This particular cruise was on the western side of mexico, and included stops at Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vailarta. The ship is medium sized, and had 1905 passengers on board. The ship never felt crowded, even though it was at capacity.
For us having been on 3 previous HAL cruises, this was very familiar territory. The staff was very friendly, and the mostly Filipino/Indonisian employee I was always greeted with a 'good morning' and a smile. This was in marked ccomparison to the Pride of Hawaii which we were on last summer with primarily American staff, which unfortunately lacked the training or attidue that this staff had.
As far as food, the cafe on the Lido deck was very good, and we had breakfast there almost every morning. The croissants were frest and very tasty.The eggs Benedict suffered, however, onot only in taste, but the english muffin was not cooked at all.We did not eat at the upsace premium restaurant (a $30 p/p additionalfee)but friends who ate there raved about the quality of food and service. Dinner was a bit flexible (5:30-6:00 which we enjoyed. We originally had chosen the later 8 pmsitting, but we were able to swithc, which we enjoyed.
Our cabin on the Veranda deck had small outdoor sitting area, which was nice. We had ample closet space, and the king size bed took up 80% of the room. The flat screen TV was nice, and there were several movies available as well as Intl. CNN and ESESPN. There are a few levels of cabins with balconies, and ours was the smallest in terms of square footage.
As far as entertainmnet, there wwas a variety show to appleal to almost vveryone. we aren't bar freqeunters, but there was lots of late night activity for those who wanted to enjoy such events. The most popular show was the ship's verion ov "American Idol' and the singers were very talented. The dancers/singers/ piano player/ magician /comedian were all acceptable.
We had 3 days at sea, which my wife loved, and it was very relaxing. HAL is very good at giving its guest a very good value for their money. They want you to be a happy camper when you walk off the ship after having a great week of food and fun activities. this ship this summer will be repositioned to Alaska this summer, and that should be good for the company and the guests that come on board.
by Patrick & Harriette Regan - March 17, 2007 OOSTERDAM-Mexican Riviera-Roundtrip San Diego St. Patrick's Day-17 March to 24 March 2007-7 Days
We thought that this cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta would be a nice change from the rainy winter of Vancouver, BC.
CRUISE VALUE The Internet is full of cruise value lately just a few weeks from sailing dates, and we grabbed this cruise with a category SY suite guarantee. This was the first time we have ever taken the guarantee route. We're glad we did. We got a next category upgrade, SS which is a superior veranda suite; this gave us a cabin with more square footage. However, this suite does not come with the special privileges of a deluxe suite, which has access to a private lounge/breakfast room, free laundry service, priority tendering and embarkation, etc. If you're retired or have a flexible work schedule, we recommend checking the Internet cruise sale sites on a regular basis and subscribing to their e-mailings of last minute bargains. There are many choices and discounts now, especially in the Caribbean.
SAN DIEGO We flew to San Diego on Alaska Airlines.We had one 30 minute stop in San Francisco, where we just stayed on the plane. There were no non-stops from Vancouver to San Diego that we could find this time of the year.
San Diego is beautiful. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt on a good Priceline rate. The Grand Hyatt is a twin towered, 1600 room, marble lobbied Hotel with excellent service and good food, located 5 minutes from the cruise terminal and 10 minutes from the airport. We had a room on the 22nd floor with a harbor view and electric drapes. We skipped renting a car and cabbed around downtown and the Gaslamp District near the hotel.
We had a tasty Italian meal in the trendy Gaslamp District at a restaurant called Boca, and we bought a couple of bottles of wine for the cruise and cabbed back to our hotel. There was no problem bringing wine aboard but you can't bring hard liquor.
EMBARKATION was a pleasure. We had completed our immigration forms on the Internet, and with our passports in hand and a quick credit card swipe, we were quickly processed and given our cruise cards. We strolled toward the ship passing long lines of passengers still filling out forms and fumbling with their proof of citizenship.
WELCOME ABOARD PHOTO We were photographed during the boarding process in front of a backdrop of 3 tired looking Mexican blankets. We don't understand why they don't take the pictures in a better spot. When the pictures were displayed that evening they had photo-shopped in the cruise date and ship information but there was no real sense of a cruise ship in this photo. The price of $20.95 for the picture with the 3-blanket background made it easy for us not to buy it.
HAND SANITIZER It's a hand sanitizer world now. Finally. We first saw it on a ship in 2002. We have been carrying a small bottle of it at all times, not just on cruises. It's everywhere on this ship, offered during the boarding process, at the dining rooms and buffets, etc. We've sailed on a ship with a code red, Noro virus protocol and it's not very cruisey. Most of these viruses are spread by shaking hands or by touching railings, elevator buttons, door knobs and handles, etc. We have sailed on a ship where the Captain did not shake hands with anyone. We feel that no Captain, Hotel Director, Cruise staffer, waiter, steward or any crew should offer to shake hands with any passenger, as a health precaution. We saluted the amused Captain of the Oosterdam at a reception.
CABIN/BATHROOM We like this spacious, Vista class ship cabin of 398 square feet including the balcony. There are double sinks in the bathroom, with a mirrored and canted medicine cabinet at each end of the counter –- it allows you to see front, back and sideways. There were soothing jacuzzi jets in the tub, and a separate stall shower. There are good mattresses, nice robes and a great cabin layout. There is a vanity table with excellent lighting and a separate writing and working desk with an electrical outlet. There are 2 phones and, on each side of the bed, lighting controls to regulate the ambiance in the cabin, which includes small nightlights you can use to get around a dark cabin. There is an additional window, and I'm writing this sitting at the writing desk looking at the scenery go by through this extra window. There are drawers everywhere in this cabin, along with 2 closets and plenty of shelves and 2 very helpful, well placed hooks. This cabin outshines those of Celebrity M class and Royal Caribbean Radiance class. The balcony is extra large also, with 4 comfortable wicker-like chairs. Good width and depth. We've had balconies on other cruise lines that had only enough depth to sit straight up in a chair without being able to fully extend one's legs. The balcony's see-through barrier under the well maintained varnished railing is sparkling clean. This is also a totally private balcony. Our cabin attendant is Sutoyo, and he is thorough and unobtrusive, quickly adapting to our dining and recreation schedules.
There's always something to deal with, though. The cabin heat and AC work very well. Too well. There is no 'on/ off' switch for the very loud ceiling fan that propels the system in the cabin. You can't change the fan speed or turn the fan off. It's not that noticeable during the day, but when the ship quiets down the "white noise" is intolerable. When I called the front desk about this they quickly sent us earplugs, so this is not the first time they have heard about the never-ending fan. Ramona, the Guest Relations Supervisor, came to our rescue. She coordinated a meeting with us and Jerry, the Air Conditioning tech, in our cabin. After everyone understood the problem, she listened to the fan with us while Jerry went to isolate our cabin in the centralized AC/Heating system and lower our fan in the control room. Problem solved. Thank you, Ramona and Jerry.
