Sail Date: March 2006
I took this cruise with my two sisters (both mid 50s) to celebrate my 40th birthday. I'm a fairly experienced cruiser (12 cruises under my belt), and usually sail Celebrity, but decided to give Holland America a chance because we ... Read More
I took this cruise with my two sisters (both mid 50s) to celebrate my 40th birthday. I'm a fairly experienced cruiser (12 cruises under my belt), and usually sail Celebrity, but decided to give Holland America a chance because we wanted to cruise the Eastern Caribbean and Celebrity had nothing there during this time. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the ship left and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on State Road 84. It was a short ride to both the pier and the airport. The hotel was wonderful. It is the newest hotel in Ft. Lauderdale and the facilities are practically perfect. A complimentary shuttle picked us up at the airport and took us to the pier the next day. A full continental breakfast was served that included toast, hard-boiled eggs, pastries, cold cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, milk, juices and coffee. Complimentary internet access is also available. Our room was large and had two queen-sized beds (versus doubles), coffee maker, DVD player, fridge, microwave and a nice desk with two comfy chairs. The bathroom was spotless and included shampoo, conditioner, lotion and nice soaps, and the best shower head and towels I've had in a hotel room in quite a while. The staff was friendly, and allowed a late checkout (12 noon) the next day. It was a great start to our vacation. Embarkation and Stateroom Embarkation was the smoothest of any I've ever had. Since access to cabins is not granted until 1:00 pm, we opted for late checkout at the hotel and arrived at the pier about 1:00. Curbside porters were friendly and didn't ask for tips, although we gave them one anyway. We were in a deluxe verandah suite and had a separate check-in counter. The staff were friendly and quick and we were boarding less than 15 minutes after arriving at the pier. Our room was the most beautiful and spacious of any cabin I've ever been in. There was more than enough storage space and room to accommodate three women and all of their belongings. The beds are the best I've ever slept on outside of my own. The mattress was thick and supportive, but not hard. There were feather pillows, 250 thread count percale sheets and a down duvet on each bed. A large leather sofa was opened each night for the third bed and was ensconced in the same wonderful bedding. The bathroom had a dressing area attached with mirrors and a lighted make-up mirror along with a vanity seat with a lid that lifted for yet even more storage space. The dressing area had a curtain for privacy. The bathroom itself was large, with a double vanity and a shower stall, plus a bathtub with yet another shower. The bathroom was stocked with shampoo, lotion, a shower cap and Royal Dutch soaps (which we all found a bit slimy and difficult to rinse off), as well as a bath mat for the tub. The shower heads were wonderful, and the water pressure and temperature were always correct. Our stateroom afforded us the use of the Neptune Lounge. It is a large room with comfortable seating and a television tuned to CNN. Continental breakfast and lunch are served each day along with endless fruit and pastries. The staff in the Neptune was courteous and took care of shore excursions and answering questions that arose during the trip. My sisters utilized their resources to arrange a surprise birthday cake at dinner for me one evening. My only complaint about the Neptune Lounge is that minors are allowed in without their parents. As we all know, kids will be kids, but I found their bad behavior a bit irritating considering I had paid a premium for use of the facilities. Ship Information The Zuiderdam is a beautiful ship with modern decor. Primary colors brighten up the public spaces without seeming garish. I especially liked that the hallways in the public areas curved, thereby alleviating the "tunnel" look on most ships. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to hunker down in, and all of the furniture around the public areas was very comfortable. The Crow's Nest provides breathtaking sea views and their is a seating area adjacent to it that looks like a beach house. The library is the best-stocked of any I've seen at sea and employs a true Dewey Decimal System to make finding books very easy. The seats in the library are ultra-comfortable and have movable backs that adjust to each individual. There is also a large marble-inlaid table that is quite impressive. The internet center is available 24-hours a day with pay-per-minute rates at .75 a minute, going to as low as .40 a minute with the purchase of a package. The spa was nice and was on-par with others I've been to at sea. Shopping was okay, but the staff informed us that our purchases could not be sent to our cabins. That was a first. Dining -- To say that I was dissapointed with the food on this ship would be an understatement. Although I'll admit that I'm probably spoiled by the food on Celebrity, truthfully, I've had better food on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The dishes were salty and otherwise lacked flavor. Although there was a variety of stations in the Lido restaurant, none of the food was all that great. The salad dressings in particular were horrible. I've had better from a bottle. The standout dish in the Lido was the fresh pizza. Hot from the oven, the crunchy crust and tasty sauce made it a treat. Most days we opted for pizza for lunch. The dining room food was no better. Sauces were thick and gummy, meat was over cooked, and fish was not served every day. Also, there was little variety in the fish that was