The 2 of us were a little apprehensive about our 10 Sunfarer Cruise after reading some of the previous reviews here on Cruise Critic. But we were pleasantly surprised with the Zuiderdam. No a/c troubles, no toilet issues, the ship seemed to be in good condition. The only complaint we would have is that the carpet in our cabin really needed cleaning. But I guess that's minor in the grand scheme of things.
Embarkation was a breeze. And the best part was, once we got on the ship, our cabin was ready and our luggage was all there!! Amazing! Our cabin steward, Aan, and his assistants were good and seemed to be constantly busy.
Our first port was Half Moon Cay. We reserved a private cabana, which was nice, but won't do that again. Didn't seem to be a good value for money spent. And the privacy isn't good, with the 2 story cabanas overlooking the original ones. The sand on HMC is the softest sand I ever walked in! I loved it. Getting back to the ship was a chore--it took us 1 1/2 hours from the time we got in line till we were on the ship.
The next day was at sea. We decided to join the Mixology class which was a great choice! We made friends, learned about mixing drinks and had so much fun! Jillian and Vince along with Vince's staff made the classes a hit! We learned about the ship's happy hours at the class and took advantage of those. The free hot hors d'oeuvres at happy hour were a nice touch, too. That night was the first of 3 formal nights. There were alot of suits on the men and sparkle on the women. My husband tried the Lobster Thermidor at dinner that night since its usually a favorite of his. Not this time. It seemed to be lacking in lobster and was heavily flavored with mustard.
The next day we were in Aruba. Didn't do a shore excursion since we vacation in Aruba almost every year. Just had lunch at Sole pool bar at the Renaissance Resort & visited the Crystal Casino for a bit.
We were pulling into Willemstad, Curacao the next morning. We chose the Beach Express for our shore excursion there. It was perfect for us! The bus trip was informative and interesting. We made a quick stop at the salt flats to see the wild flamingos, then arrived at the Blue Bay Resort. Snorkel gear was included with the trip and we were quick ton make use of it. The snorkeling was great! And the water was calm so that we could swim right up to the rocks. The facilities at the resort were complete, with bathrooms, a snack bar and nice loungers. A short bus trip back to town and we had plenty of time to wander the downtown and have lunch at a sidewalk cafe. We enjoyed the view from our aft verandah as we backed out of the port--not a common sight!
Another day at sea was up next. I love those sea days! I made use of the ship's library which had a nice selection of current titles. They also have an audio tour of the ship's artwork, which I thought about doing, but never got to it. We did do a galley tour, and that is always fun. Another formal night. One thing we noticed about HAL was that we were not pestered at dinner every night to have our photos taken. That was a big plus!
Then we were at the Panama Canal. We rose early to watch our entry into the Gatun Locks and have some Panama buns. We went to the bow where the buns were being served then headed up to the bow on deck 7 for a better place along the rail. It was amazing to watch. Once we got into the lock we moved to our aft cabin to watch the locks close behind us. Once we got into Gatun Lake we headed to the theatre to wait for our tour to be called. Our shore excursion for the day was the Canal Experience. We figured since the canal was the reason we chose this cruise it only made sense to do the whole thing. Wrong. Neither of us would recommend this tour. The hour long bus ride was fine--interesting and comfortable. Then we boarded the ferry for the most boring boat ride we have ever taken. We crawled through the canal, then when we entered the locks we had to tie up and wait for a huge Chinese ship to join us. The crew did their best to make the trip better (information, food, beverages, etc) but it was just TOO LONG. After finishing the last lock it was still another hour ride to meet our buses (for another 1 1/2 bus trip). The tour was listed as 6 1/2 hours long, but ours was a full 10 hours. We got back to the ship at 7 and opted for in-room dining that night. The chef's salads and chocolate chip cookies were great! But the day was just too much.
But up early again in the morning for Costa Rica!! This time our tour was the White Water Rafting trip. The best day of the cruise! We had never rafted before, and this was listed as class 1-2+ rapids so it was perfect for us. We just had a great day!! A light snack was included afterwards and we were also offered a CD of photos their photographer took of us on the river. We bought the CD and the pictures are great! On the bus trip back to Puerto Limon we saw a 2 toed sloth in a roadside tree, so the bus driver stopped so we could get photos. Then we were back in time to do a little shopping at the market set up at the port, which had a nice selection of items.
The last formal night was the next sea day. That night they offered surf & turf, with lobster tails and filet mignon. That dinner was much better than the first formal night. We did enjoy the selection of fruit cobblers that were served throughout the cruise. And I did try the cappucino after dinner--it was $1.75 each.
We set up a Ft Lauderdale shore excursion for the day we got back to port. Our flight wasn't till 5:30pm so we had time to kill! We also did Luggage Direct, which we felt was worth the $20 each. We left our luggage out the last night of the cruise and didn't see it again until we got to our home airport. We did the Land and Sea tour of Ft Lauderdale. Had a fun time! Informative and so entertaining! Much better than sitting in the airport all day! Disembarkation went as easy as you could ask for! It was a great ending to a great cruise!