsets and general vistas were amazing. Loved this part. Some final notes on food & dining....be adventuresome....try some things you would never have at home. For one of us, it was escargot (they're great, by the way). Have two appetizers or a dinner of just appetizers. You can do it! If you order room service (you should....especially if you have a balcony), always order the time slot with the late end of the time range as the time you want it served. For example, if you want breakfast delivered at 9am, check the box for 8:30-9am, as it always seemed to show up at the late end of the time range we selected. Finally, I was a little suspicious of the scrambled eggs on a couple occasions, as they had a slight quality of pre-cooked eggs (e.g., shiny texture, porous holes in the eggs). I despise packaged eggs and am always on the outlook for them. I was wary of them a couple times, including our disembarkation day. BAR SERVICE....We didn't follow our friends' advice and smuggle booze onboard. The drink prices are not exorbitant ($7.45 for a Tanqueray martini), though the wine prices can be a little silly. SHORE EXCURSIONS....We never bought a HAL-sponsored excursion, as most left earlier than our older relative could do. We tried to do it by ourselves in Cabo & Mazatlan with mixed results. First off, Cabo and Mazatlan are terrible tourista traps. (You can keep Mazatlan for all we care....) Our strategy was to go to big, brandname resorts for lunch and to see if we could rent aquasports equipment. This strategy largely didn't work. We were pounced on at every hotel we entered, as most require ID like wristbands to be on the premises. (They apparently have a problem with non-guests wandering onto the premises and using the facilities.) We were also offered free taxis, food and facility usage if we would look at their timeshare units. NO THANKS! So, if you're like us and want to go to a hotel to eat in a restaurant with a printed menu containing prices, good luck. If we had to do it again, we'd take a tour in Cabo and Mazatlan. For Puerto Vallarta, I think it's probably easier to go downtown and be "normal" (go to a restaurant, visit the beach, etc). We didn't do this, as we visited a friend in their condo in PV. CASINO....Pretty nice. Some of the staff had a little trouble with Craps, but it was great fun while playing in a tuxedo. Do it....the closest you'll get to playing James Bond! ENTERTAINMENT....Overall, impressed. I think they really try to do a quality job, and it shows. The Broadway shows are very campy and over the top. The featured singer--Delisco--was talented. The house band (The HALCats) are excellent. Go to the shows (provided you read our caveat below in "OVERALL"). ACTIVITIES....Our advice is exploit what the ship has to offer. Plan your day. Read the daily schedule the night before. You'll get a lot more out of your vacation if you actively plan your next day aboard. Try different stuff, like Team Trivia and Bingo. You'll enjoy it. OVERALL....This was a fun vacation, and we would like to travel with HAL again. (Probably on a cruise with more sea days, however, as we liked that far more than port days.) To fully enjoy your trip, our advice is MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. The food is great, but it's not Le Cirque. The entertainment is entertaining, but it's not Celine Dion in Vegas. We viewed the trip as a chance to kick back, have great food and fun with no housekeeping chores. We succeeded and look forward to future trips. We hope you'll find this review helpful. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
HAL Oosterdam Feb 23 - Mar 1 Mexican Riviera Pre-cruise we stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay in San Diego. This is a moderately priced hotel for the area. It is across the street from Anthony's Fish Restaurant which is really ... Read More
HAL Oosterdam Feb 23 - Mar 1 Mexican Riviera Pre-cruise we stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay in San Diego. This is a moderately priced hotel for the area. It is across the street from Anthony's Fish Restaurant which is really very good. It has a great little Pub /Restaurant called the Elephant and Castle that serves great drinks at night and breakfast that is either a buffet or a regular menu. But most important is that it is across the street from the cruise ship terminal, and if you reserve a tower room, and get up at a ridiculous hour of the morning, you can watch the Oosterdam arrive in port. A huge benefit to staying there. Embarkation: Can we all say EASY. This was a breeze. Drop of the bags in bins outside, walk inside, show ID and boarding pass, fill out the health questionnaire, get in a short check in line, show them the credit card you are using, smile for the camera, stop of another picture and you are on board. Probably 20 minutes from arrival to the first mojito on the lido deck. I have never seen better. The rooms were ready, and in our case the luggage was there by 1:30 .. unpacked and ready to play by 2PM. We grabbed the banner and met on deck 5 forward for the Banner wave to start the week just right. Thank you Lisa. About 17 of us showed up so it was just right. The life boat drill was well done. Enough said there .. it is what it is and it is a part of every cruise and it was over quickly and the Party Started!! SHIP We were last on the Oosterdam in 2003 when she was brand spanking new and I think someone has taken loving care of this beautiful boat. She is just as lovely today as she was back then. Our balcony stateroom was really nice, and I am now promising myself that next time I am getting and Aft SB .. for the balcony alone.. but that is for next time. This was more than enough for us to enjoy, move around, store all the clothing etc and relax with a glass of wine as the ocean rolled by. DINING Ok here we run into the ONLY problem of the entire cruise to date. We were confirmed with late seating and a table for 8. We arrived to a 4 top with one elderly gentleman who was also sailing on his first cruise, with Air America, and had been assured of a large table of like minded individuals. It was ok, but not the most comfortable evening. A quick trip to the Maitre D the next day fixed us up with a table for 6 with two other couples that were similarly disenchanted the evening before. We had great table mates for the rest of the cruise. Unfortunately, we had chosen the dining time given over to most of the Air America cruisers and the service was not what one would expect. We started to pay more attention to what was going on around and it was quickly apparent that the Air America group was not making a favorable impression. Somehow they seemed to think that since they paid so much more for the same cruise and there were so many of them that they should get different treatment. I truly felt sorry for the dining staff, I think some of that group left their manners at home. By the 3rd night service did get better but it never seemed quite up to the par one is used to on HAL, or really on any cruise ship. I am writing this before the second formal night and will add/amend it as appropriate. SHORE EXCURSIONS Now I have to say the ones we picked have to rank right up there with some of the best shore excursions we have experienced anywhere in the world. From Cabo San Lucas we went to Todos Santos for lunch at the Hotel California. This is a very interesting drive through the desert of Baja California from the bay at Cabo on the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific ocean, where the driver stopped at an unscheduled spot because there were lots of whales to see. The town itself is charming and some of the art work, most notable Reuben Gutierrez is spectacular. By the way the Gutierrez pottery is very reasonably priced. Then it was lunch at the Hotel California which I thought was wonderful, but my husband did not find to be spicy enough. In Mazatlan, we signed up for the Shrimp Fest. We went to a lovely private residence, up in on a hill overlooking the entire city, with gorgeous gardens and lovely terraces set up for the crowd. They served Margaritas and beer and sodas all day and a buffet of all the shrimp you could eat, in three different styles along with rice and beans and guacamole and salsa and chips and of course tortillas. A small artisans gallery was on the grounds and I bought the most amazing citrine and freshwater pearl necklace and then met the designer of the necklace who offered to make me clip on earrings to go with it and email me when she had designed them. In Puerto Vallarta, we did Rhythms of the Night and I just have to say .. do not miss that excursion. It starts with an approx one hour catamaran ride to a private beach all lit with tike torches and absolutely gorgeous. Dinner was truly memorable as each party had a table for the number of people they designated. It was a buffet, but there were so many buffet's set up that there were no lines. Waiters brought you drinks and whatever else you wanted. Then a show, and I will admit I was not looking forward to that part because some of the cultural shows are boring .. but this one was spectacular. Then the catamaran back with all of the stars, the lights of Puerto Vallarta and finally the gorgeous Oosterdam lit up for the evening.. Truly a wonderful experience. DISEMBARKATION Again, well thought out plan. Remember way back when I said the rooms weren't ready until 1:30? When you disembark, you may stay in your stateroom until they call your luggage tag color. This is totally lovely!! Then you go to Deck 2 .. a short line , show your passport and give the customs declaration to an official, quickly pick up your luggage and in our case take the first taxi in line and it is off to the airport. Couldn't have been smoother! THIS & THAT Internet: We both work for ourselves and build a cruise web site while traveling. The internet is a crucial part of cruising for us and on the Oosterdam, we had wireless access in our stateroom. Wonderful feature. You can buy packages from $100 for 250 minutes (40 cents a minute) on up. You can add more minutes as you need them and if you are on a package and you run out of minutes while logged in, they are charged at whatever rate your package calls for. Smoking: One smoker and one reformed smoker here .. and finally a cruise ship that did not make me feel like I should be banished to a dark corner of only one bar .. or one of 3 tables on a deck if I wanted a cigarette. There were not a LOT of places to smoke, but the ones that were available were very nice. The casino was non smoking every day /night from 4 to 8. Entertainment: We never go to the shows, so no comment on that. Drink Cards Ok I love the signature drinks, for instance, the Cucumber Lime Smash, and this card did represent not only a savings, but a totally efficient means of purchasing the drinks. The card was $64.50 and it was for 10 drinks .. which if you read the menu were $6.45 or more unless it was a drink of the day., BUT on every drink you paid the tip and so It does work out that you are paying for about 9 drinks for the price of 10. Not a huge savings, but the convenience of just handing them a card was an extra bonus. OVERALL This was our 11th cruise in 9 years and I must say, even though we had been to these ports before, this was one of the loveliest cruises we have ever taken!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
This was our 8th cruise and the second on Holland America. So far both Holland American cruises are our favorite. The embarkation dock was a problem and my husband tripped and hurt himself. They really need to fix all the holes. After that ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise and the second on Holland America. So far both Holland American cruises are our favorite. The embarkation dock was a problem and my husband tripped and hurt himself. They really need to fix all the holes. After that it was a great trip. We started in the back bar and met our favorite cocktail waitress Mabel. She immediately new our drinks and remembered our cabin number for the rest of the trip. Our room was nice, but next time we will go with a bigger room. The decorating was very nice. The food was a pleasant surprise after a few Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises. Always plenty of chairs at the pool and room at the bar.. Ice cream is included!! As far as the itinerary we probably won't do the Mexican Riviera again. The whale watching was good, but the water doesn't compare to the Caribbean. Mazatlan was a dump. The Cruise Authority handled the arrangements and everything went very smoothly. We asked for and received early debarkation and were at the airport by 9:30. Bingo was a bit of a let down until I won twice! I also won in the Casino which makes for a good trip. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
When I booked the cruise, I was on a Superior Suite guarantee(SZ). I was upgraded to the SS level. I guess they consider this an upgrade because the room was higher on the ship, but frankly we like to be more in the center of the ship with ... Read More
