Jump to content
jb008

Trip Report: Western Caribbean on Oosterdam 12/29/2018-1/5-2019

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

HAL ms Oosterdam

Western Caribbean: 12/29/2018-1/5/2019

 

TL;DR: Enjoyed the cruise, would happily sail HAL again.  Programming and “tempo” skews noticeably older and slower on HAL vs. PCL, and if you want a younger feel I’d suggest X over P or H.

 

We flew in the evening of the Dec. 28th and stayed at Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale/Plantation, 29th-Port Everglades ; 30th-Half Moon Cay; 31st-Sea; Jan 1st-Falmouth, Jamaica; 2nd-George Town, Cayman Islands; 3rd- Cozumel, Mexico; 4th-Sea; 5th-Port Everglades

 

Background:

DW and I are both mid-30’s, we’re from Western NY (though we lived in Manhattan for a few years), and have been cruising fairly regularly now for the last several years. We were new to HAL, and our two most recent trips were Alaska in 2017 on Coral Princess and 2018 New Year’s sailing on Crown Princess.   

 

We aren’t terribly picky eaters or high maintenance, although we have eaten at enough restaurants, seen enough shows on Broadway, and been in nice resorts and hotels to be informed consumers. We are also reasonably outdoorsy and active, but our idea of a dream vacation would not include a multi-day backpacking trek through the mountains fwiw.

 

Trip Planning:

We did a 2018 New Year’s Cruise, that was booked after final payment, so I had an idea as to what I was considering a “good deal” for a New Year’s cruise this year.  We had originally planned to sail either Princess (PCL) or Celebrity (X) but ended up getting a much better deal with HAL and favoring the HAL itinerary and dates a little.  (Tip: I prefer New Year’s Eve to be a sea day, and depending on how much you like to party you may want to write off the first part of the morning of New Year’s day).

 

Pre-Cruise:

We flew into FLL and used the hotel shuttle to get to the airport.  The wait for the shuttle was about 25 minutes, but it felt good to stand after the flights.  We got to the hotel about 7p and checked in quickly, then headed to the mall across the street to get dinner.  After a travel day we were fine with basically fast food as we weren’t terribly hungry or feeling up to a sit down dinner at one of the nearby casual restaurants.  We’ve used this Hampton Inn before, and they offer free airport pickup and a free shuttle to the cruise port.  There’s a Target within easy walking distance, although far enough that shlepping a case of water would probably be better done with an uber back to the hotel.

 

Day 1 - Port Everglades Embarkation:

We used the free shuttle to port, took the 10 AM slot and were to port by about 10:30.  Dropped bags off with porters and breezed through checkin and found a seat.  We were given a #6, but that ended up being the 2nd boarding group called (first group was suite/past guest/wheel chair, second group was cards 5-8).  We waited about 45 minutes before boarding started, and I have a picture taken from the gangway onto the ship timestamped 11:37 AM.

 

No MDR lunch was listed, but when we stopped down at the MDR they said the Mariner Lunch was going on and they let us in (I had 1-start status transferred in based on our past cruises on PCL).  I saved pictures of Menus from embarkation lunch, the 2 sea day lunches, and every MDR dinner but I’ll need to upload those later as I haven’t gone through my pictures yet.

 

We explored the ship a little after lunch, got unpacked, and then sort of bummed around until the muster drill.  To our surprise, muster drill was on deck - which is the first time I’ve had to do that in >5 years (if not longer!).  It was hot, disorganized, and we were standing around for about 20 minutes on deck.  We were in shade, but not everyone was.

 

We did 2nd seating dinner at 8p, and that evening caught the preview show in the main theater that basically was a teaser for the other two production shows.

 

Day 2: Half Moon Cay (tender port)

We were up early to try to catch the first tender or two ashore.  We grabbed a clam shell right when we got there, although I doubt they’d sell out with a ship the size of Oosterdam.  Of note, I saw almost no shade by late morning-early afternoon, other than a few chairs down at the far end of the beach.  Plan to either bake, pay for a clamshell/manta sun shelter, or be basically first on the beach and hike to the far end to grab one of the few chairs under a tree.  

