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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the ... Read More
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the morning, when we turned out at 4:30 am so as not to miss anything, is the way to start the day. With a ship in front of us and one behind us, the day's journey through the locks and across the long lake and river were fascinating, a trip back one hundred years and crossing from one great ocean to another with time for lunch and a nap in between! The dreaded bug was present on the ship and the staff exercised extreme diligence in serving at the Lido, which is all the better, given the sanitary habits of some folks, I far prefer to have the staff give the extra service, which they did with enthusiasm and courtesy. The food was wonderful at Lido and especially in the main dining room. The elegance of the ship is fitting for another era and a relief from some of the more glitzy venues on the high seas today. The specialty dining room was worth the upgrade fee and we enjoyed it immensely. The computer lessons were well-attended as the geezers have finally figured out that its time to learn how to use those infernal devices. The speaker on the ship was entertaining and we really enjoyed the various shows and bar lounge entertainers. Aruba and Curasau were wonderful to visit and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2012
Our cruise was from December 10-21, however due to the continuous problems we encountered on-board, Holland America succumb to our request to depart the ship and fly us home on the 14th. One would ask how this could happen to such a highly ... Read More
Our cruise was from December 10-21, however due to the continuous problems we encountered on-board, Holland America succumb to our request to depart the ship and fly us home on the 14th. One would ask how this could happen to such a highly regarded cruise line? Simple, the ship was not in dry-dock long enough to complete everything that needed to be done. The ship arrived to port late, we boarded late, left late, and arrived late to everywhere we were or supposed to be. There were water and computer problems which delayed boarding. Upon arrival to our veranda cabin,there was mold/mildew in the tub area, no bar soap, no robes, no fruit in the basket, no ice in the bucket, a soiled couch (didn't even want to sit on it),a dirty veranda that was full of sawdust and glass that hadn't been cleaned. The air conditioning was problematic in our cabin as well as the entire ship. The line at the desk was steady with people complaining. Damaged luggage, keys not working, no ac , etc etc. The main restaurant was a disaster concerning service, and was the only place on the ship we encountered flies. I even had a hair on my breakfast plate. The same morning my spouse waited 40 minutes before giving up and going to eat in the buffet. We encountered no Internet for the first day which normally wouldn't bother me except that I needed to review and reply to some important legal matters. We had bouts of no propulsion, power failures, contaminated water( we were flown home without knowing what the analysis showed), no ac (a tray of chocolates melted while on the table in our cabin),a small fire in the switchboard, cancelled excursions, and the list goes on and on. The galley had no hot water the first day. The walls and stairs in the common areas creaked. The staff and crew admitted the ship was not 100%. Yes, they were trying to correct everything and were giving it their best 100% but what they needed was 500%, an impossible task. Will say the food when served properly, was excellent. The entertainment enjoyable. And the jet ski excursion on Half Moon Cay was a blast and I highly recommend it. I thought it a little strange that the captain, during his toast didn't recognize what we, the cruise passengers were going through. We thought there was a lack of empathy by the crew and staff.There was never an announcement not to drink the contaminated water which for me, being a doctor, presented a health hazard for the elderly, many whom had compromised immune systems. We ended the cruise by being persistent with the Hotel Manager and Guest Relations Manager, and Holland America agreed to put us up for a night in Aruba, take care of our transfers and plane fare for our trip home, and refund our cruise. As we were finalizing the paper work, there was another power failure leaving us in the dark. We disembarked at 10 pm, the ship was to sail on at 11 pm. Our flight left Aruba on time the following day, and were were overjoyed, arriving home and off that miserable ship. This was our first and last cruise on Holland America. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
My husband and I booked this 11-day Panamanian cruise for our honeymoon. We booked the cruise almost a year in advance, and were counting down the days til embarkation! We had just gotten married and both graduated from graduate school... ... Read More
My husband and I booked this 11-day Panamanian cruise for our honeymoon. We booked the cruise almost a year in advance, and were counting down the days til embarkation! We had just gotten married and both graduated from graduate school... so the cruise was a much awaited time to relax and enjoy each other (stress free!!). My parents (and several other dedicated HAL sailors) have nothing but rave reviews for their HAL experiences, which is one of the reasons why we booked this HAL cruise. Unfortunately, our experience on the Zuiderdam for this cruise did not fit the bill... The Zuiderdam spent 10 days in dry dock before our cruise. I read several other posts about members' pre-dry dock experiences on the Zuiderdam and many people indicted a dire need for ship maintenance and cleaning. The ship returned to Ft. Lauderdale late from dry dock, which made the boarding and embarkation process a complete nightmare. The boarding process was completely disorganized. The ship was supposed to embark at 5:00pm, and being that the ship was late and the ship staff was cleaning, cooking, making up our staterooms, etc, the ship didn't embark until 6:30-7pm. I don't know what (if any) maintenance was done during dry dock, because the ship was very dirty when we boarded. There was sawdust all over the observation deck and stairs, and also on our verandah balcony. My husband also found 3-5 razor blades just laying on a bench on the observation deck (very dangerous). We originally signed up for open seating, however the lines to get in the Vista Dining Room (VDR) were unbelievably long so we ordered room service. The room service was decent. During the whole cruise, we ordered room service about 4 times, and the orders were never entirely correct. One of the biggest issues with this cruise was that the ship incurred several power outages during our sailing. Our stateroom had intermittent power issues which had to continuously be resolved by maintenance staff flipping a breaker to fix the issues. Furthermore, the ship completely lost power on two incidences... and COMPLETELY stopped moving in the middle of the ocean for several hours. You would think the engines would be running on an alternate power source/back up generators, but it didn't seem that way. It's very unnerving to think we were sitting ducks in the middle of the Caribbean with no method of propulsion and maneuverability. Being that this cruise was our honeymoon, we upgraded our stateroom several times to finally stay in a superior verandah suite. One of the reasons we upgraded was to get the larger bathroom equipped with both a shower stall and a whirlpool bathtub. The whirlpool bathtub was a complete let down... the jets never worked! My parents also purchased the Romantic Package for us as a honeymoon gift. The package came with a couples massage, a dinner for two at the Pinnacle Grill, a 8x10 photo from the cruise, a bottle of wine/champagne, fresh flowers in our stateroom, chocolate covered strawberries upon embarkation, $25 worth of casino chips, and two robes with our initials embroidered on them. The massages were absolutely amazing and the staff at the spa was very friendly and welcoming. The dinner at the Pinnacle Grill was slightly better than dinner at the VDR, however my husband got food poisoning the next day which we attribute to the dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. The robes were beautiful, however we were told the embroidery machine was broken and we were not able to get our robes embroidered. The excursions we planned for this cruise were wonderful. We had fantastic excursions in Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, and Costa Rica. I would highly recommend the Dolphin Swim excursion (Curacao) and zip lining excursion (Costa Rica). The ship staff was very friendly, warm-hearted and helpful. Our servers in the VDR were absolutely amazing and went above and beyond to make our dining experience pleasurable. Our stateroom stewards were very attentive and always did a wonderful job cleaning our stateroom (and making fantastic towel animals!). JT our cruise director was fabulous! The on board entertainment was decent, but mediocre at best. Overall, we had a lovely time together on the cruise (being it was our honeymoon). This was my husband's first ever cruise, and my overall fourth cruise... yet this was my first with HAL. I honestly don't know if I will ever cruise with HAL again. We met many cruisers who have sailed many times with HAL and have never experienced anything like this cruise before... so there may be some hope. The jury's still out... Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Embarkation: The Zuiderdam arrived 3 hours late and boarding took hours. There were no beverages or snacks available in the terminal like other cruise lines provide. Even though we had a "Superior Verandah Suite" we did not ... Read More
Embarkation: The Zuiderdam arrived 3 hours late and boarding took hours. There were no beverages or snacks available in the terminal like other cruise lines provide. Even though we had a "Superior Verandah Suite" we did not get priority boarding. On other cruise lines, a balcony category or higher gets you priority boarding. Once on the ship, we were greeted by mass confusion. When I stopped to ask where we could eat, I was rudely told to keep moving. Cabin: When we entered our cabin, we discovered our balcony was filthy. It was covered by a black sooty dirt all over the furniture, rails, and flooring. We scrubbed the balcony ourselves so we could sit out there. Anyone who sat down on there balcony unaware of the filth would have ruined their clothing. While they held us captives in the terminal, they could have warned us that the balconies were filthy. The following day, they hosed them down, but those balconies needed a scrubbing which they didn't get. Our cabin was spacious with a large bathroom with two sinks, jacuzzi tub, and separate shower. The decor was 1950's trailer park. Nothing matched and for a suite it was really quite tacky. The decor I could overlook, but not the filth. Food: The overall quality of the food was very good. However, the "As You Wish" dining was "As HAL Wishes" you would dine, not how you wanted to dine. We asked for a table for two and were taken to a table for six. When we questioned this we were told we needed to make reservations. That defeats the purpose of "As You Wish" dining. The diningroom manager made a standing reservation for us for 6:30 PM as nothing else was available. This was not when we wanted to eat, but we had no choice. The Lido Buffet was a nightmare. Number one problem is they have no trays for you to carry your food to your table. This required multiple trips to the buffet and when you finally got to sit down to eat, the food was cold. You could not serve yourself and there was not nearly enough staff to keep the lines moving. The set-up was really inefficient. Twice I was given food on a plate so hot I couldn't carry it. Water and cold beverages were doled out by staff in tiny juice glasses requiring multiple trips just to get a reasonable amount to drink. The whole dining experience on this ship was very aggravating at the buffet as well as the diningroom. The only good experience we had was with our room service breakfasts which came on time and were what we ordered. Ship: The ship had just come out of dry dock and it really needed about 6 more months of dry dock. Every evening when we went to the diningroom, we had to walk around buckets catching water leaking from who knows where, I hope not a bathroom. Actually, there were many buckets around the ship catching leaking water. Occasionally, I felt water drip on my head while walking down a corridor. We had two fires while on board. Not one, but two! Although they were put out rapidly, you don't feel very safe as a passenger. Also, we lost complete power twice. Its a scary feeling to realize you're dead in the water in the middle of the ocean. This was not a relaxing cruise as we were always wondering what would happen next. Charges: My friend and I had two separate accounts for our charges. The second night on board, we were charged for a glass of wine we didn't order or drink. When this was pointed out to the Front Desk their response was to ask if we were sure we didn't drink the wine. It took 3 days to have the charge taken off our bill. My friend charged a phone card to her account, but they put the charge on my account. I just don't understand how that could happen. That required another visit to the Front Desk. After that, I had them run my account daily to check for errors. A few days before the end of our cruise, my friend and I had to visit the nurse for medication for uper respiratory infections we had caught on the ship. We visited at different times, but when my friend got her statement, she was charged for both her visit and my visit. Again, it was down to the Front Desk to get it corrected. When I got my statement on the morning of departure, I discovered they had now charged me for my visit to the nurse as well as my friend's visit to the nurse. I went down at 6 AM to get it corrected and I was told to come back at 8 AM when they could check with the nurse to see if I had been there twice. By this time, I was quite ill and said I couldn't come back at 8 AM and fight the crowds. Eventually, someone took pity on me and corrected my bill. Entertainment: Unfortunately, we didn't go to many shows because of our mandatory 6:30 PM dinner time. By the time we were done with dinner, there were no decent seats in the theater. We did see Benji Hill and Stage and Screen. Both shows were good. Summary: We had so loked forward to this cruise. We thought we were on a "Five Star" cruise line in a suite. It should have been a great vacation. But when you have to check your bill daily for errors and worry about your safety on board, it definitely spoils the vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early, rented a car and stayed at the Vistamar Villas. It is an older motel style inn, just off the beach. It was very clean and comfortable, though a bit difficult to find, and had free parking. We ... Read More
