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95 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older ... Read More
The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older than 60 years and there were only a handful of small children aboard. The food was good but not good enough to want seconds and contrary to most rumors, the dessert were OK. I personally had ice cream when I wanted dessert. All food service closes at 10 pm and there is not even drinks available later during the night. The customer service was lacking in attention. The one bright enjoyment was the digital seminars held free of charge on board by a certified Microsoft expert, 12 in total. He was superb. The night life on board is also lacking much. If you want a comfortable cruise with no excitement on board this is the cruise for you, but if you want some excitement particularly on the sea days, I would suggest you go with another cruise line. A plus was DVD movies were available for free to view in your room and return in 24 hours. Also there were numerous computers available in the library, which was one of the most beautiful I have seen on a ship and the best organized. The entire deck level with the library included a full liquor bar, and coffee bar, a wrap around observation area with reclining chairs. This was indeed a most relaxing area. Our cabin was on deck 8 (8028)with a veranda. We had a tub and a great shower. There was small spaces for personal items. Under the bed however were drawers to also space for suitcases. We also had a flat screen TV with good reception. The lights were a challenge. Overall the cabin was equal to others we had been. "The noise level was very low from the hallway. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this ... Read More
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this cruise.My stateroom attendant was outstanding, as was the front desk staff. Water Aerobics was fun but crowded. The Screening room has big, comfortable chairs but I was disappointed there was no popcorn. The Explorations Cafe was clean and well supplied with books. Public areas were generally clean but looked worn. The public restrooms were sometimes in need of attention. The bars and Lounges that I visited were clean and the service was good. The Spa was clean and well cared for. Very good service and friendly staff.The food was where the cruise line fell down.We used As You Wish Dining because fixed dining was full. It was terrible. Unorganized and confused, the waitstaff was clearly undermanned and poorly trained. The food was just OK, nothing special. The presentation was well done, however. It was pretty, just not very tasty.The Lido restaurant was generally a mess. Tables were dirty and I had to wipe down more than one before I could put my plate down and eat. They usually only had one side open at a time so it was crowded and the lines were long. The buffet was not generally self serve and it was obvious to me and most passengers I spoke with that the servers would have rather been somewhere else. A few were smiling and friendly, but most of them acted distant and unhappy. When they handed you your plate, the food was just slapped on it. I wiped the rim of my plate almost every time. My morning oatmeal was dripping over the side most mornings when they handed me my bowl.Silverware was difficult to find. Sometimes they had it piled on a tray and you had to go find the tray. Sometimes they had it with the servers and you had to remember to ask for it because they rarely remembered to give it to you with your plate.Generally, the cruise was good. The waitstaff and the food really need work. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
ZUIDERDAM, Panama Canal, Dec. 13-23 Our last cruise with HAL was 2 years ago and we enjoyed it. Our most recent cruise was on Equinox Dec. '09, equally enjoyed. PROS The Canal experience: A+ information & ... Read More
ZUIDERDAM, Panama Canal, Dec. 13-23 Our last cruise with HAL was 2 years ago and we enjoyed it. Our most recent cruise was on Equinox Dec. '09, equally enjoyed. PROS The Canal experience: A+ information & narration aboard the ship were complete and very interesting. A special day. Zuiderdam has one important feature for us, a wrap-around promenade deck. We walked 2 miles every day. Hydro-pool - We bought a pass ($190 for 2), worth it. We used it every day, clean and quiet. Pinnacle Grill - We had 2 dinners and 1 lunch. Each time, food and service were very good. 2 shows we really liked: The magician & his dog Indy, and Magic Island. CONS LIDO is a mess. Is it the lay-out? Poor design? The place was always packed with people coming/going from all directions. Breakfast or lunch, lines, lines, lines. On Equinox, with a lot more passengers (2,950), buffet is better organized and generally offers better food. Quality of meals at lunch was most often below average, the stuff we find at our local all-you-can-eat at $6.99. Except that on Z, they 'hide' the food under stainless lids, so you don't see exactly what's offered. MDR - We opted for As you wish.. On Equinox, getting a table for 2 is no problem. Select Dining is what it says, anytime you're ready, no wait, no reservations required. On Princess Anytime Dining, no reservations either, we never had to wait more than 10-15 min. It seems Z cannot manage a large number of diners. As you Wish Dining = We don't care. Tables for 2 were never available. They even looked very annoyed when we asked. When we tried to reserve one in the afternoon, they were already.. reserved. One night we were told, before we asked (!), only tables for 8 were available at that time. Right across, along the wall, was a nice table set for 2 (ghosts?) that remained unoccupied for more than 1.5 hour. That night at our table service was very slow. Being on vacation doesn't mean we want to spend the evening in the dining room. What saved our cruise on the dining front is the extensive in-room menu. We ended up having most of our dinners on our balcony. EXCURSIONS We took only one ship excursion, "Discover Costa Rica Deluxe" $198. We discovered it was a waste of money. A few years back, we spent 2 weeks in CR driving along the Pacific Coast. We loved it, gorgeous country, so beautiful that we wanted to see another piece of it. This is an 8-hour tour including a 4-hour drive. The bus was clean, guide & driver were good enough. However the trip is on a main road without interest and littered with garbage on long stretches. Our first stop, we couldn't visit the church that was on the program, it was closed. But at least we were able to use the restroom (one for 20 people) on the other side of the street. The sink had no faucets, glad I always carry my hand sanitizer. Miles later, we got off the bus and hopped on an open truck for a 20 min. bone-rattling ride during which we saw nothing special. We finally got to a rather small waterfall. If you ever saw a waterfall you've seen this one. We were served a small glass of juice by the natural pool where we spent about 45 min. We then went to a 'ranch' for lunch & a horse show, that part was ok. Back on the rock-and-roll truck before getting on the bus again. That's when our guide told us we were running late, that we wouldn't have time to visit the museum we were supposed to. Return to the ship. DISEMBARKATION - chaotic. We used Luggage Direct and were assigned Group AAAA (first group). When our group was called we proceeded to the gangway. There were already many people and we got in line where we waited about 30 min. to get to the scanner. That's when we were told "Step away, you have no luggage, you cannot leave now". Only expedite disembarkation (those carrying their luggage themselves) were allowed to get off. Gee, wish we had known before. A man behind us started arguing: "What f-difference does it make if we have no luggage? We have a Group A ticket". No reply. The only HAL rep in place to help out at the scanner told him: "Back off, sir, and wait in line". At that point, the place was jammed packed, no more line. Was it Z first disembarkation? On the other hand, Customs & TSA agents were fast and efficient. OVERALL - not a bad cruise, just not good enough. We will probably cruise with HAL again , certainly not on Zuiderdam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Cruising is our favorite type of vacation besides camping and we have been on several. Our vacation style tends to be very laid back and flexible since we have children. We are not port intensive type cruisers and prefer to stay on the ... Read More
Cruising is our favorite type of vacation besides camping and we have been on several. Our vacation style tends to be very laid back and flexible since we have children. We are not port intensive type cruisers and prefer to stay on the boat if we have already seen a port or the excursions offered cannot accommodate children. Overall I will point out the good and the bad of the experience. Our first cruise was on the Zuiderdam six years ago so it holds a special endearment for us but sad to say that the ship has not aged well. The decor and upkeep could use some attention. I saw several areas that were rusted, neglected and just plain worn out. The furniture on our balcony was falling apart and the balcony itself looked horrible. The ship is so ready for dry dock and total revamping if possible. Embarkation & Debarkation- nightmares. They totally need to rethink this process. It sets a bad tone for the start of your vacation and a "get me off this ship" vibe at the end of your vacation. Industry wide they need to think of a better plan. The Bad- Food was way below HA standards. I was really bummed at the quality. On board entertainment was lame. Typical art auctions, bingo, trivia, towel folding, scrap booking. Nothing exciting and certainly needs new ideas for on board activities. Excursions were bland as well. The Good- The crew at every level is top notch. Nicest staff and they all go the extra mile to service and cater to the guest. That is the saving grace for this ship. If I could give a 1000 dollars to each crew member I would that is how great they perform their duties. They were even stepping in and parenting when some parents were letting their kids run wild at the pool. Spa- if you do nothing else, spend the 120 bucks for the daily spa pass ( 190 for a couple). This gets you access to the hydro pool- steam rooms, heated loungers and tranquility. You can go as often as you want and I found the best times were during normal "meal" hours. The place was deserted but it was a great place to make new friends when it was busy. I had a mani pedi at the spa and it was just so so- watch out for those hard product sells. I hate that and wish the spa company would get the hint that pushing products turns people off and makes them avoid the spa in general. Just introduce to product but don't push. Club Hal- I would give this a 7 out of 10. My son loved it because of the other kids not because of the activities provided. Club Hal could use some new activities. The security for the kids was nonexistent. They never asked for a password to collect our son and anyone could walk in and out. It would have been so easy for a kid to decide to escape club Hal and I wonder if the staff would have noticed. Needs improvement