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EMBARKATION—We arrived on an early flight and were in Group 3 to enter the ship. No lines at check-in but had to wait until after 11:30 to board the ship. Our cabin was ready and we went up to Deck 9 Lido for an uncrowded lunch. Was very surprised that the “no touch” rules were not in effect. On our last HAL cruise (2014) the servers handed us everything for the first 2 days to help prevent the spread of germs. There were hand sanitizer machines outside the Lido but many folks by-passed them. Our luggage was in our room when we returned from lunch. We explored the ship a little bit to see where the lounges were and I wanted to check out the spa area. Unfortunately it was a wet and rainy sail-away so there was no need to go out on deck. The mandatory lifeboat drill was an easy check-in with your room card indoors near your station. SHIP—Our last HAL cruise was on the Statendam (2014) so it took a few days to get used to a new ship. The inside of the Zuiderdam is quite lovely and one can tell that most rugs had been replaced in the dry dock last spring (in a few places the seaming could be better). Gone are the "days of the week"rugs in the elevators—I really missed them! The outside of the ship still needs a bit of “touch-up” and there was constant work being done (painting, sanding, welding). During the time we were there I never heard any complaints about elevators not working, air conditioning problems or toilets overflowing. On the last day 2 people mentioned that their toilets occasionally wouldn’t flush but then several hours later would spontaneously flush. And then it happened to ours the very last night… fine by morning. The lounge areas within the ship seem more closed than I remember other HAL ships (we’ve been on Statendam, Veendam, Ryndam and Rotterdam.) At first I didn’t care for the closed in aspect but later in the cruise enjoyed those quiet areas!! CABIN—# 4123 Balcony catagory VA Deck 4 Aft (but almost mid-ship) We had booked a VE guarantee balcony and were given a VA balcony. It is the last room before the lifeboats so the balcony has a wrap-around railing on one side, only cabins to the right. We were pleasantly surprised that the view was quite nice and open. It was never windy and we never smelled smoke from any of the cabins to our right or above. The cabin itself was typically average—queen bed, 2 end tables with small drawers, small couch (that could sleep one but I can’t imagine 3 people in the room) small desk with cabinet with hair dryer attached (that didn’t work but an unattached one was included) another shelf with glasses and a mini-bar fridge. Three closet sections with adjustable shelves and a safe. There were drawers under the bed with extra pillows and bedding that could have been removed but the drawers were so awkward to reach and open we didn’t use them. There were also 2 cabinets above the couch that a TALL person could use (not me)—one of the hinges was broken on ours. I found the storage space a bit on the tight side (we felt we had more room before) Since we pack our clothes and other items in packing cubes we left them in the cubes to reduce clutter and help keep things organized. I was really happy our room was on Deck 4. Although the ship never rocked to any extreme there were a few days that there was a lot of motion and I do much better on a lower deck. I frequently could feel a lot more motion in the Lido (Deck 9) or Crow’s Nest (Deck 10) and would leave those areas for lower decks— another reason for me never to book a guarantee and “leave it to chance”!! FOOD— Food is always subjective so YMMV!! I love the choices available in the Lido for breakfast and lunch. There really is something for everyone. I wish there was more variety in fresh fruit—the strawberries disappear after day one, mangoes make a brief appearance, berries are only around the cheeses at lunch but there are melons—LOTS of melons!!! Eggs can be made to order, waffles are really good and there are plenty of baked goods. For lunch -so many choices-- sushi, asian, pizza, hot foods, ready-made sandwiches or how-you-want. I love the variety of ingredients for salads that you can make yourself. I wish all the cheese were pre-cut/sliced…might keep a few less fingers touching it. I avoided the desserts but they looked good as did the ice cream! Burgers and tacos were available by the pool as well. No excuse for hunger... We had 5:30 seating at a table for 8. Not what we requested since tables for 8 are always the slowest to be served. The food in the MDR was good…not outstanding but good. I didn’t find any of the presentations overly “pretty” (I like to take pictures of food and none of it inspired me). The prime rib was tasty