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89 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

Our embarkation and departure were delayed due to an outbreak of the Noro Virus and the CDC made the ship remain in port until it could undergo a thorough cleaning and sanitization. This was certainly not the fault of Holland America and ... Read More
Our embarkation and departure were delayed due to an outbreak of the Noro Virus and the CDC made the ship remain in port until it could undergo a thorough cleaning and sanitization. This was certainly not the fault of Holland America and they did accomodate the waiting passengers with a free shuttle to a shopping and dining area in Fort Lauderdale while we were waiting. Once on board the name of the game was "Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hands, and Wash Them Again!" I have to say that kudos must be given to the crew who worked many, many extra hours to constantly clean every surface that was touched by anyone. Even the entertainers and casino dealers were given duties to monitor hand washing stations to ensure that everyone complied. Because of the red alert instituted by CDC the jacuzzis were empty, the library shelves locked down, magazines removed, and all self service in the buffet suspended. There was no salt, pepper, napkins, utensils, or centerpieces on any of the tables. This condition lasted for the first 8 days of the cruise. Once 48 hours passed with no new cases the conditions were down graded to "yellow alert" on Sunday of the second week. With the yellow alert there was some self service allowed, jacuzzis were filled but not heated, the library shelves were unlocked and magazines put back on the racks. This reprieve lasted until Friday when once again passengers got sick and we were put back into "red alert" status. So while I readily acknowledge that these conditions were not the fault of Holland America or the staff on the Veendam they did affect our trip but are not the reasons we would probably not travel with them again. Passengers: We met some very nice people on board but overall the passengers were a much older crowd. We were told by staff members that the average age was over 70. By 10:00 PM every night the ship was like a ghost town with almost no one in the casino, most of the lounges empty, and the halls and public areas mostly deserted. If you like to party into the night then this is not the cruise line for you. Entertainment: The entertainment was fine. We went to the shows every evening and for the most part enjoyed them. I enjoyed several demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center and my husband watched several movies but there was not really much of interest to do during the day. There was the usual overpriced Bingo games and ridiculously overpriced Art Auctions but not much else. Excursions/ Ports of Call: The main reason we took this cruise was to see the Panama Canal and that was pretty awesome. The port talk on the canal's history was especially helpful and we thoroughly enjoyed that part of our trip. Other than the canal we liked Aruba and were pleasantly surprised at Zihuatanjo, it is a very clean little fishing village that we enjoyed very much. We participated in a couple of excursions with the ship but really dislike the cattle car feeling of being herded into a bus with 60 or 70 other people. We prefer to do independent tours or excursions but were told during the port talks that at least some of the ports were dangerous and warned not to go off by yourself. We were told not to wear jewelry, not to dress fancy, and not to take anything ashore we did not absolutely need. In Puerto Quetzal, we took a taxi into town and were dropped off by the central plaza and the driver agreed to pick us up in two hours. It was market day and the streets were pretty full of people and lots of little moto-cabs. (motorcyle two person cabs). We saw everything we wanted to see in less than half an hour and went to sit on a bench in the plaza to wait for our cab. After a short time a police woman came up to us and asked how we got there and whether we came by bus. I am able to converse reasonably well in Spanish and told her we came by taxi. Her response was, "NO!" She told us not to go outside the the plaza area and not to take any of the little cabs because they would rob us. She left and came back in less than a minute with a man. She told us that he was a good man, was safe and told us to go with him and go back to the ship. So we followed her instructions and returned to the ship! We really question why Holland America chooses to make port stops where their own staff instructs the passengers that it is dangerous. Food: We had breakfast in the Lido Buffet every morning and it was fine. The selection was the same every single day but we could mix it up a little on our own by choosing hot cereal, waffles, omelettes cooked to order, fruit, egg cooked to order, as well as juice, coffee, etc. Lunch time offerings included sandwiches and a few other buffet offerings but we really never ate lunch there except for a couple of times after returning from a shore excursion. Both times that we tried to have lunch in the afternoon we found the selection to be depleted and sorely lacking. We went a few times for an ice cream which we enjoyed, afterall what can you do to ice cream? For dinner we chose open seating and ate in the dining room most nights. The food in the Main Dining Room was good but not particularly memorable. We always shared a table with other passengers because we like to meet new people. Dinner always took close to two hours and made it a rush to get to the 8:00 PM show. A couple of times we had to wolf down dessert and bolt and another time skipped it altogether due to time. We ate one night each in the Pinnacle Grill and at Canaletto's (the Italian Restaurant) compliments of our travel agent. Both of these meals were quite good and the service was excellent. Dinner in the Lido Buffet was horrible. The selections were limited, the meat almost always over cooked and dried out, the vegetables over cooked, the salad bar and dressings depleted, and the seating limited. Every night half of the buffet area was closed and reserved for staff and officers during prime dinner hours leaving everyone else to try and find seating in the other half. After two or three attempts to get a good meal in the buffet because we didn't feel like dressing up or we were tired we gave up and went to the dining room every night. Cabin: Our cabin was fine and seemed a little larger than the cabin on some other cruise lines we have used. It was large enough for a night stand on each side of the bed and a sofa across from the desk/dressing table. There was ample drawer and closet space and the bathroom was a decent size. Our room was very noisy and anytime we were moving the room creaked and squeaked and at times it sounded as if we had been invaded by large animals scratching in the carpet and walls. The ship is older approaching 20 years so maybe that is just how an old ship sounds but I don't remember that much creaking and noise on other ships in which we have traveled. In summary: We had a good time and enjoyed crossing the Panama Canal but the passengers were much older (or at least seemed much older), there were limited activities, the food was not that good and some of the ports are dangerous unless you are on an expensive cruise line sponsored excursion. It was the first time we have taken a cruise where we were ready to be off the ship several days before the cruise actually ended.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Had our first HAL cruise on the Statendam in September. It was a disaster! Decided to try one more since it was the date and itinerary we wanted and my aunt loves the line (she's 85). At first brush, this was a far superior ship to ... Read More
Had our first HAL cruise on the Statendam in September. It was a disaster! Decided to try one more since it was the date and itinerary we wanted and my aunt loves the line (she's 85). At first brush, this was a far superior ship to the one we took to Alaska. While old, it was in good shape and seemed to be well maintained. The embarkation process was quick and efficient. We were on within 20 minutes of arriving at the dock. Room was larger than the Carnival ship we sailed to California on though it did not seem to have as much storage. As the trip progressed however, we found that the thermostat was non-functional. Room was hot at night and cooled off in early morning hours. The DVD player took three maintenance visits to fix and the room CREAKED. Honestly, any movement of the ship caused it to pop and groan like an old house. My wife woke up several nights convinced someone was in the room. We like an inside cabin because we sleep late and like the darkness. No sleeping here! At 6 AM every morning something started banging on the other side of the wall. The food was good but not memorable. The dishes were sometimes not what was described on the menu (roasted potatoes instead of mashed, Israeli couscous in a Moroccan couscous salad, etc.). Coffee had grounds in it most nights. And forget getting a second cup. Ordered a movie pack one night. Got the soft drinks and popcorn immediately. Three hours later called about the dvd and was informed the steward could not deliver it as our do not disturb sign was up. If it was, how did we get our snacks? Took 4 calls and 11 hours one the last night to get a bottle of Tequila that was taken from us after a shore excursion. That said, most of the staff were excellent. Entertainment was top notch. Just get to the showroom an hour before the show or you'll hear not see it. The fitness area was just weird. There were plenty of exercise machines for this age group though all but two of the stationary bike were on permanent reserve for classes. The men's changing area had a door to the thermal spa area. Nice touch until a confused older lady wandered out of the spa area looking for coffee. Luckily, they provide robes as I was going from the changing room to the showers at the time. After repeatedly telling her this was the men's locker room, I gave up and sent her to the Lido buffet for coffee. A few days latter, I heard what appeared to be a female voice directing a new patron around. I had locked the changing room door because of the previous incident so she could not open it (though she tried) to show him the facilities. The lockers had a towel and robe in each and sometimes a pair of small shower clogs (2 out of 9 days). Disembarkation was a mess but I'm sure that was due to the norovirus outbreak on board. On that, the Captain and crew did an outstanding job containing it. I truly cannot fault them in any way. Holland America is a line designed for elderly passengers. Most were in there 70's and 80's. I'm sure they loved it (as does my aunt) and I'm sure in another 15 years or so, so will I. But at present, I'm only 64 and think I'll stick with the other options (Carnival and Princess come to mind). Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
The ship has not been refurbished in years and is badly in need of a total overhaul. - There is rust on may areas of the exterior of the ship. In the past, when cruising, I noticed that, in every port, there were workmen paining the hull ... Read More