When I booked the cruise, I was on a Superior Suite guarantee(SZ). I was upgraded to the SS level. I guess they consider this an upgrade because the room was higher on the ship, but frankly we like to be more in the center of the ship with all staterooms. This room put us right below the outdoor swimming pool (hamburger/hotdog stand). Early morning they started setting up and we could hear the noise quite distinctly. I guess we were not happy with the upgrade, but the ship was full, so we could not change. The room was of course lovely, and our room steward, Winsu, could not have been more agreeable and on top of things. The room was always clean and refreshed when we got back. I did not see him much, but obviously he was working hard. We know the ship very well because we also have traveled twice on the Westerdam which is essentially the same ship design. I was taking my mom and dad for their first cruise on HAL. They have taken maybe 50 cruises, but for some reason, HAL itineraries did not work out, so they were anxious to give it a try. We took this same cruise ship last May to Alaska. We asked for the same dining attendant because he is the best (Hunky Dorey - no really!). I was amazed he was still there! We were all very impressed with the food. It was even better than I remembered and Hunky Dorey had all our special requests memorized and ready for us whenever we showed up for dinner. Because my mom and dad eat late and my husband and I usually eat early, we chose the new 'make a reservation or walk in' dining. This was fine except is kind of messed us up for seeing shows. We actually missed one altogether because we could not make it with the dinner schedule. My dad loved the pasta bar upstairs and after the first day the fellow cooking up the special orders pretty much started to make his dish when he saw him coming. Everyone was so accommodating. My mom was in love with the piano bar and had a wonderful time. We all played the trivia game each day and had the same team each day. It was a lot of fun. My husband and I like the classical music, but again, the timing seemed to not work out to hear it as much as we would have liked. We did not do any shore excursions this trip as we have seen the stops before, but we did get off in Cabo and use a little internet cafe right there on the wharf for a little (15 minutes for $2!). The cruise director, Shane, was great too. He was friendly and involved in everything it seemed. I guess my only complaint is this: for some reason, maybe due to the new dinner seating arrangements (no special times) they were unable to do the baked alaska like they usually do. So when we were told the last night would be a special sit down dinner, we thought "OK, here it is". Instead, the poor waiters had to dance around the room, we were supposed to wear chefs hats, and even though they did in fact serve baked alaska, it was not even set on fire, which is so pretty. I could not understand this and was told it was only the second cruise they have tried it on. I hope they go back to the original dignified dinner like they used to have. I felt embarrassed for the waiters and a little silly myself. I love HAL because they are sort of old fashioned. This means sophisticated to me, and I want the experience to go back to the way it was. OK - enough complaining. My mom and dad loved the ship, food, etc. as did my husband and I and we have already scheduled our next cruise - this time to Europe! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
This was my DH (53) and I (46) second cruise also with Holland America. We arrived the day before in San Diego and took the free shuttle to the Holiday Inn ON the Bay. One of the couples on the shuttle attempted to check in before us and ... Read More
This was my DH (53) and I (46) second cruise also with Holland America. We arrived the day before in San Diego and took the free shuttle to the Holiday Inn ON the Bay. One of the couples on the shuttle attempted to check in before us and found out they were at the wrong hotel. They should have taken the shuttle labeled Holiday Inn AT the Bay. The hotel was nice and very clean. But it is an older hotel and is showing its age. We opted for a balcony bay view room and if it wasn't for that view, it would not have been worth the price. We ordered room service for breakfast and it was very good, prompt and hot. San Diego: After check in, we took the trolley (round trip was $4.00 each) to "Old Town". This is an area of original buildings that founded San Diego. We spent a few hours walking around and exploring. It's a very pretty area. We meet up with our fellow Yummers for dinner at Anthony's Fish Market. This was a rowdy bunch and the restaurant did a fine job of accommodating us. The food was wonderful and very reasonable. There was only one waiter for the table of 20+ which did make service a little slow. But as we were on vacation, not an issue. Day of Embarkation: We enjoyed watching the Oosterdam come into port from our balcony. It was a beautiful site. We ate breakfast and watched the previous cruisers disembark. At about 10:30 we loaded up our luggage and walked across the street. As soon as we entered the gates there were porters there to take our luggage. We entered the building, showed our passports, passed through security and went right up to the check in counter. We were checked in with sea passes in hand within 15 minutes. 30 minutes later we were boarding the wonderful Oosterdam. Previous arraignments had been made for the Yummers to meet in the dining room for lunch. The staff was all set up for us at the aft of the dining room. We enjoyed the first of many luxuries. After lunch we toured the ship, made our reservations in the spa and was able to go to our cabin at 1 pm. Life boat/fire drill went off with out a hitch. 3:00 pm Banner Wave: About 70 Yummers and a few dozen Red Hatters met at the bow of the ship for the Banner Wave. Sail Away Party: There was a sail way party at the Lido pool with a band, but the Yummers had commandeered the 5th floor aft cabins. All the dividers were opened, champagne and wine flowed freely and it was party time for the Yummers! Cabin: Our cabin was in great shape. Our steward (I can't remember his name) introduced himself as soon as we got to our cabin. He let us know he was off between 2 and 5 and to please let him know if we needed anything. We saw him occasionally throughout the cruise, but we never needed to contact him. Our cabin was always made up within an hour of us leaving; there was fresh ice every morning and afternoon. The fresh fruit bowl was also filled. Everything night there were towel animals and chocolates. Room Service: We ordered breakfast on 2 occasions. Each time it was delivered during the time frame we requested, still hot and very good. My DH wrote in Eggs Benedict and it was delivered. My only complaint and this is subjective was the coffee. We thought it was rather strong and bitter. Before the end of cruise I was ordering tea. We also ordered milk and cookies when we returned for the night. They were great! Dining: We were assigned As You Wish Dining, but arraignments had been made with the lower dining room for the Yummers. A section of the dining room was reserved for the Yummers at 7:45 each evening. This was the earliest the dining room could accommodate us without infringing on other dinners. We noticed the first 2 nights the lines for dining were still rather long when we arrived. Then I think everyone got it figured out and we didn't see anymore lines. Food: We ate dinner in the dining room all but 1 night. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The average dinner was 2 hours, but we really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Breakfast in the lido in was great. The specialty pancakes and waffles were too good. Lunch was also good and a good variety to choose from. One night we enjoyed the barbeque at the lido pool. Shows/Activities: We didn't see too many shows, but the juggler and comic were great. The acts were clean and appropriate for any age. The love and marriage show was historical per usual. The Karaoke contest was a hoot. I seemed to me the only chance to win Dam dollars were related to sports activities, which we didn't participate in. IMHO most of the activities were held during the day. More offered on port days. We only attended 1 trivia challenge. Spa Services: I purchased a detox/massage package and my DH did a hot stone massage. Both of us see a regular massage therapist and weren't real impressed with our massages. I would call it a buff and fluff more so than a massage. My DH got sucked into the sales pitch for products. CC Meet & Greet: Due to the size of our group, the Yummers the meet and greet was held in the Crows Nest. Champagne and Mimosas were served as well as hors' dousers which were not expects. We all thought the usually coffee and cookies would be offered. DH and I arrived about 10 minutes after it started. There were no drinks left and no more were offered even after we asked for one. Cabo San Lucas: We booked an independent whale watching tour with Cabo Expeditions. It's nice walk around the bay to the office. The cost was $50.00 per person for a 3 hour tour on a Zodiac. Our guide found a herd of 7 whales which were very active. Breaching 5 or 6 times, surfacing numerous times and a few times if we looked over the side, we saw whales just below the surface. We would do this tour again! After the tour we walked around the dock and had lunch at one of the restaurants. We were constantly approached by individuals selling their ways, but just said no thanks. It was a little bit harder when approached by 6 and 7 year olds. Mazatlan: We did the ships Salsa and Salsa tour. We were met at the dock with on open trolley and taken to a hotel. On the patio overlooking the beach we learned how to make 3 different types of margaritas, 6 salsas and 1 guacamole dip. During the class, we were served unlimited margaritas, tacetas, quesadillas and chips. After the cooking class was a salsa dance instruction, which we bugged out on. We walked down the street to the "mall" area to do some shopping. This was not one of our favorite ports. The dock was patrolled by camouflaged, armed men and was very industrial. The city appeared to be dirty and I think every building we saw had bars on the windows and doors. When the taxi returned us to the port it was not at the same location as we were picked up from. It was in shopping area in front of the port. You have to walk through this area and even through some stores to get to the other side, were trolleys would pick you up and take you the ship. Puerto Vallarta: The dock area was beautiful, but we were surprised to see a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club directly across the street. We didn't have any excursions planned, so we hooked up with a driver for $25.00 a piece for a tour of the city. It was ok. We went to a beautiful hotel, the tile factory (they don't make tiles there, just hand paint them), a tequila factory (they don't make it there either. The host said it's too dangerous to make it in town. It all has to be made out of town.) Where we received samples, a few mountain vendors and then to a "local" restaurant. The food was good but a little pricey I thought, $32.00 dollars for 1 carne asada dish, 1 fish burritos dish and 2 soft drinks. After our guide dropped us back at the dock we walked next door to a hotel and kicked back on the beach for a while. It was very nice. Disembarkation: We signed up for express service (I think that's what's called). For $15.00 each, the ship services printed our airline boarding passes and luggage tags. We set out our luggage the night before and never saw it again until we landed at our destination. When our color coded number was called we walked off the ship (reluctantly), showed our passports and left the building. We walked across the street to the Holiday Inn and got on their shuttle back to the airport. We had a thoroughly wonderful time and would do it again in a heart beat! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Pre-Cruise Prep Train vs Auto - Since we are local to San Diego, we decided to drive this time and pay the $15 a day at the parking lot directly across from the terminal. Good move...apparently there was an accident on train tracks and ... Read More
