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Sail Date: December 2008
We drove from Daytona the day prior to the cruise and our friends drove in from North Carolina. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express at Rocky Points great, SAFE location and the shuttle service to the port was very efficient in both directions ... Read More
We drove from Daytona the day prior to the cruise and our friends drove in from North Carolina. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express at Rocky Points great, SAFE location and the shuttle service to the port was very efficient in both directions (and included in the rate when you get the "Cruise and Stay" package). We have cruised with HAL 4 times prior to this and we enjoyed ourselves every time, but the Veendam is the oldest ship we've been on and we weren't sure if it would detract from the total enjoyment of the cruise. In spite of reports of "torn carpets", "cracked tile", "rusty hull(?)", etc., we did not find anything of any substance that took away from our overall very pleasant cruise experience. On our past HAL cruises, we've always tried to take the initiative to establish a friendship with the crew members and the crew of the Veendam has to be one of the friendliest we thoroughly enjoyed being their guests for a week. Our cabin was an outside on the Lower Promenade deck, which we've had before and were generally satisfied with. These particular outside cabins really are a bit shorter than the outsides on the A Deck and Main Deck, but they're adequate for 2 people. We did AYW dining but chose the same waiter each night(either early or late). The food was excellent as usual in all venues as well as room service. Before and/or after dinner we spent time relaxing in The Explorer's Lounge listening to the "Gloria Strings" ensemble. They were from Ukraine very disciplined and VERY entertaining the entertainment highlight of the cruise. Embark/disembark was a snap first time for Tampa and we love it. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
We arrived at 9am to board by 11:30 on sat. december 6-13 cruise on Eurodam. Getting a taxi to go to the liquor store for special wine for our anniversary cruise, costs $25 from airport to liquor to cruise terminal. Have your wine ... Read More
We arrived at 9am to board by 11:30 on sat. december 6-13 cruise on Eurodam. Getting a taxi to go to the liquor store for special wine for our anniversary cruise, costs $25 from airport to liquor to cruise terminal. Have your wine pre-arranged otherwise you stand in line for checkout while paying for taxi. We arrived at the terminal all luggage in hand, and had kept three bags by our side at all times -11 hour travel- until we reached the terminal. there was no signage, and we didn't understand who to talk to and what to leave and take into the building. We regrettably turned over the larger clothes suitcases and the laptop case to be taken to our room by staff porter. We carried medicine bag and swimsuit overnight case. We arrived at 11:30am, we had to wait an HOUR before boarding, with NO seats. We had been traveling since 9pm the night before, we were VERY tired. Embarkation took too long and too confusing, but we smiled and boarded our first cruise. we were physically kept from trying to find our rooms and directed sternly to the lido bar for food, the food was mediocre but we were starved and enjoyed it. while eating for over an hour while waiting on room, we observed our 4 pieces of luggage including the LAPTOP bag in a large crated corral below. our luggage was on top, three of them easily visible, Ft. Lauderdale was HOT and the black laptop was on top in the sun. we tried to find someone to help get our laptop out of the midday florida sun, to no avail. It sat there for over 3 hours!! at which time we simply decided our way to make photo cds for the entire trip (im a photographer) had been ruined and we would have a dead laptop thanks to HAL, i'm sure it was there longer, but we stopped noticing and headed off to enjoy the ship. the eurodam was rocking the entire time at sea for many days. our room was in the front, but centered in the midship just to keep us from being ill. i wouldn't even allow an upgrade so we could stay in the center for motion control. It didn't help. our room 5018 was constantly swaying. we were glad we got the patches from the doctor before leaving. The ship is pretty, pretty well designed, with some exceptions. not glitzy but not classy old style either. it was acceptable. the main tree for christmas was nice. The shore excursion office which we had 3 run ins with, are not on top of things. the front desk had to fix the excursion office problems more than once. the front desk always had a wait except at 3am. they were very helpful and tried to fix anything that went wrong. there were still administration problems though. the terminals around themain deck for excursions was nice except they never worked for what we wanted!! if you wanted an excursion one afternoon for the next morning and the office was closed, it was ALSO closed on the screen ! you couldn't make reservations or requests for the next day. ridiculous. The lido bar food was always hot and inviting. but the taste was just okay. the decor was not good either. just reminded me of a cafeteria. the upstairs dining, was GREAT. it makes a huge difference in the quality of food and service. our dinner staff was fantastic unlike the lido. the meals were very good. we ate in caneletto one night, i LOVE italian food and was so looking forward to it, it was very disappointing in food taste and service. We tried to eat in the asian restaurant tamarind, one day, it was EMPTY. like 2 people there, it was early too. the hostess staff said, NO tables now, you can make a reservation now and come back in 2 hours !!! how absurd, it was EMPTY, like we didn't deserve to eat in that restaurant because we didn't make a reservation days ahead. how rude he was! and sent us away. there was NO sign in the front that stated the hours of operation. there should have been. also, the second night seating upstairs was very confusing, and no one was helping the guests figure out where to go, why they are standing in line, if they were even in the right line, and on more than one occasion i arrived 10 minutes late or 10 minutes early, and was not allowed in. And all it would have taken was a SIGN outside the restaurant that stated, the next service would open at 8pm or something, come on, a few simple signs, keeps hundreds of people everyday from Guessing, just do it. the next thing was the Pool. I loved the water, this is why we cruised. the front pool was small and deep and crowded. there were no chairs on more than one day. and the inside pool in the middle, was COLD, always cold, morning, night, open or closed roof, didn't matter. HEAT the pool a little, please. two of the hot tubs inside, were TOO hot above 104 constantly. But it was great to have 5 tubs to choose from. My main concern is that every night after the 8pm meal which got out at 10 pm, the shows were over and the hot tubs were CLOSED!! why? this is ridiculous. i wanted to wind down after a day in port nearly every day, why are the pools closed even before our dinner????? there is NO reason for not keeping the pools and hot tubs open at least to midnight, if not 24 hours. This would have made a huge difference in our cruise, actually getting to enjoy the pools and hot tubs at night after our days excursions. we were already 3 hours different in time zones, and having to adjust to a dinner meal 3 hours early of when we usually eat. and then to not be able to see most of the shows, because we couldn't get in from ports before 5 or later and couldn't get to our rooms, shower, dressed, then to the show by 6. the timing was just not good for us the whole trip, and not having pools and tubs at our leisure added to the frustrations. this can easily be fixed. The staff at the inside pool and bar was very good. just the early closures weren't. and by the way, i tried to book a cabana there the first day, we arrived at 12:30 on board, after waiting an hour since 11;30, and wanted to book a cabana, they didn't know what to do, and then after speaking to three people they said, okay extra $50 and you have to be out by 3pm. ???? and if you book one the rest of the time, you have to be by 5pm?? why? this makes no sense. if you will kick everyone out at 5pm, and WHY?? then allow others to lounge there up till midnight or later. after 5. this makes no sense. I wanted a cabana mostly for the nighttime after dinner and they were all roped off. why? no one can ever use this space paid or not, from 5 pm all through the night. i'm a night person and found this ship to be catered to early birds, not good for us, and there's really no reason for it, it's easily changed.We had fun in grand turk, although the island is devastated currently. we also saw the lighthouse and island tour. then we snorkeled near the boat on the beach for a few minutes. In st. thomas there were no afternoon trips to st. john, which i very much wanted to visit. but the ocean racing (problems with booking too) was only in the morning, so st. john was out, too bad. then we had to miss the half moon cay island, we saw the ferry boats try a run, and it was too choppy, i understand, but WHY couldn't we go to any other beach that day?????? that was our only planned beach day to unwind for vacation from the constant excursions, and we never got to enjoy a beach of sun in the Caribbean. why not bahamas, or any other island beach, why waste a whole day of our beach fun in the rain in a cold pool. literally it rained inside on our chairs, and they refused to close the top roof for over an hour. there were many other land masses around and i wanted some beach time. I did enjoy walking about 2am around the ship the first night outside, it reminded me of the old teak chairs on the older elegant ships you see in movies. I took good pictures. that was nice. the room steward was fantastic, not seen, not heard, great towel animals. clean rooms every day and pillow request was prompt. thanks ! the professional photographer with his own studio made fantastic shots. and i should know. However, they were tremendously expensive. the best shots we've ever had made B&W, and couldn't afford any of them. too bad. (this was not the formal night impromptu sets) this was appointment only and he was great. I loved having food at any hour, more than once we ended up at the pizza bar just to have something to eat at 3am. (midnight to us). better quality food a the lido and pizza bar would be appreciated. but the pinnacle and upstairs dining are good. disembarkation was jumbled, we waited over an hour and our luggage was scattered in customs. we took the airboat adventure afterward, ride was good, it's pretty far away, the company we used independently was not great. we also went to flamingo gardens and enjoyed that. we wished cokes weren't $2.00 each, and there was more room for our own drinks in the tiny fridge. we had beer, wine, a coke and no room for any of it. weather was not great, captain announced inside our bedrooms way too much the first day when a passenger had to be evacuated, once was enough, not all morning while trying to sleep. like i said, this is apparently a morning ship. liked the closing roof for the pool. the on and off ship was orderly not chaotic. porters need to be much better. baggage handling is unacceptable. excursions offered was good, but staff was not. dining and cabin staff was great. office tried to help on every occasion. more signage is needed esp. near dining rooms, pools and hot tubs should be open later. no cash needed on board, this was overall a good thing. ship seemed well staffed and trained for a new ship. overall we like it, and look forward to sailing again. 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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2009
We (lw and neighbor couple) sailed out of Seattle on July 3rd. Embarkation was a breeze. Lunch for Mariner members was a delight. We were in our cabin shortly and soon up on deck for sail away. Of course sailing out of Seattle requires a ... Read More
We (lw and neighbor couple) sailed out of Seattle on July 3rd. Embarkation was a breeze. Lunch for Mariner members was a delight. We were in our cabin shortly and soon up on deck for sail away. Of course sailing out of Seattle requires a long cruise through the Strait of Juan de Fuca before hitting the open seas. Impressions: Crew: very friendly and eager to help. Steward even complied with our request for more hangers. Cabin: well cared for and clean even though it appeared they had taken some room from the "C" cabins to make more room for the Lanai cabins. Since this was an upgrade, no complaints. Food: outstanding. We ate almost all meals in the dining room. the service was great and the menus offered enough variety to please most anyone. Anyone complaining about there not being enough food simply didn't ask the waiter for a little extra. For our group, we were very complimentary of the size of servings as they did not make you feel overstuffed. My only complaint is, HAL and other cruise lines simply haven't figured out how to cook been unless you go to the added cost restaurant. The seafood and duck were particularly tasty. Entertainment: it would be a mistake to mention entertainment without a word for the string quartet. This group of ladies from Ukraine certainly entertained well. It made for a fine calming evening. The other entertainment on board was also worthy of praise. The trio playing dance music and jazz was quite accomplished. the guitarist and piano bar added entertainment for many. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the on board show cast of singers and dancers. the singers could all hit their notes in rhythm even though some better mike technique would have made the opening night show more enjoyable. These nine people plus the Hal Cats and the string quartet entertained in the show room all but two nights. In my opinion, the best show cast I've heard on board, even from larger ships. public rooms: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the joys of visiting the explorers lounge. It was always a busy place for everyone from young people playing card games and board games, to computer users, crossword solvers and readers. Such a change from the times when you had to search for the library and they hope for a time it was open. Loved the lounge. Geography: we were on our second Alaska cruise in two years and were pleased as we were before. The ports are fun to visit with plenty of things to see. The two stops this year we didn't see last year were the Hubbard Glacier and Sitka. The captain of the Rotterdam got us so close to the Glacier it felt as if we were feeling the sound of the calving. Absolutely marvelous. Sitka is a true delight, seeing the historic Russian settlement in an environment intentionally kept free from as much tourist paraphernalia as possible. Final thoughts: If HAL is losing it, as some suggest, we haven't seen it. We enjoy the size of the ships, the attentive crew, the art on board and the ability to relax and have a great vacation. The only reason we will choose another cruise line is if HAL doesn't got to a port we really want to see.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
