This was our third cruise (excepting 4 day Carnival "fling" from NYC to Canada)and per several more veteran cruisers my wife and I are working our way backwards through cruise experiences. First the 320 passenger Paul Gauguin, then the 750 passenger Azamara Journey and now the 1,800 passenger Zuiderdam. We did the 11 day Caribbean cruise into the Panama Canal from Port Everglades. We were joined by a couple we met on the Gauguin cruise 5 years ago who have become friends.
We were offered and had purchased an upgrade to a SC stateroom 4 days before departure and the extra money was well worth it! From priority embarkation, to our own concierge staff (Vincent and Sharlene) to daily laundry and dry cleaning, it made for a pampered experience.
My wife and I both still work full time and we both needed this break from our stressful jobs. Other than the Canal transit, our friends Sue and Ed and us were mainly looking forward to relaxation, not sightseeing. We got plenty of it! Sunbathing and reading at the aft Lido pool, or in the Crow's Nest lounge, couples massages at the Spa, happy hours playing hearts with our friends. We really enjoyed the sea days. The ports of call were not really for sightseeing or activities, with the exception of the zipline adventure in Puerto Limon Costa Rica. The Canal transit was, of course, the sightseeing highlight of the cruise. Other than intermittent rain, it exceeded my expectations (most likely due to my profession as an engineer). The other fascinating activity was the tour of the ship, which Ed and I took on the second to last day of the cruise. It was worth the $150 fee, especially after accounting for the gift bag that each of the 15 tour takers received at the end of the tour.
HAL provided excellent service and the Zuiderdam facilities were good. Our only critique is that she's ready for another refit as decor and fittings are a bit dated and worn.
All in all we felt the cruise had high value