Our December cruise on the Zuiderdam was our third, all on Holland America ships. The first two were on the Eurodam. My wife is in her mid 60s and I am 71. We are generally fit, like to visit new destinations and we enjoy meeting other travelers. On this cruise, we traveled with two cousins.
Unfortunately, the cruise got off to a bit of a rough start as the Zuiderdam was late getting back into Port Everglades from its previous cruise. When we arrived at the ship at about 11 am, we found passengers from the previous cruise still disembarking. Apparently, the ship had had a mechanical problem the night before. This, of course, caused long lines and delayed embarkation. Surprisingly, however, luggage was in our rooms by around 4pm and the ship was only delayed in sailing by an hour or two.
We found the Zuiderdam to be showing its age a bit – at least compared to the newer Eurodam. Rubberized flooring around the central pool had a few stains that apparently can not be removed and there was the occasional spot of rust. Wall coverings are getting a bit tired and in our cousin's room the refrigerator failed early in the cruise. The deck crew, however, was constantly on the job of polishing and repainting.
We found the ship’s crew as hard working and pleasant as always on Holland America. Our room stewards were delightful. However, drink service at both the main dining room and at the Crow’s Nest during happy hours was a bit slow and appeared understaffed. Ships’ officers were very involved with the cruise. I saw the captain almost as much as I saw my wife – well, not quite.
The recent requirement that ship’s staff must serve coffee, soft drinks and desserts (rather than self service) at the Lido Restaurant for the first two or three days of the cruise for health reasons took a bit of getting used to but when it reverted, lines were shorter.
The only disappointment of the cruise occurred at the Panama Canal portion. Due to exceedingly heavy rains recently in Panama, day tours had to be cancelled due to flooded roads and that night the brief port call at Colon was cancelled because of heave winds off the Caribbean. We did get through the locks to Gatun Lake although the Canal had been closed completely the day before.
Meals, as usual, were excellent. We dined most nights in the Vista dining room and enjoy getting dressed up for the formal nights – something we don’t do at home. I even went so far as to buy a tux for this cruise (JC Penny has a great price on worsted wool tuxes). I figure I’ll be able to save on rental costs for future cruises. Although there were four of us in our party, we usually asked for larger tables as that gave us the opportunity to meet other cruisers – most of whom we found informative and delightful to talk with.