Sail Date: February 2003
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7058. We sailed on the Ms Oosterdam and returned on the 15th. It was a totally enjoyable cruise. The mean spirited reviews ... Read More
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7058. We sailed on the Ms Oosterdam and returned on the 15th. It was a totally enjoyable cruise. The mean spirited reviews We've read of her and of her sister Vista Class ship are totally and completely exaggerated and unfair. Our cruise last week on , the Ms Oosterdam was by far the best cruise experience we've had, this cruise has raised the Bar and probably spoiled us for ever. Where do We begin? Since we live in South Florida, we had a short drive to Port Everglades. Baggage drop-off was quick and friendly and the Port has excellent parking facilities just across from the HAL terminal. Since we had a Deluxe Veranda Suite, Embarkation was a breeze. We had our own area to check in, no line, no waiting. We simply walked up to the counter, provided the agent with our documents, had our picture taken, received our boarding cards, went through security and were on the ship within 15 minutes. We took advantage of HAL's 11:30 early boarding and were promptly escorted to the Neptune Lounge. We were greeted by two very charming young ladies, Arlene and Julie who welcomed us to the Oosterdam Family. Captain Mercer and HAL's management team should take pride in these two employees. Over the next seven days they made sure our every wish was taken care of. Arlene & Julie took care of our shore excursions, our private cabana on Half Moon Cay (well worth the extra charges), our dinner reservations, and even the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning. All guests in (S) Deluxe Verandah Suites enjoy the amenities of the Neptune lounge and its staff. A wonderful perk which included coffee/tea service all day, drinks, snacks, finger sandwiches, etc. Arlene and Julie who staff the lounge are a sweet, lovely and caring young ladies who will help you with anything you need. This was our first cruise with HAL's Deluxe Veranda Suite and we are spoiled. The stateroom suites are very spacious, nicely decorated, a changing area, and large bathroom with whirlpool tub and shower stall. Our room steward Si took pride in servicing the cabin and always made sure are room was clean, neat and well stocked. On days in Port Si could be found washing the Verandahs and making sure the cabin was always in tip top shape. The veranda is quite large and includes a small dining table, four chairs and 2 lounge chairs and ottomans. We enjoyed sitting on the veranda, as we enjoyed our morning room service. Room service was efficient and our food was delivered hot. The "S" cabin is well worth the few extra dollars you will spend if you like being treated like Queens & Kings. The ship is beautiful and the dEcor is timeless. The ship is easy to maneuver and well lit. The layout of this ship is well thought out. The food on the Lido was delicious and the service was terrific. Sammy one of the servers was often seen carrying trays for many of the older cruisers. The food choices were well varied and the desserts and ice cream were delicious. We were 2nd seating on deck 3 of the Vista dining room, right along the staircase railing. It is true that the room did vibrate for a moment or two and the ship did "rock and roll" However the winds were gale force and the waves were quite high, if Captain Mercer could control the weather he would have. We had the opportunity to meet Captain Mercer at both the Private Suite Cocktail Party and the Private Suite Brunch in the Crows Nest. Both events are additional special treats for guests in the Deluxe Verandah Suite. The food in the Vista Dining Room was fantastic, however the Captain and his crew made sure the food at the Suite Brunch was even better. We received exceptional service from our Head Waiter Freddy, our waiter Mohab, our assistant waiter, Heri, and our Wine Steward Ricardo. The food was excellent and the portions were in perfect amounts. Some appetizers/entrees/desserts were so good; we had second portions that were delivered immediately. We also had breakfast and lunch in the Vista, and although the servers were different due to the open seating we were always treated like royalty. We visited the alternative dining venue - The Pinnacle Grill. It's name says it all, the food was Fantastic!. Our server Atilo was superb (the $20/pp cover charge was well worth it). Pools are small, but never seemed overcrowded. However one of the few negatives on this ship was poolside service.. Poolside servers were sporadic, deck attendants were non existent. The ports of call Nassau, St. Martin and Tortola were great, and the ship's excursion staff made sure the excursions came off without a hitch. Half Moon Cay was our last port of call and HAL left the best for last. Half Moon is lovely, fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, dreamy, and the addition of the Private Cabana, made Half Moon Cay our little piece of paradise. Our last day was spent on one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen with soft white sand, in the warm sun, swimming in crystal clear aqua blue water. Along with the rental of the cabana comes the pampering staff of JoJo and Oliver who made sure we had plenty of food and drink. This port of call is the one reason why we wouldn't sail with anyone else but HAL or its parent Carnival who share this island. HAL and its Vista Class of Ships are truly the top of the Contemporary Cruise Lines. We have read many nit picky, moaning, whiny reviews and wonder why certain people are so critical. HAL is clearly not the equivalent of Crystal or Radisson however it is at the top of the Contemporary Lines along with Celebrity. HAL attracts a special group of passengers who are nice, friendly and yes the average age on the ship is sixty something. What we did not miss were hundred of cruisers who might have had a little too much too drink, HAL is a happy classy ship but not the party ship. The new cruise director Dane, the Senior Assistant Cruise Direct Jason along with Elizabeth, Cameron and DJ Mark did an excellent job making sure everything from BINGO to KARAOKE were enjoyable. It's too bad we did not win the $5,000 Bingo Jackpot!! The Oosterdam Singer and Dancers were fantastic, the headline acts were great and "The Mikes", were a special treat. If you like being spoiled on vacation book HAL and the Oosterdam. Bon Voyage. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2003
We just got back from sailing on the Oosterdam. This was our first cruise and we were very impressed. The service was excellent in every category. The meals were delicious! ...and it shows because we ate too much and now have to lose those ... Read More
We just got back from sailing on the Oosterdam. This was our first cruise and we were very impressed. The service was excellent in every category. The meals were delicious! ...and it shows because we ate too much and now have to lose those extra pounds! Yes, there were a few items we didn't care for but there was a large enough selection that if you didn't like what you ordered, you tried something else. The decor on the ship is different but nice. Yes, the carpeting seemed a little worn in places but my carpeting in my house that is a year old also looks a little worn. By no means does it look bad! I thought HAL accommodated the children very well. We especially liked the way they broke down the kids by age. Our 16 year old daughter was very skeptical about going on this "old persons" cruiseline but was pleasantly surprised. They invited all of the 15-17 year olds to attend a "get to know you" the first night and we saw very little of her the rest of the week. She met quite a few kids that she became good friends with and she plans to keep in contact with. The shows were excellent, and there was always something to do whether you were 5yrs. old or 50 yrs. old. We enjoyed the Liar's Club, and Newlywed game and our daughter enjoyed the discos and contests. Overall, I would recommend this cruiseline to ANYone. Yes, there were a few "glitches" because HAL is not accustomed to 400 children on board but I thought they handled it very well. We will gladly sail HAL again! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
My husband and I were on the inaugural cruise of Holland Oosterdam to the Baltic. This was not our 1st cruise although it was on a Holland line and it will be the last on the Holland line. When we arrived at Harwich (in an un ... Read More
My husband and I were on the inaugural cruise of Holland Oosterdam to the Baltic. This was not our 1st cruise although it was on a Holland line and it will be the last on the Holland line. When we arrived at Harwich (in an un air-conditioned bus) from London to board at 10:30 AM, they were not prepared to check us in as they didn't have the computers set up and working. They finally started checking in people at noon. I was able to book a "hot rock" massage right there with a complimentary hand therapy. The massage was mediocre and I never did receive the hand therapy. It was too much hassle to go back and besides we were busy with others things on the cruise. The second day we noticed an odor about our cabin and in the hall (like a septic tank) We reported it to our cabin steward who acted like we were imagining it. He didn't smell it and said no one else had mentioned it. We kept smelling it everyday and it was getting worse. Again we complained but it fell on deaf ears. We eventual put a tissue box over the bathroom floor drain and that seemed to cut the odor down. Otherwise, we were pleased with our deluxe verandah cabin. However, we felt the room could have been kept cleaner, especially the bathroom floor. Our shower curtain was too short so the floor got wet after showering. The response was it was OK -- it would keep the floor clean. We never could get it straight about stocking the refrigerator with the kinds of drinks we wanted. Our steward never offered fresh fruit or bottled water. We had to ask for everything. The layout of the ship did not give enough room in the common areas and halls so it seemed very crowded. By the end of the cruise (12 days) the ship looked worn already (the carpets and woodwork) The dining room on the Lido deck could have been kept cleaner and could the other common areas. There was no laundry room on board the ship but laundry and dry cleaning service was available with a 48 hours return. We had to wait 5 days for our laundry to be returned and that was after persistent calls. Some people still didn't have their clothes the night before we had to get off the ship. There were so many complaints that the charge for laundry was voided for the entire ship. They should convert some rooms to laundry rooms. The food was good mostly but the portions in the main dining room were small, especially for a man. Our stewards were very slow so we had to rush to the Vista lounge for the nightly entertainment. One evening we were in one of the bubble elevators along with 4 others and it fell 2 floors and stopped between floors. Those elevators had been acting difficult from the beginning. We were able to jar the door and it moved level with the floor and we all were happy to get off. We told one of the staff and he told us to report it to the front desk, We informed him that we weren't waiting in a line for 15 minutes to do so. So we went down to an office near the main desk to report it and that staff member didn't want to hear about it or do anything about it. She tried sending us to another desk until we informed her that it was not our responsibility to take care of it so she did take down the information. Later we notice an out of order sign of that elevator. At one of the ports we had to tender in. I don't think the staff driving the tenders knew what they were doing. The had a hard time docking with the ship. Heaven forbid if we had an emergency. The staff in general did not instill confidence at all. Even the front desk ladies needed an attitude adjustment. They were not friendly, congenial, or helpful. They acted put out that even if they were asked a question. Then there was the fire on board the last night as we are having our entertainment. An air-conditioner in a cabin caught fire but it was taken care of. We could not hear the announcements in our cabin as there was no control. The TV stations were almost nonexistent. The video work and quality of the on board station was very poor. Even the bow camera was pointed to the sky and not forward. So, lets face it, the cruise kept going downhill, so we will not be booking with Holland again. They have been around long enough that they should know what they are doing, but apparently the must have had a brain freeze with this cruise. They had time to train their staff, especially since 2 cruises were canceledAs I said, this will be our last cruise on Holland Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
I sailed on the Oosterdam on October 2, 2003 for a 12 night Western Med cruise. I had only been on one cruise before, which was Carnival, and Holland America had come highly recommended to me by friends, who were with us on the cruise. ... Read More
I sailed on the Oosterdam on October 2, 2003 for a 12 night Western Med cruise. I had only been on one cruise before, which was Carnival, and Holland America had come highly recommended to me by friends, who were with us on the cruise. Embarkation The cruise did not get off to a good start as we were held on the transfer from the airport for over an hour in warm temperatures waiting our turn to be let into the terminal for check-in. We found the terminal to be very crowded with not even enough seating to accommodate everyone. They took the wrong picture on my sign and sail card which was not discovered until the first port of call. Once on-board the ship, Holland America's excellence in service started to show. Immediately upon boarding the ship, we were greeted by a uniformed crew member who warmly greeted us with a smile, took our documents, and escorted us to our suite. At the suite, he took time to show us around and how things worked and what to do if we needed assistance. We found beautiful robes in the suite and a stocked refrigerator (added to account)plus the "Heavenly Beds"...which were heavenly! There was one reservations only restaurant on board ship and it was well worth the extra charge to eat there. The quality of the food was extremely superior. They brought our steaks out raw prior to the meal, explained what the cuts of meat were, and had us select what we wanted for them to take and custom cook to order for us. The food in the restaurant was the best any of us had ever had. The food in the dining room was also exceptional but clearly not as good as the reservations only restaurant. The food for the 1000 seat dining room had been pre-cooked and plated to the set menu, and brought out as we made our selections. One thing we all noticed in the dining room was the portion sizes, clearly reduced since any of us had sailed last. Not a good impression when they bring you a large plate with a small, so small to be noticeable, portion on it. However, the waiters quickly brought us second servings whenever we asked. All of the breads and rolls on the ship are baked fresh daily and they were delicious. The pizza was also fresh baked and very good, although it seemed out of place with so many elderly people on board that pizza may not appeal to. The buffet was always fresh with much variety. There were waiters at the end of the buffet line who carried our trays to the tables for us and there were fresh flowers on every table. Entertainment on the ship was very good and enjoyable. One night there was a deck party along with many other activities that were fun for us to join in on. What really stood out to us was the crew. They were wonderful to us and provided exceptional service. They called us by name, which we wondered how they would remember! They were Indonesian and Filipino and one night they even put on a show in the showroom!! The service on board this ship was superior. The crew really seemed to care and make sure we had a great cruise. The only thing that was disappointing to me was the clearly lopsided age of the passengers. It was an "80's and beyond" cruise with many elderly people on board. Being 39, I felt out of place on such an "old" cruise. There was only one child on the cruise of 1600 passengers and that was the child of a crew member. Holland America is an excellent choice for a cruise if you have any type of disability or need assistance of any kind for being physically challenged, they go out of there way to assist those who need help. However, young to middle age couples and/or families with children may want to think twice before booking on Holland America. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2003
First, I have noticed some reviews for the Oosterdam dating back to the Spring of 2003 here on Cruise Critic. The Oosterdam's maiden voyage was in August/September 2003, so either these people sailed on another ship or they got their ... Read More
First, I have noticed some reviews for the Oosterdam dating back to the Spring of 2003 here on Cruise Critic. The Oosterdam's maiden voyage was in August/September 2003, so either these people sailed on another ship or they got their dates wrong. Anyway, we were on one of the very first sailings of the Oosterdam (Rome, Monte Carlo, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Malta, Loutraki, Corfu, Dubrovnik, and Venice) on October 26, 2003, and we had a wonderful time. There is so little to complain about and so much to gush about. We are even sailing again on the Oosterdam in October 2004! This was my third cruise and my husband's first. It had been a long time since my first 2 cruises (10+ years), so I guess we were really both new to cruising. We loved the HAL demographic--older--even though we are late 30s (me) and early 40s (husband). There were maybe 6 kids on the cruise and they were all younger than school age. The food was divine. Of the 12 dinners we had on the ship (we ate in the main dining room--late seating), just one was less than spectacular. The service was great--our wine steward Rod was particularly good. We had two dinners in the Pinnacle Grill and loved that place too. The crab cakes are great and it is worth the $20 per person surcharge. We didn't do the casino, but spent significant time in just about every other venue. The disco was a favorite, as was the Oak Room (my husband is a cigar smoker). We caught most, if not all, the shows and really found the entertainment first rate. Our cabin was a partially obstructed view, which was fine for us. I don't think the weather would have allowed us to use the balcony much anyway. The cabin was on the smaller side, but perfectly fine for two people. We had a full bathtub too, not just a shower stall. Most impressive was HAL's embarkation and debarkation procedures--it worked great, with little wait and no hassle. Also, we were totally blown away by how organized and efficient HAL was at the ports. With just one exception (Venice), they had tour buses waiting for us at the port that took us into the heart of town, free of charge. It was great and saved everyone significant taxi fares. We took a few shore excursions (in Loutraki and Marseilles) and they too were very well run--no complaints at all. As I recall, there were only 2 negatives that we put on our review sheet at the end of the cruise: (1) the smell of sewage on the Observation Deck (aft). I don't think I ever smelt it down in the Aft Pool area, which is right below, but we didn't spend much time there either because of the weather. This wasn't such an issue for us because sailing to Europe in late fall, you really didn't want to hang out on the deck for long. But, on a Caribbean cruise, this smell could be a big issue. I have read that others noticed this too, so I am not sure what the problem is and why HAL hasn't fixed it. (2) being awakened by announcements in our cabin that were not worth being awoken for (meaning not life or death). Most annoying was a port lecture on Venice that was broadcast on the promenade deck just below us and it went on and on and on. This hadn't happened for other ports and we got no good explanation why it happened for Venice. We called to complain as it was happening and the front desk said that it wasn't being broadcast on the promenade deck, which it clearly was! Well, if those were the only two "issues" then you know we had a pretty good cruise! Really, the service, accommodations, food, ambiance, etc. and so on, were well above our expectations. We had a great time and can't wait to sail on the O-dam again on October 31, 2004!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
I have to agree 100% with Melinda Hopp on her EXTRAORDINARY review of HAL's OOSTERDAM. This was our 2nd cruise with HAL. The first, to the Baltic, was one of our finest cruise ever. Having taken more than 20 cruises in all major ... Read More
