4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
As always, this review will try to focus on the little things that might be missed, along with the details that may be overlooked in a broader review. This is especially true for the independent travelers who may wander off and do things ... Read More
As always, this review will try to focus on the little things that might be missed, along with the details that may be overlooked in a broader review. This is especially true for the independent travelers who may wander off and do things on their own in each location. Rotterdam Pre -cruise/ Embarkation: We flew into Amsterdam and took the train to Rotterdam. Sine there were four of us, I took advantage of the group discount tickets available online at the Dutch Railways website. This came out to 8 Euros per person instead of 13 euros per person if booked separately. The train station is inside the Amsterdam Airport and very easy to find. We stayed at the Hilton Rotterdam which is only a few blocks from the main Train station and centrally located for walking around Rotterdam. Rotterdam has a Saturday farmers market near the Markthal that if you are there on that day, is a worthwhile shopping event. The central shopping district and pedestrian streets were all close by. The RET Stadhuis metro station was right outside the back door of the Hilton. Only 4 euros one-way. There were escalators at both Stadhuis station and Wilhelminaplein station and the luggage was easy to roll-on roll-off the cars. It was three stops to Wilhelminaplein from Stadhuis and about 800 feet from the metro station to the Cruise Terminal. After dropping our bags, we went through security. I had a wine bottle in my bag for consumption in the room, and security never even checked it. My wife had a bottle of wine and a six pack of soda and security looked in her bag to ensure she didn't exceed the alcohol allowance. Note: In Reykjavik, my wife asked if she could take on a beer, and they said yes, as long as it was not more than six bottles. At other ports, I brought on beer and others were bringing on cans of soda with no problem. We arrived just after 1pm and received boarding group 9. Luckily Boarding group 8 was just finishing up so we were checked in within 5 minutes and walked aboard. Ship- overall very good- there were some spots in need of touch up/repair such as a broken bed lamp, a balconies badly in need of paint, and far too many cracked windows, but public areas were in good shape. I assume they are foregoing cosmetic maintenance items until dry dock. Even though we had some choppy seas for the first ten days the ship was very stable. Service was one of the best we have had on recent cruises. The HAL Navigator App (free WiFi on board for the App and HAL websites) had the daily menus in each dining area, including the Lido, posted. Also each day, an interactive activities list was available which duplicated the daily program so you could review and save your favorites. You can also book shore excursions on the App. No morning show. Never saw the Cruise Director until day 8. Jessica, our travel host was the face of HAL entertainment for the majority of the cruise. Most EXC lectures were scripted and did not provide a lot more detail than could be found online. Most of the port talks filled up the Main Stage at least 10 minutes prior with standing room only after that. Port Lectures lacked details regarding where we would be docked until the lecture was almost over so it was hard to reference the locations discussed during the lecture against the port area where you would be disembarked. The Orange party was at 10:30pm in BB King’s the day after the second gala night. Of course I fell asleep and missed it so can’t provide details. The Movie theater had comfortable lounge chairs but only played the same movies that were also on the In-room TV, so never saw the need to attend. The Gym was smaller than similar sized ships on other lines. There were plenty of treadmills, elliptical machines, and Dumbbells, but very little in the way of weight lifting equipment. One thing I really appreciated was Captain Bart Vaartjes announcing when Whales or Dolphins were spotted from the bridge. He also had a great sense of humor. About four hours out of Islafjordur on our way to Greenland I noticed in the room that it was suddenly very quiet. No engine noise and no air conditioner. Dead silent in fact.....30 seconds later the lights went out so we were now also in total darkness. The Capt. came on the speaker and said an engine had shut down and engineers were working on restoring power. After a few minutes power came back. For about 20 minutes we were drifting, but eventually the engine and air came back. We did not take a delay arriving in Greenland due to the outage. There was no real danger but it give us a little excitement as we drifted “powerless” for a short time. Upon leaving St. Pierre, the Captain announced that due to a Canadian law regarding the speed of ships in Canadian waters to protect the Right Whales that had changed June 24th (a month earlier) we would be arriving into Halifax two hours late. We were scheduled from 8am- 11pm so it did not infringe much on the time available in port, and we were not impacted since we didn’t have a shore excursion, but it was annoying that HAL didn’t mention this or adjust the itinerary when they knew about this over 30 days earlier. Food- Much better than my last HAL cruise. Lido Market (Cafeteria). The many individual food stations kept lines down. The only station that consistently had a line was the made-to-order pasta bar. Otherwise I never saw more then four people waiting in line at any food station. Most of the food items available each night in the MDR ( including Gala night) was also available in the Lido. There was hand dipped ice cream during lunch and dinner time. Typically there were three flavors available. Also soft serve was available on random days. Breakfast stations: The Bistro had made to order eggs, meat, and potatoes; Two Omelet stations, one with waffles and crepes, the other with a vegetarian and non-vegetarian Frittata each morning; Pastries; an Express Breakfast that was the same as the bistro but with no made-to-order eggs other than poached eggs and eggs Benedict, but also Fried Rice and occasionally Beans, Fried Bread and Tomatoes. Tip- any item can be put back on the griddle in the Bistro if you want it a little more done. This was especially popular in the morning for those that preferred crispy bacon. The Central Market in the morning had a selection of fruit, smoked salmon and cereals and Hors D'ouvres for lunch and dinner. Complimentary Drinks were ice tea, lemonade, coffee, hot tea, and water. The ice tea and lemonade were the typical flavored concentrates. However I thought the coffee was above average. Most days breakfast hours were 0700-1030 Lunch stations: Made to order pasta; The Bistro (one on each side) where you find the main courses, pre-made sandwiches plus a specialty sandwich each day, and two soups; Made to order Salads; Breads, Cheese, and the “Central Market” opposite the drink stations with small plates and hors d'ouvres. The Pasta and Salad stations stayed open until 5, although the Lido was only open for lunch from 11:30-2. MDR- Those with anytime dining were seated on deck 2. We never waited for more than a few minutes before being seated. I noticed that the 7:45 seating on deck 3 was consistently sparse with lots of open tables and many empty seats at tables with diners. Each meal was three courses. I am posting sample menus for MDR and Lido. In room dining was available from 1100-2300 with a selection of sandwiches, salads, soups, sides and desserts. There was also a limited selection after hours. Breakfast room service was a choice of omelets, scrambled eggs and meat/bread, pastries or cereals, with salmon Benedict or steak and eggs at additional cost unless in a Suite. Burger Bar items were also available for a $4.95 delivery charge. We had breakfast one morning and it showed up exactly on time, although lukewarm, which honestly can be expected for a delivery up to deck 7.. Typical mix of liquor and wine on board. Beer on tap was Heineken and Tiger. Bottles were the standard Bud, Heineken, Corona, Miller, plus Sam Adams and Lagunitas. We never ate at Canneleto or Pinnacle grill. There were two specialty nights towards the end of the cruise: Surf and Turf on the last Gala night, with Lobster available in both MDR and Lido, and New England night in the Lido when we were in Halifax with Salmon cakes, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Lobster rolls, and Pork pies. Finally, there was a late night spread from 10:30-11:30 with pub-type food such as pot stickers, chicken wings, egg rolls, nachos, potato chips, desserts, and the remaining Hors D'oeuvres. 'Dive In” Burger Bar- Made to order burgers and hot dogs. Place your order at the window and receive a pager for when your order is complete. Both the Burgers and coated fries were hot, fresh, and very tasty. Next to it is a Taco Bar, with beef or chicken and all the fixin’s and occasionally including fresh made guacamole. The only downside was the limited opening hours for both: 11:30am-5pm. This meant neither was open after returning from most ports. Summary: In the past, I have chosen HAL due to the itinerary, since they tend to stop at ports not visited by other cruise lines, and I just assumed the food and service may not be as good, but just considered this a fair trade-off. However, this cruise was head and shoulders above my last two HAL cruises. Until now, I couldn't understand based on previous cruises how Holland America was ranked as high as it was in some polls. Perhaps it is the inconsistency in service mentioned in some other threads, or perhaps it is just the Vista class ships have higher service standards. Ports: Lerwick- Tender port. We had to show our passports to Scottish Customs as we disembarked. Tender arrived at Victoria pier which is downtown across from the Anderson Wool store and Captain Flints Pub. We were scheduled to be there from 8-4, but the last tender back to ship was at 3. However, six hours was enough time to explore the town independently.  Most of the shops in town are close to the tender port, and easily walk-able from Victoria Pier. There is a Tesco Supermarket a mile and a half away along the water side trail where you can stock up on snacks. The Broch of Clickimin is close to the Tesco. This same waterside trail in the opposite direction also runs out to “The Knab” which is a nice walk with some great views. Reykjavik- Docked at Skarfabakki port about 2.5 miles out of town. There is a oceanfront walk from the port to town. Both Enterprise and EuropCar are within walking distance of the dock. If you overnight and have a rental car, there is ample free parking in the dock area. There is a large Icewear souvenir store at the port with prices similar to what you will find in town. We checked prices here first before going downtown, then did some last minute purchases here before leaving port. We never needed Kroner. Credit cards were accepted everywhere, and there was no problem accepting most US credit cards. There was a Port-provided shuttle to/from town for $20 round trip. We opted to rent a car and drove the Golden Circle, plus we also did the town Vik and the black sand beaches there and also made it to the Bridge America-Europe on day one. On day two we drove into downtown Reykjavik for some shopping. There was no problem finding parking downtown. Parking meters took credit cards and were in English, as was the self serve gas stations. The cost of the car, fuel, added insurance (which seems to be a “thing” in Iceland), was about the same as the cost of a private tour plus the town shuttle. The difference was flexibility and the options for additional stops. Driving in Iceland was easy for those who normally drive on the right side of the road. Lots of traffic circles/ roundabouts for those who struggle with such things. Akeyuri- docked downtown about a five minute walk from the Visitors Center. Just like in Reykjavik, there was another Icewear gift shop at the dock. If not doing a tour, most tourist shops are close by and it took us about 3 hours to browse most of the stores. We opted not to do the tours here as we had done the Golden Circle and Vik two days prior. (and have been to Yellowstone and Rotorua so this wasn’t our first volcanic area ). We found lots of spare time after doing the main shopping street so just wandered around the rest of the city until time to return. It was rainy, windy, and cold until about 2pm, then cleared up and became sunny. Islafjordur- Tender port, Very small town with some shops in the downtown. Tendered in at Njardarsund st., which is one block from the local microbrewery, Dokkan Brugghus. Like Akeruyi, it was cold and windy in the morning then was sunny in the afternoon. The shops were small and only one of these had “Islafjordur”-branded items. The whale bone Arch on the hill above town made for a nice picture and also provided an opportunity for a photo of Islafjordur with the ship and mountains in the background. Nanatolik- Tender port. We were dropped off across the bay from the visitors center, at the Havnevej industrial port, not the cruise dock next to the visitors center, so there was a bit of a walk for those with limited mobility. Most of the souvenirs in town were at the same visitors center so the small room filled up almost immediately and stayed that way all day with lines forming outside. The visitors center also sold tickets for several presentations by local entertainers. The Brugseni supermarket across the street also had some limited souvenirs. The Ravnefjeldet mountain directly behind town can be hiked up to different levels depending on ability. To get to it, follow the Tunuliaritseq road which turns into Islafjordurip road past the picturesque cemetery. The road ends at the trail. Reserve about an hour for going up and back to get some good panoramic pictures. On the sailaway, several Humpback Whales were feeding just outside the port. St Johns- Docked at Pier 10. Most shops and pubs are within the first three blocks away from the ship. We walked to the Quidi Vidi Brewery. It was a long 45 minutes walk through the suburbs. Nice to have a beer made with water from an iceberg, but not sure it was worth the time to get there. Signal Hill was encased in low clouds all day so there was no point in climbing up for a view. One odd thing was pushing our clocks back 30 minutes to match the local time zone, instead of the usual hour. St Pierre- Tender port. Dropped off at Quay Eric Taberly. Nice visitors center tent upon arrival with a band, free WiFi, coffee, OJ, danishes, and croissants. Most small shops were within three blocks of where we arrived. Point aux cannons lighthouse, The Battery, and Place Du General De Gaulle are all within a few minutes walk. Note that many stores close between 12 and 