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
Sail Date: March 2005
We went on the 7 day Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale on March 12 of this year and had an unforgettable time. Both my girlfriend and I were first time cruisers, and apparently right in the age range of HAL's new target audience ... Read More
We went on the 7 day Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale on March 12 of this year and had an unforgettable time. Both my girlfriend and I were first time cruisers, and apparently right in the age range of HAL's new target audience with this vessel. That being said, we were extremely grateful that the passenger population was evenly spread across ages from about 25 to 85, with very few children. The Zuiderdam has some public areas that I found a bit gaudy or dated (the aqua colored Lido deck and its cafe...), but there were plenty of spots that had a nice sense of the modern era about them (the Crow's Nest, The Piano Bar, The Ocean Bar, etc.). We were very impressed with the service from the warm and friendly Indonesian crew. Most of the crew members were very friendly without being smarmy or ingratiating, the exceptions being the rude front desk, casino, and infirmary staff. The cruise director's staff seemed very helpful, but the Aussie cruise director's voice didn't really need to be piped into our stateroom so much. The ports were wonderful with the exception of dirty Nassau. Shopping was plentiful in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, so HAL should really consider skipping Nassau in the future. Tortola was exceptionally beautiful, and snorkeling from a catamaran at Norman Island was an amazing way to spend an afternoon. Speaking of shopping, I do have to make the suggestion that anyone interested in doing something in the ports of call other than just shopping should really research the islands before they go. The port information provided each evening was weighted very heavily towards the interests of cruisers who were only in the Caribbean to buy jewelry and cheap liquor. If you want to find out a bit more about the history, or do something a little off the beaten path, or make sure you get to a beach that's not overcrowded, do your research in advance at Frommer's or something. We both already miss our nautical home, and want to go again as soon as we are able. We purchased a fantastic last minute deal less than a week before sailing, and stayed in an interior stateroom that we found had plenty of space for the two of us. HAL could add a clock to the staterooms, that would be nice. Next time, we'll definitely be springing for the balcony. We feel very confident that HAL will provide us with the same excellent experience next time, and can't wait to go again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
We had little fear in taking the Zuiderdam, having been on her sister, the Oosterdam, in October. We arrived at Port Everglades at about 11 a.m. and, less than half and hour later, we were at the Lido buffet enjoying a feast while we ... Read More
We had little fear in taking the Zuiderdam, having been on her sister, the Oosterdam, in October. We arrived at Port Everglades at about 11 a.m. and, less than half and hour later, we were at the Lido buffet enjoying a feast while we waited for our room to be ready. After eating, we toured the ship and found it exactly like the Oosterdam. I did not find any of the colors as "radical" as some have tried to suggest. We were in our room a little before 1 p.m. and, while it was not the balcony room we had had on the last voyage (we signed up late, and this was all that was available), the room was large and we could tell light from darkness (even though our view was of the lifeboats!). The only complaint we had about the room was the very hard mattress--evidently, HAL's vaunted changes had not reached this level of the Zuiderdam--but the staff laid down a double foam padding that did the job. The voyage was all that we expected in food, service, and entertainment. We were seated at a table for eight, and our tablemates were most convivial. Our servers, Herman and Eko, were very attentive, as was Sunu, the associate maitre d'. Our room steward was rarely seen, but he rendered good service in making up the room and changing the towels, etc. The entertainment was good. Our only question was the comedian, Julie Barr, who was excellent for they most part, but did give indicators of what would come if we attended an "adults only" comedy show later that week (we didn't--we can do without "potty mouth" jokes!). The ports of call were great. Half Moon Cay, HAL's own private island, was the highlight of the cruise. Its pristine waters and beautiful sand beach were as lovely as they had been in October. It was our first time for Charlotte Amalie in the US Virgin Islands; we took a taxi to Sapphire Beach, a less frequented beach than the vaunted Megan's Bay, but one from which you can look out at about a dozen of the various Virgin Islands and Cays only a short distance across the clear blue-green water. We stayed on board at Tortola, having been and toured there in October (we didn't want to pay $30 each in order to swim at Cane Garden Bay, magnificent though that is!). At Nassau, we took a bus for $1 each over to Cable Beach. just behind the Radisson Resort, and even used its lounge chairs at no cost. We had toured Nassau, the Atlantis Hotel and Casino, and Paradise Island in October, and did not see a need to repeat it. All in all, a fantastic cruise. We can recommend HAL with very few reservations! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
Summary - If you are looking for relaxing cruise, this is it. Food and Service are unbelievable. Itinerary was just right. Who we are - Husband 34, wife 32, and boy 7 Our Cruise History - Feb 2005 HAL Zuiderdam Sep 2004 NCL Dawn Feb ... Read More
Summary - If you are looking for relaxing cruise, this is it. Food and Service are unbelievable. Itinerary was just right. Who we are - Husband 34, wife 32, and boy 7 Our Cruise History - Feb 2005 HAL Zuiderdam Sep 2004 NCL Dawn Feb 2004 Carnival Pride Aug 2003 Grand Princess The ship - Zuiderdam is an elegant ship. Even though it is showing some wear and tear, it is still kept up nicely. The size of the ship was perfect. Normally this ship carries ~1800 passengers, but this trip had over 2000 (I guess the winter break with over 200 kids bumped it up). Even with over 2000 passengers the Z didn't feel crowded at all. (You only noticed it during the muster drill.) The Service - Perfect. Indonesian and Philippine crew were the best of all the cruises that we have been on. The Entertainment - Just OK. Can't compare to NCL Dawn or Carnival Pride but the Magic show was great, and the comedians were funny. The food - Best of the 4 cruises that we have experienced, (OK maybe tied with Dawn, but with the service it won my vote). The Lido buffet was the best of all 4 companies. Fresh squeezed OJ, real ice cream that had to be scooped, different stations, fresh orchids on every table. Don't miss meeting Honky Dory and Hoky Doky at Lido. The shore excursions - We took the ship's excursion trip to The Baths. The ferry was fast but a bit old. They didn't tell us anything about the island, and how the boulders were formed; it felt just like riding on the Staten Island ferry. The crew was just there to get you to the location. But the Baths was great- nice beach and awesome snorkeling by the boulders in the water. Half Moon Cay - Best private island of all the cruise lines. Simply the best. Fine white sand, crystal clear water, water slides for the kids, snorkeling. Simply a perfect beach day. Here's detail view of our vacation: Feb-19 We woke up 3:30 am (after a late night of packing until 1 am) to get to the airport to catch 5:45am flight to FLL. We arrived ~9 am (way early) and took a taxi to the port. (Watch out for bad taxi drivers- ours took us to the north port everglades instead of mid port 26 where HAL is at, and scammed us an extra $4) Watching 2000 people get off the ship while you arrive is a scary sight but by 10:30 everyone is gone - except for people trying to get on the ship. Doors opened promptly at 11am. We were one of the first to get on ~11:30. We met InDai and Nick - elderly couple from Toronto, who have been on HAL for 7-8 cruises. They showed us the ropes. We headed straight for Lido for lunch and got a table close to the food. 20 minutes later when the rest of the guests showed up, open tables were hard to find. Feb-20 Half Moon Cay - Weather was in the low 80s, simply perfect. The water was a bit cold, but bearable compared to 20s in NY. We stayed by the kids' water slides to the left of the beach where the snorkeling was. The kids club built sand castles. BBQ was a trek to get to - simply too far - so we took the tram there and strolled back afterwards (to walk off the food). There are lots of activities and shore excursions you can do. We just enjoyed the beach. The half-shells are nice if you can reserve one. Feb-21 At sea. We had breakfast and lunch at Lido. Played a little Ping Pong, and watched our kid playing in the pool along with 20 other kids. We just relaxed. We went to Dutch tea in the afternoon. The little sandwiches and cream puffs were delicious. Feb-22 St. Thomas, USVI. 83 degrees, partly cloudy. We were supposed to dock at Crown Bay, but changed to Havensight. This screwed up my car rental plans. Originally I have booked a local rental company call I had to call them to let them know what happened. They didn't want to pick us up as the traffic is a nightmare in the morning. So we switched to Plan B - Avis (I had also made reservations at Avis as a backup plan; I'm so glad I did.) After we got our car, we headed east. Our first stop was Sapphire beach. Wife and kid weren't impressed with the beach; waves too strong for our 7 year old to enjoy, so he just dug a hole on the beach instead. I snorkeled and at first didn't see much. But then saw lots of tangs to the left of the beach. The waves were getting strong, so we left soon afterwards. Our second stop was Coki beach. What a wonderful but small beach. We ordered lunch from the local joint and waited over 1/2 hour for hot dogs and fries. Boy, you need to be on their schedule, we laughed it off as the weather was wonderful. Snorkeling was excellent - best for beginners- and schools of fish were visible after 3 steps in the water. Coki was kind of crowded, but the waves were almost non-existent- perfect for the kids. Our next few stops were just scenic drives. Mountain top, Crown Mountain road. Saw Charlotte Amalie from a distance- wonderful. Mountain top was a bit harder to find but it nice once we got there. Meagan's Bay from a distance is superb. Next trip we'll try to make it to St. Johns. It was quite an adventure to drive on those windy roads. Feb-23 Road Town, Tortola, BVI. 83 degrees, partly cloudy. We took the ship's excursion to the Baths. 8:30 got on the ferry from the pier. The ride was 25 min. then another quick ride on a truck to get the Baths. You need to be physically fit for this excursion to enjoy it. The walk down to the Bath was long due to all the people going at the same time. The trek to Devil's Beach was challenging but fun - especially for younger folks. Snorkeling at Devil's Beach was awesome (Once you go further out and by the big boulders). We stayed there till 11:30 but wished we had another 2-3 hours there. Back to the Z ~12:30. We washed up, ate at Lido and went back out to shop but didn't find anything interesting except for the chickens roaming around behind the booths. Rained when we left port at 5:00 Feb-24 At sea. We didn't do too much - just relaxed. I was feeling sick so I slept a lot. Our son cut his big toe from opening our cabin door too fast and his toe was in the way, so no pool for us for the rest of the trip. Enjoyed the Library - played Monopoly and Pictionary. The Z library was well stocked with a good variety of books and board games - even for kids. Feb-25 Nassau, Bahamas. 90 degrees. HOT. We walked to the Queen's Stairs by the fort. Once you walk away from the shopping area in Nassau, the neighborhood changes quickly. More poor and badly run down buildings. We got there, took our pictures and went back to the pier's straw market to shop. Things are not as cheap as you think and everybody's selling the same goods. Quality is bad, so you get what you pay for. Back to the ship by 4pm. We bought a little turtle toy for my son- cute. Feb-26 Fort Lauderdale. Sad day... Leaving the Z. It was hard to get a taxi as the QM2, Royal Caribbean, and Princess ships were all disembarking at the same time. Just too many people all trying to get to the airport. FLL was the worst, lines went out the door. Expect over 1.5 hours to check your bags and make it thru customs or wait till much later in the afternoon to head to the FLL. One good thing is the HAL is docked on pier 26? So that's where the taxi stops first. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Hi. Just returned from 4 night Bahamas cruise aboard Zuiderdam and here are my thoughts and opinions: Pre-stay and Embarkation: Flew down from Pittsburgh on Friday 1/28 on USA 3000. Nice trip and even had free tv shows, music and ... Read More
Hi. Just returned from 4 night Bahamas cruise aboard Zuiderdam and here are my thoughts and opinions: Pre-stay and Embarkation: Flew down from Pittsburgh on Friday 1/28 on USA 3000. Nice trip and even had free tv shows, music and lunch(sandwich/cookie/chips/whole can of pop). Stayed at Sheraton FLL Airport. Booked thru Priceline for winning bid of $50 and well worth the price. Had the Sweet Sleeper beds. Nice place for a pre-stay night but wouldn't book for a vacation since not near anything. Took a taxi to the pier which cost $11.50 before tip. Went to embarkation at 11:15 am and on ship within a half hour. Was originally booked in VA #6003 and was pleasantly surprised at check in to find out was upgraded to SS#5001. Took picture and away we go!!!!! First Thoughts and Cabin: Biggest newest ship we have ever been on and only have Carnival to compare to. Color scheme very similar to Carnival but in a more upscale way. Lots of teak wood and extra special touches like fresh flowers and artwork. Was surprised that there really wasn't an atrium and the seahorse crystal not given justice. Husband couldn't believe how tight the ship felt at first. Hallways very skinny and ceilings are low leaving you with a claustrophobic feeling. Also not too many windows in public walkways. I am happy to report that by second day the closed-in feeling was gone and you didn't even notice. I also didn't like that you had to walk through the casino to get to the Vista Lounge and walk through the Spa to get to the Lido. Felt too much like in your face advertising. Did end up finding other ways around eventually. Cabin was HUGE!!!! There was plenty of drawer space and three cupboards. The bathroom had whirlpool tub and free standing shower. Medicine cabinet was ample sized and utilized easily, liked that it had bars so items could not fall out. There were 2 telephones, a TV and a DVD player. Like that doorways were wide with no step over due to being a handicapped cabin. We are not in need of this service but choose 6003 due to floor plan looking larger than other cabins in this category and it is true -- they are. We were bumped to SS but still a handicapped cabin in very front of ship. This was a great location in that you had floor to ceiling window and door and a second window which overlooked front of ship. There was a deck right outside our window so it felt like you had this huge balcony!! Only drawback to this cabin was that it sat over anchor so you knew when you stopped, but we didn't mind. Also, would have been better to book even numbered side of ship because this faced ports instead of nothing. Our cabin did contain magnifying mirror and vanity, fruit bowl, robes and silver plated ice bucket but did not have upgraded bed or bedding yet. All in all a great room and great accommodations!!! Would book again in a heartbeat Food and Service: Everything was very nicely presented and very good in my opinion. Ate at the Pinnacle on the first night and it was excellent. Only $10 pp and dress was causal even though