Our trip was great. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Tampa Airport. That was a great place to stay the night before. It was clean and they have a free happy hour and breakfast buffet (with made to order egg dishes). Shuttle to the cruise ... Read More
Our trip was great. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Tampa Airport. That was a great place to stay the night before. It was clean and they have a free happy hour and breakfast buffet (with made to order egg dishes). Shuttle to the cruise port was $10 a person. Embarkation was okay. There was some trouble with the water on board, so we boarded late and left late. This ship is getting ready to go to drydock and this was the cause of the water issues. Our room was fine (read below). The food was good. It wasn't as good as Princess, but good. The buffet during the day has very limited hours and a limited selection. I didn't like the pizza or the taco bar (this was open the longest). The salad bar was always lovely. The deserts were lacking in flavor, but the ice cream was fantastic! We ate dinner in the dining room every night and had the As You Wish Dining. It was never a problem to make a reservation or just walk right up (we did both). The nightly entertainment wasn't as good as other cruise lines, but it was geared towards an older audience. We were the minority for sure. There were probably 100 people in their 30s, 50 children and the rest were 55+. We never went to the casino. The pool was clean and nice. We used the hot tubs nightly and there was rarely anyone else there. We went to happy hours a few times. The drinks are half-priced, but so are the sizes of the drinks. Daily trivia was fun and we teamed with a couple who were HAL regulars, so we won every time. Mama Lou was on this ship. She is a HAL icon and lives on these ships. We were told she's been living on HAL ships for about 10 years. She was great to see around the ship because it really highlighted the personal touches of the ship and crew. The crew was friendly and awesome. I would go again on this line because of the crew, smaller size of the boat and the very few children on board. I would choose other lines for their food and activities for people my age. This port is actually Santo de Tomas Castilla (this wasn't offered in the drop down menu). We did the "Go with Gus" tour. We got off the ship at 6:15am to make sure we had a spot. There was a lot of confusion about which tour we were going on. Everyone thought they were doing something different, getting back at different times, seeing different sites, eating, not eating, etc. We all ended up on the same tour with the fishing expedition as the exception. I'm not a fishing woman, but if you are expecting a large chartered boat then this wouldn't be for you. We got to see the 'fishing' boat. It was a very small boat that could hold about six people. We ended up on the humanitarian tour (which is what everyone else was on). It lasted all day. It was beautiful, but disorganized. It was $45 a person and $14 a person extra if you wanted to eat lunch at his hotel after. Five of us chose to not eat and he sent us back in a smaller boat than what the 25 of us were on all day. It was fine with me because as much as he said it was safe to eat and drink, I didn't want to be sick the rest of my trip. I would do this again and recommend it to others. There was a lot of crawling in and out of the boat, so this might not be a good excursion for anyone who has mobility issues. I'm in my early 30s. There were a few older people with us and the crew helped them a great deal. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
We're experienced cruisers having sailed with Princess (16 times), Royal Caribbean (3 times) and Carnival (once and never again). I had heard good things about HAL and, since I was offered a very good rate, we thought we'd give ... Read More
We're experienced cruisers having sailed with Princess (16 times), Royal Caribbean (3 times) and Carnival (once and never again). I had heard good things about HAL and, since I was offered a very good rate, we thought we'd give it a try. Our mistake was obvious as soon as we arrived at the embarkation terminal. We were handed numbered cards, then herded like cattle into an ugly holding area. After about half an hour, our number was called and we joined a very long, snaking line in a second room in order to check in. That took another half hour. Finally got on the ship and were stunned by the tackiness of the interior. I thought HAL was supposed to be classy!? I couldn't believe the cheesy decoration - everything from the bench seating by the elevators to the lighting in the dining room was laughably ugly. Our fellow passengers were overwhelmingly elderly. The elevators were often so clogged with walkers that we had to use the stairs. I have nothing against older passengers (much prefer them to rowdy 20 somethings) but this was a bit extreme. Sometimes I felt as if I were visiting my 90 year old mother at her retirement home. Our room was quite tasteful, although a little on the shabby side. We moved a chair to the balcony in order to make some space. The bed was comfortable although the sheets were rather rough and scratchy. The bathroom was large but there was no hot water in the jacuzzi tub and the shower was TINY. The food was uniformly excellent, as was the service everywhere. Unlike Princess, the buffet is NOT 24 hour and it always seemed to be closed when we were hungry. Very annoying. The layout of the buffet was terrible; very difficult to see what was available because the stations were spaced so far apart and very little was self service, resulting in long lines for everything. Also unlike Princess, there is no laundromat on the ship and you aren't allowed to have an iron in your room so you're forced to use their laundry service, which was fine but expensive. Entertainment was dreadful! A electronic player piano in the dining room, a string quartet that seemed to play nothing but funeral dirges (the lounge they played in was always empty when we passed by), a pretty lame impressionist (Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Elvis) and a magician who's show we didn't attend. The best public room was the Explorations Cafe - really excellent coffee (at a price) and attractively decorated with a good selection of books and magazines and great views. The internet rates were highway robbery - the same amount of time would have been free on Princess with our Elite status. After we accepted the fact that we got what we paid for, we relaxed and had a good time. I won the slots tournament ($500.00) and my husband won the blackjack tournament (another $500.00) which also helped to cheer us up! Perhaps the Zuiderdam is an anomaly in the HAL fleet, but I doubt we'll take a chance and sail with them again. I don't know why HAL has so many repeat cruisers; their loyalty program is almost nonexistent. We're heading back to Princess and all our Elite benefits. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
My husband and I had a wonderful, relaxing trip to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam.  We took the February 21-28 cruise that stops for two hours in Bahia Magdalena to watch whales and other marine life.  We chose this cruise ... Read More
My husband and I had a wonderful, relaxing trip to the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam.  We took the February 21-28 cruise that stops for two hours in Bahia Magdalena to watch whales and other marine life.  We chose this cruise specifically for the whale watching.  We are in our early 50s and this was our fifth cruise; second time on Holland America.  Even an outbreak of the norovirus did not spoil the cruise for us.  The staff took every precaution to stop the spread of disease while serving us in style.We arrived by car from Riverside on Saturday and used the Park & Go lot with an online coupon. (We paid $49 for the week.) The shuttle driver kindly took us back to our car when we realized we had forgotten our cell phone. Embarkation took a total of 25 minutes: 5 minutes to check in and 20 minutes to wait until it was our turn to board. The port facility is not very pleasant. Aboard the ship we headed straight to the Lido buffet, which was very crowded. It was frustrating going from station to station to get what we wanted, and we did not have a tray to put things on, so we kept having to go back. We finally found an empty table outside by the pool, but we had to put up with smokers all around us. The food was quite good, but the beverage glasses were tiny and we kept going back for refills. After lunch we explored the ship and then relaxed in our room until the lifeboat drill. HAL takes this drill very seriously, and they are efficient about it. Our luggage was not delivered until 5pm. We had a "fully obstructed view," but in fact only about half of the view was obstructed with pulleys and hydraulics for lowering a lifeboat. Once we saw a man working on the equipment outside of our window. The room was well-lit and comfortable, but there was only one decent chair for the two of us. The bathroom was a good size for a cruise ship, but this was a handicapped room (even though we are not handicapped). The problem with the room is the lack of drawer space, other than very small drawers at the sides of the bed. Also, our large suitcase had to stand in a corner rather than in the closet so that our clothes would not get crushed. The temperature control was touchy; it took us two days to get the room at just the right setting, and then the temperature kept changing anyway! The two days at sea at the beginning of the cruise got a bit boring. We took a Spanish class both days and went to afternoon tea (always a good experience). We walked around the Promenade Deck for exercise along with many other people. We also used the only two elliptical machines in the gym. We spent reading, doing crossword puzzles, and lounging around. We spent a good portion of each day eating. The Lido buffet food was very good, but we got tired of constantly getting up for beverages, dessert, etc. On the "at sea" days the buffet was quite crowded for breakfast and lunch. Once we had lunch in the dining room to escape the crowds and noise, and the food there was excellent. dinner in the dining room was excellent each night, and most of the time (but not always) the portions were generous. Appetizers and salads were excellent, but the soups were sometimes skimpy on ingredients. Desserts were excellent, except that the ice cream was always half melted by the time it arrived. (Even at the buffet the ice cream was melting when we got it.) Dinner was leisurely; it took 90 minutes to 2 hours for us to finish a meal each night. Some nights we had problems getting our beverages refilled. Overall, though, dining was an enjoyable experience. One night we had an outstanding meal with great service at the Pinnacle Grill. This was definitely the smoothest cruise we've been on out of five. The whale watching from 7am-9am on Monday was enjoyable, but this is NOT a photo opportunity. We often saw spouting water and tails at a distance, and one gray whale swam close enough to the ship for us to see its mottled back. We also saw porpoises leaping out of the water and a sea lion swimming by, but again at a distance. If you want to get closer, you have to pay for an excursion on a smaller boat. The norovirus broke out early on our cruise. We were informed right away, and the staff took extra precautions. We were no longer able to dish up our own food from the buffet, and we could not check out DVDs. All common items were taken off the tables at meals (salt and pepper, etc.) We were reminded constantly to wash our hands and use the hand sanitizer. One of the people at our dinner table for six came down with the virus and was confined to his room for most of the cruise. But his wife never got it, and she kept joining us for dinner. None of the rest of us got sick. Each day we were informed about the progress of the disease. About 100 people (out of 1800) came down with it; apparently many of them had cabins in the same area of the ship. When our cruise ended we discovered that the media had blown the outbreak all out of proportion and were even reporting false information about our cruise. We are cheapskates when it comes to shore excursions. On Tuesday in Mazatlan we just took a cab to the cathedral (beautiful inside), walked through the interesting market, and looked at the Peralta Theater. After a couple hours we returned to the ship. On Wednesday in Puerto Vallarta we had a lot more fun. We took a cab to the cathedral (worth a visit), and we enjoyed walking along the Malecon looking at the statues and the intricate sand sculptures. We had a nice Mexican lunch at La Chala along the Malecon and were serenaded by musicians. There are some very good, reasonable shops in the area. Then we took the cab back to the Wal-Mart by the port and bought some souvenirs. Next to Wal-Mart is a modern shopping mall. On Thursday in Cabo San Lucas we paid for the HAL shore excursion that was a boat ride to El Arco and then a bus trip to an overlook. It was very hot that day (probably 100 degrees), and we stood around for 45 minutes before we were herded onto a boat. The boat ride and the views were wonderful great photo opportunity. But by the time we got back to shore, we had no interest in going to the overlook restaurant. We and several others chose just to go back to the ship at that point. (I wish we had just gone to shore and found a cheap boat ride in the first place, instead of paying the inflated price for a HAL shore excursion.) Tendering was a fast and easy process for us. Friday, the final day at sea, got a bit boring for us, but that was o.k. because we could rest up before returning to work. Entertainment on the ship was pretty good. The singers and dancers were talented, but the show itself was uninspiring. The Olympic gymnast was very entertaining and fun to watch. The magician was also quite good and humorous. I was hoping to see the Elton John impersonator, but he was not on our cruise. Disembarkation was fast and easy. Then we stood around at the port for about half an hour waiting for our shuttle to the parking lot. We did feel like the young people on this cruise. The average age must have been in the 60s. At times I got tired of hearing pre-rock 'n roll music in the lounges (e.g. Frank Sinatra). Occasionally I heard some Rolling Stones, but the piped-in music never seemed to get beyond the 1960s. The upside of having an older clientele is that people are very polite to each other and know how to make conversation. Also, it didn't hurt my ego to feel young for a change. Overall, we like Holland America cruises. In fact, we booked our next cruise while we were on this one. We're impressed by their professionalism and their class. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an ... Read More
