Sail Date: July 2012
Boarding and Disembarkation: All went smoothly with one exception, if you are driving in and out of Vancouver and want to park at Canada Place, book ahead with "Vinci Parking" but be prepared for an utterly confusing experience ... Read More
Boarding and Disembarkation: All went smoothly with one exception, if you are driving in and out of Vancouver and want to park at Canada Place, book ahead with "Vinci Parking" but be prepared for an utterly confusing experience driving through the parking complex and finding their office, which for some reason is next to the exit gates. Once in their office they will give you a yellow ticket to put in the machine along with your parking stub when you are on your way out after your cruise. They then explain in heavily-accented poor English that since they are by the exit this means you will have to drive in reverse to turn your car around and find a parking spot or leave, deal with the fact that you already have a ticket to pay for the privilege of visiting their office, then do a U-Turn in front of the convention/cruise and hotel facility to get back into the parking lot...could not be more stupidly planned and the staff was completely rude and indifferent when I expressed surprise at the poor planning. I chose reverse and made my way back into the lot and down to level P2 -look for parking near the elevator. The reason to advance purchase is not because of a shortage of spaces but rather that I spoke to others who paid a lot more on their way out than was originally quoted. Misunderstanding could have been a language issue or a parking issue, maybe they never found the office to pick up their yellow ticket until after the cruise? There are no signs or directions to help fill this out. Next I will look for a hotel that will do a parking deal and rent a room instead of handing Vinci $186.00 for a headache. Coast Hotels does offer a deal at the Coast Plaza by Stanley Park and it's nice to have an extra night in Vancouver. On Board: We let our agent up-sell us into an SS class Verandah Stateroom and were very happy with all the space. A few watermarks on the walls, stains on the first set of bathrobes, rusty door frame on the bathroom door. Fellow passengers shared our impression that the ship is looking a bit tired and worse for wear in some staterooms. But our beds were very comfortable and cabin stewards did a great job keeping things clean and were very friendly and accommodating. The colour scheme in the common areas is unbelievably gaudy -Denny's purple and orange carpeting, oranges and yellows, many colours I am sure not found in nature -too bad really because the artwork is okay and the fixtures are the usual euro-style chrome and brass, but it's hard to describe how nightmarish the patterns and the colours are until you actually see them.. The Food: Two nights at the Pinnacle Grill for the extra $25/ea were well worth it...5 courses,16oz. steaks fabulous attentive service, weird but pleasant decor and few window tables. When I told the Maitre de that we had booked a month in advance and would like a table that reflected that, we were told that "there are no bad tables at the Pinnacle" sorry bub but we beg to differ and by being a bit assertive got view tables both times. Open-seating means that each time you go to eat at one of the three dining rooms you take your chances. Every time we shared we got fabulous window-side tables and when we insisted on table for two it was hit and miss although a couple of times we really lucked out and had a table for 4 to ourselves. The main dining room lacks the high ceilings and grandeur found on many ships and the service varies from wonderful to indifferent. One disappointment was that the reception often turned cold when we didn't drink (not supposed to- my Dr's orders :-( ). Ordering a soda helped a bit sometimes but they are clearly looking for the 15% service charge that comes on beverages and clearly not happy when you don't play along.Also sent an awful cold breakfast back and that was not well received either -avoid the corned beef hash -it looked pre-digested. Still that was a minor complaint. The food, while not astounding, was consistently good with few exceptions. Key exception being the Lido Buffet which has several self-serve stations: salads, sandwiches, Asian, Ice Cream, Drinks etc. We did our best to avoid it as it was extremely crowded and chaotic at mealtimes and because you needed to visit at least three stations to get salad dinner and drinks. Food was often cold, not at all enjoyable and as you might expect when the food was being thrown together frantically and jockeyed to tables one piece at a time. Still, the Lido is a welcome refuge for people that refuse to wear anything but old jeans or shorts, tank tops and flip flops. Sometimes the Lido felt like a summer camp and at other times like a high-end nursing home. Better to have room service breakfast or stick to the dining room where you get to meet fellow passengers and really feel like you are participating in something special and not just fast food at sea. The 24 hour component consists of lukewarm thin crust pizza and the ice cream station closes quickly unlike the wonderful set up on the last cruise I took with HAL. I think they should go back to the traditional buffet -the Lido was for us, a nightmare. We did have a dinner at Canaletto which is a small corner of the Lido cordoned off and nicely decorated to be an Italian Trattoria, it was only a $10 surcharge and well worth it! The Chocolate Exravaganza was impressive, but the actual desserts were flavourless, remined me of a Chinatown bakery where all the cakes look wonderful but taste the same. Entertainment: Well what can you expect from HAL? The Cruise Director and others hosting and introducing the acts had a really annoying habit of screaming into their mike and talking to you continuing this theme that rather than an ocean cruise, it's summer camp or a nursing home. By far the worst offender among those who could use mike lessons was the piano bar singer who ould not carry a tune, remember the lyrics and was off-key, rambling and yelling and screaming at various points in the show. So bad it was almost funny at times, we almost felt sorry for the guy. The Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers had a strong female singer leading their shows, the male lead was awkward and fawning, but the choreography and direction was unbelievably frenetic, arm-waving, amateurish - so I had to remind myself that it is what it is and go along with it all, but still the direction and production is high school quality at best. Three bright spots for music were the Leonard Cohen type guitarist-singer in the Crow's Nest every night (fantastic!),the classical duo "Adagio" who played piano and strings in the Explorer's Lounge and the ship's band the HAL-cats who were hard at work pumping out good tunes in various venues and had strong singers to complement them...these guys, including the female vocalist Ashley, were the most talented (and ironically hardest working) entertainers on the ship. Maybe it's all the practice? Finally and unusually, the comedians (there were two) were both great and truly hilarious. The magician claimed to have headlined in Vegas (at Bar Mitzvahs maybe?)but was all about pigeons, poodles and pulling multi-coloured scarves out of his mouth. Ashore: We followed our agents advice and booked our own tours. Juneau whale watching on a small boat with 6 other passengers was fantastic (Alaska Galore or Harv and Marv's) and when we saw the giant hulking HAL tour boats listing as 50-70 passengers struggled for a view we know we had made the right choice. Skagway White Pass Railway was fantastic, again, return trip on the train can be purchased online direct from the White Pass Railway for $119.00 return. The train station is right near the dock -can't miss it and there are several trains running a day. No need to book through HAL. You can also get a bus/train combo which will take the highway one way to or from the mountaintop. This gives more chances for photo-taking and makes some stops along the way with a personable guide-driver $129.00. Ketchikan has expensive float plane tours but we really enjoyed just checking it all out ourselves, particularly the Creek District and Dolly's Brothel museum, as well as taking the funicular up to the hill top to the lodge overlooking the harbour. Would we do it again?: We met several returning folks who were on their second or even third trip to Alaska and I can see why, watching a glacier calve into the ocean or being within range of a bunch or Humpback whales is amazing and the history is interesting, the fjords and scenery are just breathtaking. Next time we will try another cruise line with perhaps a bit younger demographic but there is no denying that HAL offers good value and really everything was more or less as we expected. Even with no boozing our stateroom tab was $273. -bingo $35. each for 4 cards, ironing $3.50 a shirt, 3 dinners in the premium restaurants $120.00, $12. a day gratuity (well deserved) it all adds up and they never stop trying to sell you something, so be prepared. Ironically, speaking of sales pitches, we approached their "Book Your Next Cruise Now" staff person to ask if we could fly to Hawaii and cruise home or vice versa? She did not invite us to sit down, she was very unfriendly, (maybe because we were 2 guys together?) and stated "You need to understand, we are not a ferry service, we are a cruise line. Perhaps you could do it but the company will make you pay full retrun trip fare. I can't deal with this kind of request, you will have to contact the company or your travel agent." She didn't seem to notice that we had just picked up hundreds of passengers in the tiny town of Skagway and we about to ferry them to Vancouver, but then since Holland America owns several hotels, tour buses and shore services in Alaska and not Hawaii, maybe I know why. One more reason to try a different line. Remarkably rude for a sales person. Partner said rhymes with "witch", my guess: not her kind of customer. The best show was at 10 am on the final day, when they prep you for disembarkation, hilarious video of the crew spoofing and a really touching good-bye song sung by over 300 of the various staff..don't miss it! Odd thing was the Cruise Director explaining how to fill out the Satisfaction Surveys as follows, "If you were satisfied mark the subject as a 9 if not mark it as an 8 and be very specific as to why." I wouldn't put much credence into their customer satisfaction data. Hmmm, who is accountable if some subjects are rated 3? Could it be there Cruise Director? It ended up being moot for us because Housekeeping staff removed them from the stateroom half-completed while we were atteding the "Mariners Lunch" with the Captain. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We have sailed HAL on all our prior Alaska cruises, we have not had issues with HAL ships, until sailing on the Zuiderdam. HAL is not maintaining this ship. Our cabin was in terrible condition and reminded us of an old cheap motel room. ... Read More
We have sailed HAL on all our prior Alaska cruises, we have not had issues with HAL ships, until sailing on the Zuiderdam. HAL is not maintaining this ship. Our cabin was in terrible condition and reminded us of an old cheap motel room. The balcony draperies had broken hooks and would not close all the way, the draperies at the window were turned upward at the bottom and had a pile of dust in the turn up that took years to accumulate, the balcony was dirty and had food crumbs on the table along with a prior passengers fingernail and toenail clippings, this was downright nasty (the balcony never got washed during this cruise). From the balcony you could see rust on the exterior of the ship The furniture was old, worn and dirty. The bathtub did not drain properly and would remain full for long periods of time, the shower had mold and mildew growing in it, the bathroom door did not properly latch and was very rusted out at the bottom of the frame. After boarding we went to the MDR for welcome back lunch, we were served the worst meal we have ever had on a cruise. We did go back to MDR for breakfast and received a good breakfast, but our second breakfast in the MDR was not such a good experience, the waiter disappeared, another waiter finally tried to sort out the issues, part of our breakfast was finally served to us cold. The remainder of our meals were eaten in the Lido. It is HAL policy to have the crew eating in the Lido at the same time as the passengers for lunch and dinner. I believe this is bad policy. The employees, while getting their meals, run over passengers (just like the other passengers) during the Lido feeding frenzy. The employees monopolize tables, while the passengers are trying to find tables for themselves. While I may have to fight through the other passengers to get my meal and find a table, I do not think I should also have to fight through HAL employees. Maybe the Lido should be renamed to EDR (Employee Dining Room). HAL service and friendliness is down from prior cruises. During our entire cruise the only employees that said anything to us were the Lido staff and the cabin stewards. The other crew members would basically ignore passengers, as if the passengers were not even there. We have sailed on HAL before, but after this cruise, probably will not sail HAL anytime soon. HAL service is not what it has been in the past, the ship is not maintained and the cabin was not clean, Management is not doing any managing, there is no quality control. The amount of money that we paid HAL for this cruise is not worth it. We have sailed other cruise lines, on just as old of a ship, and other cruise line ships have been better maintained. We have had better service and food on other cruise lines. We have had much cleaner rooms on the other cruise lines. This HAL cruise was very disappointing, and will be well remembered in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
My two 80-year-old parents and I cruised on Zuiderdam June 16-23 out of Vancouver, Inside Passage. This was our 4th HAL cruise and our 2nd on Zuiderdam. Transfer, Seattle to Vancouver: We opted to do a first-ever Amtrak Cascades ... Read More
My two 80-year-old parents and I cruised on Zuiderdam June 16-23 out of Vancouver, Inside Passage. This was our 4th HAL cruise and our 2nd on Zuiderdam. Transfer, Seattle to Vancouver: We opted to do a first-ever Amtrak Cascades train trip, and get a cab to Canada Place. We had an excellent experience. We arrived at the King Street station at 7:05AM for our scheduled 7:40AM train, taking the CC forum advice to arrive after the departing Portland train and before the bulk of the passengers for our train. When we pulled up to the station there were no other cars unloading. 1) our cab was greeted by a red cap at the curb, who loaded all our bags onto a cart and walked us to and through the baggage check-in process 2) he then walked us to the end of the seat assignment line, helping my folks out with their carryons. He was outstanding: friendly, helpful, and saved me a lot of 'where do I go next' and I really wasn't expecting that level of service, and I definitely showed him my thanks 3) the seat assignment guy gave us left-hand-side seats at a spot for four, and there was plenty of space in the temporary waiting room 4) the boarding process was quite straightforward - just walk down the platform to the assigned car and step on 5) plenty of space in the car 6) plenty of overhead and shelf storage for the carryons 7) there was a line at the bistro car early but it thinned out pretty quickly and we got a table for our breakfast Our TA had mistakenly booked coach seats, and I was interested in an upgrade at the station, but there were no business class seats available. But I was favorably impressed by the quality of the coach car. Clean, roomy, leather seats, and not shabby at all. (I'm a frequent European train traveler, and I was expecting to be disappointed, and was quite happy.) The scenery was great and the ride was pleasant. Our only nit: it was raining in Vancouver when we arrived - the baggage handlers line up all the bags in one row on the platform, so it is easy to walk up, collect your bag, and proceed thru immigration, but the suitcases all got fairly damp (not wet, but solidly damp) in the process. Oh well, no biggy. We were thru immigration in the train station, at the ATM machine, and in a cab within about 15 minutes for the short ride to Canada Place. My only regret about opting for the train was that we did get one siding delay, and arrived in Vancouver 40 minutes late, at about 12:20. That, plus the luggage, immigration, ATM, and cab ride meant we got to the pier at around 1:20 -- so we would miss the Mariner's lunch, which shut down at 1:30. Oh well. Embarkation, Canada Place: The Canada place luggage process was great, the cab backed in, the porter put on decent luggage tags, took our 3 suitcases, and pointed us in the direction to walk. The biggest snag of the entire journey came at the pier, with two shiploads of passengers trying to get thru port security at one time. That was one long line, I'll tell you. There are insufficient x-ray machines and scanners, imho, at Canada Place, and if you get there after 12 noon, expect a really long line for port security, and whether nimble, with a walker, or in a wheelchair you'll get in line. This was rough on the parental units, but once we got thru that one, we were okay. After passing thru port security, there are two more checkpoints: U.S. immigration, and HAL check-in. But, for the first checkpoint, U.S. immigration, if you are elderly or disabled, a HAL rep with a red coat will pull you out of line and jump you to a special line. My parents qualified, and my Mom really appreciated it, as did I on her behalf. So once