It's easy to see why so many seniors sail with Holland America Line (HAL), it's the service. I saw several people in wheel chairs at check-in and they did not have to ask for assistance a crew member took each one through check-in and onto the ship. Once aboard crew members are always looking for ways they can assist passengers. Also on this ship they have come to the aid of those with vision problems. Cabin numbers are also in Braille and the elevators are interesting again with Braille lettering for each deck and when you arrive at a deck a voice announces both the name and number of the deck. Holland America is the cruise line to take if you are challenged and might be in need of assistance.
Check-in in San Diego was a breeze; we live near by so our granddaughter drove us. We arrived at 11am which seemed the perfect time, we drove in next to the ship, off loaded our luggage which porters took and went inside to the check-in. It is not necessary to tip the porters, they are paid well but do have their hand out. By 11:30 we were on the ship and ten minutes after that were having a nice lunch in the Lido Restaurant. If you are also driving but need to park there is always plenty of parking right across the street from the ship. There is also a Holiday Inn right there if you want to arrive early and see a bit of San Diego. There is plenty of public transport near by.
We were well satisfied with our cabin 5001 category SS. It was a wheelchair accessible cabin which I wanted. Because I made my travel arrangements with Cruises-N-More I was able to select my cabin on-line by number and I also found they had the best rates. The cabins are smaller than those on the Statendam/Ryndam ships which we have also sailed on. The inside cabins were the smallest I have seen in memory.
A nice touch is that there are no paper napkins or styrofoam cups in any of the dining rooms, all china and all linens. They even have linen towels in the public restrooms, they are individually rolled up and you use a fresh one each time you dry your hands.
I don't see how anyone could complain about the food, the selection is extraordinary. At lunch in the Lido you can get hotdogs, cheeseburgers, fries, Mexican food, salads, soups, several different main dishes and on and on. The desert bar is something else, pies, cakes, puddings, custards, ice cream, yogurt and more, what a pig I made of myself. You have several selections of where to eat for dinner the Odyssey Restaurant, Main Dining room or the Lido which serves the same menu and more than the main dining room. Eating in the main dining room is much like eating in Europe where things are at a slower pace. You can expect to spend a relaxing one and one half hours at dinner. If you are traveling with children or just like to gulp your food then the Lido is a much faster alternative.
If you like flowers you will love the Oosterdam, they are everywhere, and beautiful.
This would be a wonderful ship to take to Alaska or the Panama Canal because there are so many places to sit and view what is going on and there are several forward decks that would be wonderful to use while watching the canal locks open before you.
HAL has always been weak on the entertainment side of cruising; Princess does an excellent job in this area. There were only two stage shows that we thought were any good but we did enjoy music and dancing to tunes from the 40s & 50s both before and after dinner in the Ocean Bar.
The only tour we took was whale watching in Cabo San Lucas, we have been visiting Mexico since 1959 so we have taken most tours one or more times. The whale watching was not exceptional, one could do as well off the California coast, but it was fun. I signed up for the tour on-line before leaving home and our tickets were in our cabin on arrival, nice! If you wish one of the smaller whale watching boats, they are about 20ft and get much closer to the whales, you can get those for the asking when you get off the ships tender in port. The price is $20.00 per person minimum two people.
Unfortunately, many passengers became ill. I had what seemed to be a cold which kept me in bed for a straight 18 hours days 4 & 5, and even now two days after getting off the ship I have still not fully recovered. My wife became ill on day 5 and I had to request assistance in getting her off the ship, she is still quite ill. We were not alone, on the return we had to make an unscheduled stop in Cabo San Lucas so a passenger could go by air ambulance back to the US. Then when we arrived in San Diego an ambulance arrived to take another passenger and then I heard many other stories of those who were not well. But don't let this stop you from going.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream." Mark Twain