I have to agree 100% with Melinda Hopp on her EXTRAORDINARY review of HAL's OOSTERDAM. This was our 2nd cruise with HAL. The first, to the Baltic, was one of our finest cruise ever. Having taken more than 20 cruises in all major cruise lines (from Royal Caribbean, Princess, Renaissance to Silver Sea & Radisson ), for my birthday, we booked this cruise with great expectations. We figured that a bigger, brand new ship had to be much better. Big, huge mistake.It had nice things, but the negative ones outnumbered the good ones. The first impression of the ship was one of mixed feelings,it's not a beautiful ship, doesn't have an impressive atrium, just a mid size gold staircase with a hanging world globe as the centerpiece. There were art collections around the ship, along with Indonesian & Filipino wood benches and gorgeous metal art covering completely the main door elevators. Fresh flower arrangements with orchids and cala lilies were displayed all over the ship, and they gave the dark, low ceilings a touch of beautiful color. Our room was a large room with a balcony with a simple decoration, a full size tub, 3 closet doors that lacked drawer space, a vanity chest with the TV on top leaving no space to put the cosmetics.The room was not neatly clean, the life jackets were under the bed (had to go to the drill without them), the toilet got stucked 3 times, problem with the ventilation system, specifically the smell of sewerage, one night there was no running cold water, only hot..hot water. Yes, after we complained everything was fixed, but indeed all those small details is what makes a cruise to be a memorable one. Regarding service, also mixed feelings. Overall the Indonesian & Filipino crew were friendly, attentive and well trained. As HAL's policy of no "tips required", their service was truly genuine. We got bad luck.The room stewardess, the dining room waiter, his assistant & the head waiter were the worst ever. The entertainment was mediocre, only "pianist extraordinaire" Paul Pappas, with two performances did a great job. The gym was O.K. The fitness coordinator Johan did a great job with my husband, with private exercise classes. The Spa was great, the Hot Stones massages were superb. For $250 per person we got unlimited access to the talasotherapy pool, the sauna & the hot tile seats with its spectacular view. I know all this treats cost $$$, but it's your vacation, so you deserve to be pampered. My biggest disappointment was the food. After having caviar, fresh strawberries & flambee desserts every single day on my previous HAL cruise, nothing was compared to that. The only dinner that deserves a mention was the Farewell dinner, that served caviar & lobster tails. Their signature "bread pudding with hot vanilla sauce" was sinful. But the most absurd thing of this cruise was that(according to my head waiter) HAL's new policy is to make flambee desserts (cherries jubilee, banana flambee, crepes suzette or peach melba) in a different venue than in the main dining room. My husband loves this types of desserts, so every night after dinner we had to go to the Explorers Lounge, order the dessert,listen to a terrible music, have a coffee and an after dinner Port wine or Sambuca. On one occasion the dining room waiter brought us the dessert to our table. Why not every night? I think that with that policy, they only make 30 or 40 flambee desserts. If done at the main dining room, they must do 200 or more. Overall it was the least enjoyed cruise I had have,& I think this cruise ship should not be rated 4.5 -5.0 as HAL's ship often gets. Maybe this mega ship is new for HAL, accustomed to smaller ships. If asked to travel with HAL again, I doubt it. There are numerous options out there. I hope this review will help anyone who has the OOSTERDAM ship on their plans. Sincerely, Doris Garcia Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
12/21/03 HAL Oosterdam Cruise Since there is a dire lack of reviews for this new ship. ...here's mine. Overall it was a good cruise, but not to be rated at 4.5-5.0 as HAL's ships often achieve. While this ship had some hits, it ... Read More
12/21/03 HAL Oosterdam Cruise Since there is a dire lack of reviews for this new ship. ...here's mine. Overall it was a good cruise, but not to be rated at 4.5-5.0 as HAL's ships often achieve. While this ship had some hits, it had many misses. This was our first HAL cruise. As I make my commentary I am comparing it to the other cruises we have taken in the last 3 years: Costa Atlantica (Xmas 2000); RC's Radiance of the Seas ( Xmas 2001), Norwegian Sun (8/2002), Carnival Spirit ( Xmas 2002), Carnival Legend ( 4/2003) ... all very new ships, on which we booked a balcony (verandah) room. The Good: Room: HAL's verandah room @ 244 sq. ft (back of ship room # 5184) was the largest ( both the room and the verandah) we have had yet. Room was at least 18" wider and almost two feet longer than those on the other ships. Bathroom had a full size tub. While it had the standard 3 closets, it desperately lacked drawer space. Service: Superb! All wait staff are either Indonesian or Philippino ( all are males). Very well trained, very willing, very friendly. Our cabin attendant "Hari" was terrific. Our dining room waiters ( Table # 36) "Andi" and "Alit" also provided very good service. Here HAL has a distinct advantage. Note this table was on the third floor .... Off to the side and had most of its view blocked due to ridiculous permanent lamp on the ledge above it. If at all possible, request a table on the second floor, views are much better. What we were surprised at: Cruisers: This cruise was populated by the "very mature". ( PS this writer and her hubby are in their mid 50's and early 60's). Many are "well-healed" patrons. On the two formal nights, most men were attired in TUXES and the ladies in gowns. For an XMAS cruise it had few children (214). Many patrons are repeat ( and only) HAL customers - large loyalty base. Many of these patrons with whom we spoke during the week, found the larger size ( 82,000 tons) ship a bit much to navigate. They said they preferred the older, smaller ships in HAL's line. Since we have always traveled on the larger ships, it was just fine with us. Ship's Decoration: This was a surprise. This ship lacked the opulent decorations of many of the other 2000-2003 vintage ships. I can't say it's a pretty or beautiful ship. It's rather dark, with low ceilings in the common areas of deck 2 & 3. The Vista Dining room was attractive, but lack the pizzaz of other ships' dining rooms. The is no soaring atrium on this ship as there were in other ships. The Vista Lounge ( main theatre) is 3- storied. Here again not as attractively decorated as that of other ships. Staterooms are very similar to others, except the cabinetry is a lighter wood. Food: Here is the biggest surprise of all. Our expectations were that HAL provided very upscale food. Not so. It pales by comparison to the newer Carnival Ships, Costa and Norwegian Sun. The lido deck 9 food was average with the following exceptions. It had wonderful Pizza ( 7 varieties) available and freshly cooked about 10 hours a day). In the same area you could get custom made pasta such as carbonara with real parma ham. The Lido was less appealing in fresh fruit and salad selections. Much of the fruit was not ripe enough. Also had a nice variety ( changing daily) of ice creams, sorbets, frozen yogurt. Waffles cones available every day as well as variety of self-serve toppings. On the pool deck, there was a burger/hot dog grill section ( all prepared) as well as mini buffet of tacos. The main dining room was the biggest disappointment of all. Daily selections were light on seafood and fish, heavy on meats. We also felt that the meats ( steaks) were not the best quality and were mostly tenderized. The long awaited lobster night came on Xmas day. It was one small tail from which two strips of lobster were cut out and presented as medallions, outside the shell ... with one small strip left in the tail. This tail, was no more than 4 -5 0z. Overall, portions were downsized ... as the standard diner plate was really a "luncheon-sized plate. In retrospect, this may not be a bad idea to control portions and food waste. Baked Desserts: While you will find a huge selection of desserts showcased in the Lido, the quality was not there. Synthetic tasting ( little or no butter used). Dining room desserts were no better. We quickly learned that ice cream or sorbet was the best bet. Gratis beverages are iced tea ( very small glasses and water) during the day and juices at breakfast only. A can of coca cola will set you back $1.95. We had breakfast and lunch in the main dining room a few times. Breakfast was standard fare. But served lunches were greatly disappointing. Soggy sandwiches, nothing notable or memorable. As I said, it was a shock to us that the food was not as good as Carnival or other lines. Alternative dining: The Pinnacle dining room is the alternative dining for which you pay a $20 pp charge ( no tip added). Noteworthy: crab cakes appetizer ... two tiny balls that were superb. I ordered the rib-eye ... although flavorful, it was tough and somewhat fatty. Hubby ordered the filet. This too was not as tender as it should be. Curious that there were no lobster tails or stone crabs on the menu as there is on other ships. Halibut did make it on the menu. But who wants to pay extra for Halibut? Nothing else about the meal was memorable except the room itself. Highly decorated, definitely a showstopper with pewter-wrought chairs, lovely linens and great lighting. Shows: Here again, HAL drops back behind other lines. Two major productions were good, but lacked that pow. On other lines we have seen "broadway" quality shows. On the O, the female cast seemed much more mature, better dancers and singers than their male counterparts who came across as very youthful and somewhat immature. The lead female singer did a great job belting out Celine Dion's and other divas songs. The pianist Paul Pappas who appeared twice did a great job of playing a wide rendition of tunes. There was also a magician and comic as well as an acapello group. But we couldn't help thinking we saw more and better on other ships. Bingo: This ship gets kudos for not trying to gauge its cruisers with computerized machines etc. and get them to cough up mega bucks on each game. They also gave away one heck of a "snowball jackpot" the last night .... $5,100+ won by an 11 year old boy. They also had a raffle for a free cruise the last night. This one was strange. They had been selling tickets all week long at every bar on the ship, the front desk and at each daily bingo game. However on the last night there were very few tickets in the drawing bin. It made you wonder what happened to the tickets that had been sold all week long? Ports of Call: This was a major letdown. There were only 3 ports Vera Cruz (VC), Cozumel and Key West. This was the maiden voyage to VC. It was a major disappointment. There is virtually little to see, with dismal shopping .. just cheap, low-end souvenirs. Nobody speaks English either. We walked around for a few hours looked the "spanish" architecture of some of the older buildings and were back on the ship in just a few short hours. Irony ... Hal allowed 7 am to 7pm in port. Probably to accommodate tours to the to ruins, etc. Cozumel: We were told that we would not be docking in San Miguel but at Playa Maya, outside of town and had to take a taxi to town. So where do we dock? .... In Playa Langousta in San Miguel. No announcement of the switch was made. For those people who had never been to Cozumel .... They were trying to catch a cab to go to San Miguel when they were already there! The shopping is pretty much the same in Cozumel as it was a year ago ... except that the jewelry is much more upscale and expensive. Went to Carlos and Charlie's, which is right opposite where the ship is docked. Fun place, loud and yes, some got up on the tables. $7.95 Margaritas are potent!. You get your money's worth. As usual it rained in buckets and we got wet again. Key West: What happened here is a shame! It was the best port of call in which passengers got the least amount of time. So many of us ( who were first timers to this site) were looking forward to this port. We were told that we would be docked at Mallory Square ( steps away from Duval street and the main areas). However, we were" bumped" by the Maasdam, which came in after us and took our position. So we docked at the military base. This required everyone to have to be shuttled down to Mallory Square by the Trolley or Conch train. There weren't a lot of these shuttle since these are the major form of touring for visitors to Key West. When we finally got off the ship, we waited in line for 40 minutes to catch the shuttle! Unfortunately there was much delay in even getting off the ship in Key West .... where we had to clear Immigration. All (1,800+) passengers had to go to a room to hand in their documentation and have their passports reviewed. Unfortunately many passengers didn't show. It took an extra hour to get the ship cleared so passengers could get off. Although we landed in KW by 10 am, no one could get off until 1:00 pm ( we docked just before 10 am). By that time most decided to eat lunch and many got off closer to 1:30 - 2:00 pm, only to be faced with large delays getting downtown. It gave us only 3.5-4.0 hours to tour Key West. This was a shame .... What a great place! If you haven't been there, use the Conch Train .. tours can be purchased at their depot in Mallory Square which are $20 per adult for 90 minutes. PS the ship sells a 60 minute version for $24. The tour was wonderful. Note: The seats of the ( alternative tour method) " Trolley " are wooden and not as comfortable. We took the Trolley as our shuttle going back to the ship. We were glad we chose the Conch train for the actual tour. Overall, we gave the HAL O's shore excursions staff a very low rating. The few times I visited their desk, they could not answer my questions, nor did they get back to me. Ports and information was not as explained. On this ship, the shore excursions office does not generate the visitors maps nor ports description. It's the shopping consultant ( Jim Laery) who has that responsibility and he does not have an office. You had to hope that the port map got delivered to your room ... which it didn't in our case ... maybe because we were in the back of the boat??? There were also cancellations of a number of tours due to a lack of sign-up. We had planned to do the Ft. Lauderdale boat and land excursion when we got off the ship to kill the long wait we had for our return flight home ( 5:00 pm). We notified only a day and a half before we landed back in FLL that it was cancelled. When I ask for the name of the tour director ( on land ) to see if I could book my own, they declined to give that information. It left us with a large (ship's) credit which we had planned to us for the tour .... And only the last day board to use it ... or else forfeit it. The last day I heard another passenger request the name of the tour company for the same tour and she was declined that information. Again, the Shore Excursion staff is a weak point of this ship! Gym: The Gym is much smaller than other ship's gyms with very little weight training equipment, but overloaded with stair steppers and tread mills. The low end Cybex equipment was a disappointment for people who like to work out. Absolutely no abs machinery of any type. Broken equipment had signs that said to be repaired. Not during the week we were there! Ventilation: We read about the ventilation problems with the sister-ship Zuiderdam, specifically the smell of sewerage. Twice during our trip there was an overwhelming smell of sewerage, Once on the lido ( pool) deck on a sea day and once in our room. The smells did dissipate in a few minutes. Also noted: Our floor was two levels above the main dining room. Each night we noticed strong smells of food in the fifth floor lobby by the elevator. Putting the two together, we were left with the thought that there may be something going on with the ship's ventilation. Perhaps due to the same design with Zuiderdam Arrivals/Departure: One plus, HAL has an early arrivals program for embarking passengers. If you get there at 11:00 - 11:30 am, you can get checked in fairly quickly. You can't get into your room until 1:30 pm but you can dine in the Lido dining area. For us however, a great deal of confusion ( curb-side ) for the early arrivals as to where to bring bags and where to go to check in. We were told to go several different locations for both ( by HAL check-in staff). Check-in was ok except HAL's credit card readers were not working. Half-way through the cruise, anyone who used a credit card was summoned to the front office to have it rescanned. Departures were fairly smooth. Called by a number that you were given with your departures documents along with luggage tickets. However, once you got outside it was a zoo! Many different lines for various forms of transportation. Be aware the FLL airport is just a 5 minute ride from the pier. And that a cab ride including a tip is $12 for two people. HAL charges $12 pp if you didn't buy the whole transportation package from them. I think we got to the airport a whole lot quicker than the HAL bus. Front-end: We booked and paid for our cruise in October. However, HAL did not send our tickets to us until four days before we left. The tour Company that we booked with and I called HAL many times and each time we called we got a different (Airborne) delivery date. This was poorly handled by the Cruise line and frustrating for us. Overall, this was the least enjoyed cruise we have taken in the past three years. Surprising to us who have generally read the superior reviews for older HAL ships. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
I would like to start my review by making you aware that I actually cruised on the Oosterdam in December 2003, not 2005, I wasn't given the option of going back that far. Previous to this cruise I was only on one other which was a ... Read More
I would like to start my review by making you aware that I actually cruised on the Oosterdam in December 2003, not 2005, I wasn't given the option of going back that far. Previous to this cruise I was only on one other which was a Carnival cruise. Although I enjoyed the carnival cruise, I didn't know cruising could get as good as the HAL Oosterdam made it! Before I start my review I would like to correct a very common misconception that Holland America is for seniors. This is simply not true! It may be for their older ships (which I have not sailed on) but any age group will enjoy cruising on their Vista Class ships! You will not be bored for a single moment! Embarkation was a little on the long side but went smoothly and easy. Embarkation procedures have improved since as I have experienced on the Noordam in 2007. It made it all worth while when we boarded the ship and the crew not only were eager to assist you to your room, they wanted to know your name and a little about you. This will shock you, the rest of the trip, they remembered it! They remembered your preferences, where you were from, what entertained you, simply remarkable! There is a certain warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you board a HAL ship that you don't get with another line and that feeling comes from the crew who are warm, humble and happy to please! Cabins were of average size. My fiance (now my wife) and I were young and in college at the time and could only afford an inside cabin which actually seemed spacious enough and was equipped with everything we needed. It was also very very clean! My wife and I are foodies, and the most important thing about a cruise to us is the food. Let me tell you the food was outstanding 5 star dining every meal in the dining room! So much variety, so much flavor, so well prepared and presented! That week alone was the best dining experience of my life. I love the variety in HAL's menu. I always tried something new and 90% of the time I loved it, if I wasn't into the dish, I would ask them to return it and bring me another dish I did prefer and they would do it without hesitation. If a steak was accidentally cooked wrong, they would replace it with a steak that was cooked right. They are very eager to please. Something I really enjoyed about dining in the dining room is that the menu for every meal changed daily. I never had to eat the same thing twice. This applies even to breakfast and lunch which some cruise lines do not change the menus for. Breakfast may have a consistent menu every day but they had 3-4 features that were new so you could try something new or stick with what you thought was a good reliable breakfast. The buffet was great however we only ate there a few times. If you will notice above we prefer to eat in the dining room as much as possible. We are not fans of buffets. As far as buffets go, this was a 5 out of 5 but simply because it is a buffet I would give it a 4 out of 5. Some people often wonder why I hate buffets so much and below are my reasons. 1) You have to get in line and serve yourself 2) Although the food looks fresh it could have been sitting in a warming tray for a while losing heat or going soggy. Keep in mind some of the food is prepared fresh for you like pasta's sandwiches, pizza. 3) It is often hard to find a seat during standard meal times 4) For the amount of money you pay you might as well get served something hot and fresh and much better tasting in the dining room. We did not eat at the Pinnacle Grill however We sailed on the Noordam a few years after this cruise and had an excellent experience and I am assuming the Oosterdam Pinnacle Grill offers the same quality food and service. Service is the second most important thing on a cruise for us. I cannot express how good the service is on Holland America. It is so good that they make you feel like a loved family member. At their final show you will shed a tear because you know you are going to miss the crew that made a difference in your trip. Something you need to know about Holland America crew is that they want to know you, your preferences, and what entertains you. They want your trip to feel special and customized and they do that everywhere! They are not only focused on their main job but also very focused on doing the little things most don't realize makes the trip that much more special! Entertainment, WOW. Unlike other cruise lines, you can tell Holland America carefully selects who they pick as entertainers! Nothing was short of spectacular. All shows were very entertaining and usually had a comedic twist which pleased all ages. Also in the entertainment category, live music. It was almost always going on in the populated areas of the ship! This is also great because it once again makes the trip seem more personal. The bands take requests, interact with the crowd, play a good variety, and make the trip that much more special. I would definitely cruise on the Oosterdam again! I would definitely cruise with Holland America again! I did a cruise on the Noordam in 2007 and had a very similar experience however between the 2 ships I would choose the Oosterdam for one very good reason. I believe the Noordam can fit about 200 more passengers but the crew size is not increased according. And although the service is still spectacular, it is noticeably a little better on the Oosterdam. Way to go HAL, I can't wait until my next cruise with you! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Eastern Caribbean (Jan 4-11/2004). We have had five past cruises on HAL, and while this was a good cruise, it was "off" from past experiences with HAL on other ships. We particularly didn't like the "nickel & ... Read More
