Sail Date: September 2005
We sailed on the Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean on September 17, 2005. This was my 15th cruise but the first on HAL. We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:45 am and were quickly directed to the check in area. We were greeted and checked in very ... Read More
We sailed on the Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean on September 17, 2005. This was my 15th cruise but the first on HAL. We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:45 am and were quickly directed to the check in area. We were greeted and checked in very quickly. We then proceeded to security, had our picture taken and boarded the ship. We were told that our cabin wouldn't be ready until 1:30. We are used to going directly to our room and dropping off carry on bags but this wasn't possible as the fire doors to the cabin hallways were all closed. Had we know this we would have check the carry ons. We later found out that we could have checked our bags in the Piano Bar. We proceeded to the Lido buffet and had a bite to eat. It was very crowded and luckily found the last table available. The food was pretty good with a variety to choose from. Plenty of dining crew to assist in carrying trays, getting drinks, etc. We then proceeded to the pool bar for a cool one and to wait for the 1:30 time. At 1:30 we proceeded to our room which was category SS on deck 6. The room was a suite but not their largest suite. It has a large balcony with two outdoor padded wicker chairs and ottomans as well a small table with two additional chairs. It had two phones, a DVD player, a 6 foot couch, a mini bar, a lighted make up mirror but three additional chairs in the cabin is too many. The best part was the storage. On many ships we have encountered poorly designed storage space but this room is definitely the exception. There were three closets with shelves that would fold up or down depending on your need for hanging clothes. Lots of drawers, a double sink vanity in the bathroom as well as a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower stall. Overall we were very pleased with the room. We left Ft. Lauderdale about 15 minutes late and headed south. We explored the ship for a while and then went back to get unpacked and ready for dinner. All week in the main dining room our service was fairly good but always seemed rushed. The only problem in the dining room all week was the wine steward. Getting a bottle of wine ordered was very difficult. In some cases we would be through a course or two of our meal before we had an opportunity to order wine. Once he finally came to our table and took our wine order it was delivered quickly and glasses refilled constantly. Unfortunately this continued all week. The food was good with a pretty good selection but not the best we have experienced. After dinner we normally met friends for drinks or went to the piano bar which was entertaining. We normally don't go to most of the shows on cruises. The next morning we called room service to order coffee but got no answer. We continued to call for 45 minutes and never got an answer. The same thing happened on day 2. No answer at room service. We mentioned this to a bartender the second night and a call was made to the room service supervisor and the problem was corrected. Overall we liked the ship and its decor. I had read quite a few negative comments about the decor but I thought it was nice. Some things didn’t fit the old HAL image but it appears they are trying to attract a slightly younger crowd with the decor. I also read many comments that would lead you to believe that most of the carpeting was taped together with black electrical tape. I noticed a couple of small strips of tape in a corridor but overall the ship looked very well taken care of. The ship is scheduled for dry dock and I’m sure the carpet will be addressed. One night for dinner we made reservations at the Pinnacle Grill. The $20.00 service charge was very reasonable for the quality of the food. Sterling beef is the main option but their were a few alternatives as well. The service, presentation, decor and quality of the Pinnacle were well worth the extra charge. I would highly recommend you make reservations early. I won’t go into our ports other than to say we love the Virgin Islands. We have visited them numerous times in the past and will continue to visit them in the future. We did bypass Half Moon Cay due to a tropical storm in the Bahamas but an extra day at sea is always nice for us. The captain sailed well around the storm. Overall this was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
ZUIDERDAM REVIEW - September 24-October 1, 2005 (Part One) My wife and I sailed on the Zuiderdam on September 24th through October 1st on the Western Caribbean cruise. Ports were Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Key West. ... Read More
ZUIDERDAM REVIEW - September 24-October 1, 2005 (Part One) My wife and I sailed on the Zuiderdam on September 24th through October 1st on the Western Caribbean cruise. Ports were Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Key West. We took this cruise because it went to two specific ports we had been to previously but had a reason to do it again. See "Ports" below. This was our 15th cruise and I'll try to be objective. EMBARKATION: The porters who took your bags outside literally threw them into a large hopper haphazardly. We discovered later that everything inside had been shifted around and one bag had been torn because the corner of another had been placed on it at an angle. Other than that, embarkation was really a breeze. If you had all your paperwork properly filled out and had your identification ready, you got through fairly quickly. There was a problem with how security handled things, more about that under "Security". Hint: Cost of most taxies from airport to the port and vice versa was about $18.00 plus tip. There also was a minibus that would take you for $8.00 each. We took a taxi to the port and the minibus back to the airport. Both were okay. CRUISE CRITIC MEETING: We had an informal meeting of Cruise Critic people in the Crow's Nest nightclub before sailaway. About a dozen showed up although someone else there actually wrote down everyone's name. I'll leave it to them to post who was there. Seems there were people from all over from all walks of life. Nothing was planned except to meet and talk informally. It'll be interesting to see other reviews of same voyage by them. LIFEBOAT DRILL: Yes, they actually took attendance. We went to our lifeboat stations and they explained the procedures. It was quick and virtually painless. I did find that the design of the life jackets made them hard to put on properly. SHIP: Navigating the Zuiderdam was quite hard. I found myself, even on the 6th day, checking my ship deck layout over and over to find places. The ship rode well but we did have very calm seas throughout the cruise. The elevators were fast and each side of the ship had a pair of outside elevators so you could watch down to the water if you wanted while going up. The shops seemed to be limited with things to buy. There was a very rude clerk in the clothing store, the other clerks were very nice. The hallway by the Queen's Lounge always had a bad smell. The movie theater sound system was excellent, we watched the remake of "The Longest Yard" there. Visual sighting of the screen was hard in some places. The ship does show some wear here and there, nothing major and nothing that took away from enjoying the cruise. CABIN: We always book an inside guarantee and hope for an upgrade (which we receive more often than not!). This time was no exception and we received an upgrade to an outside on the Upper Promenade Deck, three decks up from what the guarantee would have provided. The cabin was fairly large by normal standards but, surprisingly, very little storage space for your belongings. There were no drawers, all cloths went into the wardrobe closet. We found that by putting the lifebelts on the bottom, we could then use the two top shelves for our things. The bed was very comfortable and we had a cabin steward who was very good at what he does. The television ran CNN Worldwide, several excursion advertising channels, an oldies channel, and more. It was nice to see a "ship's log" channel showing position, speed and all that, which was missing from our two last cruises. Also, the Zuiderdam has both a bow AND stern cam. It was nice to see where we were going and where we had already been! The bathroom was probably the largest we've ever had in 15 cruises but, again, very little storage space for your bathroom items. No tub but the shower worked well. There were several electrical outlets and a multitude of lights, all having separate switches in different places that we had to search for. However, most switches were duplicated by the bed so you didn't have to get up to turn out lights. Nice touch. DINING ROOM: We had late dining on the upstairs level. It was okay, not great, and didn't seem to have a friendly atmosphere. Our waiter and assistant waiter not really friendly with their demeanor, did not smile a lot, but were not bad though either with doing their work. Our waiter did not want me ordering anything off menu even though they had it in the galley. I like a salad that is simply iceberg lettuce chunks with ranch dressing. This is not anything fancy or hard to prepare. He resisted me each night when I asked for it even though it was available upstairs at the buffet restaurant and with room service. (Yes, he did get it for me most nights). The entrees were usually fixed extremely fancy. Some people might like this, we like dishes served fairly plainly. The wine and drink steward was unobtrusive. Came by once for orders and then did not ask you again. No hard sell here. The first formal night they served crab legs, second formal night was surf and turf (lobster and filet.) BUFFET RESTAURANT: Although I had read several poor reviews of the Lido Restaurant, we found it to be very good and very well run. At dinnertime, they actually take your orders and then serve you at the table, cooking the food the way you want it. I must mention Francis, a chef who each time I was there, prepared my steak and other foods without any black pepper which I am allergic to. He was great and by the second visit, saw me and said "What do you want me to cook for you without pepper". Coffee, tea, water, and (supposedly) lemonade are available 24 hours. I say supposedly because most times, the lemonade was simply water. They also had a sandwich place, an omelet station in the mornings, and an ice cream stop with different flavors each day. The Lido closed at 8:00 p.m., and I found that it might be hard to find something to eat after that time, other than room service (see below). Sometimes, the Italian section of the Lido was open after hours with spaghetti and pizza, both of which were very good by the way. ROOM SERVICE: If I had to pick just one thing that was outstanding on the Zuiderdam, it would be their room service. I keep a log of my personal "best" and "worst" after each cruise, comparing one ship to another, and the Zuiderdam has the best room service of any ship I've been on. The hot food was received hot, cold foods cold, and the taste was great. No matter what you ordered, and you could order ahead of time with a specific delivery time, it came just as expected. Also, you could order anything on the dinner menu during dinner time, even crab legs and lobster, which we did. Of course, we always ordered double shrimp cocktails each time also. We used room service for dinner three times (We hate formal night but that's another story) and were never disappointed. We tipped well for this service. My wife always ordered two pots of coffee and one night, only one was on the tray. The man who delivered the dinners was very apologetic even though we told him to forget it, no big problem. Within five minutes, he had traversed three decks and had another pot of coffee for us. That is service. CASINO: The casino on the Zuiderdam was mid-size compared to other ships and very noisy. Three of the days of the cruise, several hours were put aside for non-smoking. Even though we are both smokers, we thought this was a good idea for those who don't like to have all that smoke in there while playing. Air transfer in there was very good and the smell of smoke, at least to us, was not really noticeable. We only play the slots and there is a bank of slot machine at one side that are all labeled "Captain's Bonus". Only on Holland America, there is a growing jackpot that stays between $25.00 and $75.00 and - without any notice - one particular slot machine is picked for this bonus. You don't have to hit anything special, just be there at the time. Well, my wife hit that bonus FOUR times which was nice ($46, $48, $57, and $68). By the way, the second night while we were at sea, I see "triple, triple, triple" come up on my machine. This was the first time I had ever won the big jackpot of $1500. Five jackpots on one cruise. Unbelievable! POOL AND HOT TUBS: There is a pool with hot tubs near the center of the ship and a pool with hot tubs near the stern. As I understood it, the stern pool and tubs were for adults only but I always saw kids in both. However, let me mention that most of the time the kids were not "in the way" and were well behaved. Other than watching some of then diving into the pool, against the rules, I really didn't see any kids misbehaving. Well done parents. One hot tub was never working properly. I did see lots of adults drinking from glass containers at the pool and the hot tub. FRONT DESK (PURSER): Almost all other ship employees very polite and nice but we certainly had a problem at the front desk. If they can not give you an answer from "out of the book", they simply can not answer your questions. Two ladies in particular were very rude. Well, one was rude, the other simply could not comprehend the question and speak the language properly. We asked about self assist debarkation. "You leave your bags outside your cabin before 2:00 a.m. the night before departure", was her reply. "No ma'am, you don't understand. Can we take our own bags off the ship and do we need special tags for that?" "Yes, you'll get tags which you put on your bags and then leave them outside your cabin before..." "I'm sorry. What I'm asking is are we allowed to take our own bags off the ship instead of leaving them outside at 2:00 a.m.?" "Yes, you leave your bags outside and..." At this point, another girl came over and said that we were allowed to take our own bags off the ship. That first girl wasn't rude, simply should not be in that position of working with the public if she can not grasp the situation instead of providing stock answers which do not solve the question asked.. CRUISE DIRECTOR AND STAFF: There were two categories on this ship and cruise that were, to put it simply, rated poor. One was the cruise director and his staff. The various events started late most of the time and some were not well organized. There was a trivia contest for 1950s and 1960s music. Well, that's what I do so I entered a team. They would play songs and you had to name the title and artist. Well, they began late and as each song as played, some in the audience would sing along and keep going so as to name the title out loud. This wasn't stopped and was simply laughed at by the cruise director's staff person who was there. Anyway, 15 songs and we did get them all correct, a score of 30. No No No. They insisted that the song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" was sung by Carole King (Yes, she did do it). However, the version that was played was the more popular version by the Shirelles and you did hear multiple voices on the song. Other audience members also agreed it was the Shirelles. When we protested (wanting a perfect score), the DJ who played the song said, "Well, Carole King was the one who wrote it". Anyway, we "tied" with a team from Canada with 29 and they had a tie-breaker and we won. This might sound like we were simply being "bitchy" about the whole thing but please remember that others in the audience said the same thing we did. We are there to have fun and have learned to "roll with the flow" so we did. Another example was the MANDATORY debarkation meeting. This began late, as usual, then we heard about sales of excursions still available, then a series of jokes taken directly off the Internet. It was 53 minutes later when he began talking about debarkation and he never answered the question about self-assisted baggage takeoff. (See "Front Desk" above). SECURITY: There were several problems with the ship's security people, one very important. I carry a lot of photo equipment with me including film. Most people at airports and ships that have X-ray machines will tell you that putting film through it is safe. This is not the whole truth. Putting any film through with an ASA of 800 or more is unsafe, it must be hand inspected. Also, each time you put film and/or camera through the x-ray machine, the effects are cumulative. Even the TSA, the federal government agency in charge of these machines at airports, state on their website that more than five times through these machines will hurt ANY film. I keep a copy of that with me to show these people as we travel so much. Most of those at the X-ray machine on the Zuiderdam did not speak English or acted as if they didn't, and kept pointing to a sign stating that it was safe to put film through. I showed them the printout and they didn't want to know. I did put the film and cameras through and did find the head of security and told him that if and when I discovered fogged film, that Holland America would hear from me as I had some pictures that couldn't be replaced. I also had some of those rolls developed on the ship at their expensive rates so as to avoid a problem on the other end. The serious problem began on day four when we got an early printout of our shipboard account. It included my wife's maiden name, not her married name. We went to the front desk and asked where that came from and would they please correct it. (Where did it come from? Her driver's license, passport, and everything else has her married name on it. When we filled out our online registration, it had her married name on it. When we signed for the credit card use on the ship, it had her married name on it.) They hand wrote her married name on that invoice and then changed it on their computer. The next day, we got another printout of our account and, lo and behold, there was her maiden name again. We asked if she had to pay for her purchases as they has the wrong name on the account and they had a puzzled look on their faces (manager included) with no reply. We then asked how she got on the ship in the first place if they had a name that did not match her passport and other identification. Again, no reply. I then stated that they had a major security problem if they allowed someone to get on the ship without proper identification. They then gave me a special card to fill out and "put in the box" so those at home office would get to know what their problem was. What good is security if they don't check what they are supposed to be checking? SHOWS: We attended a couple of the ship's shows but did not stay to the end of any of them. Some of the singing and production was okay but nothing special and most had a complete lack of energy. I remember with fondness the energy and expertise of the Ann Ryan shows on the old Norway so perhaps my expectations are too high. There was only one comedian on board and that was an "X" or "R" rated show so we didn't attend. PORTS: Here comes the fun. We had tried three times previous to “swim with the stingrays” at Grand Cayman, only to have the weather cancel our tour. Also, this past June, we did a driving trip to Florida and had planned a trip from Key West to fly by seaplane to the Dry Tortugas, located beyond Key West and only accessible by boat or plane. I’d never flown in a seaplane before so was looking forward to it. We had transmission troubles back in June and never made it to Key West. This cruise went to both ports so we thought we’d try it again. HALF MOON CAY: The first stop on this cruise was to Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay, and this was the best private island we’d been to. It has been highly developed with many things to do ashore. The beach is white fine sand and beautiful. There is much shade with all the trees, food was served at a barbecue lunch, toilets were placed at various spots, and you could walk around at your leisure. They had some souvenir shops there, and a tram that would take you from one spot to another. The only disappointment was the ice cream shop. Each time we went to it, no one was there. No big thing though. You could rent an air conditioned cabana (expensive) or a clamshell for sun cover (cheap) and be on the beach all day. GRAND CAYMAN: We finally got to do it. We booked with Soto’s Cruise Tours for $30.00 each for two hours and they took us to two places. One was a place to snorkel at 8-12 feet or so. We didn’t go in the water there and those that did didn’t seem to overly excited about the stop. We then went to Stingray Sandbar, a place about half a mile out into the Caribbean where the water was only waist high. Here we spent 30-40 minutes actually playing with the stingrays. Females were 4-5 feet across, males were about 2 feet across. We were shown how to hold them, feed them, and stand and allow them to swim around you and through your legs. We had pictures taken holding them and kissing one (!) And so on. Soto’s only has about two dozen people on each tour while the ship excursion puts you on a boat with 60-80 or more. On this tour, we only had eleven people on the boat with nine going in the water. The two in charge gave us all the help and advice we needed and the small number allowed us to “play” with the stingrays as much as we wanted to. I can not describe the feeling of holding a stingray in the wild as this was. This is definitely something we’d do again. COSTA MAYA: We had been to this mad-made port before, didn’t really enjoy ourselves, and decided to stay on the ship and get in the hot tubs while everyone was gone. KEY WEST: It was at this port that everyone had to go through immigration before the ship was cleared to get off. The lines were very long but moved very rapidly and we were off before we knew it. The ship had docked at the Navy Pier and we had to take a free ride to the Duvall Street area. No other ships were in port that day so I don’t know why they didn’t simply dock at the downtown dock where we could walk to most of the sights. Anyway, we took a taxi to the Key West Airport where we had reservations with Seaplanes Of Key West to fly us to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson, a national park. The cost was $189.00 each for the four hour tour. This may seem expensive but the only other way to get there is by one of two boats and they cost $119.00-$129.00 and took more than two hours to get there. The plane took us 40 minutes. Besides, the primary reason for flying was that we had never been in a seaplane before. It was loud, it was a tight fit in the plane, but it was fun. We flew between 500 and 1000 feet and could easily see into the water below which was fairly shallow most of the trip. We saw two shipwrecks, one under water, the other protruding above the water, along with some stingrays, sea turtles, and dolphins. All four passengers searched for sharks but none of us saw any. Our pilot made a circle at Fort Jefferson so we could take pictures and then landed on the water. I can only describe it as skipping a flat stone on the water, We hit, bounced, hit again, bounced again, and then landed on the water and taxied to the sandy beach where we got off. We had about two and a half hours to explore the island. The other couple snorkeled and said they saw all kinds of fish and coral. The Dry Tortugas are just that, dry. It was hot and humid. While there, we saw some of the boats and other floating things that Cuban refugees had used to flee Cuba and get to the United states. The park ranger gave us a talk and said that these people are turned back by them and the Coast Guard but if they actually set foot on dry land, they are admitted to the U.S. as refugees and taken to Miami. After seeing what these people had sailed 90 miles in, I can better understand the conditions that forced them to flee their homeland. While there, both of the boats taking passengers there from Key West departed. For about thirty minutes, there were only four visitors on the Dry Tortugas, my wife and me, and the other couple that had flown out with us. Talk about a lonely feeling! Our plane was ready and we got in for the 40 minute return flight. We got up to speed, skipping on the water, when the pilot killed the engine and said that conditions weren’t right for takeoff. We taxied back to the starting condition and he gunned it again. It seemed we went forever on the water gaining speed but we finally lifted off. On the way back, we passed both of the boats heading for Key West (Earlier, we had talked to some of their passengers and said we’d wave as we passed them by.) We landed at Key West and called it a day, but what a day. Yes, this is expensive for a four hour tour but we all felt it was well worth it. You can go to their website and/or book the trip with them at www.seaplanesofkeywest.com. DEBARKATION: Everything comes to an end and today was the final day of our cruise. Debarkation was very easy. You got a tag with a number and color and stayed in your cabin (if you wanted) until you were called. It was easy with no hassle and when we were called, we were off the ship in minutes. I have been told through the years about the food and service on a Holland America ship and must say we were disappointed. It really wasn’t bad, but was simply on a par with most of the other cruises on other lines we have taken. I do wish one thing, that all of the other lines take a good look at the room service provided by Holland America. Simply put, it was the best. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Just back from our 8/6-13 cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 12th cruise and first on HAL. We choose this ship because of the itinerary and its advertised reputation. I look forward to cruising mainly because of my many positive past ... Read More
Just back from our 8/6-13 cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 12th cruise and first on HAL. We choose this ship because of the itinerary and its advertised reputation. I look forward to cruising mainly because of my many positive past experiences and for the value that cruising has to offer. The more I have cruised the more I have become aware of the positives and negatives of a ship. Of the previous cruises I have taken before the Zuiderdam, there has been very little for me to complain about. Unfortunately, I had many more negative experiences then positive ones on the Zuiderdam. My initial response to our boarding was a bit mixed. The color scheme contrasted so much that I had a difficult time getting into the mood of being on a cruise. One example was the different shades of dark and light blue mixed with black and white on the carpet in the cabin hallways. I also couldn't help noticing in different parts of our hallway the black electrical tape holding down the seams of the carpet that were separating. Our superior verandah suite was the highlight of the ship. It was nicely appointed and more than large enough for the three of us. The beds were firm and comfortable (even the pullout) and the verandah added a pleasant place to sit and view the ocean and harbors. It was never windy to sit there on a sea day. There is a lot of space in the bathroom so you won't have to worry about bumping your elbows constantly when your showering. The biggest disappointment was the food, especially the entrees in the dining room. For me dining is one of the major highlights of cruising, along with the beaches, excursions, the shopping, or just relaxing. Simply, it was glorified diner food for me. Though their main entrees had variety, they lacked substance and didn't make my taste buds say, "WOW, this is good!" Talk about variety. How about these two entrees - turkey and stuffing and MEATLOAF!! They never ran out of the meatloaf. I wonder why? The people sitting at our table did order the meatloaf, but never finished but half. Another night there was smoked ham on the menu, not off the bone, but out of a can. How could I tell? My family is in the meat business. The Lido buffet was ok for breakfast and lunch, but the few times I ate a hot lunch the meat (pork) was dry and lacked flavor. Oh! The ice cream is free and all you can eat. Celebrity and Princess are head and shoulders above when it comes to food preparations. The evening musicals were nicely produced and varied. I'm not a fan of musical productions, but I enjoyed their productions. The lead female singers voice was exceptional. That was the highlight of the musical entertainment, because there was no Caribbean musical band on board. We were told half way through the cruise that they missed the boat and were stuck at home. On Caribbean night we had to listen to some southern duo (Starlites) play country musical. They couldn't hold a tune and there was constant feed back from their instruments, so I only lasted about 15 minutes to that. It would have been a bit nicer to hear some Caribbean music from a cd. To top it off we had no Caribbean music of any kind playing at the main pool. Instead we listen to music I would listen to driving in my car. I guess the staff just couldn't understand or hear it. Also, if you want to swim in the main pool and there are a lot of children splashing and jumping on you, well go to the back pool. Even though there is a sign that looks like there are rules written on it, they are not really rules. After complaining to the head of security about some children jumping on people we were told that it wasn't their job to watch the behaviors of those at the pool and that the sign is for guidance only. Even though it says NO DIVING it's ok to dive and jump onto people because there are no rules and the staff won't intervene. So swim in the back. Half Moon Cay was great. The beach has soft sand and the water is calm and warm. I wouldn't recommend eating the food there, but it is a pain to have to tender back to the ship for lunch. So, I picked at the chicken. Overall, the service was good and we were always greeted with a hello and a smile. For me this was the cruise that tried, but never could. I won't say that I'll never sail a HAL ship again but it will be a long time before I consider it again. I try tp keep an open mind. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
