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First time cruiser, advice needed - Oosterdam


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Hi, myself & my partner are going on our first ever cruise in October for our honeymoon.

 

We are sailing on the Oosterdam from San Diego through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale.

 

As cruise virgins we have lots of questions I'm hoping you may be able to help me with some of them.

 

Is it worth buying a drink package? I've on read on some forum boards that they have happy hours on board, is this true?

 

What is the entertainment like on board the Oosterdam? I can't seem to find information on the onboard entertainment.

 

Should we book our excursions before we board? For those of you who have experience of this itinerary do you have any recommendations?

 

Thanks in advance

 

 

 

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Drink Package...guess it depends on how much you drink. Remember you can bring one bottle each of wine on board without corkage. Happy hours, yes

 

Excursions...I never book through the ships. Always try to book with my CC group, check your roll call to see what is available or start a group yourself to see if others are interested.

 

Entertainment...Oh boy, hard for me to remember,I think 3 other cruises since last HAL. I remember arts & crafts, language classes, and computer classes. LOVED the computer classes. Of course also nightly entertainment.

Hope that helps a bit.

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Welcome to Cruise Critic and congratulations to you both on your upcoming honeymoon.

 

The drink packages would be required for both of you - all adults in the cabin. They cover alcoholic drinks up to $9 per otherwise you pay full price; 15 "drinks" per day including non-alcoholic drinks (specialty coffees and teas, specialty water, soft drinks...). So whether it's worth it depends on your patterns. Also keep in mind that the packages do not cover bottles of wine, only wine by the glass. So we by wine packages and maybe a cocktail here or there.

Happy hour is once or twice per day - check the daily programs for the location(s) - where you can buy a drink and get the second one for $2, same drink. Applies to glasses of wine, beer or soda. Maybe even bottled water.... Cans or bottles you can save for later and bring to your room.

 

Shore excursions can be purchases up front, or on the ship. It's possible popular ones sell out prior to boarding, so if there is something you really have your heart set on, you might as well buy it now. They are refundable if you change mind, restrictions may apply.

Researching private tours can find you more options, might save you some money, but may also involve some potential risks - we would always make sure a private tour company has a payment method to our satisfaction - e.g., we do not send our credit card info via email; we would make a deposit via a secure website or paypal only if it is refundable if the ship skips the port; if it's a group price and other people cancel we consider that we might (it varies) have to pay more to cover the cost spread out over a smaller group; and we would want some assurance that they can get us back to the ship on time - some will guarantee it and get you to your next port if they miss the ship). I ask about their back-ups in case they have break-down, can they communicate with others in their company or other tour companies in the area to help them, etc. I'm very cautious about private tours and pick them with contingencies in mind, I feel most comfortable if we have a late port departure. I have set up tours for my roll call people that went to places the ship tours didn't. Some people prefer the small group tours and greater flexibility of private tours. We tend to use a mix of ship tours, private tours and DIY plans. Often tours are offered at the pier by locals and we have found some excellent opportunities like that, but make sure you know up front about cost, payment method and if the guide speaks English if you need that.

 

Entertainment: There is almost always a show in the evening in the main theater lounge, usually at 8 and 10pm, same show. These will be guest entertainers: singers, musicians, comedians, magicians etc., plus likely 3 different production shows by the ship's cast of singers and dancers. Other entertainment in the evenings will be a classical duo (or if Westerdam has the Lincoln Center Stage a quintet); piano bar or dueling pianos; a small band in a lounge for dancing; and or the BB Kings Bands in another lounge type venue. HAL ships have been changing their live music venues so I'm not positive where Westerdam is in the change-over schedule.

 

The computer classes are sponsored by Microsoft so are Windows-based, all free and very popular. If you miss one you are interested in, they are recurring.

 

One recommendation is to get up very early the day you enter the canal. It's worth seeing from the start. They will have coffee, tea, juice and Panama Buns on the outside decks. We've done that cruise that direction and one downside is that you will have 3 days to turn your clocks ahead and lose an hour, but di get up early to see the beginning of the transit, even prior to the transit to see all the different types of ships awaiting their transit slot. Going under the bridge is a great photo op.

 

Hope this helps, do check in our CC roll call for your specific cruise to meet fellow cruisers. m--

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What a fantastic choice for a honeymoon! Congratulations!

 

I agree with most of RMLIncoln's comments about tours. We do a mix of completely independent (if the sites we want to visit are close to the port) and ship tours. Once in a while, we take a tour that isn't from the ship.

 

For newbies, I think ship's tours make it easier. This is probably a busy time for you, and if you haven't done any research about the ports, it's late to be starting from scratch. I suggest you start by looking at the tours the ship offers. If something looks good to you, take a look at the reviews to see what others thought about it. If it still looks good, I suggest you book it now. You're pretty close to sailing and some tours may already be full. In some cases, the website will let you get on a waitlist.

