We just returned from a trip to the Panama Canal on the ms Zuiderdam. This was not an enjoyable trip. We have sailed with Holland America before in the Mediterranean on the ms Noordam and that trip was very nice, what I think a Holland America voyage should be like.
The Zuiderdam was a tired and worn ship. Furniture was broken, worn and stained. Our room was not as clean as it should have been. There was rust and peeling paint various places on the outside, most noticeable on the stairs to the tenders. The vinyl in that area was buckled and was a fall hazard. The deck chairs on the promenade deck were in serious need of varnish as well.
The Lido restaurant was hot most of the time. Trying to eat a meal while dripping sweat was not enjoyable. They have designed these ships so the Lido restaurant is between two pools which promotes this heat and humidity problem. It also creates a traffic flow problem in the restaurant. There is very little room to maneuver around the food stations and if someone stops it blocks up the pathway. People are always coming and going from the pool area which creates more congestion. The temperature on this ship was hot in places and freezing in others. Minor, I know, but the windows were very dirty everywhere. Sitting in the bar for a glass of wine in the evening, you could hardly see out for the dirt and salt grime.
Having said all that, the food in the dining room was good and the Pinnacle Grill was excellent! It was nice to eat in the Pinnacle Grill because you were seated by yourself, you were not forced to sit with someone else. The dining room was not very accommodating when you requested a table for two. Most of the time they sat us with someone else anyway. The one time we sat at a table for two there was a constant drip from the ceiling. We called the waiter over and he said "it does that all the time" and did not offer to move us. When we insisted, we were moved to a table for two behind a waiter station in the back corner. Normally, we don't mind sitting with other people. However, this trip there were a lot of people sneezing and coughing so we tried to stay to ourselves. It seems to me when you request open seating, you should be seated at a table for just your party unless you request otherwise. I understand they have to group people together as best they can because of wait staff but when you request a table for just your party, you should get a table for just your party. I was further mystified because the dining room was not full and they had plenty of tables.
Another thing of note, the crew did not seem as friendly or helpful on this ship. On the Noordam, most of them smiled or said hello and were very helpful when you requested something. Not on this ship. Some of them just looked tired and worn out, like the ship. To be fair, we did have a lovely waitress in the Pinnacle Bar named Jasmine! She was just a super person and we noticed lots of people came each night before dinner to have a drink and speak to Jasmine.
The entertainment was so-so. They did have a great comedy, magician on this cruise we liked a lot and an amazing steel drum act. Other than that, not much to talk about. To be fair, the Noordam didn't either. Holland America still allows smoking on their decks, verandahs and in the casino. The smell is so overwhelming in the casino that you can't spend much time in there.
One other thing on this cruise. The wine stewards were very high pressure about buying a bottle instead of a glass of wine. Asking once is ok, pushing the issue makes the situation very uncomfortable.
The day before we disembarked, the cruise director told us what we needed to know about the disembark process and about the survey. He told us a that the Zuiderdam was due to go into dry-dock for refurbishment. Sort of made me feel like he was saying we should forgive the condition of the ship due to that. My thoughts are, why did you wait this long to put the ship into dry-dock? That ship should have been in dry-dock long before our cruise.
Overall, I felt like this was a first class trip on a third class ship! Not sure I want to cruise with Holland America again because I'm not sure what kind of ship I'll get next time, one like the Noordam or one like the Zuiderdam. Not sure I want to take that chance.