The ship has not been refurbished in years and is badly in need of a total overhaul. - There is rust on may areas of the exterior of the ship. In the past, when cruising, I noticed that, in every port, there were workmen paining the hull of the ship. Not so on this cruise. - There is rust on the tiles in the pool. - There is rust on the rails of the movable roof (over the pool). - When they open and close the roof, it makes a terribly loud noise. - The portholes, and almost all windows on the ship are filthy. - The wood surrounding the pool is badly in need of some stain and polyurethane. - In addition, the wood surrounding the pool has grooves in which there seems to be some type of tar. Ruined bathing suits. - The Vista lounge (in which the shows are presented) is very shabby; the furniture is fraying and torn. - The shows put on by The Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers were terrible. Rank amateur. Two male and 2 female singers. One female singer had a decent voice; the others cannot carry a tune. - Many bathrooms were "closed for cleaning" for the entire cruise. - One hot tub was covered with netting for the whole cruise and was not usable. PROS: - The food was very good - The entertainer in the Piano Bar was very good.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Embarkation – HAL staff / Port Everglades personnel need to do a better job of directing incoming passengers to fill out the Medical Condition forms before they get on the escalators. Otherwise, the check in and boarding process went ... Read More
Embarkation – HAL staff / Port Everglades personnel need to do a better job of directing incoming passengers to fill out the Medical Condition forms before they get on the escalators. Otherwise, the check in and boarding process went well. However, once across the threshold and onto the ship we were merely directed to the elevators to take us away to our rooms with no real sense of being warmly welcomed aboard. Our experiences boarding both Royal Caribbean and Princess cruises have been a warm welcome reception by ship personnel, making us feel truly welcomed and valued as their passenger. Not the case when boarding the Zuiderdam. Stateroom 6065 – Not acceptable upon arrival. Desktops were dusty and had rings from the drink glasses of the previous occupants. The verandah was filthy, with clumps of hair and smoking debris. The small table on the verandah had a heavily corroded base and a severely chipped table top surface. We cleaned the desktop surfaces of the dust and glass rings and asked the stateroom attendant to clean the verandah, which he did, albeit inadequately, leaving behind some debris. Later in the day we again asked the attendant to clean the verandah and only with our supervision was it properly cleaned. Later that evening we encountered a housekeeping supervisor in the hallway and invited him into our room to speak with us. We explained to him the condition of the stateroom upon our arrival and he said he would speak to our stateroom attendant. We did not feel that the supervisor was engaged with us and was not empathetic nor apologetic about our concerns. To the best of our knowledge, the supervisor never returned to our stateroom to make his own inspection nor did he ever contact us in person, by phone or by message as a follow up to our concerns. These same stateroom / verandah conditions were experienced by our travel companions in the adjacent stateroom 6063. We asked for, and were provided an ashtray but it was never cleaned or emptied until the 4th or 5th day when we expressly requested the stateroom attendant to clean it. He did not seem to be adequately trained to know that an ashtray needs occasional cleaning. In general, we found the staterooms and the entire ship to be worn and in need of updating. Service – Dining room service is impeded by cramped quarters. At times, the wait staff was unable to properly serve dishes or replace the table service due to the inability to access the proper side of the customer. On our previous 14 cruises we have never been refused a shrimp cocktail even when ordered off menu. Only after dining in the Pinnacle Grill and arriving at the understanding that shrimp is readily available every evening were we able to coerce our waiter to bring us shrimp cocktail when not on the menu. On the third or fourth evening coffee was not served until after we finished dessert. This was brought to the attention of the assistant Maître d’, who explained that the coffee takes a long time to make and was not started in time to be served with dessert. In our opinion, this is again a training issue as coffee should always be prepared in advance of serving dessert. On a positive note – our Wine Attendant, Anne, displayed superior customer service and was the most engaging and customer focused HAL employee we encountered. Lido Dining – On the day at sea between Curacao and Cartagena, there was no lemonade available in the Lido dining area. I asked for the head staff member available and he soon presented himself. He explained that there was a refrigeration problem that was preventing them from serving the lemonade but that they were working diligently to resolve the issue and hope to have everything in working order in a short time. A short time later, I observed this manager with a ½ gallon container of lemonade in his hand. Soon he was delivering a glass of lemonade to me, but this left me wondering how a refrigeration issue was preventing them from opening and pouring a container of lemonade into a glass. Further exasperating me, the glass he brought with the lemonade was chipped and cracked. I did not notice until after I had thanked him and he had left. Rather than run him down and bring this to his attention, I left my lemonade untouched, but thinking “shouldn’t he have noticed this?” Disembarkation - We were last group called off the ship. Should have minimized congestion, we thought. Not so. As we queued up, the deck was so crowded we were backed up on the stairs. Eventually, we made our way down the stairs and were far enough down the stairs to where we could see the point of exit. It was at this time that one of the HAL staff decided that having people on the stairs was a fire hazard and moved our party around to where we were looking down into the atrium. We went from being within site of the exit to being exactly at the back of the line. Once we worked our way back around towards the door we observed people being permitted to queue up on the stairs. Why were we moved? When the opportunity presented itself, I challenged the HAL staff person who had moved us under the premise of being on the stairs as a fire hazard, pointing out that people who had been well behind us on the stairs had just been permitted to leave the ship ahead of us. This HAL employee looked me square in the eye, shrugged her shoulders and walked away. In my estimation, having waited for a relatively short duration on the stairs, moving us around the back of the staircase into the atrium area easily added a half hour to our disembarkation. To describe our disembarkation as a train wreck would be disrespectful to most train wrecks. In conclusion, we will not be back with Holland America. Our perception of Holland America was that of being a cut above Royal Caribbean and Princess where we have all our other previous cruise experience. We found this to be far from true. Both Royal Caribbean and Princess strive to find a way to say "yes" to customer requests. We heard "no" a lot (read previous comments regarding the shrimp cocktail). Having retired from 43 years of professional employment, I firmly believe that most people want to do a good job and when they fail to do a good job it is most likely due to 2 reasons: I failed to provide them with adequate training or I failed to provide them with proper leadership. Which is it Holland America? Inadequate training or poor leadership? I am positive it is not the people.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
FLL to Port Everglades: This was no problem at all. We decided not to pay the expensive Holland America transfer and got a taxi at the airport. For three people, our fair was $15 total and it took us only a few minutes to get there. Ship: ... Read More
FLL to Port Everglades: This was no problem at all. We decided not to pay the expensive Holland America transfer and got a taxi at the airport. For three people, our fair was $15 total and it took us only a few minutes to get there. Ship: I found the Zuiderdam to be in ok condition. It is starting to show some wear on the interior, but is mostly in good condition. Some tables have some wear and tear, as do handrails. The carpeting is wearing in some locations, but is mostly unnoticeable. Room: We stayed in 5037 which is a verandah stateroom. I found it to be of average size for a cruise ship - nothing great, nothing terrible. Our cabin steward was fantastic and always had our room in top shape. Entertainment: I found this underwhelming. They did have some good shows - a couple funny comedians, an ok magician, and the Zuiderdam Singers/Dancers had good shows. I didn't feel there were a lot of options though. On other cruises, there may be 2, 3, 4 or 5 different things to do at any one time. On the Zuiderdam, there were really only 1 or 2 things going on at a time, and if you weren't into whatever that was, you were out of luck. I just found it a step below other cruise lines in that regard. Guest Age: For whatever reason, the average age on this cruise was like 75 or maybe older. I'm 33, but even my 63 year old mother thought the average age was "too old." I've heard that Holland America, for whatever reason, attracts a much older crowd - in my experience it was true, and actually detracted a little bit from the experience. I did appreciate that there were no headbanging parties or bunches of kids running around, but there also weren't even many middle aged adults "running around." Casino: I have never seen a casino as tight as this one. It was also small, even for a cruise ship. They had the worst payout ratio I've ever seen on video poker - 6/5. If that doesn't mean anything to you, it takes their edge from about 0.1% to about 5%, which is the lowest I'm even aware of. I played $30, promptly lost, and never went back. I'm sure the video poker was indicative of the tightness of the rest of the machines. Staff: The staff were all phenomenal, as is typical on cruise ships in my experience. They were all friendly, helpful, and professional. Food: I typically like everything, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I loved the food. Everything from main dining room steak, lamb, and chicken to the lido deck buffets of pizza, pasta, cookies, sandwhiches, etc. Fantastic. I also really enjoyed breakfasts. Great selections from eggs, pancakes, waffles, breakfast sandwiches, fruits, rolls, danishes, juices, bacon, cereals, you name it - they had it. Overall: It would be really something to not enjoy 10 days in the Caribbean with a very well trained, courteous staff. I did enjoy my overall time on the Zuiderdam. I just would try a different cruise line next time for these main reasons: 1) Not enough options for activities onboard 2) Advanced average age of passengers 3) Remarkably tight casino   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
