Oosterdam's theater, a red-and-gold affair referred to as The Main Stage, spans three forward decks (1, 2 and 3). A troupe of onboard singers and dancers are on hand for song-and-dance shows in the evening. However, instead of being stilted, unique show concepts such as Musicology -- a performance that personifies musical instruments using playful choreography and stunning costumes -- gained our respect for its creative license and enthusiastic execution. Even on a cruise of fewer than seven nights, the evening entertainment was always different, with one night featuring comedy and magic showcasing a young, sardonic performer who seemed to win over audience skeptics with each passing trick and punchline. On another night, a Filipino crew show had us worried it would feel exploitative, but everyone involved -- including those serving traditional drinks during the show -- seemed proud to be sharing their culture, and we applaud them for working all day and singing and dancing late into the night. One evening per sailing, the musicians of Lincoln Center Stage gather to perform the soundtrack to a BBC Earth film production, such as "Frozen Planet." The result is both educational and emotional.
During the day, the Main Stage hosts big-screen movies, game shows and lectures. Bridge tours are no longer offered on Oosterdam, but a digital bridge and engine room tour takes place one afternoon, hosted by the captain, who is happy to answer questions from inquisitive passengers.
Activities around the ship on Oosterdam range from board game and card meet-ups to daily movies in the onboard movie theater, called the Screening Room. (And, yes, they serve popcorn). However, most programming is divided into five themes, correlating with Holland America partnerships or fleetwide programs. Those themes are easily identified on the daily schedule with corresponding colored flags.
Holland America's partnership with BBC Earth culminates each cruise with a live, onstage musical performance, but passengers will notice other experiences around the ship, including themed trivia and even a game show. The "What on Earth!" Game Show features wildlife imagery and audio as passengers from the audience compete in two-person teams to guess the creature. Showings of BBC Earth documentaries, including "Inside Earth: Extreme Worlds," can be found on select days for those who can't get enough nature-centric footage.
Another partnership you'll notice in Oosterdam's onboard programming and shops, is the one with Oprah Winfrey's "O, The Oprah Magazine." Start the day with some mindful meditation, join a wellness lecture or take part in Oprah's famous book club with O's Reading Room, a hosted discussion about current novels (typically held in the Explorer's Lounge).
America's Test Kitchen is a tasty collaboration with its own dedicated space (which becomes B.B. King's by night). Much like the set of "America's Test Kitchen," the TV show on PBS, a chef takes the helm onstage and demonstrates how to make "the ultimate" version of your favorite dishes. Shows are themed and usually feature two dishes in a category; chewy brownies are paired with chocolate pots de creme, for example. Others might dive more into a single ingredient, like chilies. Recipe and information cards are printed and distributed by the doors for at-home chefs.
Those looking to improve their digital skills -- or become better acquainted with technology -- can attend Microsoft Digital Workshops Powered by Windows. These hands-on classes take place in a dedicated space with an instructor and span topics from using your digital camera to choosing the right mobile device. Mac users be warned: Many topics are Windows-specific, such as classes on how to navigate Windows 10 or how to use Cortana or Paint 3D. Fortunately, there are quite a few sessions per day (often six or more) so there are plenty of options to choose from for everyone.
Explorations Central, also called EXC, is the name for Holland America's shore excursion and destination program. On some ships, EXC -- located in the Crow's Nest on Deck 10 -- is an immersive experience with touch tables and digital displays of the ship's speed and location, but on Oosterdam it's scaled back. Book collections, magazines, maps and other exploratory materials are located here for perusal. In addition, lectures on the history of your destination or chats with your onboard guides about the individual ports can help you decide what to do with your time ashore. These are typically held in the main theater.
Other about-ship amusements include art auctions, Ping-Pong tournaments, tours of the galley, fitness seminars, demos (such as flower-arranging) and gaming in the casino.
One of Holland America's most exciting investments has been in its Music Walk, a dedicated space located in the hub of the ship, where cruisers can float from music venue to venue, whether it's classical, doo-wop or rhythm and blues. On Oosterdam, the addition of this melodic promenade on Deck 2 livens the mood as performers croon or play their hearts out with sets from about 7 to 10:30 p.m., nightly. Catch the talented classically trained musicians of Lincoln Center Stage in their cozy performance space and then head to the dueling pianos and number one hits of Billboard Onboard, before ending the night (as nearly everyone does) with the sultry sounds of the B.B. King's Blues Club band. Times are staggered so the ultimate music-lovers can be sure to catch at least one set of each, just about every day.