2. Sydney- Docked at Cruise Pavilion which had souvenir shops and a craft market. Nice waterside walkway that starts from dock with some shops and food trucks. There are several blocks of early 19th century houses across the street from the Cruise Pavilion. There are some small museums in several of these houses for only a few dollars admission. On Saturday there is the Cape Breton farmers market/ craft fair at the intersection of Esplanade and Falmouth streets. Halifax- Docked at Pier 20. Lots of shops inside the Cruise Terminal, plus a Farmers Market at the end of the Terminal building. There is a booth inside the Cruise Terminal as you walk in that sells HoHo bus tickets and various tours. There is also a visitors center booth as you walk in that can provide maps and suggestions for the day. They provided a walking tour map that we used to go though the high points of areas close by such as the Citadel, Maritime Museum, landmarks, and shopping areas. The boardwalk along the water was lined with shops, bars, food trucks and restaurants. We were here until 11pm, so there was ample opportunity to check out the local nightlife, but the Captain announced all passengers were onboard early, so we departed early as well. Boston- Disembarkation Customs was set up onboard the ship on deck 3 so there no need to clear Customs after disembarking from the ship. Consequently, we stayed in our room until just after our 9am group color was called and we went down to deck 3, showed the Customs official our passports, had our room key punched by HAL, and walked off the boat. It was a total of five minutes from leaving our room to arriving in baggage claim. Once in the cruise terminal, we located our bags that had been grouped by tag color, picked them up, and exited the Terminal. For those without a post-cruise Hotel, there were bus stops on the other side of the BCD building, or at the end of the Cruise terminal. The taxi line was directly ahead as we exited the Cruise Terminal. The taxi line was very long so we used a ride share which arrived within a minute. Nine minutes later we were at the Boston Airport. This was one of the fastest, most painless, disembarkation's ever. We left our room at 9:05, and were checked in and through security at Boston Airport by 9:55. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
I'd have given this cruise an overall raging of 5 were it not for HAL cheating out on food, service and entertainment. Food was almost always JUST warm. No flavour and boring, I brought my own garlic powder is that's an ... Read More
I'd have given this cruise an overall raging of 5 were it not for HAL cheating out on food, service and entertainment. Food was almost always JUST warm. No flavour and boring, I brought my own garlic powder is that's an indication. Wine staff are ill equipped to offer any advice and are mostly bored with the job. We usually like to attend the Sip and Savour but after one, we stayed away because the so called sommelier had no real interest. She just went through the motions. I had to send back the escargot because they were actually over cooked. The dining room service is not very good. I think HAL reduced, again, the number of people working the dining room. Entertainment was largely just above the Busker level. Two very good dance performances by the group One Step. The five piece string and piano recitals in the Lincoln centre were quite good but other than that, entertainment was third class. The Lido for breakfasts and lunches was HAL's standard level of quality but the guy at the eggs station needs an attitude adjustment. The Drive In's food is just terrible ...... except for the fries. They are tolerable. Can't comment on HAL's tours because we don't take them. Waaaaaaay over priced. The ship was clean and our cabin attendants were very efficient. Our captain made entertaining and informative announcements. It was a good cruise but had the above been better, it would have rated as excellent. We tend to use the gym on sea day. Why were there no individual TV monitors on the cardio machines. Instead we had to watch CNN, FOX or BBC.....silently. Another thing. There are an awful lot of Canadians onboard. Why not offer the CBC Newsnetwork.....far better coverage. We finally attained that 4 Star Mariner status and enjoyed all that free laundry and discounted wine packages. Hopefully that does not change. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Holland america is a great line The zuiderdam was nice and clean and comfortable I like the food and the services Love the Baltic cruise St Petersburg Stonia Finland Sweden Denmark I had a great experience ... Read More
Holland america is a great line The zuiderdam was nice and clean and comfortable I like the food and the services Love the Baltic cruise St Petersburg Stonia Finland Sweden Denmark I had a great experience the excursions was beautiful The disembarkation and embarkatoin was nice and smooth Our dining room stuff ware wonderful specialy Herman and iman Love the wine tasting and wine package The captain was very friendly just like the rest of the crews entertainment was so so was okay Didn't like the idea of the yoga room all open concept saroundit with bicycle and other exercise machines Pools was clean and well look after I was disappointed because no library Only few books for exchange Not enough exercise class or activities I attended some free starch class The exercise room wasn't open tel 7 o'clock AM we ware waiting at the door 5 minutes after a sleepy fitness structure Appear and open the door I felt he was over worked Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This is about our 12th cruise, we previously cruised on Carnival and Disney, but mostly with Royal Caribbean. We had just tried Disney in 2018 but found that their experience just did not warrant their more expensive pricing. We cruised ... Read More
This is about our 12th cruise, we previously cruised on Carnival and Disney, but mostly with Royal Caribbean. We had just tried Disney in 2018 but found that their experience just did not warrant their more expensive pricing. We cruised many times on Royal and consider the Allure our "home" ship. But nothing on Royal really appealed to us, so we decided to branch out. We were celebrating our 33rd anniversary on this cruise, I'm 57 and my DW is 60. We stumbled up this cruise when I searched for Panama Canal. This cruise leaves from Florida, reached the canal, goes through the Gatun Locks and then returns to Florida. We have seen the original canal, but were very interested in seeing the new one. I also saw an excursion for a dome car train journey across the isthmus and that sealed the deal, Zuiderdam here we come! We were also excited to re-visit Aruba and Curacao and thought 5 days at sea would be some nice time to relax. We had no interest in Puerto Limon. Overall, i'd give it 3.5 out of 5. There was many great things about the cruise, but a lot of misses too. We had Neptune Suite 7069, midship near the Neptune lounge. It would compare to a Grand Suite on the Allure, It had plenty of space, lots of closet space, not so much in drawer space. The balcony had a table & 2 chairs and 2 loungers. We spent a lot of time out there. It has a flat screen TV with a few live TV channels, mostly news and ESPN for the Caribbean, not the US (think soccer, soccer and more soccer). Lots of movies and a few TV programs you can run like a DVR with no charge. Several Marvel and DC Movies, Mary Poppins Returns, Coco, Frozen, and come classics like Romancing the Stone. Lots of BBC Planet and the last 2 seasons of Big Bang Theory. This ship also had 2 documentaries on the Canals. Embarkation was a breeze, we were on the ship right at 11:30. Now, and we were aware of this, the age demographic for HAL is actually older than we are. This means you will encounter people who just aren't mobile and you need to bring your patience to deal with canes, scooters, wheel chairs and crowded elevators. If you are expecting to spend lots of family time on pool activities, and those sorts of things, then HAL is not for you. I think that is what I missed the most, there were times when there just wasn't enough things to do, other than trivia and bingo. By the 5th sea day, we were kind've bored with not a whole lot to do, and thus, things like America's Test Kitchen were so crowded as to be uncomfortable or you had to be there 45 minutes in advance and just sit there waiting for it to begin. Alright, let's talk food. Now, I know, food is very, very subjective. We rated it fair. We opted for My Time Dining. Several nights we didn't even try the dining room as service was very slow and/or nothing on the menu was attractive. We led us to the Lido or to Room Service. The Lido was hit, mostly miss. Breakfast was okay as you could order eggs specifically for you. Lunch was okay, really, nothing memorable comes to mind. The Dive In bar had great burgers and hot dogs, but their fries were embarrassingly bad. If you have to coat a potato to get a crispy fry then you don't know how to make fries and the Dive In fries are coated and I don't like those. And, really, how often can you have that for lunch? Once or twice was okay, but that was all I could stomach. The dining room food was just okay, as was the service. On the 2 nights we were sat by ourselves, the service was almost non-existent. It would take between 20-30 minutes between courses, and when our entree was served, they never came back and asked us how we liked it. Twice on My Time Dining we arrived at the dining room only to be told it was a 45 minute wait and that we should have made reservations! Really, "My Time Dining", see the My Time part of that? This means we don't know in advance when will dine! Never had this issue on Royal, we would show up and be seated within 10 minutes. And, as I previously said, if you seat us at a table for 2, this does not mean you can just serve us at your convenience. We had much better service when we were lucky enough to be seated with 4 to 6 others. The evening entertainment was very, very good. HAL has the "music walk" and all three stages are worth visiting. Our couple of Megan and Ethan in the Billboard Onboard lounge were really outstanding. We went every evening they performed. Lincoln Center stage had great musicians too. The evening stage entertainment had more hits than misses (one night it was just a movie), but we enjoyed the 3 singer and dancing shows. Island Magic Steel Drum gets a special mention too, wow, they blew us away. The service from our room attendants was spotless. We took one excursion, the dome car train ride across the isthmus. This included a stop at the new visitor center where we had the good fortune of catching a ship just entering the top canal on it's way to the Atlantic. The train ride was amazing. What wasn't amazing was that after the train ride we were unwillingly dragged to a mall with a duty free store that no one wanted to visit and where no one brought anything and it added 2 hours to our trip. This stop was not in the tour description and left us with a bad taste after what had been a truly memorable time. We did things by ourselves at Aruba, Curacao and Limon. Half Moon Cay is a great stop, too bad on board time is an early 2:30 so you don't really get a whole lot of time there, especially since it is a tender port so you have to allow transit time. We had great attendants for our room, no problems there, If you are Catholic, both Sundays offered mass, actually, mass is offered daily. Disembarkation was a breeze too. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise because of timing as we wanted to cruise in April. We were a little worried about cruising with Holland American because of their reputation of being geared toward a much older crowd then we were used to. Yes the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of timing as we wanted to cruise in April. We were a little worried about cruising with Holland American because of their reputation of being geared toward a much older crowd then we were used to. Yes the average age was much older, but don't let that deter you as the cruise was excellent. Accommodation: We had a balcony room on the 10th deck. The room was about average as far as size and comfort goes. However, the room stewards were the best we have ever had. Our every need was met instantly and with a smile no matter what time of day. Our room location was perfect as it was above the lido deck so all that noise was below us and the crows nest was right outside our room. The crows nest is a bar with panoramic views at the bow of the ship. Dining: Lido deck buffet: great selection of food. There was italian, asian, mexican, sandwiches, pizza, hamburger\hotdog grill, a great salad station and of course deserts. The food quality was very good compared to other cruise lines and we have been on quite a few cruises. Main Dining room: the main dining room was pleasantly designed. The diner food quality and selection was outstanding. I would rate the quality better then other cruise lines, but not by much as we have experienced good main dining room food on other cruise lines. The waite staff were exceptional. We are breakfast in the main dining room but I would recommend the buffet as the selection on the buffet was better. Pinnacle Grill ($ dining ): we dined at the pinnacle grill twice during the cruise. The food, in my opinion, was not worth the $35.00 charge. Don't get me wrong the food was good, but not $35.00 better then the main dining room. However, David, our waiter was outstanding. On board experence: Days at sea got a little long as other cruise lines offered more events to occupy your time. Biggest complaint would be the lack of music in the pool areas. Holland American is in partnership with American test kitchen and offer many cooking shows and they were outstanding. The BB King lounge was the only choice you had for live dancing music. The band, B B King All Star band might be the best band I ever heard on a cruise and they played every night. Excursions: All I will say is you should book your excursions from a site such as Viator. The excursion we booked from the ship was poor. However the excursions we booked through Viator were outstanding. Shopping on board: same as all cruise lines. Overall experience : Outstanding! This is the smallest ship we have ever cruises on and I doubt we will ever cruise on a large ship again. The personal touch you receive on a small ship is remarkable and something everyone should experience. Holland American does personal touch better then any other ship we have been on. DO NOT let the average age deter you as it is something we did not even notice nor did it effect the fun we had in the slightest. If you are a 20 - 35 year old party animal this is not the ship for you! We are in our 50s and we had a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We arrived in Florida amid a flood of other cruisers. Definitely not accustomed to thousands of other confused people charging 0r standing around. We had finally located our luggage at a different.station, other than on the banner. At ... Read More
