Zuiderdam Panama Canal 10/14/11: Zuiderdam Cruise Review by BearInStPete

Zuiderdam 5
Member Since 2010
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Zuiderdam Panama Canal 10/14/11

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
I'm a middle-aged experienced cruiser with 13 cruises under my belt. This cruise was my fourth with HAL and was fully up to HAL's usual high standards. The Zuiderdam ("Z") is the first in HAL's Vista-class of ships built in 2002. Now approaching 10 years old and a seasoned veteran of HAL's fleet. She is typical HAL where understated elegance abounds mixed with modern amenities and tradition. She is well maintained and not unlike any heavily used public venue/conveyance shows some wear patina in some areas and appears like new in others. There were no unaddressed maintenance issues that detracted from the overall cruise experience.

As to the crew, Z has one of the friendliest and attentive crews that I have experienced, with all members smiling and greeting you in some manner. The Z being a mid-sized ship by today's standards with a reasonably high crew to passenger ratio, many crew members will get to know you given a chance. HAL seems to use the formula of having More servers who work the lounges in the evenings work the outer decks during the day. The person serving you in the piano bar may be the one getting your drinks in the hot-tub or finding you a table to sit at by the pools, they know you and give you extra attentive personalized service.

Diane Fast was our Piano Bar entertainer, a veteran of HAL's grand and world voyages. She was a gem, had an extraordinary range, and my fellow passengers kept her on her toes and up late at night (sorry to the cabins below her)! In addition to the traditional themes (1-hour intro to each evening) we had an open-mic night that was awesome. She had so much fun she wrote her version of Billy Joel's Piano Man - the Piano Broad, with verses about her experiences on our cruise. The singers and dancers also came in to meet her and join in the merry making which gave everyone a chance to mix with them when they were not up on stage in the Vista Lounge. It was a magical 10 days. The other entertainment on the ship was good, with typical HAL accents towards entertainment to dance to if you choose. With a 10 day itinerary there was a resident singing/dancing troupe (standards/broadway/lounge), Island Magic steel drum orchestra (awesome), comedian, illusionist, guitar soloist, jazz quartet, Halcats - modern swing/vocals, and the Adagio Strings.

Food on a cruise is one of the highlights, and HAL and the Z did not disappoint here. All dining venues have uniformly good selections of high-quality food. The main dinning rooms "MDR" menus were different every evening of the 10 day cruise with a variety to satisfy about any foodie - there was lobster offered 3 times during the 10 days, Alaskan crab legs, pheasant, quail, duck, veal, lamb, fish in addition a vegetarian and the other traditional beef, pork, chicken and pasta selections. All my dinners were cooked to the state of doneness requested and pleasingly presented. All the MDR fare is available for room-service during MDR hours as well. We also dined in the Pinnacle Grill twice and once for the Le Cirque dinner, all of which were outstanding. With HAL the regular MDR food is awesome, and the up-charge venues are "over-the-top" and a great value. The lido dining is uniformly good with main entrees being prepared in smaller batches to maintain freshness and being plated for you. Some of the extras on HAL at no-extra-charge are on-deck BBQs with grilled fish, roast suckling pig, and all the trimmings. Desert extravaganzas. Hand scooped ice cream (wide selection or rotating flavors), soft-serve, with all the toppings, warm bread pudding w/vanilla sauce. Panama Buns are served on the canal day as an extra treat, hot canapes in lounges at cocktail times, chocolates served in the Explorer's lounge with your after dinner cocktails.

The 10 or 11 day partial Panama Canal itinerary is awesome. The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel and worthy of the cruise just by itself - but I'm wired to be interested in that kind of thing. Puerto Limon in Costa Rica is an interesting agricultural port in a Country that is trying to make a difference in Central America. Aruba and Curacao of the ABC islands are resort destinations in of themselves and have great beauty, good infrastructure, history and culture in a higher-class environment from most caribbean nations as they are not poor or underdeveloped.

In conclusion, my 10 day cruise on the Zuiderdam was a relaxing cruise on a premium line where I was well pampered on an interesting itinerary with well traveled fellow passengers. Less

Published 11/03/11

Cabin review: SY8089 Signature Superior Verandah Suite

8089 is a SS (Superior Suite) category cabin on starboard deck 8, located slightly aft of mid-ship under the Lido restaurant area. The location is quite good, and despite being underneath the Lido, there was little noise from that area. Overall this cabin would be very roomy for 3 persons and includes a makeup dresser area, a seating area with a sofa-bed, coffee table and two chairs, a desk / tv area. The Balcony is an extra wide that has room for a two chair cafe table and two lounge chairs with ottomans. The bathroom has double wash basins, a separate shower stall, and whirlpool tub/shower combo. The tubs are small, so don't get your hopes up - it is one person (normal sized - if your tall or big you might be tight). HAL has recently started putting the Elemis shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner in dispensers in the shower/tub areas. I actually like this better than dealing with the small hotel bottles and it is likely more Eco-friendly as well.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Aruba is a very resort and gambling oriented caribbean port with lots of beaches a short cab ride from the ship piers. A safe and short walk to the downtown shopping district and high-end shops and cafes.
Read 1284 Aruba Reviews

Colon itself is an industrial port for containerized shipping logistics. In addition they have quite an infrastructure developed to support visiting ship crews of those transiting the Panama Canal. There are many eco and cultural tours that depart from here or from within neighboring Gatun Lake. I include the Panama Canal in the overall rating of this port. The port city is a reasonable stop-over, but the true attraction is the canal and tours offered.

Curacao is a lovely Southern Caribbean port with roots in dutch history. The port area is like a caribbeanized version of Amsterdam with the colorful architecture. Cafes, shops, casinos are all within a short (and safe) walk of where the ships dock. Resort hotels and beaches are a short cab ride away. The Venezuelan floating market is colorful and an interesting shopping experience - most of it is fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables that you can't really take advantage of from a cruise ship, but colorful and fun to shop.
Read 913 Curacao Reviews

Puerto Limon is an agricultural port (bananas) that also does a lot of containerized shipping logistics. If you are interested in eco-tourism this is one of the better ports for you with Zip-lining, rainforest, canal, and banana plantation tours abound. Costa Rica is a central american country that is trying to make a difference and they are proud of their environmental efforts and high literacy rate (96%). While the East coast of the country is not wealthy like the West coast it still has a lot of physical beauty and people that are friendly and approachable.

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