Musicians, including a pianist, play in other bars and lounges throughout the voyage. After the last set at B.B. King's, the ship seemed to shut down before midnight due to the watered-down dance music played in the club after the band closes. There are other bars and lounges, but no other nightclubs, and the bars appear to shut down early with little pushback. The casino stays open late for games of Texas Hold'em and other tournaments. It's worth noting that the casino on Oosterdam does not have its own dedicated bar. Occasional whisky tastings at the Gallery Bar occupy the late-night hours.
For as many bars and lounges as Oosterdam has, it's a bit sleepy once the music stops. There's no dedicated nightclub onboard, so unless you're hitting the slots until the sun comes up or lounging in the lounges, there's not much in the way of nightlife apart from Music Walk. Still, you won't be hard-pressed to find the drink you're looking for or a new concoction to sip. Dale DeGroff's award-winning mixology infuses a bit of contemporary drinking culture into Oosterdam's bar scene. For those who prefer a scotch on the rocks, Notes is the line's extensive whisky program, and guided tastings are available for the discerning (or curious). Of course, no cruise would be complete without frozen fruity concoctions sporting umbrellas and crazy straws -- Oosterdam has those in spades, too.
B.B. King's Blues Club (Deck 2): America's Test Kitchen by day, the space (also referred to as Queen's Lounge) transforms at night to host the most popular band on the ship, the players of the B.B. King's Blues Club. The atmosphere is indeed dark and clubby, with curved booths that recede far into the walls for a sense of anonymity. A dance floor beckons anyone who dares. And, you may find that it's hard to keep still when the powerhouse vocals and insanely talented instrumentalists take the stage here each night. Bar service is available, and a custom menu includes sugary drinks, such as the Lucille (coconut rum, blue Curacao, orange and pineapple juices) or the Peach Melody (coconut rum, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and Sprite). This tends to be the most happening spot on the ship, but on our sailing, the crowd was fairly tame. The last set starts up at 10:30 p.m. and ends about 11:15 p.m. At that time, the club is supposed to give way to dancing and house music, but that never happened on our sailing.
Billboard Onboard (Deck 2): This wide-open lounge faces the casino and the promenade, making it a great place to people-watch in the evening as you sing along to your favorite hits on dueling pianos. Die-hard fans can sit around the pianists at an oval-shaped bar, but there is plenty of other seating in mustard-colored chairs or couches. On select afternoons, music nerds can gather here to test their knowledge in trivia games hosted by the piano players. Drink specials are listed in a fitting, Top 10 Hits format, with aptly-named tipples such as My Heart Will Go On (Smirnoff vodka, aperol and grapefruit juice) and Rolling in the Deep (bourbon, Campari and vermouth). Screens broadcasting lyrics and fun facts are scattered around the space.
Gallery Bar (Deck 2): Tucked behind the casino, Holland America's Gallery Bar is a fresh concept that blends craft cocktails with quirky art-driven decor. The space is trendy yet refined, with framed paintings and pictures lining the walls, from pop art to more traditional-looking portraits, and exposed lightbulbs in glass boxes. Holland America's partnership with mixologist Dale DeGroff results in a sophisticated drink menu featuring the Ritz Cocktail (Courvoisier VSOP cognac, Cointreau, cherry liqueur and lime juice) and the Gallery Gimlet (gin, lime and yuzu juice). For-fee whisky tastings from the Notes collection are held here as well as mixology lessons.
Pinnacle Bar (Deck 2): Across the hall from the onboard steakhouse, Pinnacle Bar might be dressed in wine-colored red and cork-colored tan, but the space offers a full menu of drinks. This includes a long list of specialty cocktails that range from the classic (Tom Collins) to the contemporary (pomegranate ginger drop). Of course, you can order a full-bodied red here as well.
Explorer's Lounge (Deck 2): This small lounge can be found all the way at the end of Deck 2, after the Music Walk venues, and features some semi-circular couches, tall and short leather chairs and a wall panel depicting old, Dutch sailing ships.
