Throughout Oosterdam, the predominant color schemes are royal hues of purple, blue, burgundy and gold. There are no jolting colors whatsoever, and the overall effect of the ship's decor and architecture is one of comfort and embrace. Oosterdam just sort of wraps its arms around you.
As on Zuiderdam, there are lots of cozy nooks that provide intimate settings. In fact, Oosterdam's public spaces absorb and disperse passengers so effectively that even at full capacity -- as the ship was during my time on board -- one could always find an unoccupied nook.
My favorite spots for pre-prandial cocktails were the Ocean Bar, which featured cozy bay window sitting areas that looked out on the Promenade Deck and the sea; and Explorer's Lounge, one of the most traditional public rooms on the ship. The other signature public room, the Crow's Nest, was a popular after-dinner spot.
Aside from its pleasing color scheme and intimate ambience, Oosterdam has the feel of a classic ship. HAL traditionalists will appreciate the maritime themes that imbue this vessel with a sense of historical continuity.
In the aft stairwell, for example, are beautifully framed replicas of Dutch East India Company (VOC) pennies. The pennies not only encourage an extended gaze but also have historical significance. Coins were used to steep the masts of VOC ships. (The custom supposedly dates back to Roman times, when superstition dictated that should a ship meet with mishap at sea, the crew would be able to pay their way across the fabled river Styx.) Throughout the ship are also the renowned marine paintings of Captain Stephen Card.
The so-called "Hal-mark" of HAL ships is an abundance of museum-quality artwork incorporated into the design. Oosterdam�s elaborate cast-aluminum elevators doors, for example, were inspired by the art deco designs of New York's Chrysler Building.
Even the ceilings were inspired. In the Internet cafe, where computer stations and wireless hotspots were available, designers created abstract wall panels resembling computer chips as a counterpoint to the Baroque ceiling panels. The creative juxtaposition of these two disparate themes worked well.
The grill, with a cover charge of $20 per person, offers U.S. Sterling Silver beef and Northwest seafood. Table settings feature beautiful Italian Frette linens, Bulgari show plates crafted by Rosenthal, Reidel stemware, and aluminum chairs by the Italian artist Lebirge.
The latter is a good substitute for a wake-up call. Each evening before retiring, I ordered room service for 7:30 a.m., and each morning, there was a knock at my door at 7:25 a.m. I took a leisurely breakfast on my verandah, which was large enough to host an Olympic field event. OK, that's a gross exaggeration, but verandahs were large, ranging from 54 square feet to 318 square feet.
Following her maiden season in Europe this summer and fall, Oosterdam will sail from Lisbon to Ft. Lauderdale November 19 to join Zuiderdam in offering seven-day alternating eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale December 7 to April 11. Then she heads off in the spring for a series of Alaska Explorer cruises.
(Ralph Grizzle is editor of Porthole Cruise Magazine)