We booked this Viking Passage cruise because of its appealing itinerary which included both Iceland and Greenland. Overall we were pleased with the cruise but cannot award it five stars because of too many minor irritations. We have been on over twenty cruises, several with Holland America. Neither HAL not any other of the ocean cruise lines we have used have matched our recent cruise with Viking River for quality and service. On the whole the good far outweighed the bad.
HAL booked our flights at a price we could not match, but they left us too little time to transit Frankfurt worry free, even if all went well. All did not go well. Our flight into Frankfurt was a few minutes late. If we had not already requested wheelchair assistance in Frankfurt which allowed us to bypass the huge EU Immigration lineup we would have missed our flight to Copenhagen and the next and last possible flight was reportedly full. We strongly recommend that anyone booking flights through Frankfurt should allow at least two hours connection time. Embarkation and disembarkation were both smooth, quick and uneventful.
We had booked an outside cabin to save money because we thought a balcony would be unusable because of the cold. However when we checked in, we were very surprised and happy to learn our Vancouver travel agent had got us a free update to a balcony cabin on Deck 5. Its availability for the abnormally sunny and warm weather we experienced for most of the cruise was a bonus.
The Zuiderdam was in better shape than we expected based on past Cruise Critic reviews but too much maintenance work was being done at cruisers' inconvenience. Painting and varnishing caused closure of parts of the Promenade deck on several days and our friends with rear cabins found the fumes unpleasant. For much of the cruise a quarter of the Lido buffet serving area was closed for maintenance making a normally crowded situation even worse. We were happy with the food in both the Main Dining room and the Lido but the service was the slowest we have ever experienced. Beer which was available elsewhere often seemed to have "run out" in the Lido. We suspect that with a little bit more customer care and a little less laziness by one or two members of the restaurant staff, the beer could have been found or restocked. This happened with four varieties of beer.
Our cabin had a very comfortable bed and was well equipped and finished apart from a tatty floor mat which should have been pensioned off long ago. Astonishingly it was taken away on the last day and brought back washed but still wet. It was difficult to adjust the water temperature of the bath.
The entertainment was typical of cruises - good but not outstanding. We particularly liked the Classical music duo.
The internet was poor and very expensive. This was understandable while we were North and at the edge of the satellite's range but not in New York where there was no internet whatsoever. We could not reconfirm our flights and we had paid for time we could not use.
We were pleased with the ship's tours we took and the tour staff were the best we have encountered on an ocean cruise. The guest lecturers were excellent and very popular. The Locations expert Denice did her job superbly. The tender service was especially well operated.
Hurricane Hermine caused problems and our day in Halifax had to be abandoned as we diverted to miss the worst of the storm, reaching New York one day early and giving us an unexpected extra day to visit the sites. Even though we sailed at full speed and there was a large swell with strong crosswinds the Zuiderdam handled it well. (The TV Navigation Channel once indicated Beaufort 12). The Captain explained the need for the change of plans very clearly and kept us well informed. The staff did an excellent job in organizing a very good New York city tour at short notice.
Overall HAL needs to improve but we would be happy to take another HAL cruise and would recommend HAL and the Zuiderdam to prospective cruisers.