First thing's first: Plenty of features onboard Holland America's Oosterdam might elicit an "ooh" along with an "aah," but the name of the ship is pronounced OH-sterdam. The pronunciation is just about the only thing that remains Dutch about the ship, as the line has done away with Royal Dutch High Tea and, rather than a Dutch cafe, the ship sports a modern coffee bar. Despite a soft spot for tradition, Holland America is updating its ships to keep up with modern times, and Oosterdam is no exception. With craft cocktails in the Gallery Bar, fresh seafood at Rudi's Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant and the irresistible charisma of B.B. King's Blues Club, Holland America's new touches have breathed fresh life into this ship in exciting ways.
One change that Holland America-loyal cruisers might not be ready for is the removal of Oosterdam's library. This is part of a fleetwide trend that is replacing somewhat stuffy reading rooms by incorporating books, research materials and digital guides into a space called the EXC Lounge (EXC stands for Explorations Central), which is located on Deck 10 in the Crow's Nest. You'll still find crossword puzzles, games and novels, but also a greater focus on the ports and destinations, and what you can see and do there.
A high point on this ship is service, which is prompt and consistent. Whether the matter is room repair requests, dietary restrictions in the dining room or mingling with the talent onboard, interactions were positive and genuine. We saw the same smiling faces across different venues depending on the time of day, and we were always remembered and addressed like acquaintances. Little things like having a last-minute spa appointment accommodated or seeing the cruise director ashore, still greeting and interacting with passengers, gave the cruise the carefree vacation feeling that people crave when they board a ship. Unfortunately, one exception was in B.B. King's each night after the final set. The assistant cruise director doing the DJ-ing, refused to take requests and played music that quickly scared everyone off the dance floor.
What Holland America chooses to invest in, it succeeds at producing well. A night watching an episode of the documentary series "Planet Earth," accompanied by the Lincoln Center Stage musicians in the main theatre is a treat and makes use of the cruise line's partnership with BBC Earth. Other partnership-based activities or attractions you might notice around the ship include Oprah's Book Club discussions, cooking classes with America's Test Kitchen and cocktails designed by renowned mixologist Dale DeGroff. These collaborations touch upon dining, entertainment and enrichment -- and, many times, they offer a combination.
The best part about the changes to Oosterdam, and the Holland America fleet overall, is that the concepts being introduced -- including the Music Walk -- work really well for cruisers who are already fans of the line, as well as first-time passengers. The upgrades are thoughtful and, rather than serve as a temporary jolt of energy to attract attention, the partnerships and enhancements feel more like a natural progression for a notoriously traditional line that's keeping up with the times.
Daytime: The dress code is casual during the day, especially on warm-weather sailings.
Evening: At least one "Gala Night" occurs per cruise, on which passengers are required to dress in more formal collared shirts and slacks or dresses/skirts in any main dining or fine dining venue. The buffet is offered as a dining alternative for those who don't wish to dress up. On other nights, the dress code is a step up from casual, with shorts and jeans giving way to slacks, skirts and sundresses.
Not permitted: T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are not allowed in restaurants or public areas during evening hours -- though we've definitely seen allowances on the shorts and T-shirts rule.
Oosterdam's theatre, a red-and-gold affair referred to as The Main Stage, spans three forward decks (1, 2 and 3). A troupe of onboard singers and dancers are on hand for song-and-dance shows in the evening. However, instead of being stilted, unique show concepts such as Musicology -- a performance that personifies musical instruments using playful choreography and stunning costumes -- gained our respect for its creative license and enthusiastic execution. Even on a cruise of fewer than seven nights, the evening entertainment was always different, with one night featuring comedy and magic showcasing a young, sardonic performer who seemed to win over audience skeptics with each passing trick and punchline. On another night, a Filipino crew show had us worried it would feel exploitative, but everyone involved -- including those serving traditional drinks during the show -- seemed proud to be sharing their culture, and we applaud them for working all day and singing and dancing late into the night. One evening per sailing, the musicians of Lincoln Center Stage gather to perform the soundtrack to a BBC Earth film production, such as "Frozen Planet." The result is both educational and emotional.
During the day, the Main Stage hosts big-screen movies, game shows and lectures. Bridge tours are no longer offered on Oosterdam, but a digital bridge and engine room tour takes place one afternoon, hosted by the captain, who is happy to answer questions from inquisitive passengers.
