The Oosterdam has been criticized as being a little "worn" but it was absolutely immaculate and well-cared for. We had the Superior Veranda stateroom and were able to sit comfortably on our own balcony while the magnificent Alaskan glaciers and mountains slid by. I've never experienced such breathtaking views, made all the better by not having to battle for position with 1900 other passengers. The veranda is well-worth the extra expense. The room itself was very large, extremely comfortable with enough storage for 3 adults. We both had our own closet plus two "vanities" with drawers. The bathroom had 2 sinks, a stall shower plus tub and shower. Lots of room, very comfortable.
Holland America doesn't miss a beat, from the second we disembarked from the plane in Seattle right to the moment we left for home 10 days later, there was a HollandAmerica rep taking care of details. As for the crew, you couldn't find a finer, happier, more attentive group of individuals. The dining room staff actually remembered our names when we passed in the halls. Room service is complementary so we could choose to dine in the restaurant, the buffetsor our room..and nothing was ever too much for the crew. They are an amazing group of kind, sweet, dedicated professionals. We'd do this again in a heartbeat!
We have sailed on numerous cruise lines, including Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
We have ranked Holland America at the bottom of the list, along with Norwegian Cruise Line, due to poor service, dismal entertainment, and poor food quality.
Overview My husband and I (who are in our late 20s) as well as my mother and grandmother, took this 7 day cruise to the Mexican Riviera for Thanksgiving. This was the first time we had sailed Holland America after sailing on almost all the other cruise lines, and we used to work as Cruise Staff on Carnival. We drove to San Diego from L.A. The drive was not bad and we parked in the lot across the street from the ship. Parking was easy but costs $15 per day.
Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 11:30am-12:00pm. Embarkation was smooth and we were on the ship in no time.
Stateroom We were very impressed with Holland America. The service was excellent! The ship was beautiful! We had an outside stateroom category HH with an obstructed view. I was surprised to find that while we did have a lifeboat blocking our view, the natural sunlight poured in during the days. It was wonderful! The room was a nice size with a small sitting area including a couch, table and chair. The rooms have flat screen TVs and DVD Players. The bathroom wasvery nice and the shower was extremely clean. Our cabin steward was excellent as well. The bed was very comfortable and the sheets and pillows were of good quality.
Public Areas/Lounges All of the public areas of this ship were beautiful. The casino was medium sized but I never found it crowded. The gift shop had more jewelry than anything else. The Crow's Nest which is the lounge on deck 10 forward, is really nice for looking out at the ports and ocean. It has a great view.
Activities There were a bunch of activities to participate in, more on sea days, but it still seemed like there should have been more. The trivia's were too hard and the same people would play and win every time. Bingo was fun and was pretty well priced at $10 for a single card and $20 for a triple card, and most sessions were 4 games. The cooking demonstration was very nice and my grandmother enjoyed that more than I did as I don't cook.
Dining Because the ship was over capacity at 2,100 guests, we had late sitting dinner at 8:30pm. The Oosterdam still has fixed traditional dinner sittings. No mention of the anytime dining yet. The food was excellent! Everything we had tasted great. We all ate too much! We had turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. All the dining room servers were great.
The Lido buffet was also great. The ice cream bar with waffle cones is especially nice. They also have a tasty taco/fajita bar by the pool as well as a burger bar. All of it was great!
Entertainment The entertainment on the ship was very good. The singers and dancers in the production/Las Vegas style shows were only ok. Carnival has much better production shows. We left half way through the first production show and didn't even see the second show. The dancing was good but the singing was not very good. And the sound was really bad. It sounded like someone was playing a tape recorder.
All of the other shows were excellent. The comedian Julie Barr was hysterical. And Joel Mason doing the Elton John show was great! My favorite was Lance Ringnald, the Olympic Gold Medalist. He performed a gymnastics/comedy show. Don't miss this show! And the last show of the night had Julie Barr, Joel Mason and Lance Ringnald. That was the funniest show and definitely not to be missed.
Ports of Call We visited Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. While we had been to these ports a few times before, it was still nice to visit again. We did not book any ship excursions but hired a taxi to take us around to see the sights. They are all nice and pretty much offer the same things -- shopping and beaches. Beware in Mazatlan, as right off the ship are many vendors offering free tours and rides but in exchange you have to go to the Golden Zone and listen to a time share presentation. It was quite annoying after being approached by 10 people within 10 minutes. Just say no thank you and look for a taxi driver with a sign that says no time shares.
Other Important Things The ship offers movies to check out and watch on your DVD player in your stateroom. They keep a list of these movies at the front desk. They are free to rent but you have to put down a $30 deposit on your shipboard account. It is refunded back to your account when you return the movie. I really enjoyed this feature, although most of the movies I wanted to see had already been checked out. But you are only allowed to keep a movie for 2 days so check back if you really want to see a particular movie.
The library has a lot of games and puzzles to play with. I wanted to purchase a deck of cards so I went to the gift shop. The only set they had was 2 decks for about $7.00. I passed and later found out that I could purchase a deck of cards in the casino for $1. They are cards that have previously been used in the casino but are in great condition. A great deal!
Every day there is a different special -- the drink of the day. This is a good deal at $5.25. Most drinks are about $7.50. If you purchase your drink of the day from the casino bar, you get a $5 casino card to play on either blackjack, roulette or craps. Another good deal.
Tea time is fun and relaxing. Servers come around with various teas and desserts and appetizers. All are tasty.
Disembarkation Disembarkation was smooth as well. We chose expedited service and carried our own luggage off the ship. We were among the first off the ship around 8:15am-8:30am. All we had to do was show our ship card to be logged off and then hand in our customs form -- and we were on our way home!
