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Holland America Line: Oosterdam

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Nov 6, 2016

Mediterranean Dreams

Experiment N' Terror - Sixth and LAST with HAL... please "read tell us about your trip" for FULL details. 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 to future victims. And of late, that is exactly what the HAL experience leaves you feeling like. Dining: Lido Buffet - Very Good; Main Dining - NA 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 & Children: NA Fitness & 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 Ports 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 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. An outbreak of diarrhea was 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". HAL may have violated CDC health regs, but most importantly, common sense which violated their guests trust. As a result, some of HAL's guests suffered, my wife and I included. 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.

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Jun 7, 2015

Sail Alaska inside passage and on to Danali

We had a wonderful time cruising to Alaska, so many wonderful sights to see, great weather, lots of wildlife. The cruise would have been perfect except for smokers. We paid extra for a larger room and a balcony and in three rooms below us were smokers. Every time we wanted to sit out side or there was something wonderful to see we had to breath in their smoke. I do not understand why they can not put the smokers on the back half or quarter of the

ship so their smoke does not bother the rest of us? I was told by a lady on the ship that works at the front desk that lots of times they lie about smoking, and if it was really a bother they could ask them to restrict the smoking? Give me a break. You need to put in your information that if they are caught lying they will be put off the ship at the next port with no refund. When your literature stated that smoking was restricted to an area out on the deck and some balcony rooms I assumed that they would be in rooms that would not effect us. This will stop us from cruising again unless we can make sure not to have to put up with this.We will also tell others thinking about cruising to get some kind of guarantee that this will not happen to them or they would get a refund. there was plenty of food choices, lots of good salad bars and lots of fresh fruit and choices in the protein department and lots of nummy desserts. I am a tea drinker and on 2 mornings the hot water for tea was put in a container last used for coffee and that ruined the flavor of the tea. But the afternoon teas were wonderful. Roomy and very comfortable cabin. There was plenty to do if you were looking for something to do. Busy Busy Busy The whale watching excursions are not to be missed, we saw 3 types of whales. Our trip gave us many wonderful memories and we kept so busy I felt I could sleep for a day to recover.

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Dec 2, 2014

Ms Oosterdam

This cruise was a terrible experience, we were publically humiliated and asked to leave the vista dining room for breast feeding our 6 month year old because breast feeding is supposedly against the dining room policy, we were then later told that the dining room does not even have a policy, dining room manager chose to illegally discriminate against us at her own discression, you would think in this day and age they would know better, Kids club HAL

took no interest in amusing our 3 year old child she was more interested in watching TV as there were not many kids on the boat this cruise. We also didn't get to see Tasmania or Milford sound which was meant to be the highlight of the cruise, the only saving grace was the kindness of the waitresses and room service staff who were lovely and couldn't do enough for you. This is not a family friendly cruise and Holland America needs to life their game if they want to appeal to families. We didn't get an apology from the person who made us leave the dining room even though they admitted they were wrong, took them 8 days to work that one out.

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Jul 14, 2014

southern route

Prior to sailing my husband called Holland American at their 800 number and spoke with a C/S/R, regarding our upcoming trip to Alaska aboard the Oosterdam. The rep. told his that we were permitted to bring water ( up to 1 case) soda ( up to 1 case) and wine ( at 1 bottle per person). Which we did.... Upon arrival at the ship check-in a disaster, felt like cattle being led to slaughter. Over 30 min in line. Checked into state room immediately

upon boarding, deposited our carry on's and went to explore the ship. 2 hrs later returned and all but 1 pcs of luggage was in the room. So I called and was told it was being held and would be delivered at a later time. Again leaving the room we went to dinner then drinks, upon return found that the last pcs had been delivered, minus the 2 bottles of wine. In side was a form letter stating that the product was removed and would be returned after the cruise. Immediately went to the customer desk and explained the the H/A csr said we could bring this aboard. The rep put me if there was a problem I'd have to discuss it the Beverage Manager. Which I requested a face to face with. After waiting about 30 min he finally appeared. He explained H/A policy, and I informed him of what I'd been told by the csr at the 800. But because I wasn't able to remember who I spoke with he was unable to permit us to keep our wine and the company policy would prevail. Presentation excellent at restaurant average at buffet. As for quality also good but not excellent. Very clean cabin. Average shows. Comedy Ventriloquist ..Excellent Illusionist....Excellent Somewhat overpriced tours and little direction as to best times to go. We had booked excursion to Skagway never told what the time of departure was until we boarded and found out it was 06:30 way to early. No additional times available so we had to cancel. Even after our explanation the staff just refunded w/o any remorse. PLEASE!!!! Read The FINE PRINT. One wouldn't think a reputable cruise line would have fine print BUT they do and they stick to it!!

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Aug 8, 2013

Alaska

This cruise is definitely more for older people...the quality in the rooms was poor- granted it is 10 years old..there is nothing Dutch about it....it's a shame all the Dutch traditions are gone..although the Captain was Dutch an did a great job getting us into Tracy's Arm (inner passage)an turning around avoiding ice bergs. It was a treat to see the glazier. It is a shame Carnival has let all the old traditions go. First two days of the sail

was terrible then slowly there was improvement..don't go for the food unless you don't care.. The room was good an private ..the view was nice..but no improvement in 10 years.. High tea an classical music and the art collections . If you like history ..take in the bishops house that was made a saint..probably for living in Alaska. I did enjoy the glass elevator.. get a room close to it..it's mid ship but you need not worry about rough seas on inner passage.

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Jun 17, 2013

sydney to seattle

A thoroughly enjoyable voyage with excellent service and amenities. overall very good. MS OOSTERDAM 13 APRIL 2013 23 DAY VOYAGE FROM SYDNEY VIA NOUMEA, SUVA, DRAVUNI ISLAND, APIA, PAGO PAGO, KAUAI, HONOLULU, VANCOUVER TO SEATTLE. OOSTERDAM IS SOME 83OOO TONS AND WAS BUILT IN 2003. IT IS MAINTAINED IN EXCELLENT CONDITION THROUGHOUT. WE OCCUPIED A VA GRADE (SUPERIOR VERANDAH) STATEROOM (8006) ON NAVIGATION

DECK CLOSE TO THE FRONT OF THE SHIP. DESPITE IT BEING THE TOP GRADE IN THIS CATEGORY OF STATEROOM IT APPEARED TO BE SIMILAR IN SIZE TO A NORMAL ONE EXCEPT FOR A FULL BATH. THE DECK AREA AGAIN WAS NORMAL SIZE WITH TWO CHAIRS AND A SMALL TABLE. THE BEDS WERE SOME OF THE BEST WE HAVE EXPERIENCED. THE STATEROOM STEWARDS (KOMANG & GEDE) WERE OF THE HIGHEST CALIBRE WITH THE ROOM BEING ALWAYS MAINTAINED IN AN IMMACULATE CONDITION. SOME SHORTCOMINGS WERE THE VERY LIMITED STORAGE SPACE AND THE LAYOUT AT THE ENTRY TO THE STATEROOM WITH THE WARDROBES ON ONE SIDE AND THE DOOR TO THE BATHROOM ON THE OTHER WHICH AT TIMES PROVED A LITTLE FRUSTRATING. THERE WAS A SOFA AND A SMALL TABLE AS WELL AS A DESK. UNFORTUNATELY THE SURFACE AREA OF THE DESK WAS SO SMALL IT WAS PRETTY WELL USELESS. ROOM SERVICE WAS UTILISED ON TWO OCCASIONS BUT HAD A VERY LIMITED MENU - DELIVERY USUALLY TOOK AROUND 25 MINUTES. AT THIS POINT IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE TO BRING THE TRAY INTO THE STATEROOM AS THERE WAS INSUFFICIENT ROOM FOR ONE PERSON TO HOLD THE DOOR OPEN AND THE STEWARD TO PASS INTO THE ROOM SO IT INEVITABLY MEANT ATTEMPTING TO TAKE THE FULLY LADEN TRAY OFF THE STEWARD WHILST AT THE SAME TIME HOLDING THE HEAVY DOOR OPEN - QUITE A FEAT ! THE ENTERTAINMENT CONSISTED OF MAJOR ACTS IN THE VISTA LOUNGE AND OTHER PERFORMERS I N THE VARIOUS LOUNGES AROUND THE SHIP. THE MAJOR ACTS WERE CONSISENTLY OF A VERY HIGH ORDER AND SOME OF THE BEST WE HAVE SEEN. THE SHIP'S DANCERS PUT ON A VERY GOOD EFFORT OTHER THAN THE VOCALS WHICH LET DOWN AN OTHERWISE QUITE IMPRESSIVE SHOW. THE MINOR ACTS IN THE VARIOUS LOUNGES WERE DISAPPOINTING AND AGAIN MAINLY DUE TO THE POOR VOCAL TALENTS OF THE SINGERS. THERE WERE A MULTITUDE OF ACTIVITIES ONBOARD AND IN GENERAL VERY WELL ORGANISED. THE SHIP HAS TWO SWIMMING POOLS HEATED TO AROUND 30 DEGREES CENTIGRADE SURROUNDED WITH MORE THAN AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF DECK CHAIRS. THERE IS A GREAT NUMBER OF PLACES OTHER THAN AROUND THE POOL WHERE YOU CAN PULL UP A DECK CHAIR. DINING FACILITIES CONSISTED OF THE LIDO BUFFET, THE CANALETTO RESTAURANT, THE PINNACLE GRILL AND THE MAIN DINING ROOM. ON THIS TRIP WE OPTED FOR DINNER TO UTILISE "ANYTIME DINING" WHICH ALLOWS YOU TO CHOOSE WHEN YOU WILL EAT (WITHIN A BROAD TIMEFRAME) AND WHETHER YOU WILL JOIN A LARGE TABLE OR SIT BY YOURSELVES AND IT WORKED VERY WELL. WE NORMALLY HAD BREAKFAST AND LUNCH IN THE LIDO BUFFET AND THERE WAS NEVER ANY TROUBLE IN LOCATING A TABLE EVEN AT PEAK HOUR. THE TABLES WERE PROMPTLY CLEARED WHICH IS A FAR CRY FROM A LOT OF THE SHIPS WE HAVE TRAVELLED ON. THE STEWARDS ARE SOME OF THE FRIENDLIEST AND MOST EFFICIENT STAFF WE HAVE EXPERIENCED. THE FOOD IN THE BUFFET WAS GOOD WITHOUT BEING GREAT WITH A GOOD CHOICE OF ITEMS (ITALIAN, ASIAN,MEXICAN ETC) ON OFFER. UNFORTUNATELY THEIR SOUPS WERE LACKING ANY REAL BODY AND THE VARIOUS MEAT DISHES WERE ON OCCASION TOUGH. THEY HAD A GOOD RANGE OF SALAD ITEMS AND FRUIT. THE TEA STAND LEFT A BIT TO BE DESIRED IN REGULARLY RUNNING OUT OF THE MOST POPULAR TEA BRAND "ENGLISH BREAKFAST" BUT HAD ENDLESS SUPPLIES OF MORE EXOTIC VARIETIES WHICH NEVER SEEMED TO BE WANTED IN ANY GREAT NUMBERS !! PROBABLY THE ONLY PART OF THE SHIP WHERE THE SERVICE WAS LESS THAN EXCELLENT. THE MAIN DINING ROOM WHICH WAS UTILIZED ON THE MAJORITY OF NIGHTS HAD A FAIRLY COMPREHENSIVE MENU AND WAS GENERALLY VERY GOOD. OF PARTICULAR NOTE WAS THE PRIME RIB AND THE DUCK A L'ORANGE. THE APPETISERS ALWAYS INCLUDED A GOOD NUMBER OF CHOICES. ONE ITEM ON THE MENU WHICH CONSISTENTLY LET THE REST OF IT DOWN WAS THE HOT SOUPS WHICH LACKED ANY REAL BODY OR TASTE. ON THE OTHER HAND THE COLD SOUPS WERE VERY GOOD. THE CANALETTO RESTAURANT IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE MAIN DINING ROOM AND INCURS A SURCHARGE OF APPROX $10PP. IT SERVES ITALIAN CUISINE AND IS LOCATED IN A FENCED OFF AREA OF THE LIDO BUFFET. IT WOULD BE FAIR TO SAY THAT IT WAS NOTHING EXCEPTIONAL AND DID NOT WARRANT A SURCHARGE. IN PARTICULAR THE MINESTRONE SOUP WAS A VERY POOR IMITATION OF THE REAL THING AND THEIR MAINS WERE ONLY JUST. THE PINNACLE GRILL IS THE OTHER ALTERNATIVE (SURCHARGE AROUND $30PP) AND IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN. THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE FROM ENTERING TO LEAVING IS WORTH EVERY DOLLAR. THE SETTING IS QUITE INCREDIBLE WITH VERY ORNATE CHAIRS, BULGARI CROCKERY/ CUTLERY, THE WALLS ADORNED WITH IMAGES OF OLD DUTCH MASTERS AND THE CEILING ADORNED WITH UPSIDE DOWN UMBRELLAS IN WHICH HAS BEEN INCORPORATED COLOURED LED LIGHTS WHICH GENTLY CHANGED THROUGHOUT THE MEAL. THE MEAL ITSELF WAS IN EVERY RESPECT TOP OF ITS CLASS AND WITH EXCELLENT SERVICE AS WELL. WE BOTH OPTED FOR THE STEAK WHICH WAS TO DIE FOR AND WAS ACCOMPANIED BY FOUR SIDE DISHES OF CREAMED SPINACH, SCALLOPED POTATOES, MUSHROOMS AND ONIONS. THE STARTERS WERE IN THE SAME CLASS. THE DESSERT CAPPED OFF WHAT WAS A MAGNIFICENT MEAL WITH THEIR VERSION OF BOMB ALASKA (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE NORMAL VARIETY) AND A CREME BRULEE WHICH WAS IN FACT THREE BRULEES, ONE OF COFFEE, CHOCOLATE AND VANILLA. WITH REGARD TO THE ITINERARY THE NUMBER OF PORTS WHERE WE LANDED ON A SUNDAY WAS REMARKABLE AND OBVIOUSLY MEANT THAT ANY NUMBER OF BUSINESSES WERE CLOSED FOR THE DAY. THIS SCHEDULING IS A TRIFLE DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND GIVEN THAT EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THE SOUTH PACIFIC ISLANDERS ARE DEEPLY RELIGIOUS AND ALMOST EVERYTHING STOPS ON A SUNDAY. IF AS IS SUSPECTED IT WAS ALL GEARED AROUND HAVING TO ARRIVE IN SEATTLE ON A CERTAIN DATE TO START THE ALASKA ITINERARY THEN PERHAPS SHORTENING THE LAST CRUISE OUT OF SYDNEY PRIOR TO LEAVING FOR SEATTLE SO THAT YOU LAND IN THESE STH PACIFIC PORTS OTHER THAN ON A SUNDAY MIGHT BE BETTER. IN SUMMARY, OVERALL A VERY WELL RUN SHIP WITH EXCELLENT SERVICE AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Feb 10, 2013

SOUTH PACIFIC

THIS COMPANY HAS DONE A VERY GOOD JOB OF SELF PRAISE,HENCE OUR BOOKING ONE OF THEIR CRUISES.HOWEVER THE REALITY WAS NOT UP TO EXPECTATIONS. FOOD , VERY AVERAGE TO BORING SERVICE, OK BUT STAFF POORLY TRAINED. CABINS , EXCELLENT. I REALIZE FIRST TIME CRUISERS WILL MOST LIKELY ENJOY THEIR CRUISE AS THEY HAVE NO COMPARISONS ,READING REVIEWS I SEE MY OBSERVATIONS ARE SHARED BY MANY OTHER REVIEW WRITERS AND FROM QUITE A WHILE BACK BUT NO IMPROVEMENT

TAKES PLACE,THIS IS IN ADDITION TO THE SATISFACTION REPORT WE FILL IN ON BOARD .IT AMAZES ME NO ONE FROM THE COMPANY APPEARS TO READ THEM. ON THE SERVICE SUBJECT ITS PRETTY EASY TO TRAIN THE STAFF TO AT LEAST PRETEND TO BE POLITE. I CAME AWAY FEELING MY PATRONAGE WAS NOT REALY APPRECIATED 3 STAR food VERY GOOD cabin OK shows and entertainment

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Jul 7, 2012

Alaska

We truly enjoyed visiting the four ports in Alaska and Canada which included Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. The ship was roomy and nicely decorated a la Vegas style. We especially loved the crow's nest where most of the whale sitings took place. Overall it was a nice experience thanks to our steward, the chefs and servers and the beauty of Alaska itself. We were very impressed with the food both in taste and variety.The eggs benedict

bar was one of our favorites and the chefs' specialties each night were a delight. Our stateroom was comfortable and decorated with taste. This is where I felt the cruise ship truly failed to impress most of its passengers including us.First of all, they did not even acknowledge Mother's Day which was a great disappointment to many of us to say the least. Even a simple announcement, perhaps a single rose on the bed would have been nice at a minimal expense to the cruise line. The activities were more appropriate for 90 year olds than those in the middle and very active years. The program director was seldom seen about the deck and robotic in her presentations each night.Having been a program director in Germany, I can honestly say this one truly lacked creativity, enthusiasm and charm. The shows were the cruse ship's saving grace, however, with their energetic and talented performers who, by the way, were seen about the ship during during the entire trip. Alaska is definitely worth seeing. However, when a cruise ship cancels one of its most popular excursions, salmon fishing, because they were an hour late coming into port, I find that inexcusable! For some passengers, that might have been a lifelong dream and a mere payment back is not enough to compensate for such a disappointment. Also, the story about paying for excursions on the ship, so that you won't be left behind in an emergency, is not necessarily true according to the local guides who charge far less for the same experience. All and all we enjoyed our first cruise experience but next time will definitely try another cruise line when we plan our next trip.

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Jul 7, 2012

Alaska

We truly enjoyed visiting the four ports in Alaska and Canada which included Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. The ship was roomy and nicely decorated a la Vegas style. We especially loved the crow's nest where most of the whale sitings took place. Overall it was a nice experience thanks to our steward, the chefs and servers and the beauty of Alaska itself. We were very impressed with the food both in taste and variety.The eggs benedict

bar was one of our favorites and the chefs' specialties each night were a delight. Our stateroom was comfortable and decorated with taste. This is where I felt the cruise ship truly failed to impress most of its passengers including us.First of all, they did not even acknowledge Mother's Day which was a great disappointment to many of us to say the least. Even a simple announcement, perhaps a single rose on the bed would have been nice at a minimal expense to the cruise line. The activities were more appropriate for 90 year olds than those in the middle and very active years. The program director was seldom seen about the deck and robotic in her presentations each night.Having been a program director in Germany, I can honestly say this one truly lacked creativity, enthusiasm and charm. The shows were the cruse ship's saving grace, however, with their energetic and talented performers who, by the way, were seen about the ship during during the entire trip. Alaska is definitely worth seeing. However, when a cruise ship cancels one of its most popular excursions, salmon fishing, because they were an hour late coming into port, I find that inexcusable! For some passengers, that might have been a lifelong dream and a mere payment back is not enough to compensate for such a disappointment. Also, the story about paying for excursions on the ship, so that you won't be left behind in an emergency, is not necessarily true according to the local guides who charge far less for the same experience. All and all we enjoyed our first cruise experience but next time will definitely try another cruise line when we plan our next trip.

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Jul 7, 2012

Alaska

We truly enjoyed visiting the four ports in Alaska and Canada which included Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. The ship was roomy and nicely decorated a la Vegas style. We especially loved the crow's nest where most of the whale sitings took place. Overall it was a nice experience thanks to our steward, the chefs and servers and the beauty of Alaska itself. We were very impressed with the food both in taste and variety.The eggs benedict

bar was one of our favorites and the chefs' specialties each night were a delight. Our stateroom was comfortable and decorated with taste. This is where I felt the cruise ship truly failed to impress most of its passengers including us.First of all, they did not even acknowledge Mother's Day which was a great disappointment to many of us to say the least. Even a simple announcement, perhaps a single rose on the bed would have been nice at a minimal expense to the cruise line. The activities were more appropriate for 90 year olds than those in the middle and very active years. The program director was seldom seen about the deck and robotic in her presentations each night.Having been a program director in Germany, I can honestly say this one truly lacked creativity, enthusiasm and charm. The shows were the cruse ship's saving grace, however, with their energetic and talented performers who, by the way, were seen about the ship during during the entire trip. Alaska is definitely worth seeing. However, when a cruise ship cancels one of its most popular excursions, salmon fishing, because they were an hour late coming into port, I find that inexcusable! For some passengers, that might have been a lifelong dream and a mere payment back is not enough to compensate for such a disappointment. Also, the story about paying for excursions on the ship, so that you won't be left behind in an emergency, is not necessarily true according to the local guides who charge far less for the same experience. All and all we enjoyed our first cruise experience but next time will definitely try another cruise line when we plan our next trip.

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Mar 18, 2012

Mexico and Hawaii

Having booked the cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary, we were very unfortunate to have had very poor weather. First week was the Mexico cruise which should have been 3 stops but was reduced to 2. The next 2 weeks were a cruise to Hawaii but as said the weather was very poor and this affected the excursions. The main complaints I have is firstly If I new it was a cruise for the elderly and disabled I would have chosen another cruise.

It is very much geared up for the American market. The gratuities are far too much at 11.50 dollars a day each plus 1.75 dollars tax on all drinks. The food was always Luke warm or cold no matter where you ate. I am used to hot food which I have had on all other cruise lines. Needless to say it will be by first and last with Holland America. Always Luke warm or cold for all meals. Could do with a refurbishment and pretty cramped. Not a lot to do unless you are into fitness or card schools. Theatre was best activity of the day. Not impressed Stated above in full summary

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Nov 28, 2011

Hawaii

We have just returned from a cruise to Hawaii on the Oosterdam. This ship is a beautiful but I am afraid there is little to do aboard not many activities unless you want to be in the fitness centre all day may I suggest more lectures on something more than Hawaii all the time also more games ect.around the pool there didn't seem to be any entertainment staff except the cruise director and a DJ who worked their socks off. It needed better evening

entertainment which was very poor except for a ventriloquist and the last show with the Oostadam dances. We didn't think the tours were worth the money and we thought $11 per day each person was far to much for gratuities My last complaint is the farce of the last day getting off the ship we had to get up at 5am on Saturday morning (bearing in mind we would not get home till Sunday night at 8pm) stand in a long queue to get our passport stamped.It was mayhem. It was bad enough for us but one lady from Canada had to be up at 3-30 to get her husband who had MS dressed and ready disgusting. Good lots of choices but often not very hot. Good but not cleaned till the afternoon

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By Amy_CR

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Aug 16, 2011

Mexican Riviera

There were long lines checking in at the Port of San Diego, and no one to help with bags until we got to the front of the line. This cruise was a short one week R&R for us following my husbands surgery in January, so not having anyone from the cruise line to help us was difficult. Once checked in however we were escorted to a special boarding area set aside for passengers with Suite reservations. We were even taken on board before other passengers

and I have to admit was a first for us and a very pleasant experience. We had a Champagne bottle on ice waiting for us in our cabin, and always had use of the concierge right across the hall from us. The over all experience kept fluctuating from being the best cabin we ever had to being dissappointed in Holland American ships. I thought it was dark and closed in, compared to other ships with lots of windows, and open spaces that allowed for a lot of natural light. The food was more exceptional than on other lines, especially when we opted to dine on the formal night at the optional dining room, where we paid a cover which was worth it. The best food and service we'd ever had comparing it to other cruise lines. I was not so enthusiastic about the morning and lunch buffets. We found ourselves walking around in circles trying to decide what was being served where. The cabin which was a Verandah Suite was the largest we'd ever had and this was our eigth cruise. It was wonderful and looked just like the pictures on line. Except the furniture was really old and our two chairs were peeling and so dirty, that I would not sit on them. My opinion is that this ship is way overdue for a refurbishment. One day I had to ask our cabin attendant to clean the vents over our bed, because we were both coughing from the dust. As we walked down the halls , I noticed the vacumm being used on the carpets was a shop vac. Not very ergonomic. Dust comes out of the back and we could smell it. I loved the free computer photo shop classes. Holland America definitely offers different activities, like cooking and sewing classes. If you are a Martha Stewart, this is for you! We did not participate in any port excusions. We thouroughly enjoyed Cabo. It is a glissening jewel in the sun ! It had been at least 7 years since we had been there, and it has changed so much for the better. It truly represents the Mexican Rivera.

