cruises

Holland America Line ms Oosterdam Review

Holland America's modest-sized Oosterdam promises an outsized experience.

September 19, 2013
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Overview

With eight dedicated bars, plus a coffee shop, Oosterdam had plenty of options for imbibing at almost all hours. By day, the bar action was around the Lido Bar, facing the central pool area. In the evening, Deck 2 invited bar hopping, with various styles of live and DJ’d music available.

Although Holland America does not currently sell an all-inclusive drinks package, pre-paid beverage cards could be purchased, in $50, $100 and $250 increments. The $50 soda card availed a discount of 50 percent off all sodas; the $100 and $250 cards discounted alcoholic drinks by 5 and 10 percent respectively. Happy hour was available at select bars on most nights of the cruise: From 4 to 5 p.m. at the Ocean Bar and Crow’s Nest, and 11 p.m. to midnight at Northern Lights. A 15 percent service charge was added to all drink orders.

In light of the current craze for hoppy, artisanal brews, we found Oosterdam’s beer list to be uninspired. The usual domestics were available, plus Corona, Amstel Light, Heineken, Beck’s, Stella Artois and Grolsch. Only the inclusion of a few Alaskan beers broke the monotony. Wines available by the glass started at $5 for Santa Carolina chardonnay and ranged up to $11 for Labouré roi Pouilly Fuissé on the white side; in between was Chateau Ste. Michelle riesling, Nobilo sauvignon blanc, Rosemount Estate chardonnay. The red wine list included Batasiolo Barbara d’Asti, Meridian pinot noir, Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon and Les Closiers Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Champagnes included Domaine Chandon Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte Epernay Brut and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut. Wines by the bottle included a good representation from the Pacific Northwest, where Holland America is based.

The ship’s standard bar menu included mojito, margarita, daiquiris, etc.—all of which could be made with the classic recipe or with mango, strawberry, or banana. Cosmopolitans could be made in the traditional style, or with grapefruit, candy apple or apricot liqueurs. Most other signature cocktails had their own twist—the Royal Manhattan used bourbon, red vermouth and a dash of angostura bitters—but there was a Vintage Collection page that handled the classics without embellishments. Drinks were made with the ship’s house spirits—but call spirits were available for .50 cents extra and “premium spirits” were $1 more.

Mocktails were available at most of the ship’s bars, and included Frozen Peach Margarita, Melon Mint No’jito and Cool as a Cucumber. Juices by the glass were complimentary.

Explorations Café

We love Holland America’s coffee venue, the Explorations Café. Usually intermingled with the ship’s internet station and an above-average library, the café on Oosterdam was no exception, with Scandinavian leather couches and a few very popular leather loungers to sink into. Located on Deck 10 forward, it was a great perch for enjoying the scenery.

All the standard espresso drinks were available with a surcharge, and the cappuccino we had was just fine. Baristas tend to fill orders in to-go cups—12- and 16-oz sizes—but we requested a ceramic cup to watch the world go by. Tazo tea drinks (including chai tea lattes) were also available. Spiked coffee drinks included Irish Coffee (with Bailey’s Irish Cream), Icy Bourbon Mint (bourbon, crème de menthe and chocolate) and coffee nudge (crème de cacao and brandy). The café has a small deli counter with between-meal snacks offered free of charge. In the morning we found muffins, cinnamon rolls, donuts, pastries, croissants and goblets of fruit and berries, while later in the day finger sandwiches, cakes and cookies emerged. We highly recommend the chocolate pecan brownie.

One of the tables always had a jigsaw puzzle in progress, and various board games could be borrowed. Pick up a copy of the day’s New York Times Digest (in print) or access the electronic version on the ship’s computers at no charge. There were 16 PCs available for use. Although a librarian was sometimes present, a sign posted throughout the café says: “Books are electronically monitored to prevent theft”—apparently a problem for travel books covering ports of call (the travel book selection was pretty good). Bookcases were locked up each evening.

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Crow's Nest

Sharing the forward section of Deck 10 with the café, the Crow’s Nest bar on Oosterdam didn’t see as much traffic as it does on other Holland America ships. We like this location for enjoying the passing scenery but, whether because it was cheek-by-jowl with the café or because the cruise director put the late evening focus on the Northern Lights disco, Crow’s Nest was often quiet. The venue was used for morning tai chi sessions and afternoon trivia contests, and in the early evening, a solo guitarist would perform, when a few more people would show up for a cocktail before dinner. The standard drink menu was available; the dance floor never saw action that we observed.

Piano Bar

Cozy and dark, this venue did not open until 8:30 each evening, but the room filled quickly as the well prepared piano man started taking requests. Themed music trivia was conducted most nights—stage and screen one night, Frank Sinatra the next. Despite the proximity to the smoky Casino and Sports Bar also on Deck 2, ventilation was good—not much smoke leaked in. The ship’s standard cocktail list was available at the Piano Bar.

Ocean Bar

This was one of Oosterdam’s most popular bars, with live music nightly by the ship’s band, the HALcats. Though they have a fairly routine set list, the musicians were all solid performers and quite a few cruisers got up and danced for some of the tunes. The bar is reasonably large, with a parquet dance floor.

Sports Bar

This was effectively the bar for the adjacent casino and, as such, the space was very smoky—only the casino was more smoke-plagued. The whole section of the ship should have better ventilation. Sports on TV were often playing and counter had built-in monitors for gambling at the bar. The ship’s standard cocktail list was available.

Explorer's Lounge

The Explorer’s Lounge, also on Deck 2 like most of the ship’s bars, was little used during our cruise. A string quartet played here nightly, and a waiter had a limited selection of drinks available. There is a piano, and it was sometimes used by a duo that played live. A small adjoining room (perhaps used for meeting space?) had reproductions of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and furniture, with a large table for meetings.

Northern Lights

This was the ship’s disco, opening at 9:30 p.m. nightly. But that was too late for most of this crowd—the spot was often empty. It didn’t help that the music was usually a recorded track rather than a live DJ and the sound system hardly set our heart racing. Meanwhile, we tried to figure out just what was the meaning of the framed Laurel and Hardy black-and-white stills adorning the entry hallway.

Lido Bar

When the weather was right (and even sometimes when it wasn’t) this area filled with pool and lounge lovers. A retractable roof protected the area from inclement weather, though it also locked in humidity (usually it was left open at least a crack, and only a couple sunny days was it fully opened). With its fish tail bar stools, the Lido Bar would get hopping at some points during our cruise. We loved the Bloody Mary cart that was stationed here on some mornings, plumped with shrimp, asparagus and more. This was also the de facto bar for the Lido Restaurant. Smoking was not allowed in this area.

Sea View Bar

The area of the ship was the best location for aft views, and a small bar was available with a full drink selection, along with a few tables. Smoking was allowed next to the bar.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Cabins
  3. Dining
  4. Drinks
  5. Recreation and Entertainment
  6. Kids, Service, and Other Details
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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