Summary My family and I had a great time on the Oosterdam. We were very impressed with Holland America in all aspects. The rooms were very nice, the food delicious, the service excellent, the entertainment great and overall everything was wonderful. I will definitely sail on Holland America again. I am interested in seeing the differences between the newer, bigger Holland America ships and the smaller, older ones. For anyone wanting to book a cruise on this ship, don't hesitate. It is wonderful!
A comprehensive review of our 09/28/16 Oosterdam 12nt Mediterranean Dreams cruise experience follows.
Part 1 - Petri Dish Experiment
We gave ample monetary consideration in the form of time off, airfare, transfers, excursions and the cruise itself, only to be subjected to a lack of hygienic common sense or a virus known as stupidity on the part of HAL ship side management.
To be clear, in 34 cruises taken over a 50 year span, I have never been exposed to such unsanitary conditions and unhygienic practices. In 34 cruises, 31 ships, 9 lines, 122 ports, this was the first time I have contracted any type of illness on a cruise. Many were afflicted as witnessed by multiple conversations with passengers and crew who were impacted and aware of the situation.
Outbreaks of diarrhea and influenza were brought to my attention by several crew and passengers in the know. Two passengers made the unsolicited comment which I cannot take credit for, "this ship is a floating petri dish". Some of HAL's guests suffered, my wife and I to the tune of 14 days of downtime (including the last 6 days of the cruise), misery andinconvenience from influenza. HAL may have violated CDC health regs, but most importantly, common sense which violated their guests trust.
The cause? In the prior 33 cruises, I have never seen beverages or ice dispensed in such a haphazard fashion. From the beginning of the cruise, the non touch ice beverage dispensers in the Lido buffet were occasionally non functional, i.e. did not dispense ice or water. When they were functional, unprotected pitchers were often positioned on the drip tray blocking their usage, forcing unnecessary manual usage of make shift ice chests and pitchers.
Rather than no touch, the process required a minimum of eight full hand to surface contacts on three different surfaces; chest lid; ice scoop; pitcher. In addition, the ice chest was compromised by the complete insertion of a hand during the scooping process. These conditions were mysteriously allowed to persist for the duration of the 12 night cruise. An email to the Office of the President at HAL, solicited the following response.
"Interestingly enough we had our public health specialist on board this cruise. Non-touch beverage/ice machines were functional during the cruise and not disabled as suggested. There was no outbreak of influenza or diarrhea as suggested. We are not in a position to provide you with a monetary refund."
HAL's Office of the President shot a clear message across my bow regarding the complaint. Their response was nothing more than a complete denial of circumstance and refutation of my on board experience. The response left my family feeling cheated, deceived and lacking future trust in the HAL brand.
If you think that's the end of this story, sadly it only gets worse. I thought paying to unsuspectingly participate in a covert infectious disease or immunization program, was hitting rock bottom for HAL. Not even close, after reading below, plunging to new depths with U-boat Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Das Boot) will seem like a step up from HAL.
Part 2 - Terrorized Guests
We also had the extreme displeasure of witnessing a family of six with toddler, having their twelve night vacation completely ruined by HAL's front office and immigration administration. Some one in HAL's shipboard administrative office spotted a clerical error on a Visa, measured in mere hours and decided to flex their authoritative muscle in threatening to throw the mother of the toddler off the ship.
Shortly into the cruise, HAL staff informed the family that the mother must debark the ship, a night prior to the cruises termination in Rome. HAL claimed that the mothers Schengen zone visa would terminate during the family's privately arranged post cruise transit to the Rome airport. The following day, HAL claimed the administrative error or visa oversight had been resolved.
The next day, HAL staff reversed course again and like Schettino's Costa Concordia ran aground, insisting that the mother would have to debark in Naples. The husband made continued attempts to appeal to common sense. After a long weekend, the husband finally put his foot down and informed HAL staff that they would have to "physically remove" the whole family from the ship, along with their possessions. Magically, HAL staff finally "resolved" the administrative "problem" with "port authorities" and said all was well.
The emotionally wrought disruption of this families vacation by HAL was unconscionable. Worse yet, for nine out of twelve nights, we watched this poor family being held hostage and terrorized by HAL's administrative Yo-Yo's (not ok, ok, not ok, ok) as they whimsically waved the sword of Damocle's over this poor families heads. Sailing with distemperate Captain Queeg (The Caine Mutiny) would be a step up from HAL.
Bottom line, HAL administrative staff exhibited a complete lack of common sense and misguided application of policy and authority. Paying to be a guest, then being held emotional hostage, replete with psychological torture, redefines hospitality and service as well as taking it to new depths.
This is how HAL treat their paying guests? Perhaps HAL should change their name to SSC or Stockholm Syndrome Cruises? Being Christian Fletcher and suffering the harsh punishment, criticism and abuse of Captain Bligh (Mutiny on the Bounty) would be a better fate.
HAL is in the hospitality service business, at least that is the rumor which their hygienic practices, shipboard administration and post cruise customer service rapidly dispels. In hospitality and service, misrepresentation should not be rife and "caveat emptor" should not be the maxim of the day, but HAL sure seems to have taken it to heart.
HAL's upper management attitude and level of customer satisfaction for problem resolution, during and post cruise, has left this formerly satisfied customer feeling like, sailing with Capt. Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl (Pirates of the Caribbean), would be an upgrade from HAL.
In an effort to deny reality and just recompense, I shudder to imagine what HAL's professional deflection tactics and denial system aka "wall of non stick voodoo teflon" at the Office of The President, will cook up and attempt to serve these poor victims. And of late, that is exactly what the HAL experience leaves you feeling like.
Large Inside Cabin 1067 - Positive, tons of room and storage, nice 40 inch LED TV and free on demand movies.
Negative, you can't hear the BB King band, but you can hear the late night deejay with his techno beat coming from above.