DAILY PROGRAM is the ship's newspaper, with a well organized schedule of the day's activities, dining etc. Under the continuing heading of 'there's always something,' the paper told us under the boldfaced heading "IMPORTANT TIME CHANGE" that during the night of Saturday/Sunday the ship's clocks will be set FORWARD one hour... 'Please adjust your watches and clocks before retiring Saturday night', our first night on the ship. It was wrong info and shouldn't have been in the paper. We adjusted our timepieces and prepared to go to the dining room for breakfast. We saw the clock display on the ship's TV channel and called the front desk and found we were one hour early. The desk told us it was the same paper from last week and last week they did the time change and decided not to this week but the paper was already printed. We wish they had posted notices in the elevators and announced/posted the mistake on the ship's TV channel and not just in the Vista Lounge during the welcome aboard show.
The Daily Program has a conveniently perforated edge, which detaches the lower half of it. This portion includes the daily event and show schedule on one side and a separate listing of the food/bar service hours and locations of all of the food venues on the reverse. There is an additional entertainment and services listing with hours and locations. It all folds easily into one's pocket. The ads are on a separate pull out sheet. This is the best organized ship's paper we have seen.
TV & DVD PLAYER This is the first cruise we have been on that our cabin had a DVD player. There is also a DVD catalog at the Hotel Desk where you can check out some DVD's. The TV is a good sized flatscreen that can be easily turned on a pedestal. We always bring DVD's for the airplane ride to watch on our laptops, and it's a pleasure to be able to watch on a cabin TV instead of a laptop with headphones. One minor cavil: the spiffy LG flatscreen has the jack blocked where you would connect a home video camera, so you can't plug in your vidcam even though this is a nice modern TV. We want better satellite programming too from North American stations when we are cruising in North America. There were also some recent movies and some film classics shown on one of the ship's TV channels.
PERSONAL CELL PHONES The ships are now charging you to use your cell phone at sea. They have installed repeaters/signal boosters that they are selling as an attractive feature, but that surcharge your personal cell at a high rate. They don't do this when the ship is in a port, though. HAL was upfront and there was info about this in the cruise documents. Thank you, HAL. We cruised on the Celebrity Summit on an Alaska cruise in May '06 and found ourselves surcharged to a bill of nearly $600.00, because we were not informed by Celebrity that this charge was being added. The charge was $3.00 per minute. We ended up getting a small credit from our service provider and from Celebrity customer relations, but this didn't even begin to cover the big bill. We used to use our cells whenever we could get a signal, but that's changed now.
EDUCATIONAL INTERACTIVE DRINKING We didn't make this phrase up, it's a heading in the Daily Program newspaper about wine tasting seminars. We quote: "These are excellent opportunities to learn what the process is for developing and selecting a fine wine. These interactive experiences are also a fun way to meet and socialize." We never knew drinking was such a noble undertaking. Strolling an area of the main deck a few days later, we saw a notice guiding us to our 'Martini class graduation certificate.'
LIDO BUFFET We were in the Lido asking a staff member where we could find the dessert that looked like lemon meringue pie, which we had seen pass by on a cruiser's tray (but it was not pie; it was custard), and who should come up to our conversation but Executive Chef Andreas Sommerfeld, himself! There will be carrot cake though, we learned -- a second favorite.
The Lido is very clean. No residual smell of meals past, because the buffet serving lines are always being wiped down. There are trays and assistance for those who need it. Tables are bussed quickly and readied for the next passenger. The napkin and silverware setups are placed on the tables, ready when you arrive -- no holding up the buffet lines with passengers fumbling for silverware. There is a deli/wrap station, a pasta & pizza bar, ice cream station, taco bar, omelet station and a Wok station with sushi, fried rice, etc. -- just about anything you could ask for in a buffet setting. There is the Terrace Grill outside the buffet in the pool area with hamburgers, hot dogs and a taco bar. The Lido buffet is the best tasting buffet we've eaten from in a while, and the salad bar is always fresh. Dinner is also served in the buffet area for those who prefer to dine there. We notice there are passengers who never want to dress and venture into the main dining room, and they too are very happy with this buffet. There is free, high quality ice cream available too, not just free during regular meal times. Celebrity is charging for ice cream in the off meal hours now.
VISTA DINING ROOM On 2 levels aft. Big windows. Feels very plush and cruisey. Reds, oranges and dark woods everywhere in the familiar Holland America style. Fresh one or two page menus are used depending on the time of day. We bring up the menus because we have been unhappy on some other cruises to be handed a menu placed in a dirty menu cover. The Oosterdam keeps it simple, and when they proffer a menu or menu cover it is clean.
At the other end of the ship is the Vista Lounge, the ship's theatre. We understand that HAL would want its new ship class/brand 'Vista' (the Oosterdam is one of 4 new Vista class ships) to be reflected in the names of the ship's major venues, but we found this doubling up on the name 'Vista' didn't help us getting around the ship at first. Those corridors can be long when you have to double back, especially since that involves meandering through lounges and the casino. On noticing that the Vista Lounge has no vista, we just mentally called it the 'no Vista Lounge,' and went the other way. (By the way, it is also not a lounge; it is the theatre, and functions for various cruise staffed events.)
We thank our dining room steward Tua and his assistant Dian. They quickly have become familiar with our preferences. We switched from the early seating, very desirable to most passengers, to the second seating, with the assistance of Second Maitre d' Fabian. We made this change because we will not be stuck with a time that's too early or too late for us. We like the new dinner time schedule that Holland America has instituted. First seating passengers may arrive at the dining room anytime between 5:30 and 6PM. Second seating diners may arrive anytime between 8PM and 9PM. The comfort of having the same wait team and table with flexibility time wise is great.
The food is excellent. This dining room seems to even surpass Celebrity's, which has been the standard by which we compare other cruise lines in this price range. The food is really good in this room. We didn't have to resort to the default menu with the always available chicken breast or steak on this cruise. We saw Executive Chef Andreas Sommerfeld at various different times, checking on his food venues. Thank you, Chef! This dining room also serves free cappuccino with meals. The other cruise lines are charging for this now, even in the main dining room.
LOBSTER NIGHT A nice succulent lobster tail has become an endangered species on cruise ship dining room menus. On our Sept. '06 Radiance cruise, lobster was available only one night, as part of a seafood brochette on the final formal night. On the Oosterdam also it was available only once, on the final formal night as part of a surf and turf entree, coupled with a small filet. The lobster tail was about 2 1/2 inches long. We ordered another to confirm this measurement and are sad to report that the dinky piece of lobster is all you get now. But, they very graciously brought us more!