as well as the shrimp and fillet. Lobster tail was moist, Salmon tended to be dry. Soups were unusual in that they were served with the ingredients in the bowl and then the liquid poured over them. Cold soups were a bit over-sweet. Best dessert was the totally decadent chocolate cake! STAFF—Enough can’t be said about the hard-working staff around the ship. The cabins were always cleaned well, we were always greeted pleasantly and everyone was always busy!! One thing they did differently on this sailing was to make the time change (when we “lost” an hour) occur doing the day but when we “gained” an hour it occurred at night. That way passengers and staff didn’t lose any sleep. It was disconcerting though to go to lunch at 11:45 and at noon it suddenly became 1 o’clock! ENTERTAINMENT— Stage shows— We did not feel that the Zuiderdam singers and dancers were topnotch. They work hard, had great costumes but their voices did not match their efforts. The comedian Jim McCue was good, Bob Brizendine, Magician was very good (I missed it but others told me he was very good!) and Sephira, dueling violins were EXCELLENT!! Around the ship our favorites were Tom Casey at the Piano Bar and Adagio—violin and piano duo. Jeremy Hales, our cruise director did a great job! The Q&A session with Captain van Donselaar was excellent and not to be missed! Among other activities we enjoyed were the Steel Pan Lessons with Kevin (and listening to him play by the Aft pool) Windows 10 Instruction (DH was addicted to them but you needed to go early to get a seat at only a dozen computers) Learning to make Panama Rolls in the Culinary Arts Center! Walking on the Promenade Deck, Reading anywhere you could find a quiet spot, or finding a bit of sun on the Observation Deck!! Lots to do, never enough time. EXCURSIONS—Half Moon Cay— the morning looked pretty gray and overcast so folks didn’t seem to be rushing to the tenders and onto the island. I went over about 9:30 to claim our clamshell and there were plenty available as it looked like there were be no sun. Stuck my feet in the water and it didn’t seem inviting so I took a long walk on the beach. Came back and read awhile in my chair. DH came over in time to head over to the bar-b-que (the chicken is always so tasty and the brownies, yummy!) And the SUN came out. Back to the clamshell and into the water which by then had calmed down, no waves and seemed to warm up. It was delightful! Didn’t want to leave. Wish HAL would make it a longer island stay! Aruba—We booked a private tour with “SonnyTours” that gave us an excellent 3 and a half hour tour all around the very dry and desert-like island! When we got back we decided to go to the Bar-b-Que on Deck instead of eating in the Main dining room. Poor choice—long lines, few tables available outside and I didn’t think the food was that good. But we had planned to meet friends who have a time share in Aruba at “Iguana Joe’s” at 7:30. Panama— We took the “Walking tour of Old and New Panama City” which SHOULD have been a great tour. It’s a HAL sponsored tour (the only way you are allowed to take a tour at Panama) and the tour guides are just not as well-trained or as invested as private tour businesses. It’s a long bus ride to Panama City and back again to Colon and we were provided with lots of information. But the logistics of the tour were poorly handled. (I will leave a review on HAL website). Port Limon, Costa Rica— Again we booked a private tour with Eduardo at YourLuckyTour and enjoyed learning about the fruits of Costa Rica, visiting a Banana Plantation, a walk thru the rainforest where we found poisonous frogs and riding on a small boat in the Tortuguero Canal looking for birds, iguana, cayman and other animals. As we were leaving the canal it started to rain so we skipped going to the beaches and returned to the ship. Grand Cayman— Unfortunately rough weather conditions made tender landing impossible on the island. Another day at Sea. DISEMBARKATION— We had an 11:45 flight back to Philadelphia and snow (ugh!) Disembarkation time was 8:30-8:45 — we weren’t called until almost 9:30 (by then we were waiting upstairs near the Queen’s Lounge. Apparently there had been “some problem” and things were delayed. One story we got was that there were not enough agents (we saw 4 when we went through) . Another story was that someone had gotten sick and they had to clean it up before more people could go down the stairway. Anyway we were called at 9:30 and off the ship by 9:45 because and ONLY because we have GOES cards (Global Entry) and we zipped right thru the customs line while several hundred (at least) were winding their way around. We were in a taxi and on our way to the airport in minutes. Back to cold, snowy reality!

