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Somewhat "Live" - Nov 19th Oosterdam 31-Day SA Cruise - Miami to Buenos Aires


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LauraS
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GeorgeCharlie was awarded the badge '"Live from...."'

I had hoped to do a somewhat ‘live’ photo/comment review of our cruise.

 

Unfortunately, the Internet is almost nonexistent! There have been some days where we could not send even a basic one-line email and one day it was down for maintenance for most of the afternoon.

 

So, it looks like I will be limited to posting text comments. Once we return home, I’ll likely do a photo review of the cruise.


We are on day 5 of the cruise and currently passing through the Panama Canal,


Our embarkation in Miami was actually not too bad - considering they did not follow assigned boarding times. The last shuttle from our hotel was 1pm and the start of boarding was to be 1:00pm, with our assigned time being 2:40pm. The scheduled departure was 7:00pm.

 

We arrived at the terminal at about 1:20pm and the terminal was already clogged, with the line-ups extending outside the building. There was two lines, one for priority/VeriFLY & one for everyone else. Seems like a lot of people used VeriFLY, as it was a longer line than the regular line. Some people who we were traveling with, initially tried the VeriFLY line, but soon joined us in the regular line.

 

Once we made it through port security, the line to get registered went fairly fast. We were told we would be given a number for our boarding time, and we were to wait in the seating area (which was basically full) till our number was called. When we got to the head of the line, we were sent directly to the line of people boarding the ship. Likely took a total of about an hour from arriving, to when we were in our cabin.

 

Comments regarding wearing of masks. The day before we were to depart, we received an email saying that wearing of masks would be required for the first 3 days of the cruise. When we were in the line to register, they were handing out masks and asking everyone to wear their mask. Once we were on board it seemed about 10% of people were not wearing masks – likely people who were on the previous cruise and now continuing on with this cruise. By the third day maybe 75% of people were not wearing masks.

 

On the morning of day 4, there was a mandatory COVID test for everyone and now wearing has dropped down to only a few people.

 

Will continue on with further comments shortly – Internet permitting!!
 

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I'll be following your trip--we'll be boarding the Oosterdam in Buenos Aires just before Christmas! Our cruise retraces yours as far as Santiago, except it adds an Antarctica Experience. Can't wait!

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Just curious if the testing and masking are still required by any of the ports or if this is strictly cruise line policy?

I would be interested in this itinerary in the future, will follow your reports.

Already did BA-Santiago and it was outstanding.

Have a great trip.

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3 minutes ago, foodsvcmgr said:

Just curious if the testing and masking are still required by any of the ports or if this is strictly cruise line policy?

I would be interested in this itinerary in the future, will follow your reports.

Already did BA-Santiago and it was outstanding.

Have a great trip.

 

Nothing official as to the reason for testing/masks. There has been some chatter that the testing requirement was because we would be in Panama the next day. But who knows?

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Hi Bill, 

Thank  you for taking the time to post on your trip.  Curious about internet do you have surf or premium plan.  Some people have reported some locations like crows nest might have better connectivity.  Will be following your journey.  Hope you both are having a great cruise.

Mary

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1 hour ago, Lido deck main said:

Hi Bill, 

Thank  you for taking the time to post on your trip.  Curious about internet do you have surf or premium plan.  Some people have reported some locations like crows nest might have better connectivity.  Will be following your journey.  Hope you both are having a great cruise.

Mary

 

Hi Mary,

 

We have the premium plan and over the past few days I've tried locations throughout the ship, along with various times, including 3am. The connection with the ship's Wi-Fi does not seem to be the problem. It's the Internet link where the congestion happens. When I could not get any improved connection at 3am, I talked to a guy at Guest Services. He said the main problem is that the connection is shared with the ship services, with the ship having priority over other users and the demand by ship has increased from a few years ago.

 

Bill

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18 hours ago, GeorgeCharlie said:

Unfortunately, the Internet is almost nonexistent!

We had the same problem during our trans Atlantic crossing last week.  Everyone including the officers were making jokes about the lack of internet.

 

A few suggestions:  type up your post in a Word document and paste it into CC.  It is very frustrating to lose your message because you lose the Internet.  Add a few photos at a time.  If you try to load several at the same time you will get the dreaded “upload failed” message.  I sent most of my emails  at 6 am.  
 

We considered staying on the ship for the South American portion but I am working my husband up to longer cruises. I look forward to reading your reports and hope that you and the ship stay Covid free.
 

 

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I have this booked for 2023.  Well, just to Santiago.  With the Rotterdam TA next spring, and hoping to book the Westerdam TP for spring 2024, I didn't have room in my cruise budget for the full 31 days.