most dressed more like business casual. Top notch food and service. Husband had clam chowder, 20 oz porterhouse and volcano cake while I had cedarplank halibut and berry shortcake. Vista dining room was very elegant and food very good. Waitstaff was wonderful. Had 3rd floor 8 p.m. seating at table 82 which was a two-top right along the railing by the stairs. had no movement or vibrations. Only item wasn't too crazy about was the surf and turf. The steak was chewy and lobster tail small and watery. Loved everything else, especially baked potato soup, mushroom ravioli, raspberry sherbert and cheesecake sampler. All salads were good, too. Service excellent!!! Always had breakfast delivered to room and ate on balcony. Had nice assortment to choose from and served on same china as Vista. Came on time as did any time ordered room service. Lido had a lot of choices and always found something easily to eat. Only time that was bad was first on board and everyone there at same time. Could not find a table because most just sitting waiting for room to be done. A lot of people ate with plates in lap by the pool. Yes, there were liqueurs for the ice cream and Hunky Dory was there too!!!! Overall service was incredible. Lots of smiling faces and thank-yous to go around. Everyone seemed to really go out of there way to make you feel special. Lots of joking around and singing to be heard. Entertainment: This is where I would say Holland is lacking. Yes you could always find something to do but your only real choices were drink, spa, gamble, art auction, bingo, drink, shop, drink, show and an occasional other activity. I don't drink very much and didn't use the spa. Never made it to the art auction. Played bingo once. Shopped a little. Gambled some but didn't have any luck. The magician was incredible! DO NOT MISS HIS SHOW!!! Julie Barr the comic act sucked. not funny at all. Her X-rated show was kids playground humor (called her private area her sweet spot), MISS HER SHOW!!! The showtime live acts were good. They did a summertime musical and last show was a Broadway showtune with glamorous Bob Mackie costumes. This is a good cruise to take if you want laid back activities and minimal choices. We always found things to do but not always plentiful choices. Biggest complaint was that Windstar, where they sell specialty coffees closed at 9 p.m. each evening. Not a great way to get late night or after dinner coffees. Was disappointed. Ports: Key West was nice. Very party-like and alive. Walked all of Front Street, down Duval and up Whitehouse? Shopped and saw a lot. Was pretty cool that there was an arts festival going on in town with lots of local artists selling their arts. Way cool! Nassau was kinda scary. We were there 2 years ago and can't believe how much it changed. Now there is this "compound" you have to pass through to get into town with armed guards wearing fatigues. Streets in town much more hectic and busy with cars whizzing around with out a care for pedestrians. We are stopping there again in August on Disney Wonder with kids but don't think will get off the boat. First time I ever felt that I could easily be in some kind of danger in a port. When we went last time we walked all over town, even up to fort and Queen Anne's Staircase and took public bus to Radisson Cable Beach. And took a taxi at night to Atlantis. This time I couldn't wait to get back on ship. There was a definite air of desperation with the public, from hurricane devastation maybe? and a definite crackdown by military or police. Did not like this port. Half Moon Cay: As everyone says HEAVEN!!!!! We rented clamshell, thank-god or would have fried more than did. Water is sapphire blue and transparent. Sand is like baby powder. Could easily have stayed here for whole cruise. We did horseback riding excursion which I would highly recommend. Take truck out to stable and trainers pick you a horse you ride around in ring until everyone has a horse and then you start on hike down beach and up and down hillsides. You come back to stables for a can of pop or bottle of water and horse is changed from saddle to a mat. You then ride into ocean and water is waist high. Horse gallops and swims and then you return to beach. Was the most incredible thing I ever did. I have never ridden a horse before and was scared but in a complete giddy way. Going into ocean on horseback was breathtaking. Only bad part was that husband dismounted from horse badly and tore knee muscles. Had to push him around in wheelchair for remainder of cruise. Be very careful dismounting and don't think you are too manly to have trainers to help you off horse. These are big beautiful Jamaican horses. Went to BBQ on island. Standard fare like hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, salads and desserts. Disembarkation: EASY EASY EASY. All in all would rate this as one of the best cruises I ever took. Would go on Holland again in a heartbeat. Might be a little sedate for children but not too much. Would take my kids if itinerary right. Club Hal looked small and not sure what kids activities were like. Age mix on this cruise was varied from 20/30 all the way to 80s. Best thing we brought was lanyards for room key cards that we hole punched at front office and wore around our necks for duration of cruise. Made purchasing and getting on/off ship a breeze. And we never lost or misplaced key. Would also suggest bring spare suitcase for purchases and alcohol or YOU WILL EXCEED WEIGHT LIMITS FOR AIRLINE LUGGAGE. Please ask any questions you may have and thanks for all your help!!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Early Boarding: We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:15 a.m. There was already a very long line of people waiting for the boarding process to begin. Boarding started promptly at 11:30. HAL is very organized with the process and we were on ... Read More
Early Boarding: We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:15 a.m. There was already a very long line of people waiting for the boarding process to begin. Boarding started promptly at 11:30. HAL is very organized with the process and we were on the ship in about 45 minutes. Dining: We found the Lido Buffet to have very adequate food choices for both breakfast and lunch. The Lido had plenty of staff on hand to clean tables, take/carry food trays and we found the Lido staff to be very friendly. The main dining room had many food choices and the wait staff would gladly substitute items upon request. We found the food to be very good. Entertainment: The two crew shows were excellently done. An illusionist was on board during this itinerary and he had an excellent show that I highly recommend. The comedian, Julie Barr, was entertaining although she let the crowd get the comedy routine off a bit. With mostly port days, there were not a lot of other activities planned during the day. I went for two of the scheduled games and was one of only a few that showed up. Half Moon Cay: This is a beautiful island and an excellent port of call. A little word of advice -- get on the beach ASAP and find a lounge chair. When two ships are in port, the chairs can become quite limited and are a sought after commodity. Decor: The ship is very pretty inside and not as ugly as some people have suggested. Some of the colors are bold, but they work well in the ship. I love that the promenade went all the way around the ship. Disembarkation: Again, HAL is very organized. Luggage is set out the night before and you are called to the gangway based on your assigned luggage tickets. We were off the ship and at the airport in less than an hour after the process began. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
My wife and I have completed over twenty cruises. In most instances we take our children as we did this year. Our daughter is now 24, our son 13. Another couple joined us, however, without their children. Both couples are "forty ... Read More
My wife and I have completed over twenty cruises. In most instances we take our children as we did this year. Our daughter is now 24, our son 13. Another couple joined us, however, without their children. Both couples are "forty something" professionals , ie. professor, corporate director, journalist, administrator. We chose the Zuiderdam because of the price! We previously had excellent cruises with Holland America and despite the negative comments about the Zuiderdam, the deal for an S category deluxe verandah suite on the December 11th, 2004, sailing was too good to pass up. In my opinion the Zuiderdam gets an undeserved bad rap. Keep in mind, however, I am speaking from the perspective of the S category. I am though comparing apples to apples or should I say suite to suite, as we regularly book suites when we cruise. The Zuiderdam's suite accommodations and service is on par with Celebrity, better than Royal Caribbean and light years ahead of Princess which in my opinion has no suite service, only suite accommodations. At the top of Zuiderdam's suite service is the Neptune Lounge. We were directly across from the Neptune which for us was the perfect position. "Goldie" the concierge was exceptionally efficient and gracious and took care of every hiccup (and there were several) we experienced during the seven days. The constant flow of hors d'oeuvres and beverages was excellent. The S category rooms are smaller than on the Maasdam and Veendam but were more tastefully appointed. We truly had the sense we were in a luxury (as in a true four star) hotel room. The cabin steward was adequate, taking care of the basics, and for a $20 tip added a chaise lounge to our balcony. No chaise was no problem for my wife , but, I thought it a disgrace that Holland would think chairs and ottomans are appropriate. This is a cruise ship balcony after all, not a Marriott overlooking a park. The usual warm snacks served before dinner were a nice touch as always, as were all of the standard suite amenities. Now on to the food. S CATEGORY SUITES HITS: Neptune Lounge (everything about it including the chocolate covered whole macadamia nuts, fresh squeezed orange juice, top notch concierge service); Sensational beds/linens; suite amenities, unlimited laundry/dry cleaning service, CD & separate DVD players with stereo speakers. MISSES: No chaise lounge on balcony; no wet bar nor sink outside of bathroom; no special toiletries; no complimentary spa basics (i.e. thermal pool). The DINING ROOM is nicely decorated, albeit the wild colors of the new millennium, it was done to such an extravagance that it was a very cool room. Our waiter was quiet, unobtrusive and efficient. We are not fans of having the waiter become our dinnertime entertainment nor our new best friend. The food was above average but not great. There were certain items that did hit the mark such as the crab dip appetizer, the key lime pie, hazelnut crusted halibut and a few other selections. One tip, on lobster night, order both the lobster and pasta entrees and then have them place the lobster tails on the pasta. It is how it should have been presented in the first place. We bring our own wine so can't say much about the wine selection except that from what I saw it was limited and overpriced.  The Lido is where the Zuiderdam, but most likely Holland management, is now stumbling. Gone are the waiters to take your tray and help you locate a table. Gone are the endless desserts, especially the cheesecakes! The bread pudding is now relegated to curdle in a steam pan next to the kitchen door. In fact the desserts are now for the most part the same... day in day out. On one day and one day only there was a limited serving of a pumpkin cheesecake. It was divine. On another day there was a lemon square with blueberries. When you see these stock up... you won't see them again. From here out the cheesecake offered will be plain, no toppings or flavors and it will be by the slice on request between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. end of story! And no... I wasn't the only cheesecakeaholic who was quite irked. The salad bar has been diminished, the pasta station is excellent when it operates. The pizza is still good, the new sandwich station is also excellent. I had the grilled Cuban pork on focaccia... very good. The bistro selections were OK The big plus to dining on the Zuiderdam is the Pinnacle Grill. It is right up there with the Olympic on the Millennium, it is better than Chops on RCI and that Italian alternative on Princess isn't even in the same league. We had a major issue at the Pinnacle on our first night. My wife's steak (requested well done) came back hard as a brick. I know steak aficionados might say "what do you expect" but we have ordered enough well done steaks to know that should not be the case. The chef who was quite embarrassed agreed, the headwaiter refunded her dinner and our second night made sure all was well. My wife ordered on the second night the signature chicken dish which she described as sublime. So are the crab cakes. We raved about them so much that the chef had the concierge slip the recipe under our door. The restaurant is elegantly furnished with diamond tufted pewter chairs on marble floors with bulgari chargers and bread plates. The service is understated but extremely well done. Don't expect the flare and dazzle Celebrity delivers. Both lines do alternative dining well, just with different styles... and with different prices. DINING HITS: Dining room decor/furnishings; service; overall food/presentation/ambiance; Pinnacle Grill; Sandwich station in the Lido; Pasta station in the Lido. MISSES: Desserts (not in quality but quantity); no cheesecake on the menu (isn't this a cruise ship?); Only one type of cheesecake (plain) offered in Lido (again, isn't this a cruise ship?); Lido restaurant service; Lido restaurant staff; Dining room wine selections; martinis (almost forgot, they are weak and dreadful). Entertainment, no matter the ship, has been and seems always will be Holland's downfall. It is abysmal. The magician was the only tolerable performance. The piano bar is a nice retreat, the violinist in the Queen's lounge is a soothing spot for a moment after dinner. The Northern Light's disco was fun for a dance or two and was amazingly smoke free (not by ship policy). ENTERTAINMENT: HITS: None MISSES: All. Spa/Gym- Neither I nor my wife spa. The couple joining us do and had a good overall experience although they thought it was pricey. When it comes to cruise ship spas. I regularly used the gym. It is well equipped for a cruise ship. Very underutilized which is a plus. In fact, I never had to wait in line for any machine and there were at least two if not three treadmills that were "out of order" for the entire cruise. One spot of poor design of the ship: the upstairs running track, which has direct access to the gym, has wind barriers placed on both sides of the ship turning the track into a mini obstacle course. You also must jog in between chaise lounges, shuffle board games and viewing decks. You can however jog on the main promenade on deck 3. It gets very little use in the early mornings and late evenings and is a perfect place to run. The problem is after you are sweat drenched from running, but, still want to finish off your workout with some weight training, there is no access to the gym without going inside the ship and taking either stairs or elevators to the gym. My solution was to first visit the gym, take one of the huge (and very luxurious) spa towels from the men's changing room, and then go to the promenade to jog. Just drop the towel on any of the dozens of always empty chaise lounges and when you are done running, wrap the spa towel around your neck before taking the interior stairs or elevators. With the right deodorant and proper distance kept, people might think you just stepped out of the sauna as opposed to heading for the gym. SPA/GYM HITS: Equipment; space to passenger ratio; spa treatments. MISSES: Poor layout for running; pricey spa. With that said, I still think the Zuiderdam's design and decor is unfairly criticized. Because it is a big ship, many expect it will have the big ship features. It does not. Instead it carries the small ship intimacy to the extreme. Ceilings are low, there is no huge atrium soaring five to seven decks to the