My husband and I just returned from our first cruise, 7 days to the Eastern Caribbean on the Ms. Oosterdam. This was the first U.S. itinerary for the new ship. We were on board with many seasoned cruise travelers, many of whom had travelled with HAL on other cruises.
The Embarkation process was simple and efficent. We had a veranda cabin which was nice; the cabin steward was always available and attentive.
The food and dining room service was another thing. We were extremely disappointed with the whole dining room experience. The food was mediocre and often not warm enough or in the case of ice cream ordered for dessert was melted to almost just liquid. The quality and quantity of the food was poor. There were always many staff rushing around but they never seemed to get anything accomplished. Several times coffee or tea ordered at the end of the meal never showed up.
The entertainment was o.k., but nothing special. The shore excursions (we took two) were fine. There are many lounge areas to relax in, however, several times we were told we had to order something to drink to stay there.There was never a shortage of people trying to sell drinks. Same for picture taking people. It seemed as though everything required a photo op.
Overall, very disappointing. We don't expect to travel the HAL line again.
Oh Oosterdam. What a pleasant change from the problem plagued Zuiderdam. Firstly, the ship was a toned down version of the Zuiderdam, much more along the lines that are favored by HAL cruisers. Secondly, the food was good, cabins spacious, service up to HAL standards and the ports were quite interesting. Of particular interest, while touring "Peterhof", was the opportunity to see former President Bush and his entourage, including wife Barbara and President and Mrs.Putin. While not arranged by HAL it worked out great.
I find on the longer cruises, more distant from home, that the passenger mix is more mature, and the service appears to put more emphasis on attention to detail. This cruise would rate second behind HALs Eastern Med. cruise aboard the Rotterdam, only in the historical significance offered by the latter. Estonia (Tallin) was a pleasant surprize. More modern that I would have expected. Denmark (Arhus) was also quite nice. I realize I've gone on to more about the ports than the ship but, a lot of time was spent on-shore andd the tours and countries we visited are as much a part off the enjoyment as traveling onthe ship. The Oosterdam, and of course HAL are on my recommend list, as HAL has been for a long time.