We arrived in Florida amid a flood of other cruisers. Definitely not accustomed to thousands of other confused people charging 0r standing around. We had finally located our luggage at a different.station, other than on the banner. At least Four cruise ships were departing on the same day..Holiday Inn at hollywood had a shuttle waiting for it and Candlewood hotel, we loaded up..Dispite them doubling their rates for rush at HI, they serve a decent breakfast, and accomadations were very nice.. Mind you there is not much else close here and 8 lanes of high speed traffic in front if you want to cross the hwy...I believe one 4x4 pu tried to see how close he could get, defintely did NOT slow down, There is NO crosswalk for protection. Ok, we paid $15.00 each for the ride to the port #21. and tipped the driver. I was satisfied with the process of checking in and forming groups to board..We were in a SY suite for our cruise and it was nice too, except for the heavy deck doors. the one next door #8076, closed loudly and disturbed me in the evenings. I turned in a request to have their closer and shock tested and repaired, but Hal did not fix it.So it reminded me of a cheap thin motel room when slammed..They were seniors next to us and I did not speak with them about it. The hot water controls were great in the Jetted tub and shower, you could get very hot water if you soaked. I did use the hot-tub on the rear of the ship, there were about 5 . The food was hit or miss after breakfast, which was great and so was the room service. By this I mean you could get great Fish and vegs, but their pasta sauce was not flavored enough, simular to Ragu..Pizza and Pasta was there all the time and hot served any time. There was a huge salad available at all meals, built with care by an attendant and plenty of vegetarian food.Ice Cream was served all day and lots of flavors, Seniors Love their Cold deserts.The whole ships crew worked hard to please anyone..The Steelband performance was the best, and second was the Magician show.. The port stops were nice, we enjoyed Willenstad, Curacoa in the old dutch section...We stayed on board at the canal, and went exploring in beautiful Costa Rica. This was our Diamond anniversary, and we were recognised at Gala Dinner..Thanks to HAl and the crew, especially a very efficient Captain, We will book another cruise with them soon...Jonyyuma Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
Panama Canal was the reason we chose this cruise....I found it very acceptable for an older ship....We stayed in an outside cabin...of course, smaller cabin but was sufficient...room stewards were very good as were our dining room ... Read More
Panama Canal was the reason we chose this cruise....I found it very acceptable for an older ship....We stayed in an outside cabin...of course, smaller cabin but was sufficient...room stewards were very good as were our dining room waiters...Food was very good..the entertainment in BB Kings lounge and Billboard Lounge was absolutely wonderful...Now the negative .....we took a shore excursion in Panama..Aqua Clara locks and area tour....it was terrible...They drove around old housing of former base(about 20 mins) then they took us to Aqua Clara locks and left us there 2-21/2 hours....it was interesting to see ships go through these locks...it is about a 1 hr tops stop....the food at the concession stand was out of food only chips, ice cream and drinks were available....then we were driven to port in Colon to sit until ship arrived.....Definitely not worth the money......In Cartegena, we took the gem stone making tour..it was an acceptable tour until you had to go through the jewelry store to exit...Pretty high pressure to buy emeralds...Maybe they should have paid for the tour so they could get the chance to sell us their emeralds? Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
As a three-star mariner with Holland America, I have enjoyed many of their ships over the years. The latest improvements did away with the wonderful library and great coffee bar. Explorations Café is now up on deck 10, with nice places ... Read More
As a three-star mariner with Holland America, I have enjoyed many of their ships over the years. The latest improvements did away with the wonderful library and great coffee bar. Explorations Café is now up on deck 10, with nice places to sit, but no books to browse. The "passenger exchange books" shelf had a dozen or so books in foreign languages, but none in English until I left a few had brought along. The bar here handles both specialty coffee and alcoholic drinks. One latte proved to me that it wasn't that great a cup. So it goes. The new Lincoln Center Stage was filled to capacity at each performance, with some classics on the heavy side for my taste. I loved the old piano and violin combo that played more Strauss and standard melodies. Billboard on Board with its twin pianos was crowded at each performance, with standing room across the way in the casino for the overflow. The area shared by B.B.King's All-Stars (evenings) and America's Test Kitchen (daytime) also has more people than seating. The permanent lounge seating at the back of the room is fine in the evening. Folding chairs are added for the daytime cooking shows, with those in the lounges seeing only heads and backs since the closely lined up chairs are quite a bit higher. The food in the dining room is still very good every evening (and breakfast and lunch). The Dungeness crab benedict was wonderful, and on the breakfast menu every day. The one evening of surf and turf featured perfectly done lobster. Wine prices have continued to rise, but asking $79 plus 18% for a bottle that retails for $15 seems a bit over the top. My big disappointment on this cruise was the scenery from my ocean view cabin. Cabin 4114 gave new meaning to the term "obstructed view". From my floor to ceiling window, I could view lifeboat #16 and its davit....a bit of sky above, and looking directly down could see those walking on deck 3 below. Not a bit of "ocean" aside from the time they lowered the lifeboat to use as a tender at one port. The room itself was fine, and my steward was outstanding as always. Lots of hanging closet space but no drawers other than tiny ones in the bedside tables. Nice tub with shower in the bathroom, and lots of storage space. Now if they would just give loyal passengers a few complimentary minutes of internet time like the other cruise lines do, I would continue to be a happy camper on Holland America. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour ... Read More
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour took us to see the Panama City also, as the tour was not cheap. The service, food was good. I would like to recognize Gede, Eko, KD and Mauro for their excellent service and taking care of us during dinner. Our room was serviced by 2 pleasant people. Computer classes were a hit, the instructor was pleasant and wonderful. But the space was limited. 5-10 more computers would help. Shows and entertaining was good. Enjoyed the drums show. Went to all the bingo games, thought it was a bit expensive. Adding one or two more ports would have made the experience a bit more fun. We were at sea for more than 2 long stretched days, Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was my third HAL cruise in the past 3 years. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there were some serious flaws, and some expected impressive wins. SHIP- This is an older vessel, I was surprised by how some things were quite shabby ... Read More
This was my third HAL cruise in the past 3 years. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there were some serious flaws, and some expected impressive wins. SHIP- This is an older vessel, I was surprised by how some things were quite shabby especially since it was in dry dock recently. The wooden railings were very worn, the carpets were tattered and showing wear in the hallways especially. While onboard they seemed to be replacing all the stairs carpeting, and would do it at odd times. For example during dinner service one night they were replacing carpet between floors leading to the MDR floors, forcing everyone to take the elevator for the final flight(s) down? Strange. The furnishings were all nice and up-to-date. I especially liked the chairs and high tops in the Gallery Bar. CABIN- Had a veranda, aft. It had a very deep balcony, nice sized. New flat screen wall mounted TV, bathroom not updated. Beds are wonderful as ever, as they have been on HAL cruises in the past. Room was very clean and of course well kept by attendant. DINING- Main Dining Room was run very smooth, better than other cruises I've been on recently. We had any time dining, and never waited for a table regardless of size requested. The breakfast and lunch food was noticeably better than the dinner in regards to timing, temperature of food, and presentation. The lack of vegetarian main menu items was glaring. They offered only one entrée a night that was veg on main menu and it was either a pasta or a grain/veg combo every single night all 11 days. That was annoying. The Canaletto had great food, worth the upcharge. The Dive-In was my favorite and the Asia distant lands counter in the Lido was my 2nd favorite for casual dining. In room dining was hit or miss with the food quality, but it was always on time and we had no temperature problems. Wrote in things on breakfast card, and all but once we got what we asked for. ENTERTAINMENT- Only went to Mainstage a few times, it was better than years past but we went only on nights they had special performers. Don't care for the ships singers/dancers. Lincoln Center Stage was top-notch, each performance was only a half hour. America's Test Kitchen was good when the menu was strong. One class was tomato soup and grilled cheese; I don't need to hear how to make that or improve it. Very few O magazine events. Many sales pitches were listed as activities-- no thanks. Don't put in a event for me to attend and find out they are just trying to get me to go to the spa or pay for a trainer, or buy some jewelry or buy some art. Annoying and beneath HAL. SERVICE- Best we have had. PORTS- Great. Enjoyed each stop. EXC staff was dismal and some ports seriously lacked any good options so we went with private tours for one port. I prefer to book through ship. CHILDREN- very very few on ship. Probably less than 10. CROWDS- Ship felt overly crowded on sea days. Port days it felt especially empty and lacked things to do. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Assigned to cabin 1029 on the Main Level of the Holland America Line (HAL) ms Zuiderdam, I had only a single flight of stairs from the boarding level (A) to climb. Picking the port side, I found myself walking past even-numbered rooms as I ... Read More
Assigned to cabin 1029 on the Main Level of the Holland America Line (HAL) ms Zuiderdam, I had only a single flight of stairs from the boarding level (A) to climb. Picking the port side, I found myself walking past even-numbered rooms as I walked to the bow. A short young man popped out of an inside room to ask if I needed assistance, and I replied I was doing a tour, as I was on the wrong side. He asked my room number, and surprised me to address me by name: Joe would be one of the two staff assigned to keeping my room up. After dropping some of my stuff from my backpack (toiletries, change of clothes, electronics), I climbed the stairs to the Lido deck (9) to get lunch. Deciding that a salad might be a good way to start the trip, I queued up, only to have them completely run out of lettuce with the person in front of me. After waiting 15 minutes, it was announced that the lettuce was then being brought on board, and would be unloaded during the afternoon. So I had a lettuce-free salad, taking my bowl out on the deck with a glass of water. Well, it was the wrong side, as the aft deck port side was the sole smoking area for the ship. I headed back inside and found a free seat, and had my salad. Skipping dessert, I walked to the bow and up to the observation deck (10) and made an inquiry regarding the specifics of the Panama City tour, and whether I might be able to skip lunch to spend more time at the cathedral. Then, since I’d purchased dinner upgrades, I took my reservations to the Pinnacle Dining Room (2) to book late meals for 5 of my 10 evenings. While I’d only bought 4, apparently getting the 6-bottle wine bundle earned me another. Then it was time to muster to the emergency stations (3). Unlike RCCL, HAL has you out on deck under the lifeboats. We were instructed to queue up rather than be in random groups, and then told to remain silent. The very short Pilipino responsible for our station was very strict and humorless, but I’d rather that we all did what was necessary should conditions require it. Once dismissed, I returned to my cabin to find my suitcase still hadn’t arrived. No cork puller in the room, although a HAL bottle of wine sat alongside the wine card. Another climb to the shops level (3) and I met the Catholic priest, Fr. Desmond, who would be saying Mass daily; I agreed to meet him at 5 that evening. Up to the spa (9) to see what was offered, and then a trip to check out the gym, on the same level. Time for Mass, so back to 3 and a full room. Fr. Desmond, of Metuchen, gave a short sermon, seemed to get a little lost during the order of prayer; the ship’s staff attending him provided him with a white chasuble, which I questioned. Meanwhile, the ship left port. Returning to my room, the suitcase had arrived. After unpacking into the shelves (ships don’t seem to have drawers, although I later found two drawers under the beds, filled with ship’s stuff I didn’t need.) I headed to the Gallery Bar (3) for a pre-diner beer and bought tickets for the two wine tastings I didn’t already have. At 7:45pm I headed to the main dining room for dinner. Assigned to table 234, there were 4 couples and me. A starter of spicy bean soup, scallops and a green salad, we seemed to be doing well. Mahi mahi for my main, however, lacked an umphf, needing more grill spices, as well as not being particularly tender. I opted for the cheese plate for dessert – four cheeses all too cold, and the bread had been removed. I got the first of my six bottles of wine, which we all had about 2/3rds of, with the remained left for the following evening. I headed back to the Gallery Bar for a cognac night cap. The lead bartender there is a Pilipina, a mother of a 4-month old whose husband became my favorite mixologist later in the trip at the Billboard Bar. Initially, as we got underway, my stomach felt a little queasy, so I put the elastic bands on my wrists to deter motion sickness. A bit of chocolate seemed to help, and I did find the that ship was pretty steady. I slept with the bands. I also had to get Joe to help with getting my room a bit warmer – it felt like an ice box with the low air conditioning setting. 