Pre-Cruise Prep Train vs Auto - Since we are local to San Diego, we decided to drive this time and pay the $15 a day at the parking lot directly across from the terminal. Good move...apparently there was an accident on train tracks and these folk got "bussed" from Oceanside after a delay. Seasick Pills - If you use Bonine, go to your local pharmacy ahead of time and order a bottle of Meclizine HCI...same thing but 100 pills for about $7. Neck lanyard for cruise card(s) - I brought my "Carnival" lanyard and had my cruise card "hole punched" first thing at the desk in level 2. You can do the same for drink cards. Wine - BYOB - We put our 6 bottles in our check-in luggage (in proper packaging) and had no problem. Paid the $15 per bottle corkage fee which was still cheaper than buying their overly priced wines. Soda Card - $18 (plus tax/tip) gets you 20 glasses of soda. Good concept but they put more ice than soda in the glasses. Drink Card - $56 (plus tax/tip) Gets you 10 drinks at value of $6.45 each from the bar list. A better deal than the soda card. Pinnacle Grill You have to eat here at least once time! (We enjoyed 3 nights here!) Good food, unhurried service and quiet eating versus the noise of the main dining room. When you get on the ship, sign up for dinner here Saturday night. It's $20 per person versus $30 every other night. Make reservations. It fills up on the last two nights, Thursday & Friday. Starters - The Buffalo Tomatoes with balsamic dressing were excellent; the Thai Chicken soup was spicy; the salad was nice with the pears and cranberries; we also enjoyed the crab cakes. Entrees - MEAT! But also try the wild mushroom ravioli...YUMMY! I had the petite cut Filet Mignon and the Lamb...wow! Side Dishes - I ordered two the first night...too much! For side dishes, I enjoyed the asparagus and mushrooms; I thought the creamed spinach was a little salty for my taste; I enjoyed the rice; the scalloped potatoes were a little dry for my taste...I would have liked them creamier. (I'm not a food snob; I just have my preferences. You may feel differently.) Main Dining Room We had "open seating". I thought the food was "o.k." (I guess the Pinnacle spoiled me first thing.) Some meals seemed like the food was just piled on top of each other and there was no enjoying the individual tastes. On the 2nd formal night they had the "Surf & Turf" in main dining. On the final night, you might want to eat at the main dining room because they make a production of serving. Just make sure you review your daily agenda and get there on time. We showed up at 5:30pm...should have been there by 5:15...our fault. They had started the "show" and we had to wait for a lull to be seated. Then we sat with no attention...no water or bread...for at least 15 minutes before they finally brought those after trying to get their attention. One server quipped, "You should have been here on time". Lido Deck Dining They have "themed" serving areas...The Wok, The Deli, The Italian, The Salads, The Sweets, etc. FYI...they had ice cream during lunch/dinner times...at breakfast this area was set for juices. They had hot dogs/burgers served outdoors by family pool. They also had themed food served there daily...Mexican, Filipino, etc. Pools & Sunning Most action for families was at the center pool on Lido Deck. Good for us...we hung out at pool area on fantail (back of ship, deck 9). We also sat around deck 10, toward front; less wind on those windy sea days and quiet. (I just had to move from the smokers a couple times) There was a "fire" on the 2nd night...one indoor therapy pool had a small problem with the equipment. They apparently got the equipment operational again because we saw folk in that area. Exercise Nice gym...walked through it the first day! They do special exercise events & stuff where you can earn "Dam bucks". You turn them in at the end of the week and get a T-shirt, water bottle, etc. Also, they do a Susan G Komen sponsored 5K walk...nine laps around #3 deck. I suggest you go to the Main Office, plunk down the $15 and get a nice Hanes Beefy-T and the wrist bracelet. Just mark it as if you are going to walk! Nice cruise remembrance...says Holland America on the T. Formal Nights Formal nights were the first day at sea (Saturday) and the Thursday night at sea...not the last night when bags need to be packed. Shows I missed the first night my husband labeled as "Grease meets the Village People". It was a song & dance show. He found the Piano Bar more entertaining...more on that later. We had a performer doing Nat King Cole songs...very good show. We saw another song/dance show that was o.k....my hubby left for the Piano Bar. They have two female and 2 male leads that do the primary singing...the rest of the troupe do more dancing. We missed the "Filipino Show" and the Karaoke...we both went to Piano Bar! Piano Bar This is what I dubbed as "karaoke without the stress". There are about a dozen seats surrounding the piano and plenty of other seats in the lounge. This lounge is off the "starboard" side of the Casino. David Guidice was our piano guy for the week. I hope others get to enjoy him on future cruises. We learned new versions of some songs that were a crack-up...you will understand if you have him on your ship! Room We had room #5002 - "port" side of ship, front room on Verandah deck #5. It was a BIG room because it was wheelchair friendly. We had the balcony on the side and a large porthole window facing forward. It felt larger than my room at home! Bathroom has tub/shower and separate shower area; three closets, plenty of drawer space and room to walk around without bumping into each other. The anchor was close by, but you only experienced its presence when we anchored at Cabo that morning...all of about 30 seconds of "rumbling" noise as it was dropped. On the last couple nights, when we were at sea and the water was choppy, I heard some sort of "banging"...I don't know if it was the waves on the front of the ship or the anchor sometimes banging. This room at the front experienced more movement than the mid or back of ship, but it put me to sleep right away! "Sami" the room steward was very attentive. Make sure that when you are in your room you put the "do not disturb" tag in the exterior lock...they knock quickly before entering and you don't want to be caught with your pants down...or top off! Wrap-up I enjoyed the service and attention on the HAL Oosterdam. All staff was attentive and greeted you as you passed by on the ship. I would definitely cruise with this line/ship again...and would save more $$ so I can enjoy dining at the Pinnacle Grill more. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
We arrived in San Diego the day before and we excited to wake up and see that "our" boat was in port and ready to take off with our family on board. We traveled with another family and between us had two 16 year old boys and two ... Read More
We arrived in San Diego the day before and we excited to wake up and see that "our" boat was in port and ready to take off with our family on board. We traveled with another family and between us had two 16 year old boys and two 14 year old girls. I will try to answer all of the questions that I wanted answered before our cruise. Embarkation: I found it to be extremely easy. We stayed at the Days Inn Harborview and took a shuttle to the ship, dropped off our bags and headed out to walk the waterfront, take pictures, and check out Seaport Village. We went to board the ship about 1pm. You had to each fill out a health form and if you had your own pen, you could do it while you stood in line. Total time was less than 15 minutes. Just have your paperwork ready and BE ORGANIZED! It will save you time! Public Rooms: We rode the elevator up to deck 9 and a full buffet was ready for us. We spent most of our time on the aft deck and joined our friends for picture taking and fun. We boarded the ship around 1pm and our room was ready around 1:30. Cabins: We had previously traveled on Princess cruises and hands down HAL has it beat 10 fold! We actually could completely unpack a family of four and store our suitcases under our bed and not feel cluttered! Because we had a quad room, we lost a bathtub and only had a shower, but that was more than fine with us. Our cabin was on the main deck (floor 1)and had an ocean view. Our cabin steward was Matt and he did a great job the entire week. The only problem we had was that there were only a handful of hairdryers on the entire ship due to a problem with shipping replacements. That made getting ready for formal nights a challenge, but we just went out on deck and let our hair blow in the wind. You can make the best of anything if you just try :) Recreation: The kids really enjoyed the ping pong tables, but unfortunately over the week, others broke the balls and paddles. Next time we will bring our own and keep them to ourselves. Lesson learned! We enjoyed the various activities and participated in Team Trivia every day for fun and realized we all needed to go back to school. The teens did better than we did! The pool was great and the roof could be closed if it got windy or cold. Dining: We had late seating (8pm) on the second floor. Our server was Wayan and he was from Bali. It was fun to have the same server. We did free-style dining on our previous cruise and did not have the same server each time. We enjoyed trying new things at dinner. Some were hits, some were not. The buffet was pretty much the same everyday and by day 5 we were getting a little tired of it. Princess Cruises change up their buffet and offer different choices each day. The best thing on this ship is the free ice cream (we had to pay for it on Princess!). You can buy pop cards for $20.00 for 20 drinks. Princess offered an insulated cup for $25.00 unlimited. Not a real big deal, there was plenty of juice, water and ice tea for drinks. Entertainment: It may be that we were on the younger side of this entire cruise population, but the entertainment was not even comparable to Princess. We had a comic that, in my opinion, was terrible and a singer that was okay. The one saving grace was, Edge, the juggler and entertainer. He was fantastic! We also missed out on The Piano Bar player, we never made it there. He played one song at the end of the cruise and he was fabulous. They should headline him and lose the comic. Very talented! The Cruise Event Staff was great. Parker, Eric, Barrick, and Matt kept things moving. We really enjoyed the pool party night. My son and his friend won the belly flop contest towards the end of the cruise! Even if it seems cheesy, join in for the pool games, trivia, bingo etc! It makes it fun! They held and "American Idol" type contest and it was hilarious! Ports of Call: Cabo San Lucas was very overwhelming when you left the tender area. You get accosted by very aggressive people trying to take you places by water taxi and other excursions. We wanted to go to Lover's Beach and after negotiating a price of $6.00 per head (Cash/RT) for our group of eight, we finally boarded a oversized row boat. They tried to change the price "due to a misunderstanding" (are you kidding me?) and wanted us to get off the boat. My limited Spanish was tested when I asked the boat driver if $6.00 per head was fair? He said yes, got off the boat and told them we were leaving. He was great and came back and hour later to pick us up. Remember...bring enough cash to tip EVERYBODY. We tipped, Lupe, our driver both going and coming and even had to tip the guy that "helped" us back into the boat. If they help you with anything, the expect to be tipped. $5.00 usually appeased them. We then went to Medona beach and were constantly approached by venders. We rented jet skis and had some fun, but ended up walking back to the tenders (from Medona it is a good 25-35 minute walk) and ate a late lunch on the ship. Mazatlan: We hired a driver right outside the boat for $25.00 per head to give us a tour of the city. It was worth every dime and we ended up having a great day in Mazatlan! Our driver was at our disposal and he let us set the itinerary, but was a great source of information and fun! One note: If you are with a driver, you are not harassed by vendors because of this. Mazatlan was beautiful in areas and run down in others. The Golden Beach area is the more tourist area and bigger resorts are there. We ate in town without any problems, just ask for bottled water. Remember...everything is extra and be prepared for an expensive lunch. Puerto Vallarta (or Porto Wal-mart-o) was beautiful. We were docked across the street from Sam's club and Wal-mart. A great thing if you run out of stuff, such as sunscreen like we did. You can run over and get whatever you need. We walked to the Krystal Resort and paid $10.00 per family to use their pool and lounge chairs. Be careful, you can end up paying up to $40.00 per head if you talk to the wrong person. Just keep asking and the price will drop. Be kind and order something to drink and give them some business while you are there. The people could not have been nicer there! One thing we learned is to talk to the ship crew. They are a great source of information for where to go and what to expect to pay. Remember...they are there every week!! :) Overall, we had a great time. The final two days were at sea and there was not a lot of activities to keep you busy. If there were, they were sometimes scheduled at the same time, so it was impossible to make them and then there were stretches of nothing. The food was better on Princess and we missed the "Movies under the Stars" that Princess had. HAL had better service and a better Cruise Event Staff. We were privileged to know one of the Officers on the bridge and were able to have a bridge tour. I would definitely recommend this cruise on Holland America. The staff was fabulous and don't forget to look out for Hunke Dorie in the Buffet and Mr. K in the dining room! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
About us: My husband Jimmy and I live in Garland, Texas. We are in our early 40's. This was our eighth cruise and the first on a Holland America ship. We have previously sailed on several Carnival ships, two Royal Caribbean ships, one ... Read More
