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We went on this cruise - Fort Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Panama Canal (+Colon), Puerto Limon Costa Rica & back to Fort Lauderdale - to spend time with some American friends too unwell to do a conventional tour or long-haul trip with us. The ship was mid-sized - just under 2000 people - and didn't feel particularly crowded, though the demographic was definitely ‘older’. It was also very stable - the only time we felt even a mild pitch was on the last sea day. The staff were almost without exception really friendly and helpful, and the service overall was very good. Our verandah cabin on deck 6 was comfortable if a little cramped, and they'd used the space well; under-bed stowage was particularly useful. The food in the main dining room was generally good, with 1 or 2 exceptions, and the waiters particularly friendly. We also found the crew - the Captain and his officers - friendlier, more engaging & more in evidence than on other cruises we've been on. We ate dinner only once outside the main dining room, and the experience was not good. We booked "Rudi's Sel de Mer", a pop-up seafood restaurant in their Pinnacle Grill, at an extra $45 a head. The food was just OK - the bouillabaisse came in a plastic bag(?!), cut open at the table, the lobster tails were pleasant but unexceptional and the desserts reasonable, but the wine list was very limited and fiendishly expensive, the service slow and poor and the food lukewarm. Getting things like bread on the table seemed to be an almost-impossible feat for them. This was poor value for the $45 supplement, & having experienced the service in what was effectively the Pinnacle Grill, we didn't go back. The Lido buffet restaurant was a scrum at breakfast & lunch - inadequate seating and often long lines at the counters. The breakfast servery seemed rather bizarre - if you want just oatmeal, or just (pre-prepared) bacon & scrambled egg, or a specially-prepared omelette or made-to-order waffles, you join the same line. At lunch, we often managed to grab a table by the front pool & then go into the Lido & come back with food. The Asian options were often good, but I didn't try too many others as the lines were ridiculously long. Drink prices were - as you'd expect - high, and the spa prices astronomical. BEWARE - they have 'info sessions' about pain management, which are simply sales pitches for you to buy over-priced treatments or products. A 'personal trainer' from the gym is pitching GoodFeet orthotics. DON'T BUY FROM HIM! He'll tell you that his $199 price is up to $100 cheaper than elsewhere, & that his products will last for 10-15 years. These statements are UNTRUE; we visited a GoodFeet store in Delray Beach after the cruise & discovered that the orthotics he sells are the cheapest in their range, cost the same $199 and last for 2 years at most. If you're interested and live in the 'States, buy them back home, where you'll get a much better service. And don't do the acupuncture. I went for what I understood would be a 'consultation', which anywhere else would be a free-of-charge precursor to actual treatment, while they understood your issues and planned the sessions for you. Next thing I knew, I was on the couch with a load of needles in me, wired up to electricity. The 'therapist' then LEFT THE ROOM - just as my thigh muscle started to go into spasm! And they wanted to charge me $169 for this. AVOID! I've had great acupuncture (which this wasn't) for much, much less. The entertainment was a bit mixed. The 2 pianists at Billboard Onboard (especially Noah, the younger one) were astoundingly good. The bar pianists and the Mainstage dancers were also excellent, what we heard of BB King's All Stars was good, the Island Magic steel band were great and America's Test Kitchen was fun (but very over-subscribed, so arrive early). The Mainstage singers, however, were frequently off-key & the acrobats from Cirque du Soleil did a lot more posturing than actual acrobatics. And we were on board at Halloween, which the ship celebrated by doing - NOTHING! Hardly anyone dressed up, & it was a real disappointment. The EXC excursions were a mixed bag. The Monkey Watch at Gatun Lake seems to have been the best Panama excursion, with a great experience of the Canal & the wildlife. AVOID the one that takes you on through the locks to Panama City - you wait for hours in a small boat shadowing a bigger vessel through the locks, and frankly you see enough of the locks on the journey from the Caribbean to Gatun Lake. (This trip arrived back at the ship over an hour after we should have departed!) The Veragua Rainforest & Tortuguero Canals trip in Costa Rica is good, though the canals themselves are rather disappointing. The Cartagena Sightseeing trip is a waste of time & money if you want to see the World Heritage Old City; you seem to go everywhere BUT this part of town. The 'Eco tour' at Half-Moon Cay was a disappointment - snorkelling may be a better option - and the Aruba snorkelling trip was mediocre. We liked the Curacao 'Beach Express' - the beach was nice, the snorkelling better than in Aruba, and the trip was about the right length. The ship was in Curacao on a Sunday, so virtually EVERYTHING in the historic town was closed - even Diamonds International! Overall this trip suited us well. Our American friends enjoyed the cruise, were able to do everything with us and it wasn't too tiring for them. Embarkation & disembarkation were reasonably straightforward, despite the very hostile security people around the port area. We got to visit 2 places - Colombia and Panama - we'd never been to before, although our time in Cartagena was disappointing. HAL is one of the better cruise lines we've used, though (like the others) the most important piece of equipment on board seems to be the giant vacuum cleaner that sucks additional money from passengers. (For example, the wi-fi was outrageously expensive). Would we cruise with them again? Maybe, but it's a big old World and cruising only gives you a fleeting glimpse of some fascinating places, so it'll be a few years before we cruise again.