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early, rented a car and stayed at the Vistamar Villas. It is an older motel style inn, just off the beach. It was very clean and comfortable, though a bit difficult to find, and had free parking. We planned an airboat ride in the Everglades for the next morning, departure day, so had only a very brief interaction with the owner. Had dinner at Bimini Boatyards. Outdoor seating, too dark to read menu, nicely done fish, their special Bimini bread wasn't all that special. We learned, with the kind help of some citizens, where Total Wine could be found (essentially around the corner!) and had a pleasant time learning about inexpensive wine from the sales staff (who seemed just as knowledgeable about inexpensive wine and eager to help us as if we'd been buying the expensive stuff!) The next morning with maps and directions in hand, we headed out to Sawgrass Mills Recreation area to ride an airboat. Our directions and maps were accurate, the traffic was all going the "other way" and we arrived by 9 AM without incident ... and it was already getting hot! We had a great, informative airboat ride, seeing a couple of crocs and a turtle, had some time to pick up really fun Santa on an airboat Christmas ornaments, and were headed back to drop off the Alamo rental car before 11AM. No problems returning the car; no problems with the complementary shuttle; no problems until we got to the port. Embarkation Much has already been said and written about this first trip after dry dock. The ship was late arriving in FLL (technical water matters, shore side computer services, who knows why); embarkation was delayed, stopped, confusing, and uncomfortable. We arrived just after 11 AM, actually got inside the terminal, received a "number", then everything stopped. We were directed to sit and wait "until our number was called". But we were better off than others ... those many still outside the terminal, those in line in the terminal door, those without "a number", those without a "seat". Finally, when we boarded the ship, after 1:30 PM, it was clearly not ready for passengers. The ship ... smelled ... and was dirty. We found our cabin, marginally ready, dropped our carry on bags and wine and went exploring. It had been an early morning with no breakfast, so a bite of lunch was part of our plan. First Impressions -- not a good start Boarded ship into elevator lobby so it seemed small and dark. Elevators were blocked off and/or not operable. Then the smell started becoming noticeable. Walking down the hall to our cabin, the smell was very noticeable ... and hot. Our cabin -- this was the smallest balcony cabin we've ever had. If it is not the smallest cabin in actual size, then it is the smallest feeling and most poorly configured balcony cabin we've ever had. With the absolutely filthiest balcony I've ever seen. The balcony had two different chairs and a really horrible little table thing. It looked like a larger thread spool and was barely adequate to hold two wine glasses. The A/C seemed to be working (though the adjustment was obscure); toilet seemed to be working (though pressing the flush button multiple times was often required.) Workman were still on board -- installing outdoor lighting, bar seating and foot rails. Lido carpet was soaking wet -- so wet that it splashed when trod upon .. and there was little choice but to walk through it due to the incredibly bad layout of the Lido buffet. Sailaway We were late. Loading of pallets was still going on at 7 PM. At 7:15 PM, we saw shaking of hands and an apparent agreement struck for leaving a BUNCH of pallets on the pier. We sailed out ... in the dark ... with no fanfare, hoopla or horns ... and no "wave requested" sail away picture. Dining We were self-indulgent and didn't bother with the Vista dining room. We ate two meals at the Pinnacle Grill, otherwise we ate "as we wished" in the Lido area. The layout of the Lido buffet created a continuous bottle neck through the area -- the buffet patrons, the buffet lookers, the "just passing through" passengers AND all sorts of service carts were all required to use the same very small passage. It was an off putting sanitation and aesthetic issue of having dirty towels, garbage, more food, etc. being hauled through public areas. Service was slow -- tables remained dirty for too long, tableware was difficult to find as it wasn't ON the tables; there was insufficient staffing of the cooking areas (1 person making 2 omelets at a time and burning them while trying to fill the rest of the request for bacon and toast; 1 person making 1 sandwich with extraordinary precision -- vigorous stirring the pesto before spooning a miniscule amount on the wrap, placing lettuce, a pinch at a time, 3 times, on to the wrap. But, you know what? We thought the food was good ... really good! In checking the menus, it was the same dishes being served in the MDR. We were able to pick an appetizer, a salad ... same as downstairs. Our main dishes were customized with our vegetable choices -- and somebody makes some mean mashed potatoes! And the baker and pastry chef ... well, they should be crowned king of the world! The Pinnacle Grill ... was excellent. We shared some sides and desserts -- shouldn't have done that -- they were very good and we were left wanting more! We had beef and prawns the first time and at the Cirque night, we had Chateaubriand. The Cirque night was the lesser of the two meals ... but still incredible. Ports Half Moon Cay. Guess what .... We were late arriving! Tendering was reasonable. We found the clamshell guy who set up our "reserved on line" clamshell ... and that was the last we saw of any ships staff. No bar staff, no nothing. We did see a lifeguard, asleep and slack jawed, on the lifeguard stand. We went to the pirate bar -- my sister had been interested in ordering one of the $10.00 specialty drinks. When we ordered, the bartender didn't have a CLUE -- he was checking the drink menu on the wall to see what ingredients were in this expensive cocktail! We canceled our orders! I have little interest in paying $20.00 for special cocktails that the bar staff has no knowledge of how to create! We didn't try the island buffet. There was no announcement about it; we didn't see where it was so didn't bother to try to find it. Tendering back was slow and disorganized. Left .... Late. The ship had to send a stretcher team and medical staff to fetch a non-returning passenger. Never heard what happened. Aruba 6 AM and "This is the Captain speaking to you from the bridge" rumbled through the ship. We were dead in the water -- all 6 diesel engines ... off. No power ... anywhere. No wake but lots of white- capped waves. We were flopping around in the middle of the ocean ... 6 hours out of Aruba. Not a fun start to the day. Despite our hour late arrival the Trikes-Aruba people waited for us. Curacao. We planned to just wander the area ... and were done with that in a hour. So we grabbed an open-air bus being sold on the street corners and for $15.00 each got an interesting tour of the rest of the area -- which saved this port for us. The Casper Tours guide was friendly and knowledgeable. We tried to find Dutch cocoa and Gouda but we must be poor shoppers because it wasn't found by us! Cartagena We toured Cartagena with Claudia on December 16, 2012. Our tour, organized through a Cruise Critic Roll Call thread, was **supposed** to be customized to include going into the Fort. In all other respects, it was the "city tour" as advertised by Claudia. Panama Canal Okay ... I hate to admit it ... but I think we were over prepared. I was underwhelmed. I believe it is a great project and admire everything I read about the creation and construction of the Panama Canal. But, to really experience all that, I think you need to see it empty. Otherwise, sadly, it works exactly as it was designed to work ... and is just a lock. We found the usual bad coffee and the Panama buns in an elevator lobby ... and on the bow. The Panama buns weren't to our liking ... and we loved the baker! We took the ship's excursion "The Shaping of Panama" -- which was a bus over to Panama City, a tour of the oldest ruins, a ride through the modern part and a walk about in the old walled city. These types of excursions are totally "guide dependent" and the guide we had on the motor coach was a total dud. She commented about the Chagres River AFTER we'd driven over it because she was too busy chatting up the driver; her best comment about Panama City was that the traffic was "crazy". Thankfully, an excellent guide, Julian Ward, who entertained and informed us about the history and current culture as we slogged through the driving rain, saved the walk through the Caseo Viejo. A big thank you to Julian! Costa Rica .. What a bust. OkeyDokey (Charlie Soto) A-2 Tour -- zip lining Mr. Soto, who was also boarding another tour for which he was the guide, met us. Mr. Soto waited with my sister and I while we waited for his "helper for the day" to appear, and then waited while Mr. Soto organized the guide. Mr. Soto requested the our cash payment in advance in order to give money to the guide for admission fees. We were bundled into a taxi and headed for the zip line. In route, since it was still early, we stopped at a local fruit stand partaking of two types of very small bananas, a couple of bites of pineapple, and tasting a cocoa bean. Our guide presented us with a bottle of water as we left. We went to "Jungle Breeze" zip line. Since it was just my sister and me, we were attached to a larger group from Greenway Tours. After getting our gear on and a safety demo, the Greenway Tour guide, and the non-zip line riders from their group, joined the tractor driver for the ride to the 1st platform. The Greenway Tour guide had the tractor driver stop several times to explain the jungle eco system, floral and fauna, even digging into research books he'd brought in his backpack for information. The zip line guides were impressively safety conscious -- no one, not even themselves, failed to be linked to the safety equipment, except for the short seconds between unlinking and linking again. They were hard workers, getting all of us hooked to the cable system and off the cable system ... sometimes even having to go "fetch" those zip line riders who braked too conscientiously and ended up stopping short of the platform! There was a "tip jar" for the zip line guides to which we contributed. They worked for it; they were cute and funny and took care of us. The zip line was 9 platforms. The Greenway Tours guide met the whole group, with the non-zip line riders, at the last platform, taking pictures as we zipped to the ground. That became the end of our A-2 tour due to the armed robbery that occurred in the banana grove, which was our next stop. Notable for us - We like lots of information with our tours; we like a real guide showing us and telling us about their country. Our guide, who did not seem to be an actual employee of Mr. Soto, but more like someone he found for the day, was more a cab driver than an informational guide. He was very NICE; he was supportive and did what had to be done after the robbery (though there was quite a lot of dithering -- but he seemed upset and confused about the robbery) finally getting us to the municipal police station to make a report, helping with translation while there, and finally getting us back to the ship. Mr. Soto has, since December 22, 2012, agreed to refund our cash payment -- but has continuously failed to do so though I've suggested many different avenues . His latest promise is for payment today, January 2, 2013. It is currently mid afternoon .... He emailed around noon and told me he was at his bank. Still no payment. Back on board after the robbery -- We were in line at the front desk to get my cruise card reissued. The young woman asked a couple of questions to ensure her understanding and without further ado, kicked in their procedures - the security staff was notified, the port agent appeared, her supervisor came and inquired whether we'd made a report with the local authorities. Once we were finished with the front desk, the head of security had already appeared and asked for a moment -- he was very kind and supportive. He assured us that we weren't leaving the ship and later assured me that customs/immigration wouldn't be a huge problem in FLL; the nurse came up to make sure we were okay (she checked my neck and gave me some super antibiotic ointment samples); everyone needed to make reports. The Captain showed up - making sure we were okay and being taken care of. I saw the head of security in the Lido the following day and stopped to thank him, again, for the kindness and courtesy of the staff -- he remembered me on sight, and immediately brought me up to date with the latest information -- who in FLL had been notified and what was going on. HAL couldn't have been more supportive and genuinely kind -- or made getting back to the ship a safer place for us to be! I will always be impressed! But HAL didn't do anything with regard to reporting the stolen passport, credit cards, etc. They let me back on board with the information contained in their files AND with a copy of the incident report from the local police. (That report was very important to get!!) And while they were wonderful there ... we haven't heard from them since then .... nor would I have expected to hear from them. All of the running around in regard to my passport is on me! Going through customs in FLL wasn't "bad" either -- I did still have my driver's license ... and we had the copy of the all-important incident report from the municipal police. It took 3 agents talking to me and clicking on their computers, but they let me back in the US. The HAL staff didn't have anything to do with all of that either -- unless there was some advance note in the computer from the HAL port agent -- which is what I understood would happen, but no custom's agent said anything about. The customs agent just said the computer had not been noted that my passport had been stolen and that I would need to make the report since the Costa Rica authorities had not done so. Conclusions Aside from being robbed, we had a great time -- but it was in spite of the issues with the ship. The ship conditions (relevant to passengers) improved steadily -- aside from the little fires and engine outages -- there was an apparent real effort by the ship staff to get conditions back to what even they expected. We heard from JT, the cruise director, at the meet and greet, that the dry dock puts a "real dent" in the ship with the workers leaving a total mess and from stealing whatever can be taken! Our cabin stewards, Acer and Agus, after a slow start (getting clear on extra towels, our request for 2 of the daily information sheets, getting the balcony cleaned) were great. They were very solicitous of us after the robbery. We enjoyed the ports as they were all new to us. But the Caribbean and South and Central America hold no more interest for us and for Alaska, we prefer Princess, so we probably won't see the msZuiderdam again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Having been told that by HAL I could not book a transfer from FLL to the ship, it had to be done several days in advance, I descended the escalator at FLL and found 2 gents in red HAL shirts and purchased a ticket on the spot. The 2 people ... Read More
Having been told that by HAL I could not book a transfer from FLL to the ship, it had to be done several days in advance, I descended the escalator at FLL and found 2 gents in red HAL shirts and purchased a ticket on the spot. The 2 people doing crowd control and security in the check in hall were really quite offensive, very mouthy, but without walking up to the young woman and staring at her upper torso I could not tell you if they were HAL or US government. If it was the latter that would explain a lot. My bag was delivered to the wrong suite, I finally received it after 10pm, so I had had the same gear on since 4am. The water tank in our section failed, or whatever it is water tanks do when they are not happy, so I had no toilet until mid morning on the second day. A total of 5 calls did nothing more than bring a front desk clerk to check on my toilet. I'm not much of a Do It Yourself type, but I can recognise a jammed toilet when I see one. For breakfast I had 2 cold sausages, some cold bacon and cold ham, and never did use the Lido again for breakfast. Canaletto was no more than average, and at $10.00 a visit certainly not worth it, when it was no more than a partitioned off section of the Lido, and HAL still have their senior crew dining in the Canaletto while passengers wait for a table and crew waiting in line for their food while paying passengers wait behind them. I do not care to dine with the help. I know a young woman who worked for Princess. They do not do it. Do most other lines do it? Talking of the LIDO, still warm plates for my cold salad at lunch, just like the Veendam last January. The incessant sales pitch by the waiters on the sundeck with drinks. No I do not want 5 beer before dinner, but thanks anyway. I tried in vain to have tonic water delivered to my suite, ended up buying it from the bar, so I told them to cancel the order, then the next morning the Room Service ignored my DND sign, telling me that Administration had insisted he deliver it. I received a plate of chocolate covered strawberries in an attempt to alleviate my annoyance. I used the Lido on the 3 Formal nights. First time my used dishes were never removed, even though it was 8pm, second time none of the waiters ever even acknowledged me, so I never got a drink, but the Supervisor on duty and the 2nd Executive chef certainly heard from me, and the third time they were so servile it was an embarrassment. The Vista dining room was very hit and miss especially with the breakfast and dinner entrees and appetisers showing up missing ingredients listed on the menu. The only thing I did was roll my eyes. The Mariners lunch was no big deal and I never saw the captain at the lunch. My concerns about the delayed luggage and appalling service in the Lido were listened to politely and profuse apologies offered, but nothing else offered. There were, I think, 3 concierges, the 2 Western European, Dutch or Danes at a guess, both women, were really lacking in the smiling department. Did I mention that we lost complete power about 6 am on day for about 30 minutes?. Didn't bother me at all, but I think a lot of folks were put out. I think a lot of the the troubles stemmed from the fact that over 400 crew members were on their maiden voyage, so the gossip went, but should the passengers suffer for this?. Seemingly this delayed disembarkation because of their papers, but that may have been malicious gossip. None of these events ruined my cruise, or came even close, although the toilets should work, but on a HAL vessel they should not occur. There was a lot of tacky nasty comments while we waited to disembark. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Zuiderdam came out of dry-dock unprepared for passengers. Boarding was delayed and mechanical problems persisted during the voyage (loss of power, smoke causing alarms). The crew, particularly in the Lido cafe, appeared sleep-deprived. On ... Read More
