Entrepreneur’s Odyssey had the pleasure to cruise back to back in Alaska on two 7 day trips from Vancouver to Seward returning to Vancouver. This is our review of HAL Ms Oosterdam cruise to Alaska and back from Vancouver, 25th May to 8th June 2014, with port stops twice in Ketchikan and Juneau, one each in Seward and Haines, with scenic cruising twice in Glacier Bay and through the Inside Passage.
Some stats about the MS Oosterdam
MS Oosterdam is one of the Vista-class ships and can hold 1916 passengers and around 817 crew. Built in 2003 puts her in the older bracket of ships these days. And as many ships commissioned back then she is of small to mid size range;
- Tonnage: 82,305
- Length: 936 ft
- Beam: 105.8 ft
- Draught: 26 ft
- Cruising Speed: 24 kts
- 1916 Passengers
- 817 Crew
Check in and boarding was the fastest and smoothest to date by far, maybe that’s just our timing on this cruise or not, but it was seamless. Arriving to the terminal by taxi, our luggage was taken directly from the cab to the waiting trolley. It was then a short walk to passport control and then into the Check-in area.
There was no line and so we were guided to a desk. We signed the health form and were welcomed with our cruise cards, it was then a 5 minute wait before we could board. They allow groups to board at a time avoiding any crowds.
From the moment you board the Ms Oosterdam the first impressions are wonderful, a ship of class. Let’s explore the ship.
The Staterooms #4128 & #4111
As we had booked two separate cruises we were allocated different cabins. Our first being a balcony. The staterooms were nice, a king size bed which was comfortable however the covers quite thin and we needed to put on extra thick blankets. Much prefer thicker heavier bedding.
The air-conditioning in both cabins was directly above the bed and blew down onto you while sleeping, not so good. We had a Balcony cabin going north and an obstructed ocean view going south. The balcony was huge but the table very small and worn looking. Both rooms were fine and we had plenty of room to store all of our luggage and we do have rather a lot considering that we are on the road constantly living location independent.
The bathroom actually has a half-size bath in both cabins with the shower above. Shampoo etc is provided by Elemis and plenty of towels. A reasonable size wash basin and bench space as well as a small cupboard above and more space below. All in all perfect for what you need.
Wardrobe space is plentiful, however not many draws, but cupboard space is available above the TV. And the TV is above a mini bar fridge. There is a hairdryer and umbrella. We did find that the doors to the wardrobe and bathroom counter intuitive, opening from the wrong sides. Our move from one cabin to the other was seamless and the staff would have done it for us, but we chose to move ourselves.
The Obstructed Ocenview cabin was on the same deck just the other side so not far to walk and within a few minutes we had all our gear transferred. Lucky for us that the cabin was ready very early and we could get new cruise cards from 9am. Both these cabins were an upgrade from an Inside.
The Lifeboat Drill
The lifeboat drill is a bit of a thing. At the specific time you must go to your muster-station which is indicated on your cruise card and these stations are outside on the deck under the lifeboats, good job it’s not raining. It takes a while to check people off the manifest and the demo is over in a couple of minutes, at least you don’t need to take your life vest.
The Room Attendants
The room attendants on both sides of the ship in each cabin were very good, helpful, responsive and unobtrusive. hardly saw them actually. Though when required they got what I needed without a problem.
Room service was available 24/7. The variety was in my opinion quite limited, however for breakfast I did write on the menu some extra items that were delivered without a problem. You can order through the TV using the remote control, or by phone for during the day and a paper ‘hang on your door’ way for breakfast which I like. There is no fee for delivery, be a pot of tea or a three course dinner. Delivery was on time and the tray’s were always gone on return.
Vista Main Dining Room
Dinner in the main dinning room (MDR) is split over two levels. The first week was on the top-level, for the second week we were seated downstairs. We had booked late seating on a table of eight. On both north and south we only had six people of which we were just four, as the others made choices to dine elsewhere. The service overall was very good and the food even better. Great menus with many choices, however I did see some repetition in the desert menu, such as two out of four were chocolate and two out of four had meringue in, so that is something to note.
The Lido Buffet
The buffet was pretty good as buffet’s go. Selection was fine (similar to MDR) and service was very good as well, especially for the Lido style restaurant. The staff was very chatty and loved to interact with the passengers which I find very pleasing. Breakfast buffet is very good and the quality excellent.
The MDR breakfast menu is also very good with lots of choice including international dishes. The buffet always had clean tables with cutlery which isn’t often the case at many buffet restaurant, it is something these guys obviously pride themselves on. The only thing I did notice was that the MDR was closed for lunch on more than a few occasions which was a shame.
Pinnacle – Speciality Restaurant
The speciality restaurant was the Pinnacle Grill which also turned into the Cirque restaurant for one night during the cruise north and south. We had a very nice meal here and the service was great again. A $40 surcharge per person though, which I find a bit high considering it’s an extra on top of what we have paid for the inclusive meals.
The choice was good and the steaks which we had were huge, don’t eat lunch if you are going. I’d like to point out that by eating here at around 8pm enjoying a nice meal you might encounter the somewhat out-of-place tunes and singing from the band that plays just below, not such good timing.
Canaletto – Speciality restaurant
The other speciality restaurant is the Italian flavoured Canaletto, which is a part of the Lido buffet restaurant and for dinner has its own menu and staff. We did not try this but reports were that it was fine, this has an extra charge of $10 per person. As returning HAL passengers you are treated to a Mariners lunch in the MDR which is rather special. You can board the ship and dine here rather than the normal procedure of eating in the buffet restaurant.