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an oceanview. The second was also to the Caribbean on the Volendam in an oceanview.) This cruise was to the Mexican Riviera out of San Diego. We weren't looking specifically for this destination, but the rate was too good to pass up. It was SO much less expensive than comparable length Caribbean cruises at the same time. This seems to be one of HAL's best value cruises since it is still substantially cheaper than other HAL offerings a year later. ABOUT THE EMBARKATION PORT. San Diego was a pleasure compared to Fort Lauderdale (where we sailed from on our previous cruises). You could even walk from the airport to the cruise terminal if you didn't have to deal with luggage! (It's about 2 miles.) We flew in a couple days before and stayed in one of the several hotels that is within a few blocks of the terminal. We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was a two block walk to the ship. We walked pulling our wheelies behind. There is a high-rise Holiday Inn immediately across the street from the terminal - after checking out from your hotel, all you need to do is negotiate a crosswalk to check in for the ship. The whole experience of airport-to-hotel-to-ship transfers were absolutely painless. The proximity of the airport made catching your flight home much less stressful, too. ABOUT THE CABIN. We booked an SY cabin (Superior Veranda Suite) for about $800. Some time before saildate (maybe 6-8 weeks) we got a call from HAL asking if we wanted to upgrade to SA (Delux Veranda Suite) for $295pp. We jumped at it. The total for the cruise was just a little over $1300pp for the second largest stateroom on the ship. Was it worth it? Oh yes! It definitely was. The stateroom was more than 500sf with a very large and comfortable sitting area and a huge bathroom with two sinks, a jacuzzi tub and separate shower. There was a large, well-lighted dressing area with lots of closet space. The veranda was large enough for two lounges and a table & chair set. Waiting for us in the room was a bottle of wine (or was it champagne?). The stateroom was nicer than many hotel rooms I've stayed in. To give you a sense of how large it was: without moving furniture around, there was enough open floor space for the two of us to stretch out on the floor and do yoga! Another benefit about having a suite is you get priority boarding and departure. We didn't know this when we checked in, but as soon as we cleared check in, we were told to go right on board. A nice unexpected perk. NAVIGATOR LOUNGE. For passengers booked into Deluxe Veranda Suites and Penthouse Suites, there is a Navigator Lounge. It is a large, comfortable room in the center of the ship (no windows). There is constantly food and drink (coffee, tea, juice) available for self-service. (The staff will also offer to have you sit and they will get what you want.) We got our breakfast from this Lounge every morning and walked down the corridor to our room to enjoy our breakfast on the veranda. There is a nice breakfast selection, an excellent variety for a light lunch, hors d'ouvers in late afternoon, pastries and sweets all along the way. We would also go to the lounge to have tea and play cards mid-afternoon. It is a very quiet, comfortable, welcoming place. SPA & HYDRO-THERAPY SUITE. We splurged ($250/cpl) for the week and used the hydro-therapy suite. The eucalyptus steam rooms, heated ceramic lounges, and luxurious, quiet and large therapy pool were totally worth it. I lost many hours that week in utter relaxation! THE SHIP. I was a bit concerned about the size of the Vista Class ship. Our two previous cruises were on significantly smaller ships. One of the things I liked about those experiences was the lack of crowds. I was pleasantly surprised. The only time I felt at all crowded was our first night going into the dining room. There was a long line with people waiting to be shown to their tables. That didn't happen subsequent nights because people knew where their tables were. The ship felt exactly like the other HAL ships I was on. I liked the familiarity and definitely liked how the 1800+ passengers seemed to disappear nicely! It was never even a problem finding a deck chair at the pool or on the Promenade. THE FOOD. I have read mixed reviews about the food on HAL. Personally, I have yet to be disappointed. We're both "foodies" and appreciate fine dining. The meals in the main dining room consistently surprised me. I always marvel at how they serve so many people such high quality food. The Pinnacle Grill is very much worth the small surcharge. The meat that I've had there surpasses what I've had at most dining establishments on land. SERVICE. We had a table mix up our first night. Since this cruise was a celebration for our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to have a table for two. We were seated at a table for six (or was it even larger?). This was a big disappointment (and the only one on the cruise). We chose not to dine there that night after discussing the mix up with the dining room manager. The next day we got a call in our stateroom from the manager - he would have us seated at a table for two for the rest of the cruise. One night we off-handedly mentioned to our waiter that it was our anniversary. The next night he surprised us with a "Happy Anniversary" cake. This was particularly nice because, as a gay couple, we really appreciated the being treated as a couple. The dining room manager even wished us a happy anniversary when he next saw us. These little personal touches are the types of things that have happened on each of our HAL cruises - and it's one reason why we're brand-loyal. NOTABLE POINTS ABOUT THIS CRUISE. I particularly liked that 3 of the 7 days were at sea. I really enjoy at sea days. I wish HAL had more cruises to nowhere. When I'm looking for a cruise I look for one with a high ratio of at sea days. We had lots of whale and seal sightings on this cruise. We enjoy jazz and classical music. Each night in the Explorer Lounge after diner there was a string quartet that was truly excellent. It was a lovely way to close the evening. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
Embarking at the cruise port was quick and easy - off to lunch right away until our rooms were ready. Veranda suite was wonderful. Adequate balcony with comfy chairs and table. Lots of cupboard space and nice bathroom. The bed was ... Read More
Embarking at the cruise port was quick and easy - off to lunch right away until our rooms were ready. Veranda suite was wonderful. Adequate balcony with comfy chairs and table. Lots of cupboard space and nice bathroom. The bed was the best and the comfy robes were a nice touch. The room attendants (Deden and Adanan) doted on us and left us fresh fruit and towel animals daily along with chocolates. Dining was very good. Excellent variety of offerings for breakfast and lunch. Loved the icecream bar. Never tried the pool grill but heard the french fries were excellent. I was a tiny bit disappointed in the dining room meals - I kind of expected them to be "to die for" and they were good, but not memorable. I have read other reviews praising the Pinnacle Grill, but we never ate there. The wait staff (Sony and Joko) were excellent and knew us by name the second day. Half moon key, our first stop, was beautiful. The water was a bit chilly so we didn't venture in long. The barbecue lunch was mediocre but the warm air and the entertaining chickens and their babies scurrying along through the shrubbery made up for the so so food. My husband isn't much of a beach bum so we headed back to the ship after a few hours. Our second stop at Grand Turk was on a very windy day. Our catamaran excursion was cancelled, but we were offered a snorkel and stingray adventure instead. We had a great time and the rough water on the departure and return made for bonding with the other participants. Grand Turk has work to be done after the devastating hurricane. We didn't venture any further than the cruise port area. Grand Cayman was the third stop - the port is pure tourist bliss or hell depending on how much you like to shop. We took Cpt. Nemo's snorkel adventure and at first thought we were on the wrong excursion when we were ushered below deck of a boat to sit on benches and look out large windows. They toured us over 2 wrecks then stopped in the harbor and we did snorkel over the reef. It was a bit crowded with a kayak tour at the same time, but they moved off and we saw Parrot fish, jackfish, Sgt. Majors, and we even saw a sea turtle. It was an excellent excursion. Our fourth stop was at Cozumel. The tours to the ruins were full day trips and the dolphin encounters were out of our price range so we opted for a zipline and adventure park/snorkel outing. We were taxied out to a resort about 20 minutes away from the port and got to ascend "rock" towers, navigate rope bridges, slide along a zip line and try rappelling. Afterwards we got a chance to snorkel off the beach before ending the adventure with a free drink. Be warned about the vendors at the Cozumel Port: I found them to be somewhat aggressive, so if you're not interested in shopping, don't make eye contact! The evening shows were excellent - loved Joel Mason and Jim Labriola, the comedian. Watched the finale of Westerdam Idol - the judges (DJ Jazzy, Joel and Jim were judges - it was a scream! We took a mixology course while on board and could have gone to afternoon teas, played trivia games and bingo if we weren't on excursions. Enjoyed the different lounges and bars; Explorations cafe/internet area was popular. We are used to high speed internet so be warned the speed on ship is snail-pace and very very expensive: $.75 per minute unless you buy bulk minutes starting at $55.00 for 100 minutes. In the cafe you could read a book or work on a jigsaw puzzle (note to HAL - you need better lighting for those who wish to work on puzzles in the evening) Avoided the casino because of the smoking. The public areas were always being polished or vacuumed and the ship was very clean. Hand sanitizing stations were everywhere so you didn't worry about norovirus. The shops on board were a bit pricey and we could do without the art auctions or photo gallery. If you like drinking liquor and pop, be aware it doesn't come cheap especially the tempting mini bar in your room. A mini bottle of wine from there was $8.00 and a can of pop was $2.00 and don't forget the 15% gratuity on top of that. We liked the mail boxes at our door which always had little notices about what was happening on the ship or at our next stop. We were sad to leave the last day, and disembarking and customs was fast and painless. Overall we had a terrific vacation, the weather was great - we didn't feel sick even though we had one day with rough seas. I would highly recommend HAL's Westerdam to anyone looking for a relaxing and pampered holiday. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
We recently took a cruise on Holland America. This was our 1st with HAL but have taken many other cruises. I will probably never cruise with them again. EMBARKATION was very slow. We have never had to wait in such long lines as this. Once ... Read More
We recently took a cruise on Holland America. This was our 1st with HAL but have taken many other cruises. I will probably never cruise with them again. EMBARKATION was very slow. We have never had to wait in such long lines as this. Once onboard it was very crowded in the Lido Dining area. I had read in previous reviews many of the same things but ignored them. Another tip: When you first get onboard they try to sell everyone these cocktail cards but then one wants to take them. Probably because I don't think they get a tip on these. If you like lots of martinis or specialty drinks then do buy it but otherwise I would say stay away. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: I would say that probably 85% of the passengers were over 75. We always enjoy the nightlife on the ships and would go into the disco maybe to find 4 to 6 people. We are used to them being packed with people on Royal Caribbean. We also had a problem with our room. We were awakened every morning by what sounded like chairs being dragged above our room.We were on the deck below the pool deck close to midship. When we complained, we were told they could not move us because there were no other rooms available. They did send a bottle of wine and give us a small room credit but this was no compensation. HALF MOON CAY- We were really looking forward to this. We had planned horsebacking riding and also rented beach chairs but this stop was cancelled due to bad weather. Which was a good decision because the weather was awful, very strong wind and rain. To sum everything up I would definitely do a Southern Caribbean Cruise again but next time will do more research and find a better fit.My husband and I are in our forties and had it not been for the fun group we were with, we would have been very bored. Also, one more note of interest. In order to get the advantage of using the Neptune lounge you must book a Deluxe Suite or better. We booked a superior suite thinking this would be for all suites and paid $1000 extra. The only perk this gets you is DVD Rental and who about free DVD rental we want to have fun on the ship. We really enjoyed our time much more off on the boat. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
The boarding process went smoothly. The parking was a snap with "Park n'Fly". It was prepaid online through AAA and cost about $73.50. The Holland American Line has a group of passengers wait in a waiting room similar to ... Read More