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By Jen_CR

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May 12, 2011

Vancouver to Seattle

This is the third time we have done the repositioning cruise. Twice from Seattle to Vancouver, this time Vancouver to Seattle. Holland America has always met our standards, this time however they exceeded them. I was happy to get an email 2 weeks prior to our trip informing us of a room upgrade. We were orginally booked into a superior verandah suite and were upgraded to a deluxe verandah suite. Concierge level. This is the only way to sail

in my opinion. It will be hard to get a lower catagory room after this! The Neptune lounge was fantastic. Very classy and the greatest little bar for canapes. The ship itself is not huge and easy to find your way around. This was our second time on the Oosterdam. The food was very good. The portions are not that huge so you can enjoy a wider varitey and not be stuffed. When you board, I highly recommend the lunch in the Vista dining room. Last time we went to the Lido and it was packed to the rafters. There was no one in the dining room for lunch and they were more than happy to wait on us. It was calm and quiet. We had shrimp cocktails and grilled salmon wtih veggies and roasted potatoes which was excellent. Make sure you check out the embarkation BBQ on the lido deck just after leaving port. They set it up by the lido pool and do a nice job of it. We did order room service to enjoy on our balcony before dinner. Smoked salmon, shrimp cocktails and the cheese platter. Again, small, but very nice. Nice presentation. Dinner was in the Vista dining room again. Make sure you make reservations! We did but the people who didnt waited in a huge line up to get in. We just breezed by. This was at 8pm. We enjoyed soup, salad, entree and desserts. Again, portion sizes are on the small side but it was perfect for us as we were munching all day! The food in the dining room was very good. It wouldnt be a cruise without hitting the lido for a midnight snack! They had pizza and afew pastas set up for the die hards. Pizza was great.....nice and hot. The Neptune lounge on the Rotterdam deck was the hilight of our cruise. Its a private lounge for Deluxe Verandah and Penthouse passengers only. You need your stateroom key to enter. They had leather couches, large screen TV's, wonderful coffee and teas, ice tea, cranberry juice, ice water, cookies, brownies and wonderful canapes available until 10pm. The Concierge is there and will get you whatever you may request. In our case, ice and robes. Where do I begin with the stateroom. Highly recommend the Deluxe Verandah suite. We had a huge balcony with a large round table, and 4 charis. And 2 sun loungers. When we got to the cabin we had a bottle of Champagne and a large bottle of water waiting for us from the captian. The room includes a nice changing/makeup area just outside the bathroom. The bathroom itself had a shower, a seprate jetted tub with a hand held shower head, large counter with duel sinks. Large dispensers on the shower and tub walls held the shampoo, conditioners and body lotions. The room also boasted a wrap around couch which pulled open to a Queen pull out, King sized bed, and table and chairs. There were 3 of us and we had lots of space. Closet space was also the most we have seen in any cruise stateroom. **Note, this catagory of stateroom includes a special line at check in! We didnt have to wait at all and we got right on board and our cabin was ready. This was at 11am. Everyone else waited to board the ship. A cruise is what you make of it. Nighttime activities were just OK I would say on this trip. They had kareokee party going on. Everyone was really into it, we stayed for about 5 minutes. Then we wandered to the Piano Bar. It was pretty full too. But the piano guy left alot to be desired. He was playing the songs way to fast and choppy for anyone to have any hope of singing along with him. Or dancing even though people tried. It was like trying to dance to a fast jazz song. Wasnt going to happen. The nightclub the Northern Lights was really rocken' They were having the "Rock till we Dock" party. Everyone was! The casino was not open. We really enjoyed sitting at the Crows Nest enjoying the scenery, having a drink and a canape'. Coffees, and teas are also offered for a small charge. They also have a wonderful library there and internet WiFi. As it was only a 1 day cruise we did not do any excursions. Overall we had a fantastic time. Holland America outdid itself. The only thing I didnt like was having to leave! We will be back!

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By Jen_CR

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May 12, 2011

Vancouver to Seattle

This is the third time we have done the repositioning cruise. Twice from Seattle to Vancouver, this time Vancouver to Seattle. Holland America has always met our standards, this time however they exceeded them. I was happy to get an email 2 weeks prior to our trip informing us of a room upgrade. We were orginally booked into a superior verandah suite and were upgraded to a deluxe verandah suite. Concierge level. This is the only way to sail

in my opinion. It will be hard to get a lower catagory room after this! The Neptune lounge was fantastic. Very classy and the greatest little bar for canapes. The ship itself is not huge and easy to find your way around. This was our second time on the Oosterdam. The food was very good. The portions are not that huge so you can enjoy a wider varitey and not be stuffed. When you board, I highly recommend the lunch in the Vista dining room. Last time we went to the Lido and it was packed to the rafters. There was no one in the dining room for lunch and they were more than happy to wait on us. It was calm and quiet. We had shrimp cocktails and grilled salmon wtih veggies and roasted potatoes which was excellent. Make sure you check out the embarkation BBQ on the lido deck just after leaving port. They set it up by the lido pool and do a nice job of it. We did order room service to enjoy on our balcony before dinner. Smoked salmon, shrimp cocktails and the cheese platter. Again, small, but very nice. Nice presentation. Dinner was in the Vista dining room again. Make sure you make reservations! We did but the people who didnt waited in a huge line up to get in. We just breezed by. This was at 8pm. We enjoyed soup, salad, entree and desserts. Again, portion sizes are on the small side but it was perfect for us as we were munching all day! The food in the dining room was very good. It wouldnt be a cruise without hitting the lido for a midnight snack! They had pizza and afew pastas set up for the die hards. Pizza was great.....nice and hot. The Neptune lounge on the Rotterdam deck was the hilight of our cruise. Its a private lounge for Deluxe Verandah and Penthouse passengers only. You need your stateroom key to enter. They had leather couches, large screen TV's, wonderful coffee and teas, ice tea, cranberry juice, ice water, cookies, brownies and wonderful canapes available until 10pm. The Concierge is there and will get you whatever you may request. In our case, ice and robes. Where do I begin with the stateroom. Highly recommend the Deluxe Verandah suite. We had a huge balcony with a large round table, and 4 charis. And 2 sun loungers. When we got to the cabin we had a bottle of Champagne and a large bottle of water waiting for us from the captian. The room includes a nice changing/makeup area just outside the bathroom. The bathroom itself had a shower, a seprate jetted tub with a hand held shower head, large counter with duel sinks. Large dispensers on the shower and tub walls held the shampoo, conditioners and body lotions. The room also boasted a wrap around couch which pulled open to a Queen pull out, King sized bed, and table and chairs. There were 3 of us and we had lots of space. Closet space was also the most we have seen in any cruise stateroom. **Note, this catagory of stateroom includes a special line at check in! We didnt have to wait at all and we got right on board and our cabin was ready. This was at 11am. Everyone else waited to board the ship. A cruise is what you make of it. Nighttime activities were just OK I would say on this trip. They had kareokee party going on. Everyone was really into it, we stayed for about 5 minutes. Then we wandered to the Piano Bar. It was pretty full too. But the piano guy left alot to be desired. He was playing the songs way to fast and choppy for anyone to have any hope of singing along with him. Or dancing even though people tried. It was like trying to dance to a fast jazz song. Wasnt going to happen. The nightclub the Northern Lights was really rocken' They were having the "Rock till we Dock" party. Everyone was! The casino was not open. We really enjoyed sitting at the Crows Nest enjoying the scenery, having a drink and a canape'. Coffees, and teas are also offered for a small charge. They also have a wonderful library there and internet WiFi. As it was only a 1 day cruise we did not do any excursions. Overall we had a fantastic time. Holland America outdid itself. The only thing I didnt like was having to leave! We will be back!

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Apr 27, 2011

Mexican Riveria

A fairly basic cruise with a few nice things and many disappointing things. Big pluses were DVD borrowing services and large staterooms. Entertainment / activities were minimal. Lack of soda card a big minus. The food was good, with few bad dishes and a variety of options. I liked the Eggs Benedict station at the lido buffet for breakfast, as well as the grilled sandwich station for lunch. Flexible dining times worked well for us. Lack

of a all-you-want soda card a big minus. This was one of the better staterooms I've been in, with an ocean view, more space than most staterooms, and ample closet space. There was a DVD player as well as a (non-HD) flat screen TV and a small refrigerator. I was pleased with stateroom. Few and far between. One trivia session a day, plus a session of name-that-tune on sea days. Almost no activities poolside or on shore days. I did not go on any excursions. This crusie was more of a getaway than an adventure cruise. It had several things going for it, including price and location, as both myself and my parents live in Las Vegas. Sailing out of San Diego meant a drive, not an airline flight. I've been on many cruises, though this was the first one on Holland America. My parents have also cruised extensively, however, this was our first cruise together in over ten years. All of us had done this particular itinerary before, so the ports were familiar. In short, I was disappointed. The ship fell short of my expectations in many ways. Holland America doesn't sell an all-you-can-use soda card, so I avoided bar drinks altogether. Entertainment was geared towards production shows, which we mostly avoided. Trivia was limited to a single session per day, and when in port, most of the ship functions shut down. The expectation is clear - they want you to go ashore rather than use the vessel as your personal yacht. Some of the shutdown was due to condition red medical status, which shut down many ship facilities until the alert status change. This included one of the bright spots of the ship - ShipFlicks. This service allowed you to borrow from the DVD library on the ship, which provided a DVD player as well as a flat screen television. My stateroom was changed twice. I had paid for an inside cabin and printed out the assigned stateroom tags for my checked luggage. When I went to sign in, I was informed I had been moved. The move was to an outside cabin with a nice view. Embarkation was smooth, but shortly after I went into my stateroom the front desk called, asking if I would move in order to serve a family group. I agreed, and was moved to a similar stateroom. The most notable change was that it was designed to sleep five, with a pull down bed, a sofa bed, and the regular bed. I had it all to myself. I saw one movie (Inception) in the screening room, and several via ShipFlicks. Much of the rest of the entertainment was self-service; I played several different games with my parents, especially on nights where the showroom was staging a show not to our tastes. Aside from tip, I purchased nothing on the ship. With a $50 / room credit, my final bill was about $22.

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Mar 7, 2011

Mexican Riviera

This was our first cruise and we loved every second of the experience from the moment we stepped onto the ship in San Diego to the last minute of the last day..... We had a blast!!! The crew ships crew was outstanding in every way and made us feel welcome from day one. This was an A+ cruise, vacation and experience and we were sad as hell when it came to an end.. I would highly recommend this ship and it's team to anyone looking for that perfect

vacation!! The food was great, there was lots of it and it was well thought out for evening dining. We didn't focus on the food so much because we were having so much damn fun doing everything else.. The food = A+ We chose a larger stateroom with a balcony...this made the voyage wonderful. Our room steward "Bagus" was the best. Our room was always kept in perfect condition and we had to ask for nothing. It's their attention to detail that makes all the difference. We saw several shows to include a tribute to the Eagles, musical and dance performances as well as Joseph Trans magic show...All were fantastic!! We went to cooking classes and towel animal folding and found those to be fun and we won at Bingo!! We spent a good deal of time just hanging out by the pools and drinking "The drink of the day" which was great and we also hit the casino pretty hard.....I lost !! Lots of on-board activities to do....we did most of them and had a great time! A+ We did excursions in every port and had an absolute blast at every one. I was glad to see that it was super easy to find your way to where you needed to be once off the ship. So many people there to guide and point to where you needed to be for your particular excursion. The Guides were friendly, helpful, informative and a hell of a lot of fun. We felt safe at every port which allowed us to concentrate on having fun. Excursions = A+ Kari and I travel a lot but this was our first cruise. If i was to pick one word to describe the ship, captain, crew and the total Oosterdam experience it would be......."Perfect"

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Mar 2, 2011

Mexico Riveria

My wife and I went on this cruise with some friends that we always travel with, She is handicapped and uses a wheel chair. They booked a handicapped room and we booked a verandah room. We went through Holland America directly for the booking. They told us our rooms were close to each other but in reality we were down a hall and around a corner from each other. The food aboard was good but I think we could have had better choices. We ate

both in the dining room and on the lido deck. The worse thing about the lido deck was the lines people butting in front of people to get food, People kept butting in front of our friend in the wheel chair as they didn't see her. One time she had to remind someone that she was there. On the other hand the ship worker would push her around and get the food so both her and her husband could have meals together, Very helpful! Our dining staff was very good once we changed tables once again we had trouble with the wheelchair situation. They put us in a place where the wheelchair had difficulty getting into. Once we change tables we did not have a problem. Our server would come and push her to the table once he seen us come in. Some of the food was good and some of it was so so, We always had other choices other than the what was offered but we could have had more choices. We have traveled on Holland America before on a Alaskan cruise so we knew what to expect aboard the ship, The ship was a older ship and some of the things need to be updated and or fixed. I had trouble with the shower drain , it would go up or down with the knob, so I pulled it out as we going to take a shower instead of taking baths. The shower curtain was worn and should be replaced. As far as the room goes a little updating would help but it was ok. On one day we were in port the ship left a message that they were going to do some painting on our deck and they may need to get into our room. We we came back from town they had painted the trim around our deck and left the place neat but could of cleaned up the deck a little better. Our room was always clean and we hardly ever saw our room steward. We would see him in the hallway cleaning someone else's room but not ours. They could do better on some of the on board activities, I went to the computer classes they were giving and they did not have enough computers for all who attended, they could have also spaced them out a little better. The instructor was very good and was knew what he was talking about, he took lots of questions and took his time answering them. My wife and friend went to a couple of classes one for beading and making jewelery. Her class was supposed to start at 9:00 am but by the time she got there It was almost done. We went to a couple of trivia events which were fun we did not win any prizes but met some other interesting people. The show at night with the dancers was pretty good but the choice of material could be better, The second day of the cruise we had to make a detour stop in Cabo San Lucas as a dancer got injured during practice and they had to rush him to San Diego for emeregncy surgery. The ship kept us up with updates during the cruise about the dancer and he was doing well buy the end of the cruise. We were very disappointed in the excursions we took in all the ports. We took just the cheapest one as all we want to do is see some of the cities and they go on our own the rest of the day. The one in Purteo Vallerata was ok as the guide was very knowlegable and showed us some sites and facts that we probably would have not seen if we did not go on the tour. In Mazaltain and in Cabo the tours were horrible a quick tour of the city and then to shopping areas. All they wanted you to do was to spend money in the shops where everything was overpriced to begin with. Over all the trip was ok the weather was good compared to back home where it was 10 below the week before our trip. I would go back to San Diego to visit but not to take a cruise. The week went to fast as it seemed as all were doing aboard ship was eating and sleeping. But we had to get back to reality.

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Jan 2, 2011

Mexican Riviera

We have friends who rave about Holland America Lines, but my wife and I were disappointed. I guess we expected more. After out last three cruises on Oceania and Azamara, we felt that this cruise did not meet our expectations of what a cruise should be. Unlike others who mentioned that this was an old-peoples cruise, this cruise over New Year's had lots of families and the age of the passengers ranged from a few weeks old to persons in their 90's.

The cruise director mentioned that there were 365 children aboard. Rating 2 of 4 The food was probably our biggest disappointment. Some items were very good, but others were almost inedible. The onion soup that is offered every night at times was served cold. Other times it had sat so long that the bread had soaked up all the soup. Three at our table of six had the lobster bisque, and complained about the taste and texture. Going to the Lido buffet was always a challange with long lines and then trying to find a table. Rating 2 of 4 The stateroom was about what we expected, but a little shabby. The tile on the bathroom floor had a number of small pieces broken out. The drapes had holes in the backing. The shower/tub, did not drain properly. Even after taken a short shower, you found yourself standing in three inches of water. Rating 2 of 4 We only took advantage of a few of the onboard activities. The "Broadway" type shows were so-so, although the singers and dancers really put out their best effort considering the show they had to put on. Rating 3 of 4 You don't go to the Mexican Riviera for great sight-seeing. We went on out own into downtown Matzalan. Going through the Central Market, is an experience. In Puerta Vallarta, we found that taking a van tour is probably better than going through the cruise line. Only licensed tour drivers are allowed in the dock area. The smaller vans can take you places that a large bus cannot go. If you haven't been to Cabo for a while, you will not recognize the place. My adult children took a catamaran trip where they were able to go snokling and see a lot of the coastal area. No Rating, since we did not use the line's excursions. This was a trip that we took our adult children as a Christmas present. Living in the San Diego area, taking this trip was very convinient, since we did not have to fly to the dock, but had Super-Shuttle take us from our house directly to the dock. A week before, the Port of San Diego opened the Broadway Pier as an alternative cruise ship terminal. This was a mess. When we got to the terminal a little after 1:00 PM, there was a line extending out to the street. It took over an hour and a half to check in. We were in luck that the rain had stopped, because there was no cover for most of the time and you are standing outside. We were told that the problem was caused by having only two security scanners. Trying to send 2000 people through security in about 3 hours became a real problem. We understood that this was not the cruise line's obligation, but the Port Authority's problem. On return we came into the main terminal and had our luggage and on our van within five minutes of leaving the ship. Rating on embarkation: 1/2 out of 4. Rating on disembarkation 4 of 4.

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Oct 15, 2010

Mexican Riviera

This was my first cruise and I loved it! The food was wonderful, and the staff was very nice. I had been told that this cruise line catered to senior citizens, which is true. Many of the passengers were 60+ but most were still very lively and fun to talk to. Despite that, there were still people with families and small children, and younger 20-somethings. There was a lot to do on board. It was very relaxing, which was a good thing, since I had been

having some strenuous issues in the months prior to the cruise. The food was amazing. Lots of variety! Stateroom was a bit small (compared to the hotels I'm used to staying in). We had an inside cabin, which was nice for sleeping in. Many times I would wake up and it was 11 am, but I thought it was 4 am! There seemed like there was a lot of activities for children and teens. There was also a ton of activities for all other passengers, but I did not attend any of those, so I can't really say how they were. Plenty of options for excursions, but they did seem to be very pricey. This was a fantastic trip. I would do it again.

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Sep 29, 2010

Seattle to Vancouver

What a huge disappointment (and that's being kind)! We were traveling with a large group, as a post-wedding event. The service was awful, the food was mediocre, and the entertainment was dismal. Just a few notes: they're quick to respond to your table if you're purchasing alcohol, but if you want your plates cleared be prepared to wait. There are no trays to hold your plates as you're going through the buffet line, just to be sure that you don't

take too much food. The kitchen staff will serve you food at the buffet, but be prepared to wait in long lines and get served very small portions. Even the scrambled eggs at breakfast were made from powdered eggs - yuck! If you like being woken up by someone at 7 a.m. who just busts into your room without announcing first (to check the refrigerator, to see if you took anything) then this cruise is perfect for you. Also, one of the members of our party had a flooded toilet and it took the cruise staff nearly six hours to fix it (waiting up until 1 a.m., just to be awoken by staff at 7 a.m.) They want to make sure that you get off the boat as early as possible, so they will give you a disembarkation number so that you can wait in yet another long line to exit the boat. We were supposed to be getting a special rate for the one day/overnight cruise. They make up for that by charging exhorbitant rates on drinks, and then tacking on another $11/person per night "hotel charge" for coming into the room while you're gone and putting cheap chocolates on the bed. This is my fifth cruise on variety of lines. And, to be sure...I will NEVER travel Holland America again! You get what you pay for! No deals to be found here. Okay, nothing special. Not enough to feed the masses. Clean, although the twin beds were so small that if you moved, you'd roll right onto the floor. What onboard activities? They didn't provide us with any information about what was going on around the ship. One of the members of our party asked to see a list of activities, and they had to make a photocopy just for her. There was nothing provided in our room or ahead of time. Not applicable. Won't travel with Holland America again.

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Aug 31, 2010

Alaska Inside Passage

Went with friends as we all were celebrating our 26th anniversaries. We had the most amazing weather every day. In fact, the captain of the ship and the captain of our whale watching excursion both said not to tell people about our incredible weather as it was very rare. We had an inside cabin and took advantage of our friend's balcony cabin. The cost difference was well worth it to us as there are many many good vantage points throughout the

ship to see all there is to see. Cabin steward was pleasant and cabin always looked great. Several bars, most with a good variety of music every evening. Food in the dining room was good as was the staff serving us at the early seating at table 71. The food on the lido deck was also good and plentiful. The salmon/clam bake was a big hit as was the chocolate buffet. The comedian and illusionist were great, the cruise line singers and dancers were just okay, a bit on the hokey side. The crowd enjoyed cooking with the Captain, t he marriage game and the Liars Club game. New movies are shown in the screening room several times per day and we took advantage of this during the days at sea. High tea at 3 in the afternoons was my favorite. Activities during the day and evening are plentiful, but around midnight, there is not much, if anything going on. The crowd is definitely older, but there were people our age and several families with teenagers/younger children on board. Everyone we met, crew and passengers were pleasant. Enjoyed our ports of call, we did not book any excursions with the cruise line, but did take a 3 hour whale watching tour in Juneau with Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska and it was amazing. We had 5 humpbacks around our boat at one time, plus saw eagles, sea lions and otters. We walked away from the port area at the other stops and enjoyed Ketchikan, especially watching the salmon. Many people took the garden tour in Victoria, but we walked into town and it is lovely. Spent two days prior to the cruise in Vancouver and this is a truly beautiful city. Overall, had a great time with great friends. Food was good with a good variety in the dining room and lido deck. Service at the early seating was a bit slow and the head waiter was generally coming around ringing the end of dinner bell and we were still waiting for dessert and coffee. I loved the 3pm high tea. Nice, clean, interior room, didn't miss a window or balcony. Bathroom was fine - shower small, but we managed There were more than we could ever do. We watched movies, live shows, had high tea daily, wine tasting, enjoyed walking around the deck. I had my hair cut. Because we had such great weather many people were enjoying the two pools and several hot tubs. Spa activities are expensive, but many classes are free. We did not do any cruise line excursions. Enjoyed walking around the towns, especially away from the port area. We took a three hour whale watching tour with a local outfitter in Juneau and enjoyed this very much Overall, it was great - weather could not have been better. Saw many whales, eagles, sea lions and sea otters. Coming out of Glacier Bay we saw two bears feasting on a beached whale carcass - the captain made an announcement over the loud speaker and slowed the ship so the view was really good. If you are into shipboard partying or late night activities, this is not the cruise for you. If you are looking for a nice inside passage cruise on a lovely ship with good food, numerous shipboard activities and four ports of call, plus glacier bay, this is a good choice.

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Aug 3, 2010

Inside Passage - Alaska

The ship was fantastic, and we enjoyed it from beginning to end. There is a wonderful crew, the food is amazing, and the Inside Passage trip was great. Food was excellent, and the dining room staff were great with our entire family. We had an interior cabin and we were really only there to sleep. As this cruise is a colder weather cruise, I wouldn't have wanted to spend any extra for a cabin with a balcony or even a window. We were in the room

to sleep, all the rest of the time there was plenty to do outside the room. Onboar activities were varied and appealed to everyone in our group, ranging from age 3 to 75. I would completely skip the ships excursion packages. We searched the internet for excursions in advance, and booked them in the port cities we visited. Most of the time, excursions were double the price through the ship that we paid on shore booking for ourselves. It was also much better to have the freedom to choose a provider, and negotiate price, which we did often. Our only complaint was the egregious cell phone rates. You aren't really aware when you lose service from the shore, and the ship's tower takes over. Once that happens, our rates went from basically free, to over $2.50 per minute. My advice is to use your phones only when in ports if you have to use them at all. It was disappointing that this was the only time we really felt scammed by Holland America. I would have been very disappointed if we had booked excursions as well, they were as good or better booked on our own directly. Overall this is a very good cruising experience. You can't beat the scenery, the ship is in very good shape, and the staff is excellent.