 

Just recently off 32 nights on Carnival Pride from Rome to Tampa.  Wi-fi was nonexistent for a good part of the cruise.  Not just in the middle of the Atlantic but also in the Med.  So it isn't just HAL.

 

How's the ship?  I've sailed Zuidy twice and love the size and layout.  I'll be in one of my favorite Cat J Large Interior cabins (I'm solo, so cost matters).  LOVE those cabins!  Miss having Tamarind but pretty sure I won't go hungry.

 

Looking forward to reading about the ports.

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Doing the reverse cruise in March - so eagerly following your journey. We've never cruised on HAL (RCCL and Carnival before) but this a total bucket list trip for us.  Looking forward to hearing about life on the Oosterdam for 32 days. Thanks for sharing!

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Besides issues with Internet access/speed, the Navigator app has caused a lot of frustration for people. They have established Navigator as the only way to access the Internet

 

On the first morning of the cruise, I went down to guest services at 6am and there was already about a dozen people waiting in line. At first there was only one person providing help, but after about 15 minutes, two other people came out to help. From what I could tell, other than one person who was there to complain being disrespected by staff, it appeared the rest were there trying to get Navigator working. 

 

The issues I was having related with getting a Windows 11 laptop and one of our Android phones to connect to Navigator. Managed to get a workaround for the Windows laptop, but was never able to get the Android phone to load the app, even though it's running the same version of android as my other phone. It seems like it may be due to some other app running in the background. Don't have time to research it and will just use the other phone.

 

The Chat function seems to have its own mind as to whether it's going to work, or not!!

 

In addition, there is no way to connect a Kindle to the Internet while on the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Bill,

 

When you have some time, would you be so kind as to check the Crowsnest for the puzzles and games?  My wife and I are cruising on the Oosterdam in December and the puzzles are a favorite pass time.

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On 11/24/2022 at 10:16 AM, GeorgeCharlie said:

On the morning of day 4, there was a mandatory COVID test for everyone and now wearing has dropped down to only a few people.

 

 

Grasp!!! Mandatory testing onboard! 😒

 

Thanks for the info. Looks like I'll have to be extra careful prior to embarkation.

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There have been ongoing comments with respect to HALs cutbacks in staffing & food quality. This was very obvious from the time we boarded the ship.


We did not get to meet our room attendants until the afternoon of the second day. Even then it was a brief conversation, with one guy explaining he was busy training the other guy, who had just come onboard the day before – having never worked on a cruise ship before. From what we have seen so far – it doesn’t appear the first guy has much experience either!

 

We queried him about evening ice service and chocolates - for which the response was, they would try do the ice if they had the time, and that chocolates were given out on ‘dressy’ nights. In addition, towels would be only changed on ‘dressy’ nights.

 

Talked to Guest Services about our concerns and they said they would have the supervisor for our area talk to us. That was several days ago and nothing much have changed, other than now the used towels we throw on the bathroom floor are now replaced with new ones, rather than be left on the floor as before. Never have received any evening ice and we have had a ‘dressy’ night, but no chocolates. Plus, we have never heard from the supervisor.


We are only a week into our cruise and there has been two days where we have received no cabin services at all! Talked to another person who is on the same deck (7) as we are and he said he had been told the reason for the poor level of services was due the large number of suites on this deck, which leaves the attendants little time to look after the regular cabins. When he talked to Guest Services, they told him they were currently short of staff.

 

Another couple we are traveling with, who are a different deck, say they are getting good service. Regular ice/chocolates/towel changes. Plus, their attendant regularly checks with them regarding their needs.

 

I have gone to the Guest Services desk to find out when the Guest Services Manager would be in - only to be told he would not be in - as he was too busy working in other areas. I did happen to run into him and when I said I wished to talk to him, he said he was too busy and to try later.

 

In trying to keep these comment posts to a modest length, I will be posting a follow-up to this post, which will give some further insight to the service levels from a different perspective. 
 

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30 minutes ago, GeorgeCharlie said:

 

 

There have been ongoing comments with respect to HALs cutbacks in staffing & food quality. This was very obvious from the time we boarded the ship.


We did not get to meet our room attendants until the afternoon of the second day. Even then it was a brief conversation, with one guy explaining he was busy training the other guy, who had just come onboard the day before – having never worked on a cruise ship before. From what we have seen so far – it doesn’t appear the first guy has much experience either!

 

We queried him about evening ice service and chocolates - for which the response was, they would try do the ice if they had the time, and that chocolates were given out on ‘dressy’ nights. In addition, towels would be only changed on ‘dressy’ nights.