served, unless you REALLY like can have salmon seven different ways every day. The standout dining experience was without a doubt the Pinnacle Grill. If you sail on the Zuiderdam, DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS. It is the best meal you will have on board. There is a $20 surcharge for this meal...and I would have gladly paid $30 or more. The pear and lettuce salad was superb, with a peppery bite. The Sterling Beef filet mignon was melt-in-your-mouth fantastic and cooked to perfection. The side dishes were awesome. Try the potatoes au gratin...I've never had anything like them. The veggies were steamed to perfection and the chocolate volcano was heaven. Chef Troy stopped by our table to see how we liked the meal, and when we complimented him on the Chocolate Volcano, he returned a few minutes later with the recipe. Service -- Sadly, service is probably one of the weakest areas on the ship. With the exception of our cabin steward, Evan, the service is not what I expected on a "premium" cruise line. Let me start with the positive, though, and tell you about Evan first. Evan kept our cabin spotless and stocked with everything we asked for. My sister fell ill during the voyage and Evan made sure to keep the cabin stocked with hot water and tea, virtually around the clock. One evening when she was especially ill, he politely asked people in the hallway to "sshhh" because someone was sick. He was friendly, courteous and helpful with everything. In fact, he was the highlight of our cruise. Holland America institutes a mandatory $10 per person per day tip on your cruise bill. Ordinarily, we don't like a "forced tipping policy". However, on this cruise, we didn't feel bad about the $10 minimum, because none of us thought the service deserved more. Evan, on the other hand, was the recipient of a very generous tip from all of us...he received additional money originally ear-marked for other staff. Service in the dining room was the worst I've ever had on any ship. Our waiter and busy boy barely spoke English and could provide little in the way of description or suggestion. Worse than that were their manners. Our waiter stood next to me, and reached across the table to hand someone else their plate of food...while at the same time assaulting me with a nose full of bad body odor. I lost my appetite at that point. Even more startling was watching our waiter lick sauce off this thumb, and then place THE SAME THUMB on my sister's plate as he handed her her meal. That was our first, and last, visit to the dining room. We ate in our cabin for the rest of the cruise. Unfortunate Incidents We received a note in our cabin stating that "balcony maintenance" would be done on our balcony while we were docked in St. Thomas. That evening, we noticed that the balcony divider had been left open. We didn't think much of it until 3:00 am when we hit rough seas and the divider door kept banging open and closed. After listening to it for a half hour I went down to the purser's desk and asked that a maintenance person be sent up to lock the divider. I was told that they were all sleeping and that it would be taken care of in the morning. This was not the answer I expected, and it took me a good 15 minutes to get the staff to agree to send someone to our room. On the second night of the cruise, my sister fell ill with what we thought was a heart attack. I called 911 on the cabin phone and got the nurse who told me to bring her down to the infirmary. When I explained that she was in severe pain and couldn't walk that far, the nurse told me to have her "try anyway". We got as far as the Neptune Lounge before she collapsed. The nurse was summoned from the infirmary and she was obviously very put out. There was nothing kind or understanding about her. I told her that we needed a wheelchair, and she stated, "well, I'm not going back down there for one", and directed the staff of the Neptune Lounge to have someone bring a wheelchair to us. Once we arrived in the infirmary, the doctor was both kind and competent. She ordered an EKG, basic blood work and cardiac enzymes and started an IV. When cardiac problems were ruled out, the doctor zeroed in on the problem and administered the drugs herself to care for my sister. All in all, the doctor was great. She apologized for ordering an expensive test, but explained that she felt it was absolutely necessary to ensure the proper diagnosis. Throughout the entire ordeal, she kept me well informed and explained everything. The final bill was $877 U.S.D. which I didn't think was bad, and it was covered by Travel Guard Insurance. Upon leaving the infirmary, we observed the ship's safety officers escorting an obviously drunk and disorderly crew member past us presumably to the brig. Since one of the safety officers was armed with a billy club, I can only guess this is where the crew member was being taken. On the third night of the cruise, the ship lost all power at 1:00 am drifted in the Caribbean Sea for over 3 hours. During the entire ordeal, we got only 2 updates. The first one began with "ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed that we have no power". No kidding. The second one informed us that they were attempting to restart the engines. That's it. No more information. The next day, the crew didn't even acknowledge the incident. When asked questions about it they replied "Power outage?" Finally about 7:00 pm we got a note from the captain under our door informing us that "at no time was the vessel in any danger". All in all, I would have preferred more information during the incident. Overall I would have to say that this was my first, and my last cruise on Holland America. The negatives outweighed the positives, especially since I'm a veteran Celebrity cruiser. I believe I get a much better value for my money on Celebrity, and better food and service too. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