About us: My husband Jimmy and I live in Garland, Texas. We are in our early 40's. This was our eighth cruise and the first on a Holland America ship. We have previously sailed on several Carnival ships, two Royal Caribbean ships, one Norwegian and one Princess. We are not heavy drinkers or partiers but we like the cruise experience for the ocean, the food, the music, the casino and some of the shows and just to get away. We usually only go on cruises during the months when prices are the lowest and schools are in session (Oct, Nov, early Dec, Jan, Feb, March; though not during spring break). San Diego: Since we had never visited San Diego we decided to precede our cruise with a two-night stay near the port. We flew on Southwest from Dallas to San Diego on Thursday afternoon. I had booked an awesome two-night stay at the Marriott Gaslamp. We got an incredible rate on Hotwire ($119 per night). This hotel is fairly new and it is right across the street from Petco Park and there was a Padres game there on Friday night during our stay. I picked this hotel because it was right in the middle of all the local shopping, restaurants and nightlife so we were able to walk to everything. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was $18 per person so Friday morning we asked the concierge if there was anywhere near to get breakfast for a reasonable price and he happily gave us a map and marked two local favorites (I don't remember the names) but one was a few blocks away and had great food. After breakfast, we walked to this lovely little shopping complex called "Seaport Village" and spent a few hours looking through the shops there. We had been told on the plane by a woman from San Diego to have lunch at Anthony's (at the port) and so we did and the fried fish was awesome. We also heard about a highly touted Mexican restaurant called "Fred's Mexican Food" and since it was also just a few blocks from the hotel we ate dinner there. It was very good and reasonably priced. Embarkation: Saturday morning about 11:00 a.m. we took a taxi to the port ($11 for both of us). We had pre-filled out all the needed forms on the Holland America website three weeks prior so we were able to just show our passports, boarding passes and credit card and we then boarded the ship. We headed up to the Lido deck and had a great lunch before heading to our stateroom. Stateroom: We then went to our stateroom a little early and found it cleaned, ready and waiting for us. Soon after we arrived in the room our room steward stopped by to introduce himself, he turned out to be a very pleasant and efficient young man from Indonesia named Yudi. Our luggage all arrived fairly early (around 3:00 or so). We had a Superior Suite that I booked for a great price. We were pleasantly surprised by the room space, storage space and size of our balcony. The bed was the usual two twins pushed together to make a queen. The mattresses were very comfortable though. We had a flat screen TV and a DVD player in the room. We thought that was great since we had brought a couple of movies with us. Internet: We purchased the 250 minutes package for $100. As other reviewers have already stated, the internet service is VERY slow. We found that this was not a spotty issue but rather a very consistent one the entire week so actually 250 minutes don't go as far as you'd think. I would say from log-on to actually getting into my email box it was an average of 4 to 5 minutes EVERY time. It was very frustrating, but the minute package deals are still the way to go if you are going to be using the internet. Food: We found plenty of food to enjoy and not too surprisingly we managed to gain five pounds. We've liked most of the food on all of our cruises although we thought Norwegian's was lacking in comparison to the other lines. We didn't really see a huge difference between the quality/variety of food here on Holland as opposed to Carnival, RC and Princess. If we had to pick who's food we liked best we would probably say Princess. Just like on the other ships there was stuff on the buffet that didn't appeal to us but there was also a lot that did. We did quickly figure out that the desserts for the most part are NOT the same on the Lido as what's served in the main dining room so we would just go down to the main dining room after dinner and ask if we could see the dessert menu and then order some to go and take it back to our room. For all you sushi lovers there is a sushi bar on the lido deck. I am not sure what hours they quit serving sushi but they definitely did around lunch time every day. Also, we went to the afternoon tea everyday (around 3:15) and that was always fun. It is held in various places on different days. They serve you tea or coffee and there are waiters that keep coming to your table with lots of various sweet snacks and finger sandwiches. It's easy to leave there feeling like you ate a whole meal if you are not careful. The cheeseburgers and fries are very good. Dining Preference: We signed up for the "anytime" dining and per a previous guest's review we didn't make a reservation and instead just showed up and that didn't seem to work too well as the wait was always at least a half an hour. We got the impression that the reservation system didn't work too well either since we heard people in front of us complaining that they had called and made a reservation but they were still put in the same line to wait as the rest of us. The issue that caused the wait for us was that we always requested a table for two and they don't have many of those available. We showed up three nights intending to eat in the main dining room but there was already about 5-7 other couples waiting for a table for two, so except for one night we just went back up to the Lido deck and ate. My recommendation (if you are picky about your table size) is to choose the traditional fixed seating time and just visit the maitre'd the day you get on the ship to see where they've seated you and change it if necessary (that's what we've always done before and it's always worked out). Formal nights are on Sunday night and Thursday night. As another reviewer stated, the actual dress is not nearly as formal as their code states. Most people even on the formal night just had on a nice outfit but most didn't seem to dress formally. Lido Dining: On the Lido deck you can either sit on the Starboard side or the port side. Every night for dinner all the tables on the port side operated similar to the main dining room in that you walked up to the buffet on that side and they take your order and seat you and bring you your food and they serve mostly what's being served in the main dining room. On the starboard side they serve the same thing but you get in line and get your food and take it to the table yourself (no big deal to us either way). As other reviewers have stated there are various food stations instead of just one long buffet so you have to stand in one line to get your entree and go to another station for your salad/dessert, etc… Entertainment: There was a singer named Delisco that was pretty good. He got his start performing in Vegas, he is pretty good. The comedian was not the one that other reviewers had mentioned (I think they said her name was Julie Barr), the one on our cruise was a man and we thought he was funny enough. The karaoke talent show (patterned after American Idol) was the show that we enjoyed the most. Most of the cruise lines do some variation of American Idol and we always enjoy it (as we did this time) but most of the people that performed on this cruise could not sing ! The best singer was a 17-year old girl. If you want to go see this show you need to show up early (at least for the second round) as the seats filled up quickly and about 50 of us were standing in the back. The other very entertaining show was the marriage show usually known on most ships as "The Newlywed Show". We never miss that one because it is always quite humorous. The Casino: The casino is fairly small compared to the other ships we've sailed and most of the slot machines are old. I think they should at least keep the slot machines up to date since that's really all they can do to improve this casino. However, I shouldn't complain as I did win a nice amount of money on the slots. For some strange reason I only seemed to be able to win anything every other day. On Sunday I won $500 on a "Blacktie"quarter slot machine, then on Tuesday I won another $500 on another quarter slot machine (it was called a "3X pay") and then on Thursday I won another $150 on the same machine as on Tuesday. On Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday I couldn't seem to hit on anything (and I noticed that nobody else did either). Service: Now here is where Holland America stands out. The service on the ship was excellent and tended to be very personal which was a nice touch. The wait staff everywhere seemed very cheerful and eager to go out of their way to please. Many of them would remember your name and that made it seem like a more personal experience. The cruise director was not very funny although he did seem to try very hard. After having sailed on a Carnival ship with John Heald in 2001 no cruise director will probably ever measure up (his humor and antics made that our most memorable cruise). Ports: All of our cruises thus far have been to the Caribbean or the Mexican Riviera and so we have been to all these ports before and have gotten to the point where we sometimes just stay on the ship. The shopping at all the Mexico ports: Cozumel, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, etc… all have about the same things so after our first five cruises we just weren't interested anymore. Since we mostly cruise for the ship experience we usually don't do excursions so I don't have any comment on any excursions. There was a Walmart and a Sam's Club right across from the port in Puerto Vallarta and that was nice because there were a few things we needed that the ship either didn't have or had at a price that we weren't willing to pay so we walked over there. Also, there was a mall to the left of the Walmart that we walked over to and I enjoyed that. There was a department store there named "Liverpool's" that was similar to Macys and Dillards (carried some of the same brands but had some stuff I've not seen in the states). Dislikes: We wish they would offer a self-serve laundry. Since we had a Jacuzzi tub in our bathroom my husband threw a few pair of his underwear, socks and jeans in the tub with a little body wash and turned on the jets (I laughed) after he rinsed them out he hung them on our balcony to dry!! I jokingly told him that we were going to look like we lived in a trailer park (no offense meant to those of you who do live in one) the scenario made me think of the Jeff Foxworthy "you might be a redneck" jokes !! Spa prices are outrageous ($100 for a manicure and pedicure). Not much variety in the shops onboard and prices too high. Debarkation: Very quick and non-eventful, well done. Summary: We really like cruising and thusly every cruise (though different) has been very enjoyable and this was no exception. Having said that though, we probably won't sail with Holland America again simply because we enjoyed the other lines better. We thought the overall personality/ambience of the other ships to be more to our liking. Holland America caters to a more genteel crowd I think and we are more on the casual side. Another thing we did like was the lack of children onboard, we love children but prefer a more adult atmosphere while on vacation. This was a fun, relaxing cruise but it will probably not stand out as a very memorable one. We really liked Princess for it's romantic ambience. It's seems to draw more couples than families and the food and entertainment was great. Carnival is known for being "the fun ships" and we think that's true although the entertainment aboard the Carnival ships is usually more raunchy (we can personally live without foul-mouthed comedians). Royal Caribbean seems to us to be a good cross between Carnival and Princess. Anyway, if you are booked to go on the Oosterdam I'm sure you'll have a great time (unless you're in your teens or twenties in which case you may wish to book on another line). Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Our first experience with Holland America was more than pleasant, having done multiple cruises with a variety of cruise lines to judge them by. The Embarkation was a bit shaky, as it was explained by a Holland employee, that this was ... Read More
