3.5

Holland America Line

Review Summary

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Pros

  • Two separate Lido Deck pools with pool bars and lounge space
  • A main dining room, buffet, and poolside burger, hotdog, and taco joint
  • Two excellent extra-fee dining options including a grill and Italian restaurant
  • Spa with hydrotherapy pool, steam rooms, saunas, and treatment rooms (extra fee)
  • Spacious fitness center, a promenade for walking, and volleyball and basketball courts
  • Clean cabins with comfortable beds, mini-fridges, and free 24-hour room service
  • B.B. King's Blues Club, live chamber music, casino, and nightly main stage acts
  • Piano bar, cocktail bar, and cozy Deck 10 bar/lounge/cafe with sea views
  • Cooking shows, classes, guest lectures, and trivia during the day
  • Free supervised kids', tweens', and teens' clubs during the day

Cons

  • Some guests complain of limited entertainment on sea days
  • Activities geared toward older guests versus kids or partiers (pro for some)
  • Buffet restaurant can get so packed it's hard to find a seat
  • Most of the spa facilities cost an extra fee

Bottom Line

The 1,964 passenger Oosterdam is a 2003 ship in Holland America's fleet, delivering an understated version of mainstream cruising. The ship caters to repeat travelers in the retirement set, and the most popular hangout spots include the laid-back lounge bars featuring live music and the cozy coffee bar on Deck 10. There are also two pool areas, hot tubs, a small casino, a (mostly for-fee) spa, a gym, and activities like cooking shows, wine tastings, and trivia competitions. The standard main dining room and buffet restaurant offer pretty good fare, but the two specialty restaurants are worth the extra fees. Cabins are adequately sized and clean with comfortable mattresses, though decor is a bit bland in all but the suite-level rooms, which were rehabbed in 2016. While drink packages and extra fees are comparable to those on a Carnival ship, the vibe here is more subdued.

What's Included (and What's Not)

Oosterdam base rates include cabins, regular meals, entertainment, and basic non-alcoholic beverages. Meals in the main dining room and buffet restaurant are included, as are casual dishes at Dive-In, the poolside grill serving burgers, hot dogs, and tacos. There are two onboard specialty restaurants, each of which cost extra fees. Canaletto, an Italian restaurant off the buffet on the Lido Deck, is open for dinner and costs $15 per person. The classy Pinnacle Grill, a Holland America staple, is open for lunch ($10 per person) and dinner ($35 per person), though dinner can cost more on special themed nights (Le Cirque, a French-themed dinner on our voyage, cost $49 or $69 with a wine pairing). Standard room service selections are included in the rate, though some upgraded options cost extra fees including room service items ordered from Dive-In or Pinnacle Grill.

Dining packages can be purchased offering a discount on these meals starting with two meals in the Pinnacle Grill for $62 (and $8 savings) all the way up to the Ultimate Dining Package of $119 per person a five-meal package that offers a $27 savings.

Drinks that are free in the standard rate include tap water, lemonade, hot tea, and non-specialty coffee. All other drinks cost extra fees. There are two main drink packages that include alcoholic beverages. The Signature Beverage Package, which covers alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks priced at $8 or less costs $44.95 per person per day if purchased ahead ($49.95 per person per day if purchased onboard). The Elite Beverage Package covers all alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages priced at $15 or less and costs $54.95 per person per day. An off-shoot of the standard alcoholic beverage packages is the Cellar Master Package which includes five bottles of wine, a gift set, special wine tastings, and a dinner at Pinnacle Grill for $252 per person. 

There are two non-alcoholic beverage packages. Quench Beverage Package offers unlimited nonalcoholic drinks for $17.95 per person per day. This includes juice, bottled water, soda, nonalcoholic speciality drinks, and speciality coffees, like those at Explorations Cafe. The Coca-Cola Package includes unlimited fountain sodas for $8 per day. Guests can also purchase 12 liter bottles of water for $32. Mini-bar drinks and room service drinks aren't included in drink packages.

All drink packages must be purchased for the duration of the cruise and by all guests sharing a cabin (this is to prevent the sharing of drinks). A 15 percent service charge is automatically added to drink purchases, including drink packages. Prices and policies for beverage packages are comparable to those offered on Carnival.

