Sail Date: March 2005
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved ... Read More
This being my 32nd cruise and 4th with HAL. The Oosterdam is a family oriented ship and what it does it does well. We traveled the week of Spring Break and the ship was packed - 2100 passengers, it seemed like they were all well-behaved children. I didn't mind all the children as HAL has an excellent program for the younger crowd. The ship did not have that "overcrowded" feel. This is a 4-star (out of six stars) ship. That doesn't mean you can't have a 6-star vacation! It is a cruise ship fit for your family and not about luxury. HAL has tried to position itself as a premier line, but for the "middle class" Celebrity Cruises just does it better. Instead of writing about the destinations and such I'll just put my own views of the pros and cons of the ship. There are a great many well-done reviews of Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Pros: Food - better than all of the other middle class cruise lines Lido - Fine choices, but some of the Oriental dishes (?) I have never had before and I am Oriental. As an example - Miso soup without Miso and tastes like mushroom soup Crow's Nest - nicely appointed, comfortable setting San Diego Embarkation Port - allows a full day in Cabo San Lucas vs. a half day out of Los Angeles Bands - Cruise Control and Take Five are excellent Windstar Lounge - coffee! Decent, but slow service Casino - You can play for awhile and lose slower than on most other cruise lines Cruise Director and staff - young and good Clean - can be repeated again and again. Clean is good Staff - friendly, but overworked Elevators - glass outdoor ones! Short skirts are fine if you are not shy Cons: Service - Just calling it light is a compliment. Wait in line, get your own coffee in Lido. Lack of assistant waiters making some meals agonizingly long. Really I can't believe that HAL can get away with such light staffing. I felt the same way on the Rhyndam two years previously. Head waiters need a bit more seasoning (nuff said). Tender waits - overly long, longer, time to take a nap Entertainment - no orchestra/big band, shows not worth seeing. Indonesian staff show!? Embarrassing. I don't want to comment on this poorly done, but sometimes ok show. Cheap labor! Cheap! Okay - low cost. Disco - small dance floor with a huge column in the center of the floor. Unbelievable bad design. Spa - pay $15 a day to use the service. A first! Ambiance - Carnival plus Internet - I don't mind paying for quality, but paying by the minute when speeds are slower than dial-up is just bad business. Drink prices - smuggle your own Decor - Carnival plus Captain's Party - boring!!!!! Band? No big band! Dance on a postage stamp floor - so you don't dance. Photo prices - bring your own camera, better yet - bring your own cameraperson. Conclusion: Fine family vacation. Fine ship. As always could be better. Solidly 4-star. Put it this way, Crystal, Radisson, Cunard are 5-6 star ships. How can HAL be higher? Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a ... Read More
Background Information: Gay Male couple 40 and 50, professional and executive. 50th birthday celebration-- 2nd sailing on Holland America 4 cruises in 18 months. We enjoy cruising very much and found that Holland America is typically a good value for the price point. If you're looking for 5-star accommodations, food and entertainment, you'll have to pay for it. This is an affordable enjoyable line with a very friendly and efficient staff who try to do their best. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Dallas Fort Worth International to San Diego Stateroom: 8095- We typically sail in this category or the one just below it. The cabins for the most part are comfortable and spacious for a ship and the verandas on this ship are fairly large for the cabin size. That's where the positive ends. This is the "Bacon/Sauerkraut" cabin. It has a direct vent to the kitchen and many times the air flow is such that when you wake up in the morning you think that breakfast has been set in front of you-- but at 4 a. m. when they begin preparing it. Remember what I said previously-- this ship is staffed with very friendly and efficient staff that will do everything to appease you if they can. Unfortunately-- we arrived home with luggage, clothes and ourselves wreaking of food odors. They were unable to abate the problem. Their idea of compensation however, was to offer us dinner at the Pinnacle Grill their upscale dining room. Did I mention that we already smelled like food--? Ship Info: The ship is in okay condition-- Unfortunately, on the larger ships when they are on short turnarounds things break down. The Oosterdam is a relatively young Vista Class ship and the thermos spa was in disrepair and minor things like that. Overall the ship is not as "Glitzy" as a Celebrity cruise Millennium class but it still has all of the same amenities. The ship is kept impeccably clean any time of the day or night there is someone cleaning something. We don't think we found a place that wasn't kept immaculate at any hour of the day. Dining: It is always miraculous how many meals can be served without insult or injury. If you're looking for an exotic menu-- this isn't the ship for you. The cuisine is average catering hall fare with a nice presentation. What makes it more acceptable is the fact that the staff serves it with pride and makes you feel as one of these 6,000 plates was especially made for you. If you're looking for lobster shooters with caviar and vodka-- this is NOT the line for you. We typically enjoy the food on this line. Gone are the days of ordering "off" the menu though-- so if there's nothing on the menu that you want-- you can call room service and get something else or try to get into the Pinnacle. Activities: Unlike many of the onboard revenue schemes that are on most lines Holland America does a good job keeping it contained so that you don't feel like you're being nickeled and dimed for everything once on-board. Many of the activities are free and those that aren't are very affordable and make sense to pay for. Service: The staff on the Oosterdam and the Westerdam we find to be more friendly then their counterparts on Celebrity-- Our ideal cruise line would take the food and the ships of Celebrity and the staff from Holland America. The staff are not intrusive and do their best to assist you any way that they can. Often times they are bound by the corporate office in what capacity they can assist. In our case their offer of compensation was to put us in a lesser room and comp a meal. I am typically very brand loyal and will avoid a company if I feel that I've been slighted. American Airlines has now lost over 149,000 in revenue from me not flying their airline for the last decade-- and this is their hub. I will do anything to avoid them. Do they care? Probably not. But, I spend my dollars where I'm treated fairly and with dignity. Entertainment: If you cruise regularly-- the entertainment is what it is. If you're used to Broadway or Vegas type entertainment this is it's cheapest cousin Minnie Pearl! The shows on Holland America run typically from 3 to 5 years before they're changed and so what's on one ocean-liner is the same on all of them with in the line. They have a group of young talent who typically do the best with what they've got. They often hang out at the disco off of the casino and are great to talk to after the show. Again if you're looking for Broadway or Vegas-- Go there-- if not then enjoy. It's amazing to see what they're able to produce on probably a community theatre's budget and amusement park talent. They do okay. If you're looking for the next Streisand-- not gonna happen. Shore Excursions: Like all cruise lines these are designed mostly for the over 60 set or the 9-11 set. However, Holland America does have some gems mixed in there that are well worth the money to take. Swimming with the Dolphins-- although it says "it's a life changing experience" it's more of a memory with pictures that no one should be without. It was great fun and one of the more active excursions. We like to take the Kayak tour and the mountain biking tours. These are made for weekend warriors like ourselves and we find them just enough exertion to make us feel like we've earned the prime rib we're about to eat for dinner. If you get to Cast Away Cay-- GO! It's a beach that only the Walt Disney Company could replicate. Great service, white sand, and swimming with horses! Great fun. Disembarkation: Easy and unrushed. Holland America triumphs over Celebrity in people moving. This is an art form and Holland America could use a little polishing here-- but when you think of the number of passengers-- This is well orchestrated. Summary: If you're looking for top of the line marble bathrooms, and white glove service-- this isn't the line for you. Cruising has become more relaxed-- and as far as bad puns go-- that ship has sailed. If you're looking for an affordable, relaxing vacation with a wide range of middle class folks from the US-- this is your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we ... Read More
Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera This was the 3rd time I sailed with Holland America so I though it would all be predictable but I came across a few surprises. I was traveling with three friends and we flew in the day before to ensure we would not miss our cruise because of storms cancellations or flight delays. I checked into the Hyatt and had a fantastic view of the Navy and cruise ships in the bay. It was only about a 20-minute walk to the cruise ship the next day but we took a taxi to the port and avoided hauling the luggage by foot. The check in process took 45 minutes from when we dropped off our luggage to the time we walked onto the ship. The lady that checked us in was consistently sarcastic and confrontational stating that we should have provided out mariner ID # when we made our reservation and next time I should put a string around my finger. My last name was completely wrong and she blamed it on my travel agent. Finally we boarded, the line kept moving pretty fast. Once on board we had lunch at in the Lido and went to our rooms. I had a Superior Veranda Suite #6100, it was roomy, big balcony, nice bedding, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. I had the Mini Bar manager inventory the fridge and lock it so he would not need to knock on our door everyday chanting mini bar mini bar to see if we drank anything. Our stops were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, & Puerto Vallarta. We all were excited to register for the Canopy tour however it was sold out before everyone even came on board so my friends and I were pretty bummed out. They gave up trying and I checked the tour KIOSK every few hours and when someone cancelled their Canopy Tour and their ticket was for sale again I snatched it up. In Cabo San Lukas we did the Kayak and Snorkel adventure, we kayaked for about ½ mile and came right up to the sea lions&they were very cool and did not mind our curiosity, we then kayaked to lovers beach and rested. At lovers beach there are two sides, the calm side where you can snorkel and the Pacific side that you can look at but stay out of unless you want to be like a ant being washed out to sea & the waves on the Pacific Side were about 20 feet tall and very dangerous, my instincts told me to keep a healthy distance. Snorkeling in the calm side was very cold and uneventful as there were few fish. The Canopy tour in Puerto Vallarta was fantastic, we took a bus from the pier to a boat and then the boat took us to their office. Once at the office we took a truck to the canopy tour location. For about 14 separate (Zip Lines) we were flying sky high from tree to tree&Im afraid of heights but sometimes its good to face your fears&I loved it. At the end we rappelled back to the forest bottom, walked 20 minutes back to camp for the 1hour truck ride back to the pier leaving plenty of time to hit the city for shopping. Mazatlan was interesting, I grabbed a taxi and he took me to town &.there was a market place that was absolutely huge, bustling with the local residence shopping for this & that. There was pork for sale with the pigs head on top of the slabs of meat to let you know it was pork? (I was a vegetarian for a few days after that). Everything was for sale out of tents, on the sidewalk, and indoor warehouse shops. I walked around Mazatlan for about 6 hours breathing in the Diesel fumes and distinct odor of sewage before my headache said its time to go home. I know it may be strange to some people but I wanted to experience Mexico¬ just the shirt & sunglass shop at the end of the pier. The prices for CDs and DVDs were about 1 or 2 dollars. The prices for goods and services near the touristy hotels and the pier are about 2 or 3 times what people pay in the US however if you go where the locals go and can haggle& you can find good buys on everything from a fantastic 75 minute massage or that cool wood carving or porcelain dish you just have to have. Remember your taxi drivers at the pier usually speaks English and can take you to where ever you want just let them know exactly what you want, then haggle and agree over the price of the ride BEFORE you get in and off you go! Back at the ship I took a nap, shook off the headache, and grabbed a bite to eat. The employees on Holland Americas Oosterdam (Filipino and Indonesian) are friendly, helpful, professional, and hard working. The shows were so so and the Filipino Crew Show is always is a hit! The food is fantastic and I soon learned to avoid the long lines, crowding, and searching for a table on the LIDO deck, it was always more pleasant, & relaxing to have a site down meal (Breakfast & Lunch) in the dinning rooms - dressed casual. Dinner in the Vista Dining Room was outstanding, Charlie was our head waiter and he was great. Things are a changing for evening fine dinning&&..The surf and turf are now surf OR turf, & the sirloin strip steak, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, and chicken options at the bottom of the menu have been removed, & the cost of beer and cocktails have really gone up in a very short time. The 10 free minutes of internet access coupon comes with a hidden $4.00 activation fee and you need to negotiate the coupon with the internet manager, if you can find the internet manager that is&&.I say just save yourself the headache and ****throw the coupon away!**** I attended the Cruise Critic meeting and the hotel manager was there to answer any questions, instead of being defensive or making excuses for any faults that the cruise critic members brought up he simply agreed and explained in granular detail why things were the way they were and also gave us info on what cruises will be like in the future. I was shocked and very pleased with his integrity, frankness, and positive attitude. In conclusion, Holland Americas Oosterdam is a fine ship with a fine crew however it is owned by Carnival and is struggling to find its own unique identify. I was informed by a few Holland America employees that they are pressed with budget cuts, its a constant struggle to squeeze bigger and bigger profits out of its passengers with out being seen as just another generic run of the mill cruise line that nickels and dimes its passengers at every turn. Will Holland America maintain its premium status or will Holland Americas fleet be the same as Carnivals ships with a different paint job on the outside? I do not know the answer to this however the one consistent value I see that sets Holland America apart from the other major cruise lines is the noticeable lack of children (God Bless Them!) running around, undisciplined, screaming, unsupervised, and there is also a more mature passenger manifest that replaces the spring break students (God bless them all!) that come with their unique party hearty ambitions. If you're looking for a great value, peace, tranquility, boredom, then Holland America may be just the thing to get you relaxed and ready to take on the world! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, the second on Holland America. We chose San Diego because it was very close to home (Southern California) and the cruise was deeply discounted, a last minute special. The check in and boarding was a snap although I might add that we arrived at the pier early, 10:30 a.m. long before the transfer buses from the airport began to appear. There were ample porters and enough staffers to eliminate the long lines however, as usual; there were some individuals who had neglected to complete the pre boarding paperwork prior approaching the agent. As many correspondents have written, this slows the process to a crawl for those just arriving. Our boarding number was called within 5 minutes and we made our way up the gangway greeted by a young Indonesian in a bell hop suit from the 50s. He directed towards the elevator and we made our way to the Lido Deck for a buffet. It wasnt too long before the crowds began to muster and there was a noticeable lack of children and an even more noticeable proliferation of wheel chairs and walkers. The jury is still out as to which is the most difficult to deal with in a buffet line, I tend to opt for the children rather than to watch my youth disappear as I wait behind our most elder statesmen as they load their plates with prunes and oatmeal. (I am not being cruel here, as I am approaching my later years at breakneck speed, I am only commenting that a buffet may not be the answer for them). Our cabin was a mini suite with a very large veranda. Everything was nicely appointed right down to the teak lounge chairs on the balcony. The room had a large whirlpool tub with absolutely no instructions on how to operate (I think it was Italian) and a large stall shower as well. Overall the ship was very clean, not spotless. It showed signs of quick turn around back and fourth to Mexico and I noted from our room that new carpeting was being loaded into the holds along with the baggage and foodstuffs. I gather that they had carpet layers working overnight which, on Holland America is very quiet. By 10 p.m. you could shoot off cannons and not hit a soul! As long as I am on carpeting, as a frequent user of the stairs, they a carpeted in deep blue and all of the landings with a contrasting color making things somewhat difficult with regard to depth perceptions as to the exact location of those last couple of steps&.on the way down! At 4 a.m. on the first night out of San Diego we were all, I mean all, with a fire alarm followed by several announcements from Captain Van Whatshisname and the Cruise Director. Seems they had a bit of a fire somewhere where they incinerate garbage and the fire brigade put it out but not before the computer systems woke everybody onboard. During the following days the ship began to smell a bit like a Hong Kong Dumpster, I trust that the situation was remedied on our return to San Diego. The cuisine in the restaurant was good, certainly not great. One does have to consider than when cooking for 1000 plus individuals at the same time, it is difficult sometimes to conjure up that medium rare steak. The service people were all very good to excellent and were mostly Indonesian with a smattering of Filipinos running the pubs and liquor. The Lido buffet is very good however be prepared for the very slow lines. The room service menu is superb something that I believe goes un-noticed by many patrons on Holland America. The entertainment on the other hand is somewhere between very poor to non existent. Its a must to sit near the door on a Holland America Cruise while attending the show in order to make a quick escape. The Indonesian Crew Show is the only one I would consider sitting through again and I have seen that same one twice. Others have commented on the ports of call and being that we have done similar cruises before; we elected not to participate in the shore excursion programs. We always went ashore and hired a taxi to take us to our favorite digs. Disembarkation was nearly as easy as the departure phase. The night before arrival in San Diego everyone receives a color code to attach to their baggage and then simply wait in your cabin until your color is called&..that is, if you are up for that! I had notified the pursers office on day 1 that I had a commitment in Los Angeles the afternoon after our arrival and when my color was not called in the first three groups, I simply discharged myself and was pleasantly surprised that my baggage color code area was void of other passengers&&I was gone with bag in hand and no crowds. Overall the cruise was a satisfactory experience. I must add that Holland America is changing and that change may not be welcomed by the loyal customers from years gone by. I noticed a marked change in the overall quality from a cruise taken on HA just three years ago although that may be due in part to the relative size of this newer ship Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only took a few minutes to park and start the boarding process. This went very smoothly and we were in our cabin within 15 minutes. Our first observation was the ship was looking a bit worn. (Passage walls scuffed up, the carpet in places slightly coming apart). The cabin,with a veranda, was adequate size and medium range in its finish. The bathroom had a tub with a shower. The weather was excellent with daytime temps in the 80's and lots of blue sky. We wonder sometimes why we leave the desert this time of year but the weather was better than at home. (low 60's and overcast most the week). The first night we were "comped" into the Pinnacle room because of our platinum AMEX card. I had read various reviews of the Pinnacle and we were anxious to try it. The furnishing of the room were nice but I would say "funky" as the chairs were wrought iron and not really "elegant" and the rest of the room rather plain. The service was very good. I ordered the porterhouse as they really