there. Ports that we went to- Half Moon Cay- beautiful but cold. Not the ships fault but because of the cold and wind half of the excursions were canceled and the water was way too cold to swim in. Curacao- loved this island. We did the beach excursion which includes a tour narration on the way and found it wonderful. Great one to do with kids. We did not get off at Aruba because we have been there before. There were plenty of excursions offered on this cruise but many of then for 6 plus hours and we just didn't want to be away from the ship that long. We love it when the ship empties out and we have it all to ourselves. Cabin- 4016. Smallest balcony room we have ever seen and the railing is steel so you can only see the water if standing. Stewards kept it impeccable and were very nice. I could hear a little music every night from below but I also travel w a sound machine due to being a light sleeper. Pools- too darn cold to swim in. That was shocking even though the temps said the water was 85 degrees it felt frigid. Thank goodness for the hot tub except two were out of service. Shows- Husband and oldest son saw the magic show and gave it two thumbs up. I don't think the evening shows on Hal can measure up to some of the other cruise lines productions, especially if you have ever been on a Disney cruise. Disney has beyond excellent shows. Movies- loved the line up of movies but the theater is small so get there early if you want to watch a movie. Shops- Good selection and new items added every day. Jewelry prices were higher than what you can find in stores and online. Even with their "deals". In suite Amenities package. I would not order this package again. The staff were clueless with all the "perks" and our room steward had no idea what came with it. The best part was the unlimited laundry (esp with kids) but they were out of stock on the robes, never brought the tea/snacks/ and it took us hunting them down to get the wine/liquor. They never mentioned the pillows so I would skip this in the future. It's a waste of money. Overall vibe? Some have described Holland America as a nursing home at sea and I would agree that the crowd is a much older group. If you are looking for a kid friendly, young energetic hyper party rock wall climbing peer group this is not the ship for you. The library was the most jumping place and there were mad games of chess and puzzle making happening. The disco was dead! The fruit carving was the pickup joint and the ice cream line was like a black Friday sale at best buy. Go old or go home! Go on this trip if you want to cross the Panama Canal off your bucket list and only for that reason, everything else is been there done that if you are a frequent cruiser. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The ships exterior is very smart but the interior is very very tired and in need of a revamp. I personally disliked some of the gaudy colour schemes especially the Lido. In our room the sofa was very stained, when reported, this was ... Read More
The ships exterior is very smart but the interior is very very tired and in need of a revamp. I personally disliked some of the gaudy colour schemes especially the Lido. In our room the sofa was very stained, when reported, this was changed but the balcony furniture was falling to bits and several areas of the ship had very worn seats. The food was probably the best we have had on cruise ships the Lido selection, presentaion and service were wonderful, I normally call this area the trough and dont venture near but it was a pleasure to eat there.The dining room , fixed seating was rather let down by the staff not ensuring that people adherred to dress code, I do object when I am in formal to having someone on the next table in shorts and tee shirt. The HAL musicians are individuals who are employed to play in the two bands most of them have had a personality by pass and there is no zing about there performance, indeed it was all very poor as was some of the shows with the exception of the HAL singers and dancers. The two crew shows were excrutiating. My biggest issue was the ammount of huge people and elderly on the ship negoitating anywhere was difficult, avoiding walkers wheelchairs sticks and strollers, for the whales HAL was a really good choice because as I said the food was excellent, the tours were arduous at each call as was embarking and debarking if you were at peak wheelchair exit.I have worked with disabled people and understand their issues it was just the sheer volumn of aged and immobile clients that was the problem. So would I recommend I would have to explain the downside as well as the up and suggest a newer ship Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise ... Read More
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise for my daughter. I always book based on the itinerary and my vacation time from work. We chose Holland America this time for the "senior" aspect for Mom. Well, at 82, even Mom felt that this was "too senior" for her! Pre-cruise hotel: Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort. This was a highlight of the trip. We stayed here for 4 days in an ocean-front condo. It was gorgeous, spacious, bright, and had a huge balcony and fully equipped kitchen. I have been at a few Hilton Hotels but this far outshone the others. The service in the hotel and dining room was impeccable. Embarkation: As suite guests we were processed as soon as we arrived. However, the lady who checked us in was a little confused. She got our passport numbers, pictures and other info mixed up to the point that she was getting frustrated. She finally said she had it straightened out but when we boarded the ship the steward checking our IDs started to laugh. My picture was on my mother's card and visa versa! Ship: I was prepared for the age and dEcor of the ship based on the other reviews. I think the best description was "a comfortable old shoe". Of all the ships we have been on, this was the most outdated, worn and garish in dEcor. Having said that, it was immaculately clean. Cabin: This was a plus. The suite was spacious and had plenty of storage for 3 of us. We had a wraparound aft balcony which was awesome. We ate a few meals there and, since the weather was generally very good we spent a number of hours reading and enjoying the scenery or the wake. Our cabin steward, Dadang, was fantastic, sweet, and unintrusive. Staff: All fabulous! Not one complaint. Dining: The Lido was generally good. I would say it was better than the other cruises I have been on in that it had more variety and prepared-as-you-wish dishes such as pasta, eggs and grilled sandwiches. The dining room had mostly good, but some mediocre, meals. We tried The Pinnacle Grill three times. The first time the food was stellar. The 2nd time...not so much! While the service and ambiance was wonderful on both occasions, the difference in the food may have had something to do with our choices. We all had beef or lamb the 1st night and fish the 2nd night. Coming from a part of Canada where fish is a main staple, we know our fish! This was dry, overcooked and tasteless. The third time was the Indonesian lunch with the Captain. While the food was good, the service was impeccable and the servers wore gorgeous traditional dress. A pleasant surprise was Canaletto, the Italian restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and service and would highly recommend it for a casual dining experience. Entertainment: We went to a couple of shows and thought they were ok. I have been to more memorable ones on other lines. Spa: We spent some time on a sea day having some treatments at the spa. This was a pleasant, expensive experience! The staff was professional and I got a great haircut from a young gentleman from Hungary. (This was very daring for me but I was desperate and it really paid off!) Excursions: Half Moon Cay. This was a day at the beach. The tendering was slow and tedious. We had a clamshell and I did the bike tour. The area is quite beautiful! Aruba: I had booked a tour with "Pitaruba" from reviews on CC. Nice guy, good guide and reasonably priced. We toured for 2 hours and then, based on the concierge's advice that Aruba was the best place for shopping, we spent an hour poking around stores where we felt overpowered by salespeople. Curacao: This, on the other hand, was wonderful. We didn't book anything, again based on the concierge's advice, and almost didn't get off the ship! What a mistake that would have been! We walked around, found a wonderful jewelry shop, bought a couple of things, had lunch at a gorgeous waterfront restaurant and generally loved everything! Panama Canal: This is everything you would expect. It is an experience we will never forget. My daughter and I did the Embera Indian Village. It was a great excursion, interesting and memorable---especially the beautiful, sweet children! Costa Rica: This also was very interesting. My daughter and I did the Zipline excursion and this was a highlight. Also, the countryside and the people were beautiful. We would definitely come back to see more of the country. Note: The main problem I had with the excursions is the fact that, with all the elderly people (many with various handicaps) there were very few, and in some cases, no excursions that catered to them. My mother, who is otherwise a healthy, active person has limited mobility because of an ankle problem and uses a cane. The concierge told us that there really wasn't anything in Panama or Costa Rica that would be suitable for her because of the strenuous nature or length of tour so she stayed on the ship. While she had no complaints, she would have liked to have been able to take part in some shore activities in these 2 ports. Overall, we had a very good time and met some very interesting people. My daughter was happy to have experienced her 1st cruise but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time. I was glad to have tried HAL for the 1st time but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time! Mom enjoyed the experience but, whatever about the age demographic and condition of the ship, would have liked to have had more shore excursion options. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We travelled on a 16 day repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale in September/October. The cruise had good and bad points. Good first :- Staff were very friendly and helpful throughout - nicest staff on any ship I can ... Read More
