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234 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We had a great cruise to the Southern Caribbean and the Panama Canal. The Zuiderdam was an older ship, but still in great shape. It is also smaller and this is what we preferred for this cruise. The staff from top to bottom was ... Read More
We had a great cruise to the Southern Caribbean and the Panama Canal. The Zuiderdam was an older ship, but still in great shape. It is also smaller and this is what we preferred for this cruise. The staff from top to bottom was fantastic. They all were happy and great to be around. All went above and beyond. Embarkation was quick and easy. Disembarkation was quick and easy until we got to the FLL airport and found out there were 8 other ships in port that day and it was also the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Not the cruise lines fault. Food was great in the dining room. Pretty good at the buffet with a good selection. The Dive Inn burgers were not as good as Guy's on the Carival ships. Cabin was smaller, but still comfortable. Was built for 4 persons. Would not recommend staying with 4 persons in this cabin. Entertainment was very good, especially the entertainment brought on board. The Island Magic steel band was amazing! All in all would do this cruise on this ship again in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
This cruise really wasn't our first choice, but when the earthquakes hit Italy we decided to make an adjustment in our "to do list" of cruises and moved a Panama Canal visit to the top, and we're glad we did. We read ... Read More
This cruise really wasn't our first choice, but when the earthquakes hit Italy we decided to make an adjustment in our "to do list" of cruises and moved a Panama Canal visit to the top, and we're glad we did. We read all the reviews about the Veendam, some of which weren't all that great, but decided we'd give it a go anyway. We're glad we did. The Veendam is smaller, so a more manageable passenger list. We enjoyed the feeling of smaller and didn't miss the crowds. We selected a lower veranda room, with a door to the deck. While that didn't give us a private deck, it did give us an option of sitting outside and watching the world go by. The deck was generally busy, but never packed with folks doing laps. We did a few miles ourselves. The room was spacious enough for the two of us, with a bed that seemed to span a couple counties. (We have a queen at home.) We were midship across the hall from the laundry room, but we didn't hear anything from that area. The room was quiet, with only the sound of ships make when underway. The crowd tended to the older set. Fifteen days in November isn't prime time for kids, so expect mostly retired or almost retired folks. There were some who were younger, particularly those from outside the United States, but Medicare eligible led the way. One of the knocks from the reviews we read was the entertainment. While generally not nightlife folks, we attended the main show every night and were consistently impressed with the quality and the diversity of the performances. The dance crew and ship singers were on their final leg and did a great job with the four shows they headlined. We also had comedians, a magician, singers, a pianist, a harpist, and others who were hard to characterize. We didn't have a show that wasn't engaging and entertaining, although magicians are near the bottom of our collective list of acts we enjoy. Each night we could count on a strong 45 minute performance. Other entertainment outside the theater captured our attention as well. Our table mates enjoyed the violinist who performed nightly in one of the lounges, while we spent each evening listening and participating with Jeremy, the piano guy in the Mix. His was a well planned, well executed piano cover of tunes from the 50's forward, with a special focus each night. The seating was limited, but packed every night. We ended up standing more than one night as his music drew people in consistently. There was also a more mellow trio that did covers in a larger lounge, and the house band played about half the time in the Crow's Nest, usually nights they weren't in the show. All had a good following. Dinners in the dining room generally were fine. As with any restaurant some dishes were better than others. The salads and soups were the most consistently good, while the desserts probably the most uneven. We didn't have a bad dinner, but fifteen days weren't filled with exceptional. Good to very good, but not consistently exceptional. Portion size was not excessive, for which we were thankful. You can only walk so many laps. Our servers were attentive, but meal times varied some, which probably is a kitchen issue. We had first seating so our longest meal was about 1 and 1/2 hours, shortest, just under an hour. Had we not been at a great table we probably would have shortened this, but conversation sometimes got in the way of looking at the menu. We ate most of the rest of our meals in the Lido or, when we had early shore excursions, did room service. We did eat one breakfast and the Mariner's luncheon in the dinning room, but the rest was elsewhere. My wife generally did fresh fruit and a pastry, while I went for the fried eggs, plus bacon and the rest. I noticed the scrambled eggs were made from packaged eggs, while the fried eggs and omelettes weren't, hence the fried eggs. Even after 15 days we could find something different to eat at lunch. We visited the pizza shop one day, the burger bar another, the taco bar a third, and you get the idea. The hottest ticket, as far as food goes, was the ice cream corner. Lots of daily visits by some folks, and not necessarily the folks we saw walking or in the gym. Some reviews mentioned cleanliness or lack thereof. We didn't see any of that. Actually we saw constant cleaning going on, from washing walls, to vacuuming, to polishing rails, and on and on. One really cool cleanliness item was the hand washing stations on the Lido deck. You put your hands in these cylinders and in twelve seconds they are washed and rinsed with warm water, assuming you aren't the first to use it in a hour or two. Nifty way to fight the germ war. We felt the ship was well organized, from initial embarkation, to shore excursion management, to disembarkation. Biggest issue was the inability of folks to follow directions, which is a heredity issue, not one created by the ship or its crew. Final thought is we truly enjoyed the trip through the canal, which is really what this is all about. We were out of deck for about seven hours during the transit and it was fascinating. Someone, which I still can't fully understood, announced to all around that the whole day was really boring and stupid. Unbelievable. We went on this cruise to do the canal, which we did. But we also learned a whole lot about coffee and bananas and folks who take cruises. If you enjoy complaining, you'll find stuff to complain about on this cruise, but that would probably be true of anything you might do. Lord knows we had a few folks who couldn't find anything like it was at home. Wish they would have stayed there. If you enjoy people and seeing places you'd generally not be able to see this is a good opportunity. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
I was lucky enough to be a guest of my parents for this lovely trip from San Francisco, down the Mexican Coast, through the amazing Panama Canal, and up through Caribbean waters to Ft. Lauderdale. First, I'm now a big fan of ... Read More
I was lucky enough to be a guest of my parents for this lovely trip from San Francisco, down the Mexican Coast, through the amazing Panama Canal, and up through Caribbean waters to Ft. Lauderdale. First, I'm now a big fan of reposition cruises as the itineraries are a bit varied. Second, know that this line is indeed for more sedate crowd. Although there were a few, "hipper" activities, don't go on this cruise for excitement and thrill seeking. No water slides or wave pools here, just lovely, nooks and crannies such as the Crow's Nest on 11 forward where an ocean bookstore environment can be found consisting of several computer terminals, vast lending library, specialty coffee bar (extra $) and comfy chairs surrounding the huge windows to laze the day away in. There is also a huge bar and many tables for games, puzzles or visiting. On excursion days, there might be either a guest lecture providing commentary on the wonders of the Panama Canal or the excursion lead providing insight on the town. Also on 11 forward are the private cabanas which I was lucky enough to enjoy throughout the voyage. Our cabana, the Costa Del Sol, was a femily cabin on corner, equipped with 2 large and comfy lounges, table and 4 chairs. Daily amenities were fresh fruit, chilled waters and chilled Evian mist bottles. Almost any food or beverage could be provided and afternoon brought champagne, chic strawberries and frozen grapes. Sprinkled in the day when hot, were chilled towels. Dedicated cabana servers were attentive and charming, anticipating every need and doing best to provide. Perfect spot to spend the day going through the canal. For those lucky enough to be in Neptune Suite, the Neptune Lounge is lovely- note- lounge is almost smack midship on deck 7 so if you want to be real close, book accordingly. Lounge is open 7 am to approx 8-9 pm. And has delightful self serve cappuccino/latte. No hot eggs, bacon etc, but great continental assortment and also meats cheeses a la European boast. And no pursers desk needed for you; the lovely concierges (shout out to Mimi) will care for every need. Our cruise was fortunate to have two great speakers, who provided daily lectures (on sea days) on relevant topics such as Panama Canal history. The other activity which was highly attended were the computer classes. Of course the usual shopping and art auctions were also included as were trivia, bingo, towel folding, various crafts and myriad of other activities. In short, great, relaxing cruise choice for those who wish a more sedate experience and not looking for a bar scene. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We had a delightful time on this cruise. My mom and I had cruised before about 12 years ago on Princess. This was a different experience because of the older clientele Holland American tends to draw. We really enjoyed the ... Read More
We had a delightful time on this cruise. My mom and I had cruised before about 12 years ago on Princess. This was a different experience because of the older clientele Holland American tends to draw. We really enjoyed the lectures/speaker series on board in the afternoons for the days at sea on the history of the area. The virtual tour of the Panama Canal by our Location Guide Wallis was also excellent and a great introduction to what we would be seeing. We didn't attend the shows as much as we did the movies in the early evening. We liked that some of the movies and food were themed around a port or activity. There were some negatives to our trip, but nothing to dampen our time. Due to the older clientele who had traveled extensively, we often felt out of place because everyone talked about going to Honduras or Puerto Vallarta for the winter. My mom and I have actually both travelled quite a bit ourselves, but it just didn't seem to compare. We booked all of our excursions in advance so we were prepared for each day and so we could attend the excursion we wanted at the time we wanted. It seemed like many people waited until they were on the ship to book an excursion or would just get off the ship and do their own thing. We felt much more comfortable and safe with our pre-panning. Again, though, many people at dinner would react like we were wrong to book in advance when asked what our plans were for the next day. I also felt like there was a different air with the passengers' attitudes. Sometimes it felt like people reacted to situations like I spent the money, so wait on me and I'm entitled. While standing in line one night to enter the main dining room, I overheard someone say that they didn't know why the doors were not open yet - his watch said 5:16 and dinner was supposed to begin at 5:15. Another woman was near us in the Crow's Nest on Canal Day and berated someone for sitting in front of her because she had been there all morning - mind you this woman had gotten up temporarily and left her stuff there, but to the newcomer, there was no way to know where she was sitting and how her view would blocked. I guess some of that felt to me that I would not be given the same latitude in my attitude since I'm younger (I am 31 years old). When we went on the kitchen galley tour, many people were lined up going up the staircase, but then others just pushed their way into the line. Overall, we had an excellent time. The Panama Canal is a cruise my mom has always wanted to go on. This particular cruise had the most ports of call and fewest days at sea for the length of the cruise. Being able to see and do as much as we could was the most important for us. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