Eastern Caribbean (Jan 4-11/2004). We have had five past cruises on HAL, and while this was a good cruise, it was "off" from past experiences with HAL on other ships. We particularly didn't like the "nickel & diming" that occurred that had not been part of past HAL experiences (i.e. wine tasting price was up from $5 to $7.50, but you couldn't apply that fee to a bottle of wine as on past cruises; $.75/min for internet usage which hardly anyone took advantage of; soliciting of drinks in the Lido Restaurant; etc). Pluses included: a nice B cabin with large bathroom (though the balcony was small), Lido food was very good, good service by the staff generally (some cruise staff for activities were a bit testy), embarkation was handled smoothly and we got on the ship by noon; the Sport's Bar was a nice addition; pre-selecting shore excursion on HAL's web site. The ship layout seemed cramped in the public areas, though the casino and Crow's Nest lounge were large. The Vista Lounge had columns that hindered views of the stage. The shows were typical, but the HAL lead singers were too full of themselves which was iratating. The Queen's Lounge was used for movies, but the chairs in the front were higher than the back lounges so sight lines were difficult. Meals in the main dining room (Vista Dining Room) were fairly ordinary and the portions (particularly vegetables) were small, though the presentation of food was excellent. Food quality seemed to improve during the week. Passengers could also ask for more and it was provided with no problem. Tables were fine as long as you weren't at an oval table that had 6 people and should have had 4. We take issue with charging for "Espresso coffee" in the Windstar Cafe and the new exclusive dining room for an extra $20/person. The onboard activities were good and offered a variety of choices for the passengers. The library had a small selection of books and games and again, there was a charge (though refundable) to check out books. The decor was "interesting" and adjusted to the "wild" colors by the third day. The Piano Bar was a bit weird for such a venue, in grays and black. All the pianos on the ship were electronic (except the piano never played in the Lido Restaurant), and particularly in the Piano Bar there should be a "real" piano. In discussion with other past HAL passengers, it was felt by everyone we talked with that this ship was a "little less" than they had experienced on other HAL cruises. We hope that HAL will raise the level of this ship to what we have experienced before and certainly hope that they have not regressed backwards on all their ships. We have been so satisfied/loyal in the past to HAL that we have been afraid to switch and not receive the same cruise vacation, but we think that for our next cruise we will try another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
PLANNING After considering several lines for our 16th anniversary celebration, my partner Philip and I decided that we would give HAL a try and booked for this cruise. We were both looking forward to the sailing since neither of us had ... Read More
PLANNING After considering several lines for our 16th anniversary celebration, my partner Philip and I decided that we would give HAL a try and booked for this cruise. We were both looking forward to the sailing since neither of us had sampled HAL and felt it would be a good fit for our lifestyle. Even though we live in Houston and had had a wonderful cruise on RCI's Rhapsody of the Seas (out of Galveston) earlier in 2003, we wanted to try a different line and hopefully find one to call home. We had a great experience with our travel agent (I will be happy to send the name and URL to anyone who'd like to have it) and were pleased with the price we paid. We found the agency after doing some reading on the boards and I noticed several posts concerning this particular agency. I went to their website and was amazed at how much lower their prices were than HAL and several other sites. Even though there was a discrepancy from the posted itinerary on some of the online sites we had previously researched (they had shown an extra sea day on this sailing) we decided to stick with the ship and date since it dovetailed nicely with our holiday plans and available travel window. I would advise all readers and less experienced (and even some more experienced) travelers to pay close attention to this caveat: the itinerary information is apparently incorrect with some regularity at one of the major online booking sites. Plan well but always double check information that is critical to your success quotient. Fortunately, the extra stop was only a half day and didn't ruin the plan for us. PRE-CRUISE: Because I have been in the travel business (airline) for most of my post-adolescent life, I tend towards planning for the unexpected. That said, we opted to fly down to Ft. Lauderdale one day early just to be able to relax and not have the stresses and possibilities of real upset with a missed cruise. Once again, information on CC was helpful to us in making our plans. Several posters and responders had talked about possibilities for best combination of amenities, location and price for the Port Everglades area and the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 came up often enough for us to want to try that. After getting some good advice from BurBunny and other posters about using Priceline to bid for a lower rate than the $249 per night the hotel wanted through standard booking procedures, we were able to drastically reduce that with a successful bid of $80.00 for our stay. The hotel was fine, the location convenient and it worked well for us. It is a good idea to remember that not all Hyatt Hotels are created equal. Hyatt House, Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt can be as different as day and night. I had only stayed at Grand Hyatt locations before so initially the hotel was a bit of a letdown. But, at the end of the day, the price and satisfaction ratio worked well and the staff were all very accommodating. CRUISE DAY - EMBARKATION: We woke up early on Sunday and had a light breakfast at the hotel. We had planned to take a taxi to the ship but when we got to the front of the hotel, there were none to be had. The Bell Captain arranged quickly for us to be driven over in the hotel van. Unfortunately, our drive had some missteps along the way and even did some drive through at the RCI pier to troll for passengers which consumed a lot of our time. Nonetheless, we did make it to pier at 11:30 and got in line to enter the terminal. This was our first experience in Ft. Lauderdale so we had no expectations. Apparently Pier 29 is not the best place to deal with check-in and embarkation. Crowd control was a mess. Upon entering there were two Passenger Service Reps in red coats who were misdirecting passengers with gusto! In hindsight it's funny. At the time, it was a little maddening. At 11:30 the lines had already snaked through this gymnasium-like structure and to the front door. Fortunately, we were able to ferret out a line for the Suites and proceeded to step into it. We were only about 6 or 7 deep in that line. We thought it would only take 10-15 minutes at most. It took almost a full hour just to get to the check-in agent. She was a doll and very capable. Because we had everything completed, out and ready, we were through with her in two shakes and on our way to the ship. Also, since there has been some question about old vs. new - the credit card registration and all of that is handled right at check-in along with the security picture. The single card was complete and valid as a license to board, bed and buy. We politely bypassed the "welcome aboard" photo and made our way to the ship. They did give us a gold sticker that meant absolutely nothing to anyone. Ever. I still don't know what that was supposed to do other than make us look like spelling-bee winners! ONBOARD: I suppose I should have known better, but I really did want to be "wowed" as soon as we boarded. Unfortunately, there is no white-gloved steward to welcome and escort. There was a very sullen person pointing in the general direction of the elevator. We took the hint and hightailed it into the first sliding door we came to and pushed 9 to begin our exploration and visit the Lido to await the "cabin ready" announcement. The Lido was packed with people and belongings. It was extremely uncomfortable from just about every perspective. Philip took the opportunity to go the Neptune Lounge and sign us up for a cabana at Half Moon Cay. We managed to make our way to a serving station for iced tea and tried to find a quiet space near the pool area to wait. Afterwards, we had the good fortune to meet a very nice couple from San Francisco there and we chatted until we were able to go to our respective cabins. We went back the way we came to go to the elevator and down to 5, Verandah Deck. Lo and behold, when the elevator stopped and the door opened, there was indeed a white-gloved steward.... walking quickly away from the elevators. I had to laugh ... but clearly we could find our way without assistance. After all, being welcomed aboard by a gracious steward is only a "nice to have" after all. For those of you who have not had a cabin at the extreme rear of the ship it is a long walk. With no scenery to break up the monotony, the hallways seem incredibly long. But it was great for building up the anticipation! CABIN: We had wanted to try the suite experience since it looked like the best way to get a nice oversized balcony and the kind of privacy we both appreciate. We opted for the Aft Suite - 5168 on Verandah deck and were pleased as punch when we walked inside. The welcoming bottle of champagne, the bowl of fruit, flowers and an additional bottle of wine that was sent by our travel agent were all there to welcome us in to a temporary home. Who needs white-gloved stewards? The Aft Suites have had a lot of comment (including my own questions) and here's my $.02: While the literal square footage is indeed about 30 square feet smaller than the side S cabins, the HUGE (really - over 300 sq. feet) balcony far outweighed that loss of indoor maneuvering room. For those who are really wanting to compare, the Verandah Deck Aft Suites do have the most interior square footage of the Aft Suites. 365sf vs. 393 in the side suites. Other Aft Suites range (according to deck) down to about 320sf I believe. You will find divergent views about the Aft Suites. I think some of that stems from the location of the occupant and the relative space comparison. You can find out the actual dimensions for each of these from the HAL site or by doing a quick pseudo-booking on Expedia. The layout was great for us with plenty of closet space. More drawers would be a plus but there was plenty of space overall. There are also two drawers at the foot of the bed (we had ours already assembled into a King) for extra bedding or whatever you might need to stow there. There are sufficient light switches strategically placed so that you can manage your cabin's ambience fairly easily from just about any point in the room. Oddly, the lamp nearest the TV can only be turned off at that location. Oh, and the TV/DVD/CD/RADIO set-up is easy to operate. The complete movie library is in the black notebook. DVD check-out is easy to arrange and there is a HUGE selection! I checked out the bathroom and found it to be eminently functional. It is boring beyond belief. It has absolutely no snap. That's only an opinion and from a person who has a house filled with deep chocolate, brocaded walls, etc - so take it for what it's worth. I do think it's a little odd though that RCI manages to increase the posh quotient considerably once you hit the lower level suite categories - even their B/GS manages to have a nice wood-based, marble-topped sink and vanity area. But it was functional and roomy. The shower is not huge but does work well and although we did not make use of the whirlpool tub, it is there and seems reasonably large. One good laugh was the hair dryer placement in the make-up/vanity area leading to the bathroom. HINT: Open the drawer halfway, reach in and pull up and twist to get the thing out. You will not be able to open the drawer and take the dryer out normally otherwise. Oh .. And the toilet might be in a delay cycle. Be patient .. The tanks do some refill action and then the flushing action will work shortly. So push the button and don't worry. I believe that during the cruise some folks along the back had a little more difficulty than we did with that process but ours was fine. In all other respects, the cabin was quite comfortable. It was not luxurious in any way but it was very comfortable and perfectly suited for restful days at sea. I do believe if I had not seen some pictures prior to this cruise, I would have felt a bit down-market in terms of the choices of appointments. This is the highest category of suite before Penthouse and, personally, I think it could have been a little better dressed. I do realize that this is entirely subjective and probably most folks would simply call it "understated". But everything worked well and was in good order. I especially like having the service bar area stocked with extra champagne and wine glasses, salt and peppers, etc. They all came in handy. The balcony was the highpoint for us. There were two full length teak deck chairs, an additional two largish wicker chairs with ottomans and a teak table with four chairs. And then there was the dance floor! On the side portion of the balcony, there was another 20+ foot run, almost 6' deep. This was far and away the highlight of my cruise. We did have guests in cabin several times during the cruise and the balcony easily handled the needs of social interaction, serving of goodies and still with plenty of room to sit, visit or just lean on the railings. Truly an outstanding piece of floating real estate! After we had some time to get acquainted with our cabin, our room steward, Hari, came to introduce himself and send greetings from the prior guests! That was great fun! Unfortunately, he had to leave us in St. Maartin due to terrible family emergency. It turns out that while he was on this assignment, he became a father to a son. His son died before he ever got to meet him. That was terribly sad. What is amazing is that we did not know this until another crewmember happened to share the story. He had continued to do his work with great grace without ever hinting at the extent of his own personal tragedy. NOISE, VIBRATION and HARSHNESS Nope. Not an issue. On our long leg down from Nassau to Sint Maartin we had some seas that were apparently classified as "rough" with waves of +/- 12'. Not even a wiggle back there for us. In fact, the only time Philip got queasy (okay sick) was when we were more mid-ship and he returned to the cabin to stabilize! It may be that someone else would interpret ambient noise as difficult (I did after all spend some of my airline years working inside jets), but even Philip said that he didn't find it excessive in any way. I hope this might take some apprehension down a notch for folks who might be concerned. DINING We opted for the Odyssey on our first night out. I'm glad that we did experience it for ourselves but I would not do it again. Our waiter and his assistant did a perfectly acceptable job. The food was prepared well enough. Nothing was wrong. But somehow for us there was no "sparkle" to really make this more special. Rather than pick it apart I will leave it where it was for us - utterly adequate. I'm sure other people may have a different experience. I do not have a negative thing to say about it so please, gentle reader, do not interpret this as a slam. But the Lido is another story. We had thought that the boarding chaos was just that - peculiar to boarding. Unfortunately, we found it to be chaotic at all but the leanest times and consequently never had more than a passing snack there during extreme off hours. The layout should, in theory, work well. But there is simply not enough room for the number of people who show up at meal times. From the aggressively pushy (physically - and I'm not exaggerating) to the downright surly service personnel and the inability to move around with any sense of comfort, the place was just a disaster for us. We could find no reason whatsoever to endure that experience and took advantage of room service for breakfast nearly every day. The Vista Dining Room is lovely with the lights not on bright (as they are on casual nights). We had table 77 upstairs on the starboard rail. We were served by Hari and Januar and we had some jolly good laughs at the table. We were frequently visited by Asep, a head steward and a Henricus who served as Maitre d'. One night Henricus brought a lovely bottle of wine to our table with his compliments. That was very thoughtful. Also, on the last night of the cruise, he discovered while were talking that I was looking forward to my second cruise if, for no other reason, to get one of the tiles. He went away and returned with 3 of them (in two different designs) wrapped for us to take with us. We thought that was very kind! We had a very nice discussion with Henricus also about the service flow in the dining room. I asked him specifically if he felt they had made good planning decisions in the layout of the dining facilities as it related to their service requirements. He related to me the methods on the other ships vs. the Vista class and, unfortunately, it is not nearly as easy for the staff. The workload is made more difficult (which is how this translates into service irregularities) by the placement and utilization of the serving stations and number of assigned assistant waiters. With everything said about meals on the boards I expected to be disappointed. Instead I was surprised at how much I enjoyed most every aspect of the meal service. I'm sure part of that was the fun we had with people near us at other tables (families, other couples, etc.) and our service staff. I especially enjoyed Dutch night and it was the one meal I looked forward to least! We truly enjoyed all of our meals (including some of the Jeanne Jones choices) in the Vista Dining room and enjoyed seeing that most passengers did indeed respect the suggested dress for the evenings. It added some sparkle and a feeling of not being "run of the mill". THE NEPTUNE LOUNGE After the wondrous verandah ... (yes, we liked it that much!) .. My next favorite thing on the ship was the availability and staff of the Neptune Lounge. Gary and Michelle (sp?) were on staff throughout the cruise and could not have been kinder or more accommodating. Sail7Seas, Peaches and others have not exaggerated when they say that essentially all of your needs can be handled in this one place. And it is also a mid-ship respite from the day ... a nice place to visit for a morning muffin, lattE and a chat or a little nosh in the late afternoon. Quiet, serene and beautifully functional. Really an outstanding attribute of the Suite life on board! MY THIRD FAVORITE LOCATION? : THE CASINO! If anyone spent anytime at all in the casino the heard the dulcet tones of the jackpot bells going off with great regularity! This casino was MUCH more generous overall than that of our RCI ship. Several times EVERY day there were winners of significant jackpots! I even had the good fortune to win a few of the smaller ones. And the casino highlight for me was winning a consolation prize T-Shirt in the slot tournament! FYI: The nickel machines are HOT HOT HOT! But you might consider the "max bet" button to get the most benefit! THE REST OF THE SHIP SO now that you know what we did do, you might see clearly what we didn't do ... dining and miscellaneous night life are not as critical to Philip and I as some of the other nighttime and relaxation areas. Except for brief visits to see them we did not use the pools, hot tubs, etc. Nor did we spend any appreciable time in the other lounges. Philip enjoyed dancing a bit in the Northern Lights disco. If you like meeting crew, this is a good place for it late at night. PORTS Nassau: crowded and hot. Since I had never been and Philip didn't care for it, we only shopped