To start with I want to let you know, until recently HAL was my wife and mine favorite cruise line. We are both 4 star and over the last 45 years I have been at sea for over 1200 days. The following applies to all the HAL ships we have ... Read More
To start with I want to let you know, until recently HAL was my wife and mine favorite cruise line. We are both 4 star and over the last 45 years I have been at sea for over 1200 days. The following applies to all the HAL ships we have sailed on in the past few years. In the last few years I have noticed significant changes with HAL. They are shifting to a more cut-rate cruise line (like Carnival). They are cutting back at every corner in both services and also ship maintenance and it shows. They have cut back on staff and the poor kids are simply worn out and exhausted (like most of their ships). There were very few officers visible and when you do see one, they do not acknowledge the passengers at all. The food in the main and specially dining rooms is still good to very good but once again the service personnel are overworked and have to work even if they are sick. On one of our last cruises (90 days) it seemed like everyone on board came down with a cold. As the crew came down with the same cold they still had to work which spread the condition back to the passengers for a second round. Of the 90 days on board both my wife and I felt miserable for 30 days. On nights we did not want to eat in the dining room the Lido had the port side half of the serving area closed for officers and crew, which reduced half of the seating, making finding a table very difficult. The line and wait for food took close to ½ hour. On several occasions I have received dirty silverware in the Lido. If you want good service you have to eat in the specialty dining rooms. It cost an additional $25 per head but the service is exceptional (like it used to be in the main dining room). HAL had a reputation as not being a "nickel and dime" cruise line but that is all changing (for example, it now cost for espresso in the main dining room during dinner). The ships are not being maintained like the used to. On one ship half of the showroom at sea had to be closed off whenever it rained as the water would drip from the overhead. On another ship the same thing took place in the Lido. As a result both ships always had musty/moldy smell. I have taken photos of rust, leaking pipes, broken cableways and general lack of routine maintenance and sent them to HAL. The only time I got an answer was when I pointed out what I thought was a minor safety hazard. They did reply that their ships were always maintained in a safe condition and that they took safety very seriously. They did not address the specific condition I had brought up. The entertainment is OK but repetitive on longer cruises. To sum it all up: Quality has gone way down, ships conditions have gone down, HAL staff has been cut and is now overworked and service is not what you would expect, HAL is becoming a “nickel and dime” line, and is NOT the same Holland America we once knew. All that said the Panama Canal is fantastic. A must do. In my opinion "Even a bad day at sea is better than a good day on a golf course"   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This is to let all know about the Holland American Cruise, my wife and I took December 5 to the 22nd of 2012. It started off with only some weather problems, fog. You live with it. We got met at the airport by a nice gentleman who ... Read More
This is to let all know about the Holland American Cruise, my wife and I took December 5 to the 22nd of 2012. It started off with only some weather problems, fog. You live with it. We got met at the airport by a nice gentleman who greeted passengers from Holland American, to get us to the ship, We contracted for this and it helps my wife relax, knowing that transportation is taken care of. When we got to the Dock, early that day, about 1100 or so, we were told it would be at least 1400 before we would be able to board the ship. This was due to a viral problem on the ship and they wanted to disinfect the surfaces better. Well about 1500 we started to get processed to board the ship. This is not our first cruise, so we knew what is expected. We could not get to our cabin for a while, so we went to the buffet area and had a snack. About 1700, after we had toured the ship some, we got to our cabin. Our bags were there and the room had been picked up. The room stewards told us they had disinfected the carpets and bathroom floors, so it would not be vacuumed for a couple days. Okay. We went to dinner after a very long day and slept hard. The next couple of days, was a nice relaxing time at sea. We found the guest laundry facilities and every one was shut down due to the virus on board. Well, now it has been a week. The floors in the cabin have been vacuumed, the bathroom floor is no longer sticky due to the disinfectant, but no laundry facility for the guests. No complimentary movie check outs, no books, no hot tubs open but the casino has been operating since the first day? Medical concerns? I would think a virus could be spread easier in a casino than from checked out CD's. A guest laundry could get cleaned up with Lysol or bleach and cleaned in a day, I would think. Hot soapy water, rinse and more HOT disinfectant and soap, re-rinse and now ready to clean underwear and clothes. I am not impressed with Holland American Cruise line. The employees have been very polite and accommodating though. It was two weeks and still no guest laundry facility, no use of complimentary CD's and the ship is not in a normal sanitary condition. You cannot even purchase over the counter diarrhea medication at the convenience store on board. Well its day 15! And the hot tubs are finally working. Yes and you can even get your own drinks and buffet food. Unbelievably the complimentary movies are finally available with only two days left on the 17 day cruise. Good thing I brought my own motion sickness pills. I am normally easy to please but this was a disaster on a trip of a lifetime. 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
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 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
Pre-Cruise: As it was our first time in Fort Lauderdale we had decided on a 5-night pre-cruise stay and had already booked into the Bahia Mar (Hilton Doubletree) Resort. We were impressed with Fort Lauderdale and able to do everything ... Read More
Pre-Cruise: As it was our first time in Fort Lauderdale we had decided on a 5-night pre-cruise stay and had already booked into the Bahia Mar (Hilton Doubletree) Resort. We were impressed with Fort Lauderdale and able to do everything that we'd planned on doing within our time scale. You can read our hotel and resort review on Tripadvisor. Embarkation: From the arrival at the port (which is custom built for cruise ships and easy to access and navigate) to the check-in process and inevitable sitting in line in the cruise terminal, this was totally smooth and painless and we were soon on board. Cabin: Unfortunately our first impression of our cabin - (and first impressions DO count!) - was marred by the general uncleanliness (hairs on the bathroom floor and in the bath and shower, carpet stained, spilled salt in bathroom cabinets, a piece of broken glass underneath the table, sand and salt streaked balcony, dirty glass verandah screen, and rusted and tatty furniture) and so our first "activity" on board was to go to the front desk to ask for this to be attended to, or at least the "cleaning" element of it. The customer services officer we spoke to was mildly apologetic and she offered to "send someone from housekeeping to remedy straight away". We went to the Lido for lunch, then explored the ship, then found where we would be sitting in the dining room, then went back to our cabin; only to find that no one had been near! Just at that point, our cabin steward arrived to introduce himself and we took him to task about the cleanliness issues, which he said he would attend to straight away and, as far as was possible, did. Although he assured us that we would have no further cause for complaint, as the days progressed we found other cleaning issues and overall were not particularly happy with the level of service here, although it has to be said that he and his assistant were really nice, pleasant guys. Of more concern was the fact that the front desk never got back to us for a follow up or with an apology and this, I'm afraid, is just very poor guest relations! On the day of our disembarkation, we were just about the last off on our deck and as the balcony side screens had all been opened up, we were able to see that some of the other cabins had newer, varnished, and cleaner tables than ours so perhaps we were just unlucky! The other problem with the cabin was that the ceiling would creak and groan when at sea and this could get a bit tiresome at night. Also, one of the side screens on the balcony had the same defect and rattled as we were sailing in anything other than a flat sea. I tried to remedy this by jamming a great wad of thick card into the gap! On the plus side, the cabin was very spacious and had plenty of storage space and clothes hangers. I also liked very much the heavy curtain in the inner door that blocked out any light and/or noise from the deck corridor. Good safe; fully stocked fridge. Take your own hair drier, the cabin one is (they always are) underpowered! Plenty of hot water in the bathroom and we only had one issue with the plumbing which we were told was "higher up the corridor". Public Areas: As mentioned, the first thing we did was to go to the Lido for lunch. The food was fine, the view, (first impressions again!) was spoiled by the accumulation of streaks/dirt/salt on the windows. Come on HAL, you can and dam well should be able to do better than this - the ship should be CLEAN to greet and impress new guests!!! No problems at all with any of the public areas. Our only reservation would be with the so-called dance floors which are miniscule and of little useable worth. They are, perhaps, adequate for the American style of "swing" dance that seemed to be all that the band would cater for on this cruise, however dancing was advertised as ballroom, cha cha and rumba. I guess that's one of the consequences of sailing from the U.S. With regard to some of the comments re the pillars in the show lounge, yes, you do have to choose where you sit with care but there was usually plenty of room. Deck space was good and only when all passengers were on board during days at sea was there any feeling of it being mildly busy, but never really crowded! Entertainment: We didn't attend all of the shows and were more than a little disappointed with the resident singing/dancing troupe who seemed a bit insipid. To be fair to them, though, we've seen an other HAL ships that the "big stage spectaculars" are simply not there and the cabaret style approach is much more favoured. In that regard, the magician/comedian with the dog was very good. Be aware, though, that all of the entertainment