Zuiderdam came out of dry-dock unprepared for passengers. Boarding was delayed and mechanical problems persisted during the voyage (loss of power, smoke causing alarms). The crew, particularly in the Lido cafe, appeared sleep-deprived. On the second morning they apparently did not know that opening time was 11:30 a.m., managing to get started between noon and 12:15. The ship was in desperate need of cleaning, which crew undertook during the cruise, making for a 11-15 hour workday while simultaneously dealing with the guests. They came through in fine style (grace under pressure). Especial mention of Bernard, Sute, and Suki for superior customer service. The food was excellent. Entertainment rather amateurish, with notable exception of the Island Magic Steel Band. Dancing was not encouraged as the HALCats apparently see themselves as a jazz group. Several ship's officers apologized for the shape of the ship, but when the Captain was asked what had happened, he replied that there were no problems. One benefit of the problems is that they made for easy conversation-starters. My wife and I heard many complaints which we did not experience (e.g. balconies unfit for use, shower problems). General problems included inoperable hand sanitizers outside the dining room (corrected two days later by stationing a steward outside with one), 1/2 of the elevators closed for the first two days, extremely noisy cleaning of the Lido pool cover; there are many more specifics too boring to include here. In his talk in the Crow's Nest, the Captain did reveal that the purpose of the dry-dock was a mandatory re-certification of the ship, which included mechanical repairs; appearance items were definitely secondary. All of this can no doubt be dismissed as picayune, but what is going to precipitate a letter to the CEO is the mis-treatment of the crew. Word got out that they were on the ship in dry dock, with no A/C and some days without water at all, generally no hot water. Even if these observations are untrue, what we did observe constituted a lack of concern for the welfare of the crew. When a company advertises "A signature of Excellence", one expects that to permeate the organization. The abuse of the crew suggests that we have seen behind the facade to the real face of HAL. It is not pretty. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Following many cruises on other lines like Oceania, Windstar, Uniworld, Costa and NCL, my friend and I just returned from our first cruise on Holland America. It was an 11-day round trip on the Zuiderdam from Fort Lauderdale that hit ... Read More
Following many cruises on other lines like Oceania, Windstar, Uniworld, Costa and NCL, my friend and I just returned from our first cruise on Holland America. It was an 11-day round trip on the Zuiderdam from Fort Lauderdale that hit ports in Aruba, Curacao, Columbia and Costa Rica, and did a partial transit of the Panama Canal. It was the ship's first cruise following dry-dock in Freeport. Almost all of the furnishings and carpets looked fine as a result. Here's how I see it: Pros Our room, Penthouse Suite 7045, was great. We had an enormous balcony with a hot tub and six chairs, a king bed, a comfortable pull-0ut Murphy bed, two toilets, one shower, and an updated Xenon sound system (that would have been better if we'd brought CDs to power it). We paid extra to get the Suite about a week before embarkation as an upgrade from our aft wrap-around Verandah Suite. The perks included with either Suite included expedited embarkation, access to the Neptune Lounge and its two able concierges, Peter and Mina; free laundry and dry cleaning; a welcome cocktail party; and a farewell Indonesian lunch that included a photo with the Captain and Hotel Manager. The live musical entertainment on board at the Piano Bar (featuring Jeff Warren) and the Ocean and Queen's Lounges (featuring two separate versions of the HAL Cats with vocalists Kat and Darion) was outstanding. So was the Zuiderdam's ability to show NFL football in its Sports Bar and staterooms. The food and service in the pay-per-visit Pinnacle Grill (featuring prime beef and table-side preparation of salads and flaming dishes) and Canaletto's (featuring Italian food) was terrific. So was the food and service at an on-shore restaurant we found, called Barefoot, near the Airport in Aruba that was only 10 minutes by taxi from the port. The staffers we saw the most, our room stewards Ode and Sugi and our Pinnacle Grill waiter Arturo, did an excellent job. And the Sommelier, Bernie, was very knowledgeable. The cocktails and sodas were fairly priced as was our Cellar Master wine package that included 5 bottles of wine, 2 Pinnacle Grill dinners, and 2 wine tastings. Finally, the Zuiderdam and its staffers were friendly to the many passengers with disabilities that were on board. Cons The Air/Sea Department at Holland America accepted payment for two pre-cruise rooms for us at the Harbor Beach Marriott but inexplicably then only reserved one room. So we had to scramble on premises to get a second room. After our concierge faxed the Department our receipt for the second room from on board, it did give us a credit but no apology. It wasn't a great way to get started. Our included bus transfers from the Marriott to the Zuiderdam and then from the Zuiderdam to the Airport took way longer than they needed to. It appeared that Holland America staffers weren't paying any attention to the punctuality of their outside contractors. Early one morning, the Zuiderdam lost power to both its engines and needed to drift at sea with only emergency power from an auxiliary generator for 10-15 minutes. That didn't inspire confidence. Nor did the two real fire drills on board due to smoke in an electrical room and then in the incinerator room. The food and service in the included Vista restaurant and Lido buffet was modest at best. Finally, some frail passengers showed questionable judgment in taking grueling shore excursions. I believe one of them later on needed to be hospitalized in Costa Rica. On balance, it was an enjoyable cruise so we'd consider taking another one on Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
My 12/12/12 birthday deserved a special event to celebrate, so I chose this Panama Canal cruise. I loved that this cruise began & ended in Florida. There were 4 of us in our party, two of us has interior staterooms and two of us had ... Read More
My 12/12/12 birthday deserved a special event to celebrate, so I chose this Panama Canal cruise. I loved that this cruise began & ended in Florida. There were 4 of us in our party, two of us has interior staterooms and two of us had a veranda stateroom. Yes, being freshly out of dry dock, there were a couple of issues on the ship, but the crew, the ambiance and the dynamic of the voyage MORE than made up for any issues we encountered. There was always plenty to do on board - whether you wanted to do something healthy, food-related, shop, bingo, piano bars, trivia, dancing, dynamic excursions - it was all there for the taking! You could do everything or nothing! The room stewards were 'right there' making sure your room was clean and that you always had what you asked for; the dining room stewards were magical with what they could offer and serve, based on the wonderful offerings from the kitchen; the entertainment was varied and quite good; the shops offered large varieties of merchandise and the excursions were outstanding! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
Embarcation did take a little longer than usual since the ship had just come from drydock. As usual there was much moaning and groaning by the folks being held back from mass consumption at the Lido. Drydock certainly caused some ... Read More
Embarcation did take a little longer than usual since the ship had just come from drydock. As usual there was much moaning and groaning by the folks being held back from mass consumption at the Lido. Drydock certainly caused some problems. But the crew worked their tails off getting the ship back in order. This did take a couple of days. We did not experience any problems with our cabin. Like stated by others the ship had a couple of fire alarm situations(not anything major) and did lose power once for 30 to 45 minutes. With the age of most of us there should have been recognition that the ship is a multi-mechanical device and there are going to be problems every now and then. Food was great. Never had a bad meal. This included the Lido, Vista and Pinnacle. Did not eat ate Canelleto. Have eaten there before and did not think it was worth the $10 extra. We had Fuad and Fuad in the dining room with Rahmet as their supervisor. They were one of the best dining room teams that we have had on Holland America. We were not impressed with the entertainment. Although the Steel drum band was terrific. We took 2 shore excursions: AquaTrax the Cay, certainly was envigorating, and the Panama Canal Excursion. Both were worth the money. Ode and Sugi kept our room spotless. Could not have asked for better stewards. With all said this was an absolutely great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
I travelled with my spouse on this trip - we are from Vancouver, British Columbia and had travelled in Florida for a week before embarking at Ft Lauderdale. I booked the cruise through the cruise line and 3 weeks before departure ... Read More
I travelled with my spouse on this trip - we are from Vancouver, British Columbia and had travelled in Florida for a week before embarking at Ft Lauderdale. I booked the cruise through the cruise line and 3 weeks before departure noticed the price of our VD room had gone down. I phoned to see if we could get an on board credit but instead got upgraded to a VA guarantee - which then turned into an AFT VA cabin. We returned our Alamo rental car and used our rental receipt for free transfer on the airport shuttle to the cruise port. Embarkation at 11:30 was quick and easy - went directly to our room which was quite nice - the carpet was a little worn (but ship is in drydock for new carpets in a few days) but otherwise it was OK - until we went to use the toilet - made flushing sound but no flushing!!!!! After many tries and with the water approaching flood level we found our stateroom attendant who questioned what we had put in it (only toilet paper) and said he would have it fixed. The toilet problem would continue throughout the cruise - stopped working again the second day - went to front office who once again suggested it was my fault - was not fixed within an hour and had to return to front desk before it was fixed. The toilet was intermittent throughout the cruise, stopping flushing completely the last morning again - we had to go up to the Lido deck to use the toilet and some of the toilets there were not functioning either. The air conditioning in the room was set to high all the time but the room never really cooled off - but we were more interested in the toilet working. As usual the food on Holland America was excellent - not a single complaint there - The staff was excellent but we certainly noticed that there are definitely fewer of them - especially noticable in the dining room - After dinner the 3rd night took well over 2 hours we went to the Lido for dinner - in all the cruises I have taken this is the first time I have gone to the buffet for dinner. We attended the dining room one more night with the same slow service. I do not think this is the servers' fault - they are running all the time - I think they just have too many tables to cover. It was very difficult to get a wine steward in the dining room. We went to Cannaletto one night which had a $10 per person cover charge, the meal was excellent and the service efficient. This dinner was my birthday night and my husband had arranged a cake for me - unfortunately no one told our server who brought the bill for the drinks, came and pulled out my chair and said have a nice evening. The entertainment was excellent for the most part - especially 2 shows, the comedian Julie Barr and the Steel drum group that filled in when the show had to be cancelled due to technical difficulties. To hear the Phantom of the Opera and classical music played on steel drums was an amazing performance and the audience came to a standing ovation. We did the Tai Chi every time it was offered and really enjoyed that also. In closing, we enjoyed the ports immensely on this cruise but will not be returning to this line anytime soon. I feel that the staff does their best to give the type of service that Holland America was famous for but there are just not enough of them to provide it. I do not think that it should have been inferred that toilet's not flushing was our fault when this ship has had issues with toilets for some time. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2012
This was my 3rd time on Zuiderdam, and 6th on HAL. I usually try to find cruise itineraries that stop in places I haven't been to, but in this case, none of the stops were new. However, it had been 10 years since my last and only ... Read More
This was my 3rd time on Zuiderdam, and 6th on HAL. I usually try to find cruise itineraries that stop in places I haven't been to, but in this case, none of the stops were new. However, it had been 10 years since my last and only other visit to the Panama Canal and Costa Rica, so it felt like something fresh. It was quite funny to find myself in SS cabin 8070 AGAIN, as I was in the very same cabin in 2005 on the Zuiderdam! Embarkation was fine in Port Everglades, despite their complete disorganization...the port facilities are under construction and renovation, which means ships are being almost randomly assigned to various piers, and the port signage often doesn't match. Our ship was parked where the Princess ships normally park, and the signs at the western port entrance had no mention of it. None-the-less, once we found the right pier, we entered, checked in, and boarded in under 20 minutes from car door to ship elevators. Zuiderdam is scheduled for refurb very soon - we were the 2nd-to-last cruise before she undergoes wet-dock in Freeport. I've never been the particularly picky type who considers a cruise a complete failure because a carpet had a stain, or a chair was worn, so this was not something I worried about. The ship's condition was actually pretty decent and clean, with the typical and expected signs of wear and tear on cushions of deck chairs, weathering of wood decking, etc. Anyone reading this review should have nothing to worry about, since those should all be taken care of by the time of your next cruise. I love the SS cabins - lots of room to spread out, lots of storage space, large balcony - no complaints. Room stewards were attentive and friendly and handled all personalized requests (separate beds, empty minibar goods to make room for sodas and milks, get rid of extra bedspreads and sheets, etc.). The captain Christopher Turner was excellent at keeping to schedule, very informative in his daily bridge updates, and friendly in person. Cruise director JT Watters was familiar - at the Cruise Critic meet & greet I found out why - he was the same cruise director I had on Eurodam just last year! No complaints on ship staff and crew - all as to be expected on HAL. I stuck with the main dining room throughout the cruise - no visits to Pinnacle this time. I had fixed seating, 8pm, table for 8. I've had very good luck over the past 8 years with getting very friendly tables, with everyone getting along immediately...and this cruise was no exception. Waitstaff was excellent, and right away got into our sarcastic and joking atmosphere of our table. Food quality was, if anything, even a little better than it has been on Zuiderdam - it's always been reliably good, but they were really doing well in the dining room with the selection as well as food quality overall. Lido dining I have very limited experience with - I typically visited the omelette station on some mornings, and the sandwich/bistro station on some afternoons - I tried no other selections as I'm more of a light breakfast and lunch type. It was great to be back aboard the Z, and I look forward to the next time. My photo gallery from this cruise is located at: http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/zuiderdam2012&page=all Port reviews to follow. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Summary: Hands down our best cruising experience. Captain Chris Turner runs a tight ship, one which is focused on the passenger safety first, and relaxation and enjoyment second - as it should be. Ship is heading into refurbishment on 29 ... Read More