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Apr 25, 2010

mexican riveria

This was our first cruise, so I talked to a lot of people on the cruise, most of which had several cruises under their belt. Holland American Line (HAL) seems to be a very loyal group, as most of the people I talked with were return cruisers. The HAL cruises are not for young family - I think the average age on the cruise was in the upper 60's. We ate with one lady who was over 90 and had been on over 40 cruises (she was a travel agent), many with

HAL. There are no climbing walls or surfing lessons, and the boat is smaller than the mega ships. The average person on this cruise was also well off - many had a couple of homes and cruise once or twice a year. One nice thing about this is that the cruise was pretty quiet. Everyone we talked to was very friendly and happy to make friends with us. Our cabin steward, Agus, was from Indonesia, as was 99% of the staff. They are well trained, hard workers and take care of your every need. By the end of the first day, Agus knew us by name. He redid our room when we were gone, even if it was only a short time. He really was friendly and helped to make the cruise special for us. And every night, after dinner, we returned to a different towel animal with chocolate eyes. I don't think he ever stopped working. The food was very good, nothing really great, on the main menu, but the Pinnacle Grill got great reviews for their meals - even though is was a $20 per person premium. We ate at the Italian cafe the second formal night, and it was pretty good. You can see that most of the food is geared for the older taste, not a lot of extra spices, etc. As on all cruises, you can go to several dining rooms and get everything from sandwiches to steaks. We had great service at all of our meals, no matter where we ate. There were two formal nights. Most of the men wore dark suits rather than tuxes. Even though you could eat as much as you want, as often as you want, (you could eat one dinner downstairs and then go upstairs and eat again, if you want) they charge you $2 for sodas. I don't understand that. The drinks in your room mini-bar cost the same as in the lounge. If you want to meet people on the ship, ask for a 6 person table at dinner - you will leave with 4 new friends. Our stateroom was small, as is on most cruise lines. We did visit one of our newly made friends in their suite, which was twice as large as ours, and had a huge veranda. Pretty nice if you can swing it. They had their own lounge, extra services, discounts on some items on ship and get double nights credits for their cruise. Ours was about 190 sf and had a lot of closet space, but not a lot of room for more than one suitcase, which fit under the bed. The toilet was small, but had a nice tub/shower. The bed was two twins put together and was one of the best beds I have ever slept on. And did I say that it was quiet? I slept like a log every night. Bring an alarm. There is no self-service laundry on this boat, and you can't iron in your room, so bring a steamer to get rid of those wrinkles. There was always something (really several things) to do on board, and they were all well attended. The cruse director, Matt, did a great job at trivia each day, and the piano bar trivia was also fun. We never had the time to go to the cooking demonstrations, but they were always packed. Each evening we listened to the string quartet in one of the many bars. The casino was always busy, and had several special events. There is a small kid's area, but not a lot for them to do. The rear pool is for adults only, to main pool is for families. You can do everything from swimming with your own dolphin to driving through the backwoods on a jeep (we did and learned that the locals are pretty aggressive in their driving in town) to just walking around. There are "recommended" stores on each stop, but you have to watch yourself even there, as one of our dinner mates had their wallet stolen in the biggest jewelry shop in Mazatlan. Remember to read the reviews of all of the excursions before your commit. One secret is that if you have a shore excursion purchased in Cabo, you get first dibs on the ship to shore shuttle boats. Otherwise you have to wait until a free boat is available. Most important - get back to the boat on time. Six people missed the departures during our cruise, and they had to catch up on their own dime. Like I said at the beginning, this was our first cruise. We have traveled to a lot of places, and this was one of the best vacations we have had. I can see why people cruise - no matter where your are or what you are doing, there is someone around asking if there is anything they can do for you. We will go again, and on HAL. It was fun, relaxing and we were pampered everywhere we went.

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Mar 28, 2010

Mexican Rivirea

If your style is old people, very old, then this is your line. If you are a sports fan this is NOT your ship. It was the beginning of March Madness, the only sports they show, even in the "Sports Bar" is ESPN in Spanish. There is not not much to do on this ship unless you like trivia or bingo...The ship does have beautiful decor,and a great piano bar. What did you think about the food? That we got some. The service was HORRIBLE. The service

on Carnival blows the Oosterdam's out of the water! The waiters could care less about anything. We received our main courses twice as the bell to clear out went off...The bartenders were decent. The Lido deck food was typical buffet, load up on fresh fruit is my advise. How was your stateroom? Much smaller than the pictures, we had a VD suite with a balcony, the only nice thing about the room. The closets are not as big as we were led to believe. Only about 4 TV channels that worked. No ABC, NBC or CBS feeds. Complementary fruit, LOL, left overs from the Lido deck. How were the activities? What activities? The pool area was not bad, always open chairs, no band or music though? The only thing that saved this cruise was Nathan Temby in the piano bar, thank you Nathan ! Excursions? Do not get off the boat in Mazatlan unless you enjoy a sewer dump...Puerto Vallarta is fabulous. The whale watching in Cabo was nice, saw many whales and seals, the wife got tanked on the free Margaritas, I enjoyed the chips and salsa... Overall The ship's decor is very sophisticated. That's the best thing I can say about this ship. The atrium area was about as small as our cabin. The food was horrible unless you pay the extra at the Pinnacle Grill. The "shows" were worse than a local middle school production. The Casino was a joke. The dealers are clueless, always looking to the Pit Boss for everything. Half the machines were not working. I am really not hard to please. This would be a great cruise if you enjoy doing absolutely nothing and having no real services. Holland American really does cater to older people, and I mean old. I'm 45 the wife is 48 and we felt like we were amongst the youngest on board. We did meet some very cool people at the piano bar, again thank you Nathan for some great tunes ! We will never book a Holland American cruise again. Carnival has been our favorite by far. I know, I know it's a Carnival...The service was so much better, much more to do day and night. Maybe It's because I've never grown up? To sum it up...If you like old people and a clean sophisticated ship this ones for you !

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Dec 8, 2009

Mexico

Having cruised on Holland America previously, I must looked forward to this cruise. We booked a deluxe veranda suite, at expensive prices, and had a great aft cabin with deck on two sides. The room was spacious; the bathroom spacious. When we got in the room, there was something dirty on the tile above the jetted tub. Whatever it was stayed there for the entire week. The coffee table was sticky. The bottle of champagne was in an iced tub on

a sticky surface. The carpet had obvious scraps of something on it; they remained there throughout the cruise, although the room steward always seemed to have a vacuum cleaner stationed in the hall. I did not hear the vacuum running all week. The deck, although nice, needed to be hosed off and the upholstered chairs needed cleaning. Cleanliness was not up to my standards. Ports were great--Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. The moon was full; we saw whales, dolphins, schools of fish, pelicans, lots of birds, and many very old people. The old people were on the ship. Holland America caters to the elderly, which is a good thing, but sometimes there were so many walkers and wheelchairs in aisles that one could hardly pass. We had assigned late dining. The first few nights went well and the food was good, and then things seemed to fall apart. Our waiter had three large tables to tend to - about 22 people. That is too many people to serve adequately. On the fourth night, we were the last table served in the dining room. Some items were not brought at all. The waiter took our order immediately after we were seated until one person commented about being rushed. He still did not give us much time, but at least we could sit down before he wanted to know what we were ordering. Lines at the Lido were long for omelets, waffles, and specialty items. Lines for hamburgers on deck were always long. On the day before the ship arrived back in San Diego, I had fruit from the Lido for breakfast. Very quickly, I became horribly ill. I spent the day vomiting and finally called the medical people, who came to the room to treat me. I had no fever and was declared "not contagious" and was given a shot to knock me out for hours. By the time the ship docked, I was able to get myself off the ship. The medical person told me that I was the only one on the ship who was ill. I do not believe that. The layout was great, as was the layout of the deck. Ample furniture, lighting, good beds, good linens. The cleanliness was not up to my standards. On-board laundry was included with the room rate, and service was wonderful. This is worthwhile to have on your cruise so that you can wear clean clothes and be comfortable. It is also nice to bring clean clothes back home from a trip.

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Sep 7, 2009

Eastern Mediterranean

Having been on Celebrity Constellation earlier this year, I was somewhat worried what I was going to find on Holland America (having been with them over 5 years ago). Why should I have worried? Everything about the cruise was 10 out of 10 for us. We had a couple of problems during the cruise, but they were sorted out with a professional and caring manner. Nothing was too much trouble. Go see Ann-Christini Boll on front desk if you need help,

she is the "supervisor extraordinaire"! We travelled in two rooms as a family of 5. The food was excellent, good choice. Nothing was too much trouble when we asked for alternatives to satisfy my 20 month old grand-daughters' tastes. The self service Lido was well stocked with a good choice of food and well stocked throughout the service. As said in my last review, Celebrity was very poor in this regard. The staff on board were exceptional. The cruise itenary is great. On a ship for this size, the facilities were very good. My eveings entertainment was 10 out of 10, because I was looking after grand-daughter! Joking apart, the shows and entertainment were on the whole, pretty good according to the rest of my family. Our stateroom on the 5th floor was typical of a Verendah Stateroom with a bath. It was very clean and well kept throughtout the trip. Stateroom 1062 was VERY roomy for 2 adults and a child in a cot. Again, it was very clean and tidy . We had a problem with the inside cabin in room 1062. It is situated under the Queens Room, which is used for dancing and evening entertainment. Whilst not exceptionally noisey, it was instrusive. When I complained to the front desk, they could not have been more helpful! This is what service is all about. Onboard facilities for a ship of this size were reasonably good, although we were disappointed to find no small paddling pool or other offerings for our 20 month old grand-daughter. Don't get me wrong, we didn't want to palm her off to the ships staff, but it would have been nice for a tiny room with toys where we could have taken her to play, and maybe a tiny pool (one thing that Celebrity do have in their favor). This is one area of concern for us. I emailed Holland America some time before the cruise, regarding infants (under 2's) going on excursions. They failed to respond. Their terms and conditions are very obscure about under 2's and excursions. Holland America UK were even less helpful, suggesting that our under 2 could possibly be denied access to some excursions. So, very frustrated were we pre-cruise, we didn't pre-book any tours. On ship, we asked the same question and were told the under 2 was free on every tour and apart from "extreme" excursions, she was allowed on any trip. Why is Holland America USA unable to answer this? It is now over 5 weeks ago and we still don't have the courtesy of an Email response. Then came the problem as we boarded the ship. Several excursions were sold out !! Fortunately for us, there was a travel guide on board, and we were able , with her help and detailed knowledge, to make indepenant shore excursions at a fraction of the cost of the ships' excursions. So, I urge you to take such independant trips. They are better value and much more fun, and give you much more time on shore. You need to be aware of your journey times and give extra time for local transport, but we found no problems. Here are a few examples: PIRAEUS / Athens/ Acropolis excursion: Get off the ship and walk to the metro green line in Piraeus (20 mins or get a taxi 5 mins). Take the metro for 7 stops to the Acropolis stop on the GREEN LINE (couple of euros per person/ 4 dollars each way). 12 Euros/18 dollars admission to the Acropolis. Compare this with $74 per person from the ship. It is uphill to the Acropolis from the metro, about 20 minutes steady walk. It is NOT for the infirm, but we pushed a buggy up the hill with no problem for 30 minutes. MYKANOS Walk off the ship, don't take tours! It is too small an island to make an excursion worth it unless you want to go sightseeing. SPLIT (Croatia) Again, walk off the ship. Don't take tours unless you want to go into the countryside. There are City Tour buses at the port which are much cheaper and just as informative SANTORINI Do it yourself! A cable car takes you from the tendered docking to Fira (or Thira as its called). 4 Euros/6 dollars per person each way. We also took a local bus from Fira to OIA , which is a very picturesque and beautiful town. The buses run every 30 minutes, and costs 1.4 Euros/2 dollars per person each way. Compare this to $69 per person shore excursion from the ship. Many of the people from our ship did this trip independantly, just to give you a warm feeling! KATAKALON (for Olympia) There is a train that leaves the port for Olympia every 30 minutes, and takes about 1 hour to get there. We were advised against this because the trains can be cancelled any time, leaving you stranded. So for this trip, we took the shore excursion from onboard. It was pricey , but worth the money. Disappointing that the last 30 minutes of this trip was spent in a gift shop , when we could have spent much more time on the Olympia site and museum. The museum is excellent, and I am not a particularly "museum" person. KUDASKI (for Ephesus) Yet again, another trip that could have been done independantly by taxi. We took the shore excursion. We took the afternoon trip, and I have to say it was exceptionally hot. However, there were very few people around and we took some excellent pictures. We were told that during the morning when it was cooler, the place was packed. Don't miss Ephesus and take in the fact you are walking through an excavation site that is 2000 years old! Stock up with water before you enter the site. A second excursion finished with a carpet demonstration which should have lasted 1 hour. Every single person on the tour declined and went back to the ship which was within walking distance. This was the EPHESUS trip ISTANBUL Great visit to the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazarre. Wished we had done this on our own too! Not enough time to explore using the ships excursion, as they take you to a carpet shop, with a big sell. It is supposed to be a demonstration. Don't get me wrong, the carpets were gorgeous and an excellent value. All in all, a great experience. We all fealt deflated when we arrived home, and I think that sums it up . Celebrity, eat your heart out! Overall, I gave this 9.9 out of 10 . Well done Holland America! Bearing in mind, we had 4 adults and one 20 month old to satisy, it was our best cruise for some time.

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Aug 16, 2009

Eastern Mediterranean

We thoroughly enjoyed our recent experience aboard the ms Oosterdam cruising the Eastern Mediterranean. We are no strangers to cruises; this is the eighth time we have traveled by ship, once before on Holland America. The ship was spotlessly clean and much less shop-worn than some ships we've sailed on. The itinerary was excellent, and the crew members were unfailingly friendly. We especially loved Kadek, a young man from Bali who mostly worked on

the Lido deck. He knew our names by the second day, and he always greeted us with a cheerful hello whenever he saw us. We also had the best-ever cabin steward. The captain was wonderful; he was the most accessible captain of any ship we've sailed on. One of the highlights of the cruise was the captain's cooking demonstration--very cool and certainly not something a lot of captains do! The captain must also be highly commended for turning back to Turkey to get two crew members to the hospital when they were injured during the night. It made us a little late to our next port of call, but we support the captain's decision and give him the highest possible praise for keeping things in the correct perspective--preservation of life and health over pleasing the passengers. The food aboard the Oosterdam was outstanding. We have eaten quite a bit of cruise ship food over the years, and it has all been good. However, the food on this cruise was beyond expectations. My husband couldn't get over the seven different kinds of Eggs Benedict on the Lido deck. I thought the waffles were dynamite. We frequently made a trip through the Lido in the afternoon for my husband to get a dish of soft-serve ice cream--another item he couldn't get enough of. I loved the homemade and really delicious cookies available every day on the Lido, but I'm the original Cookie Monster. The burger stand was great, and the taco bar was a welcome shot of Tex-Mex to these two Texans. We signed up for the open seating dining for the first time on this cruise, and we loved it. We only had to wait to be seated once, and that was because we arrived at the dining room just after the first show had dismissed--an error in timing on our part. We met so many nice people and enjoyed conversing with them immensely. I was only disappointed with my dinner on two occasions, and again, that was my fault, and not the food's. I just didn't make wise choices those two nights. We dined one night in the Pinnacle Grill and found it to be amazing. The food and service were absolutely impeccable. Our stateroom was a very nice inside cabin on Deck 7. It was quiet and roomy with a nice little fridge. We had plenty of storage space, some of which I didn't even discover until the last day of the cruise! As I mentioned, our cabin steward was wonderful. We loved the cute towel animals, and it was always a treat to get back from dinner and the show to see what critter awaited us. The bed was extremely comfortable, and the bathroom was quite roomy. My only suggestion would be the addition of a comfortable chair. Our only chair wasn't too great. We loved the cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center. Chef Sheldon was awesome--so fun and relaxed. Mary provided recipes for us so we could recreate the dishes at home, and we enjoyed the samples immensely. The captain's cooking demonstration was a rare treat. Holland America offers many more shipboard activities than some lines, so much so that some days I couldn't do all the things I wanted to do. The entertainment on board was good, though not as flashy as some ships we've sailed on before. We didn't care for the soloist on board, and I thought the new "Garage Band" show was a bit offensive and too risque. The illusionist was excellent, and Katzenjammer--four hands on one piano--was awesome. Another reviewer has criticized the Mamma Mia sing-along, but we thought it was fun and appropriate since we were sailing in the Greek Isles. We really enjoyed the afternoon teas we attended as well. And the disembarkation talk, usually not a fun-filled event, was absolutely hilarious because of the excellent Cruise Director. We did not frequent the bars or dance clubs, so I really cannot address their quality. We took three shore excursions--one in Istanbul, one in Ephesus, and one in Katakolon. Don't miss Ephesus. There are several shore excursion choices depending on how much you want to see. We chose the Ephesus and House of the Virgin Mary excursion. Mary's house was sweet and shady and very serene. Although crowded, everyone was quiet and respectful. Ephesus was very hot, but what an awesome place! It really made biblical history come alive to actually see the location of parts of the New Testament. Our guide was fabulous--so knowledgeable. I think some sort of guided tour is a must at Ephesus, or you wouldn't really understand all that you are seeing. Friends on the ship also recommended going to the Terrace Houses at Ephesus. My only suggestion for the Ephesus excursion would be that it should include some complimentary water. Many shore excursions in Mexico and other hot destinations do include a bottle of water or a soda or something. That would have been a very welcome addition. The Ancient Olympia shore excursion was great, too. Because of the distance from Katakolon to Olympia, I think it would be more difficult do Olympia on your own. Again, our guide was excellent and very knowledgeable. Without her, Olympia might have just looked like some piles of rocks. There is some welcome shade at Olympia, as well as nice restroom facilities. We booked the Panoramic Istanbul trip, and I think we might have done better with the longer excursion that day. I felt like I didn't get to see enough of Istanbul. My suggestion would be to make that excursion about an hour longer and include St. Sophia. We didn't get into Istanbul early enough on our overnight stay to make it to St. Sophia before it closed, and I felt a little cheated that I missed it. We probably could have done Istanbul on our own since there is a decent train and tram system, and that might have been a better choice. One of the ship's officers advised me during a chance meeting in the elevator to walk up the hill from the dock area to Taksim Square. I don't think we made it all the way to the square, but we thoroughly enjoyed the walk up to that general area. We appreciated his suggestion very much. We did Venice independently, and we toured Athens with new-found friends from the ship. Athens was easy to do because of the excellent, if crowded, Metro train from Piraeus to the city center. A lovely young Greek gentleman advised us of the stop we needed to take to visit the Acropolis. We also toured Mykonos and Santorini on our own, as we felt that no shore excursion was really necessary. This trip definitely fits into the "once in a lifetime" category, much like our trip to Australia and New Zealand. I would highly recommend the Oosterdam, Holland America, and Captain van der Loo. We had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute. It is easy to become jaded and critical and focus on the little things that were wrong on a trip, but I think you've missed the point of travel if you do that. There will always be some complications or some little details that weren't exactly as you hoped. I found very, very few of these details on this trip--it was wonderful in every respect. I loved Holland America to Alaska on the old Nieuw Amsterdam, and I loved the Eastern Mediterranean on the Oosterdam. We will definitely sail with HAL again--many more times, I hope!

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By Kris_CR

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Jul 15, 2009

Mediterranean

We traveled from Venice to Barcelona through the Greek Islands. We went to some wonderful ports of call but had our trip marred by horrible Holland America customer service. Our cabin was flooded, and the front desk people would not address the problem. Numerous errors were made with billing, dinner reservations, and movie showings. Holland America management was patronizing and dismissive. We will never travel with them again. (Our best so

far was Princess) However, I highly recommend the area- great things to see. In the Vista Dining Room, the service was slow and the food not as described on the menu. In the self-service Lido restaurant, the food was quite good with great variety. The stateroom would have been nice if the floor was not sopping wet when we arrived. Multiple calls received no response. We had to wear shoes in the cabin and walk on the luggage mats for three days until the floor dried on its own. Our steward was good and very friendly. Unfortunately, that did not make up for the disgusting exposure to who-knows-what on the floor. There seemed to be a good variety of activities. We enjoyed the screening room to see a different movie daily until the shipboard announcements cut out the movie sound but did not pause the movie for 5-10 minutes at a time. Trivia was fun. Some of the evening acts were quite good, and there were many different ones throughout the cruise. Venice, Italy is always wonderful. Get a water bus day pass to go anywhere including Murano (for glass), Burano (adorably scenic), and down the Grand Canal at night. Dubrovnik, Croatia is a typical Mediterranean city with a nice Old Town and water views with some swimming accessibility. Kefalonia, Greece was much like Corfu. Our excursion to Lake Melissani was disappointing as the lake is very tiny and there is a long wait to take the boat across it. Santorini, Greece was my favorite port with wonderful white-washed towns perched on the top of a caldera. The shore excursion to Oia is well worth the trip. Be prepared to take a tender then cable car (not very scary) or donkey ride to Fira (entry town). Catania, Sicily was crowded and difficult to navigate but had some interesting things. Naples, Italy did not have much but Pompeii is a must-see and truly amazing. We took an excursion and went through Viator with good results. Civitavecchia, Italy had not much of its own for tourists. Rome is a hefty drive usually blocked by traffic and protests. Consider the train which has a combo pass for Rome transit (purchased at the tourist info center at the port entrance). Rome is always a great place to sepnd some time with a combo of history and modern. Livorno, Italy is the port for Florence which is a beautiful place full of great art. Livorno is also a good place to start a shore excursion for Cinque Terre whihc is unique and beautiful along the water. Barcelona, Spain was a nice surprise with amazing architecture. Gaudi must be experienced. Just beware of greasy food and don't even brush your teeth with the tap water. Overall, loved the ports but very disappointed and upset by horrible dealings with Holland America.

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Oct 11, 2008

Mexican Riviera

The overall experience was far below expectatation. Our cabin contained a table but no chairs when we deployed. The ice machines constantly ran out of ice and the wait staff appeared to care less. Coffee machines dispensed water instead of coffee because the staff forgot to refill the coffee. Our pirate ship excursion in Cabo was very disappointing. The practice "abandon ship" drill for the crew was hilarious. The pilot of the #2 life boat had

to be rescued and replaced as he attempted to return the boat to the ship at least 15 times however he kept crashing into the ship and eventually broke the boats windshield by ramming into a steel hoist. The food was not tasty at all, the steaks were tough and the lobsters were tiny. We sat with a woman in a sweat shirt on formal night. The rules were not enforced. I could not recommend Holland America to anyone. Steak was tough and had a funny taste to it. The ice cream bar was great as was the omlette bar in the AM. The little hamburger/bratwurst stand was terrific. The Lido restaurant area was constantly running out of coffee and ice and the staff stood around waiting to clean tables rather than refilling the coffee and juice machines or assuring enough ice was available. Very nice other than the fact we had no chairs in our room until the second day of the cruise. We also had to request soap and shampoo several times from our cabin steward before we got it. The room itself was large, 294 sq ft, and we had a nice verandah. The bed was very comfortable. We had a handicap room which meant no tub, just a shower and that was absolutely great. The shower head was a pulsating one which I particurily liked. Storage was ample. The magic show was great and the comedian was okay as well. We did not get to have a tour of the kitchen area or the ships control center as we have had on previous cruises. That may be the result of worldwide terrorism concerns. The casino was nicely arranged with plenty of slots and table games available. The lounges did close rather early but being non drinkers that didn't bother us too much. I would suggest you book the excursions on board the ship as they are subject to change and/or cancellation. Our pirate ship adventure was much less than advertised including the name of the pirate ship and less than pirate-like crew of four. The waters were murky and chilly for snorkling probably as a reslult of two nearby hurricanes. The pirate ship could not retrieve the anchor all the way so we drifted around in circles and almost hit the Norwegian Star Cruise ship with the masts of our pirate ship. The Mexican Coast Gaurd arrived and told the head pirate to get away from the cruise ship-- which we did before our mast punctured their vessel. Good points: ease of boarding and exiting the ship once we returned home. The verandah cabin was large, the bed was comfortable and the shower was nice. Ice cream and desert bar were very good. The open seating aspect was very nice. You could reserve a time anywhere from 5:30 until 8:00 or so or you could just walk up request a table and not have to wait more than a vew minutes to get one. We were not locked into the early seating or the late seating so we could take our time and eat when we wished.Bad points: The Lido dining area had limited seating available. Seems they were always closing sections so they could set up for the officers and crew dining or setting up for lunch or dinner meal. The wait staff was unconcerned about your welfare in the Lido dining area. It was every person for themselves. We almost never could get ice from the ice machine nor coffee from the coffee dispensers. I believe our next cruise will be in the spring, rather than the fall, it will be in the Caribbean and will definitely not be on Holland American Lines. We will return to Royal Caribbean.