Activities around the ship on Oosterdam range from board game and card meet-ups to daily movies in the onboard movie theatre, called the Screening Room. (And, yes, they serve popcorn). However, most programming is divided into five themes, correlating with Holland America partnerships or fleetwide programs. Those themes are easily identified on the daily schedule with corresponding coloured flags.
Holland America's partnership with BBC Earth culminates each cruise with a live, onstage musical performance, but passengers will notice other experiences around the ship, including themed trivia and even a game show. The "What on Earth!" Game Show features wildlife imagery and audio as passengers from the audience compete in two-person teams to guess the creature. Showings of BBC Earth documentaries, including "Inside Earth: Extreme Worlds," can be found on select days for those who can't get enough nature-centric footage.
Another partnership you'll notice in Oosterdam's onboard programming and shops, is the one with Oprah Winfrey's "O, The Oprah Magazine." Start the day with some mindful meditation, join a wellness lecture or take part in Oprah's famous book club with O's Reading Room, a hosted discussion about current novels (typically held in the Explorer's Lounge).
America's Test Kitchen is a tasty collaboration with its own dedicated space (which becomes B.B. King's by night). Much like the set of "America's Test Kitchen," the TV show on PBS, a chef takes the helm onstage and demonstrates how to make "the ultimate" version of your favourite dishes. Shows are themed and usually feature two dishes in a category; chewy brownies are paired with chocolate pots de creme, for example. Others might dive more into a single ingredient, like chilies. Recipe and information cards are printed and distributed by the doors for at-home chefs.
Those looking to improve their digital skills -- or become better acquainted with technology -- can attend Microsoft Digital Workshops Powered by Windows. These hands-on classes take place in a dedicated space with an instructor and span topics from using your digital camera to choosing the right mobile device. Mac users be warned: Many topics are Windows-specific, such as classes on how to navigate Windows 10 or how to use Cortana or Paint 3D. Fortunately, there are quite a few sessions per day (often six or more) so there are plenty of options to choose from for everyone.
Explorations Central, also called EXC, is the name for Holland America's shore excursion and destination program. On some ships, EXC -- located in the Crow's Nest on Deck 10 -- is an immersive experience with touch tables and digital displays of the ship's speed and location, but on Oosterdam it's scaled back. Book collections, magazines, maps and other exploratory materials are located here for perusal. In addition, lectures on the history of your destination or chats with your onboard guides about the individual ports can help you decide what to do with your time ashore. These are typically held in the main theatre.
Other about-ship amusements include art auctions, Ping-Pong tournaments, tours of the galley, fitness seminars, demos (such as flower-arranging) and gaming in the casino.
One of Holland America's most exciting investments has been in its Music Walk, a dedicated space located in the hub of the ship, where cruisers can float from music venue to venue, whether it's classical, doo-wop or rhythm and blues. On Oosterdam, the addition of this melodic promenade on Deck 2 livens the mood as performers croon or play their hearts out with sets from about 7 to 10:30 p.m., nightly. Catch the talented classically trained musicians of Lincoln Center Stage in their cozy performance space and then head to the dueling pianos and number one hits of Billboard Onboard, before ending the night (as nearly everyone does) with the sultry sounds of the B.B. King's Blues Club band. Times are staggered so the ultimate music-lovers can be sure to catch at least one set of each, just about every day.
Musicians, including a pianist, play in other bars and lounges throughout the voyage. After the last set at B.B. King's, the ship seemed to shut down before midnight due to the watered-down dance music played in the club after the band closes. There are other bars and lounges, but no other nightclubs and the bars appear to shut down early with little pushback. The casino stays open late for games of Texas Hold'em and other tournaments. It's worth noting that the casino on Oosterdam does not have its own dedicated bar. Occasional whisky tastings at the Gallery Bar occupy the late-night hours.
For as many bars and lounges as Oosterdam has, it's a bit sleepy once the music stops. There's no dedicated nightclub onboard, so unless you're hitting the slots until the sun comes up or lounging in the lounges, there's not much in the way of nightlife apart from Music Walk. Still, you won't be hard-pressed to find the drink you're looking for or a new concoction to sip. Dale DeGroff's award-winning mixology infuses a bit of contemporary drinking culture into Oosterdam's bar scene. For those who prefer a scotch on the rocks, Notes is the line's extensive whisky program, and guided tastings are available for the discerning (or curious). Of course, no cruise would be complete without frozen fruity concoctions sporting umbrellas and crazy straws -- Oosterdam has those in spades, too.