NA = Not Applicable
Cabin: Excellent - attached review
Dining: Lido Buffet - Very Good; Main Dining - NA
Embarkation: Poor - slow, long queues.
Disembarkation: Poor - swift and merciless. Fastest we have ever been given the bums rush. Hundreds were awaiting shuttles and cabs, many with reservations for a hour later.
Enrichment Activities: NA
Entertainment: Average - The BAND is GONE. BBKing and Ventriloquist Magician were excellent; Piano Bar dueling pianos, meh. Sing around single piano was better; Shows, not good.
Family and Children: NA
Fitness and Recreation: Average; Free men's locker shower, gym and dry sauna
Onboard Experience: Terrible - attached review
Public Rooms: Average
Rates: Terrible - Overpriced
Service: Excellent - Cabin stewards, Bar and Lido staff.
Shore Excursions: NA
Ports: Average - attached review
Value for Money: Terrible - attached review
Venice: Romantic, but expensive. Buy a vaporetto pass and validate it before riding. Visit Venice, stay and eat on the Lido.
Sarande (Albania): Quaint beachfront esplanade. The best and least expensive "greek" food (15E for two) on this cruise.
Kerkira (Corfu): Scenic historic city center and park walks await.
Katakolon (Greece): Waterfront, two streets, four blocks of shops. Olympia ruins and Giorgio's Bike Bar ride await.
Nafplion: Trendy beach front, downtown and exhausting bay fortress walk await.
Athens: Best Duty Free, Parthenon and Acropolis ruins await. It's a big city.
Mykonos: Quaint is now over commercialized, Big money bought out the independent's.
Iraklion (Crete): Historic city center now glorified brand name outlet mall. Knossos Palace ruins await, big AM queues, empty after 1PM.
Santorini: Take the funicular, beware of queues, avoid donkeys. Overrun with small shops.
Naples: Capri, Sorrento, train to Pompeii, Herculaneum ruins await. You must be cautious, a young couple was victimized. Do not get on a bus or train without a validated ticket and announce the fact. You will be legitimately fined or caught in the typical Napoletano "we are the police" scam. Pick pockets, purse, phone, camera and jewelry snatchers galore. If you value it don't bring it ashore. As for your bank card and getting cash, do not use the ATM's. Theft of cash, identity, card eating ATM's and non dispensation of cash, while debiting your account are common here.
Rome: Nice beach at port of Civitavecchia. Take train to Termini station, see the Colosseum first. Like Naples, it's the big city, beware.
We recently returned from a Cruise on RCI’s “Enchantment of the Seas” sailing out of Baltimore. This was a last minute thing for us but we wanted to get away for a week or so, we enjoy cruising and since Baltimore Cruise terminal is only about an hour from the house it seemed like a good choice. We have sailed about 9 times previously we knew what to expect and not expect from a cruise. I will go chronologically as to what we experienced and I will try to make valid comparisons as to what we experienced on this cruise compared with others we have been on. One thing I must say since our experience cruising spans a 16 year period the industry has changed (not for the good) over that period so my criticisms may be valid for other cruise lines as well in 2012 but I can only judge by my experiences.
The Baltimore Cruise terminal at its present location is very convenient and the parking is adequate and close to the terminal. We previously sailed from the Old Curtis Point location on Celebrity this much better.
Check In Thecheck in process was very chaotic they had about 20 check in clerks 15 of which were for non-preferred customers 10 for preferred (suites and loyalty club members). The ticket stated we were to check in at 1:00 PM and not to come before 12:00 (not true). There was one line that was wrapped around back and forth 6 times over a distance of about 200 feet and the line went beyond those rope barriers. The line moved well enough but it still took about an hour to get to the desk. Once at the desk it was straight forward and easy. On Cunard we received a colored ticket and were told to sit in a waiting area until our color was called you could sit and get snacks while you waited and not have to stand for an hour.
Greeting Once on board we were basically told go to the back elevator and find it for yourself. On other lines we have been escorted to our cabins by a uniformed steward.
Room The room, 3156, is and outside window cabin. We usually have a verandah or mini-suite but had an outside window on the SUN PRINCESS and were satisfied with it. This room however was the smallest by far of any cabin we have had. The set up with the window above the bed offered no view out the window unless you knelt on the bed and looked out. The steward must have been aware of this as he always closed the curtains when we were out. There were also no toiletries in the bathroom. There was good storage space, however.
They also had so called mini-bar items laid out at the usually extraordinary expense but NO REFRIGERATOR how you can sell cold drinks that aren't cold!! When I asked to have the items removed one Steward told me it was not allowed but our room steward just hid them away so we did not see them the rest of the trip.On the SUN PRINCESS we had a similar outside cabin that was at least 50 square feet bigger with a window that was so large it went from my ankles to above my head. The couch was next to the window and you could enjoy the views while sitting. It also had a refrigerator which was, emptied of the mini bar, at my request.
Dining (dinner) Recently we have started requesting early seating we were unable to get it and were not offered a chance to change once we were on board. The food in the main dinning room at dinner was very good I would give it 4 out of 5. The waiters were very good and properly attentive without being in the way. The food was served hot, of good quality and without any undue waiting. While ostensibly there was a dress code and the two formal nights were supposedly at least a jacket and tie. The dress code was totally ignored with equal disdain by both the staff and passengers. A table of about twelve people showed up on formal night with matching logo tee shirts and shorts alongside a table with guests in gowns and Tuxedos.The dinner experience was good and comparable to our other cruises.