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By Dan _CR

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Oct 6, 2007

Mexico

10 Tips You Need to Know About the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera Cruise Overall.  For us, any cruise is a spectacular and wonderful experience.  We really enjoyed the food, service, cabin, ship, entertainment and ports on this cruise.  If you are considering this cruise – go!  This was our 3rd cruise and our first with HAL.  We have also cruised with RCL and Princess.  We did this same itinerary last year on the Diamond Princess. 

This cruise on the Oosterdam left from San Diego and made stops in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta and then back to San Diego. This was our first cruise in a Suite.  Our 3 cruises have been in an ocean view cabin, a balcony and now this suite.  The suite was by far the largest cabin we have experienced.  Overall, we were just as happy with the balcony and will probably stick to balcony cabins on future cruises unless the suite price is close to the balcony price Now that we’ve taken a few cruises, we have points of reference to compare our experiences.  We were expecting HAL to be a notch above RCL and Princess since they are a “premium” cruise line.  This was a great cruise, but we would rank our RCL and Princess cruises as slightly better than this HAL cruise.  There were a number of minor issues, but nothing interfered with our complete enjoyment and relaxation during this cruise.  We’ve made notes of our minor issues in the sections below.    AIRPORT TO CRUISE TERMINAL.  Our flight arrived at the San Diego airport.  This was a chartered cruise and the travel agency had arranged transfers to the pier for most passengers.  After getting our bags at the airport, we were informed that there would be a long wait for the group shuttles to the pier.  We opted to take a short taxi ride to the pier rather than wait with the crowd at the airport.  We also took a cab back to the airport at the end of the cruise.  Cab fare from the airport to the pier is cheap – about $10 and about a 10 minute ride. TIP 1: Save money on transfers and just take a cab if you need to get from the San Diego airport to the pier for a cruise – it is quick and cheap! CRUISE TERMINAL.  We arrived at the dock at about 1 PM, and there was a small line waiting to check baggage outside the cruise terminal.  You drop your bags outside in the parking lot before you enter the cruise terminal – we started to take our bags with us into the terminal and had to do an about face to drop them off.  We then entered the cruise terminal and were pleased to find very short lines through the security check point.  We moved quickly through security and then found ourselves in a much longer line to get to the HAL check in counters.  Even so, the wait was less than 30 minutes to the counter.  We had done the online check in and had our HAL pre-boarding passes, so we were shuttled to the shorter line.  Those without their pre-boarding passes had to wait in the longer lines.  TIP 2: Have your passport & HAL online pre-boarding passes when you arrive at the terminal and you’ll get onboard quicker! CABIN.  By 2 PM we were onboard and found our cabin was ready.  We dropped our carry on bags in the cabin and headed to the Lido Buffet and then on to exploration of our new home for the week.  Our suite was SS8082 on the Navigation deck.  This is the highest deck with cabins on the ship.  The suite is very large.  The bathroom is spacious with 2 sinks, a full-size jetted bathtub and a separate shower.  There is a large queen bed with 6 pillows – 2 each of soft, medium and hard pillows.  We loved the extra pillows.  There was also a sofa, plenty of drawers and closet space and a very large verandah.  The verandah included a small table and chairs for eating or drinks plus 2 comfortable cushioned chairs with ottomans.  We love having a balcony and will select a balcony cabin for future cruises.  We’re not as convinced on the suite.  The 2 advantages of the suite compared to a balcony are the bathtub and the extra storage space.  We brought plenty with us, but there was so much room, we didn’t use all the storage space provided. TIP 3: If you can live without a bathtub and a lot of extra storage space, save some money and reserve a balcony cabin.  If you love a nice bath – then spring for the suite on this ship! SAN DIEGO.  Since we arrived & boarded fairly early we had time to explore the exterior decks and take in the views from onboard ship in the harbor.  To the south of the ship, we could see the docked USS Midway & museum.  While in port there were a few air force jets that screamed over the harbor – what a thrill!  On the north side, we could see Star of India (the world’s oldest active ship) and the B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine museum.  There were boats and activity all around the harbor next to the cruise terminal.  We also noticed that there is a Holiday Inn at the Bay straight across the street from the cruise terminal.  TIP 4: If you can add a day before or after your cruise, stay at the Holiday Inn at the Bay.  You can WALK from the hotel to the cruise terminal and there are an incredible variety of inviting activities and restaurants right at your doorstep!  WINE & SPIRITS ONBOARD.  We had read online that HAL sells wine cards for house wine during the cruise.  We like wine, so we wanted to taste the house wine.  The house Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were all fine for Dan but the house White Zinfandel was not as good for Janean.  We bought a wine card for Dan and opted to buy wine by the bottle and glass for Janean.  We had to ask 4 servers before we found someone with a wine card we could buy.  The servers seemed less than excited about selling the wine cards, but the card worked nicely once we found it and it saved us money.  The house selections are limited and may not work for you, but if you can find a house wine, it will only cost about $4 per glass with the wine card (compared to $40-60 plus for a bottle or $6-10 plus for wine by the glass).  On day 1, we also had an enthusiastic server sell us a cocktail card for discounted cocktails.  He was persuasive and fun, so we bought a card.  The cocktail card was a little more frustrating to use.  HAL has a limited definition for “cocktails”.  If you don’t order a specific “foo-foo” drink, your drink won’t work with the cocktail card.  Dan likes a bourbon and water after dinner, but that is not a “cocktail” on the Oosterdam.  We had to resort to asking for a whisky-sour, but “hold the sour and add water instead” to be able to use the card.  The servers were put out and pretty rigid about what could and couldn’t be ordered with the cocktail card.  The cocktail card cost is about $5 per drink, which can be lower than the $5-$8 price per cocktail depending upon what you order.  TIP 5: If you drink wine or spirits, wait until you are on the ship and taste the house wine or confirm that your preferred drink is on the “cocktail” list.  The cards can save you money, but make sure you like what you can order with the cards before you buy the card. THE SHIP.  The Oosterdam has 936 cabins and will accommodate 1848 guests.  It is easy to find your way around this ship.  We really liked the 4 glass elevators which are mid-ship – a pair on the starboard and another pair on the port side.  The glass elevators seemed to be less busy also.  The Lido Buffet takes up most of the Lido deck.  You can’t miss it once you’re on the Lido deck.  The Vista Dining for dinners is aft and again, once you get aft and on the right deck – you can’t miss it.  The Promenade deck has a deck that completely encircles the ship.  It is a pleasant way to walk off some of those big meals!  Three laps around the ship equals one mile.  We very much enjoyed the upper observation deck.  You can sit in the hot tub, lie in a lounge or Adirondack chair or kick back with a drink at a table.  Dan particularly enjoyed the wide-angle view of the sea and the horizon off the aft observation deck – the wake view from the rear of the ship is amazing.  TIP 6: Take an exploration stroll around the public areas of the ship during the day and find a great window seat for ocean viewing - there are many choice seats in the empty bars with great views of the ocean. Related to the ship, there were a few issues.  We noticed stray “sewer” smells around different parts of the ship and at different times of the day.  We haven’t noticed unpleasant odors on the other cruises we’ve taken, but we had at least 2-3 encounters with this unpleasant odor every day while on the Oosterdam.  Also, our dinner companions had a plumbing problem during the cruise.  We’re not sure what happened or what caused the problem, but a number of cabins were without water for several hours on one day during the cruise.  The A/C didn’t keep up with the heat while docked in Puerto Vallarta.  The Oosterdam uses ocean water to help cool the ship.  While we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, the ship’s temperature rose into the 80s everywhere onboard.  It hit the crew of the ship hardest – they had been in the cool Alaskan climate all summer – this was their first cruise of the season to Mexico.  The afternoon and evening in Puerto Vallarta were uncomfortably warm everywhere on the ship making passengers and crew pretty uncomfortable. ENTERTAINMENT.  Showtime with Joel Mason is a tribute/comedy act to Elton John and he is AMAZING!  The Romanian Tempo String Quartet in the Explorer’s Lounge was wonderful!  The karaoke competition on this cruise was incredible.  Most of the participants had already cut CDs of their own music.  We would have paid to see most of the karaoke performers at their own shows!  The Broadway shows (A Rock & Roll tribute & An Island Music tribute) were ok.  The comedienne Julie Barr was funny.  The piano player in the Piano Bar didn’t keep us in the Piano Bar (which is unusual for us – we love piano players).  We missed the magic show and the piano player in the Crow’s nest.  TIP 7: Do NOT miss the Showtime with Joel Mason - Elton John show! DINING.  HAL is still pretty traditional.  We prefer the anytime dining options and less formal attire.  We were stuck with 5:30 PM early seating and missed dinner 3 times on this cruise due to the early start time.  We prefer less formal attire for dining options – which are very limited on this ship.  Men are asked to wear a suit or tux for the 2 formal nights and a coat to dinner ALL other nights on this 7 day cruise.  According to HAL policy, if you’re not in a coat, your only other dining option is the buffet or room service.  Thankfully, reality onboard is much different than the written HAL dress code.  Most fellow cruisers were less formally dressed than we were – and BRAVO to them!  HAL should loosen the written dress code because reality is much less formal than their dress code states.  We would have packed much lighter and enjoyed the cruise more if we had known that the dress code is not really that formal.  TIP 8:  If you prefer informal, you can pack lighter and dress less formally than HAL requests – long pants and a button up shirt are the only real requirement for men – even on formal dining nights.  VISTA DINING ROOM.  The food was spectacular and the dining room service was great!  There was one minor annoyance at dinner.  Dan used his discount wine card to order wine with our dinners.  He received more than one lecture and scowl, complete with cringed nose about drinking the “cheap” wine when he used his wine card at dinner.  Yes, the house wine costs less with the card and isn’t as good as the $10 per glass vintages, but it was very acceptable to Dan.  We’re guessing that the wine stewards may be paid a commission on their wine/spirits sales.  Whether that is the case or not, the service shouldn’t be based on the price of the wine.  Dinners would have been more enjoyable if the wine steward had pleasantly served the house wine & wished him bon appétit.  LIDO BUFFET.  The food and service were great.  It can be hard to find a seat at times.  Janean loved the fresh garlic on the dishes at the pasta bar.  Dan is an ice cream freak – he attacked the ice cream bar often.  He also loved the dessert cheese plates. There is a stand-out food server onboard & if you’re lucky you’ll have him at your dinner table.  But, if not, he is also at the Lido Buffet for breakfast and lunch to greet EVERYONE.  His name is Hunky Dory (sing it when you say it!) and everyone on this cruise knows who he is!  By day 2 Hunky Dory knew our names and greeted us by name every day the rest of the cruise.  He was calling all the guests by their first name.  What a fun & amazing young man – he personalized the service and made dining an experience!  CABO.  We took the Todos Santos (Hotel California) shore excursion.  We recommend avoiding this shore excursion for the next several months.  There is significant highway construction north of Cabo on Highway 19.  The 42 mile drive took about 2.5 hours each way.  We’re not sure when the construction will be finished but any shore excursions that go north of Cabo will head right into the heart of the construction.  We spent about 5 hours on the bus and barely over an hour in Todos Santos.  The drive up the peninsula was pretty – but that is too much bus time for us.  Also, Hotel California was hardly accessible on the tour – they weren’t quite ready for the tourist season.  The shore excursion season had just started, but this trip was a bust for us. Tip 9: If you don’t like to spend precious shore excursion time on a bus, avoid road trips and excursions heading north of Cabo until highway 19 construction is done.  MAZATLAN.  We took the Copala/Concordia shore excursion.  The brick making stop is an interesting and informal stop on the side of the road to watch an adobe brick making demonstration.  It will make you appreciate your job – whatever it is!  The man making the bricks had a 6-pack of muscles - on his back! The furniture/pottery making was a little disappointing.  The bus stops at the “furniture factory” which is really a souvenir shopping stop.  They have the power tools and there is actual woodworking being done, but it’s a stop to sell you their stuff.  The wooden rolling pin we bought split within days after we returned home.  We’re glad we didn’t shell out more money for anything else at this stop.  In Concordia, there is a laid back pueblo and a 16th century cathedral but not much time to explore.  Copala is the highlight of the trip.  It is a 16th century gold & silver mining pueblo, now home to 900 people complete with cobblestone roads, donkeys, a small art gallery, a cathedral and a great Mexican lunch buffet.  The surrounding jungle mountains are gorgeous.  It was a beautiful setting and a fun shore excursion for us. TIP 10: The jewelry at the informal brick making stop was the lowest priced jewelry we found on all of our Mexico stops – if you want some inexpensive jewelry buy it where you see the brick making demonstration.  PUERTO VALLARTA.  We had planned on the Yelapa/Majahuitas catamaran shore excursion.  The brochure said that we would have access to 2 private beaches on this trip.  Fortunately, we read the cards about the shore excursion that were left in our cabin.  We discovered that there was “no beach access” on this trip.  This was the Oosterdam’s first trip to Mexico of the season.  It appears they hadn’t worked out the kinks yet.  The revised excursion would have had us on the catamaran all day in the hot sun with only kayaks and snorkeling allowed when we stopped – no beach access.  The front desk told us we would be charged 10% for canceling.  We appealed based on the change from what was printed in the brochure.  It was fairly frustrating having to show them their own brochure and explain what had changed.  To their credit, they did cancel and did not charge us the 10% fee.  We made up our own excursion.  We took a 30 minute cab south to the El Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, had lunch next to the beach, used their secluded beach, had massages on the beachfront, saw 2 turtles hatch, swam in the ocean with a couple of manta rays and had a wonderful time.  All told, we spent about the same including massages as we would have on the catamaran excursion.  We were happy that we changed our plans. DISEMBARKATION.  We were in the last group to disembark.  We were off the ship by about 11 AM.  We did cut our flight a little close as the process took longer than we had expected, but fortunately the airport is close to the cruise terminal.      

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May 19, 2007

Alaska

This was our third cruise to Alaska, each time with Holland America. We’ve also traveled with both Princess and NCL, but have previously been so happy with HAL’s cruises to Alaska (on the Volendam and the Statendam) we keep coming back to them. We’d noticed a slight deterioration in the very high standard of food between our first and second cruises; also more than a hint of “upselling” on board, so were interested to see how things

had developed since 2005. This was also our first cruise on one of HAL’s new “Vista” class ships. In the week previous to this cruise we’d joined the “Amsterdam” for a three night repositioned from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Some of the crew had previously served on board the “Oosterdam”, and told us the Vista class ships were somewhat impersonal because of their size. We were thus quite curious when we headed towards Seattle’s Pier 30 in our hotel’s courtesy bus. Just an aside in relation to accommodation in Seattle – if your hotel offers a courtesy shuttle, make sure they’ll take you to the correct pier. HAL and Princess operate from Pier 30, which is south of the downtown area, while the other cruise lines operate from Pier 66, which is north of downtown – it’s quite a big distance between the two piers. We were staying at the Silver Cloud “Stadium” Hotel, which is across the street from Safeco Field – an ideal location if leaving from Pier 30. Even from a distance the Oosterdam was noticeably bigger and more modern-looking than her older sisters. That being said, she was docked next to the “Golden Princess” which is larger still. Call it a matter of taste, but the stern of the “Golden Princess” looks like she’s backed into something – hard. The terminal at Pier 30 is basically a VERY large tent, divided between Princess and Holland America. It’s quite well set up, though a little drafty on a cool, windy day such as the one we encountered. I cannot stress enough how much time and hassle is saved by checking in on-line in the weeks prior to departure. That way, all you need to do is hand over your online checking printout (which HAL also have on their computer), your cruise tickets, your credit card authorization slip, and fill in a brief health questionnaire. After handing our luggage over, we stood in the queue for no more than five minutes before being greeted with the warm and friendly smile of our HAL checking agent. About four minutes after that, we were heading for the waiting area, room key-cards in hand – it was that quick. The terminal’s pretty sparse – basic chairs, restrooms and a Holland-America waiter handing out cups of water. There’re are also a couple of vending machines, and that’s about it. Once boarding was called, the queue started to move quickly through the terminal…then came to a grinding halt. The reason? As everyone filed through, there was a photographer taking the obligatory pre-boarding photos, which meant that everyone had to stop for a minute or two. One suggestion might be to have an optional line for those who DON’T want a photo taken at this point. Given it was no more than 50F in the terminal, everyone was pretty keen to get on board ASAP. Once on the gangway, everyone was required to wash their hands in disinfectant. I lost count of the number of times I did this over the next week – personally, I haven’t a problem with this, particularly given the horror stories that one hears from time to time. In fact, one of the Princess ships was rumored to have been quarantined for a couple of days in Ketchikan at around the same time we were in Alaska, so it just shows you can’t be too careful. Once aboard, we were immediately struck (yet again) by the genuine warmth and friendliness of Holland-America’s crews. They really are a great asset to the company. No matter how good a ship is, or how good the food is, the quality of the crews are what makes or breaks your cruise experience. All passengers were directed to the main dining room – this is a little different to their normal practice of providing lunch in the Lido buffet, but seemed to work quite well. We were seated with another couple, who were experiencing their first-ever cruise. Goes without saying that within moments of boarding the Oosterdam they were sitting down to a VERY nice lunch, and were most impressed! We wound up having a great lunch together, and saw quite a bit of each other during the cruise. In no time at all the announcement was made that our cabins were ready, so off we went. We’d splashed out on a balcony – always a bit of a punt on an Alaskan cruise, given the uncertainty of the weather, but a great bonus as it turned out. Our luggage arrived within an hour or so, and not long after that came lifeboat drill. At this point I’d like to be completely NON-diplomatic, and state that I really, really hope to never have to take to a lifeboat for real. Many of our fellow passengers were either late for the drill, weren’t wearing their lifejackets as they’d been directed a million times, or talked incessantly amongst each other during the lifeboat drill. This “it couldn’t possibly happen to me” mentality is the kind of thing that gets people into serious trouble when there’s an actual emergency. Once underway – on time I might add, and with the Golden Princess leaving dock late in our wake – it became rainy and decidedly cold out on deck. We retreated, as did many others, to the warmth of the Lido Buffet for a cup of coffee. It was pretty crowded – a common occurrence as it turned out. However, if you don’t mind sharing a table with strangers, you can find a spot pretty quickly – plus it’s a great way of meeting people. The selection of food in the Lido throughout the cruise was uniformly excellent, no matter what your tastes run to. We love fresh fruit and salads, and were never disappointed. I’m sure there were passengers on board who ate at the Lido for every meal, and would’ve been very happy for the whole week. A word at this point about “freestyle dining” vs “set dining times”. We’ve experienced both, and are firm believers in the latter. Our one experience with freestyle dining saw us queue for ages just to get a table – give me a guaranteed table any time. I can’t speak for other cruise lines, but Holland-America have become more flexible by giving you an hour in which you have to make your appearance at your dining table. We went for late sitting, as we normally do, and had to show up at our table between 8 and 9 pm. There were some on board who wanted to change from early to late, and vice versa, and as far as I’m aware their wishes were accommodated. The two alternatives are the Lido buffet, or the up market Pinnacle Grill. There’s a small surcharge at the Pinnacle – we’d experienced it on the Volendam, and were mightily impressed. We didn’t feel the need this time around, with one of the main reasons being our dinner companions. We’d been allocated to a table for four – the other couple were from California, and couldn’t have been more enjoyable to be with for the week. After a couple of days, we made it a habit to join them for pre-dinner drinks in the Crows Nest bar before heading to the main restaurant – very civilized! On one occasion (Juneau) they bought a sample pack of beer from the Alaskan Brewing Company to share with us, so we had a little beer-tasting with them in our cabin before dinner, complete with fruit and cheese platters provided – quickly and free of charge – by room service. I mentioned at the start of this article that we felt the standard of food had gone down somewhat between our first two cruises. We think that Holland-America have picked their standards up again – the menu every evening was a wealth of temptation, with food to suit all tastes. The amounts were just right, and always beautifully presented. We’re great fans of seafood, and Alaskan seafood is as good as you’ll find anywhere. Hard to pick a favorite, but the halibut possibly wins by a nose. More salmon than you’d believe, as well as Alaskan King Crab, lobster tails, Dungeness Crab etc. The service, of course was fabulous, with our waiters Arie and Dwi attending to our every need. They ALWAYS remembered particular requests, and went out of their way to make every mealtime special. Our drinks waiter, Thomas, was equally friendly and efficient, and very knowledgeable as well. A word now about our itinerary. Seattle-Juneau-Hubbard Glacier-Sitka-Ketchikan-Victoria-Seattle. We deliberately chose this route as we’d never experienced Sitka or Hubbard Glacier before – and we’re very glad we did. The cruises out of Seattle DON’T go up the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland. Instead, they proceed up the west coast of Vancouver Island. This is well and truly open ocean, as we found out on the first night. Once clear of Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca, things became quite rough. This was around midnight or so, and continued into the early hours. Our cabin, 4033, was on the starboard side forward, around a dozen cabins from the bow (just above the “m” in “America” on the “Holland America Line” logo on the side of the ship, if you care to look!). The movement was quite noticeable during this stage, making it very difficult to sleep. Neither of us suffer from seasickness – it was just that the bed dropping every few seconds kept us awake! In all fairness it was quite rough, and we didn’t experience anything like this again during the cruise. The cabin itself was very cozy and comfortable, with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, and our suitcases fitted nicely under the bed. There were the usual touches, such as bathrobes, flat screen TV with DVD player, a safe etc. The hair dryer was in the main cabin, as opposed to the bathroom – my “better half” was unconvinced as to this being an improvement or not, though it got my vote when we were getting ready for one of the two formal nights. Our cabin attendant, Badroum, was efficiency itself, as well as adorning the bed with “towel animals” in the evening. About the only negative I can think of was the inconsistent cabin temperature, which seemed to bear little relevance to the thermostat on the wall. The bed was EXTREMELY comfortable. We’ve never heard any noise from another cabin on one of HAL’s ships, and this was no exception, even though we had an interconnecting door to the next cabin. There was a loud whistling noise from the balcony door when the ship was underway, which was quickly solved by locking the door. We arrived in Juneau on time, despite the rough weather enroute. This was the fourth time I’ve been to Juneau, and the first time the sun’s been shining! I’d pre-booked a photography tour prior to our leaving Australia, as well as booking a tour for the both of us for Sitka. The tickets were in our cabin when we boarded the ship, so this is definitely the way to go. Oosterdam was docked some way from the downtown area, with busses provided for a small fee. It was about a mile into town, so it was eminently walk able, particularly given the weather. I can highly recommend the photography tour in Juneau – it’s limited to just fifteen people due to the size of the boat involved, so book early. Our guide, Jim, was excellent – informative and friendly, as well as providing some good photography tips. You didn’t need to be serious photographer, nor need a top camera, to get great benefit and enjoyment out of this tour. A quick bus ride brought us to the marina at Auke Bay, where we boarded a small but comfortable boat. The boat’s windows were able to be swung out of the way when the boat was stopped to observe wildlife – we also able to get out in the open by the bow at the same time, so there were never any problems with being obstructed. The boat cruise itself took around three hours, and in that time we saw whales, sea lions, harbor seals and bald eagles, all in the most magnificent surroundings. After returning to the wharf, we were taken by bus to the Mendenhall Glacier, where there was the opportunity for a short trail walk. The bus then took us back towards town, where you could either go straight to the Oosterdam, or get out downtown and make your own way back to the ship. I chose the latter option – I needed to buy a new memory card for my camera – and enjoyed a nice walk in the sun back to the ship. A word about shopping in Juneau, indeed any of the towns on the cruise. You’ll find plenty of shops selling the usual stuff – T-shirts, caps, sweaters, fridge magnets etc etc, as well as the more expensive items like jewelry I won’t comment about whether any of these items are bargains or not – however, if you’re after something like camera accessories or even books, it pays to hunt around in the back streets. I discovered an excellent camera store in Juneau some blocks from the main street, with memory cards half the price. There was a great bookshop next door – I could’ve filled a suitcase just with books about Alaskan history and wildlife. Funnily enough, there were no – and I mean no – other cruise ship passengers in either of these stores, and this with four ships in port. We sailed just before sunset, and were treated to the sight of the beautiful scenery passing by in the dusk as we had dinner. The following day was when the balcony really proved its worth, as it was our day at Hubbard Glacier, and the weather was still beautiful. Unlike Glacier Bay which has four or so glaciers which the cruise ships can visit, Hubbard is just one BIG glacier. This may not have been the best time of year to visit, as there was still quite a bit of ice in the bay – I don’t think we got closer than four miles to the glacier. Those who visit later in the summer would have a better opportunity for seeing the glacier up close, as well as seeing any calving. Having said that, it’s still a very spectacular place. We spent most of the day out on our balcony, so we missed the Dutch pea soup on the main deck. My “better half” was kind enough to get me a large coffee from the Windstar café in the morning (available for a small fee, but worth it), and then also got us a tray of lunch from the Lido later on, which we enjoyed on the balcony while admiring the scenery. The air temperature, while cool, was alleviated by the warmth of the sun, and we only needed to put jackets on when the ship picked up speed leaving the bay. Late that afternoon was time for trivia in the Crow’s Nest bar, as the ship sailed south-east for Sitka, parallel to Alaska’s spectacular coastline. We lost count of the number of humpback whales we saw in this area. We arrived in Sitka early the next morning, to find it overcast and raining lightly. The rain stopped by around 9am, and this was the last rain we saw on the cruise. We’d booked the “Sea Otter Quest and Raptor Center” tour, and can’t recommend it highly enough. Sitka is one of the few ports requiring tenders to the shore – it seemed very well organized. Our tour boat picked us up directly from the ship, also well organized. The lower deck of the boat was enclosed, while the top deck was open at the back. We chose the top for the better view – it was cold, though not unbearably so. We were lucky enough to come across a “raft” of sea otters, maybe a hundred or so in number. A sight never to be forgotten, though more was to come. Our next stop was near a small island which had a pair of nesting bald eagles – spectacular. There were also quite a few seals in this area. As we were heading back towards Sitka, the boat’s captain spotted a humpback whale in the sound. To his – and our amazement – it was feeding, and repeatedly surfaced with mouth agape. This went on for some time, maybe half an hour. Everyone on board managed to get spectacular photos and video of this memorable sight, and we headed towards the Sitka marina very happy! There was a bus waiting for us, and we were at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center soon after. This is where injured eagles, hawks and owls are brought if they’ve been found hurt. Trust me, this was a real highlight, as after a brief introduction in a small auditorium, one of their resident bald eagles was brought out for us to admire. If you’ve never seen a bald eagle up close, you don’t know what you’ve missed – a truly awe-inspiring sight. Once again everyone left with spectacular photos. Our bus brought us back to town, where we were free to wander around town or go back to the ship. Sitka’s a very pretty town in all respects, and as the previous capital of Russian Alaska – as well as being the location of the signing of the Alaska Purchase - there’s plenty of history. Our dining  company went salmon fishing that day, and had great success. Next day was Ketchikan. We’d been there before, and had done a floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords National Monument – an absolute must. Our dining companions partook of the “zipline” tour, and had a great time. We had a look around, though there wasn’t much time as the ship was only docked from 7am till 1pm. I purchased a few items (underwear and socks!) from a department store – this was actually a cheaper option than getting them laundered on board. Newer ships don’t seem to have self-serve laundries on board, so you have to pay to have it done. While this may seem trivial to some, it makes a difference if you’re away on a long vacation with a cruise just a part of it. Those “at sea” days are just the time to catch up on the washing! There were also two Princess ships in Ketchikan at the time, so the streets were pretty crowded. As soon as we set sail, Oosterdam’s sister ship “Zuiderdam” took our place at the dock. Lunch was being served at this time around the Lido Pool. The roof over the pool was opened for the only time this cruise, as lunch included barbequed salmon steaks cooked on the spot, as well as crab legs, mussels, salads etc etc. If that doesn’t make your mouth water nothing will! It wasn’t until 5:30 the following afternoon that we were in port again, this time the lovely city of Victoria, capital city of British Columbia. Once again there were shuttle busses provided at the pier, and once again the system worked well. Our friends from the first day did the tour of Buchart Gardens – there was enough light for them to still see, and they said they had a great time. As we’d seen the Gardens before, we satisfied ourselves with walking around the very pleasant harbourside area and the main shopping streets. It was Friday night, so there was lots happening. Next day we were back in Seattle – we were picking up a rental car (I don’t mind giving a free plug to Thrifty here, as they’re the only rental company with a booth at the pier). We didn’t have to be off the ship until 9.30, so had enough time for a leisurely final breakfast at the Lido. Our bags were shore side as promised, and we were on our way to Thrifty. All in all the cruise was fabulous, with very few complaints. The “upselling” which I mentioned before doesn’t seem quite as strident as it was a couple of years ago. While one could purchase wine or spa packages, nobody actively pushed them too much in person. This didn’t stop the spa from leaving flyers for various deals in our “letterbox”. There was a certain irony in the spa touting their environmentally-friendly products, yet distributing a forest-worth’s of paper every day. The on-board entertainment was pretty good, and a definite improvement on what we experienced on the “Volendam” back in 1999. We didn’t go to the shows every night, but I don’t recall hearing any negative comments. There was also an on-board talent quest along the lines of “Idol”, and it was a must – not so much the talent, as for the very funny repartee between the judges. It really was entertainment in every sense. The cruise director and his staff were very good on the whole, with DJ Kerry deserving particular praise. The ship’s décor, while pleasant enough, was a bit glitzier and “colder” than normally found on Holland-America. Once again it’s a matter of taste – personally we prefer the slightly more old-fashioned and very dignified décor on their older ships. An example was the internet café – pretty functional with lots of chrome and glass. In comparison, the internet café on the Amterdam was incorporated in the library, with wooden desks, plush carpets and rows of books – plus the Java café was next door. Those with a love of nautical history should take a stroll through the corridors on Deck 5 – the walls were covered in framed black and white photos of previous Holland-America ships either under construction or in service. I wouldn’t have minded taking some of these photos home, to be honest! In summary, we’d recommend an Alaskan cruise to anyone, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Holland-America. They seem to be trying to appeal to a younger generation than before, and judging by the broad age group on board you’d have to say they’re succeeding. Their fleet varies in age and décor quite considerably, but in our experience you’ll always find a comfortable bed in a quiet cabin, great food to suit all tastes, and service beyond reproach. Will we back to Holland-America? Without a doubt!      

