MS Oosterdam, Pacific Treasures Cruise

I’m back.  Back from two weeks onboard Holland America Line’s MS Oosterdam.  I didn’t expect to not be in communication with you while I was gone and thought I’d be able to spend a few hours each day in the ship’s library keeping in touch.  However, the internet charges were opportunistic to say the least and speed certainly wasn’t a feature of the service.  Despite these frustrations, we had a very special and enjoyable family holiday even though our Archie wasn’t able to join us.

View of the ship from Circular Quay

View of the ship from Circular Quay

The cruise was titled Pacific Treasures and over 14 nights it was to take us to seven destinations in three countries, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.  All countries you need to have on your ‘must see’ list.

We had never before had a cruise holiday and now that we are home I can definitely confirm that this won’t be our last cruising experience.  

We'd just checked in our luggage and were heading into the city for a couple of hours of browsing (shopping).

We’d just checked in our luggage and were heading into the city for a couple of hours of browsing (shopping).

When deciding between a holiday where you have to board a plane to get to your destination or go on a cruise, I think cruising is only going to become more popular.  These days economy travel on budget airlines is so vile and unpleasant starting with the long queues at airports, the over-crowded terminals with their horrid food courts, the delayed flights, canceled flights, cramped flights, lack of service, lack of leg room, having to pay for everything including head-sets and bottles of water, and then the lost baggage, the two days of holiday time taken up with traveling, and then battling home with jet lag.  The horror of it all is giving good reason to instead, look at a holiday on the high seas.  Especially in a country like Australia where wherever you go you’re almost always looking at a long-haul flight with a heavy serve of jet-lag.

Our cabin

Our cabin

So if you’re not up for a road trip (and we’re not and I’ve blogged about that before), you’re other option is cruising.

A few Sunday’s ago we took a taxi to the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  I thought we were able to board the ship at 11am but found out it was 1pm.  Easy mistake!  However, we were able to check in our bags and then, as you don’t need hand luggage while cruising, we had nothing to lug around while we went touring our city for a couple of hours.

When we entered our cabin, this was the view in front of us!  Unbelievable luck.

When we entered our cabin, this was the view in front of us! Unbelievable luck.

Back at the terminal, getting through customs and immigration was relatively painless with swift moving queues as there aren’t hoards of people because the only people in the terminal are those going on the same cruise.

After 20 minutes or so we walked onto the ship and immediately we were on holiday.  And we hadn’t even left Circular Quay.

We found our way to our cabins.  I’d booked two adjoining verandah cabins.  The rooms weren’t inter-connecting (yeah) but our steward unlocked the partition on the balcony so we could all be together outside the cabins.

Sailaway.  The ship is finally moving.  A big moment for Alfie after a very long wait.

Sailaway. The ship is finally moving. A big moment for Alfie after a very long wait.

Our cabins were 6148 and 6150 and almost at the very rear of the ship.  We booked late so all the cabins in the mid-ship section were totally booked.  These cabins go first as they are in the most central and most stable parts of the ship.  Anything aft or stern is less popular because of the distances you walk and the movement.  But we thought our cabins were perfectly positioned as they were in very low-traffic areas and so were very quiet.  And much to our complete surprise, the seas were as calm as a millpond for the entire 14 days at sea.

Sailaway and it was a bit windy.

Sailaway and it was a bit windy.

The size of the cabin wasn’t generous and it was a challenge sometimes for me to navigate around Carl’s proportions but seriously, when there’s so much to do outside of the cabin, we mostly just returned to the cabin so we could retire to bed.

A tug boat arrives to push us out to sea.

A tug boat arrives to push us out to sea.

The bed was fluffy so you would sink into it as soon as you laid down and so comfortable and combined with the gentle rocking you were definitely guaranteed a good night’s rest.  I will miss it!

 

Alfie sitting under the penguins in the mid-ship pool that has a glass roof for windy or cold days.

Alfie sitting under the penguins in the mid-ship pool that has a glass roof for windy or cold days.

The cabin’s are air-conditioning and can be adjusted to suit your level of preference and Carl’s learned not to complain about the warmer than standard setting.  Who wants to live in a fridge!

There was a small desk area with a bar fridge and a little sofa to sit on.  Hair dryers, bath robes, shower caps, a lighted magnifying mirror as well as toiletries by Elemis including shampoo, conditioner and body wash are also included.  I liked the shampoo and conditioner but the body wash smelt like toothpaste.

