Sail Date: October 2003
My husband and I recently sailed the Zuiderdam with our 2 grandchildren ages 7 and 5. We have also sailed the Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, Statendam and the old Westerdam. I was a little apprehensive after I read some of the reviews of the ... Read More
My husband and I recently sailed the Zuiderdam with our 2 grandchildren ages 7 and 5. We have also sailed the Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, Statendam and the old Westerdam. I was a little apprehensive after I read some of the reviews of the "Z" but we had obtained what I felt was a great deal on two adjoining balcony cabins on the Verandah deck. Overall - the ship is great. No odors, great food and service. Our only major complaint was the cold temperature in the main showroom. It was much too cold for comfort. Club Hal is fantastic for children. Amy (the person in charge of the children's programs) has a genuine love for the children and managed to keep our granddaughters very amused. Every time there was an activity they wanted to attend. She was very creative and it seemed that all of the children in the 5-12 age group (approximately 10) had a fantastic time with her. The 7 year old is a 3 X cruiser and was thrilled to be a part of the juggler's act one evening. A real highlight for her and I was the proud grandmother in the audience. The 5 year old did not want to get off the ship and wanted to sail forever. Never a mention of Mommy or Daddy - she was having too good a time to think about home. My husband and I have sailed Celebrity and Holland America many times and we really enjoyed this new ship. The balconies were very enjoyable and my husband will be hard pressed to get me back into an interior cabin. The food was excellent and hot dishes were hot and cold dishes were cold. The staff was extremely busy but managed to take care of most passengers needs. There are always those who can't be satisfied and there were a few around us that had to find fault for one thing or another. I was very discouraged to see passengers walk out of the dining room without even a handshake. I know Holland America has a no tipping required policy but I think it is only reasonable that the staff be recognized by passengers with a gratuity for the service provided. I have no complaints about the ship or the service. Shore excursions continue to be, in my opinion, a real rip off on all of the lines. My big disappointment was with some fellow passengers. Many people talked with us and commented on how well behaved the children were and both their grandfather and I were proud of their behavior. However there are some people that do not like children in any shape or form. I had to bite my tongue numerous times because of passengers having a problem with splashing in the pool, laughing at the pool, etc. One gentleman said he thought children should be banned from cruising and that their be a minimum age of 60 for cruises. What a sad human being he is - he doesn't realize how much he can learn from the younger generation. My hat is off to Holland America for providing top quality entertainment, food, lodging and service at a very affordable price. The new ship is lovely and I wish I could sail again next week! Do not be scared off by any negative comments - she is a great ship with a great crew. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
After 23 cruises over the same amount of years I found the MS Zuiderdam a wonderful surprise. Everything worked as it should from embarkation to disembarkation. The ship is new and the crew is geared towards pleasing ALL its passengers. It ... Read More
After 23 cruises over the same amount of years I found the MS Zuiderdam a wonderful surprise. Everything worked as it should from embarkation to disembarkation. The ship is new and the crew is geared towards pleasing ALL its passengers. It is the only cruise I have ever been on that I found very little to complain about. This was the Eastern Caribbean cruise with ports of call including Half Moon Cay, St. Marten, St. Thomas, and Nassau. I found NONE of the problems reported in previous reviews of this ship. There was NO sewage odor, vibration in the dining room was as expected while being on a ship over her screws, the entire staff was pleasant and eager to please. The food was very good. We did not try the Odyssey speciality restaurant but heard the prime rib there was to kill for. The shows were OK but not exceptional and the normal day to day shipboard activities were what one would expect. One of the nicest things was no one on the staff was hawking drinks or any other profit oriented endeavor. I thought the no tipping policy was a refreshing change and found the staff worked harder that those lines which demand x amount of dollars per day per person and especially those which automatically place said charges on your bill. Therefore it was nice to compensate those who treated you well accordingly. We had a class SS cabin (6063) and found it perfect. It is midships, starboard and a little forward. I found it well laid out and the only complaint was that as on most ships there are not enough electrical outlets. I knew this in advance so we brought along a power strip and that solved the problem. The only disappointment on the cruise was the fact that there was no engine room or bridge tour. Holland America's corporate office indicated that there would be and to sign up at the front desk. The front desk personnel responded to my request "Oh no, that is impossible, because of 911". Well excuse me, I don't buy into that. As far as I am concerned they could make a profit center out of those locations and charge say $ 100.00 and take small parties well guarded to secure areas. So that is my opinion of the Zuiderdam. I highly recommend her and Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
Just returned from active duty; was called up and spent 5 months in the desert. My wife and I needed this cruise. It was our 5th cruise, having sailed on Celebrity, NCL, Princess and and earlier HAL ship. We found a good deal on HAL ... Read More
Just returned from active duty; was called up and spent 5 months in the desert. My wife and I needed this cruise. It was our 5th cruise, having sailed on Celebrity, NCL, Princess and and earlier HAL ship. We found a good deal on HAL Zuiderdam and enjoyed 7 days on this ship. We are in our 50's and found other cruisers were of similar age although there were plenty of 30 something and 60 something. Embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship within 30 minutes. Food was great, shows were good, and the cabin was the best. Lots of room and a nice size balcony. The ship was in great shape and looked new. Service was very good. The Zuiderdam cruise was our best so far with Celebrity not far behind. Will be sailing on Zuiderdam again March 13, 2004, this time in a full suite with all the perks. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2003
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand ... Read More
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand Cayman, Half Moon Cay Bahamas. Week Two - Eastern Caribbean - Half Moon Cay, Philipsburg St Maarten, St Thomas USVI, Nassau Bahamas. Sea days were Monday and Thursday, both weeks. Ship's time equal to local at all ports. Zuiderdam sails on Saturday. Precruise: I seem unable to find a travel agent versed in the cruise industry. I became so frustrated dealing with amateurs, that I decided to try out booking directly with HAL. The service was terrific, and the price was actually less than what I saw quoted on cruise agency web sites. The HAL reps were unfailingly courteous and helpful. During initial booking, the reservations representative steered me away from less desirable cabins. She sent my booking confirmation and invoice while we were on the phone by e-mail attachment (Adobe Acrobat). When I later discovered we were eligible for an AARP discount, it was quickly taken care of. The whole experience was so clean and efficient it would take a significant discount for me to return to booking with a travel agent. Of course you can book completely on-line, but I'd advise talking to a HAL rep who can provide assistance with cabin location. If you require a little hand holding, HAL will assign a personal "Cruise Consultant" to assist you so you'll be able to consistently deal with the same person. We flew Continental out of Houston, TX (IAH) to Zuiderdam's homeport, Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) one day early. Stayed overnight at the Renaissance Hotel on 17th Street, approximately mid way between the airport and HAL's pier 26 at Port Everglades. The location, AAA's four diamond rating, and a low government rate made this a good stop over. Renaissance is a comfortable hotel with an excellent, but pricey, restaurant. Boarding: Zuiderdam begins boarding to the ship's public areas at 11:30AM. Open and active are the pool and grill, Windstar Cafe (an Italian coffee bar with moderate charges for coffee and pastries), Internet cafe, art gallery, front office and most of the lounges. Luggage and coat storage is also available. The Lido buffet begins serving lunch at 12:00N. Cabins are ready for occupancy by 1:30PM. We arrived about 11:15AM and were aboard by noon. There were at least two dozen HAL rep's in the terminal to process passengers. Our luggage was delivered soon after the cabins were open. The Ship: Zuiderdam has eleven decks. Decks four thru eight and part of deck two are cabins. Two per cabin occupancy is 1,824 with 800 crewmembers. She weighs 82,000 tons and is 935 feet long so that three circuits around the continuous lower promenade deck approximates one mile. She is powered by five diesel engines and one gas turbine, and she is propelled by 25,000 bhp Azipod props (more about these later). The dEcor is appropriate to the itinerary. Zuiderdam was built and designed for year round Caribbean cruising and the interior motifs reflect this concept. Some areas offer a challenge to navigate; especially the central lounges adjoining the casino on deck two. There are nooks, crannies and small corridors to deal with, somewhat similar to what is occasionally found in the lounge areas of some land resort hotels. Maybe this is what the designers had in mind? The central atrium is smaller than on the S Class ships. This provides more space for the lounges and other public areas, but I miss the larger atrium which I often use as a reference point for navigation. The ship is impeccably clean and shows little signs of wear, a credit to the maintenance crew, her Hotel Manager Nick Burger, and Captain Johannes van Biljouw. Zuiderdam's condition and appearance is extraordinary considering that 1800 people tramp through her every week. Unlike the S Class ships, Zuiderdam does not have a passenger use laundry. Twice we used the $12 per 'full bag' laundry service. Both times delivery was next day. The Lounges: The Best: Crow's Nest. Great viewing lounge with huge wraparound window located forward on deck ten. Cocktail piano, also theme night music such as 50s & 60s tunes by CD. Explorer's Lounge. Classical music by The Rosario Strings. This is also the venue for afternoon tea. Excellent snacks and a good selection of teas (save room for the scones!). The Worst: Queen's Lounge. So poorly designed that it's useless for any function. That's too bad because The HAL Cats, a truly good band fronted by a first-rate vocal quartet, plays danceable music here most nights. Ocean Bar - Once again, poor design. This lounge is totally open to the atrium losing any identity as a lounge, and the dance floor is too small. For some incomprehensible reason, a divider is installed across the center of the seating area, disconnecting the rear of the lounge from the front. Music is by Meir & Rae Ann on drums and a piano. How eclectic is that? Music is mostly traditional dance: fox trot, waltz, tango, etc. No Opinion: Northern Lights - Late night activity usually starting at 10PM, mostly disco and light rock. A DJ spinning CDs supplies music. Booth seating surrounds a largish dance floor. Design by Gateway. There's also a Sports Bar. Since the signal is international, the TV schedules are mainly soccer. A WNBA game was showing on NFL Sunday afternoon! To be fair, they do pick up Sunday and Monday night NFL games. The Vista Lounge, The main showroom is forward on decks one and two. This is an attractive room of good design with comfortable seating. Just don't sit behind one of the many pillars or in the rear of the upper section. Unfortunately, the quality of the shows does not match the setting. The production shows are LOUD. Who decided that loud is good? To paraphrase Shakespeare, let's kill all the soundmen, too! Following cruise ship tradition there are two production shows. The first was decent, but the second, a review of movie musicals, was near unbearable. Almost every number, including the romantic ballads, was programmed in a hyper, upbeat tempo, making all the tunes sound alike. The show was completely out of sync and boring. The music for the production shows is prerecorded. Did I mention that it is LOUD? The cast was excellent with talented dancers and singers, all completely wasted. We didn't repeat any shows during week two. The Vista Dining Room: An attractive and well-constructed design. There are two levels located aft on decks two and three. Seating is well organized with comfortable chairs and some banquet tables. Best of all, each dining area has its own galley located immediately adjacent to the dining rooms. Instead of waiting for dumb waiters from a galley below, dishes are more directly served. This means hot dishes arrive hot and cold are offered cold. You do want to avoid seating the far aft section of the lower dining room. When cranked up the Azipod propulsion system delivers a significant vibration. The shaking is primarily felt on the back end of the lower deck. However, it's only a problem when the engines are pressed. The captain tries to maintain lower revs during dining hours, but there are times they must be turned up. When this happens the place settings won't dance off the tables, but it's definitely uncomfortable. Our cabin: Since we were on for two weeks I upgraded us from our usual standard outside to a "superior verandah suite" located amidships on deck six. The SS cabin is 288sft, and the balcony 100sft. The room is well designed with two queen size beds, which we had put together, a restful full sized fold out sofa, three chairs (one too many), a glass top coffee table, a writing desk and the standard desk. There are plenty of drawers, shelves and closets. The bathroom is large, with a full size Jacuzzi tub, a separate shower stall, double sinks, two medicine chests and a long shelf running under the sinks. The standard outside cabins, as well as the inside (if you don't mind the dark), are more than adequate in size and design. DVD rentals are available from the front desk. There's a $25 deposit for each disk. Dining: The Vista dining room offerings are equal to, and often exceed, Celebrity. The quality and presentation is far better than on the other HAL ships we've sailed on. Menu selections are extensive: two or three selections are available for each precourse and there are four primary and three "from the grill" optional entrees every night. Steaks and prime rib are delivered to order; however, note that medium rare is usually too rare for the distaff side. The Odyssey has to be the best alternative restaurant at sea. It even rivals the best upscale steak houses on land. Steaks, rib eye, tenderloin and two sizes of filet mignon are offered. The steaks are Prime Sterling beef and are cooked on a 1600 degree grill. It doesn't get any better than this. Although the menu features steak, the other entrees are superb, most notable is a seafood ravioli. The wait staff was recruiting out of Hungary, primarily Budapest. HAL obviously sought out the best servers among Budapest's world-class restaurants. They are smooth, attentive and prompt. With minimal delay between courses, we were in and out in less than an hour and a half. This whole staff was brought on board Saturday, the thirteenth. Some early patrons complained of uneven and clumsy service. However, we dined there on Wednesday evening, and it seemed they'd been serving there forever. It's a testament to their skills that they adapted in such a short time. These guys are good! The Crew: The Indonesian dining stewards and The Philippine bar staffs were excellent as usual. Nearly all were up to HAL standards. Oddly enough, there were a few grumps, who even bordered on rude. I don't recall experiencing this on previous cruises with HAL. Oddly enough, one of the ice cream servers was a real grouch, which is totally out of character for that station. Fortunately, the grouches were fringe players and a very small minority. The dining room staff were prompt and, as you'd expect, well trained, cheerful and eager to serve. Our Head Steward, Alexander, was especially caring, very personable and always ready to lend a hand. My wife is originally from Japan. Wayan, our table steward for both weeks, spoke fluent Japanese providing my better half with a special feeling of welcome. We had two different cabin stewards each week, both efficient and in the best tradition of cabin stewards: always out when we were in, and in when we were out. Ridwan, our steward the first week, had completed his twelve-month contract. Saturday afternoon he flew home on leave before continuing on to Nice to help outfit Vista Class number three, ms Westerdam, which is scheduled to launch May 2004. The ship's officers seem friendlier than on other ships, always offering a greeting and a smile. It's amazing how the front office staff manages to maintain a cheerful and polite appearance in spite of the frequent rudeness and confrontational attitude of so many guests. For some reason, people seem to adopt an 'in your face' attitude with these gals who, after all, are really no more than desk clerks without any real authority to resolve disputes or provide managerial decisions. Despite this, all of the front desk people were consistently courteous and helpful. Guests ought to realize that only a supervisor or the guest relation's manager can resolve problems. Often, even they have to get instructions from Seattle to resolve a policy dispute. The Passengers: A more diverse age mix than on other HAL cruises. The Zuiderdam is evidently appealing to the younger set. The dress code was universally observed in the main dining room. Formal night saw only a few out of uniform in the other public areas. Over the two weeks, four of our eight tablemates were from Florida, two from NYC and two from Canada. Naturally, there are lots of Floridians taking advantage of the "Florida Resident Discount". Speaking of discounts, midway of the first week a flyer was distributed offering the following week for $199 inside or $299 outside, a pretty good deal! I've never seen this before, nor was it repeated during the next cruise. I suspect Hurricane Isabel precipitated cancellations and HAL decided any revenue is better than none. After all, a major profit element is the money we spend while on board. As regards the small people, school was back in session so there was only a small number of toddlers and a couple of infants. On board is a dedicated kids area called Club HAL. It must have been nearly deserted. Shore excursions -- I discovered snorkeling on our first cruise and became instantly captivated. As a result, I have very little first hand knowledge about above water activities on any of the islands. It was only due to a sore throat in the middle of week two that wifey and I did a land/water tour on St Maarten. Booked through the ship, it's titled "French Connection Sea & See". It's a bus transit around the island interrupted by a shopping stop in Marigot and tour of coral reefs at Grand Case's Creole rock. Creole Rock is purported to be the best snorkeling area around the island. I saw enough while on the glass bottom boat to suggest that snorkeling would be very marginal here. The bottom is mainly rocks with some coral and common fish such as Sergeant Majors and Wrasses. Lots of huge Uni, however, made my wife's taste buds tingle. This was aboard the "Seaworld Explorer', an underwater moving observatory. The tour was a good overview of the island, but the guide went around the island bassackward, stopping in Marigot first. Most of the stores in Marigot follow the French tradition of closing between one and two o'clock which is when we were there, resulting in a wasted forty-minute stop. That was too bad because there are some nice shops in Marigot. The wife, an avid casino connoisseur, took the "Discover Atlantis & Harbor Cruise" in Nassau. This is a gal who considers Las Vegas resorts 'quaint', but found Atlantis too gigantic. In the end, she simply made a small donation to the slot machine gods and returned to the ship. Now for the good stuff. The following snorkel trips are listed in order from best to least good; however, the least is still darned good. Nassau: "Snorkel Bahamas Adventure" is a 5-½ hour trip operated by Stuart's Cove. On a previous excursion I went on the impressive Athol Island snorkel. This Stuart's Cove outing surpassed all of my previous experiences, including Athol Island. The boat trip is @ three hours, and visits Schoolhouse Reef, the spectacular Golden Key Reef and finally a "swim with the sharks" at 'The Wreck of the Bahama Mama'. I have never before witnessed such a number and variety of fish as at Golden Key. There are never-ending fish, large and small, singly and in large schools. The floor is decorated with huge, magnificent coral formations of all shapes and sizes. While there, a shark cruised past our group. He obviously thought this was his ocean and didn't know, nor care, that we weren't scheduled for a shark encounter until after Golden Key. Surprisingly, getting in with a dozen or so sharks is not frightening. I suspect we were too caught up with their grace and magnificence to be scared. The fact that the boat captain hadn't lost a diver in twelve years was also encouraging. This is a five star, gold medallion, prime trip, not to be missed! Georgetown: I booked a two reef and stingray swim with Capt Marvin. This is again a three-hour boat trip with snorkel stops at Coral Gardens and the Barrier Reef, followed by a visit to Stingray City. The Barrier Reef extends for many miles and is near enough to the surface to be visible from above. There is abundant sea life, and of course, extensive coral. Here I saw my first Moray eel. As for Stingray City, there are just too many boats and people crowded together to enjoy it. I stumbled around among the crowd for a bit, then got back in the boat. The kids seem to enjoy it. Key West: A catamaran trip to Sand Key Reef with the Fury Cat operation. Fury is found extensively through the Yucatan and Caribbean. Our trip was on a 65' catamaran with a small enough group so we were never crowded. Unfortunately, westerly winds from the recent tropical disturbance in The Gulf had stirred things up so that visibility was only about 15 - 20 feet. The reef, however, is marvelous. Did you know that the reef off Florida's coast is the third largest in the world? I didn't. We got enough of a taste to make me want to return. I can unreservedly recommend this trip. Half Moon Cay: A surprisingly good snorkel trip. The coral garden area is only a ten-minute boat ride from the tender dock with lots of fish and coral. There's a very nice beach, but the bottom is too sandy for good snorkeling. Just relaxing on the beach and swimming is the most popular past time. There are lots of beach toys and other activities available for rent. Comfortable beach chairs are plentiful. There's also a pavilion with souvenir shops and a bar. A barbecue lunch is served at noontime. Half Moon Cay is perfect for kicking back and enjoying a restful day. Cozumel: We went to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling and beach time. The park offers a sheltered beach area with palapas, a lagoon, a swim with the dolphins, a sea lion show, snuba and a number of boat trip operators who work from the beach area. There's also a full menu bar & grill. The conch ceviche was very good. There's probably lots of other stuff, too. Unfortunately, the beach was fly infested so we didn't stay long. The snorkeling from the beach is fair. Dzul Ha is much better, but you can experience some swift currents there. Chankanaab's waters are more sheltered, so it's a good alternative for marginal swimmers. I have previously boat snorkeled Columbia and Palancar reefs from Cozumel. The reefs here are world class and there are many good operators. Disembarkation: The procedure has greatly improved since our last visit. Immigration is held in the terminal, not on board. This greatly expedites clearance since we don't have to wait for the inevitable latecomers to clear before we can leave the ship. The preliminaries are routine: put luggage in hallway the night before, leave your cabin by 8:00AM and wait in a public area for your number/letter to be called. Both the Lido and main dining rooms are open for breakfast. We had a noon flight and were off the ship and at our boarding gate by 9:30. Of course, when all those ships return from Alaska things won't go so smoothly. I should mention that stuff happens. Disembarkation was delayed the previous Saturday due to a late departure the previous day from Half Moon Cay. However, even then we would likely have been at the airport by 10:30 or 11:00. Final Thoughts: As devotees of HAL, we were concerned because of the numerous negative Zuiderdam reviews that appeared in the early months. Certainly Zuiderdam has some odd quirks, but the overall design is easily adapted to and becomes an ultimately user friendly floating resort. We found absolutely no evidence of unpleasant aromas in any area. The mechanical systems such as toilets, A/C, hot water, elevators, etc never failed. Fellow passengers were largely polite, friendly and in pursuit of a fun trip. We never witnessed one instance of rowdy or inappropriate behavior. We had a wonderful journey. My advice is go and enjoy. Following are some of the web sites I found useful researching our cruise: ms Zuiderdam: http://www.hollandamerica.com/fivestarfleet/zuiderdam.htm ms Zuiderdam Virtual Tour: http://www.virtualtoursusa.com/hollandzuiderdam.htm Port Everglades: http://www.co.broward.fl.us/port.htm Georgetown: http://www.edenrockdive.com/ http://www.captainmarvins.com/ http://www.caymanonline.com/info/watersports/snorkel/index.shtml Cozumel: http://www.cozumelinsider.com/ Key West: http://www.furycat.com/snorkel.htm Nassau: http://www.dive-bahamas.com/ Philipsburg: http://www.stmaarten-activities.com/trips.htm - Snorkelin St Thomas: http://www.vinow.com/ http://www.cokidive.com/ Travel Insurance: http://www.insuremytrip.com/ Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry. We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry. We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but alas, we just experienced one. For HAL's benefit I will list the positives first: 1} Embarkation and debarkation were easy and very organized. 2} Casino literally gave away money!! I truly had never seen a ship casino pay out on so many slot machines. 3} Entertainment was better than average. That's IT for positives!! Now for the negatives The Zuiderdam cannot find its place in the HAL lineup, You know that they are trying to achieve a younger audience but they just can't pull it off. Between the Decor, (If you could call it that) which looks like a remnant sale at Kmart , the closed in hallways, the low ceilings and congested layout, this boat is was headed for disaster before it even left on its maiden voyage. We read the message boards before going on board, so we sort of knew what to expect. The first time cruisers on this ship probably thought it was wonderful, but if you are a seasoned cruiser, PAY ATTENTION TO NEGATIVE FEEDBACK on different boards, they are all true!! The vibration problem in the back of the ship is NOT a myth, it is a reality. After speaking with the maitre 'd requesting a change of tables BEFORE the ship even sailed, he informed us that the upper level dining room was completely booked and not to worry we were in the front of the lower dining room. And by the way, he mentioned that they had brought in heavier tables to reduce the vibration so the plates don't vibrate off the tables anymore. We knew we were in trouble when I asked if it was true that the ship was going into dry dock. He responded with a reluctant yes, and the ship will be drydocked in December for Mechanical Problems.. The sewer odor problem is NOT a fantasy! This ship is obviously not vented properly, because at certain times of the day the overwhelming odor of raw sewage is prevalent throughout the ship. We could not use our balcony every morning because of it. Maintenance was sent, but they were well aware of the problem and their was nothing that they could do. Lack of maintenance was appalling, this ship is only 9 MONTHS OLD! It could easily pass for at least 5 years old. Water leaks in The "GRAND ATRIUM" turned the gold leaf green and moldy. I watched the art auction with buckets around me to catch dripping water from the ceilings. Decks were not cleaned in th A.M. from the previous evening. Laminate surfaces were buckling everywhere, door cabinets were hanging off hinges, paint was falling off the balcony roof in our friends' mini suite. HAL definitely gets an F in maintenance. Dining room service is a disaster. We had only a waiter, no asst. waiter or busboy. The food service was rushed and hurried ,they were trying to get second seating diners out in 1 hour! We had to keep calling the maitre 'd over to tell our waiter to slow down. The first night at dinner he threw the menus at us and told us to make it "snappy". It all went downhill from there. The food was mediocre at best, the dessert selection was even worse, unless of course you consider JELLO to be a Treat! We were constantly holding onto our plates so our waiter would not swipe it away from us while we were in "Mid - Bite". It got so bad that the Head waiter removed our waiter from our section and served us exclusively the last 3 nights of our cruise. We were not alone in hearing dining room horror stories from other passengers. We knew of at least 10 other tables that were experiencing the same kind of service. We also took a walk toward the back of the dining room one evening to "experience" the vibration problem. If anyone DARES to write that they felt no vibration, then they were either dead or drugged. You had to raise your voice just to have a conversation and the background noise from the vibration was like a scene out of the movie EARTHQUAKE! HAL definitely gets an F for dining room service. Our Cabin which was a category B balcony was below typical of other cruise lines. Once again you had the WAL-MART decor surrounding you, which flowed so beautifully with the prison grey corridor walls. A painting or two would help along the corridor walls but they obviously didn't have it in their budget. HAL gets a D for room and hallway decor. The Staff on board was helpful in getting my room changed from the back of the boat to midship (Due to the heavy vibration in our cabin). Other than that you are basically getting Holiday Inn level of service. I will have to say that room service was the highlight of HAL'S customer service. HAL gets a C- for service (it would have been a D if not for room service)! I have taken pictures of many of these things that I have listed here and intend to email them to HAL. Let's just say that this was a major disappointment on HAL's part. As everyone knows HAL is giving away their cruises because the senior population is not traveling as much as they once did and they have to open themselves to other markets. They have a very long way to go and should look upon Celebrity Cruise line as their role model. If you are a 1st time cruiser all I could say is Bon Voyage, If you are a truly experienced cruiser then you will quickly know that all is not right with this vessel. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry . We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry . We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but alas, we just experienced one. For HAL's benefit I will list the positives first: 1} Embarkation and debarkation were easy and very organized. 2} Casino literally gave away money!! I truly had never seen a ship casino pay out on so many slot machines. 3} Entertainment was better than average Thats IT for positives!! Now for the negatives The Zuiderdam cannot find its place in the HAL lineup, You know that they are trying to achieve a younger audience but they just can't pull it off. Between the Decor ,[If you could call it that} which looks like a remnant sale at Kmart , the closed in hallways, the low ceilings and congested layout, this boat is was headed for disaster before it even left on its maiden voyage. We read the message boards before going on board, so we sort of knew what to expect. The first time cruisers on this ship probably thought it was wonderful, but if you are a seasoned cruiser, PAY ATTENTION TO NEGATIVE FEEDBACK on different boards, they are all true!! The vibration problem in the back of the ship is NOT a myth, it is a reality. After speaking with the maitred requesting a change of tables BEFORE the ship even sailed, he informed us that the upper level dining room was completely booked and not to worry we were in the front of the lower dining room. And by the way ,he mentioned that they had brought in heavier tables to reduce the vibration so the plates don't vibrate off the tables anymore. We knew we were in trouble when I asked if it was true that the ship was going into dry dock, He responded with a reluctant yes, and the ship will be drydocked in December for Mechanical Problems.. The sewer odor problem is NOT a fantasy! This ship is obviously not vented properly ,because at certain times of the day the overwhelming odor of raw sewage is prevalent throughout the ship. We could not use our balcony every morning because of it. Maintenance was sent, but they were well aware of the problem and their was nothing that they could do. Lack of maintenance was appalling, this ship is only 9 MONTHS OLD! It could easily pass for at least 5 years old. Water leaks in The "GRAND ATRIUM" turned the gold leaf green and moldy. I watched the art auction with buckets around me to catch dripping water from the ceilings. decks were not cleaned in the A.M. from the previous evening. laminate surfaces were buckling everywhere, door cabinets were hanging off hinges, paint was falling off the balcony roof in our friends mini suite . HAL definitely gets an F in maintenance. Dining room service is a disaster. We had only a waiter, no asst waiter or busboy. The food service was rushed and hurried ,they were trying to get second seating diners out in 1 hour! We had to keep calling the maitred over to tell our waiter to slow down. The first night at dinner he threw the menus at us and told us to make it "snappy". It all went downhill from there. The food was mediocre at best, the dessert selection was even worse, unless of course you consider JELLO to be a Treat! We were constantly holding onto our plates so our waiter would not swipe it away from us while we were in " Mid - Bite". It got so bad that the Head waiter removed our waiter from our section and served us exclusively the last 3 nights of our cruise. We were not alone in hearing dining room horror stories from other passengers ,we knew of at least 10 other tables that were experiencing the same kind of service. We also took a walk toward the back of the dining room one evening to "experience" the vibration problem. If anyone DARES to write that they felt no vibration, then they were either dead or drugged. You had to raise your voice just to have a conversation and the background noise from the vibration was like a scene out of the movie EARTHQUAKE! HAL definitely gets an F for dining room service. Our Cabin which was a category B balcony was below typical of other cruise lines. Once again you had the WAL-MART decor surrounding you, which flowed so beautifully with the prison grey corridor walls. A painting or two would help along the corridor walls but they obviously didn't have it in their budget. HAL gets a D for room and hallway decor The Staff on board was helpful in getting my room changed from the back of the boat to midship { Due to the heavy vibration in our cabin} other than that you are basically getting Holiday Inn level of service. I will have to say that room service was the highlight of HALS customer service. HAL gets a C- for service { it would have been a D if not for room service!} I have taken pictures of many of these things that I have listed here and intend to email them to HAL. Lets just say that this was a major disappointment on HALs part. As everyone knows HAL is giving away their cruises because the senior population is not traveling as much as they once did and they have to open themselves to other markets. They have a very long way to go and should look upon Celebrity Cruise line as their role model. If you are a 1st time cruiser all I could say is Bon Voyage, If you are a truly experienced cruiser then you will quickly know that all is not right with this vessel. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
We are Dan & Cheryl, a married couple of about 5 months when we went on the Zuiderdam from September 13-20, 2003. We drove from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale on the 12th, not even sure if we were going on a cruise or not—Hurricane ... Read More
We are Dan & Cheryl, a married couple of about 5 months when we went on the Zuiderdam from September 13-20, 2003. We drove from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale on the 12th, not even sure if we were going on a cruise or not—Hurricane Isabel seemed a sure bet to hit dead on where we wanted to be, so we were pretty nervous about whether or not we would get to go. We had called Holland America a couple of times, and both times they told us that if at all possible, the cruise would go—maybe on a different itinerary, maybe a day late, but it would go nonetheless. We arrived to find out that although the hurricane remained strong, our captain had chosen to stick with the planned Eastern Caribbean itinerary of Half Moon Cay, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau. This was great news, as we had really been looking forward to going to St. Thomas together (Dan had been there on a Celebrity cruise with his family about 2 weeks before proposing to Cheryl, and really wanted her to see what he considered the most romantic spot on earth!) This was Cheryl's 2nd cruise, and Dan's 4th. (He had two previous cruises with his family on Celebrity, and we had gone on Royal Caribbean for our honeymoon). We were cruising with Dan's parents and his 2 younger sisters. All of us had booked inside staterooms. Our first impression of the Zuiderdam was that she was HUGE, and completely gorgeous with all of her banners flying (and with Isabel wreaking havoc somewhere out there, believe me, those banners were FLYING!) Our inside staterooms were more than adequate, and extremely well appointed and decorated. There was storage space everywhere, and plenty of it—we were extremely comfortable, even with Cheryl's tendency to overpack—WAY overpack. One of our favorite features were all of the different lightswitches—you could control all of the lights in the room from anywhere in the room, including the bed. This was wonderful for reading in bed with every light on, and turning them all out without even having to move. Holland America's reputation for great service held true in a big way---Our stateroom attendant, Iman from the Philippines, was an extremely gracious host, willing to go the extra mile to make us comfortable. We greatly enjoyed getting to know him over the course of the week—he even made us an origami version of the Zuiderdam on the last night, and wrote on it how much he had enjoyed taking care of us for the week! We took great care in getting it home safely, and it sits on top of our refrigerator, reminding us of our cruise and the wonderful hospitality we received. The dining room service was equally wonderful—the Filipino and Indonesian crew aboard the Zuiderdam take great pride in their service, and they should—it is the best we have experienced. Our head waiter, Subur, was a very visible presence each night, and kept us entertained—both with his quick wit and his warm, engaging personality. He truly made us to feel like honored guests in his home. Our waiter, Denny, was equally wonderful. He took great care of us all week, (welcoming us to "Denny's" restaurant each night!) remembering what each of us liked with our meal and making sure that we got it—whether it was on the menu or not. He did magic tricks for us, and really spent a great deal of time getting to know us. Our assistant waiter, Hendra, was a wonderful person and server as well—He was a bit of a shy young man, but over the course of the week really opened up to us. He seemed truly saddened when we left, and spoke very wistfully of what a happy family we seemed to have. He is engaged to his sweetheart back home, hoping to make enough money on the cruise boat to go home and marry her and be able to live comfortably. We wish him all the best, as we do to all of the wonderful crew. We can't mention the crew, without mentioning a few other standouts—Imam from the Lido, who learned (and remembered!!) the names of just about everyone who went through his breakfast line in the morning, and welcomed each one so warmly. Eep, who also served in the Lido, and also spoke to us each day and inquired how our day went—and truly listened to the answer. Every member of this crew, even the ones not assigned to our dining room table or our staterooms, went out of their way not only to provide great service, but to be warm and friendly and to make you feel like welcome friends. The weather during the week was (understandably!) a little bit different. The seas were quite high at times, and you could truly feel the moving of the ship. All of this was due to the hurricane, though it was many, many miles away, stirring up the waters. One night in particular during the middle of the week, it felt like if you didn't hold on, you could just about be rolled out of the bed. And we did see some rain, but every port was beautiful! Regarding some of the infamous Zuiderdam "problems"—the ONLY one that I can vouch for is the movement and the engine noise in the dining room. We were on the very back, at the windows, looking out over the water coming out of the propellers, and I can definitely say that we could feel movement, our water glasses and plates vibrated, and that on certain nights when we were moving at a high rate of speed, the engine noise was distracting. I definitely understand why this has been so highly debated—there are many areas in the dining room that did NOT have this problem—it seems to only be near the very back, and only on one level. I also have no doubt that the rough seas (again, the wonderful Isabel) exacerbated the problem. However, did it ruin our cruise? No. Did it ruin our dinner? No. We may have been just a little seasick at dinner one night, but the food onboard the Zuiderdam cured us pretty quickly! We all have different tastes, and all enjoy different kinds of food, but we all found plenty of food to love on the Zuiderdam. The Lido had a little bit of everything (we ate breakfast and lunch their almost every day, and the selection was unparalleled), and the food in the Vista Dining Room was equally delicious. Every steak, every fish dinner, every single thing we ordered seemed prepared perfectly. Excellent quality and quantity. We are not gourmet food critics, just normal people, but we couldn't find anything to complain about. A quick word about the ports— Half Moon Cay has to be the most beautiful island I have ever visited. We had perfect weather (amazingly) and it was beautiful. We swam in the crystal clear water, laid on the beach in the sand, and enjoyed the delicious barbecue lunch provided by Holland America. What more can you ask for? It was truly an island paradise. St. Maarten was wonderful—There was only one other ship in port—from what we were told, a LOT of cruiselines and ships decided to take the Western route for the week due to, yes you guessed it, the hurricane. Also, from what we heard, by staying on our original Eastern course, not only did we have less crowded islands, we apparently got the better weather, too. We had rough seas sometimes, but the weather in every port was beautiful. We took a water taxi to another part of the island immediately after docking, and found a private tour van. The driver agreed to take the six of us for $20 apiece on a tour of both the French and Dutch sides of the island. We really enjoyed this, as we saw not only the touristy spots on the island, but the way the people lived. She stopped at several beautiful spots to give us a chance to take pictures, and a couple of times at different places to let us shop. She did make one stop that we would rather she had not—she stopped at a hole-in-the-wall tavern to go in and buy herself some kind of alcoholic drink, that she proceeded to drink for the rest of the tour. When we started going up and down the little winding roads up in the mountains, that got a little scary—I prefer sober tourguides! In St. Thomas, (where, thanks once again to Hurricane Isabel, we were the ONLY boat in port! Woo-hoo!) Dan and I set out alone to enjoy the island together. We got on a tour tram with a wonderful tourguide named John. He started the tour with his open-air tram full, but at the first stop (Sapphire Beach), everyone but us got off the bus, and wanted to stay to swim! So from that point on, we had a private tour of the island—just the two of us. John took us to several beautiful spots on the way up the mountain to take pictures, took us to the Magen's Bay Overlook, Mountaintop, and several other places. He even took pictures for us of the two of us together, when he saw us taking pictures of each other. We knew we would enjoy the beauty of St. Thomas, and that we wanted to be alone there, but we certainly never expected a private tour! On the way back, he stopped at several places to see if anybody was ready to go back, but they weren't—it wasn't until we got back to Sapphire Beach (almost back to where we would get off the tour) that there were other people on our bus again, and then only for a few miles! We went back to the boat and had lunch, and wanted to go back out swimming, but it was just so much money for another cab ride to anywhere to swim, that we gave up and just walked around in town some. St. Thomas is definitely the most beautiful and breathtaking place I have ever seen. In Nassau, we immediately took a taxi over to Paradise Island, and walked through as much of the beautiful Atlantis hotel as we could. Then, we set off on foot to a local public beach, with our minds set on renting jetskis—it was a pretty good walk, but not terribly bad. It wasn't hard to find the guys selling time on jetskis—they find you. After we talked the guy WAY down on his price, Dan & I bought half an hour on one jetski, while his sisters bought an hour on another. We took turns driving, and just had a blast out in the water for a half hour. The water was EXTREMELY choppy—probably the roughest weather we had in a port all week—but Dan just thought that made the jetski that much more fun. After our half hour was up, we thought we might try swimming—but the water was so rough, nobody was going in more than ankle deep—we tried it, and ended up getting wiped out and rolling back through the sand, scraping up elbows and knees and getting COVERED in sand. Sand was still coming out of both of our ears WEEKS after we got back. Enough swimming for one day. We went back to the boat for lunch, and then Dan and I ventured back out into Nassau alone. We walked through the straw market (got a BEAUTIFUL Nassau picture frame for $1.00—talked down from $7.00!), and then came the best part of our whole cruise—our Nassau Adventure. Dan spotted a horse-drawn buggy, and, after once again talking the guy down on his price, we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Nassau! It was extremely romantic, and our driver was hilarious—he kept us laughing the whole ride. He was quite a driver, too—when he was ready to go, he just pulled out in front of everybody. We nearly caused multiple accidents, but it was just so much fun. We ended up running back to the boat to get our camera to come back and have our picture made with him—we left the boat 30 minutes before departure time(!!!) to run back into town, had our picture made with our horse & buggy, and then got back on the boat FIVE minutes before all aboard time—It was probably the most fun twenty-five minutes that either of us have ever had on a cruise, and definitely our best memory! Back to the boat, and time to pack that night! But who cares, we were still on a cruise! We were playing shuffleboard at midnight, unpacked, when bags had to be in the hall by 2:00—but we made it, and all is well that ends well. Debarkation came, and it was a fairly smooth, if long & drawn out, process. The beautiful Zuiderdam and her incredible staff had given us a trip of a lifetime, and we will never forget it. Would we take this boat again? You better believe it—first chance we get!! ? Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
Boarding: Most of my party arrived at about noon, we followed the "Mariner" signs, but the lines where no longer at the non-mariner area. HAL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are ... Read More
Boarding: Most of my party arrived at about noon, we followed the "Mariner" signs, but the lines where no longer at the non-mariner area. HAL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are acceptable, oh well! My pre-printed US immigration form downloaded from the web was ready and this speeded everything along, but before you can proceed, HAL insists on having each passenger fill out a Bahamas immigration form that nobody checked yet collected (I was told this form was required for the private island, you will have to do this form once more if the ship stops in Nassau, kind of an overkill IMHO). This entire process took about ½ hr and then we proceeded to the ship. Your luggage is left at the luggage drop off with the baggage handlers - Note: there are signs clearly posted that they are salaried and tips are not necessary, you will leave your luggage - before you enter the terminal, so make sure your room number is clearly indicated on your HAL luggage tags. For this process I give HAL overall 3 out of 5 stars, nothing great or out of the ordinary, heads up, a cab ride from the Fort Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes and the cost is about $10PP. Cabins: I try and book the cheapest; my past experience with HAL is that most of the cabins are about the same Square footage (unless you are in the premium ones i.e., veranda, suite etc) and they are relatively large in size compared to other lines. However, on the Zuiderdam it appeared that room size was related to category, Cabins for our group ranged from a category "N" (lowest) to an "AA". I was in a category "G"; outside cabin with obstructed view/yes you had a full floor to ceiling view of a life boat/ but no big deal as I spent very little time in my cabin. Room size was about 185 sq ft, but the arrangement was poorly laid out. Storage cabins beneath the bed were awkward, some drawers with locks were very hard to open and the hair dryer (which automatically turned off when it got a bit hot) was in the small sitting area vice in the bathroom. Room colors were not lively and considering how new the ship was, looked worn. I visited a category 'N" cabin and be advised they are SMALL! Prior to this sailing I had read about problems with the ships toilets, I did encounter a toilet leak on the first day of the cruise and another member of our party complained that her toilet did not work and that there was an awful smell the entire trip. Additionally, we were on level 4 and our category "N" cruisers said they could hear the LOUD noise from the shows and the bands until the wee hours on the morning. I will give HAL 2 out of 5 stars. Food/Dining Room: Food on this ship was very good, but the dining experience was lacking. Let me explain; one of the big events during every cruise is dinner with all my family members (there were 9 adults), so once on board ship, a member of my party went directly to the maitre'd to insure we were seated together at first seating - Note my daughter was first in line (to see the maitre'd) and was told that first seating, which we requested and got, is typically less crowded. apparently this was not the case as we were seated at a table for eight and there were nine adults. Even after repeatedly voicing our request for a larger table, nothing changed throughout the cruise. Our "solution" was to be given chairs without arms to make more room at the table. Additionally, we noticed that tables for 10 had numerous small children and some tables were empty - why could they not have moved some people.? I was given the standard excuses needless to say it was very unpleasant and cramped through dinner. Additionally, the dining room has a very low ceiling and is located on the second level above the engines and tables are very close together, this makes for a very noisy dining room. I read about the noise and vibration and it is real- not something I experienced on any previous cruise. There were times that you had to shout to be heard. Air conditioning throughout the dinning room was very inconsistent, some areas were cold and some were hot. I also observed a number of areas, which had plastic covering taped to the ceiling. The waiter and bus boy provided good service, but appeared tired and overworked. Flame-type desserts were non-existent. Since this is a vacation, I usually eat all my meals in the dining room, and try and avoid eating at BUFFETS, but the service in the dining room was so slow that I started to eat at the LIDO for breakfast and lunch; I will say that the variety was excellent and the lines were never long. I am very mixed about giving a grade here as I thoroughly enjoyed the food and it deserved 4+stars, but the numerous problems encountered detracted from the experience, so overall I would give HAL 3 stars. Entertainment: In the evening, you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. HAL is trying to break away from the big band era and cater more to the growing baby boomer population. However, they (HAL) seem to be having an identity crisis as they are trying to do too many different things to please everyone. The Disco in the Northern Lights was great, but there are only 8-9 booths to sit in, therefore people are standing everywhere and it caters towards the 40 year old crowd, while the younger folks have nowhere to go but a few bars. The one evening where the disco/theme night was moved to the Crows' Nest it was a huge success and there was plenty of room. Speaking of the Crows Nest, it is very nice but underutilized and they have a piano player (one of two) vice a nice band. This was also the first cruise I have ever taken that there was NO Karaoke (apparently HAL is phasing it out). The nighttime shows at the Vista lounge were below par, I usually attend every show, but on this ship I walked out on three occasions. Except for the juggler and one variety show, the overall quality was poor. Once again I am having a tough time and HAL could easily have made this a memorable cruise. I give them 3 stars, but if they moved the theme nights to the Crows Nest, turned the Northern Lights over to the 20's crowd and booked better entertain, it would be GREAT! Activities: Most daytime activities were well spaced, from the usual trivia (there was a lot of that) to the Bingo (I always play bingo; HAL has kept the cost of bingo at a reasonable level while maintaining a fair prize money distribution). The Casino was the norm, but what I did not like was the space, the lack of ease with which you could move around and the general feeling of being crowed as it was in the center of the ship - main traffic area. Everybody seemed to be having a good time but were confused on the direction of where to go. I will assume HAL designed the ship's entertainment by keeping passengers around decks 2 and 3 (except for the pool and LIDO buffet). This might have been a grand idea, but it was so difficult to move around, getting in and out of the different duty free shops was very confusing and the passenger flow in the casino was awful. 3 out of 5 stars. Teen activities: HAL is advertising the ship as kid friendly, there were plenty of kids on board and I did see the activities in full swing, since nobody on our group participated, I am unable to comment. Excursions: I rarely take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive and can usually do my own excursions, visiting the same places as the ship's excursions, and save quite a bit of cash. However, for this sailing I made an exception since I have done a great deal of independent reading regarding the "America's Cup" excursion (you cannot do this on your own as the ship reserves this company for their excursions). All I can say is that this excursion is one of the best things about this cruise (you need to be stopping at St Maarten to do this), it is a MUST, be warned this is a very active excursion and if you are prone to seasickness or do not wish to try a physical activity, look elsewhere, otherwise, it is a MUST! Note; if you want to go on any ship excursion, sign up on the HAL website 2 plus weeks before sailing, this avoids the crowds and also being told the excursion is "sold out" which was evident on the popular ones. In Nassau, my party rented a private boat, went snorkeling at a wonderful reef, spent some time on our own private island and it was the same cost as the ship's excursion for our own private yacht! Tipping: The HAL policy of "Tipping not required" just ads more confusion when there are envelopes throughout left for all the passengers to pick up. How can you not tip when your waiter tried to please you and it was not your room boy's fault that the room was poorly designed. As for tipping amount, I use the standard rule of thumb, waiter $3.50-4.00 per person per day, Bus boy half the waiter tip. I ordered the wine package (if you drink wine it is a fair deal) HAL does NOT ADD the normal 15%, so be aware that the steward and ANY other bartenders need to be tipped. Your room steward gets the same as the waiter. If you order drinks at any of the bars, you might want to carry a few dollars for tips since HAL does not add 15%. All this cash adds to the frustration, as HAL would not allow for you to add tips when you sign the check. Trying to remember which person served you a drink or which bartender needs to be tipped at the end is a major hassle, and HAL seems to refuse to change. Front desk/purser: I had to include this category since it is usually a hub of activity; in most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long. The Zuiderdam desk area was always fully staffed but the staff did not have many right answers. Some questions got the usual "I can find out" or "you need to..," " perhaps" All I can say is HAL needs training and work. Disembarkation: This has been a hassle on every cruise line but one. You have to be out of your cabin by 7AM and sit in a hallway and wait for your number to be called. Why cruise lines have not adopted the very successful procedures that have been on NCL ships I will never know. 1 out of 5 stars. Notes: I had read that former passengers complained of an odor from different areas in the ship. I did not believe this, however it is true and very noticeable in some public areas and in hallways. On the second day of the cruise, five public restrooms on the 9th deck were not in operation and on another occasion, cabins on the sixth floor had a foul odor with guests complaining. Additionally, throughout the ship, numerous public rooms were under some type of construction/repair. Areas were covered in plastic and you could hear the load noise of drilling and cutting etc. This was an irritant and if you were trying to sleep late, that did make noise. Upon docking at St Thomas, ALL passengers were required to wake up by 7AM and proceed in person to US immigration with their passport. Even though the process was painless and takes less than 3 minutes, having everybody get up at 7AM while you are on vacation for a three minute procedure even though you can't get off the ship for another 3 hours seemed like poor planning. Every person I encountered complained about the early hour. Once again poor planning by HAL, as the ship could have easily docked at a more reasonable hour or done the process differently. Overall: I have tried to be as objective as possible hoping to give you an overall big picture. I want to be very clear that I had a very nice time, as cruising is always great, but this is a review. Even though this is a new ship, I was amazed at the number of problems I encountered. The ship is not well laid out and everything seems worn out. The officers seemed aloof and were not up to my past HAL expectation. Employees seemed overworked and not often smiling. But my wife does not agree; she thought they were all very nice and helpful. HAL seems to want to make but some changes but these changes do not seem to have been well planned. Prior to this cruise my previous HAL experience was superb, however, with so many problems, and with so many other ships at sea, I would not recommend this ship and would rank this cruise as my 5th best among my 10. Happy sailing, Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We sailed on the Zuiderdam in August 2003 with our two children ages 10 and 15. This was our eighth HAL voyage and our children's fourth. I was expecting such a wonderful ship and couldn't wait. Wow, what a disappointment. Our ... Read More
We sailed on the Zuiderdam in August 2003 with our two children ages 10 and 15. This was our eighth HAL voyage and our children's fourth. I was expecting such a wonderful ship and couldn't wait. Wow, what a disappointment. Our cruise was booked to capacity and contained well over 2,000 people. There were a huge number of kids and teens. We had a Suite, which was by far the best part of the voyage. The concierge desk for the Suite occupants was also a nice feature. The new Lido configuration tends to be confusing and the lines do not run smoothly. People cutting in and out of the line was really problematic. There was a lack of available seating on both the inside and outside of the Lido area. Many people were leaving personal items in order to "reserve" Lido tables for hours at a time. This is the first time I have seen something like that on a HAL ship. The Lido was not keep as clean as it is on other ships either, the carpet was constantly dirty and many tables needed to be bused. Forget about getting a chaise by the pool. These were "reserved" from dawn to dusk. We found the same problem with the hot tub. While others complained about service being too fast in the diningroom, we found ours to be monotonously SLOW...we always have second seating and numerous times we were left waiting to order while others around us were already eating (and no, we weren't late for dinner) Finally, the head waiter took over our service and it improved on the fourth night. We found the food in the Odyssey restaurant oddly lacking. It didn't seem to be any different than the food in the diningroom and for $80 (4 of us) we'll pass next time. The ship was way too large and seemed to be poorly configured. It was not as easy to get around as it is on other HAL ships. There were far too many people and for some reason there seemed to be an unusually large number of rude people on this particular voyage. Disembarkation from this ship was a disaster. We had priority disembarkation and could not get through some of the stairwells and hallways when our number was called. An "excuse me" or "pardon me" did not have any impact on this crowd. I think we will stick to the smaller ships and some of the more obscure ports in order to a avoid such crowds. Overall, I think we'll pass on any future Zuiderdam cruises. When I think of the Zuiderdam, I imagine it is what a Carnival cruise ship would be like. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