Summary: Hands down our best cruising experience. Captain Chris Turner runs a tight ship, one which is focused on the passenger safety first, and relaxation and enjoyment second - as it should be. Ship is heading into refurbishment on 29 November, it will be spruced up and back in service in 2013 - we look forward to cruising again on the Zuiderdam. Important points (from our own perspective when we read reviews). Ambiance: The pace is designed for a 50+ (perhaps 70+ audience) we fit the 50+ demographic. Our manner is to enjoy each other's company and those of our fellow passengers, take in a show now-and-again, and take advantage of the live entertainment. ***** (five stars) to the entertainer Michael Lieber, who played/sang in the Crowsnest every evening. He not only is a crisp and clear guitarist, his vocals are always spot-on with the song. ***** (five stars) to the Zuiderdam's officers for their Black & White ball - this festive event was enjoyed by many passengers. *** (three stars) The on-board internet is painful, but it is available - every port of call has internet (ask any of the crew for directions to the free or near-free locales) ***** (five stars) the on-board library is impressively stocked with books from every genre and arranged in an accessible and inviting manner - there were always passengers in the library area. Enjoyed the Meet and Mingle organized by a fellow Cruise Critic passenger. About 30 in attendance, and ship's officers turn-out was great. A very nice ice-breaker. Food: We choose HAL repeatedly because we enjoy the food and service. We asked for and received scheduled dining at the early seating (1745) it worked well for us. Our waiters Tobok/Ardian were extraordinary. The food was always flavorful, arrived hot and portions were properly sized, no overflowing plates. Testament to the correct sizing: We gain little/no weight throughout the cruise. We did take in a night at the Pinacle Grill, which I recommend if you wish to have a specific beef cut such as RibEye, Fillet, Porterhouse - the meat is of absolute high quality. We also took in the Evening of the Cirque, which I would pass on in the future - as we neither felt the menu was sufficiently extraordinary nor the ambiance shifted - the dinner in the Vista dining room was probably better. The in-room-dining was also excellent - breakfast EVERY day in the room, and a few late night snacks - all dishes arrived as requested. SPA: It's not cheap, but the Spa on the Zuiderdam was the best run Spa on an cruise vessel we encountered. Wine: Unique to HAL is the ability to carry on your own Wine/Champagne - upon embarkation we were asked by a number of passengers who saw us carrying wine totes, whether or not it is allowed to bring wine aboard. It is, and we did just that, paying the corkage (US$18) when we took a bottle out of our state room. Well worth the indulgence, as we are assured of drinking wine we know we enjoy with our meals, vice rolling the dice. Neptune Lounge - a perk to the Suites - adroitly managed by Mia/Peter to of the most pleasant concierges in the HAL fleet, were excellent at anticipating needs and when requests were made, they did not hesitate to make suggestions on how to improve upon the request (e.g. May we order a cheese plate for four? Yes, how about we make it hot/cold canapes too?) - They were plagued with a water leak from above for two days, but recovered nicely. Cabin - we originally booked an SC 4180 (rear-most cabin with the large sun deck). Three weeks prior to embarkation we received an email from HAL asking if we'd be interested in upgrading to the Penthouse for a per person fee. As this was a "bucket-list" cruise we opted to splurge - glad we did. Room 7045 was light in color, and as advertised. Everything worked, but oddly there is NO full-length mirror in the suite. We had been on HAL previously and knew that table cloths were never brought for in-room dining - we brought our own and it just made it a bit more comfortable for us. The outside *tub* is not a hot-tub, but rather a soaking bath w/air jets - still enjoyable. The large deck was perfect for the Panama Canal transit. We were delighted to have a place to visit and entertain new and old friends encountered on the cruise in our cabin. Ports of Call (see individual entries - Port Reviews) Pre-Cruise - we flew in on a red-eye from the west coast to Fort Lauderdale. Arranged a guaranteed day room at the Embassy Suites on 17th Ave by paying for the preceding evening - check out was at 12 noon so worked perfect for us. Walking distance to Total Wine and Publix Grocery for any last minute items. -- Family Limo service was used for ground transport - bus service also available, and taxis - you have many options. Post-Cruise - ample taxis, bus services and again we opted for Family Limo. Quite pleased with their service. In sum, best cruise we have had. The ship was in good condition, with the exception of a sofa in the Queen's lounge - it will be in great shape post refurbishment. The mark of quality in our mind isn't whether or not errors occur in service or delivery, but in how those errors or miscues are handled, in every instance we were more than satisfied with the service and responses received. We will watch the Zuiderdam's itineraries carefully as we plan our next cruise, so we can again come aboard! PS: Remember with every review, your mileage may vary from our own. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We both measure how good our cruise was by how everything flows without delays, backups or changes to our quest for sun, relaxation, experiencing new harbours and excursions. This 11 day 3291 NM Panama Canal cruise filled our ... Read More
We both measure how good our cruise was by how everything flows without delays, backups or changes to our quest for sun, relaxation, experiencing new harbours and excursions. This 11 day 3291 NM Panama Canal cruise filled our expectations. What I will write now is what we experienced, no third hand info or rumours. We knew, thanks to the forum experts our ship was heading for a 10 day drydock as soon as we got off Friday Nov. 30, 2012 Although we encountered moderate seas northbound from Puerto Limon to Fort Lauderdale there was very little creaking and groaning from the ceiling panels in our suite or in the hallways as there was on the Maasdam last spring. The book exchange in the exploration cafe which is located in the Crow's Nest is open as soon as you get on board the first day. Mini survey form arrives on fourth day. fill it in if you perceive a problem. They do respond, sometimes even with chocolate covered strawberries...so good. A full survey delivered to your stateroom on the last day. Canada newspaper available daily though front desk. The first and last night's Vista Lounge shows were at 9:30 PM. The rest of the nights they were at 8 and 10 PM There were only 40 chaise loungers on the aft Lido deck. With 1905 guests you had to be early if that was your preferred sun tanning location. Hopefully after drydock this will be rectified!! Aft Lido pool was over 85 degrees for the first 3 days but was made more re freshening after my BF put her hooks into the front desk citing health concerns. During the Panama Canal passage it must of rained 2" in 5 hours. Water flooded into the ship through the doors forward on deck 10 just outside the Crow's Nest. There was so much it soaked the interior carpet and worked down the stairwell to deck nine. Interior ledges under the large glass panels inside the Crows Nest were covered in a layer of water which prompted the use of the blue deck chair towels to sop up the mini flood. At this point we looked closely at the large windows port side of the Crow's nest and discovered several panels had cracks in the corners or the glass. We observed at least 2 glass panels in the Lido Restaurant cracked also in their upper corners!! Yes the Caneletto restaurant is $10 each. ...a penny here a dime there.!! Remember there is a survey form if this and anything else bothers you put it in writing to HAL We were in 6092 a suite just aft of the glass elevators on the port side. Our cabin stewards DJ and Bagus who seemed to be omnipresent took care of us as we were their family and we shook their hands upon leaving knowing we would probably never encounter that consistent expert service again. We were supplied with 30 hangers, 12 drawers, a make up mirror and a workable hair dryer. Our veranda held 4 chairs, 2 ottomans and 2 tables. For those asking there is a lock on the veranda door with a removable key. The bathroom was amply supplied with Elemis dispensers of conditioner, bath soap and shampoo in a full size Jacuzzi tub. Body lotion was on the counter held had double sinks. Towels magically appeared while we were out, see paragraph above. My BF wanted me to stuff the king mattress in my over sized suitcase (which held her cosmetics etc.)as she said it was toooo comfortable. One must bring a clock as there wasn't one supplied. We went though 4 time changes during this expedition. There was only one waste basket for the suite. White wine $21.95 minimum on board for cabin use. It could be bought in Aruba at the supermarket behind the Renaissance hotel for a minimum of $7.00 us. Wifi was free near Starbucks inside of the Renaissance Hotel. In Curacao Wifi was at Edy's Ice Cream (400 Yds) for the price of an ice cream cone. Wine was at the Cheese Shop (200 Yds) Cartagena Wifi was at the Duty Free shop (300Yds) for $3.00us an hour. Wine was available in town at a supermarket. Due to rain for 5 straight days all shore excursions booked at Panama Canal were cancelled. Zuiderdam could not dock for shopping in colon as our dock was flooded. Coral Princess arriving first got the one usable dock. Captain Turner apologized and we were reimbursed $4.59 each in port charges. Puerto Limon is the antithesis of Willemsted, Curacao for scenic city vistas. It boasts the most potholes per mile of road anywhere we have visited. The one and only redeeming feature was we went ziplining and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Wifi was at the flea market(200 Yds) alas it wasn't working . Wine was at a supermarket (400 Yds) We were too scared to walk that far. Would we sail HAL again...we are already booked April 2013 Would we sail on the Zuiderdam, of course we would. The crew made up for the miniscule problems we encountered. Thanks to Leonel on the aft Lido deck, DJ and Bagus on Deck 6 we arrived smiling and left the same way...enjoy PS...I think food is personal so my review is calorie free. Velcros belts should be part of your haberdashery though Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We live in San Diego and chose the Westerdam for a cruise to Florida with family members from Vermont. It was our first HAL cruise. We expected an older crowd and it was, but we were very impressed by all the active Seniors who swam and ... Read More
We live in San Diego and chose the Westerdam for a cruise to Florida with family members from Vermont. It was our first HAL cruise. We expected an older crowd and it was, but we were very impressed by all the active Seniors who swam and jogged daily. Fellow passengers were a happy group and we heard no petty complaints. We prefer smaller ships and the Westerdam was cosy. It was nice to be able to walk from the dining room to the show room without sore feet even on formal nights while wearing 3" heels. The cleanliness, maintenance and decor of the ship was very good. Our stateroom had the largest balcony that we had ever seen on a ship. The room was well appointed with lots of closet space. I liked the closed door on the bathroom medicine cabinet. I also enjoyed a soothing bath or two. Our room stewards were exceptional. We were delighted with our 8th floor veranda suites since we had only booked guaranteed verandas at the lowest rate. My sister and her husband were also upgraded to a stateroom next door to us. The only drawback was that we were only one level below the buffet so even the use of the stairs did not prevent us from gaining five pounds each. The food was good and the service in the main dining room was great. We also liked the eggs Benedict served in the buffet. Breakfast on our veranda while transiting the Panama Canal was a real treat. Perhaps the daytime and evening activities could use some work. The cruise director was good, but we still did not have many "wow" moments. The Panama Canal stole the show and it was awesome. We would travel on HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was our first time on Holland America's Zuiderdam and the jury is still out on whether to do a Holland America cruise again. We choose this cruise because we got a great price(under 2000.00) and because of the itinerary. This was ... Read More
