1,058 Holland America Zuiderdam Cruise Reviews

We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship and number of sea ... Read More
We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship and number of sea days, not for the ports. Our routine onboard any ship is similar (others probably would find it boring) - a lazy relaxed morning with coffee and sometimes breakfast delivered by room service. We spend a lot of time in the cabin and on the verandah so for us a suite makes a lot of sense. Since we only eat two meals a day, we usually skip lunch and have appetizers late afternoon prior to dinner. We rarely attend the shows because we enjoy having a nightcap on the balcony before going to bed. Our vacation didn't start very well when our flight from Denver was delayed by over 6 hours but we finally made it to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale about midnight. On the bright side, since the delay was mechanical not weather, we were given free round trip tickets to be used within the next year. Saturday morning we joined my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tom for breakfast and then we all taxied to the port. We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the doors were opened and stood in a line of about 100 people. Once the doors opened the line progressed through security quite quickly and then a Holland America staff person checked to make sure you had all your documents - we were missing one form and stopped to fill it out before going to the check-in lines. We also had our pictures taken, which are used for identification each time you reboard the ship - when your keycard is read, your picture comes up on their computer. There were two counters for suites and all four of us were checked in within ten minutes. I'm glad HAL is now imprinting your credit card at check-in rather than having to make a trip to the purser's office later in the day. We went upstairs to the waiting room and killed about an hour "people-watching." At about 2:15 the wheelchairs and other disabled people were being assisted and "S" boarding was called. Since my Uncle uses oxygen, we were shown to the front of the line, just following the wheelchairs. We were escorted to our S suites 7047 and 7049; located just aft of the Penthouse on starboard. We were escorted, but when we arrived at the suites he just pointed at the doors and left. Chilled champagne, flowers and fruit bowl awaited us in the cabin. The suite itself is noticeably smaller than on previous ships, but is well-decorated using bright colors. All the soft furniture was upholstered in leather and was very comfortable. The dressing room which leads into the bathroom is about half the size of previous ones, but still functional. I really like having a dressing table that is not in the cabin itself. As we explored the suite Evan, our steward came and introduced himself and asked if we had any special requests. Then he opened the door in the divider so that our verandahs were joined - I really like this feature when you are traveling with others. The kingsize bed was wonderful (of course, it was new!) and there were feather pillows. The bathroom included a whirlpool tub with shower and a separate shower. (The separate shower was broken but was fixed on day 4.) There was also a long vanity area with two sinks and plenty of storage space. The two fluffy robes were hanging in the closet. We then checked in with Sherry and Tom to see how they were getting along in their cabin and found that we had different dinner times/tables. A quick trip to the Concierge in the Neptune lounge and this was fixed. Tom's oxygen was delivered about 30 minutes after we boarded; so that worry was taken care of and we could all relax. We located our lifejackets and laid them out in preparation for the drill and then popped one bottle of champagne. I made a quick trip to the Neptune for some finger sandwiches and we all sat on the verandah and watched the preparations dockside. Our luggage arrived in good time and we began unpacking ... soon it was time for the safety-at-sea drill. Following the drill we went to the sail-away party at the aft pool on the Lido deck. The band played Caribbean music and we had a "rum punch in a plastic souvenir glass." It was rather cold and windy so we went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We explored the ship a little on our way to the Vista dining room. The dEcor is quite art deco and very bright - not like HAL's older ships. Its WOW-factor is high; individual pictures of the different areas can't give you the feeling of how it works together. I really liked the style and although some of the furniture is funny shaped, it is all very comfortable. Each area is unique in its style, which makes finding your way around even easier. For example, the mid-ship elevators and lobby area are done in blues and the forward elevators and lobby in red. I enjoyed the art throughout the ship; it ranged from whimsical to very elegant. There was always something to look at, a new piece of art or the style of a room; except for the hallways by the staterooms the whole ship is visually stimulating. Our table in the Vista was on the upper level at the aft windows so we had a great view of the wake. It was a rectangular table for six, but only the four of us were seated there. The chairs are upholstered in a flowered fabric and have arms. I dislike dining room chairs without armrests! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pretty good, but we often sat with dirty plates in front of us for quite some time before they were removed and each meal at least one item was forgotten; one person's appetizer or another's soup. We only ate in the Vista three times and the food was well prepared each time. We had room service on the verandah twice, Lido once and the Odyssey once. The Lido is very well designed with different islands for the specialty foods like pizza/pasta and oriental (good sushi) and of course, the ice cream bar. We had one lunch and one dinner here. The number of items to choose from should keep anyone happy. Although no one ever offered to carry my tray, someone always assisted my Aunt and Uncle. I thought the Olympic restaurant was beautiful, but heard another couple say it was the ugliest room on the ship. It is basically white and silver/chrome. As suite passengers we could eat breakfast and lunch here (like the Kings/Queens room on the older ships). We had one breakfast and one lunch here that were exceptional. Sadly, our dinner experience wasn't as good. While being seated we told the Maitre de that we would like to order cocktails prior to dinner and that we wouldn't be ordering wine. We sat for about 15 minutes before anyone even filled our water glasses; he then called over a waiter to assist us. We ordered our cocktails and dinner; two fillet mignons and two lamb. The waiter couldn't remember who ordered what. This is certainly not what I expect from a restaurant that is supposed to be fine dining. When the entrees came - there were three, two steaks and one lamb.... So we waited for about 15 minutes for another lamb entrEe to be brought and then ate (ours were, of course cool by then). The steak was delicious and so tender you could cut it with a fork and the side of asparagus and mushrooms was good too. When we finished eating, we sat back waiting for the dessert choices; after 15 minutes of sitting with dirty dishes in front of us- we walked out. Most evenings we went to the Ocean Bar either for a before- or after-dinner drink. This is one area that, although convenient to the dining room, isn't well designed. The band and dance floor are located on one side that has very little seating and on the other side you can't hear the music. The Explorers Lounge is very nice but was used almost every evening for private receptions; we attended two receptions there for Suite guests. The attention from waiters at during the dinner hours was very good, but at any other time of the day at most of the bars the waiters seemed to cluster talking to the bartender and it was difficult to get a drink even when you went up to the bar. The Atrium Bar was never open when we walked through, but I loved the sculptured look of the furniture and floors. We missed the Mariner's Party because the time conflicted slightly with the Suites lunch. We attended the special Captain's lunch for suite guests in the Crow's Nest; as usual the food served was excellent and they didn't skimp on the caviar! The Crow's Nest is similar to those on the other ships with the exception of some great lounge chairs that face out the windows. I saw several people taking an afternoon snooze in them. This ship is the first to have a dedicated nightclub, the Northern Lights. This room is interesting to say the least. As you walk down the entry hallway lights in the ceiling light and dim over your head following your path into the nightclub; there are fiber optic lights embedded in the carpet and sparkles on the walls. The "Iceberg" is located here, but I must say it didn't do anything for me. But the most eye-catching feature is the black and white cowhide upholstery on the booths. One of the Officers told me that the crew has nicknamed it the "Cow's Nest." The Spa area is really beautiful, I enjoyed the thermal room for a while one afternoon - and used the Therapy pool twice (both times were on sea days) - there was no charge for these because they are still working out problems with the facilities. I was looking forward to the therapy pool and was very disappointed to find that it still had not been fixed. The water was quite cool and only a few jets were working - the bubble loungers were not working at all. I looked into a couple of