We traveled from Oregon to Vancouver, BC aboard an Amtrak train, and arrived at about 1am on the day of our cruise. We stayed overnight at the Georgian Court Hotel in downtown Vancouver, BC. It was a boutique-type hotel with probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in! Hotels in the downtown core (near the cruise docks) in Vancouver are all expensive, but the Georgian Court is definitely worth the money and was a 5 minute cab ride to Canada Place docks.
The MS Zuiderdam is a nice looking ship and appeared very clean and well-maintained. We frequently saw crew cleaning, vacuuming, and tidying the public areas of the ship. The crew are friendly, helpful, and are eager to help make your cruise a positive experience. The decor of the ship is a bit on the gaudy and flashy side, but that was no surprise to us. Despite the bright colors and stimulating designs everywhere, the ship does still have a classy feel to it. There are fresh flowers all around the ship, and they get changed out on a rotating basis. It gave a very romantic and classy feel to the ship to see so many floral arrangements.
Our stateroom, a category VB on the 6th deck, forward, was adequate although it was definitely cramped. We had great views from our verandah and spent a lot of time out there watching the scenery and wildlife. The bed, linens, and pillows made for a very comfortable sleep! The only bad thing was our bathroom...our toilet was a continual issue...there was a minimum 30 minute wait time until it would eventually flush. This proved a bit disgusting when two people both needed to use the bathroom and had to put up with using the facilities while the other person's business was still there. Need I say more?!
The music onboard was a real highlight of our trip. We listened to either the classical duet (violin and piano) or the jazz band (the HALcats) every night before dinner. There were many other live music options, but these two were our favorites and played from about 5pm to 10pm or later.
The shows onboard were ok - the dancing and singing shows seemed pretty corny and cheesy, and not of the highest caliber. There was a fantastic show done by the Indonesian crew members, as well as a Dancing with the Stars at Sea competition on the final night. One thing that we noticed was that some of the best shows (such as the DWTS show and the Indonesian Crew Show) were one show only type of deals, whereas the other marginal quality shows played twice per evening. This meant that to get to the really good shows, you would need to either change your dinner plans if you had the late seating or prepare to stay up really late.
We ate in the main dining room for every dinner, and the food was pretty average. Our waiters were kind and friendly (they did a great job), but the food was a mixed bag. Sometimes the meat was so dry we couldn't even cut it with a steak knife, and other times the food was absolutely delicious. Food was quite salty and we drank a lot of water to remedy the situation. We just never knew what to expect, which was not something I was expecting to find with Holland America. Service in the dining room for lunch was subpar - the waiters were borderline unfriendly, and after a few days of this we never went back. We ate the remaining lunches in the Lido, where service was prompt and friendly, and the food, although not spectacular, was adequate. Salad and fruit options were abundant and that made us happy after eating such rich and heavy meals for our dinners!
We had room service for breakfast all 7 days, and this was a great way to enjoy breakfast from the comfort of our cabin. While it was convenient to eat in our room, I must note that EVERY day we ordered the same several breakfast items and EVERY day at least half of the order was completely missing. A quick call always fixed this, but it got frustrating to never know what would show up!
Overall, this cruise was wonderful. Alaska is a beautiful destination, and the Zuiderdam was a good ship. But the service and the food was kind of all over the place, and the toilet issues were really disgusting.
Disembarkation was pretty easy. We selected to be in the last group off the ship, as we were spending the last day sightseeing in Vancouver. The luggage pickup process was a bit disorganized...instead of having luggage racks or belts, they simply had luggage sprawled out all over a huge room and you have to roam around to find yours amongst 100s of pieces of luggage.
Spent our postcruise evening at the Georgian Court, and traveled home on Amtrak again. Looking forward to another beautiful cruise to Alaska someday!