a bit and strolled around. I imagine it might have some level of enchantment if we could have stayed longer and ventured further. It was interesting to see how much like a mystical place the Atlantis looks from the vantage point of the balcony on leaving port! St. Maartin: We took a can directly to Orient Beach and spent some time on a lounger in the sun and played in the surf. It was crowded but very pleasant. Afterwards, we visited Front Street in Philipsburg to make some money in the Diamond Casino (kind of dark and dank but it paid well!) and then strolled the jewelry shops. We bought two rings that we were VERY happy with and returned to the ship. I don't do well with large crowds in general so we tend to want to get back to peace and quiet fairly quickly. Tortola: Did we go there? I slept through most of it. Philip was able to go with some very nice folks from CC on their charter and he absolutely LOVED Virgin Gorda and Peter Island. Clearly this is a place best used as a launching point for water-based activities. I had no expectations and no disappointments. Half Moon Cay: What a lovely place! I would have been just as happy to have had this as my only port and the rest of time on the ocean. We took advantage of the cabaña option and enjoyed the "pink" one immensely. Because wait staff were on hand to bring food to us and the cabaña came stocked with cold beverages and various kinds of munchies, we never had to venture far. This was by far the best port activity to me!!! I can see why people rave about HMC so much. The water was clear and perfect, the sun just right and the company splendid! TIPS We tipped. A lot. And we were quite happy to do it. As suggested we did have a lot of singles to use for the bar staff and had pre-planned others with the minimum suggested (according to this and other boards) by stuffing personal cards to write our "thank you" on before we left home. Then we added amounts and people as the cruise went along in relation to our interaction. This was the first time we have ever tipped the Maitre' D but it was also the first time we have so much as a "how do you do" from one. Tipping in this cruise was a real pleasure. I highly recommend it! DISEMBARKATION If our embarkation was Dante's ninth ring of hell, then surely our disembarkation was its polar opposite! We had the letter S for disembarkation. We woke, went to the Vista Dining Room for breakfast and then returned to our cabin to wait for our letter to be called. We were the first group called. From the time we left the cabin until we were at the curb in a cab was less than 20 minutes - inclusive of immigration and baggage recovery! We were at the airport at 9:30 AM. I tend to be one of those folks that recognizes when the party's over, it's time to go home so I was glad that it was not a long and miserable experience. The S letter was very helpful so that is yet another reason to only book a suite for the future! FINAL NOTES For those who wanted more details about ports and certain other areas of the ship, my apologies. This is how we spent our cruise vacation. It worked well for us and we loved it. Would we cruise HAL again? Yep. Would we cruise HAL in less than a suite? Almost certainly not. We are fond of the quiet areas, the spacious balconies, the Neptune Lounge services and some of the things that go with the suite life. So much so that the cruise vacation for us is typified by that far more than the pools or the ports or the bars and lounges. I would definitely give the experience an 8.5 and a solid 9 if the embarkation had not been so hard to overcome. That's it for my summary. I know that other people have different viewpoints and I hope that this one was helpful in some way. My thanks to the many people who take the time to post their experiences so that we can learn. This is my version of giving some back to the boards. Happy Cruising to all! Cheers, Steve in Houston. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
The nice thing about the Oosterdam is the layout is exactly like the Zuiderdam which makes getting about the ship easy. The decor is elegant. Service on the ship was good for the most part. Our cabin steward was efficient and not to be ... Read More
The nice thing about the Oosterdam is the layout is exactly like the Zuiderdam which makes getting about the ship easy. The decor is elegant. Service on the ship was good for the most part. Our cabin steward was efficient and not to be seen, just the way I like it. Unfortunately our waiter in the main dining room spoiled our trip the fifth night into the cruise. I was never able to find out why he was so hostile as he would not speak to me about the problem. When I complained to the dining room manager, I got a very cold response without the slightest apology. Service in the bar lounge was a disaster one night. We finally gave up on our drink order and went to dinner disappointed. Others in the lounge were having an equally bad time of it. The shows were spectacular - we looked forward to every show! Food was for the most part what one would expect on a cruise ship, palatable but for the most part not great. Portions were small for the appetizers, I therefore ordered two at each meal, which seemed to perturb the waiter. Boarding was a fiasco in San Diego. Apparently the computer system was down, so we had to fill the forms already filled on the internet before our cruise. We stood in the hot sun for half an hour before even getting into the cruise terminal, then an hour sitting in their terminal before being boarded. I knew the room would be a small inside cabin, but was shocked by how small it was when we arrived. But, due to its nice decor and design, I got used to it quickly and enjoyed the stay. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7069. We sailed on the ms Zuiderdam's 13th voyage last February and although there were some issues that caused us some ... Read More
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7069. We sailed on the ms Zuiderdam's 13th voyage last February and although there were some issues that caused us some concern, it was a totally enjoyable cruise. The mean spirited reviews I've read of her are totally and completely exaggerated and unfair. A good time was had by all of us in spite of a few minor glitches the crew had getting used to their new ship. Our cruise last week on her sister, the ms Oosterdam was by far the best cruise experience we've had. Where do I begin? We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 for 2 nights to relax before our cruise and we highly recommend you do this. The hotel is great with rooms with marina views and a lovely pool. You can purchase this Pre Cruise package via HAL and is well worth the money in order to get yourself nice and relaxed for the cruise. Transportation from the airport and from the hotel to the ship was included. Since we had a Deluxe Veranda Suite, Embarkation was a breeze. We had our own area to check in, no line, no waiting. We simply walked up to the counter, provided the agent with our documents, received our boarding cards, went through security and were on the ship within 15 minutes. This was our second cruise with HAL's Deluxe Veranda Suite and it is truly a treat. Very spacious, nicely decorated, a changing area, and large bathroom with whirlpool tub and shower stall. Cannot say enough about how much we loved sitting on the veranda, which was huge, as we enjoyed our morning coffee. We will never book any other type of cabin and it is money well spent. All guests in Suites enjoy the compliments of the Neptune lounge. A wonderful perk which included coffee/tea service all day, drinks, snacks, finger sandwiches, etc. Arlene who works there is a sweet, lovely person who will help you with anything you need. As a matter of fact, Arlene remembered us from when we were on the Zuiderdam last year and was happy to see us again. Rudy, our cabin steward, was fantastic and he couldn't do enough for us. The ship is beautiful and the dEcor is noticeably toned down from that of the Zuiderdam. The decks/halls are easy to maneuver and well lit. Comments of halls being dark and uneasy to find your way around is nonsense. The food on the Lido was delicious and the service was terrific. The choices were well varied and the desserts were yummy. We were 2nd seating on deck 3 of the Vista dining room, table 59, right along the windows directly on the stern. If you read negative comments about people moaning about vibrations, think to yourself for just one-minute...you're sitting above the massive engines, and you wonder why the room might vibrate for a moment or two? Give me a break! There was little or no vibrations, certainly not enough to notice, let along ruin a truly wonderful dining experience every evening. Our waiter Mahrub and our busboy, Yudi, were EXCEPTIONAL. The food was excellent and the portions were in perfect amounts. Some appetizers/meals were so good; we had second portions that were delivered immediately. The ports of call were fun but since everyone can differ on them, I'll only speak of the lovely, fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, dreamy, Half Moon Cay. Instead of being in the cold snow and ice of Connecticut on Valentines Day, we were on one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen with soft white sand, in the warm sun, swimming in crystal clear water. This port of call is the one reason why we wouldn't sail with anyone else but HAL and if you haven't sailed HAL, you should consider it so you can visit this private island paradise. This was our 2nd visit there and cannot wait until the 3rd, and the 4th and the....you get the picture. The nit picky, moaning, whiny reviews I've read of HAL ships are so unfair and it bothers me that some people can be so mean. HAL is an excellent cruise line and after the fabulous time we had on the Oosterdam was not in our imaginations. Yes, the average age of the passengers was around 65, (our group of 6 ranged from 20 something to 50 something) but we met sincerely nice, friendly people who were there for the same reason we were, to have fun, relax, and have a good time, and guess what? WE HAD AN AWESOME TIME!! This ms geritol stuff is nonsense and totally uncalled for. If you want to go on vacation on a "party" ship with hundreds of drunken slobs, then maybe HAL isn't the line for you. When we were in St.Marten, there were 5 other cruise ships in port. When we were walking back to the "O dam" we were stopped by many passengers from other ships to ask us how we liked HAL and the Oosterdam............of course we told them it was fantastic and you know what they told us about their ships? Lets just say that they were very jealous of us as we walked up the gangway of the "O dam" and onto such a beautiful ship. Anyone who has booked this ship will have a terrific time and if you don't we can only say that it would be your own fault. We will definitely be booking our next cruise with HAL and will sail with no one else. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
My first comment is to state I will never sail on Holland America again!! The cruise we took was on Feb 8th to the Bahamas, St. Martin, Tortola. The cabin category was a Deluxe Verandah Suite. (Only 60 on this ship). Problems started ... Read More
My first comment is to state I will never sail on Holland America again!! The cruise we took was on Feb 8th to the Bahamas, St. Martin, Tortola. The cabin category was a Deluxe Verandah Suite. (Only 60 on this ship). Problems started from the beginning. I had made arrangements in advance to have a table for two at dinner near a window for 2nd seating. I had even called the corporate office a few days before to confirm this. When we got to our cabin it showed dining for 1st seating and the table was not near a window at all. We had to call up to have this changed and were not notified until after first seating had already started. The first night I got seasick and decided to have dinner in my cabin. I was told it would take a while. It took them over two hours to deliver dinner. When it arrived the plopped it down on the glass table on a tray. Nothing setup at all. No tablecloth nothing. The major problems we had with this cruise was service issues. We would order room service and either the item we ordered wouldn't show up or we would get something entirely different. This occurred at least four times. One time we had just ordered diet cokes. They delivered them still with the plastic wrap around the cans. No ice and no glasses. When we did get the items we wanted they would deliver them and plop them down on a tray. No tablecloths. The food in the lido restaurant was gross. At one point we had asked one of the people behind one of the buffet areas if they were open. Since most of the other areas were closed. He gave us a weird look as if to say "Yes I am open stupid". The food in the main restaurant was okay. Nothing special. The service at dinner was good. Although at lunch was a different story. We had asked for a table of two at lunch and we even stated it twice. We were seated at a table for six. The next time we asked the same thing to be seated only at a table for two. We were taken to a table of four with two people already seated. This time we did not just sit down. We went back and made them seat us at a table just for two. It wasn't busy as if they had no tables of two. Just another thing to piss us off. When these problems first started we had made complaints to the food/beverage manager. He did not respond to them until five days into the cruise. Then he was going to notify the Guest Relations manager but never did. We ended up placing a second complaint with her. Needless to say neither one of them did anything to resolve the issues. I will say that I have cruised many times before and would not recommend this cruise line to anyone!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
This was our 17th HAL cruise, the first time on the Oosterdam. Very disappointing. The ship is absolutely beautiful. However, the ship's staff and service leave something to be desired. They seemed very disorganized and unable to ... Read More
This was our 17th HAL cruise, the first time on the Oosterdam. Very disappointing. The ship is absolutely beautiful. However, the ship's staff and service leave something to be desired. They seemed very disorganized and unable to provide the typical excellent service that we have come to know from Holland America. While there was no one major problem, there was a consistent series of things throughout the seven days that indicated to us that they are not equipped or organized to handle 1800 plus guests. Some items that we considered unsatisfactory include: 1) No clean cloth hand towels every evening in the public restrooms (men's and women's) by the main dining room on both decks before and after second seating. 2) Slow response to refill food items in the Lido lines when they were empty. Breakfast on the last morning brought no orange juice because, we were told, that they had no clean glasses. Some clean ones finally arrived. 3) On at least two nights at dinner in the main dining room, about half of our table for eight had missing silverware (butter knives, forks, etc). We had to ask for them. Very few refills on coffee without asking. I also felt that the quality and quantity of food was poor. A chilled soup one night had the consistency of Jello. The 1/2 of the lobster tail that was served with the petite round steak was delicious, it's a shame that the other half was not there. 4 )Most (sea) days by the inside pool area there were 3 to 4 people hustling bar drinks and 1 person picking up dirty dishes and cleaning tables. On the plus side our cabin was very nice and the entertainment was good. This ship needs to get its act together. I'm not sure if it is under staffed or if the staff is mis-allocated. Regardless of the reason, it needs to step up to the fact that they are providing services to 1800 passengers and not the normal 1200/1300. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
RSVP Oosterdam Feb 22-29, 2004 We arrived on the Friday evening before sailing on Sunday - this is an excellent way to begin a cruise vacation. Already rested and relaxed before ever seeing the ship! Boarding: Very well handled - ... Read More
RSVP Oosterdam Feb 22-29, 2004 We arrived on the Friday evening before sailing on Sunday - this is an excellent way to begin a cruise vacation. Already rested and relaxed before ever seeing the ship! Boarding: Very well handled - arrived at the terminal about 1.15-30. We were shown to the express-check-in line for passengers who had filled out their immigration forms online, and met some of the other passengers - most everyone very excited and relaxed. Very friendly staff - many older/retired types doing the check-in and apparently enjoying themselves. I chatted w/ Elizabeth and some of the others in the check-in area and asked if I could get one of their gold-tone 'Oosterdam 2003' pins - one of the ladies checked for me and said that she didn't have any but she had some buttons instead - I thanked her and she gave me two Mariners Pins! Had our pics taken and were aboard by 2pm, shown to the glass elevators straight up to our suite on Navigation Deck. Superior Verandah Suite 8086: This is a VERY comfortable home away from home - lots of drawer and shelf space although it could use more hanging space. Well stocked Mini-Bar, although a bit low-brow for my tastes - would prefer more Premium champagnes, beers and spirits. Two desks - one could have been made into additional storage. One wonders how folks in the smaller staterooms manage, especially on longer cruises! Big bathroom w/ two sinks, shower and separate Jacuzzi tub (which we used more than I expected!) Faucets in tub and shower are European and a bit confusing, but once you get the hang of it, they work well. Especially thoughtful are the twin medicine cabinets and the shelf below the sink for your little extra things. We have towels w/ the blue embroidery - very elegant looking, but not very soft (especially on sunburnt skin) unlike the pool towels (Royal Blue) and shore towels (Dutch Blue). Very much enjoy the location - midway between the middle and aft stair towers so little passing traffic, yet close to the activities on the Aft Lido and dinner in the Vista Dining Room. Very well insulated from noise - never heard our neighbors to either side unless we and they were on our verandahs & never heard anything from the Lido Restaurant above. Arrived to gifts of Red wine, two bottles of Champagne (one opened in a silver champagne bucket filled w/ ice) and a silver tray of Chocolate-covered Strawberries. Tasteful little cards tell you who sent what. Our steward, Gunawan, was very nice and unobtrusive. When we arrived our beds were made up as twins although I had requested they be made as a queen when booking back in April. He was very nice about taking care of it - he arrived while we were dressing for dinner on the first night, and he apologized for coming while we were in, but I invited him to stay to take care of his work - didn't bother me that he was there as long as it didn't bother him. Also requested extra towels which he kept us stocked up with for the entire trip. Learned from him that he has no family back in Indonesia, but is working to save enough so that he can go back home to marry and have a family. He is 38 years old has been working for HAL for the past 15 years. From what he tells me, they do not get days off when aboard ship - they work 8-9 months solid, then return home to Indonesia for their 3-4 month vacation. No problems with luggage - most arrived within an hour of boarding and the remaining pieces arrived well before it was time to dress for our dinner reservations at 8.30. Food: I think we spoiled ourselves by dining in the Pinnacle Grill first night - the food and the service from Zoltan and Paul were fantastic - equal to the dining experiences that we are accustomed to at top restaurants in San Francisco. This was the first thing we booked upon boarding the ship - good thing as most evenings were full by the time we made it to the head of the line. We booked both first and last nights - first night was not well attended in the Pinnacle even though it was half price, although every night thereafter was packed. I had heard that there was a waiting list for tables for the remaining nights, so we were quite fortunate. We had booked tables for two, but we later decided to host a dinner party on the last night for some of our new friends that we had met on-board, yet when I walked down Friday night to expand our reservation from two to six - there was absolutely no problem, and the service was just as outstanding as it had been the first night! The Vista Dining Room experience was somewhat less of a culinary experience - definitely in the league of banquet-style food. Although the service was nearly as good as the service in the Pinnacle, I definitely noticed the lack of certain touches, such as sweeping breadcrumbs from the table after taking the dinner plates. We made a point to dine in the Lower Vista aft right up against the windows - we loved watching the wake from our table and heard only the slightest rumble from the engines. Felt only a slight rocking in heavy seas. Definitely not the clattering-dishes experience that others have reported from Zuiderdam. Began to make a point of ordering two appetizers and entrees - especially on the night that they served both caviar and escargot appetizers just in case there were items that were not up to par. Also learned to avoid dishes with rice or pilaf as it would invariably be overcooked - they do much better with vegetable purees. Desserts