Zuiderdam Cruise Review by Herbs Mom: Great ship!
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After reading several reviews of the Zuiderdam I was thinking we had made a mistake in booking this ship. I'm thinking those who wrote the negative reviews must have been on the wrong ship - yes, the decor in the staterooms is a bit dated, but then we didn't go on a cruise to see modern decor. The ship was wonderful - clean and very comfortable. The crew was great! We'd do it again!
EMBARKATION: We got to the port about 11 AM and were checked in and on board around noon. Our cabin was ready and our luggage was waiting for u in the stateroom.
CABIN STEWARD: Dodik was a great steward - very efficient and helpful.
CABIN: We loved stateroom 8052. It was right under the lido pool, so I was a little concerned about noise, but we only heard noise of furniture being moved one night after a party at the pool. It was quiet by 10:30 (and I'm a light sleeper!)
The verandah was great - 2 chair at a table and 2 more chairs with cushions and ottomans - plenty of More room. We did have smokers next to us, but that was only a problem one morning.
FOOD: For the most part, the food in the Main Dining Room was OK. It wasn't the fastest service in the world, but then it was nice to not feel rushed - there was time in between courses to visit with those at our table. The tables were a bit too close together which made it difficult to get out of your seat if the people behind you were still there. The food on the Lido was OK if you wanted something quick. One day for lunch there was an Indonesian Rijsttaffel which was really great if you want to experience something different - we thought it was delicious with a lot of choices.
ENTERTAINMENT: We only went to a few shows in the Vista Lounge - one of the comedians was a bit boring but the illusionist was super! The HALCats offered great music for dancing each night. But our favorite was Michael Simons every night up in the Crow's Nest - great guitar music and singing from the 60's to today. It was very relaxing to go up and listen to him - great way to end the evenings.
DECK LAYOUT: We love the smaller ships - that's one reason we sail with HAL. Easy to get from place to place, once you remembered where things were.
MEDICAL STAFF - I cut my foot (entirely my fault) and the nurse was very helpful. My husband got cut on some coral while snorkeling (some older people swam over him and pushed him down - didn't even see him) and again, the medical staff was very attentive.
DISEMBARKING: Very well organized - we got our color/number tag the night before. We put our luggage out the night before and in the morning, had a quick bite of breakfast on the Lido deck and when our color/number was called we went down and straight out About a 15 minute wait in the customs line, then straight on to the bus and to the airport. We liked having these options of HAL taking our luggage to the airport ahead for us and getting on a bus they arranged to get us to the airport.
Honestly, I'm having a hard time thinking of too many "cons". The worse thing was the service in the Main Dining Room - slow. The food wasn't always 5-star quality food, but it wasn't horrible. A few nights, I got the wrong entree but they were quick to correct the problem. If the food wasn't to your liking, you were encouraged to return it and order something else.
As for the entertainment, if you go expecting a Vegas show - go to Vegas. You'll be disappointed if that's what you're looking for on the ship, but then - that's why these people aren't in Vegas. It was good Cruise Ship Entertainment.
Watch your toes! There were many elderly with electric scooters and you need to get out of their way! One night in the Vista Lounge, a lady ran right over my feet with her electric scooter (VERY painful!), then into a railing, and 2 tables before coming to a stop. She got out of her scooter and sat down to enjoy the show as if nothing had happened. I know this is nothing the crew can do anything about - but just be cautious around those scooters, wheelchairs and walkers! Luckily it happened near the end of the cruise, or I would have been miserable. Less
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Cabin review: 8052
We loved 8052. We had read reviews that staterooms on that deck were noisy from the Lido, but we didn't find that at all. One night we heard furniture being moved around the pool on the Lido after an event up there, but it quieted down by 10:30. I like to feel the ship motion when I go to bed, so the slight movement/swaying of the ship was no problem. One afternoon I heard very faint music from the Steel Drum class above us, but nothing bothersome. I'd definetly book this cabin again.