the treatment rooms - they were the nicest I've ever seen - the tables were draped in bright colored fabric and had fresh flowers laying on each. Ports Half Moon Cay: We tendered in to the island after room service coffee and some sweet rolls from the Neptune. Our Priority tender passes allowed us to walk right onto the boat instead of waiting in lines (another perk of an S suite). The day was a mix of sun and clouds and a bit too cool to be in the water although a few brave souls were swimming. We had the buffet lunch on the island (hotdogs, hamburgers & ribs); it was ok. We were the only ship at the island - think it would be awfully overcrowded if there were more than one ship. This remains one of the best things about sailing with HAL! St. Thomas: We wandered around the jewelry shops. St. Kitts: We took the new Railroad excursion. It had only begun running two weeks prior and is a very nice trip. You have a choice of an upper (open) seat or a seat in the lower enclosed car. Complementary rum punch was served and there is narration that gives much information on the island. Nassau: We did the dolphin encounter. It was very well done with everyone having a great deal of time to interact with the dolphins. Additional items to note Our mini bar was broken and removed for repair - it was returned on day 6. It didn't bother me much, but irritated my husband who wants a cold Coke with his Jack Daniels. There was a nasty sewer odor in our cabin 2 days. The only other place I noticed it was in a hallway near the Queens Lounge one time. It seems to only affect small areas of the ship and at different times. No one could answer my question about what caused it. The service is still a little confused, but should improve with a little time. With the exception of a few bar staff, everyone was attentive, friendly and smiling in the usual HAL style. Formal nights - we wear tuxes and gowns. I noticed fewer tuxes at early dinner than late and although most people did dress for dinner, there were more suits than on past sailings. The fresh flowers throughout the ship remain one of my favorite things! To sum up: it was a good trip, but not great. I think I prefer the smaller HAL ships, but price and itinerary being right I would sail Zuiderdam again.April 2003 Read Less
I found the Zuiderdam to be my least favorite ship--and I love all the old Holland ships. The traffic pattern was really weird and when the Captain had his receptions, the people were backed up all the way through the Casino, which made ... Read More
I found the Zuiderdam to be my least favorite ship--and I love all the old Holland ships. The traffic pattern was really weird and when the Captain had his receptions, the people were backed up all the way through the Casino, which made the gambling and traffic flow difficult. On 2 deck you can only go down one side of the ship--different, huh? We did a recent back to back in the Caribbean and there were not enough public restrooms (3 or 4 of the ones they had were out of order). I am aware they were fixing that problem as it was a MESS with all the construction going on. Beds are on metal slabs--extreme backache for people who are not used to sleeping on a hard floor --I couldn't move the next morning. HAL has always had wonderful beds--not these. Air vent in cabin directly above bed--blew cold air on head, shoulders, and neck and since neither of us could stand that, had to tape a deflector to the ceiling to direct blow elsewhere. No laundry--hard doing a back to back, when you expect it, and I believe it was originally planned. No VCR in room, no radio on headboard and only announcements in hall (impossible to hear) unless important, like fire drills, and then they came through the room. Bathroom flooded during high seas and they had been aware that it did. Junk food put on dresser was always in the way and takes up all the space--they have all that stuff in the stores--leave it there. 7 AM vacation of rooms on day of debarkation--before we have always had an 8 AM. Had to get up at 5 AM to get ready for breakfast in the Lido at 6 AM which was a ZOO. I gave the crew and staff good marks as I think they were trying to do everything possible to help everyone. However, I do not plan to travel on a Vista Class ship again and I was told by one of the crew that they are trying to appeal to a younger group--what about all us old timers who have been so loyal to HAL--appeal to us!! jfsutley@pinehurst.net July 2003 Read Less
Cruise reviews are very subjective as folks have different likes, dislikes and expectations. What follows is our experience sailing a back-to-back cruise on the Zuiderdam. Both weeks are Eastern Caribbean itineraries. After doing many ... Read More