Ocean Bar (Deck 3): This bar takes up the third deck of the atrium, surrounding the large, glittery globe, and seating areas are scattered to fill the nooks there. For how centrally located it is, it still feels a bit off-the-beaten-path as the bar is tucked around a corner, behind a wall. There are plenty -- perhaps too many for the small crowd it attracts -- chairs with tables, couches and playful high-backed chairs. A pianist can be found here in the evenings to accompany a before-dinner or after-dinner drink. The overall space is attractive, but the layout is a little confusing; despite its name -- Ocean Bar -- if you sit at the bar, you actually face a wall.
Neptune Lounge (Deck 7): This lounge, in the middle of the Deck 7 passenger area, is available only to those staying in Neptune or Pinnacle suites. Inside, there are complimentary drinks and snacks, a cushioned seating area along with a table and six chairs, a concierge, reading materials and a computer station.
Lido Bar (Deck 9): The pool bar at the Lido pool is a whimsical affair, with about 10 barstools that resemble large fish flipping up their fins. In front of the bar there is additional seating with a curved counter and cushioned barstools on each side. You can order just about any beverage here, from an ice-cold beer or soda to a smoothie for the kids or a blended cocktail to enjoy poolside. The bottled beer collection here is especially impressive -- we counted about 20 varieties on hand. Off to the side of the bar, closer to the pool, a pop-up bloody mary stand offers cruisers the chance to customize their own.
Sea View Bar (Deck 9): The Sea View Bar has a wooden countertop and 10 wooden barstools, settled in the shade near the Sea View pool. It's outside, but waiting on a drink here offers a nice break from the sun. For anyone sensitive to smoke, it's important to note that one of the ship's smoking areas is located directly in front of the bar.
Crow's Nest (Deck 10): Located high up with stellar views of the sea, Holland America's Crow's Nest lounge is a popular place to unwind on any of their ships. On Oosterdam, the transformation to the line's new Explorations Central/EXC Lounge is starting to take place -- most notably with the removal of the library. Secluded and quiet, with its own dedicated bar, this spot is popular for private events but is also a good place for daytime reading.
Oosterdam has two pools and both are located on Deck 9, also known as the Lido Deck. The Lido Pool is the main pool area and is located midship, just off the spa. It is also home to a sculpture of penguins who appear to be sunning themselves on a chunk of ice. There's one circular whirlpool behind the penguins, and two others at the far end of the main pool. During inclement weather, the area has a magrodome, or sliding-glass roof, which shields passengers from the elements. The area is decorated in blues and purples, and here is where we noticed the most wear on the ship -- in everything from lounge cushions to the trim above the windows.
The Sea View pool is located at the back of the ship and easily identifiable by its four Picasso-like figures along one end of the pool. There are just two hot tubs here. Both pools have bars as well as tables and chairs for alfresco dining; Holland America cleverly placed the Lido Market buffet in between these two areas, so those spending a day in the sun are never far away from drinks, snacks or shade.
A sports court is located up a small flight of stairs on Deck 10, which technically marks it as Deck 11. Basketball and volleyball are available here. Shuffleboard is located on Deck 10 and Ping-Pong tournaments take place on Deck 9.
The sunbathing space on Oosterdam is centered on Deck 9 and extends forward and aft, surrounding both pools. Striped padded loungers hug the Lido pool and plain, mesh loungers are found at the Sea View pool. There are also some mesh loungers scattered one deck above, on Deck 10.
The Retreat is a private, adults-only sun deck, hidden away at the top of the ship on Deck 11. Rates run about $75 per day for a sea day and $45 per person for a port day (or $299 for the week). Taupe canopies create an oasis, with sun beds, cushioned loungers and fake hedges, creating a soothing space for relaxation. An exclusive bar and dedicated staff ensure your needs are taken care of, from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended.
Most services on Oosterdam are located on Deck 1. Here you'll find the guest services desk, Journeys Ashore (which is the shore excursions counter) and Future Cruises desk. The medical center is located on its own floor, one deck below Deck 1.
You'll find the art gallery on Deck 2, run by Park West. It's set up like an actual gallery, with paintings hanging on the walls, a few nooks with a chair, sculptures on display and a small area to gather for auctions.
Meeting rooms are located on Deck 3, toward the front of the ship, and can be converted into one giant room or multiple smaller rooms.
The Shops of Holland America are near the meeting rooms on Deck 3, enticing passersby with duty-free items, such as logo clothing, perfume, alcohol, candy, cigarettes, designer watches and souvenirs that include magnets, teddy bears with Holland America T-shirts, nautical bags and captain's hats. We especially liked the selection of Oprah's "favorite things," which included lotions and notebooks.