 

A good second place to do research is Tripadvisor. Sometimes you can recognize a vendor if the wording of the ship's tour and the vendor's tour is the same. That gives you a chance to see more reviews. If you find something independent after you've booked a ship tour, you can cancel up to a certain point. Also check out the "whats in port" site. They often have a links to a local tourist authority and local maps. And Cruise Critic has port of call boards where you can learn about individual ports.

 

It is fun to get out front to see the entry into the canal. But don't plan on spending all your time in any one place. The canal is fascinating and every spot on the ship gives you a different look. The Panama buns are available in many areas. The kitchen staff stay up all night baking them, so there are plenty. And you can go out front to see the entry into the locks at the Atlantic side later in the day, so don't obsess too much about getting up front at 5 AM or whenever it is the ship enters the Canal.

 

You may see tours available for part of the day the ship goes through the canal. But for a first time, I suggest you stay on board and enjoy the transit.

 

If you have more questions, please ask! That's what the HAL board is here for.

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Welcome to cruise critic. You will find that many of the people on CC are amazingly well traveled and will offer information that you never even thought about questioning. I can't tell you how much I've learned over the years.

 

One thing I would mention regarding the Panama Canal tour. We have done the partial transit (Fort Lauderdale - Fort Lauderdale) and are doing the same cruise over Thanksgiving this year. Check your itinerary to see if there is a listing for Gatun Lake, Panama. If so, this is the only port that I know of that you can only get off the ship if you are doing a ships tour. We did the tour to the Enbera Native Indian Village and it was fascinating. But it is my understanding that you cannot do private tours from this port.

 

Hope this helps.

Helen

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Welcome to cruise critic. You will find that many of the people on CC are amazingly well traveled and will offer information that you never even thought about questioning. I can't tell you how much I've learned over the years.

 

One thing I would mention regarding the Panama Canal tour. We have done the partial transit (Fort Lauderdale - Fort Lauderdale) and are doing the same cruise over Thanksgiving this year. Check your itinerary to see if there is a listing for Gatun Lake, Panama. If so, this is the only port that I know of that you can only get off the ship if you are doing a ships tour. We did the tour to the Enbera Native Indian Village and it was fascinating. But it is my understanding that you cannot do private tours from this port.

 

Hope this helps.

Helen

 

You are correct about Gatun Lake. Only passengers taking a HAL tour may go ashore there.

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Need to correct my info above: I mentioned Westerdam, but you are going on Oostderdam, sorry about my mistake, she has had the music venue change-over, so you will have the Lincoln Center Stage classical music quintet - they will play classical and pops music; also the two pianos and the dance band plus the BB King All Stars band.

 

As for ports, we always go for a swim at Huatulco, the beach is next to the tender pier. We have enjoyed a ship tour in Costa Rica into the higher terrain, saw lots of beauiful birds and flowers, some huge crocodiles, a guided jungle walk over a swinging bridge; in Guatemala we walked around the pier area, the jade museum is blessedly air conditioned; lots of jewelry in the market area, jade and other stones. The coffee selection was good there, and many useful handicrafts - I still have a cloth shoulder carrier water bottle case that I bought there.

 

DH loves this itinerary, he still tells people how it's his favorite for it's rhythm-- a good mix of sea days an port days. For me it's all about the canal experience, I never get tired of it. Be prepared for some very hot days, have a hat or an umbrella for shade, pace yourselves, bring plenty of water - you can refill water bottles from the ship tap water, it's very good water unless you have a favorite that you want to bring aboard. Realize that you can't take fresh food off the ship so I bring some protein bars with us. Have a grand time! m--

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Congrats on your choice for a great honeymoon. There are 2 beverage packages (we're talking adult beverages, not soda packages). One is the Signature Beverage Package (SBP), and the other is the Elite Beverage Package (EBP). Both work the same way, with the exception of the per-drink price cap. Each will provide you with 15 beverages per day, and that is just about anything liquid you can drink. Obviously, water (not bottled), fruit juices at breakfast, iced tea, regular coffee are all free. The SBP and EBP cover all beers, wines, cocktails, shots, liquors, sodas, bottled water, and all specialty coffees in the Exploration lounge on deck 10. Any beverages from the mini-bar fridge are NOT included, nor are drinks on HMC and room service drinks. Also, if they are selling bottles of water at the gangway, some ships don't have the ability to scan your cabin card, so you must sign a slip for that bottled water and it will be charged to your room account. If you are going on a shore excursion the next day, pickup a couple of bottles of water from any bar before bedtime the night before, and put them into your fridge for your shore excursion.