Cruise reviews are very subjective as folks have different likes, dislikes and expectations. What follows is our experience sailing a back-to-back cruise on the Zuiderdam. Both weeks are Eastern Caribbean itineraries. After doing many cruises the ports are not as important to us as the ship itself, we simply enjoy a vacation at sea. So you'll know where we're coming from my husband and I are in our late fifties, have done twenty-five cruises on Celebrity, Princess, RCI and one other on HAL. We're pretty much self-contained so don't do shore excursions nor participate in pool games, bingo, etc. We enjoy the ship's ambiance, dining, dancing, good entertainment and just getting away to relax and enjoy time with one another. We made our own air and hotel arrangements and after arriving to warm temps and blue skies, much of a contrast to what we left behind, we were off to the Renaissance Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. We feel it's a choice hotel and close to the pier for a couple of nights, the staff is friendly and pleasant, comfortable accommodations delighted us. We also enjoyed a pleasant stay at this hotel last year, there's a courtesy van that will take you to and from the airport. HAL's check-in is somewhat different from others. After receiving a number you must wait to be called before boarding the ship. Think this is unnecessary as folks get backed up, just not as efficient and it appears to make for a later boarding time. We were escorted to our cabin, I know some folks like this but to us it doesn't matter, just point us to the elevator. Our SS cabin 8072 is comfortable, has adequate space with a sofa, table, two chairs and a vanity; facing the balcony with a window over it is a desk and chair. The bath is large with a whirlpool tub, separate shower and double sinks. Mirrors in cabin are tinted (seem dark to me), cabin steward brought two extension cords so I could use my own blow dryer in the bath which has brighter lighting. There is a blow dryer in vanity drawer with a short cord, my husband doesn't mind using this. Spacious balcony has wicker like furniture, table and chairs for dining along with two chairs and foot rests, nicer than the plastic furniture on some of the other ships, decking is teak. Think we can live here comfortably but decor doesn't charm us at all, we later discover the same to be found throughout the ship. Our luggage arrives in timely fashion and after unpacking we explore what will be home to us for two weeks. While we were aware of the garish decor of the Zuiderdam it was nevertheless a bit disappointing, clearly not our cup of tea and certainly the "ugly duckling" of the fleet. Having said that it won't ruin our cruise, we enjoy elegant ships and this it's not. It's anything but splendid, refined and placating, rather it's pulsating, has a confining and inept three level atrium, much glitz, mazes and dark passages connecting public rooms without many ocean views. I'm befuddled locating all this space that HAL refers to, it appears they took the first three decks to the chopping block. Captain's Welcome Party for week one was held at the amidships pool on Lido, the only other room large enough to host this is the Vista Lounge where it was held on week two. Lido Deck is laid out nicely with a pool amidships, quieter than the stern pool and the Lido Buffet is between the two. We enjoyed listening to the steel band that played here in the afternoon while having lunch by the pool. Outside the Crow's Nest you'll find cushy and comfy chairs for reading and relaxing, both sun and shade can be found here. Moved to cabin SS 8093 for week two, found this to be the sunnier side of the ship, our former cabin was frosty much of the time, temp controls appear to be working better here. Staff was eager to assist in relocating but we easily accomplished this ourselves. Decor of the ship seems to be growing on us. New cabin steward is preferable, has friendly chatter each time we see him, very eager to please and fun loving. While the ship is very clean we notice several areas of rust and chipped paint when looking up to the underside of Lido Deck from our balcony, also some of the artwork around the ship appears to be broken. Captain Mercer and officers are quite pleasant, they're out and about the ship, Captain makes informative announcements at noon each day. FOOD We found food throughout the ship to be quite good although at times bland in the dining room. The waiters here while pleasant are certainly not knowledgeable about food prep, could use a bit of savoir faire also. Other than dining being fragmented we enjoyed the Lido, found food tastier than dining room and we usually avoid this area on ships. We found a wide choice, loved the "deli" with excellent offerings, enjoyed lunch here most days sometimes bringing it down to our balcony to enjoy. There's also Italian, Oriental and the usual buffet. Ice cream/toppings and desserts are here until 1 AM daily, Italian until 11 PM. Breakfast buffet in the Lido also includes an omelet station, as in most buffets getting a table can be a challenge. Each evening alternate dining takes place here from 6:30 until 8 PM, no reservations. The Grill is located at the amidships pool with the usual burgers, chicken, hot dogs and French fries, a Taco Bar is also here. Dinner in the Odyssey one evening was pleasurable. Week #1 we had a table for two, late seating on the main level of the dining room. For week #2 we changed our table for two to first seating on the upper level along the rail which we discovered was preferable to us, less noise and visually more appealing than the darkness on the main level. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment in the Vista Lounge has been some of the best we've seen on the high seas. The four production shows were outstanding, the comedy of Paul Drake and pianist Paul Pappas we superb also. Each evening D'Amour played easy listening and dance music in the Ocean Bar (this is one of those confining areas in the inept atrium), not much space allotted. The Sharp Beat Band, a bit more upbeat played nightly in the Crow's Nest. The Explorers Lounge which is nothing more than seating along port side outside of the dining room hosted a string quartet which was lovely. Would have enjoyed listening after dinner but this area of the ship was frigid all of the time, it's very much underused. I'm not going to comment on ports as we navigate on our own when going ashore. However, I will say that Half Moon Cay is the most lovely of the private islands we've visited. Sunny skies and warm island breezes make our beach walk most pleasant. Can't comment on the spa or gym as we didn't utilize these facilities. SUMMARY We had a wonderful and relaxing cruise, for the most part seas were calm, the weather was delightful with blue skies and a gentle breeze. The Promenade is great for walking, spent time on the comfy recliners here also when not on our balcony which was ideal. Ship is definitely cold, am sure this is to keep bacteria at bay, bring sweater, sweatshirt, evening wrap, etc. There is also a definite vibration on the Zuiderdam, we noticed it most in the stern of the dining room on the main level, other folks we spoke with seemed to be more aware of it in other areas also. The odor folks speak of was quite apparent the first week in several areas of the ship including our cabin, while unpleasant it wasn't disruptive. However, we weren't aware of it the second week, hopefully, it has abated. Service onboard was fine, if not excellent in the Lido, many smiling faces and always eager to please. If a HAL ship was "going our way" we would sail with them although they would not be our first choice and it definitely would not be on one of their new Vista Class Ships. The Zuiderdam has something for everyone, she'll comfortably cruise you through the blue waters of the Caribbean; in style, I'm not sure about that, depends on what you're comfortable with. PattiKake8@aol.com May 2003 Read Less
This newest ship of HAL hits you with brilliant reds, purples and turquoises the minute you board. Furnishings have lost the old HAL conservative look and are bright, crayon colored fabric and oversized. The dining room chairs were among ... Read More
This newest ship of HAL hits you with brilliant reds, purples and turquoises the minute you board. Furnishings have lost the old HAL conservative look and are bright, crayon colored fabric and oversized. The dining room chairs were among the biggest surprises with their bright red flowered backs. Another bright red surprise was the Vista Lounge showroom's decor. This is not a criticism, but a matter of taste. I got used to it and liked it. My husband never did, although he said he'd go on the ship again. We've had 10 cruises on HAL and 4 on Carnival, so the "Carnivalization" was pretty apparent to both of us. Food: Lido Deck Buffet - You have so many choices here, Food stations included a sandwich bar, pizza and pasta bar, sushi and stir fry bar, traditional hot foods bar, salad bar and HAL's famous ice cream bar. All food was of excellent quality. You could also eat here at supper. Another "Carnivalization" - the ice cream and pizza was available from late morning until late at night. What a treat! Dining Room: We had most of our meals here. The seafood was plentiful and fresh. The filet mignons and prime rib melted in your mouth as did the Lobsters. My husband was disappointed in the sirloin and rib eye steaks (thin). Otherwise the food was excellent. Another "Carnivalization" - instead of special dishes every breakfast, HAL now has a set menu. Alternative Dining: We did not eat at the Odyssey Restaurant, but you could for $20 per person. It did not look very busy. Staterooms: Most are balconied. We ordered coffee, tea and donuts every mooring to start out our day on the balcony. Room Service was excellent. You