Miss Arabella.  Don't anyone say that's a Pina Colada in her hand!

Miss Arabella. Don’t anyone say that’s a Pina Colada in her hand!

Anyway…back to that first afternoon…

Having checked our bags through so early, by the time we made our way to our cabins, our luggage was already in the room.  But not Carl’s.  No, his was missing and our steward told him to be patient.  A few more hours went by and no luggage.  Then Carl was summoned to Deck 1 as there was a problem.  Miss Arabella and I were in hysterics because Carl always has problems with security.  The problem this time was that Carl, in his preparedness, had read on-line a ‘How to Cruise’ manual and it told him that cabins rarely have enough power points so pack a power board.

The aft deck.  Blue water as far as the eye can see.

The aft deck. Blue water as far as the eye can see.

The power board Carl had packed was duly confiscated as it is considered a fire risk.  That sorted, Carl could take his suitcase up to our cabin.

But he had to hurry because now we were ordered to our life boat stations which were held directly underneath your assigned life boat.  Lifeboat 16 dangled above us.  It looked very large but even so, I wasn’t sure how the 150 of us grouped under it would ever fit into it but I guess in a time of emergency, elbow-room isn’t a priority.

At night our steward would put a towel creature on Alfie's pillow.  This is a penguin.

At night our steward would put a towel creature on Alfie’s pillow. This is a penguin.

One of the actors on the cruise was taking us through the demonstration.  He asked us to move back, move back, move back until we were almost standing on the person behind us and we were huddled shoulder to shoulder.  It was a very warm day and there was no air.  I had tall people in front of me so couldn’t see a thing and neither could Alfie who was saying, ‘I can’t see; what did he do with the life jacket?’  And the actor was showing us how to tie it up but only those in the front row could see.  Then I heard him say that we all had to pay attention as people who don’t know what they’re doing in an emergency are a danger to others and just as we were about to get the crucial information, an elderly gentleman in the very back row, collapsed.  I yelled out, ‘We need help back here’, and the actor rushed forward looking absolutely stressed and like he’d never role-played any medical emergencies.  We had to create space and air-flow so stepped aside and that revealed the poor man who’d ‘hit the deck’ literally and he was very grey and not moving.  The ship’s doctor arrived and we were all sent back to our cabins.  The gentleman recovered but had there been an emergency situation, no one in Lifeboat 16 would have been of any use.

Reclining on Deck 3 - this is a deck where you can walk around the entire ship.

Reclining on Deck 3 – this is a deck where you can walk around the entire ship.

Then it was up to the top deck for sail-away and even though I live in Sydney and see the harbour a few times a week, there’s nothing more beautiful than on a summer’s day, heading out of the harbour through the heads.  It was definitely time for a champagne and we stood on the deck as the horn blew and the tug boats nudged the ship into position and we were away.  Heading north-east to the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.

We had dinner in the Italian restaurant where you pay an additional US$10.00pp and I was hoping for an authentic Italian dining experience however found the cuisine to be American-Italian.  Big on servings but nothing genuinely Italian.  What made up for the tough gnocchi and pate appetiser (is that not French?) was our view over the ocean where we saw a pod of dolphins swimming beside the ship during the sunset; a beautiful sight and a huge thrill.

Back in our cabin I discovered the rooms are serviced daily with an evening turndown service.  Chocolates had been placed on the end of the bed with a little note saying, ‘The ship’s captain and crew wish you a restful sleep tonight as we look to tomorrow’s horizons’.  I clapped my hands.

The aft end of the ship.

The aft end of the ship.

I then tried to plug in my phone and laptop and discovered we couldn’t because the one and only power point was an American one.  I quick call through to reception and we were able to hire an adaptor.

Miss Arabella’s issues were much more serious.   She had a big ‘M’ stamped on her purchasing card, (the ship runs on a cashless society).  ‘M’ stands for minor and it meant she couldn’t be served alcohol.  In Australia she’s had that right for almost 18 months but with this being an American ship it had to abide by US laws and as such, she was classified as a minor.  She wasn’t pleased.

Miss Arabella.  Don't anyone say that's a Pina Colada in her hand!

Miss Arabella. Don’t anyone say that’s a Pina Colada in her hand!

And that was our first day on the MS Oosterdam.  It was a terrific and exciting start to our Pacific Treasures Cruise.

 

Walking under the life boats.

Walking under the life boats.

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Comments

  1. This sounds like a fabulous holiday, and you describe it so well. I’ve been off line too for a while, out in the bush. It’s nice to connect up again, and welcome back.