We have found the SBP to be more than adequate for our needs. Just about any cocktail you would want, all beers, and most liquors will fall under the $9 price limit. And don't concern yourself about the 15% service charge. That has already been paid, if you purchase the SBP or get it included with your cruise fare. So, just look at the bar menus and anything under $9 is up for grabs. With the EBP, the price limit jumps to $15 per drink. The big difference that many people find between the SBP and EBP is the wine selections available. You can't get a bottle of wine with either package. It's only by the glass. The wine selections in the SBP @ the $9 limit are OK, but not great. But for all other adult beverages, you can order most everything. Tequila is a bit limited, about half of their selections are above $9. Don't concern yourself about mixed drinks. Even Long Island Ice Tea with 5 different liquors is included in the SBP. A White Russian for example has vodka (your choice, even Gray Goose) and Kahlua and cream. It is included for $9. Some of the VSOP brandies are not.

One thing to remember, a $7.95 drink (regular cocktail price) will cost you $9.14 with the 15% service charge, IF you don't have the SBP and are paying by the drink. The SBP costs $51.70 per day purchased in advance, online. That includes the 15 % service charge. If you divide a typical mixed drink price of $9.14 into $51.70, you get 5-1/2 drinks. That means the 6th drink you have, on your honeymoon will be free and everyone after that, up to the 15th drink. If you think you are approaching your 16th drink and you are in BB-Kings, just wait until after midnight for that 16th drink and it will become your first for the next day. Of course, if you have had 16 drinks, you may need someone to roll you back to your cabin, and that would be a bad way to start a honeymoon.

Enjoy !!

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Re: Excursions

I called EXC directly to ask a question and in the course of the conversation I discovered that by calling directly you can find out how many slots are available.

For instance, one excursion I was interested in has 150 available. Whereas, the other one only has 24 available. I booked the second immediately even though I'm still not entirely sure I want to take it. I can cancel at no cost later but at least I know I have a spot reserved for now.

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Re: Excursions

I called EXC directly to ask a question and in the course of the conversation I discovered that by calling directly you can find out how many slots are available...

 

Another good reason to contact HAL directly when considering Shore Excursions. Thanks for the reminder.

Smooth sailing (y)(y)(y)

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... Shore excursions ... private tours ... might save you some money, but may also involve some potential risks ... I'm very cautious about private tours and pick them with contingencies in mind ... make sure you know up front about cost, payment method and if the guide speaks English if you need that...

 

Thanks for the cautionary comments about using private shore excursion providers.

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Congrats on your choice for a great honeymoon. There are 2 beverage packages (we're talking adult beverages, not soda packages). One is the Signature Beverage Package (SBP), and the other is the Elite Beverage Package (EBP). Both work the same way, with the exception of the per-drink price cap. Each will provide you with 15 beverages per day, and that is just about anything liquid you can drink. Obviously, water (not bottled), fruit juices at breakfast, iced tea, regular coffee are all free. The SBP and EBP cover all beers, wines, cocktails, shots, liquors, sodas, bottled water, and all specialty coffees in the Exploration lounge on deck 10. Any beverages from the mini-bar fridge are NOT included, nor are drinks on HMC and room service drinks. Also, if they are selling bottles of water at the gangway, some ships don't have the ability to scan your cabin card, so you must sign a slip for that bottled water and it will be charged to your room account. If you are going on a shore excursion the next day, pickup a couple of bottles of water from any bar before bedtime the night before, and put them into your fridge for your shore excursion.

We have found the SBP to be more than adequate for our needs. Just about any cocktail you would want, all beers, and most liquors will fall under the $9 price limit. And don't concern yourself about the 15% service charge. That has already been paid, if you purchase the SBP or get it included with your cruise fare. So, just look at the bar menus and anything under $9 is up for grabs. With the EBP, the price limit jumps to $15 per drink. The big difference that many people find between the SBP and EBP is the wine selections available. You can't get a bottle of wine with either package. It's only by the glass. The wine selections in the SBP @ the $9 limit are OK, but not great. But for all other adult beverages, you can order most everything. Tequila is a bit limited, about half of their selections are above $9. Don't concern yourself about mixed drinks. Even Long Island Ice Tea with 5 different liquors is included in the SBP. A White Russian for example has vodka (your choice, even Gray Goose) and Kahlua and cream. It is included for $9. Some of the VSOP brandies are not.