We sailed August 13 through the 20th on the Zuiderdam. This was our third cruise and the first time on HAL. Our first cruise was on the Celebrity Millennium and our second on Carnival's Conquest. Celebrity was great and all the bad ... Read More
We sailed August 13 through the 20th on the Zuiderdam. This was our third cruise and the first time on HAL. Our first cruise was on the Celebrity Millennium and our second on Carnival's Conquest. Celebrity was great and all the bad things you have heard about Carnival are true. Holland America is right up there with Celebrity. We left from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. There is no need to purchase your flight through a travel agent or the cruise line. You can almost always get a better deal by booking the flight yourself over the internet. Don't worry about a transfer from the airport to the pier, it is only about a $12 cab ride and that was for 3 people. We arrived at port close to 12 noon. It was very busy but well organized. We were on the Lido deck getting lunch by 12:30. The main complaint I had about this ship was the air conditioning. The Lido deck (#9) was always warmer than any other deck. This deck houses the buffet lines where breakfast, lunch, dinner, night snacks, ice cream, etc. are served. (There is also a main dining room on the second deck for those times you want to dress or be more formal). I don't like to be hot when I eat and this deck was not cool, especially on embarkation day. Our state room was warm the day we arrived also. I brought it to the attention of the room steward who reported it to maintenance, by the next day you could hang meat in there, my kind of comfort. I have read some reviews about the decor of the ship. I thought the ship itself was all right but all the carpet needs replaced. It is worn and has some really wild colors. It is however, very clean. They are always sweeping and polishing on this ship. My wife claims the pictures and decorations in the cabin do not match. Personally I don't care, that's not why I cruise. My wife and I were traveling with our 15 year old daughter, that is why we went in August. We were in the basic verandah state room, one king and a pull out single couch. It was very tight when the couch was pulled out, you had to hop over the bed to get to the balcony. But then I can hop a little for what the upgrade would cost. I thought the food was very good. Not presented as well as Celebrity, but of high quality. I did like the menu selections, they had some basic items like beef, poultry etc. that were easy to recognize but they also had the fancier items if you wanted to try something different. You could even try both, whatever you wanted was never questioned. We generally went to the Lido deck late at night for some pizza, it was always hot fresh with a wide variety. They always had hand dipped ice cream with a featured flavor every day (on top of the standard vanilla and chocolate. I thought the entertainment was great. It was miles above the Carnival Conquest we went on last year. The Zuiderdam cast was as good as I have seen on any live show. There was a juggler on one night that went a little long and then a comedian on another night I could have listened to all week. These shows were in the main theater. One night we went to the Crows Nest on deck 10 to hear a 50's band. Captain Boom should have stayed home, this sounded like a bad high school band. They tried to make everything they played sound like drug music of the 60's. Shore excursions: I am not a beach person but Half Moon Cay, their private island, changed that. This is the most pristine beach, sand and water that I have seen. I was fortunate enough to rent one of the 10 cabana's. I told you earlier that I like my air conditioning. It not only is a comfortable place to relax, it also makes a good base station to keep your things in between bouts in the water. It comes stocked with drinks, eats, snorkels, floats, etc. In Grand Cayman I recommend the Island Tour and Stingray City. We also went to some of the stores in the shopping district. No bargains here, everything is cheaper at home. I don't see why people think this is the place to buy jewelry and watches. The ships always preach tax free and duty free, you still have to watch the jacked up prices. I would limit any purchases to a hat or shirt that said "Cayman Islands" so the people back at home knew you were at least there. Costa Maya Mexico. This is a port out in the middle of no where. There were three ships docked the day we were there. There are a few excursions you can book but other than that, I would call this a wasted stop. There is a series of shops that pretty much sell the same things and it is geared up 100 percent for the tourists. Like most Mexican shops you can do some bargaining. My daughter wanted a nice green (hand woven?) straw hat. We started at $35 and ended up at $10. We did, however, have our best excursion on this stop. We booked the dune buggy tour and I was not disappointed. There was a caravan of old beat up fiberglass dune buggies on VW chassis. Each vehicle seated four, we were a group of three and that was fine. They are a blast to drive through the Mexican jungle on old beat up roads. It took us about an hour to get to a beach on the coast of the Yucatan. The beach was pretty dirty but the fun was getting there. We stayed at the beach for an hour or so then drove back another way where the road was paved and you could get some speed going. You must be able to drive a four speed stick shift for this one. Our final stop was Key West. The first time I have been here and I don't see the draw. Book your own excursions once you enter the city, you can get the same tours for less money. Back to the ship. The staff here was wonderful. This is the first time I have noticed so many American english speaking people in key areas, especially handling the entertainment and daily activities. I do not want to diminish the excellent, mostly Indonesian staff. This was the best staff on any ship I have been on, bar none. Would I sail on this ship or choose this line again? Absolutely. I can look past the ugly carpet and uncoordinated wall hangings, those are not important. The ship was clean, the food was good, it was easy to navigate your way around and the staff was excellent in every way (except the Captain Boom band). It will be a tough sell next time to pick either Holland America or Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
WOW is what I have to say about HAL! This was the third cruise for me, and by far the best. The people on the ship went out of their way to make sure everyone had a great cruise. From the cabin staff to the dining room people, everyone was ... Read More
WOW is what I have to say about HAL! This was the third cruise for me, and by far the best. The people on the ship went out of their way to make sure everyone had a great cruise. From the cabin staff to the dining room people, everyone was great. The ship was extremely clean, and plenty of places to explore. The veranda was definitely worth the upgrade price. Especially loved not being harassed by people hawking island drinks at every turn. Ample staff to get you a drink, if wanted, but no pushy drink stewards. The food was the best by far of any ship I've been on to date. There was a great variety, and the quality was superb. Shows were also very good. A great variety kept us entertained all week. Did have a couple of overall complaints; Late dinner seatings should not include small children. A few tables with crying kids was annoying. Ship was late to every port on itinerary, depriving us of quality time on shore. Rules for adults only were not enforced by staff. Kids in the pool during adult only times, etc. Finally, very small complaint, before sailing I searched HAL's site regarding internet service onboard. There was info about using their computers in the internet cafe (fee based), but everything I read made it appear that if you brought your own computer with wireless, it was free. So, lugged the laptop along only to find there was a fee as well, and it was the same as if you were using their computers. Wouldn't have drug the laptop with if I had known that ... Shore excursions were really good as well. Half Moon Cay was the best! It was clean, uncluttered, and so beautiful. Grand Cayman was OK ... nothing to write home about, but the Stingray City tour was very enjoyable. Costa Maya was OK too .. the Mayan ruins tours were great .... Key West was Key West ... nice the first time, but nothing special. HAL is the best cruise for me so far (done NCL & RCL) would definitely sail with them again. Especially on the Zuiderdam. Thanks HAL for a great time! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Jim and I love this ship! This is our 5th Zuidy cruise (10th on HAL) out of 16 total cruises. Clearly, after 5 cruises on this wonderful ship, we are smitten. There is nothing about her we don't love. Her decor is energizing without ... Read More
Jim and I love this ship! This is our 5th Zuidy cruise (10th on HAL) out of 16 total cruises. Clearly, after 5 cruises on this wonderful ship, we are smitten. There is nothing about her we don't love. Her decor is energizing without being noisy, and quiet without being sleepy. She's among the largest ships in her fleet, and holds the most passengers (until the Noordam is ready). As the public space:passenger ratio is so high, there is so much public space, that we never felt crowded, never stood in a long line for anything. This fully-booked voyage held 2,056 passengers, including 334 youngsters aged 0-17. Cabin: Our Cat SS (mini) suite 6011, was located aft of midships, starboard. This lovely cabin is half-again as large as the standard veranda cabin, and also offered double sinks, double cabinets, a storage shelf, separate shower stall and jacuzzi tub with shower. The sitting area is generous, with a sofa, two arm chairs, coffee table, end tables and plenty of lighting. I plugged the laptop into the outlets on the desk, and enjoyed gazing out the window as I checked my email and made some notes for my review. The desk area is along the outside wall, and has a window overlooking the veranda and your beautiful view. A separate dressing table offers a lighted makeup mirror and additional outlet for your various gadgets. The SS cabins had not yet received the Signature of Excellence upgrades, but we found the bed very comfortable, linens attractive and in good shape, and the television just fine for the amount of TV we watched. There has been some talk of special mini-perks for the mini-suite (Cat SS), but when I asked at the Front Desk, they had no information other than that Management had been discussing it, and maybe we would see something by October. The Zuiderdam offers lots of cozy, quiet places. Beautiful art and flowers. Nice, easily-navigated layout. Rather than straight, boring corridors, passengers can lazily meander past the various lounges, shops and galleries, having the impression of a smaller ship. Movies are shown in the Queen's Lounge, a kind of multi-purpose room with a bar, that is also used for late-night comedy shows, games, shopping and port talks, and immigration checks. It's not tiered like a traditional movie theater, but it's a good try. I don't personally go to the movies onboard... I can do that at home. Hunky Dory is on vacation until September. On our May Zuidy Burt was on the other Bistro line and there was a little competition there. Apparently Burt was a little too aggressive and was taken off the line. When we boarded the ship in August, there was a line of escorts waiting to take us to the Lido, and Burt was #2. There were 2 groups ahead of us, but I called out, "Burt Reynolds, number 22, famous football player, Jupiter Florida, Loni Anderson" and he was amazed I remembered him! All the other escorts made such a big deal that a newly boarding passenger would recognize him! He was escorting the group ahead of us, but talked to us the whole time (I don't think the other people appreciated that), and every time I ran into him on the ship he had the biggest smile and called me by name! He's gone now, too. Hunky is due back in mid-September (we hope he'll be on the Zuidy). Their 'replacement' is Donnie Walker, who did not understand how I could know both Hunky and Burt, and couldn't remember my name all week, even with hints. Excursions: This is my stock advice. I print it with every review. When you arrive at your cabin you will find a Shore Excursions brochure listing the various activities available shoreside. You may fill out the order form at your leisure and deposit it in the Express Drop Box at the Shore Excursions Desk. Please keep in mind that the most popular trips sell out very fast. If you are traveling with friends and want to go together, put all the tickets on one room card. One time we ordered separately and one couple got the tickets and one couple didn't. Staff: There were SO MANY people who made this cruise special! Our Dining Room Supervisor took our Dutch Caps and hand painted a beautiful greeting on it. A young teenager from another table saw ours and asked who did it, and to ask her DR Supervisor if he could make her one. When he could not, she came back and told us how disappointed she was, so I gave her mine. I have never seen a teen so happy about such a little thing. Apparently it was a very big thing to her, as I saw her wearing it several times that evening. The Casino Staff was absolutely outstanding! Allen Brown (one of my special favorites), Damian, Maribell, and Richard were unusually personable, and I wish I had photos of all of them. We are returning to this 'home away from home' in November and are planning 1 or 2 more Zuidy cruises for 2006. Hope to see y'all on some *dam ship some day! Candy Brock Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
This was our first cruise with HAL but our 8th cruise overall. As far as comparing this line to others that we have taken (Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean),we think HAL was the best so far. There were 9 people in our party, 4 adults ... Read More
This was our first cruise with HAL but our 8th cruise overall. As far as comparing this line to others that we have taken (Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean),we think HAL was the best so far. There were 9 people in our party, 4 adults and 5 children. Here is a summary of what was great (and not so great): Embarkation: Quick and easy. The most organized one we have experienced so far. Cabin/Ship: Cabin was very big for an inside cabin. There was so much storage (we didn't discover the drawers under the beds until the end of the week) that we actually were able to store all 5 suitcases under the beds and have lots of room for all of our things. The ship was easy to find your way around. It is supposed to be going into dry dock in December to be outfitted with new mattresses, etc. Some of the furnishings in the cabins did look a little bit worn but everything was very clean. Club Hal: We have two children who did attend some of the Club Hal activities but did not enjoy this Kid's Camp as much as they have on other cruise lines. I think that the staff just did not have enough activities planned. We did take advantage of in-cabin babysitting and loved the staff that came to babysit. Food: We thought that the food was wonderful. Our wait staff in the Dining Room was fantastic and bent over backwards to take care of my kids. We did eat one evening in the Pinnacle Grill. It was well worth the surcharge. I would highly recommend it -we made it an adults only evening and had the babysitter watch the kids. Staff: Very friendly and accommodating. The best crew that we have ever encountered. My son became attached to one of the waiters and every morning, Buddy would have hot chocolate waiting for my son when we appeared at breakfast. Our other waiters in the Dining Room (Herry, Arun, Doddy,and Jayson were super as well). Ports of Call: Half Moon Cay: Beautiful island with a lot of things to do. We did the eco lagoon cruise - it was okay, would probably opt to do something else next time. Our friends did the kayaking and loved it. Some of our other party did the Deep Sea Fishing and had a blast. Costa Maya: Very rustic part of Mexico. Other than where we were docked, there was not much to do there. We arranged to do some horseback riding through a excursion company ahead of time (Costa Maya Excursions). We went through the poorer parts of town (which made us appreciate what we have here in the US)but did not ride on the beach. A little disappointed by that but if you want to see the "real" Mexico - it was worth it. Grand Cayman: We have been here a number of times and so we opted to do the Stingrays and tour of Hell and the Turtle Farm. I arranged it through Captain Marvin's ahead of time and saved us some money rather than booking through the cruise line. We enjoyed the snorkeling and playing with the stingrays. My oldest child was a little freaked out by it but my little boy loved it. Key West: One of my favorite places to go. We just wandered around the town. My husband took the two kids to the Artifact Museum to see all the shipwreck items. I did the Harry Truman Little White House tour by myself. We then had lunch at Hog's Breath and then it was back to the ship. Our friends did the sailboat race that got a little bit scary when some thunderstorms started rolling in. We did have a problem with people not coming to clear Customs which held us up from disembarking until about 10:30. HAL needs to do a better job communicating the importance of this to the passengers. Disembarkation: Quick and painless. We were allowed to stay in our staterooms - which was great. Once we were called, we quickly got our luggage and were at the airport within 20 minutes. We would definitely cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
Embarkation We arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport at approximately 11:15 a.m. the day of departure. The cruise port is only a couple miles away, so to get there by taxi was only $12.00 for 3 of us This seemed like a much better deal ... Read More
Embarkation We arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport at approximately 11:15 a.m. the day of departure. The cruise port is only a couple miles away, so to get there by taxi was only $12.00 for 3 of us This seemed like a much better deal than having to purchase transfers and quicker too since you don't have to wait on everyone else. It also helps not to have to arrive at the port with a lot of other people at the same time. Getting checked in was very well organized (with the exception of computer problems as they were taking our pictures). We were on-board by 12:30 and were told that cabins would be available at 1:30. We joined the masses in the Lido Cafe. It was very crowded and there were no inside seats to be had. A week or so before departure, I came across the "Roll Call" board for this particular sailing. One of the participants offered up his suite to host a party the day of departure. We attended and were able to meet up with a dozen or so other CCers before departure. While the group never did formally get together again, it was fun running into folks we had met throughout the cruise. It was kind of like getting to sail with friends. Service The level of service on this ship is outstanding. Our Room Steward was very friendly and attentive to our needs. On some cruises, you hardly ever see the attendants, but we actually saw our guy a lot (which was fine). The waiters in the main ding room were very good. In the Pinnacle Grill, the level of service is stepped up a notch over the dining room. The Lido staff works hard to please, but the seemed overwhelmed when capacity is a peak. I felt kind of bad for them. Everyone is very friendly and go out of there way to make you feel welcomed. Cabin The cabin was very nice with tons of storage space available. The bathroom was very spacious with a full bathtub/shower combo. Our veranda was also more spacious than what we had on a previous cruise. There were two nice wicker chairs, a small table and a wicker foot rest. We ended up bringing out a third chair since there were three of us in the cabin. The couch/fold out bed is located next to the balcony. When the bed is folded out, there is only about 4 inches of clearance between the edge of the bed and the dresser, making getting out to the balcony tough. This is only a problem when the bed is out though. There was a small refrigerator in the room, but we never could get it to work. The room steward has to unlock it for you and it is stocked with sodas, beer, small wine bottles and mini liquor bottles. There is a sheet that indicates the price of the beverages. Initially, the refrigerator was not working at all. Maintenance came and got it running, but it still was not working well at all. Maintenance returned and said we needed to leave the cabinet door open when not in the cabin to allow it to dissipate the heat, but this did not work either. We just gave up on having a refrigerator in the room. Our room was on the right (starboard) side of the ship (all odd numbered rooms are on the right side). This is the side of the ship where you arrive/depart at each port. If you like seeing what's going on in port, I would advise booking an odd numbered room. Food We took advantage of the special for the Pinnacle ($10 pp) on the first night. It was excellent. We had been told to go with beef on previous reviews, so that's what we did. They prepare it on a 1,600 degree grill which gives the steaks a bit of a crunchy glaze while keeping the inside very tender and flavorful. We ordered medium well, trying to avoid a red center, but it came out brown all the way through. Medium would have been better, although it was still very good. The desserts, soups and appetizers were fantastic also. The only problem with doing this on opening night is that your expectations are set very high right off. The dress code for Pinnacle mirrors whatever the dress code for the main dining room (casual on the first night). We had dinner in the main dining room (6:15 seating) on 3 nights (2 formal nights which are the days at sea and one other). The first formal night was fantastic. My wife and both had the king crab (open shell; no cracking required) and I also had the filet mignon. The soups, salads and desserts were also very good. The second formal night was lobster night. As we finished, the servers came by to see if we wanted more (which we did). On this night, they do the presentation of the baked Alaska, which is quite an event (and very tasty). Our other night in the main dining room was not all that great in terms of the menu. We started checking the menu posted in front of the dining room each day to help us decide where to eat. The service was fantastic. We did room service for breakfast on the day of the first port-of-call. Very good and prompt. We also had room service for dinner on two nights (once because we did not get around quickly enough). Another reason we ended up missing the main dining room was a matter of timing. I really enjoy watching the ship depart port and this usually occurred around the early seating time. In addition to the regular room service menu, you can order from the main dining room menu during dining room hours. The first time I did this, I was told the item I wanted (jerk chicken) was not available for room service, so I ended up ordering something else from the dining room menu. The second time I did it, they told me it would delay the order (except that it really didn't). The Lido was hit and miss. Breakfast was very good with lots of options, but the staff seemed overwhelmed at keeping up with demand during peak periods. Finding a seat during these times was challenging also. The Wok station is not a true Mongolian Barbecue as I was expecting, but it was very good. The sushi was very basic, but good (nothing raw). The other menu items shifted around daily. The Italian station had good pizza, spaghetti with a couple of sauce options and a specialty dish that changed daily. This station is open from noon to late in the evening. My wife fell in love with the spaghetti with meat sauce (very meaty). The Bistro stations had a menu that also changed daily with your basic meat and veggie options. There is a salad bar and Deli station (never tried it) also. The pool area has a burger/hot dog grilled open most of the time and a well stocked taco bar. I ate here a lot to fill in the gaps. In addition to standard taco fare, there was chicken, rice and beans. I couldn't quite figure out the green soft tortillas (they were good though). We also did the BBQ one night. Steaks, ribs, grilled salmon and standard picnic fare. They also were selling endless Pina Coladas served in pineapples for $13.00. Ended up making ourselves sick on these. Ports of Call Half Moon Cay - This was even better than we expected (based on what we had read in the previous review). We did the stingray excursion (which is one of the more reasonably priced options at $19 pp). It's not the same caliber as "Stingray City" in Grand Cayman, but it was well worth the expense. I ended up with a critter that just didn't want to leave me alone. The main problem is that the water is very murky. The beach here is immaculate! Chairs on the beach fill up pretty quickly (especially if you don't want to hike). The BBQ served during the lunch hour was very good, with ribs and grilled fish in addition to your standard BBQ fare. My daughter got a pretty heavy duty burn on this day, which was kind of a drag being so early in the trip. Tendering to and from the ship is pretty toasty on the boats, but it flows pretty efficiently. The beach lends itself well for beach walking since it is curved and you are never out of sight of all the happenings in the bay. The water was as pretty as anything I have ever seen. A few fish swimming here and there. Tortola - We signed up for the Dolphin Encounter to do on our own here. It is $20 pp cheaper than signing up with HAL, although you have to arrange your own transportation ($9.00 cab ride each way for all 3 of us). We still came out $42.00 ahead as a result. We arrived early thinking we would wander around Road Town a little before proceeding to the dolphins. There are some booths set up right outside the docks, but not much else to see on foot. We felt a little out of place, so we took a cab to the Dolphin Encounter and got there over an hour early. It did give us an opportunity to watch to see what to expect though. There are three options for interacting with the dolphins. The $79 option allows for touching, dolphin kiss, and dolphin dance and is 30 minutes. The $99 option adds a belly swim to that (dolphin pulls you though the water while you hold on to the pectoral fins). The $119 option has a pull through the water by two dolphins (holding dorsal fins) instead of the belly swim. It also adds a foot push where the dolphin pushes the swimmer up out of the water (think hydroplaning) by the foot. This maneuver requires a little skill on the part of the swimmer. We went with the middle option. To sum up the Dolphin Encounter, it was a very unique experience. I do understand those who have issues with this though as far as these creatures being captured for entertainment, even though they are very well treated. All-in-all Tortola itself was a little disappointing. I think the snorkeling excursions or trips to the other nearby islands (Virgin Gorda) might be the way to go here. St. Thomas - Visiting St. Thomas requires everyone clearing customs (even if not going ashore). While the process is relative painless (took about 10 minutes), it is strange since it is not required at other ports of call. I had arranged to rent a Jeep and for the SNUBA excursion at Coral World. I thought that the Jeep would allow us to visit Meagan's Bay, do our excursion and then go downtown (which is a few miles from the ship). Had I to do it over, I would have gone with a simpler plan and just used taxis. Driving here is quite an adventure. Crazy drivers, left side of the road with left handed steering, very steep hills and hair pin turns are not for the feint of heart. We only had about 45 minutes at Megan's Bay, which did not give us much time to do anything there. The waters here are awesome (think the beach in the movie "The Beach"), although the beach itself is less than a mile long. I imagine it gets pretty crowded later in the day. We ventured over to Coki Beach (best place to Snorkel from shore on the island) and Coral World. We were lucky to find it with all the detours and the lack of signage. Our SNUBA excursion ($57 pp) included entry to Coral World (normally $18 pp), but we really did not have time to check it out. The SNUBA itself was really cool. My daughter and I did this to get an introduction to SCUBA, which we did. SNUBA is SCUBA with the regulator connected to a tank on the surface instead of carrying a tank on your back. It took about 30 minutes to get a good feel for the regulator and depressurizing your ears, but once you get it down, it was really pretty easy. We really enjoyed this! From there, we ventured back to Charlotte Amalie to shop. Unfortunately, downtown was a madhouse with nowhere to park. We decided we needed to get rid of the Jeep while we were still ahead and shop at Havensight (area next to the cruise ships). I ended up getting lost (even though I could see our ship, in the endless maze of unmarked one way streets (you find out that they are one way when the locals honk at you and point the other way). Fortunately a local figured out we were way out of our element and helped lead us back to where we needed to be. The shopping at Havensight was just fine for souvenirs. I don't think you can get the kind of bargains you can get downtown, but we are not into doing all of that haggling anyway. Nassau - We did not plan any excursions for this stop (you are only there for 6 hours), so we just went downtown and shopped a little. Nassau has really improved since our last trip 18 years ago. The shops are very close to the docks. Ironically, the Carnival Fantasy was docked here. This was the ship we first cruised on 18 years ago (to Nassau). The Disney Wonder was docked next to us along with the Norwegian Dawn. Days at Sea (2) - This ship is not as activity loaded as cruises we have been on in the past, but that was okay. We attended a wine tasting which was fun ($7 pp). I also did a bartending lesson ($10) one afternoon. It's a pretty good deal considering you get 4 martinis to try. They show movies in one of the lounges (recent DVD releases). I also attended the 2 cooking demonstrations. The first one was a comedy theme and was really fun to watch. The second was more serious and didn't flow as well due to technical difficulties. We also went and watched the ice sculptures. As to be expected, the pool areas were very crowded on the days at sea, but there were plenty of lounge chairs to be had on the other nearby decks (better view too). It is better to use the pools during off peak times. We really enjoyed hanging out at the aft pool the afternoon we were in Tortola. The pool was not crowded and the view of the bay was beautiful. Entertainment We attended three of the shows in the main lounge. The first was a Comedian/Illusionist who was not very funny or amazing. The next show we attended was a Comedian Juggler who was very funny and very amazing (don't volunteer to go on stage with this guy). The last show we attended was the cast dancing and singing various pieces from movies. It was excellent. All the shows last about an hour. We also attended a show with a comedian that we thought was supposed to be adults only. Many people were there with kids though. It was very good and the comedian kept in mind that there were kids in the audience. The Loft - Teen Club Upon boarding, my 13 year old was given a schedule for "The Loft" the HAL program for teens. I think the thing she liked the most was that she could come and go when she felt like it and could go out late after we were back in the cabin (since we are not night owls). Her favorite activities were the Scavenger Hunt and the activities that involved searching around the ship. She also enjoyed the jewelry making. Since she was at the younger end of the age range, she really didn't get too much into the dancing. The number of activities was somewhat limited, given the amount of time we were at sea. They have a couple of small game rooms. They also played music and showed movies one night. Disembarkation It makes it much nicer to be able to wait our disembarkation in your cabin. We were up early and ended up being the last group to leave since we did not have airline reservations that day. It went very smoothly though. From cabin to taxi was maybe 45 minutes. Ft. Lauderdale We spent two extra days in Ft. Lauderdale to end our vacation. We stayed at the Best Western Pelican Beach. I initially had some difficulties when we were told the entire facility was non-smoking (bad habit I know, but we are not picking our vacation as the time to quit). After asking to speak with the manager, we learned that we had been upgraded from the annex (ugly pink building next to the nice looking hotel) which allows smoking. I am not sure why we were moved since we reserved a smoking room. They ended up putting us back in the annex in a suite at the regular room rate. While the building looked rough from the outside, the suite was great. It seemed really huge coming off the cruise. Nice beach/ocean view. There was a full size fridge and a microwave, but no range. The hotel has a nice pool and a small lazy river. There is also a pool in the annex area (not quite as nice) that picks up the afternoon sun. We really did not do a whole lot in Ft. Lauderdale since we were so well situated in the suite. We thought about doing the water taxi, but opted against it since it requires a large time commitment. We did venture to the Galleria when waiting for the room to be ready (quite a change from Nassau's Straw Market the day before). We also checked out the Sawgrass Mills outlets before flying home (this place is huge). We ended up eating at the Roadhouse (just like being back in Oklahoma) on the waterway after venturing down to Las Ochas and not finding anything that looked right for us. Please e-mail if you have any questions.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