PINNACLE GRILL Is the Oosterdam's alternative restaurant. Beautiful room. Passengers in Deluxe category suites may breakfast here with the same menu as the main dining room. For lunch and dinner, the cafe is open to all passengers for a service charge of $15.00 at lunch and $30.00 for dinner. We never see many passengers using the place at lunch and not that many more at dinner. We tried it for lunch and had a lovely soup, salad and appetizers. We foolishly chose the 'gourmet hamburger' as our entree and were disappointed. One slice of a tired tomato and wilted lettuce were part of this, so called gourmet, entree. We couldn't discern much difference from the free burgers grilled by the pool other than size. We had swell desserts and cappuccinos to make up for it. The Pinnacle menu also promised us shoestring fries but they were the heftier kind. We were served a burger in the main dining room at lunch a couple of days later, and we had a better burger with real, crispy shoestring fries.
We've eaten at alternative ship's restaurants before and have had much more food and better service. That's what the extra charge is about. We arrived at the restaurant at 12:40 (the Pinnacle opened at noon on this day). We requested a change of tablecloth because our high quality linen tablecloth was visibly and colorfully dirty in four places. The staff instead suggested a change of table. We didn't want to move from our nice window table and asked again to change the filthy tablecloth and they did so grudgingly. There was only one table occupied other than ours in this very empty restaurant, and we waited awhile before someone took our order. The wine steward became our intermediary going to get a waiter for us on 3 occasions. There was very poor service, which indicates very poor management in this venue. We suspect the waiters are demoralized by the lack of attendance and tips at the restaurant and were also unhappy we came in 20 minutes from closing on the day we were docked in Mazatlan. We have mixed feeling about these alternative 'fee' restaurants. We like to try them, but for the extra $$$$ the food has to be measurably better than that available in the main dining room, or it is not worth it. We'll stick with the main dining room here on the Oosterdam. We have trouble believing that Chef Andreas Sommerfeld had anything to do with our meal at the Pinnacle. The Lido buffet is much better for lunch than this place.
ROOM SERVICE Good menu, a variety of food and drink. Very cruisey feeling to breakfast on our balcony. Hot items properly hot and cold items cold. I don't think we've ever before had room service deliver an English muffin still hot from the toaster. Don't forget to tip these servers who bring food to your cabin.
ADDITIONAL TIPPING We get a package of 100 one dollar US bills and feel free to tip at will. There is always something left from the package of one dollar bills. We do not spoil it for other travelers, by over tipping. We tip porters, room service, bar servers & soda servers, jitney drivers, etc. We are retired, but we can't in good conscience ignore the hard working staff who don't fall in to the dining steward or cabin attendant, ten dollar per passenger, per day, tip pool or bar waiter 15% on call drinks. We watched an expensively dressed couple get off a jitney in Mazatlan laden with packages and goodies. The jitney driver helped them off with their packages and they ignored his tip bucket. They merely waved goodbye to him. A buck or two says thank you in any language for a service.
CASINO Tighter than previous cruises. Even the small coin denomination slots are "they get nothing" tight. I guess they figure they have a captive audience who's leaving soon so they get all they can. Speaking of shipboard casinos, why can't we get a sports bet down during the NCAA March madness?
TIRED CREW We understand that work has to be done seven days a week. We would be glad to have one cruise day a week where the dining room was closed. It would mean eating at the buffet instead, and the cruise line could also have a barbecue or additional theme buffet in the pool area. We know that wait staff need to work these events, but hopefully schedules could be juggled so that they could have at least one day a month off. We would have no trouble with the automatic tipping for that off day either. We wouldn't mind one day without our cabin steward too. We would be glad to make our bed that day. These hard working troops are visibly tired and continue to soldier on behalf of the passengers. One day off a month could be done.
SODA AND WINE CARDS This is the first time we have seen a bar/fountain soda card with a drink limit. The price was reasonable, $19.00 US, which was less than half of what we paid on Royal Caribbean in Sept. '06. The HAL card limits you to 20 soda drinks from the bar soda machine. No cans. In reality they use cans some of the time and give you a smaller drink than on the other cruise lines by giving you part of a can in a shorter glass. We're happy with the fountain soda and prefer the tall soda glass used on many cruise lines.
We've seen wine packages before on HAL but this is the first wine card. There is Merlot, white, blush and champagne offered with the card. The card was $36.00 US, making house wine $3.60 per glass. We were told by the steward who sold us the card that the tip is included in the package. We like to give the hard working servers a dollar or two with our order when we order drinks using the wine or soda card. If you buy a cocktail at the bar a 15% tip is built in; the tip is not as much with the wine and soda cards.
We spoke to knowledgeable staffers who say the card system is unfair, because the card seller gets the lion's share of the wine or soda card tip at the time most cards are purchased, during the boarding process. If a cocktail server is on a different shift or manning another venue, they miss out on the tips to be made selling the cards. It's hard on their morale and removes their incentive to sell more drinks in the case of the wine card. We tipped our dining room wine steward a dollar per drink whenever we used the wine or soda card. He seemed to be walking around wearing a sandwich board that said "I really am too good for this." Use of the wine card reduces their ability to sell wine upgrades, lessening the wine steward's income. HAL is going to have to speak with their wine stewards about this.
I understand HAL counting the wine carefully, but not the fountain soda. I don't want to carry a soda punch card. I just want a sticker on my room card. We find ourselves two days before the end of the cruise, rushing to get our cards fully punched.
LIBRARY Nice cozy room. Decent variety. Librarian keeps regular hours. Here's the bad part: When you check out a book, a $30.00 charge goes on your bill. When you return a book the charge is to be reversed. We're about to look for a receipt for a book that was returned but the bill shows no credit for it. They debit you in the computer when you check out books, but give you a hand written receipt upon return of the books that takes a couple of days to get posted to your hotel bill. You have to check your hotel bill to make sure these charges get reversed. I recognize that some people can't help stealing books, but thirty dollars is a bit stiff for books that are mostly used and dirty and didn't cost thirty when they were new. Some of the books are extremely stained with food and drink, have multiple dogeared pages, etc.
GYM All the way forward. Great views. Clean and well maintained equipment. The music played sometimes in the Gym was of low volume so that when you turned on your IPod you weren't bothered by the music of the gym. Some ships leave the sound in the Gym to the level of a nightclub.
ANNOUNCEMENTS Not many, we're happy to report. We were bombarded on our last RCCL cruise. The Captain's daily report came into the cabin. No other cabin announcements were heard other than the obligatory lifeboat drill. The rest of the announcements were heard only in the public areas, or broadcast on Channel 40. Capt. Jonathan Mercer has excellent microphone technique, making it a pleasure to listen to his informative daily report.