Our first experience with Holland America was more than pleasant, having done multiple cruises with a variety of cruise lines to judge them by. The Embarkation was a bit shaky, as it was explained by a Holland employee, that this was unusual due to a Carnival ship embarking at the terminal at the same time. It was very noisy, not nearly enough places to sit down and the space for waiting (standing) was restricted due to the Carnival ship halving the space usually available. Even with all of these problems the embarkation went very well considering. Not the best but not the worst we have done. The public rooms were available upon embarking on the ship but the staterooms were still being cleaned. Some may have a problem with that but Holland is gracious enough to allow people to rest in their cabins while waiting for disembarkation, making a latter time for access by the "new" cruisers. The staff were VERY helpful and courteous. We even noticed that a staff officer walking through the Lido restaurant saw a very young person carrying their tray and he politely took the tray from her and carried it to her table. The waiter staff was always there to assist the young and elderly with carrying their trays. Everyone that you met would say hello and ask how you were or if they could help. Many of the staff could remember your name after just meeting you a couple of times.Top notch service from the staff. The ship was clean and well maintained with many places to just relax. The atrium was small but instead of using a huge amount of space for nothing but looks Holland used that space in the other public areas. The shopping area was the smallest we have seen on a ship, but it was stocked very well and didn't have all of the "junk" items you see on some of other cruise lines. Clean and efficient. The Lounges,bars and deck areas were fun and one wasn't pestered to death by waiters asking if you wanted a drink every two minutes. The staff remembered if you said no thank you or if you were drinking. The fitness area was very good and only one treadmill was inoperative. It was clean and well maintained with plenty of classes. The only thing I didn't like was the 0600 opening time, as I am an early riser, but that was minor. Once again the staff was great there too. The dining room was tastefully done and comfortable. The staff excellent as with all other areas. The food was some of the best we have had for quite some time. Food quality seems to have been misplaced for quantity on many of the cruise lines but Holland retains very good quality with nice choices each meal. This was our first cruise staying in an inside cabin. The room was clean and well maintained and spacious enough. Plenty of wardrobe space so that was nice. The suitcases fit easily under the bed but one had to store them toward the head of the bed as the extra bedding was stored in lockers at the foot of the bed. The night lights at the head of the bed were the best we have had on a cruise, not so bright as to keep anyone else awake but enough to read by. We would not recommend an inside cabin for long cruises however, we did miss the natural light. The entertainment was very good. The Holland singers/dancers were very good and put on a very good show. Many of the cruise lines have sub-par entertainment but Holland does not seem to have followed suit. The comedy and other singing acts were very good also. We enjoyed each performance we went to. The only excursion that we went on was the Sierra Madre, Concordia and Copala tour. We have done the Mexican Riviera cruise on all of the cruise lines that go there and have stayed in PV and Cabo at all-inclusives besides, so there wasn't much that interested us for excursions. We read in the cruise critic about this excursion and it sounded as if it was worth it. It was one of the best excursions that we have done mainly due to the tour guide, Marie. There were highlights and low points to the tour, but the good far outweighed the bad. It is a seven hour tour so be prepared to be gone the entire day at Mazatlan. There was plenty to drink with a choice of cold water, pop or beer. A meal is included with the tour also at Copala. The tour also included the required stop at a jewelry shop, with a rest room and cold water, pop and beer. Over all it was well worth the money and the time. Disembarkation was extremely easy. We signed up early for the expedited disembarkation and we were off the ship at 0810 with no problems. In case you are not aware of this procedure you can leave the ship first but you must carry ALL of YOUR OWN bags off the ship, no help. We pack fairly light so it was a breeze. One note to anyone planning on this cruise or any cruise out of San Diego: the parking lot opposite the terminal has been sold and will no longer be there by end of summer. There is other parking in the area, like at the airport parking lot away from the airport. They all seem to have shuttles, but check to be sure that it is free. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
We have been on about 20 cruises, mostly Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, 2 Carnival, 1 NCL and one MSC. I must say that I loved Holland American cruise line, and especially the Oosterdam. I rate this just about tied with Celebrity as far as ... Read More
We have been on about 20 cruises, mostly Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, 2 Carnival, 1 NCL and one MSC. I must say that I loved Holland American cruise line, and especially the Oosterdam. I rate this just about tied with Celebrity as far as ship, atmosphere, food, service and activities. Embarkation: Very simple, very well organized and fast. Our grandson drove us to the pier, a porter took our bags, we went into the terminal and showed some ID and paperwork, and off we went onto the ship. Food: Very nicely presented, good choices and excellent service. We ate in the dining room for early seating fixed dinner. Rest of the time we ate in the buffet. We had absolutely no problems. It does get crowded in the buffet around 8:30am-9:00, and 12:00 to 1:00 pm. So we always went earlier, and I also like that there is not one long line for everything; rather, there are different stations i.e., salads, sweets, Italian, etc. Very much better than standing in line when all you want is a salad. Crew: extremely pleasant and courteous. I never carried my tray, someone was always right there and offered to carry it for me. Smiles everywhere. Cabin: really large oceanview. plenty of room. Lots of storage. Big closet space. Hint: when you open the closets, it looks like it's all shelves. Merely take out one of the shelves (it comes right out) and then you have lots of room to hang stuff. Entertainment: The usual variety shows, juggler, comedian, etc. We also had a Nat King Cole impersonator. Lots of room in the theater. Activities: Here is where Royal Caribbean is better. There were activities but mostly everything was at one time, for instance 10 am there were 6 different things to do, while at 11 am there was nothing. Culinary Institute: This was great. It's a separate lounge with a complete kitchen setup. There were demonstrations every day. But we really loved the private cooking school.. We signed up for a French dinner class. It cost $25 per person but it was very well worth it. Limited to 12 persons. We cooked and then ate our dinner with wine, and they let us keep our aprons. Very nice. Shore Excursions: We took one tour, Mazatlan City with Divers. That we enjoyed. The other places we just went off the ship and walked around a little. Talent Show: My husband always enters the talent shows when we go on a cruise. Holland American does it a lot better than the other lines. This was like American Idol, they had one night of auditions, one night of 5 finalists, and then the big night to choose the Oosterdam Superstar. All nights were very well attended. My husband was a finalist and received almost as much acclaim as the girl they chose! PS He sounds just like Frank Sinatra. All in all: I very much recommend Holland American for your next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
I have sailed HAL three previous times, and was always happy with the service, but this cruise was even better than the previous three! First of all, I would have to say that HAL has the best food out of all the cruise lines i've ... Read More
I have sailed HAL three previous times, and was always happy with the service, but this cruise was even better than the previous three! First of all, I would have to say that HAL has the best food out of all the cruise lines i've sailed. This includes Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, NCL and RCCL. They have a breakfast buffet that can suite anyones needs. They serve six different types of eggs benedict, six different kinds of belgian waffles (with heated fruit toppings), fresh omelette bar, and fresh squeezed orange juice. We went to the sit-down breakfast one day but felt the buffet was better in the sense the food was prepared for you on the spot and didn't have time to cool down prior to getting to the table. The lunch and dinners were just as impressive! King Crab, steak and lobster, beef wellington, etc. Also a great selection of other entrees, and all served with a beautiful presentation. The service on the ship was spectacular! Our room steward was always keeping our room clean, and we never had to ask for anything. The spa quality toiletries selection would always be replenished. We reserved the second seating for dinner which was at 8pm. It was a little late but gave us time to get showered and cleaned up after spending the days ashore. Our dining room waiter and bus boy went beyond our expectations. Absolute wonderful service! Even though the tips are automatically billed to your account, we chose to give additional money to each of these people for their outstanding service. The entertainment was good. Our group went to five of the seven shows and enjoyed each one. WE especially enjoyed the comedian, but i'm not sure the older crowd found his humor as funny as my age group did. (35-50) Both embarkation and debarkation went smoothly. I truly enjoyed this cruise and have decided I will book all my future cruises with HAL, as nothing is better than excellent service and excellent food!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Background Information: This was my 8th cruise; 6th on Holland America. There were four reasons I picked this particular cruise - price, embarkation port, itinerary, and the chance to cruise on a Vista class ship. Normally I book a ... Read More
Background Information: This was my 8th cruise; 6th on Holland America. There were four reasons I picked this particular cruise - price, embarkation port, itinerary, and the chance to cruise on a Vista class ship. Normally I book a cruise a year or more out, but I was seeing some great deals back in January and decided to do something more spur of the moment. Having sailed once before from San Diego, I knew what a great city it is and an easy port to cruise out of. It also helped that I had a free ticket on Southwest and enough points for a free hotel room. I was getting a little tired of the Caribbean and thought a Mexican itinerary would be a nice change of pace, although I was a little apprehensive that the ports - Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta - might resemble Tijuana. I stayed at the Hampton Inn on the Pacific Highway, and highly recommend it - centrally located, clean and modern, and shuttle service to and from the airport and cruise terminal. The hotel is such a short distance from the terminal that I didn't bother with the shuttle and just walked over. It was easy to navigate my way there, even while schlepping two suitcases. Embarkation: Boarding the ship through the San Diego cruise terminal was quick and easy. The cabins weren't ready, so we were directed to the Lido for lunch. I hit the salad bar, and then proceeded to try to find somewhere to sit. There were no empty tables to be found. Since I was sailing solo, I proceeded to ask people if I could join them. The reactions I got led me to believe I may be suffering from leprosy or the plague, or at the very least, using the wrong deodorant. In desperation, I went outside to the aft pool area and found an empty table with a dirty tray on it. One of the wait staff came right over and cleared it for me. Right after this, a young man wearing a staff nametag asked if he could join me for lunch. After what I'd been through myself, I urged him to have a seat. We had an enjoyable conversation, during which he told me he was from Belarus, and worked in the shipboard shop that sold alcohol and cigarettes. Ship: This was my first time on a Vista class ship, having previous sailed several of HAL's R and S class ships - Statendam, Maasdam, Zaandam, Veendam, and Volendam. Since I'd heard and read so much about the Vistas, I was looking forward to finally being able to sail on one of them. Quite frankly, I was a little letdown and disappointed. I was expecting something with a modern, brighter appearance. Instead, the Oosterdam's color scheme is dark blues, turquoises, and purples. The steps between decks are "short" and carpeted in navy blue, making it difficult to see them. I went up and down them very slowly, since I wasn't sure of my footing. I noticed that the bottom steps had an orange strip affixed to them. This needs to be done to all the steps, or carpet every other step with a lighter color or pattern. When using the stairs, many of the decks are indistinguishable from one another, making it difficult to know where you are. The decks aren't labeled near the staircases, only in the elevator lobby. More than one deck had the same "Ode to a Grecian Urn" loveseat near the elevators. The wrap around teak promenade is narrower on the Oosterdam, compared to the R and S class ships, and has some odd angles and turns that make walking difficult. What really bothered me was that the outside promenade is placed on the same deck as the Vista Dining Room. Having sweaty passengers in exercise togs circle the dining room as we ate detracted from the dining ambience. Another thing I didn't care for was the layout of the Lido with its various stations instead of a cafeteria type line. Every time I ate there I felt like I was running around trying to find things. The next to the last day I realized there was an Eggs Benedict station...who knew? That same day, I found a fruit and cold meat and cheese breakfast bar outside in the pool area. I had been "scavenging" at various stations trying to assemble my breakfast, when what I was looking for was all in one place. Although the Vistas carry more passengers, I never had the feeling that there were 400-600 more bodies onboard. Nor did I think the distance from one end of the ship to the other was noticeably longer. Cabin: I received an upgrade from an inside cabin to an unobstructed ocean view. This was my least favorite cabin in terms of layout and amenities. There were no drawers under the desk/vanity in which to place items like underwear and folded clothing. In place of the drawers was a mini-bar/refrigerator which I didn't use. