I am missing a single day to become a *** three star mariner with HAL. I crossed the Atlantic twice: once on the Noordam and once on the Koningsdam from and to Civitavecchia, plus three weeks on the New Amsterdam (which is still my favorite vessel in terms of decor and style). Firstly, the ship voyage was often unexplainably rocky - even when there was not particularly rough seas. This made me wonder if the ship STABILIZER were working properly. Second, I’ve always found the food experience on board of HAL to be excellent and I NEVER even considered once to send back a dish... well, this time I was forced to do so several different times on board of the Zuiderdam. Including in its Pinnacle grill, which in my opinion was way below the standards of a HAL specialty restaurant (for $35 extra). So my major complaint on board of the Zuiderdam was the poor quality of the food - often unacceptable even in the Lido cafeteria. I found the food selection and quality dramatically lower than the usual standards of Holland America lines. Often economizing on the carving station with few choices, and those that were offered were often sad chunks of overcooked beef, pork or turkey, or the “ethnic” section with shameful bowls of equally overcooked stuff. — Furthermore, I found the entertainment offered on board rather pitiful. Nothing like the BBC Earth show played by a four element string quartet on other ships. Plus the overall appearance of the Zuiderdam is tired and anachronistic sometimes lacking in basic hygiene (as I had reported to officers onboard) like in the aft pool mens restrooms on the Lido deck, which -honestly- smelled like a Marine barracks. Horrific. On the other HAL ships I mentioned above, there were fresh orchid buds in every restroom. To my chagrin, I found the miseries of a ship which has failed to live up to its promises to have undergone some "major" refurbishment. I also would like to mention my profound disappointment of having found the classy lounge right next to the Crows Nest turned into some sort of schoolroom with (in my opinion) useless chairs where I have noticed only three people who were occasionally sitting to attend some sort of medical lecture. On the other hand there was always a battle to get a seat on one of the TOO few bistro chairs in the smoking section of the ship aft. Overall I would never consider take another cruise on the Zuiderdam.
Observation deck -and ship's highest- staterooms have been recently (last year?) "renovated"... mostly cosmetically but overall not bad cabins. Closet space could have been improved under those circumstances.
The only objection is about the obsolete presence of a bath tub (who needs to take baths in your cabin?) making the access to your daily shower even more challenging. Newer HAL vessels have replaced bath tubs with more practical shower stalls.
Works well. Embarkation and disembarkation have always been smooth as silk.
Old San Juan is always old San Juan!
We regret we did not take the "wine & food" tour of the island, (we were told that it was worth every penny). Negatives: we only had 6 hours in port therefore we opted instead for a simple stroll along the Phillipsburg beachfront and the main shopping street. Drinks and free Wi-Fi at one of the very many bars. BEST Duty-Free liquor prices in the Caribbean!
The island belongs to the group that HAL is part of. The BBQ offered on the beach is truly disappointing as the food is really bad. Plus we had bought the Premium liquor package and to our chagrin we realized that it was not honored on the island even though it is run exclusively by HAL. Doesn't make any sense! The only redeeming quality is the beauty of the beach and color of the water.