We choose this Panama canal cruise to celebrate my husband's retirement after 50 years as a professor, and to celebrate our son's 50th birthday. Both events were not acknowledged at all even though I had made a special request via telephone several weeks prior to cruising. Our balcony cabin room 5154 was the smallest balcony room we have ever had on more than 20 cruises. We had requested a balcony with a sofa that would be used as a twin bed but what we got was a hide a bed that when pulled out totally obstructed the entire balcony entrance and therefore we could not use the balcony at all and we could barely squeeze around to even get into any or the room or beds. Horrible balcony and NOT what we asked for at all. They did have balcony rooms for three with a sofa as we requested and I was with our TA when she specifically requested this type room. So to say that this started our adventure on the wrong foot is saying it mildly.
We went to dinner the first night in the dining room, service was good, food throughout the 11 days was okay but not even as good as Carnival's food. It didn't even come close to Princess line. We did anytime dining and rarely had to wait. This is the first time I can truthfully say that the food in the Lido café was better than the elegant dining room. Someone else mentioned that shrimp were scare on this ship, we only had shrimp cocktails one or two times in eleven days where as on all our other ships it was a standard every night. The dining room breakfasts were very good but they had tables and chairs so squeezed together that often the waiters could not place your food in front of you but had to hand it over through other passengers dining.
The daytime activities were almost none. Other than digital this or that and a few culinary demos by a girl who did not even know how to pronounce the ingredients she was attempting to cook. She was an event planner not a chef or even a real cook. Days were boring most of the time was spent at the pools reading because little else other than making ribbon roses or bookmarks, or trivia was listed. No games at the pool, no ice carvings or even demos of any kind such as they have on Carnival, Royal or Princess. I guess because the median age for this cruise had to 70+ they thought we were all dead and would not enjoy anything lively. Evening entertainment was not even comparable to a local dance recital. There was one, just one real variety show with costumes and dancing in 11 nights, the other nights were 3 comedians who were truly dull and one magnificent violinist. The illusionist was said to re world reknown but had he not had his little poodle with him would have been booed off the stage he was so, so bad.
The piano bar was great except the same people each night pushed their was in at 8:45 and never left, it was like a cult following and God forbid if you tried to get close to even see him play it was like it was their private party. We enjoyed the casino each night. The room selection for example the dancing with the stars lessons was so crowed that often people would try to get on the floor to learn the dance and then just leave because it was too many people in too small of a room. Which was sort of strange since the Northern Lights lounge was empty most of the time with no one in it at all every night.
The people running and working on the ship were lovely, very friendly and polite. Our room steward was rarely seen and when I tried to call the 90 number to reach a steward no one ever answered therefore it was our job each morning to push the hide a bed away so we could at least go outside to the balcony for a minute. No ice was ever placed in our ice bucket not that we could have gotten to it or the frig. with the bed down.
The Excursions were okay but the descriptions as far as walking distances etc. were not well defined and on the Rainforest Varagoua tram excursion it was really nothing but walking and very little time on the tram about 10 minutes of tram over the forest at all. Interesting but not what we expected and were told that there was little walking.
Would I ever use Holland again doubtful unless they do something to reimburse us for a balcony room that we could never use the balcony or even take a nap in due to the horrible hide a bed situation. I would advise you to look carefully at your room online and make sure it is what you ask for. We could have easily gotten a small suite but were assured by Holland that this 5154 room was adequate for 3 adults....maybe if they each were little people and only weighted 100 pounds. Not a great experience on the Zuider. The canal was breath taking and for that I can now cross it off my bucket list.