Another wonderful cruise!

Oosterdam Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 2
Helpful Votes: 35

Overall rating:

4.9 out of 5

22 Night Panama Canal Westbound (Ft. Lauderdale To Seattle)

Sail date: April 13, 2019

Ship: Oosterdam

Cabin type: Suite

Cabin number: 6054

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

Another fantastic cruise from HAL. Not a line for everyone, but if you do your research and what they offer appeals to you no one does it better. Staff are all amazing and really seem to like their jobs. They go out of their way to do the little extras that make your vacation great and are above and beyond what could be expected. The ship is well maintained and oh so clean, the food is top notch in all the restaurants not just the surcharge speciality ones. The itinerary is well chosen for interest, variety and local flavour. Looking forward to the next one...


5 out of 5
We booked airport - hotel and hotel - ship transfers through HAL and couldn't be happier. Our flight arrived in FLL 5 hours late and still our driver was waiting for us at the airport. My checked bag did not come out with all the others from the flight and he immediately went is search of it. After a long travel day that was a nice touch. FLL is a great terminal to travel through, from the time we got off the bus to the time we were on the ship we never stopped walking, no waiting in holding areas, just smooth and seamless. Probably spent 20 minutes from the bus to the ship.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
HAL always has great food. MDR food was nicely done and varied. The biggest problem was deciding on what to order because there were always several good options. No sign of the surcharge for a second entree on this sailing. Lido Market was varied and fresh. I liked that you get served as opposed to having fellow pax paw through the food before you get there. In the mornings the fresh, custom omelette station was my favorite. Pinnacle Grill is just that, the food, service and atmosphere could not be better. We ate here twice, we were originally planning to eat here more often but the MDR was just that good. Dive In has the best burgers and is the best place for lunch. Did not eat at Canaletto.

Onboard Activities

5 out of 5
HAL does not have all the activities of some other lines, but we are good with that. What they did do, they did very well. Informative and fun port talks, entertaining Mexican ambassadors, America's Test Kitchen, etc. If you don't mind learning a little something along the way the activities were appropriate to the pax demographics and locations we visited.


4 out of 5
HAL decided to not have cast singers and dancers on this cruise as a test and they were sorely missed. They have always been one of the highlight that we look forward to seeing on every cruise and I hope they return soon. B. B. King Blues is always a good show and this group was no exception. great voices and a tight band made this the hot spot of the ship in the later evenings. Some nights movies were shown on the mainstage and this seemed like a huge waste of great real estate to me. The in cabin TVs have access to all the movies anyone could want, there must be better things to to with the mainstage... The other featured artists were good to great. Darren Dowler appeared and that felt like a 45 minute infomercial for him as opposed to just entertainment. Post Modern Jukebox was entertaining with very talented performers although it seemed like a large number of fellow pax were not impressed with them. Bailamos (latin Canadian 3 tenors type) were very will received with the theatre overflowing on the two nights they appeared. For us the biggest huh? was the Acrobatic Variety of on Olympic Gymnast on the mainstage... I'm sure he is very talented and works hard to be able to do what he does, just not on the mainstage please...

Children's Programs

No kids with us and only saw one baby until San Diego

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
HAL staff are hands down the best on the seas. Cabin stewards know your name from the first time they see you and use is all the time. Same with bartenders, wait staff and everyone you meet more that once. The MDR waiter and assistant went out of their way to find us off menu food and made paper foldings, certainly well above and beyond their job descriptions. Captain and Hotel Manager were out and about often and seemed happy to make small talk with anyone. The entire crew from hotel staff to sailors would not walk past you without looking you in the eye and saying hello/good morning or something. Do you want to be made to feel special? Sail with HAL

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
Medium size ship is perfect for us. She does not have all the latest stuff that some of the other lines seem to feel the need to distract pax with but has everything that you need. After 21 days on board we never felt like we were cramped or wanting for something else to do. The crew are polishing, dusting, vacuuming constantly and the regular maintenance is being done on what seems like a never ending cycle.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
Small suite but plenty big enough for two. Loads of storage with large closets, drawers under the bed, a desk, wall unit (used to house the TV) and bedside tables. The cabin also included a comfy chair, pull out sofa bed and two desk chairs. The washroom has two sinks and jetted tub with shower and extra shower stall. We loved the LED nightlight so that you did not need to fumble with light switches for that middle of the night washroom trip. The balcony was large with a table and two chairs that reclined with footstools.

Ship tip

Take the glass elevators mid-ship. They seem to run faster and come quicker that the regular elevators. Quite a few time we would arrive at the elevator lobby to find people waiting, we would call the glass elevator and be gone while those same people still waited for a "regular" elevator.

Ports of call

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida

5 out of 5
This is where we boarded. HAL arranged transfers and hotel were great and we are very happy that we booked them. Unfortunately due to flight delays we did not get to see anything of the city itself but boarding here was effortless.

Cartagena, Colombia

5 out of 5
We did the Cartagena by Land and Sea tour booked through HAL and loved it. Got to see the new city form the water and walk through the walled city as well as see and tour through the Castillo de San Felipe. Tour guide was excellent. The street vendors, although plentiful were never aggressive and a simple "no thank you" would send them on their way. We never felt harassed by them and bought some very nice, inexpensive trinkets to bring home. There is a nice little "zoo" and gift shop a the the pier and we would have loved to spend more time here, but our tour was later that scheduled coming back so we did not have time to explore much here. My only negative comment here would be that we did not have enough time to see what we wanted. But that just means we have to come back...