is geared up towards U.S.tastes and can be a bit different to what a UK audience might relate to. Fellow Guests: The majority of the passengers were much older than us - in their 70's and 80's so the overall flavour of this cruise was "retired" but almost bordering, at times, on inert! That said, the good news was that there were no rampaging kids or lager-fuelled Brit chavs and that in itself was a pleasure! By the same token, the daytime activities were of a more sedate and quiet nature and there was none of the loud, intrusive music, announcements for bingo or karaoke etc, or pushy cocktail vending that you can get with some of the other cruise lines. This was a big plus - we go away for peace and quiet! The demographic make up of our fellow guests on this cruise was probably U.S. 60%; Canada 20%; Dutch 15%; Brits and others 5%, so be prepared! Sadly, our other main reflection on the type of fellow cruisers is that perhaps they see "smart casual" as a dress recommendation in a different way to us from the UK and it was not unusual to see jeans; t-shirts; sandals and flip flps; and even some women wearing shorts (!) in the Vista dining rooms and on those "special" formal nights you would see some equally irregular, unusual, and even downright bizarre interpretations from the normal tux and long frock "standard". Traditional bow-ties and long evening dresses were very much in the minority! Ports of Call/Excursions: Half Moon Cay: Contrary to my suspicions, when we found ourselves a nice quiet spot, we found that the loungers (admittedly basic plastic type) were free. The beach was lovely, the sea a little cold on this day but we went in anyway. Very enjoyable. Aruba: Didn't take a trip, was happy to just wander around the port. Nice little park with plenty of small Iguanas, once we'd worked our way back into the town found that it was all a bit of a shanty town. Not quite what we'd expected. Bonaire: Didn't take a trip, just got off ship and walked along the seafront road. Very pleasant. When we got back into the town area we had a look round some of the shops. Nobody was doing much buying which, considering the way the prices had been hiked up wasn't surprising (23 US$ for sun cream - havin' a laugh!) and we were soon back on board. Curacao: Much more sophisticated and up-market. Shops and parkland around the port area were very impressive and the whole place had a much more refined feel about it. We went through the fort, crossed the magnificent floating bridge and had a good look around the town, which is full of attractive little streets and interesting Dutch architecture. We picked up a trip in the centre of town (for 15 US$ each - would have cost about 60 $ through the ship!) and had an enjoyable trip to the liquer refinery and saw the slave and plantation houses, as well as a beautiful beach (Mambo beach). All in all, a good trip and good value for money. Panama Canal: What we saw (pity it was pouring with rain) was very impressive, but we hadn't known that the Gatun Lake is immediately after the locks, so that's about ALL you will see! We'd expected more, but all you do is go through the locks (fascinating), anchor up to tender off a few passengers for shore trips, and then back out again. From there, you anchor up in Colon to await the return of the shore trips. Although Colon is a commercial and industrial port of little scenic appeal, we nevertheless saw a large croc patrolling the shoreline! Costa Rica: On this port we had booked a shore trip. The eco-cruise which included a train ride; fruit/drinks at the boat berth; a boat trip on the river for wildlife viewing; visit to a banana packing factory. Excellent trip and good value for money. The river cruise was especially impressive and we saw howler monkeys; three-toed sloths; basilisks; cayman "alligators"; bats; beautiful coloured birds and butterflies, and the tail-end of a jungle otter. The "houses" you will pass en route, though, are a culture shock and may leave you with an impression of great poverty. They're put together with a few wooden props and boards and are predominantly walled and roofed with tarpaulin sheets and corrugated tin, chickens and goats are scratting about as is the odd mangy dog, and lines of washing are hung between trees. The people, however, wave and smile and the country is known to be one of the more stable in South America, so it can't be all that bad! Conclusion: We booked this cruise because we wanted to visit this part of the Caribbean, so any shortcomings with the ports of call is down to us - no-one else! And as it's only our opinion, other visitors might take an entirely different view. As to our fellow guests, we half expected that they would be non-Brits but have still found many other HAL ships in the Med where guests from other countries will make the effort to conform to a dress code; why not here? With regard solely to the ship, there were a lot of boxes we could tick, including, I have to say, the Captain and his officers who were very visible, courteous and pro-active. You don't often see the captain on other ships, do you? But here, he hosted the Officer's Ball, met and greeted guests and seemed genuinely approachable and welcoming. In his daily report from the bridge he gave lots of interesting information about the position of the ship, the nearest land, the ports of call and the weather/sea conditions. But the facts remain, the ship is overdue a top-to-toe renovation. Once that's done, we'd happily try her again, though not in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Reasons not to take this cruise - 1. It ended up being surprisingly pricey for what at no time felt like a luxurious experience. The basic price seemed very reasonable, but we ended up spending the best part of a $1000 dollars a day, ... Read More
Reasons not to take this cruise - 1. It ended up being surprisingly pricey for what at no time felt like a luxurious experience. The basic price seemed very reasonable, but we ended up spending the best part of a $1000 dollars a day, all in, and yet this was way, way below a five star experience. 2. The almost exclusively Indonesian/Balian crew were generally friendly and polite, but many had poor English and lacked a true service approach. At one point it took five attempts to convey to a waiter we wanted a bottle of water. When you were brought the wrong order, there was not attempt to apologize, or smooth things over. I think this is probably a management issue. 3. The main dining room was chaotic at best, and, at times, felt like a fast food outlet. You line up to be seated, and then you are crowded in section by section. The tables for two are so close it feels like shared dining. All your orders are taken in each section at the same time, and the food arrives in vaste piles, again all at the same time, section by section. This was not so bad if you were sharing on a large table, but a disaster if dining on a small table. Food was sometimes cold, courses would arrive at different times - one person's starter while the other had nothing, one person's main course with the other's starter etc, etc. One day we were rushed through three courses in 30 minutes! This is not a stress-free way to dine.4. Rather worryingly, water seaped up through the bathroom floor of our cabin. Not a nice feeling, particularly in rough seas. The cabin was generally inferior to any other we have experienced. Cramped and, again, not in any sense luxurious. 5. The ports of call included some real humdingers. Limon in Costa Rica is so bad you should stay on the ship. Even our tour guide said he was surprised cruise ships stopped there. Colon in Panama felt decidedly third world, and our tour dumped us unceremoniously in the most dreadful dive to wait (two hours!) for the ship. In Cartagena you are confined to a few streets to walk around with thousands of other tourists while the police watch over you nervously. 6. There is really only one speciality restaurant, the Pinnacle, the other (Canaletto's) is just an area of the up top down-scale dining cafe, converted at night. In both venues the menu is small and unchanging. At least service here was better than the main dining room. 7. As others have noted, the Zuiderdam is a creaky old ship that has been refitted to squeeze in more people. The public areas are surprisingly dark, particularly the main stairwell, crowded, and at times shabby. Leaky toilets, dripping air conditioning etc. 8. The finale - we docked before 7am in Fort Lauderdale. We cleared cutoms shortly before 1pm. A record on any cruise ship I've ever heard of. All in all, you are not paying carnival cruise money, so you are entitled to expect better. If you care about food and service, this is best avoided. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We just returned from a trip to the Panama Canal on the ms Zuiderdam. This was not an enjoyable trip. We have sailed with Holland America before in the Mediterranean on the ms Noordam and that trip was very nice, what I think a Holland ... Read More
We just returned from a trip to the Panama Canal on the ms Zuiderdam. This was not an enjoyable trip. We have sailed with Holland America before in the Mediterranean on the ms Noordam and that trip was very nice, what I think a Holland America voyage should be like. The Zuiderdam was a tired and worn ship. Furniture was broken, worn and stained. Our room was not as clean as it should have been. There was rust and peeling paint various places on the outside, most noticeable on the stairs to the tenders. The vinyl in that area was buckled and was a fall hazard. The deck chairs on the promenade deck were in serious need of varnish as well. The Lido restaurant was hot most of the time. Trying to eat a meal while dripping sweat was not enjoyable. They have designed these ships so the Lido restaurant is between two pools which promotes this heat and humidity problem. It also creates a traffic flow problem in the restaurant. There is very little room to maneuver around the food stations and if someone stops it blocks up the pathway. People are always coming and going from the pool area which creates more congestion. The temperature on this ship was hot in places and freezing in others. Minor, I know, but the windows were very dirty everywhere. Sitting in the bar for a glass of wine in the evening, you could hardly see out for the dirt and salt grime. Having said all that, the food in the dining room was good and the Pinnacle Grill was excellent! It was nice to eat in the Pinnacle Grill because you were seated by yourself, you were not forced to sit with someone else. The dining room was not very accommodating when you requested a table for two. Most of the time they sat us with someone else anyway. The one time we sat at a table for two there was a constant drip from the ceiling. We called the waiter over and he said "it does that all the time" and did not offer to move us. When we insisted, we were moved to a table for two behind a waiter station in the back corner. Normally, we don't mind sitting with other people. However, this trip there were a lot of people sneezing and coughing so we tried to stay to ourselves. It seems to me when you request open seating, you should be seated at a table for just your party unless you request