Having cruised mostly on NCL over the past 10 years,we wanted to try different cruise lines to see for ourself's how they compare. HAL is the last cruise line for us to try. We enjoyed all our cruises and find things we like and things we don't like with all the cruise lines. This HAL cruise was on the Zuiderdam. It was chose based on the minimum days off and that it arrived back at our home port of San Francisco.
We boarded on a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver. My initial impression of the ship was that it felt crowded and somewhat worn out. The carpeting used seemed a bit strange in color and design. The buffet did not have very good selections and because of a virus from the previous cruise passengers were not allowed to serve themselves. As the cruise progressed we started to slowly appreciate the Zuiderdam. Yes, it was not spanking new but had wonderful decorations throughout the ship which after a while gave us the feeling of being more upscale.
Food in MDR was very good,and our experience in the Pinnacle grill was the best we ever experienced at sea. The staff was very friendly and the neptune lounge was a great treat for snacks rest. The cabin was large and well appointed but not the most luxurious we ever had. It does seem in need of refreshing. The balcony was nice and good sized. The ship it self was well layed out and easy to navigate. It didn't have too much wow factor but was very nice in its understated design. The walk around prom deck was teak with chairs and warm blankets available. The overall appeal of the ship felt very cozy and warm rather then glitz. It was a nice change from NCL. Not better but different. Some of the entertainment was enjoyably different as well like violin and cellos playing in the explorer lounge.
The people on this cruise seem to fall into two categories. Those like us taking the 3 day cruise and the ones who were going through the panama canal. The panama canal passengers were much older but very nice and enjoyable to speak with. Most having lived their lives and raised families already seemed much more relaxed with life then us middle age people with frustrations on job and raising kids. So thanks HAL for a great weekend getaway. We will be sure to cruise them again,especially when our kids grow up.