We travelled on a 16 day repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale in September/October. The cruise had good and bad points. Good first :- Staff were very friendly and helpful throughout - nicest staff on any ship I can remember. Best was the Maitre d'hotel on the open dining restaurant who remembered our name, room number and preferences after just a few days! Cruise Director also excellent. Cabin staff lovely (but they always are!) Cabin large and well appointed - nice area to sit and watch TV, lots of storage space and hanging area. Food generally good although rarely had a wow factor. Portions not too big which we like, as it means you are never over-full. Icecream excellent and nearly always available. Lots of sunbeds and loungers on deck - never a shortage. Nice outside pool at back of ship Open dining good - we usually never booked and never had to wait for a table. Bad points:- No cool areas except on Promenade deck, miles away from pools. It was very hot and sunny on the cruise and the only way to escape the heat was deck 3 or inside. The outside pool area had no shade except where smoking was allowed - why were they so favoured?! There was another area with cover in the middle of the ship but it was constantly like sitting in a sauna because there was no breeze or aircon in that area. All other upper deck areas were in the full sun and, as a result, were hardly used at all. Where there were covered areas, the covers had been removed, for no obvious reason. No forward visibility because all open areas faced sideways or backwards. There was one forward deck but it was closed at all times except for the Panama Canal transit, again for no apparent reason. Why not open it all the time?!! The staff were all lovely but badly trained and also understaffed in places - we waited a long time for breakfast in the dining room, tables were often not set when we sat down, we had to keep requesting things that should be there. Some small examples - plates at buffet were too hot to hold but there were no napkins to hold them with, one course was often being delivered when other diners were eating the previous course, very often the food did not match what was described on the menu, staff at customer services denied there was a navigation chart even though we had seen it (and found it again!) - all minor things but lots and lots of them!! Dining room not open for lunch on most land days which meant only the Buffet was open. As a result, there were long lines and nowhere to sit. Many of the passengers were very elderly - at 55, I felt like a teenager!! I am used to some elderly passengers but I think more than half were over 70 and many much older! Tendering was a disaster - we wondered if the crew had ever carried out the process before - it took so long and was so disorganized. We waiting 35 minutes for a tender on full sunshine even though we were third in line!! Also, the staff operating the tender did not seem to know how to moor the boat - as a boater myself, I could have done a better job! Finally, the tenders were filled and then wheelchairs put in the aisles which was a definite safety risk if we needed to get out quickly for any reason. God help anyone who has to evacuate this ship - it would probably go down while passengers waited to join the lifeboats!! Altogether, OK but not the 4 star experience we expected from the good reviews on Holland America Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Much has been written about this cruise, its itinerary, etc... My comments are few and pointed. The Panama Canal is all that it is made out to be. I am so glad to have made the trip for this reason alone. TIP: if you go on this cruise, ... Read More
Much has been written about this cruise, its itinerary, etc... My comments are few and pointed. The Panama Canal is all that it is made out to be. I am so glad to have made the trip for this reason alone. TIP: if you go on this cruise, book an Aft Balcony stateroom on the 4th, 5th or 6th level. You will be able to look right off your balcony at the entire operation and NOT have to contend with the hundreds of other passengers assembled on the bow for a view of the canal. Excursions - disappointing. We love to snorkel. The Catamaran Snorkeling trip out of Aruba was the worst snorkeling excursion we have experienced in our cruising. One mediocre site and a crew that talked way too much. No food. Not a good value. There was no other snorkeling available through HAL. We booked our own trip in Curacao - it was excellent. Panama, the country, was terribly unkempt. Not unusual for a developing country, but, if a country wants to promote tourism, and cruises are bringing people ashore, then there should be attempts to clean up the roadways that cruisers are taken down. I travel a lot, and the Panama I saw was among the dirtiest and unattractive places I have seen. One other positive. Half Moon Cay is a private HAL beach in Bahamas. Simply a fabulous beach. Service: There is no incentive for waitstaff to do a great job. HAL automatically charges you $11 per day per guest as a "tip" that is later distributed to the staff. My experience on other cruise lines was that the staff worked hard to form relationships, and then, at the end of the week, it was fun to celebrate with those staff, sharing an envelope of tip money. The HAL policy makes for average service. In fact, we did not even go to dinner in the main dining room a couple of nights, too much time and not enough personal satisfaction. Ok, one last thing. I am 52. I think I am younger than 52. The average age on this trip was probably well over 70. There were very few people my age or younger on this ship. Is that a bad thing? Not entirely. But, I did miss the energy of having younger people on board. I will likely not do another HAL cruise for this reason though. I would have liked more youngsters, you know, 30 and 40 year olds! If you have never seen the Canal, then this is a very good experience. Otherwise, skip this one and try something else.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Well, the Rotterdam is a dead ship as far as I am concerned since I will never step on board her again. If you are like my wife and I, one of your favorite things to do is sit on the promenade deck with a good book, feeling the clean sea ... Read More
Well, the Rotterdam is a dead ship as far as I am concerned since I will never step on board her again. If you are like my wife and I, one of your favorite things to do is sit on the promenade deck with a good book, feeling the clean sea air in your face while listening to the water rushing by the ship and looking at the wonderful colors of the sea. HAL ships were the best for this with the teak decks and the cushioned wood chairs; it gave us a sense of the past, of tradition. However, with the advent of the Lanai staterooms, 95% of the passengers are relegated to the stern area of the promenade deck were you get to sit behind a steel plate wall, listen to equipment noise, and smell the smoke from Lanai occupants. You see, each Lanai stateroom gets two lounge chairs reserved on the promenade deck looking out at the sea for their use. This leaves the 1200 or so other guess fighting over the 10-15 chairs that have views of the ocean not assigned to the Lanai staterooms. Apparently HAL is looking to pass these off as rooms with balconies. The promenade is a poor excuse for a balcony. For an additional $500 (quote from Lanai guest at the Meet your Captain and Hotel Manager which became nothing more than a bitch session) you get no privacy and are limited to one side of the ship. Did I mention the smoke? The Lanai staterooms do not have any partitions separating them on the promenade, as such and as observed, occupants on both port and starboard sides were puffing away. Usually the port side is non smoking as evidenced by the lack of ashtrays. There is no way as a non smoker I would book a Lanai. I asked the Hotel Manager how I could ensure I could get a smoke free Lanai, he indicated that I could not, that was something that needed to be addressed with management. Also the Hotel Manager indicated that HAL ships do not designate the port side as non smoking as some more progressive lines do even though there are only ash trays on the starboard side of the ship. This surprised me since this is my sixth cruise with HAL and the first in which smoking was so prevalent on the port side. The only difference I see is the Lanai rooms. I guess with the advent of the Lanai rooms, HAL is not interested in having non smokers. I was also surprised to see on numerous occasions people flicking their lit cigarette butts over the side of the ship, which is offensive to me. We cruise several times a year and I have not seen this behavior in years. But then there were no public announcements stating HAL policy and commitment to the sea. I guess this behavior is to be expected with smoking is allowed everywhere and ashtrays provided only on the starboard side of the ship. It was not like this on our last cruise with HAL - Zaandam Nov 08 SD to Hawaii. I would not have booked this cruise if I had known about the Lanai staterooms and restricted access to the promenade deck. I was ignorant and made the wrong decision in booking the Rotterdam. Hopefully, if you read this at least you can make an informed decision for your next cruise. According to the Hotel Manager only two HAL ships have been modified with the Lanai staterooms to date, the Rotterdam and the Veendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Review of Zuiderdam Panama Canal Cruise This was a 10 day cruise aboard the Zuiderdam. Day 0 found us at Fort Lauderdale at the Hampton Inn North. Great hotel and you can leave your car, get shuttled to and from the port free of ... Read More
Review of Zuiderdam Panama Canal Cruise This was a 10 day cruise aboard the Zuiderdam. Day 0 found us at Fort Lauderdale at the Hampton Inn North. Great hotel and you can leave your car, get shuttled to and from the port free of charge. Considering the charge at the port.. it was less money to stay at the hotel. Spent the day at the beach and ate at Bubba Gumps. Had a downpour of rain in the late afternoon, Day 1. Took the shuttle to the pier at 11:30, and was on board by 12:30. White glove service, Staff holding open elevators, very helpful. Never saw this service again. Went to Lido deck for lunch.. typical cruise food, long lines, but plentiful. Muster drill was typical.. no life jackets needed. CD was Gene Young. Show was "Lets us entertain you" One nice touch was the Hannukah lighting everynight. Sail away at 5pm. Day 2.. Half Moon Cay. This is my favorite island. The luncheon was very well organized and plentiful. Nightly show was Elliott Maxx. Day 3 was a sea day. Nightly entertainment was "Stage and Screen" Formal night. Day 4 Aruba. Spent the day doing "colors of Aruba" This included the bus trip through the city, the California Lighthouse, the Natural Bridge, baby bridge, rock climbing" and ostrich farm. Nightly entertainment was "Fillipino Crew Show" Day 5..Curacoa. We did the Jewish heritage tour which was exciting, historical and informing. Went to both the old and new cemeteries, the oldest synagogue, tour of the city, the walking bridge. Nightly entertainment was Steel drum group "Island Magic" This day also found many people ill so, everything was taken away.. (salt, pepper, sugars, silverware, towels). The lido food was all sealed in saran wrap and you stood in long lines to get any food or drink. This continued through the rest of the cruise. Day 6 Formal night, Day at sea. Entertainment was "In concert" Day 7 Panama Canal. VERY early mornig 4:30 A.M spent the morning traveling through the Canal, then took the "Canal Experience" and continued on a ferry to the pacific side. What a fantastic experience. Ended up in Cristobal..large shopping place. Entertainment was "Jeff Peterson and Indy the magic dog." Day 8 was Puerto Limon Costa Rica. Did the arial tour and buss ride. This was throught the rainforest, and it did rain. Entertainment was Tony Cherry. Day 9.. at sea, formal night. Entertainment was "Dream Park" Day 10 at sea. Entertainment was "Farewell Variety Show" Now for the review.. Never saw our cabin steward unless we needed something. Never left ice or water.. asked room service for a pitcher of water for in the room.. told no.. we weren't allowed, so next time we were in the lido we found empty pitchers and brought back to room. The dining room service was awful, the food was a lot of seafood or had mushrooms of which I am highly allergic to. Asked for alternative, but ended up going to the lido deck and brought food down to the dining room of which I could eat. Our table was for 6 which was behind a serving station and we were always forgotten. Dinner was usually 2 hours from start to finish. We did do the Pinnacle Grill for dinner one night and THAT is 5 star. Lido deck food was great, and also the BBQ's. Entertainment was so,so.. have seen better. Tony cherry was fantastic. Overall.. the shore excursions were great, the ports were wonderful, but Holland is not a 5 star ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Holland America Line ** Oosterdam ** Panama Canal Cruise ** 02 - 21 Nov 2009 What was right? The transfer from Miami airport to the Marriott North, Ft Lauderdale was efficient and without too much delay. The hotel itself was of a far ... Read More
