Zuiderdam Review

Partial Panama Crossing

Review for the Panama Canal & Central America Cruise on Zuiderdam
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First Time Cruiser • Age 70s

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Value for Money
Public Rooms

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Sail Date: Apr 2011
Cabin: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

** Travel to PortSW from Kansas City to Ft.Lauderale with no issues or delays 2 days prior to cruise. Stayed at Comfort Inn on Stirling which provided free shuttle from airport to hotel as well as hotel to cruise port. Included a good variety breakfast, was within walking distance of shopping and restaurants. At K-Mart around the corner we purchased soda and wine to take on board. Hotel was not 5-star, but was clean, served our needs and had all required amenities. Wanted to avoid a rental car, so this was perfect.** EmbarkationOn previous HAL cruise out of Port Everglades hotel shuttle left at 10:30am and we basically walked right through security, then to registration and on to the ship. Timing is everything. This time on the 11:30 shuttle and ended up at port at 12:00pm. What a difference ... it was chaotic with the TSA lineup out the door and ran the length of the warehouse. In fairness it did move relatively quickly but it was an hour before we boarded. Not wanting to miss the Mariner's lunch in the MDR, went immediately to the dining room, carry-on luggage and all. Sat with some lovely people and enjoyed a relaxing first lunch. Found our room, met our room stewards Agung and Holis. Explored the ship until time for muster drill and then met fellow CC'ers for the banner wave at the aft Lido pool deck. We had family and friends watch the Zuiderdam's departure on the Port Everglades live web cam but oddly this time there were no close-up shots of passengers as the ship sailed through the canal. Enjoyed dinner in the MDR with 4 table mates. Service was quite slow this first night. The following evenings would be better. Following morning we attended the CC M&G arranged by "cruisinetta" in the Crow's Nest. The ship did a wonderful job providing coffee, juice and lots of cookies. Dave Shea the Cruise Director joined use. Great job pulling the M&G together Lynn.** Ship InfoZuiderdam is a beautiful ship, perfect size for our liking and very easy to find your way around. Yes she is showing a little wear and tear, but nothing that would take away from a wonderful cruise.Captain: Christopher TurnerEntertainment: TinaLou & the HALCats played different venues on board ship The Neptunes played the Ocean Bar Paul Vandervoort played the Piano Bar The Adagio Strings played the Explorer's Lounge Shelly Page on the Guitar played the Crow's NestCruise Director: Dave SheaDJ: Issa** ActivitiesGreat many activities to choose from. Did a lot of R&R and I regret not having participated in more of the activities. A few of the choices available: travel, shopping and port orientations; wine sampling; culinary arts classes; digital workshops; liquor sampling; fitness classes; daily trivia and quiz's; dance lessons; acupuncture seminars; kitchen tour; gaming lessons; bar mixology classes (fee); gemstone seminars; ping pong challenge; afternoon tea; pub trivia; movies; and much more.** ServiceOverall found service to be excellent. At times there were waits for a dinner table seating, but that occurred only when too many people showed up at the busiest time. If we chose to dine at 6:00pm or 8:00 pm it was a quick seating. If we showed up at 7:00-7:30pm, then there was quite a line-up. One evening we dined in the Pinnacle Grill and the service was outstanding. Very personable and attentive and the food was superb. Room stewards were always aware of our timing and made sure our room was prepared while we were out. Left a note on the first day letting them know the 2 times of day we wished to have ice delivered and like clockwork they were there. We emptied the bar fridge upon arrival and placed the contents in the stool under the dressing table and refilled it with our own soda and wine. I did make the room stewards aware I had done this and day of debarkation, they simply replaced the bar stock.** Ports & Shore ExcursionsPuerto Limón, Costa Rica, Arrival 7:30 am / All Aboard 4:30 pm Here we chose the Caribbean Train, Eco Cruise & Countryside tour which ran 5 hours. Tour guide was amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed listening to her narrative of the area including politics, economy, health care, education and more. On our way back to port stopped briefly for a photo op at the Del Monte Banana Plantation. We would recommend this tour.** Panama Canal partial crossing, Arrival 5:30 am / All Aboard in Colón 6:30 pmThe ship transitioned the first 3 Gatun Lake locks and that was quite an interesting experience due to the size of ships. We have many lock systems in Ontario, Canada but the boats that transition them aren't quite as large as these cargo and cruise ships. Watching these enormous container ships and our cruise ship navigate these locks with very little clearance on either side was quite amazing.