Zuiderdam - Alaska - July 8 - 15, 2006. The Zuiderdam is one beautiful ship. Here is my review:
Day 1 - Saturday - Embarkation - As I live in Vancouver (only 12 blocks from pier), we arrived at Canada Place at 10:30 a.m. and stood in line to get through security. Went through security at 11:10 a.m., was processed and on the ship at 11:45 a.m. Because our rooms weren't ready yet, we were shuffled up to the Lido (buffet) for lunch. The Lido has many different stations (so you don't have to stand in one long line to get your food), Bistro (hot foods), Wok (sushi and some chinese items), Dessert (cakes, pastries, ice cream with toppings), beverage, salad, sandwiches etc. The rooms were finally ready at 1:15 p.m.
We had booked a MM (inside) guarantee and were upgraded to D (outside) - cabin #1020. Now this cabin was right below the Casino and just down from the Vista Show Lounge. We did not hear anything from above or from the cabins on either side of us. The cabin had 2 twin beds (were very high - my mother did not like them, but I had asked for a egg crate mattress topper - it was like sleeping on a cloud). We even had a bathtub. That is much better for showering in than the round ones, where the shower curtain clings to you every time you turn around. We met our cabin steward who was very nice - the fourth day, our cabin wasn't cleaned until that evening and we found out that he had been sick and was in quarantine (I think it was the flu). Boy do those cabin stewards ever work hard. Every time I walked passed an open cabin door I would look into them and they were always on their hands and knees washing the bathroom floor. Also, it states that if you want new towels to put them in the tub and they would replace them. Well they were replaced even if you still had them hanging up. I don't know why they would say this when they do it anyway. We received towel animals every night (stingray, elephant, dog, some kind of insect). They were the talk at dinner time.
The weather that day was beautiful. Nice and sunny and warm. Life boat drill was at 4:15 p.m. We had early dinner (5:30 p.m. on upper level). We had requested a table for 2 by the window, but were placed at a table for 4. We sat with a couple from Surrey, England. They had requested a table for 6. There are no tables for 2 by the window. They are in the centre of the dining room. Our dining companions were wonderful. Went to the show at 8:15 p.m. in the Vista show lounge - "Under the Sun" (production number) and Bernie McGrenahan (comedian). We had 2 big production numbers on this cruise - they are the best (a lot better than those on Norwegian).
Day 2 - Sunday - Formal (at sea) - We ate breakfast in the dining room (my mother waited 20 minutes for coffee). This was the only breakfast we ate in the dining room. All the others were in the Lido. Lunchtime was in the Lido, where we found Hunky Dory. He asks everyone their name. He finally remembered mine the next day. He sang "you are my sunshine" to my mother every morning at breakfast. I found that there weren't a lot of activities during the day to keep you busy. A lot of hanging around either in the cabin or showing up early for an event. Ritchie the Port Embassador did a great job on the Port and Shopping talks. He told us where to shop and also for the freebies (came home with 5 loose stones, 1 pair of earrings, the coveted Diamonds International bracelet with 4 charms and 5 of the Del Sol 18K plastic rings). The art auctions were informative (if you won some free art, it costs you to have it sent to you, as they don't give it to you on board). We attended the Royal Dutch High Tea in the dining room. It felt like the regular teas they always have. As it was formal night, we found that the dress attire was anywhere from ladies wearing pants and tops to short and long evening dresses. The mean wore either a suit or tuxedo. Anything goes. The production number "Under the Boardwalk" was fabulous.
We found that most of the passengers retired early, as the ship almost felt empty at 10:00 p.m. Went up to the Crows Nest and as we passed Campbell River 2 ships were travelling back to Vancouver/Seattle (Norwegian Wind and RCL). We needed to set our clocks back 1 hour.
Day 3 - Monday - Juneau - Arrived at 2 p.m. and left at 10:00 p.m. Temperature 17 C/63 F (sunny and warm). Ritchie did a Diamond and Alaskan Gemstone Seminar which he talked about how to buy diamonds. This was very informative. Docked right beside the Mount Roberts Tram. You couldn't get any closer. The Dawn Princess, Oosterdam and Radiance of the Seas were there as well. Just walked around and shopped. We missed the Showtime with Alfreda Gerald.