were OK, but was disappointed by the crème-Brule (it was really a Flan - they should have called it that) and the cookie in the ice-cream - I expected a cookie like we had during the kitchen tour (yummy chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies) but received a thin flat wafer - similar in flavor and texture to a cheap ice cream cone. Also - if you want Flaming Baked Alaska, go to the Pinnacle (yum!) as the only flames you'll see in the Vista come from the sparklers in the Baked Alaska parade. Of course we always looked forward to the Yum-Yum Man - delicious mints, dates & candied ginger! Ate in the Lido Grill only twice - once for lunch on a sea-day I walked down and collected both tacos and some yummy beef and veggie stir-fry from the Wok and brought them back up to the fantail above the aft lido pool to eat. Later in the trip we had a poolside barbecue for dinner which was fairly good - although the quality of the coleslaw, potato salad and three-bean salad were no better than what one would expect from the Safeway Deli. Most days, we ordered breakfast to be delivered to the suite - such a treat to be awakened with hot tea, coffee, fruit, etc. from a prompt happy steward! We had him set our tray on the verandah most mornings and it was so nice to wrap up in our robes and survey the scene while waking and breakfasting. Having become accustomed to the American way of super-sizing everything, I made the mistake of ordering a single croissant the first morning expecting something 4-6 inches long instead of the lonely little two-bite size that arrived - although it was still good. Also began to note that as the week went on that the quality of the fruit salad was waning, so we started ordering sliced bananas and stewed prunes which were quite delicious! Spa: Not my favorite experience, as I appeared for my massage appointment 15 minutes early and was told to change and wait in the relaxation room. Was not directed to fill out the client profile form and was never greeted by staff thereafter. I waited and asked another staff-person who came through when my masseuse would come to get me, and was told that someone would come shortly. After chatting w/ some friends who happened to be there at the same time, one asked for the time and after hearing the answer I realized that I had been left waiting for an hour! I walked to the front desk and asked what had happened and was told that my therapist had apparently "forgotten" me, and would I care to re-book? They were quite booked for this cruise and I was given a couple of choices - both occurring during my scheduled shore excursions. I changed and marched off - forgetting my room key, so I walked down to the front desk and got another one as I was in no mood to deal with these people. My travel partner gave me his appointment for later in the week, and I must say that it was not the best massage - just not enough power in her hands for the type of body-work that I prefer. At least I wasn't subjected to a sales pitch. Never was I offered compensation or free services for the inconvenience of my first appointment. On the last day, the spa offered 20% off spa services for that day so my travel partner scheduled a facial. They called twice to postpone his appointment, then when completed, they tried to sell him over $300 worth of skin-care products - and ended up selling him a tube of exfoliating creme that I could have bought for him stateside for $12. He also watched an angry husband (another new acquaintance of ours) return hundreds of dollars worth of skincare products that were pushed on his partner - the type who is too meek/polite to say "No". When I sail HAL again, I will not bother with the Steiner spa services. Ship's Ambiance and Condition: Such a beautiful luxury liner! If I were to design a ship myself, it would be very much like this one! I particularly like being able to stand in the center of the ship in a midship corridor and be able to see out through the glass elevator doors to the ocean on either side. There are innumerable beautiful touches aboard - yet there were numerous glitches that stood out for me: I could see worn finishes on many railings from my verandah. The small side table on my verandah was beautifully oiled and polished, yet the dining table with the same teakwood top on my verandah was in dire need of the same care. There was a piece of loose chrome trim on the Pursers Desk in the Atrium Lobby. The leather inside door panels of one if the interior elevators had been vandalized on a prior cruise by someone and had yet to be repaired. Interior wall panels where corridors zigzagged were banged up by luggage and service trolleys. The windows on the Vista Dining Room had fingerprints on the glass panels and smudges on the brass trim all week long. There were a few pieces of chipped china and glassware in the Vista Dining Room, the Lido and delivered w/ room-service. The many port plaques (Oosterdam received three on this cruise!) are mounted in the Tender Lobby below Main Deck on either side of the inside elevators rather than in an area that one would linger to view and enjoy them such as in one of the bars or smaller public rooms, a main corridor such as the one alongside the Queen's Room or the lobby of the Vista Lounge. The structural columns in the Vista Lounge (Why!?!?!) and the pattern of the Vista Lounge hard-wall covering that strangely appears to be so many boot prints. The Crow's Nest is a gorgeous room but not well planned for cabaret entertainment, as waiters and guests are constantly crossing in front of the performers, the recliners take up far too much space and guests have to sit on top of the backs of the window banquettes to see over the recliners and other seated guests to the stage - the Queen's Room would have been a much better venue for cabaret. Ships Staff: I can't say enough about the HAL staff - so professional and friendly. There was never a room steward or a waiter who would avoid saying hello or doing everything they could for you. The wait staff on deck and in the lounges were plentiful - you never lacked for someone to bring you a cocktail (were these folks on commission?!?) Be sure to say hello to Teresa in the Giftshop - she had been a first mate on cargo vessels for 25 years! Very friendly, nice to chat with and helpful as well! The RSVP Staff were the best! It was such a surprise to see Father Tim aboard - I knew him in SF when he was still a Brother! The parties were fantastic and the entertainment was very good. We especially enjoyed Amy Armstrong - we hope she will be back for the Alaska Cruise! The only thing I would suggest is that Amy be allowed to play in the Queen's Room rather than the Crow's Nest (per above) You definitely get what you pay for on an RSVP cruise! Ports: Costa Maya - All water based excursions were cancelled due to rough water so we stayed at the port resort. The food at the cabana was un-special - had better Mexican food in San Francisco. Chips and salsa cost extra and weren't even fresh. Some shops were very nice and others were just too pushy - the appearance of the shop will tell you everything about the standard of service. Spend your money where you feel comfortable - but if they start out selling you on price, stay as quiet as possible to get your best price. Santo Tomas de Castillo - If you wanna see anything of Guatemala you must leave the port on an excursion because the port town is not for tourists - it's purely an industrial port. We did the Quiriuga Ruins and Rio Dulce tour which was long and hot - but a great tour overall. Our guide, Manuel, was very informative and easy to understand. The scenery and the abundance of wildlife was amazing! One of the best things was arriving by boat at the end of a long day at the port right in front of Oosterdam! Roatan - This is what a Caribbean port town looked like before the demand from hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers made them into tropical malls. Its dirty, chaotic and poor - I loved it! Be sure to take the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel tour - I've never done this before but they took the time to make me feel comfortable, there are guides in the water with you snorkeling and paddling in kayaks for your safety - it's amazing - like swimming around in an aquarium at PetSmart! Key West: Nice, but much too touristy for my tastes - way too much like Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 in San Francisco. Immigration and Disembarkation: Immigration was handled at Key West - we were fortunate to be on the Navigation Deck, as they call passengers by deck from lowest to highest to go through immigration, so we were able to get out of bed late before being called down. It was a short, fast moving line and we were done in no time! We were also the last number to be called to leave the ship as we were staying overnight. We were allowed to stay in our suite which was much better than glomming around in a lounge for hours. All we had to do was leave the TV on so we could hear the announcements, or leave the door open. In retrospect, I'm glad that we were off last as it allowed us to shower late, wander around to view the penthouse suites and once we were off the ship (@10.30) there were far fewer bags to search through to find our pieces. Once we collected our pile of luggage, a porter carried our bags and promptly commandeered a taxi for us - no waiting! We were off the ship and heading for the hotel in less than 15 minutes. Be sure to have your next cruise booked and take your anti-depressants before you disembark - you'll need 'em after you step off the Oosterdam... Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
A simple review. As I get a little older I think that I have lowered some of my expectations and consequently increased my satisfaction in life. It strikes me that some of the reviews focus on minor issues; cruising is not about ... Read More
A simple review. As I get a little older I think that I have lowered some of my expectations and consequently increased my satisfaction in life. It strikes me that some of the reviews focus on minor issues; cruising is not about perfection but about relaxation and reasonable expectations. Now on to the review of the Oosterdam. Our first cruise and the only previous one on Holland America was full of fond memories but the old Nieuw Amsterdam wasn't anything like this new ship. The Oosterdam is a handsome ship, easy to navigate with the nicest staterooms and dining rooms that I have encountered. The extensive use of leather in these areas was most welcome as cloth wears so poorly. My only comment would be the closed feeing in the connecting hallways on deck 2 & 3. As opposed to Celebrity Millennium class ships which are more open and more pleasing to the eye. My only real complaint on Celebrity Constellation was the cabin materials; orange and green cloth. The food was comparable to Celebrity, beautiful presentation but a little less French. The attempt to provide freshly prepared food through out the Lido was admirable and once you realized that you were getting fresh vs. steam table food you soon became more patient. Service was solid and pleasant everywhere. The cloth hand towels were abundant and a pleasant perk not seen on other ships I must say that HAL has done something right with their new ships in terms of soliciting a more diverse age group on their new ships. A half day in Nassau was a waste of time but that the other ports were fine. The Private Cay had the most pristine beach I have ever encountered. While lacking enough shade for everyone and despite a somewhat engineered feeling it was a pleasant afternoon. The comedian Bernie McGrenahan was very good as well as the Illusionist/ comedian. The choreography and show was excellent and a enjoyable departure from "Las Vegas" style shows. I would love to here from others regarding HAL's tipping policy. I believe that tipping is appropriate and if everyone knew what the crew is paid, how they often work eight months with few days off and are on duty 16 hours a day: you would think differently. A lot of passengers don't tip and the front office is not allowed to offer any assistance to those that would like to tip. Perhaps some of the complaints regarding service are born out of the lack of ability to control the situation by withholding the gratuity, just a thought. Only time will tell if HAL is making the right moves toward a more balanced age group but I for one enjoyed the experience. I am not getting any younger but I enjoyed meeting a more diverse group of people than usual on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. We had decided to try them for a more "formal" cruise experience. The ship is beautiful in a very understated way. While there are numerous lounges and bars, you have the feel of a ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. We had decided to try them for a more "formal" cruise experience. The ship is beautiful in a very understated way. While there are numerous lounges and bars, you have the feel of a much smaller ship. Decor is understated with little flash, but very comfortable. The recliners in the Crows Nest lounge were a great place to watch the water glide by while you enjoy your drink. Cabin size was excellent and having a stateroom with a balcony makes me feel that I'll never book a cruise again without one. Food quality in the Lido Deck "Food Court" was excellent for breakfast and lunch...we never made it to the Lido dining room. Good thing too....as others have said, the service in the dining room left much to be desired. Coffee cups and water glasses sat empty after numerous requests for refilling, entrees arrived lukewarm with side dishes missing until I reminded our servers again and again. However, the food quality and service in the Pinnacle Grill (the $20/pp cover charge alternative venue)was superb and well worth it. Pools are smallish, but never seemed overcrowded...but you can't say the same for the whirlpools...you could never get a seat. Poolside servers were sporadic...some great, some disappeared without ever fulfilling your order. The bands and vocalists were great, but the headline acts were mediocre with the notable exception of "The Mikes", an acapella group from Canada who were great. Bottom line...a very relaxing trip with so-so cuisine, an ok itinerary (St. Martin & Half Moon Cay were great, Nassau is Nassau (we never left the ship), but nothing...I repeat...NOTHING in Tortola). Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7069 We sailed on the ms Zuiderdam's 13th voyage last February and although there were some issues that caused us some ... Read More
Ms Oosterdam Eastern Caribbean February 08, 2004 - February 15, 2004 Voyage Number 26 Deluxe Veranda Suite Cabin 7069 We sailed on the ms Zuiderdam's 13th voyage last February and although there were some issues that caused us some concern, it was a totally enjoyable cruise. The mean spirited reviews I've read of her are totally and completely exaggerated and unfair. A good time was had by all of us in spite of a few minor glitches the crew had getting used to their new ship. Our cruise last week on her sister, the ms Oosterdam was by far the best cruise experience we've had. Where do I begin? We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 for 2 nights to relax before our cruise and we highly recommend you do this. The hotel is great with rooms with marina views and a lovely pool. The hotel is only minutes from Port Everglades and you can purchase this Pre Cruise package via HAL. It is well the worth the money in order to get yourself nice and relaxed for the cruise. Transportation from the airport and from the hotel to the ship was included. Since we had a Deluxe Veranda Suite, Embarkation was a breeze. We had our own area to check in, no line, no waiting. We simply walked up to the counter, provided the agent with our documents, received our boarding cards, went through security and were on the ship within 15 minutes. This was our second cruise with HAL's Deluxe Veranda Suite and it is truly a treat. Very spacious, nicely decorated, a changing area, and large bathroom with whirlpool tub and shower stall. Cannot say enough about how much we loved sitting on the veranda, which was huge, as we enjoyed our morning coffee. We will never book any other type of cabin and it is money well spent. All guests in Suites enjoy the compliments of the Neptune lounge. A wonderful perk which included coffee/tea service all day, drinks, snacks, finger sandwiches, etc. Arlene who works there is a sweet, lovely person who will help you with anything you need. As a matter of fact, Arlene remembered us from when we were on the Zuiderdam last year and was happy to see us again. Rudy, our cabin steward, was fantastic and he couldn't do enough for us. The ship is beautiful and the dEcor is noticeably toned down from that of the Zuiderdam. The decks/halls are easy to maneuver and well lit. Comments of halls being dark and uneasy to find your way around is nonsense. The food on the Lido was delicious and the service was terrific. The choices were well varied and the desserts were yummy. We were 2nd seating on deck 3 of the Vista dining room, table 59, right along the windows directly on the stern. If you read negative comments about people moaning about vibrations, think to yourself for just one-minute................you're sitting above the massive engines, and you wonder why the room might vibrate for a moment or two? Give me a break! There was little or no vibrations, certainly not enough to notice, let alone ruin a truly wonderful dining experience every evening. Our waiter Mahrub and our busboy,Yudi, were EXCEPTIONAL. The food was excellent and the portions were in perfect amounts. Some appetizers/meals were so good; we had second portions that were delivered immediately. The ports of call were fun but since everyone can differ on them, I'll only speak of the lovely, fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, dreamy, Half Moon Cay. Instead of being in the cold snow and ice of Connecticut on Valentine's Day, we were on one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen with soft white sand, in the warm sun, swimming in crystal clear water. This port of call is the one reason why we wouldn't sail with anyone else but HAL and if you haven't sailed HAL, you should consider it so you can visit this private island paradise. This was our 2nd visit there and cannot wait until the 3rd, and the 4th and the.............you get the picture. The nit picky, moaning, whiny reviews I've read of HAL ships are so unfair and it bothers me that some people can be so mean. HAL is an excellent cruise line and the fabulous time we had on the Oosterdam was not in our imaginations. Yes, the average age of the passengers was around 60, (our group of 6 ranged from 20 something to 50 something) but we met sincerely nice, friendly people who were there for the same reason we were..... to have fun, relax, and have a good time, and guess what? WE HAD AN AWESOME TIME!! This ms geritol stuff is nonsense and totally uncalled for. If you want to go on vacation on a "party" ship with hundreds of drunken slobs, then maybe HAL isn't the line for you. When we were in St. Marten, there were 5 other cruise ships in port. When we were walking back to the "O dam" we were stopped by many passengers from other ships to ask us how we liked HAL and the Oosterdam............of course we told them it was fantastic and you know what they told us about their ships? Lets just say that they were very jealous of us as we walked up the gangway of the "O dam" and onto such a beautiful ship. Anyone who has booked this ship will have a terrific time and if you don't we can only say that it would be your own fault. We will definitely be booking our next cruise with HAL and will sail with no other cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
The following review is long, and each topic will be capitalized so you can read its entirety or skip through until you find a topic of interest. REASON FOR BOOKING ON HAL'S MS. OOSTERDAM: We are three generations. Two grandparents ... Read More