thru the port security line, which seemed to take 20 minutes or so, it was 5 minutes or so to get thru immigration. We then walked to HAL check-in, which only had about 7 people in line, and being suite PAX, we had our own line and were thru HAL check-in in about another 5 minutes, and up the gangway. Our cabins were ready so we went straight to them and dropped our carryons. We had booked guaranteed VH (this was a last minute cruise, booked in early June), and were given a same-day upsell to cabins 7085 and 7075 for $349 pp. which we quite happily accepted, having cruised Zuiderdam once before from the Rotterdam deck, and really enjoyed the suites and the Neptune lounge. Total embarkation time was about an hour; we got on at 2:20PM after arriving at Vancouver train station at 12:20PM. We like getting on early, and doing the Mariner lunch; next time, we are either going to self-drive (which we've done once before, getting on-board at 11:30AM with no lines whatsoever), or try a HAL bus or Quickshuttle from Seattle if it gets in early enough. First Afternoon We were starving, and missed the Mariner lunch, so we hit the Lido at 2:30PM. It wasn't very crowded, and we all agreed that the food was good. Table beverage service was active, and we enjoyed a glass of wine with our lunches. We went to the Neptune and introduced ourselves to Diana (she is a terrific concierge) and made an MDR reservation for tonight, and a PG reservation for tomorrow night. She sent me to the spa to book my thermal suite, and I was happy to hear the price for one hadn't moved higher ($150) and came with a 20% discount on the first spa service, so I booked a hot stone massage as well (I had been planning to do so; getting a discount was a nice benefit). The lifeboat drill started on-time at 4PM and lasted approximately 30 minutes. The briefing has changed: if you no-show, your name is called and you are told that if you don't show up, you will be invited to disembark the vessel! Eight names were called; presumably they all hustled to their stations as nobody that we know of made a walk of shame, LOL. Given the Costa Concordia grounding, I think this is a good thing. Our Captain was Christopher Turner and the Hotel Manager was Kees van Santen. van Santen was quite visible during the voyage, he is personable and involved, and the one thing that struck me about this cruise was that the Zuiderdam seemed to be quite the 'happy ship'. Very good morale that we could see among crew and staff; we had the best service of any of our four HAL cruises. It was raining, so we did a little roaming around and then changed our clothes for MDR 5:30 reservation. We were given a nice table for four at the rear windows, and had a great view of sailaway. Inside Passage: Once we left Vancouver, the rain left us as well. We had fog and mist, and we hit Queen Charlotte Sound early on the morning of Day 3, and had a rolling ship for about 4 hours before we got back in the lee of the land. Mom had a queasy morning. Passengers who stuck a patch behind their ear had it the best; something to think about if you are prone to seasickness. The scenery and the weather were just fantastic throughout. I was surprised on the way up that we did not duck into Tracy Arm. We must have not had good timing through the Seymour Narrows, as we sailed by the Tracy Arm inlet at 20 knots and arrived in Juneau just about on time. Glacier Bay was outstanding. The two park rangers and the native Alaskan did excellent presentations throughout, on the PA and in the Crow's Nest, and were out on deck interacting with passengers all day. Marjorie Glacier obliged us with 6 or 7 good-sized calving events and lots of rumbling, groaning, and cracking. Shipboard Life: Our cabin stewards were Gumi and Aref. They were, in a word, outstanding. Always available, working from morning until night; my sports coat got some schmutz on it somehow, and Gumi got it cleaned tout suite the first night so I could wear it on night #2's formal night. They were personable, friendly, sociable, unobtrusive, helpful, and the starboard side of the Rotterdam deck sparkled. They took really good care of my parents. I had room service at 6:30AM each morning the first three mornings, and it was delivered promptly, hot, and nicely laid out. Eggs benedict, breakfast potatoes, and pastries written-in on the room card -- no problema. Neptune lounge coffee is much superior, as is the freshly-squeezed OJ, and my folks enjoyed it at 7AM most days. Completely outstanding: the pastries! OMG - I don't know how they do it but their pastry chef really has skills. Suite passengers were given the option of having breakfast in the PG, but not until the second morning (Monday) for some reason. We did opt for it on Monday morning, but the service was a bit tardy (a one-time experience) and although we enjoyed the decor and the view, we didn't repeat it. We had open seating, and in the MDR we always were promptly given a table for four. We had excellent service each night from both waiters and wine staff. No delays, no snags, and the food was really good -- it was better than Zaandam by a long shot. The menus had excellent variety, imho; the fish was always excellent. My dad really liked the chicken that he had. All of the beef was surprisingly tender, with only one exception: a tournedos of beef had a few tough pieces mixed in with the tender cuts. I don't know what you can do in a ship's kitchen to avoid that. But we are fans of HAL food overall so when we get an exception-to-the-rule we tend to overlook it. We ate in the PG once for breakfast, and once for lunch (a special invite to an Indonesian lunch - I love Indo food, and my parents had never had it. It was exceptional, and staff were dressed in Indonesian clothing and looked fantastic. We ate at the PG once for dinner, and the menu and the preparation were top quality, as was the wine (we had a 2002 Brunello from Antinori, and it was in fine shape). We also ate at the PG for Le Cirq. We enjoyed the ambiance, the china and table settings, the decor, the staff, and the food was excellently-prepared. But the menu -- well, I actually thought it was kind of boring, compared to the usual PG menu. There didn't seem anything innovative about the menu. So I was initially disappointed and kind of taken-aback. My Dad and Mom each had chateaubriand, and it was simply outstanding. I had a veal chop with wild mushrooms, and it was also outstanding. If you're a foody: it was a little old for a veal chop -- more white than pink, if you know what I mean, and I thought "uh oh" but it was very tender and flavorful. So top marks for the food, once I got over the hurdle of the ordinariness of the menu. The Lido, I'm not a huge fan of, but to be honest by day four of the cruise I was a little "good-fooded out" and I confess to enjoying a cheesburger at the Lido grill; and sampling the buffet on several occasions. Everything I had was quite good, and it's nice to be able to "graze". In the Crow's Nest, we had to work a little to snag a table up front near the windows. The staff didn't mind if you rearranged a table or chair setup. Ron was our favorite waiter. He waited on us the first night, and introduced himself as "Ron, from South Philly" (Philippines). He gave excellent service, was sociable when we wanted to have interaction but wasn't obtrusive, and was genuinely friendly. We noticed that the crew and staff, on the nights (Friday) and mornings (disembarkation) when you might think they would succumb to the temptation to "phone it in" -- in a word, didn't. Our service in the Crow's Nest and MDR Friday night, and in the Lido and Neptune Saturday Morning (and in the hallways as well) was just as friendly as any of the other days. This is one of the reasons I am continuing to sail with HAL - I really like the way they make us feel. I booked a Thermal Suite package for myself, and the thermal suite on Zuiderdam is very nice. A huge hot tub (not hot enough for me, it is "body temperature" presumably for safety of elderly passengers. That's okay though; the bubbles were great, and it never had more than 2 other people in it, and often I had it to myself. And the thermal lounge with picture window, steam and sauna. The lounges were awesome, again very uncrowded, never more than 2 others and often alone with nice "spa music" playing. They seemed to have some temperature problems in the sauna. One the first 3 days it was a perfect 140. But somebody must have complained because on the last 3 days it was a tepid 120. The steam rooms were 120 and steamy throughout, but I'm not sure the aromatherapy one was on, as both rooms smelt the same. Still, at the end of a busy day, an hour or two of quite time, with the Inside Passage going by the windows, and the cycle of hot tub, sauna, steam, shower, and heated recliner -- best $20/day I've ever spent. My hot stone massage was really well done: the practitioner was skilled and responded well to feedback. I booked the 75-minute