There are two advantages to taking the Zuiderman or any cruise from Vancouver on the Inside Passage to Alaska. One is that the ship leaves and returns within one week to the same port, saving you money and the second is that the Inside Passage offers more shelter from the weather. If you are hesitant about cruising because of sensitivity to the rolling and pitching that may be encountered in heavy seas, then consider taking the Inside Passage.
We opted for the Sunset Inn and Suites on Burnaby Street, Vancouver. It has slightly higher rates than some of the local hotels but the difference was well worth it in terms of the quality of the accommodations and service we received. The elevators were easily accessible on a demand basis. In contrast our friends, housed in the Sandman suites on Davie Street, noted a 7 minute record wait for an elevator. The service at the Sunset was excellent and the suite had everything you could wish for, including proximity to the shopping on Davie Street. We stayed after the cruise at the Lord Stanley Suites on Alberni Street, the Sunset being fully booked. The Lord Stanley had wonderful views of the harbor and also provided in-room washers and dryers which we were happy to use after the cruise. Again it has good proximity to shopping. If you prefer to buy your own food and prepare it in your suite, Denman Street provides a fully stocked Safeway two blocks away.
Embarkation was straightforward and well organized. We arrived at noon at the assembly area and were on board in an hour, after which we went to lunch in the formal dining room. The food was excellent through the 7 days. The formal dining room provided first class service and complete menus which catered to every taste. The Lido on deck 9 provided a varied and attractive menu on a demand - buffet basis. The lines were short and the service fast. I heard only constant praise from other passengers about the food and the service. Our cabin had a balcony but we scarcely used it because of the cold weather. Advice to dress in layers applies in spades. The temperatures at Juneau and Skagway were in the high forties and low fifties and the winds added to the chill. Don't hesitate to take warm, windproof clothing if you are taking excursions or walking through these towns. Skagway is particularly prone to high winds. Ketchikan is much milder. We took two excursions, one to Tracy Arm (the Sawyer glaciers) and one on the White Pass railway to the Yukon. They were both enjoyable and the guides were excellent, but the excursions were both overpriced.
I have no hesitation at recommending this cruise on the Zuiderdam. The disappointments were in the lack of wild life visible from the ship or the Tracy Arm excursion which we took. It may be a question of luck or happenstance as to how much you can see, but we saw no whales and mere flashes of the presence of dolphins and seals. We saw lots of glaciers and were delighted when we witnessed five modest calvings at the Margery Glacier, but if you want to see whales, you should take the excursions which guarantee whale sightings. One complaint echoed by other passengers were the worthless on-board shopping previews which were clearly paid-for pitches for diamond and jewellery stores in the three small towns. Finally, wait until Friday to shop on board. The prices drop by 40% or more on many items. Disembarkation was well organized.