CRUISE DIRECTOR/ENTERTAINMENT Daniel McLellan is the Cruise Director. The announcements are kept at a minimum, and there are a lot of cruise staffed happenings every day. We are retired from the entertainment business but we don't attend many shows on board because as 2nd seating diners we have to go to the late show in order to see it. We would attend more shows if the Oosterdam had scheduled some early shows for the late diners, instead of us having to always stay up for a 10:30 PM show. Our last Celebrity Cruise had 6:30 PM shows for the late diners. We spoke to some of the performers on that cruise and they like to do early shows too. Our wish for an early show was granted the last full day of the cruise with a 6:45 PM show instead of a 10:30 PM.
The one comedian we saw was Janine Gardner, and she put on a great show that "killed" as they say in the comedy game. We enjoyed her immensely. She did only one show, at 10:30 PM, with her act billed as an adult show, and she was worth staying up for. We skipped the other Vista Lounge acts and preferred listening to the various smaller venues, such as the piano playing in the Crow's nest, Bob Style in the piano bar and the C-Sharp Quartet who play for dancing in the Ocean Bar. The Show band also plays for dancing in the Crow's nest, but when there is a show to do they are replaced some of the time by a solo piano player. Dancers need more than just a piano.
HOTEL MANAGER AND STAFF I saw the hotel manager, James Deering, here, there and everywhere around the ship; talking to cabin stewards, chefs, passengers etc. So many hotel managers hide out from the public. Mr. Deering was front and center. The ship is well managed and sparkling clean, not just vacuumed and dusted. Ramona, the Guest Relations Supervisor, and the front desk staff were truly customer service oriented, and the Cabin Concierge Mica Castillo was very helpful. We appreciate their can-do, at-your-service attitude. We liked seeing that the cruise 'big-wigs' worked in offices accessible to the passengers, and kept the doors open.
SERVICE We can't ever remember having this level of service in this cruise price range. There are 1906 passengers on this voyage, and we are all well served in all areas.
VISTA LOUNGE Nice room, good sightlines, located on decks 2 and 3. The sound was always perfectly done during the shows. Not too loud or too soft. Topnotch work by the technical crew. So many ships don't pay much attention to showroom sound.
CROW'S NEST Deck 10 all the way forward. Breathtaking views. There is a row of lazy boy type reclining chairs right in front of the windows. That's the good news. The bad news was that all but one of them is broken. When you sit down the chair back falls back into a reclining position without a lever being pulled.
PUBLIC AREAS Flowers and art works are everywhere. Lots of highspeed elevators. There is background music piped in. It's hard to find a lounge or bar that isn't engulfed in music. We love some of this music and welcome it at the right times, but when a bar or lounge isn't open and there are soft inviting sofas and chairs to sit in next to the big windows, we would prefer no music during the daylight hours in these venues. It's nice to have other quiet places during the day than just one's cabin.
CABO SAN LUCAS We anchored offshore with a view of the rock formations at land's end. We tendered into town and walked the short distance around the marina to the hotels. An open taxi took us within a very short walk of a restaurant called 'The Crazy Lobster' (La Langosta Loca in Spanish), where we have had memorable meals on cruise stops. We first mentioned the place in our review of our Crystal Harmony cruise in 2002. The place is still memorable -- funky and inexpensive, with delicious food served in a very clean, pleasant open-sided structure with clean restrooms. We had huevos ala Mexicana (eggs scrambled with onions, tomatoes, and hot peppers), tortillas, guacamole as we like it (no dairy, the star of the show being a perfect avacado), and frijoles, with Pepsi's. It was under $12 US for the two of us. Lobster tail is $5 US per person. This restaurant is located on Calle Hildago at the Corner of Calle Zapata, a couple of blocks up from the main drag in front of the marina/hotel area, where the tenders land. The jewelry and trinkets shops are better priced here in this area, where the store rents are lower.
On the way to 'The Crazy Lobster' we passed a jewelry store called 'Silverado's Queen,' which we stopped into after lunch. Harriette came away with a short strand of silver beads, and a necklace fashioned of braided and flattened strands of silver wire. This braid can be easily shaped by hand to conform to the wearer's neck.
The blue of the water is intense around Cabo San Lucas; a narrow strip where the water meets the tall jagged rocks appears emerald green.
MAZATLAN An open air jitney takes you from the ship's gangway, across an area next to the berth which is filled with cargo containers, with trucks and oversized forklifts bustling about very close to the area where the taxis and local tours await. We are very glad that we were given a safe ride across this hard hat area. There is also an Internet cafe and a shopping plaza. Grab a taxi, and spend the day in the upperscale Gold Zone where the better hotels are, or head downtown for a taste of shopping at non tourist prices. We chose downtown.
PUERTO VALLARTA Gets bigger and bigger every trip we make there. Construction everywhere. There seem to be no pollution controls on any vehicle. We like to souvenir shop across the street at a big Wal-Mart/Sam's Club complex. They have put in a pedestrian friendly traffic light, but the whole area is fenced. The Carnival Pride is berthed across our bow, and we are in the farthest away berth. Instead of going out the pedestrian gate next to the bus stop and the traffic light/crosswalk, right in front of where we docked, the gate guard is under orders that everyone walk around to a main driveway deeper within the complex, where taxis and vans await, and where a shopping plaza affiliated with the port is located. Instead of the walk to Wal-Mart being about 200 meters each way it's about 1600 meters each way. Made us a bit grumpy. We could have understood if no guard had been manning the gate and if the gate hadn't been in front of the new pedestrian traffic signal and the city bus to town stop. HAL needs to provide jitneys if we are to walk this far to just get off the ship and out of the port area. We capitulated and took a cab to the front door of Wal-Mart after we reached the cab stand. The fare was 5.00 dollars US. There is a shopping trap similar to this in Cozumel, which prevents you from just getting off the ships there. Not very cruisey.
SUMMING UP We enjoy the "cruising" part of cruising. The sound of the ocean and the ship. Sailing into ports at dawn and sailing out in the late afternoon. We love to sit on the balcony watching the water gliding past and looking for sea life. The service was excellent in all departments we came in contact with. The only cruise line we have ever sailed on with better food was Crystal. Celebrity has been the best for us food wise but we were amazed at the food taste right down to the salads and appetizers available here on the Oosterdam. The buffet has so much to offer, all of it first rate.
We would like higher quality beef. The preparation is good but the meat is of a lesser quality.
We would like Internet packages that are a bit more reasonable with maybe a discounted middle of the night rate.
We want to be able to access our cruise account on the in room TV.
We would like to have a jazz trio with a vocalist to listen to. This trio could also cover for dancing while the house band is doing the production show.
There were some great theme buffets held in the pool area adjacent to the regular buffet during regular meal hours, which made them easy for us to attend, and the pull-out-all-the-stops 'Dessert Extravaganza' -- chocolate and crepes and pastry galore -- was held at the accessible hour of 10:30PM, not at midnight. We thank Oosterdam hotel management for this. We had a very enjoyable and pleasant cruise on the Oosterdam. We'll be watching the Internet for more cruise specials on HAL's Vista class ships.