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom was placed at an odd angle that didn't provide much in the way of usable storage space. The shelf to the right of the sink was also small. The light around the make-up mirror was dim, making it unusable unless I turned on several other lights in the cabin. A few days into my cruise, I discovered two drawers at the foot of the bed under the bedspread and dust ruffle. There were also drawers in the bottom of the loveseat, but you had to move the heavy table in front of the loveseat in order to get to them. In other words, there was technically plenty of drawer storage space, but none of it convenient or accessible. Things I DID like about the room included the safe that uses a code instead of a magnetic card, and the lower bathtub that was easier to get in and out of. Ports and Shore Excursions: My apprehension about the ports was unfounded. All of them contained beautiful sights and plenty to do, and were cleaner than many of the ports in the Caribbean. I booked three excursions through the ship, and all three exceeded my expectations, especially the walk through Old Mazatlan. In Cabo San Lucas I went on the Land's End Boat Tour & Scenic Drive. We rode in a catamaran around Land's End, which is where the Sea of Cortez joins the Pacific Ocean at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. From the boat we saw Los Arcos, a rock formation that juts out of the sea. There's a "key hole" through which you can see from either side. The water was pretty choppy, and I was glad I wasn't in one of the kayaks being tossed around by the waves. After the boat ride, we got in a van and rode through downtown Cabo to the Sunset Da Giorgio's Restaurant that sits on a hill overlooking the bay. We relaxed on the restaurant's patio and admired the view while sipping ice cold bottles of Pacifico beer. In Mazatlan I signed up for the Old Mazatlan Walking Tour that lasted over four hours. The tour started at the walkway that extends for nine miles along the beachfront. We watched some local cliff divers, and then continued on to the heart of the old downtown area where we visited restored homes, stores, and hotels, along with a museum and an opera house. Near the town plaza, we stopped at a cafe for a beer and chips with homemade salsa. The area around Mazatlan is known for its tomatoes, and the salsa was the best I've ever tasted. After visiting the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the tour ended at the city market where we caught a bus back to the ship. Next it was on to Puerto Vallarta for the Puerto Vallarta Overview. Our bus took us to Old Town where we got out and watched some Native Indians hang upside down from the top of a pole, and then make a circular descent while chanting and playing instruments. From there we walked by City Hall on our way to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Back on the bus we rode out to an upscale residential area called Conchas Chinas and saw where the movie "Night of the Iguana" was filmed. I declined to have my picture taken with a live iguana perched on my shoulder. On the way back to the ship we passed through Gringo Gulch where Elizabeth Taylor and the late Richard Burton have a home. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant and had a beer and tacos. The corn tortillas were made right there in front of us, and they were the best tortillas I've ever eaten. Service: As always, the service on HAL was friendly and attentive. I had great dining room servers and a wonderful room steward. My dealings with the front desk were always a good experience. I would pass by there several times a day on my way to and from my cabin, and the people who work there have to have the patience of Job to deal with some of the passengers and problems they're confronted with. The onboard cruise consultant was helpful and informative, as well as available. He had a very soft sell approach. I ended up putting $100 down on a Southern Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam for December, 2009. The deposit can "float" for up to four years, which means I can transfer it to another cruise. Plus I got some onboard credit ($25), so it was a no brainer to go ahead and book while I was onboard. I've never stayed on a deck that had a bar, but the Olive Pit in the atrium on Main Deck became my pre-dinner hangout. How fortuitous that martinis are my favorite adult beverage. I enjoyed talking with the bartender as well as the other wait staff. Food: Much better than my last HAL cruise on the Volendam. Some of my favorite dishes included the butternut squash and apple soup, Dover Sole, Osso Buco, rack of lamb, and the salmon salad Nicoise. I found the dinner menus on formal nights to not be very inspired. On one formal night, I amazed the waiter and my tablemates when I ordered the vegetarian entree. It was a sauteed patty made of chopped vegetables seasoned with Indian spices, accompanied by chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce and stir fried bok choy splashed with soy sauce. Very tasty and a nice change of pace. The Master Chef's Dinner, not one of my favorite things, was somewhat toned down from what I experienced on the Volendam. Apparently this is something new HAL is trying on the Oosterdam. There is only one "parade" of food, and ship's staff other than the dining room staff participates. Anytime Dining: Since I usually cruise solo, having a set table with the same dining companions each evening is very important to me. I was so relieved when I found out I got my request for Fixed Dining, as opposed to the newly instituted "As You Wish" Dining option. I wasn't interested in eating by myself at dinner, or having to try to round up dinner mates each evening. Worse yet was the thought of walking into the dining room and asking to be seated with others, only to be turned down by tables as an unacceptable addition. Unfortunately, fixed dining wasn't a very pleasant experience for me on this particular cruise. The first night only I and another lady showed up at our table for seven. At the end of the meal, one of the assistant dining room managers came over and told us the other five passengers wouldn't be joining us for the rest of the week. He offered to move us to another table of two in the same situation. After our meal, we went over to the new table so that we could introduce ourselves. The reception we got was rather cold. The next evening the four of us were joined by another couple, so a table of six was cobbled together. Quite frankly, the general attitude at the table was condescending. I had nothing in common with these people and almost left dinner in tears. I gave serious consideration to just eating by myself in the Lido each evening, or asking to be switched to "As You Like It" Dining (I changed the name to give it a more Shakespearean flair). I had spoken to a few people that day who, although they were cruising with their spouse or a friend or family member, had asked to be seated with others in the Anytime Dining Room. They had only good things to say about their experience, so I thought about giving it a try. However, I made the decision to tough it out at my table one more night. The next night was formal night, and one of the ship's officers and his wife joined us for dinner. They were an extremely pleasant couple and helped to improve the general mood at the table. At the end of dinner, they asked if they could join us again for the next formal night. I was so relieved that there would be at least one more night without a lot of tension at dinner. The next two nights we didn't have a full table as each of the couples (separately) opted for the alternative Pinnacle Grill. Not having a good dinner table really detracted from the cruise experience for me. Activities: I found the onboard activities to be rather lacking. I generally sail solo, and look forward to playing bingo and participating in games like trivia and name that tune. Puerto Vallarta was a long port day, and there was little to do onboard in the afternoon for those who chose to come back onboard after their shore excursions. No bingo whatsoever that day, no craft class, and no tournament games. Not even an afternoon movie. Puerto Vallarta was followed by two sea days, and it was more of the same. One can only walk around the deck and workout in the gym so much. Reading gets boring after a while. I wasn't interested in paying $11 for a spinning class or attending an art auction. I did win bingo twice, which helped to offset my martini bill. Bingo was well attended, and was held in the Crow's Nest. Not the best venue, but the Lounge was off limits during the day due to the new song and dance troupe holding rehearsals. The disc jockey who called bingo was funny, but too chatty. Calling the numbers almost seemed like an afterthought to him. I noticed that the Dutch High Tea was scaled back (no hot items like Chicken a la King served over puff pasty), but I did enjoy the Mariner's Lunch for past passengers. On prior cruises there was the Mariner's Cocktail Reception. We had a great Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet", followed by a lunch in the dining room on the last day. Everyone I met from our online roll call was friendly and outgoing. I had the opportunity throughout the week to share drinks, meals, and shore excursions with many of them. Disembarkation: My flight home wasn't until 3 pm, so I decided to take the ship's transfer that included a tour of San Diego. It was pricey - $71 - but it sure beat sitting in an airport for 5 or 6 hours. We saw quite a bit - Old Town, Balboa Park, La Jolla, Coronado Island, etc. - so it was worth it to me. Summary: All in all it was a very enjoyable, relaxing cruise, minus the strange dining experience. Although the Vista class ships aren't my favorite, if the price and itinerary are what I'm looking for, I'll go for it. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
What a wonderful time we had on the HAL Oosterdam! My family (DH and two daughters, ages 9 & 14) and I flew down to San Diego one day early. (We left Seattle with temperatures in the low 30's and a threat of snow.) We stayed at ... Read More