Holland America Line ** Oosterdam ** Panama Canal Cruise ** 02 - 21 Nov 2009 What was right? The transfer from Miami airport to the Marriott North, Ft Lauderdale was efficient and without too much delay. The hotel itself was of a far higher standard than expected. The transfer and cruise check-in ran smoothly, especially given the volume of passengers. The cabin (stateroom) could not be faulted. We had the SS grade on Deck 8: a large verandah with table, chairs, 2 deep wicker chairs and foot stools; the bathroom had a full size whirlpool bath, separate shower and 2 wash basins; the main room was spacious with generous wardrobe space, king-size bed with 3 pillows for each person (very comfortable), 2 armchairs, settee, fridge, flat-screen TV, dressing-table and desk, bathrobes were also provided. The 2 cabin stewards worked efficiently, discreetly and quickly. Everything was very clean. The ship itself is a handsome vessel with a well-planned arrangement of lounges, restaurants, pools and sundecks. Easy to find your way around. Plenty of elevators too with rarely a wait for one to arrive. Reassuring to see plenty of hand-sanitisers around the ship - but why didn't more people use them??! The Panama Canal transit was an amazing and unforgettable experience enhanced by the very informative onboard commentary which ran for the duration - 5 stars for that!! On the last morning of the cruise guests were allowed the use of their stateroom right up until the time of disembarkation in San Diego. It was the first time I had experienced this - usually cabins have to be vacated at the crack of dawn and the crew can't wait to see the back of you(!) - it made the whole procedure of leaving the ship far less stressful. And what wasn't ..... At the time of booking, only the late-sitting dining time was available. At 8pm that's a little late for us so, after 3 nights, we switched to "open seating" meaning we could eat any time between 5.15 and 9pm. This was a much more convenient option. Unfortunately, in both dining rooms, the service was very slow, the food often arrived barely warm on cold plates, vegetables were under-cooked, orders were muddled, waiters clearly under pressure. I know the Pinnacle Grill offers an alternative dining opportunity at an additional $20 a head but one shouldn't have to pay extra just to get an acceptable meal. At the Lido Deck Buffet it's only "help-yourself" for certain dishes (eg Continental breakfast, salads and desserts) for everything else one has to queue up and wait to be served. Once again the food was often not hot enough - although of unquestionably good quality - and served on cold plates. Ironically, plates and dishes for fruit, salads and dessert were invariably hot! There was often a long wait for omelets and cooked breakfast and one wondered if there was sufficient crew on duty. Pasta dishes were fantastic - but often not hot enough. The Asian food at lunch time was also wonderful - but only if you we lucky enough to get it straight from the wok. There always seemed to be a queue for tea and coffee with dispensers not working or breaking-down. Towards the end of the cruise it even looked as if there was a teabag shortage! Generally the attitude of the dining stewards was indifferent. The final straw was the evening I found a piece of hard plastic in my salad! I reported it to one of the dining stewards, giving my room number, but I heard nothing more. Photographs at $39.95 a sheet were very over-priced. Why did the Captain's Champagne Welcome last less than 10 mins? We blinked and missed it. Room Service seemed to be non-existent - on 2 mornings we waited more than 30 mins for tea and coffee and gave up after that. All drinks from the bar are subject to a 15% service charge - in common with all other cruise companies, as far as I know. Compared to, for example, the Queen Mary 2, we found the cost of drinks to be far higher on the Oosterdam and as a result, consumed very little alcohol during the 19 day cruise. It may have benefited our health and our pockets but I can't help feeling this was a missed opportunity for Holland America Line - if their bar prices were a little lower, people would surely be encouraged to enjoy the very fine wine list. On the first day of the cruise we ordered a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne (reasonably priced on QM2), not only did the waiter pour it incorrectly so that half a glass was wasted as it overflowed the glass, but the final bill of $115 made it even harder to swallow! As it was, we saw very few people drink anything other than water at meal times and virtually nobody drinking in the bars and lounges. Don't bother getting off the ship at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, unless you book a shore excursion because there's absolutely nothing there! When is a formal evening not a formal evening? It was difficult to tell what the dress code was meant to be. There were 4 "Formal Evenings" on this cruise requiring at least a jacket and tie for men and any kind of dress (short or long) or trouser suit for the ladies - the rest of the evenings were termed "Smart Casual" when one could wear just about anything apart from shorts and tee-shirts. The boundaries were so blurred that it was sometimes impossible to tell what kind of evening it was. Personally I feel the dress standard for "formal" should be set a bit higher - at least a dinner jacket/tuxedo for men and full-length dress or evening trouser suit for women. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned but when you've carefully packed and transported your posh evening gear across the Atlantic to join what sounds a very sophisticated cruise it makes you wonder why you made the effort. This was our first experience of Holland America Line. Having read all the brochures, publicity, website etc I must say I was expecting something a bit more classy than this. There was a certain "feel" to HAL's marketing that led me to think I was going to experience something much better than MSC or Princess Cruises. Silly me! I obviously formed the wrong impression. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Embarkation did not go very well. People were jammed all over the terminal waiting. Why? Holland did not allow enough time with the ms Oosterdam returning from Europe and having to have the crew go through Customs and Immigration on ... Read More
Embarkation did not go very well. People were jammed all over the terminal waiting. Why? Holland did not allow enough time with the ms Oosterdam returning from Europe and having to have the crew go through Customs and Immigration on arrival at Ft. Lauderdale, and still have the ship prepared for embarkation at the time Holland stated. If you have ever embarked on a Carnival cruise from Long Beach you will understand how bad it was. We elected to try a guaranteed cabin for the first, and now our last time. We informed Holland that we are non-smokers, so Holland assigned us a smoking cabin that the previous cruisers had smoked heavily in. It was so bad that even the cabin stewards were embarrassed and had an ozone machine in the room when we arrived after 1400, to try and make it more bearable. My wife went to the pursers desk to see if there was anything that they could do to assist us. We already knew that the ship was full from cruise critic chats, so we knew that there would be no upgrade available, but maybe some help in ridding the room of the smoke smell. They told my wife that there was nothing that they could do and went on to the next customer. Thankfully our cabin stewards, Yon and Abdul, were great and realized the problem and spent extra time attempting to make the cabin more bearable for our first night. My wife woke up the next morning hardly able to breathe as she was so congested from the smoke residue. She was very happy to take the tender to Half Moon Cay and get out of the cabin. The cabin stewards then shampooed the carpet while we were gone to try and help us. The next day they had to wash all of the curtains too as the smoke smell was still so strong. There were also many people who complained of not receiving their luggage until well after dinner, once again due to the crew Custom and Immigration check. Food in the dining room, first seating, was very good with a varied choice each night. Food On the Lido deck was also very good, even though some people did not like the fact that Holland does not have trays anymore. I thought that it worked very well myself. The ms Oosterdam is not in as good a shape as her sister ship the ms Norddam. There were rust spots along areas of the Promenade deck and the carpet is getting a bit worn. Some deck chairs were broken, were they could not be moved from the up-right position, and a few did not have a cushion. One day the crew water sprayed the Promenade deck and then proceeded to chip and scrape paint off above the deck so the paint chips fell all over the deck. They did not close off that section of the deck so that as people walked over the chips paint was all over the place. Poor planning on the part of the crew. Disembarkation was very good, the only complaint being one could not always hear what they were announcing. The Panama Canal was the highlight of the cruise and is worth the time and effort to go through it. Great lectures from Mr. McCLelland on the area. The port of Fuerte Amador ( Panama City ) is not listed in the port reviews section so here it is. We did the El Valle tour and it was very good. Our guide was very informative and helpful. Some of the dining table mates went to Panama City and enjoyed it Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. Once again there isn't much at the port itself, as it is a container dock port. There was a good band playing while were docked and there is shopping in the building at the dock also. We found some very good things there at a very good price. The people were very friendly and helpful. We took the mangrove tour from the ship and we were able to see some of the country side that way also. Our guide and driver were one of the best that we have ever had. The guide would point to a flower on the road side and start to talk about it and the driver would stop and go out and take a cutting from it so that we could touch and smell it. This happened a quite a few times and was a very nice touch to the tour. The tour was on a pontoon boat and there was enough of a breeze most of the time to make it very enjoyable. Our guide from the motor coach came along and with the guide from the boat tour we were kept very entertained. We managed to see blue herons, caymans, iguanas and macaws. There was a light brunch after the boat ride with plenty of fresh fruit, beer and bottled water. There were also very clean bathrooms. They also had items for sale there too. We did find out after the fact that the shops at the dock are about half of the price of those at the boat tour. So do your shopping at the dock. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala We did the tour to the old capital of Antigua. The coach ride took about an hour or so. The city is lovely and well worth the trip to see it. When you get off the coach at the Jade factory, the tour guide will tell you the coach number and the time to be back for departure. There are good bathrooms at the Jade Factory to use before you start to wander the city. The driver or guide will also give you a bottle of water when you get off the coach. We wandered around the city and enjoyed our time there. The main plaza is wonderful and there are many places to look at and places to buy items. We ventured to the market area and found some great gifts. The street vendors can be a bit much some times but if you bargain with them you will get some really great deals. My wife still wishes she would have bought more while she was there. There was plenty of shopping near the dock also but we were shopped out by that time. Puerto Chiapas, Mexico The Mexican Government has spent a lot of money to try and get tourists to this area. There is a brand new dock and and shopping building next to it. There is also a restaurant with a kiddies swimming pool and lots of grass to just lay on and relax. We took the shuttle into town, it is $10 dollars pp/rt in a supposedly air conditioned coach. Ours didn't have any AC so everyone was hot and sweaty after sitting in the coach for the 20 minute ride into town. Once in town, you are let off at the center of town, there is a tourist info booth right there and they were extremely helpful. One problem is that there are very few people in the area who speak English so shopping downtown is an adventure. We went with another couple and once we arrived downtown the ladies informed us that we were not going to ride that coach back to the ship. So we talked to the young lady at the tourist info booth about getting a tour to the Iztapa ruins and the Chocolate city and she went and talked to the cab drivers and got us one to do that for $40 for the four of us. The cab wasn't in the best of shape and didn't have AC but the driver drove fast enough that we had a good time and it wasn't too hot either. The ruins aren't much yet as only about 2% of them have been uncovered so far. It was still a nice way to spend part of the day. We then went to the Chocolate city and watched a demo on how they work with the bean to make the cocoa powder and they had samples of the paste and drink to try. We bought some of the paste as the price was so good and it tasted lovely. Then the drive took us back to the ship so the ladies didn't have to use the shuttle coach. Hualtulco, Mexico Another port with a new dock. The port area has some of shopping and walking area, but there were signs that the economy has hit hard there too, or it is just too new to be established yet. There are nine bays in the area. It is a beautiful place and we were told that it is one of the new "in" places to vacation at or buy a home. It is very nice there. We walked around the port area and talked to a man about a boat tour to some of the bays. Once again there were four of us. We managed to have a really nice guy, Louis, take us out to five of the bays with a stop at the most popular swimming beach for an hour. The fee for this was $20 pp. Louis was very informative and helpful. We had a very, very good time doing this. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
While many of the reviews here are quite wordy and detailed , im just not going to do that !!! i think what i have to say will be taken a wisely as what i DONT say , From the other reviewers on here you will know the details of ... Read More
While many of the reviews here are quite wordy and detailed , im just not going to do that !!! i think what i have to say will be taken a wisely as what i DONT say , From the other reviewers on here you will know the details of this cruise , so i dont see any point in duplication of effort. we were influenced to go on Holland America by their advertising as well as some other reviews , Big Mistake !!! , we were under the impression that HAL was a very high quality line somewhere in the genre of Celebrity of days past before they were bought out, VERY MUCH not the case. the pros: our stateroom was excellent, could possibly one of the nicest we have every had , thanks to our travel agent who suggested the upgrade. our cabin steward was excellent, the staff in the up charge dining room Pinnacle, was also very good. the overall ship was clean and well kept. the cons. most of the staff were average at best, lots of make believe friendly faces by a crew that was clearly prompted and scripted, as when you got beyond that most of who i spoke with couldn't even understand me . HAL is very Average at best, the LIDO Buffet was a nightmare of logistical chaos my wife and i were almost never able to eat together as we were always have to make several trips for food selections. i have read some other reviews and i really have to wonder if they were on the same cruise as i. one simple example the poolside grill .always a minimum of 20-25 min waits for even a hot dog!! the main dining room was better and the food was also , But by no means spectacular or even exceptional. my wife and i are experienced cruisers and average one -two a year , i guess the best way to make my point is if you think Olive Garden is really good food then you will like HAL food There was a constant reminder that the cruise ship is concerned for its profit margins as there was non stop selling on the ship in every way from going to the spa for sell-ups to always being asked at the lounges if you want "a double" even the Television in our room played non stop advertising of HAL almost to brain wash you into thinking "Hey were the best" i will tell you in all fairness, this cruise line as i have now been told numerous times is geared way more to a much more vintage crowd not that im a youngster anymore but 80% of this ship was over 70 , witnessed by the fact that we had 5 medical emergencies of relative serious nature. Was the crew attentive? yes but i feel that i shouldnt have always ask for things that should the rule and not the exception. I really think that this last statement really says it all. if you have cruised on Oceania or Crystal etc then decide to cruise on a line such as HAL you will be very very disappointed if you have always cruised on lines such as HAL and move up to Oceania you will be spoiled forever !!! i would simply say that HAL is just Average. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
I booked this cruise less than 3 weeks before sailing. I was vacationing on the West Coast and decided to hop on a reposition of a ship leaving Alaska headed for the Caribbean. This was my first trip through the Panama Canal and I was ... Read More
I booked this cruise less than 3 weeks before sailing. I was vacationing on the West Coast and decided to hop on a reposition of a ship leaving Alaska headed for the Caribbean. This was my first trip through the Panama Canal and I was looking for a cruise that had a great itinerary and that would end in FL where I live. Because of a scheduling conflict, I was not able to book a departure from Seattle, but instead we had to fly down to San Diego to start the cruise. For whatever reason, Holland America didn't give us any break at all on price for selecting this 18-day voyage, as the price from Seattle for the 21-voyage was the same. I was traveling with my friend from Seattle. It was my first trip through the Pamama Canal, and my friend's 3rd voyage. This was also my 9th HAL voyage, and 18th cruise overall. I have traveled on Princess, NCL, RCCL, and Azamara. Our early morning flight down to San Diego was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to take the inexpensive public bus right to the cruise ship terminal. Two other cruise ships were in port along with the Westerdam. Embarkation was very quick, no lines, and we were checked-in and onboard before 12 noon. We had an inside cabin in the aft of the ship. We liked this location because we were very close to the lido dining and pool area. The stateroom was a good size, there was plenty of storage room for clothing, but the room lacked drawer space, especially at the desk. There was a nice flat-screen TV that we used sporadically, turning it on to get views from the ship's video Cam. The bathroom was an adequate size and everything worked as it should during our voyage. The room also had a small frig that we used quite a bit. Our stateroom steward was very efficient and friendly. He and his assistant introduced themselves within minutes of check-in. He removed all the contents of the mini-bar and bottled waters on the desk as instructed. This gave us a bit more room to work on the desk with my laptop. The room was always cleaned and in good order each day and evening thanks to our cabin stewards. This is a Vista class ship, and a nice size for getting from point A to point B without spending too much time in transit, but large enough so that you never feel too confined. There are many bars and lounges suitable for informal gatherings. We especially liked the lounge off the main dining room where there was classical violin quartet playing each night, and even tea served on those days when the main dining room was closed. We also attended several parties and meetings in the Piano Bar, that was suitable for groups up to 40 persons. There are plenty of shops on the ship. The Digital Workshop on the ship, sponsored by Microsoft, was a real treat. It was also a very popular room and could have used even more computers and space for classes. The dining room is similar to most other HAL ships with two levels connected by a spiral staircase. The main entertainment theatre was spacious, but still retained some intimacy. The stage is large enough to host the largest professional productions. The front desk, shore-excursion desk, and future cruise desk were conveniently located at the bottom of the atrium. The Crowsnest Lounge was very busy with activities day and night. It had a fantastic view out the bow of the ship. The lounge was oddly attached to the library and Internet station, so you would rarely find a quiet place to read or work if using the Internet or library. Some of the