The Merabella boutique is set slightly apart from the rest of the shops and features luxury jewelry, mainly Le Vian diamonds.
The photo gallery on Deck 3 consists of a long hallway of printed photos for perusal and a counter for the Joe Craig Black Label portrait studio. Regular photo packages start around $80 for five candid shots from around the ship. A counter in this area also sells equipment, including GoPros, and cameras and video accessories.
No self-service laundry facilities are available onboard Oosterdam.
The Greenhouse Spa & Salon is a spacious facility on Deck 9, run by spa company Steiner and featuring the brand's latest treatments and products. The salon is a light-filled room with a professional look; there are chairs for haircuts, styling, coloring, manicures and pedicures, as well as men's treatments such as a hot shave. The spa relaxation and treatment rooms are awash in tan and blue neutrals. Services include a variety of massages, body wraps and medi-spa treatments, including high-tech facials and even acupuncture. Most services cost within the $150 to $200 range (before tip). Be on the lookout for specials, such as an hour of 20-minute treatments you can mix and match at a savings. We felt our treatment was really well done, but be prepared for a talk about products you can purchase at the end.
Separate from the spa treatments is Oosterdam's tempting thermal suite called the Greenhouse Retreat. On our six-day sailing, passes sold for $129 per person or $229 per couple, for the length of the cruise. Daily passes cost $40. We like the luxurious room where the Greenhouse Pool is located and that relaxation areas include ceramic loungers as well as a regular and mild sauna. However, use of the thermal suite is not included in any treatment prices and, with just six loungers, there aren't many other options on busy days unless you're in the mineral pool. We suggest booking for a day other passengers might be in port.
Featuring state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines, as well as classes in yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling, Oosterdam's Fitness Center is substantial. The workout room is next to the spa, all the way at the front of the ship on Deck 9, which provides scenic views of the ocean if you're using a machine facing the windows. There's also a large area with benches and tons of free weights. Use of the gym -- open from about 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. -- is free, but classes cost $12 each, or three for $30. You must be at least 16 years old to use the gym, and over 18 to use it without parental supervision.
A variety of health-conscious spa treatments accompany the onboard fitness program, including personal training, nutrition counseling, a metabolism test and a set of four sessions of Body Sculpt Boot Camp (prices vary).
A walking track is located along the promenade on Deck 3 and three laps around is equal to 1 mile.
On a short Caribbean sailing we saw plenty of families out and about, and the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. In addition to dedicated clubs for kids ages 3 to 17, daytime activities such as cooking demos or BBC Earth trivia might appeal to inquisitive school-age cruisers. With an emphasis on music throughout the ship, essentially all nighttime entertainment is also essentially kid-friendly, although it might be a tough sell to convince your child to choose the works of Strauss over a scavenger hunt. The puzzles and board games always available near the Explorations Cafe make it a nice gathering space for families looking to spend a little time together, even if everyone is working on their own activity.
Club HAL is the kids' program onboard and offers age-appropriate activities for kids ages 3 to 17. Two age groups -- toddlers through 12 -- are typically entertained in the same space (though it might be divided), while teens get their own club. On Oosterdam, both the kid and teen lounges are tough to find -- perhaps intentional for adult passengers looking to steer clear of youngins. These lounges are located all the way on the top interior deck (Deck 10) and are only accessible from the midship elevator or stairs.
The kid and teen clubs on HAL are free of charge, but the After Hours program costs $5 per hour, per child.
Club HAL is divided into two age groups: 3- to 6-year-olds and 7- to 12-year-olds. The space is awash in cheerful primary colors, a wide-open space with nooks and rooms. There are areas to play, sit and work on a puzzle, use a computer or watch TV. There's even a small stage.
The youngest kids might try their hand at painting a masterpiece, singing along to story time and participating in pirate and dinosaur theme nights.
The older kids might take part in a gaming tournament, a karaoke disco party or a BBC Earth trivia game designed especially for them. They also have theme parties and late-night events.
Club HAL activities are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on port days. Lunch is available between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The teens have their own space called The Loft, adjacent to the kids' club on Deck 10. The style of the lounge is more mature, with trendy silver chairs situated in a dark nook, and a yellow couch and chairs for socializing and a gaming area. Teens have more freedom to come and go to the club, and activities such as mocktail making or hip hop classes are also scheduled. Video games are always an option, but counselors get kids outside as well with a staff versus teens volleyball tournament.