ceiling. On the contrary, there are seemingly endless lounges and rooms many which must be entered to be seen. The majority of them are tastefully done, some of them brilliantly so. As for the cleanliness and wear and tear for which it is so often criticized, the Zuiderdam while it needs some help is not completely at fault. The materials chosen, while beautiful, just will not stand up thousands of people touching and abusing. For instance dyed leather handrails in the elevators are an awesome feature but wear out quickly. Solid royal blue carpeting, anyone with children? Enough said. The crew is vacuuming non stop... but a simple grain of sand will stand out on the carpeting like an ant on a wedding cake. There is one item on which I must agree with other critics. The sewer stench on decks 1, 2, & 3 is inexcusable. Thankfully it is not near the dining rooms and in fact was somehow not present when we went to dinner at 8:30 p.m. It was extremely noticeable during the day. Ports and excursions are one of the biggest reasons we cruise Holland. This cruise however is causing me some skepticism. Our port time in St. Thomas was cut by two hours. Even our cruise docs said 11:00 p.m. departure, however, once on board it is 9:00 p.m. supposedly "due to operational reasons." This is a shameful trick that is becoming increasingly common with Holland and other lines owned by Carnival Corp. It seems every possible reason is used to keep ships at sea with the casinos going, bars flowing and no anchorage fees. Half Moon Cay on this trip was cancelled due to weather. High winds. This was a huge disappointment! Another day at sea. Our traveling companions on the other hand were relieved. It was another day of needed rest. St. Thomas is one of our favorite ports (8th visit). This time we took a Seaborne Airlines seaplane ($107 US round trip/pp) to Christiansted, St. Croix. Worth every penny. Some ship excursions cost more and deliver less. St. Croix offers just as nice although less redundant/plentiful shops as can be found on St. Thomas. The plane ride is spectacular with views of St. Thomas and the entire virgin islands. It takes off from downtown Charlotte Amalie and lands in Downtown Christiansted. We (more like we joined my wife) did shopping in Christiansted, had lunch at Rum Runners Restaurant where the tables are so waterfront that blue crabs come up from the water and join you! My 13 year old son and I left my wife and daughter to do more shopping while we took a three minute/three dollar ferry ride over to Hotel on the Cay. It is a rustic hotel with a rustic although quiet but well equipped beach that is free to use. There is even a changing area in the restrooms. Chaise lounges are $3/day, Wave Runners $55/30 min (none were being used during the two hours we spent there). Let me add the beach provides an exquisite view looking across the bay at Christiansted and St. Croix. If spectacular sand/beaches/snorkeling is what you're looking for this is not it. Stick to the ferry ride to St. John and then rent a car. For solitude/snorkeling... take the road to the Anendale(?) plantation at the end of the road on St. John. Then walk along the beach trail about a 3/4 of a mile... to the far side of the lagoon where you will see an atoll approx. 1/5 mile off shore. The lagoon is great for snorkeling, the atoll is even better. Only experienced swimmers and snorkelers should make the swim to the atoll. Currents can be tricky! Tortola is an absolutely beautiful island where there is absolutely nothing to do! Be forewarned. Make your plans in advance. My wife, daughter and our friends took the Sea and See tour which they all gave high marks. It was almost four hours long, covered the island top to bottom. They loved it! My son and I booked a private tour with Patouche! This is an excellent outfit who's owners (Joe Standish and his wife) are hands on and know how to deliver a tour. We first took a well equipped and up to date catamaran (15 on board including crew) to the baths at Virgin Gorda. The crew spent the entire 45 minute trip fetching drinks, snacks and gear without once me having to ask. All the time answering every question about the islands and sights we passed by. Once at the baths the guide took us on a tour of the park. To me the baths are one of those places you visit once in your life and that's quite enough. The rock formations are beautiful, intriguing in fact, but just too many people. We often had to wait in line just to pass from one "cave" to another. The crew at Patouche then let us have a moment on the beach ... then it was back on board for a pleasant lunch as we sailed to Cooper Island where our guide "Pearce" took us for an hour snorkel and then let us go on our own for another a hour. I saw my first sea turtle which swam with our group for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Straight out of "Finding Nemo." Joe got us back on board, where each guest got a warm fresh water rinse off, and then headed for Roadtown. Patouche gave all the guests a door to door drop off back at the Zuiderdam at 4:15 p.m. It was an excellent all day experience! Book on line and save ten bucks. Total for two $180.00. Nassau is another port where we have visited many times and not being beach/casino/party people, have left disappointed more times than not. The dolphin experience we did on a previous cruise, and that was with mixed emotions due to the treatment of dolphins in captivity. It was nevertheless an enjoyable experience especially for my son who was 10 years old at the time. On this cruise my family and our traveling companions (six of us total) opted for a bike ride with an environmentalist on the island. Her name is Carolyn Wardle. The fare was $55 per person including bike rentals, gear, water, snacks, pick up and drop off from Nassau. Carolyn takes her guests to the southside of New Providence Island, away from the hub bub of Nassau. The half hour drive over and around New Providence (in each direction) is alone worth the price. But, this trip is not for everyone, including my wife (who shop till ya drop is for wimps... shop till you bleed is more like it) who was miserable, my son who was bored, our traveling companions who were politely interested and my daughter who by this 6th day of our vacation had her mind on the minutes until she could see her boyfriend. Carolyn I believe does a fine but quirky job of showing guests her side of the island. You visit her middle class on a canal in the Coral Harbour community where you gear up. Because of the mixed biking ability of the group she took us on a ride around an abandoned golf course that bordered the coast line. It was a lovely ride in good weather. We stopped in the mangroves where we were able to walk a football field's length into the ocean and still be just knee deep. All the time looking at crabs and fish scurry about our feet. Carolyn makes it no secret throughout the trip her politics on the environment especially as it relates to New Providence and the development boom in Nassau. We tried to do some bird watching but no birds were to be found that day. She also took us on a small ride through an adjacent neighborhood just to get an up close feel for the people of the island and that was truly unique. But, I will say it again, this trip isn't for everyone. You must be very open to what you see and get, this is very off the beaten path, and Carolyn is as much the entertainment as is what you see. She is a wonderful person, dedicated, informed and very vocal. This brings me to the last subject of Embarkation and Debarkation. Holland has this down better than any cruise line we have experienced. Enough said. Would I sail the Zuiderdam again? If the pricing were similar. Would I sail Holland America again? Definitely. The Maasdam and Veendam offered better food and service even if the suites were somewhat dated. We are however booked in a suite on the Brilliance to Panama and are considering Europe on Celebrity's Millie or Infinity. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
TO START: It's Sunday night and I just returned from the Zuiderdam yesterday. The room is still rolling a little but I want to collect and write my thoughts about the cruise now while it's still fresh in my mind. After all, you ... Read More
TO START: It's Sunday night and I just returned from the Zuiderdam yesterday. The room is still rolling a little but I want to collect and write my thoughts about the cruise now while it's still fresh in my mind. After all, you know how forgetful we HAL'ers can be, considering our age...More about that at the end. I'm 55. Here goes... IN THE BEGINNING: Until last year, my last cruise, except for an ill-fated last minute fill-in as a chaperone on a Senior class cruise in 1990 (on an Admiral ship?) was an Alaska cruise-tour on the then relatively new Noordam in 1986. My experiences before that were transatlantic trips on the QEII and SS France as a college student (paid $225.00 student fare each way) and Costa's Carla C after college graduation in 1977. The new ships looked so appealing, and memories of that 1990 experience having subsided, I contacted an agent, followed her advice and booked a W. Carib. cruise on the Grand Princess in August, 2003. It was such a great experience that I booked an E. Carib. cruise three months later on the Golden Princess. Having heard about HAL and wanting to experience a new cruise line, though I have only good things to say about my Princess trips, I searched for two months before booking the Zuiderdam with an internet agency for the week beginning December 11. EMBARKATION: FLL airport was crowded and the wait for luggage was probably about 20 minutes. Taxis were readily available to the port for about $12.00 including tip. I learned before not to book the cruise bus or van--it takes longer and costs more. Porters took the luggage at the HAL dock and there were two check in lines inside: the first for those who had completed their documents online; the second for those who had not. Actually, there is another check in line for suite passengers. There was no one in the suite line and the others were about equal in number. The wait was only about 15 minutes so we were on the ship in no time. Arrived at FLL airport 12:15, in taxi to port by 12:45 and on ship by 1:05 p.m. CABIN: I think a B category; cabin no. 4049 on the Upper Veranda deck, port. I booked the lowest balcony category guarantee and received an upgrade. Having read on the boards about a passenger who complained that his balcony had a solid steel section from the deck to the rail, I was concerned that this would be a problem with my cabin. Thankfully it was not. But be forewarned. If I had known that it was possible to get such a cabin, I would have booked a higher-level guarantee in the beginning. Actually, this cabin is located further aft, the next cabin to the handicap cabin where the ship juts out. The handicap cabin is the one with the irregular shape caused by the ship jutting out. My cabin had a view to the ocean from the rail down to the deck, as most balcony cabins do. The next three cabins aft also have a clear view; however, the remaining cabins on this level, and the same is true starboard, have solid panels. The good news is that I thoroughly enjoyed this cabin. An A category would have put me up several decks and I believe the rough weather we experienced for a day and a half would have affected me more. Also, this was an extremely quiet cabin. Not once was I awakened during the week by any outside noise. I intend to request this location again unless I win the lottery and upgrade to one of the Zuiderdam's named suites. You should see those two cabins. I was able to see one of them the morning we returned. The cabins are a good size; the balcony at this level appeared to be about one-third deeper than those of the decks above; there one large arm chair, with hassock, another smaller chair and a small table. There is plenty of storage (store your suitcases under the bed--there are also two drawers there). The closets have shelves that fold up to permit hanging pants, dresses, etc. The bathroom is sufficient; the "tub" is a change but don't plan to stretch out in it. The bedding is very comfortable but I didn't see a "pillow top" mattress. Perhaps the new program hasn't reached the Z yet. CABIN STEWARD: The room was always kept in great condition, despite the many dishes from the breakfast-on-the-balcony mornings. There was always ice in the bucket and the service was never intrusive. He warranted an additional $20.00 at the end of the week. PINNACLE: Took advantage of the first-night discount ($10.00 each instead of $20.00) and it was well worth it. The food and service were exceptional and I would recommend it, especially the crab cakes and halibut. DINING: Assigned to Table E, main upper; this is the 8:15 seating and the one I requested. I always ask for a large table. Pinnacle first night so when we arrived the second night there was one couple at the table and four empty chairs. The couple, from Canada, were enjoyable and the other four never showed again; however, we were joined Wednesday night by two women who didn't enjoy their table mates so we had a great conversational group together for the last three nights anyway. They just told the maitre 'd that they wanted to "float" and did so. The menu listed enough items to suit anyone's taste, dietary requirements etc. The food was well-prepared, served quickly and was never off-temperature. Of course, personal taste dictates difference opinions. I'm picky and my only complaint was the same as that of my past two cruise experiences--European chefs just cannot seem to use enough chocolate in desserts; however, having said this, I need to also say that the chocolate dessert in the Pinnacle is by far the best that I have ever had anywhere, and that is saying a lot. I am a chocolate addict and would be a charter member if any cruise line ever offers a group meeting similar to the "Friends of Bill W" for chocolate addicts. Now if the Pinnacle chef could just speak to the Vista chef about the Vista chocolate desserts... Having read these boards and being aware of the many complaints about the food on the Z, I can only surmise that either HAL has taken the complaints to heart and made improvements, or people are not being fair. In any event, I have no complaints about the Vista and the Pinnacle and the food I was served there. Now as to the Lido---the presentation is not impressive because the two main food lines are cafeteria style and brings back memories of high school. While I am in no way any kind of expert, I personally prefer Princess' presentation where you can help yourself. Now the food is good--not great, but good. The main items usually correspond with several of the offerings in the Vista. But it just doesn't taste as good, at least on the night that I actually compared the two. Ok, this wasn't done on a scientific basis--I just got really hungry before 8:15 one night and had a pre-dinner snack in the Lido. I am a seafood lover, (ok, no jokes--it's "sea" not "see") and the pompano served in the Lido in no way other than being fish compared to that served in the Vista. My recommendation is go put on a sport coat and eat in the Vista. And yes, take a tux (buy one on eBay if you don't have one or it doesn't fit anymore) and participate in the formal nights. Your wife will appreciate it, too. SHOWS: I had to be coaxed into going to see the juggler but it turned out to be my favorite show. The illusionist is also very good; the others were also fine. Hey, I'm not in Vegas or New York and would just as soon head for the Oak Room anyway. In fact..... THE OAK ROOM: My favorite spot on the ship. This room is adjacent to the Crow's Nest, six floors above the showroom and on my (aft) end of the ship. Several of us met there after 11 to have a drink and smoke a cigar. The wait staff is attentive and friendly and will make you whatever you want. ONBOARD BEVERAGES: I don't drink much--usually just one late at night in the Oak Room--so don't know about the "drink of the day" specials. I do know that unless you are addicted to Coca Cola I wouldn't buy the drink card. The dispensers in the Lido offer iced tea, cranberry and pineapple juices and lemonade. Take a break from the high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. It helps justify all that sugar you're getting in the desserts anyway. Incidentally, Splenda suddenly appeared the second day. LOW CARB: If you're low carbing it, don't. Hide Atkins. Read South Beach. Take a break. Make up for it later. If you really feel guilty, there are low-carb alternatives available but, hey, this is a cruise. Eat and enjoy--feel guilty later. SEA DAY ACTIVITIES: I really didn't want any but did take the galley tour, watched a few movies, enjoyed afternoon and Dutch tea, broke even in the casino and read several books from the neat library onboard. PORTS: Weather prevented tendering at Half-Moon Cay--what a disappointment. I had looked so forward to having the ship by myself for the day. ST. THOMAS hasn't changed since I was there last year--or maybe there's another jewelry store? TORTOLA is a neat place to visit. Everything downtown is within walking distance from the dock and we were the only ship in town. HAL recommends Columbian Emeralds and another store that sells overpriced rum and spices. If you head on down Main Street, there is a store named Little Denmark. It has reasonable prices and some unusual inventory but, no, I can't give you a buyer's guarantee...NASSAU has definitely changed since I was there in 1990. (The Senior Class cruise?) The men are still there offering tours, taxis and charters, but now they are actually wearing neckties! I thought about going over to Atlantis but walked around downtown instead. It is much nicer than I remember. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Didn't do any. Sorry. SPA AND GYM: Look great, but after I found out that it would cost an additional $120.00 to use the therapy pool and heated-seat relaxation room, I decided not to use the area at all, except to walk through to get the elevator to return to my cabin. Hey, it's vacation! I'll face the gym and reintroduce myself to Dr. Atkins tomorrow. TIPPING: It's included, unless you want to change it. No big deal for me. I always gave room service a few dollars and tipped my room steward at the end of the cruise for his exceptional service. I look at the automatic as being like the 10% base for restaurant tipping...what I did above that was for additional or exceptional service. OLD PEOPLE: Some of my favorite people are old. In fact, I am 55 and anyone under 30 thinks I am old. Now to those over 80, I'm still a kid. Hey, what's with the complaints about the old people? If we are lucky, one of these days we may be fortunate enough to have those "youngsters" complain about us. Lucky we should live so long...Maybe in 25 years HAL will offer scooter racers for us around the Promenade deck. Sure there were a number of older people on the Z, but I also saw many in their thirties and forties, and my newest friends from the cruise are newlyweds. Of course, she's 80 and he's 40. No, just kidding, but quit picking on us "old" folks. SOME SPECIAL TIPS: No, you won't need any additional plugs, or duct tape, or water filters or most of those other items so many people recommend. THe best tip I read--and used--was to take a hanging shoe bag. Hang it over your closet door--it is a great way to organize and have readily available your sunglasses, camera, cell phone, Zip-lock bags, socks, dollar bills for tips, shoes (shoe bag, right?) and of course, for you "kiddies" who are reading this, your Polygrip, extra pacemaker batteries, scooter repair kit, extra rubber tips for your walker, etc. IN GENERAL: I enjoyed this cruise and would not hesitate to go on the Z again. Any time I can cruise in a balcony cabin for slightly more than $100.00 per day, I will do so. The Z is a beautiful ship with an attentive crew and offers wonderful food in the Vista Dining Room and Pinnacle Grill. The fresh flowers add another special touch. If you want a relaxing cruise experience and enjoy good food, I would recommend the Z. I especially enjoyed the many small areas on ship that were never crowded, primarily the Oak Room late at night for a brandy and a cigar, and the Ocean Bar in the early afternoon where you can read without being disturbed. The Library is also usually quiet. If you want non-stop action, go elsewhere. If you want to experience a slower pace where you can unwind in peace, and still feel a little of what it must have been like to cruise in the glory days, then try the Z. AND APOLOGIES: Sorry for the length of this review. I just stared typing and here it is. If anyone has any particular questions, I will be glad to answer... Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
First, a little background. We were a group of nine people ranging in age from 6-70. I am 40, my wife 41, and our children 6, 9, and 11. I have been on about 30 cruises, mostly with the former Home Lines (to which, IMHO, there is no ... Read More
First, a little background. We were a group of nine people ranging in age from 6-70. I am 40, my wife 41, and our children 6, 9, and 11. I have been on about 30 cruises, mostly with the former Home Lines (to which, IMHO, there is no comparison), and several with Holland America, Princess, Cunard, Carnival and Celebrity. We also traveled with my mother and a few other relatives. We had several category VC rooms midship on Verandah Deck (standard outside with balcony). To me, the worst day on a cruise is better than the best day ashore! Unless the ship is truly horrid, I cannot imagine a bad cruise. I have been on a few ships I did not care for, but still had a good time. We enjoyed the Zuiderdam very much, and I would definitely cruise on her again. However, this was the most unattractive ship I have sailed on. Bright colors do not bother me, but when they are juxtaposed so a bright orange is next to a bright pink and bright red, it is just plain ugly. The ship definitely did not have a classy decor. Even the ceilings in the public rooms were generally low and several rooms without bright colors just plain dark (i.e. Queens Lounge). The various colored vinyl chairs and sofas in the lounges just seemed cheap. There was no one public room that I would call beautiful. Even the Explorer's Lounge, which is classic and elegant on other HAL ships lacked appeal. The ship, although only 2 years old, is in great need of refurbishing. Many materials were worn and paint peeling or chipped. The elevator controls were all scratched. The cabins were very nice, except again for the worn items. The beds were the most comfortable we have had on any cruise. The cabin was well tended and clean. HAL does not require passengers to vacate their cabins while waiting to disembark at the end of the cruise. However, when the cabin steward came in to clean my mother's room, he did not change the blanket! The next occupants of the cabin were going to be using the same blanket she had used all week! Unfortunately, it was too late to mention this in the comment forms as they had already been turned in. The food was surprisingly good. The menus were fairly imaginative and varied. Most items were served nicely. However, the salads left a lot to be desired as they were small and wilted. The dining room service was more than adequate. Not excellent, but certainly not bad. The waiter should have realized that my children liked plain rolls and brought extra when we constantly had to ask for them. The wine steward noticed we were not drinkers and kept bringing more soda. The front office staff was superb. However, the shore excursion desk needed more help as the lines on the first day were enormous and slow moving. I had to wait about 1 hour to get a 5 minute question answered. I missed having a Caribbean band near the pool. The Vista Bank played there, but mostly jazz. Nothing wrong with that, just not my taste. I like having music to hum along to while by the pool. The shows were standard shipboard fare -- nothing special but enjoyable none the less. The deck party was nice, but I would have preferred live music instead of piped in music. The deck BBQ for dinner was also nice. I must say that the crew was fantastic. Some of the friendliest we have come across since Home Lines. We were on board Christmas week, the week of the Tsunami. With 40% of the crew being from Indonesia and not knowing the status of their families, and not being able to contact home, they still managed to do their work with a smile and just as efficiently. It was amazing. You just wanted to give each one a hug and tell them not to worry. They were so appreciative of all of the concern from the passengers. Three cabin stewards who were able to confirm deaths in their families were flown home at HAL expense. The Indonesian crew show was quite emotional because of the disaster. When the crew came out at the end waiving the Indonesian flag and singing God Bless America and the Indonesian National Anthem, I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. I still get the chills thinking about it. In summary, I would rate this cruise about an 8 of 10. It took us a day or two to feel at home on the Zuidy, but we then came to enjoy it very much and would definitely return to HAL. However, I would give the slight edge to Princess. I would be glad to answer any questions. Happy New Year to all. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Travelled with my husband on Holland America for the first time, having cruised Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean on previous cruises. Having read many negative reviews about this ship before departure, I was very nervous about the ... Read More
Travelled with my husband on Holland America for the first time, having cruised Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean on previous cruises. Having read many negative reviews about this ship before departure, I was very nervous about the trip. There was no need!! What a fabulous ship. We found it to be in a wonderful condition and not "worn" as previous reviewers had described it. The decor was very tasteful and I loved the colours. The service in the dining room was very efficient, although I have to say that the food was not as good as on the other cruise ships we have been on. That is the only bad thing I can find to say about the whole trip. The staff throughout the ship are extremely friendly and courteous. One thing I must especially mention is the entertainment- it is fabulous. The costumes and set designs are as good as any show you will find in the West End- incidentally I am from England. We had booked an S category cabin, highly recommend it. It was very spacious and the Neptune lounge is great. Had breakfast there every day and they serve snacks throughout the day which are delicious (I recommend the cheesecake!) Also ate in the Odyssey restaurant a couple of times- the food there is of a much higher standard than the dining room. There is a supplement to pay for eating lunch or dinner there which is well worth the money. The surroundings are very elegant- thought the dining chairs were fabulous. The embarkation and disembarkation was very fast and efficient- you can stay in your cabin until they call you, something which I have not found on the other cruise lines I have used before. I would certainly take another cruise on this ship, enjoyed every minute on board. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Husband and I were disappointed with our Nov. 6 cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 5th cruise (3 Carnival, 1 Royal American) and while the food was the best by far, the activities were lacking. Many days we couldn't find anything ... Read More
Husband and I were disappointed with our Nov. 6 cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was our 5th cruise (3 Carnival, 1 Royal American) and while the food was the best by far, the activities were lacking. Many days we couldn't find anything to do and with an inside cabin there was even limited deck space to watch the sea go by. The ship is divided into many small meeting rooms with no activities most of the time. We do acknowledge the fact that the weather for our cruise was less than desirable. However one problem we discovered was the planned games, like NewlyWed Game, were held during our dining time, 8:00. It seemed like the ship observed siesta in the afternoon and then activities continued at 7:45, after the first dinner seating but while we were eating. If you are planning on cruising on the Zuiderdam definitely opt for the first dinner seating if activities are important to you. Some of the shows were probably the best we have seen on a cruise ship. However there was only one late night comedy show. The show the first night almost put us to sleep. I was glad I returned, the rest of them were excellent. My group also missed the interaction with the dining room staff. They didn't even introduce themselves the first night. They just started taking our order. The service was good, although not the best. We observed a waiter spilling bread onto the preparation table and placing it back in the basket with his bare hands. Food was delivered and dishes cleared from either side. While this didn't bother us other passengers mentioned it. I had read on cruisecritic about Dutch night and anticipated experiencing it, but that never happened. There wasn't a dessert extravaganza at midnight, they had a small one one afternoon. Upon disembarking the ship one more seasoned traveler I spoke with said this would be her last Holland America cruise. She also said she missed the interaction with the dining room staff. The cabin space and storage are a plus over other cruises I've experienced. However, our cabin floor was never vacuumed, even after I asked the room steward to vacuum it. The visible things, like turning down the bed with a chocolate and fresh towels, were done. However when I found him with a vacuum in his hand and asked him to vacuum my room I expected it to be done. We never had ice in our room and our refrigerator was locked the entire cruise. I felt the room steward should have asked if we wanted either of these amenities. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier a little before 11 a.m. There was a short line, the doors opened promptly at 11:15 a.m. and we were checked in and waiting to board by 11:45 a.m. On board by noon and having a snack in the ... Read More
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier a little before 11 a.m. There was a short line, the doors opened promptly at 11:15 a.m. and we were checked in and waiting to board by 11:45 a.m. On board by noon and having a snack in the Lido! Our cabin was delightful, the deck roomy and comfortable. Found the Lido pool area tended to be stuffy and smokey most times, so did not use that area of the ship. Found plenty to do and enjoy everyday on the ship. Our son took part in some of the Club HAL teen activities, plus also used the 2 arcades. Enjoyed Tortola the most of all our ports, small island, not very commercial or crowded. St. Thomas was very very busy (6 ships in port that day) and not to our taste. Nassau was interesting, but it was quite hot there and we did not stay off the ship very long. Our cabin steward was great and very efficient. Our dining room stewards were also very friendly and we looked forward to seeing them each day, and were sad to say goodbye at the end of the cruise. We enjoyed playing Bingo each day, going to the casino, seeing the shows and comic Julie Barr was hilarious. Participated in Game Show Mania and Shipbuilding contest. Found the food in the Lido and the Vista Dining Room to be outstanding(this is the first cruise we actually gained weight on!) Drink service in the Crow's Nest was not very good, sometimes could not find anyone to take our drink order.  Overall it was a wonderful cruise experience and I would board the Zuiderdam again in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
* This review represents only our own personal opinions of our cruise. * Background: This was the fifth 7-night Caribbean cruise for my husband and I within the past four years on a variety of ships: NCL Sky (2000), Celebrity Galaxy ... Read More