The following review is long, and each topic will be capitalized so you can read its entirety or skip through until you find a topic of interest. REASON FOR BOOKING ON HAL'S MS. OOSTERDAM: We are three generations. Two grandparents (70's), two parents (40's), and two teenage children (13 & 16). We wanted to find a cruise that would please all ages. Did a lot of research, spoke with travel agent, and asked a lot of questions on the Cruise Critic's message board. Finally went with the bit "0" for its value, and newness of this ship. We had all previously sailed with HAL before, and Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, the Big Red Boat, and NCL. After booking this cruise last summer, started reading some negative reviews about this ship and her sister the Zuiderdam, will address this later. CRUISE DATE: Sunday, March 14 - Sunday March 21, 2004, leaving from Ft. Lauderdale. EMBARKATION: Flew into Ft. Lauderdale, arriving at approximately 9:40am, claimed luggage and took taxi to pier 27. Arrived at 10:30am, entered building and got in que by 10:40, was on board the ship by 11:15, and having a leisurely lunch in the Lido. Cabin was ready by 12:45. Effortless, and pain-free. Wonderful! CABIN: We booked two adjoining cabins on the Verandah Deck, 5089 and 5087. This was our very first balcony cabin, and we can never go back! These cabins are triples. We were three to each cabin and very comfortable. The room configuration has a nice size bath with tub/shower combination, medicine cabinet, and storage underneath the sink/counter. Lots of hooks abound. Three closets, with shelves that tilt out for storage or fold up for hanging dresses. Middle closet has full length mirror on interior door, nice touch. There is a privacy curtain in this area that can be drawn for changing or keeping room dark. Two twins beds that can be made into a queen, with wall of mirrors, and two nightstands. Small reading light, and lighting controls at head of each bed that control entire cabin lighting. Another privacy curtain that pulls half way across the room, with a sofa sleeper, chair, table, and desk with mini bar and stool, another large mirror, and separate make-up mirror. On desk is silver tray with silver ice bucket. In cabinet of desk are wine and champagne glasses along with a silver cork screw, this is where the hair dryer is stowed too. TV sits on desktop. Door to balcony opens out with handle, this is not a sliding door. On the balcony there are two chairs and one ottoman. Becareful when entering the cabin from balcony, door is heavy and can scrape barefeet,speaking from experience. The colors are dusty pomegranate and a soft gold. With colorful prints on the walls of butterflies and flowers or fruit. Our room was kept spotless and always had fresh ice and fruit. Thanks to our wonderful Cabin Steward, Heru! These rooms were mid-ship and very conveniently located to everything, but never heard any noise from outside, nor up, or down or adjoining walls. TOUR OF THE SHIP: You get the feeling that you are on a ship, not a floating hotel, or shopping mall. There are views of the water on each level from various public spaces and the oceanview elevators, located mid-ship. A lot of the public walk ways are curving, not straight lines. Making you want to follow their paths. Nice touch. There is a full promenade in teak. Three times around equals one mile. Beautiful teak benches and loungers all around. The colors of the Oosterdam are elegant and understated jewel tones, bringing a feeling of calm. There is wonderful butter soft leather seating in just about all lounge areas. Polished teak and granite abound. Beautiful art throughout all levels, forward, mid, and aft. Elegant and fun lighting, look up and all around. Wonderful and artful benches everywhere. RESTAURANTS: LIDO: Five different stations, duplicated on port and starboard. What fun! Area is decorated with bright fun colors, lamps and patterns. Views of ocean can be seen from all seats. The stations serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch choices were deli, Italian, hot entree, asian, salad bar, and desserts, with beverage stations at each end. Hours are 7-10am for breakfast. 11:30-2:00pm lunch, 11:30 - 1:00am(thats right, A.M.) for pizza and pasta and ice cream. 6:30-8:00pm casual dinner, 11:00pm-12mid-night for late night snack. In other words, you will not go hungry with the Lido almost always open! Food was of excellent quality and variety. The ice cream was wonderful with flavors like, cinnamon, rum raisin, coconut in a waffle cone, regular cone, or dish. Nice cookies always nearby, macadamia nut, oatmeal raisinut, chocolate chip and peanut butter. The desserts are wonderful too, with a nice selection of sugar free desserts. GRILL & TACO BAR: Open 11:30-5:00pm daily. Choice of hamburger, cheeseburger, hotdog, knotworst, or veggie burger, and fries at the grill. Taco bar has hard taco shells, warm soft flour tortillas, seasoned hamburger meat and seasoned chicken, guacamole, tomatoes, and all the trimmings. This area is located on the lido aft, poolside. ODYSSEY: Open from 6-9:30pm by reservation only. This is a surcharge restaurant that we did not use. You can see it from the atrium area and it certainly looks very elegant. VISTA DINING ROOM: Has a first seating at 6pm, second at 8:15pm. Two level dining room with large ocean views windows throughout. Circular staircase in center with middle level for musicians who play each night for entire dinner, strings and piano. Very lovely. Colors are warm burgundy, golds, on walls and floor, nice prints of fruits and flowers. Metalic flower sculptures on ceiling in upper level, tables are elegantly set, with fresh flowers, lovely china with gold and blue pattern. Menu offers usually three appetizers, two soups, two salads, four or five entrees of beef, pork, chicken and fish, two from the grill choices, and always a heart healthy choice. Usually three desserts, and two sugar free desserts and always ice cream, and fruit and cheese. Our waiters were very nice, especially our assistant waiter Safari! Always remembering our cappuccino after dinner. YUM-YUM MAN: This always pleasant and smiling gentleman is at the exit door while leaving dinner, offering mints, figs and dates, and candied ginger. He is dressed in a red and blue uniform trimmed in gold with matching hat. He also walks the public areas right before each dinner seating, while playing the chimes, "ding, din, dong" dinner is served! ROOM SERVICE: Always prompt and delivered in a half hour time choice. Available 24 hours with limited menu and specific breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours with larger menu. Info and menu is in your cabin. We enjoyed ordering coffee, oj, and danish from room service and eating on the verandah each morning before getting dressed and going to the dining room. LOUNGES: We visited most lounges and public areas, they are all beautiful and each different. WINDSTAR CAFE: cute nook for coffee and pastries, there is a small charge for coffees here. Nice teak and leather seats and ocean views. EXPLORER'S LOUNGE: elegant, leather, polished granite and oil paintings abound. The wonderful Monarchia Strings are here each evening, and not to miss, flambe desserts can be ordered and enjoyed in this lounge, no charge! SPORTS BAR: plays ESPN channel all day and evening from many tvs. Fun seating in this bar. OCEAN BAR: upbeat and spacious, Uptown plays here each evening for pre-dinner dancing, nice! Art auctions are also held here. Neat table lighting. CROWS NEST: Loved this area! Marble and butter-soft leather everywhere, very open, plus two separate side areas for more quiet conversations, B-4 plays a very wide variety of tunes here each evening. Wonderful and plenty of space for dancing. Nice views during the day while at sea! PIANO BAR: Fun, intimate area, piano is truly a bar, wonderful Gayle Leali tickles the keyes each evening! NORTHERN LIGHTS DISCO: Fun, flashy, lights and fog! Funny, dry witted DJ Marc keeps things spinning all night long. CASINO: Lots of slots, black jack tables, very open and spacious, not too lucky for us though. QUEENS LOUNGE: This is the only area that disappointed us. There are very bad sight lines here. This area is used for various entertainment and talks and movies. If you want to watch the movie, go early and get front row seats, otherwise you will see only the heads and shoulders in front of you. On the plus side you get free popcorn! VISTA LOUNGE: Bright with fun, hugh lamps at each side. Nice sight lines from most seats, even balcony, beware of a few poles. If you get here late and see an open seat, it probably is directly behind one of those dreaded poles. LIDO BAR: Fun dolphin seats, you must at least try out once. The pool has retractable cover with cute flock of penguins guarding it. LIDO AFT: this is where the pool and hot tub action is. Island sounds of the Caribbean Breeze play here throughout the day - no worries - just HAPPY! GREENHOUSE SPA & SALON: Never used this area, but took a tour and everything looked nice. GYM: Nice and not crowded, husband and son used this area daily and enjoyed the sauna. INTERNET CENTER: Very nice area with oceanviews. Plenty of screens. Package plans if you use a lot. I think I paid about $9.00 for 12 minutes that I used to confirm on our own shore excursion in St. Martin. Well worth it. LIBRARY: Very beautiful and elegant space, if you don't use you must drop by. PHOTO GALLERY: Large area nicely spaced, with lots and lots of pictures of yourself to look at. SHOPS: Nice variety of sundries, tee-shirts, logo items, jewelry, liquor, watches, etc. ENTERTAINMENT: Wow, we really enjoyed all the shows. We usually don't make the effort to attend all shows, but these were so good we went to all but one. I don't know if the entertainment changes from sailing to sailing. We enjoyed the ships' fabulous dancers and singers, comedian Don Ware was superb! (Don Ware for President)! Illusionist Leo Ward, good. Juggler Mike Price, wonderful. The acapella group the Mikes was phenomenal!!!! The cast production Escape was awesome! STAFF and CREW: All were truly wonderful and gracious service abounded. This particular sailing had two Captains. The first Captain had to fly off to attend a conference. Wait staff was gracious and never pushy in public lounge areas. We loved our waiters and especially our Cabin Steward Heru! The Cruise Director Dane very pleasant and funny, kept things moving. Our Wine Steward, Edward, was so very nice and pleasant to talk to, and remembered us throughout the ship. Photography, very pleasant and not pushy. EMERGENCY: unfortunately my Father was taken off the ship while in port in Tortola. He had been experiencing some pain and getting worse, visited the doctor. They thought he might need immediate emergency surgery and made arrangements for him to be brought to the local hospital. He and my Mother went together. The ships agent in Tortola was very helpful to all of us. Once it was determined that he did not need the surgery and was able to fly, she made arrangements for both of them to fly into Ft. Lauderdale to await our return two days later. The front desk was very helpful to me in providing information to get in touch with them at the hospital in Tortola, and the ships agent emailed me that all was well and their flight arrangements. Once that was settled we did enjoy the rest of our cruise, missing our parents very much. A big thanks to all the Doctors, Nurses, and Staff, who were so very helpful and compassionate! HALF MOON CAY: Wonderful, beautiful island! They should all be this lovely, private, and peaceful. Very nice barbecue lunch, snorkeling with some very friendly fish who expected to be fed, and nice walking paths. Refreshing and relaxing time was had by all! We were the only ship on the island and it was not crowded. Not much wait for the tenders, coming or going. Fun day! PORTS OF CALL: Nassau, very short time in this port 7am-12noon. We usually like to snorkel on our own but felt we did not have enough time. We took in the Queens staircase, Fort Fincastle, the tower and straw market. With six ships in port most attractions were crowded. St. Martin, visited Phillipsburg and had some loose gemstones set while in port. Also went horseback riding for 2 hours ending with a swim with the horse in the ocean, fun. Three of us rode and the other three went to Mullet Bay. Nice beach but no snorkeling, better snorkeling to be had at Dawn Beach. Tortola, since we had already been to Virgin Gorda and the Baths (which is a must see) we decided to try a beach on Tortola, after a thrilling rollercoaster ride(taxi) to Brewers Bay, we snorkeled the day away. Very nice beach with small beach bar, not crowded or commercialized. Excellent snorkeling. This island is genuinely friendly, beautiful and not yet overrun with tourism. Concerns: As previously mentioned above, I had read some negative comments, and had some concerns about this ship, I'll try to address each one. l. Only the over 75 crowd are passengers on HAL. Our ship sailed at full capacity during spring break. We had all ages, and the variety seemed to be divided equally. Lots of families of two or more generations. Plenty of children, young through teenagers, but never were any of them obtrusive. Many participated in Club HAL, but our teens chose not to and had fun with the family. 2. Ship is new, but shows age, i.e., rust spots on outside of hull, teak rails peeling, carpet worn. I did see some rust spots on outside of this ship, but while in port, the crew is constantly painting different areas, outside and in. Did notice our balcony rail was peeling, but saw the crew systematically taking individuals rails and painting and sealing them. These are open to the ever present salt air and sea spary and need constant attention, which I observed being done. Carpet was fine. Only wear I saw was on the Atrium stair case, which probably gets the most foot traffic daily. Wouldn't have noticed, had someone not posted a complaint. 3. Sewage smells. A few times while the ship was docked in port, if the wind was blowing the wrong way, a slight sewage odor could be detected. The Oosterdam is a "green ship" which processes waste by filtering then incinerating. I would guess the smell came from the incinerator and the fact that the ship was not moving. Again, something I would not have noticed had it not been mentioned on the message boards. Chalk it up to being on a ship. So, none of the concerns panned out, and the ship and cruise were delightful. AMBIANCE: This ship is an elegant one. Beautiful art, lovely lighting, warm jewel tones, ocean views everywhere, fine leather, polished granite and marble. Elegant, low key, relaxing, sort of the "BMW" of cruising! Loved it! NOT TO MISS AND SPECIAL HAL TOUCHES: 1.Beautiful fresh flower arrangements all throughout the ship! 2.Artwork throughout, don't miss the lovely oil paintings on each landing of the forward staircase. This huge oils are of various HAL ships, all painted by one of HAL's own Captains. 3. Enjoy a delicious flambe dessert prepared before your eyes in the elegance of the Explorer's Lounge, while listening to the Monarchia Strings. 4. A visit to the YUM-YUM Man! 5. Enjoy the gracious service of the wait staff and crew! 6. Dutch Night. 7. Chocolate Extravaganza. 8. White-gloved Afternoon Tea. DISEMBARKATION: Went just as smooth as embarkation. We were allowed to wait in our cabin until our number was called on the tv and speaker. We were off the ship by 9am and at the airport by 9:30am ALL IN ALL: The Ms. Oosterdam is a beautiful, elegant ship. We would sail on her again and again! Everything was enjoyable and memorable, from ambiance, decor, food service and presentation. I would recommend this ship if you are looking for an elegant, relaxing, low key cruise, with gracious, unobtrusive service. ENJOY! Sue Z. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This could be a first for the Cruise Critic board- this is a combined report from 2 people who met on the CC board prior to their cruise- met on board and decided to combine reports Prior to boarding ship: Lougee1043 left Portland, ... Read More
This could be a first for the Cruise Critic board- this is a combined report from 2 people who met on the CC board prior to their cruise- met on board and decided to combine reports Prior to boarding ship: Lougee1043 left Portland, Oregon on wed 3/17 on a red eye to Orlando, Florida and then a car ride to our sons new home in Palm Bay to spend a few days with them and the new grandson- who gave us his cold which we didn't discover til after we boarded. My turn! Here goes nothing or something, take your pick. RandyK47 and Mrs. K (aka Carey) traveled to Ft Lauderdale on Saturday, 20 March. We stayed at the Westin as arranged by HAL. Luckily Carey is a member of Westin's preferred visitor club and we were upgraded to a suite for the evening. Smart lady. No wonder I married her! Not a bad way to start a cruise. Might add that the Westin is a bit out of the way and we prefer Pier 66 but HAL actually handled the transfer quite well so no real complaints there. Boarding ship: Lougee1043: We were at the terminal about 11:00 after turning our rental car in - there were about 100 people lined up outside when we got there- met 2 other couples from the cc board before we even got into the building -doors opened at 11:30 and we processed through without incident - it is really helpful if you did your immigration questionnaire online --we had an S class cabin so there was no line in getting our documents for boarding - they now take your pix at that time and it is part of the mag strip on the back of your room key. Were allowed to board almost immediately -- because of the new early boarding procedure there were no escorts to the cabins - I thought that the S class pax would at least be escorted to the Neptune lounge but that didn't happen either - thanks for the HAL web site we did know where it was and we proceeded there - met up with one of the couples we met outside and had some snacks before going up to the lido for lunch- then it was back to the cabin for a little leisure time prior to lifeboat drill and unpacking. RandyK47: We left the Westin about 1:30 PM on the HAL provided transportation. Bus arrived at the terminal at about 2:00 PM. Agree with Lougee1043....have all your documents filled out and HAL will get you on the ship quite quickly. Interestingly we got called to Window 21 which was the day of the sailing, it is my birthday, and our wedding anniversary. All good omens! Check in went quickly and we were on the ship by 2:15 PM and escorted to SS6060. We took a few minutes to look around the cabin and within 15 minutes our steward showed up with our luggage. We unpacked, relaxed and waited for the boat drill. Our cabin: Lougee1043: We were on the Rotterdam deck S7061 and it was an absolutely perfect location -a few feet from the midships elevators and even closer to the Neptune lounge. According to the Brochures the s cabins on the vista ships are smaller then the ones on the S class ships. Actually liked this layout a little better ---the bathroom in our cabin was to the right of the entryway as you come in the door-not through a doorway along side the bed as was on out last cruise- bathroom was more private ---dressing area did not have a sink in it but that didn't seem important---double sinks and the Jacuzzi/tub/shower—in addition there was another shower stall that I used once but it was claustrophobic in size - similar to a toilet on the airplane RandyK47: Our cabin was on the Upper Verandah deck almost amidships. Elevators were close enough but not right on top of us. Maybe by the luck of the draw or maybe by it's placement we found the cabin to be very quiet and rarely heard our neighbors on either side or passage traffic. This was our first time in an SS category cabin. Prior cruises were in mini-suites or full suites. My best estimate is that an SS is a third again as large as a mini-suite and very well arranged. The bathroom is nice with double vanities, a Jacuzzi tub, and a shower. By the way, the shower is a bit of a waste...about the size of a phone booth and not all that comfortable to shower in. Drop the soap in there and you're backing your bare backside half way across the bathroom to pick it up. After one try each we both switched to showering in the tub which worked just fine. Lido: Lougee1043: Didn't eat very often in the Lido because of Jan's not feeling well and what was available across the hall in the Neptune. RandyK43: Carey and I ate breakfast most morning and lunch a couple of times in the Lido. Took a little time to figure out the several stations but once we did it wasn't all that hard to find what we wanted. Only a couple of times were we faced with long lines so getting what we wanted was not a problem. Seems they'd picked up the service in the Lido from previous cruises based on what I've read here but generally we had no problem finding a table. One thing...coffee....hard to get refills from the servers and not very good! Oh well....can't have everything Lifeboat drill: Lougee1043: As usual with some people not attending which tends to delay the whole procedure. RandyK47: About the same as Lougee1043. We were missing one or two couples but they eventually showed up and we got through it. Just one of those cruise things you've got to do. Sail a way party: Lougee1043: Great weather and all couples that had met on the internet showed up for face to face intros and that was nice because we kept running into each other on the ship or ashore RandyK47: Sail away party with Lougee1043 and all the others was great. Fantastic sunset as we cleared the harbor and really started the adventure. Should add that Lougee and I had become pretty good email "friends" over the past month or so and joked about what would happen if we liked one another but the ladies didn't get along. Would have hated to start the cruise with a divorce! Actually, the ladies hit it right off and chatted a lot during the cruise. Dinner-Vista: Lougee1043: No first nite escorts to our tables a steward at the entry kept saying odd numbered table to the left and even numbered tables the right- after blundering around for a few minutes - the big white numbered signs that used to appear on the tables have been replaced with small triangular signs that you cant see unless you are standing right in front of it- we asked a waiter and preceded to lead us off in the wrong direction but a captain came to his rescue and we finally ended up at our table -very nice tablemates - 2 men from boston and a newly wed couple. Service the first nite was extremely slow and we found out that all of our CC couples felt the same way and that included the pinnacle—comment was also made of the lack of warmth from the European staff and after a week with them in the Neptune lounge I had to agree .  