This cruise was to places unknown to us, in Central America, which was a wonderful highlight, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and fascinating Guatemala. Mexico, and even in the US, San Diego, which was delightful .The public spaces, and there are ... Read More
This cruise was to places unknown to us, in Central America, which was a wonderful highlight, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and fascinating Guatemala. Mexico, and even in the US, San Diego, which was delightful .The public spaces, and there are many, on Amsterdam are the best we have experienced, a smaller ship with a great atmosphere. A very good crew of helpful, ever friendly people, we thought they must be hand picked for the World Journeys this ship does, their patience was amazing.! Entertainment was quite good, it is hard to please everyone all of the time, but a very comfortable Movie Theatre ,with good choices in movies helps there. The Digital workshops, were certainly enriching, taken by the most patient man on the Planet.! So helpful to everyone. A pleasant Captain makes for a happy ship and this shone through, a great journey and we look forward to our next Holland America Line experience in the future, made possible by the very busy Future Cruise organiser, with the most taxing job on board, another indicator of satisfied passengers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We borrowed this line from the classic Queen hit because we have just crossed off another item from our bucket list. We have always wanted to make a complete Transit of the Panama Canal, so when Holland America Line (HAL) contacted us ... Read More
We borrowed this line from the classic Queen hit because we have just crossed off another item from our bucket list. We have always wanted to make a complete Transit of the Panama Canal, so when Holland America Line (HAL) contacted us about a repositioning cruise, off we went on the Nieuw Amsterdam! This was our 14th cruise, and our first time sailing in the Pacific. THE SHIP The Nieuw Amsterdam is one of the biggest ships in the HAL fleet and it is very well appointed without being ostentatious. As you might expect, it is very clean and tidy above decks and below. We found the ship layout very easy to navigate, and really appreciated the unobstructed Promenade Deck (3 times around = 1 mile). The ship seems to have a tendency to pitch quite a lot during weather. This is most noticeable on higher decks and up in the Crow’s Nest. She doesn’t seem to roll or yaw much at all, but the almost constant pitching during a relatively mild (Force 5) blow in the Pacific surprised even a few US Navy veterans with whom we ate dinner. TIP: if you suffer from sea-sickness perhaps you should consider taking an inside cabin on a lower deck. You won’t have much of a view, but at least you might avoid feeling queasy. THE ITINERARY Our main objective for this trip was to transit the Panama Canal, and we have to say that everything that came afterwards was rather an anticlimax. We visited a few places that we would like to visit again, but a few others that we sincerely hope we will never see again. See our port reviews - such is life (and travel)! THE CREW We have nothing but praise for the crew. HAL seems to recruit mostly for Indonesia (which was at one time the Dutch East Indies) and the Philippines with officers from the Netherlands. Every crewmember we spoke to was polite, friendly, helpful and happy. We tried to talk to as many crew as possible – officer, sailors, cleaners, hospitality staff – because they ALL have an interesting story to tell. They are a long way from their homes and from their families, but the crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam always manage to be upbeat and are very pleasant company. They are busy, but always seem able to find a few minutes to share a joke or a comment! We learned that many crewmembers are on their 7th or 8th contract with HAL, which is a good sign, because if they were not happy with the treatment they receive they would be unlikely to come back time and time again! They work hard – no doubt about it – and their hard work makes life as pleasant as possible for the passengers, so we wanted them to know how much we appreciate their efforts. Our cabin stewards (Sam and Sid) were excellent. They kept our cabin neat and tidy and were always a pleasure to talk to. They were very adept at creating little towel animals for our amusement, and some of their efforts were very creative indeed. We enjoyed speculating about which creature might be awaiting us when we turned in for the night. Nice touch: HAL places a little chocolate on each passenger’s bed during the nightly turn-down. We’ve sailed with other lines that used to do this (not naming names, but the line that uses a capital X as part of its logo) but have since removed this minor treat, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. Full marks to HAL for keeping a simple but much appreciated tradition alive! The Ship’s photographers are friendly, but not pushy, and the videographers created a very good DVD of our passage through the canal. FOOD We found no reasons to complain about the food in any of the restaurants onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. The Lido Market serves a range of interesting dishes from all over the world including Asia and Italy. It tends to get a bit hectic at times, especially when people are lining up to get served at the buffet stations. The Lido waiters are very efficient, always asking if you need tea, coffee, juice and always willing to fetch something from the buffet. The Tamarind restaurant has an interesting Asian-Fusion menu. We enjoyed the Jewels of the Sea soup, the Satay Selection, the Sashimi, and the Wasabi/Soy encrusted Beef Tenderloin. Desserts of Mango Cloud and Tamarind Chocolate were also delicious. The Tamarind serving staff are delightful, and service here is outstanding. The Pinnacle Grill fed us delicious halibut and a good steak that was served medium, although it was requested medium rare. It was still delicious, but we prefer to have our beef a little less cooked inside. Minor slip-up, and our waiter offered to replace the cut, but as we hate to waste food we enjoyed it anyway. The Lobster Bisque was very tasty, and the Lemon Soufflé dessert was an excellent finish to a great meal. Afternoon Tea in the MDR is a refined experience with different theme days (Dutch, English and Indonesian). It usually features neat little sandwiches, scones (with jam and cream) and cakes. We usually ate dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room (MDR) and never regretted any of our menu choices. The menu is always very inventive, although it does list some dishes that you might call standards every day for the less-adventurous diners (for example, salmon and strip-loin steak). Some people complain that service in the MDR is sometimes slow, but simple logistics provides an answer to this criticism. If there are just two diners at a table, the chefs and servers can deliver a course in much less time than it takes to organise food delivery for a table of 8! Tip: if you want a speedy dinner, just ask for a table for 2! While we found MDR dinner portions to be adequate and resulting in less food waste, those with heartier appetites may wish to order extra courses. We chose Open Dining at 6:00 p.m., so we sat on the lower level where we met some very interesting people every evening. The MDR is much less busy at the later seating, possibly because of the demographic (older people prefer an early dinner). TIP: the farthest reaches of both levels of the MDR overlook the ship’s wake, and this seems to upset some people in rough seas. Watching the horizon rise and fall can make some people feel queasy – if this affects you, tell the dining room crew. ENTERTAINMENT BB King’s Blues Club featured a very capable band, who treated us to a wide range of R&B and a few contemporary pieces, but we would have preferred to hear more blues classics. When they did play some Etta James, Albert King numbers they aced them all. This entertainment was a big attraction that helped us decide to take this HAL trip. In the Showroom at Sea we were entertained by an outstanding magician (Mark Haslam – still don’t know how he does it!), a juggler, comedian (Jamie Kennedy – very funny man), and an accomplished pianist. Song and dance shows featured on two nights, and these were very good indeed – we appreciated them because they added to the variety. The Philippine crew members gave a very good cultural show one afternoon and showed an amazing range of talent. The Piano Bar featured a very entertaining piano man (Mike) who played a good range of Golden Oldies. Cruise Director Hamish Davis is without doubt one of the best CDs we have ever met. He is not only very visible (not true of every CD) he is genuinely funny, and brings a light-hearted approach to every activity. We especially enjoyed his contributions to Team Trivia and Call My Bluff! Similarly host Eric (DJ, Pub Trivia, Deck Games) is a very entertaining person and we appreciated his company and his hard work. FELLOW PASSENGERS Other reviewers have commented on the demographics aboard HAL ships so we don’t really have much to add except to say that as early retirees we were among the youngest on board. Many passenger in this demographic need mobility aids, and we wondered how the crew would cope during a real emergency in the event of needing to evacuate the ship. A FEW PROBLEMS Embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was very smooth given the inevitable line-ups, but it was well co-ordinated. Disembarkation was not so efficient. It seemed to be rather chaotic – the capacity of our ship seemed to swamp the terminal facilities in San Diego, and the US Border Service decision to clear everyone on board before allowing anyone to disembark didn’t help matters. We realise that all shipping lines MUST obey the dictates of the US Border Service, but we think there are better ways to handle this. For example, on a Trans-Atlantic crossing on the QM2, a UK Border Agent cleared the passengers while we were at sea – much better idea! TIPS Bring jackets or wraps as the temperature varies widely in various public areas around the ship. Shelves in the cabin closets can tip up and latch at the back, allowing you to increase the amount of available hanger space. The shelves are designed to work in this way. If you need to use the mid-ship elevators, the glass ones on either side are much faster than the regular ones in the middle of the ship. If you have any problems or concerns, raise them with appropriate people (usually the Front Desk (Tel. 90)). They are very responsive, and take any complaints seriously. For example: we detected the smell of smoke in our cabin on a couple of mornings and reported this to the Front Desk. Dinelle came to our cabin, agreed that the smell was noticeable and promised to investigate. The problem occurred a few more times, and HAL eventually discovered the cause (ship’s incinerator, apparently). The problem did not recur. Full marks HAL and Dinelle. Smokers are allowed to poison themselves (and others) in three locations on board: on their balconies, on the starboard side of the Lido deck aft, and in the casino. You can avoid the cancer fumes in the casino and on the Lido deck by simply not going into these areas, but if you have a balcony cabin and your neighbours decide to puff away you might need to spend most of your time indoors! We don’t really understand this laxity from HAL. Smokers are in a minority, so why does the company not confine smoking cabins to just one small area of the ship? TIP: reaching the lower level (deck 2) of the Showroom at Sea requires a trip through the casino. Take a deep breath before you enter, and then make as quick a transit as possible, or go up to deck 3 and avoid the fumes altogether (of course you’ll need to descend the stairs in the Showroom if you prefer to sit at the lower level). Unfortunately, the croupiers who work in the casino have no option but to be exposed to death-dealing second-hand smoke. PORT REVIEWS We went ashore at every port of call, and took three excursions from the ship. CARTAGENA As this was really just a bunkering stop before our Panama Canal transit, we were allowed just 4 hours in port, which isn’t really enough time to see anything much. It’s a clean city, with a clear separation of Old Town and New Town. The cruise port terminal has a good shopping selection and bird exhibits. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). PUERTO CALDERA/PUNTA ARENAS (Costa Rica) We took the Punta Arenas on Your Own tour, and regretted it. The town is a squalid, gritty place with few if any attractions and those that exist were either closed or impossible to locate. The Museum was closed and the Aquarium was - somewhere – we’re not sure if anyone in our group managed to locate it. The dark-sand beach and the sea are uninviting and as you move away from the main drag the squalor rises exponentially. The heat and humidity combined to remove any vestiges of enjoyment you might have anticipated. Don’t waste your money on this tour – we sincerely hope HAL removes it from their itinerary. CORINTO (Nicaragua) The port has a typical tourist area stocked with typical tourist items, an unusual clock tower and another museum that was closed. Rather squalid with open sewers alongside the sidewalks, but not as dire as Punta Arenas. An interesting place for a brief walk around. PUERTO QUETZAL (Guatemala) An interesting industrial port that will appeal to ship lovers. There were several bulk carriers alongside discharging powdered coal (fuel for the power station) and about a dozen cargo vessels waiting in the roads. Not much more to write about the port itself, so if you decide to stay onboard you won’t miss much. The highlight was the Jade Museum (free entry). This is a very informative display and well worth a view. There is good entertainment in the terminal. PUERTO CHIAPAS (Mexico) Similar to Puerto Quetzal, but without the added interests of powdered coal and cargo ships. Not a great deal to do here if you haven’t booked a tour. Nice dockside entertainment from a percussion group. HUATULCO (Mexico) We took the half-day Bird Watching and Eco Tour and it was excellent! Our knowledgeable guide took us to several different ecosystems and we saw many species that were new to us. Huatulco is also a very clean, tidy place, devoid of litter and graffiti. The citizens are very environmentally conscious and take obvious pride in their town. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). If you choose not to take an excursion, there is a nice beach right in the port. PUERTO VALLARTA (Mexico) The port at this much-touted vacation spot seems to lack most of the amenities you’ll find in its Caribbean equivalents. We took an excursion to Las Caletas which was reasonably good and the resort did include a decent lunch. The waves and steep beach drop-off here combine to make swimming difficult – even for strong swimmers. There is a good range of water sports on offer, but you need to wear a life jacket in order to participate in any of them. CABO SAN LUCAS (Mexico) Another very neat and tidy place with excellent views. Walking ashore attracts the usual bothersome touts, but they are polite enough to take No for an answer. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
This was a position changing cruise through the Panama Canal. It's very popular with Vancouver residents going both ways. It was our second cruise and we were worried about it's length. It was no problem it became a second ... Read More
This was a position changing cruise through the Panama Canal. It's very popular with Vancouver residents going both ways. It was our second cruise and we were worried about it's length. It was no problem it became a second home for us. The ship was very impressive clean combined with excellent service in all departments. I have read some of the other reviews and it is as if they were on a different cruise. The activities we got involved with on the cruise were Microsoft Windows 10 ( I am converted), Pools, sauna, trivial pursuit in crows nest bar during happy hour, and walking on the promenade deck. The service was excellent from the room stewards, dining room staff, front desk staff, bar tenders and wine stewards. This was a happy ship and it showed through it’s staff. I don’t know how they do it but they remembered our names and room number throughout the cruise. They even remembered you favorite cocktail at happy hour. We arranged most of our excursions through contacts we made in the roll call for this cruise on Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic was a huge plus in helping us to make new friends before even boarding the ship. These excursions were limited to 12 people and the benefit of this was made clear on the one excursion we made with HAL where the bus was held up for an hour when one of the 50 passengers on the bus disappeared at tours end. Cabin upkeep was excellent and timely with the ice bucket topped up twice a day. We were lucky we had no smokers in the vicinity. I heard a number of horror stories about cigar and cigarette smoke wafting in from adjacent balconies. I am hoping HAL revisits this problem and bans smoking all together. We had open reservation for dining but ended up booking the same table, in the Manhattan Dining Room, for dinner most nights. Breakfast and lunch was usually at the Lido, which was pretty crowded, but the food, in general, was excellent. We ate at the three speciality restaurants and the food was worth the extra money. Entertainment was good, we just walked out when it didn’t suit us. The show time with the ships dancers was excellent but they were only on twice during the cruise. Really enjoyed the piano bar and the sing along each night. One good idea was the couple of times they moved it up to the Crows Nest bar. Disembarkation in Vancouver was flawless. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We have been on another Holland America cruise ship that went to Alaska and liked it so much we decided to take the Nieuw Amsterdam through the Panama Canal. It was exciting because this was the maiden voyage for the ship to pass ... Read More
We have been on another Holland America cruise ship that went to Alaska and liked it so much we decided to take the Nieuw Amsterdam through the Panama Canal. It was exciting because this was the maiden voyage for the ship to pass through the canal! The service and staff was excellent. Our cabin steward was very attentive to us and took exceptional care to make us feel special. Our room was clean and comfortable. Holland America has this figured out to a "t". Their services think of everything we might need. We took numerous excursions and they were all well coordinated and informative. We were concerned about a 90 minutes bus ride to see the Mayan site, but it enabled us to see the countryside and culture of Guatamala. Our guide, Cora, was exceptional. She was open to our questions and was very knowledgeable. All of the other excursions were well worth the money we paid. We will definitely travel again with Holland America. Being a person who loves to learn about new cultures, this was an A Ticket ride! Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
I had cruised Holland before, service was great in every way. entertainment good, ship was very clean , we really enjoyed our cabin with a balcony.. we had breakfast on balcony every morning great.;,,food was excellent. the shore ... Read More
I had cruised Holland before, service was great in every way. entertainment good, ship was very clean , we really enjoyed our cabin with a balcony.. we had breakfast on balcony every morning great.;,,food was excellent. the shore excursions were delightful,,,yes I would go again we really enjoyed going thru the rain forest in costa rica the most our cabin stewerts were wonderful so was the waiters assigned to our dinning table also very friendly and entertaining .I was able to attend digital workshops everyday the instructor was very helpful I really enjoyed this. ,while my room mate enjoyed the casino,.watching the sunsets was just beautiful from our balcony most evenings .the beds were very comfortable . we had forgotten a drop cord for my c-pap machine so our cabin stewert didn't hesitate to find me one.. my room mate really was empressed with all the towel animals found on our beds each night upon returning to our room. going thru the panama canal was very exciting .was different than what I expected.yes we're ready to go again Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Embarkation was a breeze! Arrived at the port at 11am, got checked in and was on the ship by 12pm. Our rooms were ready so we were able to drop off our carry on bags before hitting the Lido deck for lunch. Luggage showed up late afternoon ... Read More
Embarkation was a breeze! Arrived at the port at 11am, got checked in and was on the ship by 12pm. Our rooms were ready so we were able to drop off our carry on bags before hitting the Lido deck for lunch. Luggage showed up late afternoon in time to change for our 5:30 dinner. Lido deck was crowded, but seats were plenty and the food was great. Spent some time exploring the ship, swung by the spa and gym and won a $250 spa credit in a raffle. The ship was older, but well maintained. We didn't notice any obvious spots of disrepair that other guests have commented on. Crew were always out cleaning and polishing the public areas. Ship was well laid out and easy to navigate. Our favorite spot was the large library and Crow's Nest. It was fun to grab a drink and snack and veg out with a book. Activities were a bit lacking, although I was one of the youngest passengers (I'm in my 20's). I was not interested in knitting groups or learning how to use my digital camera. Sea days were particularly void of interesting activities. Some of the best activities were ones that the staff or entertainers took initiative and offered themselves. The magician did a behind the scenes talk about his tricks and performed some close up magic. He mentioned he did it because he wanted to, not because HAL asked him to. Simon, the cruise director also lined up 4 different presentations/lectures because he wanted to. Our captain was great, and did a funny and informative question and answer session. A highlight of the cruise was all the behind the scenes tours and Q&A sessions they did with engineers, entertainment staff, captain and galley staff. Speaking of Simon the cruise director, he disappeared our 4th day of the cruise never to been seen again. No announcement was made, he simply was gone. We asked around and were told several different answers, although it seemed like it was a medical issue. We enjoyed him (he was quite funny, and we really enjoyed the one lecture he gave about the Panama Canal) and the cruise missed quite a bit with him gone. They didn't seem to make any effort to have one of his staff step up and replace him. Instead, nightly entertainment introduced themselves, or had a voice over intro, trivia was poorly hosted by the librarian etc. The food was outstanding! I've been on Princess, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and thought this was the best. Main dining room food out amazing and Lido Deck was almost as good. The pasta station and the Dive In poolside hotdog/hamburger place were the best. They prepared the salads are your direction which was a bit weird, but over all the food was good. The gluten free selection was amazing. All sorts of breakfast items (bagels, waffles, english muffins and breads) as well as pizza and pasta. Service was another area that was outstanding. Our room stewards were great and knew our names by day 2. Our dining room service was excellent and always remembered our preferences. Entertainment was hit or miss. The ventriloquist was just okay and we had already heard his routine on another HAL cruise we had taken 3 years prior. It was word for word the same routine. The comedian was very funny but a little risque for a regular show. The magician was great and very enjoyable. The singing/dancing shows were short (35 mins) and not very good. Singing wasn't very good, and songs choice was odd. A word of advice about the Panama Canal crossing. There is no need to get up a 4am in the morning to wait to be let out to see the Canal!!! Staff opened deck 4 forward at 6am for a 7am arrival at the mouth of the canal. People in our group were dying to be first in line so we lined up at 4am. And first we were! For about an hour and a half. By 5:30 there were about a 100 people lined down the hall. We did get a front row spot on the bow to see our entrance into the canal. It was very slow going and we didn't enter the first lock for almost two hours. Watching the sunrise was beautiful and watching us go through the lock was interesting. By the 2nd one I had enough and went back to bed. We didn't do an excursion and instead watched as we went back through the locks about 3 hours later. We took our own luggage off at 7:30, and found the process very smooth and quick. Overall very enjoyable cruise with wonderful food and service. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Going through the Panama Canal is a bucket list item. I've looked at many cruises going through but most where you go all the way through the canal have such minimal port you visit between and many sea days. We still have a fair ... Read More