* This review represents only our own personal opinions of our cruise. * Background: This was the fifth 7-night Caribbean cruise for my husband and I within the past four years on a variety of ships: NCL Sky (2000), Celebrity Galaxy (2001), NCL S/S Norway (2003), HAL Maasdam (2003), and HAL Zuiderdam (2004). We are ages 30/32 and traveled alone. This was our second cruise on HAL, with both of our HAL cruises being Thanksgiving week. Passenger count: 2,072 according to the Cruise Log provided by HAL at the end of our cruise. Club HAL staff shared with us they had 350 for Club HAL. Booking was made almost six months in advance via an online agency for this Thanksgiving week cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Overall Thoughts: As one person in our Cruise Critic group put it, "It's like my Nissan Altima. Nothing really wrong with it but nothing really special about it either." I think she hit the nail on the head. Compared to our HAL Maasdam cruise the previous Thanksgiving, this was not the same "wow" experience we experienced on Maasdam. Crazy colors, not as many fresh flowers everywhere, steward not as friendly or giving 110% like previously, no more Java Cafe for yummy hot chocolate, saw more jeans in the dining room for dinner as well as bellybutton rings (at least cover your belly for dinner!), more announcements that you can hear just fine while napping in your stateroom, etc. It was a good cruise and we loved our ports of call, but the ship layout/colors, steward, and multiple itinerary changes created by HAL just didn't have us walking away this time with that "wow, what a great cruise" feeling. However, this was the most friendly Captain we have ever had- Captain John Scott. We certainly enjoyed our conversations with him. Also, our dinner waiter, Nana, was the best ever! Every meal was fantastic, he always had a smile, greeted us by name, and was just awesome. And again, it was still a GOOD cruise, just not a "WOW" cruise like HAL Maasdam the previous Thanksgiving (before automatic tipping was instituted). Would we book with HAL again? Yes, provided the price is right. However, the Mariner's Club benefits are not that great at all in our opinion - at least NCL offers 20% off on drinks in one of their lounge areas onboard. Pre-Planning: I made Pinnacle reservations over the phone with Ship Services for $10 pp the first night. I also asked if we could request a particular area of the dining room for our normal dining, and was told "no." That was interesting since others on various message boards have been able to make requests in the past, even for specific tables. The port times were changing and not being advertised in advance for St. Thomas and Tortola, so that caused some stress trying to get our private shore excursions straight (excursions not offered by HAL). We finally determined we would get there when we get there, which turned out exactly to be the case. The number one reason we booked this cruise was for the extended time in St. Thomas so that we could return to our wedding beach on St. John and not be rushed with the day - we wanted to fully enjoy an entire day on St. John. The number two reason we booked this was a combination of price and our very positive experience on HAL Maasdam the previous Thanksgiving. Pre-Cruise Transportation and Lodging: After terrific flights on Southwest Airlines, we stayed at the Renaissance on 17th one night before embarking on the Zuiderdam. No free shuttle was provided, but we paid approximately $10 for the taxi from FLL to the hotel and another $10 for the taxi to the cruise port. Dinner was at a favorite of ours, Durty Harry's (near the Embassy Suites). The room was clean, comfortable, and in a good location. We picked up bottled water at Walgreen's across the street and Curt went one block away to get breakfast for us at Einstein Bagels. The line was well out the door. Embarkation: Wearing my digital watch, I tend to notice exact times (especially since I'm a fairly analytical person). We arrived at the port at 11:03, the porter took our bags, and we headed to the other end of the building to get at the end of the already long line. At about 11:15, it started moving. By 11:45 we were boarding the ship (no waiting after processing the paperwork). However, I was not wearing the Mariner buttons but had them in our leather wallet provided by HAL. I was told to just carry the leather HAL wallet through the metal detector, but it kept going off. I finally recalled those dam buttons and that solved the problem. Upon embarkation, we grabbed a table by the Lido pool midship and took turns grabbing lunch. The only thing that appealed to either of us was prime rib followed by ice cream at the ice cream bar. Sailaway: We met our fellow Cruise Critics at the aft pool bar, where I enjoyed a Kahlua Colada. This was our first time to ever do sailaway from the aft of the ship. I don't recall hearing a band there. Cabin 8049 (category I - inside): At 203 square feet, this was the largest inside cabin we have ever had! Storage was plentiful and two electrical outlets were provided by the mirror at the foot of the bed. A large couch was firm, but we never sat on it to relax, nor did we sit in the sturdy chair. An electronic safe (4-digit code) was provided in the closet, and there were two drawers in the nightstand that locked with a key (we didn't use it). There was a locked cabinet under the tv area that we finally asked about later in the week, and learned it was a minibar. I guess you had to ask for the key had you wanted to partake in that. However, having access to the fridge would have been nice. We could never hear our neighbors on the side, but did hear people going down the hall at all hours. One lady thought it would be good to teach her daughter the numbers on the cabin door 8 0 4 3 every single time they arrived - it did not matter what time of day or night it was. However, the cabin location was good - being between two sets of stairs/elevators and only one deck from the Lido deck. The cabin was attended to twice daily, with the focus primarily on the bed-making and bathroom. Our steward never greeted us by name on this cruise, which was totally different from our HAL Maasdam cruise one year prior. One thing to note: On embarkation day, the carpet outside our cabin in the hallway was ripped up on both sides of our door. The crew was putting down some black tar-looking stuff, apparently to fill in "craters" in the floor. Close to lifeboat drill time, the carpet was tacked back down. Dining: We were assigned table 77 for two along the rail for the 8:00 upstairs dining time. We were granted our dining time and table-size preferences. Our waiter, Nana, was the best waiter we have experienced on our five cruises. He always greeted us by name and was such a hard worker. Meals were always excellent for dinner. Breakfast and lunch were normally on the Lido deck and were just fine, but dinner was always excellent. Our dinner at the Pinnacle was well worth the $10 pp on embarkation night, and the volcano cake was even better this year than on Maasdam last year. Shows: We attended only one show, the magician, and he was awesome! The other show we attended was the adult R-rated comedian in the Queen's Lounge. If you get jokes forwarded to you via email on the internet, you probably knew her punchlines as soon as she says the first sentence. What really surprised me was the number of children at this performance, even though it was rated "R" and advertised that way. Parents had their children next to them, and they were obviously children by their looks and Club HAL bracelets. One kid told her dad she felt bad, so he started walking her out (we were standing in the very back right behind them). Next thing we knew, she had fainted before making it to the door and was on the ground. I tapped the mother on the shoulder to ask if that had been her daughter, she said yes, so I let her know she had just fainted. She left to join them. Beverages on board: The one time we visited the Crow's Nest for predinner drinks, we were very disappointed in the lack of service. After waiting in chairs for half an hour around 5:00, I finally went to the bar to order a drink. I don't know if it is because of the new automatic tipping or what, but last year on Maasdam, as soon as we would sit down in the Crow's Nest we'd have someone taking our drink order and bringing hors d'oeuvres. The Crow's Nest service this year on Zuiderdam was sorely lacking, and we did not return there for drinks. (It wasn't even crowded that afternoon.) We did return three other times wanting to just sit and look out the windows, but it was reserved for various private functions. The Ocean Bar was our Cruise Critic meeting point each night. Most of us would have one predinner cocktail. Service was much better here, but we were not sitting at the bar rather near the piano. The drinks of the day seemed to have no kick, especially for someone who goes night-night after just two drinks (I don't drink a lot at all). I usually notice it any time I have a drink, but the drinks on Zuiderdam just didn't have that punch. Others in our group noticed the same thing, and we had about a dozen who met nightly. Our total bar bill came to $90 for the week, including the wines we had at dinner - so one can see this was not a big expense. Drinks of the day cost $3.75, Cosmos and other drinks cost $5.95, and wines by the glass varied. The corkage fee totaled $15.00 including the automatic 15% tip (brought a special bottle from home). The Cosmos were terrific and were mixed just right in my opinion. Sea Day Activities: Compared to NCL and Celebrity, HAL has fewer activities and more time to just relax. We participated in afternoon tea, aviator's meeting, various board game competitions in the piano bar, and one win-a-cruise Bingo ($10 for one game, $20 for three). The Bingo was the extent of our gambling, especially since we are headed to Bellagio the following month. We also enjoyed playing dominoes that we had brought from home and watching the shipbuilding trials. We did not watch any of the movies onboard. However, we played shuffleboard with the sounds of Madonna, Dave Matthews Band, and other '80s/'90s/today music blaring from the nearby speakers (never heard that mix of music on Maasdam last year). Club HAL would lead the kids around the ship, and some kids thought the pucks on the shuffleboard were for kicking, but that was okay - Curt was beating me anyway and I could use a "startover." We enjoyed one afternoon in the aft hot tubs but noticed that the aft pool did not enforce the adult swim time 3:00-5:00. Spa: After taking the spa tour on embarkation day I inquired about the week pass they were selling for the hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite. They said they sell only 35 for the week and had only 6 left to sell. Since it was not even 4:00, they said they expected to sell out soon. If they sell out, then day passes are not offered. Ironically, a few days later, I inquired about a day pass for my husband and I, and was told no problem. Either they didn't sell the 35 week passes or they didn't stick to the limit of only 35 total. We had 2072 passengers onboard. The spa services were more pricey than the spas I use locally in Dallas (Four Seasons, Grand Spa, etc) so I opted not to utilize the spa services onboard the Zuiderdam. However, the daily specials, especially toward the end of the week for facials, looked appealing! Disembarkation: We were group number one (going standby for a 10:50 flight) and were called at 9:00. Before we even made it from the Lido to our cabin to grab our carry on in our cabin one deck below, they had already called groups 2, 3, 4, and 5. Of course when making it to the appropriate deck it was a madhouse of passengers waiting to get off. The man behind us said he was a Suite and gets to go to the front of the line. I thought they got priority disembarkation (which is why they called S very first) as opposed to cutting in the line of passengers who were also called. Since he had only twenty people ahead of him, I suggested it might just be easier to wait since we were all packed like sardines and nobody could hardly move anyway. I don't understand why HAL calls multiple groups at one time. That day, they were called S, 1, 2 and then 3, 4, 5 just a couple minutes later. Regardless, we were at the airport by 9:40 in line (after a $10 cab ride) and received boarding passes at 10:03. Of course you always have airport passengers complaining that the check-in line takes too long, but if someone expects an empty airport in Fort Lauderdale on the weekend after Thanksgiving, especially when all the cruise ship passengers arrive, they need to start using just a little common sense. Weekends in any airport near a cruise port are hectic, not to mention the busiest travel weekend of the year (Thanksgiving weekend). Ports: Half Moon Cay: Sunday, scheduled 8:00-4:00. Disembarked around 8:25 (first nonsuite/nonexcursion group), all aboard by 3:30. We arrived in the Queen's Lounge at 7:35 to wait in line for tickets. Instead, they had us sit in chairs so when ticket distribution time came, it really didn't matter how long you were there because they were just randomly distributed. The lady working it seemed to have no clue, as she was part of Club HAL and said she was just helping out today. At 8:15, the cruise director came in wondering why nobody had been boarding except excursions and suites (who had priority). Apparently there had been a miscommunication so we all received tender tickets and proceeded to the gangway. We were all set up in our $9 clamshell by 9:00 near the last three cabanas. We enjoyed a long walk to the end of the beach to the rocky area, where we saw debris that had not been cleaned up since the September hurricane. We also stopped to watch the horseback riding, which seemed to spend about five minutes in water. The vegetation was growing back from being damaged by the saltwater with the hurricane. Upon returning to our clamshell, we relaxed in hammocks that were right there and did a little swimming. By lunch, the beach was filling up. A group of passengers arrived, squealing with delight that they had found hammocks. Of course they just threw their flipflops in the hammocks and left, and at the time we left later in the afternoon, they had never returned. Nice of them to be "hammock-hogs" just like "deckchair hogs" you see onboard. Zero consideration for other passengers who might want to enjoy the hammock during the hours they had them "reserved." We observed many passengers during the week onboard with this "me me me" attitude- much more than on previous cruises. St. Thomas: Tuesday, scheduled 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. (changed in October to 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.). Disembarked around 8:15 a.m., all aboard by 8:30 p.m. According to we were to be at Crown Bay (five ships in port total). Upon Saturday's embarkation, we learned that we would be tendering. However, on Monday while at sea we learned we would indeed be at Crown Bay. Fortunately we did arrive on Tuesday (versus Wednesday) as several previous Zuiderdam had experienced unannounced port swapping with St. Thomas and Tortola for Tuesday/Wednesday. After clearing immigration at 7:35, we dropped our passports off in our safe and proceeded to the gangway. We were told to go up a deck (a large group of us) to wait for the announcement. Every five minutes someone would go down the stairs to double-check. At 8:15, we noticed others were disembarking via elevators and it was indeed clear for everyone to get off the ship, but the dozens of us waiting up one deck at the top of the stairs as instructed had been neglected in being told. We disembarked and immediately found the taxi dispatcher to get transportation to Red Hook. After being moved to four different taxis (drivers don't like making this run) we were finally on the road at 8:25. We just barely made the 9:00 ferry. Remember: you are on island time. Things don't move as fast even if you have a ferry you are wanting to make. Taxi cost $9 each and ferry cost $3 each. Upon arrival in Cruz Bay, we met Chef Mulcare on the dock to pick up our wedding cake (same cake but smaller version of the one we had in March 2003 for our St. John wedding while on a cruise). We then turned right to walk along the beach to Noah's Dinghies, where we rented a twelve-foot bright yellow dinghy with a 15 hp motor for