Mentioned to our captain Harry about the service and he assured us that it wouldn't happen again - he checked on us several times a nite and the service improved after that our waiter was rachman and the wine steward was Ricardo- we were seated at table 69 - most of the tables at the windows were tables for 8 and most of the 6s were inside that circle - the dress up nites were tues-wed-thur- thought that was a little strange because the last day was a sea day and as I recall that was generally the last formal nite RandyK47: Geez...you'd swear Lougee and I were on the same cruise...wait we were! Yep...no escort. Luckily we had table 71 which is a table for eight in the center and we found it quite quickly. Might note that Lougee and Jan were right next door at table 69. We also had great tables mates who turned into real friends over the next week. Two couples from Canada and a couple from Wisconsin. Ah service....I remember service...from a previous cruise, not this one. Drinks were hard to get, never got a chance for a second, and one night we arrived to find our wine already on the table and opened.....good thing we both wanted the beef dish that night or a good red wine would have been wasted. The food was generally good. A couple of the salads over the week had what my wife called "tired lettuce" but all in all not bad. Never did learn the names of our waiter, busboy or wine steward....didn't see them enough. And for the first time on HAL I only briefly talked to only one of the senior staff in the dining room. At best I'd rate the service as uneven...sometimes acceptable, sometimes slow. Not at all what we expected or had experienced before on HAL. Part 2 Neptune Lounge: Lougee1043: A nice uncrowded hideaway --- always a nice variety of items available depending on the time of day ---Gary and Rachel were of great help if you had a question or needed a last minute excursion ---they seemed to always have the answer and were very efficient. The Europeans just seemed more interested in getting done with their shift with the least effort-- rather then make several trips back and forth from the cabin I asked one of them if there was a tray and was told that there wasn't any ..so I got the basket that the laundry is delivered in and used that -- a while later I suggested to gary that there should be a few trays available and he suggested that I ask the steward for one and I told him that I had and had been informed that there were none-gary disappeared for a second and returned with one - that was the only negative thing that occurred in the Neptune. RandyK47: Not much to say here since we were in a SS category cabin. There have been other threads asking if this category got any specific considerations similar to the S or PS category rooms. The answer is simple....no, at least not things like access to the Neptune Lounge, priority tender passes, or special embarkation/disembarkation privileges. We had robes and personalized stationary. Nice but no big deal. Having been a full suite passenger on previous cruises I'd say it comes down to economics and an individual desire for a large stateroom. Can't say I felt like I missed much but certainly wouldn't have turned an upgrade down if offered. By the way, there were apparently no upgrades, at least at this level, offered on our cruise. There were signs at the check-in that announced that the cruise was sold out and that there would be no upgrades. Half moon cay: Lougee1043: Tendered ashore and we got a ride to our cabana ---we had blue and that was the one that was closest to the tenders -activities - restrooms and the food---we were given a ride to the cabana and when we got there -it was occupied by 6 people that simply wandered in because they got there before we did - the driver asked them to leave and they did so- In our cabin was the cabana acknowledgement and the list we could beverages from - there was also beer on that list that I did not recall seeing on the CC board posts.—there was fresh vegetables and dips as well as fresh fruit -the cabana has a misting shower- a regular shower a/c and a fan—we invited all of the people we met on the cc board to drop in and have a beer or something -so we had company all day and that was really nice- there was no followup from anyone during the day and we really didn't need anyone—some guy came walking up while there were five or 6 of us sitting around and asked it he could use the shower -couldn't think of a diplomatic way to say no ---telling him that we payed for the privilege of having our own shower seemed to be a bit short so I said yes and we all sat around watching this stranger take a shower---wrote down the colors of the other cabanas in order of closeness to all activities but I cant find it -I think orange was next and that pink was somewhere further down the line -----will try to rent one again on the next trip -one of the people that we met on line also booked a cabana and hal screwed up because the cabana was occupied when she got there and everyone's documents were in order- so she left and spoke to the people on board and they refunded her money for the cabana -sent her a bottle of champagne and gave her all the excursions that she wanted to book at the next 3 ports for free ---now that's customer service. RandyK47: Half Moon Cay was beautiful this trip. This is the third time we've been there and really enjoyed ourselves. Have to thank Lougee for a lot of that as we kind of camped out at their cabana for 99% of the time. The company was great and we enjoyed getting to know Lou and Jan better. Sea day: Lougee1043: Passed uneventfully except for both of us to go down and see the doctor who prescribed some antibiotics RandyK47: A very nice sea day spent mostly relaxing at the aft pool chatting with new friends. Room service: Lougee1043: Jan had dinner in the room 3 nites in a row in order to be as well rested for the shore days-every meal delivered either had something missing or on one occasion was delivered with 2 different entrees and then another order showed up about 30 minutes later ---anything that was missing was promptly replaced -one nite the order was delivered and the waiter said he didn't bring the dessert because he didn't want it to melt-asked when he should deliver it and he showed up on time with a dessert that had not started melting --- thought that was service above and beyond RandyK47: We used room service for early breakfast every morning....really my wife's required coffee transfusion each morning. Simply mark on a card what you want the next morning, the time you want it and hang it the outside door. Just make sure you mark exactly what you want and how many of each. One morning I marked a "2" for breakfast rolls, assuming that since the bottom of the form asks how many people in the cabin and I'd marked 2 I'd get a total of 4....wrong....got 2. Anyhow, other than my mistake that one morning everything was delivered as requested at the time requested. Good service Part 3 Neptune Lounge: Lougee1043: A nice uncrowded hideaway --- always a nice variety of items available depending on the time of day ---gary and Rachel were of great help if you had a question or needed a last minute excursion ---they seemed to always have the answer and were very efficient. Imo the Europeans just seemed more interested in getting done with their shift with the least effort-- rather then make several trips back and forth from the cabin I asked one of them if there was a tray and was told that there wasn't any ..so I got the basket that the laundry is delivered in and used that -- a while later I suggested to gary that there should be a few trays available and he suggested that I ask the steward for one and I told him that I had and had been informed that there were none--Gary disappeared for a second and returned with one - that was the only negative thing that occurred in the Neptune. RandyK47: Not much to say here since we were in a SS category cabin. There have been other threads asking if this category got any specific considerations similar to the S or PS category rooms. The answer is simple....no, at least not things like access to the Neptune Lounge, priority tender passes, or special embarkation/disembarkation privileges. We had robes and personalized stationary. Nice but no big deal. Having been a full suite passenger on previous cruises I'd say it comes down to economics and an individual desire for a large stateroom. Can't say I felt like I missed much but certainly wouldn't have turned an upgrade down if offered. By the way, there were apparently no upgrades, at least at this level, offered on our cruise. There were signs at the check-in that announced that the cruise was sold out and that there would be no upgrades. Half moon cay: Lougee1043: Tendered ashore and we got a ride to our cabana ---we had blue and that was the one that was closest to the tenders -activities - restrooms and the food---we were given a ride to the cabana and when we got there -it was occupied by 6 people that simply wandered in because they got there before we did - the driver asked them to leave and they did so- In our cabin was the cabana acknowledgement and the list we could beverages from - there was also beer on that list that I did not recall seeing on the CC board posts.—there was fresh vegetables and dips as well as fresh fruit -the cabana has a misting shower- a regular shower a/c and a fan—we invited all of the people we met on the cc board to drop in and have a beer or something -so we had company all day and that was really nice- there was no followup from anyone during the day and we really didn't need anyone—some guy came walking up while there were five or 6 of us sitting around and asked it he could use the shower -couldn't think of a diplomatic way to say no ---telling him that we payed for the privilege of having our own shower seemed to be a bit short so I said yes and we all sat around watching this stranger take a shower---wrote down the colors of the other cabanas in order of closeness to all activities but I cant find it -I think orange was next and that pink was somewhere further down the line -----will try to rent one again on the next trip -one of the people that we met on line also booked a cabana and hal screwed up because the cabana was occupied when she got there and everyone's documents were in order- so she left and spoke to the people on board and they refunded her money for the cabana -sent her a bottle of champagne and gave her all the excursions that she wanted to book at the next 3 ports for free ---now that's customer service. RandyK47: Half Moon Cay was beautiful this trip. This is the third time we've been there and really enjoyed ourselves. Have to thank Lougee for a lot of that as we kind of camped out at their cabana for 99% of the time. The company was great and we enjoyed getting to know Lou and Jan better. Sea day: Lougee1043: Passed uneventfully except for both of us to go down and see the doctor who prescribed some antibiotics RandyK47: A very nice sea day spent mostly relaxing at the aft pool chatting with new friends. Room service: Lougee1043: Jan had dinner in the room 3 nites in a row in order to be as well rested for the shore days-every meal delivered either had something missing or on one occasion was delivered with 2 different entrees and then another order showed up about 30 minutes later ---anything that was missing was promptly replaced -one nite the order was delivered and the waiter said he didn't bring the dessert because he didn't want it to melt-asked when he should deliver it and he showed up on time with a dessert that had not started melting --- thought that was service above and beyond. RandyK47: We used room service for early breakfast every morning....really my wife's required coffee transfusion each morning. Simply mark on a card what you want the next morning, the time you want it and hang it the outside door. Just make sure you mark exactly what you want and how many of each. One morning I marked a "2" for breakfast rolls, assuming that since the bottom of the form asks how many people in the cabin and I'd marked 2 I'd get a total of 4....wrong....got 2. Anyhow, other than my mistake that one morning everything was delivered as requested at the time requested. Good service. Part 3 Ocho Rios -Jamaica Lougee1043: Took a bumpy bus ride of over an hour to Marthas Bay for the raft ride down river- very relaxing , peaceful and most enjoyable - toward the end of the ride the raft captain tried to sell us some hand carved gourds- we expressed no interest in buying any and he simply put them away---none of the pushiness that I have read about at dunns falls or in the markets-----this was our least favorite of the 3 stops. RandyK47: This was a great stop. The ship tied up at the old Reynolds Pier so no tender ride. Carey and I did the swim with the dolphins and Dunn's River Falls climb in a combined shore excursion package. First of all, the swim with the dolphin was incredible. We got Calypso as our dolphin. You break up into groups and there were about 8 of us. It was still fairly early in the morning so climbing into the ocean was a bit of an adventure but the thrill of being in the water with a dolphin made us quickly forget that. You do have to wear a life vest (like a water skier's) so keeping afloat is not a problem. There was a bit of a current in the little enclosed bay so you did have to swim enough to hold your position. Spend about 30 minutes in the water with Calypso and got to touch her a couple of times and got a dolphin "kiss". They take the pictures and won't let cameras in with the dolphins but that's partly because of safety and partly (obviously) because they want to sell you the pictures. It was well, well worth it and one of our best moments and memories of the cruise. Highly recommend it. From there we went to Dunn's River Falls. Got hooked up with a group and a guide and off we went. Since we signed up over the internet we knew what we were in for and had brought our own water shoes. You can rent or buy water shoes at Dunn's River so you don't have to bring your own. Tennis shoes really aren't a good option because they'll probably get ruined and are pretty heavy once they get wet. The climb was fun but extremely crowded. We made it the whole 900 feet, partly because we were motivated and partly because we moved fairly slowly so we really didn't get tired. While not as much fun as the dolphin we're glad we did it. From there we caught a shuttle back to town and headed for Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Very load but lots of fun. Had a couple of their margaritas and infamous cheeseburgers. Wow.....what a margarita! Easily walked back to the ship and boarded. Want to add here that HAL gives you a plastic ID card, like a credit card, and you use that to get off and on the ship. It works pretty slick and we never had any problem getting back on the ship at any stop. Grand Cayman: Lougee1043: Our major excursion--swimming with the stingrays was cancelled because of rough seas-we chose not to go to the turtle farm or hell based on comments made on this board -after talking with people who took the trip to hell I concluded that we made the right decision to pass that excursion up-walked through town and did a little shopping but generally took it easy--small world - saw the courtesy clerk from our local safeway walking up the street with her husband. RandyK47: No excursion here for us. This was our shopping port and that's what we did. I know for sure my wife had lots and lots and LOTS of fun here. This was a tender port and a rough day but got through it with no problem. Oh....this port can get really crowded. I counted 4 other major boats at anchor that day. They had to have dumped 8,000 to 10,000 people in the town. Add that to the other tourist and locals and it was a bit busy. Cozumel - Mexico: Lougee1043: Very busy day in port- we were docked at the pier closest to the center of town - there were 6 or 7 ships in at the same time so it was a bit crowded---decided at the last minute to try and join the taste of cozumel and folkloric show- with a little help from the Neptune lounge we made it - the dance show is in a theatre located on the 2nd floor of a diamond mall ----very very interesting show, music and costumes - if you want to appreciate the diversity of the Mexican people their dance and music is a good way to experience it --- free drinks after the show and then a bus tour around the island - had a young interesting guide and it was and enjoyable 4hours --- had lunch at panchos backyard - cool and shady with excellent drinks and good food- my son wanted me to bring him a bottle of "real tequila" with a worm in it - after a bit of research I learned that worms come in bottles of mescal- a slightly stronger drink then tequila - found one called mr. Scorpion ----no worm just a scorpion - hope that will be "real enough" for him - the bottle of liquor was taken when we reboarded the ship - was given a receipt and the liquor was returned to my cabin the following afternoon. RandyK47: This port was our other shore excursion adventure. Because of my interest in Egypt my wife thought I'd like to see Mayan ruins. She was right so we took the Tulum Mayan ruin tour. This tour is long, like the better part of 8 plus hours. Requires that you take a water taxi off the island to mainland Mexico. The ride is about 45 minutes and it was not a calm day. Thank goodness we'd gotten used to a little of that during the cruise however, not everybody was so lucky and we had at least one couple and their children who dropped out of the tour because the husband had gotten so sick on the way over. I have no idea how he got back and I didn't run into him during the rest of the cruise to see how he was doing. Last I saw him he had that "please shot me" green look so the bus ride to Tulum wasn't a good idea. Anyhow, Tulum is another 45 minutes or so away by bus. Great tour at the ruins with a guide. Had a small Subway sandwich, chips, and drink as part of the tour as there wasn't much time for a stop for food. After the ruins it was back on the bus and then the water taxi. Had about 45 minutes to kill before the water taxi ride so it was off to Senor Frog's for another margarita....hmm...I see a pattern here. Since we were in Cozumel until 11 PM we decided to eat in town near the ship and we tried Senior Frog's on that side. A bit noisy and active but kind of fun and they had great margaritas! Only port we bought liquor in and that was taken away from us when we boarded the ship and return Saturday night before disembarkation. Part 4 Ship: Lougee1043: My wife, the interior decorator, approved of all of the colors, appointments etc of the ship and I as a dutiful husband agree. I thought that the ships layout was familiar and a bit confusing at the same time- more twists and turns in certain areas of the ship- imo the shopping arcade was like a rats maze- I always buy a ships T-shirt in blue or gray with strips that has the name of the ship and a small hal logo on it ----not stocked-replaced with what I considered inadequate replacements- oh well that's just me----also thought that the variety of items available were less then was I saw in the past. RandyK47: The ship was beautiful and in great condition but, of course, it was only 6-7 months "old". Carey and I have to agree with Lou, while familiar from our previous HAL cruises, it was a bit confusing. The shops were not well designed or laid out. Finding your way at times could be confusing as they added variety by adding the twists and turns Lou mentioned. After almost half of the cruise we kind of figured it out. Lougee1043: Personally didn't like the layout of the casino- on the s ships the slots are more toward one end of the casino with the other games at the other end- on this ship the table games are in the center of the ring and are surrounded with slots - thought the casino was a lot nosier then in the past and the ventilation system left a lot to be desired as the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming - you could smell it before you actually entered the casino ----also our favorite game of open face blackjack was only available on one evening- so we left less money behind then we usually do and maybe that was a good thing RandyK47: Darn it Lou....you type first and then I feel like a parrot! OK, OK...Lou is right on here. The casino is not the best layout. Really like the "S" class layout better. However, the staff was friendly and it wasn't a bad place to play table games or throw money at the slot machines. We didn't play as much as we had on previous trips so we didn't WIN as much. (Take that Lou!) Actually, the last night of the cruise we stopped in to break some larger bills for tips. Carey went to a quarter machine and I hit one of the dollar slots. In ten minutes time we both hit for more than enough to play all the tips we planned to hand out. Lougee1043: Attended less of the shows then usual-- the show "escape" was in my opinion the one of the best revue shows if not the best that I have seen ----the back portion of the main show floor seats have limited visibility because of the sloping seating area -the support columns and the overhanging from the balcony seating RandyK47: We couldn't attend less than we normally do because we don't go to the shows and stayed with that tradition this time. In other words, no comment. Suites: Lougee1043: Imo its like first class air travel over priced but nice if you want to spring for the bucks- we have and will continue to do it in the future because Jan likes the extra space- On the last nite all luggage have to be in the hallway by one am -as a suite pax we don't have to put our luggage out til 5am--- since I didn't plan to stay up that late just to take advantage of this benefit I put our stuff out the same time as everyone else. RandyK47: We opted for an SS category cabin as the brochure and web made it look pretty nice. It was a great cabin and we were very comfortable. I could easily see taking a longer cruise in this "suite" without