version, and was given the 20% discount at checkout. I later got an invitation in my cabin to return for another massage, with -30% offered. I would have done it but we had other plans. Entertainment: My folks loved all the shows but the first nights, which was more of an "intro" talk and only one performance. I attended the magicican, James Cielan. He and his wife (an aerialist) were outstanding. I'm not a big show fan; so I didn't attend any others. Nor did I do a movie in the screening room, but the selection was really good (War Horse was playing first night) and the room itself looked good when I stuck my head in. I did go to the Explorer's Lounge three times and listen to the Adagio Strings. The Zuiderdam's strings were a pianist and violinist, both from Russia, and both well-accomplished. In the Crow's Nest, a solo male guitarist whose name I didn't catch was really excellent. Think "Gordon Lightfoot" and you would not be very far off. We listened to him on three different evenings. Ports and Excursions: This cruise was a bit of a splurge for us. In Juneau, we did a "bucket list" trip and flew to Taku Lodge for the salmon bake. That was one of the best shorexes I've ever experienced. I got to sit next to the pilot in the float plane; we had crazily-good weather (must have been 65-68 degrees, scattered clouds); the glaciers were awesome from the air, the lodge was beautiful, the staff were very hospitable, the bear came to visit, and the food was outstanding (we took home two cookbooks). The mosquitos were the largest I'd ever seen anywhere, and we were glad we had put on DEET (which they also had available on the front porch). It was fantastic. In Skagway, the folks had a great time shop-hopping in the morning, and we had booked the Glacier Helicopter/Dog Sledding for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the dog sled camp was fogged in. They offered us the opportunity at the landing pad to switch to a Glacier Flight/Glacier Landing but said it would be 40 minutes walking around on the glacier surface. That sounded interesting, but less so, and probably wouldn't have been ok for Mom, so we opted out. We had no problem with the cancellation/reimbursement process. We shuttled back to the ship and I did 2 hours in the thermal suite. In Ketchikan, we went Salmon Fishing and the weather if anything was even more nuts: it had to be 72 degrees, and not really a cloud in the sky. We had 5 anglers on board, so we fished 4 downriggers and one top line, which was nice, as nobody felt that they were "sitting out". We hooked three Kings simultaneously for some good excitement (landed two 15-pounders and one got away); and hooked a fourth later on but he was 2" short so he was quickly released. Of the two fish that were landed, one was mine (yes!) and one was from a guy from the UK who was quite pleased with himself. Since he could not take his fish back, he generously offered it it my parents and I, so we had 30 pounds of King salmon filleted and frozen and shipped back to my parent's house in Washington State. The fish arrived the day after we got home, vacuum bagged and still frozen, for just over $100 for preparation and shipping, and was BBQed that evening with the baste and biscuits from the Taku Lodge cookbook. It was delicious. When the bags were cut open, all you smelled was a faint smell of the sea. Exquisitely-fresh salmon. Miscellaneous: We had no problems aboard ship. No toilet problems or problems with aromas. The ship looked to be in very good condition. I had read on the forums here the two weeks before I left reports of inoperable toilets, aromas, and general "shabbiness". We encountered none. My stateroom couch had a scuff on it, but other than that I noticed no other visual, auditory, or other intrusive or obtrusive things that made me regret cruising on Zuiderdam. I'd go again in a heartbeat. Disembarkation: We were planning on taking the 11:30AM Amtrak bus back to Seattle. I got a shorex newsletter in my suite advising me that there was a ship-to-Seattle-airport bus transfer available. I emailed my TA and had him cancel the Amtrak bus, and we opted for the HAL transfer. We had our luggage in the hallway overnight; we hit the Neptune lounge at 7AM for coffee on Saturday morning, and the folks hit the Lido for a little something more substantive. We then assembled in my folk's stateroom at 7:45AM for a planned "7:50 to 8:00 AM" disembarkation window. They called our luggage tag color and number at 8:10, and there were no lines on board, in the corridors, or at the elevator. Mom had been worried that disembarking would be a zoo, but we walked quite easily off the ship. It was a little confusing finding our luggage, but 5 minutes after walking off we had luggage in hand and quickly processed thru immigration. It was also a little confusing finding our bus station, but a red-jacketed pier employee pointed us in the right direction (signage was a little sparse; but lots of red jackets around to ask) and there was no line to board our shuttle (there was a large line for some other purpose - I couldn't tell if it was a bus line or a taxi line). We had 25 people in one large bus going to SEATAC. We had a great experience, a nice rest area stop half way, and a diamond-lane thru the border, where we stopped and 3 agents got aboard and scanned everyone's passports. Because the bus is sealed before leaving the pier, as long as the seals are unbroken when the agents arrive they do not need to unload and examine your baggage. The whole border crossing took less than 10 minutes. The automobile line was about 60 minutes long. We got to SEATAC on time. It was pouring rain. The bus pulled into its assigned unloading station, and the driver told the staff to radio for permission to go to another station nearer the airport terminal, as it would have been a long-ish, wet walk from where we initially stopped. Excellent job on the part of the driver. Summary: Great crew and exceptional staff; great food; great ship; great weather absent 4 hours of moderate seas and some rain on either end; great transfer back to Seattle. I'm ready to go again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2012
My husband and I are both retired and love travelling. Over the past five years we have visited a number of countries by organized land/bus tours, flying and cruising. Last year alone we took cruises to South America,the Greek Islands and ... Read More
My husband and I are both retired and love travelling. Over the past five years we have visited a number of countries by organized land/bus tours, flying and cruising. Last year alone we took cruises to South America,the Greek Islands and Mexico. We usually chose the itinerary and not necessarily the cruise line. We love Alaska having visited mostly by cruise ship but also on our own fly/drive tours. This year we booked another cruise, on the Zuiderdam, along with eight adult family members. This was our second cruise on this ship, the first a trip through the Panama canal five years ago. Our stateroom was very neat and clean but the balcony ceiling had pockets of rust and the railing was very pitted. The end of cruise survey asked about flower arrangements ..what flower arrangements. On previous cruises with Holland America corners were filled with huge beautiful bouquets, this ship had small bowls with so few flowers in them that the arrangements were easily missed. Since most of our group had visited Alaska many times only one couple took shore excursions. My cousin and his wife took the train in Skagway. At the turn around station, avid bike people , they rented bikes and rode downhill through the cold rain and wind. In Ketchican this younger couple went fishing and snorkling. The older aunties didn't even get off the ship because of the driving rain. There were so few customers in the jewelry shops that you could get really good deals if you were in a buying frame of mind. The dining room staff even though we had any time dining,each night gave us a large table for ten with a great view. One night we even got to watch a whale playing in the ship`s wake.The wait staff were very hard working but seemed to change nightly. The staff on the Lido deck were not very friendly and seemed to only tolerate passengers. The plates on display did not match what you received. At one station you were given your sandwich and a handful of dry potato chips...day after day...no garnishes. It was also very hard to find a place to sit. As a group we never had lunch together, always having to split up into a couple or at the most four people. Just as you thought you found a seat you were pushed to the side by other more aggressive passengers. I enjoyed the cooking classes put on by the ship's chefs. One chef was very entertaining telling us how to add value to the plates with a tomato slice or clive blade. Ever after my cousin would look at her plate hold up a garnish and say..extra $1.50. I really like the musical production on the