The boarding process went smoothly. The parking was a snap with "Park n'Fly". It was prepaid online through AAA and cost about $73.50. The Holland American Line has a group of passengers wait in a waiting room similar to an airport. Your number is called and the next thing you know, you are on board. Since we resolved our dinner arrangements we went straight to the Lido for lunch. It was just prior to 1pm and our stateroom was ready on time. We have experienced friendlier stewards on the Rotterdam and the Volendam. I think our steward had 28 cabins (Veranda type). Once day I saw him way up the hallway from our room and was amazed. We had a wonderful time with our tablemates. I think we were both surprised how much fun and laughter we experienced. Vacationing with complete strangers can be a challenge, but very rewarding. I am always amazed that planning our vacation this way would not be possible otherwise. We booked in December for a February cruise and was unable to obtain late seating same table scenario. Just a few days before our cruise agent was able to confirm a table for 2-4 people. I think ordering wine online for your table may have done the trick. Plus I had the agent write an email to the line to request our seating. The spa was very good as I had some neck and shoulder issues that a few services helped clear up. I had the floating massage with seaweed, a regular massage and acupuncture (1st time). We have not been to St. Thomas or San Juan in over 20 years. I avoided those ports because we have been their many times before. San Juan was a surprise as we enjoyed strolling down and around the fort. St. Thomas, we were not there for shopping so took a cab ride to look over the sites by Red Hook. There was lots of traffic (4 ships in at once), so our wonderful cab driver drove us around town and got us back to the ship on time. Pity the poor couple that missed the ship as we saw them standing on the pier with an official with a radio and a van to help them. The next day was at sea and the following was at the private island. Guess they were able to meet the ship in Ft. Lauderdale-enough time to pack up and depart for the next group of passengers. Departing was sweet sorrow, but it was the easiest ever -we have been on about 10 cruises. We took the outside elevator about 5 min. before our designated time and landed precisely at the debarkation ramp swiping our card one last time-toodle lu! Also our ride back to the car was very quick using the luggage valet was very smart as he knew the best line to go through customs and he knew exactly where the Park n' Fly van would pick us up. Just a reminder for those who book on the Navigation deck floor #8: There was a lot of moving furniture right above our cabin especially in San Juan. They were setting up a buffet on the pool deck above us. We did complain as it appeared that the towel rack was above us too. There was a lot of movement of people walking on a daily basis. The ship apologized with a plate of chocolates, just what we did not need! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
This was our 9th cruise and we loved everything about it! The Eurodam is a large vessel which we have been wary of during past cruises due to lines and crowds. This was not the case on the Eurodam. The public areas, especially the library, ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise and we loved everything about it! The Eurodam is a large vessel which we have been wary of during past cruises due to lines and crowds. This was not the case on the Eurodam. The public areas, especially the library, computer lab, various bars and pools all offered much space for such a large crowd. This was our second Holland Cruise and we will return. Our veranda cabin was spacious including a full tub to shower in instead of the corner units we are used to. Closet space was abundant and the cabin was decorated nicely. The veranda was large enough for our needs. Our steward kept our cabin extremely neat and provided the usual extras including towel animals each night, candy at turn down, and the necessary newsletters and reading material on a daily basis. The food and entertainment were the highlight of the cruise. Everything was fresh, varied, and delicious. Meal presentation was also well done. We heard raves regarding the menu and food from everyone we met at "open seating" which we love. This allowed us to meet many wonderful companions each evening. The entertainment each night was wonderful. From classical guitar to the ship's singing & dancing group, we enjoyed each performance. A highlight was "Jimmy the Piano Man" who entertained and interacted with us each night in the Piano Bar next to the Casino. He is a great entertainer and not to be missed! We have been to the ports previously and thus we did not take any ship's excursions. Looking back, we would reserve space on a few islands to get the local flavor and island experience. Half Moon Cay was a wonderful stop and we enjoyed the entire day on the beach. The cook out was great and the island is kept in pristine condition. Reserve beach umbrellas as we did ahead of time since they run out by the time the ship leaves port! We took a large bottle of water from our desk for the beach experience and were charged for the bottle. Had we known, we would not have taken it. No big deal...ask first. The final day breakfast was terrific as usual but the service was not as excellent as it had been. We had the feeling that we were being hurried in time to disembark. We have noticed this on other cruise lines as well. We ordered morning coffee twice and found the room service a bit slow. Allow an extra half hour when ordering. With only these three minor criticisms, we praise the Eurodam and this particular cruise. We had a great time!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
This was the second cruise on the Zuiderdam for my wife and me. I'm male, she's female and she's my "partner". The first was a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean in 2005. This was a 10-day cruise to Panama and ... Read More
This was the second cruise on the Zuiderdam for my wife and me. I'm male, she's female and she's my "partner". The first was a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean in 2005. This was a 10-day cruise to Panama and the first time we've deviated from the standard 7-day itinerary. Embarkation: Smooth and easy Room: Balcony on port side, great view. We smoke on vacation so it's always a balcony for us because we don't smoke in the room or near non-smoking areas, ever. We also try to be as courteous to our neighbors as possible. The room was always clean but the room steward had an attitude from the start. He wasn't rude, he just didn't seem like he wanted to be on the ship. Personally, I couldn't care less about his attitude as long as the room was clean but my wife didn't like him. He still got the full tip because the room was always clean. Room service menu and food is still the best at sea among the standard lines. RCCL is second. Ship: Always clean and always being cleaned. Not too many wide open spaces but that doesn't bother me. It's a cruise ship. Some are more wide open than others. It is tastefully decorated and easy to get around. The longest I waited for an elevator was maybe one minute. Weather: Sunny every day. We were lucky Crew: Attentive and friendly. Some moreso than others but excellent crew overall. Food: Above average banquet food. We know this, it's a fact, so we accept it and have fun. I find it amusing how people review standard cruise line food and can't believe each meal is not on par with Crystal or Regent or the finest restaurants in Paris and New York. You get what you pay for, as far as the food goes, on a standard cruise line ship. (Crystal or Regent cruise: $10,000+ for two, HAL/Norwegian/RCCL cruise: $3000 w/balcony for two...yes, there is a difference in the food, get over it). HAL has improved their sushi in the Lido since our last HAL cruise on the Westerdam over a year ago. Lines were a little long at times, during lunch, but if one is not too picky, it's easy to get something good all the time. We ate dinner in the dining room about 4 times and it was always good...sometimes great. We had open seating and never had a problem getting a table. Never ate in the Pinnacle because we didn't want to get hammered about buying a $200 bottle of wine to go with an above average steak. I can go to The Palm or Ruth's Chris when I get home and know that the expensive wine I'm drinking has not been shaking on a rack in a ship for 6 mos Shows: We don't do them on cruise ships. Seen plenty in Vegas and if you've seen shows in Vegas, well...knock yourself out if you still want to see cruise ship shows Casino: Every night. Smoked my brains out, drank my fill and had a ball. After this ten day cruise, I was down $200. Not bad. I was actually up until I got greedy and played the dollar slots too much the last two days (it was like Ignitowsky playing Pac-Man on TAXI). However, this was the first cruise I've been on where I won at Black Jack every night I played. I didn't get rich but I left the table ahead every time...and when I play, I play for at least an hour. Never played craps or any of the weirdo card games. The casino staff is friendly, fun and helpful...most of them anyway Ports: Were there other ports besides going through the Panama Canal? When my wife and I sail the Caribbean, it's the beach for us. Half Moon Cay was good except that the Westerdam was there at the same time. Double the crowd. This was a first for us as we've been there twice before with HAL and each time, we were the only ship. Oh well, it was still fun and relaxing. It's also the best cruise line-owned island in the Caribbean for relaxing in the sun. Don't know what the food is like on Half Moon Cay because we always eat a big breakfast, take the tender to the beach, relax in and around our clamshell, drink a few beverages and then head back to the ship mid-afternoon. Why? The food on Half Moon Cay is HAL food...so it's the same as the ship and you don't have to walk a mile down the beach to get it...and wait in a long line. We didn't do any shore excursions (again, we do the beach and/or shopping, if there's time) but Costa Rica was fantastic. My wife speaks fluent Spanish and we took a cab to a local beach about 20 miles away. The driver stayed with us all day to make sure we got back to the ship on time. We bought him lunch and had a great time with him. There was an outdoor Caribbean cafe nearby and we had an excellent, relaxing lunch. He also took us to a reputable convenience store in the local village to get bottled water, beer and an ice chest for the day since there is no concession service at this beach, it is still pristine. Total fare including his lunch was about $100. NOBODY from our ship was at this beach (wish I could remember the name of it) and it was something out of a tropical fantasy movie. My wife and I like to stay away from the herd, as much as possible, when on shore in the Caribbean and Costa Rica was no exception. Note: our cab driver was inside the compound where you get off the ship, these guys are specially licensed to accommodate cruise passengers. Our driver told us (and showed us) the difference between a licensed cab and those that are not. Thanks to my wife and her language skills, we were able to find out why it's only safe to use the cabs inside the cruise compound in Costa Rica. Take my word for it. We gave the driver the ice chest and what was left of the beer along with the fare and tip. Great day! There was not enough time in the other ports to do much of anything except shop. Going through the Gatun Locks in the Panama Canal on the Zuiderdam was everything we expected and more. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you have to do it to really appreciate it. Everything was on schedule as planned. Great job by the captain and crew Shops: Duty-free is good as usual. Don't buy Holland America boxed chocolates. My wife bought a box and  when we got home and tried it, the chocolate was stale and rancid. Disembarkation: The best there is. We were scheduled to leave the ship at 9:50 a.m. We had breakfast in our room and were not required to leave our room until we were called. Nobody else does it that way.Value: Good overall. My only complaint is that HAL has gone WAY up on beer prices, at least on this cruise. A domestic (US) beer was $5.00 on this cruise. The first time I ordered one on the cruise and the bartender handed me the receipt I thought he charged me for two beers. Upon finding out that the receipt was accurate,  I asked him if the food and beverage manager would, at least, kiss me first. If you get a bucket of beer, which is 5 beers, it's ONLY $19.85...what a deal, NOT! We were on the Westerdam in Jan. 2008 and beer was about $3.60 which is still a ripoff but understandable. I hope HAL decided to rip us off only on the Zuiderdam for this ten-day cruise. And that, my friends, is why I gave this cruise 4 stars instead of 5. I know the cruise lines need to make a profit but five bucks for a Coors Light is insane. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
We flew into Ft. LAuderdale. We booked thru Holland America, so they took care of the reservations, which was fine for the trip down, but not home!! More on that later. Anyhow, we did not pay for transfers as the airport is only maybe 2 ... Read More
We flew into Ft. LAuderdale. We booked thru Holland America, so they took care of the reservations, which was fine for the trip down, but not home!! More on that later. Anyhow, we did not pay for transfers as the airport is only maybe 2 - 3 miles, so a cab ride was only a total of $12.00 and that included a 8 - 10 minute at the port to get in. Once arriving, we were quickly checked in with no problems. We were in cabin 8123 with a nice balcony or verandah. The room was much nicer than many I have seen in the past. Lots of storage!! Not huge, but nice with a tub too!! Grand Turk was first stop, we went kayaking, and was informed by our young guide that the US had dropped a nuclear bomb on Grand Turks many years ago to form a back way in to attack Cuba - And he was serious!! But anyhow, Grand Turk was devastated by 2 hurricanes, and is really just wiped out and in a very poor state. I should have just stayed at the beautiful beach by the pier and hung at Margaritaville which is awesome, but expensive at $17 for a colada drink. San Juan was just OK, very westernized, not too impressive, although we went on a rainforest tour which lasted way too long, which was OK, but would have had as much fun staying on the ship. We also went on a driving tour called San Juan driving tour and shopping tour. It was a waste of time and $ St Thomas was neat, went to Magans BAy Beach, it was beautiful. Then went to Blackbeards castle which was boring, and then shopping. Shopping is only jewelry stores, so unless you plan to buy jewelry, and you can get good deals, don't bother. I got my wife a 2.17 ct blue diamond ring for $2,000.00 from Diamonds Intl. If My jeweler appraises it for less they will give $ back, and it is backed by Holland America. Half Moon Cay was incredibly beautiful. I can't explain it any better. Beautiful. Tenders were quick and only had to wait about 20 minutes to return, but I waited till the last minute to get back. Went on a nice bikeride while there. I would not recommend doing more than 1 tour per spot, and at that make sure it is not a long one. Definitely don't need one at Grand Turk, unless you just want to see what a Hurricane can do. Food all looked good. Thursday they had Crab Legs and Lobster so we cancelled our Pinnacle reservations, were told we would get our $40 back, but never did. So I had to wait in a long line to get the $ back. The ship was nice, food service was for the most part good. Food was not incredible, but was good. I am 37, my wife is 39. We Definitely felt a bit out of place. The average age is probably 70. Many many wheelchairs and walkers. Never sat at a dinner table that was not retired. They were all nice, but probably would have been better off with RC or Princess. My biggest complaint is the trip home that Holland arranged for us. We were made to get off the ship by 9:00 a.m. I caught a van ride to the airport quickly for $11 a person - not as cheap as a cab, but it was there and I was ready to go, so I didn't complain. They did not book our return flight home until 3:00. I had tried to get it changed months ahead of time with no luck, even though there were 4 other flights between 11 and 1. So we had to wait at the airport from 9:30 to 3:00 and watch all the other flights leave. They would not even check our luggage until 3 hours prior to the flight departing. They really let me down on that one. Next time I will book my own flights as I felt they really let me down after a pretty good week. Just a bad way to end a nice week. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