** Gatun Lake, PanamaWe chose the Authentic Embera Indian Village to Colón tour. Quite a long bus ride to the Chagres River that takes us to the village. Passengers given life vests and rain ponchos and boarded the dugout, motorized canoes. The canoe ride was 40 minutes and for passengers near the front ... a wet experience. Arrived at the Indian Village, had a bite to eat and the chief gave a talk about life in the village. While he spoke we received a serving of fish and fried plantains served in a banana leaf. Then given an opportunity to shop ... each family had their own craft table. A tribal dance performed by the families followed. We were allowed to wander through their village and take photographs, and then back to the boats for a long ride back to the buses. The tour bus delivered us to the Port of Colón, where the Zuiderdam awaited. There were some local craft booths in the port shopping area. This was an 8 hour tour and we would recommend it.** Willemstad, Curacao, Arrival 9:00 am / All Aboard 11:00 pmChose to do no excursion here since we had previously visited. It was a long port day we took our time and just walked the area and did some shopping. Stopped for a few cold beverages and then back to the ship for dinner. Then went back into town to enjoy the island at night.** Oranjestad, Aruba, Arrival 7:15 am / All Aboard 1:30 pm Again no excursion since we had already been to the island. This was an early port departure so once again just did a walking/shopping tour and back to the ship.** Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, Arrival 8:00 am / All Aboard 3:30 pmFor anyone that has visited this amazingly beautiful private island there really is not much to say. It was a wonderful day. Rented a clamshell for shade, then took a walk to the sports activities side of the island where we watched the stringrays for a while. The new Captain Morgan Pirate Ship Bar is great. So much fuss about this before it was even completed, but it was not obtrusive or overly noisy at all. I got some great photos that I will try to post on CC. BBQ lunch was great with good variety of food.** StateroomOur balcony statement 8035 was roomy and comfortable. Love that most of the HAL rooms on the Vista Class ships have tubs. This makes for a larger bathroom. Lots of closet space and plenty of room under the beds for luggage storage. Not sure why, but this balcony was considerably larger than 7143 (aft) on the Westerdam. At least 1.5ft deeper and the same width ... quite roomy.** DiningPrefer eating dinner when we are ready and not at a predetermined time, so chose open seating. Also enjoy meeting new people each evening. Made reservations a few nights and then just showed up after that and the longest wait we ever had may have been 15 minutes. Most of the time it was immediate seating. Enjoyed one dinner in the Pinnacle which was well worth the $20/person charge. The service was personable and the food was fantastic. A most enjoyable evening. I would highly recommend this experience at least once. Did not do the Canaletto (reservation req'd), but heard from others the food was great. We enjoyed sitting with others for dinner and ended up meeting some of the nicest people who we ran into over and over again throughout the week. People who insist on a table for 2 during the busiest time of the evening, did end up with a longer wait as there are limited small tables in the MDR. Oh and we had the added pleasure of being greeted by the smiling face of Hunky Dory at the dining room each evening. Lunch at the Grill was always good, specially the fries, morning coffee tray always arrived on time. Lido we only did once, but what we had was good.** EntertainmentComparing it to my last cruise on the Westerdam where we enjoyed Joel Mason, the Elton John impersonator ... the entertainment on the Zuiderdam really was just "so so".** DebarkationSW flight out of Ft.Lauderdale was at 2:00pm so we received a 9:30am debarkation time. HAL has this down pat. They don't push you out of your stateroom to sit and wait in a lounge somewhere or in hallways. Got ourselves ready for the day, left our carry-on items in the room and enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the MDR. Then picked up our belongings and walked around ship taking a few last pictures. When our number/color was called we debarked, collected our luggage and went through customs. The customs line was extremely long and thought it would take forever, but actually moved quite quickly. I don't think that process took more than 30 minutes. ** Travel to AirportSoon as we left the building someone approached asking if we needed a ride to the airport ... they put is in a van along with others and off we went to the airport. Very quick and easy. Charged $10/person. Cabs are running $15 to $17 now PLUS tip so this worked out fine.** SummaryAll in all, this trip met our expectations, but then our expectations are not unrealistic which unfortunately some people's are - and they end up disappointed. Yes there is some wear and tear on the ship, yes there were a few times we waited a little longer for a dinner table, but it is what it is. 2000 people trying to be accommodated ... not an easy task. I would recommend HAL to anyone looking for a quieter, less chaotic cruise with an older demographic. If you're looking for a loud, party ship with lots of activities to keep your children occupied, I would recommend another line. But we would definitely do HAL again.

Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

Cabin VA

8035 VA balcony room was a comfortable size with lots of closet storage and a great cupboard above the couch. Lots of storage under bed for luggage. Larger than normal balcony size. About 1.5ft deeper than 7143. Big bathroom with tub. Good storage in bathroom. Comfortable dressing table with vanity lighted mirror, flat screen tv and dvd player. Fresh fruit every day.

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