The following are some of our experiences on the Oosterdam 3/10 sailing out of Tampa Florida. The itinerary included the ports of Cozumel, Roatan Honduras, Santo Tomas Guatemala and Costa Maya. We have about 26 cruises under our belt and ... Read More
The following are some of our experiences on the Oosterdam 3/10 sailing out of Tampa Florida. The itinerary included the ports of Cozumel, Roatan Honduras, Santo Tomas Guatemala and Costa Maya. We have about 26 cruises under our belt and chose this particular voyage because it included 3 new ports for us and also gave us the opportunity see family and friends living in the area prior to departure.
Admittedly, we weren’t too excited about this trip as the sailing date approached. We were very underwhelmed by our last HAL cruise - September 2014 on the Maasdam and totally “wowed” by our last 3 Celebrity cruises in a row.
Pre-cruise: we stayed at the Double Tree, Rocky Point. I wouldn’t recommend this property if you don’t have a car, there is nothing within walking distance. And even with a car, it is still a poor value – it is an old property in need of updating. While it might be OK for business travelers, it didn’t seem appealing to vacation travel.
Embarkation/disembarkation: We arrived at the port about 1:30 PM – a short line for security and then suite passenger expedited check-in got us on board in less than 5 minutes. Luggage was delivered about 2 hours later – very efficient.
Neptune Suite #7079: this room is in a great location, convenient to both mid-ship elevators and the Neptune Lounge. The room was nicely appointed as always and in very nice condition. The 2 concierges in the Neptune Lounge couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful and professional. We appreciate consistent, good quality service and HAL offers it with a well-trained, committed staff.
Food/Dinning: this is always a subjective topic but in our opinion, Oosterdam knocked it out of the park. While Celebrity offers exclusive dining options and venues for suite passengers, HAL does not; but it doesn’t need too. The Oosterdam MDR dining experience is absolutely wonderful. Food nicely presented, delicious and always presented at the right temperature. The menu is creative and offers very nice choices that should appeal to most conventional tastes. The service was prompt and courses were paced very nicely; we never felt rushed at any meal. This is important to us and the sign of a well-trained and observant wait staff. We chose open seating and there was never a wait for a table for two; we had a different team each night and they were all equally good. Sommeliers were equally professional, fun and very attentive.
Other dinning venues we tried on this cruise included the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast and lunch (excellent service and great food), room service for breakfast (served hot and on time), Lido for an occasional slice of pizza or piece of fried chicken (always hit the spot) and the Dive-In for a Paddle Dog once in a while (again, very good). Finally, Neptune Lounge offers some nice refreshments and snack choices that they changes out several times a day. If you are a smoked salmon fan, this is the place to score big time! Oosterdam offers lots of choices and in our opinion, the ones we tried were all good to excellent.
Service: again and as always, HAL really shines. Service everywhere on the ship was very good to outstanding. Room attendants, although appearing very over-worked and under-staffed, always greeted guests warmly and cheerfully. Our team did an excellent job maintaining our room and responding to our modest requests. Elsewhere on the ship, service staff was usually very polite, seemed efficient and normally engaging.
Entertainment: this is where HAL really stood out when compared to our recent Celebrity cruises. Oosterdam offered terrific entertainment venues – absolutely first rate. Although we didn’t see them all, the ones we did experience were great.
For starters for those who have seen Danny and Anderson in the Billboard venue, you know what I am talking about. These two singer/piano players are unbelievably good and immensely talented performers. Although they perform 3 times a night, there shows are all different; there is the occasional repeat of a song but for the most part, every set is different. We attended about 2 shows a night and thoroughly enjoyed them all. We can honestly say that these two talented, engaging guys were the best nightly entertainment we have seen on any cruise. They left the ship at the conclusion of our cruise; hopefully their replacements will be equally as talented. The new piano configuration in our opinion is far superior to the previous small (smokey), cramped venue of the past. There was plenty of room for everyone and these guys usually played to a full house.
A few other acts we saw were a talented virtuoso piano player/singer Juan Pablo; we really liked this guy who was somewhat old school but very entertaining and had a great Latin flair. A talented comedian Rich Aronovitch did an amazingly funny and creative show; I thought he was hilarious and he kept in moderately clean which is always appreciated. Although we only stopped for an occasional listen, the performances at Lincoln Center and the BB King Club were always well attended and seemed to hit the mark for fans of each venue.
OK, now to the things that really misfired for us.
Wine by the glass: we are not wine snobs by any stretch but we do enjoy a decent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or nice California Pinot Noir. But the choices by the glass (Simi, Formation and Meridian respectively) were fairly low end and lacking. And at $9.50 a glass, they also seemed overpriced. We wouldn’t mind paying more if we could get something decent. However there were some decent choices available in the dining room by the bottle.
Casino: the dealers were good – well trained and fun. But the problem was the tightest slots and video poker machines we’ve ever seen, anywhere. Yes I know everyone who plays machines has the same complaint but these things never paid enough to keep you engaged at all, honestly. And what kind of casino only has 4 quarter slot machines?
Ports: this is totally my fault for not doing my homework. Although we normally love Cozumel, the first port and have been there many times, it is a much different place on Sunday. Most of the things we enjoy and the places we normally go to were closed or scaled back. I am fairly certain that Oosterdam was the only ship in port, so there was also no incentive for many places to be open anyway.
The second port, Roatan, was probably nice if you wanted a beach day but there wasn’t much else in the immediate port area to do. The third port, Santo Tomas, was really, really lacking. Unfortunately I realized this only after I booked this cruise; there was almost no information about the place on CC or Trip Advisor. It is a container port with a big shed set up at one end were merchants are packed together all selling the same stuff. There are bus and boat tours available; but reviews I read and people we talked to that went on them were not particularly favorable. But it’s all pretty subjective and some may enjoy what is available.
Finally, we had a nice day in Costa Maya. I thought the port was nicely developed with nice shops and a few decent restaurants. We took the shuttle into town but there wasn’t much to see at all.
In summary, except for the few topics we were disappointed with, this was a great cruise and in many ways, HAL hit it out of the park.
Thank you to the wonderful staff and officers of the Oosterdam for all your hard work, great humor and total commitment to the passengers. Read Less