My husband and I sailed on the Holland America Zuiderdam on July 30 through August 6, 2005. This was our first cruise with Holland America. It was also our first cruise without a large entourage of teens. I missed my family on this cruise, ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the Holland America Zuiderdam on July 30 through August 6, 2005. This was our first cruise with Holland America. It was also our first cruise without a large entourage of teens. I missed my family on this cruise, but they did not want to come. They are teens after all and have better things to do...? The Zuiderdam is large and very clean. The staff was the friendliest of any ship I can recall. Every worker you passed said "hello" or "good morning." As for the dEcor of the Zuiderdam, well it was quite tacky and reminded me of ...oh my can I say it: Old Carnival. But let me back up and start at the beginning... This was a last minute vacation for us (2 days prior to sail date). I got a great price on Guaranteed Veranda (Balcony) category S from an online agency. We flew out of Boston (Logan) to Ft Lauderdale on the morning of the cruise. Arrived in plenty of time and took a taxi to the port. Because we booked so late, we did not have any boarding passes. So after filling out the required paperwork we got in line. The line was fast moving. We were delayed only because they did not have our cabin number yet. We got a receipt of sorts from the desk and went aboard, it was very smooth. Once aboard we went to the front desk to get our room cards. The front desk is on deck one in the middle of the ship. This is what other lines would call the Grand Atrium. It was very small with a bar and if you look directly up you see a large silver seahorse. It was non-climactic. The Atriums are usually the heart and hustle and bustle, the central meeting place, where you can lookdown from other decks, etc. This was our first inclination that this ship was different from those we have sailed in the past. We went up to the Lido deck for a buffet lunch and waited for the announcement that we could go to our cabin. The lido deck is heavily used. The seating was fine but the unattractive half walls blocked several ocean views. The food was OK. I was impressed with the cleanliness and service. When the call came we went to our cabin but the keys did not work so our cabin steward "Nuggi" let us in. We had a great cabin 8094, very large with an angled balcony and tub with separate shower. The layout was very good with plenty of closet space. But the lighting in the closet area was not good at all. My favorite part was that this room had 2 phones! Very cool. Now we had just booked this cruise on Thursday but when my husband learned that they do not stock Guinness he was not happy. So he called guest services and they said they would try and order it especially for him. When we got in the cabin there are five 4packs of Guinness in pint cans. My husband could not have been more pleased. Soon arrived some excursion tickets addressed to the Steinberg's, (not our name) my heart sank as I then noticed the stationary also had the name "Steinberg" so we quickly grabbed our stuff and ran down to the Front Desk on deck one. I was so afraid we were in the wrong room, but alas this was our room and we got new room cards made. Whew. The TV programming was the worst on any cruise I have ever been on. Sure they had recently released movies but they played the same movies over and over. How many times can you watch Shrek 2, The Incredibles or National Treasure? I wish they offered movies to rent. I was most disappointed in the Sports programming. They had ESPN but in Spanish, no kidding. I do not think there was a large Spanish speaking sports enthusiast cruise base. Even the so-called Sports Bar had only this one channel. In fact it was occasionally in English when they played Cricket, augh. My overall cruise experience was dull. This ship was asleep. The average age must have been over 60. I thought maybe not many people were aboard, but no the crew said it was fully booked. It just seemed like if you didn't play bingo or swim in the pool, you never saw anyone. Room service was very good, served on real china plates. On to dining... We never did make it to Pinnacle Grill but everyone told us it was excellent. The dining room is lovely. The first night they had us sit at a table with a family of 5 with kids, now I was really missing my kids so the last thing I wanted was fun family banter, we did not stay. We left the dining room rather abruptly. I should have apologized to the family but I was so sad. And then it was too late, you know? It was awkward. My husband spoke to the Maitre d' and he moved us the second night to table 157. It was the best. We met 2 fun couples from Cincinnati and dinner was fine thereafter. I thought the food in the dining room was excellent and the variety impressive. Our water was Kormong. He was fine. Our wine steward was Neil, also fine. Both were fine, efficient and disciplined. I don't know maybe they had military training. They did not smile. There were no women working in the dining room (with the exception of a wine steward) or housekeeping staff. Weird huh? Not even on the Lido deck. When I asked about this, I was told it was policy and no other explanation. Missing from this cruise was the fun. There was no midnight buffet or 24 hour pizzeria and frozen yogurt, dance classes, Karaoke or enrichment group activities. There was no effort to get people out of their cabins and into activities. No singing and dancing waiters. (0nly one night did we wave a napkin at the parade of the baked Alaska) The whole thing was way too subdued and serious. I could not get into the comedy shows (they were too crowded) and the other shows did not sound fun enough to bother. The Guest Talent Show was just glorified Karaoke. I could not believe they did not have a live orchestra. It was cheap. I prefer a real guest talent show where you might have the occasional magician or ventriloquist. I heard no jazz on this cruise, only the occasional piano. I missed the music. My husband and I enjoyed the Casino. The Casino was the smallest of any I have seen. The dealers were the very best. A dealer named Johnny was hysterical. We had fun playing black jack. Tried the Texas Hold Em but the table was in a room so far away from the Casino it was silly. I meet the nicest people on cruises and this was no exception. Shout out to the newlywed Wheelhouses and "hi and thanks" to Patty from CC for introducing us to everyone. There were noticeably fewer kids on this ship. A few people with kids that I spoke to said this was their first Holland America cruise and preferred Carnival because there are so many more kids and thus happier kids with more "peeps". Itinerary: Half Moon Bay: This private island is paradise. It is clean and has flush toilets. (yay!) We had to tender in but the water was clam and the skies were clear. We were too late (9:00AM) to book the Parasailing, and when we got to the beach we learned we were also to late to book a clam shell (shaded seating) so we walked the path and went to the other end where we were able rent a clam shell for $10.00 cash. The water was perfect. I enjoyed this beach very much. Grand Cayman: We tendered in and hooked up with a Sting Ray City / Coral Garden Snorkel Tour for $35.00 each. We hopped on the bus that was filled with guests from the Carnival Miracle. The 10 Minute ride took us to a boatyard where we boarded a small boat and headed 30 minutes out to the sandbar where the Sting Ray city is. This was cool. I would suggest it to anyone. I got a Sting Ray hickey, feeding them calamari. This was a lot of fun. After getting back to the port we did some walking and shopping. We were looking for Guinness when the skies opened up and it poured. We hurried back on the tender and got back soaking wet. When we got back to our cabin we discovered 3 more cases of Guinness, happy day. Costa Maya: It was ungodly hot walking from the Ship to the Welcome Center, which was in fact an Oasis with lots of air conditioned shopping and in the middle of it all was a huge swimming pool. Too bad there were also 2 other ships in port. With 7000 guest converging at once on this port, the lines were too long for everything. There were no seats to be had, the pool was full so after walking around for an hour or so we went back on bored. (yes I know it is spelled board, but you get my meaning) The Zuiderdam did not leave Costa Maya until 9PM, after every guest had the opportunity to go on tour of the Ruins, if they chose to. We slept. Key West: It seemed to take forever to get off the boat at Key West. US Customs had to clear the vessel so all guests had to go through with their passports and room card key. A few guests decided not to go through Customs and we had to wait. The Daily Schedule stated 7:30AM Key West Photos at the Gangway but we did not get off the boat till 11:30 needless to say there was no Gangway Photo Op. We have been to Key West before and we love it. We chose to go directly to Duvall Street and sit in Irish Kevin's and sing and harass tourists to either come in and sing or boo them if they walked past. We met some awesome people, danced and drank (Actually, I only drink soda) but they had Guinness on Tap so all were happy. Too bad the last trolley to the Port was 5pm and the ship sailed at 6pm. I wish we could have stayed in Key West until 9pm like we did in Costa Maya. Key West is a blast, next time I visit I hope to stay longer. What I liked best: The Service. Other than that: The Daily condensed version of the NY Times. It gave me the Sports Scores I wanted. My Satellite Radio worked the last 3 days, very cool. There was no hard sales. By this I mean, on other Cruise Ships you are constantly bombarded with Bingo, Art Auctions and Drinks of the Day, and even though HAL had these they offered them about once a day, that's it. Also no additional envelopes for tipping. I brought my own stationary because we always give extra when service warrants it. And believe me service was outstanding on this ship. I also liked my Cabin, my room steward, my dinner-mates, internet cafe and the fact that HAL sold us phone card for 12 minutes for $25.00. I bought several and my husband gave a few away to workers. On another note we went down to the Front Office to pay our tab in cash on Saturday morning (Debarkation day) and they had a heck of a time trying to do this since they had already charged it to my card. They eventually figured it out but while I was standing at the counter I overheard many guests complaining about the tips on their bill and demanding they be taken off or adjusted. This was so strange to me. The front desk staff just did as they requested and took off the tips without explanation. I had talked to several workers on this ship. And they all said the same thing, it is a cheap cruise. I thought they meant the cruise did not cost as much as others but in fact they were referring to the guests being so cheap. Can you imagine not tipping? These people work all week for them and they do not tip them? Does this make the Zuiderdam a slave ship? It made me sick. Tipping is part of cruising. Perhaps they should rename it a "service fee" but it should not be optional. The Zuiderdam did have some activities: Meetings for Friends of Dorothy, Bill W and daily Catholic Masses plus lots of singles and solo activities. I do not fit into any of these categories. However if they offered a "friends of Friends of Dorothy" and recovering Catholics meeting, I'd buy a round. Debarkation: This was easy as pie. Either wait in your cabin or go to the Lido and await you color tag and number. We got out, got a porter who got us a cab and were at the Airport in 20 min. I doubt I will cruise HAL again, at least not without a great itinerary (Europe) and a large loud crowd of friends and family. Don't get me wrong, HAL is well worth the money if this is the type of vacation you are after. I think we are Carnival people. I like a fun ship. Till next time, Go Sox! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
We loved the Zuiderdam. We were in cabin 1121 on the main deck, and that worked out great for the three of us. Although we didn't have a veranda, the view out the large window was great. There was plenty of storage, the water in the ... Read More
We loved the Zuiderdam. We were in cabin 1121 on the main deck, and that worked out great for the three of us. Although we didn't have a veranda, the view out the large window was great. There was plenty of storage, the water in the shower was always hot, the toilet always flushed and we never had any funny smells. My mom was in 6068, and I thought her cabin was spectacular. It was huge, had separate tub and shower, and the veranda was very, very nice. Overall, the ship was clean, well-run and a pleasure to cruise on. Of course, we also ate a lot last week. We had dinner in the main dining room everyone night except one. We sat at table 132, right at the stern with a great view out the large windows. The food was very good, and what I expected. Not five-star, but no complaints. I actually thought they did the best with deserts and soups (soups were five-star to me!). The service at times was a little slow, but everyone who worked out table was extremely nice and eager to please. Karin, the assistant dining room manager, is in a class by herself. She made sure everything was in order, and took care of any concerns right away. We tried the Pinnacle one night, and it lived up to expectations. All the food was fantastic, and a cut about the Vista dining room. Worth the extra $20 for the food and experience. The Lido was good as well. It seemed to be always open, and had a good selection of food. Sometimes it was hard to find a seat during busy times, but after a few laps around the restaurant we always found a place to sit. Again, the staff there was very friendly, especially Buddy. He always made a point to say high and bring something for our son when he saw us. We went to a number of the shows, including the juggler and the magician. Both were fun and entertaining. The shows put on by the ships cast were also entertaining. Just what you'd expect on a cruise, and we always had a good time. I didn't care for the female singer. I'm sure it wasn't as much her as the type of music she sang. The only thing we didn't like about the room were the pillars that blocked the view if you sat in the wrong place. Cruise director did a good job, although I thought he should have worn a tuxedo on the formal nights (he just wore a suit). Visited the casino a few times. Lost some money, and won some. Just like Vegas, some of the dealers were friendly, and some were not. Overall, I thought the casino was just the right size, not too smokey and a lot of fun. The new poker room has one table (which was tough to get on sometimes) and played 3/6 Hold'em. A good addition to the ship, but needed longer hours and more tables. It was definitely popular. Bought a few pictures at the photo gallery, a few trinkets in the shops, etc. They were nice as well. I also liked the gym. A bit crowded at times, but a good array of machines, and a great view. The Lido pool was always crowded, but not out of control. Lots of kids, but they were just having fun. The aft pool was nice as well (I think they had adult hours from 3pm to 5pm every day). My sister and brother used Club Hal for their kids (ages 5 and 6). The kids said they loved it, and the parents appreciated the break (they wish it was open longer!). My sister was especially impressed with the professionalism of the staff in regards to her son who has a disability. We used the private baby sitting service (off duty crew who volunteer for the $8 per hour job). We got Dianna (air brush tattoo artist) for two nights and she was top notch. She was great with our three-year-old who was too young for Club Hal. Embarkation and disembarkation was busy but efficient. Got on and off the ship in a timely manner, and even though our luggage was in the wrong pile, the staff was great at helping us find it. Overall, the crew was really fantastic. Friendly, helpful, efficient and eager to please. They looked they they enjoyed their jobs. Ports Half Moon Cay -- It's everything everyone says. Very beautiful beach. We had the orange cabana, and it was awesome. Air conditioning for grandma, a place to cool off for the kids, and room for all our stuff. Worth EVERY penny. If you can get one, do it. My wife did the horseback riding, and loved it. The trail ride part was -- well, a trail ride -- but she said the swimming part was a real treat. Worth doing again. Tendering in and out of the island was no problem. Grand Cayman -- We did Captain Marvin's stingray city excursion (on a recommendation from this board), and not the ships excursion. Great idea, and highly recommended. The ships excursion boat was packed, ours had about 10 people. The captain was great, the snorkeling was great, and the stingrays were amazing. Our three-year-old thought it was the greatest. Bring a disposable underwater camera to capture some priceless memories! Shopped a little, and ate a a waterfront restaurant. Had a lot of fun. Luckily for us, we were the only ship in port. Apparently, two other ships did eastern itineraries instead of western last week because of Hurricane Emily. I guess our captain has a leg up on the rest, because the weather wasn't a factor for us in any western port. Costa Maya -- Really wasn't looking forward to this port, but was surprised. Yes, it's basically a made up port in the middle of nowhere. It was fun watching the crew dock the ship, what a procedure! Again we were the first ship in, so the place was ours. Staked out a pool-side table at one of the restaurants and spend several hours there having some drinks and eating lunch. My son loved the big salt water pool, so we swam a lot (although it did look a little dirty -- no one got sick or anything). Since you are a captive audience, the food and drink prices were above what I usually pay in Mexico, but we were having such a relaxing day we didn't care. Shopped a little, and found some bargains on souvenir junk, but probably paid too much. One of the highlights was watching another ship try do dock (I think Carnival Holiday?). The winds were high at the time, and the captain was trying to reverse in next to the Zuiderdam. The wind was apparently pushing her too close to shore, so they ended up leaving. More room for us! Key West -- One word: HOT. We're from Arizona, so we know heat. I always thought even though its dry here when its 118, its still darn hot. I stand corrected. 95 degrees and humid it much worse than 118 and dry! Take my word for it! My Key West Cup sailing regatta was cancelled due to damage from Hurricane Dennis, and I couldn't have been more bummed. It's the one excursion I was looking forward to for months. Instead, I joined the rest of the family on the Conch Train tour. Not my favorite, but I guess it was informative. After that, we had lunch at the famous Hogsbreath Saloon, which was fun. I insisted on taking a picture by the southern most point marker, so I made my wife walk 20 minutes for that. She was not happy, and felt like dropping dead in the heat, but I got my picture and we found a great local ice cream shop on the way back, so I redeemed myself. Shopped on the way back to the ship, and had a drink at the harbor. We had another great day despite the heat. We also did the everglades excursion after we disembarked yesterday, and despite another very hot and steamy day, really enjoyed it. Took an airboat ride and saw some alligators (don't have those here in Arizona). Got a great picture of the three-year-old holding a baby alligator, which was priceless. If you can handle the heat, and have never visited the everglades, the tour will be worth it if you have a late flight out. To Sum Up... Great cruise line, great ship. This was our first HAL cruise, and we'd sail with HAL again. We also really loved the Zuiderdam and her crew, and would sail her again anytime. 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Sail Date: June 2005
This was our first cruise and all in all it exceeded our expectations. We chose a room across the back of the ship which offered a balcony that was three times the size of the regular balcony. This was nice, we had two chase lounge chairs, ... Read More
This was our first cruise and all in all it exceeded our expectations. We chose a room across the back of the ship which offered a balcony that was three times the size of the regular balcony. This was nice, we had two chase lounge chairs, two regular chairs, and two cocktail tables! However, these rooms are in steo format (look at the photo of the ship) and therefore have no shade and no privacy -- all decks above you look down on you. The room itself was nice, though appointments appeared worn which was below expectations. Our room steward was exceptional - we always had fresh towels, ice, and turndown service with chocolates. The highlight of this cruise for us was the relaxing and romantic evenings. The food in the dining room was exceptional - you would never know they were cooking for 2,000 people! We enjoyed steaks, duck a l'orange, veal, lamb chops, escargots, lobster -- a real gourmet selection. (On top of the fancy selections, every night they also offer a more basic chicken, pasta, and fish selection.) Our dining room staff was friendly and accommodated a few special requests without even blinking an eye. Nice wine selection with fair pricing. Alternative dining options include the Lido Restaurant which is the largest and most delicious "food court" you have ever seen - there is something for everyone here and the food is still delicious. Room service is also available 24 hours a day, we enjoyed a few breakfasts on our balcony which was nice. One night at the Pinnacle Grill/Odyssey Restaurant ($20 upcharge) is worth the money -- they offer top quality steaks and other items and it makes a very special meal. Another nice thing we found about this ship is that there is plenty of "room per person" -- there are several bars/lounges to choose from and each offer something different -- classical, jazz, dance music. The shows included two musicals which were excellent; one singer, one comedienne, and two magicians. All were entertaining, though the first floor of the show lounge has several large pillars which obstruct views -- (I found this so strange). On the days at sea there was a nice selection of activities -- wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, bingo, ice sculpture demos, yoga classes. Our favorite place to park was on the deck on the side of the boat - there were plenty of nice teak wood lounge chairs and people were quiet, most often reading and relaxing. The ports were nice, and tender service to the islands that we did not dock at was quick and efficient. We took the Stingray tour at Grand Cayman which was amazing - though generally speaking the excursions sold out too quickly and it seemed perhaps they didn't offer enough spaces for a cruise holding 2,000 passengers. The only real thing we found disappointing was that the dining room is situated just above the engines; this is an obvious design flaw as the engines are loud and the vibration is constant. You get used to it but it can be annoying. One last item of note is that we had read several reviews and been told by several people that HAL is "known for catering to older crowds and retired folks." One person even told us we would likely be the youngest ones on the ship -- we are in our 30s. This was absolutely untrue! There were families, babies, couples, older people, younger people, people of all ages. We felt right at home and I did not observe any majority age group whatsoever. A wonderful time was had by all! All in all we had a wonderful time, everything about the cruise met or exceeded our expectations. We will definitely be back cruising in the future! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
We had a wonderful time for our 20th wedding anniversary recently on the Zuiderdam's Eastern Caribbean cruise. We had not been on a vacation together, just the two of us for over 10 years so we went into this trip with the "No ... Read More