otherwise. I understand they have to group people together as best they can because of wait staff but when you request a table for just your party, you should get a table for just your party. I was further mystified because the dining room was not full and they had plenty of tables. Another thing of note, the crew did not seem as friendly or helpful on this ship. On the Noordam, most of them smiled or said hello and were very helpful when you requested something. Not on this ship. Some of them just looked tired and worn out, like the ship. To be fair, we did have a lovely waitress in the Pinnacle Bar named Jasmine! She was just a super person and we noticed lots of people came each night before dinner to have a drink and speak to Jasmine. The entertainment was so-so. They did have a great comedy, magician on this cruise we liked a lot and an amazing steel drum act. Other than that, not much to talk about. To be fair, the Noordam didn't either. Holland America still allows smoking on their decks, verandahs and in the casino. The smell is so overwhelming in the casino that you can't spend much time in there. One other thing on this cruise. The wine stewards were very high pressure about buying a bottle instead of a glass of wine. Asking once is ok, pushing the issue makes the situation very uncomfortable. The day before we disembarked, the cruise director told us what we needed to know about the disembark process and about the survey. He told us a that the Zuiderdam was due to go into dry-dock for refurbishment. Sort of made me feel like he was saying we should forgive the condition of the ship due to that. My thoughts are, why did you wait this long to put the ship into dry-dock? That ship should have been in dry-dock long before our cruise. Overall, I felt like this was a first class trip on a third class ship! Not sure I want to cruise with Holland America again because I'm not sure what kind of ship I'll get next time, one like the Noordam or one like the Zuiderdam. Not sure I want to take that chance. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We boarded our cruise in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. All I can say about the port for Holland American is they need to get organized. Total mess with cars, buses and Limo's. The sign-in process wasn't to bad, went fairly quick. ... Read More
We boarded our cruise in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. All I can say about the port for Holland American is they need to get organized. Total mess with cars, buses and Limo's. The sign-in process wasn't to bad, went fairly quick. Once on board noticed ship was very nice and clean. Cabin small, needed total update. TV about 12in screen, the furniture beat up. Veranda would have been nice if the furniture had been comfortable. After sitting 20 minutes had to get up. Room was cool, had no problem with AC. Cabin steward was great, didn't move anything but he did get in and out where we were never bothered. Food was great on Lido, they had different stations for different types of food. That made it easier and the lines were better. The only problem I had with the food was the fact that many times their was none, so if you didn't eat in the hours that they had you did without. Yes, you could get room service but that was always 45 min. to hour. Coffee was only free in one place, should have been at least a station in other bars among the ship. The crew was very conscious about hygiene. Anti bacterial stations everywhere. The tours were terrible as usual for all cruises. I do have to say that the transportation for tours have improved, all nice buses. The shows looked like they would be good but never enough room for sitting. Would get there 30 minutes ahead and the auditorium was full. There were very large post all over the theater and couldn't sit in many seats. This situation was at both shows every night. All in all it wasn't too bad of a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room ... Read More
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room and the buffet area. At dinner, I had steak 6 of 15 nights, and every time is was served well done, not medium rare as requested. I sent it back 3 nights, one night twice. Beef quality was poor. Food was sometimes not hot. Wine was outrageously expensive for quality and the wine pour was a "short pour" - much less than a typical restaurant. One of the higher quality wines (per the wine list) was Columbia Crest Merlot, which sells for $9-11 per bottle at Sam's or most grocery stores. The cost for 2 short pour glasses for dinner was $17.83. Drinks in the lounges were also short, many of the single malt scotch's on the drink list were not available Two of 5 port stops were cargo ports, isolated 10 miles from nowhere with no ability to walk around. You had to take one of their somewhat expensive tours, but then they had a captive audience so why not charge more. Everything on the ship was as expected for a 4 star line, why skimp so much on the meals and drinks. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
In this review, my family and I cruised on the Holland America Zuiderdam for the Panama Canal/Souther Caribbean 10 day cruise. The cruise visited Half Moon Cay (private island in the Bahamas), Curacao, Bonaire, Panama Canal/Colon, Panama, ... Read More
In this review, my family and I cruised on the Holland America Zuiderdam for the Panama Canal/Souther Caribbean 10 day cruise. The cruise visited Half Moon Cay (private island in the Bahamas), Curacao, Bonaire, Panama Canal/Colon, Panama, and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. This was my second time on Holland America and my first time going to the Southern Caribbean as well as the Panama Canal. My last time on Holland was the Veendam for an Alaskan cruise. From my previous experience, I enjoyed the excellent service and fine cuisine. However, this time, I had some concerns with the Holland America service as well as the cleanliness of the ship. Otherwise, I had a great time with the Zuiderdam. Check-in Check-in was good but there was one thing that bugged me. For some reason, when you enter the terminal in Fort Lauderdale, there is someone to check what kind of cabin you are in as well as the Mariner status. This created congestion. The person in front of me was not only a 4 Star Mariner but staying in a suite. Therefore, she was handed a special badge to let her use the priority check-in as well as board whenever she wanted. I think that they should have just given her the badge at the priority check-in counter. Otherwise, the check-in process was pretty smooth. The Ship This was one of my biggest complaints. The Zuiderdam, even though it is 10 years old, looks like a cheap 1990s design. Also, because the ship uses a dark red color theme, it makes most of the areas darker than it should be. The ship look tired as well and in desperate need of a refurbishment. There were also areas that seemed dirty. I also found that the layout of the ship was okay, but not great. The Cabin I was book in a deluxe veranda on deck 6. The room had the basic touches but nothing really stood out. There was a small flat screen TV with a DVD player that I liked. I also enjoyed a small tub in the bathroom. The veranda was great for which I spent much of our time there, especially when we visited the Panama Canal. However my biggest complaint was that our neighbors used their balconies to smoke. Unlike other cruise lines like Celebrity, guests can smoke on their balconies. Continuing on my tirade about cleanliness, our room had many areas that were dirty. The bed had unusual stains on the sheets as well as the pillow. The pillow also had an unusual odor. The cups in the bathroom looked like it was not cleaned. Food The food on Holland America was great. However, most of the meats had too much fat on it and I ended up eating only a couple of ounces. This was evident in the Vista Dining Room. I also enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill but the service was okay and the food was nothing much to say about. However on the "Le Cirque" night, the food was excellent and seemed like the ship was saving the best food for the "Le Cirque" night. The Lido Restaurant was good as well but breakfast options were good but were a little bit boring after a while. The lunch buffet was good and did not see anything repeated. I loved the Indonesian buffet as well as other speciality lunch buffets. However, the desserts on the cruise seemed like it was pre-made from a supermarket chain. I also dined at the Italian restaurant, Canaletto. I enjoyed it and it seemed too good to be true that it was complimentary. My main complaint about the food was the presentation. To me it was very sloppy. Whoever cleaned the side of the plate seem to use a dirty cloth. Another complaint I had was when I went to the Mariner brunch. I ordered a salad and the salad had a small insect. I informed my waiter and he just apologized and did nothing else. I was expecting him to ask me if I wanted something else but nothing came out. Furthermore, the service was not as great as other cruises I been on. My family chose "As you Wish" dining so we got a different waiter each night. Some of the waiters forgot our drink orders or served the wrong food to the wrong person. Also, it seemed as if the waiters had a chip on their shoulder or something. They also seemed rushed. Entertainment Entertainment on Holland was okay. The entertainment on Holland is not as great as entertainment on other ships like NCL. All the shows seem to lack a cohesive theme and seemed amateurish. Also, it seemed to target an older audience, since most of the ship had older passengers, so there was nothing new or current with all the shows. There was also an impersonator and singer, Jeff Trachta, of the "Bold and the Beautiful" fame. He was the best as he knew how to put on a show. There was also a comedian/writer, Marty Brill or Krill. He was an older man that to me was not funny and in fact only targeted the older audience. The last performer was Jeff Peterson, the magician with the dog. He was great too but everyone was really there for the dog. Activities on board On sea days, Holland kept me busy. I went to many of the cooking demonstrations and enjoyed it. Anise, the party planner, was brand new and looked very young. She was very nice and always had a smile on. I also went to trivia sessions conducted by the young cruise director (more on him below). I did not use the spas or go the technology sessions but it was great that Holland did not charge for technology lessons. I know that Celebrity charges guests on "how to use iTunes" which is very absurd. Staff The staff on the ship were generally nice and helpful. However, it seems as if Holland have not trained their staff to say "hello's" and "good mornings" when guests pass by. The cruise director, Jason Venner, had good presentation and personality. Unlike other cruise lines like Celebrity, he was involved in almost every activity, including conducting trivia sessions. He was not cold and and pretentious like Celebrity and did not rely on his CD staff to do everything. Furthermore, his CD staff was friendly and approachable. Fellow Cruisers Most of the cruisers on this ship were older guests. Some joked