the day. This enabled us to visit our wedding beach (Hawksnest), snorkel at Waterlemon Cay, walk along Cinnamon beach, have lunch at Trunk Bay, and relax on Honeymoon Beach before returning the dinghy later that afternoon. We did some quick window shopping (on a quest for earrings) but ended up making the second 5:00 ferry. Yes, there IS a rush hour in St John. We were amazed at the way people just walked to the front of the ferry line as if it didn't even exist. Once in Red Hook, we got a cab back to Crown Bay, going a different routing to get there due to traffic in the Havensight direction. The passengers already in the van were discontent that they had made the first 5:00 ferry but the driver refused to leave until the van was completely full, waiting on the second 5:00 ferry. Although we had been told the shops in St. Thomas stay open late when a ship is in port, we had called some that we knew we wanted to visit (such as the jewelry store where we had bought our wedding bands in 2002) and were told they were closing at 5:00. Therefore, we went straight back to the ship for our 9:00 departure, opting not to have dinner in town. Tortola: Wednesday, scheduled 7:00 - 6:00 (embarkation day schedule now showed 7:00 - 5:00). Disembarked around 8:25 (safely docked alongside 7:58 according to Cruise Log, announcement made we could disembark at 8:15), all aboard by 4:30. Having prebooked with Patouche charters, we were to check in between 8:30 - 8:45. We made it there at 8:55. I am not sure why disembarkation was an hour late, but it certainly made for a rushed experience walking to Patouche (down past the ferry dock and hospital). We had an absolutely wonderful day with Patouche on Shamwari. Shamwari is 48' and they take no more than 16 passengers. We snorkeled and toured the Baths and also snorkeled at Haulover Bay at a different island. Upon our return at 4:10, Julie hopped in her van to drive us back to make our all aboard time of 4:30. Again, knocking off an hour of each end of our day by HAL caused a rush with this charter. I wish HAL would have stuck to the original schedule advertised. I'm not sure why we arrived an hour late from St. Thomas (it's not that far away) but at least we were given a heads-up on embarkation day that we would be leaving Tortola early. That allowed me the opportunity to use HAL's internet cafe and email Patouche to let them know of this change - and to re-verify we would definitely be back on time. The late arrival came as a surprise, but of course I realize a ship can change an itinerary at any time for any reason at all. In port, there was one other HAL ship docked next to us. It was there when we arrived and it departed thirty minutes before we did. Nassau: Friday, scheduled 12:00 - 7:00. Disembarked around 12:20 (one of the first to disembark), all aboard by 6:30. We had booked the Dolphin Swim through Dolphin Encounters of Blue Lagoon independently. HAL did not offer the swim but only the encounter for Nassau, which I was not interested in. By booking independently, I was also able to book my husband as an observer for $20, enabling him to take over 100 digital pictures. We took a cab to Paradise Ferry Terminal ($10 plus $1 toll) and checked in around 1:00. Our ferry was scheduled for 1:30 but ran a little late, so we all arrived just a little late for the 2:00 program (but we were all on the ferry). After an introduction to the program, we put on wetsuits and life jackets. We were placed on three platforms with ten participants each. The program consisted of two parts. Part One: All participants in the water for several "swim bys," petting, kisses, hugs, and dancing. Part Two: The swim. Adults had two dolphins propelling them through the water while kids had just one. This was awesome and happened so fast! After a warm shower, changing clothes, and purchasing a couple photographs (4x6 for $14, picture magnet for $8), we were on the 4:00 ferry back. The first ferry stop was at the ferry terminal, and cruise ship passengers were instructed to stay onboard, as the ferry would take us directly back to the cruise ship dock. We did some quick power shopping and purchased the earrings we were after on this trip. This was the only day we had time to shop due to booking ourselves with excursions and times in port being shortened by HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
My wife, Merlyn and I, along with our two best friends, Al and Theresa recently returned from our 7 night Caribbean cruise aboard the beautiful Zuiderdam. This was our 6th cruise; 2nd on HAL and the best cruise of our lives. As soon as ... Read More
My wife, Merlyn and I, along with our two best friends, Al and Theresa recently returned from our 7 night Caribbean cruise aboard the beautiful Zuiderdam. This was our 6th cruise; 2nd on HAL and the best cruise of our lives. As soon as we caught sight of the "Z" we knew we were in for a wonderful time. WOW! The "Z" is very impressive with its 82,000 tons and 11 decks, endless verandahs, and outside glass elevators. I frankly can't understand how anyone can conscientiously complain about this gorgeous ship. We were amazed at what HAL has done. Bright colors everywhere; reds, purples, yellows, blues, etc. Even the interior elevators are beautiful. I LOVE IT! And how about that 3-story atrium with its spiral staircase which has a revolving "sea horse" at the top; a Tiffany Crystal Sculpture which is simply elegant. When you walk down the deep blue staircase, you feel special. And all the tasteful artwork throughout the ship adds to its classy appearance. In the Vista Lounge, sure there are several posts that block your sight to the stage, but what a beautiful bright red room with balcony. Our Deluxe Verandah Suite S 7074 was more than we expected with its large verandah. Of course it came with many perks including access to the Neptune Lounge (private) and priority reservations to the Odyssey Restaurant. Dining at the Odyssey was a delightful experience as we dined there twice during our cruise. Was it worth the extra $20 per person? Well, as Emeril Lagasse would say: "It's UP, ANOTHER NOTCH!" Everyone's expectation in cuisine and service will vary, but come-on folks! This is a 5-star restaurant! The food was absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS! That is, unless you don't care for the likes of crab cakes...chicken marsala with Washington cherries...cedar planked halibut with Alaskan king crab legs...smoked salmon tartar with grilled asparagus wasabi sabayon, sterling silver steaks. Of course, everyhing is perfectly complimented by the meticulous attention to detail in every aspect. We topped off our meals with strawberry angel shortcake with wild berry compote, cre'me brule sampler, baked alaska with cherries jubilee, and must we not forget, warm chocolate volcano cake with a big scoop of ice cream in the center cavity. It just doesn't get any better than this! Half Moon Cay is still as beautiful as ever. You just want to abandon ship and hide away there for the rest of your life. So, read all the reviews and take them with a grain of salt. Then book your next cruise on the "Z" as soon as possible. This ship is DYNAMITE! Maybe we'll meet you on our next HAL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
This is the second time we have sailed on the Zuiderdam. It is a great ship. Last time we were on the ship, we were not very impressed with the food in the main dining room, however this time the food was amazing. What a difference a year ... Read More
This is the second time we have sailed on the Zuiderdam. It is a great ship. Last time we were on the ship, we were not very impressed with the food in the main dining room, however this time the food was amazing. What a difference a year has made. The staff on the ship could not be helpful and friendly enough. It was my birthday while we were on board - it was so thoughtful to get a "birthday card" from the Captain and our cabin steward went out of his way to make my day extra special. We found the evening shows this year were even better than last. One particular one that we would rave about was the Elton John tribute. I must admit I am not a big fan of Sir Elton, but the gentleman who did the "tribute" was amazing. You could actually believe you were watching the real thing and the "patter" between the songs was hilarious. We were sorry we didn't go to the early show first and then watch it again later. The cabins (suites) are wonderfully comfortable. The balconies are large - we had breakfast on the balcony a couple of times during the trip. Because of hurricane Ivan, we were not able to stop at the Cayman Islands, which was a disappointment, however the stop that was substituted, Costa Maya, was just wonderful and very educational. I would not hesitate to jump on board the Zuiderdam again. It was even better than last year. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
This year the Zuiderdam was a disappointment. Last year my husband and I sailed on the Zuiderdam along with our 2 granddaughters and were very satisfied. My only complaint last year was about fellow passengers not tipping the crew. When ... Read More
This year the Zuiderdam was a disappointment. Last year my husband and I sailed on the Zuiderdam along with our 2 granddaughters and were very satisfied. My only complaint last year was about fellow passengers not tipping the crew. When HAL decided to add the tips automatically, I felt that was a good step. I have changed my mind. The smiling, helpful, eager-to-please crew has been replaced by contract employees who leave much to be desired. The dining room stewards and assistants are inexperienced and not the same smiling bunch we have experienced on our other 7 cruises with Holland America. We hardly recognized a face from last year. The first day was so bad that I felt compelled to put my comments in writing to the front office. The bedding in our cabin was not clean. After complaining, fresh pillows and blankets arrived and the veranda was mopped. Our cabin steward, Ardi, was friendly and did try - he just seemed to have too many cabins to handle. The food in the dining room was delicious - the beef in the dining room being nearly as wonderful as that in the specialty restaurant. I don't think our dining stewards knew our names nor that of our table mates who were a likeable bunch. The entertainment was good - especially the Elton John impersonator. However - there are not enough scheduled activities and people were bored. The trio in the Ocean Bar was not the best - the lead had a very nasal voice which I found annoying - like someone trying to imitate Louie Armstrong. I missed the strings following dinner in the Explorer Lounge - they did not start until after 9 pm. The Crows Nest was dead. Nothing much to do after the show but go back to the cabin. While we feel we got an exceptional deal on the price and do wonder how Holland America was able to provide the quality food at the prices they were charging, we do feel that sometimes less is not better. I want the old smiling crew back - not contract employees who don't seem to care. Last year I raved about the Zuiderdam - this year I have to say it was ok. My husband and I both agreed that we are going to go back to Celebrity or try Princess. Even the crew on the Carnival Spirit doing Hawaii this past April was much more experienced and pleasant. And a PS - I like to see clean clothing on the dining room stewards - not stained uniforms. And - I don't like to see people clearing dirty dishes and then watch them pick up my baked potato with their hands. The dining room crew needs some schooling - both on cleanliness and the proper way to serve and remove dinnerware - and yeah - they need to smile. We left our tips at the suggested $10 per person per day but I really don't think I had the service I experienced on past cruises. Bye, bye Holland America. You need to clean up your act. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
My first cruise was more then I expected. The Zuiderdam is a beautiful ship. We embarked at Ft. Lauderdale on October 9, 2004 for our Eastern Caribbean cruise. The embarkation was a little tedious. We had to stand in line for about an ... Read More
My first cruise was more then I expected. The Zuiderdam is a beautiful ship. We embarked at Ft. Lauderdale on October 9, 2004 for our Eastern Caribbean cruise. The embarkation was a little tedious. We had to stand in line for about an hour, but the staff was very friendly and kept apologizing for making us wait. Once on board we were taken immediately to our stateroom. Our check-in luggage hadn't arrived yet so we made our way to the Lido deck for lunch. The food was great and there was a wide selection to choose from. After that we went exploring. I must admit that I was impressed by the all the activities that were available on board. There were two swimming pools (the aft pool seemed to be more for adults), basketball court, spa, movie theater, art gallery, library, internet room, casino, golf center, wonderful shows each night in the Vista Lounge, a large shopping area, and about 10 bars. We had the early seating in the Vista dining room. I was a little disappointed with some of the soups, but all the other food was delicious. After the first day the waiters and our cabin steward knew our names. The waiters remembered our beverage preferences and our cabin steward quickly picked up on our daily routine. When we got back from breakfast our cabin was always cleaned. The beds were turned down while we were at dinner. The ports we stopped at had a large selection of tours, activities, and shopping. We didn't do much shopping. We went snorkeling at each port. I have only one complaint about the excursions. In Tortola, BVI, we went to Virgin Gorda and The Baths. It's recommended by the shore excursion staff and cost $57 per person. We took an open bus to the top of a hill. The view is magnificent! We walked down a winding dirt path to the beach. The beach is very small and the water choppy. The boulders are a little impressive. The showers, lockers, and bathrooms are dirty and in need of repair. The people at the bar were rude and indifferent. You can walk through some caves to another beach, but it's not worth the trouble. The caves are made from boulders leaning against each other. The rocks are very slippery and there are steep inclines going through the caves. One girl twisted her ankle and had to stay off it for a couple of days. Everyone I talked to seemed to feel the same as I did; disappointed and not worth the money they paid for the excursion. The snorkeling at Virgin Gorda was just "OK". The rest of our excursions exceed our expectations. All said, we loved our cruise. We are already planning our next cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2004
I was a single traveler in an A Deluxe Verandah stateroom. The room, sitting area & verandah were spacious, as was the closet space. The mini bar (refrig) came in very handy. My cabin attendant was very friendly & helpful, as were ... Read More
I was a single traveler in an A Deluxe Verandah stateroom. The room, sitting area & verandah were spacious, as was the closet space. The mini bar (refrig) came in very handy. My cabin attendant was very friendly & helpful, as were the other crew members with whom I came into contact. The lighting in the bath was excellent for makeup (forget the lighted makeup mirror). Having the room safe was very handy. Room service was excellent. Very clean, A/C great & all the facilities worked fine, no problems. The main desk, wether in person or by phone, were extremely helpful & pleasant. Food was excellent (forget the scrambled eggs, tho). Best of all, for me, as I thoroughly enjoy music, was the trio "3 Tones" appearing in the Ocean Lounge. Their blues music keep me in the lounge for all 3 sets every evening, even tho I smoke, but couldn't in their part of the lounge. I also enjoyed spending some other time in the casino & shopping. Great cruise & I would definitely go again, again, again..... Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
Arriving at the port and seeing a mass of people waiting to check in was a bit daunting but we only had to wait in line about a half hour to forty five minutes before being all checked and ready to board. There was someone handing out ... Read More