26 November: Cruise Day 2 – Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Due to arrive at 8am, I looked out my window to see us approaching Half Moon Cay at 7:30. After cleaning up, I headed to sit-down breakfast, and was seated with a Dutch couple and 3 single women. Over steel-cut oatmeal and decaf coffee, we discussed plans and options for the day before heading to the tender for a ride to shore. With no plans, I began to stroll, walking as far as the stables on a road, and then walking along the beach until a sign prohibited further progress. Returning, I turned off the beach at the horse path “up the mountain”, looking for the purported ruins. There’s a picture of a stone which might have been used as a mortar. Back to the more populous area, I found the Lobster Shack and got my lobster roll and conch chowder which I’d ordered at dinner the night before. A couple sitting next to me turned out to be from Ft. Lauderdale, and were planning a cruise including Havana. I related my experiences and put them on to ViaHero for personalized concierge service. With little else to do on the island, I caught the launch back and took a nap. I’d removed my seasickness bands before my shower, and didn’t put them back on for the duration of the trip. While I still felt the rolling motion, I was stable enough with the occasional bite of chocolate. After my nap, I climbed to the foredeck (10), an enclosed space with a coffee bar, and found a seat to read until we got underway, taking a break to listen to the EXC guide give a talk on sea life. I continued to meet and talk with folks from all over. At dinner we had our first fallout – Stewart and Nora had rescheduled their dining to the early seating, as they found they couldn’t wait until nearly 8. My main was osso buco, which was fabulous. After dinner, back to the bar for a Napoleon cognac. (There is a promotion at the bar from 9:30 to 10:30, where your second round is $2. I just got doubles.) Photo link: Half Moon Cay 27 November: Cruise Day 3 – At Sea While underway, there was a time change, with clocks being set forward to accommodate eastern Caribbean time. Rousing a bit earlier, I made it to sit-down breakfast of corn beef hash and eggs. Interesting, they topped the hash patty with salsa. Next on my calendar was a meet-up with the CruiseCritic.com members. SueAnn had alerted me to this website, telling me that it was a great resource for anyone who might cruise. I signed up, found my particular cruise, and was helped by others who answered my newbie questions. A “meet and greet” was scheduled in the Billboard Lounge (3), near where evenings two young men entertained playing dual and dueling pianos. I shared one of my Shutterfly books because I’d raised a question regarding the cathedrals we’d see. From the meeting forward, I was known to about half the ship as “Cathedral Ken”. Having pre-purchased a “bottles of wine” plan, I was invited to a wine tasting in the afternoon. Figuring that I might not get enough dense food to eat sitting down, I climbed up to the Lido deck and stood in line for the pasta toss. Three young men worked skillets while singing just about everything – at least the choruses to pop songs. I got sun dried tomatoes, chicken, turkey, broccoli, zucchini, onion and garlic, with the meat sauce and some extra marinara on my pasta. That did the trick preparing for the wine tasting; I was full. Four wines: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, Simi Chardonnay, R. Mondavi Pinot Noir and Boom Boom Shiraz. Jude, the head wine steward, walked the novice group through the tasting over about 30 minutes, doing a decent job. I did note that he does not have syrah in his vocabulary – all variations are the Australian version. A discovery I’d made the night before drew me back to Lincoln Center Onstage. Five young classical musicians were giving 3 performances daily, with the earliest repeated again in the later evening. That afternoon was a program of dance music, which this piano with string quartet played arrangements from the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake as well as Saint-Saëns’ Dying Swan. Attendance whenever I was on board became a regular item for me. Jude had invited the wine tasters to his 5pm wine pairing. Set on the Main level outside Guest Services, we bellied up to a bar or sat at small tables along the wall to enjoy an amuse bouche with one of two wines he had selected. The pumpkin crème with cilantro and sprouts was paired with a Beaujolais Village. With nearly 2 hours before my first upgraded dinner at Pinnacle, I walked down the hall to the cabin and had a half hour snooze. Freshening up, I grabbed a sports jacket and long pants before heading to the promenade deck to walk three laps (a mile) after I climbed to 10 and back. The members of quintet were playing again, this time music written by women, which included the expected Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and Amy Beach, as well as Alicia Keys. Pinnacle does not seat to fill up a table – so I was seated by myself. After ordering my meal and wine, I slipped downstairs to get my ereader so that I would have something to slow down my dining. I started with Steak Tartare, followed by the rack of lamb with Brussel sprouts and grilled asparagus. I also asked for a small side of the pumpkin risotto, as I was curious as to how it tasted. (Bland.) The cheese plate was the same as in the main dining room. My wine was a nice cabernet sauvignon/sangiovese blend, served in a Riedel glass. After dinner I headed to the main stage for the singer/dancer presentation. A forty-minute show, there were 3 singers (soprano, tenor, baritone), 3 male dancers and 5 female dancers. I found the lighting effects pretty good, but I didn’t recognize about half the songs. Typical of US audiences, they were talkative throughout the entire show. 28 November: Day 4 – Oranjestad, Aruba The Zuiderdam was due in Aruba after lunch. I was up and presentable for sit-down breakfast and had regular oatmeal (still not hot enough) and a banana while dining with 5 others, including a couple from England. A mile walk around the promenade deck and then up to 10 to speak with Joann, the future cruise specialist. The prior evening a flyer with some of the more exotic longer cruises was left on the bed. I was intrigued enough to see what the single supplement rate was: 50, 80 or 100%, depending on cruise and cabin. For the trip I’d been curious about, a 77-day voyage around South America in a cabin similar to the one I was in would run about $25K! As I hadn’t signed up for the Internet package, I wasn’t able to look at the itinerary in detail vis a vis ports-of—call and cathedral locations. Besides, I really don’t think I could take two and a half months in a small room, and I really don’t feel any need to visit Antarctica. Sit-down lunch was limited to fish and chips and shortened hours. Joining me as we exited from the ship were a couple Olga and Fernando, who became fast friends and joined our dinner table as more attrition occurred. We split at the pier, and I used Google Maps to guide me to the cathedral. From the outside, the taupe with teal and coral highlights on the single tower church were appealing. I feared that the school bus out front might make my picture taking difficult, but it was soon away. The interior was having work done – air conditioning was being added under the balconies. Simple, there is no bishop’s throne as this is a pro-cathedral (the diocese is ruled from Willemstad in Curaçao.) After being inside, I was able to speak with a couple of teachers at the church school, both non-native. Leaving the church, I did a bit of a wander, as it felt very safe in town. I didn’t book a tour, as most seemed to be related to visiting beaches or circumnavigating the small island. I saw some interesting black&white graffiti on a building with a parking lot. I’d heard at a talk that much of the building construction was natural rock, covered with stucco. Down near the port was the larger Dutch Protestant church with a very tall tower. Along many of the walkways were the blue fiberglass horses, a symbol for Aruba. I wandered the market, and wound up picking up a diamond stud – a bit bigger than the canary I’d collected in 1995 in Antwerp. After boarding the ship, I went to the Ocean Bar and ran into a woman passenger named Mary. She is 82, and doing this trip three times back-to-back. My second glass of wine (the $2 one) she had before she headed up to dinner. After her departure, I caught a brief nap while I tried to get my phone to Bluetooth to my tablet. (No go.) Cell coverage wasn’t terrific in the room, as I faced away from the port. At dinner, Karen and Howard suggest I join them for the next days’ martini tasting once we returned to the ship in Curaçao. We also went to the B.B. King All Stars show and stayed for two sets. Great music! Photo link: Aruba 29 November: Day 5 – Willemstad, Curaçao We would have a short stay in Curaçao: arriving at 8am and leaving at 4pm. Getting a cheese omelet at buffet dining on the Lido deck, I was out on the pier awaiting my EXC tour promptly. We boarded a bus and after passing a cemetery, headed to the Museum of Curaçao, a nice classic old building with examples of Colónial furniture and a polka dot kitchen (to confuse the flies.) I found the carillon of interest, and strolled the yard. Next off to the salt flats where we saw a good number of flamingos, having passed the up-thrust lime cliffs. After passing the Hato airfield, we arrived at Kuebe di Hato, a cave complex which we had to climb up to enter. Photography is restricted to specific chambers to avoid startling the bats. We returned to town, passing the oil refineries to stop at the “Genuine Curaçao Distillery”, where we were able to try the local version of triple sec. This orange-flavored liqueur comes in clear and 4 colors (red, blue, green, yellow) and there are chocolate and coffee flavored versions as well. These latter make a great Mudslide. Returning to the port, I got a few shots of the high bridge before walking the pontoon bridge to the taxi stand. Highway robbery is the way there, as I had to pay $50 for a 45-minute trip to the Landhuis Bloemhof gallery. An illuminated labyrinth with walls made from the local thorn plant, the Cathedral of Thorns, sits on a concrete base. I met Herman Van Bergen, who conceived of the structure, using the native thorns which grew after the mahogany had been harvested. The artist is including religious and cultural images in the thorn panels as he strives towards completion next year. My Jamaican woman taxi driver returned me to the taxi stand, instead of the cathedral as I’d requested, so I used Google Maps again to guide me along the water to the cathedral. Feeling doomed, a pink trolley car was parked out front, but that turned out to be a blessing. The tour guide had a key to the front doors, so I was able to enter and get my inside photos, and then outside photos after they left. Next on my agenda was the synagogue. Mikve Israel-Emanuel is the oldest Jewish temple in the western hemisphere. The floor is sand (to remind one of the 40-years in the Sinai desert), and there is an organ in the “loft”, indicating a reformed congregation (and reminding me of the synagogue I visited in Budapest last year.) There is a lovely two-floor museum (no photography) and some tombstones in the foyer. Returning to the pontoon bridge, I crossed and headed to the St. Ann’s Basilica, a co-cathedral. Per the web, this is one of the world’s smallest basilicas. The street gates at both sides were closed and locked, so I was unable to enter. My walk took me deeper into the non-tourist part of Willemstad, as far as the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Still, the houses were painted in brilliant colors. On board with enough time, I freshened up after turning over my boxes of Curaçao liqueur samplers to security and headed to the wine pairing, where shrimp with corn flake coating was featured. Off to the Billboard bar for martini tasting – lemon drop, guava and blue Curaçao flavorings. My dinner was again at Pinnacles, where I started with a mushroom amuse bouche that was superb. Deciding to stick to fish, the crab cake appetizers were fair, but the cioppino was wonderful. I had a vanilla souffle to wrap up the meal. My wine was a white blend from Franciscan. My nightcap was Drambuie on the rocks. Photo link: Curaçao 30 November: Day 6 – At Sea Overnight we recovered the hour as we moved back to Eastern Standard Time. Trying something different for sit-down breakfast, I asked for the banana bread French toast. No great flavors, but very filling. After a climb to 10, I returned to the main stage for an EXC talk on the Panama Canal in preparation for the next day. Climbing again to 10, I shared the Cathedral of Thorns information with the EXC guides, as they had not heard of it, and it would give them something to share for someone who was returning to Curaçao. The ship invited the frequent cruisers to an early lunch in the main dining room, so my dates with Mary and her friend Janice were squashed. While I tried to find them at our rendezvous, I was left alone, so I climbed again to the Lido to get the pasta toss, as there would be a 10-wine tasting walkaround at the Billboard Lounge at 2. At lunch I spoke with Olga and Fernando and we set up a date to meet after our respective tours in Panama to cab to the cathedral in Colón. The hour-long wine tasting showcased a red and a white from the countries of France, Spain, Australia, Canada and Italy. The French white (George Dubouf Macon Village) was my favorite of the bunch, with the blush from Canada being my dog. There were probably about 40 participants. I headed to the cabin for a nap, and then joined the wine pairing, which featured a salmon tartare. While there I met a landscaper from Maine who labored under the misinformation that one needed to be age 55 to buy a home in my hometown of Venice! Couldn’t convince him anyhow. Then off to the martini bar where I met up with Howard and Karen for a ginger lemon drop, followed by two more froufrou samplings. Dining in the main dining room required men to wear long pants, so I went and changed, and grabbed the Powell Hill Pinot Noir, the bottle of wine which I had brought on board to share at dinner. 