Dining (Breakfast) Breakfast was open seating as usual with out being overly crowded. (I believe most people went to the buffet on the 9th deck). The selection was limited to eggs to order, pancakes and hot cereal. They have however, introduced a new "feature" they put all the cereal, fruit and pastries on a BUFFET IN THE MAIN DINNING ROOM! With some cajoling a waiter with trepidation would get you something off the buffet but it was obvious they did not like it. My point is if I wanted the "buffet experience" I would go up to the 9th deck and make believe it's Hoss's Steak house. They also tried to hawk "fresh Squeezed orange juice" for $2.25 a glass (tacky). The service at breakfast unlike the dinner service was lack luster at best... Food 3 out of 5 services 2.5. Perhaps the like of any tips may have induced this situation.Every other cruise I have been on had an attentive breakfast service with a greater selection of items and no "go and get it yourself" requirements.
Dining (lunch) Lunch was open seating and unfortunately very similar to breakfast with a Salad bar (feature) in the middle of the main dinning room with the same comments as above. The menu selection was very limited to one or two featured items and maybe a burger and vegetarian dish but was generally good. The major fault I had with the lunch was it was only available at sea the 4 port days it was closed. You were forced to go to the overcrowded buffet on the 9th deck. I would like to mention how small and overcrowded the 9th deck was (Windjammer Market). The ship was designed to have about 1800 passengers. They cut it in half and added space for about 600 additional passengers but did not increase the size of the public spaces to accommodate the increased load.I have never seen buffets in the main dinning room on other ships and the selection was considerably better than on the RCL ship. The Buffet restaurants on other cruise lines were not overly crowded and the staff on Holland America or Celebrity would even carry your trays and get you drinks if you liked.
Entertainment staff and Shows This was the high point of the cruise. A high energy cruise director and staff worked very hard to provide varying activities during the day. The shows were varied and the performers were excellent and diverse.
The entertainment was defiantly geared towards the 40's and younger crowd which was not a bad thing. The casino was good, although smoking was allowed it was restricted on formal nights and there were no smoking areas. The payouts were reasonable on the slots while still loosing giving a lot of play for your money.Here the Enchantment is in the top two or three cruises I have been on. Nothing more pathetic then some guy doing impressions of people who have been dead for 30 years or more. RCI did not have that I would give entertainment 4.5 out of 5.
Facilities In a word overcrowded. The aforementioned increase in size of the ship made for a very crowded pool and activities area. I try and swim every day and was able to only by going at 6:45 am and getting my laps in. After 9 and for the rest of the day till 7 or 8 in the evening the pools were literally standing room only folks simply talking to one another while standing elbow to elbow.
Shore Excursions Hugely overpriced they wanted 40 dollars for a shuttle bus from the pier to downtown Boston for two people. I took the "T" for $10 for two all day and it was only about a twenty minute walk to the Commons from the pier. Similar overpriced excursions in the other ports. We took one a glass bottom boat cruise with "cocktails" good enough but the cocktails were a plastic cupful of rum punch and twice as many people on board as there was room to see the glass bottom you had to take turns looking.I have never been on any excursion booked through any ship that has offered any value for the money. We have booked many before and I have always been underwhelmed by the trips.
Tipping The ship has an automatic tipping plan which we participated in. As usual drinks and services had tips automatically added at 18% however when you get the bill there is still a line to add a tip onto the bill when you get it when I asked if the tip was included the waiter said I could include an additional tip if I wanted. This reminds me of Europe were the bill is always "service compris" and they try and get the rube Americans to add it again. Also at the end of the trip even after we participated in the tipping program we received envelopes to give something extra. It should be either one way or the other not both.My most recent experience on Cunard while not overt was the same as far as the staff tipping. I thought I would give a little extra to my room steward and dinning room waiter thinking this special but everyone seemed to do the same.
Overall assessment I don't believe we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean again. The small cabin, self service food, generally poor staff are not what we have come to expect on our cruises. We like the convenience of sailing out of Baltimore and hope more Cruise lines will try the market. We may even try Celebrity again as we had a very good experience on that line even though it is a RCI subsidiary I believe the Royal Caribbean Brand is just too mass marketed.
Overall assessment 2.75 out of 5
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research.
Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on excursions. I entitled my review (and included) lessons learned not to complain, but to help others in their research. While I was researching Alaska, I had a lot of this advice available to me (and listened to most of it) but made choices based on our entire group and what I thought was right for us based on our travel preferences and history. There were SEVERAL things I would have done differently if I had it to do over. But overall I would say that this was a fantastic trip and I would HIGHLY recommend Alaska, HAL, and the Oosterdam to all! Thanks to all of the Cruise Critic family for your help in planning our trip!
About Us: A family group ranging from 20s to 80s. First Time for HAL and Alaska! We set sail on the Oosterdam out of Seattle on June 13th, 2010. Ports of Callwere Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. - with a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Some first time cruisers, most of us have a couple of cruises under our belts on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We are from Colorado and Wyoming.
Comparisons of HAL with CCL & RCI: This was a topic I was very interested in myself. As usual there are more similarities than differences, but HAL shone in several areas above the previous cruise lines.
Food a. MDR: HAL definitely won out in the main dinning room and the lido buffet over other lines, but especially in the seafood area (salmon, shrimp, lobster tails), as these were plentiful in selection and reliably good to great. Beef was very similar to Carnival and below par to RCI, which we feel, is RCI's food strong suit. The hours for MDR for breakfast and lunch are miniscule so plan ahead to eat here. We had anytime dining and this worked well for our Alaska schedule but I missed having the same waiter. We never had anyone fantastic enough to warrant a special request for his or her section. It was also difficult to remember everyone when it came to give extra tips at the end.
Lesson: If you are anytime dining - tip a small amount extra in cash on the table each night that way no one misses out. b. The Pinnacle Grill (we ate here twice for dinner) was very good but only slightly better than the Main Dinning Room for seafood (lobster tail, shrimp, and salmon) while the beef was worth the $20 surcharge. Of the filet minon, ribeye, and ny strip steak, the ribeye was the standout. The Golden Fleece Super Club on Carnival is much better in terms of both service and food quality - however, it is a $35 surcharge - so that may not be a fair comparison.