If you’d like to see more detailed posts about the restaurants and other parts of the ship then please visit various pages from our back to back Alaskan cruise here.
The Pools – Seaview pool & bar (rear) & Lido
The pool areas were kept very clean even though the pools were not so popular probably due to the colder weather and a lack of families with children. Not a bad thing in my opinion, as the average age was probably around 55-65. And many cruisers had cruised on several cruise’s in their time.
The theatre was a comfortable three level arena seating with shows twice every night, so you could dine and then watch the show which I think is better than show then dine. Some nights they even did three performances. The actual performances were very good, well the ones we saw and we didn’t do them all. Some of the other acts were good and average but each to their own. We did like the lit up tables at the seats, for you to put your drinks on, something that is missing on the Celebrity Millennium. The performers were individually good as well.
Explorations Cafe – The Coffee Shop
The cafe where you can get speciality coffee’s as well as snacks (complimentary) is in a great spot with awesome views. However the coffee’s were not that great. Just so you know, I like a good cremé on the coffee and I drink mainly ‘flat whites’, I don’t appreciate much that black liquid some call coffee. That is what I base my opinion on.
The Library & Internet
The coffee place in adjacent to the library, which has a good clear selection of books. This combines itself with the Internet area with lots of tables that have P/C build in them for you use. You can also use your own computer anywhere on the ship. The Internet prices are pretty standard and we never had a problem which was good to report as the Internet can be very hit and miss.
- 1000 minutes for $250 = .25 a minute, this got you a bonus 100 minutes as well for joining on the first day.
- 500 minutes for $175 = .35 a minute
- 250 minutes for $100 = .40 a minute
- 100 minutes for $55 = .55 a minute
- or pay as you go for .75 a minute
The Crows Nest
The Crows Nest is a wonderful seating area that spans the front of the ship on deck 10. It has lots of room and you don’t feel cramped when sat around having a drink. However on days when you visit Glacier Bay it does become crowded but that is to be expected as everybody wants a great view sat inside.
Live Music on Board
The live music in various spots throughout the ship is good and not over loud or screaming cat sounds.
The reception or concierge desk was always very well staffed and very polite mannered. They had to deal with some very obnoxious passengers (you get them every cruise) but always had a smile for you.
The Cruise Director
The cruise director was great and never too much in your face with announcements and when he did announce it was loud and clear. Even the Captain when he did his daily update it was subtle. I have a feeling that HAL know the client’s quite well and cater to their likes and dislikes.
The shops are well stocked with many different items and not too many of them either, you do walk through them to get to the front of the ship on deck 3, past the jeweler and a few conference rooms. They often were setting up displays of some product to sell on special.
Cinema – Screening Room
Also around here is the cinema, where they screen a different movie a few times each day, they also have bags of popcorn available. Get their early to secure a seat as it does get busy!! and you can’t save seats.
The bars around the ship are all serviced well and situated in good positions,; deck 10 the Crows Nest, deck 9 the Lido & Seaview bar, deck 3 the Ocean bar, deck 2 the Piano bar & Sports bar. Drinks are not overly expensive and each day there is a happy hour, between 4-5 pm and 10-11 pm.
The clientele onboard was a relatively older bunch, not old but retired age, 55-65 on average. There were a few families with children but only a handful, you hardly saw or heard them. Everybody we spoke to had cruised before and many have returned to HAL.
The Greenhouse Spa & Gym
This is at the front of the ship on deck 9 under the Crows Nest. The gym has a wonderful view out to sea and was used regularly. They organised many exercise classes some at extra cost. The gym is not open 24/7. The spa has many rooms for different procedures all at the normal cruise ship prices (too expensive). And to use the special pool you need to sign up for the entire cruise, again expensive. They do have the special offers throughout the cruise like two for one, or 30% off etc.
The Night Club
Due to the clientele this was never very busy and lacked any atmosphere. With the right crowd it would probably be good for a night out.
The casino is central to the ship and you must walk through one side of it to access front or rear. It is not overly big yet has all the usual tables, plus pokies or gambling machines. At certain tables you can smoke which I find strange, but hey it works for them. We didn’t gamble this cruise.
The Art Gallery
The Art Gallery is small and not unobtrusive, yet always showing different pieces. Art auctions are held regularly as well which we usually check out but with so much going on we didn’t find the time.
The Open Decks
The open decks are clean and spacious, with plenty of deck chairs to use. The pool has a cover which was closed most of the cruise and therefore you don’t have a view across the ship or down inside to the pool area which is kind of different, the positive is that the inside deck area is more pleasant even on the cold and wet days. I guess you have the best of both worlds with it being open on a very nice clear sunny day.
On Deck For a Cause
This is an excellent event that HAL have on all their ships. It is to raise money for a cause and have it donated to a charity. All you have to do is donate and walk. You can just donate if you wish, but walking is the fun part, oh and you get a t-shirt.
The staff was more than helpful and always had a smile. Mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia and a few other places in between. We had a great interaction with the crew that we saw during the cruise.
The Ports of Call
The ports of call, well what can I say, if you go on an Alaskan cruise and don’t like it then something must be wrong. The scenery was magnificent the weather was mixed great and bad, but even the bad added to the atmosphere.
Would we travel with HAL again – YES
Would we travel on Ms Oosterdam again – YES
Would we recommend HAL & Ms Oosterdam – YES
Would we cruise to Alaska again – YES
If you’d like to see more detailed posts about the restaurants and other parts of the ship then please visit various pages from our back to back Alaskan adventures. Click the photo below to begin the adventures in Alaska.