Home Cruises Cruise Review: Cruising with Holland America Line on The Oosterdam Ship

Cruise Review: Cruising with Holland America Line on The Oosterdam Ship

This Holland America Oosterdam cruise explores three Latin American countries on a 14-day itinerary from Buenos Aires to San Antonio (Santiago).

by Jane Wilson

They stared at me as if I was invading their territory – hundreds of them in their black and white tuxedo coats, wallowing on the blustery sand dunes of the Falklands Islands. This is one of the penguin capitals of the world where around a million nest every summer. And it’s one of the destinations included in Holland America Line’s cruises in South America. I was travelling on one of them to explore three Latin American countries on a 14-day itinerary from Buenos Aires to San Antonio (Santiago) on the Oosterdam Ship

The Oosterdam Ship

The Oosterdam was built in 2003 and has retained the charm and tradition of American and Dutch influences. The décor swirled with gold bannisters with a hanging globe in the atrium navigating to intricately decorated elevators and pleasing artwork which led to sink-in armchairs in cosy alcoves; understated elegance is the best way to describe it. And being one of close to 1900 passengers, the service level was high with 800 staff eager to please.

On this mid-sized ship there were six cabin categories with 657 enjoying outside balconies. My spacious room was decked in calming neutral colours with a good-sized veranda to eavesdrop on the meditative sounds of the sea.

Verandah Bedroom, Holland America Line, Oosterdam Ship

Verandah Bedroom, Holland America Line, Oosterdam Ship

Wining & Dining on The Oosterdam Ship

There were four restaurants onboard including two speciality restaurants which require reservations. The elegant surroundings of the Pinnacle Grill were fine-dining at its best.

The menu featured a selection of 28-day wet-aged USDA prime steaks which you would expect being in Argentina. Canaletto was an Italian affair with delicious pasta, classic and signature dishes. (Supplements cost £36 and £23 respectively). 

Pinnacle Grill Holland America Line

Pinnacle Grill Holland America Line, Oosterdam Ship

The Lido was the buffet restaurant with grab-and-go snacks outside on the deck. The Dining Room served all meals, waiter service, including the delicate afternoon tea which I shared on occasion with two delightful Canadian ladies who were continuing the cruise to Fort Lauderdale. There were a variety of bars with drinks packages available. I opted for the 4-bottle deal (four bottles from £99) but Holland America also offered an all-inclusive “Have It All Package”.

Life Onboard The Oosterdam Ship

Life onboard was as busy as you wanted it to be, During the day there was a host of scheduled activities from a “digital tech for travellers” tutorial or a Spanish language course, (hola!). You could learn to line dance or master the Tango; play bridge, poker or ping pong; or enjoy a sing-along with the pianist and end the evening dancing in the Rolling Stones Lounge. Destination talks provided helpful tips, history and recommendations for port visits. And don’t miss the captain’s appearance on stage – I am now well-versed in weather patterns and fascinated by the sustainable conservation programme of the “city on the sea”. The ship’s handy mobile app Navigator, manages your events, bookings and spend.

Life Ashore

Buenos Aires, Argentina

My adventure began in Buenos Aires, the birthplace of tango, where passion and rhythm are joined at the hip with performances that outshine any on Strictly Come Dancing. This Argentine capital is also the home of Malbec, Evita and empanadas. A city tour introduced me to the magnificent opera house, Teatro Colon, an iconic landmark where 50-minute backstage tours show off the stunning interior. I visited the grave of Eva Peron in Recoleta Cemetery amongst paths of mausoleums and statues in ornate splendour. In contrast, La Boca area was a cauldron of noise with street artists, attractions and steakhouses around Caminito, a narrow alley fringed by brightly coloured zinc shacks that hark back to its immigrant days.

Montevideo, Uruguay

My next port visit was Montevideo. The city has undergone a renaissance with restaurants opening in restored historic buildings. Ciudad Vieja is the old town bustling with art galleries, street craftsmen, music shows and a flea market along Sarandí street. Uruguay, the second-smallest country in South America, celebrates the longest carnival in the world lasting over 40 days every January. I visited the Carnival Museum to learn more and also enjoyed an uplifting stage performance from scary-painted faces of musicians in vivid costumes.