Day 4 - Tuesday - Skagway - Arrived at 7:00 a.m. and left at 9:00 p.m. Temperature 15 C/59 F (sunny and windy). The Radiance of the Seas, Sapphire Princess and Dawn Princess were there as well. Were docked 1 block from town. Again, you couldn't get any closer. Did the shopping in the morning then took the White Pass Yukon Rail tour to the summit. This excursion is fabulous. After dinner we went to the Showtime with Mike Robinson (ventriloquist). He is hilarious. We missed the Filipino Crew Show (but saw it on TV the next day).
Day 5 - Wednesday - Glacier Bay - Arrived 7:00 a.m. and left 4:00 p.m. Overcast - Temperature 13 C/? F. We entered Glacier Bay at 7:00 a.m. Everyone was in the Lido for breakfast early, so as not to miss it. The Park Rangers were doing the commentary and could only be heard in the Lido and the open decks (outside). We visited 5 glaciers and the most exciting one was Margarie (active calving). There were 2 huge chunks that came down in the space of 5 minutes. A lot of passengers saw dolphins, whales, bears etc. Of course they also served the pea soup on deck. I had the soup the night before in the dining room and it was a lot better (freshly made). The soup on deck had been sitting there a while, so was thick instead of runny. This was the second formal night and they only had 2 seatings instead of the 4, because of the Baked Alaska Parade. I only wish that they had paraded around the whole dining room (they only did the centre), because where we were sitting by the window, we only saw it from a distance. They turn off all the lights and close the drapes, so if you want to take a picture or video, you are out of luck (way too dark). The nightly entertainment was James Cielen (magician). He was the best. How do they do that. At 10:45 p.m. in the Lido (around the pool) they had the Desert Extravaganza (chocolate) where you could take pictures and video and then dive in. On the side, they were making crepes suzettes. Wow what a sight. I only wish my video had smellavision. The smell of the chocolate was heavenly.
Day 6 - Thursday - Ketchikan - Arrived 2:00 p.m. and left 8:00 p.m. - rain - temperature 15 C/59F. Again we docked right by the visitors centre. At 7:45 a.m. they had the "On Deck for the Cure Walk". I didn't participate, but if you want to it costs $20 (includes a T-shirt). Had the Galley Tour (some things you just don't want to see). For the kids (or adults), they have the HAL Build-A-Bear where you can choose between a teddy bear or moose ($19.95 - includes the T-shirt that says DAM SHIPS and birth certificate). Very cute. Evening entertainment was the production show "Stage and Screen". Another fabulous show. Clocks were turned ahead 1 hour.
Day 7 - Friday - At Sea - Went to the disembarkation talk. After that they had the Crew Farewell. At this point, we realized we were getting off the ship the next day. Back to work (for some), your own cleaning, cooking etc. Went to the Mariners party. Had the last bingo game (cover all for a jackpot of $2,600). They announced who won the cruise lottery. Evening show was the Farewell Variety Showtime. This included the magician, ventriloquist, singer etc. Back to our cabin to pack. Yuck.
Saturday - disembarkation - was smooth. Everyone had to settle their accounts by 7:00 a.m. As we live in Vancouver, we opted to stay on till almost the end. We finally got off at 9:30 a.m.
Now I am at home and wish I was back on board.
I guess I didn't mention the food in the dining room. It was to die for. After Friday night's meal, I thought if I ate any more, I would have to be off loaded as cargo. My mother has celiac, so she is limited to what she can eat (no wheat or gluten). When contacting HAL after we booked, we were told that they couldn't accommodate her dietary needs. When we showed up at dinner the first night, we mentioned this to our waiter, who in turn told the Head Waiter and he came over to us and explained that every night he would show her the next evenings menu and she got to choose ahead of time. They also had rice bread for every dinner meal, which they brought just after we sat down.
All in all we were impressed and I think out of all the cruises I have been on, they treated us the best. I only wish we could have stayed on longer.
But all things must come to an end.
I would definitely recommend this cruise and the Zuiderdam to friends.
After hearing all the negative things that people have said, I was a little worried that I made a mistake and picked the wrong ship.
I had the time of my life.