  2. Having someone pass out during the emergency lifeboat drill is not a good thing. Poor Arabella, being relegated to the minor leagues. Even in Canada, where the age of majority is 19, she wouldn’t be able to drink. Is that the only restaurant on board where you have to pay extra? Doesn’t sound like it was worth it. However, it sounds like you had an exciting first day.

  3. Looks wonderful, Charlie… I don’t like cruises myself… not that I’ve been on a full cruise other than Spirit of Tassie… it’s just not my thing… but you’ve done a lovely wrap up here. Welcome back.

  4. I’ve been on two cruises in the Carribean and neither were all that flash but my son tells me I just had the wrong cruise company. Yours sounds really swish.

  5. Looks like a great holiday. Some years ago Mr Glam and I did a Mediterranean cruise, despite having to fly to the south of France to board the boat it was a fabulously relaxing holiday. Poor Arabella, the M stamp must have been a bit disappointing! GG

  6. Welcome back and with such a special post. I have avoided cruises for the most part mostly because I am not a good sailor (if you know what I mean) but everywhere I turn lately people are singing their praises. This one is certainly enticing I look forward to the next instalment hoping that the food selection improves!

  7. Oh those views and the endless blue horizon! I had never thought I would enjoy a cruise holiday but when you put it like that (the hell of flying these days) …it totally makes sense, especially when you live in Australia and have so many beautiful places to explore by sea.
    Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip!

  8. And of course drama follows you to the high seas! Although I hope that poor chap enjoyed the rest of his cruise. Looks and sounds wonderful and peaceful – I was impressed with the photo of your cabin. Welcome back!

  9. Hi Charlie, I’ve never been on a cruise but am dead keen so was delighted to read of your first day’s adventures… look forward to the next instalment of your adventures on the high seas.

  10. Amazing holiday. I bet it was hard coming back to reality. I hope we can experience some of your holiday food recipes in the days to come. Well that is after you tackle the laundry… LOL

  11. That looks amazing Charlie, I’m so glad you holiday got off to such a good start. The ship looks lovely, I hope you will show us more in future posts. We’ve only been on one cruise and that was our honeymoon, we went from NYC to Bermuda but that was almost 28 years ago! I’m sure cruising is quite different now. I had suspected that the food isn’t as good as some people claim which unfortunately will be reason enough for me not to go on one. Many of our dearest friends adore cruising and have tried many times to convince us to go with them, but frankly I find it very expensive for what you get. For the daily rate (including all the tipping) I could easily go to Europe and live like a queen. Not to mention the price of booze and internet service on the high seas are extortion! Our friends Andy and Mark spend about $1000 each on booze for a 10 day cruise, I’d have a hard time with that. But I am glad you had a great time and I look forward to my vicarious cruise holiday with you. Are your electrical plugs like Europe?
    PS I am unable to comment on your blog through my wordpress reader, not sure if that’s something you have to turn on, but I am able to comment on many other WordPress blogs.

  12. So that’s where you’ve been. Looks like an incredible get-away. Welcome home.

  13. Welcome home! Sounds like you were off to a grand start. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures. You know how much I enjoy cruising. XO

  14. Welcome back! We’ve done a lot of cruising, although it’s been a few years. I really like unpacking once, and being done with it. The downside is you often don’t have that much time in port, so you’re really getting a brief experience in most locations. But it’s a good way to sort which locations you really like, and want to go back so you can spend more time. Sounds like you had a terrific vacation!

  15. I’m ready to go right now. I only have experience mainly with my Mom cruising in the Caribbean, but this looks far more fun. And rooms, though small, aren’t miniscule, as I remember them. Looking forward to more posts about the various destinations! Welcome back! I’ll be returning soon as well, I hope.

  16. What a wonderful cruise! You were missed, but I was just sure you were having another one of your wonderful adventures. I have only been on one ten day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, but it was delightful, too. Our biggest issue is that we traveled with friends, and as much fun as that can be, I really would have enjoyed just sitting with a book and soaking in the sun. I can understand that it must have been quite a shock to Arabella to come up against the “21″ rule for any alcohol. Especially on a cruise.

