Holland America First Timer


Well-Known Member
Well we are finally looking to get back out there on the high seas and an interesting deal came my way onboard Holland America's Oosterdam. Being a Carnival/Royal Caribbean pro I'm a little skeptical about how well I will transition to HAL.

Basically I'm wondering what life is like onboard a HAL ship. How formal are the days/nights? What kinds of activities should I expect? Will I need to worry about differentiating my salad fork from my relish fork? Do I even need to know what a relish fork is used for? :biggrin:

Anyway thanks for your help and I'm looking forward to trying something new!


Senior Flea Coller Tester
Good question. I'll be a first timer too in August, so I'll look forward to replies.


Forever Remembered
It's nice to see you posting again, Jet...or have I been missing something?

Which of Oosterdam's itineraries are you considering? Compared to Carnival, yes, HAL is more formal - but not to the extent of watching if you use the correct fork. :nix: There will be plenty of men who don't wear tuxes (if you don't want to wear one). Alaska and Mexican Riviera are not ultra-formal itineraries.

Daytime activities will depend on the itinerary, but you'll have plenty to choose from.


Well-Known Member
Hi Mary Ann nice to see you again too! Your observations are correct. It has been quite some time since I've posted due to life's unexpected turns and my job etc.

We are currently looking into HAL's Mexican Riviera cruise out of San Diego onboard the Oosterdam. The price is surprisingly comparable to the Carnival Spirit and I think it's time we had a change of pace.

I'm looking to avoid the spring break crowds though by April they should be gone and I'm pretty sure they don't flock to HAL anyway. From what I read Holland America seems like a much more relaxed atmosphere than the party crazy Carnival/RCI which will be a nice welcome change.

I know you are the HAL Queen, Mary Ann, so any advice you can give would of course be much appreciated!


Forever Remembered
Jet - I hope all is well with your job. It's a topsy-turvy world for so many people! Thank you for the compliment.

Oosterdam has very high ratings on her Mexican Riviera cruises. In fact, I'm sailing on her with a group of friends later in April - Sea of Cortez/Mexican Riviera.

Oosterdam is one of HAL's newer class of ships - Vista Class. It's true, you don't find the more spirited atmosphere of Carnival or RCI, but you're not going to find a dud either. If you've found a great fare, I'd say 'go for it'. You'll have plenty of time in each of the 3 ports, so you'll have fun there as well. And...San Diego is a great city to visit and sail from.

The one thing I ALWAYS recommend when sailing on a Vista Class ship - choose the cabin you want, and stick with it. "Upgrades" aren't necessarily upgrades on these ships.

Good luck!

Mary Ann


Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the advice Mary Ann. Will certainly take it all into consideration. This ship reminds me of Carnival's Spirit class where an upgrade didn't necessarily mean a better stateroom like you mentioned. I see the layout in the deck plans are very similar.

I almost forgot... I hope Pucci is doing well! Maybe one day he'll get to go on a cruise with his mom!
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Forever Remembered
David - a few years ago, Carnival gave Fincantieri an order for 15 "bottoms" (number subsequently increased) to be shared among Carnival, HAL and Costa - originally, 5 each. Then the numbers shifted and HAL ended up with 4 - Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam. I lost count of how many Carnival and Costa ended up with. For that matter, Cunard's Queen Victoria is one of these as well. So your observation about Carnival is spot on.

Whatever you ultimately decide, I hope you'll have a wonderful and relaxing cruise.

Thank you for asking about Pucci - he's curled up asleep by my side as always. It would be a dream to take him on a cruise, but the cruise lines would never allow it, unless he were a Service Dog.

Mary Ann

Krazy Kruizers

Holland America Specialist
It's been a while since we were on the Oosterdam -- but she is a very nice ship.

You don't have to worry abour formal nights -- even a jacket and tie are acceptable.

As for the forks -- no need to worry there -- HAL doesn't put out all the knives, forks and spoons as they used to. In fact, it is very rare if we get a fish fork for our shrimp cocktails.


Forum Manager
I have no clue what a relish fork is and I managed to survive 3 HAL sailings with 2 more on the books. We had a great time on all 3 and looking forward to the next 2.

HAL does offer daily activities like trivia, some pool games, etc based on the itinerary. On one sailing the pool games were based on diving for ducks. (geez I wonder where they got all those ducks from. :lol) But, you will not be running from activity to activity. HAL does have a nightly show.

Food is subjective. I did not starve on any of my sailings, but I dont cruise for the food. The dining experience is the least important to us, so I am the wrong person to respond to that.

JMO, service is service, based on the persons attitude providing it. All the cruise lines are cutting back on staff and making the crew work twice as hard.

If the price is right for you, the only way one will know if they had a good time or not, is to go for it. Again, JMO, you are on a cruise, if the ship doesnt sink and the food is edible what more can you ask for.

If you want ice skating, rock climbing, hairy chest contest, beer drinking contest, then no, HAL is the wrong cruise line.

I am sure a suit and tie will suffice on formal nights. I am short and look at peoples hearts, not down at them on what shoes they are wearing. I probably ruined a few peoples cruises in the past and will continue to do so since I dont dress to the nines. We all work hard for our money. I am too busy enjoying myself to see what others are wearing. I am on vacation, on a ship, not at a fashion show.