1 December: Day 7 – Panama, Panama City and Colón Because we would be approaching the breakwater before the entry into the Panama Canal at 6:30am, I was up at 6 and on Deck 4 shortly thereafter. Fortunately, we’d gained an hour overnight as we sailed into Central Standard Time. Coffee and rolls were served under a tent, and all the chairs had been snagged much earlier. Slowly the ship approached the almost completed twin-tower suspension bridge. Off the port side was Colón, with the cathedral barely visible in the haze. Gradually we cruised between the bridge supports while easily passing underneath. As we approached the first of the Gatun locks, we watched the Turandot, a container ship, maneuver into the lock alongside. A large cruise ship was ahead of her in the third lock. As the gates to our lock opened, a frenzied crowd angled for shots with their cameras. Alongside the “mules”, small trains, came to guide the Zuiderdam on its passage. Once the Panamanian pilot began to position us in the lock, I descended to the promenade deck to get a better shot of our close fit and the mules. Down into my cabin, I took a shot out the window of the lock walls. Once forward motion was halted, the ship slowly began rising in the lock. This was repeated twice more, and I scrambled up to the Lido deck for a shot back to the Caribbean, and then to the Observation deck for a view into Gatun Lake. The dam which formed the lake was off to starboard. Once we were in the lake, the tenders were launched and tour groups were called to offboard. Once at the pier, we were loaded into a bus and then we took off for the “new” locks – considerably longer and wider, with baffles that allow them to recycle 70% of the water. After a rest stop, we crossed the continental divide and began a descent towards the Pacific Ocean. High rise towers came into sight, even as we approached the ruins of Vieja Panamá. Our guide seemed to find it important to point out every occurrence of an American multinational, repeatedly calling every McDonalds the US Embassy. A break for a buffet lunch with chicken stew, rice, salad and a plantain, we soon continued to the historic center city. Here we got out and began our 2-hour stroll of that part of this huge city. Of particular interest to me was the Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop Primate for Panama. The cathedral was closed. It had been open for one day the week earlier after an extensive cleanup and restoration had been completed. Now the rest of us will have to wait until February to enter, once Pope Francis visits in January. Our walk took us by both well kept and rundown building facades, shops, plazas and a waterfront promenade. Off across a coral flat were high rise towers, and opposite in the haze was the TransAmerican Highway bridge. A monument to the French, the initial builders of the canal is topped with a cock. After some shopping and personal exploring, we returned to our bus and began the 90-kilometer trip to the port in Colón. As we arrived at 6pm, the ship was just tying up, having been held up exiting from the canal. So with about 8 tour buses full of guests wanting to get back on the ship, and another 200 who had stayed on the ship wanting to explore a port, there was a bitt of confusion and rather long lines. I was looking for Olga and Fernando so we could cab to the cathedral. After about an hour, I opted to go myself, arriving after dark. Mass was underway, so I limited my picture taking to outside and that one telephoto shot of the celebrant and altar boy with the cathedra behind. When I returned to the ship, the lines were gone and I was quickly back on board. My impression of Colón was very unfavorable – most of what I saw was warehouse and industrial space, with roads in a very poor state and filthy. Having seen it, I understood why the guides I’d corresponded with advised against walking to the cathedral or even leaving the immediate port area. After cleaning up, I headed to the Ocean Bar outside the dining room for a glass of wine. Bringing the fourth of my Shutterfly books to share with my tablemates, I looked forward to my last night in the dining room. I had upgrade dinners planned for my last 3 nights. While seated at the bar, several of the older women I had assisted while touring Panama came up and thanked me for my help – made me feel great. Dinner started with just Karen, Howard and me. I went to see if Olga and Fernando had sat at their regular table, but it was empty. A full table near us, on inquiring what I was looking for, suggested I ask another couple sitting alone a big table to join us, so I did. They were Ken and Barbara. Shortly thereafter, Olga and Fernando joined us, so we were 7. They had been held up by their tour, as they “lost” a guest. It turned out the guest had returned on a different bus, and the ship didn’t know until the 90-minute return had dropped him off. They arrived about the time the ship was to leave! Onion soup to start, since almost everyone had tried it and approved of it. I found it needing seasoning. Beef for my main, but an order of the squab for the table, which was dry and tough. Best part of the chocolate mousse was the dark chocolate shell it was served in, but the rhubarb tart was yummy. To finish, a Rusty Nail to enjoy with the show in the Billiards Lounge. Photo link: Panama and Colón 2 December: Day 8 – Puerto Limón, Costa Rica For some strange reason, I not only didn’t journal about this Sunday, but I didn’t even make some notes on the following day. It was a short distance from Colón to Limón, so we were in port by 8am. I had booked a tour of the Tortuguero Canals, so I go off the ship and went to the gathering location. Once again, the Dutch were fairly strict about single-person lines, but we were soon on a bus. I had boarded with the initial group, and found a clean window to sit at; when a late arriving couple joined us as we were ready to leave, I was asked to move to an inside seat and said no. The guide chose to yield his seat in front. [Why a couple needs to be constantly joined at the hip still amazes me!] In any case, we got to the open air boats and took seats. The guide and navigator spotted various wildlife as we cruised north towards Guatemala, and we all scrambled to get a picture. While I can’t remember the names of all that I’ve included in the pictures, the first hairy animal in the tree is a three-toed female sloth, which is followed by a picture of howler monkeys and then another 3-toed sloth. The green lizard is a “Jesus Christ” lizard, as it cups air in its hands which allows it to run across the surface of the water. That’s a two-toed sloth in the picture before the railroad bridge. Photo link: Tortuguero Canals On our way back we paused at the entry to a banana plantation. Our guide explained how cultivation has changed, and that bananas are now fertilized by man and manipulated to yield bigger harvests. Once fertilized and trimmed, the fruit grows in the blue plastic bags. As we approached the port, I spotted the dome and tower of the cathedral in the city. Once we left the bus, I crossed through the large air-conditioned (tourist) selling area and headed outside. Despite warnings that I’d need a guide (from the group of guides standing idly by), Google Maps was right on getting through the rectilinear street layout to the church about 8 blocks away. Open air and somewhat dark inside, the nave is breezy and the high ceilings slope to focus the attention to the altar. When I got back to the ship and stood on the Lido deck at the stern, I was able to get an aerial shot of the tower. As we left the harbor, out to sea was the island Columbus had anchored at on his fourth trip, as he never quite made it to land although his crew did. Being both Sunday and the anniversary of my mother’s birth, I again attended Mass on board. Father Desmond wore green (which would have been appropriate the week before) and not purple for the first Sunday of Advent. I had changed to a purple polo, so gave him a bit of razing. He said, “God is colorblind!” Then on to the Martini tasting, and following that to Lincoln Center Stage for music “From Piaf to Peanuts.” My dining arrangements took me to the Pinnacle, but for an even more upgraded experience at Rudi’s, a seafood grill. Again, they seated me by myself, so my ereader provided companionship. Wine steward Jude came and heard what I would order, and headed off to find me an appropriate wine. Two appetizers, foie gras and bouillabaisse were both wonderful, and went nicely with the Austrian Gruner Vertliner. I had thought to have two mains, but the duck cassoulet was enormous and so filling I cancelled the red snapper. Dessert of profiteroles was overkill – five puff pastry and a boule of vanilla ice cream, doused with dark melted chocolate. Sated, I waddled down to the main stage to watch the illusionist entertain. Photo link: Limón 3 December: Day 9 – At Sea Overnight we again gave back the extra hour as we moved clocks to match the time in Florida. Breakfast was with three women from the Northwest – one a Canadienne from Vancouver. I’d talked with them all prior to breakfast, but still we had a lot to discuss, particularly Panama and Limón. I had come into the dining room in slip-ons, so I returned to get closed shoes as I wanted to join the kitchen tour. While we were shepherded past various cooking and prep stations, we heard about how they prepare meals for up to 2000 people. At the end we were offered a small vegetarian appetizer. Only a few steps away was the America’s Test Kitchen space (shared with B.B. King’s All Stars in the dark hours) where we learned about making gnocchi and then creamy polenta. No samples here, as it wasn’t a certified kitchen! No notes about lunch, but I had another wine tasting after that – this time the premium tasting. Sit down, with Riedel glasses and appropriate foods, we started with a sparkling wine (Valmar) to clear the palate. This was followed with Veuve Clicquot champagne (Brut) and a Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay (’16 RRV.) The chardonnay was initially poured into a standard dining wine glass, and then we transferred it to the appropriate Riedel glass. All appreciated the improved taste in the Riedel glass. Similarly, the Labouro-Roi Pommard and the David Lake Doyenne 2013 Aix red blend went through tasting in different glasses. Because we were close by, I caught the end of the Lincoln Center Stage recital, a program I’d heard earlier on the cruise which ended with the finale to Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Off to the cabin for a nap until the wine pairing, followed by the martini mixology fun. Brahms was to be featured at the recital before I went to Pinnacle, so I was I a truly mellow mindset when I joined Karen and Howard. The shrimp cocktail was standard, but the 10-ounce filet mignon was perfection. We shared my last bottle from my package, leaving some for my last dinner. We strolled down to mainstage, but I only stayed a short while before retiring to my cabin to read. 4 December: Day 10 – At Sea The American breakfast started my day. Then I climbed the stairs to the Observation deck to share the Iberian trip Shutterfly book with the guides. After checking the lunch menu at the dining room, I decided I’d rather replay the pasta toss for lunch. Another nap until an encore presentation by the Island Magic Steel Band on the main stage. Brilliant musicians, their last numbers were Amazing Grace bleeding into The Saints Go Marching In, and closed with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Not a dry eye in the house. Needing to check attire requirements at Canaletto’s’, I climbed t the Lido deck and was advised that long pants are required. Back down to the Promenade deck for a pair of laps, spotting flying fish off the starboard bow. Then to Lincoln Center Stage, at which point I stopped journaling. Since I had a pattern, I know that after the concert I’d head to the wine pairing, then to martini time. Dinner Italian style involved veal and sage polpettine (meatballs), ravioli al gamberi (garlic shrimp ravioli, shellfish brandy cream sauce), beef short ribs brasato barolo and a delicious torte caprese al limone. I grabbed my dessert and brought it down to the dining room so I could say goodbye to my table mates. Ken and Bonnie had returned (original tablemates, they’d disappeared Day 3 or 4), Ken and Barbara were back, as were Olga and Fernando to join with the anchor couple, Karen and Howard. Photo link: Cruise Food 5 December: Debarking and return home As I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be early, I chose a late departure, which gave me a chance to have one last breakfast onboard. Since I’d enjoyed the oatmeal, albeit cooler than I’d like, I opted for it once again. I’d packed my bag and put it outside the room the night before, so all I needed to do was gather up the incidentals into my backpack. I knew that I probably shouldn’t do too much screen time as I needed to drive once I recovered my car, so I just relaxed until it was time to go to the lounge to wait to be called. Probably 10 minutes later, I was heading down a gangplank, waving my passport at Immigration and finding my big blue roller. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
The ship, unfortunately, was showing its age. Buckets were set up in different common areas so liquid that was dripping from ceiling could be collected most of the trip. In the Lido buffet area, liquid was coming up from the floor tiles ... Read More
The ship, unfortunately, was showing its age. Buckets were set up in different common areas so liquid that was dripping from ceiling could be collected most of the trip. In the Lido buffet area, liquid was coming up from the floor tiles and being mopped almost the entire trip. Last two days of the cruise, the ship had a problem with one of the azipods and had to max out the other to get to port on time, which caused an annoying vibration for the rest of the trip. Arrived at port over late 3 hours because of the azipod issue, causing some people to miss their flights Can't say enough about the crew, always cheerful and ready to help. Cabins were nice and kept very clean. Been on Holland America before, but on this cruise talent was not as good. BB King lounge was more like a high school band (singer had great pipes though). Main stage acts, half were very good, others were mediocre at best (Other people seemed to enjoy and would disagree with us). Food was varied and again, unbelievable service in dining and lounge areas. I like Holland America and will cruise again with them, everybody has a bad day now and then. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We are prior HAL passengers although it's been several years since we cruised with them. We were anxious to take the Zuiderdam through the S. Caribbean, particularly because of her itinerary. We were not disappointed. Our experince ... Read More