 

Talked to Guest Services about our concerns and they said they would have the supervisor for our area talk to us. That was several days ago and nothing much have changed, other than now the used towels we throw on the bathroom floor are now replaced with new ones, rather than be left on the floor as before. Never have received any evening ice and we have had a ‘dressy’ night, but no chocolates. Plus, we have never heard from the supervisor.


We are only a week into our cruise and there has been two days where we have received no cabin services at all! Talked to another person who is on the same deck (7) as we are and he said he had been told the reason for the poor level of services was due the large number of suites on this deck, which leaves the attendants little time to look after the regular cabins. When he talked to Guest Services, they told him they were currently short of staff.

 

Another couple we are traveling with, who are a different deck, say they are getting good service. Regular ice/chocolates/towel changes. Plus, their attendant regularly checks with them regarding their needs.

 

I have gone to the Guest Services desk to find out when the Guest Services Manager would be in - only to be told he would not be in - as he was too busy working in other areas. I did happen to run into him and when I said I wished to talk to him, he said he was too busy and to try later.

 

In trying to keep these comment posts to a modest length, I will be posting a follow-up to this post, which will give some further insight to the service levels from a different perspective. 
 

Hi Bill,  sorry to hear your cruise so far has been lacking in service and quality.  We have taken three cruises so far this year and we have had success using the chat feature on the app to have our concerns addressed rather than waiting in the dreaded customer service line.   Hope it all get sorted out.

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There have been ongoing comments with respect to HALs cutbacks in staffing & food quality. These issues were very obvious from the time we boarded the ship.


We did not get to meet our room attendants until the afternoon of the second day. Even then it was a brief conversation, with one guy explaining he was busy training the other guy, who had just come onboard the day before – having never worked on a cruise ship before. From what we have seen so far – it doesn’t appear the first guy has much experience either!

 

We queried him about evening ice service and chocolates - for which the response was, they would try do the ice if they had the time, and that chocolates were given out on ‘dressy’ nights. In addition, towels would be only changed on ‘dressy’ nights.

 

Talked to Guest Services about our concerns and they said they would have the supervisor for our area talk to us. That was several days ago and nothing much have changed, other then now the used towels we throw on the bathroom floor are now replaced with new ones, rather then be left on the floor as before. Never have received any evening ice and we have had a ‘dressy’ night, but no chocolates. Plus, we have never heard from the supervisor.


We are only a week into our cruise and there has already been a day, or 2, where we have received no cabin services at all! Talked to another person who is on the same deck (deck 7) as we are and he said he had been told the reason for the poor level of services was due the large number of suites on this deck, which leaves the attendants little time to look after the regular cabins. When he talked to Guest Services, they told him they were currently short of staff.

 

Another couple we are traveling with, who are a different deck, say they are okay service. Regular ice & towel changes. Plus, chocolates on ‘dressy’ night.

 

I have gone to the Guest Services desk to find out when the Guest Services Manager would be in - only to be told he would not be in - as he was too busy working in other areas. I did happen to run into him and when I said I wished to talk to him, he said he was too busy and to try later.

 

In trying to keep these comment posts to a modest length, I will be posting a follow-up to this post, which will give some further insight to the service levels from a different perspective. 
 

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One evening I had the opportunity of chatting with a senior food services officer and he gave some further insight into the ongoing staffing and food quality issues.

 

First and understandable, is that the supply issue is common across all the major cruise lines. He has worked in the business for 33 years and he has never seen the situation so bad.

 

When he first came back to work after the COVID shutdown and was getting ready for a cruise from Boston (?) to Montreal. The supplier manifests showed most of the food requests had been filled, but it was a different story when he checked the actual items being delivered.


He only got a small quantity of fresh eggs and nothing of several other items, such as yogurt. He ended up having to go to Walmart and Costco in each port to try and get some of these items.


The order for 2,000 pounds of good quality steaks was actually 200 pounds of good steaks and 1,800 pounds of very poor-quality steaks. When he talked to the supplier, who he had known for many years, he was told that was the best the supplier could do. 

 

It was the same with all the other food items. Which means he must ration a lot of the items, such as fresh fruits and vegetables - just too able to provide some level of variety throughout the cruise. It is especially difficult on long cruises such as the one we are on.


In his talks with suppliers, he is now of the opinion that it will be at least two years before the supply chain will be back to the pre-COVID service/supply levels in quantity and quality. As one supplier told him – they can’t grow a cow in three months.