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Mar 17, 2007

Mexican Riviera

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. 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 Amsterdam 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 flat screen 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 flat screen 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 dog eared 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 high-speed 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 upper scale 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. 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.    

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Aug 26, 2006

Mexican Riviera

August 26, 2006 we started our week of fun and adventure. Upon arrival in Seattle, we found that because we registered on-line, that our processing time was cut in half. My 80 yr old mother, and 75 year old father were with me. Both had surgery last year and were unable to stand for long periods of time. Holland America Oosterdam crew made the process so easy, that we zoomed through the embarkation process in no time at all. The crew aboard

ship had prepared lunch and entertainment. The ship personnel were helpful and friendly. Kim, the shopping guru, gave us excellent deals on where and when to shop. Michelle, the Cruise director, provided awesome activities and entertainment for all ages. There were 120 kids on board, but we vary seldom saw them. We especially loved "DV8 Reality Magic" with Drew and Angela in the Vista Lounge, and "The 5 Seasons Band" that played in the Crow's Nest. You guys are Awesome. Our waiters Yogi and Aryo at table #201 in the Vista Dining Room, sang "Happy Anniversary" for my parents' 50th. On the 2nd night, they remembered my mother liked coffee before and during dinner. They remembered the minor details and made us feel special. The wait staff in the Lido Restaurant were also terrific. They were always helping my parents by carrying their food tray to their table. These guys were always smiling and laughing. It was amazing they could work so hard, yet be so happy. The housekeeping people did a great job. We were in room 1064 with a view. Our cabin boy provided towel animals for our entertainment. He made the couch into a bed at night, and back to a couch during the day. He was awesome. A word to Captain Mercer, "Thanks for the awesome weather, and the smooth sailing". In Hubbard Glacier we sailed through fog so thick you could not cut it with a knife, but you guided us through to paradise we found daylight and an excellent view of the Glaciers. Good job!!!! The port's of call excursions were great except for one. Please do not take the Craigdarroch Castle tour in Victoria. I think everyone on our bus was very disappointed with this tour. The tour was displayed as a #1-low activity tour, however, we had to walk two blocks to the Castle(in the dark), and you had to climb five flights of stairs to view the different rooms. Needless to say my 80 yr old mother made it to the castle, but was not able view anything but the gift shop. Don't waste your time.    

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May 6, 2006

Mexican Riviera

First cruise for my wife and I. Ms Oosterdam was a great introduction to cruising and the standard would be hard to match. The service and food were fantastic. The Filipino and Indonesian crew were great - friendly and does anything for you. Our cabin steward was great and the little extras like doing animal displays with towels were very clever. The Filipino drinks staff were great to us Aussies and we were sure to show them courtesy and

respect for the great job they did. They are so good at remembering names even in the streets of towns and cities when you may bump into them. The major negative of the cruise was the cost of photos taken - I made the comment on my survey that if they want people to buy them as memories then the price should be such that people would buy them. Captain Mercer was very considerate when we encountered rough seas and changed course that added time to our journey but gave a more comfortable trip. The shows were all very good including those performed by staff. Professional shows from a comedian, singer, juggler/magician were good also. With 1800 passengers instead of greater numbers on larger ships, things flowed quite smoothly at eating times except for problems with finding a seat in the Lido restaurant in peak times. The Pinnacle grill was fantastic but you should remember that on the first night of the cruise, the cover charge is only $10, not $20. Staff, food and service - Exceptional. The Vista restaurant was also great for food and service. The march of the baked Alaska on the final cruise night is a wonderful event. HAL introduced a change to their dining seating during the cruise. There was still early and late dining times but you were now able to arrive up to 30 minutes before the end of the session,  It was titled 'flexible dining'. The later times had less people dining and there was really no problem in missing the first sitting and just rolling up and asking for a table although for us it was just a table for two. What can I say - we enjoyed the ship and recommend it. I have no hesitation in recommending the ship and the line. As I said I only had one negative everything else was top notch. How I find a ship to match the Oosterdam I don't know but if I do, I would certainly cruise again.    

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Apr 15, 2006

Mexican Riviera

The embarkation process was very smooth and we were on the ship in a matter of minutes. This being my first time on a cruise, I was in awe from the second we boarded. The ship was appointed with beautiful artwork and the decor was amazing. We found our room with out any problems and were surprised to find our luggage in them as soon as we opened the door. After unpacking we headed up to the lido deck for some lunch before the muster drill.

Once again I was very impressed as the food was very tasty. Our first port of call was Cabo San Lucas. My girlfriend and I opted to head out on our own to see the city and do some shopping. We were really impressed with Cabo as it was a fun town with lots to do. Our priority while in Cabo was having lunch and drinks at the world famous Cabo Wabo. The food was awesome. There are pictures of rockstars all over the walls and the margaritas were to die for. Cabo was our favorite port of call. The next port we visited was Mazatlan. My first impression of Mazatlan wasn't very high. We docked in an industrial part of town and had to take a tram to the terminal where we were greeted by vendor after vendor trying to peddle their junk or get us to check out their timeshare. We beelined it for the first cab we saw and had him take us to Zona Dorado. We did a little shopping and and drinking and had enough. The last stop on the trip was Puerto Vallarta. We anchored up outside of the harbor and tendered in. We decided to check out one of the ship sponsored excursions, "Town, Country and Tequila." We had Jose (Pepe) as our tour guide and were immediately laughing once on board the a/c'd bus. Our tour guide took us downtown and showed us PV and delivered his commentary with a lot of comedy. After the tour of the city we headed up to the Dona Engracia Tequila Farm in the highlands above PV. The tequila farm was gorgeous and we were able to try some of the best tequila I have ever tasted all while learning about how tequila is made. After the tasting we had the opportunity to buy some tequila. Word of caution, the tequila is pretty pricey. 2 bottles of Reposado ran $100 usd. The tequila is definitely worth every dollar. After our tequila tasting adventure we headed back into the city to swim on the beach and enjoy the sunshine. Cruise director Que Hundermark and his staff did an excellent job on the cruise. They kept us very informed and had some great activities while underway. Our cabin Steward, "Deden" was amazing. His smile was infectious and his towel animals were always delightful. Most of the crew on the ship was very kind and respectful, however I had 2 very negative experiences at the lido bar during my trip. I found the lido bar staff to be somewhat rude and standoffish. We were ignored several times while trying to order drinks. Sometimes our drinks would never show up and the barstaff would magically forget we ordered even though I had the receipt to prove it. The bar was rarely busy so getting our drinks shouldn't have been a problem. We brought this up to Suzzanne the bar manager and she quickly rectified the problem and apologized profusely. We never saw that bar tender agin throughout the duration of the cruise. Other than that the cruise was amazing and we had such a great time. I proposed to my girlfriend on the 3rd night which made this trip extra special. The Oosterdam is such a beautiful ship and we can't wait to go back.  

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Mar 18, 2006

Mexican Riviera

We were once again VERY impressed by Holland America; and anything we didn't like on a previous Maasdam Cruise seem to be addressed!! The new ''automatic $10'' a day tip on your bill charge may be questionable; but can be adjusted at the front desk if one is adament it is too much in our case we tipped separately also!! Our Stewards were outstanding, food exceptional, excursions very well done, and the OOSTERDAM is truly a World Class

SHIP

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Feb 16, 2006

Mexican Riviera

After several cruises (all with Holland America) we decided to try a shorter cruise as a mid winter get-away. San Diego was nice on arrival (we came two days early to play in town). Temperature was in the mid 70's and we had a good time at the S.D. Aquarium. Note - our travel agent arranged for our ticket purchase before we arrived so we showed up with two 'special tickets in hand that had to be presented to the customer service desk.

Big mistake - would have been much quicker to buy tickets there; and no money was saved. We arrived at the dock around 11:00 am and were fully on board by 11:30. We found this process to be as smooth as it gets. H.A. has clearly tried hard to remove the barriers to getting your holiday moving forward. One note - you can fill out a number of forms from the HA web site, and doing so makes things go even quicker. Our experience has been that the shorter the cruise, the younger the crowd. In line with this - this cruise was typical. We are in our mid 40's and prefer an age group of 40 or more for a number of reasons. First, while this is not a universal constant, folks 40+ are more likely to take formal night a bit more seriously. It's a bit disheartening to be get dressed up for dinner and then see teen-agers trying to enter the dining room with ripped jeans. Also, cocktail hour is more likely to include a half dozen good ol boys dropping boiler makers rather than suits and dresses sipping martinis. I don't mean to seem snobbish, but part of the fun is putting on a bit of ritz and it can be an uphill battle on shorter cruises. We had a verandah cabin number 1083 which wasn't overly spacious, but was more than ample, good size shower (bathtub – first time) and a sitting area in addition to a comfortable. We switched to the late dinner, lower restaurant, table 104. Our waiter was pretty good and the wine steward tried hard to please but both were clearly too busy. In spite of a few empty tables at all meals, our service team had a real tough time keeping up. Usually, the wine did not make it to the table until close to the end of dinner. The food was great though I thought it was not terribly warn on many occasions. I sent a pasta dish back as it tasted like it had been boiled up the day before. The replacement steak was great. By and large most people around us felt that sea food was best left alone as temperature problems were common. Beef was the highlight for most it would seem. We never did try the Pinnacle lounge – primarily because the extra charge felt like a bit of a gouge. If we are expected to wear suits to dinner, I expect the chef’s to show up with some dazzle of their own. HA has an aggressive search policy to prevent you from bringing your own liquor on board. I am pretty sure I could have brought a gun in from ports much easier than a bottle of Tequila. This is primarily to keep you running up a bar tab and at $5.50 for a cocktail you will generate some serious tabs by the end of the cruise. Our favorite lounge area has always been the Crow’s Nest (Top of the boat). Usually we manage to connect with a few of the waiters and as a rule you can expect great conversation and the occasional piece of origami. Oddly enough this did not happen this time. I thought that service while punctual was much less friendly. You were much less likely to see an ashtray emptied or a table cleared off this time. The evening entertainment was pretty good though no one would think they were seeing a major production. Most of the acts/performers were a bit unpolished though the two fellows from England did do pretty good justice to a number of Beetles tunes. The ship was very clean though there was always an area somewhere that seemed to be going through some maintenance. Most notably, the prom deck (we like to walk circuits) always seemed to be blocked off. I dropped 30 bucks at the bar blackjack machine in about 30 minutes and decided to cut my losses after that. I talked to a few folks that played there as well and all felt that you are better off spinning the bottle in Vegas. You will not see pay-out percentages posted on ship casinos and I would expect that they are much lower than proper gambling halls. Near the end of the cruise we were very surprised to see that no tipping practice was dropped in favor of a $10/day per person charge on your ship bill. This really miffed me as I thought it was one of the factors that made H.A. stand out in the past. We have always tipped but this type of mandatory tax was a real nuisance and in retrospect, the drop in service levels must be related to the this type of gouge practice. In spite of this extra charge, you were still encouraged to tip again if you felt someone had done a good job. We did not feel that an additional tip was warranted anywhere. On another note, long time cruisers are given various levels of achievement and status. On our second and third cruise there were some real benefits to this which included a shipboard credit and cabin upgrades. Apparently there is no longer any advantage to being a long time customer as the only real benefit we saw this time was a small pin acknowledging that we had passed 50 days on board. We took three tours, one at each of the three ports. All three seemed to include a diversion to a shopping area as their major component. If I were to do this trip again I would hire a cab for the day instead. Getting off the ship was very smooth and quick though if you are from Canada, be prepared for a 6:00 am visit with customs. US nationals were not required to attend this.  

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Jan 28, 2006

Mexican Riviera

What a wonderful time!! Yes, I am now a former "first time cruiser". My family and I enjoyed everything from the the personal service of the cabin stewards to the seamless relationships we developed with our bar attendant, Paul & Head Dining Steward, Afton. I will never forget our time onboard and hope to run into the same great people once again. For entertainment, the Vista Lounge was an experience all itself. Entertainers, Barnaby &

Whyte along with the Oosterdam cast were all nothing short of brilliant. Josh Campbell, lead singer was phenomenal. From embarkation to disembark, it was all remarkable! I'll soon sail again with HAL.    

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Apr 2, 2005

Mexican Riviera

The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship kept in immaculate shape. Not a thing was out of place. Our room (5058)was for our family of four - two teenagers!! It was cozy but it accomodated us and all our luggage and clothes well. Space is used very efficiently with drawers, closets, shelves, under bed storage in every free space. (Even in the seat near the vanity) There are many great choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner - something anytime

for our hungry kids! My husband and I appreciated the dining room experience and even the buffet restaurant presented scrumptious choices. Our family loved the room service expecially at breakfast time on our balcony. The views were great from our balcony especially when we were docked in Cabo San Lucas. Our 17 yr old son loved hanging out with his group of friends he met thru the teen program. In fact the highlight of the trip was watching his "a new friend" perform in the karaoke contest and winning. She was awesome! My 12 yr old daughter (at 5'6" and soon to be 13) was uncomfortable with her only choice being the tweens club with 9 -12 yrs old. It may also have been that most appeared to be friends prior to the trip - so she hung out with us a lot. Another option for her was the in room movies. My husband and I would definately take a HAL cruise again because of the quality of the accomodations and services. Since most families on the ship (many traveling together) seem to be from the San Diego area and west coast, we would try a Caribbean with our family next time. Overall it was a very nice experience that I would recommend.  

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Mar 26, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Overall we were very impressed with the quality of the staterooms and service on board the Oosterdam. The staterooms were elegant and the bed mattresses were superb. Our stateroom attendant kept the room spotless. Use of the fold out bed for our 3rd passenger was a hassle. We prefer the fold down beds offered by Carnival and Princess. The food was above average but below the quality of the Grand Princess on trip we took two years ago.

Cruise Director Jason Venner is best in the business. The evening shows were hilarious. There were some quirky things that we didn't care for on Holland America. There was no ATM machine on board although the Front Desk could accommodate a cash advance against a credit card. We also thought it was stupid that an additional designated amount could not be assigned for our stateroom attendant or our main waiter in the dining room on our master billing. Front desk told us to do cash. The Lido Deck buffet was great. Seafood in the dining room was superb but the buyer for beef needs to find another supplier. The beef tenderloin was simply put, awful. There were plenty of fun activities on board. This was one of our top 3 cruises that we've taken. The Oosterdam is a great ship. You will really enjoy your 7 day cruise experience on it!    