    Welcome back…and I hope you’ll continue to share even more photos and stories. That was a nice long cruise!. ox

  17. Oh my, what a wonderful trip!! Thanks for sharing these great photos :-)

  18. A cruise sounds really great right now, especially in these colder temps!

  19. I’ve never been on a cruise and never really knew if I wanted to take one, but you make it sound and look like such fun. This really looks like it was a great cruise. Except for those pesky American underage drinking laws! ;)

  20. I have never been on a cruise before so it was grand fun to read about your experiences. :-) I’m afraid I’m one of the weird ones who LOVES the hustle and bustle and madness of the airport experience. :-)

  21. G’day! Glad you had safe, happy travel Charlie with your family, true!
    Your bath suit photo is a stunner too!
    Cruising is always very relaxing, so many things to do,
    I laugh when I have heard cruising sailing stories about how bored people got as honestly in my opinion is no way to do!…lol
    Cheers! Joanne

  22. Welcome home Charlie! I looks just wonderful and I can’t wait to hear more about the cruise and all your destinations. Poor Arabella that is a little unfair.

  23. Welcome back, Charlie! What a fabulous holiday! Looks like you all had a wonderful time, and you are so right about flying these days. What a headache!

  24. Welcome back, muy dear friend! We missed you heeps! It is lovely to know that you all had a great & fun vacation! Yeahhh! Thanks for the lovely tour of the cruise ship!

    xxx

  25. seems so beautiful and so enjoyable… wonderful photographs… Thanks and Love, nia

  26. Welcome back Charlie! We’ve missed you. Good to see what you’ve been up to. My fear with cruises is not having great food-a shame the restaurant was a let down!

  27. Welcome back Charlie! What a great introduction to the perks of cruising, and hopefully your time without internet was rejuvenating once you coped with the stress of its absence. I worry I’d feel a bit cooped in on a cruise but I suspect you will convince me otherwise by the end of your posts showing the ships’ wonders :)

  28. This holiday looks like it is the lap of luxury :D
    Thanks for sharing your fun times with us!

    Cheers
    CCU

  29. Happy Holiday! enjoy your sun- tanning.

  30. Sounds like an adventure – I am wary of cruise ships as I get sea sickness and had a queasy stomach on the bass strait crossing from Launceston to Melbourne – I have had air sickness too but at least it is a quicker journey. However it does sound very glavmourous and fun and glad to hear you enjoyed yourself

  31. I missed you Charlie! It looks like a great start to your holiday and I can hardly wait to hear about the rest. I’ve been desperate to go on a cruise for a while so I want to hear all please xox

  32. What fun and how exciting! I’ve had many people tell me that a cruise is a TRULY relaxing vacation. We haven’t been on one yet and after seeing the Titanic…I’m a bit leery. However, you have made it sound very interesting!

  33. OMgosh,
    I loved looking at your photos.
    What a lovely family! You are all simply adorable.
    I worked on a cruise line and I NEVER saw a cabin like that, girl! WOW. Nice.
    And about that Pino Collada!!…..

    Xxxxxx

  34. Welcome back Charlie! Though we missed you, it does look like you had a grand break :) And your cabin is just wow!

  35. Poor bugga if I was on the lifeboat, I would take up the room of 2, so someone would have to be left behind lol

  36. Looks like a fabulous vacation!!! If I lived in Australia, I’d be right there with you. Leave flying to the birds. :) Great pics and welcome home!

  37. Oh you lucky duck! I am so jealous here in rainy, grey cold Italy! I wondered what had happened to you!

  38. That would have driven me crazy about the booze. But A looks like she coped rather well. It’s something to think about though, if you are booking for an over 18 child. It seems to be how they play it Stateside? I once had to walk back to my digs in Aspen in a blizzard, to get my passport, so I could get into the pub. I was 22. Arrrrrgh!!!!!!!

    What I am garnering from your reports,is the food was less than exciting, something I thought about our cruise as well. In the main restaurant anyway.
    Carolyn

  39. What a wonderful holiday!!! I haven’t gone a cruise for the longest time and last time I went I don’t think I enjoyed it very much because I was quite young probably 8 or 10 and just with my parents but I think if I went again I would enjoy it so much more and LOOK at the perfect weather you got! :) But welcome back we’ve missed you xox

  40. I like your warts and all approach to describing this cruise, going to read the other posts now, looks like a great read :) xx

  41. That sounds and looks like a wonderful trip Charlie – I often wonder what it must be like to take a cruise. Part of me thinks it must be so relaxing, but the other part wonders if I wouldn’t go a bit nuts being surrounded by water and not being able to place my feet on “terra firma”. Would be a great experience at least once though!

  42. Wow, what a wonderful trip! Looks like you had beautiful weather and gorgeous accommodations!

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