THE FUTURE Cruising continues to evolve. We prefer ships like the Oosterdam where cruisey feelings abound. We can't handle the mega ships with their nearly three thousand passengers, where every event is a herd rushing around like the crowd at a sporting event. We're looking forward to cruising out of Vancouver for our 2nd voyage on the Celebrity Mercury on May 4th, to Alaska. We'll see if Celebrity is keeping up with HAL in the food and service area.
Copyright 2007 by Patrick and Harriette Regan
This ship deserves it's number one rating for mid-size cruise ships. The captain, the officers, all contact crew, and even those not normally thought to be contact, are univesally friendly, courteous, and helpful. From the "no-sweat" embarcation to the very comfortable debarcation we had nothing but what one would expect from a quality cruise.
The food in the dining room and Lido deck was uniformly tasty and well presented. However, the menu was somewhat smaller than we remembered from previous cruises. None-the-less, no complaints.
The cabin, number 8116 on the Navigation deck, was comfortable and provided plenty of storage space. The bathroom was large enough to dry off in without hitting the walls.
On board entertainment was sufficient and appropriate for an older, more adult crowd. There are plenty of music and dancing venues to suit any taste. (Well, maybe not for the younger set). We particularly liked the Ocean Bar and the Crossover group.
The only criticism would be for the on-board shopping guide. She came off as a blatant shill for the selected )recommended??) stores.
This was my 16th cruise to date having sailed on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess & Royal Caribbean previously.
This was my first short 3 night cruise, others were either 7 day Alaska cruises, or 10 or 11 day Caribbean, Mexican Riviera or Hawaii repositioning cruises.
Previous cruising on Holland America Line includes an 18 night Vancouver to Hawaii and return to San Diego onboard the Statendam and two 7 night Alaska Inside Passage cruises on the Volendam.
This particular itinerary left Vancouver on Weds May 4, sailed to Astoria, Oregon for Thurs May 5 (Day 2), Fri May 6 Victoria BC (Day 3) and disembarked in Seattle, Washington on Saturday May 7/05.
I knew (or at least had a very good feeling) that this was going to be a great trip from the moment I found out that I'd had a visit from the "upgrade fairy" and had my cabin (booked a guaranteed outside "D" category) upgraded all the way to a VB Verandah category balcony cabin on the Upper Verandah deck - WOW, first time ever I lucked out, and a real nice upgrade at that!!! Thanks HAL .
Considering this is thevery beginning of the Alaska cruising season from Vancouver, Canada Place and Holland America operations were functioning very smoothly indeed. I heard of very few computer terminals being temporarily down, and apparently it got quite crowded later in the afternoon, but when I went through it couldn't have been smoother sailing.
I was dropped off at Canada Place at around noon. Being it was such a short cruise (and no formal wear nights) I packed very light and managed everything in a carry-on. Within moments I was through U.S. immigration and into the lineup to obtain room key. Holland America has greatly improved their check-in processes. No longer does one have to visit the front desk during the cruise to register their credit card, but it is done up front, beforehand while checking on, as it is on other cruise lines. This makes things run a lot smoother and makes good sense. As I mentioned last year in a different HAL review and others have said, DO fill out your immigration forms beforehand on the computer and take a printed out copy of the forms with you to your check-in pier. This WILL save everyone a lot of time and allows you to board the ship that much quicker than those who haven't done this very simple bit of preparation for their embarkation. Dining room seating is given out before boarding now as well, rather than finding out when you go to your room.
Once on board one can go up directly to the Lido deck and enjoy a nice leisurely lunch buffet while waiting for their cabin to be ready. Also on the Lido Deck 9 is the outside Terrace Grill open serving hamburgers, hotdogs and tacos. Bags can be taken with you or dropped off in the Piano lounge for storage. An announcement was made shortly after 1:30 pm to the effect that the cabins were now ready for occupancy. As I wanted to check mine out and hang up my clothes all taken in carry-on, I went directly to mine first chance.
The stateroom I had (#6118) port side was on the Upper Verandah deck on Oosterdam in Cat VB and was very nice and spacious indeed. Nothing was lacking --- all nice toiletries provided, hair dryer (not that I need it) in desk in living room, tub with shower. I was traveling alone on this trip and had tons of storage space, way more than I could ever use. I'd think it to be very sufficient for 2 traveling a week or more. Nice wicker type balcony furniture. The beds are simply wonderful, so comfortable and fabulous duvets on them as well. Fully stocked mini-bar, fruit in room, and did not even see my super efficient room steward even once! Contrary to what I'd read in another review, the TV sets DO have the yellow "VIDEO INPUT" plugs to view your digital camera pictures on the TV screen.
Food --- I did not get to the Pinnacle Grill on this particular cruise, so I can't say for sure --- all I can say is it was the same menu as other Pinnacle's and I've eaten at them on Statendam and Volendam and they were scrumptious! I heard from other people on this cruise who did eat there that were very impressed. I can say that the food in both the dining room and the Lido deck was wonderful the whole trip --- everything I had, bar none. On other HAL trips I've stuck to mostly seafood as have felt they excelled there, but this trip I was very pleased with all the food (and excellent desserts!) consumed. Had room service one morning - excellent delivery, great food.
I was far more impressed with the overall feel of this ship than with other HAL ship styles. From little touches like all the tables in the Lido having various shades of live beautiful orchids on them to the array of artwork throughout the ship, very special and unique rooms like the Library or the Oak room with lovely faux finishes all lent themselves to an earthy homey feel.
The Oosterdam singers and dancers were great in their production show in the Vista Lounge.
There are many different venues to relax or have fun in. Sports Bar, Piano Bar (nice room, did not care for this particular pianist however), Odyssey Bar (bar at the Pinnacle Grill), Northern Lights (disco, my favourite for late night activity - great DJ "Jazzy" )Explorer's Lounge, Ocean Bar, Sea View at the Aft Pool Lido Deck, Lido Bar at the Lido Pool and the Crow's Nest upstairs on Deck 10. A very nice room (I'm not a smoker myself but like that they try to accommodate everyone) has been added beside the Crow's Nest which is called the Oak Room and it is a smoking and Cigar Lounge with nice furniture and a fireplace in it. It also has doors to the outside which I imagine is how they keep it smelling fresh.
Northern Lights: The Oosterdam has a specific set out Disco "Northern Lights" on the second floor next to the casino. I think it is quite an advantage over the older type HAL ships which try to combine the Crow's Nest and turn it into a disco later on at night. This allows the Crow's Nest to have one set of entertainment geared to an older crowd who prefers a softer, more romantic waltz type of dancing, while the disco can "pump up" the adrenaline for those who enjoy a little faster music to dance to.