ship. My husband not so much but he will accompany me. Some cruises you cannot find seating in the theatre but this cruise there always seemed to be room. The entertainers worked hard but maybe the production numbers, lights etc were not well liked by the older audience. For us disembarkation was speedy, but one family memeber needed wheelchair assistance and waited over an hour to be helped off the ship. I now need to talk about the most disturbing part of this cruise. We were robbed. My daughter is a police officer and says ...call a spade a spade. We packed our cases then day before leaving the ship. I stupidly removed two pieces of jewelry from the safe and packed them in our carry on. We left the locked stateroom to go for dinner assuming everything would be secure. Our daughter says that we had every right to assume a locked room would be safe for our valuables. However, it was not and these two items worth $1000 were missing when we got home. I emailed, then phoned Holland America in Seattle. I don't know what shocked me more the thefts or the response by head office. I was told that " items going missing never to be seen again" happens all the time. Most of these disappearances happen just before you leave the ship. You may be so distracted about leaving, flight times etc that you leave items behind. Our items went missing out of a suitcase in a locked room. We believe that some one with a key to our room searched our case and removed these items. Someone who we paid gratuities to and even left a further tip. Obviously it was not enough. Like most other passengers probably, we did not check the case before we left the ship..advantage to the thief or thieves. You are not aware that items are missing until you get home and if you flew, airlines then can be blamed. HQ says we are at fault because we left the case unattended. Call your travel insurance....will also be happy to write you a letter for said insurance saying you filed notice of theft. Holland America has a missing items protocol. You describe lost items...they notify the ship who checks the lost and found and then they get back to you in a couple of weeks. Right like our item walked/fell and would be in the lost and found. Will I ever travel on this cruise line again...probably not. We had already booked a trans-Atlantic cruise before this incident with Princess cruise line. Lucky or we might never have cruised again. I will also make a number of modifications. I will never carry good jewelry for formal nights. If I buy anything from the ships specialty shops I will never use their carry bags which could alert those wishing extra gratuities. I will also never take anything out of the room safe until I walk out that stateroom door for the last time. I really hope that this theft will not continue to colour our cruise experience but I will never trust cabin attendants the same way again and I will warn any friend taking a cruise to be forever vigilant Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
There are two advantages to taking the Zuiderman or any cruise from Vancouver on the Inside Passage to Alaska. One is that the ship leaves and returns within one week to the same port, saving you money and the second is that the Inside ... Read More
There are two advantages to taking the Zuiderman or any cruise from Vancouver on the Inside Passage to Alaska. One is that the ship leaves and returns within one week to the same port, saving you money and the second is that the Inside Passage offers more shelter from the weather. If you are hesitant about cruising because of sensitivity to the rolling and pitching that may be encountered in heavy seas, then consider taking the Inside Passage. We opted for the Sunset Inn and Suites on Burnaby Street, Vancouver. It has slightly higher rates than some of the local hotels but the difference was well worth it in terms of the quality of the accommodations and service we received. The elevators were easily accessible on a demand basis. In contrast our friends, housed in the Sandman suites on Davie Street, noted a 7 minute record wait for an elevator. The service at the Sunset was excellent and the suite had everything you could wish for, including proximity to the shopping on Davie Street. We stayed after the cruise at the Lord Stanley Suites on Alberni Street, the Sunset being fully booked. The Lord Stanley had wonderful views of the harbor and also provided in-room washers and dryers which we were happy to use after the cruise. Again it has good proximity to shopping. If you prefer to buy your own food and prepare it in your suite, Denman Street provides a fully stocked Safeway two blocks away. Embarkation was straightforward and well organized. We arrived at noon at the assembly area and were on board in an hour, after which we went to lunch in the formal dining room. The food was excellent through the 7 days. The formal dining room provided first class service and complete menus which catered to every taste. The Lido on deck 9 provided a varied and attractive menu on a demand - buffet basis. The lines were short and the service fast. I heard only constant praise from other passengers about the food and the service. Our cabin had a balcony but we scarcely used it because of the cold weather. Advice to dress in layers applies in spades. The temperatures at Juneau and Skagway were in the high forties and low fifties and the winds added to the chill. Don't hesitate to take warm, windproof clothing if you are taking excursions or walking through these towns. Skagway is particularly prone to high winds. Ketchikan is much milder. We took two excursions, one to Tracy Arm (the Sawyer glaciers) and one on the White Pass railway to the Yukon. They were both enjoyable and the guides were excellent, but the excursions were both overpriced. I have no hesitation at recommending this cruise on the Zuiderdam. The disappointments were in the lack of wild life visible from the ship or the Tracy Arm excursion which we took. It may be a question of luck or happenstance as to how much you can see, but we saw no whales and mere flashes of the presence of dolphins and seals. We saw lots of glaciers and were delighted when we witnessed five modest calvings at the Margery Glacier, but if you want to see whales, you should take the excursions which guarantee whale sightings. One complaint echoed by other passengers were the worthless on-board shopping previews which were clearly paid-for pitches for diamond and jewellery stores in the three small towns. Finally, wait until Friday to shop on board. The prices drop by 40% or more on many items. Disembarkation was well organized. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
DH and I traveled to Vancouver a few days ahead of our cruise to enjoy Vancouver. I would advise anyone having a few extra days to do so..it is a beautiful city. A cheerful HAL greeter met us at the airport even though we were 5 hours ... Read More
DH and I traveled to Vancouver a few days ahead of our cruise to enjoy Vancouver. I would advise anyone having a few extra days to do so..it is a beautiful city. A cheerful HAL greeter met us at the airport even though we were 5 hours late. She put us in a prepaid cab to the Pan Pacific which we had booked at the same time as our cruise. We had a Deluxe King room with a partial city and partial water view. The room was large and very comfortable. On the morning of the cruise I met the HAL representative in the lobby as instructed. She asked us to check out of our room by 9:30 and meet her in the lobby at 9:45 to be escorted to the ship. Since boarding didn't begin until 11:30, DH and I decided to do our own thing and stay in our room a little longer. For us it was a good decision. We checked out around 11:00 and headed strait down to the ship. Since our cabin was a SB we were allowed to walk right on through (after all of the check points) and we were on board by 11:35!! Fantastic. Cabin SB7088 We were able to proceed right to our cabin and leave our hand luggage. We met our lead room steward Roni. He informed us that the toilet wasn't working but maintenance had been called. Sure enough it was fixed within the hour never to break down again. Because the room is on the bump out of the ship room it is configured differently than other deluxe suites. The only problem I had with that is when you open the door, you see right into the room where the bed is. This causes a little lack of privacy. The balcony is odd shaped and narrower than others..No problem there. But it does catch the wind which in Alaska is not ideal. I wouldn't choose this room again just because we love sitting out to watch the scenery...the wind prevented us from doing so on many occasions. The carpet had some stains and the bathroom counter had a large chunk broken off, the furniture was worn. Honestly these were minor things that didn't bother me. I would never let a well loved ship ruin a good time. Ports Juneau We went whale watching with Orca Enterprises. It was wonderful!! We saw lots of humpbacks. We even saw them come out of the water mouth wide open feeding. Capt. Larry seems to know where to take you to find great viewing. On our Alaskan cruise in 2008 we did the ships tour...I can tell you that there was no comparison..hands down Orca wins. Skagway . We rode the railroad on the 3 ½ hour tour. Beautiful scenery and well worth the $ Ketchikan. We went on the Deadliest Catch crab tour. Loved it. They threw fish out to feed the Eagles. They were swarmed the boat like something out of the movie "The Birds" That was a big thrill. They also showed pulling crab pots and the catch including King Crab. Snow Crab. Box Crab and a big ugly octopus! The guys that run the tour are a hoot so it is a fun tour as well. Glacier Bay. I love Glacier bay...we were lucky enough to see a whole wall of ice calve off Margerie Glacier. I would go back to Alaska every year just to cruise Glacier Bay. It was the highlight of both of my cruises. Pros and Just a few Cons Pros: The staff. They are in a word wonderful. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Always wanting to please you and make your cruise special. Roni our room steward took care of our every need and always with a smile on his face. The girls in the Neptune couldn't have been more sweet and helpful. The staff is what makes HAL an exceptional cruise line IMHO. The food. We ate in the Vista Dining room and the Lido. I can honestly say I didn't have a bad meal. The food was fantastic in both venues. We were so pleased we didn't go to the Pinnacle Grill this time. The staff provided a very nice 4th of July picnic lunch on the Lido deck, and a nice salmon and clam bake lunch on the last sea day also on the pool deck . Cons: The main dining room management could do a better job.We had Anytime Dining. Although we requested a window table through the concierge in the Neptune, we only got one 2 out of 7 nights. My last HAL cruise I was able to reserve the same table @ 5:15 every night. We got to know the waiters and they got to know us. Not allowed on this ship.The dining room took a dinner reservation but with no table guarantees. After dinner on the first night as we left the dining room we found the hall filled with angry guests waiting for a table. There were many many empty in the dining room. I'm not sure why they were so overwhelmed at the podium. Service is a little slow..dinner will take about 2 hours. It didn't bother us because we were with friends and enjoyed our time together, but I heard some grumbles from fellow passengers. This is in no way a reflection on the staff who I believe are overburdened because of cutbacks. We had one waiter and one wine server. The waiters really have to hustle. The Lido is a madhouse when it is busy. Because of the numerous food stations there are no lines and people tend to just walk in front of you to get their food. I'd like them to somehow devise a better system to avoid the necessary polite confrontations. Service in the bars was slow and at time nonexistent. On two occasions we had to get up and to get a server to take our after dinner drink orders. It didn't seem that they were that busy, just a little lackadaisical. For some reason this ship didn't get the luck of the draw for port position. We were the furthest from town in both Juneau and Ketchikan. There were shuttles running, but it is not as convenient as being able to hop on and off the ship in town. There was a Celebrity ship tendered in Juneau so I guess it could have been worse. To sum up, I would give this cruise a high mark. The few cons that I have expressed in no way ruined my vacation. DH and I had a wonder time being treated like royalty aboard this lovely ship. It is a problem that the food and service isn't "to go" and reality hits you in the rear as you walk in your front door!! Back to cooking and cleaning ugh!!!!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2012
Embarkation was delayed several hours by the need to scrub the ship for norovirus problems. As a result lunch was for a very limited time. The ships condition varied greatly from one area to the next. For example, the shopping area ... Read More
Embarkation was delayed several hours by the need to scrub the ship for norovirus problems. As a result lunch was for a very limited time. The ships condition varied greatly from one area to the next. For example, the shopping area and main dining were well maintained. However, in the main theater, there were numerous and large tears in the upholstery, in our room, tears in a couch that should have been replaced years ago. The carpeting looked like in parts of the ship was new but in others looked as if it should have been steam cleaned years ago. Leaks in the ceiling in the buffet area with buckets underneath did not add a classy air to that experience. Apparently, from another review, this is a problem at least six months old and so it is clear that a serious case of delayed maintenance exists. I am a fitness nut and out of about 35 pieces of equipment in the gym area, 11 had out of order tags on them. A couple can be expected in the normal course of things, but in dozens of gyms visited over the years, none has had 1/3 of equipment unusable and more with serious rips in the rubber where folks use it. The food experience was better then ship condition. The variety of fare offered is better then other major cruise lines and as a result something is sure to please. The only issue is that the staff too often brings the wrong items. In 4 days, 4 different meals the food was mixed up by the staff. Not the worst thing but no too professional either. Drinks were pushed very strongly and indeed it was noticed that servers frowned if they could not complete a drink purchase. The overall experience when this happens feels cheapened if the need to spend more money at every occasion is not met. The ship had rocky seas and the port scheduled was canceled. Only issue here was that entertainment was supposed to come aboard and therefore there was less to do but weather related things are beyond the cruise companies control. All in all, this ships condition and lack of service made it feel like I was at a cheap motel instead of on a premium cruise ship. I'm usually easy to please and any cruise experience is ultimately a good one out of the 30 or so taken. So yes, I had a great time. However, Holland America did not seem to contribute much to make it so. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Thank you to the cruise critic community for encouraging me to go, I still cannot believe that the 'travel agents' thought this would not be a fun cruise for us because of our ages. Room: (SA) It started out that we got ... Read More
Thank you to the cruise critic community for encouraging me to go, I still cannot believe that the 'travel agents' thought this would not be a fun cruise for us because of our ages. Room: (SA) It started out that we got bumped from SC to SA, I'm not so sure how big of a bump that is. The room was clean and the furniture was a bit tired but still comfortable. Lots of closet space. Having the balcony at glacier bay was awesome we made a fort out there with pillows and blankets so we could see over the rail. In room dining-all the time. Both a perfect storm and Titanic were on the movie list- hilarious. Toilet broke for about an hour it was on permaflush, far superior to the alternative. Food: At the Pinnacle we really enjoyed the 'Cirque' night and the Indonesian lunch, was nice to have breakfast there. Don't order the 'shoestring fries' they are nothing of the sort, other than that it was great. They had some problems with service on the cirque night but it was just really full and they were overloaded. Loved in room dining, everything was somehow always the right temperature, the salads may have been a little warm but not to a point that I stopped ordering them. Italian place was fun, dining room was a little chaotic for me so we ordered in. Neptune: We were there a lot, our room was close by. My husband has a thing for pate and canapes, he was truly happy. I ate all of the chocolates, though I'm not a big fan of the rice crispy one they should stick to the bark. There is a possibility I have gained weight. The concierges were fantastic, I may not have enjoyed the cruise nearly as much if I did not have them. Seriously, if you can spring for the suite. It was worth it to have an uncrouded area to relax in that's not your room. Ports: So some of the ports didn't really do it for us, but that's okay. I didn't understand that every town in Alaska had no less than 25 jewelry stores, I love jewelry as much as the next girl but this was overkill. I also didn't understand that there would be no less than 3 cruise ships in every port at all times. Ketchikan: We walked around and it was cute. DO NOT BUY the fish and chips on the dock. Expensive and REALLY disgusting. Nightlife: We danced to the bands for a while there