Lesson: Eat Beef here for your money's worth.
Drinks a. Compared to CCL and RCL the drinks here are MUCH better - stronger, hand mixed, better selection (can you say Mojito!) and the cocktail card, which was given to us by our travel agent, worked really well for us (especially since it was complimentary). We would not get a cocktail card usually though, because the drink prices are just so darn reasonable. There was only one cocktail waitress (who shall remain nameless) in the Queen's lounge who was extremely rude about the cocktail card and always forgot our drinks and gave us constants scowls and eye rolls. The only negative to this was that we loved the Queen's lounge and were there a lot and as she was so rude to my Grandma we were all reluctant to order drinks here. However she was an absolute exception to all of the other drink servers who were fantastic!
Service We had heard a lot about the quality of service on HAL surpassing other lines. This is absolutely true. The staff was all soooo friendly and engaging and helpful. This is a definite stand out for HAL and as we were doing a family trip with many different age groups and abilities - this was the absolute right choice for us. I swear my Grandma had a smile plastered on her face 95% of the time (see Queen's lounge waitress above). You will be spoiled all week by smiling and cheerful faces.
Live Music The quality and availability of live music on board was excellent! We absolutely loved this! We thought that Jenny and the HALcats were a blast. We loved the Neptunes and the Adagio Strings. The piano bar was also fun but needed to have less trivia and more sing along time. There was definitely something for everyone here.
Ports of Call/Excursions:
1. Cruising Glacier Bay National Park: We definitely endured extra costs and scheduling constraints to make this a part of our cruise, as there are limited permits into this area. WORTH IT!!!! Although I have not been to Tracy Arm or Hubbard - this may have been one of my favorite days. We saw 4 Glaciers (several calving events), probably about 20 whales, seals and eagles on icebergs, Dahl porpoises and beautiful scenery. I would rate this as a 10 out of 10 - it far exceeded my expectations (I thought it would be boring).
Lesson: Hold out for Glacier Bay on your itinerary.
2. Juneau: As we had a 13-hour call here, our plan for Juneau was to go fly-fishing all day with Luke of Sea Runner Guide service that operates out of the Juneau Fly fishing shop. My husband loves to fly fish and he has always wanted to go in Alaska. We knew that July was a better month for this, but with a family trip and his brother's wedding in mid July we thought we would give it a try anyway. Even though salmon aren't in the streams in June this is prime time for Dolley Varden and since it is catch and release we were just looking forward to having some fun fly-fishing in scenic Alaska. Luke was on time at our meeting place and took us to Auke Bay to get the boat - we saw lots of humpbacks and eagles en route to the site. As we got closer, the water became extremely rough and he said that there was a storm coming in and we would have to turn back or we might get stuck. He said that because of the time of year that there were really no other options for places to go for fishing. He took us back to the fly shop. We were out with him about 2 ½ - 3 hours total. The fly shop refunded our entire fee and apologized. We were not unhappy with them but severely disappointed, as this was our expensive big ticket Alaska item. We had backup plans of course, but were soooo disappointed that we went back the ship and ate lunch to regroup and find a plan B, such as the shuttle to Mendenhall or taxi to the Brewery. We ate and couldn't rally so we went to the spa for massages (great package) and to hang out in the Thermal Suite. It was nice and relaxing with great scenery - especially because we were both SO depressed.
Others in our group did the Grand Tour of Juneau through the ship (Glacier, Gardens, Salmon Hatchery) and loved it - they thought the Glacier and Gardens were spectacular where the hatchery was so-so.
Lesson: If we could do it over again we would have booked a tour that did a Glacier walk or at least stop at the visitors center and combine with a whale watch - for the cost of fishing we could have done these two things which are much more reliable, recommended on these boards, and representative of things you can see in Alaska and not in Colorado/Wyoming. I should have realized this, but I hope it will help future cruisers. I would rather know that we are going to get to do something fun than take the chance that if everything falls into place we might have a fantastic experience. We loved Juneau and would consider this as a week long stop for a future trip. We are also hoping in the future to do a fly fishing trip to a more northern part of Alaska.
3. Sitka We walked around town in the morning and saw the Russian Bishop's House, St. Michael's Cathedral, and shopped. In hindsight, I would have gone to the Park first (we ran out of time and could not go) and then if we had time visited these two stops. I despise shopping in port and only did this to accommodate the shoppers in our group ;). I do not want to spend time in Alaska in a store. In the afternoon we took a three-hour marine wildlife watching tour with Captain Davey. This was fantastic - we wish that we could have booked the four-hour tour but it was taken over 8 months in advance, so book as early as you can for this one. Because of the three-hour tour we had to pick between puffins and whales - be upfront with Davey and let him know your preference - we went with puffins as we had already seen a bunch of whales in Juneau and Glacier Bay, but it would have been nice to do both. I cannot say enough about Davey - he made it really special and my Grandma and Mom had the best time - he was really good at questions and such a knowledgeable and passionate guy. One of the reasons we chose this sailing was the opportunity to stop at Sitka - which turned out to be the most authentic of any of our calls.
Lesson: Book popular independent tours AS SOON AS you know your date. Even an 8-hour call is short enough that you need to plan your time very carefully. If others in your group refuse to do so - make your own plans without them!