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Feb 26, 2005

Mexican Riviera

After 20+ cruises this one ranked very close to the top, though the weather could have been warmer with the first two and last two days temperature in the mid 60's, the three port days in between in the mid 70's. Excellent staff and crew all around, spotlessly clean and a beautiful ship throughout, we often stopped just to admire the many works of art on board. We’d definitely take this ship again, I have a hard time thinking of any

negative aspects. But before the story of the ship, I'll cover the preliminaries. We arrived the day before, for one night at the Holiday Inn Bayside, that's the one on the other side of the bay, they picked us up at the airport within 10 minutes of calling and I would recommend the place to anyone. It's a fairly typical Holiday Inn but the staff make it stand out, they have a free shuttle to the port at 11, 12, 1 & 2pm and they were also kind enough to drive us down to collect the Trolley for a city tour. We booked online at $98 per night for a poolside room, if you're considering Holiday Inn, join the Priority Rewards club, it gives you extra privilages and we received a small gift, two free drinks and excellent service, you can join for free at https://secure.ichotelsgroup.com/h/...e&offerId=WBJHI EMBARCATION/DISEMBARCATION: Well organized, we arrived at the terminal just after 1pm and it took about 30 minutes from taxi to ship. On board you wait until they announce that the cabins are ready, so we had something to eat in the Lido restaurant then made our way to the cabin around 2pm. The benefit of all this is clearer at disembarkation, when you're allowed to stay in your cabin until ready to get off and room service is available up to the last minute. This was really a good feature compared to other experiences we've had at disembarkation and when our turn was called we were off, found our luggage and were in a taxi within 20 minutes, even the taxis were well organized, as soon as you arrive you're given a numbered ticket and each person is allocated a taxi in order, all controlled by a pretty stern looking dock security lady, no pushing or line jumping and all quite civilized. THE CABIN: We had a verandah cabin number 6148 which wasn't overly spacious, but was more than ample, good size shower and a sitting area in addition to the most comfortable bed I've ever slept on. We really enjoyed the verandah, our first, the only downside if you consider it so, is that we tended to spend more time in the cabin since we could step outside so easily. Budi, our steward kept the place spotless and the Champagne bucket filled with ice. I must mention that if you haven't booked yet and you intend getting an outside cabin then make sure it's an even numbered cabin, that way you'll get the best view on the way down as the ship sails closer to land than it does on the way back and more importantly, when you anchor at Cabo you'll have a spectacular view of the arches. FOOD AND DRINK: We dined at 5.45pm, upper restaurant, table 25 and our waiter, Bakat, was pleasant and professional, a minor irritant though with the wine waiter, who twice took a drink order from me then didn't bring anything, I think he had to many tables to take care of. We were fortunate to have wonderful tablemates, four other couples from various parts of the States, so dinner was never boring. Food was good and well presented, though not the best I've had, I only had one appetizer that I didnt enjoy and that was the chilled avocado soup which I thought had way to much pepper in it. We dined at the Pinnacle restaurant on the third night, it is physically very beautiful and the steak was perfect, though the experience was a little marred as our corner table had a view into the kitchen and the noise of dishes etc was with us throughout. If you're going, ask for a table away from the kitchen. I don't think I'd 'do' the Pinnacle Grill again, the food was good but the food in the main restaurant is also good and doesn't have the extra tarif. Breakfast we had on our verandah from room service, a full cooked breakfast is available and always arrived right on time. For lunch we alternated between pool deck Grill/Lido and room service, which was as good as I've had anywhere, with great choice including ice-cream, though I found they weren't always interested in picking up the trays after, HAL requests that you call to have your tray picked up rather than leave it in the hallway. The price of drinks on deck and in the bars is expensive, $5.26 for a scotch, which is in line with most other cruise lines, but encourages us to bring along a bottle of our own regardless of ships policy on bringing liquor on board. MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT: Vista Lounge- Cruise director Peter Daems was entertaining and always ready to tell you 'a little story' and while I found most of the entertainment average, there were exceptions. A couple of stage productions by the cruise cast. I haven't been to one of these in a while, as after you've seen 5 or 6 of them, they all tend to look and sound the same, but for some reason we ended up going and were pleasantly surprised by the talented cast, we actually enjoyed them. A singer, Bobby Black, he had the voice but was just missing something, slightly boring, except for his rendition of 'Mustang Sally'. There was also a 2 man acrobatic act, like something you'd see on the Ed Sullivan show, they were a bit dated, but fairly good at what they did. (Incidentally, we met them at the airport when we were leaving San Diego and they told us their contract had been unexpectedly terminated as many passengers had complained about them, not sure what the complaints were about, I can only think that people gave them low ratings on the comment cards, they seemed like nice enough guys to talk to). A female comedian, can't remember her name, think it's a psychological block, my wife almost died laughing at her while I sat practically unaffected as did the guy next to me, perhaps we didnt relate to her humour which was all based on 'womans problems'. We missed the juggler and magician but were told they were quite good. It's time for HAL to invest some money in getting some entertainment that people will want to see, look at Celebrity with Cirque du Soleil. The Great Pretender show, we didn't see so I can't comment, but we did enjoy the Indonesian crew show , some parts are a bit cheesy, but the Indonesian crew seem to enjoy doing it and this percolated down to the audience, it brought back many pleasant memories from a holiday in Bali we had some years ago. Explorer's Lounge etc- A violinist, with piano and bass players, playing classics and standards to an appreciative audience. Good bands in the Ocean Bar and the Crows Nest and a competent enough player in the Piano Bar THE SHIP: Outstanding items worth mention are the general beauty of the ship, the excellent staff in every department (what cruise have you ever been on where a passing officer inquires if you're being treated well and even removes a dirty ashtray from your table) the ship is spotless and it's no surprise that they've earned top marks in the cruise ratings for the most recent two inspections. The stores on board were not overly expensive and even had a few good deals, they have a free draw on several occasions and if you have the winning ticket and are present the prize is quite reasonable, a thin gold (coloured?) necklace and pendant once, I think. On the internet and even in their brochures I found the ship looked garish, even gaudy, but it's a completely different story on board, the colours match perfectly and some unusual combinations really work well and as I said already, you could almost spend a day just looking round all the artwork on board. Since our last HAL cruise, they've changed the tipping arrangements from 'no tipping required' to $10 per person per day. I have a real problem with this being called a tip, why dont they just call it what it is, a service charge and add it to the cost of the cruise, the whole purpose of a tip is to have a direct and immediate effect on the person you're dealing with to give them the incentive to improve their performance. I know it's old fashioned, but it works, we know what happens in communist countries where reward is not based on performance, the entire system becomes mediocre. Anyway I've rambled on enough about that. Being a long time Princess cruiser, I'm not used to paying for internet access, it's free on Princess after 5 cruises with them. you are considered Platinum level and are granted some useful privileges, one of which is free unlimited internet. Having said that, I found HAL internet access expensive and only used it once, 12 minutes cost $12.95, that's $0.75 per minute + a $3.95 one time set-up fee. SHORE EXCURSIONS: San Diego: We took the Old Town Trolley tour it can be joined at several places around town and takes 2 hours round trip to see all the highlights. Well worth it, it showed us enough to know that we will come back some day and spend more time. Cabo San Lucas: We were tendered in here but didn't mind as we'd such a beautiful anchorage right opposite the 'arches' (see my comments under CABIN). We didn't book any excursion here and just walked into town to see the main square and do some shopping, didnt find much choice or any bargains, so we ended up in a seafront bar enjoying the 2 for 1 Coronas with nachos and salsa (US$8, 4 beers, nachos & salsa). Mazatlan: Basically an industrial port, you get the little train/trolley ride through the dock area to the tourist info center where you're bombarded, first with timeshare offers, then with tour offers. Most were good natured and after 'no gracias' a few times gave up, we accepted a 3 hour city tour $20 each by A/C van with our driver Louis, there's not a lot to see in town but at least it showed us around town though 60 percent of it was shopping stops at places picked by our driver. Puerto Vallarta: Tendered in again, despite the fact that we were the first ship to arrive of four that were in port. Again we didn't book an excursion, I had done enough research on line to know what I wanted to see, so we took a $3 taxi ride into town getting dropped off at the near end of the Malecon, a beachfront boardwalk running for several miles. The plan was to walk, shop, make it to the little island in the middle of the river, see the old town and make it back to the main square to visit the Virgin of Guadalupe church where if you make it before noon you can watch two burly guys ring the bells. The plan got stretched a little and we didn't reach the church 'til about 1pm, but we enjoyed it all the same. Taxis are plentiful and easy to hire for the $3 per person ride back to the ship, make sure you tell the driver which gate and it may save you a bit of a walk. FINAL THOUGHTS: As I'm sure you've realized we really enjoyed this cruise, I think Captain Van Donselaar and hotel manager James Deering have done it all right, the entire crew does an excellent job, it's a beautiful ship, good food and entertainment, now if only they could fix the weather. I hate to overuse the word, but excellent is the best description, I'd make a point of taking the Oosterdam again, if the price is right.  

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Jan 15, 2005

Mexican Rivera

This was our second cruise. We first took the Oosterdam to the Western Caribbean in January 2004 and now the same ship to the Mexican Riviera in January 2005. Doing the same ship 2 years in a row did not disappoint us. There have been a few changes to the Oosterdam in the last year. The tipping policy has been changed from a “No Tipping Required” to now a more industry standard $10.00 per person per day. The dining hours have changed,

the bedding has been upgraded. It was like sleeping on a cloud. More activities on board such as a large chess set by the Lido Pool. This cruise was the 7 day Mexican Riviera with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We had a disastrous start to this cruise (it’s a long story) when we missed the departure from San Diego due to a mechanical problem on the plane in Calgary, causing us to miss the connecting flight in Salt Lake City. We eventually caught up to the ship on day 3 in port at Cabo St. Lucas. The crew was very good to us when we finally arrived at the pier and got ushered onto the tender and onto the ship at about 4:30 p.m. Knowing the layout of the ship was a big plus for us as we knew where everything was. Our stateroom was 8129, directly at centre aft of the boat. The bed seemed larger than was necessary but oh so comfortable and the balcony was a perfect size. Being on the 8th. Floor, the top floor of all the rooms, we overlooked the end balconies with no one overlooking us from above. Great choice. We found a few things on this trip not as good as our first cruise on the Oosterdam. The entertainment was not as good in both the main showroom and in the Crowsnest but I would think entertainment rotates regularly. We did find the food still to be superior and the highlight of the cruise (oh, that 11 p.m. pizza was still tremendous). Our table #156 and sitting time of 6:15 was just perfect for our lifestyle. We still ran from event to event (mostly in the afternoon) and still managed to miss a few activities we wanted to do. We entered the slot tournament one day and Elaine ended up winning the jackpot. SO COOL !!! We had no shore excursions booked. We did manage to hire a taxi for a personal tour of Mazatlan and that was nice. We did not wander too far from port in Puerto Vallarta and only did the shops around the pier. We just decided that this was going to be a laid back, relaxing holiday and were quite happy to spend most of our time on the ship. We did dine in the Pinnicle Grill for a cost of $20.00 each and found it to be very nice. Maybe not as stupendous as some reviewers had stated and no, we did not tip extra. With a new cruise director in Jason Venner (taking over from Gary Walker who has moved onto the Westerdam) and Captain Jeroen Van Donselaar filling in for Captain Jonathan Mercer and Hotel Manager James Deering (who replaced Willem Cruijsberg), most of the subtle changes are positive and we enjoyed this cruise. Being a return Holland America Line traveller also has it’s perks. This being our second cruise, we got a couple of nice tile coasters of the ship, free drinks and hors d’oeuvre with the big wigs, and a bottle of wine in our cabin at arrival. Nice touch HAL. We would strongly recommend this ship. See our pictures at http://community.webshots.com/user/hildavid  

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Dec 5, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

What a ship! Holland America has got it right. From Imbang, our cabin steward, to Capt. Mercer, all staff (except for two) were extremely helpful, friendly, and a joy to be around. Steve at the piano bar can play and sing anything. The DJ in the Sportman's Bar was very accommodating by playing "my special song" every time I came in. The crew in the casino allowed by service dog to lie down in the pit boss area while I played blackjack.

Everyone wanted their picture taken with her. The head waiter/maitre-d/head honcho in the Lido Restaurant made a special effort to have someone carry my tray, help me find foods that I could eat, and then assisted me to the table. I have been on Holland America's Zuiderdam and there is no comparison. The Oosterdam is 100x better. My only complaint (and a minor one at that) is that the photographers kept setting up times for me to bring my dog for special photographs, and then they were never around. We were not able to get off at Half Moon Cay due to high gale force winds. The Captain advised us that he tried positioning the ship but that it was too dangerous to disembark passengers onto the tenders. Captain Mercer advised us throughout the cruise where we were, what was going on, etc. I can without reservation say that this was the BEST cruise ever! I'm going back next year on the same ship, and hopefully the same stateroom. If you have the funds. book a Deluxe Verandah Suite. The amenties are great - free laundry, access to the Neptune Lounge where food is always available, and the beds are so comfortable you don't want to get up in the morning.    

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Nov 14, 2004

Western Caribbean

A very enjoyable cruise, in spite of the first two days spent in high seas, which today’s flat-bottomed cruise ships can’t handle. Very happy with the staff and crew of the Oosterdam. Many signs of the greed of corporate headquarters. Still good value, but things are starting to turn sour pretty fast. No comment on any areas we didn't take part in; casino, sports bar, Cayman Islands. We’d happily take the same cruise again. The

good things far outweighed the not-so-good. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION: Well organized. Mostly very polite personnel in the terminal. Stayed in our cabin until we could disembark. FOOD AND DRINK: Good things: Food much better than two years ago on the Maasdam. Really good flavor and variety both in main dining room and Lido buffet. Excellent table service by Yasin and Effendi. The midnight chocolate buffet spectacular. Pinnacle restaurant was beautiful and dinner was great with perfect service. For lunch a few days later slow service. A “gift meal certificate” was delivered to our cabin that turned out to be just the confirmation for our paid reservation.. That’s tacky. Not so good things: They got my drink order wrong three times in the piano bar. The waiter attempted to explain that this was my mistake, rather than try to put it right. Is this the result of the automatic gratuity system? Very crowded buffet, especially the day of sailing. "Gratuity" added to the $27.50 unlimited soda card when we bought it. My gripe is not about the money; it's about being ripped off. The high price of (watery) drinks in the bars- for instance, $10 for a double bourbon which was mostly ice. Also high prices for drinks in the cabin refrigerators. MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT: A long time ago, I was a musician on several cruise ships for a couple of years, so I have a particular interest in this. The shows in cruise ship theaters are much bigger than they used to be, but the music around the ships is much the same. Good things: A really fine violinist, with piano and bass players, in the Explorer's lounge, playing light classics, standards and Hungarian music in a very civilized atmosphere. Good bands also in the Ocean bar and the Crow's Nest bar. Very funny Cruise Director, Eric Dowis. We enjoyed the Liar's Club and the Newly Wed games led by him and his assistant Cat, who also made the Bingo sessions a pleasure. A professional husband and wife magic act, Fallon Magic. He does convincing magic tricks and talks fast, and she is a fine dancer and acrobat; fine looking too. An exceptional singer, Bobby Black, also a real gentleman. Not so good things: Poor singing in the production show, particularly in contrast to the pre-recorded backup singers. The girl singer, Kelly, was good, and the dancing and the special effects were fine. Electronic keyboards made to look like real grand pianos. I understand that saves the cost of having real pianos tuned, but it would be classier to use the undisguised keyboards. I predict the next step will be HAL using silk flowers instead of real ones. They will also sell 10 ounce beer cans for $4.50 if they can get away with it. The piano bar man was technically a good player and singer, but didn't convey much emotion and didn’t hold our attention. Personally, I don't think a string of jokes from the Cruise Director about having sex with animals, during the Liar’s Club, belongs in a show that children are watching. Call me old fashioned if you like. It was funny but only suitable for adults. The Top Ten Things Passengers Say has been the same for years now, and all the jokes are all over the Internet. The Great Pretender show was what we'd seen on the Maasdam two years ago, almost word-for-word. Also, while the Indonesian crew show was entertaining, again, it was almost exactly the same material as we’d seen two years earlier on the Maasdam. We enjoyed the hand-clapping dance, the monkey king and the bamboo orchestra, but the cheesy pop music sung badly by solo crew members received only polite applause. Piped music at the aft pool is loud pop music for people in their twenties, with tense music. For instance, Sting's "Every Breath You Take", which is basically a stalker song. Not relaxing. By contrast, when we were on the catamaran at Cozumel, they played Jimmy Buffet, Beach Boys, Beatles and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. This stuff's better for all age groups, and, well, it's happy. THE SHIP: Good things: Inside every square inch is beautiful and well maintained. The dining rooms and the theater are all gorgeous. Our bed was really comfortable and the cabin had enough storage area. The verandah was perfect, especially for early room-service breakfasts, and they kept it clean. Excellent housekeeping by Indra, our steward. Friendly cruise staff, stewards and waiters throughout the ship. Captain Jonathan Mercer took good care of us, literally finding shelter from the high waves, and he kept us well informed. He even gave us an extra detour on the last day so we could see Havana glittering in the sunlight. Other passengers; we met really nice, interesting people at mealtimes and around the ship. They were also very appreciative of the crew and of the shows. We loved the hydro pool; basically a large Jacuzzi. Very relaxing and an okay price at $15 a day. The stores on board had some surprisingly good deals on clothes and souvenirs and a bottle of brandy. Helpful staff. Not so good things: >From the outside Oosterdam looks like a condo and the two skewed funnels give it an awkward, unstreamlined appearance. Small rear pool and deck space for such a large ship. The extra size of the ship evidently is just to have more income-producing verandah cabins, not more space for each passenger. HAL wants you to call to have your room-service trays taken away, but when we called the crew didn't always come for them, so we ended up leaving them in the hallways overnight anyway. Tipping is no longer at the discretion of the guests and is therefore no longer tipping. Instead, $70 "gratuity" per person was automatically added to the cost of the cruise. The spa prices were predictably high. My wife had a very pleasant massage, but the experience was spoiled for her by the masseuse not only pushing product- over $100 worth of creams and ointments- but actually adding it to her bill, so that my wife had to tell her to take it off. This is not relaxing but really pushy and nasty. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Good things: A good time swimming with the dolphins at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Once you get to the dolphins, it's all very well organized and a lot of fun. A wonderful catamaran snorkel and beach party in Cozumel, with Fury catamarans. A great beach, beer and margaritas, good music and dancing on deck. It could hardly have been more fun. Even the captain of the Oosterdam was along with us and having a great time. This is about as good as things get on this planet. Not so good things: Be warned- what they don't tell you about the Jamaica dolphin excursion is that you will have to wait for an hour, during which time, along with a tour of iguanas, macaws and snakes, they will try to sell you packets of coffee, coconut candy and a nice refreshing Red Stripe beer and they'll want to braid the ladies' hair. SUGGESTIONS to Holland America Carnival, to make a good cruise excellent. Cut the price of drinks in half. Passengers will drink way more, you'll still make plenty of profit and people won't resent being fleeced as they do now. Also, quit adding an automatic "gratuity" to each drink purchase. That's just another way of upping the price. Like most people, we tip generously for decent service anyway. Remember that tipping is supposed to be about incentive. Our cruise director Eric stated that HAL formerly had no tipping policy but now had instituted “automatic” tipping. NOT SO. The previous policy had been genuine tipping, at the discretion of the passenger as merited by good service. The crew was motivated to do well to get the best possible tip. Now they’re going to get their money regardless of what kind of job they do. Rein in your spa people. Automatically adding $100 worth of ointments to the bill for a massage is unacceptable and it makes Holland America Carnival look like snake-oil hucksters. Open up the main dining room for a buffet lunch on embarkation day to handle the overflow. Right now the Lido is a total zoo and gives a bad first impression to the cruise. Consider what Celebrity is doing with Cirque du Soleil and come up with some fresh entertainment to replace the dated production shows. Consider paying a couple of really sensational singers instead of the singer/dancers you use now, even if it means having fewer dancers. We heard a few comments from different passengers about the poor quality of some of the singing. Have a sign on each cabin door where the passengers can indicate that they will be out of the cabin for a while, so the steward doesn't have to keep knocking to find out if he can clean the room. FINAL THOUGHTS: I have a simple dream. I predict that in due course a real entrepreneur will come along; a Richard Branson or a Ted Turner. This man, or woman, will create a cruise line that offers true value for money, where you’ll know what you’re going to get and how much you’ll pay for it, and it will come at a reasonable price. I think we’re ready to get away from the $6 glass of wine half-filled, the $140 massage which ends with a pitch to sell you more product, and the $100-per-person shore excursion which starts with an hour-long opportunity for them to sell you more stuff before you reach the part you actually wanted, and we’re certainly ready to get away from the $70 per person per week mandatory “gratuity”. None of this is the end of the world, but I do suspect it is going to get much worse in the next few years. The cruise lines have built huge ships to maximize their profitability and then convinced us that bigger is better. Maybe a handful of young people are more excited to be on mega ships with rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks but for most of us I believe we would have a better time in a smaller ship with a simpler style and fewer choices and without 1800 strangers around us every day. My imaginary new line will cause industry giants Carnival and Royal Caribbean to drop their prices the way K Mart and Sears did in order to compete with Wal-Mart. After all, Carnival itself started with one ship, the Mardi Gras, in the 1970s. All we need is one or two smaller ships with fair pricing, decent drink prices, reasonable shore excursion rates and tipping the old-fashioned way, left up to the passengers. The ships probably won’t need huge, subcontracted spas. (Is there anything more ridiculous than having a class on “how to reduce your waistline” on a cruise ship, of all places?) And instead of having flat, shallow bottoms, they’ll have keels and stability, like the old ocean liners. (I know;dream on…) There can still be casinos and bingo, but the entertainment can be simpler and better. (On this Oosterdam cruise we saw one singer, dressed simply in black, excite and move the audience way more than all the singers and dancers and special effects had in the “Las Vegas” shows before him.) I would like very much to see those things, because I still love cruising and I believe it can be the best vacation ever.  

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Oct 24, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Let me start out by saying this was our ninth cruise...first time on Holland America, and will be our last time on Holland America. We took the bus from Cruise Connections from Jacksonville which was 45 minutes late picking us up. (The excuse for being late was he was tied up in traffic, but I can't imagine heavy traffic at 5:30 on a Sunday morning). We arrived at 12:30 and the embarkation was a nightmare. The line was so long and slow

moving, it took us until 2:00 to board (that was suppose to be the fast line because we filled out our immigration papers online). We went to our suite, which was very nice, but the toilet seat was broken, and it took until 7:00 that night to have it replaced. We had requested an 8:00 dinner with a table for 8-10. When we got there, our dinner time was 8:30, and it was a table for two. Service in the dining room was extremely slow. We sat for 20 minutes with dirty dishes in front of us. We were celebrating our 10th anniversary, and our travel agent must have informed them. That night, after our meal, a man came over with a small cake with a candle. He asked if we were the Adams', and set the cake on the table and walked off. We sat there for 20 minutes, but no one ever came back, so we left. The next night, our waiter asked why we left. Every other cruise we have been on, the waiters entertained with singing & dancing each night. The only time there was anything like that, was one night the waiters walked through carrying baked Alaska with music playing. After shopping in St. Marteen, we returned to the ship to find we had no air conditioning in our room. It was out all afternoon. Around 6:30 the air came back on for about a minute then the lights, air, and water went out. We couldn't even get ready for dinner, so we ate at the buffet. When we got back to the room around 9:00, everything was working. There was also a pipe dripping on our balcony, and the water was running on our balcony and the balcony next door. We called and reported it. When the service man got there, he said that was normal and left. I really don't think having a wet balcony floor the entire cruise is normal. The entertainment consisted of a juggler (who spent a lot of time picking up objects he dropped) and a below average magician. Then one night for the main entertainment they had some of the Filipino crew in tee shirts and jeans do some kind of dance. We got up and left. The only enjoyable entertainment was a singer named Bobby Black and the ships singers & dancers. Also, I have never been on a ship that rocked side to side so much. All the passagers were complaining about it. I have never been seasick before, but on this cruise, I had to take Dramamine twice. One lady I talked to said her room-mate was in the bed seasick. People were reeling from one side to the other in the hallways when trying to walk. The seas didn't seem that rough to cause all this rocking. I was on the Carnival Glory last year, and went throught a tropical depression. That ship didn't rock at all. I would like to compliment our steward and room service. Our steward took great care of us, and room service was very prompt. Also, the ship was beautiful and we were extremely pleased with our room. We disembarked around 9:45, ready to get home. Our bus was not there, and we had to stand outside and wait until 12:00 for the bus to arrive. We were the last ones waiting...all other busses had been gone. Again, we were told our bus was in traffic. There was no toilet paper or hand cleaner in the bathroom on the bus. Every other cruise we've been on we wished it was longer, but on this cruise, we were glad to get off the ship and go home.    

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Oct 24, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise and we had a blast! My fiancee (we got engaged the morning of the cruise) had a room on the 8th floor while my room was on the 4th floor (couldn't feel the movement of the boat here either). I received a free upgrade through Expedia. Rob's room was a little cramped but mine was great. Food: we thought that the food was really good. I am a culinary instructor so I was afraid that the food would be bland (like

many of the reviews imply). The reviews were wrong! The Dining hall had several good dishes each evening (we didn't make it to breakfast or lunch in the dining hall). We ate in the pinnacle lounge twice and had great service and food. They have a smoked appetizer featuring black cod that was out-of-this world! I now must get a smoker and some black cod. Entertainment: we only went to one show but it was very amusing and we enjoyed it quite a bit. The casino was fun. The pools were not overcrowded and we were able to relax. We were also afraid that we would be the only ones under the age of 60 but were relieved to find many others our age (twenties). Excursions: we took the Golden Eagle excursion on St. Martin and it was worth every penny. If you don't take the excursion, rent a jeep (about $80)and drive around St. Martin (get away from Phillipsburg unless you are wanting to shop only). Tortola - our favorite island. Take a bus tour around the island - inexpensive and was so much fun. we got to go to the only remaining rum distillery and see such beautiful sights. The spice company was also very interesting. Half Moon Cay - get off the boat early so that you can lie on the beach all day. This private beach is unbelievably beautiful! Take some money for drinks, snorkeling, etc. The only thing that we did not like was that there are very few clocks on board! No clocks in the bedrooms. Be sure to take a watch with you. While this wouldn't be an issue if there weren't any activities, you must be on time to dinner. Also, there was only 1 cooking class - and it was during my spa treatment! All in all we had a wonderful time and would definitely do it again.  