B.B. King's Blues Club (Deck 2): America's Test Kitchen by day, the space (also referred to as Queen's Lounge) transforms at night to host the most popular band on the ship, the players of the B.B. King's Blues Club. The atmosphere is indeed dark and clubby, with curved booths that recede far into the walls for a sense of anonymity. A dance floor beckons anyone who dares. And, you may find that it's hard to keep still when the powerhouse vocals and insanely talented instrumentalists take the stage here each night. Bar service is available, and a custom menu includes sugary drinks, such as the Lucille (coconut rum, blue Curacao, orange and pineapple juices) or the Peach Melody (coconut rum, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and Sprite). This tends to be the most happening spot on the ship, but on our sailing, the crowd was fairly tame. The last set starts up at 10:30 p.m. and ends about 11:15 p.m. At that time, the club is supposed to give way to dancing and house music, but that never happened on our sailing.
Billboard Onboard (Deck 2): This wide-open lounge faces the casino and the promenade, making it a great place to people-watch in the evening as you sing along to your favourite hits on duelling pianos. Die-hard fans can sit around the pianists at an oval-shaped bar, but there is plenty of other seating in mustard-coloured chairs or couches. On select afternoons, music nerds can gather here to test their knowledge in trivia games hosted by the piano players. Drink specials are listed in a fitting, Top 10 Hits format, with aptly-named tipples such as My Heart Will Go On (Smirnoff vodka, aperol and grapefruit juice) and Rolling in the Deep (bourbon, Campari and vermouth). Screens broadcasting lyrics and fun facts are scattered around the space.
Gallery Bar (Deck 2): Tucked behind the casino, Holland America's Gallery Bar is a fresh concept that blends craft cocktails with quirky art-driven decor. The space is trendy yet refined, with framed paintings and pictures lining the walls, from pop art to more traditional-looking portraits, and exposed lightbulbs in glass boxes. Holland America's partnership with mixologist Dale DeGroff results in a sophisticated drink menu featuring the Ritz Cocktail (Courvoisier VSOP cognac, Cointreau, cherry liqueur and lime juice) and the Gallery Gimlet (gin, lime and yuzu juice). For-fee whisky tastings from the Notes collection are held here as well as mixology lessons.
Pinnacle Bar (Deck 2): Across the hall from the onboard steakhouse, Pinnacle Bar might be dressed in wine-coloured red and cork-colored tan, but the space offers a full menu of drinks. This includes a long list of speciality cocktails that range from the classic (Tom Collins) to the contemporary (pomegranate ginger drop). Of course, you can order a full-bodied red here as well.
Explorer's Lounge (Deck 2): This small lounge can be found all the way at the end of Deck 2, after the Music Walk venues, and features some semi-circular couches, tall and short leather chairs and a wall panel depicting old, Dutch sailing ships.
Ocean Bar (Deck 3): This bar takes up the third deck of the atrium, surrounding the large, glittery globe, and seating areas are scattered to fill the nooks there. For how centrally located it is, it still feels a bit off-the-beaten-path as the bar is tucked around a corner, behind a wall. There are plenty -- perhaps too many for the small crowd it attracts -- chairs with tables, couches and playful high-backed chairs. A pianist can be found here in the evenings to accompany a before-dinner or after-dinner drink. The overall space is attractive, but the layout is a little confusing; despite its name -- Ocean Bar -- if you sit at the bar, you actually face a wall.
Neptune Lounge (Deck 7): This lounge, in the middle of the Deck 7 passenger area, is available only to those staying in Neptune or Pinnacle suites. Inside, there are complimentary drinks and snacks, a cushioned seating area along with a table and six chairs, a concierge, reading materials and a computer station.
Lido Bar (Deck 9): The pool bar at the Lido pool is a whimsical affair, with about 10 barstools that resemble large fish flipping up their fins. In front of the bar there is additional seating with a curved counter and cushioned barstools on each side. You can order just about any beverage here, from an ice-cold beer or soda to a smoothie for the kids or a blended cocktail to enjoy poolside. The bottled beer collection here is especially impressive -- we counted about 20 varieties on hand. Off to the side of the bar, closer to the pool, a pop-up bloody mary stand offers cruisers the chance to customize their own.
