My hubby and I (ages 62 and 70) recently returned from a 10-day Canada/New England cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 3rd cruise with Holland America and for the most part we were very pleased. We picked this cruise mainly for the ... Read More
My hubby and I (ages 62 and 70) recently returned from a 10-day Canada/New England cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 3rd cruise with Holland America and for the most part we were very pleased. We picked this cruise mainly for the itinerary/ports of call and truly enjoyed getting to see a bit of all of them. Our embarkation was a breeze. BY the time we reached Quebec City, it was 2 in the afternoon, so there was no line up at all to get onto the ship. Our room was ready for us as soon as we boarded. We had chosen an inside cabin this time for a couple of reasons. One- it was more affordable. Two - we have friends who told us that since you're rarely in your cabin anyway, why not just get an inside one and save the $$? So we did. We looked at the cabin layout on the cruise line website, and went ahead. Unfortunately, our cabin was NOT laid out in the way which was portrayed online. It was very small, no couch, and a small amount of room on either side of the bed. Hubby said it was like a "broom closet with a bed". Okay, so this was our choice but I must say, we were disappointed. Despite the room like an office cubicle, we had excellent service as always with our room steward. The service on this ship is one of it's biggest perks. The bathroom by the way, was your basic cruise ship bathroom - functioned perfectly - no issues.
We had "as you wish" dining which was great. We only had one evening where we had to wait to get a table.... but keep in mind that we were willing to sit at any sized table and visit with folks and never did request a table for two - so I do not know how long that wait may have been. We did not go to any specialty restaurants on this trip, so cannot speak to the Pinnacle Grill or Canaletto. We ate in the main dining room most nights and the service as well as the food was excellent. It was fun (for us) to meet lots of different people every evening. We did eat in the Lido one evening and even that was good. We had Lido breakfasts every day and the food was consistently good. The folks that work in the Lido were so nice every day. Since our last cruise (3 years ago) we noticed that they changed the way the Lido works. You no longer EVER get to serve yourself. I'm sure there are many reasons for that.. less chance of Norovirus being spread around, and less food waste by people who take WAAAAAYY more than they really can eat and heap it up on their plate.
The evening entertainment was so-so. I'll admit we weren't intrigued enough to go more than three evenings, so I can't speak to all the acts. What we saw was not horrible, but it wasn't amazing, either. Considering we do not go on a cruise for the evening entertainment, it really wasn't a big factor for whether we enjoyed the cruise or not. I do have to mention the Piano Bar, however. Our tablemates one evening encouraged us to go with them to the Piano Bar after dinner - telling us that the pianist was fabulous. We went, stayed about half an hour (all we could take) and left, along with a lot of other people. The pianist could play the piano, but he could not sing - yet he "sang" to every song, and in a rhythm that was his alone. It was impossible to sing along, which is probably the main reason folks go to listen to "James Taylor, Jim Croce, & John Denver night". Each night the Piano Bar had a theme, and while it sounds like it would be an enjoyable evening, it was not.
We overheard some passengers saying that they were disappointed with the entertainment on the ship, and we asked if they meant the evening productions/acts? They said no, there just wasn't "enough going on" for their taste, and what was going on, all happened at the same time. We felt differently - there was plenty going on in our opinion, but it just goes to show that two couples can view the same cruise in different ways.
Nearly every day we went up to the Crow's Nest for afternoon "Happy Hour". Since we didn't buy the drinks package, Happy Hour was a great deal for us. From 4-5pm you could buy one drink and get the next for a dollar. The only caveat to that was: if you bought, say a Stella beer, and your partner wanted a Corona, well, that was NOT ALLOWED - even if they were the exact same price! You had to get two of the exact same drink! Hubby could not get a glass of red wine and I a glass of white wine. Nope, it had to be the SAME thing. Thought that was kinda strange and somewhat annoying. Still, we did take advantage of the Crow's Nest happy hour often. Great views and comfortable seating up there!
In regards to shore excursions ---- We had 7 ports of call on this trip. We purchased 3 excursions from the cruise line and 3 we bought on our own. One port we bought nothing and decided to "wing it". All our excursions were purchased prior to leaving home. We were pleased with all our excursions except one. I will go over them briefly. In Quebec City we bought our own "Walking Tour". It was SO informative and the guide was excellent. It was advertised as a "leisurely walk from the top of the old city to the bottom". Well, that it was NOT. We walked UP many stairs and many hills, and finally after 2.5 hours made it to the bottom of the old town. It was a great tour despite being somewhat different from the description. In Prince Edward Island we did an Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables House tour, through Holland America. This tour was great and totally enjoyable. Loved seeing the countryside of PEI! IN Sydney Nova Scotia we saw the Celtic music show, featuring fiddle players. LOVED this!!! It was purchased through the cruise line. In Halifax Nova Scotia we were on our own. We'd been to this port before and had seen quite a few of the main points of interests, so we walked less than a mile from the cruise ship terminal to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Very interesting and well worth the $9 Canadian to enter! From Halifax we went to Bar Harbor, Maine. I did a lot of research regarding which tour to take and noted that some of the cruse line sponsored tours did NOT get to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. This was one place I truly wanted to see, so we booked independently with Oli's Trolleys. Great choice!!! The walk to the Oli's Trolleys pick up point was about a block from where the tenders were brought to shore. Loved everything about this tour for sure! Next port was Gloucester, Mass. Here we'd arranged a tour through the cruise line to see Gloucester and nearby Rockport. Our "tour guide" was probably the worst we have ever had on a trip. She was practically useless, pointing out her family home, where she went swimming every single day of the year, etc. When she did try and point out an interesting monument she'd say -"and over there is the pole they grease every year and people try to climb up......" We never figured out where "over there" was. The driver of the large bus was also scary. He had numerous instances where he had to struggle to turn the bus around, and once, while parked in Rockport, the bus was actually hit by another bus. After that, the driver moved our bus closer to the curb (where hit should have been all along). We enjoyed Rockport a lot where we had 1.5 hours on our own. It just goes to show that you don't always get a tip-top tour when booking through the cruise line. Our last port was Newport Rhode Island. This tour was booked on our own and much cheaper than similar tours offered by the cruise line (as is often the case - just a fact)! We met our bus driver a short one block walk from where the tender docks, and had a wonderful tour through Newport and then The Breakers - one of the famous mansions. Fabulous tour!!!
Regarding tender ports: This trip had 3 of it's stops as tender ports. We will never do this again. Getting to shore on a tender became a big hassle, particularly at the last port, Newport RI. There were some "technical issues" with the tender boats - which are actually the ship's life boats. We noticed plenty of "technical issues" with these boats, and yes, we did mention it to the cruise line - as they double as our life boats in an emergency! One boat in particular did not have a hatch that sealed, and sea water came rushing in (onto tender passengers!) whenever a small wave broke across the tender's very low deck. Some people got drenched from the knees down.
All in all, we were pleased with the trip and know that our biggest complaint - our small room - was our own doing. We'll definitely go back to a balcony cabin next time! We loved this itinerary and totally enjoyed getting to see all of these great places. The Zuiderdam itself is a very nice ship and yes, we're very happy we went! Read Less