the slightest problem. The veranda was a nice size with two cushioned chairs and ottomans and a table with a couple of chairs. We could both be out on the verandah at the same time and not have to do any gymnastics to get around or pass one another. Miscellaneous Observations: Lougee1043: Overall it was an excellent cruise and I appreciated the experience of the vista ship - I think that in the future where I have a choice of ships I will choose an s class over a vista but I would not even consider canceling a cruise because a vista was the only ship available RandyK43: There you go again Lou! Yes, it was an excellent cruise. Certainly the Vista class ships are very nice. However, like that other person, Carey and I prefer the smaller "S" class ships. Would we cruise on a "V" class again? Absolutely. Debarking: Lougee1043: We hung out in the Neptune lounge after breakfast because they wanted the rooms cleared by 8 am-only time we saw the Neptune lounge standing room only- everyone had to be off the ship by 10am- we took a cab to the fll airport and sat around til our 2pm departure which left late - had about 30 min to make a plane change in Chicago and then the plane took off 90 min late because of a rain storm--- all planes were fully loaded and food is now being sold on them----arrived in Portland about 45 min late and completely shot RandyK47: We actually were allowed, in fact, encouraged to stay in our cabin. After breakfast we went back to our room and just relaxed for an hour talking about what a great time we'd had. It was nice to have the quiet time together to soak in the last few minutes of a great time. Because HAL had us on a fairly early flight we didn't really wait that long. Getting off the ship, finding our baggage, and getting transported to the airport went very well. The airline was well organized with a separate setup for cruise customers. All of our tickets and luggage tags were preprinted and waiting for us. Couldn't have taken 5 minutes to check in! From there on out the flights were on time and we arrived back in San Antonio at 4:30 PM. NEGATIVE COMMENT Lougee1043: I found out today that my broker sent me an email on wed 3/23 that was NEVER delivered to my cabin - have written to HAL and am waiting for a response. RandyK47: Gosh Lou....I didn't get an email from my broker either....of course I don't have one so maybe that's the problem. Doubt HAL would help me out there. OK...my biggest complaint is the slippage in service on HAL. Having not been on a cruise for several years we really noticed it. In talking to our room steward we got some idea why it had slipped. He said he'd gone from having to take care of 9 rooms to 12 in the SS category. When he worked the mini-suites they gave him 17 instead of the previous 12. A little math and that sounds like a 30% cut in staff. It shows!!! Our room steward apologized and said he liked to spend a lot more time with his guests but just couldn't. INTERESTING COMMENT Lougee1043: There were 6 couples that met on the cruise boards and 2 of them split the snowball jackpot by winning within 50 numbers - 2 people completing the board within 50 numbers imagine that RandyK47: Made eight, great new friends on this trip and we're already planning to maybe cruise with several of them again. Cruising is so great!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
The ship is really great. Plenty of space we never felt crowded. The Delux Veranda Suite is well worth the money both in form of space, and the veranda outside which was huge. We had 2 lounge chairs, two chairs with ottomans, and a round ... Read More
The ship is really great. Plenty of space we never felt crowded. The Delux Veranda Suite is well worth the money both in form of space, and the veranda outside which was huge. We had 2 lounge chairs, two chairs with ottomans, and a round dinning table with 4 chairs, and plenty of room in between them. We could order off the dinner menu and eat on our veranda. The room had huge closet space with a CD player, DVD player and nice size TV. We were provided bath robes, the suite include pressing, laundry, and dry cleaning services at no charge, which I wished I knew before we packed. The food in the Pinacle room was excellent and worth the upcharge of $20 each, but so was the dinning room food. We had room service every morning on our veranda from room service which was great, or as suite guests we could go to the Pinacle room for breakfast. AT 5:00 each day we had both hot and cold appetizers delivered to our room (high tea) but we always skipped the tea. They were really nice. I had only been on one cruise before and it took 15 years to get me to try another. I lost 10 pounds on my first cruise because the food was not edible, I tried to control my eating on this one but still gained, the food was really very good. I would highly recommend the extra money for the Delux Veranda Suite because it made the whole cruise worth it. On the subject of bringing liquor on board, if it is you carry on they take it a deliver it to your room on the last night of the cruise. My suggestion is pack it in you luggage if you want a bottle in your room. When your in the delux Veranda Suite your treated like a king everything is special even you embarkation is treated special, you get priority passes for exclusion departures. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
My husband and I just returned from the Oosterdam and found it to be the best cruise we've ever been on. We've cruised with RCCL, Disney and Premier and found HAL top notch in every way. We read many reviews on this ship both ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the Oosterdam and found it to be the best cruise we've ever been on. We've cruised with RCCL, Disney and Premier and found HAL top notch in every way. We read many reviews on this ship both positive and negative and decided to give it a try. We booked directly through HAL at the last minute and got a terrific deal on an outside cabin with obstructed view. They told us picture window but to our surprise it had floor-to-ceiling windows which was wonderful. We were really surprised at this. The cabin was spacious with lots of shelves for everything. I loved the tub in the bathroom as most ships do not have this. The bathroom itself was plenty big to move around. We can't say enough about the ship and its staff - wonderful, sweet people. The age group did not matter to us. We are in our late 40s with no children and did not seem out of place in any way. Since we like to go casual - we only used the Vista dining room for two breakfasts and found it beautiful. Everything well presented. All other meals we ate at the Lido which has a great set up with all the different food stations. Never any lines and a great variety. We especially liked the many nooks and crannies of this ship - lots of places to relax and plenty of room and chairs at the pools. Great things to do during the daytime like digital camera classes, yoga classes, massage classes for couples. We especially liked the many games like team trivia, Boggle, etc. The ports of call were fine with us. We never have been to Jamaica and booked a private guide and enjoyed this island and it's people very much. We saw the "real Jamaica" and found it the best port of call. Grand Cayman lovely with mostly shopping. In Cozumel we decided to visit an all-inclusve resort for the day at just $35 per person at the Allegro Cozumel. This was a wonderful deal. A short taxi ride from the pier. All drinks included alcoholic an non-alcoholic, food and use of all non-motorized beach equipment. My husband had a great time snorkeling and saw many exotic fish. I enjoyed just relaxing under the tiki hut on the beach and reading. Great place wonderful staff. The Guest Relations Manager greeted us at the door as I had Emailed him prior to our arrival. It was wonderful and he treated us so well. Later on we enjoyed the shopping in Cozumel - the farther back we walked - the better the prices by far. All in all wonderful cruise with HAL - we are anxious to go back. We can't find anything negative at all to say about this cruise or its hard-working staff. Also - the Spa is heaven! Give HAL a try, you won't be disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
Our first cruise on HAL's Vista class ships. We liked the new size, rides comfortably and doesn't seem overcrowded in spite of 1800 passengers. Our cabin was roomy, and the verandah large and well furnished with large table, ... Read More
Our first cruise on HAL's Vista class ships. We liked the new size, rides comfortably and doesn't seem overcrowded in spite of 1800 passengers. Our cabin was roomy, and the verandah large and well furnished with large table, chairs and chaises. One minus on the cabin was the uncomfortable sofa. It was too deep as it turned into a single bed. It was slippery leather with equally slippery satin pillows. Never did comfortable. This needs to be improved. Dining rooms and other public rooms were quite handsome. Late seating was our favorite. Service was excellent as was the food. Missed the opportunity to dine in the Pinnacle restaurant but heard it was excellent. This became our favorite HAL ship and we have booked on the new Westerdam for a Christmas cruise, with the same 8073 cabin. We are of the senior group but were pleased to see quite a few families on board. Room service was superb. We used it extensively and it was always timely and was served hot when required. Best room service we have experienced on any cruise ship. All in all, a most pleasant and satisfying experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We ... Read More
This was my first cruise, with a friend on his first cruise. We went for 2 weeks (or b2b), May 22nd and May 29th. I have health problems and if I was not well enough to enjoy or see something one week, well, we'd be back next week! We are both in our late 50's. Having the two weeks also gave us more time to get acquainted with the ship and staff. We definitely knew (mostly) what to expect by the second week. These ratings and comments will be mine, as my friend went with me as a favor to me, and he frankly expected more than I did. He had a good time but he would possibly not rate some things as highly as I do (like the food). Embarkation - with an S category cabin we had no line to wait in, but the HAL people seemed in general to be harried and overwhelmed. They were mostly less than friendly. The woman who took our tickets might have been new because she made quite a few mistakes, had trouble understanding that we were boarding for two weeks (English was her first language), made mistakes we had to correct, and seemed not to know quite what she was doing through the whole process. Cabin - As several people have said on the boards, the S cabins are worth every penny. At first I wondered why there was both a tub (with whirlpool) and shower, and another separate shower, other than for people in a rush to get ready for formal night, and maybe if more than 2 people were in the cabin. However, on the days when we had some rather rough seas, I was really glad we had the "extra" enclosed shower with three sides that were easy to lean into, rather than the two sides of the tub/shower combination. The two sinks and vanity cabinets were a plus. These cabins are about 518 sq. ft. including verandah, and they are not only roomy, but come with extras like a flat screen TV that swivels for viewing anywhere in the room, DVD player, lots and lots of places to put all the clothes we brought (and didn't need) for two weeks, plenty of comfortable seating and/or napping room, not to mention the Neptune Lounge. Did I mention the Neptune Lounge! That is another huge plus for many reasons, one of which is the coffee. Room service coffee is undrinkable, in my opinion (I have high standards in that department) and being able to step into the Neptune Lounge for the best-from-a-machine-coffee I've ever had, was terrific. They also have wonderful things available in the food category from morning to night. However, getting half and half is another matter. The Neptune Lounge sometimes had half and half, sometimes it was 1%. I'm not kidding! Our first night in the Pinnacle Grille, our waiter told us they had no half and half. I asked another waiter, and she said the same thing. About half way (no pun intended) through the meal, our waiter ceremoniously brought some half and half. Our second night in the Pinnacle, they had cream. In the Vista dining room, sometimes there was cream, sometimes something else entirely. I think I always got half and half from room service, but I had my friend buy two pints of half and half in Juneau (our first port) since if you can't tell, I'm a little fanatical about my coffee and cream. Staff - and stewards - a mixed bag but mostly very good. The concierge's were always helpful and were we ever glad we had them, several times, to straighten things out for us. For example, they made reservations and got a confirmation for us the first week for the Pinnacle Grille for our second Saturday. The concierge logged it, as they log everything they do for guests, including the fact that the reservation was made and confirmed through Peter, the Pinnacle manager. That Saturday, we were informed by the Pinnacle staff that there was no reservation and that they could not accommodate us. The concierge got on the phone (as did I) and about 2 hours and several conversations later, they informed us that they'd moved heaven and earth to fit us in. Now I know that it's not necessarily the tables available but the wait staff available that determines reservations, but guess what? There were two to three other couples, at the most from 6:00 PM that night (our requested time) to 7:20 PM, when a few more people started to arrive. There were other lapses that should not have occurred, but most of the staff were generally very good to excellent. Our cabin steward, waiters and assistants, and the concierge's were wonderful as were many of the HAL people, but others, a few too many "others", were not up to any standard that HAL should be aiming for. Whoever handled the phone calls in the Pinnacle about our lost reservation was terrible (may have been more than one person) as they kept trying to shift the blame to the concierge staff. Some of the staff in the Lido were sour and sometimes they didn't know where things were, like the milk. Turns out that wasn't at the "drinks" station but at the ice cream station. Room service was prompt, often coming way too early. Mostly that wasn't a problem for me but an hour earlier than requested on many occasions, even when specifically requested "no earlier than" could use some improvement. Food - in general was pretty good. My filet mignon was really well-done on our first night in the Pinnacle, and yes, I could have sent it back but I really didn't want the fuss or the wait. The flavor was excellent. The Vista dining room is mostly pretty good, but not excellent. Presentation seems to be most important. As others have said, some food is pretty bland (and I'm not a big fan of hot spicy food!). The Lido has an okay selection of food, but the strong smell of garlic (and I love garlic) was a little too strong. Room service food is okay. Never more than that. They did their best to accommodate "off menu" requests, however. I'm going to give my opinion on the art with a caveat first - I'm no expert. Nonetheless, I think the art is overrated by HAL. I'm just not sure where they spent that $1 million. Maybe $100 (dollars) here and $150 there. Atmosphere - I didn't like the so-called art auction's noise level, the daily pieces of junk mail advertising ship's specials and other shopping specials or the loud announcements about bingo and some of the other entertainment. They could seriously tone down the consumeritis level. I was grateful that none of these announcements were piped into the cabins. But I did like the many small areas to sit and read, visit, watch the beautiful scenery go by, or just daydream. Except for those darn hawking announcements and the intrusively noisy art auctions. That stuff is Not classy (didn't think I'd ever say something like that about a HAL ship). Since no one else has mentioned this in any of the reviews I've read, or on any of the boards, I'm mentioning it twice with the expectation that it will not change unless others feel the same and say so. Excursions - I went on one only; the floatplane to the Misty Fjords. That was stunning despite the low cloud cover, well organized and definitely worth the money. The only down side, if it mattered to anyone (and it didn't matter at all to me) was the in-flight narration on tape that skipped many parts. My friend went on the helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier and he said that was spectacular and the bus driver was funny and informative. I did not leave the ship for any sightseeing as that was not my interest. Passengers - the first week were fine and mostly were fine the second week except for the group that was somewhere over our head that week. We could have asked the concierge, or someone else, to speak to them, or probably even found them ourselves with little difficulty, but we didn't. Partly the white noise from the air conditioning helped to lessen the impact of all the jumping up and down and slamming of doors and partly I was too relaxed to let myself work up enough energy to do anything about it. I didn't go to any shows as again, that was not my interest. I did hear the music from small groups as we walked by and they were okay. The musicians in the Vista dining room on our second formal night were better. I might go with HAL again, but definitely not on a Vista class ship or any ship for over 1,000 passengers. Just too much of the hawking and herd mentality. It was not my first choice to begin with but the ships I might have preferred were not where I wanted to be sailing. Again as others have mentioned, I went with a positive attitude and was willing to overlook most problems unless there was a fairly simple way to fix it. When I say I was "relaxed" enough to overlook the passengers overhead, that really means something, as I would normally have a big problem with that level of noise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. ... Read More
This was cruise #4 and the first on Holland America. The Oosterdam is a quality ship which we thoroughly enjoyed. POSITIVES ** Embarkation was very smooth. We stood in line for a bit, but it takes a while to board 1,800 passengers. There seemed to be plenty of staff involved in the process, and they knew their jobs. **We opted for a balcony for the first time, and, in the case of an Alaskan cruise, it is worth the difference. There is almost always scenery on this cruise. (Don't' expect a larger room, however; the extra square footage is the balcony.) **The food was the best we have encountered, though no one will like every entrEe, of course. Contrary to what we had been reading, the dining room service was excellent. There are now four seatings, and that may have improved the situation. The upper level on the main dining room (Vista) was used for the first seating at 5:45 p.m., and the lower for the 6:15 seating. I assume a similar process was in place for the two later seatings. **The crew of the ship (again contrary to some reviews) was extremely friendly. **The casino was a congenial one and featured looser slots than those in most casinos. **The show lounge is truly a show place and features $6M - $7M in the latest staging, lighting, and sound equipment. **The ship's library is a special place. Don't overlook it. **The ports are varied and, despite hosting as many as four ships in one or two locations, didn't seem crowded. **The Glacier Bay stop was outstanding; the captain maneuvered the ship about as close to the glacier as was practical and safe. **The four-glacier helicopter tour at Juneau is worth the money. We'll never forget landing and walking about on a glacier. We booked directly online with ERA Aviation and saved $44 per person compared to what the ship was charging for the same excursion. **At Stika, the "Russian" dance performance is fun. If you buy tickets on your own in town, they are only $7 each at the civic auditorium. **Disembarkation went very smooth for us. Only 20 minutes passed from the time we left our cabin until we were through the process and in a taxi. NEGATIVES **The entertainment was the weakest we have encountered. The guest magician and comedian were good, but the ship's troupe needs some work. Also, the selection of shows seemed odd given the destination and the average age of the audience. The loud, high-energy, production shows were more suited for a Carnival ship in the Caribbean **The ship's Internet rate of 75 cents per minute is far too high. Find an Internet access facility in the ports and prices will range from 5 to 25 cents per minute. **Last year, on a Princess ship, coffee was complimentary at every bar. On the Oosterdam, you either pay bar prices or make a journey to the Lido Deck every time you want a cup of coffee. **The stop in Victoria was disappointing. I suppose geography necessitates the late hours (8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.), but HAL should build in the price of the shuttle buses into town. Charging $5 just to get to the destination from the port on the edge of town is a bit tacky. There was no charge for similar shuttle service in Juneau when the ship had to dock 1.1 miles from city center. SUMMARY If you are cruising to Alaska on the Oosterdam this year, you are in for a treat! 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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