We are prior HAL passengers although it's been several years since we cruised with them. We were anxious to take the Zuiderdam through the S. Caribbean, particularly because of her itinerary. We were not disappointed. Our experince with Zuiderdam was, for the most part consistent with the other HAL cruises we have taken in the past. Here are our impressions from this cruise: The good: Like all HAL ships we have been on, Zuiderdam was spotless. The crew was constantly cleaning, polishing, scraping, painting and in general keeping her in tip top shape. Everything, including our bathroom (including tub!) was without flaw. Personnel: True to HAL's legacy, I don't believe you can find a surly crew member. No matter what crew person you ran into, in the corridors or wherever produced a giant smile and a pleasant "Good morning". The majority of service personnel are Indonesian or Filipino and are products of HAL's own training facilities in these countries, and it shows. They seem to take a pride in their work that I haven't seen reflected in some other lines. Our cabin stewards were always prompt, cheerful and adjusted very well to our particular schedule of when we were "in" and when we were "out". They did an exceptional job. We had dinner in the regular Dining Room, The choice of food was outstanding and the quality was excellent. Prime Rib, Rack of Lamb and NY Strip Steak were some of the daily offerings. For formal night we were treated to a Surf and Turf that was genuine Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail, I'm still savoring it. Breakfast and lunch was half and half room service (a real treat) and the Cafeteria. Lunch at the Cafeteria was just like it sounds - it's real old school where you get in one long line and the personnel serve you according to your selections. We found the lunch selections to be fairly weak - however there are always other choices like Pasta and Pizza, Oriental and a variety of sandwiches which were excellent. The bad: One unpleasant (and very unusual surprise, particularly for HAL) was the mandatory life boat drill on the afternoon of embarkation. We have been on 23 cruises, 4 of which were with other HAL ships and we have never seen anything as disorganized and unproductive as this drill. We wandered around until finally being corralled on deck (in the Ft, Lauderdale sun at 4:00) which a few crew members shuffled from here to there and back, trying to account for each passenger. Unlike ANY other ship on which we have travelled there was an almost complete lack of instructions from the bridge as to what, when, or where, Finally it appeared we had finished and we all wandered back to our cabins, little the wiser for what to do in case of an emergency. This is so atypical of HAL that I feel constrained to comment on it on the chance that someone from HAL reads these reviews. In general, it is an excellent ship, small and therefore not crowded at any time. There are hardly any waits for anything and embarking or debarking at ports of call was very easy. One comment on the itinerary: the ship stopped at Cartagena, Colombia, a stop which many travelers had not previously visited. Nonetheless, we were only offered a five-hour stay, which was not nearly enough to see all that this colonial walled city had to offer, By the same token we rushed to Curacao which, being Sunday, was totally and definitively shut down. Nonetheless we stayed there all day until 11PM! It seems that the schedule planning could use some reworking. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
This titillating riposte reflects actual not third person account on our hot hot hot partial Panama Canal cruise 1...Did not need to fill out health form prior to getting on ship?? 2...Zdam book exchange doing well. Located in ... Read More
This titillating riposte reflects actual not third person account on our hot hot hot partial Panama Canal cruise 1...Did not need to fill out health form prior to getting on ship?? 2...Zdam book exchange doing well. Located in portside hallway behind Crows Nest bar/coffee locale. Please frequent it. 3...Future Cruise Desk and Excursion Desk on Starboard side of Crows Nest 4...Capt.Wouter's welcome aboard with sparkling wine speech was mercifully short. He was the only body on stage 5...Two main stage shows were movies already available on your room's tv (Oceans 8 and BBCEarth 2) 6...Oprah merchandise only offerred on 1 small table in Signature Stores 7...Bought 11 day internet package for $149. Email 24 hrs a day. Speed was decent too 8...Took HAL's HoHo bus around Cartegena, Columbia which has a population of 617,000. There are that many vehicles and persistent hawkish vendors all selling the same thing. 9...82 padded chaise loungers on the wide promenade deck HMC, Aruba, Curacao and Colon port side faced town We cruised 3200 miles, ate 35,000 eggs and burned 312,000 galons of fuel Enjoy your cruise Bob Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
Booked this cruise because of the itinerary. I live in Florida and look forward to seeing the change of seasons. This fall cruise from Quebec to Ft.. Lauderdale had lots of change of scenery and weather. I was unprepared for the ... Read More
Booked this cruise because of the itinerary. I live in Florida and look forward to seeing the change of seasons. This fall cruise from Quebec to Ft.. Lauderdale had lots of change of scenery and weather. I was unprepared for the snow that fell in Quebec during October; however, it was light and delightful for this Floridian. From snow to the shores of Florida -- lots of change of weather and temperature. Before boarding the cruise we spent two days in Quebec City in the "Old Town". Our hotel was charming in this quaint walled city. While rain hampered our touring, the charm of the this city and it's fine restaurants made up for the weather. We toured the town in horse carriage -- way to go! After boarding the ship, our first excursion was a boat trip up the Sagenay Fiords. Learned a lot about the area and enjoyed the colorful scenery during this day long trip. We sailed into a storm and took refuge for a day and then proceeded to Bar Harbor Maine. I love this tourist town. Many delightful shops and restaurants and lots of fall color.. I am disabled and travel with a scooter. Holland America ships are well equipped to handle my needs. Holland America ships mid-sized and afford me access to all areas. The food in the dining room is exceptional. One of the best things about this line, is their staff. They are so very friendly and accommodating. I appreciate the ease of boarding the disembarking. Holland America has managed to make this process easier. Since I spend time in the casino, I do wish that they would do something to enhance this experience. Lively casinos are more fun. While the tours are good and cater well to the handicapped, the on board staff always has a long line waiting to get information and their hours are short. I would recommend making arrangements prior to boarding. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This is a great cruise itinerary. I highly recommend it, even though rough seas kept us from visiting Prince Edward Island. Of course, the staff on the ship are great. Cruise ship staff never cease to amaze me. We like this size ... Read More
This is a great cruise itinerary. I highly recommend it, even though rough seas kept us from visiting Prince Edward Island. Of course, the staff on the ship are great. Cruise ship staff never cease to amaze me. We like this size ship; not super small, but not huge. The food was wonderful. I love the big salad bowls in the Lido. We had friendly and attentive staff in the dining room. We were very satisfied with the menu choices and presentation. There was plenty to do on board. One of our favorites is BBC Earth life, with the ship musicians. We always enjoy the B.B. King’s All Stars on this size ship. We also spent a lot of time in the Crow’s Nest. Rocki was our favorite drink server, very thoughtful and attentive, and so funny. There were dueling pianos in the piano bar, which I thought was pretty neat. All common spaces were well-kept and inviting. We had rooms on the top deck, close to the Crow’s Nest. It was a great location, easy to step out onto the sports deck to watch for wildlife. Our room stewards were very friendly and did a great job of keeping our room in good order. We even had a little window so we could peek out and check the weather. We did experience one disappointment. One night there was a staff party right above our heads in the Retreat until almost 2:00 a.m. We reported it to the customer service desk in the a.m., and called them back later in the day because there seemed to be no follow-up to our complaint. We then received a plate of over-ripe chocolate covered strawberries as an apology. They were barely edible. Since returning home, we contacted Holland America to let them know we were dissatisfied with the response we got on the ship. They did come through with some on-board credit for our next cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
We picked this NYC to Quebec cruise to see New England and Canadian Fall colours but we picked to early in the season to do that. Pre cruised 4 days in NYC and post cruised with 2 day stays in each of Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. ... Read More
We picked this NYC to Quebec cruise to see New England and Canadian Fall colours but we picked to early in the season to do that. Pre cruised 4 days in NYC and post cruised with 2 day stays in each of Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. Departure was relocated from Manhattan to Brooklyn due to damage at Manhattan terminal so was pretty disorganise ashore and messed up transfers. Holland America was it's usual warm, friendly, welcoming way. Cabins ready early so once aboard the relaxation commenced. Much appreciated after the bustle of NYC. Did a walking tour of the Freedom Trail in Boston. Interesting insight into early US history. Bar Harbour is a pretty, friendly little town very easy to explore at your own pace. The Halifax Waterfront is also very interesting and suited to some easy walking. Sydney NS we did a small group tour with Blue Thistle, the highlight being the scenery and the Alexander Graham Bell museum. What a brilliant man. The weather was so foul in Charlottetown that we stayed aboard. That's not a problem on HAL because they do maintain activities and services aboard so it is quite enjoyable. In Saquenay we did the Le Fabuleus Culture show which is an amusing and well staged production in a theatrical hall. Well worth the visit. Quebec is of course one of the most beautiful and historic cities in North America and the mix of French and Canadian makes it a relaxing change from the hassle and bustle of the US. Our onward stays in Canada included Niagara etc and was very a pleasant experience. A good move with HAL is to pre-order a wine selection for the dining room and a bottle of something for an evening drink or nightcap to the cabin. Works out well if you are mainly interested in wine with your meals and the sommelier will keep half bottles for you from meal to meal. Entertainment in the Shows is about what you expect aboard shipe but HAL does provide a very high standard in the Blues Club and other venues round the ship Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
All in all, this turned out to be a pretty good cruise. The itinerary got changed around a bit for a number of reasons. We had bad weather in the Labrador Sea which caused us to miss two port calls, also, on the way to St. John’s , we ... Read More
All in all, this turned out to be a pretty good cruise. The itinerary got changed around a bit for a number of reasons. We had bad weather in the Labrador Sea which caused us to miss two port calls, also, on the way to St. John’s , we needed to double back and assist in the search efforts for a person who went missing from another cruise ship that was in our area so we missed that port and finally, the dock in Manhattan suffered damage by another cruise ship so we couldn’t use it and had to dock in Brooklyn instead. Throughout it all, the Captain kept us informed and up to date on everything. The crew (especially John Clelford the CD and his assistant Liz) was fantastic and always came up with extra events and activities to fill the additional sea time. At one point, a group of officers came around the Lido Pool handing out chocolate covered bananas to make up for all the inconveniences. None of these issues were in any way HAL’s fault but as a gesture of good will, all passengers were given $50.00 OBC and 15% of what you paid for this cruise as a Future Cruise Credit! Again, none of these problems were the fault of HAL at all. In my book, that is going above and beyond. There was always a welcome back tent set up on the pier when we came back from shore visits. They served hot cocoa and chicken soup. When you got back onboard the ship, there was a person handing out warm cloths to wash your face and hands with. It was a very nice touch! We decided to get a monogramed bathrobe towards the end of the cruise…even though we ordered it with well less than the “Please allow 48 hours” time frame the ship requests, the Front Desk went above and beyond to make sure we received it in time. There was even a luggage scale set up by the front desk on the last night. We saw many whales, porpoise and icebergs. We never did see the Northern Lights but there was a phone tree set up so that if they were spotted, you would get a call. Embarkation was pretty smooth. We entered the building at 11am and were on the ship at 12 noon. The luggage was not in the cabin yet but it showed up within the next hour or so. The ship was in very good condition. The carpets in the areas outside of the elevators looked like they were brand new. Of course, there was the normal wear and tear that you could find if you looked for it but the crew was always working on fixing and cleaning things. We had a Signature Suite on deck six port side which turned out to be a very good side for this cruise. Not the least of which, you get to see Lady Liberty from your veranda during the sail in to NYC. Also, we seemed to get a lot of sun and other good scenery on that side. One drawback though was that the port side was where the tenders were lowered and recovered so it was a little noisy during those brief times. Our cabin stewards were very good and super attentive especially considering how many cabins they are in charge of. One thing though, our flowers disappeared after the first day and it took me two days to finally get them replaced. I never did figure out what happened. One night we came back from dinner a little early and our steward was right in the middle of our turn down service and he gave us a quick lesson on how to make a towel animal. That was a lot of fun! Speaking of towel animals, on one of the sea days there was a “towel folding class” being held out on the Lido deck and the entire area around the pool was absolutely filled with various towel creations, some I had never even seen before. It was very neat and fun. There were even towel animals hanging by all the tables near the windows. As far as the art work on board, to me it seems like a mish-mash. I never could detect any kind of rhyme or reason or theme to it. The art gallery is still there but now they aren’t hawking auctions all day long. They had a very knowledgeable person who worked there who did trivia events, art lectures and other fun things. I learned a lot and never felt pressured to buy anything. The