This was our second cruise on Holland America and our first on the Zuiderdam. This cruise was chosen for the itinerary. It did not disappoint. Holland America usually has an older crowd on board which was the case with this cruise although there were quite a few families traveling with children as well.
We spent 4 nights in Copenhagen prior to the cruise. Copenhagen is a lovely and safe city to visit and very easy to get around. We took a taxi from our hotel to the cruise port. Embarkation went very smoothly. We were in our cabin within 15 minutes of arriving at the port.
The ship was in good condition. The crew was always doing some kind of maintenance. We saw quite a bit of painting going on throughout the ship. Our balcony was worked on during the cruise but we were never inconvenienced by it or any of the other maintenance. We upgraded to a signature suite since this was a 14-day cruise and enjoyed the extra room in the cabin, balcony and bathroom. We weren't sure if we would get use out of the balcony given the itinerary but found that we did and really enjoyed sailing out of the ports and listening to our EXC tour guide over the loudspeaker as he described what we were seeing as we sailed along the coast. We did have wonderful weather the entire cruise. Blankets were provided in the room for use on the balcony as well as binoculars. Our cabin crew were excellent and kept the cabin in good condition.
We had as you wish dining and never had any complaints with regard to the food. We found the service in the main dining room to be inconsistent depending on which section we were in that night with the exception of two female wine stewards who were excellent the entire cruise. Our main issue was with the maitre d. We prefer a table for two and had reservations each night for one but were always asked to share a table which we refused and we were then seated at a table with just the two of us. Our reservation was usually for 8 and could never understand why it was a problem to seat us at a table for 2 or 4 since after being seated there was always a lot of tables available. We also did not appreciate the maitre d not enforcing the dress code especially for gala nights. Why have one if it is not going to be enforced.
We found food in Lido to be good. Seating was sometimes a challenge but usually found a table within 5 minutes or so. We ate there for breakfast as well as lunch a few times. I really enjoyed the create your own pasta section for lunch and always enjoyed grabbing a late afternoon ice cream. We also ate at the taco bar and Dive-In by the Lido pool which were always good. We had dinner at Canaletto one night which was okay and had dinner twice at the Pinnacle Grill which was excellent. Both service and food were worth the price.
Even though this was a port intensive cruise we found the energy to go to 4 of the main stage shows which were very enjoyable. One was an ABBA show, a magician comedian who was entertaining and a Scottish entertainer who we saw twice and enjoyed his show both times. We went to the BB King Blues Club on several nights and really enjoyed this group. We went to the Billboard piano bar one night. We found these performers just okay but they usually had a good crowd each night who seemed to enjoy them.
We enjoyed sitting in the Crow's Nest one day enjoying the view from a couple of chairs. I like the location but don't understand why they took away the bar. There is a lot of space wasted here. The EXC desk is located here and EXC takes up a lot of unnecessary space. We went to a few of the EXC shore talks in the main stage and found them informative for exploring the ports. We also enjoyed the EXC talks as to what we were seeing on our way out of each port.
We did not do any of the ship excursions since most of the ports were very easy to do on your own which was what we did. We did do two private tours which we found a better value for the money as well as what was visited. We did do the ship transfer to the airport since we had an early flight and found this very convenient to put our luggage out the night before and pick up at the airport. Embarkation was quick and easy.
The captain and his crew were very visible and engaging on port days. We found service to be very good for the most part throughout the cruise. We really enjoyed this cruise. The itinerary was excellent.
Our cabin was nicely appointed, spacious and our cabin crew kept it in good condition. There was enough storage space for two people with two large suitcases. The bathroom had two sinks, a separate shower and bath/shower combination. We enjoyed the extra room on the balcony which had two chairs with ottomans and two straight back chairs and a small table. We would have preferred a larger table which we had on a previous cruise in a similar cabin. We appreciated the two blankets which were provided for the balcony and used them on several occasions as well as the binoculars which also came with the cabin.
Spent 4 nights here pre-cruise. Beautiful city with a lot to see and do. Very walkable city and easy to get around with On-Off buses, boats, public transportation, bikes or taxi. Really enjoyed visiting Rosenborg Castle and Tivoli Gardens. Shopping was excellent on and near the Stroget.
We were docked here overnight which provided us with a lot of time to explore the city. The city center was an easy 10-15 minute walk from the ship. Amsterdam is easy to get around by public transportation, boat, bike or on foot. There is a lot of traffic here with cars, trams and bikes. Be careful crossing streets here. We enjoyed visiting the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, church in the attic, shopping as well as eating in several places around the city.
We took a taxi to center of Bruges and enjoyed taking a canal cruise and walking around this charming town. We visited the Church of our Lady and saw Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. Enjoyed a lovely lunch at an outdoor restaurant across from the Belfry in town square. Highly recommend getting a waffle from Chez Albert and buying chocolates from Dumon Chocolatier.
We walked into city center which was 20-30 minute walk from port. We pre-booked round-trip transportation with BeeLeHavre to Honfleur and walked around this charming fishing village for the afternoon.
We booked a private tour of the Normandy beaches. Highly recommend this tour.
We were docked here overnight which gave us the opportunity to take the train to Salisbury where we took the Stonehenge tour and visited the Salisbury Cathedral. We then took the train to London where we spent the night and were able to enjoy the city.
This was a tender port so after tendering we just walked around and did a little shopping and enjoyed lunch at an outdoor restaurant across from the port.
We did a private group tour to Inverness, Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Urquhart Castle and a cruise on Loch Ness. Highly recommend.