March 21-28 sailing: Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first...We were supposed to Grand Turks, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half-Moon Cay. Grand Turks was not possible due to high winds and worse seas, but that didn't dampen ... Read More
March 21-28 sailing: Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first...We were supposed to Grand Turks, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half-Moon Cay. Grand Turks was not possible due to high winds and worse seas, but that didn't dampen our experience. Yes, everybody looked drunk for the first couple of days because the ship was rockin' and rollin', but what do you expect in bad weather. The Eurodam is a modern beautiful ship with every amenity you can think of. Under the circumstance of bad weather, she performed nicely. We were bummed that we missed our excursion on Grand Turks (Dune Buggys), but we were safe and I'd rather be on this ship than at home anyday. We were fully refunded our fee for the excursion and port taxes we would have incurred. Food on the Eurodam...Lido cafeteria style was terrific! Rembrandt Room superb and the Pinnacle Grill was fanciful full of flavor. Mixed drinks were around $7, and were great. Anything that came in a bottle or can was extra. Meaning if it was bottled water or soda, you pay. I don't think this is right and all drinks that do not contain alcohol should be free. Wasn't a deal breaker though, tap water was delicious. Cabin Steward Eko: Wonderful young man with a heart of gold. He and his assistant took care of us so well, we wanted to bring them home with us. Our room was always clean and tidy, sometimes 2, 3 or 4 times a day he would visit our stateroom. Would I sail on the Eurodam again? Oh absolutely YES! If you didn't enjoy yourself, shame on you! You missed a great time! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We sailed on a back to back (7+7=14 days) cruise to the Caribbean with Holland America's Westerdam in March & April 2009. All in all it was a very pleasant ship and crew, and the food and entertainment and service were all up to ... Read More
We sailed on a back to back (7+7=14 days) cruise to the Caribbean with Holland America's Westerdam in March & April 2009. All in all it was a very pleasant ship and crew, and the food and entertainment and service were all up to spec. We rated the cruise a 8-9 on a scale of 10 in our evaluation, so we can recommend it to most anyone. Would we sail again ? Probably not. Stay tuned for the 'why not' after you read our profile to determine if our comments could apply to you too. We are a married couple from the Netherlands, in our late 40's, have no children, do annual cruises in the Caribbean of between 10-14 days, enjoy the better class lines like HAL and Celebrity, and enjoy our cruises for the food, the variety of destinations, the relaxation during sea days. We will not sail on a similar cruise with Holland America again, not because of anything disappointing with the ship or crew but rather with our fellow passengers. Two things in particular struck us this time around: 1) the abundance of children (even after Spring Break !) jumping in the stair cases, monopolizing the Lido pool, pushing elevator buttons, going on endless scavenger hunts, etc. Don't get me wrong: kids do kid stuff and indeed they should, but I am not sure I want to be part of it. But now that HAL seems to be aiming more for the business of families who obviously bring more kids, I am not sure that HAL continues to be my cruise line of choice. 2) part of the charm of a cruise (we think) is some dressing up for dinner. Nothing over the top, but a smoking an a formal night and lack of shorts during 'regular' night seems reasonable to ask. We were somewhat disappointed that a large minority of our fellow passengers decided otherwise. Obviously, this is entirely their privilege, but again, I am not sure I want to be part of that. If I can go through the trouble to bring a tuxedo all the way from Europe, than what is stopping the 'locals' ? I think we learned from this experience that: 1) we have to even more try to avoid US holidays 2) shorter (7 day) cruises apparently attract more casual passengers 3) we prefer cruise lines that do not have kids programs or aim for families. Again, we enjoyed our cruise for all the things that make a cruise worthwhile and have fond memories of the crew, the ship itself, the ports, etc, but will take a different cruise (line ?) next year. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
In December 2008, my wife and I elected to make reservations on HAL's newest ship the Eurodam. This would be our sixth cruise, our first on HAL. My wife and I, age 45 and 37 respectively, began to question our decision after we ... Read More
In December 2008, my wife and I elected to make reservations on HAL's newest ship the Eurodam. This would be our sixth cruise, our first on HAL. My wife and I, age 45 and 37 respectively, began to question our decision after we discovered the Cruise Critic website and began reading the various member reviews. However, having just returned from the Eurodam, we felt compelled to share our amazing experience with HAL! Embarkation - Since we live in the state of Florida, we chose to drive to Port Everglades and arrived at 12:15pm; within 30 minutes of our arrival at the port's security gates we had parked our car in the parking garage, checked our luggage, completed the boarding process, made independent dinner reservations for each night of the week while onboard, and were on the Lido Deck enjoying a wonderful lunch, sipping on a refreshing cocktail, and calling family and friends to share in our excitement. Stateroom - We booked a VF category, but were upgraded to a VA category at no cost. Thank you HAL, we truly enjoyed the enormous balcony! From the very comfortable mattresses to the quaint bathtub my wife so dearly loved, we found our stateroom to be the best encountered to date. Storage was comparable to past cruise lines with the exception of the storage drawers located at the ends of each bed, this provided additional storage not previously encountered during past cruises. Our stateroom steward was outstanding! Our room was always immaculate and the ice and towels fresh. Note: Staterooms are not available until 1:30pm, so if you arrive extremely early, expect to wait for your room; luggage was delivered by 5:00pm Dining - We opted for open dinning when making our reservations in an effort to allow us flexibility in dining times and eating venues. We found the food and service at all venues to be outstanding! Yes, the main dining room was a little slow, but one must take into account the significant number of persons dining. Here are just a few pointers to ensure your dining experience is as wonderful as ours: Review the sample menus on-line to determine where you want eat, agree upon which venue to eat at nightly in advance, make reservations immediately upon boarding, and enjoy the ambiance each venue has to offer. A must is the Tammarind Restaurant; you won't be disappointed! Special Note: Yes, the area around the Lido Buffet can become congested at times, but I think it's important to note that that is what happens when large masses of people converge on a single location. Patients is a virtue! HAL Staff - From the moment we arrived at the cruise terminal for embarkation until we departed the cruise terminal after disembarkation, every employee of HAL encountered greeted us with a smile and warm remark; my wife and I paid particular attention to how the staff interacted with us and other passengers based upon the various reviews we read. I have to be honest, not all encounters observed between the staff and passengers were pleasant. In these instances we found that is was actually the passengers being rude to staff members. Disembarkation - Very smooth and efficient! Expect baggage tags to be delivered to room the day before disembarkation. Luggage will need to be placed outside your door by 1:00am, the morning of disembarkation. We were scheduled to disembark at 9:15am, but were offered 8:45am. The whole process of claiming luggage and clearing customs took less than 20 minutes. My wife and I found our experience with HAL and the Eurodam to be amazing! We highly recommend both to anyone who is considering a cruise. We will return! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
This was our 16th cruise but first time on a Holland America cruise. We tried it because we were able to get a great price on a verandah stateroom. This was one of our best cruises we have ever taken. Not only was the service and food ... Read More
This was our 16th cruise but first time on a Holland America cruise. We tried it because we were able to get a great price on a verandah stateroom. This was one of our best cruises we have ever taken. Not only was the service and food excellent throughout the ship, but we sometimes felt like we were the only ones on the ship. There were plenty of quiet spaces. We never had trouble finding deck chairs or a space in the hot tub or pool. That made the cruise very enjoyable and relaxing. We rented a cabana in the retreat for the week and it was one of the best decisions we could have made. It became our special spot for the week and we made sure we were there everyday around 3:30 for champagne and chocolate strawberries. We would enjoy the shade of the cabana itself or lie out on the open deck on one of the comfortable lounge chairs. Our stateroom was well designed with a shower tub combination that kept the floor in the bathroom dry. There were drawers under the bed for storage. The closets had plenty of space to hand up our clothes. There was even a DVD player in our verandah. The beds had flexible reading lights on each side. Our stateroom was on the Navigation deck in the aft and was in a good location to easily get to the upper decks. The singer and dancers in the Main Stage were excellent and delivered three outstanding shows. Also good was an acrobatic show and a juggler routine. We were not impressed with the comedian that they had on our cruise though. Overall there were fewer entertainment activities than we have had on some of our cruises. We would probably have like to see more live entertainment around the pools during the day and more activities in the late evening. Our only negative about the ship is the design of the buffet. During peak times it became very crowded and it was sometimes difficult to find a table. But on the plus side, the buffet did offer many freshly made options including made to order omelets and made to order toasted sandwiches. The service was excellent throughout the ship, with the staff always smiling and acknowledging the passengers. Holland America is definitely changing for the better and we plan on cruising with them in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND ON US!: This is our 3rd cruise, one on Carnival in Caribbean and the other on Premier Cruises - to Panama Canal (smaller line, now out of business) We are 32 and 38 years old and have traveled fairly extensively in ... Read More
VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND ON US!: This is our 3rd cruise, one on Carnival in Caribbean and the other on Premier Cruises - to Panama Canal (smaller line, now out of business) We are 32 and 38 years old and have traveled fairly extensively in Europe, the US, Mexico and the Caribbean. We love great food and service and appreciate the odd and interesting things that you can experience while traveling. EMBARKATION:  We were very impressed with how quickly we got on the ship. From the moment we arrived at the pier it only took 50 minutes to get on the ship! This was quite a difference from our last experience with the Carnival Conquest in Galveston which took over 3 hours! 