 

Beach was beautiful, but snorkeling was pretty basic and low visibility due to fine sand haze kicked up by the waves.  Good place though for newbies to practice snorkeling off a beach.

 

BBQ lunch was simple but tasty, with some grilled thin-cut short ribs that were amazing - I could have eaten a plate of just those!

 

Evening show was the production show “Off the Charts”, which featured songs and dancing from various periods from about 50’s forward.  Singing and dancing was top notch, dancing in particular was technically great, probably one of the top 1 or 2 groups I’ve seen so far on a cruise ship?

 

Day 3: Sea day (1st Gala Night, New Year’s Eve)

Did an America’s Test Kitchen demo in the AM, lunch in MDR, long nap, trivia, and then hung out until dinner.  Following dinner we went back to change (and skipped the comedian in the main theater) then grabbed a spot on the deck in advance of the New Year’s Eve “party”.  Party consisted of a DJ until about 11:15, where they then switched over to the BB King Blues band for the rest of the night.  I thought it was a lame New Year’s Eve party - people went from dancing and having a good time to standing and watching the live band, and energy level went from like 8.5 to 6.  Deck was way too crowded, and they should have had a couple different parties going across the ship. The highlight was seeing the Captain dance about 10 minutes before midnight, if he ever wanted to join the production crew I think he’d be a shoe in! 🙂

 

For comparison, on Crown Princess a year before they had a balloon drop in the main atrium, a pool deck party, and a 3rd party in the dance lounge all running in parallel.  Cruise Director was at the balloon drop and then hustled up right after midnight to the pool deck party where things kept rocking for hours after.

 

Day 4: Falmouth, Jamaica (docked)

We got in to Jamaica pretty early, with our EXC tours meeting at 8:35.  We did the VIP Bamboo Beach Club tour, and I’m very mixed about it.  Beach was pretty, drinks were strong, food good, but beach was badly overcrowded (even in the “VIP” area) and food service was slow.  Also important to note is that it’s a 1.5 hour drive to the beach, 3 hours on the beach, 1.5 hours back.  I’m not sure if there’s any good beaches in Falmouth… but in hindsight the drive to Bamboo was a drag.  

 

Show that evening was BBC Earth II - where they show video clips from the BBC Earth series accompanied to live music played by the a combination of both the Lincoln Stage musicians and theater band.

 

Day 5: George Town, CI (tender port, 2nd Gala Night)

We headed ashore ASAP and grabbed a taxi to Royal Palms Beach Club.  Entry was $2pp, chairs were another $25, and umbrella was $15.  Beach was beautiful, very nice facilities, and good food.  We were some of the first guests there and grabbed front row chairs, I think anything else had partially obstructed views from the umbrellas.  The place also got packed to capacity within a few hours so.  We were happy with it, but it was not a super quiet and peaceful beach and chairs are sandwiched close together.

 

Although I didn’t go, Cemetery beach was recommended for snorkeling from shore.  Sounds like it’s a pretty under developed off the radar spot.

 

Evening show was the 2nd production show “One World”.  It was an “earth” inspired show and music and dancing were again top notch.

 

Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico (docked @ Punta Langosta)

We got into Cozumel later in the AM and weren’t able to disembark until about 11:30 AM.  We grabbed a taxi over to Chankanaab park and met some friends there.  Park entry is a little steep, but the snorkeling at the park was quite nice and it felt safe and comfortable at the park.  Beers were $3 and a burger was about $10 and a mixed mexican food plate was $12 or 13?  Biggest downside on this was that the park closed at 4.  At close we taxied back to port (note which port you’re docked at!!!) poked around the shops and then headed back to the ship for a snack and to relax before dinner.

 

Show that evening was a magician named Jeff McBride.  We skipped it, but people the next day said it was a solid performance.