This was our first time on Holland America's Zuiderdam and the jury is still out on whether to do a Holland America cruise again. We choose this cruise because we got a great price(under 2000.00) and because of the itinerary. This was also our first time to the Panama Canal as well as Curacao, Costa Rica,Panama, Cartagena Columbia. Embarkation was a disorganized mess. HAL really needs to up the bar here. Many of the HAL workers were busy talking to themselves and little direction was given. Plus there were Princess cruise line signs up all over the place and you were not sure where to go. This also is the first cruise lines that will dictate to you if you choose to pay cash as a deposit on room charges. They estimate 60.00 per day per person and you will need to pay that upfront if you expect to go on the ship. I have never had to do this on Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean or Princess cruise lines. I always set a limit on cash to budget our money. You will not be able to do this on Holland. Once we were in line to get on the ship we got on the ship around 1:00 pm and our room was actually ready at that time. We had an inside room on the main deck number 1060. The room itself was really quite large and even has a wrap around couch in the corner which was great. Plenty of room to put away 11 days worth of clothes. Our room steward Indra and his assistant Sugi were excellent and did a great job. They always called us by our names and did a great job taking care of us throughout the entire cruise. I would say avoid this room though because you are almost right under Northern Lights and we could feel the bass drum all the way through the room once the band started playing. Thank goodness the older crowd does not stay up late which worked out ok in spite of a couple nights with the band playing after 12PM. The food and service in the dining room.... Well I had heard all kind of great things about HAL comparing them and their service to Celebrity and the better cruise lines. Not even close. Carnival had better food and service. And I'm not a Carnival fan. The food in the Lido was ok at best and you could not serve yourself the first 48 hours because of a possible Norovirus threat. The serving crew were busy talking to each other and ignored guests. Plus many of the cooks seemed unhappy and were not very friendly. All except for the ice cream guy who was very funny and friendly.Certain times they took drinks around such as ice tea,lemonade and water. For sure you would always see the bar servers all around for wine,beer etc.. If you are in a hurry or need to be on an excursion get room service. And actually they had a pretty big room service menu. The room service was actually very good and prompt on this ship. The dining room on this ship was really poor. Every steak I got was a very poor cut of meat lots of fat and gristle. Plus they very rarely cooked it to order accurately. The salmon my wife had was also very hit and miss as well as the waiters we had. We had open dining so it was really hit and miss. You had waiters reaching across the table pouring water and slopping it on the table etc.. A couple waiters we had were good though. Service was very slow expect to spend at least a couple hours in the dining room with only 4 courses. Don't get me wrong the selections on the dining room menu were very diverse but just poorly cooked and executed. Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson is listed as one on the contributing chefs and I would say he deserves to be chopped as well as many of the others. I had some gazpacho soup which was literally so spicy it was inedible. None of the waiters-not one made any menu suggestions or explained any of the dishes. Not one time. Now I want to say this was just my experience but the ship was not even full so I'm not sure what the problem was, The Baked Alaska was good at the end of the cruise even though they used Neapolitan ice cream the rest of it was executed well instead of just getting ice cream cake like you get on most lines. A great thing about the Vista dining room was that you could get an espresso free after dinner which I thought was great. Does not make up though for the poor service we received in the Vista and Lido though. We did not do the Pinnacle because of the poor cuts of steak I had already gotten. And we avoided going to Canaletto's the other pay restaurant and I will tell you why. The place itself is not a space that's set aside like the Pinnacle. It's actually set in a corner of the Lido with a couple off statues set around. So you share the space with the Lido crowd. They basically just throw table clothes over the table and put up some nice glasses and plated. Not many courses offered (nothing even close to Sabatini on Princess). And they basically just go over to the Lido and put together the guests dishes from there. Don't get me wrong the pasta on this ship was really great and cooked to order. But why spend 10 bucks to have someone carry your food to you in the corner of the Lido? They did do a killer after hours Chocolate buffet. HAL had really kept to an old school event here which most other lines have thrown aside and executed it in a beautiful way. The ship itself on the exterior was really beautiful. I heard from some other return guests to HAL that the ship looked to be in poor shape. I didn't see that at all. The ship has great looking artwork all over the ship. We spent a full day at sea just looking at the ship. A really classy looking ship. Yea some hand rails were worn but they were bust sanding and re varnishing the ship the whole cruise. The big problem here was this ship internally needs to real long dry dock for the safety and comfort of the passengers. We had 2 (count em) 2 fires at sea. And they were not from a passenger throwing a butt over a balcony or something like that. There were 2 fires inside the ship due to malfunction which was actually quite alarming. They were both toward the end of the cruise and while we were at sea. Let me say this though the Captain on board was Chris Turner and to date he will be my favorite out of any line we have ever cruised. This captain took a lot of time to explain a lot while we were at port and at sea which was very neat. Plus he was a really great guy and highly competent. The second fire was in the AC system on the same floor we were on but on the opposite side. It was after midnight after a day at sea as we were heading back toward Fort Lauderdale. Part of the main floor had to be evacuated as a result of the fire and the captain handled all this quite well even though it was a scary experience. Entertainment JT the cruise director was a nice guy and very approachable. Entertainment was pretty good. Julie Barr was funny and the magician was very good. The production shows were all pretty good as well. The Hal Cats though were not very good and I don't think Iv e ever seen a band that looked more like they didn't want to be on the ship than these guys. The Halloween Party was really poorly put together and Im not sure how they figured out who the winners were they just kinda picked 3 without any crowd response. The ports here were the real reason we went though and they were all great. We missed Half Moon Cay because it got trashed as a result of Hurricane Sandy but we got more time in Aruba which was great. I will go more into the ports in my port reports. One thing I will applaud HAL on and a reason I will probably cruise with them again was their promotion of "Susan K Komen On Deck For The Cure 5K" Nick the fitness director was great and this was well organized and promoted well and is done fleet wide. I'm a 6 year cancer survivor so this is close to my heart and HAL does a great job. Unlike Princess who overall is a better cruise line but does a poor job on the On Deck gig. Nick also did a lot of cool things like Tai Chi twice a day (for free) and swimming across the Panama Canal. Days at sea were pretty relaxed and not a heck of a lot to do but that was ok since we like to just take time to chill. Let me mention the Photo crew on board here. No you didn't have annoying people always trying to snap a picture off. They were polite about this. Robert the video guy was very nice as well. The big problem was in the prices (more expensive than Disney). And the staff on board was very rude and uncaring. I've got to say I have never seen this except on Carnival where the photo staff inside the photo place would not help you find pictures and acted like they would rather be somewhere else. (Which was the overall groove of this ship). The shops had a lot of great deals and there were very good prices on shirts and souvenirs. PS you can buy beer and sodas at the ports and bring them back on the ship. No problem here. We did not use the spa here the thermal beds and saunas were way over priced at 40.00 per person per day. That's bad when you can get a pass on Disney for half that price. I also need to mention that the shopping guru's on board Edel and Damien were the very best I have seen on any cruise I have been on. However Party planner Shannon needs to be in a different position. You just can't take a cute blond and throw her into a position. At every event including the ice carving she read robot like off a script. Not to be mean but why not put someone in a position who actually knows what they are talking about. Will we cruise HAL again? Probably, because they continue to promote "On Deck For The Cure" fleet wide. Hopefully on our next cruise there will be no fear of fire and better dining and food service. We will give them one more try. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2012
Our journey began out of San Diego. We went the night before and stayed at the Hacienda Suites Hotel in Old Town. It was a perfect choice. The rooms were spacious and lovely, they provided free transfer from airport to hotel and again ... Read More
Our journey began out of San Diego. We went the night before and stayed at the Hacienda Suites Hotel in Old Town. It was a perfect choice. The rooms were spacious and lovely, they provided free transfer from airport to hotel and again from the hotel to the port. Old Town is quite charming and there were lots of fun places to eat within walking distance. This cruise was filled with sea days and the activities for on board entertainment were disappointing. Scheduling was really bad for events during the day and in the evening. We prefer fixed dining and were upset that the only option was to eat at 8:30pm which I consider rather late. The primarily Indonesian staff were quite charming. It seems like we were always rushing to get to the Lido Buffet or dining room because of the very limited amounts of time they were opened. Even when we had a night tour in Fuerte Amador there were no accommodations for our late arrival back on the ship and were told to use room service. That night while we were on a tour they had a bar b que on board. Strange scheduling! The entertainment was very mediocre. There were four singers as part of the ensemble and two female dancers who must be pole dancers when not on the ship. Sometimes it would have been better if they just sang and didn't have some of the hokey dialogue in the show. The 60's show would have been so much better. During the course of the cruise we had a screeching electric violin, comedian, comedian/magician, and the one bright spot was a performance by Bobbie Brook Wilson who is the son of 50's rock icon Jackie Wilson. His performance was the only good show on the cruise. This was one cruise where you didn't have to rush to find a seat because most nights the theater was empty. The slots in the casino have all been altered in some way to only let you play certain lines and after one night I decided there was no need to ever return there. The primary day activity was sort of New Age exercise classes, current movies or sit by the pool. Not much for so many sea days. At least there were quite a few bridge players so my husband was happy. Our first stop was Puerto Vallerta. It was Good Friday and there were many reinactments of the carrying of the cross towards the crucifixation. Very interesting. This is a lovely port and there is lots of over priced silver jewelry available. Nice port. I'm not going to mention the sea days inbetween ports, just will focus on the ports themselves. Huatulco was our stop on Easter Sunday. There was a charming open air church were we attented Easter Services with a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" in a very 3/4 Mexican version. Loved it. This is not a large port but there are lots of little ships and they have dancing and lots of entertainment in the area. Puerto Chiapas is without a doubt the worse port ever. There are two pyramid structures which are not air conditioned. One has a large pool and the other has shops and a pit where dancers perform. It was at least 110 degrees with about 90% humidity that day. They do advertise $2 beers but the heat is unbearable. The shops, once again, are very over priced and in one stall a woman tried to bargain with the vendor and he told her to leave. They seem to be out of touch with pricing and expect that the ship has all "rich" people so prices are high. Not worth getting off the ship but there was an Internet Cafe so I guess that made it a good stop. Next stop was Puerto Quetzel, Guatemala. Very nice port. Lots of shops but also very hot. We took the bus tour to Antigua which was very interesting. There are over 400 active volcanoes in Guatemala and along the way you pass some of them. Went to the jade factory which was a nice stop. In the center of town there is a large fountain and the women were lined up there doing their laundry. The women carry almost anything you can imagne on baskets on their heads. One person said she saw a baby up there. Since this is in the mountains it's nice and cool up there. Shopping was a disappointment because once again the prices are very high. There were some beautiful woven jackets but they are just cut square so when you put them on the fit is awful and they were priced at $70. This was probably my favorite stop on the cruise. We arrived in Fuerte Amador in the evening and were tendered to the dock. The ship didn't handle this very well at all. There were approximately 1,500 passengers trying to go ashore and they used two tenders. It took forever. We took a tour of Panama by night and walked through the old Colonial areas and drove through the streets of Panama which are lined with skyscrapers. When we returned to the dock the line for the tenders was about a mile long so we went to eat at a restaurant near there. Finally the line dwindled enough to go back on the last tender. The next day we started our crossing at around 8:30am. It's a very interesting experience and takes almost all day. Along the way we saw the Guayacan trees in full bloom. Apparently they only bloom 4 days out of the year so this was a special treat. Saw crocodiles sunning on the shore and enjoyed the slow process of going through the canal. Reached the exit around 4pm. Last stop was Cartegena. We were there the same day that the big president's conference was happening so we had limited access to the sights. We did take a tour so had permission to go through the old colonial area but just saw the downtown skyline from the distance. People who tried to go independently weren't allowed to go anywhere. It was a nice tour. That area is quite charming and the flowers on the balconies were magnificent. Then we had two more sea days to Ft. Lauderdale. Wondering if any of the other passengers came home sick. My husband and I both contacted pneumonia. Not the best way to return from a nice cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
My husband and I had decided a couple of years ago to take a cruise through the Panama Canal. After extensive homework, we settled on Holland America's Zuiderdam for this adventure mainly because of the itinerary and frequent port ... Read More
My husband and I had decided a couple of years ago to take a cruise through the Panama Canal. After extensive homework, we settled on Holland America's Zuiderdam for this adventure mainly because of the itinerary and frequent port visits. We had never sailed on Holland America but were happy to give it a try. Two days prior to boarding the cruise we arrived into Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Crowne Plaza Port Everglades. It is a very nice, non smoking only hotel offering a shuttle to the port. Embarkation: There was quite an extensive line up to get on the ship which we had never really encountered with other cruise lines we had travelled with. We had to wait out in the sun for about 30 minutes before actually entering into the cruise terminal building. Check in went fairly smoothly except for when we were handed our stateroom key cards. It was printed on them that we were booked in for early dining. We had specifically asked for any time dining which was on our boarding passes and had been confirmed with us on several occasions. When I pointed this out to the check in clerk, she said there was nothing she could do, we would have to take care of it on board the ship. So we board the Zuiderdam knowing that all is not going very smoothly. When we got to our stateroom we were happy to see it was nicely set out with a mid sized bathtub/shower which we had never had on any previous cruises. Our excursions tickets were waiting for us but where was the beverage card we had pre-ordered and paid for? Down to the Front Desk we go to enquire about the dining mistake and to find out about the beverage card. Of course, a long line up awaits us and we patiently wait our turn. Nothing can be done for the dining error at the front desk. You must see the maitre'd in of all places - the bar. As for the beverage card, they are not sure why it is not in the room as it should be. Please wait a little while and it should be delivered shortly. We managed to get the dining arrangements settled with the maitre'd and set out to explore the ship all the while awaiting the delivery of the beverage card so we could partake in the cocktail of the day. Needless to say, we never did have the cocktail of the day as we waited and waited for the arrival of the beverage card only to find out that the printer was broken and no card could be produced. The card did arrive as we were heading to bed on Day 1. Ports:We did enjoy most of the ports of call. We did not do organised activities at the majority of them...just went out on our own and found our way. The weather was great for the entire journey. Not one day of rain or trying to figure out what to do. We really enjoyed Half Moon Cay(lounging around on the beach)Aruba(shopping and talking to the locals)and Costa Rica(lovely beach side market at the port and