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127 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise with the purpose of experiencing the Panama Canal. Cruise ships are not my favourite way to travel but this was a good option as we were traveling with an older relative. The veendam is a mid-sized ship and we think ... Read More
We chose this cruise with the purpose of experiencing the Panama Canal. Cruise ships are not my favourite way to travel but this was a good option as we were traveling with an older relative. The veendam is a mid-sized ship and we think that it was only a little over half full so it was very comfortable being on board. The other passengers are generally older so it does have a genteel feel to it. The restaurants and bars are very good and the ship is well presented and clean even though it is 20 years old. We also liked our balcony cabin. The major downside of the cruise was the short time in ports and the long bus rides to get to a number of destinations. The shore excursions offered by holland america were also relatively expensive. That said we did enjoy a number of the ports that we called in at. The cruise is relatively expensive and we think that we would have liked to spend longer in a umber of destinations so would be quite wary of cruises in the future. There are more interesting ways to travel. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
This was our first HAL cruise. We had been told that the service on HAL was better than other lines and we have to agree. The staff seems genuinely happy with being their and doing their job. Our cabin steward was rarely seen, but ... Read More
This was our first HAL cruise. We had been told that the service on HAL was better than other lines and we have to agree. The staff seems genuinely happy with being their and doing their job. Our cabin steward was rarely seen, but everything was always taken care of. The ship itself is pretty tired. There are windows that have lost the seal so are cloudy; some of the furniture is worn and, there were quite a few significant leaks throughout the ship when it rained. Many times several of the public restrooms were out of order. None of this was enough to spoil anything on our trip but HAL seriously needs to think about putting this ship in dry dock. The food in the dining room was always good but I wouldn't consider it outstanding. I do like that they have made the portions a nice size. The service was excellent. The food in the Lido was just average. You don't serve yourself; a good idea. The salad bar was good and always crowded. The pre-made sandwiches were ok and easy to grab. The hot food selection was limited. There was always an Asian section - I wish they would alrternate this with Mediterranean and Indian. The issue with the Lido is trying to find a table to sit at. It was a zoo. The Dive Inn burger/hot dog bar was awesome!!! The evening entertainment was good - not the huge production of some of the other cruise lines but all of the entertainers put their hearts and souls in to putting on a good show, All in all, we enjoyed our cruise and will definitely look at HAL cruises first before other cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We chose to cruise on the Zuiderdam ship because it went to the Southern Caribbean, Central America, and the Panama Canal. The price was excellent for a long cruise. We had a great cruise with no real issues. I had read some rather ... Read More
We chose to cruise on the Zuiderdam ship because it went to the Southern Caribbean, Central America, and the Panama Canal. The price was excellent for a long cruise. We had a great cruise with no real issues. I had read some rather negative reviews so I wanted to share my experience to balance out the reviews for this ship. I would cruise on this ship again as it provided us a wonderful, laid-back cruise with outstanding service throughout the ship. Embarkation: We arrived at the cruise port by taxi from Ft. Lauderdale Airport. This is a short 10 minute taxi ride which cost about $20.00 (set by Florida law). Once we arrived at the cruise port, we had to stand in line for an hour to embark. Even though this was not an awful experience, it could have moved faster. I think we just arrived at the prime time (12:30pm) when most people arrived. They did need more help during embarkation, at least for this busy time period. Once on board, everything was great. Our room was ready when we arrived with luggage arriving in about 2 hours. LIdo Dining: We had lunch on the Lido deck the first day and most days thereafter. We found the food choices varied and good. Service on Lido was excellent with wait staff bringing drinks to your table once you obtained your food. The Lido staff was helpful, pleasant, and hard-working. We usually ate lunch here each day and found the food to be good. We really liked the salads which the staff made as you selected items from a diverse choice of ingredients. They make the salad to prevent spread of germs which I applaud. I hate buffets where everyone touches the utensils to serve themselves. This staff ensures less spread of germs by serving the cruisers. Ship: The ship is an older ship but did not look completely worn out as some have reported. The outside had been painted so we did not see the rust others discussed. The outside is dark navy and white which is not beautiful to look at but that is not why we choose a ship. Some carpets had been replaced but some needed to be replaced. Some furniture was outdated but not torn or in disrepair. Overall, the ship was easy to navigate, clean, and well-designed. We actually loved the ship and would sail on it again. The art work and decor is vibrant and interesting (sometimes strange looking) but colorful. I never saw anything that looked dirty or in disrepair on this 11-day cruise. There needs to be more shopping on the ship. The shopping was extremely limited on this ship. However, that is not why I choose a ship, either. Dining Room: We loved the formal dining room (Vista). The food choices were varied and mostly good. The highlight of the formal dining room was the staff. They were outstanding, making the experience so nice. We never went to the restaurants that charge extra as we were pleased with the formal dining room menus. We ate there each night. We did not eat breakfast in the dining room but many did and liked it. We preferred room service as we enjoy eating on the balcony in our room and not rushing out in the mornings. On my partner's birthday, the dining room brought a beautiful cake and sang to him. They did this twice that week. It was very nice. Room: We had cabin 4145 and it was great. We had an extended balcony with lounge chairs and a table. For the first time on my cruises, I had a bathtub which I truly enjoyed. The balcony room (Category VB) was adequate in terms of storage and space. I would like to see more up-to-date furniture and a larger TV but this did not negatively impact our trip. The bedding was really good. I have never slept so well on any ship as the mattress and pillows were fantastic which is very important on an 11-day cruise. Overall, the room served our needs well. We had plenty of space for two adults, ample storage and closet space, and a great balcony. There are drawers under the sofa and under the bed which was nice to have for things you did not need every day. Service: Our room stewards were fantastic. No matter what I asked for, they provided. They even brought me a fan because I am very hot-natured but my partner likes the room warmer than I do. The AC worked fine in the room. Our stewards kept the room clean and were always available to assist us, if needed. The deck is showing its age but it was clean and very large compared to other lines we have traveled on. The service on Lido and the formal dining room was great, too. We found bartenders and wait staff in other areas of the ship to be very customer-focused. We have no complaints about service. In fact, this is one of the best ships for excellent service that we have traveled. Entertainment and Activities: The band in the BB Blues Club was outstanding, playing a variety of music that the cruisers loved. We danced there every time they were playing. They usually take one night off each week. The room (Queens Lounge) has a great design being shaped like a half moon with the band on a stage and a dance floor in front of the band. From anywhere in the room, you could see the band and the dancers. We loved dancing in this club. The Disco Club was not some place we wanted to dance. It is definitely designed for a younger group. The show band played about 5 out of 7 nights from 5-8 in the Ocean Bar which allowed ballroom dancers a venue to dance. However, there needed to be more dancing in this area beyond 7:45pm. Some nights, there was no music in this area. The shows in the theatre were alright but the singers and dancers were not super talented and the shows were short (about 45 minutes). The band and dancers usually only had about 3 shows in an 11-day cruise. However, the band did play for other events and the band was great. The comedian acts were very mediocre. This is the one area that the ship needs to improve for future cruises. Activities included cooking classes, fitness group activities, technology workshops, and art meetings. There were 3 days that included dance lessons but there needed to be more dance lessons offered, especially with so many older cruisers aboard. This is a great exercise for older adults and a way to socialize. There were cards games, etc. offered but we did not do these types of activities. I did learn how to make creme brulee which is a favorite on the ship. We did attend dance lessons but not enough were offered. I do think the cruise director needs to add more dancing classes on the ship. The casino is very small but includes different games to play. Ports and excursions: We loved Aruba and visited the city and interacted with the people. The beaches were pretty and the people were very friendly. We did take several excursions and was pleased with them as they were as described. Curacao was beautiful. We toured the island with a cruiseline excursion and enjoyed learning about the culture of the people. In Costa Rico, we visited the city and visited the banana plantation plus visited a village where the people shared their culture through dance with us. The private island was outstanding with many activities, including a lunch prepared by the cruise ship staff. Due to inclement weather, one of our excursions was canceled by the cruiseline and we were refunded. The Panama Canal was awesome to experience. Many people got off the ship while we were in Lake Gatum but we remained on the ship to travel through the locks again. Overall impression: We loved this cruise. We are 64 years old and found that most cruisers were above age 55 which meant it was a quiet experience in all venues we visited on the ship. We enjoyed the quietness of this cruise and found the overall experience was excellent with the service being the best part of the ship experience. I would cruise on the Zuiderdam again, even though she is an older ship. We loved the BB Clues Band and enjoyed dancing each night on the ship. Food was very good and offered diversity to suit various tastes and preferences. I am ready to go again! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
