On Saturday, May 30, 2009, we were dropped off at our home port of Vancouver. There did not seem to be any system for the luggage. The porters weren't really helpful and looked to be in somewhat of an early morning daze. By no means did this change the mood of excitement. We were able to get our luggage onto a cart and then proceeded to US Customs. The line was fairly long but it moved quickly.
As we passed through customs, anticipation for our week-long vacation grew. We were shown to the holding area where we had a fill out health forms. This holding area was done very systematically and went rather quickly. Before we knew it, we were speaking with an agent and getting our room card/picture taken.
Upon booking this trip, we decided to take an inside guarantee. It wasn't important to us to have a window or balcony. However, not ever having booked a guarantee before the anticipation and wait to find out our room number was nerve racking. We received our room assignment 3 days out. They assigned us to an inside handicapped cabin on the main deck forward. Once on board and after the announcement the rooms were available, we stopped by the front office to let them know if anyone needed the cabin, we would be willing to give it up. It turned out no one did. When we reached our cabin, we were pleasantly surprised at the size of the cabin and the size of the bathroom shower. Also, the location was extremely close to the forward elevators and the Vista Theatre which was great. Our cabin steward, Iwan & Moi were outstanding. At our request, they emptied our fridge and kept our ice bucket well stocked.
Upon first impression of the Zuiderdam, she is a lovely ship. The carpet colours may be dated. In fact, it reminded me of a Vegas hotel... I loved it! The artwork around the ship is wonderful. I wish I had downloaded the art tour from the website so I knew where to look as I'm sure I missed something somewhere.
Due to the health alert from the previous cruise, there was no self-service in the buffet. The wait staff handed out the drinks, all the trays and the food. The lines were long at times, especially during the breakfast hour and between noon and 1pm. For the most part, passengers didn't seem too bothered by this. If needed, wait staff where plentiful and assisted by carrying the trays to a table for you.
The food was average in my opinion and nothing to write home about. I enjoyed breakfast the most. There are several choices but I opted for the omelette and waffle stations most mornings. Lunch was enjoyed in the Lido and we split out dinners between the Lido and the Vista dining room, depending on what we did during the day. We attended the Dessert Extravangza (not to be but to see) and have to say I was a little disappointed with the presentation. The nice thing with this ship, they let the passengers get in to take pictures before all the eating began.
The ship is nicely laid out and did not feel too large or overcrowded at all. There was never really a long wait for the elevators. The Crow's Nest on Deck 10 is the perfect place to kick back an watch the scenery float by. Deck 9 was a popular deck. This is where you can find the spa (which seemed to be heavily used), the covered Lido pool, the Lido Buffet and the outdoor aft pool. On deck 2 and 3, you'll find all the ships, casino, movie theatre, bars, restaurants and lounges. The one thing that was a little confusing was the Queen's Lounge and the Culinary Arts Center. They are the same location. Once you realize this, it makes things a little more clear. On deck 1, the front office and shore excursions desks can be found.
We attended the majority of the main entertainment shows. The singers and dancers were enjoyable. Their costumes and stage props were great, especially for the last show "Dreampark". Special acknowledgement goes out to Gene and Rickae. They both have fantastic voices and stage presence. The comedian Lee Bayliss had me laughing so hard I was crying. He's a great clean comic. The illusionist James Cielen was also enjoyable. It was amazing how he did he act.
Cruise Director, Shane, was great. He was funny, well spoken and always seemed to have a smile on his face when you passed him in the halls.
For this week in Alaska, we were blessed with unbelievable weather. When speaking with the locals, they said it was record highs. I can believe it! I still can't decide whether Juneau or Ketchikan was the warmest. It was like the ship headed south instead of North. Lots of tank tops and shorts were worn.
Tracy Arm was beautiful but due to ice flow, we did not make it to the Sawyer Glaciers. However, since we had time to spare before arriving in Juneau, the Captain sat in the fjord for about an hour. It was wonderful. Glacier Bay was spectacular with the Marjorie Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier. It was awe-inspiring.
The port towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan were all hopping with cruiseship passengers. Having visited Alaska last September, we only did the Railway excursion in Skagway. I really enjoyed it especially with all the snow at White Pass Summit.
Wildlife was plentiful. We saw whales (orcas/humpbacks), porpoises, bald eagles and seals. Reports from the bridge indicated bear sightings on shore but we didn't bring binoculars so we missed out.
Once in Vancouver, customs was the usual zoo and we chose the slow lane. It took us about 45 minutes but that made it easier on the other side to collect our luggage. That only took minutes and we were on our way home.
In summary, this cruise was fantastic. I would defiinitely sail this ship again and would also tray another ship in the fleet. Thanks HAL for a great week away.