that it was a "floating senior citizen center" and was much cheaper than going to a senior citizen home on land. One of my complaints was that these older guests were very slow and seemed to be absent minded. I understand that they cannot go as fast but should be considerate of the other guests. Final words On a fine note, I praised Holland not for pushing or pressuring guests to buy things. I know on my previous cruise with Celebrity, there was a big push to buy wine, cookbooks, and other Celebrity items. There was a cookbook for sale but there was no pressure to buy it. In fact, one guest asked Anise, the party planner, where to buy it and she did not know herself. I was expecting her to make a sale on the spot. One thing that bugged me was the ship was at the port, there was a rush and crowd to leave the ship. I was especially concerned in Curacao as I had a tour. I left 20 minutes before and was ten minutes late. Luckily there were others that were late as well. I thought that Holland could have handled the situation better. Overall, I had a great cruise with the Holland America Zuiderdam. However, they need to reposition to a more modern image. The ship is not in bad shape it's just it looks very old, dated, and dark. They also need to work on their cleanness. My cabin steward should have noticed the stains and should have prevented me from seeing it. There also needs to be better training to handle my "insect" situation as I was not satisfied about my response. Otherwise, I enjoyed seeing the Panama Canal and hope to see more of Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The cruise destinations to the Panama Canal (history), Costa Rica (rainforest), Aruba (snorkeling), Bonaire (more snorkeling) and Bahamas were amazing and made the cruise for my wife and I. However, there were several HAL service-related ... Read More
The cruise destinations to the Panama Canal (history), Costa Rica (rainforest), Aruba (snorkeling), Bonaire (more snorkeling) and Bahamas were amazing and made the cruise for my wife and I. However, there were several HAL service-related issues that detracted from the overall cruise experience. There were also differences in approach that I found disappointing with HAL from other cruise lines. In this review, I will first list the significant positives and negatives experienced on the HAL Zuiderdam (and leave the adequate cruise items unmentioned). * Positives: - The food on the Zuiderdam was excellent - above average for a cruise ship with only one meal that was sub-standard. The HAL staff quickly offered to swap that one meal out for a better one so no issues here. - Lifestyle staff were quite fun and I enjoyed activities on sea day. I especially liked the aqua aerobics classes but there were many classes to appeal to differing tastes. - Our cabin stewards and dining staff were always courteous and helpful and acted professionally. No issues with anyone we came into contact (so excellent quality control staffing). - The Historical talks lead by the Excursions team were exceptional -â€" best sessions I've ever had onboard any ship. The presenter was knowledgeable and excited to prepare cruisers for their upcoming shore visits. The detailed presentations on technical and historical aspects of the Panama Canal were the best. - HAL excursions were reasonably priced and well executed (particularly the full transit excursion through the Panama Canal). * Negatives: - The food service was very slow. While they have implemented "Dine as you Wish" cruise dining (where the allow people to eat in the main dining area whenever they want), there were long lines and slow service for any time that my wife and I selected during the 10-day cruise. I suspect this issue is that the galley (kitchen) of the Zuiderdam was designed for banquet seating and not restaurant-style dining (Dine as you Wish) which requires a different galley configuration. Regardless of the issue, the wait time for dining every night was significant and discouraging. - Sanitation for boarding the vessel and before dining was inadequate. I regularly use hand sanitizers but there was not one insisting that everyone sanitize before coming onboard (so germs from airports, hotel lobbies, cabs were untreated). There were no HAL staff members insisting before entering dining areas that hand sanitizers are used (at least for the first few days). - Decorations and designs within the ship were rather old with worn carpeting around stairwells and meeting areas. My wife hated to be in our cabin since the yellow colors and old designs were depressing to her. - Air condition in our cabin (Port side, Forward, Interior Cabin) was inadequate and barely able to keep up in the Caribbean temperatures in December. We had the thermostat set at the maximum cold value for most of the cruise. If you take the Zuiderdam during September or October, it must be unbearably hot. Repairman were everywhere dealing with engineering issues on this ship. - Entertainment was unimaginative with just random dancing set to music appealing to older Americans (65 and older). The externally contracted steel drum band and the comic were excellent but overall, the ship's entertainment was disappointing as compared with other cruise lines. The HALcats (a band in a smaller bar setting) was good except the bass player who frequently played wrong notes (with other band members grimacing with each mistake). HAL Entertainment should have vetted this new performer for his musical abilities or adequately trained him prior to the sailing (quality control issue). - Senior HAL management was not present around the ship as with other cruise lines. There were several lower level supervisors and managers but senior leadership was rarely accessible and never seemed to be around for minor or major concerns. - An issue with the Internet Cafe (no connectivity for the last three-days for Mac and iPhone users) went unresolved. When I asked for a partial refund of my unused Internet minutes that I paid for, I was told "No" by several staff despite my inability to upload photos from my iPhone to social media sites (my reason for getting the larger plan). No support for cruisers by HAL management when an honest issue exists with a vendor onboard ship. Just heard that they're a vendor -â€" nothing we can do. Disappointing that HAL management does not take responsibility for vendors that allow onboard their vessels. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
As a seasoned cruise vacationer, I've come to the sad conclusion that Holland America, a self-proclaimed "Premium" cruiseline, unfortunately falls way short of it's mark. If you're expecting the Hilton, you're ... Read More
As a seasoned cruise vacationer, I've come to the sad conclusion that Holland America, a self-proclaimed "Premium" cruiseline, unfortunately falls way short of it's mark. If you're expecting the Hilton, you're likely to receive a Holiday Inn experience. Although many aspects of our recent cruise experience were delightful, such as the Vista Lounge entertainment, ports of call, shore excursions, and most planned ship-board activities, it is quite apparent that this company runs it's basic operations on a shoe-string budget, and is not considered a good value for the money. I attended this cruise in October 2011, along with my husband, and my elderly mother, with whom we shared our stateroom. After paying a hefty $3,000.00 for all 3 of us for our 11-day cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America, we found out that the cruise had later been discounted to many other guests at a rate of only $599.00 per person in order to "fill" the ship. Upon further inquiry with the ship's front desk, we were not offered any discounts, upgrades or incentives. Since there are so many comments to include, I've listed them in condensed bullets as follows: ~ There was a consistent, foul odor of sewage in some interior areas of the ship, which was very offensive. One of the elevators had a strong stench of urine! ~ The ship's architectural details were beautiful and elegant throughout, although age-worn and weather-beaten. The outdoor chaise lounges poolside at rear of ship were very dirty and worn. Upon our first visit to the Sports Bar, the vinyl covering on many chairs and sofas were very worn, cracked and peeling (although they were repaired and spray-painted by a maintenance person on the days following, out in the open public bar area during our cruise)! Other intrusive maintenance duties were also being performed during our cruise, such as power washing and painting, temporarily closing certain main areas of the ship, which annoyed and inconvenienced many guests. These operations should be conducted in-between sailings while the ship is not serving guests! ~ Although some crew members throughout were friendly and informative, many seemed apathetic and/or uninformed. The language barrier of the primarily Indonesian crew was tremendous (the worst I've ever encountered on a cruise), and we could not engage many in any in-depth conversation. In addition, each time we asked a passing staff member for directions to a particular event location on the ship, we received a different answer! ~ Our stateroom was spacious, clean with very comfortable bedding, although the bed for the third guest in our room--my elderly mother--was just a pull-out, cot-style bed. Our stateroom stewards were excellent, very efficient and accomodating as they could possibly be, but they could not provide an in-room clothing iron, and we needed a room fan since the A/C was not cool enough for our liking. ~ Food items in the Lido Buffet were fair-to-good at best, with unimpressive, limited, and repetitive utilization of ingredients and presentation. Instead of a traditional self-service buffet, we endured a demeaning soup-kitchen style of service for our main entrees, with meager portions being slung onto our plates. ~ "Cold" food items, such as seafood appetizers and salads, were served at room temperature. Most desserts were unimpressive and of institutional-quality, as you would find in the freezer section of your local grocer. ~ Guests are forced to traverse the entire Lido Buffet Dining Room, and back and forth to their table, in order to completely gather individual food and drink selections for each meal, as buffet serving trays are not provided! Many of the elderly and handicapped guests were very obviously annoyed with this. ~ Tables were not promptly cleaned between seatings in Lido Buffet Dining Room. Dishes and dirty ashtrays were a constant occurence at outdoor poolside deck tables. There were inadequate air-conditioning levels in the Lido Dining Room. ~ Food quality and presentation in the more formal Vista Dining Room was good-to-very good, but not outstanding. Service was very disorganized, and turned out to be a long, 2-hour ordeal to receive our full meal to it's fruition. In addition, with the Vista Dining Room location at the rear of the ship, we could feel and hear the tremendous rumble of the ship's engines beneath our feet---not very pleasant in a formal "5-Star" dining room setting! ~ Most specialty events were held during late evening hours, 9PM or later, after a long day of shore excursions, when everyone was too exhausted to attend! ~ We, as many other guests, were very disappointed in the quality of just one particular ship-board music venue, Amanda and the HalCats, who sang and performed top-40 style music in a very much off-key and amatuer manner, causing most of us in the audience to cringe! ~ Very limited indoor accomodations for smokers, with none for cigar smokers, except for the rear outdoor deck area. ~ Although many wonderful amenities were included in the cruise price, we've found exorbitant "nickel-and-dime" charges throughout the cruise for "extras" on board, such as a can of soda for $1.95 plus mandatory 15% gratuity, a $40 per day charge for use of the Hydro-Tub, and unreasonable charges for internet and cell phone use. When weighing the pros and cons of this particular cruise, I would not recommend Holland America Cruiseline if you have high expectations regarding daily operations and services. But, if you are willing to pay a premium price for this cruiseline and look past some or all of what we had endured on-board, then you'd probably enjoy the ports of call and shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older ... Read More