The canal was our purpose for choosing this cruise, although there was some other ports we had not seen. With stops in Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Costa Rica, and the private Island. After seeing the canal we are of the pinion that it is ... Read More
The canal was our purpose for choosing this cruise, although there was some other ports we had not seen. With stops in Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Costa Rica, and the private Island. After seeing the canal we are of the pinion that it is a trip well worth it, and for the most part the other ports were an added bonus. Now, about the cruise itself. This was our third HAL cruise and after our first two on the Neuiw Amsterdam we had hoped for the same high marks for the Zuiderdam. Although it was a nice ship, it was a little 'shop worn', despite some recent improvements. Our carpet in the cabin was worn and the furniture was showing its age. Common areas were renewed,but some spots showed some wear. Dining was great in the MDR and above and beyond in the specialty restaurants. As always, the HAL crew lived up to its sterling reputation...friendly, helpful and attentive. We found the staff at the desk to be good, but with some staff showing an almost disdainful demeanor. Entertainment started slow but improved at the days passed The Island Magic steel band was an unusual and unexpected treat. We remain HAL fans and foresee more cruises with them Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
My first on Holland America and I've done 9 on Princess and I'm still partial to Princess. Nothing at all wrong with Holland America. I just think Princess is the better of the two. I don't know that I could pinpoint any ... Read More
My first on Holland America and I've done 9 on Princess and I'm still partial to Princess. Nothing at all wrong with Holland America. I just think Princess is the better of the two. I don't know that I could pinpoint any one thing, but there were a lot of things that needed to be revamped or redone on the Maasdam. It's obviously an older ship and just needs to be redecorated and updated. Some of the shows were also a bit raunchy and the shows are one of the main things I enjoy on the cruise. Service was o.k., but most not outstanding. We did have 2 boys in the dining room that we loved and were very attentive to us and I tipped them more. I'm on a walker with oxygen, so I didn't really do many shore excursions, but what I did were fine. Food, for the most part was fine. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I have to say, when we booked a cruise for 21 days we were wondering if it just might be too long!!! We had three other couples traveling with us (John and Sandy from Canada, Rich and Sandra from Calif., Marty and Lisa from Ohio and we ... Read More
I have to say, when we booked a cruise for 21 days we were wondering if it just might be too long!!! We had three other couples traveling with us (John and Sandy from Canada, Rich and Sandra from Calif., Marty and Lisa from Ohio and we are from Byrdstown, Tn.). We left from Ft. Lauderdale.............went to private beach in the Bahamas, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Caracao), then to Cartegena Columbia. We did a full transit of the Panama Canal.....then to Guatemala, Nicaragra and up the coast of Mexico (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan........) and ended up in San Diego California. After the 21 days, we all agreed that, if we could, we would stay on the ship and go all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale for another 21 days!!! At our dinner table, there were the eight of us and a new couple joined our table. Their names were Jens and Inge from Denmark. They were a wonderful addition to our group!! We had the pleasure to have them at our dining table every night and they joined us on shore also. I hope we always keep in touch with them and hope they join us again! We met John and Sandy from Canada on a cruise probably 13 years ago and they have joined us every cruise since!!! So you can make some really awesome new friends. Lets start with our room and the ship. The ship was WONDERFUL!!! Clean, colorful and had the best staff ever. Everyone that waited on us for our food and cocktails were the best. Smiling faces and so very helpful. I have to say, the people that manned the guest relations desk left ALOT to be desired!!!! They weren't the most friendly people I've seen on a ship ( and this was probably our 17th cruise!!!.....and we went on many different lines). Before we booked our air flight, we got in touch with Holland America and asked if an 11:35 am flight would be too early to catch...........we were told that would be fine. Well, we found out after we were on the ship that if you wanted to be off the ship early..........YOU HAD TO CARRY YOUR OWN LUGGAGE OFF THE SHIP AND DOWN THE GANGWAY!!! Normally, this might have been a challenge, but totally do-able. But while on the ship I developed back problems which made it virtually impossible for me to carry half our luggage (I even went to the ship doctor so they could verify my problem)!!!! I went to the desk and asked, since I could not lift anything, if we could get a cart so we could put our luggage on it......they said NO. Asked if they had any suggestions..........they said NO!!!!!! They could care less if we were going to have problems!!!!! Luckily everyone in our group helped us with the luggage to the gangplank........but were not allowed to go any further or they couldn't get back on the ship!!!!! Now, you would think that early departures would be for people who had flights, buses, etc....... to catch. But some people just wanted to get off. Therefore, the people who had schedules to meet had to wait for hundreds of people who were just getting off because they felt like it (with no hurry or plans once they disembarked!!!). Add this to the fact that the foreign people started to get checked out around 6:30 in the morning and at TEN THIRTY they were still not finished!!!! Which delayed the early departure people!!!! We got off the ship around 10:45! Made it to the airport by the skin of our teeth........ran to our gate and got right on the plane!!!! WHEW!!!! They really need to work on the disembarking priorities and procedures. It was the worse I have ever seen!!!!! The customer service desk and the disembarking was what kept this cruise from rating excellent on all points. So.......putting that behind.........everything else on the ship was GREAT!!!! Our whole group had balconies.......which they all loved!!! We had an outside room on the main deck and it was just wonderful ... it was midship and it was one of the biggest and most comfortable rooms we have had. It had a nice big window and we felt absolutely no motion!!!! Would definitely recommend it!!! The food was delicious. We went to the buffet for both breakfast and lunch and were never dissappointed. A few in our group ordered breakfast in their room and they said it was hot and delicious!!!! The dining room is beautiful and the wait staff (we had Yessir and Putu) were the best!!! The were fun and very efficient and friendly. We all looked forward to dinner every night!! The choices were great and the appetizers, dinner and desserts left nothing to be desired. The entertainment was great, and the bingo was fun. I really was disappointed that there was NO MUSIC at the pools!!!!!! That definitely left something missing as far as we were concerned. I won't go into all the ports.........but I will say in Cartegena you should see the old part of town with the inquisition palace, etc......but GO WITH A GROUP!!!! Just for safety! ABC islands are fun places to shop and walk around (Aruba is actually my least favorite of all three islands!) and the transit of the Panama canal was really interesting. It was very hot....probably around 95 degrees....but we loved it. After reading all about the Canal and the locks, etc........it was really interesting to see it up close and personal! Nicaragua and Guatemala had some shopping and fun straw markets........and we enjoyed Cabo and Puerto Vallarta except for the fact that it was just soooo commercial. You needed to take transportation to get to some shops. It was like being dropped off in San Diego or Ft. Lauderdale. The areas near the ships are just way to commercial. But in Cabo San Lucas.....you should definitely go to Cabo Wabo (bar and restaurant).... owned by rocker Sammy Hagar. It was a fun place and had great food and atmosphere!!!! I would definitely recommend Holland America (Westerdam) and a 21 day cruise to anyone who enjoys cruising. The time flew by.......and the ship made you feel comfortable and at home. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We had a wonderful cruise. A Panama Canal transit was on our "bucket" list - we enjoyed every minute of our 19 day cruise. Dining: our booking included dinner in each of the 3 specialty restaurants. Tamarind was our ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise. A Panama Canal transit was on our "bucket" list - we enjoyed every minute of our 19 day cruise. Dining: our booking included dinner in each of the 3 specialty restaurants. Tamarind was our favorite of the 3. Canaletto was average, Pinnacle was good, but we felt the upcharges there were too steep. We loved the burger place on lido for lunch as well as the pizza. We had several breakfasts & dinners in the MDR. We felt service, quality & presentation were very good. Lido for breakfast or lunch was good, but at dinner the food looked over cooked and held in the warmers too long. Crew: every crew member we encountered was friendly, helpful & a pleasure to interact with. Even though the crew seemed over worked, they still did their duties with a smile & pleasant attitudes. Ship: she was clean & in good condition. We liked the décor and enjoyed the amenities. Ports: we loved them all. Laundry: we purchased the "unlimited" laundry pkg & felt it was well worth the money. Everything came back the next day neatly folded or on hangers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Embarkation for our panama Sunfarer cruise was very smooth. We arrived at cruise port by 11 and were on the ship by noon. We are an older couple (65 and 71) so we fit right in with the much older crowd than we have been with on other ... Read More