touted their beef. My wife had the scampi. The steak was cooked correctly but tough and not too tasty...I think we get better beef at Costco. The shrimp came with their shells on and after struggling a bit with the shells the waiter came to help my wife, he also struggled but finally torn the shells off and her verdict was, they were "O.K." not great. The appetizer were forgetful...we both forgot what we ordered. The best part was the desert, a chocolate soufflE-like dish that was tasty. We made reservations for the last night in the Pinnacle. The next day I stopped to ask if we could have a table where we sat side by side as we hate yelling across the table and the Pinnacle is quite noisy. I was told first come, first served. What is the point of a reservation? They only have one seating in reality. After thinking about the low quality of the previous dinner and thinking why spend $40 for this I cancelled the next day. I think you are better off to apply this at Ruth's Chris and get a really good steak. We ate in the dining room the rest of the nights and I had one good meal, prime rib. The rest of the dinners were either poor choices on our part or nothing that great to order. My wife ordered veal one night and it was over cooked, tough and had no taste. The potatoes, vegetable etc. with the dinner was not to appealing, like it was prepared much earlier and was dried out or cold. They also had a number of standard items such as vichyssoise "style" soup which they were able to mess up quite handily by adding apple. Getting fancy didn't cut it. The Lido we used for breakfast most mornings and for lunch. I tried their sushi and found it to be unlike any I have ever had and hope never to have again. My wife being Asian refused to eat it after the first taste. The sandwiches they made were good because of really good bread. So that was our take on food. Our room steward Ardi was the best! He was almost clairvoyant to our needs. He was always smiling, cheerful and really a very nice guy. If only we could take him on every cruise with us. The rest of the staff were friendly and we surely had no complaints about them. We did get a call from the office on the 6th day asking how everything was. I suggested they read my review at Cruise Critic. The other passengers were definitely the older crowd. (At 65 I consider myself not quite there yet.) Most were "snow birds" and seemed to enjoy the cruise. The entertainment was O.K. Their stage productions were somewhat weak but we were not on the cruise to go to the theater. A "Beatles sound alike" group was good and a comic had a few great lines. A "Hollywood Idol" program was really quite good with the ship's Cruise Director, Jimmy being a great "Simon". The next night they had a "Newlywed, near newlywed and not so new newlywed" game. It was really a stitch! We laughed so hard it seemed some of the responses had to be rehearsed. The shore excursions were very good. Cabo San Lucas being the weakest. We went on a 40 minute boat ride that was good and then to a hotel for a "great view". For the length of the ride the "view" was a let down. We have been to Cabo four times previously, the last in 1997 to marlin fish. The town is so overgrown and American with American prices it really has lost its charm. Next was Mazatlan. We did a tour with a great guide, Sheila. Saw the cliff diver and then a folkloric show that was really very good. After that a great buffet at a local hotel and an afternoon walk along a very lovely beach. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Up at 6 A.M. to leave at 6:40 for a dune buggy adventure. What a kick, 3 1/2 hours of thick dust, muffler less engines and a real kickbutt ride over outback roads and a visit to a few small villages. My wife thinks she is Mario Andretti and really got to live her fantasy. We came back caked with dust and were really happy campers. This made our trip. We took a bus into downtown Puerto Vallarta that afternoon and had a pleasant walk back. Disembarkment was well planned and speedy. We were called at 9:10 A.m. for a 9:30 departure and were on the road by 9:30! So assessing the whole thing we could only say we were somewhat disappointed in HAL as a cruise line. The food probably made the biggest difference and the physical condition of a ship built in 2003 was also a downside. Our last cruises on Celebrity (Constellation in the Baltic and the Xpedition in Galapagos Islands) gave us some prospective in evaluating HAL. We have a world cruise segment planned for next year with HAL (the Amsterdam) because they are going to places we really, really what to see. We also have another cruise with them in 2007 from L.A. to New Zealand and have decided after this to probably cancel and fly there. There are too many days "at sea" and I would have trouble looking forward to eating with HAL that many days. So we would and are taking them again but mainly because they are going to where we want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a ... Read More
Review of the Oosterdam  Mexican Riviera 4-11 February 2006 First of all, any cruise is a great cruise. Cruises may vary in degrees of greatness. I suspect that passengers on the Andria Doria remarked from the lifeboats, This was a great cruise until the last day. We have heard people complaining that about all kinds of minor distractions, seeking compensation. We once overheard a couple complaining that their whale watching tour went off late and they might have missed seeing that elusive grey whale, so they demanded their money back (for the tour, not the cruise). While I tend to be critical of little things, it is only done in the spirit of making things better and pointing out the little differences between all the cruise lines. My wife and I like to try different cruise lines rather than settling on one. We always have a fear that if we return to the same cruise line too often, we will quickly get bored with the same menu, same entertainment, same ambience, etc. We have cruised on Celebrity four times (including the old Chandris Lines), Crystal twice, Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and even Carnival when they were first starting out with weekend cruises. Having lived in Holland for two years, we always wanted to try a Holland America Line ship but the opportunity never presented itself. We signed up for this Oosterdam cruise on a spur of the moment about six weeks before our embarkation. We had a big birthday coming up and we knew we didnt want to be in town for it! What better way than to find a cruise and just go somewhere. We had been to the Mexican Riviera before and werent especially interested in the region. We chose this cruise more because of the timing, the weather and HAL reputation. To us the ports are irrelevant, we prefer to stay on board during port days anyway and take advantage of the ambience with less crowding. We work in customer service positions and look forward to observing outstanding customer service techniques associated with cruising. HAL shined with their people in this regard. Their unabashed enthusiasm set the personality of the cruise experience. Embarkation: We drove down from the Bay Area the night before. We stayed in LA overnight and drove down the morning of embarkation. Embarkation was uneventful There was a special line for suite passengers. If there was any delay in that line it was my fault in dragging all my carry on stuff too slowly. The non-suite line appeared to move along quickly as well. We were told that the suites were ready when we checked in (around Noon). We went right to our room and our steward said that he hadnt finished yet. It looked fine to us, but we left our carry-ons and toured the ship. Accommodations: We booked a SC aft suite (6187) with an obscenely large verandah. The room was rather odd shaped but seemed to work well. Lots of closet space. We couldnt decide what to put where, but thats our problem! TV reception was the best Ive seen on any ship. Consistently clear. There were a limited number of channels, CNNI, ESPNI, and TNT mainly, plus some channels produced on the ship. On our last Celebrity cruise, the TV said that the ship was out of satellite range as we cruised into New York harbor! While our room was impeccably clean upon our arrival, we noted something rather unusual  no life vests. Our steward went on a search mission and the errant vests were finally located under the bed! No big deal but it led us to believe that attention to detail was lacking in room preparation. Of all of my cruises, this room was among the noisiest. Lots of little creaks and squeaks. In an aft cabin, this is more common, but seemed to be more prevalent here. On the good side, none of the creaks were loud and never interrupted our sleeping. There was also a large clock on the wall and you could hear it advance by the minute. Again, not a sleep-interruptor. Deluxe suites come with free laundry, very handy! Our steward, Arson, did everything we threw at him with quiet unassuming professionalism. It just got done! On the first night out, a fire alarm sounded about 4 AM. Apparently a smoke detector in the incinerator room activated (yes, we know all about the purpose of an incinerator). The Captain went on the PA system and explained what was happening. Five minutes later he announced that a small fire was extinguished. We heard several passengers grumbling about being awoken for nothing. I thought differently  the system works and it was reassuring to hear that the crew did such a great job. I wonder if something really bad had happened, how the media would handle it. Fire officials havent made a final determination of the cause, but they suspect it was Arson. Spa  Thermal Suite: We took advantage of the spas Thermal Suites offer ($250 for a couple for the week) and found it was money well spent  an oasis from the hustle of the rest of the ship. The masseuses tried to push their products more than on other ships, but after we each emphatically said no the first time, they didnt push their pitch again. The spa (Steiner employees) front desk staff was often curt when we asked for a key to the Thermal Suites. We already paid our money up front, now they couldnt be bothered with us. What was more disturbing was that twice we went to go to the thermal suites after dinner, only to find out that they decided to close earlier than the hours published in the daily program. They didnt seem to be concerned that the hours were incorrectly posted there. Tough luck! Dining: We booked the Pinnacle Grill for two nights in advance of the cruise. The higher quality service and food was well worth the surcharge. While not quite as good as the specialty restaurants on Celebrity or Crystal, the Pinnacle didnt try as hard to be as special and thus was not nearly as pretentious either. Celebrity often tries to hard and occasionally misses. One Golden Moment challenge is that I asked for a rather unique after dinner coffee. It has gotten to the point that I bring my own flask of flavored syrup on board cruises. Well the folks at HAL got creative and combined two different coffees to get a close approximation to what I wanted. The wait staff was unusually efficient, to the point of making us feel rushed on occasion. Rarely was there a wait between courses. Live music showed up for only the last two days. It would have contributed to the overall ambiance of the setting. Another Golden Moment came when we went to the Lido Cafe about 9 PM when my wife and daughter wanted chocolate ice cream. There was no chocolate flavors among the four flavors available (rather surprising in itself). The server said he couldnt get more. As we walked away ice creamless, I saw one of the Lido Managers and asked him why they couldnt fulfill a simple request like chocolate ice cream. He immediately sent a steward down to the second-floor galley to fetch two servings for us. Another customer save! Thanks JT!!! We noted that the smoked salmon was hand sliced, not machine sliced and pre-packaged as on most other cruise lines. We usually have liked to have breakfast in the main dining room, but found on the Oosterdam, the choices and quality were better on the Lido. My favorite foods on the ship were the hash browns in the Lido buffet and the bratwurst and knockwurst at the burger bar. Normally, we prefer fancier foods but when a dining venue does simple things exceptionally well, it should be noted. Public Rooms: Decorated not to our tastes  too busy with conflicting color schemes and off-beat patterns. Layout got a little confusing at first. We noticed a more intimate, boutique atmosphere. The big ship feel just isnt there. The dining room, although it seats close to 1000 had a more intimate feel. Service: Most of the cruise lines offer a butler at this level of accommodations. HAL has a concierge room, the Neptune Lounge, staffed with two all too helpful ladies, Marj and Esther. Since we rarely took advantage of butler service anyway, we were interested to see if a concierge would be more to our liking. Unlike most of the suites, we were far away from the Neptune (Concierge) Lounge. The lounge was a nice place to go and relax when we had grown tired of the four walls of our room. The concept of a concierge rather than a butler was a plus, in my opinion. We never quite figured out what to do with them anyway. When needed, they even came to our room to fix things, just like a butler would. We looked for other customer service golden moments, times where the staff has the opportunity to shine. The Oosterdam staff succeeded in most of these situations. However, in one situation, the result was less than desirable. There was a Walk a mile activity scheduled for 5:15 one day. When no staff members were there at the appointed time, I took off walking anyway. After the first turn of the Promenade Deck, we encountered about 10 staff members, sitting out on the deck, smoking. Not the best way to encourage healthy living. After another quarter of a turn, we found that the Promenade Deck had been closed for maintenance (cleaning). Come on guys - get the maintenance and the event staff to talk to each other! A key plus was Linda, the shopping hostess, who we saw while shopping at Mazatlan. Our daughter had a dilemma, she had picked out a necklace and bracelet she wanted but couldnt find a matching set of earrings. Linda checked and located the matching earrings. Another keeper was Christopher, a lovely young man who works in the Windstar Cafe (coffee bar). I gave him a complicated order for three drinks and he kept on getting them confused. He was constantly getting interrupted by passers-by who asked him various questions, at which point he had to ask me repeatedly about my order. One man insisted that Christopher find a cribbage board for him. Poor Chris didnt have a clue even what Cribbage was, but the man was insistent. He handled it all with aplomb and when he couldnt locate a container to take these drinks up to our room, he loaned me a serving tray (actually he first offered to bring them to my room), on the promise that I return it as soon as possible. Resourceful under pressure. On embarkation we asked our steward to empty out the minibar so we could put bottled water in it. Before noon the day before disembarkation, our steward emptied out and locked the minibar. I guess the cruises hospitality ends about 24 hours before the cruise did. Activities: My wife is happy just hanging out on her balcony, catching up on her reading and listening to her music. As a result, we are not the gadfly types. To get us to participate in any activity has to be incredibly attractive to us. The daily program had a number of activities that we almost participated in, but either the balcony or the thermal suite beckoned. Entertainment: Once again, HAL keeps it simple and doesnt try harder to accomplish what it cannot achieve. The simple productions are on the mark. Although not as lavish as Celebrity or other lines, the performers were better in the basic things that they can do well. Perhaps why they call it the Vista Lounge, more of a large night club than a theater. Itinerary: We arent really into ports, and didnt spend much time on shore during the cruise. To us, the best time to be on board is during port days. Less crowded. It appeared that the ports and activities overall were better than on a Caribbean cruise. The layout of the itinerary (Embarkation day, one sea day, three straight port days, two sea days, then disembarkation day) was probably the most conducive for getting into the cruise experience. We talk about getting into cruise mode (where you forget your work and home responsibilities, throw away your watch and adopt a dont care attitude) as fast as possible and the layout of this itinerary made the most of this. Disembarkation: The best weve seen. We were called around 8:40 AM, picked up our bags, called for the parking shuttle and had our car packed and on the road at 9:08 AM. It would have been faster if we had called for the shuttle earlier (right after clearing customs rather than waiting till we hit the curb. Couldnt have been quicker or easier! Odds and ends: This section will reference some of the questions often asked on the CC Boards. We took a laptop with Wi-Fi access and bought 250 minutes for $100 on embarkation day. I was curious to see where reception was. I got a very weak signal from the aft veranda, but it was unusable. We got a strong signal in most public areas, which was sufficient for our needs. The speed wasnt broadband, but was quite a bit faster then the two times telephone modem speeds that was advertised. There were 4 open 110 Volt, three-pronged receptacles in the cabin. I bought along a power strip and also a new device called the Squid, which consist of five wires and outlets coming out of one plug. If you have appliances that have transformers in the plugs that block access to all the power strip receptacles, this is for you. You can put five different transformers on the plugs without any interference. We then attached a power strip and an extension cord to the squid so we could use some appliances/chargers in other areas around the room. Observations and Comments: We noticed that on, other cruise lines, the staff seemed to be programmed on exactly what to say in common situations. If you ask a steward how they were doing, theyd all reply, Excellent! The staff of the Oosterdam had a lot more leeway in their responses and this contributed to the relaxed, informal atmosphere. It appears that all cruise lines are becoming more homogenized and middle of the road. HAL seems to be losing its own identity and heritage, the things which sets cruise lines apart. There was a lack of anything Dutch on the ship. The personality of the ship was homogenized American. We were hoping for some Dutch remnants as we lived in Holland in the early 90s. We asked for fritesaus and pindasaus at the burger bar and got knowing smiles from the staff but, alas, nowhere were these delicacies available. Before cruising we ordered two Coffee Card Specials (6 coffees and a travel mug) online for our daughter and ourselves. Our daughter got hers delivered to her room on the first day. We never got ours. When we asked, they said that they were no longer available, in effect denying the existence of our daughters card. One of the highlights of the ship is the wrap-around Promenade Deck. It is a vanishing perk and was thoroughly enjoyed. There was a large (32 inch) CRT TV sitting on the desk, or rather taking over the desk. Since there is little to watch on ships TV anyway, a smaller TV would have been more helpful. When walking down a hallway, we observed a woman talking to a steward, asking if she could come into a room (not hers). She said she just wanted to see what the rooms were like on the fourth floor. The steward allowed this. We call this a security breach. At the muster drill, we were led down a staff stairway to our muster station. Along the way we passed a sign, intended for the staff, that said something like No is not an option. Well, were often told No several times by stewards and staff, only to get things as we requested when we went to supervisory staff. It shouldnt happen this way. The service staff should say something politely I dont have that, but Ill check it out and then go to the supervisors for help. But No is so final and the requests were so minimal (like chocolate ice cream), that one has the impression that the staff prefers to avoid going to their supervisors and instead leave their customers disappointed. If the staff were more empowered to take action, service standards would be elevated. The first formal night was Super Bowl Sunday. While there some very nice parties arranged around the football theme, it was somewhat awkward to watch the game and eat the munchies in formal garb. Wouldnt it have been better to move formal night to another evening? Summary: Overall, a very nice cruise, a small step below Celebrity, which also has fallen, in my opinion. Would I cruise Holland America again? Absolutely, just not for awhile. We would rather try a variety of cruise lines before coming back to HAL, perhaps next time on a smaller, more intimate liner. For photos of this cruise go to http://community.webshots.com/user/iggledoer Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from ... Read More