Guests are allowed to bring one bottle of wine or champagne on embarkation day without charge, but any additional bottle brought on board, or bottles brought on board from ports, will cost an $18 fee (this is deemed a "corkage fee" but is charged regardless of where or if the bottle is consumed). For guests who want to buy alcohol but do not wish to pay the fee, purchases can be stored during the voyage and returned upon disembarkation. 

Gratuities are $13.50 per person per day per cabin and $15 per person per day in suites and are split amongst the the dining room waitstaff, stateroom, and suite stewards, as well as galley and laundry staff. Guests are allowed to adjust tips at their discretion at the end of the cruise.  

Like on most cruise ships, internet packages can be purchased to use shipboard computers or to connect to Wi-Fi with your own device. There are pay-as-you-go plans for 75 cents per minute, plus the following minute-based packages: 100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100, 500 minutes for $175, and 1,000 minutes for $250. Guests can make calls and text from their smartphones, provided international roaming is turned on (rates are between you and your carrier).

Access to the gym and dry sauna are free, but access to the spa facilities costs an extra fee ($40 per day or there are packages that cover the whole cruise). Fitness classes and individual spa treatments also cost extra fees. Laundry services, the casino, onboard shops, and some onboard activities (like mixology classes and wine tastings) cost extra fees, but all the music events at the main stage and bars are free. Kids' and Teens' Clubs are free, though After Hours babysitting costs an extra fee ($5 an hour).

Holland America may change their rates and policies at any time, so it's a good idea to double check prices before sailing. 

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Scene

4.0

Laid-back cruise with an understated vibe that attracts a mature crowd

Interiors of this laid-back cruise ship, such as the atrium, maintain a grown-up ambience, thanks to subdued decor in wine reds, navy blues, and touches of gold

Oosterdam, like the other ships in Holland America's fleet, offers an understated vibe with a touch of grown-up class. It's an ambiance that appeals to retirees, the lines base clientele. Decor relies on subdued wine reds, navy blues, and gold accents. In many spaces, guests will find velvety armchairs and cozy couches gathered in lounge areas. There's no waterslides or rock-climbing walls here, and, unlike on, say, a Carnival ship, life doesn't revolve around the pool. On our sailing, guests enjoyed trivia contests, onboard cooking shows, walking around the Promenade Deck, going to the spa, and making new friends at dinner. Most of the people we met on the ship were couples age 60+. But there were some younger folks, including families with kids who made the most of the kids' club facilities and hung out at the Lido Deck pool.

While the ship tends to be quiet and laid-back, it's far from dull. Evenings spring into action with cocktail hours and nightly entertainment, which includes shows on the main stage or, better yet, musical performances in one of several bar and lounge spaces. Live blues performances inspire dance-floor moves, though some guests on our voyage lamented that this was the only option for dancing. 

This mid-sized ship is easy to navigate with features grouped together organically across its 11 decks: Bars, shops, entertainment, and the main dining room are on Decks 2 and 3; the pools, spa, gym, and buffet restaurant are on Deck 9; the kids' clubs and cafe/bar/lounge are on Deck 10; and sports and relaxation areas are on Deck 11. On our sailing, overcrowding was only an issue in the buffet restaurant, where it was frequently difficult to find a free table during meal times, but the pool was only really busy on sea days, and we never had a problem finding a lounge chair. 

Dress around the ship is casual -- T-shirts and shorts aren't a problem -- but the main dining room requires dressy-casual ensembles (read: no shorts). And everyone gets dolled up on gala nights, busting out their cocktail dresses and suit jackets for dinner. 

Cabins

3.5

Clean, comfortable, adequately sized cabins and stylish suites; most have balconies

The (well-kept) Accessible Ocean-View cabin incorporates bland and outdated style, comparable to a mid-range chain hotel

Oosterdam has three basic stateroom categories, including Interior, Ocean-view, and Verandah cabins and three different categories of suites. Cabin categories are determined primarily by size, decor, and window/balcony access. (About two-thirds of the ship's cabins have balconies -- all of the Verandah cabins and suites.) In non-suite cabins, decor can feel a bit bland and vaguely outdated in style -- though everything is clean and well-kept. The look is comparable to a mid-range chain hotel including brown patterned wall-to-wall carpeting, beige walls, light wood furniture, and royal blue accents on the bed. Bathrooms are rather dowdy with curtained shower stalls (or combination showers and tubs) and sinks, which usually do have some counter space. While our Verandah room wasn't huge, we felt it was adequately sized, clean, and quiet, with sufficient storage space and outlets conveniently located at the head of the bed.