Embarkation for our panama Sunfarer cruise was very smooth. We arrived at cruise port by 11 and were on the ship by noon. We are an older couple (65 and 71) so we fit right in with the much older crowd than we have been with on other cruises. The ship certainly caters to us oldsters, both in décor and musical genres. Our cabin was spacious and beyond expectations. We had purchased a verandah guarantee and wound up with cabin 4176 which was about 380 sq.ft. including the 100 sq.ft. balcony. The cabin was located aft and afforded us fantastic views, especially when transiting the Panama Canal. Our room stewards were polite and very obliging. We tipped them to start off with but I don't think that had any effect on their level of service. Dining room and Lido waiters were all very efficient and friendly. The food was very good and offered a nice variety. Trivia was fun, Piano Bar player Annika was very good, Kevin playing steel pans was excellent, B B King Blues Band was over the top good. The Crows Nest and Explorations Cafe were delightful, and the quality of the library was unexpectedly good. Room service was also very good, and delivered in a timely manner.Our only slight disappointment was the quality of the singers and dancers on the Vista stage. They were not up to the standards of any other cruise line we have been on: Carnival, Norwegian, or Celebrity. But I understand that the shows are being revamped with a new talent agency over the next little while, so that might improve. All in all, this was a lovely experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
For our background we are in the late 50s/early 60s age category and this is our third HAL cruise with four cruises on another line. We like the peaceful nature of 10 day sailings, the teak wood promenade, and the superior service. ... Read More
For our background we are in the late 50s/early 60s age category and this is our third HAL cruise with four cruises on another line. We like the peaceful nature of 10 day sailings, the teak wood promenade, and the superior service. Embarkation was pleasant. It was organized and a smooth transition. We were onboard and lunching in the Lido by noon and rooms were ready shortly thereafter. The condition of the ship is obvious, as others have reported. We both agreed that the service that we receive will be more important. However, repairs on the ship were performed on the entire journey and we were subjected to banging, blow torches, and chemical fumes. Work was being performed on the promenade and kept us from using it often. The air conditioning in the public rooms varied. Bring extra sweaters, Ladies! There was also a ceiling water leak in the Queen's Lounge. It is a small, personal venue and with a band like the BB King Blues performing, (it was standing room only!) and one booth was unusable. We had a Signature Suite on the Upper Verandah deck which was fantastic! It was the largest cabin we ever had and loved it. We ate in both Canaletto and the Pinnacle Grill both were great. Unfortunately we were never able to access the Digital Workshop as the room was filled every time we attempted. We did not attend the production shows but the guest entertainers, a magician, comedian, and Latino electric harpist were very good. The highlight of entertainment, for our opinion, was the BB King Blues All-Star Band. Each musician and the two singers rocked the Queen’s Lounge. Very talented and so entertaining. I must also mention Anika, our pianist and vocalist. She performed a concert under the stars which was so refreshing! It was a beautiful night and she has a beautiful voice. Half Moon Cay is nice but needs more care. This was our second visit; our first visit we found a dirty diaper in our clamshell and lots of garbage. The island is still laden with cigarette butts and garbage. Barbecue lunch was okay. Aruba: We wandered around town as this was our second island visit. Curacao: We reserved an excursion through Irie Tours on Curacao. Excellent tour of the East Side (with a stop at the Chobolobo Distillery) of the island by Sylvan and Julian. Gatun Lake: After passing through the first lock in Panama, we disembarked for a HAL tour on the Panama Railroad to the Pacific Coast and the Miraflores lock and museum. Great tour, good value, informative, and scenic! Puerto Limon: Puerto Limon did not leave us with a good impression of Costa Rica. We opted out of rain forest tours because of the mosquitoes and that was probably our mistake. We stayed on the dock, did some shopping in the market at the end of the pier and played it safe. Sleazy port. We were very lucky to be the only ship in each port and we docked close to the swinging bridge in Curacao which was a great location. Service onboard was very good. Food excellent. Entertainment very good. Disembarkation was slow. There was a long delay but information was provided. Once again, there were not enough Custom’s Officials to process guests. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
A bit hot and humid for us but we enjoyed the trip .. The Panama Canal is pretty interesting. you could skip Aruba but everywhere else is interesting.. Holland is great in a Neptune Suite. Holland is a nice line for adults but i am not ... Read More
A bit hot and humid for us but we enjoyed the trip .. The Panama Canal is pretty interesting. you could skip Aruba but everywhere else is interesting.. Holland is great in a Neptune Suite. Holland is a nice line for adults but i am not sure there is much for kids to do. The Pinnicle Grill was excellent and our service was top notch. We would go back just to see some of the crew that waited on us they were so wonderful. We took mostly tours from independent operators as we got off the ship. Most of them were pretty good. I did the walking tour of Old and new Panama City and it was really hot hot hot.. Very humid when we were there. Even the locals were talking about the heat and humidity.. We only had a partial transit of the canal so only sae one side. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Upon viewing the exterior of the Zuiderdam while boarding my first impressions were not good. There is rust evident, especially in the mechanisms above the life boats. On the interior there were gaps in the stairway carpeting (as ... Read More
Upon viewing the exterior of the Zuiderdam while boarding my first impressions were not good. There is rust evident, especially in the mechanisms above the life boats. On the interior there were gaps in the stairway carpeting (as mentioned in previous reviews) But once underway there was a flurry of activity to address these issues.The carpeting on the stairways was completely replaced during the first half of the cruise! Yes the hallways on the stateroom levels do look a bit dated, but everything in our balcony cabin on the 6th floor worked perfectly, and was kept spotlessly clean by our great cabin attendants Budy & Mas. When I checked the floor plans on the HAL site pre-cruise (but after booking) I was mildly panicked ,expecting that there would not be a public Sauna available outside the Spa area, but I was relieved to find that in fact there was indeed a Sauna, and that the online floor plan was wrong. My daily routine onboard has evolved (devolved?) to expect a late afternoon sauna then pre-dinner siesta. The interior of the Zuiderdam is an interesting mix of lush and subdued,exhibiting a somewhat theatrical flair. The term I would use to describe it is Faux Egyptian Nouveau.It was a delight to turn a corner and find a new example of the interior designer's interesting imagination at the elevator landings and the public areas, such as the Theatre. It is an intimate space where everything is upholstered in Red plush accented by black hard surfaces. I couldn't decide if it was 30's Parisian Nightclub or 70's Disco. We had cruised previously on Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam and we liked the size and layout of those ships, so we felt immediately very comfortable because the Zuiderdam is very similar. When we plan a cruise the on board entertainment is not always top of mind. When it turns out to be exceptional it it always a welcome bonus. Jon Courtenay is an exceptional entertainer. He is billed as a comedic pianist. But he is much more than that. The first night he enthralled us not only with his rapid fire quips, slightly saucy double entendre, but also his insightfulness. The next afternoon was, an homage to comedic pianists of times past. Some are well known like Victor Borge, others less so, but all of whom were brilliant in their own right. He does this by weaving together video clips,photos, as well as touching snipits of his personal history. When you walk out of his shows you feel glad to have had the opportunity to have seen him. What more can you ask for from an entertainer. After a wonderful dinner with good conversation, is there anything nicer that listening to excellent chamber music from a top notch Violinist and Pianist? I don't think so. On the Zuiderdam, the Explorer's Lounge is mere steps from the Vista Dining Room, and this is where , on our cruise,Violinist Oleksiy and Pianist Keteryna entertained us with sophisticated classical selections. These two were so in sync and obviously had performed so often, that the pianist adjusted imperceptibly to any change in tempo that was made by her partner. The lounge is very comfortable, with couches, and easy chairs. I imagined myself in one of the Salons of Europe, leaning back,closing my eyes in total relaxation trying to soak in every note. After 10 days on the Zuiderdam it was time to leave, but I am already researching our next cruise, probably on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
EMBARKATION—We arrived on an early flight and were in Group 3 to enter the ship. No lines at check-in but had to wait until after 11:30 to board the ship. Our cabin was ready and we went up to Deck 9 Lido for an uncrowded lunch. Was very ... Read More