We had a wonderful time for our 20th wedding anniversary recently on the Zuiderdam's Eastern Caribbean cruise. We had not been on a vacation together, just the two of us for over 10 years so we went into this trip with the "No Worries" attitude. Some things that might have bothered some, we just didn't see the need to get upset with. That being said... Arrival -- We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 12:50 and found the HAL representative without any problems, but it seemed to take a while to get a bus to actually take us to the ship. Between the airport and the ship's terminal was almost an hour which, considering the ship was a 10 minute drive, seemed too long. Check in went fairly quickly but found the people onshore not nearly as nice as the crew on ship. Since by then it was almost 3 p.m., we went straight to our cabin on the Verandah deck. We found it to be very roomy, with twin beds pushed together as one, a small loveseat, coffee table and vanity desk with stool and mini-fridge. The bathroom was very comfortable with a shower/tub, stool and sink. There were 3 closets available. Two closets had fold down shelves for added storage. The third closet had a safe and more shelves. Besides the closets, there were two drawers on either side of the bed (which also locked with a key), two drawers under the foot of the bed plus space under the bed for our 3 pieces of luggage. There was plenty of space for all of our clothing for the two of us. The balcony was beautiful with two wicker-type chairs, a small ottoman and tabletop for a couple of drinks. We were with friends in the next cabin, so asked the room steward to open the divider between the two balconies. Our cabin steward was very gracious and attentive. If we wanted an extra towel or anything else, it was quickly delivered. Our cabin was always clean, ice in the ice bucket, etc. We were very happy with him. Food We had reservations for the Pinnacle Grill that first night. We found the food there to be delicious, the service attentive and well worth the extra fee (regularly $20 per person but $10 per person the first night of the cruise). We are from Kansas so know and like our beef. My fillet was probably the best steak I have ever had. The menu is the same every night and the atmosphere is very formal. That being said, we also found our main seating in the Vista Dining room to also be very nice so did not choose to return to the Pinnacle later in the trip. We were seated at the main seating which was 8 p.m. That is a lot later than what we usually eat at home so would have preferred an earlier one but not enough to go to the hassle of trying to get it changed. We had a wide selection of foods each night that were very good. I found it interesting that a "comfort food" entrEe was available each night. I was looking for seafood being on the sea so didn't try any of that. There seemed to be a lot of salmon which isn't my first choice, but everything I did have was very good. I never went away hungry from the table for sure. Hubby and friends would often have 2 entrees which was no problem. Our servers were excellent. They quickly realized our preferences, made suggestions and always had iced tea and extra bread ready for us. We ate most breakfasts, a couple of lunches and snacks at the Lido dining area. There we also found the food to be very good. You might have to wait in a line during peak times, but it was no big deal. Tea (very strong), water, coffee and juices were available any time which was nice to fill up your drink to take with you when you left the ship. HMC -- One word, gorgeous! The sand on the beaches is the cleanest, whitest, finest I have seen. You must take a tender into the cove which can be a little warm at times but we did not have to wait at all getting on the island, and about 5 minutes to get a tender off the island. We were on a waiting list for a clamshell before the cruise, but found out the first night that we had one available for our day. I highly recommend them. The cabanas are nice but pricey unless you have a group going in on it in my opinion. We snorkeled with the sting rays which was fun but the snorkeling equipment was showing it's age big time. The food for lunch was very good. They had regular (turkey) dogs, burgers and chicken but also some very tasty grilled fish. Salads, fruits, cheeses, and yummy cookies were also available. Invest in a drink from the bar in the insulated Koozie container. There were only $6.50 with a drink ($5 empty in the ship gift store) and come in handy to take water with you when at the other islands (the bottled water on the gangway is $2/bottle). Just fill it up on the Lido before exiting the ship. Tortola -- A beautiful island with a downtown an easy 10 minute walk from the ship. The shopping is ok but if you visit the tent city of venders by the pier, make sure you negotiate to get a price you can deal with. Took an excursion through HAL to the Baths on Virgin Gorda which had beautiful snorkeling, but they did not include the gear. You were paying for the transportation ferry and open truck up to the Baths, plus a drink at the end. You had to rent your snorkeling equipment at the bar on the beach which only had one person running it so lines were long both renting and returning. Go on your own (not through HAL), it will save you money. St. Thomas -- Definitely the best place to make any purchases of the ports we visited. Look for T-shirts at 5/$10, necklaces for gifts 4/$10. Go down the alleys to find the cheaper shops. We did splurge on a reversible emerald ring at Cardow's which is gorgeous and so unusual. The prices for more expensive things such as jewelry, watches, linens and electronics were definitely cheaper here than the other ports. We took one HAL excursion catamaran trip to Turtle Cove for snorkeling. I highly recommend this. The crew of the Castaway Girl was educational, fun, helpful and an overall highlight to our whole cruise. Nassau -- All of the HAL sponsored excursions we were interested in were booked long before sailing date so we ventured into the town. We found the shopping to be much more expensive than St. Thomas, the streets to be very crowded (3 other ships in port at the same time) and you had to watch out for traffic which did not care if you wanted to cross the street. The Straw Market is a very large tent with twice as many venders in it as it can hold, with too many products jammed into the space to even try to see what is available. The merchants are pushy and some downright scary. We did enjoy Senor Frogs which is a restaurant/bar next to the straw market with excellent service, yummy food, great drinks and outrageous entertainment. Onboard entertainment -- Fill us up with a huge dinner, then set us in a comfy chair to watch a show was tough at times. We did find most of the shows we went to entertaining. The diva singer had a beautiful voice but talked too much between songs, the juggler was hysterical and very entertaining, the magician was ok and the stage shows by the dancers pretty good. The last show featured some incredible costumes by Bob Mackey. The adult comedy by Julie Barr was funny but I was disappointed as I had heard most of her jokes before. If you were a nightowl, there was a disco and of course the casino but we found both way too smoky. The singer in the piano bar was a great piano player...but horrible singer. The other ensemble groups were pretty good. Bingo Bingo everywhere. Can we have another option besides bingo? There are lots of places to hide away and read a good book throughout the ship. DEcor -- It was a little bright, but not nearly as bad as some on the message boards would leave you to think. Disembarkation -- This was way to efficient. We were allowed to stay in our cabin or a public area until our color and number were called. We had a 3 p.m. flight and no other plans for the day and unfortunately were off the ship by about 10 a.m. They made it very easy process. Annoyances -- (1)Too much Bingo. (2) In order to get to the 3rd floor Main dining, you had to go through the photo gallery. This was always filled with those who had just left the earlier seating in the dining room which made it a major chore to get to your dinner. (3)If most of your passengers are American citizens, could they please turn the TV to CNN America instead of the CNN world version. I missed knowing what was happening at home. Would I sail the Zuiderdam again? In a minute! It is scheduled to go into dry dock in December where all rooms are scheduled to get pillow-top mattresses, plasma TVs, and DVD players. They are also doing new carpeting throughout the ship and updating the decor. I would love to go back and see her after her makeover. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Service -- The staff on the ship were excellent. Our cabin stewart was like a Ninja. He came in and quickly did anything needed. He even retrieved our laundry 1 day early completely pressed and ready before our formal night when we ... Read More
Service -- The staff on the ship were excellent. Our cabin stewart was like a Ninja. He came in and quickly did anything needed. He even retrieved our laundry 1 day early completely pressed and ready before our formal night when we mistakenly put a tux shirt in the package. Our dining room waiter was the famous "honky dory" and so much has been said, but its really true, he is wonderful. He also has a assistant named Saeri who was quiet but wonderful as well. Once you have a preference its always there and ready to go...coffee, teas, wines. Our wine stewart was efficient. Never said anything about our bring into the dining room our own drinks from the room, but did replace any "inappropriate" glassware. The only service area I felt they could improve on was on the Half Moon Cay. There were several shaded pavilions with bar setups that were missing any staff. Especially near the children's water park and snorkeling. Also the supervision on the children's water slide was not up to snuff, and the children were allowed to pile down the slide on top of one another. We know of one boy who was injured by another child hitting him. Spa -- Excellent facilities...loved it. Felt the staff could have provided a better introduction to the facilities and what I was supposed to do when I arrived for my appointment (massage and mineral pool...) I've never been there, so I needed to ask twice after I checked in what I was supposed to do, otherwise I think they'd would have left me in the hallway all day?. Food -- The food in the vista dining room was excellent. Again our waiter Honky Dory had recommendations when asked or let you select. It was not problem asking for some substitutions, like two lobster tails instead of steak, or omitting a sauce. I liked that all the food was small in size, as you had 5 courses, so it worked out perfectly. If you are a big eater, it was no problem to order two or three of anything you'd like. If you were in doubt, they'd suggest you get both. The salads were my favorite, a different dinner salad each night. Second by the seafood, all was good. The lobster tails were the small Australian kind. My only food I didn't care for was on the last night, my tuna was overcooked, but I think Honky Dory tried to suggest I get the prime rib, I think they can't do tuna rare..? We ate breakfast one morning at the vista on the last day, and they ran out of bagels, which was disappointing. We also noticed when we ate lunch in the vista, the waiters took a very long time to get my soda for my soda card. Not sure why. We tried the Dutch tea (wonderful!) and the dessert extravaganza... The dessert extravaganza, was setup so it was very slow to get thru and get your desserts, I much prefer the Dutch tea. The Lido, had so much food, it was boggling.... Most everything would have a line in prime times, and would take about 10 minutes but was good. I didn't care for the drink setup, but being my first cruise, I don't know if its customary not to be able to always get the same drinks. They always had tea, coffee, lemonade, but would run out of orange juice in the afternoon, and they sometimes had punch, or apple juice, but it was inconsistent. I would recommend they always have punch and orange juice available. They closed down the Lido in the afternoon for about an hour, but would always leave the grill or pizza part open. My son loved getting pizza everyday, all day long. They had different ice cream specials daily, and my family said the coconut is to die for. Not all ice cream flavors are available every day. Room service was excellent every morning. The food was hot and too order. Again here I wish I could order punch or apple juice or soda with my soda card. Cabin -- We had two adjoining balconies on the deck 4 (4134/4136). We were on port side and really enjoyed the view of coming into ports this way. Our balconies opened between cabins, as did our rooms have a door between them. The bed was made into a king for us, and twins for the boys, and was very comfortable. We did ask for an eggcrate and it appeared (as everything we ever requested for our cabin did) in minutes. Again the cabin service was so quick it was unbelievable. We were misinformed that we'd have a DVD/CD player, apparently this is only in suites. This was a big disappointment to be on the cruise without any music, but there were four channels that have music and we made due, with the pop station, but it got old after 7 days. Room was small but very efficient and well maintained. The blow dryer worked, the shower was large enough for even my 6 foot 4 husband (tub/shower combo). Lots of closet space, under bed drawers and space to stick your luggage. We fully unpacked 4 suitcases no problem. Our room steward was again fantastic. One day I fell asleep with our adjoining cabin door open, and he came in and make up the adjoining room and didn't even wake me!!! If we came back after dinner and he was still cleaning, he would apologize profusely and we would say...no problem, clean all you want! Ice was always put in our cabin buckets, our mini refrigerator restocked, extra towels no problem. Tendering -- This is a very hot/sweaty process, so they make it as fast as they can. No complaints, just wish they had air conditioning or fans. At every port they ask you if you'd like a towel to go ashore. A lot of people do fall getting on/off tenders, my husband did catch at least two older ladies.... They should try to improve the ramp they provide, its very hard to get off at the dock. Ask for assistance, and yes, take their hand when offered to get off! Docked -- Costa Maya docking was wonderful way to get on/off ship loved it. Areas for improvement -- Taking pictures at the end of the gangway, when you are trying to get off ship and in a hurry it holds everyone up! Make this optional! Everywhere they stop you to take pictures when getting on/off the ship, this should be done, so it doesn't stop the flow of traffic. Casino -- (Not a casino person.) Queen's lounge movies -- Offer three different movies everyday, not same ones... also offer one in the evenings every night for those that don't want to go to the vista lounge shows. Dancing -- Music -- I'm not a waltz person, or slow music person.... I like to dance to something with a beat. They had a great band the five seasons, but didn't let them play hardly any up beat music. After dinner I'd like to be able to dance before 11:30 p.m... (sorry I'm getting old I guess..) All the lounges and clubs don't really play any up beat dance music until the vista show gets out. and then everyone goes to the crows nest. Play in the crows' nest earlier from about 9 p.m. on at least. Disco -- They were having a good time, and the teens loved the disco, but again it doesn't really get going until 11 p.m. Entertainment -- Liked the juggler, the comedian, the dance shows, didn't care for divas. Liked when they cancelled our port to Key West they showed a movie in the Vista lounge and added more activities. I'd like more things to do besides bingo and art shows.... My tween likes more activities in the pool such as games, and he'd like to see more free computer games,,,,Nintendo. We all said we'd like to have a up beat band on the aft pool for more than an hour or so the whole cruise. We'd all like to see them mix up the canned music they play on the ship, you get pretty sick of the same stuff. Overall I loved the staff on the Zuiderdam and became very attached to them, and I loved the ship and the cabin and service. I would definitely go back. I just like them to spice up the entertainment options for the younger crowd (but tired crowd....that needs to go to bed by midnight....). On the other hand my teen stayed up until 2-4 a.m. and they had a great time in the disco, and about the ship and on all the teen activities. Loved it. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
This being our first cruise, we have no point of reference for our opinions, but we did have a few observations. Embarkation -- The baggage handling at the dock is a bit chaotic. Somebody gathered our bags in one spot on the curb, but ... Read More
This being our first cruise, we have no point of reference for our opinions, but we did have a few observations. Embarkation -- The baggage handling at the dock is a bit chaotic. Somebody gathered our bags in one spot on the curb, but since he had no uniform or anything else that identified him as an employee of HAL, we were wondering if we handed our belongings over to a cab driver or something. Well, at least we tipped him. Inside the embarkation building, the staff, at least some of it, didn't seem completely up to speed on policy and procedure. We had a bit of confusion regarding our immigration documents and although we filled out ours on-line, we were sent by one lady to the tables to complete new ones. A gentleman there said we only needed to sign the forms, since they had us on-line, but then at the check-in the clerk didn't seem to agree, and we almost got sent back to the tables until her supervisor educated her on the policy. All in all, provided a bit of stress, but still took no more than 40 minutes to complete from the curb to the Lido deck. We were allowed into our cabin at 1:30, as promised, but all our baggage did not arrive until after muster, around 5 p.m., just in time for sail away. Public Areas -- You can find plenty of descriptions on-line about the public area design and features, so no need for us to repeat. Everything seemed to be designed well and allowed plenty of areas to visit while still allowing the foot traffic to move smoothly. However, we will note that there's a need for a good deal of maintenance already. There are several broken windows, the lounge chairs in the crow's nest are worn and some don't function properly, graffiti etched into elevator panels, etc. Cabin -- We booked a Veranda Suite, and highly recommend that category. We did visit a couple of the veranda cabins and peeked into some standard staterooms and felt the extra room we had was well worth the extra cost. Spa & gym -- The spa is a definite highlight. We booked a couple's massage for our first full day at sea, and it was a treat. The therapy room has a beautiful view of the ocean, so be sure to book the extra soak in the whirlpool following your massage. The gym is geared mostly for cardio. The resistance training is ok, but heavy lifters will only be able to do basic maintenance sets. Dining -- The dining room was ok. We must say, we were probably expecting maybe too much, five star every night is unrealistic we suppose. The Pinnacle Grill certainly provided that level of food, but the dining room was at least a notch down. As far as the Lido dining, if it weren't for all the water around us, we would have sworn we were eating at a truck stop on the turnpike. Crowded, confused and marginal food -- we only ate here for a few lunches. Oh, and the BBQ at Half Moon Cay was horrific. Hockey puck hamburgers and shriveled hot dogs. Bar on HMC was even worse. 20-minute wait for a watered down Margarita. Service -- A bit spotty. Dining room was fantastic, as was Pinnacle Grill. But, it can take a while to get your drink at some of the bars (Ocean being the worst), and it won't always be what you ordered. We'll take this opportunity to mention the casino staff as well. All we can assume is these people are indentured staff. They don't seem as though the want to be there, and they certainly don't want to be doing what they're doing. We had to watch the dealer at the craps game to be sure she paid us. But, she was very quick at pulling the chips when we lost. All in all, not a very fun place to lose your money. Entertainment -- We didn't go to many shows. The production featuring the costumes of Bob Macky was interesting and well done, and we did enjoy the crew show. But, steer a wide course around the Piano Lounge and the vocal stylings of "Rhonda." You'd think there'd be an audition or something for a job like that. We tried to sit there after dinner to listen to some music our second night, but when she broke into “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary," we left the bar to the World War I vets. Unfortunately, we never found anywhere to enjoy a bit of after dinner drinks and dancing. The Crow's Nest was typically invaded by teenagers, and the Northern Lights disco was the crew and staff aftershift hangout. Overall, since we did get a fantastic deal, it was a decent value. The biggest disappointment was not being able to dock in Key West because of tropical storm Arlene, but that's no fault of HAL. We had booked this cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and included the renewal of vows package, which was nice. However, HAL needs to decide if it's going to cater to or discourage families with children. While they do have some programs for kids, we felt that it was only the bare minimum required to keep their parents in the casino or drinking at the bars. There was not one area (other than our cabin) we could go to enjoy a romantic dance or quiet drink. Even after the first formal dinner we were joined in the Crow's Nest by a dozen or so teens dressed in T-shirts and sweat pants, intent on mocking those dancing and just generally making the environment anything but romantic. From the description of others, we would have seen fewer children on a Disney cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
I'm a "young" 59 year old married woman with over 20 cruises under my belt. This was my first time with Holland America. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze! Holland America has this down pat. And the cruise staff, ... Read More
I'm a "young" 59 year old married woman with over 20 cruises under my belt. This was my first time with Holland America. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze! Holland America has this down pat. And the cruise staff, especially the waiters and cabin staff were superb! I wasn't sure what to expect having read some previous reviews, but I encountered only smiling faces and a "can do" attitude from the Indonesian staff. We were assigned a handicapped cabin (which we had not requested) - this had good points (HUGE space) and bad (at very front of ship - a LOT of walking). Never had so much storage space in a cruise cabin! Even gave my husband some of it.....but we didn't get our double vanity and whirlpool bath, since the bathroom was set up for a wheelchair. BUT....some of the comments regarding the garish nature of the ship are true. There seems to be no cohesiveness to the decor, and I missed some of the open spaces provided by the larger atriums on other ships. There is some exciting artwork, and some incredibly ugly lamps! Holland America has apparently corrected this on the other Vista ships. The main problem we encountered concerns the ship's functions: our cruise "keys" didn't work upon arrival, the toilet broke down and took a few hours to be repaired (we had to go to main decks to use the toilet..) And upon our return to the cabin after a particularly hot and humid day in Nassau, found that we had NO HOT WATER(along with several other cabins). I called the "front desk" to inquire and was informed that this had been reported by others...they had no idea how long it would take to solve the problem. The next morning we had hot water, but no one from the front desk ever called....In addition, one of the main freezers on the ship broke, so for most of the cruise there was no ice cream; the night we went to the alternative dining room (which was great) we were informed that two of the dishes were "still frozen" ..guess they had to rescue from another freezer... SO A+ for the crew, and C for the ship... Felt that the food was fine - a step up from Princess - and it arrived generally warm/hot from the kitchen. Not a lot of activities, but we knew this and that was not a problem. Shows were pretty entertaining.... Would I sail again with Holland America? Sure...but I would have to get a really special rate to go on the Zuiderdam, would probably pick another ship or simply stick with Celebrity or Princess. I have never encountered the kind of physical problems on any ship that occurred on the Z-dam. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
I think this ship gets too much bad press. My partner and I LOVED this ship! We sailed on the Oosterdam in January and had a brunch/tour on the Westerdam in December, but we really enjoyed the Zuiderdam the best. We also thought this ship ... Read More
I think this ship gets too much bad press. My partner and I LOVED this ship! We sailed on the Oosterdam in January and had a brunch/tour on the Westerdam in December, but we really enjoyed the Zuiderdam the best. We also thought this ship was the most beautiful of the three OVERALL. Sure there were a couple of rooms that we didn't find attractive, but the other rooms were spectacular. The Vista Show Lounge, Queen's Lounge, Sports Bar, Lido Restaurant, Vista Dining Room and The Pinnace Grill are the most beautiful on the Zuiderdam. The Crow's Nest, Ocean Bar and Explorer's Lounge are probably prettiest on the Westerdam, but they are still lovely on this ship. The ships do use lots of color, but nothing like the over the top Carnival or the too subdued beiges and blues of Princess. Lots of jewel tones and primary colors on this ship which we really enjoy. I have sailed previously on Carnival which I didn't like at all and Princess which I loved. I think HAL provides the best experience for us overall, but I love the variety of entertainment choices on Princess. My partner is a young baby boomer and I am Generation X and we think this ship is really successful at attracting a more diverse passenger profile. Every age group was well represented on this cruise. Very pleasant mix of people. Embarkation was ridiculously easy. We got to the port about 11:25 and walked straight in for check-in, through security and on the ship in less than 15 minutes. We really enjoy the early embarkation. If you choose, you can leave your carry on luggage in the piano bar until the staterooms are ready. We went to the Lido restaurant and immediately met "Hunky Dory." As you have probably read, he remembers everyone's name and is an extremely pleasant and funny man. We sat in a section of the Lido where we could watch him learning everyone's name and it was a funny way to start a great cruise. He works at "The Bistro" line on the starboard side of the ship. Food in the Lido was consistently wonderful with wide variety of choice and lines kept to a minimum. The food is prepared in small batches so everything is always hot and fresh. It would be impossible to go hungry on this ship. Breakfast is terrific on HAL ships. The Lido is colorful and beautiful with fresh potted orchids on every table. The ship is very well managed and maintained. The taco and nacho bar and the Grill by the Lido pool also provide good choices. One of my favorite meals was nachos with grilled chicken, red peppers, cheese sauce, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes and jalapenos. Yummy! Really enjoyed the salad bar also. Had a good variety of choices that changed daily. Also love the free ice cream in waffle cones. Variety of flavors in regular and soft serve that change frequently. Ice cream is good quality like you would get from your local dairy (not Haagen Daaz, but not cheap "ice milk" either). The Vista class ships are EXTREMELY comfortable and you never feel crowded. We had a balcony cabin on the Oosterdam in January which was wonderful, but needed to be more economical on this trip. We were in cabin 4100 obstructed view and we loved this cabin. Floor to ceiling window that was blocked by the tender, but we could see through it. Room was filled with light, had very attractive furnishings and we actually liked the layout of the furniture better than the balcony cabin. We were close to the midship elevators and everything was so convenient. I would highly recommend this cabin if you need to watch the budget and not pay for a verandah. We had an incredible cabin steward named Agus. He was so friendly, kind and accommodating and always had a big smile on his face. He really made our trip great. The cabin was superior to the Oosterdam for two other reasons. The TV was mounted so that we had full use of the desk (TV takes up almost entire desk on Oosterdam). The TV had four channels that had cameras of views off the bow and the stern of the ship. Each channel played a different style of music so you could listen to good music while in the cabin. A small touch that we really enjoyed. There were two stations of pop, adult contemporary music, one jazz and one light classical. The Zuiderdam has not gone through its full "Signature of Excellence" upgrade, but that was ok. This ship will be fabulous once all cabins have the Eurotop mattresses and upgraded pillows, lines and towels that we had on the Oosterdam. First stop was Half Moon Cay. This is a spectacularly beautiful island. Water is so clear and perfect. Be prepared for the tender to shore to be hot. I recommend that you take more than one towel ashore with you if you are not used to hot weather and take a bottle of water. HAL provides towels as you disembark which is great. This beach has fine powdery white sand and gorgeous water. Be sure to go for a swim. We did the eco-lagoon kayak excursion which we probably wouldn't do again. We opted for a two person kayak and messed up by putting the person who wears glasses in the back. Once the splash gets going, he couldn't see. If you go, best to go in the single kayaks or put anyone who is vision impaired in the front if you use a two person kayak. It was in a beautiful lagoon away from the beach and crowds. I would recommend two things for Half Moon Cay. Be sure to reserve a clamshell IN ADVANCE of your cruise if you want to enjoy the beach in the shade and I would recommend just getting a float and enjoying the water. The clamshells will be sold out if you wait. I had a great swim in the clear water and enjoyed spending time lounging in a hammock. This is a great beach if you want to go for a long stroll. I still wish that Holland America would add water trampolines to the kids water park area. I think these would be a huge success with both adults and children. The beach BBQ tasted much better this time than the Oosterdam trip. Really enjoyed the burgers, baby back ribs and lots of really ripe watermelon and pineapple this trip. Yummy again! They also had grilled mahi mahi which I didn't try, but it looked really good. They shut down at 1:30 on the dot, so plan accordingly. They had really good island music in the background in multiple places which I enjoyed. We enjoyed 8:00 dinner seating in the upper Vista Dining Room. Table for 4 with mother and daughter from Fort Myers, Florida and great service from waiter Herry and assistant Latif. They made really cute animals out of paper, foil and wine corks that they presented to the women at the table. The dining room is very attractive and the high backed chairs are comfortable with a beautiful red and black floral pattern on their backs that I find very sharp. Dinners were mostly good. The simplest menu items tend to be the best. Surprisingly, the best meal on the menu for me was Ham with mashed potatoes and stuffing. It was terrific. We are not seafood lovers, but our tablemates really enjoyed the shrimp, crab legs and lobster. We thought that the Zuiderdam had much better breads and breakfast pastries, but the Oosterdam did a better job with desserts. Desserts were good in the dining room, but not terrific. We dined the first night in the Pinnacle Grill which is fantastic, plus it's only $10/person on the first night. They serve very high quality sterling beef and lots of seafood choices. I had a wonderful 22 ounce porterhouse steak with a sun -dried tomato dipping sauce and my partner had Alaskan salmon. I really enjoy the thai chicken soup and my partner loves the smokey clam chowder with bacon. They toss a beautiful salad tableside with sliced pears, dried cranberries and a ball of nut-crusted bleu cheese. I ended dinner with the Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake. I learned from the last cruise that it is better if you request a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. My partner enjoyed the creme brulee in three flavors; vanilla, chocolate and coffee. Be sure to enjoy a dinner here. Well worth the additional charge even if you don't go on the first night, service is top notch and this room is more attractive on the Zuiderdam than either of the other Vista class ships. It is beautifully done in white with white orchids on the tables, white flower arrangements spread throughout and white seating that allows the artwork to really shine. We thought the Zuiderdam not only had beautiful artwork, but it was displayed so well. It really lured you over to take a look. Didn't find this to be so on the Oosterdam. Be sure to notice the shadowbox artwork outside the Vista Lounge on deck 3. We had a FANTASTIC entertainer on this cruise named Alfreda Gerald. She has been a featured vocalist with Yanni and has an incredible voice. She did a show called "A Tribute to the Divas". Normally we would not expect much from this type of show, but she was great. She sang a couple of Whitney Houston songs better than Whitney and was great with songs by Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald. I can't say enough about how good this show was. She had the gift of combining storytelling with music. There was an illusionist show on the ship that didn't hold my interest and a comedian that was good. Remember that these acts change frequently, so you never really know what kind of entertainment you are going to get. We were on the first cruise with a brand new Cruise Director, Bobby Broughton. We thought he did a great job and could not believe it was his first week. We really enjoyed silly pool games by the aft pool on sea days and crew vs. passengers volleyball. We also had a brand new cast of singers and dancers for the production shows. The shows looked great and dancing was terrific. Singers were not very good in the first production show(lots of pitch problems), but did much better in show called "Stage and Screen". This show is very high tech with terrific staging, lighting and costumes. Personally, I would recast the male lead singer as his voice wasn't appealing to me, but the lead female and the featured singers did a good job. We met one of the dancers, Matthew, and he explained to us that the ship had brought on an entire new cast just the week before our sailing and they only had 3 1/2 weeks to practice it on a stage in California prior to performing both shows on the ship. These shows should just continue to get better. We enjoyed listening to a band called "Five Seasons" in the Crow's Nest. Live music is important to us on a cruise and they didn't disappoint (we were not so fortunate on the Oosterdam). As guest entertainers and musicians change frequently, it's hard to predict what you will get on a future cruise. I still really wish these ships would make better use of the smaller Queen's Lounge and have the ship's band and singers do cabaret style shows in there. The house band on the both the Oosterdam and Zuiderdam are terrific and we would like to hear more of them. It seems wasted with just movies and Zuiderdam Superstar. Entertainment in this room tends to usually happen about 7:45, so if you want to fully participate in the entertainment, it's best to have an early seating dinner (we had late). In summary, I think this is a well managed and extremely enjoyable ship. If you are looking for lots of activities and around the clock entertainment, then HAL is probably not the best choice(ship gets pretty sleepy after the show except for the casino). If you want exceptional service, higher quality dining, and relaxation in very comfortable accommodations, then the Zuiderdam is a terrific choice. It is the best cruise I have sailed on and I would go on her again in a heartbeat. Happy Cruising! 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Sail Date: May 2005