Nice Winter Getaway on the Zuiderdam

Zuiderdam Cruise Review by pbnjrockette

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
EMBARKATION—We arrived on an early flight and were in Group 3 to enter the ship. No lines at check-in but had to wait until after 11:30 to board the ship. Our cabin was ready and we went up to Deck 9 Lido for an uncrowded lunch. Was very surprised that the “no touch” rules were not in effect. On our last HAL cruise (2014) the servers handed us everything for the first 2 days to help prevent the spread of germs. There were hand sanitizer machines outside the Lido but many folks by-passed them. Our luggage was in our room when we returned from lunch. We explored the ship a little bit to see where the lounges were and I wanted to check out the spa area. Unfortunately it was a wet and rainy sail-away so there was no need to go out on deck. The mandatory lifeboat drill was an easy check-in with your room card indoors near your station.

SHIP—Our last HAL cruise was on the Statendam (2014) so it took a few days to get used to a new ship. The inside of the Zuiderdam is quite lovely and one can tell that most rugs had been replaced in the dry dock last spring (in a few places the seaming could be better). Gone are the "days of the week"rugs in the elevators—I really missed them! The outside of the ship still needs a bit of “touch-up” and there was constant work being done (painting, sanding, welding). During the time we were there I never heard any complaints about elevators not working, air conditioning problems or toilets overflowing. On the last day 2 people mentioned that their toilets occasionally wouldn’t flush but then several hours later would spontaneously flush. And then it happened to ours the very last night… fine by morning. The lounge areas within the ship seem more closed than I remember other HAL ships (we’ve been on Statendam, Veendam, Ryndam and Rotterdam.) At first I didn’t care for the closed in aspect but later in the cruise enjoyed those quiet areas!!

CABIN—# 4123 Balcony catagory VA Deck 4 Aft (but almost mid-ship) We had booked a VE guarantee balcony and were given a VA balcony. It is the last room before the lifeboats so the balcony has a wrap-around railing on one side, only cabins to the right. We were pleasantly surprised that the view was quite nice and open. It was never windy and we never smelled smoke from any of the cabins to our right or above. The cabin itself was typically average—queen bed, 2 end tables with small drawers, small couch (that could sleep one but I can’t imagine 3 people in the room) small desk with cabinet with hair dryer attached (that didn’t work but an unattached one was included) another shelf with glasses and a mini-bar fridge. Three closet sections with adjustable shelves and a safe. There were drawers under the bed with extra pillows and bedding that could have been removed but the drawers were so awkward to reach and open we didn’t use them. There were also 2 cabinets above the couch that a TALL person could use (not me)—one of the hinges was broken on ours. I found the storage space a bit on the tight side (we felt we had more room before) Since we pack our clothes and other items in packing cubes we left them in the cubes to reduce clutter and help keep things organized.

I was really happy our room was on Deck 4. Although the ship never rocked to any extreme there were a few days that there was a lot of motion and I do much better on a lower deck. I frequently could feel a lot more motion in the Lido (Deck 9) or Crow’s Nest (Deck 10) and would leave those areas for lower decks— another reason for me never to book a guarantee and “leave it to chance”!!

FOOD— Food is always subjective so YMMV!! I love the choices available in the Lido for breakfast and lunch. There really is something for everyone. I wish there was more variety in fresh fruit—the strawberries disappear after day one, mangoes make a brief appearance, berries are only around the cheeses at lunch but there are melons—LOTS of melons!!! Eggs can be made to order, waffles are really good and there are plenty of baked goods. For lunch -so many choices-- sushi, asian, pizza, hot foods, ready-made sandwiches or how-you-want. I love the variety of ingredients for salads that you can make yourself. I wish all the cheese were pre-cut/sliced…might keep a few less fingers touching it. I avoided the desserts but they looked good as did the ice cream! Burgers and tacos were available by the pool as well. No excuse for hunger...