Well...I am finally getting settled and my wife, daughter and I wish we were still on board. The ship was great, the weather fantastic. A little boring background first: H 41, W 40, D11, professional, Manhattanites originally now live on ... Read More
Well...I am finally getting settled and my wife, daughter and I wish we were still on board. The ship was great, the weather fantastic. A little boring background first: H 41, W 40, D11, professional, Manhattanites originally now live on Long Island. About 30 cruises on all the major lines and ships and a few minor lines. Now the important stuff for those ready to travel or planning to do so on the Zuiderdam: Friday 8/15: Left JFK in the middle of the blackout via Jet Blue. Our flight was one of the few not cancelled. Lucky!!! Stayed at the Westin Diplomatin Hollywood. Beautiful new hotel about 1 year old which replaced the old diplomat I stayed at when I was young. Great beach and pool. Went to sleep ealry because we were exhausted from the whole blackout/flight/etc. Saturday 8/16: Limo to Zuiderdam around 11am. Got to pier and checked bags. Gave a $20 tip. I am a generous tipper but find I get better service. 5 bags so $10 would have probably been ok also. Went inside and found a small handful of people checking in. Only maybe 5 or so families in each of many lines. We went ot the Deluxe Veranda Suite line where there were two lines with about 1 or two families ahead of us. We had a category S on Rotterdam (7) Deck a few doors down from the Neptune Lounge. They gave us the Bahamas Immigration forms to fill out as we waited on line. This was for the Half Moon Key visit. We later received a second set of Immigration forms for Nassau later in the week. Check in was a breeze. We registered our credit card., took security photo for cabin key. Off we went through security and xray and up to the terminal waiting area. We were given little gold sticy stars to id us as suite guests so when we got up to the waiting area we were able to get our embarcation photo taken and board immediately. Aboard ship we were directed by many ushers/staff to the Neptune lounge where we dropped off one unimportant carry-on and went to the Lido on Deck 9 for lunch. We could have eaten in the Neptune but wanted to explore. Went back to the Neptune around 1:15 and at 1:30 we were told by Jig the concierge that our stateroom was ready. It was beautiful. Well furnished and we had no problems with storage space for 5 huge suitcases and 3 humans! No smells, no dirt, no problems. Our steward Slammet introduced himself and after that we went to the life boat drill at 4:15 which was short and sweet and enjoyable. Then we sailed at 5. Only other major ship in port was the Century and as we sailed out of the port past a few apt buildings, someone had a HAL flag flying from their balcony! Dinner that night was 2nd seating table for 4 (3 of us though)number 86 on the upper level of the Vista (Deck 3). Our waiters Tagel and Agus were great. They remembered our names by Sunday night and I never had problems ordering a second appetizer or entree or dessert. My daughter would eat a combo of the childrens menu and parts of the adult menu with no problem. The wine steward Ronald was fantastic. We are not big drinkers but he had a scotch and soda for me every night and new when to bring me the second one without asking (I stop at drink 2!). On formal night, he chilled the champagne given to us by HAL in out suite and served it to perfection. Let me add that he was personable and spoke with us a for a few minutes each night without being intrusive but at a level of comfort. Prior to dinner each night, there was the doorman Raymond (aka) Yum Yum Man who played musical chimes to announce dinner and then dispensed after dinner mints. He remembered our names right away and was so much fun that some kids were crying at the end of the cruise! All the dinners were excellent. We chose to eat in the Odyssey Tuesday night which coincidentally was Dutch Night. The Odyssey was great and I thought the steaks were almost as good as Peter Luger for my fellow NY'ers! Let me add that so as not to bore you I will not discuss the ports which were fine but rather concentrate on the ship. Entertainment: Not the best but I have seen far worse. Paul Tanner, a singer/impressionist was enjoyable as well as a comedian. Did not see all the shows. We did not attend the CC get together because my wife wanted to go to the Art Auction monday. Thought the prices were a little too high after they sold one painting for $9000.00. I have spent money on art but $500 and not more than $1000 is my cruise ship limit. Pools were busy. The rear pool was fine. A few wild kids jumping into the mid ship pool but a few times people asked them to stop and they did! No major cause for concern! About half the ship wore tuxedos and about 40 percent of the rest wore suits on formal nights. I wore a tux the first formal and a suit teh second time around. Another suit on Wednesady which was informal night. All the rest were casual. Ate in the Odyssey for breakfast once and the Lido once. The remainder days in the Vista. We thought the Vista was a little to harried for breakfast and liked the quiet of the Vista for breakfast. Ate in the Lido for lunch every day and while busy, we always found a table. Enjoyed the Pasta and Taco bars which were open from 11am until 5pm. Disembarkation: Although we made our own air arrangements, we purchase HAL ship to airport transfers on 8/23 so we did not get the S tag to leave as soon as the ship was cleared (about 9:15) We were called right after that (about 9:30) and by 10 or so were at the airport. Checked in and the rest is history. Comments: -Never smelled anything other than food. -Enough bathrooms all in working order. Only time they were closed was for cleaning. -Dining Room vibration noticeable in the after of the Vista lower level. More pronounced than on some ships but no worse than on some others so for newbies it may be an issue but it did not bother us. -Decor of the ship..I can't understand why anyone would let this ruin theer vacation because it was fun, bright and cheerful. -Fellow passengers..many repeaters few first timers to cruising but most were on other lines before. Afew hated HAL. One was quite a "large" lady (politically correct!) who complained about the food while piling her plate at the Lido. Another one said the ship did not have enough activities but her only otehr crusie was on Carnival!. Another couple said the staff did not speak english well enough but everyone we spoke with had no trouble understanding us. I doid observe many people who were polite to their fellow passengers treating the staff terribly. That may account for the negative response from the staff. These people are humans and should be treated with the same respect we expect. The doorman turned away people who were not properly dressed (tanktops, etc). One man came to breakfast in his bathrobe! He did not get in. The best was one man who ordered eggs benedict and wanted extra hollandaise sauce with 6 (not 5, not 7) jellies on the side. The type of orders and "demands" were so pathetic and "diva" like that I give the staff credit for dealing with all of us! Tipping: I was very generous because I felt they deserved every penny. Well, that's all for now. If you have specfic questions, ask and I will try to answer. I will be on the boards regularly for teh next week or so but then reality will set-in and I will have to concentrate on work so as to pay for the next cruise. By the way, no qualms about sailing HAL again. All the best to everyone and smooth sailin! All The Best To All Sailing With Us! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
Before I go into my review, I thought it helpful to disclose a little about myself so that readers can get a sense of what my opinion is based on. Also, please note that I read numerous negative reviews prior to sailing and did not let ... Read More
Before I go into my review, I thought it helpful to disclose a little about myself so that readers can get a sense of what my opinion is based on. Also, please note that I read numerous negative reviews prior to sailing and did not let that persuade me as I love ANY cruising and judge for myself and went into this cruise with the same positive attitude that I usually do. Additionally, I am not really a complainer onboard the ship - everyone is human and life is not perfect. This was my 10th cruise overall and my 2nd HAL cruise. Having been on many previous cruises, and traveled abroad significantly it is not easy to impress me, however I do enjoy cruising as a vacation method and have been able to find positives on every cruise sailed previously. I do expect to get full dollar value for what I pay and prior to any cruise, I extensively research the ship, read the boards, email others, and basically do my homework.   On this cruise I was traveling with a group of 31, ages ranged from 16-58 years. I selected the Zuiderdam because it met my selection criteria; i.e. new ship, reliable line (having cruised HAL before on the Zaandam, I had experienced relatively high quality and service), medium passenger load (around the 2000+/-0 is about right) and reasonable cost.   Boarding: Most of my party arrived at about noon, we followed the "Mariner" signs, but the lines where no longer at the non-mariner area. HAL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are acceptable, oh well! My pre-printed US immigration form downloaded from the web was ready and this speeded everything along, but before you can proceed, HAL insists on having each passenger fill out a Bahamas immigration form that nobody checked yet collected (I was told this form was required for the private island, you will have to do this form once more if the ship stops in Nassau, kind of an overkill IMHO). This entire process took about ½ hr and then we proceeded to the ship. Your luggage is left at the luggage drop off with the baggage handlers - Note: there are signs clearly posted that they are salaried and tips are not necessary, you will leave your luggage - before you enter the terminal, so make sure your room number is clearly indicated on your HAL luggage tags. For this process I give HAL overall 3 out of 5 stars, nothing great or out of the ordinary, heads up, a cab ride from the Fort Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes and the cost is about $10PP.   Cabins: I try and book the cheapest; my past experience with HAL is that most of the cabins are about the same Square footage (unless you are in the premium ones i.e., veranda, suite etc) and they are relatively large in size compared to other lines. However, on the Zuiderdam it appeared that room size was related to category, Cabins for our group ranged from a category "N" (lowest) to an "AA". I was in a category "G"; outside cabin with obstructed view/yes you had a full floor to ceiling view of a life boat/ but no big deal as I spent very little time in my cabin. Room size was about 185 sq ft, but the arrangement was poorly laid out. Storage cabins beneath the bed were awkward, some drawers with locks were very hard to open and the hair dryer (which automatically turned off when it got a bit hot) was in the small sitting area vice in the bathroom. Room colors were not lively and considering how new the ship was, looked worn. I visited a category 'N" cabin and be advised they are SMALL! Prior to this sailing I had read about problems with the ships toilets, I did encounter a toilet leak on the first day of the cruise and another member of our party complained that her toilet did not work and that there was an awful smell the entire trip. Additionally, we were on level 4 and our category "N" cruisers said they could hear the LOUD noise from the shows and the bands until the wee hours on the morning. I will give HAL 2 out of 5 stars.   Food/Dining Room: Food on this ship was very good, but the dining experience was lacking. Let me explain; one of the big events during every cruise is dinner with all my family members (there were 9 adults), so once on board ship, a member of my party went directly to the maitre'd to insure we were seated together at first seating - Note my daughter was first in line( to see the maitre'd) and was told that first seating, which we requested and got, is typically less crowded. Apparently this was not the case as we were seated at a table for eight and there were nine adults. Even after repeatedly voicing our request for a larger table, nothing changed throughout the cruise. Our "solution" was to be given chairs without arms to make more room at the table. Additionally, we noticed that tables for 10 had numerous small children and some tables were empty - why could they not have moved some people.? I was given the standard excuses needless to say it was very unpleasant and cramped through dinner. Additionally, the dining room has a very low ceiling and is located on the second level above the engines and tables are very close together, this makes for a very noisy dining room. I read about the noise and vibration and it is real- not something I experienced on any previous cruise. There were times that you had to shout to be heard. Air conditioning throughout the dinning room was very inconsistent, some areas were cold and some were hot. I also observed a number of areas, which had plastic covering taped to the ceiling. The waiter and bus boy provided good service, but appeared tired and overworked. Flame-type desserts were non-existent. Since this is a vacation, I usually eat all my meals in the dining room, and try and avoid eating at BUFFETS, but the service in the dining room was so slow that I started to eat at the LIDO for breakfast and lunch; I will say that the variety was excellent and the lines were never long. I am very mixed about giving a grade here as I thoroughly enjoyed the food and it deserved 4+stars, but the numerous problems encountered detracted from the experience, so overall I would give HAL 3 stars.   Entertainment: In the evening, you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. HAL is trying to break away from the big band era and cater more to the growing baby boomer population. However, they (HAL) seem to be having an identity crisis as they are trying to do too many different things to please everyone. The Disco in the Northern Lights was great, but there are only 8-9 booths to sit in, therefore people are standing everywhere and it caters towards the 40 year old crowd, while the younger folks have nowhere to go but a few bars. The one evening where the disco/theme night was moved to the Crows' Nest it was a huge success and there was plenty of room. Speaking of the Crows Nest, it is very nice but underutilized and they have a piano player (one of two) vice a nice band. This was also the first cruise I have ever taken that there was NO Karaoke (apparently HAL is phasing it out). The nighttime shows at the Vista lounge were below par, I usually attend every show, but on this ship I walked out on three occasions. Except for the juggler and one variety show, the overall quality was poor. Once again I am having a tough time and HAL could easily have made this a memorable cruise. I give them 3 stars, but if they moved the theme nights to the Crows Nest, turned the Northern Lights over to the 20's crowd and booked better entertain, it would be GREAT!   Activities: Most daytime activities were well spaced, from the usual trivia (there was a lot of that) to the Bingo (I always play bingo; HAL has kept the cost of bingo at a reasonable level while maintaining a fair prize money distribution). The Casino was the norm, but what I did not like was the space, the lack of ease with which you could move around and the general feeling of being crowed as it was in the center of the ship - main traffic area. Everybody seemed to be having a good time but were confused on the direction of where to go. I will assume HAL designed the ship's entertainment by keeping passengers around decks 2 and 3 (except for the pool and LIDO buffet). This might have been a grand idea, but it was so difficult to move around, getting in and out of the different duty free shops was very confusing and the passenger flow in the casino was awful. 3 out of 5 stars.   Teen activities: HAL is advertising the ship as kid friendly, there were plenty of kids on board and I did see the activities in full swing, since nobody on our group participated, I am unable to comment.   Excursions: I rarely take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive and can usually do my own excursions, visiting the same places as the ship's excursions, and save quite a bit of cash. However, for this sailing I made an exception since I have done a great deal of independent reading regarding the "America's Cup" excursion (you cannot do this on your own as the ship reserves this company for their excursions). All I can say is that this excursion is one of the best things about this cruise (you need to be stopping at St Maarteen to do this), it is a MUST, be warned this is a very active excursion and if you are prone to seasickness or do not wish to try a physical activity, look elsewhere, otherwise, it is a MUST! Note; if you want to go on any ship excursion, sign up on the HAL website 2 plus weeks before sailing, this avoids the crowds and also being told the excursion is "sold out" which was evident on the popular ones. In Nassau, my party rented a private boat, went snorkeling at a wonderful reef, spent some time on our own private island and it was the same cost as the ship's excursion for our own private yacht!   Tipping: The HAL policy of "Tipping not required" just ads more confusion when there are envelopes throughout left for all the passengers to pick up. How can you not tip when your waiter tried to please you and it was not your room boy's fault that the room was poorly designed. As for tipping amount, I use the standard rule of thumb, waiter $3.50-4.00 per person per day, Bus boy half the waiter tip. I ordered the wine package (if you drink wine it is a fair deal) HAL does NOT ADD the normal 15%, so be aware that the steward and ANY other bartenders need to be tipped. Your room steward gets the same as the waiter. If you order drinks at any of the bars, you might want to carry a few dollars for tips since HAL does not add 15%. All this cash adds to the frustration, as HAL would not allow for you to add tips when you sign the check. Trying to remember which person served you a drink or which bartender needs to be tipped at the end is a major hassle, and HAL seems to refuse to change. Front desk/purser: I had to include this category since it is usually a hub of activity; in most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long. The Zuiderdam desk area was always fully staffed but the staff did not have many right answers. Some questions got the usual "I can find out" or "you need to..," " perhaps" All I can say is HAL needs training and work.   Disembarkation: This has been a hassle on every cruise line but one. You have to be out of your cabin by 7AM and sit in a hallway and wait for your number to be called. Why cruise lines have not adopted the very successful procedures that have been on NCL ships I will never know. 1 out of 5 stars. Notes: I had read that former passengers complained of an odor from different areas in the ship. I did not believe this, however it is true and very noticeable in some public areas and in hallways. On the second day of the cruise, five public restrooms on the 9th deck were not in operation and on another occasion, cabins on the sixth floor had a foul odor with guests complaining. Additionally, throughout the ship, numerous public rooms were under some type of construction/repair. Areas were covered in plastic and you could hear the load noise of drilling and cutting etc. This was an irritant and if you were trying to sleep late, that did make noise. Upon docking at St Thomas, ALL passengers were required to wake up by 7AM and proceed in person to US immigration with their passport. Even though the process was painless and takes less than 3 minutes, having everybody get up at 7AM while you are on vacation for a three minute procedure even though you can't get off the ship for another 3 hours seemed like poor planning. Every person I encountered complained about the early hour. Once again poor planning by HAL, as the ship could have easily docked at a more reasonable hour or done the process differently.   Overall: I have tried to be as objective as possible hoping to give you an overall big picture. I want to be very clear that I had a very nice time, as cruising is always great, but this is a review. Even though this is a new ship, I was amazed at the number of problems I encountered. The ship is not well laid out and everything seems worn out. The officers seemed aloof and were not up to my past HAL expectation. Employees seemed overworked and not often smiling. But my wife does not agree; she thought they were all very nice and helpful. HAL seems to want to make but some changes but these changes do not seem to have been well planned. Prior to this cruise my previous HAL experience was superb, however, with so many problems, and with so many other ships at sea, I would not recommend this ship and would rank this cruise as my 5th best among my 10. Happy sailing, Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
HAL-July 19-ZUIDERDAM review by the wack001 Before I go into my review, I thought it helpful to disclose a little about myself so that readers can get a sense of what my opinion is based on. Also, please note that I read numerous ... Read More
HAL-July 19-ZUIDERDAM review by the wack001 Before I go into my review, I thought it helpful to disclose a little about myself so that readers can get a sense of what my opinion is based on. Also, please note that I read numerous negative reviews prior to sailing and did not let that persuade me as I love ANY cruising and judge for myself and went into this cruise with the same positive attitude that I usually do. Additionally, I am not really a complainer onboard the ship - everyone is human and life is not perfect. This was my 10th cruise overall and my 2nd HAL cruise. Having been on many previous cruises, and traveled abroad significantly it is not easy to impress me, however I do enjoy cruising as a vacation method and have been able to find positives on every cruise sailed previously. I do expect to get full dollar value for what I pay and prior to any cruise, I extensively research the ship, read the boards, email others, and basically do my homework. On this cruise I was traveling with a group of 31, ages ranged from 16-58 years. I selected the Zuiderdam because it met my selection criteria; i.e. new ship, reliable line (having cruised HAL before on the Zaandam, I had experienced relatively high quality and service), medium passenger load (around the 2000+/-0 is about right) and reasonable cost. Boarding: Most of my party arrived at about noon, we followed the "Mariner" signs, but the lines where no longer at the non-Mariner area. HAL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are acceptable, oh well! My pre-printed US immigration form downloaded from the web was ready and this speeded everything along, but before you can proceed, HAL insists on having each passenger fill out a Bahamas immigration form that nobody checked yet collected (I was told this form was required for the private island, you will have to do this form once more if the ship stops in Nassau, kind of an overkill IMHO). This entire process took about ½ hr and then we proceeded to the ship. Your luggage is left at the luggage drop off with the baggage handlers - Note: there are signs clearly posted that they are salaried and tips are not necessary, you will leave your luggage - before you enter the terminal, so make sure your room number is clearly indicated on your HAL luggage tags. For this process I give HAL overall 3 out of 5 stars, nothing great or out of the ordinary. Heads up, a cab ride from the Fort Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes and the cost is about $10PP. Cabins: I try and book the cheapest; my past experience with HAL is that most of the cabins are about the same square footage (unless you are in the premium ones i.e., veranda, suite, etc) and they are relatively large in size compared to other lines. However, on the Zuiderdam it appeared that room size was related to category, Cabins for our group ranged from a category "N" (lowest) to an "AA". I was in a category "G"; outside cabin with obstructed view/yes you had a full floor to ceiling view of a life boat/ but no big deal as I spent very little time in my cabin. Room size was about 185 sq ft, but the arrangement was poorly laid out. Storage cabins beneath the bed were awkward, some drawers with locks were very hard to open and the hair dryer (which automatically turned off when it got a bit hot) was in the small sitting area vice in the bathroom. Room colors were not lively and considering how new the ship was, looked worn. I visited a category 'N" cabin and be advised they are SMALL! Prior to this sailing I had read about problems with the ships toilets. I did encounter a toilet leak on the first day of the cruise and another member of our party complained that her toilet did not work and that there was an awful smell the entire trip. Additionally, we were on level 4 and our category "N" cruisers said they could hear the LOUD noise from the shows and the bands until the wee hours of the morning. I will give HAL 2 out of 5 stars. Food/Dining Room: Food on this ship was very good, but the dining experience was lacking. Let me explain; one of the big events during every cruise is dinner with all my family members (there were 9 adults), so once on board ship, a member of my party went directly to the maitre'd to insure we were seated together at first seating - Note my daughter was first in line (to see the maitre'd) and was told that first seating, which we requested and got, is typically less crowded. Apparently this was not the case as we were seated at a table for eight and there were nine adults. Even after repeatedly voicing our request for a larger table, nothing changed throughout the cruise. Our "solution" was to be given chairs without arms to make more room at the table. Additionally, we noticed that tables for 10 had numerous small children and some tables were empty - why could they not have moved some people...? I was given the standard excuses. Needless to say it was very unpleasant and cramped through dinner. Additionally, the dining room has a very low ceiling and is located on the second level above the engines and tables are very close together, this makes for a very noisy dining room. I read about the noise and vibration and it is real- not something I experienced on any previous cruise. There were times that you had to shout to be heard. Air conditioning throughout the dinning room was very inconsistent, some areas were cold and some were hot. I also observed a number of areas, which had plastic covering taped to the ceiling. The waiter and bus boy provided good service, but appeared tired and overworked. Flame-type desserts were non-existent. Since this is a vacation, I usually eat all my meals in the dining room, and try and avoid eating at BUFFETS, but the service in the dining room was so slow that I started to eat at the LIDO for breakfast and lunch; I will say that the variety was excellent and the lines were never long. I am very mixed about giving a grade here as I thoroughly enjoyed the food and it deserved 4+stars, but the numerous problems encountered detracted from the experience, so overall I would give HAL 3 stars. Entertainment: In the evening, you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. HAL is trying to break away from the big band era and cater more to the growing baby boomer population. However, they (HAL) seem to be having an identity crisis as they are trying to do too many different things to please everyone. The Disco in the Northern Lights was great, but there are only 8-9 booths to sit in, therefore people are standing everywhere and it caters towards the 40 year old crowd, while the younger folks have nowhere to go but a few bars. The one evening where the disco/theme night was moved to the Crows' Nest it was a huge success and there was plenty of room. Speaking of the Crows Nest, it is very nice but underutilized and they have a piano player (one of two) vice a nice band. This was also the first cruise I have ever taken that there was NO Karaoke (apparently HAL is phasing it out). The nighttime shows at the Vista lounge were below par, I usually attend every show, but on this ship I walked out on three occasions. Except for the juggler and one variety show, the overall quality was poor. Once again I am having a tough time and HAL could easily have made this a memorable cruise. I give them 3 stars, but if they moved the theme nights to the Crows Nest, turned the Northern Lights over to the 20's crowd and booked better entertain, it would be GREAT! Activities: Most daytime activities were well spaced, from the usual trivia (there was a lot of that) to the Bingo (I always play Bingo; HAL has kept the cost of bingo at a reasonable level while maintaining a fair prize money distribution). The Casino was the norm, but what I did not like was the space, the lack of ease with which you could move around and the general feeling of being crowed as it was in the center of the ship - main traffic area. Everybody seemed to be having a good time but were confused on the direction of where to go. I will assume HAL designed the ship's entertainment by keeping passengers around decks 2 and 3 (except for the pool and LIDO buffet). This might have been a grand idea, but it was so difficult to move around, getting in and out of the different duty free shops was very confusing and the passenger flow in the casino was awful. 3 out of 5 stars. Teen activities: HAL is advertising the ship as kid friendly, there were plenty of kids on board and I did see the activities in full swing, since nobody on our group participated, I am unable to comment. Excursions: I rarely take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive and can usually do my own excursions, visiting the same places as the ship's excursions, and save quite a bit of cash. However, for this sailing I made an exception since I have done a great deal of independent reading regarding the "America's Cup" excursion (you cannot do this on your own as the ship reserves this company for their excursions). All I can say is that this excursion is one of the best things about this cruise (you need to be stopping at St Maarten to do this), it is a MUST. Be warned this is a very active excursion and if you are prone to seasickness or do not wish to try a physical activity, look elsewhere, otherwise, it is a MUST! Note; if you want to go on any ship excursion, sign up on the HAL website 2 plus weeks before sailing, this avoids the crowds and also being told the excursion is "sold out" which was evident on the popular ones. In Nassau, my party rented a private boat, went snorkeling at a wonderful reef, spent some time on our own private island and it was the same cost as the ship's excursion for our own private yacht! Tipping: The HAL policy of "Tipping not required" just adds more confusion when there are envelopes throughout left for all the passengers to pick up. How can you not tip when your waiter tried to please you and it was not your room boy's fault that the room was poorly designed. As for tipping amount, I use the standard rule of thumb, waiter $3.50-4.00 per person per day, Bus boy half the waiter tip. I ordered the wine package (if you drink wine it is a fair deal) HAL does NOT ADD the normal 15%, so be aware that the steward and ANY other bartenders need to be tipped. Your room steward gets the same as the waiter. If you order drinks at any of the bars, you might want to carry a few dollars for tips since HAL does not add 15%. All this cash adds to the frustration, as HAL would not allow for you to add tips when you sign the check. Trying to remember which person served you a drink or which bartender needs to be tipped at the end is a major hassle, and HAL seems to refuse to change. Front desk/purser: I had to include this category since it is usually a hub of activity; in most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long. The Zuiderdam desk area was always fully staffed but the staff did not have many right answers. Some questions got the usual "I can find out" or "you need to..," "perhaps" All I can say is HAL needs training and work. Disembarkation: This has been a hassle on every cruise line but one. You have to be out of your cabin by 7AM and sit in a hallway and wait for your number to be called. Why cruise lines have not adopted the very successful procedures that have been on NCL ships I will never know. 1 out of 5 stars. Notes: I had read that former passengers complained of an odor from different areas in the ship. I did not believe this, however it is true and very noticeable in some public areas and in hallways. On the second day of the cruise, five public restrooms on the 9th deck were not in operation and on another occasion, cabins on the sixth floor had a foul odor with guests complaining. Additionally, throughout the ship, numerous public rooms were under some type of construction/repair. Areas were covered in plastic and you could hear the load noise of drilling and cutting etc. This was an irritant and if you were trying to sleep late, that did make noise. Upon docking at St Thomas, ALL passengers were required to wake up by 7AM and proceed in person to US immigration with their passport. Even though the process was painless and takes less than 3 minutes, having everybody get up at 7AM while you are on vacation for a three minute procedure even though you can't get off the ship for another 3 hours seemed like poor planning. Every person I encountered complained about the early hour. Once again poor planning by HAL, as the ship could have easily docked at a more reasonable hour or done the process differently. Overall: I have tried to be as objective as possible hoping to give you an overall big picture. I want to be very clear that I had a very nice time, as cruising is always great, but this is a review. Even though this is a new ship, I was amazed at the number of problems I encountered. The ship is not well laid out and everything seems worn out. The officers seemed aloof and were not up to my past HAL expectation. Employees seemed overworked and not often smiling. But my wife does not agree; she thought they were all very nice and helpful. HAL seems to want to make but some changes but these changes do not seem to have been well planned. Prior to this cruise my previous HAL experience was superb, however, with so many problems, and with so many other ships at sea, I would not recommend this ship and would rank this cruise as my 5th best among my 10. Happy sailing, Bob Bush. (bushwack001@yahoo.com) July 2003 Zuiderdam 03 Sun 02 Destiny 01 Zaandam 00 Sea 99 Century 98 Leeward 97 Fantasy 96 Big Red 95 Triton 94 Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2003