EMBARKATION—We arrived on an early flight and were in Group 3 to enter the ship. No lines at check-in but had to wait until after 11:30 to board the ship. Our cabin was ready and we went up to Deck 9 Lido for an uncrowded lunch. Was very surprised that the “no touch” rules were not in effect. On our last HAL cruise (2014) the servers handed us everything for the first 2 days to help prevent the spread of germs. There were hand sanitizer machines outside the Lido but many folks by-passed them. Our luggage was in our room when we returned from lunch. We explored the ship a little bit to see where the lounges were and I wanted to check out the spa area. Unfortunately it was a wet and rainy sail-away so there was no need to go out on deck. The mandatory lifeboat drill was an easy check-in with your room card indoors near your station. SHIP—Our last HAL cruise was on the Statendam (2014) so it took a few days to get used to a new ship. The inside of the Zuiderdam is quite lovely and one can tell that most rugs had been replaced in the dry dock last spring (in a few places the seaming could be better). Gone are the "days of the week"rugs in the elevators—I really missed them! The outside of the ship still needs a bit of “touch-up” and there was constant work being done (painting, sanding, welding). During the time we were there I never heard any complaints about elevators not working, air conditioning problems or toilets overflowing. On the last day 2 people mentioned that their toilets occasionally wouldn’t flush but then several hours later would spontaneously flush. And then it happened to ours the very last night… fine by morning. The lounge areas within the ship seem more closed than I remember other HAL ships (we’ve been on Statendam, Veendam, Ryndam and Rotterdam.) At first I didn’t care for the closed in aspect but later in the cruise enjoyed those quiet areas!! CABIN—# 4123 Balcony catagory VA Deck 4 Aft (but almost mid-ship) We had booked a VE guarantee balcony and were given a VA balcony. It is the last room before the lifeboats so the balcony has a wrap-around railing on one side, only cabins to the right. We were pleasantly surprised that the view was quite nice and open. It was never windy and we never smelled smoke from any of the cabins to our right or above. The cabin itself was typically average—queen bed, 2 end tables with small drawers, small couch (that could sleep one but I can’t imagine 3 people in the room) small desk with cabinet with hair dryer attached (that didn’t work but an unattached one was included) another shelf with glasses and a mini-bar fridge. Three closet sections with adjustable shelves and a safe. There were drawers under the bed with extra pillows and bedding that could have been removed but the drawers were so awkward to reach and open we didn’t use them. There were also 2 cabinets above the couch that a TALL person could use (not me)—one of the hinges was broken on ours. I found the storage space a bit on the tight side (we felt we had more room before) Since we pack our clothes and other items in packing cubes we left them in the cubes to reduce clutter and help keep things organized. I was really happy our room was on Deck 4. Although the ship never rocked to any extreme there were a few days that there was a lot of motion and I do much better on a lower deck. I frequently could feel a lot more motion in the Lido (Deck 9) or Crow’s Nest (Deck 10) and would leave those areas for lower decks— another reason for me never to book a guarantee and “leave it to chance”!! FOOD— Food is always subjective so YMMV!! I love the choices available in the Lido for breakfast and lunch. There really is something for everyone. I wish there was more variety in fresh fruit—the strawberries disappear after day one, mangoes make a brief appearance, berries are only around the cheeses at lunch but there are melons—LOTS of melons!!! Eggs can be made to order, waffles are really good and there are plenty of baked goods. For lunch -so many choices-- sushi, asian, pizza, hot foods, ready-made sandwiches or how-you-want. I love the variety of ingredients for salads that you can make yourself. I wish all the cheese were pre-cut/sliced…might keep a few less fingers touching it. I avoided the desserts but they looked good as did the ice cream! Burgers and tacos were available by the pool as well. No excuse for hunger... We had 5:30 seating at a table for 8. Not what we requested since tables for 8 are always the slowest to be served. The food in the MDR was good…not outstanding but good. I didn’t find any of the presentations overly “pretty” (I like to take pictures of food and none of it inspired me). The prime rib was tasty as well as the shrimp and fillet. Lobster tail was moist, Salmon tended to be dry. Soups were unusual in that they were served with the ingredients in the bowl and then the liquid poured over them. Cold soups were a bit over-sweet. Best dessert was the totally decadent chocolate cake! STAFF—Enough can’t be said about the hard-working staff around the ship. The cabins were always cleaned well, we were always greeted pleasantly and everyone was always busy!! One thing they did differently on this sailing was to make the time change (when we “lost” an hour) occur doing the day but when we “gained” an hour it occurred at night. That way passengers and staff didn’t lose any sleep. It was disconcerting though to go to lunch at 11:45 and at noon it suddenly became 1 o’clock! ENTERTAINMENT— Stage shows— We did not feel that the Zuiderdam singers and dancers were topnotch. They work hard, had great costumes but their voices did not match their efforts. The comedian Jim McCue was good, Bob Brizendine, Magician was very good (I missed it but others told me he was very good!) and Sephira, dueling violins were EXCELLENT!! Around the ship our favorites were Tom Casey at the Piano Bar and Adagio—violin and piano duo. Jeremy Hales, our cruise director did a great job! The Q&A session with Captain van Donselaar was excellent and not to be missed! Among other activities we enjoyed were the Steel Pan Lessons with Kevin (and listening to him play by the Aft pool) Windows 10 Instruction (DH was addicted to them but you needed to go early to get a seat at only a dozen computers) Learning to make Panama Rolls in the Culinary Arts Center! Walking on the Promenade Deck, Reading anywhere you could find a quiet spot, or finding a bit of sun on the Observation Deck!! Lots to do, never enough time. EXCURSIONS—Half Moon Cay— the morning looked pretty gray and overcast so folks didn’t seem to be rushing to the tenders and onto the island. I went over about 9:30 to claim our clamshell and there were plenty available as it looked like there were be no sun. Stuck my feet in the water and it didn’t seem inviting so I took a long walk on the beach. Came back and read awhile in my chair. DH came over in time to head over to the bar-b-que (the chicken is always so tasty and the brownies, yummy!) And the SUN came out. Back to the clamshell and into the water which by then had calmed down, no waves and seemed to warm up. It was delightful! Didn’t want to leave. Wish HAL would make it a longer island stay! Aruba—We booked a private tour with “SonnyTours” that gave us an excellent 3 and a half hour tour all around the very dry and desert-like island! When we got back we decided to go to the Bar-b-Que on Deck instead of eating in the Main dining room. Poor choice—long lines, few tables available outside and I didn’t think the food was that good. But we had planned to meet friends who have a time share in Aruba at “Iguana Joe’s” at 7:30. Panama— We took the “Walking tour of Old and New Panama City” which SHOULD have been a great tour. It’s a HAL sponsored tour (the only way you are allowed to take a tour at Panama) and the tour guides are just not as well-trained or as invested as private tour businesses. It’s a long bus ride to Panama City and back again to Colon and we were provided with lots of information. But the logistics of the tour were poorly handled. (I will leave a review on HAL website). Port Limon, Costa Rica— Again we booked a private tour with Eduardo at YourLuckyTour and enjoyed learning about the fruits of Costa Rica, visiting a Banana Plantation, a walk thru the rainforest where we found poisonous frogs and riding on a small boat in the Tortuguero Canal looking for birds, iguana, cayman and other animals. As we were leaving the canal it started to rain so we skipped going to the beaches and returned to the ship. Grand Cayman— Unfortunately rough weather conditions made tender landing impossible on the island. Another day at Sea. DISEMBARKATION— We had an 11:45 flight back to Philadelphia and snow (ugh!) Disembarkation time was 8:30-8:45 — we weren’t called until almost 9:30 (by then we were waiting upstairs near the Queen’s Lounge. Apparently there had been “some problem” and things were delayed. One story we got was that there were not enough agents (we saw 4 when we went through) . Another story was that someone had gotten sick and they had to clean it up before more people could go down the stairway. Anyway we were called at 9:30 and off the ship by 9:45 because and ONLY because we have GOES cards (Global Entry) and we zipped right thru the customs line while several hundred (at least) were winding their way around. We were in a taxi and on our way to the airport in minutes. Back to cold, snowy reality! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
It's the first time we haven't driven down to Florida from Ont. Ca. We flew using the services of HAL, on A/C, we had checked out the air fares before we booked the flight, and the fares were cheaper than what was quoted with ... Read More
