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It's been a couple months since we returned from our Zuiderdam cruise to the Panama Canal, and our 4-year-old daughter is still raving about the experience. The entire journey was thoroughly enjoyable -- we loved the itinerary (though can't find a way to add Half Moon Cay as one of the ports in cruise critic's review template). Service, as usual, was fantastic. The ship is gorgeous. And the Panama Canal is not to be missed. I'll skip over detailed reviews of the food, other than to say it was generally excellent, and my wife thought if I ate any more lamb (chops, rack of, etc.) that I might start to bah. The week of our cruise, HAL had switched to a new service protocol for dinner in the main dining room, whereby the waiter stayed only by the tables, and his assistant was responsible for going back and forth to the kitchen. It seemed like it took a few days before they got used to that, but if we hadn't been on a prior HAL cruise, we probably wouldn't have noticed. A number of the ship's crew deserve special mention, including Cruise Director Shane Michaels, steel pan musician Skip (he enjoyed teaching our 4-year-old how to play the steel drum), the Club Hal staff (Erica, Cass), and doorman Uming (who couldn't have been more friendly, and then really made an impression on our daughter when he let her ring the chimes for dinner one night). Evening entertainment was quite good, and diverse, though we were mildly disappointed there was no comedian on a 10-night cruise. During the day, we enjoyed a couple of the culinary demonstrations. Positive comments we had read about the tile loungers and T-pool were spot on -- VERY relaxing. We noticed HAL raised onboard prices about 10% compared to our Westerdam cruise a year prior -- 1 liter Absolut vodka were 2-for-$22 (vs $20 a year ago), onboard laundry was $18 (vs. $16 last year), and the daily tips for the staff were $11 (vs. $10 last year, though they earn every bit of it, and we usually give a little extra to certain crew members anyway). And we more than offset those small increases by winning a few dollars from the casino. HAL recently sent us a promotional flyer, offering some onboard credit and free fare for our child on a variety of upcoming cruises. Who says marketing doesn't work? We responded accordingly, by booking another HAL cruise for winter 2010, and we are very much looking forward to it!

Panama Canal -- put it on your Bucket List!

Zuiderdam Cruise Review by abb4k

Trip Details
It's been a couple months since we returned from our Zuiderdam cruise to the Panama Canal, and our 4-year-old daughter is still raving about the experience. The entire journey was thoroughly enjoyable -- we loved the itinerary (though can't find a way to add Half Moon Cay as one of the ports in cruise critic's review template). Service, as usual, was fantastic. The ship is gorgeous. And the Panama Canal is not to be missed.
I'll skip over detailed reviews of the food, other than to say it was generally excellent, and my wife thought if I ate any more lamb (chops, rack of, etc.) that I might start to bah. The week of our cruise, HAL had switched to a new service protocol for dinner in the main dining room, whereby the waiter stayed only by the tables, and his assistant was responsible for going back and forth to the kitchen. It seemed like it took a few days before they got used to that, but if we hadn't been on a prior HAL cruise, we probably wouldn't have noticed.
A number of the ship's crew deserve special mention, including Cruise Director Shane Michaels, steel pan musician Skip (he enjoyed teaching our 4-year-old how to play the steel drum), the Club Hal staff (Erica, Cass), and doorman Uming (who couldn't have been more friendly, and then really made an impression on our daughter when he let her ring the chimes for dinner one night).
Evening entertainment was quite good, and diverse, though we were mildly disappointed there was no comedian on a 10-night cruise. During the day, we enjoyed a couple of the culinary demonstrations. Positive comments we had read about the tile loungers and T-pool were spot on -- VERY relaxing.
We noticed HAL raised onboard prices about 10% compared to our Westerdam cruise a year prior -- 1 liter Absolut vodka were 2-for-$22 (vs $20 a year ago), onboard laundry was $18 (vs. $16 last year), and the daily tips for the staff were $11 (vs. $10 last year, though they earn every bit of it, and we usually give a little extra to certain crew members anyway). And we more than offset those small increases by winning a few dollars from the casino.
HAL recently sent us a promotional flyer, offering some onboard credit and free fare for our child on a variety of upcoming cruises. Who says marketing doesn't work? We responded accordingly, by booking another HAL cruise for winter 2010, and we are very much looking forward to it!
abb4k’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
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Ages 3 to 6
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Cabin Review

Signature Superior Verandah Suite
Cabin SS 6090
Very roomy, convenient to mid-ship elevators, felt very little motion.
Upper Verandah Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Aruba
    We honeymooned in Aruba eight years ago, and were delighted to revisit the colorful island. We booked an independent excursion, with Rancho Daimari, to go horseback riding on the northeast side of the island. The ride was wonderful -- through a national park -- ending at the entrance to Natural Pool. We had plenty of time to dismount, climb down and go swimming in Natural Pool, which was other-worldly. Awesome excursion. Highly recommend.
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  • Colon (Cristobal)
    The Panama Canal should be on everyone's "Bucket List." It was our first time there. It is indescribable, you really have to experience going through the locks to have an appreciation for the scale and incredible planning that was involved in creating this engineering marvel.
    After mooring up in Gatun Lake, we participated in the Embera Indian Village excursion, which was fabulous.
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  • Curacao
    We again booked an independent tour, with Curacao Actief (thank you Cruise Critic, we've never been steered wrong!). We took the half day cave tour, and enjoyed it immensely. Curacao was even more colorful than Aruba.
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  • Puerto Limon
    The port area of Limon itself is nothing to get excited about, but the Veragua Rain Forest (about an hour's drive) was awesome. We booked independent arrangements thru Charlie Soto (Okey Dokey tours), and shared a van with one other couple from our cruise (along with the driver and the tour guide). In addition to touring the rain forest, hiking to a waterfall, enjoying a local lunch (including Costa Rican coffee), our guide also adjusted the itinerary to take us to see a 3-toed sloth, and also to a local grocery store where we picked up five pounds of Costa Rican coffee beans -- an inexpensive gift for friends, and delicious!
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