Not knowing what to expect as first time cruisers, my husband and I have now decided to never go on a "regular" vacation again. :) Embarkation was wonderful and only took about 15 minutes. This was due in part to my husband ... Read More
Not knowing what to expect as first time cruisers, my husband and I have now decided to never go on a "regular" vacation again. :) Embarkation was wonderful and only took about 15 minutes. This was due in part to my husband being a Resident Alien and we got in a shorter line. They did seem to have many desks open for citizens, and I never heard anyone complain about the wait time. Once on the ship we could go to our cabin within 30 minutes and I would say within 2 hours we had our luggage. The dinners were fabulous, lots to choose from and we had 4 wonderful dinner mates. We were supposed to have another couple at the table, but they showed up the first night, said something to the steward, went away and about 10 minutes later showed back up and said less than 10 words. They never came back and sat with us (their loss because we were a fun table). We had a balcony on our room and it was wonderful to sit out there and watch the ocean go by. So relaxing and peaceful. The entertainment was great!! This was the first cruise for our cast and they seemed as though they had performed the shows many times. Everything went smoothly, singing and dancing was great. The comedian, Julie Barr, was hilarious and you saw her around the ship and she was so friendly. Many times we saw her talking with cruisers. She also participated in some of the other activities on the boat and the improv was wonderful. We had a "special guest" act on our cruise as it was the Cruise Director's last week and Joel Mason had agreed to come on and perform. He does a tribute to Elton John that makes you feel as though it is the real thing. You could also find him around the ship and he was also a judge in Zuiderdam Superstar (like American Idol on a cruise ship). Dane Butcher, the Cruise Director, did a wonderful job, as did his entire staff. Many fun activities throughout the cruise. Half Moon Cay (cruise line's private island) was beautiful. The beaches were bare foot friendly and the water was crystal clear. Never seen anything like that before. We didn't sign up for any excursions at this port and regret not renting a clamshell. I am very fair skinned and had to find a shady spot since all of the clamshells were rented. They had a barbecue and lots of seating area for all. My husband was sad they didn't have any palm trees, though (or at least not many). Costa Maya was nice and we had an awesome tour guide at the Mayan Ruins. Her name is Lety and if you see her name on a tour bus, try to get on there. She had many visual aids to share throughout the bus trip (40 minutes each way) and at the ruins and was very easy to understand. Costa Maya is rather new and I would love to see how it has grown in a few years. Georgetown, Grand Cayman was also a nice port. We took a bus tour to Hell (make sure to mail a postcard from there) and visited the sea turtle farm. You get a chance to hold the turtles - good photo op. We attempted to walk to the beach, but it was hot and the journey was long. Had to turn back because we would have missed the boat back. I would like to see HAL set up a shuttle to the beach. Key West was my husband's favorite, although the beach left a lot to be desired for us. We were told it was great for snorkeling, but it was very rocky and "dirtier" than the other ports of call. We took the Conch Tour and got to go past many sites. These were also the free trains that took you to and from the ship. On the way back and forth they would tell you factoids. Tipping was appreciated on these rides. The service and friendliness of the staff was exceptional. No matter what time of day it was, or who you passed in the hall/dining room/Lido restaurant you were always greeted with a smile. I did have a bad experience at the Front Desk, but it was a special circumstance and I won't hold it against the entire ship. I hope we all took away from the boat a little of the kindness we all exhibited on the boat. I totally agree with Dane's speech the last day that this would maybe make the world a better place. We will definitely travel with HAL again, and hopefully on the Zuiderdam. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
Well, we're back... ...from another excellent cruise on our favorite ship, and can't wait to go 'round again! Jim and I are 63/57and this is our 4th Zuiderdam, 15th cruise (9th on HAL). We have also sailed HAL's (old) ... Read More
Well, we're back... ...from another excellent cruise on our favorite ship, and can't wait to go 'round again! Jim and I are 63/57and this is our 4th Zuiderdam, 15th cruise (9th on HAL). We have also sailed HAL's (old) Westerdam x 2, (old) Noordam, Zaandam, and Maasdam; RCI (Enchantment, Brilliance and Majesty), Celebrity Century, NCL Norway, and the ancient barnacle-barge, Seawind Crown (she was our first cruise, and that somewhat explains why we are (almost) never disappointed). Shopping & Booking & Stuff There wasn't any shopping involved with this cruise. We knew we wanted to sail the Zuiderdam again. Itinerary was not important. We chose a sail date that fit into our friends' schedule and booked it. Our excellent travel agent, Lori Cunningham at SkyscraperTours always gives us the best price of all, so we selected cabins and booked it. Prior to embarkation We chose to book our own air transportation because we like to have control. We flew the morning of the cruise, as the weather in May is more predictable and we knew if we had to, we could always drive to the port. Connections came off without a hitch, landing in Ft. Lauderdale at about 11:40. Embarkation For a change, our bags were the first off the carousel, so we had the porter take them outside and got into a van. We arrived at the pier 10 minutes later, handed our bags to the pier staff (together with a buck-a-bag tip) and entered the check-in area. We had completed our immigration forms online, but our friends had not, so we stood in 2 different lines. Ours took 30 minutes, theirs 35. We had our photos taken and were on board before 1:00. The first thing we did was hunt for Hunky Dory at the Lido. He had taken the day off, so we looked for Burt Reynolds (number 22 football, Jupiter Florida, famous movie star, Loni Anderson...). We told him our names but he couldn't remember them during the whole cruise. Hunky Dory Rules! By the time we had our lunch by the pool, the cabins were ready and we went to take the first of many naps. Cabin Our cabin, Category SS, 6098, Upper Verandah, Portside was wonderful! We have been in Cat A and S cabins and this SS was the best of both worlds. Big, comfortable room, spacious veranda with two chairs and ottomans and a little dining table and 4 small chairs. Plenty for two. The cabin has more desk/counter space than the Cat As, and almost the same as the Cat Ss. There was plenty of closet space, with convertible shelves that fold up to allow for hanging long clothes. We could have used a lot more drawer space, though. The narrow drawers were unsuitable for clothing. The lighting was better than we expected, including the lighted magnifying makeup mirror. The air conditioning was cold, and easily adjustable. The bathroom had a jacuzzi tub, separate shower and double sink with two corner medicine cabinets and storage shelf below. Their usual Dutch brand shampoo, conditioner, soaps and body lotion were provided, along with laundry basket and 2 fluffy cotton robes. SS cabins have not yet been furnished with the SOE bedding and linens, but on a ship I can sleep on anything as long as it rocks. Generally at this time I write about the ship facilities, but the real estate hasn't changed since my last 3 reviews, so I'll refer you to those. Movies "Because of Winn Dixie", "Coach Carter", "Hide and Seek", "In Good Company", "Meet the Fockers", "The Aviator" and "Hotel Rwanda" were shown in the Queen's Lounge. Casino Jim prefers the slots and blackjack, but I haunt the craps table. The dealers and pit bosses on this sailing were particularly good. I found them all helpful and personable, and the payoffs were accurate. Special thanks go to Inga, Richard, Maribel and AnnaMarie for making my whole playing experience a pleasure, win or lose! I do wish HAL would rate players as other casinos do... maybe one day I'll earn a Pinnacle dinner or free photos or excursions or something for all my hard work. Cash Advances For a 3% service charge, you can get cash at the Front Office, provided you have registered your credit card. Tattoo Artist Diana airbrushes these henna tattoos at a booth near the Lido pool. I never saw her the whole trip. Internet Cafe: This place is open 24 hours and offers these packages: 1 Minute for 75¢ (+ $3.75 service charge) 40 Minutes for $24.00 100 Minutes for $50.00 250 Minutes for $100.00 dial up access in your cabin is 50¢ per minute. WiFi access was in the Internet Center, the Library, Lobby and some other public rooms (cards for your own laptop are available). I visited at various times during the day and evening and there were always terminals available. Instead of visiting the cafe or renting a wireless adapter, I used the dial up in our cabin, which was more convenient for me. Greenhouse Spa One good thing about not caring much for excursions or ports you've visited many times before, is it gives you LOTS of free time for the spa. I normally have 3 or 4 "treatments", usually on port days at a reduced fee. I have always been able to use the facilities of the hydrotherapy pool or thermal suite at no charge on treatment days. Apparently this has changed since my last cruise on this ship in November. I nearly had an argument with a girl at the desk when she said HAL has "never" offered free access, but she would sell me a pass for $10 instead of $15. Even when I told her of my past experiences, she still used the "never" word, and there was no manager around to consult. I tried to use the free sauna, but it was nearly room temperature and what good is that? Emma did my Ionithermie and I lost 6 inches. New services include: Gentle Touch Tooth Whitening; 1-8 shades whiter teeth in one 40-minute cosmetic process, including a 2-week maintenance program, all for $199. I had mine done at home for $450, so I know this is a good price. UdefineU Video Program, a series that teaches women to dramatically alter their physical appearance by learning to use what they already have, i.e., Posture & Poise, Voice & Speech, Etiquette and Style... $99. Safety Drill Unless you're a total cruise virgin, everyone knows about the lifeboat drill. In addition, there was a full-blown Coast Guard inspection one day. We were, um, napping (yeah, napping), and heard over the PA system that there would be a drill for crew only. There are usually one or two on every cruise, so we figured we could tough it out a few minutes (the speaker is right behind the headboard and the volume cannot be adjusted). This was no routine drill, however, and when Jim was ready to... I mean, um, when we were almost... anyway, the Captain called "Abandon Ship" several times. Then they lowered the life boats for what seemed like an hour, and, well, we gave up trying to, uh, nap. Forever after, "Abandon Ship" will have a special meaning for us. Saturday, Embarkation Day: Wow, do we love this ship! We knew just how to find Hunky Dory (although he took today off), how to get to our cabin, everything... like going home after a long vacation, only backwards! After our usual embarkation nap (so sorry we missed the CruiseCritic party) we eased into our typically casual shipboard routine. Highlights of the day were the Spa Tour, Liquor Tasting, Port & History Talk, Great Zuiderdam Giveaway, SailAway Festivities, Club HAL Welcome Meeting, $500 Intro Bingo and Welcome Aboard Showtime, featuring "Under the Sun" by the Zuiderdam singers and dancers, and the comedy of Julie Barr. Casual Dinner tonight... we were seated at our favorite table for six with our two friends, but the other seats either weren't assigned, or they ate somewhere else. I initially ordered the Black Pepper Crusted New York Sirloin Steak, but it was way too spicy for me, so our waiter brought me the Farfalle with Smoky-Grilled Portabella Mushrooms, which was outstanding. We saw the Welcome Show and headed to one of our favorite parts of the ship, the Casino. Jim planted me at the Craps table and left to play Blackjack. Sunday, Half Moon Cay: This is my favorite island of all. We don't even need a cabana or clamshell... just give me a floatie and push me out to the ropes and let me broil all day. The beach (after last fall's hurricane) is once again powder soft, and the water, although a little cool in May, was clear and the most beautiful color blue. Aaaaahhhhhhh. If you rent a cabana you also get priority tendering. If you get a butler with it, you get an outstanding luncheon of your own design and superb service. There were 13 Shore Excursions ranging from $19 to $119, and Gear Rentals from $6 all day to $50 per hour. Back at the ship (reluctantly) we napped through the Port & Shopping Talk, Country Snowball Jackpot Bingo and the Liars Club. Dinner was casual again (I had the Floridian Grouper and Smoked Salmon), and afterward we skipped Alfreda Gerald in the Showroom (which I heard was a giant mistake on our part), and the Country Line Dancing Party and went straight to the Casino. Monday, At Sea: Sea days are my favorite of all. I don't exactly recall, but I know we didn't go to Snowball Jackpot Bingo, the Wine Tasting, Water Volleyball, and certainly not the Sock Hop. We slept through the Captain's Reception, but didn't miss this first formal dinner. We also skipped the "Under the Boardwalk" show, mainly because we've seen it before, but also because we walked by the casino and couldn't resist the musical ka-ching of the slots... it's hypnotizing! Tuesday, Roadtown, Tortola, BVI: We didn't get off the ship again! We may have played Bingo, but I know we missed the Crew Show (been there, done that) and Volleyball. Jim went to see "The Aviator" and I had 2 spa treatments (details above in the Spa department). There were 12 Shore Excursions ranging from $34 to $149. We don't care for barbeque, so I dined casually in the Vista Dining Room... the Pan Seared Gulf Red Snapper was excellent! Jim wasn't feeling well that night and our friends were exhausted after their excursion, so I showed up alone at our table. Our waiter found me a seat at the next table with a lovely newlywed couple whose dinner partners were also absent, and they were wonderful company. After dinner, the waiter assembled a platter of Pot Roast and other stuff and went with me to personally deliver the dinner to Jim. What a nice thing to do! This is service! Wednesday, St. Thomas, USVI: Immigration at the crack of dawn? Bummer! It actually was very well organized and we got in a line that was constantly moving... about 10 minutes, tops. The downside to this procedure is that everybody is up and the Lido is packed! We were in no hurry, though, 'cause I was the only one to go ashore, and only for a quick look around for chachkies at Havensight Mall. All I bought was Pepto Bismol for the patient. Jeez... I can't even spend money anymore! It's the same stuff everywhere! There were 20 Shore Excursions ranging from $24 to $99, and I missed all of them. Informal dinner tonight offered one of my all-time faves... Hazelnut Crusted Perch with Pureed Scallion Sweet Potato... MMMmmmmmm..... but we went to the Pinnacle instead, dining on he Planked Shrimp, Petit Filet, and Planked Halibut. Magician James Cielen We never miss the magician, and although we have seen James Cielen's act before, we went again (my that little puppy has grown a whole 6 ounces!) It's an amazing show and I'd recommend it highly. Thursday, At Sea: Aaaahhh... another day at sea. Captain John Scott showed off his Bingo calling expertise at his Captain's Win-a-Cruise Bingo game (I think this was in lieu of the Captain's Farewell Party). There was a tie, and only one cruise to give away, so Captain Scott had to cut the ship in half... No! That was King Solomon! Sorry. There was a sudden-death Bingo-off, and although there was a lengthy protest from a lady in the audience, one lucky woman won a 7-day cruise for two in an outside stateroom! Formal dinner was less formal due to the lack of fancy chair covers used in the past. The traditional Surf-and-Turf was offered, which I enjoyed with Trio of Salmon, Jumbo Shrimp and Pearls of the Ocean, Escargots and Chilled Strawberry Bisque. I love cruises. Friday, Nassau: There were 10 Shore Excursions ranging from $39 to 119, but this trip to Nassau we did what we have said we would do but never did... we took the water taxi to Atlantis and wandered around. It's a bit of a walk, uphill both ways, but it's worth it if you can win $750 on the $5 slot machines like Jim and Ralph did! I would have played a little Craps, but at the two tables open in the daytime, there were a few men who looked either bored or half asleep, who had chips on the Pass Line and no place bets. No excitement. No shouting. No energy. I'm kind of a formal-slinky-dress kinda dice-throwin' gal, and it just wasn't fun enough for me. We were hungry, though. I checked a menu before we went into the little restaurant, and the $17 pricetag on a roast beef sandwich ala carte was enough to send us back to the ship. The boys went ahead and we window-shopped a little, but nothing was really exciting, so we went home - you know - our other home. We slept through the Farewell Variety Showtime, which is a shame because I wanted to see Alfreda Gerald. After the casual dinner (I originally ordered the Osso Buco, but it was fatty, so they brought me some Fettuccini Frutti Di Mare, which was quite good) we stopped by the Casino until Final Snowball Jackpot Bingo. I was throwing dice while Jim was accumulating black chips at the Blackjack table. He looked over at me and gestured it was time for Bingo. Looking at the piles of chips, I mouthed, "Are you crazy?" and we kept on playing. No way am I gonna leave all that fun to NOT win at Bingo again! Eventually we colored out, tipped the boys, thanked the dealers and pit bosses, left my CruiseReport business cards, and promised to return in August. We will... we certainly will. Now, the mad dash to pack. Tossing clothing across the room helter-skelter, not caring particularly what went where, we managed to get it out there by 2:00 a.m. Whew! Saturday, Debarkation Day: For those of you who have late flights or are staying the night, HAL offered 2 Shore Excursions ranging from $49 to $83 including transfers to either airport. Transfers only were $12 to Ft. Lauderdale or $24 to Miami airport. This last day is so much easier now than it used to be. We were able to have coffee delivered, have a full breakfast in the Lido. You can now relax in your cabin, if you like, until your color/number is called. We were first off, quickly found our luggage, and moved the overnight stuff from the carryon to a suitcase. One of our TSA locks was missing, but I knew there wasn't anything worth stealing in that bag, so we did not report it. We went through customs and found a van by 9:45. Unfortunately, the four of us decided to take a van instead of a cab, and mistakenly thought we would be the only passengers. The driver loaded our bags and continued to look for more fares to the airport, loading their bags on top of ours. At the airport, we were first off, and during the loading and unloading, my unlocked carryon bag (with all the jewelry, camera, cash, etc. and NO ID TAG) was left on the van while I checked in at the curb. My husband spotted the van at the next terminal and made a run for it (I haven't ever seen him run that fast). He caught the driver before he pulled away and asked for the bag. He had a hard time describing the contents, but they found the plane tickets in one pocket, and they matched his name. Whew! My luggage was a little more than one pound overweight, but they let it pass. My girlfriend's case was more than five pounds over, so she had to move a few things to another case (no charge for either). It's a good thing that after your suitcase is bumped around for a few hours, things kinda settle, and there's more room than you think. You know, I just realized something. We didn't do anything on this cruise! Who would pay all that money to just relax and eat and indulge, and... Me, that's who! We will be back in August for our 5th Zuiderdam cruise, and even though Hunky Dory is on leave, we will enjoy doing not much of anything. Just tell Inge to hold that spot next to the croupier for me. Candy Brock Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Having read so many different reviews of this ship, I was very interested to see what it would be like. To tell you a little bit about us, this was our 10th cruise. Although we are in our late 20's, we are business owners, and tend to ... Read More
Having read so many different reviews of this ship, I was very interested to see what it would be like. To tell you a little bit about us, this was our 10th cruise. Although we are in our late 20's, we are business owners, and tend to be comparable to folks closer to their 40's & 50's, as those are the people we enjoy being with the most. We enjoy dancing, however, we also like to read, eat fine food, as well as good entertainment. We have a 5 year old daughter, and have traveled extensively. We have predominantly taken Princess Cruises, and also been on Royal and Carnival. Princess has been our favorite overall up to date, however, we have noticed that the Princess ships are pretty much the same from ship to ship so far. In my opinion, a cruise ship vacation is what you make of it, however, I feel that the service on a ship can make or break a vacation. Somehow, when people are consistently rude, it tends to dampen your overall enjoyment a bit. Luckily, that was not the case on the Zuiderdam. Our cruise was sailing out of Fort Lauderdale with an Eastern Caribbean itinerary. We actually chose the Zuiderdam because it was sailing to St. Thomas (my favorite) and was going to Tortola as well, which my friend told me was her favorite island, and she had lived in the Caribbean on a boat for 9 years. Hence, I trusted her judgment. I wasn't too fond of Fort Lauderdale. The airport was horrible. I actually promised myself that I would never fly in or out of there again. They had the rudest service, the longest lines (long meaning 2-3 hour waits) and it wasn't clean at all. Skip it if you can. We were really excited about the itinerary when we first booked. It seemed as if Holland ships stayed the longest at port, especially in some of the better destinations. It's not until 1 month before the trip that you get an email stating that one of the port stops will be cut short by a few hours. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more common of cruise ships. They promise longer times on the islands, but then make amendments due to whatever reason. A cruise ship makes the most money at sea since they a) don't have to pay the port fees and b) people will spend more money onboard eating, drinking, gambling, etc. Makes sense doesn't it? One point that should be mentioned however, is that due to this, you might want to take caution booking any excursions through independent companies at port. We boarded the ship and found that our itinerary had reversed. Had we booked Patouche or any other line that I have heard rave reviews about, we would have lost our money and been without an excursion. Just use caution as most places are non-refundable. We arrived at the ship at 11:30am to board. Holland has this process down better than any line I have traveled before. There was one short line that was a breeze to get through. The staff was knowledgeable and polite. One thing important enough to mention was that prior to your trip you can fill out all the paperwork online. If you do, PRINT IT OUT AND TAKE IT WITH YOU WHILE YOU BOARD. There were 6 of us traveling together and while we all had filled everything out online, only my husband and I had printed ours out. We ended up having to wait while everyone filled out their stuff again and then turn it in. We only had to wait 15 minutes, but if the lines are long, then it could have been worse. The Ship (the Big Ugly Barge we called it from the outside) The ship in very nice, but definitely different than most. By far, the most beautiful ship I have ever been on is the Carnival Conquest at Christmastime with all of it's works of art and decorations. This ship would not be in that category, however, it is still very clean, and from what I have read about former reviewers, many think it was just downright raunchy. I wouldn't describe it as distasteful, but it could use some improvement in the color schemes, and overall decor. I never noticed it being smelly or noisy. However, what I enjoyed about it the most is what most people might not like at all. Most ships have a grand atrium upon entering. The Zuiderdam does not. There are no huge rooms in any part of the ship, thus the ship never has a busy or crowded feel. There are lots of nooks and crannies about and every time you turn a corner you find something new. I actually enjoyed this immensely and found it to be very cozy. Our rooms…..wow. We had booked 3 rooms on the "butt of the ship" as I called it-it was really the aft. These were balcony rooms, numbers 4174, 4179, & 4176. I was a little worried since we usually choose a room that is on a higher deck, be we had heard that the rooms on the lower decks were more spacious so we chose those. Again, wow. Our cabin steward had opened the outdoor balconies so that we really had one huge balcony between the 3 of us. I'm not kidding, it was fantastic. We spent so much time out there with our 200 degree views that I will request this from now on. The balconies had a great, sturdy comfortable lounge chair, a table, and another 2 chairs to sit on…perfect. The room itself was better than the suite that I had on the Conquest…..much bigger. The comforter was a little blah, however, the bed was oh so comfy and the layout was very very user friendly. We each had a bar (stocked only by request) but there were plenty of movies to watch and tv channels. We had a small couch and a chair, and lots and lots of closet space-the most I have ever seen on a ship….there were only 4 small drawers, however the storage space more than made up for it. Oh, and get this, each room had a bathtub!! Very cool. Loved the bathroom as well. Our cabin steward, Widodo (I'm not kidding) was excellent. Never bothered us, was more than accommodating. Said hello whenever we saw him, and didn't try to be our best pal. We sleep in every day and he never once knocked on the door and wake us up to see if we were there. Dining room: We had table 210 which I would highly recommend if you have a party of 4 to 6. Great cozy table. One thing about the food on the Zuiderdam, I was very pleased. Selections were nice, everything from crab legs to roasted turkey, from foi grois to gumbo. One big thing that they have to correct sometime very soon was the desserts. I don't believe that I had one decent dessert on the whole trip. Actually, they have a small ice cream station which was so so, but overall, this was a major disappointment. The service in the dining room rated an 8 and the food an 8.75. With some decent desserts, they would have gotten a 9 or better. We went to the Pinnacle at the Odyssey which is the Zuiderdam's higher end restaurant where the "elite meet". For $20 a person, you can have higher end food…supposedly. I was not impressed at all with the food. The chairs, the tables, the decor….very nice. The food, the service, the snobbiness…..not cool. Snobbishness=no class in my opinion. We had reservations for the Pinnacle for later in the week but cancelled since dinner in the regular dining room was just as good, if not better. There were small things that I noticed onboard the ship that I thought distinguished it from being mediocre. For instance, all the bathrooms had real washcloths instead of paper towels. Very nice. There were a lot of fresh flower arrangements (not as many as I expected, but enough to notice). Also, I never once encountered an impolite crew member. In fact, the Zuiderdam hands down had to have the best personnel I have ever encountered. I used to manage a bar and restaurant for 7 years so I tend to notice the small stuff. Every bartender made an awesome drink, everyone spoke English legibly, and the crew never said 'no". If they did not know the answer than they said that they would find out or would be right back. That, my friends, is the way it should be done. Holland needs to be commended for a job well done in the personnel department. The Spa: I booked a deep tissue massage which I was so excited for. I get massages pretty often and looked forward to doing this at sea. The massage itself was only swedish. I was pretty disappointed. I looked forward to a deep tissue massage, yet didn't get that at all. And at $105 for 50 minutes, let's just say that I cancelled the other one that I booked. The room itself is gorgeous. The whole spa is great as well as the fitness room, but my in-laws had reflexology and said it was so-so. One great thing about the spa is that they have these two beautiful relaxation rooms that you can pay $15 per day or $80 per week for unlimited use. One room has a huge jacuzzi with major jet action to work out any kinks. The other room (which was my favorite) had 6 heat infused chairs that overlooks the water. You can lay down for hours overlooking the water, in a robe, while peaceful soothing music plays. There is never more than a few people in there (kids not allowed) and they have a sauna and 2 steam rooms (1 eucalyptus, and 1 regular). This was a major plus on the ship. Ports of Call: Half Moon Cay: This is by far the best private island imaginable. The sand is like crushed pearls and the water is pristine. There are restaurants, a few shops, and plenty of bars and music. And the beach is big and looooonnnngggg. As it should be. The bathrooms were clean and the live music was great. I didn’t try the BBQ but I heard it was fantastic. The pina coladas-to die for. This is also a great stop if you have kids. In the water is a playground complete with jets shooting up in the air and slides that shoot into the ocean. Also, they have plastic animals farther out in the ocean for older kids to climb on and jump off. I didn’t go on this until the end of the day and wish I had gone sooner. I was having so much fun by myself being an idiot that my in-laws came over and joined me. What a blast. We had booked the stingray excursion online. While it wasn’t all that pleasant, I definitely would not do it again. My in-laws had visited Stingray City near Grand Cayman and said it was way, way better. This excursion, which we should have known since it was only $19 pp consisted of 30 people swimming around in an enclosed area with only about 10 stingrays inside the cloudy water. We would have been better off just staying at the beach. Anyhow, Half Moon Cay gets a perfect 10 in my book Tortola: You can’t find a lot about this island on the internet, especially all the little islands that surround it. That’s what makes this place so damn great. Our day in the place had to be one of the best days of my life. Per my friends’ recommendation, we took a cab to the port and booked a ferry to take us to the island of Jost Van Dyke. From here we took a cab ride to White Bay. You have to time this trip very carefully as the ferry only goes to Jost Van Dyke a couple times a day. From the pier you take a cab to White Bay. Oh. My. Gosh. We emerged onto a beach that had maybe 12 people on it. We were 6 of them. We walked to the right down to Gertrudes and took a chair. My girlfriend told me that I had to order a painkiller….whatever that was. So I went up to the bar and ordered 6 painkillers. Imagine my surprise when the bartender handed me a bottle of rum and 6 cups and said, “pour”. I looked at her briefly and then said, “this is my kind of place”. I filled the cups half full and then watched as she proceeded to pour fresh oj, pineapple, coconut milk, and then ground fresh nutmeg on top. Let’s just say that the day just started there and got better and better. 6 x 6=36. So 36 painkillers later we were still in the water and met Willis, the water taxi driver who knew the best jokes of anyone I’ve ever met (and I was a bartender so I have heard quite a few). Willis took us via water taxi to Foxy’s which is the most famous bar on Jost Van Dyke. You definitely have to hit this place. Their food is actually really good and they have a great bar and store. You can get everything from jewelry to mugs to clothing to Cuban cigars…good ones actually! I was surprised by the huge humidor in the middle of the shop. This was definitely my kind of place. Foxy himself was there and is a hoot. He was older than I thought, yet just a crackup. There’s something about an older polite black man rapping to his clientele that just does things to you. You can tell he is a really cool chap. One thing great about this place is that everyone is so nice, polite, and from all over the world. Mushrooms are legal in Tortola, so it kind of tells you the type of clientele you might meet around the area. Kicked back and enjoy life…. I could stay there forever and actually considered missing the boat so that I could stay. My husband thought I was kidding but I wasn’t. St. Thomas: Ok, I love St. Thomas, but this was the first time I went downtown. Yuck. I didn’t like it at all. Way too many people and unless you are in the market for a $2000 Rolex, it is way to busy for me. I went there to relax, not shop. I took a cab back to the boat with the rest of the guys. Next time I will go back to Meagan’s Bay which is where we went last time….great beach and great drinks. Or, I heard you can catch a ferry back to Jost Van Dyke from St. Thomas….hmmmm….. Nassau: Wasn’t that impressed by this place. Again, a lot of shopping and the people were very friendly, but that was about it. We went to Senor Frogs which was actually pretty fun, and onto Straw Market, but the vendors get a little pushy there. We wanted to find a nice beach and ended up taking a cabdrivers advice to go to Paradise Beach which was located at the Radisson Hotel. Beach wasn’t nice at all as well as the $9 drinks. If a Mai Tai is $9 it should be drinkable. These were not. The pool was very nice though, complete with a waterslide. There was also a hidden hammock on the beach between the trees which was a great way to end the trip. I didn’t mention this before, but we did not bring our daughter. We checked out the kids programs, but they didn’t seem to have many kids there, nor was the room very big that they stay in. I didn’t see any kid’s pools either. We had taken our daughter on the Conquest and she LOVED it. This particular boat did not seem to be as kid friendly as other ships I have heard about. Also, she never would have made it all the way to White Bay either. I did speak with another couple who had a 4 year old and they said that she had a great time. However, they said that Disney Cruise line is the best. What a surprise. Another thing enough to mention is the age group of the boat. While my husband and I are always one of the younger couples on the ship (not bad for being married for 7 years!) the average passenger on most of our cruises is about 60. On this cruise, I would say about 70-75. It was definitely a more kicked back ship. However, I have never seen more spunkier folk. No one was grouchy, they were all polite, hilarious, and I never saw such adorable active couples. I saw one 95 year old man leading his 92 year old wife down the hall. That is true love right there. I only hope that we are doing the same in another 70 years or three quarters of a century I guess. Geez. Entertainment: This element falls into the “Most Needing to be Improved” category. Now, I am not much of someone who needs constant activity, but there were times on the ship where there literally was NOTHING to do. This is good if you like to read (I do) but my husband does not. Usually you have to pick between 3 or 4 things at any given time on a ship but not here. The first 4 nights there was maybe 1 show available. We saw the comedienne, but I have to say, it was the worst one I have ever seen. We probably would have walked out, but there were 6 of us and we thought that it would be too rude. Then, on the second to last night, they had all these shows AT THE SAME TIME. So, after ending up in the game room every night, (by the way, it closes at 5pm and they wouldn’t open up the games-which is the least they could do since there were no shows) we had to pick 2 of the 5 shows available and miss the other 3. This was very poor planning on Holland’s part. The redeeming qualities that they DID have was that the magician was pretty good, they played great oldies and swing music up on the top deck, and I heard the pianist was great. It was always crowded when we walked past it. They had some good new movies playing in the theater, however they were at very inconvenient times. For instance Meet the Fockers was playing (and it had JUST come out in the real theaters) however, it played at 11am and 2pm only……days when we were in port! Then at night they would play some cheesy love story at 7:30. Again, poor planning. We tried going to the nightclub, which actually seemed to play some good music once in a while, but then Karaoke would take over. I love watching the-wanna-be-Star-Searchers, however, there is hardly any seating in the club, so we never got to watch unless we just stood around. Needless to say, we didn’t. The Boat: Contrary to what I had read, you could always find a lounge chair by the pool. As usual, they had way too many announcements over the loud speaker, which I think is the most annoying thing about cruises….what if I don’t want to go to the shopping talk at 3pm? I don’t need 3 announcements telling me about it, I had decided on the first one. Also, they have you fill out a lot of paperwork once on board (i.e. immigration, what time you get off the boat and your flight number, etc.) I am on vacation, the last thing I want to to is paperwork everyday….save it all for the beginning or the end, but don’t give me a note on my door saying I have to get this form filled out by 8pm tonight. This happened 3 times. Not good. But the glass elevators were nice, the food on the Lido was great-hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, however, they close at midnight. That is just wrong. If you want food after midnight, then you have to order room service…..which by the way, was the best room service I have ever EVER had. The food was amazing as well as the service. The internet café is nice as well as the specialty coffee house. The one drawback is that you can’t order room service via telephone in the morning. WHAT? You have to fill out a form and hang it on your door the night before by 2am telling them what you want and at what time they should bring it. I don’t know about everyone else, but I never know what time I am going to get up. If I sleep in (which I never get to do back at home) I am not about to have someone wake me up since checking off a time period is mandatory. Needless to say, I barely made breakfast every morning at the Lido at 11:30 am. This had to be the biggest drag of my trip as I look forward to having a huge canister of coffee on my balcony every morning after I sleep in. This should be changed immediately. However, maybe they think if we are such coffeeaholics that we would be willing to rise and shine early for it. Who knows, they have a point. Our trip was a great time. Would we go on Holland again? Yes, if the price was right. They had some really great things like good food, drink, and service (which are 3 big things) however, there are a few big things that they need to improve pretty fast –entertainment & activities. If Holland turned just a few things around, they have the recipe for a great overall package, since they got the main points down. However, most people do not travel in a group like we did and are eager to be entertained. I probably seem to have more negative points than positive, and if I did, I did a poor job of noticing the highlights. Here are my overall ratings: The Ship Décor: 7 The Ship Layout: 9 Cabins: 9.5 Service: 10 Food: 9 Room Service: 10 Entertainment: 4 Activities: 6 Overall Rating: 8 Hope this helps! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
This was our third family cruise, the first two being with Celebrity. Approaching this cruise we had some uneasy anticipation due to the many negative comments found on the message boards. With that state of mind, we were shocked to ... Read More
This was our third family cruise, the first two being with Celebrity. Approaching this cruise we had some uneasy anticipation due to the many negative comments found on the message boards. With that state of mind, we were shocked to experience a cruise that equaled or beat Celebrity in most areas. Embarkation was easy and quick. Arriving at the pier about 12:50 pm, we were through security and check in and on board within 20 minutes, escorted to our room and then off to lunch at the Lido. We were pleasantly surprised at the lack of lines and quality and variety of the food. As the week progressed, it became apparent that HAL puts great emphasis on varying the lunch offerings so that the passengers don't get bored with the same thing. Particularly good were the oriental offerings and the daily pasta selections. There were also daily deli sandwich specials and a different roast each day. Our teen daughter loved the pizza and sushi. We then had a few hours to explore the ship before the lifeboat drill, which HAL takes very seriously (unlike Celebrity on our recent Century cruise). The sailaway "party" was rather low key and we missed the chance to buy a souvenir cocktail glass as Celebrity offered. Going for dinner that night we faced the first big test: Would the dining room food be as mediocre as some people say? Well, the meal set the tone for the week. It was excellent, and there were so many good entrees that it was difficult to pick. The wine list was quite extensive, and reasonably priced. The dining room could use more wine stewards since they also have to take drink orders and simply cannot handle the volume. HAL is losing money here since there were several nights we would have ordered more wine but couldn't get service in time. Our waiters were very friendly, and took a great deal of time to introduce themselves and learn our names. To start summarizing: CABINS: We had an SS category mini-suite that was at least twice as big as the Celebrity cabins we had. Since we were sharing with our daughter, the extra room was a blessing as was the huge bathroom with tub, separate stall shower and double sinks. There is a nice storage rack under the sinks as well. Cabin storage was fine with three large closets and plenty of drawers (although they are the typical tiny cruise size). The sofa bed is very unique, as the back folds in and the bottom flips over so that it really converts into a single bed and was quite comfortable. Best of all was the spacious balcony with table, 4 chairs and 2 ottomans. A great place to relax or have breakfast. Our friendly cabin steward was always around and available if we needed anything. DINING: As indicated the food was excellent for the most part. Our table of 6 had maybe 2 or 3 mild complaints about dinner servings during the entire week. We did not care for our one breakfast in the dining room, and the room service breakfasts were hit or miss. Lunches were excellent from the Lido and grill. The Pinnacle was a must-do experience. Top quality steak was served as is well documented, but the salads and soups and desserts were equally good. Well worth the extra charge. PORTS: The primary reason for selecting this cruise was the itinerary, which we thought was superior to the Celebrity and Princess trips that were available the same week. Half Moon Cay is a real jewel with a beautiful beach, good range of activities, and a great BBQ lunch. Even though there was a jellyfish problem and high winds that curtailed some activities, we had the best day of the cruise there. Tortola is a nice quiet port but we managed to have a hectic and busy day there. In the morning we took an excursion to the Baths in Virgin Gorda, had a quick lunch on board and then took daughter for the Dolphin experience. The Baths is a must do, but it is a strenuous experience for many people. If you can handle the crouching, bending and climbing you will be well rewarded. I will always remember it as the place I accidentally dropped my digital camera into the water, instantly killing it. The Doldhion swim was expensive, but cheaper than the one offered in Nassau and our daughter really enjoyed it. Be forewarned however, your actual physical contact with a dolphin is about 30-45 seconds. St. Thomas is a classically beautiful Caribbean island that we have been to twice before. The day starts with a pro forma immigration procedure that requires every passenger to parade pass an immigration officer holding your passport open and getting your name checked off a list. After being cleared we had breakfast and left their ship to meet our pre-arranged tour with Sonny Liston. For $20pp he takes you downtown for shopping, then does a 90 min island tour, and drops you off at Sapphire Beach for 2 hours of beach time, then picks you up to return to the ship. It was well worth the money and much cheaper than a ship excursion. I did take the opportunity to replace my camera and bought daughter one as an early graduation present. The prices at Royal caribbean were fair, and tax free. I would guess their prices are slightly higher than one might find at a large online or New York store, but you have the advantage of instantly using them. We priced some watches, but prices were higher than Fortunoff. Nassau was the last port. We had our honeymoon on Paradise Island all of **years ago, and the place has certainly changed. There seem to be many more designer and upscale shops, and the Atlantis is an overwhelming presence. The whole area seemed cleaner and more prosperous than we remembered. Daughter enjoyed shopping in the straw market, lunch at Senor Frogs, and a trip to the beach at Paradise Island (where a native was trying to sell her something I suspect was of an illegal nature). DINING: As indicated the food was excellent for the most part. Our table of 6 had maybe 2 or 3 mild complaints about dinner servings during the entire week. We did not care for our one breakfast in the dining room, and the room service breakfasts were hit or miss. Lunches were excellent from the Lido and grill. The Pinnacle was a must-do experience. Top quality steak was served as is well documented, but the salads and soups and desserts were equally good. Well worth the extra charge.  ENTERTAINMENT: The best way to describe most cruise entertainment is that its a pleasant way to spend an hour, at best. With that in mind, we had a few pleasant hours. The 2 production shows were fun, had good production values, and kept your interest. To complain that they are not Broadway quality misses the point. The other entertainment was varied with the usual magician, comedian, etc., all of whom were okay. One area which needs improvement are the lounge acts which ARE below acceptable standards for a ship of this size. SHOPPING: There were fewer shops than on Celebrity, or what I see advertised for other ships of this size, but they do have all the basics. Save your shopping for the last few days as the prices drop and new items are displayed. CASINO: Again, mush smaller than similar sized ships, but there always seemed to be room for players. I broke even at black jack. Not being a slot player I can't comment on the payouts. DISEMBARKATION: HAL allows passengers to wait in their rooms until called, which is a nice feature. We had ordered room service breakfast, but the kitchen must have been overwhelmed since it was late, cold and we got tea instead of coffee. (Not enough to put a damper on a great week). We were off the ship by 9:15 and after gathering out luggage (one piece was misplaced) it was off to the airport to head home and to start planning our next cruise. LAST COMMENTS: This was a great cruise, and we would not hesitate to sail HAL again. The ship never felt crowded and the decor is colorful and eclectic. Our daughter had a good time but would have preferred a ship with more people near her age (17). There were a fair number of kids but almost all were in the 12 and under range. It probably will be hard to cruise again without a balcony and the spacious size of HAL's cabins. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
This was our first real cruise. We had taken a 3 day years ago. We were on this trip with 3 other couples which made the trip a lot more fun. The Z was a very nice ship. We had cabins across the very back of the ship. We had a king bed and ... Read More
This was our first real cruise. We had taken a 3 day years ago. We were on this trip with 3 other couples which made the trip a lot more fun. The Z was a very nice ship. We had cabins across the very back of the ship. We had a king bed and more room and storage in the cabin than I expected. A great balcony. There were doorways to the balconies so we could go from one to the other. We partied out there every day. However the decks are tiered back there and the cabins above as well as the Lido deck can look down on your deck. The back of the ship has a little more motion than the middle. A few of our group were a little green the first day but I wore the patch and never felt any discomfort. Our steward (Sworman) was great as was our waiter (Boodie and Moon.) Efficient service without trying to join the party. I like that. We ate in the dining room every night. The food was good but not outstanding. The best nights were crab and lobster for me. The breakfast and lunches were great. Lots of choices. Of course there you meet "Hunky Dory" a remarkable character. Activities on board are lacking. Some Bingo and Trivia games that I know of. We had our own group and made our own fun so it didn't matter. However, I think if it were just my husband and me the days at sea would have been a little dull. The shows were OK. We went to three of them and thought they were all pretty good. The ports were fun. Half Moon Cay is a pretty beach and they serve a great lunch. St. Thomas is crowded and you're hounded by vendors but we hired our own taxi to take us around the island for 3 hrs for $25 a person for 4 of us. That was a great way to go. We all took the snorkel trip in Tortola and it was great. Nassau was just a walk through town and the straw market. All in all I would give the cruise 4 stars out of 5. The service is definitely top notch. The ship has some very pretty areas but the cabin halls are narrow and low with uneven floors but that was not a big deal. I would go again with friends. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
We flew in Sat afternoon from Boston. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale about 2:45pm, but because we had to wait for a HAL bus (and the driver got lost!), we didn't get to the Zuiderdam until almost 4pm. If you are arriving late your ... Read More
We flew in Sat afternoon from Boston. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale about 2:45pm, but because we had to wait for a HAL bus (and the driver got lost!), we didn't get to the Zuiderdam until almost 4pm. If you are arriving late your probably better off taking a cab, it's only a ten minute ride. Embarkment took a total of ten to fifteen minutes and we were in our cabin, just in time for the life boat drill. We had a VA cabin 8066, mid ship on the Navigation deck. There was some concern on some cruise boards about this cabin because it is next to the glass elevators and the balcony can be partially seem. It turned out not to be an issue and you actually have a better view. Great cabin full bath, lots of closets,safe, mirrors, mini bar. Our cabin steward Rudy was great, met him on the first day and explained what our needs were, ice, towels, etc. he couldn't do enough for us. We made sure to give him a little extra in the beginning and at the end. We enjoy the freedom of the balcony cabin, the peace of sitting outside sipping a cocktail, appetizers from room service and reading as the world goes by is unbelievably relaxing and calming. The Navigation deck is just below the pool deck and the Lido restaurant, very convenient. Half Moon Cay,was lots of fun. We went on the horseback riding excursion and had a ball. The Jamaican team that runs the stables were wonderful, they took pictures for you and made sure that all in your party were always together. The first half of the ride is on land, the usual trail ride. Then they take you to the beach where you change for the water segment, they have some small lockers but no locks. They change the saddles to a mat with a nylon handle, if the horse your on has a high backbone it can be a little "uncomfortable" (think about it!). But the ride in the water was quite a rush as the horses gallop and swim. It's just like in the movies. We scheduled the earliest excursion, thinking the horses would be fresh. If you go ask for Adrian, he was our trail master and he was great. Can't forget the BBQ. Tortola, we decided to go to Virgin Gorda and the Baths. We walked over to Speedy's water taxi, $15.00 round trip and $5.00 (round trip) for the taxi to the baths. The Baths is a National Park and admission is $3.00. You walk down a long dirt and stone path to the beach. At the beach there is a bar, lockers ($2.50 each) rest rooms and an outdoor shop. It is beautiful and the water is awesome! If you decide to venture over to Devils Bay bring some old sneakers or water shoes because the rocks are hot and tough on bare feet. Definitely worth the trip. St. Thomas is St. Thomas, we have been there before so we just did some shopping, Lisa did a little "more" shopping. Harley Davidson shop in the Caribbean? It's a small world. Nassau is always busy, four ships when we were there, including the Norwegian Dawn (The wave ship). Stopped at the Straw market, lots of knock off purses. Had a drink at Senor Frogs. Back on the Zuiderdam everything was great. the service on this ship was excellent, everyone that we encountered had a "can do" attitude, always professional and personable. Hunky Dory is unbelievable, he WILL remember your name and your partner. He even remembered that I had Two different Red Sox hats! Another great personality is "Burt" Reynolds American movie star,he also does the name game. The drink prices are reasonable and the food in most cases is superior. Oh yeah, the ice cream and sweet station is open all night. We ate at the Pinnacle the alternative restaurant one night and it was excellent. the 22 oz. Poterhouse was excellent. Debarkation was a breeze, and you get to stay in your room until your color and number is called, a huge plus. Don't believe those nasty reviews, go with an open mind and enjoy all that the Zuiderdam has to offer. We definitely will sail HAL again.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
M/S Zuiderdam II - 2005 Cruise Review The Itinerary - Day Location Arrive Depart Day 1 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:00 pm Day 2 Half Moon Cay (HAL private island) 8:00 am 4:00 pm Day 3 At Sea Day 4 Tortola, British Virgin Islands 8:00 am 5:00 ... Read More