It's the first time we haven't driven down to Florida from Ont. Ca. We flew using the services of HAL, on A/C, we had checked out the air fares before we booked the flight, and the fares were cheaper than what was quoted with A/C, by a few $. We always arrive the day ahead, especially this time in case of snow, and if the flight was cancelled, needn't have worried, no snow. we booked the hotel our selves, not with the HAL., and took the hotel shuttle to the port. We have been on HAL before, September 1994, one of the last ships to Alaska, at that time I had slipped a disc, 10 days before, the Dr allowed me two travel if I rested and did my exsercises. HAL at that time were excellent, with me needs. We had wanted to cruise the Panama Canal, for my husband's 80th, and we had checked out other cruise lines, and HAL had the best itenery to suit us. We weren't disappointed. Yes, it's an older ship, and may need some repairs, what ship doesn't, but maintanence was being done and keeped in check. One review I had read, stated it was rusty, yes it had some rust, but remember it's salt water, and when it rains, salt is in the rain, and metal doesn't like salt water. Stair carpets were being replaced, no problems, they have to be done some time, and they weren't all done at the same time. I did hear the second day out, that the aft balcony cabins had problems with the plumbing, on some decks, but I don't know for how long. Also some of the ladies toilets did get plugged and maintenance was onto it. BUT THIS HAS HAPPENED ON OTHER SHIPS TOO. We had booked a guarantee in side, and when we received our cabin number, main deck 1031, right under the bars and casino, we were worried about the noise level, (we go to bed early most nights) we needn't have been, didn't hear a thing, heard more of people walking down the hall. Was disappointed that the walls weren't metal, couldn't hang my hooks on them. My over the door shoes rack, only just made it, a bit tight. Lots of storage, could put the cases under the bed. The cabin was very spacious, had a 1/2 moon shaped sofa, with table and the usual dressing table. Plenty of room in the bathroom too, was a shower only, which is fine with us. Did appreciate the handle bars in the shower, plus all the amenities. Wasn't keen on the "Half Noon Cay", must say RCL's much better by far, but my husband did enjoy the swimming there the first week, the weather and water around 80f. The second week the weather was bad, cold and rainy, which should have been a warning to my husband, he caught a very bad head cold. Bad for him, great for me, as I got to do things I wanted to do. First two days, I would take his meals down to him, he eventually did wander up for meals and sitting on deck three, promenade, for the next 4 or 5 days. As I said, I got to do a lot of trivia games, and things that I liked to do. Met a lot of cruisers that way. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION:- was a breeze, even when we had to disembark in F.L. to continue on to our second portion of the cruise. DINING:- we had booked first sitting, and asked for 6-8 size table, was placed on a table for 4, the other couple didn't show. The waiter had two other tables of 8, making our service slow, no fault of his, very nice waiters, so tried "any time dining" for a couple of times, then we ended up in the Lido restaurant for all meals, suited us better, food the same, especially while my husband was sick. THE ENTERTAINMENT:- was very good. In the Adagio lounge the first week was "Dmytro and Eugenia" Who were EXCELLENT. When they preformed on the Vista stage, with "The Band" (asked for by many guests, and HAL put on as a special event) you couldn't have asked for a better concert. They were missed the second week. "The Band", in the Ocean Bar, were good, they're not too sure about the tempo for Ballroon dancing, and the tunes were too long at times, but was still enjoyable. The floor needed to be bigger. BB King was loved by all. Nice dance floor and bigger, they need to switch floors for ballroom dancing, even if every over day or so. The Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers were good especially the second week. FITNESS CENTER:- Rich and Matt very pleasant, Rich gave us a exercise to continue with when we got home. SHORE EXCURSIONS:- Only did two. One in Cartagena on my own, as hubby sick, went with the ship, well worth it, just a two hour walk about on my own, got my coffees for presents, the other one on disembarkation, did the "land and Water" tour ending up at the airport. was good, was raining, passed the time away. PUBLIC ROOMS AND CREW:- All the crew were great and helpful, always a smile on their faces, nothing was too much trouble, even in the Lido at 10.30pm, when I had forgotten my milk for Meds. Cruise direct Rick, and Show host Andy, and Alice were great, The public rooms were always clean. I would do my "walking at 5.30-6.00am, on the inside on the promenade deck, there was always cleaners cleaning. DIGITAL :- We took a few work shops for "Windows 10" DECORE:- with it being a New Years Eve cruise, every where was decorated for the season, and looked lovely and festive, the only thing was, I left it too late to take photos, not thinking they would take them down, so don't have any memories of them. THE CANAL:- it was all that we expected, they did open up all decks, so we could see going through. Must do it again when they open up the new canal. OVER ALL:- Would we go on HAL again?, yes we would, Would we recommended HAL to other cruisers? Yes we would. Thank you HAL for a great cruise. 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Sail Date December 2015
Recently returned form a 10 day cruise on the Zuiderdam to Aruba, Curacao, Panama Canal and Costa Rica. Some of my favorite places to visit. Our first cruise on the Zuiderdam. We had sailed on the Maasdam a couple months before so being ... Read More
Recently returned form a 10 day cruise on the Zuiderdam to Aruba, Curacao, Panama Canal and Costa Rica. Some of my favorite places to visit. Our first cruise on the Zuiderdam. We had sailed on the Maasdam a couple months before so being they are similar ships, Zuiderdam a bit bigger, we knew what it was like. We parked in one of the nearby lots from which they transported us to the terminal. Went very smoothly. As did the return when we got back. Had a very nice balcony room on deck 10 with a very good room steward. And our dining room experience was excellent. We reserved the same table every night because of our waiter, Victor, and every night was perfect. By the last couple nights he knew ahead of time what we were going to order. The ship was laid out nicely and since we had a midship room we never had to walk very far. I did the spa experience for the cruise and really enjoyed the heated pool and thermal room. Did that twice a day. Holland America has nice spa areas. We enjoyed our island stops. Aruba we just toured on our own. Mainly the casino by the port. Curacao is still a beautiful port to sail into. And it was good to see the bridge across the entrance back working. Panama we just stayed on the ship and enjoyed the area. Costa Rica we did the white water rafting tour. We've done that for the past 20 years and never get tired of it. Beautiful country. All in all an excellent cruise we will do again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Our travel agent advised us that this cruise line attracts mature travelers. Being recently retired, I assumed that meant 50's and 60's. I think we were among the youngest ones on the cruise. Watch out for the ones on the mobile ... Read More
Our travel agent advised us that this cruise line attracts mature travelers. Being recently retired, I assumed that meant 50's and 60's. I think we were among the youngest ones on the cruise. Watch out for the ones on the mobile scooters! We saw maybe a half dozen children. One of the best parts of the cruise was the unlimited laundry for $7 per day! The worst was their wifi access. It was very pricey and extremely slow. The ports were nice and the tours were expensive but worth it to see the islands. The staff were all excellent and accommodating. My last cruise was on the Oasis, so it's not fair to compare. The Zuiderdam was more of an old fashioned cruise for relaxing. If you're looking for non stop stuff to do on board, this is not for you. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Intro: I wanted to share how our trip on the Zuiderdam, which sailed Nov. 9th to Nov. 20th from Ft, Lauderdale, FL, was an overall positive and memorable experience for us. We typically plan a year in advance, but this go around, we waited ... Read More
Intro: I wanted to share how our trip on the Zuiderdam, which sailed Nov. 9th to Nov. 20th from Ft, Lauderdale, FL, was an overall positive and memorable experience for us. We typically plan a year in advance, but this go around, we waited till my husband had an all clear on his health status (one-month prior), and so I must say...it became a very special trip for us. We typically cruise with Oceania (Riviera), but chose this sailing on HAL for the itinerary, which turned out to be perfect for us. General: The Zuiderdam excels in service, even tough it isn't new, and there were spots of rust that needed to be covered up, but this was balanced with orchids at every table in the Lido, flowers as well in the MDR, and beautiful arrangements throughout the ship itself. What made the greatest impression for us was the genuine attention to our needs from every level of staff. An example: we walked up to the main reception desk to simply check the status of our account, and as we approached, we were immediately invited to come forward for assistance...this anticipation of needs, and desire to find solutions for passengers needs/issues was exemplary. This extended to our cabin stewards, the dining room staff, and all officers and personnel that we met as we walked about the ship. The passenger-centered ambience made a difference, perhaps it can be summed up as, the ship has heart! She wasn't as beautiful and new as the Riviera (2002 vs 2012), but she has something special going for her. Embarkation: Was similar to a Disney World experience, but smiling faces abounded and we survived...it took a good 45 minutes. *Note: I appreciated going in through Port Everglades, as the security seemed top notch. Ports: A nice balance of rest and activity - swimming at Half-Moon Cay, activities on board, Greenhouse Spa thermal pool days, visiting Aruba by foot, going to see the beauty places of Curacao, the Canal crossing day...very exciting and interesting, a horse-drawn carriage ride in beautiful Colonial Cartagena, and walking through the Veragua rainforest in Costa Rica, and going high up in the canopy - truly a perfect itinerary! Entertainment: We went to shows almost every evening...and actually had a ritual where we would listen to the Adagio violin/piano duo after dinner - needed to get a seat early due to standing room only many nights; saw Zuiderdam's review several nights and enjoyed, loved the Piano Bros from London what amazing talent, saw a gifted juggler, and participated in the trivia contests. We were very happy with the shows, can't say we're connoisseurs, but we know talent when we experience it;). Dining: We ate mostly in the Vista MDR (elegant glass entrance), which met our needs better than the typically frenetic Lido. The service in the Vista was "always" very good, and the quality of the food ranged from good to very good. I was thrilled to have discovered that there was a special Vegetarian Menu that was available...all I had to do was make my choices the night before and give to our waiter, and it was prepared for me the