I think all their ships now have the lido open for dinner if you dont want to adhere to the appropriate dress code for the dining room.

When are you looking to sail? I am sailing her in April and would be more than willing to save their daily papers for you or answer any other questions/concerns you might have when I get back.

Krazy Kruizers

Holland America Specialist
Dining times: traditional (fixed) is 5:45 and 8 PM -- on the upper level of the dining room.

Open Seating -- lower level of the dining room - 5:30 - 9 PM. You can make reservations for a table for 2 days at a time. You can call between the hours of 8 AM - 4 PM to make these reservations. But there is a catch here -- they only accept reservations for between the times of 5:15 - 6:15 and 7:30 - 9 PM.

There is also the Lido where you can have dinner -- 5:30 - 8 PM. No dress code here.

The Pinnacle Grill is another choice -- $20 per person -- they do follow the evening's dress code here. They have a new menu.

And there is also the Canaletto Restaurant -- free -- Italian food -- it is located in the Lido on the Starboard side of the ship -- some people dress up -- most don't.

Then you can also order dinner to have in your cabin. The dinner menu will be posted outside the main dining room starting around noon time. You can place your order within the first hour of the dining room opening for dinner and ask for any time you want to eat.


Well-Known Member
Hey, Jet, great to see you again.

I think suer's explanation of HAL cruising is pretty much right on the money. The only thing I would disagree with is the food....we've found it to be better and better each time we cruise with HAL. I remember wayyyyyy back to the mid 70's when I first cruised with them. The food was Dutch cooking, hearty meat-and-potato meals and nothing fancy. That has certainly changed throughout the years. :clap:

We also are going in April....bet you can't guess with whom??!!?? :bigsmile:


Well-Known Member
Wow thanks for everyones help! I now remember why I loved these boards! :doubleup:

Suer: Thanks for the info. Your description (minus the food) is exactly what I wanted to hear! I'm glad there are no beer belly contests on HAL, I'm going for a more relaxing cruise for a change. We are looking to go April 3rd although unfortunately we might have to change that because the flight schedules on JetBlue are not cooperating. Thanks for the offer but I wouldn't want to inconvenience you with carrying home all that paperwork... I might just pick your brain when you get back instead.

KK: Thanks for the dining info. We enjoy the traditional seating dining and don't mind the shirt and tie routine on formal nights but wow a free Italian restaurant?! I will definitely have to look into that!

Judi: It's so wonderful to see you again too! I hope you and Mal are doing well. After experiencing a decline in RCI's food I am now definitely looking forward to a much better experience on HAL. I am so jealous of you and Mary Ann! If only I could find a couple more days to take off I would jump on the 10 day Sea of Cortez cruise with you... actually it's quite possible, maybe I will have to look into the pricing of that cruise too and make it a mini-duckling cruise! :biggrin:

Thanks again everyone for your assistance. You have all been most helpful!


Forever Remembered
David - don't know where you live, but if you don't have to travel cross-country, our 10-day Sea of Cortez/Mexican Riviera cruise is only 2 more work days than the 7-day Mexican Riviera itinerary.

Perhaps we'll see you aboard!


Awaiting results of mental evaluation
Ahoy JetBlue! Sorry for checking in late here. You've gotten some great advice from some very experienced cruisers.

I'm proud to say that I'm a HAL fanatic. As oppoed to Suer, I do cruise for the food, and the drinks, and the company, and the service ... HAL has NEVER disappointed me. Indeed, as their mottos says, they exceed my expectations.

Other major differences from what you've experienced with other lines:

1) A major dearth of young people. Where a 2,000 pax Carnival or RCI may have between 400 and 800 children (below 21) on board. A 2,000 pax HAL might have 50 -75 children. Just think ... No running feet in the passageways late at night. No getting on an elevator to find "something" slimy dripping down the panel and all the decks pushed. No chewing gum stuck under the tables ...

2) Another BIG difference is the Lido (casual) Buffet. Instead of serving yourself from a communal platter (with everyone and their brother sticking their dirty little paws in the food), you let the server know what you want. They plate it. Put a cover over the plate and serve it to you. Then you can either take your plate/tray to a table, or a waiter will be glad to carry your tray for you.

3) Room service is very good. The menu is extensive and as stated above you can order the main dining room menu for room service also.

You will be pleased.


Well-Known Member
Mary Ann, I'm in New York but long plane rides don't bother me and I can easily catch a flight right after work the night before. I will definitely look into the pricing on this cruise, I'm not sure if they have any good deals left on this one like they did on the 7 day cruise.

Calgon, what you just described sounds like a dream come true! I think I'm already a HAL convert!


Well-Known Member
Yes thank you Mary Ann. I have briefly looked over that page before and I must say she is one of the most beautiful ships I have ever seen.

On another note unfortunately it doesn't look like they are offering any discounts for the Sea of Cortez cruise and the brochure price for a balcony is just a bit too steep for my wallet. I really wish I could have come with you all would be great to finally meet everyone!


Well-Known Member
Wow, some great information on Hal - I may want to go back. Our first Hal cruise was fantastic.