One thing to remember, a $7.95 drink (regular cocktail price) will cost you $9.14 with the 15% service charge, IF you don't have the SBP and are paying by the drink. The SBP costs $51.70 per day purchased in advance, online. That includes the 15 % service charge. If you divide a typical mixed drink price of $9.14 into $51.70, you get 5-1/2 drinks. That means the 6th drink you have, on your honeymoon will be free and everyone after that, up to the 15th drink. If you think you are approaching your 16th drink and you are in BB-Kings, just wait until after midnight for that 16th drink and it will become your first for the next day. Of course, if you have had 16 drinks, you may need someone to roll you back to your cabin, and that would be a bad way to start a honeymoon.

Enjoy !!

 

 

 

Thank you, that is great advice.

 

 

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Is it worth buying a drink package?

 

If you decide to purchase an adult drink package, it is less expensive to purchase it on-line before your cruise rather than once you get on board (by about $5 a day for the adult packages). We are on the same cruise (Oosterdam) in November, however, in reverse. The drink packages are expensive (compared to the packages for a one week cruise) but for us, we are purchasing them before the cruise. I don't want to have to worry about how much we've spent on beverages every day, wishing we'd purchased the package.

 

Check your itinerary to see if there is a listing for Gatun Lake, Panama. If so, this is the only port that I know of that you can only get off the ship if you are doing a ships tour. We did the tour to the Enbera Native Indian Village and it was fascinating. But it is my understanding that you cannot do private tours from this port.

 

I do not see that there are any tours offered by the ship going through the Panama Canal (at least on our itinerary, which is the reverse of the OP).

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What a fantastic choice for a honeymoon! Congratulations!

 

I agree with most of RMLIncoln's comments about tours. We do a mix of completely independent (if the sites we want to visit are close to the port) and ship tours. Once in a while, we take a tour that isn't from the ship.

 

For newbies, I think ship's tours make it easier. This is probably a busy time for you, and if you haven't done any research about the ports, it's late to be starting from scratch. I suggest you start by looking at the tours the ship offers. If something looks good to you, take a look at the reviews to see what others thought about it. If it still looks good, I suggest you book it now. You're pretty close to sailing and some tours may already be full. In some cases, the website will let you get on a waitlist.

 

A good second place to do research is Tripadvisor. Sometimes you can recognize a vendor if the wording of the ship's tour and the vendor's tour is the same. That gives you a chance to see more reviews. If you find something independent after you've booked a ship tour, you can cancel up to a certain point. Also check out the "whats in port" site. They often have a links to a local tourist authority and local maps. And Cruise Critic has port of call boards where you can learn about individual ports.

 

It is fun to get out front to see the entry into the canal. But don't plan on spending all your time in any one place. The canal is fascinating and every spot on the ship gives you a different look. The Panama buns are available in many areas. The kitchen staff stay up all night baking them, so there are plenty. And you can go out front to see the entry into the locks at the Atlantic side later in the day, so don't obsess too much about getting up front at 5 AM or whenever it is the ship enters the Canal.

 

You may see tours available for part of the day the ship goes through the canal. But for a first time, I suggest you stay on board and enjoy the transit.

 

If you have more questions, please ask! That's what the HAL board is here for.

 

 

 

Thanks for your advice, very helpful.

 

 

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Is it worth buying a drink package?

 

If you decide to purchase an adult drink package, it is less expensive to purchase it on-line before your cruise rather than once you get on board (by about $5 a day for the adult packages). We are on the same cruise (Oosterdam) in November, however, in reverse. The drink packages are expensive (compared to the packages for a one week cruise) but for us, we are purchasing them before the cruise. I don't want to have to worry about how much we've spent on beverages every day, wishing we'd purchased the package.

 

Check your itinerary to see if there is a listing for Gatun Lake, Panama. If so, this is the only port that I know of that you can only get off the ship if you are doing a ships tour. We did the tour to the Enbera Native Indian Village and it was fascinating. But it is my understanding that you cannot do private tours from this port.

 

I do not see that there are any tours offered by the ship going through the Panama Canal (at least on our itinerary, which is the reverse of the OP).

 

Just looked at your itinerary and do not see a stop in Gatun Lake. It may be because we did the partial transit of the Panama Canal and not the full transit from coast to coast. Sorry for the confusion.

 

Helen

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We (Pat and Donald) will be on the same cruise.

You have made a great choice.

We have traveled on the Oosterdam in the past, and it is a good ship.

You can purchase any beverage or drink packages on the Holland America Line website pre cruise, sometimes at a savings.

The entertainment onboard is very satisfying, at least to us, you have The Main Stage, B B Kings, Billboard Onboard or the Lincoln Center Stage (this might surprise you), I am sure your entertainment tastes will be satisfied.

I would suggest dining at The Pinnacle Grill, at least once, In Our opinion.

In all i'm sure you will enjoy the fourteen days on board.

Maybe we will meet.

Bon Voyage!

:)

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