This was my 10th cruise, 1st on Holland America. I have been on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I am 38, my husband is 46. On this cruise, we travelled with a group of 34 people (for my sister's wedding) ranging in age from late 20s to mid 60s. We arrived in San Diego the day of the cruise. The port is only minutes away from the airport, which was nice. Embarkation was very quick and pleasant. We arrived on the ship early and were not allowed to go to our cabins, but were shown to the buffet where we had lunch. Our cabin was a balcony. The size was comparable to all other lines. I liked that the bathroom had a bath/shower combo. Dining was good. We ate in the main dining room all but 2 nights. We had two dinners in the specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle. Excellent food and service in The Pinnacle. When comparing this ship to others I have been on, I didn't think that it measured up in terms of activities or entertainment. They seem to cater to the older crowd and by 10pm, the ship is very quiet. The younger people in our group managed to make their own fun by whooping it up at Northern Lights - the disco next to the casino. The ports were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Cabo was our first stop. It is beautiful! We went to the beach in the morning and attended my sister's wedding on Pedgral Beach in the afternoon. I experienced Stone Island beach on Mazatlan which was AWFUL! It was dirty, the water was muddy, there were dogs running around urinating. Absolute YUCK! Would never go back there. My husband played golf, however, at Estrella Del Mar which he loved. Next stop was Puerto Vallarta, which was awesome. It is so beautiful and there is so much to see and so much to do. A lot of the people on the group did the canopy tour which received great reviews. My husband and I and another couple hired a driver to give us a 3 hour tour to see all the highlights of the area. He charged us $45/per person and it was well worth it. He would have charged us less if we waited for more people to join us in the van, but it is worth it to go with a smaller group. The two days at sea before returning to San Diego were pretty sedate. The weather on the ship was cool and windy. We spent a lot of time in the casino - slots were very tight, blackjack was OK. We had two people in our group win big in craps. Disembarkation was extremely quick. We had originally been given a 10:20am flight back home and changed it because we were afraid it was too early. It would have been no problem at all. We were in the airport by 9:00am. All in all, it was a nice vacation. For my age group, however, I would prefer to stay on Norwegian, Carnival or Royal Caribbean for any future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 ... Read More
My wife, son, and I were on the November 18th sailing of the Oosterdam. Since we were flying in the same day as the sailing, our day started at 2:00 am. We left Kansas City at 6:30 am on Frontier airlines, and arrived in San Diego at 9:30 am. We took a taxi to the port and dropped our luggage off at the ship around 10:15. We exited and walked around the port and visited the USS Midway museum. We returned to the cruise port at around 12:15, and got in line to board the ship. The embarkation process went pretty smooth considering the Holland America reservation computers were down. We boarded the ship by 12:40 and proceeded to the Lido deck for lunch. At 1:00 they announced we could go to our rooms. We had booked a Deluxe Verandah Outside room (5125 on the Verandah deck). Since we were a group of 3, I would say the room was a little small. I think if it were just my wife and I the room would have been fine. The balcony was small with a door that opened out. Also with the couch made into a bed you couldn't easily access the balcony. But it had a nice sized bathroom with a tub. Also I will say that the bed was by far the most comfortable of any of the cruises we've been on. We ate most of our meals in the Lido buffet, but did have one meal in the Vista dining room. We did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill. The food I thought was very good to excellent. The variety of food was good. Typically for dinner you ordered your meal and it was plated and brought to you by the wait staff. I miss having the Muesli for breakfast. The experience on the ship was different from our other cruises. We've sailed on 2 of the Princess Grand class ships, and a Royal Caribbeans Radiance class ship. The Oosterdam isn't as big as either class of ship. The ship public areas seem small. This gives the ship an intimate feel. The atrium was small and not as impressive as on other ships. Getting around in the public areas on decks 1, 2, and 3 sometimes seemed like a maze. But the ship had a lot of elevators and stairs that made getting to the different decks easy. With the exception of the Lido buffet, during meals, the public areas were never crowded. The housekeeping crew kept the ship immaculately clean! One thing that was interesting compared to our other cruises was the room steward. Our steward never came up and introduced himself. Likewise you never had the big housekeeping cart sitting out in the hallway all day long. Unfortunately one of the ships azipods was not working which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Likewise there was a pronounced vibration on the back of the ship. I don't know if this was because we were running on one pod and it had to work harder. The crew all seemed very nice and helpful. As I mentioned we didn't get to know the room steward but he did a good job of taking care of us. The wait staff in the dining room were very courteous, and efficient. We were part of a Cruise Critic meet and greet forum. The cruise line helped one of the members arrange a meet and greet, and we met the cruise director. The photography staff didn't seem as pushy as with other cruise lines, which was appreciated. This was our first cruise down the west side of Mexico. I had wanted to do this itinerary for a while. As I mentioned the ship was running on only one engine, which reduced the amount of time we had in each port. Our first stop was Cabo San Lucas. Due to the engine troubles we were limited to about 5 hours in port. We arrived at noon, and they started issuing tender passes about 12:30. This is a tender port, and the winds kicked up the waves a little. The ship enlisted additional port tenders from the city, and thank goodness they did. The ships tenders had problem getting into position to load people. More than once I saw one of the ships tenders hit the side of the ship. It seemed to take 3 times longer for the ship tenders to get into position to load passengers. The port tenders would pull up and dock with no problems, and probably made twice as many trips as the ship tenders. Needless to say it took almost 2 hours for them to get to our pass number. We got to port about 2:45. With the little time left about all we could do was wander through town and shop. We did receive a twenty-five dollar per person credit for the reduce time we had in port. Cabo San Lucas looks like a really nice place. The street vendors were very aggressive! The next port was Mazatlan! We didn't preplan any excursions through the cruise line, but had planned to see what we could arrange in port. We found a group that offered all day tours of the city and would drop you off in the resort area for a few hours before taking you back to the port. The tour was really interesting and we were able to see a good cross section of the town and population. We arrived at the resort area and the driver recommended a restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed the meal, particularly the margaritas. The beach was really nice. After eating we went to a small shopping area where we bought some souvenirs, and then returned to the ship. The last port was Puerto Vallarta. Again we arranged a tour at the port. The guide was excellent, taking us through a good portion of town and south down the coast to several points of interest and places to take pictures. Last we ended up in a small village where they had a Tequila factory. We did a tasting and roamed around the village. It was fascinating and we bought some more souvenirs. Later we returned to the port, where my son returned to the ship. My wife and I ate lunch in port and did some more shopping, finally moving to the beach and wading in the ocean. We tendered back to the ship and cleaned up and relaxed. Later on they had a cook out and mariachi band in the Lido Deck pool area. The city and port are beautiful, and I really enjoyed Puerto Vallarta. The last two days (including Thanksgiving) were spent at sea heading back to San Diego. We had a traditional dinner on Thanksgiving. The sea days were nice with lots of activities on the ship to keep you busy. We visited the casino a couple time, and I actually won a little money (which is really unusual for me). I also spent quite a bit of time on the balcony reading and relaxing. We bought an Internet access package, and used out laptop and wireless network card in certain parts of the ship (usually the Crows Nest lounge). Access wasn't particularly fast but it wasn't dial up slow. Finally the cruise came to an end. On Friday we received our disembarkation packet. We packed and placed our bags outside our door prior to going to bed. Upon arrival in San Diego we enjoyed our breakfast, and returned to our room and waited to be called to disembark. We were called about 10:00 and we proceeded to the gangway and were checked off the ship. We presented our immigration documents in the terminal and our customs sheet. Then to the baggage area to pick up our luggage! I must say that this was by far the easiest and most convenient disembarkation process I've ever had. I wish all of the cruise lines would be this easy. We caught a taxi to the airport to drop off our luggage and then returned to town to look around some more. Finally we returned to the airport to catch our 3:00 pm flight home. This was a wonderful trip! I do wish that we had been able to enjoy all of the time advertised in each port. But the ship was very nice as was the ships staff. I wouldn't mind doing this itinerary again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt ... Read More
My husband and I had never cruised before but were beginning to think about it. We'd been to Hawaii twice and the hotels are very pricey and not always nice, and then you add the cost of food and it's very expensive. My aunt brought some fliers to a family function and was trying to get the whole family to book. We thought it looked great and booked in February. I probably should have done more research before booking, but I think we got lucky. Because it was a very nice cruise. The stateroom was small but reasonable(my husband is 6'4" and didn't hit himself on anything) we had a nice couch (that can fold out to a queen bed) and private veranda w/ rattan furniture. Quite charming. The shower had a removable wand which was very convenient and a small, but moderately deep tub. They don't have any non-smoking rooms, which concerned me, but there was no sign of previous smoking in our room. When we arrived at the port a porter quickly took care of our luggage and directed us to check in. The staff seemed quick and efficient. We filled out forms registered our passports and took photos for room key data-base. Once on the ship there was plenty of staff to direct you to your cabin - and in tidy bell-hop uniforms w/ white gloves(a nice touch). Most of the crew is from Indonesia and they were all so friendly and helpful. Extremely nice! Leaving San Diego was really rough, but the front desk gives you free motion-sickness pills(nice!). After the lifeboat drill there was a "fiesta" sail-away party on the lido deck. The lido deck had the family pool(inside w/ retractable sunroof), the buffet/casual dining restaurant spa and adult pool outside. They had a party every time we left a port but the buffet food served was not the best. We had "leisurely" late dining- show up between 8-9. We enjoyed the flexibility. The food was quite good in the beautiful Vista dining room, but the soups were a little weird. I had excellent lamb and also very moist duck. My husband liked the prime rib. They had an abundance of fresh, ripe fruit which we enjoyed. The lido restaurant is casual and made up of themed stations(Italian, Asian, etc...) you go to the station and the staff serves you. Dinner is crazy there(families) so we only went for late lunch or breakfast. The pancakes tasted like whole grain, and they eggs were soft - not dry. There were also homemade pastries, and an ice-cream bar. You could also order breakfast in your room the night before w/ a form. They deliver it when you want. Also there's 24 free room service. Sometimes it was hard to get through - you would be on hold a long time and delivery could take an hour during peak times. However the food was delicious and it was convenient. I wished that the full lunch was served later in the day(esp. w/ late dinner) but there was always pizza and pasta which was very good. Not like Fresh Choice. Shore excursions- we booked several offered by the ship and the Mexican tour guides really took good care of you, were very friendly and spoke English fluently. There were many choices in the "catalog" water sports, walking tours/bus tours, shrimp feasts, nature hikes... If you don't know the ports I recommend booking a shore excursion. We went kayaking in Mazatlan, and took a city/country & tequila factory tour in Puerto Vallarta. Some ports didn't have docks and so the ship would anchor near the shore and "tender". They used the very nice lifeboats(no orange rafts!)to ferry you back and forth as much as you wanted. Several crew members helped you in and out of the boats. In the morning if you wanted to go ashore you had to get your party together then get "tender tickets" after that you could go anywhere on the ship and wait for them to call your number. It was a very efficient process. The boats do rock a bit so you if you get motion sickness take out some "insurance". Shopping-the shops on board were not that exciting, they had some nice tropical clothes, and men's accessories and a lot of jewelry. It seemed like a typical resort store. The sundries area is very limited so try to bring everything you might need. I went to the shopping ambassador's talks, which was like watching QVC, but she had some good advice and tips about shopping in Mexico. She also handed out maps. I bought jewelry in recommended store in Puerto Vallarta and got a substantial discount just by mentioning her name. Entertainment-there were many options on the ship. Everyday an easy to read schedule was delivered to your room w/ a list off all the days activities. There's a casino, night club, piano bar, various lounges, movie theater, and a main showroom. We're not much for casinos, but if you are into that sort of thing they had all kinds of events. I didn't get to the movies, but I saw some of the live shows. The musicals were rather cheesy and the dancers weren't always in sync. The best was Joel Mason- an Elton John impersonator. He was very funny and a great showman. He said he was coming to the end of a long contract on this ship so I don't know what they will have next. There was also an illusionist, an adult comedian, crew talent show, and a variety show at the end (w/ Joel doing different material). The nightclub, "northern lights" was small and rather warm, but the decoration was fun and whimsical. It's popular w/ the younger set. During sea days they had a least 5 activities to choose from each hour. It seemed like they had something for everyone. My husband liked to lay out on the deck. I enjoyed selecting activities and particularly enjoyed the culinary demonstrations w/ the executive chef. I also enjoyed the afternoon tea, but it was a little crazy and understaffed. Once a week they have the "royal Dutch tea" which was a spectacular buffet style event w/ loads of pastries, and canapes and string quartet. Don't miss it! The spa- the Greenhouse Spa was quite lovely and offered a variety of exotic treatments(including acupuncture!) at exotic prices. They offered specials on port days and the last sea day. I got a massage, facial and foot rub and it was very pleasant, but the table was too narrow. They use Elemis products(and toiletries in your room) which didn't irritate my sensitive skin. They had a gorgeous hydrotherapy pool I wanted to try but they closed it and all the hot tubs due to a stomach flu outbreak. Kids: HAL caters to an older crowd and it was a very quiet ship for the most part. There were 450 kids on the ship but you never would have known it. They offer "club hal" on the 10th deck for the kids and a mom said her young son loved it and spent all day there. Debarkation. A packet was delivered to your door the night before w/ necessary forms, luggage tags, and instructions. You tear off the colored stubs of your luggage tags then place luggage outside your door that night. The porters come and take care of it for you. We chose to have breakfast delivered to our room the morning of, but they also were serving an early meal in the Lido restaurant and Vista dining room. After breakfast they start calling numbers by color and you are free to walk around the ship or hang out in your room while waiting for your number/color. It was fast, and once you got off luggage was organized by color group. Other details: drinks: Free 24hr tea, coffee, juice and hot chocolate in the lido restaurant. Soda was 1.75/can or at the bar. They offer a discount via soda card for $20. They punch it each time you order one. Booze: a lot of people complained about the high prices, but I say "what did you expect?" There were drink specials, but expect typical bar/club prices + a %15 gratuity. Everything(shopping, shore excursions...) is billed to your room card which is linked to your credit card. You cannot pay cash, but you could put down a cash deposit w/ your room card. Tipping is included in the $10/day per person "hotel fee". $3.50 goes to your cabin steward, $3.50 to your dinning staff and $3 to "unseen" staff. You can adjust rate up/down at front desk. Sickness- if you contracted the stomach flu virus going around(every effort was made to stop it -purell everywhere) your cabin was quarantined for 24 hrs, but they allowed you to order from the dining room menu via room service and offered free laundry and dvds and ship board credit. All in all I would say it was an excellent cruise and we didn't want to leave. I was very fond of our dining steward and was sad to say goodbye. As I mentioned HAL does cater to an older crowd - my husband and I are young and enjoyed the atmosphere. If you want a wild party scene you may want to look elsewhere. If you want a relaxing, fun cruise with great food then I recommend this ship! We are already thinking about booking another cruise w/ HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem ... Read More
DISAPPOINTING! Since October, Holland America has been operating the Oosterdam with one Azipod engine, not the two engines the ship was designed for. We booked the cruise on 11/13/2006. After booking the cruise we learned of this problem in early Dec by reading the reviews on WWW.CRUISECRITIC.COM . The travel agent was notified by HAL for the first time on 12/12/2006 and they advised us that HAL would not return our funds if we cancelled the cruise. Other passengers we met on this cruise stated HAL's management decision unethical. WE AGREE! The only information that HAL is now providing is a revised 'time in port schedule'. BITE THE BULLET HAL AND FIX OR REPLACE THE ENGINE. AS A RESULT OF HAL's MANAGEMENT DECISION WE WOULD NEVER AGAIN CONSIDER ANOTHER CRUISE ON ANY SHIP OWNED BY CARNIVAL (CARNIVAL, PRINCESS OR HOLLAND AMERICA) despite the fact we truly enjoy thE Caribbean Princess. We value ethical management. Somehow that characteristic PERVADES everything else you experience on board. If you stay in SD overnight stay at the Holiday Inn. It's just too convenient. We did not experience many of the problems that were cited in prior Cruise Critic passenger comments such as poor service, odor/sewerage problems and we did not detect any sign or discussion of passengers with norovirus. There were an abundance of dispensers to sanitize hands through out the ship. CABIN SS 8087 was very comfortable with an abundant amount of storage and a large outside deck, probably 14 ft wide, wider than the Caribbean Princess suite deck and a very comfortable bathroom facility. CABIN ATTENDANT was wonderful even though it was his last cruise! FOOD SERVICE was wonderful. Some FOOD was good, some was marginal. We complained once about a waiter and he was immediately replaced and the service was very pleasant and wonderful. Do not order a steak from the 'alternative menu'. It is just not a good alternative. Lido buffet is not our approach to dining. VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 3 ASSIGNED SEATING - If you select this approach, as soon as you can after boarding check the table. If it is near a wait station, either change the table or change to OPEN SEATING on VISTA DINING ROOM DECK 2. It does not make sense to listen to clanging dishes for an entire week. You can reserve a specific table in the Vista deck 2. The vibration in Vista deck 2 seems to be bad about 30 feet forward of the stern of the ship. The very back tables overlooking the stern of the ship are very pleasant for either lunch or dinner. We preferred tables 128 & 137. WINE TASTING - Whatever you do DO NOT pay $35 to sample premium wines on Thursday. Four out of the six higher priced wines sampled were absolutely terrible. Could not believe the wines they selected for wine tasting. Lower priced wines (Sunday) were good. The discord during the sampling was boring and repetitious. However, some excellent wines (eg Jordan Cabinet Savignon) are offered in the dining rooms. Entertainment was good! CABO SAN LUCAS - The very best shore experience was to have lunch at the ESPERANZA RESORT. The resort was very pleasant and it may be the best resort we have ever been too. Based on the comments of a prior Cruise Critic passenger we contacted La Ventanas Resort and asked to arrange lunch. This resort is about a 30 minute cab ride from the boat They were very pleasant but suggested the Esperanza about a 10 minute ride. They said the view was 10 times better and it truly was. Be sure to contact the resort (LA office) in advance and make a reservation. Security at this resort was tight and excellent. Before booking be sure to check if the boat docks or tenders passengers. FORGET CRUISES THAT TENDER PASSENGERS TO THE DOCK. INCONVENIENT, A WASTE OF TIME AND SOMETIMES TOO ROUGH. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
