We sail mostly on HAL and had noticed a decline in some services the last few cruises. That was NOT so this time! We found nothing of any consequence to complain about. After a night's stay at the Springhill Suites in Dania Beach ( where we always pickup our cruise wine at BJs ), we got on the 11:00 free hotel shuttle to the port. We went straight upstairs and quickly checked in since we had pre-registered on line. We got our boarding number and sat. This was a good time to meet some of our new 11 day friends! We were called and on board to our cabin by 12:25.
We usually book a port side, mid ship, SS cabin. This was in very good shape with obviously new drapes and the carpeting looked new. Our cabin steward( Jeni ) was there soon to introduce himself and see if we needed anything. We just said to keep us supplied with ice every day and all would be fine ( and there was always plenty of ice)!
The ship itself looked to be in good shape to us. There were a few worn carpet areas and an occasional smell of sewage, but nothing more than we've encountered on any other ship or cruise line.
We ate most of our breakfasts at the Lido. We ate by 8:00 most morns and never had a long wait at the Omelet Station. We felt the Omelet, Eggs Benedict,Fruit and Waffle stations were all tasty and easy to get through. We found the service to be very good and the waiters very friendly. Each meal they were there to refill your drinks and to help the "older" people carry their plates. At prime meal time it was sometimes hard to find a seat, but the staff cleared the bussed the tables pretty quickly.
Lido lunch offers plenty of choices, too. Standard buffet fare, Asian ( which was wonderful), Italian ( pasta and pizza), Sandwich assortments, Salad bar, and the Lido Pool Grill ( assorted burgers, dogs, fries ). The Lido Pool Taco bar is very good,too. At prime meal times there were always lines, but they moved pretty quickly.
For dinner we chose 7:45 main DR. our waiters (Lucky & Edy) were always friendly and accommodating for any requests. The food was very good and much more tasty than the last few HAL cruises. It was always warm and with a nice presentation. Arnold, the wine steward, was prompt and helpful with our wine selections . We really prefer fixed seating over "anytime dinning". You get to form a relationship with your waiters and dinner partners. We really enjoyed our evenings on this cruise!
The bar staff was very friendly, too. The Happy Hr prices ( buy one / get 1 for $1 ) at rotating bars and times was a great deal, too. Just check out the daily paper for drink of the day and Happy Hr times and locations.
What we saw of the entertainment was good, although we don't take in all the shows. The Island Magic steel drum band was just about the best entertainment we'd ever encountered on a cruise. That's the kind of music we like to hear on a tropical vacation! I guess the piped in music in the Crow's nest and the music around the pool would be my only complaint of the 11 days. We heard more Michael Jackson than we cared to......
The only shore excursions we took were Categena City highlights ( which was a lot of HOT walking but good content) and the Costa Rica Tortugero Canal ( hot but beautiful but we didn't see LOTs of animals. ) Guides for both tours were very knowledgable and entertaining.
The transit through the Panama Canal Locks was very interesting ( and HOT) but it was hard to understand what the "lecturer" was telling us when you were standing out on the deck or our veranda. It was too crowded to stand on the bow of the ship ! We just used our Panama Canal Book to help us understand what we were seeing.
On our Sea Days, there was always something going on if you wanted to keep busy. The mariners luncheon was better this cruise, also. You had more time and didn't feel like you were just "herded in", fed, then dismissed. We received our Bronze medallions this cruise and that was a nice ceremony with the Captain and Hotel Manager.
The weather was perfect ( but HOT ) the entire cruise, so that also increases the enjoyment. We, however, didn't encounter any unpleasant crew from the top of the rank to the bottom.
Disembarkation ( as much as we hate it ) went pretty smoothly. We pay the $19/ per person extra for Direct luggage so we don't mess with it till we get to our home airport. Our number (2) was called by 7:45 ( after 1 final breakfast from the Lido Omelet Guy ). We got into the terminal customs line by 8:00. It was a fairly long line but moving quickly. Since it was a Fri and we were the only ship in, we had at least 7 Customs officers working. We were through the line and getting a cab at curb side by 8:50. After a 10 min ($20 including tip ) cab ride, we were getting out at the airport for the 12 flight home. All in all - A WONDERFUL 11 days on the Zuiderdam!