I agree with the earlier reviewer who said rated her Zuiderdam cruise as the worst vacation shed ever had. Mine was as well. Now, normally when I read a statement like that, I assume the person who wrote it is a perfectionist, a chronic ... Read More
I agree with the earlier reviewer who said rated her Zuiderdam cruise as the worst vacation shed ever had. Mine was as well. Now, normally when I read a statement like that, I assume the person who wrote it is a perfectionist, a chronic complainer, or extremely closed-minded. I swear, I am none of those things (at least when it comes to travel). I travel quite a bit, and I understand that things happen  that can be part of the adventure, and often makes for a good story. My approach has always been to ignore or laugh off the bad stuff, and enjoy the good. Thats what I did on this cruise too, but there was quite a bit that had to be ignored& This was my fourth cruise, although its been about 5 years since my last one. Previously, Ive cruised on Royal Caribbean & Carnival. I expected HAL to be a step up, or at least on par with Royal Caribbean but I didnt find it to be so. The good: Embarkation was the best Ive experienced. Thats something I give HAL high marks for. Similarly, disembarkation was also very painless. The staff, for the most part, seemed anxious to please (although I did see some exceptions to this). The cabin was a decent size, and I really appreciated having a tub as well as the shower. We were in a partially obstructed view cabin. I booked a guarantee, but because it was the New Years cruise, it was a full ship & I got the category I booked. Not a problem. I was pleasantly surprised  the window was very large, and I could see quite a bit around the end of the lifeboat. I expected far more obstruction, actually. It wouldve been nice to have a balcony, but I just couldnt justify the cost on this particular trip  I was content to have some sunlight coming in. I peeked into the gym & saw that they had some excellent equipment, including Cybex ellipticals. I never wound up using the equipment though, because of the virus described below (I didnt want to touch equipment that other, possibly sick, people mightve touched). The ports were decent and we had ample time in most ports. Tortola was new to us, and thats the port that I was most looking forward to  I was determined to dive the wreck of the Rhone. Thankfully, I had the foresight to charter my own dive boat (nothing was going to stand in the way of my doing that dive!) And sure enough, the ship canceled their excursion to the Rhone. We met another couple who had signed up for the ships excursion, and invited them to share our charter (it worked out well all around  they got to dive after all, and we got an even better price on the charter because we had more people). Incidentally, the Rhone was the highlight of my entire cruise. It was fantastic! The bad: Our cruise was hit with the Norwalk virus. Ill admit that that has a big impact on my impression of the cruise. At first, I figured it was just bad luck with the virus  the ship cant prevent something like this from happening. But when I returned home, I checked around the internet & found a report from someone on the cruise immediately prior to ours. They reported that on the day of disembarkation, there were a lot of people who got sick in the public areas. Given this, I think HAL shouldve distributed notices warning us to be especially cautious right from the start of the cruise. I am careful to wash my hands, etc., but I wasnt thinking twice about putting my hand on the stair railing & then having a drink, for instance. And yes, I did get hit with the virus myself. (The cruise was for my 40th birthday, which was New Years Eve. I started feeling ill at dinner, went back to my cabin and spent the next 2 hours getting very sick. Definitely a birthday Ill never forget&) The hot tubs were closed once the virus officially hit (the second day) and remained closed throughout the cruise (not that you couldve paid me to get in them at that point  ugh). We spoke to someone who had paid in advance for a spa extra involving dry float tank. They were told that the virus wasnt anything to worry about with the tank, but the passenger didnt feel comfortable & wanted to cancel the treatment. They were told they couldnt get a refund. I know that the service must have been impacted by the virus as well, since some of the staff was also sick. The others had to pick up the slack (as well as serve all buffet items, salt & pepper the food, etc., since they were trying to reduce the spread of the virus and passengers werent allowed to touch anything except their own food). When I did experience some less-than-courteous staff, it was at the buffet area when we had to track someone down to serve beverages  I suspect they didnt want to get stuck at the beverage station serving a long line of people, and werent too happy at the request. But when youre trying to get a glass of water or coffee, and its roped off so you cant serve yourself, youll ask whoever is around for help. Overall, I found that the service was not as good as I expected. It was perhaps a little better than Carnival, but definitely worse than Royal Caribbean, based on what I recall of those cruises. The food was the biggest disappointment. It simply wasnt very good. There were a couple items that were excellent, but for the most part, it was very mediocre. Royal Caribbean was far better in my opinion, and Carnival was at least as good. The breakfasts were especially poor on the Zuiderdam. We ate in the dining room three times, and the selection was very slim (and never changed). The service was slow  one couple at our table waited over 30 