Recently back from an Alaskan cruise on the Holland America Line ship Zuiderdam.
Can I start with the good points before hitting the bad points.
The ship was built in 2002 and is not one of the new super liners and that's exactly what I was looking for, it was an elegant well maintained ship with excellent decks for viewing the fantastic scenery and inside was very luxurious with fine art where ever you looked.
Cabin was nice size with lots of wardrobes and draws , mini bar, hair dryer, TV, DVD (large library of old DVDs available to watch on board), nice bathroom (very small bath) and ample size balcony especially as I had the cabin to myself.
Food on board was of the highest standard and very plentiful although the lido deck self service was very crowded due to the limited opening hours. You need to be in a group of 2 people or more, one to hold a table while the others get the food, being on my own by the time I found a seat the food was often cold. don't expect to get much as you are only given 1 plate each and the only trays I saw were being used by the cleaners to clear tables.
The crew in the restaurants, bars and cabin were of the highest standard with nothing being of too much trouble.
Found the Vista dinning room no good for me as most of the dishes were fish and as I am allergic to fish/ seafood it only left 1 item most nights on the menu for me.
The brochures keep on about the flowers on board, there are a few orchids on board but most of the plants and flowers are PLASTIC!
The ship has a maximum capacity according to HAL of 1916 guest but we had 2040 on board meaning there were not enough seats in the theater and often saw people in there 80's sitting in the aisle on the hard steps or like me stood at the back all through a show. The ship is sold as being 5 star with lots of space but was overcrowded in most of the public areas and I am not sure were some of the people slept as a few people like me had a room to them selves and my room could take up to 3 people so were did the over capacity people sleep????
I took 3 shore excursions booked with the ship and thought they were good and not too badly priced, I would certainly recommend the three I took, whale watching in Juneau, misty Fjords catamaran trip in Ketchican and the White pass Railway in Skagway.
Would very highly recommend the Allen marine trips even the coach driver was funny and informative.
So far so good you may be thinking but now we get to the entertainment! Or lack of it!
Again let me start with the good.
The shows with the singers and dancers in the theater on 3 nights are a must see as is the Adagio piano and Violin of Christina and Simona in the explorers lounge from 6 till 10 is magnificent however the rest of the entertainment was of a poor standard or none existent.
On board are 2 house bands they call the Hal cats they should play for a couple of hours at night mainly during the time your at the show!, or that's the theory, in practice they sit around messing about chatting and fooling around like some tipsy teenagers, when they do play (mainly after I complained about them) they play about 4 song per hour as they seem to have to re tune everything after each song and then have a long chat about it before playing the next, I have been to rehearsals that were far better than there so called performance, the piano bar I visited many times and never found anyone playing the piano. The bars and restaurants have mangers checking them all the time but no one seemed to be in charge of the entertainment as it didn't seem to matter if they played or even turned up.
Two nights we had an American comedian who the Americans found funny but for the other two thirds of the International passengers found boring I walked out after 10 mins, we had a magician one night doing tricks that we saw Paul Daniels do in the 80s and the one show he did was just a sales pitch to show you his magic kit he sells on board.
As for the daytime I would say no entertainment, Ross our cruise director would come on the p.a. every morning like Gladys Pugh from Hedi Hi and tell you the exciting program for the day is something like the following, 9 till 10 come to the shop and buy a watch, 10 till 11 buy a shore excursion, 11 till 12 buy some earrings, 12 till 1 buy a spa treatment, 1 till 2 come to the show lounge and we will tell you were to shop when you get off so as we can get our commission, 2 till 3 buy 5 beers get one free, 3 till 4 book your next cruise, 4 till 5 buy some photos, 5 till 6 buy a ring, it was like being stuck in the shopping channel, I went to be entertained not to shop all day. Luckily the scenery is superb but on the day we had fog and couldn't even see the water you would find people asleep around the ship as they were so bored. I heard that the drinks takings were way down and they couldn't work out why? Its probably because people were in there cabin watching a DVD as there was no entertainment in the bars????
The Zuiderdam ship was a brilliant ship let down by the people in charge of entertainment, you could turn up to a scheduled thing only to find no entertainment and no manager there to check this and no one who seemed to care. The best entertainment would be to put a short plank over the side and whoever was manager or organizer to walk it as all the hard work done by 90% off the crew was ruined by the 10%.
I wasn't looking for a party ship, but a crew member doing an ice sculptor on deck (come to think of it I don't remember seeing a ice sculptor anywhere on board) a bit of music, just simple things would have been nice.
So if you going on the Zuiderdam take board games, books, mp 3 players, your laptop and what ever else you can fit in your luggage( watched them throwing the luggage literally onto the Zandam so no breakables(probably how my binoculars got broke)) as you will need them if the weather isn't good enough to see the scenery.
Treated myself to this cruise for getting over a brush with Cancer for the second time so thought I would book a five star cruise line but this experience was far from a five star experience. the cruise with no flights etc. cost $3000
I have emailed Holland America 3 times once in the U.K. and twice to head office however all I have had back is an automated Email saying it will take a few weeks to get back to me! wonder why perhaps there busy with similar Emails???????
This may have been my first cruise but my family cruise up to 3 times a year and I do all the research and all the booking for them and they have been on Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Thomson, Airtours, Cruise and Maritime and more, all of which had better entertainment.
I will return to Alaska as the scenery is fantastic and seeing whales is the most wonderful thing however it will not be with Holland America.