4. Ketchikan Hubby, MIL, and I booked with Ken of Northern Lights as our trip was in primetime King Salmon season. Ken picked us up right at the pier and we went out on his boat, which was parked right next to the ship. He took us out to see an eagle, which would catch fish that he threw in the air. He warned us that the Orcas had been in the bay three days before and that the Salmon were being a little weird the day before and he only caught 1 King, 1 Halibut, and 1 Rockfish. We went out several places and were excited to see the king salmon jumping out of the water everywhere the whole time we were out. Ken and his buddies kept in contact all day and basically no one was having any luck including us. Hubby got one bite, which dropped the hook. That was the only action we saw. Ken worked so hard for us to get a fish and we could tell that he felt so bad that we did not have any better luck. He said that it was incredibly rare for him to not get a fish at this time in the season and that he wished we would have not gone out. He also said that he would tell the people tomorrow that maybe they should go hiking or to Saxman instead. As this was a very short call (6 hours) by the time we got back we just had time to make a loop around the shops and get back on board. No fish the entire trip - what a let down! See Lesson from Juneau. If we could do it over again we would have gone to Saxman.
5. Victoria, B.C. Another short (6 hour) call. To add to that we were about an hour late getting into port (but at least we didn't get in at 9pm like last week). Knowing the common complications of this port we booked the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens all together, mainly so that Grandma could see it (I thought it would be boring!). Getting off the ship was a cluster**** and took almost an hour (excuse me but there is nothing else strong enough to describe it). By the time we got to the Gardens we only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to see it. That was kind of a let down because this place was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! Totally worth it! I could easily spend all day here. We had to rush but I would highly recommend it!
Lesson: Booking the ships tour was worth it for this short and often shortened port of call.
Entertainment: Shows were pretty similar quality to other ships, but I thought the themes were a lot more interesting (movies, Broadway, ballroom dancing) and relevant to pop culture than other ships I have been on. We also sometimes opted for the Spa or Live Music at night - a mix of these was perfect for us. The Ventriloquist and Magician were just fantastic - best shows I have seen at sea - hands down!
Oosterdam: Great ship, all of our cruises have been on ships of this general size and we really like it - enough going on not to get bored, but small enough to get the layout down quickly and have quaint, relaxing areas to gaze at the sea. Until 11pm there was lots to do, afterwards, really only the casino and northern lights, but for us that was plenty!
Equipment: We bought Nikon Trailblazers ($125) and Bushnell Perma Focus ($50) binocs - both 10x 50 both Fog free/waterproof and were glad to have them. The Monarchs are of noticeably better quality but for the difference in price and how often we use binoculars this was a good choice for us.
As for cameras we have a nice Panasonic with a 12x optical zoom with interchangeable lens and filters and a small Canon. We bought a few filters and such for this trip, but I regret that we did not take the plunge and buy the SLR camera we have been drooling over. We brought lots of cards, extra batteries, and our Dell mini to unload the cards frequently and we used everything we brought. Lesson: If you are considering upgrading your camera before this trip - DO IT. Also: keep your binocs (everyone should have their own) and camera on you all the time - it's worth lugging them around - trust me!
Pre/Post Cruise Seattle: Port Choice: We chose this itinerary for several reasons - we wanted Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Victoria. Also we wanted to be able to fly nonstop from Denver due to one in our group being wheelchair bound and having extreme difficulty flying and especially transferring planes (we almost always miss our connection or have a terrible experience with the aisle chair).
The Tradeoff: The first day at sea was the worst I have ever experienced - strong motion for about 24 hours straight - it's a good thing there are handrails in the shower! We knew that this was a possibility and took Bonine a couple of days before and were lucky enough not to get seasick. Others in our group did NOT take this precaution (or used Dramamine) and were sea sick for about a day and a half. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Lesson: Prepare your self by taking seasick meds ahead of time!
Flights: We flew direct from Denver on Alaskan Airlines for $180 each RT with taxes - Great Value. Great airline! Some in our group flew Delta from Wyoming and had to connect - their connection was canceled and their flight delayed - glad we flew in a day early or they would have missed the ship. Delta also lost their bags on the way home. Lesson: Fly in the day ahead ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight.
Hotel: We price lined a 4 star in down town and won the Grand Hyatt on Pine Street for $95/room. LOVED this hotel! Close to Pikes Place and beautiful accommodations. They even let us check in early at 11am! Great service and great location! Luxurious rooms! Lesson: Priceline and Downtown are good choices for Pre Cruise Seattle.
Transportation: Used a mix of cabs and town car services. Nothing fantastic and cabs were pricy! Lesson: We did not plan ahead and wished we had prearranged the same town car service (and preferably a better one) for all of our transportation.
Sights: Pike Place, Etta's, Space Needle, Hiram Chittenden Locks. All fun - could have spent the whole time at the Market and would definitely do a food tour next time! Did not have enough time to ride the ferry system or do the wineries, but will make time next time!
We went on a 7 day cruise over New Year's on Holland's Oosterdam. The crew was very helpful and extremely friendly. Our balcony cabin was a joy and it was nice having the sunshine in the middle of winter sitting on the balcony - well worth the money difference. We went to Mexico and were in Cabo on New Year's Eve. Although we didn't make it till midnight on the 31st, we heard it was delightful. The dinners were good but we like the food better on Princess. The live flowers everywhere were a nice plus. It was easy boarding and not so easy disembarking, only because we didn't want the fun to end. If we were to change anything it was the fact that breakfast was cut off way before we were scheduled to disembark. They hadn't told us the day before and there were some mad folks. We had a wonderful, memorable time for bringing in 2010!
I and my husband (we 30 and over) took this cruise based on itinerary. It’s our fifth cruise so we knew what to expect, we knew how it should be.
We booked cruise shuttle from airport to the ship (only one thing which we booked through the cruise, because everything overprice). People in airport was slow and confused, did not know what to do with extra luggage event it was not full bus, but we got to the ship fine, embarkation was very quick and we were in a ship in10 min. We got there maybe 12:30, waited for room maybe 20 min.
Room was nice (a little old fashion, but its older ship so we expected that),enough space for luggage, nice size balcony. Then looked around, ship was clean, small compare to previous cruise ships, atrium tiny. A lot of hand sanitizers all over the ship, we liked that, because we have been on the ship with norvovirus (no fun), but sad is that not a lot of people using them. Luggage came quick to the room. We packed 2 bottles of wine and wine opener of course. This way youdon't need to pay any opening charges.