Sea View Bar (Deck 9): The Sea View Bar has a wooden countertop and 10 wooden barstools, settled in the shade near the Sea View pool. It's outside, but waiting on a drink here offers a nice break from the sun. For anyone sensitive to smoke, it's important to note that one of the ship's smoking areas is located directly in front of the bar.
Crow's Nest (Deck 10): Located high up with stellar views of the sea, Holland America's Crow's Nest lounge is a popular place to unwind on any of their ships. On Oosterdam, the transformation to the line's new Explorations Central/EXC Lounge is starting to take place -- most notably with the removal of the library. Secluded and quiet, with its own dedicated bar, this spot is popular for private events but is also a good place for daytime reading.
Oosterdam has two pools and both are located on Deck 9, also known as the Lido Deck. The Lido Pool is the main pool area and is located midship, just off the spa. It is also home to a sculpture of penguins who appear to be sunning themselves on a chunk of ice. There's one circular whirlpool behind the penguins, and two others at the far end of the main pool. During inclement weather, the area has a magrodome, or sliding-glass roof, which shields passengers from the elements. The area is decorated in blues and purples, and here is where we noticed the most wear on the ship -- in everything from lounge cushions to the trim above the windows.
The Sea View pool is located at the back of the ship and easily identifiable by its four Picasso-like figures along one end of the pool. There are just two hot tubs here. Both pools have bars as well as tables and chairs for alfresco dining; Holland America cleverly placed the Lido Market buffet in between these two areas, so those spending a day in the sun are never far away from drinks, snacks or shade.
A sports court is located up a small flight of stairs on Deck 10, which technically marks it as Deck 11. Basketball and volleyball are available here. Shuffleboard is located on Deck 10 and Ping-Pong tournaments take place on Deck 9.
The sunbathing space on Oosterdam is centred on Deck 9 and extends forward and aft, surrounding both pools. Striped padded loungers hug the Lido pool and plain, mesh loungers are found at the Sea View pool. There are also some mesh loungers scattered one deck above, on Deck 10.
The Retreat is a private, adults-only sun deck, hidden away at the top of the ship on Deck 11. Rates run about $75 per day for a sea day and $45 per person for a port day (or $299 for the week). Taupe canopies create an oasis, with sun beds, cushioned loungers and fake hedges, creating a soothing space for relaxation. An exclusive bar and dedicated staff ensure your needs are taken care of, from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended.
Most services on Oosterdam are located on Deck 1. Here you'll find the guest services desk, Journeys Ashore (which is the shore excursions counter) and Future Cruises desk. The medical center is located on its own floor, one deck below Deck 1.
You'll find the art gallery on Deck 2, run by Park West. It's set up like an actual gallery, with paintings hanging on the walls, a few nooks with a chair, sculptures on display and a small area to gather for auctions.
Meeting rooms are located on Deck 3, toward the front of the ship, and can be converted into one giant room or multiple smaller rooms.
The Shops of Holland America are near the meeting rooms on Deck 3, enticing passersby with duty-free items, such as logo clothing, perfume, alcohol, candy, cigarettes, designer watches and souvenirs that include magnets, teddy bears with Holland America T-shirts, nautical bags and captain's hats. We especially liked the selection of Oprah's "favourite things," which included lotions and notebooks.
The Merabella boutique is set slightly apart from the rest of the shops and features luxury jewelry, mainly Le Vian diamonds.
The photo gallery on Deck 3 consists of a long hallway of printed photos for perusal and a counter for the Joe Craig Black Label portrait studio. Regular photo packages start around $80 for five candid shots from around the ship. A counter in this area also sells equipment, including GoPros, and cameras and video accessories.
No self-service laundry facilities are available onboard Oosterdam.
The Greenhouse Spa & Salon is a spacious facility on Deck 9, run by spa company Steiner and featuring the brand's latest treatments and products. The salon is a light-filled room with a professional look; there are chairs for haircuts, styling, colouring, manicures and pedicures, as well as men's treatments such as a hot shave. The spa relaxation and treatment rooms are awash in tan and blue neutrals. Services include a variety of massages, body wraps and medi-spa treatments, including high-tech facials and even acupuncture. Most services cost within the $150 to $200 range (before tip). Be on the lookout for specials, such as an hour of 20-minute treatments you can mix and match at a savings. We felt our treatment was really well done, but be prepared for a talk about products you can purchase at the end.