The Oosterdam staff are very pleasant with warm words and genuine smiles at all times. I heard so many first time cruisers also comment how nice they thought everything was and they'd be back.
Astoria Oregon: Seaside & Cannon Beach - These are beautiful beachside towns on the Oregon Coast. During the summer one can't move in those towns due to so many tourists, but May being so early in the season yet everything was deserted. It was quite windy down at the ocean, so it was more a chance to shop at various boutiques and artsy shops. Very nice scenic tour.
Victoria, BC: Whale Watching - Being that I live on the Mainland of BC in Vancouver and get over to the Island a few times a year, I decided to bypass the usual staid tours of Butchart Gardens , Horse Drawn Carriage Rides, High Tea at the Empress Hotel etc.. and go for a more adventurous and decidedly more aquatic tour. The tour company HAL used in Victoria for the whale watching was called Naturally Salty Excursions. There were only 12 of us from our ship taking this, so we luckily got to take a small 12 seat craft out for our discoveries. We were out in the choppy Straits for several hours and covered many miles however were unfortunate that afternoon and did not see any pods of whales at all. Many had been spotted closer to Vancouver and hadn't been sited at all that day near Vancouver Island on the various tours. We did however see some porpoises, seals and a couple of eagles and had a great informative day with our tour guide Ian Stothart. Definitely enjoyable.
Disembarkation went very smoothly. Orange and Black stripes had me off the ship by 9:10 and outside waiting for the tour bus. Being that my flight home to Vancouver wasn't until 3:30 pm, I took the Seattle Highlights/Pike Place Market Tour which also takes you to SeaTac airport afterwards. This is an enjoyable tour with over an hour at Pike Place Market.
This cruise, although too short in number of days, was one of the nicest ever sailed. I will definitely cruise on a "Vista" vessel again.
My wife and I along with two grown sons sailed on the Caribbean Princess on June 10-17, 2007. Let me begin by saying that this is our second cruise experience. Our first cruise was ten years ago on Carnival Cruise Lines. My wife and I were very pleased that we booked a balcony room. We thoroughly enjoyed having a balcony, and we were glad that we were on the Aloha Deck as we had a roof and no one looking down on us.
My sons stayed across the hall in an interior room which was obviously much cheaper. They didn't seem to mind it because they could come to our room whenever they wanted to. The showers and the toilet were both improvements over our previous cruise. The rooms was plenty big enough for us, and our cabin steward was excellent.
We were quite surprised at the number of swimming pools and hot tubs, and were surprised that the pools had fresh water in them instead of salt water like our last cruise.
We ate at Sabatini's and found it to be a five star experience and well worth the $20 fee.The evening entertainment in the Princess Theater was very good, especially the comedians. We had asked for traditional dining and were too late to get it. The anytime dining worked okay for us though. We especially liked being able to sit as a family without someone else at our table. The food was always good, and we really liked all the seafood that was available throughout the week. We really appreciated the generous onboard credit we were given when we booked our cruise.
However, there were some things about our cruise we were not happy about. When we booked our flight we included air transportation. On the trip to Ft. Lauderdale we flew on Delta Air. Our seats were not good. On the first flight we had the last two seats on each side of the plane. This was an unpleasant experience for all four of us, especially for my son who had to face the continual opening and closing bathroom door. The transfer flight to Ft. Lauderdale was only slightly better as we were a few seats up from the very back. Interestingly, our return flights seats were very good as we were near the front of coach section. Could it be because we changed the original flight plans that Princess made for us (at a cost of $90 per person)?
When we got to Ft. Lauderdale Airport we were not happy with the transfer service. We had to wait a long time to move out to the loading area. Then we had to go outside and stand in the hot sun for quite a while and wait for our bus. We noticed the lady from Princess who had taken us out stood across the street in the shade. Carnival took us outside very quickly to a waiting bus.
The check in at the ship seemed very slow to us. Why did we complete information ahead of the cruise online only to have confusion over credit cards? We didn't get on the ship until 4:00 PM (our day had begun at 5:00 AM). It would have been nice to have had a little more afternoon time on the ship. It took over two hours to get our bags to our cabin. Carnival was about a half hour.
It seemed to us throughout our entire cruise there was a tremendous effort to push alcoholic drinks. We don't drink much and found the constant questioning, “Do you want a drink?” to be annoying. The first night seafood buffet which was recommended by staff was a disappointment, as the lobster claws and crab legs were cold. We would have preferred warm. We also thought that the ice cream on the deck should have been free.
We would also suggest that a laundry room be put at both ends of the hallway, as we had to walk a very long distance to iron clothes. We found the staff in the dining room to be efficient, but not overly friendly.
Perhaps this is because their tip is automatically charged to your account, and the fact that we had a different waiter at every meal. We have no problem with the dining room dress codes. However, at every dinner meal there were people not following the dress code. This includes the two formal nights. If you are going to have a dress code enforce it. If you are not going to enforce the dress code then don't have it. My wife was disappointed that there was a charge for cappuccinos. We had no such charge on Carnival. Lastly, my wife was very disappointed with the lack of aerobics classes in the gym. Only one was offered for the entire week. Carnival had a class daily. Also, there a charge for other classes like pilates and spinning?
Here are my comments on our four stops:
Princess Cays- Princess Cays was a beautiful island and we had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It was very nice that Princess provided cold, fresh water for everyone to drink. They served a nice lunch on the island. This was truly a day at the beach!
Ocho Rios, Jamaica- We went to Dunn's River Falls in the morning at it was very nice. I would say though that the falls is harder to climb that the excursions make it out to be. I would not recommend it to any with any physical ailments. That said, we were not impressed with Ochio Rios. When you walk the streets to shop you are approached every fifty feet by a drug dealer or begger. We did not like this at all.
Grand Caymen Islands- We had planned on going to Seven Mile Beach but it rained all day so we didn't go. The rain kind of ruined our shopping too. We went back to the ship early.
Cozumel, Mexico- We went to an adventure park for rock climbing, zipline, and snorkeling. It was fun. The shopping here was very nice. My wife got some good deals on jewelry. You can bargain prices at most of the stores. Interestingly, many of the stores offer you a beer or a shot of tequila. I do not recommend any drinking. We saw several people being helped to get back on the ship.
My family just returned from an enjoyable week on the Oosterdam. I thought I would share our experiences.
Cabin: We had an outside state room. It was very roomy. Our daughter slept on a couch converted to a bed. Our bed had a very comfortable deep mattress. We have never had such a comfortable bed on a cruise ship before. There was a dividing curtain between the beds which shaded the light so our daughter could sleep while we read. The shower was very nice with great temp. control and pressure. We were very happy with the standard of the room.
Entertainment: Pretty standard variety shows in the Vista lounge. Very good comedienne. Entertainment around the ship in various lounges was good. There was an excellent quartet playing classical music every evening. We enjoyed that very much.