What a wonderful time we had on the HAL Oosterdam! My family (DH and two daughters, ages 9 & 14) and I flew down to San Diego one day early. (We left Seattle with temperatures in the low 30's and a threat of snow.) We stayed at the Hampton Inn for one night. This hotel is very close to the cruise terminal.....about 3 blocks away. Although we had a room in the back, next to the train tracks, the noise at night didn't bother us too much. If you go to sleep early and wake up late, you might be bothered by the noise, but we went to bed after 10:00 p.m. and got up before 7:00 a.m. This hotel also has a very reliable, complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport and to the cruise terminal. Our stay here also included a complimentary expanded continental breakfast and chocolate chip cookies in the evening. The rooms are very clean and the front office very friendly and helpful. EMBARKATION: Very easy, if you have all of completed the on-line check-in process. At about 11:30 a.m. we dropped off our luggage at the dock, filled out the health questionnaire, and completed check-in in about 15 minutes. We then waited another 10 minutes before the ship's photographer took our picture and then boarded the ship. Then we were off to the Vista Dining Room for lunch. The Staterooms were promptly ready by 1:30 p.m. Everything was extremely organized and quick. STATEROOM: We had an inside quad. The room was very spacious, even for 4. Lots of closet space, but wished there was more drawer space. The space where there is usually more drawer space was taken by a small refrigerator with sodas, water and small bottles of liquor. Our cabin steward was Wagiman. He was excellent. He was in and out of our cabin so quickly, doing a wonderful job. We hardly ever ran into him except for the hallways. Our room was always clean and well maintained the entire cruise. Our daughters loved the nightly towel animals! The only problem we had was that, at times, we smelled cigarette smoke coming from the vents. Perhaps this is because our cabin was directly below the casino. Other than that, everything else was great. DINING: We had the early traditional seating for dinner. Our Waiter and Asst. Waiter were Soleh and Parwata. Both very friendly and provided us with great service. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and desserts. There was always something on the menu that appealed to us. Our daughters also selected items from the adult menu. They love trying new foods, especially the chilled soups. The Lido Restaurant also had wonderful service. We met the famous Hunky Dory. We really didn't eat in the Lido very often, but Hunky Dory remembered a couple of our names, which was amazing! We also had wonderful service from Muli……always greeted us by name as we walked through the Lido Restaurant. The Lido also has wonderful ice cream, almost 24 hours a day. ENTERTAINMENT: We attended the shows every night, except for the comedian who performed a late night act. Edge, the juggler was fantastic and funny. We totally enjoyed his performances. Delisco, a singer, was also very good. The production shows were very good, with some excellent vocalists and dancing. ACTIVITIES: There was always something going on on the ship. We attended many of the Culinary Arts demos, the Newlywed not so newlywed game, played bingo, and attempted the daily trivia from the library. Melissa, the Party Planner is hilarious! Our daughters really didn't participate in Club HAL, but wanted to hang out with us. That was ok with us, because it was a family vacation. The pool was quite crowed on sea days, and most of the children on board were well behaved. There was a pool party one evening with a dessert buffet and dancing. The chocolate fountains were especially fun and delicious. Parker, the Cruise Director was excellent! He and his staff did a great job with all of the activities. PORTS OF CALL: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta - We really didn't go on any excursions, but basically did some shopping around each port. One note of caution……watch out for all of the vendors and tour guides who mob you, once you get off the ship. One vendor even put jewelry on my daughter, trying to get us to buy it! Also, in Mazatlan, the taxi drivers drive wild. My daughters and I feared for our lives at times, barely missing other moving vehicles, including a bus and pedestrians. DISEMBARKMENT: Very organized and easy. We put our luggage out the night before disembarkation and we didn't see it again until we got off the ship, waiting for us in an exact location, color and number coded. Each cabin was giving a color which designated a specific time to disembark. Each color is assigned a time and you just to the gangway at your scheduled time. It's that simple. No constant announcements were necessary. SUMMARY: Overall, we totally enjoyed our Oosterdam cruise and would highly recommend HAL to others. The ship is spotless, always seeing a crew member vacuuming, cleaning glass doors, or polishing the brass railings. The service is EXCELLENT. We were always greeted with friendly smiles from the crew as we walked along the hallways. The front office staff was also very helpful and friendly. We were very sad to leave....wish we could have stayed on the ship for, at least, another week. We have sailed with HAL a total of 3 times and would definitely sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
We had previously sailed Oosterdam out of Seattle to Alaska, we thought we'd try her going south. We arrived in San Diego around midmorning and took a taxi to the pier - arriving there around 10:30. There was a luncheon scheduled for ... Read More
We had previously sailed Oosterdam out of Seattle to Alaska, we thought we'd try her going south. We arrived in San Diego around midmorning and took a taxi to the pier - arriving there around 10:30. There was a luncheon scheduled for the locals and we waiting in the outer area until they were ready for us. We were on board by 11:40 or so. Headed to the Spa to make an appointment to have hair done for Sunday evening's formal night - then to the Lido for lunch. Saw that Hunky-Dorey was still on board and said hello (what a great guy!) We had arranged the CC Banner Wave, so we picked up the banner from the HM's office around 2:40PM (and invited Marcella to our meet and greet). Headed to deck 5 where we had some 27 or so CC friends to do the wave and signing. LAFFNVEGAS was present via cell phone... ;-) Sunday we had our CC meet and greet. HAL provided the requested coffee and tea but Marcella provided champagne, bloody Mary's and hors d'oeuvres (and Monica - Asst. Event Coordinator). We also had AYW dining and it worked out great for us all week. We prefer to eat earlier than most being early risers while in the "real world". No lines! Immediate seating and prompt (initial) service. I think we attended some three of the evening shows - all were good (although we had seen the "ESCAPE" show while on our Alaska cruise). In Cabo, we did a snorkel shore excursion. The boat ride was great. The captain advised us that there was a jelly fish possibility and gave us all the opportunity to bail (nobody did). We headed out to St. Maria's Cove. The water was COLD!! and DIRTY!! It was like swimming in stew. There were some fish but we got out of the water after about ten minutes. Several folks on our excursion were stung by jelly fish. In Mazatlan we did a Salsa and Salsa shore excursion. Learned to make a great Margarita, six kinds of salsa and after drinking three or so Margaritas, attempted to follow our dance instructor in some Salsa steps. In PV, we did the America's Cup crew adventure. It was a lot of fun (but a bit more than we had expected - given that maybe 50% of those on our boat probably should have skipped the excursion due to lack of physical fitness, so those of us who were able bodied had to take up the slack). We enjoyed the Oosterdam on this trip as much as on our Alaska cruise. The lounge band was much better this time and we enjoyed dancing. We also enjoyed chatting with some folks from our CC roll call as well as another family we met. I'm not putting the Mexican ports high on my list of places to visit again but the cruise was fantastic! Capt. Mercer runs a tight ship! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Our cruise was a wonderful experience from start to finish. This was our first Holland cruise, but definitely not our last. This was my 12th cruise and it was the most relaxing and enjoyable one ever. Embarkation was pretty darn painless. ... Read More
Our cruise was a wonderful experience from start to finish. This was our first Holland cruise, but definitely not our last. This was my 12th cruise and it was the most relaxing and enjoyable one ever. Embarkation was pretty darn painless. We landed at 10:30 and collected our luggage. Then we took an elevator up one level to an overpass which we rolled our luggage across. Then down the elevator to the street level which lead to the taxi stand. The fare was less than $12.00 and took maybe 5 minutes. We were checked in and only had a short wait until they allowed us onboard at 11:30. Our cabin was a balcony on the 4th floor. The balcony itself was much larger then we have experienced on other cruise lines. Complete with 2 (that's right two) outlets at the desk/vanity. It also was equipped with a lighted makeup mirror, (that magnification can be very unforgiving). A very nice flat screen TV and a DVD player. It also was equipped with a hair dryer, (Although I always bring my own). The bed was comfy, as were the sheets. I personally would have preferred a heavier blanket/comforter, than the one we found in the drawer under the bed. There was plenty of room to store everything we brought. A large medicine cabinet in the bathroom and a large shelf under the sink to store items. Three closets, two of them were adjustable so you could have additional shelving or rod space. Two drawers under the bed, two under the sofa and two in each of the night stands. There was a lovely bouquet of roses and carnations in our room when we arrived as part of our vow renewal package. It was just as beautiful the last day of the cruise as the first. One of the first things we did, after eating of course, was to head to the Greenhouse Spa. After taking the tour we purchased the unlimited pass for the Hydrotherapy Pool and the Thermal suite. The cost was $40.00 a day or unlimited use for 2 for $250.00. If I hadn't read about it on this site I would have never spent the $$$, but after hearing such rave reviews from so many of you I indulged. That has to be one of my favorite parts of the cruise. Each morning I awoke and went up to the spa where I laid or stood in the Hydrotherapy Pool for 45 minutes to an hour. This pool has minerals and is heated to body temperature so you can stay in it as long as you like. When I finished I felt like I had receive a massage. Then in the thermal suite they had awesome showers. They have a cool aromatherapy mist and a large showerhead, which was much nicer than the one in our cabin. I took my shower (in my bathing suit), washed my hair and then combed through some conditioner. Then I sat in the seam room and let the conditioner warm in my hair. Then out to the cool mist shower to rinse out the conditioner. Then I went to the changing room to dress for the day. I put my makeup on at a sink and mirror that faced the ocean, so I had this fantastic view the entire time I was there, not to mention the relaxing music. In the thermal suite they also have these heated mosaic lounge chairs which faced out over the ocean. Several times during the cruise I would just go up with a book and lay there and read. Of course, I was usually asleep in 5 minutes. It was so very relaxing. We headed up for the Cruise Critic's Banner Wave and missed it by 5 minutes, ( We got lost !). But we did have a chance to meet some great people. I would definitely suggest getting together with a CC group on your next cruise. It very much added to our overall experience. The following day Cruise Critic Members meant in the Oak Room for a meet and greet reception. Which was very nicely arranged with Champagne, Bloody Marys and canapE's. We had a chance to put faces to the people we had spent months chatting with on theses boards while we eagerly prepared for our cruise. One of the first things that set the Oosterdam apart from other cruises I have been on was the crew. I have never been on a cruise where every member of the crew was happy, friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. If you just thought about needing something someone was there taking care of it before you could ask. This staff will go out of their way to accommodate your needs. When there was no interdenominational on Sunday because there was no pastor on board one of the passenger went to the pursers office and said they would really like to have something. The ship arranged a room, a keyboard and hymnal for a service on one of our sea days. Assisting in one of the buffet lines was a crew member, Hunkydorey, he remembered our names every time we came through the line. A crew member could be on their break and they would jump us to assist a passenger. This was not the exception, but the standard on this vessel. Okay now you'll know I'm a crazy person, but another thing which set this ship apart was the public restrooms. Oh my goodness, they were large, always clean and none of those awful dryers, they actually had rolled washcloths to use to dry your hands! On the lido deck there were comfy lounge chairs, as well as wicker chairs with tables for dining or play games. There were 4 ping pong tables which provided a lot of fun for both the players and spectators. I never did find the shuffle board, but they did have a basketball court on the observation deck. Through out the cruise they offered several classes that looked extremely interesting and would normally love to take. This cruise was just about relaxing, so we didn't keep track of the time well enough to attend. I plan to participate in all of them on the next time around. We walked through the casino and even put $4.00 in a video poker machine. Okay, I guess you can tell we are not big gamblers, The few time we were in there it was never crowed except for the video poker machine. We met the casino host on our Mazatlan tour and he was a great guy and said they are very happy to teach you the fine art of "throwing your money away" Okay, maybe those were my words and not his. There were little areas all over the ship where you could sit alone or with a small group and just enjoy. Every evening we found a nice place to dance and enjoyed the company of many wonderful people who felt like dear friends by the end of the cruise. I enjoyed dancing with one dear man, who