We chose this cruise because we knew the Panama Canal is not something that many people get to see. We weren't disappointed in the cruise. She may have a few scratches here and there, but the ship is in great condition with cleaning and repair on-going but not in passengers' way. Weather was wonderful--not too hot or humid. Everyone said we had the best weather in the last couple of months.
We were pleasantly surprised by the food. It was wonderful in all the venues. We only ate in the dining room twice because we prefer less time spent on dining and not dressing up every night. The Dive In had perfect hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. There was a taco bar that we used several times for taco salads. We got the salad bowl and lettuces from the Lido buffet. We also appreciated that there are servers--not everyone handles the utensils at the different areas. The quality was quite good as was the variety. I think I saw more actual variety at breakfast than I have on any other line I've sailed with. And, the Lido manager brought me a cherry crisp that I had seen on the dining room menu! Pasta bar was great. Many kinds of pasta and add ins were available.
We had room 6129 on the Upper Verandah deck. Andri and his assistant did a wonderful job of cleaning, bringing ice, setting a mood for evening after dinner, and making towel animals.
Zuiderdam is on the smaller side with 1800 passengers on our trip. I wasn't sure about the arrangement of the decks when I got on and started looking around. Guest services is on deck 1. But it all turned out well. We could get around quickly. I always like a promenade deck that goes all the way around. It was particularly nice for Canal viewing.
The entertainment was amazing. I think it's best total package I've ever seen for entertainment. BB King's Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, comedian, classical entertainment, dancers and musicians, especially Steel Drum Island Magic, were all top notch as evidenced by the large audiences for each. America's Test Kitchen was interesting. The lecturers brought onboard for the ports and the Panama Canal were very informative. I'm not at all including the shopping guide. That, to me, is always a waste. All they want to sell is jewelry.
Zuiderdam has a Navigator app for your phone to use. It's very handy to get around the ship, schedule your activities, and contact your family. I do wish it would ding though when you have a text.
We booked all tours through Holland simply because I like the convenience and they cover what most all the tours do although with a bit more expense. For Bonaire and Curacao, the shopping areas closed early so there wasn't much time for browsing. A bit more time in port would be good. Bonaire was interesting for the salt flats and slave huts. I thought we would stop to see flamingos, but we didn't. We saw some but at a distance.
Curacao is a beautiful area. Be sure to see the Kukunu Museum. The guides do a super job of showing you how the island functioned years ago. The town is beautiful. Be sure to go across or at least see the swinging bridge. Free wi-fi is hard to come by.
We chose to stay on board at the Panama Canal. The long tours were more than we wanted to do this time, but I think we will make another trip and see the other side of Costa Rica. One tour was 3 hours late returning because the canal doesn't work on strict timing. All the deck areas were open to accommodate everyone who wanted to see what was going on. We got to see the sun come up over the canal. You'll want to get up early!
I got off in Colon and walked about 3 blocks through a chain link tunnel to the "mall". There was a military helicopeter and a large police presence there. You'll want to stay onboard I think.
Costa Rica was beautiful--another reason to go back so that we can see more of the island. We did the Rainforest Preserve. The rainforest is the most magnificent thing I've ever seen. I love the desert, beach and mountains, but the forest has to be seen to be believed. We did not see many animals which was a bit of a disappointment, another reason to go back. Be prepared to walk whichever tour you take. There's a great market at the port with many booths and crafts people.
For sea days, there were many new movies in the room. There were many activities to attend and lots of deck chairs all over the ship to relax in. Shopping was all high end except for small things in the shop that sells candy, t shirts, etc. Why is there always so much high end shopping?
Embarkation was pretty smooth. Rooms were ready by 12:30. We got on at 11:30 and had lunch. Debarkation was easy too. We paid $25 for Holland to collect our bags and get them to the airport and print our boarding passes. It was worth it. Hassle-free trip to the airport. Customs was 45 minutes--a long wait. If I could have gotten the Mobile Passport to work, we could have saved a lot of time. I'm not sure what the issue was.
We will definitely choose Holland again.
This room was very near the elevator so we could hear some dings, but it wasn't annoying. The problem would be if you like to sleep late or are a light sleeper. People are up and about on port days. I do wish people would consider others and not yell down the hall or slam doors. It only takes a little forethought. The beds were very comfortable. The pillows were also very nice. Everything was clean and in good shape. Ok, so maybe the throw rug was a little ragged on one end. I liked the amount of storage and hangers. Many times there was no wait for an elevator or at least not much of a wait. Plus the ship is small enough that you can take the stairs most places.