Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and returning to our home port of New York were reasons for choosing this cruise. Apparently this itinerary appealed to many well travelled travelers as there was quite an international complement of passengers. This made for many interesting dinner conversations learning about others’ travels. One guest told us there were around 400 passengers from Australia and from our encounters, there were also many from Canada and Europe as well as the USA.
We were incredibly lucky with good (actually great) weather in Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Greenland. “Not the norm” we kept hearing. The scenic cruising in Prins Christian Sund could not have been a more perfect day. The worst weather was on our sea days, culminating with the race to NY harbor, skipping Halifax, so we could arrive ahead of Tropical Storm Hermine. Captain Bert Vaartjes made smart decisions in order to keep everyone safe and ultimately it gave passengers an extra day to enjoy the sights of New York City.
We booked our air, transfer and hotel with Holland America for price and efficiency. We were very disappointed when we learned that they were using Scandic Palace Hotel on a weekend where there was a major public event taking place directly in front of the hotel. Noise, traffic and trash were major issues in the area surrounding the hotel. Not the best way to start a cruise and this has been conveyed to HAL’s Guest Relations. Unfortuately we did not have much time to enjoy Copenhagen due to our late arrival time and early transfer time to the ship, however we did enjoy dinner in Tivoili Gardens which was near the hotel.
Our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet was held in the intimate Piano Bar on our first sea day and was quite well attended. It gave us the opportunity to meet the folks we had been chatting with on the boards and we had dinner with some of these folks as the cruise went on.
Our VB 6173 was aft and very convenient to dining venues – not so good for getting to shows, spa and Crow’s Nest but it gave us good reason to walk. We initially had some plumbing issues but got them resolved after a few days. Our stateroom attendants Asis and Harun were very kind, friendly and accommodating. Truly I don’t know how they manage given the number of cabins they need to service. Our pre-ordered gin and tonic set up was in the cabin upon arrival and we purchased large bottles of tonic in Copenhagen to avoid buying the mini cans in the mini-bar. We enjoy cold beverages so once they knew our preferences, our cabin attendants had a full ice bucket every time we returned to our stateroom. And yes, soot does land on the large aft decks and furniture so please be aware before sitting. We felt very little ship movement and it was very quiet in our cabin except for when the ship was running at what seemed like full speed to get ahead of the bad weather. We were very pleased that none of our neighbors were smokers as that is allowed on HAL verandahs.
We love laundry by the bag and sent it out twice with it returned the next day. The price originally was $30.00, then there was a special of $20.00. They do a beautiful job and it saves valuable vacation time.
We thought overall food was OK but not great. Usually we ate in the Lido where we could control/select what to put on our plates. The pasta and salad stations were good options. We had 2 dinners at Pinnacle Grill that were good but not particularly memorable, with the exception of the “Not-So-Classic Baked Alaska” that was a mess and should be taken off the menu. Lunch at Pinnacle is a nice treat for $10., less a Mariner discount, and the salmon and beef tenderloin were very good. The fries at Dive In are terrific! The servers and wait staff were extremely pleasant and if one did not eat something served in the dining room, the waiter would ask if everything was OK with the meal – sometime the portions were just too large. I did send back some inedible lamb chops at one meal and was promptly presented with new ones that were delicious.
There was no shortage of activities on board on sea days and many of the lectures were SRO. We went to some of the shows in the Vista Lounge but found that for the more popular performers, seats are claimed well before show time leaving only the obstructed seats available. We happen to enjoy the B.B. King’s All Stars but on many nights the shows were sparsely attended. We were amongst the “crazies” who did the polar plunge to celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle and got the certificate of accomplishment to prove it!
We enjoy the Thermal Suite and Hydro pool so we booked it for the entire cruise since there were so many sea days. It was never crowded though it was exciting on the day an elderly, rotund couple thought entering the pool au naturel was de rigueur! They were escorted out by staff while yelling protests that they did not own swim wear. We also enjoyed several discounted treatments in the Greenhouse spa since we had booked the Thermal Suite and did not feel pressure to buy recommended products.
We booked our own excursions but have to say Location Guide Dorine was excellent with information on all the ports. She was gracious and patient, answering the same questions over and over every day. The Explorer guide provided to guests had tear out maps on all the ports and were very helpful for navigating on your own.
In Bergen we had purchased tickets in advance for the Mount Floyen funicular and got to the top before the ship tours and clouds set in. We walked to the lovely Arctic Botanical Gardens and did a successful whale watching trip while in Akureyri. Tendering in Isafjorour was a slow process and almost caused us to miss our excursions but we made land and had fun kayaking and riding the Icelandic horse. Strolling through the ports in Greenland and meeting local people to learn about the history and culture was interesting. We had pre-booked a city tour in St. John’s that covered most of the highlights and it was as we were leaving port that the news came that we would be skipping Halifax due to the impending bad weather.
Overall we were pleased with the cruise and particularly with the itinerary and service. This was our 7th cruise with Holland America and our second on Zuiderdam so there were no surprises. We like the quiet elegance of the line and look forward to the day when we reach Mariner status that gets us FREE LAUNDRY!
Cabin was decent size but very limited storage. Virtually no drawers except for those in the night stand and none in the closets. Closets themselves are small and the lighting for them obscured if you have one of the doors open. Bathroom with combo tub/shower was good with shelf storage under the sink. The toilet was quirky and once began leaking from the wall in the middle of the night, making it necessary to call the plumber and the cabin attendant for clean up.Bedding was very comfortable with extra blanket and pillows stored underneath.There are different phones used in the cabins with no clear instructions as to how to retrieve messages.
We did our own excursion to Mt. Floyen and the Hanseatic Museum. Enjoyed beer and mussels wharfside in Bryggen at Sjoboden.
We walked to the Arctic Botanical Gardens which were lovely and did a very nice whale watching trip with Ambassador.
We took the Golden Circle Tour with GeoIceland and while there was beautiful scenery, it involved a full day of driving. The weather was great so there were many other tourists at Thingvellir, Gullfoss and the Geysir thermal area.
We booked a van through McCarthy's Party and visited Cape Spear, Signal Hill, Petty cove and Quidi Vidi Village. Larry was a great guide.
Copenhage is a fabulous city but unfortunately did not have any time to see some things we missed on our last visit. It was also the second time we have been there during Pride week so the city center is very busy. Diner in Tivoli was magical.