Zuiderdam Cruise Review by Woodinville
- Sail Date: November 2012
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
- Cabin Type: Pinnacle Penthouse Verandah Suite
Important points (from our own perspective when we read reviews).
Ambiance: The pace is designed for a 50+ (perhaps 70+ audience) we fit the 50+ demographic. Our manner is to enjoy each other's company and those of our fellow passengers, take in a show now-and-again, and take advantage of the live entertainment.
***** (five stars) to the entertainer Michael Lieber, who played/sang in the Crowsnest every evening. He not only is a crisp and clear guitarist, his vocals are always spot-on with the song.
***** (five stars) to the Zuiderdam's officers for their Black & White ball - this festive event was enjoyed by many passengers.
*** (three stars) The on-board internet is painful, but it is available - every port of call has internet (ask any of the crew for directions to the free or near-free locales)
***** (five stars) the on-board library is impressively stocked with books from every genre and arranged in an accessible and inviting manner - there were always passengers in the library area.
Enjoyed the Meet and Mingle organized by a fellow Cruise Critic passenger. About 30 in attendance, and ship's officers turn-out was great. A very nice ice-breaker.
Food: We choose HAL repeatedly because we enjoy the food and service. We asked for and received scheduled dining at the early seating (1745) it worked well for us. Our waiters Tobok/Ardian were extraordinary. The food was always flavorful, arrived hot and portions were properly sized, no overflowing plates. Testament to the correct sizing: We gain little/no weight throughout the cruise. We did take in a night at the Pinacle Grill, which I recommend if you wish to have a specific beef cut such as RibEye, Fillet, Porterhouse - the meat is of absolute high quality. We also took in the Evening of the Cirque, which I would pass on in the future - as we neither felt the menu was sufficiently extraordinary nor the ambiance shifted - the dinner in the Vista dining room was probably better. The in-room-dining was also excellent - breakfast EVERY day in the room, and a few late night snacks - all dishes arrived as requested.
SPA: It's not cheap, but the Spa on the Zuiderdam was the best run Spa on an cruise vessel we encountered.
Wine: Unique to HAL is the ability to carry on your own Wine/Champagne - upon embarkation we were asked by a number of passengers who saw us carrying wine totes, whether or not it is allowed to bring wine aboard. It is, and we did just that, paying the corkage (US$18) when we took a bottle out of our state room. Well worth the indulgence, as we are assured of drinking wine we know we enjoy with our meals, vice rolling the dice.
Neptune Lounge - a perk to the Suites - adroitly managed by Mia/Peter to of the most pleasant concierges in the HAL fleet, were excellent at anticipating needs and when requests were made, they did not hesitate to make suggestions on how to improve upon the request (e.g. May we order a cheese plate for four? Yes, how about we make it hot/cold canapes too?) - They were plagued with a water leak from above for two days, but recovered nicely.
Cabin - we originally booked an SC 4180 (rear-most cabin with the large sun deck). Three weeks prior to embarkation we received an email from HAL asking if we'd be interested in upgrading to the Penthouse for a per person fee. As this was a "bucket-list" cruise we opted to splurge - glad we did. Room 7045 was light in color, and as advertised. Everything worked, but oddly there is NO full-length mirror in the suite. We had been on HAL previously and knew that table cloths were never brought for in-room dining - we brought our own and it just made it a bit more comfortable for us. The outside *tub* is not a hot-tub, but rather a soaking bath w/air jets - still enjoyable. The large deck was perfect for the Panama Canal transit. We were delighted to have a place to visit and entertain new and old friends encountered on the cruise in our cabin.
Ports of Call (see individual entries - Port Reviews)
Pre-Cruise - we flew in on a red-eye from the west coast to Fort Lauderdale. Arranged a guaranteed day room at the Embassy Suites on 17th Ave by paying for the preceding evening - check out was at 12 noon so worked perfect for us.
Walking distance to Total Wine and Publix Grocery for any last minute items.
-- Family Limo service was used for ground transport - bus service also available, and taxis - you have many options.
Post-Cruise - ample taxis, bus services and again we opted for Family Limo. Quite pleased with their service.
In sum, best cruise we have had. The ship was in good condition, with the exception of a sofa in the Queen's lounge - it will be in great shape post refurbishment. The mark of quality in our mind isn't whether or not errors occur in service or delivery, but in how those errors or miscues are handled, in every instance we were more than satisfied with the service and responses received. We will watch the Zuiderdam's itineraries carefully as we plan our next cruise, so we can again come aboard!
PS: Remember with every review, your mileage may vary from our own.
Plenty of outlets
Prepare to be spoiled.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
ArubaAruba - we opted for a Sail/Snorkle trip with about 25 others. It was as expected. What was very nice to see was the over-emphasis by the ships crew on personal safety. Following the excursion we opted to walk into town for dinner (as sail-away was at 2300) - we chose LG Smith Steak House - excellent service, good wines, and good steaks (not as good as the Pinacle Grill).View All 1,366 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
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SnorkelingAruba - we opted for a Sail/Snorkle trip with about 25 others. It was as expected. What was very nice to see was the over-emphasis by the ships crew on personal safety. Following the excursion we opted to walk into town for dinner (as sail-away was at 2300) - we chose LG Smith Steak House - excellent service, good wines, and good steaks (not as good as the Pinacle Grill).View All 119 Snorkeling Reviews
Colon (Cristobal)Colon - Panama Canal transit - we opted to stay aboard and visit Port Limon after the transit - there really is nothing but a few souvenir shops and cafes (w/internet).View All 388 Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Port Reviews
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CuracaoCuracao - no shore excursion - we chose to walk the town and enjoy the local culture.View All 994 Curacao Cruise Port Reviews
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Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)Well run port - embarkation and disembarkation were a snap.View All 1,641 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) Cruise Port Reviews
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Half Moon CayHalf Moon Cay - this is HAL's island. The local tenders were poorly run and the ship's officer was made aware of the deficiencies. I've every confidence they will be addressed on future stops. Beautiful sand - we chose to sit on the availed loungers and enjoy the beach and warm water. BBQ had great food, recommend the ribs. Live music in multiple locales meant something for everyone.View All 957 Half Moon Cay Cruise Port Reviews
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Puerto LimonPort Limon, Costa Rica - we opted to use a private tour company, OkieDokie Tours which we found on CruiseCritic (Charlie the proprietor was easy to work with via email) - we visited DelMonte Banana Plantation, beach Playa Bonita and Tortuguero Canals (where we saw sloths, crocs, monkeys and hundreds of birds). We finished with a quick stop at the local supermarket to pick up some necessities.View All 313 Puerto Limon Cruise Port Reviews
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The Tortuguero CanalsExcellent - if you do nothing else - visit this canal the Sloth is worth the tripView All 44 The Tortuguero Canals Reviews