INTRODUCTION: We set out on 19 April 2002 for a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on HAL's new ZUIDERDAM. For me, this was my first HAL cruise, though other members of our party had sailed HAL numerous times. ZUIDERDAM has been a very ... Read More
INTRODUCTION: We set out on 19 April 2002 for a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on HAL's new ZUIDERDAM. For me, this was my first HAL cruise, though other members of our party had sailed HAL numerous times. ZUIDERDAM has been a very controversial vessel and I was quite looking forward to seeing her first-hand and forming my own opinions about this ship, as well as sampling HAL for the first time. SHIP BACKGROUND: ZUIDERDAM is the first of five new Vista-class ships for Holland America; at 81,769 GRT she is by far the largest HAL ship ever (the previous largest HAL ships were VOLENDAM and ZAANDAM at 60,906 GRT each) and represents HAL's vision of the future, at least on their 7-day Caribbean and Alaska cruises. Like VOLENDAM and ZAANDAM a few years ago, HAL has made a point of saying that this ship is designed to appeal to a new generation of cruisers. I guess this means that the twins were not quite successful at this ;-)... That said they have certainly taken a much more aggressive approach with ZUIDERDAM, using a totally new design rather than simply a tweaked STATENDAM-class. We will see later on whether she lives up to her promises in this respect... A little technical background - she is, as noted above, 81,769 GRT; at 950 ft long and 106 ft wide she is of Panamax breadth and is only a few feet short of the maximum to go through the Canal as well. She is loosely based on Carnival Corporation's 8000-series ships; these included CARNIVAL SPIRIT and COSTA ATLANTICA among others. She is powered by five diesel and one gas turbine generators, which provide electricity for onboard use as well as for her two ABB Azipod propulsion units. ZUIDERDAM carries 1,848 passengers in lower berths with a generous space ratio of approximately 44.2 GRT per passenger with all lower berths full. Fully two-thirds of her cabins have private balconies, bowing to a trend that has taken the industry by storm in recent years. EMBARKATION: We arrived at Port Everglades' Terminal 26 at approximately 1:30 PM on 19 April. HAL's embarkation procedure is by far the worst (most time-consuming) that we have seen, and was the source of much frustration for many passengers. Upon arriving at the terminal, passengers wait on a line where they are given a number (ours was 32), and several forms not included in the document package. After detouring to fill out the forms, one then goes to another line to check-in and receive their ID cards. There is then a third line for the security photo which is embedded on the ID cards, as is typical of the high-tech security systems on the latest ships. After completing this process (which takes in total about a half-hour), you are directed to a large waiting area (actually the same room where all the other procedures took place) to sit and wait until your "number" is called for boarding. When we arrived they were calling number 14; by the time we sat down they had gone to 17. It is this part of the boarding procedure which comes across as frankly quite useless, not to mention time-consuming. On other cruise lines, after checking-in, you can (if the ship is ready) simply proceed right to the gangway and board. While there is understandably a continuous stream of people walking on to the ship, we see no problem with this procedure. In comparison, on HAL, they called a number roughly every ten minutes, at which a few dozen people would stand up and walk aboard, followed by another ten-minute lull with no activity whatsoever. Even airlines generally call the next group as soon as one has boarded, so this procedure is honestly quite perplexing. In all we waited about two hours in the noisy, crowded, not especially comfortable waiting area, while on other cruise lines this entire step is eliminated. HAL, you can do better! Note: Reports from later cruises indicate that the embarkation procedure has been significantly changed and improved, so the procedure which we so disliked on our cruise has presumably been replaced by a (hopefully) better one. CABINS AND SUITES: Upon boarding we were directed (not escorted) to our cabin - 1015, a large inside Cat. J on Main Deck... i.e., the cheap seats :-). We found the cabin to be rather disappointing. It was quite large (I'd judge around 180 sq ft, which is also indicated in the HAL brochure, but cabin sizes vary greatly on this ship) however the layout and design is quite awkward, as you can see from the photographs in my gallery. The storage space was also rather limited for such a large cabin - showing poor space utilization. Furthermore the dEcor was quite sparse (not even a painting, mirror, or curtains behind the bed - just a blank wall), and the furnishings seemed to be of a very low quality. The bathroom was surprisingly not very good either - a very small shower stall, which had the disadvantage of an opaque shower curtain and no light within; the result is showering in complete darkness which caused me to spill out the entire little bottle of shampoo the first night out :-). The bathroom was (as is common on new ships) made almost entirely of a composite (fiberglass?) liner, but unusually, there was not even a small tiled inset in the floor... Rather the plastic was molded in an imitation of tile, with large squares of a mottled, raised design that were separated by grooves representing tile and grout respectively. Very cheap and tacky. It is worth noting that not all cabins on this ship are created equal, especially in the lower grades... So choose carefully. If looking for an inside cabin, do choose one of the Cat. J or K grades on main deck or one of the Cat. I cabins. These are classified as "large" rather than "standard" and are indeed much larger; the ones I saw all had some form of sitting area. I must have seen at least three or four different layouts to the inside cabins, and it is impossible to tell from the deck plans which are which... So choose carefully. Unfortunately I can't tell you which cabins are which, and I haven't found anyone who can! The standard outside cabins are quite like those seen on other HAL ships, while the balcony rooms are essentially standard outsides, but with balconies (unlike other HAL ships where they are slightly larger and called "mini-suites"). The suites - from what I saw - looked nice enough. It's worth noting that the dEcor in the balcony cabins and suites was much nicer... As they comprise two-thirds of her accommodation, it almost looks as if they ran out of money for the lowest grades. Do note that none of the suites, except the two penthouses, are actual suites; i.e. you cannot separate the sitting and sleeping areas - not even with a curtain. Even in many standard cabins it would seem as though one could easily be fitted, but it was not. PUBLIC AREAS: We start our tour of ZUIDERDAM's public areas on Deck 1 (Main Deck), the lowest passenger deck on the ship. Amidships is the lowest level of the Atrium. The Atrium is three decks high, and culminates at the top with a large Waterford crystal seahorse sculpture. The Atrium Bar is located on the lowest level of the Atrium, along with the Front Office and the Shore Excursions Desk. The Bar is located at the center of the three-deck Atrium, and is surrounded by a free-form shape area of white marble decking. Along a curved wall behind the bar is seating with turquoise leather chairs and caramel-colored settees, as well as gold-colored cocktail tables. The wall behind this area is in dark suede and has fiber optic "points of light" which twinkle in the image of a night sky. Set in this wall is a glass display case which contains a BEAUTIFUL antique silver ship model. (This is typical of the art collection on the ship, which is one of her strong points as far as design is concerned; it is really excellent in terms of enhancing the ship's dEcor if not necessarily as stand-alone art. While there are some lovely original artworks and artifacts throughout, there are also some fake ones which are aesthetically lovely but which simply do not live up to the "museum-quality" billing that HAL gives their art collection.) In this area passengers will notice for the first time the specially-designed stain-hiding carpet which is a common thread throughout the ship. It consists of various blotch-like shapes and patterns in different colors designed so that stains will blend in with the random-looking pattern. In certain color combinations, it is truly ghastly in appearance. This carpeting is featured in almost all of the public areas of the ship, though in some places plain (non-patterned) carpet is used to provide relief from this particularly bold pattern. The colors of the pattern are different in many areas so as to compliment the color combinations of the room. The rest of Deck 1 is dedicated to passenger cabins. All the way forward, is the lowest level of the Vista Lounge, the main lounge on the ZUIDERDAM. The lounge is designed to be entered from Decks 2 and 3; however there is also a Deck 1 entrance, through which we will now walk. The Vista Lounge can seat about 800 passengers at any one time, and spans three decks. The Orchestra is suspended between Decks 1 and 2, while the balcony descends from Deck 3. The room is decorated almost entirely in bright red, in a dEcor scheme that would surely cause an angry bull to have a nervous breakdown. Seating is mainly in settees in red velvet, though near the stage there is a wooden dance floor which is covered by individual chairs in the same fabric when it is not in use. The carpeting is the inevitable stain-hiding pattern, this time in a color scheme predictably centered on red. The columns are in red velvet with brass trim. The ceilings are in red suede. I imagine by now you get the picture... Along the sides of the room on the lower level, there are bronze-colored fixtures each one deck high, designed in the imitation of oversized table lamps. The only relief from red in most of the room is the brown and purple patterned wall covering. However, in the three-deck high center area, the ceiling is draped by a billowing silk parachute in a white-and-red pattern likened by many passengers to the corporate logo of the American discount store chain Target. It is certainly an imaginative ceiling treatment, though sadly the rest of the room's monotone dEcor does not impress except for die-hard fans of red velvet! The room's biggest problem is most certainly not its dEcor though... It is the incredible number of pillars scattered around. Other cruise lines have in recent years managed to conceive of rooms larger than this that are designed so that there are no obstructions to the sightlines of any seat, and I fail to see why HAL could not do this as well. Unfortunately they have failed miserably in this aspect, as in fact a majority of seats would seem to have a pillar directly obstructing their view of the stage. Not only is there such a profusion of pillars, but the seats are arranged in such a way that the pillars affect a maximum number of viewers. Whereas it would make sense for the pillars to come between the seats and the adjacent aisles, the seats are arranged so that pillars come directly in the midst of large rows of seats, directly obstructing the views of the seats behind and to the sides. The room is connected by two spiral staircases, one on each side of the ship. Using one of these, we ascend to Deck 2, Lower Promenade Deck. Deck 2 houses a majority of the more intimate public areas of the ship. Moving aft from the Vista Lounge, we pass through the forward (red) staircase and come upon a foyer directly aft of it, in which another staircase, connecting only Decks 2 and 3, is located. An interesting woven wall covering is featured here, and along this staircase the ship's port plaques are displayed. The forward staircase also has four passenger lifts, correspondingly decorated in red. The lifts on decks where public spaces are housed feature an elaborate metal engraving which looks like it would easily have fit in on NORMANDIE. Moving through the foyer we come to the Casino, which for a ship of this size, is not very large, and on our cruise, was not very well patronized for that matter. The dEcor here is typically orange and red, with a mirrored ceiling. Off the forward/starboard corner of this room is the Piano Bar. The focal point of this room is a grand piano around which is built a small bar - a design feature which ZUIDEDRDAM borrows from the ships of HAL's parent company, Carnival. The room has a very bold dEcor, with curved, coral-colored ceiling panels, coral and dark green leather seating, and dark green iridescent wall covering. Bar seats appear to be hollowed-out spheres and are covered in the dark green leather. A live pianist was indeed featured in this room each evening, as would be expected considering its name. In the aft starboard corner of the full-beam casino, you will find the Sports Bar. The dEcor here is perhaps more radical than anywhere else on the ship. This tiny room has blonde wood-effect paneling, myriad flat-screen televisions, large and small, showing the requisite sports for which it is named, and a black lacquer bar. The furnishings are in brightly colored vinyl, and oddly shaped in curved forms that look almost as though they were carved out of fruit. The dEcor here is certainly rather shocking to see for the first time, and a complete departure from what one might expect to find on a ship of the normally conservative HAL. Opposite the Sports Bar, on the port side, is the Northern Lights nightclub, which along with the Sports Bar is one of the more radical rooms on the ship. Entering through the Casino, we pass a bar, which features stools similar to those in the Piano bar, but this time in bright gold. The dEcor in the Northern Lights is typically dark for a nightclub, with black wall coverings, black overheads, and a dark violet floor. Settees here are in a black-and-white spotted vinyl imitating cowhide, and are accompanied by white chairs. Immediately next to the aft exit of Northern Lights is the "back door" to the Queens Lounge. This is a combination cinema and also as the name suggests a lounge. Unfortunately, it does neither very well. The dEcor here is again eclectic and bold, though in comparison with the Sports Bar and Northern Lights it is almost restful. Again the predominant colors are dark, with dark red wall coverings, settees in dark red and gold, tub chairs in gold, and smaller chairs in bright orange. The chairs are arranged in a horseshoe shape around the smallish stage, and there are few pillars. The failure of this room as a cinema is that almost all of it is on one level which means that sightlines are quite poor unless you are quite literally in the front row. As a lounge, while it does have a large dance floor, the chairs are for the most part arranged in the format of a theatre, in rows, which are not conducive to conversation. So I will have to give a thumbs-down to HAL for dumping the genuine cinema and replacing it with this dual-purpose room which is good for neither purpose. The fact is, during our cruise, the Queens Lounge was used for nothing that could not be done every bit as well in the traditional cinema/auditorium. Exiting the Queen's Lounge using the main entrance, there is a curved passageway which is the starboard side boundary of the lounge (on the port side, it is the aft portion of Northern Lights). Moving aft again, this passageway leads us through the main (blue) stairs. It is here that you will find the much-touted exterior glass lifts. There are six lifts on this staircase, a pair of glass ones on either side, and a pair of the more standard type in the center. The call buttons for each pair of elevators only calls that pair, unlike the other staircases where all four elevators are called. While those are admittedly closer to each other, it would be more efficient to have all elevators in each staircase operate off a single call button. Crossing over to the port side, we come along Odyssey, the controversial alternative restaurant located on the port side of the Atrium here on deck 2. The controversy stems from the fact that the food here is extra cost - something which has never before occurred on HAL (though the phenomenon hit most other cruise lines a few years ago). The dEcor of the room is very interesting. The first thing that will likely strike you are the chairs - huge, heavy metal chairs in an ornate design which is quite indescribable outside of a photograph. The decking is white marble, and on the ceiling are large fiberglass plates in the shape of sea rays, with fiber optic veins in them that sparkle and twinkle discreetly above. The artwork is in my opinion rather less successful - it consists of huge still life photographs of various foods, which to me looks like it belongs in a grocery! Moving aft on the starboard side of the Atrium on Deck 2 is the Windstar Cafe. This is essentially a coffee bar in the fashion of the ever-popular Starbucks (in a departure from HAL tradition, all items are extra-charge), but with a rather more nautical dEcor. Indeed it is in my opinion one of the most attractive spaces on the ship. The ceiling is gently cambered and done in brilliant blue-green suede with copper lighting clusters. Along the outboard side are large windows which can be covered by opaque wooden latticework panels, rather than curtains. On the inboard side are half-height walls which are covered by huge enlargements of photographs of sailing ships. The furniture in this room is especially nice - wooden "deck furniture" with the HAL logo engraved. At the aft end is a large model of WIND STAR, the first ship of HAL subsidiary Windstar Cruises and the pioneer of the modern sail-cruise ship (really sail-assisted, rather than traditional sailing vessels which have the wind as their main power source). Overall it is a stunning space, one of the best on the ship. Going aft of the Windstar Cafe is Explorers Lounge, a signature room for HAL, which should be a relief to HAL loyalists who might not agree with some of the more avant-garde dEcor on the ship. We pass through the first of two round vestibules here, which feature beautiful glass decking laid over a sea-themed painting. Moving past this we come to a large glass display case containing several Venetian Carnival costumes, followed by a second round vestibule which marks the aft end of the Art Gallery. Beyond this we finally enter Explorers. The dEcor here features a restful color scheme, mainly using dark reds along with dark wood veneer. Along the inboard passageway, separated from the lounge by a half-height wall, is a large mural of the harbor of Venice. The lounge itself is divided in two by the piano and musicians' alcove. In the aft section, the dEcor lightens up slightly, with soft beige fabric on some of the sofas and chairs providing a break from the dark reds and browns which dominate the room. At the very aft end of Explorers is a small room that could pass for a miniaturized version of the library of an English manor house. The floor is inlaid wood, and the room has dark paneling and deep, traditional leather furniture. There are several bookshelves here, which were all totally empty. The room would work as a smoking room (for which the dEcor is quite appropriate) as it can be closed off entirely by heavy wood-and-glass doors, so as to keep smoke from the other areas. (Of course, the ship HAS a smoking room, elsewhere!) As far as I know, this room does not have a name, and we saw nobody using it at any time through the whole cruise. I have no idea of its intended purpose; in its present state, it looks almost unfinished with all the empty bookshelves and the complete lack of people. I'd say most passengers likely don't even know it's there! We now come to the aft (magenta) staircase. Off this vestibule is the Lower Vista Dining Room. The name here is rather confusing, seeing as there is also a Vista Lounge. Initial HAL publicity called this the La Fontaine Dining Room (a traditional HAL name) which I feel would have been more suitable. Red is again the predominant color in the dining room, though the use thereof is much more subdued than in the Vista Lounge. The dining room features windows on three sides and is two decks high, though this is not as dramatic as it is in the dining rooms of ZUIDERDAM's predecessors - the rather small central atrium is filled mostly with a large staircase and also with a musicians' balcony which did not host any musicians at all during our cruise (or if it did, we certainly couldn't hear them)! The dining room is relatively restrained in its dEcor for the most part, with the exception of a few points, notably the heavy, black lacquer-framed chairs in bright red vinyl with the back panels in vinyl in a bright print of large flowers. The design of these chairs did not win many compliments that I heard, and I would tend to agree that they are not the most attractive choice, though you do get used to them after a while! Also, as we ascend to the upper level of the dining room, in the center are large, gold flowers hanging from the ceiling, which are certainly not restrained... I did not get to see one of these up close and am perplexed as to just what they are made of. Whatever they are, they're positively hideous in my opinion. In general the dining room is rather disappointing; it is quite generic in appearance and even rather gaudy in some places as mentioned above. We now exit the Upper Vista Dining Room on Deck 3, Promenade Deck. This deck is circled outside by a full wrap-around teak promenade deck (shaded in most parts either by the deck above or by lifeboats), which features traditional wooden steamer chairs that are provided with cushioned pads during the day. Well done, HAL! Inside, we proceed forward from the aft staircase through the photo gallery, on the starboard side. There is not that much to be said about this area, except for a rather interesting aluminum chair, apparently designed to look as though it came from an antique airplane, which is housed here, presumably as art! It is worth noting that the rest of the beam of this area (as well as the corresponding area, housing Explorers Lounge on Deck 2) is taken up by the galley for the main dining room and Odyssey. Moving forward we enter the Ocean Bar, which is another signature feature of HAL ships, though the layout here is quite novel. The Ocean Bar consists of the entire upper level of the atrium, with raised, enclosed sections on the sides, as well as seating open to the atrium in the center... The place to sit for a good view of the seahorse! Colors here are primarily coral and turquoise with pastel-blue patterned bulkheads, and in one of the various alcoves is the namesake bar - quite attractive in what is almost a sort of 1940s streamline style. Out in the open area, there is a smallish dance floor of S-shaped brass tiles - very attractive and unique. This is overall one of the better areas on the ship, in dEcor if not in layout. We now move forward past the midships stairwell and on to the shopping arcade. Whereas most ships have a variety of different shops, on ZUIDERDAM this is a full-beam area which is rather like a department store, with all of the various categories, from jewelry to logo items to sundries all in the same area, which is divided up by interesting colored-glass display cases. There's really very little to say about this area; aside from a bottle of sunburn-relief spray (story later on!) we bought nothing so I really cannot advise on prices, selection etc. To the starboard side just forward of the shopping arcade is the Erasmus Library. This is a very interesting room, with a large inlaid-stone research table that is made to appear as though it is a historical artifact. This contrasts with the modern furniture, in bright colors, and dark blue bulkheads to make a very attractive space. The ceiling is worth noting; it features small niches, each of which contains a molding in the shape of a book-binding. Hard to describe, but it's rather whimsical and quite attractive in person :-). Moving forward on the starboard side we find the Java Corner, which does not appear to be used except for the on-board tailoring service. It has rather pleasant dEcor, with interesting tan leather chairs and light wood veneer. On the port side are the ship's three "all-purpose" rooms for meetings, card games, etc., the Hudson, Half Moon, and Stuyvesant rooms. They're really quite ordinary, but attractive enough, and certainly functional for their purpose. Besides, the names remind me of home :-)! Moving forward again is the forward staircase and then the entrance to the balcony of the Vista Lounge. Decks 4-8 contain the majority of the ship's passenger accommodation. We therefore move all the way up to Lido Deck, 9, where off the forward staircase we find the Greenhouse Spa & Salon. From a brief look it appears to be large and well-equipped, on par with similar facilities on other ships. It includes a salon, spa treatment rooms, sauna, gymnasium, and a "thermal suite" for aromatherapy and the like. Just aft of the forward stairs is the Hydrotherapy Pool. There is a charge of $15 per day for the use of this indoor pool, which appears to be rather like a giant Jacuzzi tub. Needless to say we did not pay the $15 so I cannot comment on the experience :-)... However the dEcor in here is worth a look, with large (Moorish?) columns and an interesting skylight which is covered up by a silk parachute. The point of this escapes me, but it's certainly different :-)... We now move aft to the Lido Pool, the ship's main pool which features the obligatory Magradome. This is quite large, with rubberized (Bolideck?) deck covering (not teak) and plenty of deck chairs. Interestingly, the Magradome was kept only partially open during our cruise, despite beautiful weather the whole time. At the foot of the pool is a statue of too large polar bears... When the ship came out, I and a couple of other people said immediately that they looked TOO WHITE, a comment which brought a lot of laughs... After all, what color are polar bears going to be? (Well, on AMSTERDAM they're a sort of bronze color, but then they're not polar bears!) Unfortunately they ARE too white, and too big... From most angles the immense white bears blend right into the scene; all that stands out are the eyes and noses. What's more, they're rather too large for the area; when the Magradome is closing (or even closed) one gets the impression from some angles that the larger of the poor beasts is going to be decapitated :-)! Aft is the Lido Bar, notable for its dolphin (the fish, not the mammal) shaped stools. Also back here is a grove of trees, made up of flexible metal tubing rather like that of my gooseneck desk lamp. At the end of these are small round lights. Unfortunately they have the opposite problem as the polar bears; due to the height of the dome they're quite small "trees" and the taller amongst us are liable to bump into them! Aside from their questionable artistic value (gooseneck lamp trees?!) they are quite impractical. Aft of this we find the traditional companion to the Lido Pool, the Lido Restaurant. On ZUIDERDAM it has a new twist - rather than the typical buffet, there are various "stations" for different types of cuisine. At first this can be quite confusing for those of us used to each buffet having the same items as the next; but after a while we got used to it and in the end came to like it very much... More in the "dining" section. As for the dEcor, it's also a twist on the traditional Lido... The usual colored glass lamps are here in a soft translucent plastic instead. The traditional light wood paneling is here too; but the contemporary furniture looks like it came from IKEA (I like it). The ceiling is perhaps most interesting; it is printed to look like a blue sky with wispy clouds. Interesting effect, but the wispy clouds often have flat edges to them where there are seams in between the ceiling tiles! Also of note are several large urns, a beautiful mural of flowers which graces the central dining areas, and a yellow (!) grand piano which we never saw used. Finally we come to the Aft Pool, the second (and also quite large) pool on the ship. This is the more traditional fantail pool, this time with teak decking, and again with plenty of space for deck chairs. This is also generally the venue for the poolside games, entertainment, etc. Personally I prefer it to the Lido Pool, but both were quite busy during this jam-packed holiday sailing. Going up the outdoor stairs, we move up to Observation Deck. Here we find a vast expanse of (mostly teak) deck