were a few other couples who did the same, we do appreciate ballroom and try our best. I think it was the band at the ocean bar that we really loved, the pianist had a great voice. There were some really lovely dancers (passengers) to watch on the boat. I stopped into one of the musical performances and was not to impressed but I had been to a great opera company the week before we left so expectations were too high. Did a couple of the events and they were fun, we particularly appreciated the group dance lessons. My husband enjoyed some poker in the casino, yes it does clear out by about midnight but Alaska is a great place to get up early. We did party the last night "Rock it until we dock it" how could we resist? Lot's of old standards which were fun, the twist and Mustang Sally and such.... The DJ played us some top 40 around 1am and we had a drunk guy come in and dance which was fun. But we were alone in the Northern Lights nightclub but it didn't bother us. Spa: Here is where my grievances lay. I'm upset that the ladies locker room was not frequently picked up, especially on 'sea days' when everyone was there. I don't expect every 10 minutes but I am annoyed when I go into a changing room and find someone else's robe and towels strewn about. This may be more of a grievance with the passengers. We bought the spa pass and enjoyed the thermal suite. I love a steam room. Large Jacuzzi was nice but you have to hit it at the right times because it's not as pleasant when it's crowded. Met some people in the thermal suite who wanted to talk politics with me, was not pleasant then they were in there all the time... my luck, not relaxing but what can you do? Spa specials were nice and they were able to accommodate me almost immediately but the changing area really annoyed me and the 'spa shoes' were terrible- bring your flip flops. Gluten: I am one of those gluten sensitive people, almost celiac. The chefs and crew really went out of their way to help me out. Thanks for that. Overall we loved this vacation, we will cruise again. Thanks CruiseCritic! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Left Over cruising means you get a great deal because you are joining in on the last sector or more than one sector of a continuation of a cruise. 800 passengers left the Zuiderdam in San Diego on May 8th. Those that boarded there, I ... Read More
Left Over cruising means you get a great deal because you are joining in on the last sector or more than one sector of a continuation of a cruise. 800 passengers left the Zuiderdam in San Diego on May 8th. Those that boarded there, I felt like, we intruded on their last leg of their cruise. Many Canadians and British were on board and settled into their daily routine of onboard life when in comes 800 beginner cruisers, burly "so what" cruisers and those that like to get away to revisit their great times on board previous cruises. My biggest disappointment is that the cruise line did not emphasis the dress code on board. Fat guts hanging out, shorts, unkept beards, loud and unsophisticated unsavvy "deal finders. Well, we found the deal too, but knew what to do when we boarded! When we got to the dinner table on "formal" night, we were the only ones dressed in formal and white dinner jacket. Others in sleeveless shell shirts, t shirts and a puzzled look of "we didn't know it was formal night" duhhhh read the daily program! We take any chance we can to cruise, but to find the likes of Carnival cruise types instead of the usual savvy cruise types normally on Holland America ships did put us off. the Zuiderdam was a great ship in that the cabin stewards, dining stewards, lounge waiters were all attentive and cheerful. Beautiful views from the Crows Nest, cocktails in the evenings, piano, violins and guitar music wafting through the lounges in the evening all made our short get away worthwhile. Cabin was worthwhile with a lot of space. The shows were weak. Again last of the cruise, didn't allow for normal mariner status perks, but also meant the last of the entertainment before going on to Alaska with new performers. We love the spectacular dance shows and only had singers this sector San Diego to Vancouver. MY SUGGESTION: Steer clear of left over bargains and beginner cruisers by beginning the cruise where you get the full feel of the experience. And disembark when you see the refilling of the ship with last minute cruisers. It does change the complete dynamic of the full cruise experience. I'd sail Holland America again, but NOT when we would encounter left over cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
The EMBARKATION: Things were going pretty well for us the morning we boarded the ship... arrived from the Holiday Inn Express (exactly as it is named... express -- but used points so no cost! ) and got the luggage sent away -- easy ... Read More
The EMBARKATION: Things were going pretty well for us the morning we boarded the ship... arrived from the Holiday Inn Express (exactly as it is named... express -- but used points so no cost! ) and got the luggage sent away -- easy peasy.... There were several hundred in the terminal...at 11:00... not too surprising here... through the back and forths in the line... but that's when it happened... Have you ever gotten to the very front fi the line and SNAP! ! ! the computers go down... about a 20 minute conversation with the very nice lady from Holland America while we watched all of the agents struggle to re-boot the system... Finally they were working again and we were rushed through the check-in process... swish... swish... pictures taken and onto the ship. We head to the Main Dining room for the worst meal of the trip, the Mariner welcome aboard lunch in the main dining room. Things had to get better... and they did. The SHIP: Certainly not a new vessel... she could use a bit of refurbishing -- new cushions on the chairs, replacement of most of the deck chairs, several coats of paint would do wonders... there was much rust showing -- but not surprising... it is sailing on the ocean! The maintenance crew actually repainted the balcony areas and refinished the railings around our cabin one day while we were gone. The venues were all in fine shape -- she just needs a touch of new... Our cabin had more storage than I remember in the past. 3 closet doors (one was just shelves where the safe was), space under the sink, 2 drawers in each of the night stands, a large drawer under each bed and 2 large drawers under the sofa. We had no problems with plumbing or air conditioning. Still can't figure out which switch turns on which lights... we never did figure out how to turn the light on next to the mirror. Our DVD was broken, no big deal, we were just going to look at some pictures we purchased. Only 2 plugs at the small desk to charge cameras, phones and computers.... Just saying... The FOOD: In a word.... GOOD.... Not spectacular, no WOW factor... but certainly tasty. Lobster on the 3rd formal night was worth waiting for (be sure to order 2). Our Main Dining Room waiters ALWAYS greeted us by name, had iced tea waiting on the table and on our anniversary, they brought us a cake and sang to us. We ate one evening in the Pinnacle Grill -- well worth the extra cost -- ours was actually a gift from our travel agent. Food and service were a step above... Unfortunately, I sprang for the dinner at Le Cirque.... Do not waste your money for that... did not meet any expectations of being "world class" or special in any way... the Pinnacle Grill dinner was every bit as good... The Lido was always good and very busy for breakfast, crowded and not well organized. The tea and coffee areas were always a hassle -- either no glasses or little small glasses. We had room service bring breakfast several times... always on time, and always correct and can you say... convenient. The Mariner's lunch on the last sea day was an overflow from the lunch on the sea day before, there we apparently many Mariners on this cruise -- the food was very good there as well. The SERVICE: OK -- they cleaned the cabin whenever we left it - almost as we leave.... where is the camera -- they have to be watching somehow. They did a fine job, with a new towel animal each evening. We tried the $20 all-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag laundry service... everything came out just fine. And my shoes are now the shiniest they have ever been. Around the ship, everyone greeted you as they passed... even our waiters and waitresses at the different before dinner drink venues started calling us by name whenever, wherever they met us. The SHOWS: The Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers -- Better than average, lead singers were pretty good, the dancers were pretty good. No one here will be winning a Tony award, but good entertainment -- enjoyed their 3 performances. Comedian -- Elliot Maxx - OK -- clean and funny... a good way to spend an evening. Juggler -- Benji Hill - average... a hard gig to make