Arriving at the port and seeing a mass of people waiting to check in was a bit daunting but we only had to wait in line about a half hour to forty five minutes before being all checked and ready to board. There was someone handing out water and lemonade to anyone who wanted it but the line seemed to be moving so fast there was no time to stop for it. Our room was not ready when we got on board so we were ushered to the Lido for lunch. Be sure to meet Sahrul in the Lido, he can be found handing out trays. He was really great to talk to everyday. The staff in the Lido were right on top of things and would pick up any items you were done with the second you pushed them to the side. Our cabin was very nice and we just loved our balcony. We had four adults in the cabin and we had plenty of storage and personal space. The sofa bed made it nearly impossible to access the balcony when it was out (which is just poor design on their part) and my brother, who slept on the sofa bed, said it wasn't very comfortable. I on the other hand found that the pull down upper berth was quite nice to sleep on. The ship had something to offer every member of my family. We were very surprised by the caliber of entertainment in the show lounge every night. (Be sure to sit up in the front row if you want to get selected to participate in any of the shows, I got picked to be the levitating lady in the magic show and it was a ton of fun.) The nightlife aboard the ship was not fabulous. Some nights the disco would be busy with people until 4am while most other nights it was closing down around 1 or 2. After 1:30am there were not very many people around in the public areas. Don't miss out on the Piano Bar, you are guaranteed to have fun there, even if you are too timid to sing yourself. Our staff in the dining room was great. The food in the dining room wasn't too bad either; it was actually much better than I had expected. I have no idea why people constantly complain about small portions, when you have an appetizer, soup, and salad before your entree comes you don't want to have a 20oz steak plopped down in front of you. I felt the portions were the perfect size for the amount of other food being served. I was delighted to see two vegetarian entrees offered each night. Also, no one should miss out on the Blueberry soup, it was to die for. The Windstar cafe had some great coffee and bottled soda drinks (Jones Soda, IBC Rootbeer). The prices were very reasonable and a whole lot cheaper than a large Seattle based coffee chain we all know. The service at the front desk was top notch. When my brother lost his key card in a bar we were able to go down at 2am and get new cards for our whole room without any hassle. The photographers were never pushy; they always respected those who said no to having their pictures taken. The Indonesian crew show was a great addition and is something that I doubt you can see on any other line. I think it was a bit late for some people as it started at 11:30. The aft pool was a great place to hang out on sea days. The staff had activities such a Pool Olympics and Crew vs. Passenger volleyball scheduled. These activities only lasted about 30 minutes so they weren't too obtrusive to those who just wanted to sit back and relax. If you got to the pool around 1pm it was kind of hard to find two chairs together since people had started saving them. We didn't spend much time at the midship pool because it always seemed to be so smokey in that area and that was something we wanted to avoid. Announcements were kept to a bare minimum and the only time any announcements were played in the cabin was on the day we were visiting St. Thomas and everyone had to get up to clear Immigration. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were in no rush to get off the ship and we had a later flight out of FLL so we had a relaxing morning getting our carry on items together, eating breakfast, and taking one last walk around the ship. Overall- This was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone. It far exceeded all of our expectations and we visited some great ports and beaches. The Zuiderdam is an impressive sight and many of the people in the shared van to the port who were going on the Princess ship docked next to us were in awe of the number of balconies on the ship. We did hit rough seas a few times but there isn't too much that could be done about it. It was great watching everyone walking to dinner swaying side to side in the hallways together and watching the water spill out of the pools from all the rocking. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
We drove from Syracuse, NY via Tallahassee, where we picked up my sister and brother-in-law, and arrived at Ft. Lauderdale on the 15th of October. Once again we stayed at the Amerisuites and was joined there by my brother from DC. We have ... Read More
We drove from Syracuse, NY via Tallahassee, where we picked up my sister and brother-in-law, and arrived at Ft. Lauderdale on the 15th of October. Once again we stayed at the Amerisuites and was joined there by my brother from DC. We have always had a nice room at this hotel and this time we had some nice surprises. Not only are the rooms being renovated but the breakfast buffet has been greatly improved. As said many times before another big plus for this hotel is you can leave your car during the cruise without any added cost. We had dinner right across the parking lot at Cafe Del Rio. The food is very good and the price reasonable. After a terrific breakfast we drove to the port to drop off the luggage and three of the party. The remaining two drove back to Amerisuites parked the car and took the shuttle back to port. Embarkation was quick and painless since all our forms had been filled out On-line. We were on the Lido deck having lunch by noon. By 1:30 the announcement had been made that the rooms were now accessible. We had reserved a verandah room on the upper promenade deck and found everything to our satisfaction. The Zuiderdam doesn't have the draw space that some of the other classes have but that was the only drawback. An added plus is plenty of space under the bed to store luggage. Contrary to what others have said the air-conditioning worked beautiful. Both my husband and I like a very cool room at night and the thermostat worked perfectly. After getting acclimated to our room we went to explore the ship. I have to say one of my favorite things about the Zuiderdam was the glass elevator. I'm claustrophobic and usually have to walk the stairs it was nice jumping on an elevator and heading up to the Lido. Of course, because I took the glass elevator a lot I didn't get the exercise I usually do. Oh well, I probably would have put on these 6 pounds anyway. We had made reservations On-line for the Pinnacle Grill for half price night. Everyone in our party thought it was tops. The service, food and atmosphere were the best. I was really surprised the restaurant is never full. Yes, we left a tip at the table. Maybe it was because we missed the first night in dining room when all the introductions take place but we never seemed to jell with the wait staff. Service at our table for 6 during 8PM dinner was abrupt without the warmth we have experienced on past cruise. We didn't get to know either our waiter or assistant waiter. Our last night on the cruise it was like the body snatchers had replaced the staff with friendly competent people. We had turned in our comment cards the night before stating our complaints, could it be possible they had been read so quickly. Don't get me wrong no one was rude it just wasn't the service we were used to. This was our eleventh cruise so we had a few to compare. The Lido, on the other hand, was wonderful. Everyone enjoyed both breakfast and lunch there. The different food stations shorten the lines a lot. At breakfast the omelet station was always the slowest. For lunch the pasta station, oriental station, hamburger grill and deli bar made lunch a breeze. The tables are kept clean and neat and there was always someone to help you with your tray if you need it. One note to think about if you're thinking on getting the soft drink card get it On-line before the cruise it's cheaper. The entertainment on the theater was excellent. Everyone especially enjoyed the production shows, the Elton John impersonator and Edge the juggler. But the sight lines in the theater are poor. We found sitting half way down on the right side by the aisle was perfect. The public areas don't seem to flow. The bar's are small and cut up and don't have the warmth of the Zaandam. The Sports Bar was always crowded especially during the Red Sox and Yankee's playoff. We didn't get to participate in any of the trivia quizzes they all seem to coincide with our dinner. As to the port of call all were very enjoyable. I could have skipped Key West but enjoyed a short walk into town. We've been there before so didn't want to take any tours and we knew we had better beaches ahead. Cozumel, as always, was fun. My sister, brother-in-law and I went to Paradise Beach for the first time. I can't say enough about this place. Admission is free with chairs and umbrellas but there is now a $5 charge for water toys. It wasn't crowded, no one hassles you about buying stuff and food was very good in the restaurant. It's a great place for families or adults. Clean, shade, good food and no hassle what more could you want. If my memory serves me right the cab ride to the beach was $12 a cab. After lunch we headed back to the ship and did some shopping right at the port. All the shops at the new port make it so easy you can skip downtown completely. My husband and brother took the ships tour to Tulum. This is an all day excursion and while both enjoyed it said they wouldn't do it again. Most of the time is spent traveling to the ruins. They both took terrific pictures so I'll just enjoy it in print. Because Grand Cayman was still closed due to hurricane damage our next port was Costa Maya. This was fine with us since we had never been to the port. There is a whole shopping complex built right around the piers. Included is a saltwater swimming pool with a swim up bar. We decided to head to the nearest beach before shopping. You pay for the cab at a central area and I believe it was $3 a person to go and $2 a person to return to the ship. The beach was also within long walking distance but with these prices why would you want to. As in a lot of Mexican areas you do see the armed police driving around with machine guns. Taking a cab definitely seemed the way to go. The driver dropped us off in front of a restaurant that had grass huts with tables and chairs across on the beach. The beach is very clean and the water very calm. There is a reef further out you can see and there are plenty a signs telling people to stay off the reef. There were beach massages which a lot of people were taken advantage of for the low prices. After we had our fill of swimming we ordered lunch and drinks. Everything was very inexpensive and good. Before heading back to the port we walked down the little street and bought a couple of souvenirs. The area seems very poor and I'm sure having all the ships diverted there because of the hurricanes has been a Godsend. Back at the port the guys headed back to the ship and my sister and I got to shop in peace. Before returning to the ship we did take a dip in the saltwater pool. Our final port was Half Moon Cay, which showed some hurricane damage to the vegetation. The beach, on the other hand, looked just the same as last year. The Zuiderdam had the misfortune to be the 2nd ship to arrive at the beach that day. The Zaandam had arrived awhile before us. The beach is plenty big enough for two ships what it doesn't have is enough chairs for two ships. Also, as has been stated in the past, there is very little shade unless you rent one of the expensive beach huts or clamshells. Unfortunately, the day turned out to be stormy. We were only in the water for a little while before it started to pour. Luckily there wasn't any lightening so we just stayed in the water. Needless to say everything on the beach got soaked. We didn't stay for the barbeque but decided to head back to the ship and change before lunch. Disembarkation is now a breeze because you are allowed to say in your cabin until called. I'm sure housekeeping isn't very fond of this idea but I think it's wonderful. This time instead of waiting for the Amerisuites van two in our party took a cab back to hotel to pick up our van. We were all back at the hotel by 10:30. To sum up our cruise there were many pluses and a few minuses. It wasn't our best cruise but I've never had a bad cruise. The pluses were our room steward, Glass elevators, Entertainment, bar staff, good ports, wonderful weather and remaining in our cabins till disembarkation. The big minus was the dining room especially with the service but also the food. Also to a lesser degree the way the ship doesn't flow in the public areas. Would we cruise Zuiderdam again, if the price were right you bet. But if we had other ships to pick from in the same price we would probably pick something else. Could the problems in the dining room have something to do with the fact that HAL now automatically puts the tips on your account, who knows, only time will tell. If I can answer any questions that I didn't address e-mail me and I'll try to do my best. Happy Cruising! Donna Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
My wife and I and a widowed friend sailed on Holland America's Zuiderdam on its 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday 30 October 2004. Our inside cabin number on the Upper Promenade Deck was 4157 and our ... Read More
My wife and I and a widowed friend sailed on Holland America's Zuiderdam on its 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday 30 October 2004. Our inside cabin number on the Upper Promenade Deck was 4157 and our friend was down the corridor in 4171. My wife and I had paid $597 each (M stateroom) and our friend had paid $788 (MM stateroom). We had booked in May when I spotted this sailing was only charging a 50% surcharge for a single occupancy cabin for our friend, possibly because it was the Presidential Election week. We got aboard at 1.10pm after a 6-hour 300-mile drive to Fort Lauderdale. It only took us half an hour to park the car and check in. Anwar, a very pleasant assistant waiter escorted us to our cabins. By a happy coincidence later that evening we discovered that he and Ali were the extremely efficient and friendly team on our dining room table for the next week. This was our first time on Holland America or on one of the Carnival Group's Vista Class ships. Zuiderdam is very spacious and never felt crowded, so much so that we wondered if it had sailed full, only to later discover from watching the port disembarkation computer screens that the ship was carrying 1,968 passengers, which is 120 more than its nominal two-lower-berth capacity. Our initial impression was that the dark public room dEcor is not as attractive as the Celebrity, Princess and P&O ships that we have been on, but it grew on us as the week progressed. What did impress us were the little touches, such as the beautiful fresh flower arrangements all over the ship, including the orchid on every table of the Lido Buffet. Another was the small, individual fluffy hand towels in the immaculate public restrooms, rather than just paper towels or hand dryers. The padded sun loungers and steamer chairs also made for comfortable relaxation by the pool or on the promenade deck. The food in both the dining room and buffet was enjoyable, though not as outstanding as Celebrity. We enjoyed the shows on board. James Cielan the magician, Edge the comedy-juggler and Danny Stort the comedian were all very good. Joel Mason who did a Tribute to Elton John was better on the last night when they all did a short spot than on the night he had his own show, when to us he was too self indulgent, played obscure numbers and fooled around, rather than showing his real talent, of which he has plenty. The production shows Stage and Screen and Under the Boardwalk were also excellent. The Filipino Crew Show was too late for us but