space, partially empty and partially with loungers, all fully exposed to the sun (OK, the funnels do cast a FEW shadows...). Most of the time this area was quite empty, and it was quite enjoyable to walk around up here and view the scenery (what scenery there was!) from WAY, WAY above the sea... Amidships on this deck are the golf simulator, game room, and children's facilities, none of which I ever did see. All the way forward on this deck is the traditional Crows Nest lounge. As on many recent HAL ships, it is subdivided into three areas - the central lounge, and two more intimate side areas with different dEcor. In this case, the area on the port side is open to the main room, whereas the starboard alcove is closed off and features a completely different dEcor. The main room and starboard alcove are done predominantly in bright blues and greens, while the starboard-side room is quite attractive with rattan furniture (the exception being the room's centerpiece, a HUGE, very ornate chair that might be used as a throne), inlaid marble flooring, light wood paneling and light earth tones. The main attraction of the Crows Nest is its spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, providing spectacular 270° views from ten decks above the sea. At the forward portion are a large number of blue leather chaises for those wishing to relax and watch the world go by... Also, aft of the port-side alcove is the Oak Room, the ship's smoking room. This features quite modern dEcor, with even more of the ubiquitous pale wood paneling and furnishings, and an elaborate carved mantelpiece which sadly cannot contain a fireplace due to safety regulations. The treatment of this was quite odd; there was simply a large black board covered in felt plugging up the mantle. Perhaps a faux fireplace with a few logs inside (giving the impression that it might sometime be used) would be more appropriate? Above the Crows Nest, on Deck 11 forward, is the observation deck. It is unfortunately not great for observing, as it is surrounded by full-height wind baffles all around which unfortunately have extremely dark tinted glass that is quite difficult to see through. Up here the decking is fake teak (unlike all of the other similar areas, except one small patch on each side of the ship on Deck 10), and loungers (cheaper plastic-and-mesh ones) are the primary occupants of this space. At the center is the interesting radar mast; it is comprised of a sort of metal grille. Up the center appeared to be a sort of broad yellow tubing... If anyone sees the photo of the radar mast in my gallery and can tell me what this is, I would be most interested. That concludes our tour, as we've exhausted all of her public space... A good thing otherwise this review would REALLY be too long :-)! All in all I quite like this ship's public areas, except for the main (Vista) lounge, Queens Lounge, and the dining room, all of which I thought were quite lackluster. The other (smaller) public areas however show an incredible variety as well as really fascinating details in the dEcor; after a week on the ship I was still noticing new "little things" everywhere I went. Also notable is the ship's excellent art collection, there are many lovely pieces throughout the ship's public areas to enjoy... My favorites of course being Stephen Card's great paintings (as always). DINING: Overall we found the dining experience on ZUIDERDAM to be quite good... Certainly better than we've experienced on other mass-market ships recently. In the dining room, we found the menus to be both well-planned and extensive, with very good presentation and taste... Everything came just as it was described on the menu, with hot food coming hot, cold food coming cold, and so on. There's nothing extraordinary about the food - it is after all really just banquet food, as is the case on ALL large ships, but this was about as good as banquet food gets. Of special note was Dutch Night - the Dover Sole I had that night was probably the best food I ate the entire cruise, including the Odyssey. Breakfast in the dining room was quite good, with the full selection of American and British breakfast items as well as Continental breakfast naturally available for those wanting "light fare". We did not eat lunch in the dining room at all, so cannot comment on that. As far as the Lido goes, it is BY FAR the finest casual dining area we've seen on a ship. The selection is positively astounding, and we never got around to trying everything! It is divided into several stations, including Italian, Asian, Delicatessen, Salads, Bistro (main hot entrees), Grill, Sweets and so on. As I said, we didn't get to try everything, but all of it was really quite good! Considering how awful the casual food offerings are on many other ships, HAL really puts them to shame... The Lido is TRULY superb. At breakfast, the various stations are transformed to do duty for various items. Eggs are made to order here, not served out of a huge tray, and again the variety was excellent and the quality, quite frankly, amazing. Even items that are normally a "no-no" at buffets (for instance bacon) were astoundingly fresh. I don't know how they do it :-)! It's also worth noting that real china, cloth napkins, glassware, etc. are used here, unlike some other cruise lines. In particular we have always seen plastic glasses at similar dining areas on other cruise lines, and on occasion even encountered paper napkins, so it was good to see that they did not skimp in this regard... At dinner the Lido is transformed into a casual alternative with tablecloths, china, etc. and partial waiter service... We did not go up there during that time period, but did see them setting up, and also viewed the menus, and it looked quite nice. The one weakness of the Lido is that the hours for many of the stations are rather limited... For instance, I went in search of a bowl of fruit at 2:30 PM and could find one. Generally other lines schedule an "afternoon snack" in between lunch and dinner, but not HAL. A minor issue though - the Lido is truly excellent and HAL should be commended for their industry-leading standard in this area! The third option for dinner is of course the Odyssey (or Pinnacle Grill, as it is now being styled). This is an upscale American restaurant (i.e. steakhouse) for which there is a $20 per person charge. We thought the charge was quite reasonable for the experience provided; the meats and various accompaniments were excellent and a similar meal on shore would cost easily twice as much, if not more. Personally I could do without an option like this - the food in the dining room was more than sufficient - but it is a fine value for those who like to have an extra option. ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment is really not a focal point of a cruise for us - it's just something to do at night after dinner :-). I found the entertainment to be fine; nothing spectacular but certainly adequate. The production shows were rather low-budget; there was no live orchestra and they were OK, but nothing special. Frankly I find most cruise ship production shows to be rather alike, and I have already forgotten which ones were on ZUIDERDAM :-). The guest entertainers, in my opinion, were considerably better than the production shows. Of special note was pianist Paul Pappas who has just started an exclusive contract with HAL and is a real asset to the entertainment program. In addition to two (well, one and a half) nighttime shows, he also held a daytime concert on the second sea day which was standing-room only. There was also a comedian/magician, Sam Simon, who was also quite good... Not everyone appreciated his rather dry sense of humor, but personally I got a few good laughs :-). I can see why some people might tire of it though... PORTS OF CALL: FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Lots of ship sightings at our home port, including MONARCH OF THE SEAS, GOLDEN PRINCESS, ISLAND ADVENTURE, OCEANBREEZE, CARNIVAL LEGEND, CENTURY... KEY WEST, FLORIDA: We basically just walked around in town and enjoyed the atmosphere here... We've been to Key West many times (not on cruises) and like the place very much. Unfortunately we headed back to the ship quite early as it was sweltering hot that day! This was our maiden call at Key West, and there were no other ships in port that day, aside from a visiting Royal Navy vessel berthed nearby. COZUMEL, MEXICO: We had previously only been to the mainland, so this time we decided to take a tour of the island... Frankly we found this quite dull, as there is, surprisingly, not very much ON Cozumel. I'm rather puzzled as to whether so many ships stop here, in fact. And ships there were - along with us, we found ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS, GALAXY, JUBILEE, and last but not least SENSATION (berthed right alongside us). Nothing very exciting, but nice to see a few ships nevertheless. It was the first time we'd seen another cruise ship in a few days in fact. GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN: This time we decided to take a Nautilus semi-submersible. We had done this previously in Aruba, and thought Grand Cayman's was superior. We saw two rather interesting wrecks and a large profusion of marine life. A nice way to see underwater, but without getting wet... In port today were several billion dollars' worth of cruise ships, including CARNIVAL TRIUMPH, GRAND PRINCESS, NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS, and SUMMIT. Three post-Panamax ships in the same port in one day! Not to mention the profusion of tenders as Grand Cayman has no cruise-ship pier... HALF MOON CAY, BAHAMAS: HAL's private island proved to be the big surprise of the trip. It was far, far nicer than other similar private islands we've been to (Labadee and Coco Cay). HMC is far more developed than others we've seen, and had really beautiful, uncrowded beaches. The food was adequate, nothing special, but then what do you expect on a desert island ;-)? Unfortunately, despite factor 45 sunblock, I managed to get terrible sunburn on this last day of the cruise. So much for "waterproof for up to two hours exposure", etc.! Naturally there were no other ships in port with us today... FLOTSAM AND JETSAM (general comments and observations): - Service throughout the ship was adequate, though in most cases not especially friendly. It would appear as perhaps the crew is still rather unsettled on this new ship. - We found a few noticeable cutbacks, including VERY skimpy daily programs, consisting of a single letter-size page (not folded). I just obtained a few daily programs from a recent cruise on another HAL ship; they appear to still be the "normal" ones. - There are no self-service laundries, in a departure from HAL tradition. Interestingly, the "Know Before You Go" booklet still indicates that there are self-service laundries on all ships in the fleet. - There is excessive vibration on the lower level of the dining room, all the way aft. It is not known whether this is due to broken or damaged equipment, or if it is from a design flaw... Regardless, it is NOT supposed to vibrate this much ;-). Luckily it would not seem to affect any cabin areas, where it could be quite disconcerting. - The ship's sign maker ought to be thrown overboard ;-)! Amongst other errors, in every stairwell you will find a plaque telling you to "please no use the lifts in the event of an emergency"... IN SUMMATION: In most ways, ZUIDERDAM is a very good new addition to the HAL fleet, which will perhaps bring in some of their much sought-after younger clientele. Certainly moving to a larger ship with more varied dEcor and a few more facilities (dedicated nightclub, smoking room) will help. The food was excellent; entertainment and service were quite adequate... In general, a very good cruise. On the other hand, it is surprising to see that a company like Carnival Corporation, with so much experience and money, would make so many mistakes in the design of a ship... For instance the poor design and furnishing of the cabins, poor sightlines in the main lounge and Queens Lounge, disappointing dining room, and so on. In some ways this would seem to be a step backward from the very well-received STATENDAM-class. Hopefully some of these issues will be rectified on ZUIDERDAM's newer sisters and also on Cunard's QUEEN VICTORIA. Would I recommend ZUIDERDAM? Depending on itinerary, price, and the other ships available, yes. Would I go again? Yes, but not on this itinerary, we're all quite tired of the Caribbean already, at least this part of it. My preference is always to try something new, so obviously that disqualifies her in most cases, but notwithstanding that, I'd certainly have no objection to sailing in this ship again. Finally, for photos from this cruise please see: http://shiploverny.fotki.com/zuiderdam/ Read Less
Sail Date: January 2003
Our background- couple, married 31 years, both self-employed, travel frequently (a trip to New Zealand and 2 Caribbean cruises in last twelve months). This was my 6th HAL cruise and hubby's 3rd. The decision to go on this cruise was ... Read More
Our background- couple, married 31 years, both self-employed, travel frequently (a trip to New Zealand and 2 Caribbean cruises in last twelve months). This was my 6th HAL cruise and hubby's 3rd. The decision to go on this cruise was made at the last minute (Jan 3) and our choices were the Veendam out of Tampa, Zaandam out of Port Canaveral or the Zuiderdam out of Ft. Lauderdale. Destination didn't matter and airfare was about the same. Our choice of the Zuiderdam was based on the fact that we knew that Fort Lauderdale was an easy connection to the ship and we could get a verandah guarantee for less than a thousand dollars p.p. We normally take an "S" suite but thought we'd give this a shot. TA warned us this room would be small compared to what we're used to. About a week before sailing, we got an offer to upgrade to a "S" suite for an additional $275 pp. The only catch was, the suites available were either on the back corners or on the side right by the glass elevators. We chose #7132, aft, port side. A few days later, despite the chance to upgrade further to the penthouse for a fantastic price, we stayed with #7132. January 25 we awoke at 4:30 a.m. to get ready to go to the airport (DFW) for a 7:30 a.m. flight. We left home at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the airport at 6 a.m. As hubby got out to check the bags curbside, we discovered the hanging bag with the formal clothes was still at home! Mad dash back home, back to airport arriving at 7 a.m. Despite a problem with one bag's ticket, we got checked in only to have me get selected for a "wanding" in security. While I was getting a good "once over" we heard them announce our flight for boarding. We just did make it! The flight on AA was fine and we had the most attentive flight attendant I've ever encountered. Got to FLL a little ahead of time, got our luggage and in a cab. Check in was easy, all our documents were filled out and we got in the "suite" line. We were given priority boarding passes and told we would be allowed to board about 1:00 p.m. Check-in has been moved into the luggage terminal due to the number of passengers. After room-keys were issued, security photos were taken. Found seats upstairs across from a nice couple from Georgia and passed the time talking cruises with them. At right about 1:00, they came for the wheel-chair passengers and priority passengers were next. Photographs were taken and we were on board. First big change, no officer greeting us and handing us off to an escort to our room. Once we arrived on deck 7, though, there was a steward to escort us to our room, and no, I didn't care much for the new uniforms, a little blah to my taste. The room itself was a little smaller than the usual suite but the verandah more than made up for it. The verandah was L-Shaped, with a table and 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs with ottomans, and 2 chaise lounges. The bed was made up as a king, there was a full length couch, side chair, glass coffee table and a chair at the built in desk. The only electrical outlet was above the desk so I was glad I had brought my faithful extension cord. There was just enough room to walk between the table and bed and I can't imagine how you would function if the sofa were made out into a bed. Two nightstands had two drawers each (each one had one locking drawer). There were three sections of closet, one with a rod (lots of hangers), the other two had shelves (and rods) and the safe (combination, not credit card activated) was in one of those. The bed had two drawers at the foot (one with extra bedding) but plenty of room for the suitcases. The minibar was stocked and at our request some of the soft drinks were replaced with our favorite. A bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne as well as a basket of fruit were on the bar. Rubai, our steward, told us just to let him know when we wanted them iced down and we did. We went up to the Lido for lunch and to get familiar with the "food court" concept. Hubby opted for a sandwich (the first station we came to) and I had the salad bar and excellent prime rib with mashed potatoes. The new concept was confusing to most people for the first couple days. There were stations for sandwiches, hot entrees, pizza and pasta, oriental, desserts, etc. The famous bread pudding stood alone however, on the drink station! Didn't find it until the second or third day. The rest of the trip found me at the pasta station every day for lunch, those who tried the pizza raved about it. I missed having someone hand me my tray with the menu card on it, another change. We took the ship's tour to get familiar with the layout and it was okay but spent way too much time in the spa, selling their services. There was a separate spa tour you could take and we ended up with them. There are three banks of elevators on the ship (color-coded), red (forward), blue (mid) and wine (aft). There are also glass exterior elevators at mid-ship. Those were fun to ride but some of the railings were broken or missing altogether. Up to the aft deck for 5:00 p.m. Sail Away party. We had only brought shorts and short sleeved shirts----we were freezing! It was so cold everyone had on jackets and we didn't actually leave until 6:00 so after a drink we went downstairs to our room and put on our bathrobes (no belts with them until we asked) and went out on our verandah. Let 'em laugh! Dinner was second seating, table A, an oval for eight just as you entered the upstairs dining room. First night, there were only four of us there. Waiter was RRRRRRudi, (his pronunciation), okay but not great. He did have iced tea waiting for us every night after the first. Food was satisfactory but not really great throughout the trip with a couple exceptions. Never did get the assistant's name and we only saw the table captain a couple times, no real service from him. Sunday the 26th was in Nassau Bahamas. As it was a Sunday morning, most of the stores were closed. As we had been to Nassau on a previous cruise, we didn't care to take any tours and only walked into town for a few minutes. This was also Super Bowl Sunday and the ship hosted a watching party in the Neptune Lounge for the suite occupants. As a result, we missed the Captain's Reception (this was also first formal night). We had a chance to meet the Captain and Hotel Manager at a cocktail party the previous night in the Queen's Lounge. We had sailed with Captain Mercer on the Veendam in 1999 along with Cruise Director, Shawn Cavanah. Missing was the Ship's Hostess, a position HAL has eliminated from its ships. Another change, not necessarily for the better. We felt the hostess lent a certain style to the cruise. I don't know if the next item is necessarily a change but in all my HAL cruises, on formal nights we have always had a ship's officer join us at our table for dinner. Not on this cruise. There were of course, the ubiquitous Bingo Announcements heard throughout the ship. The daily program was down from 4 pages to 2. Another change. About the only activity we participated in was Trivia. The teams are down from 6 members to 4 (fewer prizes) and the one time that my team won, we got a single deck of cards. Immediately after boarding, we had gone to the Neptune Lounge to make a reservation for dinner in the Odyssey. We went for the first time on Tuesday night and discovered 4 of our stalemates there also leaving one couple alone at our table for 8! After we finished, we went to the dining room and joined them for coffee and dessert. I ordered the petite filet and I think it was definitely the best meal of the week. Perfectly prepared. Service was perhaps a little slow. Two mornings we had breakfast in the Odyssey (a perk for suite passengers) but service was very slow and the food was found lacking. The menu is the same as the main dining room for breakfast and lunch. January 29th was our 31st wedding anniversary so our entire table went to the Odyssey for dinner. I love the look of the Odyssey, it's a shame the food and service aren't quite there yet. In St. Kitts, we only went ashore long to enough to walk to the end of the pier and take a photograph of the Zuiderdam and the Oceana berthed side by side. St. Thomas found us anchored outside the channel and forced to tender in. The tenders on the Zuiderdam look as though they are many years older than the ship. The rubber bumpers have come off in many cases and need to be replaced. We were told that they would be leaving one behind in Ft. Lauderdale to be repaired on each of the next few trips. Many passengers got frightened when the tenders got caught in rough water while boarding. Our departure from St. Thomas was delayed as a small boat was deployed to go back for 2 late passengers. This did allow us to see the departure of the other ships that were in St. Thomas that day. We attended a few of the shows in the Vista Lounge (yes, the dining room, lounge and class of ship all have the same name!) We found that the much-touted Royal Boxes do indeed have sight line problems as well as the upper rows of seats on the lower floor. After the first night we sat in the balcony (3rd floor). There were always plenty of empty seats available. I did notice the "odor" in the hallway close to the Queen's Lounge, it wasn't very pleasant but they always had a fan blowing in the hallways to help dissipate it. The staff member who conducted the ship's tour told us that there was indeed a problem with some of the public restrooms and suggested we use the facilities in our cabins whenever possible. She also said that additional public restrooms were being constructed in existing storage rooms. We did notice "out of service" signs on some restrooms. The stage in the Vista Lounge is much larger than on the other ships and the props more elaborate. The shows were new to us and I don't know if they are unique to the Zuiderdam or not. They didn't have the "Rock and Rolldies" show we had seen on previous cruises. (It was time for it to go in my opinion, even though it was fun to participate in it.) The Windstar Cafe is an additional source of revenue for the ship but we only went once and it didn't seem very busy. I could have lived without it. However, at home I drink my cup of coffee while I read the paper and have never walked into one of those "S*******" places. Menus in the dining room are reduced to one page and the selections did seem more limited. I compared copies of the Dutch night menu from this cruise and a previous cruise and found the entrees were mainly the same with fewer appetizers and of course only one salad offered most days. Copies of the evening's menu were delivered to our mailbox each day. It appeared that only applied to the suites. The Zuiderdam has a holder on the wall outside each room for the daily paper, tickets, ship mail, etc. that you used to find slipped under your door. My first impression of the ship was that it was a little too glitzy for me, (my favorite ship was the Veendam) but as the week went on the quirkiness of the dEcor began to grow on me. I have since seen photos of the ship that reflected areas I did not see. It is a big ship but once you learn your way around it's not too bad. On our last cruise on the Zaandam hubby complained the whole time that the ship was too big! We tended to stay in our suite as we enjoyed our verandah so much. No need to go to the pool and fight for a deck chair. Friday was Half Moon Cay, which we shared with the Zaandam (they got there first). We tendered over just to walk on the beach. It was cool enough that only a few people were in the water. If the weather had been nicer, it would have been very crowded on the island. It rained off and on while we were there. We had the barbecue lunch but were disappointed and wished we had gone back to the ship instead. We did have some plumbing problems (toilet that wouldn't flush early in the morning on a few occasions) and the showerhead in the walk-in shower wouldn't stay in place so we showered in the tub. My general impression is that HAL has indeed made some changes and cutbacks. Some of the problems we encountered were due to the fact that it is a new ship but it did seem that the staff was not quite as efficient or as friendly as on past cruises. Maybe this too will resolve itself with time. I feel some of the changes are due to the fact they seem to be aiming at a different demographic (younger, more families). While I understand the need to fill all these new ships, I sail on HAL because I like their style. Would the changes and problems stop me from sailing HAL and especially the Zuiderdam again----------------Absolutely Not! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2000
General Information -- The following is a detailed account of our cruise on the Zuiderdam from May 14-21, 2005. We are two professionals in our early 50's who are on our fourth cruise in only 24 months. Our first three trips took ... Read More
General Information -- The following is a detailed account of our cruise on the Zuiderdam from May 14-21, 2005. We are two professionals in our early 50's who are on our fourth cruise in only 24 months. Our first three trips took place on Princess ships to Alaska, Western Caribbean, and the Panama Canal. We found both positive and negative points on the Zuiderdam and will point them out in this review. The Zuiderdam is a large beautiful ship built in 2002. The interior color scheme is very unusual with oranges, blues and purples galore. These colors and the shape of the ceilings reminded us of the set using for the cartoon show, the Jetsons. There are a lot of nooks and crannies so we got the feeling we were almost alone on the ship. The atrium seemed smaller than on previous ships we had been on and did not go from the top to the bottom of the ship. There was an abundance of elevators - four each in the bow and aft and six in the center. Four of these center elevators were glass-enclosed and allowed us to see outside the ship as we traveled vertically. Very seldom did we have to wait long to use one of these elevators. Signage was also strategically placed to help us find our bearings. We did find some unusual artwork scattered throughout the ship. Embarkment -- We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before and stayed at our favorite motel in Dania, the Sleep Inn. This motel provides free transportation to and from the airport and the ship port. They also have good rates, an excellent breakfast and there is a Walgreen's and Publix store across the street for all the last minute items we needed (like pop and water). There is also a mom and pop-style Italian restaurant across the street with excellent garlic rolls and ice cream desserts. We took the hotel shuttle to the ship port at 10:00 on Saturday and were in line by 10:30. The porters try to get us to tip them, but there is a sign on the building stating that the porters were salaried and that tipping is not necessary. The ticket process started at 11:00 and 30 minutes later we were on board. Because we could not get into our stateroom until 1:30, we ate lunch on the Lido deck, took a short orientation walk and then ended up on the Crows' Nest where we rested in some nice captains chairs. There is also a facility onboard we could have stored our hand-carried luggage if we wanted until we got into our cabin. At 1:30, we were allowed to go to the cabin, but the luggage did not arrive until 4:30. We almost missed the muster drill because there was no announcement on the TV to go directly to our station. After 10 minutes of silence on our desk, we hurried down to our station and got our life jackets on. We came back to unpack our belongings and to participate in our Cruise Critic bon voyage party. Cabin and Surroundings -- We were in cabin SS 6064 which was on the port side of the ship between the bow and mid-point. This room was much larger than the mini-suite we had on a Princess ship. It included a queen-size bed, television, DVD player, vanity table, lots of closet space, a safe, and room to put the empty luggage under the bed. The bathroom too was spacious having a tub, a shower, and two sinks. We didn't feel like being in an MRI tube to shower like we had on previous trips. We loved the Royal Dutch soap and shampoo that was provided. The verandah was spacious as it contained two lounge chairs and a small table as well as another large eating table and two upright chairs. We opened the divider between the other cabins next to us (all Cruise Critic members) and had a six-cabin open veranda. Our cabin steward from Indonesia was called Harry and he kept our room in spotless shape. Walking down the hallway to our cabin was a chore. It seems that the "Z" is the first Vista ship to be built and they used poured concrete for the floors. This concrete is now breaking up and makes walking on it difficult (especially with high heels). HAL really needs to tear up the carpeting, patch up the cement and replace it with new carpeting. Perhaps they will perform this task at their next dry-dock. Food -- In general, the "lack of refrigeration" became the key phrase for the cruise. The ship was without a major refrigerator which malfunctioned most of the week and we were without ice cream, whole eggs and a lot of other foods. One official told us that over $250,000 worth of food was lost because of this problem. HAL brought in several portable refrigerators in St. Thomas and hopefully, got the problem fixed by the time the next cruise began. We went to the upscale Pinnacle restaurant on the first night (the price is reduced from $20 to $10 per person that evening). There were multiple courses, the food was tasty, and the service was superb. In fact it really spoils you for the rest of the cruise. We had filet minion and rib eye steaks for the main course, both made from the finest cuts of beef. We both favored the crème brulee over their famous chocolate volcano cake. Eating here is an experience all cruisers must indulge in at least once. Our breakfasts and lunches were all eaten at the buffet on the Lido deck. Instead of a long straight line like on the Princess ships, there were various stations which open and close at different times of the day. There were stations for Italian food, a bistro, express food, salad bar, etc. Also, instead of serving yourself, the food was dished out by the staff members. Tea and coffee was served with every meal as well as fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning and lemonade in the afternoon. A similar but limited meal found in the main dining room was provided for evening diners on the Lido deck. One afternoon, there were chocolate dipped strawberries available as well as giant prawns which we thoroughly enjoyed. During the afternoon upon arriving from a short excursion, we would go to the Lido deck and get something to eat to hold us over until dinner. However, sometimes we were disappointed as the desserts were not made by hand. This was verified by guests who told us the saw the cakes and pies bring taken out of store-brand boxes. I personally don't think the chefs onboard actually baked any desserts while we were