could even order hot entrees for all meals and they arrived hot. The room featured a king sized bed, sofa, chair, mini bar, bathtub and shower. It had ample closet space and decorated in red and beige. Very comfortable. Entertainment: HAL entertainment has improved, but they still have a way to go. The dancing troupe was talented, but their "Disneyland" type costumes distracted from their routines. The other entertainment was great -- a comedic juggler, excellent pianist, and a comic. Another "Carnivalization" - the comic did a late night adult show which was great. Casino: This was our biggest surprise. The Casino slot machines produced a lot of jackpot winners, including myself twice, my father and sister. Other activities: Most exercise classes charged a fee. HAL has done away with their exercise incentive program. Highlights were the High Dutch Tea, Chocolate Buffet and an afternoon classical music concert. Another "Carnivalization" was the disco, decorated in a black and white cow skin pattern. But the Ocean Bar, done in softer tones, attracted the middle age crowd. Itinerary: Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and best of all Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island in the Bahamas. We tendered to Grand Cayman and it was rough getting onto and off the lifeboats they used. Two days later when we tendered to Half Moon, the Captain was at the ship's tender site which made me think people had complained. I was impressed that he would go to the site of the problem. Needless to say, the tendering process was much smoother that day. We had beautiful weather and smooth sailings. With all this ship offers it was very easy to have a great time. Service was excellent. It was very obvious that everyone wanted us to enjoy our cruise with minimal hassles. Margwva@wmconnect.com September 2003 Read Less
A new era in the world of cruising has begun with the introduction by the Holland America Line of the Vista Class. These larger vessels have 40% more space yet only 25% more passengers on board, continuing a feeling of elbow room within ... Read More
A new era in the world of cruising has begun with the introduction by the Holland America Line of the Vista Class. These larger vessels have 40% more space yet only 25% more passengers on board, continuing a feeling of elbow room within the space ratio guidelines. The first of these four ships is the spectacular ms Zuiderdam. It was dedicated at a ceremony at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, on December 14, 2002. The inaugural passenger sailing through the eastern Caribbean followed. This ship is yet another example of the genius of Dutch architect Frans Dingeman of the firm of VFD Interiors, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Mr. Dingeman is responsible for the selection of artwork, sculpture, and antiques. He also chose the colors and style for the walls, floors, ceilings, furnishings, and fixtures. Simply everything within reflects his magic touch. One senses a presence of interior architecture, a new standard for this new century. Eighteen hundred passengers are made comfortable within a hull that previously outfitted twenty-four hundred. Thus there is actually more space per passenger than the previous HAL Statendam class ships. Yet the public areas are designed with a built-in intimacy, whether you are in the lounges, theatre, meeting rooms, or shops. Speaking of lounges, the magnificently equipped stage in the Vista Show Lounge is an experience in vivid red. It is a most comfortable and exciting room, yet it is appointed to create an environment for world-class entertainment. The all-new "Movies and Broadway" musical extravaganza production was the best show ever for HAL. The audience was on its feet in applause numerous times. You have to see it. The Bob Mackie costumes are in a young, fresh, and daring style. It is all tastefully done, yet the temperature has been turned up a notch. Someone has recently written that "this is not your father's Holland America Line," which is an appropriate take. HAL mariners will find many different nooks and crannies, an expanded health and fitness center and spa, and the Starboard Gift Shop, which has great shopping value, including a line of Waterford crystal. The Atrium features a huge and absolutely breathtaking illuminated seahorse sculpture manufactured exclusively for HAL in Ireland, by Waterford of course. It is the work of Mr. Billy Canning, chief lighting designer for the world-famous Waterford firm. Various replicas are available only at the gift shop on board in a multitude of price ranges. Also available are stunning candlestick holders. We certainly treasure ours. It's a unique souvenir, for certain. Our stateroom was a 254-square-foot verandah, equipped with a queen bed, a sofa sitting area, and a dressing table with chair. The room also had a