friendly, English speaking locals) Although Willemstad, Curacao is very pretty, we did not feel very safe there. The same can be said for Corinto, Nicaragua. We did join an organised tour in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala which took us to Antigua (beautiful,historic cobblestoned town with lots of culture)and in Puerto Chiapas, Mexico (had a great day exploring the Maya ruins and having a tour of the local museum). We also did an organised tour while in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico which was terrible to say the least. It was titled "Highlights of Puerto Vallarta" by Holland America. If going to shops and a restaurant is seeing the "highlights" then the tour did it's job. But in my book these are not "highlights" and needless to say we were extremely disappointed in this tour as we found out there were some great things to been seen in Puerto Vallarta and we had not seen any of them. On the day we were in Grand Turk,it was announced that the air-conditioning was going to be turned off starting early in the morning so that maintainence could take place. We are not sure why this was not done while in port in Fort Lauderdale as it was much cooler in temperature in Florida than the Turks and Caicos. By the time we left the island the air con was still not on and when it did finally get turned back on it took hours before the ship was cool again. Needless to say our dinner at the Italian restaurant that night was extremely sweaty. We felt sorry for the crew members serving us as they were in long sleeved shirts. Food: We can't say that there was anything spectacular served on this cruise. The food was OK but nothing that we can rave about. We found it strange about the serving of food at the buffet for the first 48 hours of the cruise. Not sure about their thinking that this can decrease the amount of cross contamination and sickness. What about for the rest of the cruise then? Also, when we go to a buffet you can choose whatever you want and however much you want of a particular food item. Not at this buffet. The only items that were of a true buffet nature was the salad bar. Everything else was set up bainmare style (steam table behind glass, someone serves you). We both found this annoying as you lined up and told the server what you wanted. I would always ask for an extra piece of meat as I don't eat potato, pasta etc. and I would always get the same look that I was asking for too much. Not a very nice feeling.We only ate a couple of times in the main dining room. It was fine but too stuffy for us. Entertainment: Each night we did go to the Vista Lounge to see what was on. We were the lucky ones who had the time to go early and get a good seat that had a perfect view of stage without a pillar being in the way. It is a nice theatre but having the balcony means that there are extremely large pillars all around blocking the view. The on board singers and dancers were fine but not as good as other troupes from other cruise lines. There was two nights of good entertainment, several nights of OK entertainment and then a few nights of terrible entertainment where a lot of the audience walked out. The comedian from Toronto was border line racist which is not very nice to have to sit through and the Matinee Idols where not good at all. Disembarking: Like other cruises we have been on, we received a letter fairly early in the cruise telling us about disembarking and asking what time etc we would like to leave the ship. Since we had an early afternoon flight to catch in San Diego, we decided there was no big rush for us to leave the ship and we chose the 9am disembarking schedule. Four nights before we reached San Diego, we got another disembarking letter stating that "as per normal protocol in San Diego, all non-USA citizens would have to clear customs first (whether they were disembarking or not) prior to anyone being allowed to exit the ship." So, why did we receive the initial letter if Holland America knew full well that no one was leaving the ship until all non-USA citizens had cleared customs? This turned out to be a huge problem for many passengers including ourselves since we would not be getting off the ship until every single non-USA citizen had cleared customs. Estimated disembarking time now became unknown. On the day, we did finally get off the ship around 11:15am, having to carry our own luggage. There were many angry passengers leaving the ship that day to try and catch flights and others who remained on the cruise were not impressed either as their day trip plans for San Diego were cancelled. Not a good way to end a cruise with Holland America. Aside from the negative aspects of the cruise, we did have a nice time. The average age was around 70, so that made me one of the youngest there which doesn't really matter. The only thing I must comment on in this regard is that the manners of the older generation were terrible. They were extremely demanding of the crew and on several occasions I saw crew members being treated almost like servants to passengers. Also, if the elevator doors open in front of someone then those people should be the first ones on, not someone who is standing at the back of the line. "Please" and "Thank You" should be packed along with your swimsuit and formal wear. We would definitely think twice before cruising with Holland America again. Although there were many positives (lovely crew, nice stateroom, sitting on our balcony watching the dolphins and flying fish) there were too many items on the downside to make it level out. We go on a cruise for a holiday and relaxation. This cruise started off with us being stressed and having to run around the ship to organise things that were suppose to be already organised and it ended on a bad note with disembarking. Holland America, we expected better from you. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
This is our seventh cruise and the first with Holland America. We are a couple in our thirties traveling without children. Hotel: Flew in the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 that we booked through ... Read More
This is our seventh cruise and the first with Holland America. We are a couple in our thirties traveling without children. Hotel: Flew in the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 that we booked through Hotwire.com. Grounds were beautiful with large pool. Our room had a marina view and the bed was clean and comfortable. Unfortunately there were other parts of the room that were quite dirty (upholstery on chair was dirty as was the bathroom floors). The poolside restaurant was overpriced and the food was overcooked and just didn't taste right. We went to the Pelican Bar for an evening snack and drink. It had a beautiful view overlooking the marina and the food was good although the service was a bit slow. We had breakfast in the morning at Mariner's which was again super overpriced where they charged $10 for a bowl of oatmeal. One piece of advice: if you can walk a mile over the bridge there are several good dining options as well as an enormous wine store called "Total Wine and More" where you can pick up a couple of bottles to bring on the ship (Holland America allows you to bring wine on board). The location of the hotel was nice since it only cost $12 to take a taxi to the port. Embarkation: We arrived early so had to stand in a long line to get registered and then wait for our number to be called. Luckily the line moved pretty quickly and the gentleman that checked us in was incredibly nice. Probably about a half hour process. Stateroom: We had an inside stateroom and we were very pleased with it when we had arrived. The size was quite large and would likely sleep up to four since the couch appeared to bed a sofa bed and it looked like there was a bunk bed tucked into the ceiling above our bed. The bed was comfortable and the water pressure in the bathroom was great. The stateroom also came with a DVD player which was nice so we had brought some DVDs from home to watch on sea days. Only complaints about the room is that the TV was turned facing the couch and could not be turned to face the bed, the DVD player did not have a remote which was required to operate (it took a couple of days to get one delivered), and on days where the ship was really rocking, the creaking got so loud my husband had to get ear plugs. In addition, we thought it was a little strange that H.A. did not have the interactive menu on the TV to show your invoice which we had been accustomed to with every other cruise we have been on. Dining: The food at the Lido buffet was average but we did not like the fact that a H.A. employee needed to serve each food item or drink. H.A. had put a notice in our stateroom that they do this the first two days of each cruise to try to avoid illness being spread but this seemed to continue for most food stations, including beverages for the entire cruise. This did cause additional lines and instances where they misunderstood what was asked for. The pre-poured beverages were tiny and watered down. We did enjoy the food from the grill and I liked that there was a make your own nachos bar. Food in the dining room was very good on most nights. I thought the seafood and beef selections were particularly good. We had dined one night in the Pinnacle Grill which was for an extra charge. I enjoyed the lobster bisque, crab cakes and filet minion (although it was a little overcooked). My husband though, felt that it was not worth the $50 charge. We also spent one evening in Canaletto which is their Italian restaurant next to the Lido buffet. It requires reservations but does not have an extra charge. The food was decent. We wish that there would have been a 24 hour food option like most cruise lines have although with the demographic for this cruise being older than average (mostly retirees) we can understand how this might not have been a viable option. We did order room service but some of the food was beyond edible and some was not what we had ordered. Entertainment: We particularly enjoyed the Comic Magician Jeff Peterson and Singer/Impressionist Jeff Tracta. The singers and dancers were pretty average and in general that is not our favorite type of entertainment on cruises. I was really impressed with all of the entertainment options in the Culinary Center and attended quite a few of the lectures or demonstrations held there. I even signed up for the Caribbean cooking class, which at $29 was a bargain! There was only 12 students and we worked to create three courses. Then we got to eat our creations and even got a glass of wine and apron included. Also fun were some of the game shows held in the evening in the Culinary Center. We did play in the Casino the first night and had fun on the slots. Service: We were truly impressed with the fact that every H.A. employee had a smile on their face and truly seemed to enjoy being there. After the first evening, the employees that worked in the lounge by the dining room remembered our names and our drink orders. The women at the front desk were also friendly and helpful as were our dining room stewards. Our stateroom steward was a little less attentive than what we are used to since sometimes our room was only cleaned once or very late in the day or there were a couple of detailed overlooked. Did this make our vacation worse? Definitely not. Disembarkation: Easy to follow and nothing out of the ordinary. It fell slightly behind schedule but ran in an organized way. As usual there was a pretty long line for customs but it moved quickly. Probably about 45 minutes to get off the ship. 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Sail Date: April 2012
This was our 30+ cruise, 4 on HAL. I chose this for the itinerary as I always wanted to see the canal. Well we got there and it was a great sight to see. To think that man built this from a swamp 100 years ago is awesome. The ship. The ... Read More
This was our 30+ cruise, 4 on HAL. I chose this for the itinerary as I always wanted to see the canal. Well we got there and it was a great sight to see. To think that man built this from a swamp 100 years ago is awesome. The ship. The Zuiderdam is a very nice size ship, easy to get around in with a very nice pass to size ratio. The interior of the ship is what you would expect, some ware and tare with areas in need of a spruce up. Most of the wicker look alike stuff on the outside should be put in a dumpster ASAP. The aft pool deck had one hot tub out and one 50/50. The lounge chairs looked like they came from a dumpster. There is some sort of AC problem as parts of the ship is OK and parts are very hot. Also the ship seems stuck in the 60,s to me. That's the decor and I am sure lots like it alto I did not care for it. The Crew. They were great in all areas. We were a party of 8, I found the service in the MDR to be very slow. The waiter was running around best he could. He said 8 people were just cut there. Food. Was as you would expect, I call it wedding food. Some things very good others so so. Nothing was bad or had to be sent back. We really liked the Lido and the Italian Rest. Alto the Pinnacle was good, I would expect this level in the MDR, it was not worth the up charge. What you got extra was lots of dinnerware, glasses and plates. When I asked for lobster and steak they wanted another 10$. Entertainment. Saw most of it, all was good. I miss the ships band at the shows as HAL uses caned music. I find that to be very tacky. Overall. Loved the itinerary however I would not chose this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
The EMBARKATION: Things were going pretty well for us the morning we boarded the ship... arrived from the Holiday Inn Express (exactly as it is named... express -- but used points so no cost! ) and got the luggage sent away -- easy ... Read More
The EMBARKATION: Things were going pretty well for us the morning we boarded the ship... arrived from the Holiday Inn Express (exactly as it is named... express -- but used points so no cost! ) and got the luggage sent away -- easy peasy.... There were several hundred in the terminal...at 11:00... not too surprising here... through the back and forths in the line... but that's when it happened... Have you ever gotten to the very front fi the line and SNAP! ! ! the computers go down... about a 20 minute conversation with the very nice lady from Holland America while we watched all of the agents struggle to re-boot the system... Finally they were working again and we were rushed through the check-in process... swish... swish... pictures taken and onto the ship. We head to the Main Dining room for the worst meal of the trip, the Mariner welcome aboard lunch in the main dining room. Things had to get better... and they did. The SHIP: Certainly not a new vessel... she could use a bit of refurbishing -- new cushions on the chairs, replacement of most of the deck chairs, several coats of paint would do wonders... there was much rust showing -- but not surprising... it is sailing on the ocean! The maintenance crew actually repainted the balcony areas and refinished the railings around our cabin one day while we were gone. The venues were all in fine shape -- she just needs a touch of new... Our cabin had more storage than I remember in the past. 3 closet doors (one was just shelves where the safe was), space under the sink, 2 drawers in each of the night stands, a large drawer under each bed and 2 large drawers under the sofa. We had no problems with plumbing or air conditioning. Still can't figure out which switch turns on which lights... we never did figure out how to turn the light on next to the mirror. Our DVD was broken, no big deal, we were just going to look at some pictures we purchased. Only 2 plugs at the small desk to charge cameras, phones and computers.... Just saying... The FOOD: In a word.... GOOD.... Not spectacular, no WOW factor... but certainly tasty. Lobster on the 3rd formal night was worth waiting for (be sure to order 2). Our Main Dining Room waiters ALWAYS greeted us by name, had iced tea waiting on the table and on our anniversary, they brought us a cake and sang to us. We ate one evening in the Pinnacle Grill -- well worth the extra cost -- ours was actually a gift from our travel agent. Food and service were a step above... Unfortunately, I sprang for the dinner at Le Cirque.... Do not waste your money for that... did not meet any expectations of being "world class" or special in any way... the Pinnacle Grill dinner was every bit as good... The Lido was always good