entire ship, including the Casino, is non-smoking except for the area back by the Sea-View pool bar. I know this because I had a cigar I wanted to smoke so I called the Front Desk and asked. The cigar was great and no one bothered me. They turned most of the former Crow's Nest area into a revenue generating area now. The Future Cruise Consultant and the Shore Excursions (EXEC) are up there now where the Explorations Café once was. They seem to get ALOT more business with the new location. Usable space in the Crow's Nest just for "hanging out" has been drastically reduced. The very large table style computer screens are really only suitable for their intended purpose, which is to scan the world ala Google Maps style. They really don't work for anything else like card playing, board games etc. I have to admit tho...it was fun showing our newly met friends THE ACTUAL STREET we live on and them doing the same. Also, the map screens came in handy when we had to change piers in NYC because of damage to the original pier. We used the screens to see where we would actually be docking and realized we would still sail past Lady Liberty, which was a relief. The "book exchange" shelves on the port side as you entered had a few books in them but it seemed that they were all in a foreign language. The books on the other side were mostly travel books etc. The two big screens that are now placed front and center in the space do show some interesting information i.e. engine room stats, water temp, position etc. but they further reduce the previously available space for "hanging out". The "Captains Corner" area on the port side was filled with rows and rows of folding chairs and the only events that were held there that I know of were pseudo trivia events designed to whet your appetite for other cruises. The whole Crow's Nest area is still a quiet place to grab a chair and watch the world go by...IF you get there early. With all the reduced space just for "hanging out", seats go early, VERY EARLY. Bottom line: I can see where it works good for HAL but not so much for the people who liked it as it was before. The new Gallery Bar is a HUGE improvement over the old Northern Lights "Disco". The new space is very cozy and elegant with beautiful and interesting art and very inviting furnishings. Some sofas had white pillows! A lot of events and meets were held there during our cruise in contrast with the old, dark, Northern Lights that was only used for bar crawls etc. The "Sports Bar" and "Piano Bar" are now gone and the space has been opened up into the "Billboard Onboard" area. During our cruise, there were two guys who played duets together most nights. I'm not sure what "dueling pianos" are but these guys just played the same songs together. You got to sit close and request songs but were not really encouraged to "sing along" like the old Piano Bar was designed to do. It was OK but to tell you the truth, I like the old Piano Bar concept MUCH better because it was more intimate and crowd participation focused. The Lincoln Center Stage was up and running. Let me just say...I used to really enjoy the Adagio duo while having a before dinner cocktail. I would actually make a point of getting ready early and going down there to have a drink and listen to Adagio while I waited for the rest of my party to join me. I never did that with Lincoln Center Stage once on this entire 20 day cruise. Don't get me wrong, they are very talented musicians but now it seems more like an "event" that you need to schedule instead of just entertainment to watch while you are waiting for your table to get ready. In fact, during "show times", the ship actually puts out signs telling people to be quite because "A Performance is in Progress". So you come out of the MDR, just having had a great dinner with new (and old) friends, yukking it up with the "Yum Yum" man, in a great mood and you get hit in the face with the sign that says "Quiet, Performance in Progress". Total buzz kill! You want to hear something really funny? One time we came out of the MDR and were talking normally and some do-gooder who was there waiting to get into the MDR gave us the "shoosh" sign (index finger vertically over pursed lips). What this person didn't realize was, the actual musicians were ON BREAK and what we were hearing was A RECORDING! The Navigator app worked well but we didn’t find it that useful other than to check our on board account. As far as daily activities go, I preferred to carry around the paper “When and Where” instead of using the app. We did use the messenger feature a couple of times. All in all, I think it’s a good thing but we didn’t use it much. We went to quite a few of the Mainstage shows at night. Most were pretty good. The Zuiderdam singers and dancers are very talented and personable. The guest entertainers were very good also in particular a foursome of young women from the UK who have amazing voices and did shows on two different days. They are called The IDA Girls and if you get a chance to see them you should do it! On a lot of days the Mainstage was used to show the daily movie and the Screening Room was used to show various BBC Earth films. At night, the big screen movie was then shown in the Screening Room. There were plenty of movies on the in-house movie system and new ones were added all the time. The BBKing’s group was very good too like always but we never seemed to spend much time in there for some reason. A lot of times when we went in there it was pretty empty. I felt bad for the performers because they were really good but the crowds just weren’t there. In contrast, every time we went by the Queen’s Lounge (same venue) during an “America’s Test Kitchen” demonstration, it was packed! The scenic narration and cultural talks before port visits and during sail aways were very good and informative. The Military Meet was held in the Gallery Bar and was very well attended There was coffee and cookies available and as a bonus, one of the ship’s Engineering Officers who was also a military veteran attended the gathering and was a great source of amusing stories. Overall, the food was very good on this cruise. We ate several times in the MDR with anytime dining and never had to wait very long at all. We always said we would share a table so that helps with the wait times. We had three Gala nights on this cruise and two were surf and turf. The lobster and steak were very good. Most people were dressed up pretty nice for Gala nights and the Dining Room Manager did a good job sitting people together who were dressed similarly. (IE suits with suits, casual with casual etc.) We did one afternoon tea and it too was enjoyable. We ate several meals in the Lido. The soups were consistently delicious! The service in the Lido was very good and the people who work there are very friendly and nice. Tables were tough to find at certain times but most people were willing to share their table if there was room. On the last night of the cruise the Lido served a dish called “Lobster Mac & Cheese”. Sounds good right? It was horrible! Nobody at our table liked it. I’m not sure what went wrong with that one but it was definitely a miss. Made to order pasta, omelets, salads and sandwiches were all good. We ordered room service breakfast several times and it always showed up right on time and correct. I love that they use the MDR china for the room service, it’s a nice touch. One thing though, occasionally when we ordered cereal and milk, the milk came in those little boxes with the straws. It’s very difficult trying to get milk into your cereal bowl from those little boxes! We ate at the Canelleto for the first time on this cruise. What a delight! The food was superb and the service was exceptional. It was well worth the upcharge. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill one night. We have eaten in the Pinnacle Grill on several different ships so I’m going to be a little critical here. The past few times I have not really felt that the experience was worth the upcharge of $35.00. This occasion was no different. When we were seated, I noticed a whole bunch of salt or something similar all over my seat, I actually had to get up and brush it all off. The menu was stained and actually torn in the corner. Never saw that in the MDR. The food was very good and so was the service but again, I don’t believe that the whole experience is worth the extra $35.00 It was a better value when it was only $20.00. We went to afternoon tea one time and it was a lot of fun. We also attended the Mariner Brunch and although the food was good I never saw any officers there. I heard that the Captain did welcome the guests but we never saw him at the Mariner’s Brunch. As a side note, we did see the Captain out and about several times during this cruise and he was very good about keeping us up to date on things. There were two scheduled happy hours every day on this 20 day cruise AND, every day at the Lido Pool area, they were selling Bud, Michelob, and Coors buy one at regular price and get a second one for $2.00. all day every day. It was unadvertised except for the servers who would tout it. They were 16oz. cans. A pretty good deal. The Dive-In was very good as was the Taco Bar that was set up by the Lido Pool every day. Disembarkation was held up slightly for some reason. There were rumors going around that it had something to do with the Stevedore Union. Once we got off the ship, getting our luggage and getting through customs was pretty easy. We did get off in time to make it to our tour bus and take our ship sponsored tour of lower Manhattan. This was a great tour and it included a transfer to Newark airport. It was a great way to end a great cruise! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise purely for the itinerary, and knew nothing about Holland America. But so glad we took a chance! Friendliest crew we have ever met on a cruise- ok. we didn't meet our cabin steward till the second day, but no ... Read More
We chose this cruise purely for the itinerary, and knew nothing about Holland America. But so glad we took a chance! Friendliest crew we have ever met on a cruise- ok. we didn't meet our cabin steward till the second day, but no problem. Lots of things on this ship that we felt were done very well. We loved the system with sunbeds- no need for pool towels in our room- they're already rolled up and ready to use on the beds. Great retractable roof over the pool, and we were always able to get a bed there when we wanted one. Food in the Lido and restaurant was generally of a high quality- I loved the make your own salads in the Lido. Although the ship was full, it never seemed crowded anywhere. Evenings meals we had in the restaurant. We generally went down about 7, asked for a table for two, maybe had to wait 10 minutes, then straight in. Maitre d always very accommodating, as were all of the staff. Our cabin was on Rotterdam deck., towards the rear of the ship. Very comfortable, very quiet. Entertainment in the evening was ok. We enjoyed B B Kings, Trivia quizzes ( met some great people) and some of the entertainment in the theatre. Billboard wasn't for us, although they were very popular. Daytime activities on sea days we found to be very limited, but that's no different from most cruise ships we've been on. Gave me time to catch up with reading! The Crows nest area we found to have a bit of a strange layout. No library on board this ship, which was a first for us- books available to read in the Crows Nest, but we didn't find it a particulary inviting area. We did four shore excursions through Holland America- no problems with any of them, except for the price! Would recommend that people checked out independent tour operators for all the ports- we booked with Travelling Viking in Akeyuri prior to cruise. Prompt pick up at11 in a mini bus, great tour guide, and a lot less than Holland America wanted for simoilar tour. Embarkation and disembarkation very well organised- had to wait a while for coach to come to airport to pick us up for transfer to ship, but because we were the last transfer, went straight onto ship . Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Cruised with HAL before and found them good, same service etc on this cruise. I didn’t book the drinks package and found it was cheaper to pay as you go especially as the cruise had happy hour a few times each day. (Buy one and get ... Read More
Cruised with HAL before and found them good, same service etc on this cruise. I didn’t book the drinks package and found it was cheaper to pay as you go especially as the cruise had happy hour a few times each day. (Buy one and get another for 2$) The entertainment was good from the main dancers and singers but the comedian was awful. The group ‘Five o’clock somewhere’ where good singers but didn’t really like their quirky act. The B.B. kings were great but it was the same show each night I enjoyed the Lincoln centre stage The billboard on board see,ed to be popular but I only went on one occasion The trivia was good fun and good way to meet people The food in the dining room was a little cold on some occasions Overall the food was excellent I didn’t go on any of the HAL excursions Tallin This is an easy city to do on your own - it has a free walking tour from the main tourist office at Niguliste at noon for 2 hours, although the town is pretty compact so you could easily walk about on your own. It is about 5/10 minute walk from terminal The small train that goes around the city does not have commentary St. Petersburg I completed a 2 day tour with SPB who were half the price of HAL with the same itinerary. The hermitage was packed and very uncomfortable to tour. Helsinki This is a large city, you are given a map by the tourist office on arrival, if you ask them to show you were your location and follow the sea this will take you to senate square etc. About another half hour walking will take you to the rock church and sibilieus monument. There is a shuttle bus service for about £10 Euro return. Stockholm I did the hop on hop off bus tour which was good, you could equally do the hop on hop off boat tour which will take you to the same sights or just take the ferry to all the sights which would be slightly cheaper. I went to Glama Stan to see the palace etc. Rostock The ship supplied a shuttle bus to this small town for free, easy to get around to see the huge clock in the main church. Kiel I did a free walking tour from the port at 0930 for 2 hours this was by Maggie and very good, it is also a small town and easy to get around, only about 5 minute walk to centre of town Copenhagen I got air luggage to take my case to the airport £15 Euro and then caught the number 27 bus into the little mermaid then walked into town. There is a bus number 11 takes you around all the sights but this an easy city to manage on foot. Went to Rosenberg castle to see the changing of the guard at 1130 hours I booked a city pass ticket for public transport for 80 DEK which got me the train from central station to the airport as well, you can buy this ticket from outside the terminal but I got it online. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