I was later astonished to learn was 86 years young. The Northern Nights Dance Club seemed to be hopping every night. The dance floor was lively and crowded. Since we like to couple dance we headed for different areas. The Ocean Bar, Crows Nest, Lido Deck and the Queen's Lounge, ( although the night we went there to dance there was no one there, just music coming from some speakers. So we danced with the entire floor to ourselves, until we were joined by a delightful couple). We only went to three of the show. Two of them were the Oosterdam dancers and singer. What a talented group of people. We enjoyed them very much. We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle Grill. We would not do than again. But let me preface that by saying that I went in with a preconceived expectation. I based this on a previous experience we had on the Carnival Pride. There we went to David's Supper Club and it was a supper Club. Amazing food, a dance band with dance floor and dinner was an event, not just a meal. They even told us to plan on a minimum of 2-3 hours for dinner as it was a dinning experience, not a dinner. This was not the case with the Grill. The food in the dining room was amazing and I did not feel that the food at the Pinnacle Grill was an improvement. The dining room food was wonderful, especially the seafood dishes. Speaking of food, the buffet was definitely superior to any ship I've ever sailed. There was something for every appetite. Freshly prepared items to your order including items normally only found in the dining room. A Japanese bar, a deli bar, a salad bar and lets not forget the desert bar. Just thinking about it I put on 3 lbs. We had the open dining. We heard many complaints about this, but we loved it. There was no rush to get ready for dinner. We never made a reservation and never had to wait for a table. We had the opportunity to meet different dinner companions every night, which gave us more friends to run into during the day on the ship. We did not get off of the ship in Cabo. We relaxed on board and it was great. We took the Salsa and Salsa excursion in Mazatlan, with two other CC members Gary & Cynthia. We had a great time. All the Margaritas you want, which we made, all the salsa you can eat, which we made and prepare your hips for some sexy salsa dance moves. In PV we took the advice of Party Planner, Melissa and headed for Wal-Mart to pick up souvenirs without being hounded by merchants. Then we headed for our favorite little restaurant right there on the dock for fish tacos and Pacificos. We pre purchased the vow renewal package. Captain Mercer and Party Planner Melissa were the perfect hosts to our special ceremony. It was done very nicely and was a wonderful way to tell each other, "I would marry you again!" Debarkation was the easiest I have ever experience. We waited in our cabin, had breakfast delivered and sat and relaxed until time to disembark. I have never moved more swiftly through customs or had an easier time obtaining my luggage. A porter assisted us to a waiting cab and we were at the terminal within 5 minutes. Alas we were also at the end of our relaxing vacation. With plane delays and security checks we sat on the floor of the airport for about 5 hours. But all the discomfort of the delays were quickly forgotten when we got home to the waiting arms of 4 of our 15 grandchildren. (We just found out last night that #16 is on the way!!) I hope you find this review useful in helping to plan for your vacation. Please feel free to e mail me if I may answer any of your questions. Sincerely, Susan Curtis AKA Dancing Grandmommy Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
ABOUT US: Last week we had the pleasure of taking a family trip to the Mexican Riviera on Holland America's Oosterdam. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties, and our son is 12 years old. We became "hooked" on cruising ... Read More
ABOUT US: Last week we had the pleasure of taking a family trip to the Mexican Riviera on Holland America's Oosterdam. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties, and our son is 12 years old. We became "hooked" on cruising four years ago, and try to sail once a year, usually in the spring. In the past we have cruised on both NCL and Princess. We initially chose this itinerary because we wanted to avoid the extra cost of air travel, and wanted a port close to home. Thus, the Mexican Riviera was an obvious choice for a weeks vacation. We chose a sailing on HAL's Oosterdam primarily because the price was better than some of the other lines, and also based upon our travel agent's recommendation. Having perused these boards for about six months before our sail date, I was slightly worried that HAL would not be the line for us, and would stay true to its reputation as a ship for "old folks". This was definitely NOT the case, and I would recommend this ship and itinerary for any young family! TRAVEL TO THE PORT: We live about 10 minutes away from the Amtrak station in Fullerton, California, so we felt that would be the easiest way to travel to the port. However there was one problem with our plan; they were doing construction on a portion of the rail near San Diego, so all trains had to stop in Irvine where we were transferred to a bus which took us directly to the port. We opted to still travel this way, as it seemed easier than leaving our car at the port for a week, and honestly it wasn't a problem at all. The trip took about 2 hours, and the train station is only a few blocks over from the port. We easily made the walk with our luggage and were in the port within 15 minutes. EMBARKATION: Embarkation was a breeze. It took no more than 10 minutes before we were "purelling" our hands and walking through the gangway having our picture snapped. FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Oosterdam is one of the Vista Class ships. It is beautiful and immaculately kept. My family really enjoyed all of the fine artwork you find everywhere on the ship, and my son was particularly excited to see an Andy Warhol as that is his favorite artist. I liked the color scheme in the staterooms, as it wasn't as loud as some of the other cruise lines. The layout in the deluxe suite was much nicer than a mini-suite on Princess (which to me seems comparable in price and size). The bathroom was also the BEST one I have ever had at sea. The jetted tub was awesome! Service was hands down the BEST at sea. What I liked was how everybody remembered your name! Very personal touch!! Our room steward Wiri was awesome. My husband met the infamous Hunky Dory. DAY ONE: Once onboard my husband got to choose the first three places he wanted to visit (he won the right to do so in a family poker game the week before the trip). So, we visited the Observation Deck, the Sports Deck, and Deck 2 (the casino). I was impressed with the Observation Deck and the wonderful wooden loungers they had there!! What a nice touch. We then grabbed a drink from the Sea View Bar and made it up to our room. Afterwards, we met our fellow CCers and participated in the "banner wave". This is a tradition on the Oosterdam where CCers get together and sing a homemade banner, hang it over Deck 5 forward, and get a picture from a stationary webcam on one of the buildings. Back to the muster drill and sail away on our own private verandah. Our travel agent send us chocolate covered strawberries and Godiva chocolates, and we sailed away in style. DAY TWO (Sea Day): Our first day at sea was a busy one! We started the day off with breakfast in bed. Room Service is one area where HAL beats all the other lines we have sailed on, as you can order HOT foods as well as continental. My husband participated in the ping pong tournament while my son and I lounged near the lido pool. Lunch in the Lido was great. I really liked the diverse selections they had each day, and I especially liked the Wok for Chinese food. After lunch my son participated in Club HAL, and my husband and I went to the casino. Later I spent some time in the Hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite, and we finished the day off with our first formal night in the main dining room. CASINO: It seemed a bit smaller than others at sea, and I wasn't particularly thrilled with the slots they offered so we stuck to the table games. The dealers were very friendly and remembered us after the first day. The only negative were the men who worked in the cage. They were not very friendly towards us, and seemed like they were always "bothered" by guests coming to the cage. They were also a bit unorganized. It took a while to get a Texas Hold'em Game going, but once it started it was a lot of fun. The Slot Tournament and Black Jack tournaments were also a lot of fun, and very reasonable to participate ($20). All in all, we enjoyed the several days we spent there, and actually came out ahead! HYDROTHERAPY POOL & THERMAL SUITES: Very nice, very relaxing, but hands down does not compare to the one on the NCL Pearl. I did not like the fact that the hydrotherapy pool was down a long carpeted hallway, away from the dressing room and thermal suite. Also, you passed near the entrance of the spa and it just seemed odd when you are in a wet bathing suit passing other passengers. The price was $40 for a one day pass. The spa manager however let us come back the next day for free because it was the late afternoon when we arrived (that was the type of great service we received all week). FORMAL NIGHT: We had AYWD, which for us was GREAT - we like to eat at a different time each night. Formal night was the only time we had to wait(the line looked long but only took about 15 minutes). In terms of dress, I felt a bit dressed up in my beaded gown, as some women were wearing things I would wear to a regular restaurant back home, but I felt good when I received several compliments from other women. Overall though, the HAL Board makes it seem like it is a much more formal ship than it really is. I'd say only 25% of men wore tuxes. Most women in cocktail dresses, or less. DAY THREE: (Cabo San Lucas) BEAUTIFUL!!! We went on a sailboat and snorkel tour with a company we found on the internet "Cabosail". We had the boat to ourselves! It was an amazing day sailing in the bay. Snorkeling was OK. Saw some fish, but nothing like the Caribbean. Back on the ship we had tea in the Explorer's Lounge - delicious and relaxing after a busy day ashore. DAY FOUR: (Mazatlan) We did a city and beach tour with Mazatlan Frank and I can't say enough good things about him!! He was entertaining, thorough, and genuinely loves showing the city to people. The restaurant he took us to had the BEST shrimp tacos ever. The beach, Playa Bruja, was a nice place to look for shells and just relax. Dinner was the dining room menu delivered to our balcony. What a great way to dine. Again, HAL's room service beats all other cruise lines!! DAY FIVE: (Puerto Vallarta) Breakfast in the dining room today! I think we dined with the oldest passenger onboard (95 years old). It's so great to see people that age living life to the fullest!! I should only hope I am still cruising at that age. My son and I did the Dolphin Encounter through HAL, my husband did the canopy tour through HAL. We both equally had a great time. I wouldn't hesitate to do the dolphins again!! Afterwards, we spent the afternoon on the Krystal Vallarta relaxing by the pool. This is where the ship's crew hangs out, and it was interesting to see them not "at work". We also both got massages. Probably the best massage of my life, for 1/3 of the price you pay in the states. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Dinner in the lido - much better than a traditional buffet. DAY SIX: (Sea day) Breakfast in the dining room again! The food there is GREAT - even for breakfast. Definitely go with the daily specials! More fun at Bingo, Club HAL, Golf chipping, and in the casino. Another formal. Tonight was our anniversary, so my son order the dining room menu up to the room and dined alone, while my husband and I went on a date to the Pinnacle Grill. SUPERB FOOD. Best salmon!! Dessert (3 flavored creme brulee) was great! Dancing in the Northern Lights was a blast, and people of all ages were there. DAY SEVEN (Sea Day): Breakfast in the lido. Great selection. Try the mini donuts - YUM!! More casino and Club HAL fun. Trivia and Bingo. We also had the cooking class today. While fun, it wasn't what we expected. Not so much of an instructional class as it is a get together of 14 people cooking. It was fun for a first time experience, but I wouldn't pay to do that one again. Master Chef's dinner - a fun experience. Everybody wears silly hats and the staff puts on a little show. Of course, like always, the food was great. ENTERTAINMENT: Normally, I think cruise ship entertainment is what it is, kind of cheesy, but nonetheless entertaining. I did not see the HAL singers and dancers, but did see DELISCO! He was amazing! Top notch entertainment. DISEMBARKATION: Once again a breeze!! OVERALL: We had a great time and wouldn't hesitate to book another cruise with Holland America!! 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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