My friends are “old school” cruisers, which means for years I
had not been able to convince them to set foot onboard one of the
huge new ships. However, the lure of departing practically from
their own backyard in San Diego, and my assurances that Holland
America Line still retained some traditional elements of the past,
convinced them to give cruising another try. For a week, our home
away from home was the 1,848-passenger ms Oosterdam, built in 2003
as the second ship in Holland America Line’s Vista-class quartet.
This elegant vessel spends October through April sailing to the
ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s
Apparently a lot of other people like the idea of embarking on
their cruise without the hassle of flying to the ship. Our cruise
was filled to capacity, with the majority of guests from Southern
California arriving either by car or train. The Amtrak station is
just a block away and car parking is right across the street from
the cruise terminal. I was impressed with how smoothly the check-in
process was handled. The exhilaration of crossing the gangway and
starting a new adventure never gets old for me. Once inside the
ship our little group found themselves standing at the base of a
lovely three-deck Atrium gazing up at a Waterford Crystal globe
Cruising down to Mexico assisted by the southerly flowing current
along the coast of Baja California makes for unusually smooth
sailing. The warm weather means that passengers head outdoors on
the first sea day. The line offers dozens of activities available
every hour of the day. Both the insatiably active and those whose
idea of fun is to relax in a teak “steamer chair” on deck will find
happiness on the Oosterdam. My companions fell into the latter
group, content to read a book or gaze out at the Pacific. One of my
favorite activities was attending the Royal Dutch Tea service in
the dining room. It’s one of those traditional aspects of cruising
that Holland America Line is famous for. Of course, the line has
also poured millions of dollars into onboard Signature of
Excellence enhancements, and those are equally enjoyable. My wife
especially enjoyed the Greenhouse Spa and Salon, which includes a
thermal suite with steam and aromatic therapy and Romanesque heated
ceramic lounges with a sea view.
The beautifully decorated hydrotherapy pool is also a wonderful
feature of the Vista-class ships. Outside the spa, two additional
pools, each with their own unique sculptures, provide more
opportunities for swimming, relaxing or sunbathing.
The dining experience aboard the Oosterdam is a major reason this
ship receives consistently high scores in passenger satisfaction.
Both the food and the Indonesian service place the ship firmly
within the premium cruise sector. The Vista dining room is a
two-tiered restaurant providing spectacular sea views. For a
special occasion clients may wish to try the upscale Pinnacle
Grill. A more casual alternative dinner is also available in the
Lido buffet Restaurant while the Terrace Grill provides lighter
fare on deck. One of the things that keeps bringing me back to
Holland America Line ships is also one of the simplest: The crowd
pleasing Ice Cream bar that serves up complimentary scoops and
cones with a galaxy of toppings among other tempting desserts.
With the Oosterdam, and the tourist-friendly Mexican Pacific
itinerary, Holland America has cultivated the delicate balance in a
cruise that appeals to couples and families of all ages.
Holland America Line remains committed to the Mexico market, with
the Oosterdam scheduled to continue on seven-night Mexican cruises
from San Diego through at least spring 2008.
Holland America Line remains committed to the Mexico market,
with the Oosterdam scheduled to continue on seven-night Mexican
cruises from San Diego through at least spring 2008.