Going through the Panama Canal is a bucket list item. I've looked at many cruises going through but most where you go all the way through the canal have such minimal port you visit between and many sea days. We still have a fair number of sea days 7 in total, but a smaller percentage than others. This cruise was different that we spent over a week in the Caribbean before going through the canal, 6 ports in mexico and 3 central america countries. I go on cruises to visit the places and have new experiences not to sit on a ship. Which this cruise completely met. Boarding was pretty simple, we arrived early to find many others had also arrived early and were filling up the waiting area. It didn't take too long once they started boarding to get on-board. HAL has done away with the mariners lunch which is sad, but we did have a reception in the afternoon. Gala nights were wonderful, we were joined by 2 of the crew members each time. Once with the guest relations and the second time with the head of excursions. So interesting to talk to crew and ask them about what they do and life on board ship. Plus they each provided us with free wine :) Something else about the dinning room is they have gone to a new system (I think) all the wait staff were carrying around ipad/tablets. The tablet has each table and who is sitting there along with your picture, so they can greet you by name. They were also able to show you pictures of each of the meals and answer detailed question about what is in the food. Entertainment was for the most part very good, we liked the special entertainers and were rather disappointing in the on staff entertainment. Second night on board while a comedian was on stage they had a emergency with a potential fire, the comedian went with it and we were laughing about the potential of a problem, he joked that we weren't going to get our cookies tomorrow. Some people thought it was part of the act. It wasn't, but it was a great way to keep everyone calm. There was no fire so we were fine and cruise continued without a problem. The entertainment over all was varied, from piano player, comedian, magic, violinist, singers, and gymnast. Crew was amazing. They were very attentive. Our state room attendant was very quick to clean our room and always greeted us with a big smile and by name. We became friendly with some of the beverage staff to the point that in the theater at night he would serve us our drink without our having to ask, and he also provided us water as we left the ship also without having to ask. The crew did mention that they were just shifting off of a 7 day Caribbean cycle of the same cruise over and over and were looking forward to actually getting to know the customers now. Gave a new view of the job the crew does with new people coming in, it appears the like the longer cruises as well so they can get to know us. As I said the ports of call were the reason for this cruise. They did not disappoint. We booked all our excursions through HAL, which does tend to be more expensive, but if we want to trade out something it makes it easy. We were in Antiqua for good friday and were able to experience a once in a life time experience with the good friday procession the largest of the kind in the world. Plus we got to see the volcano erupt on our drive into town. Another service I think is very improved on the westerdam is the internet service. They are testing a new series of internet plans The service was very good, I purchased a plan that covered the whole trip, it was unlimited time but limited to a single device. It was nice that I was able to login to wifi from my phone and carry it around without worrying about how many minutes I was using up. It let me send text through facebook and whatapp to friends and family back home much more easily than ever before. I really hope they roll this out to all the other ships. It truly is much better service than their normal plans. My only complaint is about the average age. I'm 44 an I was often the youngest person around. I normally don't have a problem with this, I actually like hanging with the older crowd, but sometimes I just wanted to talk or spend time with people my age. Doesn't help that this was a longer cruise and most people who work can't get a month off to go play. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Great cruise and great excursions in the 13 ports visited. Sea days were filled with 10 computer classes, lectures on the regions visited, port excursions, movies, and mixology classes. Embarkation was smooth. We had to wait but were ... Read More
Great cruise and great excursions in the 13 ports visited. Sea days were filled with 10 computer classes, lectures on the regions visited, port excursions, movies, and mixology classes. Embarkation was smooth. We had to wait but were seated in a big room. Disembaration was smooth. We had to wait to get a taxi to our hotel. The balcony cabin seemed small when we separated to two twin beds but we managed. We enjoyed the balcony when we cruised through the canal. We ordered room service breakfast so we could watch everything in the locks. Our starboard side was perfect. We were forward so we could watch the ship officers two decks above us. We ate most nights in the main dining room. Two different ship officers dined with our table on two different nights. We enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill and Cannelo as well. The nightly entertainment was spectacular. We had a hard time picking what was our favorite act because they were all good. Service on board was fantastic. Our room stewarts introduced themselves on the first day. Most port excursions were good. There was confusion in Guatamala because of the Good Friday processions in Antigua. We signed up for the guided walking excursion which turned out to be more than a 5 mile walk through crowded streets. It was worth it to see some of the processions. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Some people must be very difficult to please or be entirely selfish. When I read negative reviews it makes me wonder what would make some of these people happy. This ship is older than some, it does cater to an older clientele, and there ... Read More
Some people must be very difficult to please or be entirely selfish. When I read negative reviews it makes me wonder what would make some of these people happy. This ship is older than some, it does cater to an older clientele, and there aren't a lot of activities geared for younger people late at night. If those things bother you, pick a different cruise. Embarkation Simple and fast. Probably about 15 minutes including paying our duty on 9 bottles of wine. Staff All of the staff we experienced were outstanding. Our room stewards were so attentive and helpful even though they have 29 cabins to attend to! Dining We had anytime dining but were seated at 7.45pm every night. The food was simply fantastic. My wife is gluten free and had no issues. I really saw no reason to upgrade to the pay restaurants as our food was prepared so well and served with flair. I had only one meal that I didn't like (curry beef) but that wasn't the fault of the kitchen, I just didn't like it. The lido was the best experience of any of our 12 cruises. So many choices! Entertainment Stryker in the piano bar is extrordinary. The blues singers were great! Ports of call We had not been to most of these ports. Aruba, Curacao, Cartegena, and Panama were new to us. We took shore excursions in Cartegena and Curacao. The Cartegena excursions was through the ship and we went to the fortress and the walled city. A good tour as you only have about 4 hours in this port. In Curacao we had pre-booked the east side tour through Irie tours. The bus is parked at the terminal. $25 gets you a 2 hour tour of the island and a 1 hout beach break. Free water and beer. It was a highlight. We stayed on the boat during the Panama Canal and were glad we did. You get to experience both transits that way. Half Moon Cay is one beautiful island. We rented a clam shell and hung out for most of the day. In conclusion A very relaxing and classic cruise. We have sailed Royal Carribibean, Carnival, Norweigian, Princess, Celebrity and Holland. Holland and Celebrity are our favorites. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We chose this cruise for the ports and the opportunity to leave March allergens in our home town. We enjoyed the stop at Half Moon Cay and were pleased to find a tender that was perfect for wheelchair users. Each of the ports had ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the ports and the opportunity to leave March allergens in our home town. We enjoyed the stop at Half Moon Cay and were pleased to find a tender that was perfect for wheelchair users. Each of the ports had something to offer in the local town except Colon Panama, which is a fenced in port with tourist shops. Orangestad, Willemstad, and Cartegena are beautiful cities. In Puerto Limo we went on a Holland America tour to the rain forest, which was a great day. This was the only port with an accessible bus tour available with HAL. In other cities we organized private tours to have autos that were easy to get in and out of. We were disappointed to find the HAL had made a poor choice in refurbishing the wheelchair access rooms. They have installed the fashionable high beds. This height is impossible for someone in a wheelchair to make a direct transfer. Luckily I am small and my husband, although 70, works out and can still lift me. Otherwise it would have been a real problem. Actually I cannot understand having high beds on a cruise ship, as it was not reassuring when in a high sea. One night I felt like I might roll of with the next wave. How about using some mature judgement before jumping into cute but dysfunctional decorating trends. One thing that has changed about HAL since we first started traveling with them in 2006-there are far fewer staff. They seem to be limited in language skills beyond their assigned task. The staff attitude of helping people vacation and have a good time has changed to one of just getting the task at hand completed. Relationships are always important and HAL would do well to consider this. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This cruise was the 10-day Sunfarer itinerary, which is a partial transit of the Panama canal with additional calls at: Half Moon Cay; Orenjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. I cruised with my sister; we ... Read More