there. We ate our evening meals in the Vista Dining Room. There are four different times scheduled and we were at the 6:15 setting on the lower level. We sat at a table with four ladies - a retired WWII nurse and her daughter and another nurse with her 93-year old aunt. With my wife being a nurse, you know what we talked about! The food in the Vista was tasty and we were able to sample a variety of different foods. We particularly liked the appetizers and cold soups and had several of each per meal. However, some of the desserts were not so appealing. The last night we had the signature dish - Baked Alaska as the ship brought onboard new ice cream that day when docked at Nassau. Another night we had lobster tales and I had read you needed to order at least two of them, which we did. Being from Kansas City, we like our barbecue. However, we found the food at the ship's barbecue was unappetizing. In fact, it tasted similar to the food served at lunch at Half Moon Cay. We did like the hamburgers and brats at the grill next to the pool area and ate there several times. Overall, we felt the food on the Princess ships was more tasty, there was more variety, and the presentation was better than on the Zuiderdam. But at least we were able to go a week without having to prepare meals and do the dishes, so that was a plus. Entertainment -- The nightly entertainment onboard ship was excellent. There was a female comedian Julie Barr who performed several nights, along with singer Alfreda Gerald, and James Cielen an illusionist. We really enjoyed the tricks Mr. Cielen performed and he used several animals in his act (including a white poodle). Several days earlier while on the fourth deck, we came across a white poodle prancing down the hall and it confused us. We knew there was a rule that no animals were allowed onboard and here there was a poodle in front of us. It didn't look like a seeing-eye dog and it wasn't until it was brought out during the show that it was the same poodle we had seen earlier. We also enjoyed the two shows done by the ship's professional dancers - one on the 50's and 60's and the other doing show tunes. Unfortunately, this is the last week these dancers were to perform on our ship. Ship Activities -- There were many activities onboard the ship each day for us to partake. We walked around the deck of the ship the mornings we did not have any shore excursions. It takes three complete laps for a mile and this is done on Deck 3. Beware that the decks can be wet and slippery and the winds could make your jogging/walking a real task. We did not use either the gym or the spa on this voyage. We visited the library and found a poor selection of books. Being a university library director, Ray scanned the titles and found very few current books available. Also, seldom was there a staff member available to assist us with accessing the collection. The ship photographers snapped our pictures at every port, formal dining room seating, etc. and then tried to sell us the pictures. We didn't like any of the poses so did not purchase any prints. Another activity we did not try on this cruise was to use the Internet. To do E-mail, it costs 50 cents a minute (slightly cheaper if you buy blocks of time), whereas it is only 35 cents a minute on the Princess ships. We believe HAL should reduce the rate for this service. We watched television programs in our cabin and enjoyed the selection provided by HAL. We enjoyed both the views from the bow and aft of the ship but did not care for the accompanied music selection. There were several movie channels, CNN international, and ESPN sports (usually soccer which we liked). We spent time attending the two art auctions and won several prints which we had framed and sent home. The auction included artists not shown on Princess ships and was performed in a slightly different manner. We brought our laptop computer onboard ship and took hundreds of photographs with our digital cameras. Then at night, we would download these pictures onto the computer and then make a backup onto CD's. We ended up with almost 1,000 pictures showing all aspects of our trip and some of these will end up on our Web page on the Internet. We also brought along a small stuffed Garfield cat and took many pictures of him around the ship. These photos will be developed into a cruise album starring "Garfield the Cat Taking a Cruise". Daily Activities -- For the most part, the weather was overcast and we had some rain throughout the week. The waves were also somewhat choppy while traveling to and from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The following is a sampling of what we did on our excursions: Half Moon Cay - We tendered over to HAL's private island about 9 a.m. and walked around the island. There were lockers on the island, but the majority of them were broken, so we ended up carrying our equipment with us all day. After cooling off in the shade for awhile, we ate their barbecue lunch and then snorkeled at the left side of the island near the children's area. We found that the hut above the rocks to be a great place to put our gear while we snorkeled as it was cool and not crowded. We had brought some small bits of dog food with us and that brought the fish in where we could take some photographs. About 2:30 p.m., we then tendered back to the ship. The water here was cooler than the other ports and there were not as many fish as we had hoped to see. It was a relaxing day and helped us prepare for the rest of the trip. Tortola - We had booked a catamaran/snorkeling cruise through Patouche and was their guests from 9 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. We got on a 49 foot catamaran with 10 other vacationers and sailed to Virgin Gorda where the famed Rocks are located. We walked through the rocks, snorkeled some in the area and then went to Cooper Island for some more snorkeling. They feed us onboard the ship, provided drinks, gave us a history of the region; all for only $90 per person. The weather was overcast and that kept the temperature down some and helped us not to burn so much. We highly recommend this tour. St. Thomas - We took a taxi to Coral World and Coki Beach ($7 per person) and received a $3 off coupon to Coral World from the cab driver. We rented a locker at Coral World for $3 and put our snorkeling gear in it and toured the facilities. There is a large sphere which allowed us to look into the outside coral reefs and see all the fish. There were also several other buildings with various marine life and a nature trail with larger animals. Special pools housed turtles, stingrays and there were iguana all around. One special treat we did was to pet a nurse shark. We then changed into our snorkeling gear and walked several hundred yards to Coki Beach. There were thousands of fish along the coral reef and they all loved my dog food pellets we provided. After snorkeling, we stopped at Havensight Shopping Mall and walked to the Kmart store (10 minutes away). However, we did not take the gondola up to Paradise Point as the cost was $16 each and the sky was overcast and you could not get a very good view. Nassau -We packed our luggage in the morning and watched as we sailed into Nassau around noon. There was a Disney ship, Carnival ship and the Norwegian Dawn which recently was hit with a huge wave. We walked around the town, visited the busy Straw Market, climbed the 66 steps of the Queen's Steps and visited the fort nearby. We could see the huge Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island but did not have time to see her. Our opinion of Nassau was that it was a noisy, busy city and we did not feel very comfortable there. Cruise Critic -- One of the best features of this cruise was being involved with other members of Cruise Critic. We had a roll call of over 30 cruisers and have posted 600-plus messages. We talked about our trip for months and helped each other get ready for the voyage. There were cruisers from Washington DC, California, Louisiana, Florida, Boston, New Jersey, Kansas, and even New Zealand. There were even six groups who had cabins next to each other (we had Cruise Critic people from Washington DC and New Zealand on the two sides of us) and we opened up the verandah between our cabins and made one extremely long balcony. We invited Mr. James Deering, Hotel Manager for the "Z" to attend our bon voyage party and he spent over 30 minutes getting to know each and every Cruise Critic member. He took down our names, gave us his card in case we needed anything, and provided us tips on how to enjoy our tour. Mr. Deering also invited us to a reception with Mr. John Scott, the ship's captain. We found Mr. Scott to be very friendly and he took pictures will all of us. Our group has corresponded since our return and we are sure this will continue for many months to come. I highly recommend joining a Cruise Critic roll call and carry it through to the end of the cruise. Do's and Don'ts -- 1. Bring an extension cord with you. There are only two outlets: one in the cabin and one in the bathroom. If you have any technical equipment that needs charging up, you will need this cord to handle your needs. 2. Go to the bow of the ship for great photographs. If you walk to the front of deck four, there are two separate entrances to the bow. Photographs can be taken there without any Plexiglas barriers. Beware; it can be windy out there. 3. On surf and turf night in at dinner, orders at least two lobster tales - one is not enough. 4. Read the crisecritic.com religiously before you consider a cruise and before the cruise begins. We read it at least once a week all year round. 5. After lunch on the first day, go up to the Crows Nest where it is air conditioned, the scenery is great and the captains chairs are comfortable. We almost fell asleep before they called us to our cabins at 1:30 p.m. 6. Don't let taxi drivers try to sell your tours you don't want. Ask for the price of a specific location before you get out, have the exact change ready when you get to your destination, and say no for an extended rides (unless you want to). 7. There are no self-service laundry services available on the ship. Either you bring enough clothes to wear for the week (we did!) or you pay to have the ship's personnel do it for you. Disembarkment -- We arrived in port at 6:30 a.m. and docked a half hour later. After breakfast, we went up to our cabin for some final packing and waited until our number was called (which was the final group at 9:45 a.m.) All of our packed luggage had been placed in our hallway before 1 a.m. the night before and had been taken to the hull of the ship. I liked the idea of being able to stay in our room rather than the hallways, especially if you have to wait for over an hour. Getting off the ship with our luggage went smoothly and took less than 15 minutes. We took a cab to the airport which is only a $10 fare. We had until 5:30 p.m. for our plane to take off so had looked for possible shore excursions to fill up time. The one we wanted was cancelled and the other was over $70, so we decided to spend our time in the airport. We just camped out and visited with our Cruise Critic friends and made some new friends also just off their cruises. We discovered that there is a Chili's sit-down restaurant in Terminal 3 (as well as take-out) and storage space ($5 per bag) where you can leave your luggage. Finally, our plane took off in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. We visited Atlanta and then got home by 10 p.m. in Kansas City. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise on the "Z" and will go cruising again soon. It was a great vacation, with some nice scenery, great friends, and a new appreciation for the Eastern Caribbean. Read Less
Eastern Caribbean itinerary Travelers: Patti (41) and husband Marshal (43) Cruise history: Celebrity Horizon (03/16/96 - S. Caribbean) Celebrity Century (02/21/98 - W. Caribbean) Celebrity Mercury (11/07/99 - W. Caribbean) ... Read More
Eastern Caribbean itinerary Travelers: Patti (41) and husband Marshal (43) Cruise history: Celebrity Horizon (03/16/96 - S. Caribbean) Celebrity Century (02/21/98 - W. Caribbean) Celebrity Mercury (11/07/99 - W. Caribbean) RCCL Grandeur of the Seas (03/24/01 - with kids, 12 and 14 - S. Caribbean) Celebrity Infinity (01/19/02 - S. Caribbean) Norwegian Sun (06/15/02 - with kids, 13 and 15 and Marshal's mom - W. Caribbean) HAL Zuiderdam (01/11/03 - E. Caribbean) Itinerary: Sat - Depart Ft. Lauderdale -- 5:00 pm Sun - Nassau, Bahamas -- 7:00 am-1:00 pm Mon - Day at sea Tues - St. Kitts -- 11:00 am-6:00 pm Weds - St. Thomas -- 7:00 am-5:30 pm Thurs - Day at sea Fri - Half Moon Cay -- 8:00 am-4:00 pm Sat - Ft. Lauderdale -- 8:00 am Cabin info: Cabin 6154 - category A - aft cabin with extra large balcony Misc. info: We booked our own air instead of using air through HAL. Documents arrived approximately 6 weeks ahead of our sailing date. Arrival: We made our own air arrangements and flew out of Pittsburgh in 18 degree weather on Saturday morning. We had been upgraded to 1st class for the trip down to Florida, both from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and Charlotte to Ft. Lauderdale. Both flights were uneventful. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 10:10am and were met by a friend that we knew when we lived in Boca Raton. Marshal used to dive most Saturdays on Lou's boat. It was good to see him again. He drove us to a restaurant on the beach and we enjoyed having lunch with him. His wife, Diane, and son, Eric, met up with us and we spent a few minutes catching up with them before heading to the ship. We had to show our IDs at the entrance to Port Everglades, which is a fairly new requirement, so be prepared and have them out. Embarkation: The check-in process only took us about 30 minutes total from the time we walked in to the terminal until we were on board the Zuiderdam (pronounced Zi-dehr-dam - rhymes with "wider-dam"). Upon entering the terminal, you will be handed a boarding number and you may not board until your number is called, even if there isn't a line. The line we were in only had about six people in front of us, and the line moved quickly. We had our forms completed so there was no delay. We handed in our tickets, our onboard credit information, and showed our IDs (passports, in our case) and were given our sign and sail cards, which would be our money system and room keys for the week. We went from that first line over to another area where our photos were taken for security purposes. These photos popped up on the computer screen every time we scanned on or off the ship, so security personnel could make sure we were the people we were supposed to be. We had boarding number 30 and when we finished with our photos, they were only calling for people with number 28. My husband went to find a restroom and by the time he returned they were just calling for people with numbers 29 and 30 to board. We boarded and headed for the elevators. Someone pointed us toward our cabin upon exiting the elevator but no one escorted us to our cabin. Of the four different cruise lines we've traveled on now, we've only been escorted to our cabins on the Celebrity cruises. The embarkation process was quick and painless and one of our bags was already in the hallway when we arrived at our cabin. The other one arrived within a couple of hours. The Cabin: We had aft cabin number 6154 (category A). Upon entering the cabin, the bathroom door was to the left. There were closets to the right - one had a shirt-height rod at the bottom and shelves above it. The safe sat on one of these shelves. The next closet had a tall rod, but it also had fold-down shelves in case you didn't need to use the tall rod. The third closet only had shelves in it. We had plenty of room to store our things. However, it was sometimes difficult to maneuver around the closet and bathroom doors when we were both trying to get ready at the same time and the lighting in that area was not sufficient. When we first arrived, the beds were arranged as twin beds, which we asked the steward to put together. He promptly fixed them. The head of the bed was on the left wall as we entered the cabin. There was a small 2-drawer nightstand on either side of the bed. These drawers could be very difficult to open at times, but they were intentionally made that way so they wouldn't bang open and shut as the ship moved around. Both of these stands had keys that you could use to lock up larger items than would fit into the safe. On the left wall beyond the bed were a small loveseat, an oval coffee table, and a chair. On the right wall beyond the bed was a desk and stool (which could also be used for storage - the top lifted off). There were two corner cupboards in the desk and one fluorescent light to the right of the desk. The lighting was also inadequate in this area. There was a shower in a tub enclosure in the bathroom. There was plenty of hot water and the water pressure was great. Please be aware that the hot water control is on a different knob than the one you use to turn on the water. The one knob only turns on the water. The other knob has a red button on it and turning this knob allows you to adjust the temperature of the water. The mirror on the cabinet door in the bathroom is placed in such a way that if you lean forward a bit, you can use that mirror in combination with the large mirror to check the back of your head when you are styling your hair. I was able to see the back of my head quite well with this system. I happened to be in the cabin when the steward came to change the beds from twin to queen. I noticed that there were drawers under the foot of each bed to hold the bedding. It seemed like a great idea to me - I've never noticed that on other ships. If you're cold and looking for a blanket you might want to check there for one! We often heard a creaking noise while in our cabin. I haven't noticed this on other ships, but it didn't bother me. It was like the creak in grandma's rocking chair - easy to get used to it! The Balcony: Our balcony was large - probably 9 feet wide by 12 feet deep. It had absolutely no privacy though. I had sent an email to HAL before our cruise to ask if there was any privacy on the aft balconies. Here is the reply that I received: "Thank you for your inquiry regarding the aft Suites on the fabulous new Zuiderdam. Holland America Line Westours is one of the oldest and most well-known names in the cruise industry. We are confident our "Tradition of Excellence" will surpass your expectations. The aft suites on the ms Zuiderdam are partially covered from the door and provide both open air and coverage from the elements with privacy as an added bonus." This was not the case. There was a slight overhang of maybe 2 feet out from the door and if you had a chair positioned right by the door, you probably couldn't be seen from above, but the rest of the balcony was wide open. So, yes, maybe the statement about privacy was partly true, but the "coverage from the elements" was an absolute falsehood. The deck was wide open to anyone standing on the Lido deck near the aft pool and from the aft cabins on decks 7 and 8. We didn't notice a lot of debris falling down from the pool deck like those on deck 7 did, but there were small specks of ash on the chairs from the smokestack which I discovered after lying down on one and then noticing that I had small black smudges on my hands and swimsuit. We loved the aft deck we had on the Celebrity Infinity, and we used it all the time. Marshal doesn't care to be in the sun for long and with the awning that was over part of our Infinity balcony we were both able to sit out there and choose sun or shade. It also made it possible to sit out and read even if it was raining, and the awning protected the chairs from the smokestack ashes. I suggested in the comment card that the Zuiderdam have awnings added to the aft balconies. If enough people suggest it, maybe HAL will eventually take heed. The ship: I loved the size of the ship. It wasn't so large that we had trouble finding our way around or had to deal with lines and crowds of people, yet it was large enough to offer the activities and amenities that we enjoy on a cruise. We spent most of our time onboard in the area near the Lido mid-ship pool. There were some comfortable chairs with teal cushions on them near the Lido bar and we spent quite a bit of time there reading. The only time we went elsewhere was when the smokers congregated there. Another favorite place to relax was on the promenade deck. The lounge chairs by the pool could not be adjusted to sit up far enough for my liking, but the ones on the promenade deck and also, I think, the ones on deck 10 could be adjusted so that the back was all the way upright. They also had great cushions! Warning for those who walk in the Lido bar area near the mid-ship pool: There are decorative lights near these chairs (the ones with the teal cushions) that look like trees. They are constructed of black pipes that look like the trunk of the tree and they have many small light bulbs at the top to look like leaves. Please be careful when you walk near these. The "branches" are right at head level for most people. I almost hit my head one day, and on our first sea day, Marshal whacked his head hard on one of them. As we sat in those seats off and on the rest of the week, I saw three other men smack into those lights. I mentioned the problem in my comments, and Marshal talked to guest relations about it before we left the ship. It will be interesting to hear if they ever do anything about the problem. We did not use the spa and, although I had good intentions to use the gym, I never even found the gym until Friday! (Can you tell that I wasn't all that anxious to find it?) It is a bit tricky to locate the gym. I almost found it one day, then decided I might be in a part of the spa where I wasn't allowed to be unless I was getting a massage, so I turned around. There are automatic doors that open on the starboard side of the ship and then you have to turn left and walk down a hallway until you come to the gym at the very front of the ship. I didn't see any signs pointing the way to the gym; it's something that would be helpful. The passengers: The ages of the passengers on the Zuiderdam were much younger than we expected. We guessed that the average age was somewhere in the 50s. We saw very few passengers over the age of 70 and many were in the late 30s to late 50s age range. There were only a handful of kids on this cruise because it was not a school vacation week. The ones who were there were well behaved. (Except, perhaps, the girl who jumped into the pool next to Marshal, turned, and asked if she had splashed him. When he answered "no", she climbed out of the pool, jumped in closer to him, turned, and asked if she had splashed him that time. He said "yes, but that's ok, I'm already wet anyway" and she went away disappointed! J It was comical!) The food: We ate all our dinners in the dining room. Our documents indicated that we had been assigned to first seating even though we had requested second seating. Upon arrival in our cabin, we found that we were assigned to second seating at table 156 in the Vista dining room on deck 2. This table was a table for six, with our beloved waiter "Iceman" (if he tells you he is from Alaska, don't believe him!), and his trusty sidekick, "Putu". Our dinner guests were Tom and Carrie from Minnesota and newlyweds, Paul and Jill, from Utah. It was the first cruise for Tom, Carrie and Jill but Paul had been on a couple of previous cruises. We were amazed to find that we were the oldest couple at the table. The dinners in the Vista dining room were good. I'm a very picky eater and like my meat or fish, and potatoes. Marshal is more adventuresome with food and found that the menu was rather boring. He ended up having steak 4 nights of the week and he is not a big beef eater. The Puerto Rican chicken dish he tried one night was bad. Luckily, he hadn't been sure how it would be and he ordered two entrees that night. The other one was very good! Some of the desserts were very tasty - others weren't good at all. Tom and Carrie ordered a "no sugar added" cheesecake one night and it wasn't even edible. The Key Lime Pie was good, but not nearly as good as others I've had were. Often there was only one choice for a salad and the sides were small and not very interesting. They always had baked potatoes and I think I ordered one every night except for one. We had a guest at our table on formal nights. Ian, from Scotland, is the Information Systems engineer on board the Zuiderdam and he joined us on both formal nights, Sunday and Thursday. It was interesting to hear about the ship from his perspective. It was very difficult to hear the conversation on those nights though. Because we were traveling at (or near) full speed (this happens on the way to and from St. Kitts), there was a loud noise from the engines or propellers. Combined with the noise of other people talking nearby, it made it very difficult to hear the people on the other side of our table. Once the other diners began leaving, it became easier to hear. On the nights when the ship wasn't traveling so fast, we didn't have the noise or the difficulty in hearing others. We ate all our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido Restaurant or at the Terrace Grill by the pool. I loved the way the buffet is set up on this ship. We never had to wait in a long line and the short lines moved quickly. The stations made it easy to find what you wanted to eat - there were signs at each station indicating what foods were available at that station at that particular meal. The deli always had several choices such as turkey, corn beef, egg salad or tuna salad for lunch. The eggs were made to order at breakfast and the bagels and English muffins were toasted while you waited. The French toast is great! (One of my criteria for judging how good a cruise line is!) At lunchtime, there was grilled chicken that was very good and a variety of other "normal" buffet items. There was also a place to get stir-fry and a dessert station. The ice cream bar was open from 11:30 am-1 am each day. There was ice cream available on both sides of the buffet during the buffet lunch hours (approx. 11:30-2:00) but then the port side ice cream bar closed and only the starboard side station remained open until 1 am. We did not eat at the Odyssey Restaurant and did not speak with anyone else who ate there. There is a cover charge of $15.00 per person and you must have a reservation to eat there. The ports: We were not thrilled with the ports on this cruise. There were not enough hours in most of the ports to arrange non-ship-sponsored excursions. Marshal was interested in a scuba diving trip, but never made plans because of the lack of time at each port. We had never been to St. Kitts and we had only been to Nassau many years ago on a one-day cruise to the Bahamas. We decided to do some shopping in Nassau, which turned out to be a bad idea. Since we were there on a Sunday, most of the stores were closed. We were able to get a few souvenirs for our kids, however. In St. Kitts, we hired a taxi to drive us to Brimstone Hill Fortress and to the Caribelle Batik factory and gardens. The driver's nickname was Cap and we found him near "The Circus" at the center of town (near the Island Hopper store). Most of the taxi drivers were wearing white shirts; he was wearing a peach polo shirt so that he would stand out from the crowd. He gave us a running narrative as he drove and he answered any questions that we asked. We didn't see any monkeys in the wild, but as he drove he pulled to the side of the road so we could get a good look at a monkey in a cage. Unfortunately, he told us that people on the island capture them both for pets and for food. He also explained the colors and symbols on the St. Kitts flag: the green is for the land, the yellow is for the sun, the red is for the blood that was shed in St. Kitts history, the black is for the color of the people's skin, and the two white stars represent St. Kitts and Nevis. We had a great day in St. Thomas! We had arranged ahead of our trip to take a day sail on a 43' wooden sailboat, named the Winifred (www.sailwinifred.com/). The captain, Sharon, takes a maximum of six passengers on Winifred each day. We were to meet her at the docks in Red Hook at 9:30 am. We hurried around so that we could be on the first tender to shore that morning. We boarded the tender at 8 am and waited for it to fill up. By 8:20, we were on our way to shore, or so we thought! We noticed a few minutes later that we were heading away from where all the other tenders were headed. It soon became obvious that we were headed back to the ship! The tender operator seemed to be having trouble maneuvering. At one point, another tender pulled alongside and a maintenance man came on board to see if he could figure out the problem and fix it. He discovered that we had hit a piece of black rubber and it was stuck on the propeller, and we were only able to turn in one direction. This made it very tricky to get docked back up to the ship. They finally had us get close to the dock and then had another tender push us into the dock (and that tender hit us right where I was sitting - they were not gentle little taps!). We had to get off that tender (#12) and get on another one. We finally made it to St. Thomas 1½ hours after we originally boarded that first tender - 9:30 am (which was when we were to be in Red Hook)! We grabbed the first taxi we saw and took off for Red Hook, hoping that Sharon hadn't left without us. There were three other passengers booked with her that day, Boris, Lisa, and daughter Paulina from New Jersey, but they were on the Golden Princess and didn't have to tender. We made it to Red Hook in record time - 15 minutes flat! That was an adventure in itself! Sharon had waited for us and we off on a wonderfully relaxing 6-hour trip on her sailboat. Her crewwoman that day was Andrea and she took very good care of us! We headed to St. John and snorkeled. We saw a turtle, starfish, squid, manta rays and fish. It was great! Sharon took some great photos on our camera for us along the way and she had a taxi waiting to take us back to the ship. I highly recommend an outing on the Winifred. (Sharon is very prompt to answer emails and she is usually available by phone, even while she's out on a day sail.) As luck would have it, we ended up on tender #12 on our way back to the ship, but this time it worked just fine! Half Moon Cay was awesome! It's that pristine, powdery sand, turquoise water Caribbean island that you see in all the ads. It was in the 70s but with a breeze, so it tended to be a bit chilly in the shade. We ate the Island BBQ picnic and walked the beach. We didn't explore anymore of the island. There were plenty of lounge chairs available, even though the Zaandam was also at the island that day. Interestingly, we noticed when we returned to the Zuiderdam that the engines were running. It turns out that we were in "joystick mode" where the ship was being kept in position with thrusters and engines due to the moderate seas that day. The weather: The weather cooperated for our trip. It only rained a few times and not for very long. The only heavy rain we had on a port day was in St. Kitts. At the time, we were in the taxi and did not get wet, but I heard that those on the ATV excursion at that time were drenched. The temperatures ranged from 73-82 degrees each day. If you are by the mid-ship pool and hear screeching noises, look up. It is probably the pool cover being closed or opened due to rain. That happened several times during the trip. The shows: We went to the show after dinner each night (except Friday night when the second seating show was before dinner). The shows were: Saturday - Under the Sun - a production spectacular featuring the comedy of Bernie McGrenahan. This was the only show we didn't find up to par. The jokes were fairly old and he just wasn't that funny. Sunday - Under the Boardwalk (A singin' dancin' day at the beach) - this one was great! I loved all the songs and they even have a Ferris wheel in the act! One of the male dancers looks like Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) for those of you who remember that TV show. Monday - Paul Pappas - Songs in the Key of Sea - pianist and back-up band - I loved watching his percussionist (not the one playing the drum set; the one playing all the other percussion instruments). His music ranged from movie themes to ragtime to classical. Tuesday - Party in Paradise Deck Party - this took place during the second seating dinner, so we were unable to go to it. There was no show in the Vista lounge on Tuesday. Wednesday - The Comedy and Juggling of Jeff Harris - he was worth seeing. Thursday - Stage and Screen - The Movie Musical Concert - the second production show - I wasn't as crazy about the choices of songs in this one. Friday - The Hilarious Comedy and Magic of Rich Purpura - this guy had me in stitches. He was truly hilarious! Public rooms: We spent quite a few evenings in the Crow's Nest. The music there covered a wide range of musical interests. Some of the songs were not to our liking, but when we tried the Northern Lights Nightclub, we found those songs to be too contemporary. We like 70s/80s/90s music and what they played in the nightclub was, I guess, what you would hear in a nightclub in a big city - not to our liking and very hard to dance to! We were two of the few people to show up for the 50s and 60s night in the Crow's Nest. Marshal won a camera in the hula hoop contest and we won a bottle of champagne. At times during the dancing, the activities people come out on the dance floor with bottles of champagne and the person overseeing the evenings activities would direct them to move a certain number of steps in one direction, turn to their left or right and move again. When he was done, whoever was in front of the person holding the champagne bottle won the bottle. We spent a few evenings before dinner in the Ocean Bar where a duo, d'Amour, played (and sang) dance music. It wasn't really our type of music, but it was a nice place to relax and the servers brought around appetizers and there were peanuts on the tables. Disembarkation: We were off the ship very quickly on Saturday morning. We were asked to be out of our stateroom by 7:00 am. We packed up our last minute items and headed for the dining room (the one and only breakfast we would eat there). We were seated at a table for six, but we were the only ones there. The maitre 'd seemed to be looking for a table where our bags would be out of the way while we were eating. (Some people have said that they leave their bags in the cabin while they eat and then return to get them. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. The room doors are left open as the stewards are cleaning and, I don't know about your carry-on bags, but ours usually contain my jewelry and other valuables and I wouldn't want to leave them in the cabin unattended.) Our disembarkation number was high (something like 24), but the numbers are not called in order. For example, when our number was called they also called numbers 5, 11, and 17, so if you end up with a really high number and you have an early flight, don't panic. We headed to the right upon leaving the terminal and were able to find a taxi immediately. We were at the airport within minutes. Our direct flight home was uneventful and we were greeted in Pittsburgh by 18-degree weather again! Oh, the joys of living in Pittsburgh! Overall impression: We had a great time! The Zuiderdam is a beautiful ship. Would we go on her again? Yes, but since we like to travel on ships we haven't been on before, we probably won't. Would we book an aft cabin on the Zuiderdam again? No, not unless they put awnings over part of the balcony. Were the crew members any more or less friendly than on other ships we've been on? No. We've had good waiters and bad on each cruise line; we've had good room stewards and bad on each cruise line. I think it's the luck of the draw. We had an awesome waiter on this cruise and a horrible waiter on our Infinity cruise, but all our other Celebrity cruises had great waiters. There are good and not-so-good things about each of our cruises, but I'd go again in a heartbeat on any of them! Our waiter, Iceman, told us that HAL is trying to appeal to a younger crowd with this ship - he also said that it makes it harder to be away from his wife when he's working in the Lido Restaurant and he sees all the younger women in their skimpy swimsuits! He didn't have to worry about that when the crowd was older! If you have any specific questions you can contact me at bells_r_us@yahoo.com and I'll try to answer them. I saved all the daily papers in case you want to know anything about the activities. We didn't participate in much, but enjoyed watching some of the contests by the pool, especially the ship building challenge. That was great! I took some photos, but I don't have all of them processed yet. I'll try to get some posted soon. bells_r_us@yahoo.com April 2003 Read Less
We spent 14 nights on the Zuiderdam (Jan 18th and 25th sailings) and had a wonderful time. This was our 5th HAL cruise and 10th cruise in total. The Zuiderdam is definitely NOT the usual HAL ship, but we found the food and the service to ... Read More
We spent 14 nights on the Zuiderdam (Jan 18th and 25th sailings) and had a wonderful time. This was our 5th HAL cruise and 10th cruise in total. The Zuiderdam is definitely NOT the usual HAL ship, but we found the food and the service to be up to their high standards. The ship is much brighter and larger than any of their other ships. We noticed a difinite Carnival influence there. The colors are very bright pretty much everywhere. The customary HAL artwork is throughout. There are some very interesting pieces. Since it is a larger ship it is a longer walk from bow to stern. Many older cruisers complained about this. (I don't know what they expected.) There is an abundance of space. We never had a problem getting a deck chair or room in a hot tub or pool. We had a balcony guarantee and were quite happy with our room. There is a minimum amount of drawer space, but the shelves worked out just fine. Several days into the cruise we discovered drawers under the sofa. It would have been nice to have had those pointed out to us. There was plenty of room on the balcony to have breakfast. A friend who was traveling with us had an inside cabin and it too was more than acceptable. The shows in the Vista Lounge were excellent. We especially enjoyed the piano bar and Matthew Newbold. He was great. The Queen's lounge, a multipurpose venue which replaces the usual movie theater was a disappointment. The floor is nearly flat. The only way to have an unobstructed view of the movie was to sit in the front row. We enjoyed all the food and the service was top notch. One thing missing was the midnight buffets. We rarely want to eat at midnight, so that wasn't an issue. If you had to have food after dinner there was pasta, pizza and desserts available until 1 AM and of course 24 hour room service. There is a shortage of public restrooms and often some were out of order. The design in these seemed ridiculous. If the space had been utilized differently they could have easily doubled the number of toilets. Most restrooms only had two toilets and huge vanity areas. There also was an odor problem especially near the Queens lounge which is on the way to the dining room. Not a pleasant intro to dinner. We heard many complaints from mostly the senior cruisers (65 and up). I think they were expecting the traditional HAL ship and many said they would never go on the Zuiderdam again. I believe HAL is trying to appeal to a younger crowd with their Vista series of vessels and I am sure they will. Even on these two sailings the crowd was considerably younger than on our previous HAL cruises. If you are looking for the typical HAL experience then I would recommend going on one of their other ships. If you are under 60 and looking for the quality for the cost that HAL is famous for with a more youthful twist, then I believe you will find the Zuiderdam to your liking. We did! doobeeweeg@hotmail.comApril 2003 Read Less
When Holland America's elegant ms Zuiderdam begins her inaugural season December 14, 2002, all eyes will be upon her. For she will be the first of a new class of cruise ships aptly called the Vista Series - forward-looking in both ... Read More
When Holland America's elegant ms Zuiderdam begins her inaugural season December 14, 2002, all eyes will be upon her. For she will be the first of a new class of cruise ships aptly called the Vista Series - forward-looking in both design and spirit. I am honored to have been chosen to be one of the first to explore their new Vista-class ship. Before beginning regular service on Dec 14, ms ZUIDERDAM is sailing on 3 separate, 3 night cruises, Dec 5, Dec 8, and Dec 11, 2002. I have been invited aboard the inaugural Introductory 3 night Cruise on December 5, 2002. We have just returned and will attempt to describe our experience. The new ms Zuiderdam is the first of five spacious Vista-class ships from the Five Star cruise line of Holland America. With more private, airy verandahs, and ample ocean-view staterooms, there is more space per guest than any other ship in a fleet already renowned for spacious comfort. And more delight: expanded spa facilities, three sparkling pools, and blissful 7-day cruises through the Eastern & Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. We drove to Ft Lauderdale from our home in Orlando and stayed at AmeriSuites ($75.00 per night) Wednesday. They are 4 miles from the airport, and 2 miles from the port and offer free shuttles to & from both...... as well as free parking. The shuttle to the ship was a 5 minute drive, and we arrived at noon for the 2pm boarding. We were hoping to board early, but Holland America was holding an open house on board for dignitaries and the media. Once the ship was cleared of those not sailing, we boarded at 1:30. We entered the ship on the Lower Promenade Deck and the first thing that guests see is the atrium lobby with the offices and a small bar. The centerpiece is a sea horse sculptured in crystal by Waterford in Ireland. The small, 3 deck atrium, has an intimate feel, and does not give the impression of the overall size of the ship. We were taken to our suite and then proceeded to The Lido, the buffet area for lunch. Choices include Italian, Oriental, Deli, as well as standard fair. Each serving area was well presented and staffed with extremely friendly personnel. We sampled as much as we could and enjoyed everything!! First Impression..........10+ Cabins 2/3 of all Staterooms on board have a Verandah. We were taken on a tour of the different category of suites and found them all to be extremely spacious....the largest in the cruise industry. Each was elegantly decorated and included dataports. Full-length double closets and deep dresser drawers are generous enough to hold everything you brought--as well as any treasures you might purchase along the way. There's even a sturdy Holland America complimentary canvas tote bag to take shopping or to the beach. Superior-Verandah-Suites Superior Verandah Suites feature two lower beds convertible to a queen size bed, sofa bed for one, bathroom with dual sink vanity, full-size whirlpool bath & shower & additional shower stall, VCR, floor-to-ceiling windows. At approximately 384 square feet including verandah, I believe that these Category SS suites are the best value in the cruise industry! Staterooms.....10+ Dining World-renowned master chef Reiner Greubel leads the award-winning culinary staff in providing extensive dining options, including "light & healthy" items, continental and ethnic cuisines, and vegetarian dishes. All are available in a range of dining venues. From the formal, candlelit main dining room to the informal, sun-splashed Lido Restaurant. From the all-American hot dogs and hamburgers of the Terrace Grill to the ethnic treats of the pasta and taco bars. So extraordinarily memorable is the cuisine aboard Holland America ships that the entire fleet has been inducted into the prestigious Confrerie de la Chaine des Rôtisseurs, a gourmet society founded in Paris and devoted to promoting the pleasures of the table. What does it take to earn such an esteemed award? Cuisine lovingly prepared and exquisitely presented in a number of exciting dining venues. In addition to breakfast, lunch and a five-course dinner, you can enjoy: afternoon tea; an outdoor buffet bar featuring hamburgers and hot dogs; a taco bar, a stirfry or pasta buffet; an ice cream bar; hot hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hours; an evening espresso or cappuccino; and the traditional late-night snack (one of which is the Dutch Chocolate Extravaganza.) And, of course, complimentary room service is available 24 hours a day. Casual dining is available in the Lido Restaurant every night except the last night of the cruise. La Fontaine Dining Room Among the many dining options aboard the ms Zuiderdam is the two-tiered La Fontaine Dining Room. Here we savored world-class cuisine served on the finest Rosenthal china. Delicate stemware and exquisite linens grace every table; impeccable service and a warm ambience are a sanctuary of civilization. We have sailed aboard Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, and enjoyed their food, however the service, choices, presentation and quality aboard ZUIDERDAM is unsurpassed. Cuisine......10+ Service and attention to detail The ship is, of course, brand new and everything is immaculate! Exceptional service is part of the Holland America Line cruise experience. The "tipping not required" policy ensures that the professional and gracious service you receive on board is truly sincere; not simply providing service in return for tips. You are free, however, to extend monetary recognition if you wish-it's entirely up to you. (Company policy prohibits HAL from suggesting how much.) We have never been as 'pampered' as this, and I could really get used to it!! Holland America Line ships have all the amenities and services you would expect to find in a five star resort......... you lack for nothing! Activities What will we do today? There are so many choices on Zuiderdam. You may choose to participate in as many (or as few) activities as you wish. Each day, we received a complete schedule of shipboard activities to help plan the day. The choices are many. The Passport to Fitness activity program combines fitness with fun and prizes, and is a great way to meet fellow guests. There is bingo, board and card games or lip synching to the Oldies. We did not have time to work out in the gym or participate in deck sports or pool activities. There are art auctions, theme parties or even a wacky golf tournament. We chose to sunbathe, swim or simply find a quiet spot and do nothing at all. Hydrotherapy Pool The ms Zuiderdam boasts the largest Ocean Spa in the fleet. Begin with a relaxing visit to the Hydrotherapy pool, surrounded by the details you'd expect from this kind of Utopian rendezvous. From the luxurious pool area, continue on to one of the 11 therapy suites, sauna, steam, or aromatherapy rooms. Three Tiered Queen's Lounge Relax in the sophisticated Main Lounge with a quiet cocktail and pleasant conversation before dinner. Come later and you'll be dazzled by the glitz and glamour of an exciting Broadway-style show. With a third tier added, you'll be sure to find the perfect spot to enjoy the show! In the evening, we found a wide variety of music and entertainment throughout the ship. From award-winning production shows to the headline entertainers or the string ensemble, there's never a dull moment. Other evening activities include dancing, casino gambling, crew shows and movies. Because this was a 3 night introductory cruise, we only had time to stop on HAL's private island Half Moon Cay, and did not visit any of the other ports of call which will be featured during their 7 night cruises. When was the last time you whiled away the day on a private Caribbean island? On Half Moon Cay, the day was ours to sun, swim, sail and Enjoy! Zuiderdam will sail alternating weeks to the Eastern and Western itineraries, and include stops in St Thomas, St Kitts, Nassau & Half Moon Cay (Eastern); as well as Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Key West & Half Moon Cay (Western). This experience was, by far, our most enjoyable cruise vacation......a 10+ Ship!! If you want to sail into the future, you will want to sail ms ZUIDERDAM! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me (Jeff) at Cruises-Inc@cfl.rr.com .December 2002 Editor's Note: The writer is a travel agent. Read Less
We just returned from the April 12 and April 19 cruises on Zuiderdam (and a few days post cruise at Pier 66 in FLL). As long time Mariners and lovers of Maasdam, Zaandam and Rotterdam in particular, we were curious to try the Vista class ... Read More
We just returned from the April 12 and April 19 cruises on Zuiderdam (and a few days post cruise at Pier 66 in FLL). As long time Mariners and lovers of Maasdam, Zaandam and Rotterdam in particular, we were curious to try the Vista class but fully expected to say.....Nope, not for us! We rapidly learned we were wrong. Zuiderdam is for us....Not to say we will abandon the "S" sisters or the Zaandam, Rotterdam etc. There will be times we will prefer the smaller, quieter decor etc...and times we shall opt for Vista Class. The ship is beautiful IMO. Wonderful art tucked all around the ship. The flow and design is well thought out (with a few exceptions) and there is a logical stream in the layout. We were pleased to find the lounges etc kept to a smaller scale so we never felt we were in a huge area overwhelmed by a ton of pax in the same area. The Queens Lounge is a great, multifunctional room and we found it very comfortable. We enjoyed the small, tucked away side of Ocean Bar and spend considerable time there. Some random comments: I think Embarkation needs some work. HAL has not quite gotten the handling of the larger number of pax boarding ZUDM to flow as smoothly as they board the other ships. We stood in line outside the terminal building before we ever reached the x-ray scanner and proceeded to document processing. IMO it is only a money issue and can be improved vastly by adding more personnel and another x-ray scanner. I cannot imagine what they do with pax standing on the sidewalk outside the terminal on a rainy day? If one computer breaks down on the check-in counter, they ALL go down. They are tied to one another and embarkation comes to a halt! I'm certainly no expert, but there has to be something that can be done to rectify a total shut down of all the computers if one "burps". The next hold up is to have photos taken for the ship's IDs and that process is poorly done. IMO NOT ENOUGH people and the lady who was doing ours was quite confused as to the process. The ship has been doing this long enough that the shore staff should have been better trained by now and there most certainly should be more "stations" with more people doing the photo taking. It took the woman who did ours almost ten minutes to complete TWO...that's ridiculous IMO If HAL would hire and train more people, it surely would flow faster. Charge us a few more dollars for our ticket HAL, and hire enough shore persons....pleaaaaaase. We were escorted to our Suite as usual and were pleasantly surprised to find that while a bit smaller, the Suite is still lovely and very comfortable. I think the bathroom has been improved particularly by providing two large cabinets for storage of all our bathroom bottles and tubes etc. Downside....some genius decided to eliminate a full 9 drawers from the bureau leaving only 3. In the space where six drawers previously existed, there is an empty space where one could pull up a chair and use as a desk. However, there is another perfectly fine area which can serve as a desk so I think it was a BIG mistake. There is still loads of storage (more than enough for a month aboard) but most of it consists of shelves and hanging closets. The closet space is wonderful; the shelves are fine for shorts, swimsuits, t-shirts etc but I do not wish to store my lingerie and fine articles piled on a shelf. If there is a way to restore drawers to that area, I'd be a happy camper. For Suite pax, don't forget there are two very large drawers at the foot of the bed. All of this is minor and certainly did not effect my enjoyment or comfort but it was annoying. Now to the good stuff.....and there is loads of that!!! As I stated, we expected to say pooh to the new class, but the ship won us over very quickly. She's alive and bright and gracious and comfortable. Loads of choices; more active, boisterous areas; quiet nooks; we never felt overwhelmed by the size of the ship but she is large. When we first set eyes on Odyssey from the deck above her...looking down through the atrium stairs, we were knocked over by how beautiful a restaurant it is. Really, really beautiful. We immediately made reservations as we knew we had to try it. Wow....it is WONDERFUL. It is almost laughable the quality of that meal and service and ambiance for $20 pp. It's unimaginable to us how they turn out that meal for so little extra. We KNOW we have paid in the range of $200 to $250 for similar dinners in the likes of Ruth's Chris, Morton's, The Palm etc First time we dined there, my husband had the porterhouse and it was Excellent. I had the ribeye and could not even think of finishing it as the portion is so large. Wonderful side dishes offered (including incredible creamed spinach that I loved); great soups and the crab cakes are sinful they are so good. But....desert.....if you like chocolate, you have to go to Odyssey just to savor "Volcano". A chocolate lover's heaven! Sure would love to know how to make that at home. Chef Mike Mahn and his chefs are doing such an amazing job I cannot begin to describe our dining experiences. We've been on a lot of ships, eaten many very good dinners in many very good dining rooms but Chef Mahn has brought dining on Zuiderdam to a whole new level. This is not banquet food....this is fine dining!! During our two weeks aboard, my husband and I kept thinking it isn't possible for a Chef to be ABLE to do what he is doing. EVERY soup I ordered came HOT....not warm but Hot! Every serving of meat we ordered came cooked exactly as requested...medium rare and was of such quality and flavor we never stopped being stunned. Chef Mike is working magic and we enjoyed every meal! Really enjoyed them. The new Lido layout is fabulous IMO We never were in a line of more than 3 people and the offering for both breakfast and lunch are staggering. It isn't possible to remember every choice there was for lunch every day but some of the highlights are several types of pasta with 3 or more sauce choices; 3 or more choices of pizza flavors; sandwich bar that makes wonderful sandwiches on so many types of bread. Sometimes I had a grilled tuna melt on wheat; other times slices deli meats and cheese on crusty French bread; corned beef on rye; egg salad; choices of sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and choices of spreads to suit your taste. Amazing and so delicious and fresh! Hint...there are two sandwich bars and the one starboard side always has a huge bowl of Caesar salad to enjoy with your sandwich. Delicious. Then there is the section that has the BEST rotisserie roasted chickens, different selections daily of sliced roasted meats....lamb, veal, prime rib..changes daily. Wonderful. Potato choices, rice, pastas, veggies etc., etc. Don't forget the wonderful ice cream bar and cakes and pies, pastries, cookies to drool over. And, of course, bread pudding. Full salad bar daily...great selection. At Lido pool, there are hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, taco bar that's Yum....etc. There were extended hours for afternoon snacks that we have never seen on other HAL ships. You could get pizza, pasta, burgers, tacos, ice cream, cookies, coffee, iced tea for hours each afternoon. More than enough available for anyone until about 5 daily. There is also the Windstar Cafe where the most wonderful coffees and pastries are available for a very nominal price. For those used to their daily Starbucks, you will Love Windstar. Guest Relations Manager Marian Koopman is aboard and we were thrilled to see her again. She is so able and friendly and always doing everything in her power to make every guests experience aboard the best it can be. That lady (and lady she is) never gets ruffled and works so hard to find any creative solution to please a passenger. Kudos and many thanks to Marian for the wonderful job she does. We also were delighted to find Cruise Director John Challenger aboard. He is CD par excellence. He just left the ship for much deserved vacation. But Jazzie Jeff is still there. And he is such fun.....we adore his role as DJ but know many others love when he calls Bingo. Shipboard announcements are kept to only those that are necessary for port disembarkation info and safety. Bingo announcements are no longer broadcast into cabins....Thank you HAL. They are only heard in public areas and are brief and way, way better than in the past IMO. For our two weeks, we surely knew there would be loads of kids as we booked during school vacation. And loads of kids there were. These were about the worst behaved parents we have ever encountered. The dragged the kiddies aboard and abandoned all responsibility. Good kids/ bad parents. We have cruised many times in the summer with kids and never had any problem. Same for Christmas/New Years. These cruises, we felt there were too many and perhaps Seattle should limit the number booked for any individual cruise as Princess does. Until/unless the new "family cruisers" who are coming to Zuiderdam at present due to the low prices learn to control their kids, perhaps the numbers need to be limited. We cannot not begin to state how incredible we think the work that has been accomplished on Zuiderdam since her inaugural is. We closely read the initial comments and know there were "Problems". The changes that Hotel Manager Nick Burger, Chef Mike Mahn, Captain Jack and their crew have accomplished are nothing short of incredible. They so care about providing the very best experience for all pax that it is evident they keep doing more, more, more to make everyone happy. The ship is looking beautiful and the deficiencies that existed when she left the boat yard are being addressed. While we were aboard, we saw daily maintenance/repair in every area. Our veranda railing needed varnish when we boarded....voila, by magic, we returned to our cabin one day and saw it had been redone and looked gorgeous. We noticed a light bulb burned out in one of the lounges one night....voila, next day it had been replaced. The hard, long months of work they have devoted to the ship is so evident and has clearly made such a difference. We never experienced any of the things earlier cruisers complained of. We never encountered any foul odors, restrooms are being added and we were not inconvenienced greatly in finding one; our location in the dining room (upper level, forward) provided smooth experience and we suffered no excessive noise or vibration. With top officers like HM Nick Burger, Captain Jack, F&B Firmin, and CHEF Mahn in charge, Zuiderdam is one "Dam" fine ship. We adored our two weeks aboard and if we were not already booked for back-to-backs this summer, I'd be on the phone to my TA today to book another. Can't wait to return and cannot thank the crew of Zuiderdam enough for such a wonderful cruise. HAL should treasure these people.....they are insuring the happy future for HAL. Without crew such as this, Vista would fall flat IMO. July 2003 Read Less
Just came back from the Zuiderdam sailing of July 5. I will give you a short summary of both good and bad points of the ship. This was my 8th cruise, 2nd on Holland America. I have also been on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. ... Read More
Just came back from the Zuiderdam sailing of July 5. I will give you a short summary of both good and bad points of the ship. This was my 8th cruise, 2nd on Holland America. I have also been on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. To me, each line has good and bad points. Here is my take on the Zuiderdam. Embarkation We arrived at the port about 12:30. The line was relatively short and we were on the ship by 1 P.M. It was quick and easier than previous cruises. They had the lunch buffet set and up and ready as you boarded, while you waited for your cabin to be ready. Food We only ate dinner in the main dining area, so I can only tell you about the dinner in the formal dining room. Everything we ordered was tasty. The only complaint I have was that there seemed to be limited choices. There needed to be more variety and different types of food. Each night there was beef , chicken, and pork. Desserts were just OK. Nothing special or different. The best night was the farewell dinner. Having been on the Celebrity Horizon in March, every night's dinner was comparable to Holland America's farewell dinner. Also, having read about the problems in the aft lower dining area, I specifically asked to be seated anywhere other than that area weeks before the cruise. That request was not honored and I decided not to pursue it as we were traveling with a group of nine. Entertainment This is the area where I think Holland America excelled. Every show was great and the variety of entertainment was good. They had a comedian, juggler(who was great), the dance shows and singer/impressionist. These were the best shows I've seen on a cruise ship. Cabins We had a category B cabin. The room was nice, although a bit small for 2 adults and 2 teenagers (not the ships fault). I would suggest a larger room if possible for that many people. The pull out bed was in front of the balcony, which made it difficult for anyone to get on the balcony without climbing on the bed and waking the sleeping person. The toilet did not work two nights and when I called one night, I was told it was a problem on the ship and it should be fixed by morning. It was not and I had to call again and complain. Ports All very nice, Half Moon Cay was the best private island. Very clean and beautiful waters. Debarkation Smooth and painless One more suggestion- If you are traveling with teenagers, I would not suggest a Holland America cruise. My girls were bored and there was not much activity for 16-17 year olds. I would definitely suggest Carnival for that age group. All in all, the cruise was nice. I had not been on Holland America for a long time and expected a higher quality of cruise than I got. I would try another Holland America ship but not with any kids along. Anyone have any suggestions?Eccsr@aol.com July 2003 Read Less
We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship and number of sea ... Read More