My second cruise, first was on NCL to Central America one year ago and enjoyed it. Traveled with my 19 year old son during his college spring break. Picked this cruise because we were traveling from Idaho and this left at 5 PM on a ... Read More
My second cruise, first was on NCL to Central America one year ago and enjoyed it. Traveled with my 19 year old son during his college spring break. Picked this cruise because we were traveling from Idaho and this left at 5 PM on a Saturday and arrived back at 8 AM on a Saturday, allowing us to fly in and out on those days. We included transport to and from airport with our booking, and HAL was very efficient. We were on the ship 30 minutes after landing at San Diego, and at the airport 30 minutes after disembarking the ship. We had all forms filled in that were either available on line or mailed to us, and that greatly decreased the check in time. The ship was built in 2003, and over all is very clean and well kept. Holds around 1900 passengers and 800 crew. Wait staff and room stewards are Indonesian, bar staff Filipino. We booked a Veranda Suite - SY 6059 - and it was a nice sized room, around 390 square feet including balcony. Had a whirlpool bath/shower combo and a stand alone shower, two sinks in the bathroom, plenty of closet and drawer space, two desks, bath robes, flat screen TV, veranda had 4 chairs and a table - we were very pleased with the room. Most mornings ordered a room service light breakfast, and it was delivered within 20 minutes. If you know when you will be up, they provide forms so that you can order room service the night before, if you desire. Also provided a slip to fill out indicating the type of fruit you will like restocked in your room each day. Ate two or three breakfasts and all lunches in the Lido dining room (buffet style) and it offered lots of selections - very easy to eat a healthy meal, if you so elected. HAL has just recently liberalized its evening dining policy. Rather than having to show up at a specific time, you now show up within a window - if assigned to early dining you show up between 6 and 6:30, if late, you show up between 8 and 9 - we requested late dining in order to avoid conflict with excursions and liked the system. All of our dinners were in the Vista dining room except one night at the Pinnacle Grill. Our wait staff was excellent, really enjoyed talking to Rudi and Freddy, our stewards, about their Indonesian homeland, and the meals were good with a good variety each night. Pinnacle Grill was also very good, but not worth the extra $30/person "nominal fee" and its portions were too large, in my opinion. We weren't interested in many of the traditional cruise activities, like bingo, shopping seminars, jewelry shopping, art auctions and towel folding lessons, so did not participate in those. I did go on a tour of the kitchens, and it was very interesting to see how they put together thousands of meals a day. The show productions were somewhat disappointing - the singers and dancers were talented and energetic, but the music in the shows was dated - mostly 70s stuff - and just not that interesting. A couple of comedians were ok, some guy they call a humorist - playing a ukulele and telling old jokes - was horrible. The highlight of the entertainment was an American Idol type Karaoke competition that ran all week with the finals on Friday. We were fortunate to have some very talented folks on board, so it was fun to watch and filled up the main showroom for the finale. The entertainment around the ship - pianist in the Piano Bar, string quartet in another bar, the band and its lead singer that played in different venues - all were talented and entertaining. Excursions were typical tourist oriented stuff - in Cabo, took a boat tour out to El Arco - lands end - and it was pretty dramatic. Also went to a restaurant for refreshments high above Cabo overlooking the bay and visited Cabo Wabo, Sammy Hagar's bar noted for its smooth tequila. Met friends in Mazatlan, so no excursion. In Puerto Vallarta, went on a whale watching, snorkeling and beach boat trip with Vallarta Adventures - kind of hokey with crew dancing and putting on skits, but did see whales and enjoyed the beach. Snorkeling doesn't compare with Caribbean. Also visited the Cuban bar downtown (can't remember the name) but it is a neat place with signatures all over the walls and pictures of celebrities - famous for its Mojitos (they are good). Would like to eat there if we ever return. Exercise facilities are adequate and the walk around the promenade is a great way to start the day - 3 laps equal a mile. All kinds are out there every morning, the strollers usually carrying a book, cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, the power walkers with arms flailing and the joggers - I swear one little Japanese lady cut through at midship just so she could lap me a few extra times. Biggest disappointment was the lack of decent sports coverage. There is a sports bar on the ship, but its only feed was an international ESPN that only seemed to cover rally racing and European basketball. They did obtain a bizarre feed of the NCAA basketball tournament - it was a raw feed with no cut aways for commercials, highlights from other games, halftime reports. On NCL they had very good sports coverage. Another strange development was that our port times were changed after booking apparently because of problems with one of the engines - the ship couldn't travel as fast - so our port times were cut down. Everyone was given a $25 credit to make up for the problem. HAL has a reputation for having an older clientele. Perhaps because it was spring break time, there were a large number of 16-25 year olds on board, all traveling with their families and all appearing to have a good time. HAL seems trapped by its reputation, and needs to update some of its entertainment to appeal to folks younger than 60. Overall, we had a great time, the service was outstanding, the facilities were nice, the food was good, really enjoyed visiting with fellow passengers and most folks seemed to enjoy their trip. Most importantly, my 19 year old son also had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
We splurged on the penthouse since we were traveling with kids and wanted the privacy of a separate bedroom, but at the same time wanted our 'tween kids in the same room (instead of a separate cabin or on a couch next to our bed). The ... Read More
We splurged on the penthouse since we were traveling with kids and wanted the privacy of a separate bedroom, but at the same time wanted our 'tween kids in the same room (instead of a separate cabin or on a couch next to our bed). The suite was huge and well worth the expense. However, we were surprised at how much the wooden walls and ceilings squeaked when we were at sea. For a 4 year old ship, this seemed unusual and something we have not noticed on other cruises we have been on. The food was quite good, considering the number of people being served at one time, and the service was truly excellent. The waiters, cabin steward, and women in the Neptune Lounge were extraordinarily helpful and nice. We all also loved Hunky Dory, one of the staff in the Lido Buffet that remarkably could remember everyone's name. We really enjoyed the village tour outside of Mazatlan and the canopy tour in the mountains an hour outside of Puerto Vallarta. We loved flying through the trees on zip lines. I would recommend both of those tours. The snorkeling in Cabo was disappointing as the water was freezing and we saw no fish. Overall, we had a great time!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
10 Tips You Need to Know About the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise This review became longer than expected! We split it into sections if you want to read just those areas of interest. There are also 10 specific tips included in our ... Read More
10 Tips You Need to Know About the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise This review became longer than expected! We split it into sections if you want to read just those areas of interest. There are also 10 specific tips included in our review. OVERALL. For us, any cruise is a spectacular and wonderful experience. We really enjoyed the food, service, cabin, ship, entertainment and ports on this cruise. If you are considering this cruise - go! This was our 3rd cruise and our first with HAL. We have also cruised with RCL and Princess. We did this same itinerary last year on the Diamond Princess. This cruise on the Oosterdam left from San Diego and made stops in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta and then back to San Diego. This was our first cruise in a Suite. Our 3 cruises have been in an ocean view cabin, a balcony and now this suite. The suite was by far the largest cabin we have experienced. Overall, we were just as happy with the balcony and will probably stick to balcony cabins on future cruises unless the suite price is close to the balcony price Now that we've taken a few cruises, we have points of reference to compare our experiences. We were expecting HAL to be a notch above RCL and Princess since they are a "premium" cruise line. This was a great cruise, but we would rank our RCL and Princess cruises as slightly better than this HAL cruise. There were a number of minor issues, but nothing interfered with our complete enjoyment and relaxation during this cruise. We've made notes of our minor issues in the sections below. AIRPORT TO CRUISE TERMINAL. Our flight arrived at the San Diego airport. This was a chartered cruise and the travel agency had arranged transfers to the pier for most passengers. After getting our bags at the airport, we were informed that there would be a long wait for the group shuttles to the pier. We opted to take a short taxi ride to the pier rather than wait with the crowd at the airport. We also took a cab back to the airport at the end of the cruise. Cab fare from the airport to the pier is cheap - about $10 and about a 10 minute ride. TIP 1: Save money on transfers and just take a cab if you need to get from the San Diego airport to the pier for a cruise - it is quick and cheap! CRUISE TERMINAL. We arrived at the dock at about 1 PM, and there was a small line waiting to check baggage outside the cruise terminal. You drop your bags outside in the parking lot before you enter the cruise terminal - we started to take our bags with us into the terminal and had to do an about face to drop them off. We then entered the cruise terminal and were pleased to find very short lines through the security check point. We moved quickly through security and then found ourselves in a much longer line to get to the HAL check in counters. Even so, the wait was less than 30 minutes to the counter. We had done the online check in and had our HAL pre-boarding passes, so we were shuttled to the shorter line. Those without their pre-boarding passes had to wait in the longer lines. TIP 2: Have your passport & HAL online pre-boarding passes when you arrive at the terminal and you'll get onboard quicker! CABIN. By 2 PM we were onboard and found our cabin was ready. We dropped our carry on bags in the cabin and headed to the Lido Buffet and then on to exploration of our new home for the week. Our suite was SS8082 on the Navigation deck. This is the highest deck with cabins on the ship. The suite is very large. The bathroom is spacious with 2 sinks, a full-size jetted bathtub and a separate shower. There is a large queen bed with 6 pillows - 2 each of soft, medium and hard pillows. We loved the extra pillows. There was also a sofa, plenty of drawers and closet space and a very large verandah. The verandah included a small table and chairs for eating or drinks plus 2 comfortable cushioned chairs with ottomans. We love having a balcony and will select a balcony cabin for future cruises. We're not as convinced on the suite. The 2 advantages of the suite compared to a balcony are the bathtub and the extra storage space. We brought plenty with us, but there was so much room, we didn't use all the storage space provided. TIP 3: If you can live without a bathtub and a lot of extra storage space, save some money and reserve a balcony cabin. If you love a nice bath - then spring for the suite on this ship! SAN DIEGO. Since we arrived & boarded fairly early we had time to explore the exterior decks and take in the views from onboard ship in the harbor. To the south of the ship, we could see the docked USS Midway & museum. While in port there were a few air force jets that screamed over the harbor - what a thrill! On the north side, we could see Star of India (the world's oldest active ship) and the B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine museum. There were boats and activity all around the harbor next to the cruise terminal. We also noticed that there is a Holiday Inn at the Bay straight across the street from the cruise terminal. TIP 4: If you can add a day before or after your cruise, stay at the Holiday Inn at the Bay. You can WALK from the hotel to the cruise terminal and there are an incredible variety of inviting activities and restaurants right at your doorstep! WINE & SPIRITS ONBOARD. We had read online that HAL sells wine cards for house wine during the cruise. We like wine, so we wanted to taste the house wine. The house Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were all fine for Dan but the house White Zinfandel was not as good for Janean. We bought a wine card for Dan and opted to buy wine by the bottle and glass for Janean. We had to ask 4 servers before we found someone with a wine card we could buy. The servers seemed less than excited about selling the wine cards, but the card worked nicely once we found it and it saved us money. The house selections are limited and may not work for you, but if you can find a house wine, it will only cost about $4 per glass with the wine card (compared to $40-60 plus for a bottle or $6-10 plus for wine by the glass). On day 1, we also had an enthusiastic server sell us a cocktail card for discounted cocktails. He was persuasive and fun, so we bought a card. The cocktail card was a little more frustrating to use. HAL has a limited definition for "cocktails". If you don't order a specific "foo-foo" drink, your drink won't work with the cocktail card. Dan likes a bourbon and water after dinner, but that is not a "cocktail" on the Oosterdam. We had to resort to asking for a whisky-sour, but "hold the sour and add water instead" to be able to use the card. The servers were put out and pretty rigid about what could and couldn't be ordered with the cocktail card. The cocktail card cost is about $5 per drink, which can be lower than the $5-$8 price per cocktail depending upon what you order. TIP 5: If you drink wine or spirits, wait until you are on the ship and taste the house wine or confirm that your preferred drink is on the "cocktail" list. The cards can save you money, but make sure you like what you can order with the cards before you buy the card. THE SHIP. The Oosterdam has 936 cabins and will accommodate 1848 guests. It is easy to find your way around this ship. We really liked the 4 glass elevators which are mid-ship - a pair on the starboard and another pair on the port side. The glass elevators seemed to be less busy also. The Lido Buffet takes up most of the Lido deck. You can't miss it once you're on the Lido deck. The Vista Dining for dinners is aft and again, once you get aft and on the right deck - you can't miss it. The Promenade deck has a deck that completely encircles the ship. It is a pleasant way to walk off some of those big meals! Three laps around the ship equals one mile. We very much enjoyed the upper observation deck. You can sit in the hot tub, lie in a lounge or Adirondack chair or kick back with a drink at a table. Dan particularly enjoyed the wide-angle view of the sea and the horizon off the aft observation deck - the wake view from the rear of the ship is amazing. TIP 6: Take an exploration stroll around the public areas of the ship during the day and find a great window seat for ocean viewing - there are many choice seats in the empty bars with great views of the ocean. Related to the ship, there were a few issues. We noticed stray "sewer" smells around different parts of the ship and at different times of the day. We haven't noticed unpleasant odors on the other cruises we've taken, but we had at least 2-3 encounters with this unpleasant odor every day while on the Oosterdam. Also, our dinner companions had a plumbing problem during the cruise. We're not sure what happened or what caused the problem, but a number of cabins were without water for several hours on one day during the cruise. The A/C didn't keep up with the heat while docked in Puerto Vallarta. The Oosterdam uses ocean water to help cool the ship. While we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, the ship's temperature rose into the 80s everywhere onboard. It hit the crew of the ship hardest - they had been in the cool Alaskan climate all summer - this was their first cruise of the season to Mexico. The afternoon and evening in Puerto Vallarta were uncomfortably warm everywhere on the ship making passengers and crew pretty uncomfortable. ENTERTAINMENT. Showtime with Joel Mason is a tribute/comedy act to Elton John and he is AMAZING! The Romanian Tempo String Quartet in the Explorer's Lounge was wonderful! The karaoke competition on this cruise was incredible. Most of the participants had already cut CDs of their own music. We would have paid to see most of the karaoke performers at their own shows! The Broadway shows (A Rock & Roll tribute & An Island Music tribute) were ok. The comedienne Julie Barr was funny. The piano player in the Piano Bar didn't keep us in the Piano Bar (which is unusual for us - we love piano players). We missed the magic show and the piano player in the Crow's nest. TIP 7: Do NOT miss the Showtime with Joel Mason - Elton John show! DINING. HAL is still pretty traditional. We prefer the anytime dining options and less formal attire. We were stuck with 5:30 PM early seating and missed dinner 3 times on this cruise due to the early start time. We prefer less formal attire for dining options - which are very limited on this ship. Men are asked to wear a suit or tux for the 2 formal nights and a coat to dinner ALL other nights on this 7 day cruise. According to HAL policy, if you're not in a coat, your only other dining option is the buffet or room service. Thankfully, reality onboard is much different than the written HAL dress code. Most fellow cruisers were less formally dressed than we were - and BRAVO to them! HAL should loosen the written dress code because reality is much less formal than their dress code states. We would have packed much lighter and enjoyed the cruise more if we had known that the dress code is not really that formal. TIP 8: If you prefer informal, you can pack lighter and dress less formally than HAL requests - long pants and a button up shirt are the only real requirement for men - even on formal dining nights. VISTA DINING ROOM. The food was spectacular and the dining room service was great! There was one minor annoyance at dinner. Dan used his discount wine card to order wine with our dinners. He received more than one lecture and scowl, complete with cringed nose about drinking the "cheap" wine when he used his wine card at dinner. Yes, the house wine costs less with the card and isn't as good as the $10 per glass vintages, but it was very acceptable to Dan. We're guessing that the wine stewards may be paid a commission on their wine/spirits sales. Whether that is the case or not, the service shouldn't be based on the price of the wine. Dinners would have been more enjoyable if the wine steward had pleasantly served the house wine & wished him bon appEtit. LIDO BUFFET. The food and service were great. It can be hard to find a seat at times. Janean loved the fresh garlic on the dishes at the pasta bar. Dan is an ice cream freak - he attacked the ice cream bar often. He also loved the dessert cheese plates. There is a stand-out food server onboard & if you're lucky you'll have him at your dinner table. But, if not, he is also at the Lido Buffet for breakfast and lunch to greet EVERYONE. His name is Hunky Dory (sing it when you say it!) and everyone on this cruise knows who he is! By day 2 Hunky Dory knew our names and greeted us by name every day the rest of the cruise. He was calling all the guests by their first name. What a fun & amazing young man - he personalized the service and made dining an experience! CABO. We took the Todos Santos (Hotel California) shore excursion. We recommend avoiding this shore excursion for the next several months. There is significant highway construction north of Cabo on Highway 19. The 42 mile drive took about 2.5 hours each way. We're not sure when the construction will be finished but any shore excursions that go north of Cabo will head right into the heart of the construction. We spent about 5 hours on the bus and barely over an hour in Todos Santos. The drive up the peninsula was pretty - but that is too much bus time for us. Also, Hotel California was hardly accessible on the tour - they weren't quite ready for the tourist season. The shore excursion season had just started, but this trip was a bust for us. Tip 9: If you don't like to spend precious shore excursion time on a bus, avoid road trips and excursions heading north of Cabo until highway 19 construction is done. MAZATLAN. We took the Copala/Concordia shore excursion. The brick making stop is an interesting and informal stop on the side of the road to watch an adobe brick making demonstration. It will make you appreciate your job - whatever it is! The man making the bricks had a 6-pack of muscles - on his back! The furniture/pottery making was a little disappointing. The bus stops at the "furniture factory" which is really a souvenir shopping stop. They have the power tools and there is actual woodworking being done, but it's a stop to sell you their stuff. The wooden rolling pin we bought split within days after we returned home. We're glad we didn't shell out more money for anything else at this stop. In Concordia, there is a laid back pueblo and a 16th century cathedral but not much time to explore. Copala is the highlight of the trip. It is a 16th century gold & silver mining pueblo, now home to 900 people complete with cobblestone roads, donkeys, a small art gallery, a cathedral and a great Mexican lunch buffet. The surrounding jungle mountains are gorgeous. It was a beautiful setting and a fun shore excursion for us. TIP 10: The jewelry at the informal brick making stop was the lowest priced jewelry we found on all of our Mexico stops - if you want some inexpensive jewelry buy it where you see the brick making demonstration. PUERTO VALLARTA. We had planned on the Yelapa/Majahuitas catamaran shore excursion. The brochure said that we would have access to 2 private beaches on this trip. Fortunately, we read the cards about the shore excursion that were left in our cabin. We discovered that there was "no beach access" on this trip. This was the Oosterdam's first trip to Mexico of the season. It appears they hadn't worked out the kinks yet. The revised excursion would have had us on the catamaran all day in the hot sun with only kayaks and snorkeling allowed when we stopped - no beach access. The front desk told us we would be charged 10% for canceling. We appealed based on the change from what was printed in the brochure. It was fairly frustrating having to show them their own brochure and explain what had changed. To their credit, they did cancel and did not charge us the 10% fee. We made up our own excursion. We took a 30 minute cab south to the El Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, had lunch next to the beach, used their secluded beach, had massages on the beachfront, saw 2 turtles hatch, swam in the ocean with a couple of manta rays and had a wonderful time. All told, we spent about the same including massages as we would have on the catamaran excursion. We were happy that we changed our plans. DISEMBARKATION. We were in the last group to disembark. We were off the ship by about 11 AM. We did cut our flight a little close as the process took longer than we had expected, but fortunately the airport is close to the cruise terminal. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
