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Trevor and Janet Harrison

Age: 59

Occupation:professionally retired

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Oosterdam

Sailing Date: 2009-08-23

Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean

Having been on Celebrity Constellation earlier this year, I was somewhat worried what I was going to find on Holland America (having been with them over 5 years ago). Why should I have worried? Everything about the cruise was 10 out of 10 for us.

We had a couple of problems during the cruise, but they were sorted out with a professional and caring manner. Nothing was too much trouble. Go see Ann-Christini Boll on front desk if you need help, she is the "supervisor extraordinaire"!

We travelled in two rooms as a family of 5.

The food was excellent, good choice. Nothing was too much trouble when we asked for alternatives to satisfy my 20 month old grand-daughters' tastes.

The self service Lido was well stocked with a good choice of food and well stocked throughout the service. As said in my last review, Celebrity was very poor in this regard.

The staff on board were exceptional. The cruise itenary is great. On a ship for this size, the facilities were very good. My eveings entertainment was 10 out of 10, because I was looking after grand-daughter! Joking apart, the shows and entertainment were on the whole, pretty good according to the rest of my family.

Our stateroom on the 5th floor was typical of a Verendah Stateroom with a bath. It was very clean and well kept throughtout the trip. Stateroom 1062 was VERY roomy for 2 adults and a child in a cot. Again, it was very clean and tidy .

We had a problem with the inside cabin in room 1062. It is situated under the Queens Room, which is used for dancing and evening entertainment. Whilst not exceptionally noisey, it was instrusive. When I complained to the front desk, they could not have been more helpful! This is what service is all about.

Onboard facilities for a ship of this size were reasonably good, although we were disappointed to find no small paddling pool or other offerings for our 20 month old grand-daughter. Don't get me wrong, we didn't want to palm her off to the ships staff, but it would have been nice for a tiny room with toys where we could have taken her to play, and maybe a tiny pool (one thing that Celebrity do have in their favor).

This is one area of concern for us. I emailed Holland America some time before the cruise, regarding infants (under 2's) going on excursions. They failed to respond. Their terms and conditions are very obscure about under 2's and excursions. Holland America UK were even less helpful, suggesting that our under 2 could possibly be denied access to some excursions. So, very frustrated were we pre-cruise, we didn't pre-book any tours.

On ship, we asked the same question and were told the under 2 was free on every tour and apart from "extreme" excursions, she was allowed on any trip. Why is Holland America USA unable to answer this? It is now over 5 weeks ago and we still don't have the courtesy of an Email response.

Then came the problem as we boarded the ship. Several excursions were sold out !!

Fortunately for us, there was a travel guide on board, and we were able , with her help and detailed knowledge, to make indepenant shore excursions at a fraction of the cost of the ships' excursions.

So, I urge you to take such independant trips. They are better value and much more fun, and give you much more time on shore. You need to be aware of your journey times and give extra time for local transport, but we found no problems. Here are a few examples:

PIRAEUS / Athens/ Acropolis excursion:

Get off the ship and walk to the metro green line in Piraeus (20 mins or get a taxi 5 mins). Take the metro for 7 stops to the Acropolis stop on the GREEN LINE (couple of euros per person/ 4 dollars each way). 12 Euros/18 dollars admission to the Acropolis. Compare this with $74 per person from the ship. It is uphill to the Acropolis from the metro, about 20 minutes steady walk. It is NOT for the infirm, but we pushed a buggy up the hill with no problem for 30 minutes.

MYKANOS
Walk off the ship, don't take tours! It is too small an island to make an excursion worth it unless you want to go sightseeing.

SPLIT (Croatia)
Again, walk off the ship. Don't take tours unless you want to go into the countryside. There are City Tour buses at the port which are much cheaper and just as informative

SANTORINI
Do it yourself! A cable car takes you from the tendered docking to Fira (or Thira as its called). 4 Euros/6 dollars per person each way. We also took a local bus from Fira to OIA , which is a very picturesque and beautiful town.

The buses run every 30 minutes, and costs 1.4 Euros/2 dollars per person each way. Compare this to $69 per person shore excursion from the ship. Many of the people from our ship did this trip independantly, just to give you a warm feeling!

KATAKALON (for Olympia)
There is a train that leaves the port for Olympia every 30 minutes, and takes about 1 hour to get there. We were advised against this because the trains can be cancelled any time, leaving you stranded. So for this trip, we took the shore excursion from onboard. It was pricey , but worth the money. Disappointing that the last 30 minutes of this trip was spent in a gift shop , when we could have spent much more time on the Olympia site and museum. The museum is excellent, and I am not a particularly "museum" person.

KUDASKI (for Ephesus)
Yet again, another trip that could have been done independantly by taxi. We took the shore excursion. We took the afternoon trip, and I have to say it was exceptionally hot. However, there were very few people around and we took some excellent pictures. We were told that during the morning when it was cooler, the place was packed. Don't miss Ephesus and take in the fact you are walking through an excavation site that is 2000 years old! Stock up with water before you enter the site.

A second excursion finished with a carpet demonstration which should have lasted 1 hour. Every single person on the tour declined and went back to the ship which was within walking distance. This was the EPHESUS trip

ISTANBUL
Great visit to the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazarre. Wished we had done this on our own too! Not enough time to explore using the ships excursion, as they take you to a carpet shop, with a big sell. It is supposed to be a demonstration. Don't get me wrong, the carpets were gorgeous and an excellent value.

All in all, a great experience. We all fealt deflated when we arrived home, and I think that sums it up . Celebrity, eat your heart out! Overall, I gave this 9.9 out of 10 . Well done Holland America! Bearing in mind, we had 4 adults and one 20 month old to satisy, it was our best cruise for some time.

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