Sailing Mexico’s Pacific

Tradition meets innovation

By: Shawn Dake

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 Pacific coast.

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 chandelier.

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.


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