 

Day 7: Sea

It was a quiet day, though they had a number of things going on around the ship.  They ran 2 American Test Kitchen instructional seminars, and the naturalist gave a talk on sharks.  The show that evening was a variety show of the comedian and the magician (we skipped it though, so I can’t comment).

 

The dreaded packing time and bags in the hallway marked the last day of a very nice cruise!

 

Day 8: Port Everglades Disembarkation

MDR opened at 6 for breakfast, self disembarkation started at 7:30 and then proceeded fro there.  We did Luggage Direct and were called about 7:55.  Our bags got flagged for X-ray check, so when they scanned our cards we got a “beep” and then were walked off by a staff member and escorted to the front of the line for our passports to be scanned and then to a side room to toss our bags on an x-ray scanner and then sent on our way.  I think we got from cruise ship room to airport lounge in about an hour.  FLL airport was (as usual on a heavy cruise traffic day) packed to the gills with both the Delta (paid) skyclub and terminal waiting areas basically standing room only.  

 

Onboard Experience:

Entertainment:

Music and entertainment is very personal and dependent on one’s tastes… technically though I thought these were some of the best singers and dancers I’ve seen on a cruise ship.  The “Lincoln Stage” string musicians were also an impressive group of performers. 

 

Crew:

Service was universally great across the ship.  Senior officers were pretty visible and approachable.  A nice addition was an onboard Naturalist, an unusual feature for a Caribbean sailing.  She gave some neat talks and had a creature counting game running throughout the game where you could go up to a corner of one of the lounges during “office hours” and she’d help you figure out what the fish/critter was and you could add it to your list with the group that saw the most winning bragging rights (and a small prize) at the end of the cruise.  One family was >120 unique animals by the end of the week… so some big shoes to fill moving forward!

 

Cabin & Ship:

Verandah room on port side far aft deck 6 room 6144.  I picked this room because it was marked as having a full tub (which rooms further aft didn’t have) and also didn’t have an internal door to the adjacent stateroom.  Aside from the larger bathroom the room seemed pretty unremarkable… it had the bed, a small love seat, desk, and a decent sized balcony.  

 

Dining:

We did the 2nd seating in the MDR and were able to get a table for 2 (this was requested in advance, and took no extra steps on the ship, YMMV). Service was solid, food was all quite good in the MDR.  Breakfast buffet food was fine, hot was served hot and cold served cold… breakfasts got a little repetitive though.  Menus for both MDR and buffet were available through the stateroom TV and the navigator site on wifi.  I liked that the dinner buffet had some overlap with the MDR dinner menu, so we may have tried some items at the buffet as snacks and then didn’t feel like we were “missing out” if we skipped ordering them in the MDR.  

 

Internet:

On our sailing, HAL was only offering internet as a 24h pass or remainder of the cruise pass with the added restriction of 200/300/500 mb per day.  Important to note, the "Social" package is limited to only a handful of social media websites (but did NOT include email, but I think it also included airlines too though).  The social package was $14.99/day while the 300 mb pkg was $24.99/day!  I found out the hard way that the social plan didn't include email access and hustled down to guest services within about 15 minutes of my purchase and was able to get the purchase cancelled and refunded.  $24.99/day seems like highway robbery to check email for a few minutes a day (and my international day pass on at&t cellular is only $10/day) and I encourage everyone to comment on their cruise that a pay-by-the-minute internet option should be added back to the mix.

 

Final Thoughts:

We enjoyed our vacation, although I’m finding the Western Carib itinerary to get a little repetitive and don’t really enjoy Falmouth as a port.  I would definitely consider HAL as a solid option for a future cruise although it did feel “older” demographics and programming than Princess, and I could definitely envision getting bored if there were more than 2 sea days.  Being a holiday sailing there were a relatively large number of kids and families, but it still felt "older".   