Separate from the spa treatments is Oosterdam's tempting thermal suite called the Greenhouse Retreat. On our six-day sailing, passes sold for $129 per person or $229 per couple, for the length of the cruise. Daily passes cost $40. We like the luxurious room where the Greenhouse Pool is located and that relaxation areas include ceramic loungers as well as a regular and mild sauna. However, use of the thermal suite is not included in any treatment prices and, with just six loungers, there aren't many other options on busy days unless you're in the mineral pool. We suggest booking for a day other passengers might be in port.
Featuring state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines, as well as classes in yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling, Oosterdam's Fitness Center, is substantial. The workout room is next to the spa, all the way at the front of the ship on Deck 9, which provides scenic views of the ocean if you're using a machine facing the windows. There's also a large area with benches and tons of free weights. Use of the gym -- open from about 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. -- is free, but classes cost $12 each, or three for $30. You must be at least 16 years old to use the gym, and over 18 to use it without parental supervision.
A variety of health-conscious spa treatments accompany the onboard fitness program, including personal training, nutrition counselling, a metabolism test and a set of four sessions of Body Sculpt Boot Camp (prices vary).
A walking track is located along the promenade on Deck 3 and three laps around is equal to 1 mile.
We found that food onboard Oosterdam is fairly consistent, which is a good thing since the majority of our meals were tasty and well-prepared. The biggest surprise was that the most expensive dining experience resulted in one of the most lacklustre dinners of our cruise. That being said, we were impressed with the value of the Italian venue and the quality of the steakhouse, as well as the level of service across all onboard restaurants. Included dining is limited to the buffet, the Dive-In poolside grill, select room service items and the dining room (which on the last sea day, wasn't open for lunch). If you are interested in sampling the speciality dining rooms, money-saving packages are available. Two nights in Pinnacle Grill is reduced by $8 per person; one night in Canaletto and one night in Pinnacle is reduced by $6 per person to $44 a head rather than $50.
The Chocolate Surprise Parade takes place at least once per cruise, during which crew members present passengers with trays of indulgent cocoa concoctions in whatever bar or lounge they might be in that evening. It's a nice -- if not gluttonous -- treat.
Vista Dining Room (Decks 2 and 3): Oosterdam's main dining venue is a bit nondescript -- there are paintings of fruit, giant vases of roses, a spiral staircase that leads to the second deck in the middle of the room and metallic sculptures (truthfully, rather strange) on the ceiling. But, the venue delivers where it counts, in the variety and quality of the offerings, as well as the friendly service. Having had a cup of premium brand Harney & Sons tea in a speciality restaurant, our request for that brand, not usually available in the dining room, was met with no hesitation.
Breakfast is served daily in the dining room (usually on just one deck, from 8 to 9:30 a.m.), and it has a delightful array of options, organized by section: Something Simple includes cereals, fruit, parfaits, bagels and lox; Greenhouse Spa Selections includes veggie frittatas and muesli; Breakfast Classics and Three-Egg Omelets offer a nice selection of Benedicts and omelettes, as well as Asian, American and English breakfast spreads; Hot Off the Griddle delivers Belgian waffles, pancakes and two types of French toast; and Hearty Skillets (our favorite) offers two different types of egg scrambles that come in a skillet-style dish.
Lunch, on the other hand, is more limited. On our six-night cruise, one hour of lunch was available on the first sea day, it wasn't offered at all on port days and was booked for a private event on the last sea day. When it is available, expect a small menu of soups and sandwiches and a few hot entrees, as well as dessert.