This cruise was perhaps out 8th or so. We were a family that included 3 teens. We traveled with other families with a similar make-up on this Thanksgiving week. Embarking in San Diego is a breeze. Do not buy the cruise line transfers. I ... Read More
This cruise was perhaps out 8th or so. We were a family that included 3 teens. We traveled with other families with a similar make-up on this Thanksgiving week. Embarking in San Diego is a breeze. Do not buy the cruise line transfers. I would suggest a taxi. The port is about 5 minutes from the airport and the taxi will be cheaper and less of a hassle. Holland America has it together at this port. Getting on was a breeze. Although the rooms are not usually ready until 1:30, you can check your carry-on gear near the front pool area. Ship was in good shape. Previous reviews commented on rug deterioration, but the crew is replacing the rug as time goes on. Food is respectable. One member of our party wanted more of a healthy selection, so she would choose her selections the night before and it would be prepared by a special chef using low-fat type of ingredients. It worked out fairly well. Our food service was fair to poor. During previous cruises, one would order an appetizer, salad, soup and then entree because each was grouped in it's own section on the menu. On this cruise, the first three were all in one section. This may have caused some confusion in the service and maybe in the kitchen also because not everyone ordered a appetizer, soup and/or salad. The wine steward was great. Professional and personable. For those you don't consume huge amounts of wine, think about purchasing a 10 or 20 glass wine card. It is worth it. Buffet was good. If you are a creature of habit for breakfast, then no problem enjoying the food. Our room was on the Rotterdam desk. Clean and reasonable size. The hair dryer could had a bit more power though. The room steward was friendly and cleaned the room when expected. The kids room was a big mess. It was not the room steward fault, but the kids. We told the steward to just make sure the toilet was clean and they had toilet paper. After five days, the kids got tired, cleaned the room and we told the steward it was safe to return. Although there were many kids on this Holiday week, it was not out of control. Our kids were really too old for the kid's program, but other kids we knew just loved it. The Las Vegas entertainment was OK. Julie Bar the comedian, Elton John impersonator and the gymnastics person were very good. The cruise director was humorless and hardly entertaining. There were a couple of house bands on the ship, but they generally played only an hour a day somewhere on the ship. The amount of on-board activities seems to have dropped. There was bingo, trivia and thank goodness Thanksgiving day football on the big screen in a lounge. The fitness room was adequate. There were also ample number of classes to take, but most had a fee. The Greenhouse spa allowed access for a fee of $250 per couple for the entire week, which included unlimited use between 8AM and 10PM. This included warming chairs which was comprised of heated tiles. Very soothing and I fell asleep more than once. Also included was wet and dry saunas and a private mineral pool set at body temperature (could have been warmer). Holland America limits the amount of people that can purchase the package and thus the warmer chairs were available 11 of the 13 times we visited. We did not attend any of the free or pay-for cooking demonstrations. Members of our group did attend the pay-for Martini Mixer class and enjoyed it. Would we travel on this ship with this cruise line again. You bet. We saw no reason to shy away from Holland America or the Oosterdam. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2007
We are a couple in our early fifties with grown children. This was our sixth cruise: the second to the Mexican Riviera and the first on a Holland America Ship. Since we live in California we drove to the San Diego pier and were able to ... Read More
We are a couple in our early fifties with grown children. This was our sixth cruise: the second to the Mexican Riviera and the first on a Holland America Ship. Since we live in California we drove to the San Diego pier and were able to park right across the street. That was very handy, especially when we returned. EMBARKATION/LUGGAGE SERVICE/DISEMBARKATION The embarkation process went very smoothly even though the computers were down. We had pre-printed our boarding passes and had entered our credit card information on the HAL web site which helped us get processed without delay. The line was fairly long, but moved quickly. The HAL agent who served us was quite tired having just returned form a long voyage himself that morning, but quickly had us checked in and was very pleasant. We were quite impressed that once on the ship we were able to check our carry on luggage. Since we had driven to the ship we had used two large hanging bags to avoid wrinkled clothing. It was so nice to have a place to hang them while we enjoyed lunch. Our luggage arrived quicker than we have ever experienced. Within 15 minutes after are cabin was ready we had our checked luggage. We were amazed at the efficiency of HAL in this area. On criticism I would have is that the Life Boat drill was the longest we have ever experienced. We had to wait quite a while until stragglers arrived and were checked off the list. Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation. HAL allows you to remain in your stateroom until it is time for you to disembark. Again, it was nice to be able to eat breakfast and then return to our room for our carry-on luggage. Another nice feature was HAL allowing you to choose what time you wanted to disembark if you had your own travel arrangements. THE SHIP We were quite impressed with the beauty of the Oosterdam. We have sailed on other ships that we considered more elegant, but the art collection on the Oosterdam was the best we have seen. We downloaded the podcast tour for the Oosterdam before sailing and it was a great way to experience the art collection aboard the ship. It took us about 90 minutes to take the tour which included the optional climbing up and down stairwells to view the art there. The lay out of the ship is very nice and we quickly found our way around. The public areas were very nice and we were pleased that second-hand smoke was not too noticeable. It was quite easy to detour around areas where smoking was permitted. (We have sailed on ships where you had to walk through a smoking area to enter the restaurant on the side where our table was located.) Our stateroom was a basic ocean view, but certainly more than adequate since we spend little time in our cabin. The bed was amazing. It was by far the most comfortable bed we've had at sea. In fact, my wife wondered if she slept better than at home because of the bed or the gentle rocking of the ship or a combination of both. I walk daily when at sea and have really enjoyed the walking deck on previous cruises. Since the walking decks I have experienced have always been near the top of the ship I wasn't sure about the promenade deck for walking, but I found I liked it even better being closer to the ocean. One the one day we had a bit of rain I could still walk since much of the deck was covered. OFFICERS & CREW We found the crew and officers exceptional in most areas. I had made the arrangements for our CC Meet and Greet and for our Banner Wave ahead of time. I had a note from the Beverage Manager in my cabin asking me to drop by his office to go over the arrangements. Everything was in order and HAL provided us with refreshments in the Oak Room on our first sea day. I also met the Hotel Manager, Doug Hernandez, before sailing to get the CC banner for our banner wave. He told me he was glad that we had scheduled our Meet and Greet for he afternoon so that he would be able to attend. We collected the names and cabin numbers at our Meet and Greet and we were invited to a cocktail party with the captain and several other officers later in the week. Doug also invited me to a Q & A session in his office on our last sea day along with a few others. I was quite impressed with the accessibility of the ship's officers. The front desk personnel and the future cruise consultant were all excellent in their service. We were a bit concerned about our cabin steward on our first day when our room had still not been made up at 3:30 in the afternoon. He was no where to be seen so I went to the front desk to see if there was a problem. It turns out that he had simply overlooked our room and thought he had already cleaned it. It was promptly cleaned. He apologized the next day and our service from then on was wonderful. He was very friendly, but I was a bit surprised that he didn't make an effort to learn our names. On previous cruises we've always been greeted by name by our cabin stewards. We were greeted by almost every member of the crew that we passed on the ship. They were very friendly and seemed eager to please. DINING We were quite surprised after embarkation to find that we had a choice of eating at the Lido buffet or in the restaurant. We chose the restaurant where we had a quite lunch while looking out at the San Diego Bay. It was a great way to begin the cruise. We asked to be seated at a large table and were at a table for 8 at the 8:30 seating. Dinners lasted almost 2 hours every night, but this was because we were at a table where we all enjoyed leisurely dining and conversation. We were often one of the last tables to leave. It was truly a highlight of each day. Our servers were quite friendly, but not the most efficient. Several times starters that were ordered never arrived. Again, I was surprised that our servers never made an effort to learn our names. Our waiter was quite good when it came to recommendations. When I had a hard time choosing I would asked him for his suggestion and I was never disappointed. Overall, the food was good, but not great. The salads were better than we've experienced, but the entrees were not quite as good. The desserts were often a disappointment. Our wine steward was wonderful. She has been with HAL for 10 years and even though she had many more tables than our servers she knew all of our names and greeted us by name each evening. We bought a wine card from her and drank only house wine so she didn't have great incentive to be so efficient, but she was anyway. I did tip her on the last night since we were so pleased with her service. We rarely ate at the Lido, but I did like the way they had separate stations. We are light breakfast eaters and the continental breakfast station was perfect for us and there was never a line there. We did eat lunch there once. I had sushi which wasn't too good and my wife got a hamburger from the grill which she said was ok. We did go to the Royal Dutch Tea which had a very long line. We were disappointed. We far prefer the formal teas we have experienced on another line where we were served by the waiters and the passengers had to dress for tea. We also went to the Indonesian Tea. We thoroughly enjoyed that. PORTS & EXCURSIONS CABO SAN LUCAS We booked an excursion online for the Yellow Submarine. It is a small fiberglass boat that holds 12 passengers. It has a lower deck with a bench and a large window on each side which are below water. It's like snorkeling without getting wet and with a much better view. We saw thousands of fish and there was only one other couple on our excursion so we had lots of room. They took us out past the arch and we saw the sea lions up close. There was also an opportunity to swim or snorkel for a short time. It was to last two hours, but went a bit longer. It's a new excursion and they have discontinued it until after whale watching season is over. Our guide's name was Marina and she was amazing. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone prone to sea sickness. It's a very light boat and rocked a lot whenever another boat passed. To get below you had to go down about six steps on a ladder so it would not be a good excursion for anyone with mobility issues or who is claustrophobic. MAZATLAN We love the Old Town in Mazatlan. We walked form the ship to Old Town. It's about twenty minutes, but I would only recommend walking to those who know how to get there. We started at the Cathedral where we entered and just sat for about 15 minutes in solitude to experience the beauty of the architecture and the furnishing. From there we visited a shop we discovered last winter called Nidart (Nest of Artists). It's owned by three families who make most of the art themselves. We went specifically to buy two leather masks as gifts. We bought three. (We already own two, so we decided to add another to our wall in addition to the two we bought as gifts. We also bought three small clay masks for our Daughter and her husband. They gave us a map to other galleries so we did visit those also and bought a couple of kaleidoscopes made of bamboo, hand made jewelry, pottery and a couple of wool scarves. These shops in Old Town are amazing although they can be difficult to find. We walked to Olas Altas and walked along the ocean taking pictures of bronze statues and saw the cliff divers. We then returned to Plaza Machado and had lunch and margaritas at Altazors ars Café before returning to the ship. PUERTO VALLARTA We were part of a group that our travel agent has put us in and we got a free excursion in PV. It was a city tour and Mexican Fiesta. It was OK, but not great. We did see the Cathedral which was nice. We were then taken to a Hacienda where we spent a lot of time touring their tequila factory which was interesting, but far too long. We had a mediocre Mexican lunch-no where near as good as the Mexican food in our little town in Central California. Afterwards there was an interesting show. The MC wasn't too good, but the dancers were very entertaining and a dancing horse proved to be the highlight of the tour. The "hacienda" had lots of venders hawking their wares. After returning to the ship we walked 5 minutes to Sam's Club and bought tequila and Kahlua for gifts at great prices. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was quite mixed with some being very good and some not. We enjoy the shows and were quite disappointed that there was only one show on the first night and that it was during our dinner. Perhaps this was usual for HAL to have only one show, but it seemed as if we were penalized for choosing the late seating. The two cast shows were ok, but seemed to be planned around one singer who was quite good. The dancers were not together and a couple of the singers were weak. The shows themselves weren't choreographed too well, and overall were a disappointment. Lance Ringnald, former Olympic gymnast and a gold medalist performed one night. He is amazing, but he could use a good choreographer. He did many of the same things made popular by Cirque du Soleil performers, but without the artistry. His skill level; however, was probably greater than we've seen before. Joel Mason "Elton John" show was amazing. He's funny and quite talented. He plays the piano quite well. He is a great entertainer. The final show was a variety show put together by Joel Mason. I liked him even better at this show where he demonstrated his wide range of talent. He featured many other entertainers who were on the ship and let them shine. I was really impressed by that and by him. There were a couple of good pianists in the bars and an amazing string quartet. The HAL Cats band was good, but the singer was very weak. OVERALL This was our first HAL cruise. It was a good cruise, but not the best cruise we've had; however, the price was great which made it an exceptional value. We do plan to sail again on HAL next summer to Alaska based on price and itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
My sister and I booked a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam; Nov.10th through Nov. 17th. My sister lives in San Diego, so a friend drove us right to the baggage drop off area. We had no problem with the check-in process. We had ... Read More
My sister and I booked a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam; Nov.10th through Nov. 17th. My sister lives in San Diego, so a friend drove us right to the baggage drop off area. We had no problem with the check-in process. We had done the preliminary on-line check-in, so we were in and out in a matter of minutes. We were given our room/charge card, with a dining time of 8:30 PM. (We were hoping to change that time to 8 PM, and did later in the day, no problem.) Evidently, there was an on-line glitch and embarking was taking much longer than normal. We were given a number (36) and we sat down to wait our turn. A sweet little man that reminded us of Santa asked what number we had, and in a minute was back with the number that was boarding (21) Nice! It took us about 30 minutes in line to embark on the ship, but met some fun people while we were going up the plank. One guy had a huge box filled with wine and champagne. We brought a few bottles ourselves. We walked up to the Lido deck and had a little lunch. Roasted chicken, fresh salad and fruit. And of course the ships signature bread pudding with custard sauce. (Which we had every day of the cruise) Then it was on to check out our cabin for the next 7 days. Our cabin was #8027, outside balcony. The linens and towels were very nice. There were 2 bathrobes hanging up for our use. Bath and shampoo gels in little bottles (I like this better than the dispenser) and a well-stocked refrigerator. After a bit of juggling, we fit most of our things in the closet, shelves and found the drawers under the end of the bed as well as under the sofa, and filled the nightstand as well. There is also the vanity stool. The top opens! We packed our souvenirs in there. We went out on deck and watched as the Oosterdam pulled away from the docks, then went to our cabins to relax and wait for the infamous lifeboat drill. When the drill sounded, off we went to the designated station. Both of us had our jackets fastened fancifully but incorrectly, but there were employees who were helping everyone. Hopefully, we would not have a need to recall the procedure. We went up to the Lido to enjoy the sail away, then to the Ocean Bar for a bit of a cocktail. Waiters brought little fruit sticks and cold cuts. One waiter proudly showed us his fish he carved from a melon. Our first dinner on board had to be at 8:30. We were able to change to 8pm after that. Our tablemates this evening were a young couple and full of interesting cruises they had already been on. A long walk after dinner and we were back in our cabin. There was our towel animal, a fish! Also a chocolate treat, room service tag and a Daily Program for the following day. This happens every night by the way. The next morning we were out for a run/walk on deck. Lots of folks about and everyone was smiling and friendly. We went up to the Lido and played Ping-Pong and had a nice breakfast. Then we took showers, walked about the ship and took in a cooking show performed by one of the Master Chef's. After his show, waiters brought trays of food out that the chef had been preparing. It was fun. Back up on Lido, my sister had signed up for the "golf tournament". You chip a plastic ball into a life ring in the pool. She won 5 "dam bucks" to be used for buying T-shirts and what not. We caught the very end of the