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May 8, 2004

Alaska

I am not new to cruising. I have cruise on ships owned by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Norwegian cruise lines. However, Holland America is the worst by far. Although the M.S. Oosterdam is a beautiful ship with lovely, public areas and beautiful staterooms (I had a superior suite.) You might as well sail on a barge with a staff of the local McDonalds. My trip on the M.S. Oosterdam was my first and last cruise with Holland

America. I feel as if I was lied to about the service and that Holland America misrepresents their product. They are not a “premium” cruise line unless you consider being ignored, ran into and “self service” an upscale elegant experience. The rooms are nicely appointed (probably the nicest of any cruise I’d been on) complete with a minibar in the room. However, the minibar is never restocked. I like having bottled water, and so I drank it the first day of the cruise and I guess it was unreasonable to expect the water to be replaced (even though I am being charged for it.) Like other cruise lines the M.S. Oosterdam offers room service. However if you ever need to call them be prepared for your call to immediately to go into a queue, in which your call will go unanswered for 30 minutes. I guess the think that made me the most upset about the 3 times this happened was that I was calling for water that should have been replaced anyways. Your room will be clean upon check-in, but do not expect any of the extras that you get on other cruise lines. The cabin steward will only make the bed and change the towels in your room and at his convenience. Unlike with other cruise line if you leave a jacket out, it will not get hung up it will just be moved out of the steward’s way. Holland America does not want you ironing in your stateroom for safety reasons so if you need something pressed you just need to call the cabin steward and they will come get it, well at least that is the idea. The same idea is true for shoeshine as well. However, on the occasions that I called my cabin steward he would not show up for four hours and then he would let me know in no uncertain terms what an inconvenience it was. Because of the cabin steward, I did not have my shoes to wear with my tuxedo on the first formal night, as I had requested that they be shined at 9AM, by 1PM when they were not picked up I had to call again and they were not returned until the next day. On the first day of my cruise I had notified the cabin steward that the robes were missing from my room, by the time I was leaving the ship, no robes had ever been replaced in my stateroom. In my stateroom the temperature would vary drastically so I had to take two blankets from one of the decks because I couldn’t get the cabin steward to bring me any additional blankets. Adjustments of the thermostat could not control the huge swings in cabin temperature. Each night I would need to replace the blankets myself. Once again unlike other cruise lines the cabin steward would not replace the blankets even though he found them on the bed each morning. On the last day of the cruise the cabin steward cam bursting into my room at 6:30 AM unannounced to make up the room, although this was not the first time this had happened, this time I happened to still be asleep and was startled. I guess that each stateroom is supposed to have a bowel of fruit in them. This is news to me since; I never saw one in my room. Also a recent article I read states that on the first formal night corsages and boutonnières will be delivered to your room. I wouldn’t wait around for them to show up, as the cruise will be over before they ever do. A helpful guide of where things are located on the ship was delivered to my stateroom on the last night of the cruise, obviously of little use by then. Outside of my cabin the service was not any better. I have never had such a difficult time in getting served drinks in my life. The cocktail servers would ignore you completely or take your drink order and then disappear for 20-30 minutes. This shocked me considering how most other cruise lines your offered drinks continually. Holland America offers an afternoon tea, however you’d better bring your own hot water and eat a large lunch before going. Although tradition is to serve petit fores and finger sandwiches at tea, you will be lucky if the attendants even acknowledge your presence. I sat horrified as guests where getting up going to the service stations and were getting there own hot water, because non was being offered by the crew. Let me clarify that tea is served in the DINING ROOM not in a self-serve restaurant. Unlike on ALL other cruise lines the staff will not acknowledge you in the halls. Even on budget lines like Carnival ships the staff is polite and courteous and will acknowledge you and offer a friendly “hello” or “Good Evening”. On Holland America the only greeting your liable to get is when the staff runs into you because you’re in their way, or as they step in front of you in the Lido restaurant so they can get some food. On the Oosterdam the crew eats in the Lido restaurant. I guess they are in a hurry so they can get back to ignoring you. I purchased fountain drink cards before boarding the ship. I would not recommend them as my nephew, was ignored by the wait staff and would was once again notified in no uncertain terms that they were too busy to get him any beverages. I was HORRIFIED at the service on the ship and so I notified the onboard guest relation’s manager, who sent a $10 bottle of wine to my room. Considering my room was $3,200, my mothers cabin was $2,600 I ordered $700 in flowers, onboard credit for my family, toy packs for my nephew, prepaid for spa packages, and champagne and wine before I even got on the ship I had spent $6,500 for a seven day cruise. I was fine with this as I was promised an elegant cruise with superior service. All of the Holland America Literature leads you to believe that they are a premium cruise line. I know I certainly paid a premium price however the level of service was on par with a Denny’s. However I guess what added the most insult to the overall injury was when I spoke to customer relation’s manger and wrote a letter to Holland America telling them about my experience and they told me that the service is better on some of their other ships because they are smaller. See, according to Holland America these new “Vista” class ships the Westerdam, Ooosterdam, etc. carry more passengers than their older ships, so if you want a better cruise experience you should take one of those ships. My letter Holland America received a response of thanks for the information, but everyone else on your ship rated the cruise great! See you again sometime! I have a better idea for Holland America, why don’t I just take another cruise line altogether? Buyer beware on this ship you will pay premium price for a substandard level of service. Unless they are giving this cruise away your money is better spent on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity.

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May 8, 2004

Seattle/Alaska

WooHoo! What a great first cruise we had! We took Holland America’s Oosterdam’s maiden Alaska voyage and it was DYNO! We wanted to be one of the first cruises in the Alaska cruise season for two reasons: 1] we wanted to avoid the native “tourist fatigue” and 2] it’s cheap! We also booked the Oosterdam because it was the newer of HAL’s ships to go from Seattle to Alaska (although my parents took the Amsterdam on her Panama

Canal repositioning cruise last year when it was really new). EMBARKATION was a little tough. We live close to Seattle so we parked right at the terminal and walked in at 12:28. We were sitting comfortably on the Lido Deck watching people grabbing their lunches at 1:00. In the interim there was a lot of confusion and what appeared to be long waits at the check-in counter. This was the first day of the cruise season and this is a new HAL terminal so that was probably the biggest factor. Hopefully all that has been worked out by this time.   The Oosterdam is a beautiful ship with subtle colors, wonderful artwork and artifacts, and great public rooms. I spent a lot of time in the Erasmus Library and just walking through all the nooks and crannies. The crew kept it in spotless condition. We booked a Deluxe Verandah Suite on the port side. We originally booked a starboard cabin but after looking at a map of the cruise I changed to the port side. After it was too late (of course) I thought, why did I change sides? It looks like we’re approaching all the cool stuff from the starboard side. I apologized profusely to my husband for doing that. HOWEVER, once we got going we found out that we catch the sunset and sunrise near Seattle on both ends of the trip, and we’re dockside at Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, AND the captain does a slow 360º at Hubbard Glacier so we got to see it from the comfort of our balcony. So I did good and we were both happy. The suite and amenities were TREMENDOUS! The cabin, bathroom and balcony were quite roomy. There was plenty of storage space and it was very nicely appointed. Some of the perks of booking an S cabin were: welcome flowers, champagne and Captain’s welcome receptions (2). We had fluffy robes, complimentary laundry, dry-cleaning and pressing. We had use of the DVD player and the CD and DVD collection. Lots of feather pillows, fruit baskets, corsage and boutonniere for the first formal night. Full breakfast and high tea served in the cabin along with pre-dinner hot appetizers. We also got priority tender passes to Sitka. And don’t get me started on the Neptune Lounge! The concierges were great with information and the food and the latte machine was WONDERFUL! If I didn’t know where my husband, Mr. Cookienandlattehead was, I just had to check the Neptune Lounge and there he was. And the Captain’s luncheon was absolutely FABULOUS! They served these incredible coconut prawns and chicken satay and the caviar was one of the smoothest I’ve had. Okay, so the ports of call were very nice. We were very fortunate because the weather was warm and sunny everyday (except in Seattle, natch). Lots of good shopping, the natives were very friendly and everything ran smoothly. We did the Mendenhall helicopter excursion at Juneau. Gorgeous! And the Sitka Bike & Hike. That was a lot of fun and the guides were very cool but it was too short. We wanted a little more exercise but what the heck; it was a great bunch of people in a gorgeous venue on a beautiful day. The food in general was good to very good in every dining area. We do recommend the Pinnacle Grill for $20. It’s worth it and you can have three entrees if you want. The service there was exquisite. We felt very pampered. All in all, I have never eaten so many desserts in such a continuum – ever! Whew! We liked the gym with its great Cybex equipment. We spent a lot of time there. The classes (aerobics, yoga, etc) looked pretty full. We didn’t do any spa/salon stuff. All that fat hangin’ out is just too embarrassing. We went to a couple of shows. If you ever see Lee Bayliss on a schedule, go see him. He’s a good clean fun comedian. I could not stop laughing! Even the serious Mr. Cookieandlattehead was bustin’ a gut. The last show was a crew show and it was flashy and tear jerking at the same time. I forgot to bring my camera too. The service rendered was great. Our room steward was friendly but professional and kept our room is great order. Our dinner steward was very nice – not quite as together as perhaps others but he was always working hard. His assistant was wonderful, as were the headwaiter and the wine steward. The whole staff was friendly, smiling and helpful. Disembarkation went quickly. I think because of our S status. Customs and immigration were no problem at all. So, we’re planning our next cruise already. If you are interested in seeing photos from our trip, check out our photo album at http://community.webshots.com/user/annieuu If you have any questions, email me too. Happy cruising! Now I have to get back on my rowing machine – ugh -

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Feb 15, 2004

Western Caribbean

I just want to focus here on the children's programs since I had heard what great strides HA was making in this area. I'm here to tell you that if this is progress, I'd hate to see where they started. The facilities were woefully inadequate, the programs substandard and the age groupings totally inappropriate. The 12 year olds often ended up with the 5 year olds. Imagine how long my 12 year old son put up with that! It didn't take long

for them to abandon the ClubHAL stuff altogether. Not that this is a ship optimized for kids anyhow. While there were supposedly 200 kids on the ship, there was no critical mass of them anywhere, as there were no logical places for them to "hang." The net result of all this was that our kids spent a lot of time with each other, and us. No, that's not totally bad but I contrast this with a cruise we took two years. Admittedly, the Explorer of the Seas (RC) is about 50% larger than the Oosterdam. But it seems like that entire 50% went to kid-friendly things. And those things that HAL does have in control -- e.g., hours of the ice cream bar -- are not what they could be. You'd think that might be a 24 hour thing...but noooooo. If this is beginning to sound like a rant, I apologize. Was this a good vacation? Yes. Would I ever take my kids on this ship/line again? No.

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Jan 25, 2004

Western Caribbean

Upon leaving from bostons' logan airport & arriving at ft. lauderdale to begin our 7 day cruise I have decided to write this review with full honesty and an open mind. We normally cruise on princess but wanted to give hollandamerica lines (HAL) a try to compare cruise lines. After we left the baggage area we were greeted by a HAL spokeperson to lead us to an invisible bus. 40 minutes later it finally showed up & took us to the embarkation

area. For whatever reason when we arrived we sat on the bus for another 20 min before unloading. Although we had electronically booked we had to (like everyone else) go through a 45 min line before boarding the oosterdam as they lost our electronic booking number. All I can say when we went aboard the oosterdam is "Wow" this ship is awesome. A very polite staff was there to direct us to our cabin where our cabin steward Jon was waiting to greet us. Our baggage came about one hour later. HAL states that their cabins are 25% larger, I ask larger than what, their previous size cabins? I found the decor very bland, the layout very hard to maneuver and a balcony door that opened out hitting a porch chair. Unlike most cruise lines including princess the door had no screen so as to air the stuffy cabin out and it closed automatically. You couldn't even jam it open. The bathroom was very large & bright with a nice tub & shower. there was plenty of soap, shampoo etc but we had to call room service to replenish the shampoo as it ran out. The cabin also had a refigerator, however it was so stocked w/HALs alcohol product that there was no room for you. We didn't buy anything but checked the prices. A soda was $2.00 & a small bottle of wine (10 OZ) was $6.50. The temperature control could not be shut off & was very noisy.(we finally got used to it). Storage was very limited, 4 small bureau drawers. 3 closets & two more small drawers under settee sofa. Most drawers had HAL spare bedding in them & 1 closet had the life preservers which we put under the bed next to our suitcases. They offer room service which was very prompt to the point of one half hour earlier than requested time, that rushed things up a little in the AM especially if you were in the shower. The cabin was very well lit & very clean. We did have a problem w/the ice bucket which was mostly empty & had to call room wervice almost every eve to have ice delivered. (we did find out later that our cabin boy was under the weather, in fact never showed up on the last night. (tip night) We left him a little something anyhow. The meals were excellent with a friendly & polite waitstaff. Of course the deserts were scrumptious. One bad meal I had was a fish dish that arrived looking so good that I dug right in and to my surprise ended up with a mouthfull of bones. Now thats embarrassing to lilterally pull the bones out at the diner table but it was either that or choke. Our waiter called another waiter who proceeded to successfully de-bone my fish but by this time was ice cold so I settled for just the dessert. The ship did not seem like it had a full complment of passengers (1,850) which it actually did. I believe this was because of the ships layout, everything was fairly easy to find once you got used to it. The Lido deck (buffet style breakfast & lunch) offered a good variety but seating was hard during peak hours. I recommend you eat off peak hours.(1/2 hr before or after) I also recommend finding a table before you get in line or your food will get cold while looking for a table. The dinng rooms were superb as well as the wait staff & wine steward. In general the food was well presented, well prepared & very tasty. I didn't let my one fish dinner bother me that much, we even had a pretty good laugh over it. After 2 stops at the casino & not seeing any slots winning or hearing any bells go off I quit them. It seemed that they just weren't paying off. The entertainment was excellent, Las vegas type floor shows. The oosterdam cast singers & dancers were among the best we have seen. The comedians were very funny and very clean. (very rare these days) We were also entertained by a group called the five mikes who did the oldies similar to shanana of the fifty/sixty generation. I have to say they brought back memories even though these young men were not yet born. The ship offered 2 swimming pools, one aft and the larger one center ship which had a sliding roof such as the new football stadiums which closed in case of inclement weather. The main pool was very crowded. The lounge chairs were so close together that you could not fit your legs between them. You had to slide in from the end of the chair to the back rest and I could not do it w/o messing up the provided beach towel I wanted to lay on. I recommend the aft deck. The ship also has exterior port & starboard elevators that extend outside of midship with a view that can't be beat. It also has a nice gym but very disappointing was the fact that they charged $11.00 pp per aerobic class (2 a day) which I have to say angered my wife & daughter who are work out nuts. Princess offers these classes free of charge. Our first port of call was HALs private island: Half Moon Cay. This is a great stop, vey clean, good barbecue, plenty of water sports (small fee) nice music & well groomed polite staff. There is a bar but drinks aren't pushed at you while your at the beach or dining, in fact if you want a drink you have to go get it yourself. We did take the Eco lagoon cruise tour ($29.00 pp) which was well worth the price. A relaxing cruise aboard a glass bottom boat with 2 wonderful guides who made it very interesting & you actually get to hold a huge star fish as well as other marine animals/fish. The scenery is breath taking & the trip is not a physical challenge. I would recommend this tour. Our next stop was at ocho Rios, Jamaica. HAL should drop this from its itinerary. Stay on board the ship unless you enjoy seeing how the very unfortunate live. The filth and slums is everywhere. We were somewhat amazed that poeople still lived this way and were very depressed by it. (enough said) Our next port of call was Georgetown, cayman islands. We were scheduled to take a flightseeing tour but due to bad weather it was cancelled. In fact the ship had to moor on the east side of the island & we had to ferry in. A cab from there to georgetown was $16.00 pp round trip.Did a little shopping & saw some of the sights. Nice little town with friendly people. Now on to cozumel, mexico. Here we took the atlantis cubmarine tour ($89.00 pp)..This was a very good as well as educational tour. We saw seascapes that the average person does not. I know now why scuba diving is such a big sport. We also saw a large variety of fish, coral reefs, plantlife & such that were absolutely wonderful. This is a coast guard approved sub and a well worth while tour. We still had time for some shopping in cozumel and brother did we. Whew, was I glad to get back to the ship:-).. After a full day & night we arrived back in ft lauderdale & disembarked at 9:00 AM. Once again the dreaded bus. I am not aware of what took place but a very disgruntled bus driver threw his passengers off his bus & their luggage out onto a soaking wet tarmat as it was pouring. Our luck - we were in line waiting to board bus #711 & sure enough this was supposed to be our bus. The Holland staff only made matters worse by trying to bargain with this fruicake while its passengers were getting soaked. (about a 40 minute arguement) People were yellling that they would never go on a HAL cruise again, some were even saying worse things than that. Finally another bus came and things quieted down a little but I really thing HAL should double check the hired sub-contractors as I took some of these passengers very seriously. At the beginning of this review I said it was to be honest & true to the best of my knowledge. However I am not sure I should compare HAL to princess after only one cruise with them & five w/princess. I guess the question is: "would I take a hollandamerica cruise again"? the answer is yes. no one person is perfect & no one cruiseline is either. Both cruise lines have some good assets as well as not so good assets. Based on a 1 to 10 scale & 10 being the best I would say both lines are pretty equal, somewhere in the 7 to 8 area.. I do lean towards princess by a small margin but thats just a little one, they are both very well organized cruise lines. To close, happy sails to you...

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Jan 18, 2004

Western Caribbean

Reviews for the ports visited abound elsewhere and so are not given here. I am concentrating on the ship because it is so new and there are so few reviews available. INTRODUCTION: This was our 6th ocean cruise and our 4th on Holland-America (prior HAL: Ryndam around South America, Noordam to southern Caribbean, and Veendam repositioning through Panama Canal). All those are 1200+ passenger ships, whereas Oosterdam is built to carry

1800+ passengers. We think the huge delay we experienced at checkin, the overcrowding in the Lido at lunchtime, and the generally lower level of service we and other passengers experienced, are the result of having half again as many passengers but not taking extra measures (number of staff especially but also space in some cases) to accommodate that many additional people. HAL's biggest asset, and a reason they have been our favorite cruise line, is the wonderful Indonesian and Filipino staff--cheerful, hard working, patient, friendly, and capable--but on this cruise we felt they were understaffed for the work load. For an example, in the Lido and all around the Lido Pool area at both breakfast and lunch, dirty dishes, trays and vacated tables were not cleared promptly (thus exacerbating the overcrowding because incoming people could not find tables) and water and coffee were seldom refilled. This is not the level of service we expect on HAL and many others also commented negatively about it. Other service lapses are noted here and there below. CHECKIN: Almost 3 hours elapsed between when we got on line at 12:30 p.m. and arrived in our cabin a little after 3 p.m. I thought maybe this was caused by the fact that a tour group of 400+ had arrived just before us, but when I questioned one of the red-jacketed shore staff she said "It's always like this every Sunday." This was a very unpleasant way to start what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. We were also surprised that when we finally arrived on board we were greeted and then simply pointed in the direction of our stateroom instead of being personally escorted to it as we have been on every other HAL cruise--one more cutback in level of service, that does not give the voyage a good start. In chatting with various passengers during the cruise we heard some more 'horror stories.' One woman asked in the Dining Room for a cheeseburger without the bun and with blue cheese instead of cheddar, and was refused "because that is a special order." (When the plate came she removed her own bun and scraped off the cheddar as best she could.) Another couple ordered Room Service for lunch, with a sandwich for the wife and chef's salad with thousand island dressing for the husband. They noticed that the menu said the sandwich would come with chips, so they asked for some chips along with the salad, too. When the tray arrived, there was no dressing on the salad BUT broken chips were sprinkled all over the top of it. Are all these things unrelated, or do they indicate a deterioration that will alienate HAL's faithful clientele? GOOD CHANGES & NICE TOUCHES: On Oosterdam you get one magnetized card that is not only your ship ID for going ashore and charging purchases in the ship's stores, but also opens the lock on your stateroom door. Additionally, the in-cabin safe works via a 4-digit PIN you select, so you don't need to swipe a credit card to use it. This means that instead of carrying 3 plastic cards around, you only need one (the key/ID card). However, the key card was iffy--we had to exchange ours twice at the Front Desk before we got a set that worked reliably. Hint: If your card doesn't open the door, rub the UPC area on your clothing and try again! Also apparently HAL has relaxed the rule against bringing your own drinks on board. We saw a fellow at checkin with 2 cases of Coke--and later, in the ship's liquor store the clerk said we could take our bottle with us to our room and consume it during the cruise if we liked. When we bought liquor ashore and carried it back on board nobody turned a hair. I asked at the Front Office and they said all HAL ships now allow passengers to bring drinks on board BUT if you have wine you want to drink with dinner you will be charged corkage in the dining room. I think this sensible policy change may reduce bar profits a little bit but creates good will--not to mention eliminating passenger arguments with staff, who were previously supposed to enforce the prior unpopular rule. Foot-pedal-activated drinking fountains here and there on the Promenade Deck. You can walk through fore and aft on all passenger decks--the kitchen does not block off the dining room deck but instead is along the port side, leaving room for a corridor to starboard. THE SHIP: Decor was handsome, mostly in blues and greens, with pleasant and quite varied artwork scattered around. The fresh flower arrangements were not as huge and lavish as on some HAL ships, but still very nice. It's worthwhile to look UP in many areas--to see "books" on the coffered library ceiling, or foam "scallop shells" above the tables around the Lido pool (this latter also helped reduce noise there). And at the Lido Bar the seats are a hoot--a row of fanciful brass dolphins standing on their noses with their tail fins spread out to make the sitting place! Elevator lobbies were spacious, doors elegant, and the 4 glass-walled outside elevators amidships were fun to ride. All elevators were generally prompt and uncrowded. Vista Lounge (biggest theatre) had enough seating for all who wanted to see the show, and excellent sight-lines except for a few pillars. Entry to it was from Decks 1, 2 or 3, which made it easier to get people in and out. Only the "orchestra" seats had little tables for drinks and as usual nobody pushed drink sales. Queen's Lounge was movie theatre, again with good seating and sight lines, but a wider and shallower room rather than like a standard theatre. Unfortunately much of the carpet on stairs and in elevators was a solid dark royal blue color that showed absolutely every piece of lint, dust, grain of sand or other trash. As a result, the elevators always looked dirty and the stairs usually did too. They need to change that carpet for something textured that will not look filthy just minutes after being vacuumed. (We also did not see much vacuuming going on, which surprised us as on other ships you see it constantly. Another sign of under-staffing?) All shops and many lounges are now on the Promenade Deck, instead of the cabins found there on the other HAL ships--cabins that while being "ocean view" lacked a sense of privacy because people on deck are walking just outside your window. Shopping area is a confusing, crowded jumble with people milling around instead of clearly defined corridors and separate shops. Lots of display space in Photo Gallery (outside Dining Room) but with so many passengers it was hard to find "our" pictures. The Promenade Deck chairs are the handsome HAL classic teak with striped cushions. In the Lido, on stateroom balconies and other areas the chairs are tan wicker-looking plastic. Unfortunately only the Penthouse Suites have a lounge chair on the balcony--all the other cabin balconies have only "sit up" chairs. And around the pool and on the upper decks, even the lounge chairs did not go completely flat, so lying on your stomach involved contortion and/or discomfort! Because of the outside elevators and also the rearrangement of cabin decks, the Promenade Deck is constricted in some places, and so does not give long unobstructed views. But with so many balcony cabins, few people were sitting out there and we had plenty of room to walk around the deck (3 laps = 1 mile). However during the Boat Drill it was hard to get to your station because of crowding on the narrower parts of that deck. There's no "B" deck (psychological reason?) but they've added a "Rotterdam" cabin deck up above. No free Java Bar, but self-serve coffee and tea are available 24 hours a day in the Lido and if you don't see milk just ask at the ice cream counter or the dessert station. The Windstar Cafe SELLS fancy coffees, and "gives" you a pastry if you buy a coffee, with or without shots. CABIN: Typical HAL decor with blond "wood" walls and furniture. Balcony cabin may be a few inches to one foot smaller in both width and length than in the 1200+ passenger ships--several other passengers also commented on this. More "plastic" looking, especially in the bathroom, where for example the medicine cabinet is molded plastic with walls so thick there is little actual storage space inside (but a good long shelf under the sink and counter held the overflow). Balcony decking was plastic too, supposed to look like teak--only partly successful (and dirty, besides). Few drawers in cabin, but lots of shelves in the closets. Adequate lighting with the usual confusing array of switches. The draw-drapery did a good job of keeping out morning light if I slept late. Spare blanket was in under-bed drawer, but also room under bed for empty suitcases. Hooks on wall that obviously once WERE for complimentary terrycloth robes (no longer supplied)--and a couple of empty holes where we think the explanatory plate used to be fastened (saying robes could be purchased to take home if desired). Effective cooling system even in the tropics, but no numbers on the thermostat so it was a guessing game as to how much to move the pointer if you wanted it just a little cooler or a little warmer. Hair dryer hidden behind a desk door, along with wine glasses. Plaid "lap rugs" (afghan sized) were stowed in cabinets above the sofa and were handy when it was kinda cool on the balcony but we still wanted to sit out. FITNESS: Normally 2 morning and 2 afternoon sets of classes, with about half of them free and the rest at $11 each, but for a one-time payment of $40 you could take all you wanted all week. My husband enjoyed this, trying out spin cycle, Pilates, fit ball, yoga and others with the 2 onboard instructors. SPA, CASINO, BINGO: We didn't patronize, so cannot comment. ALTERNATIVE RESTAURANT: We did not go but talked with several couples who did and said it was a wonderful experience and worth the extra cost. DINNER: As usual on HAL, if you don't sign up at least 4 months in advance you cannot get First Seating for dinner. We bought our tickets at the last minute so we knew this would be the case. However, we cannot eat as late as Second Seating so we went to the Lido every evening where they had a very nice setup. You got your own salad at the salad bar, chose an appetizer and/or soup on line, gave your entree order on that line, received a card with a number and carried your tray to sit where you pleased at a cloth-covered table. In a reasonable time your entree was brought to you at your table. Desserts, tea and coffee were also self-serve. The menu was almost the same as in the Dining Room, one exception being that no cold soups were offered (only the 2 hot ones) and the desserts were about the same every night (no flambees, no Baked Alaska parade, etc., but excellent cheesecake, chocolate cake, ice cream selection and others). I often have cheeses instead of dessert, and I liked being able to pick up my cheese plate when I first entered and transfer the cheeses off their freezing cold plate onto a room-temperature one, so by the time I was ready for my cheese course everything had warmed up enough to release the full flavors! Another thing I liked was that an example of each entree plate was displayed at the counter where you placed your order, so you could see what vegetables and starch accompanied each meat or fish choice. The staff was very cooperative about letting me have the vegetable selection that was supposed to go with some other entree. (Example: the steak had a small potato pancake and roasted slices of squash but instead I asked for and got the broccoli and baby carrots that supposedly went with the roast pork.) Because we always ate dinner in the Lido, on the last night we tipped the head steward and the 4 table waiters plus "Bernie" (bar assistant) who had been very good about refilling our water glasses. Hint: if you do this, tip them the night BEFORE that, because the Lido is always very crowded the evening just before docking and a couple of extra guys were working there--made it hard to find the 4 we wanted to reward! OTHER MEALS: Different Lido "stations" for sandwiches, salad bar (only one, so it always had a LONG line--they really should set up 2 separate salad bars as they have for most other items), drinks, pasta/pizza, stir-fry, regular cafeteria type line, desserts, etc. (By the way, the bread pudding is NOT at the dessert station but instead is tucked away by one of the drink areas!) The first few days of the cruise were very annoying because the Lido was jammed at lunchtime (fully open only 2 1/2 hours, 11:30-2). It was almost impossible to find a table anywhere inside the Lido or out by the pool during those hours, mostly because of the crowds but partly because the table stewards were slow to clear tables that had been vacated. Trays used to carry dishes were not collected promptly, thus making the room look even more crowded and messy. Lunch menu in the main Dining Room was limited, repetitive and boring which probably caused more crowding in the Lido. After a few days of irritation (forced to decide between too-limited lunch menu in Dining Room vs. terrible overcrowding in Lido), we worked out a system. Because in the morning the Lido was open 6-10:30 for "continental" breakfast and 6:30-10 for hot cooked-to-order items, crowding then was not too bad because passenger use was spread over 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours instead of only 2 1/2 hours for full service at lunch. So we'd have an early light breakfast (before exercising) and then stop there again for a light snack before the lines closed at 10 or 10:30. Then we would postpone even trying to have lunch until full service ended in the Lido after 2 p.m. and the crowd thinned out. Then we could get a burger, hot dog or fix-it-yourself tacos at the grill by the pool, plus inside the Lido a basic salad from the salad bar, pizza (pretty good, too) or pasta, with no trouble getting a table. Finally at 6:30 or shortly thereafter we would go to the Lido for dinner as described above. The redesigned Lido with its different food "stations" and the tables in variously separated nooks looks very nice, but more work is needed to fine-tune the concept so everything moves better and overcrowding is reduced. One more comment about the Lido--the dishes seemed to be a French version of "Corelle" and had brushed colored bands around the rims. People with whom I spoke found them rather unattractive, as did I. And the coffee mugs were too small! EVENING SHOWS IN VISTA LOUNGE: Two ensemble shows were noisy and flashy (lots of costume and wig changes, constant frenetic 'dancing') without being particularly musical or presenting 'standard' songs that have stood the test of time and the audience would recognize and appreciate. No other musical acts, unlike some other cruises. Comedians relied too much on tired old Viagra jokes. No "ship's orchestra"--but "the Vista Lounge Band" that seemed to consist of keyboard, 2 electric guitars, sax and percussion. SUMMARY: After a rocky start we did enjoy our cruise because of the nice ports, lovely weather, our peaceful balcony, the beautiful ocean, each other's company and the ways we worked out to get around the little annoyances. We would even consider sailing again on Oosterdam or one of its 1800+ passenger sister ships, Zuiderdam and Westerdam (to be launched in spring 2004). But we would do so prepared for the fact that we would not get the same over-all service (nor lunchtime choices) as in the company's 1200+ passenger ships. The new 1800+ class ships are beautiful and do incorporate some welcome changes as noted above. We hope the company will take steps to reduce or eliminate the problems of crowding and poorer service described here.