and very busy for breakfast, crowded and not well organized. The tea and coffee areas were always a hassle -- either no glasses or little small glasses. We had room service bring breakfast several times... always on time, and always correct and can you say... convenient. The Mariner's lunch on the last sea day was an overflow from the lunch on the sea day before, there we apparently many Mariners on this cruise -- the food was very good there as well. The SERVICE: OK -- they cleaned the cabin whenever we left it - almost as we leave.... where is the camera -- they have to be watching somehow. They did a fine job, with a new towel animal each evening. We tried the $20 all-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag laundry service... everything came out just fine. And my shoes are now the shiniest they have ever been. Around the ship, everyone greeted you as they passed... even our waiters and waitresses at the different before dinner drink venues started calling us by name whenever, wherever they met us. The SHOWS: The Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers -- Better than average, lead singers were pretty good, the dancers were pretty good. No one here will be winning a Tony award, but good entertainment -- enjoyed their 3 performances. Comedian -- Elliot Maxx - OK -- clean and funny... a good way to spend an evening. Juggler -- Benji Hill - average... a hard gig to make interesting... seen one, seen two, pretty much seen the act... funny when he "dropped" the "axe" on the selected passenger. Thought he was going to have a heart attack! Magician -- Jeff Peterson -- He did some really fabulous tricks... "How did he do that?" was uttered more than once. He did a matinee performance of close up magic and an encore show later in the cruise. Enjoyed his comedy and the tricks were good. But the best part of the act was Indie, his dog, who is a psychic magician also... Singer -- Impersonator -- Jeff Trachta by far the most dynamic of the performers... he had video running behind him, lights, and much sound mixing made for a most enjoyable program. He also shared an encore evening with Jeff the Magician. Steel Drum Band -- Island Magic - All I can say is WOW! The audience leapt to their feet at the conclusion of their performance -- it wasn't just a standing ovation where everyone kinda sees someone standing then by guilt stands up and claps ... NO ! We leapt to our feet ! ! That was the first time I had ever heard classical music and Broadway tunes played by a steel drum band. They did an afternoon matinee and apparently played by the pool one afternoon -- we missed that one. Pretty amazing to hear Amazing Grace in four part harmony on steel drums... don't miss this group if you ever get a chance to hear them. The PORTS: Fort Lauderdale -- not an official stop on the cruise, but we went in a day early. We took the river taxi on Easter Sunday past the behemoth yachts and the humongous houses --who are these people? Ate lunch at Mangos on Las Olas Blvd then had a margarita on the beach followed by dinner at Shooters... a very nice way to spend an afternoon. Half Moon Cay -- owned by Holland America -- very well done. The horseback riding was really fun, SPASH into the ocean we went! The horses looked to be well taken care of and the trainers were very helpful in getting us on and off. We also did the Stingray encounter... the water there was pretty cloudy, but a really neat experience to get to feed them. There was some confusion around the lunch area, the iced tea machines were not working well, nor were the ice dispensers... probably a way to sell more soda and drinks. Food was good, not great... good -- about what I expected. The beach was really clean, and with 2 ships, was not really crowded at all. The tendering process was well coordinated -- missed the cool towel and drink of water that the Noordam crew setup for their passengers.... Do not miss the rum punch at the "I wish I Could Stay Here Forever" Bar -- make it a double -- you won't regret it. Aruba -- took the Sea and See tour from Holland America shore excursions... the semi-submersible was interesting -- but most of the viewing of the submerged shipwreck was on the starboard side -- I was sitting on the port side and without standing up and trying to share the window with my fellow passenger, I would not have seen much. The land portion was interesting, the California lighthouse, the fallen natural bridge and the smaller baby bridge, and the Casibari rock formations were sights to see. Try a Balashi beer at the refreshment stand at the lighthouse -- brewed locally there in Aruba. There were many resort hotels on the island that would make for a nice week's vacation. Bonaire -- went on a snorkeling trip booked off-ship with Woodwind tours... Dee and her crew were great. She even had several prescription masks available for folks that wore glasses. They brought along a photographer that went along on our "dives". Dee was quick to point out all the interesting underwater formations and creatures that we saw. Safety was covered very well, "drowning is against company policy". 2 "dives" of about an hour each with food at the end and snack/drinks in between. A really good outing! We negotiated a taxi tour at the souvenir tents at the dock to take us out to see the flamingos. Went to the salt flats in the South and Lake Gotomeer in the North and Rincon in the middle... saw every bit of that small island... Curacao -- Took the Willemstad Trolley sightseeing excursion from the shore excursions desk -- best advantage to this was getting a taxi ride from the dock to the Punda side. The train ride passed the floating market, several restored homes including the "wedding cake house" and then made a photo stop at a beautiful church, known as the "Cathedral of Pietermaai" or Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. End of the ride was at Fort Amsterdam location of the Governor's Palace. We did some shopping and walked back across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge back to the ship. A 15 -20 minute walk -- longer if you stop to shop! Panama -- a really long day that started too early. The time changed on the ship overnight, they forgot to set the wake-up call computer back... we were awakened an hour earlier that we had scheduled. Do not miss the Panama rolls served on all of the outside areas. We started watching the transit from our 5th floor forward portside balcony, and I couldn't take it anymore, I had to go to the bow to see the gates open - A really cool experience in the heat of Panama. We were scheduled on the Canal Experience excursion, so midway through the 2nd lock we had to go get breakfast -- after all, we had been up now for 5 hours. After scarfing that down, I was up on deck 10 by the time we entered Gatun Lake. EVERYONE was on a tour...therefore EVERYONE was in the Vista Lounge for their turn at the tenders. The tenders got us off to the yacht club and awaiting busses quickly and efficiently. Upon arrival at the ferry boat dock about an hour's bus ride away, we were told that they had to add a 2nd boat to accommodate all the passengers... we were assigned to the smaller boat -- only had 84 passengers and had a really great lunch... glad not to have had to fight for space on the larger ferry with over 200 folks fighting for a space. Started at the bridge of Americas and ended at the Pacific ocean through the Pedro Miguel lock and the 2 Miraflores locks -- got to touch the sides of the 100 year old locks... pretty cool. Panama City is quite the modern city compared to the other Panama, the 3rd world dirty trashy place I had expected. Panama is checked off the list -- no need to go back there. Costa Rica -- we had arranged an off-ship tour through Greenway Tours that took us to the zip line at Cedar Valley Ranch, the Del Monte banana plantation and a Tortugero canal boat tour. First time to zip line -- it certainly won't be our last! ! The crew there was very accommodating, one of the fellows even HELD a poisonous dart frog to show us. After a really quick informative stop at the banana processing plant we arrived at the small boat dock for our canal tour.... We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys and a sloth along with a caiman, iguana, and several types of herons. I expected a bit more, but a very good tour. We will go back to Costa Rica someday to see more of their jungle. The MISCELLANEOUS: The photographers are everywhere ! ! And from what they charge, they are really, really proud of their work... REALLY !? The 9th deck forward elevators force you to exit to the Lido pool through the spa reception area... we felt like we were inconveniencing the spa staff every time we walked through there from our room to the Lido Cafeteria or pool. Late night was non-existent -- expected such -- it is the senior cruise on Holland America. I did feel sorry for DJ Steve in the Northern Lights Disco... NO ONE was there any time I stopped by. JT Watters, the cruise director and his staff were good, not the energetic Fun Patrol that you see on Carnival, laid back as it should be - this is, after all, Holland America... JT ran the team trivia each day -- we got to be quite the close knit group. Most obvious (?) question of the cruise .... A Donkey sinks in quicksand - True or False? Formal nights were well attended -- 40%-50% of the men wore Tuxes on the first formal night a few less on the 2nd and 3rd -- yes there were 3. Plus, there was a smattering of white dinner jackets on each of those nights as well. Everyone else was in dark suits and ties. Very nice! 10-15% of the men wore sport jackets on the Smart Casual evenings as well. The women all looked fine in gowns, dresses and suits. Disembarkation ran smoothly only a bit behind schedule, and Customs was easier than the security at the airport -- don't get me started on this one -- repacking overweight bags and all.... The SUMMARY: We took the cruise because of the itinerary -- the ABC islands, the Panama Canal and Costa Rica -- it did not disappoint -- this was a great cruise, we relaxed a bit, we saw many things and we ate really well (only gained 6 pounds). We like Holland America and will sail with them again... but we will probably be going back to Celebrity for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We are still relatively new to cruising, but this marked our fifth cruise (all with Holland America) in the last four years. It is difficult for us to judge Holland America against other lines, as we have no experience, but so far we have ... Read More
We are still relatively new to cruising, but this marked our fifth cruise (all with Holland America) in the last four years. It is difficult for us to judge Holland America against other lines, as we have no experience, but so far we have been happy with the experience and see no reason to switch. We live on the West Coast, so arriving at Fort Lauderdale a day early (at least)is highly recommended. We chose the Cambria Suites in Dania Beach, very close to the Fort Lauderdale airport and the cruiseport, based on TripAdvisor reviews and the fact they had an airport and a cruiseport shuttle included. We were picked up by their friendly shuttle driver within 10 minutes of calling from the airport. We would definitely stay at this hotel again - very comfortable mini-suites and there is a restaurant/bar/coffee bar downstairs off the lobby. Everyone at the hotel was very friendly and accomodating. We had signed up for the 10am shuttle to the cruiseport, and while we were picked up promptly, the shuttle serves several properties so we made a couple stops en route to the pier. This day, there was one other cruise ship in port, but as they were immediately adjacent to each other, the dropoff area was rather hectic. Once inside the terminal building, there was a sizable lineup for check-in but it moved quickly, and the check-in staff was as friendly as any we have dealt with. We waited only 20 minutes after check-in before we were allowed to begin boarding the ship. I was a bit apprehensive after reading several negative reviews on Cruise Critic and also speaking with a co-worker who had taken this cruise about a month prior. I am happy to report we were very happy with the overall condition of the ship and the crew and staff were the usual friendly Holland America standard that keeps us coming back for more. I had to really look hard to find any "deferred maintenance" type issues. The bracket that holds up the showerhead in our stateroom broke partway through the cruise and was fixed when we reported it. Other than that, plumbing worked as it should and the AC was troublefree. In fact, this cabin was the most comfortable, temperature-wise we have encountered on any Holland America ship. As our cabin was on the main deck, our window had some salt streaks but that is to be expected this close to waterline. It did not impact our enjoyment of the view. Other than hearing some faint noises from below in the mornings (including, what sounded like a crew member singing!), our cabin was very quiet and we would be happy with it again. That being said, this is a cruise worthy of splurging on a verandah, and if we were taking it again, we would. While we found plenty of places on public decks to sit outside and watch the view, or the canal transit, it would have been nice to have had that private retreat, or a door close at hand when the view changed. Also, temperatures on this cruise (consistently in the 80s) were perfect for having a verandah. We typically eat most of our dinners in the Main Dining Room (late fixed seating) and we were very happy with our dining room stewards. Interestingly, instead of one main steward and one assistant, they both seemed to share duties equally. In fact, we found the "assistant" to be our favorite - he surprised my wife with incredible origami creations on several nights. The food quality was what we have come to expect - no complaints, everything came as ordered and advertised. We are happy they are no longer doing the silly "Master Chef's Dinner" although one night the menu retains some of the Master Chef items, just without the song and dance. I gather the dining room staff appreciates that change, too. It was refreshing to have a helpful wine steward who did not try to push the wine package or upsell us to something we really didn't want. There are some familiar items on the menu (scallop ceviche, for instance) but a number of new items. I noticed more change in the menu on this cruise than I have on prior ones; kudos to Holland America for changing things up a bit. We never made it to the Pinnacle Grill but heard glowing reviews from fellow passengers who did go. One night we ate in Canaletto and were very pleased with the experience. In fact, this was probably the best Canaletto dinner we have had in the 3 cruises where we have eaten there. No, it's not going to be the best Italian food you've ever eaten, but it is definitely a nice change from the dining room and is certainly better than anything we could fix at home ourselves. The staff really goes out of its way to see you have a memorable evening. Breakfast and lunch were in the lido or Terrace Grill. Again, no surprises. Nothing really outstanding but all quite good. The staff in both locations seemed friendlier than I am used to. In the past, the servers in these venues seemed rather indifferent. We did not participate in any of the shipboard activities this cruise other than a mixology class but that was loads of fun and we would highly recommend it. If you're a drinker, you would likely be spending that much on the drinks anyway. Also, it's a nice opportunity to meet fellow cruisers. We did spend several evenings in the Crow's Nest listening to a great guitarist, Charlie Jourdan. It was a shame more people did not show up - they missed a great show. He also performed out by the pools several times and in the Capt. Morgan's bar at Half Moon Cay. We appreciate that the Crow's Nest on this ship is a nonsmoking venue (although smokers may go outside on the same deck to find a smoking area by the tables and chairs under the canopy). Smokers and the loud disco music are relocated to the Northern Lights, down on deck 2 by the casino. Speaking of which, the casino allows smoking, as does the Sports bar, which is also in the same area. This creates a large concentrated area of cigarette smoke that can be very bothersome or easier to avoid, depending on your take of it. Smoking is also allowed on the starboard side aft pool deck by the Sea View bar. There were