We are just back from the post-dry dock cruise on the Zuiderdam. While I agree with some of the negative remarks posted by other reviewers, I think the crew of this ship did a great job recovering from a very boor beginning.
The bad news: Embarkation and the first 3 days of the cruise were abysmal. I can imagine no excuse and got no explanation why the ship was late arriving in Fort Lauderdale after 10 days in dry dock. Equally puzzling what why passengers were forced to wait in line for over 90 minutes before the boarding process even began. This was particularly difficult for some of the older passengers who had no place to sit during the long, unexplained wait.
It became clear that the ship was still recovering from the time in dry dock. We saw rolls of carpet piled on the forward part of the promenade deck. Our verandah furniture was a mess and one table was missing. The explanation was that due to problems with the water supply, they had been unable to clean some of the outside areas of the ship. The air conditioning in our suite had significant issues which were explained as a part of an "ongoing maintenance problem." While the air conditioning improved, it was never quite good enough.
The delayed embarkation combined with other delays caused my wife, on day two of the cruise to call it the "hurry up and wait cruise."
Now for the good news. After the stop in Aruba, things began to improve dramatically. At that point, we began to recognize the qualities which have made us consider Holland America one of the better values in cruising.
Specifics: Our Cabin was a Deluxe Verandah Suite. It was large and, with the exception of the air conditioning issues, very comfortable. Our stewards and the Concierge team in the Neptune Lounge provided excellent, attentive service.
The food in the Main Dining room was consistently excellent. We have sailed several of the "luxury" lines and were very pleased to note that the quality of the food in the Main Dining Room was comparable to that provided in the luxury market. There were ling lines in the Dining Room on the first night, but I think that was a function of the fact that, on day one, everyone wants to eat at the same time. Once folks got the hang of the system, the waits were minimal. There were a few minor hiccups in service in the dining room, but overall it was very good.
Similarly the food quality and the service in the Pinnacle Grill were superb. The menu was impressive. Food preparation was well-executed. The wait staff was well-trained, very pleasant, and very diligent.
We tried Canelleto one evening and, while very impressed with the service, did not feel that the food quality or menu choices were on par with the other dining venues.
Shore excursions were, for the most part, very well managed. We particularly enjoyed old town in Cartegena and zip lining in Costa Rica. I agree with the comments of another reviewer that some passengers seemed to ignore the advice provided regarding the physical demands of some excursions.
We were not impressed with the quality of entertainment on the ship. One of the variety shows was well done, but the other two were no better than average, cruise-ship programs.
Conclusion: This cruise began on a very sour note. However, due to the hard work of the excellent crew, our overall experience was enjoyable. Holland America and the Zuiderdam will remain on our list for potential future cruises.