We had 5:30 seating at a table for 8. Not what we requested since tables for 8 are always the slowest to be served. The food in the MDR was good…not outstanding but good. I didn’t find any of the presentations overly “pretty” (I like to take pictures of food and none of it inspired me). The prime rib was tasty as well as the shrimp and fillet. Lobster tail was moist, Salmon tended to be dry. Soups were unusual in that they were served with the ingredients in the bowl and then the liquid poured over them. Cold soups were a bit over-sweet. Best dessert was the totally decadent chocolate cake!

STAFF—Enough can’t be said about the hard-working staff around the ship. The cabins were always cleaned well, we were always greeted pleasantly and everyone was always busy!! One thing they did differently on this sailing was to make the time change (when we “lost” an hour) occur doing the day but when we “gained” an hour it occurred at night. That way passengers and staff didn’t lose any sleep. It was disconcerting though to go to lunch at 11:45 and at noon it suddenly became 1 o’clock!

ENTERTAINMENT— Stage shows— We did not feel that the Zuiderdam singers and dancers were topnotch. They work hard, had great costumes but their voices did not match their efforts. The comedian Jim McCue was good, Bob Brizendine, Magician was very good (I missed it but others told me he was very good!) and Sephira, dueling violins were EXCELLENT!! Around the ship our favorites were Tom Casey at the Piano Bar and Adagio—violin and piano duo. Jeremy Hales, our cruise director did a great job!

The Q&A session with Captain van Donselaar was excellent and not to be missed!

Among other activities we enjoyed were the Steel Pan Lessons with Kevin (and listening to him play by the Aft pool) Windows 10 Instruction (DH was addicted to them but you needed to go early to get a seat at only a dozen computers) Learning to make Panama Rolls in the Culinary Arts Center! Walking on the Promenade Deck, Reading anywhere you could find a quiet spot, or finding a bit of sun on the Observation Deck!! Lots to do, never enough time.

EXCURSIONS—Half Moon Cay— the morning looked pretty gray and overcast so folks didn’t seem to be rushing to the tenders and onto the island. I went over about 9:30 to claim our clamshell and there were plenty available as it looked like there were be no sun. Stuck my feet in the water and it didn’t seem inviting so I took a long walk on the beach. Came back and read awhile in my chair. DH came over in time to head over to the bar-b-que (the chicken is always so tasty and the brownies, yummy!) And the SUN came out. Back to the clamshell and into the water which by then had calmed down, no waves and seemed to warm up. It was delightful! Didn’t want to leave. Wish HAL would make it a longer island stay!

Aruba—We booked a private tour with “SonnyTours” that gave us an excellent 3 and a half hour tour all around the very dry and desert-like island! When we got back we decided to go to the Bar-b-Que on Deck instead of eating in the Main dining room. Poor choice—long lines, few tables available outside and I didn’t think the food was that good. But we had planned to meet friends who have a time share in Aruba at “Iguana Joe’s” at 7:30.

Panama— We took the “Walking tour of Old and New Panama City” which SHOULD have been a great tour. It’s a HAL sponsored tour (the only way you are allowed to take a tour at Panama) and the tour guides are just not as well-trained or as invested as private tour businesses. It’s a long bus ride to Panama City and back again to Colon and we were provided with lots of information. But the logistics of the tour were poorly handled. (I will leave a review on HAL website).

Port Limon, Costa Rica— Again we booked a private tour with Eduardo at YourLuckyTour and enjoyed learning about the fruits of Costa Rica, visiting a Banana Plantation, a walk thru the rainforest where we found poisonous frogs and riding on a small boat in the Tortuguero Canal looking for birds, iguana, cayman and other animals. As we were leaving the canal it started to rain so we skipped going to the beaches and returned to the ship.

