We recently completed a 17 day cruise across the North Atlantic aboard the Zuiderdam, billed as “Voyage of the Vikings” from Boston to Rotterdam. This is actually first part of a longer 35 day cruise that returns to Boston, visiting different ports coming and going. We were among the minority of guests who departed halfway through. Many guests don’t enjoying flying and dealing with jet lag and a voyage that begins and ends in the US is attractive to them.
This cruise is only done once a year, and many people have apparently done it multiple times and sign up for it months in advance. Despite that the ship was not full.
You want to learn about Vikings? If so, this is the cruise for you and there are quite a number of talks and presentations about the Vikings as explorers, plunderers, and traders, along with history of the various countries visited. This was reinforced by shore excursions. Cruisers should note that it's a rather expensive voyage, and that is also true of the shore excursions.
At the last minute we were pleasantly surprised by an upgrade from the signature class cabin we had booked to a Neptune suite, a much larger cabin (#7073) with various extras, including a dedicated lounge. So that got the voyage off to a rousing start. Service met the usual high HAL standard whether we are talking about cabin stewards, dining room staff or concierges for the lounge. The concierges were quick to handle any minor issues we encountered, and were proactive in trying to be of help. I remember one rather rough night where they called and wanted to make sure we were not sea sick.
On this voyage, we noticed the continuation of a trend we’ve perceived on HAL which is to make their voyages more “authentic”, which means substituting more “live” music for the traditional cruise song and dance shows, presentations by experts, and shore excursions that are more about exploring local cultures. HAL continues to go down this road by announcing they are bringing in more artistic dancers and local chefs. This is clearly how HAL seeks to differentiate itself from other cruise lines, including others in the Carnival Group. Given the age and economic status and propensity to travel of the average HAL guest, I can’t fault them for the strategy (and I very much appreciate the strategy myself, for this is my vision of what a cruise should be) but this is not a cruise for people who want an experience with games and pool parties and sports and late night entertainment on board, particularly if you have children.
We ate in the dining room most nights, but also in the Pinnacle grill twice and once at Sel de Mer, which exists as a “pop up” restaurant only opening one or twice during the voyage. All the food was very good, though there seemed a little less variety than previous voyages.
Though we frequented many of the music venues and enjoyed them very much, the other entertainment on board left a great deal to be desired and we hardly went to any of the shows. Entertainment is the weakest aspect of the HAL experience, but it is also the aspect of cruising I care about least.
We took part in six excursions coordinated by HAL. There was the usual level of good organization, though as noted they were rather expensive. Weather was not particularly cooperative but that is not HAL's fault.
This is something like our 11th cruise with HAL. We think of ourselves as quite experienced cruisers, but many of the travellers on this trip have hundreds and hundreds of cruise days to their credit, and travel to all corners of the world on multi month voyages. It’s a completely different kind of passenger than you find in the Caribbean or Alaska and you can learn a lot from them.
I cannot say enough about the professionalism, positive attitude and courtesy of HAL personnel but in truth this is nothing new, for this has always been our experience with HAL and why we continue to use them exclusively for ocean cruising.
Uisge Ban Falls and Baddeck. Very interesting and unique
Very interesting and authenticView All undefined undefined Reviews
Took excursion to viking cultural centre. Interesting and authentic but not great value.
The real iceland. Pity the weather was rainyView All undefined undefined Reviews
Another fine day marred by unpredictable weather. Views from mt floyen are great and the hanseatic buildings near the port are beautiful.
Less crowded as we were the only ship that day. Walk along the main street and the walk along the ocean front.