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 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 ( 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 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. 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 .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. 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? 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!! 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. 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. 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
This Feb 15th sailing to the eastern Caribbean was taken in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. Demographics: my husband is in his early 60's and I'm 40 something - this was our 3rd cruise, first with Holland America. ... Read More
This Feb 15th sailing to the eastern Caribbean was taken in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. Demographics: my husband is in his early 60's and I'm 40 something - this was our 3rd cruise, first with Holland America. Arrival at Ft. Lauderdale airport was uneventful - were met by a very efficient greeter from HAL ... a helpful young fellow who took care of our luggage as soon as we pointed it out on the carousel. The bus whisked us away to the Westin Ft. Lauderdale, a nice looking hotel with pretty pool area and a lovely canal in the rear of the property. Room was spacious, however, the walls were paper-thin and there was little sound absorption from voices in the hallway. We could clearly hear our neighbor's television set at night and were awakened early in the morning by people speaking in normal tones in the hallway. Our luggage was removed from our rooms at 11:00 AM and taken to the port. We boarded the "Happy Bus" at 1:15 for the ride to Port Everglades - we set foot on the Zuiderdam at 2:30 PM. Not bad, considering the bus ride took about 20 minutes. The lines for checking in were short and the HAL reps were very cordial. When we boarded the ship, we were greeted by a number of staff who directed us to our cabin. We chose an inside cabin (7119) on the Rotterdam Deck (our first inside cabin) - and were pleased with the layout ... had our steward move the beds together and made a very workable arrangement for our next week. Our luggage was waiting for us when we entered the cabin - something I was not expecting! We deposited our carry-on luggage in our room and headed to the Lido Deck for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised with the variety and number of food stations which made for very little waiting in lines throughout the week. We opted for the quickest available food - pizza, fresh and hot from the oven, and went outside to find a friendly bartender to give us something to accompany it. The lifeboat drill took place around 4:30 PM and as usual, there were the tardy ones who caused a lengthy wait. The drill could have been over in about 10 minutes if we hadn't had to wait for others. We replaced our life vests in our cabin and headed to the main pool on the Lido Deck to meet some folks from the CC board - we were happy to meet Thulewx from Greenland, Carnival Junkie and his wife from Michigan, Jimcruser and his family from New York, as well as RSFields. Very nice folks, all of them; it was good being able to put faces and names together. We ran into all of them from time to time throughout the cruise. Sail away on the back Lido Deck was great - everybody in such happy spirits ... feeling the warm, moist air on our skins made us feel absolutely giddy! Off to dinner (early seating) - we were on the lower level of the Vista Dining Room, just below the Champagne Strings area. The music filtered down to our table, which made dining quite enjoyable. We didn't notice a lot of vibration at our table, but then we were in the middle of the dining room. Maybe closer to the back it was more pronounced, but not where we were. Half Moon Cay was beautiful - everything that it's proclaimed to be. The beach was as fine as grains of salt, and the ocean was about 6 different shades of blue and green. My husband chose to go parasailing - and I chose to stay on the beach and worry if I was the newest widow on the cruise! All was well, he enjoyed his flight, even though they did encounter a squall while he was airborne and had to be reeled in until it passed. St. Kitts was a nice island stop - we were amused that in the middle of their main city, there were chickens & roosters running around, with the cars stopping for them if they were in the street. Had a nice lunch at the Circus Bar & Grill overlooking the town square - highly recommend the "Flying Fish Burger" - very tasty. St. Thomas - what can I say about St. Thomas? It has changed a little since we were there in 1989 with Havensight Mall having grown from 2 buildings to 6, with tons of shops. It was great fun to again traverse the alleys and gades that make up Charlotte Amalie, in search of the ever-elusive bargain! The Hard Rock Cafe overlooks the bay, so we chose that as our lunch spot - the perfect place to people watch, and enjoy the sailboats, float planes, and private yachts pass before us. It was nice being docked at St. Thomas - we taxied back to the ship with our purchases whenever we wished, rather than having to wait for a tender. Nassau - we've been there twice before, so it wasn't anything new. We ran the gauntlet of taxi drivers and ladies wishing to braid my hair, and did some souvenir shopping at the myriad of stores selling jewelry, perfumes, t-shirts