We had open seating for dinner, I think that's the way to go, because some days cruise leaves from ports after nine, this way you choose when to eat. Most of the stuff was Indonesian (mostly guys) and not all with the best manners.
Barcelona. We stayed overnight there. We walked first night to La Rambla street, it's about 30 min walk. A lot of young people there, a lot of scary people (you afraid that they will steal something and something like that), trying to sell some cans or who know what. But city itself very nice. Next morning we went back to La Rambla, this time took port bus (3 Euros round trip or 2 one way).Then we took the Hop on hop of 2 deck bus (21 Euros per person one day), we took blue route, then I wanted to take red route but it was long line waiting to get on them and route take about 2 hours, so we didn't have enough time to do that (time change mixed our plans, we slept too long that morning). We just walked around, we used McDonald’s restrooms for free, and then walked back to the ship (didn’t want to wait in line for port bus).
Before that I gave my Hop on hop of bus tickets away to one couple, they gave me 10 euros, so it worked well. When we walked we saw already people attending drill with the wests, we didn't go. How silly to do that, when people still ashore. I am Europe union member so I got letter that I need to bring my passport to front desk. We did, but front desk not helpful we heard so many different stories from them why they need my passport. Next day they where collecting U.S. and Canada citizen. My husband didn't give them, so they did a copy and said they will call in a room in case they would need to check original, never did. (It’s good idea to have certified copy, in case somebody would lose it.).
Monaco, Monte Carlo That morning we got the note, that we need to attend drill, but note came at 10am, drill was scheduled for 9 am, so we missed it again . They had tender boats from the ship to shore. We got there early so they announced that we can get on tender boats early, when we got to them, they announced that now will go only people who booked excursions, cruise director Jason Venner was blocking the stairs checking excursion stickers. He was rude, he said that now we need to wait almost an hour, but the boats were almost empty, so we sneaked in them anyway. EXPECT TO BE TREATED DIFERENT IF YOU DON'T BOOK SHIPS EXCURSIONS. WHEN YOU GETTING OUT FROM THE SHIP THERE IS NOBADY TO GUIDE YOU WHERE TO GO.
In Monaco it's easy to walk (my easy means - people who fit), it’s beautiful there. We walked first up to prince palace, then down toward casino (IF YOU WANT TO GO THERE, DRESS NICE AND KEEP YOUR PASSPORT, the reason for that, they don’t let gamble for Monaco people. They have beach there (not the best one), but if you planning to go there bring water shoes (rubber shoes); all beaches which we saw on a trip had a lot of rocks. Restrooms in Monaco was free, some places had plate so you can put some money if you want. It’s just nice to walk there, peeked in Casino, and didn’t go in.
On a ship it's really not a lot what to do. We didn't go to all shows; it was enough 2 first ones. The dancers not good, not graceful, singers just ok. I liked there costumes liked how stage moves, rotates. The last show with the car was o k, but it was more like a play, not a lot of dancing. During the day most of the people ashore, then they go eat dinner, would be nice to use pool or hot tub after that (GOOD LUCK,THEY CLOSED AT 7PM ,HOT TUB AT 9PM, sometimes even earlier with no notice. Back pool supposes to be adult, but nobody controlled that.
It seemed that a lot of things cruise employees did for there convenient, it's always would be closed areas in buffet for stuff members, saw few couples of working people, I don't need to see their romances. We saw once how they where closing curtains in buffet on people heads. A lot of times I would bump in the worker, guess who needed to move ME, they didn't. Rush to eat before nine, otherwise you not find a lot, buffet after 9 will have just pizza and dessert, you can get room service (that's kind a nice thing) but menu limited, after 10 only few things you can get from them.
Internet cafe nice, together with the library, close to bar. We got 100 min for 55 $ plus 3.95 onetime connection fee. The internet really slow and in a lot of port we saw internet cafes, so if you don't need it for work better to take your own computer and go ashore, faster and cheaper.
Front desk always looked mean if you would have any questions. When our TV broke (power problems) we called them every 10 min, they didn't liked that, after over than hour they fixed the problem.
Next stop Livorno Remember, you can’t walk in port, only taxi or shuttle can be used. We didn't know that, we walked back, but then they told us to wait for shuttle (200 meters was left) we didn't pay, but usually it's 5 Euros for the day, it takes to Piazza grande.. We decided to take train to Florence, taxis from port to train 20 Euros, so try to find who would share it. I asked whoever I saw, we found one couple. Got round trip tickets (27 Euros round trip for both). Train times were on July 8:11, 9:11, 10:11 don’t forget to validate them in a yellow machine in train station, they don't have them in the train. But one couple forgot to do that; conductor said them to write date on a ticket. We got out at Firenze S.M.N. Before that stop was Firenze stop. Don’t get mix up. It’s everything so close in Florence, easy to walk. We didn't go to any galleries or museums, so had enough time to stop at Pizza on the way back to Livorno. Train times 2:27, 3:27, 4:27, 5:27 we validated our ticket, got out at pizza stop, then used the same ticket back to Livorno. From the train station you can get on bus, but it's only 15- 20 min walk, you can’t see tower from there, ask people. We went straight from the station, and then saw when to turn left. From Pizza train times where 3:45, 4:34, 5:34, 5:45
From Livorno train station took no 1 bus (that would work if you get cruise shuttle from piazza grande,but we didn't know that, so from the stop closest to ship we walked, a lot. So or share taxi, o pay for shuttle and from there no 1 bus (cost euro or something like that)
Civitavecchia From ship shuttle took us to port gate (for free, its only 5 min walk maybe 10) then we walked to train station, just few blocks straight ahead. (10 min). Got round trip tickets. Times where 8:41 , 8:59, 9:17, 9:41, 9:59. They gave without asking B.I.R.G (18 Euros for both of us), its work for buses and metro in Rome too. It’s a lot of stops in Rome S Peters close to Vatican. But you can get out on the last one, then take bus, depend where you want to go. We got out at Ostensia stop, took bus to Coliseum (bus 60 if I am fight, I just asked people all the time). We waited in line for tickets 45 to 60 min. 12 Euros per person, for Europe union members 7.50 so get your passport if you want to get discount. We went to complain about that in front desk, after talking with supervizor,they said they will put difference on our card, guess what, they didn't so last day we needed to talk about that (and it's not about 4.5 Euros it's principle) but they looked at us like we would be crazy. This entire passport situation made a lot of problem for a lot of people. They just needed to inform about that in their website, don't you think?