The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older than 60 years and there were only a handful of small children aboard. The food was good but not good enough to want seconds and contrary to most rumors, the dessert were OK. I personally had ice cream when I wanted dessert. All food service closes at 10 pm and there is not even drinks available later during the night. The customer service was lacking in attention. The one bright enjoyment was the digital seminars held free of charge on board by a certified Microsoft expert, 12 in total. He was superb. The night life on board is also lacking much. If you want a comfortable cruise with no excitement on board this is the cruise for you, but if you want some excitement particularly on the sea days, I would suggest you go with another cruise line. A plus was DVD movies were available for free to view in your room and return in 24 hours. Also there were numerous computers available in the library, which was one of the most beautiful I have seen on a ship and the best organized. The entire deck level with the library included a full liquor bar, and coffee bar, a wrap around observation area with reclining chairs. This was indeed a most relaxing area. Our cabin was on deck 8 (8028)with a veranda. We had a tub and a great shower. There was small spaces for personal items. Under the bed however were drawers to also space for suitcases. We also had a flat screen TV with good reception. The lights were a challenge. Overall the cabin was equal to others we had been. "The noise level was very low from the hallway. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this ... Read More
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this cruise.My stateroom attendant was outstanding, as was the front desk staff. Water Aerobics was fun but crowded. The Screening room has big, comfortable chairs but I was disappointed there was no popcorn. The Explorations Cafe was clean and well supplied with books. Public areas were generally clean but looked worn. The public restrooms were sometimes in need of attention. The bars and Lounges that I visited were clean and the service was good. The Spa was clean and well cared for. Very good service and friendly staff.The food was where the cruise line fell down.We used As You Wish Dining because fixed dining was full. It was terrible. Unorganized and confused, the waitstaff was clearly undermanned and poorly trained. The food was just OK, nothing special. The presentation was well done, however. It was pretty, just not very tasty.The Lido restaurant was generally a mess. Tables were dirty and I had to wipe down more than one before I could put my plate down and eat. They usually only had one side open at a time so it was crowded and the lines were long. The buffet was not generally self serve and it was obvious to me and most passengers I spoke with that the servers would have rather been somewhere else. A few were smiling and friendly, but most of them acted distant and unhappy. When they handed you your plate, the food was just slapped on it. I wiped the rim of my plate almost every time. My morning oatmeal was dripping over the side most mornings when they handed me my bowl.Silverware was difficult to find. Sometimes they had it piled on a tray and you had to go find the tray. Sometimes they had it with the servers and you had to remember to ask for it because they rarely remembered to give it to you with your plate.Generally, the cruise was good. The waitstaff and the food really need work. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
ZUIDERDAM, Panama Canal, Dec. 13-23 Our last cruise with HAL was 2 years ago and we enjoyed it. Our most recent cruise was on Equinox Dec. '09, equally enjoyed. PROS The Canal experience: A+ information & ... Read More
ZUIDERDAM, Panama Canal, Dec. 13-23 Our last cruise with HAL was 2 years ago and we enjoyed it. Our most recent cruise was on Equinox Dec. '09, equally enjoyed. PROS The Canal experience: A+ information & narration aboard the ship were complete and very interesting. A special day. Zuiderdam has one important feature for us, a wrap-around promenade deck. We walked 2 miles every day. Hydro-pool - We bought a pass ($190 for 2), worth it. We used it every day, clean and quiet. Pinnacle Grill - We had 2 dinners and 1 lunch. Each time, food and service were very good. 2 shows we really liked: The magician & his dog Indy, and Magic Island. CONS LIDO is a mess. Is it the lay-out? Poor design? The place was always packed with people coming/going from all directions. Breakfast or lunch, lines, lines, lines. On Equinox, with a lot more passengers (2,950), buffet is better organized and generally offers better food. Quality of meals at lunch was most often below average, the stuff we find at our local all-you-can-eat at $6.99. Except that on Z, they 'hide' the food under stainless lids, so you don't see exactly what's offered. MDR - We opted for As you wish.. On Equinox, getting a table for 2 is no problem. Select Dining is what it says, anytime you're ready, no wait, no reservations required. On Princess Anytime Dining, no reservations either, we never had to wait more than 10-15 min. It seems Z cannot manage a large number of diners. As you Wish Dining = We don't care. Tables for 2 were never available. They even looked very annoyed when we asked. When we tried to reserve one in the afternoon, they were already.. reserved. One night we were told, before we asked (!), only tables for 8 were available at that time. Right across, along the wall, was a nice table set for 2 (ghosts?) that remained unoccupied for more than 1.5 hour. That night at our table service was very slow. Being on vacation doesn't mean we want to spend the evening in the dining room. What saved our cruise on the dining front is the extensive in-room menu. We ended up having most of our dinners on our balcony. EXCURSIONS We took only one ship excursion, "Discover Costa Rica Deluxe" $198. We discovered it was a waste of money. A few years back, we spent 2 weeks in CR driving along the Pacific Coast. We loved it, gorgeous country, so beautiful that we wanted to see another piece of it. This is an 8-hour tour including a 4-hour drive. The bus was clean, guide & driver were good enough. However the trip is on a main road without interest and littered with garbage on long stretches. Our first stop, we couldn't visit the church that was on the program, it was closed. But at least we were able to use the restroom (one for 20 people) on the other side of the street. The sink had no faucets, glad I always carry my hand sanitizer. Miles later, we got off the bus and hopped on an open truck for a 20 min. bone-rattling ride during which we saw nothing special. We finally got to a rather small waterfall. If you ever saw a waterfall you've seen this one. We were served a small glass of juice by the natural pool where we spent about 45 min. We then went to a 'ranch' for lunch & a horse show, that part was ok. Back on the rock-and-roll truck before getting on the bus again. That's when our guide told us we were running late, that we wouldn't have time to visit the museum we were supposed to. Return to the ship. DISEMBARKATION - chaotic. We used Luggage Direct and were assigned Group AAAA (first group). When our group was called we proceeded to the gangway. There were already many people and we got in line where we waited about 30 min. to get to the scanner. That's when we were told "Step away, you have no luggage, you cannot leave now". Only expedite disembarkation (those carrying their luggage themselves) were allowed to get off. Gee, wish we had known before. A man behind us started arguing: "What f-difference does it make if we have no luggage? We have a Group A ticket". No reply. The only HAL rep in place to help out at the scanner told him: "Back off, sir, and wait in line". At that point, the place was jammed packed, no more line. Was it Z first disembarkation? On the other hand, Customs & TSA agents were fast and efficient. OVERALL - not a bad cruise, just not good enough. We will probably cruise with HAL again , certainly not on Zuiderdam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Cruising is our favorite type of vacation besides camping and we have been on several. Our vacation style tends to be very laid back and flexible since we have children. We are not port intensive type cruisers and prefer to stay on the ... Read More
Cruising is our favorite type of vacation besides camping and we have been on several. Our vacation style tends to be very laid back and flexible since we have children. We are not port intensive type cruisers and prefer to stay on the boat if we have already seen a port or the excursions offered cannot accommodate children. Overall I will point out the good and the bad of the experience. Our first cruise was on the Zuiderdam six years ago so it holds a special endearment for us but sad to say that the ship has not aged well. The decor and upkeep could use some attention. I saw several areas that were rusted, neglected and just plain worn out. The furniture on our balcony was falling apart and the balcony itself looked horrible. The ship is so ready for dry dock and total revamping if possible. Embarkation & Debarkation- nightmares. They totally need to rethink this process. It sets a bad tone for the start of your vacation and a "get me off this ship" vibe at the end of your vacation. Industry wide they need to think of a better plan. The Bad- Food was way below HA standards. I was really bummed at the quality. On board entertainment was lame. Typical art auctions, bingo, trivia, towel folding, scrap booking. Nothing exciting and certainly needs new ideas for on board activities. Excursions were bland as well. The Good- The crew at every level is top notch. Nicest staff and they all go the extra mile to service and cater to the guest. That is the saving grace for this ship. If I could give a 1000 dollars to each crew member I would that is how great they perform their duties. They were even stepping in and parenting when some parents were letting their kids run wild at the pool. Spa- if you do nothing else, spend the 120 