next evening...this was in a word, fantastic! We dined in the Pinnacle Grill one evening, which was lovely, we also ate at Canaletto's which honestly was too rushed and needed more menu development and concept work. The two gala evenings were positive, the first one my DH had lamb chops that he is still talking about, and the second had surf & turf on the menu, with baked Alaska for dessert (not brought in and flamed, but tasty). It is hard to compare Oceania's level of food choices with HAL, but I must share that I didn't expect them to be the same, which turned out to be true. Note: the dining experience would not stop me from going on another HAL cruise. Cabin: We stayed in a Signature Suite, which was a delight; granted the rooms aren't the latest color coordinated decor, but the size and comfort were perfect, and the balcony a pleasure with a little table to dine on, and two restful lounges. We stayed in cabin 6066, and would recommend it to future cruisers...quiet and central. Disembarkation: Kudos for the Z staff who waved goodbye to us...really a great touch and I might add that it helped to experience their friendliness from beginning to end. Again, the lines were Disney-like, but we made it through just fine. Summary: We would certainly sail HAL again; the rating was actually 4.5. We invite you (HAL) to consider the following: 1) keep the rust covered up, 2) have a designer come in to color-coordinate the ship better...there is a very interesting theme of Venice throughout, it just needs to be "Pulled" together more, 3) try to work on the general chaotic feeling of the Lido - Oriental next to the ice-cream bar is just confusing...bring in someone to rework the "flow" and open up the seating area so that the passengers can be more a part of the food experience. 4) keep up the great job of cleaning and shining the ship throughout, the decks, the railings, the flowers, the smiles, the service-orientation, and the general sense of being taken care of and you will keep sailing into the next decade and beyond. In all, this was a memorable cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
The food was excellent and the entertainment was great. Got to score that as close as possible to 10 out of 10. The port and shore excursions could have also been 10 out of 10 if San Diego was not included on the list. What a dirty place. ... Read More
The food was excellent and the entertainment was great. Got to score that as close as possible to 10 out of 10. The port and shore excursions could have also been 10 out of 10 if San Diego was not included on the list. What a dirty place. Looked more like a 3rd world country and the US security was both an embarrassment and a huge inconvenience. Suggest they could take some tips from any of the other countries. Now here is why I would never go again. We just froze on the ship due to the air conditioning. Lucky the weather was fantastic outside, so one could take his or her food out and eat it in comfort. If you plan to use the eating and entertaining areas, bring a ski jacket and wool socks. At first we thought it was just us, but after complaining to others sharing a table we heard from more than a dozen people, who felt the same. Most of us come for a warm get away not a meat locker experience. We ended up with awful colds and later heard from others that told us they too had to go to their family doctors after returning home. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
My husband and I did this first cruise together and on HA. We stayed at the Best Western/Cruise Location in Fort Lauderdale the night before, it was super. They had a shuttle to the ship and got us there by 10:30 AM, great staff at ... Read More
My husband and I did this first cruise together and on HA. We stayed at the Best Western/Cruise Location in Fort Lauderdale the night before, it was super. They had a shuttle to the ship and got us there by 10:30 AM, great staff at the hotel, good location for a pub nearby for dinner and a supermarket to get our 2 bottles of wine for our cabin. You are entitled to take 2 onboard for no charge. Our room itself was fine, everything worked well. The TV was fine, we aren't on a cruise to watch TV. Temperature was good. The staff were beyond excellent. Room was kept in great condition, was so sad to get home and have to make my own bed!! Bed was comfy, no problem in getting extra blankets, loved the bathrobes. Lots of storage, and luggage fit under the bed no problem. No complaints at all. Loved the size of the ship, can't imagine going on one of those monster ships. 1900 folks is just right. Interesting decor.....very 1980s brass and light wood????? But fine. Loved the NY times being free, checked it fairly often in the cafe. Too many pieces of paper in your mailbox....the art gallery was handing out papers every day it seemed. Mark the cruise director was very good, personable and got the job done. Temperature in the common areas was fine, not cold at all. Appreciated in the Captain keeping us informed of delays and changes, he was super. We enjoyed the evening entertainment, went to most of it. Very good singers and dancers. Good variety of shows, sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss. But lots to do in the evening. We had a 6PM sitting for dining in the Vista room. Our staff there was super. Meals were all very good. Ate there most nights. Liked the formal nights, and we made the effort to 'look good' on the other nights. The Lido was good, breakfast was yummy. Always a variety of food, didn't see anyone going hungry! A few negatives......our cabin was directly below the aft pool/smoking area. Could hear chairs being dragged across the deck. There should be a warning when you book that you are directly below the bar. One night they moved what we think were stacks of chairs at 3 in the morning, we asked at the front desk for them to check on that. It never happened again. They were very nice and even offered to move us. Smoking.....time to make the WHOLE ship non-smoking, it's 2015 folks, stop!! Spent a good deal of time in the aft pool area, and the 'saving' of lounge chairs should be stopped. You aren't there for 30 minutes, and you lose it. People dump their stuff in the AM and don't show up for hours. Port Everglades was super, getting on board no problem. All ports were fine in arriving. In San Diego we were in the customs line for about 15 minutes, went very quick. US customs were great. Used the fitness club for yoga, which I enjoyed. In Cartagena we did our own tour, loved it. Claudia's tours it was. In the HA shore excursions we were often rushed. Antiqua was way too short, In Costa Rica, San Jose we were taken to a souvenir shop right off the ship, and stayed there for a whole hour of our 4 hour tour, BAD move on their part. In Nicaragua going to Leon, again, not enough time. Don't understand, you are in a port for so many hours, but the HA shore excursions are brief, when they could be extended/give you more time. And please stop ALL mandatory visits to stores for shopping. I am not in Leon, once in my life to go shopping!!! Since this was our first cruise we weren't sure how it all worked. Now we would never book a HA shore excursion again, each port had numerous people waiting to take you out. Others did this and we heard of no problems. San Diego, Huatulco, Cabo we did our own thing and had a great time. Really enjoyed the Panama day, with all to see and the information presented. Getting off in Vancouver was super easy as we filled out the customs forms early and Border Services checked them early. A great time, we were with 2 other couples and we all had a good time. Our cabins were side by side and we were able to have the barriers removed to have one big balcony. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was a trip of a lifetime for me. at the age of 12 year i was intrigued by the panama canal and finally at the age of 64 years i was going to experience it. Veendam was just wonderful. nice size, very comfortable, fantastic crew, ... Read More
This was a trip of a lifetime for me. at the age of 12 year i was intrigued by the panama canal and finally at the age of 64 years i was going to experience it. Veendam was just wonderful. nice size, very comfortable, fantastic crew, food etc etc. I have travelled holland america 3 times and thoroughly enjoyed myself each time. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smooth and hassle free. Some shore excusrions left a little to be desired...more the fault of the operator i suppose. some long drives in appalling traffic and minimal time, maps, directions etc when you got there. far too little time in cartagena unfortunately - and too many stops at shops and shopping centres associated with the ship. The panama canal transit is amazing and the american woman that gave the commentary throughout the transit really knew her stuff. 10 points to her. My travel agent very kindly included a night at the pinnacle restaurant. some staff there tried just a little too hard to make me feel comfortable as a solo diner, assuring me that they could deal with any complaints if i had any ? i had no complaints at all about the food or the wine and kept my counsel as regards their fussing. but it kind of marred a pleasant experience. Everything was just the way i expected until it came to settling my onboard account. On the night before we were due to arrive at fort lauderdale i went to the front office to settle my account. i had previously given holland america my normal visa card details on embarkation for their $60 per day pre-authorisation. on the last night however i decided to use my mastercard travelers card on which i had loaded usd's for my vacation spending. i asked if that was permissable. they said it was and so i paid my on-board account and asked for $250 usd cash advance to pay for some extra tips. just over $600 usd total. The next day after I had flown to San Francisco I checked my card balance and to my horror I found that the Front Desk had taken their money and then pre-authorised another $600 USD plus a charge for $400 plus a charge for $257.50 which were the onboard amounts That left my travelers card with virtually nothing left that i could access. frantic calls to hal guest relations and at their direction, to the card issuer, resolved nothing. Hal denied reserving the extra money, then the card issuer said they couldn't release the money until hal advised them to do so. i was stuck in san francisco for 5 days with just $179 usd available balance. almost 3 weeks after i returned to australia the available balance was finally restored to the travelers card. way too late to use for the last few days on my vacation in the us. hal guest relations inaction in seattle has left me seething. The failure of the front office staff on the ship to mention they were going to pre-authorise vast amounts of money from the card on the last night left me with a dismal and meagre stay in san francisco. fortunately i had prepaid my hotel and supershuttle transfers. Overall a great cruise on a lovely ship and a bad taste left in my mouth by a weird policy and worst of all a guest relations department that were no help or no use at all. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I had a great time traveling to the Panama Canal on board the Zuiderdam. I was wondering what I would think since many of the reviews focused on how old the ship was. Well, yes, the ship is old. And, yes, a few things need to be repaired. ... Read More