and alcohol. It seems that Nassau is trying to give St. Thomas a run for the money, but it's quite run down and dirty by comparison. We still left a little money in Nassau's economy! Dining room service was very attentive - by the 2nd evening, I had iced tea at my place waiting for me. Our waiter and his assistant, Sang and Lumba made sure we were well taken care of. The menu selections were varied and tempting to most palates. Only once or twice was there a long pause between courses, so I would say our service was quite good. Our experience in the Odyssey was truly wonderful - we dined there on Dutch Night and were pleased with our choice. The service was exceptional, the food and presentation were both noteworthy. Upon our return to the Vista Dining room, we found the hats from Dutch Night had been put aside for us. We enjoyed the shows in the Vista Lounge, and discovered the Champagne Strings playing in the Explorer's Lounge after the first show. We sat there every evening, enjoying the music while sipping a coffee and liqueur, and on nights 3 and 4 we were serenaded at our table. On the 5th night, they had a special table set for us with flowers, extra candles, and our own private assortment of chocolates. We purchased a CD from them (practically had to pry it out of them - there certainly wasn't any overt salesmanship going on there!) and tried it on the CD player we'd brought - wonderful music. There was always lots of activity going on in the Queen's Lounge, the Northern Lights Disco, and the Crow's Nest. The forward facing leather lounge chairs in the Crow's Nest are wonderful!!! We left our usual donation at the casino - the next time we might as well give it all to them at the beginning of the week, rather than prolonging the agony throughout the week! The ship is decorated in brighter colours than previous HAL ships have been (so I've been told by others), but they're not as garish as I expected them to be. The atrium was a little disappointing - yes, the Waterford crystal seahorse was beautiful, but I think it would have been better displayed in a much larger atrium area. I thought the atrium would be a focal point for people to converge throughout the day and discovered very few people were there unless they had to visit the Front Office. Waiting ... we never had to wait for tables in the Lido area - if the inside was full, we simply went outdoors and enjoyed the fresh air with our meals. At poolside, or on the sun decks, we looked around and there were always lounge chairs available, although some had personal belongings on them, it wasn't a problem of "chair hogs" that we'd heard pre-cruise. There was some waiting between courses during dinners, but that can be attributed to the number of tables our servers were taking care of. It allowed us time to get to know our tablemates better. Disembarkation was easy - after breakfast we waited in the Explorer's Lounge (seems like it was our 2nd home that week!) for about an hour and were whisked away by the "Unhappy bus" to Miami International for our flight home to the frozen tundra. Other folks have indicated they smelled sewer odours either in their cabin, or around the ship. We did have minor sewer smell coming from our bathroom - we put plastic on the floor drain and closed the sink drain and that pretty much cleared it up. We noticed the odd mechanical smell outside, but that's to be expected, you're on a ship! Paint - there were people painting the railings a couple of afternoons while we were relaxing on the lounge chairs - of course, you're going to smell paint! We didn't find it offensive, and if it had been, we would have simply moved to a different area. This was our first trip with Holland America - would we do it again? In a heartbeat! June 2003 Read Less
While on a recent cruise with a charter company which was chartered on the Holland America MS Zuiderdam, I experienced an extreme lack of service and attention to detail that surprised me based on Holland America's Prideful push that ... Read More
While on a recent cruise with a charter company which was chartered on the Holland America MS Zuiderdam, I experienced an extreme lack of service and attention to detail that surprised me based on Holland America's Prideful push that this ship was the first of your 5 Star Vista Line. Our cruise was the second leg of a two week charter, and while waiting in line to enter the terminal, I spoke with someone who had taken part of the first week leg of the trip. He seemed to be overjoyed about not only the trip but also highly praised the Odyssey Restaurant. Before embarking on my trip I had read some web site reviews of the ship, and those were mostly negative. I however, having spent many years in the hotel industry took both perceptions into account and boarded the ship with absolutely no preconceived expectations except to have the time of my life. Upon boarding and going to our rooms, we found everything to be clean, and in order. A couple of my friends found some personal items from the previous guest left in their nightstand however. We then strolled through the ship, making it to the dinner reservations table where the officers from the ship and the charter staff handled our reservations efficiently. After checking out the ship I joined my friends in their cabin, whereupon their luggage was delivered. I have to say the luggage was delivered far quicker than on my previous cruise (Carnival). Their cabin steward appeared and we asked a few questions. One of which was where the laundry room was (I had previously read on