We just completed April 20th, 2012, on Holland America's, Zuiderdam the 11 day Panama Sunfarer Cruise. Our last time on the Zuiderdam was in 2002. What a POSITIVE change has occurred on the Zuiderdam during the last 10 years! The food was immensely better and overall service levels greatly improved. We booked a Deluxe Verandah Stateroom, SC6177. The perks with the SA thru SC rooms are many and well worth the additional fee. Just some of those were; obviously a larger state room, a special and very fast check-in at embarkation, free breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill for almost the entire cruise, free laundry and dry-cleaning, and the Neptune Lounge with its very helpful concierge service.
Some highlights were; the room (6177) is a corner room at the rear of the ship. It has a wrap-around deck that is large enough for the two lounge chairs, four chairs, table and ottoman and still not crowded. The corner room is just a little smaller than the in-line Deluxe Verandah rooms but the size of the deck far off-sets a couple interior square feet. It was perfect for going through the locks at the Panama Canal since you could see the entire side and rear of the ship and the process. Our waiters, in the Vista dining room and in the Pinnacle Grill where very good and consistently above average. We finally found the Canaletto Restaurant which is tucked into a corner of the Lido Restaurant. It has excellent Italian food, linen service and there is no fee to eat dinner there unlike the $25 each, charge for the Pinnacle Grill. However we did enjoy the dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and it was well worth the surcharge. I also would like to take a minute to refute numerous reviews that said the ship was in poor condition. I did not find one case of frayed, exposed carpet, torn fabric on chairs, etc. Yes, there are spots of rust about, but with the non-stop use this eleven year old ship gets, it is understandable. We did observe several crew members every day painting and varnishing parts of the ship.
The single lowlight was the two cabin stewards. They were well below average compared to all of the other staff on the ship. Our cabin was not cleaned and the morning coffee and pastry tray not removed until 2:00 p.m. or later during the entire cruise. It took them two days to figure out that we required additional ice, even after making several requests.
Overall, due to the improvements, we are already looking forward to booking another cruise on the Zuiderdam.