Beds do feature Sealy Euro-Top mattresses, and all rooms are outfitted with flat-screen TVs featuring on-demand movies, minibars (drinks not included in the rate), free fruit, and safes. Bathrooms have Egyptian cotton towels, terrycloth robes, hairdryers, and in-shower Elemis-brand toiletries in dispensers for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Nightly turndown service is provided. 

The ship's windowless, entry-level Interior cabins start at 151 square feet, a tight squeeze, though family-sized Interior cabins (which can accommodate four guests with one upper bed and a sofa bed) measure up to 233 square feet. Save interior cabins, all other cabin categories have tubs. Ocean-view cabins (174 to 180 square feet) add windows and sitting areas, while Verandah cabins (212 to 359 square feet, including the balcony) add floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto small balconies. In some rooms, connecting doors allow larger families to access adjacent staterooms, and wheelchair accessible cabins are available.

Suites, which were updated in the mid-2016 dry dock, have more stylish decor and extra amenities like sofa beds, separate showers and baths, binoculars, and whirlpool tubs. Suite bathrooms in particular are more stylish than standard cabin bathrooms, with tiled walls and chevron accents behind the sinks. As expected, suites are also more spacious, starting at 372 square feet and topping out at 1,150 square feet. Neptune and Pinnacle guests also get access to the Neptune Lounge -- it's a small space, but there are perks like breakfast and snacks. However, the best extra is access to a concierge, who can book shore excursions, onboard restaurant reservations, and spa treatments. 

Food

4.0

Classic dining room and buffet restaurant, plus delicious specialty options

Food in the Vista Dining Room, the main dining room, is pretty good, though some might want to spring for specialty dining

Oosterdam's non-specialty dining options, all included in the rate, are the Vista Dining Room for the cruise line's more formal sit-down meals, the Lido Market for casual buffet options, and Dive-In, a poolside taco, hot dog, and burger bar. Meals in the main dining room are pretty good, though most guests agree that the specialty dining is better and worth the extra fee, at least on occasion. The main dining room serves breakfast (everything from crab Benedict to Swedish pancakes), lunch, and a five-course dinner, with vegetarian and vegan choices. 

For dinner in the main dining room, guests have the option of pre-set dining times between 5:45 and 8:00, which allow guests to be picky about table size and dining partners, or open seating, available between 5:15 and 9:00, which may mean eating with strangers. Dinner menus offer a choice of appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert. Salmon, steak, and chicken dishes are regular features on the menu. 

Lido Market, the ship's casual dining option, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with pre-made and made-to-order dishes offered at different serving stations. There are casual standards like pizza, sandwiches, and a salad bar and some upgraded options like sushi, a carved meat station, and hot dishes or international cuisine. There's also a dessert station with selections like soft serve, cookies, cakes, and pies. Food is sometimes pre-plated -- the composition is stylish, but occasionally we found the presentation earned higher marks than the flavor. But the main problem with Lido Market is that it can get overcrowded: On our voyage, diners sometimes circled the restaurant several times with food in hand before finding a seat.

Extra-fee dining options include the Italian eatery Canaletto ($15 per person for dinner) and the Holland America signature restaurant Pinnacle Grill ($10 for lunch, $35 for dinner). Canaletto is a dinner-only establishment in a nook of Lido Market, and we were delighted by their risotto and shrimp ravioli. Pinnacle Grill, though, was particularly outstanding -- our crab cakes and steak were worth the extra fee, and the ambiance was a bonus too. This posh restaurant features a textured ceiling and elegant Louis XVI dining chairs. On our voyage, the restaurant also offered a French-themed Le Cirque dinner at Pinnacle ($49 or $69 with a wine pairing) completed with themed china with orange rims accented with playful monkey designs. Reservations for specialty restaurants should be made in advance, though we had no problem getting a reservation for seating the next night. Dining packages can offer a discount on added fees (see the What's Included (And What's Not) section above).

While there are no around-the-clock restaurants onboard, the room service menu is available 24/7. Travelers can choose from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert during particular hours, plus there are kid-oriented and late-night menus. Some dishes, and most drinks regardless of your drink package, cost extra fees, as do dishes order from Dive-In or Pinnacle.