We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship and number of sea days, not for the ports. Our routine onboard any ship is similar (others probably would find it boring) - a lazy relaxed morning with coffee and sometimes breakfast delivered by room service. We spend a lot of time in the cabin and on the verandah so for us a suite makes a lot of sense. Since we only eat two meals a day, we usually skip lunch and have appetizers late afternoon prior to dinner. We rarely attend the shows because we enjoy having a nightcap on the balcony before going to bed. Our vacation didn't start very well when our flight from Denver was delayed by over 6 hours but we finally made it to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale about midnight. On the bright side, since the delay was mechanical not weather, we were given free round trip tickets to be used within the next year. Saturday morning we joined my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tom for breakfast and then we all taxied to the port. We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the doors were opened and stood in a line of about 100 people. Once the doors opened the line progressed through security quite quickly and then a Holland America staff person checked to make sure you had all your documents - we were missing one form and stopped to fill it out before going to the check-in lines. We also had our pictures taken, which are used for identification each time you reboard the ship - when your keycard is read, your picture comes up on their computer. There were two counters for suites and all four of us were checked in within ten minutes. I'm glad HAL is now imprinting your credit card at check-in rather than having to make a trip to the purser's office later in the day. We went upstairs to the waiting room and killed about an hour "people-watching." At about 2:15 the wheelchairs and other disabled people were being assisted and "S" boarding was called. Since my Uncle uses oxygen, we were shown to the front of the line, just following the wheelchairs. We were escorted to our S suites 7047 and 7049; located just aft of the Penthouse on starboard. We were escorted, but when we arrived at the suites he just pointed at the doors and left. Chilled champagne, flowers and fruit bowl awaited us in the cabin. The suite itself is noticeably smaller than on previous ships, but is well-decorated using bright colors. All the soft furniture was upholstered in leather and was very comfortable. The dressing room which leads into the bathroom is about half the size of previous ones, but still functional. I really like having a dressing table that is not in the cabin itself. As we explored the suite Evan, our steward came and introduced himself and asked if we had any special requests. Then he opened the door in the divider so that our verandahs were joined - I really like this feature when you are traveling with others. The kingsize bed was wonderful (of course, it was new!) and there were feather pillows. The bathroom included a whirlpool tub with shower and a separate shower. (The separate shower was broken but was fixed on day 4.) There was also a long vanity area with two sinks and plenty of storage space. The two fluffy robes were hanging in the closet. We then checked in with Sherry and Tom to see how they were getting along in their cabin and found that we had different dinner times/tables. A quick trip to the Concierge in the Neptune lounge and this was fixed. Tom's oxygen was delivered about 30 minutes after we boarded; so that worry was taken care of and we could all relax. We located our lifejackets and laid them out in preparation for the drill and then popped one bottle of champagne. I made a quick trip to the Neptune for some finger sandwiches and we all sat on the verandah and watched the preparations dockside. Our luggage arrived in good time and we began unpacking ... soon it was time for the safety-at-sea drill. Following the drill we went to the sail-away party at the aft pool on the Lido deck. The band played Caribbean music and we had a "rum punch in a plastic souvenir glass." It was rather cold and windy so we went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We explored the ship a little on our way to the Vista dining room. The dEcor is quite art deco and very bright - not like HAL's older ships. Its WOW-factor is high; individual pictures of the different areas can't give you the feeling of how it works together. I really liked the style and although some of the furniture is funny shaped, it is all very comfortable. Each area is unique in its style, which makes finding your way around even easier. For example, the mid-ship elevators and lobby area are done in blues and the forward elevators and lobby in red. I enjoyed the art throughout the ship; it ranged from whimsical to very elegant. There was always something to look at, a new piece of art or the style of a room; except for the hallways by the staterooms the whole ship is visually stimulating. Our table in the Vista was on the upper level at the aft windows so we had a great view of the wake. It was a rectangular table for six, but only the four of us were seated there. The chairs are upholstered in a flowered fabric and have arms. I dislike dining room chairs without armrests! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pretty good, but we often sat with dirty plates in front of us for quite some time before they were removed and each meal at least one item was forgotten; one person's appetizer or another's soup. We only ate in the Vista three times and the food was well prepared each time. We had room service on the verandah twice, Lido once and the Odyssey once. The Lido is very well designed with different islands for the specialty foods like pizza/pasta and oriental (good sushi) and of course, the ice cream bar. We had one lunch and one dinner here. The number of items to choose from should keep anyone happy. Although no one ever offered to carry my tray, someone always assisted my Aunt and Uncle. I thought the Olympic restaurant was beautiful, but heard another couple say it was the ugliest room on the ship. It is basically white and silver/chrome. As suite passengers we could eat breakfast and lunch here (like the Kings/Queens room on the older ships). We had one breakfast and one lunch here that were exceptional. Sadly, our dinner experience wasn't as good. While being seated we told the Maitre de that we would like to order cocktails prior to dinner and that we wouldn't be ordering wine. We sat for about 15 minutes before anyone even filled our water glasses; he then called over a waiter to assist us. We ordered our cocktails and dinner; two fillet mignons and two lamb. The waiter couldn't remember who ordered what. This is certainly not what I expect from a restaurant that is supposed to be fine dining. When the entrees came - there were three, two steaks and one lamb.... So we waited for about 15 minutes for another lamb entrEe to be brought and then ate (ours were, of course cool by then). The steak was delicious and so tender you could cut it with a fork and the side of asparagus and mushrooms was good too. When we finished eating, we sat back waiting for the dessert choices; after 15 minutes of sitting with dirty dishes in front of us- we walked out. Most evenings we went to the Ocean Bar either for a before- or after-dinner drink. This is one area that, although convenient to the dining room, isn't well designed. The band and dance floor are located on one side that has very little seating and on the other side you can't hear the music. The Explorers Lounge is very nice but was used almost every evening for private receptions; we attended two receptions there for Suite guests. The attention from waiters at during the dinner hours was very good, but at any other time of the day at most of the bars the waiters seemed to cluster talking to the bartender and it was difficult to get a drink even when you went up to the bar. The Atrium Bar was never open when we walked through, but I loved the sculptured look of the furniture and floors. We missed the Mariner's Party because the time conflicted slightly with the Suites lunch. We attended the special Captain's lunch for suite guests in the Crow's Nest; as usual the food served was excellent and they didn't skimp on the caviar! The Crow's Nest is similar to those on the other ships with the exception of some great lounge chairs that face out the windows. I saw several people taking an afternoon snooze in them. This ship is the first to have a dedicated nightclub, the Northern Lights. This room is interesting to say the least. As you walk down the entry hallway lights in the ceiling light and dim over your head following your path into the nightclub; there are fiber optic lights embedded in the carpet and sparkles on the walls. The "Iceberg" is located here, but I must say it didn't do anything for me. But the most eye-catching feature is the black and white cowhide upholstery on the booths. One of the Officers told me that the crew has nicknamed it the "Cow's Nest." The Spa area is really beautiful, I enjoyed the thermal room for a while one afternoon - and used the Therapy pool twice (both times were on sea days) - there was no charge for these because they are still working out problems with the facilities. I was looking forward to the therapy pool and was very disappointed to find that it still had not been fixed. The water was quite cool and only a few jets were working - the bubble loungers were not working at all. I looked into a couple of the treatment rooms - they were the nicest I've ever seen - the tables were draped in bright colored fabric and had fresh flowers laying on each. Ports Half Moon Cay: We tendered in to the island after room service coffee and some sweet rolls from the Neptune. Our Priority tender passes allowed us to walk right onto the boat instead of waiting in lines (another perk of an S suite). The day was a mix of sun and clouds and a bit too cool to be in the water although a few brave souls were swimming. We had the buffet lunch on the island (hotdogs, hamburgers & ribs); it was ok. We were the only ship at the island - think it would be awfully overcrowded if there were more than one ship. This remains one of the best things about sailing with HAL! St. Thomas: We wandered around the jewelry shops. St. Kitts: We took the new Railroad excursion. It had only begun running two weeks prior and is a very nice trip. You have a choice of an upper (open) seat or a seat in the lower enclosed car. Complementary rum punch was served and there is narration that gives much information on the island. Nassau: We did the dolphin encounter. It was very well done with everyone having a great deal of time to interact with the dolphins. Additional items to note Our mini bar was broken and removed for repair - it was returned on day 6. It didn't bother me much, but irritated my husband who wants a cold Coke with his Jack Daniels. There was a nasty sewer odor in our cabin 2 days. The only other place I noticed it was in a hallway near the Queens Lounge one time. It seems to only affect small areas of the ship and at different times. No one could answer my question about what caused it. The service is still a little confused, but should improve with a little time. With the exception of a few bar staff, everyone was attentive, friendly and smiling in the usual HAL style. Formal nights - we wear tuxes and gowns. I noticed fewer tuxes at early dinner than late and although most people did dress for dinner, there were more suits than on past sailings. The fresh flowers throughout the ship remain one of my favorite things! To sum up: it was a good trip, but not great. I think I prefer the smaller HAL ships, but price and itinerary being right I would sail Zuiderdam again.April 2003 Read Less
I found the Zuiderdam to be my least favorite ship--and I love all the old Holland ships. The traffic pattern was really weird and when the Captain had his receptions, the people were backed up all the way through the Casino, which made ... Read More
I found the Zuiderdam to be my least favorite ship--and I love all the old Holland ships. The traffic pattern was really weird and when the Captain had his receptions, the people were backed up all the way through the Casino, which made the gambling and traffic flow difficult. On 2 deck you can only go down one side of the ship--different, huh? We did a recent back to back in the Caribbean and there were not enough public restrooms (3 or 4 of the ones they had were out of order). I am aware they were fixing that problem as it was a MESS with all the construction going on. Beds are on metal slabs--extreme backache for people who are not used to sleeping on a hard floor --I couldn't move the next morning. HAL has always had wonderful beds--not these. Air vent in cabin directly above bed--blew cold air on head, shoulders, and neck and since neither of us could stand that, had to tape a deflector to the ceiling to direct blow elsewhere. No laundry--hard doing a back to back, when you expect it, and I believe it was originally planned. No VCR in room, no radio on headboard and only announcements in hall (impossible to hear) unless important, like fire drills, and then they came through the room. Bathroom flooded during high seas and they had been aware that it did. Junk food put on dresser was always in the way and takes up all the space--they have all that stuff in the stores--leave it there. 7 AM vacation of rooms on day of debarkation--before we have always had an 8 AM. Had to get up at 5 AM to get ready for breakfast in the Lido at 6 AM which was a ZOO. I gave the crew and staff good marks as I think they were trying to do everything possible to help everyone. However, I do not plan to travel on a Vista Class ship again and I was told by one of the crew that they are trying to appeal to a younger group--what about all us old timers who have been so loyal to HAL--appeal to us!! jfsutley@pinehurst.net July 2003 Read Less
Cruise reviews are very subjective as folks have different likes, dislikes and expectations. What follows is our experience sailing a back-to-back cruise on the Zuiderdam. Both weeks are Eastern Caribbean itineraries. After doing many ... Read More
Cruise reviews are very subjective as folks have different likes, dislikes and expectations. What follows is our experience sailing a back-to-back cruise on the Zuiderdam. Both weeks are Eastern Caribbean itineraries. After doing many cruises the ports are not as important to us as the ship itself, we simply enjoy a vacation at sea. So you'll know where we're coming from my husband and I are in our late fifties, have done twenty-five cruises on Celebrity, Princess, RCI and one other on HAL. We're pretty much self-contained so don't do shore excursions nor participate in pool games, bingo, etc. We enjoy the ship's ambiance, dining, dancing, good entertainment and just getting away to relax and enjoy time with one another. We made our own air and hotel arrangements and after arriving to warm temps and blue skies, much of a contrast to what we left behind, we were off to the Renaissance Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. We feel it's a choice hotel and close to the pier for a couple of nights, the staff is friendly and pleasant, comfortable accommodations delighted us. We also enjoyed a pleasant stay at this hotel last year, there's a courtesy van that will take you to and from the airport. HAL's check-in is somewhat different from others. After receiving a number you must wait to be called before boarding the ship. Think this is unnecessary as folks get backed up, just not as efficient and it appears to make for a later boarding time. We were escorted to our cabin, I know some folks like this but to us it doesn't matter, just point us to the elevator. Our SS cabin 8072 is comfortable, has adequate space with a sofa, table, two chairs and a vanity; facing the balcony with a window over it is a desk and chair. The bath is large with a whirlpool tub, separate shower and double sinks. Mirrors in cabin are tinted (seem dark to me), cabin steward brought two extension cords so I could use my own blow dryer in the bath which has brighter lighting. There is a blow dryer in vanity drawer with a short cord, my husband doesn't mind using this. Spacious balcony has wicker like furniture, table and chairs for dining along with two chairs and foot rests, nicer than the plastic furniture on some of the other ships, decking is teak. Think we can live here comfortably but decor doesn't charm us at all, we later discover the same to be found throughout the ship. Our luggage arrives in timely fashion and after unpacking we explore what will be home to us for two weeks. While we were aware of the garish decor of the Zuiderdam it was nevertheless a bit disappointing, clearly not our cup of tea and certainly the "ugly duckling" of the fleet. Having said that it won't ruin our cruise, we enjoy elegant ships and this it's not. It's anything but splendid, refined and placating, rather it's pulsating, has a confining and inept three level atrium, much glitz, mazes and dark passages connecting public rooms without many ocean views. I'm befuddled locating all this space that HAL refers to, it appears they took the first three decks to the chopping block. Captain's Welcome Party for week one was held at the amidships pool on Lido, the only other room large enough to host this is the Vista Lounge where it was held on week two. Lido Deck is laid out nicely with a pool amidships, quieter than the stern pool and the Lido Buffet is between the two. We enjoyed listening to the steel band that played here in the afternoon while having lunch by the pool. Outside the Crow's Nest you'll find cushy and comfy chairs for reading and relaxing, both sun and shade can be found here. Moved to cabin SS 8093 for week two, found this to be the sunnier side of the ship, our former cabin was frosty much of the time, temp controls appear to be working better here. Staff was eager to assist in relocating but we easily accomplished this ourselves. Decor of the ship seems to be growing on us. New cabin steward is preferable, has friendly chatter each time we see him, very eager to please and fun loving. While the ship is very clean we notice several areas of rust and chipped paint when looking up to the underside of Lido Deck from our balcony, also some of the artwork around the ship appears to be broken. Captain Mercer and officers are quite pleasant, they're out and about the ship, Captain makes informative announcements at noon each day. FOOD We found food throughout the ship to be quite good although at times bland in the dining room. The waiters here while pleasant are certainly not knowledgeable about food prep, could use a bit of savoir faire also. Other than dining being fragmented we enjoyed the Lido, found food tastier than dining room and we usually avoid this area on ships. We found a wide choice, loved the "deli" with excellent offerings, enjoyed lunch here most days sometimes bringing it down to our balcony to enjoy. There's also Italian, Oriental and the usual buffet. Ice cream/toppings and desserts are here until 1 AM daily, Italian until 11 PM. Breakfast buffet in the Lido also includes an omelet station, as in most buffets getting a table can be a challenge. Each evening alternate dining takes place here from 6:30 until 8 PM, no reservations. The Grill is located at the amidships pool with the usual burgers, chicken, hot dogs and French fries, a Taco Bar is also here. Dinner in the Odyssey one evening was pleasurable. Week #1 we had a table for two, late seating on the main level of the dining room. For week #2 we changed our table for two to first seating on the upper level along the rail which we discovered was preferable to us, less noise and visually more appealing than the darkness on the main level. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment in the Vista Lounge has been some of the best we've seen on the high seas. The four production shows were outstanding, the comedy of Paul Drake and pianist Paul Pappas we superb also. Each evening D'Amour played easy listening and dance music in the Ocean Bar (this is one of those confining areas in the inept atrium), not much space allotted. The Sharp Beat Band, a bit more upbeat played nightly in the Crow's Nest. The Explorers Lounge which is nothing more than seating along port side outside of the dining room hosted a string quartet which was lovely. Would have enjoyed listening after dinner but this area of the ship was frigid all of the time, it's very much underused. I'm not going to comment on ports as we navigate on our own when going ashore. However, I will say that Half Moon Cay is the most lovely of the private islands we've visited. Sunny skies and warm island breezes make our beach walk most pleasant. Can't comment on the spa or gym as we didn't utilize these facilities. SUMMARY We had a wonderful and relaxing cruise, for the most part seas were calm, the weather was delightful with blue skies and a gentle breeze. The Promenade is great for walking, spent time on the comfy recliners here also when not on our balcony which was ideal. Ship is definitely cold, am sure this is to keep bacteria at bay, bring sweater, sweatshirt, evening wrap, etc. There is also a definite vibration on the Zuiderdam, we noticed it most in the stern of the dining room on the main level, other folks we spoke with seemed to be more aware of it in other areas also. The odor folks speak of was quite apparent the first week in several areas of the ship including our cabin, while unpleasant it wasn't disruptive. However, we weren't aware of it the second week, hopefully, it has abated. Service onboard was fine, if not excellent in the Lido, many smiling faces and always eager to please. If a HAL ship was "going our way" we would sail with them although they would not be our first choice and it definitely would not be on one of their new Vista Class Ships. The Zuiderdam has something for everyone, she'll comfortably cruise you through the blue waters of the Caribbean; in style, I'm not sure about that, depends on what you're comfortable with. PattiKake8@aol.com May 2003 Read Less
This newest ship of HAL hits you with brilliant reds, purples and turquoises the minute you board. Furnishings have lost the old HAL conservative look and are bright, crayon colored fabric and oversized. The dining room chairs were among ... Read More
This newest ship of HAL hits you with brilliant reds, purples and turquoises the minute you board. Furnishings have lost the old HAL conservative look and are bright, crayon colored fabric and oversized. The dining room chairs were among the biggest surprises with their bright red flowered backs. Another bright red surprise was the Vista Lounge showroom's decor. This is not a criticism, but a matter of taste. I got used to it and liked it. My husband never did, although he said he'd go on the ship again. We've had 10 cruises on HAL and 4 on Carnival, so the "Carnivalization" was pretty apparent to both of us. Food: Lido Deck Buffet - You have so many choices here, Food stations included a sandwich bar, pizza and pasta bar, sushi and stir fry bar, traditional hot foods bar, salad bar and HAL's famous ice cream bar. All food was of excellent quality. You could also eat here at supper. Another "Carnivalization" - the ice cream and pizza was available from late morning until late at night. What a treat! Dining Room: We had most of our meals here. The seafood was plentiful and fresh. The filet mignons and prime rib melted in your mouth as did the Lobsters. My husband was disappointed in the sirloin and rib eye steaks (thin). Otherwise the food was excellent. Another "Carnivalization" - instead of special dishes every breakfast, HAL now has a set menu. Alternative Dining: We did not eat at the Odyssey Restaurant, but you could for $20 per person. It did not look very busy. Staterooms: Most are balconied. We ordered coffee, tea and donuts every mooring to start out our day on the balcony. Room Service was excellent. You could even order hot entrees for all meals and they arrived hot. The room featured a king sized bed, sofa, chair, mini bar, bathtub and shower. It had ample closet space and decorated in red and beige. Very comfortable. Entertainment: HAL entertainment has improved, but they still have a way to go. The dancing troupe was talented, but their "Disneyland" type costumes distracted from their routines. The other entertainment was great -- a comedic juggler, excellent pianist, and a comic. Another "Carnivalization" - the comic did a late night adult show which was great. Casino: This was our biggest surprise. The Casino slot machines produced a lot of jackpot winners, including myself twice, my father and sister. Other activities: Most exercise classes charged a fee. HAL has done away with their exercise incentive program. Highlights were the High Dutch Tea, Chocolate Buffet and an afternoon classical music concert. Another "Carnivalization" was the disco, decorated in a black and white cow skin pattern. But the Ocean Bar, done in softer tones, attracted the middle age crowd. Itinerary: Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and best of all Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island in the Bahamas. We tendered to Grand Cayman and it was rough getting onto and off the lifeboats they used. Two days later when we tendered to Half Moon, the Captain was at the ship's tender site which made me think people had complained. I was impressed that he would go to the site of the problem. Needless to say, the tendering process was much smoother that day. We had beautiful weather and smooth sailings. With all this ship offers it was very easy to have a great time. Service was excellent. It was very obvious that everyone wanted us to enjoy our cruise with minimal hassles. Margwva@wmconnect.com September 2003 Read Less
A new era in the world of cruising has begun with the introduction by the Holland America Line of the Vista Class. These larger vessels have 40% more space yet only 25% more passengers on board, continuing a feeling of elbow room within ... Read More
A new era in the world of cruising has begun with the introduction by the Holland America Line of the Vista Class. These larger vessels have 40% more space yet only 25% more passengers on board, continuing a feeling of elbow room within the space ratio guidelines. The first of these four ships is the spectacular ms Zuiderdam. It was dedicated at a ceremony at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, on December 14, 2002. The inaugural passenger sailing through the eastern Caribbean followed. This ship is yet another example of the genius of Dutch architect Frans Dingeman of the firm of VFD Interiors, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Mr. Dingeman is responsible for the selection of artwork, sculpture, and antiques. He also chose the colors and style for the walls, floors, ceilings, furnishings, and fixtures. Simply everything within reflects his magic touch. One senses a presence of interior architecture, a new standard for this new century. Eighteen hundred passengers are made comfortable within a hull that previously outfitted twenty-four hundred. Thus there is actually more space per passenger than the previous HAL Statendam class ships. Yet the public areas are designed with a built-in intimacy, whether you are in the lounges, theatre, meeting rooms, or shops. Speaking of lounges, the magnificently equipped stage in the Vista Show Lounge is an experience in vivid red. It is a most comfortable and exciting room, yet it is appointed to create an environment for world-class entertainment. The all-new "Movies and Broadway" musical extravaganza production was the best show ever for HAL. The audience was on its feet in applause numerous times. You have to see it. The Bob Mackie costumes are in a young, fresh, and daring style. It is all tastefully done, yet the temperature has been turned up a notch. Someone has recently written that "this is not your father's Holland America Line," which is an appropriate take. HAL mariners will find many different nooks and crannies, an expanded health and fitness center and spa, and the Starboard Gift Shop, which has great shopping value, including a line of Waterford crystal. The Atrium features a huge and absolutely breathtaking illuminated seahorse sculpture manufactured exclusively for HAL in Ireland, by Waterford of course. It is the work of Mr. Billy Canning, chief lighting designer for the world-famous Waterford firm. Various replicas are available only at the gift shop on board in a multitude of price ranges. Also available are stunning candlestick holders. We certainly treasure ours. It's a unique souvenir, for certain. Our stateroom was a 254-square-foot verandah, equipped with a queen bed, a sofa sitting area, and a dressing table with chair. The room also had a floor-to-ceiling glass window and door to the verandah, mini-bar refrigerator, adequate closets, 24/7 global direct telephone, dresser drawers, a safe, a hair dryer, a spotless and well-lighted bath/shower, and a TV/music channel system--with remote, of course. The ms Zuiderdam is outfitted with 85% of its cabins classified as outside ocean view, and 80% are verandahs with chairs and table. This makes for a more affordable verandah experience. With the available triples and even quads along with adjoining staterooms, it makes for a perfect family home at sea. Speaking of family, the Club HAL is equipped better than ever with state-of-the-art audio/video technology and hi-tech games that are "cool" enough for those in the teen years. The younger ones, ages five and up, will find plenty of fascinating play in a room made for them. Also easy to take advantage of is the twenty-four hour room service, which offers an extensive menu for kids of all ages. We started each of our days with fresh coffee as our wake-up call at a time selected by us the night before. What a pleasure it was to welcome the first sun of the day from our private verandah, enjoying coffee and anything else one cares to order-all complimentary, of course. The complimentary trend continues through the day, whether at the Ice Cream Bar and or enjoying fresh popcorn at the movies. The Vista Dining Room is a typical HAL two-story dining area, with muted floral patterns throughout and the finest silverware and china. Its glass walls and brass railings are in the HAL tradition. There are several alternatives to the main dining room, too. The Lido at dinner is made up very special. The upscale gourmet Odyssey Dining Room is better than ever, with its separate kitchen and even its own chef. There is a nominal fee, which we found well worth it. The ambience and the food are so special. We had our own oval table for eight with plenty of space and an unhurried pace. It was a dining experience equal to a midtown Manhattan restaurant or our own Near North entertainment district in Chicago. It is world class. Up on the top deck near Club Hal and just around the corner is a golf simulator for Mom and Dad. It is as good as this game can get while in the middle of an ocean. Nearby is an arcade for kids of all ages. All are easily accessible from the midship elevators. These elevators include the four breathtaking exterior ones, which are glass walled, facing out over the sea. The fourteen elevators and stairwells are abundant and easily located to facilitate moving among the eleven public decks. The ship also has a world-class casino, tennis court/basketball area, a multiuse cabaret lounge/theatre, sports bars, Internet cafe, concierge lounge, photo shop, beauty shop, and the most extensive spa facility ever for HAL. The Windstar Cafe offers gourmet treats and sweets galore, with coffee and ice cream drinks to satisfy the most discriminating palate. Religious services continue to be included amidst the great daily program of events. The Lido pool is adorned with a polar bear family. It is striking art. The area was never crowded even though it has three whirlpools and a glass roof that is open to the sun and closed for cloudy or inclement weather. The outside pool is also fresh water and nicely warmed. There is an outside whirlpool as well and plenty of deck chairs and fresh towels. The tables and chairs make for a nice conversation area and are especially a treat when used for breakfast or luncheon. The pool bars are spacious and friendly. At 82,000 tons, the ms Zuiderdam is a lot of ship. It is 950 feet long, has a generous passenger space ratio over 44 cubic feet per person, and has a speed of 24 knots. More than 66 percent of the cabins have private verandahs. No matter what cabin one is booked in, though, the same fine crew and staff serve you in the Holland America Line's "Tradition of Excellence." You owe it to yourself to take advantage of this newest of the Holland America Line's fleet. The ms Zuiderdam's seven-day cruises are scheduled through the next year. The alternating eastern and western Caribbean cruises make this the perfect family vacation value. You might also consider a back-to-back two-week experience for the ultimate getaway in a world-class environment. We are going again in February. Bon voyage, Lynne and Mike Coyne, Chicago Fire Department, Retired 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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