Prior to this cruise, I became somewhat concerned due to many of the comments addressing air conditioning and plumbing problems. I am happy to report that I experienced none of these issues. Now on to my review:
We were in Ft. Lauderdale for a family event prior to the cruise and had rented a car. Much to my surprise, I learned that the company with whom we rented offered a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades. I must have been the only one who did not realize this as many of the passengers on the shuttle were heading to the Zuiderdam. We walked in the doors of the terminal at 12:20 p.m. and after a brief wait to get through security, we were on the ship at 1:10 p.m.
Our first stop was to customer service to confirm that our shipboard credits were accurate (we were receiving a nice amount from our TA and wanted to be sure everything was in order). I am happy to report that all of our credits and other "perks" were 100% accurate. We then headed to our cabin (SY 5001). We had booked a guaranteed SY and two days prior to sailing, finally received our cabin assignment. I was a bit surprised that we were given a handicapped stateroom as neither of us are handicapped. I called my TA to confirm that HAL was aware that we were not handicapped and she told us that if there is availability, HAL will assign these to guarantee passengers. She also told us that these staterooms are much larger. She was not kidding! It was a fantastic cabin and with the exception of not having a second sink and too much counter space in the bathroom, we loved this cabin! We especially liked having an additional window that faced forward!
Yes, the Zuiderdam is an older ship, but I found her to be a beautiful ship and easy to navigate! I am directionally challenged but I quickly and easily found my way around! I had no issues with the color scheme and while there was definitely some wear and tear, it certainly had no impact on my cruise. During our 11-night cruise we had our balcony varnished, our stateroom chairs shampooed, and the ship was always being painted while in port. In addition to that, HAL's ships are the most spotless I've ever been on! The crew is constantly wiping down handrails and elevator buttons and when coming back from port they were there to immediately vacuum up the sand!
I thought the food was pretty good! My only complaint was that the first omelet I ordered was way undercooked in the middle, but after that I requested that it be cooked a little longer and they came out great from that point on. We had anytime dining for dinner and always chose a table for four. We met wonderful people and enjoyed the intimacy of a table for four much better than the larger tables we have had on previous cruises. I usually made reservations the night before but on those nights that I didn't, we showed up around 5:30 and were seated immediately. We had one dinner in the Pinnacle Grill (as part of the Explore 4 promotion) and it was amazing! My husband would have preferred his fish to be cooked a little more than it was, but he enjoyed it none the less.
The entertainment was adequate. We enjoyed the singers and dancers but found it odd that they booked two piano players on one cruise. While both players were amazing, we would have preferred a little more variety. It was still an enjoyable hour of entertainment. We did find that seats are more readily available at the 10:00 p.m. show. If you want to attend the earlier show, I would recommend arriving at least 20 minutes early. We liked the B.B. King show, but found it to be very loud in the small venue in which they perform. The one time they performed in the showroom it was perfect, but otherwise it was just too loud for us.
We booked the Thermal Suite for the entire cruise and I booked three other spa treatments. The hydrotherapy pool was fantastic, but the steam rooms and sauna's were not always in working order. This was a bit frustrating, but again, not enough to ruin the cruise. The spa treatments were relaxing and they didn't really push any products once I said I wasn't interested. In fact, I found the photographers to be far pushier than the spa staff. Photos have also gone up in price which was disappointing as I usually like to purchase the photos that are taken. This time I limited my purchases due to the cost.
I will say that the crew is very eager to please and always had smiles on their faces. There was even one time that the ice cream station was closed, but when the crew member came out and saw us and another couple standing there disappointed, she went ahead and served us.
The crowd on this ship was predominately senior and retired, but we met many wonderful people and had a great time. There were times when activities were non-existent, but I used those times to sit outside and either read or listen to music.
All in all we had a wonderful, relaxing cruise and have already booked our next cruise on the Noordam!