aspects of the ship we really enjoyed included the friendliness of the crew and staff working the front desk, dining room, housekeeping, travel guide, digital workshop, port lecturer, and hotel manager. We made quick friends with many of these individuals, and it really made our trip special. We enjoyed tea every afternoon, violin music around dinner time, and late night snacks at the Lido, including ice cream. Unfortunately, we also had several things happen on the ship that we found particularly disappointing. We had fixed main dining on the upper level, at a nice table for 6 next to a window. On several evenings, we experienced long delays in food service, sub-standard entrees, and many times just told that the kitchen had run out of food ordered over an hour before. We missed evening entertainment in the theatre after dinner several times because of the problems the kitchen had in servicing our area of the dining room. Finally, after numerous disappointing meals, all 6 of us switched to a table down in the Open Dining level and were not disappointed with the meals or service provided. The head waiter and assistant dining manager made sure we had the best experience possible, as we were able to reserve the same table and waiter for the rest of the voyage. We really enjoyed all of the guest entertainers on the ship. Even the dancers from the ship's entertainment staff were excellent. However, the vocalist from the ship's staff were not up to professional standards. The lead male singer was so bad, that I asked one of the dancers if he had lost his voice. Apparently he was singing well outside his range, and it was very evident and distracting to the point that it adversely impacted the enjoyment of the main shows. Fortunately, the ship's entertainers put on only 2 shows during our 18-day cruise. A major disappointment with the ship concerned the Lido aft deck and pool area. We like to hit the pool late in the afternoon after a long day of touring onshore. The main lido pool was not appealing to us because the space is too stuff and warm and smoky at times. The aft pool was perfectly located from our cabin, so that we could get there and back in just a few seconds. Unfortunately, the aft deck was also directly downwind from the ship's engine stacks, and on several occasions, the worst being in Santa Marta, Colombia, and on every night, fly ash from the stacks would rain down on the aft deck and pool area, making it filthy and unsuitable for recreation. To further magnify the problem, the pool was left contaminated with stack emissions for days without changing the water and cleaning the area, even after several complaints were made. Friends that had an aft balcony directly under the Lido deck had fly ash land on their deck every night. When I took this complain up with the Environmental Officer, he pointed out that it was not within his duties and that the ship was meeting or exceeding all applicable standards. We were not able to use the aft pool the last 6 days of our cruise. To HAL's credit, after I filled out the survey at the end of our cruise, and sent a couple of letter's directly to Guest Relations in Seattle, I did receive indications that the company would look into the problems that we experienced on the ship, and they did offer us some compensation. Until some of the problems on the Westerdam are corrected, I probably would not choose to sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
this is our 10 on holland america and second on a on a vista ship. first the negatives. the ship is very well laid out and there our lots of lounges, but i found it hard on this cruise to find a quite area to read in. as there was always ... Read More
this is our 10 on holland america and second on a on a vista ship. first the negatives. the ship is very well laid out and there our lots of lounges, but i found it hard on this cruise to find a quite area to read in. as there was always it seemed somthing going on and the libary now is closed and you now have a internet center, libary,bar, cafe and bingo hall all in one room crazy, the queens lounge which is a cinema demenstrartion kitchen is very badly designed as only as few lucky people can see the screen or the kitchen display as not at all ramped like a proper cinema as on older ships and so some our lucky and most our not, it seemed nearly every day we had art auctions which seemed over the top to me. on a three week cruise we managed two production shows where on a older ship we had 4 in sixteen days, and i felt they were a little poor as the dance and sining group had just arrived. and a couple of the entertainers were very poor one evening being joked about by tha captain that he could do a better job. they have removed al trays in the buffet called the lido so now one plate at a time so now numerous visits to get starter bread drinks main course and desert and if like me you have to do it for some one else who is disabled its hard going and there did not seem to be the offers of help like we have had on the smaller ships and that was when they had trays. the food is subjective but thought was very good and would have beeb exceptional if had been served hot. fed up with sending back nearly every day through waiter section manager and even speaking with head chef on his own after kitchen visit as found it funy that room service could provide very hot food five floors away but only warm in kitchen to dining room ajasent. to me it seem there was a lack of things flowing smoothly, like you would order tea with milk some times you would get the pot with out the tea or with out the milk and then would have to wait five or ten minutes for the item it just seemed that things did not flow smoothly. and it seemd there was a lack of planning activities as far more things seemed to clash and stop you seeing one thing after another. one thing would start half way the middle of somthing else so you could not see that.even though there were empty rooms that could be used. and there were que for the next avent in the same room and another would be empty. the positives. the cabin was large and very comfatable very nice spa and helth suite onboard. no crowding could flow of movment. the crewe were freindly and happy. very good childrens club if required. very good bands and music. i hope this gives you a idea of a vista ship. i will book myslef in a smaller hall ship on next cruise . as have traveld on larger ships celebriaty and carnival and found them far better in this size and will return to holland on a smaller ship 1300 passengers next year. maybe its just the westerdam or me but felt more 3 star than 5 stars, Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I want to describe the good things about this cruise and then discuss the major problem we had. The Zuiderdam is an older ship which has recently been refurbished. She still is a little frayed around the edges, but I found her to be very ... Read More
I want to describe the good things about this cruise and then discuss the major problem we had. The Zuiderdam is an older ship which has recently been refurbished. She still is a little frayed around the edges, but I found her to be very clean, the crew, except the front desk, wonderful. The service in the dining rooms, the Lido and bars was what I would expect from HAL-all smiles and very helpful. The food, especially in the main dining room, was very good. We did not dine in their specialty restaurant, so I can't comment on that. The cabin we were assigned is an outside one, unobstructed, and very adequate for the 3 of us. We had a 12 year old with us and she was very happy tucked in her bunk every night. The HAL cabins are always on the larger side and I found storage to be fine with 3 closets and shelves. I do wish they would have told us that under the beds, there was additional drawer space as I didn't know this until after the cruise. We are big fans of the Crows Nest on the HAL ships. On the Zuiderdam, the Crows Nest has been altered so that it is half it's size and blends into the Library and Explorations Lounge. The result is a very noisy and disruptive Library and crowded Crows Nest. I did like the Explorations Cafe which had great coffee drinks you could purchase. Entertainment was mixed. The singer and dancer shows were fine. The magician was so bad I could see how he was doing his tricks, which I did find interesting as no other magician was so obvious. All in all, I have lots to say good about the Zuiderdam and especially the HAL crew who are delightful. What I am unhappy about is so bothersome, that we will never cruise HAL again. The third day into the cruise, my friend, who is 75 had a terrible fall. I will be putting pictures of her injuries on the web, as unless you see her, you can't imagine how injured she was. The medical staff were helpful and kind. However, we had to walk my friend to the elevator and then to medical. No one was sent to help us. We immediately were met by an officer who took all our information which I realize now was to protect the cruise line. Our big problem was the air flight, which we had arranged through HAL. We were scheduled to fly from Ft. Lauderdale to Minneapolis to NY, total of 6 hours in the air and 6 in airport. Hal would do nothing to arrange a direct flight which we needed as my friend was in pain and could not bend her knee. We were offered first class for an additional $600 per person. HAL did not try to schedule us on other airlines which I know had seats. My friend got home, with heavy medication. The icing on the cake was when there was no wheelchair as promised when we left the ship. We were told we would have assistance and no one was there. I do want to commend the pier staff who did everything they could to help us without advance notice. I think cruising is a great way to travel. When choosing a cruise line I think it is wise to listen to others experiences especially about health and safety issues. The bottom line is how caring a line is when you need them, not when it's about minor issues. I do want to mention, the rudeness and utter disdain of the front office staff. I would have been fired if I ever treated people the way we were treated. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
My wife and I are 50 year olds in good physical standing and have been on 20+ cruises on HAL, CCL, NCL, and RCCL, as well as a few others. We were on the first sailing of the Zuiderdam out of Fort Lauderdale cruising to the Panama Canal, ... Read More