I had a great time traveling to the Panama Canal on board the Zuiderdam. I was wondering what I would think since many of the reviews focused on how old the ship was. Well, yes, the ship is old. And, yes, a few things need to be repaired. There is rust and some mold in places and it is dated, but it didn't bother me at all. Here's why. Everyone on the ship was so nice (from the passengers to the staff) that it just wasn't a big deal. This was really a great cruise. My favorite part was how informative the staff was. I learned all sorts of things about the ship. Many of the staff learned my name or at least recognized me during the trip. All wanted to make sure I was having fun. The captain was particularly informative, which I found quite interesting. We encountered quite a bit of windy weather (some gale force winds) and he gave regular updates about things. It actually made the trip even more interesting. Not all the entertainment was good, but there are plenty of choices so you can find something you like. It's not an "every minute is filled" kind of cruise. But, if you like to talk with people, read, walk around and enjoy some entertainment, then this could be cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
This was my 65th birthday present. I sailed with my partner who is 58. First impressions - fellow passengers had a much older age profile than we have found on other lines. A lot had mobility issues, I was amazed at the number of mobility ... Read More
This was my 65th birthday present. I sailed with my partner who is 58. First impressions - fellow passengers had a much older age profile than we have found on other lines. A lot had mobility issues, I was amazed at the number of mobility scooters. The ship is well appointed with plenty of bars and public spaces. It never felt crowded even on sea days. On our other cruise in the Caribbean we had struggled to get sunbeds but on this cruise large areas of the sundecks were unused. This may be due to the age of the passengers or the fact that the majority of them seemed to live in Florida so the sunshine was no novelty. Being British we grabbed every moment in the sun. We had anytime dining and it is always a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with different groups of people. There was always a good choice of food and we were not hurried. We liked the fact that the dress code was rigorously enforced - on several occasions we heard the front desk staff politely turn people away and advise them that they were not properly dressed. We didn't like the fact that the hand cleansing routine was not rigorously enforced, lots of people walked into the restaurants and just ignored the dispensers. We took 3 excursions all reasonable value and we especially liked the aerial rainforest tram. Would we sail with HAL again. Yes we would if the itinerary suited us.The downside is the long flight and the appalling Miami International airport. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Prior to this cruise, I became somewhat concerned due to many of the comments addressing air conditioning and plumbing problems. I am happy to report that I experienced none of these issues. Now on to my review: We were in Ft. Lauderdale ... Read More
Prior to this cruise, I became somewhat concerned due to many of the comments addressing air conditioning and plumbing problems. I am happy to report that I experienced none of these issues. Now on to my review: We were in Ft. Lauderdale for a family event prior to the cruise and had rented a car. Much to my surprise, I learned that the company with whom we rented offered a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades. I must have been the only one who did not realize this as many of the passengers on the shuttle were heading to the Zuiderdam. We walked in the doors of the terminal at 12:20 p.m. and after a brief wait to get through security, we were on the ship at 1:10 p.m. Our first stop was to customer service to confirm that our shipboard credits were accurate (we were receiving a nice amount from our TA and wanted to be sure everything was in order). I am happy to report that all of our credits and other "perks" were 100% accurate. We then headed to our cabin (SY 5001). We had booked a guaranteed SY and two days prior to sailing, finally received our cabin assignment. I was a bit surprised that we were given a handicapped stateroom as neither of us are handicapped. I called my TA to confirm that HAL was aware that we were not handicapped and she told us that if there is availability, HAL will assign these to guarantee passengers. She also told us that these staterooms are much larger. She was not kidding! It was a fantastic cabin and with the exception of not having a second sink and too much counter space in the bathroom, we loved this cabin! We especially liked having an additional window that faced forward! Yes, the Zuiderdam is an older ship, but I found her to be a beautiful ship and easy to navigate! I am directionally challenged but I quickly and easily found my way around! I had no issues with the color scheme and while there was definitely some wear and tear, it certainly had no impact on my cruise. During our 11-night cruise we had our balcony varnished, our stateroom chairs shampooed, and the ship was always being painted while in port. In addition to that, HAL's ships are the most spotless I've ever been on! The crew is constantly wiping down handrails and elevator buttons and when coming back from port they were there to immediately vacuum up the sand! I thought the food was pretty good! My only complaint was that the first omelet I ordered was way undercooked in the middle, but after that I requested that it be cooked a little longer and they came out great from that point on. We had anytime dining for dinner and always chose a table for four. We met wonderful people and enjoyed the intimacy of a table for four much better than the larger tables we have had on previous cruises. I usually made reservations the night before but on those nights that I didn't, we showed up around 5:30 and were seated immediately. We had one dinner in the Pinnacle Grill (as part of the Explore 4 promotion) and it was amazing! My husband would have preferred his fish to be cooked a little more than it was, but he enjoyed it none the less. The entertainment was adequate. We enjoyed the singers and dancers but found it odd that they booked two piano players on one cruise. While both players were amazing, we would have preferred a little more variety. It was still an enjoyable hour of entertainment. We did find that seats are more readily available at the 10:00 p.m. show. If you want to attend the earlier show, I would recommend arriving at least 20 minutes early. We liked the B.B. King show, but found it to be very loud in the small venue in which they perform. The one time they performed in the showroom it was perfect, but otherwise it was just too loud for us. We booked the Thermal Suite for the entire cruise and I booked three other spa treatments. The hydrotherapy pool was fantastic, but the steam rooms and sauna's were not always in working order. This was a bit frustrating, but again, not enough to ruin the cruise. The spa treatments were relaxing and they didn't really push any products once I said I wasn't interested. In fact, I found the photographers to be far pushier than the spa staff. Photos have also gone up in price which was disappointing as I usually like to purchase the photos that are taken. This time I limited my purchases due to the cost. I will say that the crew is very eager to please and always had smiles on their faces. There was even one time that the ice cream station was closed, but when the crew member came out and saw us and another couple standing there disappointed, she went ahead and served us. The crowd on this ship was predominately senior and retired, but we met many wonderful people and had a great time. There were times when activities were non-existent, but I used those times to sit outside and either read or listen to music. All in all we had a wonderful, relaxing cruise and have already booked our next cruise on the Noordam!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Fourth HAL cruise, first on Zuiderdam. Like others, I was a bit apprehensive after reading about A/C and plumbing issues and ship being in disrepair but am happy to report that we experienced no issues nor did I hear anyone complain while ... Read More