the web that this ship charged for many things that were free on While on a recent cruise which was chartered on the Holland America MS Zuiderdam, I experienced an extreme lack of service and attention to detail that surprised me other ships and so I wanted to test it). He indicated in broken English that there were no Laundry/Ironing areas. It would be necessary to turn in laundry to the laundry service. I soon was to experience a number of events that would qualify this ship as having the worst service I have ever experienced in my life. My group proceeded to the Lido Pool Aft to enjoy the ship's leaving Ft. Lauderdale. I first experienced a bartender at the Lido Bar that spoke broken English, and did not exert any customer service skills at all. He slowly moved throughout his station taking an order every minute or so and rumbled around arranging glasses, wiping the bar and taking his time to complete an order. When I finally asked him for my order it took a good 3-4 minutes to complete the transaction. My initial thought was, if the cruise ship makes money on the bars, why he was moving so slowly to accommodate us? After that, my group and I proceeded to enjoy our voyage towards Key West! I later joined my group for our early dining assignment. We all gathered at our table and upon ordering found that the waiter was unaware of the menu as one guest at our table asked about what were the ingredients included in a dessert dish. He was unable to respond. I later asked, (as I had before on Carnival without question) for a copy of the dinner menu. The waiter acted hesitant, which I accepted, because I was on the early dining schedule. There was a later seating, after all. He came back a few minutes later and said that he would hold a menu for me and give it to me the next day. This was certainly acceptable but then he came back to me 10 minutes later and said he checked with his supervisor and it was a new "regulation" that they cannot give out menus, but instead, we could buy them! I immediately thought this was a sham because the menus were printed with the charter company name and could never be used again. It is a piece of paper that would be thrown away later. I also have to comment that when we first boarded the ship, we went to the Lido Restaurant and enjoyed the food served there. I later found that I did not enjoy the food at the Vista Dining Room for most dinners. One night I ordered the Filet Mignon and it came out tasting like dried up Roast Beef. I had to refuse it and reorder the Duck. This was slightly better. The Captain's Dinner was a disappointment for my friends and me in that they did not have Steak and Lobster available. I've heard this is a staple for that dinner. The night that Lobster was available, it was spongy and ill-prepared. Later in the week it became apparent that the Odyssey Restaurant was booked or not available. We learned that it was due to the fact that on the first leg of the cruise many people had booked reservations and did not show up. Therefore they released much of the staff for the second leg. Many nights, I had friends that were on the wait list and went to see if they could get in. They saw only a handful of people and many empty tables but could still not be seated. It was later relayed that due to the above, there was not enough staff to allow other entries. This poses the question, if there is a service that was not utilized by another cruise's guests, should the following guests have to deal with that consequence? Perhaps there should be a regulation that if someone is 15 minutes late for their reservation, the table would be released. With this standard the staff could have been retained for our cruise and they would have made the money. Money is another issue. The literature that I received prior to the cruise was misleading. What I read was that there was no charge, however it was suggested that if you wanted to tip the wait staff it is advisable because that may be the only time you see them. The reality was it was fifteen dollars a head to experience tip I am sure!. The breakfast routine was also very awkward. They had three buffet lines going, the first one had the regular items plus they were preparing fried eggs and omelets (one order at a time). The second one was just fast buffet items (scrambled eggs, bacon, etc) and then the third one had the same. For some reason everyone always went to the first one and the line was always long. Could they not just have one buffet for the items that took longer and had more orders being done at once? Finding anything other than coffee or tea was challenging as well. Glasses of orange juice and punch were left in obscure locations that many of us didn't see until the 4th day. I also found muffins and croissants, but never found anywhere to make toast. In the evening of the first night when we expected to enjoy the early entertainment in the Vista Lounge we had comedian Judy Gold performing. She started the show in a fabulous fashion and had the crowd very pleased until during one of her punch lines an alarm sounded. It was a short time before the Captain (or his assistant) came on the speaker and announced that there was a fire on board! He indicated that they would investigate the event and notify us of further developments. Immediately my friends became alarmed, but Judy Gold continued with her act and hoped to ease the fear. Unfortunately, every time she was to deliver a punch line the alarm would sound. With each alarm, the Captain (or Assistant) sounded more frantic. Eventually there