This cruise was the 10-day Sunfarer itinerary, which is a partial transit of the Panama canal with additional calls at: Half Moon Cay; Orenjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. I cruised with my sister; we are in our late 50s to mid 60s. Throughout this review, I will be comparing aspects of the cruise with Carnival, as this is the first HAL cruise for a habitual Carnival cruiser. We flew in separately to Fort Lauderdale. I found HAL's pre and post cruise packages for airfare and hotel to be about twice as expensive as I could arrange myself. Pre and post-cruise, we stayed at the Rodeway Inn. (We stayed an extra day in the Fort Lauderdale area to visit with family.) The Rodeway is a nice, clean, no-frills hotel, which aims to accommodate the cruise passenger. Their check in procedure moves inexplicably slowly, for some reason, in spite of having 3 check in counters, but their rates are reasonable and they give an AARP discount. They are also the only hotel that provides a free shuttle to both the FLL airport and the cruise terminal. Their restaurant and bar and very good and somewhat of a local hangout. Think Lone Star, with a bar. Prices were decent. We caught the 10:30 shuttle to the pier the next morning. and arrived at 11:00. The embarkation at Fort Lauderdale was quick and flawless. The initial line moved very quickly, there were plenty of HAL employees checking passengers in, and there was plenty of seating for those checked in and waiting to board. HAL also served lemonade and cookies, a nice touch. Once we boarded, we found numerous staff guiding passengers. We headed for the Lido Market for lunch and were pleasantly surprised to find it far less crowded than on Carnival. Also, as opposed to one giant open space, the Lido Market seating had all these little alcoves, which gave a further illusion of privacy and cut down on noise. The food was fantastic! We were especially thrilled with the caviar-encrused sushi and delicate, tiny, strawberry tarts. Again, a couple dozen notches above Carnival. (I'd like to interject, at this point, that I am not bashing Carnival. I like Carnival and I've cruised many times on that line. It's a excellent value and I am of the opinion that there's no such thing as a bad cruise, unless of course, you're talking about the Costa Concordia! But I think, for me, it might be HAL from now on.) As we were finishing lunch, there was a ship wide announcement that all cabins were ready, so we proceeded to our balcony cabin, #4164. We instantly loved the big balcony and quickly unpacked. (The HAL balconies are deeper than Carnival's.) There was ample storage space for all our stuff. I found the Zuiderdam to be beautiful and had a hard time relating what we saw to the description I've sometimes read on CC about her being a "rust bucket." Perhaps those reviews were written before the recent dry dock and, of course, any sea-going ship will have rust in some patches outside, but the crew were always cleaning, painting and maintaining her. Our cabin furniture looked new. All the carpeting on the ship looked new. She just sparkled! We loved the decor on the ship and found her to be accurately described as "a floating art museum." One of the things I had wanted to do, that I just never got around to was to check out the audio walking art tour of the ship. ( It's available from the Explorations Cafe.) We found the service on the Zuiderdam to be wonderful! Our cabin stewards, Gani and Darry, immediately presented themselves. We requested fresh fruit and, due to my back issues, I requested a topper for the bed. Both were done before bedtime. These guys made the cruise for us. They were always greeting us in the halls, asking how we were doing, and if we needed anything. Every day, they replenished the fruit and ice, without further requests and we felt very cared for. Our waiter, Zwedana, was professional and also super friendly. His recommendations were always right on target. The matre d', Osmann, did us a huge favor by tracking down the recipe of a dessert (Snickers cake) we had eaten in the Lido Market a few days before. When I asked him about this, I never really thought we'd get the recipe, but he totally came through for us! It might be too complicated for my to actually accomplish, but I'm gonna give it a try! In terms of the activities on the ship, I could not understand some of the criticisms I've read on CC about there being "nothing" to do. True, this is not an ideal ship for children, and we saw only a few. There is a kids' club, but it's rather small and there are no zip lines that traverse the length of the vessel, no water slides or "surfing" thingies. But, for an adult, there was so much to do that, on this 10-day cruise, I never got to do it all! I wanted to attend some of the computer classes, such as "How To Choose Your Next Device", but never got the chance because there was something I wanted to do more! We particularly loved Alice and Raoul's cooking classes. The demonstration kitchen was great and they passed out recipes and generous samples. On the day after the canal transit, they gave a class on how to make the famous "Panama buns" that were so delicious. On the last day, Alice presented a complete set of all the recipes they had done that cruise. Of course, there were trivia contests, which are usually some of my favorite activities on a cruise. But again, I never got to do one, because there was always something more interesting to do instead. On the day before we reached the Panama canal, Simon, the cruise director gave a funny and informative talk about the history of the canal, with an excellent, comprehensive slide presentation. There were also 2 movies presented about the canal, which showed in the ship''s theater that day and on the room tvs throughout the cruise. One was the well-known Nova presentation, "A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama" and the other was a longer movie, whose name I cannot remember. Simon gave lots of informational talks and he always managed to make them funny as well. A note about movies: Zuiderdam had a different movie every day and had at least 3 showings of it. They were very popular. The theater has lovely, huge, comfortable recliners with room for drinks, but is a small theater and there are not a lot of seats. Get there early and don't plan on saving seats. We found HAL to provide many little amenities that, taken together, elevated the experience of the cruise immeasurably. For example: they give everyone a sturdy tote bag that you saw passengers carry around everywhere, there were real, small terry cloth hand towels rolled in a basket in every restroom, rather than paper towels, gratis cold towels and water outside the ship as you returned from an excursion, happy hour with free, gourmet appetizers every day, and so on, and so on. I don't know if this is the case on every HAL ship, since this was my first cruise with the line, but it just seemed to set HAL apart and made us feel quite pampered. We never did see any of the evening entertainment. We had good intentions but, at the end of the day, we just seemed to prefer to sit on our balcony or in a lounge and talk. It had been a long time since we seen each other and we are happily best friends, as well as sisters. However, I did hear people comment favorably about the contortionist, Stryker, and BB King. Sorry that I can't give any firsthand feedback. The food in the Vista (main) dining room was absolutely five star! It was varied, delicious, and the presentation was quite artistic. The service was prompt and we had the best time with our table companions, who were fantastic! We did go to the Pinnacle grill one night and it was fine. However, compared with specialty restaurants on other cruises, I found them to be understaffed, although the staff was very friendly. We had to wait a long time for service, and ask repeatedly for our water glasses to be refilled. In addition, neither of us thought the food was any better than in the main dining room. We did not try the Italian restaurant, Caneletto. We loved our balcony, which expanded the functional size of the cabin significantly. As we love to do whenever we cruise, we generally had a room-service breakfast out there and spent lots of hours on the balcony talking and watching the ocean. On this cruise, we were fortunate to see a pod of dolphins racing the ship one morning! I also saw a shark fin one day and several instances of flying fish! So amazing! Room service was quick and the selection was excellent! They have a sizable menu and you can also write in just about anything and they'll try to get it for you. One of our favorite places on the ship was the Explorations Cafe on deck 10, which is provided in conjunction with the New York Times. It is a bright, roomy library, with lots of big windows looking out over the ocean, a wide selection of books, and complementary, abbreviated versions of the Times. There are game tables for chess,checkers and jigsaw puzzles. There is a specialty, for-fee coffee bar but all of the pastries and appetizers in the large display case are gratis. This was one of our favorite places to sit at the end of the day, look out at the sunset, talk and indulge in a little confectionary treat. Unfortunately, the excursion I had booked for the Panama canal day, the "Canal Experience" was cancelled. It seems, although it's billed as a 5-6 hour excursion, they had been taking longer and longer (8-10 hours). In turn, the ship had to wait longer and longer for passengers to return and had trouble keeping on schedule. This was a disappointment to me, because one of the reasons I'd chosen this cruise over a full-transit was that I'd liked the other ports better on this one and, with the Canal Experience excursion, would actually be able to make a complete transit in a smaller boat. However, we did lots of other excellent excursions and this in no way ruined the cruise at all. We did several other shore excursions, purchased through HAL, and found each of them to be excellent. (These will be reviewed separately in the excursions section.) Something HAL does, which I love, is offer daily mass. They have a priest on every sailing. Since I try to go to daily mass, this was very much appreciated and was the initial reason I booked a cruise with this line. They also offered a Jewish Sabbath service and a non-denominational Protestant Sunday service. Once the cruise was (sadly) over, HAL somehow made the disembarkation process painless. For one thing, you can stay in your cabin while you wait for your group to be called. We found this infinitely more relaxing than congregating in a crowded lounge. We got up on that day, had a leisurely breakfast in the Vista dining room (which, again, was delicious!) and returned to our cabin to await our group's turn. When our color was called, we proceeded to disembark effortlessly. There was none of the cattle-herding type atmosphere we've come to associate with this process. Our luggage was easy to find and all together in one place. There was a wait to go through customs, but as there were 2 Royal Caribbean mega-ships that were also disembarking that morning, that was to be expected. Once we were out of the terminal, we were pleasantly surprised to find a final HAL representative asking if we needed any help finding transportation. Yeah, I think it's HAL from now on for me. A few criticisms: Okay, so nothing is perfect, right? Here are my only criticisms of this HAL cruise, and they all involve non-essential shopping: 1. It's my tradition, on a cruise, to get a piece of jewelry. While the sales people were quite friendly, I was disappointed that the 2 jewelry shops on the Zuiderdam were extravagantly overpriced. Here's an example. In November (2 months ago!) I had purchased an EFFY ring on a Carnival ship. They had the exact same ring on this ship, at over twice the price! The other jewelry store, Merabella, was so exclusive that they admit only one customer at a time, and draw a curtain so anyone else is prevented from entering the sanctum. Their prices are even more outrageous. And the Merabella does not indulge in the last-day sales. While some might find this exclusivity appealing, I did not. The last-day sales on other jewelry and souvenirs served to bring prices down to a level similar to what it would cost on land. Throughout the rest of the cruise, the general, souvenir-type store had prices that were somewhat overpriced, but not extravagantly so. They had sterling jewelry that was quite pretty and reasonably priced, especially at the last-day sale. They did a brisk business. 2. The photographers on the ship were pretty aggressive. The photos were overpriced and the sales people were not particularly friendly. 3. We went to the standard jewelry talk. I usually skip these, but my sister wanted to go because they promised free tanzanite earrings to everyone who attended. Well, it was the expected, fast-talking, high-pressure informercial on the "best" stores to get jewelry in each port. At the end of the talk, however, there were no earrings. Instead everyone was given a certificate for the promised earrings at a store in Aruba or Curacao. We felt deceived and, as we had shore excursions in Aruba, complained to the woman who presented the talk. She apologized and said she would deliver the earrings to our cabin. Next day, there was a note in our box that said she could not deliver them to us "for security reasons", but if we would come to the sales office for an hour on one of two days, we could get them then. Expecting another high-pressure sell, we elected to forfeit the opportunity. These few, small, sour notes were not particularly important because, after all, no one is twisting your arm and forcing you to buy anything. Just something to note. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was the 14th cruise in 16 years for my DH and myself. During the cruise we were awarded our bronze medallion for 100 days on Holland America ships. Pre-cruise we stayed at Best Western Plus, Fort Lauderdale Airport South on ... Read More