we saw parts of it on our cabin TV the following day. For the first time ever in our 10 cruises they offered us a Q&A session on the shows and a backstage tour. It was fascinating to speak to some of the dancers and see the sophisticated equipment and lighting backstage. We had been to Tortola and St Thomas before, though our friend hadn't. Both are beautiful Caribbean islands that we enjoy visiting and these days invariably do our own thing. Freeport and Half Moon Cay were new to us. Half Moon Cay is beautiful, though it was a bit disorganized that day, possibly because it had only reopened a week earlier following severe hurricane damage. Freeport in the Bahamas had also only reopened a week earlier and the hurricane damage was still very evident. We would not be bothered if we ever went back as there is so little to do or see there compared to Nassau, and the ships dock in a rather industrial port about 6 miles from the city center and Lucaya Beach and Marina. The only problems we had were a cabin toilet that intermittently but persistently refused to flush and a disorganized and prolonged disembarkation. By the Tuesday evening the toilet problem had not been resolved so I wrote a formal letter of complaint to the Hotel Manager. That got action that finally resolved the problem and also got us a nice plate of chocolates and a bottle of wine as an apology. Disembarkation did not occur in the order of the issued numbers as we have previously experienced. Instead only US citizens were called in disembarkation number order. Only after they had left were Non-US citizens called at 10.50am. By this time some were bound to miss onward flights, so there was a lot of complaining. According to the Fort Lauderdale Immigration Officers the problem was due to the ship failing to transmit the ship's manifest by the usual deadline, meaning that immigration could not pre-check the list. Therefore they used a fall back plan that clears all US Citizens before checking the 200 or so other passengers. There is now an automatic $10 a day per person charge to your room account to cover gratuities for your waiter, assistant waiter and cabin steward. This can be modified up or down by visiting the front desk. We find this a convenient way of handling gratuities. Our waiter said that they are also happier as it has eliminated a lot of the confusion surrounding Holland America's previous ambiguous "No Tipping Required" slogan that resulted in many passengers not tipping staff. All in all it was an enjoyable cruise, and we will definitely be going on Holland America again, not least because my wife won a free 7-day Caribbean Cruise for Two in the only Bingo game we played! Not a bad return for $10! So Veendam on 29 January here we come! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
Because of Hurricane Frances, we had to wait 2 days to get on board, which was fine, except the compensation offered us was not extremely generous. $250 plus 25% of the purchase price for this cruise off your next cruise. I paid over $1300 ... Read More
Because of Hurricane Frances, we had to wait 2 days to get on board, which was fine, except the compensation offered us was not extremely generous. $250 plus 25% of the purchase price for this cruise off your next cruise. I paid over $1300 for my cruise because I booked my own cabin. Still, I chose to take the deal. My cabin was beautiful and clean. It had a lighted makeup mirror and clothesline in bathroom plus a TUB! The blow dryer was pretty lame even though advertised as salon quality, but it did the trick. The balcony was twice the size of the one I had on Carnival Legend and the furniture was much nicer--wicker style with cushions. The food in the Lido deck was 2x as good as Carnival and the atmosphere was nicer as well--nicer furniture, little nooks and corners less cafeteria feeling. The Pinnacle restaurant was lovely and the food excellent. Also service was great. I again compare to the Legend. Exactly the same as Legend but Legend has better atmosphere due to the placement under the funnel and the live but subtle music present in their fancy restaurant. HAL's is also $5 cheaper than Carnival. Rooms service did not pick up like it does with Carnival, but I hear you can get dinner menu at dinner time. Dining room was fair. I ate in the Pinnacle 4 out of 5 nights because I was not impressed with the dining room. The pool area was totally posh and lovely with the wonderful deck chairs and the retractable roof. I liked tendering on the lifeboats as it was smooth and comfortable. While expensive, overall it was a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
I booked the Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean itinerary. I had never cruised on a Holland America ship prior to our cruise this past September. As background information, I have taken 70 plus cruises in the last 40 years. I was accompanied on ... Read More
I booked the Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean itinerary. I had never cruised on a Holland America ship prior to our cruise this past September. As background information, I have taken 70 plus cruises in the last 40 years. I was accompanied on this cruise by my wife and my six year old daughter. My wife and I decided to book a category S suite on the upper verandah deck. This was a special treat for us since we had never booked a suite before. Unfortunately, our September 28th sailing was interrupted by Hurricane Jeanne and instead of a 7 day cruise we wound up with a 5 day cruise. Embarkation was a breeze, due in part to only 1,180 passengers being on board for the sailing vs. regular capacity of 1,800. As suite passengers we enjoyed our own private dedicated check in area. Check in was very quick and before we realized it we were on board the ship. As soon as we boarded the ship we proceeded to the Neptune Lounge to meet the concierge staff and catch up with my cousin and her husband who were also traveling with us. Due to the cancellations my cousin was able to move her S suite to one adjoining our cabin. Once the cabins were ready for passengers we immediately went to the cabin to check it out. The cabin steward was coincidentally there and he was nice enough to open the balconies between both cabins. My wife and I were impressed with the spaciousness of the cabin and the amenities. The closet space was great! We also were surprised to find a great stereo system (JVC) with a CD and a DVD player. My wife brought CDs for her own entertainment and DVDs for my daughter to watch. The interior space of the cabin, as well as the balcony space made spending time in the cabin a "treat". I would give the accommodations an A rating. The cabin steward that we had assigned was great! He anticipated our every need and was as unobtrusive as possible. I think the cabin service on the Zuiderdam also deserves an A rating. The first evening we had dinner in the main dining room. We found the service to be sub-par. It was not what it should be for a premium cruise line. We found the cuisine in the main dinning room to be about average. The food tasted bland, was unimaginative in presentation and was not up to the quality I would expect from Holland America. Due to our experience the first night in the main dinning room we dined in the Pinnacle Grill (a la carte) dining room the remainder of the cruise. The food and service in the Pinnacle was excellent, except for the last evening when it was mediocre. Since we had our adjoining suites and we were traveling with children we only attended one evening show. On the second from last evening we went to the Vista Lounge for the Broadway show. The show was a disappointment based on my experiences on other cruise lines such as Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. In retrospect I am glad that we did not attend any of the other shows. The children's program was also a disappointment. The program was only available for selected short hours on a daily basis. Even though Holland America has made an effort to cater to families, they still have a long way to go to provide a quality children's program. The Lido food and service were excellent. The variety of food offered was beyond what anyone would expect. The hours of operation were also very accommodating. My daughter especially liked the pizza available each day. We did enjoy the cruise, but unfortunately it was too short. I would travel again with Holland America if the price and accommodations were right. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
So who said "Fun Ships" are only on Carnival???? My wife and I just completed a fantastic week at sea with the incredible staff of the Zuiderdam. I will admit, we could not pronounce the name of this awesome vessel prior to ... Read More
So who said "Fun Ships" are only on Carnival???? My wife and I just completed a fantastic week at sea with the incredible staff of the Zuiderdam. I will admit, we could not pronounce the name of this awesome vessel prior to arrival, however it is safe to say that we will never forget it now!!!! I had always perceived HAL to be an elite cruiseline and by all means, it lived up to the hype. Embarkation was probably the worst part of the cruise, yet I suppose that there really isn't any quick way to board 2,000 passengers. The first thing that stood out about the Zuiderdam was the SERVICE WITH A SMILE. Everyone ...and I mean Everyone....was so nice and treated us with exceptional service. Of course everyone always talks about the food on ships...........Let me tell you.......The Zuiderdam did not miss a beat. They offer a great variety of foods each night. Both the main dining area and lido buffet were excellent. The restaurant staffs were all awesome. In the buffet, there is this one young man who is simply just "Hunky Dory", or at least that is what he calls himself. He seemed to have learned everyone's name and always brought a smile to all. The Cruise Director, Dane Bucher, was the BEST!!!! He is funny, classy, and just has a great way about him that makes you feel like you are truly enjoying yourself. The entertainment did not disappoint either. The Zuiderdam Dancers were also very good and put on 3 entertaining productions. On the second night, we thought we might be disappointed when we learned that Joel Mason, an Elton John performer,could not perform. Instead, we were told that a juggler was about to take the stage in his place. My wife, who is not crazy about jugglers was inching towards the exits, but was glad we stayed. Adam Kiro, the juggler/entertainer/comedian was awesome!!!! Tuesday came and we did get to see Joel Mason perform his Elton John show.....and WOW!!!!!! I felt like I really saw an Elton John concert, plus Joel is hilarious!!! Adam and Joel provided my two favorite nights. One of the best talents on board is leaving this week.....his name is Gil...and this guy is going to make it BIG one day!!!!! The cruise entertainment staff also deserves kudos.........very friendly and very helpful. As for the cabin........WELL........ours was very clean...the steward ARY was spectacular. I miss him already!!!! The only problem was that our room was located under the Piano Bar. Dam, that Larry and his Piano. He kept us up late most nights. So....make sure you study the deck plans when selecting your cabin. Half Moon Cay turned out to be a GREAT treat, as I had always heard negative things about private islands. This island offers a ton of space, crystal clear swimming, food, drinks.......It was GREAT!!! All in all...........the Zuiderdam was GREAT!!!! I hope to return one day :) Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
This was my second cruise on the Zuiderdam. The first being Oct 2003 Eastern Caribbean. This was my 26th cruise and the Zuiderdam still remains at the top of all the ships I've been on tied with the HMS Sagafjord (Cunard Alaska cruise ... Read More
This was my second cruise on the Zuiderdam. The first being Oct 2003 Eastern Caribbean. This was my 26th cruise and the Zuiderdam still remains at the top of all the ships I've been on tied with the HMS Sagafjord (Cunard Alaska cruise 1988) We were again in a class SS cabin on deck eight. Personally I think for the money this is the best class on this ship. It is spacious and nearly as large as a small hotel room. All the amenities were functional and was most pleased. Embarkation was slow, hampered with computer problems. Nevertheless, we were on the ship by noon after waiting about an hour. Since HAL has changed their disembarking procedure to allow passengers to stay in their cabins until their turn to leave the cabins were not available until 3:00 PM. I find this a very minor inconvenience. We left Fort Lauderdale on schedule bound for Key West. After giving my companion a cooks tour we settled in the Crow's Nest Lounge for a libation and rest as is was quite hot. HAL has implemented a automatic tipping policy of $10.00 per day per person. I am against this policy as I feel tipping should be a reward for good service. Afterall the word TIP means"To Insure Promptness". I am certain Carnival has forced this change to let the passenger help underwrite the costs of crew expense. I was seriously considering having these charges deleted from my account and tip as in the past. However, after researching the crews' opinion of this new policy, I did not. They said they were better off. I am not thoroughly convinced, as it might be management forces the crew to say they like it. I did find out that if you give an individual an extra gratuity and they fail to place it in the "Pool", they can be terminated. The Zuiderdam is now two years old and is maintained to wonderfully and nowhere could I find any sign of wear. Food overall was very good and the only detrimental comment I might note is in the dining room they did not use the pepper grinder for your salads as in the past. Service did not seem as crisp as in the past. We had a diverse compliment of passengers and did meet some very interesting people. There were many children and sometimes they were out of control. There is an adults only policy at the aft pool but that was not enforced making that area during "Sea" days unbearable. The ports of call after Key West were Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Half Moon Cay. We did some shore excursions but were mainly on our own. The Nautilus Submarine dive at Grand Cayman was wonderful. The tendering process need vast improvement. HAL needs to either place more tenders overboard or use the local tenders in Georgetown and purchase large unenclosed tenders for Half Moon Cay. The heat in the ship's tenders is unbearable. The lines are very long, especially disembarking. Mariner Society. I will be happy when the Cruise Lines realize that awarding a passenger a cheap medal in front of the Captain for accumulating points for multiple cruises is a miniscule reward. I think at the very least, they would give you onboard credit measured on points and better yet award a free cruise after so many points much as the airlines do. Some line will do this soon and I will enjoy watching them scramble. Competition is fierce and new ships are in the yards. There was an outbreak of a GI virus half way through the cruise. It was reported that about twenty five people were affected and a few crew members as well. HAL was fast to advertise the situation by memo to each passenger. They also took very sensible measures such as sanitizing the ship completely. Also they closed any self service food and drink outlets and had crew members serve you. They even sprayed out hands while leaving Half Moon Cay. No salt and pepper shakers on the table. The wait staff would do it for you. I cannot stress the importance of washing your hands as much as possible. Every time I pass a men's room I wash my hands and then spray them with alcohol with the provided dispensers. It works! Do it! Overall it was a wonderful cruise! HAL and the Zuiderdam do a wonderful job and go the extra mile to make sure you have a great cruise. We are going on the Oosterdam in six weeks for a seven day Alaska cruise. (Working on my medal!) I am hopeful we will be as pleased as we have been with two cruises on the Zuiderdam. 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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