was an announcement for all personnel to report to their stations. It was at this time that I noticed even the lighting booth in the showroom was vacant of employees. I immediately had thoughts of a fire breaking out and 900 guests in the showroom panicking. My initial thought was that the cruise ship played such an importance of the lifeboat drill from a person's room, but nothing was stated about what should happen when in another part of the ship. Should I report to my same muster station? If so, where was I to get a life jacket? There might not be enough time to get to my room to get my life jacket and then proceed to my muster station! Frightening! It turned out that it was apparently an electrical fire from some device (a laptop that was plugged into the outlet under the TV on the desk). We were never informed. If it was some device that was plugged in by a guest, I would assume they would make an announcement to all passengers to make sure the problem did not occur again. This did not happen. It may be one of those "new ship" things. The following day, we docked in Key West and enjoyed the day, and then upon returning to the ship we planned for the evening's events. A short time into the evening while at a party, my cabin mate came to me and relayed that he went through the ship on the Lido deck trying to find a bathroom. He asked 5 people where the bathrooms were and due to the language barrier, not one employee could answer. He eventually found one himself. I later went to find a public restroom and found that all public restrooms had electronic doors. It was necessary to push a button to open it and push a button to close and lock it as well. When leaving it, I tried to open the door and found it would open only a short bit. After pushing the button a few times the door only opened about 5-6 inches. I pushed against the opening of the door to open it further and found that the doors have a metal edging. It sliced my palm open. While mostly what was a surface wound, blood started flowing and I immediately went to the nearest employee location, which was a bar that was on the Upper Lido deck and pointed out the cut to the bartender. I didn't want to cause a scene but quietly showed him the blood flowing over my palm and told him I was concerned about other passenger's safety with these doors and wanted him to report the situation. Thoughts ran through my mind (based on hotel my experience) that he would immediately call a manager and responded with first aid actions. Antiseptic should be applied. However, he kept pouring drinks and expressed no concern. It wasn't until the bar was closing that he symbolically offered me a free drink. Any cut is a serious matter; a cut from a bathroom door is certainly more alarming. It is imperative that the proper first aid administrations are carried out, and that all employees either know themselves or who can perform these functions. Throughout the week, it became very clear we could not depend on any line staff to assist us. They couldn't understand English! Most passengers that I spoke with gave up on speaking with any service attendants. Through out the week, whenever going to the Bar, we experienced the same slow, almost non-existent service. Once while joining friends at the Lido Aft, I went to the bar there and stood waiting to order a drink. While I stood there, no more than 10 people had approached the bar while I stood there, however it took 20 minutes to fill my order and that was only because I had to eventually yell out my order repeatedly for the bartender to make sure he heard me. No bartender throughout the ship ever gave eye contact...they had their job to matter how slow! I found it very interesting as well that the Captain's Reception was a bore. The Reception was no more than gathering all attending in the showroom, making us sit facing the stage. It felt like a funeral in process and I would never have joined if I knew what to expect. My understanding is that the Captain's reception should be a chance to meet the captain and briefly speak with him. In addition to that, it turns out that the photo opportunity with the Captain at the Captain's Reception was not with the Captain at all, but with the Hotel Manager. With this example of how a Captain runs his ship, it would appear to me that the Captain had no interest in meeting the guests. I assume this is why the line staff has no interest in serving us. The final night was a one of the most unbelievable, service-wise. While we were dining, a waiter dropped an entire strawberry sorbet down my back. His response was so slow and unapologetic that I wanted to bring it to the waiter's attention. What I got from the waiter was a muddled "Sorry" and then he was off. No concern if my clothes were soiled or for the inconvenience. Later, I stopped by the front desk to settle my account and asked if they had a comment card for the ship. They said they did not but that charter company had a comment card. I then asked what they do for a regular un-chartered cruise and they said they do have comment cards but refused to give me one because the charter company had theirs. I relayed my experiences when I returned to Los Angeles to my good friend who had taken a Holland America Cruise to Alaska a year and a half ago, and he was shocked at the service. Holland America? What has happened? Why did we experience this? While on my cruise last year with Carnival and the same charter company experiences with that staff -- the Captain himself actually showed at many events and especially at the final disembarkation talk truly expressed a heartfelt interest that we book with them again -- and all other points of a guest's experiences, I certainly have no interest in booking with either of the Holland America and charter company cruises in 2004. The service does not justify the expense. June 2003 Read Less
