HAL Zuiderdam Review July 14 -- 21, 2012
I grew up around Vancouver and love coming back to it whenever I can. Doing an Alaska cruise from Vancouver was a great excuse to visit again.
We have cruised many times before on different lines. This was our third cruise on HAL and our second cruise on the Zuiderdam.
We pre toured 2 nights in Vancouver at the Listel hotel on Robson Street. We really didn't like the location as it was such a long walk to everything. We prefer being down by the waterfront. We got this hotel on Priceline. We loved the free breakfast, free US and Canadian phone calls and free Internet the hotel offered. We did a nice walking tour of Vancouver one day and then rented bikes and went around the sea wall in Stanley park. We picked a bad day to do it. It was way too crowded to enjoy it. Other bikes or roller bladders would pass you like you were standing still. We were blessed with wonderful warm sunny days which is not the norm for Vancouver at all.
We took a taxi to Canada place on the morning of the cruise. It cost $10. We dropped off our luggage and they didn't even want a tip. We arrived around 10:45am. We waited for around 15 minutes in the security line. After going thru security we checked in, got our key cards and waited for boarding which they said would be at 11:30am. At around 10 minutes to 12 we were able to board. They said our rooms were ready so we dropped off our carry ons in our cabin and went to the dining room for lunch. I thought this was a perk for Mariners however the people we sat with were on their first HAL cruise, so I guess not. After lunch we wandered around the ship and then went to our cabin. We went to the safety drill, which was painless, at around 4pm. We were up on deck for sail away. I just loved the scenery and going past Stanley park, Prospect point and under the Lions Gate bridge. We were hardly hungry but went for dinner in the dining room. After this we went to the cabin. I wanted to go to the welcome aboard show however we were so tired we went to bed and missed it.
I heard an announcement from the cruise director that said the welcome aboard show was canceled because of technical difficulties. He also said all of the productions shows were going to have to be canceled if the technical problems were not fixed. However, they must have got them fixed because they had all the shows after that. I loved the production shows. All three of them. The singers were okay but I thought the dancers were fantastic being able to dance and do flips on such a small, moving stage. One night there was a juggler and then on another night a comedian and then a magician. The Marriage show was a hoot as usual. Don't miss the Liar Liar show it was so funny. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. J.T was the cruise director. He was so straight laced up on stage to introduce the shows etc but during Liar Liar he was so crazy and funny. They had a captain welcome reception one night where they served champagne. I always love a free glass of champagne.
The dinners were all very good. Being from Kansas I never get enough seafood. This cruise I had seal food every night. Salmon, Cod, Halibut, shrimp, lobster. It was all fantastic. My husbands only complaint is that they were such small portions. He could have eaten three entrees. Some men did order three. My husband preferred to order one and then after diner he would go up to the Lido deck buffet and eat all he wanted so he could fill up. The only thing about the lido deck buffet we didn't like was they would close one side down for crew and officers only. That side would have no line. The side where passengers were being served had a long line. I just didn't agree with this. They shouldn't have one side closed and make passengers wait. I loved the room service menu. We used it once and it was very good. It took around hour for it to be delivered. I would order breakfast every morning from the little menu that you hang outside your door the night before. Why go up to the Lido and fight the crowds when you can have it delivered to your room. I used it every morning. It was wonderful.
Our toilet got plugged once and wouldn't flush. It almost overflowed and we were so thankful it didn't. I called guest services at around 9:30am to get it fixed. At 10:30am it still wasn't fixed. So I called guest services again. Finally at 11:30am they came and fixed our toilet. It took him less than 3 minutes to do it. We were thankful to have a toilet again. It is such a bother to have to leave the cabin and find a public restroom on another deck. After this whenever we flushed our toilet it would be delayed. Not that it bothered us. We were just thankful it flushed.
The ship had a really nice DVD library. You could borrow them for free one at a time. However, half way thru the cruise our DVD player in our room decided to quit working. We couldn't get it to work again. We didn't report it as we had brought our portable DVD player with us. So we used that.
One funny thing that happened is that the partition between the balconies on one side would rattle like mad in the wind and drove us crazy whenever we were on the balcony. My husband got out his handy dandy multi tool (He never travels without it) and tightened the screws in the partition. No more rattle and it never bothered us again. I guess I could have called maintenance and had it fixed but it only took my husband 2 minutes.
I did get a massage on the cruise. It was the 20/20/20 (hot stones, back, neck and shoulder massage) for $99. I really wasn't looking forward to the hard sell afterwards. The massage was wonderful. However, I didn't appreciate being told how bad my skin is and that my muscles are too tight. Perhaps that is to convince me to buy all her potions. It is so funny that the therapist is so nice to you until you refuse to buy the hundreds of dollars worth of creams. After that they aren't so nice anymore and can't wait to get you out of there.
I think people with balconies should be respectful of others on their balconies. People need to learn some balcony etiquette. We would never, ever let our balcony door slam closed. We would always close it slowly and silently. Also don't drag the balcony furniture and let is scrap loudly. It is easy to pick up the chair and move it. They aren't heavy. The slamming and scraping from others really does affect the enjoyment of your balcony.
The weather was really very good this trip. Juneau was overcast but it didn't rain. In Skagway it was a beautiful sunny day. We took a bus trip up to the summit and saw incredible views. Ketchican it was raining as usual. But it didn't bother us. I had brought my raincoat and my husband wore his rain poncho and off we went. Glacier Bay weather was a little overcast.
We only did this one independent bus excursion in Skagway. It was only $35 per person. It cost $52 on the ship. Some excursions were so expensive. I just couldn't pay $500 per person on an excursion. Goodness, I consider myself lucky to be able to afford just the cruise. By the way, we booked a VH guarantee and were assigned a VB on deck 6. We were happy with it.
I just loved spotting wildlife on this trip. On our way to the mountain Summit in Skagway we spotted a bear. From the ship we spotted lots of whales. Never very close but we saw them none the less. While docked in Skagway I happily watched a sea otter play in the water for over an hour from my balcony. We also spotted a seal in Skagway as well. Skagway was my favorite port, needless to say.
I had read some reviews about the Zuiderdam showing her age. I must agree that the carpets are stained, dirty and worn. The carpet in our cabin looked awful. I think all the carpets on the ship need to be replaced. Other than that I thought the ship looked just fine. The crew was always out polishing and cleaning to make things shine.
We absolutely loved our cruise. We had a wonderful relaxing time.