Children's Activities: It was Spring Break, and the ship was overrun with children. They were not prepared to handle the crowd, and the activities were not interesting enough to entice our daughter to join in. Unlike other ships we were on, the staff didn't encourage her to join in the fun. I can't blame themthough, because they couldn't handle the ones they had. I didn't see any toys or games or computer games on my visit to Club Hal. Maybe they were stored away. It makes it difficult to persuade a child to go to the club if they don't see any fun stuff.
Dining: The formal dining room was very crowded, and understaffed. Although they were great people, the level of service is less than that provided by Celebrity or Princess, because they have to take care of more tables. On formal nights they had musicians playing, but we could not hear them, because of the noise level. The food varied from mediocre to ok. The serving sizes were small, which was ok by me, but my husband was hungry. It surprised me, because I expected Holland America to be better than Princess for dining.
The less formal Lido buffet was not great. Every morning the Breakfast was the same. In fairness there are a lot of choices, but some variety would be nice.
The Pinnacle grill costs $30 each for dinner. We really enjoyed our meal there. They have great steaks. The only problem was the wine steward. We ordered two wines by the glass, and he told us that we could buy a bottle and have the remains transferred to the main dining for the next night. So we agreed to buy a bottle. Then he brought us the wine along with another bottle. Since I did not want to ask how much the other wine costs, I told him that we would stick with our original choice. Later I found out that the wine he was suggesting cost $90. (about $60 more than the wine we chose). It was very tacky.
The Ship It is a beautiful ship. The décor is very classy, but cheerful.
Summary Overall we enjoyed our week on the Oosterdam, but we would not try Holland America again. We have been on Celebrity 5 times and Princess once. Both of those lines have a higher level of service and better food. The staff on the Oosterdam was very helpful and nice, but there are not enough of them. Also, the childrens activities are very important for us, and Holland does not have very much to offer at all.
I am forwarding this note because I ran across it stored in my e-mail and the more I think about it the more upset I become.
I NEVER RECEIVED A REPLY that addressed ANY of the issues that I brought up.
I can tell you that whenever the subject of Cruise ships come up in conversation, I make a point of bringing up my bad experience and lack of response that I received from HAL.
I would hope for more concern, but I guess I'll have to settle for replaying my bad experience to every person I get a chance to let know about it.
The specifics of my complaint are as follows:
My one assumption in complaining was that when a guest on a Holland America cruise books a shore excursion from an endorsed vendor, that guest has a right to expect any and all vehicles provided by the vendor will be in a safe operating condition. If this expectation is wrong, I would appreciate being so informed prior to the excursion and having that information published in the brochures promoting that excursion.
My experience for a 1/01/2007 shore excursion number3430502 Dune Buggy Adventure was hazardous and dangerous for both my wife and I for the following reasons: A total lack of basic maintenance for the vehicles involved.
1) The first vehicle we were assigned did not start because of a dead battery.
2) The second vehicle we were assigned had a roller blade ball in lieu of a gas pedal and the spring to automatically return the engine to idle did not always function as intended, resulting in a racing engine.
3) Of the vehicles involved in the excursion there were five separate breakdowns on a 1-2 hour trip. Thankfully the mechanic who rode along on the trip was able to repair the vehicles on the road or we would have been stranded on the back roads of Mexico.
4) The tires on some of the vehicles were bald or badly worn.
5) My vehicle had a leaking brake fluid line.
6) One of the vehicles was push started at the beginning of the trip and the same vehicle was pushed the last fifty yards of the trip because it no longer responded to the push start.
7) The shift lever on my vehicle was never a smooth shift and I am familiar with that type of shift and have experience with it.
I or anyone capable of observation would notice a total lack of maintenance of said vehicles and their shabby appearance. Again, I expect more from a sanctioned excursion.
I requested a full refund of the fee involved for this excursion for the above-noted reasons.
We sailed with a group of over thirty people and the outcome of this request (so far nothing) will be relayed to all of them.
I gave all of the above information to a Dustin Coomer on boad ship and was very disappointed in his reply. I had looked forward to a more timely response from HAL's home office, though I have thus far not received it.
Second time out on the Oosterdam--previously sailed April, 2005. Ship/crew excellent in every way. Popular 7 day Mexico cruise-ship very full; not as many youngsters as previous cruise. Food was very good to excellent in dining room; also enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill 2x during the cruise.
Holland is testing a "casual" dining concept--passengers seem to like it. Previous 5:45 and 6:15 pm dining is now a casual-come anytime between 5:30 and 6:00 pm. Don't think the dining room waiters are thrilled about it-for larger tables with parties of 2 put together and they don't all arrive at the same time can make the orders/food delivery a little hectic, but the previous process was somewhat difficult also--everything coming out of the kitchen at the same time, etc.
San Diego embarcation/disembarcation was a breeze--this is a great cruise at a reasonable price point-note it get's warm in Mexico by April!
My family and I went on the Oosterdam 2/18/2006. This was our 2nd HAL cruise (prior was Zuiderdam) and have previously sailed on 5 Carnival Ships and 1 RCCL. This had to be the best cruise ever. The service aboard this ship was magnificent. It seemed that all employees aboard had a smile and genuinely wanted you to have the best time ever. The food in the Vista Dining Room was top notch.
It seems that HAL's signature of excellence program not only dealt with ship renovations but with attitude among all staff. This ship is by far classier and more glamourous than the Zuiderdam. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone. My only negative comment is that I felt the Ship "shopping/port ambassador" Linda was a little too pushy and had a snobby attitude. I can't wait to try another DAM ship in the near future!!!!!!!
We took Holland America's Oosterdam on a short three-night cruise from Vancouver to Seattle.
Gary and I flew into Seattle on Monday night and our friends Jill and Steve picked us up at the airport and drove us to their hometown of Olympia, WA. On Tuesday we picked up a rental car with Jill and Steve and drove two vehicles to Seattle. We left their car at the pier in Seattle and all drove to Vancouver in the other.
Crossing the border was a breeze. We proceeded to our hotel, The Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre -- very nice and a steal at $89 (U.S.), including taxes, via Priceline. The Sheraton is a four-star hotel and the prices begin at $199 (Canadian) on the company website. The hotel is convenient to the pier and the rental car facility.
We arrived at the pier at 10:30 a.m. We were among the first in line and HAL personnel began embarkation at 11 a.m. After a few computer glitches (we were told they were implementing a new check-in procedure and they had a few bugs to work out) we boarded the ship at 11:30. Even withthe computer problems, the staff was very pleasant and accommodating.
The ship is pleasing to the eye on first glance. The cabins were not ready until 2 p.m., so we went to the Lido Restaurant on deck 9 for lunch. The Lido Restaurant is one of the prettiest café-style restaurants I've seen on any ship. It has typical tables, but also bench-type seats and comfortable wicker chairs. The food was very good and the staff was pleasant.