WHY THIS CRUISE? We wanted to try out the new class of Holland America ships, particularly since we had just sailed on RCI's newest, Brilliance of the Seas, and our cruise prior to that was on the then-newest HAL ship Volendam. So, ... Read More
WHY THIS CRUISE? We wanted to try out the new class of Holland America ships, particularly since we had just sailed on RCI's newest, Brilliance of the Seas, and our cruise prior to that was on the then-newest HAL ship Volendam. So, we thought it would be an interesting comparison. Additionally, the cruise stopped at St. Kitts, a port we had not been to before, so this was a plus. We wanted to sail later in the month, but the ship was chartered (by a gay-lesbian group, we were to find out later!) for the week of Feb. 22, so we booked for the week of Feb. 15. CRUISE DEMOGRAPHICS This cruise did not have a typical HAL clientele, in my experience. As I was to subsequently learn, this week was a winter break for schools in the northeast, so there were more families, children and younger people aboard than had been on previous HAL cruises I had been on. Not surprisingly, many of the people on board were from New York and the northeast - not that there's anything wrong with that - but the geographic diversity typical of most cruises was less apparent on this one. GETTING TO THE SHIP In the post 9/11 world, flying to your cruise port is easily the worst part of the trip. Our trip started with a heightened "threat level" that caused airport police to stop every car inbound to the airport to search trunks. So, on one of the busiest days of the travel season, the waiting started driving into the airport, followed by the wait to check bags, followed by the wait to go through security screening, followed by the wait to get on the aircraft. We navigated this gauntlet of frustration (and futility?) successfully, and departed Charlotte, NC for Miami. For reasons too complicated to explain here, my companion, Barbara, and I flew separate airlines into Miami about an hour apart, but rendezvoused successfully and took the HAL bus from the Miami airport to the Port Everglades Piers. We considered renting a car or taking the Super Shuttle, but the HAL shuttle bus at $24 a person turned out to be the most convenient and quickest. Whatever way you go however, it's a lot easier to fly into the airport your cruise ship leaves from, and cheaper to get to the piers, so even if the airfare costs a little more, I'd recommend it. Once at the piers in Fort Lauderdale, we were assigned a boarding group number, and after about a 40 minute wait, we were onboard the ship. Interestingly, HAL had no special lines or expedited check in procedures for their repeat cruises, the "mariner society." THE SHIP MS Zuiderdam is the newest HAL ship in its newest class of liners. She is an attractive ship with more size, space and verandah cabins than previous "dam" ships. One major improvement in general layout is the absence of "outside" cabins that look directly onto the promenade deck. The tradeoff is that some outside cabins on the Upper Promenade Deck have obstructed views due to lifeboats and other apparatus, but I think overall that this is a much better arrangement. The number of verandah cabins available also makes them more affordable, so we made this out first verandah splurge - room 8071 - on the Navigation Deck. More about cabins later. Overall, I would say we were a bit disappointed by the interior decoration of the ship. Call me jaded if you will, but after Brilliance of the Seas, Volendam and Vision of the Seas, the public spaces appeared somewhat dull and relatively unattractive. There were a lot of funky sculptures and decorations around the ship that, to my taste, added little. Is HAL trying to be avant-garde with its furnishings to attract a younger crowd? One sofa, in the shape of oversize lips (the Mick Jagger sofa, as one comedian called it), was typical. (See photo in photo gallery.) The Explorer's lounge was pleasant and the dining room was attractive, but overall, the interior was less attractive to me than the previous ships we had been on. There has been a lot of discussion on web site chatrooms about odors and vibrations aboard Zuiderdam. Despite extensive sniffing around, I could find absolutely no trace of sewage odors. The vibration, on the other hand, took no searching to find. It was very real on those days when the ship needed to steam at close to top speed. It was most noticeable in the dining room, and I imagine the lower decks must have felt it, too. It's hard to imagine that it was a major mechanical problem since the ship's speed and maneuverability were not affected, but it was not something you would expect from a new, state of the art ship. Interesting Holland America chose to stay with the conventional diesel-electric powerplant harnessed to the azipod propulsion system, while the new Royal Caribbean ships opted for the gas turbine engines. Having just been on the Brilliance of the Seas, the difference was gigantic. The gas turbines were silky smooth with virtually no vibration. Sometimes it was hard to tell the ship was under power. Not so with the Zuiderdam. On the other hand, if you like some gentle shaking and rocking to lull you to