My wife and I are 50 year olds in good physical standing and have been on 20+ cruises on HAL, CCL, NCL, and RCCL, as well as a few others. We were on the first sailing of the Zuiderdam out of Fort Lauderdale cruising to the Panama Canal, Nov 9-19. This was to date our most expensive cruise and our second on Hal and we were expecting a lot. Our first Hal cruise was on the Westerdam to Alaska and it was possibly our favorite cruise of all we had taken. We enthusiastically encouraged our close friends to join us on the classiest line we had experienced. We started to worry as we heard that 7+ day cruises in the school season had a large percentage of elderly couples and the entertainment was geared toward them. We found this to be true and the average age of our fellow guest had to be in the 70's. Ok no problem...we like older people too, though the ship rolled up its sidewalks precisely at 10pm. We were often one of 2-3 couples in the nightclubs. The previous sailing from the Mediterranean to Florida had serious norovirus issues and this started our dream vacation on a very sour note. Our cruise would be delayed until 12 at night while the crew scoured the ship, we would have to find entertainment for 4 in Florida. Our travel agent never told us of any problem, but I had heard of the problem thanks to Cruise Critic. Many fellow cruisers were unaware of the delay as well. There is no reason HAL could not have sent an email directly to me, they have my email and they have shown no problem in the past inundating me with sale ads and junk mail. Why on the most important aspect of my cruise would they not communicate direct? When we got to Fort Lauderdale an HAL agent told us check in would begin at 7 pm. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 9 am and proceeded to spend the next 10 hours in a rental car and a local casino. Upon arrival at the port we were informed they were running a bit behind and that we would be bused to a convention center where 1400 of our fellow guest had already gathered. These people were unbelievably patient and waited over 2 more hours until the first busses were called for guest to be brought back to the ship. Some guest had been there 14 hours before they finally headed back to the dock. For us the wait would continue as a very disorganized transfer of the 1400 began. We had bus 32 and it would be after 12:30AM before we would finally make the ship. We were happy to hear the lifeboat drill would take place the next morning, unhappy to hear that we would miss our first port, Half Moon Cay. We were given a $75 per person room credit for our troubles. Finally at 2 AM we hit the bed having been up 22 hours. The ship was nice and laid out well, very easy to navigate and our room was centrally located 2 doors form the main elevator bank. But unfortunately lines were to be a problem for the first half of our trip. Code red handling procedures were in affect, which meant hands off most things for the passengers. In the buffet the lines were horrible, the food mostly overcooked I presume to minimize food borne problems and with so many elderly needing help with getting to their table, very understaffed. In fact the singers and dancers and even one of the ship staff's wife were called into service. While most seemed happy to pitch in, I heard several say this was not what they signed up for. The crew worked their butts off for 5 days and who knows how many days before and we appreciate their efforts, however its not what I paid for us premium dollars for. It was 5 days before I saw a medium rare cut of meat, saltshakers on the tables as well as any other condiment, or the buffet without long unmoving lines. So now we have a bad taste in our mouths so to speak, it becomes very difficult to see this cruise as anything other then a mess. The spa was closed, hot tubs, the library, the ping-pong tables, the basketball court.... many things but not the casino!!! Are you telling me I'm more likely to get sick from handling a basketball them I am from sitting in a casino, handling chip, slots, close quarters et al. On the 2nd day we are informed that one of the guest has taken ill and will need to be removed by helicopter back to land. We were on the top deck as the Coast Guard crew flew a helicopter right to the front of the ship, hovered for many minutes as a crewman was lowered to the deck and then the patient elevated to the copter. This was an example of our finest working with civilian ships and executing a difficult maneuver with hundreds watching. Well done by both air and ship personnel. On the 3rd day, at 3am, a loooong blast goes off in my ear, finally the Captain comes on and say this is not a drill.... there is a fire in the forward boiler room...oh boy now what, do we prepare to abandon, do we roll over, do we get our life vest out and on.... we chose to roll over. No sooner do I fall asleep and second blast goes off.... the fire is in the wind box and there is not supposed to be fire in the wind box, but the fire crew is on the scene, passengers are not to worry yet, he will get back to us. I roll over again, fall asleep again, and am blasted awake again to be told the fire is under control, and we can go back to bed. The next morning no more is said, that I heard, about the fire, except that many passengers never heard anything.... how that was possible I will never know as the speaker was literally at the guests head. Good things, yeah there were a bunch as well. The ships dancers and singer were excellent, some of the best we have seen and the 3 production performances were wonderful. Paul Tanner, an impressionist was a breath of fresh air and finally brought some life into the crowd. The comedian was forgettable. The guest talent show had heart if little talent. There was but one band that we could listen too and that was Jenny and the Halcats who performed daily and followed a theme for most nights, Motown , 60's, 50's etc. The trio was just not for me, Moon River and all, nor many others it seemed judging by the crowd, and while the piano guy could play...he sure couldn't sing and that made me uncomfortable. We really like the ports being younger we were able to do thing our fellow guest were not. Aruba we horseback rode with Rancho la Ponderosa, we were picked up at the ship and returned at the end of the excursion. Our trail took us over the mountain and down to the water on the rough side of the island, it was beautiful and took 2-3 hours on the trail 4-5 hours overall. The cost was $55 per person if you booked online. The horses were allowed to run many times and the views spectacular. We were given a local beer upon finishing the ride, with the tips we paid $130 total. Curacao we rented a car from Avis right at the port, $55 for the day we were two couples so reasonable. We went up the coast towards the Westpont and stopped at a resort and scuba dove, a shore dive, as Curacaos coast is perfect for this. The cost was $40 for 2 tanks, and gear for one. We had brought one set. The other couple paid a $5 fee, which allowed use of the facilities and chairs etc, it was near Santa Cruz. Diving was very good, and snorkeling was also. In Gatun Lake we had the highlight of our trip, which was a ship excursion to a Embera indigenous tribe via bus and then dugout canoe. This is a tough excursion due to a 45-50 minute dugout ride and slippery walking in several places, but if you can handle it, it may be among the most incredible events of your life. The village is legit, not faked and the people really live there and for the most part live off the land, there apparently are several villages that may be used, and you may not get ours but the simple lifestyle was evident and a loving people made us feel very welcomed as we entered their world. The most beautiful children you ever saw, and the 70 or so who made this trip would all be quick to bring them back with us if we could. This excursion was $99 and well worth the money, the canoe ride alone was worth it. As we pulled in the ladies of the village were cleaning tilapia along the riverbed, this was to become our lunch along with fruit and fried plantains...it was fantastic. In Costa Rico we prebooked with Oscar Brown and went Zip lining at Jungle Resorts. Along the way Oscar shared his culture with us and stopped several places to show us views, sloths, fruit and other sights unusual to Americans. He did a good job and we felt safe with him in what may be for some an unsafe feeling local. This was $70 per person including the zip line. The zip line was fabulous, 12 lines vary lengths from 75 yards to 270 yards. This took 4-5 hours and I would do it again. We saw sloths and very small red frogs as well a thick lush jungle, both from below and above. He has a website called oscarbrowntours. Total with tips was $160, although other tours only were much cheaper, we really wanted to try zipping. Our room was a nice obstructed view with a sitting couch. The shower was good with no smells and although the flush had a mind of its own and seemed to go off when it wanted to we had no real problems. The small refer kept nothing cold, only cool. The AC worked great. We had 2 stewards who had 32 rooms and worked very, very hard. They kept the room clean and organized and we saw them doing the little things like sanitizing door handles and wiping down handrails in the hall. I don't know how they kept up with 32 rooms. Richard Dietrich provided information most days and we found them and him quite enjoyable. His help was appreciated on the Embera excursion and the info he provided on each port and its history was great. While we didn't make many of the actual talks we listened to them conveniently in our room. Our waiters and assistant were good and they tried their best in trying situations. But for the first 5 days the food was poor, over cooked and dry, no seasoning and salt and pepper was rationed out in small square packets, the kind you get in a picnic pack. No bread on the table, no butter, no sugar or cream. The selection seemed limited, being a beef man the lack of good steak or roast was a serious concern for me. There was a strip steak on the alternative menu, but for the first 5 days our waiter shied us away from it stating they were not good so far, I suspect because they had to serve it well done. It had been 2 years since our Alaska cruise and the food was among the highlights of the trip and we had bragged extensively to our friends about what to expect. What a disappointment and with 20 cruises themselves they said they couldn't wait to get off the "dam" ship. In fairness the food did get better the last 5 days but first impressions are so very important and theirs was not good. Disembarkment was chaotic and the line wrapped around the whole ship for the 9:00 - 9:30 times. Our luggage tag was blue but was located under the pink tag color, so who knows, maybe someone's colorblind. We heard through others that HAL had offered a refund or a different sail date to those who chose not to go on this cruise, we were never offered this. Given an opportunity I'm sure I would never want to follow a norovirus cruise again, there was just to much frustration involved for a guy who hates lines. The price we paid was for a premium cruise of a lifetime, what we got was far less and if not for a few of the staff and the ports it would have been a complete failure. For now, both couples are turned off on HAL and will stay away. Of course if a good prices comes along I reserve the right to change my mind. I suspect the following cruises will be fine and the experience will be better for most. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I was soooooo disappointed in the HAL. Because of all the publicity of HAL I expected a great cruising adventure. Instead what I received was extreme rudeness from the front office. We experienced air conditioning problems on the 5th day ... Read More