1ST DAY AT SEA: My husband got sick (probably from the airplane ride over from Texas) and they ask that he remain in his room for 24 hours. He stayed there sleeping most of time and they called and checked on him several times to see how he was doing. The staff was extremely friendly and offered to help in any way possible. The only person a little short with us was one of the nurses (Lois?), but the other ones were more friendly. I was helping my husband out a lot so I did not have quite the enjoyment on the ship I would have had if he felt better. SERVICE ON HOLLAND AMERICA EURODAM: I would like to comment on boat and crew/staff since they make up one of the most important reasons for choosing a cruise in my opinion. My husband and I went on Carnival Conquest last year out of Galveston and although we enjoyed that cruise very much, we are now sold on Holland America. The service on this ship was absolutely outstanding! From the very first day our cabin steward (Herwin and Liman) knew us by first name - they clean 28 rooms a day! They went out of their way every day to make sure everything was fine. They asked about our day, asked if my husband was doing better (from being sick), etc. We could write a novel about them, but I do not want to bore the reviewer. We never ran across a crew member who did not greet you with a smile on their face! FOOD: The food was definitely much better than Carnival, especially on the buffets, which in my opinion is tough to do for thousands of meals every day. For instance, for breakfast they had fresh squeezed OJ (not processes), along with a large assortment of other juices, a eggs benedict station with 7 or so different kinds of eggs benedict, waffle station with chocolate, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, etc., and much much more. In short, it was definitely several notches above Carnival. The staff in the buffet areas also seemed much more pleasant than Carnival, happier to be there. We did "As You Wis" and although that is convenient and we still sat with very nice people, next time we might opt for the set times. That way you have the same waiters each night with same group and get to know everyone better. Either way is really fine though. Food at seated dinners was slighter better than Carnival Cruise we went on last year. Again my expectations are never as high when you are serving thousands of people, versus a restaurant you pay extra for. Of course the pay restaurants can have better food because they are not serving the masses. We just enjoy the fact that we are being served good food by nice people and surrounded by interesting dinner guests. We met people from all over the world at our dinner table, Spain, Ukraine, Canada, Maine, etc. Dinner is a nice time to slow down and learn what everyone did that day. Oh and speaking of paid dinners, we loved the Tamarind and Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle was a little more rushed, but food excellent. Tamarind is up on the 11th floor and more isolated so it seemed more slower paced. Exceptional service at both. Pinnacle Grill is $20 per person for dinner and $10 for lunch. Tamarind is $15 for dinner and free for lunch. Do try Tamarind for lunch, it is a fixed fare of Dim Sum along with other Asian specialities, very yummy! Did not have time to try Pinnacle for lunch, wish we would have, it looked great. Both are worth every penny! Especially enjoyed the Silk Den lounge across from the Tamarind, has some of the best views on ship (along with Crow's Nest). DRINKS: I wanted to comment on the alcohol, felt it deserved its own section. Most of the "signature" mixed drinks were around $6.50 (additional $1.00 if you wanted a specific premium liquor). We loved drinking the Mojitos, they were fantastic. The daily special was $5.50 ($1.00 off) and they offered a different one each day. We felt the alcohol prices were extremely fair. They also had a huge selection with very interesting variations of some common drinks in the lounge menus (such as Silk Den where we hung out a lot). Another dinner guest commented that most of the mixed drinks on Royal Caribbean were around the $9.00 to $10.00 range without premium liquor. We do not drink sodas but saw a a menu a soda package of 20 sodas for $18 (I believe?) The truly only bad drink we had was the Pina Colada on Half Moon Cay at the "I wish I could stay here forever bar" (you can charge drinks to your room since it is an Holland America island). For some reason it was extremely weak and watered down. We asked the bar tender to make another but it was still bad. It was probably just the bar tender on the beach, because all the drinks on the ship were great! OTHER - (DESSERT NIGHT, LAUNDRY, SPA PACKAGE, MIDSIZE SHIP, OCEAN VIEW ROOM, OLDER CROWD, ETC): Pools very clean and beautiful, a little on cold side. Loved the dessert extravaganza on the last day at sea (10:30 p.m. on last sea night, which is formal night). Quite a presentation they did, we were too full from dinner to try anything. They do not have self serve laundry, but they do have a fairly good deal of laundry by the bag (the bag is about the size of a one and half basketballs) for $20 dollars. Sounds expensive I know, but they do everything, including wash, dry and press and you can fit a lot of clothes in that somewhat small bag... My husband and I paid for the hydro pool/spa package for the week. It is $250 per couple for the entire week and they only allow 40 couples (80 people total use it). It includes use of the inside hydro pool, 3 types of steam rooms and the thermal chairs. Extremely relaxing and because they limit the guests that use it, it was never crowed. This ship had around 2100 passengers, we like the feel of a midsize ship. I don't think I could do the larger ships again after experiencing the service on this ship. Some of these new ships have over 5000 passengers, are they crazy!? We had an ocean view cabin on the main deck (deck 1) and were very pleased with it. Nice size with bath/shower combo and wonderful view of water. I was worried about being on a lower deck, but ended up loving the view of the water in my opinion of much prettier on a lower deck (except when you arrive on an island and want to be up higher to see the views better). Comfy beds and a nice small couch in room. Holland America does have a reputation for an older crowd, my husband is 38 and I am 32 and it did not bother us. The week were on had 80 children and the week before had over 300. I thought there was a good mix of age groups, although probably a higher percentage of the older crowd. All in all if you are looking for a ship with exceptional service, quiet areas and great food, this is the ship for you. If you want rock climbing, surf boarding, and the belly flop contest, try Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Do your research, I think that people who complain a lot did not do their research on which ship fits their personality. Or they are just generally unhappy people, remember you are on vacation so have fun! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value ... Read More
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value for your money.   The embarkation went smoothly.  Pier 91 in Seattle is new and is well laid out for the two ships that were embarking on that day. We were fortunate in that we had sunny weather for most of the week.  It was strange to see so much snow on all of the mountains but it is still a bit early in the season. Sailing out of Seattle meant that we did not traverse the Inside Passage on either leg of our trip.  We missed that part of an Alaska cruise but still had a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy. There were plenty of humpback whales to observe at several portions of the cruise.  Dining is excellent. My wife and I did dine in the Pinnacle Grille a few times but the quality in the main dining room is still commendable. Portions are a bit smaller than in the past but that is a good thing as we tend to overindulge. They did offer a wine card of twenty pours which was plenty for us for the week.  It averaged about $3.50 per glass and offered six wines to choose from.  A good value and you did not have to buy a bottle. The food in the Lido deck was the same as what was offered in the main dining room.  Entertainment was fair.  The Zaandam singers will still feeling their way through the routine. No instruments were used during the shows. Everything was canned except for the flat singing of the four lead singers. They had no chemistry and blending. I found myself wondering when it would be over. They also had a saxophone player one night. He did a great job with some jokes and singing tossed in.  The final night we had the ubiquitous magician/comic act. He was very good and we enjoyed it but it seems each cruise has someone of his ilk as part of the entertainment.  Also, the cruise director must have been fairly new. He had the same routine each night and tended to read many announcements. Perhaps he will improve as the season progresses.  Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
    My wife and I love to travel, but with kids in college it's tough to budget for luxury vacations. Cruises are a great solution.  We enjoyed gourmet meals, live entertainment, scenic vistas, deluxe accomodations and superb ... Read More
    My wife and I love to travel, but with kids in college it's tough to budget for luxury vacations. Cruises are a great solution.  We enjoyed gourmet meals, live entertainment, scenic vistas, deluxe accomodations and superb service for an entire week - and all for under $1800 (total for two).  We met lots of other budget travelers onboard, too.  The passengers are varied: families of all ages, couples from all over the country, and some new local friends that we plan to see again. Most were very friendly, one cute old lady thought 'all the mountains looked the same' and that 'whales are boring'!    We sailed out of San Diego on Celebrity's Mercury in Nov 07 for a two week cruise along Mexico's west coast and enjoyed it a lot, even from our inside cabin with its 'virtual porthole' (the TV tuned to the exterior camera on the bow). We met a lot of passengers from San Diego who cruised often.  Last month, we decided to check out local departures from our home port of Seattle. We settled on the 6/5 sailing on HAL's Zaandam and found a discounted deal in H class to get at least a porthole. My TA at VTG was very helpful in putting the package together and our good karma landed us an upgrade to a nice verandah cabin on deck 7. We had a great time.    The weather was questionable as we left Seattle on Friday afternoon and we sailed in thick fog on the way to Juneau, but most of the week was bright sun. The seas were calm and the temperatures mild, but some thin blooded FL & AZ retirees consider anything below 72 to be 'freezing'. I never put on my coat or vest; didn't need to.  The ship was kept sparkling clean. We liked the size of the vessel; not too big and not too small. HAL's 'Star of Excellence' program' must be real because every hand on that ship was sincerely friendly and helpful. Everybody was sharing good comments about the staff & crew. Our cabin steward, Koko from Bali, earned an extra tip and the $11/day added gratuity was probably less than the crew deserved. Without exception, they were all great, in the dining rooms, the shows, the entertainers, the cruise director Michelle, DJ Barok, et al. Thanks!  HAL rocks!    The port calls in SE Alaska are small towns. Juneau has a comical cruise-central commercial street, but we avoided that and enjoyed the State Museum and its interactive displays. Forget the '50 years of statehood' caps; no Alaskan would ever wear one (Alaskans voted down statehood twice before the military was bussed to the polls to vote it through).In Sitka we rented bicycles from Yellow Jacket Bikes @ $25/day and got some needed exercize. The scenic workout room on the top level forward and walks around deck 3 (4X=1mi) helped burn off the buffets too. Ketchikan had good shopping and we rode the Duck for a 90 min amphibious tour (I highly recommend Seattle's Duck tours to local visitors here). Frankly, I would have enjoyed rain in Ketchikan; 300 days of rain per annum and I get the odd sunshine! We stayed on board in Victoria, it deserves a full weekend to enjoy the gardens, water taxi tour, and high tea.    The food was good on board (my fave's). We alternated breakfast between Lido buffets (scottish eggs benedict) and Rotterdam seated dining (kippered herring). Lunch was always a quick buffet for us (asian noodles, sushi rolls) or the on-deck BBQ (beef/chicken satay, salmon). We floated around a calving blue glacier on Monday and were served yummy dutch pea soup on deck. We saw lots of orca pods, humpback whales, seals on icebergs, huge bald eagles and various smaller birds and critters throughout the cruise. Beautiful snowcapped mountains, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and rotary engined Otter floatplanes. Not a single bad moment to remember.    There was more going on than we could find time to do. Still we enjoyed bingo (first time and it was surprisingly fun), cooking classes, movies in the theater, and onboard contests (putting, trivia, hoops). I brought some new DVD's to watch in the cabin - but never did. We didn't even open all the wine we brought!  The drink punch cards are convenient (great martinis & mojitos) and the bartenders were Joval (yes, that's his Indonesian name). At dinner, we enjoyed the Rotterdam, especially on the two formal nights (escargo, steak & lobster, baked alaska). Try the chilled soups! We ate two dinners and a lunch at the Pinnacle and it was worth every penny of the token fee (onion soup, fillet mignon, vanilla souffle). I eat well entertaining clients in fine restaurants, but the service and food here were as good as it ever gets.    Now, let me offer some negative comments for balance. The art and jewelry for sale on the ships had zero appeal to us. We skipped the land excursions - but heard good comments from those who went. I was amazed to see three or four huge cruise ships all dock in these small towns on the same days. And these must be the toughest crowds for entertainers anywhere. The comedian-magician, Jeff Peterson, was very good, but the crowd looked like a bunch of Republicans after the last election. The singers and dancers were also very good - and nobody can complain about a medley. They have to keep it all very family oriented, so let me share you my own gag: "when my wife was filling out her comment card, she rated: Service: the top number 9, Food: 9, Entertainment: 9, Sex:7. When I looked at her card, I asked why the sex only rated 7 and she said, 'oh no honey, you were always a 10, but those other guys were all fives and sixes - none better than an 8".    The embarkation and disembarkation in Seattle was quick and painless (unlike San Diego's cattle drive) and we are already looking at future cruises on HAL. Two weeks would have been nice! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Just returned yesterday fro a 7 day round trip from Vancouver, BC to Alaska on the Zuiderdam. The trip was in celebration of my parents 50th anniversary. we had 9 family members on board with my wife and I in our late 40's, My parents ... Read More