High Tea in the Main Dining Salon, then put our suits on and relaxed by the pool. Tonight was our 1st formal night. Our table mates were a couple from the San Diego area and another couple from back east. They had taken many Holland America cruises and were way up the chain on the Medallion member's list. After dinner, we walked past a lounge that had Billy, who sang Frank Sinatra songs. We were only able to catch the last few songs, but he promised us he would be playing again on our cruise and to watch the program guide. Back in our cabin, our towel animal (a lobster) greeted us with chocolates and Program guide for the following day. The night was so beautiful; we propped the door open with the deck table and went to sleep. The next day we were docked in Cabo San Lucas. Not our favorite town. But the following day, Mazatlan was fun. We walked into town and rented our own driver to take us about. Raul took us to see the cliff divers, a leather factory, gave us a great tour and also provided us with complimentary water and of course, Corona beer! (The Cervecchia del Pacifico factory is here) The van was new, air conditioned and seated 8 of us just fine. The other 6 people were actually from our cruise ship. The tab came to $20 each, which included the tip. We didn't have exact cash and no one could come up with a combo, so one of the fellow cruisers offered to loan us the money till we got back on the ship. He was then known as "The Banker" for the rest of the cruise. This evening, we made a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill. Although the dinner was very nice and the restaurant was beautiful, I am not sure if I would book again in the future. The filets were dry as were the vegetables. The waiter kinda hovered too much. There was hardly anyone seated at 8 PM, except for a table of 12 gorgeous gay guys that were having a big time. Our towel animal this night: peacock! Our tour guide from Cabo, Raul, highly recommended a tour guide for our next destination, Puerto Vallarta. (There is certainly a little networking going on here) Our little group decided to all go together again, since we had so much fun together in Mazatlan. Pedro was waiting for us as soon as we got off the ship with a sign that said "Friends of Raul's" Cute! Pedro took us past the Bull Ring, resorts, and shops, all along the beautiful ocean front. Then took us to a restaurant just below the rainforest. It was in the treetops, with birds everywhere (parrots? Macaws?) It was a fabulous day. But not so fast! Pedro decided he would take us to a Tequila factory. We had a guided tour of the place, with tequila tasting and a guide that took a liking to my sister. He wanted a picture with her. We wondered later how many tequila tastings this guy does a day... After we were safely back to our ship and on board, we played some Ping-Pong, took a little nap and off again for dinner. Haven't we had about 20 dinners so far? However, tonight was wonderful. We were served the best lamb shanks I believe I have ever had. Melt in your mouth and savory. Scrumptious! Took in a show and our towel treasure for the night (a shaggy dog) was waiting for us to say good night. The following day we were at sea, played games and enjoyed the perfect weather. For my birthday gift, my sister booked us massages. The spa was so relaxing. We enjoyed the nice big showers, and since our cabins hair dryer was barely blowing, took advantage of the spas nice hairdryers! Later, we met our tablemates for a pre-dinner champagne invitation. We had the Baked Alaska show that night, followed by the chocolate extravaganza on the Lido deck, along with ice carvings and beautiful flowers. I think I took a thousand pictures. It was amazing. Floppy eared bunny for the towel gig tonight. Opened the balcony door and was fast asleep. The beds are addicting. Our final day met us with a beautiful calm morning. We took the kitchen tour, which was so much fun. Got to see the guy who made so many fruit carvings and the guy who made the little dough critters that were all over the dining areas. That afternoon we went to the Indonesian tea. (It was ok) Had our last dinner with our mates. Swapped addresses and emails hugged and tipped our waiter. Went to see "Frank Sinatra". He was great. Back to our cozy cabin for a last nights sleep. Next morning, we were supposed to wait till our number was called, but decided to see if we could creep off. As we walked to the gangway, we wondered where the heck anybody was? There was no one about! So we walked off the ship, down the gangway, right into the terminal where we saw our luggage awaiting us. Perfect end to a perfect cruise! A few notes: If you ever need serious medical attention at sea: We had a call over the speaker from our captain. A cruise passenger was critically ill and there was a Coast Guard helicopter enroute to pick the person up in a litter basket. The ship slowed down, but did not fully stop. The passenger was lifted off the ship and off they went. Now we know. The shows were just "lukewarm". The magicians were a husband and wife combo who were cute, but after awhile I found myself squirming. NOT that we have anything at all against gays, but the dance troupes were absolutely openly gay. The (gay) disc jockey and co-host of an American Idol type singing contest among cruise members made very off colored gay remarks and after awhile was not funny at all. Internet: Slow, slow, slow. Very expensive. Save your money. At every port I found an Internet cafe for a few bucks. On board shops: Wait till nearly the end of your cruise. Items go on sale and there are all sorts of T-shirts and things that they bring up on the Lido deck to sell. Library: There is a $30 check out fee for books. You get charged when the book is taken out, then get a credit back when it is returned. Look at your final charges to make sure the credits are there. Food: Don't leave the ship till you've tried a bread pudding! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our 4th cruise, 1st with HAL, 1st out of California. Flew in a few days early and stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street the night before, so the 1st day was a breeze. No embarkation problems, did all the pre registering on ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise, 1st with HAL, 1st out of California. Flew in a few days early and stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street the night before, so the 1st day was a breeze. No embarkation problems, did all the pre registering on line. Cabin was nice, very front of the boat with a veranda, so there was a constant breeze to be dealt with. Cabin steward was switched in mid cruise, we guess our 1st one had a bout with the intestinal problems going around. The 2nd steward was less friendly and less accessible, but I believe he was suddenly saddled with a double work load, so I understood. The food was always excellent, did not try the Pinnacle, we had a scheduled time for dinner so we just stuck to that. I did not attend many of the entertainment acts but the others in my party did and all said they were very good, especially the comedian. We won one of the trivia contests and my 18 year old son finished 2nd in one of the Texas Hold Em tournaments, so of course we enjoyed those activities. The weather was not exactly stellar, so laying by the pool was kept to a minimum. Our shore excursions consisted of the Jeep Desert Safari in Cabo which was alot of fun and swimming with the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, which everyone enjoyed. The outbreak and subsequent sanitizing activities were very evident, but it seemed to me that all was going smooth. Aside from the loss of our 1st cabin steward, I don't think we were inconvenienced at all and I thought the crew did an exceptional job given the situation. I will cruise again with HAL, as we booked a Panama canal trip while on this cruise, so we are looking forward to that. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our 7th cruise and first on HAL. We have been on Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. DH is retired and DW is close. We travelled with another couple - sister-in-law and DH. Having been told that nobody on HAL is under 50, we ... Read More
This was our 7th cruise and first on HAL. We have been on Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. DH is retired and DW is close. We travelled with another couple - sister-in-law and DH. Having been told that nobody on HAL is under 50, we noted that at least two-thirds of this cruise were indeed under 50. Boarding was a snap, very slick. Lovely ship, every nook and crannie seems to be filled with some objet d'art. Atrium is not impressive though, it's as if it had been crowded in to create more square feet for revenue-producing activities. We liked the historic black and white photos that lined our corridor. Proper lifeboat drill at the your station with roll-call. It's a pain but full marks to HAL for doing it. We decided on an inside room for this cruise and it was the tightest we have ever seen on any ship. Seven days was enough - a longer cruise on this ship would have to be in a bigger space. Bed was comfortable though. We did not experience any line-ups at any time. Met the famous Hunky Dory in the Lido. The guy is amazing. He came up to DH and called him by name although he had never met him. He recognized DW and had memorized who she was sailing with. The Lido was the best buffet we have seen at sea, good variety and quality, lots of stations. Bread pudding was delicious and well-tested. No dancing lessons, no classes at sea, no guest lecturers, no midnight buffets, can't check your room charges on the TV. Pinnacle grill food was excellent but we felt service was rushed. Wine list was very expensive and all from Washington State. Did we enjoy the Grill? Yes. Was it worth it? No. Would we do it again? Highly unlikely. The main dining room food was very good but too often was not as hot as it should be. Our wine waiter (Leo) was excellent and had our cocktail sitting on the table when we entered. Several times during the week waiters would appear around the ship with trays of canapes, very nice too. New Year's Eve was fun, with the captain ringing a ship's bell at midnight. Lots and lots of bubbly, funny hats, party favors etc. and a good band for dancing (Counterpoint). The ship has a decent size of dance floor in the Crow's Nest, unlike many others, and there were plenty of keen dancers in the crowd. We liked deck 3, our favorite place to sit on a bed reading and watch the world go by. It is also a nice feature for walking - three times around is a mile. The sliding roof over the pool is also a nice feature since the first and last days may be on the cool side. On one of the sea days, we went for lunch in the dining room. We particularly wanted a table for two. "Very sorry, we can normally do it but today we are short staffed." The logic of that escapes me. We went to the Lido instead but were not pleased. We had an outbreak of the dreaded norovirus. We thought that HAL dealt with it very well and it really was a minor inconvenience. Disembarkation was a bit of a shambles. We were scheduled to tie up at 6:15 but the captain made several attempts (three?) to get snug in so we were late. Hence immigration clearance was late. Our scheduled 8:15 expedited departure was an hour late by which time there was a huge crowd at the exit and too many people thinking they had the right to jump the queue. There was also a terrible lack of staff to impose some discipline on the proceedings. The rain was pelting down and it was a nasty day in San Diego. Once off, high marks to U.S. Customs - they were expediting things very well indeed. Overall, an excellent cruise and we'll be back on HAL in future. Not exclusively though, we'll take the others when it suits us. 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
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
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: 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
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: October 2008
This review of our Oosterdam cruise to the Mexican Riviera can be read in its entirety here without pictures and some additional verbiage that isn't part of this. If you would like to see pictures of the places and people we are ... Read More
This review of our Oosterdam cruise to the Mexican Riviera can be read in its entirety here without pictures and some additional verbiage that isn't part of this. If you would like to see pictures of the places and people we are talking about, you can see them at www.jkbellomo.com. I promise if you go there to read it, it will be a lot more interesting. This was our first time since 2002 that we have been on any cruise line other than Celebrity(X). We had cruised Holland America(HAL) on our first cruise in 2000 but it had been one of their oldest ships, the Westerdam, that was almost immediately retired and a new Westerdam replaced her so this would be a fairly new experience for us. I also knew that even though I had promised Kathleen I would not keep comparing HAL to X I knew that I would be doing it in my head and in this review. Those who are reading this that know me, know how I feel about Celebrity. But I promised myself I would give HAL a chance. One of the things that has always been a HAL truism in our minds is that HAL pax are generally an older group. The average age on X is about 55 (our age at the start of this trip) and the "common knowledge" in the cruise community has always been that HAL's average age is about 70. That was certainly true on our original Westerdam cruise, but it was not on this one. Yes, the majority of the pax were older than us but there were a lot of younger cruisers. This particular cruise had a large contingent of surfers who loaded their boards on the ship and would be surfing in every port as well as having a series of concerts by 70s rock semi-legend, Dave Mason (look him up). Embarkation Embarkation was OK. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:45 by cab. Our taxi ($10 with tip from Gaslamp District) was not allowed to go into the cruise terminal so we had to grab our bags and walk them in. That was fine for us but others with the same size bags and less fit might have a problem. After dropping our bags we were directed to the check-in area. Actual check in (including filling out a noro-virus questionnaire assuring HAL that we weren't coming on board sick) took very little time. We were then given a boarding number (we had 10) then we had to wait. Luckily, there were still a few places to sit and we only had to wait about 30 minutes before they let us on. We met other folks who were in the number 6 boarding group and had come right from the airport and had been waiting since 8:30 am. They said, "It was either here or the airport." One thing we liked about check in was that when we got our sea pass cards, we had our pictures taken then for ID purposes. Much better than doing it on the gangplank. From that point on, all they had to do when we embarked or disembarked was to scan our sea pass cards. More about this on our first day ashore. Once our group was called, it was just a short walk across the parking lot, up the ramp and we were onboard. Unlike X where you then have the run of the ship, we were herded directly to an elevator and sent up to the Lido deck for lunch. We would much preferred to stop by our cabin and drop our carry-on luggage as we do on Celebrity. HAL does have an area near the pool where you can drop your carry-on luggage while you have lunch but mine included my laptop as well as my Nikon so there was no way I was just leaving it in what looked to be a very unprotected area. We kept it with us, grabbed a table outside on deck (but in the shade) and Kathleen went to get lunch while I waited with our stuff and then when she came back I went and got lunch. Lunch was excellent. We both had panini sandwiches which unlike X were grilled the right way. They were made quickly and efficiently and the sandwich bar had both chips and caesar salad so I was happy. HAL's buffet is broken up into islands unlike X's where there are a few additional stations but they are all pretty much together in one long bar in the middle of the ship. Our next cruise on the brand new Solstice will also have this configuration. It does seem to cut down on the longer lines. I can say that I very seldom had to stand in line and when I did, it wasn't for very long although I will say that they really fall down on the drinks. There are only two places in the entire buffet area to get drinks and they are PACKED! In the morning the entire buffet has only two coffee machines for probably 1000 people. Woefully inadequate. After lunch we ended up sitting for about 90 minutes before there was a general announcement (much too loud) that our cabins had been released. We were thrilled as we had been stuck in one place watching our carry-on bags since we had gotten on and really wanted to go explore the ship. Our cabin Originally when we booked this cruise, our wonderful travel agent had gotten us our usual favorite aft cabin. We were thrilled to get it as we had booked this cruise rather late. And it was a real bargain as well. Considering the fact that we were told it eventually sold out, only eight weeks before the cruise they were dropping prices like crazy. About a week after we booked, the TA called me and said, "HAL wants to know if you want to upgrade, do you want to give up your aft cabin (with its larger verandah and bigger view) for a Verandah Suite. Well we have never been in any kind of suite before so we snapped at the chance and were we glad we did for the room but not for the noise. More about that below. Our normal Concierge Class cabins on Celebrity are 190 square feet. This suite was 389 square feet!!! And it came with a jacuzzi tub, a huge verandah and a king (not the usual queen) size bed. We are now SPOILED! The cabin (8052) was wonderful. It had a HUGE amount of storage spacethree full closets that can be converted from full closets to shelves, a vanity with make-up mirror as well as a desk with plenty of room for all the electronics I carry along. (Believe it or not we always bring a MacbookPro, two iPhones, three iPods, an Altec-Lansing travel stereo for one of the iPods, Kathleen's Nikon point and shoot and my Nikon DSLR, a plug strip and all the rest of the cords for all of the above.) If you check out our pictures from the Oosterdam Day 1-San Diego, you will see more pics of the interior of the cabin. We want to note the one thing we did not like about this cabin. It was directly under the main pool and this made it very noisy. The crew would be on the deck, moving chairs, opening and closing the roof on the pool (which sounded like doors being slammed) from 6:00 am on. Our room got quite noisy. We should add that we have been in aft cabins on Infinity a number of times that were on the Sky deck where many people complain about the noise and we have never been bothered. Not so on deck 8 of Oosterdam. It was loud and obnoxious. If you are a light sleeper and like to sleep past 6:00 am we would not recommend any cabin midships on deck eight. Our next door neighbors (who turned out to be our tablemates) agreed with us. The night we were in Mazatlan was the worst! There was a pool party from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm. The noise was incredible. Forget trying to sleep. But worse than the party was the cleanup that lasted well past midnight. People should be warned about the noise in these cabins. After we had dropped our carry-on luggage we went right back out to go and tour the ship. We started on the Lido deck where we had eaten lunch and worked our way down. Oosterdam has 11 decks. The Lido deck where the pool, buffet and spa are located is deck nine. We were on deck eight. The next four decks (4-7) are also cabins. Decks two and three had most of the rest of the activity areas on the ship. Our cabin was perfectly situated for having breakfast and lunch, me going to the gym and us both going to the spa (more about that later). But going to dinner in the dining room or going downstairs for almost anything else means quite a walk up and down five flights of stairs. Of course, it's a great way to walk off all that good food. (Much more about that later.) After our tour we met our Cruise Critic group on the bow of the ship to have the web-cam wave. It is a tradition in San Diego that the Cruise Critic group goes to the front of the ship where they can be seen by the San Diego webcam. There is even a banner which everyone signs. Then at 3:00 pm we hold up the banner and wave. Someone at home takes a screen shot and posts the photo to the Cruise Critic website. It's a great chance for us all to get together for a few minutes. After that it was back to the cabin to unpack and then off to the lifeboat drill. We expected the drill to be very well run after our previous HAL trip but it was a joke. We arrived at our lifeboat station (in front of a huge vent that was extremely noisy) and a crew member attempted to read the cabin numbers of those who were supposed to be at that station. There was absolutely no way you could hear a thing he was saying and after reading about 10 cabin numbers he gave up and they let us go. It was sad to say the least. After the life boat drill we went topside to watch the sailaway. We had beautiful, sunny, seventy degree weather. It was gorgeous. Ports of Call This cruise was about cruising as opposed to our last two European cruises which were really about the ports. This was to relax and get away by ourselves. And it worked great since it only had three port days out of seven. We like cruises with a couple of sea days. There is always plenty to do on board but the best thing to do is to relax. But we did want to let you know what we did on shore. As you can see from the itinerary we had a sea day and then stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and