I was soooooo disappointed in the HAL. Because of all the publicity of HAL I expected a great cruising adventure. Instead what I received was extreme rudeness from the front office. We experienced air conditioning problems on the 5th day of a 36 day cruise. Our room was extremely hot and it took the staff almost a week, in spite of our many phone calls to the front desk as well as in person visits, before they attempted to fix the problem. We went the whole cruise with this problem. In order to appease us we were given a fan, with wires held together with rubber bands. The ship was nothing extraordinary. I have cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norweigian, Disney, Commodore, Delta Queen and have been more impressed and had much better cruising experiences than on Holland America. I do not think I will ever book another Holland America cruise again. This experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth. The entertainment was excellent for this length cruise. The food had great appearance and was tasty, however we were on a 36 day cruise and were offered steak and lobster only 2 times. On a 7 day cruise on the other above mentioned cruise lines you get steak and lobster at least once. Our cabin stewards were very good. Hard worked and understaffed but we had no problems in getting our room cleaned. The Front Office Staff were very uncooperative and rude. They did not try to help us in any way with the problems we were having with our air conditioning problems and it was not until we asked for a Manager and wrote unfavorable reviews on comment cards that we had any satisfaction at all. This ship is old and in need of a lot of repairs (all over). It should not be taking 36 day cruises. The shore excursions that we took, with the exception of one because we arrived in port late and it turned dark before we finished the tour and we were in Brazil with no lights, were all very good to exceptional. ALL IN ALL the fact remains that I would not cruise Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
This was my 13th cruise, and my 3rd on Holland America. One of the main reasons I chose HAL was my past experience of their large, comfortable staterooms. The Westerdam was a big disappointment in that area. Although we were promised a ... Read More
This was my 13th cruise, and my 3rd on Holland America. One of the main reasons I chose HAL was my past experience of their large, comfortable staterooms. The Westerdam was a big disappointment in that area. Although we were promised a large inside cabin with a sofa and chair, we received a cramped cabin with two beds, a small desk and no sofa or chairs. The shower and the rest of the bath were great, as was the dressing area. But 19 days with no place to sit in the cabin was a real minus. There was a flat screen TV, DVD player, minibar, and an excellent ventilation system that responded quickly to adjustments of the thermostat. HAL's precruise experience was excellent. The airport meeting and transfer to the Westin Fort Lauderdale were quick and smooth. So was the transfer to the ship and embarkation. Leaving the ship was another matter. We were told we must report to the gangway between 7:45 and 8:00 AM. Once there, we waited an hour and fifteen minutes before we were allowed to leave. There were no announcements or explanations, so there were many frustrated people, some of them worried about their airline connections. Getting to shore excursions was also a disaster. On my other 12 cruises I received a sticker upon arriving at the lounge. It showed your tour and the bus number. You were then seated with others on the same bus. When your number was called, you exited the lounge and got on your bus in an orderly fashion. That procedure was abandoned on the Westerdam. You entered the lounge and sat with everyone else who was going on tour. The person in charge would then finally announce that they were giving out stickers for two tours at the same time. Everyone would mob the stage area, get a sticker with no bus number, then find an empty seat. When they called your tour, everyone would stampede the exits, clog the stairs and gangways, and mob the busses. Often the bus would fill, and then we would have to mob another one. This was the worst handling of excursions I have experienced in all my years of cruising. I am amazed they abandoned something which worked well, for something so unpleasant. Perhaps it was because the old system required more people. There were only two or three staff handling hundreds of excursion departures on the Westerdam. On the positive side, the theater and the production shows were the best I have seen. The singers, dancers, band, sets and lighting were very professional and impressive. Jason, the Cruise Director, was funny, young, full of energy, and at most events offered on the ship. Cooking classes were offered almost every sea day, and were done either by the ship's cooks or by two excellent guest chefs who were talented and entertaining. The food in the dining room, buffet and specialty restaurant was excellent, as was the service. HAL recently switched to an optional "dine when you please" for half the ship's guests. We remained with the traditional late sitting, but heard good reviews from those who chose the flexible meal times. The Westerdam is a beautiful ship, but looking somewhat scruffy in a few places. The chairs in the Crow's Nest were dirty and the fabric was worn through on many of them. The carpets were frayed from wear in the dining room and some other public areas. But other than the windows, the ship looked clean throughout. Sadly, this was the second time in a row I have gotten sick on a HAL ship. Last time it was the dreaded Norfolk Virus that struck many of the passengers and crew on the Statendam. This time it wasn't as widespread or as unpleasant. But as I have never had any problems on my other 11 cruises, I am left with some doubts about the level of HAL's cleaning procedures, or its handling of food. I used the ship's sanitizers and my own hand wipes before meals and in between on the Statendam ad the Westerdam. HAL attracts a large number of senior citizens. This cruise had the largest number of 80+ passengers I have experienced. The staff did a kind and excellent job of looking after them. And there were amusing comments about age at almost every one of the evening entertainment. The cruise had only 3 kids out of 1,800 passengers. Next time I will be looking for a broader age group to travel with. Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean seem to have a larger range. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that ... Read More
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that situation rectified. The dining room staff was courteous and immediately assigned us seats at a nice table by a window in the dining room. Then we went to check out our room and found the air-conditioning not working. After we sailed, we finally got some a/c, but the a/c effectiveness varied by day. Apparently we were not the only passengers affected because, early in the cruise, the Captain announced that passengers were complaining about the air-conditioning, and, because of the design of the ship, there wasn't much that could be done. Soon after setting sail, the captain announced that, due to high winds, the stop at half Moon Cay would be bypassed, and instead the ship would spend an additional three hours in Aruba. What followed were two sea days and three nights of very choppy seas. The onboard activities available during those days were limited. The cruise line did refund to everyone the Bahamas port tax that had been collected. The weather improved and the stops in Aruba and Curacao were nice. Before the cruise, we had been concerned that stores would be closed in Curacao because the ship was stopping there on Sunday. Fortunately, the stores were open until early afternoon, and this satisfied our need to shop. We also visited and toured the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere and its museum. We found that very interesting. As an added bonus, everything in Curacao was within walking distance from the ship. The Panama Canal visit was fascinating, and we enjoyed watching the workings of the canal. We had booked the excursion that was to go all the way through the canal on a tour boat, but the excursion was canceled after we waited two hours for clearance from the Panamanian authorities. Later after dinner, the captain announced that the tour boat would not have had enough time to operate, and refunds were given. The Volendam was in line to go through the Panama Canal at 5:30am and docked in Gatun Lake about 9:00 am - right on time. So, I'm still not sure what really went wrong, but it sure was a disappointment. The ship tried to accommodate everyone on alternative tours, but we opted to stay on board to avoid the rebooking chaos occurring at the Front Office desk. The next stop was in Costa Rica where we went on the excursion on the aerial tram through the rain forest. The tour was quite enjoyable and included a tasty lunch of local specialties. We would recommend this tour to future visitors if looking to learn about foliage. Visitors looking to see animals, however, would be better advised to take other excursions. The final two days of the cruise were wonderfully relaxing amidst calm seas and beautiful weather. About the time of arrival in Aruba, it was announced that some cases of Norovirus had occurred on the cruise. Measures to contain the highly contagious virus were then put into effect. In the Lido restaurant, for example, self-serve was eliminated. This required extra personnel to serve everyone cafeteria style, and the entire crew pitched in. Even the Cruise Director was working behind the serving line. Kudos to the crew for their efforts to successfully contain the virus. Another measure was to put Purell sanitizing solution stations all over the ship for passengers to use on their hands. These were everywhere, and at one point we were sanitized about eight times in a five minute period. The joke became that we should buy stock in the company that makes Purell. The Captain was rightfully concerned about limiting the potential spread of the virus, although some of his announcements sounded a bit panicky. Some other observations: Cabin service was pleasant but unpredictable. One evening our cabin was not cleaned at all, and several times we returned from breakfast mid-morning to find the beds unmade. Dining room staff was also pleasant but seemed to have too many tables to service, as they were frequently absent. In short, it's not that the service was poor, but based on service received on other cruises, the level of service on this cruise was not comparable. Regarding entertainment, we saw one very mediocre comedian and decided to skip the rest of the shows. The Front Office desk staff was outstanding and helpful. One attendant even closed the desk (during a slow period) and came with us to our room to address a problem with the in-room safe. Cabin size was spacious and storage was plentiful. Finally, the ship could use some refurbishing and/or repair. Chair arms are worn both in the Lido and dining room, and some elevators fail to function. There was a big crack in a window adjacent to the dining room on level five, and a glass entry door to the dining room shattered during the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
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