Holland America's kids' program, Club HAL, is broken down into three tiers: Club HAL Kids (ages 3 to 7, must be potty trained), Club HAL Tweens (ages 8 to 12) and Teens (ages 13 to 17). The youngest set might participate in arts and crafts, storytelling or ice cream sundae parties, while the Tweens compete in on-deck sporting events like basketball or disco dance-offs. Teen activities include trivia contests, karaoke and card games.
On Zuiderdam, there's one Club HAL space to accommodate the younger age groups, and it's outfitted with a movie screening area and PlayStation consoles. Meanwhile, teens get their own space in the Loft, which features foosball, a jukebox and more PlayStation consoles. There isn't a kids-only pool, so children are encouraged to use the midship swimming area (the aft pool is technically adults-only, but kids are allowed if they're supervised). Activities are generally offered in the mornings, afternoons and evenings, and an After Hours program is available from 10 p.m. until midnight for $5 per child. In-cabin babysitting services are limited; check with the front desk.
It's important to note that the hours and extent of programming often depend on how many children are onboard. For example, youth staff will organize a HAL talent show for kids … when there are 100 or more onboard. There were only 15 children enrolled in the kid's club on our sailing. (There was one lone teen onboard, who opted not to participate in organized activities.) When I popped in early in the afternoon on the last day of the voyage, the program was already shutting down. But, the youth staff was quick to point out that, during the holiday season, the number of kids and teens onboard climbs to around 175.
We love that the Culinary Arts Center gears two special workshops toward younger cruises: ages 3 to 7 and ages 8 and older. These classes are complimentary and focus on cooking safety, cleanliness and measuring. Teenagers (15 and older) may participate in the adult classes.
Bottom line: Zuiderdam might not be the natural choice if you are planning a kid-centric vacation. But, there are ample facilities and activities to entertain young ones if you are also looking for a ship that's flexible enough to accommodate many age groups on a multigenerational family getaway or reunion -- particularly during peak family travel times like the holidays or spring break.