We joined my parents for what we were expecting to be a great Alaska cruise in HAL's Zuiderdam. Unfortunately, the ship was a disappointment.
Our last cruise was on the Eurodam and it was a great ship with good food and service and this was a deciding factor when looking at Alaska cruises. Our Zuiderdam experience was just the opposite.
First - The ship:
It is very tired and the Lido deck is in bad shape. Light grids are missing from the florescent fixtures leaving rusted fixtures to look at. The floor is gouged, tiles cracked with looking as if holes were punched in them, and Mismatched and worn furniture on the decks. Several light bulbs were burned out the entire cruise.
The buffet area had equipment that kept failing (steam tables, toasters, coffee machines, etc.) and one of the glass "sneeze" guards where entrees are prepared was shattered. Other noticeable items around the ship include torn ceiling panels in the piano bar, the worn wall coverings in elevators, frayed and worn carpets, scratched brass...I could go on.
Fortunately our cabins were in pretty good shape. We were in a superior suite and my parents in a deluxe suite. Baths showed signs of some bad grout and caulking repair and the a/c cover in our room looked as if it had been taped up with the sticky residue left behind. (Wouldn't have notice if it wasn't the first thing I saw when laying on the bed.)
Second - The food:
What happened HAL???!!! Perhaps the main reason we booked on HAL again was my father uses a motorized scooter and isn't always comfortable in the dining room so we take most meals in the Lido. The Lido food on the Eurodam was the best buffet food we've experienced on a ship. The Z'dam Lido food was about the same quality as a Hometown Buffet. Quarter inch "NY Steaks", overcooked inedible pork, and overall just very bland.
We tried the dining room for lunch to see if it was any better and again, very mediocre with one dish (mac & cheese!) inedible. My parents had room service on evening and to quote my mother, "how do you mess up a sandwich?".
Fortunately the Lido Manager (Oscar) was kind enough to get us into the Italian restuarant on two of the nights and the food was good. We also ate in the Pinnacle Grill and it too was very good.
Third - The service:
Our room stewards did a fine job keeping our rooms tidy but I must say the tin garbage cans roped to the front of there service carts had a bit of a cringe factor.
The Lido service started out to be very poor. For the first couple of days, tables weren't cleared, no table side beverage service, silverware and napkins difficult to find, and at times, no staff to be seen. The cook staff seemed to be going thru the motions and would not engage with guests.
Our dining room lunch waiter was very indifferent and quite frankly seemed to be very board with his job. Service was very slow and the room just didn't seem to be as clean as it should have been.
After voicing my opinion on a Facebook post I was contacted by the Guest Relations Manager (Dustin) who was very nice and pleasant. He apparently got on the ship the same day we did and I don't think was fully aware of some of the issues I mentioned. We did notice that after our discussion with him, the Lido service improved greatly. Staff were visible, friendly and very efficient.
Also, the hard sell for spa and shopping became very tiresome.
These are just some of the highlights of our experience but I've said enough.
HAL used to be a very good higher end cruise line but now offers a very generic experience and in our case, on a substandard ship. I guess being owned by Carnival is having an effect.
I know some may feel I'm being a bit anal about what some would call "little things" but HAL used to have a reputation for taking care of the "little things". Unfortunately, the have let some of the "little things" on the Zuiderdam become very big things.