Good in parts

Zuiderdam Cruise Review by happy_hobbit

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: October 2018
  • Destination: Southern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
We went on this cruise - Fort Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Panama Canal (+Colon), Puerto Limon Costa Rica & back to Fort Lauderdale - to spend time with some American friends too unwell to do a conventional tour or long-haul trip with us. The ship was mid-sized - just under 2000 people - and didn't feel particularly crowded, though the demographic was definitely ‘older’. It was also very stable - the only time we felt even a mild pitch was on the last sea day. The staff were almost without exception really friendly and helpful, and the service overall was very good. Our verandah cabin on deck 6 was comfortable if a little cramped, and they'd used the space well; under-bed stowage was particularly useful. The food in the main dining room was generally good, with 1 or 2 exceptions, and the waiters particularly friendly. We also found the crew - the Captain and his officers - friendlier, more engaging & more in evidence than on other cruises we've been on.

We ate dinner only once outside the main dining room, and the experience was not good. We booked "Rudi's Sel de Mer", a pop-up seafood restaurant in their Pinnacle Grill, at an extra $45 a head. The food was just OK - the bouillabaisse came in a plastic bag(?!), cut open at the table, the lobster tails were pleasant but unexceptional and the desserts reasonable, but the wine list was very limited and fiendishly expensive, the service slow and poor and the food lukewarm. Getting things like bread on the table seemed to be an almost-impossible feat for them. This was poor value for the $45 supplement, & having experienced the service in what was effectively the Pinnacle Grill, we didn't go back.

The Lido buffet restaurant was a scrum at breakfast & lunch - inadequate seating and often long lines at the counters. The breakfast servery seemed rather bizarre - if you want just oatmeal, or just (pre-prepared) bacon & scrambled egg, or a specially-prepared omelette or made-to-order waffles, you join the same line. At lunch, we often managed to grab a table by the front pool & then go into the Lido & come back with food. The Asian options were often good, but I didn't try too many others as the lines were ridiculously long.

Drink prices were - as you'd expect - high, and the spa prices astronomical. BEWARE - they have 'info sessions' about pain management, which are simply sales pitches for you to buy over-priced treatments or products. A 'personal trainer' from the gym is pitching GoodFeet orthotics. DON'T BUY FROM HIM! He'll tell you that his $199 price is up to $100 cheaper than elsewhere, & that his products will last for 10-15 years. These statements are UNTRUE; we visited a GoodFeet store in Delray Beach after the cruise & discovered that the orthotics he sells are the cheapest in their range, cost the same $199 and last for 2 years at most. If you're interested and live in the 'States, buy them back home, where you'll get a much better service.

And don't do the acupuncture. I went for what I understood would be a 'consultation', which anywhere else would be a free-of-charge precursor to actual treatment, while they understood your issues and planned the sessions for you. Next thing I knew, I was on the couch with a load of needles in me, wired up to electricity. The 'therapist' then LEFT THE ROOM - just as my thigh muscle started to go into spasm! And they wanted to charge me $169 for this. AVOID! I've had great acupuncture (which this wasn't) for much, much less.

The entertainment was a bit mixed. The 2 pianists at Billboard Onboard (especially Noah, the younger one) were astoundingly good. The bar pianists and the Mainstage dancers were also excellent, what we heard of BB King's All Stars was good, the Island Magic steel band were great and America's Test Kitchen was fun (but very over-subscribed, so arrive early). The Mainstage singers, however, were frequently off-key & the acrobats from Cirque du Soleil did a lot more posturing than actual acrobatics. And we were on board at Halloween, which the ship celebrated by doing - NOTHING! Hardly anyone dressed up, & it was a real disappointment.

The EXC excursions were a mixed bag. The Monkey Watch at Gatun Lake seems to have been the best Panama excursion, with a great experience of the Canal & the wildlife. AVOID the one that takes you on through the locks to Panama City - you wait for hours in a small boat shadowing a bigger vessel through the locks, and frankly you see enough of the locks on the journey from the Caribbean to Gatun Lake. (This trip arrived back at the ship over an hour after we should have departed!) The Veragua Rainforest & Tortuguero Canals trip in Costa Rica is good, though the canals themselves are rather disappointing. The Cartagena Sightseeing trip is a waste of time & money if you want to see the World Heritage Old City; you seem to go everywhere BUT this part of town. The 'Eco tour' at Half-Moon Cay was a disappointment - snorkelling may be a better option - and the Aruba snorkelling trip was mediocre. We liked the Curacao 'Beach Express' - the beach was nice, the snorkelling better than in Aruba, and the trip was about the right length. The ship was in Curacao on a Sunday, so virtually EVERYTHING in the historic town was closed - even Diamonds International!

Overall this trip suited us well. Our American friends enjoyed the cruise, were able to do everything with us and it wasn't too tiring for them. Embarkation & disembarkation were reasonably straightforward, despite the very hostile security people around the port area.

We got to visit 2 places - Colombia and Panama - we'd never been to before, although our time in Cartagena was disappointing. HAL is one of the better cruise lines we've used, though (like the others) the most important piece of equipment on board seems to be the giant vacuum cleaner that sucks additional money from passengers. (For example, the wi-fi was outrageously expensive). Would we cruise with them again? Maybe, but it's a big old World and cruising only gives you a fleeting glimpse of some fascinating places, so it'll be a few years before we cruise again.
happy_hobbit’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VD 6132
A little tired & 'compact', comfortable bed, reasonably-roomy verandah, good storage, OK bathroom
Rotterdam Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews