Holland America, a renowned cruise brand, stands out as one of the world’s leading providers of sailing experiences worldwide. I’ve had the pleasure of being invited by Holland America to sail with them a few times. Still, nothing was as special as my first to the Mexican Riviera. Allow me to present you with a comprehensive first-timer’s Holland America cruise, drawing from my encounter and insights gained along the way.
The Oosterdam Cruise Ship
My friend Kim and I embarked on the Holland America Oosterdam in San Diego, California. As we stepped aboard, we were immediately captivated by its alluring decor. The Oosterdam, pronounced long O-ster-dam, exudes a classic and chic charm that sets the tone for an exceptional oceanic experience. Our cruise itinerary was Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.
With a guest capacity of under 2000, the Oosterdam can be classified as a mid-size ship. This size allows for a comfortable and harmonious atmosphere where passengers can navigate freely without feeling crowded or overwhelmed. A notable aspect of the Oosterdam’s layout is its user-friendly design, enabling easy exploration and convenient access to its various amenities.
Most fellow passengers were repeat Holland America cruisers, a testament to the cruise line’s commitment to exceptional service. This loyalty among travelers speaks volumes about Holland America’s impeccable reputation within the cruising community.
Our Verandah Suite Stateroom
Our stateroom had a functional layout that we both enjoyed. Notably, the beds were remarkably comfortable and elevated, allowing for easy storage of suitcases underneath. Our room had a sitting area with a couch, a swivel table, and a desk with a vanity.
Nightstands and a triple closet with a small safe occupied the remaining space. A flat-screen TV was positioned on the wall within a wooden cut-out that resembled a decorative picture frame, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the room.
Our room was equipped with a convenient mini-fridge to keep our drinks refreshingly cold, while the lighting was easily controlled by switches right at our bedside. For added privacy and comfort, we had the option of privacy curtains separating the bed and closet area.
The bathroom in our stateroom shocked us with a bathtub and shower combo, complete with indulgent Elemis products (shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner). As a devoted fan of Elemis, I was thrilled with this amenity. There was a medicine cabinet on the wall and a handy shelf under the sink for storage.
Our room also boasted a small balcony that offered excellent ocean views anytime we desired. It came furnished with two comfortable deck chairs and a small table.
Oosterdam Ship Activities
Trivia is an eagerly awaited activity that becomes incredibly entertaining in the setting of a cruise ship. It’s my favorite thing to do on the cruise ship! Who would have thought that random bits of factual information could provoke such lively antics during group trivia?
Winners of trivia on Holland America are awarded prizes like a bottle of champagne or lapel cruise pins – much better than the worthless trinkets I’ve seen on a few other cruise lines. And, of course, the ultimate reward is the bragging rights that come with victory.
Another delightful perk is the afternoon tea experience. Holland America stands out for delivering this cherished tradition with excellence. The best part? Afternoon tea is complimentary, and you don’t have to be a tea drinker to partake in this experience.
Indulge in an exquisite tea experience complete with white-gloved, silver tray service. Delight in a delectable spread of bite-size sandwiches, pastries, and savory scones served with cream and jam.
For a seamless voyage and to keep up with the happenings around the cruise ship, rely on the ship’s newsletter, What & Where, which offers insightful recommendations.
Another great cruise option is the Canada and New England route with Holland America.
Enjoyable Ship Activities
Do you enjoy live music? Experience the enchanting Lincoln Center Stage concert series onboard Holland America, where impeccable musicians bring chamber music to life in an intimate setting.
Discover a wealth of digital workshops tailored for Windows computer users. Don’t miss the fun slot tournaments held in the ship’s casino. While the range of slot machines on this ship was much smaller than I was used to, the table games and video poker made up for it.
Movies at sea are popular, featuring current blockbuster films shown daily in the Screening Room and occasionally on the Main Stage. The Main Stage also showcased spectacular big production shows, ensuring every dining group had the opportunity to experience them.
Furthermore, our ship hosted two special guests in addition to Holland America’s great cast of dancers and singers. One was a talented comedian, while the other showcased a darling canine act, although we regrettably missed the latter.
The Art Gallery emerged as a highly-visited area on the ship. We witnessed a good amount of “Sold” tags on paintings and artwork daily.
Adult Libation Tastings
Alcohol tastings and samplings are prominent at cruise ship bars and dining rooms. It is a great way for passengers to experience the tastes of martinis, scotch, beer, tequila, wine, etc. Kim and I attended the wine-tasting session, which proved to be a delightful time.
The tables were set so pretty, offering a photo-worthy setting. We indulged in five delightful wine samplings, accompanied by a plate of cheese and crackers.
This class is tailored for individuals curious about wine or appreciate a fine glass of it. As a seasoned travel writer, I have had the opportunity to attend many wine tastings. Still, this one left me with newfound knowledge, which is good!
The wines we sampled were in the mid to high price range, providing excellent value for our investment, which was around $25.
Oosterdam Dining Options
The Oosterdam cruise ship has abundant dining options to satisfy every appetite. The Lido Market, which offered breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in buffet style, provided many tasty eats. For those seeking a more refined dining experience, the two-level Dining Room presented seated full-service meals in an elegant ambiance. Both are included in the cost of your cruise.
One of the highlights of cruising is connecting with the dedicated wait staff and maître d’. Throughout our journey, the attentive team anticipated our every need. They adeptly catered to our preferences, from seeking a rushed meal (we’ve got things to do!) to seeking a leisurely dining experience with engaging conversations.
For a taste of Mexican flavors, a fix-your-own bar, mere steps away, showcased a variety of fajita and nacho options. An array of condiments accompanied the spread. If they have the creamed corn crab salad, give it a try. It’s truly wonderful!
The option for in-room dining is available during your cruise, ensuring comfort and convenience. On two occasions, Kim and I indulged in warm cookies and fruit & cheese trays while enjoying being glued to Game of Thrones in our stateroom.
Want to know what Holland America’s Club Orange includes? This Zaandam post explains the perks.
Specialty Dining Options: Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill
Oosterdam offers two exceptional pay restaurants, Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill. I firmly believe it’s well worth the extra $15 — $35 to enjoy the outstanding specialty dining options on a cruise.
Canaletto, an Italian restaurant, provides a dining experience with shared appetizers, an entree, and dessert. The service is impeccable, and the food is simply terrific.
Already content from the appetizers and bread we ate, Kim and I decided to cancel one entree and share one instead. The Torta Caprese al Limone (lemon tart) was incredibly delicious. We loved it! I must also add that the service was impeccable.
Pinnacle Grill offers an elevated steakhouse experience at a higher price point of $35, but trust me, it’s more than worth it. Initially skeptical about the additional cost, our dining experience surpassed all expectations.
Our meal was remarkable from the moment we sat down to the final bite. Starting with a freshly baked basket of assorted bread, followed by a table-side Caesar Salad, our succulent Lamb Chops and Filet Mignon dinners with béarnaise sauce were lip-smacking. We enjoyed every bite, namely the dessert soufflé to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Other Holland America Offerings
The Oosterdam boasts two swimming pools and basketball and volleyball courts on the same deck. Adding to the vibrant atmosphere beneath the Lido Dome, numerous Mexican folklore shows were held throughout our cruise in the adult pool area.
Holland America provided a selection of shops catering to various interests, such as logo souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, sundries, and alcohol. Several items were discounted throughout the cruise and sold out by the pool.
A lively highlight onboard the Oosterdam was the presence of B.B. King’s All-Stars, exceptionally talented musicians. They entertained with three short sets each night, filling the air with captivating blues and jazz melodies, skillfully played on trumpet and saxophone. The performances by the skilled vocalists encouraged us to visit the club every evening.
The Greenhouse Spa and Salon
Guests have a wide range of pampering and beautifying services at the Greenhouse Spa and Salon, which exclusively offers Elemis brand products. Indulge in massages, body treatments, hair and make-up services, men’s grooming, and facials.
There is also a neighboring fully-equipped gym with state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines to help guests maintain their fitness goals onboard. A variety of classes are offered, such as total body conditioning, yoga, and indoor cycling, though some have an additional fee.
I particularly enjoyed the thermal pool, known for its skin benefits and relaxation properties. Guests can purchase a guest pass or pay a fee to access the facility throughout the cruise.
The Crow’s Nest: Oosterdam’s Fun Hub
Having cruised over 40 cruises, I’ve enjoyed exploring various ship common rooms, but none have matched the vibrant atmosphere and energy of the Crow’s Nest. This expansive space, with enormous windows for scenic cruising, is the epicenter of entertainment and excitement throughout the cruise.
In one area is the Explorations Cafe, a cozy retreat housing a wealth of amenities, such as daily puzzles, a small library, an extensive collection of board games and playing cards, and the ship’s exclusive coffee bar. Throughout the day, complimentary pastries and small plates are readily available, perfectly complementing the selection of specialty coffees and teas available for purchase.
The rest of the Crow’s Nest was dedicated to numerous seating arrangements, inviting you to curl up with a good book, converse with new companions, watch the whales we encountered more than once on our cruise, or participate in the lively trivia games.
Additionally, the fun area hosted a sensational happy hour, serving yummy tapas plates each evening.
Thanks to Holland America for inviting me to experience their cruise line. As with all of my posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased
First Timer’s Holland America Cruise: They Knocked it Out of the Park
We had an incredible cruise to Mexico and are convinced that Holland America is among the finest cruise lines for thrilling adventures at sea.
Thank you, Holland America, for a fantastic time, and to everyone who loves cruising, keep on sailing!