We chose this cruise for the itinerary which was almost the only good part. It was feezing onboard through the entire cruise. Some guests were taking blankets with them to sit anywhere including inside. Dining room was very uncomfortably ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary which was almost the only good part. It was feezing onboard through the entire cruise. Some guests were taking blankets with them to sit anywhere including inside. Dining room was very uncomfortably cold. Staterooms were also chilly even with turning heat up. My bed was horrible and slanted down to the floor so much that I needed a seatbelt to stay in. The mattress was so hard and thin that I didn't sleep for the first week until our steward found a better mattress. Don't know whose he stole but made me happy. Their ads about having a choice of pillows and mattresses is bogus. They had neither. Safety was a problem as there were quite a number of falls because of water where it shouldn't be or gaps in flooring or no railings. The dinner menu and food was fairly good but I am a very good cook and it was never higher than what I could easily do at home. Fruit and vegetables were rationed on the first half of trip to the point of cutting blueberries in half (and you got one half) and vegetables were garnish only. You could get a huge Prime Rib but only 2 carrot slices. Weird. Escargot was excellent. Desserts were good although creme brulee was a disappointment. I should have tried the version in the upscale paid restaurant. Breakfast either in dining room or buffets was never worthwhile, lunch was adequate. Salad bar was best lunch venue when dining room was closed which it was on port days. Hamburger joint was good, fries wete great but be warned that they had gluten on them in form of spiced flour. Virtually no gluten ftee options except toast and best of luck ever getting that. Almost everything in buffets, which we rarely did except when dining was closed, was overcooked and bland. Fruit often had mold, too many people and very few, and inattentive servers. There was often nowhere to eat except room service as the buffets were closed in morning and afternoon except for certain hours which we missed a lot. Don't sleep in or you are out of luck. When you come back from a shorter day onshore you don't want to wait for room service but there would be hour gaps or longer when everything including a cup of tea, was not available..Service was horrible except in main dining room. Ate at the paid Italian dining room for a disappointing meal, half very good, half dreadful. They used same cooks as the buffet! Not worth it. Unfortunately, we only went one time late in the cruise for the paid lunch for $10 and wished we had done that every day it was open. Best meal we had on the cruise and the level I had expected in regular dining room. Waiters in main dining were good, some awful, some superior. They got considerably better on the last two days as they trolled for tips and good reviews. We were constantly reminded by all the waiters including head staff to give them a top rating. Very annoying and tacky. The maître de was the finest I have seen anywhere land or sea and remembered our names almost from the beginning. He was amazing and lovely. The entertainment was good and enjoyable but there was very little on sea days except lectures which were good. One foursome Acapella women singers were one of the best acts on any cruise, all the comedians were great, and the mime was one of the funniest and most interesting acts we had ever seen. Unbelievable! The biggest complaint most passengers had was the horrible, incompetent and rude upper staff, particularly with the shore excursions. If you didn't buy from the cruise line, they would give you no information. Part way through the Baltic they did a little better because of the hundreds of furious passengers, but we could never get the correct information. One officer would tell you something, another, the opposite and then argued with you when you would mention the confusion. Many of us complained about the lack of a leader as NO ONE EVER seemed to know what was going on. The cruise director was seen more on shore in the bars with local girls than onboard ship where we needed him. I may cruise with Holland America again but never on the Zuiderdam. Anyone who didn't pay the excessively higher than usual ship tour prices got shafted completely. It was inexcusable. Pretty much everyone on board were senior citizens and the lack of correct information or assistance was appalling. We missed much in the cities because of confusion and the ineptness of the officers and upper staff. Most of the ladies at the front desk were very good but there was still a great deal of conflicting information. They ruined much of our enjoyment from the ports because of the excess time a lot of us old people wasted wandering around trying to find where to go once off the ship. Information on the ports, and the buses to nearby towns was almost impossible to discover. In one tiny port that was not the big city we expected, I asked an officer what town it was and he hemmed and hawed before telling me. Really? One of the worst examples of idiocy was the 2 days docked in St Petersburg. Tours were sold and arranged for both days BY THE CRUISE LINE. Imagine our surprise to get to Russia and find out it was closed. It was a holiday, and virtually everything including the Hermitage and the Palaces were not open the first day. Does Holland America not have Internet? They scheduled hundreds of tours for places that were closed! Almost all of the tours on the whole cruise were 3 times or more what it cost to get off the ship and buy yourself. And with less of a tour. That was the reason so many of us did the ports on our own. Doubling is acceptable but the costs were outrageous.
The ports themselves made up for a lot as Northern Europe is amazingly stunning, in architecture and natural beauty. Anyone considering the Baltic tour should do just the first 28 days as Norway looked all the same at each stop. Scotland had Edinburgh which needs a week or more to enjoy and Inverness was interesting. Taking your own side trip to Scotland would be more fruitful as most of the cruise port stops are just where the Scots go to get somewhere else. Nothing there. I would only rate the cruise 3 stars and that is being generous. Oh yes, the WiFi either didn't work or was horridly slow and cost a fortune. Do not waste your time or money. Had good Internet connections on the hop on, hop off buses which were the best value of all. You can buy ONLINE AHEAD OF CRUISE a multiple city ticket that will save at least half. Do it before the cruise on Red Bus or one of the others HOP ON HOP OFF companies. You can use them in several of the cities on this cruise but it is very confusing as there are different hop on hop off, mostly red and upset many people when they couldn't get on the correct bus. Rick Steve's books are slightly helpful but you really don't understand half of what he is saying until after you have gone the first time. Get his book from the library, photocopy the cities, and staple each city individually so you don't have to haul around a book. Online tours in St. Petersburg were 1\4 the price of HAL , were longer and were in vans of 6-8 passengers instead of buses with 60-100. And some offer early entrance to the Hermitage AND in spite of what HAL tells you, they include the tourist visa. It can be very confusing with the Russian visa thing. Unless you want to wander on your own which isn't advisable, you do not need a visa. Do your research before you go and it will make a much more enjoyable and fulfilling trip. And bring warm clothing as our trip in April and May was 20-30 degrees below normal. Surprise!! Read Less