This was the 14th cruise in 16 years for my DH and myself. During the cruise we were awarded our bronze medallion for 100 days on Holland America ships. Pre-cruise we stayed at Best Western Plus, Fort Lauderdale Airport South on Stirling Road. I would probably not stay there again, due to the location not being near restaurants (except to jaywalk across a busy highway), and due to fingerprints on the desk in the room, the keys not working until I walked back to the desk to have them keyed, having to ask for towels, the waffle maker not working, etc. If you stay here - here's a tip. A cab to Port Everglades is $20 plus tip and we got there quick. The shuttle is $12 per person plus tip and didn't leave for the Zuiderdam until noon, after hotel check out time. The Zuiderdam is over 10 years old, built in 2004. She's showing some age, but she's still got the Holland America charm. A new cruise director, Simon James, came on board the day this cruise left, on Feb. 15. He's a very upbeat, personable guy and we enjoyed being on board more because of him. And he loves the Beatles and Julie Andrews, gotta love him just for that. I have no complaints about the service. All of the staff seemed to enjoy their jobs and seemed happy to be there. Our cabin was 10024, part of a group of new cabins on Observation Deck 10. Those cabins are convenient to the Crow's Nest, Lido Deck, forward sun deck (past the private cabanas), and the Explorations Cafe/Library. Number 10024 is an inside with a window. The window overlooks a narrow walkway between the port and starboard sides of the Observation Deck. Past the walkway is the cover for the Lido pool. We didn't open the curtains much because people on the walkway could see inside our room. I really liked the location. My DH didn't like it because it was a long walk to the Promenade Deck. He thought it was too high and too far forward. The group of cabins on this deck are very small, the only storage for clothes is the closet, two smaller-than-normal drawers at the foot of the bed, and two nightstands. We always bring extra hangers, so clothing storage was not a problem. There is no dresser and no couch, but the fixtures and furniture are all new, so new the rooms aren't on the ship map. The inside cabins have a full length counter in the bathroom and a small shower, no bathtub. The cruise included two wonderful ports we had been to before - Bonaire and Curacao. On Bonaire we took a water taxi (ship excursion) to Klein Bonaire (an island off the coast of Bonaire) to play in the crystal clear aquamarine Caribbean Sea. Water was warm, waves were not too rough, and we didn't get too burned. On Curacao I went shopping and bought gifts for the family back home. The ship stayed late, until 11 p.m., in Bonaire. Most of the evening the piano man, Stryker, did a concert at the back pool. He has an awesome voice and knows hundreds of songs. At the Piano Bar every night he takes requests and plays for a group sing-along. Liz, who is the librarian, sang a song or two, accompanied by Stryker. She has an amazing voice. Cartagena, Columbia was an experience. We visited the old fort and took a walking tour of the old town. Both sites have street vendors that are constantly asking you to buy. They aren't shy about it either. Be prepared to pay a dollar if you take a photo of someone. I bought some trinkets, paid for some photos, and bought some delicious coffee on the street. The architecture in the old town is very old and very interesting. Would have liked to go inside the inquisition court, but our tour didn't cover that. In Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, we took a walking tour of the Veragua Rainforest. We saw butterflies, snakes and frogs and had lunch at the park. I never thought I would like to walk through a butterfly exhibit, but it was very enjoyable to watch the colorful butterflies. I could have stayed longer. We rode on an aerial tram over the tree tops and saw a sloth clinging to a tree. We walked to a waterfall. The Panama Canal was the highlight of the trip. We first got to see the new locks under construction. Then we took a ferry through the canal to Panama City on the Pacific side. It was a long day. Because of the drought smaller ships like the ferry have to wait and go through the locks with a larger ship. Sometimes its a long wait. We didn't return to the Zuiderdam until 9:30 p.m., but the day was worth it. We had lunch and dinner on the ferry, and the Zuiderdam crew kept the Lido open for us until 11:30 p.m. I especially liked it when a group of fellow cruisers gathered on the Promenade Deck to cheer for us when we finally returned to the Zuiderdam. Its been our tradition to have assigned seating in the dining room, usually the late dinner. That's what we did on this cruise, too. But I think it's the last time. Very few people eat at assigned seating, we asked for a table for six, which we got, but there was only one other couple eating with us. We enjoyed their company, but we prefer a larger group, it seems to be a more interesting conversation. But aside from that, each meal was enjoyable and delicious and we liked the wait staff. We looked forward to dinner every night. But with so much going on each night, we want to be able to choose our night time activities and not feel guilty if we skip dinner in the dining room. The best entertainer on board was Jon Courtenay. He sings, plays piano and is a comedian. Disembarkation - no one could get off the ship until 7:30 a.m. Each group disembarked a half hour or more later than what was scheduled. But that was OK. It gave me time to walk around the Observation Deck a little longer. I'm never anxious to disembark. Post cruise we stayed a night at Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port Hotel on Griffin Road. It's older, but I liked it. It is a destination and convention hotel with a beautiful pool and grounds, a restaurant, and a gift shop. We mostly relaxed on our last day in Florida. We walked along the Fort Lauderdale beach, but after being in Central and South America, it seemed too cold in Florida to go in the water. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
my wife and I chose this cruise for the itinerary. cruising the panama canal was on the bucket list and we checked that off in grand style on board the Oosterdam our departure from fort Lauderdale went off without a hitch our transfer from ... Read More
my wife and I chose this cruise for the itinerary. cruising the panama canal was on the bucket list and we checked that off in grand style on board the Oosterdam our departure from fort Lauderdale went off without a hitch our transfer from the airport to cruise terminal was seamless once on board we could not have felt more welcome from the extremely friendly and professional staff to our very comfy and well thought out cabin our 10 day cruise was filled with fabulous food and we found the entertainment to be of a very high quality we particularly enjoyed the BB King blues club we found that all of our shore excursions where very much as described in the shore talks that would precede our days ashore we found these extremely helpful for planning our days ashore ( our stop at half moon cay was one of our favorites) our trip trough the panama canal was everything we had hoped for we would recommend this trip to all cruisers who enjoy the simple pleasures in life excellent food, friendly staff,and wonderful accommodations, this is not a cruise for all night partying at 57 we where on the younger side of the age group for us this was the perfect way to relax and enjoy our vacation time Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We are a couple in their late 50 's traveling with our best friends also in their late fifties. We flew in from New York to Fort laudersdale the day before. We stayed at the Embasssy Suites which is less than a mile from Port ... Read More
We are a couple in their late 50 's traveling with our best friends also in their late fifties. We flew in from New York to Fort laudersdale the day before. We stayed at the Embasssy Suites which is less than a mile from Port Everglades and only a few miles from airport. Hotel is very nice and a full hot breakfast is included. We asked at hotel for shuttles from airport and to port in the morning. $9/per person is available for both. We were in walking distance to both stores and restaurants. The next day we took the shuttle from hotel to Port Everglades at around 10:15. We were in group 4 for boarding. Very organized port. Water and cookies available while we waited. Boarding began at 11:30. We were on boat by 12:00. We went straight to front desk to sign up for a cooking class in the culinary arts center. Class was $29/pp which included an apron, glass of wine with lunch and we were served a three course lunch in the Pinnacle Grill. Alice is a wonderful lady who helped us out while we prepared our dishes. The chef was wonderful and very knowledgeable, We went to our rooms and dropped off our carry on luggage after that. Then it was up to the Lido for a very nice lunch. When it was time for the muster drill, it was pouring rain, so the crew made the most of it by having us check in with our room numbers and a quick talk inside the boat. Our cabin (4024) was in the front. I worried it would be too much in the front of the ship but it turned out to be great. Only thing that was a little bothersome was that at night we could hear the shows. The singing and music was loud enough to make us feel like we were in the lounge not in our room. Good thing was the shows only last about 45 minutes. Our room stewards Deni and Sugi were outstanding. I asked for ice the first day and it was there twice a day from then on. These guys work so hard! Above and beyond any services you receive in a hotel!! Our room was in a great place the day we went through the canal. They open the bow of the ship(4th floor) so you can get a very good view. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill two nights and one lunch. The food is outstanding! Our waiter was Hero both nights! He was so great! Service with a smile! We reserved both nights before our cruise. Nothing is ever available after you board in this restaurant. We also ate one night at the Italian restaurant. Food was excellent and so was the service! The lido has the most excellent breakfast selections. I counted at least 8 different juices available. Maria who works in the Lido was a pleasure to see every morning and all day long with her amazing smile and hard work ethic!! The pizza is really really good! Love the crust. Our friend is gluten free and they made her her very own mini pizza. Every meal in the Dining room they gave her the menu for the next day to choose what she wanted and they made it gluten free for her. The ports we visited were Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Colon, Panama, Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman. We were not able to go to Grand Caymen because of high winds. This is a tender port and it just wasn't safe. Our two husbands did the jet skis on Half Moon Cay. We looked into our own excursion in Aruba. It is called TRIKES ARUBA. You pay that day which was great. My husband has never driven a standard so it was a challenge! The company was very professional! Took us to some great spots. They took pictures of us and post them on Facebook for you. Panama Canal day was great! We were up at 5:30. We watched from lots of different spots. They open the bow, and the front of decks 5,6,and 7 for great views! Also deck 3 is a great place to watch. We had pouring rain off and on all morning. We debated back and forth whether we should do the ferry excursion through the rest of the locks. At the end of the day we were so glad we chose to stay on the boat! It was a long long day getting up so early. It was rainy and very humid and hot that day! We felt we saw enough of the locks going through twice with the Zuiderdam. Costa Rica we went on a ship excursion. Eco-boat, train and countryside. It was a very hot and humid day. The boat portion takes you on a canal to look for birds, sloughs and plants. The train ride we looked for monkeys. The train was very old. We saw a lot of monkeys along the way. We also went to a banana plantation which was very interesting! We enjoyed our sea days because we signed up to use the hydro pool. The cost was $300/per couple. We love this area and sign up whenever a ship offers this. In conclusion, this was our 15th cruise. We started out on NCL and loved all the dining choices. Then we tried Princess and Royal Caribbean. This was our 4th cruise on Holland. We really LOVE Holland! The food is fantastic! We really have been choosing Holland because they have a Catholic Priest on board who says Mass every day of the cruise!! This is such a great offering for us!! THANKS so much Holland America for making this happen on all your ships and all your cruises! Fantastic benefit! We love the ship size too. Not a lot of people. zuiderdam has less than 2,000 passengers. The crew and staff are always outstanding! Ship is kept up and shines. The crew make sure of it! Always working so hard! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I just love Holland America and would suggest spending the extra $$ to get a balcony suite, preferably a Neptune Suite. Our room and balcony was enormous and we had private "membership" to the Neptune Lounge, which is like ... Read More
I just love Holland America and would suggest spending the extra $$ to get a balcony suite, preferably a Neptune Suite. Our room and balcony was enormous and we had private "membership" to the Neptune Lounge, which is like having the front office, explorations lounge and lido all in one spot. Cappucino, breakfast, all day snacks, comfortable TV viewing area, computer, nice spot to meet people. All our needs were met and then some. The food was excellent from the Lido to the Vista dining room and the upcharges, Pinnacle Grille and Canaletto were superb. The Pinnacle Grille is well over a $100 meal for $29 upcharge. 5-star service and food. The staff is friendly and happy, they are enjoying what they are doing. Our cruise to Aruba, Panama (with canal) Costa Rica and Grand Cayman was relaxing (every other day a sea day) and interesting, particularly the panama canal. Slideshows and documentaries presented prior to going through the canal were interesting and informative. Must admit that I was not impressed with portside at many of our stops, but the "port" is usually not in the best part of town - these locations would be better if you booked an excursion. Lots of things to do on the boat, loved the $25,000 jackpot bingo!! Too bad I didn't win :). Entertainment was good but I have to admit that the Greenhouse Spa (we signed up for the hydrotherapy pool and relaxation suite and enjoyed every day) was my favorite stop. Have already booked the Northbound passage from Vancouver to Anchorage in August. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We had read several negative reviews of this ship, we had a wonderful experience! Yes, some of the soft goods were a little worn (i.e. scratched leather furniture) but the elegance of the ship more than compensated for wear and tear. We ... Read More
We had read several negative reviews of this ship, we had a wonderful experience! Yes, some of the soft goods were a little worn (i.e. scratched leather furniture) but the elegance of the ship more than compensated for wear and tear. We had originally booked a Signature Suite but were offered an upgrade at a a reduced price to the Neptune Suite. Since I will be retiring soon, we decided to treat ourselves to this concierge level suite with it's own lounge. We couldn't have been more pleased! Our two concierges (Arvee and Michael) went out of their way to help in any way they could. They arranged shore excursions, priority dining reservations, priority tendering, replaced a non-working room key and printed our boarding passes and arranged a direct luggage transfer from our cabin to the PreTSA checked security line and the airport which we did; however, the boarding passes that HAL printed out did not scan (this happened to everyone on HAL), so we had to go to the regular line and then get new boarding passes at the gate. Not sure why the scanning process failed, but apparently this was a common problem. The lounge was open until 8:30pm and always had food and beverages available as well as a computor and TV. The ship was very clean and the service was excellent. The Lido buffet had some unique foods and overall was better than any of the other 20 cruises we have been on. Lots of lamb dishes, which I really liked and you don't find a lot on other ships. Both the Pinnacle and Canaletto dining experiences were wonderful. We had received free dinners at both with our package and would gladly have paid the charges if we had had to. Especially was concerned about Canaletto as it it had received negative reviews, but other than it is tucked away in an corner of the Lido area, the food and service were exceptional. The main dining room service was the slowest we have ever had. The food was very good when it did arrive. HAL has partnered with several "chefs" for their entrees and I know they are trying for a sophisticated selection, but I don't want any kind of "salad" for my main dish and I would like the option of jumbo shrimp cocktail every night as is offered on other lines. You could get steak every night if you liked, however. This ship offered Happy Hour from 4-5 in two lounges every evening with hot appetizers -- a nice touch as we don't usually like the "drink of the day" drinks and could enjoy our martinis at a reduced cost. Other than a comedian,who was very good, we did not go to any of the shows. The snorkeling excrusion at Marine Beach in Bonaire was a disappointment. It was supposed to be for beginners like me, but the beach was small and near the airport and you had to fight currents to get over the reef. You were supposed to swim through a clear channel that bisected the reef to avoid getting cut, but this was difficult for me due to the current. I finally gave up because it was to tiring. We took the Tayutic Hacienda excursions in Limon, Costa Rica and were treated to the most beautiful view I've seen (even better than Hawaii). However, we had a bright sunny day and even saw the steam from one of two active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Other days, it could be rainy or foggy. The lunch was very bland (chicken, beans, rice). I didn't realize that Costa Ricans don't like spicy food! Not much flavor. We saw demonstrations of coffee bean production and sugar cane processing. You do have to sit on very uncomfortable wooden benches with no backs for a considerable amount of time. I finally just stood up as it was more comfortable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the ... Read More
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the time we sailed until we left the ship, we were entertained, fed, left alone, instructed, sold stuff and fed again. The ship is mid-sized, and that is fine. It has all the features except the water slide. The staff did a fine job. When an issue popped up, they handled everything with speed and a smile. The Cruise Director and his staff kept the announcements to the point and the entertainment activities fun. The menu needs some updating, but the food was good. The restaurant service and the cabin service were all I expected. The stores all sell the same goods, but the sales staff went out of their way to help me find the exact watch I wanted. This was not a party barge. It was a relocation cruise, so the guests were older. The younger guests mingled and seemed to have a great time at the shows and activities. The excursions were noteworthy, with one exception, and that was handled. I was not sure what to expect in ports I had not visited before, so I took the highlights tours at most places and coffee plantation tours at others. Seeing the inside of a live volcano under clear blue skies was fabulous. Learning that Guatemala is my new "next flight out" trip showed me a new view of Central America. The ship is now headed to Alaska, but it has the same crew, so you will have a good time! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the ... Read More
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the time we sailed until we left the ship, we were entertained, fed, left alone, instructed, sold stuff and fed again. The ship is mid-sized, and that is fine. It has all the features except the water slide. The staff did a fine job. When an issue popped up, they handled everything with speed and a smile. The Cruise Director and his staff kept the announcements to the point and the entertainment activities fun. The menu needs some updating, but the food was good. The restaurant service and the cabin service were all I expected. The stores all sell the same goods, but the sales staff went out of their way to help me find the exact watch I wanted. This was not a party barge. It was a relocation cruise, so the guests were older. The younger guests mingled and seemed to have a great time at the shows and activities. The excursions were noteworthy, with one exception, and that was handled. I was not sure what to expect in ports I had not visited before, so I took the highlights tours at most places and coffee plantation tours at others. Seeing the inside of a live volcano under clear blue skies was fabulous. Learning that Guatemala is my new "next flight out" trip showed me a new view of Central America. The ship is now headed to Alaska, but it has the same crew, so you will have a good time! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
First off, overall the service and attention to detail was excellent. The names of the dining room staff people who impressed us with their professionalism and friendliness and excellent service were Presty Sumitra, assistant dining room ... Read More