Then we took the bus to Fontana trevi (we asked people again, which no to take). You can't see it from the bus stop, so ask somebody let you know where to get out. It seems confusing but it's really not. Then we took bus 62, it took us to Vatican. That we saw from bus stop. Then 40 or 64 bus back to train station, we went to Roma centrale, this way more likely you'll get seat. Trains comfortable and clean, restrooms not really. Times back were2:09, 2:39, 3:09, 3:39, 4:09, 4:39, 5:09, 5:14, 5:39, 6:05.
Messina, Sicily we got in port at 2pm. We wanted to take train to Toarmina, train station is walk able distance from the ship, but we got there close to 3 o clock, next train was at 4:05, we didn't want to wait, so stayed there. Train times from Taormina to Messina 3:55pm, 5:22, 6:41, 7:13, 8:36 (it's about hour ride)
It's really nothing what to do in messina, first everything close till 5 or who knows. It's really dirty in a streets, even poop (I hope it's just dogs), my husband decided to fish there, so we bought fishing rod and all other stuff (25 Euros we spent) and he fished for hour and a half, then I started to see strange people around, one guy was using some drugs from the bag, other kid (maybe 10) was smoking, a lot of people smoke in Europe. So we decided go back to the ship with the fishing rod, no problem.
Sea day finally we can relax and not rush anywhere. It was second formal night, first was on second Barcelona day. They had crab legs that day for appetizer. Finally they had karaoke, we went there, the list of songs was a mess, not all song artists in there, one girl was singing when we got there, the cd was scratched, cruise director was laughing, next to him some employee women was laughing with him, they were really "lovie-duvie" and then he's "ok, try again, first tell about yourself, but he's not intelligent, he even didn't lift his butt to feel this poor girl better, all karaoke was like a joke. So we left. Tats it, no more karaoke nights (so don't spent time practicing).
Navplion, Greece They had tender boats there. We stayed there, its cute city. We walked by fortress and found road to beach, it was small, rocky beach, so we sat in there, had some drinks, just relaxed.
Katokolon We decided to take train to Olympia, the train station close to ship,5-8 min walk, it looks like restroom building, very small. Tracks start there. First train was 8:36am, its only 2 wagon train which goes to Olympia and back (I think it's only one train). Cost 6 Euros for both of us round trip. From train it's close to Olympia site place. Tickets 6 Euros each, 9 if you want to see site seen and museum. Then we took 12:05 train back, walked in Katokolon and back to ship.
Corfu We didn't plan anything there, just got out and walked, a lot. They had ships shuttle (16$ round trip, 9$ one way to old town.) We walked there in 30 min, then went to fortress (4 Euros each) its nice view from there. Restroom I used in McDonald, but you need code on receipt to open the door, or just wait for somebody walk in or out. Then we found tiny beach in a cafe territory, paid 1.4 Euros entrance fee, they had changing rooms, 1.5 Euros for sun beds, towers you can take from the ship. They return passports that day.
Dubrovnik Ship had shuttle 16$ round trip,9$ one way to pile gate (old town). Don’t do that, there is a public bus right there, take mokosica-pile bus,we paid 20 kunas it’s about 3 Euros for both of us. Old town very pretty, then we walked to the beach, it was one closer, but we walked more and found more quiet, nice beach, with rocks of course. It didn't cost, just rented sun beds 20 kunos each (3 euro) they took Euros. Then back to the bus and back to ship. That night ship had dessert extravaganza, it was nice, I missed strawberries dipped in chocolate, and they had a lot of cakes, crapes, some hand size desserts, but nothing too crazy.
Next day Venice We loved Venice. We stayed there one extra night after cruise, so we bought 23H bus and water bus tickets, 23euros each. We used them a lot. They go from Piazzale Roma. About 25 min. from the ship. One way would be 6, 50 Euros per person. 12h ticket for land and water bus 16 Euros per person. Gondola rides 80euros, but you can find somebody to share the ride, 6 people fit, then the price not so bad. If you just want to go one time to Piazza San Marco then just use right there alilaguna water taxi, 6,5 one way. On Venice day you can set your credit card, you can adjust tips which they adding automatically, Next morning we paid in cash what we owned to the ship, ate last breakfast and rolled with the luggage to the bus stop, took no. 5 bus to Russot hotel, then went back to the city.
We had a lot of fun, from ship we expected more, but we saw nice places, had nice room with balcony (where we spent most of the time when in ship), had decent food. So we will have only nice memories about this trip.
Cruised across the Atlantic on the MS Oosterdam and it was outstanding. The food, service, amenities, entertainment were all outstanding. We have cruised on other Holland American ships and they are all outstanding. We highly recommend this cruise line to anyone who seeks good service and food.
This was a 7-day cruise, end of Alaska season.
Good food, very good service and nightly entertainment, a clean ship, well decorated.
Only complaint -- don't go if you're bothered by cigarette smoke, as people ignored the rules and nobody enforced them.