Fourth HAL cruise, first on Zuiderdam. Like others, I was a bit apprehensive after reading about A/C and plumbing issues and ship being in disrepair but am happy to report that we experienced no issues nor did I hear anyone complain while on board. (our friends did experience a sewer odor in their bathroom, cabin 5187, but it was not noticeable at all in the main cabin area). In general, the ship was in great condition and we saw ongoing maintenance from the time we boarded the ship until we disembarked so they are obviously trying to keep her ship-shape. If we looked hard, we did notice some things that need to be replaced (e.g., carpet in waiting areas of the middle bank of elevators, table tops and fabric wall dividers in Lido, verandah table tops) but nothing that made us feel like we were sailing on a ship that needed to head for the scrap heap, or worse, that was unsafe. As we've always experienced on HAL cruises, the crew was wonderful, worked their tails off, and everyone we passed smiled and said something to us - from the captain to the person cleaning the stair railings. We found the entertainment a bit lacking but not enough to detract from our overall experience. We did enjoy the BB King Experience but the volume was too loud for the size of the venue. The Adagio Strings (a pianist and a violinist) were wonderful and always had a nice size audience in the evening. We did not care for the CD's style (Hamish) but that's just our taste and nothing against him. We do enjoy the quieter atmosphere that HAL cruises provide. Food in all venues was usually very good and with a fairly decent variety but service sometimes lagged and we especially noticed that in the Pinnacle Grill at breakfast and lunch. PG dinner was top-notch in all aspects. Canaletto dinner was nothing to write home about - it was extremely warm in the restaurant and we had a "herd of elephants" running overhead (from the open track on Deck 10) which really detracted from the experience. We didn't use room service so I can't comment about that. The itinerary was the reason we chose this cruise and it did not disappoint! There was a good mix of sea and port days and we enjoyed all the ports. It rained hard the first couple of hours at Half Moon Cay (really, the only rain we experienced the entire cruise) so we waited out the storm and then tendered over for a couple of hours to enjoy the beach and water. At the Canal, we took HAL's Embera Indian Authentic Village tour and it was truly a Nat Geo experience! Highly recommend it! In Aruba, Curacao, and Puerto Limon we arranged private tours since HAL didn't offer excursions that interested us. The embarkation process was painless and quick and we were happy to find our stateroom available before 11:30, in time to drop bags, look through all our invitations and cards and head to the Mariners Lunch at noon. Disembarkation was nice in that we were allowed to wait anywhere on the ship, including our suite, so we enjoyed breakfast in the MDR, got our things from our stateroom after, and walked right off about 9:15. The only thing I wish they could improve on is the long wait going through immigration but I know HAL can't control that part of the process so it is what it is. A few miscellaneous things to mention: we like that they now email the Satisfaction Survey rather than having to write it all down while on the ship; we miss the trays in the Lido; we also miss being greeted by a white-gloved staff member handing us a glass of champagne as we stepped onto the ship; smoking on verandahs continues to be a thorn in our side and we were kept from using ours on occasion by people out smoking on theirs; we would have preferred an actual Canal authority guest speaker on board doing the Canal presentation rather than the CD standing up front and reading from a slide show - fortunately there was someone up on the bridge while we went through the Canal who was very knowledgeable; internet speed continues to be slow and expensive and I heard several complaints. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Our November 18, 2013, 11-day Panama Canal Sunfarer was going to be a great bucket-list check-off for my wife and I. We reserved a suite cabin, but at the last minute we upgraded to a Neptune Lounge SA cabin which, by ship standards, was ... Read More
Our November 18, 2013, 11-day Panama Canal Sunfarer was going to be a great bucket-list check-off for my wife and I. We reserved a suite cabin, but at the last minute we upgraded to a Neptune Lounge SA cabin which, by ship standards, was spacious and lovely. The Neptune Lounge concierge team had memorized our faces and names before we came on board. Our suite designation also entitled us to free laundry services daily! That meant taking one less bag and saving money on the airplane. Tremendous. Big problem though. Our air conditioning was broken and could not be fixed for the entire cruise. There was no place to put us that would be cooler except an inside lower-deck stateroom. Many cabins were over-heated, in fact, but not consistently. Our next-door neighbor on one side left when we got to Aruba. On the other side they said they were freezing cold. Our room with the blinds drawn and the lights out during the day was measured (by the staff, 3 x a day) at more than 77.7 degrees. Some days it was in the mid 80s. Also, we had problems with our food. We ordered kosher meals through the very confusing form that HAL require special needs passengers to fill out. The form implies that you can only get one kosher meal a day and go without the rest of the day. Not exactly true, but not all of the staff knows that. One assistant maitre'd had no clue. We had reported our confusion before arriving to ship services, who told us to meet with the director of cullinary services (I think that's what he was called), but he refused to meet with us, even for 5 minutes, for four days! After that, he was very nice and apologized to us while sweating in our room. But it took him four days. After we made nice, he spoke to us upstairs in the Ledo area. As we were talking, two women passed and said, "I hate this ship! It's the worst I've ever been on." I thought he would have then excused himself and then gone to the upset woman to deal with the issue. Nope. Solving new problems was not on his agenda. Fortunately, on Day 1 the Cullinary Director gave us his best maitre'd, Yogi, to take our dinner orders and trouble-shoot our problems. He was terriffic. All of the visits were very nice, although I don't see the attraction to Aruba. The entertainment was very good to great with the exception of the classical duet (the violin was either out of tune or suffering from lack of skill), and the main entertainers sang and danced to pre-recorded music, leaving me to think it was a waste of time for the band to stand on the stage and fake it. Olga in the Piano Bar was great fun and we were there every night. Magician and ventriloquist Mike Robertson was also fantastic and very very funny. My main complaint with the cruise was that there was "can-do" attitude. We suggested to the excursion folks that they get a few stackable lawn couches and a tent for elderly and disabled folk who have to wait a long time for their tour bus. NCL does that. We were told it was "impossible...NCL didn't provide that, the port did." Well, if the port did, it was nice that they painted NCL on the tent. Also, the pre-departure emergency test was a disaster. Too long, very disorganized. Lousy instructions. And at least one casualty, an elderly lady fainted from standing so long. Roll was only taken after everyone arrived, not as people arrived. Big waste of time and not very comforting. Hopefully that's been resolved. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
"Cruise plan great, ship fine, pity about the food” We took a 14 day Panama cruise from San Diego on the Westerdam in October, 2013 During the booking progress, we found the HAL website clear and informative. We used an agent to ... Read More
"Cruise plan great, ship fine, pity about the food” We took a 14 day Panama cruise from San Diego on the Westerdam in October, 2013 During the booking progress, we found the HAL website clear and informative. We used an agent to make the booking, but arranged the excursions and additional restaurant bookings on-line. The process worked smoothly. Embarkation in San Diego was efficient as well as disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale, especially considering the size of the ship. Going on to the ship, the emphasis on personal cleanliness was immediately apparent - a good sign. Our suite was as described, very comfortable and with plenty of storage space. The balcony was well appointed. One small problem was that for the daily announcements from the Captain and ……, one had to go out into the corridor to hear them; they were not transmitted into the suite. The emergency drill was rather chaotic, largely because too many guests seemed to have no idea where they should be, and when. It made us wonder what things would be like in an emergency. The crew managed the process with patience. We had access to the Neptune Lounge. This was a real plus. Not only was there always someone available to deal with requests or questions, but it also offered light snacks throughout the day and a place of calm and peace for a wi-fi connection. The service there was excellent. The shopping area was rather like being in a Middle East bazaar. Not that carpets were offered for sale, but we were regularly hassled to take money-off vouchers, enter competitions etc. In my view such intrusive behavior has no place on a cruise ship. The fitness center was very well equipped, but not so well managed. A team of two were often not to be found, when advice was needed. I had hoped to learn a little about Pilates (announced on the pre-cruise program), but discovered that it would only take place three times, and involved a "modest” charge of $12 per session. The team offered some interesting talks, but it seemed that underneath was a selling objective. We listened to a talk about detoxing the body, and in a subsequent discussion they tried to sell us a detox "capsules” for $900 for my wife and $300 for me (clearly I’m less toxic than my wife…). It seems the gym is outsourced and I had the feeling it is run more as a profit center rather than simply as a service for guests. There was a good range of entertainment, and briefings on the ports we would visit. These were informative and helpful. The major problem for me on the cruise was the quality of the food in the main restaurant, a restaurant where the tables are very close together and where the service ranged from excellent to haphazard. The food reminded me of a factory canteen; the quality did not reach that of a standard Californian diner. But from the menu you would not have guessed that. Perhaps because the management knew the food was no so good, they tried to make it mouthwatering on the menu, with the excessive use of meaningless adjectives. Examples of this genre: "tender lobster” - who would want tough lobster?, beef "grilled to perfection” and "slow-roasted to exquisite tenderness”, "savory goat cheese”, "tender artichoke hearts”, mozzarella "under a basil chiffonade” - whatever that is. That’s enough to make the point. It brought to mind the cliché "No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig” By contrast the Pinnacle restaurant (surcharge levied) was excellent - great food, and superb service, from a team who had time for you. We ate there on half of our evenings aboard. However, aside from the food, the Westerdam did a great job, especially given the large size of the ship (around 1900 passengers). And the trip through the Canal was sensational. But in future we would certainly look for a far smaller ship for cruise holidays.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
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