1. It ended up being surprisingly pricey for what at no time felt like a luxurious experience. The basic price seemed very reasonable, but we ended up spending the best part of a $1000 dollars a day, all in, and yet this was way, way below a five star experience.
2. The almost exclusively Indonesian/Balian crew were generally friendly and polite, but many had poor English and lacked a true service approach. At one point it took five attempts to convey to a waiter we wanted a bottle of water. When you were brought the wrong order, there was not attempt to apologize, or smooth things over. I think this is probably a management issue.
3. The main dining room was chaotic at best, and, at times, felt like a fast food outlet. You line up to be seated, and then you are crowded in section by section. The tables for two are so close it feels like shared dining. All your orders are taken in each section at the same time, and the food More
arrives in vaste piles, again all at the same time, section by section. This was not so bad if you were sharing on a large table, but a disaster if dining on a small table. Food was sometimes cold, courses would arrive at different times - one person's starter while the other had nothing, one person's main course with the other's starter etc, etc. One day we were rushed through three courses in 30 minutes! This is not a stress-free way to dine.4. Rather worryingly, water seaped up through the bathroom floor of our cabin. Not a nice feeling, particularly in rough seas. The cabin was generally inferior to any other we have experienced. Cramped and, again, not in any sense luxurious.
5. The ports of call included some real humdingers. Limon in Costa Rica is so bad you should stay on the ship. Even our tour guide said he was surprised cruise ships stopped there. Colon in Panama felt decidedly third world, and our tour dumped us unceremoniously in the most dreadful dive to wait (two hours!) for the ship. In Cartagena you are confined to a few streets to walk around with thousands of other tourists while the police watch over you nervously.
6. There is really only one speciality restaurant, the Pinnacle, the other (Canaletto's) is just an area of the up top down-scale dining cafe, converted at night. In both venues the menu is small and unchanging. At least service here was better than the main dining room.
7. As others have noted, the Zuiderdam is a creaky old ship that has been refitted to squeeze in more people. The public areas are surprisingly dark, particularly the main stairwell, crowded, and at times shabby. Leaky toilets, dripping air conditioning etc.
8. The finale - we docked before 7am in Fort Lauderdale. We cleared cutoms shortly before 1pm. A record on any cruise ship I've ever heard of.
All in all, you are not paying carnival cruise money, so you are entitled to expect better. If you care about food and service, this is best avoided. Less
Zuiderdam Cruises to the Panama Canal & Central America