Just returned yesterday fro a 7 day round trip from Vancouver, BC to Alaska on the Zuiderdam. The trip was in celebration of my parents 50th anniversary. we had 9 family members on board with my wife and I in our late 40's, My parents in their 70's, My mid-forties sister, and my early 40's brother with his wife and 2 preteen children. It appeared that at least 75% of the other passengers were 65 or older.Embarkation was fairly easy at Canada Place. The line to check in and board took about an hour including going through US Customs. We are Platinum Cruisers with another line and always have priority boarding with that line so I expected the worst but was pleasantly suprised. All passengers were sent to the Lido deck to wait for cabins to be ready at 2:30. We boarded at noon. We were suprised to find that our luggage arrived at our cabin by 5:00.The rest of my family had made the "Open-seating" meal-time selections. We had not, but the change rome Late to Open-seating was easily accomplished. Those that have open seating are strongly encouraged, by the ship's staff, to make reservations for dinner, especially if in a large party. Reservations for our party of 9 were limited to 5:00, 5:30, 8:00 and 8:30. This makes attending the evening show almost impossible. We also missed some of the great interactions we've had in the past with our Waiters at fixed seating dining. Also missed was the mini-show put on by the dining staff at the end of the meal. Our first dinner was an alarming start to the meal service! All our orders were taken at the same time but each person was served randomly. Some were still on the first course while others were being served the second after having waited for their food to arrive for over 15 minutes. Certainly not the treatment I expect on a HIGHER-END line. This pattern continued throughout the meal with my frustration growing by the minute. After 2 hours, with only half the table enjoying dessert, I had to complain! I spoke to the head waiter and of course he apologized. He paid special attention to us at subsequent meals but the service was never outstanding.Dining on the Lido deck was a disappointment. Food was only average and always had long lines. There are only 2 beverage stations and one always seemed to be closed for cleaning. Self service was discouraged and you had to wait for someone to fill your glass for you. There is no self serve water, coffee, Juice or ice tea stations in the pool area.The grill by the pool made a pretty good burger but the taco bar would fail Taco Bell's standards. The room service breakfasts we ordered the night before arrived on time, hot and well prepared. Room service breakfast food was of much higher quality than at the Lido Buffet even though the same menu items.Our veranda suite cabin was very nice. Bed comfortable and furnishings nicely appointed. Bathroom was fair. The shower drain was so slow to drain it spilled water onto the floor. We chose to shower in the bathtub which also drained slowly but contained the water. The toilet in my brother's cabin did not flush and required repair that took several hours to obtain. A difficult proposition with 2 small children in the cabin.Apparently the toilet problem was common as many restrooms in common areas throughout the ship were signed as "out of service" at times.The evening shows were quite good. A little higher quality than many I have seen on cruise ships. The "clean" comedian was great.Disembarkation requires that you read the info sheet delivered to your room very carefully. Something I failed to do. We got off the ship at the right time but at the wrong gangway with about 150 others and hand to wait 45 minutes in the dock terminal before we were allowed to go through customs and leave.Overall, our experience was disappointing. We feel that HAL or at least the Zuiderdam did not live up to the classy reputation it has. While we are not cruise "snobs", we spend alot of hard earned money to be treated to an experience greater than that of a mediocre resort.Our past experiences on other lines surpass what we encountered on the Zuiderdam and I expect the we will forgo HAL for another line in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Mediterranean MomentsOur Iberian flight left Washington D.C. for Venice on the evening of June 22nd allowing an extra pre-cruise day to explore this beautiful city.  We decided to stay a little off the beaten path in the Cannaregio ... Read More
Mediterranean MomentsOur Iberian flight left Washington D.C. for Venice on the evening of June 22nd allowing an extra pre-cruise day to explore this beautiful city.  We decided to stay a little off the beaten path in the Cannaregio neighborhood at the Hotel Vecellio.  This made for an easy transport from the airport on the Alilaguna water bus (less than a 10 minute walk to the stop and 13 Euro for the ticket) to the hotel which is located on the lagoon at Fondamenta Nuove.  It took about forty minutes and made one short stop at Murano. There was only one small set of steps to maneuver before entering this small charming family run hotel.  We practiced a little of our Italian while gathering tips of local places to have dinner, but not to worry as they also spoke English.  After refreshing ourselves, we set off to explore the area around the hotel which is quite residential and after about fifteen minutes arrived at Piazza San Marco.  From there we wandered along the amazing winding streets to the Rialto Bridge and checked out some of the shops.  To save time and steps as we weren't near a bridge, we took a traghetto across a small canal (inexpensive-.50Euro) and continued back to the Cannaregio neighborhood.  We had dinner among the locals at Osteria Storica which is run by the daughter-in-law of our hotel manager.  The seafood risotto was delicious but the S shaped Burano cookies and dessert wine was even better!  We were soon asleep with the sound of the water lapping outside our hotel room.   The next morning we walked to San Marco and easily purchased tickets for the Doge Palace at the Correr Museum and did a self-guided tour with info from Rick Steves.  Audio sets are also available.  This was a definite "must see."  We then waited in a long line for about 30 minutes to enter the Basilica San Marco.  We had done a lot of research about the basilica but the number of people, the overall darkness inside, and our schedule didn't allow for as much examination as I hoped.  If this is of great importance to you, plan to do a guided tour.  We returned to the hotel to pick-up our luggage, took a water bus to Piazzale Roma and a cab directly to the ship (10E.)  As we would be staying in Venice until tomorrow, embarkation was a breeze.....no lines at all.  We found the ship looking great with rich colors and many artistic accents.  We had lunch from the lido on the aft deck which became our favorite spot.  We returned to our cabin and found our luggage had arrived so we unpacked before heading back out to explore more of Venice.  We walked to the vaporetti stop and did a full tour of the Grand Canal.  Again using the info from Rick Steves, we were able to identify many of the key sites along the way.  We walked to the Rialto Bridge and again to Piazza San Marco and listened to the dueling orchestras before taking a cab back to the ship.  As it was now somewhat late for dinner, we decided to try dinner from the lido at one of the attractive table clothed areas.  This was not a good choice.  We found all of our entrees to be over cooked and dry.....perhaps because it was near the end of the serving time.  This turned out to be more the exception to the rule of our dining experience on the ship but we didn't return there for dinner either.  This is not to be confused with the new Canaletto Restaurant.   The next day we explored more of the city, did some shopping, and took pictures etc. before taking the water bus back to the ship for the sail away.  It was quite beautiful being on deck for this on a beautiful sunny day.  The music was playing, those fancy cocktails were flowing, and everyone was having a good time.  I would say contrary to other posts of HAL ships, there was quite a mix of age groups on board.  Though more than half were of my fellow Americans, there were also many Canadians and Europeans.  For those planning to travel this route this summer with children and teens, there were a lot of young people having a good time.  There were also a lot of young couples as well so this mix provided a good vibe. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } Our next stop was Dubrovnik.  We took the local bus to the Pile Gate and though we were open to walking around and climbing the wall at the Ploce gate entrance if the lines were long, this was not necessary.  Walking the wall is a must.  You really get to see the city from a perch.  There were even a few residents with small tables selling hand crafted items along the way. The citrus trees were full of fruit almost asking to be picked.  The people were very friendly. Having local currency I'm sure is preferred but they would also take Euro if the bills were small.  Stop for a gelato by the big ice cream cone in the main square before you leave. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } More sunny weather greeted us during our three days visiting the Greek Isles.  We walked into the city from the ship to explore the old city walls in Corfu and meandered through the streets.  Argostoli was a little gem on the Sunday morning we were there.  We attended a service at one of the churches, observed fishermen coming in with their catch of the day, visited an archeological museum, and enjoyed a cup of cappuccino before the shops opened up in the early afternoon.  Of course the favorite isle was Santorini.  The captain allowed us to go out onto the bow of the ship for the sail into the rim area.  We took the cable cars up to the top which moved right along after about a 10 minute wait.  We then took the local bus up to Oia.  This was even more beautiful than all the pictures that I'm sure you have seen.  Make time to visit here as it is less touristy than Fira.  We also took the local bus back which was inexpensive and you could buy tickets on the bus.  I believe they ran every hour this time of the year.  And then there is the sunset...whether you stay in Oia, Fira, or go back to the ship it is a lovely sight. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } Back to Italy where the choices are many.  The fish market in Catania was great fun, and you also have the ruins right in the center of the city along with the churches.  Sit on a bench and people watch as this is a vibrant place. In Naples we took the hydrofoil over to the island of Capri.  This was our family name so this was more special for me.  It is extremely scenic.  You can walk around the many lanes that look over the sea, walk through the Gardens of Augustus, and see the Faraglioni rocks.  There are also many shops and cafes to spend time in, as well. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } Arriving in Civitavecchia, we took the train into Rome and got off at the St. Peter's stop.  The train ride took about 40 minutes.  The train was very crowded and we had to stand during the trip in.  Once there, it is a short walk over to St. Peter's Square and there are also places to stop for a cappuccino. We chose to visit the Vatican Museum while in Rome as we had missed this during our previous visit.  Buy your tickets ahead of time online and get right in.  The art collection is amazing.  Our guide was great.  Pay attention when they explain highlights of the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the orientation of the tour as you are on your own when you arrive there at the end. You are also supposed to be silent which the guards had a hard time controlling!  The lines waiting to get into St Peter's were extremely long so plan for this or plan ahead!  In Livorno, we took the train and went to Lucca.  This was even more charming than I had expected.  The home of Puccini, it would be great to attend an opera if our visit was longer.  There are many beautiful churches and many shops to get lost in. Our last stop was Barcelona.  This is truly a magical metropolitan city.  We were there on a Sunday evening and so the Magical Fountains were showing there colors with music in the background.  It takes place in front of the art museum at the Placa Espana.  You can arrive there by Metro.  We added an extra day to our visit and stayed at the Hotel Jazz, a great modern hotel.  It was very conveniently located near the Catalunya metro stop.  It is close to La Rambla and La Sagrada Familia.  We only wish we had more time to spend in this fabulous city.   We truly had an enjoyable vacation sailing through one of our favorite destinations.  We found the ship to be in great shape with a variety of amenities.  With only one sea day we tried to save a few hours of each day for time relaxing on deck Though there were many people on  st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } board, we never found the ship to be over crowded.  With two pools, one having a retractable cover, there were plenty of chairs and tables for everyone to lounge around. I liked the old fashion wooden chairs with plump cushions.  We especially enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill and would highly recommend it.  We had both sea food and steak and both were cooked to perfection.  I would encourage booking ahead.....before you leave home.  We had booked two nights in advance and were given a third night from our booking agent that was a surprise when we arrived on the ship.  Unfortunately, we were not able to get a reservation for this third night (unless we ate at 5:45 the day we were in Rome) once on board as they were full.  They did arrange for onboard credit which was nice.  We really enjoyed anytime dining.  We never made reservations, always were able to get a table for four, and only one night did we have to wait twenty minutes (they give you a hand held beeper when your table is ready) for our table.  Though we had many different people serving us over the period, everyone was attentive and we did not find this to be a problem. Except for the first two nights when it was just ok, the food in the dining room was quite good, especially the onion soup.  Maybe they had trainees on those first nights!  During the cruise we celebrated Canada Day and the 4th of July.  On the July 4th celebration, they went all out with red, white and blue decorations, ice sculptures, carved fruit displays and of course bar-b-que. There was great emphasis on hygiene.  There was a letter in our room when we arrived explaining what they were doing to keep everyone healthy and what we should do to help.  There were many, many anti-bacterial dispensers dispersed throughout the ship, and a number of items were served to you in the lido.  The staff appeared to be working very hard and all tried to be helpful and friendly.  The special entertainment was excellent.  Preston Coe performed everything from a repertoire of the Three Tenors, Roy Orbison, and guitar riffs of Eric Clapton.  Leo Ward performed state of the art illusions sprinkled with comedy.  They each did one show in the early part of the cruise and returned for a joint show on the last day.  The HAL singers and dancers performed two energized shows of dance and Broadway.  The other lounge acts were the caliber mentioned in a number of previous posts.  I did have to use one service that I hope all of you don't have to.  I experienced a bad toothache and had to use the medical center.  Dr. Sanchez and his staff were great.  They helped to make me comfortable and even arranged for me to see a dentist when I arrived in Barcelona.  The other thing HAL did that impressed us was making everyone feel a little closer to home.  Having a news recap from a major news source in your country and printing both the daily program and the menu in your native tongue was a nice touch.  Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly as did tendering when it was necessary.  The G8 Summit was being held in Italy so extra security required that all of our passports be turned in for a few days and that procedure went well too.   Other than that, the only thing left to comment on is our cabin.  We had plenty of storage room and plenty of hangers....I even learned from some of you that I could lift the lid of the hassock for more storage options!  We used room service twice, though they had to enter sideways with the tray.  We enjoyed our robes and had more TV channel options than on Celebrity. Our only issue was their vacuum type plumbing system.  At peak times in the day there would be a long delay before flushing.  Though we often travel to Europe to visit family, we are new to cruising.  This was only our second cruise and our first on HAL.  I have learned so much from your many posted tips and comments and find great enjoyment in reading about your cruising experiences.  I hope my review recalls some memorable times for those of you that have been to these places before.  I also hope it provides information and confirmation to cruising newbies like me that you can have a wonderful time even if you aren't sailing in a veranda suite!  Hope to meet up with some of you on a future cruise.......    Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