bucks for the daily spa pass ( 190 for a couple). This gets you access to the hydro pool- steam rooms, heated loungers and tranquility. You can go as often as you want and I found the best times were during normal "meal" hours. The place was deserted but it was a great place to make new friends when it was busy. I had a mani pedi at the spa and it was just so so- watch out for those hard product sells. I hate that and wish the spa company would get the hint that pushing products turns people off and makes them avoid the spa in general. Just introduce to product but don't push. Club Hal- I would give this a 7 out of 10. My son loved it because of the other kids not because of the activities provided. Club Hal could use some new activities. The security for the kids was nonexistent. They never asked for a password to collect our son and anyone could walk in and out. It would have been so easy for a kid to decide to escape club Hal and I wonder if the staff would have noticed. Needs improvement there. Ports that we went to- Half Moon Cay- beautiful but cold. Not the ships fault but because of the cold and wind half of the excursions were canceled and the water was way too cold to swim in. Curacao- loved this island. We did the beach excursion which includes a tour narration on the way and found it wonderful. Great one to do with kids. We did not get off at Aruba because we have been there before. There were plenty of excursions offered on this cruise but many of then for 6 plus hours and we just didn't want to be away from the ship that long. We love it when the ship empties out and we have it all to ourselves. Cabin- 4016. Smallest balcony room we have ever seen and the railing is steel so you can only see the water if standing. Stewards kept it impeccable and were very nice. I could hear a little music every night from below but I also travel w a sound machine due to being a light sleeper. Pools- too darn cold to swim in. That was shocking even though the temps said the water was 85 degrees it felt frigid. Thank goodness for the hot tub except two were out of service. Shows- Husband and oldest son saw the magic show and gave it two thumbs up. I don't think the evening shows on Hal can measure up to some of the other cruise lines productions, especially if you have ever been on a Disney cruise. Disney has beyond excellent shows. Movies- loved the line up of movies but the theater is small so get there early if you want to watch a movie. Shops- Good selection and new items added every day. Jewelry prices were higher than what you can find in stores and online. Even with their "deals". In suite Amenities package. I would not order this package again. The staff were clueless with all the "perks" and our room steward had no idea what came with it. The best part was the unlimited laundry (esp with kids) but they were out of stock on the robes, never brought the tea/snacks/ and it took us hunting them down to get the wine/liquor. They never mentioned the pillows so I would skip this in the future. It's a waste of money. Overall vibe? Some have described Holland America as a nursing home at sea and I would agree that the crowd is a much older group. If you are looking for a kid friendly, young energetic hyper party rock wall climbing peer group this is not the ship for you. The library was the most jumping place and there were mad games of chess and puzzle making happening. The disco was dead! The fruit carving was the pickup joint and the ice cream line was like a black Friday sale at best buy. Go old or go home! Go on this trip if you want to cross the Panama Canal off your bucket list and only for that reason, everything else is been there done that if you are a frequent cruiser. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The ships exterior is very smart but the interior is very very tired and in need of a revamp. I personally disliked some of the gaudy colour schemes especially the Lido. In our room the sofa was very stained, when reported, this was ... Read More
The ships exterior is very smart but the interior is very very tired and in need of a revamp. I personally disliked some of the gaudy colour schemes especially the Lido. In our room the sofa was very stained, when reported, this was changed but the balcony furniture was falling to bits and several areas of the ship had very worn seats. The food was probably the best we have had on cruise ships the Lido selection, presentaion and service were wonderful, I normally call this area the trough and dont venture near but it was a pleasure to eat there.The dining room , fixed seating was rather let down by the staff not ensuring that people adherred to dress code, I do object when I am in formal to having someone on the next table in shorts and tee shirt. The HAL musicians are individuals who are employed to play in the two bands most of them have had a personality by pass and there is no zing about there performance, indeed it was all very poor as was some of the shows with the exception of the HAL singers and dancers. The two crew shows were excrutiating. My biggest issue was the ammount of huge people and elderly on the ship negoitating anywhere was difficult, avoiding walkers wheelchairs sticks and strollers, for the whales HAL was a really good choice because as I said the food was excellent, the tours were arduous at each call as was embarking and debarking if you were at peak wheelchair exit.I have worked with disabled people and understand their issues it was just the sheer volumn of aged and immobile clients that was the problem. So would I recommend I would have to explain the downside as well as the up and suggest a newer ship Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise ... Read More
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise for my daughter. I always book based on the itinerary and my vacation time from work. We chose Holland America this time for the "senior" aspect for Mom. Well, at 82, even Mom felt that this was "too senior" for her! Pre-cruise hotel: Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort. This was a highlight of the trip. We stayed here for 4 days in an ocean-front condo. It was gorgeous, spacious, bright, and had a huge balcony and fully equipped kitchen. I have been at a few Hilton Hotels but this far outshone the others. The service in the hotel and dining room was impeccable. Embarkation: As suite guests we were processed as soon as we arrived. However, the lady who checked us in was a little confused. She got our passport numbers, pictures and other info mixed up to the point that she was getting frustrated. She finally said she had it straightened out but when we boarded the ship the steward checking our IDs started to laugh. My picture was on my mother's card and visa versa! Ship: I was prepared for the age and dEcor of the ship based on the other reviews. I think the best description was "a comfortable old shoe". Of all the ships we have been on, this was the most outdated, worn and garish in dEcor. Having said that, it was immaculately clean. Cabin: This was a plus. The suite was spacious and had plenty of storage for 3 of us. We had a wraparound aft balcony which was awesome. We ate a few meals there and, since the weather was generally very good we spent a number of hours reading and enjoying the scenery or the wake. Our cabin steward, Dadang, was fantastic, sweet, and unintrusive. Staff: All fabulous! Not one complaint. Dining: The Lido was generally good. I would say it was better than the other cruises I have been on in that it had more variety and prepared-as-you-wish dishes such as pasta, eggs and grilled sandwiches. The dining room had mostly good, but some mediocre, meals. We tried The Pinnacle Grill three times. The first time the food was stellar. The 2nd time...not so much! While the service and ambiance was wonderful on both occasions, the difference in the food may have had something to do with our choices. We all had beef or lamb the 1st night and fish the 2nd night. Coming from a part of Canada where fish is a main staple, we know our fish! This was dry, overcooked and tasteless. The third time was the Indonesian lunch with the Captain. While the food was good, the service was impeccable and the servers wore gorgeous traditional dress. A pleasant surprise was Canaletto, the Italian restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and service and would highly recommend it for a casual dining experience. Entertainment: We went to a couple of shows and thought they were ok. I have been to more memorable ones on other lines. Spa: We spent some time on a sea day having some treatments at the spa. This was a pleasant, expensive experience! The staff was professional and I got a great haircut from a young gentleman from Hungary. (This was very daring for me but I was desperate and it really paid off!) Excursions: Half Moon Cay. This was a day at the beach. The tendering was slow and tedious. We had a clamshell and I did the bike tour. The area is quite beautiful! Aruba: I had booked a tour with "Pitaruba" from reviews on CC. Nice guy, good guide and reasonably priced. We toured for 2 hours and then, based on the concierge's advice that Aruba was the best place for shopping, we spent an hour poking around stores where we felt overpowered by salespeople. Curacao: This, on the other hand, was wonderful. We didn't book anything, again based on the concierge's advice, and almost didn't get off the ship! What a mistake that would have been! We walked around, found a wonderful jewelry shop, bought a couple of things, had lunch at a gorgeous waterfront restaurant and generally loved everything! Panama Canal: This is everything you would expect. It is an experience we will never forget. My daughter and I did the Embera Indian Village. It was a great excursion, interesting and memorable---especially the beautiful, sweet children! Costa Rica: This also was very interesting. My daughter and I did the Zipline excursion and this was a highlight. Also, the countryside and the people were beautiful. We would definitely come back to see more of the country. Note: The main problem I had with the excursions is the fact that, with all the elderly people (many with various handicaps) there were very few, and in some cases, no excursions that catered to them. My mother, who is otherwise a healthy, active person has limited mobility because of an ankle problem and uses a cane. The concierge told us that there really wasn't anything in Panama or Costa Rica that would be suitable for her because of the strenuous nature or length of tour so she stayed on the ship. While she had no complaints, she would have liked to have been able to take part in some shore activities in these 2 ports. Overall, we had a very good time and met some very interesting people. My daughter was happy to have experienced her 1st cruise but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time. I was glad to have tried HAL for the 1st time but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time! Mom enjoyed the experience but, whatever about the age demographic and condition of the ship, would have liked to have had more shore excursion options. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
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