 

I’m 99% sure I got pictures of the MDR menus for every dinner, and I saved the ‘When and Where’ daily handouts too. If there’s interest, I’ll work on getting them digitized/sorted/uploaded and post them in the forums later this week.

 

Thank you for reading my trip report and I'm happy to try to answer any questions.

Edited by jb008

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Enjoyed reading your trip report and views.  We really liked the Oosterdam when we were on her.  

Thank you for taking the time to do this.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for posting a review.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your detailed review! We are sailing on the Oosterdam this March and would love to see MDR menus and the daily handouts pictures. 

Were there any drink specials during the day?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Enjoyed reading your review, thanks for posting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your report and glad you enjoyed Oosterdam. We sailed on her last June in the Med and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Sunchaser46 said:

Thank you for your detailed review! We are sailing on the Oosterdam this March and would love to see MDR menus and the daily handouts pictures. 

Were there any drink specials during the day?

 

I'll work on posting the menus and dailies then.  The new boards should make that MUCH easier since I can put larger files here rather than on an outside site.

 

There was a drink of the day that was on sale (I think a modest savings) and then they ran happy hours usually twice a day at one or two bars... happy hour was buy one drink and get the second of the same drink for $2.  I didn't use it, so idk if it's tied to the card or you just tell the server it's your 2nd one at $2.

 

Thanks for the feedback everyone and glad my review is helpful!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting your experience.  Re:  the internet packages.  Social only offers access to a handful of social media sites - no access to anything else?  Fairly useless package I'd say.  The medium package you can access email, all websites etc?  

Thanks.  Will be on the Oosterdam in 11 days.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@sprockie Yep - social was restricted to just a handful of sites.  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and a few others... I couldn't pull email on my iphone (gmail & company email).  I assume the medium (Surf) package allows email since it was described as "Email, News, Sports and more" and "Allows a daily volume of 300 mb of superior experience" in contrast, the Social Plan says "Access Popular Social Websites" and "Allows a daily volume of 200 mb of superior experience".  When I signed up I thought the difference was just the amount of data... but that wasn't the case. 

 

Guest Services was pretty quick to put in the cancel-refund request (handled by a different dept according to them) and it went through within a few hours, so I presume this is a common issue/complaint.  It is also why I suggest leaving comments onboard about this - I totally get why they're doing it as day pass with a data cap since that helps avoid complaints re: a very slow data rate.  I just hate that pricing is so high for internet (really email) access and wasn't willing to pay for internet (something I usu. spend a $40-75/week) on this cruise.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much!  Refreshing to hear that you enjoyed the evening shows, as others have reported they weren't very good.  My sister leaves this Saturday, Jan 12th on the Oosterdam and we sail March 16th!  Any day in the Caribbean is better than a cold windy day in Vermont in March!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jb008 said:

@sprockie Yep - social was restricted to just a handful of sites.  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and a few others... I couldn't pull email on my iphone (gmail & company email).  I assume the medium (Surf) package allows email since it was described as "Email, News, Sports and more" and "Allows a daily volume of 300 mb of superior experience" in contrast, the Social Plan says "Access Popular Social Websites" and "Allows a daily volume of 200 mb of superior experience".  When I signed up I thought the difference was just the amount of data... but that wasn't the case. 

 

Guest Services was pretty quick to put in the cancel-refund request (handled by a different dept according to them) and it went through within a few hours, so I presume this is a common issue/complaint.  It is also why I suggest leaving comments onboard about this - I totally get why they're doing it as day pass with a data cap since that helps avoid complaints re: a very slow data rate.  I just hate that pricing is so high for internet (really email) access and wasn't willing to pay for internet (something I usu. spend a $40-75/week) on this cruise.  

So would you say that with the medium package (the surf  300mb level) that you can surf anywhere? There are no predetermined websites to visit? A person can surf anywhere and anywhere they like?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for the great review/information.  Sailing Lady O 2/16, eastern Caribbean itinerary.  I'm with you, I'm over the western itinerary.  As an avid RCCL cruiser, I'm really looking forward to a less-party atmosphere of HAL.