Enter Panama Canal At Cristobal

5 out of 5
Not too early, fantastic weather and buns/coffee/juice served on the foredeck, can it get any better? I think not.

Panama Canal Transit

5 out of 5
Very interesting with excellent descriptions of what we were looking at. Beautiful scenery and outside areas of all decks open so no crowding.

Exit Panama Canal At Balboa

5 out of 5
Amazing to see Panama City, so not what I was expecting. Everything went smoothly and we anchored just as we were going to dinner. A full but very interesting scenic cruising only day.

Fuerte Amador, Panama

5 out of 5
We booked the Monkey Watch & Canal Nature Cruise through HAL. Water was a bit rough so tendering took longer that scheduled but everyone worked hard to get us back on track. The tour involved a bus ride with informative descriptions to the river where we transferred to small river boats. We saw lots of birds, iguanas and of course monkeys. The smaller boats gave a completely different perspective on that waters that we cruised on the day before. Bus back to the pier allowed for more interesting descriptions of the area and history. We would definitely book this tour again. If a tour is not booked there is a great walking area and gift shops where the tender docks so lots to see and do on your own right at the port.

Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

5 out of 5
Booked Jungle Crocodile Safari through HAL. Although we did see lots of birds and two crocs. we would not book this one again. Bus was good and the scenery was beautiful but we were spoiled by the tour in Panama. Nothing really wrong with this one, just not a good and the last one. The port is a container port so if you don't have a tour booked there is nothing here except a small vendor area with maybe a half-dozen people selling trinkets.

Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua

5 out of 5
Booked Live the Traditions of Nicaragua through HAL. Small busses took us to a church then to two farms for lunch and culture. We feel it was interesting and good value for our money. The port itself is another industrial port but in this case there were entertainers waiting for us. Traditional dancers and several bands played for our arrival. There was also a small vendor area set up. I must say it was nice to see the effort made to greet us at this port.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

5 out of 5
We booked Antigua on Your Own through HAL. After a long but interesting and beautiful bus ride through the Guatemalan countryside where we got to see the aftermath of last year's volcano as well as an eruption as we were driving by we transferred to smaller coaches for the ride into Antigua. Here we hired a local guide and were shown around the city, can't say enough good things about Antigua, this might have been the highlight of the 21 day cruise. If you have the opportunity don't miss it. From chocolate to jade and churches to city square there is something for everyone and the architecture is incredible. Again I would liked to have had more time here, but certainly felt that we got a good sample and will have to return again. The port has a very nice green space with lots of vendors and tourist information. If you don't have a tour booked you can find one here or just spend some time shopping from the locals.

Puerto Chiapas (Tapachula), Mexico

5 out of 5
No tour booked at this port. The port area is a very nice space away from the industrial port. There is a building with shops and entertainment when we were there as well as a restaurant with pool (in case you didn't get enough eating and swimming on the ship) but at 6 USD for 3 beers it is hard to go wrong. Nice area to stretch your legs or catch a shuttle into the city which we will do next time.

Huatulco, Mexico

5 out of 5
Booked Huatulco by Land and Sea through HAL. Sea part of the tour was great, got on a smaller boat and were taken to see bays and beaches while we were given endless beer, margaritas and water. It would have been nice to stop at a beach, but that is another tour... we all had a great time however. The bus portion was just OK and we could probably have done without that. We did get to see a very ornate and interesting church but the rest of the ride felt like a sales pitch for the various hotels. The town itself in very cute and next time would would probably not book a tour, just walk the town and hit the beach, which is right at the end of the pier we docked at.

Manzanillo, Mexico

5 out of 5
No tour booked. Walked through town and shopped a bit. Very interesting with lots to see and do right off the ship. Vendors set up on the pier selling things they made, feels very crafty and lots of good buys for those so inclined.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

5 out of 5
No tour booked here. Yes, there is a Wmart across the street but don't let that get you down, the crew love it and don't go if you don't want to. We took a 5USD shuttle to the Malecon and walked the day away. PV has a beautiful waterfront walk with lots of art installations. We were there on a day the open air market was happening and there is lots to see and do. Live music and lots of locals make it a vibrant and colourful place.

San Diego, California

5 out of 5
No tour booked here. The ship docks right beside the USS Midway so there is no shortage of things to do right off the ship. We decided to walk to Seaport Village for some last minute shopping. This was the first time we had rain on the cruise and it did not dampen the mood at all, there is so much to see and do just off the ship we definitely need more time in this port. Ah yes, yet another reason to come back...

Victoria, British Columbia

5 out of 5
We did not book a tour here. This is a great port and there is lots to do within a short walk of shuttle ride. Living in Vancouver we come quite often but for visitors it is a great city, very walkable and friendly.

Vancouver (Canada Place), British Columbia

5 out of 5
We live here, disembarked and caught a cab home. For visitors, the ship docks right downtown and there are so many things to do in this very friendly and vibrant city.

Seattle, Washington Did not visit port

We disembarked in Vancouver


5 out of 5
Sad but painless. We were scheduled off at 9:00-9:15 so we had a nice leisurely breakfast on Lido and waited in our stateroom for our number to be called. We were off the ship by 9:00 and our luggage was waiting in the terminal when we got there. From there a short walk to the cab line and short wait. It took maybe 10 minutes to get a cab, this has changed from the last time we arrived here and is much improved. The new system works and works very well.

Traveler Photos

6054 Manzanillo Huatulco 6054 Balcony In San Diego 6054 Balcony 6054
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