Dinner (open seating from about 5 to 9 p.m.) is where the Holland America partnership with executive chef Rudi Sodamin and the Culinary Council (made up of five other renowned chefs) shines. Dishes are created to reflect the destination -- such as callaloo soup in the Caribbean -- as well as the specialities of each chef. Menus are divided into starters, soups and salads, entrees and desserts. Signature dishes of salmon, steak and chicken are available every night. Adventurous diners will be rewarded with creative plates, such as a black sesame jumbo shrimp salad topped with poached eggs, cherry tomatoes, radishes, brioche croutons, cheese foam and citrus-ponzu dressing. But, those with more limited palates shouldn't fret -- simpler options, such as a turkey dinner, are offered with equal gusto. The dessert menu highlights classics, and the baked Alaska is back, along with other favorites such as devil's food cake and fruit crisps. Recommended wines are listed on the first page of the menu each evening.
Tea is offered on sea days around 3 p.m. Boxes of Bigelow tea are passed, along with your standard selections of finger sandwiches, pastries and scones.
Lido Market (Deck 9): Oosterdam's buffet option is the wide-open Lido Market, located on the Lido Deck. The selection here offers something for everyone, with a string of stations that repeat in order to help with crowd control. This casual dining option is open morning, noon and night.
Breakfast (served from 6:30 to 10 a.m.) features made-to-order omelettes, bacon, hash browns, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheese, cereal and more. A limited number of stations are open for snacks from 2 to 5 p.m. and 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Drinks are self-serve, but crew members will also come by to take a drink order. The 24-hour beverage stations offer water, juice, lemonade, iced tea, coffee and hot tea.
Lunch (served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) consists of pizza, sandwiches, salads, soups, sides, a carving station, an Italian station (featuring create-your-own pasta dishes) and an Asian station (with offerings that include sushi and pad thai). There are also ice cream and dessert stations, featuring tarts, pies, cakes, puddings and more.
Dinner (served from 5:30 to 8 p.m.) might feature a classic appetizer (such as shrimp cocktail), salad and soup, and an entree (such as prime rib with Yorkshire pudding).
The seating area in the Lido Market is modern and attractive, with plenty of tables near windows featuring tan-and-black chairs or cozy booths and dark wooden tables with orchids atop each. Some outdoor seating is scattered around the Sea View pool, at the very back of the ship.
Dive-In (Deck 9): Dive-In at the Terrace Grill is Oosterdam's poolside spot for burgers, dogs and fries. Three types of Nathan's hot dogs are served, along with five tempting burgers and yummy fries that can be ordered smothered in cheese sauce or topped with the house speciality Dive-In sauce. Orders are placed at the window, and buzzers are handed out so patrons know when their meal is ready. Nearby, there's a self-serve drink station and a Mexican-themed food station serving fajitas, tacos, salsas, black beans and rice. Dive-In is open most days from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Explorations Cafe (Deck 10); a la carte: The drinks here will cost you, but all of the food is served free of charge. Expect light sandwiches and sweets like chewy cookies, biscotti and brownies. They make for perfect nibbles while solving a puzzle or reading a magazine in the Crow's Nest.
Room Service: A menu of complimentary, 24-hour room service items is available to all Oosterdam passengers. The breakfast, served from 6 to 11 a.m., includes continental options, coffee and juice, plus a choice of two omelets. The all-day menu, which is served from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., includes a Caesar salad, a roast beef sandwich, quesadillas, roasted chicken, a fruit-and-cheese platter and cheesecake. Coffee, tea, milk, water and iced tea are included, but other beverages are additional.
Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2); $35 per person (dinner); $10 per person (lunch): While the cover isn't as cheap as in Canaletto (another onboard speciality restaurant), Pinnacle Grill offers a tremendous value with a menu that includes crabcakes, seafood and premium cuts of beef for the price of an entree in a land-based steakhouse. The space is dark and elegantly appointed and tables feel intimate, which makes for a great date night. We particularly enjoyed the blown-glass jellyfish light fixtures on the ceiling.
One of our favourite dining experiences onboard was in Pinnacle Grill: Sure, the restaurant offers what you would expect (filet mignon, grilled lamb chops and Alaskan salmon), but it also serves up more creative dishes, including spicy lemongrass chicken in tomato broth (to die for) and a roasted pumpkin risotto with Swiss chard and mascarpone cheese (an ideal choice for those who prefer to dine meatless). Service is well paced and we liked the variety of sharable sides on offer -- including the whipped potatoes and the sauteed Brussels with Parmesan and pancetta. Supplements apply for lobster tail ($20) or larger cuts of beef ($59 for 36 ounces). The meal ends, as you would expect, with a variety of desserts including a house souffle. We found the temperature of our steak to be exact and had no complaints about the meal, but we did overhear more than one fellow patron complain about the dwindling size of the shrimp.