M/S Zuiderdam II - 2005 Cruise Review The Itinerary - Day Location Arrive Depart Day 1 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:00 pm Day 2 Half Moon Cay (HAL private island) 8:00 am 4:00 pm Day 3 At Sea Day 4 Tortola, British Virgin Islands 8:00 am 5:00 pm Day 5 St Thomas, US Virgin Islands 7:00 am 6:00 pm Day 6 At Sea Day 7 Nassau, Bahamas 12:00 noon 8:00 pm Day 8 Fort Lauderdale, FL 8:00 am The Booking - We booked through an online travel agency. Although the Zuiderdam has 788 outside cabins (623 with balconies), our preference is for an inside because I tend to be a cheapskate in some areas and just can't see paying so much more for an outside cabin, or even a suite; when I end up sitting at the same table, eating the same wonderful meals, watching the same great shows, and visiting the same exciting ports-of-call as the folks in the higher priced cabins. Besides, this leaves us more money for $hore excur$ion$, $hopping, the ca$info, $souvenir$ etc. Brochure price for an inside guarantee (category NN) was $1,297.88 per person. Our price, through the online agency, it was $1,217.32 for both! That, in and of itself, was pretty darn hard to pass up. We ended up booked into cabin # 8118 (category J). That's a six category upgrade! So, total savings for the cruise was $1,938.44. WOW!!! The Cabin - 8118 is about 10'x16', with three closets (one with a programmable safe), a vanity with a large mirror and a mobile make-up mirror that SunFlower wanted to buy, a bath with shower, two night stands, table and chair, and a color TV with remote. There were 12 channels available, ranging from HAL TV, to CNN International, to movies; as well as the regular forward and aft CCTV views, the Shore Excursion and the Port & Shopping channels. The refrigerator will be locked, but ask your steward to unlock it if you want to use it. We never did. There were two 110v single outlets at the dressing table, and one in the bathroom. The power strip and an extension cord will come in handy. We had the twin beds converted to a queen and that mattress was the next best thing to our SleepNumber ® bed (soft, fluffy, comfy and snuggly). The A/C was controlled by a thermostat in the cabin and was very quiet. There was a bit of steam fogging the bathroom mirror, but putting the desk fan on the counter eliminated that, real quick. We were on Verandah Deck, aft, port side, and just about under the pool. I was concerned about the potential for noise, but my fears were unjustified. There was one evening that a country line-dance contest was held above us, but that wasn't too loud and it ended about 10:00 pm, so sleep was never interrupted. Our Cabin Steward was Abdu Rahman, and he did a fantastic job of keeping up with us. The cabin was kept spotless and the linens were changed daily. He was always present but never obvious and could usually be found with his buddy "Henry" (the vacuum). We did follow Julie Barr's suggestion and made sure we folded the lead end of the toilet tissue back into a point before we left the cabin. I think it worked as Abdu did keep giving us the strangest looks. Poor fellow probably thinks we never used it! The Embarkation - We took the motel's 12:00 am shuttle to the cruise terminal, arriving at the HAL terminal 25 minutes later. We had all our paperwork in order and were directed to the check-in counter. Maybe 5 minutes in line, then it was ID, ID, passport, passport, credit card, sign here, photo, photo, boarding number (group 9), through the security check-point and ... up the escalator. By 12:45, we had our gangway photo taken and were aboard. One of the most painless and efficient embarkations I have gone through. Kudos to the terminal staff. Since the cabins weren't ready, we headed to Lido Deck. Well, I headed to Lido. SunFlower went straight to the Greenhouse Spa to book her hair and nail appointments for the formal nights. Long ago we learned the hard way that available time slots on formal nights go quickly. I, of course, began grazing, as the Lido Buffet, poolside grill and sail-away parties were in full swing. The Ship - Master - Captain John Scott. Cruise Director - Dane Butcher. Executive Chef - Raymond Southern Godmother - Joan Lunden The M/S Zuiderdam II ("zuider" rhymes with "cider") was built at the Fincantieri Shipyards in 2002. She is 951 feet long. 105 feet abeam, and weighs in at approximately 85,000 tons. Her power is from five Sulzer diesels (three-16 cylinder and two-12 cylinder) and one GE 2500 gas turbine engine (15.4 megawatts). She has twin Azipod propulsion (a sort of outboard motor arrangement, under the waterline) which give her amazing maneuverability. Capable of speeds in excess of 24 knots, water-skiing is a possibility! With eleven passenger decks and 924 cabins/suites for 1848 passengers, the Zuiderdam II is the first of five planned Vista Class ships, which HAL will be putting into service. Named for the cardinal points of the compass, her sisters are/will be, the Oosterdam (East), Westerdam (West), Noordam (North) and ?-dam . HAL has begun a program to change their image ("the old folk's line" and "rest home at sea" were the most common tags applied). They now actively markets to singles, couples and families; with ages ranging from the 20-somethings to the post-retirees (70+). There were about 100 or so children on board, but other than one baby (2 months old) who cried one evening in the Vista Dining Room, they weren't that noticeable (i.e., it wasn't like Carnival, RCCL or Princess, where children tend to run amok, up and down the passageways, at all hours). Without exception, every young person we met was very well behaved and a pleasure to be around (even the unhappy young fellow that one night). A good deal has been said about the dEcor of the Vista class ships. Heavy, audacious colors have been liberally used. Reds, greens, blues, yellows and violets predominate. There are still the hallmark HAL touches, highly polished brass, holy-stone rubbed teak decks, oiled walnut, oak, and other hardwood paneling. And ... the flowers. Everywhere, the flowers! Bold, vivid and striking are the best descriptors I can think of. Every table, alcove and bar. What a nice touch! The amidships glass elevators provide a stunning panorama and appeared to be the elevators of choice for most of the passengers. I can certainly understand why, but I do recommend using the stairways to work of a few of those calories. OK. The layout of the ship ... Working from mast to keel (top to bottom) - Sports Deck (11) - Forward is the Observation Deck, above the Crow's Nest Lounge. Excellent views and a tall glass windscreen to protect passengers. Two stairways connecting to Observation Deck (10), one of which has a carrier for wheelchairs. Aft are the volleyball and half-basketball courts. Enclosed by a net to keep the balls from polluting the oceans, they got a lot of use. Observation Deck (10) - Forward is HAL's signature Crow's Nest Lounge. The music is hot and the view is spectacular! Live contemporary music every evening during cocktail hour. Theme nights, dancing and team contests/games. HAL has a bank of about a dozen adjustable recliner chairs forward. The perfect spot for relaxing with a Frozen Thingie and watching the world unfold. There are two private areas off the sides of the Crow's Nest (Oak Room - starboard; no name - port). Perfect for little get-togethers or quiet time. Working aft, there is plenty of deck space and HAL's famous teak deck chairs. A spiral staircase leads down to Lido Deck (9). Be careful. It's twisty (go figure). Passing the mobile pool cover you'll find Club HAL (youth center) and the golf simulator (a computerized system which allows you to play golf courses of the world, without leaving the ship - neat). Lido Deck (9) - Forward is another observation deck. To reach it, you'll have to enter the GreenHouse Spa area from the port side, go forward to the desk, cross to the starboard side, pass the gym and you'll find an unmarked glass door. On the other side you'll find a quiet secret of the Zuiderdam ... an observation deck directly above the bridge and almost never used. It is a bit windy, as there is no glass shield as on Observation Deck (11). Moving aft, you'll come to the Gym. Very nice aerobic and strength training equipment that was seldom, if ever, used. A fitness trainer is on site, so if you have any questions, ask away. They'll be glad to help you loose the pounds you'll pack on in the restaurants! The GreenHouse Spa. OK It's another Steiner operation, so be warned. Prices are higher than what you're used to back at home (about double) but the staff is very knowledgeable and well trained (4 years). The spa's Hydropool (is that redundant, or what?) is very relaxing and children are not permitted. Guarded by a mama polar bear and her cub, the Main Pool is next. An average sized cruise ship pool, with a wide splash section (2"-4" deep) No diving! Three hot tubs and a shower (for rinsing, not bathing - please!). There are also a couple ping-pong tables, which got a lot of use during our cruise. Something new is a tattoo parlor. Relax parents. This is an air-brush tattoo parlor. The tats are sprayed on (with an air stylus) and last about a week. So, if junior wants a tattoo, here's their chance. The kids loved this feature. Heading on back, the next section is the Lido Dining area. I'll cover this fairly well later. On the stern is the Aft Pool and hot tub. Not very large, but apparently sufficient for the guests. This area saw a lot of activity, as children are not permitted during the mid-afternoon. There is usually a portable bar set up, so you can have plenty of Frozen Thingies without waiting. Navigation (8), Rotterdam (7), Upper Verandah (6), Verandah (5) and Upper Promenade (4) Decks are all cabins. Promenade Deck (3) - OK. Were back to the action now. Forward is the upper tier fo the Vista (show) Lounge. There are two circular box sections overlooking the stage wings. Great view, if you want to squiggle around in your seat a bit. There are safety railings in the front to keep one from taking a John Wilkes Boothe style dive, and they do obstruct one's view terribly. I recommend just about any of the other seats at this level, but not for give-away events. Thrown prizes just don't reach that high. Working aft, you'll come to the Internet Center (starboard) and the Half-Moon, Hudson and Stuyesant meeting rooms (port). Internet connection for $25/30 minutes. The biggest problem I had with this was that the connection speed is quite slow (I'm used to broad-band/cable connection) and checking your e-mail and checking account took up all our time. If I wanted to send a reply to any of the e-mails, I had to go off-line, prepare it as a word document, then go back on-line and do a cut-and-paste. Otherwise, I'd have been spending way too much to chat with folks who should have accompanied us in the first place! Next is the Java Corner (think Starbucks at sea). HAL used to have free cappuccino 24/7 in the Lido Restaurant, but have now replaced it with a cozy little bistro style coffee/pastry shop. Question. Why pay for 'specialty' coffee and cookies when excellent (normal) coffee and cookies are still available for free, six decks up? Next aft, on starboard side is the Erasmus Library. A very nice facility. Quiet. Cozy. Books, magazines, newspapers, stationary and playing cards are available. A charge to your account ($25) is made to check out a book, and removed when you return the item. The Duty-Free Shop is on port side. Note: "Duty Free" only means that import duties have not (yet) been paid on the items, that's why they're so inexpensive. Depending on you home country, and allowances, you may well be charged duty on your return. Learn your allowances. The shop has your usual selection of gifts, necessities, clothing, liquor, cigars, perfumes, watches and jewelry. Don't buy early on in the cruise. Prices drop in the second half. Wait for the sales. OK. Now we've gotten to the Atrium and the Ocean Bar (midships). Whew! Be sure to check the cut crystal seahorse chandelier. Gorgeous! The Ocean Bar is on both sides of the Atrium and has a small stage to port. Comfortable seating and beautiful views! Heading aft, you'll have to travel the starboard side, through the photo gallery. Very long and the only place we really experienced any crowds. Guess there are still people surprised that they can look so good when they glance in the mirror, but so bad when the view is through a camera lens! Prices are reasonable (generally) and don't change till after the cruise, when they drop to 50% off! The only place left is the Upper Vista Dining Room. Again, covered elsewhere in this review. Lower Promenade Deck (2) - Again, starting forward, you have the mid section for the Vista (show) Lounge. Generally all seats are good, but there are a couple with semi-obstructed views. No problem. Seats aren't assigned. Move over one. Aft is the Piano Bar (starboard) and the Casino. The Piano bar was usually fairly well used. Primarily because 1) the pianist was very good, and 2) it was the nearest liquor to the casino (drink away your losses). A little farther aft is the Sports Bar. Actually a takeoff from the Casino (there are gaming screens build into the bar counter), you can almost always get caught up on your team(s) via ESPN. Yes, it is satellite. No, they don't have cable. (Can you believe, someone actually asked that?) On port side is the Northern Lights Nightclub (and bar), run by DJ Gino. A great place for theme music, contests and dancing. Geno knows what he's doing and keeps the crown entertained. The seats are not the most comfortable in the world, and are covered in a Holstein pattern (my daughter-in-law would love them - she 'collects' cows). One neat thing I found was that, as you enter/leave the club, the overhead lights in the winding passageway light up as you pass under them and go out once you have passed. Way cool, but then SunFlower says I'm way too easily impressed! Midships is the Queen's Lounge (and bar). Another center of entertainment activity on the ship. Intimate, but not too small. Think a comedy, or jazz club. Great shows. Next is the Odyssey Restaurant and Wine Bar. The private, by appointment only, surcharge dining room. We did not try this one out, but everyone we spoke with raved about it. Next time. They usually run a special on first nigh out (half-price). Take advantage of this. Heading on back, you'll pass through the Windstar Cafe and the Coffee Bar. Two nice areas for relaxing and watching the world go by with both old and new friends. The Are Gallery is next and usually spills into the Explorer's Lounge. Many very nice works (canvas) and the prices are not too bad. If you're really interested, don't miss the art auctions. You can get some great pieces for very low prices. Finally, you'll reach the Lower Vista Dining Room. Main Deck (1) - Again, only cabins. A Deck (0) - Generally not used by guests, except for tender embarkation/debarkation and the infirmary. Were there weak points? Sure. If you look hard enough, you can find a worn spot of carpeting, a mar on a passageway bulkhead (wall), etc. But to be perfectly honest, I have better things to do with my time than try to find fault in things, especially when I'm on vacation! The Drinks - With eleven regular bars and lounges, and between three and four temporary bars (usually set up by the pools), there is no excuse for not finding a Frozen Thingie when needed. I'm (basically) a non-drinker, but them that do told me that they felt the bar prices were reasonable. Mixed drinks were in the $4.25-$6.50 range. US domestic beer was $3.75 with imported beer/ale at $3.95. Wines were $4.25 - $7.50 per glass. Fruit juice (at a bar) was $2.10, but free at the self-serve drink stations. Mocktails (non-alcoholic drinks) were $3.25 and soda-pop was $1.75. Regarding sodas, if you're a soft drink person, I strongly suggest buying the "soda-card". The cost is $35 for the week. For that price, you get a sticker on your sign and sail card. Just show the card to any bartender or cocktail waitress and soda is free (note: I did see a few people who would get their free soda at the bar, give the drink to their partner, then order a free soda from a passing waitress. Come on - If money's that tight, maybe you should just reconsider this whole vacation thing - just my opinion. Water, iced-tea, lemonades, fruit juices (from the drink station), milk, coffee and tea were free, except for the specialty coffees in the Coffee Bar (think Starbucks). The "Frozen Thingie of the Day" runs $4.25. Saturday - Cuban Mojito Sunday - South Seas Aviation Monday - Hand Shaken (not stirred) Champagne Dreams Tuesday - Fresh Lime Margarita Wednesday - Fresh Squeezed Lemon Drop Thursday - Fresh Grapefruit Cosmo Friday - Cucumber Lime Smash The Food - Oh ... my ... gosh! Well if you know me, you know I love food; and HAL has once again given me a reason to fall in love. The meals were fantastic. Starting with the Saturday afternoon sail-away party up on Lido Deck, and going on through to the farewell breakfast a week later, I was very seldom disappointed. SunFlower did have one item she didn't care for (the pâtE one evening just wasn't quite to her liking). No problem ma'am. Whoosh .... Immediately replaced with a double serving of jumbo shrimp cocktail! From my perspective, it was all great ... from the three perfectly prepared New York Strips for lunch, to the double escargot appetizer accompanied by the four (yes, I said four) lobsters on the second formal night! My usual day consisted of early coffee, with whole cream (not coffee-mate or half & half) and a couple of chocolate croissants on Lido Deck, aft. Then it was time to take SunFlower a cup of hot coffee, to help her wake up before breakfast in bed. Then, it was down to the dining room for a nice, sit-down, a la carte breakfast. Bet you didn't know breakfast can be a five course meal, did you? Then, there were plenty of fresh pastries to tide me over to lunch. We alternated lunches between the Lido Cafes and the Vista Dining Room. It all depended on if it was a shore or sea day, and whether we had an excursion scheduled or not. Dinner was (almost) always in the Vista Dining Room. The Vista Dining room, under Executive Chef Raymond Southern, is a two deck restaurant aft, on 2 and 3 Decks. There is an elevated platform in the middle of the dining room atrium, which holds a small piano to provide light dinner music. We had a very nice table for four (#173) aft on 2 Deck (lower level), overlooking the stern and a beautiful; view of the sea and our wake. Our waiter was Putu; an amazing young man who spoke English one whole heck of lot better than we 'talked' American. More on the Lido Cafes - Under the culinary direction of Chef Cochrane, the Lido Cafes are a collection of eleven serving areas set up cafeteria style on Lido Deck. For breakfast (working aft from midships) you have a 24 hour drink station (coffee, tea, fruit juices, lemonades, iced tea and ice water). Next are two omelet stations. Standard ingredients are: bacon, ham, cheese, green pepper, onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, salmon and shrimp. On the side are the potato cakes, link sausage, sausage patties, bacon, ham, and four to six different breads and muffins. The juice bar is next with fresh squeezed orange juice, on request. Other juices include: tomato, grapefruit, apple, V-8, cranberry and good ol' prune. The next section is the Deli Bar with scrambled eggs, all the standard side items mentioned above, as well as a nice assortment of fresh fruits, cheeses, sliced meats and pâtEs. Next is another 24 hour drink station then a salad, pastry and fresh fruit bar. Finishing up the Lido area are two Continental Breakfast stations with eggs to order and (again) all the standard side dishes. Each day, around 10:30 am, the Lido changes its arrangement. You still have the forward and aft 24-hour drink stations. Then there is an Italian station, with a nice assortment of pastas, sauces, plenty of garlic bread and wonderful pizzas. Moderately thin crust, light but tangy tomato sauce and a variety of toppings. Yummy! On the opposite side is The Wok. Home of your Asian specialties. From stir-fry to chop-suey to sushi to wor-shu-op, these folks did a great job! Interesting variety, texture and flavors. No, it's not "Iron Chef", but it was awfully good. The juice bars are transformed into sweet centers. A nice selection of ice creams, sherbets, pies, cakes gelatins and fresh from the oven, warm cookies! The Bistros are next, serving various rotisseries and grill selections, then the salad bar, followed by the Delis serving a multiplicity of hand carved sandwiches. Working in the Lido Cafe is a crew member who goes by the name "Honkey Dorey" Wait till you meet this guy! The first time Honkey Dorey meets you he will introduce himself, "Hello. I Honkey Dorey. What you name? Pleased to meet you (insert your name here). I Honkey Dorey" From that point in time onward, he will remember you! I'm not kidding. At first I thought it was just well developed short term memory/recall ability, until I observed this little encounter the second day. As Honkey was introducing himself to a lady, he happened to glance over her shoulder, waved to an approaching couple and called out, "Hi Kathy, Hi David! It me, Honkey Dorey!" The couple stopped dead in their tracks and the lady said, "Honkey, it's been three years!" Honkey Dorey looked pensive for a moment and replied, "No. Almost. It three years in July." This guy is absolutely phenomenal (almost to the point of being spooky). Every morning, I was greeted with, "Good morning John, Where Pat?" And, on occasion, "Hi John. Pat looking for you." Whoops ... can't forget the Lido poolside grill. Open from around 10:00 am till 6:00 pm the grill serves up a nice selection of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts, bratwursts, and chorizo (a spicy-hot Mexican sausage), all on homemade buns! There is also an adjoining taco bar with everything needed for nachos, tacos and fajitas! Entertainment - Under the supervision of Cruise Director Dane Butcher, we were very entertained throughout the cruise. Events included: Off Broadway/Vegas style shows every night. The major production numbers - Saturday: "Under The Sun" with the Zuiderdam dance ensemble, and Comedienne Julie Barr in a wild and rocking laugh marathon. Sunday: "Showtime - A Tribute to Sir Elton John" by Joel Mason. Platform shoes, outrageous costumes and timeless classics. Monday: "Showtime - Under the Boardwalk" with the Zuiderdam dance ensemble. Tuesday: "Showtime - Filipino Crew Show" staring members of the Zuiderdam service staff, in a tribute to their home country, the Philippines. Wednesday: "Showtime - Master Illusionist James Celene" Direct from Las Vegas, James Celene (Winner of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Gold Medal) dazzles you with a wide variety of magic, ranging from the extremely difficult slight -of-hand to the equally impressive large-scale illusion - AND - Late Night Adult Comedy with Julie Barr. Thursday: "Showtime - Stage and Screen" with the Zuiderdam dance ensemble. Friday: "Showtime - Farewell Variety Show" with James Celene, Joel Mason, Julie Barr, Dane Butcher and the Zuiderdam dance ensemble. Note - one afternoon, while passing through the Lido Pool area, we met up with Julie Barr (the comedienne). She was very gracious and invited us to sit with her. We had a really nice chat and made a great new friend. This is typical of every cast and crew member we met. They are all great people! Julie, if you're reading this, "Hickory, Dickory, Dock..." In addition, there were more things to see, do, and/or participate in than you could possibly do on one cruise. I started to list everything that took place but with over 40 port, history and shopping talks, sports tournaments, demonstrations, art shows & auctions, dance lessons and competitions, poker, slot machine, blackjack, and bingo tournaments, Karaoke, trivia and a host of other events scheduled per day, the list quickly grew beyond comprehension. Suffice it to say, there is more than plenty to do, and something for all ages, just about all the time! If you are bored on this ship, it's probably because either 1) you want to be, or 2) you're dead! Ports of Call - Fort Lauderdale - Although not technically a 'port-of-call', Fort Lauderdale was our embarkation and debarkation port. I'm a firm believer in arriving (at least) one day early, just in case something goes wrong (delayed/cancelled flight, lost luggage, etc.). So, we booked a single overnight at the Holiday Inn Express on SE 17 Causeway. We got a non-smoking king room for $124.00. This place isn't real fancy, but it is clean, neat, safe and affiliated with a major national chain. Besides, they offered free airport and cruise terminal shuttle service. Works for me! We called from the baggage claim area and the shuttle arrived within 15 minutes. Although check-in isn't until 3:00 pm, they had our room ready and we had our shoes kicked off by noon. They advertised 'continental breakfast', and I was expecting the usual bagels, OJ and coffee. They actually put out a pretty good spread. 4 cereals, coffee, assorted teas, OJ (of course), milk (1/2 %, 1% and 2%), bagels, English muffins, waffles, white, whole wheat, raisin and rye breads, hard boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, mini-muffins, and fresh fruit. Of course, I had to try everything. Very nice. And I do recommend them. For more information, check out: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ex/1/en/hd/fllcc You can call them directly at: 954-728-2577, (Fax) 954-728-2591 (E-Mail) hiex@bellsouth.net. Since we got in so early, we had plenty of time to wander the area. Across the street from the motel was a strip mall. Feeling a few hunger pangs (hey, the airlines don't feed you anymore), we went in search of some local flavor. There was a really nice place called The Yacht Club, or something like that. I asked if it was a private club. The valet laughed and said, "No, it's just another restaurant with a fancied-up name." So, went in and were told it would be just a minute or two for a table. Great. Gave us a chance to look over the menu ($14-28/entrEes) and check out the boats docked alongside. After 20 minutes of looking at other folks extravagances and being generally ignored by the hostess (who, oh my gosh, had, like, a cell phone, you know, growing, totally, out of her head), we walked ... Across the street was a nice little sandwich and coffee bistro. Sorry, but I can't, for the life of me, remember the name. You can't miss it though. As I said, it's next door to the snooty yacht club restaurant, and adjacent to a good sized yacht docking garage. Good prices, good food and free wi-fi connection. After a light lunch, it was time to explore a little. We walked over the 17th Causeway, to see if we could get a view of any ships and a general idea of whether or not we (I) wanted to walk to the ship the following morning. The way I figured, if it was easy enough, we could walk to the terminal around 8:00 or 9:00 am, sit back, read our books and be the first on board. It's not as though I was excited or anything. Thankfully, a calmer head prevailed, as SunFlower shot down my plan! Just as well, as we found out the next morning that the Zuiderdam was at the far end of Port Everglades and it would have been about a one mile drag of the luggage! Saturday was the end of McDonald's Fleet Week in Fort Lauderdale, and the USAF Thunderbirds treated us to a rehearsal of an air show. They were swooping, diving, looping, and buzzing all over the area, but kept circling over the causeway and the cruise liners. I did have my digital handy and got a few shots. Nothing as spectacular as seeing it in person, but that was the fault of the camera operator. There was a Walgreens (drugstore) a block from the motel, so picking up the last few things for the Calgon Bag was not a problem. We went back to the motel for a bit of a siesta and took in a movie: "Master and Commander, Far Side of the World". Very fitting before a cruise! Around 6:00pm I was beginning to feel hunger pangs and started sniveling about being abused, beaten and starved. SunFlower just shook her head and we headed out to dinner. Just down the road (about a block), in the north-west corner of the Southport Shopping Center, is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant named Kelly's Landing. I found it on the Internet before leaving for the cruise, and they sounded good, so thought we'd give it a try. Not anything fancy, but good, solid, New England seafood; Boston style. You have to go here. The clam chowder is to die for and the onion rings are delicious. We enjoyed it so much that we stopped there after the cruise for a final lunch before heading back to the frozen north (Michigan). Reservations are suggested for groups of five or more. They don't have a web site (yet) but you can reach them at: (954) 760-7009. The Ports - Before I go much further, I need to explain something. I'm a firefighter. I know you've all seen us doing our thing on TV and maybe even in person. In addition to our turn-out gear (bunkers) almost every station has a department T-shirts (duty shirts). Of course, no one (other than rookies) wear their own department's shirt. You have to wear other departments. So, with that in mind, I decided to take some of my department's shirts with me to try to swap in the islands. Half Moon Cay - This is Holland America's private island in the Bahamas; something all the major cruise lines seem to be doing now. HAL claims it is 'uninhabited', but there are about 20-30 HAL employees who live on the island year round. You will be tendered from the ship to the Half Moon dock. From there (after the obligatory photo) you have a choice of activities. The Aqua-Trax Adventure ($39) has you driving your own personal watercraft on a guided tour of a lagoon, along the shoreline and out to the reef. Horseback riding ($69) takes you from the stables to the island's highest point, a spot of 'refreshment' then back to the beach for a ride through the surf. Parasailing ($69) is a great chance to get a true bird's eye view of the cay, without getting your feet wet. There is also a stingray adventure ($19), Snorkel Tour ($49), Scuba dive ($69), and a host of other activities. Or, you can just hit the beautiful 1 mile beach and get the sugar sand between your toes! The water is wonderfully warm and your tuxedoed waiter will deliver Frozen Thingies to you in the surf! *sigh* No fire station on the island, but I did manage to meet with Second Officer Wayne Follett, a Fire Officer with the Zuiderdam's Security Division. Although post-911 policy has eliminated ship's tours, Wayne was kind enough to give me a peek behind the scenes of his division. I was mightily impressed! The gear and equipment is all top-of-the-line and better than much of what I have seen in full-time professional departments in major cities! The fire crews are equally well trained and certainly know their business. Good thing too, since a hundred miles at sea, there is no mutual aid! After my mini-tour, I can tell one and all, in full confidence, that HAL really be lives in safety first. Sleep well and enjoy your cruise. Yes, I did give Wayne a duty shirt and he said he will be getting one off to me. Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands - Was probably our favorite port on this cruise. As we had an early tour scheduled, we didn't head into town at first. We booked the Sea and See tour ($64). This was a guided tour by open air safari taxis (a converted pick-up with a covered, five bench, 20-passenger section on the back). We went all around the island, got some nice photos and a really informative narration. Tortola has a very interesting history and our guide was quite knowledgeable. We stopped in West End and boarded a 40' sightseeing boat for a run through Drake's Channel between St. Johns (USVI) and Tortola. We sailed over to Norman Island (the original "Treasure Island") and then back across Drake's Channel to Road Town and the ship. Well worth the cost and loved every minute of it. Once ashore, we visited the vendor area just outside the port. About 50 ladies had 10'x10' pop-up tents set up and the prices were very reasonable. But, please don't insult them. You really are expected to haggle over the prices. SunFlower headed back to the ship and I made a bee-line for the fire station. Went in, showed my ID/shield and introduced myself. Was given the royal 50 cent tour and invited to join the duty crew for a bite to eat. Great timing! Great meal too! My new friends were only too happy to trade shirts. All in all, I got the better end of the deal ... one duty T-shirt for a meal and a beautiful knit polo shirt with embroidered Royal Crest and printed logo on the back! I'm going to have to send them something to make up for the inequity of the trade. We loved Tortola! Not crowded. Not heavily commercialized. Very friendly people. Other tours included: Dolphin Encounter ($129), The Wreck of the Rhone Scuba Dive ($111), Virgin Gorda & the Baths ($57), Island Secrets ($39). Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - Charlotte Amalie is (basically) a big store. Jewelry, cameras, jewelry, watches, jewelry, perfumes, jewelry. Oh, and in case you missed it .... jewelry. You can't swing a dead cat more than twice without hitting at least three jewelry stores, or the barkers trying to guide you in to them. We took the Island & Mountain Top Tour ($24). This was a very basic sightseeing tour in an open air safari taxi. We stopped at just about every roadside tourist stand and were offered the same trinkets as were available down in town, for only two to three times the price! Yes, there were some very beautiful views, but the guide didn't stop unless there was a tourist stand there. Hmmmmmm, could there have been some kind of arrangement? LOL. Go figure. After our return to Charlotte Amalie, we did our obligatory shopping and SunFlower indulged me in a stop at the local fire department. Again, success! Traded one of my duty T-shirts for one of theirs. Met some more fellow firefighters and had a chance to have a nice chat. There were four ships in harbor this day. Zuiderdam, and two others over at the Havensight Docks; and the Disney Wonder across the harbor. This made for a busy and crowded shopping experience, but we did enjoy the day. A sample of the more than 20 HAL sponsored shore excursions for this port include: Sea Trek Helmet Dive ($94), Coral World ($39), Kon-Tiki Party Cruise ($34), Catamaran Sail ($79), etc. Nassau, Bahamas - Our least favorite stop. This may have been due to a number of things 1) it was toward the end of the cruise and we were just plain getting worn out, 2) the humidity was very high, and 3) the port was pretty crowded (six ships really added to the number of tourists). We first took a horse drawn carriage ride around town. The going price was $30, but for us ... "special ... 20 dollar". Sure, why not? Actually was a nice ride, but the guide was so set in his spiel that he didn't hear our questions and, on more than one occasion, repeated an entire paragraph without knowing it. Too funny! Next, we took the Semi-Submersible tour out to a reef near the port. You sit about five or six feet below the water line and have a great view of the reef and of marine wildlife. Not real exciting, but very interesting. Ashore, we found the Straw Market to be over crowded, hot, stuffy and filled with overly pushy vendors. Basically, the aisles are about three feet wide and each vendor sits in front of her wares. Each stall is about eight feet wide and stacked upwards of 20 feet high. As a result, you are squeezing through a gauntlet with a vendor every 4-6 feet. Over-whelming. Other tours included: Atlantis Hotel & Beach ($54 + $25 beach fee), Two-Tank Scuba Dive ($109), Sail & Snorkel ($49), Blue Lagoon Island. I, of course, stopped at the fire brigade headquarters to swap duty shirts. They were out, but an assistant chief accepted one from me, took my information, and promised to mail me one of theirs when the next order comes in. Ya gotta believe! Debarkation - The bags were packed the night before, and left outside the cabin door. They were gone before we went to bed! The next morning, we enjoyed another wonderful breakfast as we entered Port Everglades. Then it was just a matter of waiting for our color and number to be called, and it was off the ship, down the gangway, find the luggage, clear customs and grab a taxi. Debarkation began about 9:00 am and we were off the ship by 11:00 am. Met with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson and headed into Fort Lauderdale for lunch and a (way too) short get-together. In Conclusion- Would we take this cruise again? In a heartbeat! The Calgon Bag is still packed and I'm ready to go. The Zuiderdam is another fine ship in a series of "Dam Ships" and Holland America certainly knows what they're doing. We had an absolutely fantabulous great time!!! Please E-Mail any questions to Calgon1@Yahoo.Com Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Hi all. My wife and I were on the HAL Zuiderdam in the Eastern Caribbean from April 2 - 9, 2005. This was our first cruise with HAL. There are plenty of places online to read the same info over and over about HAL and this particular ... Read More
Hi all. My wife and I were on the HAL Zuiderdam in the Eastern Caribbean from April 2 - 9, 2005. This was our first cruise with HAL. There are plenty of places online to read the same info over and over about HAL and this particular ship. I'll not repeat everything you can see there. Instead, here are some details that we noticed / experienced, plus some dispelling of things others have said. BACKGROUND: I'm at a pr firm (I'm 37), my wife (she's 34) is an attorney. She had a deal closing that was 8 months in the making. When we saw the window of opportunity to finally escape, we took it. That meant we only booked our trip 1 month prior to sailing (unusual because we book trips far in advance and then do lots of pre-planning). We booked online. We had a SS category cabin on the Upper Verandah deck about 3/4 of the way toward the aft of the ship. We got a great last-minute price of about half what the room usually costs. We received our cruise documents about 10 days in advance of sailing. I would recommend them and use them again. Editorial note: I thought hard about a S category cabin (the next step up from SS). Now that I've had an S, there is no need to pay the extra $$ for a slightly larger room, access to the suite lounge (if you don't use it, you won't miss it -- and you certainly don't need it), priority check-in and disembarkation (there was no wait at either anyway) or the first tender out for Half Moon Cay (you're there all day, why pay more to get there 15 minutes ahead?) ARRIVAL: We had a flight to Ft. Lauderdale early Saturday morning. There were storms in Lauderdale early that afternoon and it shut the airport down for nearly 2 hours. That gave us only an hour to get to the ship once we arrived. No need to fret -- the ship terminal is 10 minutes by cab from the airport (about $12 when accounting for slow traffic) and there were no lines at check in. Since the airport had shut down, the ship delayed its departure, scheduled for 5 p.m., until 6:45 p.m. That meant we left the dock at sunset. After going through security, a porter grabbed our carry ons and took them all the way to our room for us. Lifeboat drill was about to begin, so we grabbed jackets and headed for that. It went smoothly, seems to take longer than it actually does, and we were back to the room. ROOM: As others have said, the rooms (at least our SS) are great. Spotless. Plenty of hangars. All the usual bathroom supplies (soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower cap). These were restocked as we needed them during the week (other posters have said their supplies were not). Our cabin steward was Charles. He's from Bali. Been with HAL for 7 years. Just transferred from another ship. Speaks English very well. Excellent service. VISTA ROOM: As we were escaping home to "get to know each other again" we had requested a table for 2. We got it (table 171, middle of the dining room). We were late to book the trip, so we had the late seating at 8:30 p.m. We would have chosen it anyway. The dining room was fairly full, but there were plenty of tables for two or four, so if that's what you'd like, you can probably get it. Our waiter was attentive, professional. Didn't talk much. But, we didn't try to engage him in much conversation. Knew the menu well and made recommendations if we were stumped between two choices. Food was delivered as ordered, hot / cold as necessary, and promptly. In fact, there really is no lingering -- dinner moves along at a pretty good clip. There is no chance you'll miss the late show in the lounge. Our wine steward was very good. Quick to arrive each night. We had brought several bottles of our own with us for some of the dinners because they were vintages we had picked up during previous travels. No problem bringing them on board at all. Some we had in our room on the balcony, some we brought to dinner. Our wine steward informed me of the $15 corking fee the first night. I said I knew about it and was fine with it. Then, he didn't charge us for it. At the end of the week, he received one of our bottles of wine as a thank you. We also ordered wine and even a bottle of champagne off the menu. They were all good and more than fairly priced. In the Pinnacle Grill, we had a bottle of Caymus cabernet for about $30 cheaper than I can get at my liquor store down the street. VIBRATION: The latest seating is in the lower level of the dining room where the dreaded vibration is. Fact is, it wasn't noticeable. One night, for about a minute, my butter knife rattled lightly on the bread plate. Otherwise, no vibration. No engine noise. Don't worry about it. DRESS CODE: It's always better to be over dressed than under dressed. Apparently, some people haven't heard that. At least show up dressed as requested. On the formal nights, I wore my tux each time. About 1/2 the men in the room had on a tux, 1/4 wore dark suits, and the rest wore some combo of light suits to sport coats. Many of the women were dressed appropriately, though if you're detail oriented, you'll notice the poor choices of shoes, clutch bags and even dress fabric (velvet in the Caribbean??) That's just me being silently mean. Informal night was fine. Easy for most to accomplish. Casual night goes off without a hitch. I didn't see any shorts in the Vista Dining Room, but there are plenty in other areas of the ship, even late night. And, some people changed out of their formal wear into far-less-than-formal-wear after dinner before hitting the casino, disco, and lounge. BARS: I don't understand why some others have complained about bar service. They couldn't get served. Their drink order was wrong. Prices are too high. Service is slow. Hogwash. None of that is true in my experience. Our dining room wine steward was just right. The bars by the pool were always available without a wait. Heck, you don't even have to go to the pool bar -- if you're anywhere near it, they'll send a waiter to you. Drink prices are what they always are at a hotel / resort / club. The best deal on the boat is the buckets of beer during the day by the pool -- 4 beers for either $10 or $12, depending on what kind. You can take the bucket of them back to your room, if you want. The Ocean Bar for pre-dinner drinks is just right. Very stiff cocktails, plus hot appetizers (that they bring to you on a little plate, you don't have to do a buffet-type thing). SPA: I didn't go to the spa, but my wife did twice (massage, pedicure, manicure, facial). Prices are fine. You have to tip on top of that (it's not automatically added in). Seemed easy to get an appointment. There was no sales pressure for products. I had planned to use the Thelassotherapy (sp?) pool, but never did. Looked ok. Went to the gym a couple of times. Standard equipment with a million dollar view. You will likely have the place to yourself. SHOWS: We went to the late (10:30 p.m.) shows in the Vista Lounge. Had no problem getting a seat. But, if you show up 5 minutes after the show begins, you probably will have trouble. The magician was very good. The Elton John impersonator was better than I expected. The comedy guy was fine (went to the "adult" version, which was still pretty tame). Skipped the Broadway musical stuff. I'll go there for that. The chef does a couple of cooking shows / schools in the afternoon. They are fun and worth attending, if you're at all interested. CASINO: I lived a number of years in Nevada, so I know better than to gamble. However, it was a center of activity. Bring your cigarettes, it's a requirement to smoke in there apparently. DISCO: The Northern Lights is fine in short amounts. Most we spent in there was on '70s night. It was the most crowded that night, I think. The DJ is fine -- sort of a grown up fraternity guy is the best way to describe him. EXCURSIONS: We didn't go on the cruise in order to go on any organized outings, so we didn't. Many did, though. We only got off the ship for short stints to wander around and say we were there. Tortola is our favorite -- we had spent 10 days there a couple of years ago. Most don't like it because there is little to do and virtually no shopping. That's why we like it. What I like about port days is that everyone gets off the boat. You can stay on and have the place to yourself (well, almost). Lots of pool lounge chairs, no wait at any bar or food line, discounted spa appointments, etc. SHOPPING: We did buy some bling in St. Thomas and in Nassau for a good price, but that's it. We didn't power shop like many of our fellow passengers. Also, bought some stuff on sale on the ship. Wait until Thur or Fri to buy from the ship shops and you'll likely get it on sale. FOOD: All the food on board is fine. I can't think of a bad meal and I can think of a few things that were truly very good. I don't understand how people are suggesting ordering so much at dinner ("Wow, go for the filet and the lamb chops and the seafood pasta!") If you order one thing from each course (5 courses in all) you're full by the time you finish dessert. Or, you should be. I even only had the two standard lobster tails (even my waiter was urging I order more). There's just no way. And, I'm not a small guy at 6'2", 220lbs. The Lido food is fine. There's always something there to eat. Sometimes the smell from the Italian area and the Wok area can be a bit too strong (garlic, soy, etc.) It was only too crowded on maybe two occasions when it was hard to find a table. If you don't go at the peak time (which only lasts about 30 minutes), you'll be fine. Others have complained that there is nothing to eat after 2 p.m. I don't know what cruise they were on because the sandwich area, the pasta bar, the taco bar, and the desserts are all open longer, some until 4 p.m. (when they basically switch to dinner and everything reopens). We did not have dinner in the Lido, but we did go to the pool BBQ one night. It was fine -- lots of food, chicken, steak, ribs, baked potatoes, etc. The Pinnacle Grille is everything everyone says it is. Go there. If you call for reservations and they say they are full and put you on a waiting list, go by the restaurant in the late afternoon to "check if you can get in." It won't be a problem. Food is great and worth the $20 per person. We tipped the waiter when we left. We ordered room service for breakfast a couple of times. Prompt. Food served hot. Everything we ordered arrived on the first try. In other words, there is plenty to eat. It is all pretty good to varying degrees. Editorial Note: I realize it is an American epidemic, but you truly notice the mega-sizing of Americans when you go on a cruise. If you are slim and fit, you are in a minority. People are too large -- and they aren't doing anything about it. Loading up on the food. Then, getting more. Not going to the gym. Wearing expandable clothes. Take a look at the cruise ship crew -- what a contrast to the passengers. It's crazy. PHOTOS: We saw the photographer several times. Unobtrusive. Took several pictures of us, but we didn't buy any. We just took our own. STAFF: Anyone who has written that the staff is unfriendly is wrong. I blame it on the writer. The staff -- from the captain to the plumber -- is so friendly it almost drives you crazy! If you're from NYC, you'll wonder why all these people keep smiling and saying hello to you. All the time. I never heard "no" or "can't" from any of them. One guy I grabbed in the hall even hunted down some Elmer's glue for me, no problem. They are first rate. CLEANLINESS: We've all read from others that there is questionable cleanliness onboard. I'm here to tell you, the ship is spotless. You see staff cleaning non-stop in all areas. I even looked for spots on the carpet -- none. And, there have been concerns about bad smells in some areas of the ship. I was all over the ship, including inside halls on other stateroom floors, and I never smelled anything bad. DISEMBARKATION: We had a noon flight out of Lauderdale. The ship was at the dock by 7 a.m. They began calling numbers at 8:30 a.m. to get people off the boat. We ordered breakfast and stayed in our room watching the royal wedding until they called us at 9:40 a.m. We were the second to last group called. Through customs without even a glance at our stuff (I knew I should have bought a crate of Cubans!) and outside to the cab line. It looked long, but went fast. We were checked in at the airport and at our gate by 10:45. And, we were on SW with a "B" boarding pass. Not a bad process at all. OTHER TIPS: -- Bring a bottle of water on board with you. You can refill it at the water stations in the Lido and take it to the pool, your room, etc. with you. -- Hunky Dory and Burt Reynolds are there to greet you every day, just like everyone says. -- Bring a travel clock and put it on your nightstand. You'll need it. (We brought an atomic clock, so didn't even have to reset it). -- Some cell phone users had service in St. Thomas. Cingular, I think. Those on Verizon (like me) did not. -- The Internet Cafe is easy to use. Sign up for a minutes package the first day, if you have to have service, and you'll get extra minutes for free. We had our wireless laptop to check email and it was easy. -- They collect any liquor you buy onshore and give it back to you when you depart the ship. No big deal, lots of people doing it. I did buy some beer (Carib) in St. Thomas and walked right back on with it (even sent it through the security scanner) without anyone asking to keep it. In Nassau (Friday), we bought a bunch of liquor and took it straight back to our room -- I guess because it was the last day. Didn't open any of it, though. -- Movies in the Queen's Lounge are fine. It's not a tiered theater, so get there early to get a seat where you can see. Smaller, rolley chairs are in front. (Back to the people size issue, some movie goers would try those chairs and have to move because it was a tight squeeze). Free popcorn. -- You can rent DVDs at the front desk for your room. Actually, a pretty impressive list. -- Your DVD player in your room also plays CDs, so bring some from home. The 3 music channels on the TV leave something to be desired. -- On days at sea, the pools become very crowded, as you would expect. Go in the a.m. or later in the afternoon to get a lounge chair. Do something else in prime sun hours. Also, there are plenty of lounge chairs (more comfortable ones, too) on decks 9 and 10 above the pool. There is no reason to sit by the pool unless you are getting in the water (which few people actually did), though if you are reading, it's pretty windy on the upper decks. -- Seasickness. Didn't have any. Took the new 24-hour non-drowsy Dramamine. No problem. Not even sure I needed it. After the first day, you get used to walking around in the sway. And, it's great movement for sleeping -- out like a light. I wasn't sure I'd sleep as well at home. Took about 2 days after getting home to stop feeling like I was moving. -- Soda cards. Didn't buy one. Only had a few canned sodas (the soda card is only good for fountain sodas). If you don't drink soda all day, you won't need it. Plenty of water, lemonade, ice tea and, of course, beer. -- Tipping. Tipped extra to my cabin steward, the Pinnacle Grille waiter and my Vista Dining Room waiter. Not a lot, just something to show appreciation. Also, a couple of times to bartenders and to the room service guys. -- Decor. Sure, it's colorful. But, not outlandish. Some people have written the decor is too crazy for them. It's hardly worth paying any attention. It's certainly been overstated on here. -- Smoking. Some people are, but you learn the areas that they do and avoid them if you're a non-smoker. Our room did not even have the slightest hint of smoke to it. -- Kids. There were fewer than 100 kids on our trip. We hardly noticed them except if there were a bunch in the aft pool (we hung out at that pool instead of the midship pool). -- Band. There is a band that periodically plays at the midship pool. Didn't pay much attention to it. Otherwise, there is a top 40 hits track that plays over and over all week. You'll get sick of Kelly Clarkson. -- Piano Bar. That Kory guy is good, but also a little goofy, so we didn't hang out there. -- Sports Bar. It's really an extension of the casino, but does have several satellite tvs. Unless a big game is on, you'll be watching ESPN out of South America (hey, do you like soccer??) But, who wants to watch TV anyway? -- Cruise Director. Upbeat. Informed. Unobtrusive with announcements. He's fine. -- Beds. Comfortable. Some have said they don't change the sheets everyday. Not true with us. We got new sheets everyday and twice a day towel service, as needed. Our steward stowed the comforter away, so we just had sheets and a wool blanket. It was just right. -- Room temperature. You can make it as hot or cold as you want. You have to keep the door closed to your verandah so the room doesn't get humid, but the door closes automatically anyway (not sliding glass like on some ships). -- Ship size. It seems huge from the outside, but it is just right inside. Also, though it was nearly full, you can often have spaces all to yourself. I rarely waited on an elevator (though we took the stairs 80% of the time) and it was often empty. I think that's it. Overall, very good experience. We'd go again in a second on this ship or any with HAL. Any questions, just email me at kevin@ingramgroup.com Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
My wife and I just got off the ZUIDERDAM, we were on from 3/5-12. we are both 31 and knew what we were getting into. I am going to break this review into two main sections - THE GOOD and THE BAD. But before I even begin, how can a modern ... Read More
My wife and I just got off the ZUIDERDAM, we were on from 3/5-12. we are both 31 and knew what we were getting into. I am going to break this review into two main sections - THE GOOD and THE BAD. But before I even begin, how can a modern ship not offer pay per view movies in the room nor allow you to book any excursions through your tv? THE GOOD the staff is amazing, from the porters, the room steward, the bartenders, etc. the embarkation/debarkation real smooth. The excursions, besides always starting at least 10 minutes late, fantastic. Spa and golf services were great as well. The room was great, as well the view, VA 7020. EXCURSIONS Deep sea fishing at Half Moon Cay, even thought the captain was "missing" before we were scheduled to go, it was great to have a boat just for me and my wife. No better way to spend a day than fishing in beautiful blue waters. Kon Tiki Booze Cruise on St. Thomas, every thing you could want from a rum booze cruise. The only negative was that the beach they took us to did not offer many things to do, i.e. kayaking, etc. Snorkeling by boat in Tortola. Once again this started late, the reef they brought us to was ok, nothing really to see. No excursions in Nassau, went to paradise island and just walked around and found some nice bars to hang out in. SPA/GOLF CENTER Jeremy in the golf center was a really good guy, unfortunately the person who was in right before I went in was a real hacker and ripped a divot out of the mat that made the simulator a little harder to use. But it was definitely better than sitting in a driving range. My wife and I had the couples massage, she enjoyed hers more than I enjoyed mine, but it was still enjoyable. THE ROOM The room was real nice, the only thing that I really did not like was not having the option to rent movies on demand in the room. This is something that even the most basic hotel now has, I can't understand how a modern ship does not offer this service. Back when I last was on a cruise in '97 the ship had pay per view movies. THE BAD Basically everything else was bad. I'll start from the beginning, we check into our room and there is a note saying that our request for a table for 2 will not be granted. After settling in, we decide to go see if there was anything that we can do about this. After waiting 20 minutes in a lounge we finally saw the DR steward who looked at his computer and said that we were at a table of 4 but that only the 2 of us are booked there. So we wasted the first half hour of our vacation taking care of something that we shouldn't have even been bothered with from them. THE FOOD AND DRINK We went to the bar on the lido deck and asked what kind of bottled beers they had, the bartender gave me a list of beers. I asked for a Budweiser Select and he said that he was all sold out. SOLD OUT! How can you be sold out of a beer and you haven't even left port yet, but we persevered. (I did find it later on in the cruise at one of the other bars, but still) BREAKFAST The first day we decided to order breakfast in, it was horrible and tasteless. The English muffins, OJ and bacon were all terrible. To say the least that was the last day we had breakfast. LUNCH Well if you did not make it to lunch by 2p you were basically regulated to hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza. Otherwise the selections were OK at best, the taco bar was a little better than OK, but not much. DINNER First night at dinner I ordered the NY Strip steak which was more like a tasteless shell steak, we chalked that up to first meal blues. But besides the crab legs, lobster tail, and beef tenderloin the rest of the food was quite a disappointment. By the time we found out that the Pinnacle Grill was a zillion times better than the dining room, it was too late. Mind you, my wife and I went on this cruise expecting some good food, when we go away our bill before tip and we don't order bottles of wine, are at least $150/night. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement. For this reason alone we will not cruise with HAL again unless there's nothing else available. ROOM SERVICE As I already stated the breakfast was horrible, we ordered lunch one day since we missed the 2pm cutoff and didn't want bad pizza. They have something called an ALL AMERICAN BURGER on the menu, that only comes with SWISS or CHEDDAR cheese. How can you have an ALL AMERICAN BURGER and not offer American cheese? My wife ordered the shrimp cocktail, which were a bunch of small shrimps that you would normally get from a Chinese take out place. The only salvation were the chocolate chip cookies. THE MIDNIGHT BUFFET oh yeah, there isn't any. If you wanted a late night meal you better get a slice of pizza or order in some room service. THE NIGHTLIFE Before my wife and I went on this cruise we knew it was going to be laid back and probably not that many people close to our age. When we were first checking in, we were definitely afraid that we were going to be the youngest by at least 20 years. Thankfully as the day went on we started to see people around our same age and made friends with a few couples who were in close proximity. At night your choices are limited to whatever act they brought in for the geriatric crowd, the casino, the piano bar, the sports bar (that only plays espn deportees, even though every port we went into had espn usa), and northern lights the dance club. As I already mentioned, since there were no pay per movie choices in the rooms, you either hung out in one of these places or went back to your room by 10:3pm. So my wife and the other people our age split time from the casino and northern lights. Whomever on HAL's staff is in charge of what goes on what nights in Northern Lights should have their head examined. For example, one night was Kareoke(sp), then it went to country music trivia to country line dancing to a hip hop club. Pick a theme and stick with it for the night. The casino was fun, especially after over hearing that the ship lost over 20g's at the craps table during the duration of the cruise. Btw...The sail away party from St. Thomas was absolutely horrible. MISC. - The automatic $10/day pp tipping policy seemed fine to me, you can always tip extra if you want to. The one thing that I did not understand is the 15% service charge per drink, it's one thing if you are bringing a drink to my lounge chair, but it is quite another when you get charged and you are sitting at the bar. - Also for those who say that you never win at the slots as the cruise goes on, my wife won for over $125 the last night, even winning $95 on one pull at the nickel slots. - There is definitely no feel like you are on a cruise music wise, which was more disappointing then I thought it would be. OVERALL I will not travel on a HAL cruise again, the main reason being that the food was such a disappointment and the ship lacked any real character. Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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