After lunch, we explored the ship. As I said, my first impression of the ship was that it was pleasing to the eye. But as the cruise went on, I began to notice some negative aspects. One of the most noticeable is the lack of artwork in the corridors. The artwork in the stairways was very pleasing and to my taste, but the hallways were devoid of artwork and quite stark.
We also noticed a lack of windows throughout the ship's public areas; nor are there many cozy seating areas. Three exceptions: the Pinnacle Restaurant, the Vista Dining Room and the Crow's Nest Bar. We were fortunate to be seated near the window in both restaurants, which made mealtime more special. We really enjoy the ocean views while cruising. In the Crow's Nest Bar, there are about a dozen reclining leather chairs in front of large windows for enjoying the ocean view. Judging by the wear, it is obvious they are used a lot.
This ship is less than two years old, but it appeared quite worn on the inside. The corners of the walls in the corridors were marked up and the carpet on the stairs was almost worn through in places. Much of the furniture in the public areas was stained.
HAL offers "white glove escort service" to your cabin. Jill and Steve decided to take advantage of this service. However, they were disappointed when the escort pointed down the hall and told them their cabin was "down there." Even though they had a suite, it didn't get them escorted to their door.
We booked a VA guarantee category (deluxe veranda outside). Our cabin was assigned seven days prior to sailing and we were lucky to receive cabin 8124, an aft cabin. We had aft cabins on a few Royal Caribbean cruises and loved them. The only problem with this aft balcony was that is was totally covered on top. Had this been a Caribbean cruise, we would have been disappointed to not have the sun on our balcony. The balcony itself was quite large, with one lounge chair, two wicker chairs and a table.
Our cabin had a couple of differences from the previous RCCL, Celebrity and Princess cruises we've been on. On the positive side, we had a full bathtub instead of just a shower stall, and wonderful bedding. On the negative side, there isn't much storage space for toiletries in the bathroom. The TV sits on the desk and takes up much of the storage room also.
Our cabin attendant was very good. We didn't see much of him since this was only being a three-day cruise, but one day, he saw us in the hallway and addressed us by name. This is something I have not experienced since our Celebrity cruises. I was quite impressed.
Our friends, Jill and Steve, had a suite – cabin 6158, a corner aft. Their balcony was the largest I've ever seen. It wrapped around the corner and this space was actually usable. We had a corner aft on a previous RCCL cruise and the wraparound was small and useless. One disadvantage to the aft balconies on Oosterdam is a lack of privacy. Because they are tiered, each deck can look down on the one below. Only the wrap-around portion on the side is obstructed from view from above.
We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido Restaurant every day. The food was always hot and very good. One very special touch is the freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. You'll also find hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and southwestern food in various areas. The ice cream was always free and plentiful, and they provide a nice assortment of sugar-free desserts.
The first night we had dinner in the Vista Dining Room. We had a table for four at the far end of the dining room, right beside the window. Here, I noticed another touch missing from this cruise. Our waiter did pull our chairs out and seat us, but he did not place the napkins in our laps, as I've grown accustomed to on previous cruises. Our waiter and assistant waiter provided good service, but seemed quite busy and didn't have time to chat or make recommendations. The two meals we had in the Vista were very good. The last night, they had the Baked Alaska parade (that, along with a small dish of cookies, was the only dessert choice that night).
The second night, we had dinner in the specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle. I heard it was famous for its beef, so we ordered the steak. We also asked for one additional entrée so we could try the shrimp scampi, and our waiter said he would have to ask if it was okay. This is something we have never experienced before on a ship. But, after he asked, it was okay for us to have the extra entrée. The food was excellent and the service was very good. The Pinnacle was well worth the $20 per person charge. I made our reservation a couple of weeks prior to sailing by calling HAL, although you can wait until you are onboard and make your reservation via telephone or in person.
The first evening, the entertainment in the Vista Lounge was a ventriloquist and we decided to pass. Instead, the four of us went to the hot tub next to the enclosed pool. Much to our surprise, the pools and hot tubs close at 10 p.m. However, we did enjoy the little bit of time we had there.
The second evening, the entertainment in the Vista Lounge was called "Escape," performed by the ships singers and dancers. The show was very good. The third night the entertainment was a stand-up comedian who was good, but ran a bit too long.
After the show on the last night, the casino and shops stayed open until 11:30 p.m. After the show at 10:15, we decided to do our souvenir shopping. On the way from the theater to the shops, we passed through the casino. Everyone had just been told the casino was closing immediately. We then made our way to the shops to find they too had closed suddenly. We asked one of the clerks why and she said that we found ourselves in Canadian waters and word came down from the bridge to close everything immediately.
We were quite disappointed in some of the staff on this ship. The Cruise Director was not as polished as we are used to; nor was the Port and Shopping Ambassador, who struggled with her presentation of the ports. She seemed very uncomfortable in front of the TV camera. At times, it seemed like this was a training cruise.
Ports of Call
Astoria, Oregon: Astoria is a small town with not much to offer as far as shore excursions. The locals set up tables dockside to sell their wares. After shopping here, we took the shuttle into town and explored a bit.
Victoria, B.C.: In Victoria, Gary and I booked the whale watching excursion for the afternoon. In the morning, we walked along the pier out to the lighthouse next to the dock. We went back to the ship for lunch and then back off for the excursion. We had a very small group and thus got the smaller of the boats for the excursion, which turned out to be a blessing as we were all able to stay inside the boat on that chilly day. Although we didn't have any luck seeing whales, we did see harbor porpoise and a bald eagle. Our captain/guide was very good and quite enjoyable. On the way to pick up the boat, we were able to see some of the town and it looked lovely.
Seattle: We explored Pike Place Market and it is just awesome. I've never seen so many beautiful cut flowers in one place. The fresh seafood was another really cool feature of this marketplace. We then went to top of the Space Needle for some wonderful views of Seattle.
Although I point out some negative aspects of this cruise, we did have a great time. We cannot possibly have a bad time sailing with friends. I can best sum up our first experience with Holland America by saying, "We liked it, but we didn't love it". The "wow" factor of the ship just wasn't there for me. I am happy we tried HAL, but I still prefer RCCL and Celebrity.
One nice feature of the Vista class ship is that it has an aft stairway and elevators. This was quite convenient to get to the Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch.
During disembarkation, you do not have to wait in a common area. You are permitted to wait in your cabin. I'm sure this makes more work for the cabin attendants once you leave and I guess that is why the cabins are not ready until 2 p.m. for new passengers. Also, they serve a full breakfast in the Lido Restaurant on disembarkation day, instead of the abbreviated version I've witnessed on previous cruises. I'm also told that room service was available on disembarkation morning.