quite a few smokers in this area but the breezes usually did a good job of clearing the smoke. Half Moon Cay was our first port, and our absolute favorite. We shared the island with the Noordam this day, and while some areas were a little crowded it wasn't that bad. Do yourself a favor and book a clamshade rental well before your cruise, as they fill up fast. It is only $15 and covers two lounge chairs. Only hitch is you need to get there early to claim it, even if you have it booked as they were going to give them away after 10 am. We also went parasailing here and had a blast! Even the boat ride while you wait your turn is worth it. So much fun, we cannot wait to go again. The water here is beautifully clear and the sand is so soft it's like powder. Also, the sand does not get hot. Several bars are interspersed around the area to meet your beverage needs and a BBQ lunch, all served up by folks you may recognize from your ship. A really fun day and we wish they would offer cruises that had a longer stop here, or multiple stops. There is so much to do and yet laying on the beach in the shade wouldn't be a bad way to spend the day either. Next port was Aruba and this was probably our least favorite. It seems like a nice place, though the good beaches are a taxi ride away (by the resort area). The area around the dock is full of the high end jewelry stores that the shopping ambassador on board will try to steer you toward. We walked around a bit then came back to the ship to freshen up before going out again for the sunset catamaran cruise. While we did not really see much, it was a fun evening and the sunset views from the water are spectacular. They have an open bar (limited choices) and snacks but they make some mean drinks and by the time you're back in port most everyone is feeling very happy. Nice view of the cruise ship all lit up, too. Our next port was Bonaire and we loved the low-key quality of this place. More beautiful crystal clear water (you can see all the way to the bottom where the ship is berthed) and a charming little town that is very walkable. There was a craft market set up by the pier that we browsed through, and then walked through the town and on the seaside promenade. Several other passengers derided this port for the lack of nice beaches but we found it very enjoyable. Refreshingly, no Diamonds Internationsl in sight! We are not divers but heard this is the place to do that if that interests you. Judging from the clear water with fish visible right by the dock, I can see why. Curacao is the next port and the biggest of the three in the ABC islands. We had booked the dolphin encounter so did not get enough time to wander around on our own. A shame, as it looked like a nice place. The ride to and from the Dolphin Academy took us through neighborhoods and over the high bridge that spans the waterway accessing the more industrial part of the port. Great views and a fun way to see some of the city. We loved the dolphin encounter and think we made the right choice by not choosing the "swim". That excursion was basically the same as ours but you got to actually swim with dolphins and the price was twice the amount. Our time in the water with the dolphins was about the same, and those of us not doing the swim seemed to get more "up close" time with them. They really push the photos but how many times are you going to do this? Highly recommended. The excursion gives you admission to the aquarium but there is not much time left after you are done with the dolphins to do much other than a little browsing. One sea day later and the ship arrives at the Panama Canal early in the morning. Watching the whole process, complete with an onboard narrator, is simply awe-inspiring. You can also see where they are working feverishly to build a new, larger set of locks as many modern ships are now too big for the current set. The ship anchors in Gatun Lake to disembark passengers via tenders for excursions but we elected to stay on the ship and watch the process of exiting - this provided an even better view than the passage in the morning. So many people disembarked for tours that there was plenty of room at the bow, or railing to view the entire process. After exiting the locks, the ship docks in Colon, which is a big industrial port. There was a rather new looking area of shops and a casino right off the ship, but we did not check it out. The last port on this cruise is Puerto Limon, in Costa Rica. Like Colon, it's another industrial port, and unless you get away from the area where the ship docks, it doesn't look like much. I did the zip-line canopy tour, which was about a 30 minute bus ride away. On the way to the eco-park where the tour is operated, you see a very poor looking country. Lots of trash by the roadside, barbed wire and ramshackle homes. The people here are very friendly, however. The zip-line place is very lush and we saw plenty of wildlife (big spiders, sloths, poison frogs, toucans) along the ride up to where the zip lines start. Everyone on this tour seemed to have a blast riding the zip lines through the trees. 12 different lines of varying length and steepness deliver you back down the mountain to where the buses park. There is a small cafe/bar here where you can have a snack or drink and take more pictures before the tour ends. Another highly recommended excursion. Certainly made me forget about all the trash back by the port. Following Costa Rica, it is two whole sea days to get back to Fort Lauderdale. Bear in mind there are four time changes on this cruise, all of them in the latter part of the trip. This can make things interesting, especially if you fly out of Fort Lauderdale to another time zone the day of disembarkation. We did and I think to do it again, we would add in another day or two at the end of the cruise. In spite of that, we would take this cruise again in a heartbeat. Disembarkation went off without a hitch and we were off the ship and outside within 15 minutes. We took advantage of their luggage direct program and although we were a bit apprehensive about it due to a plane change en route, all of our bags made it home safe and sound. On this cruis, we got to see so much and experience a lot of diversity that it felt like a much longer cruise. The Zuiderdam is in fine shape and her crew is some of the best we have experienced on Holland America. If you go looking to nitpick stuff, you're going to find problems, no matter where you go. We really thought this was the perfect vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
The Zuiderdam is a beautiful Holland America ship -- very well maintained with very nice officers and a great staff! We booked an SA suite category (7080) and really enjoyed the use of the Neptune Lounge and the breakfast in the ... Read More
The Zuiderdam is a beautiful Holland America ship -- very well maintained with very nice officers and a great staff! We booked an SA suite category (7080) and really enjoyed the use of the Neptune Lounge and the breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. The room was very clean, nice and roomy. My only complaint with the room was that the sofa was not very comfortable to sit in and the chairs needed replacing -- the leather on them was quite worn (but by no means horrible). The cabin stewards were GREAT and so friendly and always smiling. The food was overall VERY good. We had 2 great waiters in the MDR who really went above and beyond. I have been on 3 other HAL cruises and the food was by far the best on this sailing. The MDR was very nice, but there was very little music. The place in the center of the staircase (where a grand piano should be) seemed to be a place to put unused chairs. I was pleased that the Pinnacle Grill was open for lunch -- there was a 10.00 change to eat lunch there, but well worth it to avoid the crowds in the Lido restaurant. We ate in the Lido as little as possible. The food is good, but it just gets too crowded and complicated to eat there. There was a lot of great art in the public areas of the Zuiderdam. All very tastefully done and displayed. The Zuiderdam offers a "Behind the Scenes" tour, I was lucky enough to take. They only did it once and it was limited to 16 guests. It was really interesting to see the areas that passengers never normally see and gave me an even greater appreciation for the work that the crew and staff do. Of course the crowning point was seeing the ships bridge and having a photo op with the ships Master. In all, it was a great cruise, typical of HAL! We stayed 2 pre cruise nights in Ft. Lauderdale at the Hyatt Pier 66 in a tower room and really enyoyed watching the ships come and go! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
This was both a Panama Canal and a repositioning cruise. We were expecting an older demographic, given that it was HAL and a longer Panama Canal cruise...but we had severely underestimated. With over 2,000 passengers, there were just three ... Read More
This was both a Panama Canal and a repositioning cruise. We were expecting an older demographic, given that it was HAL and a longer Panama Canal cruise...but we had severely underestimated. With over 2,000 passengers, there were just three children on board. A 71 year old woman came up to me (I'm in my mid-40s) and said "you're one of the young ones! I feel really young with this crowd!!" It was a really, really old group of passengers -- even the crew were surprised by it, and many jokes were made (comedian: "I'm 57 years old, and I tell ya: there are a LOT of good looking women on this ship. If only I were 20 years older...."). The itinerary was Fort Lauderdale to either San Diego (13 day), Vancouver (16 day), Seattle (17 day), stopping in Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Around 900 passengers disembarked in San Diego, and a similar number embarked for a short repositioning cruise (3 or 4 days; there was also a 1 day Vancouver-Seattle option). I have to hand it to HAL for choosing to dock in Nicaragua. It's an undeveloped location without much tourism infrastructure, and we weren't expecting much. However, we docked, walked a few minutes, and were in the midst of a local market where there were beautiful crafts (and not so beautiful - dead frogs holding a wee tequila bottle!), local live music, and $1 Nicaraguan beers in a cafe with a great ceiling fan. So much character, lovely people, and you directly saw the impact of your money. Tip: bring your ship chocolates to hand to the little kids and see their faces light up! The Westerdam felt pretty tired overall (ripped wallpaper, tons of burned out lightbulbs, cracked & dirty upholstery,etc), but ironically we were repeatedly disturbed by maintenance at sea. I guess they were taking advantage of the final 'warm' time before heading to Alaska, but since the ship had just come out of a two week drydock, all of the work being done on the ship felt excessive. We had an 'obscured view' cabin, with floor to ceiling windows and a lifeboat/tender on the other side...which was repeatedly accessed by staff -- every day we had workers RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOWS -- which is pretty different than the notion of just having your view obscured! Several times we tried relaxing on deck 10 in the afternoon and were interrupted by workers setting up to paint, or wheeling things slowly across the deck that they'd cut off the ship. One morning we were up earlier for a walk and counted at least a dozen workers on deck, painting, varnishing, sanding, replacing ship pieces. Pretty much every day there was string up along railings, with 'wet varnish' signs...or wet paint signs. In the Culinary Arts Center/Queen's Lounge, they removed seating in chunks and seemed to be reupholstering them, replacing, and moving on to the next chunk. We understand the need for ship's maintenance, but it was CONSTANT, and interfered with activities and general enjoyment. This was our vacation -- not fix up time at home! I've been on cruises in the past, including repositioning cruises, and I've never experienced this level of visible work on the ship. Unfortunately, our cabin also seemed in need of repairs. In addition to workers outside our window, we had no cold water for nearly a full day -- impossible to have a shower without scalding. Our A/C stopped working. It was frustration on top of frustration, and the small plate of chocolates didn't go far in helping with goodwill. Also, they had just changed over all of their production shows, so they required extra rehearsal time. This meant that the Vista show lounge was unavailable for use for many of the large talks, so people were crammed -- and I mean squished, hot, and jammed -- into the Queen's Lounge/Culinary Arts Center. The ship staff did the best to accommodate this by repeating talks or showing them on the room TV, but it happened so many times that it was a big pain. Speaking of the ship's staff, they were terrific (especially Jason, the non-stop energetically perky cruise director), but that's been the case for pretty much every cruise I've been on -- cruise staff seem to love what they do and are great at it. On the Westerdam the food was overall quite good, great at times, though the desserts were generally rather pretty and tasteless. On note: the dining room 'dress code' needs to be more clearly conveyed and logically based. We were told on the first night in the formal dining room that shorts were okay for tonight only, and then wouldn't be allowed (fine, no problem, what we'd expected)...yet on that second night we saw jeans & flip flops, and very sporty athletic shoes and logo socks. If it's going to be a 'dressed up' dining room, then fine, create a reasonable standard and enforce it -- dinner is always available in the Lido. But don't do it by half measures. We chose to cruise HAL for the first time as we were ready for the sophistication, attention to detail, excellent service, amazing food, etc. that repeat HAL cruisers rave about -- but we just didn't experience that. However, I will say that we really enjoyed the overall quality of ship activities (culinary arts center, speaker series, Microsoft computer classes, production shows) -- as well as the generous wine policy! However, we'll probably use a different line next cruise, and wouldn't recommend the Westerdam. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We embarked in Ft. Lauderdale. The embarkation process was the only down side to the cruise. Since we are in a Deluxe Verandah Suite we are supposed to get priority boarding, etc. The people acted like they had never heard of it, even ... Read More
We embarked in Ft. Lauderdale. The embarkation process was the only down side to the cruise. Since we are in a Deluxe Verandah Suite we are supposed to get priority boarding, etc. The people acted like they had never heard of it, even though there was a special line. When we finally got to the front of the line, people were crowding in front of us. It was 6 hours before sailing, but everyone was going crazy like they were going to miss the boat. Once on board, our suite was ready and as usual, flowers and champagne were waiting. The first two days were sea days, it was grey and raining so most of the days were spent relaxing in our suite. The first port was Cartagena, Columbia. The next morning we arose at 5:00 to go out on the bow to watch our entry into the Canal. It took about an hour to get into the first lock and was quite fascinating. We left once we were through the first lock so others could see it from the bow. We were in the Canal and lake the entire day. We were then at sea again, sailing to Costa Rica. The next day we were in Nicaragua. We did a shore excursion to the colonial capital of Leon. Very interesting. The country is beautiful, the people very friendly (but very poor), and the food was good. The country is trying to develop tourism and I do hope they succeed. Then we were in Puerto Vallarta, my favorite city on mainland Mexico. The last port was Cabo San Lucas, my Mexican home away from home. The last day at sea to San Diego was very chilly so a quiet day. We ate in the Pinnacle 7 times (2 of the nights were the La Cirque menu) and it was great as usual. All in all, this was a great cruise. There were many days at sea which I wasn't sure about at first but I enjoyed them all. Our room stewards were great. The staff in the Neptune were extremly helpful and always greeted us with a smile. We disembarked in San Diego. The ship went on to Seattle. Read Less
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