interesting... seen one, seen two, pretty much seen the act... funny when he "dropped" the "axe" on the selected passenger. Thought he was going to have a heart attack! Magician -- Jeff Peterson -- He did some really fabulous tricks... "How did he do that?" was uttered more than once. He did a matinee performance of close up magic and an encore show later in the cruise. Enjoyed his comedy and the tricks were good. But the best part of the act was Indie, his dog, who is a psychic magician also... Singer -- Impersonator -- Jeff Trachta by far the most dynamic of the performers... he had video running behind him, lights, and much sound mixing made for a most enjoyable program. He also shared an encore evening with Jeff the Magician. Steel Drum Band -- Island Magic - All I can say is WOW! The audience leapt to their feet at the conclusion of their performance -- it wasn't just a standing ovation where everyone kinda sees someone standing then by guilt stands up and claps ... NO ! We leapt to our feet ! ! That was the first time I had ever heard classical music and Broadway tunes played by a steel drum band. They did an afternoon matinee and apparently played by the pool one afternoon -- we missed that one. Pretty amazing to hear Amazing Grace in four part harmony on steel drums... don't miss this group if you ever get a chance to hear them. The PORTS: Fort Lauderdale -- not an official stop on the cruise, but we went in a day early. We took the river taxi on Easter Sunday past the behemoth yachts and the humongous houses --who are these people? Ate lunch at Mangos on Las Olas Blvd then had a margarita on the beach followed by dinner at Shooters... a very nice way to spend an afternoon. Half Moon Cay -- owned by Holland America -- very well done. The horseback riding was really fun, SPASH into the ocean we went! The horses looked to be well taken care of and the trainers were very helpful in getting us on and off. We also did the Stingray encounter... the water there was pretty cloudy, but a really neat experience to get to feed them. There was some confusion around the lunch area, the iced tea machines were not working well, nor were the ice dispensers... probably a way to sell more soda and drinks. Food was good, not great... good -- about what I expected. The beach was really clean, and with 2 ships, was not really crowded at all. The tendering process was well coordinated -- missed the cool towel and drink of water that the Noordam crew setup for their passengers.... Do not miss the rum punch at the "I wish I Could Stay Here Forever" Bar -- make it a double -- you won't regret it. Aruba -- took the Sea and See tour from Holland America shore excursions... the semi-submersible was interesting -- but most of the viewing of the submerged shipwreck was on the starboard side -- I was sitting on the port side and without standing up and trying to share the window with my fellow passenger, I would not have seen much. The land portion was interesting, the California lighthouse, the fallen natural bridge and the smaller baby bridge, and the Casibari rock formations were sights to see. Try a Balashi beer at the refreshment stand at the lighthouse -- brewed locally there in Aruba. There were many resort hotels on the island that would make for a nice week's vacation. Bonaire -- went on a snorkeling trip booked off-ship with Woodwind tours... Dee and her crew were great. She even had several prescription masks available for folks that wore glasses. They brought along a photographer that went along on our "dives". Dee was quick to point out all the interesting underwater formations and creatures that we saw. Safety was covered very well, "drowning is against company policy". 2 "dives" of about an hour each with food at the end and snack/drinks in between. A really good outing! We negotiated a taxi tour at the souvenir tents at the dock to take us out to see the flamingos. Went to the salt flats in the South and Lake Gotomeer in the North and Rincon in the middle... saw every bit of that small island... Curacao -- Took the Willemstad Trolley sightseeing excursion from the shore excursions desk -- best advantage to this was getting a taxi ride from the dock to the Punda side. The train ride passed the floating market, several restored homes including the "wedding cake house" and then made a photo stop at a beautiful church, known as the "Cathedral of Pietermaai" or Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. End of the ride was at Fort Amsterdam location of the Governor's Palace. We did some shopping and walked back across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge back to the ship. A 15 -20 minute walk -- longer if you stop to shop! Panama -- a really long day that started too early. The time changed on the ship overnight, they forgot to set the wake-up call computer back... we were awakened an hour earlier that we had scheduled. Do not miss the Panama rolls served on all of the outside areas. We started watching the transit from our 5th floor forward portside balcony, and I couldn't take it anymore, I had to go to the bow to see the gates open - A really cool experience in the heat of Panama. We were scheduled on the Canal Experience excursion, so midway through the 2nd lock we had to go get breakfast -- after all, we had been up now for 5 hours. After scarfing that down, I was up on deck 10 by the time we entered Gatun Lake. EVERYONE was on a tour...therefore EVERYONE was in the Vista Lounge for their turn at the tenders. The tenders got us off to the yacht club and awaiting busses quickly and efficiently. Upon arrival at the ferry boat dock about an hour's bus ride away, we were told that they had to add a 2nd boat to accommodate all the passengers... we were assigned to the smaller boat -- only had 84 passengers and had a really great lunch... glad not to have had to fight for space on the larger ferry with over 200 folks fighting for a space. Started at the bridge of Americas and ended at the Pacific ocean through the Pedro Miguel lock and the 2 Miraflores locks -- got to touch the sides of the 100 year old locks... pretty cool. Panama City is quite the modern city compared to the other Panama, the 3rd world dirty trashy place I had expected. Panama is checked off the list -- no need to go back there. Costa Rica -- we had arranged an off-ship tour through Greenway Tours that took us to the zip line at Cedar Valley Ranch, the Del Monte banana plantation and a Tortugero canal boat tour. First time to zip line -- it certainly won't be our last! ! The crew there was very accommodating, one of the fellows even HELD a poisonous dart frog to show us. After a really quick informative stop at the banana processing plant we arrived at the small boat dock for our canal tour.... We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys and a sloth along with a caiman, iguana, and several types of herons. I expected a bit more, but a very good tour. We will go back to Costa Rica someday to see more of their jungle. The MISCELLANEOUS: The photographers are everywhere ! ! And from what they charge, they are really, really proud of their work... REALLY !? The 9th deck forward elevators force you to exit to the Lido pool through the spa reception area... we felt like we were inconveniencing the spa staff every time we walked through there from our room to the Lido Cafeteria or pool. Late night was non-existent -- expected such -- it is the senior cruise on Holland America. I did feel sorry for DJ Steve in the Northern Lights Disco... NO ONE was there any time I stopped by. JT Watters, the cruise director and his staff were good, not the energetic Fun Patrol that you see on Carnival, laid back as it should be - this is, after all, Holland America... JT ran the team trivia each day -- we got to be quite the close knit group. Most obvious (?) question of the cruise .... A Donkey sinks in quicksand - True or False? Formal nights were well attended -- 40%-50% of the men wore Tuxes on the first formal night a few less on the 2nd and 3rd -- yes there were 3. Plus, there was a smattering of white dinner jackets on each of those nights as well. Everyone else was in dark suits and ties. Very nice! 10-15% of the men wore sport jackets on the Smart Casual evenings as well. The women all looked fine in gowns, dresses and suits. Disembarkation ran smoothly only a bit behind schedule, and Customs was easier than the security at the airport -- don't get me started on this one -- repacking overweight bags and all.... The SUMMARY: We took the cruise because of the itinerary -- the ABC islands, the Panama Canal and Costa Rica -- it did not disappoint -- this was a great cruise, we relaxed a bit, we saw many things and we ate really well (only gained 6 pounds). We like Holland America and will sail with them again... but we will probably be going back to Celebrity for our next cruise. 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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