finally in Puerto Vallarta. The one thing we will remember for quite a while about this trip is that all three ports were incredibly hot. Temps in the upper nineties and humidity to match made the days fairly miserable. There was actually a time watching a show in Mazatlan that I was worried about Kathleen passing out from the heat or getting a migraine headache. Thankfully she did neither. If you have any doubt that global warming exists all our guides told us that they had never seen temps this high at the end of October in these places. Cabo San Lucas We had decided not to do a tour of any kind here as we had already been here once before as the last stop on our Infinity Panama Canal cruise in 2004. We just thought we would get off the ship and walk around. We might really have enjoyed this if it weren't for the heat. We did our usual walk and might have had lunch or a drink except by that time it was so hot we just got back on board. We did have luck in one of our two quests. On every trip we look for police T-shirts for our son-in-law Joel who is a Washington State trooper. He loves wearing the different ones from around the world so we are always on the lookout for them. Our own children have informed us then no longer want or wear T-shirts. We sometimes also look for Formula 1 racing stuff for our other son-in-law Brian but our kids get nuthin! In Cabo we found Joel's shirt and were also looking for something that someone else who has to remain nameless lest a surprise be revealed but we were unable to find that item anyplace. That was about it for Cabo. We can say that besides being hot, it was the absolute worst of the three ports for vendors almost attacking us as we walked from the tender into town. Every two or three steps we would have someone in our face asking us to buy jewelry, take a tour or have a picture taken with their iguana. It got very old, very quickly. There is only so many times you can say, "NO gracias!" Mazatlan Having never been to Mazatlan before we had decided to take the "Discover Mazatlan and The Papantla Flyer Show" tour. This would give us a basic overview tour of the city with an experienced guide on a big air conditioned tour bus and a cool show at the end. Thank God we did that. The tour started with an overlook of the city's lighthouse which we were told is the highest lighthouse in the world (coincidentally exactly one year ago we were at the site of the second highest in the world at Gibraltar). There we were accosted by the usual vendors and watched a fairly amateur cliff diver almost kill himself and took about five minutes of pictures. Then we were off to the cathedral downtown, the real cliff divers, shopping in the Golden district (there has to be shopping) and finally to see the Papantla Flyer Show. This is a Mexican cultural show that features folk dancers, Mardi Gras costumes, a trick rope artist and the flyers themselves who hang upside down from ropes as they descend (without nets) from about 80 feet in the air. See the pictures to get the idea. The only problem with the entire day was that it was hot. VERY HOT! And with the humidity it was even worse. After the performance, it was back on the bus and a quick return to the ship where the air conditioning was running full blast...thank the Lord! Puerto Vallarta After the two incredibly hot days we had endured in Cabo and Mazatlan we decided we better book another overview tour so we could see Puerto Vallarta without dying in the heat since we would at least have an air conditioned bus to get back on. We were glad we did. We boarded the bus early in the day (8:15) and were off to see the town. I want to note here that Puerto Vallarta is on Central Standard Time but that the ship elects to stay on Pacific Standard Time. Why? I guess they think their guests are too stupid to figure out how to change their clocks. Our first stop on the tour was the boardwalk and the beachfront area where there is a plethora of public art both permanent (sculptures) and temporary (incredible sand sculptures). Make sure to check out the pictures to see what I mean. After about an hour of walking tour during which we saw the cathedral of Our Lady of Guadeloupe as well, we got back on the bus for a drive to another part of the city where we got off for the obligatory shopping. I should add that all these tours included "shopping." Unfortunately the shopping is often at exactly the same shop (usually Diamonds International) that you would see in any cruise port. For instance, we saw exactly the same product and store in all three ports on this cruise, in all three ports in Alaska, in all the Caribbean ports we have ever been in and strangely, last year in Gibraltar. If you blindfolded me and set me inside one of the stores, I couldn't tell you what port I was in. We did leave the jewelry store and went across the street to the ceramics factory store where we did find a new plate to add to our collection. After the shopping it was back on the bus and a drive south of the city to a tequila distillery. We got the tour that showed how tequila has been made for about a hundred years from the blue agave plant plus we got samples. In fact at every stop there are free refreshments. Usually soft drinks, margaritas and our choicebottled water. After the tequila tour, it was back on the bus and a long but scenic ride back to the ship. Summing up the ports Of the three cities, I would say that we would actually consider return to Puerto Vallarta. And as for me, if I never go to Cabo again, it will be way too soon. Mazatlan was a nice place that I might have liked better if it hadn't been so oppressively hot and humid. But as I said above, this cruise for us (and I believe pretty much anyone on it) isn't really about the ports. All about the food When I wrote my last cruise review and set up my website after our Alaskan cruise in August 2008, my daughter Jenna looked at it and said, "Dad, it's all about the food." I told her that I was writing the review predominately for cruise people and that for cruise people, it is sometimes all about the food. Cruise ship food can be classified into four distinct areas: buffets, dining rooms, room service and specialty restaurants. We are going to state right now that we don't do room service. Kathleen and I are not big fans of eating in our room. We cruise to meet people and make friends and since we eat by ourselves at home about 90% of the time we can actually count on one hand the times on our 11 cruises when we have ordered room service. So if you are a regular room service person we won't be much help to you. I can tell you that a couple from our Cruise Critic group who we talked to on the sixth day of the cruise said they had ordered room service every morning for breakfast and the order had been wrong six days out of six. Not much of a recommendation for room service. The Buffet For us breakfast and lunch are predominately in the buffet. On X we might also eat in the Aqua Spa Cafe but Oosterdam doesn't have anything like that. What they do have is an excellent buffet restaurant. As much as I am a Celebrity fan, I have to admit that HAL has a better buffet, at least for breakfast and lunch. Let's start with breakfast. For me the astounding thing is nine (YES NINE!) kinds of eggs benedict. I love eggs benedict. But on a buffet they are usually awful. The reason they aren't usually that good is that they are usually pre-made, sitting in a steam tray for so long that the poached eggs are usually hard boiled by the time you get them on your plate. Not on HAL. When you step up to the eggs benedict man, he starts your eggs poaching. Then he toasts your english muffin. Then he puts it together, covers it with some of the best hollandaise sauce I have had and top the entire thing with a metal plate cover to keep it warm and sends you off to your table. Yummy! Speaking of topping your plate with a top to keep things warm, HAL also does this on their omelets and it keeps them warm while you grab your juice and coffee. A superb idea that every buffet should have. Also great for breakfast were the made-to-order omelets with just about anything you could want in them. And did I mention the freshly-squeezed OJ? It is wonderful. Not to be in anyway confused with the fresh from the spigot, weak and watery juice served on Celebrity. The only fault here is that it is often warm by the time you get it. I guess in a perfect world you would get a hot breakfast with ice-cold juice and hot coffee. Maybe on a more exclusive cruise line. Speaking of coffee, even with Celebrity's new coffee, HAL kicks butt here. They may be the last place on earth you can still get Torrefazione coffee. This is an outstanding, small roaster from Seattle that got gobbled up by Starbucks a few years ago. We used to love them in Seattle and were sorry to see them go but were very pleasantly surprised to find them here on HAL. The coffee at breakfast was wonderful and the decaf at dinner was also superb. What was a real surprise here was when we went to the specialty coffee cafe (the HAL version of the Cova Cafe) and ordered coffee to drink there and were given our coffee in paper cups. PLEASE! If I am going to pay for coffee on a ship where I can get good coffee for free (we always finish breakfast with a cappuccino) I would like to have that excellent coffee in a real cup. I know it's a little thing but it matters to us. And strangely, when we asked for biscotti to go with the coffee we were offered it on a regular plate or "to go" on a napkin. Lunch was also excellent in the buffet (or as it is called on the Oosterdam, the Lido Restaurant). We discovered the excellent grilled panini sandwiches on the first day and they became my favorite for the entire week. Kathleen went with the salads and I discovered a really excellent seafood salad that was chock full of calamari and shrimp yummy. One thing that Celebrity does a bunch better than HAL is their hamburger grille. X's has about ten times the choices when it comes to condiments, much better fries, a huge selection of not only burgers but hot dogs, greek sandwiches, nachos, tacos and more. HAL has hamburgers and hot dogs and mustard and ketchup to put on them. Runny ketchup at that. On X you get unlimited guacamole on your burger if you want it and I always do. I should make note again that while it is easy to get food in the buffet, it is often difficult to get drinks. While there are probably 10 food stations, there are only two drink stations and they are often out of order at one or the other. That means that on any given morning there might be 1,000 people trying to get coffee from two machines in one small area. Not the best situation. Plus, the unpaid (soft drinks are chargeable on cruise ships) selection was meager. On X I can ALWAYS get lemonade, ice tea and a punch. On Oosterdam, it was two but never three. And most of the time one of the machines was down. (Kathleen's note: But you can get cranberry juice, V-8 or tomato juice, pineapple juice, fresh squeezed OJ or regular OJ for breakfast which you cannot get on X.) One last little criticism of HAL's almost perfect buffet. At the front of the buffet, just as you enter at lunch they are making pasta. They use so much garlic the smell alone is almost sickening. And folks, I am Italian and love garlic. This is overkill. Lighten up on the garlic. I saw one cook doing a single serving of pasta that he fried seven cloves into the sauce to start the order. I don't know about you, but that would have killed me. The Dining Room Although you can eat either breakfast or lunch in the dining room Kathleen and I didn't on this cruise. The buffet was too good to pass up. But we did eat there all but two nights at dinner. We are early seating people. And we like a fixed seating plan. HAL has both fixed seating (5:45 and 8:30) for dinner as well as an "Anytime Dining" option which allows you to go to the dining room at any time from 5:15 until 9:00 for dinner. All fixed seating is on the third floor of the dining room and all "Anytime Dining" is on the second floor. We were originally supposed to have "Anytime Dining" but our TA had put us on a waiting list for regular early seating and we were thrilled to find we had made the cut. We were at a table for ten (we prefer eight or six) but this ten was just fine. Also at our table were three folks we hardly ever talked to as they were very quiet and always sat at the far end of the table from us, a couple from the San Diego area who were celebrating their wedding anniversary and three wonderful sisters from East Texas-Louisiana region who were the most fun ever. They turned out to be our next door neighbors cabin-wise as well and we wound up seeing them on a shore excursion too. A big hello to Joy, Phyllis and Nancy. At dinner the food was great. I can say that I had an eggplant cannelloni the first night, lamb the second, a pasta dish the fourth, beef tenders the sixth and a wild forest mushroom strudel the seventh (the third was Kathleen's birthday and we went to the Pinnacle Grille and the fifth we went to a Mexican barbecue on the pool deck). With this wide variety of dishes, they didn't fail with a single one. All were excellent as were the appetizers, the salads and the soups. Kathleen was just as happy with her dinners as I was. So we had great company and great food but I would still have to say that I never once enjoyed a single dinner as much as any dinner I have enjoyed on Celebrity. Why? Because of the service. Was it good, quick and efficient? You bet. Was it cold, brisk and rushed. To that I have to answer an emphatic YES! On X we can tell you the name of every waiter and every assistant waiter we have had on all eight cruises. They made our dinners special, social occasions. As I write this it is the fifth day of the cruise and I have no idea who our waiter is, or our assistant waiter, or our sommelier. In fact I am pretty sure that we have had different waiters every night. We may have had the same person every night but they have never taken the time to introduce themselves, to make any recommendations on the menu or to really do anything that would make them special. I truly believe that part of the fault in this lies with the tipping policy on HAL. Tips on X are optional. You can add them to your ship's account or you can pass them out in cash on the last night. We always do and almost always far surpass what X suggests we give our waiters and assistant waiters as well as often tipping the sommeliers and bartenders more than the standard 15% they automatically add to every drink and bottle of wine. On HAL, tips are automatically added to your ship's account whether you like it or not. So, the service can be good or bad, you can have waiter A on one night and waiter B another and it makes no difference. We like the difference. We like our waiters, assistant waiters and sommeliers who take great care of us on Celebrity. Besides never getting to know our servers, they were way too fast. We would sit down to eat at 5:45 and walk out of the dining room around 7:15. It was like they were in a major rush to get rid of us. I would barely pull my chair in as we sat down at the table when a menu would be in my lap. Within three to five minutes my order was taken, within another three to five minutes my first course would arrive and then with just about as quick and interval, all remaining courses. When we were finished with our entrees the dishes were replaced with dessert menus almost instantly and we barely had time to read them before the waiter was back to ask us what we wanted. Often he would interrupt a conversation to find out what we wanted to order for dessert. Then it was almost immediately served. I know that I ordered decaf with dessert every night and so far on only one night did I get even offered a second cup. Dinners always felt rushed on HAL. I have never felt that way on any of our cruises on Celebrity. Dinner is the social event of the day and it is special. On Oosterdam, I felt like we were well-dressed animals being fed at a ten animal trough. A mention of our sommelier is in order. On Celebrity, the sommelier is an integral part of the dining experience. On HAL, they weren't sommeliers, they were "bar waiters" (that's what it said on their name badges) and they took care of the wine service almost like they were doing you a favor. Our TA had sent us both a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red wine to our cabin. We took the red to the dining room on the first night and it took the "bar waiter" quite a while to get us glasses and get it poured. At the end of the evening I made a point of telling him that we would bring the champagne down the next night and would like to share it with the rest of the table. I asked if he could he please have glasses ready and the champagne chilled. He said to just bring it down when we came (in other words, chill it yourself) and he would take care of it. On X our cabin steward would have sent it down earlier and it would have been waiting at our table, chilled and the sommelier would have had glasses at every seat at the table. Well we were one of the first people at the table that night but by the time he acknowledged us, he had already poured wine for more than half of the others at the table and of course no on wanted any champagne now that they had purchased their own wine. This to me was the height of bad service. Just one more comment on the service in the dining room. We had breakfast with a very nice woman from Missouri who was doing "Anytime Dining" and said that she and those in her party had almost exactly the opposite problem. They seemed to have to wait forever to be seated, to order and then to be served. So long, she said, that it bordered on bad service. That's is amazing. If they just tried to even it out, we could both be happy. The Specialty Restaurant-The Pinnacle Grille While HAL and the Oosterdam may have a better buffet than Celebrity, and the food in the dining room is equal, The Pinnacle Grille is not in the same city, much less the same ballpark as the speciality restaurants on the Celebrity M-class ships. We have dined in the United States Dining room on board Infinity at least eight or nine times and it is one of our favorite dining experiences. Dining in an alternative restaurant should not just be about the food but it should be an event. The food, the wine, the conversation, the ambience, all contribute to the meal. This is especially true in the Celebrity's specialty restaurants. Silver dome, french service with many dishes prepared table-side by experienced waiters who know how to converse about food add up to a one-of-a-kind dining experience. We can honestly say that except for one hurried Valentine's dinner in the United States Dining Room, every X specialty restaurant meal has been a culinary pleasure. Not in the Pinnacle Grille. We arrived on time and were seated just as if we were eating in the dining room. We were shown a variety of steaks under glass that are the specialty of the house. As it was a special occasion (Kathleen's birthday) we decided to order Pellegrino sparkling water which was promptly served...warm. Actually closer to hot. When we asked for ice or a different bottle that was cold, we were treated like culinary heathens that did not know you "never put ice in Pellegrino." Well, excuse us. It was either that or drink hot water on what had been a fairly hot day. That also meant that since they put ice in the water we had to continuously remind them that it was sparkling water which meant they kept looking at us like we were dunces for having ice in it. Again, we had barely dealt with the water when the waiter was there asking if he could take our order. We told him we really hadn't had a chance to look at the menu yet. At this point the "bar waiter" came by and asked if we would like to see the wine list. All of this happened within five to ten minutes of our being seated. Again, we are feeling very rushed. The wine list was excellent. Being that HAL is based in Seattle, there were quite a few Washington wines that we know and love including a Syrah from our favorite cellars, McCrea that we had enjoyed before. Unfortunately, it also meant that we knew most of the wines very well, including their prices which I felt were way too high. Almost to the point of "price gouging." Wines in restaurants are normally three times the price of wine in a store and these were sometimes four and five times the price. The least expensive bottle of red was a merlot that came from Chateau St. Michel, a winery that is about two miles from our home. We have seen it priced in stores at the $10 level but HAL wanted $58 for it. We thought the pricing was "just us" but when we decided on a bottle and we told the "bar waiter" (It was bad enough that there was a "bar waiter" doing wine in the dining room but I can't even imagine a good specialty restaurant not having a trained sommelier!) how impressed we were with the number of Washington wines on the list, she said, "I bet you are pretty surprised at those prices, aren't you?"We knew right then, that it wasn't "just us." After we got our wine ordered the waiter was back to take our orders. Once we had given him those the "bar waiter" was back with the wine. Once we had opened and poured that, the waiter was back with our salads. Once we were done with the salads they had been off the table no more than three or four minutes when our entrees arrived. I am not sure why these people were in such a hurry but they were. There were plenty of empty tables so it wasn't like they were needing to get rid of us so they could seat someone else. Food-wise the cuisine was adequate. It was the equivalent of anything we had eaten in the dining room on the first three nights of the cruise. We both started with caesar salad that was good, followed by Steak Diane for Kathleen and a ribeye steak for me. Mine had bernaise sauce on the side that was less than adequate. HAL's desserts have been excellent and the desserts in the Pinnacle