First off, overall the service and attention to detail was excellent. The names of the dining room staff people who impressed us with their professionalism and friendliness and excellent service were Presty Sumitra, assistant dining room manager - he was everywhere helping guest and his team members without taking a break - and always smiling; Ali Mansur, our waiter and assistant Leika Patrya, they were excellent to put it mildly; Benjamin Schutte, Pinnacle Grill Maître d'hôtel - again, always friendly and helpful and managed a superb serving staff; Intan Rosmalia - La Fontaine hostess who always smiled and expertly defused a situation where an irate passenger who was upset with his cabin was taking out his frustrations on Intan - she smiled, took notes, thanked him and told him she would contact the front desk to remind them of his concerns - incredible customer service; Aleksandre Gruaz, masseuse in the spa who not only gave excellent massages with a friendly smile but also suggested other treatments to help my badly knotted leg muscles; Clifton Bolton, on-board acupuncturist who was able to provide me relief from my restless leg syndrome and suggest follow up treatment back on land. And we cannot forget the Front Desk staff who always smiled and were very professional and were able to defuse and calm down some passengers who were having problems (of their own making). The ship was always spotless and the housekeeping staff were always visible keeping things shipshape. The public rooms were very comfortable and the staff always helpful and smiling. The food was excellent in all venues at all times. The La Fontaine main dining room has excellent food, well prepared, not overly large servings and the menu did not repeat itself in the 19 days we were on board. The Pinnacle Grill was exquisite - the La Cirque night was well worth the extra charge and is among the best restaurants at which we have dined, if not the best. The Lido restaurant was buffet and for the most part the choices mirrored those in the La Fontaine dining room. The Dive-In Grill was by the pool and had excellent hot dogs and a super small buffet with a Mexican theme - build yourself tacos and burritos and any combination you wanted to try. They both were and excellent break from La Fontaine. And the ice cream in the Lido Restaurant was always appreciated. My wife tried room service for one meal when she was feeling a tad seasick. almost every morning we did have rolls and coffee in our cabin before getting out and about. Having a Catholic Priest on board was one of the reasons we choose to sail with Holland America. Being able to go to Mass daily was a highlight of the cruise. Holland America is the only cruise line that I have been able to find that has a priest on board all of their sailings. A couple of small issues in the La Fontaine dining room. Being served instant hot chocolate at breakfast was a bit of a disappointment. I would have preferred the hot chocolate from the Explorations Café - it was very tasty and made with a sauce instead of mix. And the consistency of the coffee was a bit erratic. Sometimes it was exceedingly strong and needed to be watered down to be drinkable and at other times it was just about perfect. One waiter explained that when it was brewed the amounts of coffee going in might vary from time to time. This could stand a bit of consistency. And on to the fitness center. Overall it was excellent. Good aerobic equipment with enough to handle the people who wanted to use it. The weight training equipment was also very good with no waiting needed to use it. Pawal or Paul (the personal trainer and Pilates "instructor") was excellent as far as personal training is concerned. However, his Pilates approach was a bit off the wall in my opinion. I have been a student of Pilates for about seven years now. When I talked with Pawal and showed him some of the exercises that my instructors at home wanted me to do he did not know what the Pilates Hundred was - and this is the basic exercise that Joseph Pilates based most of his exercises on and is taught by almost every Pilates certifying agency in the United States and most worldwide. If you are going to advertise Pilates classes in the North American market it might be best if the instructors were vetted to insure they were familiar with classic Pilates. Pawal did what he characterized as "callisthenic Pilates", not really Pilates as taught by Joseph Pilates and his students. The spa itself had a few problems. The men's sauna was not working for the entire cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle. There was no sign posted and no alternatives were volunteered to passengers. After I talked with guest relations about this I was allowed to use the steam room as a part of my massages and acupuncture treatments. I should not have had to talk with guest relations. The steam rooms were excellent and hit the spot. Cleanliness was not always consistent. One morning when I went into the fitness center to do my Pilates exercises on a mat on the wood floor the floor was dirty and had bits of something on it. The showers in the men's locker room were not properly cleaned each day. On one occasion I found a used bandage that was in there for 2 days and on another occasion I found an piece of body plaster tape that remained for over 24 hours. Not acceptable. And the grout between the tiles on the shower floors was partly clean and partly black, I did bring these to the attention of the guest relations manager twice over a two week period. Having three different groups of entertainers in the theatre provided plenty of variety that appealed to all age groups. But most of the evenings we were in the Explorer's Lounge where a duo of a pianist and a violinist were playing classical music ever day from 6pm to 10pm. Two delightful ladies, Linsey Rogers and Rhonda May, respectively, kept a small group of 15-20 devoted listeners entertained daily. The Holland America name for the duo was Adagio and the Adagio duos appear to be on board all of their ships. Overall, an excellent voyage. Five star would be how we would rate it. We will be back on board either the Amsterdam or another of the ships in the R or S class within a year. That good. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast Guard inspection. There was not too much of a delay and embarkation went smoothly. Dry dock refurbishment updated the ship with brand new carpets, upholstery, decking, beds, and decor features. It was beautiful. First thing we noticed were fresh flower bouquets everywhere and orchids on all the tables. There was an air of elegance throughout. There were a few glitches and some took a couple of days to get fixed, but the crew was "on it" and even some of the dry dock crew remained on board to complete the last details. The plumbing in our room did not work - toilet or shower. Sink worked with low water pressure. A talk to maintenence officer in the hallway got the water on almost immediately. Water pressure in sink resolved after two days, but not a real problem. Air conditioning was sporatic for a couple of days, but not unbearable and it, too, got fixed. At least in our room and public rooms. Nice touches were apparent throughout the cruise. The food in the MDR and Lido exceeded expectations. The service really stood out as superb. The crew seemed happy and eager to please. The itinerary was just what we wanted, second time through the canal with visits for four new ports for us: Cartegena Colombia, Corinto Nicaragua, Puerto Quetzal Guatemala, and Puerto Chiapas MX. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Stateroom staff: best we have ever had, thank you to Rohman & Roni-they anticipated our needs and the first day we asked for something specific to be done every day and they never forgot. Great job! They always kept our fruit bowl ... Read More
Stateroom staff: best we have ever had, thank you to Rohman & Roni-they anticipated our needs and the first day we asked for something specific to be done every day and they never forgot. Great job! They always kept our fruit bowl stocked and ice in our cabin which was appreciated without asking. We also always had fresh flowers in our cabin that they replaced if they were dying. Food: We have never had a bad meal on HAL and love their food and presentation. We ate at all venues and enjoyed them all. Our preference is the main dining room and have never had a bad meal there. There was also an outdoor aft BBQ which was fantastic. I was not eager to do this but we did and they had salmon, ribs, pork, chicken, prawns and more. The prawns were my favorite. The Dive-in also has improved. Main Dining room: We had anytime dining. Seems the staffing level has diminished which puts much more pressure on the staff and they barely have time to breath let alone chat to guests which is a shame. We dined here for lunch a couple of times and for dinners often. Pinnacle Grill: we had breakfast here often since we were in a Neptune Suite and the service was top notch. Previous cruises we have found it very slow but not this time. We also dined one evening and we both had the filet mignon which was perfectly cooked and delicious. Again, staff were fantastic. $29 pp. Canaletto: A bit disappointed this time as they have changed it up. They suggest a lot of sharing. I would prefer smaller dishes and not be encouraged to share. You DO NOT have to share though. Food was good but not sure we would try it again. Miss the big antipasto plate they used to take around. $10 pp. Entertainment: BB Kings Club was very good but as others have said, very loud. Great band. Ocean Bar had good dancing music (and listening) and wish it was every night. Have to check the "On Location" to make sure the times there is entertainment as some evenings they don't and the time can vary. We did not go to Piano Bar so can't comment on that. In the Vista lounge when the Noordam Entertainers performed, I enjoy those shows but my husband not so much. I do think that HAL lacks in their entertainment in the evenings though. We have only been on Princess once before and found they have several venues at the same time and you could pick which you preferred. (for example either you like the music that you can ballroom dance to or if not there was another venue to choose from). We just felt HAL was lacking in this area. Entertainment guests on this cruise were: Bande Artistique; Comedian Buzz Sutherland; Count Dimas; Sephira; Sister Twist; Michael Menes; Matilda and Patrick Murray (ventriloquist); Salvtore Hasard; Kevin Jordan; Indy and Jeff Peterson. All were good but our favorites were comedian Kevin Jordan who was hilarious and Salvatore Hasard who could play numerous instruments and had a fabulous voice. Desserts: I have to comment on this because I think they have improved. I never liked their cheesecakes before but tried one this time and it was very good. I also tried the German cake (with coconut) and it was fabulous. Pools: We used both Lido pool and aft pool. The Lido pool I can stand up in and the lounge chairs are very comfy. We spent most of the time though in the non-smoking area of the aft pool, at a table in the shade as we play cards. Library, computers and Explorations Cafe: These are all located in the same spot. The library is huge and very impressive and used lot-the librarian/computer helper is kept very busy. Lots of computers to use but we were disappointed that they did not offer unlimited internet like they did for the Westerdam Panama cruise that left before us. It sounds like they are trying it out on various ships and I think would be a smart thing to do. We bought the 250 minute package for $100 but it is very frustrating with the amount of time wasted just trying to get connection at times. Other times it was quick. Loved getting my latte at the Cafe and the staff are very nice. Flowers: The flower arrangements around the ship are beautiful and I'm glad to still see them. Hope they don't cut back too much on those. We flew to Ft Lauderdale 2 days early (luckily we did because AA lost my luggage until the next day) and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66 Tower King room. It was a beautiful room with a view of the cruise port. The grounds and pool were beautiful and having the marina there for my husband to drool over the yachts was worth it! Final thoughts: We loved going through the Panama Canal and spent the day outside. We enjoyed the whole cruise but did not take excursions in all ports. In Columbia we booked with other CC members with Dora Tours and had a very interesting excursion. Mercedes was our tour guide and she was excellent. In Costa Rica we also did another excursion with CC members and booked with Odyssey Tours who again were very good. In Huatulco we did a snorkel trip and had another one booked through HAL for Cabo but it was canceled due to rough seas. In San Diego we took the HAL trolley which was interesting. The other ports we either just wandered at the port or stayed on the ship to enjoy the quietness by the pool. Arriving back to our home port of Vancouver is always wonderful too and it was a picture perfect, beautiful day. It was a breeze getting off the ship because we had already done the customs forms at our stop in Victoria. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
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