floor-to-ceiling glass window and door to the verandah, mini-bar refrigerator, adequate closets, 24/7 global direct telephone, dresser drawers, a safe, a hair dryer, a spotless and well-lighted bath/shower, and a TV/music channel system--with remote, of course. The ms Zuiderdam is outfitted with 85% of its cabins classified as outside ocean view, and 80% are verandahs with chairs and table. This makes for a more affordable verandah experience. With the available triples and even quads along with adjoining staterooms, it makes for a perfect family home at sea. Speaking of family, the Club HAL is equipped better than ever with state-of-the-art audio/video technology and hi-tech games that are "cool" enough for those in the teen years. The younger ones, ages five and up, will find plenty of fascinating play in a room made for them. Also easy to take advantage of is the twenty-four hour room service, which offers an extensive menu for kids of all ages. We started each of our days with fresh coffee as our wake-up call at a time selected by us the night before. What a pleasure it was to welcome the first sun of the day from our private verandah, enjoying coffee and anything else one cares to order-all complimentary, of course. The complimentary trend continues through the day, whether at the Ice Cream Bar and or enjoying fresh popcorn at the movies. The Vista Dining Room is a typical HAL two-story dining area, with muted floral patterns throughout and the finest silverware and china. Its glass walls and brass railings are in the HAL tradition. There are several alternatives to the main dining room, too. The Lido at dinner is made up very special. The upscale gourmet Odyssey Dining Room is better than ever, with its separate kitchen and even its own chef. There is a nominal fee, which we found well worth it. The ambience and the food are so special. We had our own oval table for eight with plenty of space and an unhurried pace. It was a dining experience equal to a midtown Manhattan restaurant or our own Near North entertainment district in Chicago. It is world class. Up on the top deck near Club Hal and just around the corner is a golf simulator for Mom and Dad. It is as good as this game can get while in the middle of an ocean. Nearby is an arcade for kids of all ages. All are easily accessible from the midship elevators. These elevators include the four breathtaking exterior ones, which are glass walled, facing out over the sea. The fourteen elevators and stairwells are abundant and easily located to facilitate moving among the eleven public decks. The ship also has a world-class casino, tennis court/basketball area, a multiuse cabaret lounge/theatre, sports bars, Internet cafe, concierge lounge, photo shop, beauty shop, and the most extensive spa facility ever for HAL. The Windstar Cafe offers gourmet treats and sweets galore, with coffee and ice cream drinks to satisfy the most discriminating palate. Religious services continue to be included amidst the great daily program of events. The Lido pool is adorned with a polar bear family. It is striking art. The area was never crowded even though it has three whirlpools and a glass roof that is open to the sun and closed for cloudy or inclement weather. The outside pool is also fresh water and nicely warmed. There is an outside whirlpool as well and plenty of deck chairs and fresh towels. The tables and chairs make for a nice conversation area and are especially a treat when used for breakfast or luncheon. The pool bars are spacious and friendly. At 82,000 tons, the ms Zuiderdam is a lot of ship. It is 950 feet long, has a generous passenger space ratio over 44 cubic feet per person, and has a speed of 24 knots. More than 66 percent of the cabins have private verandahs. No matter what cabin one is booked in, though, the same fine crew and staff serve you in the Holland America Line's "Tradition of Excellence." You owe it to yourself to take advantage of this newest of the Holland America Line's fleet. The ms Zuiderdam's seven-day cruises are scheduled through the next year. The alternating eastern and western Caribbean cruises make this the perfect family vacation value. You might also consider a back-to-back two-week experience for the ultimate getaway in a world-class environment. We are going again in February. Bon voyage, Lynne and Mike Coyne, Chicago Fire Department, Retired Read Less
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! PostnikoffG@spsd.sk.ca 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 it...plus 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 do...no 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. ROGERSLA@aol.com 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. ship@vnet.net June 2003 Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

Find a Zuiderdam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click