On my previous voyage I had earned the status of a 3-star Mariner and so this voyage was the first time I had sailed under this new status. I had booked a Signature Suite on the Zuiderdam (paying double since traveling alone) 8 months in advance and had a suite amidships (to alleve motion problems and since I had a bad leg and was using a cane) on the port side confirmed for those 8 months. As I checked in at the dock, I was told that I had been "upgraded" and that my confirmed suite had already been sold out from under me at the last minute. The "upgrade" was technically to a Neptune Suite, but was really to a handicapped accessible suite in the far stern of the ship. This suite did not have a large sitting area or a suite bathroom, both of which are standard features of even a Signature Suite. I was told that I had no recourse and that there was nowhere I could be moved. I then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to recover all the stateroom items and pre-boarding purchases (plus my bags) from the other cabin which had not been delivered to the new cabin. Some of these items had to be wrested away by the front office from the people who now occupied the original cabin. This was an extremely distressing start to what was supposed to have been a relaxing retirement cruise. The new cabin had not even been prepared for sailing. See the cabin review in the "Deck Plans" section.
The first four days of the cruise were in high seas and bad weather. Of course, that's just the weather. It was used, as well as passenger comfort, as an excuse to bypass the first port of call in Astoria, OR. This decision had already been made before leaving Vancouver.
Once the ship had reached Cabo San Lucas and beyond the ship's cooling systems began to fail. I learned that the cooling system worked like a heat pump and that it relied on the difference between the air and water temperatures. Predictably, in tropical waters, the air and water temperature soon became the same. As a result, the cooling system needed auxiliary power to be able to cool the whole ship. This would have required the use of the ship's diesel auxiliary generators. However, to save fuel, the auxiliary generators were not used and the ship's air-conditioning was rationed for the next two weeks to the revenue-producing areas of the ship and the VIP decks. Passengers were not informed as to the cause of the failed air-conditioning in many parts of the ship. My cabin remained at 80 degrees or above both day and night for two weeks. And again I was told that I had no recourse. Notably other passengers were relocated when they complained.
I can't tell you how difficult it was to have no air-conditioning in the tropics while having to walk the entire length of the ship over and over with a cane. My leg got progressively worse and I lost two weeks of sleep from the heat and humidity. This was the suite for which I had paid double to celebrate my retirement. I was offered some shipboard credit for my "inconvenience" by a wooden front office ( a whopping 10% discount)..
Let me say, on the other hand, that the crew were wonderful (their own quarters were stifling as they were given the same treatment as most of the passengers).. The dining at the dining room and the Pinnacle Grill was superb. The talented cast of the production shows were great although only 2 production shows were offered in 20 days. Finally, the daytime transit of the Panama Canal was magnificent.
I would avoid the Zuiderdam at the least to keep your self-esteem intact. Although I did not know it when I embarked, the highest priority on the Zuiderdam is saving fuel above all other considerations. The first port was missed entirely as it would have taken too much fuel in high seas to get there on time. I think it is a shame that Mariner Society members are treated so poorly and that a signed contract means nothing and that a carefully selected cabin could be sold right out from under someone without their knowledge or permission.