Port and Shore Excursions
We loved the snorkeling - the seas were a bit rough and current was strong, but still it was fun. We had over 70 people on our catamaran, and most were "older". When they got in the water to snorkel I was a bit nervous for them because there were only 4 crew members on the catamaran - I think there should have been a few more crew members or less people there in case of emergency. It was obvious many of them had never snorkeled before. Two older people weren't paying attention to where they were going and swam over my husband, pushing him down causing to go down on some coral. A little instruction from the crew might have helped. We did 2 snorkeling stops, and many of them didn't dive off at the 2nd stop.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
We really wanted to go into the fort, but it was very pricey ($17/person) so we opted out of going in, but Wil shared the history of the fort with us as we toured outside. Again, the vendors are very persistent but usually polite. Don't try to take a picture of the "Fruit Ladies" unless pay them! They are not happy if you snap a picture and don't pay.
We were very leary about going into Cartagena even with a cruise line shore excursion, let alone on our own, but we are SO glad we did. We hired Wil after we got off the ship and he was great! Good English, so it was easy to understand him. He took us to great spots. We had heard that Cartagena was dangerous, but if you use good common sense you'll be fine. Don't hesitate to go into the Old City and enjoy! The street vendors are very persistent, but pleasant. We wish we would have been able to spend more time there.
La Popa Monastery
This was the first place Wil took us and it was a great place to start - great views of all of the city and very interesting. He talked with us about things we saw on the way up the hill.
Museo de Oro y Arqueologia
Wil took us in the Gold Museum and at first I thought it was just a cool place to get out of the heat, but it was very interesting
We were excited to take the Monkey Watch excursion and it didn't disappoint! After the bus ride, we got on to a small boat at Gamboa and went out into Gatun Lake and saw many of the ships that went into the locks before and after us (the was about half way across the country). Then the fun started as we turned down small streams and tributaries - first families of howler monkeys, and several capuchin monkeys - two even came onto our boat! We also saw several Snail Kites (large hawk sized birds) - very interesting to watch them, a crocodile, lots of other birds and butterflies. A very relaxing and interesting trip.
The only suggestion would be it should be advertised as a 1 hour bus ride in each direction - at first, we thought we might have gotten on the wrong bus, but all's well that ended well.
We grabbed a tour on our own after we got off the ship and had a great time - she showed us all over Willemstad and was told us a lot about the history of the island. She let us off where we wanted and gave us a great suggestion of where to grab some lunch with the locals (had goat for lunch)
So sad we weren't able to get off the ship there - the seas were too rough for the tenders to take people to shore. A wise decision by the captain, but a sad one for us. It looked so beautiful!
Rainforest Aerial Tram Tour
Even the 2 hour bus ride in each direction was interesting - got to see many banana and pineapple plantations as we drove by. Our guide, Manuel, spoke very good English and filled us in on everything we saw. When we reached the tram spot we transferred onto smaller buses and drove down to where the tram starts (about a 2 minute ride). Manuel told us there was a sloth up in the tree, and sure enough he was there. But then a large tapir came thru and it was interesting to watch her feed. The tram ride was great -only 6 people + the guide, so it felt very personal (I just wish there had been less talking so we could enjoy the sounds of the rainforest more). If you go expecting to see a lot of animals, this tour is not for you. You hear the monkeys and birds but don't see much of them. But that was OK - we went to learn about the rainforest. Beautiful plants and ecosystems. About half way thru it started to pour so we got the full "rainforest" experience. We didn't take ponchos, and wish we had! When the tram ride was over (about 90 minutes) there was a lovely Costa Rican lunch for us and time to shop in their gift shop. There is a short nature walk that I'd highly suggest you take - the guides explain details about the plants and we even saw a small poisonous frog and a vipir snake. Their display of orchids is also very interesting. While we were waiting for the bus to take us back up top, the tapir came back and as she walked down one path, her baby came along. A thought she might come back to get him, but she kept on going. The baby cried out for her - stayed near us for a few minutes then went on his way. All in all a very interesting day.
While we really enjoyed the Aerial Tram, I was there had been time to also do the Veragua Rainforest tour. I've heard from others that it was an incredible trip - next time!