cruises

Holland America Line ms Oosterdam Review

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

September 19, 2013
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Club HAL, the Loft, Video Arcade

Located on Deck 10 at midship, Holland America’s youth program—which goes under the name Club HAL—had dedicated venues for three age groups. For ages 3-7 an adult was required to sign kids in and out, the room was stocked with board games; scheduled activities included Vacation Journals, Tag, Jenga and a Pajama Party.

Another space was set aside for tweens ages 8-12 and had video games; scheduled activities included Wii, Ping Pong Challenge and Vacation Photo Frames; sign in/out was handled by tweens with adult permission. Both of these areas were supervised for most of the day and evening, from 8 or 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (with set staff breaks at meal times). Sitting services were available for $5 per hour (per child) from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

For ages 13-17 there was a separate teen venue called The Loft, with a DJ booth, a stage, Internet stations and couches for hanging out. This venue was not staffed during our cruise, but there were scheduled activities through the day and evening—teens could come and go as they wanted.

An unsupervised room with Xbox and Wii games was available; the equipment could not be removed from the Youth Center. There was also a small, dark, loud video arcade next to Club HAL.

Retail

We found a fairly standard selection of merchandize in Oosterdam’s shopping arcade. The interconnected shops were located at midship on Deck 3. Cruise apparel themed to our destination was available, along with Holland America logo merchandize such as T-shirts, caps, beach towels, mugs and Oosterdam ship models. There was a selection of jewelry, watches, fragrances, skin care products and binoculars. Sundries included candy, chips, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine napkins, disposable lighters and razors. Duty free cigarettes and liquor were also available.

Oosterdam’s Photo Gallery was also on Deck 3, near the Vista Dining Room, and a staff of photographers was on hand to capture guests on the ship. These included informal snaps in front of designated backdrops, as well as more formal portrait sessions. The shots were assembled each day and showcased here for us to buy.

Located on Deck 2, the Art Gallery featured a collection of artworks represented by Park West Gallery. Art auctions were conducted several days of our cruise, held in the adjacent Explorer’s Lounge.

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Internet Facilities

At the Explorations Café there were 16 PCs available for guests. The basic price for internet access was.75 per minute, plus a one-time $3.95 charge for activation; this same fee structure applied to WiFi access for laptops. Various packages were available that brought the price down—100 minutes for $55 (.55/minute), 250 minutes for $100 (.40/minute), etc.

The Digital Workshop, located on Deck 3, offered classes in Windows-based programs, taught using 14 Sony laptops, each equipped with a mouse. Classes were very popular (usually more attendees than computers), and pitched to a variety of skill levels, with a special emphasis on beginners. Topics included photo editing, the Cloud, file and folder management, PC security and Hotmail. There was also a class in camera basics, perfect for those who boarded the cruise with a brand new camera. The room was locked when not being used for classes.

Dress Codes

By day, the dress on Oosterdam is relaxed and casual. Holland America asks that shoes and a cover-up be worn over a bathing suit when passing through public areas inside the ship.

On a typical seven-night cruise there are two formal nights scheduled, with tuxedos, dark suit or jacket and tie required for men and suit, gown or cocktail dress for women. But even on formal night, a substantial number of guests were dressed informally (men without jacket/tie). The rest of the cruise was defined as smart casual—slacks and collared shirts for men, casual dresses, slacks or informal evening wear for women. T-shirts, shorts, etc. were not allowed in public areas after dark.

Laundry Facilities

There was no public laundry room on Oosterdam. In addition to dry cleaning at the usual exorbitant rates, there were laundry packages available. All the laundry we could fit in a Holland America laundry bag—not quite a full load for most washers—was $20, with 48-hour turnaround promised. Unlimited laundry and pressing on a seven-day cruise was $49; unlimited pressing only was $28.

General Health & Saftey

Holland America does not let guests come near the food counters for the first 48 hours of a cruise, to minimize the transference of stomach ailments. Crew won’t even shake your hand the first two days. While we applaud the policy, it does create crowding problems at the Lido, where servers load the plates.

Just prior to sailing, roll call was taken by hand, outloud during the Emergency Drill, held on the Promenade Deck. This laborious attendance taking was antiquated—time to convert to a key card scanner system. The captain indicated that anyone who did not participate in the Muster Drill would not be allowed to sail.

Clinic

The medical center was located on Deck A (below Deck 1). Hours were 8 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2 to 6 p.m. daily. There was a physician available for more serious issues; consultations were to be charged to an on-board account.

Smoking Policy

Smoking was not permitted in Oosterdam guestrooms or anywhere indoors “with the exception of certain designated areas.” Smoking was permitted on the starboard sides of the Promenade Deck and the SeaView Pool deck, and indoors at the Casino, the Sports Bar, and at one corner of the Crow’s Nest bar. Smoking was also allowed on stateroom balconies.

Service

We found the staff aboard Oosterdam to be generally excellent and welcoming. The maitre d’ at the Vista Dining Room remembered us by name from our second visit onward. The crew was almost universally buoyant and upbeat, engaged with guests, and the crew at the main dining room seemed to know the menu well.

General Policies

For information on Holland America’s tipping policy, see here.

For information on Holland America’s alcohol policy, see here.

For information on Holland America’s loyalty program, see here.

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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