Like on the rest of the ship, dress code at Lido Market is casual (no swimsuits, though), while dressy-casual looks are expected in the main dining room (no shorts). Fancier ensembles -- often dresses or skirts for women, suit jackets for men -- are the norm on formal nights and for dinners at Pinnacle Grill.

Drinks

4.0

Plenty of bars and lounges, including piano bar and a happening blues club

Drinking options include the Crow’s Nest, which offers panoramic views of the water

Despite not having a hard-partying atmosphere, the Oosterdam has its share of bars, though many of these are lounge-style venues that are likely to please more mature travelers. Other than the poolside bars, most cocktail spots are gathered on Deck 2, which is also home to the casino and the music-related entertainment venues, as well as the Pinnacle Grill, the ship's specialty restaurant which also has its own bar. The Gallery Bar is a particularly stylish option, with playful floor-to-ceiling gallery walls packed with art pieces, sofas crowned with throw pillows, sophisticated high-backed armchairs gathered around cafe tables, and a menu of craft cocktails created by master mixologist Dale DeGroff. But in terms of ambiance, the Queen's Lounge is hard to beat. By day, the space does cooking demos, but by night it's the B.B. King's Blues Club with a live blues band that sometimes takes requests and often inspires dancing.

On Deck 3 there's Ocean Bar, a quieter, refined lounge space with leathery button-tufted bar stools, live piano music, and gatherings of velvety upholstered armchairs in royal blue and wine red. Deck 10 is home to the Crow's Nest, a pleasant bar that takes advantage of views from its panoramic, bow-facing windows. Attached to this is Explorations Cafe -- we found the specialty coffee served here was much better than the free coffee.

As outlined in the What's Included (And What's Not) section above, drinks other than tap water, lemonade, hot tea, and non-specialty coffee cost extra fees. Drink packages include the Signature Beverage Package, which covers alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages priced $8 each or less, costing $44.95 per person per day (if purchased in advance -- otherwise, it's about $5 more) or the Elite Beverage Package, which covers all alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages priced at $15 or less per drink and costs $54.95 per person per day. There's also non-alcoholic drink packages available and passengers can bring their own wine and Champagne, within limits. (See above for more details.)

For guests without a beverage package, there are daily happy hours. On our sailing, Ocean Bar and Crow's Nest offered specials from 4 to 5 pm, while Gallery Bar had a late-night happy hour from 10 to 11 pm. And passengers frequently comment that the per-drink fees on Holland America are some of the cheapest of the mainstream ships. There were also cocktail, wine, rum, and beer tasting events and Mixology Classes, though these cost extra fees. 

Music and arts entertainment like recitals and dueling pianists

Live song-and-dance shows are held nightly on the Main Stage, a three-deck theater

Oosterdam's sailings offer nightly performances on the Main Stage, the ship's three-deck theater with elegant red velvet seats, as well as nightly live music entertainment in the bars and lounges. There's also daytime entertainment like cooking shows, guest lectures, and trivia contests. On our voyage, the Main Stage acts included the ship troupe's song-and-dance shows and comedians, plus a ventriloquist and a juggler. Overall, we found these performances to be a mixed bag and were more entertained by the smaller shows. 

The ship's "Music Walk Experience" is a series of venues offering musical performances on Deck 2. The B.B. King's Blues Club offers near nightly blues shows -- it's an onboard favorite -- and on our voyage the performances were so high-energy, that we returned every single night and noticed lots of other regulars, too. Lincoln Center Stage features chamber music and Billboard Onboard is a lounge space with lively dueling piano performances. Deck 2 is also home to the casino with several game tables and rows of slot machines -- it's neither huge nor overcrowded, but maintained a low buzz during our voyage.

Daytime entertainment included guest lectures, classes (like a steel drums class), trivia on the Main Stage (and in smaller venues), and cooking shows from America's Test Kitchen in the Queen's Lounge. On Deck 3, there's the Digital Workshop, a computer lab that hosts classes on how to edit and share photos, duty-free shops, and a small movie theater (with free popcorn during shows). Another popular lounge spot -- and our personal favorite -- was the Explorations' Cafe on Deck 10, which merges directly into the bow-facing Crow's Nest bar and viewing area. This library-cum-cafe-cum-bar had lots of spots to cozy up with a borrowed guidebook, play games or work on puzzles, or just enjoy the view. It also played host to trivia competitions during the day. Some travelers felt that sea days were a little light on entertainment, while other guests complained about the limited late-night activities and missed having more venues for dancing or karaoke. 