Grille were no exception. I had the chocolate volcano cake and Kathleen had a raspberry cheese cake. Both were excellent. I also had a cup of the Torrefazione decaf that was really great but I had a heck of a time getting a second cup as both our waiter and our bar waiter were rushing up to us with checks to signs. Cost of dinner in the Pinnacle Grille is $20 each which is supposed to cover the cost of the tip. The food was no better than the dining room and I have to say that when we sail HAL again, we will probably skip it. One event that you may want to avoid On the last night we were in Mexico the ship held a "Mexican Barbecue" on the pool deck and we decided to try it instead of eating in the dining room. Big mistake. First, we are not sure why it was listed as a "Mexican Barbecue" as there was nothing Mexican about it that we could see. No salsa or guacamole in site. Just steaks done on a grill with some beans (not even refried but pintos in a barbecue sauce) corn on the cob, baked potatoes, cornbread, rolls and a salad bar. The biggest problem we could see was that they were not ready to handle the numbers of people who showed up to eat there. Steaks were very undercooked. Mine, which was supposed to be medium-rare, was raw and by the time we waited through getting the side dishes was also cold. If they are going to consider doing this on a regular basis, they need to rethink the logistics of the event. If you are sailing on Oosterdam in Mexico this year, skip the Mexican Barbecue and eat in the dining room. You can get the same steak, done correctly and still warm when you eat it. It would be easy to rearrange the line so that you got your cold salads and sides first and then got your meat but this isn't the way it is. The Master Chef's Dinner Just a quick note about this. On the final night at sea, the dining room staff assisted by some of the ship's entertainers, put on a culinary show in the dining room. It starts with invitations on the table the night before asking you to be seated by 5:15 and stating that the dining room would be open at 5:00. So at 4:55 we dutifully went to the dining room and found it closed. Until 5:15. If they are going to tell you to be there by 5:15 (NO LATE SEATING) then they should be on time. When we finally got seated, there were no napkins on the table because the dining room staff then paraded in to music and made a big deal about putting the napkins on our laps. This was followed by another parade with the waiters juggling and spinning plates prior to delivering the salad course. Then after the entrees (all courses were delicious) the traditional Baked Alaska March took place. All in all a fun evening. Your typical cruise stuff taken up a notch. In Summary Food All in all, HAL wins the battle of the buffets while Celebrity and HAL are about equal overall in food but X understands that dining is more than just the food. It is a social occasion. An event. And when it comes to that, give me Celebrity every time. Especially Celebrity's specialty restaurants which are beyond awesome. All the rest of the cruise stuff Having covered all the big stuff like ports, food and San Diego and our onboard experience, this page will cover all the rest. The little stuff that really didn't fit into anyplace special but does deserve a special mention. Cruise Critic Those of you who are reading this because you found it through the Cruise Critic website don't need an explanation but those of you who are friends and family need a little background so I hope the former group will excuse my explanation here. Cruise Critic is a super website that allows those of us who cruise on a regular basis to read about cruising online. But more than that it allows, through it's wonderful message boards, for us to communicate with what seems like millions of other cruise junkies like ourselves. If you are reading this as part of a Cruise Critic review, you should make sure and check out the boards. You will meet so many great people there. On those boards you will usually find a thread dedicated to your next cruise. These are called roll calls. We have had one for every cruise we have been on since 2004. There were roll calls before that but we hadn't found Cruise Critic so we didn't have any for our first two cruises. And being on a roll call (especially an active roll call) really enhances your cruise experience. I often tell people that not only did I meet Kathleen online but that I have met the majority of our current friends online through Cruise Critic roll calls. Our four best friends and us form the backbone of a group we refer to as the Martini Mates. We have been posting on the roll call from our original cruise that we took together in 2005 for what seems like forever. That roll call has more than 3,000 posts as of now. I mention this because I want to point out how great HAL was in taking care of our Cruise Critic group. First though, let me say that the roll calls for HAL cruises seem to be a lot smaller and less subscribed to than the roll calls for our Celebrity cruises. This may be due to the average age of the HAL cruising community vs the X cruising community. Either way our Oosterdam roll call was pretty tame compared to our current Solstice roll call which is incredibly active. I would say that our Oosterdam roll call was pretty much kept going by a wonderful lady who goes by the screen name of San Diego Sue (who is really named Gloria). She organized us and got us scheduled so that we met three different times. The second time is what I want to focus on here. On Celebrity if you have more than a certain number of people on your roll call X will host a reception for you. I believe that number is 25. You get invited by X, they usually have it on the morning of the first sea day and they serve coffee and what has always seemed to me like leftover, stale danish from the breakfast buffet. Sometimes someone in authority from the ship will stop by. On many of them, we have had cruise director come by to say hello. On HAL there is no formal get together for the roll call group but between a couple of members of the group contacting HAL in advance and asking for one, we wound up with a reception that put Celebrity's Cruise Critic Connection Party to shame. No stale danish, no coffee, no morning meeting in a tiny lounge (or as we had on the Century a gathering in the theater which was AWKWARD to say the least). Instead there was champagne, wine, appetizers (including shrimp big shrimp) in a really nice lounge in the afternoon. HAL acted like they really cared about the Cruise Critic group. And not only did Cruise Director Erik show up but he brought along DJ Matt and a little while later his boss, the hotel director came by and stayed a while to answer questions. It was outstanding. We felt very special and it is something that X could learn a lesson from. Treat those people who are the most vocal about cruising like you care about them. Kudos to HAL for taking such great care of us. Culinary Events Since one of my hobbies besides photography and travel is food and cooking I was thrilled to see that HAL had a Culinary Arts Center on board the Oosterdam. This truly is a state-of-the-art culinary demonstration kitchen. The set up is fantastic with live cooking going on in front of you and big screen TVs to show you exactly what was going on the stage. During the week I attended (Kathleen joined me for some as well) four demonstrations and could have attended more except they cut into our pool/spa time. The demos were done by either the Oosterdam's chefs or a guest chef (this week the food editor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer) and were all very good. It was a great way to spend the time during sea days and they even gave you samples of everything that they cooked (as if there wasn't enough to eat on board already). The Spa Another place that HAL exceeds our experiences on Celebrity. Some explanation is in order here. When we have sailed with Celebrity one of our favorite places on board is the Thallosotherapy (T) pool and the Persian Gardens. Think of the T-pool as a giant hot tub with the water at body temperature and huge jets coming from under some in-pool metal chaise lounges. And the Persian Gardens is a series of steam rooms and hot ceramic benches that you can sit in and on. We tried them on our original Infinity voyage and really liked them but over the years the T-pool has gotten worn down and now kids are allowed in it so it has lost its luster for us. And the Persian Garden on Infinity on our August Alaskan cruise was in total disrepair with tiles broken and things just feeling dirty. On X, the T-pool is free on the M-class ships but the Persian Gardens is chargeable. Usually about $100 per person for a seven day cruise. On Oosterdam, both their version of the T-pool and their version of the Persian Garden are chargeable as well. One price for both of $150 per person for the cruise or $250 for a couple. Here's the real seller for us...no kids allowed and they only sell 50 of the "memberships." On X the T-pool can sometimes get very crowded and the Persian Gardens as I mentioned, has often in been in different states of disrepair. Also on the Infinity, the Persian Gardens are a dark and dank place while on Oosterdam, the hot benches (six individual ones) face a huge window that looks out over the sea. Behind them are three brightly painted, very clean steam rooms of differing intensities. One is steam with aromatherapy, one straight steam and the last a dry heat. I know, it seems nuts that on a cruise where we are complaining about the heat outdoors that we would sit in a dry heat steam room but we do. Go figure. It is THE most relaxing two hours I know how to spend. An hour in and out of the pool, laying on the most comfortable chaises I have ever laid on and then off to the steam room and ceramic hot benches. I am relaxing just writing about it. I am hoping that the new Celebrity Solstice class ships will have something of this caliber (although she will not have a T-pool, which is a real shame) when we board Solstice in March. Our message to X is to improve their spa to this level and our message to you is that if you are on Oosterdam and can afford it, get this spa package. It is money well spent if you are after relaxation. The Entertainment We like to be entertained. We go to the movies on a regular basis, have subscribed to a theater season for a number of years and are supporters of the Seattle Men's Chorus. So when we come on a ship, we will often see the shows. Especially when we are not traveling with friends which often means we end up skipping the shows just to sit around and talk. On this trip we saw some of the entertainment and I can say it is about typical of what we have seen on all our other cruises. There was a comedian (we skipped his performance on the first night because the show was too late for us), a magician who was cute and folksy but no David Copperfield, a pianist who did an Elton John tribute show that we saw a few minutes of but was not our cup of tea and a full blown production show called Escape which was your typical cruise ship fare. None of them were anything to really write about...so I will stop writing about it now. Photography Since I am in the memory business and I have been taking so many photographs this year, I want to make a couple of comments about the ship's photographers. If you don't cruise you need to know that every time you get on the ship, get off the ship, dress up, dress down or do just about anything else, someone is taking your picture. Then they print them up and put them in the photo gallery section of the ship. The photographers are usually young people who are trained in portraiture by someone who learned it about 20 years ago. They do the regular poses that frankly I think, look rather cheesy. You know the ones. You posed that way for your prom pictures. That said the Oosterdam photographers did their best to make theirs more interesting. Unfortunately they only succeed marginally. One of the things they did was combine shots into picture packages. Let's say we got our photo taken on formal night. When we went to look at it, there would be five pictures on one sheet. One 8 x 10 of the two of us in color, another of each of us individually in black and white and then two wallet sizes. You could only buy all of them. So if you want the one color photo, you end up with all of them. Not a bad thing but two of those sheets are $80! Yikes. And the waste is as bad as any photo studio we have seen at sea. On the final sea day we went in and pulled every photo of us we could find. There were more than 35 individual sheets of photo paper with just us on them. We bought two and they threw the rest away. WHAT A WASTE! People, this is the digital age. How about taking my picture and making it available on a kiosk or even better swipe my key card when you take it and have the pics show up on the TV in my cabin. Then I can look at them and order just the prints I want. Or even better give me the option to purchase them digitally. You see, like many people today, I don't carry actual photographs anymore. I carry an iPhone (or I could have them in my iPod) that has photos in it. As of today the photo library on my iPod has more than 700 photos in it. I want my pictures digitally. I use them on websites, as my screen saver, my desktop background and so many other ways in a digital format. Please cruise lines, stop printing the pictures and go digital. I must say that X finally started at least using kiosks in their photo galleries but they still printed every photo. What a waste of resources. They need to get a little greener. I would love to find a way for Jostens to partner with cruise lines as they do with Disney where you could go home from a cruise, see all the pics taken on your entire cruise and put together a book of just the ones you want, have it printed and shipped directly to you. How great would that be. Summing it all up Here it is. The end of the review. I bet you never thought you would get here. But now for the final judgement. Will we sail HAL again? Yes. This line will probably become our second (or third if you count Azamara as a second line, separate from Celebrity) favorite line. It will be a safe line we can sail on when X does not have the itineraries we are looking for or when a bargain comes along. We have pretty much eliminated most of the other big lines (RCCL, Princess, Carnival) because we really don't want to sail with kids and families. We like an adult line. For that reason, Celebrity works for us. And HAL will be a great second line that is also close to that demographic. Was it a perfect cruise? No. The noise level in our cabin was horrendous and we will never book under the pool area again even if they give us another upgrade. Were there things we loved? Absolutely...the food, the cabin itself (without the noise), the people we met. Do we still like X better? Yes. Her crew is the difference. The service is the deal breaker. We love X because of the way we are treated every minute we are onboard. Not that we were treated badly on HAL, it just wasn't the same. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Our family of seven just spent a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday sailing to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam. Hotel: Holiday Inn on the Bay We all arrived in San Diego on Friday, 11/21, from our respective cities, Dallas, Chicago, ... Read More
Our family of seven just spent a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday sailing to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam. Hotel: Holiday Inn on the Bay We all arrived in San Diego on Friday, 11/21, from our respective cities, Dallas, Chicago, and Detroit, without incident. We chose the Holiday Inn on the Bay, which is directly across from the pier on N. Harbor Drive. This property is very convenient as you can simply walk across the street to the HAL terminal. The hotel was a very nice three star property, with large, clean, modern rooms, all with large balconies overlooking downtown or the harbor. The staff is competent and friendly. William, the concierge, was most helpful in arranging transportation and recommending nice, kid friendly restaurants. Holiday Inn also offers free shuttle service to and from the airport, and the even made a special run to the San Diego Zoo on the back end of our trip. Free of charge!! We highly recommend this hotel. Embarkation: 11/22, 11:30 AM. Smooth and effortless. On board in less than twenty minutes. The Ship: This was my second trip on the O in less than a year, and while she is a lovely vessel, she is showing signs of wear, which is to be expected after five years of service. Oosterdam is scheduled for a dry dock refit in April '09, at which time she will undergo extensive renovations and added length at the stern. My guess is that they will do away with the tiered stern to conceal the balconies so that passengers standing on the Lido deck can't see directly on to your deck. Much like the stern of the Eurodam. Staterooms: We all had SS Veranda Suites on the Navigation Deck (9), directly below the Lido Restaurant. Avoid those suites located directly below the Lido Pool midship as it they extremely noisy. Why do you think the larger, more expensive SA and PS suites are located on Deck 8? The size of our suite was more than adequate with plenty of living and storage space. A large bathroom with whirlpool tub (which did not work), separate shower stall and double vanity were worth the extra dollars. The individual veranda measures approximately 12x7. Our family was assigned 8085, 8087, and 8089, and asked our cabin steward, Rante, to open the dividers between our verandas which gave us one large balcony approx 36x7. We spend significant time together watching dolphins, flying fish and sunsets. Priceless. Dining: As usual, HAL was consistent in the quality, variety, and presentation of all food served on the O. HAL has yet to refine their As You Wish Dining option. On our first formal night, we made reservations for 7:30 PM. Upon arriving at the dining room, were handed a pager and told we would have a ten minute wait. An hour later, I approached the maitre'd and informed him that my family had been waiting an hour and we were ready to be seated. We were immediately escorted to the upper level dining and seated at a large table. The waiter looked completely puzzled and annoyed that we had been seated in his section, and rushed us through the meal. Food good. Service poor. The service received in subsequent visits to the Vista Dining Room were very pleasant. Entertainment: Okay. If you're easily amused. If you want to watch a good show, go to NYC or Vegas. Most shipboard entertainment will be cheesy and second rate on any ship. I will say that the illusionist and the Elton John impersonator were pretty good. Karaoke was by FAR the most popular activity on board with a contest which spanned three nights. The Queen's Lounge was packed each night. Club HAL: There is no doubt that HAL has extremely qualified counselors, but my impression is that they cater to the younger kids. There are no activities that hold the attention of tweens and teens. The Thanksgiving cruise had 480 kids, the most ever seen on the Oosterdam. If you kids are hard to please, HAL may not be the best choice. Consider Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or NCL. Sail Away Gifts: When we initially arrived in our suites, there was a plate of lovely chocolate covered strawberries, complete with a Thank You card, compliments of our travel agent. However, a family friend also ordered sail away gifts which never made it to our cabins. To be specific, one bottle of red wine, a bottle of champagne, and two HAL travel cups with holsters for the boys. We thought the delay in delivering these items may have been due to a heavy order volume for the holidays. When we approached guest services, they acknowledged having the complete order, but all they said was that they would do an inquiry and the woman who took the order was off duty. On day three, we found a bottle of red wine in our cabin with a yellow Post-It note which read, "8085". No card, which kind of defeats the purpose. In the end, all gifts were delivered to their respective suites minus the intended gift cards. Poor form. Disembarkation: We chose the express disembarkation option and were assigned the first window which was 8-8:15 AM. When arrived fifteen minutes early only to find a queue of passengers which wrapped half way around the ship. I believe that disembarkation is the most unpleasant aspect of any cruise, but the HAL staff does little to manage this process. Passengers who were assigned a later disembarkation window disregarded the staff's request to remain in their cabins or public room to await their disembarkation time. It was a goat rodeo trying to get off the ship. Any inconvenience experienced during this process is caused by inconsiderate passengers rather than HAL staff. Customs is a complete and total joke. They don't even look at your passport, they just take your customs declaration form and send you on your way. Does anyone know why the customs officers wear blue latex gloves? I could wright an entire review on the effectiveness of US Customs and TSA. What a joke. Do you know what we could do what that money? Summary: Our family had a wonderful time and the weather was spectacular. Oosterdam is a lovely vessel and her staff is friendly and accommodating. Accommodations and overall quality rate high. Passenger demographics still lean toward the mature set. If you're looking for excitement on board a ship, the O is not for you. There is more happening in a morgue at 11 PM. If you're looking for some relaxing "me" time, this is the place for you. I would definitely sail with HAL again, however, probably not with kids or before I try Celebrity brand. 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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