 

Counting the days!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, sprockie said:

So would you say that with the medium package (the surf  300mb level) that you can surf anywhere? There are no predetermined websites to visit? A person can surf anywhere and anywhere they like?

 

Honestly, idk.  I'd either ask at guest services before you buy, or buy and be prepared to scamper down to ask for it to be cancelled and refunded if you can't access the sites you need.  From the descriptions, I think the surf plan would include general sites... but I'm just speculating on that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a few example pictures of the holiday decorations they had up in the main atrium of the ship for the holidays.  I think the gingerbread display and tree came down at the end of our voyage (1/5), although I'm not 100% sure of that.

IMG_7741.JPG

IMG_7758.JPG

IMG_7760.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I forgot to mention in my initial writeup, I had 2 bottles of wine packed in my backpack  as a carry-on.  We were some of the very first people to the port (got there about 10:30) and the wine inspection table was staffed but they seemed pretty bored and didn't ask to see my bottles or to count them (it was a small backpack so at best it could have held 3 bottles).  YMMV

 

I didn't notice 'til I was going over my statement after the cruise but they didn't charge me the corkage fee for the bottle of wine I brought to the MDR either.  I tipped our wine steward a small thank you (cash) gift at the end of the cruise, and he actually did better than the 15% mandatory service fee (although he technically should have collected the 15% mandatory plus the gift, though how much he'd see of the mandatory fee idk).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the great and detailed review. DH and I are sailing on the Oosterdam in Feb. First time on this ship, 8th HAL cruise, and 47th cruise overall. We have another Neptune Suite booked and looking forward to the cruise. I agree that the Western Caribbean itinerary is getting a lot repetitive, but we live just outside Tampa and cruise mostly from there because it's so convenient so the W. Caribbean is pretty much the only choice. Loved the photos - certainly well decked out for the holidays.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice report! She is one of our favorites and have done 3 cruises on her. Glad you enjoyed a great trip and appreciate you taking the time to write as well as the great photos of her.

Denise😊

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Attached is a zip file of various menu pics from my 12/29/2018-1/5/2019 sailing.  The file includes menus for all of the MDR dinners, embarkation MDR lunch, the two sea day MDR lunches (2nd sea day was the invitation-only Mariner's Society Lunch), coffee and cocktail prices for Explorations Cafe, the onboard speciality restaurant options, and the Beverage Event list (e.g., wine tastings, etc...).

 

Cheers!

 

Oosterdam Menu Pics 12-29-2018 New Years Sailing.zip

 

Edited by jb008

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎1‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 2:48 PM, jb008 said:

 

Honestly, idk.  I'd either ask at guest services before you buy, or buy and be prepared to scamper down to ask for it to be cancelled and refunded if you can't access the sites you need.  From the descriptions, I think the surf plan would include general sites... but I'm just speculating on that.

We were on the Zuiderdam for New Year's and I bought the 24 hour package first, then bought it for the remainder of the cruise because we had a lot of OBC.  Unlimited sites for surfing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jb008 said:

Attached is a zip file of various menu pics from my 12/29/2018-1/5/2019 sailing.  The file includes menus for all of the MDR dinners, embarkation MDR lunch, the two sea day MDR lunches (2nd sea day was the invitation-only Mariner's Society Lunch), coffee and cocktail prices for Explorations Cafe, the onboard speciality restaurant options, and the Beverage Event list (e.g., wine tastings, etc...).

 

Cheers!

 

Oosterdam Menu Pics 12-29-2018 New Years Sailing.zip

 

Appreciate this a lot! I would think this could help a lot of new CCERS with all the menus cocktails and specialty restaurants!

Denise😊

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Win a Cruise with the Most Highly-Awarded Small Ship Cruise Line in Alaska
      • Q&A with Daniel Skjeldam, CEO Hurtigruten
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Community Contests
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×