The Falkland Islands, Argentina

Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands offered a taste of back home with fish n’chips and several pubs serving locally brewed beer. It’s steeped in natural and military history with a bronze bust of Margaret Thatcher located close to Liberation Monument, a tribute to the 255 British troops (and three female civilians) who gave their lives during the 1982 Falklands conflict.  There’s more on the Falklands War at The Dockyard Museum nearby. If you wanted to see the King Penguins you could book one of the ship’ excursions. The world’s largest colony of 1,200 adult king penguins outside of South Georgia Island is 50 miles away from Port Stanley on a private nature reserve. It’s a full-day tour, and a three-hour journey off-road and a bit pricey (£400).

Ushuaia, Argentina

Sitting at the southernmost tip of Argentina, this port town is accessed only by the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia attracts exploration ships and tourists often starting their voyages around Cape Horn and trails around the jagged peaks of the nearby Dientes de Navarino. I choose to take an organised alpine drive tour along the winding mountain roads to Lake Escondido, known as the hidden lake due to low hanging clouds. Alternatively, you could also hop on the End of the World Train, a heritage railway experience passing through Tierra del Fuego National Park. It’s said that this is the southernmost city in the world. Chile however argues it is Port William, a town on Navarino Island is the southernmost populated settlement in the world.

Punta Arenas in Chile

Punta Arenas in Chile is a centre for adventure with everything from kayaking on the Strait of Magellan to trekking through the woods of Patagonia. I travelled to visit more of my penguin friends on Isla Magdalena via a catamaran ride. Over 120,000 Magellanic penguins enjoy this protected island all to themselves. It was declared a Natural Monument in 1982. This city plays an important role in geographic, political and economic affairs in South America’s Southern Cone, which Chile and neighbouring Argentina form.

Puerto Montt in Chile

Often called the gateway to glacial lakes and volcanic landscapes, Puerto Montt is the capital of the Los Lagos region of Chile. This port is home to a German settlement and the indigenous communities of the Mapuche people. Nearby is the city of Roses, Puerto Varas, with gardens, a pretty main square and a historical monument overlooking Lake Llanquihue, one of Chile’s largest lakes. The snow-covered Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes form the backdrop.

Days At Sea

The Observation Deck

While it was fascinating exploring the destinations ashore, one of my highlights was daylight cruising through Glacier Alley, narrated by the Cruise Director. The Explorations Lounge on the top deck provided panoramic scenery with live data zooming directly from the bridge. Journeying through the Beagle Channel in the territory of Tierra del Fuego, was a maze of inlets, islands and narrow waterways rich in biodiversity. This was the journey the famous HMS Beagle travelled with biologist, Charles Darwin, onboard back in 1831–1836. The route has become the favoured waterway for ships to avoid the fury of the waters around Cape Horn.

Heath & Wellbeing on The Oosterdam Ship

Cruising is all about the quietude of the open seas but relaxation is also aided by the Greenhouse Spa & Salon® which had 10 treatments rooms and 20 staff on hand for a variety of massages and facials and a thermal suite. The medi-spa menu offered specialised treatments such as teeth whitening, acupuncture and reflexology. There was also a well-equipped gym and a wide list of activity classes for all levels.

Cruise Reflection

On my last night as we sailed towards San Antonio, 70 miles from Santiago, I witnessed the sun kiss goodnight to the ocean, causing the wispy clouds to blush. The ship was aglow with laughter in the bars and high octave chatter of the last day’s activities. And as my adventure came to an end, I remembered with a smile those tuxedo-clad penguins in the Falklands and the passionate tango dancers in Buenos Aires. A new day awaited on the horizon.

GET THERE: Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com or tel 0344 338 8607) offer a 14-day South America Passage voyage on Oosterdam from £2,569pp, double occupancy, which excludes flights but includes the “Have It All Package”, (signature drinks package, shore excursion credit of £160, Wi-fi, speciality dining for one meal in each of the two restaurants, and crew appreciation) departing 5 March 2025.

FACT BOX
South America Passage, Holland America Line on the Oosterdam lasts two weeks and departs from Buenos Aires Calls at: Montevideo (Uruguay), Stanley (Falkland Islands), Strait of Magellan (cruising), Punta Arenas (Chile), Cockburn Channel (cruising), Beagle Channel (cruising), Glacier Alley (cruising), Ushuaia (Argentina), Scenic Cruising Cape Horn (weather permitting), Scenic cruising Sarmiento Channel, Cruising Chilean Fjords, Puerto Montt (Chile), Santiago (Chile)

What’s included: All meals (excluding speciality dining), afternoon tea, theatre shows, onboard gym, children’s clubs

More information: https://www.hollandamerica.com/en/gb

 

 

 

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