Grand Cayman— Unfortunately rough weather conditions made tender landing impossible on the island. Another day at Sea.

DISEMBARKATION— We had an 11:45 flight back to Philadelphia and snow (ugh!) Disembarkation time was 8:30-8:45 — we weren’t called until almost 9:30 (by then we were waiting upstairs near the Queen’s Lounge. Apparently there had been “some problem” and things were delayed. One story we got was that there were not enough agents (we saw 4 when we went through) . Another story was that someone had gotten sick and they had to clean it up before more people could go down the stairway. Anyway we were called at 9:30 and off the ship by 9:45 because and ONLY because we have GOES cards (Global Entry) and we zipped right thru the customs line while several hundred (at least) were winding their way around. We were in a taxi and on our way to the airport in minutes. Back to cold, snowy reality!
pbnjrockette’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VA 4123
CABIN—# 4123 Balcony catagory VA Deck 4 Aft (but almost mid-ship) We had booked a VE guarantee balcony and were given a VA balcony. It is the last room before the lifeboats so the balcony has a wrap-around railing on one side, only cabins to the right. We were pleasantly surprised that the view was quite nice and open. It was never windy and we never smelled smoke from any of the cabins to our right or above. The cabin itself was typically average—queen bed, 2 end tables with small drawers, small couch (that could sleep one but I can’t imagine 3 people in the room) small desk with cabinet with hair dryer attached (that didn’t work but an unattached one was included) another shelf with glasses and a mini-bar fridge. Three closet sections with adjustable shelves and a safe. There were drawers under the bed with extra pillows and bedding that could have been removed but the drawers were so awkward to reach and open we didn’t use them. There were also 2 cabinets above the couch that a TALL person could use (not me)—one of the hinges was broken on ours. I found the storage space a bit on the tight side (we felt we had more room before) Since we pack our clothes and other items in packing cubes we left them in the cubes to reduce clutter and help keep things organized.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Aruba
    We did a private tour. The downtown area is small with mostly jewelry stores, souvenir shops, a small straw market and restaurants/bars. Not sure why HAL chooses to stay at Aruba from 1-11pm. A morning arrival would give better touring/beach/activity time.
    View All 1,635 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Panama City
    This could have been an interesting tour with better organization and a more competent tour guide. It's a long ride (almost 2 hours to Panama) and lots of good information was shared by "Jeronimo". Upon arriving in Panama City we viewed the city by bus for about another hour. It was difficult to see out the bus windows on opposite sides since there were fancy curtains. There were no photo stops for the "Ancient Ruins" or any other photo opportunities. We stopped for a city walk for about another 30-40 minutes BEFORE there was a bathroom break. This break should have occurred as soon as we arrived in Panama City! We went to a small souvenir shop where we had to stand in line for up to 20 minutes to use the facilities and most of us never got a chance to look at souvenirs. The walk itself was very fast-paced and the guide made no attempt to keep the group together to cross streets. It was listed as strenuous (steps and hills were fine) but one had to practically run to keep up with the guide---totally unnecessary on narrow, uneven streets. At one point we were walking in a Restoration area and a worker had to tell the guide that we were walking in a dangerous area. No mention was made of food or snack although it was provided when we returned to the bus (might have been nice if we had known ahead of time). At one point the guide left a hat store with part of the group, never announcing that he was moving on. This could have been a good tour with a better guide.
    View All 31 Panama City Reviews
  • Half Moon Cay
    We went to shore and rented a clamshell. Swimming was wonderful. The barbecue was tasty (especially chicken and brownies!!)
    View All 1,180 Half Moon Cay Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Puerto Limon
    We took a private 6in1 tour that included a FruitStand (learned about different fruits of the area and got sample tastings) Banana Plantation (saw the entire operation of banana production) Eco-walk (trek thru the rainforest where we saw poisonous frogs, centipedes and our guide explained about various trees and plants, Tortuego Canal tour to see iguana, various sea birds. Very good tour... recommended.
    View All 342 Puerto Limon Cruise Port Reviews
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