This was our second time on Zuiderdam, and the dry dock has definitely freshened its appearance. We did a 10 day Baltic cruise during the height of a record setting heat wave, but the ship was always cool and comfortable and in top ... Read More
This was our second time on Zuiderdam, and the dry dock has definitely freshened its appearance. We did a 10 day Baltic cruise during the height of a record setting heat wave, but the ship was always cool and comfortable and in top condition. The Good: Very comfortable suite with great bed, nice veranda furniture, spacious dual sink. Music walk concept provided a variety of music by excellent performers. Specialty dining was very good. Staff at every level was first rate and helpful. Shore excursions were well run with interesting itineraries. Bar drinks were reasonably priced. Shops were well stocked with some designer items (Nautica, Tommy Bahama). The bad (or less than perfect): Main Dining room food was inconsistent from very good to so-so, and there were a few instances of overcooked entrees. Breakfast servings were not always as hot as they should be. Lido actually did a better breakfast, especially the omelet bar. The cabin had a great Samsung 50in TV but very little to watch, either live or on demand. Internet service was so slow as to be almost worthless. Bottled water was overpriced. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise for its terrific itinerary. It did not disappoint. From Bergen and Alesund and the fjords of Norway to the tiny towns of Iceland and the lovely little city of Reykjavik, we had something to look forward to at every ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its terrific itinerary. It did not disappoint. From Bergen and Alesund and the fjords of Norway to the tiny towns of Iceland and the lovely little city of Reykjavik, we had something to look forward to at every port. Having the Faroe and Shetland Islands added was simply a bonus. The Zuiderdam was clean, beautifully maintained and as stable in the swells as one could hope for. The crew was outstanding, from the Captain, who was visible and approachable throughout the cruise, to the men who polished brass every single day! Our balcony cabin was standard, but again, cared for quickly and with pride by our stewards. We never wanted for anything. We enjoyed the Explorations Lounge on Deck 10 for scenic sailing. Dual pianists in Billboard Onboard were beyond fantastic. It was our go to evening destination! Mainstage entertainment incorporating BBC photography was a treat. I enjoyed America's Test Kitchen and pickleball; my husband visited the fitness center on each sea day while I walked the deck. There was enough variety on the Lido buffets to more than satisfy us for breakfast. The Dive In for burgers and hot dogs was an excellent lunch choice along with the taco bar. Dinners in the Main Dining Room were not always exceptional although food was always beautifully presented. The Pinnacle Grill was disappointing,, again service was lovely. Embarkation and debarkation in Copenhagen were smooth. Three ports were tender ports; the transfers were efficient and well organized. We never had to wait for a tender either leaving or returning to the ship.. We opted to do our own thing ashore - sometimes with fellow travelers whom we had met through our Cruise Critic Roll Call. We also had researched local websites extensively. We liked that we could move at our own pace; Port calls were long enough that we were able to get a real feel for each place. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise for the itinerary. It was our first time on Holland America, which we feel is not as good as our favorite cruise line, Princess. We loved all of the ports on this cruise. The drop down boxes above didn't give ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary. It was our first time on Holland America, which we feel is not as good as our favorite cruise line, Princess. We loved all of the ports on this cruise. The drop down boxes above didn't give me the choice to say this was the Northern Isles cruise. We visited two ports in Norway, spent 5 days in 4 ports in Iceland (overnight in Reykjavik), and stopped at the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands. We spent a day in Copenhagen before boarding, visiting Tivoli Gardens. Boarding was smooth, and we were very pleasantly surprised that our room was ready when we arrived. The ship was recently refurbished, but we did not see much evidence of it. Our room was standard issue cruise cabin, which we expected. The bathroom needed serious attention: the toilet seat had deep scratches, as did the bathtub. It was just very tired looking. We chose Open Seating for our dining option. Our cruise consultant assured us we would be able to make 6 PM reservations, but once on the ship we found we could not. The choices in the dining room and in the buffet did not offer much variation. Room service kept bringing me decaf tea when I requested regular, so I finally gave up. Canaletto, the $15 per person Italian restaurant, was a disappointment. It's located at one end of the buffet, so it doesn't seem in any way special. The food was no different in quality or variety than the regular dining room. The entertainment in the Main Stage was okay. We've seen better on Princess and Royal Caribbean. Activities on sea days were disappointing. Talks on upcoming ports were given once, so if you couldn't make it you were out of luck. Seems like it would be simple enough to record them and give the option of watching them on the TV in one's room. Our room stewards were great! Always attentive and very helpful. The buffet staff and dinner waiters were also outstanding. Breakfast and lunch waiters in the dining room were curt and almost surly, as were some of the room service delivery persons. We took only three cruise line sponsored shore excursions because there just weren't many to choose from. All were very good. We appreciated that Holland America helped us with hearing assistive technology for my husband. One of the three tour operators had a system for him to use. Maybe Holland America could be more pro-active about this. Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much, mostly because we were able to visit ports that we were interested in. I doubt we would choose Holland America again unless they offered an itinerary that another cruise line does not, as in this case. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Our fourth cruise with Holland America, we booked about a year ago after hearing about the Baltic experience from a relative. Unlike some cruises there is no particular reason to be on a specific side of the ship. We were on the Upper ... Read More
Our fourth cruise with Holland America, we booked about a year ago after hearing about the Baltic experience from a relative. Unlike some cruises there is no particular reason to be on a specific side of the ship. We were on the Upper Promenade deck amidships, with a large balcony cabin. There are great parts of this cruise that the balcony is a wonderful place to watch the scenery, including especially entry and exit to Stockholm. We had booked the "Signature Experience" in Copenhagen prior to start of the cruise. HAL representatives met us at the Copenhagen airport, and we were taken to the Scandic Hotel - a tired, barely serviceable hotel in central Copenhagen. We spent two nights in this hotel. We also went with several dozen other cruise passengers to visit a Kronberg Castle, and the suggested dinner never materialized - replaced by finger food and one glass of champagne. Hardly a "Signature Experience", but oh well. . . Our luggage was left outside our room for collection and transport to the ship. Nice! HAL-organized buses were provided to take us from the hotel to the cruise terminal, almost an hour outside of the city. As we were in a Neptune cabin, we had a rather late departure time from the hotel and when we arrived for check-in, there was no wait and we were escorted smoothly through the process and boarded immediately. Cabin was immediately available, and we had a later lunch in the dining room without any difficulty. We were previously on the Zuiderdam just last year, sailing to Alaska. Since then the Zuiderdam had a "soft upgrade" - you could get that new-carpet smell from the hallways and stairwells. Service levels were typically Holland America terrific. Cabin attendants were friendly without being familiar, and the service in the restaurant was first-rate. Had some early problems with the wine steward, but they were smoothed over as the cruise continued. With so many stops we didn't have much time for the shipboard activities, but didn't miss them. Internet service was virtually unusable despite all the hype at the beginning of the cruise. Still can't figure out how the airlines can provide pretty high-speed internet on an airplane going 500mph, and the ships can't seem to get it right. With much of this cruise close enough to get a good cell phone signal from shore, I'd say save your money. We rarely book any of the proffered HAL excursions. We enjoy off-beat day trips, and we had organized our own for the entirety of this cruise. We're not much for seeing new destinations from bus windows. . . . .we'd rather see one or two things on foot, exploring ourselves. We DID have an extensive tour of St. Petersburg of course, which we've reviewed separately. Keep a close eye on your cabin billing prior to the last day. HAL seems to make a lot of errors that then produce long lines at the cruise office on the last day as people try to sort out the issues. We were double-charged for gratuities on two different days, but had the overcharge removed a couple days before the cruise ended. Disembarkation was at our leisure. After reviewing the options (including a taxi ride to Copenhagen airport at over $120), we took the public bus to the nearby train station, and arrived at the airport in 40 minutes for about $8. Sweet. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was our second cruise on the Zuiderdam. This ship introduced us to Holland America ten years ago and left us with a very favorable view of the cruise line. This was our fifth cruise on Holland America with the last one being three ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the Zuiderdam. This ship introduced us to Holland America ten years ago and left us with a very favorable view of the cruise line. This was our fifth cruise on Holland America with the last one being three years ago on the Eurodam Baltic Sea St Petersburg itinerary. We selected this cruise due to its low price based on lowest category Interior Guaranteed rate. We ended up in a Deck 4 fully blocked view HH category cabin similar to what we had on our first Zuideram cruise ten years ago. The ship was in excellent condition. The cabin was comfortable for the two of us in an excellent location forward, and convenient to elevators. It was quiet due to no interior cabins across from it. The cabin stewards did the usual excellent job of maintaining the cabin. Dining room experience was very good. We had Anytime Dining and over the course of the cruise migrated to having dinner in the 6:15 to 6:30 pm time frame. Since we had no problem sharing a 4 or 6 seat table, we were always seated with no delay. The various sections where we were seated, for the most part, had excellent waiters and helpers. Dinner food was very good to excellent. Lido buffet was as expected: hectic for breakfast and lunch but we could find seats. We found that arriving before 7 am for breakfast gave us the best choices for seating at tables. The Dive In burger setting was nice although one was guaranteed a wait of 20 minutes for their food. The one area that was annoying was the wine stewards pushing wine choices. I thought that Holland America could decrease the number of wine stewards. We did not use speciality dining rooms. Lounges and bars: On previous Holland America cruises I enjoyed the Crow's Nest lounge. Well that experience is gone thanks to the Exploration Lounge. To me, it is just a sitting area with a coffee bar. I missed the Happy Hour promotions for the Crow's Nest and the finger food provided. I did not purchase beverage packages because with only three sea days in fourteen total, it would not be beneficial or practical. Adult beverage pricing a la cart was excessive. Entertainment: I only witnessed one guest group act in the evening. I did not go to any of the production shows due to dining timing and next day excursion schedules. An afternoon performance by a local group at the Inverness port stop was excellent. On Board experience: It was a very laid back Cruise Director with nothing special to entice me to join. It was most likely due to only three sea days. EXC presentations, compared to Princess Cruises, were lacking in my opinion with very general introductions. Internet Packages: The ship has gone to 24 hour rates based on data limits. We took the middle package mainly for emails and Facebook. I don't think we came close to exceeding the data limit and may have survived with the lowest rate. The gotcha here is that they may restrict you from Facebook et al packages. While attempting to print boarding passes on the three workstations near the customer service desk, I could not gain access to the airline website. I just relented and checked in using our Android tablet. Excursions: Since this appeared to be a one time only itinerary, I will not go into details. We used EXC excursions, and except for the excursion to Mt Michel in France, thought it was the way to go. The Mt Michel excursion used very cramped coaches, and the tour guide was lacking in his personal approach (very cold and with an attitude). Embarkation and Disembarkation: It was a typical mad house waiting to check in and board the ship. Groups were called by number. Cabins were ready upon boarding. Leaving the ship on last day was very easy with us doing expedited disembarkation. Walked off ship with our luggage, said goodbye to a very friendly Captain, and was in a taxi bound for the airport with no queues. We easily made our 10:45 am flight to the States. Final thoughts: The Zuiderdam is showing her age well but with no central atrium, some guests may feel it lacking. We didn't since we knew the layout already. With five Holland America cruises now under our belt, we may continue to look at Princess itineraries in the future. We think Princess does a better job with on board experience and speciality dining venues. We could return to Holland America with our three star Mariner membership but to us it is not a grand incentive to do so. Good memories with Holland America especially with the Eurodam may sway us. Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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