sleep, HAL's approach is the way to go. On the positive side, Holland America is to be commended for staying with the traditional wide promenade deck that circles the ship entirely. This semi-sheltered deck is perfect for walking, running, reading or snoozing on the real wood, cushioned deck chairs. Many of the new ship designs have abandoned this feature in exchange for more balcony cabins, and this, to me, is a big loss. Our cabin, 8071, was located as close to the middle of the ship as possible, where we like it. The location was convenient to most activities and was just one deck below the Lido Dining room, meaning that the first cup of coffee in the morning was literally 3 minutes away! The room itself was fine with ample storage (closets can be set up to accommodate hanging clothes or shelf storage), a refrigerator and safe. The bathrooms are larger than normal with a real bathtub and conventional shower that provided more room than the semi-circular designs favored by Royal Caribbean. Barbara complained about the lack of light at the makeup table, the only location to use the hairdryer since there wasn't an outlet in the bathroom. The floor to ceiling sliding windows allowed excellent ocean views, and the verandah, although small, was pleasant. I was a little concerned booking this room because it was right next to the outside elevator and the main mid-ships elevators, and I worried that the DING-DONG chime announcing car arrival or machinery noises would be bothersome. This was not the case, but we did discover that the outside elevator had a great view of our verandah as it went by! A similar lack of privacy existed in all the aft ship cabins with balconies. These large spaces were completely exposed to viewing from the Lido Deck aft pool area. So, if privacy is important to you, check your cabin location carefully. The rooms on the Upper Promenade Deck that are labeled partially or completely obstructed are, indeed, obstructed. Sometimes in this category you can find a bargain cabin with a decent outside view between lifeboats. Such was not the case here. If the lifeboat didn't completely block the view, machinery and other equipment pretty much obscured the water. These rooms are probably better than an inside room, but not by much. FOOD AND DINING We had a table for 6 at the second seating in the lower dining room. The upper level in this two-deck dining room was clearly better. There were fewer tables, less serving station clutter and an overall better atmosphere. I don't know if it was just luck of the draw if you got a table there, but I suspect that suite owners and perhaps multiple repeat customers were given priority. If you are sailing on this ship, request the upper level with your TA when booking the cruise and see if you can get it. Or, check with the Maitre 'd when you get onboard. The food was very good with ample variety and consistent quality. The service was good but not quite up to the standards we usually experience. At the Captain's Dinner, food delivery was extremely slow, and we did not get out of the dining room until well after the evening show had started (2 hours and 15 minutes). I don't know if the problem was the waiter, the food preparation or what, but this was the one night when most everyone seemed to show up at the main dining room. Other nights the service was quicker and better, coinciding with a number of people eating at the other dining rooms. It also occurred to me that the "tipping not required" policy that HAL has may be taking its toll on the service level. We tipped as customary, but discussion with others aboard led us to believe that they took the "tipping not required" literally. We did not eat at the specialty restaurant, which had a $20 surcharge. The Lido dining room, the buffet style alternative restaurant, had a different layout than earlier HAL ships. Instead of two service lines offering the same food, there were different "stations" that offered different types of food. This cut down on lines but since the stations were on opposite sides of the ship, it was hard to reconnoiter all the offerings before choosing. Don't you hate it when you finish dinner and then see something you really wanted but didn't see until you were on the way out! By contrast, the serving stations in Brilliance of the Seas were all in one central location, making it easier to case all the food offerings before final selection. Other than that, the food in the Lido was fine, with custom egg, omelet and toast/bread options in the morning. As with every other ship afloat, finding a seat is a problem at certain times. The person who solves this problem will be in the same exalted category as the one that thought of the on-board credit cards! ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was top-notch, among the best I have experienced. There was a great comedian, Tom Drake, an entertaining magician/comedian, Bob Brock, and a talented pianist, Paul Pappas. Even the production shows, of which I am not a great fan, were enjoyable. Interestingly, that old time honored cruise activity, horse racing, was absent from this cruise, its place taken by seemingly endless rounds of bingo. Could it be that bingo is a bigger source of onboard revenue? PORTS Half Moon Cay was as pretty as ever, although the tendering process was slow on both ends. St Kitts, our only new port, was enjoyable. There isn't much in the downtown area where the ship docks, but we took a cab to Brimstone Hill Fort which is a well restored fort set high on a hill with dramatic views of the island and nearby waters. We stopped at Romney Mansion on the way back, but unless you are into Batik, there isn't much there. Our taxi ride cost about $50, with tip, - half of the cruise excursion rate - plus we got to spend more time at the fort and beat the crowd there. Other passengers enjoyed the narrow-gauge train trip around the island. We did the Trunk Bay snorkeling/beach excursion in St. Thomas, and shopped a little in downtown Charlotte Amalie in the afternoon. I brought my GPS with me, so if you've ever wondered, the walk from the Havensight ship piers to downtown Charlotte Amalie, it is 1.35 miles. Our final port was Nassau. We took the water taxi to Paradise Island where we toured the Atlantis Hotel complex. This is well worth seeing. It is a combination of Las Vegas and Disneyworld, set in a beautiful tropical environment. You can tour the hotel for free, but access to the grounds is supposed to cost $25 per person. We greased the palm of one of the hotel "guards" and toured the grounds for considerably less, enjoying the beautiful plants, shrubs, pools and aquarium. Atlantis is well worth seeing, but do it on your own rather than take the ship excursion. GETTING HOME We were the 4th of 7 mega cruise ships to dock in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning. We were off the ship by 9:30 even though our flight from MIA didn't leave until late in the afternoon. The disembarkation numbers were not called in sequence, and we left the ship before many, even with our late departure time. We took a cab to a nearby Budget car rental outlet (not serving the airport) to pick up our one-way rental car to Miami. This was a good idea since the cost was comparable to other transport methods to Miami while it afforded the flexibility to spend time in more enjoyable ways than stuck in the airport terminal. Unfortunately, the small shopping center location did not have a big stock of cars, and we had to wait quite a while to get a car. Once in the car we toured the Las Olas area of Fort Lauderdale, stopped at the Marriott Marina to look at the yachts and then drove to Miami via Miami Beach and the MacArthur Expressway, where we could see the Miami based cruise ships. After lunch at Bayside (and an $8.50 parking bill for 1-½ hours) we were off to the airport for our flight home, arriving in Charlotte about 8 pm. It was a long day but at least the airport was considerably less congested than it would have been around 11 - 12. I can only imagine how bad Fort Lauderdale airport must have been with the 7 ships disgorging their passengers simultaneously. PHILOSOPHICAL MUSINGS Item One: It seemed like we had to expend a great deal more energy on the logistics of getting to and from the ship on this trip than in the past. This could be due to increasing old age, but I prefer to believe it is due to the 9/11 flying environment, the increasing size of the ships and the number of ships that are now arriving and departing on the same days. This is a problem most of the cruise lines recognize, hence the number of new departure ports that are cropping up. In the meanwhile, I'll try to drive to the next cruise, and I can't imagine flying to a cruise for anything shorter than a 7-day cruise. Item Two: Two years ago this month, we sailed on HAL's Volendam. In my review of that cruise, I made the comment that HAL was bucking the trend of onboard nickel- and -diming. Alas, I cannot say that anymore. HAL still had some nice extras such as fresh flowers, hot hors-deouvres before dinner and canvas tote bags, but increasingly they are joining the masses with onboard extras. Espresso coffee is now an extra expense, and there is a service fee to charge casino chips to your room account. Beyond that, there was an entire room, the hydrotherapy pool (a glorified hot tub), that charged $15 a day for access. I used to get upset about what I perceived to be an erosion of cruise ship traditions, but I have been reevaluating my position lately. Let's face it, the cruise lines have to make money, and with all the capacity that has been added to the industry lately, the low up front pricing and high onboard charges has been the formula that (apparently) has been working. Besides, prices for cruises have never been better! I paid about the same fare for this cruise, with a verandah cabin, as I did for an obstructed-view cabin on a western Caribbean cruise 6 years ago! On the other hand, I find the onboard charges annoying and a detriment to the overall cruise experience. I'd rather pay more upfront and less on board. And that seems to be the way the industry is evolving - the Carnival and Princess concepts against the Crystal and Silversea. It seems as if HAL is struggling to decide whether it is going to be a true premium product, with higher up front fares and more amenities, or is it going to join the fight with the masses to "get 'em onboard and then earn the money." CONCLUSION This was a good, relaxing cruise on a nice ship. I would not hesitate to recommend HAL or Zuideram, but I would suggest booking a week other than President's weekend, and I'd try to find a cruise that I could drive to rather than fly. Finally, I like Holland America and hope they choose to stay in the premium category rather than dropping into the realm of the ordinary. June 2003 Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.5 0.0
Entertainment 4.5 0.0
Public Rooms 3.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.5 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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