Lunch here is excellent, and merely $10 per person. You get a choice of first course (including many of the same options from dinner, such as the crabcake and the carpaccio), followed by a main course with a choice of seafood, beef tenderloin, sandwiches, burgers, chicken or wild mushroom ravioli. Make sure to order dessert (perhaps the strawberry pavlova or the warm fudge brownie).
Rudi's Sel de Mer (held in Pinnacle Grill, Deck 2); $49 per person: Rudi's Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie on Koningsdam that's described by some as a rapturous experience, is rather "meh" in its pop-up form on Oosterdam. We applaud the idea of featuring the menu of a speciality dining venue that isn't onboard in order to provide more choice, but the execution left us guessing why we paid $100 (more if you factor in the wine) for a dinner that was disjointed. We liked the upscale ambience, with dark, romantic booths and tables featuring Rudi's signature "food face" plates. (Trust us, you'll know them when you see them.) We also liked that actual menus for Sel de Mer are brought in, adding an element of authenticity. There's a special beer and wine menu with featured cocktails, appetizers (such as a seafood tower and escargots), expensive-sounding entrees (including Maine lobster, Dover sole meuniere [de-boned tableside] and a catch of the day), rich side dishes (including truffle mashed potatoes and ratatouille) and dessert (featuring Rudi's souffle, which requires advanced notice). Fruits de mer platters designed for two can be ordered for an additional $25, which is high considering the cover charge.
There were many efforts made to make the meal feel extravagant -- an amuse-bouche to start, presented along with a baguette, salted butter with chives and a plate of olives and roasted vegetables; French press coffee and an elaborate presentation of petits fours at the end of the meal; and a "thank you" note with truffles once you're back in your cabin. However, the meal itself is what we came for and that needed more oomph. The bouillabaisse, which seemed like a no-brainer at a French seafood restaurant, came in a plastic bag. OK, we know (because we were reassured many times) it is a food-grade plastic meant to keep the soup warm before it's broken open on the plate, but rather than add to the presentation, it felt sloppy -- not to mention the soup, even with the bag, wasn't hot. Other letdowns included a disappointing dessert course and a few inconsistencies in service. It's a special night out for two, to be sure, and the issues could be excused if the cover charge was lower -- after all, it's only a pop-up.
Canaletto (Deck 9); $15 per person (dinner): Holland America's Canaletto is perhaps one of the most affordable alternative dinners at sea. For the price of an appetizer in a fine dining restaurant on land, a passenger can enjoy a full Italian meal. The menu starts with zuppa di pesce and buffalo mozzarella salad, and includes six different pastas and five entrees, such as veal, branzino and spaghetti made from zucchini. Canaletto even offers a speciality cocktail list with Italian aperitifs -- and dessert (which includes cannoli, gelato and tiramisu) doesn't disappoint either. Diners are encouraged to share pastas and other plates, which results in a respectable spread. We were impressed by the meal, the presentation and the super-attentive service, especially considering the price. The only catch is that Canaletto is not in its own dedicated space; it's a bit hidden, inside the Lido Market. This means that even though you dine in your own cordoned-off section, it still feels like you're eating at the buffet. Regardless, we overheard other patrons say they were just as impressed as we were and that they planned to make additional reservations during the cruise.
Explorations Cafe (Deck 10); a la carte: This is the spot for a cup of tea or a coffee to go. Coffee drinks can be ordered hot or iced; bottled beverages (such as Vitaminwater) are also for sale. Items range from about $2 to $4.
Room Service; a la carte: A handful of room service options carry an additional fee (except for passengers staying in Neptune or Pinnacle suites). For breakfast, a fresh fruit smoothie will run $4.95, while a smoked salmon Benedict costs $7.50 and steak and eggs will set you back $9.50. Burgers, hot dogs and fries from Dive-In are available in your cabin for a $4.95-per-item fee. Steak from Pinnacle Grill costs $15 per order to be sent to your room; lobster is $20.
Cabins on Oosterdam are cozy without being cramped. Colors are easy on the eyes -- like a combination of navy and peach, or a more modern blue and grey in updated suites. Sealy-brand beds, bathrobes, shoeshine service and fresh fruit upon request ensure that no matter which cabin category you're booked in, the room has a few special touches.