What we are seeing most nights in the Lido, is that in place of the carving of a nice pork loin, they are serving pork belly!! That also goes for beef, it is of such poor quality it is almost uneatable. At today’s lunch they were carving beef brisket and the girl trying to cut it, ended up getting one of the guys to cut it, as she was unable to do it. When they served prime rib the other night, they were cutting in very thin slices, this was may have been done to enable people to have some chance in cutting it with their table knifes. Even then, because it was likely from an old cow, it was so full of gristle you could hardly chew it.


We went to the main dining room the first night we were on the ship and Lynne was unable to even cut the strip loin steak she ordered, let alone to try a chew it.


You used to be able to get the same menu items in the Lido as was being served in the main dining room. Not anymore. Last night the MDR had baby calf liver and wiener schnitzel. I believe the Lido got roasted bacon (i.e., pork belly)! Tonight, the MDR had filet mignon Oscar. The Lido had Birria Lamb. 


Will cover his remarks regarding the staffing situation in a separate posting.
 

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His comments on the labour front, is that the old, experienced staff were just not coming back. 
One of the causes of this is that hundreds of them, across all the cruise lines, ended up being trapped on the cruise ships and were not able to go home - some for more than a year - while receiving little, or no pay! 


Now, there’s no way these people will ever come back.


He says that right now about 80% of the staff are new and inexperienced. And it shows in the service levels. On the first evening, we talked with the waitress in one of the bars. She said both her and the bartender just arrived that day and neither had any experience working on cruise ships. When we saw her last night, she had yet to receive her name tag and had no idea when she would get it.


In the Lido there are two salad stations back-to-back. There were new guys at both stations, with a more experienced girl, who would run back and forth between the stations trying to help them. There are samples of several types of salads displayed, with the name of the salad shown on small sign behind them. On the back of the sign is a list of ingredients. Sounds okay, except the poor guys had no idea what most ingredients were, so if the girl wasn’t there, people were having to tell him what to put in.


On top of that, there are many different types of dressing in small containers. The guys had a schematic showing what was in each of the containers. Unfortunately, it seems whoever filled the containers did not follow the schematic!

 

Same for breakfast – you ask for a sticky roll - and you get a panic look from the guy, until you pointed to what you wanted.

 

Unfortunately, it appears that HALs head office is still not showing their staff that they have much interest in whether they want to return for another contract. 


Apparently, when the ship arrived in Miami there were about 150 people who were to go fly home, as their contracts was up. Common occurrence – except in this case HAL neglected to get US visas so they could get to the airport. This resulted in them having to stay on the ship until they could fly home from either Aruba, or Panama.

 

This also gives some indication as to of how full the ship is. Seeing the berths for the staff who were supposed to go home in Miami, where taken over by the replacement staff. Apparently, the staff which were staying on board until Aruba/Panama were staying in empty passenger cabins. Prior to boarding they were saying the ship is at 100% capacity – so I wonder where these empty cabins came from? Some of the ones we talked to on the ship were really pissed, as this was not the first time this has happened. Some of them had to cancel special events they had arranged for when they got home.

 

Overall, you have to feel sorry for the frontline staff. They seem to get little help from their supervisors, and they seem to be left to themselves to find out how to do their job. I don’t want to formally complain about our room attendants, as I’m sure as over the next few weeks they will evolve into good attendants.

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I am floored at what you are reporting!!!  A couple lapses here and there are easy to understand given circumstances, but this is awful!  And the response from supervisors..."I'm too busy to talk to you"??  Oh, hell no!!   I wonder too about the ship-to-ship inconsistency?  I just got off Nieuw Amsterdam and Rotterdam and my stewards were fabulous!!  The rest of the staff were very good too and even though a few were obviously new, the majority did know what they were doing and the staffing level in all the food venues was adequate.  Excellent prime rib in the lido, for example!!  They did seem short on some fruits, because the only strawberries I saw were small pieces for dessert garnishes and they were out of strawberry purée for my margaritas the last 12 days.!!!😲

 

I sure hope it gets better for you @GeorgeCharlie.

~Nancy

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14 hours ago, GeorgeCharlie said:

The order for 2,000 pounds of good quality steaks was actually 200 pounds of good steaks and 1,800 pounds of very poor-quality steaks. When he talked to the supplier, who he had known for many years, he was told that was the best the supplier could do. 

 

 

Sounds like that's all the supplier could source at the price point of the HAL contract. Will only get worse as new contracts have to be negotiated. Compare that to the price point of the Caribbean sailings. Starting at less than C$100/nite per person.

 

Excess capacity will only get worse as new ships (delayed during the pandemic) join the fleet.

 

 

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