First cruise on Holland America but 20th cruise overall. Wanted to see the Panama Canal and we selected Zuiderdam. I have avoided HAL for years and confirmed that this is not the cruise line for me.
Embarkation went very smoothly in Ft. Lauderdale. Ship is older and smaller than what we have sailed on recently but it is in very good condition. The ship has three sets of elevators where most now have only two. This decreased the distance we had to walk and the elevators worked fine and while busy, didn't have to wait too long.
We had an obstructed view cabin on deck 4 forward and were happy to be able to see a little bit outside. Cabin was in good shape with two large drawers under the bed otherwise storage is tight. Were able to order a bottle of liquor delivered to the cabin. The price was high but I saved that much on ordering from the bars.
Food quality was a little hit and miss. There is an Eggs Benedict station on the Lido Deck for breakfast with eggs poached to order. I had given up on Eggs Benedict on other ships as 9 times out of 10, the yolk was a solid as a hard boiled egg. Pancakes and french toast can be made to order but this seemed to be a timing issue. Lunch at the Dive In was pretty good but everything is cooked to order and pretty slow. The first few days they used beepers to let you know when your order was ready but these disappeared after a few days. Sushi is available at lunch but should be avoided. Not even grocery store quality. Dinner in the main dining room was pretty good with a few misses. You can order a medium rare steak but your chances of getting one are not good. Sent one back and would have sent the second one back but didn't want to be there for hours. There is no food available after 11:30 pm unless you want an apple. All the Lido stations close exactly when they say the will.
Entertainment was also very uneven. Mainstage does not have any traditional singing and dancing shows and no condensed Broadway shows. Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy (name from the program, probably in his mid 50's) was by far the best. Two shows were BBC Nature documentaries with live music. Enjoyed the Lincoln Center piano quintet but the venue needs to be twice as big. Never saw a performance where the little side space was not totally full. Billboard On Board guys, Luke and Collin, were very good as was the BB King Band. However these two groups were the extent of the evening entertainment, and after 11 days, something additional needs to be available. Casino games have a terrible house advantage. Roulette wheel has a zero, double zero and a triple zero which is very bad for the player. Blackjack tables only pay 6 to 5 for a black jack unless you are betting over $15 a hand. I managed to make a little money but quit after about 8 days. Not sure what the deal was with America's Test Kitchen but this was non existent (no longer shown on the HAL website). EXC Talks are supposed to be like TED talks but they are presented by the cruise director reading a script. The one I saw was supposed to be about block chain and off shore banking which have nothing to do with each other. The history of off shore banking may have been correct but it was very confusing to a person with over 40 years of banking experience.
Service was good, probably very good. Staff was very friendly from our room stewards, to our dining room waiters, bar servers and others.
Liked Aruba and Curacao a lot. Cartagena reminds me of the ports in Mexico where vendors are trying to sell you everything. Very aggressive and unwanted. This was on an excursion called Less Shopping and More Walking. The amount of walking required on most of the excursions seemed to be much more than their descriptions indicate. Even Moderate activity means lots of walking. Panama is interesting and a great engineering achievement. However, going through the locks is like watching paint dry. We did not have an excursion on Canal day and this was a mistake because you will be bored to death sitting on the ship. The ship basically went two boat lengths into Gatun Lake and anchored to let off excursion passengers. Once the tender boats were back we proceeded immediately into the locks to go back out.
Last two days of the cruise back to Ft. Lauderdale were the roughest of our 20 cruises. Not sure if this was due to malfunctioning stabilizers, the age and small size of the ship or other reasons, but we will not cruise on this size ship again.
There were maybe 6 kids on this cruise. I felt sorry for them as there didn't seem to be much for them to do. Of course there was also not enough for me to do and I will not book HAL again.
Cabin was fine. If you stood on the bed, you could see over the life boat. Crew were working on the boats a few days so they would go by the window a few time. Selected this category as the inside cabins seemed too small for two people. This cabin had room for a small couch and table.
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Had been to the beach on Carnival. Bungalows are hugely overpriced.