You can also expect massage showerheads, makeup mirrors, hairdryers, Elemis-brand bath amenities (dispensers in the shower for shampoo, conditioner and body wash), flat-screen TVs with a DVD player, a safe and a desk in all cabins. Two single beds can be converted to a queen-sized and vice versa. Cabinet and drawer space is plentiful, and some rooms have a curtain that separates the bedroom from the small hallway that leads to the closets and bathroom. We liked this touch, especially at night, as it blocks out the light from the bathroom and the entryway. We were less fond of the shower curtain, which was a bit clingy.
We noticed Wi-Fi routers on the ceiling of our cabin, so it was no surprise that we had no trouble connecting to the internet from our room with a ship internet plan. There are two 115V U.S. outlets and two 220V European outlets on the desks as well as new USB ports for charging devices (including one near the nightstand right next to your bed).
One note about turn-down service at night: We had our beds separated and the orientation of the bed to the right meant that the pillows jutted up against the nightlight. This was fine, except each night the light would be left on in our absence and by the time we returned to the cabin, the light, buried beneath the pillows, had made them extremely hot. We didn't hear anyone else talking about overheated pillows but we found it a bit disconcerting.
Interior: Inside cabins on Oosterdam include a standard category, beginning at 151 square feet, and a large interior cabin category, which can measure up to 233 square feet. Inside cabins can accommodate up to a queen-sized bed, but only offer showers in the bathroom and no bathtubs.
Oceanview: A standard ocean view room begins at 174 square feet, and you can extend that space to 180 square feet with a large ocean-view cabin. Your view is provided by a picture window. Ocean-view rooms offer bathtubs and showers.
Balcony: Rooms with a balcony -- known as Verandah cabins on Holland America -- range from 212 to 359 square feet, which includes the outdoor balcony space. Features include a bathtub, a sitting area and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Suites: Suites on Oosterdam were overhauled in 2017 as part of a fleet-wide renovation. In addition to updated soft furnishings, the line added some new amenities to each suite category. Perks for all suites include fresh flowers, a DVD library, oversized bath towels, a pillow menu, an upgraded mini-bar and concierge service. Passengers booked in the Neptune and Pinnacle suites have exclusive access to the Neptune Lounge.
Signature Suites: Entry-level suites on Oosterdam are approximately 372 to 384 square feet and feature a queen-sized bed, bathroom with double sink vanity, full-size whirlpool bath with shower and additional shower stall, large sitting area, balcony, sofa bed and floor-to-ceiling windows. As part of the upgrades, Signature Suites now include premium duvets and bathrobes, and binoculars for use during the cruise.
Neptune Suites: Neptune suites offer everything a Signature Suite includes, plus a king-sized bed, dressing room and nearly double the space -- 500 to 712 square feet. The sofa bed fits two. Suite amenities at this level include priority boarding for tendered ports of call; special disembarkation service; priority dining and seating requests; complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning throughout the cruise; sparkling wine served in the Neptune Lounge upon embarkation; exclusive concierge services; bottled water provided ensuite at embarkation; corsages and boutonnieres for the first formal night; cold hors d'oeuvres served in your room before dinner each evening on request; high tea service in your room on request; daily breakfast service in the Neptune Lounge; binoculars and umbrellas for use on the cruise; a wooden clothing brush, lint remover and shoehorn; and scented bath salts as well as an exfoliating loofah mitt.
New additions to the Neptune Suite experience include complimentary mimosas ensuite with breakfast, an in-cabin coffee and espresso machine, an expanded line of Elemis bath amenities and a Bluetooth-enabled Bose speaker system.
Pinnacle Suites: Pinnacle suite passengers can expect all of the bells and whistles included in a Neptune Suite, but in a 1,150-square-foot cabin with a living room, dining room, dressing room, balcony with whirlpool, pantry with microwave and refrigerator, guest bathroom and private stereo system.
Accessible: There are 28 accessible cabins onboard Oosterdam equipped to serve passengers with physical handicaps, and they're available across most categories. Rooms generally have wider doors (at least 32 inches) with no ledge, more space, lowered closet rods, grab bars in the bathrooms and a seat in the shower (with no lip to get to the shower). Select rooms have accessible balconies.