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Crossing the Pacific With Holland America

This past spring, I cruised aboard Holland America Line’s Oosterdam on a 22-night trans-Pacific sailing from Australia to Canada. Along the way, we explored five exotic South Pacific ports and two more in Hawaii, and we had 14 full days at sea, including two days identified as April 26 when we crossed the International Date Line.

The weather throughout was most pleasant and particularly nice on the islands we visited, although understandably, somewhat on the hot and humid side in these tropical climes. We encountered no rough water, and other than gentle rocking and an occasional mild lurch, crossing the world’s most expansive body of water was no more difficult than a typical Caribbean cruise, as was also my experience on past trans-Atlantic trips.

I am a big fan of ocean crossings like this one, especially for retirees with the time available, as such sailings allow plenty of opportunity for relaxation and enjoying the wide range of shipboard facilities and extensive schedule of daily activities, sometimes a difficult proposition on shorter, more port-intensive itineraries. Since cruise lines usually use these crossings as “repositioning” voyages to get their ships from one seasonal destination area to another, fares can also be extremely attractive.

Oosterdam is a medium-size vessel by today’s standards, at 82,305 gross registered tons and accommodations for 1,918 guests, based on two guests per cabin. I had previously enjoyed crossing the Atlantic on Holland America’s slightly newer but nearly identical sister ship, Noordam, but the onboard experience on Oosterdam was even better.

Throughout the cruise, the service, the dining, the entertainment and the activities program were all uniformly excellent; and I have never seen a vessel better maintained than this one. It would seem impossible for guests to guess that the ship was nearing its 12th birthday because I could find nothing on it that was worn, stained, soiled or in need of painting or replacement.

Everything about my balcony stateroom was top-notch as well as spacious, well designed and comfortable. Furthermore, the flexibility of Oosterdam’s staff was most impressive. I always try to make a few unusual special requests just to test the system, and all staff members I contacted passed with flying colors. Room service was prompt. When I had dinner alone in the main dining room and didn’t want to make an extended evening of it, the staff managed to serve me a complete meal that I could finish within 40 minutes of sitting down.

I also appreciated the two extended series of lectures given by a retired Navy captain on a wide range of maritime topics and a British astrophysicist on the wonders of the universe.

My only small concern is obviously not exclusive to Holland America but is a minor annoyance with all ocean-going lines these days other than those in the substantially more expensive “luxury” category: the constant barrage of efforts to sell optional products and amenities, which sometimes reaches all the subtlety of Kmart blue-light specials, as well as some needless nickel-and-diming for inexpensive items like bottled water.

I know that cruise fares are low and that lines must count on shipboard revenue to make a profit, but on Oosterdam, the overall product is otherwise so fine that it is somewhat tarnished by these needlessly over-the-top sales tactics. Regardless, my 23 days aboard Oosterdam constituted an exceptionally rewarding travel experience.