Excellence!Holland America's Westerdam can be described in just one word.My wife and I had a wonderful time cruising from Seattle thru the inside passage visiting Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria.Our ship spent a day at Glacier ... Read More
Excellence!Holland America's Westerdam can be described in just one word.My wife and I had a wonderful time cruising from Seattle thru the inside passage visiting Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria.Our ship spent a day at Glacier Bay with our Captain getting us very close to glaciers for that once in a lifetime photo.Life onboard the Westerdam is splendor. The crew and waitstaff were there to pamper us at every moment. When they weren't serving us they were cleaning and polishing the ship. The crew truly enjoyed making certain that our vacation experinence was once in a lifetime unbelievably wonderful.Meals on the Westerdam were great as well - Do Not go on this cruise if you don't expect to gain a couple pounds. The food is so good that you have to taste and enjoy the different flavors. We had several dinners in the traditional seating of the Upper Vista Dining Room. Our waiter, EKO made our dining experience special along with our wine steward, Darwin who made sure our glass did not go empty. For that extra special dining experince we had to try out the Pinnacle Grill for some excellent Top Sirlon, Lobster and the biggest Porterhouse steak I think that I have ever had. To add to the already wonderful diniing experince we tried the chocolate souflee - oh wow good!After the wonderful food we enjoyed some great shows - Joel Mason, an unbelievable entertainer who impersonates Elton John. Joel also did an additional concert tributing the Eagles. Another wonderful show was Jule Barr's comedy show. Her interactive show drew the audience into her act. Mike Robinson - a talented ventriloquist - and his "friend" Terrance delighted the packed house with his unbelievable abilty to entertain. You actually will forget that Terrance is a chunk of wood. Mike's talent as a ventiloquist is fabulous.If you only have enough vacation money for one trip the Westerdam is certainly worth it.My wife and I had an EXCELLENT experience on HAL's Westerdam and look forward to our next trip.Thank you to the captain and the entire crrew. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
Tom and I booked the cruise fourteen months before departure on July 28th, 2009. We were celebrating a special anniversary and the cruise was to be the centerpiece of the longest holiday we have ever taken. A lot of times when you have ... Read More
Tom and I booked the cruise fourteen months before departure on July 28th, 2009. We were celebrating a special anniversary and the cruise was to be the centerpiece of the longest holiday we have ever taken. A lot of times when you have such a long time to look forward to something, the reality does not live up to the anticipation. Our cruise on board the Noordam was everything and more than we had hoped for. We flew into Rome on the 21st of July and rented a car for the week prior to the cruise. We got the car as soon as we landed and immeditely left for Venice. Because of accidents and road construction, the trip was MUCH longer than anticipated. I would take a train from the airport to Venice next time. We stayed at a small villa called Quatro Fontane on the Lido. It's a lovely place! Augusto, who is now 80 and still working there, remembered us from 10 years ago. We stayed in Venice for two nights and then toured Tuscany for a few days. Tuscany is like a Walt Disney production....there is a photo op at every turn. It was our first time there and we can't wait to go back. We spent Sunday afternoon and evening touring Rome. We stayed at the Inter -Continental hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps. The room was beautifully decorated and overlooked a lovely courtyard where meals were served. The Champagne breakfast was expensive but a special treat. Monday afternoon we left for the port. We planned to take the train after dropping off the rental car at the airport. Unless you are travelling with very little luggage , don't do it! It's a very long walk with lots of stairs. We ended up getting a car and driver. If we had known in advance how hard it was, we would have booked HAL's transport or a shuttle service. The night before the cruise, we stayed at the Hotel Triano which had received very good reviews. It was a bit of a disappointment. We found it to be a very basic 2 star hotel. We asked the people at the front desk to recommend a restaurant where we could have seafood and sit outside. Everyone staying at the hotel was directed to an Italian restaurant called "AQUA". It was fine....just not what we had asked for. I wish we had stayed in Rome for the additional night. It's only 1 1/2 hours to the port from Rome and the accomodation was SO much better! We got to the Noordam about 10:30. With perfect precision on HAL's part, we were on board in half an hour. We had an excellent lunch in the Vista Dining room thanks to a good tip from a former passenger. Virtually everyone ate at the Lido buffet restaurant when coming on board. We got the all clear to go to our cabins about 2:00 P.M. It was like Christmas when we opened the door to our room. Bottles of wine, Champagne, cards for the Pinnacle Dining Room and a HAL shirt for Tom were displayed on the bed and table. I had ordered these items before boarding on HAL's website.. What a wonderful way to start the cruise!! I wish now that I had ordered more because the wine was quite a savings compared to buying it on the ship. If the wine comes from HAL there isn't a corkage fee. The next day we went to a Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet" in the Crow's Nest. It was arranged by Swalm 22, a fellow Cruise Critic member. It was a great way to meet some very nice people. I think that Jan(Swalm 22) and his wife Jenny will be forever friends. They are from Holland and we spent a lot of fun time getting to know them. In advance of the cruise, we booked four nights at the Pinnacle Grill. We only went for two. We found the food in the Vista Dining room to be as good. The Pinnacle Dining Room gives you more ambiance which is part of the extra cost. The service is also very professional. Try to book in the back room of the Grill. It's more quiet and the atmosphere is so nice. We had a table for two on the rail in the Vista Dining Room. We loved it. It was fun to meet people from all over and talk to them over breakfast and lunch...then for dinner we could enjoy each other at our own private table. The food was spectacular. Every meal that was served to us could have been on a page in Food and Wine magazine. We took a tour of the kitchen and it was immaculate. Everything is prepared in small batches which is why the taste and presentation is so good. There are over 100 people working in the kitchen. It's amazing to think that all of them have to be graduates of a culinary arts school. I took a cooking class which was so much fun. Jerome, the head chef of the Pinnacle Grill conducted it. Afterwards we were served the meal we cooked in the Pinnicle Grill, complete with wine. I thought this experience was a great value. I'll defiantely do it again on the next cruise. Our favorite place to be at night was in the Piano Lounge. Jimmy Maddox was one of the highlights of our trip. He is so talented on the keyboard. One night he gave a Scott Joplin rendition that was better than anything we've ever heard. Jimmy knows how to engage the crowd so everyone has a great time. I was the "La La" girl a couple of nights. I must say that I'm glad that our six kids weren't there to see! Beyond Jimmy's talents he is a VERY nice person!!!! We spent a couple of late evenings in the Crow's Nest listening to Jenny and the HALcats. They were also talented and enjoyable to dance to. The Crow's Nest will definitely give you more of a "Night Club" kind of feel. We can't say enough about the staff. To a person, they were always smiling, polite and helpful. They all work so hard and are completely deserving of their tips and more. There are a couple of wonderful crew members that we are keeping in touch with. The nightly entertainment was OK. We didn't go to the Casino. Amanda the social director was a lot of fun and very friendly. We did a few trivia events with her and really enjoyed them. The cruise offered many exotic ports of call. Take advantage of Tom(in the Green shirt). He is an expert on every port. We spent a lot of time listening to him on the T.V. His knowledge really helped us to enjoy what we were seeing. We did three tours with HAL. All of them were very good and we were glad that we picked them to go on. Stopping at a different port almost every day was great. HOwever, it got a bit tiring trying to keep all the ports straight..."If it's Tues. we must be in....." The best compliment that we could pay to both HAL and the captain and crew of the Noordam is that we have already booked the same cruise with them for next year. Almost every Port of Call had two or three different excursions that we would have like to go on. Now we'll have that chance! As I said at the beginning of this review, Tom and I are now spoiled. I don't think we would even want to try another cruise line in the future. We could not recommend HAL or the Noordam more highly. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This was our first cruise in over 20 years. Way back when we enjoyed three different caribbean cruises. Now that the house in empty, it was time to try a cruise again. Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship was great, the service ... Read More
This was our first cruise in over 20 years. Way back when we enjoyed three different caribbean cruises. Now that the house in empty, it was time to try a cruise again. Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship was great, the service generally super, and the food basically excellent. No one can "Bat 1.000" and we understand that. The highlight of the cruise was visiting Hubbard Glacier. The pilot and captain were able to get us within ½ mile of the face and it was incredible. Sitka was also a very enjoyable port call and very beautiful. We took no official excursions there but I had arranged in advance a tour of the Coast Guard air station as we are a Coast Guard family and we greatly enjoyed the national historic park. We had booked a category "H" guarantee and were excited with the upgrade to a "D." In fact, we had one of two cabins on board with "Forward" facing windows, and thought it was so cool! Other positives were that they held a few on-board "Sales" of merchandise where certain Holland America branded items were reasonably priced. This was unexpected and appreciated. The entertainment was very good and getting to see "The Beatles" was a real treat. I took advantage of the Digital Workshop sessions and they taught me more about digital photos than I had learned in the last 5 years on my own. My wife took advantage of a daily "Spa special" and was in heaven. As a customer service professional, there were two issues where I think the ball was dropped. 1. We were very disappointed in the Juneau visit, due to the shore excursions we booked. a. We booked a "Mendenhall river float trip" for two reasons. One was so we could see the Mendenhall glacier, and two was to have a little adventure. We even got on the "Paddle raft" to make it a little more exciting. Why were we disappointed? Well, due to fires in northern BC and the Yukon, visibility was way down. Okay, they can't control that. But, the place they put us into the lake was far from the Mendenhall glacier, with a large hill between us and the glacier. So even if the air was clear, you would only see the top edge of the glacier's face and from quite a distance. I rated the trip a 2 on a scale of 1-10, and even if the air was clear it would not have made a 4. The was WAY overpriced for what is was. b. The shore excursion desk made a strong sell to "Buy tram tickets on board" to avoid lines as 5 ships were visiting Juneau. We were not going to do so but after their sales pitch avoiding lines sounded like a good idea. However, with the smoky air, there was no point in even taking the tram. The sales pitch was the day before the shore call and based on a great weather forecast, we bought them. Another wasted $54. There were no lines to buy tram tickets, but there were lines to board the tram, and having advanced tickets did not help. The shore desk should have been aware (it was only the day before the port call) of the smoke situation and warned guests. Literally there was "No view" at all from the top of the mountain and we were again very disappointed. They real key here is that if they had not talked us into buying tickets in advance there is no way we would have bought tickets at all and taken the tram. c. We reported these concerns to the shore excursion desk. They were a bit defensive. Two days later we received a "Thanks for letting us know note" but nothing more. 2. 8 hours or so after leaving the Hubbard Glacier one of the ship's propellers "Hit something" (later rumored to be a chunk of ice) which required the ship to reduce speed. Long story short, our port call at Ketchikan was canceled. This was a huge disappointment as we had really looked forward to some great adventures there, as well as picking up most of our "Alaska souvenirs" as I had read that Ketchikan is "The place" to buy that type of thing. Where I think Holland America dropped the ball is in the "Compensation" they gave us for the missed port. We followed up with HAL's customer relations after the cruise and they did give us a small future cruise credit. Overall we had great fun and it was very relaxing (especially with an "Extra" sea day). So, we have already now booked another HAL cruise in November on the Ryndam. Read Less
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