We couldn't have asked for more from our most recent cruise with HAL Zuiderdam. As a young couple we have been on ships before that I would call "geriatric" in nature. Being that it was a holiday cruise the average age was a lot younger. The ship had an energetic atmosphere and a lot of fun things to do and watch.
I've read a lot of negative reviews about the Zuiderdam on here, sanitation, pools, state of the ship, etc. I would have to say that for the most part your experience is your attitude and what you make of it. Are the carpets on the stairs worn? Yes. But does that effect the quality of the food or the friendliness of the staff or the ports of call? No. So why does that matter? In fact, I didn't even notice it until someone mentioned it in passing on our second last day. I was too busy running up and down them to activities to notice.
As for the pools, they were clean and cool... perfect for the hot, humid weather we got in Panama and the Caribbean. The best time of day to go is around 5 when everyone is eating or getting ready to eat and the sun is setting. It's not too hot and there is plenty of room in the pools and by the deck. There was often entertainment on the deck, whether it was the HALcats or the solo guitarist, DJ Mario with pool games or line dancing. There were several barbecues, the dessert extravaganza and a late night pool party.
The cleanliness of the ship was above our previous experiences. Measures are in place to ensure no one serves themselves for the first 48 hours and there are hand sanitizing stations everywhere. This is the first cruise I have gone on without catching my usual cruise cough. The staff are always scrubbing and cleaning and wiping and vacuuming. So impressive.
My husband and I took advantage of all the activities and game shows. We had a blast either participating or observing and laughed a lot and met wonderful people. We didn't have assigned seating and even on nights when the reservation desk said the dining room was full, there were always tables available for walk-up guests with no wait. The food was excellent all over the ship and we especially loved the ice cream bar and waffle cones. If there is ever frozen watermelon pie on the menu, order 2!
The entertainment for the most part was great. We loved the comedian and the juggler/comedian. We enjoyed the steel drum band and the dancers. The magician was corny and did tricks we saw several times before but his dog stole the show!
We loved the explorer's lounge with the crossword puzzle tables and chess, scrabble, sudoku, trivia, etc. It was a wonderful place to relax.
Cruise director Jason was younger than most we've seen and had a lot of humour and energy. He always started shows with funny stories from the day before.
Travel guide Brett was awesome. (I have a tiny crush but my husband is well aware! lol) His presentations prepared us for the ports and he had a few awesome inside tips that helped us find a rental vehicle and see things we wouldn't have normally.
The ports were awesome! If you stop in Gatun Lake, Panama, please visit the tribal village. It was an experience of a lifetime and the lovely people who live there will steal your hearts and you will want to take all of the kids home with you! What a wonderful experience and they were so welcoming and gracious. LOVED IT! It was truly the highlight of our trip.
I can't say enough positive things about our cabin stewards and the staff on the ship. We didn't pass one staff member the entire time who didn't say good morning or good afternoon with a hug smile. It was so great getting to know them and interact and have them be a part of our holiday.
As a tip, we were on the seventh floor and it was perfect. It wasn't noisy, only two floors to the lido deck, food, pools, etc. and it wasn't as rocky in the rough seas as it was in other parts of the ship. The swaying was slight and put me to sleep quickly most nights.
Everything about our trip was amazing and we had the best, best time. Can't say the same for our trips to and from the Ft. Lauderdale seaport (shady cab drivers, etc.) but our cruise experience was perfect!