Holland America’s Oosterdam
November 8 – 15, 2008
We flew into San Diego a day early, on Friday 11/7, and checked in to the Hampton Inn Downtown, which is conveniently located close to the cruise port, the airport, and sightseeing areas like Little Italy and the Gas Lamp district. We spent the afternoon exploring the harbor area, from the Maritime Museum, to the USS Midway, and all the way down to Seaport Village. We had an early dinner at the Elephant & Castle pub (in the Holiday Inn across from the cruise port) and an early bed time, since we were still on East Coast time and had been travelling since about 5:30 a.m.
On Saturday morning, we had a quick (included) breakfast at the Hampton Inn, checked our emails on the free internet terminal in the lobby, and then took a cab over to the fishing docks at Point Loma so that Everett could check out the long-range tuna boats and visit a few tackle stores. The rest of the morning was spent touring San Diego on the hop-on hop-off Old Town Trolley – a two hour loop that visits Coronado Island, Balboa Park, the Gas Lamp district, Old Town, and more. It was a great way to get an overview of the city, along with some interesting history and background from the guide.
We grabbed our luggage from the hotel and walked the three blocks or so to the pier, wheeling our bags – very easy! We arrived at about 1 p.m., and the timing was perfect. No lines at all, and just as we walked onto the ship they announced that the rooms were ready, so we headed straight to our cabin — #1119 – an inside cabin on the Main Deck (deck 1). This was the first time we’ve stayed in an inside cabin, and we were very unsure of what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised! There was plenty of room, with a nice little sitting area and table, the bed was VERY comfortable, and because of our location all the way aft in the ship, on the lowest passenger deck, there was no noise from foot traffic past our door. At night, it was like being in a dark, quiet, cave. Great for sleeping!
We had a nice lunch at the Lido Buffet and then explored the ship until the Lifeboat Drill and the sailaway party, and then dressed for dinner and made it to the dining room for our 8 p.m. seating. We had requested a large table of 6 or 8, and were initially disappointed to be seated at a table for four, but our dinner companions more than made up for it. We were seated with a really nice couple from Spokane, Washington who “adopted” us and became our surrogate parents for the duration of the cruise. We would meet John and Suzie each evening for cocktails before dinner and share stories of the day. Very nice!
Sunday was a sea day, and we made the most of it. We slept late, walked two miles on the wraparound Promenade Deck, relaxed by the pool, and took a nap in the sun. Since we had the late seating for dinner, we attended the early show at 6:45 p.m. in the Vista Theater. It was just average, though, and I have to say the singing/dancing was not as good as we’ve seen on other ships. This evening was the first of the two formal nights, and we noticed a lot of empty seats in the dining room (presumably for people who had elected not to get dressed up).
Monday morning we sailed into Cabo San Lucas, and were up early and out on deck to take pictures. It was definitely worth it, as we got to watch the fishing boats head out of the harbor while we rounded the gorgeous rock formations at Lands’ End. We were among the first to board the tenders into shore, as we had an early appointment to meet our guide/driver who would be taking us to tour some resorts in the Cabo area. After a long, hot day on shore we took a nap and watched part of a movie in the cabin before dinner. The pre-dinner show this evening was very good – featured performer Joel Mason did a terrific tribute to Elton John! After dinner we spent some time in the piano bar, which became our standard after-dinner hangout for the remainder of the cruise.
Tuesday brought us to Mazatlan, and our only scheduled shore excursion of this cruise – a kayak expedition to Cactus Island. We were ferried across the channel to Stone Island, where we were given an orientation talk and then outfitted with our kayaks and gear. We spent about an hour and a half in the water in the two-person kayaks on a (guided) paddle out from the beach and around Cactus Island. We saw some wildlife, and some pretty scenery, and it was a very easy paddle. Once we got back to the beach, we had about two hours on our own to swim, relax in the beachside restaurant, go horseback riding, or rent ATVs before heading back to the ship in the early afternoon. After that, we headed out on a brief (and ill-advised) trip to Mazatlan’s Central Mercado. This turned out to be more of a food and produce market for the locals, and less of a souvenir-shopping spot, but we did get to experience some local “color”, and a ride in a pulmonia (open-air taxi). This evening, we enjoyed another relaxing dinner with John and Suzie, and a late-night comedian in the Vista Theater.
Wednesday we visited Puerto Vallarta, and we had pre-arranged to spend the day at an all-inclusive resort – Dreams Puerto Vallarta. It was our favorite of all the resorts we saw on this trip! We were back on the ship by about 5 p.m., in time for cocktails and the Mexican BBQ dinner on the pool deck. The evening entertainment included a surprisingly good “Passenger Talent Show”, which included a juggler, dancers, singers, and more.
Thursday and Friday were sea days, and we definitely enjoyed having so much time to unwind at the end of the cruise. I spent a lot of time in a deck chair in the sun, and Everett took advantage of some of the educational offerings – including classes on photo editing and creating DVD movies from your snapshots. I also visited the spa for a deep tissue massage. It was very relaxing at the time, but I felt it in my muscles for a few days! We walked our two miles each morning, and did more than our share of eating, too. The evenings included the second formal night and the Farewell Variety Show on Friday evening, which featured all the acts from throughout the week.
Saturday morning’s disembarkation was a breeze. We had elected to do self-disembarkation, so we wheeled our own bags off the ship at about 8:15 a.m., grabbed a cab, and were at the airport in minutes. We easily made our 11:30 a.m. flight, connected in Las Vegas, and were back home in Providence at about 10:30 p.m.
- The Hampton Inn was a great pre-cruise hotel. The Holiday Inn would also be a good choice. Coming in a day early was a great decision.
- This was definitely our most relaxing cruise ever (no late nights, lots of sea days, easy pace) and the older crowd on a HAL cruise may have added to that. We’d certainly cruise HAL again, but I think Celebrity remains our favorite.
- The inside cabin turned out to be fine. I would not do it for a scenery-intensive cruise like Alaska or Europe, but it was perfectly fine for this one. We slept great, and we probably spent more time out and about on the ship than we would have if we had our usual balcony cabin.
- We were glad we chose the late seating (8 pm) as the early dinner at 5:45 pm would have been too much of a rush.
- We enjoyed sailing from the West Coast, since all our previous cruises have been from NY/FL. It had a different vibe (all those friendly Californians!) and a nice variety of ports.