minutes for their food to arrive, and coffee service was hit or miss. The breakfast hours were poor as well  we tried eating in the dining room but found it closed at around 8 or 8:30 AM (I cant remember the exact time, but it seemed very early). Incidentally, we spoke to a number of people who felt the same way  the food was not impressive, and definitely not on the same level as other cruise lines that had been on. The ugly: One thing that stood out to me (in a bad way) was the ships BBQ. It was truly awful. It reminded me of a cheap summer picnic that a small company might throw in a public park, with overcooked chicken and tasteless side dishes. They were pushing the drink of the day (mustve asked us 15 times if we wanted one). We only wanted water at that point, and when I went to the beverage area by the buffet, they only had one person serving. The line was very long, the server was frazzled, and it took me at least 10 minutes to bring back water for my husband and myself. (Given the fact that we couldnt serve ourselves due to the virus, they shouldve had more than one person serving, or had someone walking through the BBQ with pitchers of water & pots of coffee.) Then, at the precise minute when the BBQ was scheduled to end, they started packing everything up. While people were still eating, they were closing up chairs & removing tablecloths. We finished our food to the sound of the tables & chairs being slammed shut (including the table right next to ours  they werent only shutting down the areas that were empty&) Another night, we ordered room service and waited 25 minutes for someone to pick up the phone. My husband called at 9:40, and refused to hang up until someone answered. When they finally picked up, they informed my husband that he couldnt order his selection because it was on the served till 10 PM menu and it was after 10. I know room service mustve been extra busy due to the number of sick passengers, but that was still a pretty poor response  not something you want to say to someone who as been on hold for 25 minutes. My husband insisted on his original choice and they did eventually agree (it wasnt anything too outrageous to provide it was a chef salad!) A final note: HAL definitely does cater to an older crowd, and it does have an impact on the cruise atmosphere. I didnt think it would matter to me (Im 40 and my husband is 49), but it actually did to a degree. I felt a bit out of place. It wasnt enough of an issue that it wouldve stopped me from booking another HAL cruise if everything else had been good, but given the rest of it, I can confidently say that I wont be taking another HAL cruise, on the Zuiderdam or any other of their ships. In fact, my husband is swearing that he never wants to take another cruise on any line, because this one was so bad. I only listed a some of the issues we had with this cruise, since this is already turning into a novel. But there were so many other, smaller, things  to say it was a disappointment would be a huge understatement. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We sailed on the Zuiderdam in August 2003 with our two children ages 10 and 15. This was our eighth HAL voyage and our children's fourth. I was expecting such a wonderful ship and couldn't wait. Wow, what a disappointment. Our ... Read More
We sailed on the Zuiderdam in August 2003 with our two children ages 10 and 15. This was our eighth HAL voyage and our children's fourth. I was expecting such a wonderful ship and couldn't wait. Wow, what a disappointment. Our cruise was booked to capacity and contained well over 2,000 people. There were a huge number of kids and teens. We had a Suite, which was by far the best part of the voyage. The concierge desk for the Suite occupants was also a nice feature. The new Lido configuration tends to be confusing and the lines do not run smoothly. People cutting in and out of the line was really problematic. There was a lack of available seating on both the inside and outside of the Lido area. Many people were leaving personal items in order to "reserve" Lido tables for hours at a time. This is the first time I have seen something like that on a HAL ship. The Lido was not keep as clean as it is on other ships either, the carpet was constantly dirty and many tables needed to be bused. Forget about getting a chaise by the pool. These were "reserved" from dawn to dusk. We found the same problem with the hot tub. While others complained about service being too fast in the diningroom, we found ours to be monotonously SLOW...we always have second seating and numerous times we were left waiting to order while others around us were already eating (and no, we weren't late for dinner) Finally, the head waiter took over our service and it improved on the fourth night. We found the food in the Odyssey restaurant oddly lacking. It didn't seem to be any different than the food in the diningroom and for $80 (4 of us) we'll pass next time. The ship was way too large and seemed to be poorly configured. It was not as easy to get around as it is on other HAL ships. There were far too many people and for some reason there seemed to be an unusually large number of rude people on this particular voyage. Disembarkation from this ship was a disaster. We had priority disembarkation and could not get through some of the stairwells and hallways when our number was called. An "excuse me" or "pardon me" did not have any impact on this crowd. I think we will stick to the smaller ships and some of the more obscure ports in order to a avoid such crowds. Overall, I think we'll pass on any future Zuiderdam cruises. When I think of the Zuiderdam, I imagine it is what a Carnival cruise ship would be like. Read Less
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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