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Jan 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

As first time cruisers, we really didn’t know what to expect. Sure, we read up on a lot of areas that had us worried, our travel agent was most helpful and of course our friends tried to explain what to expect. So we have to tell all the first timers, relax and don’t worry, everything will likely go smoothly. We sailed the new Holland America’s “OOSTERDAM” on January 11th, 2004 for 7 days on the Western Caribbean cruise with

4 ports of call. Half Moon Key which is their private island, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. We embarked at around 1:30 p.m. after taking about 45 minutes to go through the registration and getting our pictures taken and ship card. We had a few hours to tour the ship before our luggage arrived and participate in the mandatory lifeboat and lifejacket drill at 4:30 p.m. If first impressions are anything, you will be impressed by the size and the rich feeling the OOSTERDAM has. We had upgraded our cabin by a couple of categories and it was well worth it. A good size veranda was icing on the cake. (Most OOSTERDAM rooms have verandas). This was our home for 7 days and was very comfortable. We booked the early dinner sitting and was glad of that. We had a smaller table for 6 and the 2 couples at our table were very nice. We seemed to hit it off right away and made dining a pleasure for us. This first night was quite rough (due to the inclement weather) and it caused a lot of people to forgo the delicious meal. We did find every dinner to be a wonderful selection of different items all served in a 5 course meal. Can’t make up your mind what you want? Order everything, they will bring it to you. But be forewarned, most servings are a good size to begin with. We were anxious to get the night started anyways so after supper, off we went to explore. We took in every show in the main showroom at 8:30 pm in the Vista Lounge and every show was fabulous. We did receive a listing of each days events on the ship and this was most helpful in planning your day and evening. THE SHIP; Meals; You have a choice of the early dinner sitting (6 p.m.) or the late sitting (8:15 p.m.). We found the early sitting was to our liking. (The only time we went against our travel agents recommendations). There were also other restaurants to eat at too if you didn’t want the formal dining. We found the pizza and ice cream in the Lido Restaurant late at night was a favorite. Free room service 24hrs. per day was a definite plus. We found ourselves ordering a light breakfast from room service when we first awoke, and going up to the main dining room for the complete breakfast after we got mobile. All in all, the food was first class and plentiful. The Thursday night ‘DESSERT EXTRAVAGANZA” was a feast you had to see to believe (and taste). No wonder we put on 6 pounds in these 7 days. Activities; The main showroom had their big show every night. One night it was a comedian, a juggling team, an illusionist, 2 big production shows, a musical act. All were excellent. The shows lasted about an hour, so you have time to take in other activities on the ship before retiring for the night. We did trivia, name that tune and numerous other things before going for our late night pizza. Service; Our cabin steward was very good and friendly. The turndown service at night with the chocolates on the pillow was a nice touch. The towels were always clean and fresh through out the day. We were served at our dinner by a very friendly and happy waiter. The wine steward and maitre d’ were most helpful and friendly and the gentleman that was fairly new who assisted the waiter will get better as he gains more experience. Shore excursions. The ship has a lady that gives talks about upcoming shore excursions. If you miss her live talk in the morning in the Vista Lounge, it is taped and shown in your stateroom 24 hrs. per day on TV. She supplies a ton of good information and tips for the next days port. We had 4 ports of call as follows; Day 1, HALF MOON KEY; This is Holland America’s private island. The ship didn’t dock here and we had to take little “tenders” to go from the ship to the island. We elected to take a relaxing day and just lay on the beach. They supplied us with a free BBQ with hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, salads and desserts. A Caribbean band kept the atmosphere alive. Day 2, AT SEA; This was a real fun day with lots of ship activities to keep us busy. We certainly enjoyed the pace and the many choices of things to do if you want Day 3, OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA We docked in a port here, so it was just a matter of walking off the ship and into a waiting taxi. We choose the Dolphin Touch and Dunn River Falls tour. The dolphin touch was a very rewarding experience as these clever animals were following our commands and then they rewarded us with a kiss each. The Falls were breath taking and well worth the time to view them. A lot of people choose to climb the falls, we took the stairs and stayed dry. We came back to the ship for lunch then went back on land and went shopping. The ship set sail at 4 pm and we had plenty of time to clean up before we took on another fabulous meal. Day 4, GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Again we had to “tender” onto land, here we choose to do a city tour, a visit to the Turtle Farm and we even went to “HELL”. This is an area of very jagged rocky terrain (just like hell, they say) and across the way was a shop called Heaven. We did a walk of the main street and did some shopping. A very relaxing and a different atmosphere from Jamaica. Day 5, COZUMEL We were here the longest, 14 hours. We choose to do the Atlantis Submarine here, and this is a very worthwhile excursion. After we came back had lunch on the ship and went back and toured the very busy streets and many vendors set up. This is a very active city, more for the party goers than us laid back folks. We returned to the ship and had another enjoyable meal and took part in a lot of the ship activities. Day 6, AT SEA Another fun filled day at sea but a sad one as we are on our way back to Fort Lauderdale. The morning started off with a disembarkation talk and crew farewell. The talk was very informative for us first timers, as it explained what to expect the next day and also Holland America’s no tipping policy. (Tipping is optional, it is up to the individual if and how much you choose to tip). We tipped the crew after dinner tonight that looked after us on a daily basis; the dining room head waiter and assistant, wine steward, and the cabin steward.. A preliminary bill was received this day stating your ship account balance. We were pleasantly surprised at ours and even went down and did more shopping at the ships shops. Again we had a day filled with many activities but we managed to find a couple of hours to enjoy our veranda. Day 7, DISEMBARKMENT We were off the ship at 9:15 (Immigration held up the disembarkment) and with our plane not leaving until 5:15p.m., we did an Everglades tour. We enjoyed the tour very much. IN SUMMARY; HOLLAND AMERICA made our first cruise an unforgettable one. From the ship itself, to the meals, entertainment and the friendly staff, to the shore excursions, they made you feel special. Any holiday is only what you make it, but when you have a staff of 800 helping you enjoy yourself, it’s pretty easy to see why most cruisers always enjoy themselves. I don’t imagine our experiences on this cruise would be too different from the other cruise lines, but Holland America was a great choice for us. Thanks Bridget.

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Nov 7, 2003

Mediterranean

The Oosterdam is a new ship, and it was at capacity with 1801 passengers, most of whom were Americans, with 400 Canadians and a large contingent of Koreans on a Korean radio convention. Although Holland America is attempting to attract younger passengers, the average age of the people onboard was over 70. The decor of this ship is a retro-50s look, and the public rooms were all attractive, though they seemed chopped up in certain areas.

The library was right in the middle of the shops which seemed an odd placement. Although the ship was large, I didn't have any problems finding my way around. However, since the ship was at capacity, there were always waits for an elevator and one or more elevators were always out of service. There were also lines in the Lido cafe, and people saved seats for their family and friends. My cabin was a N guarantee (lowest priced inside), and on the day of sailing I was upgraded to a J category, but it was the same small inside cabin a few decks up. There was enough storage space in the cabin, though there were only two drawers (in the bedside stands), and the hairdryer was in a cabinet with glassware. Each cabin has a mini-bar, but the prices are the same as hotel prices so I never used it. The bathroom was a good size. One improvement was that there is now a rack outside each cabin door for all those flyers that used to be shoved underneath the cabin door. The food was good to very good, though service in the dining room was slow. The waiter seemed to be busy, so it wasn't due to his lack of diligence. The head waiter frequently had to assist with filling water glasses, etc. We were also getting our food cold until people at my table complained. The flaming desserts are now served in the Explorer's Lounge. The food in the Lido seems to have improved since my last cruise with Holland America, especially in terms of variety. They now have food courts or stations in addition to the cafeteria lines. These islands serve omelets at breakfast, sandwiches at lunch, etc. There is also a grill for hot dogs, hamburgers, polish sausage, etc. along with a taco bar. I didn't eat in the alternate restaurant for which there is a charge, and I never saw many people in there when I passed by. They also have a coffee bar where there is a charge, but, again, there weren't many people using it. The entertainment was generally good. I attended every floor show which is a first for me, but my table companions went every night so I did, too. Flamengo dancers were brought on board when we were in Malaga, Spain and they were my favorite floor show. This was a port-intensive trip. We were to spend two days in Venice, but due to delays, and the airline removing our luggage on the flight from Amsterdam to Venice, we wasted a lot of time in line filling in lost luggage forms in the airport in Venice. Holland America's embarkation procedures seem excessively slow. They even had all the passengers wipe their hands on a wet disposable wipe as they entered the boarding area. No one explained the point of this exercise. At any rate it was 3:30 p.m. before my group got on the ship, and it was 9 p.m. before we got our luggage. There were a lot of passengers with lost luggage, and it was quite the topic of conversation. The next day was a shore excursion to Venice to see the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and St. Mark's Square. We were delayed leaving the ship for an hour because it was raining heavily outside, and the passengers refused to leave the gangplank. When we finally got off, we had to board motor launches and it was about a 20 minute trip into Venice. I can say I saw Venice, but this short visit did not do it justice. The next port was Loutraki, Greece where many of the passengers took the trip into Athens for the day. We had to tender in. I toured Corinth where I had stayed in 1981, and it was well worth a return visit. We saw the Temple of Appollo, the Roman toilets, and the Corinth canal. The next day we were in Corfu, Greece. I took the Paleokastritsa and Corfu town tour which first took us to the resort area of Paleokastritsa where four busloads of tourists visited a small 12th century Greek Orthodox monastery. We saw the Greek Orthodox church of St. Spiridon in Corfu. People commented that Corfu didn't look like Greece. It doesn't have those old whitewashed buildings, and it has a strong Italian and French flavor. There is a picturesque old town and a great old fort jutting out into the sea. There was a ship shuttle bus at Corfu, so one could easily do this port without taking a shore excursion. Next came Valletta, Malta where I took a tour of Malta's capitals old and new. Malta is comprised of five islands with 400,000 people. It is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world. We were taken to St. John's Co-Cathedral where the crowds of tourists were so thick we literally couldn't move. The ship was about a twenty minute (uphill) walk from town, so I went back on my own after lunch and there was no one in the cathedral. It was worth the walk to see Valletta without the hoards of tourists that were there in the morning. This is another port that one could do on one's own. The next day we were in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. I took a city tour that took us up to the old walled city, and we toured a museum, then went to a scenic lookout, and had a drive along the beach. Livorno, Italy came next. This is a large and busy port. We took a 30 minute drive through Tuscany to Pisa where we left the coach and then had a 10-minute walk to the old walled city to see the three buildings at Pisa -- the bapistery, the cathedral, and the bell tower (the leaning tower.) All have recently been cleaned, and this is an impressive complex. One can climb up the leaning tower for 15 Euros if one is so inclined. Later that afternoon we took a free shuttle bus provided by the cruise line into Livorno to do some shopping. We had to tender in at Monte Carlo, Monaco the next day. I had debated what shore excursion to take, and decide on Nice and Eze which turned out to be a good choice. We got to see a lot of the French Riviera, and, although the water isn't as blue as it would be in summer, the scenery was still splendid. That afternoon I went up the mountain in Monte Carlo to see the old town and the royal palace. The palace is closed to visitors from November 1 until March, so I only saw the outside. We had another day at sea, then were in Malaga, Spain where we took the shore excursion to Granada to see the Alhambra, one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in the world. There were 500 people on the ship's shore excursion, and our guide there said they get 7000 visitors a day. They do break people into groups of 30 to do the tour. The tour of Alhambra takes about three hours, and then we all had lunch at a local hotel before heading back to Malaga. The next day we were in Gibraltor, U.K. where I took a 1 1/2 hour tour that turned into a 2 1/2 hour tour of Gibraltor's highlights. I'd seen cruise itineraries where the ships just passed by the famous rock, but I'm sure glad I got a chance to see Gibraltor. It is a worthwhile port. One can also see Africa (Morocco) from Gibraltor, and even walk across the border to Spain. The runway of the airport runs through town, and gates come down when a plane is landing or taking off. We also saw the famous Barbery Apes. I walked back to Gibraltor after lunch which was about a 20 minute walk from where the ship was docked. The streets were crowded with shoppers. There were two other cruise ships in port that day, including a Russian (older) ship the Maxim Goriky. I had told the guide that I'd never seen so many tourists, and he said I should be there in July or August if I wanted to see crowds. No thank you! Our final port was Lisbon, Portugal, but about 500 passengers were staying on the ship for another 12-day segment and transatlantic crossing while 1300 of us were getting off in Lisbon. I was told by the front desk that I'd be called to disembark at 7:40 a.m., and I was called at 8:00 a.m. Our bus left for the airport by 8:30 a.m. for a 12:40 p.m. flight on TAP to Newark Liberty. It was lucky I was on one of the first buses, as there appeared to be about 1000 people in line to check in at TAP. The entire flight experience with Air Portugal was an experience best forgotten. This ship is now going to be used in the North American mass market doing Caribbean and Alaska cruises. Holland America is not offering the itinerary I took in the Mediterranean next year, so I'm glad I took the cruise when I did. I've sailed on the Volendam and the Amsterdam, two of the newer Holland America ships, and I preferred both of these ships to the Oosterdam, in terms of size and decor.

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Jan 11, 2003

Western Caribbean

Just returned from a great cruise on a beautiful ship. We cruised for 7 days on the new Oosterdam. This ship made her maiden voyage in August of 2003. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 10am on Sunday the 11th and took a taxi to the Port. We had heard that HAL offered early boarding. The taxi was $20 with tip and the Port was very quiet when we arrived. We waited through a small line and then we were on the ship about 11:30am. The

rooms are not ready until about 1pm, but we had lunch on the Lido Deck and wandered the ship. We had dressed comfortably so we did not need out luggage. If you need to change, or want your swimming suit as soon as you board, pack it in your carryon. We were pleased with our stateroom. We went on a shoestring budget and our room was the basic inside stateroom. But it was roomy enough for two. We asked our steward to combine the beds to a queen. The closet space was adequate with lots of shelves. No drawers, but the shelves were easier to organize clothing. We did notice about 3 days into the trip that there are drawers under the beds and spaces under the bed where we could place empty luggage. The food was good on the ship. The Vista Dining room really offered a variety of food all presented very elegantly. The Lido Deck is pretty much the same fare on a daily basis. We gravitated to the Lido Grill often for lunch for the burger and fries. Room service was good--try the BLT. You can buy a “soft drink card” at any of the bars. I think it was 27.00 for the week. Again, the shoestring budget, we carried on 14 diet cokes. They almost lasted the week. Hubby bought 2 cokes at $1.95 when he ran out. Movies and more movies. This was a surprise to us. Very recent movies being shown several times a day and once in the Queen’s Lounge. I had read from another review that the seating was poor. It was if the movie was well attended. If you really want a good seat--get there early for front row. Take a tour of the Greenhouse Spa. They have some great services and if you avail yourself of them on “Port” days, they are cheaper. The private island “Half Moon Cay” was beautiful. The water was a bit cool and the snorkeling wasn’t great. But the beach is beautiful and hammocks and chairs provided. We didn’t stay for lunch. We went back on the tender to eat on the ship. We did one shore excursion with HAL. It was in Ocho Rios -- Enchanted Garden. I wouldn’t bother.again. It was $29 each and it was not informative enough. We weren’t impressed with Ocho Rios on the whole -- not great shopping and very poor city. The third port was Grand Cayman. It was great. We had read ahead to just walk out to the street and look for a vendor selling Sting Ray City tours. We went with one and had a great time. It cost each of us $35. The ships price was $49 for the same thing and was sold out when we were onboard. The fourth port was Cozumel. I suggest getting a taxi and go to Chakannab beach on your own. It will cost about $20 for the taxi and $10 to get in. But the beach is great and snorkeling is at your feet. Disembarkation was very orderly. We had an early flight (11:30) and HAL sent around a form asking so that they can put people in order of priority. We had breakfast about 8:00 am and found a comfy spot to wait in one of the lounges on Deck 2. . We were the 2nd group called and we had gone through Immigration and picked up our bags and had a taxi by 10am. We noticed at the airport that there was a group of 15 that didn’t make their flight because of the HAL transportation from the ship. It seems that taking your own taxi is a good idea. The “Tipping not Required” policy made it easy to tip. We felt we had received good service and tipped accordingly. No one wants to tell you what to tip, so you just go with what you think. The staff seemed grateful and surprised at the tipping. (Probably good training!) All in all, it was a great cruise. The more you get involved, the more fun you will have. If you are going for R&R, you will find it on Holland America.

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Nov 30, -0001

round trip from Seatle to Alaska

No provision for use of hairdryer or nightlight in bathroom. Lighting in makeup area in room inadequate. No clock provided. Lido dining was an epidemic waiting to happen, food offered by servers under sneeze guard in lido, self-service pies in lido had to be grasped to remove a slice, many guests grasped the pie tin, licked their fingers and proceeded to the next pie. Timing of the shows made it nearly impossible for 2nd seating guest to see the

entire show. Prices for wines were very, very exorbinent even for vin ordinaire. Dining reservations were handled very poorly, even for we experienced mariners. Service in both cabin and dining room was very good, but our overall experience on this particular Holland America ship was very, very disappointing. Liked the culinary lectures. Cruise directors were mainly shills. Hubbard glacier and Sitka were interesting. Juneau was OK, but because of lack of time, Victoria was waste of time. Liked our previous experiences on other Holland America ships, but would not book the Oosterdam again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

A very beautiful ship. Staterooms that are not just a place to hang some clothes and to sleep in. Our verandah suite never got cramped during our seven days at sea. The spaciousness of the verandah itself was amazing and really made the trip a very relaxing experience. The Lido buffet is unispired and routine. During meal-times there are perhaps half as many seats as needed and the staff are slow to clear dirty tables. The main dining room

menus were disappointing. I prefer a good surf and turf and don't mind trying new things, but give me the choice. The bread was always cold, the service was always slow, and the wait staff seldom introduced themselves, seemingly concentrating only on avoiding your eyes and needs. Las Caletas was a nice experience in Puerta Vallarta. Cabo dockside is packed with beggars and way-over-priced restaurants. Mazatlan's 'Gold Zone' had a really good open air restaurant right near the diamond place the taxis drop you. We enjoyed the shrimps and margaritas immensely.

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