Our Alaska cruise on the Zuiderdam was our 15th cruise and 7th on a Holland America ship. Having read many negative reviews on Cruise Critic, we were a bit concerned but delightfully pleased by our superb experience September 15-22, 2012.
For us, it was a three generation family event, traveling with our daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren, in adjoining cabins on the main deck, mid-ship, outside. Carefully selected early, this location proved to be excellent since 2 of our party have serious motion sickness issues and had no problems.
We found the ship to be beautiful, cheerful, comfortable, and well-maintained. The outside glass elevator was a delightful, scenic way to get around. Admittedly the atrium is not as elegant as some but we loved the art on board and especially appreciated the floral arrangements.
Dinner in the Vista Dining room was a special event every evening with great food presented pleasingly. Our experience was made exceptional by the attention given by our waiter Roy, and the "manager" of our area, Budi. Every night they made origami creations and science oriented magical tricks that kept not only the kids entertained but the adults delighted as well.
The Pinnacle Grill was a pleasurable indulgence, with both the adult couples having a chance to enjoy it.
The Lido proved to be the best choice for us at breakfast and lunch since the kids could get their waffles, omelets, and even Eggs Benedict made to order. The fresh squeezed orange juice was a real favorite. The burgers at the outside terrace were a hit. The Lido staff got to know us, calling us by name, and knowing what everyone liked. We especially appreciated Mr. Alexander and a young man named Bangkit who made ordinary things enjoyable.
Our youngest two grandchildren were significantly entertained by Club Hal and the first-rate staff and programming.
We found the ship's photographers to be not only excellent but creative and we came home with our memories documented by outstanding formal and informal photographs including the digital images on disk.
As always on Holland America, we found the staff to be what sets the tone for our experience. From the young people constantly polishing windows and doorways to the Chief Engineer and Captain, we found them all to be just the right blend of friendly and professional.
We've had 8 cruises to Alaska over the years and chose this particular cruise because of the itinerary, from Vancouver BC round trip visiting Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Since we live in Washington State we do have options.
The only negative part of our trip was navigating the Vinci parking garage situation. We were aware of the difficulties due to other reviews so were able to deal with the awkward necessities. We found staff in the drop off areas to be extremely helpful and gave good advice but the Vinci person we dealt with arriving and leaving was rude. We'd recommend dropping off passengers, then parking relatively close to the "exit" and walking to the office. This avoids going out and coming back in or reversing directions. We then parked directly opposite the elevators which made finding the car easy when we returned.
The cruise director and staff did an excellent job providing entertainment and enriching activities such as the computer classes, surprising floral arranging and the enjoyable dance classes. Our top marks go to the string player and pianist, Adagio, in the Explorers Lounge, The Hal Cats and the piano man. We were never without options and enjoyed our evenings and sea days immensely.
Someone mentioned not liking the inevitable selling on board. In our daily lives we are persistently bombarded by selling universally and on the ship is no exception. It is, however, easily ignored and we are pretty much immune.
We loved our week on the Zuiderdam and would love to sail on her another time.