Two pools on the Lido Deck, including an aft sea-view pool

The Lido Deck includes the Lido Pool, which can be covered with a retractable roof for swimming in inclement weather

The two pool areas on Oosterdam aren't quite the bustling hubs that they are on many mainstream cruise ships. While the pools are certainly busier on sea days, it's a safe bet that you'll be able to snag a lounge chair. Both pools are situated on the Lido Deck. The primary pool, the Lido Pool, is located mid-ship and is actually fairly small, but it has swimming and wading space and is centrally located near the Lido Bar, a stage for live music, and the Dive-In grill, which serves up casual fare like burgers and tacos. The pool is surrounded by rows of striped loungers and flanked by hot tubs. A retractable roof makes the area usable during inclement weather, but it can also make the space seem small.

The aft-facing Sea View pool, wide open to the sky, feels more spacious with a large deck and rows of loungers that look seaward. The area also has it's own small bar and two hot tubs. The pool itself has a bright, tiled wading area and four colorful sculptures on one end of the pool. It tends to be quieter than the Lido Pool, in part because it's not centrally located and also because, in theory, it's an adults-only pool, though this wasn't strictly enforced on our voyage.

Extra-fee spa, roomy gym, plus walking track and sports courts

Fitness facilities consist of areas like the sports courts, including a half size basketball court

The Greenhouse Spa, situated on the Lido Deck, features a beauty salon for hair and nail services, a thermal pool and suite, a gym, and private and couples' treatment rooms. The Greenhouse Spa Retreat is the spa's hub with relaxation areas featuring heated tiled loungers, saunas, steam rooms, and a bright hydrotherapy pool area. Unfortunately, spa passes are required to access all spa areas except the dry sauna. Cruise-length passes are available, as are day passes for $40 per day. Treatments also cost extra fees; the spa menu covers everything from massages and facials to acupuncture and teeth-whitening. Fans of Greenhouse enjoy the treatments, although some complain about lengthy product pitches at the end of the procedures.

The fitness area is open to all free of charge, a fairly spacious gym with rows of cardio equipment (treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes), most facing out to sea over a ship deck, and lots of weightlifting equipment, including a full rack of dumbbells. The ship also offers some exercise classes, like yoga and pilates, though these typically cost an extra fee. There's also walking route on the Promenade Deck, a basketball court (half size), and a volleyball court. 

Family

3.0

Kids' and teens' clubs, but missing some of the kid-focused features of other lines

An extensive children’s program includes Club HAL, a kids’ club with plenty of activities

Compared to other ships on Carnival, Disney, or Royal Caribbean, Oosterdam isn't as kid-focused. It lacks the big-ticket, theme park-style features like waterslides or famed cartoon-character meet-and-greets. But the ship doesn't leave parents hanging. Kids' and teens' clubs give supervised oversight most of the day until 11 pm, generally with gaps for meals. Children are divided by age, with kids (3 to 6) and tweens (7 to 12) occupying Club HAL, a big room with a bright floor, pleather seating, and busy murals on the walls. The Loft, for teens (13 to 17), has a chiller vibe, with moodier spaces dedicated to lounging. The kids' clubs are filled with craft-making supplies, video games, boardgames, and hangout spaces, and activities range from themed parties to contests like trivia, karaoke, and volleyball. Registration is required for kids and tweens, while teens don't need to register and can come and go as they please. Club HAL After Hours offers babysitting from 10 pm to midnight for kids ages 3 and up at a cost of $5 per hour. 

Though there are no dedicated programs for children younger than 3, babies 6 months and older are allowed to sail on most voyages. Private babysitting can sometimes be arranged for kids under 3 ($8 per hour for the first child, $5 per hour for additional children). Toddlers and babies under 3, with supervision of their guardians, can use the Club HAL space during Toddler Time. Ships have booster seats, cribs, and high chairs, all free to borrow. Baby food and diapers can be delivered to cabins if arranged in advance, for an extra fee. 

The Vista Dining Room and Lido Buffet offer kid-friendly items, and there's a room service menu page geared toward kids, with perennial favorites like PB&J, Mac and Cheese, and hot dogs. The pools don't have slides or kid-specific water features, though many kids splashed around in the Lido Deck pool -- the other pool is, in theory, adults-only.

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